Monday, December 29, 2008

sweet dreams (or Why "Planet Earth" Makes Me Love Jesus More)

I had a great Christmas. It was good to be home and spend some time with the family.

One of the gifts that I received was the Planet Earth dvd set. When I watch it I say "dang!" a lot on the inside. Occasionally I say it out loud, but I try to keep it under control so as to not be obnoxious to those around me.

Last night I had a sweet dream. I was with a bunch of friends, like hundreds, if I really even have that many (facebook says I have close to that). In my dream we were hanging out and having a good time... in the scenes from Planet Earth... which are actually scenes of Earth. We were just chilling on mountaintops, in the clouds, on really big lakes and glaciers (I've been practicing saying "glaciers" with a British accent), and in fields where there are a bunch of crazy looking animals. It was one of my best dreams ever.

I'm pretty sure I know why I had this dream. I think it has something to do with the fact that when I watch Planet Earth I get really excited about the New Creation. Everything that we see is longing for the day when it will be set free from its current bondage to decay and futility (Romans 8:19-22). Once creation is set free and born again we will have all of eternity to enjoy this world which we now inhabit. And we will enjoy it in a Christlike fashion.

I have written more about the New Creation on this blog (here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here). I kind of get excited thinking about it.

If you want to get excited about glory, then watch Planet Earth. If you don't have it, and you want to come over, I am pretty much always up for watching it.

Though the scenes from the dvds may look otherworldly, they aren't. It's our planet. Not only is it our planet, it is what our planet looks like as a consequence of sin, death, decay, and futility. I can't hardly imagine the thrill that will come when I see it firsthand without those things. I hope I have hundreds of friends around at that moment...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

and from Spurgeon... (or We'll Fly in Glory)

As long as I am putting up quotes from old theologians about glory...

Here is one from Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century British preacher, in his sermon entitled Resurgam:

"That powerless body shall be raised in power. That was a fine idea of Martin Luther, which he borrowed from Anselm, that the saints shall be so strong when they are risen from the dead, that if they chose they could shake the world; they could pull up islands by their roots, or hurl mountains into the air… I think if we do not go the length of the poets, we have every reason to believe that the power of the risen body will be utterly inconceivable. These, however, are but guesses at the truth; this great mystery is yet beyond us. I believe that when I shall enter upon my new body, I shall be able to fly from one spot to another, like a thought, as swiftly as I will; I shall be here and there, swift as the rays of light. From strength to strength, my spirit shall be able to leap onward to obey the behests of God; upborne with wings of ether, it shall flash its way across the shoreless sea, and see the glory of God in all his works, and yet ever behold his face. For the eye shall then be strong enough to pierce through leagues of distance, and the memory shall never fail. The heart shall be able to love to a fiery degree, and the head to comprehend right thoroughly."

Now I do realize that what is said by here is merely a guess. However, glory has to be at least as good as the guess.

Note: if you pronounce the 'right' of 'comprehend right thoroughly' in an area such as Littleton (where I live) it will no longer refer to "that which is not evil" but will become equivalent to making the statement "comprehend very thoroughly." If you don't know what I am talking about, that's fine, just trying saying to a couple of times over and over in a Southern accent while attempting to draw out the 'right.'

Irenaeus and the New Creation (or I'm a Better Cluster)

I found a fascinating quote today inspired by Joel 3:18. It is about the New Creation and is found in Against Heresies by Irenaeus the 2nd century Bishop of the place that is now Lyons.

"The days will come, in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branched, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five and twenty metretes of wine. And when any of the saints lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, 'I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.'"

Monday, December 15, 2008

revelation, pt. 4 (Why You Should Read Bedtime Stories to Your Kids)

From my perception of things, it has been a popular thing to speak about life and theology in terms of a story. I appreciate this.

I think it is good that Louie Giglio has emphasized to thousands and thousands of college students that they need to find their story within the larger story of what Christ is doing.

It think it is good that so many narrative theologians (Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Frei, and others) have emphasized that the Gospel is shared as a story rather than systematic outlines or propositions.

I think C. S. Lewis’s metaphor of comparing God’s sovereign hand and man’s free agency to an author writing a story in which characters freely act could be a helpful way to think through some of the difficulties of that centuries-old discussion (yeah, that’s a long sentence).

I can relate to G. K. Chesterton’s statement, “I had always felt life first as a story, and if there is a story, there must be a Storyteller.”

Thinking of life in terms of a story is good and I think it is a natural way to think about life. I tend to think of my life in terms of chapters. I also see my tendency to view my story as a sad one, as a tragedy of sorts. Consequently, I find that I then determine to play the part of the tragic hero resulting in drama, but rarely anything good.

I was recently challenged when an older, wiser man told me, “You cannot read your own story. You will always deceive yourself into reading and writing the story the way you want it to be.” He made this remark within the context of arguing that we all need a measure of accountability. We need someone who can help us read the story of our lives properly. Thus, it is important for us to have someone in our lives that knows us well and is deeply involved in what we do and who we are. I find that this is a point that makes a lot of sense.

As I have been thinking through the book of Revelation, I was reminded of the words of this older man about reading my story. This is because Revelation is emphatic that Christ is both the beginning and end of the story.

He is the “first and the last” (Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).

He is also described as the “Alpha and Omega” (1:8; 21:6). This is another way of saying that Christ is the first and the last using the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Isn’t it interesting that this is a description rooted in the very building blocks (the letters of the alphabet) of written communication?

Christ is the “beginning and the end” (21:6). The story of history begins with Christ and it ends with Christ. The story of all that exists is rooted in Him and finds its consummation in Him.

This is exactly the sort of commentary and perspective I need on my story. My story finds its place within the greater context of the story about Christ. The narrative of my story, on a smaller scale, also finds its beginning in Christ and its end in Christ.

Revelation is not only a book about the end. It is also a book about the story of history from beginning to end. This is because it is a book about Christ. As Christians we can have faith and confidence about the end because Christ is there. Just as I find Him in the beginning of my story as my Creator, and just as I find Him at the beginning of the story of the new and redeemed me as my Savior, so also will I find Him in the end of my story when He will be revealed as the conquering Lord.

That should give me a godly confidence. It is a confidence that does not see this life as a tragic personal story, but rather as a tale of cosmic victory.

"The whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction."
Flannery O'Connor

Saturday, December 13, 2008

revelation, pt. 3 (or A Word When We are Reminded that Christ is the King of Kings)

Scripture has [at least] a three-fold purpose. One, it testifies to Christ (see this post). Two, it is meant to encourage believers (Romans 15:4; 1 John 1:4). Three, Scripture equips the believer (2 Timothy 3:16).

Revelation, as Scripture, fulfills all three of these purposes. It both equips and encourages the believer by pointing to Christ. The Christocentric nature of Revelation is evident from the opening words that describe the book as the “revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Revelation is a book written to persecuted and hurting believers. In it is offered the reminder that Christ is both the firstborn of the dead and “the ruler of kings on earth” (1:5). As firstborn of the dead, Christ is the resurrected man who has demonstrated his divine sonship through the conquering of death (see also Romans 1:4). He is not simply One born of the dead, He is the firstborn of the dead. “Firstborn” implies that there will be more who will be born, and this is exactly the point. We too, who are in Christ, shall be resurrected from the dead as sons of God who, through Christ, will conquer death (1 Corinthians 15).

As “ruler of the kings of earth” Christ exercises sovereign control over the rulers and authorities of men. This carries special significance to those who face persecution from their rulers. The idea that YHWH is in control over the kings of the earth shows up often in the Old Testament. Here in Revelation, it is learned that Christ exercises that control over the authorities of the world. Satan once offered Christ all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:9). Christ rejected the offer, and through His obedience to the Father the subjection of the nations to Christ is accomplished (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 1:5).

This is meant to encourage believers. Even though the nations rage against Christ and His followers, this should not come as a surprise to believers. Jesus told His disciples “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). Then, a little later, He offered this encouragement: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Since, as Revelation tells us, Christ is the ruler of the kings of the earth we can join with the Psalmist in his declaration:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his anointed [Christ], saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
Psalm 2:1-6

Then a little later, the Holy Spirit through the Psalmist issues a warning:
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are those who take refuge in him.
Psalm 2:10-12

The kings of the earth are warned to obey their Ruler, because He is Lord of both mercy and wrath. Many kings and rulers (and nations) rebel, but the Lord is merciful and delays His quickly kindled wrath, in order that men might repent and not perish. However, there is a coming day when this will no longer be the case. It is this coming day of which Revelation speaks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm back...

I'm not going to assume that anyone has noticed the lack of posts and been disappointed... but, I'm back.

The last month has been a little crazy.

Busier than expected.


Tumultuous at times.

Exciting at others.

I spent the past week in Orlando. CWR sent Jeremy and I to a CCCA conference at Disney. It was a lot of fun. There are a number of thoughts that I think I will post in the next week or so. It would be kind of a Pensees of sorts...

We got back last night. I was permitted to sleep in a bit, but it is now time to go to work...

Monday, November 10, 2008

revelation, pt. 2 (or What the Grotesque Tells Us about the Last Day)

The Southern novelist Flannery O’Connor (“A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “Judgment Day,” “Everything That Rises Must Converge”) wrote that “redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.”

O’Connor continues, “The novelist... will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience.”

This is exactly the sort of thing that I believe Cormac McCarthy has done in No Country for Old Men. Now, I have not read the book, but I have read his Pulitzer-winning The Road. I saw the movie based on No Country for Old Men and was really impressed/disturbed. I will not make a broad recommendation that everyone should see the movie because I think it would probably scandalize a number of people. However, I do want to point out that No Country for Old Men expresses an idea that is central to the book of Revelation. It is the idea that evil is getting worse and worse, but at the same time, the evil that is seen is just the same old evil that man has known from ages pass.

The opening words speak to the sense that evil is becoming increasingly intense. It is a theme that is seen throughout the story. Evil is pervasive and sinister and it is an evil that seems to be growing. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell remarks, “The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, ‘O.K. I’ll be a part of this world.’”

Bell’s friend, Ellis tells him, “Watcha got ain’t nothing new.”

The book of Revelation was given to encourage believers (Rev.1:3). As one reads the book there is a recurring theme about the evil and persecution and darkness that faces the people of God. Believers are essentially told “Watcha got ain’t nothing new.” Yeah, things are terrible. There is darkness and suffering. And yeah, it is getting worse, but at the same time, it is the same old evil that has been there since Eden. The encouragement in Revelation goes beyond this and reminds believers that there is a coming day when evil shall be no more.

This is where there is a stark contrast between No Country for Old Men and Revelation. The one offers a terrifying picture in which evil cannot be stopped and carries on without foreseeable end. The other offers hope and a promise that there is a bloodied King who has conquered, and will conquer, evil decisively.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

revelation of Jesus, pt 1

(or An Introduction to why Revelation is more about Jesus than it is about Obama, McCain, the pope, Russia, Iran, helicopters, credit cards, or Kirk Cameron)

I have had a number of questions about the book of Revelation recently. I think that this can largely be attributed to the election craze and the throwing around of words and phrases like “signs of the times,” “he might be the antichrist,” and “the end of the age.”

As a result, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at the book of Revelation. It would seem that there are a lot of questions about this book. Admittedly, I stayed away from it for a time. A professor I had last year, Thomas Schreiner, opened the book up to me and helped me realize that Revelation is meant to encourage and grow me in the Lord in the same way that the rest of the Scriptures are meant to give us hope. From him I learned that Revelation is much more mainstream and normal than it is generally perceived to be. It is not eccentric and outside of mainstream Christian theology as it is often treated. It is not astrology, it’s theology. This is a lesson that was in large part learned through reading Schreiner’s New Testament Theology.

There are various approaches to interpreting the book of Revelation. It is not my intention to discuss the different views. Rather, I am going to attempt to primarily emphasize aspects that we can all agree upon. After all, the book was written to be useful and meaningful (Revelation 1:3). It is my sincere hope that at this series of posts will motivate my friends and family to dig into the Word.

Inevitably, my view of interpretation will come out at points. When that happens I will try to note it.

***For those who wonder, I tend to see recapitulationism (also called iterism or idealism) as doing the most justice to the Book of Revelation. Don't worry Brent, I still hold to Newtonism... Recommended reading: Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, Book III and Dennis E. Johnson’s Triumph of the Lamb.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

profaning the name of God (or a post for my Christian friends that say they are voting for Obama)

Last night I watched the 30 minute Obama commercial. I thought it was very well done. It was moving, powerful, and it made me long for a change in the world I see around me.

Obama promised healthcare for everyone so that others would not have to share his experience of watching his mother’s last days be a battle with both cancer and insurance companies. I was also moved when an old man shared about how he had to come out of retirement and work as a sales associate at Wal-mart to pay for his wife’s medication. I felt a sorrow for that old, tired husband.

Obama promised increased job security so that working men and women can provide for their families. He showed a man and woman who are doing all that they can to provide for their family, but are just barely making ends meet ever since the woman lost her job and the man’s hours were reduced.

Obama promised to end the war and employ a diplomacy that would promote peace across the globe. Who wouldn’t want that?

Obama promised to lower taxes for those who make under $200,000. He said this was to lift the financial burden that people find themselves under. They showed a woman who reflected on how each time she goes to the grocery she has to determine if she can afford a whole gallon of milk.

As Obama spoke he conveyed confidence, strength, and a certain freshness.

Last Thursday I voted. I did not vote for Obama. And let me say, I do not believe that an informed voter who claims Christ as Lord should vote for Barack Obama.

I believe this for one reason and one reason only. Obama supports abortion and infanticide.

Some evidence:
- from
- from Robert P. George the Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University
- you could also check out this video interview
- or spend some time looking around the site hosting the Freedom of Choice Act

The reason I let this one single issue affect my view of the candidates is because I believe that I should be committed to the work of the Kingdom of God. I believe that I should desire that which God Himself desires.

I do believe that Obama shares God’s desire for an end to death from disease. I also believe that Obama shares God’s desire to see an end put to the greed of health insurance companies.

Obama seems to share God’s desire for a person to not have to worry about job security or how to provide for one’s family.

God and Obama desire peace on earth and an end to war, violence, aggression, and death.

Obama seems to share God’s desire for freedom from oppressive governments and the worry and strain they put on day to day life.

In each of these things I think Obama expresses, to a certain degree, a sincere desire to work towards these ideals of the Kingdom of God.

But what Obama has neglected to recognize is that God desires life, not death, for all people.

When pharaoh systematically began to murder those infants who posed a threat to him, God acted against pharaoh. As the people of God wailed over the slaughter of their sons, God heard from heaven and sent judgment down on the king of Egypt.

When the people of Canaan continued to place their infants in the fiery hands of their god Molech, Yahweh sent Joshua and His army to annihilate them.

When Herod began to murder the infants of his people, God called Joseph to leave the comforts of home and the security of his job to go to Egypt until Herod faced judgment.

The biblical pattern evidences that it is never right for people, whether pagan or God-fearing, whether citizen or national authority, to choose convenience or comfort over an infant’s right to life.

Again and again in Scripture the leaders who choose to eliminate the lives of infants are the leaders who are presented as doing the very work of the demons.

For this reason I do not believe that there is biblical merit to say that we should sell the lives of children in exchange for a promise of better healthcare, increased job security, and a new diplomacy.

As an American, I think you should not vote for Obama on account of the Enlightenment ideals found in the words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

As a Christian, I believe you must not vote for Obama on account of the words of our God who said, “That which you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto me.”

“You shall not give any of your children to make them pass through the fire to Molech, and so profane the name of God: I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 18:21

Some quotes from two others who have made an impact in the way I think:

Russell Moore: “And isn't it true that everywhere throughout Scripture and the history of the world there is present a hostility towards life and particularly towards children? This is because the serpent sees what many of us fail to see in the birth of children--blessing, and life. The serpent sees in the birth of children the kind of dependent faith that Jesus says images the Kingdom of God. Most of all, the serpent sees among "the least of these" the brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus. Today is no different. There is, yet again, hostility coming towards human babies, and it is happening in exactly the same way--by the Prince of the Power of the Air exciting evil passions. Satan uses Pharaoh's lust for military stability that says, "I don't want another king," in exactly the same way he uses a Southern Baptist deacon's lust to maintain his reputation to load his teenage daughter into a car and drive her under the dark of night to a clinic in a nearby city so no one will ever know she was ever pregnant. The blood of children flows”
(see the full article)

Chip Baggett: Americans, whether Republican or Democrat, are looking for a savior. The world around us is broken by sin and desperately needs restoration. However, looking to presidential candidates is not the solution. These men are not able to bring world peace, combat the aids epidemic, or end world-wide hunger. We need to look to One who is greater that Barak Obama and John McCain. We need to look to One who can not only heal our physical needs, but heal our spiritual needs as well. Jesus Christ is the one true Savior of the World!
(see the full article)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

redeem the time...

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."

These words from Ephesians 5:15-16 have been on my mind since about mid-morning. They came to my memory as I tried to deal with the sadness I felt as a result of reading about my friend Andrew's past weekend.

It is a reminder to me that I must not waste my life. The world is broken. The Kingdom of God will fix it. The Gospel must go forward so that we might hasten "the coming of the day of the Lord" (2 Peter 3:11-13).

There is a coming day when young people will explore the created order in joy and excitement without the threat of harm. There is a coming day when young men will race forward to the waterfall at the end of the canyon and dive into its waters without the risk of not coming up again. There is a coming day when men will not scream in terror for fear that they may have lost a brother.

There will be no more wailing.

No more crying out to God in despair.

No more fear of death.

No more pain.

No more sorrow.

We are told that the day will come soon. If often feels as though it cannot come soon enough. Yet we know the Lord tarries in order that the Gospel may go forth.

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."

Friday, October 24, 2008

nc state fair

Yesterday Jeremy and I went to the fair. It was a great day.

A couple of the things I liked:

  • The food I ate – Cajun chicken sandwich, corndog, fries, fried snickers, fried mac and cheese (I don’t know how they did it, but they did, and it was so good), slurpie, cotton candy, footlong hot dog, turkey leg, and various samples of NC produce...
  • The exhibits - there was a huge pumpkin
  • The shows – we worked our way around the crowd to be right there next to the track for the pig races
  • The people – from the lady that told me where to put my canned food items for free admission, to the man that chased me down to ask me if I was Jewish, to the man with a mustache that nominated the girl Jeremy ran into from college to be the hog queen of the night...

All in all, a good day. The multitude of people there was reminder that we are supposed to enjoy life. The groups of friends, the families, and the numerous couples reminded me that people crave company.

And the signs, flying balloons, and food stands were a reminder that anything can be deep fried.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Today Gina (I work with her in the office) expressed a desire to know how to start a blog. This was because she felt like blogging about me hitting a deer in my new truck would be appropriate retribution for this post. Yeah, I hit a deer in my new truck. I’m alright. The truck is ok, but not great. It happened on US 1. I was on my way back from class. The irony is that I chose to take US 1 over the shorter NC 561 route because I figured I would be less likely to hit a deer...

I guess this is another instance of creation groaning. That buck no doubt did some groaning and so have I...

It did remind me of something I read in A Severe Mercy: "Over-valued possessions, we decided, were a burden, possessing their owners... This idea of the burden of possessions we held to - and years later when we got our first glossy new car, we hit it severely with a hammer to make it comfortably dented." By the way, this memoir by Vanauken is a great read. You will never look at falling in love with a girl the same after reading it.

storyline of scripture outline

I. Benefit of knowing the Storyline of Scripture

II. Scripture is about Christ

III. Creation

IV. Fall

V. Redemption

VI. New Creation

VII. Summary

VIII. Posts Concerning Application:
- Creation (the English countryside)

- Fall (evil and suffering)

- Redemption

- New Creation (also here)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

some passages about Glory (about N.C.)

If you were to look through my Bible you would see that there are several places where "about N.C." shows up in the margins. I put this next to verses about the New Creation. If you know me you probably know that I love North Carolina, and I confess that I often think about how awesome NC is going to be in Glory when I read Scriptures about the redeemed universe. It is going to be even better than it already is...

So, here are some passages that would be a great place to start learning more about the hope that has been promised us. The new heavens and the new earth are to be given to Christ as an inheritance. And the crazy thing is that the Spirit tells us that we are co-heirs with Christ.

So, read these passages. If you aren't going to read them now, write them down so that you don't forget. It's worth the time.

Genesis 1-2
Isaiah 11:6-9; 60; 65:17-25; 66:22-23
Matthew 5:5
Mark 12:25-27
John 14:2-4
Romans 8:18-25
1 Corinthians 6:3; 15:35-49
Hebrews 1:11-12; 12:26-27
2 Peter 3:13
1 John 3:2
Revelation 21-22

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 8 (or In Summary...)

God created the world and placed man in His creation to enjoy it and rule over it. The created order was in a state of peace and order. Man had the opportunity to choose continued life, goodness, beauty, and harmony. Or, he could choose to rebel against life. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose death, evil, ugliness, and painful separation.

Though death is an inevitable consequence of rejecting life, God was gracious. Death did not come immediately. God delayed the consequences of rebellion and promised to send One who would deliver not only the race of man, but the whole creation, from the fallen state in which it had entered.

The chosen One of God, the Christ, was promised, but it was years before He came. Yet, even in those years redemption was given to those who looked forward in faith to the promised deliverer.

When Jesus condescended from the heavens He fulfilled the promises of God. He was the chosen and promised One. He came as man and as God to take upon Himself the death, evil, ugliness, and painful separation that man had chosen in the Garden of Eden. In doing so, He took the pain and the curse belonging to the old race of man, and the old creation, upon Himself.

When He was resurrected three days later, He was resurrected to a human existence of life, goodness, beauty, and harmony. Redemption had come and He proved what He had claimed all along. “The old is passing away, and the new has come.”

Those who are “in Christ” are born again by the Spirit of God and belong to the new created order. The new race of man is charged with the task of spreading the good news (Gospel) of the Redeemer to those who are still choosing death that they might turn and be redeemed.

There is a coming day when the old creation and the old race of man shall burn up. In that day, the new heavens and the new earth will be joined together in a state where there is nothing but life, goodness, beauty, and harmony in the presence of God.

This is the Gospel and the storyline of Scripture.

Campus Ministries and the Church

In the past weeks I have had a couple of conversations with some friends about the relationship of campus ministries to the church.

I read today an article by one of my former professors that articulates pretty well what I have tried to communicate to some of my friends. It is found here: .

Even if you are not that interested in the discussion, there is a great paragraph about the identity of the church that I think is worth reading.

Monday, October 13, 2008

glimpses of glory... (or Hastening the Day, the MU, Time, Work, and Sex in Heaven?)

I was looking through my journal the other day and I saw an entry from about two years ago. I wrote: “Friday night in the MU – a glimpse of glory.” Now, if anyone has seen the MU, you probably know why that is a statement that has probably been uttered on few occasions regarding the Mobile Unit which houses the guys staff at Camp Willow Run. And certainly, the condition of the MU (particulary the bathroom) is more often a reminder of the Fall than the Glory that is to come. However, on that particular Friday I had been reunited with old friends. We spent the evening throwing Frisbee, eating, talking, and just hanging out. As I lay in bed that night, I was reflecting on the pleasure of good company. And as I lay on the stiff mattress in the frigid (thermostat: 62) MU with 5 other guys, it occurred to me that the contentment that I was feeling in that moment was but a glimpse of what was to come.

I used to be scared of going to heaven. It sounded boring. I know that God is going to be in heaven, so I felt kind of bad for thinking that His heaven sounded boring. But, that’s what I thought.

I have come to realize that there are a number of misconceptions about how we will spend eternity in Glory. I believe this stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of worship. We rightly understand that we will spend the coming aeons worshiping God. We wrongly understand what worship means (or at least I have). For too long I thought of worship as the singing part of church. Thus, I (wrongly) envisioned heaven being an eternity of singing to God. This always sounded extremely boring, and for thinking that, I was ashamed. But, I was wrong to think of worship in that way. Likewise, I was wrong to think of eternal splendor that way.

Glimpse #1: Worship
Scripture teaches that life is meant to be lived as worship to God (Psalm 51:17; Romans 12:1; Colossians 3:17). From this, as well as other passages in Scripture, I think we see that the worship of God in Glory will be a worship of a life lived to the praise of His name. Certainly that will include singing at times, but I think there will be a lot more to it.

Glimpse #2: Seeds
There is another thing that I believe feeds misconceptions about Glory. I think people forget that the universe is going to be reborn. They imagine eternity taking place in the clouds or some ethereal place. However, Scripture gives the picture that most of eternity will happen in the redeemed universe. I think that if more people thought about this, it would change their view of Glory. The world we see now is fallen and subjected to futility and decay. It contains remnants of what it once was. It also contains glimpses of what it will one day be. I say “glimpse” because the Spirit says that what we see is comparable to what is to come in the same way that a seed is comparable to the plant that springs forth (1 Corinthians 15:35-41). This world is the kernel; the New Creation is the rose (or the oak, or the willow tree, or the whatever...).

Glimpse #3: Eden
In Scripture, Eden gives us a glimpse of Glory. There will be harmony and peace in the created order. There will be perfect stability in creation. Man will properly exercise dominion over the earth. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and “the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den” (Isaiah 11:6-10). And look, I just saw Bear Grylls eat an adder and it didn’t look like something that a child should put his hand over...

Glimpse #4: Jesus doing crazy stuff in the Gospels
Christ, in the Gospels, gives us a glimpse of Glory. There will be a healing of sickness and disease and we shall feast (Matthew 14:13-21; Revelation 19:6-9). Christ exerted a control over creation as He could calm the storm and walk on water. Peter got to experience the coming day of the New Creation when he stepped out of the boat onto the waves. In that moment, Peter got a taste of what it will be like to see Him and be made like Him (1 John 3:2). Christ, in His resurrected body (which we too shall one day have) ate, passed through walls, disappeared and reappeared, and flew (maybe He merely ascended...). I see all of these things as pictures of what is to come.

Glimpse #5: Time flies (or drags on)
I think that our experience of time gives us a glimpse. When things are going well, time seems to pass quickly. It feels as though it escapes us. This points to our innate desire to experience goodness without end. Conversely, when things are going poorly, time seems to drag on. This points to our innate desire to experience only goodness. In Glory, the expression “time flies” will lose its meaning. We will never have to fearfully check our watches to see if we are out of time. We will never agonizingly glance at the clock and realize that we have to endure more time of boredom or pain. One day we will experience the good of life without the worry of when it will end.

Glimpse #6: Work
Alright, this here is a perhaps a bit of speculation, but I think we will work in Glory. In Eden people were meant to work even before the Fall. With the Fall came toil and hardship. Toil in labor, not work itself, is a result of the curse. I think that there are even glimpses of this here in this life. Work can be satisfying at times. Many people fear idleness, and those who prefer laziness are typically looked down upon. There is a general sense that work is a good thing – you just have to find what you enjoy. We also see in Scripture that we will rule the created order and will even judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). It is also evident that the best aspects of every culture and civilization will be represented in the New Creation (Revelation 21:24-26). In light of these things I do think that we will work in Glory. But it won’t be the sort of work that is described as toil or agony.

Glimpse #7: Pleasure & Contentment
Finally, I think any genuine pleasure that we experience is a glimpse of glory. On several occasions guys from the past few summers at CWR have asked me about what sort of things I think there will be in Glory. Will there be sex, or fishing, or wine, or dancing, etc. ? While I do think that there are some things that we can confidently say will be a part of eternity (since Scripture names some things explicitly) I am reluctant to say specifically what the experience will be like. However, I can say that whatever we do or have has to be at least as good as the best pleasure on earth. Will there be sex or candy in heaven? Whatever there is, it has to be at least as good as sex and candy. The pleasure of heaven has to be at least as good as the pleasure derived from fishing, or wine, or dancing. We know this because that which is to come is greater than that which currently is.

So, what does this mean for us now? “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the elements will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

How do we hasten the day? We spread the Kingdom of God. We share the Gospel, the storyline of Scripture, and set hearts on fire (Luke 24:32) by the Word of God as people turn towards the Christ.

Friday, October 10, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 7

“Behold, I am making all things new.”
- Jesus in Revelation 21:5

Yesterday, when I walked from my baggage car over to the office (it takes me about 15 seconds to get to work), one of the ladies who works there, Gina, was struggling to get the door open. She had several things she was trying to carry inside that she had to set down to unlock the door. As she attempted to gather all of her items back up in her arms I realized that she seemed to be a bit distraught. I got in the office just as she was setting all of her things down. When she turned from the counter and I could see her face it was clear to me that she was upset about something. I did not have to ask for an explanation because she quickly informed me why she was distressed. On her way to work she ran over a squirrel in the camp driveway. She told me that the squirrel darted one way and then darted the other, seemingly incapable of making up its mind. As she looked in the rearview mirror she saw lying in the road what she hoped was a stick. Unable to tell if the squirrel had made it, she turned around to see what the object was in the middle of the road. Alas, it was the poor squirrel that she had just run over. Gina was upset, and while I kind of wanted to laugh at how worked up she was, I refrained. As she asked Rodney to remove it from the road so that she wouldn’t have to see it, I was reminded of Scripture. I figured it wouldn’t be inappropriate to share, so I turned to her and said, “Gina, all of creation is groaning with longing, waiting for the revelation of the sons of God. One day, this won’t happen anymore.”

The fourth, and final, plot movement in the storyline of Scripture is that of the New Creation. Redemption’s end is everything made right. The end of the world is not chaos and destruction – it is rebirth and newness in perfection. The salvation of the cross of Christ has made possible redemption for not only man, but for the entire cosmos.

When I speak of the New Creation I am speaking of that which God will make in the days to come. He has promised that all is seen shall be remade into something even more glorious than it was even in the days of Eden (Romans 8:19-23; 1 Corinthians 15:37-41). The idea of the New Creation is closely related to the idea of the Kingdom of God. The two are connected. The Kingdom refers to God’s rule in the hearts of men through Christ. The New Creation is the redemption that is experienced in the whole of the universe as the Kingdom of God spreads. For now, the Kingdom and the New Creation is primarily seen in changed lives of people and in the communities that they form (the Church). But one day, that same redemption that will be made complete among people shall make everything that we see, and know, into something new and glorious. I like to refer to that something glorious as “Glory.” Thus, I occasionally use the phrases “I’ll see you in Glory” and “it’s a glimpse of Glory.” I think I will write another post about glimpses of Glory...

This idea that we experience Glory now in part, but will one day experience it in full, should not be an idea that seems too foreign to us. It is the same idea that we are conveying when we talk about the distinction between sanctification and glorification in the life of a believer. Sanctification is the idea that we are being made holy in a process, but are not yet fully holy. Glorification is the notion that one day we will be made fully holy – at that point sanctification is complete. The same idea applies to the universe that we see. It is not yet freed from bondage, decay, and futility. But the event of the cross has already set into motion the events that will bring about the freedom of creation so that it may experience the glory of the sons of God (Romans 8:19-23). When that happens heaven will come down and be made new and joined together with the material world that we see (Revelation 21:1-2).

The part of the story about the New Creation shouldn’t be forgotten. It needs to be told. It is our future and our hope. It is the promise that the pain we see and feel won’t always be here. It is the promise that our tears will be turned to laughter. It is the declaration that we will be joined together with the people of God. It is the guarantee that we will once again join our God for a walk in the cool of the morning. It is the end and purpose for which Christ died. It is the reaping of the harvest of which Christ’s resurrection was the firstfruits.

It is the day when Gina will kill no more squirrels...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt. 6c

“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law
and also the prophets wrote,
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:45

This is the part of the storyline of Scripture that is most clearly about Christ.

Redemption comes through Christ. It is brought about by Christ. It is found in Christ. The proclamation of the Gospel is the proclamation of redemption in Christ.

Romans 3:23-25 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.”

Man’s rebellion in the Fall incurred the just wrath of God. God in His grace has delayed taking care of the problem of evil caused by man. But now, through the cross, the problem is solved. In dying on the cross Christ appeased God’s wrath, but also made possible His gracious offer of redemption. Reconciliation is now possible. When one places his faith in Christ he is trusting that God has taken care of sin and death and made it possible to belong to a new race of man. A race that comes from the second, and last, Adam (who is Christ).

There is a great deal that could be and has been written about the redemption found in Christ. My main purpose here is to make the point that redemption is found in Christ alone. It is the salvation that He has made possible of which the prophets of old spoke. So, when one considers the storyline of Scripture it is important to see that the third plot movement, Redemption, is the part of the story about how Jesus saves fallen man from sin and death.

It is also significant to note that corresponding to Redemption, as it is found in Christ, is the beginnings of the next plot movement in the story: New Creation. With the coming of Christ came the inauguration (beginnings of) the Kingdom of God. More on this to come...

From John Chrysostom (my favorite Archbishop of Constantinople) in his Homily on Matthew 26:
For the cross destroyed the enmity of God towards man, brought about the reconciliation, made the earth Heaven, associated men with angels, pulled down the citadel of death, unstrung the force of the devil, extinguished the power of sin, delivered the world from error, brought back the truth, expelled the Demons, destroyed temples, overturned altars, suppressed the sacrificial offering, implanted virtue, founded the Churches. The cross is the will of the Father, the glory of the Son, the rejoicing of the Spirit, the boast of Paul, "for," he says, "God forbid that I should boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." The cross is that which is brighter than the sun, more brilliant than the sunbeam: for when the sun is darkened then the cross shines brightly: and the sun is darkened not because it is extinguished, but because it is overpowered by the brilliancy of the cross. The cross has broken our bond, it has made the prison of death ineffectual, it is the demonstration of the love of God. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that every one who believes in Him should not perish." And again Paul says "If being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." The cross is the impregnable wall, the invulnerable shield, the safeguard of the rich, the resource of the poor, the defence of those who are exposed to snares, the armour of those who are attacked, the means of suppressing passion, and of acquiring virtue, the wonderful and marvellous sign. "For this generation seeks after a sign: and no sign shall be given it save the sign of Jonas;" and again Paul says, "for the Jews ask for a sign and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified." The cross opened Paradise, it brought in the robber, it conducted into the kingdom of Heaven the race of man which was about to perish, and was not worthy even of earth. So great are the benefits which have sprung and do spring from the cross.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Read the OT

I think an increased familiarity with the Old Testament will result in a better understanding of the New Testament. As far as time goes, a great chunk of the storyline of Scripture is spent in the OT.

The following chapters are passages of Scripture that I think are a good place to begin if you are trying to grow in your understanding of the Old Testament. While, certainly all of Scripture is important, some parts are more important than others. The chapters listed below are chapters that I see as key to understanding how God was working for redemption in the OT. So, if you are not familiar with them, I would encourage you to start with these chapters are you seek to grow in your understanding of the OT.

Genesis 1-3
Genesis 12-15
Exodus 12-14
Exodus 19-24
2 Samuel 7
Psalm 2, 89, 132
Isaiah 11
Isaiah 40-66
Jeremiah 30-33 (especially 31)
Ezekiel 36-37

Thursday, October 2, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt. 6b (or Why Abraham Almost Killed Isaac)

“God ordered Abraham to make a burnt offering of his longed-for son. Abraham built an altar, put firewood upon it, and trussed Isaac up on top of the wood. His murdering knife was already in his hand when an angel dramatically intervened with the news of a last-minute change of plan: God was only joking after all, ‘tempting’ Abraham, and testing his faith. A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such a psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example simultaneously of child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defence: ‘I was only obeying orders.’ Yet the legend is one of the foundational myths of all three monotheistic religions.”
- Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead.”
- Hebrews 11:17-19

Redemption in the storyline of Scripture first shows up immediately after the Fall. In the Garden of Eden Yahweh told Satan and Adam and Eve that one would come who would deliver the human race. There was a promised seed/offspring who would crush the head of the enemy (Genesis 3:15). Redemption was promised and redemption would come through a man born from a woman.

What did the devil do in response? He eliminated the first two candidates to be the seed. Abel was murdered and Cain was cursed. (Genesis 4)

As the human race grew the serpent of old sent his minions to corrupt the flesh of man (Genesis 6:1-4). If man no longer existed as man, but only as Nephilim, then the promised seed could not come. Yet men looked for the deliverer to come. Lamech believed his son, Noah, was the promised seed (Genesis 5:28-29). But Noah wasn’t. He was, however, the means by which man was delivered from the Flood. The Flood was judgment, but it was also a means of preserving man for redemption. God bound the demons that went after the flesh of man to corrupt it. They are now kept “in eternal chains under gloomy darkness” in Tartarus where they wait for the judgment reserved for them in the final day (1 Peter 3:19-20; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6-7).

As you continue through the Old Testament you see that the stories continues in much the same way. Just as soon as God reveals a little more information about the Promised Seed who would redeem, we see that the devil tries to prevent such things:
So, He will come from Abraham through Sarah? Well, then may Abraham sleep with Hagar.

He will come through Abraham through Sarah in the next year? Then may Abimelech or Pharaoh get her pregnant in the next 6 months.

So, He will come through Isaac’s son Jacob? Then may Esau try to kill Jacob.

So, He will come through the people of Israel? Then may they be enslaved and murdered by Pharaoh.

If they are delivered from Egypt and declared to be the chosen people through whom redemption is to come, then may they turn from Yahweh and worship the calf.

If He is to come in the Promised Land then may the people be too afraid to enter in.

If He is to come through David, then may David be a murderer and an adulterer deserving of the death penalty.

If He is to be the Son of David then may David’s sons fight and kill one another.

If He is to come through Solomon, but is to belong to the nation of Israel, then may Solomon seek after hundreds of women from foreign nations.

If He is to come through Israel and the nation of Judah, may they be annihilated by foreign powers and assimilated into foreign peoples.

And on, and on, and on... The devil has sought to prevent the promised seed from coming. Yet, the Lord always delivered. And as Yahweh continued to deliver man he revealed more and more about what the One who was to come would look like. If the people would trust God in faith that He would one day deliver them, they were saved. God delayed judgment on those who trusted Him until Christ came.

This is why the Spirit has said through Paul, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe... This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Roman 3:21-26)

When reading the Old Testament it is important to see that God was preparing the way for Christ. Everything that happened in the Old Testament had to happen for Christ to come (Ephesians 1:10). Everything that happened in the Old Testament was to teach us about what sort of redemption was coming in Christ (John 1:45; Luke 24:25-27,44). In the OT redemption through Christ is promised, foretold, and foreshadowed through words, people, and events. Understanding this is a big step in understanding the Old Testament and its place in the storyline of Scripture.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

psychosomatic unity, pt 2

I take 12mg of warfarin a day at 10pm. This is to make up for the lack of Protein S in my blood. Protein S is one of many proteins that regulates Vitamin K in the blood. Vitamin K causes the blood to clot (coagulate).

Due to my deficiency of Protein S my blood has a tendency to clot in a dangerous way leading to deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot) and/or pulmonary embolism (one of the symptoms of “pulmonary embolism” is “sudden death”). So, I take warfarin, an anti-coagulation drug (it is also used as rat poison), to prevent these things from happening.

Last week I wrote about how I had noticed that I was grinding my teeth as a result of getting “lost in my head.” I pointed to that as a reminder that I am a psychosomatic unity. My mind was affecting my body.

I believe I have another example to illustrate that I am a psychosomatic unity (as we all are).

Last Thursday night I ran out of my medicine. I have not taken my medicine in several days. I have repeatedly called my doctor and been assured that a new prescription would be called in right away. They have had three business days and repeated calls from me, yet it has not been called in. If it doesn’t happen in the morning I am going to drive to the clinic and walk right past the authorized access door to the office of my doctor and ask him where my prescription is.

Now, I cannot say that how I have been feeling is definitively connected to what is going on in my body as a result of not having my medicine, but there are a couple of things that I can say. One, I have had terrible headaches. Two, I have been extremely impatient and irritable. Three, it has been difficult to think – even about simple things like phone numbers and where I set my pen.

For instance today I snapped at one friend in anger and I lost control of my ability to hold back tears with another. I could hardly focus at work and found myself to be very irritated and frustrated as I went about my day. In class I argued with my professor about something that was not very important. Then, on the ride home I got really mad at God about the pain I am experiencing. I just want my medicine. Why has it felt like He has been working against me?

The point I am trying to make is that I find it fascinating the way my body can affect my mind, will, and emotions. If I am not feeling well it causes me to lash out at others (which is a lack of love and self-control = sin) and to fight with God.

The Cappadocians say, “That which He did not assume He cannot redeem.”

I thank God that He is redeeming the whole of who I am. He is not just saving my soul. He has promised to deliver my whole being. Until then, however, I am going to have to grow more and more in conformity to Christ. A part of that is going to be a control that does not allow physical pain to cause me to stumble in holiness and faith.

God-Man save me!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 6a (or The Smoldering Stump)

I think many people are familiar with Isaiah chapter 6. You know, it’s the one where Isaiah is in the Temple and he sees Jesus (John 12:41) and then yells “Woe is me!” Isaiah said he had unclean lips and so an angel touched his lips with a burning coal. Then the Trinity said “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (ESV) To which Isaiah replied, “Here am I! Send me!”
...I think Isaiah’s response has often been the theme of missionary commissioning services and the slogan of many evangelistic programs... Isaiah did give a good response to the Lord’s call – one worth emulating.
I think the familiarity with Isaiah 6 stops there. Which is unfortunate because the rest of the chapter gets quoted all over the place in the New Testament in relation to Jesus.
So Isaiah told God that he would go. Then God told Isaiah what he was to say to the people of Israel:
“Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing but do not perceive.”

Why did God tell Isaiah to preach this? The answer is that God wanted Isaiah to:
“Make the heart of this people dull,
and their eyes heavy,
and blind their eyes.”

Dull hearts? Heavy and blind eyes? Why did God want Isaiah to do this? Shockingly, God said Isaiah was to do this:
“Lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Did you catch that? It seems to me that what God was telling Isaiah to do was not very Christlike.
Maybe this is why Isaiah asked, “How long, O Lord?” A good and understandable question for Isaiah to ask. Especially if, or so it would have seemed to me, any amount of time seemed too long for anyone to have to proclaim such a terrible message. If Yahweh’s words weren’t disturbing enough already, look at what He answered to Isaiah’s question about when he could stop:
“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains when it is felled.”

Dang! This sounds like a scene out of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road. What despair and desolation! The Promised Land (which was meant to reflect Eden and image the New Creation) was to become a desolate wasteland “without inhabitant.” Yahweh told Isaiah that he could quit preaching his message once that happened.

But then, at the end of the narrative, there is a strange and mysterious word from God. It is a statement that, in Isaiah’s day, must have pictures the anguish felt over what had occurred and been lost by the people of Israel. But it is a statement shrouded in hope:
“The holy seed is its stump.”
This declaration is about redemption. In Scripture the first mention of redemption comes in Genesis 3 when God told Adam and Eve that He would send a “seed” to save them. What a sense of horror that must have been expereinced by Isaiah when he heard that the seed would be reduced to a burning, smoldering stump. Yet, as the Lord continued to speak, He foretold that “there shall come forth a shoot from the stump” (11:1). He foretold of One who would spring up “like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground” (53:2). There is no drier ground than burned up ground and out of it came the holy seed. Yahweh spoke of the One who would bear “the sin of many” (53:12) and He said that in “that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place, shall be glorious” (11:10).

That seed, that root, is Jesus. Am I just guessing because it sounds like Jesus? No, check out Revelation 5:5-14. Isaiah was proclaiming a message about Jesus.

The third plot movement in the storyline of Scripture is Redemption. Redemption centers around Christ. If that is missed, then the storyline is misunderstood.
The texts for the first two parts (Creation and Fall) are primarily found in the first three chapters of the Bible. Nearly the whole rest of the Bible is about redemption. Thus, I think it will be helpful to first look at redemption as it is promised in the Old Testament and then turn to redemption in the New Testament.

“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,” not of philosophers and scholars
Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
“Thy shall be my God”
The world is forgotten, and everything except God. H
He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels...
Let me not be cut off from him forever! “And this is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ...
- These words were found inscribed on a piece of parchment sown into the jacket of Blaise Pascal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

grind 'em! (or Why I Know I'm a Psychosomatic Unity)

My teeth hurt.

They have been hurting. I figured out why .

I don’t pray enough. I think too much and, apparently, I grind my teeth when that happens.

Once a week I drive to Wake Forest for a night class. I like to drive, but the commute in my truck gives me too much uninterrupted time to think. And really, I have had a lot on my mind. If I’m honest, it’s not just the two hours on Tuesday that I am in my truck that this happens.
The trouble is that the thinking I am doing isn’t of the helpful sort. One of my friends tells me that I get lost in my head. That is kind of what it feels like: lostness. I know from experience that little good comes from it. It is beyond analyzing or thinking things through. It’s more sinister than that.

It’s rooted in a distrust. There are some things that I just don’t want to leave up to God alone. Too often I say that I will trust God to work, but I determine that it is through me that He is going to do it. Thus, I pretend to trust God but I try to take matters into my own hands. I want things to go my way. If they don’t, I want to fix it. If I can’t fix it, I want to figure out where I went wrong. I want to know what I could have done different. I want to know how I can prevent such a thing from ever happening again. And I get lost in my head...

One of my friends, Scott, has recently demonstrated yet again why he is such a dependable friend. It was a rare moment where I verbalized everything that was going through my mind. When I was finally quiet, as we stood in the cool night under the stars, he told me to pray. He told me of his efforts to replace the time that he spent daydreaming with prayer and he challenged me to do the same.

He’s right. I need to pray. My teeth hurt.

*concerning a “psychosomatic unity” – if you take a systematic theology class you will come to a point where you will talk about “man” (anthropology). it is probable that during that point of the class the professor will encourage you to determine if you are a trichotomist (“man” is body, soul, and spirit) or a dichotomist (“man” is body and soul). there is also a chance that this will be built up as a really big decision. well, I like the approach of Anthony Hoekema in Created in God’s Image. he just argued that we should say that man is a “psychosomatic unity.” “psychosomatic” comes from the two greek words for spirit and body. he made the point that we are both physical and spiritual and the two are connected. this is why when I am in mental and spiritual angst I grind my teeth.

the storyline of scripture, pt 5 (or Why I Find it Hard to Believe in a Good & Loving Father)

I think this is a good point to state one of the practical aspects of knowing the storyline of Scripture.

This past summer, on my way to the MU, Chip asked me a rather blunt question after spending a few minutes talking about some spiritual things. As he sat on the bench with Josh outside of Southern 12, he asked me, “So what do you struggle with? What is it for you?” While there is more than one answer to that question, the one that I gave that night was the freshest on my mind. When things do not go my way, it is not difficult for me to become very angry with God. I tend to become very cynical of God’s promise to cause all things to work together for good. I challenge Him asking, “What good is a good that doesn’t feel good? You say you love me, but what good is a love that doesn’t feel like love?” My problem, at times, with God is that His world is really messed up. His world hurts and I don’t like that.

This sort of thinking is familiar to most people. Perhaps it is experienced to varying degrees of intensity, but I think it is the common human experience that life does not always feel good. If God is sovereign, then it certainly seems easiest to blame Him for what happens to us. Why the evil and suffering? For a greater good? Was He not smart enough to figure out a way to accomplish the same good without all the pain?

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov (from The Brothers Karamazov – read it, it’s a Russian novel, so it is long, but it’s worth it) asked, “Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature – that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance – and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell me the truth.” Ivan is not the only one to ask this question. The presence of evil in the world is the one argument against God. If you pay attention to what atheists say, it is the one and only argument that they have against a good and all-powerful God. I think we fool ourselves if we don’t understand at least a little bit where they are coming from.

How will we answer the question for ourselves and for others?

What Scripture says about creation and the Fall is an important part of how one deals with the issue of God and evil. People have differing ways of saying why God allowed man to sin, but the key point of Scripture is that man sinned. Man was placed in a good world and he ate from the one tree that he was told to not eat from. Any answer to the question of evil that does not speak within the storyline of Scripture is going to be a deficient answer. The Christian answer to the question must include Scripture’s account of creation and the Fall. If it does, it will naturally lead into the next part of the Story: Redemption. When the answer leads into the part of the story about redemption then the Gospel is presented. This is how we need to deal with these sort of questions. We have to talk about the Gospel. It is the Spirit by the power of the Gospel that changes lives. Not arguments or answers to objections. Let us answer the objections, but may we do it in a way that leads to the Gospel.

People don’t reject God for intellectual reasons. They might hide behind intellectual objections, but the issue is an issue of the heart. I think this is the point of Psalm 14:1. Denial of God comes from a heart that is opposed to Him. It is a heart that is suppressing the truth that is clearly visible in the world around us (Romans 1:18-23). That heart is changed by the Gospel for it “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

This is a point that I tried to emphasize this summer. While I think there is a benefit to understanding objections raised to Christianity and the answers given to those objections, in the end, the most important thing you can do is share the Gospel. This is why I think a familiarity with the storyline of Scripture is crucial. The Gospel is best understood within the context of the Creation – Fall – Redemption – New Creation metanarrative.

If you can talk about the storyline of Scripture then you have a ready defense for those who question why you believe what you believe. I think it is the best way to think through and respond to challenges like that of Ivan Karamazov. It has proven to me to be helpful is wrestling with personal hurt and disappointment. Yeah, there is evil in the world. Man has a hand in that evil. If I God were to get rid of evil today then those who have not been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb would face His wrath. That day will come. There will not always be evil, but He tarries. He waits, that more may come in...

"'Well, my dear Pangloss,’ Candide said to them, ‘when you were hanged, dissected, whipped, and tugging at the oar, did you continue to think that everything in this world happens for the best?’”
Voltaire in Candide

Monday, September 22, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 4

The second plot movement in the storyline of Scripture is the Fall. The account of this occurs in Genesis 3.

The Fall of Man came as a result of the disobedience that took place in Eden when the man and woman ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In that moment man’s relationship to everything changed. He turned his back on the God who is perfect goodness, perfect holiness, perfect truth, and perfect life. That turn has resulted in all of the evil, pain, and sorrow that we find in the world today.

In judgment of man’s rebellion the Lord pronounced a curse. The curse has resulted in strained relationships, pain, and toil. In Romans 8 the Spirit reveals that the whole of creation was, at the Fall, subjected to futility and placed under a bondage of decay. As he observed this the prophet Jeremiah cried to the Lord saying “How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither?”

John Calvin in his Commentary on Romans wrote, “It is then indeed meet for us to consider what a dreadful curse we have deserved, since all created things in themselves blameless, both on earth and in the visible heaven, undergo punishment for our sins; for it has not happened through their own fault, that they are liable to corruption. Thus the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures.”

The Fall is significant because it explains everything that is wrong with the world. It explains guilt, shame, and death. It explains the origin of evil in this universe. It explains why there is physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. It explains tsunamis, hurricane, terrorism, AIDS, black widows, and roadkill. It is the reason why things are not the way they are supposed to be.

On account of the Fall there is strife in our relationships with others and man's relationship with God has been ruined.

Here’s a few lines from the poets:
“So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thickest slunk.”
“...With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat
Against his better knowledge, not deceived,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan;
Sky loured, and muttering thunder, some sad drops
Wept at completing of the mortal sin
Original; wile Adam took no thought...”
Milton in Paradise Lost: Book IX

“How tides control the sea, and what becomes of me
How little things can slip out of your hands
How often people change, not to remain the same
Why things don't always turn out as you plan

These are things that I don't understand
Yeah, these are things that I don't understand

I can't, and I can't decide
Wrong, oh my wrong from right
Day, oh my day from night
Dark, oh my dark from light
I live, but I love this life”
Coldplay in”Things I Don’t Understand”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

storyline of scripture, pt 3b (or Day to Day Pours Forth Speech)

There are two friends that I regard as the two best writers that I know. One of them, my friend Harrison, just wrote a post about the English countryside. In that post he creatively articulates and captures the good that results from experiencing the countryside. He points to good memories, pleasant smells, and beautiful scenes. Harrison also makes a point of spiritual application at the end of his post. I think it is a great post.

What Harrison has written helps demonstrate the importance of Creation to the Christian understanding of the world. The beginning of the story of the world starts with man surrounded by a good land in which there is rest, peace, and perfect harmony. Delight and pleasure marked life in Eden (and will one day define life yet again). This goodness has been marred by the Fall, but it has not been completely lost. Thus, even today, we can experience a sense of comfort and peace in the created order. The beauty and goodness of what we see and experience can pierce our souls with truth and reality in a way that words often cannot.

The experience of an English countryside is an apologetic tool. Scripture can explain the experience of the countryside in a way that I think naturalism comes up short. As a result, even Sunday drives through the country open up the opportunity to speak about the God who is the good, the true, and the beautiful.

“I looked at all this in great tranquility, with my soul and spirit quiet. For me landscape seems to be important for contemplation...”
Thomas Merton in When the Trees Say Nothing

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 3 (or Why Girls Like Roses)

The first plot movement in the storyline of Scripture is that of Creation. The main account of Creation is found in Genesis 1-2. From that passage I think there are a couple of ideas that should be noted. Already, in one of the posts on the importance of Scripture, I pointed out how the story found in Genesis 1-3 can help explain the world we see. So, I am not going to spend much time on the things I already wrote about, but I do think that there are certain aspects of the story that should not be missed:
God is Lord over all (Genesis 1:1-2). Right from the beginning of Scripture we see that all that we know is known on account of the Lord. He has created and He is sovereign.
The world was created good (Genesis 1:31). This is important as it explains why we have a concept of good things and why we find goodness, pleasure, and joy in this world. The reason why people stop in the middle of the CWR field and take pictures of the setting sun is because the world was created good. The reason a boy will pick flowers for a girl is because the world is good. The reason why it is relaxing to sit under the stars while feeling the gentle rock of the boat as it is nudged by the waves is because God created the world good. While some pose the problem of evil as a challenge to the existence of a good God, I think it should be more often noted that without God it is difficult to explain the presence of so much good in this world.
God made man and woman (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:4-25). Not only did God create man and woman, but He also made them in His image. There are all sorts of implications from this. There is an intrinsic value to being human. The life of a person is worth something. It is also seen that people were made for community, companionship, and love as a reflection of the God who exists in perfect fellowship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” People were made to be together. There is a fellowship to be had with other people and a relationship to be known with God.
Man is to be fruitful and multiply and exercise dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). In the account of Creation we see God placing man in a good and fruitful land. And He set people up to take care of things. The world was meant for people to live their lives on. We were meant to rule as the regent kings and queens of the Emperor-King (as we one day will). In the Garden of Eden we see a harmony and peace in the created order. God placed man at the top of that order. As one continues through the storyline of Scripture it is interesting to see just how often the work of the Lord is connected to how He promises to bless or curse or redeem man’s relationship to the land.
There was a command to be obedient (Genesis 2:16-17). From the beginning there is a demand to live a good life. Obedience meant a life of goodness. Disobedience meant a life that has a knowledge of both good and evil. So, as will continue to be the case throughout Scripture, there are promised blessings for obedience and promised cursings for disobedience.

That’s a look at Creation, next, the Fall...

recommending death by love

Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears have a new book out. I appreciated their book Vintage Jesus and am excited to read this new one.

Check out the website ( and definitely take the time to watch the video.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 2b (book recommendation)

If you haven’t read G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, then you should try to pick it up. If you know that you will never read the whole thing, then go to a bookstore or a library and read the “conclusion.” I do not believe that you will find it to be a waste of your time. Chesterton skillfully laid out why he saw all of history culminating in Christ. He was a wordsmith...

An excerpt to inspire you to pick it up:

“They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of a gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 2

In summary: the story is all about Christ and, by extension, His kingdom.

How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

The NT says that the OT is about Christ (Luke 24:44-45; John 1:43-51; 1 Pet. 1:10-12).
The Gospels say that they are about Christ.
The Acts speak about the expansion of His kingdom.
The epistles are about the life of those in the Kingdom.
And, finally, Revelation is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1).

So, the Bible is about Christ. The storyline of Scripture is about Christ. If you understand it apart from Christ, then you misunderstand it.

To take it a step further...

The story of all of history is about Christ. He is the center of all things. He is the reason that everything exists and He is the point of all history. All things find their meaning in Christ. I do not believe that there is anything in the world that can be rightly understood apart from how it is related to Christ. There is not anything, whether in Scripture or in the world, that does not either testify to Christ or testify to the need for Christ. Even our own individual end is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

It is all about Him. Apparently the plan has always been “to unite all things in Him” (Eph. 1:10). Everything is made through Him and made for Him (Col. 1:16-17).

And I’ll be daggum if it doesn’t excite me to be adopted as a son and made co-heir with the heir of all things...

Dr. Russell Moore made the statement that “Every text of Scripture – Old or New Testaments – is thus about Jesus, precisely because, at the end of the day, everything in reality is about Jesus. Why is there something instead of nothing? Why are human beings religious? Why do people want food and water and sex and community? Why are there galaxies and quasars and blue whales and local churches? God is creating all that is for His heir, for the glory of Jesus Christ. When you see through Jesus, you see the interpretive grid through which all of reality makes sense.”

I think that’s a good statement.

Friday, September 5, 2008

the storyline of scripture, pt 1

I plan to next work through the topic of the Storyline of Scripture (Creation – Fall – Redemption – New Creation). This past summer in GSBS we covered this early because I think it is foundational to shaping how one thinks through things biblically. I remember that there was an apprehensive air as we began the study. It was at night and we didn’t start until late in the evening. I told the guys that we were going to cover the whole Bible. We prayed and I told them to open their Bibles. Anywhere was fine, because we would be covering it. There were some nervous laughs (thanks guys) and we jumped in. All summer I kicked myself for not starting the way I had intended. I had meant to direct everyone to the tattoos on Chip’s left arm as we began our study of the Storyline of Scripture...

There is a benefit to understanding the big picture when trying to rightly interpret and apply any given part of Scripture. It adds depth to meaning. In the same way that I understand old episodes of Lost better after having seen the most recent episodes, so also I can pick up on things in Scripture when I go back through it as I grow in my understanding of the overall plot.

I have also found that knowing God’s overall plan helps me trust Him with what He is doing with my life. To be certain, I fail to trust Him often, but there are times when I am reminded that there is something bigger going on here than just what I want.

While I would maybe like to claim that my thinking on this is purely the result of the illumination of the Spirit as I have studied the Word extensively apart from any other outside help... I can’t truthfully make that claim. My professors Greg Harris and Stephen J. Wellum both had a tremendous impact on my thinking here. So, thanks to them. Also, According to Plan and Part III of The Gospel-Centered Hermeneutic, both by Graeme Goldsworthy were two helpful resources. I don’t think they are books that you would regret reading...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

you didn't get to heaven, but you made it close...

If you aren't going to be able to make it to a Coldplay concert this year, let me direct your attention to a pretty cool recording from the BBC Radio Theatre.

It's here.

It may not be there after Saturday, so eat it up while you can...

If you are wondering how I could think that this post would point anyone to Christ, well, then you probably don't know me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

closing thoughts on the importance of scripture

There is a song by David Lee Murphy called “Dust on the Bottle.” For a while I thought the song was “Dust on the Bible.” Which, once I realized what the song was actually about, was really funny to consider how I could have substituted “Bible” for “bottle” in the song...

Creole Williams lived down a dirt road
Made homemade wine like nobody I know
Dropped by one Friday night and said can you help me Creole
Got a little girl waitin' on me and I wanna treat her right

I got what you need son, it's sittin down in the cellar
He reached through the cobwebs as he turned on the light and said

There might be a little dust on the Bible
But don't let it fool ya about what's inside
There might be a little dust on the Bible
It's one of those things that gets sweeter with time

She was sittin in the porch swing as I pulled up the driveway
My ole heart was racing as she climbed inside
She slid over real close and drove down to the lake road
Watched the sun fade in that big red sky

I reached under the front seat and said, now here's something special
It's just been waiting for a night like tonight


You're still with me, and we've made some memories
After all these years there’s one thing I've found
Some say good love, well it's like a fine wine
It keeps getting better as the days go by


But, let me say this; don’t let a little dust on the Bible fool you about what is inside. As people who have been redeemed by a bloodied Savior we would be fools to ignore His Word to us.

During my very first class at Southern last August, my professor, Dr. Russell D. Moore, made a statement that stuck with me. He was talking about all the academic challenges we would face in seminary. He stated that it would be difficult and there would be a lot of tedious work. Then he made the remark, “But if you leave here knowing your English Bible you are going to be just fine.” That statement has been a constant reminder to me to not lose the Word in theological studies. If I lose the Word then I have lost life and vitality.

I do not believe it is possible for me to have too much Scripture in my life. It is possible and likely that I might have too little love, passion, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. But I think it is an un-Christlike assumption that is would be possible to have too much of the Bible in my life.

Rather, I think the problem is more often that I have too little Scripture, coupled with love, passion, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, in my life. Certainly it is cause for repentance and a joining with David as he cried to the Father, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, ESV).