Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sex, Evangelism and Abraham

So often, people object to the doctrines of election by asking, So why evangelize? They distort the doctrine to some obscure level, believing a person will be saved apart from Christ simply because they are elect (ignoring that the elect will come to God through Christ alone). I listened to a caller on Stand to Reason's podcast who asked this very question. Greg Koukl used a very accurate metaphor to make a case for human instruments used in the election of God. In Acts 15, Abram is told he will have a son. However, this does not mean, since Abram is promised a son, he ceases to have sex with Sarai, since conception is in God's hands. In fact, after his sin with Hagar, Abraham is reminded the conception will come through Sarah. His action cooperates with the promises of God.

I don't believe sex is intended to be a model of evangelism, but I do think there are some similarities:
    Evangelism brings life
Romans 10 explains that though God chooses His elect before our creation, he uses our evangelism as the way to present the gospel message.
    It's wrong to make people burn
In the same way that it is wrong to incite passions in a person that you can not properly fulfill, I get terribly frustrated with churches that focus so much on what they call "pre-evangelism." How many times has a person passed on presenting the gospel because their intention was only to create interest?
    Evangelism has restrictions
The gospel is objective. The presentation is objective. Therefore, as sex is to be unconditionally tied to marriage, so evangelism is unconditionally tied to the gospel.
    Evangelism is pleasurable
A major problem with the question, Why evangelize? is that we should be asking in return Why not evangelize? When did the presentation of the gospel become drudgery or a task we have to do, rather than get to do? We should be just as delighted that God has chosen to save souls through evangelism as we are that God chooses to produce human life through sexual union.
    Evangelism can be scary
Probably the biggest objection to evangelism being pleasurable is that it is scary. But what person wasn't nervous on their wedding night? In fact, many things in life that are enjoyable are frightening or create anxiety when first tried.

Somehow, evangelism must be reclaimed. We must see that it is God's ordained way to get the message to His elect. That it is a specific message that we should always want to present. And that we should have a blast doing it.

Pictorial Riddle

What do these have in common?

Thank you, those who prayed.
[Relax, it's a good thing.]

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Jesus and Jonah

Matt did an excellent job leading us through Jonah 1 for youth group. As he was taking us through the context of the chapter, a noticed a side trail in my head (which I'm glad he didn't pursue, for it had nothing to do with the course of his lesson). A parellel passage jumped to my mind. I'll post them both and then comment:
4 The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. 5 Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten {it} for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. 6 So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps {your} god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish." 7 Each man said to his mate, "Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity {has struck} us." So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, "Tell us, now! On whose account {has} this calamity {struck} us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?" 9 He said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land." 10 Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, "How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.--Jonah 1:5-10
23 When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" 26 He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 27 The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"--Matthew 8:23-27
Jonah 1 is the kind of chapter that once you've heard it, it's hard to forget. Therefore, there is great probability that the fishermen, who have spent part of their childhood studying in a synagogue vividly remember the story. The picture of Jesus asleep during a fierce storm must have made them think of Jonah (maybe not during the situation, but certainly after).

The people with Jonah come to Jonah and ask him to call out to his God to calm the storm. After casting Jonah overboard, they also praise God, realizing He calmed the storm.

Jesus simply stands and rebukes the wind, which immediately stops. Undoubtedly, this miracle attests to the divinity of Jesus (for it even makes the disciples ponder further). However, I used to wonder why Jesus questioned their faith. Didn't they come to Him and ask Him to save them? However, looking at Mark 4:35 and Luke 8:24 seems to show us their plea was not out of faith, but out of fear. The were not calling out to Jesus because they believed Him to be God and believed He could calm the see, but because they were panicked.

Yet, Jesus does not stand and call out to God to calm the waves. It is also not necessary for Jesus to jump out of the boat (for He had not sinned and stirred up God's wrath). Rather, Jesus asserts His divinity when He Himself calls for the waves to be calmed.

Jonah, who was asleep in a boat, had angered God with His disobedience, and only God could remove the storm.

Jesus, who was asleep in a boat, was pleasing to God, and Himself calmed the storm.

A parallel that may seem insignificant to some, but jumped out to me tonight.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Help Wanted

  • Can you preach?
    (read: Can you keep us awake while you are talking?)

  • What have you read lately?
    (read: Are you up to date on the latest trends, or one of those scholar-types?)

  • Have you been convicted of any crimes?
    (read: Do we need to work around your prison's weekend release program to have you candidate?)

  • In some pastor candidating processes, this would be an exhaustive interview. (I was once offered a pastoring position over the phone, having never met a person from the church, nor conducting any kind of interview. I was simply told it was mine for the taking, or they would start calling other names on their list...almost like those vacation packages you get calls about and have to decide right then and there.)

    But a pastoral search should be a much more intensive process. Whether searching for a senior pastor or an associate position for a church, this article is a must read.

    Why the Fallout?

    I was listening to the opening session of Reform and Resurge Conference: 2006 this morning (they are podcasting the sessions!). Darrin Patrick began his message with these troubling statistics:
      1500 pastors leave the ministry each month
      50% of pastors marriages will end in divorce
      80% of pastors (84% of spouses) feel disqualified and discouraged about their role
      50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry, if they could, but they have no other way to make a living
      80% of seminary and Bible school graduates that enter the ministry will leave the ministry within 5 years
      80% of pastors' spouses feel their husband is overworked
      80% of pastors' spouses wish their husbands would find another line of work
      Majority of pastors' wives surveyed said the most destructive event in their family was the day they entered ministry
      40% pastors polled said they had an extra-marital affair since entering the ministry
      70% say the only time they study the Word is when they prepare sermons

    Just over Father's Day, my own dad and I were talking about ministry. Ministry is work, and there are no greater stakes than souls that need to hear the gospel and believers who need to live it. It is weighty, but it shouldn't crush a person. As my dad and I talked, there seemed to be a couple of reasons for this trend. All seem to fit under bad theology:
      Bad Theology of Ministry
    Somewhere we get deceived into thinking our ministry equates our relationship with God. Any casual look at the work of the false prophets will reveal that to not be the case.
      Bad Theology of Family
    I've talked to men who believe their calling to ministry trumps all other callings in their life. I don't see any Scriptural validation for that concept.
      Bad Theology of Leadership
    Accountability is avoided for pastors, believing they can not reveal themselves to be a sinner. The problem here is that it conflicts with the gospel message (that we are sinners) and ignores virtually every leader listed in Scripture, as we view their strengths and weaknesses.
      Bad Theology of Calling
    While attending Grace, it seems that many men were enrolled in the Seminary because he lost his job or was trying something new. Ministry is not to be a career choice, but a calling.
      Just plain bad theology
    Overall, I think the greatest theological misunderstanding is regarding the sovereignty of God. Too many pastors are trying to work and create results in and of themselves...thus setting themselves up for failure and frustration. We set ourselves up in pride, believing we can create life in a heart, thus setting ourselves up for a fall, discovering we can't.

    Please take a moment to pray for pastors, we certainly need it!

    Friday, June 23, 2006


    More regarding the debate of Complementarianism (men and women have different roles in ministry) and Egalitarianism (every position available to men is also available to women) and it's influence on the Anglican Church. Mark Driscoll suggests all of the confusion may be tied together. Says Driscoll:
    First the Episcopalians gave us V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the openly gay bishop who left his wife and kids to have sex with a man and later revealed that he had been a closet alcoholic for years. He was the obvious choice because he is just like Jesus with the minor exceptions of his beliefs and life.

    In an effort to continue selecting such fine leaders they have now elected the first female leader in Anglican history. The Bishop of Nevada, Katharine Jefferts Schori (notice the hyphenated last name), was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopalian church on June 18. It deserves mentioning that the practice of female priests began only thirty years ago as a result of the women’s liberation movement.

    What’s going on here? I’ll give you three scenarios to describe it...

    Got your attention? Then go read the entire article here.

    (By the way, if you are wondering about the title, it was suggested last night as a catchier title than most of my articles. Titles have never really been my thing.)

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    He's Back

    Silence for Unification?

    Going out on a major limb, I am going to try to mix a principle I see currently in politics with discussions I've seen in theology as well. (I know, I know. Horrible idea to mix politics and religion. But understand, it's more a comparison of reactions than anything else.)

    Can we just let go of this WMD thing?

    Just read an interesting radio transcript on Radioblogger.com (HT: Justin Taylor) regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Here are some quotes between Hugh Hewitt and Rick Santorum:
    RS: What we announced was that after two and a half months of being aware of this document, we were able to get a copy of the document, and convince the intelligence community to give us a declassified version of the document. It is a very short synopsis, and I would argue incomplete synopsis, but nevertheless, it's vitally important, because what it does say, and I'll quote from it, "since 2003," so since the Iraq War, "coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain mustard or sarin nerve agent."

    HH: Now the media thus far, I've seen it reported on Fox News, the website Freerepublic.com has got a number of threads running on it, but there is nothing about your announcement in the Washington Post or the New York Times as of three minutes ago. Are you surprised?

    RS: Unfortunately not. When we called the press...I will admit, we had hoped to get this document released to us earlier in the day, but we did not get it released to us until 4:30. There was a brief on it until 5:15. We had a press conference at 5:30, which as you know, is not prime time to have press conferences. But since the document was now available, declassified and available to all members, and was faxed around to several other members' offices, we thought it was important to characterize and put this in context. So we hastily called a press conference, of which...normally, I would think if you're announcing the finding of weapons of mass destruction, you'd get more than four or five reporters, but that's all we could seem to drum up.

    This appears to be that fax (again, HT: JT). Ultimately, this document and the interview with Hewitt seem to state three things:
      1. They have found weapons with nerve gas in Iraq.
      2. They believe there is more out there, that what they have found so far would have been very difficult to find with general inspections, and that terrorists would love to get their hands on any of these remaining munitions.
      3. The mainstream media and Democrats do not seem to want to acknowledge this.
    While I do not believe there has ever been a better television series ever written than "24" (yes, LOST people, I know your show exists, but "24" beats it in longevity...and don't be too confident that the writters of LOST won't botch the ending and therefore render the entire series poor...but I digress), it seems that a "24 scenario" is what most people required. They wanted us to find a bomb, with a skull and cross bones sticker attached to it, aimed at America, with less than five minutes till detonation. Anything less would become speculation. But we have found chemical weapons, and yet there is little acknowledgement. Why?

    Is it perhaps that America is now weary of the debate? Therefore, the truth is no longer the target, but rather just tranquility. Now that Americans have decided that Bush was an idiot and that WMD did not exist, it becomes devisive to now claim that they do, and that it was going to be a problem.

    I was once discussing an issue with a brother in the Lord. As we continued to disagree, he finally looked at me and said, "Look, obviously you can win this argument if you just want to look at what the Bible says. But why can't we just agree to disagree?"

    That's not unity, that's a desire for uniformity. Sometimes we will seem divisive, and sometimes we will be, but we must make sure it is the truth by which we are divided. Me, I'd rather find myself united with the truth than any other group. And no, we can not just let truth go.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    The FGBC in GGBC

    How much loyalty should one show to their denomination, er fellowship (as we call it, in the name of autonomy)? Lately, there have been some baffling moves within denomination lines:
      Episcopal Church
    There continues to be backlash from the appointment of V. Eugene Robinson, an openly gay bishop. Now the denomination is spilt over this issue when considering their next bishop. They also now have to restore relationships with African Episcopalians who are frustrated with the church's liberalism.
      Southern Baptist
    At their recent convention, within a resolution regarding alcohol, they resolve ...we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages. Within this document they also urge people to support legislation to curb alcohol use (since that worked so well before), and state they are totally opossed to the consumption of alcohol. You can read entire statement here. (By the way, you can read some of Piper's comments in a sermon given a while ago here.
    After making schizophrenic decisions regarding homosexuality and clergy, Mark Roberts has written a great article about his denominations decisions.

    So what is the denomination/fellowship role in a local church? As one who does defend autonomy, it seems that it should not be that of governing. Our desire should be to cooperate with our denomination for the futherance of the Kingdom (not just the denomination). Sometimes, fellowship organizations have contacts, support and even finances to make things possible. Individuals should support their denomination only as their denomination structures are supporting local churches. It should be important to remember that Jesus said He would build His church, not His denomination of churches.

    I feel for people in frustration with their denominations right now. They are, no doubt, wondering whether they stay to try to reform, or if it is time to leave. I don't know that there is any easy answer to those questions. But I believe the church must be diligent to make disciples of Christ, and not just followers of certain religious organizations.

    You Supply the Caption

    Champion Debate

    Perhaps I'm just bitter, but the Miami Heat's championship has me again considering "Championships Won" when factored into a player's assessment.

    The Heat is chocked full of players who have had all-star careers, but have now won a championship passed their prime. Just take a look at a couple of the players who match this assessment:
      Alonzo Mourning
    In the finals, Zo "contributed" 11 minutes per game, 4.3 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game. (Compared to career averages of 32.6 mpg, 18.3 ppg and 9.1 rpg.) Alonzo was once one of the most dominating centers in the league (with the Charlotte Hornets and before his kidney failure with the Heat). Granted, his illness probably cut some of his dominance short, but had it not, would he really be on a roster that also includes Shaq?
      Gary Payton
    Payton's finals numbers: 2.7 points a game, 2 assists a game, 1 steal a game in 22.3 minutes per game (Career averages: 16.9 ppg, 6.9 apg, 1.9 spg in 36 mpg). The decline in Payton's game is more visible, since he played more minutes than Zo did. Payton will be remember for his clutch shot in this finals, but it's important to also remember that was one of only seven shots he made the entire series. Probably more notable, is that "The Glove" was regularly abused by opposing point guards throughout this playoffs. Payton certainly has a Hall of Fame resume, but his championship came as a role player (of similar or less skill than Jason Williams).
      Antoine Walker
    Though I like his game the least of these three, he could probably make the case that this championship should be accounted into his potential Hall of Fame resume. Walker's finals numbers were closer to his career numbers (13.8/19 ppg, 5.5/8.3 rpg, 3.9/2.2 apg) though he also played closely to his career minutes per game (36.5/37.5). You could either argue that his skills have considerably diminished (which I believe they have) or that he finally fit well into a role player/third option position (which he did). At one time in his career, Walker was one of the more well-rounded players in the league. His championship, however, did not come while he brought that skill set to the team, but rather a much smaller level of dominance.

    I am not trying to claim that Miami, or these specific players do not deserve this championship (though I am still disappointed with the Stackhouse suspension and the odd foul disparity of Game 5). Miami beat some really good teams on their road to the championship, and that should not be discounted. But I am sick of the conversation where a player is considered greater than another simply because they won a championship.

    Does Payton's championship as a shell of his former self really end the debate whether he or Jason Kidd is better?

    Is Antoine Walker a step closer to Karl Malone, Charles Barkley or Kevin Garnett because he now has a ring?

    Is Zo clearly better than Patrick Ewing now that he won a championship, even if it was as a role player?

    So please don't claim a player is better simply because he has won more championships, for those rings may have come when he wasn't even playing his best ball.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Genuine or Deceived || The Convert

    Acknowledging that I am neither a good writer, nor a great theologian, I am going to delve into a topic I think is probably in over my head. However, as I have been counseled when taking oral exams (which I just received an email that I have one coming up soon), keep your words few and you'll get in less trouble. Therefore, this post will probably be startlingly short for a person of my intense rambling and a topic of this profundity.

    Genuine or Deceived: The Convert

    The person who denies the truths articulated in Scripture for the convert must not be saved, for they doubt the promises of God. (Notice again, we are talking denial. Not that a person is ignorant of a truth about the gospel convert, but that they oppose a teaching from Scripture about the nature of a convert.)

    Allow me to illustrate:
      To defend the position that a person must speak in a tongue to be saved is to deny the gospel.
    Such a person denies that the Spirit indwells all believers at conversion (Ephesians 1) and requires a work to be added to salvation. To believe, and defend, that a person can repent of sin and trust Christ as Savior, yet be denied the Holy Spirit is to deny the gospel.
      To defend an unrepentant racist position is to deny the gospel.
    Such a person denies that God offers salvation to all, is deceived into believing their sinful status is not as bad as another, and denies the nature of man being made in the image of God. Their racist attitude is a manifestation of self-righteousness that sees a certain ethnicity as worth more to God than others. Such a view, defended, can not be done in conjunction with the gospel.

    I chose to make each statements a bit more active than passive. I am not saying a person who naively thinks all believers must speak in tongues, or a person who struggles to trust a particular race, are clearly not saved. I chose to say the person defends the position when confronted with their problem (whether doctrine or practice).

    I believe this is where church discipline comes in. Why does church discipline conclude with the person being "treated as an unbeliever?" Because, when church discipline is rightly administered, a person is exposed to their doctrine or practice in light of the gospel and called upon to choose the gospel or their sin. Church discipline is not meant to be a threat, hoping to call my brother from sin by the inconvenience a frustrated church will be to him. Church discipline is meant to be a tool, a discipleship technique to call a person to examine their life. If they choose their sin over the gospel (for proper church displine should lead them to that conclusion), then I must say the person has not chosen the gospel. (What other term but "nonbeliever" can we give one who chooses not to trust the gospel?)

    I do not look at a person who sins as a nonbeliever (I John 1). I do not even look at a person caught in a sin pattern as a nonbeliever. I still can not conclude, even if a person has lost family and relationships over their sin that they must be a nonbeliever. But, if discipline has been rightly administered, and a person chooses their sin in light of the exposed denial of the gospel that their doctrine/action makes, I have no choice but to view that person as a nonbeliever. And I have to view their departure from the faith, as evidence that they never were truly in the faith (I John 2).

    They were, in fact, a false convert.

    Genuine or Deceived || The Efficiency

    Man, I have loved being at this camp this week. I've loved focussing on the gospel, doing some sermon prep for GGBC, and hanging with friends and my family (so thankful they are here!). Yet, I read the comments posted the last couple days and have wished I had been home to enter into the conversations...great thoughts!

    I should take a moment to comment as well. As I have walked through these posts, I think the false convert is found in the person who denies these truths. I agree with many of the comments (and I better, since you were agreeing with the Word!) that salvation is available to children, because our faith must be like that of a child. A child can comprehend the necessary elements of the gospel. I also am praying that thirty years from now, I will be so scared of the weakness of my faith at age 30 (right now) that I will shudder. We all have deeper to go. That's part of the joy!

    Genuine or Deceived: The Efficiency

    In light of what God has offered, how does one become saved? I believe justification by faith alone in Christ is abused in the world, as well as many in "evangelical" churches.

      In the world, "Faith in Christ is not necessary.

    In our post 9/11 society, it is practically inhumane to be exclusive about anything. But God has no other choice. Consider the grusome nature of Christ's work on the cross. Remember that just before He is kissed by His betrayer, He asks the Father if this cup could be passed. What was the answer He received? Silence. Now if ignorance or sincerity could save a person, how vindictive and unjust is God for remaining silent as His Son cried out? Persons must be saved by faith in Christ alone, or God is evil for requiring an unnecessary payment from His Son. Misconception of this concept is typically revealed in these two questions:
      What does God do with the person who never heard the name of Jesus and dies?
      Are you telling me that God will send a devout person to hell simply because they chose the wrong religion?
    Any compromise of an answer that all persons deserve hell and God's wrath can only be satisfied in the work of His Son is to walk away from orthodoxy. We must be willing to defend these truths.

      In the church, believe has been watered down.

    Some people have noticed my frequency to use the words "repent and trust" and have asked me questions about this. Where does the attachment to these two words come from. The answer: the original languages. Today, we understand believe to be an intellectual assent, or a willingness to adopt (and perhaps adapt) thought to make it agreeable. However, to believe is to actually abandon my thought or direction (repent) and to fall completely on the truth articulated in Scripture (trust). Somewher along the line, the church has highjacked the word "believe" in Scripture and in practice changed it to the word "believed." If we can get a person, in a moment of heightened emotion or mental fatigue, to be agreeable to the gospel, then they have becomed saved. Understand, a genuine believer can not lose their salvation. However, a genuine believer's salvation is evident in their persisting faith. A card signed, aisle walked, or prayer repeated means nothing in the counsel of Scripture. It is condition of the heart. Does repentance and trust reside in that heart? Then we have the genuine believer.

    For about 500 years now, the church has been familiar with the heresy of faith cooperating with works or ordinances of the church to earn salvation for a believer. However, it has become just as prevelent to find a universalism or decisional regeneration doctrine in our churches as well.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith!

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Genuine or Deceived || The Purpose

    None of these thoughts are original with me. I recently heard John Piper share about five elements of the gospel. I'm also most of the way through God is the Gospel (also by Piper), both of which factor into my speaking for this week, as well as these posts. Like most things, I would encourage you to check out Piper, as he will say it better than I can.

    Genuine or Deceived: The Motive

    While some people will acknowledge the historic validity of the cross, the meaning behind it can be just as critical. There are many different theories as to what the cross accomplished, and there are many different things that it did accomplish. However, the central purpose must be penal substitutionary atonement. (Three big words in a row for me! Read this article to see exactly what it is. Excellent, excellent article.)

    It is not nearly enough to know the facts of the crucifixion and resurrection...for the demons were eyewitnesses to the events and know these facts. Likewise, it is not enough to believe these historic elements of the crucifixion to be true, for the demons know them to be true and shudder.

    On Way of the Master Radio I noticed a surprising number of people who could be shown they are a sinner (through some work), and even realize their need for forgiveness. However, when asked why God should be able to forgive them, they had no answer. How many people know they sin (any honest self aware person should) and yet have no concept why God can forgive them? They either have a warped view of sin (thinking it is not that bad) or a warped view of God (thinking He can simply turn His head and pretend it never happened). Either one leads to a warped view of the cross (for what in the world was happening there if God's wrath could be satisfied some other way).

    While a person may not use terms like "penal substitution," "atonement," or "imputed righteousness," they must atleast have an understanding of these elements--that on the Christ their sin penalty is taken away and Christ's perfect life is credited to them.

    Again, the motive of discerning a person's understanding is not to play "doctrinal trump cards." This should never be a self righteous exercise to assess whether a person knows as much as us. However, we should be asking people the question of Why did Christ die? to search their heart in these issues. A person can believe that Christ died and rose again. They can even believe that He did it for them. But if they don't see that God's justice and mercy met on the cross, His wrath against sin paid for by His Son, and His righteousness graciously applied to our account, then they don't actually understand the gospel. We must be willing to come along side that person who talks of Jesus, and speaks of the cross, but has no understanding of its massive work, and encourage them to truly understand the gospel. Not for our sake of winning an argument, but for the sake of their soul.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    Genuine or Deceived || The Facts

    Last week, Linda asked me what I would call a person who chooses to believe in Jesus but believes there are other options out there as well. Also a week or two ago, Brad said it may be helpful if I start illustrating who I am talking about by false converts. This week, as I speak at a camp in central Ohio, I thought it would be best to allow my posts to mirror the direction of the messages...examining this slant.

    Genuine or Deceived: The Facts

    I do not believe it is possible for a person to have genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, yet to deny the facts of His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). Recently, NT Wright suggested it was possible to deny the resurrection and be a believer. However, 1 Corinthians 15:14 reminds us that without the resurrection, our faith is in vain.

    I see this standard played out in two ways:

    1. Denial of these truths.
      There are some, within the church, who will deny the nature of Christ's crucifixion or His resurrection. They believe either His death or resurrection were allegory to continue on with the teaching Jesus had already provided. They believe that we should all strive to follow Jesus' teaching, yet they ignore the essential element of His teaching...that an atoning sacrifice is needed for our sin. An examination of the Sermon on the Mount, will reveal that Jesus did not teach us we need to be better, but exposed the character of God, and how greatly we fall short. (Incidently, we should strive to please God, so there is a third purpose of the Law achieved in Matthew 5-7. But no one should miss the forest for the trees, and think that we can attain to that righteousness on our own.) By very nature, if a person denies the need for Christ to literally be an atoning sacrifice, they miss issues of their nature, the character of Christ. Too much is sacrificed by the person who sees any element of the passion week as fictional.
    2. Acquiescence of these truths.
      Trickier yet, is the person who may accept the historical nature of the gospel, but does not think it necessary for others to do so. As I said before, NT Wright, around Easter, already went on the record stating he does not believe it necessary to believe in a literal, physical resurrection. Now, "Tom" is a very, very smart man (I typically have to listen to a message of his three or four times, just to understand what he is saying), therefore I hope that I just misunderstand what he was saying. But as I will share tomorrow, I believe an understanding of why the events took place is as critical as what events took place. If one chooses to believe the events took place, but does not think others need to believe so, I must question whether they truly understand the necessity of the events.

    Why is this critical? Who appointed you to be the police of your church, deciding who is in and who isn't? you may be wondering. Well, as a shepherd, I have been called to guard the flock. Also, we must realize the concern is not for our sake, or even for the sake of drawing lines. The reason we guard is for the sake of souls. The soul of a person may be decieved, as they believe they know Christ, yet they truly don't (see Matthew 5). The souls of others in the church could be at stake as well, as they look to the church and hear people deny basic truths of the gospel, yet see a church respond as if that doesn't effect a relationship with God.

    The gospel becomes distorted as we refuse to call sheep sheep and wolves wolves.

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    A Few Observations

    Just a few observations heading into the weekend.

    1. GBC joins arms with Acts29
      I was encouraged this week to find out about Catalyst Church. Jonathan Herron is leading this work.
    2. Please keep it up Mr. Terry!
      What's finer than seeing Shaq, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and Gary Payton lose Game One? Thinking that David Stern may have to hand a championship trophy to Mark Cuban.
    3. Brokenhearted, Tired and Delighted in God.
      For the better part of a month, I've been having a discussion with a man who denies God's existence. I'm thankful for the reminder of Way of the Master Radio, that we should go to the conscience. However, I'm mentally tired from his intellectual inconsistencies, brokenhearted over his refusal to seek God, and incredibly grateful to God for His grace extended to me to remove my veil.
    4. The egalitarians are hornked.
      Over at Justin Taylor's blog, he's been getting quite a response from egalitarians regarding the Together for the Gospel statement. It's been an interesting discussion and reveals why proper hermeneutics are important.
    5. Sixty games and two up.
      Proof that some things can't be explained...my Rangers are leading their division.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Why We Must Keep Digging

    Todd Friel recently interviewed a man on Tuesday's podcast. He asked the pastor, "What do you believe the gospel is? This Reverend's answer:
    The gospel, in my judgement, and of course, this is my thinking, is that Jesus Christ, sent by God, is and is the Way of salvation for us. For you, for me, for Christians.
    He then went on to state that he does not believe the Bible to be literally accurate and trustworthy (which is certainly troubling). But consider his quote about the gospel. Should you be concerned? He says Jesus is "the Way of salvation." That means we can relax, doesn't it?

    Well, Todd didn't relax. He later asked him, "Is salvation through Christ alone for all men, or is it just for Christians?" The answer:
    Well, we who choose to be Christians are saved by our connection to and our acceptance of Christ.
    Todd, trying to get to the bottom of things, interjects, "What about the Muslim?" The reverend's response:
    I think there are other ways in which this can occur. (Todd: "So you are a universalist.) Well, I don't know about a universalist, but I certainly believe and I think it's clear that there are alternative ways to know God. (Todd: "Besides Jesus Christ?) Yes.
    Todd regularly has a habit of digging further into the answers people give. But imagine what your thoughts may be if a person, let alone a pastor, were to tell you "Jesus Christ, sent by God, is the Way of salvation." Would you keep digging.

    The reverend, was Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

    We've got to dig deeper. We can't just accept that because a person uses Christian terms, or identifies with Christ, that they must be a Christian. There's too much at stake for assumptions.

    Am I Too Heavy?

    Physically: Yes. (There, I answered it. You don't have to.)

    In my preaching: I don't know.

    When I look at my preaching lately, I don't know that there is an element of celebration and joy. Not every message needs to be laughs and giggles, but the object of preaching is a great and glorious God, isn't it?

    And here is the tension. When preaching, we should seek to present God in His glory...that should be a weighty topic. The glory of God revealed in the face of Christ (the gospel) is weighty. So how do I preach God's Word, with redemption as the primary thread, with weight? In my finitude, it seems weight often makes it hard do so with joy and celebration. But God is wonderful, and the weight of His glory should also be celebrated!

    It's quite humbling. I remember preaching as a youth intern, with very little prep and very little focus. I didn't find it necessary to present the gospel within my hermanuetic, nor to present God gloriously. Yet, I finished every sermon thinking I did a great job.

    Now, after years of training and practice, I don't think I've recently preached a message that I thought went well. I finish with an overwhelming feeling that I have not done God's glory, the text, or even its application proper justice.

    Please pray for me. As I officially moved into the Teaching Pastor position this month, I have been reminded more and more of my inadequacy. I truly feel it is a task I am not capable of, yet I am confident it is a calling I have received. Therefore, I must depend on Him to provide me the grace to accomplish that which He has called me to do. Pray I stay out of His way so that He can do it.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Unequally Yoked

    I've been having a discussion with a very intelligent (and rather cordial) atheist for a few weeks now. The discussion has taken place exclusively on his blog, with fellow atheists and skeptics ocassionally chiming in. To my surprise, I found a person who was supporting my perspective in the comment section. But when I click on the profile, I find this description of the person:
    I'm just me. One of a kind. God threw away the mold when She made me...smart move.
    Uh oh. Do we really have enough in common?

    At first you may be thinking, What's the problem? She's a theist, he's an atheist. Don't you have enough in common with her to work together to show him the holes in his logic? Well, at first it may seem so. However, I am not interested in merely getting a person to acknowledge the existence of God (the demons do that and shudder), but introducing them to God, as He describes Himself. Sure, at first we could argue toward a deity, but can find ourselves disagreeing whether this Deity created or allowed the world to evolve, and more importantly, whether His salvation is exclusive through the cross, or is universal in its effect, saving everyone.

    I can't effectively enter into a discussion with an atheist with a Muslim at my side. Why? Because though we both believe in a god, our gods don't allow for the other one to exist. They are mutually exclusive. And my desire is not to turn an atheist into a pantheist (believing deity to be in everything) but into a Biblical Theist. Therefore, I find myself saying your belief that there is not God is a lie, and belief in Allah is a lie too.

    That's why the church has to draw its line at the gospel. I don't have to agree with a person about how to practice baptism or whether the sign gifts exist today to call a person to repentance and faith in Christ. However, if I truly believe the gospel is all pervasive in every issue, I also can not partner with someone who does not believe it or denies its claims. It's not that God declared not to be unequally yoked because it softens the gospel message. He declares not to go there, because if I am truly gospel-centric, I will find it fruitless and that it does not work. If I don't find frustration in being unequally yoked (by this I am meaning any partnership, not just the typical marriage inference that is drawn from it), then it probably means I have diminished the gospel in my own life.

    More Compliments to Complementarianism

    Soon, Ligon Duncan will be blogging through the T4G Statement. But until then, he offered a continuation of Mark Dever's thoughts about egalitarianism. Some good quotes are:
    By the way, this is one reason why I think we just don't see many strongly inerrantist-egalitarians (meaning: those who hold unwaveringly to inerrancy and also to egalitarianism) in the younger generation of evangelicalism. Many if not most evangelical egalitarians today have significant qualms about inerrancy, and are embracing things like trajectory hermeneutics, etc. to justify their positions. Inerrancy or egalitarianism, one or the other, eventually wins out.

    Cultural cooption of the church's reading of the Bible, robs the church's ability to speak prophetically to the culture and to live distinctively in the culture, which in turns undermines the church's Gospel witness.

    If the egalitarian impulse wins out, the church is compromised precisely at the point where paganism is assualting the church today. For, as Peter Jones has brilliantly demonstrated, paganism wants to get rid of Christian montheism by getting rid of the Creator-creature distinction. And one way paganism likes to do that is through gender confusion. Hence, the bi-sexual shaman, the sacred feminine, goddess worship, etc. Paganism understands that one of the best ways to prepare the way for pagan polytheistic monism over against the transcendent Creator God of the Bible is to undermine that God's image in the distinctiveness of male and female, and in the picture of Christ and the church in marital role distinctions, and in the male eldership of the church. Egalitarianism is just not equipped for that fight, and in fact simply capitulates to it.
    When these men published "the statements," there was a great deal of commotion about this very topic. Many people accused them of being rude, divisive and splitting hairs. However, as these men have articulately and intelligently responded about this issue, the cries of egalitarianists seem to have grown fainter (at least in the blogosphere circles that I run in.)

    I would encourage you to read the whole blog entry.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Indulgence Justified

    Mark Driscoll just published an article about how Jesus and Jack Bauer have more in common than one may think. Mark gives a list of seven similarities he sees between Jack and Jesus. He then says this about the show:
    24 is easily the best show on television despite the many reasons it conceivably should not be. First, the show is long, lasting an hour a week. Second, the show is complicated and unless you rent the DVDs and begin in season one and work your way up through season five, the storyline really makes no sense. Third, it is just the type of kill-the-bad-guys, do-whatever-it-takes-to-defeat-evil, macho, alpha-male, action-hero kind of show that our less than manly culture would see as too violent, too intense, and too dudely.

    But the show works for the same reasons it could have failed. And it is also a great case for expository Bible teaching...
    The last sentance caught my attention, of course.

    Actually, he makes a pretty good point. If you want to see what Jack and Jesus have in common (obviously in a very diminished fashion in Jack Bauer), and what the storyline of 24 and the Biblical exposition have in common, click here.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Changing Times

    Al Mohler shares on his blog about the controversy surrounding using BC and AD instead of BCE and CE. If you weren't even familiar with the usage of BCE/CE, Mohler explains:
    Of course, B.C. refers to "Before Christ" and A.D. to Anno Domini, or "In the Year of Our Lord." The system for dating years venerable and easy to understand -- and it is increasingly considered to be politically incorrect.

    The issue, of course, is the clear and unavoidable reference to Jesus Christ in the B.C. and A.D. date reference system. After all, the system takes its structure from the assumption that the incarnation of Jesus Christ is the central event of all history. The invention of B.C.E. for "Before Common Era" and C.E. for "Common Era" is nothing more than an attempt to avoid any reference to Christ.
    I talked to a man recently who believes Jesus was a fable and therefore we should adopt the terms BCE/CE to be more accurate for history's sake. Of course, what he couldn't explain to me, if his theory were correct, is why the year numbers (which are the same in either system) revolve around a fable. Mohler similarly said:
    The nonsensical nature of this proposal comes down to this -- there is no way to get around the fact that the hinge year is assumed by tradition to be the year of Christ's birth. one can try to avoid any reference to Christ by using B.C.E. and C.E., but the numbers of the years still tell the story. If advocates of this change are really serious about avoiding all references to Christ, they will have to come up with a whole new numbering system for the years.
    The only reason for the change is to eliminate a reference to Christ. I appreciate that Mohler states this is not an assault on Christianity, but insult may be a better word.

    You can read his full blog article (including comments from the Kentucky School Board debating this issue) here.

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Conversion at the Conscience

    Apologetics are wonderful (check out Stand to Reason for some of the best stuff out there.). Apologetics are very useful for refuting refuse like the claims of DaVinci Code, the gnostic gospels or evolution. To some, evidence is helpful in considering issues of faith, but ultimately, the conversion does not lie in the head alone.

    Consider the Flood

    Because other cultures have a "flood story," the skeptic argues that the Noah account must be borrowed from others. Since people who have never heard of the Bible believe in a flood, this must prove that Moses stole the story from someone.

    To the believer, the flood stories are easily explained...everyone is a descendant of someone who got off the ark. Abraham was called out from among people who were all offspring of the family of Noah. The fact "Ark accounts" are found with people of unreached people groups proves that they have descended from the same source.

    You can go around and around with this discussion, but a presupposition can stop a person from seeing with logic. It often proves unfruitful to continue in a debate over these issues (not because you don't have a case, but because you won't be listened to). The guys at Way of the Master regularly remind listeners to go to the conscience. The flood is a great opportunity to do so. A few quick questions can get you there?
  • Are you aware why the Bible says the flood had to occur? The Bible claims it was due to sin. Have you ever sinned?
  • How could God be good and kill people in a flood?
  • The second question is actually my favorite. A person may originally react that God is not good because He would kill people in a flood. However, you think explain to people that because God is good He must respond to sin. A God who does not react to sin is actually evil. Which leads to the final question:
      Why has God not reacted yet to your sin?
    Paul reminds us that a person can not understand the things of God unless the Spirit open their eyes. You can not argue, debate or convince a person of their need for Christ apart from the Spirit removing the veil. Yet, Paul's response was that he commends himself to every man's conscience. Romans 10 also reminds us that "with the heart a person believes" (10), and that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (17).

    Our faith is based on facts, but faith is born in the heart.

    Complementarianism Central to the Gospel?

    One of the fruits from the Together for the Gospel Conference was the publication of Gospel Affirmations and Denials. This document does not come close to listing all of the possible doctrinal discussions people could have (nor does it intend to), but keeps the conversation to those things they consider most critical to the gospel message. It seems that Article XVI has brought a lot of heat:

    Article XVI

    We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the church, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.

    We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ's kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel. (emphasis mine)
    Today, Mark Dever shared about this issue on the T4G Blog. Two paragraphs which I found profound were:
    "Well then" you might say "why don't you leave this issue of complementarianism at the level of baptism or church polity? Surely you cooperate with those who disagree with you on such matters." Because, though I could be wrong, it is my best and most sober judgment that this position is effectively an undermining of--a breach in--the authority of Scripture. As Lig the paedo-baptist has often said "If there were a verse in I Timothy saying 'I do not permit an infant to be baptized . . .' we wouldn't be having this conversation about baptism! There is such a verse about women serving as teacher/elders!"

    Dear reader, you may not agree with me on this. And I don't desire to be right in my fears. But it seems to me and others (many who are younger than myself) that this issue of egalitarianism and complementarianism is increasingly acting as the watershed distinguishing those who will accomodate Scripture to culture, and those who will attempt to shape culture by Scripture. You may disagree, but this is our honest concern before God. It is no lack of charity, nor honesty. It is no desire for power or tradition for tradition's sake. It is our sober conclusion from observing the last 50 years.
    I'd encourage you to check out the entire article here.

    Witness Apparel

    Just yesterday, I received a advertisement from a Christian T-shirt company. Out of the 24 shirts featured, a couple seem to be completely original and a couple more seem to use clever word plays to get a person's attention (maybe). However, many are blatantly "borrowing from others." Looking at this advertisement, this company has borrowed design and slogan from the following:

    The Red Cross, iTunes, Sprite, DaVinci Code, Starbucks, Lost, The Chronicles of Narnia, Napoleon Dynamite, Teddy Roosevelt, Outkast, Hershey's and Yoo-hoo.

    Just a couple weeks ago, Purgatorio showed us this.

    So, what is the point? I'm not sure if these are valid reasons, but these are at least some questions I have about this practice.
      Are we trying to make God cool? Of all of his attributes, I do not remember "hip" being one of them. Is this really a quest that is barking up the wrong tree?
      Are we trying to show the world we are clever? Honestly, I don't think "wit" and "sharp thinking" when I see this. I think "plagiarism."
      Do we really think people are going to carefully read these? From twenty feet away, can anyone tell your "Sacrificed for Me" (written within a clever green circular logo) from a Starbuck's shirt? Do we really think people are going to be drawn to the shirt, scratch down the Scripture reference, go home and look it up in a Bible, and be saved?
      Are we trying to redeem society? Frustrated that Lost is a show dealing with faith, but since it is not Chrisitan media, it has not yet presented a person's need for repentance and trust in Christ, do we then seek to make a shirt, using their popularity, to maybe claim captive for Christ the television program.
      Scariest of all, are we ashamed of the gospel? Are we aware of the necessity of clear gospel proclamation, yet fearful of ridicule and rejection, so we intentionally wear a shirt that could cause conversation, but more than likely won't. (This question comes from personal experience. I remember having a "Christian knock-off" shirt. I remember times when someone noticed the shirt and began to look closely at it. Unfortunately, I remember more times than not, thinking, Please don't ask me about my shirt. The person would turn and walk away and I would sigh in relief. Yet, every morning I put that shirt on, I thought I was entering into the spiritual battle of the day as a faithful soldier.)

    Of course, maybe a person buys and wears the shirt simply because they like it.

    But if the shirt is intended to be a witnessing tool (the shirt company's motto is: "Change your shirt. Change the world."), I think it is a microcosm of our faulty modern day evangelism strategies. Is the call to evangelize (for whether evangelist or not, we've all been called to do the work) a call to make God look cool? Is it a call to make God mainstream? Is evangelism something you can trick somebody into hearing? Is evangelism a call to experience a multitude of secondary benefits?

    Or is evangelism the bold declaration of the merciful offer of a righteous God to allow us to enjoy a relationship with Him despite our sin because He has offered His Perfect Son to pay the penalty for our sin, if we will repent of our sin and trust in Him? Maybe a more Biblical shirt would say, "Repent and trust." Or better yet, we could declare that message and allow the clothing to simply cover our nakedness.