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!"

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.