June 5, 2015

The One Who Created Me

The Perfect One bears imperfection.
The Spotless One bears the stain.
The Living One enters the tomb.
The Dying One lives again.

The One who created me
bids me to come.
Come to the cross.
Come to His Son.
All of my life without Him is vain.
All of eternity with Him is my gain.

The One who created the sun and the moon,
is wonderfully formed in the virgin's womb.
The One who sees all as but dust on the scales,
stoops down and stutters, He suffers the nails.
Wrath is poured out, we never will fathom
the depth of the love of our Perfect Ransom.

The One who created me
bids me to come.
Come to the cross.
Come to His Son.
All of my life without Him is vain.
All of eternity with Him is my gain.

The One who will judge gives grace ever flowing.
The Pure One will judge in truth, fully knowing.
Where will you stand on that fateful day?
Will you stand in His light, or be cast away?

The One who created me
bids me to come.
Come to the cross.
Come to His Son.
All of my life without Him is vain.
All of eternity with Him is my gain.

====================================

I wrote this on the occasion of my 10th wedding anniversary. Is there a musician out there willing to bend their talents and compose a tune?

April 3, 2015

A writer who doesn't

Writing.  It's hard. I never think that's the case when I'm reading. I read, and read, and read. Somewhere along the line I get the notion that I might have something to say. So I sit down with the intention of writing something, usually something specific that sparks my interest.

I sit down to write. and... nothing.

To write well, you must write regularly, repeatedly, consistently, and constantly. I hear that, and I want to write.

I sit down to write. and... nothing.

For a very long time, I've pictured a future time when I'll be able to focus, to concentrate, to come up with an idea and develop it. I don't think that future time will ever come. Years, and now decades have marched by. My reading list continues to grow. Others need my help. I must spend my energy while I can, doing what I must do in this phase of life, which is to help others.

I sit down to write. and... nothing.

Ten thousand thoughts running rambunctiously through my imagination all scatter like the wind when I decide to pluck one from the flock.

I sit down to write. and... nothing.

I read books by incredibly gifted, talented, and educated people. They make it look easy, effortless, like strolling down a leaf-strewn lane. I want to write.

I sit down to write. and... nothing.

Someday...

March 23, 2015

Perhaps the key verse of the Psalms

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the Lord!”(Ps. 150: 6)

January 15, 2015

Words of Wisdom

"What do we think preaching is? It is the central act of Christian worship!"
--Feed My Sheep, A Passionate Plea for Preaching

December 31, 2014

Words of Wisdom

"Wherefore, good children, labor with all diligence and study, that, when Christ shall come again to judge the world, He may find you holy and obedient."
--Thomas Cranmer

December 29, 2014

A Video Reading of Horatius Bonar's Book, The Everlasting Righteousness

Dear Friends, This is a work in progress but I would like to give you a sample of what has been completed. May God be glorified in this. The remaining chapters will be published in the coming weeks as they are completed.

September 4, 2014

Book Deal: Truth Matters - $5 @ CBD

Get it here.

Book Deal: Cold Case Christianity - $4.99 @ CBD

Get it here.

From the Archives: Book Review: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

Relationships, Roles, and Relevance

Bruce Ware authored a book on the Trinity, published through Crossway Books in 2005 titled Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. It is a focused examination of certain aspects of the Trinity. The subtitle reveals the focal points: "Relationships, Roles, & Relevance". In other words, Ware is going to explore the interactions of the persons of the Trinity, the roles they play in several areas, and the relevance the doctrine has for us today. The work is unique in both its content and length. Doctrinal works on the Trinity are relatively rare. Given the academic air that Ware breathes one could easily expect a voluminous treatment. This book is a short read. Not a quick read. Short.

Dr. Ware is briefly biographed on the back cover as the Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I have read a couple of his other works and listened to some of his lectures responding to the Open Theism heresy. His has been helpful in understanding the issues with Open Theism from a conservative evangelical point of view. So, how about this book? It has proven to be a mixed bag. Some good, some bad. Let's look at the good first.

The Good

Wonder


Ware reflects with amazement that the Father involves us in his kingdom work. I identify with the author when he roots his amazement in his own personality flaw of perfectionism. It is very hard for a perfectionist to let go of the reigns and allow someone else to do the work. I had to nod my head in agreement with Ware. The Father's generosity of opportunity in labor that is everlasting in its fruits (namely sharing the gospel in many forms) is truly wonderful and can rightly bring wonder to our hearts as part of our vocabulary of worship.


True Fatherhood

Ware asserts that we can learn what true fatherhood is by looking to God the Father as our great exemplar. He raises distinct but complementary aspects for our consideration:





"God as Father insists on our respect and obedience."

"God fathers us by being lavish, generous, even extravagant in his care, love, provision, and protection for his children."


I love the way Ware builds both our awareness of God's care and our worship vocabulary simultaneously. He has hit the true mark of theology - this is theology that issues forth in doxology, theology that leads to worship. It is not an easy mark to hit


Radical Feminism

Ware spends a full paragraph defending God's self-revelation as Father and strongly denouncing the radical feminist pursuit to eradicate masculine language of God in Scripture. Given the heart-commitment that some have to the feminist viewpoint, it is unlikely (humanly speaking) that the arguments presented will sway their thinking. Their ears are stuffed full with zeal. Even so, I thought Ware wrote with appropriate strength about the unbiblical nature of the feminist view. If we are to take the Scriptures as God-breathed we must make sense of them as they stand, not by tinkering with the wording to make it more palatable to modern tastes (so much for my poker-face in gender-neutral translations and the egalitarian debate).


Reciprocal Honor

Ware highlights the need for reciprocal honor of those in authority and those under authority. He asserts that the inter-relationships of the Trinity are the model and basis for this mutual honor. He does not demand one-way honor directed towards authority. He calls for reciprocal honor, all based on observed relationships within the Trinity. There is a healthy balance that is all too easily thrown off-kilter by our lusts and love of idolatry (especially when we are the idol).


One clarification could be raised here. Ware designates the inter-relationships of the Trinity as the model for reciprocal honor between the one in authority and the one under authority and he intends us to apply it on our plane of human inter-relationships. That is where the reciprocal honor applies. Honor does not apply reciprocally between God and us. Perhaps I am naive in thinking this way, but I do not presume to expect God to honor me mutually in my relationship with Him. I may pray for His blessing, but honor flows one direction in this relationship... from me to Him.


Jesus and the Spirit

Ware examines an aspect of Jesus' human life that I've rarely seen explored. He makes the case that Jesus' sinless human life is grounded in his submission to the Spirit rather than his divine nature. In doing so, Ware is exerting himself to bring Jesus' humanity to the forefront in the single most challenging area of the Christian faith - our daily walk. How many times have you felt disconnected from the perfection of Jesus' life because of the easy excuse, "He was God in the flesh. What do you expect of me?" This life of submission to and reliance upon the Holy Spirit is a good point that needs to be explored more widely in modern evangelical circles. Holiness continues to be a challenge to the modern soul, at times disappearing from mention concerning the daily walk of the Christian. This is one of the points that Ware makes which could benefit from much more treatment. He cannot explore it adequately in the brevity of this work.


Real Humanity - Interconnected and Interdependent
Ware notes our American cultural autonomy and its appeal to the power of the individual. In contrast, he places Trinitarian inter-relationships as the pattern for real, authentic humanity - interconnected and interdependent. Anticipating potential reactions to what I've written here, I want to highlight that Ware is speaking of the influence of our cultural autonomy. Ware is not proposing a socialist political identity or some other nonsense as a corrective to our cultural autonomy.


Relationships and Essential Being Within the Trinity

Ware correctly attributes simultaneous worship of the Father and Son. He discusses equality of the essential nature of the persons of the Trinity (the ontological trinity, theologically speaking). He emphasizes and re-emphasizes the authority structure of the functional relationships of the Trinity (the economic Trinity).


Counsel for Christian Husbands
Ware writes forcefully and pointedly of the example set before Christian husbands in the care of their wives. His thought is founded upon the demonstrated interplay between the persons of the Trinity. I appreciate him including this section of the book. The way he presents the material is helpful and will make a difference in the way I care for my own dear wife.

Having noted all of the above points as good and profitable portions of Ware's book, let's move on to a couple of problematic propositions.






The Bad


I was surprised to find what Ware has written concerning Christian prayer and Christian worship as it relates to the Trinity. Prayer and worship sit squarely in the practice of the daily Christian walk. Several other areas Ware explores in the book are experiential, but none of them have the kind of deep impact that prayer and worship have in the life of the believer.




Prayer

Ware is deeply committed to the form of prayer prescribed by Jesus for the disciples in Matt 6/Luke 11. He emphasizes this form early in the work and repeats it often throughout the book. The repetition makes it obvious that this is a strong current in Ware's theology. In a nutshell, Ware believes Christian prayer is directed to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Period.

Ware recognizes the radical nature of his position, identifying it as such in his first mention on page 18. Even though this is his initial presentation, it is phrased in very strong language. He exerts himself to bring home the controversial nature of his position. He writes the following:





"The Christian's life of prayer must rightly acknowledge the roles of the Father, Son, and Spirit as we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. ... May I suggest something both clear and radical? If Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, then we ought to do this. ... So prayer rightly understood - Christian prayer - is prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. To pray aright, we need a deep appreciation for the doctrine of the Trinity." p.18

I agree with Ware on two points. His position is both clear and radical. In the face of such radical clarity, should we adapt our devotional life to fit Ware's definition of Christian prayer? After all, he is an established Christian scholar and seminary professor. It is obvious that he possesses the training and credentials to form a powerful case for his position. Nonetheless, in my years of research and observation of pseudo-Christian cults, I have constantly encountered hundreds of clear, radical beliefs. We clearly must ask the question, "Is this biblical?" Clear? Yes. Radical? Absolutely. Biblical? (spoiler alert) Absolutely not.
Ware understands well enough that he is setting himself in opposition to the devotional instruction and example that many (probably most) evangelicals have received. He writes, "We may encourage our children, especially, to open their prayers with, 'Dear Jesus,' despite the fact that Jesus said to pray 'Our Father in heaven . . .'". Let's be clear about this. Ware isn't suggesting a slight modification to the prayer life of the evangelical Christian, where we address the Father or the Son. He rejects prayer to Christ as Christian prayer; as praying aright; and as meaningful, biblical prayer. He explicitly states that addressing our prayers to the Father alone is to pray aright. If adherence to this position is to pray aright, then stepping outside of it is to pray awrong. Ware indicts modern evangelical piety head-on. In doing so, has he indicted biblical prayer as well?


Stephen - The First Christian Martyr





And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" And having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60, NASB)



The Disciples When Replacing Judas Iscariot


And they prayed, and said, "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship
from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. " (Acts 1:24-25, NASB)



Saul's Thorn in the Flesh




Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9, NASB)



Christ Answers Prayer Directed to Him




"And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14, NASB)



Paul Entreats Jesus





Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; (1 Thessalonians 3:11-12, NASB)







Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NASB)



The Last Prayer in the Bible





He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20, NASB)


A Biblical View

The above is a sample of the examples. They provide ample biblical evidence that Christian prayer may be directed to Christ and not solely to the Father in Christ's name. Ware's view is clear, radical, and unbiblical. There is a sense in which Ware's rebuke of evangelical practice is proper. By and large, evangelical Christians appear to function as 'Jesus only' unitarians. We overemphasize Jesus and hold the Father at arms' length. As a corrective to this imbalanced piety, Ware is on target that a faulty understanding of the Trinity drives us away from the Father in our devotional life. It would be a much easier pill to swallow if Ware did not employ such stark language contrasting typical practice with his radical suggestion. If his goal was to encourage us to return to addressing the Father in concert with the Son, there was no need for the extreme contrast. Due to the fact he uses such contrast, this was obviously not his simple goal. He is intentional enough in what he has said to make it clear he is proposing a complete reformation of evangelical prayer.

James White addresses the evangelical 'Jesus only' prayer life in his book The Forgotten Trinity with as much clarity as Ware but without adopting the radical position Ware has taken up. I heartily recommend White's book on the Trinity as a fine starting point to understanding the Trinity and its necessary impact on all aspects of our life, faith, piety, and practice. It is a fuller treatment of the Trinity than Ware's book. Granted, Ware is focusing on specific aspects of the Trinity, which again indicates that his book is not the place for the committed reader to begin studying the Trinity.

The Normal Pattern
When you survey the pattern of prayer demonstrated in the New Testament, you will find that most prayers are directed to the Father. Ware pushes us towards this biblical model of prayer, but he does so too forcefully. We would all benefit from cultivating our devotional relationship with the Father but this does not justify making a case appear stronger than it is. If only Ware would have approached this imbalance in a balanced manner, he may have had a much more positive and wide ranging impact. Imbalance is not corrected by another imbalance.

Concerning Worship
Ware states:





"Hence, Christian worship must be worship of the Son, by the power of the Spirit, to the ultimate glory of the Father. Worship is deeply satisfying and correctly expressed to the glory of this triune God only as it is exercised within this trinitarian framework" (p.155)


In approaching the topic of worship, Ware again falls into language that is too strong and imbalanced. "Christian worship must be worship of the Son"? I believe Ware is less than coherent on this point. Jesus gave explicit instruction in Luke 4:8 concerning worship of God that is unreconcilable with his instruction to the woman at the well in John 4:21-24 if we adopt Ware's position. It feels as if Ware has made a similar error in thinking as he made with prayer. In offering a corrective to an imbalance in current practice, he goes too far and ends up out on a theological limb.

Worship and prayer are related. Many theologians consider prayer to be an act of worship. If Christian prayer (a form of worship) is to be directed to the Father alone and Christian worship (which would include prayer) is to be directed to the Son alone, we are stuck in a theological conundrum. Can we do either in a Christian fashion in the construct Ware has built? This is not theology that leads to doxology. It is theology that leads to paralysis. Other sections of the book do bring us to live as we should. The intermingled doctrines of prayer and worship as presented do not lead us to the same destination.



Not only have I been surprised at Ware's position on prayer/worship, I am perplexed at the unqualified recommendations that internet reviewers have given the book. Brothers and sisters, are you reading carefully? While I agree that Ware has many profitable things to say, they pale in comparison to the potential damage caused by his unbalanced and contradictory positions on prayer and worship. This error is the kind of minefield that could blow apart a local church. Has anyone become convinced by Ware's argument that prayer must be offered to the Father alone through Christ? If so, a balanced biblically-based worship service would be akin to scraping your forehead with a cheese grater. If the church has been protected wholesale by God's grace from falling into this error, I am thankful for His outpoured mercy.


So what is my overall opinion of the book? Although Ware presents several helpful points which will make a difference in my life, the deep impact of his position on prayer/worship gives me great concern.



For Further Study Concerning Prayer to Christ
Millard Erickson
God in Three Persons
The Word Became Flesh


H. R. Mackintosh
The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ

Robert Morey
The Trinity: Evidence and Issues


Simon Kistemaker
New Testament Commentary - Acts, I Corinthians


Gordon Fee
New International Commentary on the New Testament, I Corinthians


John Calvin
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles


Robert Reymond
A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith


B. B. Warfield
The Lord of Glory


John Owen
Christologia


Wayne Grudem
Systematic Theology


Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology, vol II


Bruce Milne
Know the Truth


Robert Dabney
Lectures in Systematic Theology


Leon Morris
Reflections on the Gospel of John
Jesus is the Christ


Jerome Smith
The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Acts 7:58-59

August 26, 2014

A Reluctant Yet Hopeful Conclusion

"And now it is once more with some feeling of reluctance that I lay down my pen. I cannot but fear lest the great truth I have sought to unfold should suffer in the estimation of some, through being divorced from practical exhortations to a holy life. But I take comfort from the hope that thoughtful minds will in no way share the prejudice. Valuable though exhortation be, truth has a power independently of the appeals we base upon it; and, therefore, no teaching that is truly doctrinal, can fail to be likewise practical. In dealing with this subject I have already gone somewhat beyond the due limits of my theme, which is the gospel, and not the Christian life, but I have struggled in vain to keep within them. The unusual interest which the doctrine of holiness now excites, combined with the fact that the great truth of sanctification by blood is absolutely unknown to our creeds, and little noticed in our religious literature, has not only made my task important, but vastly increased my difficulties in the effort to fulfill it. I now dismiss it with a parting word. Even by those who own it, this truth is sometimes spoken of as though it were a fiction or a theory. But with the Israelite his sanctification was one of the most true and solemn facts of his existence. Upon it depended, not alone his citizenship in the commonwealth, but his life itself. And shall it be deemed less real in this dispensation, when shadows have given way to substance, types to their fulfilment? If the sanctification of the Jew was a great and practical reality, how much more, the sanctification of the believer now. "If the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

-- Sir Robert Anderson; The Gospel and Its Ministry

August 20, 2014

Updated - DeYoung's Taking God At His Word: Resources


God's Word is Sufficient, Clear, Authoritative, and Necessary

You can get Kevin DeYoung's new book, Taking God at His Word for $1.99 on Kindle. I'm currently reading through this book with my pastor.  It's a heartwarming and encouraging call to faithfulness.

As well, there are lecture & sermon resources available.

DeYoung @ T4G - 2014




Kevin DeYoung preaching on the Doctrine of Scripture, May-July 2012


From Pastor DeYoung's own church, you can listen to or watch the sermons which fed this book. For convenience I'm linking the videos directly here.


Taking God At His Word Conference - 2014

Westminster Seminary has some videos from a conference which may also be of interest.


Carried Along by the Holy Spirit: The Inspiration of Scripture as an Inspiration for your Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

Two Q and A Panel video albums with Kevin DeYoung, Carl Trueman, and Greg Beale:






August 19, 2014

ESV JMac Study Bible $6

The ESV MacArthur Study Bible for kindle, only $6.

A Teacher and Author You Need To Know

Don Whitney has a new website and a revised book.



Biblical Spirituality is his new blog. He has revised and expanded his classic work, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. There are books you must read, and there are books you must read because they change your life. Don's book falls into the second category. I have read this book multiple times, as well as using it in my Adult Bible Fellowship class.




Don has distilled gems of wisdom into a unique collection of bulletin inserts.



August 14, 2014

Words of Wisdom

"Mix your pleasures with the remembrance of Christ's bitter passion."
 - Latimer (1480-1555)

May 21, 2014

Words of Wisdom

"...  Christ's prison is better than the world's paradise"
-- Joseph Alleine, writing from prison

May 16, 2014

One More Thought on Evening Services

Recently, Tim Challies and Thom Rainer have weighed in on reasons behind the demise of the evening service, particularly the Sunday evening service. The reasons are complex (and possibly not all bad if the local church has been able to develop a vibrant small-group setting).

From my reading of their thoughts, one piece of the puzzle is missing - divorce. Specifically, the practical reality of weekend parenting usually reserved for dads. There is a double-impact here: divorced dads with young kids are also in their prime of life and would tend to be major contributors to and supporters of the Sunday evening service. We not only lose their energy needed to sustain a viable Sunday evening service, we also lose both them and their families to windshield time or a scheduled hand-off on Sunday nights.

I'm not exactly sure how this escaped the notice of Tim and Thom. Perhaps their local church does not struggle with attendees or divorce, but for the majority of churches, a relatively small flock thinned by even a couple of families will leave a noticeable void in the Sunday service.

This is not an issue that can be resolved through piling on guilt. If you think it's a lack of spiritual hunger on the part of the dads, consider this. When was the last time you spent 50% of your time with your children in church? As well, there are the additional factors needing consideration, such as the distance traveled to return them home, decompression time for kids to adjust between households, and allowing a reasonable bedtime for school the following morning.

There are many more complexities to the question of the demise of Sunday evening services. I sincerely want to make sure this hurdle did not go unrecognized.

May 9, 2014

Redeem Your Commute

If you have a regular drive and would like to redeem that time, I recommend listening to an audio Bible like the one available from Crossway. For the last few months, I have been listening to a single chapter of John repeatedly as I prepare to teach on it to our youth group. Hearing the text in another voice adds depth to the Scriptures. I have repeatedly found myself thinking, "I don't remember reading that." It is wise to redeem our hours/days/weeks/years here and an audio Bible is one modern-day option that you should consider.