Thursday, December 31, 2009

ST AUGUSTiNE LiKES MY BEARD [this life is but a fragmentary solace]

In one of his discourses about beauty [bk 22, ch 24 of "The City of God"], he says:
Of course, some parts of the human body appear to have no other purpose than to add beauty, as the mamillae on a man's chest or the beard on his face. Certainly if the beard were meant for protection rather than for beauty, it would have served a better purpose for the weaker sex, whose face remains uncovered... I think, that in the creation of the human body, God put form before function.

All of this is Augustine articulating the intricate beauties that we get to partake in. He also talks about architecture, agriculture, navigation, language, rhythm, poise, symmetry, etc, etc. He closes this chapter by saying:
Remember, all these favors taken together are but the fragmentary solace allowed us in a life condemned to misery. What, then, must be the consolations of the blessed, seeing that men on earth enjoy so much of so many and of such marvelous blessings? What good will God not give to those predestined to eternal life, if He gives so much to those who are doomed to death?

James, soaking up some Florida sun

CA 10 [part 1]

We left Christmas night about 8:00 pm and drove 17 hours straight to Austin, TX.


After Austin, we drove through west Texas. I guess "everything is bigger in Texas" also means that everything is faster in Texas.


The barrenness of west Texas provided a nice salt flat to drive on. The back roads of New Mexico and Arizona were not that much more lively.


Our two consecutive nights on the road took us to Las Vegas. This was our hotel. The light that comes out of the top of it can be seen with the naked eye from space. Impressive.


We then tracked through the lowest point of elevation in North America - Death Valley, CA.


This brings us to the west coast. We shall see what awaits.

GO READ THiS BOOK.

Aside from being overwhelmingly needed, Chan's book is a great combination of devotional and theological. It's almost Puritanical in that you can't divorce the two in nearly every chapter.

He writes with relevance, awareness, and pastoral sensitivity. He also includes examples from the lives of other believers that are encouraging and hope-giving.



Chapter 1 begins by citing Tozer:
We may as well face it: the whole level of spirituality among us is low. We have measured ourselves by ourselves until the incentive to seek higher plateaus in the things of the Spirit is all but gone. We have imitated the world, sought popular favor, manufactured delights to substitute for the joy of the Lord, and produced a cheap and synthetic power to substitute for the power of the Holy Ghost.
By grace, Chan remedies this challenge in his book. It is even seen in the book's summary subtitle: "Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

i love my son [ontological goodness]

I listen to my own music way more than I should. In a totally unarrogant way, I might be one of my favorite musicians. It's kind of like your opinions. Your opinions are always right, because that's the definition of opinion. Better yet, the composer or creator of a thing always enjoys that which he creates or else the created entity would never come to be.

The past six months of my life have been beautiful for this precise reason. I love my son because he is our son. That is why I have a strange, yet persistent delight in him even if I can't explain it and even if I should be frustrated because he didn't sleep the night before.


Why does this happen? What is the source of this creator/created relationship? How can this relationship be explained?

I'm helped here by our friend Augustine. In Book 11 of City of God, he writes:
The only meaning we can give to the constant refrain "God saw that it was good" is God's approval of a work as having been fashioned in accordance with that art which is His own wisdom.

There is no Creator higher than God, no art more efficacious than the Word of God, no better reason why something should be created than that the God who creates is good.

The explanation, then, of the goodness of creation is the goodness of God. It is a reasonable and sufficient explanation whether considered in the light of philosophy or of faith.

For, God is the kind of artist whose greatness in His masterpieces is not lessened in His minor works - which, of course, are not significant by reason of any sublimity in themselves, since they have none, but only by reason of the wisdom of their Designer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

JESUS' EMPiRE

Napoleon:
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.
Augustine:
I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them: "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden."

Monday, December 14, 2009

beware

Does the gospel you believe include "a God without wrath bringing men and women without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross"? [H. Richard Niebuhr]

It's happening.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

what i thought about while falling asleep last night:

That every Christian is a catholic and a baptist... technically speaking, of course. Every believer is a catholic without a capital C and a baptist without a capital B. "Catholic" simply means "universal." And a baptist is someone who maintains that baptism should be practiced.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A LOVELY CHRiSTMAS TUNE THAT NEEDS TO BE SUNG MORE OFTEN

Here. And here.

Galatians 6 - St Paul and the Three Bears

Wow. That is immensely cheesy. It was even kind of embarrassing to type. But I can't lie. That's how I remember Paul's train of thought in Galatians 6.


Paul says that if there is a brother in Christ caught in a deliberate sin, those who are living according to the Spirit should restore him [6.1].
BEAR one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ [6.2].
But there is also a warning attached to this restoration process. If those doing the restoring aren't careful, they might slip in temptation [6.2]. Paul says that if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself [6.3]. He says that everyone must test their own work [6.4] because
Each must BEAR his own load [6.5].
Then Paul humbly says that he will not even boast, except in Jesus [6.14]. Bad boasting and deception and pride are not part of the new creation that we are now apart of [6.13-16]. The false teachers in Galatia have caused him trouble. He could be boasting because he is preaching the true gospel [1.6-10]. Instead, he accepts the persecution of the gospel to attest to its glorious veracity.
I BEAR on my body the marks of Jesus [6.17].
These Three Bears are all the same in Greek [βαστάζω]. In this, he leaves the Galatians with something tangible. It was in bearing that they boasted in Jesus [6.14] and experienced peace and mercy [6.16]. May it be the same for us.

he is growing up so fast [true, but with a sarcastic tone for the below photographs]


This past week at work felt like an eternity. So James and I decided to hit the links. I got him a new hat :)


After a grueling round of golf, we thought it would be nice to have a pipe together. It was priceless father-son bonding time.

Galatians 5 - Am I as spiritual as the Galatians were told to be?

Paul is really ticked off in his letter to his friends in Galatia. They are starting to give in to another gospel that's really not the gospel [1.6-10]. After personal testimony, calling out the false teachers, and some poignant questions, Paul goes on to describe what faithful Christian living looks like.

Paul lists characteristics of what this life is like. For example, it is about freedom [5.1, 5.13]. It is about hope [5.5]. It is about faith working through love [5.6]. It is about serving one another [5.13-15]. It is NOT about a huge list of things in 5.19-21.

But what makes all of the above things make sense?

The source of all of these things for Paul is living by the Spirit. The way that the real gospel is really lived out is by the individual believer and the corporate community of faith living according to the Spirit's lead.

Paul even uses four different and powerful Greek verbs to depict how the Spirit should be our Guide and we should be His dependents.
In 5.16, Paul says we must WALK by/in/with the Spirit. This verb is περιπατέω.

In 5.18, Paul says that we must be LED by the Spirit. This verb is ἄγω.

In 5.25, Paul says that we LIVE by the Spirit. This verb is ζάω.

In 5.25, Paul says that we must KEEP IN STEP with the Spirit. This verb is στοιχέω.
Paul desires his friends in Galatia to have such a relationship with the Spirit of God that the Spirit's power and presence are lucid to all. He hints at this further in 3.2-5 and in 5.22-23.

So, is my life being lived by/in/with the Spirit in such a manner that it can be described as such? Am I merely giving the Holy Spirit a theoretical and theological head nod? How is this kind of living done? Does anyone live this way? Can I get their number?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Word of the Day

The Hebrew word hesed is one of the most pregnant and potent words in the Old Testament. Psalm 136 repeats it in a refrain in each of its 26 verses: "His hesed endures forever." Notice how different translations often render this term:
"unfailing love" [NIV]

"lovingkindness" [NASB]

"steadfast love" [ESV and NRSV]

"mercy" [KJV, NKJV]

"faithful love" [NLT]
One my favorite theological books of all time, The Jesus Storybook Bible, hints at the idea of hesed when it frequently refers to "God's Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love."

This idea of hesed is the ultimate sentiment between YHWH and His covenant people. The meaning of hesed is bound to YHWH's covenant promises to Abraham. It is not mere love or emotive adoration. Hesed includes and implies covenantal favor, love, mercy, fidelity, and kindness. The word almost tells a story in itself.

We can rejoice with the prophet Micah when he says, "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression? You do not retain Your anger forever, because You delight to show hesed."
[for more word studies on hesed, read here, here, here, and here]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jude 1-2

There are layers of thick theology in Jude's brief, two-verse salutation. He wants to be known as a slave. This is a beautiful enough picture to discuss and delve into. Yet, he wants to be known as a slave of his brother, the Messiah! Even the Greek structure of "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ" [ESV] is only shared by James, another earthly brother of our Lord. No other NT writers depict their servanthood in the the same way as Jude and James.

Furthermore, in his introductory benediction, he extends mercy, peace, and love to whom he his writing. This blessing is also unique to Jude. Perhaps there is something about each of these that he desires people to cling to as they "earnestly contend for the faith" [Jd 3].

Lastly, his addressees are merely "the called ones." These are the first and last words in the following Greek phrase:

τοῖς ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἠγαπημένοις καὶ ἸησοῦΧριστῷ τετηρημένοις κλητοῖς

Now, notice how the middle of this phrase is structured:
ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἠγαπημένοις

ἸησοῦΧριστῷ τετηρημένοις
Their calling is not vague, detached, or meaningless. Their calling is bound up in the fact that they are loved by God and kept by Jesus Christ. This may not land on you they way it should. Maybe it didn't land on them as Jude intended. But after he warns them of false teachers in their midst who are destructively leading people astray, his closing doxology ends by saying, "To Him who is able to KEEP you... be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all ages and now and unto all ages" [Jd 24-25]. They definitely get it now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

spiritual warfare and demonic activity

In my classes, we are discussing these issues right now. Some of my students get a little freaked out about it. James' command [echoed by Peter in 1 Pe 5.7-9] to "resist the devil" in Js 4.7 is not a theoretical, spiritual antidote for tough times. James wants believers to actually do it.

So, how does that work? What does it look like to "resist the devil"?

I'm showing them this lecture/talk that I think helps to biblically answer the how-to question when dealing with demonic activity. Some of the stories are intense and downright crazy, but Driscoll's thoroughly biblical approach is what must be noted.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2 Cor 4

IN ALL THINGS

afflicted
... but not crushed
perplexed
... but not despairing
persecuted
... but not abandoned
knocked down
... but not destroyed

ALWAYS carrying the death of Jesus in the body so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body.
Paul's theology betrays his grammar ["our body"]. I love it when he does that. Then, with the odd couple of contrition and confidence, he tell the Corinthians,
So, death is at work in us, but life in you.
How and why are modern gospel-ministries often not described as such?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

this is what i remember listening to when i was young. if you're not charasmatic by the end of watching, you've got issues.

ROMANS iNTRO [1.1-7]

From Paul
  • [a slave of Christ Jesus]
  • [called as an apostle]
  • [set apart for the gospel]
For the Gospel
  • [which God promised beforehand]
  • [which God promised through His the prophets in the Scriptures]
  • [which concerns His Son]
The Gospel about God's Son, Jesus
  • [who descended from David]
  • [who was declared the Son of God in power, through the Spirit, by His resurrection]
  • [who is our Lord]
  • [through whom we have grace and apostleship for the obedience of faith among the nations]
To all those in Rome
  • [called to belong to Jesus]
  • [who are loved by God]
  • [called to be saints]
  • [grace and peace to you all from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ]

some thoughts on women in church from 1 Cor 11 and 14

Paul says that "every wife who PRAYS or PROPHESIES with her head uncovered dishonors her head" [1 Cor 11.5]. Now don't think about the definition of the spiritual gift of prophesy. Don't think about the head-covering issue. Think about the fact that Paul assumes women will PRAY and PROPHESY in church.

This reality in Paul's mind is not posited against 1 Cor 14.33-34, but alongside of it: "Women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak."

So, how is this not a flagrant contradiction? What is Paul's problem? He can't even think straight.

The context of the 1 Cor 14 passage is a discussion on orderly worship and the gift of prophecy. Paul says that when people prophesy, others should "weigh in" [ESV] or "judge" [NASB] or "evaluate" [NLT] the prophecy that was spoken [14.29-33]. It seems that Paul just doesn't want women weighing in or discerning these prophecies.

Just as there is functional subordination in the Godhead [the Son is equal is essence to the Father, but also obeyed Him], there is the same in His image bearers [see Gen 1-2]. The man and the woman bear the image together, but have distinct roles in the image-bearing process.

So, do I think women can participate in church on a Sunday morning? Sure. In what capacity? It appears a limited one. Guess we'll have to dig there later.

Proverbs 7, ESV

She seizes him and kisses him and with a bold face she says,
I had to offer sacrifices and today I paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you. I have spread my couch with coverings, I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come let us drink our fill of love till morning. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey.

With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her.

... As an ox goes to the slaughter.

... As a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces.

... As a bird rushes into a snare.

HE DOES NOT KNOW THAT IT WILL COST HIM HIS LIFE.

Now, O sons, listen to me. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going to to the chambers of death.

WKND VACATiON


James and I, taking in the Folly sunset.


Crouching tiger. Hidden butt-crack.


So happy. I love them.


Ladies, please.


Baby Mama. Baby Daddy.


Sunny Sara. Sleeping Mikey.


Nonna and Poppa playing with Skeebo.


Mom and I are having a great time. James looks a little confused about it all.



I caught him with one hand. I had just thrown him about 9 ft in the air.

BiBLE BEE

This summer I helped out with Bible Bee contestants. You make think this to be lame and sound a little too VBS-ish, but be patient. It was a group of high-schoolers competing for a national prize. 17,000 kids participate across the country. Each student must memorize large portions of Scripture from the OT and NT. They also had to take to memory dozens of Bible facts and random questions. It really was a daunting task for most of these teens. I would say that several of them know more Bible than their pastor. Anywho.

They were awesome to work with. Most of these kids were generally conservative and/or fundamentalist in their upbringing. I do live 12 miles from Bob Jones. And here's the crazy thing. What would you say the prize is for the national winner of this competition?

A gold-embossed, bonded-leather KJV?

A lifetime supply of everything Tim LaHaye has ever written?

How about a scholarship to Liberty? or CIU?

No. The prize for the high school winner of the Bible Bee gets a $100,000 check. Yes. You read those zeros correctly. There will be a kind, happy, conservative, God-fearing, 16-year old kid with their name on a check for $100,000. My lifetime salary might not add up to that until I'm 30.

Here's the best part. One of the kids that I got to "coach" and help this summer went to the national competition [they start with hundreds of regional competitions]. In the national competition, he moved from the top 100 to the top 20. Today they will cut it down to 7. Then a winner will be picked. I'm kind of proud of the whole thing.

And plus, he's an incredible kid... Go Joshua! I'm going to try to watch him live online :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

J. I. Packer:
Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.
More here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Disturb Us, O Lord

Sir Francis Drake:
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to shore.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wider seas where storms show Your mastery; where losing sight of land we shall find stars. We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes; we ask You to [lead us into] a future of strength, courage, hope and love.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oh Israel, Trust in YHWH

I got one of those ESV Study Bibles for free. My old NASB has endless scratchings on nearly every page - highlighters, pens of various colors, and tons of notes in the margins. So, the first thing I did in this new Bible was read straight through the book of Psalms. I just finished. It was so refreshing.

In my Psalter journey, I underlined every time the word "trust" was used. If this is the way God has desired His people to relate to Him throughout history [Hebrews 11], I figured the OT's hymnbook was a good place to discover the nature of true faith/trust.

The word itself is used close to 50 times in Psalms. Out of its 50 uses, YHWH or YHWH's promises are generally the object or aim of the faith/trust exhibited. In fact, it is only used negatively 7-8 times [i.e. Ps 44.6: "For not in my bow do I trust"].

Thus, as Paul says that idols are not real gods in 1 Cor 8, so faith/trust in other things apart from YHWH is not really faith/trust at all. It has the appearance or the sense of faith/trust, but not the essence. Truly trusting can only be done toward one Being. Any faith/trust between humans is too mingled with our selfish ends even if it appears to be serving or sacrificial. However, believing and trusting God is the grounds for us to have a kind of sincere honesty among the people of God.

Individually and corporately walking in this faith/trust is God's desire for His people. First, vertically. And in turn, horizontally.
Those who trust in YHWH are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever [Ps 125.1].

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

hymn of the day

"It is Not Death to Die" [Henri Abraham César Malan]
It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God

It is not death to close
The eye long-dimmed by tears
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years

Sunday, October 11, 2009

James' first driving lesson

After church, we went to Chili's for lunch. James wanted to drive home. I let him steer the whole time. I just closed my eyes. He told me when to apply the brakes because his legs are short and fat. He did a good job.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

deductive eschatology

Jesus said the kingdom was here. Peter says in his Acts 2 Pentecost sermon that we are now living in the last days. There is not a lot of ambiguity here. We have been in the end times since Jesus.

I think most modern approaches to eschatology start on the wrong foot, namely, Revelation 20. I'm not seeking to be a trendy deconstructionist here, but seriously, who defines a theological position out of six verses in the Bible. The only place in the Bible that clearly talks about a "millennium" is Rev 20.1-6. Yet, from this text you can have postmillennialists, several kinds of premillennialists, and a couple kinds of amillennialists. How absurd. Of course Rev 20.1-6 matters. But state with clarity the eschatological kingdom realities replete in the gospels and in St Paul and then maybe you'll have a healthier frame of reference for interpreting John's Apocalypse.

So, because St Peter says that Jesus left us an example of suffering [1 Pe 2] and because persecution was an assumed part of most first century Christianity, I can deduce that any eschatological position that wants to avoid tough times might not be the most faithful to the flavor of biblical Christianity.

So, goodbye pretribulational premillennialism.

Furthermore, to say that the gospel will spread and spread to the point of near-global takeover is to fall off the other side of the horse. We are ambassadors who wage war [Eph 6]. We will continue to wield the sword of the Spirit until Jesus' return.

So, goodbye postmillennialism.

LiTTLE PEOPLE


Our little friend, Mr Cooper.


James hanging out with Aunt Barb, supporting Let's Do Lunch.

I can't lie... I'm elated.

I feel like I'm 18 again. I'll cherish this. I might even have a cameo. Here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sara and I are ready to go.

Please go read this.

Quote of the Day

Bryan Chapell:
Because of the Gospel, my accomplishments don't distinguish me and my failures don't destroy me.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

unadulterated grace

If we think we deserve grace, whatever we have in mind is not grace. If you believe that you should receive God's gracious mercy, then you un-define what grace means. The nature of grace is that it is purely unmerited and undeserved. If grace can be merited, then it is no longer grace. If grace is earned, it is not grace; it then becomes the same as that which you receive from a whore after you give her money.

If this seems too flagrant or blatant, then perhaps we are on the right track. There is no reason for grace except grace.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quote of the Day

George Washington:
I have no lust after power but wish with as much fervency as any man upon this wide extended continent, for an opportunity of turning the sword into a plow share.
George is stealing his imagry here from Is 2.4 and Mic 4.3. Thanks, Lewis.

Why I Still Appreciate Mark Driscoll

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Quote of the Day

John Piper:
There are two kinds of Bible scholars: those who are playful with truth and those who smell the smoke.

Wine/Alcohol in the Bible

It's quite unique to note the way that the biblical writers talk about wine/alcohol. There are primarily two ways that it is referred to.

First, it is seen negatively as that which, because of irresponsibility, should incur judgment and wrath. This negative view of alcohol can be symbolic or literal. Paul says to not be drunk with wine. This is irresponsible and cannot yield living life rightly. On the other hand, Isaiah and the Apostle John write of the the wine press of the wrath of God. See Prov 20.1, Is 51.17-23, Jer 25.15-29, Job 21.17-20, Rev 14.9-10, Eph 5.18, Is 5.11-12, and Rev 16.19.

Secondly, wine/alcohol in the Bible is seen as something celebratory, joyous, or satisfactory. The fact that God gives wine for man to enjoy is grounds for praise for the psalmist. Before you arrive at the end of chapter 12, some of the only snapshots of fulfillment in Ecclesiastes are when Solomon says that we should eat, drink, and be merry. Shockingly, this is not a reference to Welch's. Jesus even kept a wedding fiesta going by making 120 gallons of tasty wine. Conservatively, this is about 2,500 glasses. See Ps 104.14-15, Ecc 5.18, Ecc 9.7, Is 55.1, Mt 26.26-29, Mk 14.22-25, Lk 22.14-20, and Jn 2.1-11.


Maybe, just maybe, balance is the key to many things. Here's the point though: The emphasis on wine in the NT is that it serves as a two-fold eschatological metaphor.

In Revelation, John writes several times about the cup of wine of the fierce wrath of God. This is the negative.

Conversely, in each synoptic gospel, Jesus holds forth hope to His disciples by telling them that He will one day drink New Covenant wine with them in the Kingdom. This is the positive. And I'm looking forward to it.

MY WiFE JUST SAiD:

I remember thinking in middle school that when I get to heaven I'm going to have an eternally long Kit-Kat bar in one hand and an eternally long Slim Jim in the other.


On a much more sweet, beautiful, and maternal note, her last blog is fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

THE BiBLE iS KiND OF iMPORTANT

  • "As in paradise, God walks in Holy Scriptures, seeking man" [St Ambrose].
  • "A single line of the Bible has consoled me more than all the books I have ever read" [Immanuel Kant]."
  • Abraham Lincoln called the Bible "the best gift God has given to man."
  • A dictionary published by the Soviet government in mid-1900s called the Bible "a collection of different legends, mutually contradictory and written at different times and full of historical errors, issued by churches as a 'holy' book."
  • "A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education" [Theodore Roosevelt].
  • "There's nothing written in the Bible that says, 'If you believe in Me you ain't going to have no troubles.'" [Ray Charles]
  • "Give a man an open Bible, an open, mind, a conscience in good working order, and he will have a hard time to keep from being a Baptist" [A. T. Robertson].