Friday, February 27, 2009

The Man In Black

Yesterday was Johnny Cash's Birthday. He would have been 77 years old. Johnny Cash was a man whom I never met, but shaped my life deeply. His autobiography Cash was definitely in the top three books I've ever read. I can't imagine any autobiography meaning more. I still remember the day he died, my freshman year of college. Yes, I wept that day. Even though I had never met John, I felt as I had lost a dear friend.

Cash's story has always touched me. He retells so much of his past in his book. He is not ashamed to say who he was and what he's been through, yet he would be the last to glorify his sin. Like Johnny, I came from a rural background with not much money, we may not have been cotton farmers, but I always felt connected to his stories. My father was a hard working blue collar man as well as Cash's father. And mine had no time for music, and always told me I would just grow out of wanting to play guitar. Much like Cash, I've always felt more at home with those who feel like outlaws and the downcast.

Mars Hill offers a video on the life of Johnny Cash

Cash's description of the Nickajack cave story is one that moves me to tears. Hear is a man the world saw as having everything, but he climbs into a whole to die because he feels so far from God. Yet God is not done with him, and loves him. He safefully brings Cash out of the cave, and begins to bring him back to him.

I hear so many stories of people who say they are saved and immediately change, giving up alcohol, drugs, sexual addictions, etc. These stories never do much for me. They seem so fake. My change has never been so easy, its been a long struggle of fighting against God, and Him bringing me back and showing me grace. Perhaps thats why I connect with Cash so much. He never says it was easy or instant. He fought God for a long time, and even when he surrendered it was a messy, bumpy road.

Russel Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a moving article about the life of Johnny Cash, and the infatuation of young people with cash's life and music. I encourage you to read the whole article, its quite short.

Johnny Cash is dead, and there will never be another. But all around us there are empires of dirt, and billions of self-styled emperors marching toward judgment.

Perhaps if Christian churches modeled themselves more after Johnny Cash, and less after perky Christian celebrities such as Kathy Lee Gifford, we might find ourselves resonating more with the MTV generation. Maybe if we stopped trying to be “cool,” and stopped hiring youth ministers who are little more than goateed game-show hosts, we might find a way to connect with a generation that understands pain and death more than we think.

Perhaps if we paid more attention to the dark side of life, a dark side addressed in divine revelation, we might find ourselves appealing to men and women in black. We might connect with men and women who know what it’s like to feel like fugitives from justice, even if they’ve never been to jail. We might offer them an authentic warning about what will happen when the Man comes around.

And, as we do this, we just might hear somewhere up in the cloud of witnesses a voice that once cried in the wilderness: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

Special thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing me toward the Moore article and Mars Hill video.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Win a Calfskin ESV Study Bible?

You heard me right. You know you've been thinking about getting an ESV study Bible, and even if you've already sprung for one, you probably didn't get the genuine calfskin version. A Boomer in the Pew wants to give you a free Calfskin Study Bible. Make sure you check out his blog to see how you can win it.

By the way, speaking of free, I received my free copy of Tabletalk today that I won through So it is possible to win something cool through these blog giveaways. Check out Challies site as he often has free giveaways on Fridays.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is Mark Driscoll Pornifying the Church?

After the Baptist Press Article and the commentary that insued it seemed to me the opponents of Mark Driscoll say he uses crude language, is trying to be like the world, and is pornifying the church. I feel that many of Mark's critics still have not actually listened to his sermons, and do not present his answers to his members questions on sexuality in context. So you may see Mark answer one of his members questions on sexuality, I've provided the link to a video of Mark answering on young congregants question on if she should be mad at her boyfriend that went to a strip club in Vegas for a bachelor party. Take a look here for yourself, and see how Driscoll and his wife respond.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Opportunity of a Lifetime

From the Desiring God Blog
This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I mean that. Don Carson, one of the most respected, faithful, competent, compelling, and understandable biblical scholars in the world will do what he has never done before and will probably never do again.

At the north campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church, over the next two weekends, starting at 6:30 P. M. Friday, February 20, Dr. Carson will lead a free 12 hour seminar that takes you through the whole Bible and puts the whole great story together.

If you are in or near the Twin Cities I encourage you to come. I promise you, you will never read the Bible the same after seeing how it all fits together with Dr. Carson’s help.

Ask your non-Christian friends if they would like to hear one of the world’s most renowned biblical scholars give them an overview of the bible and what Christianity really is. They are really welcome to come. Dr. Carson will speak at a level they can understand.

What an amazing gift this is to the Twin Cities and to any who would come. Pray for Dr. Carson. This is a huge undertaking. And we reap the work of decades. You can read more details.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Driscoll on CNN with DL Hughley

Mark Driscoll, while being hammered by Baptists Press for his use of "Vulgarity" was shown on CNN with DL Hughley. The segment is short, and Mark doesn't get to share as much about Christ as I'm sure he would have liked. but he is able to
1. Share the importance of sex within marriage
2. Tell DL that pornography is not God honoring
3. Explain how and why he discusses sex with his congregants
4. Use scripture to answer Hughley's question
5. Get the chance to respond to Ingrid's comment on Driscoll
6. Begin to explain the Gopsel to DL

While Mark's response to DL's last question could have been expounded more than "Dig Jesus" I think that is because of time constraints. I do wonder how much CNN edited the video for time, and what else Mark shared with DL. I cant help but think at the end of the day DL walked away with a new respect for Driscoll and his church.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More on BP and Driscoll

Ed Setzer responds to the Article on his blog.
Some of what Ed says:
Southeastern has commented because Mark spoke at Southeastern last week. The usual folks have complained about his presence, but I agree with Johnny Hunt, our SBC President on the issue. Johnny and I discussed this on Tuesday-- and he was a bit surprised (and concerned) of the complaints leveled at Southeastern. To quote Johnny, "It's a seminary! We often bring in people even when we disagree with some things."

And, yes, some people won't like frank talk about sexuality (or they will think it is too frank). And for them, that in itself is sinful. And that is a fair conversation.

However, I think frank talk on sexuality is essential. I am not going to defend everything Mark says about it, or how he says it, but I definitely believe most of our churches need to teach more on the subject.

Mark Driscoll is a friend who labors for the glory of God, the health of the church, and the redemption of the world. I am grateful for my brother, and am praying for his continued usefulness for the Kingdom of God today.

One post script:

A LifeWay employee is mentioned in one of the articles. I work at LifeWay, I think it is important to note that Bret Robbe (quoted in the one article) was commenting on handling delicate subjects. He was not commenting on Mark Driscoll. And, his comments are right on. Thanks, Bret.

SouthEastern have written about there view on the article here.

Alvin Reid weighs in on the matter.

And Baptist 21 gives thoughts on the generational gap within the SBC.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Baptist Press Reveals More Shoddy Journalism

Baptist Press, have furthered the riff between the SBC and Acts 29. Rather than focusing on reaching people for Christ the SBC continues to cause discord with one of the fastest growing, theologically sound Church planting groups, Acts 29 which was co-founded by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll, his church in Seattle, and Acts 29 have often been the target of insults from different branches of Southern Baptist, but this article is just plain shoddy journalism. BP does not offer any quotes from Driscoll himself, nor does it mention the Acts 29 bootcamp in Raleigh, NC this last week where Driscoll partnered with the likes of Wayne Grudem and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. The article quotes MBC Executive Director, David Tolliver, who previously acted to defund all Acts 29 affiliated church plants in Missouri, as a shot to kill them in their infancy. That decision was largely caused by rash decision making influenced mostly by ignorance of the group, confusing Acts 29 with the emerging church movement, and the direction of Roger Moran.
Acts 29 has responded, and have shown maturity and humility by trying to move past the article. Pastor Scott Thomas, Director of Acts 29 Network, responded on the Acts 29 blog with this comment.

"But, I am calling for all of us to ignore the innocuous criticisms and get back on the front lines of presenting the gospel faithfully to those who are desperately in need of redemption. The sniping of one publication has hindered our focus on the real enemy: Sin, Satan and the effects of a fallen humanity.

A movement does not stop to address every critic. It moves on in spite of critics and in expectation of critics. I'm bored with it all and my neighbor needs Jesus."

Timmy Brister also responds to the article and offers this viewpoint.
"There are two competing visions for the SBC going on right now: the Great Commission Resurgence under the direction of Danny Akin and David Dockery headquartered at SEBTS, and the Baptist Identity Movement under the direction of Paige Patterson and Malcolm Yarnell headquartered at Southwestern Seminary. Prior to the Annual Meeting in Indy last year, the Baptist Identity boys were blazing the Internet with series of blogposts talking about Baptist distinctives and in particular “ecumenical compromise.” From the Annual Meeting forward, however, the Great Commission Resurgence has won the day, leaving the Baptist Identity crowd in the wake full of a separatistic, landmarkist agenda. Having Driscoll (and Mahaney) who do not share the same ecclesiology and distinctives lead Patterson and his camp to consider the actions of Akin and SEBTS as Baptist compromisers. The BP article on Driscoll is an indication, in my mind, of an attempt to discredit the leadership of Akin and undermine the Great Commission Resurgence movement in the SBC. Fortunately, most Southern Baptists are not buying it."

A response from SEBTS can be found here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Exposistion of Matthew 5: 13-16

13"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

In the last few days we've covered the Beatitudes. Here Jesus moves to his next point built off what he said in the previous twelve verses. In the beatitudes, or the norms of the kingdom as D.A. carson refers to them, Jesus explains the marks of a godly life. Here he moves a step forward. You see it is impossible to live the norms in a purely private way. The righteousness of the Christian life will attract attention, which will largely take the form of opposition. Jesus addresses this issue in the last beatitude and expounds upon with the illustration of salt and light.

Verse 13:"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet."

In the ancient world salt was used as a preservative. Jesus is saying apart from the presence of his disciples the world turns ever more rotten. So as the followers of Jesus become more like him and gain the attributes described in the beatitudes, they will become the salt which stops the deterioration of the world they live in.

As for losing saltiness, the purpose of salt is to stop deterioration, therefore it must not itself deteriorate. If it does so, it no longer has a purpose, and it good only to be trampled on under foot.

Verses 14-16: 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Heres Jesus reiterates his point with another illustration. Because we live in a world constantly connected to electricity, it is hard for most Americans to imagine true darkness. Unless you live in a secluded rural setting or have been camping far from civilization, you may never have experienced total darkness before. If you've ever been camping out hundreds of miles from civilization you will understand complete darkness. A city even a hundred miles away can alleviate the darkness. Its light bounces off clouds and water, and can bring at least some light to the area. This is how light works. A good light does not have to make everything like day, but it can shed enough light that darkness does not completely take over.

The listeners to Jesus sermon would have instantly known the sheer terror that can accompany complete darkness, and the value of light. Light was so important, they could not have imagined someone wanting to extinguish even a small flickering oil lamp.

Many have used these verses to justify wearing Christian T-shirts and putting "Are you following Jesus this close?" bumper stickers on their car. I think they miss the point of this passage by not reading it in context. Jesus is not saying, "If you do not go out and hand out tracts then your light has been hidden." No, rather he is expounding on the beatitudes. The Christian whose life shows the fruit described in the previous twelve verses is salt and light to a dark and decaying world. Look at what Jesus says in verse 16; In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.

In a world filled with tracts and street evangelism, it is interesting that Jesus says our righteousness, meekness, pureness, etc are what will be our witness to God. Again I think Jesus is putting emphasis on righteousness. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, is to hunger and thirst for God himself. To hunger for God is to be blessed by him, and to be blessed by him is to be a blessing to this world. When we no longer are hungering for God, and turn our attention to the world, we no longer point to God and his glory and grace; that is when we lose our saltiness and hide our light. We then are no longer a blessing to this world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Exposition of Matthew 5: 7-12

7"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Verse Seven: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Some try to use this verse legalistically, to say that the only way to receive mercy from God, is to show mercy to others. Of course, showing mercy to others, in order to receive it yourself, is not showing mercy at all. Rather this verse explains the relationship between the two backwards to that interpretation. The one who receives mercy from God, will show mercy to others. The one who is not merciful, is so unaware of his own sin problem, that he does not realize that he himself needs mercy. The man who thinks he has conquered sin, and no longer sees his own need for the mercy of God, fails to show mercy to other sinners.

Verse Eight: Blessed are the pure in heart

One could never exhaust the magnitude of this verse. We are told elsewhere in Matthew that out of the natural heart “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.” Matt. 15:19

Our heart naturally wants to do evil, and only through regenerative faith in Jesus Christ may the very core of our being be changed. He slowly changes to no longer want the evil desires of the world, but to be transformed into his heart-state.

Pureness of heart must never be confused with outward conformity to rules, for that can be done by anyone. A true heart change can only be done through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We cannot ignore the reward of this blessing either, for it is seeing God himself.

Verse 9:Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

The Christians role as peacemaker extends not only spreading the gospel, but to lessening tensions, seeking solutions, and ensuring that communication is understood. The world will easily recognize as the man who holds his temper and tries to get parties to agree as a spiritual man. It is no different for the Christian. He should have control over his life, and be the one to offer peace, since we are imitators of the "Prince of Peace."

The Blessing is magnificent - to be considered a son of God. Not only would the Jews have been amazed that Jesus, who claimed to be the messiah, is calling his followers to be peaceful rather than picking up arms against Rome, but to say they could become "Sons of God" would have utterly flabbergasted them. In Jewish thought, to be a son, wold be to gain the attributes of the father or "partaker in the character of" So essentially Jesus is saying that those who are peacemakers shall gain the attributes of God himself.

Verses 10-12: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I love what DA Carson says about these verses:
"The final beatitude does not say "Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are objectionable, or because they rave like wild-eyed fanatics, or because they pursue some religio-polical cause.' The blessing is restricted to those who suffer persecution because of righteousness."

The reward for be persecuted because of righteousness is the kingdom of heaven. The beatitudes have continued to build up, and with this last one we se that the Christian must also endure persecution because of his righteousness. Righteousness has already been mentioned, but this is a step further than hungering and thirsting for it, this is a righteousness that has changed the Christian's behavior so much that those around him persecute him for it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-6

1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying: 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

The Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew, like many Jews of his day, would have refrained from using the word “God” because of the holiness associated with that word. It was not uncommon to adopt euphemisms such as “The Kingdom of Heaven” in place of “The Kingdom of God” in order to not break the third commandment. This Kingdom of Heaven is therefore referring to the Kingdom of God is it is called in the other Gospels.

We know that the Kingdom of Heaven is not only the body of Christian believers, but it also encompasses all things in time and space, as nothing is outside of the control of God, yet that is not the Kingdom Christ refers to here. Mark 9:45-47 gives us a glimpse of what must be the Kingdom of God/ Heaven.

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.

The Kingdom of Heaven is life itself. To enter the Kingdom is to begin life: eternal life.

“Beatitude” is a transliteration of the Greek word beatus, it is best translated blessed. So in essence we should call these "The Blessings" rather than "The Beatitudes." We see two beatitudes offer the same reward, this is a stylistic device known as “inclusion’ which means everything bracketed in between the two are all under one central theme: the kingdom of God. This is why D.A. Carson refers to the beatitudes as “The Norms of the Kingdom.”

Verse 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This idea of being poor in spirit develops from the OT when God’s people were known as “The poor of the Lord.” Some of the various Hebrew words translated as poor can also mean “lowly” or “humble”. This gives us a glimpse into what “poor in spirit” is actually referring to. Poverty of Spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God.

Verse 4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

This idea of being blessed for mourning seems strange. This however does not mean those who are always upset are blessed, nor does it mean to enter the Kingdom of Heaven one must always be solemn and down in spirit. Rather this mourning is at the personal level of personal sin. The more one is exposed to the holiness of God, the more he is aware of the utter blackness of his own sin.

But the Christian will be comforted. We mourn over sin, but we rejoice in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ which offers the complete and final forgives for our sins.

Verse Five: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Poverty of spirit has to do with ones personal assessment of himself, where meekness has to do with a relationship with God and men.

Martyn Lloyd Jones says meekness does not mean indolence, flabbiness, niceness or easy to get along with. Those are natural qualities; a dog can be nicer than another dog. Meekness is not something that is naturally attainable; it is only available through the spirit. We may think someone is meek because they are nice to others, but there inner desire may be for selfish gain. Meekness is not weakness. A meek man will die for the truth if necessary. The martyrs were meek, but they were by no means weak. A weak pushover cannot be meek, for meekness involves control over ones self.

Meekness is a controlled desire to see the others interest advance ahead of one’s own. “It is a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is my attitude toward myself; and it is an expression of that in my relationship toward others.” – Lloyd-Jones

Verse Six: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Many in our current Christian world do not hunger and thirst for righteousness. They may want to know how to live a purpose driven life or how to live their best life now. Many want to know the most effective way to evangelize or what worship style is best. And many more jump from church to church, conference to conference wanting to experience some kind of spiritual high, but few thirst for righteousness. The man who is marked by poverty of spirit, who grieves over personal sin, and who lives in meekness, must also hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is not that the man, is looking for the next step for becoming a better Christian, but the change in his life from living like Christ has produced a hunger for righteousness, that he cannot imagine living without. This is the man who is not just sorry he got caught sinning, but whose sin utterly breaks his heart, and is begging God to help him conquer his sin.

Martyn Lloyd Jones states: "I do not know a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of scripture, you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, than you had better examine the foundations again.”