Saturday, May 31, 2008

Puritan Misconceptions

The commonly held view of the Puritans is that they were humorless, backward, repressed religious fanatics & bigots with a bug up their log splitter.

The truth is that they were brave, extremely well-educated men & women who loved the arts and encouraged sexual satisfaction in marriage to the point that they dropped elbows on any husband or wife who denied their body to the other. Oh, and the leaders were frankly embarrassed by the Salem Witch trial and they NEVER burned anyone at the stake!
They were also abolitionists who founded Harvard and established the model that would become compulsory primary education for children--I'll forgive them for the train wreck that both of those latter two intuitions have become.

I was forced to read a few of the Puritan works in Seminary but viewed them through prejudiced eyes. Over the last six months I have come to greatly admire the great Puritan thinkers like John Owen, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan and, of course, the brilliant Jonathan Edwards. Compared to modern theologians like Walter Brueggemann, Greg Boyd or even N.T. Wright and Miroslav Volf (both of whom I admire), reading the great Puritan thinkers is like moving from the kiddie pool to the ocean. Do yourself a favor and check out the brilliant Puritan John Owen at for starters and then check back tomorrow for the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Weekend Post--How to Spice Up Your Small Group or Bible Study

Next Week: Puritan Misconceptions, the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge, the Theological Danger of Duality and more on Project Mayhem.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Who is Todd Bentley?

Know who the dude to the left is? No, he's not a tattoo artist or a roadie for Avenged Sevenfold, he's Todd

Don't feel bad, I didn't know who he was until a week or so either. Apparently the guy is getting a lot of exposure across the world through the satellite channel God TV and a new book ("The Journey into the Miraculous").

The guy is former convict who spent time in prison for sexually assaulting a young boy (he owns up to it and states that he has repented) and is now a charismatic evangelist...from Canada!.

Apparently he was hired to conduct an old time 5-day revival in Lakeland, Florida back in April...its still going on with roughly 4000 people packing in every night! People claim to have been healed and one story circulating states that one little girl was raised from the dead.

Skeptical? Me too. Not because I doubt that God is active in the world today or because I'm a cessationist. I'm a charismatic Calvinist (no that's not an oxymoron). I pray for revival and know that miracles often accompany them.

What makes me skeptical are statements by Mr. Bentley like this:

"So when I need a financial breakthrough I don't just pray and ask God for my financial breakthrough. I go into intercession and become a partner with the angels by petitioning the Father for the angels that are assigned to getting me money: "Father, give me the angels in heaven right now that are assigned to get me money and wealth. And let those angels be released on my behalf. Let them go into the four corners of the earth and gather me money."

and this:

"Now let me talk about an angelic experience with Emma. Twice Bob Jones asked me about this angel that was in Kansas City in 1980: "Todd, have you ever seen the angel by the name of Emma?" He asked me as if he expected that this angel was appearing to me. Surprised, I said, "Bob, who is Emma?" He told me that Emma was the angel that helped birth and start the whole prophetic movement in Kansas City in the 1980s. She was a mothering-type angel that helped nurture the prophetic as it broke out. Within a few weeks of Bob asking me about Emma, I was in a service in Beulah, North Dakota.

In the middle of the service I was in conversation with Ivan and another person when in walks Emma. As I stared at the angel with open eyes, the Lord said, "Here's Emma." I'm not kidding. She floated a couple of inches off the floor. It was almost like Kathryn Kuhlman in those old videos when she wore a white dress and looked like she was gliding across the platform. Emma appeared beautiful and young - about 22 years old - but she was old at the same time. She seemed to carry the wisdom, virtue and grace of Proverbs 31 on her life. She glided into the room, emitting brilliant light and colors. Emma carried these bags and began pulling gold out of them. Then, as she walked up and down the aisles of the church, she began putting gold dust on people... Within three weeks of that visitation, the church had given me the biggest offering I had ever received to that point in my ministry. Thousands of dollars! Thousands!... During this visitation the pastor's wife (it was an AOG church) got totally whacked by the Holy Ghost - she began running around barking like a dog or squawking like a chicken as a powerful prophetic spirit came on her. Also, as this prophetic anointing came on her, she started getting phone numbers of complete strangers and calling them up on the telephone and prophesying over them... Then angels started showing up in the church."

So, there you have it. Angel bag men.

Now the Corinthians were a jacked up bunch who still possessed spiritual gifts as well but getting drunk and making out with step moms from freshly converted pagans is one thing but how about Bentley's claim that God ushered him to "third heaven" where he visited the Apostle Paul who lives in a small cabin in heaven where he told Bentley that he wrote Hebrews with the help of Abraham...WTF is right! Darn Canadians.

If you want first hand accounts then check out Adrian Warnock's blog (link to the left).

Gilmore on Authenticity

I've just started reading Jim Gilmore's book "Authenticity" and so far I highly recommend it. The book is a essentially a business book but is written by a solidly Reformed Evangelical.

I first learned of Gilmore a few months ago when he was at The Resurgence National Conference alongside John Piper and Mark Driscoll (check out the podcast at

Today the folks over at Christianity Today/Leadership have posted a few of Gilmore's thoughts (links to the left and under the heading about "staged worship experience"). Gilmore summarizes his book this way--

"Our new book talks about how different consumer sensibilities have emerged with the rise of different economies. With the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy, cost emerged as the primary factor in buying. In going from an industrial economy to a service economy, the dominant concern became quality. Now, as we move into an experience economy where practically everything is staged, consumers seek authenticity."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

All Your Heroes Should Be Dead

John Piper recommends that every preacher make one great Christian thinker his guide for life (Piper's is Jonathan Edwards) and Mark Driscoll advises all ministers to find dead pastors to look up to because "live one's always disappoint." Driscoll's hero is Charles Spurgeon and I would urge everyone to at least give the long dead Brit a try.

Spurgeon barely lived 58 years, suffered from bouts with depression, was a workaholic who also cared for an invalid wife but he was also God's chosen instrument to build the first modern megachurch and influence pastors for generations to come as the "Prince of Preachers."

If you don't know anything about Spurgeon then I would recommend clicking over to Desiring God (link to the left) and looking for Piper's 1995 biographical lecture (Piper delivers an hour long bio on a different Christian thinker every year at the Desiring God conference and they are all well worth reviewing). The fine bloggers at Pyromaniacs (link also found to the left) deliver a "Weekly Dose of Spurgeon" and definitely check out The Spurgeon Archive at

One of my favorite Spurgeon sayings was during a sermon when he essentially said "I preach the Gospel. I preach Calvinism but I repeat myself." Awesome!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Matt Chandler Interview at The Resurgence

Matt Chandler is the teaching pastor of The Village in Dallas, Texas. Matt has become one of the most downloaded speakers at iTunes Religion & Spirituality podcast section and was God's chosen instrument to take the Village from 168 attendees to more than 5000 in less than 5 years.

Matt was interviewed by Mark Driscoll before the former spoke at The Resurgence Text & Context Conference in March. The video and audio are available at I highly recommend it.

As an aside, I discovered that Matt and I overlapped time in Abilene, Texas. I was starting seminary at Abilene Christian University while he was finishing his Bible degree at Hardin Simmons across town. Moreover, my profs used to complain about a Thursday night ecumenical service off campus ("too conservative", "too Calvinisit", "too charismatic"). Turns out that Matt Chandler was the one who founded and led the service. Small world.

Monday, May 26, 2008

America is Courage, Freedom and the Proud Home of Hair Metal!

I grew up in the '80's when Patriotism was in, Ronald Reagan was President & had the Russkies on the run and a wonderfully awesome thing called hair metal ruled the Billboard charts! As I was sitting here on this Memorial Day thinking about the brave men and women who have defended this great nation, I listened intently to the tools over Sirius Radio countdown their pathetic attempt at the 100 Greatest Hair Metal Songs. It took me back to the days when I donned two earrings, ripped jeans and black tee shirts while my stereo pumped out the awesomeness of GNR, L.A. Guns, KISS, Dokken, etc.

As patriotic images echoed throughout my noggin to the sounds of RATT and Whitesnake on my satellite radio, it reminded me that many courageous men and women are still missing in action and that many rad hair bands have been too easily forgotten.

Oh, sure, most Americans have heard of Bon Jovi, Van Halen and even Twisted Sister but how many of you have ever rocked out to Black 'N Blue? Some of you may remember Quiet Riot's gnarly cover of Slade's "Cum' on Feel the Noize" but how many of you ever cranked your cassette player to "The Wild & The Young" from the forgotten album QRIII?

Such a tragedy demands a response or, to quote one of my favorite films, "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part" and I'm just the guy to do it!

So, over at my Myspace blog ( , I will soon begin the A-Z of friggin' awesome but forgotten hair metal videos. Enjoy and God bless America!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Weekend Post: The Rise of Alt. Theological Education

I earned an M.Div. from the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University (or ACU) in west Texas (pictured to the left). I attended ACU for a number of reasons, for example, at the time I was interested in Ph.D. work and the seminary has an excellent reputation of sending a large portion of its graduating class on to top tier doctoral programs but the real selling point was that ACU was (and is) relatively cheap!

While seminary shopping, I was astounded by the high cost of earning a theological education at many Christian universities. I looked at Fuller, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dallas Theological Seminary, etc. and all were going to put me in debt to the same degree as a recent law school grad but with only 1/3 of the earning potential! In fact, one of the reasons I chose to go to law school instead of a Ph.D. program was because my wife wanted to adopt orphans from international agencies and I didn't think I could afford it on a seminary prof's salary (despite the high cost of seminary, most professors earn less than the average pastor!).

Recently, John Piper announced that he is creating a training program at Bethlehem Baptist Church with the hopes of eventually creating a cheap (if not wholly free) seminary. Piper rightly bemoans the cost of attending bible college and/or seminary while also complaining that too many programs are divorced from real life pastoral work (amen!). Piper's vision is that churches across the country will institute training programs complete with weekly ministerial duties that will accompany classroom instruction.

Now, Piper is not a total innovator. Francis Chan has been doing the same thing at his church in Simi Valley, California for missionaries and church planters. Shane Claiborne trumpets the Alternative Seminary in Philly (although from what I've seen it wholly consists of reading through books of the Bible only through a liberation lens, which, in my opinion, is intellectually narrow and impractical).

The time has come for alternative theological education. Churches with the resources should help their pastors earn both professional and academic doctorates so that they in turn can train parishioners at night and on weekends to be ministers in their hometowns while the students continue to help feed their families and hold down unnecessary debt.

Lord willing, I hope to earn both a Th.D. and a D.Min. over the next few decades in order to train ministers in my own context. The time has come.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The 2008 Democrat Tsunami

I worked in electoral politics for more than 5 years and sometimes you can feel the wind blowing one way or the other and this year's breeze feels like a Democrat storm.

Dems have already won special elections this year in heavily Republican congressional districts in Illinois and Mississippi. They are leading in several Senate races that pundits predicted should have been safe = Democrat Tsunami.

Dems could win another 20 House seats and 5 or more Senate seats. Obama also obviously starts with a huge monetary advantage over McCain.

My only problem with any of this is that we are only one Supreme Court Justice away from overturning Roe v. Wade, which would return the decision to the individual states and would stop abortions in at least a dozen states which would save thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives. Constitutionally, it would return the issue to the states where the Founders left it at the beginning of the Republic (yes, they knew about abortion).

Before you vote this year, do yourself a favor and rent the documentary Unborn in the USA, an even handed look at the abortion debate. If you have a subscription to Netflix (and I recommend that as well) then you can watch it instantly on-line.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Emergent Self-Righteous Starving Children Tour

So, three morons from Emergent Village are hitting the road this summer in a bio-fuel RV. How ironic is this?
The whole "we're addicted to oil", anti-Bush administration, Emergent environmentalism has possibly hit the peak of idiocy. Let me explain and please keep in mind that I am as concerned about the environment as anyone and get p@#*ed off at my fellow conservatives for dismissing global warming as a "myth."
Do you know how many millions of barrels of oil we consumed per year during the gas lines of the Carter Administration? 18 million. Do you know how many we consume now? 18 million. Despite soaring demand we have simply become incredibly energy efficient and we are continuing to do so. So, why are gas prices so high? Is it the evil Bush administration? The wicked oil companies? The war in Iraq? Actually none of the above.
It is a simple issue of supply & demand (for those of you who didn't take macro-economics in college or forgot it all five minutes after the final, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Thomas Sowell's "Basic Economics"). The demand for oil has shot up exponentially but not here in the U.S. The problem is in China and India whose economies have exploded. The demand for oil there is at a fever pitch. At the same time, supply has remained constant for a number of reasons (e.g., lack of refineries to turn crude oil into gas [there hasn't been a new refinery built in the U.S. in decades], obstacles to new drilling, largely environmental, etc., etc.).
So, increased demand without increased supply = higher prices.
The whole deal has pushed many, including Doug Pagitt and his Emergent cohorts, to do things like rent RVs or buy cars that run on alternative fuels. Seems like the answer, right? I mean Willie Nelson has been pushing it for years. Here is the logic--farmers on hard times, we need to wean ourselves off oil, so let's get the farmers to plant soy and we will build vehicles that run on it = wealthier farmers, more fuel efficient vehicles, better environment, less foreign energy dependence, etc.
The only problem is that most of the world still relies on these farmers for basic necessities like grain. Yet, when farmers saw the opportunity to make more money for bio-fuels they stopped planting grain = a shortage of food = inflation here as well as starvation and food riots in the 3rd world!
Hey, there's good liberal planning, huh? (and people want to put these 'tards in charge of universal health care?) Yet, how do the good liberals at Emergent respond to this current crisis? They rent a bio-fuel RV which probably makes them feel better about how they are treating the environment and helping out the American farmer but, simultaneously, are helping to starve children worldwide! Way to go guys!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rethinking "Preaching Re-Imagined"

Doug Pagitt has gone from an evangelical youth pastor at a megachurch, to a slightly left of center staff member at Leadership Network to the ultra liberal "pastor" of Solomon's Porch.

Pagitt does not "preach" during the services at the "church" but leads a"conversation" of young people seated on couches in a circle.

Tony Jones opines in his book "The New Christians" that today people are so-well educated that it is unnecessary for a community to be "preached at" and that it is arrogant, unhelpful, yada yada yada for some one to date to speak to a group for 30-40 minutes (this despite the fact that in any public gathering I've ever attended where Jones was near a mike, the Weezer wanna be wouldn't shut up!).

I tried such an approach while pastoring a church at the foot of Cornell University and filled with Ivy League students. It didn't work. Even though the participants were obviously very well educated, they were also bone ignorant when it came to matters of the faith. The more leftist stream of the emergent church who propose these kind of weird "innovations" are so trapped in their own sub-culture that they are often more blinded by it then the most conservative evangelical complete with the wife with a napkin on her head, home schooled kids who look like they walked off the set of "Children of the Damned" and a tribulation bomb shelter filled with Tim LaHaye books.

FYI, Tony & Doug, not everyone has the time or the ability to sit around all day reading Walter Brueggemann while their wives are at work to pay for an extensive theological library!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hillary Vows To Fight On!

So, Hillary Clinton won Kentucky and vows to continue her campaign despite the fact that the odds are like impossible to one that she can beat Obama.
Is it me or has her campaign become like the drunk fat chick who stays at the party way after its over?
I mean is she just pushing on in the hope that some toothless, jelly jar drinking redneck will take Obama out? Is that why she campaigned so hard in Kentucky and West Virginia?
Of course, I don't really believe that the Clintons would wish harm on anyone that stood in their way. I mean just ask their good friend Vince Foster.
Check back...more on Project Mayhem coming soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Is It A Sin to Spank Your Monkey?

I order the cards to the left from the XXX Church and give them to single dudes as bookmarks, but is it really wrong to "flog your dolphin"? John Piper wrote the following article more than 20 years ago and I think it is close if not right on target.
Missions and Masturbation

By John Piper September 10, 1984

Masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm produced by self-stimulation. Virtually every man and almost as many women have tried it. It is a regular practice of most single men.

One of the major forces preventing young people from obeying the call of God into vocational Christian service is defeat in the area of lust. A teenager hears a challenging call to throw himself into the cause of world evangelization. He feels the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He tastes the thrill of following the King of kings into battle. But he does not obey because he is masturbating regularly. He feels guilty. He can hardly imagine witnessing to a pretty girl about the eternal plight of her soul, because he has so habitually looked at girls naked in his imagination. So he feels unworthy and unable to obey the call of God. Masturbation becomes the enemy of missions.

Is masturbation wrong? Let me address the issue mainly for men. I cannot imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind. I know there are nocturnal emissions, which I regard as innocent and helpful, but I doubt that they are ever orgasmic apart from a sexual dream that supplies the necessary image in the mind. Evidently God has constituted the connection between sexual orgasm and sexual thought in such a way that the force and pleasure of orgasm is dependent on the thought or images in our minds.

Therefore in order to masturbate, it is necessary to get vivid and exciting thoughts or images into the mind. This can be done by pure imagination or by pictures or movies or stories or real persons. These images always involve women as sexual objects. I use the word “object” because in order for a women to be a true sexual “subject” in our imagination she must in reality be one with whom we are experiencing what we are imagining. This is not the case with masturbation.
So I vote no on masturbation. There may be other reasons why it is wrong. For now I rest my vote on the inevitable sexual images which accompany masturbation and which turn women into sexual objects. The sexual thoughts that enable masturbation do not help any man to treat women with greater respect. Therefore masturbation produces real and legitimate guilt and stands in the way of obedience.

Three encouragements to single men:

You are not alone in the battle.

Periodic failure in this area no more disqualifies you from ministry than periodic failures of impatience (which is also a sin).

Pursue the expulsive power of a new affection. I walked by a whole section of “photography” books at the Walker Art Center last Thursday empowered by the better pleasure of feeling Christ conquer the temptation to look.

For the sake of your power,
Pastor John
My op is that the Piper is right although the part about visiting an art gallery is pretty G-A-Y. I would recommend hitting the treadmill or learning the bass riffs to old GNR songs but that's me. Regardless, if you are a follower of Jesus, then quit beatin' your you-know-what like it owes you money. Hey! No one said this would be easy!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

...But Is He Right?

The left and the media have gone bonkers over the last few days skewering President Bush's comparison of the liberal push (adopted by Obama) to open diplomatic talks with terrorist groups like Hamas and nations that sponsor them like Iran and Syria with the failed attempt to appease Hitler in the build-up to World War II.

They've called Bush "divisive" and labeled his remarks "inappropriate" but who, if any, in the mainstream media have asked the question, "is Bush right?"

Neville Chamberlin and his fellow liberals truly believed that they could reason Hitler away from his sick dream of conquering Europe and eradicating Jews, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. Obama and his followers also seem to truly believe that they can construe some heretofore undiscovered nugget of logic that will persuade Iran to love the Israelis, Hamas to give up power and hug a Jew and the North Koreans to lay down their arms...and they make fun of Bush????

Does anybody with half a brain really believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will stop denying the holocaust, recognize Israel's right to exist, halt a quest for nuclear weapons and cease funding terrorist groups because he and Barack become peeps? If you do believe it then do yourself a favor and throw out your bong.

The only thing that anti-Semitic, half-crazed, inbred tard will ever possibly do is to become the first mass murdering fascist to make business casual all the rage. I mean honestly what's with the rumpled clothes from J.C. Penny? Doesn't he look like a creepy high school math teacher who gets flipped off a lot behind his back? And is that a Member's Only Jacket? What is he, the last member?

Well, hey, there is a great chance that Obama will get elected and get the chance to sit down and rap with the clear headed, rational dictators of foreign nations publicly dedicated to eradicating Israel and killing all of us. Barack will then follow in the footsteps of great diplomats like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton who also promised to talk their way into a lasting peace in the middle east--that worked so well, didn't it?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Coolest Mutha' this side of the Mississippi

Growing up, I believed that Nikki Sixx was the coolest dude on the planet. For those too young or too old, Sixx is the founder, chief songwriter and bassist for Motley Crue. The man made me want to play bass and gave me hope that someone with no natural musical ability could still crank out kick tail music.

Now that I'm older (and a little bolder to quote a Ratt song...okay okay, I'm getting my head out of 1986), I think that Nikki may get a run for his money by none other than Al Mohler!

Of course, Al is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, radio talk show host, candidate for president of the southern baptist convention, author, theologian, political commentator, columnist, middleweight ultimate fighting champion and drummer for Aerosmith (some of those may not be true, you're never sure when Wikipedia gets it wrong).

Anyway, I've been reading Mohler's latest book "Culture Shift" and it is nothing short of a brilliant defense of a Christian's duty to engage the culture including public policy. I highly recommend it for any fellow policy wonk. He may smile like a dude on shrooms and look like he raided Jos A. Banks' closet but Al is definitely giving Mr. Sixx a run for his money on my cool meter (he has at least moved ahead of Axl Rose...I mean will Chinese Democracy ever really be released???).

Here's to ya', Al! If you master the opening bass solo to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" then you will be unrivaled in my book.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Driscoll on Doctrine

Mark Driscoll has been preaching through doctrine outlined in a way that roughly corresponds with the narrative of Scripture.

For years, the substance of the sermon series has actually been the curriculum for the church's new member class.

While information is not the same as transformation, it is a necessary component to continuing growth as a soldier for our King and a integral weapon in the fight to expand His Kingdom. Subscribe at iTunes or check out the link to Mars Hill to the left.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Painful Gift

I spent yesterday evening in an emergency room stripped half naked with wires running from my chest to my ankles while connected to an oxygen tank. Of course, the door to my room was wide open for all to see...nice. I rushed in because my chest felt tight and I was struggling to breathe (not good signs) and was somewhat frightened because this is how my maternal grandfather died.

I sat there watching people watching me and praying that God wouldn't let me die just yet when it struck me--I had been praying for some time to be nothing more than a humble servant and often humility demands humiliation.

The romantic pictures of the cross do not paint an accurate portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus (read the book Crucifixion by Martin Hengel) for the one whom all creation was made would have been stripped naked and nailed to a piece of wood that was blood stained from having been used several times before. Moreover, Jesus, like all men, would have lost control of his bodily functions before or at the time of his death. The King of all creation would have been naked, beaten and stained in blood, urine and feces.

We cannot serve without humility and humility often demands humiliation.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why John McCain?

For nearly a decade I have heard voices within the evangelical church complain that every Republican candidate is the same. They all say "global warming is a myth", "the U.S. needs to speak with one voice when it comes to foreign policy", "we need to cut taxes (with no mention of accompanying spending cuts)", etc., etc., etc.

Now the Republican Party has finally nominated a person who is pro-life but also believes in global warming, openly challenged the Bush Administration on their Iraq War policy (while still humanely maintaining that any sudden pullout, like the one advocated by Obama, would result in a bloody ethnic civil war) and has pushed hard to cut government spending to accompany any reductions in taxes. Moreover, McCain is no "chicken hawk" but a true American hero.

So why are so many evangelicals, especially younger ones, running to Obama? Because of well written speeches about "hope" and "change" without any real substance to them? Because of his personality? Now those reasons would obviously be too shallow to move such deep thinkers (note sarcasm).

Well, maybe its because they want a true centrist? But Obama has one of the most extreme voting records in the senate while McCain does have a true moderate record. Well, perhaps its because Obama works with others so well and we desperately need bipartisanship? Yet, in interviews Obama has yet to point to a single instance where he has crossed party lines to work on bipartisan legislation.

Long live the cult of personality I guess!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Christian Idolatry

The sin that most often provokes God's wrath in the Bible is idolatry, which is the worship of anything other than the one true God.
Those of us raised in the church tend to think of idolatry in terms of other religions or cults or ancient pagan worship like that of the Canaanite "god" Dagon (pictured to the left) but theologian Paul Tillich was right when he wrote that whatever concerns you most is your "god."
One may attend church faithfully, read scripture regularly and pray daily while still practicing idolatry. I meet too many Christians who are grossly overweight because they worship food or who yell at little league games because they worship their children or are addicted to pornography because they worship sex and on and on and on.
I felt this sting during seminary when Professor John Willis told us that one of the best things we could do as ministers was to go through our own home at least once a year, identify the object most valuable to us and get rid of it.
I used to collect bass guitars (Gene Simmons, Nikki Sixx and Duff McKagen were my heroes) but sold my collection (3 classic Kramers, A Nikki Sixx signature pains me to go on) and, until recently, had a massive CD collection (literally thousands--mainly hard rock and metal...hey watch the self-righteousness, I grew up in the '80's and lived in Hollywood during the waning days of hair metal, so sue me...) and am in the process of selling all of those. I loved those guitars and CD's but had simply grown too proud of them and attached to them, so they had to go.
Its not that having material possessions in and of itself is wrong (God didn't seem to have a problem with David's wealth) and I'm not trying to make myself out to be a shining example because I struggle with as many sins if not more than anyone reading this but Dr. Willis is right. If we really believe we worship the one true God and we believe the witness of Scripture that nothing is to compete with Him in our hearts then do yourself a favor and take the painful walk through your home to identify the material possession that must go so that you can follow King Jesus wherever He points you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Christian Nation?

I just returned from a week at the Family Research Council's Watchmen on the Wall event. I had the opportunity to speak with a very well read Alliance Defense Fund volunteer about theologian/pastor Greg Boyd. We both agreed that Boyd is a decent preacher, a good theologian, a great apologist and a horrendous American historian/policy wonk.
Boyd is just one of many evangelicals these days who argue that America is not a "Christian nation", that no Church should post an American flag, etc. They point to slavery, our treatment of native Americans, etc. as proof that we are in fact a sinful nation and that our only true allegiance is to the Kingdom.
Now I have to admit that they have a point. The U.S. has a terrible record when it comes to race and has managed to slaughter tens of millions of unborn children over the last 35 years. Furthermore, many churches take things WAY too far to the point where it would be easy for an outsider to confuse a church's patriotism with rank idolatry.
Yet, Boyd and others are also overlooking a few important facts--first of all, if we declare something is Christian by whether or not it is "Christ-like" then the church too should be rejected and, in fact, so should all Christians. The only left would be...well...Christ. Second, the Apostle Paul often exhorts his readers to be good citizens, pay their taxes, respect the authorities, etc. and he was encouraging this in the face of an Empire that crucified his fellow Jews in mass just to send the signal that they were in charge. Paul saw no immediate conflict between patriotism and following Christ.
To label the U.S. as a sinful nation is an exercise in redundancy but every nation and every individual that has ever lived saved one has clearly been sinful. The church was formed by the Spirit, fed the hungry, etc. Yet it is clear from Acts, Galatians, etc. that it was also filled with bigots. The Apostles did not abandon it in a self-righteous tiff but instead tried to reform it. Thankfully committed followers of Jesus have done just that within this country--i.e., the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, the abolitionist movement, etc.
If Martin Luther King, Jr. or Frederick Douglas had simply dismissed the U.S. as godless and focused on their own "communities" then slavery and government sanctioned racism would have tarried on for decades longer then they did.
Why did King, Douglas and so many others not just revert to sanctimonious personal piety? Because they read the prophets who declared that ALL NATIONS belong to God and are expected to be loyal to Him lest they fall under judgment.
I really think my Emergent friends need to stop smugly dispensing bumper sticker slogans stolen from a hypocrite like Jim Wallis and follow in the footsteps of great Christian patriots who saw no dichotomy in their paramount loyalty to the Kingdom and their service to this Country, because they simply follow the dictates of the prophets, like Jeremiah, who declared that all people, individually and collectively, are to seek after God.
May it be so.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Confirming My Prejudice

There are times when I thank Tony Jones for what he says and then there are times when he says things that cause me to think he may have worn a bicycle helmet to school.
When asked the difference between "emerging" and "emergent", Jones replied that such distinctions are essentially the product of "hyper-defining line drawers."
Like who Tony? The folks at Websters and the Oxford English Dictionary? Should we just fall back into pointing, grunting and stomping you Weezer wannabe?
He knows all too well that many, including those who, by his own admission, were inside the "Emerging Church movement" from the beginning (which means before he arrived) have made the distinction between "emerging" and "emergent" from the day "Emergent Village" was formed, which was roughly 7 years ago!
"Emerging" church types are concerned about contextualizing the Gospel for all post-moderns as well as large segements of Gen-X and Gen-Y (i.e., John Burke, Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll, Brad Cecil, etc.) while "Emergents" are those who want to redefine the Gospel while utilizing the tools of evangelicalism (i.e., distributors, publishers, etc.). These folks include Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Jay Bakker and..well...Tony himself.
To assert that there are no differences between these groups is naive at best and just plain dishonest at worst.
Why does Tony object to such "hyper-defining line drawing"? Is it because it could cost him and his pals a good chunk of the Christian market they often mock but lust after at the same time? You be the judge.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

When "Keeping it Real" Goes Wrong

One of the things about the Emergent Church movement that has always driven me crazy (even when I was attending the early gatherings) was the claim that Emergents are more "authentic" than the evangelical churches they left. I've been reading the dialogue over at Christianity Today online between CT Editor Colin Hansen and Emergent Village National Director Tony Jones and Tony often avoids answering any of Colin's tougher questions. How authentic is it to dance around direct questions?

Moreover, Brian McLaren writes "many of us don't know what to think of homosexuality" and proposed a moratorium on any determination about the issue until scholars and pastors had time to dialogue about it but then Brian turns around and begins baptizing openly gay people alongside Jay Baker in Arkansas.

Tony Jones, McLaren and others have said on the one hand that they have never denied penal substitutionary atonement but then they make fun of evangelicals for adhering to the doctrine.

D.A. Carson states that a "prominent member of the emergent movement" (most likely Rob Bell) wrote a 10+ page email to Carson challenging him in regard to his book "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church." Carson responded with a 15 page email documenting everything he wrote in the book about this person and asked him (again, probably Bell) to point out where he was wrong. Probably Bell's terse response was "I guess we don't have anything to talk about." Well now, there's "authenticity" for you!

Everyone knows that Brian McLaren believes you can be openly gay and be a Christian. Everyone knows that Tony Jones doesn't believe in penal substitutionary atonement and Probably Bell knows that Carson quoted him correctly. When they admit it...then they can claim to be "authentic."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Few Days in D.C.

I'm headed to D.C. for a few days, so posts may be few and far between.

In the meantime, check out Christianity Today online for the continuing dialogue between Emergent Village Director Tony Jones and Colin Hansen, CT Editor & author of the new book "Young, Restless and Reformed" over the two respective movements.

Also shoot over to my Myspace page blog for a Nightline clip featuring N.T. Wright speaking about life after life after death. Links can be found to the left.

Check back for more on what I am calling "Project Mayhem."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Project Mayhem is Coming...

What if a group of Gen-X (30-44 year olds) and Gen-Y (14-29 year olds) came together to form a community in which they radically dedicated themselves to one principal--Jesus is Lord. What would that look like? What would that do to the surrounding area?
Now, keep in mind that in the ancient world a person could only have one true lord (or king). So, when the early Christians proclaimed that "Jesus is Lord" they were also saying "Caesar is not."
So, if 14-44 year olds (who are the target demographic of every major network not to mention web site, satellite radio, etc.) decided to truly declare that Jesus is Lord they would also be saying, "sex is not," "fame is not," "wealth is not," "comfort is not," "family is not," "entertainment is not," "the Republican Party is not," "the Democrat Party is not," etc., etc., etc.
What would that truly look like? What would happen? What type of glorious mayhem would such radical allegiance produce? Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Raiding the Netlflix Vault

My wife and I took a break from raiding the classics section of Netflix and have switched to watching a horde of documentaries. Although, I'm still waiting to get "The Power of Forgiveness", I can heartily recommend the following: "For the Bible Tells Me So" is a progressive look at the Bible, the church and homosexuality. It is not in any way even handed but it is well done.
The same can be said for "An Inconvenient Truth", which, at heart, is nothing more then a glorified presentation of former Vice-President Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation on global warming. Gore has been rightly criticized for playing fast and loose with a number of his "facts" but the overall presentation is jarring.

"The Devil's Playground" is a poorly shot but very interesting look at the life of Amish teens and their journey through "Rumspringa", which is the process by which 16 year-olds are turned loose on the world until they decide to join or reject the Amish church. Watching Amish kids smoke, drink and even deal drugs while wrestling with their future is pretty strange but compelling stuff.

Finally, just for fun, I also recommend "King of Kong" about an unemployed engineer who challenges the longstanding Donkey Kong world record holder. Sounds geeky but it received rave reviews and was really fun to watch.

Check back for scant info on what I am calling "Project Mayhem."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Fifty Two

Last post on Romans. Here is a detailed outline of Paul's masterpiece--

1:1-12 Introduction
1:13-15 Pertinent facts
1:16-17 Thesis statement
1:18-15:13 Supporting argument
1:18-32 Immoral people are guilty before God
2:1-16 Moral people are guilty too
2:17-3:8 Even religious people are guilty
3:9-20 The whole world is guilty before God
3:21-31 We are made right with God only by our belief in-, trust in- and loyalty to King Jesus.
4:1-25 Belief in-, trust in- and loyalty to God has always been the way we are made right with God e.g., Abraham.
5:1-21 Adam infected the world with sin but Jesus came to reverse that effect.

6:1-23 Our King has set us free from the oppressive regime of sin.

7:1-25 We continue to struggle with sin and we cannot rescue ourselves.

8:1-17 Yet, thanks to our King's actions we are set free

8:18-39 and our King has promised us a great future BUT in the meantime we are called to suffer with him.

9:1-29 But how can we count on God if He turned His back on Israel? God is faithful but He has the right to elect who He wants to for it is all His.

9:30-10:21 Besides, God did not turn His back on them, they turned their back on Him.

11:1-36 Moreover, birth does not make one a member of God's covenant community--faith does. There was (and is) a remnant of Jews and Gentiles who are loyal to God and they are the true "Israel."

12:1-21 What a person made right with God should act like.

13:1-14:1-23 What a transformed community of God looks like.

15:1-13 For always keep the example of Jesus in mind.

15:14-33 Paul's ministry (and theirs and ours) is to reach out to all people everywhere.

16:1-27 Final remarks.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Notes on Romans--Party Fifty One

We are coming to an end of our study of the Book of Romans. As I wrote at the beginning, I believe Paul structured his public letters (as opposed to his private letters like 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, etc.) as speeches in the classical mode because they would have been read aloud in public gatherings. Thus, I outlined the letter as follows--
Exordium (introduction) 1:1-12
Narratio (facts) 1:13-15
Propositio (thesis) 1:16-17
Probatio (argument) 1:18-15:13
Peroratio (conclusion) 15:14-16:23
If my outline is correct then the key verses for understanding the whole of Romans is 1:16-17, which I have translated as:
"For I am not ashamed of the Good News about our King. It is the power of God at work, rescuing everyone who believes--the Jew first and then those from among all the nations."
While there are a number of other minor issues, these lines form the heart of Romans. Everything else in the letter is either secondary or flows from 1:16-17. I will post an extended outline tomorrow but suffice to say that the best way to read and understand Romans is to work through the book in a reader friendly translation (NLT or The Message) with these verses framing your view.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Fifty

Here is my translation of Chapter 16:

I send to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the name of our King as one who is worthy of respect among God's chosen people. Help her in anyway she needs for she has been of great assistance to many, especially to me!

Give my best to Priscilla and Aquilla, my fellow soldiers of King Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me! I am grateful for them and so are the churches among the nations. Also give my best to the church that meets in their home.

Welcome my close friend Epenetus, he was the first person from the area of Asia to pledge loyalty to the King. Say hello to Mary for me. She has worked so hard for your sake.

Also say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my fellow countrymen, who were in prison with me. They shine among the Apostles! They fought for King before I did!

Welcome Ampliatus, my close friend and fellow soldier. Great Urbanus, another soldier for our King, and my buddy Stachys.

Say hello to Apelles, a good person who our King approves and give my best to the believers from the family of Aristobulus. Give my best to Herodian my fellow countryman. Warmly welcome the King's followers from the family of Narcissus. Give my best to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the King's loyal soldiers and to my friend Persis who has struggled for the King.

Welcome Rufus whom the King chose to be his very own and also to his dear mother who has been like a mother to me.

Say hello to Asyncrtius, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and their families. Also, send my best to Philogus, Julia, Nereus and his sister and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them.

Greet each other warmly. All the gatherings of our King across the known world send you their best.

And now I must make one more request, my family. Watch out for those who cause trouble and shake people's belief in- and trust in our King by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them! These people are not serving King Jesus; they are serving their own selfish desires. They preach polished sermons filled with cute stories which seduce the naive.

Everyone, however, knows that YOU are obedient to the King and this makes me happy. I just want you to be wise, do what is right and avoid evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your boots. May you dwell in the divine favor of King Jesus.

Timothy, my fellow soldier, sends you his best as does Lucius, Jason and Sosipater my fellow countrymen.

I, Tertius, the one writing down Paul's words for you send my best too as a soldier of King Jesus.

Gaius says hello to you. He is our host and also hosts the entire church here. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his best and so does our brother Quartus.

Now, all honor and worship to God who is able to make you strong, just as the Good News says. This message about King Jesus has revealed His plan for you among the nations, a plan kept secret from the very beginning of time but now, as the prophets foretold just as eternal God commanded them, this message is made know to all the nations across the world, so that they too might believe and obey the King.

All honor and worship to the only wise God through King Jesus forever, Amen!