Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I read yet another postmodern innovator re-imagining truth today. This one plays on emotions with the question, "Is hope more powerful than certainty? The Apostle Paul says it leads to love. What does certainty lead to?" The questioner creates a false analogy. Hope is excellent and so is certainty. They not only are not opposites but in fact build on one another.

Certainty leads to faith, trust, strength, etc. (Joshua 23.13-14; Dan 3.17; Mk 5.28; Rom 8.38-39). It is useful to giving true answers (Proverbs 22.21) and to keep us from sin (Ephesians 5.5). The problem with this postmodern, as with many, is he divorces his logic from Christian truth. Certainty in a fallen mind is evil - but so is all else - even hope. Certainty from the Christian perspective "does not arise from the credulity of the believer, but is based on the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God" (Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes).

Certainty gave Job strength and even hope (Job 19.25), it fights fear (Psa 27.3), and it is good (Lk 1.3-4). Certainty keeps us pressing forward in similar fashion that one would attribute to hope (Phil 3.8). Certainly is the basis of our faith (1 Jn 5.18-20).

Ironically, this postmodern missed the point that it is because of certainty that we have hope. But again, it is a certainty based on God's character (Heb 6.8, Num 23:19-20; Deu 7:9-10; 32:3-4; 2 Sam 7:28; Psa 18:30-31; Isa 26:4), something the typical postmodern doesn't attempt to understand and even boast that God is not knowable. Certainty is at least in part why Christ came as a servant (Rom 15.8), again, His being a servant is yet another point often misrepresented by the postmodern.

Certainty, as the postmodern presumes, is not something to be ashamed of (2 Tim 1.12). It is given by the Spirit (1 Cor 1.21-22; Rom 4:16; 8:31-39; Phil 1:6; Heb 6:18-19; 1Jn 4:13) for assurance of salvation. And again, contrary to the postmodern way of thinking, it is gained through obedience (1 Jn 2:3-6; Mt 7:24-27; Lk 6:46-49).

We are even to have confidence and certainty in prayer (1 Jn 5:14-15; Mt 7:7-11; Lk 11:9-13; Mt 18:19-20; 21:21-22; Mk 11:22-24; Jn 14:13-14).

In fact, about the only thing I can think of that we are not to have certainty of is the timing of Christ's return (Mk 13:32-37; Ac 1:6-7; 1Th 5:1-2).

Then there are these wise words from Francis Bacon, "If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties." But note that Bacon isn't against certainty, only the start point or basis of that certainty. To remain in uncertainty is not what Bacon is suggesting, his point is quite the opposite. Start there but end in certainty.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

church decline

It's popular these days to write about the decline of the church - especially the church in America. Popular writers who aren't writing about decline are often writing about problems within the church - which of course would fuel its decline. I personally do not see the church in massive decline nor do I see her as sickly and gravely unhealthy. In regard to the institutional church, while there are clearly issues, there is also much good. In regard to The Church as the Bride of Christ, I am part of her and I love her - she is righteous.

Because of that I found this analysis in Why We Love the Church refreshing.

The church in America, it is said, is dying a death of attrition. Our most faithful members, who also happen to be the most generous, are dying off. Young people are leaving the faith and not coming back. And the lost are harder to reach than ever. Ironically, as the mainstream media fears an impending Christian theocracy, Christians in America fear their own extinction, or at least their irrelevance.

Yet, the news is not all bad. In February 1939, pollster George Gallup started asking Americans "Did you happen to go to church last Sunday?" In that year 41 percent said yes. The wording has been altered slightly over the years, but basically the same question has been asked every year since. And the percentage responding "yes" has barely changed. From 2000 to 2005 the "yeses" in Gallup's church poll ranged from 40 to 44 Percent. In terms of actual attendance, we find that in 1990 on any given weekend 52 million people in America attended a church. In 2005, the number still stood at 52 million. The wheels haven't fallen off yet.

But the news is not all good either. For starters, far fewer people actually go to church than the numbers suggest. It's called the "halo effect"-people give better answers to pollsters than they live out in real life. By one estimate, only 17.5 percent of the American public actually attend church on any given weekend, even though more than twice as many report that they do. Furthermore, while the number of people in church has stayed the same over the past fifteen years (about 52 million), the percentage of churchgoers has decreased. Simply put, church growth has not kept pace with population growth. The same number of people may go to church, but since there are more people in the country, the number of churchgoers as a percentage of the whole goes down. So, according to Olson, while 20.4 percent of Americans went to church on any given weekend in 1990, only 17.5 percent went in 2005, and, by his estimates, only 14.7 percent will be in church on any given weekend by 2020.

This is not a good trajectory. Anyone who loves Jesus Christ wants to see His church grow. But keep in mind that these numbers do not represent declining overall membership, but rather church membership that is not growing on pace with the increased population. This too is a problem. Believe me, I am not advocating an indifference to the lack of church growth in America. I want to see the percentage line going up, not down. And the fact that it is going down is worth our prayers and reflection (more on that shortly). But the claims of the church's imminent demise are grossly exaggerated. Even though only 17.5 percent of Americans attend on any given weekend (assuming this lower percentage is accurate), 37 percent still attend at least once a month, and 52 percent report belonging to some church tradition. Again, I wish more people believed in Christ and that the people who claim church affiliation actually showed up in church every Sunday, but when over a hundred million people in this country attend church at least once a month, it seems a bit of a hyperbole to suggest that the church in America is about to disappear into thin air.

Moreover, when we look more closely at recent church decline we see that the decline has not happened uniformly across the board. Recall that from 1990 to 2005, the percentage of Americans in church on any given weekend fell from 20.4 percent to 17.5 percent. During the same time period the percentage of those attending the establishment mainline churches fell from 3.9 to 3.0 percent, while those attending a Roman Catholic church declined from 7.2 percent to 5-3 percent. But the percentage in evangelical churches was almost identical, going from 9.2 percent in 1990 to 9.1 percent in 2005. Keep in mind these are percentages of the total population. This means the actual number of people attending an evangelical church on any weekend rose by several million over the last decade and a half. Almost all of the net loss in percentage of church attendance came from Catholic and more liberal Protestant churches. For example, in raw numbers, the mainline churches declined 21 percent in membership (from 29 million to 22 million) from 1960 to 2000, while at the same time overall church membership in the United States rose by 33 Percent.

So the story of declining church attendance percentage is not the story of a newfound dissatisfaction with the church at large, as much as it is the continuing story of Catholics and mainline Protestants losing their young (to evangelical churches or to no church), parents in mainline and Catholic pews not having as many children as evangelicals, and the old (who are found disproportionately among mainline churches) dying off.

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nothing new under the sun

Apparently the vuvuzela has been annoying people for generations ...

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Monday, June 28, 2010

do you love him?

"Our obedience to God's commands is the expression of trusting Christ. It is not our words but our deeds that stand the test of Christ's gaze. Love of Jesus is measured by obedience to what he commands (John 14:15 and 15:14). "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (John 14:21). Not even miracles can substitute for doing what God commands (Matt. 7:22)."

Scott Hafemann, The God of Promise and the Life of Faith. Crossway Books, 2001, p. 191.


god's glory in and for the world

“Jesus shows us God’s agenda for change. God isn’t interested in making us religious. Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people. God isn’t interested in making us spiritual if by spiritual we mean detached. Jesus was God getting involved with us. God isn’t interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn’t interested in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, weeping for the city. The word holy means ‘set apart’ or ‘consecrated.’ For Jesus, holiness meant being set apart from, or different from, our sinful ways. It didn’t mean being set apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God’s glory in and for the world.”

- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 13.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

jesus was not a christian

“Many persons hold up their hands in amazement at our assertion that Jesus was not a Christian, while we in turn regard it as the very height of blasphemy to say that He was a Christian. ‘Christianity,’ to us, is a way of getting rid of sin; and therefore to say that Jesus was a Christian would be to deny His holiness.

‘But,’ it is said, ‘do you mean to tell us that if a man lives a life like the life of Jesus but rejects the doctrine of the redeeming work of Christ in His death and resurrection, he is not a Christian?’ The answer is very simple. Of course if a man lives a life like the life of Jesus, all is well; such a man is indeed not a Christian — he is a being who has never lost his high estate of sonship with God.

But our trouble is that our lives do not seem to be like the life of Jesus. Unlike Jesus, we are sinners, and hence, unlike Him, we become Christians; we are sinners, and hence we accept with thankfulness the redeeming love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who had pity on us and made us right with God, through no merit of our own, by His atoning death.”

—J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 110-11


discipling and disciplining

Many liberals using the "don't judge" and "Scripture is unclear" copout. RC Sproul's words on discipling and disciplining are refreshing ...

There is a strange dichotomy in the language of the contemporary church. Much is said and written about the important function of discipling new Christians, while at the same time the function of church discipline has almost vanished. Today, discipline is a word used to refer to the instruction and nurture of the believer. It does not usually carry the connotation of ecclesiastical censure or punishment.

In one sense, this modern version of discipling is linked to the New Testament model. The term disciple in the New Testament means “learner.” The disciples of Jesus were students who enrolled in Jesus’ peripatetic rabbinic school. They addressed Him as “Rabbi” or “Teacher.” To follow Jesus involved literally walking around behind Him as He instructed them (the word peripatetic comes from the Greek word peripateo, which means “to walk”).

The New Testament community was forbearing and patient with its members, embracing a love that covered a multitude of sins. But in the New Testament, church discipleship also involved discipline. Part of apostolic nurture was seen in rebuke and admonition. The church had various levels or degrees of such discipline, ranging from the mild rebuke to the ultimate step of excommunication.

Coram Deo: Do you accept discipline as well as discipling from your local church body? Ask God to make you more receptive to His discipline.

2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

Proverbs 9:8: “Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.”

Revelation 3:19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”

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Friday, June 25, 2010

god's work in the world

In The Reason for God, Tim Keller quotes an excerpt from Vineth Ramachandra's The Scandel of Jesus.

[Biblical] salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in the transformation of this world. ... You will not find hope for the world in any of the religious systems or philosophies of humankind. ... The Biblical version is unique. That is why when some say there is salvation in other faiths too, I ask them - "What salvation are you talking about?" No faith holds out a promise of eternal salvation for the world - the ordinary world - that the cross and resurrection of Jesus do.

Agreed! We evangelicals should be careful. In an effort to deal with the liberal detraction from core concepts regarding the cross, e.g., penal substitution, we often failed to recognize the more comprehensive nature of salvation and grace. The above reinforces that this broadness is also part of the beauty and uniqueness of Christianity.

Keller adds these thoughts:

What does it mean, then, to become part of God's work in the world? What does it mean to live a Christian life? One way to answer that question is to look back into the life of the Trinity and the original creation. God made us to ever increasingly share in his own joy and delight in the same way he has joy and delight within himself. We share his joy first as we give him glory (worshipping and serving him rather than ourselves); second, as we honor and serve the dignity of other human beings made in the image of God's glory; and third, as we cherish his derivative glory in the world of nature, which also reflects it. We glorify and enjoy him only as we worship him, serve the human community, and care for the created environment.

I like the balance.

outcry against pride

I very much appreciate Tyler Kenney's recent short post regarding The Sin of Sodom. Kenney provided this great reminder:

Any outcry among Christians against sexual immorality should be outdone by our protests against pride. We should be most aggressively opposed to arrogance—especially as we find it in ourselves and in our churches. Only then will we be in a right position to speak humbly, wisely and brokenheartedly about the evils of sexual immorality and the greater love of Jesus Christ.

At the same time he did not compromise the reality of sexual and other sin as seems popular these days.

Scripture clearly states that sexual immorality is sin (Matthew 15:19; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 5:19, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, etc.). We must also remember, however, that this is only one bad fruit of our rebellion against God, one among a list of many others, including idolatry, theft, greed, drunkenness, reviling and swindling (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). And all of these, God says, are just spin-offs of a more deep-seated trouble.

Many rightly see that in the case of Sodom the issue wasn't homosexuality in and of itself but in doing so, they wrongly conclude that homosexuality is not a sin. Their logic belies the thinking of a fallen mind and worldview.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

created to share joy

Historian George Marsden makes a summary of what Jonathan Edwards thinks of why God created: “Why would such an infinitely good, perfect and eternal Being create?... Here Edwards drew on the Christian Trinitarian conception of God as essentially interpersonal… The ultimate reason that God creates, said Edwards, is not to remedy some lack in God, but to extend that perfect internal communication of the triune God’s goodness and love… God’s joy and happiness and delight in divine perfections is expressed externally by communicating that happiness and delight to created beings… The universe is an explosion of God’s glory. Perfect goodness, beauty, and love radiate from God and draw creatures to ever increasingly share in the Godhead’s joy and delight… The ultimate of creation, then, is union in love between God and loving creatures.”

~ The Reason for God, Belief in an age of Skepticism. Timothy Keller (Dutton, New York, 2008) P218

Monday, June 21, 2010

something amazing!

“‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you became a Christian, something amazing happens: you are a new creation. The power of God that made the sun and stars is focused down like a laser into your heart. God steps into the world, as it were, and creates all over again. We’re transformed, reborn, made new. ‘For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). At creation God spoke a word into the darkness, and there was light. He spoke a word into the chaos, and there was beauty. And now again God speaks a word through the gospel. He speaks into the darkness of our hearts, and there is light. He speaks into the chaos of our lives, and there is beauty.”

- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 16.


divine dancing

Taken from Tim Keller's The Reason for God.

John describes the Son as living from all eternity in the "bosom of the Father" (Jn 1.18), an ancient metaphor for love and intimacy. Later in John's gospel, Jesus, the Son, describes the Spirit as living to "glorify" him (Jn 16.14). In turn, the Son glorifies the Father (Jn 17.4) and the Father, the Son (Jn 17.5). This has been going on for all eternity (Jn 17.5b).

Keller then defines "glorify" as praising, enjoying, and delighting in someone or something. That is to simply enjoy the object of glory for what it is, being in its presence is the reward. To glorify also implies to defer to or prefer. When one glorifies another our ultimate joy is the joy of the other.

With that as a backdrop, Keller uses the words of NT Wright to paint a picture of "the divine dance" in which the members of the trinity glorify each other.

The Father . . . Son . . . and Holy Spirit glorify each other. . . . At the center of the universe, self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt, commune with, and defer to one another. . . . When early Greek Christians spoke of perichoresis in God they meant that each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance each person envelops and encircles the others.

In Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing - not even just one person - but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. . . . [The] pattern of this three-personal life is . . . the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality.

dealing with criticism

This just in from Martin Downes regarding coping with criticism. He quotes Marcus Honeysett.

Worship is the refuge that allows us to respond to criticism well rather than defensively. Worship is the means by which God is allowed to be bigger in our perspective than our critics. Worship allows us to not be precious about us and our reputations because we are absorbed not with ourselves but with him.

Criticism isn't nice, but criticism that gets out of perspective is debilitating. Worship puts our perspective right, bastions our hearts, makes us rejoice in God and find our happiness (that criticism would wish to destroy) in him.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the solas

Randy Alcorn provides a nice summary of Protestant distinctives ...

1. Sola Scriptura – “The Bible alone.” Scripture alone speaks authoritatively, and it speaks to all believers, independently of church leaders and councils, human interpreters and so-called spokesmen for God.

2. Sola Gratia – “Grace alone.” It is only by the unmerited favor of God that Christ went to the cross and paid the price for man’s salvation. Man is by nature depraved—he has no virtue that commends him to God. Therefore God’s grace to him is truly undeserved and amazing, and God’s grace alone has the power to draw people to himself.

3. Sola Fide – “Faith alone.” Only total righteousness is acceptable to God, and that is found in Christ, not us. Man can only accept Christ’s work by placing his trust in him. Man is justified by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, not by any works of his own.

4. Sola Christus – “Christ alone.” Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone, and mediated by Christ alone—not by angels, saints, relics, sacraments, priests, teachers, churches, or anyone or anything else. Christ alone was the perfect Savior, and he alone is the perfect prophet, priest and king.

5. Soli Deo Gloria – “To God alone be glory.” God should be thanked, praised and given full credit for his sovereign grace and spiritual and physical provision. Theology should be God-centered, not man-centered. God should be put in his place and humans in theirs. Our efforts should not elevate and celebrate men but God. We should bring him glory in our work, in our homes and at play. He, not we, should be the center of all things.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

free will and god's glory

Here's John Piper speaking to the question, "Does God get more glory if people have free will?"

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Friday, June 11, 2010

why i'm not attractive - redux

Here is a repost of what was already a partial repost. My small group just discussed the covenant of community and this post seemed timely ...

Jonathan Brink asks the question, "what draws you to church?" This was triggered by some thinking he was doing regarding the "attractional church" and a flyer he got in which a church was describing its virtues.

Raquel gave a good response, i.e., "God". I like that. Perhaps something more precise like, "God in us"?

I think the real issue is "what is church". If it is our building, meetings, programs, etc., then we have to work on being attractional. And there are of course good and bad ways to do that. And we can discuss forever the rightness and wrongness of this. But the fundamental problem is that have a wrong base ... this is not Church and the whole attractional point is moot.

If church is the body of Christ, a community of believers working out their faith together in love, etc., then we don't think about being attractional. In fact, the concept would be contrary to our focus. We will love God. We will live together in love with each other against all worldly logic. We will serve each other and serve those that are bound by darkness. We will demonstrate and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. We will be making disciples among the ones we live with. Etc.

This will attract those that have been made alive by His Spirit to come be within the family of God. It will also attract those that want to earn something from God. It will also drive some away to cry out blasphemy or whatever. And it will cause some to want to kill us.

Attractional? Not in the sense of the attractional church. But, it will certainly command a response - and it won't be due to a flyer in the mail. I'm not pro or con flyers - it's simply that it's not about that.

I'll repost something I did two years ago ... I still like it and find it relevant.

In The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends, Richard Lamb explains, "...Jesus is the tangible incarnation of God, and his manner of inviting people into deep relationship with himself is the manner we have available to us today. Jesus gathered a group of people together, some good friends and brothers, some complete strangers and natural enemies, and eventually he told them that by their love for one another people would know that they had been touched and changed by God incarnate. In fact, this kind of friendship, inexplicable apart from God, was the apologetic by which he demonstrated his power to the world (Jn 13.35; 17.20-21). He told his disciples that their friendships would either make or break the mission of the church, his mission in the world."

“What would it be like to pursue – and find – God in the company of friends? What would those friendships look like? The process we call discipleship, and the context we call community.”

Lamb later provides some definitions for friendship by citing Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics 8; "... qualities enjoyed by friends that continue to be apt and helpful today: friends (1) enjoy one another, (2) are useful to one another, and (3) share a common commitment to "the good".

I no longer feel awkward about having relationships for purpose. My passion for pursuing God now leads me to connect with those that are useful and share the same passion. My compassion for the lost now leads me to connect with those that I perceive God is working in. While I care for the "crowd", I am selective about time spent building relationship without one of these purposes.

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
(The Message)

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

prayer attitude

From Bill Williams:

A person of prayer is one who approaches God…
  • In “fear” (with respect)- Psalm 145:17-20; and Psalm 115:12-13.
  • In faith- James 5:6 and 5:15.
  • In humility- James 4:6 (Proverbs 3:34); and 2 Chronicles 7:14.
  • With ones whole heart- Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 21:21; and James 1:5-7.
  • With selflessness- Luke 18:9-14 and James 4:3.
  • With forgiving spirit- Matthew 6:14-15; and Ephesians 4:32.
  • With confidence- Hebrews 2:18; 4:16-17; and 10:19, 35.
  • With persistence- Luke 18:1-7; and 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
  • With sincerity and simplicity- Matthew 6:5-8 and Mark 12:38-40.
  • In accord with God’s will- Matthew 26:42 and 1 John 5:14.
  • With a heart for obedience to God’s will- 1 John 3:22.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

what you can and cannot do with the kingdom

A classic repost - thanks to Peter Cockrell for the reminder on this. The points below are subtle but each one if misunderstood can lead to grave distortions in regard to the Kingdom, i.e., getting this right is a watershed point for much of what we do.

From George Eldon Ladd’s, The Presence of the Future (Eerdmans), p. 193.
  • The Kingdom can draw near to men (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; etc.); it can come (Matt. 6:10; Luke 17:20; etc.), arrive (Matt. 12:28), appear (Luke 19:11), be active (Matt. 11:12).
  • God can give the Kingdom to men (Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32), but men do not give the Kingdom to one another.
  • Further, God can take the Kingdom away from men (Matt. 21:43), but men do not take it away from one another, although they can prevent others from entering it.
  • Men can enter the Kingdom (Matt. 5:20; 7:21; Mark 9:47; 10:23; etc.), but they are never said to erect it or to build it.
  • Men can receive the Kingdom (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), inherit it (Matt. 25:34), and possess it (Matt. 5:4), but they are never said to establish it.
  • Men can reject the Kingdom, i.e., refuse to receive it (Luke 10:11) or enter it (Matt. 23:13), but they cannot destroy it.
  • They can look for it (Luke 23:51), pray for its coming (Matt. 6:10), and seek it (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31), but they cannot bring it.
  • Men may be in the Kingdom (Matt. 5:19; 8:11; Luke 13:29; etc.), but we are not told that the Kingdom grows.
  • Men can do things for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt. 19:12; Luke 18:29), but they are not said to act upon the Kingdom itself.
  • Men can preach the Kingdom (Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:9), but only God can give it to men (Luke 12:32).

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Friday, June 04, 2010

andrea bocelli's story

Andrea Bocelli is one of the greatest singers alive. Here he tells a life story. I love it.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

miracle lust

Some early morning wisdom from Bob ...

Reading chapter 1 of the Gospel of Mark this morning (when in doubt about what Scripture to read next, I often return to Mark), I noticed how after he begins his ministry Jesus routinely silences the demons (because they know who he is), and he also attempts to hush the man healed of leprosy. It's interesting to me that he does not want people to focus just now on "who he is" nor on the healings themselves. His desire now is simply to announce, rather mysteriously, the nearness of the kingdom of God. However, when the former-leper tells everyone that this Jesus had healed him (it must have been hard to keep that a secret, in any case), that's all that seems to matter to "the crowds." It's a kind of miracle lust, and Jesus is not inclined to indulge it at the expense of his message.

The ESV Study Bible note on verse 45 puts it this way:

"The joy of the healed man overrides Jesus' injunction to silence and therefore Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, lest he be mobbed. So Jesus cannot stay hidden (e.g., v. 45; 3:7–12, 20; 6:31–33). Mark often emphasizes how the crowds' excessive attention to Jesus' miracles is a frequent problem, causing the crowds to miss the true purpose of his ministry (i.e., to proclaim the good news of the kingdom)."

I wonder if it sometimes happens with us, too, that our desire for a miracle, a work of wonder, actually causes us to miss the core message--the kingdom of God is at hand.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

dogma brings fruit

From J.C. Ryle in Holiness:

Mark what I say. If you want to do goodin these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to who you try to do good will believe nothing.

The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology; by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice; by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood; by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour; by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit; by lifting up the brazen serpent; by telling men to look and live—to believe, repent, and be converted.

This—this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad. Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology—the preachers of the gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality—let them, I say, show us at this day any English village, or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without “dogma,” by their principles. They cannot do it, and they never will.

Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over the facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small. Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to “do good” and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to “dogma.” No dogma, no fruits! No positive evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!

conflict resolution

Some words for myself ...

Proverbs 11.12, "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent."

Proverbs 12.18, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

Proverbs 15.1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Proverbs 18.13, "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame."

Mat 7.1-5 (MSG), ""Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor."

Romans 12.9-10, 15-18, "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

Romans 14.19, "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."

Ephesians 4.29-32, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

2 Timothy 2.22-24, "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,"

James 1.19, "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;"

1 Peter 3.8-9, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

creation teaching

John Piper speaks regarding what we should teach about creation.

Here's his summary and I agree with not only his points but his focus. I'm not sure of the value in debating the age of the earth. What seems important is the initiator of its creation and more important, the origin of man.

1) We should teach without any qualification that God created the universe and everything in it. It wasn't always here. It didn't spontaneously emerge from a big bang alone, however God did it. God did it. That's clear, and everybody who believes the Word should preach that.

2) Secondly, I think we should preach that he made it good. There was no sin in it, when he first made it.

3) Thirdly, I think we should preach that he created Adam and Eve directly, that he made them of the dust of the ground, and he took out of man a woman. I think we should teach that. I know there are people who don't, who think it's all imagery for evolution or whatever.

And we should teach that man had his beginning not millions of years ago but within the scope of the biblical genealogies. Those genealogies are tight at about 6,000 years and loose at maybe 10 or 15,000. So I think we should honor those genealogies and not say that you can play fast and loose with the origin of man.

That's not the age of the earth issue there. That's the origin of what is a human being, when did that human being come into existence. I think we should say he came into existence by God's direct action and that it wasn't millions of years ago. That was within the scope of these genealogies.