Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On Books

I was in my local Borders’ the other evening. Although I have friends who once were in the Christian bookstore business, I still prefer the larger chains. Reason? Books! They actually have books! Many of the Christian bookstores I have seen seem to have anything but books. Sure, I can purchase Prayer of Jabez travel coffee mugs, Witness Wear T-shirts, and prints of bodybuilders dressed as angels, wings and all (if you’ve seen these pictures, you know what I mean. If not, well, they’re beyond description). Conspicuously absent from many Christian books stores are an ample supply of books. In fact, some have dropped the word “book” from their title.

Years ago, there was a Christian bookstore about 30 miles from my house that actually carried an impressive selection of books. I found commentaries, language and reference works – it even carried a complete collection of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Not too long ago, I visited the store again and discovered that they had moved to a strip mall on the edge of town. Now in a new location, they acquiesced to the spirit of the age. I no longer found the selection of books I expected. But if I wanted the latest CD of whatever Christian grunge band was currently “hot,” I was in the right place. I was surrounded by gawd-awful art, music, and all things Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. I was very disappointed.

My intent in this was to post some thoughts on reading, but the rabbit trail beckoned. I will save that for another time. I mentioned my friends who owned a Christian bookstore. They sold the business. The owners said that, if they had their way, they would stock substantial supplies of theology and commentaries and such like. But they also knew that in so doing they would lose their shirts. The Christian community is not interested in the stuff that some would like to stock. For these books, we will need to look elsewhere. That’s why I have links to 2 online book dealers that carry the “tools of the trade.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Counting Down to Armageddon

Add another date to the mix. Watch this countdown (if you are incredibly bored). What a fine piece of exegesis. Does Harold Camping and Jack Van Impe know about this? It figures - my mortgage will be paid off in 3 years!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carol of the Drums?

My brother-in-law is the President of San Diego Christian College and he sent this to me today. This was the ending of the school's last chapel service before Christmas break. My absolute least favorite Christmas song is "The Little Drummer Boy." This, however, redeems the drum for Christmas carols.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The "Write" Stuff

When I am in my car, I love to listen to audio books. Sure, there are some problems with audio books: you can’t make notes or highlight the text, and though there are thousands of recorded books, the ones I want to “read” are not always available in that format. However, I particularly enjoy listening to history and biography.

Presently, I am listening to Franklin and Winston: an Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham. Much of the source material for this book comes from correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt; Hopkins and Churchill; Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others. The letters are all well written and have a literary value all their own.

This has been the case for centuries. Correspondence – both personal and official – provides the “stuff” of biography and history. In our day, I wonder if we have lost the art of letter writing. What will historians, biographers, and archaeologists use in the future when they report about our age (unless Harold Camping is indeed correct and it’s all over by 2012)?

Letters have been replaced by cell phones, Blackberries, email, instant messaging, and other forms of instant communication. Electronic correspondence is fickle; it can last forever on some server or hard drive, or it can dissolve into cyberspace in a second.

Writing letters that are substantial, personal, well-written, and enduring is hard work. I love email – but the romantic in me wants to write letters.

By the way, a friend has made this observation that I think is relevant. We have more communication devices than ever before in human history, and yet one of the main issues in marriages, homes, and businesses is a lack of communication. How ironic.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Teach Your Children Well, Part 5

Tim Challies points us to this post by Russell Moore called"The Eschatology of Parenting." For all who have small or not so small children in their homes, this is an encouragement. It is particularly relevant for a culture that is blissfully ambivalent about taking responsibility for one's actions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Someone recently said that there are several types of people who blog (besides the mindless morons who think they have something to say). One of those types is a "gleaner." A gleaner surfs and posts the gleanings of his activities. I think I am one of those (I meant gleaner, but if moron is closer to the truth, so be it). I tend to share the stuff that interests me. Today, I have 2 gleanings:

First, I read of the passing of Derek Kidner. Some years ago, I purchased Kidner's little commentary on Proverbs and found it to be so very helpful. Next term, I will use his commentary on Genesis as a text for the class I will teach.

Second is an article on the Christianity of President Bush. The writer does not "bash" the President, instead, Bush's statements say more about American evangelicalism than they do about our President.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

John Milton

In an interview with Leland Ryken, Justin Taylor reminds us that today is the 400th birthday of John Milton, author of Paradise Lost. Many Christians today, I feel, are clueless about the contribution that this great poet has made to our culture and language.

As part of my undergraduate major in English (read: "Do you want fries with that?"), I had a semester of Milton. Now, this pales in comparison to Ryken's PhD in Miltonic literature, but I did gain a rudimentary appreciation for this intellectual giant.

When I read Taylor's post, I immediately went to Paradise Lost Book Six where Milton recounts the war in heaven between Satan's army and host of God. There is a phrase embedded in the poem that shows Milton's command of language and theology:

From all Heav'ns bounds into the utter Deep:
There let them learn, as likes them, to despise
God and MESSIAH his anointed King.
He said, and on his Son with Rayes direct
Shon full, he all his Father full exprest
Ineffibly into his face receiv'd,
And thus the filial Godhead answering spake.
O Father, O Supream of heav'nly Thrones...
In just 3 words, Milton unpacks a freight load of theology. In fact, there is more theology in those 3 words than I have heard in some sermons.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Economy of Words

I am currently studying the book of Genesis for a teaching assignment next semester. As I re-read Gen.1, I was impressed with how the Holy Spirit said so much in so few words. In Gen. 1:1, the account begins in the dateless past when there was nothing except our triune God. By the time we get to Gen. 2:1, we find that the heavens and earth were "finished." In 31 verses, we move from nothingness to the created universe with all its galaxies, stars, and planetary systems, to the earth, a garden with plants and animals, and man made in God's image. This is amazing! Certainly, God does not tell us all that we would like to know. We are left in the dark about how the process worked. But, He has told us what we need to know. So much truth is packed in such a concise amount of space.
As I think of this, Eccl. 5:2 comes to mind. I am so ready to speak, to give advice, and to talk when I have little to say. We who preach and teach the truths of the Word have a great responsibility. That responsibility is not always well served with an over-abundance of words. I am challenged by this to try to say more by saying less. I must be careful that when I say something, I have something to say.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bring Back the Old Testament

Reformation 21 contains Part One of a lecture by Ralph Davis on rediscovering the Old Testament for the church. If you are a preacher, this may convict you; regardless, it will delight you. If the OT comprises 2/3 of the Bible, and if it was the Scriptures of the New Testament writers, why do modern evangelicals make such little use of it - unless, of course, we are proof-texting?
The article is lengthy, but it bears careful reading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What, Me Organize?

I have been following Matt Perlman's blog for the past month. This older post about organizing bookmarks is really helpful. I have started doing this and it makes life easier. Of course, I probably have too many sights bookmarked, but that's another issue. Matt's hints on organization make sense. His tips on organizing email are really good as well.

Introducing John Lennox

Both of my regular readers are familiar with John Piper. However, you may not know of John Lennox. John will be in Northeast Ohio in May for the Basics Pastor's Conference at Parkside. This link from Justin Taylor will introduce you to this great intellect.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Prayed About It...

This is a great post from the people at Team Tominthebox News Network. More powerful than the race card, this card trumps all others.

I have had this card played on me numerous times. The most memorial occasion was a few years ago when a friend and I were “discussing” the way certain words are translated in the KJV. The fact that he was a KJO adherent meant that the “discussion” was one sided. At any rate, we discussed the use of the word charity in 1 Cor. 13: 1. My question was this: “Why can’t we use the word love in the place of charity because the KJV translators sometimes interchange the words?”

Now, this is not the place to engage this debate. I have learned that both sides have their minds made up and that’s that. However, his answer to my question about the translation was, “Well, I prayed about it, and I think that it should be charity.”

In essence, the “I prayed about it card” effectually closes the discussion. What more can be said? If it has been prayed about, and if God has spoken, then who can add to that?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

John Owen on the Prosperity Gospel

Our forefathers in the faith would role over in their graves if they could watch Sunday morning television. Note this statement from John Owen (1616-1683) in his Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers:

A season of unusual outward prosperity is usually accompanied with an hour of temptation. Prosperity and temptation go together; yea, prosperity is a temptation, many temptations, and that because, without eminent supplies of grace, it is apt to cast a soul into a frame and temper exposed to any temptation, and provides it with fuel and food for all. It hath provision for lust and darts for Satan… Without a special assistance, it hath an inconceivably malignant influence on believers themselves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Can I Get A Witness?

Phil Johnson says some scathing things about evangelicals and political activism on his blog.

Gay Marriage and the Recent Election

Today’s comments by Al Mohler deal with the defeat of ballot issues that would support same-sex unions. Mohler writes;

Without question, that is good news. The vote in California was especially significant, as Proposition 8 allowed the citizens of the nation's most populous state to take the issue back from the state's Supreme Court, which had arrogantly usurped the authority of the people in a 4/3 decision back in May. The 52-48 vote was a clear win for marriage, and a geographical vote distribution chart shows that same-sex marriage has support mainly in the Bay area of San Francisco and neighboring communities. The win in Florida was important because the measure needed 60 percent of the votes in order to pass. It received 62 percent of the votes cast. The Arizona vote was similarly significant -- in this case because that state had been the only state to date to have turned down a similar measure in a previous election.

This election has demonstrated what many have long believed: the general public is not as socially liberal as the media might portray. Given the opportunity to voice their opinion, people demonstrate disapproval for the Gay and Lesbian Agenda. I also think that this would have held true if the Presidential election was cast as a one issue election. Given the dissatisfaction with the current administration, the prolonged war on terror, the tanking economy, and the historical precedent that Barak Obama’s candidacy presented, the abortion issue was moved to the back burner – in spite of many conservatives who tried to bring it to the fore. It is amazing that the same electorate that dealt a serious blow to the legitimizing of same-sex unions also chose the most pro-abortion candidate that this country has ever seen.

If nothing else, the next 4 years will be interesting to watch as the social liberals have control of the executive and legislative offices. Will they represent the will of the people or will they govern by fiat? Time will tell (but don’t hold your breath).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yet Another Post- Election Comment

As I survey some of the blogs I regularly follow, it seems that all of them have post-elections comments. In order to be taken as a serious blogger (is that an oxymoron?), I will give mine.

One of the darkest posts concerns the pre-election promise of our President-elect to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as his first official act as President. The blogger states that when this happens, overturning Roe v. Wade becomes meaningless. “The legal battle is over and we’ve lost.” He states further, “Many of us have long understood the way to end abortion is not to change the law (though we certainly favor that) but by changing hearts. Well, folks, now that’s all we’ve got.” (The Thirsty Theologian).

Maybe this is a good thing. Could it be that, as Christians, we been engaging the conflict in the wrong arena. We’ve been laboring for moral change in the political arena (don’t misunderstand; moral politics = good politics), forgetting that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but are powerful to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor. 10:4).

It is time for the church to be the church – the pilgrim church. We are pilgrims, not tourists. Instead of lusting for political clout, recognition, acceptance and approval from the world, we must remember the words of Jesus, “If the world hates you, it hated me…” (Jo. 15:18).

So it’s come down to this: pray, preach, and labor. We’ve relied upon life chains, Supreme Court appointees, voter guides, etc. Apparently the nation as a whole is more interested in punishing corporate executives by distributing some of their cash than in guaranteeing the lives of the unborn babies of nameless and faceless mothers.

The electorate has spoken. Now, it’s time for the church to speak – not to the President or members of the House and Senate, but to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Living for the Glory of God

This is a great post made more powerful by the courage of the one who writes it. Thanks to Justin Taylor for allowing Eric Redmond share his post-election thoughts.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Another Anniversary

On today’s date in 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the doctrine of the “Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary” which taught that at the end of her earthly life, the mother of Jesus was taken body and soul into heaven. According to Roman doctrine, it was not appropriate for the body of the one who was called theotikos (bearer of God) to see corruption. The Feast of the Assumption is important for Roman Catholics as “The Assumption looks to eternity and gives us hope that we, too, will follow Our Lady when our life is ended” (Father Clifford Stevens, EWTN).

For Roman Catholics, this can make perfect sense. Even though there is not the slightest hint of this teaching in Scripture, it doesn’t matter. The Church trumps Scripture every time. Thus, the Pope can decree doctrine and the faithful are obligated to believe it.

Obviously, non-Catholics in general and evangelicals in particular have a difficult time with this. We hold to the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). If it is not taught in sacred Scripture, it is not binding upon God’s people. More than that, extra-Biblical teaching may be dangerous and heretical. The Assumption of Mary falls into this category. It elevates her to near divine status and grants justification for the widespread practice of offering prayer to her in hopes of her intervention for sin.

Perhaps it is ironic that this occurs the day after Reformation Day. I am not trying to be purposely divisive. I want to take my stand on the shoulders of those who have gone on before and stood for the principle of sola Scriptura.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Altar Call

The online version of Christian History has an interesting article about the "altar call." I was raised in churches in which the public invitation was the main aspect of each service. In fact, the number of those who "walked the aisle" became an indicator of God's blessing. I don't deny that many people have come to Christ through this method - I am one of them. However, amongst many evangelicals and most fundamentalists in particular, it is a sign of orthodoxy.

As is true with everything, there is a theology behind the practice. Sadly, many are not aware of the theological implications, or, due to the wholesale capitulation to the spirit of pragmatism, do not care. 1 Cor. 1:21 tells us that it is the preaching of the Cross that God has chosen to use to save them that believe. Perhaps the reliance on the "new methods" indicates a failure to adequately and powerfully preach the Cross.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Day After Election Day

Last week I shared these thoughts at our morning staff devotions. Since we are less than 2 weeks from a historical election, I thought they might be helpful, so here they are:

On the day after election day….

  1. If your candidate wins, it doesn’t mean that God is on the side of your party.
  2. If your candidate doesn’t win, it doesn’t mean that God is against your party.
  3. Whoever wins, he wins by the permission and control of God. Remember that He is sovereign in all things; He establishes rulers and governments.
  4. Whoever wins, it shows that the process still works and we are still a blessed nation.
  5. Nowhere in Scripture does God promise Christians happiness, peace and prosperity. He is not committed to our happiness; He is committed to our holiness.
  6. Whoever wins, it should have no bearing on how we live out our faith. Remember, the most dynamic days of Christian history were during the reign of the Roman Emperors’ who demanded to be worshipped as gods, in a society where slavery was the norm and where human life was so cheap that death was part of the entertainment of the masses.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

You've Got to be Kidding!

Unfortunatley, Al Mohler is not kidding. When some in this counrty look longingly to Europe as a template for social justice, look where the path leads. This gives a new meaning to every mother's admonition to "Finish your vegetables!"

Theological Growth

This is for pastors and anyone else interested in theological growth. OK... it's good for everyone. Justin Taylor ("Between Two Worlds") posted this article from Michael Lawrence.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Economic Crisis

I know just enough about economics to get myself into serious trouble. Notwithstanding, it doesn't take a Harvard MBA to see that our economy is in trouble. It is unfortunate that some Christians are despairing over the losses in their retirement accounts (John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life comes to mind). At Reformation 21, Carl Trueman offers insight into this crisis from the perspective of a theologian and historian. Read this here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Will of God

How often do we hear the admonition to be "in the center of God's will?" Being a firm believer in God's sovereign purposes, I question this idea. What happens if we are a bit left or right of center? If we cannot hit the center mark, how close is close enough? Sometimes we hear the distinction between the "perfect" will of God and the "permissive" will of God." However, since we can only know His revealed will in His Word, why bother with anything else? Dr. Ray Pritchard provides further insight here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Movies to the Glory of God

I recall all too well my early Christian adult life steeped in fundamentalist legalism. Back then, good and godly Christians abstained from alcohol, avoided movies (although it was OK to rent them when the VCR made its debut), eschewed "rock and roll," and by all means, they did not dance.

The movie issue was really important to me. As long as I can remember, I have been a science fiction fan. I loved the old black and white sci-fi movies as a teenager (they were all b/w because that was the only TV we had at the time). So, when I began ministry in a fundamentalist church, it was understood that attendance at the movies was out of the question. However, when Star Wars came out in 1977, I was conflicted. Should I succumb to my baser self and see the movie, or should I maintain a conviction that I pretended to have? I conveniently resolved the issue by taking my wife out of town to see Star Wars.

All this to say that times have changed. Some fundamentalists still bemoan the lack of "standards" in evangelical churches (they would consider the title of this post to be heresy) but, for the most part, Christians do not adhere to the former restrictions. This all came to mind upon reading this excellent article by Adam Parker called Watching Movies to the Glory of God. He gives helpful advice on how to do this. I appreciate the fact that he admits that not all movies can be viewed to God's glory. If you are a recovering fundamentalist like me, you will profit from this piece.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For the Honor of His Name

In class discussion last evening (I am currently teaching “Spiritual Life and Community” for Moody Extension School), one of the students made an insightful comment about modern evangelistic practices. She noted that the gospel is often presented as something that can add great benefit to an individual. The appeal to come to Christ is so that you may know that you have a spot reserved in heaven.

In the same context, another student mentioned the “prosperity gospel.” It is not too much of a stretch to see how the one has influenced the other. If old time crusade evangelism emphasized the assurance of heaven (a huge personal benefit, to be sure), the modern “prosperity gospel” removes the lag time for the impatient and provides the “riches of heaven” (mistakenly identified with financial gain) without waiting for the roll to be called up yonder. If heaven is all about you, then this life can be about you as well.

I thought of that discussion this morning as I read from Ezekiel 36. This is the New Covenant passage where God promises ultimate and final salvation and deliverance. Ezek. 36:22-36 provides a glimpse of God’s motivation involved in His saving work. Through His prophet He states that He is about to act for the sake of His holy name. His actions – which are of great benefit to those for whom they are intended – are not primarily for the sake of the people He loves, but for His own glory and honor.

Why did God save us? Why would He choose to save any of Adam’s race? Is His main intent to provide for us heaven as an eternal home? Or, does God bring salvation to His people for His own glory and honor? In Phil. 2: 5-11, Paul traces the work of Christ from eternity past through His condescension in human flesh to the consummation when all will proclaim Christ as Lord “to the glory of God the Father.”

Instead of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” perhaps the truth is closer to “God loves His glory and desires that you should glorify Him too!”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Speaking of Preaching...

Speaking of preaching, the onus is not only on the preacher. There is a discipline of hearing preaching. Read this helpful article in the online version of Christianity Today. I teach a class called "Spiritual Life and Community," and I intend to incorporate this article in my class notes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Does Your Pastor Preach Too Long?

"My Pastor preaches too long." This is a complaint often heard from those who sit in the pew. It is interesting that this seems to be an issue. Having read not a few sermons from the Puritans, I get the idea that time constraints were meaningless to them. But, we live in a different world. As the joke goes, most preachers do not need a clock, they need a calendar. Admittedly, there are those who preach for but a few moments and it seems like an eternity. Likewise, there are others who preach for a hour and one wonders where the time has gone.
John MacArthur writes on this topic in Pulpit Magazine. It is profitable for the preacher and the listener. Find the article here

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


While surfing, I found Denny Burk's blog. Denny is the academic dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school associated with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. On his bio page, he lists this powerful statement:

I agree with Abraham Kuyper who said: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Teach Your Children Well, Part 4

Read an excellent article from Pulpit Magazine on "How (Not) to Raise a Pharisee." It is not for kids only, but for all who desire to avoid the hypocritical legalism that pervades some branches of our Christian faith.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Racist Voters

One of the beautiful things about living in the Youngstown, Ohio area is the entertaining political atmosphere. Two of our esteemed state representatives have weighed in on the importance of the presidential race. Of course, as elected officials from the Mahoning Valley, there is no question regarding where their political and party affiliations lie. However, they have thrown good sense to the wind in statements about the coming election. In their words, at least for people in the Valley, there are 1000 reasons to vote for Senator Obama, and only 1 reason not to: race. Read the statement here.

I would be naive to deny that race plays no factor in this election. Sadly, some who would normally vote Democrat will not this time because of race. But to make such a blanket statement as that above, Reps. Hagan and Lestson have dismissed any political or philosophical differences that one may have with Sen. Obama. Several of my coworkers refuse to vote for Obama because of his position on abortion. Their share the same racial heritage as the Senator's. Are they racist?
And could we not likewise say that the only reason people will fail to vote for McCain - Palin is because they are chauvinists?

I'm sure our forbears envisioned the election process as that which brings out the best in Americans. If they could see us now!


Speaking of Darwin and the Church of England, the whole subject of worldview comes into play. Darwinism and evolutionary theory flows from a naturalistic worldview. That is obvious. What is not so obvious is when a religious body (e.g. the Church of England), one that is expected to speak from a theistic worldview, endorses statements that contradict it's foundation.

Tim Challies posted a recent article about the "coming out" of Ray Boltz. Challies says it is all about worldview. His post is insightful, but some of the responses to the post are, to say the least, interesting. It demonstrates how far we have come in our resistance to calling sin by its name. It appears that many feel that Christians have but two alternatives: call sin sin and be haters, or be tolerant lovers of people.

Is it not possible to see sin in its hideousness and still love people? Apparently, Christians cannot love someone unless we agree with their lifestyle, regardless what our convictions may be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Al Mohler is Right

Read Al Moher's blog here. He writes of a call for the Church of England to apologize for its misunderstanding and over-reaction to the writings of Charles Darwin. There was a time when churches would speak out against systems that tried to remove the Creator from His creation. I guess it is not "culturally relevant" to rage against the machine nowadays. What would J.C. Ryle think of his church today?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is Nothing Sacred?

I do not intend to offend accordion players. Quite honestly, I am amazed at the dexterity needed to play that instrument. But, really, is this necessary? William Cowper may be rolling over in his grave.

Religious Right?

Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing us to this post by Joe Carter about politics, conservatism, and the religious right.

Duet, Trio, Quartet, or More?

On today's blog, Dr. Al Mohler comments on the statement released by the Episcopal Bishops of California urging voters to defeat Proposition 8. This measure would add an amendment to the state's Constitution to clarify the definition of marriage as a union between heterosexual couples.
As usual, Dr. Mohler makes an insightful observation:

Society is strengthened," they argue, "when two people who love each other choose to enter into marriage, engaged in a lifetime of disciplined relationship building that serves as a witness to the importance of love and commitment."
Note that the bishops simply refer to "two people who love each other." Why two? Once marriage is transformed from the union of a man and a woman into a union without respect to gender -- and on the claim that marriage is a "fundamental right" -- how can the number two be anything but arbitrary

To appeal to Scripture and tradition as the basis of a "one-for-one-for-life" (or at least that's the intent), is rather hypocritical. As Mohler observes, why is marriage defined as a couple, regardless of gender? Why not a trio or a quartet?

Certainly, it is no stretch of the imagination to attempt to endorse polygamy from Scripture. And if homosexual unions can be blessed because they "engage in a lifetime of disciplined relationship," could not the same be said for polygamists who are disciplined within their own system? In fact, polygamist sects should jump on this confusion in the definition of marriage. Maybe the pluralistic postmodern culture is ripe for a reopening of that issue.

Don't misunderstand me. I do not endorse polygamy (For an insider's account of the misery of polygamy, read Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamists Wife by Irene Spenser). However, by jettisoning Scripture and tradition, we leave ourselves no moral legs to stand upon.

Do we see a Pandora's box under construction? If same sex unions become the norm, then what is next? As Romans 1 indicates, sinful culture is usually not content to remain at a static level in its expression of depravity. Rather, culture spirals downward into further depths of sinful behavior.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Packer on Owen

Read this great review of a John Owen classic by J.I. Packer. I am wading through this book during my devotional time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


"Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed"
(Jer. 48:10).
I do not want to traffic with those who wrench verses from their context. Proof-texting is a curse from which we are still trying to find redemption. I know that this refers to the destroyers of Moab, and the warning is that the sin of Saul in failing to utterly destroy Amelek not be repeated. Those who were to be the Lord's instrument of judgment on Moab were to do His bidding completely (by the way, Justin Taylor has an excellent article titled "How Could God Command Genocide." Read it here)
I had lately read this passage in my morning reading and it came back to my mind at our county fair yesterday. I saw a young lady wearing a tee shirt with this slogan blazoned across the back: "To do anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." The author of the quote was on the shirt but I could not read it and didn't want to stare.
This is a great slogan for ministry. What an unbelievable privilege it is to be called and gifted for ministry. If we do less than our best, we sacrifice, nay, we slander the gift that God the Holy Spirit has granted to us. Ministry is not for those who crave a life of wealth, ease, or comfort.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sunday School

The Sunday School has been part of the Christian culture since it's inception in the 1780's. The online version of Christian history has an interesting article about the history of the Sunday School. Originally, it began as a literacy and religious education movement. The article points out that there were good reasons for this institution and why it became so popular with parents and children.

I wonder if in the 21st century, we are witnessing the death of the Sunday School. In many churches, the attendance is not what it was in the 60's and 70's. For some, what once was a tool to advance literacy and Christian education (and even doctrinal knowledge via chatechistical instruction), now is a forum to teach Bible stories with a moralistic interpretation, or as a tool for evangelism. Sadly, some continue to prop up a Sunday School program for no other reason than it is something that has always been done.

If Sunday School is to continue and to be a viable program (and one could argue that maybe it has outlived its usefulness - but that's a discussion for another day), the we need to ask ourselves some pertinent questions:
  • Why do we have Sunday School?
  • What do we want to accomplish in Sunday School?
  • What is expected from those who teach in the Sunday School?
  • If there are good and sound reasons to have a Sunday School program, then where is it among the priorities of the church and what resources will be committed to it?

Read the article linked above and share your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

So Easy a Child Can Do It

I saw this on Mark Dever's Church Matters blog. Apparently, Pentecostal preaching is so easy a child can do it!
Seriously, the caption says "This is awesome. We had a powerful move of God in the worship service... While it was somewhat entertaining, it was also moving." No wonder Christians are a joke to many people.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Great Picture

Sorry to be so political, but you really must see this picture. My thanks to Doug Wilson's Blog and Mablog.

Monday, August 25, 2008

She Said What?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments on yesterday's Meet the Press have been all over the talk radio airwaves today. I heard some clips, and I read the transcripts of the interview. Either the Speaker is a typical politician or a bad Catholic. She claims to be an "ardent practicing Catholic" and she actually believes that the Roman Catholic Church is conflicted over the issue of when life begins! Now, I am not a Catholic, but even I know that Roman Catholics have asserted for centuries that life begins at conception and that abortion is considered a sin. How an "ardent practicing Catholic" cannot know this is incredible.

I realize that many in the RCC, especially in the USA, do not agree with the Church's teaching about contraception and abortion; and perhaps Speaker Pelosi is among them. But to assert that the Church is unclear about the issue is just plain nonsense. Her revisionist version of church history makes me wonder: am I a better Catholic than Nancy Pelosi?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Teach Your Children Well - Part 3

I have been on vacation this week and have tried to stay away from the computer. However, I ran across this about praying with your children and thought it worthy of sharing. Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Teach Your Children Well, Part 2

If I would have taken the time to blog surf more, I probably would not have started this one. Justin Taylor has an excellent blog. He contributes to several - how does he have time to do anything else? Anyway, since one of my responsibilities at my church is to be involved in the educational ministry, this article was particularly helpful and relevant. Justin Taylor linked it from his blog and I provide the link here. Anyone involved in ministry to young people should read this.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Going to Church

I am reading The Cube and the Cathedral by George Weigel. This is a look at the differences in worldview between America and much of Europe. Last evening, I read this passage:

Whatever you can say about the United States, it is most certainly not a Christaphobic or post-Christian society. European high culture is largely Christaphobic and Europeans themselves describe their culture and societies as post-Christian. It would be too simple to say that the reason Americans and Europeans see the world so differently is that the former go to church on Sundays and the latter don't. But it would also be a grave mistake to think that the dramatic differences in religious belief and practice in the United States and Europe don't have something to do with those different perceptions of the world - and the different policies to which those perceptions generally lead.

We might argue Weigel's assessment that America is not Christaphobic or post-Christian, but I was impressed by his assessment of the way religious belief influences worldview. Now, this is not news to most of us, but it bears examination.

Perhaps it is too simplistic to find too much significance in the rate of church attendance between Europe and the United States, but there does seem to be validity to this idea. It has long been observed that much of Europe has abandoned religious service. Cathedrals in France are not much more than tourist attractions. Church buildings in Great Britain have been converted to car washes and convenience stores. And, it is also true that church attendance is not what it used to be in America. In this country, fewer and fewer people attend church - even those who profess to be evangelical Christians.

But, the fact that, more or less, Americans do go to church on Sunday reflects upon their basic outlook. Regardless whether the church one attends is considered liberal of fundamentalist, or all shades in between, people who attend church state by their attendance that there is a God to whom they are in some way accountable. An elementary awareness of the existence of God informs one's worldview.
America is fast becoming a secular society. Much of European culture is markedly secular. It is significant that one of the candidates for president of the United States looks to Europe as a model. However, insofar as we are a church going nation, our culture has reaped the benefits.
For the Christian, the task has not changed. The Great Commission transcends cultures, politics, and nations. In America, we are still free to proclaim the gospel. We should not take for granted this liberty.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

This is an article I wrote for our church newsletter, so I thought I would share it with the 3 or 4 regular readers of this blog.

As Paul approaches the end of his 2nd letter to Timothy, he warns his young protégée about the conditions that will prevail in the latter days. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 contain well known words that have been the source for many sermons decrying the cultural disintegration of our times. As a contrast to all of this, Paul encourages Timothy to “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15, ESV).

Among many other issues, this speaks to the rationale behind our church’s ministry to children. Why do we expend time, energy, and resources for Sunday School? For some, the answer is inadequate; “We have always had Sunday School. I’m sure there is something in the Bible that tells us we should do this.” What about VBS and KidVenture? Do we conduct these programs so that we can say that we have something for the children; something to entertain them and keep them busy?

I hope you would agree that our motivation in this area – as in everything else we do – should be rooted in Scripture. The Bible says that the “holy Scriptures” (KJV) is that which God uses to bring children to salvation. This implies several things:

The Scriptures should be taught to our children.
Paul reminds Timothy of what he had learned and from whom he learned it. This may refer either to his mother and grandmother, the instruction of Paul himself, or to both. We assume that children cannot learn Biblical truths, but this is a fallacy. Certainly, they learn at their own level, but they can and must learn.

Of course, this implies that they should be taught. This is where the role of the teacher enters the equation. It is a great responsibility and privilege to teach God’s Word to young people.

The Scriptures are God’s instrument to bring salvation to our children.
This is a very important truth. Note that the Bible says that it is the Word of God which makes one wise to salvation. It is not the Sunday School curricula, the Jr. church or VBS material, it is the Word. Insomuch as these are aids in communicating the Word, they have value, but they can never be a substitute for Scripture. None of our urgings, pleadings or invitings can replace the power of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Word of God.

The Scriptures make children wise to salvation.
We believe in sudden conversion. But, this passage seems to indicate that there is a process that leads to this conversion. In fact, some people cannot point to a definite time and place when they “gave their heart to Christ.” Timothy was reared in an atmosphere of Scripture, so much so that it is likely that he was saved at such a young age that there was no dramatic conversion story to tell.

It is not by accident that, in the next chapter, Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the Word.” If the sacred writings (the Bible) are God’s instrument to awaken one to salvation, why would we preach anything else? Those who are truly evangelistic and who have a genuine compassion for the souls of men (and children) will be diligent to teach the Word of God clearly and carefully.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mohler on Dawkins

I hope the 3 or 4 people who read this blog are regular readers of Al Mohler. If not, close this window and go to his blog now!

Today he writes about our favorite atheist, Richard Dawkins:

Dawkins, pleased to be known as "Darwin's Rotweiller," has been given a new three-part television series in Britain, known as "Dawkins on Darwin." The British press is fawning in its applause, and Dawkins appears to be in rare form.

Follow this link to read the rest of Dr. Mohler's commentary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hiding the Word in the Heart

Although I have done too little to avoid the charge of hypocrisy, I am a fan of memorizing large passages of Scripture. Certainly there is value in committing key verses to memory, but the shot gun approach that is usually followed fosters a proof-texting mentality that has not always been well used. Memorizing chapters and entire books is more challenging, but tremendously rewarding.

I have known people who have memorized entire books of the Bible. One of my professors - one of the most humble men I have ever known - memorized the book of Hebrews and Romans (maybe others, too), not for any other reason than personal edification. Another seminary professor I knew memorized the entire NT in the ASV - he was blind and could quote verses at will.

While roaming around the web, I came across an interesting article on the ESV Bible blog offering help in memorizing books of the Bible. It presented a renewed challenge for me, and I hope that it will be helpful for you. You may find the PDF written by Andrew Davis here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Personal Devotions

I imagine that sometime or another, we have all had struggles with maintaining freshness and creativity in our personal devotions. For some of us, it is more duty than delight.

I am always interested when I read of creative ideas to ramp up my devotional life. I know how desperately I need a regular time of personal worship and enrichment. Tim Challies has posted an excellent article called "Sandbox Devotions." It is certainly worth the time. You may find the post here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Old School Evangelism

Many people do not associate the word "Puritan" with evangelism. It is hard to imagine John Owen button-holing someone outside of Parliament asking, "If you died tonight, do you know if you would go to heaven?"

J.I. Packer has a helpful chapter on Puritan evangelism in his book A Quest for Godliness:The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 1990). If we would adopt this philosophy, the result might be fewer "decisions" but more actual conversions; smaller churches, but holier ones.

Packer writes:

To their [the Puritan preachers] minds, it would be the worst advice possible to tell a troubled person to stop worrying about his sins and trust Christ at once when that person had not yet faced the specifics of his or her own sinfulness and has not yet come to the point of clear-headedly desiring to leave all sinful ways behind and be made holy. To give this advice, they held, before the heart is weaned from sin would be the way to induce false peace and false hopes, and so produce ‘gospel-hypocrites,’ which is the last thing that a Christian counselor should be willing to do.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Is Doctrine Necessary?

Is it really necessary to be concerned about theology or doctrine? After all, shouldn’t we be more concerned about addressing the felt needs of hurting people, about encouraging people to live real and authentic lives before the world? Only in the climate of modern Christianity would such a question be asked.

The current mantra seems to be this: doctrine divides but love unites. Therefore, do not emphasize doctrine or else you will be guilty of one of the worst offenses in all of Christendom: causing schisms and destroying unity. Modern Christianity has become so steeped in pragmatism that doctrine is relegated to a category of intellectual concern with little or no bearing upon the dynamics of daily life. It is clear that there is an appalling dearth of doctrinal and theological precision in the pulpits and the pews of American churches. This is obvious in at least 3 ways:

  • The proliferation of media ministries, specifically: those that present teachings that are contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine (they are so popular that it would bring recriminations to any who would call them unorthodox).
  • Those who boast in an absence of doctrine in the name of tolerance and acceptance. “We have no creed.”
  • The tendency of Christians to follow the latest evangelical fads without thinking critically about the substance or content of those issues.

T.C. Hammond addressed this concern nearly 70 years ago. His words are even more applicable in our day;

The student certainly ought to know something about the intellectual processes, which have governed the interpretation of the message of God through the ages. Those who have been trained to classify and think clearly in their secular branches of learning ought to be applying the principles of their mental training to the understanding and teaching of divine revelation. Unfortunately, we find very often that ‘educated’ Christians are foremost amongst those who mix things that differ. We often hear it glibly said, ‘You see, I know no theology!’ and frequently this particular ignorance is regarded as a matter of pride. The study of Christian doctrine is often thought to be dry and uninteresting. By a singular perversion of ideas it is sometimes said to be ‘unspiritual!’ ‘Doctrine,’ ‘theology,’ ‘dogma’ are thought to have an unpleasant ring to them, to be solely the art of making hair splitting distinctions, and altogether remote from the vital issues of salvation.

Every serious study has its dogmas. The medical practitioner speaks a peculiar language of his own and writes prescriptions in an ancient hieroglyphic. The medical man is expected to know the technique of his special study. A student who boasted that he depended on ‘common sense’ in diagnosis and had never made a serious effort to absorb the principles of this art would, we hope, become disillusioned by the absence of patients, who would prefer to suffer than risk his ‘common sense.’ Yet, sometimes even ‘professional’ ministers of the gospel content themselves with a minimum of theological information. ‘Amateur’ Christian workers often display commendable eagerness to ‘save souls’ and yet are themselves satisfied with a very hazy knowledge of the real nature of salvation.[1]

[1] T.C. Hammond, In Understanding Be Men rev. and ed. by David F. Wright (Leicester, England: IVP, 1968), 13-14.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Church & Culture

On his blog, Al Mohler posted a report about the PCUSA and their “move to approve homosexual clergy.” As usual, Al Mohler is insightful and just plain smart. This is but one more example of the world of “Christendom” capitulating to the prevailing spirit of the age. I wonder how the rank and file within the PCUSA (or the Episcopal Church or United Methodist Church, or any other group that has likewise considered this issue) would feel about the ordination of gay clergy. Is this really the sentiment of the parishioner who attends on Sunday, or is it the desire of the denominational leaders to appear to be politically correct and culturally “with it?”

I am probably one of the last people in the world to read 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. Actually, I may be the next-to-the-last: my Pastor and I are reading it together. I can tell when a book hits me by how I mark up the Introduction. There’s so much ink on this one that the pages are beginning to wrinkle.

What in the world do the preceding paragraphs have in common, you might wonder? As I read Mohler’s comments this morning, I though of the comments Dever made in introducing his book. Here’s the connection: evangelicals accuse Liberals (or non-evangelicals, whatever term you prefer) of giving in to contemporary culture by lowering previously held standards of morality. This is done, presumably, to make church life more reflective of modern life, more in touch with modern culture, or more appealing to more people by being more inclusive, more tolerant.

Now, most of us could preach fiery sermons about compromise and apostasy. Yet, some evangelicals have become what they criticize by adopting a philosophy of pragmatism and a market driven mentality. In other words, there is sometimes little difference in PCUSA and some evangelical churches that allow church life to be defined by the likes and dislikes of contemporary culture.

As Dever points out, the church is to be defined by Scripture, not culture. It is true that the church has not looked the same in different times, and it will look quite different in other cultures. This is not an appeal to return to the good old days (which, according to Billy Joel, weren’t all that good). True – we live in this world and we are to demonstrate to this world the “manifold wisdom of God.” But the glory of God and obedience to His Word should be the focus, not the favor of modern culture.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Space, the Final Frontier

The next space shuttle mission will be the final visit to the Hubble Space Telescope. STS 125 will be a mission to repair the device and install new equipment. Particularly interesting is the addition of a “cosmic origins spectrograph.” According to NASA’s web site, this instrument “is designed to study the large scale structure of the universe and how galaxies, stars and planets were formed and evolved. It will help determine how elements needed for life such as carbon and iron first formed and how their abundances have increased over the lifetime of the universe.” Now I am no scientist, nor am I a technician in any way, shape or form (although last evening I did fix my lawn mower. I have no idea what I did, but I took it apart, put it back together and now it runs), but this sounds like an enormous task. I cannot imagine the technology involved in the construction of such a device, nor do I understand how scientists interpret the data that is gathered.

I have seen the photographs that have been taken by Hubble and they are astounding. They remind us how small we are and how vast is the universe. In my own simple non-scientific mind, I am again brought back to the Scriptures that speak of the majesty of the God of our creation. I know that Psalm 8 is a Messianic Psalm, but I can’t help thinking that as David looked into the night sky over Jerusalem – with no “light pollution” like we have today – and saw into space, he was almost speechless as he considered “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him (Ps. 8:3-4).

When I see the pictures from Hubble, I realize that I don’t have enough faith (or sophistication, as some would say) to believe that this all began with a singularity, with a Big Bang from whence came life and all the laws of the physical universe. I have no problem believing the Genesis account that creation was spoken into existence by God.

This being said, note that David calls creation the work of God’s fingers. Yet, in Isaiah 53:1, when introducing the prophetic passage on the subsitutionary atonement, the prophet cries. “Who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed.” I know this is all poetic language, but I can’t help but to be amazed at the comparison. The universe, with its vastness and mystery is called the “finger work” of God. Salvation is the work of His Mighty Arm. There is infinitely more involved in the salvation of the sinner than in the creation of the universe! In creation, God spoke the Word; in salvation, the Word became flesh.

It is probably not the intent of NASA scientists, but through Hubble the truth of Scripture is confirmed: the heavens declare the glory of God.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kiss the Son

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to fill in for a local pastor who was on a missions trip. I spoke from Psalm 2. It begins with the nations raging and rebelling against the rule of the Father and Son. Whenever I read this passage, I think of the writings of men like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Why are they so adamant against “religion?” Why are they raging against something they truly believe is myth? Except for a few who have nothing better to do, no one writes lengthy tomes decrying children’s belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny!

The “kings of the earth” are unaware that the Lord has established His King, the One who is truly “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” The nation’s rage cannot be matched by the rage of Lord. It’s hard to beat verse 5 in the KJV: “He shall speak to them in his wrath and vex them in his sore displeasure.”

The only hope of relief for the rebellious nations is to do the complete opposite of what they want to do, namely submit to the rule of the Son. Salvation is all about submission to His Lordship, to His rule.

The Psalm ends with a beatitude: “Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On Reading

I love to read. I wish I could read faster. In fact, I borrowed a book from the library on speed reading, but it was due before I finished it (by the way, if you do not have a library card, shame on you). I need to read more and to read better.

It is hard to over emphasize the importance of reading. As one reads, he interacts with others, both living and dead. It is a great way for "iron to sharpen iron." Along the way, I have picked up some suggestions for reading from various sources. Of course, I assume that we are spending considerable amounts of time reading Scripture (see Al Mohler's article linked on my June 9 post below). Nonetheless, here are some suggestions:
  • Read biography - fewer things encourage and build faith like the accounts of those who "sailed through bloody seas."
  • Read theology - If there is one crying need among modern Christians, it is an understanding of basic theological truth.
  • Read perspectives on contemporary issues - This will help to dispel the "head in the sand" mentality that sometimes plagues Christians.
  • Read devotionally - It warms the heart and stirs the passions for Christ.
  • Read the classics - This is where I fail most often, but great literature stimulates the imagination and creative thinking. Creativity mimics the One Who is called the Creator. C.S. Lewis is purported to have said, "We do not need more Christian writers. We need more writers who are Christians."

Nothing will take the place of a book. Read and enjoy.

How About That?

I know that I should be entering something spiritual and profitable, but it is my blog. So this posting is for all you java hounds. Read this and enjoy another cup.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bible Reading

Follow the link to read a great interview with Al Mohler on reading the Bible. I found this on the New Attitude web site. It is worth the time.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The God Who Demands

While on vacation, I finished reading Why We’re Not Emergent (by two guys who should be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. I know very little about the emergent church phenomena and this was a good introduction. DeYoung is a pastor in East Lansing Michigan, and Kluck is an author and writer for ESPN. They write in a congenial manner, pointing to some positive features in the emergent movement. As can be seen by the title, the authors feel the liabilities out weigh the assets in the movement.

One of the statements that struck me was in Ted Kluck’s introduction to the book. His statement was especially significant to me since attending the Basics Conference at Parkside Church last month. The theme of the Conference was “Preaching the Gospel to Yourself.” The concepts from those sessions have been cooking in my heart since mid-May. Kluck’s words are important:

As a Christian man, specifically a husband and father, I need truth. I need to worship a God who makes demands on my character, with consequences. I need to know that Christianity is about more than me just “reaching my untapped potential” or “finding the God inside me.” I need to know that I worship a Christ who died, bodily, and rose from the dead. Literally, I need to know that decisions can (and should) be made based on Scripture and not just experience. These are things that give me peace in a world of maybe (emphasis mine).

Where is the God who makes demands? The popular concept is of a God who affirms, who believes in us, who cheers for us and who “is there for us,” but makes no demands upon us. The whole “Lordship” controversy of 20 years ago is proof that we are more comfortable with a non-confrontational Deity.

Of course there are many other things in this book worthy of attention. For me, it gave me a greater appreciation for the truth of God’s Word and the unpopular practice of declaring the whole counsel of God.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Superficial Healing

We are on vacation, visiting family near Orlando, Florida. I write this from Panera Bread in Altamonte Springs, having escaped the family for a few hours. I know most coffee experts would sneer at my urbane tastes, but I recommend the Café blend. It reminds me of the Costa Rican Peaberry that I used to get from Gevalia, when I thought I was wealthier than I am.

On Sunday evening I drove into Sanford to attend St. Andrews Chapel. Burk Parsons, St. Andrews’ minister of worship and congregational life, brought an exposition of Is. 26: 1-6. Burk is an excellent preacher who is probably often overshadowed by R.C. Sproul, St. Andrews’ popular senior pastor. However, I could sense his love and care for the people at St. Andrews as he spoke from Scripture. Someone once said that the most difficult instrument to master is “second fiddle.” If this is true, then Parsons is a virtuoso.

During his message, he made reference to Jer. 6:14. To set the context, the Lord warns His people through Jeremiah that the city will be swept away by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar who become God’s instrument of judgment for their wickedness. As Jeremiah prophesies judgment, other prophets deliver a different message. They say something like “We are God’s chosen people. Surely He will not give us over to these uncircumcised Gentile idolaters.” They were crying “peace” when judgment and catastrophe were imminent. Jer. 6:14 says, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

Parsons said that the word “lightly,” also translated “slightly” in some versions, can mean “superficially.” I could not help but make the connection to the modern evangelical world. Read the paper or watch the news – or go to the mall, for that matter – and it becomes apparent that there is a fatal wound in the human condition. Theologians call this human depravity. Scripture says that men are “dead in trespasses and sins.” However, if you visit any book store’s religious section you will discover that the message that sells the most ink is one that offers a superficial healing of the mortal wound of sin.

In fact, one would be hard pressed to find the right diagnosis, not to mention the proper remedy. Are people “messed up,” are homes “dysfunctional,” do we have “issues?” Yes, but this is the result of something deeper, something that the superficial ointment of positive thinking cannot cure. The problem is sin. The sooner we (meaning evangelicals) return to that, the sooner we will rediscover the only sure “treatment” – the Cross of Jesus.

I know that in some minds this makes me a raving fundamentalist. It puts me (and you if you agree) in the company of those dour Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, other throwbacks to a bygone era (not bad company, by the way). I read of an itinerant preacher in Palestine whose assessment of current events led him to proclaim “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:1-5). He wouldn’t pack a stadium with that kind of talk.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Message and Messenger

What is the connection between the message and the messenger? This question invariably arises in the context of music and worship styles. It came up yesterday in my Christian Worship class. Specifically, the discussion centered on types of music appropriate in worship. It was not the usual traditional vs. contemporary argument, rather it concerned types of contemporary music appropriate in church services. On the one hand, the argument was that the message is the primary issue. Music is neutral and is only a carrier for the message. On the other hand, the argument was that music is not always neutral and the wrong message could be conveyed, even if the theology of the song was solid. Therefore, care must be given to the medium as well as to the message. Now if I had the answer that would satisfy both sides of the issue, I would offer you autographed copies of my book at an outrageous price.

This discussion stimulated our thinking about the connection between the message and the messenger, or the container or carrier of the message. My conclusion was profound and one of the students suggested I post in on my blog for both of my readers to see. Indeed, the response was so profound that I forgot what I said. But I think it was something like this: the medium (the carrier or container) of the message must be appropriate to the message. It should not be more than the message so that the medium is the main thing. I’m sure I said it better yesterday.

I wish I could give chapter and verse for my stated opinion, but all I can provide are insinuations. For example, the book of Jonah could have ended at chapter 3, but it continued another chapter showing the Lord working with His messenger who was out of sync with God’s plans. In Acts 16:17-18, Paul rebuked a demon-possessed girl who was actually speaking the truth. Apparently, it mattered who spoke the truth. Twice in the New Testament, Paul told two different audiences to “Take heed to yourself” (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:16).

I think we would all agree that the messenger does matter, although perhaps not to the same degree. Some detract from the message because of their manner of life. One needs only to think of recent and not-so-recent scandals involving prominent media ministries to see how one’s life reflects upon the message.

Spurgeon spoke to this issue quite forcefully: “Whatever ‘call’ a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to ministry” (Lectures to My Students, p.9). And concerning those who are ministers of the gospel, he cautioned them to be careful to guard their hearts and to be diligent in personal soul care. To them he wrote: “Having to carry the living water to others, we must go oftener to the well, and we must go with more capacious vessels than the general run of Christians” (An All-Round Ministry, p.75).

It is true that God uses flawed instruments. Were that not the case, I know of no one who would be in ministry. Yet, we must strive to be the best tool, the sharpest knife, the cleanest instrument, the most useful messenger that we can be. The medium reflects upon the message. In both, may God be glorified.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day

This is a post published last year on Memorial Day.

Since 1999, my view of Memorial Day has been profoundly different. That year, my wife and I spent the first 2 weeks of May in France visiting missionaries from our church who had returned for a station relief assignment. The highlight for my wife was the Louvre, Versailles, and Giverny, the home and studio of Claude Monet, her favorite artist. Of course, being the dutiful husband, I tried to feign interest, but after 25 years of marriage (at that time), her expectation level was low. I will admit to being impressed with Giverny. We could have spent more time there. The house and gardens were beautiful.

The highlight of the trip for me, however, was more personal. I was anxious to visit the American Cemetery at Normandy to see the place where an uncle I never knew is buried.

As I a child, I remember seeing his photo on the wall at my grandparent’s house. There were 4 pictures: my mother as a teenager, her youngest brother’s high school graduation picture, and her 2 older brothers in their army dress uniforms. Of course I knew 3 of them, but I remember asking about the 4th one who bore an uncanny resemblance to a younger version of my grandfather. The only answer I ever remember receiving was this: “That’s your uncle James. He died in the war.” When I asked why grandma was riding in the Gold Star Mothers car with several other older ladies during the “Decoration Day” parade, it was: “Uncle James died in the war.”

I confess that I was not very curious about the affair, maybe because around the kids it was not a topic of discussion. It was only as we planned the trip to France that I was determined to find out as much as I could. My aunt had learned that he was buried at St. Mere d’ Eglise, in a temporary cemetery. All else that they knew was that he died on June 10, 1944 – 4 days after the D Day invasion. In Caen, we were told by a missionary (Dan Lacy, a great guy, now with Lord) that the remains at all the temporary cemeteries were reburied at Normandy.

In the final analysis, we have learned no more about the circumstances of his death. I have questions that, 64 years later, will likely never be answered. How did he die? We heard a rumor that he was last seen driving a jeep (I wonder if this is borrowed from the Patton story. My grandparents loved George Patton). Did he survive the initial landing on Omaha Beach or did he come later after the beach was secured?

I can only imagine the pain that my grandparents felt when the black sedan pulled up in front of their house in tiny Mogadore, Ohio. This was not an uncommon occurrence during that time, and the whole town knew when those official-looking men showed up with the horrible news.

Today, there is only one member of that immediate family left, my uncle Ken, the youngest. Grandma & Grandpa, uncle Harold, and my mom are all gone. So far, I have been the only family member to visit the grave at Normandy. That visit was one of the most moving experiences of my life. It was made all the more poignant by a remark spoken by our friends; “Ron, your uncle gave his life so I could preach the gospel in France for 33 years.”

Uncle James was weeks shy of his 19th birthday. He lies besides hundreds of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for for a cause greater than himself.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Head Knowlege?

For most of my Christian life I have heard from pulpits that “people miss heaven by 18 inches. That’s the difference between the head and the heart.” The idea is that people fail to become Christians because they have only “head knowledge, but not heart knowledge.” Now, I think I know what people mean by this, but I’m not sure that the concept is accurate. If the idea implies a failure to come to the point of submission to Christ and remain an informed pagan, then I agree. But if the intent is to downgrade propositional truth in favor of subjective impression, then that is a serious problem.

Granted, we are not to be merely repositories of theological knowledge. A purely academic knowledge of Biblical themes and facts that has no bearing on life is not particularly advantageous. However, neither is the opposite extreme of subjective impressions with no basis in fact.

A seminary professor of mine described faith as “sufficient reason to believe.” Faith is founded on truth, not fancy or fiction. There must be content to faith. It is not enough to only believe – Oprah claims to believe; she is purposely ambiguous about what she believes.

Faith must be fixed upon the facts and truths of Scripture, namely the propositional truths about the Person and work of Jesus Christ. These truths are intended to influence and form our actions.

If this is true, then it is the responsibility of the preacher to heed Paul’s words to Timothy to “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Sinners are not won to Christ and believers are not edified by the rejection of propositional truth – regardless what the leaders of the emergent church claim.

Albert Mohler speaks to this:

Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy--or too distracted--to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Latest Reads

I have recently finished 2 books (yes, I can read, and yes, I did stay within the lines). The 1st is one I have been plodding through for some time. It is Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: the Protestant Revolution from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Alister McGrath. At 560 pages, it took me longer to read (being a slow reader is a burden). Church history is McGrath’s forte and he does a masterful job in telling a story that needs to be told again. With the push toward “non-denominationalism” there is a tendency to lose sight of the historic roots of evangelicalism.

McGrath is a prolific author. He has written a response to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion called The Dawkins Delusion. He is featured in Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed.” If you haven’t seen that movie, you need to see it. As others have said, the interview with Richard Dawkins at the end is worth the price of the movie.

The 2nd book is a quick read that augments the former. It is The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson. Many people tear their garments and throw ashes in the air when Calvin’s name is mentioned. This book, however, shows Calvin as an expositor; a preacher steeped in Scripture and theology. You will learn some interesting things about Calvin’s ministry. For example, he preached without notes and his sermons were recorded live in some kind of shorthand.

Thanks to those who posted comments and to all those who read this blog. Feel free to share in the conversation.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Greetings to all. Yes, I have entered the blogosphere! Why me and why this title? Good question:

1. I have always wanted to write, but I cannot imagine anyone actually paying me to do it. Therefore, I will impose my ideas on anyone desperate enough to read them.

2. The title reflects the eclectic nature of this blog. My interests are: theology, history, contemporary culture, preaching, WWII (particularly Nazi Germany), and science fiction.

3. I am also a coffee hound. I love a good cup of coffee, yet many will think that I am a heretic because I do not favor Starbucks.

I want this to be a forum for my friends to discuss any of the matters above, as well as books and articles of interest. Prov. 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." I hope to be sharpened by these discussions.

Thanks for taking the time.