"American spirituality has glorified ’searching’ for spiritual meaning but de-emphasized ‘finding.’ In other words, it is good to be looking for spirituality, but it is intolerant to actually believe you have found a right faith." --Ed Stetzer(HT: Joe Thorn)
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Last week, I was teaching a class on the resurrection and was reminded of the following convicting reflection by John Piper:
Does Life Go Better With Christ?Piper, Desiring God, 214-15
This is an utterly crucial question for the Christian Church, especially in prosperous, comfortable lands like America and Western Europe. How many times do we hear Christian testimonies to the effect that becoming a Christian has made life easier? I recently heard the quarterback of a professional football team say that after he prayed to receive Christ he felt good about the game again and was proud of their 8 and 8 record because he was able to go out every Sunday and give it his best.
It seems that most Christians in the prosperous West describe the benefits of Christianity in terms that would make it a good life, even if there were no God and no resurrection. Think of all the psychological benefits and relational benefits. And of course these are true and Biblical: the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy and peace. So if we get love, joy and peace from believing these things, then is it not a good life to live, even if it turns out to be based on a falsehood. Why should we be pitied?
What's wrong with Paul then? Was he not living the abundant life? Why would he say that, if there is no resurrection, we are of all men most to be pitied? It does not seem to be pitiable to live your three score and ten in a joyful and satisfying delusion, if that delusion makes no difference whatever for the future. If delusion can turn emptiness and meaninglessness into happiness, then why not be deluded?
The answer seems to be that the Christian life for Paul was not the so-called good life of prosperity and ease. Instead it was a life of freely chosen suffering beyond anything we ordinarily experience. Paul's belief in God, and his confidence in resurrection, and his hope in eternal fellowship with Christ did not produce a life of comfort and ease that would have been satisfying even without resurrection. No, what his hope produced was a life of chosen suffering. Yes, he knew joy unspeakable. But it was a "rejoicing in hope" (Romans 12:12). And that hope freed him to embrace sufferings that he never would have chosen apart from the hope of his own resurrection and the resurrection of those for whom he suffered. If there is no resurrection Paul's sacrificial choices, by his own testimony, were pitiable.
Yes, there was joy and a sense of great significance in his suffering. But the joy was there only because of the joyful hope beyond suffering. This is the point of Romans 5:3-4. "We exult in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces proven genuineness, and genuineness produces hope." So there is joy in affliction. But the joy comes because of the hope that affliction itself is helping to secure and increase. So if there is no hope, Paul is a fool to embrace this affliction, and even more foolish to rejoice in it. But there is hope. And so Paul chooses a way of life that would be foolish and pitiable without the hope of joy beyond the grave.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
This morning I was rereading the chapter on Sanctification in Wayne Grudem's excellent book Systematic Theology. At the end of the chapter, he gives a helpful and encouraging list of motives that the Bible gives for obedience in the Christian life. I find the following ten to be particularly encouraging:
“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Sunday, February 17, 2008
This two minute clip from ER shows why the answer given to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism is so important: (See Below)
Question: What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
Answer: That I belong--body and soul, in life and in death--not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
(HT: Between Two Worlds)
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Last night I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who works in the business world. He mentioned to me how companies often claim that they want behavior "A" from their employees yet reward behavior "B". In other words, a company may say that what they want from their employees is loyalty and commitment to a vision, however, the person who gets rewarded with a promotion is the person who threatens to quit while the "loyal employee" is left wondering what happened. In the business world this type of behavior is probably to be expected.
The sad thing that I have been noticing is the parallel behavior that takes place within Christendom. I have certain acquaintances--who give lip service to God's sovereignty and His desire for His people to be humble--who I see scraping and clawing to make a name for themselves in churches, ministries, and broader Christendom, with no thought of how they are "getting there." The tragedy is compounded when these people are then recognized by "influential Christians" as the movers, shakers, and leaders of the next generation. These movers and shakers are then put forth by publishers and ministries as the voice of Christianity for the masses. The most disturbing thing about this is that the very people who use self-promotion to get ahead are then the spokesman for a religion founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of a humble carpenter who had no place to lay his head. Why is it that we are rewarding those who "love to be first" instead of putting them under church discipline? It appears that Peter knew of the disillusionment that this could cause when he wrote:
"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:5-7).
I recently ran across the following on Sam Storms website regarding the role of women in ministry. Oh, that there were more Complementarians of this persuasion! (For a similar position watch this two-minute interview with Mark Driscoll on the role of women in ministry by clicking here)
"I am extremely reluctant to place restrictions on anyone of either gender or any age in the absence of explicit biblical instruction to that effect. In other words, if I am going to err, it is on the side of freedom. In my opinion, the only restrictions placed on women concern what I call senior governmental authority in the local church. I have in mind, as noted above, (1) the primary authority to expound the Scriptures and enforce their doctrinal and ethical truths on the conscience of all God’s people, and (2) the authority to exercise final governmental oversight of the body of Christ.(HT: Enjoying God Ministries)
Therefore, unlike a number of other Complementarians, as long as the principle of male headship is honored in the above two respects, I believe women can lead worship, can lead small groups, can assist in the celebration of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper, can serve as deacons (or deaconesses), can chair church committees, can lead in evangelistic and church planting outreach, can (and should) be consulted by the local church Eldership when decisions are being made, and can provide leadership in virtually every other capacity of local church life. Women should be encouraged to pray and prophesy in corporate church meetings (1 Cor. 11) and should be given every opportunity to develop and exercise their spiritual gifts."
Friday, February 15, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
Saturday, February 9, 2008
No, this is not a post about Jesus' understanding of his identity. This is a post about the longing in the human heart for the Messiah to bring fulfillment in this life and to come and put the world to rights. This week the Phoenix Suns made a trade to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal. What the Suns are hoping is that Shaq can bring the NBA title to the Valley of the Sun. In other words, they are discontent with their current circumstances and are longing for that missing piece. Will it be Shaq? In the basketball realm, perhaps. However, if our eyes are open to the "typological" pointers all around us we will look at the Phoenix Suns discontentment and turn that into an increased longing for the Messiah and for Him to come and put the world to rights. When we look at the world with a Christo-centric mindset even seemingly insignificant events and activities, such as sports, can serve as a means of increasing our longing for Jesus, (as well as a springboard for gospel conversations with non-believers) Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus!
Friday, February 8, 2008
All of the audio from the Desiring God Pastors Conference is now available online for free. Below are the links to where you can download the audio:
Session 1: "The Pastor as Son of the Heavenly Father" by D.A. Carson
Session 2: "The Call to Courage" by Crawford Loritts
Session 3: "The Pastor as Son of an Earthly Father" by D.A. Carson
Session 4: Biographical Sketch of John Piper's Dad by John Piper
Session 5: "The Pastor as Father to His Family and Flock" by D.A. Carson
Session 6: "Fathering a Pioneer Mission Ministry" by Greg Livingstone
Session 7: The Question and Answer Time with Carson, Piper, Livingstone, and Loritts
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
I can't believe that my Phoenix Suns traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaq. This move makes so little sense to me that there must be more to it than meets the eye. Perhaps, the Suns will now try to move Shaq for someone else. Or maybe the Suns will trade Amare for Kobe and reunite him with Shaq. I really have no idea why this seemed like a good move to Steve Kerr. Perhaps, Mike D'antoni convinced Kerr this was a good deal so that D'antoni can get the GM position back. Because this deal makes so little sense to me I thought I should provide a top ten conspiracy theory lists for why the Suns did this:
10. Steve Kerr made a deal with Pat Riley back in his playing days that he is now fulfilling.
9. Steve Kerr made a bet with Michael Jordan that he could make a bigger mistake than Kwame at #1.
8. Kerr really misses broadcasting and figured this was as sure as way as any to return to Marv and the Czar.
7. The Suns have one plan for the playoffs. Not win a championship, but set a nice hip check on Robert Horry.
6. The Suns had an inside scoop that Shaq has been healthy all season he just has been getting back at Riley by pretending to be hurt.
5. Mike D'antoni has been watching to many mid 90's Knicks games.
4. Tim Donagy had something to do with this.
3. Jason Kidd wasn't available
2. The Suns are going to trade Shaq for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
1. Steve Kerr has been playing too much NBA LIVE 2001
One of my favorite parts of the Desiring God Pastors Conference is the biographical sketch that John Piper does each year. He has done sketches on George Mueller, John Calvin, and Athanasius to name a few. This year he did a biography of his own father who recently died. It can be listened to by clicking here.
D.A. Carson's second talk "The Pastor as a Son of an Earthly Father" can be listened to here
The talk by Crawford Loritts, "The Call to Courage," can be listened to here.
D.A. Carson's third talk "The Pastor as Father to His Family and Flock" can be listened to here.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Desiring God has made the first teaching session from their pastors conference available online. Click here to listen to the teaching by D.A. Carson on "The Pastor as Son of the Heavenly Father."
Monday, February 4, 2008
Here are some interesting posts from around the web:
1. Between Two Worlds: Mahaney Interviews Dever
2. Summary of the Desiring God Pastor's Conference Sessions at the Desiring God Blog (I say summary because I think the whole idea of "live blogging" is quite silly.)
3. Alex Chediak Offers a brief review of a children's book by R.C. Sproul
4. C.J. Mahaney offers the following suggestions for books on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
5. A New Blog by my friend John Majors
at 10:54 AM
Sunday, February 3, 2008
If you have ever wanted to understand New Testament Greek without memorizing a lot of vocabulary and paradigms then check out these free lectures. The following is a short blog for the lectures:
"Have you ever wanted to know enough about Greek so that you could find out what the words of the Bible actually mean? Or why are the translations so different in places? Or perhaps you just want to learn enough Greek so that you can understand the better commentaries? Then this class is for you."