Friday, December 26, 2014

Fun Stuff for the Liebster Award

So kuddos to Jennifer Guo for nominating me for the silly meme of the "Liebster Award," which is sort of like chain mail for the biblioblog-sphere. So, I thought I'd break my with my obstructionist tendencies when it comes to chain mail memes and answer the questions that Jennifer has put to me and our fellow bloggers. (Although I must confess, I really haven't done much for blogging as of late).

These are the rules:
“The Rules” according to the Wording Well, in order to accept the nomination you must follow these following guidelines:
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to his/her blog.
  • Write 5 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 bloggers (they should have less than 300 followers).
  • Answer 5 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 5 questions.
So five random facts about me:

  1. I lived three years on the island of Guam as a missionary kid.
  2. On my first date with the lovely lady who is now my wife, I got her into a car accident--and to make matters worse, I had not yet met her father.
  3. My first exposure to Star Wars was at about 11 or 12 reading Timothy Zahn's book "Heir to the Empire" --I was hooked on Timothy Zahn and on Star Wars so I later watched the movies.
  4. I've been roasting my own coffee beans for about a year or so now. A friend bought me a Whirley-Popper stove top popcorn popper and got me into roasting. I don't consider myself a huge coffee snob, but it does make for some good coffee.
  5. Because I have four daughters, at one point I could name all the My Little Ponies. No, I am not a Brony. Absolutely Not!

Here are my answers to Jennifer's questions:
(1) If you could have any super power what would it be, and who would your arch-nemesis be? 
Even though I collected comic books in my high school years and have continued to renew my nerd card since then, this was a hard and serious question, because with great power becomes great responsibility.

So I think I would either choose (1) teleportation with the ability to bend space & time (like Blink of the X-Men who first appeared in the Phalanx Covenant series, not the most recent movie).

Or I would just go with straight up telekenesis powers because they are so versatile you can make force shields, move things, fly etc. Some of the most powerful superheroes, especially in the Marvel Universe, are telekenitics.

My archnemesis would be an super-villian who defeats his enemies by depriving them of  sleep until they could go mad. And if he tries to deprive me of my Sunday afternoon nap, I will be an epic showdown. 

(2) Middle Earth or Narnia and why?
Middle earth because hobbits, elves, dwarfs, wizards, epic battles. Oh and second breakfasts.

(3) What’s your favorite biblical/theological topic/area?
New Testament Studies. I particularly like the sub-fields of NT Christology, Pauline Studies, and Gospels. My current research is in Hebrews, so I really am loving that too.

(4) Favorite scholars?  
I enjoy Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, Herman Ridderbos, Thomas Schreiener, G.K. Beale. Not my most favorites now but George Eldon Ladd and NT Wright were particular interests of mine in my undergrad days.

Older theologians: I enjoy Warfield, Bavinck, Geerhardus Vos, John Calvin, Athanasius.

(5) If you’ve been to SBL, describe a favorite memory. If not, describe what you’d be most excited about if you were going next year. 
Haven't been there yet. 

So that's it. Sorry but I'm going to pull a Nick Norelli and not nominate anyone mostly because I haven't been following a lot of blogs lately and the twitter friends I'd probably nominate are the ones Jennifer already did.

Friday, October 3, 2014

You Really Don't Want Christian Doctors? Really?

Over on Slate, there is an essay entitled "In Medicine We Trust." The subtitle is "Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?" Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit had linked to the article. Like him, I find myself saying "Oh Good Grief". Is this the end game for Western thought and especially humanism? "We can't have missionaries keeping people alive because hey people might start believing in God, especially the Christian one."

This essay really bugs me for a number of reasons. It is amazing the amount of self-critical awareness the article lacks.

If you think about it:
(1) the writer would rather have suffering Africans have no medical care, then missionaries doing their best but not having ideal amounts of funds. (I am kind of borrowing on Margaret Thatcher's great line the liberals would rather the poor be poorer so long as the rich aren't rich).

Think about it if you are genuinely starving, you'll take a poor meal from a kitchen with a "C" on a health inspector rating, then no meal because it's not a "A".

(2) the writer makes the assumption that there is some sort of artificial way to separate values and morals from the practice of medicine. As if when you are non-religious you can practice a sort of value-neutral approach to medicine. We all would agree both Christians and non-Christians have consciences--things are ALWAYS going to impact your conscience. No one is objective. Yet this article seems to assume the non-religious can be more objective in the practice of medicine which is philosophically naive at best. [if you are not a Christian, ok, but one should be a little more self aware (at least be aware of the critique of postmodernism against neutrality and objectivity)]

(3) The person doesn't want to see Christians proselytize. Fair complaint. But why is it assumed that anyone saying "I do this because I believe in God's love" is inherently manipulative? If you follow the writer's logic, offering any type of hope (something metaphysical outside of scientific and/or emotional) to people in trouble would be manipulative. What is really motivating the author's opinion is unbelief which they use to leverage the charge of "manipulation".

The writer might as well say: "I don't want those suffering to get medical care if they might end up converted". Are we really saying "I don't want people to get help AND LIVE if they are going to become a Christian (which I reject as untrue)." If you are truly a humanist wouldn't your first priority be to keep people alive, even if you feel the need to counter what you believe is a lie? At least the people would still be alive, albeit "misled".

(4) The author seems blissfully unaware of the impact the rise of Christianity had on medical practice and the development of health care in the first centuries and beyond.

(5) How many times is the critique of Christianity that it cares about heaven and not people's suffering (not really a fair critique if you look at Christianity's history). Now when people are actually helping keep people alive, we can't have that.

Just curious but has anyone suggested hidden racism in keeping Africans from getting help?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Relearning the Foolishness of the Cross

This statement is quite telling:

And while we grieve rejection, we should not be shocked or ashamed by it. That probationary year unearthed a hidden assumption that I could be nuanced or articulate or culturally engaged or compassionate enough to make the gospel more acceptable to my neighbors. But that belief is prideful. From its earliest days, the gospel has been both a comfort and an offense.
It is from an essay over at Christianity Today about Vanderbilt's rejection of any group that hold to distinctives,  especially Christian doctrinal statements.

There is a lot of ironic points in the essay which could make for "see we told you" moments--as a good number of more conservative commentators have been saying for years. However the essay is helpful as a cultural marker and pointer to the direction things are heading--even if people have noted this for a while.

It is also a disappointment to see that the idea of the university is being lost in favor of radical pluralism where discrimination is valued more than discernment--shibboleths more that reason arguments and debate.

The larger point is that the quest for a more culturally acceptable for of Christianity does not end as the purveyors hope. Props to this group for not compromising basic orthodox convictions, such as the resurrection-- but it is impossible for Christianity to win the favor of its cultured despisers. Paul knew this as early as 1 Corinthians when he spoke of the foolishness of the Cross. Whether we like it or not the academy today is largely looking for a wisdom that comports with worldly standards--as wisdom which cannot in the end ever find allowance for or acceptance of the gospel.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Was a Farce

Less than a decade ago, when the Emergent/Emergent/Emerg-whatever was all the rage, the rallying cry was than many of the voices that were opening and broadening themselves were just trying to get back to Ancient Christianity... one still grounded by the Nicene & Apostles Creed.

So the criticism was that Evangelicals with their boundaries were just turning in to Fundamentalists.

Is there a "orthodox" Christianity that is broader than evangelicalism? Of course, let's not be naive. But this was always a red herring.

Now, apparently if you call someone 'UN-orthodox' when they walk away from those actually ANCIENT boundaries of ACTUAL orthodoxy--well you're just mean, cruel and fundamentalist.

Compare this and this.

It just goes to show... it was never about orthodoxy... it was about self, self-identity and self-definition. For all the rage about community, the individual was/is supreme.

The push for a broader Christianity within orthodox bounds was a farce. It was a farce the whole time.

Kinda reminds of me of this little parable.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Covenants

"Without a covenantal understanding of the Bible, you will travel through life in what seems like a practical way, but when the storms come or when you get lost, you will have no solid framework to go to or to lean on in those times. Even for those who say “I lean on Jesus,” which we all should, you can’t lean on Jesus if you don’t understand who he is, and that comes from a correct understanding of Christ through covenant. You can lean on your own construction of Jesus, you can lean on your modified Jesus who suits your wants, needs, and personal beliefs, but you cannot lean on the true Jesus of Scripture apart from understanding who he is as the Federal Head and Mediator of the New Covenant. To grasp this understanding, all you have to do is read through the letter to the Romans and the letter to the Hebrews."

--This is comes from Zachary Brian Lee over here on his blog. The emphasis is mine. Apparently is a a baptist who "likes" covenants (I say that tongue in cheek), pretty much the category I find myself in, as with all the best historic baptists.  

I was originally attracted to this post because of the title: "It’s More Than a Relationship: It’s a Religion"

But he's exactly right about "covenant," its a concept that often goes missing but is foundational to Christian thinking. It gives meat to bones of doctrine and an anchor to so many Scriptural ideas. Yet it is far too often missing in our practical conceptions--particularly if you are outside of Presbyterian circles.

As they say, read the rest:

Here's his conclusion:
We must move beyond this pagan understanding of a nebulous spirituality that we slap the Christian label onto, and we must move back to the understanding that has been present in Church history for 2000 years and for thousands of years beyond that, going all the way back to Adam. We must return to the objective, substantive, true understanding of God through covenant. It is the only way to preserve the true Christian faith and guard it against false teachings and heresies that wolves attempt to bring in and devour us with. To understand that Christ is King, Prophet, and Priest, we must understand those roles as determined by Scripture in their covenant relationship. If we do not understand the covenants, how will we know in what way Christ is the High Priest? Why does he need to be a priest and who does he need to be a priest for outside of an understanding of covenant demands and laws? The covenant is a precious truth that God has not just given us to think about or dwell on intellectually or in abstract philosophy; God has actually reached down into time and space and has established a covenant that all who believe may partake in and that covenant has real implications for every single area of our lives; the way we treat our neighbor, the way we do business, the way we vote in elections, the way we raise our kids, even the way in which we dispose of human waste! God has graciously revealed himself to us and offers himself to us in the form of covenant relationship. Without the covenant, we do not have a true picture of God’s love. You do not understand love and you cannot understand love until you understand God’s covenants. Let us look to the Scriptures and seek that covenant bond that God graciously and freely establishes with a people who were once not his, but now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, belong to him in the New Covenant, which supersedes all other covenants in promise, power, glory, and finality.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bruce Metzger on the Ascension

Michael Bird has a great post on the Ascension. He quotes Bruce Metzger:

“Ascension Day proclaims that there is no sphere, however secular, in which Christ has no rights – and no sphere in which his followers are absolved from obedience to him. Instead of it being a fairy tale from the pre-space age, Christ’s ascension is the guarantee that he has triumphed over the principalities and powers, so that at his name ‘every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:10-11).”

Almost sounds Kuyperian...and this coming from a Princeton man... perish the thought.

Bird goes on to highlight three important aspects of the ascension.
  1. Jesus ascends to heaven so that he can send the Holy Spirit to his followers. 
  2. Believers embryonically share in the reign of Christ by virtue of their union with Christ. 
  3. Jesus’ work of mediation continues in his heavenly session.

And for those who want to "sermonize on the ascension for hours" (as Bird puts it) I offer this, with the audio,  also check the tag for the blog too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NEW! Cloth Bound Vos' Biblical Theology

I just found out that Banner of Truth is publishing a cloth bound version of Geerhasdus Vos' Biblical Theology. It is selling for $26.10 on their site.

(1) If you have never read this book, you should pick up a copy of it.

(2) This looks like a great edition to get. Banner of Truth cloth bound books are general well made and sturdy.

This is the perfect edition for you fans of Biblical Theology and Vos is arguably the father of conservative/evangelical & Reformed Biblical theology.

Even if you don't fall into those categories yourself, Vos is well worth reading and has gone on to influence a number of Bible scholars today.

In a day and age when their is a rush to be trendy, it is important to read quality books that have stood the test of time. Here's one.

And for those uber-Vosian geeks, no word of when Banner of Truth is publishing it's leather bound gold embossed edition, stay tuned.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Scripture & Inerrancy

When it comes the debate inerrancy I would propose the real question is two fold: 
  1. Is Scripture God's Word? As in does he bare the final authorship and authority for what is said? 
  2. And then does God lie?

Often times detracts want to claim the Bible is not inerrant because it isn't scientifically accurate. But it throws up inaccurate understand of inerrancy means.

You don't have to believe that Scripture contains details scientific data on this to say that it is inerrant. Serious believers in inerrancy have always held that Scripture contains phenomenological descriptions "sun rises" and "four corners of the earth". Thus, you are not forced have a Bible with out expressions and figures of speech. E.J. Young classic work shows that the Bible is allowed to provide rounded numbers, phenomenological descriptions and even paraphrases and the like. To say the Bible does not err does not mean we force it to be precise where it is not or claim that when it is not precise it "errs". For example, two accounts in the Synoptics may emphasize slightly different elements because God uses the human authors. They are both accurate accounts without error but they not precise as say a video recording would be. Consider that even today, two newspapers can cover the same even and emphasize differing details in their account without (a) erring in their account and (b) contracting one another. In fact, we often acknowledge that events that at first glance may appear contradictory but a little though about them reveals they are not.

Another thing that often gets brought up against inerrancy is why would God have inerrant autographs but then allow textual critical errors over time in copying. This idea presupposes that if God is going to give His inerrant Word, we should dictate terms on what He must do after it is given. This strikes me a bit arrogant to tell God if He is going to give His Word without error then He must do something further. Instead, we should acknowledge that He has done. In short, textual transmission is not an argument against the inspiration and authority of Scripture and the inerrancy of the autographs.
Even today, a person can speak something without error only to have it be corrupted as it is transmitted.

As for the corruptibility of Scripture when in the hands of man-- we have no problem that the Word became flesh in Christ and thus was able to be killed by the hands of men. We still hold that Christ was without sin or error, if we are orthodox. Why have a problem that once revealed man can make mistakes over God's revelation even in the passing it along?
The bottom line over inerrancy is: Does God speak and when He speaks does He lie, mislead or err?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What is Real Manhood? Some Thoughts on Samson

The is a certain subset of the evangelical world that has taken upon itself to characterize true manhood as being macho, tough, and tough on bad guys. Sensitivity is often characterized as a lack of manhood and being brazen, a fighter, and confrontational is seen as manly.

There certainly are Biblical definitions of manhood and womanhood but rarely do they line up with our culture, our American cultural constructs. 

What is true manhood? Let me offer some reflections on the life of Samson.

1) From the beginning God's grace is evident in Samsons life.
  • His unique birth to a barren mother (Judges 13:2-3)
  • The angel of the Lord appears to his parents (13:3-23)
  • The LORD blesses Samon (13:24)
  • Samson set apart to God (13:5)
It should go without saying that if we are going to experience true 'manhood' or true humanity, regardless of our gender, we are going to need to be a product of the grace of God. We are going to need to recognize God's grace and gifts in our lives both saving grace and gifts but the "common" grace and gifts as well.

2) Samson, of course, had incredible strength.
  • Men, particularly in our culture, often see physical strength as a sign of manhood.
  • Samson was choosen by God to deliver Israel. His strength was supernatural not merely natural.
While God uses Samson's strength for mighty feats as a judge, Samson's strength is also his undoing because he consistently fails to rely on the Lord. He takes what he has for granted and acts as if he has established himself in his own strength.

3) Samson, however, show disrespect for God and God's laws.
  • 14:1-3-- Samson is willing to marry a Philistine. This was a violation of the Old Testament Law--cf. Deut 7:1-4. This issue of intermarriage was not specifically 'ethnic' but religious. Israel was not to be led astray from God, much like in the New Testament a believer is not to enter into a marriage with an unbeliever.
  • 14:8-9-- Samson ate honey from the lion. This is a direct violation of his Nazirite vow where he could not go near a dead body and eat unclean food.--cf. Num. 6:6-8. (I assume that killing the lion was not a sin (a) because it was self-defense and (b) there were provisions in the vow if someone dies suddenly in your presence (Num. 6:11ff).
  • Samson is easily seduced by women with his first wife and with Delilah.
  • 16:1ff--Delilah was a prostitute.
Samson had what men find desirable:
  1. Strength
  2. milatary prowless--victories. He was assertive and took action. Leadership (Judges 15:20).
  3. attractive to women (surmizing from his relationships with the Philistine women)
  4. Cunning--evidenced by the riddle.
  5. (*humorous) 'Mr. Fix-it' --takes down the city gates.
  6. (*humorous) Good with tools--killed men with a donkey's jaw bone
Samson displays an inability to trust and obey the Lord.

Samson's greatest victory, ultimately his own death, comes not through what humans desire but through a humbling on oneself before God. Judges 16:28, "O Sovereign Lord, remember me..." is repentent and humbling oneself before God.

Like Christ, Samson sacrifices himself to deliver his people.

Unlike Christ, Samson is a poor picture of manhood. He continually displays an inability to walk with the Lord.

We need to be careful that we don't let the temptations of manhood lead us away from the prize of manhood (walking with God). Where are our priorities?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Hope of the Resurrection

The Christian hope of the resurrection is distinct from all other hopes and all other religions. 

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?"

B. We do not just “move beyond” death but death is conquered. If earth is a battlefield between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan—then it does not good for all the players to make a strategic retreat to heaven. Satan who has the power of death (Heb. 2:14) has his greatest weapon destroyed. It is sort of like a judo move. I am told that in judo the goal is not to meet force with force but use the enemies own strength against him. So Christ makes a judo move: he uses death—His own death to bring life. He succumbs to death, exhausts its curse and then brings forth new life—first His own brought by each of the three persons of the Trinity. And then He brings our own life for those who trust in Him.

It is like the movie the Matrix. Remember at the end when the hero Neo is fighting Agent Smith. Agent Smith goes on this tirade of how all is lost and say “Why do you still fight”. New says, “Because I choose too.” And then Neo suddenly chooses to stop fighting. Smith hits the crushing blow—Neo is dead. But then suddenly the world they are fighting—dark and evil—breaks down and it is reborn into light and recreated. Neo defeats death by dying and everything is reborn. The parallels are intentional.

There is one fatal flaw. In the last seen Neo’s body is taken by the computers into a blinding light. And he is gone. The fatal flaw is that the matrix might be recreated in beauty and restored—but Neo never lives again. He goes into the light of glory disembodied—a soul with a dead body. Death appears conqueror but the one who conquered it remains dead---there is no hope. The friends of Neo say ‘well he may return’. BUT THE FATAL FLAW IS: Neo stays dead!

C. Christianity is a hope like no other. The Christian faith has a living hope because we put our hope in Jesus. The Christian faith is certain hope. Death has been defeated by Christ. We know exactly what is coming. We have proof positive. God has furnished proof of a judgment and that we can pass the judgment: he has done this by raising Christ from the dead.

1. The hope of Buddhism is Nirvana. Your being like a drop of water enters the ocean of eternity. It is not personal existence; it is not bodily existence. It is disembodied, but it isn’t even life real. It is the cession of individuality—it is like assimilation by the Borg.

2. I submit to you all other forms of hope are false hopes. There are no guarantees. Or they are substandard. They make a mockery of God’s creation as good. It is fake hope vs. a living hope.

3. We live in a world that brings all kinds of parodies to us. Parodies of hope… cheep imitations. Wishful thinking, silly platitudes. Those who live in this present evil age do everything they can keep us from seeing how almost 2,000 years ago “New Creation” began. There was the resurrection of a man! Yet we recognize the resurrection: it makes a difference. Our faith is not a leap in the dark but a certain hope of a sure future. The same power that raised Jesus from the death is guarding us in our faith for that same coming living hope.
1 Peter 1:3-5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
There is no hope—no salvation without new life! This new life is displayed in the King who has won it for us in His own resurrection.
Job 19:25-27 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Here is an interesting article that appeared in the Journal of Religion and Film on the Matrix, Buddhism and Gnosticism.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Is Inerrancy a Modernist Concept?

I am getting tired of hearing how the debate of inerrancy is merely a "modern" issue. Or that the idea that the Word of God is "certain" is a product of "modern Enlightenment", this is particularly common by some making arguments in the emerging/emergent church. A little exposure to church history might help us here:

I recently ran accross this section that I had highlighted in Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2 Prolegomena.

"The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture stood, in the systems of the great thirteenth-century scholastics, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, Albert the Great, and Thomas Aquinas, in a profound and crucial relationship to the emerging concept of theology as a science...Logically derived conclusions, no matter how experty and precise the logic, cannot be endowed with certainty unless certainty is known to reside in the principles from which they have been drawn. But theology, as Aquianas recognized, is a subalternate science, the first principles of which are not self-evident but are derived from a higher science--the scientia Dei--that is not immediately known to us. If theology is to have certainty that must belong to any legititmate or genuine scientia, that certainty must be inherent in its first principles and in the source of those principles. If theology is to be a divine scientia, it must rest on revelation. Thus, Alexander of Hales could argue, "what is known by divine inspiration is recognized as more true (verius) than what is known by human reason, inasmuch as it is impossible for falsehood to be in inspiration while reason is infected with many..." page 42-43.


"Albert the Great similarly argued the higher certainty of theological science on the ground of the inspiration of Scripture: theology and theologians derive their authority from teh books inspired by "the Spirit of truth." Even so, it is not possible to doubt a single word of Scripture. Reason itself may fall into contradiction but Scripture stands against error as a foundation of truth higher than anything present within the human soul. Bonaventure, somewhat more simply, declares that teh authority of Scripture arises "not by human investigation but by divine revelation"; the Spirit, who is the author of Scripture, speaks neither falsehood nor superfluity. Anyone who contradicts Scripture thereforecontradicts uncreated truth itself. The scholastics' testimony to the infallibility of Scripture was, moreover, intimately bound up with the literal and grammatical foundation of the medieval fourfold exegesis." p.44.

Check out Muller's work and not the extensive footnotes for where the Medieval writers actual say these things. Even Muller's summations are extensively documented by original sources.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On the Trinity

Recently the Bible Fellowship Church magazine "One Voice" published an essay I wrote on the Trinity. I post it here for your enjoyment.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spurgeon Quote

I recently received this great quote from a pastor friend:
Charles Spurgeon said, “Let us follow the Shepherd, with a ready mind, because he has a perfect right to lead us wherever he pleases. We are not our own, we are bought with a price. If we were our own, Ye might repine at our circumstances, but since we are not, let this be our cry, "Do what thou wilt, O Lord, and though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee;"... wherever he may lead us, if we know not where we go, we do know one thing, we know with whom we go, we do not know the road, but we do know the guide.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World Book Day

So apparently it's world book day. Dr. Jim West is showing off his books and so here's my book show off too. Show us your books! #WorldBookDay.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Impressions and the Lord's Leading

Over at Grace for Sinners, Matthew Sims has a post on the trouble with following impressions as "God told me". He writes:

I place very little weight on subjective impressions. Let me end with a brief story. As many of you already know (OK probably all of you know because I’ve posted about it, tweeted about it, and have advertisements about it on my blog), I wrote a book A Household Gospel. During this process, I completed a lot of research. I read other authors who independently publish; I researched small publishing houses that come alongside independent authors; and I also researched literary agents. I saw two reoccurring currents in this research.

First, a huge percentage of Christian authors advertise, share, and tell others that God told them to write their book. Second, publishers and literary agents hear this schtick all the time and it makes no difference in their decision to support the book project. Can you imagine the gall? God telling the authors to write these books and the publishers and agents are ignoring God’s clear direction? There must be wires crossed somewhere, right?

This is a classic example of placing too much emphasis on subject impressions. Let me explain how this might look in my experience. I felt a strong urge to write a book on this topic. Family and friends encouraged me to put pen to paper. Trusted outside counselors also encouraged me to write on this topic. On a few occasions, I was asked “out of the blue“ to contribute an article on this topic at another blog. All of this adds up, right? God must be telling me to write this book, right? Wrong. I had the freedom to write or not to write A Household Gospel.

I had a conversations with a family member about this very topic. They were telling me God told them to do something. They just knew it. I asked how. They said they felt it in their gut. I responded half tongue-in-cheek and half seriously, “How do you know that’s not the Taco Bell you ate last night?” Strange fire in my belly indeed. I do listen to my gut, but sometimes I don’t. I don’t bind myself to anything but the revealed word of God.

The bottom line is we need to stick to God's Word. God is in control of all things and sometimes open doors can be a clear indication that we should walk through them. In this respect it is the providence of God's hand leading and guiding, but we need to use wisdom and discernment to make a decision at the moment.

We certainly don't want to fall into the trap of saying that God cannot lead and guide, but far to often we don't see this as through the clear commands of Scripture and godly exercise of wisdom, and dedicating matters to prayer and the counsel of others. Instead, many Christians go "with their gut" and then sanctify is with "God's leading".

Read the rest of Matthew's post:

Impressions, "taco bell theology" always reminds me of Dickens' Christmas Carols when Scrooge sees Marley and remarks how the senses can be misled by even an upset stomach.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Proclaim the Resurrection

It never ceases to amaze me that the Greek's believed Apollo had stood on the Areopagus and declared "once a man has died, and the dust has soak up his blood, there is no resurrection."

And Paul stood on that very same spot in the first century and said "there is a judgment and we know it's coming because Jesus Christ rose from the dead."

We need to have the courage to stand in the hallowed halls of our society and culture and proclaim such things.

It is not merely enough to say "there is a God" or "you can have a relationship with God" or "God is the most important person to me and give me meaning." In today's culture shoulders will shrug with a "well if that works for you, so be it" and worst: "keep it to yourself."

We need to stand up and say these things you value here, this that you think orders your life is not the ultimate order. The ultimate order flows from the Lordship of Jesus Christ who is over all everything--I we know this to be true because God raised Him from the dead."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pro-life and Liberal

Today, I came across an article entitled "Why I'm a pro-life liberal." (HT: Trevin Wax).

I have a couple immediate reflections: first, while I do not consider myself politically liberal, left, or progressive, I have known a number of conservative evangelicals who fit this description politically. In fact, it is probably only in America that we equate conservative evangelical theology with conservative (Republican) politics.

Second, I find a pro-life position commendable for anyone who holds it. We may not agree on everything but we should certainly celebrate this area of agreement.

I found this statement to be very interesting:

The pro-life leftist position maintains that human life is so significant, so inherently valuable, so irreplaceable that it should be the central subject of political concern. This view requires, therefore, that since we care enough about the outcome of pregnancy to insist against abortion, then we must continue to care about the outcome when abortion is no longer a legal option. To me, this requires a culture agreeing to put its money where its mouth is — that is, to provide robust support programs that render feasible the entire process of childbearing and childbirth, from pregnancy to child care to the total span of family life. Programs that immediately come to mind include universal health care, which would obviate the incredible expenses of pregnancy, often costing in the thousands of dollars out of pocket; government-supported parental leave and policies protecting the employment of mothers; and a no-strings-attached child allowance.

First, there is a lot in here that a pro-life conservative (political) right position would find agreeable. For example, I know plenty of conservative pro-life people who want to see mothers and children cared for well after they are born. 

It is a huge straw-man to think (if indeed this is what is behind the words) that pro-life "right" positions only care about the child in the womb. In fact, I know at our local pregnancy center there are efforts to care for mother and child after birth--including classes, aid but especially classes to help new fathers. 

If we are talking about government social programs, well we may disagree on effectiveness and means but a lot of conservatives value having some kind of safety net. I would just guess a few more are favorable to it at a state level then a federal level--in fact I've seen some nice argument for letting the federalism built into the country (i.e. states trying different means) do the work. 

I would saw this: Christians should agree taking care of orphans and widows is extremely important. One of the challenges in today's culture is broken families. Men who father children but do not step up as fathers. Children who are similar to orphans because of growing up in single parent homes without stability. Regardless of how you see the role of politics in alleviating the struggles (you never really 'solve' the problems), we should agree on certain fundamental Christian duties and concerns of compassion.

First, this will be radical. We live in a world were we are often sold this either/or. Either you are "right" or you are "left". Then you are in very defined stereotype categories.

Second, this gives us far more common ground. Are disagreement then is more about means and effectiveness not really about ends. This should give us far more charity. We can often acknowledge while the Bible is very clear about the ends, it is often left to areas of general revelation and common grace to sort out the means.

Some related posts:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Michael Bird's Testimony & New Book

Michael Bird has a great little piece over at Christianity today giving both a mini-testimony and a mini-apologia for the recent book he has edited in response to Bart Ehrman.

What is interesting about Bird's testimony is that his is, in his words, the anti-type of Ehrman.

He nails it one why Ehrman's skepticism is so popular. While Ehrman is very intelligent and an excellent textual critic, he provides academic credibility for skeptics. Most of what I have read of Ehrman's popular writings, preaches to the choir. Bird writes:

Ehrman's book is genuinely informative and provocative in places, but he gets many things wrong. Modern secular audiences—who prefer provocative sound bites from Richard Dawkins and conspiracy theories from Dan Brown—love to hear Ehrman's message. He provides solace to secularists: the whole Jesus-is-God thing is a big mistake that has negatively affected human history. In our culture, unbelief is trendy and religion is passé; people of faith are often derided as superstitious yokels from the boonies.

Then Bird concludes with this paragraph echoes Pauline sentiments from Phil. 3:
Some have great confidence in skeptical scholarship, and I once did, perhaps more than anyone else. If anyone thinks they are assured in their unbelief, I was more committed: born of unbelieving parents, never baptized or dedicated; on scholarly credentials, a PhD from a secular university; as to zeal, mocking the church; as to ideological righteousness, totally radicalized. But whatever intellectual superiority I thought I had over Christians, I now count it as sheer ignorance. Indeed, I count everything in my former life as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing the historical Jesus who is also the risen Lord. For his sake, I have given up trying to be a hipster atheist. I consider that old chestnut pure filth, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a CV that will gain me tenure at an Ivy League school, but knowing that I've bound myself to Jesus—and where he is, there I shall also be.

The real story of Jesus Christ is good news, and it transformed my life. That's why I'm fighting to tell it amidst a cacophony of misguided voices.

 Praise God for scholars working in their fields to articulate, defend, and winsomely share the faith given to the saints once for all.

You can find the new book edited by Michael Bird here.

Michael Bloomberg & Heaven

First, let me say this post is not about politics.

This brief post is about arrogance. It is about theology.

The Blaze is reporting that Michael Bloomberg believes he is going to go to heaven because of his good works. This view has always been a rather common one because it is the natural tendency of the human heart to think we are good enough before God therefore he will reward us.

What is rather rare is the brazenness of Michael Bloomberg's articulation. But really it points to the brazenness and arrogance of anyone who thinks they can secure themselves and their position before God.

Michael Bloomberg is quoted as saying:

"I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close."

I'm sorry, Mr. Bloomberg but as humanitarian as your efforts on gun control, smoking, and obesity may (or may not) be, these will count as nothing before a righteous and holy God.

Repent and trust Christ.

Even more your attitude should remind us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

The quote is originally from this New York Times article. See the last two paragraphs here:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Compromising by "Not Compromising"

World Vision is announcing a change in it's policy regarding hiring employs united in same-sex "marriages. In defensive of their change Richard Sterns argues that they are not compromising but allowing churches to rule on the theological issue.

But the logic of justification here is twisted and convoluted. I agree that para-church organizations are not churches and do not have the authority that churches have, but the minute you consider yourself a religious para-church organization, you have to take some theological stances (even if you don't get as narrow as some particular churches might on issues of say baptism, eschatology or Calvinism vs. Arminianism). You still are going to have some notion of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and say the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds--otherwise you are not Christian. These commitments are going to have ethical implications. I mean I'm sure World Vision implicitly has some belief on the fruits of the Spirit. Even more some "churches" reject aiding the poor, so that's a divisive issue in theory right?

Here is the justification:
"It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there," he said. "This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support."

"We're not caving to some kind of pressure. We're not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us," said Stearns. "This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church."
The problem is that your non-endorsement is an endorsement. You can claim your are not 'rejecting traditional marriage' but the whole concept of traditional marriage is that marriage is defined by the union of a man and women. So if you allow other definitions you are definition not affirming traditional marriage.

You didn't defer authority, you made a pretty clear statement.

If you hired someone because they wanted a job but then they said "Look the church really shouldn't be so concerned with the poor--even if we are doing a good thing, it's not necessary" you'd jump all over that with theological arguments.

Your "not weighing in" actually weighs in.

Someone should point out that some of the liberal mainline denominations out there also cast aspersion on the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed. Why be so divisive over these issues too? Because you value them as important and defining to the Christian faith. Has any branch of major Christianity prior to the 20th century really been unclear on the Christian position on human sexuality & homosexuality?

The unity that World Vision wants to unite around is really a sham. It amounts to saying we'll make theological commitments when it suits us and ignore them when it doesn't suit us.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Trueman on New Calvinism and Driscoll

Carl Trueman writes,
And then, finally, there is the silence. The one thing that might have kept the movement together would have been strong, transparent public leadership that openly policed itself and thus advertised its integrity for all to see. Yet the most remarkable thing about the whole sorry saga, from the Jakes business until now, has been the silence of many of the men who present themselves as the leaders of the movement and who were happy at one time to benefit from Mark Driscoll’s reputation and influence. One might interpret this silence as an appropriate refusal to comment directly on the ministry of men who no longer have any formal connection with their own organizations.

Yet the leaders of the “young, restless, and reformed” have not typically allowed that concern to curtail their comments in the past. Many of them have been outspoken about the teaching of Joel Osteen, for example. In their early days, when the Emergent Church was vying with the new Calvinism for pole position in the American evangelical world, they launched regular, and often very thorough, critiques of the Emergent leaders. In retrospect, however, it is clear that these were soft targets. Their very distance made them safe. Problems closer to home are always much harder to speak to, much more likely to earn opprobrium from one’s friends, and thus much more likely to be ignored. The result, however, is that some leaders become very accustomed to always doing things their way. All of us who are thought of as Evangelical or Reformed now live with the bitter fruit of that failure of leadership.

Trueman is right. The new calvinism picks "soft targets" when it critiques Joel Olsteen & the emerging church, if it cannot policy it's own then it shows itself. In some circles it was just a "good ole boys club", with an "I know nothing attitude" when its insiders head down the wrong path and do stupid things.

I'm a pastor in a small church connected to a small denomination. If I behaved half like what we see in some of these public pastors, I'd have local elders calling for my resignation and a denominational board investigating my credentials to be a minister of the gospel--but then that's what it means to be part of the body of Christ. As pastors we are not only leaders in the church but under authorities of both men and God. That is the way it should be.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dance Girls vs. Dad: A Photo Essay

My daughter's are in dance. That means they are extremely flexible. I, on the other hand, am not.

I can't even get close

No splits for me

Seriously, my leg doesn't go any higher

Not even gonna try.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jesus' Ongoing Ministry

One of the greatest things about the ministry of Christ that he continues to minister to us in heaven before the throne of God. In fact, because of His presence in heaven, the throne of God is a throne of grace for the believer in Jesus Christ.

In heaven, Christ is a glorified and resurrection body which has conquered and triumphed over sin and death. His body is one of indestructible life, that of the resurrection, that of the age to come, the new creation.

Yet, when we cry out to him, we have one who is able to sympathize with us. While Jesus Christ himself never sinned--in his earthly humanity, he was like us in all things. He had a body that was beholden to weakness and suffering. He knows what it is like to cry out to God the Father in great need.

This makes Christ, all the more, a fitting minister on our behalf. He has "been there" as it were. He has seen the struggle and walked it. He alone was heard because of his godliness in his cry to God but because of this he can identify and be a mediator for us both as the godliness that we need but also as the perfected one before the throne on our behalf. And yet because he was like us in all things, he can continue to minister as he does as the representative human.

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Trinity and God's Love

John Owen's Communion with God is a classic text. It reminds us of the love we have from God and our communion with Him is from/with each of the three persons of the Godhead.

This is amazingly true and can be illustrated from many texts, one of which is Galatians 4:4-7.

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

First, we should note that while love is not specifically mentioned in this text, we cannot conceive these actions apart from the love of God. So while love is not mentioned by name here, plenty of other verses in Scripture describe the same content here in connection with the love of God.

Second, this passage does not “work” unless God is a Trinity. A basic definition of the Trinity is that God is one God (not three Gods) consisting of three eternal persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). God is one being and three persons.

Each person has all the divine attributes completely. So that the Father is eternal and glorious, the Son is eternal and glorious and the Holy Spirit is eternal and glorious. But they are not three eternal beings or three glories.

This is a vital doctrine for a number of reasons:
(1) Because this is who God is. --If you love your spouse, you have to love them for who they are.

(2) Because God would not be love if he were not also three persons. C.S. Lewis says that when most people say “God is love” what they really mean is “love is God”. But for their to be an eternal love of God, there needs to be three eternal persons.

So some basic point:
1. The love of God is accomplished by the sending of the Son.
  • The love of God is an active love.
  • God the Father accomplishes His Love in the sending of His Son.
  • Jesus Christ is our redemption.
  • So that there is no conflict between the Father and Son in this plan. Jesus didn’t say “do I have to do this?” 
  • There is also love that comes from the Father and from the Son.

2. The love of God is applied by the sending of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is pouring God’s love into our hearts by virtue of His presence in us. (Romans 5:5)
  • God’s love came into the world when God sent Christ, but God’s love came into our hearts when the Holy Spirit regenerated us with new life.
  • So God the Father sends the Spirit. But it is the Holy Spirit of the Son.
    (1) Because Jesus had a perfect spiritual experience with the Holy Spirit in His earthly life.
    (2) Jesus Christ is the one who went back to heaven so that the Holy Spirit could be sent. He too is involved in the sending.
How does the Holy Spirit help you grasp the love of God?
  1. You would not believe or grasp the gospel if it were not for the enlivening power of the Holy Spirit. You need regeneration. You need to be made alive, to be made to see.
  2. You will not love God unless God first puts His love in your heart. This is the Holy Spirit’s job.
  3. The Holy Spirit seals you. You cannot be cut of from Christ because the Holy Spirit resides in you.
  4. The Holy Spirit causes you to cry out to God as your Father.
3. The love of God is experienced by you in your adoption.
  • (1) Adoption is not the same kind of sonship.
  • (2) God’s love in your adoption brings a status to us and an inheritance for us. So adoption does bring the same kingdom privileges that the Son has won and acquired.
  • (3) God’s love in my adoption brings intimacy with God to me.

My thoughts today, stem from this sermon on the Trinity and the Triune Love of God. You can listen in the player below:

Monday, February 24, 2014

On the Holy Spirit

Last month I preached to sermons on the Holy Spirit from John 14 and 16.

A couple things I noticed in the passage:
(1) The importance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn't give us "second bests" once he goes away. It is actually good that he goes away.
(2) The coming of the Holy Spirit is of major importance for the climax of redemptive history.
(3) The role of the Spirit is vital for the application of redemption in the Christian life. 
The more I study Scripture, the more I am convinced of the wisdom of older Reformed theologians. For example, they did not back off and minimize the Holy Spirit. 

One all too common critique out there is that if you are cessationist you have little or no value for the role of the Holy Spirit. I defy anyone to make that criticism after reading just a smidgen of Calvin or Owen, Bavinck or even Warfield (esp. on Calvin).

On the contrary I think those who emphasize the Holy Spirit by way of sensationalism minimize the role of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption. Indeed, this is the miraculous operation of the Spirit in the life of the person.

Here are two sample sermons attempting to do justice to the text and these issues:

The Holy Spirit Given to Us:


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Luther had it Right, Again

One of my favorite quotes from Luther is:

"The devil has no better way to conquer us than by leading us away from the Word and to the Spirit."
Table Talk 54.97

I ran across it in Stephen Westerholm's Perspectives Old and New On Paul [p.32 n.10]. (Westerholm's book is one you should read--particularly if you are unfamiliar with Luther and Calvin but you're into NT studies).

With regard to Luther's quote I have found it pastoral applicable more times than I care to count.

Friday, February 7, 2014

How to Have Fellowship Part 1

Recently Donald Miller created quite a firestorm of blogs and on twitter when he posted some reflections on church and his lack of attendance to church. There were a lot of good direct responses. The reality though is that we live in a culture that for all its talk of relationships and community has little knowledge or experience of fellowships and relationship.

Have you ever stopped to ponder why in our generation we have a break down of relationships? The divorce rate is up. It is not uncommon to find people who spent a longer time preparing for their wedding than the length of their marriage. Families break down. Teens and parents illustrate this regularly. In a world reeling with the effects of sin, relationships do not work without grace.

Good relationships consist of unity and fellowship but the truth is that these only thrive where Jesus Christ is known and he brings our relationships together.

In this first post we want to lay the ground of all relationships. We want to draw our thoughts in these three part series from 1 John 1.

We have fellowship when the Word who came becomes the Word proclaimed.

First, this means when Jesus Christ came to earth, he was heard, seen and touched.
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—

‘That which was from the beginning,’ -this starts out very similar to John 1:1 “in the beginning was the Word”. But here he is talking about the beginning of the Word that was heard. There is a play on the idea of the Word. It is referring both to Christ: he was seen and touched. But also to the message that was heard.

Jesus is the Word became flesh but he also proclaimed the Word of the Gospel. He is the message but the message is also about Him.

In fact, as the Word, he arrived. He became flesh, he was manifest--or came close.

Elsewhere in John, we see this interplay between the proclaimed Word that brings life and the person of the Word who is life:
1 John 5:11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

What you need to know is that 1 John is written in part to refute a heresy. He tells us their are antiChrists people who deny Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that He came in the flesh. The message hasn’t changed from the moment Jesus came. The same Word of Life that Jesus preached is the same Word of Life that Paul the apostles preached. This is true today for all churches that are faithfully proclaiming God's Word. For all the talk about how church is not like the first century, the reality is that if it is faithful to the gospel and the Word of God there is more continuity that discontinuity. And you can't have genuine fellowship where the Word who is Christ is not heard through a proclamation of the Word.

Second, Jesus is his coming, comes for relationships. In his presence, He  was touched. He was real and true flesh and blood.

Docetism was an ancient heresy that said Jesus didn’t have a real body. He only looked like he had a body. But Jesus was real and tangible. When we profess faith in Christ, we are not professing faith in an idea, a myth, a legend but someone that is real and tangible. There was a real person who lived and died. He was God the Son.

In fact, Jesus Christ is the Word of Life.
1 John 1:2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.
The “life” is a person. He came. He was seen. The disciples, John here, have spent their earthly lives testifying to it. Because the eternal life--Jesus--has come, we are to go and out to proclaim the message of eternal life with our words. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

This life was with the Father but he also came near to us.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

1 John 2:21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Third, when the Word is proclaimed and people believe we come into fellowship.

One of the modern misnomers is that preaching is an intellectual enterprise. Yes, bad preaching can come across like a lecture. A person can fall asleep in a good sermon because all he hears is the drone of "blah, blah, blah, lecture, lecture, lecture." But for the Bible, preaching and proclamation is a means of the Holy Spirit's work. It raises the dead, dried bones and dead hearts return to life. Spiritual life and renewal is imparted. When Jesus is proclaimed the bonds of fellowship with Him and with His church grow. 
1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The gospel goes out and is proclaimed and as people come to believe it they come into fellowship with each other. There is no genuine fellowship where their is no gospel being professed amongst the people. There is no mutual bond of unbreakable love where there is no confession of Christ.

You see when this message is heard and proclaimed there becomes a Fellowship with the Father and with the Son. One of the reason so many people do not have good relationships, a good church community and fellowship is they don't have a growing fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As a pastor, I encounter lots of people who take their spiritual temperature by themselves and for themselves and give themselves an A rating (B+ if they are 'modest') but the reality is they have no growing fellowship and you can see this because they can't even fellowship with other believers through situations where the love gets tough. For example, I once encountered a person who had stumbled in sin. When I encouraged them to draw near to God (which would have included repentance but also refreshment from God's grace), the person's response was basically "I have a good relationship with God. He loves me even when I make a mistake." Sadly the sin was downgraded to a mistake and God gave a mulligan. What a weak conception of fellowship. What a weak experience of grace and God.

Here's where we need to start for Fellowship:
Confession and Fellowship or Word and Communion go hand in hand.
We live in an age of the  church where she has anti-doctrinal tendencies. Christians love to say things like “deeds not creeds”.

What binds us together is Jesus Christ. The Word came. He was proclaimed. He is confessed. We are saying “these things are true, this person is real”

This grounds our fellowship with one another.

This profession of faith unites us to the Father and the Son.

When faith is not professed, there is no fellowship with God. When there is no fellowship with God there is no fellowship together.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Does Eternity Shape Your Thinking?

We rarely think about the reality of the afterlife with vivid imagery. A while back I got myself into listening to the music of Chuck Berry. He has some good stuff and a lot of what he did heavily influenced the development of Rock N' Roll into the 60s, 70s and beyond. You can hear in Berry's music the influence of Blues and Jazz combined with a pioneering Rock n' Roll sound.

While there is a lot of music (some good and some bad) that reflects upon death, Chuck Berry's song Downbound Train is worth a listen. The song even speeds up as the train approaches hell--it builds with intensity. Here are the lyrics to a song that is great to listen to but paints a picture of what a descent into hell could be like. [I've inserted semi-colons (;) for each line break. Stanzas are separated by a line break.]

Chuck Berry “Downbound Train" Lyrics 
A stranger lying on a bar room floor; Had drank so much he could drink no more; So he fell asleep with a troubled brain; To dream that he rode on that down bound train. 
The engine with blood was sweaty and damp; And brilliantly lit with a brimstone lamp; And imps for fuel were shovelling bones; While the furnace rang with a thousand groans.
The boiler was filled with lager beer; The devil himself was the engineer;
The passengers were most a motley crew; Some were foreigners and others he knew. Rich men in broadcloth, beggars in rags; Handsome young ladies and wicked old hags.
As the train rushed on at a terrible pace; Sulphuric fumes scorched their hands and face; Wider and wider the country grew; Faster and faster the engine flew; Louder and louder the thunder crashed; Brighter and brighter the lighting flashed;
Hotter and hotter the air became; Till their clothes were burned; and they were screaming with pain. Then out of the distance there came a yell; Ha ha said the devil we're nearing home,
Oh how the passengers shrieked with pain And begged old Satan to stop that train.
The stranger awoke with an anguished cry; His clothes wet with sweat and his hair standing high; He fell on his knees on the bar room floor And prayed a prayer like never before.
And the prayers and vows were not in vain;
For he never rode that down bound train.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is also famous for the vivid imagery. High school English teachers (and countless others) have slaughtered this text and painted Edwards as nothing more than a vindictive fire and brimestone preacher and these same folks (like one of my own high school English teachers) bash the Puritans with little first hand reading in them. Even sadder is when Christians join this rant against such a godly heritage, though they like all Christians were not without their flaws. More to the point, Edwards had in his mind an image of eternity: both sides. His sermon Heaven is a World of Love, is equally enrapturing as he paints the beauty of heaven and even makes ethical appeals to how we can live now with the ethics of heaven. Such visions our rare in our day, even within the evangelical church.

Sadly, in our day in age, we fail to grasp the eternal. It does not drive our thinking. Our reflections on it are weak and wimpy. Some, from within the church, would even have us believe that we should reflect more on how we live and act now than on heaven. "In the past, we've been too focused on heaven, which is from Greek or Platonic philosophy; such Christians do not live in this life benefiting those around us" is the all to common mantra. 

This fails to do justice to (a) Christian theology; and (b) countless Christians whose view of heaven pushed them to serve others in this life. I think we could argue that a strong sense of heaven leads to a strong sense of vocation in this life, not to mention personal holiness, evangelistic fervor, and countless other Christian traits. In reality, as Christians our citizenship is in heaven [Phil. 3:20]. Our lives should be lived in the here and now with the culture of heaven evident through and through. We are strangers and exiles and this world is not our home. Heaven, and ultimately the New Heavens and New Earth, is the home of the believer. Heaven is the ultimate reality. It is eternal life.

But an equal reality is that of hell. Hell is eternal death--not cessation of existence but eternal existence under the consequence of sin. It involves unending conscious torment because of judgment. Hell is not a place on earth or this life. Hell is not what I make it or simply the absence of God, like a mere eternal lonliness. It will be unending suffering and damnation for sin. It will be torment. Those who are there will long for an end but be recieving a due punishment for sin--a punishment each one of us, including Christians, deserve.

Oh, may we look to our hope Christ Jesus our Lord who is in heaven. May a reflection on eternity shape our thinking today. For the Christian there should be no such truth to the axiom "So heavenly minded no earthly good." In fact, the more heavenly minded, the more earthly good.

Colossians 3:1-2 NAU Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

What does this "set your minds on things above" look like in the context?

Colossians 3:5-10 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...