Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The NIV 2011 was recently asserted to be the best current English translation by none other than D. A. Carson, who seems to know a thing or two about things like Greek and translations and the like.

They made an interesting change in Galatians 3:24:

NIV 84: So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

NIV 11: So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith

The NIV 11 actually has the right idea here. In Galatians 3:24, I do not believe that the Law was a sort of roadmap to show us our need of Christ as Savior.

Rather the Law was a guardian until the time of Christ arrived.

The implications of that are significant. Many today (such as Way of the Master) use the Law in the NIV84 sense—to show us our need of Christ because we have broken the Law.

However, sin was in the world from the time of Adam, not Moses. And sin was well-known before Moses, and needed a sacrifice before Moses.

The point of the comparison in Galatians 3 is that the Law was temporary but the promise was permanent. This is made clear in Galatians 3:16-17 where Abraham and Christ are connected and the Law comes in between. Verse 17 plainly declares that the Law does not nullify the promise.

Of course, this has some staggering implications for those who believe that the church has replaced Israel, or the the church is subsumed in Israel, or some such. It is hard to imagine how one can read this passage and not be a dispensationalist of some sort.

It also undermines in a significant way the “third use of the Law” by those of the Reformed persuasion. This “third use of the Law” is essentially that the Law acts as a guide for believers.

However, this passage seems to teach relatively clear that the Law was temporary, acting as a guardian until Christ came. Now that Christ is here, the Law is no longer our guardian.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Say what?

I saw a headline recently on a local newspaper site (that shall remain unnamed). The headline read:

Pending obituaries for Thursday.

I thought about going to back to see if they turned into actual obituaries, or if these people somehow pulled through.

It reminds me of my grandma who used to say she got up every morning and read the obituaries to see if she was in them.

She only made it once and unfortunately she never lived to see it.

As an aside, I wonder what the affect of “Pending Obituaries” is on recovery. Is one more or less likely to recover once they have made the “Pending Obituary” page in the paper?

Sounds like the makings of a good sociological study.

The Art of Spin or Things That Sound Impressive Unless You Know Better

Recently my life, and more importantly, my golf has been hampered by another back episode. For those who don’t know me, that’s the few weeks each year I claim bad back pain in order to lay around on the couch for a while and catch up on YouTube, sleep, and the like. I also count it as family time since the kids are usually within earshot.

But now and then I manage to make it off the couch for a quick round of golf, hopped up on pain meds and adrenalin. I think the movement actually helps a little bit, since the best thing for a bad back, generally speaking, is movement. Unfortunately, a recent round wasn’t all that quick. In fact, it was positively brutal.

Nonetheless, here’s the recap of the shot of the day for me: I was in the greenside bunker on the 407-yard par 4 16th from my tee shot.

Impressive, eh?

In fact, I didn’t see where the ball had finished, and my group was looking everywhere for it—everywhere except the bunker, that is, because no one ever makes it into the greenside bunker on 16 from the tee.

But finally, someone on the 16th green pointed out my ball in the greenside bunker.

We were all amazed. I have played the same course for several years and I don’t recall ever seeing anyone in the greenside bunker on 16 off the tee shot.

Still impressed? You should be …

Except for one thing … or as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”

I was, in fact, in the greenside bunker on the 407-yard 16th hole from the tee.

But it was, in fact, from the 17th tee.

It was a bad shot which was the result of casting, (or that horrible “from the top” swing that I have perfected but never learned to play), combined with a severe hook (a vicious curve ball from right to left), combined with what must have been a few ricochets off some trees to resulted in about a hundred yards of total distance (fifty towards the green and fifty towards the left).

It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime shot. At least I hope it was.

And now you know the rest of the story which greatly changes the meaning of the narrative.

There was something untold that you needed to know to draw a proper conclusion about whether to be impressed or not.

And here’s the moral: When someone starts spouting off, we always need to ask, “What aren’t you telling me?”

I take this mindset into counseling. I listen for the unspoken. I often ask, “What else do I need to know?” Or “If the other person was here, what would they tell me?”

I take this mindset into reading, particularly in the often highly charged blogosphere. I want to know what has been left out of a story that would change the way it sounds.

It reminds me of an instance a while back when I saw a certain internet busybody lambasting a certain fundamentalist for preaching at a certain venue. What he failed to include was that the man had been invited there precisely to give a fundamentalist response. In other words, he had been invited to be a contrarian.

For those who had not yet learned that this source was not always trustworthy, this seemed an egregious situation. For those who knew a little bit, it was quite easy to see through.

I would encourage us all to read and listen with discernment.

Remember, being in the greenside bunker on 16 from the tee is really impressive, until you find out that it was the 17th tee.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On the Pursuit of Reconciliation

One of the all too common occurrences in human relationships is breakups. No, not the high school kind where, “It’s not you, it’s me, but let’s still be friends.”

I am talking about the real kind, where lives are uprooted, families are decimated, friendships are destroyed. It’s the kind where hurt reigns, not for a few days or even weeks, but for months and years.

Today, I take the opportunity to remind you that it is never too soon to seek to repair and restore damaged relationships.

Taking time to process the hurt is most often just taking time to sit on God’s throne in God’s place and meditate on how unworthy you were of the dastardly treatment you think you received, and then to pass judgment complete with appropriate punishment—namely the withdrawing of your affection.

However, those who sit at the foot of the cross are reminded that whatever dastardly thing might have been thrust upon us is nowhere near the sin that we have committed before God.

And with God, there is no atonement by time or by isolation or withdrawal. In fact, the passing of time will only harden our conscience, and deepen our alienation. It will not lessen our guilt before God, and it will not begin the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.

In the temptation to break relationships, we sit either in one seat or the other, either on the throne of God judging ourselves as too good or at the foot of the cross recognizing ourselves as far worse.

Only one position can bring hope and restoration.

Life is too short to carry hurts and frustrations very far. I have never known anyone who sought biblical reconciliation who wished they had waited a few more hours, or a few more days, or a few more months, or a few more years.

I know many who wish they hadn’t waited so long.

Don’t look back with regrets.

One day life will be over, perhaps sooner than you think.

By God’s grace, pursue reconciliation with the same love that God has pursued us.

It might not always work, but the attempt will always demonstrate the grace of God in the gospel.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Around the Horn

Leading off, Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the ninth last night before Josh Harrison broke it up with a single up the middle. No-hitters are always great moments in baseball. One-hitters, especially when that hit comes in the ninth, are heart-breaking. But on the upside, as least this wasn’t an umpire mistake.

At second, Rick Thomas has some interesting thoughts on going to conferences. I tend to agree with him. I like being present for things, but the cost is high, both in terms of money and life. I am an old sap these days, and I don’t like leaving my family for much. However, I like that some of these conferences are making the sessions available online. That gives me a good reason to play golf (as if I need one), because I have time devoted to listening to some good preaching.

And on that note, I listened to David Platt from T4G again this week. Then I saw a certain internet busybody commenting on this message as evidence that Calvinists weren’t interested in evangelism. What was interesting was that Platt praised the church planting emphasis, while lamenting that it had not yet gone as global as he said. So contrary to this particular person, new Calvinists are very involved in church planting and evangelism. Even more ironic, Platt’s biggest argument for global missions was … wait for it … particular redemption. Of course, most people call it “limited atonement,” and use it as their favorite punching bag. But again I say, as I have before, if you don’t think Calvinists are interested in evangelism, then you should listen to Platt.

At third, Ray Ortlund has some great thoughts on sermon preparation. If you are a pastor finishing up for tomorrow (hopefully not starting for tomorrow) these are words with considering.

And the home run, because something like this doesn’t deserve any less, Ed Young Jr. is giving fashion advice to pastors at Pastor Fashion. There’s a lot of helpful information here, such as advice about T-shirts (white or gray and not too long), suits (if you feel comfortable in it, it probably doesn’t fit), and collars (what kind you should wear). Either he is really late or I was really early because that get up he is wearing in the photo on the main page looks like something we wore in high school in the 80s. So pastors, if your wife or mother hasn’t picked up your outfit for tomorrow yet, cruise on over to Pastor Fashion and then head to Goodwill for a shopping spree.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Who Said It?

Unfortunately, major branches of psychology and psychiatry during this century [20th century] have helped promote the notion that we are all in some sense victims—victims of insensitive parents, victims of poverty, victims of abuse, victims of implacable genes. Our state of mind, therefore, is someone else’s responsibility. This kind of psychology is very appealing to many academics. It gives them endless opportunities to pretend they know what makes an individual miserable and unsuccessful. It appeals as well a lot of unhappy people. It gives them an excuse for their misery. It permits them to evade the responsibility for their own lives.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does, but probably not from the kind of source you are thinking of.

These are actually the words of Dr. Bob Rotella, a noted sports psychologist who has worked with some of the world’s greatest golfers. These words are in his book  Golf is Not a Game of Perfect (pp. 31-32).

He goes on to say,

People by and large become what they think about themselves … Winners and losers, [Coach John] Wooden said, are self-determined. But only the winners are willing to admit it.

I don’t say this to endorse Rotella’s psychology (or his theology), although this is a great golf book. 

I say it to point out that the idea that people are not controlled by external circumstances whether present or past is not strange. Nor it is the exclusive view of “legalistic fundamentalists” and biblical counselors.

Personal responsibility for one’s emotional state is a very old and abiblical (that is, outside the Bible) view. It didn’t come from people who want to beat you down and berate you. It is held people with no apparent biblical framework who believe that life is about more than what happened to you.

And these people believe that you control how you think about life and circumstances.

In a victim culture, hope is removed because the past is the past. And out of every thing that we can change, the past is not one of them.

So if you believe that you are who you are because of what happened in the past to you, then you can never find hope. You are doomed to a life of hopelessness.

The good news is that hope isn’t found simply by thinking better about yourself. The good news is that true hope is found in understanding how Jesus dealt with the past, and how he will deal with the past in the future.

The gospel teaches me that through faith alone, Jesus deals with my sinful past and promises to deal with the sinful past of others in his time. I need not be a slave to people who hurt me. I need not let them control my life. I can let God settle his debts.

That doesn’t mean I do nothing. Where crime and illegal acts have taken place, I can pursue them through legitimate civil means. Where hurt continues to be foisted on me, I can remove myself from that situation.

But ultimately, Jesus will settle all debts in reconciling all things to himself.

And because of that, I don’t have to live under the weight of my past—whether my own actions or the actions of others. I can live in the grace of Jesus.

That won’t fix my golf swing. But it will change my life.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Around the Horn

Thom Rainer leads us off with a  two-fer: ten signs of an inwardly focused church and seven common traits of breakout churches. These are thought-provoking articles. Spend some time here and see how you measure up.

At second, a church made the curious move of advertising Easter services with a dead rabbit. Note to self: When something associated with CT calls you stupid, you probably are not even close to the line. It makes me wonder what some people are thinking. Listen, I know there are a lot of different ways to reach people. I know there is a lot of debate about some of them. But a dead rabbit? It reminds me that if you are going to offend people, do it with Jesus and the cross, not with stupidity.

Round third, and speaking of Christianity Today, here is a thought-provoking article on urban ministry and school choice. Education is a very controversial issue. We all want the best for our kids. But what sort of mindset should control that? This article tells how a few couples answered this question.

Lastly, for all your Detroit pastors, let me encourage you to consider this Greek refresher class. It’s free, easy, and low commitment—everything you wish Greek would have been the first time you took it. I still find the original languages very useful. I regularly read Hebrew (my Hebrew is better than my Greek). I usually translate at least some of the passage that I am preaching each week. I am not great at it, but it keeps me in it, and with the tools available, you don’t have to know as much as you used to.