Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to Disarm an Angry Person

How to Disarm an Angry Person at ccef.org by Ed Welch
excerpt: "You are setting out to learn a disarming strategy that takes humility and love, and this is way over your head. As such, “Lord have mercy on me” is the order of the day."
Check out the entire article here.

Developing Deep Roots

During the lean times, God's people are compelled to develop deeper and deeper roots in His grace. This devotional from Today God Is First was excellent, and I share it with permission:

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him." - Jeremiah 17:7


Have you ever considered at what point a test becomes so difficult that you decide you can no longer trust in God and you must take over to solve the problem? The prophet Jeremiah describes a situation in which the temptation to solve a financial problem can become so great that we trust in man's way to solve it.

This is what the Lord says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit" (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

Jeremiah drew a sharp comparison between the man who trusts in his own effort to solve his problem and the man who trusts in God when he cannot see the outcome. The man who trusts in God bears fruit despite the circumstances in his life. He does not shrivel when the heat comes; in fact, his roots go deeper into God's grace. He continues to bear fruit in spite of his circumstances.

Recently, a friend from South Africa explained to me that whenever a plant lives in an arid climate, the roots drive deeper and deeper into the soil to get the water they need. This forces the plant to develop a root system that is far beyond the normal plant because it is forced to go deeper to gain the water it needs. Sometimes God forces us to go deeper into the grace of His love in order to build a greater foundation in our own lives. These lean times are designed to accomplish this in us. If you find yourself in this condition, ask the Lord who provides the water for our soul for the grace you need today to continue to bear fruit in the desert.


-- from Today God Is First (TGIF) devotional message

Our Hearts

“Christ’s heart is a human heart, a sinless heart, a tender heart; a heart once the home of sorrow, once stricken with grief; once an aching, bleeding, mournful heart. Thus disciplined and trained, Jesus knows how to pity and to support those who are sorrowful and solitary. He loves to chase grief from the spirit, to bind up the broken heart, to staunch the bleeding wound, and to dry the weeping eye, to ‘comfort all that mourn.’ It is His delight to visit you in the dark night-season of your sorrow, and to come to you walking upon the tempestuous billows of your grief, breathing music and diffusing calmness over your scene of sadness and gloom.”


- Octavius Winslow, Evening Thoughts, January 11 (1958).
HT: Of First Importance

The Pope, Gossip, and Legitimate Criticism

Recent articles in the news have been covering the current controversy in the RC church with regard to the Pope's role in allowing the sexual abuse of children by priests and other clergy under his charge. Reportedly, there is an uprise among RC church goers, calling for answers and accountability at the highest levels, as well as among many secular thought leaders, who also want to see criminal prosecutions.

One of the most unfortunate developments, in my opinion, are the Pope's charges against the mounting criticism as "gossip."

It seems to me the "gossip" card is getting more and more common among church leaders whose leadership is scrutinized in the public domain. This is quite disheartening, I believe, for two possible reasons:
1) It could indicate a violation of the Biblical process for confronting someone with whom those within the church have a conflict. In other words, descretion is not being exercised and parisoners are going public first, before bringing their concerns before church leadership. Admittedly, we do see this fairly regularly out in the blogosphere.
--OR--
2) After the sheep/layperson has brought their specific concerns, with Biblical warrant, to the leadership authority of their church, that individual (or group of individuals) is denied a hearing or their concerns are dismissed/ disregarded.

Obviously, this is the case of what has happened with the sexual abuse cases in the RC. Hundreds of petitions have been made on behalf of individuals concerned about the lack of accountabily of those who have been placed in authority over them.

My question and concern generally comes from having read and heard the "gossip" charge bantied about from pulpits, websites and blogs, as leaders point fingers at congregants who share their concerns about church leaders in the public domain. Yet, I have yet to meet a bloodied sheep whose wish or will is to do harm to their churches or their pastors, but only to be heard and have their concerns respected and addressed toward the end of the peace and purity of the church.

Granted, there is plenty of illegitmate criticism going on in the public domain.

However, it does seem as though a lack of due process exists for raising concerns, if local leadership has chosen not to address legitimate criticism. This leaves most individuals with the options to either put up and shut up, or to get out and stay out, after receiving verbal slapdowns or advice not to let the proverbial door smack your tush on your way out the door. This is usually followed by statements back home to the effect that "our church is being purged from the goats" when people 'mysteriously' leave the fold.

My experience has been that those who have the courage to leave churches that have poor accountability actually do suffer very greiviously -- similar to how it feels to lose one's parents. (Imagine how incredibly painful it must be for those whose trusted leadership not only sexually violated them or their loved ones, and now utterly rejects, and suggests separation from their family - the local body of Christ - for asking for justice!!!)

I believe that most Christians are primarily concerned for the purity of the church and that justice be demontrated, but have not been given legitimate recourse or due process. Far from being goats or gossipers, truth be told. Rather, they are scapegoated and labeled as toxic gossipers to be avoided and ignored by the Church. Now the Pope is trying to attach that label to folks in the RC who want to see accountability.

Nonetheless, the RC is in for a rough road if they continue to not hold their leaders accountable. I expect accountability to be a headline issue for quite a while to come.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hosanna!!

John 12:23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Atheism as Fatherlessness

This past Friday, our church held a showing of the movie "Collision" where Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens debated the subject of "Is Christianity Good for the World." At one point, Doug Wilson stated that atheism is essentially "Fatherlessness," to which Mr. Hitchens nodded his head in agreement. Later in the film, when asked what Mr. Hitchens is able to base his morality on, he quickly blurted out something to the effect of "well, the brotherhood of man is a very strong basis," and then muttered, "well then if there is the brotherhood of man, then I guess one could argue for fatherhood as well." I also recall him stating early on that he was not all that impressed with the virgin birth, as he was aware of how from a scientific point of view that there are ways that this could actually happen without anything miraculous having to occur. So, to Hitchens there did seem to be something about this theme of fatherlessness with which he had not wrestled out completely, and I think Wilson or an evangelist might find some traction by building on it. In our own doubts and unbelief, we feel and sense a type of fatherlessness, which necessitates the preaching of the reality of our Father in Heaven to His prodigals. (And I also cannot help but think of the huge epidemic of fatherlessness that our country faces as well) --- opportunity knocks!

Theistic Evolution Pushed by OT Seminary Profs

RTS professor of OT speaks out about how the Church should be accepting of evolution:


In addition, at Wheaton University, Professor of OT Studies, John Walton, recently published this book The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia criticized it roundly in a World Magazine book review, after which several additional OT profs come out in support of Walton's re-interpretation (Scot McKnight, Peter Enns, Dr. James Collins).

I think this trend is sad, but telling. Postmodernism has infected the thinking of more than just the secular universities, and I very much appreciate the headship of the elders of our churches who are wise to these whims and are guarding the flock against it. I was hopeful that the anti-modernism strand of post-modernism might win out against materialism as the overarching philosophy we would see develop, but instead, the culture seems to be moving more toward hyper-materialism in the areas of science.

As a much less informed sheep than all of these scholars, I have to admit that no textual critic could convince me that there is not an all-powerful and loving Creator behind the origin of our life. Just look at the operation of a so-called "simple" cell (there's nothing simple about it):


Charles Darwin revolutionized biology, but did he refute intelligent design? from harperone on Vimeo.



Here's my simplistic way of interpreting Genesis 1:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Can the Church Change the World?

JT at Between Two Worlds is blogging through a new and fascinating book by James Davison Hunter called "To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World" (Oxford University Press, 2010).

In it Hunter argues:

"I contend that the dominant ways of thinking about culture and cultural change are flawed, for they are based on both specious social science and problematic theology.

In brief, the model on which various strategies are based not only does not work, but it cannot work.

On the basis of this working theory, Christians cannot “change the world” in a way that they desire.


I've been studying this whole concept of worldview from many perspectives lately, including by hopefully finishing my graduate certificate in Apologetics and Outreach this month. I fully expect that Hunter's book will be an excellent compliment to our Sunday School text by Nancy Pearcey on "Total Truth," along with the series from the White Horse Inn on "Natural Law and The Two Kingdoms" (March 14) and "The Kingdom of God" (current).

How Atheism Led Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher) to Faith

Peter Hitchens, author of "The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith," discusses his conversion, his relationship with his brother Christopher, and his experiences living in Russia and as a former revolutionary Marxist.

Peter Hitchens Author Interview--The Rage Against God from Gorilla Poet Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Prodigals, yes, but not disinherited

“We are all prodigal sons, and not disinherited; we have received our portion, and misspent it, not been denied it. We are God’s tenants here, and yet here, he, our landlord, pays us rents; not yearly, nor quarterly, but hourly and quarterly; every minute he renews his mercy.”

John Donne, quoted in Thomas C. Oden, Classical Pastoral Care (Grand Rapids, 1987), III:285 (HT: Christ is Deeper Still).

Romans 8 Cont'd: Update on Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler shares how Romans 8:18-23 applies to his present circumstances as he continues to undergo treatment for his brain cancer:


18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Idols of the Heart & Vanity Fair

An article by David Powlison in the Journal of Biblical Counseling
Two favorite quotes about counseling gone astray:
"'God loves you' typically becomes a tool to meet a need for people who feel like failures...The Gospel is better than unconditional love. The Gospel says, 'God accepts you just as Christ is. God has contraconditional love for you."

and "Moralistic Christianity does not usually evidence much interest in the pressures and sufferings of our social milieu. Counselors fear that such an interest would necessarily feed those varieties of blame-shifting and accusation which spring up so readily in our hearts. Human responsibility would be compromised."


Then the article is summarized as follows:
"The biblical Gospel delivers both personal sin and situational tyrannies. The biblical notion of inner idolatries allows people to see their need for Christ as a merciful savior from large sins of both heart and behavior. The notion of socio-cultural-familial-ethnic idolatries allows people to see Christ as a powerful deliverer from false masters and false value systems which we tend to absorb automatically. Christ-ian counseling is counseling which exposes our motives- our hearts and our world-in such a way that the authentic Gospel is the only possible answer."

Romans 8 Cont'd: Be Killing Sin or Sin Will Be Killing You

In my last post, I linked an outstanding quote from Francis Schaeffer to our weekly Bible Study on Romans. This week we are studying Romans 8.
As most people know, who have heard my testimony, I was saved during a Bible study on Romans 8 back at the end of 1995. I think Romans 8 will always be one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.

Here John Piper is speaking on Romans 8:13 (given last Friday at a Mars Hill church):

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

No Mechanical Solution

“The Christian life, true spirituality, can never have a mechanical solution. The real solution is being cast up into moment-by-moment communion, personal communion, with God himself, and letting Christ’s truth flow through me through the agency of the Holy Spirit.”

Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Wheaton, 1971), page 88. HT: Christ is Deeper Still


In Bible Study tonight, I was reminded in Paul's epistle to the Roman church that we have received the spirit of sonship, and not a spirit of fear:
Rom 8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.[g] And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."

In studying this passage together, I was also reminded of a story told my Rev. Russell Moore of an orphanage he and his wife had visited while going through the adoption process for his future son. He recounted how as they entered the orphanage, they were astonished by the stark silence in the halls. Here were dozens if not over a hundred orphan infants who had no parent to answer their cries, only the machines and ritual, routine, sterile feedings of the disadvantaged workers who were trained not to get attached. The infants had given up on crying out. They were convinced that no one would hear them cry or that if someone did, no one would care.

But as Rev. Moore and his wife began to pay visits to their future son, something amazing happened. Once the baby learned that these people would keep coming back, feeding him, loving him, and holding him, he began to actually cry out. They would hear him crying as they walked down the hallway leading to his room, even though the other orphans remained silent.

When our faith is mechanized, primarily fed through technological connections, by rote attendence, and by dutiful obedience sans true affection, we have lost "communion."

In our unbelief, we imagine that God is more like a difibrillator in the NICU that is just bearly keeping us breathing, and that we are like those foresaken orphans that are lucky to be alive - so we should just be happy with that.

But NO! We who are in Christ are not like this at all! Perhaps someone could argue that that is who we were, but who we are NOW is children of the Living God. Yes, we are like the infants who were adopted, in that we see our need to completely depend upon parents, our Daddy, Abba Father, for that which will sustain us, and upon seeing our need met by His loving willingness to provide, we begin to cry out to Him in our helplessness: Daddy! Abba! -- knowing that He will not foresake us or leave us there in our lonely exile.

He adopts us. He makes us heirs. Heirs with Christ. In His suffering, yes, and also in His glory. He ingrafts us into His family, and makes us members of Christ's body, in which when one of us suffers, we all suffer. He communes/tabernacles/dwells with us by His Spirit, which testifies that we are His and that He will never, ever foresake us and which enables us to put to death the deeds of the flesh, and live our lives by the spirit. This is the true Christian life.

In the holy name of Jesus Christ, I pray this truth will be manifest for all the saints this very night.
Amen.

Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything

A trailer for a new DVD set called Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything, taught by Tim Keller (HT:JT):

Trailer for Gospel in Life from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Last Christian on Earth

Another book to add to the "Must Read" cue: The Last Christian on Earth: Uncover the Enemy’s Plot to Undermine the Church by Os Guinness


Quote from the author, Os Guinness:

"...much of the church in the West is in a profound Babylonian captivity. It has become deeply worldly, like the European church before the Reformation.

Examples abound on all sides, though many of the crasser and more blatant ones are actually less damaging. For example, anyone with their eyes open can see the link between modern consumerism and the horrors of the health and wealth gospels. But fewer people have analyzed the links between our modern views of time, “fast life,” the “culture of immediacy,” and the equal errors of our recent Evangelical craze for “change,” “relevance,” “innovation,” and “thinking outside the box.” The result is that in the last few decades, many Evangelicals have become second only to the extremes of the Protestant mainline in the way they are energetically breeding forms of worldliness. So I believe we are in dire need of revival and reformation.

What The Last Christian on Earth does is describe the structures and spirit of the modern world, and show how they are the shoals on which much faith is foundering because it is not aware of them. This means that, contrary to many of good Reformed friends, theology alone is not the answer. Nor is having a “Christian worldview” the answer by itself, because that ignores the social context in which the worldview is lived. If “sound theology” and “thinking Christianly” lack an understanding of the distortions of the modern world, they simply will not be effective in the way their proponents hope. We must recognize the distorting structures of our modern world, and then with God’s help, overcome them with powerful Christian living inspired by deep Christian theology and thinking.

But my book is not so much a call for improved “cultural analysis,” as it is an open and passionate call for Evangelical renewal. The issue is faithfulness and discipleship, and how we are following the call of Jesus in our extraordinary modern times. I hope many people will finish the book and drop to their knees."

"Takeover Tactics" Spelled Out

From Pirate Christian Radio: "The Cult-Like Takeover Tactics of the Purpose-Driven Church Transitioning Seminar." My peacemaking friends may not enjoy the following radio seminar on Purpose-Driven takeovers; however, I have prayed about whether or not to share it, and have decided that it is too important that more people become aware of the destructive tactics that go on behind the scenes at churches. Too many bleating sheep have been severly damaged by men in church leadership who don't even realize how debilitating a "church takeover" can be to faithful sheep in the congregations. It is my hope and prayer that more people would become aware of the nature of churches undergoing similar "Purpose-Driven" transitions, and be protected by foreknowledge of the situtation. I also understand that even well-meaning, supposedly "Gospel-Driven" church transitions can take on some of these forms, as young seminarians are being taught the "success model," even in our reformed seminaries. Just a quick shout out to anyone who still reads this crazy blog...


Dethroning Our Sovereign?

Not possible, but yet the idea flits throughout my thought-life and prayer-life.
This article from Jill at RZIM's Slice of Infinity explains...
The Sovereign>>>

And here's an interesting quote from the article:
"Pride is born of the deep dissatisfaction of the creature with the limits of its creaturehood, its lack of permanency, wisdom, and power... If pride implies reaching too high, sloth means sinking too low, settling for something less than real humanity." (Douglas John Hall, "What Time Is It?" 11)
If I'm not teaching on Wednesday, this will be VERY cool:
Online Chat with A Slice of Infinity
An online video chat session on Wednesday, March 10th at 2 PM EST. The link below will take you to our USTREAM broadcast page. http://www.ustream.tv/rzimmedia

No, God does not have a wonderful plan for our life

New Testament verses:


ACT 9:16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be
revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of
childbirth right up to the present time.23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know
what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with
groans that words cannot express.



1 Cor 4:12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when
we are persecuted, we endure it;



2CO 4:11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.


GAL 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.



PHI 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to
believe on him, but also to suffer for him,

3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the
fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,


COL 1:24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my
flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.


2TH 1:4 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance
and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

2TI 2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he
will also disown us;

HEB 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and
through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation
perfect through suffering.

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their
humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of
death--that is, the devil--

18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help
those who are being tempted.

5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered



JAM 5:10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering,
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

1PE 2:21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.


4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that
you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in
Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you
and make you strong, firm and steadfast.