Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Michael Jackson on Total Depravity

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Advertisements

Reflections on Advance09 (Part Two)

The Music – As we first walked into the Durham Performing Arts Center, a worship band was playing one of my favorite hymns – “Before the Throne of God Above.” It was excellent. It was loud, but it was excellent. In a nutshell – I was encouraged by the energy and excellence of the worship through music, but I was concerned by the appearance of these bands – that they might be walking a thin line between leading the people of God to worship God and performing before the people of God and calling it worship. That is a huge difference of course. So much of the difference depends on the hearts of the lead worshippers, which can be very difficult to discern just by mere appearances. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed that hymn along with the “Power of the Cross“, “In Christ Alone“, “Help My Unbelief“, and a few others over the course of the weekend. With that said, I’m sure you can see my bias for the more congregational-ly oriented songs.

Driscoll – He was very helpful in his comments regarding the topic, “What is the Church?” He nicely qualified his affirmative answer to the question of whether a “video church” was a church or not. I don’t think I agree with him about it, but he has obviously put more thought into it than I have and he is dedicated to his answer. Of course, he has to be dedicated to it because his sermons are taped and sent to other “campuses” for use in those worship services. However, if the “campus” has elders who lead and practice discipline then he would consider the “video church” a church. To me – maybe, maybe not…I also enjoyed his comment that some churches needed to stop doing Sunday School. It definitely challenges our commitment to “programs” instead of what best benefits our congregations. Even better was the reaction he got from that statement. One pastor, obviously Southern Baptist, even shouted incredulously, “What?!” It was funny. His coverage of the topic “Ministry Idolatry” was thoroughly convicting and gave me a heavy burden to pray more urgently for my pastors and my brother, who is a pastor. Driscoll did a good job this weekend. He was Biblical, pastoral, and insightful. I pray his “lapses” will decrease so that Christ would continue to “increase” in his life and ministry.

Tyler Jones – I was struck by his humility and how genuine he was. Who would want to follow Driscoll at one of these things? How could you not feel the pressure to be something you are not in that context? Jones definitely overcame that temptation. I was convicted by his comments regarding lifelong active repentance. Peter denied Christ and then spent the rest of his life and his death in active repentance – shepherding the flock of Christ for the advancement of Christ’s church. That is a very appropriate call for me.

Bryan Chapell – This was a Christ exalting message. His exhortation to preach Christ was accompanied by some valuable instruction on how to do that and what it looks like practically through a Christ-centered hermeneutic. I actually am reading through the Psalms right now in my devotions and his instructions have opened my eyes to the nuggets about Christ that are found in every Psalm, not just the Christologically prophetic ones…

Matt Chandler – He is very entertaining and engaging. He seems to me to be authentic. I loved his introductory words regarding conferences like Advance 09. He challenged the assembly to avoid making these conferences into gatherings that God hates. It was a great reminder to guard against the idolatry that can run so rampant at these type of events.

Ed Stetzer – So much better than I expected. I’m encouraged that the Southern Baptist Convention has guys like this that are committed to reformed theology and missions. I know he has taken some heat because of his connections to the emergent church, but those connections seem to me to be circumstantial at best and I didn’t hear anything this weekend that caused me to question the man’s orthodoxy. I pray his health improves and that he continues to lead in the Southern Baptist convention.

JD Greear – Same thing as Tyler Jones, but, like others have written, I wish he would’ve stuck with his original message instead of feeling the pressure to change it all up the night before. I was challenged by the things his church has done to reach their community. I hope more church’s will follow that kind of example. Stetzer talk set the stage for the challenges to the majority of methodology in the church…more on this point in Part 4.

Eric Mason – I love that this guy pastors a church in urban Philadelphia and has hip hop artists there. His challenge was that the church, to many in our culture, is just like a white guy that says he can do hip/hop. Either the guy is a “beast at what he does” or “there is gonna be some trouble”. This is the church. We say that we can display God’s glory but more often than not, this doesn’t get any validation in the eyes of our culture. That’s a good call to all the churches that have become completely invalid to their communities and the cause of Christ. This world sees the church as invalid because of a number of things. We need to repent of this… I hope more churches will follow the example of Mason’s congregation and become a valid display of the glory of God through the proclamation of truth and the demonstration of life transforming power in Christ.

Danny Akin – Akin totally surprised me. He was thoroughly expositional (Hebrews 13) and presented a depth of thought that completely shocked me. I just thought we’d get a bunch of nice, quaint stories from this Southeastern Baptist Seminary president. I am just so encouraged and delighted that there is a guy like this as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological seminary instead of what I had in mind. Maybe the Southern Baptist Convention shouldn’t be written off just yet. Bottom line – I just love to hear the president of a Southern Baptist seminary quote John Calvin so much. Keep up the good work Dr. Akin. I also, having grown up in a Southern Baptist church, love Akin’s challenge and example to the church to stop being so homogenous. I’m sick of looking around on Sunday morning and seeing a bunch of people that look just like me. I just don’t know what to do to change that…it is going to take much thought and prayer and some Spirit guided realizations and repentance to determine what to do.

John Piper – I’ve read most of his books, including, “Let the Nations Be Glad.” I have listened to just about every sermon he has preached…So I know his material pretty well. But just as one of the guys who rode with me at the conference said – reading it and being convicted by what you read is one thing, but there is just something about experiencing the proclamation of the truth by a Spirit-filled man and the Holy Spirit energy that accompanies the event of preaching that cannot be written in a book. This was vintage Piper and he is a gift from God to the men who were at this conference. I just hope and pray that the men at this conference, including myself, will look not to the gift but to the Giver of the gift and give Him the glory for what He is doing through men like John Piper. I also pray that Piper would continue in his integrity until he drops or until Christ meets him in the air. God, for your name’s sake, don’t let him fall into sin…

In part three I’ll reflect on the greatest blessing of going to this conference – the men of Grace Bible Church that I accompanied to Advance09.

Andy Being a Christian and His Guest Week

Andy is a blog friend of mine in the UK.  For some reason, he thought it would be a good idea to include me in his guest “week”.  So I wrote up a post regarding something I’ve been convicted of in the past months and something that has helped my walk with Christ in recent years.  So visit Andy’s blog and leave a comment or two.  He’s a fairly young Christian and could use some encouragement regarding his “being a Christian”…especially with the controversy that has kicked up over there.  Your contribution would be welcomed I’m sure.

Battling Against Living in the Flesh @ Andy Being A Christian

How To Play the Man on Vacation

I’m going on vacation next week and it brought to mind this fantastic series of blogposts from CJ Mahaney regarding the husband/father and their role in family vacations.  Play the man even when on vacation (So whether you eat or drink or [go on vacation or] whatever you do… – 1 Cor. 10:31).  So go here and check out the posts and pray that God would prepare your heart for your family vacation this summer.

Here’s a great tidbit from the first point in this series of blogposts –

cj-mahaney1“Husbands are called by God to serve and lead. But we are all vulnerable to viewing the family vacation as a well-earned time away from work where we can rest and relax! But this attitude and approach to a vacation normally reveals a self-centeredness that does not please God or serve our families. Actually, God-glorifying, grace-filled, relationship-building, memory-making vacations are not supposed to be a vacation for the father. Instead of simply resting and relaxing the father has the privilege of serving, leading, planning, initiating and working.

And you will know you are serving and leading effectively on your vacation when you fall into bed at night more exhausted than at the end of the most grueling day of work. The father must enter family vacations committed to serve, lead, plan, initiate, and work, and do all this with joy. This isn’t your time to rest. Only your wife deserves to rest on vacation (because no one works harder than she does the rest of the year).

But for the husband, vacations are a unique opportunity to serve and lead and work harder in some ways than he does during the normal work week. But this kind of work is a pure joy like no other work.”

My Podcasts – The Albert Mohler Program

mohlerprogram-icon1Monday through Friday Dr. Albert Mohler spends a little over 30 minutes commenting, teaching, answering questions, and interviewing a variety of individuals on a wide array of topics on his radio show.  It is produced in Louisville, KY where Mohler lives and works as the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Mohler is a polarizing figure.  You either love him or hate him for the most part.  He has a lot of enemies, and he has a lot of followers.

I happen to enjoy Mohler’s teaching and writing.  I find it challenging and he always makes me think.  Another helpful thing I find from reading Mohler’s books and articles and listening to his podcast is that he assists me in thinking in Biblical terms regarding the most current of issues and debates.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that the man is well read and has a giant intellect.  Any person who desires to think like a Christian has to consider Mohler’s point of view.  Any person who wants to be informed about the most debated of moral issues has to consider Mohler’s words.

Mohler’s podcast comes every day so it can be difficult to stay up to date.  The podcast title for the day details the topic of discussion so you can bypass it if you want.  However, I would suggest just listening to the first segment if you don’t care to listen to the topic of discussion because in the first segment Mohler goes over the headlines and offers an excellent Christian worldview perspective on the days latest news.  On Wednesdays Mohler does an “Ask Anything” program, which is always entertaining if not informative.

Tuesday’s program was great as Mohler responded to an article in Monday’s USA Today which attacked the truth claims of scripture.  He offers a brief response to the article, but his brief response will challenge you and help you as you contend for the faith.  So today is good day to start subscribing to the program because it is “Ask Anything Wednesday“, but you should also be sure to get yesterday’s program as well.

My Podcasts – The Whitehorse Inn

In my last post I wrote about my brother’s latest sermon series and the podcast that I subscribe to which keeps me current on his latest sermons.  So I thought I’d go with that theme and post a series on the different podcasts that I subscribe to.  Feel free to comment with any suggestions you may have or podcasts that you find helpful.

White Horse INN Logo

The Whitehorse Inn is a podcast that I think is essential to any Christian with an iPod.  It’s Michael Horton (author of Christless Christianity, which I am currently reading – a book that came out of the theme for 2008’s podcasts on the Whitehorse Inn) and 3 of his colleagues sitting around chatting about theology, church culture, societal trends, and so on.  They always make the listener think and they always bring up the best points on any number of topics.  Currently, for 2009, the theme of the podcast is Christ in a Post-Christian culture.  And this is extremely relevant, just check out this article in Newsweek and see.

This past Sunday (the newest installment comes once a week on Sundays) the discussion centered around 1 Corinthians 15 and Paul’s teaching on the resurrection.  It is excellent and worth the time to listen to.  So if you have a commute to work or you workout with your iPod or have the time to listen to the podcast, it comes once a week and this would be a good week to start.

I would also recommend bookmarking the website – www.whitehorseinn.org – because they always post helpful articles and book recommendations that go along with the current podcast and you can check out the archives of past podcasts.  Enjoy.

Getting stupid to get away from God

I heard Dr. Don Carson use this quote during a recent talk he gave at Mars Hill Church.  I love it…

I have already noted in passing that everything goes wrong without God. This is true even of the good things He has given us, such as our minds. One of the good things I’ve been given is a stronger than average mind. I don’t make the observation to boast.  Human beings are given diverse gifts to serve Him in diverse ways. The problem is that a strong mind that refuses the call to serve God has its own way of going wrong. When some people flee from God they rob and kill. When others flee from God they do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex. When I fled from God I didn’t do any of those things; my way of fleeing was to get stupid. Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to achieve. God keeps them in his arsenal to pull down mulish pride, and I discovered them all. That is how I ended up doing a doctoral dissertation to prove that we make up the difference between good and evil and that we aren’t responsible for what we do. I remember now that I even taught these things to students…now that’s sin.

It was also agony. You cannot imagine what a person has to do to himself to go on believing such nonsense.  Paul said that the knowledge of God’s laws is “written on our hearts, our consciences also bearing witness.” The way natural law thinkers put this is to say that they constitute the deep structure of our minds. That means that so long as we have minds, we can’t not know them. Well, I was unusually determined not to know them, therefore, I had to destroy my mind. I resisted the temptation to believe in good with as much energy as some saints resist the temptation to neglect good. For instance, I loved my wife and children, but I was determined to regard this love as merely a subjective preference with no real and objective value. Think what this did to my very capacity to love them. After all, love is a commitment of the will to the true good of another person, and how can one’s will be committed to the true good of another person if he denies the reality of good…denies the reality of persons…denies that his commitments are in any sense in his control?

Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all of the components that have God’s image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God’s image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how many he pulls out, there’s still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out more and more, there was less and less that I could think about. But because there was less and less that I could think about, I thought I was becoming more and more focused. Because I believed things that filled me with dread, I thought I was smarter and braver than the people who didn’t believe them. I thought I saw an emptiness at the heart of the universe that was hidden from their foolish eyes. But I was the fool.

How then did God bring me back?  I came, over time, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself.  Not exactly a feeling of guilt.  Not exactly a feeling of shame…just horror…an overpowering sense that my condition was terribly wrong.  Finally it occurred to me to wonder why, if there were no difference between the wonderful and the horrible, I should feel horror.  Letting that thought through, my mental sensors blundered.  You see in order to take this sense of horror seriously [and by now I couldn’t help doing it], I had to admit that there was a difference between the wonderful and the horrible after all.

Dr. J. Budziszewski, professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.

Christianity…just another pointless therapy? (part 2)

Is Christianity just another pointless therapy? Surely the church doesn’t think so…but consider a sample of what you would hear on Sunday morning if you went to Lakewood Church in Houston, TX:

“We have a right to live in total victory. Not partial victory, to where we have a good family, we have good health, but we constantly struggle in our finances. That’s not total victory. If God did it for ya in one area, He can do it for ya in another area. Get a vision for it. Don’t get stagnant…You see, too often we just accept things; defeat, mediocrity, addictions. People tell me, ‘Joel, that’s just who I am.’ But with all due respect, that’s not who you really are. You are a child of the most high God and he has paid the price so that we may be totally free. That means free from bad habits and addictions. Free from fear and worry. Free from discouragement and depression. Free from poverty and lack. Free from low self-esteem. God wants us to be totally free. The scripture tells us to take hold of all Christ died and rose again for. It all starts right here (pointing to his head). You’ve got to know that you not only have a right to be free, but God has already empowered you with everything you need to overcome. You need to start seeing yourself the right way. You are not a sick person trying to get well. You are a well person fighting off sickness.”

Doesn’t that just make you feel good? I don’t know where Joel Osteen got that stuff from, but I can tell you where he didn’t get it from – it didn’t come from the Bible. Do you hear what he is selling? He’s selling “a God without wrath [bringing] men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.” (Neibuhr)

I have to agree with one statement that Osteen makes – God has paid the price that we may be totally free. The Bible does in fact teach that. But the Bible’s definition of “totally free” is much different than the muddled gospel message that Osteen and many others are preaching today. You need to be set free. That is for sure. But set free from what? Did Christ die on the cross so that you could be healthy and wealthy? Is this the message that Christ commands us to preach to the nations? You and I need a savior, but what do we need saving from? – bad habits and addictions? Fear and worry? Discouragement and depression? Poverty and lack? Low self-esteem? What was it that God was saving us from by sending his son to die on the cross? Did Christ come to prescribe just another pointless therapy for us? No. This brings us back to the Biblical concept of penal substitutionary atonement. In my next post we’ll break down that three word concept.

He is not safe!

This past week I heard a sermon that reminded me of this excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Mr. Beaver tells the children that he is going to take them to see Aslan and Lucy asks if Aslan is a man.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly.  “Certainly not.  I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea.  Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts?  Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King I tell you.”

How many sit in church each week thinking God is perfectly safe.  Is the God of the Bible safe?  Most people in the congregation have no idea who they supposedly are worshipping on Sunday mornings.  They treat Him just as they treat any of the other accessories in their life.  He is not their treasure.  He is not honored.  He is not revered.  He is not glorified.  He is not exalted.  He is not praised as the great redeemer.  He is only spoken of as the great enhancer to an already comfortable and cozy life.  God says many times in scripture that he demands that his name be made holy.  He will not let his name be profaned.  Read the accounts in scripture about what happens to people who tread lightly where God has warned that we should take great care and be solemnly concerned.  He curses Cain.  He strikes down the sons of Aaron.  He dethrones king Saul.  He is not safe! But he is good.  He is the King.

Staying and Leaving and Denying the Obvious

The diocese of Fort Worth, TX, recently withdrew from The Episcopal Church USA. The denomination’s office of public affairs released this statement from their liberal leader, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

The Episcopal Church grieves the departures of a number of persons from the Diocese of Fort. Worth. We remind those former Episcopalians that the door is open if they wish to return. We will work with Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth to elect new leadership and continue the work of the gospel in that part of Texas. The gospel work to which Jesus calls us demands the best efforts of faithful people from many theological and social perspectives, and The Episcopal Church will continue to welcome that diversity.

Here is what Dr. Mohler said on his radio program regarding this statement:

That is one of the most incredible demonstrations of denying the obvious I think I’ve ever seen. She is having diocese after diocese leave… you just have to assume that somehow [the leadership of the denomination has] bought into the fact that people leaving just makes them all the more right. That somehow they must be so right that people just can’t stand the truth.

Over the course of the past three years as a founding member of a church plant, I have seen many other founding families also leave (actually all of the founding families have left except for two of them).  According to the recent increase of traffic on my blog, I am guessing that people have been looking for me to post something about this…but I haven’t really known what to say about it.  I really can’t stand bloggers who use their blogs to vent about things they can’t say to people in real life.  So what I’m writing here is about me and what I have learned from this experience and how I will change because of this.  I’ve actually articulated these thoughts to real people before writing it here so this is not some kind of virtual forum for me.  That is not what “play the man” is about.


Anyways, as family after family left our church plant I did exactly what Dr. Mohler points out is happening with the leadership of the Episcopal Church (ouch!).  I denied the obvious and assumed that their leaving made me all the more right and that somehow I must be so right that these people left because they just couldn’t stand the truth.
I have been on both sides of this issue during the past three years.  I left a “purpose driven church” three years ago and others stayed – those who stayed thought that my leaving proved they were doing things right and that I was just the devil’s tool holding them back.  More recently (as a part of the church plant and NOT the ‘purpose-driven church’) I’ve been on the other side.  As I watched families leave the church plant, I believed that the leaving of these people proved we were doing things right and that they were just the devil’s little tool holding us back.
Oh sure, there are times when people leave for no good reason at all.  I know that.  And there are times when people leave for all the wrong reasons.  I really don’t like that, but I know it is true.  However, in pretty much every case during the last three years, people left because those who stayed denied the obvious and “bought into the fact that people leaving just [made] them all the more right” and “that somehow they must be so right that people just can’t stand the truth.”


I won’t do that again.  I won’t deny the obvious and I won’t treat people as if their leaving made me all the more right and I won’t think I must be so right that people who leave just can’t stand the truth.  I won’t do that again.