Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reformation Day Thoughts

For those of you who don't know (and I didn't until this time last year), today is Reformation Day. I suspect many of you thought that it was merely Halloween, which is a pagan holiday that many Christians refuse to have anything to do with. It is that too, but it also marks the 490th anniversary of Martin Luther tacking 95 theses on the door at the cathedral in Wittenberg. As someone who rejects the Catholic Church's interpretation of the gospel, I am glad for this day.

However, this post has helped to temper my glee a little bit. It serves as a good reminder that we need to call out the bad in any organization, but that we should theoretically be on the same side. We all want to live in a way that glorifies God, right? I mean, theoretically that's the idea. The Jehovah's Witnesses would say that they want to do that, but they disagree with my theology as I do theirs. It is good that there are distinctives because we do believe different things. However, should we really revel in them?

I think I'm going to look at this day as the day when someone was willing to challenge the self-appointed supremacy of the Catholic Church. I think it was a great day for truth. However, I don't think that we should be quite ready to make Luther into a saint. Nor should we throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to tradition. Is it better to have a church with authority or individuals who can all go their own way? I really like the perspective that this post gives.

I attend a Calvinistic, dispensational seminary. I'm not sure if I'm dispensational or covenantal, but I do know that I am Calvinistic. However, I also realize that this may have to do with the teaching I've received. I like to say that my authority is in the Bible, but it may be just as much in John Piper as it is in the Bible.

A classmate of mine presents this problem well. He used to read a variety of commentaries on a verse and wonder about how to resolve the conflicting views. Now that he knows Greek pretty well he can decide who has good and bad exegetical practices. However, not everyone agrees on how to interpret the Greek. So that leaves you with decisions to make about which lexicon or exegetical commentary you're going to trust.

So where does that leave us? We have textual variants of the manuscripts. We have competing translations of various verses. We have competing interpretations in systematic theology. It's enough to push your faith to the brink of destruction.

It leaves me in a position where I know that we can be sure about some things and we need to be gracious about others. I do know that we cannot waver when it comes to salvation by faith alone though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Mina Project

Our church had another sermon on money this past Sunday. I knew pretty much what the whole sermon was going to be because I had heard it before. I knew that we would hear the phrase "God owns it all". I thought about how we spend our money and I figured that I would get through a Sunday with very little conviction about the sermon.

Then at the end a surprising thing happened. Our church normally gives away about $35,000 during the Christmas season. Instead of doing it the usual way the church decided to give everyone 18 and over an envelope with an amount of cash between $10 and $500. The challenge is to use the money to help someone in the community. We can't spend it on ourselves and we can't give it back to the church. We do have to tell the church what we're doing with it, however.

This suddenly made the message a LOT more challenging. I'm pretty good at funding others and other organizations. I've flirted with the idea of being a missionary. However, this is where the rubber meets the road. What can I do with this money to the glory of God? How can I show the love of Jesus and make Him seem infinitely valuable through the use of this money?

Incidentally, Amanda and I each got $20. I'm glad it wasn't $500. I think God realizes that I need to start small with this. I'd welcome any ideas anyone has.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Coming Up

I feel like my spirit is starting to lighten a bit. My daily prayer is for God to soften my heart toward Him. It's not that I'm hard-hearted toward Him so much that I'm just not enjoying Him like I should. I tend to focus on external things like reading the Bible more, singing praise songs, etc. However, I forgot just how much I need to pray for transformation. There are few better things than to have a heart that is soft and enjoying God.

I find that listening to good preaching really helps with this. I've started listening to more podcasts in the car. I've really been enjoying Mark Driscoll's sermons on Philippians and Nehemiah. I realize that much of the Reformed Community doesn't quite know what to make of Mark. On the one hand, he is a good expositor and clearly holds Scripture in high esteem. On the other hand, he makes some off-color metaphors that really rankle the fundie rank and file. I don't find him particularly offensive, but rather I find him quite refreshing. At least I tend to remember what he says when he preaches!

So far, my favorite story is one he tells about a friend who has problems, but is not a believer. Driscoll keeps telling him the answer is Jesus. No matter what problem he brings up Driscoll keeps telling him, "you need Jesus". He talks about problems his kids have and he gets the same line. Eventually the friend got upset and said that he was tired of hearing that and Driscoll told him that he'd better stop asking if he doesn't want to hear that. The point was that we have a choice to make -- do we offend the asker or do we offend God? That should be a no-brainer, right?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Greek Results

We took our first midterm in Greek last week and I got a 96. I feel kind of silly because I overthought something and missed it. I also missed a vocab word and that just kills me every time I do that. The vocab is the easiest part and I review it daily. Still, I have yet to get a perfect score when I do my own personal review.

I've been getting 100s on my vocab quizzes because we get credit for doing our assigned reading. I've been getting 95s on my verbal translation quizzes. If I do my sums correctly and keep this up I will only need to get an 85 on my final, which should be very doable. I'm feeling pretty good about my grades this semester as long as I keep it up.

We've moved from 1 Thessalonians to 1 Peter. Peter has a very different writing style from Paul. He likes to do things like splitting up the article from the participle. It's kind of tough when you're trying to just sight-read the passage. It's good practice though.

We were told what next semester will be like. Each of us will get a passage in 1 Corinthians that we will spend all semester with. We'll have to diagram it, pick it apart, unpack it, etc. Then at the end we have to prepare a sermon on it. It should be interesting. If nothing else, it will give me good practice at preparing a sermon. The thought of preaching in front of my Greek class is a bit scary. They know when you're full of it! Or at least they should.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Little Perspective

The Indians got thumped last night 12-2 and I'm not sure if it was really even that close. I have had some really good conversations with my mom over this series. She says that she is ready to give up on pro sports because she thinks that they are all grossly overpaid. I'll be surprised if she follows-through on it, but I would be impressed if she did.

I'm very disappointed that Sabathia and Carmona have pitched so poorly in this series. I expected Sabathia to split his two starts against Beckett and for them to win Carmona's two starts. Carmona pitched terribly, which can happen to 23 year-olds who are on the big stage. I think my surprise comes from how well he pitched against the Yankees.

At any rate, I find the whole thing very disappointing and frustrating, but it helps me keep perspective on this thing. I would love it for the city of Cleveland to finally have a winner. The town is not doing well right now. Unemployment is high, crime is rampant, and winter is just around the corner. The town could really use a winner. Our could it?

Maybe this whole thing helps to reinforce just how badly the town needs Jesus. Of course, every town needs Jesus. I've been listening to a series of messages on Job preached by the president of my seminary. It helps to put suffering in perspective and to realize that all suffering is meant to point us to the cross.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paul Byrd

I am now a huge Paul Byrd fan. Check out this interview.

I disagree with his theology about Seventh-Day Adventists, but that's OK. I may actually get my hands on his book. It would be great if the library carried it.

I cannot believe the pressure on Christian athletes. It would be so easy to give in to infidelity and, of course, porn. I imagine that Paul Byrd has been tempted more than once to doctor the ball a little bit. I'll take his word that he hasn't.

All I know that is that he helped the Indians get to where they are right now. He won the game where they eliminated the Yankees and he put the Indians in a great spot to eliminate the Red Sox. Hopefully I'll get to experience one more start from him in game 4 of the World Series.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm only posting this as proof that I'm still awake after the Indians took game 2 of the ALCS. What a ride.

Tomorrow is going to be a sleepy day. But it's OK. I'm enjoying this.

Oh, and the Buckeyes are likely to be #1 in this week's poll with LSU and Cal both losing. Is this the year for my teams?

Friday, October 12, 2007


I've had a mixed week spiritually. I think that my focus has been a bit off with the MLB playoffs. I'm enjoying the Indians' run and I do hope that they can win the World Series. I was excited when they won game 2. I clapped and pumped my first when Derek Jeter grounded into a key double-play in the 6th inning of game 4. I was very happy when Borowski struck out Posada to end the series. But I find that I am not bursting with joy like I once would have.

I think this is a good thing. However, I also know that I'm not always bursting with joy about Jesus either. These are the dangerous times. Earlier this week I found myself getting too close to the line while surfing the web. It's time to get refocused on the cross!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sounds of Victory

I am something of a Tom Hamilton junkie. Here are some of my favorite moments of the ALDS:

Martinez goes yard in game 1.

Kenny Lofton hits an RBI double in game 1.

Carmona fans A-Rod in the 9th in game 2.

And, perhaps my favorite:

Borowski fans Posada to finish the series. Note how quiet the stadium (or should I write The Stadium?) gets.

I'm ready for the Sox!

Secret Confessions

I've started to read the stuff that I see when I get to my Blogger Dashboard. I noticed that Post Secret has a new book out. For those of you who don't know, this is a site that lets people send in postcards with various confessions. I spent some time looking at old entries via Google Images, and this is what I've found:
  • Many relate to sex. These vary from stories of molestation and rape to stories about using sex to get back at people.
  • Many relate to drugs and alcohol
  • There are many about abortions
  • There are plenty that are about doing generally secret naughtiness (i.e. I like to urinate when I swim)
It's really fascinating to see these. I know that some people are very depressed and they don't feel like they have anywhere to turn. I sure hope that no Christians are using this site. The reason I write that is because we should be able to talk to our brothers and sisters in Christ about these kinds of things. That is what the body of Christ is for. At the very least, we can talk to God about these dark places in our lives.

I can tell you that the site is very intriguing, but it's also very sad. Some of these people are so desperate for help that you just want to reach out to them and show them the love of Christ. Actually, we're all that desperate, amen?

I realize that this sounds like a pat Christian answer. It's probably not something that Doug Pagitt would recommend, though I suspect John MacArthur would. The world can use something like PostSecret because it doesn't know Jesus. What it really needs is Jesus.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Reading History

In my assigned reading for Old Testament we're in the chapter about History. This book does a great job of giving a balanced, scholarly look at how we should read the Old Testament. It does challenge some of our notions, which I think is good.

There was a part of this chapter that explained how we should read the history books in the Old Testament, specifically 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles. The warnings were not to take all described behavior as prescriptive and not to try to read every part looking for devotional or doctrinal material.

I do think that the whole Bible is about Jesus, but I also know that we need to be careful about over-allegorizing the Old Testament. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a chariot is just a chariot.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Plague on the Yankees

As I watched Game 2 last night, I could help but think of:

Exo 8:16-19 ESV
(16) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.'"
(17) And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt.
(18) The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast.
(19) Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

I suppose God cares about who wins a ballgame in the sense that He is in control of all things. However, I don't see how He would answer prayers for one team over another. I do know that last night's swarms of midgies was very weird. It was distracting enough for my namesake (J. Chamberlain) to lose his control and give up a run without the Indians getting a hit. It seems like things like this normally work for NY and against a team like Cleveland.

Incidentally, from what I've seen in the language he uses in interviews, there seems like a good chance that Joba is a Christian. I know Andy Pettitte is too. They seem like good guys. I'd like them more if they didn't play for the Yankees.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pointing to the Cross

I sense a theme in the teaching I've listened to, the blogs I've read, and the teaching I received from Setting Captives Free. It's the need to keep everything pointed back to Jesus. This is obviously not anything new. However, it's a good reminder that I need from time to time.

It's going to be very hard to sit through the discussion of Numbers tonight while I wonder how the Indians are doing in the ALDS. I like to think that my priorities are in order, but I'm still going to be a bit torn...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I support the blackberry environment at my company. Some people refer to these little devices as "crackberries" because they are almost as addictive as crack. People like to stay connected and some families have had problems because mom and dad can't put the things down. They just feel compelled to keep doing email. I often laugh with the people in my company who are like that. Then I get smug and think about how I'm not like them.

A good friend of mine hosts my email. The ISP that hosts his mail relay was down for 32 hours, so I wasn't getting any email. I get a LOT of email every day and this was starting to bother me last night. It was OK during the day since I probably shouldn't be doing a lot of personal email during work hours anyway, but it stopped being funny as I went to bed last night. It just started working again in the last hour and my old messages are trickling in.

I've come to realize that I am no different than my workaholic team lead. I am no better than those salespeople who like to think that the Bank will shut down without them. I think this email outage was a good reminder to me that I am not Setting Captives Free. I'm just someone who helps out by grace alone. God is in charge of all this and I'm just a tool in His hands. I need to remember that.

This also reminds me that I need to be careful when I do get into full-time ministry. I could see how it can take over someone's life if they aren't careful.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All I'm Askin'.... for a little respect. I've been thinking about why I'm getting so psyched for the playoffs. I wonder what the point is of even getting excited about watching men try to hit a ball with a stick, carry a ball over a line, put a ball through a hoop, etc. Why do we get so excited about our teams?

I think that we want to be a part of something bigger. The Indians are going to be on the biggest stage in the world because they are playing a team that is synonymous with baseball around the world. In fact, I think that the interlocking "NY" is almost synonymous with America in some circles. Everyone knows Jeter, A-Rod, and Clemens. Who knows about Grady Sizemore?

I still think the Indians will sweep the Yanks. Or, they may take 4 games, but I think the Indians can do it. If they get past the Yanks I think they can win the whole thing. But even more than that I want to see Sizemore shine on the big stage. In the pivotal series against Detroit he did something that is quintessentially Grady. He had a bunt single, stole second, and scored from second a ground ball that the second baseman knocked down, but couldn't field cleanly. That is the kind of thing that Ty Cobb used to do. The difference here being that, as far as I can tell, Grady Sizemore is not a flaming jerk.

I also hope to see him make one of his signature catches. He has an uncanny knack for laying out for fly balls and coming up with them. I'd love to see Derek Jeter hit a ball to the gap in right-center only to have Sizemore outrun it with a diving catch and end a rally.

They're on the big stage and it's time to shine for C-Town. Let's hope they can do it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Go Tribe!

Forgive me for being a bit less serious than usual, but I am excited about the prospect of the Cleveland Indians this year in the playoffs. I think that their starting pitching can hang with anyone's (even San Diego's who is inflated by PETCO park). I think they have enough balance in the lineup to find a way to beat anyone.

I'm predicting Indians in 3 against the Yanks. Game 1 will be close and Joe Borowski may cause some ulcers, but I think the Indians will prevail. I think Games 2 and 3 will be lopsided victories for the Indians.

I rarely feel this confident about my Ohio sports teams. I haven't felt this confident since OSU played Florida for the National Championship back in January. Oh, wait a minute...