Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Your Inner Pentecostal

I ran across a very insightful article on the Grateful To The Dead church history blog, titled Embrace Your Inner PentecostalIn it, he examines Pentecostalism’s abiding fruit and contributions to the larger Body of Christ.  I think it’s an article very much worth reading.

Two highlights for me:

A typical Pentecostal service follows no printed order; bulletins, if present, contain only announcements. After all, why should an order be needed? “All the members expect anyone of the local assembly to follow the Spirit’s leading,” Pentecostal scholar Russell Spittler has written, “and to do so at once.”

This sort of congregational freedom has marked Pentecostalism from its beginning, along with a unique emphasis on the “priesthood of all believers.” Azusa Street pastor William J. Seymour, the driving force behind the earliest Pentecostal revival, typified a new breed of church leader. He allowed and encouraged worshipers to exercise their gifts during services, providing what Fuller professor Cecil M. Robeck has called “a forum for various members of his congregation to make their case or to demonstrate their charism in the context of the worshiping community, without fear of recrimination.” When someone moved beyond the bounds of accepted order, Seymour corrected him or her in a manner that, while firm, was also “gracious and soft-spoken.”

Seymour also worked with a diverse team of volunteers and gave them a great deal of autonomy within certain boundaries. His leadership model was decentralized and open to genuine moving of the Spirit in his co-workers and in the entire congregation. Lay ministers were encouraged and empowered, because the Holy Spirit blew wherever he wanted to—and God forbid anyone stand in the way.

This style of ministry is seen today in many churches. A professor of religion at the University of Southern California, Donald E. Miller, noted in Reinventing American Protestantism (University of California, 1999) that Pentecostalism’s transparent personal style and non-hierarchical corporate structure had migrated to three prominent California churches: Calvary Chapel, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Hope Chapel. These neo-Pentecostals “truly did believe in the priesthood of all believers,” Miller reported. “People were not only having their needs met, but they were finding an avenue for service. That created a lively sense of community—something that many people yearned for.


Until that moment, I had been dutifully following scholarly debates about whether baptism in the Holy Spirit was primarily about holiness or power. But these testifying scholars described Spirit baptism in terms of something deeper than either one. Indeed, they all put their finger on one main effect: a new, joyous sense of communion with a loving God who counted every hair on their heads and watched over them every minute. The central moment of their Pentecostal experience had opened them to a deep well of living water from which everything else flowed; it had opened them to the personal, relational presence of the Living God.

A quick check of history books confirms the centrality of divine encounter for Pentecostals. William Seymour and his co-leaders repeatedly told the Azusa Street faithful that their experience with the Spirit was not about speaking in tongues. It was about God’s presence through the crucified and risen Christ.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I’m in chapter 10 of Michio Kaku’s book Physics of the Impossible, and he includes a quote from Isaac Asimov which I thought very funny…and very profound:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” (I found it) but “That’s funny…”


The new atheists like to claim that religion is evil, that if we can only eliminate it from the public discourse, our most pressing sociological problems will infallibly evaporate.

Leaving aside the unreasonableness of the position for the time being, the atheist really has a massive problem with his position: there is no possible meaning that can adhere to concepts like right, wrong, good and evil within the assumptions of atheism.

At base, atheism is materialism. And in materialism, there is no self-consistent framework within which one can make value judgments; "good" and "evil" are nonsensical terms if the cosmos is all that there is or will ever be. Whatever happens happens; it is neither good nor evil - it just simply is.

When the dictator orders the destruction of an entire people group, that is not "evil;" it is simply evolution in action. In evolution, the only real purpose for anything is to pass on your genes to the next generation. The most efficient way to ensure that this happens is to eliminate all effective competition. To commit genocide is only evil from the perspective of the doomed people group. There is no God to whom the genocide will give account; if he escapes the justice of man, he escapes completely.

The atheist can point to no purpose, no possible meaning to and for anything. Yes, he can assign whatever subjective meaning to his life and actions that he wishes to, but what of it? Such "meaning" is, ultimately, meaningless. So what that the atheist believes his life has meaning, that he arbitrarily assigns purpose to his actions; the cold, materialist universe pays no mind, does not care. The universe does not care when the atheist suffers unjustly. What happens to him, at the end of the day, is random, meaningless, noise. No reason. Nothing. And when he dies, all that he is dies with him.

Sure, he can pass on his legacy - but what of it? Legacies are ephemeral things, most often ignored, sometimes squandered, at times openly repudiated. In sum, the atheist only has his weak, short, pain-filled life, and then eternal nothingness. One bare decade later, and almost assuredly he will be completely forgotten. Certainly in a millennium. Without controversy in one million years. All he was, all his accomplishments, forever, irrevocably lost. And ultimately, when the materialist universe ends in either fire or ice (depending on which theory of gravity carries the day), nothing - absolutely nothing will remain - not only of the atheist, but if anybody.

When the stars have all burned up their nuclear fuel and spin in the utterly dark, eternally cold depths of space, slowly losing all momentum; long after even the last of the behemoth black holes have completely evaporated away through Hawking radiation; when all matter has ceased to be on even a quantum level by the inexorable and ever-increasingly-accelerating expansion of space itself; for an eternity of eternities, all the atheist's fears, hopes, accomplishments and those of every other living soul throughout all time will mean, forever and ever, absolutely nothing.

Within the atheist's worldview, then, nothing can ultimately be good or bad - for the precise reason that nothing will mean, nothing can mean, anything.

When the child dies in agony that's just life. When the rapist gets away Scott free, that's just what happens.

There is no God; crap happens. Deal with it by ignoring it, or sink into irremediable despair.

To assign categories like right, wrong, good and evil to anything, he is forced to borrow intellectual capital from outside his worldview, since his has no self-consistent apparatus for dealing with such.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Physics of the Impossible

Two of my hobbies are history and physics.  Unsurprisingly, two of my favorite TV channels are History and the Science Channel.

I especially love it when my two hobbies collimate.

Probably my favorite show right now (and I have to be very choosy of the shows I watch, given my ridiculously packed schedule) is The Universe – incredible show.  One of the recurring guys on the show is Michio Kaku, who is perhaps my favorite current theoretical physicist.

Yes, I’m a physics groupie.

I have read other things by Michio, and when he became a regular on The Universe, especially on the Parallel Universes episode, I found out he’d released a new (at that time) book – Physics of the Impossible.  I had intended to buy his book – I really, really had – but for a variety of reasons put it off.

Mostly because I’m already reading several other books, including John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life and Starlight, Time and the New Physics, with a truckload of other books on tap (most  notably, The Race Set Before Us – thanks to Michael Newnham – and The Orthodox Church, with a smattering of books on Lutheranism, as well as painfully and slowly working my way through Summa Theologica and The Ante-Nicene FathersI have no spare time…)  Those books, while interesting, I read because they expand my thinking related to my calling as a pastor.  Physics of the Impossible is my mind-candy – something I read for the pure joy of it, a book to unwind with at the end of a hectic day.  But given that I’m (a) dirt poor [did I mention that I’m a pastor?] and (b) very extremely short on discretionary time, to add another book to my stable of “currently reading” for a long time was just too much to reasonably consider.

So it’s taken me quite some time to pull the trigger and pony up the Washingtons to buy Michio’s book.

Over a fleeting break during my day-job-to-support-my-habit, I finally bought & downloaded it.

I’m only in the preface, and I’m absolutely hooked.  Some quotes to give you the flavor:

I was just a child the day when Albert Einstein died, but I remember people talking about his life, and death, in hushed tones.  The next day I saw in the newspapers a picture of his desk, with the unfinished manuscript of his greatest, unfinished work.  I asked myself, What could be so important that the greatest scientist of our time could not finish it?  The article claimed that Einstein had an impossible dream, a problem so difficult that it was not possible for a mortal to finish it.  It took me years to find out what that manuscript was about: a grand, unifying “theory of everything.”  His dream – which consumed the last three decades of his life – helped to focus my own imagination.  I wanted, in some small way, to be a part of the effort to complete Einstein’s work, to unify the laws of physics into a single theory.

Given the remarkable advances in science in the past century, especially the creation of the quantum theory and general relativity, it is now possible to give rough estimates of when, if ever, some of these fantastic technologies may be realized.  With the coming of even more advanced theories, such as string theory, even concepts bordering on science fiction, such as time travel and parallel universes, are now being re-evaluated by physicists.  Think back 150 years to those technological advances that were declared “impossible” by scientists at the time and that have now become part of our everyday lives.  Jules Verne wrote a novel in 1863, Paris in the Twentieth Century, which was locked away and forgotten for over a century until it was accidentally discovered by his great-grandson and published for the first time in 1994.  In it Verne predicted what Paris might look like in the year 1960.  His novel was filled with technology that was clearly considered impossible in the nineteenth century, including fax machines, a world-wide communications network, glass skyscrapers, gas-powered automobiles, and high-speed elevated trains.

Not surprisingly, Verne could make such stunningly accurate predictions because he was immersed in the world of science, picking the brains of scientists around him.  A deep appreciation for the fundamentals of science allowed him to make such startling predictions.

Ironically, the serious study of the impossible has frequently opened up rich and entirely unexpected domains of science.  For example, over the centuries the frustrating and futile search for a “perpetual motion machine” led physicists to conclude that such a machine was impossible, forcing them to postulate the conservation of energy and the three laws of thermodynamics.  Thus the futile search to build perpetual motion machines helped to open up the entirely new field of thermodynamics, which in part laid the foundation of the steam engine, the machine age, and modern industrial society.

We ignore the impossible at our peril.

The purpose of this book is to consider what technologies are considered “impossible” today that might well become commonplace decades to centuries down the road.

Already one “impossible” technology is now proving to be possible: the notion of teleportation (at least at the level of atoms).  Even a few years ago physicists would have said that sending or beaming an object from one point to another violated the laws of quantum physics.  The writers of the original Star Trek television series, in fact, were so stung by the criticism from physicists that they added “Heisenberg compensators” to explain their teleporters in order to address this flaw.  Today, because of a recent breakthrough, physicists can teleport atoms across a room or photons under the Danube River.

I’m hooked.

If you’re as fascinated by these things as I am, you will love this book.

So say we all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lutheran Soteriology

In spite of what “timothy” said in his comments to one of my previous posts, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is hardly Arminian.  In fact, the lack of historical acumen required to even make such a statement is…well, to be charitable, I should really not complete that sentence.

There are many who fault Calvary Chapel for our views on issues like election and the security of the believer.  Now, whereas I am in no way suggesting that CC’s position is the same as historical Lutheranism (it isn’t; there are critical differences); however, it’s amazing how eerily familiar these Q&A’s about Lutheran doctrine sound, from the LCMS’s website:

Q. Can you lose your salvation and if you can, what do you need to do to regain it again?

A. The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod believes and teaches that it is possible for a true believer to fall from faith, as Scripture itself soberly and repeatedly warns us (1 Cor. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:17; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12-19; 6:4-8, etc.). Such warnings are intended for Christians who appear to be lacking a right understanding of the seriousness of their sin and of God's judgment against sin, and who, therefore, are in danger of developing a false and proud "security" based not on God's grace, but on their own works, self-righteousness, or freedom to "do as they please."

By the same token, the LCMS affirms and treasures all of the wonderful passages in Scripture in which God promises that He will never forsake those who trust in Christ Jesus alone for salvation (John 10:27-29; Romans 8; Heb. 13: 5-6, etc.). To those who are truly repentant and recognize their need for God's grace and forgiveness, such passages are powerful reminders of the true security that is ours through sincere and humble faith in Christ alone for our salvation.

A person may be restored to faith in the same way he or she came to faith in the first place: by repenting of his or her sin and unbelief and trusting completely in the life, death and resurrection of Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation.

Whenever a person does repent and believe, this always takes place by the grace of God alone and by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God's Word in a person's heart.

12. On the basis of these clear statements of the Holy Scriptures we reject every kind of synergism, that is, the doctrine that conversion is wrought not by the grace and power of God alone, but in part also by the co-operation of man himself, by man's right conduct, his right attitude, his right self-determination, his lesser guilt or less evil conduct as compared with others, his refraining from willful resistance, or anything else whereby man's conversion and salvation is taken out of the gracious hands of God and made to depend on what man does or leaves undone. For this refraining from willful resistance or from any kind of resistance is also solely a work of grace, which "changes unwilling into willing men," Ezek. 36:26; Phil. 2:13. We reject also the doctrine that man is able to decide for conversion through "powers imparted by grace," since this doctrine presupposes that before conversion man still possesses spiritual powers by which he can make the right use of such "powers imparted by grace."

13. On the other hand, we reject also the Calvinistic perversion of the doctrine of conversion, that is, the doctrine that God does not desire to convert and save all hearers of the Word, but only a portion of them. Many hearers of the Word indeed remain unconverted and are not saved, not because God does not earnestly desire their conversion and salvation, but solely because they stubbornly resist the gracious operation of the Holy Ghost, as Scripture teaches, Acts 7:51; Matt. 23:37; Acts 13:46.

14. As to the question why not all men are converted and saved, seeing that God's grace is universal and all men are equally and utterly corrupt, we confess that we cannot answer it. From Scripture we know only this: A man owes his conversion and salvation, not to any lesser guilt or better conduct on his part, but solely to the grace of God. But any man's non-conversion is due to himself alone; it is the result of his obstinate resistance against the converting operation of the Holy Ghost. Hos. 13:9.

36. Accordingly we reject as an anti-Scriptural error the doctrine that not alone the grace of God and the merit of Christ are the cause of the election of grace, but that God has, in addition, found or regarded something good in us which prompted or caused Him to elect us, this being variously designated as "good works," "right conduct," "proper self-determination," "refraining from willful resistance," etc. Nor does Holy Scripture know of an election "by foreseen faith," "in view of faith," as though the faith of the elect were to be placed before their election; but according to Scripture the faith which the elect have in time belongs to the spiritual blessings with which God has endowed them by His eternal election. For Scripture teaches Acts 13:48: "And as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed." Our Lutheran Confession also testifies (Triglot, p. 1065, Paragraph 8; M. p. 705): "The eternal election of God however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto; and upon this our salvation is so founded that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matt. 16:18, as is written John 10:28: `Neither shall any man pluck My sheep out of My hand'; and again, Acts 13:48: `And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.."'

37. But as earnestly as we maintain that there is an election of grace, or a predestination to salvation, so decidedly do we teach, on the other hand, that there is no election of wrath, or predestination to damnation. Scripture plainly reveals the truth that the love of God for the world of lost sinners is universal, that is, that it embraces all men without exception, that Christ has fully reconciled all men unto God, and that God earnestly desires to bring all men to faith, to preserve them therein, and thus to save them, as Scripture testifies, 1 Tim. 2:4: "God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." No man is lost because God has predestined him to eternal damnation. -- Eternal election is a cause why the elect are brought to faith in time, Acts 13:48; but election is not a cause why men remain unbelievers when they hear the Word of God. The reason assigned by Scripture for this sad fact is that these men judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life, putting the Word of God from them and obstinately resisting the Holy Ghost, whose earnest will it is to bring also them to repentance and faith by means of the Word, Act 13:46; 7:51; Matt. 23:37.

Again, please do not misunderstand – I am not here suggesting that Lutheran theology comports with CC theology.

I am, however, very intrigued to not how non-Calvinist and non-Arminian their theology is…again demonstrating that the idea that those two particular theological antipodes exhaust all options, and therefore if you are not one you are therefore automatically the other.


Brian McLaren has a cow (again)

Brian “Orthodoxy, Schmorthodoxy!” McLaren recently posted on his blog about “Religious Right Insanity, Evangelical Cowardice: Enough is Enough” in which he wrote:

I'm disgusted by the latest absurdity from the religious right covered in the clip below. I'm also depressed by the lack of courage among Evangelical leaders to speak out strongly against it (also covered in the clip below). How about it, Evangelicals? How many of you will join Frank Schaeffer and say, "Enough is enough?"

Now that really piqued my interest; if McLaren is against it, it must be incredibly commendable, in my view – he only seems to be against things which even vaguely smack of Biblical fidelity.

What’s Brian got his underbritches all in a bunch about? Some Christians, in praying for Obama, have chosen an imprecatory Psalm – namely, Psalm 109:8:

Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.

E-gads!!!  The unmitigated horror!  Where is the outrage?  Where is the handwringing and such-like?


I’d received the same thing via e-mail earlier in the week, and quite honestly thought it clever; and I happen to agree with the intended sentiments.  Indeed, may his days (in office) be few, and let another (even Clinton was less liberal, and sadly enough would be an improvement) take his office in 2012.  Amen, and amen, and amen.

Why is McLaren overwrought?  Because to him, any opposition to Obama is impermissible.  Free thought is only tolerated when that thought is in line with accepted Party doctrine.

Brian: take a deep breath.  Most of us oppose Obama’s policies because we believe they are fundamentally flawed.  You really need to learn how to deal with it when people don’t believe the same way that you do.

And, by the way – Frank Schaeffer, an Evangelical?  If he’s an “evangelical,” then the term has truly lost all its original meaning.

So not only will I not be joining Frank, I’ll instead grin and repeat my new prayer for our current administration:

Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.

Non-Arminian Non-Calvinists

Many if not most Calvinists view the world in terms similar to Islam, in the sense that the world is neatly divided into two opposing camps: Dar al-Islam and Dar al-HarbDar al-Islam is the “house of Islam,” the theopolitical abode of the faithful; by way of contrast, Dar al-Harb is the “house of (those with whom we are continually at) war (until the Day of Judgment).”  There is no middle ground, there are no third parties, you are one or the other.

Very neat, very tidy, very binary.

For many if not most Calvinists, you are either a Calvinist or you are an Arminian (or, as many of the “Truly Reformed/New Calvinists” like to insist, a Semi-Pelagian).  To them, these two options exhaust the theological possibilities.  If you are not for Geneva, you are against her – and for at least some, that is equivalent to rejecting the Gospel itself.

I have heard countless times by my Reformed friends how my unease with the Calvinist “doctrines of grace” stem from the fact that I value humanistic philosophy over the clear teaching of the Word – the necessary implication being that if you reject Calvinism, you reject the clear teaching of the Word, and instead embrace humanistic philosophy.  I am constantly labeled an Arminian as a result.

However, the prevailing Calvinist insistence on the Calvinism/Arminianism dichotomy fails irreparably (and quite quickly) when honestly examined.

It turns out that there are quite a few theological systems which owe nothing to either Calvinism or Arminianism.

For instance, Lutheranism.

Lutherans would be mighty surprised to find that their theology owes its existence to a Dutch reformer who was born fourteen years after Luther (the putative founder of their confession) himself died.  Yet that Lutheranism is emphatically not Calvinism is beyond controversy.  It instead occupies a theological territory quite other than either.

Though I am far from being Lutheran, the more I read about Lutheran theology the more impressed and appreciative of aspects of it I become.  Among other things, Lutherans handily navigate the vexing waters between the Scylla of God’s Sovereignty and the Charybdis of man’s free will.  Take, for instance, the Lutheran position on the doctrine of divine election, summarized by Josh Strodtbeck in an interview with iMonk:

Luther shied away from abstractions, and we Lutherans inherited that. Not just sovereignty, but the attributes of God in general are simply not of extreme importance. If you look at Luther’s catechisms, he actually defines God in terms of Creation, the Cross, and the Church. Compare that to Q7 in the Westminster LC. So for Lutherans, theology is done in terms of God’s relation to us. That means theology never gets away from Law and Gospel, from justification, from the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If you look at the discussion of election in the Formula of Concord, its driving concern is not maintaining God’s sovereignty, but rather how election is to be preached within the framework of Law and Gospel. That’s why Chemnitz is comfortable with basically saying that God declares our election to us in the preaching of the Gospel and admonishes against rational speculation on the inscrutable decrees of God apart from Christ, who is made known to us in the Gospel and the Sacraments. It’s also the source of the bewildering (to Calvinists) assertion by Lutherans that while election is purely of the grace of God in Christ, reprobation is purely of the obstinate will of man and against God’s desire that they be saved. This doesn’t make sense in terms of divine attributes or sovereignty, but it does if you hold that damnation is Law and election is Gospel.

{emphasis mine}

I like that.

I really like that.

To my Calvinist brothers: I still love you, my opening paragraph was purposefully provocative, in order to provoke a reaction similar to the one I and other non-Calvinists feel when your theological brethren dismissively try to pigeon-hole us into the “Semi-Pelagian” category simply because we don’t see the Canons of Dort as comporting with what we understand in Scripture.

That said, I find it beyond fascinating that the theological landscape is vastly more variegated than the oversimplistic “Calvinist/Arminian” weltanschauung prevalent in so much of the current theological conversation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

God’s Conditional Love

From the American Vision blog:

What is the question? Simply this: "If God loves me unconditionally, why does it matter how I live my life?" Or it could also be phrased this way: "If God truly loves me unconditionally, why should it matter whether or not I 'become a Christian?'" Be careful to not miss how powerful and deadly this question really is. It is not just a clever twist of wording, meant to sidetrack the evangelistic efforts of well-meaning proselytizers. Far from it. This question is the stake in the heart of the modern evangelical notion of God's "unconditional love." In fact, I challenge you to search for the phrase "unconditional love" in the Bible or find the concept that God unconditionally loves every person on earth being taught anywhere in Scripture. In fact, R.J. Rushdoony makes the bold claim that "unconditional love is contrary to the Bible."

Again: the Calvinist is noetically incapable of seeing God’s love as being truly unconditional.  For him, when God says He “so loved the world,” the Calvinist is presuppositionally forced to inject “…of the elect” into the verse.  When the Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, he is again forced to inject “…any of the elect…all of the elect” where the clause does not in fact exist either contextually or necessarily.

The fact is, the Bible does teach God’s unconditional love – quite emphatically so.  It is, however, inaccurate to assert that unconditional love means that there are no necessary consequences for sin and rebellion.  I can love my son unconditionally – but if he misbehaves, because and as a direct consequence of my love, I will not shield him from the consequences of his actions, and will instead discipline him.  There is no real conflict between my unconditional love for my son and my then administering to him the consequences for his behavior when he misbehaves.

So, too, God.  God loves the world – every single person on it.  He even spoke to Judas in love, calling him at the very moment of his betrayal of Him, “friend,” giving Judas a last opportunity to repent.  That love is not inconsistent with His permitting men to receive the consequences of their choices, since that is likewise a consequence of two other of His attributes – justice and holiness.

But the consistent Calvinist cannot see this; he is committed to a theology which has God arbitrarily deciding from eternity past who will be saved and who will burn, with the individuals in question having absolutely no choice in the matter, instead being foreordinately and infallibly vouchsafed to whichever destiny He arbitrarily chose for them – who in effect created the vast bulk of humanity to suffer in unimaginable agony throughout eternity for His glory alone.

…and insist on calling these the “Doctrines of Grace.”

…and Calvinists wonder why us non-Calvinists run as hard and fast as we can away from Calvinism, screaming in horror the whole way.

God’s unconditional love for mankind is in no way inconsistent with His holiness and justice.  It is HIs holiness and justice which requires that sin be dealt with, and which in fact demands that there be such as place as hell for those who die in their sin; it was likewise His unconditional love which impelled Him to take upon Himself human flesh to die so as to provide the only way men might be saved through His free grace, providing an escape from the just consequences of their sins which would otherwise require their eternal damnation.  God’s unwillingness that any should perish but that instead all should come to repentance is in no way inconsistent with His will that those who do not repent will perish.  Nobody (who isn’t a Hypercalvinist) has any problem with the distinctions between God’s perfect, permissive, and declarative will.

I may not have things as tightly bound up and figured out as the Calvinist has; but I can identify crazy when I see it – and the assertion that God’s love is conditional emphatically falls under that category.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Season Preview

Wings season preview here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Calvin Quote

One of the books I'm reading is"John Calvin: A Pilgrim's life", and in it I just read a great sort of ''why grace changes everything" quote:

Namely, that we see God as the only lord of our soul, and His Law as the only rule and spiritual instruction for our conscience, so that we do not serve Him according to all kinds of foolish human regulations. Further that He wants to be served by us in spirit and with a clean heart. On the other hand, we admit that in us there is nothing but unrighteousness, that we are corrupt in all we think and do, so that our heart is an abyss of evil. We therefore doubt ourselves, deny any claim to our own wisdom, worthiness, or aptitude for the good, turn to the fountain of all good which is Jesus Christ, and receive what He gives us, the reward of His suffering and death, so that we may be reconciled to God through it. Washed clean in His blood, we are now no longer afraid that our sins will prevent us from finding grace at His heavenly throne. Assured that our sins have been freely forgiven on the basis of His sacrifice, we find our rest and assurance of salvation. We are sanctified through His Spirit to devote ourselves to obeying the justice of God. Strengthened by His grace, we will be victorious over the devil, the world, and the flesh. Finally, as members of His body, we do not doubt that God counts us among His children, and that we may with full confidence address Him as our Father.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Mike Foster: The Necessity of Church as Mother

Very insightful and very spot-on blogpost here:

American Christianity has been severely synchronized to the idol of individualism. This has been clearly illustrated to me time and time again by the numerous amounts of Christians who have a complete disregard for the centrality of the local church. They act as if belonging to a church is an option on par with belonging to a gym or pouring cream in their coffee. They see church as merely an additive that is optional. This, of course, is a lie bellowing up from the smoky pits of hell. I have spent the last few years of my life working hard to confront this hersey. When I speak on this subject I will often cite the following quote from Cyprian: “You cannot have God as your Father if you do not have the church as your mother.”

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Cost of Discipleship

The Chalcedon Foundation (a Reconstructionist concern) publishes a bimonthly magazine dealing with various issues of the Christian faith.  In the most recent issue, author Martin Selbrede writes a very interesting article, The Cost Of Discipleship, in which he makes the very intriguing argument that the modern discipleship movement – indeed, the very concept of “discipleship” as much of the modern church takes it – is actually antithetical to that Christian liberty which Christ died to procure, and in reality short-circuits the sanctifying work which the Holy Spirit Himself desires to bring about in the believer’s life.

The gist of the evangelical push for accountability is horizontal accountability. This push is a major factor in many ministries in which believers are advised to hold one another accountable for various aspects of their Christian walk. An implicit distrust of the Holy Spirit’s office of sanctifying the believer lies behind this push. The Spirit may be sent to convict the world of sin and of righteousness, but evangelicals feel He needs a little help—He’s just not quite omnipotent enough, you see, and so men need to fill in what’s missing. Just as we have many new precepts of men rushing in to fill the vacuum that results when God’s commandments are tossed out, even so we have many new sanctifying agents rushing in to fill the gap when God’s Holy Spirit is judged inadequate to perfect the saints in holiness.

The pattern is all too clear: just as many evangelicals are dead-set on being lawmakers on God’s behalf, many more are committed to becoming little holy ghosts for their brothers and sisters. One’s “accountability partner” becomes a surrogate for the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit’s work is usurped. This is a way “that seemeth right to a man.”

The dominant focus in Scripture is that men and women are accountable to God. Accountability is fundamentally vertical. As David put it so directly after being implicated in the death of Uriah the Hittite, “against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). This idea grates on human pride and pomposity, but it is God’s law, not man’s law, that is being broken. We are to inculcate the fear of God, the vertical relationship, in others. But we undercut this because accountability partners subconsciously act out of fear of man. Our motivation in these relationships takes an unconscious turn: “I’m doing this because I don’t want to look bad to my accountability partner.” God holds us all accountable. Nothing ought ever to pull our eyes down from heaven, from Him with Whom we have to do, to worry about our fellow man’s opinion of us. We ought to worry about what God thinks of us. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12; see also 1 Pet. 4:5).


Accountability partnering puts man back in front of a human audience, inviting us to operate in terms of that new relational dynamic instead of in terms of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power and quickening of His law-word to our minds and hearts.

I can excuse the author’s compulsive jab at non-Calvinists (“We would expect this kind of thinking among Arminian believers who repose much weight in the actions of man as opposed to the operations of God, but the idea is rampant among Calvinists who have temporarily lost sight of the fact that God controls sanctification as much as any other aspect of our lives.”) given that he is a Calvinist, and as such is characteristically incapable of viewing other theologies in anything less than hubristic contempt.  Don’t let that rob you of the meat of what he says.

Overall, I find myself very intrigued with his arguments…not sure if I buy them completely, but fascinating nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Interesting view here on the decline of respect for clergy in modern America…especially how it ties said decline with a corresponding rise in “professionalism” in the ministry.

Today they are regarded as hired help.


Open Letter to President Obama

Interesting article here by Harry Jackson:

All too often, both the press and politicians view the African-American community as a monolithic group that will go wherever the cultural winds blow them. This is not true.We want to express our concerns and be heard. The following letter is an attempt to encourage the president to consider our viewpoint on the redefinition of marriage.

Same-sex marriage is not a civil right. The laws enacted by Congress during a century of struggle for equal rights for African-Americans were intended to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, not on the basis of an individual's sexual preferences or personal behavior.

Many of the people we speak for felt that your disparaging statements during the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot were directed at them. Some of the people with ‘worn out arguments and old attitudes' are not bigots or homophobes; they are our cultural elders, who are rightfully saying, ‘Don't tear down a fence until you understand why it's there.' Recent studies show that there is a resurgence of hope about marriage among the young people of this generation. Mr. President, let's keep hope alive.

We also stated that the California Proposition 8 votes amending the state's constitution to protect marriage marked the beginning of a new era in American politics. For the first time in recent history, black and Hispanic voters (predominately Christians) voted for President Obama and simultaneously voted against the Democratic power structure on this social issue. In light of this phenomenon occurring simultaneously within the black and Hispanic communities, we respectfully warned the president that hooking his political wagon too closely to the gay marriage bandwagon could precipitously erode public confidence in his administration.

Very interesting read.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

AV: The Church of the First Adam

I subscribe to a very large variety of newsletters, e-zines, and regular dead-tree magazines, and mostly from different theological perspectives than the ones I happen to subscribe to.  This is because perspective usually comes from looking at the same thing from many different angles – or, to put it like Solomon did, “Where there is not counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” [Proverbs 11:14]  This applies not only in the immediate sense of determining God’s will for ourselves or growing in grace or such-like, but also in the much broader sense of hearing what the Spirit might be saying to the whole Body of Christ, and not just what my particular member of it says.

One of the newsletters I subscribe to comes from a tradition which is quite distant from my own in theological terms: American Vision.  AV is a Calvinist, Postmillennial, Preterist, Reconstructionist concern – and one which produces a lot of good material, even with all that.

The latest missive from AV contained a stellar article on the state of the modern American church:

The real problem with church attendance goes far beyond being simply boring or fun. It even goes far beyond the overused catch phrase of the mega-church movement: “relevant.” Where does the Bible claim that church should be fun or relevant? Or to ask the question a different way: What is the purpose of church? Is it only supposed to be a time when believers gather together each week to drop money in the plate and listen to a self-help sermon? If this is the case we could mail our checks in and watch an episode of Dr. Phil instead. The role of the local church is an important and vital one, but the modern idea of "doing" church has gotten so far away from the biblical understanding that it is no wonder that we must resort to advertising and marketing to remind the community that we exist.

Perhaps church attendance is so low because it has become "fun." "Fun" churches have nothing to offer after the fun wears off. This country needs a good healthy dose of maturity and adulthood and the very place where it should be found is becoming more adolescent and childish. Just as the first Adam was a model of immaturity, the last Adam (Jesus Christ) was the prime example of maturity. The first Adam shirked responsibility, but the last Adam faced it head-on. Jesus should be our example, not Adam. Church attendance should not be the goal, but church faithfulness. If Christ's Church would become less concerned with how many are not sitting in the pews and actually disciple the ones who are, the empty pews will begin to fill as a natural result. The question is: Does the modern church have enough faith to actually begin doing this?

You can read the whole article (which is very much spot-on) here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

When the Body becomes a Business

The article Daniel quotes here is absolutely spot-on. I mean – wow.


Amid today's orgy of adulation over Michael Jackson, we should pause and remember real heroes--men and women who paid the ultimate price for this nation, but whose lives go uncelebrated.

U.S. Army Lieutenant Brian Bradshaw was one of individuals. He died on June 25th, the same day that Michael Jackson passed away. But Lieutenant Bradshaw didn't die in a Hollywood mansion from a drug-induced heart attack. He was killed on a road in Afghanistan, when his vehicle was targeted by an improvised explosive device.


Read the whole article here.

Monday, July 06, 2009


This has floated around the interwebs for a while, but I thought it apropros considering our modern American experience:

The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome fall. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

                                           -   Cicero  - 55 BC

As has been aptly noted elsewhere: looks like the old proverb is true, that all we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.


How Not To Help The Poor

Interesting response to the religious left here.

Liberals like Colmes believe that redistributing wealth by taking it from the rich and giving it to the poor will create an equitable society. This is the great liberal myth. Taxing policies designed to create social programs inhibit economic expansion in the business sector. Without an expanding economy, businesses can’t grow. If businesses can’t grow, they cannot hire new workers.

Liberals believe that the remedy for economically displaced workers, a condition their policies often create, is to raise more taxes and subsidize the unemployed. This is state-sponsored slavery under the guise of compassion. It has the effect of squelching the incentive to work and creates a perpetual underclass that is constantly appealed to by liberals so they can stay in power. Those dependent on the State most often vote to increase the power of the State out of self-interest.

DeMar argues that, laying aside the issue of whether or not Jesus’ teachings demand an all-powerful, confiscatory central government in order to “help the poor” via wealth redistribution and magisterial enforcement of whatever “social justice” cause du jour happens to be currently popular, such things as wage and price controls and overregulation wind up hurting the very people that those who champion them say they’re trying to help – so from a purely practical point of view, the kind of liberal utopia that the Religious Left is trying to build is the very last thing you’d actually want to establish if you really wanted to help those who are struggling.

Not that those who’ve imbibed the Left’s Kool-Aid will be swayed; they have hitched their wagon to Obama’s train and, unlike the majority of the Religious Right (and in what can only be considered the very height of irony), who unhesitatingly light into the GOP they are often (and inaccurately) lumped in with, they seem unwilling and/or unable to critically examine their presuppositions or to honestly appraise their Messiah’s positions and records.

Ah, well.

Good article, nonetheless.  Not bad for a Calvinist preterist postmiller.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Let me be very clear: I am a Zionist. Absolutely, unrepentantly, completely behind Israel and the Jewish people. Not only for theological reasons (though those of course are paramount) but for political reasons as well; Israel is the only nation in a very strategic, very volatile region which doesn’t hate our guts and consider us the “Great Satan.” 

So, I am a Christian Zionist. Deal with it.

That being said, as with most things, it’s important to strike a balance between extremes.  I am a strong supporter of Israel, but like any nation, it is not perfect and its government does sometimes do very bone-headed things. (No, defending herself against the attacks of her enemies does not qualify as being “bone-headed.” Duh.) Therefore, Israel (whether the government or her citizens) does not get a pass when they are wrong.

One of the things which is an ongoing point of contention, and can indeed produce an interesting tension in the heart of a Christian Zionist like myself, is stuff like this:

When the congregation at St. Nicolay church in this northern Israeli town gathered on that quiet Friday morning of May 29, they never expected to be showered with stones. The Russian Orthodox worshipers, including many women, children and the elderly, had filled the small building to overflow with several outside when they were stunned by the rain of stones. Some were injured and received medical care.

It seems some yeshiva students (you know, the ones who don’t sully themselves by joining the IDF to defend their homeland and people – those obviously courageous guys…) bravely attacked children and old men and women on their way to worship.

Those intrepid young men should be richly rewarded – for instance, by being lined up and jack-slapped by some of the very IDF soldiers they think they’re too good to join, and who understand the concept of freedom (which is why they fight and die – not only for the Jewish Israelis, but for their non-Jewish co-nationalists as well).

Thankfully, and very much unlike the Muslim nations surrounding her, Israel neither officially persecutes her Christians nor tacitly approves of it, either.  It’s a very touchy situation in Israel, with the yeshivas existing essentially outside the direct jurisdiction of the government and agencies of government.  Unlike the “Palestinian” Authority, for instance, or Egypt, where persecution of the rapidly dwindling Christian populations in their midst is at least tacitly approved and assisted by the government.

However, unofficial and unapproved as it is, it is things like this which emphasize that even though Israel has an unquestionable right to the land God gave her, even though we as Christians are compelled by that same God to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to bless the Jewish people, and even though we solidly support Israel, the nation is quite far from being perfect and (again) does not get a free pass.


Get this: not only does the Iranian government crack down on pro-Democracy demonstrators by shooting into the crowd, but they now say that the family of an innocent bystander murdered by Iranian police must pay the government for the privilege of retrieving his body, so that the government’s cost for the bullet which took their son’s life can be recouped.

When Mr. Alipour didn't return home that night, his parents began to worry. All day, they had heard gunshots ringing in the distance. His father, Yousef, first called his fiancée and friends. No one had heard from him.

At the crack of dawn, his father began searching at police stations, then hospitals and then the morgue.

Upon learning of his son's death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a "bullet fee"—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

And still utter, absolute silence from the Obama administration.

Condemn Israel when she tries to defend herself, all the while bending over backwards to limit civilian casualties to the absolute minimum…but zip the lip in condemning a government run followers of the Religion of Peace.

Bush Part 2 was not a good president; under his watch, all the good done by the Reagan revolution was cheerfully dismantled, and we inherited an even more massive expansion of government than FDR ever could hope to achieve in his wildest dreams.  Even still, I’m quite certain that Bush wouldn’t be sitting very, very still over this, hoping the American public either ignored this whole ugly mess or ignored his utter inaction over it.  He at least had the guts to stand up to the Ayatollah and his guy Ahmadinejad.

What the Iranian government is doing is despicable. What our own government is doing (or, more to the point, very studiously not doing) is utterly unconscionable.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Excellent point…

From the article “Why Condemn Israel But Not Iranian Government Brutality?

The European Left, the Democrats, the Liberals, the leaders of the West, all go rampant when Israel attacks the Gaza Strip. Where are they now? Why Obama, Blair, Sarkozy keep on sitting on the fence at the time that Iranian Regime is slaughtering protestors and crushing their basic right to be able to protest?

Tell me, where is everyone? To where have they vanished, all those who protested against Israel’s violence during Operation Cast, Lead or the Second Lebanon War, or Defense Shield or even the Hague when we were dragged there by our hair when we dared to try build a separation barrier between us and the suicide bomber? Here and there we see protests but they are mainly Iranian immigrants. In principle, Europe is calm and relaxed. Likewise, the USA. Here few dozens, there few thousands. What, they have vanished because it is Teheran, and not here?

Define “Irony…”

Perez Hilton, who came down on Carrie Prejean for her answer during the recent Miss Amerca pageant, apparently came unglued when someone else he’d…ah…commented on didn’t take kindly to it.  Per Hilton, no human being should ever be physically assaulted…but apparently verbal and emotional assault is quite copasetic-kosher-keen.

Hilton has – until this incident – been the voice for the “gay” community.  It is therefore the very height of irony that:

After Perez Hilton's slur-laden reaction to an alleged assault by the manager of the Black Eyed Peas, even former allies of the celebrity blogger have turned against him.

Officials at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have called on Hilton to apologize for the "vulgar anti-gay slurs" he made in a video following a confrontation with manager Liborio Molina.

If this situation doesn’t perfectly exemplify “irony,” I really don’t know what does

The One

This is a great parable-ish undoubtedly prophetic comedy-but-not-really-all-that-funny-given-how-pathetically-true-it-actually-is blogpost by my friend and fellow pastor Tom Spithaler.

You must go read it.  Now.

Anglicanism: A New Hope

I was raised Episcopalian, so I consider this to be good news, indeed.  After the Phantom Menace of gross theological liberalism began growing in the Episcopal Church, and after the Attack of the (Liberal) Clones gained steam, it looked to all the world as if the Revenge of the (Social Gospel) Sith would finally overwhelm and destroy an historically solid and proud church.  But now, with this news American Anglicans have A New Hope.

Leaders who defected from the Episcopal Church completed the formation of a conservative branch of Anglicanism in North America Monday by ratifying the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

The document was signed during the ACNA Inaugural Provincial Assembly, which drew some 800 participants to Bedford, Texas, this week. Pittsburg Bishop Robert Duncan, who on Wednesday will be installed as the group's first archbishop, said the formation of ACNA is part of a "reformation" marked by a return to orthodox Christianity within the 77 million-member Anglican Communion and beyond.

I’m waiting for the (Liberal) Empire to Strike Back any time now; Archbishop Rowan “Emperor Palpatine” Williams is no friend of theological conservatives.  Recognition of the new church within the worldwide Anglican Communion will likely be a long struggle in itself, but for now, things are certainly looking up for Americans who still love the Anglican Communion, who still hold to the via media theology, and who yet want to be faithful to the Biblical witness.  God bless Archbishop Duncan and the courageous few churches and dioceses who refused to yield for the sake of “unity at all costs” in the face of creeping compromise.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Blog friend and general all-around  cool sister in Christ, Vee (of Living Journey fame) clued me in to a new book out, The Jews, Modern Israel, and the New Supercessionism.  I haven’t read the book yet myself, but given that Vee’s involved (she did research for the book over the last two years), I’m quite certain that it’s well worth the read.

From the book’s website:

A new book aimed at lay Christians, church leaders and Bible college students which explores the relationship between the Jews, the Church and Israel. This timely volume offers a careful and objective examination of the issue from a range of perspectives at a time when the debate surrounding the relationship between the Church and Israel currently raging within Evangelicalism is increasingly polemical and polarised.

The table of contents alone looks intriguing:

1   Who is the “Israel” of Romans 11:26?         
     Andy Cheung

2   Biblical Theology and the Modern State of Israel          
     Calvin L. Smith

3   Apostolic Jewish-Christian Hermeneutics       
     and Supercessionism     
     Jacob Prasch

4   A Calvinist Considers Israel’s Right to the Land      
     Stephen M. Vantassel

5   Israel and the Purposes of God        
     Howard Taylor

6   Jealous for Zion: Evangelicals, Zionism and the      
     Restoration of Israel
     Paul Richard Wilkinson

7   Faith and Politics in the Holy Land Today  
     Calvin L. Smith

8   Is the Gospel Relevant to the Jewish People?  
     Tony Pearce

I’m hoping the book comes out in ebook format (my preferred format) at some point…


I just read an excellent word from a pastor friend on another blog regarding the issue of “vision”:

I think we need to depart form the idea of the pastor having a vision for the whole church, and the people are worker bees there to help the pastor pursue what he feels called to do.

My objection to that is this: people live out the pastor’s vision, and may never discover what they are supposed to be doing.
I know that some folks are called to be Joshua’s, and just help the pastor do his thing.
That is their vision.

However, others can and should be doing things that I and you are never called to.

A hearty amen.

With all the focus on vision, visioneering, vision-casting, etc., it’s helpful to point out and realize that the mission of Christ’s Church has not changed in the past two thousand years:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

His vision, His mission statement, cannot be extended or improved upon.

At best, any “vision” we “cast” is nothing more than an application of Jesus’ unchanging vision to our local context – anything beyond that is only so much worthless babble.


Great article here about fathers.

Some highlights:

Rather than being in conflict, fathers and mothers balance each other's parenting styles - helping each other raise well-rounded children.

Fathers tend to emphasize rough and tumble play more than mothers do. Fathers' play is likely to be both physically stimulating and mentally exciting. This form of play helps children learn about physical self-control and what is appropriate playful behavior, and what is dangerous. Through this type of play, Fathers help children learn to control their wild emotions and have fun in the midst of competition. Fathers tend to encourage competition, challenge, initiative, risk-taking, and independence.

In conversations, fathers tend to be more direct and specific - teaching children not to 'beat around the bush'. They stress fairness and justice while mothers tend to focus more on sympathy and care. Fathers focus more on independence while mothers tend to stress community and relationships. Fathers tend to be firmer when decisions are made. Fathers are generally more apt to consider the long-term development of their children, while mothers tend to consider immediate needs.

Together, mothers and fathers show children the values and strengths of both of the genders. The social revolution of the last fifty years has greatly degraded men. Fathers help girls to appreciate and value men, and show boys their value as men.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Interesting counterpoint here to the current leftist cause célèbre of decrying evil, racist Israel by spotlighting the plight of “Palestinian” Christians.

How wonderful.  But this ecumenical coalition has not expressed very much interest in any "dwindling" Christian population anywhere else in the Middle East, where in fact nearly every Christian population is "dwindling."  The "dwindling" Palestinian Christian population merits special concern because they are, sadly, useful props for bashing Israel.  "Dwindling" Christian populations in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, however tragic their plight, serve no utility for bishops, church bureaucrats, and professional Religious Left activists anxious for one more excuse to decouple the U.S. from Israel.

The article points out something that the Religious Left willfully forgets: Israel is not and has not been the aggressor.  Israel has been simply fighting for the right to exist, to not be gleefully butchered by her enemies, since day one.  As has been stated elsewhere, “If the Muslims stopped fighting, there would be peace in the Middle East.  If Israel stopped fighting, there would be no Israel.”

The organizer for this rather disingenuous plea was Churches for Middle East Peace, which thanks mostly to Roman Catholic participation, is not as hard-line anti-Israel as many of its Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Left supporters would prefer.  But its counsel and lobbying almost always, if in usually muted language, repeat the usual refrain that the U.S. must, through "hands on," "bold action," strong-arm Israel into concessions, while the victimized Palestinians and their Arab patrons simply wait patiently to achieve their demands. Arab intransigence never seems to merit "bold action" by the U.S., just endless accommodation. "Churches for Middle East Peace" indeed.

Interesting op-ed article worth reading.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Power of Twitter

Interesting article here from the Persecuted Church weblog regarding the power of Twitter as an alternate vehicle for news sources & information, especially with the use of hashtags, particularly in reference to things like the recent election in Iran.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Congratulations, Pittsburgh

It was a postseason for the ages, a Cup Finals round for the ages, and a Game 7 for the ages.  Both teams fought hard, but the Pens wanted it more than my Wings, and when the final buzzer sounded, the Pens held on to a hard-won 2-1 lead, and Crosby hoisted the Cup.

Congratulations to the Pens, congratulations to their fans, who hung in there through a very rough season, to fight through some very intimidating teams to get to the Cup Finals, and who finally prevailed over the mighty Red Wings.  I am of course deeply disappointed that the Cup didn’t stay in Detroit, but I cannot begrudge them a very, very well-played series. Very good show, gentlemen!

What makes the Pens’ win more impressive is the adversity they had to overcome during the regular season even to get to the Finals – and then to the Cup Round.  Nobody – and I mean nobody – expected them to be a serious contender for the Cup mid-season.  But like true athletes, true warriors, they ignored their critics, focused on improving their game, and fought like wild men.  They badly wanted a rematch with my Wings, badly wanted to earn redemption from last year’s bitter disappointment of losing the Cup on home ice…and they pulled it off in spectacular form.

I have to admit – it was very cool to watch Crosby hoist the Cup.  The kid (and I do mean kid) earned it.  He never gave up.  Never.  Fleury was nothing short of spectacular.  And to watch Lemieux hoist the Cup – no longer in a team sweater, but in an owner’s business suit – was bittersweet for me.  He is one of those legends of the game, right up there with the Great One and Mister Hockey.

The fans at Detroit who were booing when the Cup was presented to the Pens – you embarrassed yourselves.  You embarrassed me.  For the first time ever I was briefly ashamed of being a Wings fan because of your boorish conduct.  That is not sportsmanship, children.  A sportsman accepts defeat as well as victory, and chooses to learn from the defeat and make a go at glory again in the shadow of it, not pout and whine like spoiled brats.  My pride was restored, however, when the fans who hadn’t slinked out of the Joe by that time cheered for Lemieux when he hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Now, to focus on the future. The Wings are still the powerhouse in the NHL.  Next season should be another 100-pointer, and I really believe we can recapture the President’s Trophy.  It will be exciting to watch the Wings go at it again in October, marching towards the Finals, to bring the Cup back home to Detroit.

Questions that it will be interesting to see answered:

  • Hossa: he came to the Wings to win the Cup. He took a massive pay cut and signed for a single season.  What will he do now?  Will he continue to take the lesser pay and remain on our roster?  And, if he does, will he actually show up and play next postseason?
  • Can Ozzie continue his stellar performance between the pipes?  I truly think so, but this regular season really put a question mark on that.  Last part of the season he got his game back…but in the wings stands Conklin, another genius netminder.  I think right now Babcock’s still very pleased with Ozzie – it was his presence of mind in net which kept the Wings in the running during those times when our defense really didn’t gel.  I expect to see the Wizard of Oz remain our primary goalie come next season.
  • Will Chelios remain?  Will he retire?  He’s the oldest player currently in the NHL, but he’s still got a lot of game.  I hope he doesn’t; but we’ll see.
  • The Griffins players who were called up to plug the gaps in our roster, especially Abdelkader and Leino, performed at an impressive level.  Will they stay with the Griffs, and ultimately move up to full-time roster slots with the Wings?  Or will they be wooed away by other teams who will doubtless be courting them now that they saw their composure on-ice during the Big Dance?  Former Griffs are currently on the Wings full-time roster: Ericksson, Helm, Hudler…

It says something that even now in the era of the salary cap, the Wings can maintain a loyal roster of stars.  Players who could get much more on other teams choose to remain with the Wings.  There’s something about playing for Hockeytown that draws them and, overall, keeps them.

Here’s to looking very much forward to next year…


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Excursus on Grace

Chuck Smith’s autobiography was made available at the recent Senior Pastors’ Conference.  I began reading it the last day of the conference (yesterday) and I’m already a little over halfway through.

About the middle of the book, as he relates the great revolution of his thinking which led ultimately to the genesis of the Calvary Chapel Movement.  One of the key things which impacted him was an Excursus on Grace in Newell’s Romans Verse by Verse.  This excursus so profoundly changed his thinking on grace, that it still echoes through his ministry to this day.

After reading it, I can see why:

Excursus Chapter Six: “A Few Words About Grace” (excerpt)

I. The Nature of Grace

1. Grace is God acting freely, according to His own nature as Love; with no promises or obligations to fulfill; and acting of course, righteously – in view of the Cross.

2. Grace, therefore, is uncaused in the recipient: its cause lies wholly in the GIVER, in GOD.

3. Grace, also is sovereign. Not having debts to pay, or fulfilled conditions on man’s part to wait for, it can act toward whom, and how, it pleases. It can, and does, often, place the worst deservers in the hightest favors.

4. Grace cannot act where there is either desert or ability: Grace does not help – it is absolute , it does all.

5. There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His Grace.

6. The discovery by the creature that he is truly the object of Divine grace, works the utmost humility: for the receiver of grace is brought to know his own absolute unworthiness, and his complete inability to attain worthiness: yet he finds himself blessed – on another principle, outside of himself!

7. Therefore, flesh ahs no place in the plan of Grace. This is the great reason why Grace is hated by the proud natural mind of man. But for this very reason, the true believer rejoices! Fro he knows that “in him, that is, in his flesh, is no good thing:” and yet he finds God glad to bless him, just as he is!

II. The Place of Man under Grace

1. He has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing!

2. He is not “on probation.”

3. As to his life past, it does not exist before God: he died at the Cross, and Christ is his life.

4. Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn: For God knew all the human exigencies beforehand: His action was independent of them, not dependent upon them.

5. The failure of devotion does not cause the withdrawal of bestowed grace (as it would under the law). For example: the man in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; and also those in 11:30-32, who did not “judge” themselves, and so were “judged by the Lord-that they might not be condemned with the world!”

III. The Proper Attitude of Man under Grace

1. To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.

2. To refuse to make “resolutions” and “vows;” for that is to trust in the flesh.

3. To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth.

4. To testify of God’s goodness, at all times.

5. To be certain of God’s future favor; yet to be ever more tender in conscience toward Him.

6. To rely on God’s chastening hand as a mark of His kindness.

7. A man under grace, if like Paul, has no burdens regarding himself; but many about others.

IV. Things Which Gracious Souls Discover

1. To “hope to be better” is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.

2. To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself.

3. To be discouraged is unbelief to God’s purpose and plan of blessing for you.

4. To be proud is to be blind! For we have no standing before God in ourselves.

5. The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion.

6. Real devotion to God arises, not from man’s will to show it; but from the discovery that blessing has been received from God while we were yet unworthy.

7. To preach devotion first, and blessing second, is to reverse God’s order and preach law, not grace. The Law made man’s blessing depend on devotion; Grace confers undeserved, unconditional blessing: our devotion may follow, but does not always do so – in proper measure.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Session 15 – Chuck Smith


·         Paul not only wrote to Timothy when he was in prison, but he wrote many of his letters from prison

o   God no doubt allowed Paul those prison experiences that we might have the benefit of the prison epistles

o   We often wonder why God allows (fill in the blank) to happen to me?

§  But as with Paul, He always has His purpose.

o   God was wanting a larger work for His church, to leave the church with guidance and comfort

§  So God allowed Paul’s discomfort, to provide a greater comfort

§  When God allows discomfort, He has a greater purpose.

·         Like Paul, we are what we are by the will of our God.

·         Make sure of your calling

o   Story of trying to be like Billy Graham.

·         First three chapters of Ephesians relates nothing but a litany of how good God is and what He has already done for and given to you in through and by Christ Jesus.

·         The importance of systematically, expositionally working straight through books of the Bible.

·         The Biblical emphasis is not what I should be doing for God, but what He has already done for me.

o   Yes, there is man’s response –but that’s exactly what it is – a response.

o   Where do I come in?  Faith.  Is that all?  Yep, that’s all…

o   We respond to the Lord.

§  So don’t beat the sheep over the head with what they should be doing for Him – point out what He has done for them, and their response will come as a natural, necessary result.

·         Be very careful of taking your frustrations out on God’s people.

o   Don’t preach to the empty seats.

·         One of the real successes of Calvary Chapel is the longevity of our pastors

o   Be faithful in well-doing, and in due season you will reap

o   Fruit doesn’t grow on the tree the day you plant the seed into the ground.

·         There must be a Biblical, expository emphasis to your ministry

Session 14 – Brian Brodersen

·         The picture of successful ministry that is most often in our minds – large church facility, overflowing with people, unlimited funds, a national radio program, a contract with a well-known publisher, and endless invitations to speak at conferences, seminars, events, etc.

o   There is also another picture – one that is considerably different, yet equally successful from Heaven’s perspective.

o   That’s the picture painted here by the Spirit

o   It’s a picture of heartbreak, lonliness, deprivation, abandonment

§  This other picture has been more consistently the one that has descried the experience of God’s servants down through the ages.

·         Demas shows us that there is terrible heartbreak in the ministry.

o   It’s a heartbreaking thing when someone whom you have poured into, abandons you.

o   Trials are a fairly consistent factor of the ministry.  Joy is, too, to be sure; but we tend to emphasize the latter and try to pretend the former isn’t so.

o   This happens; it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong

§  Sometimes it is; we make mistakes

§  But often, it’s nothing you can control – it’s part-and-parcel with serving a crucified Lord.

o   Not only Demans, but Crescens, Titus…abandoned him.

§  Perhaps Paul struggled with loneliness.

§  It was no longer the day of apparent, outward blessing; it was now a time of apparent decline and struggle

§  Paul found his comfort in the Lord and His Word (“bring the books, especially the parchments…”)

·         Alexander the coppersmith did Paul much harm

o   Guess what? You’ll get misunderstood and abused when you’re serving the Lord and His people

o   Story of the guy in Brian’s Bible study who e-mails him all the time.

o   And this is the way it is – no matter the size/apparent success of the ministry.

o   Just as Alexander greatly resisted Paul’s words, you’ll find that, too.

§  Seeking to counsel people with the Word – they resist

§  They get angry

§  They don’t like what you have (actually, the Lord’s Word has) to say

·         Can you imagine being in a position where all forsook you?

o   Oftentimes, we would think of the end of a man’s ministry as being very different than what Paul is describing here!

§  We often picture less to more, bad to better…

§  …but it’s not necessarily the case.

o   And Paul is just the first example in a long line of men who have served God through history and have suffered in the serving

§  Spurgeon’s last days were quite similar to Paul’s in many respects

§  Downgrade Controversy

·         (quotes from Spurgeon’s critics – holy cow…)

·         If we had a more balanced, Scriptural view of “success” in ministry, we wouldn’t think it a strange thing when things aren’t going very well.

·         But here’s the other – and most important – side of the matter:

o   “But the Lord stood with me.”

o   This is what we need to remember.

§  For Paul, from the beginning, it was always about the Lord.

§  If the ministry isn’t ultimately and finally and completely about the Lord, you will not survive it.

§  You’ll become disillusioned and embittered.

o   If we do ministry for any other reason than for the love of Christ, we will not make it.

o   But, if everything I do is for love of Him, then it all becomes a journey of faith, ending in glory.

·         We who are about the business of the Lord are more vulnerable and more susceptible to lose sight of the Lord – bizarre as that is.

o   And the Lord has to bring us back and remind us that this is all about Him, and about our fellowship and relationship with Him.

o   When you get that perspective – everything is okay.

·         Paul was conscious, especially in the hour of his greatest need and trial, that the Lord stood with him and strengthened him.

o   Paul knew that even in the midst of all that he was enduring, the Lord stood with him.

·         Paul also knew that the Lord would ultimately deliver him.

o   He says this while he’s in a dungeon, heading to the executioner’s block.

o   For Paul, deliverance was Heaven.

§  He did not have a “triumphalist” faith.

·         Paul also rested in the fact that the Lord would preserve him for the Heavenly Kingdom.

o   Paul believed in the sovereignty of God – he considered himself to be a prisoner of Christ, even though the effective earthly instrument of his imprisonment was Caesar.

o   Be encouraged – God will preserve us!

o   The Lord works in the midst of adversity.

·         Men measure success in numbers, popularity, accolades…

o   God measures success by an entirely different standard – and that’s what we need to remember.

o   Paul was an unqualified success

o   He finished the race – he kept the faith.

o   Spurgeon was an absolute success.

o   Because success isn’t determined by what men think, but by the standard that God sets.

o   What is that standard?  Being faithful.

§  “It is required in a steward that one be found faithful.”

o   Be faithful:

§  To your Lord

§  To your wife

§  To your kids

§  To the sheep you get to shepherd

·         Let us be faithful men, whether the ministry leads us to happiness or heartache.

o   For great is our reward.