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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Grace Algebra

With apologies to my mother-in-law, I have never cared for algebra. But as I was reading McClain's Law and Grace, the following equation came to mind:

Answer in the comments.

Locution Confusion--Part 2

Anyone who reads this blog or hears me preach knows that I have yet to master the English language. I've come a long way (marrying an English education major will have that humbling effect on you), but still have a very long way to go. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone that Hebrew and Greek were quite the challenge for me. (Especially considering that Hebrew involved a 7:30am starting time.)

In my Greek grammar book Mounce would speak often of "the fog;" the hazy nature of some of the linguistic concepts. The hope was, as you continued to study, "the fog" would eventually lift. (Of course, a decade later and I'm still waiting for some clouds to ascend.)

At one particularly "cloudy" moment, I remember lamenting to the professor, "Why couldn't God have preserved the language? Why'd He have the authors record the Word in a language no one ever uses? Why didn't he just keep Koine Greek alive and used today?"

To this point, Greek had been a drudgery to me. It had been a code language the Bible was written in. I viewed my class as the development of my "secret decoder ring" all the while wishing God had just written the Bible in English and we could skip the laborious step. (Possibly the only time in my life the KJV only perspective looked attractive, for atleast then I could have pretended Peter had truly spoken in those exact terms.)

Patiently, my professor opened my eyes to see the Lord's grace that the Scriptures were recorded in ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek, and even His grace in "killing" each language. When these languages "died" they were then preserved. Once removed from common society's use, they were not subject to the same dilution, distortion, dispersion and disintegration of our current vocabulary. In a sense, by removing the language from common use, God kept it alive for all of eternity.

In English, when John Piper says he is bad, we may be confused as to what he means.

But in Greek, when John Piper affirms "hamartolos," we can know exactly what he means.

At this point I began to realize, those words (or languages) we consider to be obsolete may be a blessing, not a curse.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Locution Confusion--Part 1

John Piper is bad!

Imagine removing this statement from all context and eliminating tone. Extract from all surrounding indications, and try to figure out its meaning. For argument's sake, imagine seeing John Piper is bad! scribbled on a bathroom stall. What would the reader be subject to conclude?
    1. John Piper is deficient. He is not good at what he does.
    2. John Piper is below average. He may be able to complete his task, but in a bare level, understated way.
    3. John Piper is sick or ailing.
    4. Ironically, the least likely answer would probably be that he is morally depraved.

Things get even foggier. Tell the person that John Piper made the statement (or wrote the sentance on the stall) or even allow them to watch the small video (linked above) and they will come to yet another conclusion. In fact, not only will they come up with another explanation, they will come to a completely opposite perspective:
    5. John Piper is good, even possessing a superior edge.
Overtime, words often pick up new meanings or inflection. Over a great period of time (or unusual cultural shift), words may even take on contrary definitions. This can make language increasingly difficult, especially when one considers that words are being invented (and becoming obsolete) at the same time.

For the church, this has thrust a new word into our regular vocabulary:


I'm not going to debate fully the issue of contextualization (so step away from the keyboard if you were going to type, "Hey, we all contextualize, you hoser!" I don't want to deal with every nuance of "contextualization." However, I do hope to tackle two similar questions:

Is it bad if we have some unique words you will only hear in church?
Should we do all we can to replace them or change them?

[I should also point out that this video can answer what Piper meant, if you still are not sure. I also point out that Piper has an amazing book sale going on now through Thursday.]

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blogging Pastors

Local pastor Greg Hyre, of Castine Church of the Brethren was quoted recently on the Dunker Journal.

Local pastor and author, Darby Livingston, has a blog on "all things marriage from a Christian Hedonist, gospel-centered perspective" at profoundmystery.blogspot.com.

Mark Dever and friends have opened a blog at Church Matters. A recent post stated:
Have you ever thought how long you will stay committed to your church? American society is very transitory. Often people leave their church to move to another part of the country because they’ve accepted a better paying job. They are moving up on the corporate ladder, buying a bigger house, and enjoying life with more disposable income.

Here’s a novel idea: Why not turn down a job promotion in order to stay committed to your local church? That is, make your church more of a priority than your career.
Of course, the post was not only speaking to laypeople, but went on to state:
Now you might think I’m just talking about laypeople, but I’m also thinking about pastors here. Researchers say that on average, pastors stay at churches for only 3.5 years. Too many pastors are eager to “move up” to bigger churches with bigger sanctuaries, bigger salaries, more staff, and more ministries.

There is only so much you can do if you stick around for just a few years. In contrast, when you stay in a local church for a lifetime, you can think, plan, and act with a long-term vision. You can build relationships over the long haul. You can commit to transforming one community for a lifetime. A long-term vision with a long-term commitment can make a tremendous difference.
These guys show blogging doesn't have to be the bane of our ministry. Perhaps, I can too???

The Joy of Joshua

This last Sunday, I preached my final message from the Book of Joshua. It was "bitter-sweet" as I don't believe I have enjoyed preaching through a book as much as Joshua. The final breakdown of the Book of Joshua (for LIFEGroups) was:
    27 sermons
    24 chapters
    658 verses
    129 cross references
    within 31 books of the Bible
I didn't just enjoy preaching through Joshua. I didn't just enjoy the content of Joshua, or the lessons available. I truly LOVE the book of Joshua now. I completed this book with a greater affection than any other book I've ever preached through. As I tried to think about why, I came to a couple conclusions:
    1. I've spent most of my ministry life not preaching through a book. Ironically, I did more expository work in Sunday School classes than from the pulpit. For years, Ecclesiastes was my absolute favorite book. Looking back, that's probably because it was the only book I walked through with my students the first five years or so in ministry.
    2. When I did preach through a book, it was with students, rather than many generations. Nearly five years ago, I finally caught on and started working through books of the Bible. I've preached through Judges, Galatians and half of Luke. Of course, this directly correlates to when students' lives started becoming sanctified. It was wonderful, however, it is limited when your teaching is to only one generation than seeing the application and relevancy of the text to all generations.
    3. When I became an expository pulpit preacher, I was team teaching. I kind of eased into expository teaching by having a "co-teaching" opportunity with Daniel Pierce. I had the privilege of preaching through 1 & 2 Samuel and Acts with Daniel. It was a joy to tackle books of the Bible as a team, but it also meant there were exciting passages in each book that I didn't preach.

Though preaching through Joshua was different than the above three experiences, I don't think that is the major reason for my affection. The greatest difference by far was done to me. Today, I am not the same guy who first started digging into the book of Joshua...and Joshua has played a large part in that transformation.

Our evening classes begin with a corporate time of singing and sharing. I asked people to share their favorite book of the Bible and to share why. From several, the answer came out, "the book I've been studying most recently."

I trust that will be the case. (I know just from studying Romans 1:1-3 with our elders has caused a sermon on that text to burn within me.) Someone shared that 1 John is their favoite book because, "pretty much every issue regarding salvation can be answered in that book." He's probably right. And I imagine that at this time next summer, 1 John will be my favoite book too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Are You Kidding Me?

This report is just ridiculous.

A woman priest is now Muslim AND Christian.

Sadly, her overseer "the Rt. Reverend Vincent Warner of Seattle, says that Rev. Redding's declaration that she is both a Christian and a Muslim to be exciting in terms of interfaith understanding."

What would lead to this kind of perspective? I don't think it's surprising that Rev. Redding said:
I don't think God said, "Let me send this special person so that I can kill him for the benefit of the rest of humanity." That's not the kind of sacrifice I think that God desires.
Once you've constructed the cross without penal substitutionary atonement, I guess a Muslim/Christian mix isn't that crazy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Homosexuality and Genetics

I completely agree with Al Mohler's perspective on "the Gay Gene." Though the "evidence" is shaky, the Christian should not be rattled if they discovered a genetic influence toward homosexuality. Mohler reminds us:
Conservative Christians believe that homosexual behavior is sinful, not because of scientific evidence or the absence of a biological basis, but because the Bible is so clear in its condemnation of all homosexual acts, and even of homosexual desire (Romans 1: 27). The Rice and Ebers study does reveal the weakness of the biological argument put forward by homosexual activists, but evangelicals must be cautious in denying the possibility of any biological factors related to homosexuality...

...The doctrine of total depravity reminds us that no part of ourselves is free from sin and its injury. That certainly includes our genetic code as well. As the church father Ambrose of Milan (340-397) stated, "Before we are born we are infected with the contagion, and before we see the light of day we experience the injury of our origin." In the end, the scientific evidence is not morally important, though it may be medically useful.

That said, our brother at Dunkard Journal has been keeping readers updated on the mess that is the Unofficial Brethren Position Paper of the Church of the Brethren Standing Committee. In a recent article, he quotes a medical doctor's article in the "Messenger." In the quote, the doctor states:
Social Psychology has not been able to find any evidence that homosexuality is inborn or hereditary. If it was hereditary, it would follow family patterns and family history and would not vary over time. There is no evidence that people have any inborn gender preference.

This got me to thinking (and may have been a point from the medical doctor, unfortunately, his article is not linked)...

If homosexuality is genetic, then it is passed down hereditarily. If it is passed down hereditarily, then a person with the homosexual gene must be engaged in a heterosexual relationship. Therefore, shouldn't the incidences of homosexuality decrease over generations as those with the gene do not produce offspring?

Perhaps, one could argue that our world's narrow-minded view of homosexuality has caused those with the gene to procreate with heterosexuals, thus continuing the gene. However, in our age of "tolerance," wouldn't more people with the gene indulge their impulse and enter into a homosexual relationship, thus eliminating their ability to procreate...thus eventually eliminating the gene?

Again, IF homosexuality had any genetic influence, the Christian should not panic or find his position shaken. The Word of God has spoken. But, IF homosexuality is genetic, shouldn't that mean it is headed for extinction?

Click, Read, Pray, Study, Comment

That's your assignment.

Matt Harmon, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace Seminary recently posted:

Getting to Christ from Genesis 16. Matt preached on Genesis 16 at his in-laws church and would like to hear feedback about the text.

This should be what every believer loves to do! Click the article, read it, pray for wisdom, search the Scriptures and then comment on his blog!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

.com Generation

As my daughter was playing in a tree house with my son tonight, she pretended they were making monkey food.

She then asked me if I wanted to buy some from her. When I said yes, she told me:

"You can buy it at www.monkeyfood.com."

That's right, my four year old is already considering starting a dotcom.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Redeeming Downtime

My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word

--Psalm 119:145

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

the Wisdom that Leads to Salvation

and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.--2 Timothy 3:15

Recently, a couple entered my office wanting to be baptized. In our church, such a request requires a detailed interview to make sure they understand the gospel and the purposes for baptism. As they shared, they understood the work of Christ, but struggled with its application. Neither could be sure of their salvation, since each were mixing works with Christ's substitution. I'd reply with the gospel and then ask some questions. Works. I'd reply with the gospel and ask some questions. Works. We repeated this pattern a couple of times...then the dreaded question.

So, when can we get baptized?

Oi Vey!

Here's the rub. This couple was interested. They've been attending services, classes and devouring resources. They're a sweet couple and have even sought to eliminate some bad habits. They're in my office asking to be baptized, for Pete's sake! It would have taken minimal effort to get them to pray a prayer. I could have tweaked their statements and coached them through a more accurate answer. (Uh, but we all know that wouldn't have been right, right?)

Sadly, I'm not sure what I would have done last year. I've shared the gospel and there is no response. I may have caved and tried to justify they "just couldn't articulate what they really believe" and proceeded to baptize. I may have assumed that if they haven't understood it by now they probably won't and given up. I may have asked them to come back in a week and see if repeating the process would have a different result.

I praise God that I receieved some NANC training from Steve Short. In a nutshell, you're encouraged to give hope and let the Bible do its work. So, I encouraged them that God is quite possibly drawing them to Himself, and asked them if we could meet again. I also gave them some "homework." I asked them to read John 3. I tried to share gently that I didn't think they were ready to be baptized yet, but I believe John 3 could clear things up.

Here's the Kicker...

I had an opportunity to meet with the couple again. They shared verses from John 3 they found significant. As they shared (and explained the texts), I started to wonder, "has the light come on?" I asked them to explain the gospel and they nailed it! There was not a touch of "works" in their answer, and they had assurance of their salvation. With zero coaching, they had gone from darkness into light.

Do you know what I did? Nothing.

They didn't "get saved" in my office. I didn't "win them to the Lord." I simply asked them to read the most relevant thing they could get their hands on. Prayerfully, they'll never set it down.

to the praise of the glory of His grace!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Separated at Birth?

I'm not an fan of either...but as the night got later on an already long week, I started to wonder?

Sasha Pavlovic

Wentworth Miller

Ageless Gospel

Our elder team is beginning to walk through Romans. (Hopefully, going through chapters 6 & 7 will help me get my hands around the sanctification issue a little better). This quote came from McClain's Commentary:
Paul, on the first mention of the gospel of God in that book of Romans, hastens to add that this gospel is no novelty. It is as old as the universe, "promised before," long before the apostle sat down to explain it. Paul demonstrates this to be a fact throughout the Roman epistle by quoting constantly from the Old Testament, sixty-one times altogether...Besides these sixty-one quotations, the book is full of indirect allusions to Old Testament history, type, and doctrine. Truly the gospel of God was "promised afore in the Holy Scriptures"! Only eyes closed by willful blindness could fail to see this.--p37
Our church finishes the book of Joshua next Sunday. It has been a remarkable blessing to see the gospel in each account in this Old Testament book. I hope our people have seen that this book is about Yeshua, just not the one who immediately succeeded Moses.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Can't I Do Anything Right?

In my previous post, I stated: If we want to lift Jesus high by exalting the glory of grace, then we must not be afraid to plunge to the depths of our depravity. My point being that grace is diminished if I fail to see the severity of my depravity. I used a John Piper quote, explaining depravity as our undervaluing God to what He is worth. If I follow his definition (which I do), then I realize I sin regularly. The idea of a believer going a day without sin is impossible. (I'd say laughable, except such a concept is tragic.)

In that post, I even state that our righteous works are like filthy rags.

Does this mean the believer is incapable of good works?

Before we answer that question, let's ask a few more.

Who requires good works?

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."--1 Peter 1:14-16

Who established our good works beforehand?

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.--Ephesians 2:10

Who began, continues and will complete the good work?

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.--Philippians 1:6

Who should get credit for our works?

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.--Matthew 5:16

Who is really at work when we do good?

For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.--Colossians 1:29.

Now, before we look at another text, let's consider an illustration.

Hal the pizza chef.

Hal doesn't make just any pizza, he makes the best pizza. Hal uses Lou's oven, Lou's tools, Lou's recipe, Lou's ingredients and Lou's facility. Should we really credit Hal for the pizza?

Consider finding Hal standing at the corner of Schaumburg and Roselle, just after his shift has ended. You ask Hal to make you a pizza. He may know the ingredients necessary, and be able to obtain them at a store. He may know the proper oven settings and could take you back to his house to prepare it. He may be able to make you something just like a Lou Malnati's pizza, but he can't actually make one of Lou's pies.

Not sure? Check your visa bill. Your transaction was not received by Hal, but rather by Lou Malnati. Just imagine that while on the job, Hal makes the perfect creation. The cheese (both layers) are perfectly cooked. The pepperoni is perfectly placed. Even the sauce is to a ideal proportion. Hal may be staring down at the perfect pie, yet he must ring the bell and call out, "Order up!" Hal cannot set that pie aside and prepare another for the customer. It is not his, it is Lou's, soon to become a specific customer's.

Delicious illustration, but does the Word of God say anything? Consider:
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.--John 17:17
Sanctify--2nd Person/Singular/Aorist/Imperative. Jesus calls upon God to do the sanctifying work. It is His Father's task to accomplish.

Them--Pronoun/Personal/Plural. Jesus has a specific recipient in mind. He is calling upon the Father to sanctify His disciples. Christ has trained them, lived with them and discipled them. Yet He places them in the Father's hands to do His sanctifying work.

Word--Noun/Nominative/Singular. Jesus states that God will use a change agent in the process. He calls upon God to sanctify His disciples by the Word of God (truth).

Notice: The disciple does not sanctify himself.
Notice: The Word does not sanctify.

God sanctifies the disciple through the Word of God.

One man may claim, See, I pick up the Book and read it to be sanctified. But we cannot produce our own sanctification. An atheist can pick up the Scriptures daily, parsing the greek and researching the context, yet it does not produce a fruit to righteousness.

Yet another man will protest, But if God is the One who is doing the work, why bother reading my Bible? But God has decreed that He will sanctify through His Word. If we do not pick up the Book, by what right can we ask for His sanctification?

And so we return:
Does this mean the believer is incapable of good works?

By myself? Absolutely. In my own power? Without a doubt. Responsible for the results? Then I don't stand a chance.

I don't own my good works. I do not supply my good works. I can't accomplish my good works. I'm not responsible for the result of good works. And I wouldn't want it any other way. For His name is then attached to the product, not mine.
Cultural Reference Warning:
(Albeit, Christian culture)

I'm so thankful
That I'm incapable
Of doing any good on my own!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How Deep is Your Grace?

Just the other day, in the midst of a sermon about grace, I heard a pastor speaking on sanctifying grace. In the midst of his point, he made the following statement:
Dear friends, I don't know if you've come to understand the fact that this room is filled with sinners. A bunch of saved sinners, but we still fail. We still fail the Lord often. I don't say everyday, because I don't believe every Christian fails the Lord everyday...thats' an irrelevent statement...assessment to begin with.
It was an interesting statement for me to hear, since I had just heard a message on the nature of our depravity. In that message, John Piper states:
The reason people are not stunned by the grace of God and their own salvation is because they have never felt how inveterately sinful they are everyday because they have not been taught well what sin is. They've grown up in Christian homes, they've never committed adultery. They've never stolen anything, they've never killed anybody. They're scratching their head, saying, "When have I sinned last? I can't remember when I sinned last."

We've all been there. We've all been there. Everybody says, "Let's have a five or ten minute time here of confession." And you're thinking, "Uh, let's see..."

Listen, if you catch on to what I've said...3 seconds ago you were sinning. Did you love Him, did you prefer Him in proportion to His worth? His infinite worth?
Here's the thing. Piper's message was on "The Nature of our Depravity" and it was gloriously grace filled and Christ exalting. The first message I quoted was intended to be all about grace, yet by stating that sin may not happen daily (or atleast that the discussion is irrellevent) I believe he missed some of the glory of sanctifying grace. When we see our sin simply as actions we do (or thoughts we have), it is possible to think there are moments we need grace and moments we don't.

If we want to lift Jesus high by exalting the glory of grace, then we must not be afraid to plunge to the depths of our depravity.
Oh what a wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!--Romans 7:24-25

[Post has been modified. In good integrity, I do not wish to secretly "correct" a post. If you would like more information, there is an explanation in the comment section.]

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I've been listening to the messages from the New Attitude Conference last week (free audio here). Piper spoke "Discern What Pleases God: Himself."


The function of a microscope is to make small things look bigger. We zoom into them so that we can see greater detail, the things our naked eye can't observe.

While most believers understand that we should glorify God in all we do, some struggle with the concept that God created us for His glory. Though they believe God is self-sufficient (the I AM), they also believe we actually create a needed function for Him. He needed to make us to show His wisdom, to increase His glory, or most popular... to exercise His love. However, He already shared perfect love within the Trinity. We are told we are created for His glory, but this does not mean we increase or provide glory...it simply means we glorify Him.


The function of telescopes is to make gigantic things that are distant look bigger. We zoom into them so that we can see greater detail, the things our naked eye can't observe.

God is glorious. Our function is to present that glory to the world as well. We do not make Him more glorious, we reveal His glory to a dying world.
We don't make God look good.

I've used the phrase too. It's quick. It's memorable. It borrows after different marketing slogans.

But it's also sloppy. We need to be careful of what people understand by "make" and can't assume they conceive the difference between telescopes and microscopes. A microscope makes the image larger than the object. A telescope, though it makes the image larger than it once appeared, the image is still considerably smaller than the object. Any glory God receives through us is considerably diminished from His actual glory.

In our "man-centered" culture (especially within the church) it is critical that we present our ministries and our people as telescopes, not microscopes.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It Doesn't Suit Me...

While some may like to dress up, and can't understand why I prefer a dress down approach, allow me to present Exhibit A.

Though the picture may deceive, I could not have been more thrilled for Matt and Naomi. It was a great privilege to participate in their wedding.

So what could cause such a nasty face?

It's gotta be the suit, right?