Thursday, December 27, 2007


Aristotle's Unmoved Mover concept likely had its roots in some of the thought of Parmenides of Elea [c. 515-450 BC]. Parmenides always spoke about the One, the unity that is hidden behind the diversity of our world of experience. He never ascribed to it relatability, but frequently spoke of it in terms of Being.

Jonathan Edwards thought deeply here as well. He said that we cannot think of God as a being because that would subliminally suggest that we or other things that have being are made of the same stuff. Edwards posited that God is "Being in general." In truth, to use the word "is" in the previous sentence is to begin to undefine the fact.

But back to Parminedes. He sought to delineate between what is, what truly is, and what seems to be. He thought that knowing this distinction was only available through reason. Leszek
Kolakowski has commented on these ontologically gnostic ideas in Parmenides. Kolakowski says that for Parmenides,
what truly is cannot have been created, or that would mean that something comes from nothing, and that is impossible. Nor can it change, decay, or die: it is perfectly fulfilled and unchanging, with no beginning or end. Nor can it be said to "have been" or to be "going to be"; it simply is, beyond time, without time.... He means that Being is full and sufficient unto itself.
I'd like to point out a couple of things here. I would almost completely agree. However, it really is impossible for something to come from nothing, unless the Unity or Being causing the something is Divine, Wise, and wholly Good. Additionally, all his talk of Being and the essence of the One behind all we comprehend.... this is precisely how the God of the Bible defines and reveals Himself. That is the definition of YHWH in Exodus 3 - "I AM WHO I AM." This name comes directly from the Hebrew "to be" verb, hayah.

Lastly, there is more beauty in untainted Being than can be found anywhere. This is why the Michelangelo's statue of David is naked. David purely is. He just is. This is why trying to define affectionate relationships is so hard. They just are. And they're beautiful. So then, how much more excellent, radiant, right, and lovely is the Being that has never not been. "He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His nature and He upholds all things by the word of His power" [Heb 1.3].

there’s no in justice with God [Rom 9.14]

9.15 [says to Moses]
9.16 [so then....]
9.17 [says to Pharaoh]
9.18 [so then....]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

what i got for xmas and why i shouldn't buy another book until 2010.

i wish the guy who said all this would write a kid's book. it would be so good.

"If there is a god, he deserves to be put down and rebelled against."

"My books are about killing God."

"I hate the
Narnia books, and I hate them with a deep and bitter passion."

"Blake said Milton was of the devil's party without knowing it. I am of the devil's party and know it."
Philip Pullman [author of Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass] isn't being sneaky about this. "I wanted to reach everyone, and the best way I could hope to do that was to write for children."

isaiah 9 [my vote for president]

The Apostle John understood that he was wonderful counselor [Jn 14.16, 1 Jn 2.1], mighty God [Jn 1.1-3], everlasting father [Jn 10.30], and prince of peace [Jn 16.33].

These Messianic promises from Isaiah 9 are hugely trinitarian. The Holy Spirit is likewise our counselor and God is our Father. Isaiah said this because he knew that all of God was going to redeem all of his people by giving them all the fullness of himself.

And this child, this kid – the government is going to be on his shoulders. It is a government of peace. It is a government that cannot and will not end. It's not that his government will just not stop, but it will always increase. I'm voting for him. "His truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

[christmas tradition]

My wife and I annually attend Waffle House for lunch the Sunday before every Christmas. Apparently, we're not the only ones with this sacred tradition. It was slammed. Our waitress was sweating. She had to give me a second glass of water before I could take my first sip. I guess there was something funky on my cup? Best of all, my sausage melt with double hashbrowns was a culinary masterpiece.

I wish she really would have had bangs like that. Happy Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

ephesians 4.25-6.24

  • The Apostle Paul wrote 13 epistles [i know there's hundreds of really smart people that disagree].
  • In these 13 epistles, there are 86 chapter divisions.
  • In these 13 epistles, there are 448 imperative verbs.
  • This averages out to 5.21 imperative verbs per chapter. We all know that Paul doesn't write that rigidly, but just go with me on this one.
  • There are 40 imperative verbs in Ephesians. From Eph 4.25-6.24 [which for now we will consider two chapters] there are 39 imperative verbs. This is the highest concentration of imperative verbs in the whole Bible - almost 20 per chapter. God chose them before the world's creation to be holy and blameless [1.4] and prepared good works beforehand for them to walk in them [2.10]; these imperatives seem to be a means to those great ends.

we have to get to work. help us, Holy Spirit.

6,900 tongues worldwide.

400 tongues that have the whole Bible.

1600 that have a portion of the Scriptures.


These four doctrines are primarily derived from logical implications of exegesis rather than from strict exegetical labor itself.
  1. premillennial pre-tribulational rapture
  2. cessation of the gifts [signs, wonders]
  3. limited atonement
  4. paedo- [infant] baptism
Furthermore, these are usually the doctrines that cause division. If fellowship is broken between believers over these issues, then the lenses with which they are reading the Scriptures are near-sighted and out of focus. One must keep in mind that it was never St Paul's or St John's intention to teach systematic theology, but instead to elaborate on the manifold ways in which God was keeping His promises in Jesus. This truth is the backbone for our systematics.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

eye saw JESUS in philosophy

Harry Frankfurt taught philosophy at Princeton University. In 2005, he wrote what I would consider a classic – On Bullshit. Then in 2006, he wrote a sequel entitled On Truth. I remember reading these a year or so ago and my mind and spirit being caught up to see the beauty and goodness of Jesus. If all the world is bull and there is something in the nature of truth that makes it sweet, sure, and able to be experienced [as he asserts], then Harry Frankfurt has unconsciously made Jesus look good. You might think I’m just being stupid or that I just wanted to have the word “bullshit” on here, but see for yourself....
It is preposterous to imagine that we ourselves are determinate, and hence susceptible both to correct and to incorrect descriptions, while supposing that the ascription of determinacy to anything else has been exposed as a mistake. As conscious beings, we exist only in response to other things, and we cannot know ourselves at all without knowing them. Moreover, there is nothing in theory, and certainly nothing in experience, to support the extraordinary judgment that it is the truth about himself that is the easiest for a person to know. Facts about ourselves are not peculiarly solid and resistant to skeptical dissolution. Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial – notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.
The NIV of all this is that humans are dependent, unstable, and needy [St Paul might say we are blind needing sight or dead needing life]. We get to respond to a sovereign! Too bad ol Harry calls this “other things.” Just go read both of them and you too shall find yourself blessed.

Here and here are other takes on Frankfurt's bull. And here is a must-view, political slant with Harry’s same thesis.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

JOB and real wisdom

Noting the Hebrew poetry, the parallelisms, the structure, and the content, Victor Hugo said that the book of Job is the greatest literary work ever penned. Because of its place and purpose in the canon, some scholars have argued that it is merely fiction. Regardless, the story is compelling, the characters are unique, and the lessons learned are vital.

The cycle of the three dialogues in chapters 4-27 gets shorter each time, so as to show man impotent to attain true wisdom on his own. Job’s pathetic comforters run out of things to say. They are, along with Job, scratching their heads over three issues: the suffering of the righteous, the justice of God, and where wisdom is found.

Gordon Fee has observed that

the question of where wisdom is found is answered not only in terms of God alone, but also by silencing all human voices that would insist that God must explain himself to them…. The brilliance of this book lies in the fact that although it looks as though it were a theodicy [human beings putting God on trial, insisting on explanations for his actions], it turns out to be a theology [God putting human beings on trial as to whether or not they will trust him not only when they receive no immediate benefits, but also when he does not give them the explanations they demand].

In the end, the book of Job moves from the view of God “as an omnipotent yet amoral being to God as One who is both omnipotent and mysteriously benevolent” [C. Hassell Bullock]. With this understanding, Job’s response in chapter 42 shows he is beginning to grasp true wisdom. He is repentant and humble. He knows that “You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” [Jb 42.2].


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the next Billy Graham?

At least that's a possible question from the media. Rob Bell is cute enough, smart enough, and prominent enough to have CNN and Time Magazine give him significant attention [if you’re too lazy to read, the CNN one is a video]. We have to give a snot about this because it is molding what is called “Christianity” in America. Have fun.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"the spirit of holiness" [romans 1.4]

This is a phrase unique to only this text in all of the NT. Michael Haykin gives good musings on it.

ROMANS 9.30-33

The Gentiles [nations] have attained righteousness.
  • They didn’t pursue it.
  • They attained it by faith.

pursued a law of righteousness.

  • They didn’t arrive there.
  • They didn’t pursue it by faith, but by works.
  • They stumbled over the rock of offense – Jesus.

"I AM LEGEND" and the atonement

There's not a profane word or a scantly clad breast in the whole thing. So, it could be a family flick in that regard. But not so much. You will be on very the edge of scared for quite a while, rarely pushed over, but always engaged. My wife likes to call this a "jumpy" movie. A "jumpy" movie is something in between an intense drama and a horror made for the masses. If you know my Sara, this is funny. But best of all....

"I am Legend" is a flagrant construal of the sweetness and need for a blood-based substitutionary atonement. I'm glad the cross isn't an allegory. I'm grateful that it is theologically and historically true and spiritually and eternally my only hope.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

how to not advance the kingdom

Let's take missionaries off the field and remove their financial support because they admit that they have a private prayer language. They speak in tongues.

Or wait, here's another good idea. Let's cut ties from people who have grown up in our church family, are serving Jesus thousands of miles away, and decided to have an alcoholic beverage because of the specific cultural context in which God has put them.

Some of our brothers in the ol' Southern Baptist Convention haven't been up to par lately on contextualization, understanding that wine is often a good thing in the Bible, realizing that Jesus was known for drinking in Matthew 11, and above all - that those issues are peripheral and what we believe about them should serve the Gospel, not define it.

But today, I've been pushed over the edge. The church plant my brother attends in St Louis is conservative, Jesus-centered, Spirit-led, Bible-based, and now without support that was promised by the Missouri Baptist Convention [I feel ok to say this because I grew up in it and still love what the Spirit is doing in the SBC]. You can read more here and here. This is saddening to me. Let us be prayerful and hopeful because the kingdom is about the King and not about sin management and man-made moral litmus tests.

I'm going to finish my glass of wine with my wife. Really.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ephesians overview

An over-simplified outline of Ephesians with its major themes/motifs. I was forced to do this many moons ago and wanted Mark Moody to see it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

JESUS, help us to do church right [whatever the heck that means].

So, I'm going to call Andy Stanley or one of those influential big church dudes and see if he'll take an idea of mine, sell thousands of books with it, make a killer sermon series out of it, and then pay me some flipping money. Here we go....

The main thing that 90% of modern, cool churches are trying to do [and generally with good intentions] is to birth "community" in their local body. In no way am I against this. I am quite often against how this takes shape and becomes either soccer-mom gossip session, spiritual feel-good hour, or one arrogant guy saying everything he knows about the Bible every week and always taking it out of context. "What does community look like?" might be a good question to interject here. But tis not my concern at the moment. Where I feel such a rub with all this is that many churches are attempting to impose a form of community on a group of people without that form having any substance. So, here's the phrase I'd like to see us work with:

Unforced community.

That's right, buddy. Those two words are going to make me millions. It is doubtful that James and the Jerusalem church broke everybody up into cell groups and each group did such and such a study that James and the boys set out for them. Again, I'm not opposed to these. But the NT church was a community and in community because they loved each other, they loved the Lord together, they actually loved their families, they worked together, they lived together, they were persecuted together, and on and on ad infinitum. How do you love people in such a way that they get more than a couple hours of your time? How do you love people so that you impart to them not only the gospel, but also your own soul [1 Thess 2.8]? Can we not do this because we have too many remote controls, fast food restaurants, psychologists, and television channels? Can we not have this kind of gospel community life because we are on this side of the automobile and the cell phone?

I think it's still possible.

This type of life as the Body will require far more humility than we can imagine and far more time and resources than the church or the culture has. We must lean into the Spirit of God and into His revealed word for us to see fruit along these corporate lines. I can't hear it enough
- He will build His church.

my very own southern baptist sermon outline on the sovereignty of God in Jonah

  1. the wind [1.4]
  2. the whale [1.17]
  3. the word [3.1-6]
  4. the weed [4.6]
  5. the worm [4.7]

Monday, December 10, 2007


Thucydides [ancient Greek historian]

"The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools."

Friday, December 7, 2007


Any time the Bible talks about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob together, it is really talking about God's covenant. Covenant, in the biblical sense, is an intimate and intentional word for relationship. It is just as much about the "who" of the covenant as it is about the covenant itself. God loves people. He loves people more than He loves the words that describe His love and relationships with people [like "covenant"]. Take Ex 32.13 and Deut 9.27 as examples.

In these texts, Moses longs for God to remember His covenant promises. But He doesn't say that exactly. He says, "Remember Abe, Isaac, and Jake." He says it like this because God is into relationships. He is into knowing people [Rom 8.29, 1 Cor 8.3, Jer 1.5, Gal 4.9, Mt 7.23] and people knowing Him [Gal 4.9, Jn 17.3]. He is not into random promises. The reason that the Bible uses such pregnant language like “covenant” is because God had to show people the gravity of their sin and need and the “breadth, length, height, and depth” of His love [Eph 3.18].

With all of this in mind, now you can read Romans 9. If you randomly pick out the hard verses, of course you won’t get it. Look at 9.6. “The word God has not failed.” This means His covenant promises stand in spite of ethnic Israel’s rebellion. Paul then mentions Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in 9.7-13. With this, the jump to theoretical fatalism or deterministic nonsense is almost impossible. Why? Because everything it says is about God’s covenant promises. This is about relationship. If it was about God damning and delivering with His eyes closed, why are there so many people’s names in chapter 9?

Here’s the deal. God loves people. And to those who are recipients of His covenant promises and His mercy, He will exert great energies [mercy in 9.15, 16, 23; compassion in 9.15; power in 9.17, 22; wrath in 9.22] in sustaining those relationships. This is His Church. This is His Body. And He does so for glory, His glory [9.23; 8.29-30].

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion”

Seek Me that you may live [5.4].

Seek good and not evil, that you may live. Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph [5.14-15].

I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sounds of your harps. But…. Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream [5.21-24].

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion [6.1].

They anoint themselves with the finest oils, yet they have not grieved over Joseph [6.6].

The Lord God has sworn by Himself, “I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, and detest his citadels; Therefore, I will deliver up the city and all it contains” [6.8].

Behold, days are coming when I will send a famine on the land; Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord [8.11].

NEVERTHELESS, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob [9.8]. In that day, I will raise up the fallen booth of David [9.11].

Thursday, December 6, 2007

JESUS in the OT

You should always have an eye for seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. Whether it be who He is or what He accomplished or some historical fact that was prophesied – “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” – He is “in all the Scriptures” [Lk 24.27]. For example,

He is the perfect high priest because His priesthood is forever [Heb 5-9]; He is the 2nd Adam, faithfully living in direct Sonship to God [Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15]; He is our glorious Boaz, faithfully redeeming us who don’t deserve it; He is the new Joshua, giving His people final rest [Heb 4]; He is the King of all kings, from Judah’s tribe and David’s line [Gen 49.10, 2 Sam 7.12-13, Rev 19.16]; etc.

This morning I was greatly helped regarding this by Mr Edwards in his “A History of the Work of Redemption.” Here, he says that....

The types of Christ were of three sorts: instituted, providential, and personal. The ordinance of sacrificing was the greatest of the instituted types; the redemption out of Egypt was the greatest of the providential; and David was the greatest of the personal ones. Hence, Christ is often called David in the prophecies of Scripture; as in Ezk 34.23-24.

He then listed some other texts. But when I sat back in my squeaky little chair, I realized that I was helped in two ways by his comments. First, those three distinctions seem like excellent parameters for Christocentric typology in the OT [without being an allegorization nut-job, of course]. Second, I started thinking deeply of David’s life. Edwards is right on target. Christ can flagrantly be seen all through David’s life in the Scriptures. David was from Jesse. He was a shepherd. He was anointed before his ministry/service [see “the Spirit” in 1 Sam 16.12-13]. He single-handedly defeated the enemy of God’s people. He was a king. He had kingdom covenant promises [2 Sam 7]. He was a warrior. And so much more.

The more I pondered and thought, the sweeter Jesus became to me. O Lord, show me Yourself in your word, in creation, in your Church, and by your Spirit. Amen.

listening to the HOLY SPiRiT

Gordon Fee is a NT scholar, commentator, and textual critic. He has written a book called “Listening to the Spirit in the Text.” Even the title is convicting to me. I mean, is it God-breathed or not [theopneustos in Gk]? I only read one chapter, but his whole approach in what I read was “to examine the interface between exegesis and spirituality” [pg 4]. Fee expresses his disappointment that the two are often thought of as unrelated. “True Spirituality must precede exegesis as well as flow from it” [pg 6], Fee explains.
I begin with a singular and passionate conviction: the proper aim of all true theology is doxology. Theology that does not begin with and end in worship is not biblical at all, but is rather the product of western philosophy. In the same way, I want to insist that the ultimate aim of all true exegesis is spirituality [pg 5].

And on being an exegete, he says that a great danger lurks here:

The danger is to become a professional [in the pejorative sense of the word]: to analyze texts and talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God [pg 7].

If the biblical text does not grip or possess one’s own soul, it will likely do very little for those who hear [pg 7].

Indeed, I don’t care much what you call it – this touch of God on your life – but have it. Because without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, all else is mere exercise – mere beating the air [pg 7].

[read pages 2-15 here for full effect]

ROMANS 5-8 and the OT

Paul’s use of the OT in Romans is thorough and intentional. It is, after all, for instruction [Rom 15.4]. I was confused when I noticed the frequency of his OT quotations through Romans:

  • chs 1-4 [about 15]
  • chs 5-8 [only 1]
  • chs 9-11 [about 25]
  • chs 12-16 [about 15]

The whole epistle flows, but there are definitive indicators [thematic, grammatical, syntactical, theological] that prove that the above chapter divisions are good to keep in mind. Why then does Paul appear to depend so heavily on the OT in most of his argument, but not so much in chapters 5-8? Don’t get me wrong, his thinking is Jewish through and through. But still, why does he not lean upon the text itself in chapters 5-8 as much as he does throughout the rest of the epistle?

The New Covenant people of God live by different redemptive realities than the Old Covenant people of God did. Messiah has come! So, for those under the New Covenant, God put His “law within them and on their heart” [Jer 31.33]. This is of course in contrast to the law being written on stone. God likewise says that He will give His people under the New Covenant a new heart and He will put His Spirit within them [Ezk 36.26-27]. The boundary God set in the OT was the Law. But in the NT, the Spirit is the guide. Perhaps the reason Paul does not quote the OT in Romans 5-8 is because he is expressing a new way to live as one who belongs to God.

You can call this having your mind set on the Spirit [8.5-6]. You can call this presenting your members to righteousness [6.13, 19]. You can call this counting yourself as dead to sin [6.11]. You can call this serving in newness of Spirit and not in oldness of letter [7.6]. You can call this sanctification [6.19, 22]. Whatever this new way of life may be called, Paul cannot look directly to the OT for an explanation of it. Maybe, just maybe, this is why OT quotes are tough to find in Rom 5-8. But if not, I’m not surprised. Just thinkin.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

clichéd atonement and particular redemption

johnny o

John Owen lived from 1616-1683. He entered Oxford at the age of 12 where he was thoroughly trained in mathematics, philosophy, Hebrew, and more. As a teenager, Owen was known to study 12 hours a day. When he later married Mary Rooke, they had 11 children and only one lived to adulthood. Thousands of people would come to hear him preach every week. He wrote hundreds of sermons, doctrinal treatises, and theological volumes. However, his greatest work is his commentary on Hebrews.

When Owen’s exposition of Hebrews was published, it was 7 volumes thick and 4,000 pages long. As you can imagine, this took him some time. One can see how sweet the epistle was to his soul by some of his final words. But first, we must recall that Hebrews closes with a reminder that our God will never leave us or forsake us [Heb 13.5]. In Greek, this is a triple negative [“He will no not never ever….”]. The force of this clearly gripped Owen. The day before his death, he wrote to a friend:

I am going to Him whom my soul has loved, or rather who has loved me with an everlasting love – which is the whole ground of my consolation…. I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm; but whilst the Great Pilot is in it the loss of a poor under-rower will be inconsiderable. Live, and pray, and hope, and wait patiently, and do not despond; the promise stands invincible, that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

speak to us, HOLY SPiRiT

The more I read the Bible and see how its main characters interact with God, the more I have seen how most of them had an open speaking relationship with Him. This is true for Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, the prophets, Peter, Philip, Ananias, Paul, and others. Does this happen today? Yes.

Dumb dispensational arguments cannot stand against this because this truth transcends all of their abiblical categories. The cessationist argument cannot stand either. If the crazy gifts were only for the apostles, and Philip and Ananias were not apostles, then their position likewise crumbles [with the help of a dozen other reasons; sorry Pd].

So, how do we hear from the Spirit today? How do we listen to the voice of God? I'm not speaking metaphorically. This doesn't necessarily mean that God will at all times speak audibly or call your cell. But how is it that we hear from God just as believers in the NT did? Acts can't be a normative template because it is a historical narrative. At the same time, it can't be a book of exceptions either. How do we do this without turning into faith-healing, doctrinally shallow, third wave, give-me-your-money-so-you-can-get-blessed Pentecostals? Here are a couple things to keep in mind.

  1. 98% of guys today who say they have heard God also tell you to put your hands on the screen if you've had a lousy day. We see so many who claim to be led by the Spirit, but it is evident by their fruit that that is not the case. That scares us.
  2. We simply don't believe it can happen and our thoughts of the power of the Holy Spirit's presence are far too small.
  3. We never pray to that end. Paul also said to "earnestly desire" to prophesy, but we never do. This could be closely related to numero 2.
  4. Many think that hearing God speak is dangerous because it could be added doctrine or extra special revelation. When guys on TBN, etc stand up and say they have "a word" from God, generally they mean they are getting ready to preach something they call a sermon.
  5. If one looks closely, this is not how the Spirit speaks. He speaks unto kingdom ministry [i.e. like Philip going to talk to the eunich in Acts 8]. God does not speak today on the lines of new revelation and/or new doctrine. How absurd. He speaks to prompt in ministry and service, not to reveal something that no one else never knew.
  6. We have to surround ourselves with others who also want it. I meet with some pastors and guys every Tuesday and we crave to hear the Lord's voice. We crave to feel the Spirit's presence.
  7. We have to realize that this happens in juxtaposition to the revealed word of God. The Spirit and the word are life. Read John. Read Luther. They concur.
  8. Lastly, read books and listen to sermons of guys who believe that we can hear from the Holy Spirit and who do.
  9. Download week 15's sermon from here.

every church christmas play in history has been wrong....

[at least Todd Bolen thinks so here]

This is an interesting point and I would likely agree with him, but would have to read/study a bit more on it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

ROMANS 1 [just thinking?]

How do "power of God" in 1.16, "righteousness of God" in 1.17, and "wrath of God" in 1.18 all relate? All have the same structure in Greek. The gospel is the key here. Power is unto salvation through the gospel. In the the gospel, the righteousness of God is revelaed. So, does wrath come upon those who have no power or righteousness through the gospel? I believe so. Those recipients of the wrath of God in 1.18 have stiff-armed the "truth of God" in 1.18 and 1.25. The immediate need here is righteousnes [or a righteouesness] because the wrath of God comes upon all unrighteousness in 1.18. The gospel grants power unto this end.

Pardon my Pauline keyboard-brainstorming. See the gospel in Isaiah 52.7 and Nahum 1.15.

"holy Eucharist, batman!"

A friend of mine and I were talking about the Lord's Supper the other day and this is the fruit of that chat. Catholicism says that the bread and the wine become the body and blood of Jesus. Baptists/Menonites/Anabaptists say that the elements are strictly symbolic. Everyone in between interestingly, biblically, and/or spiritually defines their position. So, if there was a "Substance Scale" [from the Latin substantia] and Catholics were a 10, Lutherans were a 7, Anglicans were a 5-8, Presbyterians were a 4, and Baptist/Menonites/Anabaptists were a 1.... Where would you land? Obviously, where you land should not have any drastic effect on the beauty and purpose of the Eucharist. Here is a good reminder of that. It should always be a humbling act that points us to the cross. But on the scale, I myself am probably a solid 2.87.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

rob bell is a false teacher?

So I went and saw Rob Bell Monday night in Atlanta. The ticket was free, but it was worth the few hour journey down there just for what happened before it even started. It was at this venue/bar, so there are definitely going to be some perturbed conservatives about that. However, I wasn't ready for what happened.

These guys on the street were yelling that Rob Bell was a false teacher and he was preparing souls for damnation. This dude was hollering about womens' breasts hanging out of their shirts and people being biblically illiterate and that it was all Rob Bell's fault. Kinda harsh. They were saying that Rob Bell was described in Ezekiel 13. I was shocked to open my Bible and find the perfect description of a skinny, trendy, geeky, intuitive pastor. Anyway....

So naturally, I approached this one guy
and wanted to talk to him. He was mingling his false-teacher screaming with bits about repentance, which I obviously agreed with. Before I knew it, one of his friends [who wasn't screaming so much] was interviewing me about how Bell doesn't believe in the inspiration of the Bible. I told him that I doubted Rob Bell had said that. I then found myself being video-recorded. Oh boy. The moral of this story, I suppose, is that I might end up on YouTube saying that I don't believe the Bible and that Rob Bell and Joel Osteen are dating.

In the end, Bell's 2-hour schpeel was ok, but it almost put me to sleep. But the Lord taught me something cool in hindsight of all this. Just as much as I yap about Bell, McLaren, Piper, NT Wright, Catholicism, Calvinism, yada, yada, blah, blah - I need to be in prayer for those guys and those people that Jesus would be their all, that the word would be their life, that they would be wholly yielded to the Spirit of God, and that they would cherish the Gospel far above all else. I prayed for Rob.

So.... if you see me YouTube and I say something dumb, it's not my fault.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I don't know if a book has ever punched me harder in my spiritual gut. As much as it is possible to be a Saint Francis in modern America, Shane Claiborne is so. He rightly understands that God has called His people to social justice and mercy in this corrupt world. There are probably 20 or 30 sentences throughout this biographical sketch that I might take issue with theologically. I suppose a good litmus test for this is that Brian McLaren wrote a killer blurb for Shane on this one. However, there is no Catholic, Calvinist, or charasmatic in the world that won't be stirred by what God has done in and through this brother. Go buy it. Or borrow it if you're too arrogant to have it in your library.


To the scholar, it will warm his heart and prod his mind. To the pastor, it will cause him to see the need for precision in language and push him to do that on tough texts. To Joe in the pew, read chapter 11 and the appendices and be challenged to think deeper about what Saint Paul really said. There are occasional places where Piper gets repetitive, but not to a fault. You can tell he has really studied and conversed with Wright in this book. Piper even thanks Wright in the intro for his 11,000-word response to Piper's first draft. There are sections where I'm convinced that the standard Reformed understanding of imputation/justification cannot fit. There are other places where the New Perspective's "covenant faithfulness" can't quite be seen. Still, this is exactly how theological debates should be handled.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Paul’s questions in Rom 6 and following [“Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” in 6.1; or “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” in 6.13; and others] must be read with the backdrop of chapters 1-5.

If someone is “made righteous” [this is how Catholicism defines justification] by faith in 1-5, then the expectation of an upright and holy person is that they will not sin. This is what righteous means. There was only one of those persons. But what if chapters 1-5 teach that when a person believes, he or she is “pronounced” and/or “declared” righteous? If this latter proposition be true, then it must also be pregnant with questions such as “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound?"

Further still, this pronouncement is such that it is not only a counting or a reckoning of one as righteous, but it is a declaration that ensures that one day the justified individual will be completely righteous like and with Jesus. Why else would Paul say that God predestined these to be “conformed to the image of His Son”? Why else would he continue his argument to say that all God predestined, God also called; and all God called, He also justified; and all God justified, He also glorified?

Paul would never link these near the close of his argument in chapters 5-8 and ask the kind of questions he did unless the declaration of righteousness in 1-4 secures the future reality of absolute righteousness forever in the new creation.

ROM 5.12-21

This is a tough text. It is good to keep 1 Cor 15.22 and 15.45 in mind when dealing with it. Noting the following contrasts is important:
  • [5.15] the transgression/the free gift
  • [5.16] result=condemnation/result=justification
  • [5.17] reign of death/reign of righteousness
  • [5.19] one man's disobedience/one man's obedience
  • [5.21] reign of sin by death/reign of grace by righteousness
One mustn't be hung up on "the many" and "all" language if they read this passage rightly. That language is used as descriptive of the posterity of the first Adam and the posterity of the second Adam, Jesus. After discussing justification in a more personal way in Rom 4, Paul articulates it through a wider lens in chapter 5.

He essentially says that the same way we were counted as having sinned in Adam and then we actually sinned in deed from our nature, so then we who are in Christ are counted righteous through His life and death [apart from anything we've done] and then we actually do righteous deeds in obedience "which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" [Eph 2.10]. The Lord is indeed our righteousness [Jer 23.6, 1 Cor 1.30].


This will make you want to have more babies, change how your church is doing youth ministry, be black, and be a Puritan all at the same time. At least it did for me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

[walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called]

There’s a church down the road and I really like how they thought through their core values. The pastors got together and essentially asked, “In the Gospels, what are the things that Jesus does the most?” They sifted through all that they saw, narrowed them down to seven, and worded them nicely. Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep all of these in view as we walked and talked through every day?

  • Magnifying Grace
  • Enjoying God
  • Loving Others
  • Understanding God’s Word
  • Depending on the Spirit
  • Living in Integrity
  • Advancing God’s Kingdom

Tuesday, November 13, 2007



  1. What? [praise]
  2. How? [“with” in vs.3-6]
  3. Who? [everything/everyone that has breath in v.6]
  4. Where? [“in” in v.1]
  5. Why? [“for” and “according to” in v.2]
  6. When? [the eternality of “Hallelujah” as in Rev 19]

Monday, November 12, 2007

how to read the NT [future]

Jesus’ first recorded words in the NT are that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Mt 4.17]. Shortly after this, Jesus is found teaching that we should pray for the kingdom to come [Mt 6.10]. So, is the kingdom here or is it coming? Jesus and all the other NT writers would say “yes.” It is both here and coming. This “already/not yet” tension is a unique, but vital lens with which to read the NT.

Those under the old covenant thought that the Messiah’s arrival would immediately right all wrongs, usher in shalom, and bring justice to the world’s chaos. How surprising though that He is doing this in a two-fold way: inaugurating the kingdom at His first coming and consummating the kingdom at His second coming.

This is not simply seen in the use of the word “kingdom” in the NT, but in various other ways. One example is how Paul encouraged and challenged his friends in Rome. He told them that they were dead to sin [Ro 6.2] and then turned right around and told them to consider themselves as dead to sin [Ro 6.11]. Moreover, Paul sometimes says that we have been saved and on other occasions he says that we will be saved. This language can partially be rooted in this “already/not yet” tension.

So, in Christ we currently experience some of the blessings of the future kingdom. With these blessings, we should also be looking for that day in which He will return to gather His saints, judge the nations, and restore all things for His sake.

how to read the NT [salvation]

God made covenant promises to only one people, Israel [Dt 7.6-7]. In Jesus, the Jewish stream of salvation has flooded its banks and watered the Gentile land. The NT makes the move from corporate salvation that is ethnically based to the corporate salvation of the Church which includes people from every tribe, tongue, and nation [Rev 5.9]. The consequences of this are many….

In Hebrews, the readers wanted to go back to their old Jewish ways because it was easier, more tangible, and they would be persecuted less. For some Jews in Acts, their response to Gentiles being saved was anger and jealousy. There were also groups of Jews who attempted to force OT Jewish laws on Gentiles who God was redeeming, saying that they could not be saved without “becoming a Jew” first. The list goes on.

The key thing to remember here is that under the old covenant, only Jews were direct recipients of God’s covenant promises. Now, under the new covenant, “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Ac 2.21, Ro 10.13].

how to read the NT [language]

The following 10 words are pregnant with meaning for the NT writers. Analyzing how each writer uses these is important. While different writers put different weight on different words [i.e. John likes “believe” and Paul likes “justify”], these words and a close study of them set pertinent boundaries for what the NT teaches.

how to read the NT [suffering]

Stealing some of the social aspect of #1 and some of the community aspect of #2, the reality of Christian suffering is replete in the NT [Mt 10.22; Lk 9.23-25; Ac 5.40-41, 8.1-3; Ro 8.35-39; 2Cor 4.8-9; Phil 1.29; Heb 10.32-34; Rev 1.9; and others]. This suffering came in many forms and fashions, but was always in close relation to their claims of Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Suffering must be kept in view while seeking to grasp the message of the NT.

how to read the NT [community]

The majority of the “you”s in our English Bible are really plurals in Greek [i.e. Col 3.3, Rom 8.9, and hundreds more!]. Meaning, most “you”s are addressed to a corporate group, not an individual. We are often too post-Freudian, too post-Industrial Revolution, too user-friendly, and too self-esteem driven to see the raw beauty of some of the 1st century’s life-on-life community. Jesus died for the Church, the corporate entity, not a bunch of random people who have no connection to one another. Grasping Paul’s “body of Christ” language and other similar NT talk is hand in hand with these lovely 2nd person plural pronouns!

how to read the NT [society]

It is always important to keep in mind the social structures of the 1st century when reading any 1st century literature. However over-simplified, the below chart is helpful.

[summit church]

My friend Jason, along with his trusty sidekicks Dave and Kyle, are planting a church on Woodruff Road. This is the dead center of all Bible-belt-ness. So, why the heck is he doing it? The trend is that church-planting is an end in itself. Church planters would never say that, but a bunch of them probably think it. I thank God for Jason's articulation of their vision. Their vision is not to plant a church or churches. Their vision is of the kingdom of God and it happens to include church planting.

Several Sundays ago, their people divided up and went to several local churches, worshiped there, and gave them money in attempts to weld to kingdom partnerships. That is beautiful to me. That feels biblical to me. God has given him the gift of seeing the big picture and for him, that's the upstate of SC. Because of this, Jason has done his homework. He's not flashy. He's not over the top. He hasn't succumbed to sacrificing truth on the altar of relevance. He has, through great mercy, heard from God. Support a brother.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


  1. cell phones
  2. dress codes at work
  3. really dumb interpretations of the book of Revelation
  4. mini-vans with two sliding doors and more remote controls and tv screens than Best Buy
  5. telemarketers
  6. inconsistent/ignorant Calvinists
  7. too much hand sanitizer
  8. TBN

Monday, November 5, 2007


Luther knew that the languages would be an issue when defining and defending the gospel and the church. He said in 1524 [in “To the Councilmen of all cities in Germany, That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools”]:

Although the gospel came and comes to us every day through the Holy Spirit alone, nevertheless it came by means of languages, spread through them, and must also be maintained through them. Thus if the gospel is dear to us, we must pay great attention to the languages in which it comes. For it was not without purpose that God let the scripture be written in two languages alone, the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New in Greek. And let us realize that we shall scarcely be able to maintain the gospel without languages. Languages are the sheaths in which the knife of the Spirit is contained. They are the case in which this jewel is borne. They are the vessel in which the drink is held. In fact, wherever we allow the languages to be neglected, we shall not only lose the gospel, but will also finally come to the point where we can speak or write neither Latin nor German properly.

romans 8, SONSHiP, and [imago Dei]

If we were created in God’s image and somehow fallen man still maintains some of that image [see Js 3.9], then what part of the image of God was lost by our fleshly father Adam in the Garden? He wasn’t conceived by normal, fallen, human means and neither was Jesus. So, I think that what was lost in the Garden has something to do with humanity’s sonship to God.

In whatever way we fell in Adam, one thing is sure, Jesus is complete in that way. This is the backdrop to what Paul says in Rom 5.12-21. Perhaps this must also be in view to rightly understand Rom 8.29. Here, Paul says that all those whom God predestined, He did so for them to be conformed to the image of Jesus. He says this because it exalts Jesus’ Sonship and makes those who were not God’s sons into His sons by adoption [Rom 8.15, 23]!

So, I think Paul supports the fact that in the fall, man’s sonship with God was lost. James appears to be on board with this. He says that with the tongue “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God” [Js 3.9]. See the implication. Additionally, in losing sonship, somehow we also lost moral uprightness. I’ve yet to ponder how the two are connected. “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” [Gal 4.4-5].

its about time.

This record is quite delightful. Go buy it right now....

Monday, October 29, 2007

ROMANS 7 [this is boring and really just for john paulling, tom schreiner, and doug moo]

Many argue for a pre-regenerate reading of Paul in Rom 7. This is, of course, in contrast to the historical Reformed way it has been read – that Paul is describing Christian sentiments. First of all, 7 comes before 8 in most Bibles. Thus, the supposed war of 7 should always be read in view of the victory through the Spirit in 8. However, there are some lovely constructions in the Greek that show that the way this text has normally been read is appropriate.

Paul’s line of argument, his grammar, and his use of conjunctions throughout Rom 7 prove that Rom 7.14-20 is a singular thought. This first chart shows that Paul uses almost the exact syntactical structure in vs.14-16 as he does in vs.18-20. This highlights 7.17. Why is this important?

The pre-regenerate readings of Rom 7 say that the present tense verbs are “historical” presents and that Paul's use of "I" is not a personal testimony, but a rhetorical device. These are viable options. But look at 7.17. If this structure sandwich confirms that the meat here is 7.17, then how we understand it could help us on how this passage should be read.

Several points must be made about 7.17. The first two words are a phrase that is used for emphatic time indication [also in 3.21, 6.22, 7.6, 15.23, and 15.25]. This fact alone should be enough to warrant veracity to the historic interpretation. However, there is further evidence. The third word is a negative adverb of time. Then, if stacking three present time words together wasn’t enough, Paul uses two present tense verbs beside one another as if to say, “I myself alone am [not] doing….”

The second chart is not as swaying, but is still icing on the credible cake [I need better word pictures]. It is also a grammatical structure that centers in on the present tense regenerate Paul and his struggles. If you don’t like all this, Doug Moo has better support for both positions in his NICNT Romans commentary on pages 442-452.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ROM 8 and EPH 1

When Presbyterians get excited, they start talking about the covenant. When Wesleyans get excited, they start talking about sanctification. When Catholics get excited they start talking about saints and sacraments. When Pentecostals get excited, they start talking about speaking in tongues [or they just speak in tongues]. When RC Sproul gets excited, he starts talking about justification by faith. When John Piper gets excited, he starts talking about the glory of God. And so on ad infinitum. The point is that when we're stirred over God's mercy in saving us, we all tend to use certain language. So, here's what comes to the Apostle Paul's mind....


Your friends and mine, Al Mohler and NT Wright, have good commentary on the modern view of God and evil. Excellent reads.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

eschatological HALLELUJAH

The book of Psalms is really five books [1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, and 107-150]. There are only 9 psalms in the whole Psalter than begin and end with the unique Hebrew word “Hallelujah” [106, 113, 117, 135, 146, 147, 148, 149, and 150; often called “Hallel Psalms”]. All of these psalms are in book 5 of the Psalter, except Psalm 106; it is the last psalm in book 4, awaiting the unhindered praise of book 5.

Furthermore, the last 5 psalms in book 5 are all Hallel Psalms. It seems to me that this joyous and triumphant praise is saved for last because of the sense of finality that it carries. Derek Kidner says that “the psalms are a miniature of our story as a whole, which will end in unbroken blessing and delight.” But further still, the revelation of Jesus to John on Patmos appears to give insight here.

Nowhere in the NT do we find the word “Hallelujah” until we arrive at Rev 19. The great Babylon of Rev 18 has fallen. The table at the marriage supper of the Lamb is set for its guests. Also, the choir of voices that echo this distinct praise includes: a great multitude in 19.1 and 19.6; the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures in 19.4; and the bond-servants of God in 19.5. Some even see Rev 19.1-6 as the last of 5 doxological scenes in John’s apocalypse [4.5-11, 5.11-14, 7.9-17, 15.2-8, and 19.1-6]. Even if this is stretching it, there is no doubt that the Biblical shape of Hallelujah directly entails eschatological hope and consummative jubilee.

Monday, October 22, 2007


This makes me want to preach harder, sing lower, and wear bigger collars.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth [2 tim 2.15].

In the intro of Athanasius’ De Incarnatione, C. S. Lewis compares books of devotion and books of doctrine:
Now the layman or amateur needs to be instructed as well as to be exhorted. In this age his need for knowledge is particularly pressing... For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that “nothing happens” when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.
So Ezra set his mind to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel [ezra 7.10].
The venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals [Samuel Davies, 1723-1761].
When you come bring the cloak which I let at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments [2 tim 4.13].

Spurgeon preached on the this text in 1863:
How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"—join in the cry.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Late in 2005, my friend Steve and his core group had about 90 on their church plant's launch Sunday. Now, 20 months later, they have at least 2500 people every week and are the third fastest growing church in America. They are a multi-site church in Charlotte, NC called Elevation.

Steve is a solid brother. He loves our Lord. He is always intense. You might not agree with him on every jot and tittle of theology. You may think he's a heretic because he has preached in a way-too-tight Def Leopard shirt and pastors First Baptist Trendy. But.... I know this man and he is just as saved by grace as any man in Christ.

What Elevation did this past week is undebatably unique and distractingly beautiful. For their new series kick-off, they passed out money to everyone who was there. That's right. Some got $5, some $10, some $20, and one person randomly got $1000 in each service. They didn't take up an offering and instead gave money away for their people to bless others. They're calling it the Bless Back Project.


William Cowper thought he was not among the elect. This is apparent in his poetry, his depression, and even in some of his hymns. G. K. Chesterton saw it. In Orthodoxy, he claimed that Cowper was “damned by John Calvin.” Cowper was friends with John Newton [pastor and hymnist who wrote “Amazing Grace”] and lived with him for 12 years. Newton would write to William to encourage him in his fearful despair.

July 30, 1767 [excerpts]:

I can only advise you to resist to the utmost every dark and discouraging suggestion.

Though sin has abounded in us, grace has superabounded in him; though our enemies are many and mighty, Jesus is above them all; though He may hide himself from us at times, He has given us a warrant to trust him, even while we walk in darkness, He has promised to return, and gather us with everlasting mercies.

So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily or quickly learned; but, upon repeated trial, we find that saying and doing are two different things.

We please ourselves with agreeable prospects and proposals; but determination is with the Lord. We may rejoice that it is, He sees all things in their dependences and connexions, which we see not, and therefore he often thwarts our wishes for our good.

Let us strive and pray for a habitual resignation to his will; for He does all things well. It is never ill with us but when our hearts doubt or forget this plainest of truths.

Monday, October 8, 2007

ROMANS 8.29-30

Romans 1-11 is a unit. Romans 1-8 is a unit. Romans 5-8 is a unit. The phrase “Christ Jesus our Lord” begins this section [5.1] and closes it [8.39]. This phrase also serves as a marker that ends shorter sections in 5-8 [5.11, 5.21, 6.23, 7.25, 8.39]. More climatically however, Paul ends chapters 5-8 in a very unique way.

He gets to such a point in his argument that he begins to talk about the future love of God in a past tense way because he is so zealously sure of it. He says that all those that God foreknew, He predestined; all He predestined, He called; all He called, He justified; and all He justified, He glorified [8.29-30]. The glorification of the believer [being made like Christ and being with Christ] is a future event, but Paul uses a past tense verb to describe it! He is overtaken with free grace and can in no way state it any clearer. Because of this he then asks seven rhetorical questions to highlight the unbreakable truths of 8.29-30. As Judith M. Gundry-Volf says...

Paul portrays salvation as a series of divine initiatives snowballing toward fullness. He links these initiatives so tightly that each is born of the former and bears a promise of the one which follows. Glorification is thus the finishing touch on the indivisible divine work of salvation which originated in God’s foreknowledge and predestination of Christians and has come to historical expression in their calling and justification. These verses truly do form a “chain” of interconnected divine salvific works and so imply a continuity in Christian’s salvation.

So, the Apostle states the positive realities of salvation in 8.29-30, seven rhetorical questions that are wrought by his close-to-speechlessness in 8.31-35, and then closes by a negative affirmation of what he knows can’t happen to those who are in Christ [8.38-39]: Death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things future, height, depth, nor anything ever created can separate us from God’s love in Jesus.

pope john paul on EVANGELiZATiON

The “how to” of evangelization looms large in Christianity and rightly so. It is not unusual to see methods slaughter the Gospel on the altar of relevance. Whether it be a denominational program, a seeker-based approach, or an emerging watered-down gospel, everyone has a slant on how. So, I figured you’d like to know Pope John Paul’s take.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

fastest growing churches in America

Personal and pointless facts about the 100 fastest growing churches in America, especially from the view a Bible-belt South Carolinian:

1. A father and son combo make the cut and each have their own church.

2. Husbands and wives pastor some of these congregations together. I must have missed that somewhere in the pastoral

3. The fastest growing church in America is a Latino-based congregation.

4. It is simply
intriguing to see which denominations are on this list and which are not. This is not a slam or a compliment, merely noteworthy.

5. With each congregation it lists the number of campuses they have and the only church with 10 or more campuses is in South Carolina. Congrats?!

6. There are a whole lot of HUGE ones in the south.

7. My friend Steve planted the third fastest growing church in the country! He also played on stage with Green Day in high school.

8. Jesus will build His church [Matt 16.18] and all growth of the church will come from Him being the God-ordained head [Col 2.19] and not necessarily really cool lights or cute talks on how to live better tomorrow. This is not sarcastic or
pessimistic, but hopeful and realistic. Lord, please make these churches Gospel-saturated. I dare you to pick just 5 off the list and pray.