My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

24 December 2006

Creeds vs. Hyper-preterism

A comment in a post below contains a somewhat-common sentiment - Why use creeds to determine orthodoxy? Why not just use Scripture? In response to that question, and to encourage all of us toward more submission to the creeds, I'd like to line out for some of the arguments given by Doug Wilson in his chapter "Sola Scriptura, Creeds, and Ecclesiastical Authority" in When Shall These Things Be? (side note: despite some recent controversy, Wilson does support and submit to the church's creeds and offers clear thinking on the issue ...and this chapter has nothing to do with the federal vision controversy.) The length of this post reflects on the importance I place on this subject.
  • The debate between the church and hyper-preterists isn't really about the timing of eschatological events; people within orthodoxy debate those things all the time. Rather, the debate is over things the church has settled a long time ago, especially the resurrection of the dead. The debate hinges on the question of authority.
  • If the hyper-preterists are right, then the church has been wrong for a very, very long time on some very, very important issues. This means that the HPists must have for their goal the restoration of some purer form of the church than has existed for two millennia. If this sounds familiar, it's because this is the same thinking ("arch-restorationism") behind Mormonism, who take the idea of restoring the true church to an extreme.
  • Wilson argues well that many semi-restorationists have been and are orthodox; the Church of Christ (Campbellites) would fall into this category. But they are orthodox through inertia, because they have inherited from the saints before them creedal Trinitarianism and creedal Christology, even though they would never admit it.
  • The response from HPsts is "Sola Scriptura! We must submit to Scripture, even if it means calling 2000 years and millions of saints dead wrong in what they believe." Wilson: "But the definition of Scripture itself is a creedal issue, and if one is consistent in a disparagement of the creeds, he finds that 'just me and my Bible' is soon replaced by 'just me.'"
  • The enemies of creeds love to proclaim their dependence on Scripture. But how do they know what Scripture is? How do you know what books to include and Scripture and which are apocryphal? They know because the church has defined the canon through her creeds! "...restorationists of all stripes have no foundation for their appeals, and hence their appeals are consistently parasitic. They get their Bible from the historic church, and then use it to attack the historic church. Another name for this is sawing off the limb you are sitting on." Later: "If everything in the creeds is up for grabs, then sola Scriptura is up for grabs."
  • Some view creeds as helpful tools without any real authority, preferring to stick with Sola Scriptura. (Ed Stevens, a prominent HPist, wrote that creeds have "no real authority anyway.") The problem: even sola Scriptura is a creed. The second problem - they don't understand what sola Scriptura really means. "Sola Scriptura, rightly understood, means that Scripture is our only spiritual authority that is ultimate and infallible. Other spiritual authorities exist and have genuine authority over us." All the great theologians you love viewed church tradition, as encapsulated in creeds, as a "subordinate norm" or a lesser, but very real, authority. To fight Rome, the Reformers went back to the creeds, to the church fathers, as well as to Scripture. Go page through the Institutes and see how often Calvin is quoting someone with an odd Greek name.
  • Though the church has never totally agreed on eschatology, she has always agreed on this one point of eschatology, that Christ is returning in the future to judge the quick and the dead and to raise the dead to life. "In short, the only eschatological position that the universal church has been able to agree on thus far is that hyper-preterism is wrong."
  • It follows, "authority need not be infallible." Example 1 - parents' authority over children. Example 2 - the church over the flock. The creeds (namely, Apostles', Nicene, and Chalcedonian) are the height of the church's real-but-fallible authority. If the fallibility of the church presents a problem for you submitting to her creedal authority, realize that she is also the pillar and ground of the truth - capable of error, but also enabled by God to be the guardian of His truth. Or else your kids don't have to submit to your fallible authority anymore...
  • Flippantly dismissing the creeds' authority shows a lack of historical humility, something vital whenever considering important doctrines.
  • Sola Scriptura was never meant as a license for each individual to come up with their own interpretation of Scripture for themselves - though, judging from the American church, that is precisely what has happened. Needed: a balance between overly-individualistic interpretation of Scripture and overly-heirarchical interpretation of Scripture. "Balance" itself is usually something rejected by those pushing an aberrant exegetical agenda.
  • Scripture was given to the church as a whole, not only individuals - "orthodox creeds, councils, theologians, and individual layment line up against their heretical counterparts...the Word of God is given to us so that we might come to confess it together."
  • In some corners of the church, anti-intellectualism still reigns - look for those who proudly claim to be a "layman with no formal seminary education." This is a good thing?? Of course we don't believe that seminary education renders one infallible or necessarily more capable. But there is a reason the church has valued the training of her pastors for centuries - because when unsubmissive men with little exegetical skills study God's Word apart from the historic teachings of the church, very bad things happen (see: Jehovah's Witnesses).
  • Also, be wary of those who want a "New Testament church" - rather, view the New Testament church as the New Testament does, as "an historical phenomenon, one that was intended to develop over time...into greater and greater maturity..." Remember the gifts Christ gave to the church (Eph. 4:11-16), gifts intended to make the church able to grow. And though the church isn't perfected by any means, there have been great points of catholic like-mindedness, teachings of Scripture which everyone in the church got behind - for one, the coming return of Jesus Christ. For two, the idea of sola Scriptura (which is, to repeat, a creed itself).
  • To those who would call for us to show more charity to HPists, to spend more time in debate, etc., we only need to remember that loving the sheep means fighting wolves. If we're not sure if someone is a wolf or not, we extend charity until we're sure one way or the other; but if they growl and devour the sheep like wolves (my, what big anti-resurrection teeth you have!), we don't wait around for our asssumptions of their wolfiness to be confirmed.
  • Charge: Adherence to creeds is inherently Romanist (oh snap! he said "romanist") because it gives authority to infallible men. Response #1: The HPsts are closer to Rome because they believe "that there can be no church authority without church infallibility. Rome agrees with this fully." Response #2 - HPists maintain the church cannot speak authoritatively unless she speaks infallibly; apply this to marriage and see how your wives start acting. Response #3 - The HPist himself must submit his own "readings" of Scripture under this charge; is he infallible? If not, then he ought to toss his writings into the fire along with the creeds!
  • Charge: The creeds were "Hellenistic" and therefore their relevancy is bound to that culture. Response - rather, the Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds stood strongly against any who would make accommodations to Hellenism, strongly supporting the real, corporeal body of Jesus Christ (a totally anti-Hellenistic idea). The creeds were used by God to keep Hellenism at bay.
  • Charge: Adherence to creeds keeps folks from really examining any theology which contradicts them. Response #1 - great! This is what they're for, to "help many laymen recognize faulty theology when they do not have time to study everything for themselves." Response #2 - The truths of the creeds are "theological prerequisites. A student is not going to get on very well in fifth grade if he has to restudy and reexamine everything he learned in first grade." Assumption of truth gets us going somewhere! Rejection of it, contra HPist rhetoric, is boring and stagnant. [I.e., there is no semper reformanda apart from the creeds. The church is progressed and beautified when she stands upon the foundation of the forefathers, not when she forgets how to speak and babbles like an infant again.]
  • What to do with HPists? If they are teachers of HPism, they are wolves and must be treated as such. And the church's shepherds must name them for what they are. If the HPists in question are followers but not teachers, "we must...grab them by their baptism." We must exhort them to repent of their beliefs and be faithful.
  • "If we are headstrong and unwilling to study the faith of our fathers carefully, then we are headed for trouble. If we insist on individual 'veto power' over all the creeds of men, we have not successfully gotten away from all man-made creeds. We have simply submitted to the creed of one, a creed that is often composed on the fly...which conveniently leaves me by myself, in charge of myself."
We ought to be thankful to God for the creeds of the church; we ought to know them, measure our beliefs by them, measure our teachers by them - not as a denial of sola Scriptura, but as the only real way of holding to sola Scriptura faithfully.

22 December 2006

Merry Christmas, part 2

Several of the comments before regarding Christmas noted that Dr. Kinneer statements weren't supported by research. Grant Van Leuven, a friend who works for RPTS, sent me this link to Dr. Kinneer's expanded answers regarding commonly held Christmas myths. Grant also reminded me/us that Dr. Kinneer's purpose is not to debate the celebration of Christmas, but to defend the truth of the gospel accounts. It's very fascinating reading. [thanks, Grant!]

19 December 2006


In the college Sunday school class, we recently finished an overview of church history. As we sped through church history, every now and then we came to a book that had an important place in church history, usually accompanied by my gentle encouragement, “You must read this!” The following is a list of some of those books. Take this list as an encouragement to investigate history theologically and theology historically, not necessarily as an endorsement of every book listed. Plus, now more than ever, the accessibility of these books renders the church even more excuse-less for being not being historically minded.

  1. Mark Noll, Turning Points (this is the book we used as our outline for the class)
  2. Nick Needham, 2000 Years of Christ's Power, vol. 1-3 (a good, readable overview of church history)
  3. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews - great for knowing the historical context of the gospels
  4. St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation - absolutely indispensable. Also, a great book to read on Christmas holiday. Free online version here.
  5. St. Augustine, Confessions and City of God and On the Trinity
  6. St. Benedict's Rule
  7. St. Patrick's Confessions
  8. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way - An in-house overview of Eastern Orthodoxy.
  9. Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
  10. Martin Luther, 95 Theses and Bondage of the Will
  11. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
  12. Iain Murray, Wesley and the Men Who Followed
  13. Philip Jakob Spener, Pia Desideria
  14. John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished & Applied and Song in the Public Worship of God
  15. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
  16. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism
  17. Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith (re: Cornelius Van Til's presuppositional method of apologetics)
  18. Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? and Collected Writings

What books might you add as being important pieces of Christian history?

15 December 2006

Merry Christmas

I'm so happy about this. Dr. Jack Kinneer was one of my professors at RPTS. This Christmas season he's done some good work debunking popular Christmas myths, especially the ones about Christmas being based on a pagan holiday and Jesus being born in the Spring or Summer. So if your conscience permits you, have a merry Christmas!

13 December 2006


This is fairly ridiculous, a Left Behind Video game. I had many things typed out, but I've decided to simply open this up for conversation: How should we respond to this?

05 December 2006


Been a while. My regrets that your internet life has been slightly less shiny.


A word for the day: Henotheism. Several weeks ago, our mid-week study on the Nicene Creed was considering the idea of "one God." In that study, we tossed around nice big words like polytheism, pantheism and atheism. But one word came up that seemed to capture so clearly why monotheism (one God-ness) is a vital piece of the Christian religion.

Henotheism means, according to (sorry, Elizabeth, I can't afford the OED): the worship of a particular god, as by a family or tribe, without disbelieving in the existence of others. When I came across this while studying, it struck me as the perfect word for the state of the church in relationship to other religions. We love to be nice, naturally, and so we more and more like to allow people to remain subjected to their own god or gods. Mind you, we don't deny Jesus as Lord or anything like that, but we don't really mind all that much when others do it.

Believing there is only one God for me is henotheistic. Believing there is only one God for everyone is monotheism. We ought to stand squarely in the latter but so often find ourselves waddling in the former. If we are going to be true believers, we must also be true disbelievers. If we are going to claim that Jesus is Lord, we must also claim that Allah, Buddha, et al, aren't. And this makes a huge difference in our evangelism: we don't do evangelism just to make people's lives better, to bring them from a nice, quaint religion to a really, really good one. We do evangelism because they owe to the Living God their allegiance and we are not satisfied with anything less.

09 November 2006

Another internet quiz. *sigh*

This is kind of frightening. Maybe I need to review my answers:

You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'



Karl Barth


John Calvin




Martin Luther


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Jonathan Edwards




Charles Finney


Paul Tillich


Which theologian are you?
created with

28 October 2006

A Proverbial End

Well, tomorrow is the end. The end of an era. *sniff* It will be my last sermon in Proverbs. To celebrate, I thought I'd give a book review round-up of the books I've used in my studies:

The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1-15 & The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15-31, by Bruce Waltke (New International Commentary on the Old Testament series) - These were simply outstanding and incredibly helpful. Around chapter 7 or 8 of Proverbs, I decided to bite the bullet and preach straight through the book rather than go topically through the rest of it. It was Waltke who convinced me this was possible by showing me that Proverbs isn't as haphazard as we normally think. He does a great job separating out different sections of Proverbs and getting to the meat of the matter. These are fairly scholarly books, but they are absolute musts for any pastor or teacher working through Proverbs. Waltke's Proverbs commentaries are, for me, the standard by which all others are measured.

Proverbs, by Derek Kidner - This is volume 15 of Tyndale's Old Testament Commentary series, a great set of small, paperback commentaries that manage to be immensely helpful. I've already enjoyed Kidner's writings on Genesis and Psalms, and I was not disappointed by this 180-page welterweight. Due to space limitations, Kidner obviously does not deal with every question or possible application. But somehow he manages to answer most of the questions I had about different verses. Also, the first 50 pages contain wonderful introductory material and excellent subject studies to which I referred many times over the last two years. While he deals a little with the original languages, this is one that anyone wanting to understand Proverbs deeply could benefit from.

How to Read Proverbs, by Tremper Longman III - My opinion on this book has come around since I began preaching Proverbs. Though I disagree a little with the amount of freedom that Dr. Longman takes with applying the Proverbs, this is one of the best introductions to wisdom literature I've read. Longman carefully takes the reader through everything he needs to know in order to gain the greatest benefit possible from Proverbs. He explains what proverbs are and how to read them, he explains how to find Christ in the pages of the Proverbs, and he gives a few examples of how we can use the Proverbs to find specific help for things like our money, our words, and our wives/husbands.

Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth: Studies in Proverbs, William Arnot - Arnot was a 19th century pastor in Scotland. This book of more than 100 short sermonettes through Proverbs is his lasting literary contribution to the church. Arnot does not deal with all, or even most, of Proverbs, choosing rather to focus his thoughts on one verse at a time. These sermonettes would profit any reader, but could be especially suited for family worship with teenagers (especially boys - Proverbs is their book!). Good stuff.

Proverbs: Everyday Wisdom for Everyone, by Eric Lane - To be honest, I stopped working with this commentary partway through my time in Proverbs. Though I didn't find much to disagree with, its format is not helpful for a preacher. However, it could be a great book for individual or family worship. Though Lane doesn't believe Proverbs has much discernable structure to them (contra Waltke), he organizes the book according to the chapters of Proverbs. The content of his chapters is mostly an application & sermon-style. Though I could wish he wasn't so tied to Proverbs' chapter divisions, I could see folks reading Lane profitably along with their devotions or in preparation for Bible study.

Wisdom for Today's Issues: A Topical Arrangement of Proverbs, by Steven Voorwinde - This small book is simply a rearrangement of the book of Proverbs into topical sections. So, for instance, if you'd like to know what Proverbs says about money, you could just read pages 154-160. Because I didn't preach topically, this book was only marginally helpful; obviously, though, it could be helpful for those needing quicker answers from Proverbs. But...if you're tempted to study Proverbs regarding just one subject, heed these words from Longman (above): "the first step is to read through the whole book, noting those verses that bear on the topic we are interested in...This may sound mechanical, but it isn't, at least not entirely." In other words, if you simply pull out from Proverbs all those verse that mention "money" or "wealth" or "poverty", you're going to miss other verses that don't have those words yet bear directly on the topic you're studying. To put it another way, if you choose to study Proverbs like Voorwinde's book, make sure you treat Proverbs like a whole book and not a random collection of helpful thoughts.

Proverbs, by Charles Bridges - This classic commentary is best described as Puritanical. In a good way. Mostly. Bridges deal carefully and exegetically with each verse of Proverbs, leaving the reader satisifed that he hasn't missed anything. Like many Puritans, he's apt to read too much into the text, making laws out of applications. But, studying for sermons, whenever I got stuck on a question or verse, Bridges was usually able to take care of me.

Ending Proverbs, my prayer is that God's people here in Lafayette will have a taste for how God's glory can be pursued in every corner of life, that they will have such a vision for His glory that they'll hold dearly to this book of wisdom, seeing in its pages the life of Christ in everyday situations.

27 October 2006

The Gospel of Moulin Rouge

I was nervous. Good friends Micah and Emily loaned us Moulin Rouge and encouraged us to watch it. But Micah challenged us to see the picture of the gospel in the story. Would I find it? Would I be able to spot it?

Here's what I came up with:
  • It's all about Hosea and Gomer. Jesus loves His people despite our spiritual prostitution. Regardless of how many idols we've given ourselves to, He sings irresistibly to our souls and draws us to Himself in love. He convinces us that His love - not diamonds - is our best friend.
  • No matter how hard we try to push Him away, He will freely forgive and because we are His, we will not be able to resist His song of love. Thank God.
  • And Jesus is the writer of the story. No matter how much the enemy tries to mess it up and regardless how apt we are to gum up the works, it's still completely and totally His story. And at the end, He will get the girl. He's far too jealous for us; He can't just walk away.
Micah, how'd I do?

p.s. - Much like Hosea, the movie has "adult" themes and situations, but I didn't find it offensive or out of place. The caveat's been issued.

26 October 2006

Country Soul

It's been a while since I've foisted my musical tastes upon you (I think I'm still bitter that you haven't bought Derek Trucks' album yet). Anyway, here's a doozy: a country album by the king of soul, Solomon Burke, the King of Rock and Soul.

This is quality stuff. Who knew soul singers and country went so well together? Mind you, this isn't country you'll hear on Hank-FM or whatever you have floating through the airwaves. This is vintage country, tears-in-your-uh-lemonade country. Not twangy, but vintage.

Nashville's producer, Buddy Miller, found a great balance between slow ballads, hoe-downs and country rockers. He also found several incredible guests: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Patty Loveless.

If you're shopping for some new music to make you smile, tap your toes a little and sing along in your best soul singer impression, this is it.

Lessons in Proverbs - 2

#2 - Proverbs is here because I'm not wise

Why did God see fit to put this book in the Bible? On the surface, so much seems so plain, pedestrian, ordinary. Even commonsensical. Well, that's kind of the point. This is ordinary and common-sense stuff - but it's here because I'm not so full of common sense or wisdom as I'd like to think. God put Proverbs in the Bible and He jammed it full of ordinary wisdom because I need it. Especially me. And especially others included in the Biblical category of young men. This is our book, but don't cheer and pat yourselves on the back. It's ours because of the inherent, automatic foolishness born and bred into us.

Sometimes, because we forget what Christ told us about the law of God, we tend to think we're doing all right. "I haven't killed anyone today and my Sabbath-keeping is above par." And here comes Proverbs, slowly and methodically revealing how the law of God can be, indeed must be, applied, pressed into every corner of life. The mere presence of this book in Scripture is humiliating. Humiliating in a good way. It gets our heads out of the theological clouds and forces us to reconcile Christ's life in us with things like sleeping and eating and speaking. We who would much rather discuss theology and culture and philosophy, Proverbs grounds us in Christ in the most practical of ways.

Other times, like the Hawkeyes looking over the helmets of the Hoosiers, we neglect to take the enemy seriously. We keep our eyes on the big temptations, we memorize the ten commandments and know answers to the false cults of our day. And foolishness slips in the door unnoticed. Proverbs is in the Bible because I need help against the temptation of foolishness. I need Jesus all the time. Proverbs tells me that.

But Proverbs, by its lonesome, isn't enough. John Bunyan said "
It is possible to learn all about the mysteries of the Bible and never be affected by it in one’s soul. Great knowledge is not enough." Proverbs is part of how the Spirit masters foolishness in my mind and life. But apart from the Spirit, regardless of how many Proverbs I have in my mental rolodex, I will achieve nothing but superficial smarminess. This is why James calls real wisdom "the wisdom from above" (Jas. 3:17); it has to come from God, it has to be given because it can never be merely earned or procured by hard work.

So the presence of the book of Proverbs is humiliating. But how sweet it is to be humiliated unto Christ, to be reminded that I need Him and His Spirit to speak the right way, to vacuum a carpet the right way. And to be driven to prayer, pleading with the Father to grant the wisdom that sin has driven so far from me.

24 October 2006

Lessons in Proverbs - 1

Over the next couple weeks, I hope to record here seven or eight big lessons that God has taught me during two years of preaching through Proverbs. (For those of you in our church, some of this will be repetition; it's okay - it's good for you.) Clearly, I would hope these would edifying to you; additionally, I would appreciate any sharpening or refutation of these ideas where you see they need it.

#1 - Proverbs shows me that we need the whole Bible

Perhaps Proverbs itself, as a book, can serve as a metaphor. There it sits, right in the middle of our Bible. It's not the first thing you notice about Scripture. It's not the beginning or the end of our religion. Its place seems rather humble at first. But just because something's in the middle doesn't make it unimportant; to the contrary, it might make it especially important. Like my large intestine - it's right in the middle of me, but it would be hard to function without it. So the life of wisdom may not be the beginning or end of Christianity, but it makes up a whole big bunch of the meat of it.

Proverbs has good neighbors, too. It follows so many great stories of God's power for and against His people in the Old Testament, giving us good paradigms and examples for understanding wisdom. It follows the Psalms, giving us that vital balance of heart and life religion. It's followed by those perturbing prophets, keeping us grounded on this practical earth while the prophets wax divine about promises and judgments and so forth. What a better dad I would be if I could learn this from Proverbs - it's not enough just to give my kids a little snippet of wisdom or instruction here and there. They need stories to back it up - the stories of the saints, the stories of the gospels. They need the theology of Paul and the revelation of John. Without the whole Bible, Proverbs rings hollow and kids can see through it.

We might also find the value of Proverbs by asking, "What would Scripture be missing without it?" If Proverbs wasn't in this book, what would be lacking in our faith? More than anything, I believe now we would be a complete loss to see how the law of God ought to be applied to every area of life. Sure, we would have the ten commandments memorized, but would we really know how to live for God's glory when we eat and sleep and work and talk and listen? Proverbs is the meat of the Christian life. You and I don't spend most of our day contemplating theology or praying for the return of Christ. We spend it reading and thinking and laboring and talking - where to turn in Scripture for help with all that?

We could also guage the value of Proverbs by asking, "What would our religion be like if we only had Proverbs?" If we only had this book of Proverbs, we could so very easily veer into the realm of legalism and salvation by works - especially because so many proverbs connect our actions with God's blessing or curse. If we only had this book of Proverbs, we would never know the name Jesus; of course, Proverbs 8 talks about wisdom in a personal sense and we know now that it's Jesus who was with the Father at creation. But if we didn't have the apostle John telling us that Jesus was God with God in the beginning and if we didn't have Paul telling us that God made Jesus our wisdom and righteousness, would we recognize wisdom in Proverbs 8 as the Son of God? In other words, Proverbs is great, but it's not enough.

What is enough is what God's given us. The Bible is enough - or, in theological language, the Bible is sufficient. Put it all together, inject the power of the Holy Spirit, and you have everything you need for life and godliness. This means, though, that we have to treat it like a whole. I must consciously read every passage of Scripture in light of the whole, interpreting less clear passages by those that are more clear, judging doctrines and applications against all of Scripture and not just the passage in front of me.

I need the whole Bible. Each book of the Bible needs the whole Bible (ask those same questions above about any book and see what you get). And God, because He is good and great and gracious, has given us the fullness of His revelation in the Word and in the Person of Jesus Christ.

22 October 2006

Why I'm Neither a Conservative Nor a Liberal

Rod Dreher is a popular writer in the conservative arena. As an expansion of a 2002 essay, he recently wrote Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party). I quoted that at length because it's fun to say. Go ahead, read it out loud.

Dreher seems to be the well-spoken spokesmen for conservatives who like organic carrots and apple computers and Choco sandals, those who fit the bill politically but not culturally. He seems to have struck a cord.

Eric Miller, associate professor of history at Geneva College, reviewed Dreher's book in a recent issue of Books & Culture. Miller likes the book, but doesn't think Dreher's vision is good enough. Which brings up this quote from Miller, which resonated with me and said better what I was trying to say a couple days ago ("Why I'm not a Conservative").

America would be a better place if Dreher's crunchy conservatism won out, I'm sure. But it's not good enough, and maybe not even that good for very long, in our expiring times. For both "liberalism" and "conservatism" are traditions with a shelf-life. They are time-sensitive, and their time is out. It's not that nothing of worth remains within them - quite the contrary, as Dreher's book attests. But the modern era that called these political traditions into being - and that they, indeed, helped create - has defeated them. At this late date, being "conservative" is an inadequate ideal for humans to aspire to - as is being "liberal." What our moment requires instead is a politics more deeply human, more truly radical, something both old and new, a moral vision that might teach us anew what any healthy family, church, neighborhood, or nation already knows: how to conserve and liberate at once.

Wow. That's it in a nutshell. In this country, in this cultural and social age, living and thinking like a Biblical Christian is the most radical, most necessary thing to do. Who better than the church to provide the infinite, eternal moral vision for the nations? Who better than Christ to lead this nation? For the sake of the kingdom, then, let's throw off the conservative label, let's tell the Republicans and Democrats that the church isn't something to be bought or pandered to. Let's tell the world that Christ is King and acting according to that reality (from individuals all the way up to nations) is the best thing. Really, the best.


P.s. - this doesn't mean that I don't like Republicans. Please vote for my friend, Jack Rhoda!

P.s.s. - Rod Dreher has recently switched from the Roman Catholic Church to an Eastern Orthodox church. Apparently, it's created a little stir. Anyhoo, you can read this interesting, and somewhat long, story here.

19 October 2006

The New Tragedy

It's happened once more, so now maybe it's a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Last weekend saw a rather brutal brawl in the Miami-Florida International football game. One of the players, echoing similar sentiments from NFL-stomper Albert Haynesworth, apologized for his behavior and implored us to realize "This is not the real me." This is not me. This behavior doesn't accurately reflect my heart or my character or my beliefs. Please don't think this is the real me.

We can sympathize, right? No one wants their poor behavior remembered; no one wants their "slips" and "indiscretions" to be permanently recorded in the public memory. Everyone wants to be thought well of by others.

But the tragedy is twofold: first, to separate who I am from what I do is to rip myself in half. If I am not what I do, how can I know who or what I am? The only option is to mentally construct a version of myself completely distinct from what I do, separate from the externals. ...Except the good things I do - those are me. And this is exactly what we do. Cling to the good, reject the bad - those slips and indiscretions? Those weren't really me; it was a momentary lapse in reality. Those times when I was good and you liked me? That was the real me. It's an issue of reality. How can one set of actions reflect the real me while the other set of actions is dismissed as "not the real me"?

The second part of this tragedy is what this means for individuals and Christ. If the good me is the real me and the bad me is accidental, I don't need a Savior. I don't need any help, because I'm basically good through and through, with those cleat-stomping aberrations popping up every now and then. But it's when an individual comes to ponder, "Maybe this is the real me. Maybe there is a real problem, a real issue of character that I can't overcome in and of myself" - sliding down that scary slope is the path to salvation. Doctors don't have time or patience for people who don't think they're sick and need help. Christ didn't come for folks who think they're okay, who think the "real me" is the nice one. Christ came for those who realized they were dead, that, left to themselves, they'd brawl as often as possible.

Of course, put into that light, we understand this isn't a new social phenomenon. It's the same song and dance folks have been using for a few millenia to make themselves feel better without Christ. May God continually reveal to us the depth of our depravity and our need for Christ - and may He reveal the same thing to the throngs who have lied to themselves about the "real me."

18 October 2006

Why I'm not a conservative

It may be more accurate to say that I'm not an American conservative. It's not because I'm not "conservative" in my positions, but because the basic idea of conservatism as seen in the name (i.e., conserving something in the past) has not worked and has not gotten us anywhere. Right now, conservatives would be happy to have America be like we were in 1950, or 1776, or whenever. Should we be happy with that? Rather, I'd like to think Christ would have us look to the future with something more than "let's go back a few years."

Of all people, Christians are to be looking forward, anticipating real and radical change as the kingship of Christ is exerted over the entire world. And, of all people, we should realize that conserving the past is, at best, a mixed proposition: everything in the past was tainted by original sin. Plus, what was in the past is why we are where we are now. What would we gain if we took a 50-year step backward? Or if we regained the America of the founding fathers? Well, in all likelihood, we would end up in this same exact spot in 50 years. Or 300.

Christ's kingdom is a harvest field to grow and reap, not a museum to preserve until He finally shows up. We don't think this way about ourselves ("I just want to stay as good as I am right now") or about the church ("remember when our church was 30 people? I wished we could go back there") - why would we think this way about the nation?

To wit, R. L. Dabney:

“[Conservatism's] history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward to perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It tends to risk nothing serious for the sake of truth.”

Perhaps my issues with conservatism are merely semantic - but I think there may be some help here for the church as she moves to shirk off her "place in the American political system" and realizes that our Savior is the same as our nation's King. As we head toward voting season, wondering how Jesus would vote, maybe it would be best to stick with being Christians and make decisions and vote votes based on how the King of the church would have us interact with His nations.

The Church's Bookshelf

When I visit someone's home the first time, I always find myself looking at their bookshelves. It's revealing, isn't it, what people have read and are reading? It gives me something to talk to them about, it helps me see where they've come from, how they've been shaped.

Christianity Today recently put together a list of the 50 most influential books in the evangelical world. Whether they're totally right or wrong, certainly this list is a good way to evaluate the church. You are what you read. Reading over this list, I found myself nodding my head. "Yep, that seems about right. This accurately reflects the evangelical church I know."

There's a lot of good - F. F. Bruce, Mark Noll, Operation World, Philip Johnson, John Piper, Madeleine L'Engle, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, J. I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis. There's a lot of not good - that purpose-driven fellow, those left-behind fellows, Hal Lindsay, that church growth fellow. And there's quite a bit in-between.

What's most evident, though, is what's missing. If you could force (convince, perhaps, would be nicer) the entire evangelical church to read two books, what would they be?

Who knew the Republicans were so powerful?

This article from Cleveland, Ohio, has quite the new take on the Iraq war. Apparently, there's a traveling preacher (K. A. Paul) calling America to vote the Republicans out of office, because their determination in Iraq has prevented the second coming of Jesus. This because our government's war has prevented missionaries from working in Iraq, Iran and Syria. (He gets to travel on "Global Peace One", his refurbished Boeing I travelling preacher because I travel in my rebuilt Chevy Malibu?)

After a long sigh, a few things should be noted. (Have you had your sigh yet?) First, governments and parties may have a certain level of strength, but nobody's that strong. No one, no party, no power can stop, hinder, or delay the second coming of Christ. Just as sovereign as Christ was in our salvation, so God is sovereign over the return of our Lord.

Second, regardless of your position on the war - by the way, remind me to tell you sometime why I'm not a conservative - Christians must understand that Christ is King over nations as well as over the church. While He certainly can work around governments to achieve His purposes, He just as often works through them. Engaging in histrionics about what we need to do politically in order for Christ to achieve His spiritual goals is bad Christology and bad faith. (As an aside, there is comfort in this doctrine - as much as governments try to separate the church and state, they cannot separate the One who reigns powerfully over both.)

Finally, perhaps this is a good reason to do a spiritual, Biblical check-up on our eschatology. Not that they would, but if folks asked what you, as an evangelical Christian (Batman's newest foe!) thought about the end of this world, what would you say?

13 October 2006

Note to Self

Things I need to remember about preaching, from Jeremiah 23.

First off, the context of this almost-discouraging chapter is the astounding promise of the Branch of the Lord (v. 5-6). It is only through the first and second comings of Christ that Israel will find safety and Judah will be saved. It is only through the confession "Yahweh Tsidkanu" (the Lord is our righteousness) that souls will find life and salvation. So from the very beginning, this isn't about you, it's about Christ. Please take note, mr. preacher-man.

Next, God really, really hates it when you mess this up. Every idle thought, time wasted in the study, every time you preach with impure or prideful motives, every time you pass your own thoughts off as God's, every time the deceit of your own heart seeps out (v. 26) He sees it. It stirs His holy hatred. Jeremiah was so shocked by the vehemence of God against those prophets that he said, "I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of His holy words" - and he wasn't even on the receiving end! God won't (can't!) sit idly by while His preachers lead His people to forgetfulness. (v. 23) His hatred of unfaithful preaching is not because He's mean, but because He is loving. Remember that every inch and ounce of love you have for Christ's bride is a drop in an eternal ocean compared to Christ's love for her.

On top of that, God sees and takes notes. Really. He knows what is said from every pulpit, every Sunday, by every mouth purporting to be the mouthpiece of God. He fills heaven and earth (v. 24) and has heard every word you said (v. 25). More than just your words, though. "But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hand of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorroah." (v. 14) You know James' claim, that "we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (Jas. 3:1) - he probably got that here, where God promises these unfaithful prophets, "I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten." (v. 40) Your sin can overpower the most passionate, Biblically accurate sermon. The Lord is not just after exegetical prowess in His preachers. He's after holiness. As the church goes, so goes the nation. As the preacher walks, so walks the church.

Perhaps it's time to learn to tremble again. To look at the pulpit in holy fear. And then you'll be ready to preach, ready to remember the good and great promises of God. Remember that as much as God is against false prophets, He is with and for you (v. 23). As vicious as He is against His enemies, so powerfully loving is He for His children and their undershepherds. And you have the Word! That word that is like a fire, like a hammer pulverizing rocks (v. 29) - you don't need to add to it. Just swing it. And if you stand in the council of God and proclaim His words to His people, they will turn away from theri sin, from the evil of their deeds (v. 22) and bring much glory to our Savior.

10 October 2006

The goings-on

The washing machine of life is now reset to the "normal" cycle - just don't ask my lovely wife, who is now adjusting to three little ones at home. So here's a rinse-cycle update:

Some grad students and I had a great time meeting over lunch today. We're praying for and planning a new ministry to grad students and faculty/staff of Purdue Univeristy. For now, you can browse the inner mind-workings of this fun group at the new blog, purduegatory. Already the group seems to have a good focus on seeing how the Lordship and Kingship of Christ impacts their academic studies. Watch out, Purdue...the CORGS are coming (collegiate organization of reformed grad students. ? ? Maybe we'll keep working on the name).
We're beginning our small group tomorrow night. I'm going to be leading a series of studies based on the Nicene Creed. What do you think about creeds? Yea/nay? Like/dislike? I grew up reciting the creed in an OPC church; I'm not quite sold on reciting it in worship, but I do miss it and am glad for how God has used it in the church's history. Maybe we'll start using it in family worship.
Church planting - God met with us and blessed us Sunday night during our third worship service together. The sermon wasn't recorded, but you'll do fine if you read Colossians 1 about 30 times. ...And did I mention that we have our website?!! If you have time, check out - I would greatly love to hear comments and suggestions: What makes a great church website? Don't slam our design too hard yet - for now it's just a template. Our uber-designer will be at working making it distinctly ours.
Sigh. I must confess that I am somewhat bummed. I am reading a book I was hoping to review for you, a book on one of the most exciting theological topics possible, covenant theology. Alas, though the information in the book is orthodox and stable, it is one of the most poorly written pieces of theology I've read. This fellow writes like Yoda speaks. Seriously I speaking am. Rather than write a whole review and bash a nice, reformed author, I'd rather just make a plea to the Christian writers and publishers: What's the point in having the right theology with the wrong words? Christ is honored, not simply when we put forth truth, but when we put forth truth well. Please don't dishonor Christ (and frustrate me) with beautiful truth dressed in literary rags.

03 October 2006

In Living Color

#3 in the flesh. Sometimes he looks like a cross between a great little baby and an old man.

We're still trying to figure out what color his eyes are. They look like they have some gray in them. But then again, I'm colorblind, so what do I know?

And here's the other two, just to prove they're still cute.

02 October 2006

I love the way their breath smells

The newest Olivetti made the switch from the life inside to life on land Sunday morning (like all good preacher's kids). Elias Martyr Olivetti (hereafter known as #3 in this blog) was born at 6:13, weighing in at 8 lbs, 4 oz, and 21 inches long. My beautiful wife, who ought to have her own comic book, is doing very well and we've decided to keep him. #1 and #2 find him pretty kissable and are all-too ready to give him jelly beans as a sign of their undying love.

I'll post some pictures soon.

God is very good! Infants are proof, I tell you. I do love the way their breath smells. And how well they sleep for a few days, just to give you that faint hope that they won't wake up screaming in the night later on. But they will. And it'll be okay.

p.s. - Elias is the Greek form of Elijah and Martyr means (or meant) "witness", there's a couple heroes of church history to share his second name.

28 September 2006

Last words

Wir sind Bettler. Das ist Wahr.
We are beggars. That's the truth.

These are the last written words of Martin Luther. Mark Noll has a great section in his chapter on Luther and the reformation on Luther's theology of the cross. It is, by far, the most expressive and deeply felt part of Turning Points. Although justification by faith through grace is certainly at the heart of Luther's theology, it's the cross that was, for Luther, the only full picture of such justification, the only place where God came into the world in a real, humbling, miraculous, and touchable way.

One more taste before this Sunday's church history lesson:
We are Christians and have the gospel, which neither the devil nor men can abide, in order that we may come into poverty and lowliness and God may thereby have his work in us.

27 September 2006

1st ever You-Pick-The-Topic-Rally

For our PurdueCORPS students...I have the privilege of speaking at our Friday night shindig in a little over three weeks. I've been mulling over my chosen topic and thought that some of you might have a good idea (or even two). So, for the first time only, I'll take the first (good) suggestion that comes across the blog and run with it. Note, please, that this doesn't come from a lack of personal inspiration (I have the whole Bible to talk about!), but a curious wondering what you all might come up with. (Caveats: it must be a topic of Scriptural importance and one not totally out of my league [this narrows the field considerably].)

The Ridiculousness of Sin

Sometimes I need a t-shirt that says, "We have met stupidity and he is me." Sometimes I need to be mocked and ridiculed in order to see how stupid sin is. This morning I read a familiar verse in Jeremiah 2 and it struck me, once again, how insane sin really is. Speaking of His people's rebellion, God says,

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:12-13
God reminded me that sin has a double-edged stupidity. First is my rejection of Him. In God I have found a fountain of living waters, a never-ending supply of everything that is good and necessary, a wellspring of grace that knows no end. In Jesus I have found eternally persistent faithfulness, a true lover of my soul, deliverance from death into life, power to live as the new creation He's made me. Yet when I sin I turn my back on Him, on all that. And let's be honest: I do it on purpose. I'm not ignorant of the blessings I have in Christ - but at the moment of my sin, I willingly choose to leave all those blessings for a moment of indulging the flesh.

The second side of sin's ridiculousness is that I didn't stop at rebellion. Oh no, I thought, I can do better than that...I can come up with a much better god. I don't need that so-called fountain of life. And so I piece together a jar. Picking up broken pieces of clay from the ground, I tape it together with scotch tape and chewing gum. This is my new cup; this is all that God had denied me. I'll drink from this cup and finally be satisfied. (Thankfully, I'm very adept at ignoring the warnings from friends telling me drinking from cracked clay vessels is a good way to get spiritual cancer.) And I triumphantly lift it to my mouth, anticipating a rush of satisfaction and relief only to find a mouthful of sludge. Really bad sludge.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25

24 September 2006

Love One Another

How exactly do we go about loving one another? Here is a list of applications from a sermon I preached last May on John 13:34,35 - A new command I give you, that you love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. It's not a list to be applied all at once; rather, it's designed to bring conviction in different areas for different folks. Each of us should see at least one or two applications here for which we can seek the Spirit's strength.

  1. Our homes must be places of love; if our homes are not filled with love, our church will be empty as well. Husbands, give yourself away to your wives as Christ did for the church (Eph. 5:25).Wives, submit with love to your husbands.Love your children with sacrifice, with teaching, with discipline; love your parents with respect. What to do with this home of love? Open your home, be hospitable
  2. Speak the truth to and about each other (in love); don’t gossip, refuse to hear gossip. When does conversation turn to gossip? When it becomes negative.
  3. Seek out needs and meet them; Christian love is thought-out, well-planned, earnest rather than spontaneous. Love calls for awareness, being alert to the needs around you. Do you come to church with a built-in attitude of ministry, seeking out the hurting and lonely?
  4. Work at true fellowship, fellowship that encourages and sharpens. There are a lot of “surface” friendships around this church – how can you deepen the relationships you have, turn them into truly valuable relationships?
  5. Welcome visitors, take it upon yourself to provide a warmth people will notice when they come to worship with us
  6. Some of you are good at loving, but bad at being loved – be ready to be loved/served by this family – not just have you been given to this family, but this family has been given to you
  7. Be nice, not rude. Be easygoing, not irritable, be pleasant, not hard to be around, don’t turn every conversation into confrontation
  8. Scripturally, there is no place for favoritism or racism. This doesn’t mean don’t have friends and some closer than others, but don’t play favorites with your love & acceptance
  9. Don’t hold grudges, don’t be bitter, cover over offenses in love. Don’t “cover over an offense” and then hold on to bitterness or bring it up again. Drop it or deal with it. (Pro. 17:9)
  10. Be patient with your brothers & sisters. Patience is trusting in God toward Impatience is you taking out your distrust of God upon a brother or sister.
  11. Don’t insist on getting your own way – there’s no quicker way to make sure someone is offended and hurt than for everyone to insist on getting their own way.
  12. Think through what God has given you, where He’s placed you, what influence you have, etc. Your position in life (in every sense) was purposed so that you could use it to love others (Lev. 19:9).
  13. Everyone has weaknesses, places where it’s easy not to love them – this is precisely where we must love the most (Lev. 19:4).
  14. This is our covenant with each other: Believe, hope, endure (1 Cor. 13:7). Love often calls us to actions and attitudes decidedly awkward and strange-feeling.

20 September 2006


An online audio Bible in Greek...

...and Hebrew


If you read any cultural-political commentary, you should read Peggy Noonan. Her last two posts (one on President Bush, one on 9/11) have been outstanding.


Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church's online calendar!


Music I've been digging lately:

Frustration and laughter at the same time: Purgatorio, taking aim at the evangelical church. And while we're at it, here's Lark News.


Finally, what can we say?

17 September 2006


Our college class is continuing to plow through an overview of church history using Mark Noll's Turning Points. Today we came to his chapter on St. Benedict and his "Rule," which is really the story of the rise of monasticism in Christianity. The first time through the book, I was struck with Noll's approach to monks and their ascetic practices; rather than begin by lining out all the chaff of monasticism we need to guard against, he rejoices in how Christ used monks throughout the church's history. While he does make clear his own Protestant, Calvinist (un-ascetic) leanings, his approach is purposefully charitable. So I remarked to the class that our approach to these saints so different from us ought likewise to be generous. That is, we ought to begin with a posture of love and grace and goodness to those professing faith in Christ.

But then I got to wondering afterwards, "Is that a valid use of the word generous?" Certainly no one would disagree that Christians are to be generous, but what exactly does that mean? Thus enter a fun word study:

In the Hebrew, there are two main words for generosity. The first (nadiv) represents someone who is (1) inclined [to something or someone], (2) noble, and/or (3) generous. This tie between nobility and generosity seems distant at first. Consider, though, that our very word generosity comes from the ancient French word genereux, meaning "of noble birth" and only later in time "unselfish and plentiful." How perfect! True nobility comes not only from station in life, but also how well one uses that station for the good of others. I.e., Josiah and Asa were both kings, but only one was noble.

What does this have to do with us? We only have to remember that we, too, have been born of royal stock - or, we should say, reborn of noble stock (Rev. 20:6). We are sons and daughters of the most high King. By birth we have a nobility unmatched by the richest, most powerful ruler in this world. And, we have been called to live out that nobility through selflessness, through sacrifice. Thus, without generous nobility, there is no truly Christian life.

The second Hebrew word (chanan) appears 8x as "generous" or "generously" - but the Hebrew word appears 89x in the Old Testament. In almost all other instances, it's translated as "graciously" or "mercifully," especially when it speaks of God's actions. This is a great lesson, too - our generosity is of the same genus as God's grace. Though God's mercy and grace are infinite and eternal, whenever we think or act generously, we are showing the world just a little piece of God's original graciousness toward us.

Our New Testament doesn't have as many references to generosity by name - rather, it's pictured as a part of the Christian life. John, in his first epistle, gives us this wonderful picture in the third chapter:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1 John 3:16-17
I believe John is referring back to Deuteronomy 15:7-8,
If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.
The Greek in 1 John 3:17 is a rather gross picture: not being generous is pictured as the atrophying of our kidneys, our guts (i.e., our heart, our compassion) against someone in need. Rather, John says, we are to remain perpetually pliable by the plights of others, continuously sensitive to their needs. Such sensitivity and pliability leads to the position of "open" - whether it's our hearts or our hands, if we are in Christ, our default position is open, not closed.

Back to our original question: is it out of bounds to call us to generosity in our approach to church history? Or in our approach to other believers? Not at all - if our default position, especially to those within the house of Christ, is set in the "open" position (Gal. 6:9-10), then generosity means much more than an extra 5% on our tithe check. It means a willingness to think the best of brothers and sisters until we're proved wronged. It means a willingness to learn from others Christ has used in His church (whether monks, Methodists or Moravians), even if we have theological qualms. And it means living nobly among the hurting and poor of this world, keeping our heart soft by looking always to Christ. Again, this isn't saying that error shouldn't be confronted and corrected, or that we should be more wishy-washy in doctrine and life, but that our hearts, like our wallets, are to be open and bountiful, rather than locked and stingy.

13 September 2006

Immanuel RPC

Church planting update: Sunday night was our first worship service in West Lafayette! (We remain under the oversight and auspices of the RPC of Lafayette until presbytery officially organizes us - hopefully early 2007).

It was a wonderfully exciting night of worship. At least for September and October, we're meeting in a banquet hall owned
in West Lafayette by the Masons. Although it was a little toasty (at least for the preacher and song leader), the facility worked out great. We're worshipping in a dance hall so I was afraid the singing would be swallowed up; thankfully, the group sounded great. My parents came up from Indianapolis to serve in the nursery (held in the restaurant/bar area on the second floor) and to encourage us - which they certainly did.

I began a sermon series through the book of Colossians. Colossians is a great choice for two reasons: first, it's God's inspired directions for a young church, so it fits us perfectly. Secondly, it focuses on the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ, a perfect focus for a young church. The main points of application from the sermon were to (1) believe in Christ and trust the faith He's provided and (2) give thanks. [I love simple sermons.]

So we give thanks to God for allowing us to take part in His kingdom and for bringing us to the point of worshipping together. If you're inclined, here are some prayer requests on our hearts:

  • That our worship would be pleasing to God and made acceptable to Him through the work of Christ.
  • That God would make His Word powerful as we look to Colossians.
  • That God would raise up a godly session to lead and shepherd us.
  • That our relationships with neighbors, family, coworkers would bear fruit for Christ's kingdom.
  • That we could effectively reach out to the grad student, faculty, and staff of Purdue University.
  • That our website and other outreach materials would glorify God and be effective sources of information.
  • That the doctrines of grace would find great growth in Tippecanoe County.
  • That two Reformed Presbyterian churches in the Lafayette area would be better than one.
  • That our two churches would have a deep, abiding, purposeful relationship.

Our next evening worship services are September 24, October 8, 22 and then every Sunday evening in November and December. If you're interested in visiting, please email me for more info.

12 September 2006

Try again

The last template had too many bugs and I have too little knowledge of how to squish them. So we're trying again. I'm going for simple/clean/uncluttered. Is this one better or worse? I went with one of blogger's templates because they seem to be mostly unbugged already.

...but now I've lost my links. Which is probably a good chance to re-do them and add/subtract some.

08 September 2006

New Design

New design...comments welcome.

I'm still trying to work out a couple bugs. And squish them.

06 September 2006

Book Review - For Mature Audiences

There was an ad on radio yesterday heralding a comedian coming to Purdue. After making us hear a few of his jokes, the announcer said those now-familiar words, "For Mature Audiences Only." How ironic is this twisted version of maturity: that it's the mature people who can supposedly intake the most junk and not be twisted by it. Rather than the Bible's view of maturity: that true growth is only measured by our likeness to Christ. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ... (Eph. 4:15)

Also opposed to God's version of maturity is the way many churches approach (or don't approach) the subject of sex. Often, in hush-hushed tones, we mention it obliquely to make sure the adults know what we're talking about - yet do we really get down to the nitty-gritty? To really searching the Scriptures regarding the gift of sex? To teaching about, talking about it, even joking (appropriately) about it?

How is the church to combat the world's ridiculous ideas of maturity and her own reticence to press this topic into people's hearts? Thankfully, several writers have been pushing the evangelical church out of its sexophobia, and the book
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ may be at the top of the list.

The great thing about this book is not just that it's enjoyable to read, but that the authors do it right. That is, they're thoroughly Biblical: passionate about Christ and thankful for His gift of sex. Edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, this book is a collection of essays under 5 headings: God and Sex, Sin and Sex, Men and Sex, Women and Sex, and History and Sex.

John Piper begins the book with two chapters on the supremacy of Christ; his writing is characteristically effervescent, overflowing with great writing about Christ's glory and reign. His two theses are (1) that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know Christ more fully and (2) knowing Christ morefully is designed by God as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality. So, rather than begin the book with tips and hints and Biblical tidbits, the reader is forced to take a protracted look at Christ. This, I am now convinced, must be the standard first step whenever we talk about sex.

The next highlight for me was David Powlison's chapter "Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken." This lengthy chapter may be the best thing I've read on practical sanctification. Powlison is realistic and devastating and Biblical and hopeful all at the same time. This chapter should be required reading for pastors and for anyone with sexual sin in their past.

Four chapters were devoted to more specific groups: single men, married men, single women, and married women. Each of these chapters are gold-mines (not just nuggets!) of Biblical instruction for holiness and pursuing the pleasure God has for us. I must say I was so convicted by C.J. Mahaney's chapter for married men that I enjoyed reading the chapter for married women better! But Mahaney provides great help for romantically-disabled men like me.

Finally, Justin Taylor and Mark Dever provide some historical perspective, writing on Martin Luther's reform of marriage and the Puritans' view of marriage, respectively. These are great essays that are also quite challenging - if only because we tend to view love, marriage, and sex within the confines of our current culture. The Puritans are especially challenging to those who view intoxicating romance as a prerequisite for marriage and for those who view marriage and sex self-centeredly.

The one essay that seemed to be out of place a little was Al Mohler's chapter on homosexuality. Nothing there to disagree with - and some good instruction for how the church needs to talk about sex and homosexuality - but it doesn't fit because the rest of the book is pro-sex while his chapter is more concerned with refutation and how to win the battle.

Should you get this book? If you're an adult or even approaching adulthood, absolutely! It's wonderful enough and important enough to deserve a place on everyone's bookshelf. Because it's centered on Christ, designed to make readers grow up into Christ, it's the best book I have to recommend on sex. For single folk, there are some chapters you might put off until you're engaged, but nothing in the book is inappropriate for "mature audiences." Apparently, this book arose out of a conference of the same title a couple years back - a dvd of some of that conference is included with the book. I'm toying with the idea of buying the whole conference on dvd and having a rollicking-good Sunday school class with it someday.

03 September 2006

Things I loved about this Sunday, in no particular order

  • Being with my family for a whole day (or most of a whole day)
  • Reading all of 2 Chronicles 29 aloud during worship and not messing up one of the names (at least I don't think I did)
  • Being with people who remind me more of Christ than anything else in this world. For that matter, being closer to heaven than I get anywhere else
  • Singing with the people of God - while not quite the wall-of-water sound described in Revelation, it's still pretty great
  • Making the gospel clear to three men at the work release facility
  • Witnessing the baptism of a covenant child
  • Teaching on the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed and being way more excited about it than I have a right to be
  • Hearing two sermons, being convinced of my need for passionate purity and godly leadership
  • Sitting around the kitchen table eating popcorn and issuing nearly-infallible commentary on news, theology, and anything else dumb enough to fly into our conversation's orbit
  • Worshipping God, knowing beyond any doubt that we've been with our Creator and everything's right between Him and us because of who Christ is and what He's done

01 September 2006

A Woman's Place

Here are some notes from last Sunday's sermon on Proverbs 31. This part of the sermon wasn't so much exposition as it was trying to be as clear as possible about "a woman's place."

We need to be clear on what the Bible teaches about a woman's place in the kingdom.

First is the truth that all of us, men and women, boys and girls, have as our top aim and motive the kingdom of Jesus Christ. So, rather than saying a woman's place is in the home, it's much more clear and Biblical to say that a wife's mission is serving the kingdom by caring first and foremost for her family. The Bible nowhere says that a woman's only place is in the home (in fact, Proverbs 31 and the book of Ruth and Lydia show the opposite), but it does clearly teach that women, especially married women, are to have their hearts, minds, and energies focused first on the home - not to the exclusion of everything outside the doors of your house, but rather, what you do outside of those doors needs to serve this one mission.

This passage doesn't so much teach this as it assumes it. The frame around this painting is the assumption that the wonderful mission of wives is the constructing and managing of a spiritual and earthly haven. Just as the church, her calling is no less than to build a miniature version of heaven on earth.

There are also times when it's appropriate and vital for women to have ministry outside of their families and homes - in Titus we're given the model of women discipling younger women. Not only is this necessary, but it fits into godly women's main drive, which is serving the kingdom of Christ. This not only helps us round out our idea of womanhood and ministry, but will keep the family in perspective of the kingdom, not vice versa. On one side of the evangelical aisle, there's a temptation to dismiss or disrupt the family as much as possible in the name of the church or individual growth. On the other side, there's a temptation to think that the family is the end-all and be-all of the church and society. Neither are correct: not only do we, as individuals, exist for the kingdom of Christ, so do families.

A wife's calling is different from husbands' in that, while husbands participate in and are ultimately responsible for the building of a home, their kingdom calling is both outward and homeward. If a wife's main mission is "the kingdom through the home", a husband's two missions are (1) being the federal head of the home and (2) bringing the world into submission to Christ in whatever field he's called to. When women do good and appropriate work outside of the home, they too are engaging in taking dominion. But it's still not their main mission while there are kids to raise. Even after the kids are gone, Scripture would have wives be committed to their husbands and their husband's "dominion-taking" before their own jobs. This is why it's unbiblical for men to seek financial freedom in order to be with their kids all day. We're called to take dominion of this world for Jesus' glory - and the work wives do in managing the home must be seen as a vital, integral part of their husband's outward calling.

30 August 2006


I've never been "tagged" before, and I probably wouldn't respond, except with this one I get to talk about books. Thanks Josh.

1. One book that changed your life: The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink and a New Systematic Theology by Robert Reymond. The first because it reintroduced me to the greatness of Biblical doctrine, the second because it made meaningful theology within reach.

2. One(or Two) book(s) that you’ve read more than once: I read the Chronicles of Narnia about every year-ish.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: Other than the Bible...The Collected Writings of John Murray (is that cheating?)

4. One book that made you laugh: H.L. Mencken's Chrestomathy. That dude's craaaazy. If only more of us could write like that...

5. One book that made you cry:
I did tear up a couple times during Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Take and read!

6. One book that you wish HAD been written: How Zwingli and Luther Settled Their Differences and Made Everything Easier for All Reformed Folks, by Ima Dreamin.

7. One book that you wish had NEVER been written: Lewis Chafer's Systematic Theology. Plus all those really bad books everybody else has mentioned.

8. What you're currently reading: Sex & The Supremacy of Christ, John Piper, Justin Taylor et al. Pascal's Pensees for nighttime reading. Flannery O'Connor's complete stories.

9. One book you've been meaning to read: I've got a stack two feet high...I think next might Chesterton's biography of St. Thomas Aquinas.

10. Now tag 5 people: Any of our Purdue grad students. They always find the randomest and coolest things to read. (That's right, I said randomest.)

11. One book do you wish YOU had written: Church Planting in 12 Easy Steps