Saturday, January 31, 2009

(Ted) Haggard and Hope

While many become haggard looking for hope, former pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals reminds us just how deceitful and hopeless sin can be.

Ted Haggard was on Oprah this week talking about his therapy, but probably mostly selling his HBO movie.

He talked of some experience as a child that he never thought of as sexual abuse but when he casually mentioned to his therapist that he was still wetting the bed and wetting his pants in the sixth grade, the therapist thought some more exploration was necessary. Apparently this experience is at least part of the cause of Haggard's homosexual struggles.

I didn't listen enough to get the full story, but in the short part I listened to, I was reminded of just how deceitful sin can be.

At the moment Haggard attached his homosexual struggles to an event that happened forty years earlier, he lost his hope. You see, out of everything that Haggard can change, his past is not one of them.

Once we believe that our behavior is caused by past experiences, we have no hope of future change. Why? Because the past will never change.

Only when Haggard realizes that his homosexual dalliances were caused solely by his wicked heart searching for satisfaction apart from God can he find hope for change.

In biblical discipleship, we must refuse to allow people to blame the past for present actions. It removes the ground of hope.

Only when we place our problems in our wicked hearts can we find hope, because Jesus died to purchase our salvation and change our heart.

The only thing from the past that will help me find change is the cross of Christ. If you are going to focus on the past, at least go back to the part of the past that can actually help you.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll, Nightline

Nightline recently did a segment on Mars Hill Church Seattle, which is famous for a lot of things. You can see it here: Nightline on Mars Hill

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Food for Thought

"It is not that they [seminarians] not know the answers, but my observation is that most men graduating from our theological seminaries do not know the questions" (Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, p. 4)

“Most likely the only way a conversation about spiritual things will happen is if you get things started. And you can choose to be a person who engages others in conversations about Christ. That’s a decision you can make” (Garry Poole, Seeker Small Groups, pp. 66-67).

"Theological fear is not primarily dread or repulsion for the fear-object, but surrender to God's authority" (Robert Morosco cited in W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears, p. 21). 

Sin in us keeps us from ever being as good as our right beliefs should make us. The image of God in unbelievers keeps them from ever being as bad as their wrong beliefs should make them (Tim Keller, Connecting Audio Session, 8:05).

If we are not known to be God-loving believers by our obvious extravagance for the Lover of our soul, why should those who follow us bother with Him either? (Jim Berg, Changed Into His Image, p. 219).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Owen on Guilt

"Guilt-free" is one of the ubiquitous idols of a modern generation. From eating to sex to entertainment to crime, people do not want to experience guilt about anything, whether real guilt (liability for punishment) or emotional guilt (feeling bad about doing something).

Even Christian counselors, yes, even biblical counselors, spend much time exhorting people on ways to deal with guilt and live in the grace and forgiveness of God.

In his book, On the Mortification of Sin, John Owen takes the opposite tack. Rather than trying to escape guilt, he says,

"Load thy conscience with the guilt of [sin]. Not only consider that it hath a guilt, but load thy conscience with the guilt of its actual eruptions and disturbances" (p. 56).

And then:

Bring thy lust to the gospel , — not for relief, but for farther conviction of its guilt; look on Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. Say to thy soul, “What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love , to the Son for his blood , to the Holy Ghost for his grace ? Do I thus requite the Lord? (p. 58).

How many of us counsel people to consider the guilt of their sin even more? Do we take them(or ourselves) too quickly to grace?

While that might seem a strange question, perhaps (and I think this is Owen's point) too little meditation on the guilt of sin has led to an attitude towards sin which does not take mortification seriously.

We don't want to kill it, to pulverize it, to remove every last vestige from our souls. Why? Because we do not really grasp its guilt. No, not the way it makes us feel. But rather what it did to our Savior.

We simply want to get over it, to not think about, to live "guilt-free."

Perhaps Owen could be meditated on with some profit here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I came across RefTagger from Logos. It creates a pop-up for references. In the past I linked to the reference myself from Bible Gateway, which is an excellent resource if you don't have an Bible program on your computer. It was a hassle. 

I like the idea of not having to manually create a link now.

Let's see if it works: John 1:1.

The little "L" in the box following the reference is a link to Libronix. If you have Logos, it should search for the reference in Logos.

Monday, January 26, 2009

This and That

Scot McKnight has an insightful observation about Obama's rescinding of the Mexico city policy that prevented money from going to organizations that provided abortion. He says, "The rescinding of the Mexico City Policy is not about reducing unwanted pregnancies, it's about reducing unwanted infants."

If you like (or are studying) OT and Hebrew, you will find some helpful info and links at Biblia Hebraica. On the right hand side, you will find a blogroll that includes OT/ANE blogs, NT/Early Christianity blogs, and a number of other theological blogs. I haven't looked at all of them, but there are some with a liberal bent to them.

Timothy Geithner was appointed to be Treasury Secretary today. We should all take comfort that a man who can't manage to get his own taxes right is now playing a major role in trying to rebuild our nation's economy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

FYI - Persian Kings and the OT

The following charts helps to place the post-exilic portions of the OT into the context of the Persian Kings


Dates (B.C.)

OT Books

Cyrus II, the Great 558-529 Daniel
Cambyses II 529-523  
Pseudo-Smerids 523-522  
Darius I 522-485 Ezra 1-6, Haggai, Zechariah
Xerxes 1 (Ahasuerus) 484-464 Esther
Artaxerxes I 464-424 Ezra 7-10, Nehemiah
Darius II 423-406  
Artaxerxes II 404-359 Malachi

The post-exilic history of Israel begins in 538/9 B.C., when Cyrus II conquered Babylon and subsequently issued a decree that allowed the Jews to return to Palestine. The post-exilic era continued to the close of the OT with the writing of Malachi.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Inauguration

I watched it today, as I usually do, interested to see the pomp and circumstance. I had a few thoughts.

I was amazed by the speech, and not in a good way. I thought it was a rather weak effort, both in terms of rhetoric and delivery. I think he played a lot of the old cards that he was claiming were over. I thought he came across as petty and trivial at times, and as cliche at others. I thought he gave up a great opportunity to cast a vision for America going forward. I thought he failed at that.

I thought this line was interesting: "the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

The truth is Obama doesn't believe that and never has. He does not believe all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. He believes that some should be slaughtered in the womb before ever seeing the light of day.

Best poetry of the day? It wasn't the poet. It was the preacher, who in spite of racist tinges in his benediction, manage to put together some memorable lines.

In the end, another peaceful exchange of power reminds that democracy, for all its ills, is still the best form of government for a fallen people.

What Did You Find?

I have been browsing through a book entitled Egyptian Mummies: Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art by Bob Brier. It is an interesting book, though not one that I will read in depth.

In it, Brier laments that one of the earliest remains of a Pharaoh, an arm of King Zer of the First Dynasty, was thrown away by someone who had no interest in mummification techniques, but rather only in the chronology of the First and Second Dynasties. In this case, the excavator had no interest in what the physical remains might reveal about the practices of mummification, and so he discarded them.

Brier makes this observation:

It is generally acknowledged that the particular interests of an excavator will influence what he finds and, even more so, what he records (p. 81).

The seems to be true no less in theology. A student of the word will often find just what he is looking for in a text, not because it is necessarily there, but because his mind is tuned to that particular matter, and is looking for a way to support it.

Perhaps even when the topic of interest is legitimately a subject of  a passage, other truths go unnoticed. I am reminded of the story of the fish. If I were a better notetaker, I would tell you where to find the story of the fish. But alas, my memory fails. (Someone feel free to help me out here.)

The story of the fish is that you have to keep looking.

In our study of the word, let us not draw up short of mining the depths. There is no substitute for time spent in careful reflection of a passage. We must be wary of tunnel vision that cuts off the reflective process too soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Carson (briefly) on Postmodernism

From an article linked by my friend Andy Naselli:

Thoughtful Christians will not want to align entirely with either modernism or postmodernism, of course, but the kindness of God in His “common grace” ensures that there are useful things in both epistemological structures that a Christian may usefully exploit, and things in both structures to confront.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the Diner

The diner is slow these days. The major employer in this area has shut down at least until March, though no one knows for sure when or if it will start back up. That has taken a lot of business from the diner. It means a lot more people are out of work and this area certainly does not need more of that.

The quiet also means the radio is more noticeable, as are the conversations.

While I am sitting here, Billy Joel's "The Piano Man" just came on the radio, and it kind of reminds me of the diner a little. Billy Joel wrote "The Piano Man" about his experiences as a bar musician during a time in his life when he had a bad recording contract and was waiting it out to get another. If you don't know the song, it is about people and what he learned about their lives as he met them in the bar. He claims that everyone in the song was an actual person that frequented the bar where he was playing.

Maybe one day I will write a song.

American Idol was brought up, and I must confess that I missed it last night (as I have every other night for however long it has been on). Apparently, there was a blind singer on it last night who was pretty decent.

Which led to the topic of Stevie Wonder and his trademark sunglasses. One man said, "We went to see Stevie Wonder when we were all young, including Stevie Wonder, and we didn't know he was blind. We just thought he was cool."

Another person brought up Roy Orbison, who also wore sunglasses. The consensus was that Orbison was just being cool.

So what's the point of this post? There really isn't one. But I thought the Stevie Wonder comment was pretty funny.

And when it's 2 degrees outside, funny helps.

On the bright side, spring training starts just over a month from now. And there's no downside to that.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Some Nut Out In China

The NYTimes recently ran an obituary story of a man named Victor H. Krulak who died on December 29 at the age of 95. In 1937, Marine Lt. Gen. Krulak had been designated as "some nut out in China" by the Navy in Washington.

"Why?" you ask?

Well, in 1937, Krulak was attached to intelligence unit in Shanghai, where he saw a Japanese boat with a square bow that became a ramp. This boat was used to offload troops and equipment onto enemy beaches. Krulak used a telephoto lens to take a picture of the boat, and sent it off to Washington. There, it was filed as the work of "some nut out in China."

Krulak, however, was convinced that this was an idea whose time had come. He built a model of the boat and collaborated with a New Orleans boat builder named Andrew Higgins, who had been involved in developing landing craft for the Navy.

This design was eventually turned into production as the "Higgins Boat" which were indispensable in amphibious landings such as Normandy, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and the Philippines.

Thus, the idea of "some nut out in China" filed away by the Navy brass as inconsequential became a key tool for the Allied victory in WWII.

And now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Gospel and Politics

Missions Mandate links to an article about British missionaries jailed in Gambia for criticizing the government.

I don't know the whole story, but my first thought it this: Stick to the gospel and stay out of politics.

Regardless of what we think of the government, the mission of the church is to make disciples. The mission of missionaries is to make disciples and plant churches.

Now these missionaries for Jesus are appealing to the secular government on national TV for their freedom promising that they will leave the country. It's certainly not renouncing their faith, but it does seem to be leaving behind their mission, and all because they took up a message that had nothing to do with the mission Jesus gave us.

In my view, if someone is going to risk jail, do it for preaching Jesus, not criticizing the government.

FYI - Periods of Israel's History

Note: I decided to start a new series of posts entitled simply "FYI." As you can guess, they will be merely informative posts about different topics. I welcome any correction.

It is important, in the study of the OT, to recognize the historical context. The following chart will help to grasp a general timeline for the history of OT Israel. The dates given are those generally held by conservative scholars. Less conservatives scholars generally use later dating, particularly in the earlier part of Israel's history.


The Patriarchs c. 2200-1800 B.C. Genesis 12-50
The Slavery and Exodus c. 1800-1407 B.C. Exodus-Deuteronomy
The Conquest c. 1407-1380 B.C. Joshua
The Judges c. 1380-1050 B.C. Judges and Ruth
The United Kingdom c. 1050-931 B.C. 1 and 2 Samuel,
1 Kings 1-11,
1 Chronicles,
2 Chronicles 1-9*
The Divided Kingdom 931-586 B.C.
931-722 B.C (Northern)
931-586 B.C. (Southern)
2 Kings,
2 Chronicles*
The Exile 606-536 B.C. Daniel
The Restoration 538-396 B.C. Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah


*1 and 2 Chronicles were most likely written after the exile, and are therefore generally called "post-exilic." They were perhaps written by Ezra, though the authorship of many of the historical books is unknown. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In the Diner

Sitting here this morning reading a book on worship, while hearing Carrie Underwood wail in the background about her man (I don't know whether he is supposed to be her husband or her boyfriend) chatting up another girl in the bar, buying her drinks and "thinking he's gonna get lucky" while she vandalizes his car outside singing "Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats."

Perhaps he will ... though I won't hold my breath since a lot of men aren't terribly thoughtful in these matters.

I am reminded that this is the same Carrie Underwood that sings "Jesus Take the Wheel."

I have to wonder if she wanted Him to take the wheel of that "pretty little souped-up four wheel drive" she was vandalizing. Maybe if Jesus had taken the wheel, her boyfriend would be home with her, only involved in a sinful relationship with her rather than this other chick.

I remember reading people who spoke of the great testimony of Carrie Underwood singing "Jesus Take the Wheel." I remember people saying what great spiritual encouragement they got from that song, and how great it was that someone in mainstream country music was so open about their Christianity.

I remember thinking to myself, "What idiots ... Some people are so gullible." Of course, I would never say that publicly, since I like to keep such judgmental thoughts about sources of spiritual encouragement to myself. But privately, I admit to questioning the spiritual discernment of those who find food for their soul in Carrie Underwood.

Now, admittedly I don't know Carrie Underwood, her heart, or marital status, or her living arrangements, but please forgive me for wondering about the seriousness of her desire for Jesus to take the wheel. And please forgive me for wondering why people think that is a great testimony of a Jesus-centered life.

Whatever she might be, she ain't no Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley. She's not even Fanny Crosby or Ron Hamilton.

May God spare us from a Jesus who drives like that.