Saturday, July 31, 2010

The God Who is There

D.A. Carson's 14-part presentation on "The God Who is There" (also the name of his recently released book) is available for full download by MP3 or partial preview for the video series. Click here for download links at

The God Who Made Everything
The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels
The God Who Writes His Own Agreements
The God Who Legislates
The God Who Reigns
The God Who Is Unfathomably Wise
The God Who Becomes a Human Being
The God Who Grants New Birth
The God Who Loves
The God Who Dies—and Lives Again
The God Who Declares the Guilty Just
The God Who Gathers and Transforms His People
The God Who Is Very Angry
The God Who Triumphs


This video has been circulated around the blogsphere for some time, but I got a chuckle out of it tonight and thought I'd share here:

(BTW - no, I didn't go to church this morning. My week was such a whirl that when I posted yesterday's article about forgiveness I actually thought it was Saturday.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Forgiveness = Exalting Jesus (not self)

From “Forgiveness : The Freedom of Letting Go” by John MacArthur, Part II, Track 11:

“The injuries against you, the offenses against you are the trials that perfect you.

“If you respond with vengeance, you are literally interrupting the best work that God can do in your life. You need to be offended. Your pride needs it. Your self-will needs it. Your independence needs it. All the difficulties you have in life, all the attacks that come against you, you need to learn to embrace those offenses. All the criticisms, all the injustices, all the persecutions, all the mistreatments, all the misunderstandings, all the misrepresentations: all of those which look to you as though to be wounds and severe attacks are in fact the very trials that perfect you.

First Peter 5:10: “After you’ve suffered a while, the Lord make you perfect.”

James 1:3 “The testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect result.” Testing of your faith produces endurance. That is an enduring, strong faith. You want that. So, let it happen.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres (verse 12) under trial. For once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Therefore, consider it all joy brothers when you fall into various trials.”

The best illustration of this is in Second Corinthians Chapter 12. We’ve talked about through the years. This is by way of reminder. In verse 10 Paul makes an amazing statement: “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

He had learned through his suffering that it was the trials that God used to perfect him. He has just talked about one of them. In verse 7 he says, "to keep me from exalting myself because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations.” He had personal visits from the ascended Christ, and a visit to Heaven, which he referred to in the opening chapter as “too wonderful to be spoken of.” But because of these revelations, he would be tempted to exalt in himself.

So there was given him a thorn in his flesh. His flesh would rise up and be proud. And so literally there was a spear. The word thorn is a stake with a sharpened end. There was a stake rammed through his otherwise proud flesh. A messenger of satan…."

Why? Paul says, “To keep me from exalting myself.”

MacArthur goes on to say that God’s message to Paul seems to be: “You’re not weak enough, Paul. The way to humble you is at the point of where you see your greatest success.”

We must exalt in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a perfect message.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vision vs. Institution

My capstone course for my Masters degree was entirely about organizational Stategic Planning. I remember as I learned and practiced all of the steps/ phases of the strategic planning process how valuable it would be to have such tools available for improving my job performance as an administrator. In fact, I was able to go through the process to help our organization to successfully petition for more targeted funding for our Soldiers' educational programs.

As I learned about the process, however, I also couldn't help but think how amazingly easy it would be to manipulate a system by deferring to "the strategic plan." I felt cautious, that the tools of strategic planning in the hands of a person or group motivated by power and control would become more like lethal weapons to defend turf than tools to uplift the organization. At my last job, that is exactly what happened. The organization went thru a strategic planning makeover and even though the president was excited about the new values (courage, character, and community), vision and mission, those who were in "defacto" power positions used every SWOT, assessment, and evaluation mechanism to set the defacto power/control stucture into concrete, rather than generating shared vision and improved mission effectiveness. In my case, the result of my personality profile (which was introduced as a way of better matching people with roles and tasks) was a bullseye target on my back to my immediate boss. The primary reason she gave why she let me go was that my disposition to create ideas, lead processes, and solve complex problems was the opposite of what my position required. (This happened to at least four others in the company as well.) So, she used the tools of the strategic planning process to "defend her turf," even though the threat to her turf was not real and only that which she perceived. The only threat was that the organization might actually be unified and motivated by a vision (rather than dependent on a few super directors).

Needless to say, I feel that weak strategic planning only exacerbates existing inherent problems in a system.

Here is a great article discussing the ideas of "movement" and "vision" vs. "institutions" and "power".

Ministry Movements by Tim Keller

The word "movement" is often used to describe a kind of vital, dynamic human organization, in order to distinguish it from what are called "institutions." Both of these words can have broader meanings, but for the sake of this discussion let us define them in the following ways.

A movement is marked by an attractive, clear, unifying vision for the future together with a strong set of values or beliefs. The content of the vision must be compelling and clear so that others can grasp it readily. It must not be so esoteric or difficult that only a handful of people can articulate it. Instead, it must be something that all members of the movement can understand and pass along to others. By contrast, "institutionalized" organizations are held together by rules, regulations, and procedures, not by a shared vision.

This unifying vision is so compelling that it takes pride of place. First, the vision leads to sacrificial commitment. Individuals put the vision ahead of their own interests and comfort. They are willing to work without high compensation, power, or perks. The satisfaction of realized goals is their main compensation. There is no more practical index of whether you have a movement or not. If the leader is making all the sacrifices, you don't.

Second, the vision leads to generous flexibility. Institutionalized organizations are very turf conscious. Members are suspicious of anyone encroaching on their area of responsibility. Positions and power have been hard-won and jealously guarded. This is done by slavish devotion to rules of procedure, accreditation, and tenure. In movements, however, the accomplishment of the vision is more important than power and position. So people are willing to make allies, be flexible, and cooperate with anyone sharing the basic vision and values.

Third, the vision leads to innovativeness. Institutions are organized more vertically, where ideas from "below" are unwelcome. Movements are flatter because the commonly shared vision unifies and empowers. The vision is what matters - so anyone with a good idea about how to accomplish it is welcome to give it. Ideas flow out of the whole organization, top to bottom, which leads to greater creativity.

Finally, a movement is marked by spontaneous generativity. Spontaneous combustion means energy generated from within - a conflagration without the need for external ignition. A movement is able to generate its own resources, recruit its own new members and participants, and (especially) raise up its own new leaders. This does not mean that movements have no formal training programs. Rather, it means that first, the vision of the movement (especially as its content is disseminated) attracts people with leadership potential, and, secondly, that the work of the movement provides opportunities that reveal emerging leaders through real-life experience and then prepares them for the next level of leadership in the movement. Denominations or church networks that always have to recruit ministers and staff that were raised up in other environments, and that attract them mainly with good compensation, do not show signs of being a movement.

David Hurst, a Harvard scholar, summed up how movements become institutions this way - vision becomes strategy, roles become tasks, teams become structure, networks become organizations, recognition becomes compensation. It is wrong, however, to draw such a hard line between the two forms. It is typical in the Christian movement literature to be highly critical of "institutionalism," for good reason. But the impression is left that all authority, central control, and formal processes are bad for ministry. The reality is more complex.

It is natural for new churches and ministries to try very hard to stay informal, non-codified, and non-centralized. But part of what makes a movement dynamic is a unified vision, and that always requires some codification and control. As time goes on, to maintain the main engine of movement-dynamics - a unified vision - a ministry must adopt some of the aspects of institutions. A strong movement, then, occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics - authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control - will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well. The job of the movement leader is to steer the ship safely between these two opposite perils.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Victim as Victor

“What looks like (and indeed was) the defeat of Goodness by evil is also, and more certainly, the defeat of evil by Goodness. Overcome there, he was himself overcoming. Crushed by the ruthless power of Rome, he was himself crushing the serpent’s head (Gn 3:15). The victim was the victor, and the cross is still the throne from which he rules the world.”

- John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.; InterVarsity Press, 1986), 228.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


1 Cor. 7:17 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. 18 Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 20 Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. 22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.

1 FATHER, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come
I do not fear to see;
But I ask thee for a present mind,
Intent on pleasing thee.

2 I ask thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles,
And wipe the weeping eyes;
And a heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize.

3 I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do
Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child,
And guided where I go.

4 Wherever in the world I am,
In whatsoe'er estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts
To keep and cultivate;
And a work of lowly love to do
For the Lord on whom I wait.

5 So I ask thee for the daily strength,
To none that ask denied,
And a mind to blend with outward life,
Still keeping at thy side;
Content to fill a little space
If thou be glorified.

6 And if some things I do not ask
In my cup of blessing be;
I would have my spirit filled the more
With grateful love to thee,
And careful less to serve thee much
Than to please thee perfectly.

7 There are briers besetting every path,
That call for patient care;
There is a cross in every lot,
And a constant need for prayer;
Yet a lowly heart, that leans on thee,
Is happy anywhere.

8 In a service which thy will appoints
There are no bonds for me;
For my inmost soul is taught the truth
That makes thy children free;
And a life of self-renouncing love
Is a life of liberty.

(from today's service)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Everything just changed

In case you had not noticed, everything just changed video posted at Reformation Theology. The statistics in this video are amazing. Although I've seen this trend developing, I've never taken the time to consider the effects of social media in their totality (which is why I found this video to be so striking.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Actually Something New

Movie review of Inception at Forward Progress
Michael K. of Lifeway Christian Resources offers an excellent review on the new movie Inception. As I've said to countless friends, the movie is the most original and creative film I've seen in a number of years. MK gives us the "spoiler" details and why it's so creative.

A Fact that Demands Interpretation

"The atonement wrought by Christ can never be a bare fact. The bare fact is simply the death of a Jew upon a cross in the first century of our era, and that bare fact is entirely without value to anyone; what gives it its value is the explanation of it as a means by which sinful man was brought into the presence of God.

It is impossible for us to obtain the slightest benefit from a mere contemplation of the death of Christ; all the benefit comes from our knowledge of the meaning of that death, or in other words (if the term be used in a high sense) from our ‘theory’ of it.”

—J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 146


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Van Til and Schaeffer

Two Christian Warriors: Cornelius Van Til and Francis A. Schaeffer Compared
By William Edgar, Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 57, No. 1, Spring 1995, pp. 57-80
Favorite quote by Schaeffer: "I'm neither. I'm not an evidentialist or a presuppositionalist. You're trying to press me into the category of a theological apologist, which I'm really not. I'm not an academic, scholastic apologist. My interest is in evangelism."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Making All Things New

at the Gospel Coalition. Excellent article and comments, too.

The Gospel in Chinese

Shared this booklet with my Chinese room mate and her parents who visited from China in May. Chinese characters explicitly testify to the truth of the Gospel: creation - fall - redemption. (Amazingly, their character language is thousands of years old, predating missionaries.)
Also recommended: Answers in Genesis: China's original god

The Gospel in Chinese Characters from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary on Vimeo.

Not alone

Whether discussing politics, religion, philosophy, or any other controversial topic, I typically find that my views are not in line with majority opinion. As a result, I commonly feel a bit alienated from the rest of humanity.

This morning, while preparing for my new role that starts next month, I was reading "The Elements of Style" for the first time. As a former English major, I was a bit startled at the realization of the number of writing errors I commonly make. Even more startling, however, was my disagreement with and offense at some of the advice given therein. As I researched the reviews and found nearly unanimous acclaim for the work, I did finally locate an excellent critique that encapsulates my sentiments at the Chronicles of Higher Education. Although I still feel a residual alienation from standing outside of the proverbial wisdom of the crowd, it is very helpful to read that I'm not the only one.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Abide in Christ

ht: Pure Church

Beauty and the Gospel

at Ligonier. Excerpt:
"If biblical Christians are careful in their doctrine to name sin, then in their art, music, and literature should they not do the same?

Indeed, as the church seeks a role in the arts, it must reclaim a more mature concept of beauty."
read the whole article here>>>

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Ways of Thinking

Two Radically Different Ways of Thinking, and Their Cause At Pyromaniacs
"...the point at which the heart shows itself is that point at which God's will and His truth cross our wills and our biases.

"Contrast both of these attitudes (Mrs. Eggebroten and Professor Sparks - you'll have to read the article to find out who they are) with that of men and women on whom the Holy Spirit has effectually done the work of conviction of sin, who have had a glimpse of the living God.

"Recall Isaiah 6, the throne room vision. How did the sight of the thrice-holy Yahweh affect Isaiah? Remember: Isaiah was a good man: a holy man, a godly man, an incredibly eloquent man. What did he think of himself, after he saw God?

"Did Isaiah say, 'Now I really feel empowered! I really have to get after asserting my rights'? Did Isaiah say, 'You know, that really wasn't bad — for now. You know, until something better comes along'?

Not so much."

The Sluggard is No Freak

"The wise man will learn while there is time. He knows that the sluggard is no freak, but, as often as not, an ordinary man who has made too many excuses, too many refusals and too many postponements. It has all been as imperceptible, and as pleasant, as falling asleep." - from Derek Kidner's commentary on the Proverbs, pp. 42-43) 
We are all susceptible to sloth, and I suppose summertime poses its particular challenges. At least it has for me this year. Here are a few more helpful quotes (via JT):
The sluggard in Proverbs is a figure of tragi-comedy, with his sheer animal laziness (he is more than anchored to his bed: he is hinged to it, 26:14), his preposterous excuses (“there is a lion outside!” 26:13; 22:13) and his final helplessness.

Kidner identified four features of the sluggard according to Proverbs:
(1) He will not begin things. When we ask him (6:9, 10) “How long?” “When…?”, we are being too definite for him. He doesn’t know. All he knows is his delicious drowsiness; all he asks is a little respite: “a little…a little…a little…”. He does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.

(2) He will not finish things. The rare effort of beginning has been too much; the impulse dies. So his quarry goes bad on him (12:27) and his meal goes cold on him (19:24; 26:15).

(3) He will not face things. He comes to believe his own excuses (perhaps there is a lion out there, 22:13), and to rationalize his laziness; for he is “wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason” (26:16). Because he makes a habit of the soft choice (he “will not plow by reason of the cold,” 20:4) his character suffers as much as his business, so that he is implied in 15:19 to be fundamentally dishonest…

(4) Consequently he is restless (13:4; 21:25, 26) with unsatisfied desire; helpless in face of the tangle of his affairs, which are like a “hedge of thorns” (15:19); and useless—expensively (18:9) and exasperatingly (10:26)
Good things to keep in mind to safeguard against! These pointed descriptions provide some pretty clear signs and guideposts to keep a watch out for. Much appreciated wisdom.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quote of the Day

“Our only means of intellectual rescue, brothers and sisters, is the speaking God, who speaks to us in scripture, in special revelation. And it is the scripture, the inerrant and infallible word of God that trumps renderings of general revelation, and it must be so. Otherwise we will face destruction of the entire gospel in intellectual terms. When general revelation is used to trump special revelation, disaster ensues.” -- Dr. Albert Mohler, Ligonier 2010, "Why Does the Universe Look So Old?”  via D. Burk

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mind Games

This article on Spiritual Warfare is outstanding:
Winning the Private War in the Mind
Two quotes from the article:

"Though our conflict is against evil powers located in the heavenlies, the actual battle takes place on the earth in the minds and hearts of people (2 Cor 4:4). 99% of all spiritual warfare takes place in the mind."
"Because the warfare is spiritual, God has given us spiritual weapons which are more than able to demolish the mental strongholds satan has in the minds of people."
ht: Reformation Theology

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Broken or Triumphant?

Just back from our annual church picnic! Good times :)
Meanwhile, this just in from the Gospel Coalition: Broken or Triumphant?
Quick excerpt from the piece by Dane Ortlund:
"Brokenness without triumph is Eeyore-ish gloom that emphasizes the fall to the neglect of redemption, crucifixion to the neglect of resurrection. It is personally under-realized eschatology.

Triumph without brokenness is Buzz Lightyear-ish naïveté that emphasizes redemption to the neglect of the fall, resurrection to the neglect of crucifixion. It is personally over-realized eschatology.

The gospel gives us the only resource to look our brokenness squarely in the face, downplaying nothing, overlaid with—not in competition with—unspeakable victory. Both together."
Read more now>>>

Friday, July 9, 2010

Holiness of God

Ligonier is featuring The Holiness of God series on CD for just $5.00 today through tomorrow at 8 a.m. EDT.  I believe this is the best teaching I've listened to, out of all of the CD's, Podcasts, and Christian Audio type things that I've collected over the years. If you don't have it or have never heard his teaching on The Holiness of God -- get it now!

End of Men?
by Dr. Albert Mohler, via Girls Gone Wise
Dr. Mohler writes a thorough summary and biblical review of the current cover article from Atlantic Magazine.  This is a truly sobering article, that I guess most of us have seen coming for some time. To see it compiled here and spelled out this way is quite disturbing.

Below are some of my comments
From my adventures as a sub (updated)
As a substitute teacher this past school year and an aunt of two nephews who (grudgingly) graduated from high school in the past two years, I echo and agree with some of the final statements in the article about the gravity and longevity of this effect going forward.

In most of my classrooms, in most of the schools where I served, discipline was the first priority -- to nip the unruly in bud before the class devolved into chaos. Almost every day, my discipline issue was with a boy. A few things became very apparent to me. First, boys need more male teachers in high schools. I'm not saying that all teachers have to be male, but to have more male role models would help a lot.

Second, the boys need to be given more opportunities to apply their talents, skills, and abilities. One of the charter schools where I was a frequent sub, had seven periods per day. PE was only offered once per week. All of the math teachers were women, and when I subbed for one of them, the students were given crafts - construction paper, crayons, and scissors -- rather than math assignments (10th and 11th grade!). Needless to say, the students were very vocal against this class. I was warned ahead of time about the number of discipline cases this particular teacher has each day. So, I prepared myself the best that I could, and tried to incorporate some more tangible scenarios. We had a very organized and uneventful day, Praise God! 

Third, an interesting trend has emerged in regular public schools where droves of students who want to learn are opting to go to the vocational and technical schools. When I went to high school (way back in the 70's/80's, Vo-Tech was for the dead heads who had no other options, essentially underacheivers and guys who weren't planning to go to college and could care less about calculus or learning a foreign language. Well, these days, Vo-Tech is En Vogue. There's a waiting list and the kids that are signing up are not the same stoners that we went to school with, that's for sure.

Fourth, I don't know what the solution is, but another thing that emerged at the charter school happened during their Field Day. The same 'problem boys' who hated the classwork and gave their teachers the most trouble were the ones who took leadership. They organized their own teams for the basketball competition. They brought their own instruments, formed impromptu groups and turned "open mic" into a real "battle of the bands." They got the Marine Recruiter to give away all of his props to the guy who could do the most pull-ups. The "trouble makers" turned an empty field into a lacrosse toss competition. Their opportunities arose from poor execution by administrators who left a lot of unorganized events and downtime open for the taking. But to see the creativity, energy and talent that these guys had when 'unleashed' was kind of mind blowing. These are guys who are barely going to graduate and could care less about going to college. There is a tremendous opportunity to harness all of this potentiality and keep it from being lost. 

Finally, I would say that our youth boys and girls alike (but boys moreso than girls) lack a desire to read books. They don't like reading at all, but reading a book is like a prison sentence. With their short attention spans and constant longing for the passivity of being entertained and amused, our young people have zero tolerance for developing a disciplined mind. From an English major's perspective, as well as a daily student of the Bible, this might be a bigger problem than all of the above combined. One of the ways of tyranny is to get rid of all the books. We may have sidestepped any forced book burning at this point, 'cause you just can't persuade most teens to crack open a good book and soak it in anymore. Just sayin'.

I don't have the answers, but there is opportunity for a better way forward...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Worship Resources

Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns by T. David Gordon (review at Reformation Theology) Gee whiz, that guy Johnny is always getting picked on. Yet, this book looks like a great and thought-provoking treatise that shatters most of the assumptions that ppl have about contemporary worship.

Gospel Worship by Jeremiah Burroughs (from Ligonier) This work by one of the most influential puritan preachers looks at the biblical teaching on worship and how we may please the Lord in our services of praise. R.C. Sproul considers it among the books that has been most important in his life and ministry.

A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of Christ-Centered Worship by Michael Horton (at Ligonier)
Michael Horton looks at the controversies over worship in modern evangelicalism and the tendency to make worship more about us than it is about God. Horton explains what it means to have God-centered worship and calls the church to recover this vision of our services of praise.

Worship by the Book by Rev. Mark Ashton, R. Kent Hughes, and Timothy J. Keller  (editor: D. A. Carson  (at Amazon) "What is at stake is authenticity. . . . Sooner or later Christians tire of public meetings that are profoundly inauthentic, regardless of how well (or poorly) arranged, directed, performed. We long to meet, corporately, with the living and majestic God and to offer him the praise that is his due."—D. A. Carson

Worship by R.C. Sproul (at Ligonier) Disputes over worship can be solved only through a return to the Scriptures in order to discover what God has said about how we may rightly praise Him. This teaching series (on CD) is a helpful overview of the biblical teaching on worship, dealing with both its purpose and elements.

Give Praise to God by Various (at Ligonier) Give Praise to God is a collection of several essays on the theology and practice of worship. It is an excellent resource for discovering why the Reformed tradition worships in the way that it does and for helping develop a more thoughtful approach to what we do in worship and what happens when we gather together.

The Family Worship Book by Terry Johnson (at Ligonier) Terry Johnson has designed this resource to help families introduce times of worship into their homes, and he provides guidance as to what family worship is and what it should contain. Suggested Bible readings, creedal readings, hymns, and other tools are included to assist parents in structuring their family devotional times.

Worship Matters by Bob Kaufflin (at Crossway) This book focuses on the essentials of God-honoring worship, combining biblical foundations with practical application in a way that works in the real world. The author--a pastor and noted songwriter--skillfully instructs fellow pastors, musicians, and worship leaders to root corporate worship in unchanging scriptural principles rather than divisive cultural trends.

Pleasing God in Our Worship by Robert Godfrey (at Ligonier) This helpful booklet examines several basic principles for developing worship that is pleasing to God. It is helpful for those trying to navigate the worship wars and see what Scripture actually has to say about worship.

My comments: I was sent to Georgia for Army training while I was a member of a dynamic, contemporary-worship style PCA church in Delaware. While I lived in Georgia, I attended Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, where Terry Johnson (mentioned above) pastors, every Sunday that I was able to. The first time I attended this church, my worship paradigm was disrupted. Here was a dynamic, lively, traditional worship community that spanned the ranges of all ages from the very young to the very old. The sanctuary was packed, and everyone was in full participation with singing the Psalms and Hymns. 

My current home church, on a much, much smaller scale is very much like IPC. Everyone participates. Unlike some contemporary style of worship formats, where four or five extrememly gifted musicians lead with excruciatingly amplified music, singing specific parts that are either too high or too eclectic for the rest of the congregation to sing along with, there are no performers at IPC. Worship there is not meant to entertain anyone. Everyone stands to sing all of the songs, instead of sitting down and watching musicians perform to the applause of the crowd, as if they were to receive votes on a reality show. While I still listen to contemporary music in my car, when cleaning the house, etc.., I have to say that participating in real, reformed worship at church for me was an eye opening experience, which I am very grateful for today.   

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What Grace Does

“Grace dismantles your confidence in you, while it gives you more hope and courage than you have ever had.” - as tweeted by Paul David Tripp

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Biblical Whatevers

Priorities: Discerning the “Whatevers” From the Worthy in Biblical Counseling
by Ed Welch, CCEF

Teens can say it, and they might be saying something foolish. Old people can say it, and they might be saying something wise. Full disclosure. I am an old person - AARP eligible, though still awaiting discounts on public transportation.

Old people, of course, can say “whatever” for wrong reasons, but the vantage point of older age can reveal to us what is worth getting upset about and what isn’t. “Whatever” is actually a very important part of wisdom: an ongoing task in life is to discern what is more important and what is less important.

(keep reading>>>)

Radical Forgiveness Webinar

Speaker: Ken Sande, offered online by Peacemaker Ministries at their blog, Route 5:9

Ken Sande on Radical Forgiveness from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.
I could listen to this several more times and continue to reap major edification! Thanks!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Abba Changes Everything

from Christianity Today
Abba Changes Everything by Russell D. Moore

This is absolutely one of the best articles I have ever read. Ever.
Here is the introduction:
"The creepiest sound I have ever heard was nothing at all. My wife, Maria, and I stood in the hallway of an orphanage somewhere in the former Soviet Union, on the first of two trips required for our petition to adopt. Orphanage staff led us down a hallway to greet the two 1-year-olds we hoped would become our sons. The horror wasn't the squalor and the stench, although we at times stifled the urge to vomit and weep. The horror was the quiet of it all. The place was more silent than a funeral home by night.

I stopped and pulled on Maria's elbow. "Why is it so quiet? The place is filled with babies." Both of us compared the stillness with the buzz and punctuated squeals that came from our church nursery back home. Here, if we listened carefully enough, we could hear babies rocking themselves back and forth, the crib slats gently bumping against the walls. These children did not cry, because infants eventually learn to stop crying if no one ever responds to their calls for food, for comfort, for love. No one ever responded to these children. So they stopped.

The silence continued as we entered the boys' room. Little Sergei (now Timothy) smiled at us, dancing up and down while holding the side of his crib. Little Maxim (now Benjamin) stood straight at attention, regal and czar-like. But neither boy made a sound. We read them books filled with words they couldn't understand, about saying goodnight to the moon and cows jumping over the same. But there were no cries, no squeals, no groans. Every day we left at the appointed time in the same way we had entered: in silence.

On the last day of the trip, Maria and I arrived at the moment we had dreaded since the minute we received our adoption referral. We had to tell the boys goodbye, as by law we had to return to the United States and wait for the legal paperwork to be completed before returning to pick them up for good. After hugging and kissing them, we walked out into the quiet hallway as Maria shook with tears.

And that's when we heard the scream.

Little Maxim fell back in his crib and let out a guttural yell. It seemed he knew, maybe for the first time, that he would be heard. On some primal level, he knew he had a father and mother now. I will never forget how the hairs on my arms stood up as I heard the yell. I was struck, maybe for the first time, by the force of the Abba cry passages in the New Testament, ones I had memorized in Vacation Bible School. And I was surprised by how little I had gotten it until now."
The section heads that follow are:
  • Gospel and Mission
  • No Natural-born Children of God
  • Orphan Care: Spiritual Warfare
  • A New Household Economy
  • A Kingdom of Rescued Children
This is such an excellent article. I know I've linked to his video where he speaks on this topic a number of times before. But if we get this teaching, I think it will revolutionize how we think about ourselves, the church and the kingdom of God.

The "Brute Fact" Argument

During our presuppositional apologetics Sunday School, someone brought up the famous Van Til statement:
"There is no such thing as a 'brute fact.'"
I had a quibble with this from the get go, but the more I thought about it, the less I bought it.
Are we being told to accept the statement "there is no such thing as a 'brute fact'" itself as a 'brute fact?' If so, then it is necessarily false by its own assertion.
If not, then the statement is a statement of opinion or interpretation that is informed by a particular worldview.
But is it a Christian worldview?
Romans 1:18 "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
I think not. Don't get me wrong. I think presuppositional apologetics is powerful and necessary.

However, I think that often the presuppositionalist rejects out of hand the classical apologist's work on a false fear of syncretism creeping into Christian doctrine. I suppose there would be a need to stay on guard over what ought to be viewed as general revelation and what is reserved for special revelation. A good classical apologist doesn't sink to or lower oneself to a role of accommodation. Rather, they lift the other up so as to allow them to peer out from the ledge of the Christian worldview in order to see the sweeping beauty and perspective that we have in Christ.

Likewise, many classical apologists might see presuppositionalism as a doorway to relativism and postmodernism, especially with regard to the area of epistemology. I don't think that it is a necessary outworking of the presuppositional approach, but it can very easily become one (such as Frame's perspectival view of the knowledge, where truth is not seen as something transcendent and outside of us, but instead a combination of our normative, situational and existential environment. By contrast, a classical apologist would view actual knowledge and truth as outside of the influences of these perspectives.).

Instead, I see 1 Peter 3:15 as a great balance for the two approaches:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

Friday, July 2, 2010

Where is Boasting?

1 Cor. 1:26 "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
I still have a hard time understanding why God, who is inifinitely wise and powerful, would have chosen me in Christ before the foundations of the world. When I first met Jesus Christ as lord and savior, I was clearly not the type of person that most people would go out of their way to invite to church. Thankfully, some really prayerful and obedient Christians did just that. They invited me to hang out, to Bible study, and eventually to church. When I think of what I was by the world's standards, I was incredibly insignificant and ineffective. Compared with what I have been given in Christ since 1996 when I was saved, I can't help but be totally amazed. Therefore, today, I am offering up everything in my life that I am immensely grateful for -- there is SO much! -- to the Lord and boasting in His unmerited grace toward an undeserving sinner such as I was. Praise God for His glorious justification, adoption and sanctification to us!

Now, I'm out to do some much needed yard work!

On Church Constitutions

Another great post at Pyros, this one by Dan Phillips

Don't be afraid of evolutionists

Phil at Pyromaniacs writes about encountering his Evolution-Nazi professor during his college years. I can definitely relate to this one as well.

As he wrote, evidence can be very useful in these conversations, especially the omitted evidence or issues that get grazed over in order to support various pet theories. Some of my "presuppositional-only" friends scoff at the uses of evidential or classical apologetics. However, as a fairly new Christian who decided to go back to college to finish my bachelors and to get my masters degrees, I must say, I was very grateful to have the use of historical, evidential, and philosophical apologetics during most of my classes.

Yes, I was that annoying Christian who fearlessly asked questions not only for clarification, but also to expose falsehood and poor interpretations being taught. I know there were always other Christians in the class who were never going to speak up, or worse, perhaps having strongholds planted that needed to be exposed too. I like to think that the discussions were beneficial to all the hearers. (I do think I enjoyed the arguing/debating entirely too much :) )