Friday, February 29, 2008

Tozer on Self-Sufficiency

Enjoy today's Tozer. To me, this also really speaks to the error of psychology, particularly Rogerian.

The Holy Spirit: Wake Up the Lion In You!

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. --2 Corinthians 3:5

That is the difference between Christianity and all the Oriental cults and religions. All cult religions try to wake up what you already have, and Christianity says, "What you have is not enough--you will need the enduement which is sent from above!" That is the difference. The others say, "Stir up the thing that is in you," and they expect this to be enough.

By way of illustration, if there were four or five lions coming at you, you would never think of saying to a little French poodle, "Wake up the lion in you." That would not work--it would not be enough. They would chew the little fellow up and swallow him, haircut and all, because a French poodle just isn't sufficient for a pack of lions. Some power outside of himself would have to make him bigger and stronger than the lion if he were to conquer.

That is exactly what the Holy Spirit says He does for the Christian believer, but the cult religions still say, "Concentrate and free your mind and release the creative powers that lie within you." The Counselor, 142-143.

"Lord, in our self-reliance we're all too often guilty of digging deep for that inner self-sufficiency. Our New Age culture fosters that error. Teach us how futile; show us Your power. Amen."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Different Church

I had a new experience yesterday. A friend from church invited me to Tupper Memorial Baptist Church's annual "Journey to Jerusalem" services. This is a four-week series from 12:10 - 12:40 on the four Wednesdays preceding Easter. He had gone in years past and thought I would enjoy it.

I've never experienced anything quite like it before. First, there were four ladies who got up and sang a couple of songs accompanied by a rockin' organ. The organist sang in the second song too and he has a great voice as well. I've never done so much clapping at church before! We clapped for the praise team. We clapped to give praises to God. I think we even clapped after we read the text for the day, though I'm not sure.

This was the text yesterday (note the translation):

1Pe 1:18-20 KJV
(18) Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers;
(19) But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
(20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

The emphasis of the sermon was on verse 20. It was very powerful to again consider that Jesus was already getting ready for the journey to the cross even before the foundation of the world. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was not God's plan B. God knew what would happen in the garden and He already had a plan for that.

The delivery was incredible. Though it was a bit forced, I did find myself shouting out some AMENs at the appropriate times. The cadence of the delivery was incredible. This may sound crass, but the best thing I can equate it to is sex. It starts slow and it sort of builds up to a big crescendo. The organ playing with the preaching helps with that too. And after the point was made the preacher stopped, wiped his brow with the handkerchief that he previously put at the side of the pulpit, and everyone had some slower amens to kind of come down from the experience.

I don't know if I could take a steady diet of this style of preaching, but it is good to experience something different. There is certainly a lot more passion and joy than with our services. I was joking with a coworker who joined me that I wanted to call the church and tell them that I missed the three points of the sermon and to ask if the PowerPoint would be working next week.

I look forward to see what is in store for the next three weeks as the pastor "brings God's Word" to us. I'd say that he was "bringing it" in the sense that Nolan Ryan brought his fastball.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Genesis and Global Warming

I was talking to a coworker who is a believer and is also horticulturally-minded. We were talking about the cycles of rain and drought that the Raleigh area has experienced. I recalled how we had a particularly cool and wet summer in 2003. I remember because I learned about someone at my church who had put sod down in his yard and asked us to pray for rain. God seemed to answer those prayers!

We're now coming off one of our worst droughts in history. We've started to get more rain lately though. I'm not sure if we're catching up or if we're just not losing any more ground. At any rate, the rain is certainly welcome.

As I was talking to this guy I thought about the account of the feast and famine in Genesis. You may recall how Joseph came to power in Egypt because he interpreted Pharaoh's dream about the seven fat cows followed by the seven thin cows as well as the seven good ears followed by the seven lean ears.

What would Al Gore do with a modern version of this? Imagine if we had seven lean years. It would all be because of how we're polluting the world, right?

My point is that a trial always seems severe when we're in it. I jog on a hill near my house and I can tell you that it is a tough hill to go up. However, from an airplane the hill doesn't look so tough.

Let's try to keep some perspective on things.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Defending Intellectualism

Take a read through this article in the Washington Post. This speaks to a problem in our culture as a whole, but I also think that it speaks to a problem within the church as well. The third point is what really struck me.

I think that perhaps I have a bias since I am in seminary, but I think that there is a real place for education in the church. I have personally been guilty of not having enough feeling in my faith, but I think that we need to make sure that our faith is first rooted in cold, hard rationality. That last clause may seem like an oxymoron to an atheist or a paradox to anyone, but I do think that there is a place for rationality with faith.

We know from Hebrews that God is the author and perfector of our faith. From Ephesians 2 we know that faith is a gift that He gives us. However, we also see Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that the young pastor should study to show himself approved. I do not take this to mean that study is a necessary part of salvation as some do. However, I do think that it means that there is an expectation that leaders will indeed study.

What is study? I think it’s more than just going through the links in a chain-reference Bible. I think that it is learning about the culture of the times when the books were written. I think that it involves learning something about the original languages so that we can better understand the author’s meaning. How can we faithfully unpack Scripture for our congregations if we fail in the proper interpretation of a passage?

I still believe in the priesthood of the believer as spelled out in 1 Peter 2. However, I also think that Ephesians 4:11 makes it clear that there are jobs for pastors and teachers. James 3 seems to make a distinction for teachers as well. I hope that I can be a good one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Still, Small Voice

We're wrapping up a study of Ephesians with Setting Captives Free and the past few weeks have been on the Armor of God in Eph 6. We are finishing up with this verse:

Eph 6:18 ESV
(18) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Mike discussed how we are also to listen to God and how prayer is not supposed to be a one-way conversation. Oh, how this convicts me! I know that I am to be more quiet before Him. I know that I am to take time to listen for His voice more. However, I don't. I still believe that God speaks primarily through Scripture. However, people I trust spiritually tell me that they have a sense of Him speaking to them. Not in the sense of God speaking to Moses, but just having a strong sense of His leading.

I wonder if I would experience more of that if I took the time to listen? That means getting up on time, which means going to bed on time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

One of My Fears

I don't have too many fears in life. I suppose I get anxious about how I'm going to feed my family when I change careers. I think about how we're going to save money for Noah's college (Lily is OK) or how we will buy a new vehicle when the time comes. However, these are all temporal things and I think that God will take care of us to meet our needs.

No, my fear has a much longer scope:
Luk 13:22-30 ESV2
(22) He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.
(23) And someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them,
(24) "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
(25) When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.'
(26) Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.'
(27) But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'
(28) In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
(29) And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.
(30) And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

I think about where my heart is. I want to get closer to God. However, I also know how fickle it is. I see how easily I am distracted when I work from home. Sometimes I surf good stuff and other times not so good. I don't feel like I fall back into porn, but I do know that I walk the line. This is not good.

The reason it scares me is that it shows me that my heart is not fully given over to Jesus. There are parts of my flesh that war. I suppose I'll write on this more when I get to Romans 7. I don't want to let the accusations of the enemy get me down though. I don't really think that I will be shut out of heaven. Yet there are always some doubts...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jesus Hates Religion

Last year when I read Luke 11 I quoted Jesus' statement to the lawyers. This year I quote:

Luk 11:42-44 ESV
(42) "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
(43) Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
(44) Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it."

So many of us feel like we are secure because of our deeds. Our deeds need to be the result of grace in our lives. I highly recommend taking a listen to Mark Driscoll's sermon about the tension between faith and works. As with most things, I think he nailed it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What Matters Most

We're to the last chapter in the counseling book edited by MacArthur. The chapter is really a FAQ about biblical counseling with questions like, "Aren't biblical counselors cold, unfeeling, and mean?" There was a comment in a question about doctrine that really piqued my interest. The comment was that biblical counselors are not concerned about ecclesiology or eschatology.

This really struck home with me. Those are two issues I haven't thought much about. I guess that the method of church government is a big deal in some baptistic circles, but I don't pay it much mind. I still haven't come to any conclusions about eschatology. All the views seem to have some merit. I'm afraid that is one where it comes down to which teachers we trust.

At any rate, neither one of these has factored much into my work with SCF. I have been interested in harmatiology and soteriology, but church government and end times don't really get me that excited. I think that churches must have some structure where the pastor is accountable to some governing body. I also think that we must rejoice in the hope of Christ's triumphant return. There are times when I would certainly like to get raptured away, but I am not counting on it.

Let's focus on the gospel. The main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things, amen?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Don't Look Back!

Luk 9:61-62 ESV
(61) Yet another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home."
(62) Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

This passage also reminds me of:

2Pe 2:20-22 ESV
(20) For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
(21) For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
(22) What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire."

As I read this, I can't help but think of how I am tempted by my past life. There are times when I still want to look at women online. There are times when I want to eat just for the sake of eating. There are times when I don't feel like getting out of bed to exercise. There are times when I want to use the coarse language of my past.

These passages tell me that I had better not look back. Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. Whether you take that literally or figuratively I think it's pretty clear that looking back was not a good idea. I want to keep pressing on toward the goal.

So back to the plow...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Focusing on the Essentials

I have to do response papers from my reading for my Biblical Counseling class. What we do is pick a sentence from our reading and expound on how it applies to our personal lives and to our personal ministries. This has been pretty easy for me since I have so much time invested with SCF.

This week I'm going to write on the statement that biblical counselors do not all have to agree on ecclesiological or eschatological issues. Amen to that! While I do think that doctrine is important, I would rather have a Wesleyan who denies the value of psychology talk to someone than a Calvinist who thinks that we need to have other "truth" brought to bear.

I'm sure glad that eschatology isn't important. If it was then I would have to make a decision about what I believe...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fighting the Norms

I find myself growing increasingly frustrated with American religion. I suppose that listening to a lot of Mark Driscoll will do that. I think it is safe to say that Jesus had a problem with the religion of His day.

Luk 6:1-11 ESV
(1) On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.
(2) But some of the Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?"
(3) And Jesus answered them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
(4) how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?"
(5) And he said to them, "The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."
(6) On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered.
(7) And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him.
(8) But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, "Come and stand here." And he rose and stood there.
(9) And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?"
(10) And after looking around at them all he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." And he did so, and his hand was restored.
(11) But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

The Pharisees had some very distinctive norms for living. One of the things that you simply did not do was work on the Sabbath. This has some Scriptural support:

Exo 35:2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

As Lily's Bible says, the Pharisees were very good at being good. Then came along this Jesus who turned their world on its ear. I just keep thinking of all the good Baptists who don't know Jesus, but think that they are OK because they don't play cards or drink alcohol. I of course am not saying that you should drink alcohol, but it shouldn't be considered a means to salvation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Charismatic Chaos

There is a lot out there about the charismatics. On one hand, you have what some call the "charimaniacs" who have deacons available to stretch you out before the service so you don't pull a hamstring. Then you have the strict cessationists who are quick to shoot dirty looks at anyone who might lift his hands in praise to God while singing.

I am starting to come around to Mark Driscoll's take on this after listening to his sermon series on 1 Corinthians 12-14. He describes himself as "charismatic with a seat belt," meaning that he is not for doing backflips, but he also does not want to deny the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in our time.

This week the Tozer devotionals have involved the Holy Spirit. Here is today's for your enjoyment:

The Holy Spirit: Our Fear of Emotions

So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them--
walking, leaping, and praising God.
--Acts 3:8

One cause of the decline in the quality of religious experience
among Christians these days is the neglect of the doctrine of the
inward witness.

Stamping our feet to start the circulation and blowing on our hands
to limber them up, we have emerged shivering from the long period of
the theological deep-freeze, but the influence of the frosty years
is still felt among us to such an extent that the words witness,
experience and feeling are cautiously avoided by the rank and file
of evangelical teachers. In spite of the undeniable lukewarmness of
most of us we still fear that unless we keep a careful check on
ourselves we shall surely lose our dignity and become howling
fanatics by this time next week. We set a watch upon our emotions
day and night lest we become over-spiritual and bring reproach upon
the cause of Christ. Which all, if I may say so, is for most of us
about as sensible as throwing a cordon of police around a cemetery
to prevent a wild political demonstration by the inhabitants.
Born After Midnight, 11.

"Lord, open up my heart to receive, and then open up my mouth to
declare, the glory of Your mighty work! Amen."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Duke Chapel

Lily and I went to the Duke Divinity School library yesterday as I was doing some research for my text-criticism of the passage I'm exegeting for Greek. Lily's behavior was outstanding, which was great considering how welcome a four year-old is with most college-age kids. Of course, the ace-in-the-hole was that they are ostensibly Christian and that should help with their attitudes, right?

We had a few minutes when I was done, so I decided to poke my head into the chapel there. The chapel at Duke is arguably the most famous landmark in the Triangle area. Amanda and I have taken many guests there, but we had never gone in because we always had Lily with us as a screaming infant or toddler. This was the perfect chance to check it out.

I'm here to tell you that it is quite stunning. Like everything else on campus, it is done in a beautiful Gothic style. The stained glass windows are stunning. The pulpit is beautiful. The pipe organ is beautiful. You see a theme?

Out of curiosity, I checked out what they use as a pew Bible. As you might have guessed, they use the NRSV. Then on the way out I saw what they offer by way of worship services. It turns out that Sunday morning features an ecumenical service. You see, there are a variety of religious groups on campus, so it appears that they need to be careful. Strange for what is supposed to be a Methodist university, though sadly maybe it isn't that strange.

My feeling as I left was that it is an absolutely stunning structure and it is a shame that the gospel doesn't get preached in it, at least not from what I could tell.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Being Missional

We have some good friends who are serving as missionaries in Hungary. I highly recommend checking out their ministry. They are doing a great thing there as they are slowly chipping away at all the spiritual walls that are built up around most Hungarians.

I exchanged emails with Mark today and he paid me a nice compliment about the discipline that it takes to keep up with school and everything else I have going on. I suppose that it does take some discipline, but it got me to thinking about how I do it.

I spend a lot of my day trying to "redeem the time." I listen to podcasts of sermons while I drive and while I work out. I work in a large building and go through my Greek vocab flash cards any time I have to walk from one side to the other. I do a lot of reading and writing during my lunch hour. I also do my Scripture memory review for my Biblical Counseling class during my lunch hour. This opens up my evenings a little bit, which has been nice. I've been working on a game I've had for a long time but never got around to.

What is the cost? I am pretty sure that most of my team does not love Jesus. While I don't claim to know their hearts, the external fruit does not indicate a sincere love for the Lord with most of them. Do I spend time breaking bread with them, getting to know them, and looking for ways to talk about the gospel? No, I spend time with my nose in a book.

I was thinking about this and my motivation for going to seminary. The obvious goal is to learn how to rightly handle the Word of God. Why is that important? Ultimately it is so that more people come to know and love Jesus, right? Here I am waiting for full-time ministry when I have a mission field all around me.

I'm not going to stop doing homework at lunchtime. However, maybe I need to find ways to spend a bit more time with my team.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Giving Life

I have a coworker who is a very serious Christian and is also very much into working out. He is probably in his late 40s or early 50s and is in fantastic shape. I remember seeing him at one of our office blood drives and he was chatting with one of the volunteers from the Bank. He said that he used to give blood regularly, but he doesn't want to disrupt his workouts now. I thought that was kind of selfish at the time and I still do.

I had a very bad experience giving blood when I worked at Lakewood Hospital. I wasn't hydrated, I was tired, and I just wasn't prepared. I ended up passing out, which is about the worst I think I've ever felt. It took 9/11 for me to donate again. Now I do it fairly regularly, but not as often as the American Red Cross would like.

Why don't I do it more often? It's inconvenient and it messes up my running and lifting schedule. So I'm giving a pint today. After I do it I figure that I will do it more often, but I never do. This is something I need to spend some time thinking about.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ready to Preach

I am starting to get that feeling like Jeremiah where I just have to preach. The problem is that I don't have an outlet for it. I'm excited that there is an SCF conference coming up in July. I plan to make it and I suspect that I will get a chance to preach a little bit at it.

The question I need to ask myself is about my motives. Do I want to preach to show off? Do I want to do it for the affirmation of doing a good job of it? Or do I want to do it so that Christ may be glorified in the proclamation of His Word? I need to watch my heart with this.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Caddyshack Theology

Remember the scene in "Caddyshack" when Carl has a pitchfork in some kid’s throat as he tells his story about traveling around the world? He finishes with this:

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey,
how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says,
"Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will
receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

I think that we often look at our Christian walk like that. We think, "I accepted Christ as my personal Savior which means that I’m going to heaven when I die. So I got that goin’ for me…which is nice." However, if that doesn’t affect how we live our lives then what does that really mean? It just means that we wanted to purchase fire insurance rather than actually making Jesus the Lord of our lives.

Check out this story about the Christian life as a race. I got it from Parchment and Pen, which is a blog I really like. Enjoy!

In a town of boredom called Mundane, there was a great announcement. It was the announcement of a race. A great race that all could enter. A race that would rescue them from boredom. Most people did not believe that such an event would be held in Mundane so they scoffed. Others immediately prepared with great enthusiasm and joy.
Both the scoffers and the enthusiasts arrived at the appointed place on the day of the race. The scoffers sat and watched while the others prepared to run by stretching and making sure their shoes were tied. They lined up looking ahead with the intensity, fear, and excitement that accompanied such an event.
The gun sounded and off they went. Yet something very curious and unexplainable happened. They all stopped running after they had passed the starting line. Not only this, but they acted very peculiar. One person fell on his knees crying, thanking God that he crossed the starting line. Others gave each other high fives and hugs shouting, “Hooray, we are now race runners, we are now race runners.” Some shook hands and congratulated each other. One group relaxed and complemented one another on how well they crossed the starting line. Five or six others all gathered together and formed a prayer circle. They prayed that others would cross the starting line as they had.
Many others wanted to experience this joy so they decided to start the race as well. They were immediately stopped by the well-wishers who had started before them. They decided to stay as well. After a few days, there were people handing out pamphlets along with a certificate to all those who crossed the starting line. The pamphlet told them that once they had started the race they were guaranteed to finish. The certificate was to recognize their achievement in finishing the race even before they finished.
After a month or so, there were so many who had crossed the starting line that they decided to build a town right there. They called this town “Starting Line.”
The spectators were confused. “I thought a race had to be finished,” they said to one another. They interviewed the people of Starting Line. “Why did you start the race and not continue?” they would ask. This made the people of Starting Line very uncomfortable. They would immediately show their certificate saying that they were guaranteed to finish. When people would encourage them to run the rest of the race, they would be ridiculed for not trusting God. They were called legalists and were accused of trusting too much in their own ability to finish the race.
Finally, many in the crowd became fed up with those in Starting Line and began to run the race without them.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Still Funky

I can't quite put my finger on the reason, but I'm in a bit of a funk. My quiet times are fine. I'm actually almost ahead in my schoolwork, though I will feel better when I finish diagramming my passage in Greek. The family is healthy. Work is going pretty well, though of course I could do more.

I think that I'm just going through a dry season. This tells me that it is vital to keep up the pursuit.