Friday, June 30, 2006

The Evangelical Mystic

For some folks the average reading an average theologian makes for little more than a headache. Perhaps to some they seem dry, boring, and appear as nothing more than ivory towers for the academia. In short their works and words have no bearing on the spiritual and practical lives of everyday Christians. I have written here enough on this topic in hopes that many will read it and see that such is not the case with theology. That, in fact, all people have a theology and it has huge implications for worship and life (see my latest article "The Heart and the Head"). But the recent interest in one 17th Century German Theologian makes this discussion again relevant.

Johann Gerhard, a Lutheran church leader, professor, and theologian, is what some would call an Evangelical Mystic. Perhaps the language is not the most helpful, for when most people think of mystics they think of Julian of Norwich or Margery Kemp, but such is not the case with Gerhard. Two works in particular stand out as some grand examples of experiential spirituality rich with theological truth: "Sacred Meditations," and "Meditations on Divine Mercy". Speaking of Gerhard Gene Edward Veith writes:

Gerhard was both right-brained and left-brained in his expressions of faith. He also wrote a Systematic Theology of the most scholarly, anylitically rigorous, and profound sort....You don't have to be a Lutheran to appreciate and draw on Gerhard.

Concordia Publishing Co. is in the process of publishing all 15 volumes of this work. Perhaps "Mystic" isn't the right word, but for those looking for a theology that is both spiritually rich and practical this may be a good place to start.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Struggling Christian

In a recent article for the Christian journal Themelios Tom Schreiner, Professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes a word of hope to those struggling with homosexuality. His pastoral heart comes through in the quote that Al Mohler has posted on his blog. We are both redeemed and freed from the power of sin if we are in Christ, and yet we are still prone to wander. And even though I do not personally struggle with homosexuality these words were a great comfort to me, for no matter what sin it is all Christians still struggle in this life. Read these words of warning and grace:

Movie Goers

I recently finished an intresting book by a Hollywood Screenwriter, Brian Godawa. The book Hollywood Worldviews is a gift to all movie lovers who struggle with the ability to discern good and bad films, and indeed good and bad in films. Godawa has been teaching this very subject for a number of years and his book, which is several years old, is a testimony to both his giftedness as a professor and a screenwriter. He lays out the basic elements of storytelling in hopes that his readers will be more equipped to disect and analyze movies. Critical thinking with films is a must for all Christians. So if you love the cinema I recommend to you Godawa's book, or you can read my article under Pastor Dave's Articles "Theology At the Movies".

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Life is More than Utilitarian

What are we to do with sunsets? With snow-covered mountain peaks? With mists on a cool summer morning? Why did God create the world with such color? Why green instead of grey? Why are there different hues and shades, different textures and blends? Beauty is all around us and it was from the very creation of the world. In Genesis 2:9 we read that God created trees in the Garden of Eden that were both "pleasant to the sight" and "good for food." But why did He do this? The answer must have to do with the subject of beauty.

Beauty is often criticized and perverted, but is there any real value in beauty itself? I believe so. The Biblical doctrine of Creation points to God's creating all things, and included among that "all" must be those things we identify as beautiful. In creating the trees to change the colors of their leaves in the fall, in creating the red apple to glisten in the sun God did not think it was necessary that the world be only functional. As Leland Ryken writes:

The biblical view of creation encourages us to believe that artistic beauty needs no justification for its existence...These things have meaning because God made them. Artistic beauty has meaning in itself because God thought it good to give beauty to people quite apart from any consideration of practical uselfulness. (Leland Ryken, The Liberated Imagination)

While some Christians today disparge beauty as a sinful and man-made, and the ever rising popularity of nihilistic art aims at portraying the grotesque, meaningless, and chaotic, it is part of a full Christian Worldview to embrace beauty. God has given the gift of beauty and we may delight in it as a reminder of the source of beauty: the perfections of God Himself. So the next time you see a sunset, a star-lit sky, or a rose treasure that beauty and think of its source and maker. Life was not only meant to be utilitarian, it was meant to be enjoyed.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Me Church

Me Church: Where It's All About You!

Check it out:

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Cowboy Church?

The apostle Paul describes the church as united. A body of believers who are not differentiated as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, but where all are one in Christ. This is the type of unity that the Bible describes, "one in Christ." It seems that this unity is matched up across America with other types of unity that might not be so healthy.

Baptist Press has recorded the movement of one of these examples recently, the Cowboy Church. Jeff Smith, of the Cowboy Church Network of North America, spoke with Baptist Press about the development of the Cowboy church. Jamie Gentner writes:

After pastoring traditional churches for 20 years, the ardent cowboy decided to reach out to people who told him they ride their horses on Saturday and Sunday.One day, he told some fellow cowboys in Mount Pleasant, N.C., he would rent out the Circle K arena on Sunday if they would come to hear a message and ride. It worked: 68 people showed up the first time and the idea for a cowboy church was born.

The article continues with a description of the congregation's usual gatherings:

Doug Davis, pastor of the Triad Cowboy Church, said the cowboy congregation sings hymns, prays and hears a message and an invitation just like traditional churches, but it’s the atmosphere that makes it different. Members don’t have to be cowboys to attend the Tuesday night services, and they can wear whatever they like -— western gear, shorts and T-shirts or business clothes. Pony rides begin and end the service and fellowship events may include trail rides and cookouts.

A Cowboy Church? Somehow this strikes me as something other than the type of unity that Paul spoke of. This does not seem to me to be uniting around Christ, but uniting around the American Cowboy in the fashion of Church. Perhaps that seems to harsh. After all they are conducting church services, and the goal was to reach out evangelistically and to minister to modern cowboys. Yet somehow, this still misses the point. The church is meant to be a place that centers on Christ, not on Cowboys. It is meant to be a place where we gather with other believers to worship God, not ride horses. Furthermore, despite that "Members don't have to be cowboys to attend" who is willing to go to a Cowboy Church if they are not cowboys? These types of specialized churches are popping up everywhere. Punk Rock Churches in California, specicifically Baby-Boomer churches in the North, and the Cowboy Church out West. But each of these narrowly defined congregations misses the benefits of more eclectic congregations, not to mention that they serve as a poor witness to the all-encompassing love of Christ.

If the Cowboy Church is attempting to reach a specific group of men and women who are otherwise uninterested in Christ, they are doing so at the expense of much. Christ certainly loves the Cowboy, but His church is united on something more.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Solid Books at Great Prices!

Solid Ground Books is having an emergency inventory reduction sale. Check out their prices on some of these great classic books:

- Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1- Herman Bavinck (28.95)

-Vol. 2 also 28.95

- Vol. 3 for 27.95

- A Hert for Missions: The Classic Memoir of Samuel Pearce- Andrew Fuller (8.50)

- The Backslider- Andrew Fuller (7.95)

- Ready for Reformation- Tom Nettles (9.00)

- Why I am A Baptist- Tom Nettles and Russ Moore (9.00)

- Baptists and the Bible- Tom Nettles and Rush Bush (19.50)

- Disciplines for a Godly Man- R. Kent Hughes (10.95)

- The God Who Justifies- James White (11.00)

These are just a some of the great books you can find at Solid Ground. If I were rich I'd order them all, but then again if I were rich I probably wouldn't worry about sales as much.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day is for the Fatherless

As we celebrated today the wonderful gift that God has given us in fathers I can't help but praise the Lord for my own father. My dad has been a wonderful example before me of a man who loves his wife and loves his children, and I have learned much from watching him. At the same time, however, I have thought: what will "Father's Day" mean for those without father's. When I say "those without fathers" I mean of course those who either have lost their fathers or who do not know them. How can they celebrate this day?

1) For those who have their own children it becomes imperative to celebrate it through showing what godly fathers should look like. Leading families, taking your children to dinner, expressing what it means to be a father. Dads in this position must show their daughters what a Biblical husband looks like, and show their sons how to be biblical men. Celebrate this day by acknowledging that while you are a flawed dad, you are striving to live Biblically before God and before your family.

2) Honor older men who have been "fathers" in your life. Specifically honor those who have been spiritual fathers to you. Express your appreciation for them. Treat them as you would imagine godly sons treat their fathers. Acknowledge that spiritual reproduction is of great importance and you thank the Lord for their service and love.

3) Love those who do not have children present to celebrate with them. The church is a family and for those who are alone on this day, show your support and love for these men. Take them to lunch, invite them to dinner with your family. Honor them as special guests in your home and demonstrate that they are not alone so long as they are a part of your congregation. Fill the void in both your lives with service to one another.

4) Thank God. Psalm 68:5 teaches us that God is a father to the fatherless. What a joy and amazing comfort this is. For some the thought of God being a father brings fear and resentment. But let it sink in that God is not like an earthly father. While earthly fathers are flawed, fail, and even hurt us sometimes God is perfect in His love, leadership, and protection. Those who have fathers have an earthly reminder of the great God who is the true Father of all Christians, but the Fatherless have this promise of direct connection: God is the Father of the Fatherless. The flawed and imperfect father need not distract them from the truth of what he is to point to: our heavenly Father. To be sure, our human fathers have great value, that is why God gave them to us, but the fatherless have this great comfort- God intervenes to be a protector, provider, and leader in the immediate lives of these individuals.

I am thankful for this great promise. I am glad to know that if my father passes on to be with the Lord that I have a heavenly father who will intervene for me where an earthly father is absent. Furthermore when I have children I can rest assured that as flawed as I am God is who I am pointing them to- Praise the Lord for all fathers (spiritual, biological, familial) and thank God that He is the perfect Father.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

President Page and Former President Paige

Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylor, S.C. is the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention (elected by the messengers of local churches on June 13th). I personally would not have voted for Page, though not for any personal reason. I am sure he is a godly man with a heart for the Lord's work. Rather it is on the grounds of theological differences that I would hesitate to cast my vote in his corner. As I was unable to attend the Annual meeting this year, however, I did not cast my vote for anyone.

The concerns I have over Page surround the materials from his 2000 released book "Trouble with the Tulip: A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism." Certainly I do not object to having a non-Calvinist president, I am not so stubbourn, but Page's book is not an objective or even a closer look at Calvinism at all. Tom Ascol has reviwed this book and concludes several important things: 1) "The Tone of the book is, for the most part, very gracious towards those who are convinced Calvinists." (2) "Dr. Page is a very kind man, faithful pastor, and would be wonderful to know as a friend." (3) "for the most part his views are little more than restatements of positions that have taken long before, including the confusion of 'Five Point' Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism." (4) "Page also rehashes the old canard that Calvinism always kills evangelism" (5) and lastsly "if Dr. Page genuinely believes what he has written about Calvinism, then no amount of kindness can justify his willingness to work with the kinds of people he has described in his book!"

Read the full review at What is interesting to note about the election of this new non-Calvinist Page president is that it coincides with the discussion of Calvinism by a former Paige President. Paige Patterson and Albert Mohler Jr. discussed their differences over the doctrine of election on Monday June 12th of the Convention's annual meeting. During this discussion Patterson is said to have warned his non-Calvinist friends not to accuse Calvinism of being anit-evangelistic and anti-missional (exactly what Dr. Page has done in his book). This is a common misrepresentation of Calvinism, and will only be done away with when people truly do the research and study the Calvinist authors themselves. President Page could learn a thing or two from the former President Paige on this matter. I guess these are just two different pages in the book of the SBC encounters with Calvinism.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Family Vacation

Krista and I have just returned from a weeks vacation with her family and it has served as a week of relaxation, fun, and reminders.

I have been blessed with two wonderful families, my own and my in-laws. Both have served me in amazing ways and my love for each continues to grow. My own family has alwasy been dear to me and I owe much thanks to God for them; they have, in large part, made me the man I am today. As I continue to grow in my relationship with them and my in-laws I thank the Lord simply for the creation of the family unit. It is in the first chapters of Genesis that God establishes the home, and he did so before he ever created the church or the state. This says alot about the importance of this institution. How some can run off and leave their families without a second thought, without any hesitation is to me amazing. Why so many children grow up never knowing their grandparents, or hardly knowing them is mind boggling. It use to be that famalies lived in the same homes, now they hardly live in the same areas. This week has served as a reminder to me that the family is an important institution, established by God, for the pleasure and development of His people. It has served as a reminder of how much I need both these families and how much I love them.

Yet, it has also served as a warning. The love of the extended family is, I believe, an honorable and godly thing. But for those men and their immediate families who serve in the ministry it is to be held in view of another love- love for Christ and the gospel ministry. Christ clearly states:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

These are harsh and startling words. They are coupled with, however, an amazing promise from the very lips of our God and savior. Christ says in Matthew 19:29, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life." What a promise. It deserves to be commented on here.

First note that it says those who leave family "for my name's sake." This is not an unqualified promises guranteeing blessing for those who abandon their families. The family is important to God, that is why elsewhere we read Paul speaking against those families who leave their widowed mothers to take care of themselves. Those who can should stay near their families and take care of them.

But note secondly that those who do leave family to serve and honor the name of Christ, to do ministry work, will receive God's blessing. These are the ones that Christ speaks of as "worthy of Him." Not that they are worthy because of their work, but because the work of the Spirit in them has granted to them a greater desire for Christ's glory than for their comfort.

I love my families and I pray that the Lord would grant my wife and I to be near them in the ministry, but should He not- we will go, knowing that He rewards the faithful, and knowing that our ministry glorfies His name!

In the end we may rejoice that those who are Christians have a bigger family than their immediate and even extended ones, they have a family that goes beyond the bounds of the geographical and even temporal world: that is the family of all those who belong to Christ, both near and far, both past and present. What an amazing gift the family is!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Highlighting Books for Ladies

In recent days my wife and I have been discussing good books for women. It is sad that too often Christian books for women are shallow and mushy. Some contain lots of great stories and anecdotes but offer little Biblical advice. Others encourage good moral living but fail to exalt Christ. Still others encourage more of a self-esteem boost than a dependence of the sufficient grace of God. So what books are good for ladies? To help my women readers discern good books I have composed the following list.

1) Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets them Free- Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Summary: In Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh DeMoss exposes areas of deception she believes are common to many Christian women and are at the root of their struggles. Some of the lies include lies about God, sin, priorities, marriage, family, and emotions. She deals honestly with women's delusions and illusions and then gently leads them to the truth of God's word that leads to true freedom.
Shortcomings: It can be harsh at times, and not all will agree with everythign that DeMoss says, but nonetheless there is great value and a general love for women that the author conveys in this book.

2) Overcoming Fear, Worry, & Anxiety: Becoming a Woman of Faith & Confidence- Elyse Fitzpatrick
Summary:Fear and worry are surprisingly common and paralyzing emotions for many women today. In fact, even those who have been Christians for years find themselves battling difficult and often overwhelming concerns--concerns about marital strife, rebellious children, problems in the workplace or at home, serious health issues, financial difficulties, and much more. God knew worry would be a very real problem. He addresses the issue in the Bible many times, giving practical guidance that is the only true solution to our fears and worries. Women will find comfort and encouragement as they learn from the transparent, real-life examples of others who have struggled with anxiety, including the author herself. A warm, friendly, and solidly biblical book that helps women to cast their cares upon God and be filled with complete confidence for every circumstance in life.

3) The Excellent Wife- Martha Peace
Summary: Who is an excellent wife? What is she like? Using the woman in Proverbs 31 as a model, trusted Christian counselor Peace offers detailed practical answers to questions most often asked by Christian wives. Her proven principles and scripturally based insights will encourage you to become the wife God wants you to be. This is a must-read for every Christian wife.

4) A Woman After God's Own Heart- Elizabeth George
Summary: Elizabeth George, who has led women's ministries for over 30 years, explains how the pursuit of God as the priority is what is necessary become a woman who loves her husband and children, and delights in the domestic role. George has much skill at explaining how this practically can work out in the lives of women, and even helps you to learn how to fit in other ministry opportunities.

5) Feminine Appeal- Carolyn Mahaney
Summary: A book of instruction for wives and mothers that explores 7 virtues which are to mark a woman's life, found in Titus 2. God has given older women the responsibility to teach younger women about these virtues. Putting them into practice is a matter of larger consequence than having a happy home: it's about being a good picture of our Lord and His message to our families and to a watching world.

Without getting carried away I simply list a few other books without their summaries below. I encourage the ladies to pick up and read at least one of these books. I greatly appreciate that so many women these days have an interest in reading, and especially in reading Christian material. But it is important to remember that not all books are created equal and some deserve your time and others simply do not. Choose wisely sisters.

1) Biblical Womanhood in the Home- ed. Nancy Leigh DeMoss
2) Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America- Jeff Pollard
3) Devotions for Ministry Wives- ed. Barbra Hughes
4) Beautiful in God's Eyes- Elizabeth George
5) Love to Eat, Hate to Eat- Elyse Fitzpatrick
6) Home Making- J.R. Miller
7) The Hospitality Commands- Alexander Strauch
8) Let Me Be A Woman- Elizabeth Elliot
9) Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Johnathan and Sarah Edwards- Elizabeth Dodds
10) Men and Women: Equal Yet Different ( A Brief Study of the Biblical Passages on Gender) - Alexander Strauch
11) The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture- Mary Kassian
12) Treasuring God in Our Traditions- Noel Piper
13) Disciplines of a Godly Woman- Barbra Hughes
14) Women's Ministry in the Local Church- J. Ligon Duncan III and Susan Hunt
15) Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to Major Issues Women Face- Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Thankfulness and In-Laws

I love my wife, adore her even. She is indeed the most wonderful gift, beyond my salvation, that God has given to me in this life. Yet I recognize that she is much like her mother and father. Many of her qualities and attributes can be seen in her parents. It was not until I stopped to consider this more carefully that I began to realize how much I should thank God for my wife's Christian parents.

To have a wife who grew up in a Christian home, learned, from a young age, how to serve and honor and worship Him is no small thing. A wife who has seen first hand how to raise up Christian children, how to serve your family to the glory of God and yet still serve your church is a blessing which no husband can overlook. It is something to thank the Lord for. He did not have to give my wife such a background, or me such a wife. It is a testimony to His tender mercy in our lives.

My in laws continue in many ways to help my small family today, yet none of these blessings even come close to the grand blessing of a Christian wife raised in a Christian home from her birth. So to the Lord I say, "Thank you for my wife's family and their love for you, and their instruction of her."

Friday, June 02, 2006

At The Movies

We've seen a number of films the last month and a half and while some were good some reminded me that you can never be passive about your entertainment. I'll review, briefly, several of the films we've seen as of late.

1) X-Men 3: The Last Stand- At the sheer entertainment level this is a quality film. The action, the dialogue, the plot are all well done, which was a suprise to many who were upset with Fox Movies choice of a new director for this third film in the comic book trilogy. A few choice words I could have done without (on several occassions they didn't even flow well in the dialogue), one sort of lousy actress, and some cheesy one-liners bring the film down a bit, but it nonetheless remained a good film for me. Of course the theme of evolution is one that I whole heartidly disagree with. The suggestion that humanity will someday evolve into superhuman mutants is, of course, a fictional fantasy, but for those who embrace the theory of evolution it may quite possibly be a future hope. As a biblical Christian I think it is important to remember that this theme is part of the X-Men universe, yet I still think it is acceptable to find value and enjoyment in the film.

2) Hoodwinked- A hillarious, animated twist on an old fairy-tale. While avoiding the crude humour that other types of these films have upheld (such as Shrek and Shrek 2) this film loses none of its wit and charm. One of the charms of this film is, as World Magazine put it, "There's plenty for adults to enjoy, but almost none at the expense of the movies intended audience." It's a rare find in animated films of this genre, a film that can make adults laugh without resorting to the kind of jokes that we fear our children may repeat.

3) Runaway Jury- Based on the novel by John Grisham, this court room thrille keeps the attention pretty well and has a few twists that really work effectively. The film is fast paced, yet at parts can feel a little long. The chief downfall of the film, however, is the glorified evil view. The main characters are sort of vigelante anti-heroes, and in this regard gain the audience's support. As Christians we have to be concious that we do not root for the villians when we go to the movies.

4) Fun With Dick and Jane- The Downfall of this film is the same as the former: the glorified evil aspect. Jim Carey and Tea Leoni do well in their repsective roles as struggle married couple Dick and Jane Harper. Like most Carey films there are parts that are histarical, yet overall it's not going to win any awards in my book.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Slowly Returning

Well after a much needed break from many things I will slowly be returning to some of them. The weblog will be updated on a more gradual basis, it is definately not a priority, yet I do get a great deal of pleasure out of it. For whatever it is worth to my regular readers I will be posting again. Your prayers for my dedication to wife, church, school, and work are still much appreciated.

Thank YOu to all who have been an encouragement to me about this weblog.