Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jesus is not your Girlfriend

Jonathan Dodson at Resurgence offers a great post about why many songs about God's love miss the mark.

So many of the songs about God’s love currently being written and sung are cheap. They are mushy with no substance. Like milk-bloated cereal, they drip with emotion but fall flat on substance. Such cheap love songs act like God is our cosmic girlfriend.

God is not a girlfriend; God is God.

Cheap love songs typically talk about how great God’s love is for us. They fail to consider how God’s great love becomes great for us. Biblically, we know no great Godly love apart from an angry God. If God was not angry, he would be a bad lover. If he didn’t grow wrathful over idolatry, murder, lying, jealousy, gossip, and sleeping around, then his love would be cheap.

But God stands up for himself, for his infinite glory and beauty, and says, “I will not be abused. Those who treat me poorly must suffer the consequences of failing to honor the God who is infinitely honorable.” And so he pours out his righteous wrath and anger by putting to death his enemies or by putting to death his own Son.

Because God is angry and just, his love is deeper than we will ever fully comprehend.

In order to understand God’s love, we must understand his anger. God’s anger inevitably leads us to the cross, where justice and mercy meet in perfect, soul-wrenching, Christ-crushing, sin-forgiving, life-giving, love-flowing harmony. For those that hope in Jesus, the anger of God against our unrighteousness is mercifully diverted from us onto His beloved Son. As a result, God preserves and promotes his justice and humanity’s joy where anger and love converge—at the cross.

The purpose of God’s anger is to display the depth and character of his eternal justice and his love for us. When we understand that God’s love is God’s because of his justice and anger, only then can we begin to comprehend how great a love he has for us.

So how do we write worship songs that speak of God’s great love, not cheap love? Three suggestions:

  1. Contrast God’s great love with his great wrath. The more we see God’s just wrath, the more we see how great his love is to save us (“a wretch like me”).
  2. Show how God’s love is ours in the death of his Son. Text after biblical text ties God’s unfailing love to the sacrifice of his Son.
  3. Articulate the greatness of God’s love alongside the magnitude of his glory. Reveal that God’s love is just one aspect of God’s many-splendored glory.

  • Friday, December 12, 2008

    Quick Update

    I know I haven't posted much this week. I'm currently in full swing of training for my role as Graduate Program Assistantship at HoneyRock camp. The program starts students in the Wheaton grad program while working at HoneyRock for 9 months. This winter I will be leading broomball and hosting church groups that use Honeyrock's facilities for winter retreats. Today I'm traveling down to the Wheaton campus, and will be there this weekend for "Roundup." Hopefully by Sunday I can get a new post up.

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Bush Shares His True Religious Views

    President George Bush, since he no longer has to worry about those troublesome voters, has no qualms about showing his true colors concerning religion. Below are some quotes from an article from an interview with ABC. The article either makes me feel that Bush is not a Christian, but a dirty politician who used Christianity to get elected, or a man who has a very poor understanding of what Christianity is.

    When asked if the Bible can be taken literal.
    "You know. Probably not. ... No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is 'God sent a son,"' Bush said.

    "It is hard for me to justify or prove the mystery of the Almighty in my life," he said. "All I can just tell you is that I got back into religion and I quit drinking shortly thereafter and I asked for help. ... I was a one-step program guy."
    So he doesn't take the Bible literally, not a big deal right. I've already covered how not all the Bible is to be taken literally. But, surely he understands what Jesus meant when He said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

    When asked if he thinks that he prays to the same God as those with different beliefs, Bush said, "I do."

    "I do believe there is an Almighty that is broad and big enough and loving enough that can encompass a lot of people," Bush said, but he drew a distinction when it comes to those who perpetrate terror."

    "I think anyone who murders to achieve their religious objective is not a religious person," he said. "They may think they're religious, and they play like they're religious, but I don't think they're religious. They are not praying to the God I pray to ... the god of peace and love."

    On the War In Iraq
    "You can't look at the decision to go into Iraq apart from, you know, what happened on Sept. 11. It was not a religious decision," he said. "I don't view this as a war of religion. I view this as a war of good, decent people of all faiths against people who murder innocent people to achieve a political objective."

    Am I the only one flabbergasted that in the same breath one man can say ""I think anyone who murders to achieve their religious objective is not a religious person," and then say that He is a religious person? So he says that the Iraq war was not a religious decision. Is that what lets him sleep at night, thinking that his decision was based on false information and a personal vendetta to fix his daddies mistake rather than religion? The fact that he is still defending this war shows how completely out of touch he is with the American people.

    More commentary on this subject available here:
    Contend Earnestly: "Jesus" Isn't Enough

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    Theology According To Newsweek

    If you haven't already heard Newsweek has decided to let America know what the Bible Really has to say about marriage. I mean they are professional journalists so they should know more about Biblical interpretation and application than seminary trained pastors right. Those who are in support of gay marriage are in shock that the same people who showed up in great numbers to vote for Barack Obama could have voted for heterosexual marriage only. You see the problem with getting all those black and latino voters to the polls was they are religious people. So Newsweek feels it is their responsibility to correct these ignorant religious people on what the Bible really has to say about homosexuality and marriage. So what do they have to say?
    Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
    Had Lisa Miller, the writer of the article, any real understanding of scripture (or any plan to actually explain it) she would have known the stories of Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon's love lives were there to explain how they were sinners who missed the mark; they are not an instruction manual for marriage. Miller also says "Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family." So lets look at Jesus' words on marriage found in the Gospel of Matthew.
    And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
    Seems hardly indifferent to me, but what do I know. Perhaps she confused Jesus stance with Paul's "lukewarm endorsement" of marriage. Paul says
    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
    Wait, I thought Paul only wanted marriage as a last resort for hornballs who couldn't keep it in their pants. Why then would he associate these people with the relationship between Christ and the Church? Does that mean Paul thinks Christ is like those lesser married people? Or is it perhaps Miller missed, or purposefully excluded, the true feelings of the Biblical authors toward marriage. I suggest if Miller really wants to be religious journalist then she actually get a basic understanding of what she chooses to write about.Perhaps she could start with some lessons in Greek or a Church history class.

    Get Religion covered this article much more extensively.

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    The Importance of Expositional Preaching

    Three months ago I started working at HoneyRock camp in the Northwoods of WI. Working at a Para-church organization is a change for me since I have worked in some capacity in a local church ministry for the last four years. While I love the ministry opportunities, one change I'm having difficulty with is finding a local church. Our search has taken us to many churches in a two hour radius and we still feel very disappointed in what we have found. This has lead to discussion between my wife and I about what in a church can we sacrifice to find a suitable match. We have talked about the importance of expositional preaching, Biblical theology, Biblical worship, evangelism strategy, ministry, and other aspects of the local church. So this week I returned to Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. After reviewing the nine marks I think these are the core of what we are looking for in a local church body. Today I would like to focus on the importance of expositional preaching.

    Expositional Preaching
    For those who have never had a pastor who preaches expositionally it may be difficult to understand the importance of a preaching style. I mean after all its enough if the word is being preached, right? So perhaps we should start with the definition of expositional preaching. Expositional preaching is preaching whose object is to expound what is said in a particular passage of scripture, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. Unlike topical or Biographical preaching, expositional preaching offers an explanation and application of a particular portion of God's word.

    Expositional preaching starts with a belief in the authority of scripture. Expositional preaching is not so much a style of preaching, but rather a commitment to focus on the very word of God. Many preachers will gladly state that they believe in the authority of scripture, and have a commitment to the words of God, but without preaching expositionally the pastor will never preach more than he already knows. A pastor preaching topically can use passages to support the point of his sermon, and yet never explain the point of the passage. Preaching expositionally means preaching it in context, trying to distinguish the original author's intent. A pastor who does not show this discernment may be trying to insert his own agenda into the sermon, rather than the message of God alone.

    Expositional preaching has a long history in the church, and has often been the spring from which new growth has come. Martin Luther's attention to the words of God found in scripture gave birth to the reformation. The scripture being preached is central to worship. When I've found myself in a church service that did not preach the word of God, as I have twice in the last month, I become infuriated at the neglect of forgetting the very word of God when we meet. Preaching is the fundamental component of pastoring, not counseling or worship. The preaching of the word of God will result in worship, we do not need music for that purpose. I encourage all pastors who do not preach expositionally to do so, and encourage all congregants to pray for their pastor to have a healthy view on the authority of scripture.

    Saturday, December 6, 2008

    Two Views on the Theology of Santa Claus

    Why to Believe In Santa Claus

    Reformed pastor W.H. Chellis offers an explanation of why he believes in Santa Claus, and how it helps the Christian faith. Basicially Chellis has four main points which are listed below, you can view the whole article here.

    1. I believe in Santa Claus because I affirm the deep truths of Faerie.
    2. I believe in Santa Claus because I affirm the mystical body of Christ.
    3. I believe in Santa Claus because of what he teaches about God.
    4. I believe in Santa Claus because the death of magic is the beginning of unbelief.

    Santa Christ?

    Sinclair Ferguson offers another idea on the theological implications of Santa Claus and how those get passed along to our view of Jesus Christ. Ferguson's main point seems not to abolish Santa Claus, but for the Christian to not confuse Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. The whole article can be viewed here.

    we may denigrate our Lord with a Santa Claus Christology. How sadly common it is for the church to manufacture a Jesus who is a mirror refection of Santa Claus. He becomes Santa Christ.

    Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been "good enough." So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners.

    Or Santa Christ may be a Semi-Pelagian Jesus -- a slightly more sophisticated Jesus who, Santa-like, gives gifts to those who have already done the best they could! Thus, Jesus' hand, like Santa's sack, opens only when we can give an upper-percentile answer to the none-too-weighty probe, "Have you done your best this year?" The only difference from medieval theology here is that we do not use its Latin phraseology: facere quod in se est (to do what one is capable of doing on one's own, or, in common parlance, "Heaven helps those who help themselves").

    Then again, Santa Christ may be a mystical Jesus, who, like Santa Claus, is important because of the good experiences we have when we think about him, irrespective of his historical reality. It doesn't really matter whether the story is true or not; the important thing is the spirit of Santa Christ. For that matter, while it would spoil things to tell the children this, everyone can make up his or her own Santa Christ. As long as we have the right spirit of Santa Christ, all is well.

    But Jesus is not to be identified with Santa Claus; worldly thinking -- however much it employs Jesus-language--is not to be confused with biblical truth.

    Friday, December 5, 2008

    Why I Wished I Lived In Seattle

    I wish I could go to this. Its D.A. Carson speaking at Mars Hill, Seattle. How great to sit and listen to such a great theologian. Man I wish I lived in Seattle. Those of you in going, have a great day tomorrow.

    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Church Sign Theology Thursday

    How do you even begin to deal with the ignorance of this sign? Seriously, talk about a verse taken out of context. Exodus 20 is the ten commandments, with verse three being "You shall have no other gods before me" Obviously another problem is the fact that Obama is not even a Muslim. Sure they could argue, on the authenticity of his faith, but to argue that he is a Muslim just shows ignorance. The biggest problem is the blatant disregard for the scripture used. Ex. 20:3 is not telling a secular nation that if they democratically elect a Muslim, then they have sinned against the Lord. No, rather the text is delivered to the people of Israel as they are in the desert. The ten commandments are instructions for the individual Jew's life on how to honor YHWH. They most definitely were not instructions on how to run a secular nation.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    Advent Calenders by Graphic Designers

    Here are a few Advent calenders designed by graphic artists I've found. None are from a Christian perspective, but have 25 days of great graphic designs.

    The first is by Rod Barrett

    The next is from 383 project.

    The last calender is not an online calender, but rather a picture of a real calender. I find this one to be a great design: clean lines, different but complimentary fonts, and a nice warm color scheme. Original found here.

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Hows Your Advent Going?

    Kim Riddlebarger offers an interesting take on Advent calenders. You can find more here

    Don't forget to wash it all down with a Ten Commandments stein from Cafepress.

    Saturday, November 29, 2008

    6 Literal Day Creation

    picked this up from the blog of Glenn Hendrickson

    Like Glenn, I'm not trying to make too much of a statement, but it is a healthy way to step back and look at the situation. Because really when God was creating the universe, what was a "day"?

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Man Arrested For Stealing Communion Wafers

    What have we become? This news article retells the story of a man who was arrested for stealing comminion wafers because he was hungry.

    JENSEN BEACH, Fla. – Police in said they arrested a Connecticut man after he
    tried to steal communion wafers during a church service. The Martin County
    Sheriff's Office said 33-year-old John Samuel Ricci, of Canton, was cornered by
    fellow churchgoers when he grabbed a handful of wafers from the priest during
    communion services Saturday.
    The Stuart News reported that Ricci was being
    held down by six or seven offended parishioners when deputies arrived at St.
    Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Jensen Beach. Police say two parishioners,
    ages 82 and 61, received minor injuries in the scuffle.
    Ricci was charged
    with two counts of simple battery, theft and disruption of a religious assembly.
    He was being held Tuesday on $2,000 bond at the Martin County Jail.

    I understand the man did not go about getting some food in the proper manner, but is holding down a hungry man, and jailing him on battery, theft and disruption of a religious assembly the best way to share the love of Christ with him? Seriously, what example in scripture could they have used to justify their actions? While Jesus was holding a religious service some men cut a hole in the roof of the building, and dropped a man down the whole, disrupting the service. What was Jesus reaction?
    And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are

    He didn't get angry and start yelling at them for ruining the building. He didn't get mad they they had interrupted his sermon. No, the first thing out of his mouth is "Son your sins are forgiven." Jesus not only doesn't get upset, but he forgives the man of his sins. He then heals the man and sends him on his way. Why then do we think we can live our life so differently than that of Christ, and continue to say we are following his example. What would Christ's response been, had he been present at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church when this happened? I imagine he would have met the mans physical needs with the wafers, told him of bread in which he would never go hungry again, and forgiven the man of his sins. I only hope that these congregants will read the gospels and be convicted of their behavior.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    The Importance of Serving Your Wife

    Todays blog is from the Desiring God Blog, It was written by David Mathis

    The apostle Peter writes,

    Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

    This is strange at first glance. How does caring for your wife connect to having unhindered prayers?

    Here’s Wayne Grudem’s challenging commentary:

    So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives, that he “interrupts” his relationship with them when they are not doing so. No Christian husband should presume to think that any spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective ministry of prayer. And no husband may expect an effective prayer life unless he lives with his wife “in an understanding way, bestowing honour” on her. To take the time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight.” (1 Peter, 146)

    Christian husbands shouldn’t feel that time given to their wives is “time away from the real ministry.” Time invested with our wives is time well spent. It’s God’s will—“a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight.”

    So I encourage all who read this blog to spend some extra time with your wife. I know exactly what he means by saying that husbands may "feel that time given to their wives is 'time away from the real ministry.'” Soon after getting married, I started a new ministry and occasionally felt like this. When I became overwhelmed and realized I wasn't accomplishing much actual ministry without her by my side I realized how important this issue was. Remember that your family is your FIRST ministry, that why not having a good family life excludes one from eldership.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Church Sign Theology Thursday #4

    I guess the theology you could pick up from this particular church sign all depends on if you listen to popular radio. If you had never heard of Katy Perry's song you may think kissing a girl will send you to Hell. The sign is obviously making reference to one of 2008 biggest pop songs "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It." by Katy Perry.

    The interesting thing is that Katy claims to be a Christian. She actually got her start in her music career as a Christian musician. Both Perry's parents, Keith and Mary Hudson, work as ministers. Keith is a self proclaimed "prophet/evangelist" and "End Times Messenger." Katy's own mother stated "I can't even listen to that song. The first time I heard it I was in total shock. It promotes homosexuality and its message is shameful and disgusting. When it comes on the radio I bow my head and pray."

    What does Katy have to say? From Blender
    A total unknown working with the biggest names, Perry must have talent to burn. “No, I’ve just got really big boobs,” she says. “And my sweater gets tighter every week…”

    This post isn't about the problems of the pastor who posted the sign, or even of a young girl who seems to have issues with identity and sexual experimentation, but rather on the problems associated with CCM. I honestly think there is an utter breakdown in the Christian music industry. Its like I discussed before, you just can't use Christian as adjective. The hypocrisy and theological error in the Christian music world was so apparent to me as I ran a music venue that regularly had "Christian" artists. Many are young and inexperienced, and they are out on the road with no spiritual leadership. Others get into labeling themselves as a Christian band, just to get easy gigs at Churches and Christian music festivals. Even those that seem very grounded need help. Those kind are often very zealous and harsh in their speaking to non-Christians. I actually had the hardest time with this group. This was the reason we had a no preaching rule, because you had no idea what kind of crazy things these kids would start saying.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Cast The Vision

    So you have a sneaking suspicion that you can see better than your Armenian friends. You may be on to something, you should at least be able to see better than your nonreligious friends. For some reason I don't think this is what my Christian Leadership professor was talking about when He said "Cast the vision." The following is from courtesy of the Riddleblog.

    It might be clichéd to say that religious people see the world differently, but new research finds that Dutch Calvinists notice embedded visual patterns quicker than their atheist compatriots.

    Culture has long been known to distort visual perception, says Bernhard Hommel, a psychologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who led the new study.

    For example, one previous experiment found that Asians tend to dart their eyes around a photograph, while North Americans fix on specific people.

    To see if religious differences might skew perception, Hommel's team tested 40 Dutch atheist and Calvinist university students, who, religion aside, had similar cultural backgrounds.

    Looking inwards

    On a computer screen, Hommel's team showed participants a large triangle or square made of either smaller triangles or squares. The volunteers had to focus on either the big object or its component shapes, and indicate whether they were square or triangular.

    Both groups recognised the large shapes more quickly than small, embedded ones, but the Calvinists picked out the smaller shapes 30 milliseconds faster than atheists, on average - a small, but significant, difference.

    This could reflect a greater focus on self than external distractions for Calvinists, says Hommel.

    He suggests it may even be a cognitive consequence of their religion and speculates that Calvinists might be more inward looking than atheists because they have lived their whole lives with an emphasis on minding their own business.

    In the future, Hommel plans to give the same test to Catholics, as well as Muslims and Jews, but he must first figure out how to eliminate other cultural differences that could mask any insights. "It doesn't make any sense to compare Iranian Muslims with Dutch atheists," he says.

    "This is a thought-provoking study," says Ara Norenzayan, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. "Their finding is consistent with the literature on cross-cultural cognition - that cultural traditions involving independent view of the self, such as Calvinism, encourage a more feature-based processing style."

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    A Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis


    A great illustration for anyone wondering "What happed to our economy, and why are we paying for it?"

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    The Question of Biblical Inerrancy

    One of the biggest mistakes I see evangelicals make concerning the Bible is over the issue of inerrancy. Most who make this mistake seem to have no real understanding of what inerrancy means, and the error falls on both sides of the fence. Christian Liberals often make the mistake of assuming the Bible is inerrant on issues like historical facts and other details. Christian Conservatives often make the mistake of assuming every letter of the current English translation they have is the inerrant word or God.

    Problems associated with the Conservative Christian's stance.
    Most of the conservatives problem centers around a misunderstanding of what inerrancy means. One of the most common misunderstandings is which scripture is inerrant. The conservative will usually interject "All scripture is God-breathed, and free from error!" But what is he really implying. Does he really think that his NIV translation is free from error. If it is, then why is it different from other translations? This is where the only-KJV argument comes in. This die-hard will say that only the "Authorised" King James Bible is the inerrant word of God, and all other English translations are bastardized. Can this really be true? Was the King James Bible really free of error. Study into the King James Bible history will reveal this to be a falsehood. I've already talked about how the KJV translators inserted the idea of the mythical cockatrice into scripture, but there are many other examples. For instance, the regular fundamental Christian will say only the 66 books of the Holy Bible are the inerrant word of God, but the 1611 translation of the KJV included the Apocrypha, and was only taken out more than a century later because of pressure from protestants and the tightening cost of printing Bibles. The fact is only the original autographs, the original letter penned by the Biblical author, is guaranteed to be free from error. There is no Biblical promise that later manuscripts, translations or copies would equally be inerrant or free from error. In fact we know of many copy errors and variant manuscript readings that exist.

    Problems associated with the Liberal Christian's stance.
    The Liberal Christians belief the Bible is not free from error, usually stems from the previous finding. They are perplexed that if the Bible has variant readings, then how could we possibly consider it inerrant? Again I must remind them that it is the original autographs that were free from error. Yet we can study and apply textual criticism to try to remain as close to the original autographs as possible. I implore those Christians who believe the Bible to includede error to contemplate this quote:
    "If Jesus taught biblical inerrancy, either He knew it to be true, or He knew it to be false but catered to the ignorance of his hearers, or He was limited and held to something that was not true but He did not know it." - Harold Lindsell
    So, should we view Jesus as all-knowing God, guilty of deception, or having a limited understanding of truth? The only alternative that leaves us with our Christology intact is that Jesus knew the scripture to be inerrant and that His knowledge was correct.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    What Does It All Mean?

    I've been made a major focus change in the blog to cover more theology, and to try and weave that with how it fits into our culture and life. I regularly read and submit articles to Digg and Reddit, and have noticed, as anyone else who uses those sites, the number of anti-Christian posts. Of course it comes with the territory, and doesn't bother me much, as I feel most attacks are about stupid things Christian have done. I agree Christians do very stupid things, but I want to focus on how that does not reflect the doctrine of Christianity, but rather problems within the Christian subculture. For instance their are many ignorant Americans, who do stupid things everyday. There are even many political leaders in the United States who seem to lack even a basic understanding of the United States Constitution. I do not feel however, that those people should be a poor reflection on the ideas laid out in the Constitution. Much like I feel ignorant "Christians" should not be used as an example to claim error in Christianity. So I have decided to focus on some basic Hermeneutics, the principles and process of Biblical Interpretation, for the next few days. I feel most peoples problem with Christianity stems from an incomplete understanding of the Bible, so I want to share the correct way to study and interpret scripture.

    To start I want to focus on one of the biggest problems I have with many Evangelicals. Many evangelicals say "I take the Bible Literally." To that I say "As apposed to what?" By saying one takes the Bible literally, they are actually saying "Others don't take the Bible literally, and they are wrong." So what do they mean by not taking it literally?

    There are three ways scripture can be interpreted
    1. Literal
    2. Figurative
    3. Symbolic
    These three ways are not an all or nothing way of interpreting scripture, but rather all three must be used for different parts of scripture. For instance When Jesus said "Take and Eat; this is my body." did he mean for his disciples to be cannibals? Of course not, and this even has to be explained later, because some people did take it literally. It should be taken figuratively. What about Revelation 12:1 "And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." Should we then take this passage to mean there will be a women literally clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, and flaming balls of gas on her head? NO! This is an example of symbolic language.

    Many of the examples that I come into contact of scripture that must prove the Bible is irrelevant to today fits into this example. It is figurative of symbolic literature, that someone took literal. There are more complex issues on which type of literature certain passages are, such as the creation account in Genesis. There are so many Christians who are afraid of science because it seems to conflict this creation account. I'm not going to say one way or the other, but Christianity does not rest upon if the creation account was a literal six day period.

    (BTW, If you are propagating things like this Coloring book,
    please READ A BIBLE.")

    Saturday, November 8, 2008

    Is it impossible to live like the Bible says?

    A.J. Jacobs spent an entire year trying to follow the 600 laws found in the Old Testament, and has concluded that it is impossible. Thats the whole point of this article and Jacobs book "The Year of Living Biblically", though it should be called "The Year of Living Torashly." You see agnostic writer for Esquire, A.J. Jacobs, decided to live by the Old Testament laws for a year. This is not living "Biblically" since it only includes half of the Bible. That would be like saying you are a Supreme Court Judge, but only follow the Bill of Rights, and throw away the Constitution. It can also not be said that he was trying to live as a Jew, because he did not follow the interpretion of the Law as found in the Talmud and Midrash. The book is written as comedy and seems light-hearted. Jacobs comes to the following conclusion:

    Well, shouldn't we just act that way spontaneously, anyway? "It's a lot easier to do good if you put your faith in a book that requires you to do good," muses Jacobs, intriguingly linking that faith to the book rather than to its alleged author.

    "How can these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees be found in the same book?" he wonders. "And not just the same book. Sometimes the same page. The prohibition against mixing wool and linen comes right after the command to love your neighbor. It's not like the Bible has a section called 'And Now for Some Crazy Laws.' They're all jumbled up like a chopped salad."

    I can't help bu think that if Jacobs had focused on both the Old and New Testament, he may have had a different revelation. A year of following the OT Law can make one a better person, it can keep you from lying, killing, and stealing, but it will likely leave you feeling like an utter failure and disillusioned. You see the whole point of the Old Testament is to show God's standard, and how humans cannot achieve that standard. If Jacobs had included the New Testament he likely would have noticed Jesus departure from these traditions, even though he makes many of them harder to follow. The Bible shows us the unreachable standard of God, but shows us the grace shown to humankind through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The justification of the sacrifice of Jesus pays for the sins of man. The very definition of the Hebrew word we call "sin" shows the point of the OT, it means "to miss the mark."

    Jacobs also seems to not make up his mind as to how he want to go about his social experiment. At first he sticks to following the 600+ laws of the OT, but later he begins to add some Christian influence minus Christian scripture. He attends Jerry Falwell's church, visits a creationist museum, and a gay/Christian group among other various organizations. I'm confused on why he would add these fundamentalist Christian group into his seemingly Jewish experiment, save for their humor aspect. Obviously this is his point, and he's really not striving to live out the scripture as laid out in its original context, but to produce a humorous book which he can sell great quantities. I say had he been more consistent in his experiment, it would make a better read.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Pro-life, What does it really mean?

    The pro-life argument is one that drives many elections. This previous election was obviously not immune to that argument. Many politicians use the pro-life stance to get the conservative, Christian vote, and many churches push pro-life as the defining issue in elections. But what is pro-life really? Does that stance really mean one is for all life, or just for the life of unborn babies. Does that then mean that our fight for the life of people should end at birth. This seems to be a big difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives say life begins at conception and ends at birth, liberals say life doesn't begin until birth, but continues through ones entire life.

    We need to embrace both parts of this.
    I agree that life begins at conception, but we need to fight for the lives of all people, even after they are born. So what does this look like? I think it means supporting groups like Charity Water that build clean water wells, and groups like Compassion International and Samaritans Purse. I think it also means not supporting war or terrorism. The killing and suppresion of people is always just that. If we are pro-life, then how can we be pro-war?

    So should we support pro-life candidates?
    My friend Sam said
    How does one hold fast their convictions? Well, for me as an individual with a “pro-life” conviction, I held to my convictions by 1) not having an abortion, which is not hard for a guy, and 2) voting for “pro-life” candidates. I never picketed an abortion clinic or handed out pro-life literature or went to any kind of “pro-life” rally. So basically, I voted.
    I too have voted pro-life, not in this election because I abstained from voting, but thats a different story. I have become frustrated with pro-life candidates though. While I know that there has been legislation passed to limit abortions, I feel ripped off by these candidates. It seems every time they promise, if elected, that abortion will become illegal. So we elect these people for this sole reason, while all the time our government is turning to pot. Instead of focusing on issues that may actually be changed in our government, the republicans side track us with this issue.

    Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

    Sam also said
    But after further reflection I came to two conclusions: 1) while President-elect Obama wouldn’t be doing anything to decrease the number of abortions in our country, he isn’t exactly forcing ladies into having abortions and 2) the best way to serve the unborn is by putting my money where my mouth is (and my time) and serving moms with unplanned pregnancies rather than simply trying to legislate against their “choices”.
    And this is where I encourage you to support your pro-life stance. Like he said, put you money where you mouth is, get in the trenches, and instead of picketing abortion clinics show love and support to scared pregnant women. This is what I feel Christ would do. He would show love to the weak and struggling; help them carry their burdens. I posted this after the election because I didn't want to get too political, but focus on how we should live our values. If your are pro-life, think about how that affects your whole life, not just election day.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    Churches turned into inter-faith centers in UK

    As churches in England continue to dwindle in their numbers, many churches are abandoned or listed on the market. Many are seeking to use these buildings now for secular purposes. I must say its a sad turn of events. I'm not against turning unused churches into community buildings or business, but it is disturbing to see a building once used to glorify God be changed into a "space for inter-faith learning" I do think they would be great libraries or concert halls, and if used to help build communities, we can hardly protest them being used rather than sit vacant. Still we can always hope for something better, right?

    Here is the original article.

    Mr Burnham said while it was important to preserve the architectural beauty of some of the churches, many of which have listed status, they may serve the community better by becoming secular.

    His comments follow his suggestion earlier this month that libraries could benefit from being modernised with coffee bars and abolishing the silence rule.

    Mr Burnham said if the UK could not preserve its churches: "We need to find new purposes with the support of the local community and we need to increase secular interest in our church heritage."

    He used the example of the recent multi-million pound renovation of All Souls Church in Bolton, an Anglican church which has "found a new multi-faith, multi-racial community to serve."

    He added: "My department worked with The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) to save All Souls.

    "The CCT came up with a brilliant solution. The community did not need a museum piece but they did need somewhere to meet. They needed a gym, a health centre, space for community education and space for inter-faith learning."

    He also used an example of a former church, St Peter's in Liverpool, which had been turned into a themed restaurant and bar called Alma De Cuba in 2005.

    "My mum said the last time she set foot in the building was 40 years ago for confession," he said, adding "Not everyone will be happy with that transformation. Part of me was uneasy but to her credit, my mum, a good Scouse Catholic, shrugged and raised a glass."

    A Church of England spokesman said Mr Burnham's suggestion would only apply to a minority of its 10,000 churches now deemed redundant - about 30 a year.

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    Jesus Wants His Name Off Your Car

    Man, this car astounds me. I can not begin to explain how much I loathe "Christian" bumper stickers. Seriously, whats the purpose? Do the drivers of these cars really think people are going to pull up next to them at a stop light and ask them how to receive eternal life? Certainly people aren't going to be swayed to the gospel by being cutoff by someone in a car covered with Christian and Republican stickers. Perhaps they'll see you pulled over on the side of the road and think you are witnessing to a police officer. I think its funny that the person has a sticker that says "Obama does not support our flag" and another that says "America bless God" superimposed over an upside down flag. Doesn't seem like they're supporting the flag either, but I guess they're exempt since their middle name isn't Hussein. By the way, I would tell this person, while the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, it is not the summation of knowledge. Perhaps its time to put away the Zionist literature and Chic tracks and pick up some works by Luther, Calvin or Spurgeon.

    Saturday, November 1, 2008

    Mythological Creature in Scripture

    The Cockatrice
    In yesterday's post I mentioned the cockatrice. I made reference that it was only found in the King James Version and left it at that. The Cockatrice is a mythological creature with the body of a rooster, and the tail of a serpent. The cockatrice was first described late in the twelfth century, based on an entry in Pliny's natural history. It was a duplicate of the basilisk, but with wings, and a bit reversed in the process of how it was formed.

    The question is if the cockatrice wasn't imagined until the 12 century AD, how did it find itself in the stories of Isaiah and Jeremiah written thousands of years before. It is most likely that the writers of the King James Bible got the idea from the LXX, which translates the Hebrew word צפﬠוני as basiliskos. The Hebrew word צפﬠוני, according to Holladay's Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon refers to a poisonous snake or an Aegean viper. The Greek word basiliskos likely also refers to a poisonous snake rather than the basilisk of the middle ages. This is where it is easy to see how the writes of the King James Bible made their mistake in the 17th century. They followed the trend set by John Wyclif, who had translated from the LXX and called the created a basilisk.

    It is interesting to note the word צפﬠ, most commonly used in its form צפﬠוני, is used five times in the Hebrew text Isaiah 14:29, 11:8, 59:5, Jeremiah 8:17, and Psalm 23:32. The word is translated "cockatrice" 4 times in the KJV, but in Psalm 23:32 it is translated as "adder." So even the KJV translators were not consistent in their translation of the term.

    The ESV translates the term as adder in all cases, and the NIV translates it as viper. The original term therefor meant a poisonous snake, the KJV writers were confused by a similar term in their day which referred to a mythological creature, and newer translations such as the ESV and NASB have corrected such error.

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    The Theology of Monsters

    I was asked to lead a devotional at work for today. Since I work for a Christian camp, and since today is Halloween I decided to base the devotional on a lecture I once heard Dave Petersen of Blaster the Rocketman give. The original lecture was given at Cornerstone 2008, and focused on the theology of monsters as it pertains to the Christian faith. The following is the adaptation I prepared for this morning devotional.

    The Theology of Monsters

    In Christian literature (The Bible) we see reference to many monsters, as well as implied monsters. How are we supposed to interpret passages which mention strange creatures with the faces of many animals, bodies covered in eyes, or multiple heads and horns?

    I. Monster as Something Overwhelming That Man Cannot Control
    Many of the references in the Old Testament of physical monsters are used in refence of something that man cannot control. Two of the most often cited are the Leviathan and the Behemoth of Job. God uses both of these animals to show Job how insignificant he is.
    some examples:

    Isaiah 27:1
    Sea Monsters
    Lam 4:3(KJV)
    Malachi 1:3
    Isaiah 13:2
    Jer 8:17
    11:8, 14:29, 59:5

    II. Monster as a way God Represents Himself
    Rev 4:6 starts a description of strange creatures in the heavenly realm. These creatures should be linked with Isaiah's seraphim (Is. 6:3) and Ezekiel's cherubim (Ez 1:5-25,10:1-22) Some of the characteristics of these beasts are:

    in the midst of fire
    protruding lightning
    many wings
    look like humans, but with animal faces
    hoofed feet
    human hands under wings
    covered in eyes, front and back

    Why would God choose to have such horrifying creatures be the ones to share his presence?

    The creatures suggest the qualities of God
    Eyes suggest exceeding knowledge
    Lion-royal power


    Flying Eagle-swiftness of action

    III. Monstrous Diabolic
    Man in his natural state may also be seen as a monster. He is like a werewolf who has no control over himself. His wicked, monstrous qualities always win. Man, by himself, always succumbs to his innermost evil desires, rejecting his creator, and perverting his creation. In this way we could see man like Frankenstein's monster. He is not the great philanthropist we would expect him to be, rather he hates his master, and even plots to kill him.

    IV. Monstrous Sublime or Monstrous Exemplar
    Jesus Christ, God himself, is our monstrous exemplar. He has some of the classic monstrous qualities, yet not in the diabolic, evil way we usually characterize them. He is all powerful, and rose from the dead. He command his followers to eat his flesh, and drink his blood. By his blood he redeems his people, his undead bride. The word aweful can be used of God, the one demanding awe. In scripture like Isaiah 6 when man sees God himself, he is always in fear, and aware of his imperfection. God is more terrifying than we could ever imagine. This is why Lewis makes Jesus a Lion in his Narnia chronicles, continually stating "Aslan is not a tame lion."

    At last I leave you with the lyrics of a Blaster The Rocketman song

    Baby Unvamp (Is Making a Comeback)
    She's comin' back
    She's runnin' back

    But somewhere along the way
    She decided to play the whore
    In the mud once more
    Forgotten what He shed His blood for
    For her

    She was burnin' with a passion fire
    That soon became a mire of sin
    That locked her in
    Inside her self
    "Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)
    The Dungeon of Thyslef."
    The chains chaffed
    She bled until she said
    Oh God, what have I become?

    "Myself my sepulchre. A moving grave."
    I am a slave once more
    A whore cryin' at your feet
    So incomplete...

    Baby unvamp is making a comeback
    She's starting to run back
    To the Father and the Son
    The only One who loves her unconditionally
    With Grace and Mercy

    She clings to the Cross of Death
    The Cross of Life
    Her only hope
    The Cross of Christ

    She remembers when she first met Him
    She was kickin' in a pool of her own blood
    Coughin' it up
    When He picked her up
    She gave self up
    And He raised her up

    Presented her to the Father without blame
    Made her His bride
    Gave her His name
    Erased the shame
    She's not the same!

    All we little unvamps
    Once were sluts, were whores, were tramps
    But now we are the Bride
    Of Jesus Christ

    She's growing
    She's teething
    And one day she'll bite you till you're dead!
    In Christ!

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    King of Jews, King of Beers

    Apparently some vandals in downtown Houston put some work into making a sign which depicts Jesus holding a can of Budweiser beer. (Original article here.) The Company which owns the sign does not know who pasted the new sign on their billboard. Whoever it was put some time into this thing.

    Before I get and e-flogging for posting this sign, let me divulge. I absolutely believe that Jesus is fully God, and that God is holy and should be revered. I do not think even the vandals are trying to mock the historical Jesus of Nazareth. I think they are poking fun at Americans queer obsession with a over-white, hippy Jesus, but are terrified of religion. Then again they may have just been drinking a few beers when someone read a Budweiser can and realized the similarity of "King of Beers" to "King of Jews."

    Honestly I see nothing wrong with the theological implications of the sign, other than the aforementioned flippant use of Jesus Christ as a pop culture figure. Jesus holding a beer can does not bother me, there's no more alcohol content in beer than in wine, and most are not bothered by this picture which has Jesus at a table with wine.
    Not to get too seeker-sensitive on you, but from a marketing perspective maybe its not too bad to see Jesus as a guy with which you could have a cold one. Though I'd like to believe Jesus would have had better taste in beer, perhaps Killians or Guiness. Of course then the joke would be lost.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Christian Yellow Pages?

    Todays blog is from post I read at and concerns the use of using only "Christian" resources. This is a trend that has taken a foothold in Evangelical circles in America, and is very pervasive. The defenders of this idea not only want to listen to "Christian" music, but they want to watch only Christian movies, and eat at Christian restaurants, and read Christian books, and have their overflowing toilets fixed by Christian plumbers. I used to argue with youth pastors who wanted me to burn my Guns 'n Roses albums by saying "Would you only go to a Christian butcher?" But now it seems they listened to me, as you can find these Christian Yellow Pages at many churches. I cannot fathom why the church would try yo get their congregants to quit associating others in the area, and become seclusionists, having no affect on the outside world. I guess they are not truly evangelicals then.

    The fact is "Christian" is not an adjective you can add to a word. There is not Christian music or Christian dating site. I encourage Christians to make music. Please. In fact the church could use more artists. But what we do not need is more separation from the world we live in. We are told to be in the world, and not of the world. That does not mean to live with our eyes shut pretending the world does not exist. Its funny that the same people that lament how immoral Hollywood or Washington have become are often the same who told Christians to leave those venues, thus leaving the impact the were having on those venues.

    I encourage you to read a secular book, listen to a secular band, and please use a secular plumber. You may find that you are living in a bubble and have lost touch with the culture you live in. You may learn a new skill, or find you like Sufjan Stephens. Its possible you'll find you prefer Monet over Kinkade. You may even befriend the plumber who comes to your house, and have a non-Christian friend.

    Seth, the author of the blog that inspired this post, finished his post well. He said
    I just wish that Christians would use more logic in their decision making and less emotional ones. Remember, just because something or someone has an Ichthus in their logo, on their CD cover or on their book flap, doesn't make them good or Christian, it just makes us the sucker of good advertising.

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Liberals

    I previously wrote a blog about my concerns with a topic in Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears. Today I would like to focus on another topic in the book which I enjoyed. On page 82 Driscoll states
    "Without being overly critical, I do believe that most Christians and Christian traditions have a propensity to under emphasize one aspect of Jesus' ministry, which can have very tragic effects. Personally, I have an easy time understanding the priestly role of Jesus for the victims of sin, but I can sometimes be overly harsh with a sinner. When someone sins, I more easily see them needing Jesus as prophet rather than priest, which is not always the case. Sometimes, as Paul says, it is the kindness of God that brings about our repentance. Practically this means that I am prone toward fundamentalism."

    Driscoll goes on to lay out the following


    Obviously if we neglect any of the three ways Jesus revealed himself we are in error and will not have a orthodox view of Jesus Christ. Driscoll also states
    "Jesus came to the Earth to reveal himself to us as our prophet who speaks to us, priest who walks with us, and king who rules over us. ...For the three offices of Jesus to be the greatest benefit to us, we must humbly ask God to reveal to us which aspect of Jesus' ministry we are most likely to or even ignore an read scripture with a humble heart seek to see Jesus in the fullness of his glory."

    In chapter Six, Driscoll goes on to explain another difference between Fundamentalists and Liberals, where the error is an overemphasis on either the resurrection or crucifixion of Jesus.

    "Sadly, there are those who err in emphasizing either the crucifixion or the resurrection of Jesus at the expense of the other. Some preach only the cross and its result of forgiveness of sin and justification. Without preaching the resurrection of Jesus as well, Christians are prone to overlook the mission of Jesus and the new life he has for them on earth. They tend to see Christian life as little more than going to church to soak in teaching until they get to heaven. This is the perennial error of Christian fundamentalism.

    Conversely, there are others who preach only the new kingdom life that Jesus offers through his resurrection. These Christians excel at helping the poor and handing out hugs and muffins, but fail at repentance of personal sin and calling others to repent of personal sin so that they might be forgiven and reconciled to God through Jesus. This is the perennial error of Christian Liberalism."

    Those two paragraphs were the best thing I got from the book. As someone who grew up in a conservative, fundamentalist Baptist church and went to a Southern Baptist Bible College I spent the majority of my life overlooking the importance of the new life here on earth offered by Jesus. The last few years however I've been learning about sharing in the new life we have here on earth, reading Shane Claiborne and trying to live in community with other believers. My transition has not been easy, and I've been mocked by fundamentalist. I must strive to see Jesus as my priest, prophet and king and I must value his crucifixion and resurrection.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Church Sign Theology Thursday #3

    I found this church sign from It is a particularly bad sign that focuses on religion and works.

    The first problem with the sign is it assumes that Heaven and church are all about religion. Reading this sign would cause me to think religion and going to church will be what will get me into Heaven. Jesus upset the religious leaders of his day by insisting that religion could not save them. When the rich man came to Jesus he was sure he would go to heaven because he had followed the ten commandments his whole life. Jesus however stated that alone was not enough.

    The second problem is nowhere does the sign mention that Heaven can only come through the blood of Jesus Christ. What if I have a religion that causes me to go to church, yet does not teach the redemptive power of Christ (Jehovah's Witness, Latter Day Saints, Islam, Scientology, etc.) Religion without Jesus Christ means nothing, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

    I also don't like the sign because it makes church seem to be required for salvation. We have a Sunday service to bring a local body of believers to joyfully celebrate our risen Lord, to take part in the sacraments, to hear the preaching of the word of God, and to be encouraged by other believer's. Church attendance is not a get out of Hell free card nor a way to earn brownie points in the kingdom of God. This pervasive theology of ekklesia is what causes many to loathe church, yes even many Christians.

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    So You Say You Want Change?

    Possibly one of the best panhandling signs I've seen.

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    "Christian" Pediatrician Turns Away Sick Child

    In Bakersfield, California Pediatrician, Dr. Gary Merrill, turned away Tasha Childress and her daughter because of Childress' tattoos. Merrill sights his belief as a Christian as his reasoning for doing so.

    from KGET via healthbolt

    The doctor said he is just following his beliefs, creating a Christian atmosphere for his patients.

    Tasha Childress said it’s discrimination.

    She said Dr. Gary Merrill wouldn’t treat her daughter for an ear infection because Tasha, the mother, has tattoos.

    The writing is on the wall—literally: “This is a private office. Appearance and behavior standards apply.”

    For Dr. Gary Merrill of Christian Medical Sevices, that means no tattoos, body piercings, and a host of other requirements—all standards Merrill has set based upon his Christian faith.

    “She had to go that entire night with her ear infection with no medicine because he has his policy,” Tasha Childress said.

    Merrill won’t speak on camera, but said based on his values and beliefs, he has standards that he expects in his office.

    If it is really the teachings of Christ that cause Merrill to not help children whose parents have tattoos, I would love to know where in scripture he found this practice be taught by Jesus, the GREAT physician. To refuse to treat a sick child because of the appearance of her mother is sickening. Did not Jesus give his own life for those he called "sons of the devil"? Merrill has every right as an American to refuse service, it is his private practice. However if he wants to be a bigot, and doing so endanger the health of young children, I wish he do so not under the guise of Christianity.

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Did Jesus Go To Hell?

    I've recently been reading Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears. I agree with many things in the book, but there was one stance with which I am concerned. On page 122-123 Breshears discusses whether Jesus went to Hell. He makes reference that much of this doctrine is a misunderstanding of the Apostles' Creed. But then he uses Luke 16:19-31 to say Jesus believed there were
    "two places (divided by a great chasm) where people would go when they died. These were holding places until Heaven and Hell were opened for eternal occupancy. One was a place of joy for believers called 'Abraham's side, ' also called 'paradise' by Jesus on the cross. The other holding place was hades or the place of torment for unbelievers. Ephesians 4:8-10 says that after his death, Jesus went into that place of holding for believers called paradise for three days and then upon his ascension into Heaven he took Christians with him. Today, paradise is in Heaven and when we die we go to Heaven, for as Paul says, 'to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.'"

    The theological problems with this assessment are astounding. Not only is he in error about what Jesus did after dying, the way he comes to his conclusion is questionable exegesis to say the least.

    1. Improper Interpretation of a Parable.
    The first thing to grab my attention was the passage Breshears uses to base his idea off of is a parable. Lets take a look at the text:
    19"There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"

    We can not use a parable to derive our eschatology. The parable exists to share a spiritual truth, not to describe holding cells for those waiting to got to Heaven or Hell.
    Ephesians 4:8-10
    It has been shown exegetically that this idea of the “lower parts of the earth” is not Hell, but rather an appositional genitive referring to the earth as the “lower parts” in relationship to heaven. The NIV translates this as "the lower, earthly regions." This translation refers to Jesus' coming to the earth as a baby, the incarnation. Grudem states "This NIV rendering is again preferable in this context because Paul is saying that the Christ who went up to heaven (in his ascension) is the same one who earlier came down from heaven (v.10). That "descent" from heaven occurred when Christ came to be born as a man. So the verse speaks of the incarnation, not of a descent into Hell." John Piper also states "This probably means that he descended to the earth, which is the lower parts. The 'of' there doesn't mean that he is going under the earth. So I don't think that text warrants the interpretation that he descended into hell."
    Other Thoughts
    There was never any need for holding cells. All people that are saved, do so through the blood of Christ. Old Testament Jews were saved by faith in the coming Messiah, much like we are save by faith in the messiah who has come. There is no Biblical evidence to view paradise as something other than Heaven. Piper says "
    In fact, he said to the thief on the cross,
    "'Today you will be with me in paradise.' That's the only clue we have as to what Jesus was doing between death and resurrection. He said, 'Today—this Friday afternoon, after we're both dead—you and I will be in paradise together.' I don't think the thief went to hell and that hell is called paradise. I think he went to heaven and that Jesus was there with him."

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Church Sign Theology #2

    EDIT: Well apparently I can't hotlink from the original picture, and can no longer get to the original, but the sign said "Look Busy, Jesus is Coming" If I find it again I will repost.

    This sign is a blatant showing of legalism. The sign would cause us to believe as long as we look busy, God will be fooled. One can only assume looking "busy" refers to works, for why would Jesus want us to be busy. This is a classic guilt trip church sign; you know the kind that make you think you're doing something wrong and if you would just change that behavior and go to church then God would be happy. The other reason is it appears to insinuate that God can be fooled. We know that God is omniscient and omnipresent, so there is never any reason to "look" something rather than just being something, for God knows your heart and motives.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    How Manly Men Can Fight Poverty

    Today I was reading one of my favorite blogs, The Art of Manliness, which had an article written as a part of Blog Action Day, an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, in posting about the same issue on the same day. This years issue is poverty.

    This is an excerpt from the blog:

    How to Kick Poverty’s Ass

    How can we as men help kick poverty’s ass? Here are a few suggestions.

    1. Become a mentor. You don’t need to go halfway across the world to fight poverty. Opportunities exist right in your backyard. Become a mentor to a disadvantaged young person in your community. Young people are stuck in a cycle of poverty. Their parents are poor, and thus often don’t know how to motivate their kids to seek higher education and a better life for themselves. And the kids then follow their parents’ example, have their own kids, and raise them the same way. By becoming someone’s mentor, you can step in and break that cycle. You can provide the guidance and counsel that they may not get at home or from their friends. You can help them develop the skills that will enable them to become self-sufficient. Keep in mind that being a mentor is a long term commitment. Expect to be in it to win it for months or even years. The investment will be well worth it for the person and for you. Check out Big Brothers or your local community center. Or look for a way to volunteer in your area’s schools.

    2. Offer a free class to impoverished people. It’s not the politically correct thing to say, but it is oftentimes the lifestyle of impoverished people that keeps them poor. In many cases, they lack basic life skills that we often take for granted. Things like showing up to appointments on time, basic grooming, and interpersonal skills might be lost on them. Most communities and states have agencies that teach people these skills. Many are hurting for teachers. Make a call and volunteer some time.

    3. Donate a suit. The other day, I heard on the radio about an organization that collects gently used suits for impoverished men to wear at a job interview. I think that’s a damn good idea. Check out Dress For Success and see how you can donate your old suit to help a fellow man.

    4. Join Americorps. Have you recently graduated from college and find yourself drifting, unsure of what you want to do next? Consider joining Americorps. Americorps is one of the best kept secrets in the country. Americorps is like a domestic Peace Corps in which men and women dedicate themselves to a year of full-time service (although there are some part-time opportunities as well). Americorps is an umbrella for thousands of different programs, from those that tutor elementary students to those that work with the elderly. After the very me-centered time of college, Americorps will give you a chance to completely dedicate yourself to improving the lives of other people.

    5. Join an international relief organization. If you’re wanting to help battle poverty on an international level, join up with an international relief organization. You’ll have the chance to get on the ground and help people directly. You could be involved with classes that teach water purification, sanitation, and farming. Or you could instruct people on how to run a business. Stuff that will help individuals become self sufficient and on the road to beating poverty. Many churches have international relief programs. If you’re not a church person, check out Peace Corps or UNICEF.

    6. Donate to a micro loan. Studies have shown that just giving countries money doesn’t do anything to alleviate poverty. The money gets lost through graft and the inefficiency of bureaucracies. Why not put the money directly in the hands of the people you’re trying to help so they can help themselves? Micro loans do just that. Your $50 or $100 loan can help some man in Africa start their own business. You’ll be giving the help a person needs to become self-sufficient.

    I'm glad to see Art of Manliness addressing the issue of poverty. So often men see helping others as sissy, but what could be more manly than helping others develop a sense of pride for themselves by being freed from the chains of poverty. I encourage all men to take a stand and find how you can help your neighbors and those around the world. Be sure to check out Blog Action Day to see how others are fighting poverty, and join in the fight.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    Our Witness is a Great NOT

    Yesterday I covered the first part of a sermon by John Piper. Today I will finish the second half of the sermon.

    Our Witness is a Great Not
    Piper's second point is that we are NOT the focus of the Gospel. Even though God chose us as the way to spread his gospel, we are not central to it.

    "In fact, John the Gospel writer is so bent on making sure that we feel the not of John’s testimony that he piles on the negatives in verses 19-20: 'And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed . . .' Did not deny what? He did not deny, 'I am not the Christ.' He affirmed I am not the Christ. And thus denied that he was the Christ. Do you see why I think we are onto something here? You only write like this when you are trying to make a point.

    But he is not done making his point. Verse 21: 'And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’' Of course he was Elijah in one sense. He had come 'in the spirit and power of Elijah' (Luke 1:17), but he was not the actual physical Elijah who had gone into heaven in the chariot of fire without dying.

    He is still not done. Verses 26-27: 'John answered them, ‘I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

    John seems to choose a negative way of showing that he was not the Christ and Piper picks up on this. Rather than deny that he was the Christ, John affirmed that he was not the Christ. Rather than proclaiming who he is, John seems to sit back and let the others guess, then diverts the attention away from himself. John is an excellent example of Christian humility. So many pastors and televangelists must always have the spotlight shining on them, John refuses the spot light, becoming less so Jesus may be more.

    “He Must Increase; I Must Decrease”
    Later John comes back to this idea of making less of himself.
    "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.” The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."

    Piper states:
    "This is the great not of our witness. We must decrease; he must increase. We must make much of him; we must not make much of ourselves. So it was with Paul: 'I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So he who plants and he who waters are not anything, but only God who gives the growth”'(1 Corinthians 3:6-7). 'What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord'(2 Corinthians 4:5)."

    "What then is John? He is John the Witness. The necessary witness who is not the Christ. How does he describe himself? Verses 22-23: 'So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, 'I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’' I am simply a voice.

    A voice, a witness. And in his mouth are not self-exalting words, but Christ-exalting words. John 1:15: 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.' John 1:34: 'I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.' John 1:29: 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.'”

    How much we all could learn from John, such humility. We must die to ourselves, and turn the attention away from ourselves. Christ uses the foolish of this world, so he may prove that it is none of our doing. I'll leave you with Piper's ending, because I could not better articulate his point.

    "Here’s the lesson for us. We must be his witnesses. It is a great necessity. Faith comes by hearing a witness. But we must not make much of ourselves. Beware of the witness that needs attention for himself. Beware of the preacher who constantly angles to put himself in a good light and returns again and again to his ministry and his achievements. Beware of the preacher’s subtle preoccupation with himself even when he speaks of his own flaws. Beware of your own bent to love the praise of men.

    Remember, therefore, that from the very beginning of John’s Gospel, there is a human witness to the light—our witness. Our witness is a great necessity. And our witness is a great not. He must increase; we must decrease. Amen."