Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cannabilistic Science

Christians tend to get all discombobulated and vexed when the science du jour asserts something contrary to the Bible. But instead of sounding the alarm, rallying the troops and storming the bastions of unbelieving science, believers would be much better served by simply exercising patience. For, as Spurgeon notes below, the greatest enemy of faulty science,

"See how often science has altered its very basis. Science is notorious for being most scientific in destruction of all the science that has gone before it. I have sometimes indulged myself in reading ancient natural history and nothing can be more comic. In twenty year's time some of us may probably find great amusement in the serious scientific teaching of the present hour, even as we do now in the systems of the last century. It may happen that in a little time the doctrine of evolution will be the standing jest of schoolboys." (C. H. Spurgeon)

Some people allege that the Church's unwillingness to accept the heliocentric (sun-in-the-middle) cosmology proposed by Copernicus early in the 16th century as evidence of the Church's need to accept the "science of the day." But in fact, the Church had a difficult time embracing Copernicus' new (and correct) way of viewing our solar system simply because it had already embraced the "science of the day" that posited a geocentric (earth-in-the-middle) solar system centuries before (oops!)

Because scientific history is replete with theories that have been proved either false or inadequate, Doug Jones has suggested that we, in proper humility, wait for at least 2000 years before we call anything a "law" of science. This is, of course, frustrating for moderns who are addicted to fast food, microwave ovens and TV shows that resolve complex situations in under an hour. But given man's God-given curiosity and amazing ability to uncover what God has covered (Proverbs 25:2) 2000 years might not be long enough.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fear Not

"'Fear not' is one of Jesus' most frequently repeated phrases. This is because the enemy of our faith is not doubt but fear. Our level of fear is the indication of how little of God's perfect love we have received. No one gets caught up in God's drama for their lives without having to take huge risks. Those who believe they are the beloved move from one risk to the next, not because they expect to always succeed, but because they don't care if they fail. How bad can failure be? They can't lose the love of God.

Since the subtext of being the beloved of God lies beneath so many presenting issues, minor poets can never run out of love sonnets. We have to keep finding new ways of saying the same thing: 'You are the beloved of God.' But it is important that we not become sentimental about this love. The Scripture makes it clear that God chastens and disciplines those who are loved (Rev. 3:19). This is no ordinary lover we have; this one will be impossible to manipulate. It is God who molds us, and sometimes that hurts. Love isn't always easy on us, but it is always our salvation." (M. Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet)

Law and Gospel

Some modern theologians, following Martin Luther, contend that the Law of God always/only accuses and condemns, and that the Gospel always/only encourages and saves. But a careful reading of the Bible indicates that this hermeneutic (way of interpreting Scripture) is too simplistic. In Psalm 19, "the law is perfect converting the soul." And in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, the aroma of Christ (the Gospel) is life to some and death to others.

Instead of "law versus Gospel," perhaps a better, more Biblical dichotomy is "belief versus unbelief." To the believer all of God's Word (law and Gospel) is blessing. He rejoices to hear the news of God's free grace in Christ Jesus, and regarding the law, he exults with the psalmist, "O, how I love your law, it is my meditation day and night!" In stark contrast, the unbeliever hates with equal vigor both the law that exposes his sin, and the Gospel devoid of his merit.

Martin Luther's "law/gospel" distinction was certainly helpful as he battled the works orientation of the 16th century Roman Catholic Church, but unhelpful as a permanent hermeneutic. Martin Bucer, the Reformer of Strasbourg, took Luther's teachings and refined them, retaining both the death-dealing and life-giving properties of God's law. Viz:

"Bucer absorbed everything Luther said on human sinfulness, on human failure to fulfill God's law, and on the impossibility of becoming justified through works. He agreed entirely with Luther that Christians must place their trust solely in Christ, not in their own deeds and accomplishments. But Bucer was driving at a much broader understanding of God's law. God certainly accuses us and convicts us of our sins, but we have to go beyond this understanding of God's law, which remains external and foreign to us human beings. Christians, however, relate to God's law in a new way: they consent to it in their hearts and are moved by the Holy Spirit to live and behave according to it. Borrowing from Aristotle, Bucer described the way the law works in Christians as Entelechia, as an 'active and effective energy.'" (Martin Greschat, Martin Bucer - A Reformer and His Times)

Monday, October 26, 2009


"When writing about church history, we have to go back to the very beginning. Our pastor was born in 1930." (Sally Brown in the Peanuts comic strip)

"Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." (Jaroslav Pelikan)

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who happend to walking about." (G. K. Chesterton)

Mosaic Taskmasters

"Surprisingly, Jesus begins his litany of woe (Matthew 23) by commending the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. They sit in the seat of Moses, and Jesus' disciples are to 'do and observe' what they say.

They may sit in the seat of Moses' seat, but they are not Mosaic in their conduct. Moses came to break the yoke of oppression and free slaves, but the scribes and Pharisees 'tie up heavy loads and lay them on men's shoulders' and refuse to lift a finger to help. Despite their teaching, they are more Pharaoh than Moses.

These are sobering words for pastors. We, too, 'sit in the seat of Moses,' but are capable of turning the gospel of freedom into an instrument of oppression. We must be aware the hypocrisy of announcing 'Let my people go' with our lips while saying 'bricks without straw' with our lives." (Peter Leithart in Touchstone )

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Greater Love Hath No Man...

When we hear Jesus extol the virtue of "laying down our lives for one another" most of us begin to fantasize about how noble we would look saving a dear one by pushing them out the path of an oncoming bus and perishing in the process. Allow me to butcher an old comedian's observation: "Dying is easy, moving your friend is hard." And that's why I am always so amazed at the turnout when one our our families needs some help to move their belongings. And even more amazed by the cheerfulness of the service rendered!

Thanks Halls, Thodys, Johnsons, Blacks, Lolos, Madsons, Eiferts, Wiley, Tracy, Knight and Lindman! Well done thou good and faithful servants.

Here are a few more pics.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Human Life is Finite

"There can be 999 trees in our garden to which we can freely go an enjoy their fruit, but where do we pitch our tent? Under the one tree we cannot have. We begin to obsess over this thing that we do not have, and we let the rest of the garden go to weeds. How can we get the one thing that is missing? It's right there. So judging the garden that God gave us and called "good" to to be not good enough, we reach for more than we were created to have."

"From the beginning we were created to be receivers, not achievers. Nothing is more countercultural to contemporary Americans."

"Freedom is found not in escaping limits, but of discovering the goodness of life within them. Our culture tells us just the opposite. It claims that we won't be free until we buy the more expensive car or house, make the next move, or get the next promotion. But none of those achievements are capable of making us free. Typically, they only enslave us."

- M. Craig Barnes in The Pastor as Minor Poet

We Are Made in the Image of God

"Pastors never trust the self-image of anyone. That's because most people construct their identities from an assortment of borrowed images. The typical American today strives to be as attractive as the models on fashion magazine covers, as successful in work as Bill Gates, as sensitive a spouse and parent as June Cleaver, and as death-defyingly healthy as Lance Armstrong - all while maintaining the inner peace of the Dalai Lama. The fact that these images are often in conflict with each other creates tension within the heart of the individual, who tries desperately to meet all their demands."

"The restoration of Christ, often referred to as conversion, does not make us into different people but converts us back to what God designed us to be from the very beginning - specifically, creatures who bear the mark of holiness. This is a progressive process through which we are changes "from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18). But our movement through this sanctification occurs not through our own efforts at developing piety. It is only as the Holy Spirit binds us into the life of Christ that we are able to take on this holiness. Thus, our spirituality is always vicarious, since it is through this union in Christ that we are made holy. He is the image of God that we bear on our lives."

"Rather than using the few reflective listening skills we learned in our Introduction to Pastoral Care seminary classes, whichi is only another way of holding up the judgemental mirror, we pastors need to hold up Jesus Christ. "See him?" we say. "That's who you really are. Everything else about you is just pretending."

- M. Craig Barnes in The Pastor as Minor Poet

Adept With Our Thumbs

"We don't fight horizontal battles without reference to the spiritual battle. Obviously. But if we fight "spiritual" battles only, then we are to real spiritual war what video gamers are to actual combat. Adept with our thumbs." - Douglas Wilson

Monday, October 19, 2009

"We have no king but Caesar!"

To reject Christ as king, is to embrace the state as king. There is no third option. The state is very happy to play the role of savior, but in times of relative peace and prosperity needs to fabricate crises from which to "save" its citizenry. Therefore "watch and pray."

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Pastor as Minor Poet (part 1)

"There is no shortage of formulas for creating a successfully constructed pastorate being peddled in the professional religious market today. All of these formulas are based on the assumption that pastors need to meet the expectations of those who are already in the church and especially of those who are not there yet...But when we [pastors] begin with our identity in Christ and the pastoral call to assist others in becoming fully alive in him, we are freed from the drudgery of being managers and service providers to pursue something more creative - being poets of the soul...I present this not as the normative or even preferred image, but simply as another biblical description of the calling of those who have been blessed with a vision that allows them to explore, and express, the truth behind the reality. Poets see the despair and heartache as well as the beauty and miracle that lie just beneath the thin veneer of the ordinary, and they describe this in ways that are recognized not only in the mind, but more profoundly in the soul...What the congregation needs is not another strategist to help them form another plan for achieving a desired image of life, but a poet who looks beneath even the desperation to recover the mystery of what it means to be made in God's image."

"Poets are devoted more to truth than to reality; they are not unaware of reality, but they never accept it at face value. The value of reality is only found by peeling back its appearance to discover the underlying truth. This is why poets care about the text, what is said or done, but only in order to reveal subtext, which reveals what it means. They value the reality they see primarily as a portal that invites them into a more mysterious en¬counter with truth. This is what distinguishes poets from those whose contributions to society are focused simply on following a particular text. Engineers, for example, follow their textbooks in constructing a bridge that leads across the deep ravines. And one hopes that they have been very, very devoted to those texts. By contrast, a poet who crosses the engineer's bridge will go home and spend all day constructing verse that reveals the longing of the soul to find such an overpass when we stand on the banks of a disaster and peer down into the valley of death."

"A good poet is hard to find, and nothing is more tragic than wasting one in a busy office."

- M. Craig Barnes


As my old pastor used to say, "Who has more fun than people?" (HT: Doug Milner)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Maintaining the Unity of the Saints

In his book, Vintage Church (co-written with past Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, WA) Gerry Breshears distinguishes between four different “levels of certainty” regarding doctrinal truths, and maintains that discerning what’s essential and what’s merely controversial is foundational for maintaining Christian unity within a local church. Here are the four “levels of certainty.”

Truths that we would be ready to die for: These are truths, which if denied, would put a person out of the realm of core Christian orthodoxy, and quite possibly indicate the absence of saving faith. An example of this would be the doctrine of the Incarnation (the teaching that Jesus is God and uniquely came to earth in the flesh.) For other examples, think of the sorts of truths asserted in the Apostles’ and Nicean Creeds.

Truths that would be ready to divide for: These are truths which are not essential to salvation nor core tennents of Christian orthodoxy, but would probably be necessary for warm fellowship and meaningful partnership in a local church. Examples would include church polity (who rules and how they rule), the meaning and practice of the Sacraments (who are the proper recipients and how are the elements to be administered.) As Breshears notes, “Such differences are legitimate as long as the unity of the body of Jesus Christ is affirmed and dividing points are truly central issues.”

Truths we would debate for: These are the sorts of truths that are debated intensely, emotionally and sometimes even hotly between members of a church that are growing in Christ, loving one another and ministering together. Examples would include worship music, liturgy, pulpit fare, modes of Christian education and budgetary issues. These debates are conducted in the context of true Christian community and actually serve to unite the brethren. As Breshears notes, “The wrestling may be prolonged or painful, but we do it while maintaining regular fellowship, joining together in worship and proclamation.”

Truths we decide for: These are the sorts of truths that simply reflect or express little more than personal tastes or opinions. Examples would include diet, recreation, music, clothing, entertainment, etc.

Breshears concludes with this helpful comment: “Divisive people are ones who elevate lower-level issues to divide-fors. False teachers treat die-for issues as questions open for humble discussion. As we utilize these levels as a community of believers, we can avoid the trap of being unnecessarily divisive on the one hand and compromising the faith on the other.”

Translating Joe Cocker (finally!)

Although it took a team of translators working around the clock for nearly four decades, they were finally able to translate Joe Cocker's With a Little Help From My Friends performed in 1969 at the famous Woodstock concert. FYI: Zondervan is already seeking permission to do a "gender neutral" version of the same. Enjoy.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Wedge Mountain Wowie

On a whim I decided to hike up Wedge Mountain today. Wow. Beautiful, crisp Fall day in Central Washington. It doesn't get any better than this. The views of Snow Lake and a mountain called "The Temple" were spectacular. You can view the pictures here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Famous Last Words

As the author of Hebrews noted, “It is appointed for every man to die once, and then the judgment.” Here are some "last words" from some men who knew they were about to face that judgment. May God grant us grace to make our appearance before His throne with appropriate humility and faith.

William Pitt (18th century British Prime Minister and friend of William Wilberforce): “I have, like other men, neglected too much to have any ground of hope that can be efficacious on a deathbed, but I throw myself on the mercy of God through the merits of Christ.”

John Randolf (18th century American statesmen and orator): “Remorse, remorse, remorse! Let me see the word. Show me it in a dictionary. Write it then. Ah! Remorse – you don’t know what it means. I cast myself on the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy.”

John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress): “Weep not for me, but for yourselves. I go to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ; Who will, no doubt, through the mediation of His blessed Son, receive me, though a sinner…”

Richard Baxter (17th century pastor, theologian and prolific writer): “I am the vilest dunghill worm that ever went to heaven. Lord! What is man; what am I; vile worm to the great God?” When assured by a friend that he had been very blessed by his writings, Baxter replied: “I was but a pen in God’s hands, and what praise is due to a pen?”

Thomas Paine (patriot, acknowledged atheist and author of Common Sense and The Age of Reason): “I would give worlds, if I had them, that Age of Reason had not been published. O Lord help me! Christ help me! O God what have I done to suffer so much? But there is no God! But if there should be, what will become of me hereafter? Stay with me, for God’s sake! Send even a child to stay with me, for it is hell to be alone. If ever the devil had an agent, I have been that one.”

William Pope (18th century leader of a band of infidels who would often mock God by kicking around and then tearing up Bibles): “I have no contrition. I cannot repent. God will damn me. I know the grace is past…You see one who is damned forever…Oh, Eternity, Eternity!....Nothing for me but hell. Come, eternal torments…I hate everything God has made, only I have no hatred for the devil – I wish to be with him. I long to be in hell. Do you not see? Do you not see him? He is coming for me.”

Saturday, October 03, 2009

What Kind of EccesiAnimal Are You?

Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." And this being true, it is often helpful to have some direction or criteria as we do so.

According to Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, “People who come to church need to be assessed so that the church leaders can identify who they are and what they need.” So the question is, “What kind of ecclesi-animal are you?”

Horses are vibrant leaders who pull a lot of weight and run fast. Horses need to have character, sound doctrine and agree with the vision of the church.

Colts are emerging leaders who need training, testing and opportunities to lead. If properly broken in, a colt can be developed into a horse.

Fish are non-Christians who are spiritually lost and often not actively looking for God. Fish need a Christian friend to lovingly introduce them to Jesus and his church.

Eagles are skilled leaders who are being developed within the church with the express kingdom purpose of leaving the proverbial nest and leading a ministry elsewhere, such as missions work and church planting.

Mules are faithful workers who dependably and continually do whatever is asked of them in the church. Mules need to be thanked and protected from burnout.

Cows are selfish people who wander from church to church, chewing up resources without ever giving back to the church until they kill it. A fence needs to be built around the church to keep the cows out.

Squirrels are people who are generally liked because they are nice, but they rarely do anything meaningful. Squirrels need to be put to work in the church.

Stray Cats are socially peculiar loners who linger around the church. Stray Cats need a friend to bring them into the church and an opportunity to serve other people so that they can be meaningfully connected to the church.

Rats are people who appear to have the potential to have a fruitful ministry, but they lack dependability, humility, or maturity. Rats need to be rebuked, and if they do not repent, they must be strategically ignored until they commit to no longer being a waste of time and effort.

Sheep are people who have legitimate needs that require patient and loving support. Examples of sheep include widows, orphans, and those who are seriously ill or fighting addictions. Sheep need to be loved and served.

Ducks are disgruntled people who continually quack about whatever they are unhappy about. Ducks need to stop quacking, or the pastor(s) must go duck hunting before the ducks drown out everyone and everything in the church.

Wolves are false teachers whom Satan sends into the church to devour Jesus’ sheep. Wolves need to be quickly identified, rebuked, and if they are unrepentant, they must be shot before their false teaching destroys people in the church.

Snakes are evil people sent by the Serpent on a mission to destroy the church through anything from sexual sin to starting rumors. Leaders must stomp on the heads of snakes before they bite people and infect them with deadly venom.