Monday, August 28, 2006

Gospel Debate (4) Written Verses Living Word

In the Gospel Debate (2) John stated the following that is similar to his response to my email. Here is post #12 as well as his response to my email. It seems that the we are starting to see that how one views the Bible radically shapes how one understands the good news.

JOHN (from previous post):

For me, and officially for the ELCA, the bible is the norm and standard for faith and life. How we understand, interpret and use the standard of the Bible is informed by an awareness that there are many apparent inconsistencies and many sides to issues as presented in the Bible—often even within the same book. Applying literary, historical and sociological analysis can often help us to see this. Also, the tools of lower textual criticism—paying attention to the variances among extant manuscripts, lead us to exercise caution, since we can see that the texts as we have them have changed in transmission—sometimes in very significant ways (as with the ending to Mark’s gospel). What this boils down to for me is that the question of what you call “sufficiency” is muddled by the need to use extra-biblical resources to gain what amounts to a seldom 100% certain standard. But then, to me that’s fine, since it’s not the Written Word in the Bible that’s the ultimate Revelation-Word, but the Living Revelation-Word in Jesus Christ. Also above the written Word (for me) is the Proclaimed Word that’s inspired by this Christ. It’s these forms of the Word that produced the Word of the Bible. In other words, I see the Bible as sort of “frozen slices” of Living and Proclaimed Word, passed down to us across a chasm of time from ancient people of faith. This passing down was, of course, mediated along the way by people like medieval monks, renaissance scholars, and eventually more modern people of faith who used (and still use) use scholarly methods to aid them in transmission. And thank God for this—since these frozen slices provide the meat for countless sermons and a major vehicle for the Spirit of Christ to teach and guide the church. Have you ever stopped to think, though: what would it be like if we didn’t have the Bible? Would God’s Revelation continue to be available? My answer is yes! The Bible isn’t the source of that’s the Living Christ himself!

JOHN (Response to email):

"It seems to me that you want to accept the truth claim of eternal life with Christ without the truth-claim of the death He saves us from. If the Bible points us to the truth-claim of the Living Christ---what does this Christ save us from? What is that truth claim?"

I think it's not a matter of not accepting the truth claim, it's a matter of a different understanding of the nature of that truth claim, and of how it should be used.

Certainly the promise of eternal life saves us from the fear of what might happen to us after we die--whether that be eternal suffering in the flames of hell or eternal nothingness or isolation.

To me, I have the experience of salvation from that fear in the present, and that enabel me to experience a different kind of salvation here and now--a salvation for--salvation for growing in love for God and neighbor and care of God's creation. I can talk about this kind of salvation with confidence...that because in Christ I have the hope and assurance of eternal life with God, I'm freed from a self-centered preoccupation with earning my way into heaven--free to spontaneously live out a response to God's love in Christ and to leanr to follow my Lord in a life of self-emptying love and service. These are present "realities" that I can confidently bear witness to based on my own experience. I don't have the experience--and neither does anyone else--that enables me to say with any certainty what the nature is of God's salvation after death. Death is like a great curtain of mystery; the Scriptures themselves are hardly homogeneous in their portrayal of what is to come on the other side of that curtain. All I can do is trust the fundamental promse that God will hold onto me in death even as God holds onto me in life...and that somehow there wil be some way of being in relationship wiht god and wiht others i ahve known in this world...that to me is what the "resurrection of the body" means; the body is our current means of living in relationship. For me, that's enough! and for me, to say more is to get into the speculative.

This brings me to a major assumption I am aware I operate out of--you can dig into this more if you want...maybe we'll both learn something. Before you continue reading at this point, I'll need to verbally give you the "goldfish illustration," so I don't have to write it out the goldfish illustration, we have a metaphor for our human limitations when it comes to comprehending the reality of God. To me, theology is "faith seeking understanding," and what I'm aware of is that I operate out of the assumption that, even though God chooses reveals God's self to us in a variety of ways, our capacity to really grasp the nature of that revelation is still limited by the gulf of "scale of being" between us and God. That is, even though God has embodied himself in Christ and inspired the writers of Scripture and others to make known to us what's important in the face of our human condition, it's all still very fuzzy to us simply because what there is to know is so far beyond us. As Paul put it, "Now we see as in a mirror dimly, then we shall see face to face." I love that, because there is the promise of a much clearer perception of the reality of God in the future...but we aren't there yet. Hence, the need for a great deal of humility when it comes to our truth claims. We can experience God through faith, but that is on a different order of knowing than, say, the claim that I am a 47 year old American male with hazel eyes and chronic rhinitis. Different orders of reality, I guess.

"I don't understand why we can take "Christ", and Savior, and Life, as truth claims and support them from the Bible, and see the same emphasis on hell, sin, wrath from the same Bible and call it "arrogant" to support those truth-claims. Is it humble to point to actual verses in the Bible that speak of Christ's saving love and arrogant to speak of what the Bible says He saves us from?"

To me, in my arrogant judgment, it's not the truth claim itself that makes it arrogant or not, but the way it's used and the impact it has on people. I can confess Christ and the salvation and life he offers--and I can even speak of his deliverence fro the powers of sin, death and the devil, and it need not oppress people if I am presenting this in a way taht folks experiecen as genuine good news for them. But if and when I start to wield Scripture, or any Biblical image, in a way that oppresses people by heaping guilt and shame on them by insisting that what i cam speaking of is objective reality that they must accept--even if my motive is to get them to the place where they can be delivered from guilt and shame through the gospel, then I think i am functioning in an arrogant and destructive way. the pharisees of jesus time appear to have been of such ilk; I know that at times my own preaching and witness has strayed into this territory.

We Lutherans like to talk about a Law/Gospel dialectic--about the need to make a clear distinction between Law and Gospel, and to use each properly. That is, the Law has a few uses, but its primary one is to show us our need and drive us to Christ. For most of us Lutherans, all good preaching has some element of both law and gospel. But our understanding of Law is that it's built into the fabric of creation, and therefore it's primarily experiential in nature. therefore, I think it's Paul who talks about the OT Law as being a "shadow of what was to come." Following Luther's lead, most Lutherans turn to the 10 commandments as a fundamental articulation of Law, and we hold them up like a mirror so that we can see ourselves in our need for god's saving help. but even the commandmetns, i think most of us would say, are subject to the transformations of time and example would be the commandment that prohibits coveting our neighbor's wife. We can see from it's context in the commandment that this prohibition understood woemn to be the property of men...not a view consistent with most people I know today--even the most conservative fundamentalists no longer try to justify treating women as chattel. The law is built inot the fabric of human existence, but it must be conhstantly articulated anew..and therefore handled wiht care. I do't know about baptists, but too often, we Lutheran preachers go about the task by haplessly throwing people down into the mud wiht the law so that we can hose them off with the gospel.

The point is, the gospel is not about hosing us off. We can be and are (if we feel the need and trust the promise) washed anew and cleansed of our guilt, but the real purpose of the gospel is to get us into a wholesome relationship with God, not to wash us off. If someone is already operating with a sense of being in a wholesome relationship with God, why would we want to throw themin the mud of guilt and fear of hell, just to hose them off again...unless we are simply needing to establish control? The historical context of the reformation (exsessive preaching of the Law, fear of hell or pergatory, sale of indulgences) gives me and many of my colleagues a lot of cause to be suspicious of any such leanings--in ourselves or in anyone else.

Have to get back to this later...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Gospel Debate (3) Choosing Truth Claims

Here was my response to the previous email. What issues would you raise with this? Are they the same issues as stated in the previous responses? Let's continue to applaud John for his dialogue with those who at this point disagree with him.


First of all---i love the spirit of your response. I appreciate your patience.

As to what I agree with you on---
I feel that ultimately the Bible does speak of promises that we are called to believe--ultimately the promise of the gospel--that by repentance and faith in the substitutionary work of Christ, we can be saved, justified and indwelt by His Spirit.

I do agree that evangelicals chase rabbits--facts in Scripture that lead people away from the "main thing" which is the gospel.

But this gospel of reconciliation and justification is held up by "facts." If we take the "fact" of justification through the cross (which you adhere to) we have to ask what the implications are. You admit that justification/reconciliation is a truth-claim. The proclamation that Christ death on the cross and resurrection is a truth claim. A truth-claim supported by the Bible. So, if we have "facts" about Christ and his reconciling work, we have to ask what "facts" or truth-claim lends itself to our need for justification. Moreover, where do you get support for these truth claims except from the Bible. So now the question becomes--what truth claims do you accept or reject?

Moreover, people who claim inerrancy for the Bible are not as concerned with minor pieces of trivial data (well, some would sadly) but major articles of doctrine--major "truths" that if you can't give an affirmation to or a denial of you will lose the gospel.

It seems to me that you want to accept the "truth claim" of eternal life with Christ without the "truth claim" of the death and judgment He saves us from. If the Bible points us to the "truth claim" of the Living Christ---what does this Christ save us from? What is that "truth claim"?

I don't understand why we can take Christ, and Savior, and life, as truth claims and support them from the Bible, and see the same emphasis on hell, sin, wrath from the same Bible and call it "arrogant" to support those truth claims. Is it humble to point to actual verses in the Bible that speak of Christ's saving love and arrogant to speak of what the Bible says He saves us from? Do you see my question?

The danger of picking and choosing what is inspired and what is not is that you can quickly make the Bible mean what you want it to mean. You begin to evaluate the text instead of letting it evaluate you. Given our condition, we can make light of the cross--and see ourselves as a lot less depraved as Jesus taught we were. The less we see our need for a Savior, the less we value His sacrifice, and the less glory we give to God. I don't believe the Spirit in us will lead us to value the cross less--but more.

For instance---you take Col. 1:20 to say that Christ has reconciled "all things to himself"--a truth claim. However, Paul was writing to assure a people who had trusted in Christ's saving work to let no gnostic legalist tell them they weren't saved. So, he speaks of their identity in Christ. But that identity was always qualified by thier faith in him. Otherwise he wouldn't have added,

Col 1:23 "if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."

The promises of their being baptized with him in his death and resurrected with him in his resurrection was contingent upon their union with Christ---described by Paul as "recieving" Him.

Col 1:6 "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him."

No wonder Paul spends his life proclaiming Him "according to the power He works in me." Without the proclamation of the gospel--they would not hear, they would not believe, they would not be in Christ, but rather they would be in sin.

But according to our discussion---these things really aren't needed--for everyone is justified and inhabited by Christ in some measure. So I see you holding fast to Col. 1:20 as a truth claim you would shout from the rooftops. But when it comes to "faith alone" i.e. sola fide truth claims, there seems a slightly ashamed fear. Why is it okay to hold to Col. 1:20 and ignore hundreds of others that qualify that promise to those who put faith in Christ?


Rob Tombrella

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Gospel Debate (2) Inspired or Inerrant?

Here's John's response to the last email. What are your thoughts over the issues raised?

Inspired means just that--inspired...God-breathed. Not "inerrant"--which I see as a claim that was part of a 19th century reaction to the extremes of the Enlightenment. This term didn't exist before the Enlightenment. I think many folks have confused facts with truth...that is, "if it's not factual, it's not really true" (or God-inspired).

From what I can tell, people in the ancient world that produced the Bible didn't share the same concern for factual veracity that we did, but felt it perfectly permissable to play loose with facts in order to accomplish their agenda in writing. A concern/value for facts is a product of Enlightenment thinking. The irony is that the same people who reacted against Enlightenment thinking have bought in to the "truth as facts" logic in coming up with and embracing the claims of inerrancy.

Plus, I don't feel the need to commit intellectual suicide or do mental gymnastics to be a faithful Christian--I see too many instances of biblical error to buy in to inerrancy. This doesn't bother me at all, though, since, just as I or any other preacher in a Sunday morning service can be "errant" and still proclaim the Word of God for our audience, so can the biblical witness be errant and still be the Word of God. To be human is to be with error; our merciful God elected to incarnate his Word in very human beings, in order to "reconcile the world to himself." "Inspired by God" doesn't have to mean perfect; "God-breathed" simply means God is at work in and through it. The Bible itself makes no claims of inerrancy, by the way...because it's a pre-enlightenment collection of books!

As for my discomfort (as you put it) with definitive statements about stuff like hell, that's simply part of a hesitance to participate in truth-claims that I view as arrogant, that I believe have a growing irrelevance for many people, and that I'm convinced have undermined the ability of many to comprehend the actual meaning of the Scriptures. As for sins, I don't have any problem talking about sins as sins; I just don't want to participate in getting overly focused on what I consider to be the symptoms of the fundamental problem: our state of alienation from God. To me, the gospel of justification/ reconciliation through Christ is God's healing remedy for the condition of sin, and as we claim this remedy daily and let God's Spirit do its work on our hearts and minds through both inner and external processes, we can see some change in/relief from the symptoms--although never anywhere close to a complete cessation, since the condition of sin is lifelong even when we make use of the remedy. Thank God for the remedy, though, since with it we can experience the blessedness of walking with God even when we suffer the consequences of sins--ours and other peoples'.

What can we trust? The promises of God, that call our faith into being and lead us into a right relationship with God through faith--not faith in facts but in the reality of God and the dynamic truth of a relational God--a living reality that meets us where we're at, not a collection of facts to be mined out of the Bible and boiled down to doctrines. Ultimately, we can trust in God--the God who, with all their foibles and discrepencies, the books of the Bible bear witness to.

Please know that for me, in no way does not accepting the factuality of many Bible passages make it any less simply leads me to be much more cautious in making truth claims and endorsing doctrines. To say the Bible has errors doesn't make it an untrustworthy document; it makes it a document we need to make use of a lot less arrogantly than we often do! For me, the main function of Scripture is to bear witness to Christ; it's not the only witness we have, and so I don't need to depend on it as perhaps many of my fundamentalist brethren seem to think they need to. In addition to the Scriptures, we also have our own witness to the Living Christ, as well as the witness of 2,000 years of other believers--empowered by the gifts and presence of God's Holy Spirit in and among us, who is still inspiring and breathing today just as in those biblical writers.

In addition, to me it often seems the fundamentalist approach to the Bible leads folks to witness to and emphasize many things other than all kinds of peripheral doctrines and moral claims that are not essential to and often interfere with promoting faith in the Living Christ. Not that non-fundamentalist folks don't have their own problems this way...we're all sinners--broken people whose approach to faith and it's vocations are stained by our sinful condition--leading us to commit sins of ommision and commision in the way we witness to our faith!

Well, you asked:)

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Gospel Debate (1) Rightly Dividing Figs

Here's the comical way we began. What are some questions or comments you would have so far? We invite your response. In a few days John will respond.

Check out II Kings 20:1-7.

Perhaps we need to alert the R&D dept. of some drug company. There may be something to this fig thing!

i love figs---i'm glad it seems to be the fruit of choice in the Bible. see Hab. 3:17-19

But now you drew me in----do you believe this story actually happened? do you believe this happened literally? yeah or nay?

Hey, unless there's a good reason to doubt it, I have no trouble accepting it's veracity. I like the approach of John Bright, the biblical historian who wrote A History of accept the biblical narrative as archeological evidence, and put it alongside of other evidence to come to conclusions about what occurred.
Of course, you understand that it doesn't really matter to me whether it actually happened or not...what's important here is that God mercifully heals, that God's healing can be in, with and through natural or medical remedies, and that for "his own sake" and "his servant David's sake," he chooses to save his people--and not because of anything people choose to do!

agreed----that would be the over-arching emphasis---a healing God who loves to display his glory in that way.

Here's a question that rings in my ears though on reflection of some of the things you said about the authority of Scripture. You seem very uncomfortable with saying definitively whether or not there are such things as "hell" "heaven" (or paradise--to quote Jesus), or calling acts of the sin nature as "sins"---things that the Bible seems so clear on.

Here's my deal. I realize that the Bible needs to be interpreted in it's context---but that it is also "God breathed (2 Tim. 3:16)." You seem to read the Bible with the idea that you can't trust it. Before you say anything hard and fast about a doctrine--you seem compelled to qualify it with statements like "'s a 2000 year old document...written to a specific people that we really don't know that much about...written by a person with an intended message we can't say for sure about." I know that might seem charicature--but I know you to be too gracious to be upset by that. Tell me if I'm wrong in this.

You mentioned yesterday you don't interpret Scripture by Scripture---how do you interpret Scripture? And furthermore---why do you have such a hard time believing the Bible means what it says it means? What is inspired and what is not inspired? What can we trust, and what can we not trust? For example, if the Holy Spirit inspires men "moved by the Holy Spirit" to write that Christ was "born of a virgin" and then entrusts the meaning behind that with the Apostles--how can it "ultimately not matter?" so long as you affirm Christ's divinity? It seems to me that you approach the Bible looking for the broadest possible stroke.

If you believe that God became a human embryo and floated in amniotic fluid, was 100% God and 100% Man in the incarnation, was resurrected from the dead----why do you feel like this God has left us with an inaccurate and untrustworthy document--a document we are far too removed from to say anything definitive on?

It was good to hear your thoughts on these things--and you are a good listener---something I'm sure your wife and children appreciate. Again, these questions are far removed from "figs".....

Friday, August 11, 2006

Justin Childers to Christ Baptist Church

After a long season of prayer and anticipation, Justin and Jeanna are moving to Wilson, NC, to be a part of a church plant modeling itself under Mark Dever's 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. For those who know them, be in prayer for them in this season of transition. Justin has played a catalystic role in my walk with Christ over the years and continues to spur me on. He is also one of my top 10 preachers I hear Christ through.

Best Posts on the Internet

This series by Phil Johnson is why God allows blogging. It thunders with hope-giving truth! Have you guys read any of these?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Gospel Debate

A few months ago I began what has become an ongoing dialogue (or heated debate at times!) with a new employee named John (a friend from work and ELCA clergy).

We began discussing what we agreed with and what we disagreed with about the gospel first over lunch, and then in a series of emails that have not stopped.

After discussing this, starting Monday we would like to invite you into this ongoing debate between John and I on the essence of the gospel. Note, not necessarily the centrality of the gospel. We would both agree to the centrality of the gospel. But rather, the essence of the gospel--what is the gospel verses what it isn't and how we defend our beliefs.

We have both agreed to ask our friends to participate in this debate and to keep it friendly and aim to truly understand the case for the other side.

We are not representative spokesmen--but it will be interesting to see in the coming days how a clergyman from the ELCA camp understands the gospel verses a person from a Sovereign Grace Ministries camp.

We will let you begin where we did, with a couple of short emails--and let the conversation unfold. On each post, we want you to comment on what you agree with or disagree with about what has been said and why.

Friday, August 04, 2006

What Craig does on Sunday

Aside from the showmanship, how does the video of this magician show what the best preachers do? Enjoy the ultimate Friday post.

Good Point

From Calvary Chapel's statement on the emerging church.

"There are those who say that Emergent movement has some good points, but so does a porcupine. You are better off if you don't get too close!"

Fight for Faith

"Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim 6:12 ESV)."

"I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25 ESV)."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Christmas '06

If anyone wants to know what I would like for Christmas--here you go.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

He Sees

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 10:14 ESV)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pray for Indonesia

On Sunday, while I complained because I couldn't take a nap, nearly 700 Indonesians were swept into eternity.

This is a gathering of mourners who have come to pray to the gods that there would be no more earthquakes and tsunamis.

And then, a man prays over the bodies of some of the victims before their mass burial.

"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God." (Rom. 8:19 ESV)

"And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are
few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2 ESV)

Parenting and Marriage Post

Excellent sermons on parenting and marriage. Thanks unveiled face.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


"After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves." (Luke 10:1-3 ESV)

Monday, July 24, 2006

His Fame

"So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them." (Matt. 4:24 ESV)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Never a Goodbye

This is a picture of a Lebanese father saying goodbye to his Russian son and wife as war begins.

Then, alone on the train he wonders when he will see his father again.

I need to look at this to be reminded that a separation a thousand times more painful happened at the cross. The journey was farther than a few miles. The pain greater than the breaking of this boys heart.

Moreover, this reminds me of what will never happen.

Jesus was forsaken for us. Such is the love of God. Adopted as his child, He promises never to leave me--never to say goodbye. He will never leave us alone.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Go for it Josh!

My wife just called me today with news of a new job offer. Apparently Switchfoot (the greatest rock band of all time) is in need of someone to play the cow bell. I post this so that the friends who might see this (and say they are not musically talented) will be encouraged to step out in faith.

So I pulled this picture of Josh Jordan to let you guys encourage him to cow bell for the band from San Diego. Actually this is a shameless ploy to get Josh to enter the blogosphere.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Children in Romania

This is a picture journal of the tragedy of children in Romania done by the Houston Chronicle a few years ago.


"I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5 ESV).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Preaching Colossians to Ourselves

Luther coined the phrase "simul iustus et peccator." This basically means we are simultaneously both righteous and a sinner at the same time. As I’ve been reading through Colossians, this doctrine is undeniable.

One area I have been most surprised by is my lack of preaching the full gospel to myself (for lack of a better phrase) that Paul commends to the Colossian church. He spends a large majority of the letter telling believers the half of the gospel I so often neglect—that we are righteous in Him.

I find it extremely easy to acknowledge that I’m a sinner—I find it very uncomfortable to acknowledge I’m righteous in Him—especially the way the Bible describes it! I might sheepishly acknowledge I’m righteous—but not without a stronger emphasis on my title as a sinner. Yet, Paul seems to do exactly the opposite! He does nothing short of "assault" sinners with their new identity of the imputed righteousness of Christ to kill gnostic, joy-killing, and proud legalism.

Here’s my list of the unashamed ways Paul wants the Colossian church to "feel" about themselves—and the way God wants me to preach the gospel to myself when my old flesh and all the devils of hell do nothing but preach the bad news.

"Simul Iustus" statements in Colossians that describe who we are in Christ.

Qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (1:12)
Delivered from the domain of darkness (1:13)
Transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (1:13)
Redeemed (v. 14)
Forgiven of sins (v. 15)
Reconciled in his body of flesh by his death (1:22)
Holy (1:22)
Blameless (1:22)
Above reproach before Him (1:22)
Indwelt by Christ (1:27)
Received (2:6)
Filled in Him (2:10)
Circumcised with a circumcision made without hands (2:12)
Buried with him in baptism (2:12)
Raised with him (2:12)
Alive together with him (2:13)
Forgiven of all our trespasses (2:13)
Free from the record of debt that stood against us (2:14)
With Christ and alive in him (2:20)
Raised with Christ (3:1)
United to Christ in His death (3:3)
Hidden with Christ in God (3:3)
United to and owned by Christ (3:4)
You have put off the old self (3:9)
You have put on the new self (3:10)
Being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (3:10)
Indwelt by Christ (3:11)
God’s chosen one (3:12)
Holy (3:12)
Beloved (3:12)
Forgiven (3:13)
Called to Christ (3:15)
Recipients of the inheritance (3:24)

Preaching the gospel to ourselves is not just recalling the saving events of Christ—but what those saving events mean.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Today is the Day

24 Weeks

A friend from work just showed me pictures of his 30 week premature son named Christian. He is doing a lot better and has just been taken off a ventilator, but is still in NICU. Please pray for Christian.

It's horrifying to think that Christian is just 6 weeks older than the legal limit of abortion. In fact, for $1795 on LBJ you can terminate a child the age and size of this picture.


"And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled (Luke 14:23 ESV)."

Friday, June 23, 2006

One Pure and Simple Passion

"But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3 ESV)."

A Starbucks moment with my friend Josh Jordan has led me to this post. Along with solving the world problems we discussed practically how to keep our devotion to Christ "pure" and "simple."

Simplicity has not characterized my walk with Christ historically. More often than not, I’ve tended to overcomplicate my devotional life. In my devotion times I’ve either tried to do too many things (memorize for an allotted time, pray for certain things each day, read a certain number of chapters, journal etc.) or tried to accomplish too much with my mind to the neglect of my heart.

What this looks like is that I get consumed with "right thinking" to the neglect of "right burning" for the truths I’m thinking on. Since the Bible calls me to both (John 4:23; Luke 24:32; Matt. 22:37), I’m striving to learn from those who passionately (and ever-imperfectly) pursue the "radical middle." The Puritans called this logic on fire.

We all tend to lean one way or another on any given day (or hour!)—but this question is for those who (like me) are often tempted to love God with the mind to the neglect of the heart. How do you stoke your affections for Christ?

In the simplest of terms—what do you do when you find yourself thinking on Christ in the cerebral places of you mind, but you find your heart unmoved?

Be very practical—do you grab a Crowder cd? Do you go for walks? What do you do to maintain "simplicity and purity" in your devotion to Christ—such that the heat of your affections match the light of God’s grace?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Expulsive Power of a Correct Gaze

If you haven't read Storm's latest--you will need to email him to get it. Read and re-read.

In his latest devotion he points to Paul's remedy for the Colossian heresy of how to defeat sin. Rather than legalistic and gnostic rituals, that have "no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:23 ESV)" we should set our affections on the risen Christ who is "before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col. 1:17 ESV).

"The reason we must seek the things above is because that is "where Christ is" (v. 1). He is the exalted center and supreme sovereign of the eternal and heavenly realm. Why would we want our lives and thoughts and actions fixed anywhere else? The appeal of heavenly things is the presence of Jesus. It is the glory and beauty and multifaceted personality and power and splendor of the risen Christ to which Paul directs our attention."

As often when I read Storms, I project the amen---Yes!

Incidently the title is "expulsive" and not "explosive." Not a spelling error--you have to read the devotion.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sin as Affections

I was reminded today that before my sin becomes an offense to my wife or child, it is an offense to God—for before it takes place with my hands or mouth, it takes place in the affections of my heart. This, from an unlikely source—a quote from the newly appointed Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori when asked if homosexuality was a sin.

She said, "I don’t believe so…some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender."

I was amazed that "ordered affections" do no not qualify as sin to her. Especially when Jesus defined evil as having affections for that which is unholy and not loving that which is supremely lovely.

"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19 ESV emphasis mine)

I have more in common with Katharine than I would ever like to admit. I am often more aware of sin as it floats down the rivers of my actions, than the melting ice atop the mountain of my heart.

True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections. --Jonathan Edwards

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Pursuit of Holiness

In the winter of 2001 I was experiencing an incredible spiritual dryness that I couldn't seem to shake. I was immersed in studies at seminary and regularly practicing spiritual disciplines, but was aching for joy and passion for things that had become cerebral and merely academic.

My friend Justin gave me Sam Storms' book Pleasures Evermore because of Pipers thundering endorsement. What I discovered as I read was the theology of Edwards and Piper put to illustrations that seemed to beam light on my darkening understanding of God's passion for my passion for God. My heart began to reawaken and stir and hunger for Jesus. I discovered that I had begun to leave my first love and that God was calling me back to a passionate pursuit of Jesus.

The single-most profound statement that Dr. Storms hammers home chapter after chapter is that "holiness is falling in love with Jesus."

This phrase will serve me until my body is transformed into the likeness of the One I will enjoy in an everlasting and ever-increasing way forever.

"Human holiness is nothing other than a God-besotted life." John Piper

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Filling Up What is Lacking

My friend Tim pointed out the controversial passage of Col. 1:24. Over lunch this led to me reading Piper's story he uses to illustrate this call to suffer for the gospel.

"While I was working on the missions book in May, I had an opportunity to hear J. Oswald Sanders speak. His message touched deeply on suffering...He told the story of an indigenous missionary who walked barefoot from village to village preaching the gospel in India. His hardships were many. After a long day of many miles and much discouragement he came to a certain village and tried to speak the gospel but was driven out of town and rejected. So he went to the edge of the village dejected and lay down under a tree and slept from exhaustion.
When he awoke people were hovering over him, and the whole town was gathered around to hear him speak. The head man of the village explained that they came to look him over while he was sleeping. When they saw his blistered feet they concluded that he must be a holy man, and that they had been evil to reject him. They were sorry and wanted to hear the message that he was willing to suffer so much to bring them.
So the evangelist filled up the afflictions of Jesus with his beautiful blistered feet."

Monday, June 12, 2006


“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18 ESV)

Friday, June 09, 2006

What's Wrong with this Definition?

"Through His suffering, death and resurrection Jesus Christ, merited grace for mankind. Grace is a power or virtue or quality, which is infused by God, or poured by God, into the human being. This grace which is a quality or power from God and is a pouring into the human heart of faith, hope and charity, gives humans the ability to please God with their good works and thus merit His favor. Thus, justification takes place within the human being."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hide Us from Him

"Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17 ESV)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Billion Dollar Industry

Aaron Women's Clinic

Surgical Abortion Fees:
thru 11 weeks.............................. $325.00
thru 12 weeks................................. $425.00
thru 13 weeks................................. $495.00
thru 14 weeks................................. $520.00
thru 15 weeks................................. $595.00
thru 16 weeks................................. $795.00
thru 17 weeks................................. $895.00
thru 18 weeks................................. $1395.00
thru 19 weeks................................. $1595.00
thru 20 weeks................................. $1695.00
thru 21 weeks................................. $1995.00
thru 22 weeks................................. $2195.00
thru 23 weeks................................. $2495.00
thru 24 weeks................................. $2995.00

Pour Out

Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.” (Lam. 2:19 ESV)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Life is War

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Heb. 12:4

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27

Friday, May 26, 2006

Death by Ministry

Such a good article--hang on to this.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Empty Well of Blogging

I get much spiritual benefit at times throughout the day from looking at different blogs. I have a lot of "in between" time while on hold in which I can glance at a post and read a quick comment. Sometimes it is very insightful and many times I get benefit from them.

But today I was reminded of the primacy of the Word of God. I had to go outside with the primary source--the very words of God and hear Him. I read through Colossians and was reminded that the Bible is the word of God and that we hear His voice as we read His word. Felt good just to be cleansed from the emptiness of "second-handers" (as Spurgeon would say) and just feast on the very words of Christ.

Wesley said, "Oh let me be a man of one book!" Pray that I will use my in-between time for a lot less blogging and more meditating on the Word. Pray against being up on the latest "cool" post and more enthralled with the words of Christ.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Does Your Preaching Do This?

I saw this comment on Bruce Chant's blog this afternoon about Matt Chandler at the Village.

Chandler, for my personal edification, is my favorite preacher right now. I listen to probably eight different preachers via podcast, some weekly, some less so, all for the different things I can learn from these men of God. But if I was only listen to one, I would pick Chandler. Why? I find myself closer to Jesus when I’ve finished listening to and digesting his sermons than when I began. And that’s really the whole point isn’t it?

I totally agree. Matt Chandler has a unique blessing by God in his preaching to achieve this fruit. Like this blogger, I experience a "unique closeness to Jesus" when I listen to Chandler as well. I think God blesses his ruthless humility from the pulpit and faithful exposition to point people to a beautiful gospel. Is this not the goal of all preaching? Way to go Matt.

Incidently-I expect at least Justin to answer the above question--since he's the only one I'm sure will read this.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Edwards Quote

Came upon this quote today by Edwards. I'm thinking on the theological and practical implications in my life.

"Labor to be brought closer to God."

What a life quote.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Holy Dissatisfaction

I just spent lunch with John Piper. He preached a sermon to me from 1984 entitled "Going Hard after a Holy God."

I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that Christ has not been the center of my thoughts and affections lately. I am very convicted that I'm not created primarily to preach, or lead, or dream about church planting, or read great books, or know the Bible, or feel guilty because of my lack of evangelism. I'm created to know and enjoy Christ. All activity must terminate on one idea--one Person--one Reality--who is Jesus.

"There is so much of Christ yet to be known!"

I am dissatisfied with my current experience of the most deeply satisfying Reality in existence. Learning from Piper here...

"When I plead with you to develop a holy dissatisfaction with your spiritual life, I am asking for something rare, not common. I'm not asking you to feel worse about your inability to appear cool and intelligent. I'm asking you to feel worse that you possess so little of Christ. The first step in going hard after God is to feel bad about the right things. Develop a holy dissatisfaction with your spiritual life."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Today at Aaron's

I was late getting to the clinic today. I missed Crim and then tried to circle around. In my usual display of directional imbalance, I spent 30 minutes just making my way back to LBJ, and then back to the clinic. In all, I spent about 10 to 15 minutes at the clinic—not enough time to do anything but observe.

I was surprised to not see the guard outside today. I was burdened to see so many cars. I’ve only been a couple times to Aaron’s, but there were more cars than I remember seeing—at least 20.

The only chance I had to hand off a flyer was to what looked like a young, professional woman that looked more like a doctor or a nurse going to lunch than a girl about to have surgery. Of course, she could have been coming in to set the appointment for another day.

As she drove out the front entrance I approached her car in the most humble way trying to get her to acknowledge I had something for her to read. She avoided eye-contact the way I do to cars on Eldorado when I’m late for work. She left me smelling the fumes of her Nissan Altima.

A guy in a red car slowed down long enough for me to see his middle finger.

The saddest sight was a hispanic couple leaving the mill. As they were walking out to their car—he seemed in a hurry. She walked slowly behind. The way she swayed back and forth made it clear that she just had an abortion. She seemed in physical pain.

With the sun bouncing off the pavement, I walked back to my car passing the Day Spa next to the clinic. A huge sign reads "Surprise Her for Mother’s Day." The irony was tragic.

Aaron's Women's Clinic is a surgical abortion clinic in Dallas that performs abortions through the legal limit of 24 weeks.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Your Unfolding Gives Light

The unfolding of your words gives light;it imparts understanding to the simple. (Ps. 119:130)

On Sunday Craig preached from 2 Timothy 4:1-2 where Paul exhorts Timothy to "preach the word." Craig instructed that this text is often the most popular section of the Bible for ordination services and for preachers to meditate on in their service of the church. However, Craig's emphasis was on the responsibility of the church (not just pastors) to allow the power of the word to "reprove, rebuke, exhort" us daily. This comes when we approach the word as the authority over our lives.

Paul's charge to Timothy is not just that Timothy preach the authoritative word, but that I recieve and actively pursue its correction in my life.

Craig said, "there is resident power in the Word of God that when proclaimed--a miracle happens." This miracle is the kind correction of God that help us to see the ugliness of sin and the beauty of Jesus. It is the means by which the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to truth. Namely that God is holy, I am sinful, and the cross is my hope.

Because the preached Word has this kind of "resident power" we were challenged to "raise our expectations and anticipation" of what God will speak into our lives. Specifically...

1. Pray for the pastor that is preaching--for faithfulness to the text. That the preacher will see the glories of Christ.
2. Prepare your heart throughout the week to be ready to hear God on Sunday
3. Come to the meeting EXPECTING to hear from the Lord personally
4. Listen actively while the word is heralded
5. Repent where you see you are lazy in the word or falling short
6. Ask for a hunger for the word.

For me, when Craig referenced Ps. 119:130 my heart leaped. It is an amazing thing that words on a piece of paper, that when preached, bring "light" to see the truth of who God is.

God is a God that loves to communicate the contours of His beauty. He has spilled out truth all over His creation--from tiny tree insects, to mammoth elephants--from the laziest ripple of a puddle, to the waves of a tsunami. He has not created the universe to go secret, but to reveal His glory.

However, the revelation of this glory in creation is a black hole compared to the light that shines out of His word.

I am stunned by the plain fact that apart from the Holy Spirit illuminating my heart to the "resident" blaze of God's Word, I will lose my way. I will stumble and fall because the light of creation doesn't describe the person and work of a Savior apart from the informing work of the Word. In the word of God (Bible), the Word of God (Jesus) is "unfolded" before me. He is the Lamp unto my feet, and the Light unto my path (John 14:6; Ps. 119:105).

Lord, make the ears and eyes of my heart hear Your voice, and see Your beauty through the word. Make me hungry for the Bible--not for a cerebral experience, but for the joy of Your presence.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tim Keller Hub

Several friends of mine have asked where you can find Tim Keller sermons (for free). I have suggested several sites, but found the hub today. Thanks Reformissionary. The picture doesn't help, but the glasses he wears are gospel-lenses.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spiderman 3: The Countdown Begins

Yes! Mark your calendars for May 4, 2007. This is no black and white--check it out!

Yes, I'm loving the look already. Who doesn't want to be Spiderman in the picture. Self-reflective. Contemplating his thoughts. Wrestling with inner-turmoil. Like Batman, he broods over the city. glory!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lloyd-Jones on the Holy Spirit

Adrian Warnock has had some excellent posts recently on Lloyd-Jones and baptism of the Holy Spirit. Check it out.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Self-Esteem is Highly Overrated

In the past 2 weeks I have been randomly shown pictures by people at work of people that look like me. To their credit these people do look like me. The first one is a guy named Kevin that is in the top 24 of American Idol (why can't the American Idol I resemble be cool looking!) the other is a random picture of an associate pastor in Alabama. I was sent this picture with the title "wow, Rob really let himself go!" Both pictures are a reminder to me that not only is self-esteem highly over-rated, but also as 1 Cor. 15:40 says, "There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I Must Get to Know this Family

I was just wasting time early this morning at work and linked over to this blog from Mark Lauterbach's blog when I was overcome by reality. I think day by day I am living in reality until I bump into real life--which always involves real pain. What struck me by this story is this picture taken just four days before their son died. I want this picture to change my life. I want to stare at this real life situation and let it serve me as a growing reminder of the reality of pain all around me in this fallen world. Moreover--Moreover--Moreover!!!! Let this picture remind me of the beauty of God's grace. Even here--even here God's gracious gospel is providing power (Rom. 1:16). Power to go on. Power to hope. Power to believe God's promises that he will cause all things to work together for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28). Every moment his children walk through the valley of the shadow of death His invisible hand leads them to secret places of joy in the presence of the Suffering Savior (Phil. 3:10). God, don't ever let me get over this photo.