Sunday, May 30, 2010

For the Fallen

Vigilante Justice

One of the things that I've encountered over the past six months working as a substitute is something that I call vigilante justice in the classroom. Often, in elementary schools that lack discipline and clearly defined law and order, certain students (especially boys, but sometimes girls too) take justice into their own hands. When another student acts improperly or does something that he or she is not allowed to do, there is often a student who becomes enraged over the breech, and when the teacher does not correct the action, he or she becomes indignant and often commits an act of violence in an attempt to correct the wrong. I've tried to point out to the boy or girl that their reaction to the first thing that was wrong is much, much worse, like 10x more unacceptable, than what the other person did. I also remind them that it is the teacher and the school principals who are in charge and who will take care of students who disobey. It is not the other student's role to take justice into their own hands.

As much as I find myself surprised and somewhat shocked when I see this happening among kids, that feeling is nothing compared to the realization of how much I still suffer from a similar type of spiritual vigilante-ism. Under the cloak of self-righteous indignation, I have a strong desire to see people, myself included, do the right thing. When an apparent wrong surfaces, my knee-jerk, viseral reaction is to want to get them to stop or see the errors of their ways. While I would never physically bully or abuse someone in order to get justice, I can be persistently vocal. Just like a bounty hunter in the days of the frontier, when vigilantes roamed freely, I find myself looking for a gunfight. And if the offender won't come to the shoot-out, I can adjust very easily by becoming a verbal sharpshooter.

Of course, all of this is sin and difficult to diagnose and overcome.

Two places in scripture speak to this issue. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 3. Below are some passages upon which I will be meditating and committing to memory:

Rom. 12:3 "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you"

Rom. 12:14 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." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 Cor. 3:10 "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Glory of Plodding

I first read this article by Kevin DeYoung in the May edition of TableTalk when I first received it in April and remember thinking - "Amen!" as I finished it.
Then a couple of weeks ago, several of my RSS feeds in my reader picked up the link on Ligonier and shared it on their blogs.
Tonight I read it again and couldn't help but think how much I enjoy Kevin's writing (Why We Love the Church, Why We're Not Emerging, etc).

Here is a great summary quote and a link to the article:
"What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency." Read more>>>

sidenote: this week and last have been the busiest weeks so far for substituting. I was told that the last weeks of school tend to be sparse, as everyone prepares for finals. However, the reality has been a gazillion calls and jobs every day. Of course, the fact that I have a hard time saying no doesn't help matters. Tomorrow - day 11 without a day off... how did this happen? Looking forward to some rest and a wonderful Sabbath rest Sunday... Two more days... sigh...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Weakness is Our Platform

At Christ is Deeper Still. Excerpt:
"Our problem is not just weaknesses. More profoundly, our problem is weakness. Weakness is not just one more experience alongside our other experiences; weakness is the platform on which we have all our experiences. Weakness is a pervasive presence in all we are and do. It will not always be so. But for now, it is." Read more here>>>

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Self-Feeding or Kingdom Feasting?

New Reformation Press in agreement with South Orange County Outreach (SOCO) is offering a free presentation of Dr. Rosenbladt’s "The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church."
Dr. Rosenbladt takes a sympathetic view toward those who have become estranged or even angry with the evangelical church. He focuses his primary attention on the absolute necessity and centrality of the Gospel for reaching the disaffected and disenfranchised in our secular circles. He also warns against the evangelical tendency toward preaching a Law-Gospel-Law message, stating that whenever the law does its work, even in a believer's life, it has to be followed up immediately with the Gospel, otherwise the believer will be left damned. And he reminds us that even we who soundly declare Sola Fide in our doctrine, are prone to approach the broken in a spirit of law, rather than grace (If you were a real believer, you would be attending church. Or if you were a real Christian, you would not be forsaking God's means of grace, the sacraments, etc.) But if We really affirm SolaFide, we would not make that our primary point of contact with those who are out of fellowship. It's a really thought-provoking teaching, that I enjoyed very much.

Link to the Monergism site.

Download the MP3 file.

Download the PDF formatted for a regular sheet of paper.

Along the same line of thought, I came across a quote by John Piper on the nature and focus of worship that is helpful:

"The true diagnosis of weak worship is not that our people are coming to get and not to give. Not a few pastors scold their people that the worship services would be lively if people came to give instead of to get. There is a better diagnosis.

People ought to come to corporate worship services to get. They ought to come starved for God. They ought to come saying, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God" (Psalm 42:1). God is profoundly honored when people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. And it is my job as a preacher to spread a banquet for them. I must show them from Scripture what they are really starving for -- God -- and then feed them well until they say, 'Ahhh.' That is worship."
-- John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight

And finally, I was fortunate to make the cut-off for ordering a DVD teaching series from Ligonier called: "Kingdom Feast" for only $5 (list price $35). This is part of the new Ligonier $5 Fridays that are offered each Friday for 24 hours.
The tracks include:
The Significance of Passover
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
The Consummation of the Kingdom
Real Body & Blood?
The Natures of Christ
The Presence of Christ
Blessing & Judgment

No wonder more people are doubting the Holocaust

The History Channel got a bad rap in my family a few years back, because it seemed like the channel was fixated on Hitler and the Holocaust. They were just too predictable. Well, the History Channel has developed a new problem that is way, way more troubling from my perspective. Although their repertoire has grown beyond the Nazis and World War II, now the channel has been inhabited with bizzare superstition, pagan religion, and alien life. The typical programs I've been coming across are Ancient Aliens (read: panspermia theory), Bigfoot, UFO Hunters, the Lochness Monster, MonsterQuest, Nostradamus, Cities of the Underworld, How the Earth was Made, and Clash of the Gods (Beowulf and Grendel).

Yes, this is the "History" programming that the television audience is being fed. No wonder young people have absolutely no basis in real history any more. And it's also no wonder that real history, like the Holocaust, is viewed skeptically by some, given the fact that it is presented on the same level of history as all of the above listed cultural mythology. Very sad.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quote of the day

"The secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us.”

- Kevin DeYoung, DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lord, make me willing

... to be more like David Brainerd.
In his journals, published by Jonathan Edwards, Brainerd wrote this:

"God has made me willing to do anything that I can do, consistent with truth, for the sake of peace, and that I might not be a stumbling block to others. For this reason I can cheerfully forego and give up what I verily believe, after the most mature and impartial search, is my right, in some instances. God has given me that disposition that, if this were the case that a man has done me a hundred injuries and I (though ever so much provoked to it) have done him one, I feel disposed and heartily willing humbly to confess my fault to him, and on my knees ask forgiveness of him; though at the same time he should justify himself in all the injuries he has done me and should only make use of my humble confession to blacken my character the more and represent me as the only person guilty."
- Dave Harvey , Rescuing Ambition, pg.151.

According to Edwards' accounts of Brainerd's life, he really did mirror this amazing description after a conflict at Yale University where he was expelled and had his pastoral ambitions crushed. Yet, out of Brainerd's failure and expulsion, emerged his diary, which would later inspire numerous missionaries to embark upon a missions call, including William Carey, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Jim Elliot.

There have been times, early in my Christian walk, where I too felt this same humility. As of late, I have been more guilty of spiritual pride than this type of humble submission to the Lord's will. I pray that God would renew my willingness and grant me a disposition that would better glorify Him and represent the gospel of peace.

Friday, May 14, 2010

God's power made perfect in weakness

"When really weak in ourselves, and conscious of that weakness, we are in the state suited to the manifestation of the power of God. When emptied of ourselves, we are filled with God. Those who think they can change their own hearts, atone for their own sins, subdue the power of evil in their own souls or in the souls of others, who feel able to sustain themselves under affliction, God leaves to their own resources. But when they feel and acknowledge their weakness, he communicates to them divine strength.”

Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, 1973 reprint), page 289, via Christ is Deeper Still.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The True Older Brother

excerpt from Jared Wilson:
"Where disobedience and disregard ruled the roost of the firstborn, Jesus obeys the Father perfectly, submits to the eternal cause of the glory of the Father completely, and cares for and rescues and sacrifices his own well-being for his younger siblings to the utmost.

Jesus is the older brother who will not trade his birthright for a bowl of soup. Jesus is the older brother who will not trade his siblings into slavery.
Jesus is the older brother who leaves the comfort of his Father's estate to seek out his lost brother among the brothels and pigsties and actually rescues him from the degradation of the mud and dresses him in the Father's robe of his own accord.

To borrow from Sinclair Ferguson, Jesus is the "true and better" older brother.

To borrow from a favorite line in a favorite movie, Jesus is the older brother who does his job. Everybody else is the other guy." (And as the oldest sibling growing up, I definitely relate to being the 'everyone else' here! So, my only hope is the gracious welcome of the Father, and my true and better older brother, Jesus. Amen!)

HT: Gospel-Driven Church

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Betty White on SNL & the Young, Restless & Reformed

Saturday Night Live has been on the air since I was a child. The "Not-Ready-For-Primetime-Players" have historically been made up of young guys and gals who are considered talented, up and comers in the comedy scene. In smaller venues, such as on Second City TV, they have shown great potential, and so the producers at NBC try to snatch them up in their formative years in order to ride the wave of popularity created by the comedians as they come into their own. By doing so, SNL secures the next generation of viewers and is a perennial source of talent for Hollywood and television programmers.

I'd like to shift for just a moment to some parallel observations of the contemporary church. When a youth pastor or a teen who has served perhaps on short term missions several times shows great promise, church leaders often set them up with more responsibility and perhaps education and training in hope that as they rise to the occasion, that energy will transfer into church growth. The new, innovative things that these young people bring to churches is very exciting and necessary for the development of the next generation of church goers and serves as a great future pulpit feeding source.

Now, let's consider Betty White's premiere as SNL host this past Saturday. SNL producers were highly resistant to the idea of inviting an 88-year old woman, who hasn't been in anything since who knows when, to host for their show. Enter social media such as facebook and twitter. The very media that the young, up and comers have created and popularized with such innovation and enthusiasm, was the primary vehicle that enabled SNL viewers (who are made up of wide, wide range of demographics) to voice their contrary opinions about inviting Betty White to participate in the SNL cast.

Do you see the irony? And the relevance to the church?

It is way too easy to think that our perceived need for the new, novel, young and innovative in order to preserve the legacy of future generations is mutually exclusive from those generations that have gone before. In reality, if it weren't for the Betty Whites in our congregation, most of the "Not-Ready-For-Primetime-Players" wouldn't even have a venue to cut their teeth or a hope at rising to greatness as they mature. Afterall, the Betty Whites are the ones who raised these young and restless performers and their constitutients. Not only do we owe a great deal to them, but they've been through or have seen everything these youngin's are just attempting for their first time.

We need Betty Whites. Let's not make the same mistake as the myopic SNL producers. Let's honor one another, regardless of age and style or any other irrelevant differentiator. Otherwise, I might just have start another Facebook group. And nobody wants that, right?

(updated end note: I did not watch Betty White on SNL and have no idea whether she was funny or not, so don't take this as any type of endorsement. I've heard that some of the jokes were very offensive, so I wouldn't recommend watching it.)

Christian Carnival 327

Rodney Olsen is hosting this week's Christian Carnival. My post on the Myth of Chronic Uniqueness was included. Yeah!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Loving My Invisible Neighbor

At Moore to the Point, Russell Moore writes:
"It’s easy for me to love my neighbor. It’s easy, that is, as long as my neighbor is invisible.

By that I mean to ask, have you noticed how abstract and ethereal so much of our Christian rhetoric is on virtually every topic?"

He writes about how we tend to fight for causes, policies and issues, rather than interacting with the actual "people" involved. He continues:
"The Family” never shows up unexpected for Thanksgiving or criticizes your spouse or spills chocolate milk all over your carpet; only real families can do that. “The Poor” don’t show up drunk for the job interview you’ve scheduled or spend the money you’ve given them on lottery tickets or tell you they hate you; only real poor people can do that. “The Church” never votes down my position in a congregational business meeting or puts on an embarrassingly bad Easter musical or asks me to help clean toilets for Vacation Bible School next week; only real churches can do that. “The Truth” never overturns my ideas and expectations; only the revelation of God in Christ does that.

Okay.. guilty, guilty, guilty! Better than I used to be. But a long, long way to go! It's a good reminder for me, especially today.

read Moore here>>>


Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Good Listener? - or just appearing to be one

My good friend from church and I talk on the phone several times a week about things we've been learning in our Bible studies and how God is using our studies to help us grow in our understanding. He is a really good listener, which means I probably talk a lot more than I ought to or at least more than I typically would.

Tonight, as we were talking on the phone about our Romans study, he was snoring -- and holding the discussion. At the same time. You know, repeating what I was saying back to me and actively granting the affirmative ah hah's in the appropriate places.

And snoring.
When I asked him if he knew he was snoring, he answered, "Yeah, I'm laying on my side. Usually, I lay on my back when I'm on the phone and I only snore when I'm on my side." When I asked if that implied that he's often asleep when we talk, he said, "Well, not all of the time."

Folks, I'd bet that if he could bottle that, I'm sure he'd make a fortune selling it to husbands. LOL. (And I wasn't mad at him at all. I just thought to myself, how do I keep from turning our calls into a monologue? That's something we'll need to work together on!)

(okay, so the roles are reversed, but still...) ht:Calvinistic Cartoons

Saturday, May 8, 2010

T4G : MacArthur on Contemporary Adjustments to the Gospel

T4G 2010 -- Session 5 -- John MacArthur from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

"If I believed that the salvation of souls depended on me, I don't know that I could sleep well. I understand the horrors of eternal hell. I understand the the wrath of God. I understand the eternaljudgement, understand what's at stake. It's a passion for me to reach people for the Gospel. I suppose with that kind of conviction dominating my heart, under some circumstances and within the framework of some theology,I might have a hard time sleeping, because of the urgency at hand. But my confidence is in the Lord and His power and not in me."

Friday, May 7, 2010

$5 Fridays at Ligonier

Ligonier Ministries has started a $5 Fridays which will run for 24 hours, starting each Friday at 8 a.m.

A preview of each week's sale items (book, CD, DVD selections) will be available on Thursdays here.

This week's features include the following:
The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, Book by Dr. Steven Lawson
God of Grace and Glory, Music by Various Authors
Basic Training, DVD Teaching Series by Dr. R.C. Sproul
Choosing My Religion, CD Teaching Series by Dr. R.C. Sproul
Prayer, CD Teaching Series by Dr. R.C. Sproul
Building a Christian Conscience, DVD Teaching Series by Dr. R.C. Sproul
The Holiness of God, Book by Dr. R.C. Sproul
Christian Ethics, CD Teaching Series by Dr. R.C. Sproul

Ground USPS service on all orders is $3.99.

Myth of Chronic Uniqueness & God's Word

Before I was a Christian, I attended a parachurch sort of organization, where one of the insights we learned was "the myth of chronic uniqueness." Since then, a few other people have also reminded me of the saying, including As I thought about this yesterday, I asked myself is this a Biblical concept? It only took a few seconds before I could answer - "Yes!"

Here are just three passages that I believe directly correspond with (and refute!) our tendency toward "The Myth of Chronic Uniqueness":

1. "Elijah was a man just like us." (James 5:17a)
In context, James is writing about the prayer of a righteous man, which is powerful and effective (5:16), and how when Elijah prayed, God answered his prayer (5:17b-18). Therefore, a Christian's prayer qualifies for "the prayer of the righteous" and is not limited to an exclusive group of super apostles or some unique group.

However, commentators expositing this passage are also quick to notice that there is an account in the Old Testament that corresponds here, when God asks Elijah what he is doing hiding in a cave. Elijah responds:
"I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (1 Kings 19:10)

Elijah has succombed to "the myth."
He says "I'm the only one left," but couldn't see that there were many others that who were persevering in the battle. In fact, God answers:
"Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18).

I also noticed though that before God addresses Elijah's feeling of his own 'chronic uniqueness,' Elijah exposes his spiritual pride. Twice Elijah complains to God how zealous he has been for the LORD and how unfaithful the others have been. The first time Elijah makes his complaint, the Lord commands Elijah to go out on the mountain where the Lord is about to pass by.

"The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
(1 Kings 19:11-13)

God asks Elijah what he is still doing in the cave, and Elijah provides the exact same response!! I've done so much for you Lord. Nobody else gets it. No one else is as faithful as me. No one else has suffered like me. Nobody knows what I'm going through. How often do we feel like we're the only ones faithful to God's Word and truly sacrificing or suffering for the kingdom? It seems as if God was trying to show Elijah that He (the Lord) is the faithful one. And then he tells him that he has reserved seven thousand who have not bowed the knee. We need to remember that even in our day God has reserved a perfect number of His elect who are just like us.

2. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man." (1 Corinthians 10:13a)
Often "The Myth of Chronic Uniqueness" goes something like this: but God, no one knows what I have gone through. Other people just have it so much easier in this life. Wrong again. That's not what God's Word tells us. Now, is it true that I may have sinned in ways that are different from other people in my church or my Bible study group? Sure. But the underlying sin - the root of the temptation - is the same. I'm trying to get my needs met in ways that are outside the will of God. Or I have idolized something to a degree that is expressly forbidden (ie, committed idolatry).

What else does the scripture say that refutes 'chronic uniqueness?' When we are tempted to sin (just like everyone else) He provides more grace!
"And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13b)
We are not alone among our fellow humans, but more importantly, we have God's grace bearing with us and providing a way out!

Which brings me to the last and most important point in rebuffing this myth:

3. Jesus:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." Hebrews 4:15

Two thoughts on this passage.

a. Not only are we not alone among our fellow Christians in our temptation and suffering, but even more importantly God the Son has gone through exactly what we are going through! When we take our petitions to God through His Son Jesus Christ, we have a mediator, an advocate who has already been through what we are experiencing. Early in the book of Job, he pleads for a man like himself, who understands what he is going through, to go before God and plead his case. After his friends fail to provide this role, Job comes to the conclusion in 16:19-21:
"Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend."
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is this man.

b. Secondly, our high priest, though tempted in every way, though able to sympathize with us in our weakness, was without sin.
Someone might say -- Well, there you go. He didn't sin, so he really doesn't know what it's like to suffer with _____ (fill in the blank.) That's the way I always used to think. You know, if I've never sinned in the same way that you've sinned, then I can't really understand what it's like to overcome that temptation. However, a very godly woman once spoke to us on this and wisely asked:
Who would understand better how to overcome a temptation: the one who has been tempted and not given in to the temptation or the one who has been tempted and almost always gives in? Surely, the one who has the pattern of overcoming temptation would be the best one to provide counsel and mediation on our behalf!! Thus, Jesus Christ legitimately qualifies in the role of mediator and counselor for everyone of us! You might say: He's been there - didn't do that!

Final note:
In response to what our great high priest Jesus has done:
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jesus, Introvert or Extrovert (on Myers-Briggs scale)?

Lilly Fowler at The Huffington Post asks: If Jesus were to take a Myers-Briggs personality test, would he rank as an introvert or an extrovert? Are shy/introverted worshippers intimidated by church? Do introverts make good pastors? The article takes a look at writer and pastor Adam McHugh's recently released book called "Introverts in the Church." The interesting perspectives introduced in the article have certainly piqued my interest in Mr. HcHugh's book.