Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Trellis and the Vine -- Can't Wait to Read This

I'm receiving a copy of The Trellis and The Vine: The Ministry Mindshift That Changes Everything in a few days, and I can't wait to read it!!

Here is a quick video blurb from Mark Dever discussing the importance of content covered in the book:



And here is the preview link at WTS of the first two chapters, in case you're also interested.

Gospel Growth = People Growth Conference

When I find about 8 or 9 hours to listen, I'll be checking out these audio files for Gospel/People Growth Conference

gospelgrowth


JT has posted the audio sessions from the recent Gospel Growth/People Growth Conference (held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). Here are the files:



Monday, December 28, 2009

Reflections II: Grace Gives Back

“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” – Luke 21:1-4

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” – 2 Corinthians 8:1-2

While everyone may not all be called into full-time church ministry as a vocation, we are all called to be the body of Christ together with one another. When we receive the mercy and grace of Christ through the ministry and members of the church, the Spirit that abides in us compells us to give to others in return. We can't wait to give back, first to those of the household of God, but also to those in our midst - in our family, our communities, and at work.


In my previous post, I wrote about two different views of spiritual gifts, which I labeled "Willowback" and "Caluther." In my conclusion, I stated a preference for the traditional reformed view of spiritual gifts, outlined in Luther's doctrine of vocation, whereby Christians are sovereignly placed in four estates or spheres of life to serve by using their gifts. Upon further reflection, I'm not fully satisfied with slicing up our lives into estates or spheres, or whatever you might want to call it, and leaving it there. In other words, I am not a fan of the Willowback style model, which tends toward creating synthesis on the theological side, and creating separatism from the other three estates or the culture and society on the practical side. Very often the resulting effect on parishoners/church members is burn-out and shut-down. On the other hand, I think in order for the doctrine of vocation to be fully effective, it is also important to further understand that the vocation doesn't end by dividing up and identifying our calling in the various estates. The equally important element is in understanding that vocation is not meant to be merely a one-to-one transaction: me and God, me and my neighbor, me and my brother or sister, me and my mom, etc..

Somehow, WE, as the body of Christ, walk together in all four spheres. My brothers and sisters in Christ are part of my callings, whether it be in the local church, or at work, or at home, or in my community. Prayer is the most demonstrable means by which God works this incredible group effort. Sometimes, we are physically ministering side by side, joining with one another in actual presence as we labor in our callings, but most often, we cannot physically "be there." Therefore, prayer and fellowship so that we know how we can pray for each other is the crucial link in HOW we actually are able to corporately be in the world, but not of the world.

Let me give you an illustration. When I was a brand new Christian, I attended a parachurch fellowship group. We met weekly for Bible study and worship, but we also had set aside time for members to come together and pray for each other. Each week, we would meet and find out about each others' spheres: what we needed prayer for at work, at school, at home, with family and friends, in our neighborhoods. We would pray for our own struggles, sin and temptations, and we would pray that our acquaintences and loved ones would come to know Christ. And each week at Bible study, we would have anywhere from 1-4 new visitors, which I am convinced was totally correlative. Enemies often became friends, but even more importantly, we watched together as they became believers. When visitors came to Bible study, there were plenty of open arms and hearts to welcome them, because they really weren't visitors. We already knew them. We had been praying for them for months. We already had a connection and relationship with them and cared about them, so when we actually met them for real at Bible study, we were just beaming that they were there!

Prayer is such an important means of grace and way that God uses to build His kingdom. I believe that when we simply relegate the church's prayer to phyical illness (which is very important and should not be taken for granted!), we can lose sight of the real power of prayer to break strongholds, to free the captives, and to enable us to walk rightly in the work that God has called us to and prepared in advance for us to do --- together.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

pics09

Here are the two cuties:






And here is my other niece with her fiancé:

He proposed to her last week and they are going to be married at his church! (he's wearing a long-sleeved, camo pattern thermal shirt -- no, those aren't tats :-))

Reflections on Christmas Gift Giving

Three Reflections on Christmas Gift Giving from Desiring God (12/26/09):

"Gifts and events can't fill the soul. God gives us such things to enjoy. They are expressions of his generosity as well as ours, but gifts and celebrations themselves are not designed to satisfy. They're designed to point us to the Giver. Gifts are like sunbeams. We are not meant to love sunbeams but the Sun.

Putting our hope in gifts will leave us empty. Many people live their lives looking for the right sunbeam to make them happy. But if we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul's deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask, "Is that all?" because we know deep down that's not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not his things.

It is more blessed to give than receive. What kind of happiness this Christmas felt richer, getting the presents that you wanted or making someone else happy with something that you gave to them? Receiving is a blessing, but Jesus is right—giving is a greater blessing. A greedy soul lives in a small, lonely world. A generous soul lives in a wide world of love.

It's just like God to let the glitter and flash of the celebrations (even in his honor) to pass and then to come to us in the quiet, even melancholic void they leave. Because often that's when we are most likely to understand the hope he intends for us to have at Christmas. " (Jon Bloom)

-----------------------------------
It is so true that giving a gift and making someone happy to receive it is much more fulfilling than just "getting stuff" or working to ensure that transactions are ruled by the principle of "fair trade." True, sometimes we need stuff and it is wonderful when others are gracious to give. But, each year, I go away from Christmas family celebrations feeling full, not because of what I get, but because of the joy I see in others who have received.

This is an important reminder for me, because (and most of you married folks probably are not in tune with this seemingly universal principal) as a single person, I give a present to each of my immediate relatives and their children, whereas each of the family units are able to combine everyone together and give one gift in return. Also, since the youngest and least able to "give back" are the ones who are typically given to the most, it is great to be reminded of what is true and to not be wrapped up measuring relationships by what we receive.

In fact, I think the children are a great example of what the Christmas "exchange" is about. As children they come to the day with their hands empty to receive gifts that are given without any expectation of a gift in return. Free Grace. They receive each gift with joy, excitement and surprise - grateful for the gift. And as a gift giver, my joy in this giving is complete without needing else in return. It really is a true and lovely reminder!

Today, I receive God's greatest treasure, His gracious, free gift of His Son Jesus Christ with joy, excitement, and renewed surprise, knowing that He sees me the same way I see my 8-month-old nephew or my 3-year-old niece; He doesn't need me to give Him a present in return. He is delighted because I am delighted to receive His free gift, like my little niece or nephew, open arms, bright-faced, amazed and surprised. And out of the abundance of what He has given me, I am able to share the same kind of grace to others. May His grace spill out from us as we are filled by His lovingkindness.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas as Experiencing Enlargement in Expectancy

excerpt from today's devotional:
"Today God has become one of us, not to erase every shadow or to undo the difficulties of humanity, but to be with us in the midst of it, to transform our spectrum of darkness by bearing a truer depth of light, and to enlarge us with the joy of expectancy until the fullness of time when every hope has come to pass."


and:
"Eugene Peterson writes, 'Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.'"

HT: Slice of Infinity at RZIM

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I thought I'd share my favorite hymn:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

And a very beautiful rendition by Celine Dion:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Top 10 Reads for 2009

2009 Top 10:
1. The Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller
2. Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
3. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson
4. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters by Timothy J. Keller
5. Finally Alive by John Piper
6. The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin (most of it anyway)
7 Jesus the Evangelist by Richard D. Phillips
8. Running Scared: Fear, Worry & the God of Rest by Edward T. Welch
9. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerat by Jerry Bridges
10. Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy J. Keller
(Note: The ordering of the books is not necessarily 100%.)

And the three that I didn't get to read yet, but should probably be on this list, if all the reviews I've seen are right:
1. Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy J. Keller
2. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson
3. The Vine and the Trellis: The Ministry Mind-set that Changes Everything by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.

Gifts: Willowback vs. Caluther

This article at IMONK brought to mind how my thinking has developed over the past few years with regard to spiritual gifting. My view is perhaps a bit oversimplistic, but I wanted to share some thoughts here and see if anyone else might have anything to add.

According to the writer and in my experience, there are at least two major ways of thinking on how we might use our spiritual gifts as members of the body of Christ.

One of the models is that of the Saddleback/ Willow Creek megachurch model (which I'll refer to as the Willowback Model) where every member is encouraged to volunteer for service opportunities in the church by using their strongest gifts as a way of becoming mature disciples. The other model is a reformed model introduced by Martin Luther as the doctrine of vocation, and adopted by other early reformers, such as John Calvin. I'll refer to this model as the "Caluther Model." If you are not as familiar with this one, think "Protestant Work Ethic."

Under the Willowback Model, the way church members become mature disciples is essentially by being put to work by the church. Based on their S.H.A.P.E. (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experience), members are 'plugged into' ministries where they can contribute to the mission of the church's voluminous programs. A member's spiritual growth and maturity is linked directly to his or her participation in or leadership of various ministry opportunities.

When the Caluther Model is practiced and taught, the emphasis is on church members living as members of four various estates: the church, the home, the state and work (initially work was grouped under state, but was later separated from the state and includes school and other such 'occupational areas.' )

Under this model, there are two significant differences with regard to church ministry and the understanding of "the priesthood of all believers." Under Caluther, the priesthood of all believers primarily means direct access to God for prayer and forgiveness through our Mediator and Savior, Jesus Christ. And even though the priesthood of all believers in the reformed model rebukes the idea of papal authority, it does not mean that every single Christian is called to (or trained for) ministry leadership. Some men are called and ordained to lead and teach and maintain the purity of the Church. They are responsible and hold the authority of these positions, whether in full-time or voluntary status. As members we gladly submit to their authority and their shepherding. This is very unlike the Willowback Model, where the "priesthood of all believers" defers teaching and leading within the church to essentially anyone willing to volunteer and commit their time.

The second outworking of the "priesthood of all believers" under the Caluther Model emphasizes the equipping of the members of the body of Christ to serve in all four of the estates where God has sovereignly placed them. Think about the radical nature of this concept in the context of today's pragmatic churches. For instance, when I think of utilizing my abilities, talents, and gifting to serve God, am I immediately thinking: "Maybe I should teach that Bible Study that I was asked to teach?" Or "perhaps I should say yes to that committee that I was asked to lead?" Or "Should I be going to the homeless shelter to serve with other members of my house church?"

NO. I should be built up in the faith by the gospel and the Word in order to be a steward of the grace of God in how I:
  • serve my family and at home.
  • perform, serve and honor my boss and coworkers in the workplace (or teacher and fellow students in class.)
  • participate as a citizen in the city, state and nation where I live.
  • participate in and support the mission of my church.
This may lead to me serving on a committee on church, but how I minister as a priest or ambassador of Jesus Christ is not limited to the activities that I do at church.

Unfortunately, the Willowback Model sucks energy and time from people to support all of the programs of the church and very often causes them to de-emphasize the other three estates of life, resulting in broken families, poor job prospects, and apathy with culture. Or, on the other hand, the model can also promote a program-heavy style of ministry that tries to take on all four estates, creating a sort of "Christian Ghetto" in the process.

I wonder (and this one is really out of left field, I know), has the Willowback Model perhaps actually created the conditions whereby ordaining women does look like a good idea? In other words, 1) if the priesthood of all believers means that every believer can and should serve and lead in ministry, why should only men be ordained? Or why should we even ordain anyone? And 2) if the church creates a subculture so that members have a place to exercise all of their gifts and talents, then it becomes a home away from home, a work away from work, a community away from culture, whereby leaders must be good at more things than just teaching the Word of God, preaching the Gospel, and administering the sacraments and church discipline. When that happens, why not ordain women? Who else is better at administering the affairs of the home, keeping the workplace running, and creating a lively society and community?

Rather, I think the Caluther Model is correct -- which stays focused on the Church's core missions and acknowledges their members are sovereignly called into all four estates of vocation where they are specifically placed to live as neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends, and co-workers as they are built up in the knowledge of Christ.

Nuff ramblin' Thanks!! Off to shoveling more snow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keep praying for Matt Chandler...

A prayer update at JT and reminder to keep Matt in our prayers as they continue to treat his brain tumor>>>

Contextualization 2 - from Church Matters

Contextualization: Let's Call the Whole Thing Love!
by Thabiti Anyabwile


excerpt:
"I believe this exhortation to love is at the heart of the conversations about contextualization or as you say, effective communication. Paul is concerned that the strong are not expressing love by potentially leading the weak brothers to go against their consciences by eating meat offered to idols. Love, Paul agues, should motivate them to forsake their rights for the purpose of building up the body. As it was, they were tearing it apart (1 Cor. 8)."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Contextualization -- from TGC

Excerpt from the Gospel Coalition blog:

What might contextualization look like for us?

First, we must identify, as much as Scripture allows, with the people we are trying to reach. A good illustration is when Paul circumcised Timothy in order that he would be not become an obstacle to bringing the gospel to Jews (Acts 16:1-5).

Second, we must realize that such identification requires that we forsake our Christian rights/freedoms in order to become a servant to all. We must ask ourselves if we are willing to forsake our personal musical tastes for the sake of the gospel. What of our personal clothing choices? Maybe even our eating habits? It all depends on whom we are seeking to reach.


In other words, any musical worship style may be permissible for you or me under the blanket of Christian liberty, but if our freedoms and liberties cause another to stumble, then it would be sin. For instance, if your worship service is heavy metal style, it may be attractive to some unbelievers, but to the believer in your congregation who has come out of the rock/drug/party culture and into the purity of the body of Christ, heavy metal music during a Sunday morning worship service could very well be a stumbling block. We must be responsible to one another.

Put another way, by missiologist Davids Sills:
Some mistakenly believe that contextualization means making Christianity look just like the culture. However, contextualization is simply the process of making the gospel understood. . . . In fact, much of what many call contextualization is simply an effort to be trendy or edgy..., but that is not contextualization; that is marketing.



And here is Dr. Don Carson’s message on 1 Corinthians 9:23-27, from The Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Examples of Courage (and a Prayer)

A courageous advertisement titled: "Once Upon a Time Men Wore the Pants" from Dockers (via Anne at PalmTreePundit). Look out! I expect the special interests will be all over this one!



Tiger Woods and Mark Sanford: A Surprising Contrast (An excellent article by Alex Chediak that sheds some light on the athelete's courage in the current situation, in contrast to the questionable response of the governor.)


And prayer that such courage will be accompanied by a realization that we all desperately need a merciful Savior and Substitute before the throne of the true and righteous Judge.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trust

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Prov 3:5-6).

Our human nature tends to lean toward pragmatism -- using whatever means available to us in order to succeed. We often also like to trust in our own abilities or even trust in other people to bring the success or satisfaction that we long for.

However, inward conflict arises when we place our total trust in ourselves or in other people instead of God. Our lack of trust and obedience to God versus placing an over dependence upon our natural skills and resources has created problems since Genesis, throughout the old and new testaments, and into the present day.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD" (Isa 31:1).

We are prone to build strong defenses to avoid failure and use all of our might to be successful in our endeavors. However, we must avoid trying to build resources and skills, hoarding stuff and accumulating knowledge strickly for the sake of insulating ourselves against any possible calamity. Such activity is rooted in fear and will fail eventually. We can never do enough to completely insulate ourselves from hurt, suffering, pain, and troubles in this world. And we should certainly not sin in order to avoid suffering. Often, our fear of pain can lead to a hoarding mentality and self-reliance.

Today, I lift my eyes to the LORD and call on Him for His goodness and trust in His sovereign hand.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Breaking the Bondage of Performance-Based Acceptance

"All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied" (Eccl. 6:7 NKJV).

I never really knew how I would feel about myself if I lost my job until it actually happened -- and in an extremely painful and deceptive way. Yet, God has provided various income opportunities that have blessed me and kept me from having to make any real sacrifices so far. The loss of my job and the feeling of devastation that accompanied it changed what I did everyday for a living. As a single person with no children, I can see now just how most my identity and worth was tied up in what I did for a living.

I believe that one of the schemes that satan has used in my life was to get me to view my value primarily based on the type of work I did and how well I did it.

This is clearly a mix of performance-based acceptance and fear of man. It says "As long as I have a good job and I do it well, I will have confidence, worth, acceptance, and identity."

This is a "slippery slope" and can be used by satan to keep our focus on our performance versus Christ. I love to give 100% and excel at my work. Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude in my undergrad studies, Summa Cum Laude in masters prgram. I'm an overachiever because I like to do well and be approved by people I respect.

Yet, I also know that we are not supposed to find our value in what we do - on our role or function. Instead, our value is solely based on who we are in Christ. This is a truth I have been wrestling with for some time now, especially after about 200 applications I've sent out, that haven't resulted in the kind of job that I believe I could and should be doing. Instead, the Lord has seen fit to leave me with a number of humble opportunities -- and His provision has been sure and steady through it all.

The apostle Paul wrestled with shedding his notions of performance-based acceptance after he came to faith in Christ. He had grown to the top of his field as a Jewish leader, and wrote this:

"If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Phil 3:4-9).


I would have never really known the degree to which my identity and worth was rooted in my work and the approval of men, until my work was wrongfully removed. Combine this with the betrayal and abusive environment that I experienced by my supposedly Christian boss who I trusted and who lied to me and about me day after day, whenever she had the chance. I was so blinded by my belief that my hard work, dedication, and good performance would change her, would change the way she treated me, change my work environment, and that everything would turn out rosy. It was just like my thinking as a teenager, which went something along these lines: If I could be a good enough student or daughter or worker, then my mom would really love me. But, nope. God has other plans: teaching me that my trust in performance-based acceptance and the approval of man is a dark bondage that I must reject.

Contrary to the great tradition of the American dream, work IS not about what you do or how well you do it. It really is WHO you know that matters. And at the end of the day, when the bodies hit the floor, after the job has been removed and our 'filthy rags' (our righteous works) have been burned up as dross, the only thing left is knowing and being known by Jesus Christ alone. Yes, I'm learning...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tim Keller Wants to Save Your Yuppie Soul

Great article and interview on Redeemer PCA and Tim Keller's ministry here at New York Magazine>>>

Excerpt:

The problem, Keller says, is a culture that values success above everything else. “There is an enormously sick pressure to perform and do well and make money. Companies essentially force people to make work more important than anything else.” Orthodox religious faith, he says, “is a hedge against the idolatry of success and what people are doing—almost selling their souls. I don’t have a Bible verse that says you’ve got to live the rest of your life in New York. But I say slow down and try to actually enjoy the city. People use the city to get ahead. And I’m saying no, have your life here.”


That message is as true for Newark, Delaware, as it is for New York city, and probably a good reason why I'm enjoying his newest book, "Counterfeit Gods." The book runs along the same theme.

Read more: Why Are So Many New Yorkers Flocking to Evangelical Christian Preacher Tim Keller? -- New York Magazine

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Article on Justification at CSM: "Here I Stand"

By Kevin DeYoung (author of "Why We Love the Church" and "Why We're Not Emerging"

The Protestant debate over justification: Here I stand.
Ignorance about how we get right with God has weakened the church. We must reassert that we're saved by faith alone.
)


And a quote from the article to pique your interest:
"The problem today is that the 'good news' is often replaced with good advice and good causes. Churches that should be talking about the work of Christ on the cross and the grace of God for sinners are stuck on recycled pop psychology, moral exhortation, or entertainment. But these fail to speak to the eternal question that haunts all of us: How do I know that I'm OK? We all want to know we are justified."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving is for Pilgrims

About seven weeks after the horrific events of September 11, 2001, Time Magazine printed an article by Nancy Gibbs entitled: "We Gather Together."

Gibbs pondered the paradoxical nature of Thanksgiving that particular year. She wrote:

"This is the kind of holiday we need right now, an intrinsically complicated one that comes at the end of a bitter harvest and yet finds something sweet to celebrate.

"Everyone is a pilgrim now, stripped down to bare essentials and a single carry-on bag to sustain us in a strange new world. So no wonder people are making a special effort to get home this year, set the table, unfold the napkins, and make the time for a messy conversation with the people who know us best. This is where we find out how we are really doing on the character test: Have the events of autumn left us humbled, or hardened? Bitter at all we feel we have lost, or grateful for all that we once took for granted?"


Giving thanks to the Lord for all that He has allowed to enter and to leave my life.

"A life in thankfulness releases the glory of God." - Bengt Sundberg

God's Word:
"I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD." - Psalm 116:17

"But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD." - Jonah 2:9

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heavy Artillery (from Peacemeal Devotional)

Don't Drop Your Weapons!

Paul also understood that God has given us divine weapons to use in our quest for peace. These weapons include Scripture, prayer, truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Eph. 6:10-18; Gal. 5:22-23). To many people, these resources and qualities seem feeble and useless when dealing with "real" problems. Yet these are the very weapons Jesus used to defeat Satan and to conquer the world (e.g., Matt. 4:1-11; 11:28-30; John 14:15-17). Since Jesus chose to use these weapons instead of resorting to worldly weapons, we should do the same.
Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 248.

Food for Thought

What weapons do you tend to use when you are in a conflict?
When we finally decide to reconcile with an enemy, we sometimes approach them with an attitude of "dropping our weapons." But Jesus never calls us to be unarmed or passive among our enemies. To the contrary, he calls us to lay down our ineffective worldly weapons (like defensiveness, anger, self-justification, and gossip) in order to take up the truly heavy artillery (like love, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control). Take time today to read Romans 12:14-21 and resolve to take up again the weapons for which the Lord sacrificed so much to equip you.


Subscribe to PeaceMeal or other free e-publications from Peacemaker Ministries.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hebrews 11:32-12:3 Message

URGENT UPDATE! PRAY FOR MATT CHANDLER -- CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS!!!

An excellent message from Matt Chandler via Alex Chediak:

The intro runs thru 14:15, at which point the message on Hebrews begins.

Hebrews 11:32 "And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

Hebrews 12

1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ever Wonder About Biblical Womanhood? (or the real background on wonder woman)

I'm listening to Dr. Russell Moore's plenary message to learn more about "wonder women" and biblical womanhood.

ht: carolyn mcculley at radical womanhood.

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In case you wanted to research the prices on Black Friday ahead of time, check out this site:
Black Friday Ads

Also worth noting: some of the big retailers like Wal-Mart are changing their operations to curb the abuses of the season. Some ways include: staying open 24 hours and allowing people to get in line inside the stores for the specific items they want to purchase, rather than opening the flood gates at 4AM (only to have the smaller, slower shoppers trampled in a stampeed searching for cell phones and gps systems.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Satan, The World, Providence & Christ

At Desiring God today>>>

Quote: "Rejoice that the providence of God is so massively active in restraining evil and prompting so much external conformity to righteousness. Trust in the triumph of Christ at Calvary. Resist the devil in faith that the one in you is greater than he. Risk your life to spread the liberating news as far as you can."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Being Content

Two great articles from earlier today on being content with present circumstances...

ByFaith Online Magazine: Be Anxious for Nothing -- Now?
Reformation 21: Welcome To Wherever You Are

Love Not Hate

This week's sermon was right on target (again!). I'm posting a link to it, because I think others would be greatly blessed to hear it. Check it out:

Proverbs 10:12 (11/1/09): Click Here

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Devotional - from the Psalms

(note: I have changed the date of this post intentionally in order to remove any misconceptions, as it was originally posted on November 11th, a date which ought not be read in connection, neither in an implied or allusory way, with my sentiments below. thanks)


"Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners."

- Psalm 146:3-7

Praise God, as he does execute justice for the oppressed. By His hand, we are all fed, but some will never recognize or acknowledge it. Some of the princes of the world will swear by their own power and claim their own glory. I think of this quote from Maximus in the movie Gladiator - "The time for honoring yourself will soon come to an end." Rich oppressors will have their moment in this life, but it will be but a vapor in the context of eternity. Those who abuse their power over the people in their charge are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of judgment. Leave vengence to the Lord; He is the judge and justice will be metted out - either through eternal damnation or by the propitiation of Christ on the Cross. Pray for the LORD to continue freeing the prisoners and adopting us as His children, co-heirs with King Jesus of the eternal kingdom. The princes of this world will have their glory, and we will have ours. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All Things to All People

from Michael McKinley's new book on church planting:

"Not many books or church leaders these days speak anymore about the homogeneous unit principle—appealing to one homogeneous group of people. Somewhere in the 1980s or 90s church growth writers stopped using the phrase because they had heard enough complaining about it being biblically problematic. Still, they needed some way to target particular groups, so they began to speak in terms of “contextualization”—adapting yourself to a context. I don’t want to totally knock the good people-sensitivities involved with contextualizing. But the evangelical fascination with the topic makes me wonder if it’s just an updated version of the homogeneous unit principle: Pick your social demographic and appeal…I mean, contextualize to them.
When we start churches intentionally designed to appeal to a certain kind of person, we fail to heed the biblical mandate to become all things to all people (1 Cor. 9:22). It seems like many churches want to embrace the first phrase without the second. We want to become all things to some people. The problem is, becoming all things to some people, say, by rocking the tattoos and turning up the music often keeps us from reaching all kinds of people. After all, wooing one demographic (like urban young people) often means alienating others (like older people or foreigners).

It seems to me that Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 wasn’t saying that he would mimic the people he was trying to reach, you know, with a ripped tunic and Doc Marten sandals; he was trying instead to remove unnecessary offense whenever possible. He wasn’t telling them to sport goatees, he was telling them not to flaunt their Christian freedom in everyone’s faces. He was encouraging the church to be sensitive to their cultures, yes, but by being sacrificial in its love, willing to give up things it might not have preferred to give up. To this day, I enjoy punk rock. I could flaunt the tatts and plant a punk rock church that took its musical cues from Stiff Little Fingers and its attitude from the Clash. But how would this show love for the elderly women in my neighborhood, the same kind of elderly women who welcomed me to [my former church]? It seems like we should intentionally plant churches that will, as much as possible, welcome and engage people who are different and diverse with respect to age, gender, personality, and nationality….

Perhaps you’re thinking, “But young people simply won’t go to churches where the music is not tailored to them.” That may be partly true, but it’s only true insofar as they’ve been in churches with no biblical vision for reaching all people. But what if pastors everywhere decided to stop capitulating to consumeristic demands? What if pastors taught church members to lay down their rights for the sake of people who were different? Pastor, are you afraid that if you tried doing this, you might lose some of your market share?

So then, what should characterize a church plant that wants to reach people from all kinds of backgrounds? Well, it obviously needs to show intentional love to people from different cultures. People from other cultures will know pretty quickly whether they are welcomed or merely tolerated as a curiosity...

Also, the way that we order our gatherings can impact the way international believers feel. Many of the brothers and sisters in our congregation from other cultures were attracted by how similar our services are to the ones in their home countries. The music is different, sure. The way people dress is different, of course. Our services may be quieter or louder than what they’re accustomed to. But Christians gathered in churches in Thailand, in South Africa, in Niger, in Guatemala all do the same things: they pray, sing, read the Bible, and listen to the Word being preached. The more we focus on doing those things, the more “at home” international brothers and sisters feel. The more we import ... pop-culture into the church, the more specific and targeted our gatherings feel and the less comfortable these brothers and sisters feel."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Rid of The Root of Bitterness

I'm currently reading a very good book that I purchased at a women's retreat called "How to Be Free From Bitterness" by Jim Wilson.



In chapter one, the author comments on Hebrews 12:15: "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."


He writes:

"Here it describes bitterness as if it were a root. A root is something that is underground and cannot be seen. But there can be visible evidence of its presence, as when sidewalks are lifted. Roots do other things. The fact that you cannot see roots does not mean they are not there. Neither does it mean that you will never see them. They drink in nourishment, and they do not stay roots under the ground. Eventually they come up....Beware lest any root of bitterness spring up, cause trouble, and defile many people, which means to make many people filthy."


and

"So the world has two solutions. Keep the bitterness in and make yourself sick, or let it out and spread the sickness around. God's solution is to dig up the root. Get rid of it. But this takes the grace of God. A man must know the Lord Jesus Christ... He is the source of grace. The world's solutions for bitterness shouldn't be used by Christians... The Bible says get rid of all bitterness. You must not keep it in and you must not share it. Surrender it to the Father, through the Son."

How often do I follow the world's solutions, rather than the Biblical way of dealing with bitterness? This is a good word to start the morning off and to motivate me toward reading the rest of this book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Living in the Middle Between Hope and Reality

Our Sunday School class that ended two weeks ago was on the book called "Living in The Gap Between Promise and Reality," by Iain Duguid. The study was based on the covenant promises found in the book of Genesis and examined the lives of Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and others.

Paul Miller also covers this theme with current application in the chapter titled, "Unanswered Prayer: Understanding the Patterns of the Story" of his book "A Praying Life."

Here are a few of the quotes that I found valuable and helpful:

"Every part of your being wants to close the gap between hope and reality. We will do anything not to live in the desert."

The denial approach to suffering is "filled with hope but doesn't face realtiy. For instance, some Christians try to sidestep suffering by insisting God has healed them..."

Determination approaches suffering by setting out to fix whatever it is that is causing the pain. "You have faced enormous obstacles before and overcome them, and you are going to do the same with this. You leave no stone unturned... By the sheer force of your will, ... you are going to make this happen... It's a short trip from determination to despair, where you realize that you aren't going to change the situation, no matter what you do. It hurts to hope in the face of continued (rejection/failure), so you try to stop hurting by giving up on hope... Despair removes the tension between hope and reality. Despair, in its own strange way, can be comforting, but it and its cousin, cyncism, can kill the soul."

and

"In contrast, people of faith live in the desert. Like Abraham, they are aware of the reality of their circumstances but are fixed on hope. Paul describes how 'in hope (Abraham) believed against hope' [Romans 4:18].

and

"The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is not way out. You don't know when it will end. There is no relief in sight... God customizes deserts for each of us... It is very tempting to survive the desert by taking the bread of bitterness offered by Satan -- to maintain a wry, cynical detachment from life, finding perverse enjoyment in mocking those who still hope."

and

"God takes everyone he love through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. Here's how it works: The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances. The things that brought us life gradually die. Our idols die for lack of food... The still dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth... Suffering burns away the false selves...

"After a while you notice your real thirsts. While in the desert, David wrote:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

The desert becomes a window to the heart of God. He finally gets your attention because he's the only game in town."

And this past Sunday we started a new Sunday School class on the Book of Psalms. How incredibly Providential. I love the Lord. He always provides the perfect manna in every situation. He is so good!

Quotes taken from pgs. 181-184 of "A Praying Life"

American Idol Worship

American Idol Worship

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

From Counterfeit Gods (Tim Keller's new book)

Excerpt from Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller:

"There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience a career reversal, you can find comfort in your family to get you through it. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternative sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit.

What is the cause of this "strange melancholy" that permeates our society even during boom times of frenetic activity, and which turns to outright despair when prosperity diminishes? De Tocqueville says it comes from taking some "incomplete joy of this world" and building your entire life on it. That is the definition of idolatry.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vulnerability - Hollywood Style

Carolyn McCulley at Radical Femininity has an awesome post called Drunk: The New Female Tenderness? in which she shares about the current trend in Hollywood to portray male benevolence almost exclusively through the degradation of falling down drunk and out of control women. On the one hand, who could be in a more vulnerable state and in need of male benevolence than a drunk young maiden? In a strange way, this set up has parable-like qualitities about it, to which one might easily find parallels in Hosea, the Samaritan Woman, or the woman caught in adultery, and so forth. On the other hand, however, Hollywood's tales result not in the glorification of a just and forgiving, lifegiving and light-casting, merciful and all-knowing Creator, but rather creates its own opportunity to glorify sin, darkness, and depravity, while further obsuring male and female relationship roles.

Read Carolyn's excellent article now>>>

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Praying Life - Following Jesus out of Cynicism

After having experienced an extremely painful trial over the past several months, one thing that the Holy Spirit has been revealing to me is that I sometimes walk dangerously close to the edge of spiritual cynicism. I often hear the voice of Job's wife whispering "curse God and die" in my ear when I think of how much suffering and pain is experienced in this life by God's children. The reality of how wicked the cultures are at most major corporations and how many Godly Christians have faced evil treatment at their jobs just because they don't fit into that culture is quite disheartening as well.

Most Providentially, Paul Miller has a chapter in his book entitled "Following Jesus Out of Cynicism." This chapter is chocked full of wise counsel and is grace-saturated through and through. Here are a couple of great excerpts that I found very true and encouraging:

"Cynicism looks reality in the face, calls it phony, and prides itself on its insight as it pulls back. (ouch!) Thanksgiving looks reality in the face and rejoices at God's care. It replaces a bitter spirit with a generous one.
In the face of Adam and Eve's evil, God takes up needle and thread and patiently sews fine leather clothing for them (Gen 3:21). He covers (their sin) their divided, hiding selves with love. The same God permits his Son to be stripped naked so we could be clothed. God is not cynical in the face of evil. He loves."

and

"Cynics imagine they are disinterested observers on a quest for authenticity. They assume they are humble because they offer nothing. In fact, they feel deeply superior because they think they see through everything.
C.S. Lewis pointed out that if you see through everything, you eventually see nothing... Lewis said that what was required was a restoration of the innocent eye, the eye that can see with wonder. That is the eye of a child."

Then Miller recounts the story of David and Golaith, pointing out that when David arrives at King Saul's camp, he has a childlike response to the shocking news that the taunts of the giant Philistine have pinned and paralyzed the Israelites. He blurts out, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26)
Goliath becomes enraged when the Israelites send David, a mere child, to confront him. In verse 43 he exclaims, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" to which David replies:

"The LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand."

At the end of the chapter, Miller concludes with an excellent application.
Here is my summary:
When the pure in heart begin with examining their own hearts -- confronting the beasts in the valley of the shadow of death -- they are able to see clearly later. Not seeing through everything like the cynic, but seeing clearly the abnormality of Goliath cursing the living God. The result is avoiding critical, negative cynicism and avoiding being captured by the spirit of the age and the culture around us. We will see the joy of the Lord, sing while we're in jail and calmly face seemingly overwhelming circumstances that are an affront to the LORD by trusting in His care.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Christian Warfare, book by John Downame

The Christian Warfare Against the Devil, World and Flesh
The sub-title:
wherein is first generally shewed the malice, power and politike stratagems of the spirituall ennemies of our saluation, Sathan and his assistants the world and the flesh, with the meanes also whereby the Christian may vvithstand and defeate them : and afterwards more speciallie their particvlar temptatiions, against the seuerall causes and meanes of our saluation, whereby on the one side they allure vs to security and presumption, and on the other side, draw vs to doubting and desperation, are expressed and answered : written especially for their sakes who are exercised in the spirituall conflict of temptations, and are afflicted in conscience in the sight and sense of their sinnes.


Now that's what I call a sub-title! Yeah buddy! Take your 140 word Tweeter limit and try to do that!

Anyway, this is definitely going on my wishlist ;)

UPDATE: I just tried searching Amazon for the book and only found one reference to the book in Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas by Kelly Monroe Kullberg
Here is the reference from this autobiography which I found extremely interesting:
"I began to spend time in the archives of Pusey Library and in the Houghton Library rare book collection. In the lobby of Houghton, visitors could view the only remaining book given to the college in 1636 by John Harvard himself. All the other books were consumed by the fire of 1764, but this one was "borrowed" by a student (before books were meant to be borrowed). The book's title was The Christian Warfare Against the Devil, World, and Flesh... And Means to Obtain Victory. Though the contents were inaccessible behind glass, I took the title as a mysterious inpiration."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Praying Life - Being a Mature Christian by Learning Helplessness

Excerpt from Paul Miller's A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, pages 56-57:

"Suprisingly, mature Christians feel less mature on the inside. When they hear Jesus say, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), they nod in agreement. They reflect on all the things they've done without Jesus, which have become nothing. Mature Christians are keenly aware that they can't raise their kids. It's a no-brainer. Even if they are perfect parents, they still can't get inside their kids' hearts. That's why strong Christians pray more.

John of Landsburg, a sixteenth-century monk, summarized this well in his class A Letter from Jesus Christ. He imagined Jesus speaking personally to us:

I know those moods when you sit there utterly alone, pining, eaten up with unhappiness, in a pure state of grief. You don't move towards me but desparately
imagine that everything you have ever done has been utterly lost and forgotten. This near-despair and self-pity are actually a form of pride. What you think was a state of absolute security from which you've fallen was really trusting too much in your own strength and ability... what really ails you is that things simply haven't happened as you expected and wanted.

In fact, I don't want you to rely on your own strength and abilities and plan, but to distrust them and to distrust yourself and to trust me and no one and nothing else. As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief. You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of me. You may hope and trust in me absolutely. My mercy is infinite."

Jesus isn't asking us to do anything he isn't already doing. He is inviting us into his life of helpless dependence on his heavenly Father. To become more like Jesus is to feel increasingly wary of your heart. Paradoxically, you get holier while you are feeling less holy. The very thing you were trying to escape -- your inability -- opens the door to prayer and then grace."

Amen!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Praying Life - Paul Miller

I've been pretty absent from the blogging scene for such a long time that I doubt I'll even have readers going forward. Nonetheless, given my present circumstances -- having endured painful betrayal by a Christian boss in the workplace that resulted in the loss of my job and transitioning to a new church over the past five months -- God has graciously provided a number of amazing gems that I am zealous to capture and share here.

The first "gem" that I plan to share in a series of posts relates to Paul Miller's wonderful book "A Praying Life." I've had the book for some time, but being unemployed has provided a great opportunity for doing some of the things that I have been putting off for too long, including reading this book. More on some of those other activities later.

Yesterday, I was returning home with my dad and step-mom from a family reunion in northeastern Pennsylvania. My father was listening to the 70's band Abba up front, and as each song began, he exclaimed, "Oh! This is a great song!" and proceeded to turn the volume higher. After about 8 or so songs, I could bearly hear myself think, even though I was trying to read "A Praying Life" in the back seat. I momentarily paused and prayed to God, "Lord, please give me patience and the ability to bear up under this music." Then I turned to the page to the next chapter which was titled, "Crying out to 'Abba.'" I read the first two or three paragraphs that talked about how "Abba" is such a powerful term for seeing God like little children as our daddy and how "Abba" is typically never translated from the Aramaic into Greek, English or other languages because of its uniqueness, etc.. Just then, my Dad turned down the music and asked me, "So, what are you reading back there anyway?" I had the opportunity to share with him that I was a reading a chapter about God, our Father, called "Abba" or "daddy" and explained the whole thing to him. I said to him, "Isn't that amazing?" He had no idea where the word Abba even came from andhad only ever heard of it to describe one of his favorite bands. He just thought that they made it up for themselves. God is so good. Isn't He amazing?

Well, I plan to do a series of short nuggets or "take-aways" from each of the chapters, mainly for my edification, but also, just in case anyone else stumbles onto this blog, maybe they'll also be encouraged.
dlw

Friday, September 4, 2009

Heresies of Love - TableTalk, Sept 2009

Link to Heresies of Love by Gene Edward Veith>>>
An extremely insightful look at various perversions of love. Here is an excerpt:

The Unitarian heresy applied to church would be the demand for unity that squelches all personal differences. This would include the forced conformity of cults and the coerced obedience insisted upon by megalomaniacal preachers. It also includes the social homogenization favored by many church growth experts, which results in congregations consisting only of people of the same age or demographic profile: young people, white suburbanites, or postmodernists.

The polytheistic heresy applied to church would be the “me and God” mindset that sees the individual, personal relationship to God as all that is necessary, with little need for gathering together with other Christians into a corporate body. It also includes congregations with no unifying teaching or confession, allowing all members to believe whatever they want.

Love is a unity of distinct persons.

When the Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4), it proves the doctrine of the Trinity. You'll want to click here to read the whole piece>>>

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Diversity and Unity in the Body

From ByFaith Magazine here:

"Jesus knew that populating a team with differing opinions and experiences is the best way to take advantage of the power of God’s creative genius. We aren’t all created different because God became bored with one model and decided to try something else. We are diverse because God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that our differences will add to the mosaic in tangible ways that no other combination of personalities can."

and

"If your team sings 'Kumbaya' at every meeting, you have a problem. If two or more people always agree on everything, at least one of them is redundant."

Friday, July 31, 2009

Awesome Series from Possessing the Treasure

Mike Ratcliff has been writing some awesome and insightful devotions at Possessing the Treasure. In case you don't subscribe, you might want to check him out:

October 2-3 back on the table

.. and the good news is that now that I'm not committed to the conference in Anaheim any longer, I'm available to attend this great seminar again this year -- Women in the Word Brochure.

I'll be looking for others who might want to go too.

What's so unique about Christians? Romans 12:14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Try to do that in your own stength. I don't think it's possible.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Polemic Theology: Slippery Slope & Unavoidable Reality

D. A. Carson's latest article on Polemic Theology was extremely helpful to me this morning, in the wake of processing my interactions with another Christian group that our church is exhibiting with at the local fair.

The group next to us is unapologetically apologetic for their own non-denominational brand of Christianity. And I have a weakness that when challenged, I'm more of a "fight" rather than "flight" kind of person on topics about which I feel passionately. Within the sweep of a few mere sentences, I found myself readily on defense, answering a barage of charges being waged against Calvinism and reformed theology.

This where it gets 'dangerous' for me, because I often find I can't help myself when our faith is so gravely mischaracterized. I want desparately to set the other side straight on where they have misunderstood or miscast the reformed view, such as:
  • The opposite of free will isn't no will, it's a slave will (slave to sin/slave to righteousness)
  • That predestination isn't wrong because it means that people are sent to hell who have never had a chance to respond to the gospel. People are condemned to eternal damnation, to suffer the Wrath of God, because they have knowingly sinned against a Holy God. They have broken the law, which has been revealed to everyone - to the religious through the law of God found in Holy Scripture, and to the irreligious through creation, nature and what has been written on their hearts. Everyone has sinned and everyone is without excuse.
  • That it's not fair that some people go to hell, even though everyone deserves hell because they have sinned. God's Grace is that He calls and saves people who do not deserve it.
  • That it's not fair that places where missionaries have not gone yet would still have people there that will go to hell. But God's sovereignty doesn't depend on man's choices. It is God who calls and equips His missionaries, preachers and even all Christians to share the Good News. And He foreordains the particular times, particular places, and particular people.
But here's an excellent twist that D.A. Carson writes about and might be a helpful starting point in learning how we might love our neighbors (and enemies), even as we try to engage them:

I had always loved argument, and over the years I had become quite good at identifying weak points in an opponent’s defense and bringing concentrated fire
to bear on them. This is what virtually all polemicists have sought to do since ancient times, even the most famous of them. But Popper did the opposite. He sought out his opponents’ case at its strongest and attacked that. Indeed, he would improve it, if he possibly could, before attacking it. . . . Over several pages of prior discussion he would remove avoidable contradictions or weaknesses, close loopholes, pass over minor deficiencies, let his opponents’ case have the benefit of every possible doubt, and reformulate the most appealing parts of it in the most rigorous, powerful and effective arguments he could find—and then direct his onslaught against it. The outcome, when successful, was devastating. At the end there would be nothing left to say in favor of the opposing case except for tributes and concessions that Popper had
himself already made. It was incredibly exciting intellectually.

Bryan Magee's experience in polemics that he learned from Popper and writes about in: Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper [New York: Modern Library, 1999, (152–53)]


Rather than "attacking" and "devastating" them as one might do in a trial case or a formal debating platform, I could see using this technique to have a constructive conversation that:

1 - Seeks to understand the other's position, motivations, and strongest points of belief

2- Once grasping their position and gaining their respect by demonstrating that understanding, gently suggesting the alternate point of view which is either antithetical to the strongest reason for adopting their belief or antithetical to the core presupposition that is holding their framework together.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Two Ways of Doing Life: Sweet vs. Bitter; Psalm vs. AntiPsalm

David Powlison's "Sane Faith" article at Boundless, via Between Two Worlds

Here is an excerpt:
Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Antipsalm 23

I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death, and then I die.

Can you taste the difference? Go Psalm 23 -- (which is our church's OT reading for tomorrow's Lord's day!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Broken Down House by Paul Tripp

I'm really looking forward to digging into the latest book from Paul Tripp, called "Broken Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad" that I just ordered from the Westminster Bookstore.

Read inside (PDFs): Book Introduction

Watch the video Preview:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New Shape of World Christianity at Challies

Absolutely fascinating numbers about the migration of the Church from the West to the East and South! The New Shape of World Christianity from Challies.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is Anger Morally Neutral?

Read the article from CCEF, by David Powlison>>>
Excerpts:

• God's anger is only good. He makes a just and justified response to true evils. At the same time, God is notably slow to anger and notably merciful (Exodus 34:6f); he does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103). But when God does express anger or warn of his anger, he expresses his goodness. “I will make my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord'” (Exodus 33:19). His character and name include his reckoning with evil.

• The devil's anger is only evil. It expresses his pride, lusts, frustration, cruelty, willfulness. He is always offended, always murderous.

• The willful, petty, entitled, irritable, argumentative, vindictive anger so typical of daily life is only evil.

• The anger of people toward genuine wrongs is usually mixed. Anger is a just and justified response to true evils, an expression of the image of God. The fact that we see a wrong as wrong is a good thing; the fact that we care enough to be troubled is a good thing. But human beings tend to return evil for evil, expressing the image of the evil one. For example, a person can get angry for good reasons, but express the anger in many wrong ways. The mix can be tipped significantly towards either end of the
spectrum. Sometimes it is barely good, quickly returning evil for evil. Sometimes it is significantly good in patiently and firmly facing down evil (though who of us is immune to the infiltration of self-righteousness?).

Read the whole article to see how he works out the false presupposition that anger is "morally neutral" and how anger is very much morally conditioned (either good or evil, but not neutral.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

10 Commandments via TxtMsg

HT RT@theLORD via Fast Company:

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.

2. dnt wrshp pix

3. no omg's

4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)

5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool

6. dnt kill ppl

7. :-X only w/ m8

8. dnt steal

9. dnt lie re: bf

10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: Respectable Sins

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
Reviewed by Deb Welch At Treasures of Encouragement>>>

To persevere in the faith and become a mature, Biblically-grounded believer is an honorable goal for any woman in this life, yet it is so easy to veer off the narrow path into what I like to sometimes called “elder sister” territory.

Having experienced freedom in the Gospel from society's most obvious sins, such as sexual immorality, murder, abortion, theft, and the like, we can become, like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31), oblivious to the insidious and subtleness of our remaining sin because it seems more socially acceptable. Rather than engaging in faith’s fight against these more “respectable sins,” we make peace with and tolerate our sin tendencies as if they were cuddly pets or mere personality types, instead of deadly offenses against our holy, just and loving God.

Perennial author, Jerry Bridges, known for other books such as The Pursuit of Holiness, The Discipline of Grace, and Transforming Grace, offers conviction, hope, and sound Gospel help for believers to identify and overcome these more subtle, daily sins. Even seasoned saints still struggle with anxiety, unthankfulness, pride, selfishness, impatience, judgmentalism, envy, jealousy, worldliness, and sins of the tongue, which wage war against our souls and rage in cosmic treason against God's majesty.

With the precision of a surgeon, Bridges will cut to the quick with scriptures and every day examples of how these sins still manifest in our lives. The goal of the author is not to condemn or to merely convict, leaving his reader in a mire of woe, but to exhort us to put off sin and to put on Christ. The remedy is the same for elder siblings who suffer from "respectable sins" as it was for the prodigal son in Luke 15, that God, in His sovereign good pleasure, has graciously paid for our sin by the death, resurrection and ascension of His son Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He works in and with us to cleanse us from our sin, enabling us to “be what we are” in Christ.

This is exactly the type of book that I need as a guide to help get the plank out of my own “elder sister" eye, before examining my “younger sister’s” speck. After all, we know that God hates all sin, no matter how “refined” or “respectable” it may seem to us and the society at a large.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Heading over to Radical Womanhood Breakout...

I got to meet Carolyn this morning after CJ Mahaney's session (which was very powerful)-- she sat right in front of us!! There were about 2,500 people in the auditorium. Pretty crazy, huh?

So I asked her, "Has anyone ever told you that you look like Carolyn McCulley?" to which she replied something to the effect of: well my mother did!
Anyway... gotta run off to the breakout...

Grace and Peace in Christ

Sunday, May 24, 2009

D.A. Carson Session on Christ's Incarnation

D. A. Carson gave a Superb session this morning on Christ's Incarnation from John 1:1-18

Some highlights from my notes:
God’s ultimate expression of himself is Jesus - The Word

1) The Word Creates us (cross references: Genesis 1, Colossians 1:15=20)
All things made by Him, for Him -- The doctrine of creation grounds all human responsibility.
Aseity -- remember Gos is so much from Himself, that He does not need us. He doesnt need our praise, our works, or our obedience.

2) The Word Gives us Light and Life (cross references: John 3:18, John 8)
At creation God created the Light out of darkness. John 8 He is the Light of the World.
Darkness has not understood Him.
He is our eternal life - from before the foundations of the earth.

3) The Word Confronts us and divides us (The Fall) (John 3:16, Genesis 3)

The world is to be understood as human moral order in rebellion since the fall.
"God's love is not so awesome because the world is not so big, it is because it is so bad (because of the fall)."

The world did not recognize him(acknowledge him, understand him) – the world He had made – and this is what is unthinkably bad.
Even 'His own people' -- Jewish people are the specificity of humanity rejecting their own, in whom and by whom they were created.

The most heinous thins is not rape, genocide, or lying. The most heinous thing we do is ignoring our maker. The first sin is to not love God with our heart, mind, and soul. It is the sin of idolatry--- The de-Godding of God. Idolatry.

Even though the world doesn’t know him nor does it want to know him, mysteriously some are saved out of the world and are born again.

We must understand that this happened only because of the Incarnation: God becoming flesh.


4. The Word Incarnates God for Us (cross reference: Exodus 32-34)
Incarnate - from the latin word carnae="meat" or "flesh" - in-meat/in-flesh- the Word becoming human.

Directly references Exodus 32-34
Moses asks God - show me Your Glory. The manifestation of God's Glory to Moses was: God's Goodness:
Exod 33: 19 And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

"The Lord, The Lord!! Abounding in Grace (love) and Truth (faithfulness.)
The whole story corresponds directly to John 1:1-18 -- in these five ways:
1- the tabernacle
2- the request to 'see' God's Glory
3- God's goodness
4- Grace and Truth
5- No one can see God (apart from Jesus)



Jesus tabernacles among us. Jesus is presented as the tabernacle, or the temple, of God. The tabernacle is the great meeting place of God and sinful people. It was a place of Sacrifice. Jesus himself is that temple.

We have seen His Glory!
- the shame and ignominy of the cross. --- the wretched cross === Christ's Glory!!
- all of God's Goodness passes in front of us upon the cross.
The fullness of God's Grace and Truth - as was spoken to Moses -- we receive grace upon grace -- the law of Moses was one grace - we have received Grace upon Grace in Christ!
Amen!!

Link to Next blog with more notes from the session>>>

Friday, May 22, 2009

If anyone is looking for me May 23-26...

... I'll be here:

("This is Next" formerly known as "New Attitude")
Just check out the line-up:

D.A. Carson
Sinclair Ferguson
C.J. Mahaney
Mark Dever
Josh Harris
Carolyn McCulley
Kevin DeYoung
Dave Harvey & Jared Mellinger

With music by:

Bob Kauflin
Reilly
Zelos
and the Na Band

This is going to be . g r r r e a t !!! (I might even try to post some notes, quotes and afterthougths.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Be careful what you pray for...

While praying that my faith might be made more mature and complete, I then realized how God accomplishes this. (Yikes!) Now compare this to what's happening in my life right now... ah, now it's all starting to make just a little bit of sense now ....

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-5).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lewis on Betrayal

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and probably be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the coffin or casket of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.... The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell." - C.S. Lewis

Thy Kingdom Come, Heavenly Father.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Introspection vs.Reflection on Christ's Perfection

At Finding Grace>>>
excerpt:
"David (Powlison) said, we can study our hearts endlessly, and 1. we will never reach the bottom, 2. we will not change. The Savior changes us, not insight into our hearts." (Amen!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't put down the Bible before you pick it up

Too many unsaved friends in my secular circles have dismissed the Bible prior to serious examination. I was just like them, so I can understand the biases and misgivings that some may have who have never spent any significant amount of time reading and studying the life-changing Word of God. This is one reason why I love attending a good, solid Bible study and will invite unbelievers to come.

What is less understandable and hard to remain sympathetic about is when mature, long-time supposed Christians denegrate the Bible. This I have an extremely hard time understanding, and especially when these folks are in leadership, faculty or the pastorate. Unfortunately, they can be found around us more than we think.

Inspiration and Infallability
The Canon of God is pure, free from error, and preserved for our instruction and edification. Many will say the Bible is inspired by God, but the do not have in mind the same idea as the traditional belief found in the Doctrine of Inspiration, whereby God-breathed and directed the transmission of His very own words by the power of the Holy spirit, by appointed men at various times in various places.


Typically, the modern version of "inspired" or "inspiration" refers to something much more compatible with the new age movement, rather than the sovereign will of God. The infallability of the Bible is also a doctrine rejected and assaulted by many who are at best inadequately informed. By attempting to compare the text of the Holy Scriptures to other ancient writings, these false teachers have ignored the tens of thousands of manuscripts that testify to the accuracy of the work of the Jewish Scribes and Massorites. They also ignore traditional Christian scholarship, in favor of post-modern philosophy. continued...