Monday, December 29, 2008

Next time I'll use UPS

My youngest son was a bit disappointed this Christmas eve. His Christmas present was scheduled to arrive on the 24th. They rescheduled twice but both times have been no-shows. It's still not here, although the distribution center is less than 30 minutes from my house. I think I've discovered the reason for the delay.

From now on, I'm a UPS kinda guy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas book additions

Christmas Books

My family was wonderful to me this Christmas. Though I request books every year, this season the family made a concentrated effort to fill my stocking with some of the best books that have ever graced my library. Three of the books are collections of letters from Rutherford, Newton, and Chalmers. I also added one reference work to my library (Reformed Confessions of the 16th/17th Century: Vol 1). I had seen this work earlier and included it in my Top 10 Books of 2008, but now it sits proudly on my shelf. The most expensive addition is the 7-volume set by Richard Sibbes, who was called the "sweet-dropper" in his time. I eagerly look forward to savoring these gems in the coming weeks and months.

Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Banner of Truth

Letters of John Newton
Banner of Truth

Letters of Thomas Chalmers
Banner of Truth

Reformed Confessions of the 16th - 17th Centuries: Vol 1
Reformation Heritage

The Works of Richard Sibbes: 7 Vols

Banner of Truth

Friday, December 26, 2008

Burroughs on Christian Contentment

Burroughs on Christian Contentment

In his book "The Rare Jewell of Christian Contentment", Jeremy Burrough's, a member of the Westminster Assembly, defined Christian contentment as the following:

"...Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition." (p. 19 - all references from Banner of Truth's Puritan Paperbacks edition).

When I first read this sentence I stopped dead in my tracks. I began to read it over, this time more if I were trying to soak up each word. This was it! This was the definition of contentment, and Burrough's nailed it 350 years ago! Contenment is essential an inward quality, not a behavorial quality. It is a state of being, and not a state of doing. It is nothing I can do, but is something I must be.

But before we can become content, we must determine if we even want to be so. On page 23, Burroughs writes, "A gracious heart so esteems its union with Christ and the work that God sets it about that it will not willingly suffer anything to come in and choke it or deaden it." Am I this zealous regarding my union with Christ? Am I willing, as Burroughs commends, "to spend [myself] and to be spent in discharging" service to the Lord (p 23). Do I continually stand willing to cut out from me anything that compromises my committment to Christ? Do I truly hate my sin?

In other words, do I even want to be a disciple? In an of myself the answer is clearly "no". Whatever faith I possess, it is not the wonderful faith that was the center of Burrough's heart and life. But...I want this kind of faith, and I will only find it as I lay myself before the cross of Christ.

"Father, it is only be your great mercy that I can have the faith to be completely content in you. Teach my to walk in your ways. Convict me of my sin, even as you lead me into the center of your
heart. Amen".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Warren Video's on Homosexuality

Rick Warren clarifies his views on homosexuality:

Here is a Youtube video of Warren's supporting Proposition 8:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

William Booth on Evangelicalism's chief dangers

The following statement was originally made in 1901.

'When [William] Booth was asked by an American newspaper what he regarded as the chief dangers ahead for the twentieth century, he replied tersely:

"Religion without the Holy Ghost,
Christianity without Christ,
forgiveness without repentance,
salvation without regeneration,
politics without God,
and heaven without hell."'

The War Cry, 5 January 1901, p 7. Cited in Ian Murray's The Old Evangelicalism, p xi.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Baptist Bulletin, Josh Gelatt, and the GARBC Webinar

The article below was just published in the online version of the Baptist Bulletin, the official newsletter of the GARBC. This is in reference to the recent webinar in which I participated (along with 75 other men). In an act of shameless self-promotion, I put my quotes in bold/italic. I'm just happy they spelled my name correctly. lol

FYI, my own assessment of the webinar can be found here.

Webinar Addresses Young Leadership in the GARBC

Posted December 19, 2008

SCHAUMBURG, Ill.—On a blustery Chicago day filled with winter storm advisories, Baptist leaders from 20 states gathered together without leaving the comforts of their own offices. Wearing headphones and speaking into computer microphones, more than 75 pastors participated in the first ever GARBC webinar, “Voices To Be Heard.”

The webinar—an online web seminar—was planned in the aftermath of memorable Council of Eighteen meetings in November, which included the participation of a group of young pastors in the association.

Eric Puff, associate pastor for discipleship and training at Northfield Baptist Church, Northfield, Ohio, had characterized the November meetings as very productive. “The council desired to hear as much as they could from people who would not normally attend these meetings,” Eric said. “To me, that appears to build mutual trust.”

As a result of the positive Council meetings, John Greening, national representative of the GARBC, planned the webinar to give a wider audience to the themes that had been raised.

During the webinar, Greening was pleased to see how the technology was being embraced by well-respected retired pastors in the Association addition to the younger leaders who attended. “Young Baptist leaders within the GARBC have incredible ideas on ministering. Older leaders have a depth of knowledge and ministry savvy,” Greening said.

Josh Gelatt, pastor of Indian River Baptist Church, Indian River, Mich., said he was grateful to participate in a meeting he would not normally be able to attend. “In my own context, ministering in the northern regions of Michigan, I am far too remote for much face-to-face fellowship,” Josh said. “This webinar was a true blessing—not only because it allowed us to begin discussing some important issues, but also because the webinar itself was a very big step towards the very revitalization we were discussing (at least for me). I would love to see more of these.”

While the webinar was in progress, many of the participants logged onto a Facebook site where a parallel discussion addressed topics raised by various speakers. A good deal of the discussion centered on the core values that motivate the GARBC.

“If we don’t agree on, focus on, and emphasize the core issues, then we will begin to separate on nonessentials (such as music, etc.),” said Greg Long, associate pastor of Grandview Park Baptist Church, Des Moines. “And that seems to be what is happening in some ways in the GARBC.”

Bob Kadlecik, pastor of Bridgewater Baptist Church, Montrose, Penn., said, “Focusing on ‘non-essentials’ can be toxic. Adding to the Bible is just as dangerous as taking away from it. The core issues we face are ones of obedience.”

Several of the young leaders participating in the discussion admitted that they were more influenced by leaders outside our movement of churches, but expressed a keen desire in identifying leaders who were capable of articulating the core ideas of the GARBC.

“Our movement needs to become an intellectual leader for our young men,” Josh Gelatt said.

As the discussion drew to a close, John Greening thanked the participants and said to , “Keep up the great discussion. I want you to be heard,” John Greening said as he thanked the participants. “I am jazzed!”

Then, like a true member of the older generation, Greening added, “Is that an okay GARBC expression?”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
Steven J. Lawson

Title: The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
Steven J. Lawson
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Level: 3.0

Places to Order
WTS Bookstore: $10.56
Monergism: $10.88
Reformation Trust: $12.80

Josh Gelatt’s Review:
Steven Lawson serves as Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. An author of over a dozen books, Lawson now offers us the second volume in A Long Line of Godly Men series. His first volume highlighted the expository genius of John Calvin. In this volume, Lawson draws the readers attention to Jonathan Edward's faithful and unwavering resolve for the glory of God. The book relies heavily on Edward's Resolutions (provided as an appendix) and his personal diary.

The first two chapters of the book cover the background and life of Edwards. For those unacquainted with the man, these chapters provide a valuable introduction. Yet, this book less about Edwards and more about the nature of true discipleship. Using Jonathan Edwards as a guide, Lawson provides a desperately needed antidote to the superficial devotion evidenced in Western Christianity. In much of contemporary Evangelicalism, faith has has been reduced to its most therapeutic form. In an age where leading pastors are urging people to "give Jesus a 60-day trial and see how he improves your life", is it any wonder why much of the Church has lost a vision of the grandeur of God?

Surprisingly, Edwards would agree with the modern sentiment that God will improve our lives. In chapter 4 Lawson notes that Edwards "believed that prizing God above all else would lead to [our] greatest benefit" (p 66). In fact, his first resolution stated that bringing glory to God would result in his "own good, profit, and pleasure". It was no crime to Edwards to be motivated by a love for God and our own pleasure. Where Edwards would disagree with modern expressions of Christianity is in the order of these motivations and our ability to accomplish the latter.

In chapter three Lawson demonstrates, through Edwards' own spiritual journey, that the prerequisite of faith is the recognition of our own inability. Not only are we incapable of providing for ourselves lasting pleasure, according to Edwards we are also unable to bring glory to God through our own strength. In chapter 4 Lawson demonstrates Edwards' firm belief that the desire to bring glory to God must be our chief motivation. While he believed our own joy would arise from this motivation, he nevertheless affirmed the absolutely necessity of desiring God above all things. For Edwards, this involved a positive as well as a negative. It meant there are actions we must do, as well as actions we must avoid. Even good things, if they are not for God's glory, must be avoided. Lawson writes that Edwards "passed up the good and the better for the best".

Chapter five offers the first step in becoming a person who brings glory to God: putting away sin. Lawson begins the chapter with a remarkable definition: "sin is the antithesis of God's glory, a contradiction of His holy nature" (p 77). If there ever was a soul-damaging problem in the contemporary church it is found in her flippant understanding of sin. Chapter 6 reconstructs Edwards' understanding of the shortness of human life. He lived as if he would die at any moment. Larson writes, "Always living as if he were at the end of his life caused him to live for what is best, the glory of God". As such, every activity in his daily life was made subordinate to his primary motivation in life. This disciplined life is expanded upon in chapter seven. Edwards monitored his eating habits, use of time, and daily activities--all in order to maximize God's glory.

Chapter eight unfolds for us how Edwards brought glory to God through developing a heart of love for others. True discipleship cannot exist in a vacuum. Our relationships are one of the greatest spheres in which we can magnify the Lord's glory. In the final chapter, Lawson walks us through Edward's repeated practice of self-examination. Lawson writes, "only by regularly scrutinizing ourselves can we engage in the pursuit of personal holiness to the fullest extent".

The last few decades have seen a resurgence of Reformed thought. The last and greatest sola of the Reformation, to one to which the other four point and find their logical conclusion, is soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone). Lawson notes in the conclusion that "there is a desperate need for a new generation to arise onto the scene of history that will prize and promote the glory of our awesome God (p 154)." In this profile of the life of Jonathan Edwards, Lawson provides this generation with a sure-footed guide.

New series on the 5-Solas

Recently I've begun contributing to the blog of the North East Michigan Reformation Society. Other than being in urgent need of a hipper/cooler name, the group is doing some great stuff. If your in Michigan, I urge you to get involved.

At the very least, subscribe to the blog. My current series is a brief walk through the five solas of the Reformation. Feel free to skip my contributions though (my wife does); the posts from the other guys are really good.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Voices to be Heard: An Evaluation

Over 75 participants (including the panelists/hosts) joined an online webinar to take part in an audio conversation. Led by the GARBC national representative (Scott Greening), and a few other panelists, the focus of the conversation was on the younger pastors of the Association.

Below are some of the highlights & reasons I was impressed with the discussion:

1. There was a genuine willingness to hear from younger pastors. Scott Greening is a refreshingly humble man who desires that the GARBC be the best that it can be. I sensed no "PR" effort to pull in young guys, but rather a passion for the GARBC to be a movement that is marked by grace, tolerance, and creativity.

2. There was a clearly identified commitment to the Gospel, and to the GARBC's heritage. I was thoroughly pleased that there was no hint of 'bashing' or criticizing the Association. At times, loving & corrective critcism is necessary (I have done it myself at times). But the emphasis here was not on laying a new foundation for the GARBC, but on effectively moving forward on that very foundation.

3. The conversation was intelligent. Simply put, the panelists who were speaking were all sharp guys. Other than my own muddled time at the microphone, the audience members who spoke were bright and articulate. Our secular culture and Evangelicals brothers often label Fundamentalism as anti-intellectual. There is some historical truth to this charge. However, as Scott Greening said, "we do have guys who know their theology".

4. There was a stated willingness to find and invest in men who have potential to become spiritual and intellectual leaders for the movement. I offered the following criteria: (a) they must have intellectual credibility, (b) they must have a thoroughly biblical worldview consistent with our identity, and (c) they must have 'cultural intelligence' (e.g. they know & understand the culture and have demonstrated an ability to communicate within it and to it).

5. I sensed an openness to cultural engagement. Certainly our Association is known historically for its separtist principles. I wholeheartedly affirm the necessity of separation, but there is another side to that coin: engagement. I heard, from the leaders and audience, a desire to engage our postmodern cultural while maintaining a commitment to separtism. Engagment and separatism are meant to be held in tension. But Jesus tells us to be salt and light. Light is something that stands above and apart from the darkness. Salt is something that gets down into the meat. There was a marked willingess of the participants to be both.

6. The discussion effectively balanced program verses identity. At first, I was worried the conversation was simply going to be another "what new program do we need to fix the problem". But the discussion turned to the more substantial issue of who we need to be as people and pastors. This indicates the presence of visionary thinkers--a very, very good thing.

7. There was a commitment to continued conversation. This was not seen as a "fix", but as the beginning of a new phase in the life of the GARBC.

Piper, Carson, & Keller in conversation

At the 2008 Leadership meeting of the Gospel Coalition, three outstanding Christian leaders met together for some fascinating dialogue. The conversation is divided into six segments.

A Conversation: John Piper, Tim Keller, & DA Carson (1 of 6)

A Conversation: John Piper, Tim Keller, & DA Carson (2 of 6)
A Conversation: John Piper, Tim Keller, & DA Carson (3 of 6)
A Conversation: John Piper, Tim Keller, & DA Carson (4 of 6)
A Conversation: John Piper, Tim Keller, & DA Carson (5 of 6)
A Conversation: John Piper, Tim Keller, & DA Carson (6 of 6)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Live Blogging GARBC's "Voices to be Heard"

I am currently participating in the "Voices to be Heard" webinar hosted by the GARBC. The turn out is fairly decent (63 participants, plus the panelists).

So far its pretty cool stuff---just the idea of communicating with pastors from around the country simultaneously just seems stink'n awesome. Can you imagine if the old Puritans could have done stuff like this---I would have loved to sit in and listen to those conversations.

I'll post a synopsis when its over.

Thomas Watson and the Mercy of MInistry

Thomas Watson and the Mercy of Ministry

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Matthew 5:7 (ESV)

On my desk currently sits several works on the Beatitudes. However, in none of those volumes can I find anything that compares with the profound depth of Thomas Watson. Even Martin Lloyd-Jones' magnificent volume, which has greatly shaped my understanding of these precious teachings of Christ, does not match Watson's charm. Jones is a perfect example of a mind conformed to Christ and his work offers us a chest full of riches. Yet the robes of Solomon will always look pale next to the pedals of the lily.

Thomas Watson was a puritan minister and writer who lived in the 17th century. His understanding of mercy stands in stark contrast to what we hear preached from our pulpits today. To Watson, "mercy" properly understood was always centered upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Take away Christ and you have taken away mercy. In our era we generally speak of the "ministry of mercy" and by this we mean those ministries which focus on physical needs. However, in most situations "ministries of mercy" are devoid of the gospel message. We are willing to give a pill to a woman dying of AIDS in Africa, but are unwilling to share with her the hope of our salvation. We imagine that the eternally saving message of the cross is contained in one little pill, and walk away as if our ministry of mercy has been accomplished.

Instead of speaking of a "ministry of mercy" it is perhaps more Christ-centered to speak of the "mercy of ministry". The very act of both demonstrating and speaking the good news of Jesus Christ is, in and of itself, the greatest and fullest expression of mercy. The DNA of the Gospel requires that it be talked about as well as acted upon. In other words, it is only the Gospel when we do it and speak it. For years Fundamentalists have truncated the gospel by refusing to take the initiative in living out the merciful message of Christ individually and corporately. Likewise, Liberals have taken a hatchet to the Good News by refusing to proclaim the life giving hope that is only found when Christ is the Lord of one's life.

Speaking of the latter group, Watson pointedly attacks those ministers who would strip the truth of God's word from their people. He writes, "Evil ministers are such as have no bowels to the souls of their people. They do not pity them or pray for them. They seek not them but theirs. They preach not for love but for lucre. There care is more for tithes than for souls...These are mercenaries, not ministers." He continues by saying that "Such men feed not the souls of their people with solid truths."

I recently had a conversation with a minister who took me to task for emphasizing the truth of the Gospel. He said, "talking about truth all the time make you sound legalistic. Faith isn't about knowledge, its about spiritually experiencing Christ". 300 years ago Watson had already described such ministers by saying, "They are unmerciful to souls who, instead of breaking the bread of life, fill their people's heads with airy speculations and notions; who rather tickle the fancy than touch the conscience and give precious souls rather music than food." Many claim to be merciful, but only the one who clearly presents (and lives out) the truth of the Gospel is truly merciful.

Other ministers boldly teach false truth. Watson says that these men "poison with error." He aptly asks, "What shall we say to such ministers as given poison to their people in a golden cup? Are not these unmerciful?" Offering Christ's truth in twisted form is to deny people the very mercy of God.

Pray that God will raise up a generation of ministers, and Christian laypersons, who willingly live out and speak out the precious, merciful truth of Jesus. Pray that we heed Watson.

All quotations taken from pages 145-146 of The Beatitudes (Banner of Truth Trust, 2007 reprint).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Daily Devo - Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
Matthew 5:9

PART 2: The Power of Peace: On December 26, 1722 a young man named Jonathan Edwards scratched onto a piece of paper the following resolution: "Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, and establishing peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects."

Here we meet a then-unknown young man anxious to cause no needless division. Years later, during his difficult pastorate at Northampton, Edwards would oversee a congregation marked by strife, gossip, and interpersonal tension. Indeed, much of this tension was directed at him. After serving the church for 25 years, the congregation fired him because of his biblical teachings.

What is amazing is Edward's steadfast commitment to peace in the midst of difficulty. In his personal diary he writes of his need to "pray more heartily this night for the forgiveness of my enemies, than ever before". In another entry he noted his strict refusal to speak ill about another person, or to promote the slanderous gossip of others. After the congregation fired him, he delivered perhaps one of the most tender and loving farewell sermons ever recorded. He even stayed on for another year, at the church's request, until they could find a replacement minister!

Peace was incredibly important to Edwards. But he recognized true peace could never be achieved through "over-balancing"--his word for sacrificing principle. One biographer of Edwards writes that "such peace is no peace; only a momentary truce at the price of truth" [1]. Peace and truth were two principles that Edwards held in balance. His commitment to the truth gave him the boldness to stand firm with Scripture, despite the personal cost. But it was his commitment to peace that gave him the power to love and forgive those who treated him so poorly.

[1] Steven J.Lawson, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Reformation Trust, 2008) 133.

BOOK REVIEW: A Taste of Heaven

A Taste of Heaven
R.C. Sproul

Title: A Taste of Heaven
R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Level: 2.0

Josh Gelatt’s Review: " far too important to be left to personal preferences". This statement, made in the first chapter of Sproul's book on worship, sets the tone for the entire discussion that follows. R.C. Sproul offers the Christian community a mini-theology of worship. He convincingly argues that far from standing back and allowing us complete freedom in how we choose to worship, God in fact preciously defined worship for the Old Testament believer. The author challenges his readers to ask the question: “If God Himself were to design worship, what would it look like?” The answer is simple: “We’re not left to speculate on the answer to that question, because vast portions of the Old Testament text are specifically devoted to a style and practice of worship that God Himself ordained and established among His people.” While recognizing the inherent discontinuity with the New Covenant, Sproul still sees operative principles at work.

The several chapters of the book cover a wide range of issues related to worship. Worship is something which demands the entirety of the believer (living sacrifices) and involves three elements: offerings of praise, offerings of prayer, and offerings of sacrifice. The middle portion of the book is an extended discussion of the sacraments (Lord's Supper and Baptism) and their relationship to worship.

The book includes three chapters on baptism, the last one being a defense of infant baptism. In this chapter Sproul gives what is perhaps the most irenic and charitable disagreement with believer's baptism currently in print. He fairly portrays the Baptist point of view and carefully outlines his rationale for padeobaptism. Frankly, these three chapters alone are worth the price of the book. Yet, although this last chapter was very helpful it did seem out of place. It's significance to worship wasn't readily evident and if he had simply omitted this chapter the flow of the book would have been smoother and more focused.

Sproul then challenges the worshipper who is bored with worship. They are bored, he insists, "because they have no sense of the presence of God". Only when we understand that worship is an encounter with the risen Christ will ours hearts be set ablaze. To achieve this understanding, Sproul believes we must allow our whole person to enter into worship. Thus, the last section of the book argues for utilization of all five senses (following what Sproul believes to be an Old Testament model). This section was fascinating, but far too brief and ends somewhat abrubtly.

Overall, this volume is an excellent overview of the basic biblical principles of worship.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Daily Devo - Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
Matthew 5:9

PART 1: False-peacemaking: Some time ago a group of Muslim scholars wrote a document entitled "A Common Word Between Us and You", which was intended to promote peace between Islam and Christianity. Very quickly, a group of academics from Yale University provided a "Christian" response titled "Loving God and Neighbor Together". Though signed by many prominent Evangelical, Mainline, and Emergent leaders, the document claimed that the Muslim and Christian God were the same. It was this common love for a common God that was the supposed basis of experiencing peace between the two religions. After reading it, I openly opposed the Yale document. When I did so, one young man challenged me with this statement: "Well, at least I signed the document. What have you done to promote peace throughout the world?"

This young man misunderstood the nature of true biblical peace. Whatever peace is, it is something that should not compete with holiness. David, the great king of Israel, loved peace. In Psalm 120:7 he wrote of his desire to be "a man of peace". But this same man also wrote "I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked" (Psalm 26:5). Hebrews 12:14 tells us to "follow peace and holiness". While we are to be diligent in pursuing and promoting peace, it cannot come at the price of holiness.

Peace. Holiness. Love. Truth. The message Jesus taught us was one that held all of these things together is beautiful harmony. Yet today we continually hear cries for peace and love that ignore Jesus 'teachings on holiness and truth. John Stott calls this "cheap peace"--that is peace acquired at the expense of truth. Proverbs 23:23 teaches us to "Buy the truth and sell it not." It is something on which we cannot compromise. Like a man hanging precariously off a ledge, we are to tenaciously cling to the truth of Christ. Thomas Watson warns that "We must not be so in love with the golden crown of peace as to pluck off the jewels of truth" [1]. Martin Luther is reported to have said "It is better to let heaven fall than that one crumb of truth perish".

In this relativistic age many of our own Christian leaders say "let us unite", but truth cannot unite with error without distortion. As Paul so pointedly noted 2,000 years ago, "What communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

[1] Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes (Banner of Truth, 2007 reprint) 208.

eHarmony now serves the LGBT community

Established in the year 2000, eHarmony is an online dating service that matches couples based on scientifically determined dimensions of personality. Originally marketed within the Christian community, the organization quickly expanded to include all singles.

Well, at least all heterosexual singles. Infuriated by being excluded, homosexuals filed lawsuits against the company in 2005 and 2007. The 2005 lawsuit, filed by a gay man from New Jersey, has been working its way through the courts. eHarmony had initially stood by its heterosexual-only policy. However, that has recently changed with the announcement of an out-of-court settlement. As part of the agreement, eHarmony will pay McKinley $5,000 and will provide him a one-year complimentary membership. eHarmony — which was not found in violation of the law — also agreed to ensure that same-sex users will be matched using the same or equivalent technology used for its heterosexual clients. It will also post photographs of same-sex couples in its "Diversity" section of its Web site and in advertising materials.

The company recently provided a press release where the head lawyer stated that "we ultimately decided it was best to settle this case with the Attorney General since litigation outcomes can be" unpredictable."

Unpredictable? Certainly the courts could have instituted a far greater financial penalty. Yet in what way could they have forced a more extensive compromise of the organization's principles? Instead of standing on those principles, the organization caved in order to avoid a hefty financial loss.

In reality, this outcome was unavoidable. Years ago the company decided to expand its operations past the boundaries of the Christian community. Nobly, as they expanded they initially attempted to operate within a (truncated) Christian ethic. The company witnessed explosive growth to the point that eHarmony has virtually become a household word. But they were "serving" a world that wouldn't accept the subtle Christian ethic that formed the foundation of the companies operation.

Eventually, eHarmony was left with a choice: continue making hoards of cash within this larger secular market or maintain integrity with their covert Christian principles. The lawsuits forced a choice, and they choose to caste principles aside in order to keep the business afloat. Christ testified to an important truth nearly 2,000 years ago. In Luke 16:13 Jesus says, "No servant can serve two masters, because either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Daily Devo - Monday, December 15, 2008

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Matthew 5:8 (ESV)

In his book A Taste of Heaven, R.C. Sproul gives a story about a guest preacher who was invited to speak at a Presbyterian church on baptism Sunday. Before the service, he was introduced to the parents with infants, and told about a little custom the church had. The leaders instructed him that just before baptism each infant was presented with a white rose.

Guest preacher: "What does the rose symbolize?"
Church leader: "Innocence".
Guest preacher: "In the sacrament, what does water symbolize?"
Church leader: "Purification"
Guest preacher: "Purification from what?"
Church leader: "Well, from sin of course".
Guest preacher: "Then I think there is something your not understanding"

"Pure in heart" doesn't refer to the supposed innocence of infants, nor to the good intentions of kind-hearted adults. To be pure in heart means to be like the Lord Jesus himself. It refers to those who have placed their trust in Christ and genuinely seek to live according to his word and for his glory.

As the apostle John so powerfully reminds us, "Everyone who has hope in him [Christ] purifies himself". Due to our sin, we are born unable to see the radiant glory of God. Sadly, most live their entire lives unable and unwilling to gaze upon his splendor. But to those who have been purified in Christ, they can perceive the very majesty of God.

Removing Image Borders

Full disclosure: I am not a techie by any means. What I know about computers is little more than hitting the power button. With that said, the borders around the images I post have bothered me for some time. There is no option in blogger for removing those, so I had to get creative. Doing a little online searching, I discovered this could be removed--but only in the HTML code. If you have Blogger, and want to remove the border around images you upload, follow these instructions:

To remove the border from around your image you must work with your CSS style sheet. Keep in mind each template uses different terms, but look for something that looks similar to this:
.post img {
or this:
padding: 4px;
To those codes you would add this line:
That will completely remove that little border from your images.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rated R for Reformed T-Shirts

Some of you have noticed my new Rated R for Reformed icon (see the far bottom of this blog). It was a lot of fun to make and thanks for the many e-mails. As it happens, I just did a Google search on the phrase and came across a really cool blog that sells "Rated R for Reformed" T-Shirts. The design is similar to mine (theirs is probably better), and these T-shirts would make really cool Christmas presents.

By the way, I wear an XL.

Rick Warren and the message of Christmas

I admit, Warren's comment about giving Jesus a "60-day trial" made me squirm. But, I was impressed that Warren found a very loving way to affirm the Christ, and Christ alone, is the way of salvation.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reading Many Books: C.S. Lewis' Legacy of Intellectual Piety

C.S. Lewis' Legacy of Intellectual Piety

Recently I dusted off my copy of C.S. Lewis' book "An Experiment in Criticism". For many years I have loved Lewis, beginning no doubt in late adolescents when I discovered the Chronicles of Naria (being the product of a Fundamentalist home there certainly was no exposure to Lewis at an earlier age). From there, I began to grab his other fictional writings and finally (years later) made the transition to his truly good stuff. But even when I was fully engulfed in Lewis-mania, I viewed "An Experiment in Criticism" as a horribly dry and lifeless book. Of course, at that time I hadn't read it but the title certainly wasn't very appealing.

Oddly enough, higher education does change a man. Subjects like "Hermeneutics" and "Literary Criticism" began to arrest my attention. So at some point I began to rethink my earlier pre-judgment on Lewis' "Experiment" and decided to give it a try.

It was simply amazing. Below is one quote among many of my favorites. The tone seems harsh and unloving to our "unliterary" friends, but if you know Lewis I think you will understand he is not looking down on them (at least I hope this to be the case). With that said, I probably would have written this paragraph a little differently. Yet as always, Lewis conveys a message in a way I never could, and it is a message that touches my very soul. He writes:

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.”"Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality….But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself….Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism," pp.140-141)

Why do I read the great spiritual writers of the past (not just Puritans by the way, and not just within the Calvinistic tradition)? Because I then can see the world through their eyes. I can appreciate their point of view. Even more importantly, I can manage to free myself (a little anyway) from the prison called "self" (more on this in a coming post). But most importantly, I can approach God through their eyes. God is too precious and too important to only see with my own eyes. I must learn to appreciate Him as other faithful men and women have. Through their view of the Savior I have come to see His beauty and magnificence through a wider lense.

...pick up and read, my friend. Pick up and read.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2008 Book of the Year Winner

2008 Boo
k of the Year
ESV Study Bible

Crossway Publishers has given the Christian community an amazing resource with the publication of the ESV Study Bible. Perhaps the finest study Bible in the history of printing, the ESV Study Bible (ESVSB) combines the best of scholarship with pastoral aims. Based on the superb English Standard Version, the ESVSB contains over 20,000 notes by leading pastors and biblical scholars. It also includes over 200 charts, 200+ full-color maps, and more than 50 articles dealing with biblical and theological issues. In my opinion, no other book printed in 2008 even came close to competing with the importance of this single-volume Christian resource. I warmly recommend this volume to every single member of my congregation and anyone else who wants to understand God's Word in a deeper way. Although there are many other study bibles on the market, the ESVSB is simply without comparison. Buy it, use it, and make it your companion for life.

Honorable Mention:

Title: John Calvin's Sermons on Acts 1-7
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Reason for Inclusion: Whenever a work of John Calvin appears in English for the first time it is reason to sit up and take notice. Here we have sermons that Calvin preached to his Geneva congregation from the first seven chapters of the book of Acts. A precious work that no serious expositor of the Bible should be without. If you found Calvin's commentaries valuable, you will discover his sermons to be priceless.

Title: The Reason for God
Publisher: Dutton
Reason for Inclusion: Tim Keller is a Presbyterian Pastor in the heart of upscale New York whose audience is mostly intellectual 20 & 30-somethings. In this work he engages non-believers with the truth claims of Christianity. It is evangelistic yet apologetic, simple yet profound. Keller thinks with the precision of Van Til and speaks the clarity of Whitefield.

Title: Don't Stop Believing
Publisher: Zondervan
Reason for Inclusion: The Emergent/Emerging Movement is either hated or loved, but rarely understood (many times even by those who promote it). In this work Wittmer underscores the strengths of this movement as well as its faith-killing weaknesses. A self described "Postmodern conservative", the work is irenic in tone, sophisticated in analysis, and convincing in presentation. Wittmer offers a way to hold to the historic truth even as the church moves forward into the future.

Title: The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism
Publisher: Crossway
Reason for Inclusion: G.K. Beale, professor of New Testament and former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, offers us a lucid defense of the accuracy and inerrancy of Scripture. As the Evangelical community continues to lose its confidence in the trustworthiness and authority of God's Word, Beale defends Scripture and seeks to place it once again at the center of Christian thought and life.

Title: Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Century
Publisher: Reformation Heritage
Reason for Inclusion: This is the only volume listed that I do not yet own (though I did get a chance to look through a copy). The work is part of a planned three-volume series that provides in a single location the various confessions and creeds that came out of the Reformation (focusing particularly on the 16th and 17th centuries). Many of these documents are given here for the first time in English. A work that will undoubtedly become a standard reference.

Title: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. Paul to the Philippians and Colossians
Publisher: Tentmaker
Reason for Inclusion: Though the reader may think this volume somewhat obscure, that is preciously the reason for its inclusion. We have witnessed several smaller publishing companies attempt to bring reformed and puritan writings of prior centuries back into circulation, but sadly most of the Puritan commentaries have been ignored. Tentmaker Publications publishes a wide-range of all-but-forgotten Puritan treasures, including a number of commentaries. This exposition is a rich treasure, as are many of the other expositions from this period. Praise God we can have them in our hands again.

Title: The Courage to Be Protestant
Publisher: Eerdmans
Reason for Inclusion: This book is in essence an update and summary of Wells' 4-volume survey on Evangelicalism. Many consider Wells to be a modern day prophet who is calling upon the Church to return to her historic grounding. He is perhaps one of the most profound Christian thinkers of our time. You cannot read Wells without becoming convicted. Though rigorously intellectual, this book challenges not the mind of Evangelicalism, but rather its very soul.

Title: Concise Reformed Dogmatics
Publisher: P&R
Reason for Inclusion: Carl Trueman, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, says "This should be on the bookshelf of every pastor and student who wants to read Reformed theology at its best." This is no dry academic tome. Instead, it is stuffed with deep piety and a clearly presented desire for all believers to live to the glory of our sovereign God. If you hate systematic theology volumes, it is because you've never encountered a work like this!

Title: Pierced for our Transgressions
Publisher: Crossway
Reason for Inclusion: Even as the doctrine of penal substition is being openly attacked and abandoned by increasing segments of Christianity, God is rising up influential thinkers who are willing to its defense. The atonement is the very core of Christian theology. The authors of this volume have given us a comprehensive treatment of the subject while simultanesouly underscoring the important pastoral implications involved. Along with In My Place Condemned He Stood (Dever) and The Future of Justification (Piper), this is a "must-read".

Related pages:
2007 Book of the Year Winner

Books that might have been included (but I haven't read them yet)
New Testament Theology - Thomas Schreiner
Spectacular Sins - John Piper
Prodigal God - Tim Keller

Christless Christianity - Michael Horton
Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor - D.A. Carson

The Works of Thomas Manton (22 Volumes)
Surprised by Hope - N.T. Wright

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

BOOK REVIEW; Word of Promise Next Generation Audio Bible

Basic Info:

Title: Word of Promise Dramatized New Testament: Next Generation (NKJV)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year: 2008
ISBN-13: 9781400313303
Language: English
Format: MP3 CD
Reading Level: 2.0
Price: $34.99 retail

Josh Gelatt’s Review: Audio Bibles have been popular for some time. Currently those wishing to purchase an audio bible can choose between two "types". The first is the single-reader audio bibles, performed by men such as Max McLean, Marquis Laughlin, and James Earl Jones. These can be very powerful if one happens to like the voice rendition of the individual reader. Considering the many different genres of Scripture, it is understandable that a single author would do well in one type of literature (e.g. Paul's letters) and poorly in another (e.g. Revelations). The second choice is the multiple-reader audio bibles, which are generally referred to a "dramatized" because of their use of different voices for the various characters within Scripture.

The product currently being reviewed is essentially a youth version of the Word of Promise Dramatized New Testament. The "grown up" version features voice artists such as Richard Dreyfuss, Lou Gossett Jr, Luke Perry, Lou Diamond Philipps, and many others. The Next Generation Version features mostly teenage actors/actresses.

As with all dramatized audio bibles, the performances are mixed. The Narrator (Sean Astin) did a phenomenal job. In fact, I could have listened to him read the entire New Testament. Andrew Lawrence (Matthew) was simply excellent. Marshall Allman's performance as Paul was perhaps forced, but I felt he captured the intensity and zeal of the apostle as well his deep piety. Negatively, Cody Linley offered us a Jesus who sounded timid and naive, though with a tender monotone. Each book includes an informative introductions by Max Lucado and his daughter, Jenna Lucado.

Although the adult version utilizes the New King James Version, I could not detect the use of any established Bible version in the Next Generation Version. Neither the CD nor the Website contained any reference to the version, and I can only surmize it was a contemporized text produced for this recording.

Of the many reviews I saw online, I noticed no discussion regarding the appropriateness of using non-believers to read portions of Scripture. As with the adult version, most of the artists come from Hollywood. Many of the individuals selected hold beliefs and lifestyles that are decidedly non-biblical, and some are actually antagonistic against Christian belief. While some youth may in fact listen to this recording because a character from Hanna Montana is one of the voices, we must remember the knife cuts both ways. In the long run, such blurred lines will also lead to an embracing of the lifestyles Hollywood portrays.

However, we must not be too dogmatic in this area. In Philippians 1:17 Paul notes that "whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice". While I may not approve of using those who disregard Scripture, I certainly will not oppose it. Christ has been preached, and that is cause to rejoice (though I do wish Thomas Nelson would use more discernment in the future).

The Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament is a valuable resource and will undoubtedly serve as a vehicle to get the Word of God into the minds and hearts of our children.

Physical Copy: Set includes 4 cd's housed in a single case weighing 5.6 ounces. Product dimensions are 5.6 x 0.9 inches.