Saturday, April 29, 2006

This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

By God's grace I was able to attend the Together for the Gospel conference (Liveblogging commentary available) in Louisville, KY. The conference was a great time of being spiritually refreshed, through the speakers and through rekindling old relationships and cultivating new ones. I will attempt to share some of what I learned, both from the speakers and also through general observations and experiences.

First, they were together for the Gospel, not for other aspects of theology or practice. Those who started this movement (left to right: CJM, AM, MD, & LD) are from different denominations & backgrounds and differ on many other theological points, but they are together on the Gospel. That doesn't mean the differences are/were irrelevant, but that they were not prohibitive from fellowship and convergence of resources for that which is of greater importance.

This conference is/was about the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, a mission too important for them to allow it to be jeopardized. The individual speakers addressed issues about how to preach the Bible and different aspects of the Bible's message, particularly centered on the "good news" about Christ (e.g., centrality of justification by faith, how the message should be communicated, the audience that needs to hear its message, etc.).

Mark Dever spoke from 1 Cor 4 about 3 Marks of a Real Minister, which were (1) Cross-Centered messages, (2) Cross-Centered lives, and (3) Cross-Centered followers.

He spoke of how preachers are entrusted with God's message, rather than their own, using the illustration of a mailman who delivers not his own messages, but the messages/letters of others.

When speaking of humility, he cited Matthew Henry who noted that,
"Those commonly who know best do not think best of themselves."

Ligon Duncan spoke about preaching from the Old Testament, giving 8 exhortations:
  1. Preach the OT as a Christian book - much of the NT is a hermeneutical manual to understand the OT.
  2. Preach the OT expositionally - expounding books in sequential sermons.
  3. Preach Christ from the OT - There are many instances (e.g., Luke 24:25-27; Is 6 & John 12:37-41) where the NT helps us see how the OT passage relates to Christ, so look for such OT relationships.
  4. Preach one plan of redemptive history from OT - show the connections between God's covenants and purpose in dealing with His people.
  5. Preach grace from the OT - redemption comes before obedience (e.g., Ex 19 precedes Ex 20).
  6. Preach the character of God from OT - God's (inter)actions tell us so much about His character.
  7. Preach experientially from OT - for example, the Psalms give language of Christian experience.
  8. Preach the Christian life from the OT - yes, you can and should preach morality from the OT, seeing obligations on how one should live.
Another interesting comment was with regard to ways of conversion of people. He noted that there is "only one to God [through Christ], but there are many ways to Christ." In other words, salvation is by the same means for all, by grace through faith, but the way God graciously brings one to faith is unique for the individual. Indeed, it is fascinating to hear of the many ways God has brought home His sheep.

Al Mohler spoke about Preaching with the Culture in View. One needs to be aware of the culture in which one lives. He cited the problem was with the self, a problem in our culture, but also in our churches as the culture infiltrates our churches via Christians of this culture.
  • Self-Fulfillment - This is the objective many have and all are "either in therapy or in denial" as they seek the wrong end, instead of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
  • Self-Sufficient - They see themselves as the only needed authority and source of ability.
  • Self-Definition - Folks think they have the ability to define ourselves (e.g., what it means to be human, what it means to be male or female, what it means to be married, etc.).
  • Self-Absorption - It's all about us. Folks long for some "me" time and they will separate from children and/or spouses in order to "be who I am."
  • Self-Transcendence - People are enamored with spirituality, seeing the Gospel as merely another spirituality from which to pick & choose some appealing aspects to integrate into one's spirituality.
  • Self-Enhancement - So much is geared to physical improvement and extending life & youth. Plastic surgery has become aesthetic surgery, as our bodies become works of art.
  • Self-Security - We want to feel safe, thus the emphasis on safety (e.g., child-proof caps, coffee warnings on cups, bumpers on our cars, seatbelts, insurance, police force, bicycle helmets, retirement accounts, etc.). We want to feel safe, but most Christians in history did not feel safe (e.g., famine, sword, pestilence, plague, etc.). There's the illusion of safety, but it is an illusion and it's wanting to be safe from the wrong thing(s). People are more concerned about being safe from the bird flu than they are from the wrath of God.
A few Mohler observations that I found to be right on the money:
  • Most Americans believe their problem is something that happened to them and the solution is within, but the Bible says the problem is within and the solution is without, an alien righteousness. In other words, folks think they all their negatives are attributable to the external influences (e.g., daddy didn't give me enough attention) and that the fix is from self-actualization. Biblically, however, the problem is within (i.e., sin/depravity) and the solution is God's imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who believe and are then sanctified.
  • Americans are "more concerned about being good Americans than faithful Christians." Allegiance and patriotism are much more emotive for American Christians than their affection for Christ. This is pathetic and dishonoring to Christ when they get more jazzed to sing the Star Spangled Banner than O Worship the King. You sing one with gusto at a baseball game, not in a church service allegedly devoted to the worship of the One who will not share His glory with another.

R.C. Sproul spoke about The Center of Christian Preaching: Justification by Faith. He spoke to the historical differences (that still exist) between a Protestant and Roman Catholic understanding of justification. He clarified that Roman Catholics don't believe in justification apart from faith, declaring that they see faith as a necessary condition, though it is a sufficient condition for Protestants. He spoke of the difference between the infusion of grace/merit (RC) and the imputation of merit (P) that is Christ's righteousness.

RC also pointed out that people are not justified by the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The possession of faith is not the same as a profession of faith. It's the possession of faith and not the profession of faith that justifies. If I may elaborate, our faith is not in faith, but in Christ. One can have a biblical understanding of justification and not be justified.

John Piper spoke about Why Expository Preaching Is Especially Glorifying to God. He pointed out that expository preaching should be expository exultation, exulting in Christ. "You don't honor fully what you don't enjoy." He wanted us to not only get the Gospel right, but also to delight in it, which should be visible in our presentation.

Some thought-provoking quotes:
  • "The value of the Gospel is as important as the truth of the Gospel."
  • "When the glory of God is the treasure of our lives we will not lay up treasures on earth but spend them for His glory."
  • "Every sin flows from a failure to treasure God's glory above all things."

C.J. Mahaney had a message entitle, Watch Your Life and Doctrine based on 1 Tim 4:16. Perhaps more impressive than his message was the humility and passion for authentic devotion for Christ with which it was delivered. He noted that we are all tempted to put more effort/energy into public ministry than personal piety.

In speaking of life watching, he noted
  • the limitations of sound doctrine, which is essential but not all efficacious or sufficient. There must be a commitment to the application of Scripture to life; it must be preached and practiced.
  • the war within never ends. There is no "pastoral privilege" in relation to sin, just greater consequences (and greater opposition, I might add). The fight against indwelling sin persists throughout this life.
  • one "can't effectively watch ourself by our self, we need others" to help us see our faults and the manifestations of our sin to which we are blind. "I assume because I can see your sin clearly I can see mine."

John MacArthur spoke about 40 Years of Gospel Ministry and his life's lessons from 37 years at Grace Community Church. He said that, "Preaching is a science, an art, and an adventure." For the first, there are set rules of hermeneutics. For the second, there is stylistic variety and an aesthetic quality whereby each artist compiles a sermon that is his own masterpiece. For the third, there is a spiritual dynamic to the preaching experience.

His main concern was explaining the Bible, which he wanted to do with clarity because "people develop conviction where they have clarity." He gave us his benefits of expository preaching (chapter by chapter exposition in sermons being included in this expression for JFM):
  • It establishes the authority of God's Word over the mind of any particular soul.
  • It exalts the Lordship of Christ over His church as they deal with issues that come up in the text as opposed to topics desired by preacher or congregation.
  • Sanctification is advanced through exposure since Spirit uses the Word to sanctify.
  • It strikes a blow at pride, since it's not the pastor's words, but God's, that are important.
  • There is the pastor's personal benefit from the study of the sermon text.
  • You honor by the example the values of Bible study; they learn how to study the Bible by how you preach.
He also encouraged pastors to remain in churches for longer periods of time, noting that most pastors "overestimate what they can get done in 5 years, but underestimate what they can do in 20 year."

Other observations, experiences, and cogitations:
  • It's such a blessing to be around brothers who embrace a life's mission to glorify the God who is supreme over all things. I made some new friends and I was impressed with the instant camaraderie.
  • Pastors are still depraved sinners who have experienced and are still experiencing and needing the grace of God. I was surprised to see some the behavior that appeared selfish and to the detriment of others. For example, guys would really get pushy in their jockeying for position just to walk in and out of the conference room. You could get whacked by a backpack without so much as a "my bad" or "sorry" as folks jumped in front of you, muscling their way around. Also, we were provided with many free books at the conference, clearly intended for the participants. Yet, on numerous occasions I saw guys grabbing extra copies of stuff. For example, we received free copies of the NASB MacArthur Study Bible and there were at least a few I saw after the session grabbing extra copies for buddies back home. Now, this may seem a victimless crime, but those aren't "free" books that they are trying to unload. There are other instances, the most heinous of which I heard about from a brother on the plane coming back, but I'd rather not document it. When in contrast to my previous point, it seems that there were guys there who love Christ and loved their brothers and others who were goons, especially toward their brothers.
  • White Castle still rocks. I went twice and consumed 8 double-cheese burgers each time. I was *this* close to having them for breakfast about 5:30AM Friday morning on the way back from taking my good buddy James Galyon to the airport and now regret that I did not. We were clearly not thinking straight or we would have insisted we part company only after each had his fill of "belly bombers."
  • Before the flight home we got to swing by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That makes 3 of 6 SBC seminaries that I have visited and actually been on the campus (SWBTS, SEBTS, SBTS, but not yet NOBTS, MBTS, or GGBTS). Since I'm halfway done, I'd like to complete the circuit at some point. The bookstore was the best LifeWay I've ever seen and it was a pretty campus, but it still isn't Texas.
  • The music was great and I left feeling spiritually recharged, even though I was physically exhausted. Praise be to God for a refilling of my spiritual tank as my flaming passion for Christ was fanned.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

not the preferred nomenclature

It's been tried a few times in the past, but to no avail. Some are discontent and would like to change the name of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I must say that I too find the label a bit curious. The "convention" really only occurs for a few days in June. So, I'll be the first to admit that "fellowship" or "alliance" or "koinonia" or some such would be a more appropriate description of the entity.

To say we're "Southern" is true to our origin, but not true to the scope of our vision. Wouldn't a church in Milwaukee (Algonquin for the Good Land) find it odd to be a "Southern" Baptist church? In fact, I came across the following from a FAQ page of a SBC church in the north:
"Southern Baptists? Does this mean we are Christians from the south? No. In fact, most of us were born and/or raised in the Fox Valley area. The SBC is a worldwide group of baptist churches who cooperate together to further the Kingdom of Jesus Christ."
I know I would find it odd to see a Northen Baptist church in the Murphopolis.

Okay, more could be said about SBC perhaps not being the preferred nomenclature, but ... what would you use instead?

The symbol/logo, which I like, brings to mind taking the Bible and its message (i.e., the Christ who died and rose again as the substitutionary means of redemption) to the world. Thus, if you're going to have some sort of geographical identifier, I'd love to see something with more of an international flavor. Perhaps International Baptist Something or Other? I like the change they made more than a few years back from "Foreign Mission Board" to "International Mission Board" and would embrace something along those lines.

Perhaps International Baptist Convention? But, then we might have to start making rootbeer as well, lest IBC some after us. What about International Baptist Fellowship?

In a perfect world, we could come up with a name using the same acronym, SBC. Slooge Baptist Convention was one of my ideas, but nobody seemed to like it. What? You got a better idea?! Let's hear it.

What's in a name? In an age where labels are HUGE, I think quite a bit is in a name. I'm an inertia guy, an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by a significant force. In this case, the motivation to change the name would have to be significant enough to endure the associated pain. However, I'm inclined to think that such a change could make it easier to reach out to the country and to the world. Ergo, in my mind, it's worth the effort and grief.

My gut tells me that many more feel the way I do, but trying to find some sort of consensus that is appealing enough to overcome decades of tradition would be a huge hurdle.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What we do in life echoes in eternity

I'm 35 years old today. Assuming I make it to 70, I'm closer to death than to birth. If I don't, then I may be closer than I realize. That's a sobering thought.

Perhaps this is not a bad time to assess where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going, or would like to be going. If this is not too depressing, I'll probably do it again at 40. I'm sure you can't wait.

I've been able to enjoy great opportunities to be educated and entrusted with the spiritual care of others, in the local church and the classroom (DTS & SWBTS). Plus, as you can see, God has bless me with a beautiful family, in addition to God's gift of our extended family.

Sarah is almost 7 years old and enjoys gymnastics and 1st grade. She's the most artistic, being quite the singer who picks up songs at church very quickly and enjoys drawing & coloring. She also really likes little babies and wants a cat.

Rachel is 5 and loves play soccer and is in gymnastics as well. She wants to take up karate, but mom & dad are already feeling taxed. Clearly, she adds the sporty spice to our lives. She loves ice cream and when asked today what the blogosphere needed to know about her, she said they need to know about Jesus. She has a tender heart with regard to wanting to please God and her parents.

Eric Jr. LOVES his Thomas trains and so badly wants to play soccer, but only just turned 3. He's a lot of fun, but has realized his ability to be funny. He LOVES Batman, watching the 1966 Adam West movie each day and running throughout the house with his Batman cape declaring, "I'm Batman!"

Victoria is just over a year and has hit the beginning of what I consider the "fun" stage. She can walk, is starting to talk, and is really demonstrating personality (including a courtesy laugh). She's presently going through a "I don't want Mommy out of my sight" stage, which is both flattering and frustrating to Mary Ellen at the same time.
I've had some great opportunities to teach seminary students, which I relish, and I've witnessed God doing great things as He builds His church, a local outpost of which I get to pastor. Lord willing, both of those will continue into the future.

Yet, I'm behind the power curve on my PhD. I would really like to get that thing wrapped up, and sooner rather than later. In the years ahead, I hope to get healthier in eating and sleeping habits, lest I find myself physically hindered from fully enjoying the days God gives me.

God has enabled me many opportunities to invest in the lives of people, spending time in relationships to impact lives to the glory of God. Should God graciously grant me more years, I aim to use them to make a lasting impact in the lives of others for His glory, because what we do in life echose in eternity.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Well, the Lord hates a coward.

As a kid, I had a fear of losing teeth. In fact, it's still an occassional dream/nightmare I have, a lose tooth about to fall out.

I was often told to pull it out or wiggle it or whatever. But, I couldn't. I was skeered.

However, Sarah has been wanting to lose a tooth for over a year now. In fact, it has even been a recurring prayer request.

Well, I was explaining to her the world of blogging while she sat on my lap and played with her tooth. She then exclaimed, "I lost my tooth!"

After visual confirmation, and at her request, we notify the world. I was impressed by her bravery.

Yesterday, Sarah told me about a conversation she had with her friend at school. She told me that she told her friend about Jesus because she was "from India and needed to know about that."

Being curious, I asked her, "What did you say?"

She responded with, "I told her there was only one true God. We pretty much chit-chatted about that the whole time."

So effortless and nonchalant. She has a friend in need, so she's trying to help her. She's braver than her dad, who sometimes gets skeered.

Twice in two days I was impressed with her bravery. But then again, the Lord hates a coward.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hey, careful, man, there's a beverage here!

Germs -- I've recently pondered the idea of germs. People are quite conscious of such at times, but not so much at other times.

Some can be obsessive about hand washing and hand sanitizing agent, of course, but I find it interesting how often efforts are made to fight the germ horde that are half-hearted.

Some examples I've noticed follow.

At a buffet sneeze guards are in place and you must take a clean plate each time, but what about the handle on the pizza spatula or the serving spoon? For example, you may have washed your hands after using the restroom, but how do you know the guy in front of you did? His paws are all over the serving instruments and then your hands touch them which then touch your food, etc. It's interesting that at a restaurant you will still see a server hand the diner an unwrapped straw, obviously getting germs thereupon. Or what about where they grab your drink to reload it and then hand it back to you? Their germs are now on the outside of your cup. What's more, you likely have those germs intermingled with the other chap who got his germs all over his cup, which the server grabbed before yours. Yet, the most heinous offenders of all of buffet-dom are the unsupervised kids who have been pawing everything in sight and then grab a piece of pizza with his/her paws, holding the adjoining piece with the other paw, which will remain in the pan. Not so good, particularly from a germ perspective.

I really hate it when they grab my cup up high, near where I'm going to drink. I don't use the straw, so I'm already taking my life into my hand by putting my mouth on a cup of questionable cleanliness. I've even seen a server hand back a person's glass by holding it in such a way that a finger was actually inside the glass. I kid you not.

What about restrooms? There's so much germ action, but at least people know to wash their paws. However, what about using your clean hands to pull open the AIDS-infested door to exit? What's up with that? Doors should always be pushed to leave or you can at least use a paper towel to open the door and then throw it in a nearby trash can. I can assure you not everybody washes their paws, even though the sign demands employees do so. Of course, the worst is the hot air hand dryer which necessitates me wiping my hands on my jeans to dry them.

Restrooms aren't the only germ factories. What about the fast food kids' play area? I've watched as kids go back and forth from eating to playing and back again. They'll grab a French fry and then head back up the slide where some kid's been trampling in his less than sterile bare feet. Noses run and fries get left by the wayside. For my money, there's no better place to go for kid germs.

Sometimes there's a symbolic anti-germ gesture that really isn't as effective as one thinks. For example, people like to use a cup to scoop out ice for their drinks rather than using one's hands. I noticed this recently while on a plane. The drink lady would scoop up a few cubes with her cup to put in the flyer's cup. She would then grab the less than sanitary soda can, open it, and serve it with a napkin. Where did ice cup go, you ask? It's back in the ice bag ... contaminating the ice with germs from her hands that she would never think of using to touch ice. So, now she will grab the ice cup, with germ infested hands and repeat the process. Of course, during this time she also takes some guy's fast food trash from him. My point is that the ice cup is contaminated and it contaminates the ice as it keep be replaced there.

A few nights ago I'm at a fast food joint. I washed my paws with hot, soapy water. I dried them with a paper towel and used said paper towel to pull open the door. Then I touched my credit card and gave it to the guy. He got his paws all over it, after having touched the keypad. He handed the contaminated card and a cup he touched to me. I touched that cup and got some good, quality H2O to drink. I was brought a tray of varying cleanliness. I touched my triple meat, triple cheese burger with paws that had been contaminated by credit card, receipt, cup, and tray.

So, how clean are the hands that stack the cups?
How clean are the hands that stack the trays?
How clean are the hands that put the napkins in the whammie?
How clean is the bucket that puts the ice in the top of the beverage dispenser?
How clean is the ... you get the idea, right?

Like I said, some folks are keenly aware of germs and try to fight them. In fact, one can benefit from the miracle of the Internet in the war on germs. I guess that's admirable, especially where kids are involved. But, by way of contrast, I saw the opposite going on outside my window this past Good Friday. It was bulk item pick up in Murphy, so we were able to put all kinds of cag at the curb.

So, the guy has to get out and not just roll the can to the back of the truck to get loaded, but has to handle the garbage. The guy doing the dirty work got out of the truck with no gloves, but sucking on a lollipop, taking it in and out from time to time in the process. I say dirty work, because some of this was a bunch of cag that had defrosted and subsequently rotted in my defunct freezer about a week before. You know, rotting meat, unfrozen pizzas, unfrozen ice cream, etc. Despite the smell, he had not a care in the world about germs.

For some reason, I found that refreshing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easy doesn't enter into grown-up life.

In an attempt to unpack the Kwan of our salvation, we have looked at JUSTIFICATION and now turn our attention to SANCTIFICATION.

Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.
-Augustus Topladay, Rock of Ages

The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) notes that,
"Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life."

The Abstract of Principles (1858) further describes sanctification in the following manner:
"Those who have been regenerated are also sanctified, by God's word and Spirit dwelling in them. This sanctification is progressive through the supply of Divine strength, which all saints seek to obtain, pressing after a heavenly life in cordial obedience to all Christ's commands."

Let's explore that which is defined and described above. We will attempt to better understand this process by which God's people become sanctified, or set apart, or become more holy, more like Christ. In contrast to justification, whereby one is considered righteous before God, sanctification is that lifelong process wherein one becomes more righteous and holy before God as one becomes more like Christ. In short, we could say that sanctification is God’s inevitable plan for all believers whereby He saves them from the power of sin in their lives (1 Thes 4:3; 5:23-24; 2 Thes 2:13). In sanctification, God sets believers apart unto holiness as they become more like Christ.

The nature of this process is an interesting one, for it is the work of both God and us. God commands us to work out our salvation (sanctification) with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) and we recognize our responsibility to be more holy and less like the world (1 Pet 1:13-16). However, this is not something we do in the flesh or in our own power or strength, but in the same fashion as how we were justified (i.e., by grace through faith – Gal 3:3).

However, it is also God’s work as He continues that which He started in justification (Phil 1:6; 2:13):
“God provided that certainty and confirms the believer’s hope, since sanctification from its beginning in regeneration to its completion in glorification is ultimately God’s work, which believers appropriate by faith (cf. Phil. 1:6).” -- Bible Knowledge Commentary on Romans 8:28-39

This is a process where we work hard, knowing that He works in us and that He gets the glory for the success (1 Cor 15:10). It's not easy, but easy doesn't enter into grown-up life.

In sanctification we change masters for it is the process whereby slaves to sin become slaves to righteousness (cf. Romans 6-8). This is a progressive realization in the real world as we don’t become righteous overnight in the experiential sense. In the Christian life we cease our sinful ways and start doing righteous deeds for His glory (Matt 5:16).

John Owen notes that we are to be about "clearing our forests of the sinful trees and planting new and good trees in their places." Killing off the old and sinful trees is called mortification, whereby we kill the flesh. The planting of the new and righteous is called vivification, whereby we begin and practice new and godly habits, showing forth the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

Again, justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. One is justified prior to works, but the works come after and as a result of faith (Eph 2:8-10), a changed life (2 Cor 5:17), and a new heart (Ezek 36:26-27). As a result, all of God’s children will carry on in the faith, growing in grace and will never ultimately fall away (John 10:28-29).[1] Good works and a changed life are one of the means whereby one can know of his/her salvation (i.e., legitimate justification) (2 Cor 13:5). Others would be the internal witness of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:16) and the evidence of God’s discipline (Heb 12:5-8).

Although sanctification is a process that has external manifestation, it is primarily an internal process. That is, we are essentially changed from the inside out. Paul notes that we are transformed by the "renewing" of our "mind" (Rom 12:2). As such, our internal motives and external actions come into alignment as we see our actions AND our motives purified. This renewing primarily occurs through teaching, preaching, prayer, Bible study and meditation.

One must never forget that our sanctification has proponents (ourselves, God, and the church[2] Heb 10:24-25) AND opponents (the world, the flesh, and the devil). That means that the life of holiness is a life of battle, a spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-18). God equips believers with certain spiritual gifts (Rom 12:3-8; Eph 4:11-16) so that they can encourage and move one another on toward godliness, especially as they put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-18).

The life of holiness is the life of faith in which the believer, with a deepening knowledge of his own sin and helplessness apart from Christ, increasingly casts himself upon the Lord, and seeks the power of the Spirit and the wisdom and comfort of the Bible to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. - Edmund P. Clowney, The Church

Remember that we will fight against sin until the day of glorification, never giving up although it will get nasty.
“Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.” - John Owen

However, we will all face various temptations along the way. Thus, accountability can be crucial in fighting off sin and temptation. Owen notes that in order for fallen humanity to experience legitimate temptation two things must be present: (1) Desire and (2) Opportunity (cf. James 1:13-15). In the absence of either, temptation is avoided.[3] Yet, we can be encouraged in the midst of temptation that God is always with us and will ensure that we are not tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13). So, we continue to live the Christian life of sanctification by grace through faith, in humble reliance on Him as we strive to bring it about.
We have no power from Christ unless we live in a persuasion that we have none of our own. Our whole spiritual life is a life of faith; and that is a life of dependence on Christ for what we have not of ourselves. – John Owen

We live the Christian life (sanctification) the same way we began it (justification), by grace through faith. In that process we become someone else and we no longer do some of things we used to do. We mature in the process of growing up, no longer babes in Christ. There's life change and your light shines so that people will see the difference Christ makes in a life and God will be glorified (Matthew 5:16).

Living the Christian life is not easy, but nobody said it would be (Phil 1:29; Luke 6:22). But then again, easy doesn't enter into grown-up life.

[1] One needs to make the distinction between the “perseverance of the saints” and “eternal security”. The former assumes the latter, but is much more. The Bible does not merely teach “once saved, always saved,” although it does indeed teach that, but it makes the assertion that a genuine conversion will manifest itself in a progressive change from which a believer can and never will fall away, since God ensures success (Phil 1:6). So, the Bible offers no assurance or “security” to one without sanctification, for true faith will produce. To quote again from the Abstract of Principles: “It [Faith] is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness.”

[2] The ordinances, or sacraments, of the church (i.e., baptism and the Lord’s Supper) are given for our sanctification as well the church in general. Per the Abstract of Principles, “The Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church, which is composed of all his true disciples, and in Him is invested supremely all power for its government. According to his commandment, Christians are to associate themselves into particular societies or churches; and to each of these churches he hath given needful authority for administering that order, discipline and worship which he hath appointed.” Thus, anyone not “in church” goes into battle for sanctification not firing on all cylinders.

[3] For example, if I am lusting after chocolate cake (desire) but there is none around (opportunity), temptation is not really there. Vice versa, if there is a plate full of green beans (opportunity), but I would rather stick needles in my eyes than eat them (desire), then I’m not really tempted to eat them.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Well, I guess we can close the books on that one.

"The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in." - Peter Marshall

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" - Jesus Christ (John 11:25-26)

Friday, April 14, 2006

We follow orders son. We follow orders, or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?

Mindful of the Christ today, particularly His wounds, by which I have been healed.

He who was/is worthy to be adorned with many crowns, came to don a crown of pain as He bore our sin when the Father laid on the Son the wrath we deserve.

He was forsaken, that we might be forgiven.

Human disobedience brought death, physical and spiritual. Christ's obedience brings life, physical and spiritual, through the satisfaction of His death, for those in Christ. I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe. We didn't follow orders and He died, willingly. It's that simple.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

- O Sacred Head, Now Wounded by Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)

(cf. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Won't you gentlemen have a Pepsi?

Though I don't see this blog as my locale for venting, I thought I would share some of my PET PEEVES and solicit some of yours in response.

  1. Waiting on hold to talk with a company who has waffled and derailed my day.
  2. When anyone thinks their "don't remember" might trump my "do remember"
  3. When someone insists we just "drop it" (or the ultimate "whatever") the moment a conversation veers into an unwanted direction, particularly when the other person started the whole discussion/argument.
  4. Trying to talk over music that is too loud (e.g., in a restaurant or in a car).
  5. Hearing profanity in a public place, particularly around my kiddos.
  6. Hearing references to deity as exclamations and/or cuss words.
  7. Having such a small brain that as soon as I hear someone's name I've just as quickly forgotten it.
  8. Wanting to have conversation during the game. I'll pause the TiVo and we can chat, but this is the form of media whereby it transmits and we receive. Conversation should only be limited to the game and be along the lines of, "What in the world was that ref thinking?!" or "C'mon, this is why the game takes so long!" (when we have to change pitchers for each batter).
  9. When people announce "I'm not a racist or anything," but then proceed to say something that sounds curiously like they very well might be.
  10. Exaggeration or use of extremes & superlatives to describe or make a point. It seems things are either loved by everyone or hated by everybody. The words lose their meaning when used in place of more moderate language.
  11. "Close talker."
  12. "One-Upper."
  13. Going to someone's house and trying to converse over an unwatched television that just has to be on anyway.
  14. Greeting another man and receiving a limp-wrist handshake in the process ... creepy!

  1. Installing a toilet paper roll so that the tissue unwaps from the under side of the roll.
  2. Using the TP down to the last few squares without fetching a new roll.
  3. In public restrooms, a tightly wound roll that is nearly impossible to unwind without each individual square becoming detached.
  4. Restrooms where the exit requires me touching a door handle, thereby putting me in danger of contracting the AID.
  5. Restrooms where they have the hot air hand dryers, thereby ensuring that I will have to wipe my hands on my pants to effectively dry them.
  6. Automatic paper towel dispensers that give you just a sheet at a time, requiring me to flail my arms about in an erratic fashion to get more.
  7. I'm a high kicker, but with my height it can still be a whippin to have the urninal handle too high. This, of course, can make the kick flush, while necessary, a risky proposition, particularly if the ground is less than dry.
  8. The stall door that won't stay shut, requiring one to keep a foot or hand on the door while handling up on one's business.

  1. Taking forever to leave a parking space while others are clearly waiting for it.
  2. Slowing down to enter the left turn lane.
  3. Driving behind a SUV, van, or panel truck to where I can't see what's going on in front of me.
  4. Not signalling, particularly when I'm waiting on the car to pass by on the cross street and then it turns right beside me. If he/she would have signalled, I could have gone.
  5. Being asleep at the wheel and not taking a right on red or those who don't know that rule.
  6. Being asleep at the wheel and not having the car in gear (standard transmission) to be able to go when the light turns green. I'm pretty confident it will turn green ... eventually. Put the thing in first gear now.
  7. Having time consumed merging down to one lane in a construction zone only to see there's STILL no construction in progress.
  8. Folks that change lanes at the last minute to jockey for position when it means they are now in the lane that could turn right on red, but they prevent a line of us from doing so since they are planning to continue through the intersection.
  9. SUVs parked askew so that they ooze over into another spot, thereby rendering it useless except for a motorcycle.
  10. Discourteous drivers who advertise affiliation with Jesus through bumper sticker or fish.
  11. Teenagers who drive grandpa's car so they can park in the handicapped spots.
  12. Paying $2.499 for a gallon of gas instead of just paying $2.50.
  13. Paying $2.50 (or more) for a gallon of gas.

English Language:
  1. Though it has become popular as of late, hearing that something makes one "nauseated" vs. "nauseous."
  2. Hearing "incidences" vs. "incidents."
  3. Saying, "I could care less" when one really means, "I couldn't care less."
  4. In football, they now "defense" (a play) instead of "defend" against it.
  5. What's with the pluralizing proper nouns? The popular media loves to talk about the "Bill Gateses and the Troy Aikmans and the George Bushes of the world."
  6. The use of "Guys" to refer to a group that either includes or is exclusively female. Everyone nowadays is a guy, even a group of women is addressed as "guys" (even by another woman).
  7. Needing to add "-ate" to some words to make them sound more important or whatever (e.g., orientate instead of orient, commentate instead of comment).
  8. Wrong use of words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and mean something else (e.g., your/you’re, there/their/they’re, to/too/two, here/hear, principle/principal, past/passed, weather/whether).
  9. An overuse or misuse like (e.g., "Like, you’re crazy, man," or "I was like, 'oh, my,' and she was like, 'un huh,' etc.).
  10. The misuse of the apostrophe, which is not used with a personal pronoun (e.g., the dog lost its bone, not "it's"). The apostrophe shows possession (e.g., "Harley's bone was lost), but that is not needed with the possessive pronoun. The apostrophe also is used in contractions, being used in place of a letter or letters (e.g., it replaces the "i" when "It is a nice day" becomes "It's a nice day"). It is never to be used to pluralize words (e.g., "orange's" for sale).
  11. The way email has somehow enabled us to abandon any and all English language convention, capitalization, spelling, and punctuation are all optional.
  12. Sticking an extra "s" on words (e.g., "that's besides the point", "in that respects", etc.).
  13. The inadequacy of the English language to distinguish between the second person singular versus plural. Fortunately, in Texas we have both "you" and "y'all."
  14. That point is "moot," not "mute."
  15. "Raise" is a transitive verb; it takes a direct object. "Rise" is intransitive. You rise from bed. You raise your glass.


  1. When they're loud when you want them to be quiet and quiet when you want them to sound off.
  2. Talking up a storm and shutting it down when you give them the phone to talk to Nana.
  3. Caring so much about what other kids have.
  4. When they have a really good trick, but won't perform on cue.
  5. Hearing of their hunger less than 20 minutes after leaving the restaurant and their uneaten, yet paid for, meal.

Random Cag:

  1. Hangers... how they get all tangeled with each other in the closet so that a whole bundle fall to the floor when you just want one.
  2. Sitting by the air conditioner or under the fan and then complaining about being cold and shutting off the ac or fan.
  3. REALLY needing to get to sleep and not being able, a problem that seems to increase in intensity with the degree of need for rest and with the decrease of amount of sleep I'll be getting.
  4. Tossing dirty utensils into the side of the sink where the disposal waits to gobble them up when no one is looking so they can make that unpleasant grinding sound when said disposal is activated.
  5. The racket of trying to get everybody wearing bicycle helmets. Somebody's making bundles of money on that unncessary industry. When I was a kid, we skinned up knees and elbows and whatnot. I'm in the vast minority here, but I think wearing a bike helmet is for sissys. Even my girls don't wear them.
  6. Movie rental places saying that we've seen the end of late fees and then charging me a late fee (relabeled as a restocking fee).
  7. Non-conformists who conform together in their non-conformity.
  8. When people enter through the exit door(s) and vice versa.
  9. Heinously immodest clothing, particularly on those who should have ceased wearing such 50 pounds and/or 20 years ago. Do we really need to see undergarments or your rib or pelvic bones in everyday life?
  10. People who are making a longer, rather than shorter, visit to my home who park in the driveway.
  11. It's such a whip to gather up all my cag, make my way to the vehicle, only to realize I have to go back in to inform the driver of my need to use the driveway. Then the person has to find the keys, etc. It's a whippin. Just park in front of the house like the good Lord intended.
  12. Reading a book that has endnotes instead of footnotes, which means I'm constantly referring to the back of the book to see if that note is of any benefit/consequence.
  13. Having to peel stickers off my books (e.g., price tag, "sale" marker, etc.).


  1. I'm whipped by web pages that require you to change settings, download anything or read a tutorial.
  2. Popups or loud music or other cag on web pages with no obvious or convenient way to disable that just annoys and/or delays page loading.
  3. Having to restart the computer after making any seemingly insignificant changes.

  1. "Arminians" are those who embrace a theology bearing the name of Jacobus Arminius (i.e., those who are not Calvinists). "Armenians" are people from Armenia.
  2. It is the book of Revelation, not RevelationS.
  3. Being treated like as though I haven't actually studied and been trained to be a pastor/preacher.
  4. Folks with their minds so made up that they are incapable of discussion or learning.
  5. The inability to disagree with others in Christian love and not be mad at or hate them, that is taking it as a personal offense when disagreed with and/or seemingly criticized.
  6. People who seem themselves as the standard of righteousness, particularly when they see the sins they don't struggle with as supreme, but the ones they do as trivial.
  7. Seeing any one particular translation of the Bible as so vastly superior to others, particularly with disregard for objective standards of evaluation.
  8. The false dichotomies, that is presenting an "either/or" choice when one doesn't need to be made or when both can be chosen (e.g., Christians should either be pro-life or care about the poor; Christians should just go save souls rather than talking about theology, etc.).
  9. The straw man argument, that is presenting a false representation of a view with which you don't agree to win support for one's view (e.g., presenting Calvinism as a theology that doesn't believe in missions/evangelism since it adheres to the biblical doctrine of predestination, neglecting to mention the many great evangelists who disprove that theory (e.g., William Carey, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, etc.)).


  1. When my food order gets cagged (e.g., contaminating an otherwise unsullied burger with the tomfoolery known as vegetables and condiments, when requested to keep them far away).
  2. When someone touches the salt or pepper shaker with really greasy or BBQ fingers.
  3. Kids slooging the utensils and such at a buffet.
  4. Restaurants that don't provide free reloads on drinks (e.g., White Castle).
  5. When some goon takes more 4 (or more) of the 8 pieces of the new pizza just out on the buffet.
  6. People with fast metabolisms assuming that heavy people are such merely because they eat a great deal.
  7. The curse of the male waiter and all his disinterestedness and inattentiveness, both of which scream that he'd much rather be somewhere else since this job is so beneath him.
  8. Asking for a Coke in a restaurant and hearing, "Is Pepsi okay?" because it's not.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Hoping to not have to turn in my "Man Card," but I came across this while reading some poetry.

It might be seen as one man's answer to my post, "Isn't that what makes a man?"
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
"IF" by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), author of many short stories and poems, but perhaps most notably:
Isn't that what makes a man? Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

You've got the using kind of religion, not just the meeting house kind.

At Rachel's soccer practice tonight I overheard a conversation between two 1st grade girls, schoolmates of Sarah.

One asked the other, "What did that ant do to you?" (An ant had apparently be squashed.) I heard no response, but perhaps there was a shoulder shrug. Either way, the enquiring mind that wanted to know boldly declared, "God created the ant and you were mean to it."

Now, although I might disagree with that young lady's application of theology, perhaps betraying my prejudice against the fire ant, I applaud her attempts to be a "doer" of the Word and not just a hearer (James 1:22).

Theologically she was right. The ant is part of God's creation and as part of God's creation, it should be treated with that knowledge in mind.

Right thinking should produce right living. If not, one has to question the validity of the thinking.

The Christian life is a transformative process of having the mind renewed as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1-2) that we would demonstrate love for Christ via obedience (John 14:21). As people observe such obedience, the Father in heaven is praised. Without this using kind of religion, we've no business addressing Christ as "Lord" (Luke 6:46).
A hypocrite knows more than he is willing to do; but a true saint desires to do what he knows, and to know more that he may do more, and better. - Puritan Vavasor Powell

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You understand me? Catching my drift? Or am I being obtuse?

In an attempt to unpack the Kwan of our salvation, we now turn our attention to JUSTIFICATION.

The Abstract of Principles[1] defines justification in the following manner:
"Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal of sinners, who believe in Christ, from all sin, through the satisfaction that Christ has made; not for anything wrought in them or done by them; but on account of the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith."

With regard to sin, humanity is cursed to the third degree.[2] This sets up our awareness of the problem: Humanity is sinful and stands under the wrath of a holy God who demands perfect obedience. Part of understanding salvation is to first understand the peril of being lost. The Apostle Paul spends essentially the first three chapters of the book of Romans (particularly 1:18-3:20) showing that everyone is sinful and under God's wrath because of it. Theologians call this total depravity, meaning that the totality of the human self is depraved, that he or she is corrupt through and through.

However, the Bible also makes us aware of the solution to our problem, a solution of God's own design and initiation: Jesus Christ rendered perfect obedience to the Law and His righteousness is credited to anyone who places his/her faith in Him alone for salvation and He bears the sinfulness of him/her as well. Thus, we see that there are two transactions for the Christian (2 Cor 5:21). He takes our sin, but we receive His righteousness. Sin brings death, but God's gift is that of eternal life for those who believe in Christ (Rom 6:23).

This salvation is by grace alone, not because of God's grace and our efforts to please Him. This salvation is through faith alone in Christ, not through (and certainly not because of) faith plus our good works. This salvation is accoplished by Christ alone, not by any other means than His righteousness imputed to the sinner and the sinner's sin imputed to the Christ on the cross. As well, we must remember that all of the glory of salvation goes to God alone,[3] since He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2).

However, before a person can experience justification, he or she must believe. Yet, due to the biblical understanding of sin and depravity, one is not able to believe in Christ on our own (cf. John 6:44, 65). The solution to that problem is found in God as well. God must regenerate[4] the person before he or she can enter or even see the kingdom (John 3:3, 5). God must make people spiritually alive, bringing them to life from their dead state (Eph 2:1-5).

The question must be asked, however, who are those who get regenerated? Is it those that ask or those who desire it? Is it merely something based on His grace and mercy, which He gives as He sees fit, apart from anything in the creature? (cf. Rom 9:15-18) Clearly, those who receive Christ by faith are the ones who become children of God (John 1:12). However, those children are not born of their own volition and will, but of God's (John 1:13).

In fact, this choice as to who will be regenerated and who will be saved was asked and answered by God before the creation of the world. We were selected by God from among the pool of future humanity to be His children (Eph 1:4-6). He chose us not because of even some potential good in us, but according to His own good pleasure (cf. Rom 9:10-15). This choosing or predestinating was done for our good, but ultimately for His glory (Eph 1:11-12).

This choosing is called election, whereby God elects, or chooses, a people for Himself. We might define election in the following manner:
"Election is God's eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life -- not because of foreseen merit in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ -- in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified."[5]

Perhaps the most explicit passage that deals with the relationship of faith, works, and justification is Eph 2:8-10. We see here the importance of faith. Faith has also been quite concisely defined by The Abstract of Principles:
"Saving faith is the belief, on God's authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ; accepting and resting upon Him alone for justification and eternal life. It is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness."

In the Protestant understanding of justification, good works are not the cause of justification; rather they are the result and by-product of faith and justification.

One last thing needs to be said about the beauty of justification and that is its Trinitarian nature. In justification we see that the Father chooses a people, whom He gives to the Son (John 6:37, 39; 10:29). The Son dies for that people (John 10:11, 14-15; 15:13). The Holy Spirit regenerates that people (Eph 2:4-5). We are thrice blessed by our triune God. Our justification ensures our glorification (Rom 8:29-30) and sets us on the journey that is known as sanctification, which we will look in an forthcoming post.

[1] The Abstract of Principles is the first Southern Baptist doctrinal statement. It was part of the original charter of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1858 and is still its doctrinal standard.

[2] (a) Imputed sin & guilt of Adam (Rom 5:12-21), (b) Transmitted sin nature (Jer 17:9), and (c) Personal sins of commission and omission (1 John 3:4; James 4:17).

[3] Elaboration on these "alone" themes can be seen in The Cambridge Declaration. In short, our authority is Scripture Alone by which we hold that salvation from the wrath to come is accomplished by Christ Alone & applied by Grace Alone, through Faith (in Christ & His work) Alone. Thus, we proclaim To God Alone Be the Glory!

[4] "Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who quickeneth the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God's free and special grace alone." The Abstract of Principles (1858) That regeneration produces a new life in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) as well as repentance that moves one to Christ. The Abstract of Principles defines repentance in the following fashion: "Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things."

[5] The Abstract of Principles (1858) – For further discussion of election, read A Southern Baptist Looks at the Biblical Doctrine of Election by Ernest Reisinger.

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