Thursday, April 26, 2007

Eternal vs Internal Christianity

I found this excellent chart on another blog comparing "External Christianity" with "Internal Christianity. I highly recommend you take time to study it. It declares succinctly what I firmly believe is the model of Christianity scripture is calling us to ("Internal Christianity") and showcases that false model of Christianity which strips the Gospel of its redemptive power & God-glorifying mission (External Christianity). One slight negative, I think the labels "External Christianity" and "Internal Christianity" are insufficient and need improvement.

I highly recommend you check out this blogger's site: http://www.ceruleansanctum.com



Externally-Motivated (EM) Christianity Internally-Motivated (IM) Christianity
Our theology/doctrine is… Conservative Conservative
Our praxis is… Conservative Liberal
The covenant that forms the basis for our belief system is… The Old – The Law The New - Grace
Our mission: Preservation of power structures that serve as evidences of godliness Disciple-making
Our source(s) of motivation and power is/are… Existing political and social authorities manipulated to preserve systems and institutions deemed godly The Holy Spirit
Power rests on… Dynamic, media-savvy, big-name leaders who determine which power structures are worth supporting Nameless, faceless individuals who love not their lives unto death
Power is maintained through… Fear of loss Dying to self
Failure is perceived as… Losing the culture war Not fulfilling the Great Commission
When threatened, our response is… An eye for an eye Turning the other cheek
When threatened, we become… Aggressors (or martyrs for the cause should we fail) Joined to Christ in His sufferings
We counter threats with… The systems and institutions we empower Humility and patient endurance
We suffer for… Our cause The Lord
Persecution is to be… Prevented Expected
Christianity exists to be… Preserved Given away
Our faith is… A means to an end Its own reward
Evidence for our faithfulness exists primarily in… Following a strict list of do’s and don’ts derived from the Bible Manifesting the gifts and fruits of the Spirit
The community of faith exists primarily to … Preserve the American civil religion and protect the rights of the faith community Reach out to the lost and build up the household of faith
The community of faith seeks justice for… Itself For all
Our attitude toward benevolence is… God helps those who help themselves (though we may intervene for the very worst cases) Acts 2:44-45
We meet the needs of those who… Most directly benefit our causes Are needy, regardless of their ability to benefit us
We have what we have… Because we have done what is right Because God is gracious
We are righteous because of… Our compliance with the moral code we’ve constructed from Biblical principles Who Christ is
We seek relationships with … Our own kind All people
We make our way in society by… “Christianizing” secular systems and culture Discerning by the word and the Spirit what is worthy of our time and attention
We root out sin in… Outsiders Insiders
We judge… The secular society and its culture The household of faith
We believe people are motivated to obedience by… External forces (usually political when dealing with secular society) applied through a Biblical moral code Being born again, filled with the Spirit, and fellowshipping within a grace-filled community
We validate our apologetic through… Words Actions
We spread truth through… Debate The way we live in obedience to Christ
Our ministry is the ministry of… Reproof and correction Reconciliation and compassion
Our spiritual focus is… Inward Outward
Our leadership is… Concentrated in a few powerful people Dispersed throughout the group
We prioritize… Earthly goals first, spiritual goals second Spiritual goals first, earthly goals second
We are… Guardians Ambassadors

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bad Preaching...

I hate preaching bad sermons. Sadly, I have much practice with this. Sunday roles around like clockwork....every 7 days in fact. Now that I am several years into preaching (and 6 months of non-stop preaching), I still haven't figured this little beast out. Sometimes I am convinced something is going to work well, and then it falls flat on its face.

Everything seems to be perfect.

I studied well.....

I spent time in prayer, offering the sermon to the Lord...

I diligently sought for real-life applications & memorable phrases...

I knew the passage backwards and forwards...

I translated it from the Greek (ok, Hebrew skills are lacking a bit)...

I parsed the important verbs...

I checked what the great theologians of the past had to say about it...

I checked what the best commentators had to say about it...

I prayed that the Lord would allow the Spirit to use it to the Father's glory...

...and yet sometimes they still fall flat.

Why?

It seems sermons are my weekly reminder of my frailty before God. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE preaching, but I also hate it. I love it because God has given me a passion for it. If I can't teach people God's word, I would probably shrivel up and die in a corner somewhere. But I also hate it because I don't like my inadequacies pointed out so publicly. Once in a while is bad enough, but 3 times each week is overkill I think.

Then I remember who I am. I am an arrogant, selfish jerk; and God, in His great love & mercy for me, has given me three occasions each week to remember how much I need Him. I am so blessed, as God is allowing me to see His compassion & care for me even in my failures & inadequacies.

How about you? Have you failed in something this week? Give it to the Lord. I suspect He is trying to teach you something through it.


Prayer: Lord, always let me preach; otherwise my head would swell so large it would explode. Use me for your glory. If failing brings glory to your name, may I fail every Sunday.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Our adversary the Devil

The irreconcilable struggle:

"If we have God's glory at heart, as we should have, we ought with all our strength to contend against him who is trying to extinguish it. If we are minded to affirm Christ's Kingdom as we ought, we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its ruin. Again, if we care about our salvation at all, we ought to have neither peace nor truce with him who continually lays traps to destroy it"

- John Calvin, Bk 1, Chp XIV.15


Prayer: Merciful Father, our adversary the Devil has ruled as tyrant over this world far too long. Aid me in my struggle against him. I am your servant, prepare me for battle. Amen.

Soren Kierkegaard on Abraham...

As part of my preparation for today's sermon on Genesis 22, I read through most of Soren Kierkegaard's book titled Fear and Trembling. In this work, Kierkegaard meditates upon Abraham's intent to sacrifice Isaac.

For Kierkegaard, this story became something of an obsession. He couldn't wrap his mind around it or come to grips with it. Abraham was simultaneously a man of great faith as well as a madman. He was heinous, yet holy. Today's sermon had several 'echos' of Soren's ideas, as I also shared in this philosophers bewilderment of this story.

He writes,

Once upon a time there was a man who as a child had heard that beautiful story of how God tempted Abraham and of how Abraham withstood the temptation, kept the faith, and contrary to expectation, got a son a second time. When he grew older, he read the same story with even greater admiration, for life had fractured what had been united in the pious simplicity of the child. The older he became, the more often his thoughts turned to that story; his enthusiasm for it turned greater and greater, and yet he could understand the story less and less. Finally, he forget everything else because of it; his soul had but one wish, to see Abraham, but one longing, to have witnessed that event.

How is it that God asked such a demanding tribute? Why would God be so absolute in the obedience He requires? Certainly the very first verse allows us to understand that this was only a test--that God never really intended to have Abraham kill the boy. But, it does point to the reality of the radical obedience that God requires.

In the Sunday evening series we are currently finishing the Sermon on the Mount (Gospel of Matthew). Christ likewise calls for radical and total obedience from his disciples. For Jesus, as for the Father, there is no 'middle road' of faith. Either one believes and obeys, or one does not. There is nothing in between.

Christianity is getting more and more confusing to me--but it is also becoming more wonderful. The past generations tried to solve all the problems and provide all the answers. They have intellectualized the faith, and by doing so have made the profound distastefully simple and the holy utterly profane. I am coming to believe that the less we know the more we know. God is not someone on whom we collect data, but rather a personal with whom we interrelate.

Above all, He is a master to be served. Though I get older and older, I understand my Master less and less--but I love Him more and more.

Soren was right to be baffled by this story. He was right to allow this story to become his single obession--certainly such a story is worth so noble a task. However, he was wrong in his wish & longing. He wished to understand Abraham, who of all people is the most understandable. My wish & longing is to see the Lord--who is beyond my understanding. He is becoming my obession.

Prayer: Merciful Father, you are a great mystery to me. The more I experience you, the less I know you. Save me from the imposters to codify their supposed knowledge of you in books and treatises. Lead me instead into your holy presence. There I will spend an eternity failing to understand you. To this failure I commit my life--both body and soul--forever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I guess I'm still a baptist despite the rumor...

Online quiz results:

You scored as Baptist.
If you've landed here, then you are probably a well-informed Baptist. You know what separates you from other Evangelicals and why it is important to divide at certain points. You see the church as a missionary organization whose job it is to preach the gospel to a lost world.

Baptist


90%

High Church Nomad


80%

Moderate Evangelical


75%

Reformed Baptist


70%

Evangelical Presbyterian


65%

Presby - Old School


45%

Conservative Evangelical


40%

Fightin\' Fundy


30%

I'm not really sure how the "fighting fundy" got in, and I could have used a little more Evangelical Presbyterian. The 'High Church Nomad' is problematic, since I am a typical post-modern/modern hybrid in that I enjoy elements of tradition but without the shackles.

Blessings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Failing to love...

The massacre described yesterday & today throughout the national media outlets is heinous. Today our national understandably mourns and--to whatever small extent we are able--enters into the pain & grief of those who lost beloved family or dear friends in the slayings at Tech.

The past Sunday evening we studied the "Golden Rule". This is perhaps Jesus' most famous statement in all of scripture. Philosophers and social architects all over the world recognize that the most serious problem on earth is a failure to treat others well. Wars, violence, rape, slavery, exploitation, welfare, road rage, theft, arson, slander, greed, and--yes--murder all stem from this basic relationship problem. Jesus offers us another path. His statement is as profound as it is simple. It tells us to "
do unto others whatever we wish they would do unto us" (Matthew 7:12).

I am NOT to treat other people fairly...I AM to treat others well (whether they deserve it or not).
I am NOT to look out for myself only...I AM to take this self-interest and apply it to others.
I am NOT to hate myself...I AM to use my love for myself as the 'guide' in how I treat others.
I am NOT to simply
not be mean to others...I AM to actively seek opportunities to shower others with love.

Yet in a world that is racked by selfishness, greed, despair, and utter disregard for others (and chiefly a disregard for God, in whose image we are made), this little Golden Rule is seldom applied.

John Stott once wrote:
"The Sermon on the Mount [most specifically, the Golden Rule]* is probably the best known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguable the least understood, and certainly is the least obeyed.
The events of the past few days confirm that the world continues to refuse to obey this little world (indeed, they are unable to even do so).

Yet a theologian of a past era once referred to the Sermon on the Mount--which includes this famous little rule-- as the
"Magna Carta of the Kingdom of God". He was trying to describe how Christians, unlike the other peoples of the world, are destined & called to live according to this Rule.

Evil is hideous, sick, and horrid. It mutilates, twists, perverts, and destroys all it comes in contact with. It takes human relationships--which are holy and beautiful covenants between one image bearer of God and another--and distorts them with uncontrolled ugliness. Evil kills the body, and it kills the soul. Yesterday, evil killed 32 human beings.

People of God, in these dark times we must remember that we live by another rule. We do not obey the rules of Evil, nor do we listen to its deceptively charming voice. We have been freed from its web of deceit & its claws of terror. Christ has freed us to live according to another rule. We now listen to another voice.

Christians, we must show the world how to love.

Prayer:
Merciful Father, we have forgotten how to love. Yet we remember how you have so loved us, and gave us the life of your beloved son as payment of our debt. For your glory, may the Christians show this dark world the wonderful & marvelous beauty of that love lived out through our lives. Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2007

This past Lord's Day...

Yesterday's services were exciting and joyful. Both first-time & returning newcomers were in the morning & evening services--a trend that is becoming more and more common in our church (praise be to God). The snowbirds are slowly returning & the general excitement of warmer weather is spreading within the congregation.

As I lay in bed last night I was reflecting on the "mood" within the congregation. There seems to be an outpouring of love & mercy within our local body. I am very pleased to see so many of our members greet newcomers--something that didn't happen to this degree just 3 months ago! While some people have stopped attending our church, our attendance is actually up each Sunday! I think altogether we have lost 11 or so people, but they have been replaced by 15-20 fresh faces who are eager to learn God's word and who wish to joyfully be part of our assembly. Also, that old, divisive spirit has departed. Alongside the exodus of a small group of people there was also an exodus of a militant and unloving spirit. People are now learning to accept each other, tolerate people who are not "perfect", and graciously deal with honest differences of opinion.

Today is Monday.

........I am so very exhausted.

...............but I have more joy now than at any time since I first came 6 months ago.

Finally it seems that we are beginning to treasure Christ together as a local congregation. Praise be unto God.

Prayer: Merciful Father, thank you for this special gift of mercy & love that you have showered upon our congregation. We feel the presence of the Spirit. You have removed unteachable hearts, and are replacing them with humble souls eager to grow in Christ. Continue to mold us into your grand design. Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

No one is really sure how to pronounce YHWH, though most today think it may have sounded like “Yahweh”. In scholarly writings it is many times called the Tetragammaton (meaning ‘the four letters’).

All English bibles translate YHWH as Lord. This is unfortunate, because YHWH was never intended to be a title, but rather a name. It certainly does not mean “Lord”. The Hebrew word for Lord is Adoni. Bible editors have devised a code to help us know which Hebrew word is being translated as Lord. Wherever you see the words LORD or GOD in the Bible written in all uppercase letters, you will know that in every instance it is the word Yahweh in the Hebrew text.

The correct pronunciation for YHWH has been lost for over 2,500 years. In the period after the Old Testament, devout Jews refused to pronounce the Divine name. Soon, they refused to write it all together (as an act of reverence). The Bible nowhere suggests we cannot write or speak this name.
Many people today pronounce YHWH as Jehovah. However, this is not a Biblical word, nor is it the correct pronunciation. It actually comes from a translation blunder from a 16th century German scholar.

To understand the error, we need to know a little about Hebrew. This language has no written vowels. It only consists of consonants. Thus the phrase The Big Black Dog would have looked like Th Dg Blck Dg. To native Hebrews this was no problem. But once Israel was in captivity, the elders feared their children would forget how to properly speak the language so they devised a system of markings under the letters to aid in pronunciation.


When it came to the word YHWH this posed a problem, because they didn’t want their children to say this word out loud. So they intentionally put the vowel markings for the Hebrew word Adoni under YHWH to remind their children to say Adoni whenever they saw the divine name.


Sadly, the German scholar didn’t know that little tidbit of information. Upon discovering a Hebrew manuscript with vowel markings under YHWH, he naturally assumed that the lost pronunciation had again been found. This faithful servant yearned to correctly speak God’s name, and he thought he found the answer. Today, no scholar believes this word is authentic. However, it is still popularized in hymns, praise choruses, and devotional writings.


The German scholar did finally discover the real pronunciation. He heard it from the very throne of God when his Master said, “I am YHWH, welcome”.


Prayer: Merciful Father, who are we that you should give us knowledge of your holy name? You are the all-powerful creator of the universe, and He who sustains all that exists. You have no beginning, and there will be no end to your days. You need only speak and stars are strung across the galaxy as pearls. You are my God and my King...and also the friend whom I know by name. May I praise that name with every breath. Amen.


* NOTE: The above content is taken from the April 15th issue of IRBC Connect, a daily & weekly personal devotion series based on the Sunday morning message given by Josh Gelatt (pastor of Indian River Baptist Church).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Announcing the "Sacred Page"

Beginning this Sunday night I will be issuing devotionals keyed to the Sunday Evening message. I recently began doing this for the Sunday morning messages (called "IRBC Connect").

The Sacred Page was a term ancient Christians used to refer to the text of Scripture. Later, particularly in the Middle Ages, the term came to refer to the study of Scripture. Of course the two are closely related. A church council once described the study of "the sacred page" as the "very soul of sacred theology".

To the believer, the Bible is our most treasured possession. In it we learn of our precious Jesus, our glorious Father, and the life-giving Spirit. We learn of the beauty of God's plan for the world, the blessings that are in store for us, and God's gracious protection over us since the creation of the world. We learn of the unlimited worth of God, the unlimited power of Christ's atonement applied to the elect, and the unlimited wisdom of the Spirit. We also learn of our fallenness, our brokenness, and our utter moral failure before God. Yet we also learn of the riches of the good news and Christ's amazing work on our behalf.

However, we don't read the Bible simply to learn something interesting. While logic, reason, and facts have their place (a very important place I might add), ultimately our relationship with God is an experience. We do not find God in "data"--not even the "data" in Scripture.

Rather, the Spirit quickens our very soul and stirs the stagnant pool of dry death within us to produce the first drops of a newborn spring of life. With this new life, we go to Scripture to find something Divine. It is here--that incredible place where experience and knowledge meet--that we meet God and discover His inexhaustible wonders.

Knowledge never produces faith. Faith is a gift of God which is subsequently strengthened and matured by knowledge. Knowledge also is the vessel through which the gift of faith passes. A water-pipe transfers water but does not produce it, so knowledge ushers to us the gift of faith, but does not actually create it. However, even if faith is produced apart from knowledge, it cannot survive without it.

Knowledge alone is a dry, lifeless dragon whose fire has gone out & whose claws are as impotent as they are deadly...

Experience alone is a ghostly moth, fluttering to & fro in aimless urgency.

But together, sealed in the holy unison of the Spirit of God, they produce something supernatural. Perhaps this is why the ancients called Scripture the "sacred page"; because it is in this holy book alone that the knowledge of God and the spirit of God unite to transform a life unto God.

Prayer: Merciful Father, my silent prayer is always 'Through the sacred page I find you, and beyond it I seek you, Lord. My spirit yearns for you, O Living Word. Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fundamentalism revisited

I came across the below comments from Sam Storms online (you can learn more about Dr. Storms at www.enjoyinggodministries.org). This is a response to one of the questions he was asked in a recent interview about the happenings in the Southern Baptist Church. In the previous portion of his answer (not given below), he indicates some disturbing trends, and then goes on to note the following:


"...but there is something else that is even more disturbing, and that is the angry and divisive dogmatism that is emerging over behavioral issues on which the Bible is either silent or leaves one’s decision in the realm of Christian freedom. Perhaps the greatest threat to unity and acceptance in the Church is the tendency to treat particular life-style and cultural preferences as though they were divine law. To be even more specific, it’s the tendency to constrict or reduce or narrow the boundaries of what is acceptable to God, either by demanding what the Bible doesn’t require or forbidding what the Bible clearly permits.

"My experience has been that this is typically driven by one of three things: either an unjustified fear of being “spiritually contaminated” by too close contact with the surrounding culture, or an unbridled ambition to gain power over the lives of others, or a failure to believe and trust in the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ (or all three combined)."

I think Sam has hit the nail on the head. Legalists & Fundamentalists are plagued with one or all of the following:

1. Irrational fears of "contamination" - Everyone one and everything is bad. Contemporary music is "bad". Blue Jeans are "bad". Earrings are "bad". The NIV is "bad". Every bible school except the one in their own church is "bad". Every conservative and God-fearing pastor and theologian on the planet is "bad". We must stay away from all these things and persons if we are to remain "good". Oddly, these fundamentalists alone appear to be "good".

2. Lust for power and domination over others (particularly fundamentalist preachers) - Oh how they love to tell people what to do, what to wear, how to think, what bible version to read, how long to keep their hair, how to relate as husband & wife, etc., etc., etc. They seek people to follow them, not the Lord of all.

3. Reliance on themselves (instead of humbly trusting in the all-sufficiency of Christ). When God gave His eternal standards for holiness and righteous--standards that we must meet to be accepted by Him--He apparently didn't do a good enough job, so our fundamentalist brethren decided to "help" God out a little. God apparently forgot to mention dress codes for church, the necessity of large wooden pulpits, the idea that the KJV is the only word of God in English, the evils of Promise Keepers & Focus on the Family, the satanic nature of contemporary Christian music, the sin of card playing, and that men should have hair trimmed above their earline. Luckily for us, these fundamentalist firebreathers have finished off the work of our apparently inadequate God. Hey, if the God of the universe can't be clear on what we need to do to please Him, we can rest assured that the "fight'n fundies" will come through for us.

Lord, will we ever get this right? Yet, I see my brother's speck when I should be searching for my beam. Search me & know me, dear Lord. Remove any shadow of turning within me.

I only want to please you...help me want to please you. Amen.

How Young is Too Young? (Children & Baptism)

Here is an excellent article from John MacCarthur's blog regarding the issue of Baptizing children (not infants,which Baptists are clearly against; but rather whether or not the Church should baptize elementary-age school children).

I am currently wrestling through this issue and doing a comprehensive biblical study. MacCarthur's thinking on the subject is close to the position I am in the process of coming to.

You can read his article here: How Young is Too Young?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Meditations from the Early Church...

I came across this quote from John Chrysostom (b.347 CE). As I mentioned in an earlier post, we evangelicals & fundamentalists ignore the Church Fathers to our own detriment. They have so much wisdom, and lived to point others to the truth of Scripture and Christ. We spend millions on the Prayer of Jabez and the Purpose Driven Life--(books which are unnecessary because the content goes no deeper than the title)--but cut ourselves off from these precious jewels of mature Christian reflection.

Use this quote in your devotions, meditations, and prayers
...Focus on its' meaning
...Experience its' truth
...Understand its' subject
...See its' Savior
...Be still, and know your God.

“The cross is the impregnable wall, the invulnerable shield, the safeguard of the rich, the resource of the poor, the defense of those who are exposed to snares, the armor of those who are attacked, the means of suppressing {evil} passion*, and of acquiring virtue, the wonderful and marvelous sign".
- John Chrysostom

Note 1: The picture is actually that of Augustine, perhaps the most important Christian theologian next to the Apostle Paul. I use this partly because pictures of Chrysostom are a bit hard to come by (and are usually a bit over-the-top in visual hagiography) and because Augustine serves as an appropriate symbol for all the Early Church Fathers.

Note 2: the word "passion" was usually used in its negative sense by Early Church writers, and here refers to what we would call "carnal desires". I inserted the word "evil" to help clarify what Chrysostom meant.

Prayer: Merciful Father, Your precious Son gave His life on my behalf. Through Him, I am healed, cleansed, freed, restored, adopted, and ushered into your presence. I cannot repay this debt; accept, instead, my lifelong service to you. Whether I live or die, I do so for your glory through my Jesus. Amen

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another "King James Only" phone call...

Lest anyone misunderstand, let me say at the onset how much I deeply value and appreciate the King James Version of the Bible. It was founded on the best Biblical & linguistic scholarship available at the time, has deeply impacted the language, values, and culture of English-speaking society, and has stood the test of time. The Lord has used this remarkable translation to bring countless individuals to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As such, it deserves our respect—and most certainly a place on our shelves.


With that said, I do not use the King James Version. I will not go into specifics, but suffice to say I am convinced that its scholarship is seriously dated, its manuscript base unfortunately limited, and its English unusable for the present age. My two translations of choice are the English Standard Version, and to some degree the New International Version.


Yet I am a pastor in Northern Michigan, in the middle of the KJV-only belt of North America. God certainly has a sense of humor. In my church, this “bible version” controversy no longer seems to be a real issue. But occasionally it does resurface, usually by outsiders from other churches who try to stir something up (as was the case with the most recent phone call).


For those of you who are fortunate enough to know nothing about the King James Version-Only position, let me state that yours is the position most envied. Ignorance can indeed bliss. To bring everyone up to speed, it is important to note that there are at least two types of KJV-only people.


Type A: King-James Only Light­: This group is generally marked by their sweet spirits and irenic attitudes. They are convinced that the King James Bible is the “best”. Usually this is based on their singular exposure to the KJV (it’s what they grew up with, or were first introduced to—so to them it “sounds like” the Bible, whereas the other versions do not); or sometimes it is based on exposure to the Heavy King James Only position below, but without also accepting the militant, hateful spirit of that less noble camp. I know many wonderful people in this camp, and I count them as beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.

Type B: King-James Only Heavy: This group, sadly, is marked by their negative, attacking attitudes. All other versions are “liberal” (a term that is never really defined, but means something bad & everyone but themselves are ‘it’) and an attempt by Satan to stop people from using the “real Bible” (KJV). This group can be divided into two factions:

KJV-Only Heavy: TR Faction – This faction believes that the KJV is the most accurate version because it is based on the Textus Receptus (TR), which is a group of manuscripts from the same “family”. The vast majority of known New Testament manuscripts are from this family, but they are also fairly ‘new’. In many cases, the manuscripts that are used by all modern translations are up to 1,000 years older (closer to the time of the Apostles) than the manuscripts of the TR. For example, one manuscript fragment from the Gospel of John (not part of the TR family) is dated to within 20-40 years from the time that Gospel was written!

KJV-Only Heavy: Wacko Faction - This group doesn’t give a rabbit’s hind-end about “Greek manuscripts” or “history” or “scholarship” or “knowledge of Greek” or anything else. They firmly believe that the KJV is the only acceptable Bible given to us by God and all others are products of Satan. Their “proof” for this is by showing us how the other versions differ from the KJV. For example, the arguments go something like this:

    1. The King James Version is the true Bible for the English-speaking world.
    2. The NIV differs from the KJV in {insert Bible reference here}
    3. Therefore, the NIV is not the Word of God.

They make slanderous comments about other versions: accusing them of denying the Trinity, rejecting the divinity of Christ, denying the Holy Spirit, and a host of other nonsense. They make no attempt to actually prove that the KJV is the only true Bible, they just assume it and label all others as heretics or liberals for questioning this position. And, of course, they cannot prove it. Nowhere does the Bible itself teach this, nor does honest scholarship support this conclusion. They have, in fact, added to God’s Word—which is dangerous, if not damnable before God.

They are the same as hard-core Muslims (who believe it is a sin to translate the Koran our of Arabic, as that alone is God "holy word") and the Old Catholics (who believe the Latin Vulgate is the only true Word of God).


The Position of Indian River Baptist Church: Our Church does not have an ‘official’ Bible version. Members can use whatever Bible version with which they feel most comfortable. For scripture readings we do make us of the New King James Version, and this is our pew bible as well. In my preaching I use both the NKJV and occasionally the ESV. I have even used the NIV and the KJV from the pulpit on occasion, and will continue to do so from time to time.

Satan has a foothold in the Baptist churches of Northern Michigan. The KJV-Only position is his tool to get our focus off Christ and the Word of God, so that we will boast in ourselves and not our resurrected Lord. By God’s grace, that is a foothold he no longer has over our little flock at IRBC.

Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me,

that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,

justice and righteousness on earth,

for in these I delight,” declares the LORD

- Jeremiah 9:24 (cf 1 Cor 1:31) New International Version


* I fully admit the above post could be classified as “polemical puking”, the literary equivalent of vomiting after eating poisoned food at a rodent infested establishment. As with its foul smelling, literal cousin, ‘polemical puking’ is unfortunate and should be avoided, but clearly necessary from time to time lest the trash ferment inside and cause more havoc. After my stomach settles, I will follow up with a post on this issue written from a state of health.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Worth a dollar, but spent like chump change...

Remember those Susan B. Anthony dollar coins? While I have always been in favor of discontinuing the dollar bill and replacing them with dollar coins, the Susan B. Anthony was simply a bad idea. Roughly the size of a quarter, they were often confused and inadvertently used as the lesser coin. On the surface, they truly do look very similar to the 25 cent piece. Basically the same size, basically the same color. Yes, the size was slightly different, and the edges were not smooth, containing 11-sides (a "hendecagon" for you geometrically savvy types). At least the Sacagawea dollar is larger & differs sharply in color (although it does look like an overgrown penny).

For many disciples of Jesus Christ, the Susan B. Anthony dollar is a fitting image. We have a great worth, yet we spend like chump change. Just because we look similar to the world around us, many of us forget that we are in fact different. True, the differences are not always highly noticeable. Becoming a Christian doesn't make us taller, or change our skin color (though due to the prevalence of Church potlucks one could make the argument that Christians might be fatter). The differences are slight, but can be noticed if one looks closely. Our spiritual "color" is just a little different, our ethical "shape" stands out ever so slightly, and our markings--if one takes the time to examine--certainly indicate that we are indeed very different.

For far too many disciples, we have forgotten who we are. We are children, servants, and friends of the King of kings.

We are worth a dollar. Spend like one.

Prayer: Merciful Father, on this holy day we remember with joy that death was not victorious over our Savior. He conquered death, and because of this has reconciled humanity to divinity. Heaven & earth have been brought together by his death & resurrection. As such, I belong to you. I possess the imputed value of Christ himself in my very soul. Forgive me for forgetting this at times. You are my God, and there is no other.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Disappointment with God...

At the age of six I became disillusioned with God. I was the boyishly proud & self-proclaimed owner of Bernie, the family dog. As it happened, Bernie was an exact look-a-like of Benji, that beloved dog of Hollywood fame. In my youthful imagination I convinced myself that Benji had had enough of movie-star life, ran away, and decided to settle-down under the pseudonym Bernie. How he got from California to the mountains of Pennsylvania I never could explain – but certainly Benji was capable of just about anything.

Benji (aka Bernie) hated cats (a fact that never seemed to manifest itself in his Hollywood productions). Our neighbors had several barn cats who liked to frequent our yard (perhaps the bait pile laid out by three devilish boys had something to do with it). We would pretend the cats were part of a secret organization, as evil as they were insidious. The “friendly feline” image was only meant to fool the masses. Of course, we saw through their bluff. Benji/Bernie would always play the role of hero and chase these agents of evil away.

And then it happened. One fateful day our 4-footed hero dashed under an oncoming car as he was successfully routing the enemy. The screech of brakes, the horrid yelp, and the burning tears on my cheeks are still vivid memories. I prayed all night for Bernie. I no longer cared if he were really Benji. At that point I would have settled for plain old Bernie. Yet my precious friend never recovered. God didn’t answer my prayers. I had prayed for healing and received brokenness. I had prayed for life and received death.

At our church I am currently preaching through a sermon series on the Names of God. This week's sermon is titled Yahweh Rapha" - "The Lord who heals". In Exodus 15 the Lord boldly declares to the children of Israel (who are almost to the point of death with thirst) that He is the "Lord who heals". Very soon the Israelites understand the truth of this self-declaration, as the Lord provides them with cool, clean water to sustain their lives.

Many times in life we face disaster, difficulty, and devastation. Jobs are lost. Marriages end. Children are lost to death, or even worse, turn from the Christian faith. We cry out to the Lord to save us...to heal us. Yet, so often no healing comes. The Balm of Gilead is out of reach, a precious ointment that seems unavailable.

To a little 6 year old boy, I begged for a healing God. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I would understand that God was offering me a different sort of freedom from brokenness and death. I realized that His love for me far surpassed even the love I had for that little dog. At the age of 17, at a weekend bible camp, I understood the healing God was offering went far beyond healing skin and bones. He was offering healing to my soul.

No, God didn’t heal Bernie. He healed me instead, when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. Praise Yahweh Rapha, the Lord who heals.

Prayer: Lord, I praise you for your healing balm upon my soul. I feel its life-giving power, its strengthening and quickening power amazes me. Lead me further into your presence. You are the Great Physician. Continue to restore my soul. I am yours...a servant of the King, steward to your Son, vessel of your Spirit. By you I am healed, and I do rejoice.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

Books currently on the top of the stack

Here is a list of books I am currently wading through. Some are long term projects, others are "just-for-fun" quick reads.

"JUST-FOR-FUN" READS:

The Rise of Evangelicalism, Mark Noll. A good, quick book (only 300 pages) that gives a good overview of the early period of the Evangelical movement (the subtitle is "The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys"). A the history of Evangelicalism is of great interest to me (a holds a good portion of my recreational reading interest), this book is a welcome addition.






Sermon of Jonathan Edwards (published by Hendrickson). This is the newest addition to my library (birthday present from Mom & Dad). It is a good selection of some of the most important Edwardsian sermons. 20 sermons total, including the ones you would expect but with several wonderful surprises.







The Timelessness of Jesus Christ: His Relevance in Today's World. Richard C. Haverson. This book was recently acquired as a gift from my uncle. The author was a Chaplain for the United States Senate, and prior to that served as a Presbyterian pastor. This book is pastoral and devotional in tone, yet offers us a challenge to view Jesus as the radical Savior He was. It is a modern day manifesto, calling us to live as the spiritual and ethical children of God in this world.

Philosophers Who Believe (Kelly James Clark, Editor). This book contains the spiritual biographies of some of the leading Christian philosophers of the age. While some of these philosophers may stretch any reasonable definition of what it means to be Christian, on the whole the work is valuable and informative. There is a resurgence of Christian scholarship in Philosophy, and other academic fields. For too long our Fundamentalist cousins have taught us that education was morally suspect, and encouraged Christendom to join them in the anti-intellectual ghettos. Many of these philosophers are living proof that one can be a committed, evangelical believer and be established in academia.



The Theology of Paul, James D.G. Dunn. Dunn is a respected Pauline scholar, and one of the leaders of the so-called "New Perspective on Paul". Currently, this issue is one of the "storm centers" in Biblical studies. A thorough, scholarly work. This is not the place to start if your interested in the Apostle Paul.





ON-GOING READING PROJECTS:


Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. As Calvin is my "Dead Theologian of the Year" (currently shared with Herman Bavinck, who I have sadly ignored as of late). I read portions of these institutes daily. Upon finishing, the plan is to read some of Calvin's other non-commentary works. 2008 is the year of "Calvin's Commentaries", as I plan on reading through his entire 22-volume commentary set.