Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: Tim McGraw's "My Little Girl"


Just an fyi. You may see some reviews of children's books on the old blog, because I signed up to do some book reviewing for Thomas Nelson books. I don't have time to read long books at the moment, but kid's books I can do!

So, that being said, this (My Little Girl) was a really very sweet book that draws out how to delight in the good days and the relationships God gives us. Most of the weight in this book is given to the relationship between a father and daughter. The father tells his little girl on the eve of a day they will spend together that, “Tomorrow they would have a spectacular day.” This sprang the little girl’s mind out of the blocks dreaming up what might be coming the next day. As she is all excited he comes to the foot of the stairs and says they will be doing, “nothing in particular.” This bummed Katie out. She soon learns that the day is a one full of time spent enjoying the relationship she has with her dad. It may be a bit optimistic in the fact that there are no temper tantrums throughout the day, but it is a really a cute little book that hopefully won’t give little girls a false hope that their daddies might give them this kind of attention. Hopefully as fathers read this with their little girls it will encourage them to take a day here and there to spend time with their little girls. One theological thing to note, the way this little girl loves her daddy is an example of how we too often love our God. He plans good things for those that love Him, despite their expectations. Too many times when things go differently than we plan or expect we are disappointed. We should trust that if we are in Christ (that is, if we repent of our sins and believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification and to vindicate His claims) God's plan to dwell with us now and for all eternity in the future is the source of true joy, even now. Even though the book is a bit utopian, if you are looking for a children’s book to give you the motivation to model God's fatherly love to your little girl, you may find this book to be a good encouragement.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

God's Happiness


I'm sure this has been quoted a million times all over the internet, but this is the first time I've read it. This is the first paragraph in Jonathan Edwards' "Discourse on the Trinity":
When we speak of God's happiness, the account that we are wont to give of it is that God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of himself, in perfectly beholding and infinitely loving, and rejoicing in, his own essence and perfections. And accordingly it must be supposed that God perpetually and eternally has a most perfect idea of himself, as it were an exact image and representation of himself ever before him and in actual view. And from hence arises a most pure and perfect energy in the God-head, which is the divine love, complacence and joy.

Edwards, Jonathan The Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol. 21: Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith ed. Sang Hyun Lee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 113.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Abortion: To Deny What They Knew To Be True

Check out this video from South Dakota's Vote Yes For Life Campaign for Initiative 11. Pretty powerful stuff...



Also notice who else endorses initiative 11. Roe from Roe v. Wade.

And Doe from Doe v. Bolton

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama: Pro-Choice, Anti-Abortion, or Anti-Life?


I don't like to comment on politics...but this is important, so I am;) Everyone voting in the upcoming election and with an opinion regarding the "abortion debate" really should read this article, "Obama's Abortion Extremism", by Robert P. George. He earned a law degree and a theology degree from Harvard, and a doctorate from Oxford. He is currently the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and as the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He also serves on The President's Council on Bioethics and previously served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

George lists the case for his claim that, "Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress," in the following points.
1. Senator Obama has, "promised to seek repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which has for many years protected pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest."

2. Senator Obama has promised, “the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. ( FOCA)" This makes abortion a federally guaranteed right through all nine months of pregancy for any reason. Virtually every state and federal limitation on abortion that is currently on the books would be abolished (e.g., parental consent and notification laws for minors).

3. Senator Obama opposes the ban on the heinous practice of partial-birth abortion and strongly disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the ban.

4. Senator Obama wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need.

5. Senator Obama refused to support the pro-life Democrats' “95-10” legislation (designed to reduce the number of abortions by 95% in 10 years by strengthening the social safety net for poor women). This would not have made abortion illegal; it would seek to reduce abortion.

6. Senator Obama, "opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability." The bill contained a specific provision that ensured that the bill would not affect abortion laws (Obama and his campaign misled/lied about this fact until it was proven in the records [A co-worker of mine pulled together this fact sheet]).

7. Senator Obama has co-sponsored a bill authorizing the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. It would require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning, and would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term.

8. Senator Obama was one of the few senators to oppose a bill that would have put a modest amount of federal money into research that would develop methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos. "From any rational vantage point, this is unconscionable. . . . Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives? It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos."

George then ends the article by writing that, "in the end, the efforts of Obama’s apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn’t even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies."

What do you think of all of this?

[HT: Justin Taylor]

Are You Narcissistic?


I have been reading 1 & 2 Samuel, and books about 1 & 2 Samuel, for a while in the mornings and this morning I was finishing up the overview sermon Mark Dever wrote about 1 Samuel in The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. To my shame sometimes I don't read the questions at the end of chapters in books, because sometimes it feels like I am being spoon fed. In my pride I don't realize how arrogant that is. I have the tendency to think, "why do I need their questions, I can think deeply about this on my own." How arrogant! Anyhow, I was reading the questions for reflection at the end of the chapter The Message of 1 Samuel: Faith in Faithless Times and there was a wonderful and very convicting question. Here it is:
"8. As Christians, we do not believe that narcissism is simply a 'psychiatric disorder,' as many might define it. It's sin. It's pride. Still, the American Psychiatric Association's definition of 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder' provides an apt profile of Saul as well as a good checklist for examining our own hearts! A person is 'narcissistic,' so they say, when he or she has 'a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.' More specifically, a narcissistic person displays some of the following qualities:
• A grandiose sense of self-importance: you tend to exaggerate achievements and talents; you expect to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.

• A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love: really, you feel like you deserve these things.

• An opinion of oneself as 'special' or unique: you tend to feel understood by - or prefer associating with - other special or high-status people.

• Desirous of admiration from others.

• A sense of entitlement: you expect people (parents, spouses, employers, restaurant servers, anyone behind a counter) to grant you special treatment, or to automatically comply with your desires and expectations.

• Interpersonally exploitive: you quietly and subtly take advantage of others for your own ends.

• A lack of empathy: you are unwilling to recognize or identify yourself with the feelings and needs of others.

• Feelings of envy: you tend to be envious of others, and you like to think they are envious of you.

• Arrogance: you are often haughty in your behaviors or attitudes.

How would you feel about handing this list to two of your closest friends and asking them to evaluate you?"
[Mark footnotes that this list came from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (Washington D. C.: APA, 2000), 717.]

I wasn't expecting it, but this was really pretty convicting to meditate on. I better start reading the questions at the end of chapters more often!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Battle of the Raccoon River


Lindsey and I have often talked about how we either didn’t pay attention at all during school (k-12) or some of our teachers didn’t teach us very well. We have especially felt this way in the subject of history. Lately I have been doing a little research about the religious history of Iowa and as I was flipping through the pages in Benjamin F. Gue’s four volumes of the History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century published in 1903 something caught my eye. I have never seen or heard this before. And trust me…no one told me this story because I grew up almost on the banks of the Raccoon River and I would have remembered this one!

First, A little History
Chapter IX of Volume I starts out describing the Pottawattamie (also known as Pouks by the French) Native Americans. Pottawattami means “makers of fire”. In 1804 the United States acquired land from the Sacs (also known as Sauks) and Foxes for the sum of $2,000 a year, which included much of Iowa. Black Hawk, the chief of the Sacs, never recognized this acquisition.

On August 24, 1816 the United States yielded a portion of these lands to the Pottawattamies, Ottawas and Chippeways in exchange for their lands on the west shore of Lake Michigan, which included the site of Chicago. After the United States yielded this land to them they then repurchased it in two treaties: first on September 20, 1828 and second on July 29, 1829. In the second treaty the Native Americans were to be paid $16,000 a year forever, for a small portion of the lands originally purchased from the Sacs and Foxes. In response to this Chief Black Hawk said, “If a small portion of our lands are worth $16,000 per [year], how was it that more than 50,000,000 of acres were sold for the insignificant sum of $2,000 per year?” Gue writes that this question could never be satisfactorily answered. Gue then describes how the Pottawattamies ended up living on the eastern shores of the Missouri River. Then on June 5, 1846 the United States made a treaty with the Pottawattamies in which they exchanged their Iowa lands for a reservation, which was thirty miles square within the limits of Kansas, and they moved there.

The earliest explorers of the Northwest recognized three powerful Native American nations in the Mississippi Valley in the 16th century: (1) The Pottawattamies, (2) The Dakotas who were the most powerful and populous of the nations. This nation spanned from Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, more than half of Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, all of Kansas and Nebraska, the greater part of Minnesota, to the north half of Wisconsin. The Sioux Native Americans belonged to the Dakota nation. (3) The Mahas or Omahas. The Oc-to-ta-toes or Octoes were a small offshoot of them that lived in western Iowa close to the Missouri River. Their hunting grounds extended from near Council Bluffs to the Des Moines River.

Hostile Relations
Gue describes the relational situation between the United States and the Sioux saying, “They were always more or less hostile to the Americans and only restrained from open hostilities by the wholesome fear of troops stationed in the frontier forts. They were also deadly enemies of the Sac and Fox nation."

This brings us to the events of 1841.
“A party of the Sioux surprised a hunting camp of twenty-four Delawares on the Raccoon River, killing all but one of them. The Delawares, led by their Chief, Neowa-ge [Neowage], made a heroic fight against overwhelming numbers, killing twenty-six of their enemies, four of whom fell beneath the terrible blows of the Delaware chief... One [Delaware] escaped to carry the tidings to their Sac and Fox friends, who were camped on the east bank of the Des Moines River, near where the State House now stands. Pashepaho [Pashepao], [their] chief, who was then eighty years of age, mounted his pony and, selecting five hundred of his bravest warriors, started in pursuit of the Sioux. He followed the trail from where the bodies of the Delawares lay unburied, for more than a hundred miles up the valley of the Raccoon River, where the Sioux were overtaken. Raising their fierce war cry and led by their old chieftain, the Sacs and Foxes charged on the enemy’s camp. The battle was one of the bloodiest ever fought on Iowa soil. [The combatants were mortal enemies.] Hand to hand [they] fought with a desperation never surpassed in [Native American] warfare. The Sioux were fighting for life and their assailants to revenge the slaughter of their friends. The conflict lasted for many hours. The defeat of the Sioux was overwhelming [even though they won]. More than three hundred of their dead were left on the field of battle. The Sacs and the Foxes lost, but [only] seven [of them were] killed.”
This is a combination of accounts from the following works:

Gue, Benjamin F. History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century Volume I: The Pioneer Period (New York City: The Century History Company, 1903), p. 104; & Maclean, Paul History of Carroll County Iowa A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement Volume I (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 7-8.


Confirmation By Aftermath
In Paul Maclean’s History of Carroll County Iowa A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement Volume I he provides a few more details about what was left over a few years after the battle and a few more details of the battle.
“The settlers in the central part of the county found along the east bank of Crescent Lake (later called Swan Lake, now extinct) many signs to indicate that it must have been at one time the scene of a bloody and disastrous [Native American] battle. Human skulls and bones could be picked up at an early day, and the prairie around was strewn with implements of Indian warfare. Among these were several rusty muskets of a primitive type and thousands of flint darts and other weapons common among the [Native Americans]. There were, however, no signs to tell anything of the battle or the combatants, but this debris indicated that it could not have taken place a great many years before. Several ingenious theories have been advanced by way of accounting for a battle to fit the field and circumstances. It is probable, however, that the shore of Crescent Lake was the scene of a reckoning between the Sacs and Foxes and the Sioux.”

He further wrote the same account that I quoted above from the History of Iowa book by Gue. After recounting the battle Maclean then writes:
“The accounts of this battle do not locate it, but so far as is known there were but three [terrible Native American] collisions in western Iowa. A terrible battle was fought near Twin Lakes, in Calhoun county, between the Pottawottamies and the Sioux. The same foes again met on the South Lizard in Webster county, where the event was also a tragic one and where the Sioux were the victors as they were also at Twin Lakes. These are the same Sioux who perpetrated the massacres at Spirit Lake and Okoboji fifteen or twenty years later. The relics of the battle at Crescent Lake were so numerous and important as to indicate beyond probable doubt that that was the scene of the third of the three great [Native American] battles of western Iowa.”

Maclean, Paul History of Carroll County Iowa A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement Volume I (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 7-8.

So here are a few questions… Why didn’t we ever talk about the three great Native American battles in Iowa? Growing up playing down by the Raccoon River why hadn’t I ever heard of the great battle of the Raccoon River? I looked for arrowheads as it was…and I know that the main part of the battle was way up the river, but man I would have been down there looking for them more intensely if I knew events like this happened. Since we have lived in Washington, DC I have definitely grown in appreciation of history. This is mainly because we are able to go see all the actual locations of events such as George Washington’s home, the Whitehouse, I’ve been to Gettysburg and Vicksburg battlefields, and many other historical sites. I know that if I had known more of the history of where I lived I would have been more engaged. That’s all speculation though;)

Anyhow, if you have read all of this I hope you have picked up a bit more of a desire to learn about the local history of where you live. The next time I'm in Iowa I'm definitely going to head to the Raccoon River and ponder some of the events that took place along its banks.

What Sacraments are Designed to Secure


Sometimes folks make the sacraments (the Lord's Supper and Baptism) out to be completely objective and in the process squash much of what they portray when practiced in the local church. Some make the sacraments out to be completely subjective and end up removing the foundation that they have in the Word of God pointing primarily to the truth of the gospel. G. C. Berkouwer's book Studies in Dogmatics: The Sacraments has a helpful clarifying paragraph about this. What do you think about the sacraments? What in your mind do they depict or represent? I hope to post a few more quotes and comments about the sacraments in the future.
"The efficacy of the sacraments has often been misinterpreted, either by objectivizing them, or by making them dependent upon the subject. The mystery of the sacrament can be understood, however, only if both of these concepts are rejected. For God's acting differs from the objectivity of things in this world, and faith is something other than a subjective disposition which can be investigated as to its presence or absence. That is why Calvin can write that, apart from faith, the sacrament is nothing but a certain ruin for the Church. This is no subjectivizing of the sacrament, but a reference to the mystery of the sacrament, which can be understood only in the way of belief, and which in that way displays its full power. Those who expect more from the efficacy of the sacrament do not understand that thus they do not esteem the sacrament more highly, nor do they really strive after more reality, for this striving must alienate them from the one reality that the sacraments are designed to secure: the reality of salvation."

Berkouwer, G. C. Studies in Dogmatics: The Sacraments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 89.

What a great phrase: "Those who expect more from the efficacy of the sacrament do not understand that thus they do not esteem the sacrament more highly." If we import more into the sacrament than what Scripture would have us then we destroy the usefulness of the sacraments and as he quoted Calvin, "apart from faith, the sacrament is nothing but a certain ruin for the Church." With these "means of grace" we have to be very careful, because sentimentalism and a misunderstanding of their use and effect can supplant the sole efficacy of Christ's work on the cross to redeem sinners. It is as if we mistook a painting of the countryside to actually be the countryside. This doesn't mean that the countryside isn't real, or that the painting doesn't import an aesthetic experiential effect. It's just that the countryside is much more beautiful than the painting (for example...imagine the movement, the breeze, the smell, the sounds vs. the echo of the hall of an art gallery). How much more beautiful are the events of Christ's death and resurrection than the sacraments which depict them?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sexual Sin is Hate


Here is a helpful way to fight sexual sin and lust. If you haven't checked out the audio or video from the Sex and the Supremacy of Christ conference you really should (just click on the title of the conference and you can check it all out for free). David Powlison's talk was really helpful in showing how to get a little more understanding about how these sins work. Here's a quick quote from the book that was written as a result of the conference Sex and the Supremacy of Christ:
"The way Jesus loves is the diametric opposite from how sexual sin works. Whether flagrant or atmospheric, whether physical or imaginary, sexual sin is hate. It misuses people. Jesus' love treasures and serves our sexual purity. We misuse God's gift of sexuality when we do not treasure and serve the sexual purity of others. We degrade ourselves and degrade others. As Jesus starts to rearrange how you treat people, you are becoming a qualitatively different kind of person...

First, you learn to see and treat all people in wise, constructive ways. In principle, for the Christian, every person of the opposite sex fits into one of three categories: either family member, or spouse, or threat. (Every person of the same sex fits into one of two categories: either family member or threat.) "Family member" is the controlling category. In general we are to view and treat people as beloved sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandmothers and grandfathers. The lines are clear: anything that sexualizes familial relationships is wrong. True affection and fierce protection go hand in hand. The notion of incestuous sexuality is abhorrent before God. In marriage, one sister, Nan, becomes my wife, and I become her husband. All our sexuality belongs rightly and freely to each other. The notion of treacherous sexuality - infidelity - is abhorrent before God. A third group of people falls into the category of threat. Males and females who prove unfamilial in their intentions are threats. Again, the lines are clear: nothing sexualized, so flee seduction, whether in person or in imagination. The notion of an invitation to immoral sexuality is abhorrent before God. Love is radically free to be fiercely faithful."

Powlison, David Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken [From Sex and the Supremacy of Christ] (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 103.

How do you think about the opposite sex?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

First Baptist Marydel [Marydel, MD]


Here's a picture of First Baptist Marydel's church building.

For those of you that prayed for me on such short notice...thank you! I trust that my sermon went well, praise God. That said I still have a lot to learn about preaching. It was excellent preaching on the "Parables of the Kingdom" from Matthew 13. Trying to get all seven parables into a sermon was challenging, but it was wonderful. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the parables in Matthew 13 here's the breakdown and an idea of the structure I was going for.

I. The Unexpected Teaching: 2 Ways to Live in Parables
(1) The Parable of the Sower: Main parable acting as a lense in order to understand the following six. "2 kingdoms (kingdom of God & kingdom of man) or 2 ways to live in four kinds of soil" Also, God's Word is active seeking those people to save.
(2) The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: Jesus making the point that His kingdom is spiritual, not political despite what the people were expecting.

(3) The Parable of the Mustard Seed: "God's power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) and God's weakness is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:25)."

(4) The Parable of the Leaven: Similar point to the Parable of the Mustard Seed. God's rule & reign is all consuming penetrating the entire life of the citizens of the kingdom. Also, the kingdom of God seemingly starts small & through weak means (e.g. Israel, Jesus coming as a baby, God using a moon worshipper in Abram, murderer in Moses, David, a persecutor of Christians in Paul, etc.)

II. The Unexpected Cost of the Kingdom
(5) The Parable of the Hidden Treasure in the Field: The citizens of the kingdom willingly & joyfully give up everything for it. A picture of repentance.

(6) The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price: Same point as the last one.

III. The Unexpected Judgment Depending on the Kingdom You are in
(7) The Parable of the Dragnet: Ultimately which of the 2 kingdoms one is in will determine how God judges. This is very similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares. Just because the kingdom has not been fully consummated now (despite their expectations of what the messiah would do) it doesn't mean that it will always be that way.

[Note: The last two points should not have been unexpected if the people were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures]

Thank you for praying, it was a joy to prepare and a blessing to visit First Baptist Marydel. By the way, "Ma" hosted a wonderful brunch!


Here is a picture of Pastor Bob Phillips & me.

[UPDATE: Here is a recording of my sermon, The Unexpected Parables of the Kingdom: Matthew 13.]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Prayer Request: Sermon on Matthew 13

I know I'm delinquent in getting this posted out here, but if you think of us today please pray for my sermon on Matthew 13 today. Pray that God would speak through His Word, and that He would bear fruit in the lives of those who listen. I'm preaching at First Baptist Church Marydel on the Maryland/Delaware border.

In Christ,
Noah

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hiking at Great Falls Maryland

Today Lindsey and I went on a hike with a a bunch of friends from church. Here's a pic of the entire group.

Also, despite my hat I'm still a Cyclone fan;)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Life Praise Church [Sanford, NC]


For those of you that prayed for me when I went down to preach a few months back at New Life Praise Church in Sanford, North Carolina thank you. My preparation time was sweet, and it was wonderful to think about what it means for the church to be a display of God's glory in Ephesians 3 (and really the entire book).

Below is a pic of one of their Deacons and one of their Yokefellows with me.

If you think of them please pray for their church! It was a pleasure to meet them, and it was humbling to bring God's Word to them.

[UPDATE: Here is a recording of my sermon: The Church, A Display of God's Glory: Ephesians 3]

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ben Wright Sighting


Have you ever wondered what Ben Wright was up to in 1965? Two words Herr Zeller! Yup, in 1965 Ben Wright played Herr Zeller in the Sound of Music! Here's a screen shot of the credits! He's the fifth one down.


Ben I had no clue you were that old;)
[HT: Lindsey Braymen]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Prayer Request: Sermon on Ephesians 3

For those that still read this blog I have a quick request. If you think of me now through Sunday please pray for me as I am writing a sermon to preach from Ephesians 3 down in North Carolina this weekend. Thank you!

In Christ,
Noah

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CHBC Friend's Music Video

Here's a video by Will Gray. He was a member of CHBC from my first few weeks out here. Check it out!

Back To The Wall -- in HD from Will Gray on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Truth, Charity, & Tolerance


This morning at theology breakfast we read John Owen’s A Country Essay for The Practice of Church Government There (Volume 8 of his works by...Banner). As Linds and I were headed home we were thinking about how the culture impacts people. We are truly children of our era. We have all thought this before… “How could our ancestors have tolerated slavery?” Well, the answer we often hear is, “Well, they were children of their time.” This did not make it just, but it did not make one hundred percent of their thinking about all things wrong. Many of our ancestors – not all, but many – had a wrong view of slavery. It was wrong, and it was a huge blind spot. This blind spot, however, should not keep us from going back to them for what they had correct. There is still much good that we can learn from their perspective on things.

Well, the truth that we are “children of our time” was hitting home as we considered this essay by a 17th century theologian and pastor. His was a time in which evangelism was a foreign thought (if you were born in England you were baptized into the Anglican “church” and therefore thought to be a Christian). In effect their perspective was one of, “What’s the need for evangelizing when everyone is a Christian?” This was also a time that ecclesiological decisions regarding church discipline were made by the civil magistrate (the government). There was an established religion (Christianity). This is the situation that Owen was writing to in this essay. His thoughts were revolutionary for his time, and they are for us as well as we try to figure out where our country is headed. Here’s an excerpt:
“Ignorance of men’s invincible prejudices, of their convictions, strong persuasions, desires, aims, hopes, fears, inducements, - sensibleness of our own infirmities, failings, misapprehensions, darkness, knowing but in part, - should work in us a charitable opinion of poor erring creatures, that do it perhaps with as upright, sincere hearts and affections as some enjoy truth.” 61

It is interesting that he says their ignorance played out in convictions (etc.) and that it should elicit charity from us in regard to their errors because they do it with upright sincere hearts and affections as some enjoy truth. They are ignorant of the full truth but we should be charitable because they perceive their error as truth. This doesn't mean that what people believe erringly is truth, however. Owen is clearly calling for charity in the midst of strong diverse opinions and convictions. Generally this is the definition of “tolerance”.

In our era many say that tolerance means, despite differences of persuasion, one cannot say another’s conviction or persuasion is wrong or false (and if you do you better have scientific data provable by repeatable experimentation!). At least this is the general theoretical understanding of tolerance folks would articulate in our day. In real life this principle does not work itself out as neatly as they may articulate. Hence, we have two supposedly opposing political parties in our country (which I think is a false dichotomy of sorts), or the fact that we buy one product over another based on how they have pitched a convincing or unconvincing argument for “quality” or usefulness. Regarding the latter you don’t see companies that have decreasing sales figures yelling at other companies, “By you saying your product is superior to ours you are not being tolerant.” We all understand to a certain extent this is a dog eat dog world. Despite a push for strict egalitarianism across all diversity we all understand that that philosophy is a half-truth at best. Regarding the former you do see politicians crying fowl sometimes in regard to “tolerance” but generally we would all agree that they should try to be well educated in their decisions and if their solutions to problems are the best then by all means, persuade us! This isn’t a lack of tolerance. Why then do we point accusingly at people in religious and moral matters accusing them of a lack of tolerance? We need to practice charity as Owen is exhorting. His words of “charity” and of “tolerance” though old are fresh to our time. He doesn’t pose the perfect solution, but he does offer a different perspective that we should listen to which we may not have considered. (I disagree with him, however, that the civil magistrate should handle matters of discipline. I believe this is something given to the responsibility of a local church.)

Owen further speaks to the inclination our age has toward relativity in most if not all things:
“These things turn in a circle: what we are to ourselves, that he is to himself: what he is to us, that we are unto others that may be our judges. But however, you will say, we are in the truth, and therefore ought to go free. Now, truly, this is the same paralogism: who says we are in the truth? others? no, ourselves. Who says erroneous persons (as so supposed) are heretics, or the like? they themselves? no, but we: and those that are to us as we are to them, say no less of us. Let us not suppose that all the world will stoop to us, because we have the truth, as we affirm, but they do not believe. If we make the rule of our proceedings against others to be our conviction that they are erroneous; others will, or may, make theirs of us to be their rule of proceeding against us.” 62-3


He is addressing the fact that the magistrate in carrying out disciplinary actions on behalf of the Anglican “church” to those they believe are heretics, namely burning them alive, chopping heads off, etc. They weren’t barring them from the sacraments or taking their names off of member roles; they were killing people. He is encouraging more charity in church discipline based on the logic of Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Further, he later uses the logic that Gamaliel used in Acts 5:33-42 that if what dissenters in the churches believe and live out the validity of this (whether or not it is actually true) will be established by God: “But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:39) May the Lord forbid our exercise of discipline in the form of killing if it only proves that we were in opposition to God. He is calling the church then to exercise charity in discipline. This is revolutionary! John Locke (one of Owen’s students at Oxford) had not come along yet to propose a separation between church and state. Even though Owen was a product of his era, here, in the middle of England's civil war, Owen is proving himself to be ahead of his time.

Toward the end of his essay he leaves us with two cautions:
“(1.) So to carry ourselves in all our censures, every one in his sphere (ecclesiastical discipline being preserved as pure and unmixed from secular power as possible), that it may appear to all that it is the error which men maintain which is so odious unto us, and not the consequent or their dissent from us, whether by subducting themselves from our power or withdrawing from communion. For if this latter be made the cause of our proceeding against any, there must be one law for them all, – all that will not bow, to the fiery furnace! Recusancy is the fault; and that being the same in all, must have the same punishment, – which would be such an unrighteous inequality as is fit for none but Antichrist to own.

(2.) That nothing be done to any, but the bound and farthest end of it be seen at the beginning, and not leave way and room for new persecution upon new pretences. ‘Cedo alteram et alteram,’ – one stripe sometimes makes way for another, and how know I that men will stay at thirty-nine? ‘Principiis obsta.’" 68

The first caution seems to be a warning against a mixture of church and state and that having the same punishment (death) for dissenters as all others who must be disciplined by churches was of the type of inequality the Antichrist would support.

The second caution seems to be a warning of centralization of power in one body, individual or otherwise without some kind of accountability. There should be some kind of limitation of power and of meting out punishments. Otherwise, new reasons will come to the surface that require new punishments (or persecution) and there is no accountability for how much punishment is given out.


"Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Marston Moor, by an unknown artist. The Parliamentarians under Sir Thomas Fairfax defeated the Royalists at this battle in Long Marston, Yorkshire, on July 2, 1644. Cromwell commanded the Parliamentarian cavalry that defeated the previously invincible Royalist cavalry of Prince Rupert. Marston Moor was a turning point in the English Civil War, as it effectively lost the Royalists the north of England."

I am thankful for the Lord's work in the separation of church and state. May we take advantage of this and seek to share the gospel. Further, we may not always have this freedom...so lets take advantage of it as an opportunity given from the hand of God Himself!

Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Divided Heart

I’ve been taking a class on the Gospel According to Matthew this week and between this class and the one I took last winter, the Sermon on the Mount, one concept (of many) has been fodder for a lot of thought. Particularly in regard to Matthew 5:8 and what Dr. Pennington refers to as “virtue ethics.” “Virtue ethics”, generally speaking, means a wholehearted mind and heart in what you think and do in your actions. So while there is certainly right and wrong things don’t always fit into a cookie-cutter formula regarding how they might be corrected. Heart issues are the main focus. While external actions are certainly involved the heart issue is the cause, and the solution isn’t always so black and white. It’s the complexity of the noetic effects of sin. So one of the things that Jesus kept coming back to in His ministry is that we should not be “double-minded” or “double-souled.” We must not be a divided soul. The book of James is thought of as an extended wisdom reflection on the Sermon on the Mount and it calls this a case of being “double minded” (Jas 1:5-8).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Jesus was addressing the issue of having a right heart or a right motivation of desires and affections working out in godly actions. So as James makes this point with a negative illustration we can infer the positive, namely, that personal holiness issues from a consistent stable mind, heart, and action (this is also clear in his point that faith without works is dead in 2:14-26).

This is Jesus’ beef with the Pharisees. They didn’t have a right heart, and this divided heart and mind resulted in the fruit of hypocrisy. This is the main point of Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” It’s not that we are never to make judgment calls on what is right and wrong but we are to do so with humility recognizing our sin. We must understand our rightful place before the God of the universe before we would think to look to others. Notice that Jesus says later in 7:5 that we need to deal with our flaws so we can help others deal with theirs. We need to be humble and recognize that we are not perfect so we can make judgment calls from a right heart.

This is also the main point of the language of cutting off the hand that causes to sin and cutting out the eye because of lust (Matthew 5:29-30). This is hyperbole…but we have to feel the rub of this. This should challenge us. That being said I am certain all have had lust before and most people have not gouged out their eyes. Are we then disobeying Christ? I would argue, “No.” As long as we are on this side of heaven and the new creation we carry sin. So our eyes and hands will be involved with it. We are not cutting our hands off because of our sin. Don’t get me wrong this should challenge us severely. If we are in sin we must take radical measures to mortify it, but it seems that Jesus’ main point is that our bodies are to be wholly directed toward a life of worship toward Him and we must do whatever we can to maintain this “undivided life” toward Christ.

So God is in the business of changing hearts James further draws this out by saying, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:8-10).” This passage is coming directly after his statement that we should, “submit to God,” and further that if we, “Resist the devil…[the devil] will flee from you (James 4:7).” So becoming whole hearted is linked to submitting to God and resisting the devil.

Okay, so what does that have to do with Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Well, we had a discussion about how this is linked to Matthew 6:22, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” This should be read in light (pardon the pun) of the ancient near eastern theory that was prevalent during the time this was written that light is emitted from the eye (e.g. Plato and others argued this). One Old Testament example of this was Leah’s weak eye or “dim” eye in Genesis 29:17 may have been an indication that there was less light in her, which was part of the reason she was less desirable to Jacob. So if the heart is not “divided” among itself it will be more pure hence enabling light to emit from the eye in such a way that they might see God more wholly as well. The idea that many have had about the “evil eye” (in which one can give a curse by looking at someone in a certain way) is part of the same kind of logic. It’s really interesting that even science can’t really figure out what light is (It’s clear that light does not emit from the eye in the physical realm; although, this may be true in the spiritual realm in some sense). It seems that God’s word has an enlightening effect of bringing the Lord’s purity to our eyes and then it works itself out of our lives in a rejoicing heart (Psalm 19:8).

This all roots into the main thrust of the Sermon on the Mount that it is ultimately about heart issues. Actions were taking place coming from a poor condition and posture of the heart. This is the same reason why Jesus said, “Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?’ (Matthew 12:25-26).”

I have been thinking about how this plays itself out in regard to faith and works. Do my works then issue from a divided heart? If they do are my works hypocritical? Further, if I believe my heart is in a certain condition…do the works that issue out from my heart betray my perceived condition? It seems that a pure heart is God’s desire. A pure heart that is purely one hundred percent sold out to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is clearly a theme in the Bible (Psalm 24:4; 73:1; Proverbs 20:9; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 10:22; and 1 Peter 1:22).

I pray that God would grant pure hearts to His people that we may be able to see Him and live lives that are one hundred percent for Him. May His people cry out to Him with Moses, “Please show me your glory (Exodus 33:18),” and may His people trust that, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2).” Ultimately, God changes hearts, and makes them whole. By our own will we cannot make our hearts undivided; we need the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just some thoughts.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Suicidal Thoughts...


Don't worry...I'm not having any...this is just a reflection on the condition of those that do.

Lindsey and I are reading Pilgrim's Progress right now and last night we came upon the darkest time of the journey yet, Giant Despair's Doubting Castle. When dark times come pray that the Lord might give you a companion such as Hopeful! Below is some of the narrative of the story.
After receiving advice from his wife, Diffidence, Giant Despair did the following to Christian and Hopeful:
"So when he arose, he getteth him a grievous crab-tree cudgel, and goes down into the dungeon to them, and there first falls upon them, and beats them fearfully, in such sort that they were not able to help themselves, or to turn them upon the floor. This done, he withdraws and leaves them there to condole their misery, and to mourn under their distress: so all that day they spent the time in nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations (121)."

The next night, after further advice from his wife, Giant Despair did the following:
"So when morning was come, he goes to them in a surly manner, as before, and perceiving them to be very sore with the stripes that he had given them the day before, he told them, that since they were never like to come out of that place, their only way would be forthwith to make an end of themselves, either with knife, halter, or poison; for why, said he, should you choose life, seeing it is attended with so much bitterness? But they desired him to let them go. With that he looked ugly upon them, and rushing to them, had doubtless made an end of them himself, but that he fell into one of his fits, (for he sometimes in sunshiny weather fell into fits,) and lost for a time the use of his hands; wherefore he withdrew, and left them as before to consider what to do. (122)"

This is the conversation that Hopeful and Christian had after Giant Despair encouraged them to suicide:
"Then did the prisoners consult between themselves whether it was best to take his counsel or no; and thus they began to discourse.

'Indeed' Hopeful admitted 'our present condition is dreadful, and death would be far more welcome to me than thus for ever to abide; but yet, let us consider, the Lord of the country to which we are going hath said, "Thous shalt do no murder," no, not to another man's person; much more, then, are we forbidden to take his counsel to kill ourselves. Besides, he that kills another, can but commit murder upon his own body; but for one to kill himself is to kill body and soul at once. And, moreover, my brother, thou talkest of ease in the grave; but hast thou forgotten the hell, whither for certain murders go? For "no murderer hath eternal life," etc. And let us consider again, that all the law is not in the hand of Giant Despair. Others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him as well as we, and yet have escaped out of his hands. Who knows but that God, who made the world, may cause that Giant Despair may die; or that, at some time or other, he may forget to lock us in; or that he may, in a short time, have another of his fits before us, and may lose the use of his limbs? And if ever that should come to pass again, for my part, I am resolved to pluck up the heart of a man, and to try my utmost to get from under his hand. I was a fool that I did not try to do it before. But, however, my brother, let us be patient, and endure a while: the time may come that may give us a happy release; but let us not be our own murderers.'

With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother; so they continued together in the dark that day, in their sad and doleful condition. (122)"

Have you ever been in a position of deep despair or suffering, or pain (emotionally or physically). What happened that you were able to navigate your way through and out of it. In Ed Welch's little booklet Depression: The Way Up When You Are Down he discusses what to do when you think you have no hope:
"This passage of Scripture is difficult to understand (Rom. 5:2-5), but one thing is clear. The apostle Paul, who wrote this letter, had deep pain and suffering in his life, but somehow that did not weigh him down. He kept his eyes on Jesus. When we take our eyes off Jesus, the road is endless. We know we will not have the stamina for it. But when we see that Jesus has traveled this road before us, then we can be confident that the Spirit is with us and will give us strength to walk in humble faith and obedience. (16)"

Fix your eyes upon Jesus. This is true hope, true encouragement...believe in the gospel! Along these same lines John J. Murray wrote in his little booklet, Behind a Frowning Providence, that the only ultimate solution to suffering is to cultivate a nearness to God, "People are usually more anxious to get rid of the problem than they are to find the purpose of God in it. (25)" Further he wrote, "God's people never sacrifice or suffer in vain. Our present suffering is an investment in future glory. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory. (29)" Many times we end up asking questions and David Powlison has laid these questions out well in his chapter in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, questions of Why me? Why this? Why now? Why? We must fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, because in him are posed the answers. Powlison further writes, "You did this for the joy set before you. You did this for love. You did this showing the glory of God in the face of Christ. (172-3)" In turn then our questions will be changed:
"Why not me? Why not this? Why not now? If in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night-light in a very dark world, why not me? If my sufferings shows for the Savior of the world, why not me? If I have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ? If he sanctifies to me my deepest distress? If I fear no evil? If he bears me in his arms? If my weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong? If my honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet? If my life becomes a source of hope for others? Why not me? (173)"

In a session I was able to attend recently on psychiatric brain disorders and depression we talked about suicide quite a bit in the context of depression. He mentioned that if someone is depressed it is okay to go ahead and ask them if they have suicidal tendencies. He mentioned to use gentleness and tact...but at worst they will say, "Oh, no...no I'm not suicidal." However, they might say, "Yes." Some ways to ask this might be, “Does it ever seem like life’s not worth living?” "Did you ever think you’d be better off dead?" "Have you ever thought of harming yourself?" Further, he pointed out that mood disorders tend to run in families, and this may give a predisposition toward suicide. So a good question to this would be, "has anyone else in your family committed suicide." Some factors to consider might be:
1. Recent losses, separation, death, divorce.
2. Changes in substance abuse...having problems they have never had before.
3. Are they hopeless? Ask them what their hope is in or what they believe they can hope for.
4. History if other family has committed suicide.
5. Previous suicide attempts. (How severe were they?)
6. Ask if there is anything that could happen that would make them feel better (If the answer is, "No," that is worrisome)
7. Have they given away their possessions. Purchased life insurance suddenly. Tidying up...getting ready to move on?
8. Are they having mood swings...helpless...hopeless
9. How old are they (The older the more determined. You may have to be more firm.)

He then posed the question, "What do you do if someone tells you they are going to commit suicide when they get home tonight?" The answer...insist that they be hospitalized. And seriously insist it. This isn't the kind of insistance when you are bickering with someone about who is going to pick up the bill for dinner. This is the insistence of life and death. Further, after insisting on hospitalization, bear with them. Enter into their life and preach the gospel to them as you would yourself. Remind them of God's grace in Christ and imitate what Hopeful did with Christian. Bear with their burdens...and encourage them in Christ. If you are in the position of temptation toward suicide seek out someone who might be like Hopeful! As Christians we were not meant to live this life alone.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dissed


After having been in DC for a bit now I'm still surprised (somewhat) at how people avoid eye contact and avoid saying hello to each other on the street. Some people are bound and determined not to acknowledge your existence.

Yesterday I experienced the biggest slam on this front yet.

I was walking home from work (9 blocks). I was coming up on a young woman who looked like she was really nice. She seemed happy, was smiling, had a bounce in her step. I thought, "This will be great...I'll say hello and she'll smile and be friendly spreading some of that good cheer."

Well, as you can tell by the title of this post this is not what happened. She wasn't mean; she didn't snap at me. Nope, she completely ignored me. So I was left trying to make eye contact only to be shot down. It's like when you go to give someone a five and they leave you hanging. This wasn't the worst part of the encounter though.

As we passed I noticed that there was a puppy sitting out on the stoop of a house close by. After we passed and she completely ignored me I heard a sound so I turned only to see that she was looking with a smile at the puppy. She was looking at it like, "awe, you are a cute little creature." And guess what she said. "Hello puppy"

What!? What is it about humans that they will ignore the existence of other humans...yet they will look at a puppy and say hello.

That's messed up!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Trixie-cat


"Trix the Ferocious"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hello Blog!

Wow it's been a while. I hope to start posting again at least once a week...we'll see how it goes;)

Stay tuned;)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Me and Freddie Mercury

You'll never guess who I met tonight in Mark Dever's study!


Yup...you know who;)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Intimidation in the Bathroom!

Here's another pic from our trip to Jackson, MS. I wouldn't want to be considered a "theological girlie man" but I also wouldn't want to claim that I'm a "theological giant" either. Needless to say I won't be putting a sign like this on my bathroom any time soon. I think that Ligon Duncan deserves to have this on the bathroom in his office;^) Between Derek Thomas and him I bet no one else would dare use this lavatory!


(Quick explanation...Scott's just confused because his last name sounds the same as "girlie")

A Play on Words?


This is a very delinquent post, but here is a picture of a sign we saw when we were down in Jackson, MS in November of '07.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reaction 3: False Unity Part 2


I can remember a few times when disagreement arose in a church I was a part of, and concern for unity was held up above the pursuit of a transparent honesty and truth (or even a proper venue to give feedback and share concerns or emotions). It seemed like anytime there was a problem that it was quickly swept under a rug lest it cause any disunity in the body. Don’t get me wrong; they did not do this for every circumstance. Also, I am not arguing for a pursuit of disunity, but rather against a pursuit of false unity based in a deceiving outward appearance. This relates to how Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees they were whitewashed tombs because their outward appearance deceived others and themselves to the condition of their inner heart condition (Matt 23:27). I can so easily fall into this mindset of masking what I really am to project that I want others to think that I am, so can leaders of churches.

We are sinners still and our sin keeps throwing kinks in how we organize as a body of believers, but that doesn’t mean we should be secretive about the truth of circumstances (we must be wise about this though). It seems that the response would be, “well, it is a circumstance that the congregation doesn’t need to know about.” This might be true, but if it involves public sin or another kind of public activity with visible members or leaders in the church this will only lead weaker sheep in the congregation to speculation and gossip. It’s right to say, “well, the congregation should not speculate like that…that is ungodly,” but leaders should know that they are leading a body of people that may not be as mature spiritually as they are.

Phillip Jensen has recently written about this kind of thinking in Australian culture, “To be divisive or uncooperative is one of the worst criticisms leveled against anybody. In fact, it bears the most damning label of all: it is ‘un-Australian.’ (By God’s Word: 60 Reflections for Living in God’s World (Sydney: Matthias Media, 2007), 40.)” Later in the same little reflection he wrote that this is usually heralded most by those who are theologically liberal in denominational power and he follows that with three points: (1) the passages in question are regarding congregational unity; (2) based in a common understanding of doctrine and of godliness, not tolerant relativism; and (3) this comes from the same Bible that they spurn as unimportant (50-51). Of these three only the second point is really relevant to the circumstances that I have experienced.

The difficulty with the topic of unity in the church is that on one hand we must seek to maintain it, and on the other hand we must recognize that if there is not an agreement of philosophy of ministry or of a secondary doctrine (secondary to the gospel, e.g. baptism, polity, etc.) then in the sovereignty of God we must trust that we are supposed to go our separate ways for the sake of the gospel and strengthening of churches (Acts 15:36-41). Whether or not Paul was correct to separate from Barnabas on account of John Mark is uncertain, but there seems that there was still an accepted principal in outward separation while having a spiritual unity (if not between Paul and John Mark at least between Paul and Barnabas). In the end Paul came to cooperation with John Mark (Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Pet 5:13). At the time of disagreement they agreed to disagree and went their separate ways. Likewise we might disagree with others, but we must recognize that in our separation there is still a spiritual unity if we hold the same gospel. Scripture teaches that we are called sons of God if we repent and believe in the gospel (Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26; 4:6; etc.). If we are believers then we are of the same spiritual family (Mark 3:31-35; all of the following passages use the word adelphoi translated “brothers” referring to siblings in a family (Matt 5:47; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 1:8; Gal 1:2; Phil 1:12; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:4; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 4:21; Heb 2:1; Jas 1:2; 2 Pet 2:10; 1 John 3:13; 3 John 1:3; Rev 6:11; etc.).

D. Broughton Knox pointed out that four attitudes preserve Christian unity: (1) forgiveness, (2) humble-mindedness, (3) thankfulness, (4) forbearance (D. Broughton Knox Selected Works Volume II Church and Ministry (Sydney: Matthias Media, 2003), 35.) Expression of unity is found in the context of relationships. Lastly, Knox pointed out that, “unity is a relationship of persons of God and to one another through the Spirit, and it is modeled on the unity within the trinity, and is brought about by deepening our relationship to God and so our relationship to one another (36).” Unity is Trinitarian! So even as the Trinity exists in three separate persons they still maintain a spiritual union. This is not a perfect analogy, because churches are not perfect as the trinity is, but as we live in separate churches with different philosophies of ministry, different convictions, etc. if we hold in common what the Bible teaches the gospel to be we are in unity. As Iain H. Murray recently quoted J. C. Ryle we should, “Keep the walls as low as possible and shake hand over them often.” No doubt there will be times in the local church that we will have to forbear with each other in our disagreement, but it should not be done in a way that is not truthful and transparent.

Unfortunately, when I have seen the model of a type of false unity I responded with a hermeneutic of suspicion rather than with a hermeneutic of trust. I convinced myself that I was humble, thankful, forgiving, and forbearing; however, in the end my bitterness and lack of joy showed that I was quite the opposite. Unity includes disagreement, but there comes a time when for the sake of unity and distinctive convictions paths need to diverge recognizing that a spiritual unity still exists in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, no church is perfect and we must be willing to be open about that as an expression of holiness in repenting from what we once were. We should be open about the disagreement we have for the edification of the body and for a clear witness to the world of what this redeemed people really represents...sinners that are being transformed into the image of Christ. A people trying to live honestly about who they are for the sake of the gospel.
Ephesians 4:1-3 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (my emphasis)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reaction 3: False Unity Part 1

Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”

Disagreement exists on many levels. No doubt the American experiment is even a strange secular exhibition of this; a sovereign nation with a vaguely, yet firmly, established equilibrium. As individualism and relativism has steeped in the culture difficulty has come about in maintaining balance between antithetical positions in many conversations. Can there be any clarity? Can there be any unity? The answer is, “Yes,” but not necessarily in regard to a political unity in governing structures built by human wisdom.


How should we think of John McLaurin and Ben Tillman’s little exchange on February 22, 1902 in the senate? Or what about Thomas Benton and Henry Foote’s scuffle in April of 1850 on the Senate floor? Despite the “reports” of disunity in the United States the modern context has yet to see her senators pull pistols on each other. Maybe the United States is not as bad as people say? Maybe it is worse? One thing is certain, if one puts too much hope in a human philosophy for the “salvation” of a society one side is bound to be disappointed immediately, and the other will likely be disappointed eventually (by “salvation” I mean secular folk’s perception of what will fix all wrongs in the world, people’s perception of “salvation”).

Be careful whom you trust. Be careful how you trust! Aside from who or what the ideology is, if we hope in something that is temporal in an unhealthy way we will surely be disappointed. If we hope in something that is temporal in a healthy way we will likely still experience disappointment. When this happens what does one do? Everything you have put your hope in has quickly left, and what you thought was a societal “salvation” has left as well. On the other side of the coin..maybe the representative of an ideological position gains the position one believes would give him or her the power to legislate for what many people hold to be the “salvation” of a society (conservation, progress, etc.). We have many examples of this and many unfortunate results: (1) these folks do a lot of good, but many promises go unfulfilled because of a naiveté on the part of both politicians and those they represent regarding exactly what a person in that potential position can actually do; (2) they lied and just wanted the power, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”; (3) their policies were meant to meet a need at a particular time and the means by which the need was met becomes irrelevant or unhelpful; etc. We need to pray for our secular authorities (2 Chron 7:14; 1 Tim 2:1-3).

What does this have to do with unity in the church? Is the Bible just another vague document meant to establish the status quo? Not by any means! Is the church just another victim of natural entropy? Of course not! The Christian church is not meant to preserve a temporal political unity that so many worldly structures pursue. It is meant to be a preserve of a unity based on the foundation of the gospel, a spiritual unity. The unity is already existent. It is also amazing that God has given a polity to organize the visible expression of His church for the purpose of unity grounded in faith and the knowledge of the Son of God:
Ephesians 4:11-14 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (my emphasis)

Christian unity is founded in the gospel. Too many times we carry presuppositions into the church from our secular experiences. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ conclusions from his exposition of John 17 and Ephesians 4 in The Basis of Christian Unity (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2004) are relevant:
(1) Unity must never be isolated, or regarded as something in and of itself (70).
(2) The question of unity must never be put first [fellowship follows doctrine; Acts 2:42, etc.] (70).
(3) We must never start with the visible church or with an institution, but rather with the truth [Luke 3:8; John 8:32-34; etc.] (71).
(4) The starting point in considering the question of unity must always be regeneration and belief of the truth (72).
a. People are not in Christian unity if they don’t agree with the following.
i. Submission to revealed truth (73).
ii. The Fall and man’s utter helplessness (73).
iii. The person of Jesus Christ and His substitutionary atonement (73).

(5) An appearance or façade of unity based on anything else, and at the expense of these two criteria, or ignoring them, is clearly a fraud and a lie (72).
(6) To do anything which supports or encourages such an impression or appearance of unity is surely dishonest and sinful [John 17:21] (73).
(7) To regard a church, or a council of churches, as a forum in which fundamental matters can be debated and discussed, or as an opportunity for witness-bearing, is sheer confusion and muddled thinking (74).
(8) Unity must obviously never be thought of primarily in numerical terms, but always in terms of life (75).
(9) The greatest need of the hour is a new baptism and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in renewal and revival (76).

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Chuck E Cheese

Well, for my 7th birthday about 20-25 of us adults went to Chuck E Cheese. I don't think it was awkward for anyone else, but it was at first for me. After a while though we warmed up and were having an awesome time! Here are a few pics;) Enjoy!

Linds and I with Chuck E.


The Tanners on the rail cart game.


Mr. Wright playing Pod-Racer.


I even had the classic Chuck E Cheese experience of picking up someone else's drink and drinking out of it. Yuck!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Emerging Brilliance!!! Kurt Rosenwinkel

For my birthday last night over twenty of us went to Chuck E Cheeses'. Whenever people would ask me what I thought of it before we went I said, "I think it will be awkwardly fun." Well, it was a blast...in total we accumulated approximately 2,500 tickets!!! Wow.

Well, I'm not so much into the Emerging Church, but I am into the "Emerging Brilliance" of Kurt Rosenwinkel!

Today Linds and I are headed to NYC for a fun day there. Tonight we are going to go to the Village Vanguard to see Kurt Rosenwinkel play! Awesome!!

Here's a quick clip of him playing (in order for the soloing at the beginning to make sense you may want to watch it twice):


Then tomorrow morning we are going to Redeemer Presbyterian to hear the Word preached. Promises to be a great weekend!!

I'm still planning on posting something on unity...it's just been a busy couple of weeks.