Sunday, September 29, 2013

friends needed

Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics 8 taught three 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”.

Jeremy Anderberg posts 5 Types of Friends Every Man Needs:

How many friends does a man really need? It’s not uncommon on Facebook to have hundreds of “friends.” But if we’re honest, only a mere fraction of those are people we’d consider spending time with. Luckily for us, there has actually been a bit of research into this very question.

Evolutionary biologist and author Robin Dunbar argues that the average human can sustain about 150 friendships. Now, that term is used quite loosely to “refer to those people with whom you have a personalized relationship, one that is reciprocal and based around general obligations of trust and reciprocity.” A “personalized relationship” can mean many things — from your neighbor, to your regular bus driver, to your spouse.

So within that 150, there are circles of more intimate relationships. The furthest it breaks down is to the category of an “inner circle of intimate friends.” And that number? Five. The average human has (or should have) five close friends with whom they can connect with on a regular basis. It can vary by one or two, but five seems to be that sweetspot. This is especially true if your various friends fulfill different roles in your life.

Friends make life easier for each other. Their strengths and talents balance your weaknesses and gaps in ability. And you do the same for them. For this reason, a well-rounded group of friends, with different kinds of guys in it, can truly enrich your life. If you have good buddies of any sort, count yourself lucky. If your posse includes the following 5 archetypes, consider yourself truly fortunate.

The Mentor

There comes a time (probably many times) in a man’s life where he just needs to talk to another guy and get some advice. Whether he’s a peer who’s beyond his years in wisdom, or an older gentleman you met at church, you need someone you can turn to when the goin’ gets tough.

Our spouse or significant other often takes on this role, but what happens when it’s our relationship that’s causing some trouble? Or when it’s specifically a dude issue? There are things in life that only guys experience, and times in life that only another fella can speak to.

Besides doling out advice when needed, the mentor is also someone who can give you constructive criticism when he sees something not going so well in your life. Perhaps you’ve gained a bit of hubris with your new promotion, or he catches you flirting with the barista who is very much not your girlfriend. Many a man will shrink from confrontation, but the mentor brings it up, because he ultimately wants you to be a better man.

The mentor may not always be your favorite fellow in the world, but he’s as necessary, if not more so, than anyone else on this list. He can be a guiding hand through the crazy and often confusing world we live in.

Where to find the mentor: dad, uncles, church/religious organizations, fraternal organizations.

The Wingman/Bachelor

This friend is one who serves different purposes, depending on your stage in life.

When you’re single, this is the friend who acts as your “wingman.” Not necessarily in the way the label is often used in popular culture – as the guy who distracts a woman’s friend so you can make a move on her. Rather here we’re defining the wingman more broadly as the buddy who gives you confidence when interacting with the opposite sex. Two is always better than one, especially in social settings, and the wingman is adept at making any outing go smoother and feel less stressful. Often gregarious and charismatic, the wingman takes the pressure off of you to strike up conversations, as he is able to draw people over and put them at ease. In group settings, he makes you feel comfortable and lets others know about your positive traits, so you don’t have to mention them yourself and risk coming off as smug. When you want to break off to go talk to a cute girl, he’s the one who pumps you up to do it. The wingman is also the guy who restores your lost confidence after a breakup and gives you the kick in the rear you need in order to get off the couch and back into the dating scene.

Then, when you get hitched, this is the buddy who remains the perennial bachelor – the guy who stays away from the altar longer than anyone else in your group of friends. In this role, he’s the one who doesn’t let you forget about the interests and friends you had before you got married. It can be hard to get that much-needed guy time in once you’ve settled down. It’s even harder when all your friends also have significant others, and even kids; things need to be planned out weeks in advance and childcare needs to be arranged…it can end up being a major headache. So when you need someone at the drop of a dime to just hang out with and watch the football game, the bachelor is your go-to. He’s the one who convinces you to do a mud run with him or take a little road trip to see your favorite band. He provides a needed shot of undomesticated masculine energy to your life.

Where to find the single guy/wingman: college, work, the local watering hole.

The Handyman

I’m using the relatively narrow term of handyman here to convey the guy in your life who just seems to know everything about everything. He can help you with home improvement projects, he can tell you how to grill the perfect steak, and he can even give you tips for negotiating on that car you’re looking at buying. He’s similar to the mentor, but instead of waxing philosophical, the handyman gives you practical tips that can be implemented right now.

Beyond just helping you with projects, the real benefit of the handyman is that he can teach you all these things he knows. Instead of letting him re-tile the bathroom floor, insist that you do it with his guidance, so that you can be a handyman friend in the future.

This is perhaps one of the more valuable types of friends there are. Be careful to not take advantage of the handyman, as he can easily end up just doing work with you and for you, instead of having some casual hang out times as well. Also, if he does do some work for you, or even just helps out, make sure you thank him somehow. Feed him dinner or take him out for some beers as a way to say, “I really appreciate your help, and it’s important to me that I don’t take advantage of all that you’re doing for me.” A manly thank you note could also be a nice touch.

Where to find the handyman: your neighborhood, a hardware store, hacker spaces

The Fitness Buff

The fitness buff may be our least favorite of friends. He can run marathons with ease. He can bike a hundred miles without breaking a sweat. He trains for Ironman triathlons like it’s his job, and he even enjoys it. The worst part of it all? He loves to invite you along. And he won’t stop inviting you until you say yes.

The fitness buff’s entreaties to come on a marathon bike ride with him may sometimes annoy when we’re feeling lazy. But he also provides a much needed dose of inspiration in our lives. He’s the guy who makes sure we get off the couch. Even if we constantly refuse his insistent invitations, his example motivates us to hit the gym on our own, if for nothing else than so we can join him with a modicum of confidence.

At some point, you do need to say yes to your fitness friend. If not for yourself, than at least for the sake of your friendship. Besides, what’s a man who says no to an opportunity to better himself? Your friend will (hopefully) understand your potentially lesser abilities and slow down to meet your pace, whatever that may be. If not, you’ll need to speak up, contrary to what your competitive spirit may be trying to tell you. Pushing yourself too hard is sometimes just as bad as not doing anything.

You may not like him, but at some point you’ll thank your fitness friend for challenging you to get out and do something physical when you wanted to sit on your bean bag chair and eat chips.

Where to find the fitness buff: the gym, intramural leagues, races, the streets and trails (look for the guy in running shorts who isn’t sweating)

The Work Pal

Most men spend at least 40 hours at the office each week, and it’s often more when you factor in lunch, overtime, and all those times you show up early because you’re a man who wants to get things done. That ends up being almost half of your waking hours in a week, and sometimes more. To that end, you need a pal at the office you can shoot the breeze with. You don’t want to eat every lunch alone every day.

The beauty about the work pal is that you can lower your expectations a little bit. This isn’t to sound harsh, but he doesn’t need to be your best friend for the rest of your life, he just needs to help you get through the week. And if you happen to hit if off, you can always take the friendship out of the office.

This type of friendship can be tricky to navigate because it’s very dependent on your job. You may have solitary environs, or perhaps work for a company in which you don’t really like anybody (in which case, should you really be there?). Navigating the hierarchy of the business world can be thorny as well; you can’t often really be friends with your boss in an office setting. They give performance reviews, may have to discipline you, decide on your raises/promotions, etc.; in my opinion, it’s best to not really try and be buddy-buddy with your boss, and stick to the hierarchy that’s in place.

Try to find someone who’s in a similar position as you, or if they’re higher up, hopefully in a different department. You don’t have to be best friends, but finding someone for those water cooler chats makes the work week go by much more enjoyably, especially if you don’t particularly love your job.

Where to find the work pal: the office, a co-op and/or your local coffee shop if you work from home or are self-employed.

10 theses on postmodernism

I'm not sure what I think of the details here. I know I have mixed emotions and I'll need to sort that out later. But for now, some of this was very, very good.

Ten Theses on Postmodernism by Doug Wilson:

  1. Truth is objective, ultimate, absolute, personal, alive, and triune. 
  2. Because of this ultimate reality, it is possible for creatures who were fashioned by this living God to know Him as the personal and ultimate truth, as well as to know lesser truths in the created world that we see all around us. We know Him apart from that world, and we know Him through and in that world. We know. Some of us only wish we didn’t.
  3. Objective truth does not mean uninterpreted truth. Objectivity in our knowledge of truth means that our interpretation lines up with God’s interpretation of it. Thinking God’s thoughts after Him is not the same thing as guessing or having opinions. The standard of absolute knowledge is how God knows a thing. The standard of creaturely knowledge is how we know a thing, measured against what God ordained as possible for a creature in our circumstances to know.
  4. The fact that truth is objective does not mean that it is constructed out of rough cut two by fours. Those two-inch deep dogmatists, ostensible defenders of the faith, who think that objectivity stands or falls with their pat answers are a big part of our problem. They only provide the pomos with a conservative group to feel superior to, and to have a reasonable point in feeling that way.
  5. Truth is more complicated than an eight-foot-long stud wall, with the studs on sixteen inch centers. But it is also more organized than a sticky, undifferentiated mass. We do not have to choose between simplistic and unyielding, and complex and incoherent. How about complex and unyielding?
  6. When the pomos taught us that all truth claims were disguised power grabs, they were telling us more about their purposes than they were actually intending to. So Christians who believe the press releases put out by the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (NICE) really need to get out more.
  7. On a related front, the pomo rot has gotten to the realm of science, producing something called “post-normal science,” and you can see the results in phrases like “global warming,” “sustainability,” and every other form of statist hoohah and tyrannical cant. Christians who go for this stuff, unwittingly or not, are just carrying bricks for Pharaoh. Doesn’t matter if they have John 3:16 stenciled on the side of their hod.
  8. When modernity announced that the modern age was built by their guys, the secularists, the Christians who believed them were way too easily duped. There should have been less gullibility around here and more checking. Secularism did not fill the houses with good things, did not dig the wells, and did not create great and goodly cities (Dt. 6:10-11). The law required us to give the glory to God for these good things. Instead we have now fallen for the pomo lie that they are not actually good things. The modernist says that “my power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth” (Dt. 8:17). The pomo says, “Yeah, well, to say that you can actually get water out of your wells is logocentric, imperialistic, self-serving, and totalizing.” And the consistent Christian just thanks Jesus for all the stuff.
  9. The inconsistent Christians writes articles for academic journals explaining how it turns out that the Scriptures, rightly understood, were all along saying just when the latest breeze from off the Zeitgeist Bay would seem to indicate they ought to have been saying. Currently, since the breezes are south by southeast, this actually means saying that the Scriptures can’t be rightly understood, but we can try to fix that later. When you are in the mood for some respectability, and that old familiar ache settles in your evangelical throat, don’t let the fundamentalists get in the way. They think the truth is made out of two by fours anyway, and they will be happy to provide you with any additional cover you might need as you slink out of the faith to accept a post at Calvin College.
  10. Jesus is Lord, and not just in our hearts. The only consistent Christian answer to all the contemporary pushing and shoving is some form of resurgent Christendom. We can debate the details later.


John Piper on relativism in Think:

Let’s begin our  assessment of relativism with an interaction between Jesus and some classic practical relativists—not self-conscious, full-blown relativists, just de facto relativists, which are the most common kind, prevalent in every age, not just this one. It will be helpful to watch Jesus meet the relativists. Consider Matthew 21:23–27:

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to [Jesus] as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us,  ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Look carefully at how the chief priests and elders deal with truth. Jesus asks them to take a stand on a simple truth-claim: either John’s baptism is from heaven or from man. Declare what you believe to be the truth.

So they  ponder: “If we say that John’s baptism is from heaven, then we will be shamed because Jesus will show that we are hypo crites. He’ll ask why we haven’t believed in John’s message. He’ll point out that we say we think his baptism is from heaven, but we don’t live like it. We will be shamed before the crowds.

“But if we say that John’s baptism is from man, we may be harmed by the crowd, because they all believe he was  a prophet. There could be some mob violence against us. Therefore, since we don’t want to be shamed, and we don’t want to be harmed by a mob, let’s not say that either of these options is true. We will simply say that we don’t know the answer.”

What are we to make of this? This is not full-blown relativism. Rather, what we see here are the seeds of relativism. Here is the way the depraved mind works. Let’s make the connection with chapters 4 and 5 on the role of thinking in the rise of faith. What we saw there was that the human mind, apart from transforming grace (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23), is depraved (1 Tim. 6:5) and debased (Rom. 1:28) and hard (2 Cor. 4:4) and darkened and futile (Eph. 4:17–18). But it was created by God to discover the truth and respond to the truth in trusting God and loving people.

But Matthew 21:23–27 is a picture of what has become of the human mind taken captive by sin. The elders and chief priests do not use their minds to formulate a true answer to Jesus’ question. How do they use their minds? Oh, they use them carefully. What we see here is not people who should be using their minds in the  service of truth but don’t use them at all. No. They use them incisively, and Matthew lets us see the inner workings of such thinking. Everybody  thinks. The difference is whether we think in service of the truth or in the way the chief priests and the elders think.


Jesus’ response is explosively relevant for how we deal with such duplicity. He says, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” In other words, “This conversation is over. I don’t have serious conversations with people like you.” Jesus abominates that kind of arrogant, cowardly prostituting of the glorious gifts of human thinking and human language.


People don’t embrace relativism because it is philosophically satisfying. They embrace it because it is physically and emotionally gratifying. It provides the cover they need at key moments in their lives to do what they want without intrusion from absolutes.

charles stanley quotes

  1. ”God has a master plan for your life, and that master plan does not change either. It is a plan designed specifically for you. It is a plan that God intends for you to live out fully, beginning at the moment of your birth and never ending until the moment of your death.” (Discover Your Destiny)
  2. “If we walk in the Spirit daily, surrendered to His power, we have the right to expect anything we need to hear from God.” (How to Listen to God)
  3. “You may go through difficulty, hardship, or trial—but as long as you are anchored to Him, you will have hope.” (In Touch with God)
  4. “After brokenness, our lives can be more fruitful, more purposeful, and more joyful. A genuine blessing can come in the wake of being broken.” (Developing Inner Strength)
  5. “Apart from Jesus, there is no peace—not within a human heart, and not among human beings or nations. With Jesus, we can experience peace that passes our rational minds and settles deep within (Phil. 4:7).” (Preparing for Christ’s Return)
  6. “If God can gain glory for Himself from the unjustified murder of His Son, can we not trust Him to somehow glorify Himself in and through the things we struggle with on a daily basis?” (How to Handle Adversity)
  7. “Jesus wants you to lean on Him and hand over your burdens, all of them. When you do, you’ll experience a lightness of spirit that knows no bounds.” (Seeking His Face: A Daily Devotional)
  8. “Forgiveness is based on the atoning work of the Cross, and not on anything we do. God’s forgiveness does not depend on our confession, nor does His fellowship. Confession is a means for releasing us from the tension and bondage of a guilty conscience.” (The Gift of Forgiveness)
  9. “As you confront your problems rather than avoid them, your faith is nurtured and stretched. Your confidence grows; your fears subside.” (Enter His Gates)
  10. “From the world’s perspective, there are many places you can go to find comfort. But there is only one place you will find a hand to catch your tears and a heart to listen to your every longing. True peace comes only from God.” (Into His Presence)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

true salvation

We need more preaching like this. The following was posted by Adrian Warnock.

The above video was preached by Tope Koleoso this past week at Jubilee Church in Enfield and Wood Green. It was one of the most convicting yet grace-filled messages I have ever heard. This is the gospel. It is a great sermon for everybody to listen to in order to help you to distinguish in your own life the difference between as he put it “Some kind of response to the gospel vs being born again.”

Tope referred to two Scriptures that should cause all of us to sit up and listen:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Cor 13:5

And secondly the passage where Jesus warns that there will be many who think they are saved but he will say “away from me I never knew you”

Here are some notes that I took from the sermon which I urge you to watch:

  • Salvation is when we make a clear firm decision to give my life to The Lord. Not perfect but I am saved
  • People say they are born again but there has been no change.
  • It’s not just about becoming moral. Much more than that.
  • Salvation is about having been touched by God and then you respond to him.
  • Conception – a seed has been sown Mark 4 seed falls on different kinds of ground. The fact that the seed has touched you doesn’t make you saved. Sometimes it bounces off. Too hard. Some people like it but it doesn’t really take.
  • You can have an experience of God, encounter or miracle and not be saved.
  • If seed never progresses into salvation. Becomes empty religion.
  • Once met an atheist who goes to church because he likes the songs.
  • Observers. Some come and go through the motions. Get on right side of God by doing things. No zeal or zest for God and no fruit.
  • Last thing any pastor wants is a member to think they are on their way to heaven but actually on the way to hell. There is such a thing as false salvation.
  • Take the narrow gate! Wide gate is easy believism. Everything so easy. Don’t ask people to read the bible. We will do it for you. Don’t bother singing. No need to pray. Just come. There’s a risk we are helping people all the way to hell.
  • Good tree cannot bear bad fruit. If no change in your whole life, you are probably not saved. You might be on your way to hell.
  • False prophets preach a false message which leads to a false salvation.
  • We must move behond religion to a relationship. Religion is damming more people to hell than anything. We can only be saved by the finished work of Jesus.
  • Real salvation is permanent. If you are a son he won’t disown you. There’s a hunger inside you. Even if you sin you regret it and long to do better. Fruit comes.
  • What does true salvation look like? Was your heart moved? Did did you feel your sin? Or did you just come wanting him to give you a better job.
  • God says he will give you a new heart. Your desires change. Your choices change. You are led by the Spirit. Your actions change Ezekial 36. 26-7
  • True Salvation : A decision to respond to Jesus as God. A decision to receive His Word as truth. A decision to reject the world as dead.
  • True salvation means that Christ lives in you. He changes your heart.
  • In Isaiah 6 God didn’t say “you’re not as bad as you think” or “get away from me” but “your guilt is removed!”


So you want to be an amillenialist but need more info? Here Sam Storms explains the amillennial view of armageddon. Adapted from his book Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative.

The place to begin is for you to read Revelation 19:17-21 and 20:7-10. As one examines the similarity between between these texts it would appear that John is providing us with parallel accounts of the same conflict (Armageddon) rather than presenting two entirely different battles separated by 1,000 years of human history (as the premillennialist contends). This deserves some attention.

Amillennialists, such as myself, believe there are three texts in Revelation that describe what has come to be famously known as Armageddon, the final battle when Jesus Christ returns to this earth accompanied by the armies of heaven to defeat and destroy his enemies. They are Revelation 16:12-16; 19:17-21; and 20:7-10. Although each has a different focus, they are complementary portrayals of the second coming of Christ. They differ primarily because chapter 19 is concerned with the war as it relates to the participation and fate of the beast, his followers, and the false prophet, whereas chapter 20 is concerned primarily with the role of Satan. Also, it stands to reason that having given a detailed and vivid description of the war in chapters 16 and 19, John would find it unnecessary to repeat such detail in chapter 20.

In Revelation 16 the enemies are “the kings of the whole world” (16:14). In Revelation 19 they are “kings” and “captains” and “mighty men,” indeed they are “all men, both free and slave, both small and great” (19:18). In Revelation 20 they are “the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog” (20:8). They are all specifically gathered together for “the war” (cf. Rev. 19:19; 20:8). The use of the definite article (“the”) points to a well-known war, the eschatological war often prophesied in the OT between God and his enemies (cf. Joel 2:11; Zeph. 1:14; Zech. 14:2-14).

Friday, September 27, 2013

simplicity of god

And speaking of knowing God, Kevin DeYoung posts Theological Primer: The Simplicity of God.

The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Reformed churches, the Belgic Confession (1561), begins with the declaration “that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God” (Article 1). This may seem a strange way to open a confession. There is only one single being called God; that makes sense. But God is simple—what’s that all about?

The simplicity of God is an important truth few Christians think about any more. By “simple” we do not mean God is slow or dim-witted. Nor do we mean that God is easy to understand. Simple, as a divine attribute, is the opposite of compound. The simplicity of God means God is not made up of his attributes. He does not consist of goodness, mercy, justice, and power. He is goodness, mercy, justice, and power. Every attribute of God is identical with his essence.

Consequently, we ought not suggest, for example, that the love of God is the true nature of God while omnipotence (or holiness of sovereignty or whatever) is only an attribute of God. This is a common error, and one which the doctrine of simplicity would have us avoid. We often hear people say, “God may have justice or wrath, but he is love.” The implication is that love is more central to the nature of God, more true to his real identity than other less essential attributes. But this is to imagine God as a composite being instead of a simple.

It is perfectly appropriate to highlight the love of God when Scripture makes it such a central theme. But the declaration “God is love” (1 John 4:8) does not carry more metaphysical weight than “God is light” (1 John 1:5 ), “God is spirit” (John 4:24 ), “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29 ), or, for that matter, Scriptural statements about God’s goodness, kindness, or omniscience. “If God is composed of parts,” Bavinck explains, “like a body, or composed of genus (class) and differentiae (attributes of different species belonging to the same genus), substance and accidents, matter and form, potentiality and actuality, essence and existence, then his perfection, oneness, independence, and immutability cannot be maintained (Reformed Dogmatics 2:176).

In other words, the simplicity of God not only prevents us from ranking certain attributes higher than others, it allows God to have “a distinct and infinite life of his own within himself” (177). He is not an abstract Absolute Idea who happens to have love, wisdom, and holiness, as if we first conceive of a being called God and then relate qualities to him. Rather, God in his very essence—within himself and by himself—is love, wisdom, and holiness. God is whatever he has. He is not the composite of his attributes, some in greater and some in lesser amounts. God is a simple being without parts or pieces. His attributes do not stick to him; he is what they are.

knowing god

... God and his ways are knowable—not perfectly or comprehensively in this life (1 Cor. 13:12), but truly (John 14:9). ~ John Piper

freely treasuring

John Piper in Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God:

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me’” (Mark 7:6–7). In other words, Jesus says that external actions—even religious ones directed toward him—are not the essence of worship. They are not the essence of love. What happens in the heart is essential. The external behaviors will be pleasing to God when they flow from a heart that freely treasures God above all things.

blood satisfies

From Anthony Carter at Ligonier Ministries ... The Blood That Satisfies:

The Bible is full of epochal events, those grand, earth-altering instances that stand out as high points of redemptive history. In the Old Testament, no event is so dramatic and game-changing as Israel’s redemption from Egypt.

In redeeming Israel, God pulled out all the stops. He turned the Nile River to blood. He darkened the sun so that the land was engulfed in perpetual night. He sent an infestation of frogs. If the Egyptians thought that was tolerable, He sent an infestation of gnats (that would have gotten my attention). For those who thought the gnats were not that bad, He sent an infestation of flies (okay, I give up). In all, God sent ten devastating, debilitating, and deathly plagues.

The last plague was the most horrific. God swore to kill the firstborn of every creature in Egypt, including the house of Pharaoh (Ex. 11:4 ff.). So awesome would be the judgment that even the firstborn of Israel would perish unless the Israelites obeyed the commands of God.

To avert the judgment, God commanded every household of Israel to select a male lamb without blemish, kill it, and smear the blood on the doorposts of the house. Then God said: “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13).

We must remember that God’s wrath was not against Egypt alone for its sin and idolatry, but against Israel as well. God is not a respecter of persons when it comes to the judgment of sin. His judgment was going to wreak havoc not only on the Egyptians but also on the people of Israel—unless they figuratively covered themselves in blood by literally covering their doorposts with it.

What did the blood of the lambs do? It turned away God’s wrath and appeased His anger against sin. It satisfied His justice. The blood of the lambs caused God to pass over each house—for a time. The blood satisfied on the night of the Passover, but each year the sacrifices of the lambs had to be made anew. Every year, the sounds of the slaughter of lambs for sacrifices could be heard. For this reason, Israel always longed for an unblemished male lamb who would take way sin once and for all; the One about whom God would say finally, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you forever.”

When the Lord Jesus Christ came on the scene, He was announced as the Lamb of God who not only takes away our sin (John 1:29) but also turns away God’s wrath against us. In fact, 1 Corinthians 5:7 states it plainly to us: “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

The Israelites lived because of the blood of the lambs that were slain. If you are in Christ, you live because of the blood of the Lamb of God. In the blood of Christ, we have what we lost in Adam, namely, life. The shedding of our Savior’s blood was significant not for the blood itself but for what it represents. It represents the perfect, sinless life of Christ poured out unto death for us (Isa. 53:12).

Yet, if all that needed to happen was for Jesus to shed some blood, He could have pricked His finger and placed some blood on the cross or let it spill on the ground, and all would have been well. His precious blood signified His precious life and His precious death. Consequently, the redeemed do not receive a blood transfusion from God. We receive a life transfusion—His death for our death, His life for our life. It all is according to His precious blood, which satisfies God’s righteous requirements for life and justice.

An excerpt from Blood Work by Anthony Carter. Download the digital edition free through September 30, 2013.

telling of god's glory

When I see things like this, it provokes me to wonder: Can something like this really be explained by time and chance and a random collocation of molecules? Not in a million years…or even a few billion.

Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. - Genesis 1:20-23

Sunday, September 22, 2013

the accuser

D. A. Carson in Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus:

Satan accuses Christians day and night. It is not just that he will work on our conscience to make us feel as dirty, guilty, defeated, destroyed, weak, and ugly as he possibly can; it is something worse: his entire play in the past is to accuse us before God day and night, bringing charges against us that we know we can never answer before the majesty of God’s holiness.

What can we say in response? Will our defense be, ‘Oh, I’m not that bad?’ You will never beat Satan that way. Never. What you must say is, ‘Satan, I’m even worse than you think, but God loves me anyway. He has accepted me because of the blood of the Lamb.’

Revelation 12:7–12 (ESV);  Satan Thrown Down to Earth 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”


It is common among postmodern innovators to blame feelings of guilt on those whom they perceive condemn them for their questioning. No. It is not the questioning per se that is called into question, it is the heart behind the questions. Questioning is good and it is right.

Francis Schaeffer in Form and Freedom in the Church:

But someone will say, ‘Didn’t Jesus say that, to be saved, you have to be as a little child?’ Of course he did. But did you ever see a little child who didn’t ask questions? People who use this argument must never have listened to a little child or been one. My four children gave me a harder time with their endless flow of questions than university people ever have. . . . What Jesus was talking about is that the little child, when he has an adequate answer, accepts the answer. He has the simplicity of not having a built-in grid whereby, regardless of the validity of the answer, he rejects it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

discipline v. punishment

Some struggle to understand how a loving God could create a place like Hell. Others, while understanding and accepting the relationship between mercy and justice, freedom and consequence, victory and punishment, still imagine a better way. If God is all-loving, why doesn’t He simply “reform” people rather than allow them to continue in their sin and eventually punish them in Hell? Even human prison systems understand the value of reform; isn’t a God who punishes his children in Hell a sadistic and vengeful God?

We expect that a loving God would care enough about us to offer a chance to change rather than simply punish us vindictively for something we’ve done in the past. As it turns out, God (as he is described in the Bible) understands the difference between discipline and punishment, and He is incredibly patient with us, allowing us an entire lifetime to change our minds and reform our lives. This is easier to understand when we think carefully about the definitions of “discipline” and “punishment”:

Discipline Looks Forward

All of us understand the occasional necessity of disciplining our children. When we discipline, we are motivated by love rather than vengeance. We hope to change the future behavior of our kids by nudging them in a new direction with a little discomfort. God also loves His children in this way and allows them the opportunity to reform under his discipline. This takes place during our mortal lifetime; God disciplines those He loves in this life because He is concerned with eternity. Discipline, by its very definition, is “forward-looking” and must therefore occur in this world with an eye toward our eternal destiny:

Hebrews 12:9-11; Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Punishment Looks Backward

There are times as a parent, however, when our loving efforts to discipline and reform are unsuccessful; our kids are sometimes rebellious to the point of exhaustion. In these times, our love requires us to deliver on our repeated warnings. Our loving sense of justice requires us to be firm, even when it hurts us to do so. Our other children are watching us as well, and our future acts of mercy will be meaningless if we fail to act justly on wrongdoing. In times like these, we have no alternative but to punish acts that have occurred in the past. Punishment need not be vindictive or vengeful. It is simply the sad but deserving consequence awaiting those who are unwilling to be reformed in this life.

Hebrews 10:28-29; Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

God is patient. He’s given each of us a lifetime to respond to His discipline and change our mind. It cannot be said that God failed to give us the opportunity to repent. When we are rebellious to the point of exhaustion, however, God has no choice but to deliver on His warnings.


John Stott in The Message of Romans:

Christian exultation in God begins with the shamefaced recognition that we have no claim on him at all, continues with wondering worship that while we were still sinners and enemies Christ died for us, and ends with the humble confidence that he will complete the work he has begun. So to exult in God is to rejoice not in our privileges but in his mercies, not in our possession of him but in his of us.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

why hell

When Rob Bell released his book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, he capitalized on the historic controversy surrounding the existence and nature of hell. Critics of Christianity have cited the hell’s existence as evidence against the loving nature of God, and Christians have sometimes struggled to respond to the objection. Why would a loving God create a place like Hell? Wouldn’t a God who would send people to a place of eternal punishment and torment be considered unloving by definition?

The God of the Bible is described as loving, gracious and merciful (this can be seen in many places, including 1 John 4:8-9, Exodus 33:19, 1 Peter 2:1-3, Exodus 34:6 and James 5:11). The Bible also describes God as holy and just, hating sin and punishing sinners (as seen in Psalm 77:13, Nehemiah 9:33, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, Psalms 5:5-6, and Matthew 25:45-46). It’s this apparent paradox reveals something about the nature of love and the necessity of Hell:

Mercy Requires Justice
When a judge pardons an unrepentant rapist without warrant, we don’t typically see this as an act of love, particularly when we consider the rights of the victim (and the safety of potential future victims). Mercy without justice is reckless, meaningless and dangerous. True love cares enough to punish wrongdoing. For this reason, a God of love must also be a God of justice, recognizing, separating and punishing wrongdoers. Hell is the place where God’s loving justice is realized and executed.

Freedom Requires Consequence
True love cannot be coerced. Humans must have freedom in order to love, and this includes the freedom to reject God altogether. Those who do not want to love God must be allowed to reject him without coercion. Those who don’t want to be in God’s presence must be allowed to separate themselves from Him if their “free will” is to be respected. God’s love requires the provision of human freedom, and human “free will” necessitates a consequence. Hell is the place where humans who freely reject God experience the consequence of their choice.

Victory Requires Punishment
All of us struggle to understand why evil exists in the world. If there is an all-powerful and all-loving God, this God (by His very nature) has the power and opportunity to conquer and punish evil. If God is both powerful and loving, He will eventually be victorious. God’s victory over evil will be achieved in mortality or eternity. God has provided a mechanism though which evil will be permanently conquered and punished in the next life. Hell is the place where an all-loving and all-powerful God will ultimately defeat and punish evil.

The loving nature of God requires justice if it is to be meaningful, and the justice of God requires punishment if it is to be fair. At the same time, human freedom must result in a consequence if it is to be significant, and the consequence for evil actions must ultimately be appropriate if God is to be just. Finally, the power of God necessitates victory, and eternal victory requires an eternal mode of punishment. The paradox of God’s love and justice necessitates the existence of Hell. God’s love does not compel Him to eliminate the necessary punishment and consequence for sin, but instead compels Him to offer us a way to avoid this consequence altogether. By offering forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (who took our punishment), God demonstrated His love for us. It cannot be said that a loving God would never create a place like Hell if that same God has provided us with a way to avoid it.


A thought sadly missed by many ... Hugh Thomson Kerr, quoted by George W. Peters in A Biblical Theology of Missions:

We are not sent to preach sociology but salvation; not economics but evangelism; not reform but redemption; not culture but conversion; not progress but pardon; not a new social order but a new birth; not revolution but regeneration; not renovation but revival; not resuscitation but resurrection; not a new organization but a new creation; not democracy but the gospel; not civilization but Christ; we are ambassadors, not diplomats.


It’s found in a network of relationships.

I was taught that “real” discipleship was only found in one-on-one relationships where Person A helps Person B grow in the faith for a certain period of time. Then, once Person B has matured to a certain degree, he or she is expected find a Person C to disciple.

However, the more prevalent biblical picture is that discipleship occurs in a network of relationships. When Person A is connected to a local church, he or she is taught by teachers and preachers, exhorted by prophets, and experiences the regular ministry of those in the church who bear burdens, use their gifts, intercede in prayer, and do “life on life” with Person A.

Discipleship occurs in a network of relationships

Knowing the truth of “discipleship as network” would have kept me from feeling guilty for not having a Person B at any specific time in my life. And it would have freed me up to joyfully use my gifts, talents, and passions to help a myriad of people grow in Jesus.

Monday, September 09, 2013

go do the same

Luke 4:38–44 (ESV) 

4.38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. 

40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

  • Interesting prayer selection by Jesus - He rebukes the fever. He spoke to the condition and it left. He spoke to it with authority.
  • People who were free to go do anything made the effort to come to Jesus for healing.
  • Although those that needed healing were still coming, Jesus leaves. His purpose wasn't to stay and heal all.
Luke 8:1–2 (ESV)

8.1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,

Luke 9:2, 11 (ESV)

9.2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. 

Luke 10:1, 9 (ESV)

10.1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

  • Jesus, the word worker, proclaimed the Kingdom of God and then demonstrated the Kingdom of God through healing and deliverance. In Mt 11 he simply told John's disciples who wanted to know if He was that the Messiah to, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor..." These miracles more than validate Jesus' message. This is the Kingdom.
  • Demonstration and proclamation of the Kingdom is not limited to Jesus. He expects His disciples to go out and to the same in His authority.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

science and sex change

Peter Sprigg writes Why Science Doesn't Support Orientation-Change Bans:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently signed Assembly Bill 3371, which forbids licensed professional counselors in the state to “engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age.”

Christie indicated that in signing the bill, he was accepting the professional expertise of the American Psychological Association. It is true that the APA has been highly critical of “sexual reorientation therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts.” It is unfortunate that both the legislature and the governor failed to recognize, however, that even professional organizations can fall prey to political pressure and ideological bias—as has certainly been the case with the APA on the issue of homosexuality.

Yet even despite the APA’s longstanding sympathy for the programs of groups like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, the APA’s actual statements on the subject of sexual reorientation therapy do a great deal to undermine the conclusion that the New Jersey legislature and Gov. Christie reached.

Christie’s press release reductively declared that “people are born gay.” Yet there is no firm scientific basis for this conclusion. The three studies in the early 1990’s which were hailed by the media as providing evidence for a “gay gene” (or at least for an innate and biological cause for homosexuality) have long since been discredited by the failure of any other researchers to be able to replicate those early results.

In fact, the American Psychological Association itself has actually moved away from asserting certainty about the origins of homosexuality, declaring in their most recent statement on this question that: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. . . . Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles.”

If even the American Psychological Association says “there is no consensus among scientists” about the origin of homosexuality, then it seems presumptuous of politicians to act as though there is in order to stifle conservative viewpoints on the issue. And if “nurture” plays any role in the development of homosexuality, then it cannot be said that “people are born gay.” Indeed, researchers from Columbia and Yale found that evidence supports “the hypothesis that less gendered socialization in early childhood and preadolescence shapes subsequent same-sex romantic preferences.”

Evidence that sexual orientation can be fluid rather than fixed is particularly strong with respect to young people—the very people whose freedom to seek change has been crushed by the New Jersey law. Ritch Savin-Williams, who is the nation’s leading expert on homosexual teenagers, wrote in Current Directions in Psychological Science, “In the data set of the longitudinal Add Health study, of the Wave I boys who indicated that they had exclusive same-sex romantic attraction, only 11 percent reported exclusive same-sex attraction one year later; 48 percent reported only opposite-sex attraction, 35 percent reported no attraction to either sex, and six percent reported attraction to both sexes.”

This means, according to Savin-Williams’ cited source in the Journal of Biosocial Science, “the Wave I boys who indicated that they had exclusive same-sex romantic attraction” consisted of “69 boys [who] indicated that yes, they had ever had a romantic attraction to the same sex, and no, they had never had an attraction to the opposite sex.”

Not only did those who were exclusively homosexual not all remain so, but only 11 percent did. Some measure of change in sexual orientation—which many homosexual activists say is impossible, and never happens to anyone—is not only possible, but it is the norm for adolescents with same-sex attractions, having been experienced by 89 percent of the respondents only one year later.

The two fundamental arguments against sexual reorientation therapy are simple: 1) such therapy does not work; and 2) such therapy is harmful. But the balance of evidence for these two claims—even in the American Psychological Association’s own writings—is not as clear-cut as the advocates of AB 3371 seem to believe.

On the issue of whether sexual reorientation therapy can be effective, there is an abundance of evidence that it can. There are many psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and therapists who have reported success in treating clients for unwanted same-sex attractions. Much of this research and clinical experience has been reported in the peer-reviewed scholarly literature for decades. In addition, there are many people who have given personal testimony to changes in any or all of the measures of their sexual orientation. Even the APA acknowledged that “there are people who perceive that they have benefited from” SOCE.

The legislature declared in its findings that a 2009 APA task force “concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks.” Here, however, is an excerpt of what the APA task force actually said [emphasis added]: “We conclude that there is a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE. Early and recent research studies provide no clear evidence of the prevalence of harmful outcomes among people who have undergone efforts to change their sexual orientation or the frequency of the occurrence of harm because no study to date of adequate scientific rigor has been explicitly designed to do so. Thus, we cannot conclude how likely it is that harm will occur from SOCE. However, studies from both periods indicate that attempts to change sexual orientation may cause or exacerbate distress and poor mental health in some individuals, including depression and suicidal thoughts.”

Has it been scientifically proven that SOCE causes harm? One would be hard-pressed to conclude that, given the numerous qualifying statements above: “a dearth of scientifically sound research”; “no clear evidence”; “no study to date of adequate scientific rigor”; “we cannot conclude how likely it is.” The statement that SOCE “may” cause distress (not “has caused,” “will cause,” or “often causes”) is about as weak as it could possibly be—amounting to little more than speculation.

At another point, the APA task force said this: “Although the recent studies do notprovide valid causal evidence of the efficacy of SOCE or of its harm, some recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have been harmed through SOCE.”

In other words, the same factor that causes people to question the efficacy of SOCE—a lack of “valid causal evidence”—also applies to the claims of harm resulting from such therapy. To say that “there are people who perceive that they have been harmed through SOCE” is essentially to say that the evidence of harm is largely anecdotal—and thus hardly sufficient to constitute scientific proof. Yet the legislature dismissed similar anecdotal evidence (as well as clinical and research evidence) of the effectiveness and benefits of SOCE.

It is disappointing that New Jersey officials were willing to invade the privacy of the counselor-client relationship on the basis of such flimsy evidence of (possible, occasional) harm. This takes freedom away not just from parents, but from therapists and from young people desiring help. A federal judge has already enjoined enforcement of a similar law in California, stating that “plaintiffs . . . are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim that [the law] violates their rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.”

Bans on sexual orientation change efforts represent an assault upon both truth and freedom. The law just enacted in New Jersey represents a bad example for other state legislatures and governors.

central in the ministry of jesus

From Marlene Nathan in Small Group Bible Studies:

But He said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." (Luke 4:43)

Perhaps you have also given little, if any thought to the kingdom of God. Perhaps you have also been taught that the kingdom is something that won't be experienced until heaven or some point far off in the future and so, it is not something to be concerned about right now. Certainly anyone who reads the daily paper and watches the evening news doesn't see much evidence of the kingdom of God.

Yet the Kingdom of God literally dominates the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. It is obvious that He did not see the kingdom as something restricted only to the future with little relevance to everyday life. In the four gospels alone, the phrase "Kingdom of God" or "Kingdom ofHeaven" appears 84 times. To contrast, the word "cross" (undeniably central to the ministry of Jesus and the life ofthe Christian) appears only 17 times. And the words "gospel" and "good news" (which is the message Jesus and His disciples preached) appear only 23 times.

The kingdom is central to the teachings ofthe apostles in the early church as well. When the apostle Paul traveled to Ephesus, Luke writes in Acts 19:8 that he "... entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God." While under arrest in Rome, meetings were arranged, and "From morning till evening he [Paul] explained and declared to them the kingdom of God...". And the final verse in the book ofActs reads, "Boldly and without hindrance he [Paul] preached the kingdom of God [for two years] and taught about the Lord Jesus."

If the Kingdom of God plays such a prominent role in the New Testament, then it is vitally important for us to both recognize this and to understand the implications this has for our lives.

start each day

Richard F. Lovelace in Dynamics of Spiritual Life:

Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. . . . In their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification. . . . Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.

In order for a pure and lasting work of spiritual renewal to take place within the church, multitudes within it must be led to build their lives on this foundation. This means that they must be conducted into the light of a full conscious awareness of God’s holiness, the depth of their sin and the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ for their acceptance with God, not just at the outset of their Christian lives but in every succeeding day.

Saturday, September 07, 2013


I couldn't agree more with RC Sproul Jr's post 5 Common Expressions I’ve Never Understood:

Common sense may be more common than sense. There are any number of shorthand aphorisms in the world and in the church that shape our thinking, but don’t stand up to scrutiny, at least right away. Below are five common expressions that might fit under the banner of common sense, that I just can’t make sense out of. There may be good arguments behind all or some of them, but that is rather a far thing from being a self-evident truth.

1. We shouldn’t judge people. This one we hear from both the world and the church. With the church it even comes complete with a proof-text, Matthew 7:1. While Jesus warns us to not be too quick to judge, to judge with charity, to judge in a manner we would like to be judged, even He is in this very text calling us to judge, but to judge well. A blanket condemnation of all judging is, well, condemning, and therefore judging. It is hoisted on its own petard.

2. Jesus loved the most vile sinners, but hated the Pharisees, the religious conservatives. Really? Did Jesus hate Nicodemus? How about Joseph of Arimathea? They were both Pharisees He was likely rather close to. Did Jesus love the adulterous, incestuous, murderous Herod? How about that spineless and corrupt Pilate? Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that the calculus Jesus used for His grace was rather simple. The question wasn’t how spectacular of a sinner you were, but how repentant you were. When Jesus compared the proud Pharisee who prayed, “I thank you God that I am not like other men,” to the tax collector who prayed, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18), He wasn’t saying the former was bad because he was a Pharisee, and the latter good because he was a tax collector. The difference was in the repentance. What an irony then that in our day we proudly present ourselves as the sinners, praying, “I thank you Lord that I am not like other men. I sin openly and unrepentantly. I mock those who affirm Your law, and do not judge like those vile judgers.”

3. Sending good thoughts your way. What? Have you ever been sitting around, when suddenly a “good thought” popped into your head, followed by this thought, “Hey, how nice of, hmm, let’s see here. What’s the return address on this good thought, so I can thank the sender?” Thoughts (a) do not travel across space magically, and (b) even if they did they have no magic power to change anything. Weird that people who think praying to the Living God is fruitless and powerless nevertheless think that their sent thoughts can change the future.

4. You think you’re always right. The Creator is always right. Fallen creatures, however, aren’t so fallen as to actually believe that they are always right. We do—those beings that never fell, those that are fallen, those redeemed, even those perfected—however, always believe we’re right. To think I’m always right is to claim to be infallible. To always think I’m right, however, is nothing more than to think. It is to believe what we believe. In addition, that I believe something has no bearing on whether it is true or not. That I always agree with me, just like you always agree with you, doesn’t make me arrogant. It merely means I don’t have a split personality. No one ever said, “I believe X, but I think I’m wrong.”

5. Christians shouldn’t divide over doctrine. The first question I have is, “Well, what should we divide over?” But the more foundational question is, “Who are the Christians?” There are issues that divide Christians. But there are also issues that divide Christians from non-Christians, some of whom actually claim to be Christians. Is claiming to be Christian sufficient to preclude division? Not according to the Bible. The New Testament tells us to have nothing to do with those who preach a different gospel (Galatians 1:8). That’s a doctrinal matter. It tells us we should have nothing to do with professing believers who are sexually immoral (I Corinthians 5). That’s a doctrinal matter. But worst of all, are not those who make this claim dividing themselves from Christians who believe we should divide over doctrine? The statement itself is doctrine, and is divisive.

Rumor is that the Soviets when fighting in Afghanistan, in an effort to discourage the Afghans took to booby-trapping toys. I suspect these little nuggets of received wisdom are the devil’s own version of the same strategy. We play with these intellectual toys, but soon enough they blow up in our hands.

Friday, September 06, 2013

on his lips

John Bright in The Kingdom of God:

"The gospel according to Mark begins the story of Jesus' ministry with these significant words: "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel" (1:14-15). Mark thus makes it plain that the burden of Jesus' preaching was to announce the Kingdom of God; that was the central thing with which he was concerned. A reading of the teachings of Jesus as they are found in the gospels only serves to bear this statement out. Everywhere the Kingdom of God was on his lips, and it is always a matter of desperate importance.

the least of these

I like this. It corrects a classic example of "right doctrine from wrong text" seen in far too many teachers. For me, I never bought into the notion of Mt 25.35-40 as a teaching for caring for the poor in general. I had understood it more about the poor among the brethren. This by Craig Blomberg (Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions) linking to Mt 10.42 sharpens that focus more. I agree with his perspective.

The majority perspective has understand Jesus’ ‘brothers’ in verse 40 to refer to spiritual kin, as the term (adelphoi) does elsewhere in Matthew in every instance in which biological siblings are not in view (see 5:22-24, 47; 7:3-5; 12:48-50; 18:15 twice, 21, 35; 23:8; 28:10).

The term ‘little ones’, of which ‘the least’ (25:40, 45) is the superlative form, also without exception in Matthew refers to disciples (10:42; 18:6, 10, 14; cf. also 5:19 and 11:11).

This makes the point of Jesus’ teaching closely parallel to Matthew 10:42: Jesus’ itinerant followers (today we might call them Christian missionaries) must be cared for by those to whom they minister. Affording material help to those who preach in the name of Jesus demonstrates acceptance of the missionaries’ message at the spiritual level . . . This view is almost certainly correct.

Today, however, the prevailing interpretation is that Jesus is teaching about the need to help the dispossessed whether or not they are Christian. . . .

This is obviously an important biblical theme, but is far less likely to be the focus of this particular passage, given the consistent meaning of the terms and the larger context of parables focusing on the disciples (24:43-25:46).

unsticking small groups

Tony Morgan interviews Bill Willits on how to get small groups unstuck (spoiler alert, it isn't to find another program). Amazing that after all of these years of doing church that most leaders do not get the basics.


  • Appointing an empowered point leader is one of the first steps to getting a small group ministry unstuck.
  • Many small group ministries are stuck because of a lack of leadership development.
  • Churches tend to overcast vision for community and under-prepare leaders for leading the community.
  • Helpful and timely training is a must.
  • Establish leaders as guides instead of directors, partners instead of trainers.
  • Churches can leverage teaching in menu philosophy.
  • If churches offer small groups and Sunday School, they should strive to avoid competing strategies.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

free will defined

Christianity describes a God who sovereignly calls believers to repentance. Does this mean humans are mere puppets under the direction of an all-powerful Being who controls all decisions and dictates the final outcome? Does the Christian God allow humans any freedom to choose for themselves? The relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will has been a topic of hot debate for two millennia; I doubt that I’ll be able to solve it in a blog post. But I do think the definition of free will lies at the root of the confusion and apparent dilemma.

Most of us would like to think that we are free to make any choice possible in any given situation, but if you think about it, that’s really not the case. Even the choices you thought you were free to make were limited by your pre-existing nature (your inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes). Have you ever cleaned out your closet and discarded an ugly shirt, tie or dress that was given to you as a gift? Why did you throw it away? You discarded it because it was taking up space. Every day, as you decided what to wear, you were free to choose that article of clothing, but you never did. Your nature (in this case, your taste in clothing) restrained your choice. In order to understand what the Bible teaches about “free will”, we need to distinguish between two concepts of freedom:

“Libertarian” Free Will: This view of free will maintains that humans have the ability to choose anything, even when this choice might be contrary to our nature (our inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes). We might call this “Unfettered Free Will”.

“Compatibilist” Free Will: This view of free will maintains that humans have the ability to choose something, but this ability is restrained by our pre-existing nature (our inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes). We might call this “Self-Fettered Free Will”.

Our practical experience tells us that we don’t make choices that are completely unfettered (unrestrained) by our nature. There is a local Volkswagen dealership in our area that specializes in manufacturing pink Beetle convertibles. That’s right: Pink. They make them one at a time and sell dozens each year, all to young women, according to the sales manager. I can honestly say that I would never purchase that car, and if I was given one, I would sell it. While I clearly have the freedom to purchase it, my nature (my inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes) prevents me from doing so. While I consistently choose what I want freely, I would never freely chose the pink Beetle. My will is “self-fettered”. I bet you’re just like me. Many of us would never choose to order an anchovy pizza. Many of us would never choose to cut our hair in a “mullet” hairstyle. Our natures (our inclinations, desires, likes and dislikes) restrain us.

The Bible recognizes God’s sovereignty and man’s “fallen” nature (our inclination toward rebellion and the denial of God’s existence). We see descriptions of this reality in Jeremiah 13:23, Mark 7:21-22, Romans 3:9-12, and Romans 8:6-8. The Bible also teaches, however, that humans have the freedom and ability to choose the things of God, including the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. This ability to choose is described in passages like Joshua 24:15, John 7:17, and John 7:37-39. So, how do we, as fallen humans inclined to deny God, have the ability to choose God? Well it appears that God (in His sovereignty) works at the level of our nature rather than at the level of our choices. God changes our hearts first, so we have the freedom to choose something we would never have chosen before (because our nature prevented us from doing so). You and I then have the freedom to choose within our new nature, and we are, of course, responsible for those choices.