Monday, May 07, 2012

My perspective on the NC Marriage Amendment

Which way would I encourage Christians to vote on NC Amendment One?  There has been quite a number of issues raised, and I think it would be helpful to respond to a few.

It is important to read the text of the actual amendment.  Unlike much legislation, it is very short.  Only two sentences:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

First I want to say that absolutely every human being - every color, every religion, every sexual orientation, every ideology, every income level, every nationality, every ability or disability - is made in the image of God.  This means Christians should treat others with kindness, love, and compassion.  We should seek the good of others more than ourselves.  This includes those with whom we have profound disagreements.  

An Issue of Equality?

Since people are made in the image of God they deserve equality. But, what we are talking about does not involve taking away anyone’s rights.  Gay people have exactly the same rights that heterosexuals do.  Any American is free to marry someone of the opposite sex if they are not currently married or closely related to each other.  Except in a few states, no American, gay or straight can marry someone of the same sex. That’s why it is not accurate to argue for equality in this case.  This is a situation where certain groups want gay people to have special rights, rights above and beyond what all Americans currently enjoy.  That is also why it is very inaccurate to attempt to link the LBGT movement to the civil rights movement a generation ago.  At that time, people of color did not have the same rights.  In many cases they were not allowed to vote or stay in a hotel (among other things) because they were not white.  This current issue is profoundly different.  Gay people are allowed to get married, just like straight people, to another unmarried person of the opposite sex.  Straight people are denied the right to get married to someone of the same sex.  They are also denied the right to get married to someone who is already married.  This is not discriminatory, it is just not marriage.  



Unintended consequences?

In Idaho and Ohio, an amendment with nearly identical wording passed.  There, as in NC, opponents to the amendment used similar scare tactics (domestic abuse, parental rights, etc...) and the the scenarios they had spun never actually happened.  
Some make reference to Ohio’s similarly worded amendment as opening the door for domestic violence.  However, they fail to remind people that in 2007 the Ohio Supreme Court said that the marriage amendment did not overturn any domestic violence laws. Of the 30 states with marriage amendments, and in every one of these states the domestic violence laws continue to be enforced.  
That is why it is quite misleading to suggest that, despite the fact that the marriage amendment has passed in the other 30 states, some kind of horror scenario could happen here in NC.


What about Big Government?

As a conservative, I generally believe that people are better off with a smaller government.  That is precisely one of the reasons I support the amendment.  Marriage itself is a public institution.  The question is not “should the government define marriage”.  The government is always going to have to have a definition of marriage.  The courts use it to determine many things in the way they rule, such as in cases that involve children.  So the question is not “should the government define marriage?”  The reality is that the government is going to define marriage regardless of the existence of this amendment.  The courts will decide or the people will decide.  The point of the amendment is that it gives the people an opportunity to tell the government what to do rather than the courts telling the people what to do.  If we leave the law as it stands, it is very possible that the law could be overturned by a court ruling at some point in the future (as has already happened in several states). On the other hand, a constitutional amendment is much more difficult to overturn and the courts would be subject to it.  That is why the law as it stands is not sufficient.



Legislating morality?


Some will argue that we should not "legislate morality", but all legislation is a legislation of morality. We, as a society, are saying that something should or should not be a certain way. If you believe in any kind of legislation, you believe in legislating morality. The question is not "should we legislate morality?" the question is "what kind of morality are you going to legislate?" As a Christian, I believe that God's way is always the best way for all people. I also care about people. Therefore, if I believe God's way is best for people, then I will vote accordingly.  

I am voting in favor of the marriage amendment because I believe it is good for everyone in our society.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Christianity and Politics

How should American Christians interact with politics?  Should we vote Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, something else, or maybe not at all?  Many Christians I know have a kind of disdain for politics.  This is probably due, in part, to the recent history of Christian involvement in modern politics which, at times, has been nothing short of virulent and very un-Christian.  Some pastors of the past generation spent more time preaching on political issues than they did feeding their flock on the Word of God.  For some denominations cultural involvement and political strong arming were one in the same.  Some have encouraged boycotting companies in an attempt to “force” them to see things their way (An, ironically, Marxist approach).  Many Christians are sickened when they think of the recent demands by some for “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy holidays” from the person at grocery store checkout (Who may be Hindu, Jewish or Muslim and not even celebrate Christmas.  Equally ironic, these same people complain about how many people are only superficially Christian, while encouraging that very thing).  

Equally frustrating are the movements to “restore America to a Christian nation” which, at best, stands on shaky historical footing despite the best efforts of the Wallbuilders.  Let us not forget that it was Thomas Jefferson who took a razor blade, in Jesus Seminar fashion, and cut out the parts of the Bible he did not like.  Benjamin Franklin’s sexual exploits as ambassador to France are well known.  Despite this, was their worldview strongly influenced by Christianity?  Absolutely.  This is because the world around them was strongly influenced by Christianity.  As a result, the nation they helped to establish reflected these some of these assumptions.  But that is very different from the establishment of a Christian nation.  In fact, it would seem that the passage of Article 11 in 1796 (a mere 20 years after the Declaration of Independence) of the English version of the Treaty of Tripoli would put this discussion to rest.  

There is no doubt that Christians have been manipulated by both Republicans and Democrats among others to support their various agendas.  Most candidates on both sides claim some sort of Christian faith when they are running for office and will occasionally quote the Bible to support their various causes (often miserably out of context).  



Despite these things, we have a duty as American Christians to be good citizens and vote. This is a right and privilege that was bought with a great deal of blood by our fellow Americans.


How much much should Christians be involved in politics?

Involvement in American politics is something that the Bible never speaks to directly.  In New Testament times the Roman emperor had essentially absolute authority (as opposed to the days of the Roman republic).  So the question for Christians of that time was not, “who should I vote for?” but whether or not to submit to the governing authorities.  Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, among others, explain that we should submit to the government except in cases where the government is telling us to do something that would be explicitly sinful.  This probably rules out most cases of civil disobedience (contra Judge Roy Moore).  

Something that is particularly unique about the American model is that citizens are essentially the government’s boss.  As a whole, they tell the government what to do.  In this sense they are part of the government itself.  So the strong distinction between the government and the citizen during the time of the New Testament is no longer present.  In modern America a person must act sometimes in the role of the citizen (a role of submission) and sometimes in the role of the government (a role of command or leadership).  

If we believe God’s way is best and we care about people, then our political involvement should reflect both of these things.  

The cliche “You cannot legislate morality” is self defeating.  All legislation is a legislation of morality.  The legislation says that something should or should not be one way or another; it enforces some form of morality, some idea of how a society should function.  The question is not if we should legislate morality, we do always legislate morality.  The question is, what kind of morality do we want to legislate?  Secular morality, Islamic morality, Christian morality?  The reality is that our current law code is a mixture of all of these and more.  People should decide what kind of world they want, and vote accordingly (That, by the way, is a Christian statement of morality).  It is silly to think that Christians can or should leave your worldview at the door when you walk into the voting booth.  There is no such thing as neutrality.  Everyone is working from one worldview or another.  If you leave your Christian worldview at the door, you have to adopt another one in its place.  If you do that, what makes one better than another (remember, you cannot use Christian morality to make this determination, you just threw it out the window!)?  Everyone who votes, imposes their morality on everyone else.  



There is more that needs to be said about this, but I will have to do that later....

Monday, September 06, 2010

Prayer answered by Crosses by John Newton

1 I ask'd the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and ev'ry grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.

2 'Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust has answer'd pray'r;
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

3 I hop'd that in some favour'd hour,
At once he'd answer my request:
And by his love's constraining pow'r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

4 Instead of this. he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow'rs of hell
Assault my soul in ev'ry part.

5 Yea more, with his own hand he seem'd
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Cross'd all the fair designs I schem'd,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

6 Lord, why is this, I trembling cry'd,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
"'Tis in this way," the Lord reply'd,
"I answer pray'r for grace and faith.

7 "These inward trials I employ,
"From self and pride to set thee free;
"And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
"That thou mayst seek thy all in me."

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Free Francis Chan Audio Book - Forgotten God

Each month Christian Audio has a free book for download.  This month is Francis Chan's "Forgotten God".  I benefited from his previous book "Crazy Love" and expect this one will be good as well. 

Here is the link

HT

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shepherding in Singleness

I am growing weary of being treated like there is something wrong with me because I am single.  It seems like married people struggle with my singleness far more than I do.  Do I want to get married and have kids?  Absolutely!  But I am learning patience and contentment.  I am not willing to sacrifice high standards (though not unreasonably high) for the sake of being married.  I am just looking for a woman who will strengthen the ministry that the Lord has called me to.  That’s it.  I don’t think that is unrealistic or unbiblical. 

The problem I encounter is that other people are not satisfied with me being single.  They want to define my identity that way.  Then they want to limit the ministry that I can have because I am single.  I have been told that I cannot disciple someone who is engaged or married, I cannot pastor, I cannot counsel married people, that relationship problems stem from my singleness, I cannot conduct a marriage ceremony, that I am just jealous that someone is getting married, that you do not fully reflect the image of God until you are married, etc…  But it is always a problem when you create qualifications for any kind of ministry for which Jesus could not fulfill.  Nor could Paul, nor John the Baptizer, nor some of the prophets. 

Yes, marriage is a wonderful gift from God.  But…so is singleness.  Paul’s writings would seem to indicate, if anything, that it is more so (1 Cor 7:6-8).  They would also seem to indicate that those who are unmarried are more, not less, competent for ministry (1 Cor 7:32-35) because their interests are undivided. 

Then there is the patronizing way married people sometimes treat single people.  It is as if we are still children…as if you simply have not arrived into adulthood until you are married.  I fully grant you that there are many, many single people who are living in perpetual adolescence. They have a job so that they can play video games, watch movies, and go on vacations.  They have very little if any real responsibility and have only a superficial connection to the local church.  Those people probably irritate me more than they irritate most married people.  But we single people are not all that way.  I know single people that are far more spiritually and socially mature than a lot of married people I know.  Many of us are fully committed to ministry in the local church and being spent for the body of Christ.  What also often goes unnoticed, is that there are tons of married people who also fit perfectly into my description of the immature single person.  It would not be fair for me to characterize married people this way any more than it is fair for married people to see us this way. 

Let’s get down to brass tacks.  In general, single people simply are not as constrained by the things of the world as married people.  I don’t have to worry about what will happen to my wife and kids if I take a stand for Jesus at my job.  I can pack up at the spur of the moment and be a missionary if I wanted and I would not have to worry about the effects of dramatically relocating my family.  I can be a radical for Christ.  I can take risks for His sake.  I can pour myself completely into ministry and not have to worry about neglecting my family.  

I would think that you would want someone like that to shepherd you…

I have more to say about all of this, but that’s all for now. 

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Free Desiring God Audiobook

Each month christianaudio.com gives away a free audio book.  Sometimes they are really good ones.  This month is no exception; they are giving away free copies of Desiring God by John Piper .

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some thoughts on self-righteousness and brokenness

Self-righteousness always finds a way to think the worst of other people. It is rooted in a particularly sour flavor of pride. Self-righteous people re-mold reality so that the scales always tip in their favor.

A self righteous person needs to perceive others as bad in order to make their own sins seem not so bad. It seems to be one of Satan’s favorite ways of getting Christians to avoid the gospel in their own lives and artificially deal with guilt. The self-righteous man is not able to look down his nose at someone who is clearly more righteous. Therefore, he sees everyone else in the worst possible light. Despite any evidence to the contrary, he assumes the worst possible motives for the actions of others. It is hard, if not impossible to convince him otherwise. Others are guilty and can only be proven innocent if there are no other possibilities. Even then, he will probably not admit to being wrong, instead he will quickly shift to criticizing another sin or another person.

On the other hand, a broken, humble person seeks to extend hope and grace at every possible chance. He knows that all the evidence may point to the contrary and that he may appear to be a fool but he is willing to take one more chance that someone’s motives are good. He is not a doormat for con-men because he is wise as a serpent (Matt 10:16). Therefore, he makes decisions that are protective of himself and those he loves. But when there is a chance that someone may be innocent of the thing which they are accused of, he will make every effort to hear them out. He trusts God to punish sin even if he misses it and is not afraid that others will see them as naive or gullible.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Preaching and Prayer

Over the years since I have become a Christian, I have been keeping a collection of quotes like this one that I read over from time to time. I will share some of them on this blog...

"A certain preacher, whose sermons converted men by the scores, received a revelation from heaven that not one of the conversions was owing to his talents or eloquence, but all to the prayers of an illiterate lay-brother, who sat on the pulpit steps, pleading all the time for the success of the sermon. It may in the all-revealing day be so with us. We may discover, after having laboured long and wearily in preaching, that all the honour belongs to another builder, whose prayers were gold, silver, and precious stones, while our sermonisings being apart from prayer, were but hay and stubble"

- C.H. Spurgeon in "Lectures to my students" pg. 46

You don't have to be a pastor for this to be a good reminder. This may be true of any ministry that we have.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Legalism and Scripture

John Piper is often well thought through on difficult issues. I really appreciate what he has to say about legalism here. It is worth the read. You might be more of a legalist than you realize.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Does it Cost anything?

I have been thinking about Luke 9 over the last few weeks. In particular Jesus’ statement that his disciples must take up their crosses and follow Him. This implies that there is a real cost to following Jesus. It is not something that a person can merely add to their lives like taking up a hobby or joining a club.


I wonder how many of us who profess to follow Christ have actually lost something significant as a result. It scares me to think that we could have students who go through our youth ministry whom we lift up as examples of doing what is right and yet being a Christian never really cost them anything significant. I think it is quite possible that someone could grow up in a so-called Christian home, go to Bible College and Seminary always seeming to make the right moral choices and yet never have to make a decision that cost them anything. Would we not hold up such a moral man as an example for all? Is it not likely that he could become a pastor or an elder?


Should we then, be so surprised when we see men disqualifying themselves from pastoral ministry because of financial or sexual greed? It seems that so many of us have grown up in a life of relative ease. It would appear that pastoral ministry is more of a career track than a calling for many men. If someone has never, for the sake of Jesus Christ, had to make a decision that cost him something, there is no reason to think that they will upon entering pastoral ministry.


I fear we do our students a great disservice when we try to shield and shelter them from taking the hard road, the road that involves great cost and sacrifice. I think this is the same road that has a narrow gate (Mat. 7:13-14).

Perhaps we fear that they will abandon the faith if pushed too hard to make difficult decisions. But it would seem that Scripture would take the perspective that such people never were God’s children at all. Maybe they are just deceived. Maybe you are too.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Who is my Enemy?

I came across this recently and thought I might share it:

I was walking across a bridge recently. I spied this fellow who looked like he was ready to jump off. So, I thought I'd try to stall him until the authorities showed up. "Don't jump!" I said. "Why not?" he said. "Nobody loves me."

"God loves you," I said. "You believe in God, don't you?"

"Yes, I believe in God," he said.

"Good," I said. "Are you Christian or Jewish?"

"Christian," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "Protestant or Catholic?"

"Neither," he said.

"What then?" I said.

"Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "Independent Baptist or Southern Baptist?"

"Independent Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "New Evangelical/Moderate Independent Baptist or Conservative Independent Baptist?"

"Conservative Independent Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Lose-Your-Salvation Arminian Conservative Independent Baptist?"

"Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Historical Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?"

"Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or For Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?"

"Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Strict Separation of Church and State Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?"

"Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Anti-Disney Boycott Pro-Choice Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?"

"Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist," he said.

"Me, too!" I said. "KJV Only Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Modern Versions Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?"

"MODERN VERSIONS Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist" he said.

"Auugghh!!! You heretic! What is this world coming to?" I said.

And then I pushed him over.


I think theological divisions are important. Sometimes it divides the wheat from the chaff. Those who know me know my passion for making sure we believe rightly. At the same time, we really must analyze if it honors Jesus to lose friendships over some things like eschatological systems or differing practices of Christian liberty.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Good Audiobook Download

Hey,

You can download Donald Whitney's book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life free of charge this month from christianaudio.com. They will sometimes put up excellent books for free. This is one of those times. Might be good to download for your iPod!

HT: Challies

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some suggestions for students

I have been thinking about this post for quite a while now (i.e. years). Most of these suggestions have Bible college or Seminary students in mind, but a great deal of it really applies to students in general or perhaps even Christians in general. I decided to wait a few months until after I graduated to post it on the blog. These thoughts are the fruit of my experience, and I hope that they will be helpful to you. I do not see this as being anywhere near complete, just a start. They are not in any particular order.

1.Cultivate Humility – this is actually 1-10. You are going to learn a lot of things that most other Christians do not know. Remember knowledge puffs up. This is not something that could happen, but something that does happen. It is a side effect of gaining knowledge. You must apply what you have learned to your own life. Learn to be a better repenter. Know that any sin makes you deserving of Hell, so sins that you do not struggle with are not any more damning than the ones that you struggle with. Yes, you do struggle with a whole lot of sin. Whenever you find yourself having a hard time finding sin to repent of, you can be pretty sure that the venom of pride has already blinded you and made you forget that you could ever see. (Humility is not the smarmy “I am nothing” comments or trying to verbally put yourself down all the time when you. I have found that it is usually the most arrogant people of all who do this. True humility is: “not thinking more highly of yourselves than you ought.” This simply means you are a sinner and so is everyone else. You don’t have everything figured out and you never will. The only hope any of us have is by desperately praying for and clinging to God’s grace.)

11.Prayer and Bible study – This is really inseparable from cultivating humility. You cannot really rank them above or below one another. They go hand in hand. You cannot have authentic humility without these things, but you cannot do these things well without authentic humility.

12. Do not be beholden to any one man – This is rampant in seminaries and Bible colleges. A student becomes convinced that a certain pastor, professor, or theologian really “does it right” and they stop critically evaluating the things they do or say. This will be a challenge because you will have favorite professors who you really appreciate. They, however, are just like the rest of us. They are just men and are just as prone to mistakes as you or I. Being a follower of anyone but Jesus is like following a compass that is only a few degrees off. The first few miles will be indistinguishable from the right direction, but over time you will not only mimic the things they do right, but you will also mimic their mistakes as well.

13.Do not be a follower of a theological system – systems are nice because they package things neatly for us to understand and to apply. However, they have a tendency to cause us to read our systems back into the Bible. So instead of reading our Bibles, we read our systems. This is often results in self-righteousness and poor interpretation of passages because we feel that we have to make them fit our systems. Examples include Arminianism, Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Covenentalism, The Westminster Confesssion, the Canons of Dort, etc… Study your BIBLE not the system.

14.Do not put off ministry until you graduate – James says you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Remember, you are not guaranteed tomorrow. You have not been promised that you will finish school. Make it a point to be a vital part of the local church you join.

15.Hard work is more important than grades – if you did your best and used your time wisely then you do not have anything to worry about. The goal is not to make all A’s but to learn the material the best that you are able. If that means that you are not able to get into the Ph.D. program, so be it. Maybe it is not God’s will that you be in the Ph.D. program anyway. It is certainly not God’s will that you sinfully cut corners to get good grades.

16.People are more important than grades – Sometimes it may be sinful for you to make an A in a class because it means that you had to sacrifice something more important to do it. An A is no assurance of an eternal reward. If someone comes to you for help and you unnecessarily cut them short because you have to study for a test, you may be committing a serious offense against God.

17.Studying is very important – this is obvious; otherwise you are wasting your time going to school. You are accountable to God for what you have been given, use it wisely.
18. Take the hard classes – Hopefully you are not going to school just to get a degree, hopefully you are going because you want to get the tools you need to be best equipped during ministry. Take the hard classes because they will teach you the most about the subject matter and about yourself. God will hold us accountable for how we used the opportunities he gave us. Who wants a pastor or counselor or missionary who took the easiest classes just so that they could have an easy semester? I want a pastor who worked hard so that he could be well prepared to serve the flock!

19.Cultivate love – Paul says that you can have all the knowledge in the world, and if you do not have love, then it is all for nothing. Guard against becoming like the church in Revelation that lost its first love. You will probably find that the less you interact with people who can do nothing for you, the less you will love.

20.Discipleship, Discipleship, Discipleship – Be a disciple and a discipler. Teach and be taught. Teach younger believers, and be taught by more mature ones. This is Christ’s model of how the church should function.

21.Don’t play politics - Build relationships with people because of what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Unfortunately there are a lot of egos out there who respond quickly to idol worship and flattery. Jude has some strong words for those who show favoritism to gain advantage.

22.Resist the tendency to want to speak in absolute terms when not appropriate - If you are going to say something like, “The Bible never says…” or “The Bible always uses this word to mean…” you had better make very sure that you are right. A quote from your favorite preacher is insufficient.

23.Use primary sources - Trace the information to its source, don’t just go based off of what someone else told you. You will be amazed at how often people get their facts wrong even in published material.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Backpacking at Looking Glass Rock

I was able to go backpacking at Looking Glass Rock on Friday and Saturday. We hiked up on Friday night. The next morning we fixed eggs and bacon on the cliff face. The view was really beautiful. We had about a 180 degree panorama overlooking the Blue Ridge mountains. Temperatures were ideal, and although we had a few brief showers early in the morning on Saturday, they really did not hinder us.
We did some hiking around on Saturday along some of the side trails through the dense rhododendron growth. Really is a neat place to go.


Here is a panorama that I stitched together. It really does not do justice to the view though! It is actually a lot wider. What an awesome, creative God we serve!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Jesus, I my Cross

This song has had a profound influence on me. I first heard it at Grace Community Church in the Crossroads college ministry there while I was at The Master's Seminary. For whatever reason (I could offer a few...) it does not seem to have caught on in the broader CCM scene. I found the words to it here. You can download an MP3 of someone singing the first and last stanzas. Also, the Resolved Conference is selling a CD with it on there. It reminds me a bit of Bonhoffer.
Here you go. Hope it is as edifying to you as it has been to me. Virtually every line is powerful:

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

1. Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

2. Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

3. Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

4. Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

5. Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

6. Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

© 2001 Bill Moore Music.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Doctrinal purity and love

David Alan Black posted this profound statement on his blog:

"There is, I fear, a kind of Christianity that delights in being harsh and almost brutal. Strength is present, and so is doctrinal purity, but there is no tact or compassion. No one ever lived a holier life than Jesus, yet our Great High Priest is full of sympathy, mercy, and grace. He bears with us without getting irritated or annoyed. His very patience and understanding woo us back to the right path. With Christ we are always safe."

How true! I would even go a step further and say that those who lack love but have "doctrinal purity" in fact have no true doctrinal purity at all. They love God, but they do not love their neighbor. Perhaps purity only to the extent that the Pharisees' doctrines were pure.

God help us that our faith would be like Jesus!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

God is the Gospel - John Piper

"Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God"
"The highest, best decisive good benefit in the Gospel is the glory of God for our everlasting enjoyment"

1. What is the relationship between God is the Gospel and the glory of God?
  • God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (Phil 1:20-21)
  • Can I lose everything and count it gain?
2. What is the relationship between God is the Gospel and the love of God?
  • John 11:1
    • This passage is about love - Jesus loved Lazarus and the sisters
    • He let Lazarus die because he loved him
      • How?
        • v. 4 - for the glory of God so that the Son may be glorified
  • It is not His making much of us, but to enable us to enjoy Him forever.
3. How does God is the Gospel related to your conversion?
  • 2 Cor. 4:4-6
    • v. 6 referring back to Creation
      • This is conversion
    • To be saved is to see/desire God's glory
4. What does God is the Gospel have to do with the Gospel when it is preached rightly?
  • 5 Elements of the Gospel
    • 1. Event - 1 Cor. 15:3
      • The Historical event of Jesus Death and Ressurection
    • 2. Achievement of His death outside of you
      • The wrath of God absorbed for all elect
      • Sins covered (Col 2:13)
      • Righteousness provided or consummated
      • Purchase of Eternal life
    • 3. Free offer
    • 4. Application of this in your experience
      • If it only happens to others and not to you, then no forgiveness for you
      • Who cares about being forgiven?
        • So many care for the wrong reason
        • The best reason is "Because I want God"
          • this is far more than no more Hell
          • Reconciliation - Romans 5:11
          • Forgiveness
          • Justification - Romans 5:1-2
          • Eternal life - John 17:3
5. How does God is the Gospel relate to Salt and Light?
  • Matthew 5
    • You don't have to be born again to want to be wealthy - This is not the Gospel, it is evil
    • The salt of the earth are people who are so satisfied with their joy in heaven that they willingly endure pain
6. How does God is the Gospel relate to Evangelism
  • The Holy Spirit can work in you to quicken and awake
  • Natural revelation can be used by God to acknowledge some aspect of the Gospel overlap
    • Illustrations
      • Nobody goes to the Grand Canyon to increase their self esteem so that they can fee small.
        • This is because deeply written on the human soul is that we were made to make much of God and not ourselves
      • Cartoon- Arlo and Janis
        • "Ever notice that the best moments make you feel insignificant?
      • Nature Valley Granola bars - Fruit and Nut Ad
        • Two people at the top of a mountain looking out over the view
          • says, "You've never felt more alive, you've never felt so insignificant"
  • Jonathan Edwards - "The redeemed have all their objective good in God..."

It will cost you everything - Steve Lawson - Luke 14:25-35

02/18/07

- Example of Scholarship for football that cost him everything. He got everything for free, but worked himself to the bone.
  • v. 25 - Large crowds were following Him
    • Easy to fit anonymously into the crowd
    • He turned around to those who followed him
      • Calls for total commitment of their souls
    • Disciple - true believer in Jesus Christ
      • Matt 28:19
  • v. 26 - A Supreme Devotion
    • Must love him more than anyone else in life
    • "if anyone" - no exceptions
    • "comes to me"
    • setting the terms
      • hating those whom have loved you the most
        • Hebrew figure of speech that is a hyperbole
        • You must love Christ so much more than the things of the world that it looks like hate
        • The issue is who you love the most
  • v. 27 - A Self Denial
    • Emphasis on "his own"
    • "and come after me"
    • It would have been very clear what he was talking about to those in Palestine
    • Carrying the crossbar was an indication of submission
    • We must stand before a Holy God and agree that we are all sinners
    • To carry one's cross is to make an open statement to the world that you are under submission to God
    • We cannot follow Christ and love anything else more than Christ
  • v. 28-32 - A sober calculation
    • 2 parables
      • v. 28-30 - Building a tower - "count the cost"
        • count the cost before you build
        • otherwise you will be mocked
      • v. 31 - A king going to war
        • 2 competing kingdoms
          • The greater king is Jesus
          • You need to settle terms of peace
  • v. 33 - Total Commitment is the Bottom line
    • You must give up all your possessions
    • You must transfer all that you have to all that is His. Your stuff is now His stuff
  • v. 34-35 - A Searching Examination
    • Fake salt is useless

Isaiah 53 - The Suffering Servant - C.J. Mahaney

02/18/07

Clearly the servant is Jesus Christ with numerous attestations from the New Testament

1. Appearance
  • v. 1-3 - "Suffering observed and misunderstood"
    • v. 1 - who has believed?
      • none of us; we are like v. 3 - we esteemed him not
    • v. 2 - an unpromising person
      • Background is unimpressive
      • Physical appearance is unimpressive - plain
    • v. 3 - Rejected
2. v. 4-6 - Reality
  • Transition from human expectation to Divine Revelation
  • Suffered for us because of our sin, and as our substitute
  • Numerous references to "He", "our", and "us"
    • 10x "our," "we," or "us" is used
      • this emphasizes our role
        • He suffered on our behalf
        • He suffered because of us
        • Isaiah recognizes our tendency to say, "I didn't do it" so he makes numerous references to our wickedness and sinfulness
  • Suffered as our substitute
    • "borne," "carried," "wounded," "crushed," "chastisement," "stripes."
  • General feeling on the street was that he was smitten by God
    • This is true, but it was not because of his sin, but for theirs and ours
3. v. 10 - Significance
  • uniquely reveals the father's love for sinners like us
    • "we all walk around with his nails in our pockets"
  • Ultimately God the Father killed Jesus
  • This passage reveals the plan before time
  • It demonstrates the love of God the Father
  • He crushed Him in order to convince you of his love
  • "The Cross is the measure of God's love"
    • What more could he have done?

Luke 18:9-14 - John MacArthur - 02/17/07

  • Old Testament Justification
    • Job 2 - How can a man be righteous before God?
    • Job 25:4
    • Psalm 143:2 - No man living is righteous
    • Isaiah 53:11 - Righteous one will make many righteous
  • The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)
    • Pharisee asks for nothing because he did not see that he needed anything
    • Tax collector was justified because he saw that he was not worthy
    • Either you trust in yourself or you don't
    • Pharisee's prayer was to himself
      • it would have been out loud so that others could hear
      • unabashed confession of his own achievement
      • lacks praise to God, he wants nothing from God, he just wants everyone to hear how holy he is, especially compared to the others
  • Tax Collector
    • knows that he has no right to be in that area
    • unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven
      • because he knows his sinfulness
    • Beating his chest
      • this never appears in the Old Testament
      • Only appears 2x in the New Testament
        • Here and at the crucifixion
      • Rarely do men do this
        • gesture of extreme sorrow and anguish
        • "It takes something of the magnitude of Golgotha for men to do this"
        • Calls attention to the wretchedness of his own heart
    • Faith is implied here
      • He knew God's holiness
      • He knew that God was merciful to those who ask
    • Pleading that God would accept the sacrifice given that day
  • In one moment Jesus pronounces a wicked sinner as justified without any works, time lapse, etc... It comes as a result of genuine repentance
    • imputed righteousness

More Resolved...1 Cor 1:20-31 John MacArthur

Why are we ashamed of the Gospel? (02/17/07)
  • v. 18 - perishing
  • v. 21 - saved
  • Shameful sentence of the Cross
  • Shameful message of the Cross
    • Jews seeking wonders in the sky
    • Gentiles seeking someone who is not executed (to follow an executed man was unthinkable
  • Shameful simplicity of the Cross
  • Shameful society of the Cross
    • not many of noble birth or highly educated or highly esteemed by society in the Church
  • Shameful sovereignty of the Cross
    • v. 21 God was well pleased to save those who would beleive

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Unrivaled Supremacy of Jesus Christ - Hebrews 1:1-4 by Steve Lawson - 02/17/07

1. (v. 1) Superior in His proclamation

2. (v. 2b) Superior in His possessions
  • Jesus will inherit everything
3. (v. 2c) Superior in His power

4. (v. 3a-b) Superior in His person
  • nobody else in His class; He is the One and Only
  • Only someone who is fully God could pay for our sin. (Explanation: This is because God had to pour out his infinite wrath against sin. Only an infinite God could take in infinite wrath upon himself. Finite beings are not capable of this.
5. (v. 3c) Superior in His Preservation
  • He upholds the whole universe
6. (v. 3d-e) Superior in His Pardon
  • He died for what we could never do for ourselves
7. (v. 3e-4) Superior in His Position
  • Above the angels at the place of highest honor
  • "sat down" indicates perfection of the sacrifice and that it is finished - that nothing else is necessary to be done.
  • This position also indicates exaltation

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sinners in the Nail Pierced Hands of an Angry God - Rick Holland 2-16-07

Text: Romans 5:6-11
Subtitle: "What is so great about the Gospel?"

1. The Gospel satisfies the greatest need (v. 6)

  • v. 6 - If you ever think you have done anything that earns God's love, you will never be secure in it.

2. The Gospel demonstrates the greatest love (v. 7-8)

3. The Gospel extinguishes the greatest threat (v. 9)

  • blood - referring back to Old Testament sacrifices
  • Wrath of God - sentenced to eternal judgement in Hell
  • There is no true Christianity without resolving God's righteous wrath

4. The Gospel mediates through the greatest conflict (v. 10)

5. The Gospel produces the greatest response (v. 11)

Notes from the Resolved Conference

Over the next few days, I will post my notes from each of the sermons at Resolved...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The "List Mentality" and the "Looser Life"

Francis Schaeffer put it into words so well:
I was impressed by this one Saturday night at L’Abri, when we were having one of our discussion times. On that particular night everybody present was a Christian, many of them from groups in countries where “lists” had been very much accentuated. They began to talk against the use of taboos, and at first, as I listened to them, I rather agreed with the direction they were going. But as I listened further to this conversation, and as they spoke against the taboos in their own countries, it became quite clear to me that what they really wanted was merely to be able to do the things which the taboos were against. What they really wanted was a more lax Christian life. But we must see that in giving up such lists, in feeling the limitation of the “list” mentality, we must not do this merely in order to be able to live a looser life: it must be for something deeper. So I think both sides of this discussion can be right and both sides can be wrong. We do not come to true spirituality or the true Christian life merely by keeping a list, but neither do we come to it merely by rejecting the list and then shrugging our shoulders and living a looser life.
- Francis A. Schaeffer True Spirituality

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holocaust (Denial) Conference in Iran should not be dismissed

Iran is hosting a conference that says it is seeking to understand the Holocaust. Interestingly, they appear to have only invited anti-Semites who deny the Holocaust. Of course these people are crazy, but the fact that this conference is sponsored by a nation and not just some wacko fringe group should cause us to be on the alert against it.
Fascism is back and is a spiritual movement, and not at all a Christian one (though some of them hid behind Christianity to commit their atrocities).

This is wicked and we should not ignore it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Killer's wife salutes Amish mercy

I think this might be what Jesus had in mind when he said love your enemies. Praise God for turning the world on its head!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mark Dever on Contextualizing the Gospel

Very true:

"Of course contextualization always takes place, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged. To acknowledge it is better, because then we are more self-aware of choices we're making, and we are also better able to be examined by others on those choices. Such awareness of our contextualizing also encourages humility, and hinders us from claiming alone to be the "I am of Christ" kind of party that Paul warned the Corinthians about."

Read the rest here

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Review of the Brian McLaren Interview

I have tried very hard to be as fair as possible in responding to this interview. If at any point you believe I have misrepresented/misinterpreted or misunderstood Brian McLaren please let me know specifically how and where. Also feel free to contact me if you need further clarification or more information about anything!

Thanks,
J.M. McCallum

Brian McLaren and Leif Hansen are both supporters of the Emerging Church Movement. While there are some who are part of the movement who strongly disagree with him, McLaren could be called the “popularizer” of the emerging church movement.

In the interview, I have two points of serious concern. The most serious one is in trying to re-define or get rid of the doctrine of eternal Hell, they also totally redefine the sin and what happened on the Cross! Obviously this is really important because it is central to our salvation!

Redefine Sin… The Bible defines sin as being an offense against God even if it is also a sin against ourselves and/or others (Gen 20:6; Ps 51:4; Jer 14:7, 20; 16:10; Is 42:24; 1 Sam 12:13, 23; Luke 15:18). However McLaren wants to redefine it so that it is only wrong because of what it does to us and to others.

Redefine the Cross of Christ… The Bible teaches us that the atonement (the work of Christ on the Cross) is the payment for the penalty of our sins (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10) by becoming our substitute. Jesus took on himself the punishment that we deserve (the theological term used for this is "penal-substitution"). If there is no payment for our sins, then God is unjust in forgiving them (Rom 3:25-26). The Cross also gives us the example of love (1 John 4:10-11) and how we should treat others (Phil 2), but this is not the primary purpose of the Cross. The primary purpose of the cross is to reconcile sinful man to God (Eph 2:16; Col 1:20).
You may be able to see what they are doing here. If sin is no longer an offense against God, then the Cross does not have to pay the penalty for sin. Instead, McLaren makes it into only a model for us of how to love other people sacrificially. If it is only a model for us, then it is not necessary to put your faith in Christ (who paid that penalty) to be saved so long as you are following that model He gave; even if you do so unknowingly. Also, if sin is not primarily rebellion against God, then God is unjust if he punishes non-Christians in Hell for eternity. He becomes an angry father who wants to kill his children for being mean to each other.

McLaren's illustration of God as the Angry Father who wants to kill his kids
To make his point about Hell and God not being a god of wrath and vengeance (in direct contradiction to Ps 94:1 and Heb 10:29-31), McLaren uses a very vivid illustration of a Father who wants to kill his son because he has been mean to his brother. He compares the Father to God wanting to send people to Hell because they have sinned. There are a number of problems with this illustration:
McLaren makes the same error he has made before by putting man in the position of God. The reason we cringe in thinking that he would kill his son is not because all punishment is wrong, but because the father would be asserting himself in a role reserved for God. It would be wrong for the father to kill his son because he is not God. Also, although the son sinned against his father by disobeying him, he primarily sinned against God because it is God who gives the father the authority he has and because the son breaks the direct commandments of God (Eph 6:2-3; Col 3:20).
Sin is infinite rebellion against God, therefore it must be punished infinitely.
It is not that, as McLaren says, God wants to kill everybody, but that God cannot be holy and just and at the same time overlook sin. The Cross is the way God does two apparently contradictory things. First he remains perfectly holy and just by fully punishing sin, and at the same time he shows his incredible love and forgiveness by taking that sin on himself so that we could be saved.

The other problem that is the foundation for McLaren's heresy is that virtually every he makes an argument, it is filled with "logical fallacies". All this means is that what they say either contradicts itself or they come to unfounded conclusions based on the evidence.
He repeatedly talks about how people criticize him unfairly, call him names, and take what he says out of context. However, he does this very thing repeatedly (characterizing "Westminster Confessionalists" as "Hard-Core Calvinists" and being an extreme and arrogant group, those who hold to a doctrine of Hell as being ignorant and unthinking, calling those who disagree with him "raving fundamentalists", mischaracterizing those who take the Bible as it was written as being strict "literalists" who do not consider the historical setting, etc…)
He manipulates your emotions by using the illustration of a God who would send people to Hell as being like a father who wants to kill his son because he disobeyed him.
Notice how he uses verses as a springboard for what he wants to say, but does not really focus on explaining the meaning of the verses. He just uses them to support what he is trying to convince you of.

In summation, Brian has been someone who introduces people to the emerging church through his writings. Among those people I have spoken with in the movement, he is widely read. However, this interview should alert his readership that there is more to him than he may disclose in his books. He seems to be moving more and more towards theological liberalism which neither resembles the faith of the writers of the New Testament nor that of Jesus himself. My dear brothers and sisters, let’s be very cautious what we put before our eyes or draw into our minds!

I may post in more detail tomorrow…

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Candid Interview with Brian McLaren

I post this mostly because McLaren appears to be (at least as I have observed) the "popular" figure for a particular movement within evangelicalism called the "emerging church." I know he does not represent the views of all (and probably not most) of the folks in that movement.

My concern is that he seems to be writing the books that most people in the movement are reading. As Scot McKnight wisely noted, just because a lot of people are reading him it does not mean that they agree with him. I totally agree. However, we must be careful what we digest. The old saying, "you are what you eat" has significance to spiritual things as well.

There are godly men doing great things in the emerging church movement. Just as we should not throw out the whole lot because of a few bad apples, so also we should not eat all the apples because we like the brand.

All that to say this: We need to at least be aware of the theology of the guys we are reading...and that goes for anyone. Everyone has theological underpinnings/presuppositions for the things they say and do. If you know McLaren's theological views, I think you will see how so much of it comes out very, very subtlety in his writing.

Here is the first podcast interview

Here is the second podcast interview

If you don't want to listen to the whole thing, you should definitely listen to the second one because that is where he is very frank with his beliefs. He compares Jesus coming to earth to die for our sins with divine child abuse and rejects a belief in eternal punishment in Hell. Both of which are foundational to the Gospel.

These are from bleedingpurple Podcast
I have genuinely tried to have an open and honest conversation with Leif (owner of bleedingpurple) about these things, but have only talked in circles. Eventually he stopped responding to me.

I have tried to be fair and honest here. As always, I would be more than happy to discuss anything about this post with you.
Or, if you have some questions that this interview raised for you, perhaps I can help answer them.

Tomorrow I might post my response to some of the things McLaren said.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Praise the Lord for Endnote!

I just finished my paper for Greek on Ephesians 4:7-16! It was long an difficult, but fun. I have to say, one thing that really made a difference on this paper was Endnote. I have been taught 3 or 4 different citation styles over the years (MLA, Chicago, Turabian...) and never mastered any of them. But Endnote makes it incredibly easy. You just look up the resource online and it will put it in the proper format for you. It even does footnotes (a particularly horrible result of the fall)! You can get a free, fully functional (for 30 days) demo on their website...which is great if you only have one paper to write. Otherwise, if you are a student, you can get the student edition (which, best I can tell, is exactly the same as the other) from Buy.com (with Google Checkout) for $77.27.

And, no, I'm not getting any kickback from Endnote, but I know many of you who are students are writing papers as the semester closes and I thought the demo might work perfectly for you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Greek Help

This website gives you parsings and translations for any NT passage. Very helpful!

HT DB

A Christian Conversation on the Emerging Church

I think this is a good model of how a conversation about very important theological issues should take place among Christians who disagree (Concerning the Emerging Church Movement):

Scot McKnight (who would be considered part of the Emerging Church Movement) on "What is the Emerging Church?" (you will have to scroll down a little to open up the pdf)

Also a well-researched and fair critique of the Emerging Church Movement by Brett Kunkle. He seems to have worked really hard to get a grasp on the movement and to be fair. He also makes some very valid points that need to be heeded.

The thing I appreciate about these guys is that they seem to genuinely desire to understand both sides clearly rather than to just use the other side as a punching bag.

HT B2W

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Writing for real people

theologyspeak vs. studentspeak. Why writing (and speaking) must be done for real people instead of being a rhetorical skyscraper. In other words, nobody cares what you know (or think you know) unless you can help them understand as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy is essentially a book on Christian worldview, something desperately needed in our generation. The book is divided into 4 sections. The first explains the problem (Christians who separate their spiritual life from the rest of reality) and its solution, the second offers an apologetic against competing worldviews, the third gives a history of how Christianity ended up the way it did, and the fourth section explains how we should live in light of these truths. This was one of those books that makes you evaluate some of your assumptions and perhaps the way you think about your world. One of the things I really appreciate, and think she does well, is to give the reader a comprehensive view of Christianity. That is, to show how every aspect of our lives is somehow tied to what we believe about God. Something else that I like is how she challenges us not to simply adopt a particular world system, but to encourage Christians to offer a Biblical alternative. For example, that Christians should develop an economic or political system that we can offer as alternatives to the failing systems of our day.
Pearcy's book has reminded me that Christianity is not just the right way of doing things, it also works the best in the long run. Perhaps I will do a post on this topic at a later date

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Business for the Glory of God: The Bible's Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business

Wayne Grudem has produced an excellent work on a topic that is somewhat overlooked in modern evangelical circles. I don't think this is done purposefully, but is seems that we have largely forgotten the puritan belief in ministry in all parts of life.
Grudem does not discuss, as I first expected, the fact that business can be used as a missionary enterprise. Instead, he discusses how business itself is morally good! I must admit I was somewhat skeptical at first. I feared that it would be more of a political statement than a theological one. I was happily surprised with this very short little book.
Grudem discusses several of the central issues in business such as money, competition, inequality of possessions, as well as others. He shows how these things, which we usually consider at best morally neutral, are actually good and bring glory to God. Grudem makes some of his points based on man being made in the image of God, and therefore man should imitate some of God's attributes in business. I am always hesitant to embrace these kinds of arguments because so many bad theological arguments have been made based on the same kind of thought. At this point in my life, I simply do not have enough of an understanding of the doctrinal issues surrounding the image of God to say that I agree or disagree with Grudem here.
Perhaps the most shocking of Grudem's statements is that business is the only long-term way to end poverty! After reading what he has to say, however, I think I agree with him.
This great book introduces the reader to a moral understanding of business. It is short enough to be read in an afternoon (under 100 pages), and is easy to read because Grudem does not indulge in dense theological language. I really appreciate how he makes theology so explicitly practical!