Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ministry in the OT and NT

Recently, in studying and teaching through the life of Saul, I noticed the similarity of these two verses. The first is from Samuel's farewell address in 1 Samuel 12. The second is from the apostles' instructions to the church to choose deacons to carry out the work of ministry.

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way (1 Samuel 12:23).

But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).

In both cases we see a commitment to prayer and a commitment to the ministry of teaching the truth.

All spiritual leaders, whether pastors or dads or Bible study teachers or whatever other relationship one might be in would do well to grasp the necessity of prayer and the teaching of the word.

To do less is to "sin against the Lord."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Food for Thought

Even as believers should learn to look for reasons behind their faith, skeptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternative beliefs (Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p. xvii).

Through marriage God fills the earth with (mostly unwitting) witnesses to the relationship between him and his covenant people. This is one of the main reasons that divorce and remarriage are so serious. They tell a lie about God's relationship to his people. God never divorced his wife and married another. There were separations and much pain, but he always took her back (John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World, p. 303).

When we suffer what seems like endless pain, it is hard to believe that God loves us, but Jesus' suffering proves that it can be true ... The cross is the only evidence that can fully persuade you that God is, at all times, good and generous. There is no arguing with someone who is willing to make this ultimate sacrifice (Ed Welch, Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, p. 51).

He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

$3 Worth of God

For some reason, this has stuck with me for more than twenty years since the first time I read it. I think it's the way a lot of people look at their relationship with God.

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God please (Wilbur Rees, cited in Swindoll, Improving Your Serve, p. 29).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Self-Help? Who'd a Thunk it?

The New York Times Arts page recently had an article about Tyndale House Publishers that called Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life a "runaway self-help hit."

Perhaps they understand more than many evangelicals do.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Piper on Baptism and Church Membership

John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church are once again taking up the issue of believer's baptism and church membership, questioning whether the door of the local church should be more narrow than the door of the universal body of Christ.

They addressed this not too long ago but dropped the issue when they received some pushback. Now, they are bringing it up again, with no recommendation to the body and no time frame.

At the heart of the issue is Piper's belief that believer's baptism should not be made a requirement for church membership.

In the first of three messages on the topic, Piper argues that his view is based on the fact that he takes membership so seriously. Essentially he says, we take membership in the local church so seriously that we need to open the membership to people who have not been scripturally baptized because their conscience is satisfied with their pedobaptism. (I say "scripturally baptized" because I understand that Piper thinks believer's immersion is scriptural baptism; I am not using that term prejudicially here.)

While there was much in the message worthy of interaction, I will simply pose two questions that come to my mind:

1. Are we really taking membership more seriously when we lower the standards for it?

2. What other matters of conscience will people be able to disagree on and still be members? The historicity of the gospels? The resurrection of Jesus? The Exodus? I think we could make the case that the objective* case for believer's baptism is more clear than an objective case for the historicity of any of the others, and I doubt that anyone doubts the others in "bad conscience." All of those things (and many more) have explanations that do not require historicity, but it seems difficult to deny the command and pattern of baptism in the NT as being believers baptism?

Or what if they disagree "in good conscience" on the necessity of baptism at all?


*By "objective" I mean provable. The scriptural teaching on believer's baptism are clear, it seems to me. The others are presented as fact, but the use of myth in ancient literature is well-established and someone "in good conscience" (as Piper seems to use the idea) could say that these are merely myths designed to teach a bigger story.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ed Welch on Medications

I was recently relistening to Mark Dever's 9 Marks interview with Ed Welch. I highly recommend Ed Welch's materials, having found great benefit in them.

In this interview, Dever was questioning Welch on the use of anti-depressants and other psychotropic drugs. He had some interesting comments.

Welch observed that in previous days when the use of drugs was first coming on the scene it was common for believers to question the propriety of such drugs. These days, by the time believers come to pastors for help, they are already on these drugs. Welch says he does not address the use of drugs, but rather focuses on the issues of heart.

Here is a transcribed quote from around the forty-minute mark (transcribed fairly closely, though if you have listened to Dever's interviews [which I greatly enjoy] you know of his penchant to participate in both sides of the interview). At this point, Dever has just questioned whether drugs can mask the real issues. Welch says,

If there are issues of the heart, the person won’t be able to mask them. Physical treatment will affect physical symptoms. So medication can’t give you hope. It can’t give you more love for God for your neighbor but it may have you feel a little bit different. You might feel perhaps cognitively a bit more clearer if you take medication, at its best.

As Welch says, we have something more important to talk about than the use of drugs because the drugs will not remove the heart issues. At the end of the day, a sinner on drugs is still a sinner, and that sin must be dealt with.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Yesterday morning, as I was reviewing my message, I was thinking about theology. To be honest, it wasn't one that lended itself well to "hit 'em where they live" preaching. It was a message from Haggai 2:20-23 on ultimate victory of God and the future establishment of his kingdom.

I was reminded that theology is not always plug-n-play. Some of us will remember the days of computers where you bought a video card, or a serial port, or game port to add into the expansion slots on your computer. In those days, you had to set jumper settings, and fiddle with the switches, and keep experimenting until you found something that worked. And you had to do it all in DOS. Today we have plug-n-play. You just put it in and it works.

Theology for living is more like the former than the latter. Week after week, the preaching and teaching might not be plug-n-play, but overtime you are building a theology for life.

That means that the messages about the ultimate victory of God at some unknown date in the future are just as important as the messages about loving your spouse in the present. And while this message might not have taught people how to be a kinder, gentler neighbor, it should teach them how to live for the next world in which all of the enemies of God die.

Let's not make theology too easy with easy preaching that speaks only to the present. Let's call people to assemble a livable theology through week after week of solid doctrinal exposition of the Word.