Sunday, December 31, 2006

Prayer devotional part 3

“In Jesus name” what’s that?

Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14). He also says that he chose his disciples “so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give it to you” (John 15:16). Similarly, he says, “…if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Until now you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23–24). But what does this mean?

Clearly it does not simply mean adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name” after every prayer, because Jesus did not say, “If you ask anything and add the words “in Jesus’ name’ after your prayer, I will do it.” Jesus is not merely speaking about adding certain words as if these were a kind of magical formula that would give power to our prayers. In fact, none of the prayers recorded in Scripture have the phrase “in Jesus’ name” at the end of them (see Matt. 6:9–13; Acts 1:24–25; 4:24–30;2 7:59; 9:13–14; 10:14; Rev. 6:10; 22:20).

To come in the name of someone means that another person has authorized us to come on his authority, not on our own. In Acts 3:6, Peter commands the lame man, “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk”, he is speaking on the authority of Jesus, not on his own authority (see also Acts 16:18 and 1 Cor. 5:4). Praying in Jesus’ name is therefore a prayer made on his authority.

Does this mean that it is wrong to add “in Jesus’ name” to the end of our prayers? It is certainly not wrong, as long as we understand what is meant by it, and that it is not necessary to do so. There may be some danger, however, if we add this phrase to every public or private prayer we make, for very soon it will become to people simply a formula to which they attach very little meaning and say without thinking about it. (largely influenced by Grudem's Systematic Theology)

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Prayer devotional part 2

I have been invited to write a few prayer devotionals for an upcoming 40 days of prayer. I would appreciate any feedback you might have on the following sample. I might post more of these as I complete them if time allows. Each one needs to be roughly a 1/2 page, and needs to be written for the average church member at my church.


Should I keep praying the same prayer over and over again?

Read Matthew 6:7-8 and Luke 18:1-8

It is ironic that the warning against meaningless repetition of prayer in Matthew 6:7-8 comes immediately before the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is without a doubt the most often repeated without meaning passage of the Bible. A similar pattern was in place in the pagan first-century Greek and Romans, where it was a common belief that repetitive prayer was a way to get their god’s attention. The repetition was also to make sure their gods heard correctly and to convince the gods that the prayers’ request was worth granting.

As Christians, prayer is not for the purpose of informing God. Rather our prayers express to him (and ourselves) our inability to meet our own needs. Biblical prayer is an act of faith and an expression of our dependence upon God. Meaningless repetition signifies dependence on oneself to manipulate or badger God into compliance with what we want.

In Luke 18:1-8 we see that when we come before God with patient persistence and not meaningless repetition that he will hear our pleas. Through our persistence we build our relationship with God and open ourselves to seeing things as God sees them. With persistence we come to the place where we can truly pray “Not my will thine be done.”

Holy Father, we thank you for the opportunity to be in relationship with you. We thank you for allowing us to be open and honest with you in our prayers. We pray that our desires are your desires so that your will may be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Lord let us be a people of your will. AMEN

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Prayer devotional...

I have been invited to write a few prayer devotionals for an upcoming 40 days of prayer. I would appreciate any feedback you might have on the following sample. I might post more of these as I complete them if time allows. Each one needs to be roughly a 1/2 page, and needs to be written for the average church member at my church.


Praying with the wrong motives

Read James 4:2-3
2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

James tells us in 4:2 “You do not have, because you do not ask.” He is implying that our failure to ask deprives us of what God would otherwise have given to us. We also see this affirmed in Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:9-10 where Jesus states “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find…” Jesus and James both make a clear connection between seeking things from God and receiving them.

This is not to imply that God is a great wish giver in the sky. He is far from it! Most of us have seen or experience a young child in the toy section of a department store trying to get his or her way by throwing a tantrum. In the same way a wise parent does not give into the child’s selfish desires, so God deals with us. James 4:3 identifies that God will not honor those wanting things for the wrong reasons. We must come before Him in humility and repentance, not with pride demanding our desires be met. When our desires seek to match those of God, He will honor our prayers. God wants to honor your prayers, but you must first put God at the center of our relationship, not our desires.

Prayer Exercise: Ask yourself, have you been seeking what God wants or what you want?

Gracious Lord, we pray that you would show us your will, so that we may share in your desires. We ask for your forgiveness for all the times we have tried to impose our desires upon you. Pray that you would open our eyes and our hearts to see the world as you see it. We lay our selfish desires at your feet. AMEN

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Resurgence Conference Spring 2007

Where the Hand of God and the Hands of Men Meet

In the shifting sands of churches today the doctrine of God has taken the back burner to more cultural hot buttons. This should alarm the church, as many of the debated issues center on the doctrine of God. If you trace back one of the more prevalent disagreements of today you begin to realize it started with the shaky doctrine of God being held by that group. Resurgence is glad to bring in Dr. Bruce Ware from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to Mars Hill Church's Ballard Campus. Dr. Ware is an accomplished professor and writer in this field and will encourage the church in the three messages on the providence of God. This conference is starting just after the Acts 29 Network boot camp in Seattle. As well Dr. Ware will be preaching on Sunday March 25th at Mars Hill Church. The price of the Resurgence Conference 2007 is $25. To register click here. Also, follow this link to download the Welcome Packet (including directions, lodging and food information).

Conference Schedule

Friday, March 23rd 7pm
Session 1: Uncertain Hands of God and Men: Providence in Process Thought and Open Theism

Saturday March 24th, 10am
Session 2: Independent Hands of God and Men: Providence in Classic Arminianism

Saturday March 24th, 12pm
Lunch - on your own

Saturday March 24th, 1:30pm
Session 3: Coordinated Hands of God and Men: Providence in the Reformed Tradition

This Resurgence event will be held directly following the Acts 29 Network Boot Camp. For more details on this event, go to:

There is no childcare for this event.
Mars Hill Church
1401 NW Leary Way
Seattle, Washington
United States

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

What Would Not Be If Jesus Had Not Been

The following was written by Pastor Sam Crabtree of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Pastor John Piper read it to his congregation Dec. 23, 2006. I have had the opportunity to meet Sam Crabtree on a number of occasions, and he is a wonderful God-fearing and loving man. You can see that fully reflected in this letter.


Dear Bethlehem Family,

I believe I speak for all the staff and elders when I pray that during this Christmas season and at all times God would enable you to treasure his incarnate and risen son above all else.

Have you ever asked yourself what would be different if Jesus had never been born? If Jesus had not come in the fullness of time and been born of a woman and fulfilled the law, there would be no Bethlehem and this staff photo would not be possible.

If Jesus had not been born:

  • This would not be the year of our Lord 2006.
  • We would never hear a single Christmas carol or Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
  • No city would be named St. Paul or St. Petersburg or Corpus Christi.
  • We would have never heard of William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John Knox, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, John Hus, Billy Graham, Elizabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, Fanny Crosby, Alexander Solzenitzen, C.S. Lewis, Chuck Swindoll, C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, or… make a list of your own.
  • There would be no organizations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Bethel University, KTIS, The Red Cross, Methodist Hospital, The Salvation Army, Christian Book Sellers Association, National Association of Evangelicals, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Purdue, and countless others.
  • We would have no such books as Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’s Christmas Carol, or even The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
  • We have no movies such as Ben Hur, The Cross and the Switchblade, Chariots of Fire, Narnia, and scores of others.
  • We would never ever had heard such songs as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “Joy to the World.”
  • Idioms would never have been brought into our language such as the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, lost sheep, or any of Jesus’ other parables.
  • We would not have teachings that have entered our every day speech such as turn the other cheek, go the second mile, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and love your enemies.
  • It’s unlikely that this continent would have seen the arrival of the Pilgrims, and if they had come by some other name, years later President Washington could have been King George instead.
  • It could be easily argued that the United States Founding documents would not be what they are.
  • There would be no Desiring God ministries and no Bethlehem bookstore.
  • The Wuaorani Indians of Ecuador would still kill white men instead of baptizing their children.
  • The Arawakan Indians of the Caribbean would still be cannibals.
  • Descendents of the Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico, would still sacrifice their children instead of teaching them to praise the true Creator.
  • Prophecies would remain unfulfilled, the serpent would not be crushed, we would not be delivered, and God would be a liar. Death would not be conquered.
  • The New Testament would never have been written.
  • There would be no mediator between God and man, for the man Christ Jesus would not have been born. We would remain dead in our trespasses and sins, the veil not yet rent.

But he was born! May the realization of the sweeping impact of his birth, life, death, and resurrection join with the heartfelt greetings of the staff to bring you a very Merry Christmas!

Pastor Sam

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Study with a Side of Danish

The largest study ever published on homosexual "marriage" was recently released by the first country to legalize it--Denmark. In a culture known for its approval of alternative lifestyles, researchers were able to analyze over two million people and the factors that contributed to homosexuals' relationships. Concentrating on a 12-year period, Morten Frisch and Anders Hviid looked for common threads between those choosing to marry a homosexual and their family background. They discovered that a child's home life largely motivated his decision making. The data suggests that men who marry same-sex partners are more likely to have been raised in a family with unstable parental relationships--particularly, absent or unknown fathers and divorced parents. The findings on women who marry homosexually were less pronounced but still associated with a childhood marked by a broken family. One of the more surprising statistics notes that men who lived with both parents continually from birth to age 18 are significantly less likely to enter a homosexual union. On the contrary, men who did not live with both parents until age 18 were 56%-76% more likely to "marry" another man. The researchers conclude by saying, "Whatever ingredients determine a person's sexual preferences and marital choices, our population-based study shows that parental interactions are important." Notice they didn't say "parental genes" were important but family structures. A study of this magnitude should breathe new life into the value of saving the traditional family.

Additional Resources

Environmental factors & homosexuality

Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married Couples

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Church Services at Crossroads Church and Eagle Brook Church

If you are in the Eastern half of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and are looking for a church to attend for Christmas, I would highly recommend either of the following churches. Eagle Brook has the North covered, and Crossroads covers the South side. Both churches will have fantastic services where Jesus will be the focus. If you have friends or families, bring them along too! Both churches use a ticketing system to help have a better distribution of attendance through all their services so everyone can get a seat. No cost for the tickets, just a way to help them in their planning. Tickets are not mandatory, but it is appreciated if you can utilize this system.

Crossroads Church in Cottage Grove, MN

Christmas Service Times: Saturday at 5 pm (December 23), Sunday at 9 & 11 am, 4 & 6 pm, and midnight.

Tickets: in order to alleviate overcrowding we've gone to a FREE ticket system. Please take as many tickets (at the Info Table) as needed for the service you're planning on attending. As of right now, all service times are open. We'll keep you posted.

Serving Opportunities: We still need dozens of volunteers to help with things like parking lot attendants, ushers, greeters, and nursery workers. We'll have many guests attending Crossroads this special weekend and we need our regulars to acts as hosts to make them feel welcome. An insert with the needs is in this week's program.

Invites: Once again we have special Invite Cards to use as a simple tool to hand to those you'd like to invite. People ARE looking for a church to attend on Christmas Eve. We'd LOVE for them to attend here. We've put more creative energy into this service than any in the past. People will be touched and moved by the Nativity story. Please don't miss this opportunity to impact a life. We also have E-Invites you can send via our web site:

Prayer Changes Everything: We believe that…and that's why we're having a 24 hour prayer vigil starting on Friday morning, December 23. If you can come in for 20 minutes or so and pray for God's Spirit to move and work through our Christmas Eve services, we'd be so pleased! Sign ups are at the booth right outside the Sanctuary in the Lobby. We also want to invite you to pray during one of our 6 services. A special room has been designated and info is available at the booth mentioned above.

Eagle Brook Church, Lino Lakes, MN and White Bear Lake, MN:

Lino Lakes: 2 pm on Sunday, Dec. 24

Christmas tickets are going fast—please help us continue planning and spreading out attendance across all service times by reserving tickets for the service of your choice online below.

Lino Lakes

Friday, Dec. 22 at 7 pm

Saturday, Dec. 23 at 4 pm (FULL) & 6 pm

Sunday, Dec. 24 at 9 am, 11 am (FULL), 2 pm and 11 pm

White Bear Lake

Christmas at The Edge: Saturday, Dec. 23 at 6 & 7:30 pm

Christmas at The Brook: Sunday, Dec. 24 at 9 & 11 am

In order to make sure there will be enough open seats for walk-ins Christmas weekend, advance tickets are no longer available for services marked FULL. There will be seats available, however, if that is the only service you are able to attend.

Get Tickets Online Ticket FAQs

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Different by Design - Albert Mohler and Ligon Duncan

I got this in my inbox today and wanted to share it with everyone. Yes, I did register.

Location: Minneapolis Convention Center, Room 200
Time: 7:30 am - 8:15 am - Continental breakfast
8:15 am - 12:00 pm - Conference

Register online by clicking here.

The deadline to register for the conference is January 15, 2007.
Co-sponsored by
Fidelis Foundation and
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Mark Driscoll: Preaching and Teaching Jesus from Scripture

Justin Taylor put together these links so I am going to steal them from his blog. I got the podcasts of all of these so I never had to "look up" their actual web addresses.

I listened to/viewed all of these a couple of times already, and the first one is one of the most compelling messages you'll hear from Driscoll ever. He has preached all fall on some similar subject, and in fact if you listen to these messages and then listen to his sermons in the "Vintage Jesus" series he's been doing the past 10 weeks you'll find considerable overlap. Excellent stuff presented in a no-holds-barred both barrels blasting way. I burn these onto CD's and listen to them when I drive to and from work (roughly 45 minutes of time 4-5 days a week). (Photo by Timmy)

Here are some links to Mark Driscoll teaching on the topic of "Preaching and Teaching Jesus from Scripture." This was a seminar delivered on September 12, 2006 at the regional Acts 29 conference.

Part 1 (Audio | Video) -- Current Perspectives on Preaching
Part 2 (Audio | Video) -- Reflections on the Narrative Preaching Trend
Part 3 (Audio | Video) -- Epistemological and Hermeneutical Implications on Preaching
Part 4 (Audio | Video) -- Historical Lessons on Preaching
Part 5 (Audio | Video) -- Ten Cautions & Encouragements for Preachers

The links will take you to outlines for each part, as well as options to stream or download both the audio and video.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dr. Andreas Kostenberger on Tithing

To those who might find my blog from Pastor Phil Print's blog I would like to welcome you! I would also like to state that Phil and I are not at odds over this issue. Having heard a bit of Phil's further explanation on tithing during the Q&A session Sunday, I think he and I are pretty close in our thinking on this issue. I do think that tithing is a good thing, and that for most Christians tithing should be the starting point, not the end of our giving. I felt Phil's heart struggle when he read the question in church about a single mother living on minimum wage wondering whether she MUST tithe. It breaks my heart that there are those in that situation. I think that we as a church need to find ways to help her out in her situation in Christian love and charity without being patronizing or demeaning because of her current financial and life situation. I think that is what the Book of Acts is teaching about, where those who had excess went and sold it to give to those who were in need. If I have something that my brother or sister needs I cannot be so tied to the things of this world that I am unwilling to give it or share it. It is a difficult thing for us who have so much to understand and practice, but we are called to this level of sacrifice by the one who made the greatest of sacrifices, Christ.

The following was written by Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. Andreas J. Köstenberger serves as Professor of New Testament and Director of Ph.D./Th.M. Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and Editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

I appreciate him putting this out there, as it is a clear and concise address of the question of whether tithing is Biblical. Hat Tip to Paul S. (in the comments a few posts back) who pointed me to Dr. Kostenberger's blog "Biblical Foundations" where this was originally posted.


The word “tithe” literally means “tenth” and is commonly used to refer to the requirement to give ten percent of one’s income to God. However, from the outset, it should be noted that nowhere was money ever tithed. The tithe in the Old Testament always referred to produce from the ground or herds. Some may respond that this is the case because people lived in an agricultural society. While this is true, however, “money” is mentioned about thirty times in Genesis alone (e.g., Gen. 17: 12, 13, 23, 27; 31:15; 33:19; etc.). Therefore, before tithing is ever mentioned in the Mosaic Law (Lev. 27:30), money has been referred to about forty times. The last reference to money before tithing is mentioned in the Mosaic Law even provides rules for an ancient banking system (Lev. 25:37)!

Both Testaments view the tithe within the larger framework of giving and worship. Prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law, tithing was not a systematic, continual practice but an occasional, even exceptional, form of giving (Gen. 14:20; cf. Heb. 7:4; Gen. 28:22). The Mosaic Law includes stipulations regarding the Levitical, Festival, and Poor (or Welfare) Tithe (Lev. 27:30–33; Num. 18:21; Deut. 14:22–29). Taken together, the annual tithe of the Israelites surpassed ten percent of their income, totaling more than twenty percent. Of the seven references to tithing in the Old Testament historical and prophetic books, the most important is that in Mal. 3:8 (cf. 2 Chron. 31:5–6, 12; Neh. 10:38–39; 12:44–47; 13:5, 12; Amos 4:4), where people are told to bring their (Levitical) “tithes and offerings” into God’s “storehouse” and agricultural blessings are promised for those who comply.

It should be noted that in Malachi, the withholding of tithes was a sign of a larger pattern of disobedience. The tithe mentioned by the prophet is the Levitical Tithe (Num 18:21). The offerings to which reference is made were a primary source of livelihood for the priests and were required (not voluntary) offerings. The invitation to test God is limited to the context of Malachi 3 and should not be universalized. For this reason the promised (agricultural) reward, likewise, does not carry over to people who may tithe today. Moreover, if this passage were consistently applied today, offerings—that which tithing advocates refer to as the freewill portion of giving that occurs after one has tithed—are not of one’s free will, but required just as tithes are. Therefore, if someone were to give only ten percent (not that the Jews only gave ten percent), this person would still be in sin for robbing God of “offerings.”

References to tithing in the New Testament are limited to three passages. In Matt. 23:23, the Old Testament tithing requirement is presupposed for Jesus’ audience. The scribes and Pharisees are excoriated for prioritizing the minutiae of the Law over weightier matters. Jesus was not speaking to members of a church, but to Jews still under the Old Covenant and thus obligated to tithe. Similarly, Jesus in Luke 18:9–14 denounces inappropriate religious pride on the basis of observance of the Law. Hebrews 7, finally, addresses Abraham’s giving of a tenth to Melchizedek in the context of Melchizedek’s priesthood being superior to the Levitical one. None of these passages have tithing as their primary subject, and none command tithing for the new covenant era. The case for tithing on the basis of larger systematic-theological or pragmatic considerations likewise fails in that, similar to circumcision, Jesus fulfilled the tithing requirement and replaced it with a command for New Testament believers to give themselves to God and to give liberally of their means (1 Cor. 9:1–23; 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8–9; Phil. 4:15–17).

Where does that leave New Testament believers? We are not saying that it is okay to neglect giving. In fact, the New Testament contains sufficient guidance for our giving. Second Corinthians 8 tells us that our giving should be relationship-driven, grace-driven, and love-driven. However, nothing is mentioned regarding ten percent. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 16 teaches us that every believer should give; that they should give consistently or systematically (albeit there the reference is to a special collection); and that the amount is relative to one’s income. Second Corinthians 9 stipulates that the amount should be based upon one’s heart disposition (v. 7); that we should give in order to meet the needs of fellow-believers; and that our motivation should be thankfulness to God for all he has done for us. This is just a sampling of the many principles the New Testament gives for believers in order to direct them in their giving.

For further study see their two-part series “‘Will a Man Rob God?’ (Malachi 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments” and “Reconstructing a Biblical Model for Giving: A Discussion of Relevant Systematic Issues and New Testament Principles,” Bulletin of Biblical Research 16/1 (2006): 53–77 and 16/2 (2006): 237–60, posted here and here.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Americans — Cheap or Charitable?

(From FotF's "Pastor's Weekly Briefing")

Opinion on whether Americans are cheap or charitable depends on who is expressing their views. Former President Carter, U2 singer Bono and Angelina Jolie say we are cheap.

However, America is made up of 300 million individuals and their contributions far exceed what the government gives. Our private philanthropies make us one of the most generous people in the world, says Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute.

Arthur Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University and author of Who Really Cares began research to claim that liberals are the most generous — but found the opposite to be true. "People who attend a house of worship give four times more money per year than people who don't," noted Brooks. "The fact is that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. They also volunteer more." According to Brooks, individually, Americans per capita give about 3½ times more money per year than the French, seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians. Americans gave $260 billion away in charity last year — that's about $900 per person.

"Brooks' research is a breath of fresh air for conservatives tired of being lambasted by liberals as selfish," remarks Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for American Values. "Despite all the bad press that the liberals and elitists like to give people of faith," she said, "the truth is, that those Christian values of tithing, of helping the poor, of seeing the needy — these things motivate the community of faith to give and to give generously and to give above and beyond the call."

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Overcoming Sin and Temptation - John Owen

Justin Taylor offered up a second book for review, a book he coedited with Kelly Kapic. Justin has been involved with getting more resources from John Owen available on the web, and this book was (I suspect) a logical move from that work.

The key work by Taylor/Kapic was updating Owen's language into that which can be understood by the modern reader. Owen was a very deep thinker, and having that depth compounded by a difficult translation from old English to modern English was more work than many (myself included) were generally inclined to do with regularity. Taylor and Kapic found a reasonable balance with updating the language while keeping the original authorial intent. I might have gone a step further in a number of places, but that I probably why I'm not paid to do that sort of thing!

Prior to this book, I had known of John Owen, mostly through the work of Justin Taylor on his blog and elsewhere on the net, and a sermon by John Piper. I greatly appreciated this book, in that there is a great amount that is transportable into our own lives. I found myself challenged over and over to re-examine my own walk with Christ on how deal with my own sins and temptations. This is a subject relevant to every Christian, though I don't think that this book is at a level that all Christians would appreciate it. That is unfortunate, not that the book is deep, but that not all Christians are ready for this level of thought and truth and forced examination of their own walks with Christ.

This book actually consists of 3 different writings of John Owen. Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It, and Indwelling Sin are the three different writings used for this book. All three pair together in thought and writing style well. While I have not read the originals, it seems as though Taylor and Kapic have used a light had in their editing/updating of these texts. Many difficult segments they have chosen to leave as original have footnotes that accompany them to help clarify. This is where I would be most likely to have gone a step further, as I am one who really dislikes bouncing back and forth to footnotes - it breaks my flow of reading and train of thought to have to do it. A very minor nit picky issue I know, but as a whole I didn't get too far off track since the content is so good.

Owen's writing is laden with a treasure trove of scriptural references. Thankfully the editors have collected these into a single reference at the back of the book (Scripture Index). This is something I have no doubt I will return to in the years to come in my ministry as I continue to grow in these areas, as well as coach and teach others on these subjects.

An example of something I really found as excellent among this book is the following from page 153:
Grace and corruption
lie deep in the heart; men oftentimes deceive themselves in the search
after the one or the other of them. When we give vent to the soul, to try what
grace is there, corruption comes out; and when we search for corruption,
grace appears. So is the soul kept in uncertainty; we fail in our trials. God
comes with a gauge that goes to the bottom. He sends his instruments of trial
into the bowels and the inmost parts of the soul, and lets man see what is in
him, of what metal he is constituted.
Hard hitting, but deeply profound and true. The book is filled with things like this.

I would highly recommend this book. It would be a great gift to a pastor if they do not already own it. The jewel of Owen is matched quite nicely with the efforts of the editors to make his writings more approachable to the average person. Just beware that this book will likely make you very uncomfortable about your faith. It is like a spot light shining into the darkness of our own personal sins.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

A few weeks ago, Justin Taylor sent forth the call for bloggers to review a couple of books for him, one of which was Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. I had previously done this for Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, and was excited for another opportunity to read such good material.

First, I should preface this by stating that prior to reviewing the book I had purchased and viewed (some) the DVD's of the conference from which these books came from. I had also listened to the MP3's of the conference as well, so getting a chance to brush back up on it and see some nuances would be a good thing for me. I love watching and listening to things, but often I find that with deep or challenging subjects I need print in front of me. That is the way I learn best in most cases.

This book was a hard read for me. Hard on many levels. First, because I have been so blessed to have lived this long with such a small amount of pain and suffering in my life. I am clothed, well fed (too well fed!) and relatively healthy by most of the world's standards. I read things like this, and am pained by other people's suffering. The joy though is that this pain is shown to be endured with God's glory in the mind of the authors, in ways that I frankly cannot fathom at this stage of my life. I appreciate the first hand telling of suffering, but it makes it hard to read because it is painful to read of these sorts of suffering. I also love the credibility that inherent with first hand accounts of suffering. I think this method is especially powerful to a post-modern cultural context as a means of great connecting points. I suspect this was at best a secondary thought or concern on the part of any of the authors, but it nonetheless is another tool that might serve useful in this context.

The first portion of the book is subtitled: The Sovereignty of God in Suffering.

In light of Pastor John Piper's recent go around with prostate cancer, his words seem laden with experience and meaning, and through it all he points to God. My only possible critique would be that the early part of the book seems somewhat dominated by the thoughts and theology of Dr. Piper. I say that not as a criticism in that it is bad, but in that having some additional voices added into the text might have been helpful, especially on subjects that were less about the experiential aspects of suffering. Dr. Piper is always clear and concise throughout his writing, but it still nice to hear other voices. That is probably why I am not payed to be the editor :-)

I appreciated the clarity of Mark Talbot in his addressing suffering in relation to the issue of Open Theism. I have long known that the root of Open Theism is the desire to "solve" the problem of pain and suffering in the context of the Christian faith. Having been on the outside edge of this controversy as it raged through the Baptist General Conference a few years ago, I was pleased to see Mark Talbot stick to a clear presentation of his beliefs in a positive way.

The second part of the book is subtitled: The Purposes of God in Suffering.

Perhaps my favorite line from the whole book came from this section. It comes from Stephen Saint, and he says:
But what I do advocate is that suffering is an important prerequisite to ministering to hurting people.
These words seem to ring true down to the depths of my toes in the context of my reading this book. It is something I have to consider, in that I hope to shortly be in full time ministry and will undoubtedly be dealing with people who are hurting in ways I have yet to imagine or experience. It scares me that I might need to suffer some before I am fully equipped to be a good shepherd of a church or part of a church. I have over the past year had the painful opportunity to see from a distance a pastor friend learn this very hard lesson as his family coped with a young daughter suffering from (and hopefully recovering from!!!) Leukemia. There is no way he would ever choose that, but I have no doubt he will have learned many deep things that I have not yet had the painful opportunity to come to terms with.

The third segment of the book is subtitled: The Grace of God in Suffering.

These final three chapters are a powerful testament of God's Grace in our lives as we suffer. I must confess that in watching the DVD's, I found Joni Eareckson Tada's segment the least appealing to me. In reading her chapter, it seemed far more interesting and relevant to my understanding of both God's Grace as well as what suffering is. I have heard her speak on a number of occasions but this is the first time reading anything of hers. The passion she has flows from the pages into the person reading the book. I really think that ending the book on her thoughts and ideas on hope springing forth from suffering was the perfect conclusion. It is a tough read emotionally, and to have it end on a high note like that seems to tie it all together very nicely.

One of the appendices contain Dr. Piper's sermon/writing of "Don't waste your cancer". This is a great addition, and something that seems perfectly suited as an appendix for a book on this subject. It seems to be far too good to leave out, but fitting it in elsewhere might have taken away from some of the other thoughts that were being developed.

The book is not a quick read (especially not Dr. Piper!) because it is a heavy subject, and it is heavily scriptural. This is not a gloss over on the subject, nor is is flim-flam presentation of "God wants you to be happy, healthy and wealthy" that is so present on things like TBN.

I would highly recommend this book with a single caveat - read this book with someone else. I read this book solo, and really felt the need to decompress with someone after some of the deeper and heavier parts. I think that reading this with another person would open an enormous amount of conversation, as well as helping each person to fully deal with their thoughts on the subject. It is far too easy to skip through some of the uncomfortable parts, but with someone else holding you accountable you will likely see far greater effects in your life from this book.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Next Adult Generation "Busts" Traditional Morals

(From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

A new survey on the moral and sexual values of the "Buster Generation" — those between the age of 23 and 41 — was just released by the Barna Group. This survey compared the values of the Busters with their parental counterparts — the Boomers.

Values have certainly shifted. Busters are over four times as likely to not believe in absolute truth. Almost half of the Busters viewed their standard of morality to be based on "what is right for the person."

In addition to these more relativistic "standards" for reality, more than 75 percent of Busters saw cohabitation and sexual fantasies as morally acceptable. Most young adults also say that sex outside of marriage and viewing pornography are not morally problematic; almost a majority believed same-sex relationships are acceptable.

And this new generation of adults practices what it preaches. Busters were 2.5 times more likely to have had a sexual encounter outside of marriage. They were also twice as likely to use profanity in public, lie, steal, take revenge and physically assault another person.

Is there a difference between Christians and non-believers in the Buster generation? Not really. Eight of the sixteen criteria matched the secular population almost identically. When it was different, the moral view of the Christian Busters more closely resembles that of non-Christian Boomers.

David Kinnaman, vice president of the Barna Group observes, "The research shows that people's moral profile is more likely to resemble that of their peer group than it is to take shape around ... a person's faith."

Mr. Kinnaman had some prescriptive advice for church leaders everywhere: "It is important ... to understand the natural skepticism of Busters, as well as their desire for spiritual and conversational depth. Young adults do not want to hear ... monologues about moral regulations. You have to understand each person's unique background, identity and doubts and must tangibly model a biblical lifestyle ... beyond the walls of the church [in order to earn access to their hearts]."

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have put together a new web site based on Wayne Grudem's book Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth.

God created us, male and female, in His image.

So what does that mean?

Has the modern church suffered a tragic loss of the beauty of manhood and womanhood as created by God? Has the feminist influence within today's evangelical church led to a rejection of the effective authority of the Bible? In this reasoned, comprehensive response to more than one hundred controversial claims from evangelical feminists, biblical scholar Wayne Grudem answers these questions and examines the egalitarian perspective on every major doctrinal issue, including:

* What the Bible says about the roles of men and women in marriage
* Women in the church and in church leadership
* Theology and the concepts of equality, fairness, and justice
* Claims that a complementarian view as harmful

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

To Tithe or Not to Tithe

(From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

A Christian author says churches that teach tithing as a mandate is a "growing scandal." In his new book, Should the Church Teach Tithing?, Russell Earl Kelly insists that tithing was never biblically commanded as a moral principle of the New Covenant to the Church. Although he supports freewill giving, he states that a mandatory 10 percent is unscriptural.

Tithing, as Kelly describes in four ways, is the tenth part of produce or other income, free-will offerings, ten percent of gross income or, on a specific biblical note, an ordinance of the Mosaic Law for the use and benefit of the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. He stresses the "biblical fact" that the poor did not pay any tithes.

"Circumstances are different from household to household. God understands," wrote Kelly in his book. "The grace principle of 'equality giving' refers to giving as much as one is able. That does not mean that everybody is to give the same percentage." He also recognized, however, that "compulsory giving cannot possibly produce the level of giving which is prompted spontaneously by the Holy Spirit when the gospel is preached with power and authority!"

Kelly goes on to criticize churches for teaching tithing out of context as a biblical mandate. "No Christian is under any curse of the Old Covenant Law! It is simply unethical to preach 'out-of-context proof texts about tithing' sermons only from Malachi and Genesis 14."

Research among clergy and laity found earlier this year that, while most ministers say Christians are under a biblical mandate to tithe, most people in the pews do not believe the same. Congregants are also equally split on whether tithe should be based on net income or gross income. And both ministers and churchgoers are mixed on where tithing should go — whether it's limited to religious organizations or open to any organization regardless of religious connection or lack thereof.

A recent study, "The State of Church Giving Through 2004," found that giving by church members has decreased from 3.11 percent in 1968 to 2.56 percent in 2004. Both are well below the 10 percent tithe.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Crazy day at Crossroads Church

Today was a Crazy day at Crossroads Church in Cottage Grove, MN. Crazy in a good way. One year ago this church embarked on a campaign to change their friends, families, community, region and world. Crossroads is a church doing great things, but a church enormously limited by their facilities. So limited that the Sr. High School students cannot meet on campus, instead they meet down the road in another church where space is rented. But in spite of those space constraints, the church has continued to grow. Over a hundred people have come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior as a direct result of this church's ministries.

So they started a campaign, and called it Crazy. Crazy is raising millions of dollars above and beyond the normal church tithes and offerings. This money is being used for multiple things, first a new building, but more on that in a bit. Second, it is being used to buy books to help kids learn to read and enjoy reading more. Over $100,000 is going directly to local schools to buy books and items to help children read (District 833). Thus far $30,000 has already been given, and as contributions come in, donations will continue to be given to schools. Additionally $10,000 was contributed to a local elementary school to put the school over the top in fund raising for a new playground for the children to play on. I looked at the playground on the way home from church, and it is very nice, almost enticing me to want to play on it.

Another important component of the Crazy campaign is a partnership with World Vision to impact a community in Swaziland Africa. They are building a clinic, helping educate children, and digging wells to ensure people have clean and safe drinking water. More than 1/3 of the population of Swaziland is infected with the AIDS/HIV virus. Hundreds of thousands of children are orphaned, and most people live on less than $1 per day there. Poverty and destitution at levels most Americans cannot imagine. So the church is sending money and supplies, sponsoring children through World Vision, and taking missions trips to make a difference as part of their Crazy campaign.

Back to the new building. The current facility seats roughly 350 people, and the new one will seat 800 with plans to eventually expand to 1200 seats. The first stage will be 45,000 square feet, with room and plans to add on as finances allow and needs mandate. The first stage will also include space so that the High School students will be on campus again, and room for adult ministry for the first time in years.

Today was a day to focus on being Crazy. Pastor Phil Print re-vision cast the idea of Crazy in all church services this weekend. He clearly defined and reminded why they are doing this, to share Christ with the world. As part of this weekend long focus the church gathered this afternoon at Grey Cloud Elementary and rode buses to the site of the new facility.

At the new facility in Woodbury (or as it is currently known, the soybean field) there were prayer walks and hay rides. There were "tours" of the future facility that was flagged out with construction tape (though not to scale). And of course there was hot chocolate, cookies and all the coffee you could drink!

People took rocks and wrote the names of their friends, family and coworkers who do not know Jesus and placed them in a pile near where the future alter for the new sanctuary will be. There was a time of prayer for those people, and a commitment by those in attendance to work to bring them to the church and help in any way possible to share the love of Christ with them.

All in all, a great day. Crazy things are going on, and with God's blessing they will continue in ways we can't yet imagine!

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Biblical Qualifications of an Elder or Pastor

From Mark Driscoll's Blog:

17 Qualifications of an Elder-Pastor from 1 Timothy 3:1–7

Relation to God

* A man – masculine leader

* Above reproach – without any character defect

* Able to teach – effective Bible communicator

* Not a new convert – mature Christian

Relation to Family

* Husband of one wife – one-woman man, sexually pure (this does not require a man to be married, as Paul, Timothy, Jesus, and widowed men could qualify)

* Has obedient children – successful father

* Manages family well – provides for, leads, organizes, loves

Relation to Self

* Temperate – mentally and emotionally stable

* Self-controlled – disciplined life of sound decision-making

* Not given to drunkenness – without addictions

* Not a lover of money – financially content and upright

Relation to Others

* Respectable – worth following and imitating

* Hospitable – welcomes strangers, especially non-Christians for evangelism

* Not violent – even-tempered

* Gentle – kind, gracious, loving

* Not contentious – peaceable, not quarrelsome or divisive

* Good reputation with outsiders – respected by non-Christians

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Various Christian News Stories...

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Bishop Doubts Jesus Is the Only Way

Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori, the first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, doesn't consider Jesus Christ as the only way to God, reports the Associated Press. "If we insist that we know the one way to God, we've put God in a very small box," said Jefferts-Schori. The Bible declares that "in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" and Schori doesn't believe that "one person can have the fullness of truth in him or herself." Instead, she says, "Truth is, like God, more than any one person can encompass."

Eight Episcopal dioceses have asked Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who heads the world Anglican Communion, to put them under a leader other than Bishop Jefferts-Schori.

Cross Removed from College Chapel

Melissa Engimann, an administrator at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., has elected to remove a cross from the altar area of their chapel "in order to make the Wren Chapel less of a faith-specific space and to make it more welcoming to students, faculty, staff and visitors of all faiths." Engimann wants to ensure the space is seen as a nondenominational area.

The cross was in place because of the school's former association with the Anglican Church. Though the college is now nondenominational and became publicly supported in 1906, school officials said the room will still be considered a chapel and the cross can be returned for those who want to use it for their events.

Over $1.3M for Church-Planting Misused

Over $1.3 million designated for church-planting was misused by three pastors in the Baptist General Convention of Texas, according to the Associated Baptist Press. The results of the investigation conducted by a Brownsville attorney revealed that between 1999 and 2005, funds that were designated for starting new churches were used instead for book printing and other general church ministry. Some funds were also deposited into a personal account, but no evidence was found that any BGCT staff received any money for personal gain.

The three pastors had reported that 258 new churches were started but the investigation discovered that about 98 percent of those churches no longer exist or never existed. Last week, a day before the findings were revealed, the former director, and the associate director of the BGCT Church Starting Center resigned their positions.

Virginia Man Rehired (10/27/06):

Luis Padilla — who was fired from his job for having painted on his pickup a sign that read, "Please vote for marriage on Nov. 7" — was rehired and is expected to be back at work on Monday.

"This was all a big misunderstanding," said Wesley Carter, general manager of Cargill Foods' Timberville, Va., plant, where 40-year-old Luis Padilla is employed as a human resources clerk.

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