.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Life in Shades of Gray*

One of the things that I have noticed in our world of relativity is that for anyone to see things as black and white are considered to be too judgmental, critical, intolerant, and bigoted. The air we breathe is subjectivity and relativism, and it is almost uncouth to say that 2+2=4 because that would be an absolute. Why can't it be 5, or 3.5, or 14.783333333? No one wants to make distinctions or judgments anymore for fear of being told they are intolerant and divisive. You see this when you are with a group trying to find which fast food restaurant to go to. Everyone is like, "Wherever man . . .", but when someone says, we are going to Burger King, those wanting to go to Arby's or Subway is like, "I really don't want to go to Burger King." Yet they would never say so for fear of offending or upsetting anyone. This silly example is indicative of far weightier matters in life. It seems that no one wants to make any judgments anymore, primarily because no one believes in absolute truth and upholds it in their lifestyles. Truth is controversial, offensive, exclusionary, and intolerant, and it scares people away to the point that people today cannot stand to speak the truth. Everyone says, "Let's be tolerant of everyone else's viewpoints/opinions." Well, there are two ways this understanding and appreciation of other people's viewpoints can be worked out - tolerance or compassion. Tolerance values different views in spite of truth; compassion values different views because of truth. If your actions are not grounded in something universally applied and objectively appreciated, then nothing you do (as in tolerance) carries any virtue or significance because it necessitates nothing but variability. John MacArthur makes a very good point in Fool's Gold by saying that the word "discrimination" has been tainted as taboo since the civil rights movement. You can hear the cries of the public, "Don't discriminate! Fight discrimination!" Yet, what does the word mean in its purest form? Someone who discriminates "exercises judgment"; someone who has the ability to draw the line between right and wrong, good and evil, true and false. Because we are told not to discriminate, our culture does not know what is true versus false, right versus wrong, good versus evil. Therefore, we live in shades of gray everywhere. Whether it be in the church, for someone to exercise judgment your hear the cries of the parishioners, "Judge not lest you be judged! Take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of mine!" Yet they don't realize that what Jesus was saying was not that you should not judge someone, but the way in which you judge someone. I find it interesting that the word discernment come from the same Greek word as discrimination. It is the word diakrino. Krino is the Greek verb "to judge", and dia is the preposition meaning "through, on account of." What the church needs today, and what the world needs today are people who exercise discernment, people who have the spectacles through which healthy judgments can be made, distinctions can be drawn, delineations can be found, and discrimination be upheld. For some reason, people have this odd tendency to think that anyone who makes judgments and are critical are always "doom and gloom", sad and repressed, vindictive and divisive. Why can't people who exercise discernment be "joy-filled" and "living the abundant life in Christ"? It appears to me that only those who don't make any judgment and are never critical are eligible for that kind of life today. If this is the case, the church and its distinctive doctrines will be submerged in the sewer while we continue to sing "The Happy Song." The book of Proverbs is one in which many find their devotions. In it are very pithy and poignant statements that are helpful in everyday life. But if you look at the nature of most of these proverbs, they are black and white. You read statements like, "The righteous . . . , but the wicked . . . ," or "The wise man . . ., but the fool . . .." There is no middle ground, no gray area in the book of Proverbs. Why is that you might ask? A wise person in that day in the most elementary terms was known as a "skillful person". They knew how to live life skillfully, having understanding, gaining knowledge, and treasuring wisdom as "more precious than gold." This skill was sharpened daily be the exercising of knowing right from wrong, good from evil, the wise man from the fool, the righteous from the wicked, the fear of the LORD from the folly of man, etc., and all these were done in the spirit of discrimination, making value judgments based from the character of Yahweh and His Word. Discernment in Hebrew is bin, which is related to the word bayin, which means "interval, space between," which also relates to the preposition ben which means "between." The wise man who exercises discernment cuts, divides the two, makes separation between the two, and places a wide space inbetween them. Today, at least for the past 100 years, everything has been put together in one big smorgasbord of ideologies, and Christianity is be pushed into its mold. So as we live this life in shades of gray, what will be said about us? About me? Am I to cower down to those who say that I should not be critical, that I should not exercise discernment, that I should just shut up, chew on some "tasteless testamints", and sing with giddiness "The Happy Song"? HELL NO. For between heaven and hell is a space inbetween that can never be bridged! And as a Christian, I am called, yea beseeched to discriminate, for my God discriminates between those who will go to heaven and those who will go to hell. 2+2 still equals 4, and there is still a right from wrong, though our culture, and sometimes our church refuses to realize it. For the sake of the Church and for the souls of men, and testimony of Jesus Christ, there must be Christians who are willing to stand for truth, to make sound judgment, weather the attacks, and be a men and women who exercise discernment that we may not be pussy-footin' the gospel and wag the church's tail as we bark after the culture.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Random Stuff for Week of 6/1-6/8

* If you have not checked out my Flickr account lately, I have added a number of photos and created multiple sets. By the end of this week I look to have about 200-250 photos on the account. To get to it, simply click on the Flickr Daily zeitgeist box on the right hand portion of the screen (If you have pop-up protection, you need to hold the CTRL button down to access it). * I want to say a special thanks to all of you who continue to check out P&P. Last Friday, P&P reached 1000 hits. I hope that others who come and visit will find "readworthy" material to discuss and find dialogue. * I have chosen to keep the weekly polls up so that others can chime in over a longer period of time. However, I will be adding a poll on a weekly basis. Please check out this weeks poll and let me know what you enjoy most about P&P. * r.d.s.a. posts continue for the second week. I notice that there have not been any comments made. Although I am fine with that, I would love to hear what you think. I fear that some of you are too reticent to respond because of past debates; please comment and do so transparently - just keep it on the post and on the person. Cool? What I Am Reading: Fool's Gold (John MacArthur, ed.) What of the Unevangelized? (J. Oswald Sanders) God in the Wastelands (David Wells) What I Am Working On: Annotated Bibliography for Religious Pluralism Glossary of Terms for Theology of Religions Don't Waste Your Life Bible Study at UPS

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Limited Response to a Lasting Revelation*

As many you already know, I have had many issues with what is commonly called "altar calls". While I do not believe that it should be entirely done away with, it can be easily argued that the altar call has done as much harm (if not more) than it has done good. I could tell you how it has led MANY to a false sense of security (as though walking down an aisle makes you a Christian) or how preachers use it with their savvy "techniques" to manipulate "decisions" or how we have popularized this notion of "decisional salvation" with a simple prayer or a lifted hand, but I will leave those for another time. What I would like to address is how a believer responds to the message from God's Word. There are many who think that the order of service generally done today has been this way for 2000 years. They would be surprised to know that for over 1850 years (or 92.5% of the history of Christianity) that there was no such thing as an altar call, and the order of service used today became the default under the influence of Charles G. Finney, D.L. Moody, and most commonly in the Billy Graham crusades. Central to my concern is what the purpose of the church worship service is for. Today, many churches are saying that "worship services" are not about worship primarily but about the lost; therefore, they cater everything from the style of music, the style of the sermon, and everything inbetween to reach the lost. While I am firm believer in soul-winning, since when did we go fishing in the fish tank? Can someone tell me or show me where lost people were found in the church? I thought that evangelism took place in the world, "outside the camp" so to speak. Yet this would seriously affect the numbers and "empirical" evidence that the church is growing or that the sermon was "effective". But what if the worship service was really about worship? Consider a working definition of worship as a Spirit-guided response from the truthful revelation of God. Anything that is worship is an expression and response to what God has revealed to us about Him. If God has not revealed anything, then we worship in vain. (Maybe that is why so many songs are about us today. You think? We know ourselves so much better than we know God). If that is the case, then true worship (in length and genuineness) should take place AFTER the message has been brought (that is, if you hear the words of God [expositionally] rather than the words of man), and that worship may be expressed in the form of prayer, praise, meditation, or other forms. But why then, have we left the end of the service to an altar call, to just a few verses (maybe more if the preacher is encouraged by people coming), and primarily to the lost? There have been times when I have been blown away by a sermon and needed at least 20 minutes of contemplation and confession to take place, only to find myself hurried off by announcements and so on. Simply put, we have programmed worship to be a limited response to a lasting revelation. When God has revealed himself to the believer, his exposure cannot be contained and bottled up in a few minutes or even a few verses. If worship services are ever going to be truly worship, then God's Spirit will apply the truth exposited from His Word so that we will be authentically transformed in the presence of God, and then we can say that we have worshipped "in spirit and in truth." Maybe we need to reevaluate what we call "worship services" or "altar calls" altogether. Maybe we have quenched the Spirit's working by gearing the service to people responding to us rather than us responding to God. Maybe the limits pre-conditioned our services today can be lifted so that there could be a real, unhurried, undistracted response to God and His revelation of Himself that can carry the altar call to where it truly belongs . . . in the world.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Complex of Momma Boucher*

One of my favorite movies is Water Boy. In the movie, Bobby Boucher (pronounced boo-shea) is a highly qualified waterboy who is the authority on high quality H2O. Bobby was given the opportunity to play football (or as momma calls it "fooseball") and becomes the hero for the SCLSU (South Central Louisiana State University) football team. Unfortunately, momma has a complex. She feels that she was to control her son and keep him under her "rule". She does everything to shape his world, his perception of life, and ultimately his outcome. Her complex is simply this: whatever she sees is a threat to her control over Bobby, she calls it the devil. When Bobby meets a girl, momma says, "That Vickie Valentine, she is the devil!" When she hears of football, she decries, "That fooseball is the devil!" Later she calls Benjamin Franklin the devil and just about everything else the devil. She obviously gets carried away, but the reality is still there: whomever or whatever rivals her or challenges her dominance in her sons life, well, it has to be the devil. This scare tactic or fearful manipulation, though absolutely hilarious to watch on television, is a sad reality in our world today. Ironically, we are all "waterboy's". And people who have authority over us, who feel that they must have our "allegiance" to them, whether it be a church, denomination, or any other organizational affiliation in various forms and fashions have the "Momma Boucher Complex." For instance, if you are in a church and honestly disagree with the way something is done, to speak up and question the decision of the leadership, well Momma Boucher comes out from the pastor or leaders, "That boy, he is the devil!" If you don't conform the cookie-cutter Christianity where you as a pew-sitter are blindly asked to follow your leadership in superficial naivete, then you are the devil. To think critically and examine the ground on which Christianity today stands, then well, you are devil. If you look close enough, you will find the devil behind door number three, behind that tree over there, in that person who simply doesn't "amen" just because they are called on to. Today, we want followship based on fear not on Christ's commands. We lay down the axe of "Christian authority" whether in the church or somewhere else to assert dominance in people's lives; and if anyone is insubordinate or not a "yes man", well, then they are inevitably dubbed the devil. Is this what Christianity is supposed to be like? Is the kingdom of God a house of cards, that for anyone to bring a fresh wind would cause the cards to come tumbling down? Maybe what we need is a breath of fresh air. Fortunately, the movie has a good ending, and Bobby realizes that he cannot live his life under the heavy-handedness and domineering control of his mother, who since childhood tried to keep him from living life outside her permission. I only hope that those of us who are Bobby Boucher's of today won't be intimidated by the momma's out there who want to call us and everything else that simply wants to be true to God's Word and hold Christianity (including mommas - those in leadership) accountable to God and the faith which has been handed down to us. This complex is alive and well, and while we should show respect to those who lead us and feed us in the church and elsewhere, we should not shrink back from calling a spade a spade and a joker a joker.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Putting the Dagger in Our Swagger*

In the West and particularly in America, I am bothered by what appears to be a strong triumphalistic attitude among believers. Christians attitudes at times almost appear as militaristic, if not superior to other people, especially those who stand in opposition to us. Because we have a nation born out of strong Christian roots and the Judeo-Christian ethic and won the recent election with the primary issue as morality, I fear that Christians seem to think that we have some bragging rights. Not only in the political/cultural realm do I feel Christianity has become braggish, but also in the exemplification of the Christian life as well. We have our devotionals on the best-selling lists, hit movies on the big screen, and celebrities that share Christian sentiments that add to our sub-culture confidence that we are somehow making strides in impacting our world. Furthermore, the advent of the church growth movement has hyped up the Christian adrenaline with increased numbers and bigger campuses that are conspicuously located to make a statement that "we are here" or incite the "check me out now" kind of mentality. Some may say, "What about the abundant Christian life? Aren't we 'more than conquerors' through Him who loved us?'" My answer would be yes, of course; however, the Christian life and its manifestation as conquering should be the rejoicing that are names are written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20). Christianity here in America needs a fresh dose of remembrance as Deuteronomy puts it. If we have been saved, it has been the Lord's doing. If God blesses us, it is because He sovereignly chooses to do so, not because He is obligated to us. If we are experiencing the "abundant life", it is because of His Holy Spirit whom He has given to us who operates within us to be and do that which is pleasing to God. Over and over in the Scriptures, we are implored with the command, "Let him who boast, boast in the Lord." So I am addressing this to our swag. It is seen in our billboards, our bumper stickers, our sermons, and our t-shirts. You can find it both in the high-brow academia and low-brow popularism. And before the fall comes because of our pride, it is my desire to put the dagger in our swagger. We have done a vain thing in our over-confidence and over-inflated ideas of triumphalism and chauvinism. We are debtors to God and to our fellow man. It is our duty to serve, not to be seen. We have been charged from on high to be lowly and associate with those who are such, possessing meekness with gentleness. We are forever to be enthralled by grace, staggered by mercy, and overwhelmed by love which has been affectionately directed to us who are in Christ. Whatever we have, whatever we are, is entirely from God. And whatever we will be, will ultimately be directed and accomplished by God's invisible hand of providence. Let's not fool ourselves to thinking we are more than we ought lest we fall. This we know but is worth repeating, "For by grace are we saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the free gift of God, not of works, lest any one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we are to conqueror and be more than conquerors, it will not be from a takeover or even a great revival. This is what the Jews were looking for in the Messiah. They wanted a Messiah they could boast in, one who would take back the nation of Israel militaristically like King David. So they missed the message of the true Messiah and crucified Him on a cross. This same Messiah is coming back again someday, and His reign and rule will not be through the militant mentality but from those who followed in his train who humbly and gladly laid down their lives for the pleasure of the Father and glory of Jesus. They swag was lost when the strut was removed at Calvary. They have felt the dagger, a dagger that needs to be felt again lest we too, like the Israelites in the 1st century, could miss the Messiah's coming in the 21st century with our eyes on ourselves rather than on Him who is our true boasting (Galatians 6:14). Cross-bearing carries no swag, and Christians today both corporately and individually must beware of the temptation to believe in a Christianity without the cross, lest they become enemies of it (Philippians 3:18-19).

Religious Sloganeering

Here is classic religious sloganeering. Taking a portion of Scripture, turning it into a sound-byte, and making it appeal subconsciously to the religious crowd almost in a sense of mocking bribery. Psalm 23 huh? I never cease to be amazed at how the world and its cunning system of schemes hijacks the Word of God for its own purposes. Churchill Downs: your cup may be running over, but those who drink of it will only be found on hunched over the toilet seat rather than in the presence of God. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Where Is the Fear and Trembling?*

"Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me? declares the LORD; Do you not tremble before me?" (Jeremiah 5:21-22) As churches and Christians continue to gravitate towards cokes and jokes, with entertainment-driven worship and preachers and stand-up comics (second-rate that is), I have began to wonder, "Where is the fear and trembling?" Our worship speaks so much about us, about what we will do, about how great we are, as though others should tremble before us. Yet we have offered the sacrifice of fools with our babbling (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3). Look at preachers today and listen to how many begin their sermons. Invariably there is some random joke thrown in for the purpose of making the congregation laugh. For what reason? That they may like him? Think he is funny? Scratch where they itch? This levity is rampant in today's pulpits, and preachers disgrace the sacred desk with such foolishness. Furthermore, preachers today on T.V. and at your local street corner now seem to have some entertainment value for people. People like to watch them "get excited" (which is usually followed up by a hearty "Amen!") and rant and rave as though this must qualify for "powerful preaching." A misnomer today is loudness for powerfulness. Paul made it clear his approach to the Word of God and the preaching of the gospel. Hear his cry when he said, "And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message was not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:3-5). This is a far cry from the preaching today. People are not coming to hear a word from the Lord anymore (at least not primarily); they come to watch and be entertained, to laugh and "have fun." The sermon won't convict of sin or draw them to Christ, for it can't, because the message has already been neutered by the messenger and the audience is disengaged to anything containing "serious" thought. Church services today are now called "pep rallies" and "fellowship of excitement" and make it their marketing tool as I have seen some billboards saying, "Our church is fun." What? Pep rally? Fun? Is this what worship and service to the King is about? Is this what the world needs to see of Christ? We have simply sold out to the entertainment culture where worship is a sacred version of "American Idol" with local flavor and preachers or evangelists attempt to tickle me like I am Elmo. How about, "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Psalm 2:11), or "The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!" (psalm 99:1). Or what about the Christian? How is he to conduct himself? Again, we are not left without instruction. Paul beseeches the Philippians, saying, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Every aspect of the Christian life is to be done in the mode of fear and trembling, and this, in view of the majesty and greatness of God. The earth trembles, the mountain quakes at the presence of God, yet I see Christianity with a yawn or a thumbs up or a high five. You know, when Jesus walked this earth, the demons knew who Jesus was, and their response to Him was fear and trembling. The Scriptures say that they believe and shudder! (James 2:19). How much more should Christians who are in covenant, who are called to represent Him on this earth and see that 'His Kingdom come, His will be done' fear and tremble before such awesome responsibility to such a King as He? Maybe that is why Peter said, "And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile . . ." (1 Peter 1:17). Or what about God's Word? It seems to me that we approach God's Word too flippantly and carelessly. We forget that this Living Book is a Sword, that these words are spoken from the mouth of Him who spoke this world into creation. And these words often are replaced with the words of man, with devotionals and self-help and "leadership principles" and so on. Yet God has a word for us as well. Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hands have made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:1-2). The psalmist adds, "My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments" (Psalm 119:120). Many of you will know this context as the psalmist's delight in the "law of the LORD" in Psalm 119. Again and again, Scripture and those who have gone before have showed us the way of fear and trembling. I tremble over the fact that so much of my life is devoid of this fear and trembling! So I ask myself such a daunting question, and I pose it to you. Are we going to continue to wear t-shirts that say, "Jesus is my homeboy" and peddle the Word of God with sham copy-catting of the world whether it be music, speaking, or living? Maybe whom we fear and tremble is our fellow man or the world's perception of us. To this again, God has spoken: And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28). After a life of futiliy and utter vanity, the writer of Ecclesiastes sums up the end of life as fearing God and keeping his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). That's it. Period. If we stand up to speak for God and come with a cavalier attitude to the gospel calling to entertain or scratch itches and tickle ears, or treat worship as self-adulation or second-rate talent show, or read the words of man rather than the words of God, then we are not working out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are working, yes, but it is not God's salvation. "For thus the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 'Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.'" Isaiah 8:11-13

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Sovereignty of the Merciful*

I have had the privilege in my life to meet and minister to many homeless people. Whether it was eating cheeseburgers together on the street corner, or in Underground Atlanta, or chicken fingers under the I-10 bridge in Mobile, these people have left an indelible impression on my life. Any time I have met a beggar or homeless person, the case has always been true in every situation. A beggar, by definition, is at the mercy of the one who shows mercy. The beggar has no rights of his own. It is absurd to think that the beggar is entitled to anything or has deserved rights to anything given to him. You see, what is given is simply that - a gift. And the gift is given freely as an act of mercy motived by compassion and love for that individual. They do not have to give, and quite frankly many don't. But when they do, they do so out of their own choice. The merciful at all times is sovereign and in control and in no ways obligated or submitted to the will of the beggar or his presumed rights. Such is the case of us in salvation. We are all beggars. We are all deaf, blind, mute, and lame. We come spiritually bankrupt, poor in spirit, and begging like the publican, "God, have mercy upon me, the sinner." Any true conversion takes place with this disposition. God, who wondrously displays mercy towards the sinner, does so out of his free grace and unconditional love. God does not have to show us mercy. He is sovereign and chooses to do so out of His own good pleasure. And we are saved, not because we deserve salvation or are entitled to forgiveness, or have the rights or "free will" to make God save us! This is arrogance and an affront to the majesty of God. The grounds and means by which we are saved is the magnificent mercy of God (see Ephesians 2:4, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 1:3). No other grounds does salvation come. That is why God says, "'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (Romans 9:15-16). Mercy is grounded in two things: God's sovereignty and God's love. And the two are not in contradiction, but rather are perspectival on the nature of God. And mercy received results in two things as well: the glory of God (Romans 15:9) and humble gratitude. To think that God has extended his love to me and shown me mercy is more than my frame can withstand. I close this post with two thoughts. Remember the Good Samaritan? What was the context of that parable? Was it not 'who is my neighbor' (love your neighbor as yourself)? And who loved his neighbor? The answer was, "The one who has showed him mercy." And Jesus' response was, "You go and do likewise" (Luke 10). Well, I forgot what my second thought was. Anyway. The point is: we are all beggars. We come to get, not to give. God is the giver, and He is sovereign and glorious in that giving. We are receivers, and we are to receive Him gladly, humbly, gratefully, as one truly undeserving, staggered by such mercy, mercy which makes me sing . . . Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song They joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue Thy free grace alone from the first to the last Hath won my affections and bound my soul fast Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here Sin soon would reduce me to utter despair But through Thy free goodness my spirits revive And He that first made me still keeps me alive Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart Dissolved by Thy goodness I fall to the ground And weep for the praise of the mercy I've found Great father of mercies Thy goodness I own And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son All praise to the Spirit whose whisper divine Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine (Caedman's Call Thy Mercy)

Mr. Moon says, "I will illuminate the night."

Lunarscapes: moon-lit photos available now on my Flickr page. Simply click on the square box on the right and move to the "lunarscapes" set and see 13 photos taken this morning on a full moon night. Posted by Hello

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Visit to Vanity Fair*

* = R.D.S.A. One of the 10 Words (Commandments as you might know them) given by God on Mt. Sinai is, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain." YHWH's name was so sacred that it was never to be spoken or written, lest it be done in vain. Instead, other names like Adonai and El-Shaddai were used. In the Near-Ancient Eastern times, pottery and tools that belonged to an individual had their initials embossed or engraved in the handle of the piece so that when you saw it or handled it, you knew immediately who it belonged to. When a slave was to extend his hand to someone else, on his wrist or hand was engraved the initials of the one to whom he belonged. It was the custom of that day that whenever something belonged to someone who was the owner, the owner's initials were immediately seen when the other person saw it. We often think of taking the name of the Lord in vain by speaking curse words like "g.d." among others; while it is true that this is taking the name of the Lord in vain, there is much more to this word from God. In Hebrew, there are several stems that are used for verbs. The most common stem is the QAL stem (used 70% of the time). The word QAL comes from the Hebrew word transliterated Qalal which means "to be light". When it is in the PIEL stem, it means "to make contemptible", and in the HIPHIL stem it means "to curse". On the other hand, the Hebrew word Kaved in the QAL means "to be heavy or important"; in the PIEL means "to honor, make heavy", and in the HIPHIL means "to get renown, make honored." These two words are polar opposites. To take lightly means to curse, and to make heavy is to honor and glorify (Kaved is where we get the word glorify in the Old Testament). When those who belong to God in covenant, have been purchased by Him to be His own, a people for His own possession, who have His marking of ownership upon them for the world to see, treat God lightly, esteem His name minimally, and live their lives in contradiction, they are precisely taken the LORD's name in vain and in effect cursing him. When the world sees the believer, they should no immediately who owns him/her; they should, by their lives, see the "heaviness" of God in the way we 'live and move and have our being.' To take God's name in vain is to show contempt towards God Himself, for in His name is the entirety of who He is, and our estimation of Him will be evidenced in the way we represent Him in our world. So let's take a visit to vanity fair. Let's not look at those who are saying "g.d." for they are not owned by God; they are not his sheep. But let's look at those who, when their hands are extended, show whom they belong to. Are we taking God's name lightly? Have we shown contempt towards Him? Have we in effect been cursing God with our own lives? In this fair there is a higher divorce rate among believers as unbelievers, a valuing of this world and its fleeting pleasures than the world to come and "pleasures forevermore" from the right hand of God. There is more concern for our names' sake (or our church's) than for the name of God, and we treat those who are not like us, though created in the image of God, with contempt. We measure righteousness with busyness, devotion with performance, and fruit with efficiency (as though fruit can be worked). God's ownership is nowhere to been seen except in what we plaster on bumper stickers and billboards, and that we use as a advertisement as a substitute for our own lives. My concern is outrightly for the name of YHWH. We have taken Him far too lightly, and the evidence is seen in that there are no distinctives between the believer and the unbeliever. We are to be HIS and HIS alone, for He bought us "with a price"; therefore, our lives should be "heavy" and glorify, honor, esteem, value, treasure, cherish, and appraise God for all that He is to us. I tremble to think that I may be living a curse against my King! Do you? How are we representing Him, His character, His heart, His passion? Or do we even know who God really is?! Maybe we have been so wrapped up in working for God, we don't know the God to whom we belong. Do not take the LORD your God's name in vain. Wear it honorably. Live it gloriously. Represent Him faithfully. To take it in vain is to take it emptily, lightly, contemptibly. And to do this would be to curse God. May the world around us not see "light-hearted" Christians preaching a "gospel-lite" message all in the day-to-day life of one's behavior is another contemptible visitation to vanity fair. This word is a word to those who are in covenant, to those whom God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the LORD. "And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me." Says the LORD Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 Lord, may we live "heavy" lives and represent you well. Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory . . ." (Psalm 115:1).

Random Stuff for the Week of 5/24-5/31

* When you see a post with an asterisk (*) at the end, it is classified as an R.D.S.A. (Reader Discretion Strongly Advised). The reason they are earmarked is because these are the ones mostly likely to evoke a genuine provocation. I heretofore exonerate myself from any charges lambasted at me. * As you can see on the right hand of the screen, I have started a Flickr account where I will be trying to post some pictures. I look to place around 100 in the next couple of weeks. I do not have many in my computer right now (I have only been shooting for 5 months), but when I get some more I will post them up. Simply click on the box on the right and peruse through the pics as they come up. Feel free to comment if you like. * Below I thought I would provide for you some details about my life - what I am doing, reading, and so on. So here's a starter: what I am reading: Dining with the Devil by Os Guinness Fool's Gold by John MacArthur, ed. God in the Wasteland by David Wells Who Can Be Saved? by Millard Erickson what I am working on: Don't Waste Your Life Bible Study for UPS coworkers Bibliography and Glossary for Research on Religious Pluralism Workplace Evangelism Strategy for Christians upcoming events: Speaking at Brotherhood Breakfast in Huntsville, AL Drew and Erin's Wedding Speaking at Missionary Commissioning Service @ Payneville, KY Father's Day (my dad is the best) There you have it. Have a great week and hope you come visit P&P again soon!

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Word for the Faint of Heart

I hope that you guys have enjoyed the pictures. I will, however, be going to a Flickr account in the future (more info later). I also want to say thanks to all of you who embody the readership of P&P. Many of you I realize are new to P&P, and this blog has been upheld by word-of-mouth referral and gracious recommendations of fellow bloggers. If you believe in this blog, I ask you to carry its message; but regardless if you do or don't, I am grateful that you have taken the time to include this as a part of your day. Now that leads me to make this announcement. I am fully aware that some of my posts have been considered as "hard-hitting" and controversial. I don't expect everyone to agree with me (or something is inherently wrong), and I know that there will be some who will say Amen while others would like to burn the pages these words would be written on. Regardless of how you feel, I want you to feel it. The worst thing would be to have you unprovoked, unmoved, indifferent, and disengaged. During the next two weeks or so, I will be sharing such posts. As you may have noticed, I have not put many posts lately that are the typical "thoughtful" kind of genre, and that is because I have been giving considerable thought lately to matters at hand for writings forthcoming. Although my writings may have sermonic overtones, I really consider them anecdotal in nature. In them, I will ask questions I hope that you or others would be willing to help answer, comments that are embedded in the very core of who I am, and pleas that are to appeal to all. If you are faint of heart, weak-stomached, or would like to avoid tough words and a sincere message, consider this as the warning - "Reader Discretion is Strongly Advised: Comments made during this window of time may offend, anger, confound, provoke, stimulate, and stir you and cause you to think outside the box. " I write these not for a larger readership, but for an engaged readership; I am cognizant that some will be turned off, so I am making this post to be a announcement of programming that you may grab your remote and switch to a different channel if you like. Now that I have made this aware to you, I will proceed to share with you my heart. When I was in college, I wrote in my journal under two headings: heart breathings and heart spewings. Breathings were just thoughts about life and observations I had made; spewings, well, were just that. They were things that pierced me, convicted me, angered me, and beckoned me to speak up. They are like fire in my bones, and for me to remain silent would be for me to implode. I ask that you to respond with sincerity, with reason, and with transparency; yet respond to the post and please do not make character attacks at me or anyone else simply because you do not like what is said. If you disagree, say so, but explain yourself and why and where you disagree. I do not know how many of these posts I will make (right now around 7-10 or so), but I am telling you now for those of you who think, "There he goes again . . . He is so critical yada yada yada." Yes, I am critical, and we must not think the word critical with always negative connotation. Being critical is truth-preserving, and without it, we err both in orthodoxy (what we believe) and orthopraxy (what we do). Enough of that. Interspersed in these posts you might find some pictures, news, or the typical random stuff as well. Anyway. I felt it necessary to make this word to you now so that the forthcoming posts may not catch you by surprise. Thanks again for your time.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

From the Falls of the Ohio Bridge, a glimpse of Louisville before the dawning of another day. Posted by Hello

Lead Me on Tracks of Righteousness

On the train tracks built in 1920 over the "Falls of the Ohio" in Indiana. This shot was taken about 5:45 a.m. just before sunrise. Unfortunately, we were kicked off by police and did not get to shoot any more pictures. Posted by Hello

Ben said this was a conifer. I just liked the picture.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mercy Says 'Go and Sin No More'

I have been thinking a lot about mercy lately, not for the least of which reasons is my desperate and daily need for mercy from God and my fellow man. Yet this thought has been on my mind for some time. The rocks sounded like a synchronized thud on the dusty road as the adulterous woman lay on the ground, accused and scandalized in public. She lifts up her eyes to her the words of Jesus saying, "Go and sin no more." We all know the story, but this SS lesson is hitting me hard these days. Now I turn to Romans 12:1 which contains probably the greatest "therefore" in the Bible (I have tried to come up with the Bible's greatest "therefore's" and preach from their context). And it follows, "in view of the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." This part I think seems to get the least amount of attention in this amazing verse, and I believe it is the key to understanding worship, service, sacrifice, and holiness. Everything in my life is to be seen and understood in full view of God's mercy. Because of God's faithfulness, they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and as one who is to glorify God on account of his mercy (Romans 15:9), I must maintain a clear and conscious scope of God's magnificent mercy. So much wrath I deserve. Hell should be mine. The curse I should bear. Condemnation my sentence. Destruction my end. Yet God has shown mercy indeed, even to me, and like the adulterous woman, I must rise with this mercy received and go and sin no more, for it is mercy that leads us to a presentation of our bodies, for a worship that is sacrificial, for a service that is holy, for a life that is surrendered. Truly mercy is mighty, so out of the depths of sin I rise, like this woman to go with Jesus, the merciful High Priest who has stood in my place (2 Corinthians 5:21), taken my curse (Galatians 3:13), and become the lamb that was slain before the foundations of the world on the mercy seat that the veil may be torn and I, a wretched undeserving sinner, can come and find intimacy and rest in the arms of Him who is holy. This morning, I hear him with the newest of mercies, faithfully saying, "My son, go this day and sin and more." ADDENDUM: This I wrote for many reasons, not the least of which is because of the temptation to treat mercy and grace with contempt. I have seen those, who, because of God's mercy and grace, have felt the liberty to live shady lives with questionable practices under the guise of grace, thinking that grace might be somehow magnified. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin so that grace may increase? Hell no." (Cotton Patch Version) Grace drives us to holiness, mercy to humility, love to awe, to a life that resembles the Crucifed, yea Risen One.

"the Lord causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust . . ." Posted by Hello

Illumination of mind: let the light come in. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Today my best friend graduates from pre-school. She is none other than my niece. A genius and a comedian the same. Delaney, I will be teaching you Greek after Kindergarden! Posted by Hello

The row of pink roses which the bridesmaids carried. Posted by Hello

Introducing David and Katie Kizziah. It was sheer joy to participate in this wedding. I also was able to shoot about 450 shots of the glorious event. Posted by Hello

Here's Caleb with his Doctor of Philosophy flag. Congrats my friend for finishing par excellence. Posted by Hello

Round Up of Favorite Marquee Statements

I know you read them, and sometimes you laugh, maybe weep. I would like to come up with a working list of the best church marquee statements (good, bad, and ugly) and have a compilation just for fun. I will start. I have seen this one on a couple of church marquees: Try Jesus. If you don't like him, the world will always take you back. (I didn't know that Jesus was a taste-test or brand name. I am learning something new everyday.) Your turn.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Brief Bibliography for Bible Translation Study

Over the past 20 years, Bible translation has become a preeminent debate because of the rise of "dynamic equivalence" translations that attempt to "modernize" the English Bible. If you are interested in studying the issue and on whether you can trust the Bible in your hand, here are some books which I have and look forward to studying. I would like to thank Andy for reminding me of the importance and necessity of being equipped to explain and contend for the literacy of Scriptural translations. Here they are. Carson, Donald A. The Inclusive-Language Debate. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998. Dewey, David. A User's Guide to Bible Translations: Making the Most of Different Versions. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. Kaiser, Walter C. Exegetical Fallacies: Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996. _________. Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching & Teaching. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981. Metzger, Bruce M. The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001. Poythress, Vern S. and Wayne A. Grudem. The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000. _________. The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004. Ryken, Leland. Bible Translation Differences: Criteria for Excellence in Reading and Choosing a Bible Translation. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. _________. The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Wheaton: Crossway, 2002. Scorgie, Glen G, Mark L. Strauss, and Steven M. Voth. The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God's Word to the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. Strauss, Mark L. Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998. Wegner, Paul D. The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Bruce, F.F. “The Bible in Its Ancient and English Versions.” Evangelical Quarterly 13/2 (April 1941): 150-54. Carson, Donald A. “The Limits of Dynamic Equivalence in Bible Translation.” Evangelical Review of Theology 9/3 (July 1985): 200-13.
Dart, John. “Gender and the Bible: Evangelicals Wrangle over New Translations.” Christian Century 119/14 (July 2002): 11-13. _________. “TNIV Bible Braves Gender-Inclusive World.” Christian Century 119/4 (February 2002): 10-11. Ellis, Earle E. “Dynamic Equivalence Theory, Feminist Ideology and Three Recent Bible Translations.” Expository Times 115/1 (October 2003): 7-12. Gilmour, Samuel MacLean. “Tests and Standards for Evaluating Current English Versions of the New Testament.” McCormick Quarterly 19 (May 1966): 275-82.
Hoops, Merlin H. “Translating the Bible: The Challenge of an Ongoing Process.” Trinity Seminary Review 3/2 (Fall 1981): 10-19. Mercer, Calvin R. “Contemporary Language and New Translations of the Bible: The Impact of Feminism.” Religion & Public Education 17 (Winter 1990): 89-98. Metzger, Bruce, M. “Translating the Bible: An Ongoing Task.” Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (January-March 1993): 35-49. _________. “Translating the Bible: An Ongoing Task.” Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (April-June 1993): 140-50. _________. “Translating the Bible: An Ongoing Task.” Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (July-September 1993): 273-84. _________. “Translating the Bible: An Ongoing Task.” Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (October-December 1993): 397-415.
Neff, David. “The TNIV Debate.” Christianity Today 46/11 (October 2002): 36-45.
Omanson, Roger L. “Dynamic-equivalence Translations Reconsidered.” Theological Studies 51 (Summer 1990): 495-505. Poythress, Vern S. “Is This New Translation Faithful in Its Treatment of Gender? No.” Christianity Today 46/11 (October 2002): 37-42. Scott, James W. “Dynamic Equivalence and Some Theological Problems in the NIV.” Westminster Theological Journal 48/2 (Fall 1986): 351-61. Smalley, William A. “Discourse Analysis and Bible Translation.” Bible Translator 31/1 (January 1980): 119-25. Spencer, Aida Besancon. “Power Play: Gender Confusion and the NIV.” Christian Century 114 (July 1997): 618-19.
Stackhouse, John G. “The Battle for the Inclusive Bible: Conflicts Over ‘Gender-Neutral’ Versions Are not Really about Translation Issues.” Christianity Today 43/15 (1999): 83-84. Statham, Nigel. “Dynamic Equivalence and Functional Equivalence: How Do They Differ?” Bible Translator 54/1 (January 2003): 102-11. Strauss, Mark L. “Is This New Translation Faithful in Its Treatment of Gender? Yes.” Christianity Today 46/11 (October 2002): 37-42. _________. “Linguistic and Hermeneutical Fallacies in the Guidelines Established at the ‘Conference on Gender-Related Language in Scripture.’” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41 (June 1998): 239-62. Thomas, Robert L. “Dynamic Equivalence: A Method of Translation or a System of Hermeneutics?” Master’s Seminary Journal 1/2 (Fall 1990): 149-75. “Why the TNIV Draws Ire: No Translation Is Perfect and Each Must Be Read with a Careful Exegetical Eye.” Christianity Today 48/4 (April 2002): 36-37.
One author's conclusion: English Bible translation stands at a watershed moment. For half a century, dynamic equivalence has been the guiding translation philosophy behind most new translations. Each successive wave of these translations has tended to be increasingly bold in departing from the words of the original text. Stated another way, we can trace an arc of increasingly aggressive changing, adding to, and subtracting from the words that the biblical authors wrote. The issues are at stake in the current debate about Bible translations are immense. (Leland Ryken in 2004.)
One more note: You can check out a plethora of information provided by the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They have a resource center especially geared to the TNIV. Also, there is an online book available called The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Maculinity of God's Words by Vern Poythress & Wayne Grudem.

Random Stuff for Week of 5/17-5/23

1. I just heard from my uncles yesterday that the pope's car was sold on E-Bay. Sure enough it was true! He had a 1999 Voltzwagon Golf with around 46,000 miles on it, and it sold to a casino owner for $244,000! Ironically, the pope never actually drove it (because he did not have a driving permit), and the man who bought it just a day earlier bought Britney Spear's pregnancy test and previously purchased Mary on the grilled cheese sandwich. Talk about a holy roller! 2. Coming to Louisville in April of 2006 is one of the best conference line-ups I have ever seen. The conference is called Together for the Gospel. It is being hosted by none other than Mark Dever (IX Marks Ministries), Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney (author of The Cross-Centered Life and Christ our Mediator), and Albert Mohler (Southern Seminary's President). Special guets include John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. Are you kidding me??!!! The date is April 26-28, 2006. What is even more amazing is that it is only $125! If you would like to come, let me know and maybe I can hook you up with lodging accomodations (stay with my wife and me if you like!). 3. Discipleship Journal has a great one-year Bible reading program that is recommended by many. If you are interested in reading the Bible in one year, I encourage you to check this plan out. You may be one to help end the famine in our land. 4. One of the greatest encouragements to me in my devotional life has been a book called The Valley of Vision. It is a collection of Puritan poems and writings that are immeasurably rich and real for the believer. The author is Arthur Bennet and is published by Banner of Truth. It sells on BAMM for $10.05, or you can get a leather hardcover version for $15.74. This book is well worth and soon the prayers then will soon become your prayers now.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

With Gladness of Heart, I Will Rejoice

Tomorrow is a big day for me, because it will be a HUGE day for two persons whom have affected my life greatly and have manifested kindredness with endurance throughout the years. Caleb Clanton, my lifelong friend whom I first met on the monkey bars at Julian Newman Elementary in 1st grade, will be graduating with his PHD in Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. It is amazing to see the things that the Lord has done through Caleb both academically and devotionally. Throughout my life, some of the best, most illuminating conversations that I have ever had have been with Caleb on the back porch. I rejoice with him in the completion of his PHD and doing so with excellence. He plans on continuing to teach @ Vanderbilt for the next year, which he has been doing so for the past three years. May Jesus continue to explode in Caleb's mind and heart as God uses him to explode the minds of the secular elite and the worldviews that hold sinners in bondage. David Kizziah, whom I call "My Epaphras" (Colossians 4:12), will be uniting with his bride in the covenant of marriage Saturday. After attending Caleb's graduation commencement, I will be traveling down to Syllacauga to share in the abundant joy of seeing two lives being joined into one flesh for one cause - the glory of God. David was a roommate whom, when I walked down the hall of our house, I would find on his knees or passionately reciting Scripture, or reading some of the great Puritan Paperbacks. He has and continues to be a illustrative demonstration of a man who has sheer delight in God and His Word. He to me is the personification of Psalm 1, of the man who is planted by the waters, who prospers in whatever he does and never lacks fruit, for he loves God emphatically and is imprisoned to His Word undeniably. Katie, his fiance, is a beautiful woman with glimmering countenance and virtue from above. Just to see her esteem for her husband is evidence enough to see the kind of woman she is. After their wedding and honeymoon, I am excited to say that they will be joining us here in Louisville and attending Southern as well. What a wonderful reunion that will be! I have been richly blessed to have brothers in my life who have through the years weaved their thought, prayers, and encouragement to my life to shape me into the person I am today. To undo me would be to reveal the investments, the tears, the laughter, and the memories of such men whom I am not worthy to have as friends. Yet they are more than friends. They are brothers. I am indebted to God on account of them and only hope that those whom the Lord places in my life such as these and others, I can somehow reflect and imitate their example. I only hope my 20D will for me this weekend to capture the moment and make memories!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

My Confessions

I feel that it is appropriate to share with you some confessions that I have made and continue to make. These are the result of ponderings down interstates, late night musings, and constant introspection over who people think I am, who I believe I am, and who I really am. These confessions are but a few of the ongoing lessons in my life: 1. I confess that I am both a saint and a sinner, and were I to wait until I were merely a saint to speak, then I must surrender the rest of my life to silence. The right to speak truth doesn't come from my perfect standard in keeping it (for we are all fail in some degree) but the truthfulness and the Source thereof. 2. I confess that I have couched my words too often with the appeal and approval of those those who read/hear me that I might win over their perceptions and therefore conform to the crowds. I must, I have to, live for the Audience of One, regardless of people's perceptions, and care only for the smile of Heaven, even if my words account for a thousand frowns. 3. I confess that I have denied my conscience and maligned truth for the sake of appeasement and conformity, thereby displaying faithlessness and fickless and the fear of man. I must fear him who is able to cast both body and soul in hell, and take courage; for what he whispers in the quiet place, I am called to proclaim from the rooftops. 4. I confess that often times my writings have been too assertive and deriding, bereft of humility and meekness, and tainted by domineering assumptions and personal ambition. I must rise from bended knee and bowed heart, and speak as one whose words has wounded himself. 5. I confess that those I love, I most often hurt, and do so with selfishness and insensitivity. I cannot be a true lover, with the love of Christ, if I but do not have the interests of others in mind, that in word and deed my life be an offering endowed by the King to those He would express Himself. 6. I confess that my love for the Church, the Bride of Christ, the Building of God, is received by others to be divisive, critical, and unproductive. I must learn to express my convictions and passions for those whom He died in such a manner that they are ravished by Jesus' glory, convicted by our apathy, and spurned to radical holiness that we may be HIS in the fullnest sense of the word. 7. I confess that I am a fallible man speaking fallible words. I do not stake any claims or entitlements to the truth, but as one who is pilgrimaging through life in constant pursuit of the Truth; however, I do not apologize for His words, for they are infallible and authoritative, words that every human being will one day give an account, words that I must face with fear and trembling. 8. I confess that I am more concerned about the faithfulness of God's people, that they would represent Him well in our world, culture, and society rather than being trendy, popular, or acceptable to today's measuring sticks. As a result, I find it necessary to address the utilitarian and pragmatic dominance of thought today disguised as church growth, strategies, programs, etc. To be passionate about God's name and renown means to be passionate about the vehicles that represent that name - passion expressed either for or against without compromise. 9. I confess that many of my beliefs, convictions, and thoughts shared are unpopular and confrontational. Having my heart disclosed and mind read for everyone to see has been both humbling and healing at the same time. At any given moment, I have seen how the same word has comforted, inflamed, enouraged, and frustrated people. Given the desire to speak truth, I must take care that the message does not become maligned or mitigated by the faults and failures of the messenger. Daily the lens of my life needs cleansing, so I come for a clean vision and a pure passion to think God's thoughts and feel God's passions. 10. I confess that when (not if) I have been wrong, I have often been defensive rather than submissive. This is a sign of carnality in me. I must humbly accept the truth when I am wrong and ever long to be spiritually receptive to the leading of God's Spirit to change me, to convict me, to call me onward to a deeper understanding of Him and what He is wanting to say to me through His Word and through His people. 11. I confess that in order for me to be authentically and thoroughly devoted to my King, I must be willing to confront any and every affront to His kingdom and rule, from without and from within, for the sake of His name and His testimony througout the earth. This means that doctrine must be essential, our culture and world be engaged, and the guises and scheming done in the name of Jesus be exposed. As Luther said, "my mind and conscience must be held captive to the Word of God." A thorough work must be done in me before a transforming work can be done through me. 12. I confess that my confessions are weak and feeble without the strong arm and benevolent graces of Jesus Christ, whose life I desire to have lived in me, whose love I desire to expressed through me, whose words, I pray are communicated by me. It is Him I confess, as a sin-stained wretch whose pray continues to be, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Jesus Christ" Denied a Driver's License in WV

I was struck by this article in AP. A man has renamed himself Jesus Christ has been denied getting a driver's license in West Virginia. You can click on the name above to link to the article. I have heard of people calling themselves Jesus, but Jesus Christ???!!!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Hide and Seek

I don't know why but my sidebar has just snuck down to the bottom of the page (I think it has free will). The links, posts, and poll and stuff like that is all there but only at the bottom of the page. I am not quite sure how it got there or how to fix it. Any suggestions? Until then, I will muse and tinker around like I know what I am doing.

Random Stuff for Week of 5/9-5/16

* As you may have already noticed, I have inserted a weekly poll for all you who check out P&P. Please, if you have the time, provide your input for the question asked weekly. Your input is greatly appreciated. * Paul Washer is a young pastor and founder of Heartcry Missionary Society. He has some very provoking sermons that have stimulated much thought in my mind. Some are free to download at the following link. I encourage you to check them out: http://www.heartcrymissionary.com/modules.php?name=Downloads&d_op=viewdownload&cid=12 * Many of you are aware of the gender-neutral translations that have recently been coming out. Wayne Grudem, along with Vern Poythress, has written a book called The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy. It is a lengthy book (528 pages) that explains proper translation, how we received our English translations, and most importantly why the TNIV (Today's New International Version) is wrong. If you or someone you know is interested on Bible translation or owns a TNIV Bible, then this would be a relevant read. It is published by Broadman & Holman in 2004. You can find it for $15.74 @ BAMM.com. * If any of you are interested in doing a book study together with a group or would like to have a good book to give away to some non-Christian friends, I encourage you to check the Don't Waste Your Life website. I have recently purchased a bulk of 25 to give to my unbelieving friends @ work and those who will come to my Bible Study there in the cafeteria. I am using it as a discussion starter and introduce them to the Christian faith. The only stipulation to the bulk buying is that you give them away at no charge. It is a great deal. You should check it out. A link to this is the following: http://www.desiringgod.org/news_events/promos/2005_dwyl_outreach.html

Sunday, May 08, 2005

It just hit me . . .

I don't know about you, but often when I pray and meditate, I get distracted. Often I have to write them down so that I get them off my mind. Yet this morning I had this tangent thought while meditating that intrigued me. It is a photographic analogy. One of the most important aspects of a good shot is getting the exposure right. In order to do this, you must measure the amount of light coming into the sensor. Too much light will white out the picture, and too little will cloud it over. Therefore, you have an exposure meter to measure light and therefore adjust by aperture, ISO, or shutter speed. The greater the amount of light, the faster the shutter speed. The less amount of less, the longer shutter speed, because the open shutter needs more time to expose the light available. Some shots with great light will be less than a blink, maybe 1/1250 of a second, while others with practically no light will be like a 10 or 30 second shot. Here's the analogy: In the church there is a great amount (concentration) of light. Therefore, many Christians who have their Christianity centered around programs in the church have little need for "exposure" for there is much light around. In this setting, there is only the spilt-second exposure, and that is it. However, Christians who are in the world, who are "outside the camp", are living in total darkness with their fellow coworkers, peers, classmates, and friends. In this setting, there is little to no light. Therefore, it is necessary to have a long "exposure" of the Christian for the light for Christ to be exposed. It has been said that many Christians today are overly exposed and under developed. I must say that it easy to be in a place where there is great light, for often we seem to "borrow" from that light and assume it is ours. Yet it is only when we are in total darkness that we see how bright we really are. In the church, frankly, Christians can go in and out and never get "exposed" nor Christ be "exposed", for there we are active in programs, versed in the lingo, and busy staying "religiously committed" that these work as substitutes for true exposure. In the setting of the world, in the places of rampant darkness and utter depravity, there are no props to lean on, no borrowed light to assume, no substitutes to fill in. If Christ is to be seen beautifully, he must be exposed properly, and that often takes time. Split-second Christians won't do. Half-second gospel presentations won't suffice. They need long-exposed Christians whose light, the light of Christ, shines and endures. There is nothing wrong with being very involved in the church; however, the church should not be the place where the Christian lives out their Christianity. We are meant to be Christians, not do Christianity. It is Christ in us, His being, His glory, His face that must shine, for he who said "let light shine in the darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:7). Anyway, that's my tangent. I don't want to be a split-second exposure only. For one day, we will all be exposed fully and eternally, if split-seconds are all that is known of me, then what kind of shock will I be in that day of "revelation"? Lord, expose the sin in me that which remains, that this portrait of grace will appear as a properly exposed Christian where Christ, the Light of the World, is seen and glorified. Amen.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Sovereign, Sinner, and Student

(Taken from a journal article dated 12.29.04) As I think about how to invest my life that it may be well spent, I look to Jesus and observe his associations. One thing is for sure about Jesus - he is intimate. He is real, authentic, raw, and intentional. There is nothing superficial about Jesus, nothing haphazard, nothing wasted, nothing accidental. And I have seen how His intimacy is three dimensional with his associations. First, Jesus has unaltering intimacy with the Father (Sovereign). He and his Father are one, and Jesus emphasizes that he can do nothing apart from the Father. In his priestly prayer in John 17, he speaks of his pre-incarnate unity with the Father and how he willingly gave up such eternal intimacy that we could know and have intimacy with God. Time and time again it is said that Jesus went away to a lonely place early in the morning - and late into the night, Jesus departed to be with the Father, to commune, to hear his voice, to be empowered. Without a doubt, Jesus was Father-centered and spent his life for his pleasure. Second, Jesus was intimate with his students. As a teacher, he did not hide behind podeums or platforms nor get swallowed up by the applause of men, but rather he was well content to be with the twelve he had chosen, men whom he ate, drank, slept, and walked with. He listened to their pleas, handled their objections, and loved them to the end (John 13:1). He not only went into their shoes but went into their hearts and souls to abide forever. He did not call them slaves but friends, and there is no friend who laid down his life like Jesus. He said that he would be with them to the end, that he would never leave them nor forsake them. Truly, Jesus was intimate with his students. Finally, Jesus is intimate with sinners. He is a Physician who loves to have patients who realize that they are sick and want help. He is a host who loves to prepare a banqueting table for those who are hungry and thirsting. He is a great light for those groping in darkness. Jesus dined in the houses of sinners and tax collectors and what some would call "the scum of the earth". He shared conversations with them, embraced them in His enveloping compassion, and welcomed all who would come to him for forgiveness of sins. A leper felt the transforming touch of Jesus, a prostitute heard the redemptive words of life, a tax collector was accepted when the world rejected him, and a thief received the promise of paradise with Jesus. And the sinner hears the scream of intimacy in the cross. The invitation is for all sinners to come. He says, "Give me your filthy garments, and I will give you my perfect robe of righteousness. Come, for it is I who came from heaven to you." Truly Jesus is the most intimate friend of sinners, closer than any brother, and if I am to live life well, then I must be intimate with the Sovereign (Father), with students (those whom I disciple), and sinners (the lost world around me) every day of my life. These three folks Jesus knew well, knew deeply, knew truly. I must know them as well if I must live well. God help me. Lord, I come to you as a student and a sinner. I come because Your throne of grace irrisistibly draws me to come. In spite of me, you want intimacy. Sovereign Lord, out of my emptiness may I experience your fullness; in my dependence, let me know your power; in your constraining love, let me live a relentless passion to practice random acts of compassionate dumbness. May I not waste this day with trivial investments with no eternal beneficence! Have me that others may have you I pray, for the sake of Jesus and His glorious name - Amen.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Chronological Snobbery and Rootless Christianity

"Chronological snobbery is the presumption, fueled by the modern conception of progress, that all thinking, all art, and all science of an earlier time are inherently inferior, indeed childlike or even imbecilic, compared to that of the present." Owen Barfield in Worlds Apart, p. 148 "Chronological snobbery is the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to your own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited." C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy ch. XIII "Chronological snobbery is the arrogant notion that the ideas of our own day are better than the ideas of a bygone day just because they are ideas in our day. It feels that things are truer because they are newer. And so it is both irrational and naive." John Piper, in a sermon dated Sept. 8, 1985. "Chronological snobbery", I believe, is a serious problem today. The idea that whatever is new is right and what is old is irrelevant is totally fallacious. Since when did dating determine whether something was right or wrong? Yet this seems to be the case today, and the consequence to this snobbery has produced a rootless Christianity. Christianity becomes rootless for several reasons. For instance, many Christians today could not explain the pilgrimage of the Church throughout the ages, especially the high points (Patristics, Reformation, Great Awakening, etc.). If the only thing we know of Christianity is what is going on today, then we are the greatest snobs of all. Because we live in the 21st century does not entitle us to greater inclination to the truth nor alleviate the responsibility to testify to the truth as others have done before. Another contribution to rootless Christianity is the hype of the trend and the dismissal of trans-generational literature that has influenced folks for ages. For example, why does Bruce Wilkinson sell 6 million books in The Prayer of Jabez and Rick Warren set the record for most hardcover books sold with over 20 million in The Purpose Driven Life? Yet I dare say that they will not remain and longer than the trend does. What about Bunyan's Pilgrim Progress or Augustine's Confessions or Pascal's Pensees? These you won't find on the front shelf of the local Christian bookstore, because we mark what is the latest, greatest fad, not what is rooted in historical greatness. C.S. Lewis offers a (not the only) remedy to chronological snobbery, and that is, every third book your read, let is be a book over a century old. For instance, if I read Piper's Desiring God and Packer's Knowing God, then I will read Calvin's Institutes. And so on. Another help would be to buy a book on church history. I good buy that is easy to read is Justo Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity (two volumes in one by Prince Press). As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "there is nothing new under the sun." For someone to think that there is an "original thought", beware: for he is either ignorant of historical thought or has an idea that for thousands of years the greatest minds didn't think of. Sure, you can come up with your own recipe, but don't think for a second that you came up with the ingredients. Much of the modern-day fascination and glimmering gold-dust will blow away in the breath of time, and we will look back and think, "Why were we so foolish to go along with what seemed to be so right, so 'emergent', so relevant?" In order to bear fruit in our day, we must have well-established roots not only in the Scriptures, but also placing our feet on the paths of those who have pioneered the way, thinking the thoughts that have endured throughout centuries, and read of the lives whose legacy transcended their generation, their modern-day trends to make a mark with which we all are affected. That is one reason why I love biographies. If you compare yourself with those around you or the "norm" of Christianity today, then it would be easy to think you are running the race hard. But check out the lives of William Carey, David Livingstone, Adonirum Judson, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John G. Paton, Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther, David Brainerd, Jim Elliot, etc. These are the folks who are our pace-setters, or at least should be. I look at the paths we are on today, and I fear that American Christianity could be taking the path of least resistance, the path of popular culture, the path of appeasement and capitulation, and this causes me great concern. If we but rid ourselves of the chronological snobbery and see what price has been paid, what blood has been shed, what sacrifices have been made for us to be where we are today, then maybe, just maybe we will repent and turn back to the ways of the Lord, the path of life. A rootless Christianity is as strong as a tumbleweed in the winds of ideological storms and cultural tornadoes. We are left to be swept away. Yet there are giant redwoods who roots are miles deep and forever strong that can and have withstood nature and the passing of time and will survive even us. And there we can find shade and learn the lesson of finitude and brevity of life and leave our snobbishness to truly be 'grounded' in what lasts. We must get past the fluff and see beyond the trends. We must live with more gravity than to be swept away with novelty and niceties. We must know where we have been to have an orientation to know where we are going. We must live our lives with an apprecation of what God has done and long for him to do even more with us as we continue in their train. I leave you with four verses in conclusion: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12) "You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Gas Gone Wild! Find me scapping for nickels and dimes underneath my passenger seat . . . Posted by Hello

That's right! Grab your sombrero, reach for a burrito, and hug your muchacho's, for it's Cinco de Mayo! Posted by Hello

A Prayer for the National Day of Prayer 2005

"O LORD, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all of the people of the land. To you, O LORD, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the LORD our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. . . . Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O LORD, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O LORD, hear; O LORD, forgive. O LORD, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name." The prayer of Daniel (Daniel 9:4-10,17-19)

Random Stuff for week of 5/1-5/8

* Yahoo has just updated their free e-mailing service from 250MB to 1GB! Isn't that great?! Now I don't have to delete all that recycled emails and forwards I inevitably get. * I have been graciously given the opportunity to shoot a little with Todd Pellowe, a new friend and fantastic photographer. He exlusively shoots weddings and is one of the most sought after photographers in Lousville and Western Kentucky. He has become like a mentor to me in the world of photography. You can check out his work at his link on the sidebar. * John Piper has written the 4th edition of The Swans Are Not Silent, a series of books with biographical sketches of great history makers of our faith. This edition, called Contending for Our All, includes the lives of Athanasius (298-373), Church Father of orthodoxy, John Owen (1616-1683), great Puritan pastor and theologian, and J. Greshem Machen (1881-1937), 20th century theologian. Secondly, he has also written a new book called God Is the Gospel: Meditations on the Love of God as the Gift of Himself. I am especially pumped about reading this book. Both are expected to be in print later this year. * Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (which I am a student), has been in recent days under fire for his comments on Catholicism as well as "Justice Sunday". He has been given the mantle to carry the gospel into the very heart of the culture war and contend for the faith amongst competing ideologies and worldviews. I encourage you to check out his site and blog at www.albertmohler.com. I guess that's all for now. I will post these randomly as random stuff comes to my mind. I will just try to be randomly consistent for the sake of randomness.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Donald Whitney and myself at school. You may know him as the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Chrisitan Life. He is coming to Southern next year to teach. Yeah! Posted by Hello

The Art of an Illusion

Ever heard of people getting disillusional? People who have been disoriented to reality and been trapped by the haunting shadows all the while groping for substance. They want light yet only seem to be aimlessly wandering in the darkness. Webster defines an illusion as "the act of deceiving; the state or fact of being intellectually deceived or misled." It is a person's perception assumed to be reality but in actuality it is false, a hoax, a lie. What is real and true is misrepresented by a counterfeit, a substitute that gives the appearance of the real but lacks the substance and essence of the real. It is a false idea based on a false reality. When I was a little kid (some of you still think I am one), I used to have birthday parties at McDonald's, and there always was a clown or magician who would do magic tricks for us. Being little kids, we did not know that the tricks were not really tricks. Everything the entertainer did was an illusion. Yet we did not know it. For us it was reality, for thus we perceived it so. But it was a false idea based on a false reality. The adults, well, they knew exactly what was going on. They knew from an objective understanding that the tricks and magic was only an illusion. So I bring it home. I am concerned for believers today who are dillusional. They, like myself and friends, are spiritual babes who look at some spiritual tricks being done today (like the Prayer of Jabez among others) and believe it to be real. Others are thinking that their 3rd "salvation experience" fixed things between them and God. Yet others still perceive what is popular and assume it is right. This phenomena of the dillusional crisis is precisely why Christians need to grow up, including myself. We are so easily convinced of the entertainer's shenanigans even though it is not based on reality. Many Christians today, I am grieved to say, have a false idea based on a false reality - and what scares me most is that it often deals with their eternal destiny. It is one thing to be disillusional about a magic trick; it is quite another thing to be disillusional about a matter of eternal consequence. Only those who are grown up can know the difference between the truth and a lie, the substance and a shadow, reality and an illusion. Yet the reverse is happening. We are going even further and further from infancy to an imbecilic status. If this dysfunctional cycle continues, we will forever be wowed by an illusion and have believed a lie. When reality comes, we won't believe it, for we have perceived reality already by being convinced that the illusion is true, for if you believe it enough, you will convince yourself that it is true. I don't want to be a disillusioned believer. I want to be exposed to what is real and not duped by a substitute that is nothing more than a facade. We must be grounded and growing, striving and pursuing. If we stop in this race to be entertained by the sidebar attractions and entertainment, then we will find ourselves gazing into an illusion and end our lives without ever having known the essence of life. Don't me misled. Refuse to be intellectually and spiritually infantile and deceived. As Paul said, "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature" (1 Cor. 14:20). Let's expose the lies and acknowledge the illusions for what they are, that in doing so, we and others likewise may be grounded in reality and growing in truth so as to never be dillusional again.

A Sunset View from the Ohio River Posted by Hello

More of No Gloss from Os

First, much Christian pursuit of timeliness has become trivial. Following trends passionately but promiscuously, many Christian leaders have become trendy. Obsessed with the new, they have produced only novelty. Staggering from one high of excitement to another, they have become jaded. Evangelicals were once known as "the serious people." It is sad to note that today many evangelicals are the most superficial of religious believers - lightweight in thinking, gossamer-thin in theology, and avid proponents of spirituality-lite in terms of preaching and responses to life. What started out as breathless and excited is ending as exhausted and out-of-breath. Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 77.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Searching for An Adequate Idol

As in the ages of the Reformation, people are indulging in the worship of relics - the gods of good luck and high superstition. Below you will see just some that I have been able to discover though a little research. Many of these have sold on E-BAY and other auction sites for tens of thousands of dollars, on high-security displays in casinos, and adorned with worshippers everyday. This is an interesting yet alarming commentary on the world and its quest to have "spirituality" but not knowledge of the One True God. In our post-modern time, people feel that it is quite all right to invent for themselves deities that they can worship, or even sell, even if they are found on a grilled cheese sandwich. And by the way, if you are looking for another image of Jesus - look for a Christian, for in them you will find the image of God reflected through the glory of Christ in them. The only image God is concerned about is the likeness of His Son seen in the lives of His children.

and finally Mother Theresa on a Cinnamon Bun - I admit, this one is hard to find Posted by Hello

Virgin Mary w/ Baby Jesus on a Pretzl Posted by Hello

Mary on a Grilled Cheese as Well Posted by Hello

Virgin Mary on the Side of an Office Building Posted by Hello

Virgin Mary and the Finger of God on a tree Posted by Hello

Visage of Mary under Overpass in Chicago: the beginning of the "Where's Mary?" sequel to "Where's Waldo?" Posted by Hello

Site Counters as of May 4, 2005