Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't Shoot Me - Part 2

You can see Part 1 of this post here.


I don't really want to work back and forth defending my Arminianism vs. someone else's Calvinism. Rarely are minds changed. Again, this is the problem - we spend too much time on this vs. fighting the fight of faith together. But I do want to highlight some of my thoughts as I worked my way through Piper's Message How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels. I think this will help others determine if Arminians/Wesleyans are close to promoting a "false" gospel.

We don’t usually think about Arminianism as a threat to the atonement. It usually comes in at the point of the accomplishment of the gospel and the offer of the gospel, not the point of the plan of the events of the gospel. But here we see that there is an intrinsic incompatibility between the basic Arminian presupposition and the gospel as including a set of planned sins against the Son of God. That presupposition is that for humans to be morally accountable agents they must have the ultimate power of self-determination at all those points where they are found blameworthy or praiseworthy.

That presupposition pushes people away from believing that God has the right and power in righteousness and wisdom to infallibly plan the death of his Son through the sinful acts of morally accountable men...
I'm not exactly sure how the fact that we have a choice to choose or reject Christ means that for some reason we can't accept that God used "sinful acts of morally accountable men" to crucify His son. I don't have a problem with God orchestrating the cross and using sinful men to do this. Maybe I'm just missing something.

The death and resurrection of Christ really accomplished these things decisively and once for all.

The right title of this teaching would be successful atonement or definitive atonement or triumphantly effective atonement.

Problem: 1 John 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

Solution: John 11:51-52, "He prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."



I must say, I like the idea of Definitive Atonement much better than Limited Atonement. Limited Atonement says to me that Jesus only died for some. But the scripture is clear that he died for all. Piper says as much in this message:
We say yes, that is true in the sense that you mean it: What Christ did is proclaimed to all and offered to all. Absolutely, without distinction. And any who believe will be saved by this accomplishment. Christ died for all in the sense that all who believe may be saved and the salvation is offered freely to all.
See the "Problem" passage above. To me that passage pretty much ends all discussion on "Limited Atonement." I'm not so sure that Piper's "Solution" passage really answers his "Problem" passage. I think "whole world" in 1 John 2 does not mean "all kinds of the children of God scattered abroad." He could have said as much. I think it means what it says - Jesus is the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice, for the whole world. Not just believers. And I think that really is a problem for those holding to a limited atonement.

The point Piper wishes to make is that Jesus atonement was effective. It wasn't just an offer of redemption. It was redemption.
...3. The atonement accomplishes potential salvation for all but accomplishes definitive salvation for none. This is typical Arminian teaching. It diminishes the glory of the cross and encourages people to take into their own hands what belongs to the work of the cross, namely the purchase of their own rescue from unbelief. God is allowed to rescue them from the guilt of sin by the cross, but not from the bondage of unbelief by the cross. The cross does not obtain or accomplish that. I must provide the decisive impetus for overcoming my unbelief, the cross did not accomplish that. In that way part of the gospel is undone.
Jesus death secured redemption for all who will believe in Him. Isn't this definitive? I believe Jesus did purchase my rescue, but he doesn't force me to faith. How does Jesus' passion force my belief? And since when is that a core component to the gospel?

Distortions and Denials of the Gospel as an Application

1. Arminianism

Arminianism (Wesleyanism) teaches that God helps all people overcome their deadness of soul and leaves to the decisive will of man whether to follow that grace and trust Christ and as a consequence be born again. In other words regeneration does not cause faith; faith, in an act of ultimate self-termination, chooses to agree with God’s grace and believe and thus be born again.

How serious is this? Must one believe that faith is decisively caused by God through regeneration? Or can one be saved believing that faith causes regeneration?

I don't think that Arminians - at least the ones I know - believe that faith causes regeneration. Regeneration is the work of God's Spirit. We believe this work follows the cry of faith, but in no way does faith change the heart. God does that.

I think this probably is a key issue, but again we are trying to look at things from God's perspective. My Calvinist friend believes Regeneration-Repentance-Faith. I believe the Bible teaches Repentance-Faith-Regeneration. Only God knows for sure. I don't believe that because you teach one or the other of these progressions that you are promoting a "false" gospel.

The issue comes down to this: Is the heart relationship to God one of utter reliance on God’s grace in Spirit-wrought humility, such that God gets the glory for all of my salvation, both accomplishment and application?

Can the heart be truly humble and reliant in this way while the mind espouses a theology that claims that the human will is taking credit for what the humble heart is really depending on God to provide?

Answer: There are those who totally rely on God in their heart but who fail to see with their minds that total reliance on God includes reliance on God for their reliance on God. Their hearts are better than their heads. They humility echoes the truth while their theology is out of sync with it. God is willing to look at their heart for the truth.

Here is the humility of John Piper. Instead of condemning all Arminians as heretics as some Calvinists would, he reminds us all that God looks at the heart for truth. This is one of the reasons why I like Piper so much. But I'll also remind you that God does the same (looks at the heart even if their theology is out of sync) for the Calvinist.

There are more and less virulent forms of articulated non-reliance on God for the gift of faith.

Pelagianism says that our will is free to will our faith and not so enslaved that we need any divine assistance to do so.

If I remember correctly, Pelagianism doesn't believe that man is born in sin. It truly is heresy, but the Calvinist likes to promote heresy by identification here.

Arminianism in its popular form (most of evangelicalism) says we are unable without divine assistance to believe, because we are dead in trespasses and sins, but God gives assistance to all, making it possible for us to believe but not bringing us to believe. That is left for our decisive determination. At that point we are ultimately self-determining.

Pelagianism has historically been regarded as such a virulent form of self-reliance and such a virulent assault on grace that it is considered heresy in the sense that to truly hold it damns. That is, it stretches charitable judgment to the breaking point if one attempts to say that the heart is truly reliant on God in salvation when the mind is saying that there is no need of divine grace in the use of the will to believe.

Arminianism/Wesleyanism recognizes more truth about our sinful and helpless condition apart from grace, and gives more credit to grace, but stumbles intellectually over the implications of sovereign grace. It cannot bring itself to embrace the apparent implications of faith as a gift of God, namely, unconditional election. It appears to them unjust and unloving. Historically charitable view of a good heart behind this mistaken theology have been encouraged.

I'm not sure about the phrase "stumbles intellectually." Something I have noticed about many of my Calvinist Friends - they are brilliant. I mean that. They are incredibly bright, smart and gifted. But if these truths about sovereign grace - as they define them - are so obvious, why is most of the evangelical world Arminian? Would not the Spirit make these things known to more of the church? Just thinking out loud here. I'm sure there is a flaw in my reasoning, but it has often troubled me that it's only the "gifted" ones who seem to "get" this system.

Unconditional Election to me does appear as unjust and unloving, but more importantly it appears to be un-biblical. Again, I don't think this is a core component to the gospel.

I am appreciative of the "charitable view" of a good heart and I hope that Arminians will extend the same to their Calvinist Brethren.

This is where it gets tough...

But how should we regard these errors in relationship to the teaching office of the church and other institutions?

Here’s my rule of thumb: the more responsible a person is to shape the thoughts of others about God, the less Arminianism should be tolerated. Therefore church members should not be excommunicated for this view but elders and pastors and seminary and college teachers should be expected to hold the more fully biblical view of grace.

Do you separate from a denomination that allows pastors and seminary teachers to believe and teach this error? You can. We do. Oh, how we need discernment concerning how helpful you might be to the cause of Christ and his truth.

What exactly is this error. Is this a misunderstanding of a non-fundamental issue. Or is this preaching and teaching a false gospel? I hope my Calvinist friends see it as the former. To say that Arminians are teaching a false gospel is to fight your family. Please cease the friendly fire.

I heartily agree with the end of Piper's message. And I want to say that I believe that an Arminian can be a Christian Hedonist too!

Here anything can be a denial of the gospel if you put anything as the treasure that Christ died to bring you above God himself. Christ died to give you Christ, ultimately.

Not ultimately prosperity, health, wealth, self-esteem, family, successful church, reunion with deceased loved ones, lawful behavior, forgiveness of sins, removal of wrath, removal of guilt, escape from hell or anything else.

He died so that you might see and be everlastingly and increasingly satisfied in all that God is for us in Christ.

This is where we must take people. Anything short of this goal is falling short of the gospel, and the reason Christ died and rose again.

My disclaimer: I am not one of the brilliant, gifted ones. No false humility here, my gifts and desires are of a much more practical nature. But if you are interested in further understanding the modern Arminian position by some brilliant, gifted men, you will want to read after people like Robert Picirilli, F. Leroy Forlines and Matthew J. Pinson. You can check out the "Further Reading" Section on Arminianism from Wikipedia.

Don't Shoot Me - I'm On Your Side.

Friendly Fire.

That's what I would call John Piper's Message, How Do I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels.

Let me start by saying that I am amazed by John Piper and his teaching. I enjoy reading his works and his sermons. He has made an impact upon my life that is probably greater than any other "high profile" minister. I also truly believe that he is the most humble Calvinist that I have ever read or heard. I would hold him in the line of Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Finney, & Moody. Some would probably even call me a "fan." I hope that I am not a fan, but someone who appreciates a person who is wholly given to Christ and to His Kingdom.

And maybe that is why I am so troubled. As I was reading How Do I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels, I couldn't help but feel as though my military comrade in the Lord's Army was turning his weapon on me. I think I am probably being over sensitive, so please understand this, but it has frustrated me that instead of fighting the enemy sometimes we fight each other.

From my devotions yesterday I read this:

Mark 9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

I feel that maybe I am not following in Piper's stance on Election and Limited (Definitive) Atonement, but I am following Christ. I am not against Piper and I feel that I am absolutely for Christ. So it is somewhat "offensive" when it appears that Piper is on the border of calling Arminians/Wesleyans proclaimers of a false gospel.

Why instead aren't we fighting together against people who truly are against the gospel.

  • I believe in the Virgin Birth.
  • I believe in inerrancy.
  • I believe in the substitutionary atonement (Specifically the Satisfaction view of atonement explored by F. Leroy Forlines)
  • I believe in the Physical and Literal Resurrection of Christ.
  • I believe in the Physical and Literal Return of Christ.
  • I even believe in Hell.
Why would the Reformers be turning their weapons on us, when we are on their team? I have a hard time processing this. There are plenty of people who claim Christianity, but don't hold to some or all of the above truths. Maybe we should spend our time on them?

I don't want to waste a lot of time responding to Calvinists. I feel that I've already wasted too much of my life waging this discussion when we could be working (and already often do work) together for the Kingdom.

I would count men like John Piper to be my comrade and even more, my brother. I hope that he would feel the same. I will continue to read and learn from Piper and I don't think this will hinder my feeling toward him and his ministry. I just hope that someday he may see some of these things a little differently.

In another post, I will respond to some of the statements Piper has made in this message. For now I'll leave you with two quotes from Spurgeon about working with the non-Calvinist...

It is reported that Mr. Whitefield was one day asked by a partisan, "Do you think that we, when we get to heaven, shall see John Wesley there?" "No," said George Whitefield, "I do not think we shall."

The questioner was very delighted with that answer, but Mr. Whitefield added, "I believe that Mr. John Wesley will have a place so near the throne of God, and that such poor creatures as you and I will be so far off, as to be hardly able to see him."

As I read such remarks, I have said to myself, "By this I know that he must be a Christian," for I saw that he loved his brother Wesley even while he so earnestly differed from him on certain points of doctrine.

--Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) _Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit_, Volume 51 [1905]


From the Spurgeon Archive - A Defense of Calvinism.

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one "of whom the world was not worthy." I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

Ordinary Work

Do any of you take a sabbath rest?

I was really convicted when I read the Desiring God Minister's Accountability Survey. I've heard Rob Bell takes a day of rest. I've heard some of my friend's state that they have a "day off" each week. Then lo and behold, my reading yesterday is dealing with Sabbath.

I've not really made a habit of taking a day off, but I do take days off from time to time. I try to let Fridays be "fun days" - basically on those days I try to spend time doing the things I really enjoy - so maybe that is my Sabbath. But often I end up doing other things as well. To be honest, it's hard to distinguish my "days off" from my "days on." I try to do what I love to do as often as I can. I love to play music. I love to read God's word. I love to work with computers and websites and blogs. I love to read blogs. I love to be part of Bible Studies. I love to help people. I love to be with my kids and my wife. I try to enjoy all of these things as much as I can. I guess you could say that I actually enjoy my job!

In my reading it speaks of not doing ordinary work on the Sabbath that is connected with Passover.
Leviticus 23:7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 8 But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.
So what exactly does a modern day Sabbath rest look like? If you don't do ordinary work on your Sabbath does that mean you only do extraordinary work on it? Does it mean that you spend time resting on that day? Is it a day where you just do the hobbies you enjoy? Is it a day of worship and reflection?

Here are a few links you might be interested in...
I'd love to hear your take on this conversation.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Friday is for Photos - Anybody Heading North?

Anybody Heading North?
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


I missed a good opportunity for a "field of geese" shot this past week, but I did have one from a couple years back at the Salem Reservoir. I think the geese may be a little confused, last week we were in the middle of ice and snow and tomorrow is supposed to be close to 60 degrees.

My favorite thing about this shot is the lighting. I'm still not sure how it happened, but for me it makes this photo. Maybe if it snows again I'll still get a chance for my "field of geese" shot.

Accountability Survey

I found this accountability survey thanks to the Desiring God Blog. It is meant for pastors, but I think much of it can and should apply to all believers.

Here's the survey...
1. How are you doing in the following areas?
Your consistency in satisfying personal devotions.
Your battling against ungodlythoughts (unbelief, bitterness, resentment, lust, pride, jealousy,covetousness, racism, etc.)
Your energy for the week ahead.
Your feelings of effectiveness in your pastoral role.
2. Weekly R&R modules* invested:
3. Did you work on the Fighter Verse early in the week?
4. Did you take a day off this past week (three consecutive R&R modules*)?
(If no, how to you plan to compensate for it in the near future?)
5. Have I been with a man or woman in the past week in a way that could be viewed as compromising?
6. Have any of my financial dealings failed to be filled with integrity?
7. Have I viewed sexually explicit material?
8. Have I neglected to give appropriate time to my family?
9. Is there any thing that you would like me or the pastoral staff to pray with you about or hold you accountable for or rejoice over (significant stresses, temptations, or joys)?
10. Do you have any items for the agenda of the next pastors’ meeting?
11. How is your family joy and harmony?
12. Assess your eating and exercise this past week:
13. Report honoraria you have received since the last report.

This resource was created by Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN.
* For the purpose of time invested into ministry and time off for rest and family, the pastors split the each day into 3 Rest & Rejuvenation modules (morning, afternoon, & evening) or 21 modules a week. They have pledged to take off 7-10 R&R modules a week, and to take off 3 of these modules consecutively (to fulfill a Sabbath principle). Most pastors take their Sabbath on Fridays, and choose 4-7 other modules a week to take off. For the full explanation, see the Policy Handbook, 2.50 Office Hours, Work Schedules, & Locations, available under Resources at http://www.hopeingod.org/AdminstrationEmployeeHandbook.aspx

Who is holding you accountable?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Just Don't Understand...

I don't understand...

I don't understand why God would take the life of my friend's wife when she was doing so much for the kingdom. I don't understand why He couldn't have let her leave home a minute later.

I don't understand...

I don't understand why God is allowing my cousin to battle cancer at such a young age. She has kids that need her, and husband that needs her, and a mom and dad that are suffering just trying to sort all this out.

I don't understand...

I don't understand why the neighbor kid on my block is facing cancer as a 5th grader. He's dealing with things like chemo and radiation instead of playing ball. Why?

I don't understand...

I don't understand why my wife's grandmother has a body that has been tormented and twisted for many years, and yet she is the one left to continue in her suffering.

I don't understand...

I just don't get it sometimes.


But I do "get" this...

Isaiah 55:9 As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And I "get" this...

Lamentations 3:21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

And I know this...

Job 19:25 "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth."

And I long for this...

2 Corinthians 5:2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling... 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

And I just can't wait for this...

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

Lord, I just don't understand, but I'm trusting you. Help me, but more importantly, help those who are even closer to these situations than I am to trust you in the midst of their pain. To truly be able to say that You are enough.

This is an awfully strange place to link to this video clip on the prosperity gospel, but at about 1:30 into the clip, Piper makes some unbelievably strong statements that remind us that our lives are to ultimately be about His glory. Especially in Suffering.

If you are facing loss right now, this is not the time to watch this video clip. But if you are the friend, or family member, or neighbor of someone facing loss, maybe this clip will remind you that God is Enough.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Losing Faith?

The Blog world is a buzz today with the latest findings on Americans switching faiths. Christianity Today has a piece on why it is really hard to count Christians.

Al Mohler has a good summary about the findings...
Evangelical Christians and churches should look at this report closely. There is a wealth of data here that helps to define the mission field we face in America. There are danger signs. Here are several points of concern:Our evangelism is not keeping pace with growth in the population.

  1. Evangelical churches are growing, but falling behind in the task of reaching Americans with the Gospel.
  2. We are losing many young people and many of those who switch from evangelical identity switch to "nothing in particular."
  3. Evangelicals are accustomed to being part of a Protestant majority, but that majoritarian posture is about to be taken away (and already has been in some communities).

All this reminds us of the complexity of our context and the immensity of our challenge. We cannot look at this data with mere interest. These numbers represent real people who desperately need to hear the Gospel -- and to see authentic Christianity made visible.

I agree with his conclusion. Now more than ever we need to see the gospel lived outside the walls of the church house.

Preaching Into Evangelicalism

Usually I leave good posts for Saturday's Links of the week, but this one can't wait. I just read the notes on Matt Chandler's message at Resurgence, Preaching Into Evangelicalism, from Abraham Piper over at Desiring God.

Here's a few quotes that caught my eye...

But even if this difficulty arises from the way the church acted over the last decades, we must still diligently love fundamentalists. Without them we wouldn't be here. If they hadn't stood up to liberalism like they did, we would be Europe...

On the flipside of being a stubborn fundamentalist, you don't have to be the guy who drinks beer and cusses to engage culture...

When you start to see a bunch of messages and books on how to—"If you do this, you'll get a large church."—it is a sign that the movement is failing. What makes it even scarier is that it actually works...

It has created a fear of fanaticism. And, strangely, it's not so much a fear of fanatics as it is a fear of being labeled as fanatics. So, it's OK to like Jesus-—no probleme—but don't love him too much...

Make sure to check out the 5 points for preaching and teaching into the complexity of a growing secularism and a stubborn brittle fundamentalism at the bottom.

Good stuff.

Music Tuesday - Jadon Lavik

Talk about hot off the presses - Jadon Lavik 's latest is released today.

Sometimes you just need something a little bit "lite." Many of you may be familiar with Jadon's What If. It had a lot of radio play. I also enjoyed his version of Nothing But the Blood.

This album - Roots Run Deep - has a great feel to it. Just listen to the songs on his website. He has a very interesting rendition of Amazing Grace and I love his version of Blessed Assurance.

If you've had a little too much Switchfoot or United, (can you have too much United?) this might be a nice change of pace.

I also found some free music downloads this week thanks to Tony Morgan. You can get the downloads over at FreeCCM.com. You will have to give away all your personal information and your firstborn. (Why do they insist on taking so much info?) Anyway, if you want to walk through the form, you can then login and download some free music.

A local worship leader put me on to the Afters - HT: Jeremy from Grace. (BTW, if you like the Grace website, let me know - I helped build it. If you don't like it, well what can I say...I built it.)

:)

The After's music is full of life. I hope I enjoy this next project as much. You can also get a free Addison Road song and a Laura Story song from the Freeccm site.

Tuesday Giveaway:
The first person that responds can have their pick of any Jadon Lavik song from iTunes. Winner will be noted below.

Winner:
No takers, this deal is over.

Calvary Setlist for February 24th:
Come Now is the Time to Worship
Blessed be the Name of the Lord
Blessed be the Lord God Almighty
I Exalt Thee

Monday, February 25, 2008

Puppy Crumbs

This story never grows old to me. I want to have the faith of this woman...
Mark 7:24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Poor and Pathetic

When we were first forming our praise team at church one of the kids gave our new "band" a name -- Poor and Pathetic. Unfortunately, I think it may have been appropriate at the time. Our team has gotten a lot better since then, but we still identify with that name. (Some Sundays more than others!)

In yesterday's reading, I found a similar idea...
Psalm 40:17 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

What a great thought! I truly am poor and pathetic, yet the Lord takes thought for me. I don't understand it. But I'm so thankful for this truth.

Lord, thank you for loving us even though we are poor and pathetic.

Commandment or Tradition?

I think this passage points to one of the questions I hoped that the conversations on this blog would help to answer. "Sweetest Frames" can be "traditions of men." They may be beautiful and meaningful, but when they are taken as God's commands they can cause us to misplace our trust.
Mark 7:6 ...“‘This people honors me with their lips,but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me,teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

What things do you see today that are simply traditions, but they are being taught as the commandments of God?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is It Really Important to Have a Pro-Life President?

JT has shared another good post about the importance of life in the coming elections. You can read the Evangelical Outpost story Why Pro-Life Presidents Matter and see what you think.

I'm still interested in hearing perspectives from people who are "Pro-Life" and voting for Obama. Please feel free to add to the discussion. I'd really like to hear from people on both sides of this.

Also found this link to an older Piper document about "one-issue voters" in the comments about JT's post. I think it adds to the discussion.

Links of the Week - Feb 23, 2008

"Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes." -- Edgard Varese
  • A good discussion on one of the latest buzzwords: Community.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday is for Photos - Lunar Eclipse

A Beautiful Night
(Lunar Eclipse - February 20th, 2008)
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)

On Wednesday evening we found ourselves stargazing after church. It was a clear night and cold too! The lunar eclipse over Salem was stunning. I stayed until about 9:30 and took a bunch of pics, but I have got to get a tripod! I took one of the small lecturns and made a makeshift tripod, but most of my shots were handheld.

This picture is actually 3 shots that I just joined together in Photoshop. One of these years I might actually try a time lapse, but I doubt I'll ever have conditions this good again.

Here's a tighter crop photo...

If you took any shots of the eclipse, I'd love to see them.

Marko: Pro-Life and voting for Obama

A while back I was looking for people who were "Pro-life" and voting for Obama. Mark Oestreicher, known to the blogging world as "Marko," has come out today with this type of position... (This is only His position and not that of Youth Specialties)
and, while this could very easily come off as johnny-come-lately jumping onto the bandwagon of popularity: i’m an obama supporter. i can’t be a single-issue voter anymore; and while our country and republican leadership haven’t done anything (or been able to do anything? place the blame where you will — it’s not critical to this point) significant about abortion, i’ve found myself embracing a broader view of the value of human life, which includes all the other aspects of valuing human life and god’s creation that seem to be much more inline with democratic values.
I am making some assumptions here, but from his full article you can get a glimpse of some of his reasoning.
  1. He doesn't want to be a single issue voter.
  2. He feels that our present leadership has done little towards dealing with abortion.
  3. He believes the "pro-life" issue is about more than just abortion. It's about all of life and the value of that life.

I can identify with being marginalized by some as being a "single-issue voter." But I'd venture that most voters aren't making their decision based on abortion alone. And while I believe that abortion is probably the most significant issue, I think we should prayerfully consider many issues as we make decisions on any of our choices for public office. It is a great privilege and responsibility to vote.

When I look at the current leadership, I actually feel like we have made some forward progress as it relates to "life." We have more conservative justices on the bench, we've seen a pretty strong stance in the stem cell debate, and we've even passed a partial birth abortion ban. It was upheld in 2007 by the "new" court. I have to agree with Marko. There is more to pro-life than conservative justices and legal "bans," but I think these things are good. I'm hoping for more progress.

I also agree that there is more to "pro-life" than just abortion, but I still think abortion takes priority. If not we may start to sound like this...

"There's more to life than being born"

None of the unborn has ever been able to give their political opinion. Kind of one sided isn't it?

I appreciate Marko's willingness to share his position. And while I'm not in agreement with it, it does give me a better understanding of why some are pro-life and voting for Obama.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shocking Jesus.

What amazes the Lord? What causes the one who is all-knowing to marvel or to be surprised?

Unbelief.
Mark 6:5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

What amazes Jesus is the fact that He has done amazing things in our lives, and yet we do not fully trust Him.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

1981 - The Worst of Times...

Michael Kruse has been doing a great series on American Social Indicators. In today's post he came up with 1981 as the worst year in the last 50. He has all kinds of science to back up his thoughts, but I found the real reason ... MTV started in 1981. :)

Here's a quote of some of the indicators:
    • The property crime rate hit its high in 1975 but violent crime was at its worst in 1981.
    • The highest murder rate was in 1980.
    • The suicide rate peaked in 1977.
    • The abortion rate peaked in 1981.
    • The divorce rate peaked in 1981.
    • The highest rate for illicit drug use for high school seniors was in 1979, and for illicit drug use excluding marijuana was in 1981.
    • The highest rate of cigarette use for high school seniors was in 1975, and for alcohol was in 1978.
    • The rate for all (combined) sexually transmitted diseases was highest in 1977.
    • The high school dropout rate declined steadily in the years prior to 1973. It flattened out and then peaked in 1979, before continuing the historical pattern of decline.
    • Composite SAT scores hit their lowest levels in 1980 and 1981.
    • The highest rate of inflation was in 1980.
    • The highest rate of poverty was in 1983.
    • Unemployment hit its highest rate in 1982.
    • Median household inflation adjusted income was lower in 1981-1983 than in it was in 1972.
And I thought I had a pleasant childhood. :)

What is so interesting about these indicators it that by most of the standards we are actually doing better, but people feel that things are worse.

Are these the best of times or the worst of times? Or both?

Music Tuesday - Karine Bauch

Karine from Tanner Trails church sends in her setlist...

Here are the setlists that we have done so far this month at Tanner Trails Community Church:

*****************************
February 3
Opening: You Are Good
Your Love Feeds My Soul
Lord, Reign In Me
Nothing Without You
Communion: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us and Lord, You Have My Heart
Closing: Before the Throne of God Above

February 10
Opening: Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)
Every Move I Make
I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
You Alone
Closing: The Power of Your Love

February 17
Opening: Rise Up and Praise Him
Rock of Ages (chorus, not hymn)
Breathe
I Stand in Awe
Closing: Show Me Your Ways (Hillsong)
***********************************************

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Simple by Rob Morgan - Baptism Part 2

I think chapter 4 - Why Should I Get Wet? - has been my favorite so far. Rob deals with 9 Questions about Baptism.

1. What Am I Saying Through Baptism?

  • You are identifying with Christ
  • You have been washed from your sins
  • You have been united with the body of Christ
  • You have decided to live a separated life

This chapter would be great to share with someone considering baptism. The answers to the first question will help people get a grasp on just what they are telling others through their baptism.

2. Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
Short Answer: No. But I love how Rob Says that though baptism is not necessary, it is not optional either. Why is it that the Baptists are the ones who sometimes seem to de-emphasize the importance of baptism?

3. Is Immersion the Only Form of Baptism?
Rob doesn't specifically answer this question with a yes or no. He says that immersion is the "preferred" form of baptism. When you see how baptism represents the gospel - the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus - immersion must be the Biblical form of baptism.

In our discussion today we came to realize that most of the believers in the "Christian" world have not been baptized as believers. And we also came to realize that possibly a large portion of the world has been baptized (as infants) and has not come to faith.

4. Can Children Be Baptized?
This depends on their understanding. We had a great discussion on infant baptism and I pulled in some thoughts from John MacArthur on the subject.

5. What if I've been Baptized in the Past?
Rob deals with this well, and we've had a few people in our church have to sort through this to deteremine whether they should be baptized again.

6. What if I'm Shy and Frightened to be in Front of People?
The point here is that we must do the right thing, even when it is not easy, or when we are afraid. In our study we had one person share their testimony about their baptism even though they are scared to death of water.

7. How Long Should I Wait after I'm Saved?
Morgan points out that in the New Testament we see people getting baptized almost immediately after their conversion.

8. Exactly What Happens When I am Baptized?
Again, this is another good description that could probably ease some fears of baptismal candidates.

9. I Want to be Baptized. What do I do?
Short Answer: Talk to your pastor.

I'm going to use this chapter with baptismal candidates in the future. I think it will be a tremendous resource.

Afraid of Change

It's amazing what happens when Jesus comes into the picture...


Mark 5:15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

This community sees one of the most amazing examples of life-change in history, and instead of feeling joy for this man, they are afraid of Jesus. When Jesus comes into lives, he will bring tremendous change. This passage is a reminder that people don't always respond positively to that change.

But we should follow the Lord's command - Go and tell them how much the Lord has done for us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Atonement - Questions or Answers?

We've been discussing the atonment of Christ on Wednesday Evenings in Romans chapter 3. Here is a video clip from ER that is moving pretty rapidly around the blogosphere. So I'll add to the fury...



What do you think?

I hope he finds the beautiful feet of a gospel-bearing chaplain. But I'm afraid that in the show he does not.

Music Tuesday - Chris Truett

A friend of mine from college, Chris Truett, sent me an email with some book recommendations and also his church's setlist from this past week. He does an excellent job leading worship for our National Association and serves at Bethel Free Will Baptist Church in North Carolina. Here are his suggestions and setlist...

BTW - Great book I'm reading right now!!! "When God Comes To Church" -Steve Gaines (Pastor of Bellvue Baptist Church in Memphis) A MUST READ!!!!

The BEST book on worship right now that is in ALL the seminaries is "Engaging with God" by David Peterson

Here are 3 of my set lists from Sunday:
1 Let The Redeemed
He Has Made Me Glad
Redeemed

2 And Can It Be (Choir on chorus only)
Come Into His Presence
Sing To The King
Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone
Amazing
Grace (trpt solo v. 1)

3 Only A God Like You
In the Presence of Jehovah
Oh, To Be In Your Presence

Thanks for sharing this Chris.

If any of you other worship leaders want to share your setlists from time to time, you can put them in the comments section on a Music Tuesday post if you have a gmail account, or just send me an email and I'll be glad to post them for you.

Or even better start blogging and I'll link to your blog! :)

Music Tuesday - Led Like a Lamb

One of my favorite websites for learning new music is Vineyard's Songteach. You can download instructional videos that teach you how to play the songs, and they have chord charts for every song they teach through the videos. And of course it is all free! It doesn't get much better than this.

This past week they came out with a new song entitled Led Like a Lamb. After you sign into the website, you can watch the video. You can download the chord chart here . There is also a free .mp3 of the song, but I didn't like the mp3 as much as I liked the video. If you want, you can download the video, the mp3 and the chord chart all in one resource pack.

Tuesday Giveaway:
This week it's your choice. Since this mp3 is already free, let me know if there is another song you like and the first person to email me will receive and iTunes gift song. If you need some recommendations, here are some vineyard songs I really like...

Hungry - Rachel Milstead
Sweetly Broken - Jeremy Riddle
Invitacion Fountain - Greg Hjelle

This week's winner:
1. Jason


Calvary Setlist from Sunday February 17th:
Praise the Name of Jesus
He Has Made Me Glad
At the Cross
How Great is Our God / How Great Thou Art

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why On Earth Would I Want To Go To Heaven?

I'm really excited about our next series. I'm going to be using N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope, and Randy Alcorn's Heaven (you can get the book summary for Heaven here) to help me deliver this series of messages. I've really enjoyed Scot Mcknight's review of N.T. Wright's book on JesusCreed.org. Please pray for this series that God will use it to impact our church and our community. Here's the initial graphic.


If you have any ideas about how to enhance this, let me know.

Guitar Hero

I was able to try Guitar Hero for the first time in my life this week. My friend J.D. introduced it to me and he is unbelieveable on this thing. I made it through a few levels and I was addicted. It's not really anything like a real guitar, but it is a ton of fun.

I didn't care too much for most of the imagery. Maybe someone can come out with "Praise Band" for Guitar Hero. :)

I have to admit I had one of those surreal moments when you know that your doing something that will be one of those things that categorizes a certain decade. Remember Rubik's Cube, or Intellivision?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

No Power, Just Praise.

This weekend I added a new blog from Collide Magazine to my reader. In one of the articles they discussed the local church service and its dependence upon electricity. Well today it happened, the power cycled off and on about 5 or 6 times.

The first time we were singing "How Great is Our God" with mics, electric guitars, and Easy Worship projecting the words. When the power went out we just kept singing. It was one of those aha! moments when you realize that you don't need all of the "extras" to glorify your Maker.

The power cycled back on at the end of the song, so we went with it. As I hit the last chord on the electric guitar the power went away again, and cycled back on again. My pedal reset to the 1 setting which is a crunchy loud distorted sound. I kind of let it ring out and then just smiled and everyone laughed. (We usually don't have much "crunch" in our service)

The power cycled back off and on again while we had our soldier who was back home from Iraq presenting his slides. He tried to show his pictures, but the power cycled off and on again about 3 times. I felt bad for this, but he kept going the whole time and he did a great job expressing his burden for kids in Iraq. In spite of the distractions, we had a wonderful service.

One thing I did notice - he was using a laptop to review the pictures as he was telling his story, and since the laptop was running on battery he could keep going even when everyone else was in the dark. :)

How would your service be different if you didn't have any power?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bible Text Clouds

Bible Text Clouds.

This is a really great idea. Tag clouds are ways of visualizing the frequency of tags and keywords on particular sites. Text clouds is a way of measuring the frequency of text in a particular document. Craig Goodwin (I found this through jesuscreed.org) started putting some Bible texts into www.tagcrowd.com and came up with some great visualizations of text frequencies in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John & Romans.

I gave this a shot with 1 John from the NIV. (If you are viewing this page in a reader, you may need to visit this link to actually see the graphics.)
created at TagCrowd.com

You can also show the frequencies if you like...
created at TagCrowd.com
What text clouds can you come up with?

Links of the Week - February 16th

Tons of great posts this week. But before we get to the links, I still have 2 songs to give away from the Passion Album if anyone wants one of them. They will disappear on Tuesday if no one claims them!
  • Gilbert really is on a roll with the music posts. These questions are great! (By way of JT from Between Two Worlds)
  • Mahaney discusses Rob Bell and a Pastor's Discernment. I have shown some Nooma videos in our church and I will probably show some more, but they usually come with a disclaimer. Rob Bell is one of the most intriguing speakers of our time. But his focus on the here and now over and above the hope of heaven has been troubling me lately.
  • Pastor Jon is reviewing a book that I think I'm going to have to read.
  • Speaking of books I bet we hear a lot about this one in the next year.
  • I always like free music - I'm not sure how long this one's available, but just in case it is -- check out Tony Morgan's link.
  • If I was doing best blog post titles of the year - this one would have to be up there - Duct Tape and Lavatory from Ron Hunter.
  • My favorite quote this week...
  • In Mexico we have a word for sushi: Bait. --Jose Simon

  • Following the "Emerging Conversation?" You will want to check out this map from Michael Patton. (Again courtesy of JT and Between Two Worlds -- JT Rocks!)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Forgetting Evil Men

The NIU tragedy touches so many emotions in me. I'm angry, confused, sympathetic, wishing to make things better. In yesterday's reading I find some words that bring comfort, but also make me ask some questions too.
Psalm 34: 5 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hearsand delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. 20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. 21 Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

David says the Lord is against evil men to cut off the memory of them from the earth. Sometimes I wonder if we make celebrities of the evil doers. I'm not calling us to deny that evil exists, but I'm asking that we don't glorify it. But then as I read on I'm reminded that the Lord is near, and most importantly He redeems the life of His servants.

Verse 20 is a prophecy of our Lord, and I'm sure vs. 22 is as well. I'm sure that people thought that the life of Jesus was a waste, but God redeemed His life, and He will redeem ours, if we are His servants. I hope those precious lives cut short in the midst of this tragedy will be redeemed as well.

Lord, please bring grace to NIU. They need you now. We all do.

Friday is for Photos - John Deere Green.

A Field of Cake
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


My nephew is currently in his John Deere phase. He loves everything John Deere. We had the privilege of attending his birthday party a few weeks ago and I couldn't take my eyes off of the cake. It may not be Ace of Cakes, but this is one of the better theme cakes that I have ever seen. And it tasted good too!

Here's a sky view of the farm...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fair Minded Words

The following quote is from an address from Barack Obama entitled the Call to Renewal from June of 2006. The article is very long, but quite interesting. It goes along with my Pro-life and voting for Obama post.
"Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you."

The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be "totalizing." His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose." The doctor went on to write:"

I sense that you have a strong sense of justice...and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason...Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded....You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others...I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words."

Fair-minded words.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dead Men Walking

Here's a passage in the New Testament that we don't often hear much about...
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

What do we know about these that were raised after the resurrection of Christ? I have lots of questions...

1. Did they receive new bodies?
2. Did they ascend into heaven when Christ ascended?
3. Why were only some of the saints raised?
4. Why is Matthew the only one who mentions this?

Simple by Rob Morgan - Baptism Part 1

In our ABC's of Simple B=Baptism and this chapter was insightful. Here are a few of the highlights...

Baptize or Baptism occurs 100 times in the New Testament. It's a frequent subject. Rob begins with some of the origins of baptism and tells us that mikvahs were around even before the traditions of John the Baptist.

Jesus, the only person in the history of the world who didn't need cleansing from sin, was baptized. After the baptism of our Lord, the gospels don't really mention it again until the Great Commission. There we are commanded to go and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Rob also shares the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch.

He then proceeds to tell us that the Bible tells us 3 things about baptism. It is biblical, basic and beneficial. He asks the question, "Why did Jesus not select some other symbol?" His answer... There is only one real baptism.

There is Only One Real Baptism
The one real baptism he is speaking of is the baptism of suffering and sin cleansing by Jesus on the cross. Rob refers to a request by the mother of James and John to have her sons sit at his right and left in the coming Kingdom. Jesus' answer is "Can you be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" In Luke 12 he says this,


50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!

The baptism in these two passages are references to the cross and the passion of the Christ. Rob says,

"the only real baptism took place on the Cross of Jesus Christ and in the tomb and at the Resurrection. Baptism is synonymous with the suffering and passion of Christ."

Two Symbolic Baptisms
In this section Morgan shares something that I don't think I have ever thought about before. I had always thought of Jesus' own water baptism as an example for us to follow. But Rob shares with us the idea that Jesus Baptism was also a picture of what He would suffer and the kind of death that He would die, and the picture that he would be raised again! What a thought. Rob says,



"Think of it! The first thing Jesus did in His earthly ministry was to provide a vivid symbol of what would take place at the climax of His earthly years. He was previewing His passion -- His death, burial, and resurrection. He was telling the world in advance what He was going to do for us on the cross."

This is the first symbol of baptism - Jesus picture of His own passion.

The second symbol is ours. It's the baptism that we see in our churches (and sometimes ponds and lakes) throughout the year. This is our symbol of identifying with Christ. Rob points out that in baptism we start vertically, then are buried horizontally, and then are raised vertically again. He makes a special note that Jesus died vertically. This isn't normally how people die. They often die laying down, but our Lord died hanging vertically on a cross. He was buried in a tomb, and then He rose again on the third day.

When we are baptized with are identifying with our Lord's death, burial and resurrection. Claiming His cleansing and following his teachings to walk in newness of life.

I really like how Rob summed this up:



Our Lord's Baptism in water looked forward to the cross, and our baptism in water looks back at the cross.

He concludes with another good verse to put to memory...


Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.