Thursday, December 08, 2005
we *must* take a stand for the dignity of scripture. if christians don't, no one else is going to.
i have also gone back and re-worded and clarified, as well as expounded on a few things from the initial "porn for bibles" post. so if you have a spare moment, you can re-read it. hopefully, it is closer to what i was trying to say. if nothing else, the spelling is better.
A group of atheists at the University of Texas in San Antonio is trying to
tempt college kids into trading their Bibles for pornography.
of a program called Smut for Smut sponsored by the student organization
called Atheist Agenda
its interesting that i just came across this link when at church this past sunday i spent the entire class teaching on the bible, and how it arrived to us in the form it is today. i may post more about that later, but i wanted to bring your attention to this news article.
this is happening in america, at a state university. these people put up a table, and as people would come up to them, (the spokesman of the group makes this point, that his group did not approach people, the people came to them) they would give the "customer" a pornographic magazine such as "playboy" , or "worse", in exchange for a bible, koran, or other things (including at least one copy of the satanic "bible") . the president of the "atheist agenda" is quoted as saying
what we were handing out, we had everything labeled from 0 to 5. Zero is
like "Playboy," things that aren't really necessarily pornography. I mean, if
you've ever read a "Playboy" ... you know, it's not really that hard core, so
people got to decide what they wanted.
i would like to focus on the last part of his sentence... "people got to decide what they wanted."
i think that statement gets at the core of the issue. sure, i think that the distribution of porn is disgusting, and the fact that they are offering the materials in exchange for the bible is repulsive. but instead of focusing on those things, i think we should zero in on what could be a much bigger problem.
we see this problem when we realize, that in order to get the free porn, a person had to have a bible to trade in. now, while it is not the case that everyone who owns abible is a church member, it is very likely that some of those bibles that were traded for porn came from people who, past or present, had been in church.
i am only speculating, but it is possible that at least some of those who turned in bibles for porn had taken those same bibles with them to church. some of those bibles may have even been given to them by their parents, other relatives, or even by their church upon graduating high school. some of those who chose to barter their bibles to posses pictures and words that degrade women and girls just like their mothers, sisters, cousins, and friends may have had that same bible for years before turning it over to the "athesit agenda". it is speculation, but very probable.
so what am i getting at? why am i not criticising those who are providing for the trade? well, for one, the name of their group is "atheist agenda". i dont think they would care one way or another what i have to say. i would rather spend my time looking inwardly... at the church who, more than likely, had some of those who traded their scriptures for sinful sexual arousals within their church walls under their (the churches) teaching for at least some period of time.
how are we, as the church, presenting the bible to our church members? is it a manual that contains stories and rules and regulations. do we treat it like a type of "student handbook" that we try to adhere to and make policy by?
maybe in some instances we speak often about the authority of scripture and its inerrancy, but do we speak of how it has been preserved through the ages and how we can know with much assurrance that what is between our leather covers is overwhelmingly accurrate as to what the early church used.
are we teaching what the bible *is*??
the distinction i am trying to make is, how well to we as a church teach our members that the bible is *not* a book containing what we think moses , the prophets, and apostles might have been getting at or how we think the stories of their lives happened. do our people in the pews know that? or is the bible just another book of moral stories and lessons like "grimm's fairy tales" and other stories like the boy who cried wolf, the boy who stuck his finger in the dike, or paul bunyan. tales that teach us something, that people have believed for hundreds of years, but at the root of it, they are just stories to teach us how to act?
think of tales such as the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, and santa claus. generations of children have grown up hearing that these figures can see all things (omniscience), can deliever gifts all over the world in one night (omnipresence) and have abundant gifts and riches to reward those who behave.
so are we to be surprised when some, growing up with such tales and stories, dismiss god? after all, he is everwhere, knows everything, and "rewards those who are good."- just like santa and the eatser bunny. they aren't real, but our parents used them to prompt us to good behavior.
are we making the distinction?
how good of a job are we doing in rasing church members who can seperate fact from myth, and families who grow up being taught bible "truths", not "stories".
im not trying to create a "new law", or say we must never mention santa (though *why* we do might be a good thing to consider...perhaps another post for another time), but it is far past time to evaluate how earnestly we communicate that the bible is *truth*, not just tales of morality.
i can't know what went through the heads of some of those who made the trade. maybe some absolutely denied what was in the bible. maybe some swiped a bible from somewhere else, or had one given to them by a gideon that they never opened. but it is entirely possible that there were some who agreed with the "morality" inside the cover, but thought nothing of trading in "a book" for a magazine.
im sorry that this whole post has been so disjointed. it hits close to home. i went to college w/ several people that i know would have traded their bibles in, and would have still called themselves "christian". i an hear them now saying " i have another bible, whats the big deal?"
the big deal is that we must teach respect for the scriptures, they are god's word to us. our god, the one true and only god, was gracious enough to not leave us wandering around without a clue, but has given us instruction that never changes and is always constant. we can know him and his character, and we can know what pleases him and what angers and saddens him. we are not left to guess. we can know. he has preserved and given us his word. we can have it and read it everyday. we don't need someone to tell us what god says, we can read what he says.
through the centuries people have been strangled, burned, and stabbed among other things that we may have the bible in our own language. there are countries where tribe members walk for days just to pass around single pages of scripture among their neighbors. in some countries in africa, one copy of the bible cost a years salary. .
are we teaching how much the bible *cost*?
of those who would want one, most people in our culture have at least one copy of the bible per person in their home, and sometimes more. but even with this widespread availability in our country, it is not uncommon to look around in our sunday school classes and corporate worship services and see people without bibles at all. not because they don't own one, but because they didnt bother to bring it. other people do have theirs, but they simply reached behind the car seat and picked it up from the same spot they last placed it after church last week. what's worse than even this is the fact that in many pulpits, the bible isn't read beyond a brief verse or two that somehow, might relate to the next 20-30 minutes of pontification on whatever culturally relevant topic is on the agenda. instead of teaching the scriptures, verses are pulled out to illustrate a point in the "speaker's" topic.
if there were students who truly *knew* what the bible *is*, and what is *cost*, would they have valued it more highly than trading it in for pictures of naked women?
but maybe. maybe if they had learned in church to value the bible, not to just have one, it would have mattered.
now, i am not suggesting that the church has the power to make sure every single person holds the bible up to the standard that they ought, but we could go along way in teaching the history of scripture, and how we came to be able to have copies. we could hold our teachers accountable to making scripture their primary source of material, and for teaching the bible as god's authoritative word, not simple suggestions.
so before we are so quick to condemn those who provide pornographic materials in exchange for bibles, even as they openly deny the author, perhaps we should turn our scrutiny inward and examine ourselves, people who claim we base our lives this books message,and see with just how much esteem we as a people and as a church place on the word of god.
Monday, November 28, 2005
but, after just a few moments of rationalizing, i had to confornt the truth that where i want to be, and where i am didnt change that drastically from just this past week. weeks and weeks of less and less excercsing, and more and more odd and late night eating habits have been the source of my increasing waistline.
as i step back and look, wondering how did it get to this point, the first thing i think of is the beginning of the semester when i was working out and eating healthy everyday of the week, except for the a "cheat day". i felt good, i was determined to keep it up, and i was sure i would. then of course, the first few assignments started coming in, and i started my balancing act. i was successful at first. i shifted around my priorities to make sure i still had time to work out and eat the right meals at the right times. i had just started a new job at the same time that classes started back. so i went from, no job, no school, plenty of time to excercise and prepare healthy meals, to my current scehdule, which gets me uo at 6:30 am to get to class on time and gets me home from work around 11:30 pm. there were breaks throughput the day, but i had to study,read, and do homework. little by little i started working out less. much faster, my eating habits staretd deteriorating. and now, here i am, little my belt out a little more than i used to, and quickly getting dressed after a shower so i dont have to see the reflection in the mirror.
how did this happen when i had such good intentions?
i have often thought that our, or at least my, spiritual level of "fitness" are linked in many ways.
both our souls and our bodies need nutrition, excercise, rest, and maintenance in order to function properly. once any of these start to go, inevitably they all go. then we are left a few months later with memories of our good intentions but the reality of our actions.
what are the culprits? again the comparisons continue. the first one is laziness. if i dont excercise, then i dont get stronger, and i dont burn off calories. this results in lack of muscle and weight gain. the same holds true spiritually. if i am lazy and dont spend time in the word or in prayer, then my strength (spiritually) begins to wane. the same can be said for lack of nutrition.
the big issue, no matter what the name, is sin. physically, eating what i know im not supposed to eat, or eating too much of anything, is in direct rebellion to what i know i need to do, and what i dont need to do. i am aware when i eat "x amount of something that i am overeating, or eating something i shouldnt eat at all, yet it is my choice, and therefore, the consequences are mine as well.
The same is true spiritually. when i sin, knowingly commit an action, attitude or a thought that is contrary to god's will or commands, then i reap the consequences of that as well. then one day i wake up and evaluate my spiritual condition, and the picture i have in my mind of what i should look like is nothing like the reality staring back at me.
the thing about it is, it is a process. while i was working out and eating right regularly, i would allow myself one cheat day a week. on that day, i could eat whatever i wanted (within reason). i fi wanted pizza, go for it. hamburger and fries.. go ahead. but then that next day, i was back on the wagon. the reason why this was ok (and yes, i did research and it is suggested by many doctors and professionals to do this to keep the body from thinking it is "starving" and stroing every calorie and fat gram) was because it was one day out of seven. one day of less than stellar eating would'nt wreck the efforts of the other six, and remember, i cheated "within reason".
it works the same way with sin, although the analogy breaks down at this point, because we know we aren't allowed a "cheat day". scripture is full of commands to constant obedience and holiness. but still, sin sneaks in, and we fail in one area. we know that failure that one time won't be the end of us, so we pick ourselves back up and go along. the thing is though, those sins are never excusable, and they add up. so when th etime comes when we take inventory of ourselves (which is never as often as it should be) we act surprised.
we must be on guard to watch over our souls, minds, and hearts, the way we meticulously count calories and carbs. praise god that as believers we are covered by his grace, but that is no excuse to continue in sin. as paul said:
" What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? "
(romans 6: 1-2)
let us keep careful watch on the sin in our lives, lest we look in the mirror one day and not recognize the reflection. sin transforms, but praise god, so does grace.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us[b] for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
i was hoping to avoid the obligatory "thanksgiving" journal entry, if for no other reason than it seems too obviously cliche'. but, i find myself at my parents house for thanksgiving, and quite thankful to be here.
i purposfully chose this verse because it is so easily out of my mind when i should be dwelling on it daily. it is truth that christ has blessd us, has blessed us with "every" spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. so often we look for fulfillment or validation in so many places, something to prove to us or others that we have merit before god. paul tells us that not only are we blessed, but the blessings have been prepared before the foundations of the world. they aren't a recent idea or decision. before we were ever born, or had ever done anything good or bad, god chose us without any forseen merit in us for adoption in christ (salvation). it was *his* will, not our right.
that is grace.
our praise to him should be completely and totally void of any thought of our having anything to do with our standing before god. the reason we are his, is because he chose us. praise god, for if left to our own sinfulness and rebellion, we would never choose him. (read rom. 3... for just one of many times scripture teaches this truth)
on a grander scale, our blessings serve a larger purpose than or own mere pleasure. our adoption and blessing has a purpose... to serve as a springboard for praise of "his glorious grace".
on this thanksgiving, i want to be mindfulof how much i have been blessed, and to recognize god's grace-but not to stop there, with simple recognition. but to move from recognition to praise of our Gracious Father.
Friday, October 28, 2005
9 we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you
with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may
please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the
knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious
might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving
thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the
saints in the kingdom of light.
what an amazing prayer. as i read through this today, i couldnt help but envy the people of the church in colossae. i know that people pray for me. my wife, parents, and other family. i have had in my life a few people not related to me, and not necessairily *close* friends say to me that they pray for me regularly. those times have been so refreshing. i know that i do not pray as often as i should, and i most certainly do not pray enough for "the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" how do i go through one day without praying for that?
i need that more than i need just about anything else. how many problems would be solved if i had the answer to this prayer! no more doubting, or even wondering " am i in god's will? what about this decision??"and the means to that knowledge?? and aside from just being a "problem solver", the sheer weight of having a better understanding of god should make my knees buckle.
all spiritual wisdom and understanding. what a gift. to have the wisdom and spiritual knowledge that leads to a better understanding of god. what could be an answered prayer of more value??
grace and peace,
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
i waited patiently next to travis as he finished his phone conversation. i think he sensed there was someone there waiting on him. i had met travis a few times before, through randy, but i wasnt sure if he would remember me. as he hung up, he turned towards me, and i introduced myself again. "yeah, i remember you." was his reply. i told him that randy wasnt in class, but i would walk to chapel with him if he would like. "sure," he said, "just let me grab your arm."
so he took my arm and we headed on our way across campus.
did i mention that travis is blind?
far from being helpless, and adamant not to be pitied, travis is much more self -sufficient than you would think. after all, he is working on his masters degree, and plans to pursue a phd. after that. he played (very successfully , i might add) high school football as a lineman. he isnt quite what you would call "helpless".
but still, he can't see. so every tuesday and thursday, travis takes randy's arm as he guides him up and down stairs, around corners, through hallways and doorways, outside, across the street and through other obstacles. today, i got to be travis' eyes.
i enjoyed having conversation with travis as we walked. having never guided a blind person before, i was very alert to potential obstacles and hazards, being careful to point out steps, curbs, doorways etc. at the same time, i didnt want to be insulting. after all, this man has made it this far in his lifewithout sight, and i didnt want to treat him as if he were helpless.
we made it all the way to the chapel without incident enjoying good conversation. but once we reached the chapel, the crowded sidewalks and doorways started making me nervous. travis had his cane, so obviously people could see that we weren't strolling arm in arm because we shared a special bond, but it didnt seem like anyone bothered to get out of the way. everyone trapped in their own little world, with their own thoughts and concerns. i dont doubt or question anyones hearts, and im sure if someone had pointed out "hey, you are in the way and the guy who is blind cant get around you" they would have apologized profusely and obliged. but at that moment, i was frustrated at the lack of sensitivity.
as we waded through the crowd, we approached the rather narrow door way, that included a significant step up. i informed travis that we were at the door with a step up, and waited for him to feel the step with his cane and walk in.
he just stood still. at this point, i felt anxious because i thought he had been insulted that i would inform him of something he probably alreayd knew. after all, he had been coming to chapel for a couple of years and no one had changed anything about the structure of the building.
as i stood there, for what seemed like 3 solid minutes, wondering whether or not to repeat myself, or if he knew what he was doing and it just was taking a minute, he simply said " you go through first, and ill grab your shoulder and follow you in."
it was as simple as that. we made it in, sat down, chatted some more before the service started, and after it was over, we made our way back across campus and i walked him almost all the way back to his next class.
"i can make it from here." he said, as we came down the final set of steps to the hallway where his classroom was." i told him to have a good day, he thanked me and wished me a good day as well, and i walked upstairs to my class.
for the rest of the day i couldnt help but think of his comment "you go through first, and ill follow you". it stuck with me, and still is, and at first i wasnt sure why.
first of all, i want to point out that in no way am i making light of travis' condition, nor am i drawing a parallel between his physical blindness or any spiritual condition of his.
but what did come to mind was this. we live in a fallen world, and in a culture that is decaying faster by the day. we as christians talk frequently about the need for a "christian worldview", and how much our country, and our world, need to follow jesus.
but how effective is it when we sit back, and wait for the world to do something we dont like? we get on our soap boxes and pontificate about how sinful the world is and how they need to follow the truth in god's word. we want celebrities with money to burn and no accountability to act as upstanding christian citizens, and we want our lawmakers and politicians to consult scripture on every issue regardless of their political party or affiliations.
we are screaming to our world "the door is right there!!! just walk through it!!!" and we forget that the world is blind! and instead of aiding them, by showing them they way through the door, we just criticize their lack of sight.
1 corinthians 2:14 says
"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,
for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because
they are spiritually discerned".
"They [the non-believer] are darkened in their understanding, alienated
from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their
hardness of heart."
they are spiritually blind!
the scrutinizing should start with ourselves. are we living in all ways according to what scripture mandates? what about pride? deep down, is there an inkling that because we are believers, then we are somehow better than those who aren't? oh, we may never say that out loud, but what do our actions show in how we speak to, and about people and issues in our lost world? is our overarching message " you should be more like *me*!!!" or is it "follow me through the door.... that leads to christ!"
when our world looks at us, do they think "they dont agree with me, but i know that they are concerned about me." most likely, all they see is our backs, and our cries of "you are wrong and not like me!!" and our anger.
*THAT* is the message the world needs to hear from the church. not one of "do things our way", but one that shares with them the hope of salvation and eternal life with the one true and holy god.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
i had my wisdom teeth out 2 weeks ago, and been playing catch up ever since. i hope to get back around these parts within the week. thanks for stopping by. take care.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
click this link for the story... http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2167486
a christian chaplain was suspended by the team for saying that jews who do not believe in jesus christ will go to hell. more specifically, he was asked if that was his view, and he said "yes".
and he was suspended. a christian chaplain. for beliving that christ is the only way to heaven.
a christian chaplain.. hired by the team..... was suspended.... for teaching christian beliefs.
can you imagine?? a christian minister being so bold as to assert that christ is the only way to salvation???
this makes me want to light myself on fire, and run through the streets screaming "please tolerate the fact that i want to run into your house and burn it to the ground.. it is what i believe.. and you must be tolerant of my beliefs.
where are those matches???
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
60But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times." 62And he went out and wept bitterly.
i can’t possibly imagine what peter must have felt like at this moment. hours earlier he had been so bold as to tell the lord that he would never leave him. yet here he was, and not only did he scatter with the rest, but he deliberately said three times that he did not even know jesus.
what would be the worst part? doing what he swore he would never do? or was it the fact that not only did he do it, but jesus was actually close enough to see and hear him do it.
i can’t fathom it.
yet i do it everyday. god’s word tells me that i am weak and sinful. apart from god’s grace i can do no good. it tells me over and over again to remain in him, and to pursue godliness. yet i leave the scriptures unopened far too often, and many times, even after reading it, i walk away unchanged. what will it take for me to weep bitterly over my sin, to be so ashamed and embarrassed that i am completely humiliated and broken? the lord sees and knows my every action, why do i pretend that they go unnoticed? dare i love sin so much it is worth denying my savior, even when he looks at me squarely through his word?
week after week i stand in a pew and sings songs of my love for jesus, my gratitude to the father, and my need of the holy spirit. i teach sunday school with urgency that my hearers understand the truths of god's word. i write on this bl0g in hopes that through my own reasoning and thinking through matters of life and faith, i may come to a clearer and more definite place of resolve in the pursuit of holiness.
its as if i keep telling the lord, "look at all of these things i am doing! i do love you, i do love your word, i do understand my need for you!"
then i look at my other actions. how selfish i can be towards my wife. my laziness, my lack of grace extended to others. my actions show that i value a mere 30 min of sleep more than time with the lord. rather than seek out opportunities to share the gospel, i reason that my being in seminary leaves me with little time for "such matters".
though scripture speaks of my need for nourishment, daily fellowship and intimacy with the lord, i am saying to him, "i can make it own my own strength".
what will it take for me to hate my sin? why do i keep it within reach? jesus said in john 14:15 "if you love me, then do what i say." how then, can i read his word, read his commands, and then live as if i never knew them?
i have never been one to wish pain or punishment on myself, but i need the bitterness that comes from the lord locking eyes with me in the midst of my sin. when will i fully realize that every time i disobey or deny him by my thoughts or actions, that i am in essence denying him to his face?
how can we live our lives waving our christian banner of church invlovement, bible studies, the volume of our personal libraries, our seminary degrees, or any other trophies that wave in god's face, or the faces of our spheres of influence- only to have so much disobedience in our life.
pride, jealousy, dishonesty(i.e. lying), vanity, gossip (slander), laziness, lust.... the list goes on and on.
we tolerate and excuse so much. yet each time we sin we are saying to jesus "i dont love you more than i love
so next time you are in church, and the words on the page or the screen prompt an expression of love, before we are so bold to sing those out loud, let us first reflect on our past few days, and see if we can honestly sing of our love for him, or if our actions speak to our love of sin.
oh lord, you continue to love us despite our adultress action towards you. please look us in the eye, and teach us to hate our sin, and by our actions and in our hearts, love you more than any fleeting effects of sin.
grace and peace,
Monday, September 12, 2005
i often find myself shocked, and sometimes angry as i walk through bookstores, or browse through catalouges of "christian" corporations as they boldly display the latest best selling authors, whose materials are at best unhelpful, and at worse destructive.
we can no longer grab any book off of the shelf and assume that its contents will never speak contrary to the scripture. this is a dangerous tragedy, and one that must be addressed.
i hope to explore this issue in some depth in the coming days and weeks, but for now i encourage you to read the reviews at these two links. they are pretty short, but address real concerns about books from two of todays "best selling" authors. click on these links...
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
also, i wanted to leave this link, which has more information about this hymn. it isnt long at all, but very interesting.
once you go to the link, there is a demo of the song if you look to the right and click " demo Mp3" under "downloads". it is only the first verse or so, but will give you the idea. the music is not the original, but the words are the same.
click here for that page.
if you enjoyed this hymn, the folks at indelible grace have 3 c.d.'s of old hymns put to new-er (read: acoustic music- not cheesey praise and worship) music. they are all incredible and i highly recommend every single one of them. the three albums are:
1) indelible grace
2) pilgrim days
3) for all the saints
click here for more info on indelible grace c.d.'s
have a wonderful day,
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
i hope that you wont just skip over this post, simply because it is a cut and pasted song. take a good 5 minutes to read through it slowly, and allow it to speak to your heart.
i have left some more thoughts at the bottom after the song.
O Love that Will Not Let Me Go
Words: George Matheson.
1. O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
2. O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
one of the many things, that makes this song so amazing and penetrating is the fact that its author, george mathison was born with poor vision, and eventually went almost totally blind.
of this song he wrote:
My hymn was composed in the manse of Innelan [Argyleshire, Scotland] on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.
he went on to say that it only took five minutes to write the hymn, and that after that five minutes, he neither edited it or retouched it in any way.
born with what most would consider a good excuse to coast through life with everyone doing everything for him, he pressed on, harder than most with sight. even though he could not see,he learned, among other things, latin and hebrew. he did not allow himself to throw away the joy of pursuing intimacy with the lord.
i dare say, most of us could never come close to expressing our need for our god as beautifully and boldly as george matheson did in this song. he may have been blind, but he obviously saw his need for the lord much more clearly than those of us blinded by our sight and self-emancipation.
what are things in our life that we embrace with self-pity and give ourselves "excuse" for our lack of communion with the lord? too busy? bible too hard to read? prayer too boring?
how dare we be so arrogant to live as though we can function on our own without the constant nourishment and fellowship that we need. to be too busy, or offer anyother excuse is to stare at god and tell him "you sir, are not necessary for me to live my life, much less for me to be fulfilled!"
dare we admit to ourselves that we have been that bold, and that conceited, and that sinful?
praise be to our father and jesus christ his son, that despite our rebellion and self-centeredness that he never lets us, his children, go.
i pray that each day we awake with a fresh understanding of giving back to him, the life we owe, that we would yield the flickering torch of our lives to him, and lay in the dust any glory but that of our lord's.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
General and Special Revelation
In Christian theology, when discussing the aspects of revelation, it is essential to distinguish between general (or natural) revelation and special revelation. The discussion and understanding of these separate types of revelation is necessary in order to clearly establish what we believe to be the means in which God reveals Himself, what He reveals, and the importance, necessity, and sufficiency of what is revealed.
General revelation can be defined as “that revelation of God by which one receives and is aware of as a result of being, living in, and observing the environment in which one is, and which was created by God.” Paul speaks of this revelation in Romans 1:18-21 and following:
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…” (Emphasis mine)
Simply by being a creation that is observing, receiving, acting, responding, and for all intents and purposes “living” in the environment of the Creator, there are characteristics of the Creator that are known. They are not simply available to be observed, but are inescapable. That God is creator (Acts 17:25), eternal (Rom. 1:20, Acts 17:25), invisible (Rom. 1:20), personal (Ps.104: 24), and is involved in His creation and sustainer of it (Acts 14:15-16; 17:24-28) are all things that are known to all man due to general revelation. Also known to all men is a basic moral code that is held by the conscience (Rom. 1:32), and their guilt (Rom.1:32 ; 2:14-16).
This knowledge as a result of general revelation is also a means of common grace granted by God to all mankind, believer or not. Imagine a world where murder, dishonesty, or even cowardice were not universal vices. However, this is not the case. In the fallen world in which we live, even a community of unregenerate thieves will feel wronged if they are stolen from, lied to, or physically harmed - by one of their own, or anyone else.
Since the knowledge of these things is intrinsic to all, all are held accountable for their actions in light of this knowledge. Paul states that “… they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die…”(Rom. 1:32). All mankind is accountable for rebellion against god. In matters of salvation, one is not condemned simply for what they do not know, but for what they do know as well. Man stands condemned for living in direct rebellion of the God they know by general revelation is there.
Man is responsible for defying what he does know to be the decree of God. Mankind knows what its creator requires, and lives in direct disobedience. This is what is meant in the doctrine of total depravity. Not that man acts out in every instance the fullness of sin imaginable without ceasing, but that in every part of his nature man is in direct rebellion of God. Man is aware of what is required, but his reason and affections are tainted by sin.
What general revelation cannot reveal, however, is the way of salvation. Christ Himself stated in John 14:6 that no one could come to Father without coming through Him. Salvation comes from faith in Jesus Christ. Only faith in Christ can grant salvation. Not by good works, not by observing a moral code, not by sacrifices to appease the wrath of a deity. Only faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the propitiation for sins can bring salvation. This is where Romans 10 raises the importance, the essential need, for special revelation.
Paul says in his letter to the Romans:
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching…
17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
General revelation lacks the gospel. No one can know the gospel by observing the world in which they live. Mankind knows it is guilty, but what does one do to appease the “wrath of god”(Rom. 1:18)? On the basis of general revelation alone, mankind cannot be saved. More is needed.
Special revelation is the knowledge of God through His disclosing his direct word through prophets, Christ Himself, and Scripture. With the special revelation of God, man can know the only way for salvation. Scripture alone is necessary for salvation, whether by reading, or by hearing it preached faithfully.
“…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”(1 Peter 1:23)
Not only does special revelation inform us of the way of salvation, but it also reveals to us the fullness and definite will of God. General revelation gives us notions of right and wrong, but special revelation is God’s deliberate act of bestowing his will in the lives of those who hear His word. (Deut. 29:29; Ps. 1:1-2, 119:1; John 14:15, Heb. 1:1; 1 John 5:3)
God’s word in the form of scripture gives us clear and distinct knowledge on every aspect he intends to address. Wayne Grudem states:“ … it can be argued that the Bible is necessary for [knowledge with certainty] about anything.” ( Grudem: Systematic Theology pg. 119) Since it is God alone who has supreme knowledge of everything, it is only by consulting His word that we can have confidence in what we do know, because the One with ultimate knowledge has told us. We can know with confidence the things that God has revealed through His word are true and necessary. As summed up by Paul in his second letter to Timothy:
“…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 timothy 23:15-17)
The Pneumatological Argument
There are some who would state that the faith necessary for salvation is not exclusive to special revelation, but that recognition of general revelation is transferred. Said in another way, one need not know of Christ for salvation, only in the work of the spirit in whatever general revelation generates a saving faith. This argument, known as the pneumatological argument, anchors itself on the fact of the love of God. Surely, it is argued, that a loving God who wants “all” to be saved (citing 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9) would provide access to all for salvation- even those who have no knowledge of Christ.The argument then proceeds to acknowledge that not all people through the scope of time and geography have equal access to the gospel. It is then assumed that such a loving God would provide salvation apart from explicit knowledge and faith in Christ. So the conclusion is reached that the way salvation is provided is either by general revelation, or post-mortem salvation.
This argument fails at several points, the first of which is the neglect of God’s other attributes in addition to His love. God’s holiness, justice, wrath, and vengeance are all explicitly cited and demonstrated in scripture. To champion God’s love as a characteristic that trumps all others is to be careless with the character of God. If god is just, how can he allow sin, direct disobedience, to go unpunished? God demonstrated his wrath on the world in the flood, in one society at Sodom and Gomorrah, with the people of Israel, Egypt with the plagues, and a plethora of other examples. To simply state, “God is love” and assert that His presence in the world is only ever gracious and salvic is to ignore the revelation of the fullness of God. It does not follow logically from general revelation that everyone must have access to salvation. What we have already seen, and what scripture tells us is that it does follow that the only thing that all humankind is in rebellion to the Creator. How can we who sing and speak so passionately of grace and mercy have a concept of grace and mercy, if there were not punishment and destruction, judgment and consequences? (Rom 3: 10-18,23; 6:23; 9:14-23). What of Old Testament followers of God? Surely they could have no knowledge of Christ who had not yet come? Again, God’s word does not leave us with excuse to call Him unjust. For the followers of God before Christ were not condemned, but were saved by faith that looked forward to Christ through the promise of God that He would provide a Messiah. (Gen. 3:15; John 8:56; Heb.11: 13,26)
What we can see when we look at general revelation is that we are creations of a Creator, living in His world that has a standard of living and morality that we fall short of, and by our nature are living in disobedience. General revelation is not insufficient insofar as it does point to a Creator and His moral code, but it is incomplete and made full only by His special revelation. God is gracious in that no man is without excuse to know Him. He cannot be called unjust to punish those who do not know him, for He has revealed Himself to all men and we are “without excuse”. His common grace is extended to all men and prevents chaos from reigning over all creation. But it is only through knowledge of and faith in the person and works of Jesus Christ as revealed through His word, that salvation is possible.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
The Abstract of Principles
When the original charter of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was adopted in 1858 it contained the following statement which continues as a part of the "fundamental laws." "Every professor of the institution shall be a member of a regular Baptist Church; and all persons accepting professorships in this Seminary shall be considered, by such acceptance, as engaging to teach in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Abstract of Principles hereinafter laid down, a departure from which principles on his part shall be grounds for his resignation or removal by the Trustees."
I. The Scriptures.
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were given by inspiration of God, and are the only sufficient, certain and authoritative rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience.
There is but one God, the Maker, Preserver and Ruler of all things, having in and of himself, all perfections, and being infinite in them all; and to Him all creatures owe the highest love, reverence and obedience.
III. The Trinity.
God is revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit each with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence or being.
God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.
Election is God's eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life -- not because of foreseen merit in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ -- in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified.
VI. The Fall of Man.
God originally created man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
VII. The Mediator.
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the divinely appointed mediator between God and man. Having taken upon Himself human nature, yet without sin, He perfectly fulfilled the Law, suffered and died upon the cross for the salvation of sinners. He was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended to His Father, at whose hand He ever liveth to make intercession for His people. He is the only Mediator, the Prophet, Priest and King of the Church, and Sovereign of the Universe.
Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who quickeneth the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God's free and special grace alone.
Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things.
Saving faith is the belief, on God's authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ; accepting and resting upon Him alone for justification and eternal life. It is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness.
Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal of sinners, who believe in Christ, from all sin, through the satisfaction that Christ has made; not for anything wrought in them or done by them; but on account of the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith.
Those who have been regenerated are also sanctified, by God's word and Spirit dwelling in them. This sanctification is progressive through the supply of Divine strength, which all saints seek to obtain, pressing after a heavenly life in cordial obedience to all Christ's commands.
XIII. Perseverance of the Saints.
Those whom God hath accepted in the Beloved, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere to the end; and though they may fall, through neglect and temptation, into sin, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, bring reproach on the Church, and temporal judgments on themselves, yet they shall be renewed again unto repentance, and be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
XIV. The Church.
The Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church, which is composed of all his true disciples, and in Him is invested supremely all power for its government. According to his commandment, Christians are to associate themselves into particular societies or churches; and to each of these churches he hath given needful authority for administering that order, discipline and worship which he hath appointed. The regular officers of a Church are Bishops, or Elders, and Deacons.
Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord Jesus, obligatory upon every believer, wherein he is immersed in water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as a sign of his fellowship with the death and resurrection of Christ, of remission of sins, and of his giving himself up to God, to live and walk in newness of life. It is prerequisite to church fellowship, and to participation in the Lord's Supper.
XVI. The Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper is an ordinance of Jesus Christ, to be administered with the elements of bread and wine, and to be observed by his churches till the end of the world. It is in no sense a sacrifice, but is designed to commemorate his death, to confirm the faith and other graces of Christians, and to be a bond, pledge and renewal of their communion with him, and of their church fellowship.
XVII. The Lord's Day.
The Lord's Day is a Christian institution for regular observance, and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, resting from worldly employments and amusements, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.
XVIII. Liberty of Conscience.
God alone is Lord of the conscience; and He hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in anything contrary to His word, or not contained in it. Civil magistrates being ordained of God, subjection in all lawful thing commanded by them ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
XIX. The Resurrection.
The bodies of men after death return to dust, but their spirits return immediately to God -- the righteous to rest with Him; the wicked to be reserved under darkness to the judgment. At the last day, the bodies of all the dead, both just and unjust, will be raised.
XX. The Judgment.
God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world by Jesus Christ, when every one shall receive according to his deeds; the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment; the righteous, into everlasting life.
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The Cambridge Declaration
Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.
In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the "solas" of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.
Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word "evangelical" has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
Sola Scriptura: The Erosion of Authority
Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church's life, but the evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God. Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.
Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church's understanding, nurture and discipline.
Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the seductive images, cliches, promises and priorities of mass culture. It is only in the light of God's truth that we understand ourselves aright and see God's provision for our need. The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preacher's opinions or the ideas of the age. We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.
The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would never have known of God's grace in Christ. The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.
Thesis One: Sola Scriptura
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation,which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
Solus Christus: The Erosion of Christ-Centered Faith
As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.
Thesis Two: Solus ChristusWe reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ's substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
Sola Gratia: The Erosion of The Gospel
Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world; from the self-esteem gospel, to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works. This silences the doctrine of justification regardless of the official commitments of our churches.
God's grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace.
Thesis Three: Sola Gratia We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
Sola Fide: The Erosion of The Chief Article
Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical. Although fallen human nature has always recoiled from recognizing its need for Christ's imputed righteousness, modernity greatly fuels the fires of this discontent with the biblical Gospel. We have allowed this discontent to dictate the nature of our ministry and what it is we are preaching.
Many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are frequently divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ's cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations.
While the theology of the cross may be believed, these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning. There is no gospel except that of Christ's substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God's children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ's saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.
Thesis Four: Sola Fide We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice.We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ's righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
Soli Deo Gloria: The Erosion of God-Centered Worship
Wherever in the church biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God's and we are doing his work in our way. The loss of God's centrality in the life of today's church is common and lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.
God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God's kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.
Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.
A Call To Repentance & Reformation
The faithfulness of the evangelical church in the past contrasts sharply with its unfaithfulness in the present. Earlier in this century, evangelical churches sustained a remarkable missionary endeavor, and built many religious institutions to serve the cause of biblical truth and Christ's kingdom. That was a time when Christian behavior and expectations were markedly different from those in the culture. Today they often are not. The evangelical world today is losing its biblical fidelity, moral compass and missionary zeal.
We repent of our worldliness. We have been influenced by the "gospels" of our secular culture, which are no gospels. We have weakened the church by our own lack of serious repentance, our blindness to the sins in ourselves which we see so clearly in others, and our inexcusable failure to adequately tell others about God's saving work in Jesus Christ.
We also earnestly call back erring professing evangelicals who have deviated from God's Word in the matters discussed in this Declaration. This includes those who declare that there is hope of eternal life apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ, who claim that those who reject Christ in this life will be annihilated rather than endure the just judgment of God through eternal suffering, or who claim that evangelicals and Roman Catholics are one in Jesus Christ even where the biblical doctrine of justification is not believed.
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals asks all Christians to give consideration to implementing this Declaration in the church's worship, ministry, policies, life and evangelism.
For Christ's sake. Amen.
Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Executive Council (1996)
Dr. John ArmstrongThe Rev. Alistair BeggDr. James M. BoiceDr. W. Robert GodfreyDr. John D. HannahDr. Michael S. HortonMrs. Rosemary JensenDr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.Dr. Robert M. NorrisDr. R.C. SproulDr. Gene Edward VeithDr. David WellsDr. Luder WhitlockDr. J.A.O. Preus, III
i don't have all of the answers. i can think of 100 other people that i know who are better public speakers, many more who are smarter and better thinkers. being in seminary doesn't magically grant you a road map and manual of how to be an effective communicator of the gospel. all i know is that god has placed in me a desire to spread to others what he has been teaching me about himself and his word. i don't have a gimmick, no dynamic personality to keep " 'em coming back for more". i just have the gospel. and i want to share it.
i dont really have an angle, but if i did, it would be that i want to be used to speak to those who are already in church, and have grown up in church like i have. i want to be used by the lord to teach people how to study and apply the word, not just read it and hear it. to discover the wonderful and glorious truths that apply to us as believers everyday. i long to share with people of how the gospel should penetrate every aspect of our life, and that what we do wrong, a lot of times, is compartmentalize our lives to the point where we actually think there are things in our lives that are religiously "neutral", or have nothing to do with our faith.
to share with people the stunning glory of our lord, the paralyzing holy fear of him, and the precious delight of obedience to him, that is what i want to spend my life doing. to teach doctrine and theology and church history in ways that are *not* watered down, but are communicated so that our churches will be filled with people who know exactly what they believe, and why they believe it.
i grow more and more aware every day of my inadequacy for any of this. if the lord uses me for anything besides fertilizer, it will be another act of grace in a lifetime of unmerited favor. Psalm 127 :1,2 says unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. it is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
unless the lord has called me into ministry, i will fail. his word will not return void, but if i place myself into a ministry position that he did not place me in, i will be in disobedience, and any good coming from that will be an act of grace.
i long to be obedient. and i feel that god has placed in me these desires. so that is why i am in seminary.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
it is a talk john piper gave in 1988 on jonathan edwards at a pastors conference. i am taking a class this fall entitled "jonathan edwards" where we will be studying his life and writings. it is a shame that more people aren't familiar with this giant in american history. if you think you know who he is because you have read "sinner's in the hands of an angry god", then you know only an out of context caricature. do yourself a favor and read this article about this brilliant man. and perhaps you too, will long for a man of his stature to rise up again in our country.
Most of us don't know the real Jonathan Edwards. We all remember the high
school English classes or American History classes. The text books had a little
section on "The Puritans" or on "The Great Awakening." And what did we read?
Well, my oldest son is in the 9th grade now and his American History text book
has one paragraph on the Great Awakening, which begins with the sentence that
goes something like this: "The Great Awakening was a brief period of intense
religious feeling in the 1730's and '40's which caused many churches to
And for many text books, Edwards is no more than a gloomy troubler of
the churches in those days of Awakening fervor. So what we get as a sample of
latter-day Puritanism is an excerpt from his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an
Angry God." Perhaps one like this,
The God that holds you over the pit of
hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire,
abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire;
he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is
of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousands times
more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in
And so the kids are given the impression that Edwards was a gloomy, sullen,
morose, perhaps pathological misanthrope who fell into grotesque religious
speech the way some people fall into obscenity
But no one has asked us to take Edwards seriously, and so most of us don't
Most of us don't know that he knew his heaven even better than his
hell, and that his vision of glory was just as appealing as his vision of
judgment was repulsive.
Most of us don't know that he is considered now by
secular and evangelical historians alike to be the greatest Protestant thinker
America has ever produced. Scarcely has anything more insightful been written on
the problem of God's sovereignty and man's accountability than his book, The
Freedom of the Will.
Most of us don't know that he was not only God's
kindling for the Great Awakening, but also its most penetrating analyst and
critic. His book called the Religious Affections lays bare the soul with such
relentless care and Biblical honesty that, two hundred years later, it still
breaks the heart of the sensitive reader.
Most of us don't know that Edwards
was driven by a great longing to see the missionary task of the church
completed. Who knows whether Edwards has been more influential in his
theological efforts on the freedom of the will and the nature of true virtue and
original sin and the history of redemption, or whether he has been more
influential because of his great missionary zeal and his writing the Life of
Does any of us know what an incredible thing it is that this
man, who was a small-town pastor for 23 years in a church of 600 people, a
missionary to Indians for 7 years, who reared 11 faithful children, who worked
without the help of electric light, or word-processors or quick correspondence,
or even sufficient paper to write on, who lived only until he was 54, and who
died with a library of 300 books – that this man led one of the greatest
awakenings of modern times, wrote theological books that have ministered for 200
years and did more for the modern missionary movement than anyone of his
do yourself a huge favor and read this complete talk. it will only take a few minutes, but the effects can last a lifetime.
i had my life planned out at this point, at least week to week. i went back and worked at summer camp for the second year (which further fueled my desire to grow in my knowledge of just what it is that i believe) and after that, moved to the nashville area. i was in a band that over the past year or so had gotten some decent exposure, and we felt pretty good about our chances. the plan was for us to migrate to the nashville area, have a day job (or two), and gig on nights and weekends. this plan started to settle and even out and we were on our way to see what lay ahead for us.
in october, during the last song of a pretty successful show, my back went out again. i remember the feeling like it was yesterday. a searing hot, sharp pain, something akin to someone stabbing me in the small of my back paralyzed me with pain. after being helped off of the stage and into the car, i was on my way back to andrew and haley's house thinking "not again".
two days later i was back in the room where i grew up at my parents house. at first i was certain that i would be back in nashville in a few days. but days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. doctor visits, x-rays, mri's, and physical therapy filled my days that fall. i remember sitting on the edge of my bed, strumming my guitar wondering what i had done to deserve this punishment.
its funny how short sighted we are, or at least i am. and also how short our memory is. in the years since my back surgery in 1999, i had told the story over and over of how the lord had to break my back to get me to slow down and pay attention, to seek him and his will. well, here i was again, with back problems in the same house where it all happened the first time, and i have to be honest and say, at the time, it never occured to me that this might be a similar circumstance.
as i would wake up everyday, faced with hours of absolutely nothing to do, i turned to the handful of books i had grabbed to bring with me for my "brief" recovery period. as i read the bible, john piper, j.i. packer, michael s. horton, martin luther, and others, i found my heart at times nearly shouting "yes!" as they wrote of the glory of god and our need to not only be aware of it, but to live in pursuit of knowing it.
late night phone conversations, especially with my friend john nelson, began to turn into vague scenarios and "what if.." questions. without realizing it, i was actually contemplating going to seminary. i had been brought to a place where i was daily realizing my need to be taught how to read the scriptures, and my hunger for knowledge and application of doctrine and the things to be learned from theology and church history had grown to insatiable heights. so i moved to louisville and started at southern seminary working towards a masters of arts degree in theological studies. "just the basics" i told myself. enough to get me started so i can continue to learn on my own.
ebeneezer still had promise and exciting opportunities were coming up, one of which, being an unbelievable opportunity for me to play at a derek webb concert as the opening act, which in turn, led to a second opportunity to do the same.
going back to school was simply for my own edification. "just th ebasics", then i would see what happened.
well, almost two years later. a lot has happened. i met and married my best friend for one. and through christi and the advice and encouragement of other close friends, the lord has continued working in me, changing my heart and desires.
after the second time i opened for derek, he extended an invitation to open for him anytime he was playing near where i would be. i still have his phone number in my cell phone. i havent had the desire to call him and take him up on his offer once. i still play music, not too much, but it has taken a back seat. my priorities have switched, as have my passions. no longer do i hope to write and sing original lyrics that affect the people who hear them, i want to be used as a messenger of words that are thousands of years old....
to be continued..
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
over the course of the next 4 years (yes, after my junior year, i had four more years of college... it happens when you change your major three times) my responsibilities and commitments in the areas of worship grew considerably. i was being asked to lead at more events, weekend retreats, bible studies, conferences and various other things. i served on staff at two different "first baptist churches" in missouri and in kentucky. it was during these times that i had taken on another aspect of ministry- teaching.
at the two churches were i served on staff, i was the music minister and the youth minister. having grown up with a father who was both a music and youth minister, this wasnt a new concept by any stretch. the music aspect was comfortable for me. after all, i was a music major whose emphasis was voice and had taken several music education and choral conducting classes. i felt sufficiently prepared to lead music during the services and direct choirs. also, i had the added benefit of being able to carry over the experience of leading worship on what was becoming a near daily basis.
what i wasn't prepared for was the shock of biblical illiteracy and spiritual malnourishment in the teenagers in the student ministries i inherited. i found myself weekly driving home from church frustrated, deeply troubled, and burdened that there were kids who came to church every day of their lives and who couldnt even explain what makes a person a christian.
choir members who couldn't sing, worship band drummers who couldnt keep a beat, and leading worship for weekend camps that demanded i play "the happy song" one million times i could handle. but i felt handcuffed when faced with trying to have a bible study with teenagers who didn't even bring their bibles to church, much less know or care what was in it.
it was in the midst of these times when the lord started to grow me personally. i began to sense the hypocrisy of my recognizing the lack of my students bible knowledge while all the while knowing that the only reason i knew more was because i was older and had heard it more often. it was because of no disciplined study of my own that i could beat them in a "bible bowl" or that i knew more memory verses or the books of the bible. i wasn't superior. i was older.
i began to study... yes study the bible for the first time in my life. not to just search through the scriptures untill i found what i was looking for, but to take the word of god and try to understand what it meant.
god, being able to choose whatever means he deems appropriate, threw a bombshell the size of wyoming in my lap in the fall of 2001. being a fan of the music of caedmons call and then member derek webb, i frequented their respective web sites to learn information about songs and where they would be playing next. it was at this point that i began to frequent their message boards, where topics of converstaion were moderated and segmented into topical themes. i found myself at derek's theology forum quite a bit. since god had piqued my interest in such matters, i figured their would be good conversation where i could learn a few terms and bible stories i may not have already known. what i wasn't prepared for, was to have my spiritual foundations pulled from under my feet and dangled in front of me like a second rate self portrait.
i was introduced to historical figures, doctrines, terms, and concepts that i never knew existed. being the stubborn person that i am, i sat out with my bible in hand to prove wrong the people who dared to suggest that i didn't have the grasp of my world that i thought i did.
again, another painful process had started, and i found myself actually having an internal struggle that i absolutely could not ignore. on the one hand, over the past couple of years, i had started to claim my faith as my own and felt like i was progressing beyond the elementary stages of the faith. but on the other hand, it was possible that i was a mere infant in the faith who was just beginning to realize the vastness of what there was to know, and what i should have known all along. there was a struggle of pride. i do not like to admit that i could ever be wrong. even partially. but laying before me was the possibility that not only had i sat out on a mission to prove something worng that was true, but i would have to humble myself and step back and say, " i don't know near as much as people think i do, and worse, as *i* think i do."
now don't get me wrong. what i was struggling with wasn't my salvation. i had already been there and passed that obstacle. but my understanding of who god is, and who i am in light of that was due for a drastic overhaul.
as i began to study more intensley, the lord allowed me to search and study with an open heart, and an open but discerning mind. he placed people around me to keep me grounded and to keep me from going completely off of the deep end when i would come to some stunning conclusions and try to push them on everyone, only to realize that those conclusions weren't all of the way developed... and sometimes... wrong. during these times i learned the importance and priceless truth of the total authority and inerrancy of scripture. without this, it would be easy to follow any concept or idea into its own independent conclusions, no matter what scripture siad about the matter. as i taught students at church, and was given opportunities to speak at bible studies and worship services, i was constantly aware of the percieved needs of a group of christians, and actual needs. what was assumed to be elementary and unimportant was in a lot of cases completely stripped of its rightful place of importance and needed to be brought back to the forefront and learned fully and correctly.
in essence, we had placed the gospel on the shelf of past priorities in order to make room for self awareness/improvement methods, relationship/lifestyle philosophies, and other "relevant" discussions. no one was saying that the gospel wasn't important. but what we were saying was " i have heard the gosple and responded. the lost need the gospel. i need the next step".
i was just starting to awaken to the fact that the gospel is never "over" we never fully get it. we don't progress to a stage where we don't need to hear it as much. it is never taught enough, it can't be known fully enough.
in the gospel, i was realizing, is the fullness of everything.
to be continued...
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
i don't really know how to keep this "short", so bare with me.
like most people, i was born at an early age. my parents were(are) both christians and very active in ministry. my dad, whose father and maternal grandfather had both been pastors, had done some supply pastoring and from the time i was born (1978) until last year, had always been the youth and/or music minister at whatever church we were attending at the time. in addition to this, my parents were the directors of the baptist student union (now "baptist collegiate ministry) at the community college in the town where i grew up. [in 2003, dad took the position as campus minster again at the dyersburg state b.c.m.] so my whole childhood was surrounded by teenagers and college age people that my parents were ministering to. there were also endless hours at church for choir rehearsals, youth activities, and even cleaning the church bathrooms. i was at church every sunday and wednesday, lots of saturdays, and at some time or another, every day of the week. lots of people say "i grew up in church". i am more literal than most when i say it.
The jargon and lingo of the church was second nature to me growing up in the enviroment that i did. for the most part, i would say that i enjoyed being in church so much growing up. i always had close friends at church, and i more or less always enjoyed, if not looked forward to most activities i was involved in. i didnt have any *bad* church experiences, no "prodigal preachers kid" moments where i denounced the faith or refused to participate.
when i was ten years old, i went to church camp for a week in lyndon tennessee. one of those nights, after a sermon that i don't remember, i was struck with the fact that a previous "trip down the aisle" and its consequent "baptism" wasn't an actual conversion. i realized that i was a sinner whose only hope of salvation was through jesus christ, and i had never come to a place where i placed my faith in him for the forgiveness of my sins and my eternal security. so, after talking to a counselor about it, i prayed a prayer asking jesus to be my savior.
at ten years old, i proffessed christ as my savior and lord.
over the course of the next few years, i lived the average life of any "church kid" my age. i tried to pay more attention during church, and was fully aware that matters pertaining to the christian life really did matter. i wouldnt say that i was growing by leaps or even bounds. i was just...aware.
my teenage years brought a whole new set of experiences and perspectives into my life. somehow my good intentions and simple knowledge of "church facts" developed into a much more vague world view of "christians are, at the core good people despite their sometimes bad decisions(after all, if they walked an aisle, signed a card , or prayed a prayer.. they're forgiven)", and that non christians could still be good people, they just needed to go to church and believe in jesus to go to heaven. i would readily confess that jesus was the only way to heaven, and that i, as a christian, should do my best "not to mess up".
but that was about the extent of it. when i did "mess up", i knew that those actions could and would lead to varying degrees of circumstances and consequences. if i am honest, i would have to say that it was fear of those circumstances that botherd me the most- moreso than my failure to "be good", much less having sinned against the lord. despite all of this, from the casual observer, i was a "good kid" that was well liked and thought well of by most everyone that i was aware of.
this trend carried into the beginning of my college years. although i included in my identity that i was a christian , i still lived a life that was marked more with compromise and justifying my actions than any attempt to grow in the faith. in random spurts i would be "consistant" in prayer and reading the bible, just enough to remember that these things were things i was "supposed to do." but those times were usually short lived and when whatever trials were lifted, so did the "this time i mean it" resolve.
near the end of my freshman year and into my sophomore year,the lord intervened in a mighty way by placing certain people in my life, that through the course of the next two years would greatly alter my life, both directly and indirectly. the lord surrounded me with people that i wanted to be friends with, wanted to be accepted by, and who were open, and even excited about living a life that not only pleased god, but that by pleasing him brought them satisfaction- and even enjoyment. for the first time in my life, the walls that had compartmentalized my life began to fracture. no longer was christ a segment of my identity, he began to trickle in to areas of my life that had previously been considered neutral, or even "not religious." it was a slow process, and sometimes a painful one, but it was a process that was progressing. no longer was i able to look at my life in evaluation and see any stagnant areas as acceptable. i knew i needed to grow. i wasnt sure how, or even what growth would look like, but i knew that i couldnt stay the same.
my junior year, i encountered a whole new universe that i never knew existed. i went to a passion conference in fort. worth texas where i saw 12,000 other people my age completely give all of their energies into worshiping and thinking on the lord. for the first time in my life i heard teaching that boldly proclaimed that god's chief concern was his glory, not my comfort. it was also at this time that i had back surgery, which left me unable to do anything, but lay in bed for almost two months to look at the first 21 years of my life and where it had been, where it was, and where it was going....
[to be continued]
grace and peace,