Archive for April, 2009

Books, a Subtle Danger to Centrality of the Word in the Christian Community

I read and value books. So did Paul. I enjoy reading Christian blogs. I love to listen to mp3 sermons. These avenues — Christian blogs, devotional books, and commentaries — while very helpful as supplements to God’s Word, contain a subtle danger, namely, that they will overstep their supplemental position and inadvertently steal a prominent position that does not belong to them.

On a recent visit to New York City, I had the opportunity to reason out of the Scriptures with some orthodox Jews, studying at an orthodox Jewish university. Throughout our discussions, I continually hearkened back to the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings — trying to explain that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. While these men were highly versed in the commentary on the Old Testament, they did not know much of its content. One individual did not even know that Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied regarding a new covenant. They were well-versed in man-made traditions and the interpretations of many years of teaching, but were unaware of many of the actual words of the Torah, Writings, and Prophets. Their community so over-emphasized what their teachers thought about the Word that they forgot to study the Word itself. 

Our Christian community must recognize that what happened in the Jewish community could happen to us 100 years from now, if we ever forget to maintain the sufficiency of the Word.

While I appreciate Christian blogs, audio sermons, devotional resources, and commentaries, every time I interact with one, it presents a subtle danger if I unknowingly allow it to displace the supremacy of the Word in my life. The day I allow commentary to replace that to which it bears witness is the day that my Christianity will become irrelevant. 

Here’s some questions that should help evaluate whether or not one is falling prey to this subtle danger: 

  • Do I check my google reader before I have my devotions? 
  • When approached with a Bible or theological question, is my first instinct to search the Scriptures or to look it up in Grudem or Erickson? 
  • Do I believe that “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him” is a Bible verse? 
  • Can I name the editors or contributors of the ESV Study Bible, while not knowing the details of Paul’s second missionary journey? 
  • Do I read the Ryrie or MacArthur notes before I read the actual text of Scripture?

Let us be men of the book first, then let us pursue the teachings of others. If we fail to do so, we will end up destroyed by that which we thought would build us up.

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Rob or Paul? Twitter and the Gospel

If Paul could tweet the gospel, I’m positive it would look something like this: 

…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…

Rob Bell’s tweet, on the other hand, would look like this (so he says in this Christianity Today article): 

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.

HT: Denny Burk

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The Prodigal Sons, Tattoos, and Communal Love

My pastor preached this message last night. He opened by reading the following email: 

I just wanted to call your attention a potential problem and I don’t know what the solution is, but we need to start talking about it and brainstorming or whatever. My wife mentioned to me a new believer with whom she works — she has recently been attending our church. Because she comes from a different background, she has a number of tattoos. She has already been spoken to in a way that I wouldn’t dream of speaking to a visitor and questioned about the tattoos. I frankly don’t know what she can do about them because she acquired them prior to salvation. My fear is even when we see someone saved through our ministry…they will end up leaving and going to another church because our church doesn’t know what to do with folks who don’t fit in and who don’t fit in quickly enough. I’m not for lowering our standards, but we have created a sub-culture that isn’t very loving or accepting and have forgotten that sanctification takes time. Thanks for listening. I just fear that if we don’t start talking about this soon, we’ll lose the opportunity to minister to some very precious people and we will become, at least in perception, irrelevant. 

He explained Luke 15:11-32 as the story of the Prodigal son Prodigal Sons. He explained that we can live in three places, but that we should be living in just one of them — the choices are (1) pigpen of sin, (2) pinnacle of pride, or (3) the palace of love. 

I was greatly convicted, for at times in my spiritual journey I have lived in all three places. I know the stench of the pigpen and have a box seat in the stadium of pride. Nevertheless, God is still doing that time-consuming, life-long, difficult, always worth it, but sometimes painful, work of sanctification in my heart. 

Side note: here’s some great resources on this passage. 

  1. Kenneth Baily, The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Easter Peasants
  2. Tim Keller, The Prodigal God.
  3. John MacArthur, A Tale of Two Sons. 

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The Verdict

Here’s the opening scene from a gospel pamphlet that I recently wrote: 

The gavel sounded as the judge pronounced his sentence:  “Guilty.” His heart sank. He had hoped that his impeccable driving record, community service, and charitable giving would cause the judge to be lenient. After all, it was only his first offense; he had no previous record of identity theft or murder.

Click here to view the rough-draft. We are printing soon, so if you have input, please let me know in the comments section or via email. tracttract2

 

 

*Special thanks to Karen Greer and Daniel Irmler for the work they put in designing the cover and the layout.

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God Watches CPN

Here’s a quote from a good friend and mentor — it begins with a huge “if,” but makes a great point nonetheless. 

If God were to watch TV, He’d be watching the “Church-Planting Network”

HT: Brian Trainer

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Hermeneutic of Arrogance

I read the Bible with a hermeneutic of arrogance. I confess.

It’s not that I’m arrogant because I believe that the authors of the Bible intended a meaning and that this meaning can be understood through proper interpretation, which I naturally practice flawlessly:) I’m not necessarily arrogant because I do pretty much believe that most of the time other people are wrong in their interpretations, while I and the rest of the dispensational pre-millennialists are correct. Perhaps that’s a sort of arrogance, but not the kind I’m talking about right now.

This hermeneutical pride looks like this:

I read the account of the fall of humanity and ponder Adam and Eve in disgust.

I consider the story of Hosea and Gomer and immediately identify myself as the prophet, not the prostitute.

I regard myself as Joshua and not Achan.

I’m the apostle or his helpers, as I read the pastorals, and never the one who forsook them because I loved this present world and certainly not the one who did them much evil.

Always the rich and never the poor. Always the hero and never the villian. Always the saint and never the sinner.

That’s my hermeneutic of arrogance.

Do you ever read the Bible like this too?

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Be Still My Soul

The Lord used this song to comfort my heart today. It reminds me so much of Romans 8; if God be for us, who can be against us? If God did not so much as spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, why would He not, along with Jesus, freely give us all things?

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake

To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know

His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,

Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.

Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay

From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on

When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past

All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,

So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.

Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine

Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Words by Katharina von Schlegel

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