Saturday, July 25, 2009

the latest Sports Illustrated

Austin Murphy writes:
I would say he's the most effective ambassador-warrior for his faith I've come across in 25 years at Sports Illustrated.
Read the whole article here.

i want him to be just like me... poor kid

God created man in His own image [Gn 1.26-28]. We screwed up. But "all those He foreknew, He predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son" [Rom 8.29]. It's what fathers want, ya know. They want their sons to be like them.

So, here is a light, personal, and pictorial interpretation of all that.

Coffee. Dad's morning drug of choice.

The sins of the fathers. At least it will teach him to deal with loss.

If he wasn't already a chick magnet, the classic Chuck Taylors will definitely reel in the ladies.

Edwards went to Yale when he was about 13. He finished his graduate work before he was 20. I'm just hoping for a little osmosis to kick in so a scholarship will be knocking at James' door in 18 years.


Both the writer of Hebrews and James talk about faith in a very distinct way from Paul. For the writer of Hebrews, faith is that which must be maintained for the people to have vital and true endurance, especially in the face of religious and political pressure. The 18 instances of "by faith" in Hebrews 11 are historic examples for the people to be encouraged by [Heb 12.1-2].

James sees faith in a similar light. James shows that sincere and persevering faith will manifest itself. That's how it happened with Abraham. He believed in Gen 15 and then "proved" his belief in Gen 22. James says that faith "produces" endurance [1.2-4]. This verb for "produces" comes from the same Greek root as the noun for "works" in Js 2.14-26. The same is true for the "effectual" doers of Js 1.25.

But what is the purpose of the lasting faith of Hebrews and the working faith of James? Why do the biblical writers exhort their audiences to these ends?

The purpose of these differing emphases on faith is Christian maturity, fulfilling how God desires for you to live. This is seen in that the same root is used in Heb 5.9, 5.14, 6.1, 7.11, 7.19, 7.25, 7.28, 9.9, 9.11, 9.26, 10.1, 10.14, 11.40, 12.2, 12.23 and in Js 1.4, 1.4, 1.15, 2.22, 3.2, 5.11.

For the Hebrews, they shouldn't have been drifting away [2.1-4]; they had need of endurance [10.36]. For the scattered 12 tribes, their faith needed to work with works for this maturity [2.22].

For us, we are liars if any one of us thinks we are outside these two needs: persevering maturity and/or evidential maturity. Lord, thank you for the grace in Hebrews [13.25] and James [4.6].

the prophets on YouTube

These are brief overviews of some of the prophets by Dr James C. Howell. They are all insightful and pastoral. He raises great questions.

Listen to him talk about how the story of Jonah might not be true. Hmmm? Interesting :)

antipsalm 23 vs. psalm 23

By David Powlison. Here.

THE PRAYiNG LiFE [paul miller]

My church has encouraged everyone to pick up a copy of Paul Miller's book "The Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World." I'm only a few chapters in, but it's quite humbling. The following was really encouraging with all of life's previous and on-the-horizon happenings:
Learning to pray doesn't offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart.

HEB 13.9-14 [go outside the camp]

Please go HERE and listen/watch Monday evening's message by David Platt. It is one of the most powerful and convicting things I've heard in a while. Be blessed.

Monday, July 20, 2009


The Apostle Paul wrote 13 epistles. Some might say fewer, but my point will hold. Just bear with me. In these 13 epistles, we have created 86 chapter divisions. In these 86 chapters, there are 448 imperative verbs. This averages out to 5.2 imperative verbs per chapter in all of the Apostle Paul.

By the way, what I'm doing here is very unscholarly. So, don't go showing this to your pastor who has a bunch of letters in front of his name, thinking that you will impress him.

Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus has 40 imperative verbs. 39 of these 40 are found in Eph 4.25-6.17. That is about two chapters of material if you average out chapter length, etc. So, to end Ephesians, Paul averages over 19 imperative verbs per chapter. This is, without competition, the highest concentration of imperative verbs in the whole Bible!

So, how does Paul have warrant to command them to live so poignantly? Is he just being a good x-Pharisee and stacking up the rules? What's his deal? How can he call people to such precision in living? I thought that was legalism or something?

Here's why I think Paul can do this under the inspiration of the Spirit:

Paul can so directly and powerfully call the people in Ephesus to live a certain way because he has already spent three chapters directly and flagrantly describing grace [1.3-14, 2.1-10, 2.11-22, 3.8-12, 3.14-21]. These people already know that Paul's exhortations are about the good works which God prepared beforehand for them to walk in [2.10]. Paul's commanding them to walk [2.2, 2.10, 4.1, 4.17, 5.2, 5.8, 5.17] so specifically is because they understand mercy so blatantly [2.4-10].

Sunday, July 19, 2009

THE BLUE PARAKEET [book review]

Fear not. The subtitle of Scot McKnight's book sheds a little light: "Rethinking How You Read the Bible." I won't tell you why he calls it "The Blue Parakeet." I'll make you go read it.

McKnight begins by telling the story of how he developed a love for the Scriptures. He devoured the study notes in whatever study Bible he had. His youth pastor in high school encouraged him to learn Greek. In college, he would go hang out at Eerdman's, Zondervan, and Baker Publishing. Before long, McKnight said that he came across a question that disturbed him then and does to this day. The question is actually simple on the surface: How are we to apply the Bible today [pg 12]?

The examples of tithing, Sabbath, foot washing, and spiritual gifts are used by McKnight as examples of issues that many Christians disagree on. His point is that we all read the same Bible but come to vastly different conclusions, not merely nuanced and peripheral distinctions.

On pgs 29-35, McKnight suggests that people often read the Bible through tradition or with tradition. He explains these differences. After giving several insufficient ways in which people read the Scriptures, he argues that the Bible should be read as a story. His analysis of man being made in God's image and the purpose of Genesis 1-2 is a beautiful portrayal of how the rest of the Bible should be read as story. Later on, however, I believe he betrays this correct construal of Gen 1-2.

McKnight speaks with clarity about Jesus being the redeeming apex of God's redemptive purposes for His covenant community [pgs 72-79]. His point is that the Bible's authority is not innate. God's authority is innate. The Bible, specifically the person and work of Jesus, is to usher is the relationship that was marred in Gen 3. J. P. Moreland wrote a paper a couple of years ago about how Christians are over-committed to the Bible. He called this disease Bibliolatry ["the worship of the Bible"]. I think the idea that Moreland was trying to get across is the same one that McKnight is hinting at:

Adoring a love letter from your wife over adoring your wife is stupid. The letter itself is not stupid, but it is preposterous to have equal emotions for the ink on that page and for the one who penned it.

So, what is the Bible's purpose? What is its design? McKnight goes on to talk about listening to the Bible. He cites Klyne Snodgrass: "The biggest complaint in Scripture is that people do not listen to God. Theirs is a freely chosen deafness." McKnight then gives several chapters to the "how" of listening to the Scriptures. This is where he returns to the problem of picking and choosing he raised in chapter 1. Here, McKnight raises more fragile issues such as divorce, death penalty, homosexuality, and others.

Finally, McKnight seeks to apply listening, discerning, and tradition to one of the toughest issues in western evangelicalism: women in ministry. I love the way he ends his argument on pgs 145-207. However, I feel as though he betrays some of what he has already said and some occasional textual clarity in his discussion. He ends by telling a story of his family visiting F. F. Bruce in the spring of 1981. He says that he remembers the conversation word for word:
"Professor Bruce, what do you think of women's ordination?"

"I don't think the New Testament talks about ordination."

"What about the silencing passages of Paul on women?"

"I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah."

"What do you think, then, about women in church ministries?"

"I'm for whatever God's Spirit grants women gifts to do."
The kind of honesty seen in Professor Bruce is the kind of honesty that McKnight presents in his Blue Parakeet and most of this honesty is biblically warranted. He asks questions that many conservative evangelicals are scared to ask. He asks questions that are clearly there in the text, but it is often too taboo to ask them because the weight of tradition says we shouldn't.

Do I agree with all conclusions? Not really. Do I thank God for his sincerity and scholarship? You bet. Do we both openly admit that we want to be led by the Spirit of God, the word of God, and the community of faith? Yes indeed.

Lastly, McKnight's appendices at the end of the book might just be worth the price of the book. One of them is a test he gives his students every year. The test includes a section of questions about Jesus and a section about the person taking the test. Without fail, the test proves that we often make Jesus out to be like us.

So, if you care at all about the "how" of Bible reading, go snag the Blue Parakeet. You can read it in two days. I promise you'll be challenged.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Our pal Dr Piper reminds us that there is a mysterious tension that the Bible is ok with.

every good and perfect gift is from above

Including, in my book, Snapper riding lawn mowers that people just "feel led" to give to you.

These are the kind of things that make my prayer life burst at the seams with gratitude.


There's no doubt I love my boy like crazy. I love him when he stinks to high heaven. I love him when he shows off his sprinkler skills and urinates on me and/or himself. I love him when he is sleeping. I love him when we take walks in the morning when it is crisp outside.

What I love about my love for my son is that it puts the sloppy, stupid, worldly definition of love to shame. The spirit of our culture generally defines love as sex and tolerance. It paints love to be a thing that acts in view of what it will receive for its action. But the unconditionality of much of the love I have for Little Mr James puts this selfish nonsense to shame.

I also understand Jesus a little more when he said,
I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
In this text, I do not think our Lord is necessarily getting at simplicity, immaturity, neediness, or innocence. What he is getting at is dependence. James is totally and completely dependent on Sara and me for cleanliness, food, safety, care, and so much more. He is still not even a month old. I can only imagine how this list will grow in the future. Let's put it this way: you are never fully conscious of the breadth and depth of your dependence. This is a good thing.

Sometimes there will be no poop or pee in the diaper, he will have just fed, he will have just burped and farted, but he will still not be calm. He still wants to show us the back of his throat and see how big of a red-faced scream he can give us. His cool, little, vibrating chair will not fix it. Talking in high pitch psuedo-baby speak won't do. Changing the ol' diaper for good measure doesn't cut it. However, it is quite often fixed by just holding him near and taking a walk. There is something about the nearness of the dependent that seems to bring peace. David understood this.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever... The nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all Your works.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

i'll fly away tuesday

Our post-supper jam session included a bunch of gospel and campfire classics. Infinite happiness. Barb caught one on tape.

fellowship and division?

What are issues that should cause a break in Christian fellowship? At what point can a local congregation no longer work together in unity for the kingdom moving forward through the gospel?

Is it strictly a matter of the issue on the table? Baptism? Lord's Supper? Deity of Christ? The Millennium? Justification? Bodily resurrection? Six literal days of creation? Literal, eternal hell?

Is there any litmus test to these issues that will show which ones are ok to disagree on? I've got two thoughts on this that have proved helpful to me. Here goes nothing.

FIRST, I'm blessed to teach Redemptive History and Systematic Theology. I love explaining the difference to my students. I tell them that RH is the story of God creating and calling a people to be with Him, like Him, and for Him. This is experiential, relational, and more subjective. It is based more on chronology and progressive revelation. A simple way to put it is that RH is about reading the Bible like this:

ST, on the other hand, is asking the question, "What does the Bible say about __________?" Anything can go in the blank: free will, faith, predestination, baptism, etc. ST seeks to grasp what God has revealed about a certain issue throughout the whole of Scripture. ST cannot be done without RH and it is often done flippantly and without regard for the context of how the Spirit breathed out the Scriptures. So, the cute and helpful diagram for how ST reads the Bible is:

Here's the point. If we read the Bible as though we are only and simply in the story of God [RH], we turn into doctrinally spineless loose-nuts who water down the Scriptures and believe that theology damns people and turns them away. Or, if we only read the Bible as a book of doctrines or truths [ST], then everybody else will be wrong except you and your three friends who take Ezekiel out of context and think the Bible's subtitle is "Doctrines You Better Believe."

Some think the tension here is problematic. I think it's perfect. This is a slim part of the reason why Jesus was described as being full of GRACE and TRUTH. So, all I'm saying is that if believers pursue reading the Scriptures correctly, many of the issues that oft divide will find their quirky niche.

This still may not be satisfactory. So,

SECOND, I do believe that there should be a rigid and tenacious contending [Jude 3] for those truths that directly relate to and involve the person and work of Jesus. This doesn't solve everything, but I believe gives us the most wise and safe starting point for juggling these issues. For example,
  • the virgin birth
  • the historical/bodily resurrection
  • the deity of Jesus
  • the bodily second coming of Jesus
  • the sufficiency of the atonement
These are things to be staunchly defended. There is a centrality to the person and the work of Jesus that cannot be over-articulated and over-delighted in if we are His New Covenant people being His ambassadors in this present, passing age.

There is still plenty of grey room for which we need wisdom. But these two thoughts have helped me see those grey areas as opportunities for humility and not avenues for having to be right.

Hope it helps.


James seems to have two passages that are "seed" passages. Meaning, the content and ideas from these certain texts are seen budding and sprouting at other places in James. These two passages are 1.2-7 and 1.19.

The ideas of trials, joy, persistent faith, wisdom, and doubt in 1.2-7 are all further discussed as James continues.

James' three exhortations in 1.19 are likewise foundational: be quick to hear; slow to speak; and slow to anger. They are all immediately returned to in 1.20-21, 1.22-25, and 1.26-27. However, some believe that 1.19 helps to shape the train of thought for the next few chapters: correctly hearing the word [ch 2], the difficulty of controlling the tongue [ch 3], and the damaging effect of angry speech [ch 4]. I was helped here by William Baker.

The thing about the flow of thought that is downright convicting is that once James concludes his discussion on faith and works in ch 2, he then moves into a discussion on the tongue and how it "is set on fire by hell itself" [3.6]. Those ideas aren't far from one another in his mind. Essentially, my faith should evidence the worth of the object of my faith. One of the ultimate ways it does this is by what comes out of my mouth. That stings a bit.

Lastly, I love Js 1.5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God." Meaning, you all lack wisdom. I also love Js 3.13: "Who among you is wise and understanding?" Meaning, there is none who needs stunted growth in wisdom. So, James gives an excellent comparison between the earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom [3.14-18].
Earthly wisdom is first cousins with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition; it is arrogant; it cooperates with demons and is exercised in the context of disorder.

Heavenly wisdom is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy, full of good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

another popular movie that clearly ends in blood-based substitutionary atonement

Gran Torino, that is. It was rough, but understandable considering the context.

And here is the "another" one I had in mind.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

big day for the Jamester

First time to go to church with mom and dad. First public feeding. First time to Five Guys. Fun with Uncle Randy. Way to go James.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hebrews 9.27

I got off of work early the other day. When I got home, our good friend Oprah was on in the background. Sara was either hanging out with or changing James.

Oprah had Dr Oz on there. The topic was extending your lifespan. Dr Oz was discussing the huge steps that regenerative medicine has made. He swore that some of these steps could add 20 years to your life, maybe even more. Oz and Oprah then showed different means for extreme calorie burning and counting so that your cells might work more efficiently. This too, they were saying, could add decades to your life. They interviewed a 60 year old guy who said he had more energy than he did when was 20 because of his fragile and intense diet. Some people on there were practicing some of these methods Oz and Oprah were mentioning. They felt like they could live to be 120. It was fascinating.

The odd thing, however, is that medical research has shown that 100% of people actually die. And Oz and Oprah failed to mention this. Hmmm.

Maybe a better question to think about is: What can I do now that will mean something after that death thing?

Thursday, July 2, 2009


By Tom Wright. Download here.

top five commentaries on Revelation?



Stuff is nice. But it's not all there is. Esteem can be healthy. But it usually blinds and chokes you.

People matter. And promises matter.

Usually, one cannot enjoy and experience the latter [people and promises] when they distracted by the former [stuff and esteem].

So, go see Up.