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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.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Ecclesia Reformata Semper Reformanda

Sadly enough, this great day goes in the calendar of Christian History as probably the most under-appreciated day by contemporary Christians. It was 488 years ago when the battlecry of Ad Fontes ("Back to the Sources") was sounded forth by the Reformers. It was the exclamation point and foundational mark of sola Scriptura. It was the reorientation of the church to the authority of Scripture alone, for the Christian life, and polity of the church. It was the denunciation of meritorious efficaciousness in the pronunciation of sola gratia, thereby nullifying any synergistic efforts to accredit salvation to anything but the sheer grace of God which staggers a repentant sinner's heart. It was the exclusive and definitive affirmation of solo Christo, that it is in Christ alone, and it was through his mediatorial work as Prophet, Priest, and King that we have salvation by his sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection. It was the reassertion of sola fide where the practice of indulgences, sacraments, pilgrimages, and other substitutes were shown to be fallacious and the solid ground of justification by faith alone anchored the Christian truth about salvation. And it was the end-all of every act, thought, and deed to be soli deo gloria whereas all boasting and exultation should be in God alone. Truly, "let him who boasts, boast in the Lord," and let him who glories, glory in the cross. For by Him and to Him and for Him are all things - our Glorious One. We cannot underestimate or underappreciate the significance of this day in history. The nailing of the 95 Theses on Wittenburg Door by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517 should be not only observed but celebrated by every confessing evangelical with a heart of gratitude and great joy. And in that celebration, we must also be mindful that we are ever reforming, and together, friends, we must always be crying out in days of decline and degradation, Ad Fontes! Ad Fontes! Ad Fontes! Let us always be reforming, even now, for Christ's sake, for the gospel's sake, and for the sake of the kingdom of God. Our God truly is a mighty fortress, so let us have our conscience held captive to the Word of God and speak with humble articulation, bold pronunciation, and faithful exposition to the truth which has "once and for all been handed down to the saints." May this generation rise in the reformation spirit to not only remember Luther but follow in his tread.

Moonrise Over Whiteside Mountain

My description of this image:

As you can see in my Photostream, I liked shooting the moon; yet, this one has to be my favorite. There as an incredible two-tone sky that was crystal clear. At this moment, we were on top of Whiteside Mountain jogging through the top trail trying to get to the west side to catch the sunset. Unfortunately we missed it, but great consolation came when we were able to catch this from the east.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ready For Reformation???

Dr. Tom Nettles, whom I have this semester for Church History, has just come out with his recent book called Ready for Reformation? Bringing Authentic Reform to Southern Baptist Churches. I picked book up last Thursday and hope to write a review on it in the upcoming weeks (that is, if I can balance it with my studies). The timeliness of this book is dead-on. There could not be a greater need than to address the reality that the SBC needs a reformation, and in light of the fact that tomorrow is Reformation Day, it could well be the siren that sounds forth the cries of yesteryear. In the essential aspects of a true reformation, Nettles mentions two principles: the "formal" principle and the "material" principle. The "formal" principle, in my understanding, is foundational whereas the "material" principle is the framework or structure built upon that foundation. Nettles argues that the formal principle was enacted when the battle for inerrancy was won; however, the material principle (building on the foundation of inerrancy) has yet to take place. In this material principle are the key issues of doctrinal constructions that shape the contours of our faith. Never before has the SBC been less confessional, yet demanding of more loyalty. This heavy-handedness and elitist mentality from many SBC leaders is pressing a threshold among many SBCers who see through their agendas and politicizing of the denomination. Needless to say, I could not be more encouraged to see that a faithful minister and scholar has addressed this great problem. Juxtaposed to Welch's Million-Dunked Movement and Hunt/Graham/Gaines tirades against the doctrines of grace, Nettles already stands out with a biblical, well-informed, honest, level-headed, and plausible work that deserves consideration from all SBCers. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, we may be on the brink of a reformation. Am I ready? You bet I am!

Clouds Below

Clouds Below, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: Taken early in the morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although it was a little bit hazy, the majestic mountains were curtained with thick clouds below which made for a very surreal moment.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Magnified Moon

Magnified Moon, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: Okay, maybe THAT magnified, but it's the closest I have gotten to it. Maybe it would look bigger if it was large sized, but then again maybe not. I have not idea where on the backpackin' trip I took this image, but I can tell you it was at night and it was dark outside and it was cold. Great description huh?

By the way, I have a question. What where you told that the moon looked like? (I am referring to the dark indentations)

Friday, October 28, 2005

"What Would Jesus Blog?"

The Associated Press writes about GodBlogCon Conference recently held at Biola University. Joe Carter (Evanglical Outpost) was interviewed in the article and said, "It's like putting 95 blogs out there," and said in an earlier interview that God bloggers offer an "uncensored and unadulterated" view of contemporary Christian thought on politics and organized religion that isn't reflected in the mainstream media. To read the entire article, click here.

NBC Nightly News and Tom Brokaw Covers MegaChurches, Evangelicalism, and Politics

As I write, I am watching tonight's news via NBC and Tom Brokaw. I caught it mid-stream, but was able to catch some of the segment. Apparently, secular media is picking up on the rise of evangelical faith in the midst of declining religious devotion in other forms of mainstream and liberal Christianity. Of course, the end aim is to figure out the political agenda, talking points, and game plan of evangelicals so as to understand and counter the influence they bring. They are not interested in Jesus, or becoming a Christian, or other essential matters of Christianity. Rather, they are interested on the impact Christianity is making on the culture, in particular against their secular worldview. But as I listened to Mr. Brokaw interview Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church - another megachurch of 11,000 - and realized that evangelical Christians are really concerned about the essence and distinctives of Christianity either. For instance, when asked about what is the main emphasis of your teaching, Haggard replied, "We do not focus on forgiveness of sins because that is easy; rather we emphasize how to fulfill your destiny." Buzz words like "purpose" (Warren), "destiny" (Haggard), and "full potential" (Wilkerson) are catch-all theological formulas which encapsulate their theology, or lack thereof. You see, it all comes back to what evangelicals are know for. What are we known for? In our world, are we known for what we believe? Who Jesus is? The message and gospel of the kingdom of God? Not anymore. We are known for our pragmatic ideals expressed in the church growth movement. We are known for our political and cultural agendas (same-sex marriage, abortion, judicial activism, Ten Commandments, etc.). We are known for our pop-culture (national best-sellers, religious movies, and concert-driven entertainment. Apparently the very thing which should define and distinguish us (what we believe and who we are) are replaced with what we do. This, in my opinion, is very problematic. If we don't hold truth as foremost among our concerns, heresy is inevitable and compromise the path to absorption into irrelevance. Pastors who don't say "Thus saith the Lord," but rather, "In my opinion, you ought to . . ." has lost the mantle and authority derivative of God's Word. If what we get excited about is our political agenda and not the spiritual agenda of the King and His Kingdom, then we could be guilty of treasonous citizens of another world. Don't get me wrong. I totally believe that Christians should be informed and engaged in cultural and political affairs, but this should not be what we are known for - at least not predominately. We should not get press coverage for our picket lines or political prowess, but the transforming power of the gospel in changed lives. What should be on the front page and headline nightly news is the advancement of the kingdom of God through the glorious work of saving wretched sinners, not getting another person to vote Republican or conservative. We can overturn Roe v. Wade and have the Ten Commandments on every courtroom and classroom in America, but that is not going to change a person's life any more than lowering the speed limit is going to keep people from speeding. We are not a voting block or political interest group, but children of Almighty God and ambassadors who carry the message of reconciliation to a world broken, barren, and beaten down by the effects of sin. There definitely needs to be a balanced and biblical understanding of the Christian's emphasis and priority in matters of cultural, social, political, environmental, judicial, and governmental matters. But above and beyond all these and driving all these things is the matters that are theological. I long for the day when Christians are known for Christianity. When that day comes, we will know what revival is like. More than getting press coverage for man's agenda, the greatness and glory of God and His agenda will in that day be covered whether NBC picks up on it or not. Then we will be awakened the terrifying reality of a transcendent and holy God more than losing next year's election. If tonight's coverage by NBC serves anything for me, it would be to remind me to stick with the message and not deviate or delve into matters which only strain the gnat or legislate morality without giving the power, yea Person, to do it. To read the article and other links to the segment called "In God They Trust" click here. To read Brokaw's article click here.

Moon Atop Black Balsam Knob

My description of this image: A bi-sected skyscape at the summit of Black Balsam Knob. I particularly enjoyed the fiery look of the grass by the sunglow as well as the view of multiple mountain ranges on a clear October night. Full moon, clear skies, beautiful sunset, majestic mountains - what more can you ask???

Random Stuff for the Week of 10/28-11/3

* The Pearcey Report, an online culture forum by Nancy and Richard Pearcey is a great online source of information for the Christian worldview. Many of you might know Nancy as the author of Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Check out the wealth of information afforded you at this salient site. * David Heddle (He Lives) has challenged Phil Johnson (Pyromaniac) on his description and definition of hyper-calvinism. Probably there is not another topic that is so hot-button and misunderstood as this. Edificatory discourse on this matter is always helpful, especially in the midst of some much reckless rhetoric. * I have been posting several of my photos from my backpackin' trip and wondering whether or not to continue posting them on P&P. What do you think? If I take them off, you can, of course, find them on my flickr page. Does the images enhance P&P or make it too busy? * From childhood, I have always been a big fan of maps and atlases. Earlier this week, my father gave me a link to Google Maps Mania, an unofficial blog of all kinds of neat maps of all kinds of things. Peruse through the links on the toolbar or glance at some of the posts and check out the fun things maps can bring. **** Blog of the Week **** Out of Our Minds Too (Tim Bayly) Tim Bayly has a very clean and easy-to-navigate blog which covers a wide smattering of topics, all of which are good reads. A couple of recent topics which Tim has covered is the controversy/debate on baptism, the feminization of the church, and Doug Wilson's response to N.T. Wright and paedocommunionism. Frequencing his blog would be well worth your time. That's all folks! Hope you have a great weekend! - t.n.b.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: Rainbow Falls is located just past Turtleback Falls on the Horespature Trail (3.2 mile hike) in Gorges State Park. The falls is the second (as far as I know) only to Whitewater Falls in that it has a drop of over 200 feet. It is called Rainbow Falls because at different times in the day you can catch rainbow colors shooting up and out from the falls, if given the right angle and light. As you can see, no rainbows here, but a wonderful waterfall nonetheless. The blue hue comes from the custom WB done on site. Not sure if that was due to the low light (taken around sunset) or because I just screwed it up.

Blame It on the Shame

I have been thinking lately about the devastating effects of sin and shame on the Christian life. In particular, I have been thinking through some verses that speak of shame or "being ashamed" or "shrinking back". Often we are aware of the consequences of sin, but at least in my case dealing with the guilt and shame in a biblical manner has seldomly been addressed. When David prayed and finally came clean with his adultery with Bathsheba, he said, "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." (Psalm 32:5). Interestingly enough, some translations have used the word "guilt" where the ESV uses "iniquity" of David's sin. So what exactly is being forgiven? David's sin? Yes. But what's this "iniquity" or guilt of my sin stuff? At times where I have struggled with sin, my greatest area has been the disappointment I face with myself. I know that the Lord is compassionate to forgive and will pardon my iniquity, but the shame lingers. I think, "You have been a Christian for this long, and still you are this wretched man?!" In my pursuit of holiness, it appears that dealing with shame and disappointment have at times overwhelmed me. I cannot bear letting my Savior down or not beholding his beauty so as to treasure him above all earthly things. I do not want to be found lacking in Christ-likeness or fruitfulness. The thought of being barren as a believer is at times too much to bear. In one sense, feeling the full weight of one's sin is right in that we are to not take sin lightly or gloss over a matter so grave that it demanded utmost sacrifice. Being holy demands all of us, and if there is anything we should not take lightly or treat minimally, it is our sanctification. Yet in another sense, to dwell upon one's sin and allow shame to linger often renders one's relationship with God paralyzed and one's witness impotent. The most common Greek word used for shame is aischuno which almost always is used in the Passive Voice to mean "to have a feeling or shame which prevents a person from doing a thing." There is something going on in a state of shamefulness that is outright dangerous and counterproductive to the health and spiritual vitality of the Christian. Three verses I would like to mention here that relates to this idea of shame: Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Philippians 1:19 For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 2 Timothy 1:12 Which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Clearly one can see several implications of a shame-filled predicament. First, the ability and desire to witness and share in the power of the gospel is crippled. Who wants to witness with passion and brokenness for the lost in such a state? Second, Christ will not be honored in your body or your life. Contrary to Christ being honored or magnified, he is distanced and displaced. Thirdly, suffering as a Christian while having an unwavering assurance and faith in the person of Christ cannot be a possibility when shame dominates one's thinking and behaving. When I think about these texts, I must first consider the author. Paul wrote these words, and if there was anyone in history who had more to be ashamed of, it was Paul. A blasphemer, insolent opponent, and persecutor of Christians (1 Timothy 1:13), Paul was notorious for his antipathy towards Christians and the cause of Christ. Yet he "counted everything as loss for the sake of Christ" (Philippians 3:7), yea all as dung for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. He was able to shake off the shame, forgetting what was behind, and esteeming the infinite worth of knowing Jesus, he was to press on to conformity to Christ, even unto death. Paul spoke very little of his shameful past; rather, he intensely focused on Jesus and set his mind's attention and heart's affection on him. Another quickening thought about shame is the second coming of Christ. Several texts speak of his coming and the believer's readiness, longing, and stewardship of his life such that he will be confident and persevering in faithfulness when Christ comes. For instance, consider these texts: Hebrews 10:37-39 For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay, 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. 1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. Mark 8:38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. 1Thessalonians 3:11-13 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. It is evident that one who is lingering in shame over their sin cannot long for Christ's appearing, but only shrink back in the displeasure of the Father. We are called to be sober, diligent, faithful, good stewards, and seeking first the kingdom of God, not knowing when the day or hour will come when Christ shall return. In that day, will our hearts be blameless in holiness before God? Abiding in him that we not shrink back? Having faith and preserving our souls? Longing for his appearing? There is so much at stake in this short vapor called life. We have but a few moments until we face eternity. While the presence of sin is a constant reality, the devil would love to debilitate and cripple Christians with heavy-handed shame tactics. How many believer's have been paralyzed or even shipwrecked because of shame? How many have shrunk back into carnality and callousness? How many ashamed of the gospel so as to not speak or demonstratee it in their lives? How many unable to share in the sufferings of Christ and testify of their knowledge of him? I don't know, but I don't want to be a statistic. I want to be a workman who is not ashamed and rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), a minister who does not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God's Word (Acts 20:27), and a Christian who is pressing on for the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). He is calling us upward, and when our heads hanging down, we are missing the goal. In that great Day, we cannot blame it on the shame. Jesus is not ashamed to call us his own, in spite of our weaknesses, failures, and struggles. I, for one, want to be a Christian who refuses to be rendered impotent by shame; rather, I want to spread myself naked and unashamed before my Savior and the world on my own cross, and like Paul, and say, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Quite the Curve

Quite the Curve, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: Taken off the Blue Ridge Parkway, this section as you can tell is quite curvy. I don't know if I have ever seen a street sign that looks like that. Dan said that guy on the bike below is a good self-portrait of himself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Awaken: The Awakened Sinner

Awaken is the category of posts which center on thoughts of salvation and regeneration. This prayer is taken from a collection Puritan prayers in a book called The Valley of Vision (highly recommended). It is almost always at my side in my personal devotion and study. (The emphasis is mine.) O My Forgetful Soul, Awake from thy wandering dream; turn from chasing vanities, look inward, forward, upward, view thyself, reflect upon thyself, who and what thou art, why here, what thou must soon be. Thou art a creature of God, formed and furnished by him, lodged in a body like a shepherd in his tent; Dost thou not desire to know God's ways? O God, Thou injured, neglected, provoked Benefactor when I think upon thy greatness and thy goodness I am ashamed at my insensibility, I blush to lift up my face, for I have foolishly erred. Shall I go on neglecting thee, when every one of they rational creatures should love thee, and take every care to please thee? I confess that thou hast not been in all my thoughts, that the knowledge of thyself as the end of my being has been strangely overlooked, that I have never seriously considered my heart-need. But although my mind is perplexed and divided, my nature perverse, yet my secret dispositions still desire thee. Let me not delay to come to thee; Break the fatal enchantments that binds my evil affections, and bring me to a happy mind that rests in thee, for thou has made me and canst not forget me. Let thy Spirit teach me the vital lessons of Christ, for I am slow to learn; And hear thou my broken cries.

SBTS Blogs Link to P&P

Just wanted to let you all know that Provocations and Pantings is NOW linked on SBTSBlogs.net - a metablog of students and professors from Southern Seminary. The blog, of course, is not officially associated with Southern, but simply is a one-stop source for some of the school's bloggers. I have not read everyone's blog that is linked on the page, but there are some good one's worth checking out. Sorry for the typo!

Sunset Atop Black Balsam Knob

My description of this image: At elevation 6,100 feet, Black Balsam Knob offers a 360 panoramic view of the entire Shining Rock Wilderness area. Our campsite was just over the mountain in the foreground. Many hikers familiar to the area will also know that the great Art Loeb trail passes through this area as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dry Falls

Dry Falls, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: Dry Falls is located off Hwy 64 near the city of Highlands, NC. It is called Dry Falls because you are capable of walking underneath the falls to both sides. Obviously, the falls is anything but dry. The beautiful landscape accents the falls nicely, and this 120 foot drop adds a lovely mist as well. This image was taken approximately 500 feet away from the base.

Another Game Called "Who's Next?"

Tom Ascol just posted yesterday that Steve Gaines, former pastor of First Baptist Gardendale, AL and now pastor of Bellevue Baptist Memphis TN (former pastor was Adrian Rogers), has recently preached a sermon entitled "I Believe in Salvation" based on 1 Timothy 2:1-10. Gaines has officially become the next SBC leader to attack the doctrines of grace (and grossly misrepresent it at that). What is it that these guys have against grace? Could it be more than that? Could there be an agenda going on in the SBC to justify why numbers are declining? That reminds me of the song, "Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm." Anyway, here's the game. Let's see who can guess the next big SBC leader to attack the doctrines of grace. Let me get you caught up thus far: 1. Adrian Rogers Predestined to Hell? Absolutely Not! 2. Johnny Hunt The Security and Sureness of Our Salvation Series (at bottom of page) 3. Bobby Welch First Baptist Daytona Newsletter 4. Jack Graham "The Truth About Grace" 5. Steve Gaines "I Believe in Salvation" (no link at this moment) Now, the question is, "Who's next?" Can anyone guess? If he hasn't already, I'll put my guess as next on the docket to be . . . Jerry Vines, pastor of First Baptist Jacksonville, FL. I may be wrong, of course, but these guys are starting to get really predictable...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Light My Path

Light My Path, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: Another photo of the path up Whiteside Mountain. I found the sunset dancing along the path, lighting the trail up as it snaked around the mountain. " . . . and a light unto my path."

Cullasaja Cascades

Cullasaja Cascades, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: The Cullasaja Cascades is located just off Hwy 64 between the cities of Highlands and Frankin, NC. The cascades lead into the Cullasaja Gorge, both of which are quite picturesque.

Which Ones Are Real?

Here are some lovely BibleZines. Some are parodies, some are real. Can you guess which one is real???

Alright. I think that's enough. Now, do I need to share my belief about BibleZines? I think not. Have fun, and while these parodies are hilarious, real BibleZines are not.

Random Stuff for the Week of 10/21-10/27

This Random Stuff post was supposed to be uploaded on Friday but my Internet connect went down. Therefore, I am posting it today, knowing that another one will come this Friday. * Monergism has a new blog called Reformation Theology which contributors including Marco Gonzalez, Eric Costa, John Samson, and John Hendryx. Here is their description of who they are: We are a community of confessing believers from various backgrounds with solidarity in Reformed Theology. Our contributors include a wide diversity of traditions: Baptists, Presbyterians, Charismatic, Non-denominational and Independent. Even though we may have differences on non-essential matters, we are all committed to the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures. * The audio from the last Desiring God National Conference (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God) is now available. You can also see the list of worship songs (PDF) as well as view promotional trailers. * In 2006, InterVaristy Press will be publishing another CounterPoint book called Four Views and the Atonement. Included in it is Dr. Thomas Schreiner's latest paper presented at Southern on penal substitution. Other contributor's are Gregory Boyd ("Christus Victor" view), Bruce Reichenbach (Theraputic" view), and Joel Green (every view is true). * Tom Ascol (along with several others) have reported about Bailey Smith's $48.00 equals a saved soul ministry promotional. From what I can tell, Scott Slayton first mentioned, and the Calvinist Gadfly (here, here, and here) contacted BSM, and Tom Ascol has expounded on it very thoroughly (here and here). The promotional no longer exists on BSM website, but this has proved to be a great lesson in pilfering off the gospel. * Joe Thorn (Words of Grace) is currently writing a series called Seven Deadly Sins. Here are his posts thus far: Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, Lust. Great stuff. **** This Week's Blog of the Week **** Triablogue (Steve Hays) The subheading for Triablogue is "Serious Trinitiarian Theology." Hays has written some great posts as of late (particularly for me The Depopulation of Hell, Till Hell Freezes Over, and his Pot of Gold series. - t.n.b.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Along This Road Called Life

My description of this image: Early in the morning there were few people on the road, so Dan and I were able to take some fun shots like this. In this journey of life, there have been many people who have "kept me between the lines" so to speak. I am eternally indebted to those folks who have traveled along with sweet accompany. Often they have carried me. Other times they have given me direction and a roadmap when I get lost. Many thanks and much love for everyone who has allowed me to be in their passenger seat throughout life's journey.

iMonk on SBC and Calvinism

Michael Spencer (Internet Monk) has recently written a very perceptive article called Smelling Calvinism on My Breath: How the SBC Looks from Under the Table. I am still digesting and thinking through many of the points he makes and encourage you to check it out. I think that his article is particularly relevant to the recent posts here at P&P. Possibly, in the near future, I might share some of my reflections on this article as juxtaposed to others in recent months such as Dr. Lemke's and Bobby Welch's analysis.

Abram's Falls

Abram's Falls, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description for this image: Abram's Falls is located in Cades Cove of the Smoky Mountain National Forest. A beautiful 2.5 mile hike leads you to the falls which serves as a beautiful resting place before you hike back. The falls is only about 25 feet tall, but the strong flow makes for an excellent shooting experience.

News: Babies for Sale on Chinese Ebay

While perusing as usual through The Drudge Report, this headline caught my eye. The BBC article says that there were advertisements where boys could be sold for the American equivalent of $3,450 and girls for $1,603. The report is still uncertain in that it could be a hoax, but given China's attempts at population control and birth control politicies, one must wonder if this was the next inevitable step in the slippery slope. Instead of killing your babies and disposing of them, why don't you make money off them? Sounds like a new business venture possible for some Chinese entrepreneurs.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wet Weave

Wet Weave, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Here is my description of this image: This little spidy (well not that little) was found on the loop around Cades Cove early in the morning. I shot this with the 100-400mm lens, so I was not able to get a really good macro on it, but I thought I'd throw it up anyway. Dan had a better and more in focus shot, given that he had a macro lens (and a better photographer of course).

Tertullian, Opposition, and the Criminal Name

Tertullian (AD 145-220) wrote winsomely and with great wit in his Apology in which he argued for the reasonable treatment of Christians, their innocence, and the fallacy of the opposition’s argument as well as the baseless nature of their charges. Chief of their charges was that it was criminal to be called “Christian”. Early in his Apology, Tertullian addresses his opponents about their ignorance and prejudices against Christianity. I would like to share four quotes from Tertullian which I think are important to consider (emphasis mine): “They like to be ignorant, though to others the knowledge has been bliss . . . Because they already dislike, they want to know no more. Thus they prejudge that of which they are ignorant to be such, that, if they came to know it, it could no longer be the object of their aversion; since, if inquiry finds nothing worthy of dislike, it is certainly proper to cease from an unjust dislike, while if its bad character comes plainly out, instead of the detestation entertained for it being thus diminished, a stronger reason for perseverance in that detestation is obtained, even under the authority of justice itself. But, says one, a thing is not good merely because multitudes go over to it; for how many have the bent of their nature towards whatever is bad! How many go astray into the ways of error!” (chapter I, 18). “ . . . It is made perfectly clear that there is no crime of any kind in the case, but merely a name which a certain system, every working against the truth, pursues with its enmity, doing this chiefly with the object of securing that men may have no desire to know for certain what they know for certain they are entirely ignorant of. Hence, too, it is that they believe about us things of which they have no proof, and they are disinclined to have them looked into, lest the charges, they would rather take on trust, are all proved to have no foundation, that the name so hostile to that rival power—its crimes presumed, not proved—may be condemned simply on its own confession. . . . In our case alone you are either ashamed or unwilling to mention the very names of our crimes. If to be called a “Christian” does not imply any crime, the name is surely very hateful, when that of itself is made a crime.” (chapter II, 19-20). “They praise what they know, they abuse what they are ignorant of, and they inspire their knowledge with their ignorance; though in fairness you should rather judge of what is unknown by what is known, than what is known from what is unknown.” (chapter III, 20). “Before, therefore, taking up a dislike to the name, it behoved [sic] you to consider the sect in the author, or the author in the sect. But now, without any sifting and knowledge of either, the mere name is made matter of accusation, the mere name is assailed, and a sound alone brings condemnation on a sect and its author both, which of both you are ignorant, because they have such and such a designation, not because they are convicted of anything wrong.” (chapter III, 20). I share these at this time because, while being called a Christian is acceptable, being named a Calvinist is not. Rather, to be a Calvinist is criminal among most Southern Baptists. And for what reason? What crimes have Calvinists been guilty of in regards to Scripture, salvation, and the Church? There is the charge that we are not evangelistic or loving the lost or concerned about kingdom growth. But this could not be further from the truth!!! What they have is a family tree of straw men which they refer to and demolish. What Tertullian has said about being named Christian, the same attacks are being made against Calvinists. Most Calvinists I know have grown to refrain from using the name because of how loaded and misunderstood Calvinism has become. In my case, most who speak against Calvinism do so out of emotional appeal or popular opinion rather than personal investigation on the truthfulness of the doctrines. Appeal is made not to Scriptural exegesis but sentimentality and theological constructions centered on the autonomy of man with views scarcely supported by Scripture, much less with consistency and clarity. I think we can learn from Tertullian in his great apologetical style to defend God-centered doctrine and supremacy of Christ over all things – especially our boxes.

Lake Nantahala

Lake Nantahala, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

This is my description of the image: Many are famililar with the Nantahala Gorge and River, but few find the lake. Located off Wayah Road and nestled in the heart of the national forest, this lake is a hidden beauty. Close to the lake is Wayah Bald and Wayah Crest, both of which are great hikes and provide excellent viewpoints from higher elevations.

Jack Graham Comes to Southern Seminary - Part Two

As follow-up on yesterday's post, I just want to share some of my thoughts on this. Given that I have had over a week to think about this, many things have run through my head, and because there has been very little addressing the matter, one is left to some degree of speculation. Some of my thoughts are just that - speculations; however, others I think are founded and grounded and (I think) should be pointed out. Here's my take: 1. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) has historically been known for its doctrinal distinctives, of which is explicitly Reformed. For example, take the school's Abstract Of Principles (1858) on election (Article V): "Election is God's eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life--not because of foreseen merit in them, but of His mere mercy in Christ--in consequence of which choice they are called, justified, and glorified." Secondly, let's take the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) on regeneration (Article IV.A) and election (Article IX): "Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace." "Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies and saves sinners. It is perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is a most glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. It encourages the use of means in the highest degree." Now I could also mention the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833 or the Westminster Confession of 1647 but that would appear extraneous and redundant. The point is that what Graham believes is neither consonant with the Baptist tradition or Southern's tradition in particular. While it is true that there have been many chapel speakers who have come from other denominations who believe otherwise (i.e. Ligon Duncan and paedobaptism), they come outside the SBC denomination and disclose themselves as such. Graham, on the other hand, has spoken out against the core tenets and foundational beliefs of our school, and nothing is said about it, which leads me to my second point. 2. Once I arrived here at Southern, I suffered through an 8-hour Cooperative Program Class Lecture. One of the chief points made was loyalty to the Southern Baptist Convention. Later that week, I heard Dr. Mohler speak in chapel and emphasized how we are a confessional seminary, as professors went up on stage to sign the Abstract of Principles. Now if we are to be loyal and confessional, should we not hold true to those convictions? I mean, we are quick to lay out our convictions and positions on other matters, especially with those who are on the extreme left. But with a fellow conservative are we to just give him a microphone and ignore what he has previously said? That mentality appears to undermine the very emphasis placed upon this school as being loyal, confessional, and faithful to the Baptist tradition. I confess that we must confess not just in ceremony but in all our conversation (way of life). 3. I believe that it is precisely because of Southern's distinctiveness, academic excellence, theological framework, inspiring leadership, and unparalleled faculty that enrollment has skyrocketed. It is no secret that our school is one of the premier seminaries in the world and that our theological stance is biblical, reformed, and conservative. Yet, for those of us who have come to this school for this reason find it immensely frustrating when it appears that we are ashamed for who we are and don't want anyone to know that we are Reformed for fear of retaliation or being dubbed as "hyper-Calvinist". Those labels are nothing but stigmatization and scare tactics made to drive people away, yet I find it ironic that the very nature of this school, which draws people away, is pulling in more students than ever. Go figure. 4. Southern made a public forum out of the issue of alcohol, which has received a lot of attention both in the press and especially on blogs. The schools stance is that if you drink alcohol or are found doing so, you are no longer a student at Southern (kicked out). Fair enough. But what about people believing and teaching stuff contrary to what the school believes? We are to show grace. In one situation law is shown (alcohol), and in the other grace is shown (Arminians). Now where they line up in Mohler's theological triage is up for debate, but there is a real point to be made here. This inconsistency/duplicity seems to delegitimize or at least bring to suspicion the motivation and enforcement of the rules at Southern. We accept contrary thinking but oust contrary behaving. Is there a difference? I mean, what you believe and what you do - is there a difference? As one once said, "I believe, therefore I do." And what one believes has immediate implication on what one does. Graham believed in his stance and acted on it, and those actions are indicative of his beliefs. Are his beliefs wrong? I will leave that for you to decide, but what should be desired is consistency. If the lesser (in my opinion alcohol use) is implicitly derived and is enforced, then should it not be the same for the greater (doctrine of salvation) which is explicit and ingrained in Scripture? 5. I believe it is right to say that as a student I represent the school and am accountable to it. However, I also believe that in the same manner the reciprocal value is that the school also represents the student(s). I think the little man should have a voice, and if appropriately and sincerely presented, his/her viewpoints should be considered as legitimate. I would speculate to say that there are faculty members and students alike who would speak out and be more vocal about their take on this matter but possibly are afraid to do so for fear of institutional disciplinary action. When there are no ad homonym attacks, character maligning, or immature name calling, then intelligent conversation and dialogue should not only be accepted but considered as a valuable piece of information for future decision-making. The student should have representation and a voice, and it should not be muzzled, muted, or censored. 6. The lack of clarity and forthrightness from the administration concerning chapel speakers and how/why they are chosen has led some to speculation. Because I work third shift, I sleep in the mornings and am not able to attend chapel. However, those who I have talked to who do go express concern for the purpose of it. Is it a public relations venue for speakers? A political party favor for close friends? Or is it for the students, community edification, and corporate worship? While I cannot make first-hand assertions, others can and have. Furthermore, for teachings so contrary to this institution, there must be a significant reason as to why Graham was invited to come, and the context begs inquiry and deserves explanation. 7. Another contemplation I have had is whether the silent shift away from Reformed doctrinal emphasis is a way to appear more "mainstream" among conservative Baptists and to not be the catalyst for undue division in the convention. Possibly one may think the pendulum swung too far and too extreme after the liberals left and Mohler stood strong in the 90's. Now that the theological fight is over (in a sense), there is a reversal to a more balanced and open-minded perspective. Along with the false accusations of teaching "hyper-Calvinism", one might see why Southern welcomes chapel speakers and other theologians who are not of the Reformed tradition. After all, they are still our brothers (and sisters) in Christ. But being silent or passive about what we were once open and vocal about makes one wonder about the place of priority, transparency, and disclosure. We are who we are in good times and in bad. Our beliefs don't change or are emphasized only when forced to. We emphasize them everyday in the way we live. Where the 90's was the "upgrade" controversy at Southern, could the dawn of the 21st century be the "downgrade" controversy? I know that sounds like a stretch, and I hope it is, but how we define ourselves will determine whether controversy is better than compromise. 8. It would be perfectly clear and consistent if Graham came to Southern under the auspice of a public forum or special lecture stating why he does not believe what we believe. We do this all the time (special lectures). However, not addressing his statements and giving him wholesale endorsement and a microphone in an act of deference is in my opinion dishonest and disingenuous. Were Dave Hunt or Paul Owen or the like were to advocate their views or freewill theism, then it would be quite clear what their reception would be. Yet in Graham's case, because he is more intimately associated with the school and favorably viewed upon (which I am sure he is a great guy), then we gloss over the matter. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." Right? 9. I am wondering what the fallout is on all that has transpired in recent years with the incessant attacks against the doctrines of grace by prominent SBC leaders. Often I hear of pastors, church leaders, and members who are booted because of their belief in Reformed theology. They are considered as false teachers or heretics in some circles, and the Brother Bubba who has Graham's and Hunt's autograph in his Bible will look to their example and be inspired to do the same. There is no telling of the harm brought upon the kingdom of God because of ignorance and poor stewardship of "the mysteries of God" which have led some to fire their pastor because of being fired up by their preacher heroes. If there is any offense and division, it is not from the Reformed side. Time and time again, we have listened and appealed to Scripture, wanting to have transparency and a seat at the table, but this is not allowed. From the local church to the national convention, there seems to be a systematic and calculated attempt to eradicate the resurgence of Reformed theology among Southern Baptists. The younger generation who hope to be good Bereans are not persuaded by inflated opinions, dogmatism, or emotional appeal. We want the truth, whether it be from a fired-up and excited expository preacher or the mouth of Balaam's ass. 10. Finally, let me conclude with something positive. I love Southern Seminary. I love our leadership and the direction our school is going. I love where God has me. And whether you believe it or not, I love Jack Graham. Yet my love cannot be blind. What I see and hear and believe, I share. I am not one for political or theological correctness. My thoughts and actions are hard to smooth over and edit. To simply say what others want to hear or compromise for the sake of appeasement is cowardice and undermining the treasure house of truth. As one dean once told me, "Tim, what you will find in ministry is not so much how to do something, but how not to do something." That has, in my case, proven to be true. I hope it is not so here. I am not ashamed of who I am or of what I believe, and I am not ashamed of my school and what it stands for. If I am wrong or singing in minor key, let it be because of the chords which have been struck from Another, and my wrongness be repented of with honesty and humility. I do believe that what you confess and believe affects everything you do. And everyone is called to do theology, not just academia or the elites. Doing theology passionately and principally has be the pursuit of my life, even at this moment. And in doing theology, sometimes times you are right and sometimes you are wrong. I have seen in my pilgrimage many times where I have been wrong in my theology and how it affected and shaped reality and my worldview. And this might just be the case to show the practicality of doing theology rightly and the importance of seminaries themselves, in that showing oneself approved, he need not be ashamed, but rightly dividing the word of truth, he will not divide the church but show it for what it is - the "pillar and buttress of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

My description of this image: Looking Glass Falls is considered as one of the most classic waterfalls in Southeast United States. With a straight drop of around 120 feet and strong flow, the waterfall is great to shoot. The slight tilt of the composition is directed to the flow of the water below as the small cascades can be seen past the reflection.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sunrays on the Blue Ridge Parkway

My description of this image: From the far eastern beginnings of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The BRP is probably the most scenic road I have ever been on, with overlooks ever quarter mile or so and elevation over 5,000 feet most of the way. If you are ever around the southwest portion of North Carolina, be sure to travel the BRP, but remember to have a full tank of gas, for there is not a gas station for miles. If you are coming from the east, best place to start is the Hwy 64 exit, or to go where it begins, go to Hwy 441 around Cherokee Indian Reservation.

Jack Graham Comes to Southern Seminary

A week ago I checked my mailbox at school and found the latest Towers issue (school newspaper) in which I was dumbfounded to see that Jack Graham would be the chapel speaker for this Thursday (October 20,2005). At first, I could not believe it and thought that the administration was not aware of the agenda Graham has against the doctrines of grace (of which is explicitly taught at Southern and credal in our confessions). I waited a couple of days to decide on whether to email someone in leadership and wanted to make sure I refrained from rhetoric and emotion, and so I did. I asked via email as to whether or not they were aware of the shenanigans of Graham, and if they did, why they chose to invite him to speak in chapel. I later received a reply back that did not answer a single question of mine, but rather said that most blogs covering Graham are "juvenile". Now, I will readily admit that my blog could be classified as "juvenile" in that I am not a seasoned scholar or accomplished theologian or ministerial veteran, but I think that this charge is unbecoming of men like Tom Ascol and James White, both of whom have extensively covered Jack Graham's false caricature of those who believe in the doctrines of grace. To make the charge of "juvenile" while disregarding the questions as a cut-and-run tactic, well, appears to me more "juvenile." In case any of you have not been informed on Jack Graham, let me refer you to some links: Tom Ascol's response part one: Tom Ascol's response part two: James White's response part one: James White's response part two: James White's response part three: To listen to Graham's sermon, click here and wait for the 17 minute mark to begin his tirade. Yesterday in chapel, I understand that Dr. Mohler requested that the students show grace towards Graham when he comes and give him a listening ear because there is a lot that we can learn from him (I was not there but heard this second hand). Personally, I don't know Graham, and presume him to be a great pastor, godly man, and passionate about the church and winning souls for Christ. Unfortunately, his reckless comments unprovoked have eclipsed his character and ministry and made him the center of controversy. Let's be clear: Those criticizing him did not put that sermon in his head. What Graham has done is primarily self-inflicted, and it would be naive to think that a man of his stature - well educated, theologically trained, and denominationally influential - would get away with reckless rhetoric and constructing the straw man as representative of those in the Reformed tradition. I agree with Dr. Mohler that we should show grace to Graham, but that does not mean that we do not hold his false presentation of Calvinism accountable to the truth. There is a great difference between license and grace, truth and tolerance, and we have tolerated great leaders of the SBC attacking and misrepresenting Reformed theology far too long (Johnny Hunt, Bobby Welch, Adrian Rogers, etc.). What does Mohler mean to show grace? To act as he and others did with the liberals in our institution in the early 90's? To enforce convictions of the school as he does with those who differ on the grounds of tee-totalism in alcohol? If that is the case, then we must be consistent. Simply because Graham is a former SBC president and pastor of a big megachurch does not mean that we give him a wholesale endorsement, throw blind eye to his teaching, and give him a free pass to throw 1-2 punches from a pulpit with a chance of dialogue, correction, or even confrontation. Had Graham never spoken out against the doctrines of grace, I am quite sure he would be welcomed with open arms, but because he has publicly and personally made it his agenda to tell "the truth about grace" (which as Ascol says is false advertisement), he must be willing to face the truth. I have been wondering how others in church history dialogued, debated, confronted the differences each had in understanding of God's plan of redemption and order of salvation. For instance, there is much to learn from how Athanasius dealt with Arius, Augustine with Pelagius, Luther with Erasmus, Spurgeon with Moody, and recently James White with Dave Hunt. There is nothing new with Graham's pontificating; what is new is the intensity and persistence of SBC leaders to suppress the truth about grace; furthermore, many pastors and church leaders have been run out of town because of false accusations through propagandists like BaptistFire and other bogus anti-Calvinist outlets. Sadly enough, the sacred desk among those having the gravest mantle have been found among these outlets. I have several other things I would like to say about this which I must reserve until tomorrow. I will bullet my points for clarity in thought and read, and I hope to present a defensible and consistent argument why Graham must be held accountable and Southern Seminary should be honest and answer sincere questions, or else it would be entirely fair to dismiss chapel services and Graham's remarks as "juvenile".

Turtleback Falls - Gorges State Park

Turtleback Falls, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Here's my description of the image: Turtleback Falls is a popular tourist destination in the Nantahala National Forest. The falls itself is only about 15 feet tall, but because of its accessibility and deep pools, many people are able to climb a rope and slide off the falls into the pool below. The falls is located approximately one mile down Horsepasture Trail in the Gorges State Park (located in Nantahala) in the extreme south western part of North Carolina. All images were manually set, including custom white balance, polarization, and aperture.

Scenes From This Past Weekend

Crest of Creation, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Since I am still trying to catch up with sleep and school assignments, I thought I'd start sharing some photos during the intermittent phase of posting. I will try to randomly post several pics on P&P this week, and you can also find them on my Flickr page. My description of this image: This is the moon rising over the mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway atop Black Balsam Knob (elevation 6,100 feet). From the top you get a 360 panoramic view. We were able to catch the moon rising and sun setting at the same time. We were on the knob for about two hours, where there was a 20 degree temperature change being up there, with the main contributor being the 40-50 mph gusts that were incessant. Never the less the view was simply breath-taking.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Back . . . But Bruised

Well, Dan and I made it back today from our 5-day backpackin' trip. This trip was invaluable for a number of reasons of which I hope to expound later this week. One painful lesson I learned was to never wear low ankle socks with boots. My left angle around the heel is skinless and the sides are bruised and blistered. Nonetheless, we had a fabulous time. Terrific weather, beautiful scenery, and a majestic sanctuary was embraced with 28 miles of hiking and around 16 GB of photos (1800 images approximately). In the future, I hope to provide you with a taste of some of what we saw. We shot many waterfalls, and if you like them, you might like these. It was my first opportunity to shoot fall, waterfalls, landscapes, etc., and we had a blast. Now I must recuperate and rest up. Resume posting soon!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

For a Glimpse of Majesty

Dan and I are leaving today for a 5-day backpacking trip. In case you might be wondering where we are going, here's the itinerary that I sent to him (a Word doc., so the formatting will be a little off). It's a little detailed, but hey, that's the way I am. Obviously, blogging won't take place, so hope to be back in the saddle early next week. Cheers! Fall Backpackin’ Trip [Thursday, October 13-Monday, October 17] Day One: Thursday, October 13 ~ Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy High 71 – Low 52 >> Campsite: Cades Cove Campground (1.800.365.CAMP) $17.00 ID# 2298309 :: Reservation #: 4770089 miles traveled: 315 (5 ½ hours) I-64 (75 miles); I-75 (173 miles); I-40 (28 miles); Hwy 129 (15 miles); Hwy 321 (20 miles) Day Two: Friday, October 14 :: Smokies :: ~ Weather Forecast: Sunny High 72 – Low 51

  1. Abrams Falls (7:00 a.m.) 5.0 mi hike Cades Cove Cir. 20 ft. falls
  2. Spruce Flats Falls (10:00 a.m.) 2.0 mi hike Little River Rd. 25 ft. falls
  3. Laurel Falls (1:00 p.m.) 2.6 mi hike Little River Rd 85 ft. falls
  4. Chimney Tops (3:00 p.m.) 4.0 mi hike Newfoundland Gap Rd. (US 441)
  5. Clingsmans Dome (5:00 p.m.) 1.5 mi hike Newfoundland Gap Rd (US 441) to Clingsman Dome Rd
  6. Fontana Lake (7:00 p.m.) no hike NC 28
Total hiking: 15.1 miles >> Campsite: Tsali Campground (828.479.6431)
  • miles traveled: 50 (1 ½ hours)
BRP; 212; US 441 (Newfoundland Gap), NC 28; US 321; Little River Road Day Three: Saturday, October 15 :: Balsam Mountains :: ~ Weather Forecast: Sunny High 69 – Low 45
  1. Blue Ridge Parkway (8:00 a.m.) no hike BRP
  2. Graveyard Fields (10:00 a.m.) 3.2 mi hike BRP 418.8 Upper 120 ft./Lower 60 ft. falls
  3. Devil’s Courthouse (2:00 p.m.) 1.7 mi hike BRP 422.4
  4. Looking Glass Falls (4:00 p.m.) 0.2 mi hike Hwy 276 60 ft. falls
  5. Looking Glass Rock (5:00 p.m.) no hike
Total hiking: 5.1 miles >> Campsite: Shining Rock Wilderness (828.877.3265)
  • miles traveled: 70 (2 hours)
BRP, Hwy 64, NC 1600, NC 106, NC 281, US 176 Day Four: Sunday, October 16 :: Nantahala :: ~ Weather Forecast: Sunny High 65 - Low 39
  • Pearson Falls (8:00 a.m.) 0.3 mi hike US176 90 ft. falls
  • Whitewater Falls (10:00) 0.4 mi hike NC 281 411ft. falls
  • Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls (2:00) 0.1 mi hike Hwy 64 250 ft. / 120 ft. falls
  • Glenn Falls (3:00) 2.8 mi hike NC 106 180 ft. falls
  • Whiteside Mountain (5:00) 2.0 mi hike NC 1600 Massive crags and cliffs
  • Horespasture Waterfalls 5.6 mi hike NC 281 200 ft. falls (five falls)
Total hiking: 11.2 miles >> Campsite: Van Hook Campground (828.526.5912)
  • miles traveled: 110 (3 hours)
US 176, Hwy 64, NC 281, NC 106, NC 1600 Day Five: Monday, October 17 :: Tennessee/Kentucky :: ~ Weather Forecast: Sunny High 70 Low 54
  1. Ocoee River (7:00 a.m.) no hike Hwy 64 possible cave exploration
  2. Cumberland Falls (2:00 p.m.) 2.2 mi hike 68 ft. falls
miles traveled: 435 (7 ½ hours) Hwy 64 (125 miles); I-75 (155 miles) to Cumberland Falls; I-75 (83 miles); I-64 (75 miles) Total Miles Driven: 980 Total Miles Hiked: 33.6 Total Waterfalls: 18 Total Destinations: 20

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

OT: Brothers, Let Us Learn From Jonah

And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my own country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." Jonah 4:2 The life and account of Jonah is one which people find various themes and application. If you are an open theist, then you would try to explain that God changes (contra immutability), or if you are an inclusivist that God saves people outside covenant (contra faith alone in God through the person of Jesus Christ), or if you are a church growth technician the great success, numerical growth, and genuine revival in the big city of Nineveh. Each one of these can and has been sufficiently challenged, and I want to emphasize something about Jonah himself which has been in my mind in recent weeks. Jonah was a man who knew his God. He knew that YHWH is sovereign, that he works salvation with "a mighty hand and an outstretched arm," and that He is "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." Jonah explains that the very reason he rebelled and when to Tarshish was precisely because he knew what God could and would do, and he did not want to have any part in it. He had correct orthodoxy but wretched orthopraxy. Jonah serves as one who knew God arightly but did not impact the way he treated others. He did not have the heart of Yahweh for the peoples of the world. He could give a great exposition of the attributes and qualities of God but failed in exemplification to manifest the truths in his own life. One could have a solidly biblical view of salvation but regard then gospel message the same way Jonah did. You know the power of God. You know the heart of God, but you don't have it, lest you go to your Nineveh. What is worse I wonder: Have all the doctrinal truths down pat and miss the heart and work of God, or be passionate about the souls of men and women regardless of the race, color, ethnicity, status, or religion yet have a incorrect or improper understanding of salvation, sovereignty, and the gospel? One of the charges made against Reformed brothers is the emphasis on doctrinal correctness and theological precision. We believe that the gospel is important enough that we must get it right, that souls are serious enough that we must give them the total truth, that the sovereignty and character of God is so beautiful that we must not malign it with our presuppositions - yet Jonah stands before us as an example of what not to be. We must not be bitter because of God's blessings; we must not despise God's salvation message but not sharing it, and with passion; we must not relegate the gospel to a creed, but "do all for the sake of the gospel, that we should be a fellow partaker of it" (1 Corinthians 9:24). You might ask, "Well, do you believe in limited atonement?" You bet I do. But I believe that it is a LARGE limited atonement (and this should not sound oxymoronic). Another charge forged at us is that since we are exclusivists and Jesus sovereignly saves, then only few will be saved verses the many (I will address later). Yet why can't it be that God could elect many, atone for many (though limited), and we evangelize and see many repent and experience that God is truly gracious and merciful? The gospel is too glorious for us to be spiritual grinch's! The fame of Jesus is too fundamental to our faith for us to fail in the future! Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 speak of a host of people from every nation, people, tongue and tribe so great one cannot count - and this is not resultative of salvation from other religions or other means, but through the graciousness of God to draw many sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus! It is tragic today that in theological thought and discourse that we are dubbed as believing just a few here and there will be saved, and God forbid that we live like it!!! I do not hesitate to stand for the truth, to contend for the faith and the gospel, for the character and person of God (in Trinitarian form), but I hope and pray that you also find me as an ambassador of reconciliation imploring wretched sinners to flee to Christ. With a broken heart and passionate fervor, brothers, we must endeavor to speak of Christ beautifully and boldly to our world. The book of Jonah is not about Jonah or a big fish or Nineveh, but the heart of God - a heart Jonah was hard to. What God did was not because of Jonah but in spite of him. His message was not long, deep, doctrinal, or eloquent ("Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"). Jonah missed enjoying what God had done and being a part of his graciousness; instead of being a conduit, he was a dam. Instead of being a blessing to the Ninevites, he was a barrier. This is our lesson to heed. Tom Wells, in his book A Vision for Missions makes it clear to us all that "those who know the most about God are the most responsible and best equipped to tell of Him." Truly, as Jonah prayed, "Salvation belongs to the LORD!" (Jonah 2:9); therefore, let's be about contending for the faith, the gospel, the greatness of God, the beauty of Jesus Christ - but let us also be embracing the heart of God for the peoples of the world and first to demonstrate in our own lives the power of the gospel to save, and not be ashamed. Let's pray that God will be glorious among us, that his greatness will be evidenced by many souls saved, and that his grace will stagger sinners to behold Jesus Christ as better than what life can offer now and death can take later.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Little Too Blurry For Me

Last week was quite a blurry week for me. I don't know why, and I can't exactly explain it. For instance, twice I found myself steeped in thought driving down the road only to later be aroused by the fact that I had no idea where I was or where I was supposed to be going. Totally erratic. Then, as the cold front began to come in to Louisville, I checked out the weather to dress accordingly, so I laid out some pants and long-sleeve shirt to wear to work. Half way there, I looked down at myself and realized that I was wearing t-shirt and shorts, and the exact same thing I wore the night before! What? Other occasions I had full intentions of doing some important things only to later find out that they hadn't even crossed my mind. Life out of focus is particularly frustrating for me, for I am the kind of guy who plans everything out and has everything organized, down to the most miniscule detail. I began to wonder why this was happening? Was those head injuries as a child catching up with me? That hatchet in the head did hurt I remembered. Was my life just getting over complicated? My little omni notebook was quite full. Was I not getting enough sleep? My red-eyes were not telling me lies. Speaking of sleep, I was talking to my good friend Caleb about it, both of us having our own struggles with the lack of it. We discussed how sleep is a God-given gift and necessity and how it is used for a number of reasons in body regulatory functioning - hormonal output, metabolic digestion, biorhythmic patterns, cognitive functioning, etc. I noticed that as I write most my posts, I have one eye opened and the other shut. This is not good. Did you ever have "that person" who always bragged about living off of four hours of sleep? Or that person who would get up at 4:30 a.m. to have their quiet time and devotions? Everyone thought that was so super-spiritual, and if you weren't awake as the sun rose reading your Bible, well, you were just as godly. How silly is that? Last year, I remember hearing D.A. Carson saying that sleep was one of the most godly disciplines you can do. I agree. Anyway. Hopefully, the blur will soon pass, and I can be more disciplined in my day and sleep. That may mean less posting/reading, but it may improve the quality of my work and beneficial to myself and others.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Random Stuff for the Week of 10/7-10/13

* Monergism Books is a wonderful, new site for great books which you probably won't find on the pop/front shelves of your local bookstore. Partnered with the great library of articles found at Monergism, this bookstore is long-overdue and received with gratefulness and anticipation. Now that the Discerning Reader is gone, it is great to see that there is a bookstore like this out there. * The Desiring God National Conference--Suffering and the Sovereignty of God--begins tonight. Tim Challies and Doug McHone will be live-blogging the conference. So check their sites this weekend if you're interested. If there was any way possible that I could have gone, then I would be there. In the day where prosperity and the American way seem to pervade American brand of Christianity, God is using Piper and others to call Christ-followers back to the way of the cross. I will be praying, as I hope you would, for an eternal impact to be made, not just through the conference, but in the ripple effect to follow. * Dave Hunt, notoriously known for his book What Love Is This? and hiding from public debate, has recently in a newsletter stated that Calvinism is a false gospel. Furthermore, he makes the charge that Calvinists are not saved!!! I think what is called The Berean Call maybe should be renamed The Berean Fall. To join others in expressing your disappointment to Hunt, you can contact him here. Classic Hyper-Arminianism. * Tom Ascol (Founder's Ministries) has reported about some striking and saddening stories. One is about Heaven's Gates, Hell's Flames, and the other is the Power Team. I know that many a person have been wrapped up in these hyper-emotional, hardly biblical acts. Be well worth you time to check them out. **** This week's blog of the week **** Scattered and Covered (Scott Slayton) Scott is an old, on-campus neighbor of mine when I was a student at the University of Mobile. Currently, he is serving as a pastor in Parrish, AL and he and his wife just recently had a baby girl (Hannah). This week, Scott has been writing a critical review of a book called For God So Loved the World. Scott is usually on top of the theological or political happenings in the Alabama area, and you could be sure to enjoy his "Bad Church Sign of the Week." You may remember me speaking about his future run for the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I think his downfall is that he bleeds blue and orange. Check out his blog! That be all for now. This weekend, I will be skidootling around my old hometown with some fiddlers at the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention. For the local newspaper write up, click here. Good times. Back again soon. - t.n.b.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hershey Helping Out Her Own

Find Me on Friday, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Karen Derrico is an artist who specializes in pet portraits and animal art. She has a website called Painting 4 Paws which I encourage you to check out. 15-25% of all commission made from her paintings go to animal rescue and welfare organizations. To subscribe to her newsletter, click here. Personally I think what she's doing is great. Today, Karen contacted me about this photo of Hershey. She requested permission to use this image to paint a portrait of Hershey which will be sold to help those causes I just mentioned. Hershey told me that she is excited that she can help her fellow pups, and I know that you animal lovers out there would be glad to know that there are people like Karen out there caring for man's best friend. When more information is available about the portrait, I will let you know. Maybe some of you maybe interesting in Hershey's portrait or other portraits Karen has made. Nevertheless, Hershey is contributing to the Brister family and other less fortunate pups. I think she deserves a treat.

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