Friday, March 27, 2009

Baptized by Warren Himself

Greg Gilbert at 9 Marks posted a Saddleback email without comment. (Email now found here.)

Me? Not gonna resist this one.

There is something really creepy about calling people to be baptized with the promise of a picture of yourself being baptized by Rick Warren himself.

Too bad Jesus didn’t think of this instead of farming it out to his disciples. Imagine how many more could have been brought into the kingdom with a list of loot like Saddleback is apparently giving out.

Here’s one person’s comments:

"I heard Pastor Warren speak, and he invited everyone to be baptized," she said. "I decided to come back down because it was a lovely invitation. My brother reminded me that Christians need to be re-baptized as adults."

Being baptized because it was a lovely invitation? What does that mean?

Of course apparently being Purpose Driven does not include math classes. This email talks about thirty years of the church, but the church was started on Easter Sunday of 1980, making this twenty-nine years completed, starting the thirtieth. Now twenty-nine years at the same church is nothing to sneeze at. But it’s just not thirty years. Perhaps CLASS 105 will start up soon. 

And yes, I am doing a bit of mocking in that last part, which will upset some. We all You all make mistakes. If we can’t laugh at ourselves others, who can we laugh at?

But seriously, selling baptism with a picture of you getting baptized by Rick Warren? Isn’t there something wrong with that?

I am seriously troubled by this.


From Joseph Gleason:

Several studies say the average American watches more than three hours of TV daily. That adds up to 45 days per year in front of the tube.

What could you accomplish if you suddenly had a full month and a half of free time? How much time could you spend with your family? How many friendships could you build? How much time would you have to help people in need?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

I think Jerry Bridges may be the one who made this somewhat popular, though my apologies if I am wrong. I have heard about it from him, by way of others as well.

Here are four of my own reflections on the need for preaching the gospel to yourself, particularly in the midst of suffering or confusion about what God is doing in your life.

By preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, we are reminding ourselves that Jesus died for sinners like me. We are reminding ourselves that our greatest problem is our sin and Jesus died to free us from that. Whatever problems we now have pale in comparison to our sin, and are more easily met through the cross.

By preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, we are reminding ourselves of the commitment that God made to us in Christ. 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). The commitment of God is such that, having solved our biggest problem—the problem of sin, he will not leave us to be devoured by lesser problems. We are reminding ourselves that, having trusted God with our eternity, it would be foolish not to trust him with our present life.

By preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, we are reminding ourselves that depression, discouragement, confusion, and even death are not worthy to be compared with the eternal weight of glory that God will reveal in us at his second coming (2 Cor 4:17 ; Rom 8:18). By preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, we are reminding ourselves that “it’s only for a little while.” Whatever “it” is, it will not least forever, even if it never goes away in this life.

By preaching the gospel to ourselves, we are reminding ourselves that God has much more at stake in it than we do. We have only one life to manage. If we mess it up, it is a  relatively small mess. However, God is managing the entire universe. If God lets us down, we have lost things like my comfort, my ease, my happiness, my family, or perhaps my life. But God has lost everything—his universe, his promises, his trustworthiness, and his character, in fact, his very existence, since God cannot cease to be what he is without ceasing to be. He who has the greatest stake will make the greatest effort to ensure the outcome.

Personally, I find Romans 8:26-38 an incredible way of reminding myself of the gospel and how much I need it, even after more than three decades of having it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

If You Live in Detroit and Like Italian Food …

… try the Roman Village Restaurant in Dearborn (no, not that part of Dearborn … the other part … Dix north of Miller).

Through April 17, they have “Buy one, get one for $.45” special. It applies to pasta dishes (except for chicken and seafood, which omits only five things on the pasta menu), and pizza (the second pizza is a one-topping pizza).

I took the wife and kids there last night. Elyse slept through it all (except for when the waiter kicked her chair stand accidently). Everyone else seemed to enjoy it.

And they have great bread …

Monday, March 09, 2009

Security in Church

Security issues in church are receiving increasing attention, particularly in light of yesterday’s sad events.

Mark Driscoll, at The Resurgence, give five simple questions about security in your church. Read it and think on it if you haven’t already. These five probably will not be enough, but it will get you started.

Someone told me recently of another church that was undergoing security training from an outside source, to help train deacons how to handle situations. Another person told me of a conference that included a security training session as well.

I have thought through some of this stuff, and there’s been a time or two after a conversation I must confess some curiosity as to whether that conversation might be the cause of problems later on. So far, in God’s good providence, we have had no issues. I will be happy if Jesus keeps it that way for us.

Security training is like insurance … You need to have it, but hope you never have to use it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Say What?

Writing interests me, mostly because I have found so many ways to horse up a sentence beyond recognition. It also interests me because it is fun (to me) to point out weird sentences, like this one from an article on the Final Four coming to Detroit:

January brought a scaled-down auto show, and the nation's biggest decline in occupancy for Detroit-area hotels

“The nation’s biggest decline in occupancy for Detroit-area hotels”?

Are there Detroit-area hotels elsewhere in the nation that declined less than the Detroit-area hotels in, um, the Detroit area did?

Now this author probably means that Detroit-area hotels showed the biggest decline in occupancy rates when compared to occupancy rates across the nation.

But why didn’t she just say that?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Randy Alcorn on Writing

Having trouble getting started on that writing project?

Randy Alcorn says,

I learned long ago that I should never wait for inspiration or a good beginning. I jump right in. I’ll either cut it out or clean it up later. Years ago I heard someone say “Never edit at the point of conception.” The best writing comes in revision, not creation—but you must have something to revise. I think a lot of writer’s block happens when people wait for the right words. I just write. Later, I labor over the right words, and there’s no block because I’m already looking at something on the screen.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Anonymity/Pseudonymity on the Internet

Dr. Claude Mariottini has an interesting story about pseudonymity on the internet that he is somewhat personally involved in.

Interestingly, it has to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the son of a professor at the University of Chicago who used other people’s names to post at blogs in defense of his father’s position.

This from Mariottini’s blog:

According to a news release put out by the New York County District Attorney’s office, Raphael Haim Golb was arrested today on charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment. Gold is the son of Norman Golb, a professor at the University of Chicago and a specialist in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

According to the news release, Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced that Golb was arrested for creating multiple aliases in order to engage in a campaign of impersonation and harassment against scholars who opposed his father’s views on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

As a general rule, I am opposed to anonymity or pseudonymity on the internet (or anywhere else for that matter). That’s not to say that I have never done it. However, over the years I have changed my view on this. I have concluded that if I don’t want to attach my name to it, perhaps I should not be saying it.

There may be, from time to time, an exception that I would make, but it is rare. More often than not, I just close the browser and realize I won’t change the world by making a comment on a blog. I certainly would never do it using the name of a real person, as this man did.

Some forums and blogs allow people to register under fake names, or anonymous identities. I am not a proponent of that, and where I have had opportunity to make my view known, I have done so, though I am often in the minority.

I won’t die on this hill. But anonymity on the internet is a dangerous thing, in my view.

And apparently in the eyes of the Manhattan district attorney as well.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

More from Stanley on Preaching

In part two of Andy Stanley’s comments on preaching he says this:

Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible-- that is just cheating. It's cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn't how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There's not one example of that.

Regardless of the value of verse-by-verse preaching (which seems more important than Stanley thinks), I think the argument here is flawed.

He argues that “no one in the Scripture modeled that.” Which leads to the question, where in Scripture is any form of week-to-week pastoral preaching modeled? I can’t think of one.

So let’s turn the statement slightly:

Guys that preach on felt needs -- that is just cheating. It's cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn't how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There's not one example of that.

You see, Stanley’s argument cannot be sustained. It works equally well against him as it does for him.

If we are to follow only scriptural models, we don’t have one to follow in terms of weekly pastoral preaching.

Perhaps in another post I will address why I think preaching verse-by-verse is one of the most helpful, most biblical ways to preach.

But for now, I think we should realize that while Stanley is a great communicator, he does not seem to be a great thinker about the basis for a methodology of preaching.

Carson on Worship Leaders

The notion of a "worship leader" who leads the "worship" part of the service before the sermon (which, then, is no part of worship!) is so bizarre, from a New Testament perspective, as to be embarrassing. ... I know that "worship leader" is merely a matter of semantics, a currently popular tag, but it is a popular tag that unwittingly skews people's expectations as to what worship is. At very least, it is misleadingly restrictive.

He then follows this up with a footnote:

Perhaps this is the place to reflect on the fact that many contemporary "worship leaders" have training in music but none in Bible, theology, history, or the like. When pressed as to the criteria by which they choose their music, many of these leaders finally admit that their criteria oscillate between personal preference and keeping the congregation reasonably happy--scarcely the most profound criteria in the world. They give little or no thought to covering the great themes of Scripture, or the great events of Scripture, or the range of personal response to God found in the Psalms (as opposed to covering the narrow themes of being upbeat and in the midst of "worship"), or the nature of biblical locutions (in one chorus the congregation manages to sing "holy" thirty-six times, while three are enough for Isaiah and John of the Apocalypse), or the central historical traditions of the church, or anything else of weight. If such leaders operate on their own with little guidance or training or input from senior pastors, the situation commonly degenerates from the painful to the pitiful (From Worship by the Book, p. 47).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Stetzer/Stanley on Communication/Preaching

Ed Stetzer from Lifeway has the first part of an interview with Andy Stanley from Northpoint Church in the Atlanta area about preaching. Stanley says:

Preaching on Sunday mornings is such a simple thing and by complicating it, I think we all do ourselves and the audience a disservice. It is very simple. Here is the model: Make people feel like they need an answer to a question. Then take them to God's Word to answer the question. And tell them why it is important to do what we just talked about. And then you close by saying, "Wouldn't it be great if everybody did that?" And that's it. It is a journey. You take people from somewhere to somewhere.

This model of preaching is interesting to me for two reasons (well, there are others but I will mention two).

  1. It seems almost a bit manipulative: Create a problem and then solve it.
  2. It seems like the right way to preach: Show people they have a problem that the Bible addresses, and then let the Bible address it.

There is a subtle difference between the two, I think, but it is a substantial difference. It sounds like it tends to let the people define the problem, rather than letting the Bible define the problem. While “felt needs” can be a gateway to real needs, you actually have to get to real needs … like idolatry.

A God who meets people’s felt needs is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible isn’t just about answering our questions. And that is why this approach can go off track in a hurry.

If the preacher thinks that every passage must answer a pressing question, he will likely twist the text beyond recognition. He might help people live more moral lives, and perhaps even live more Christian lives, but he won’t be preaching the text.

I think Stetzer is right that Stanley is a great communicator, which can help one be a good preacher. (You can listen some here.) I am not convinced that Stanley is a good preacher because I think good preachers have to handle the text with a bit more care than I have heard Stanley do.

Now admittedly I have not listened to Stanley a lot, but when I have, I enjoyed it. I just didn’t get much out of it.

Glancing at the audio page does remind me how important it is to have slick graphics if you are going to be a good preacher though.

Monday, March 02, 2009

FYI – The Minor Prophets and Historical Context

The following chart shows the minor prophets in canonical order, with the the dominant world power, and OT historical context.

Prophetic Book

World Power

Parallels from
Historical Books



2 Kings 14:23–18:12


(Pre) Assyria

2 Kings 12:1–21;
2 Chronicles 24:1–27



2 Kings 14:23–15:7


(Pre) Assyria

2 Kings 8:16–24;
2 Chronicles 21:1–20


(Pre) Assyria

2 Kings 13:10–25;



2 Kings 15:32–19:37;
2 Chronicles 27:1–32:23


Assyria; Babylon

2 Kings 21:1–18;
2 Chronicles 33:1–20



2 Kings 23:31–24:7;
2 Chronicles 36:1–8



2 Kings 22:1–2;
2 Chronicles 34:1–7



Ezra 5:1–6:15



Ezra 5:1–6:15



Nehemiah 13:1–31

Some suggest that the canonical order was intended to reflect the general chronological order as designated by the dominant world power.

In the previous chart on the dates of the minor prophets, the dating of Joel was briefly discussed. One of the arguments for an early date is its place in the canonical order. If Joel is a late pre-exilic (Babylonian), or a post-exilic book (Medo-Persian), its place in the canon would be out of order in terms of the world power.

While this is hardly conclusive for the date of Joel, it is a piece of the puzzle that should be considered.