Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sensus Plenior

I finished my paper on Sensus Plenior. Basically, I found that we need to avoid making speculation and allegorizing the Old Testament, but it is clear that there are often two levels of meaning in the text. Check out my paper and see what you think.

The Standard

Proverbs 16:2
(2) All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.

I have a very easy time seeing my own actions as pure. After all, I wouldn't do something if I didn't think it was the right thing to do at the time. Every action comes from the heart.

Of course, as someone in seminary coming from a purity ministry I am good at doing the right things. I do my homework and strive for excellence in my classes. I generally watch my speech. Overall, my outward appearance is great.

However, the Lord knows my heart. He knows how often I do what I do for the approval of man. He knows how often my heart is not in it when I serve Amanda or take care of something around the house. He knows how often I am keeping score. He knows when I notice a coworker's tardiness, but wink at my own.

And so that drives me back to my knees in prayer. I need Him to change my heart. I still need to keep doing the right things, but I also need to keep beseeching Him for real change.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Training the Next Generation

Titus 2:1-6
(1) But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
(2) Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
(3) Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,
(4) and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,
(5) to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
(6) Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.

This passage is a beautiful example of what mentoring relationships should look like. It pains me a little bit because I need to have more of these in my life. It also pains me because I am aware of how my pride keeps me from seeing some wise older men as possible mentors for me.

On a more academic note, I am surprised by how many people take this passage to mean that this is all that older women are to do. We know that women are not to be pastors in churches. However, does this passage mean that women should only be doing that? I think that there is still a place for women's Bible studies. Unfortunately, much of it is necessary because the lack of men who step up to lead their homes.

And, sadly enough, that would describe me too. I think Lily is about ready for us to have some kind of family devotion. Maybe we can read through a book of the Bible at dinnertime and talk about what we read. If nothing else, that might help to distract from some of the dinnertime mayhem that sometimes ensues.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting Dirty

Proverbs 14:4
(4) Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

Proverbs do not always contain absolute propositional truth. As a genre, they are trustworthy sayings that will typically apply. I think it is possible to hold this position and not lose any sense of inerrancy.

However, I don't think anyone can argue with this proverb. Oxen make a mess. They eat a lot and they poop a lot. Yet without them it was impossible to tend a field effectively. This is something that I think we can apply to a couple of things.

First, I think we need to acknowledge the work that must go into producing things. Nothing happens without some upkeep time. I wish it weren't so as a homeowner and car owner, but it is.

Second, I think of our world's tendency to "go green." It seems to me that this violates this proverb. We want to remain an industrialized world without the messiness of carbon emissions. While we can debate the damage done by carbon emissions, I think the general tendency is to reduce them altogether. Crazy, isn't it?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Righteous Objections

2 Timothy 2:23-26
(23) Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
(24) And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
(25) correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
(26) and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Being in seminary I tend to get into a lot of discussions about the finer points of theology. We all agree on most of the main stuff, but there are some nuances on which we disagree. I think that the discussions have some value in that they help us to refine our own thinking. These are likely not issues that many in a typical congregation would ask about, but they are things that most pastors need to find a place to land.

What I wonder is how we marry verse 23 with the rest of this passage. How do we define what makes a controversy foolish and ignorant? If the ancient church didn't deal with Arius then the Jehovah's Witnesses would not be considered aberrant in their theology. If they didn't deal with Pelagius then the atonement as we understand it would be severely compromised.

This passage would seem to forbid disagreements were it not for verse 25. Here we see the need for correction sometimes. However, we must do it with gentleness. This is a point often lost on many of the blogs out there. And, given the severity of the language in verses 25 and 26, it would seem that these public disagreements should really be about issues regarding salvation.

I want to defend the gospel passionately and publicly. However, I also don't want to be seen as quarrelsome, which is an accusation my mom and stepdad recently leveled at me. Yet if the gospel is at stake then I think this passage tells us that there should be a fight. How would it be love to do any less?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fanning the Flames

2 Timothy 1:6-7
(6) For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
(7) for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

To me, this looks like an argument for maintaining spiritual disciplines. Paul is exhorting Timothy to take an active role in encouraging the gift he received when Paul laid hands on him. This tells me that we can either fan the flame or quench the Holy Spirit. The flame imagery appears throughout the New Testament, so this seems consistent.

What are you doing to fan the flames? Are you memorizing Scripture? Are you reading Scripture daily? Are you taking the time to pray? Are you praying kingdom prayers or are you focused more on yourself?

I write this as someone who generally practices these things, but who needs an increased zeal. I think of building a fire in the fireplace. Sometimes I have to blow on it to get it going. Now if I blow on it, but don't do it in the right place or with the right intensity then all my blowing will be for nothing. It must be purposeful and done with enough intensity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Word for Seminarians

1 Timothy 6:20-21
(20) O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge,"
(21) for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.

The more I learn about biblical scholarship the less I am impressed. It seems like some of these guys see everything in the text except what is in the text. The arguments about pseudonymity for some of the Pauline epistles is a good example, in my opinion. If the book of Ephesians starts with a statement that Paul wrote it then that is good enough for me. However, some are not impressed.

I think this gets down to our views on inerrancy. If we think that the Bible is inerrant then some of these discussions are greatly simplified. What does the text say? That question settles many arguments. At least it should, in my opinion.

Obviously some scholarship is good. I wouldn't be in seminary if I thought it had not value. However, I also want to make sure that it is grounded in a high view of inspiration and inerrancy. I particularly want to make sure that I am grounded in the text.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Leaving Ninety-Nine

Luke 15:1-6
(1) Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
(2) And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
(3) So he told them this parable:
(4) "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
(5) And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
(6) And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'

This parable always reminds me of this song. It also reminds me of the heart that I must have for the lost. I run into some people that annoy me because of their caustic personalities. Specifically, I think of people who I know do not love Jesus based on what they have definitely said. And there are some who I've just met and I can't know for sure either way.

What I do know is that every person is a precious child of God and deserves my love. It's not so hard to love people that are likable. However, loving the unlovable takes grace.

I tend to think of myself as pretty likable and even lovable. However, when I take a step back and look at myself in God's economy I realize just how poorly I measure up. I see just how much love it took for God to extend His grace to me. How can I do less with someone else?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Moving Hearts

Ezra 7:27-28
(27) Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem,
(28) and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.

As American Christians we tend to get caught up in our notion of what "free will" means. We like to think that everything we do is completely independent of any supernatural stimulus. If we become Christians it is because we saw the reasonableness of the proposition and acted accordingly. If someone else does something that benefits us in some way we consider it to be fortunate.

I think the Bible tells a different story than that. This is one example of God working in the heart of a pagan king. I would say that the hardenings in Pharaoh's heart were the same thing, only in the opposite direction. God used the pagans to discipline Israel and He also used their wealth and influence to rebuild the temple.

Keep in mind that all the wealth David and Solomon acquired in the first place was only possible through the Lord's sovereign hand. In the same way, God just as easily restored wealth to the nation through moving in the heart of a pagan king.

The point is that we need to remember that prayer works. We don't change hearts, but God does. Personally, that praying starts with petitions for changes in my own heart.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This Size of the Flock

Luke 13:23-30
(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 hope that this passage gives you pause. I know that I do not want to be one of those rejected at the door. I don't think that I will be, but this passage does make me want to look at how I'm living. When I see the blackness of my heart filled with so much selfishness, anger, and indifference to the world I wonder just how regenerated it is. I know that nobody has a perfect heart, but sometimes I wish that mine had more evidence of saving grace.

This passage also gives me some thoughts for evangelism. I think most people think that the door is much wider than it really is. I'm not about to say just how narrow it is, but I think it is a lot more narrow than someone like Oprah says. It's also more narrow than I think the average professing Christian wants to think it is.

After all, a narrow door is pretty sad. That means that old friends may not go through it. It means that some family members may not make it through. It means that sincere people of other faiths are not going to go through.

As we look into the face of this truth I hope that our response as people committed to the authority of Scripture would be to evangelize as much as possible. The good news is that our job is merely to present the truth. It's the Holy Spirit's job to convert people.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How Firm a Foundation

Proverbs 1:7
(7) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

I know that I've written about this many times, but I think it bears repeating. We need to have a firm foundation for our faith. If we let our emotions dictate our beliefs then we are in big trouble. I know that I don't trust my heart very much.

Joshua knew what he was saying:

Joshua 1:7-8
(7) Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
(8) This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

It is so vital that we spend time in Scripture. It has to be the foundation for our faith.

Of course, I also understand that the way we read Scripture has some presuppositions tied to it. There is no getting around that. However, I also think that a plain, straightforward reading of Scripture will guide us in the way we need to go. We may not necessarily understand the winged creatures in Ezekiel or all the imagery in Daniel, but we will still be on the right track. There are plenty of straightforward things in the Bible to keep us busy forever, I think.

Matthew 22:35-40
(35) And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
(36) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
(37) And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
(38) This is the great and first commandment.
(39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
(40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Great Divider

Luke 12:51-53
(51) Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
(52) For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
(53) They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

There is a lot of talk in some circles about being ecumenical. Some think that we should gloss over the distinctives of the Christian faith. And there are others who maintain that doctrine is simply divisive and unimportant.

Jesus disagrees with that. He says that He came to bring division to the world. I don't know how else to read this passage. It would be nice if it weren't so, but that's how I read it.

Ironically, I've been having my bi-annual discussion with my mom and stepfather about how a person may be saved. I haven't been trying to persuade them so much as to articulate that there is a difference between what the Roman Catholic Church teaches and what I believe. If we are intellectually honest we have to recognize that either the Catholics will be saved or the Protestants will be. Gal 1:8-9 makes that very clear. I just want for them to recognize that. I would love it if they would change their minds, but I realize that is God's job. I just think it is important to recognize the differences.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Psalms 146:1-2
(1) Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
(2) I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

It looks to me like the commitment here is not to make praise a conditional thing. The promise is not to praise the Lord while things are good. Rather, it looks like a commitment to praise the Lord in all times. I am reminded of Paul's imperative for us:

Philippians 4:4
(4) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

This isn't a matter of personal preference like choosing chocolate or vanilla ice cream. This is an imperative. But how do we do this?

I really recommend John Piper's Book When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. It is full of practical spiritual disciplines that will help in this fight.

Incidentally, the verb translated "praise" in the Psalm is "halal." That is where we get "hallelujah" from.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How Can This Be?

Psalms 145:8-9
(8) The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
(9) The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Verse 8 is a recurring theme, but what about verse 9? Would a starving child somewhere think that verse 9 is right? Would those folks on Grand Turk think this during the 6 1/2 hours of Ike devastating the island? Probably not.

It seems to me that the only way to make sense of this is to see it in light of God's general mercy. Since the fall creation deserves to be wiped out. And, according to 2Peter 3, that is what will happen someday. Until that happens we get to enjoy the mercy of the Lord in not giving us what we deserve. Instead, we enjoy His patience that will last until all He has elected come to Him.

Are you one of the people for whom He is waiting? If so, get on your knees and call to Him for His grace and mercy. Invite Jesus to be the Lord of your life and repent of your sins. And please let me know if you should decide to do this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cry of the Heart

Psalms 143:7-12
(7) Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
(8) Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
(9) Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge!
(10) Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
(11) For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
(12) And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.

David was down, but he knew the way out. He knew that the Lord would deliver him. However, he knew that it wasn't for his sake, but "for your name's sake, O LORD."

God does want to bless us with peace. He wants to lift us up out of the pit. Sometimes He leaves us in the pit as a trial to strengthen us. However, ultimately it is all about His glory. We cannot look to God as some sort of self-help tonic. He is God and He is going to do what He is going to do. We cannot change that. David does make it clear that we are to plea for deliverance though.

I certainly have my share of ups and downs, but I know that the Lord will ultimately carry me through for the glory of His name. One of the reasons I blog is because I want to make it clear to anyone who will read this that I see my life as lived for His name's sake. That's often difficult to communicate in day-to-day living, but it is really the message I want to spread.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Celebration

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
(13) But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
(14) For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

I occasionally contemplate my own funeral. I've already told some of my relatives that I don't want a lot of crying at it if I should die before they do. I guess I'd like to be missed, but I would rather it be more of a celebration of who I was. I also would like for it to be a celebration of my going home to the Lord.

There are a couple of presuppositions in this idea though. First, I'm assuming that the Bible is true and trustworthy. If it is then I have a great hope for what happens after my body perishes. Second, I'm assuming that I've lived a life worthy of celebration. Sometimes I look around and see how I'm basically just living for myself in some way or another. Sure, I help out Amanda with the kids, but I wonder if it's more about me than her. Yes, I've ministered to others, but I knew that often in my heart it was more of a duty than a delight. Plus, I liked the approval and recognition that came from it.

This started out as a post just to fulfill my commitment to write something almost every day. However, it's turned into some good food for introspective thought. How are you living your life so that it will be looked upon fondly after your death? What legacy are you leaving? Where is your heart as you serve?

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Here's a little Tozer for you:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
--Isaiah 40:12

We must be concerned with the person and character of God, not the promises. Through promises we learn what God has willed to us, we learn what we may claim as our heritage, we learn how we should pray. But faith itself must rest on the character of God.

Is this difficult to see? Why are we not stressing this in our evangelical circles? Why are we afraid to declare that people in our churches must come to know God Himself? Why do we not tell them that they must get beyond the point of making God a lifeboat for their rescue or a ladder to get them out of a burning building? How can we help our people get over the idea that God exists just to help run their businesses or fly their airplanes?

God is not a railway porter who carries your suitcase and serves you. God is God. He made heaven and earth. He holds the world in His hand. He measures the dust of the earth in the balance. He spreads the sky out like a mantle. He is the great God Almighty. He is not your servant. He is your Father, and you are His child. He sits in heaven, and you are on the earth. Faith Beyond Reason, 44

This fits right in with something that weighs heavily on my heart about the way the gospel is often presented. Yes, God loves you. Yes, God has a wonderful plan for your life, though you may not see it as wonderful at the time of testing. Yes, faith in Christ will keep us from eternal damnation.

However, the gospel is so much more than that. God does not serve us, but we serve God. God did not die just to punch our tickets, but so that we might bring Him glory. I want so much for that to be the message I preach when I share the gospel with someone.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Preaching the Word

1 Thessalonians 2:1-4
(1) For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.
(2) But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
(3) For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,
(4) but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Paul makes his audience clear. We can talk about the "audience of One" until we're blue in the face, but do we really mean it? Are we preaching to please God or to please man?

This isn't to say that every message must be in people's faces. I don't think Paul went around screaming at people. However, he didn't change his message to be nice. He wasn't worried about preaching a message that would make people happy. He wanted to please God with His message.

I've recently had a fresh conversation with the friend I reconnected with back in December. I don't think I've convinced him of the truth of Christianity, but I do think I've represented it faithfully. What pains me is that he, a humanist, has a better grasp on biblical truth than many Christians. I think it's because he's not afraid of logic. Meanwhile, many Christians are because of the cultural implications. This conversation regarded the biblical stance on homosexuality. Sadly, he has a friend who has not been discipled very well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When Rules Fail

Colossians 2:20-23
(20) If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations--
(21) "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"
(22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings?
(23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

This is where the fine line is drawn between legalism and license. We don't want to impose rules on ourselves or others because those rules do not produce godliness. However, our behavior does indeed shape our witness to the world. This is why my seminary asks us not to drink, for example. The goal is so that we present the most holy front to the world possible.

However, while there is an initiative to get healthier, we are not as strict about what we eat or how we look. This is one of those Baptist distinctives that gets me sometimes.

I really want to live in such a way that everything I do is a positive witness for Christ so that He may be glorified in my life and hopefully in the lives of others as they develop a hunger for Him. This passage tells me that it starts with the heart and not with rules. However, I also know that my sinful heart needs boundaries.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Righteousness of Christ

Psalms 125:1-2
(1) A Song of Ascents. Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
(2) As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.

We're back from our cruise and it looks like I put on 3 pounds. I'm not happy about that because I really thought that we were pretty disciplined. We took the steps all over the place. I ran 4 times during the week and lifted twice. We walked 2 miles each way from the boat to downtown Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas. It seemed like things should have more or less balanced.

But alas, the scale shows where my heart was last week. It was in my stomach as it has been so many times before. I realize that 3 pounds is not bad for being on a boat for 7 days, but it's still more than the 0 I was hoping for. This psalm reassures me that Christ's righteousness keeps me secure. It reminds me that He is perfect though I am clearly so imperfect.

I greet this week with a repentant heart and a refocus to get back on track. I'd appreciate your prayers.