Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mark Driscoll's Critique of Prayer Labyrinths

On March 2 of this year, Mark Driscoll preached a sermon on the Regulative Principle of Worship. (The sermon can be heard HERE.) The conclusion of the sermon was a rejection of the Regulative Principle. I have previously written a blog article voicing concerns over this conclusion and critically examining some of Driscoll's arguments against the Regulative Principle. (This article can be viewed HERE.) In the article just mentioned, I also pointed out that while I disagree with Driscoll's conclusion, there are many good points that Driscoll makes during the sermon. Driscoll has a real talent for condensing a theological argument to its main points and relating the argument directly to the Good News of Jesus. Driscoll utilizes this talent in exposing the problem with prayer labyrinths, which are in vogue within many sectors of the Emergent Church Movement (ECM):

Some churches have something called a labyrinth- a prayer labyrinth. We don't have one, never will, not as long as I'm breathing. Because here's the point of the labyrinth- it's not Christian, it comes from paganism- and it's walking in a circle. I know: it's not as exciting as some would say- I don't understand. And the whole point of walking around the prayer labyrinth in a circle is to walk into the center and be by yourself. And the teaching therein is that the goal of true spirituality is to go into oneself to find answers, light, and truth. That's exactly the opposite of what we [Christians] believe. If I ever find a prayer labyrinth, I'm going to start in the middle and walk out as an act of protest because I'm a Christian. The answer's in Him, not in me; my goal is not to close in on myself, but to turn from myself, and outward to Jesus.

So things like that [like prayer labyrinths]- people say, 'Oh, it's very cool.' No, it's very pagan; it's very demonic. It's physically, with your body, saying something that is contrary to the Bible.

That prayer labyrinths are so popular with the ECM is especially interesting in light of the common critique from ECM leaders that the church in America is infected by the philosophy of Platonism. For example, Doug Pagitt berated Todd Friel of The Way of the Master Radio, calling him a Platonist and saying the following:

...what you're articulating here is a Platonic understanding of the cosmos... what you're into here is some kind of dualistic, Platonic understanding of the cosmos...

Pagitt, one of the founders of Emergent Village, advocates the practice of walking prayer labyrinths, writing:

… walking a prayer labyrinth, going on pilgrimage, and making the sign of the cross have served to connect the physical body to the life of faith through the centuries. [Doug Pagitt. BodyPrayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God. Page 4]

Yet labyrinth-walking portrays a neo-Platonic, rather than a Christian, view of salvation. The neo-Platonists, influenced by the writings of Plato, as interpreted by the teaching of Plotinus and others, believed that a person must turn from the material world and turn inward in order to find the reflection of God within oneself. While the Bible does teach that we are all created in God's image, it also teaches that this image of God has become corrupted due to sin. To look within oneself to find a reflection of God, and thus come to know God, one will inevitably be led astray. Rather, we must look to the God's revelation of Himself in the Bible, which "is perfect, restoring the soul" (see Psalm 19:7-11). This written revelation brings knowledge of Jesus, who alone gives eternal life (see John 5:39-40).

To paraphrase a statement made by Dr. Albert Mohler at the 2006 Together for the Gospel Conference: 'We tend to think that our problem is outside of ourselves, and we must turn inside for the solution; in reality, our problem is within and salvation must come from outside of ourselvesy.' We need something- Someone- from outside ourselves to save us from our internal corruption; we need a Savior; we need Jesus. And our worship practices should reflect this reality.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to the Homosexual Community

In listening to a few podcasts regarding the issue of "homosexual marriage," the best audio file that I heard was an interview of Rev. Chuck McIlhenny on Iron Sharpens Iron. I would like to recommend that anyone reading this post would take the time to listen to this interview, which can be heard HERE. What impressed me most about this interview was not so much the philosophical or legal analysis of "homosexual marriage," but the fact that McIlhenny was a pastor in San Francisco and was actively involved in ministering to the homosexual community despite vigorous persecution. The following is a sample of the conversation on the program:

Host: Did homosexuals ever disrupt services there during this period [when the church was being targeted for protest]?

McIlhenny: Oh, yes. Periodically, they would picket outside our church building, and they would come into the church- we didn't restrict anybody from coming in, even the homosexuals in their obvious dress- transgender dress- we let anybody in, and if it really got disruptive, we would either call the police [sic]. But, quite frankly, they never did close down a worship service- short of the fire-bombing, which effected the church building itself- they never disrupted a service enough to stop it altogether. Because we're there to share with them the gospel, that Jesus came to save sinners. And heterosexuals and homosexuals and immoralists of all kinds are all part of that thing. So yes, we were able to minister to the gay community, and yes, we were "black-balled" from attempting to do it in a variety of ways, too.

Host: Were homosexuals who had genuine and sincere motives- because they wanted to hear the gospel preached- attend [sic] the services?

McIlhenny: We have had people come in who were struggling with homosexuality, the issue is not whether they're struggling with it, whether they have proclivities, if they turn to Jesus Christ, continue to struggle, they can be saved. It's when one completely resolves that he's going to be homosexual, he's going to go contrary to the Word of God, and then claim to be a Christian [that there's a problem]- as far as I'm concerned, Scripture is real clear... Now, you can struggle with the whole sin issue and be a believer, whatever your sin is- whether it's sexuality or alcoholism, or whatever it is- we struggle with those things, even as Christians, and they're even welcome to the worship services too, so that we join together as Christians trying to live a holy life against the background of an unholy cultural environment.

More on the McIlhennys' ministry from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church website:

Chuck and Donna, along with a group of ministers, met with Mayor Newsom [of San Francisco] and confronted him with biblical teaching on this issue ["homosexual marriage"]. During the meeting, Chuck presented Mayor Newsom with a copy of the McIlhennys' book, When the Wicked Seize a City, and told him about the lawsuits, vandalism, firebombing, and attacks against their church and family. From Romans 13, Chuck told Mayor Newsom that as mayor of the city he functioned as a minister of God. He further told the mayor that he needed to repent, believe in Christ, and stop supporting same-sex marriages.

That same day, the McIlhennys participated in a press conference on the steps of the city courthouse. Then, on April 25, they helped to organize a public demonstration against same-sex marriages, which an estimated seven thousand people attended. Chuck also had the opportunity to debate this issue at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

Before Mayor Newsom, during the press conference, at the demonstration, and during the debate, Chuck essentially delivered the same message. First, he issued a call to repentance. Second, he admonished the authorities to stop same-sex marriages. Third, he urged that the law of God be obeyed. And, finally, he proclaimed the need to turn to Christ.

This has been Chuck's consistent message over the years in his efforts to reach the city of San Francisco for Christ. He repeatedly tells others that homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin. As sinful as such behavior and attitudes are, homosexuals are not beyond the supernatural power of God to bring them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. The message to homosexuals in San Francisco from the McIlhennys has always been the same: You must repent of your sinful ways and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You Can't Change; No, You Can't (Part 4)

[Re: The video in Part 1.]

One reason that Sen. Obama evokes the type of enthusiasm depicted by the video in the link above is that, in contrast to our current President, Obama is genuinely a great public speaker. To move people to action with words is a great talent. Many of you reading this post would probably like to see improvement in your own skill in speech-making or in positive persuasion in private conversation.

When we think of our own speech in general, we see that there is much that we regret: not only in terms of skill, but also in terms of content. We have all spoken words of complaint when we should have focused on speaking words of thanksgiving. We have all spoken to others out of personal anger or frustration when we should have spoken words aimed at encouraging others to improve. We have all spoken to people in such a way to have our own desires met when we should have spoken for the the benefit of those we love. We have all spoken in pride rather than humility.

Sometimes when we make such errors in our speech, we catch ourselves and say, "I didn't really mean that!" But if we are honest, in the moment that we speak we do mean what we say- as Jesus said of Man, "Out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45 NIV). The "errors" in our speech mentioned above are really sins- sins against God and against others- and these sins point to the condition of our heart. Naturally in this world each heart- the seat of our desires- is corrupted, and we need our heart to be changed. Speaking of the physical body, when one needs a new heart, he or she comes to be under the mercy of others: even with all the advances of medical technology, we will never read of a doctor performing heart replacement surgery on himself. Spiritually, we, who in our natural state constantly desire things against God's Law, cannot change our own hearts. We need a new heart from God.

Speaking of the ministry of Jesus, the prophet Ezekiel said, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God" (Ezekiel 11:19-20 NIV). Our sins, mentioned above, earned God's condemnation. Jesus died as a payment for these sins, taking God's condemnation upon Himself on the Cross. Jesus rose from the grave, demonstrating that He has conquered sin and death, and He is now seated at the right hand of God. Jesus will grant a new heart to His people- a people who will turn from their sins and trust in Him. We cannot do this for ourselves; we cannot make this most fundamental change that we need. We need a Savior; we need Jesus. I urge you, dear reader, to call out to Jesus today for His mercy.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You Can't Change; No, You Can't (Part 3)

"Yes we can heal this nation; yes we can repair this world."

These specific changes, desired by Obama supporters as spoken by Sen. Obama in the video from Part 1, are certainly admirable goals. Who would not want to see the nation be healed in terms of political animosity between Republicans and Democrats that keep the legislative branch largely ineffective? Who would not want to see the nation be healed in terms of remaining bigotry, which is so great that 20 percent of Kentucky voters said "race" was a major factor in determining the candidate for whom they cast their ballot? In regards to repairing the world, who would not want to see a world in which there is (for example) more peace and less war?

Human beings working together certainly can bring a type of healing or reparation into the world in limited ways for a limited time. But both history and the current world situation show that any healing achieved by a nation eventually returns to disease and ultimate death; any reparation brought to the world (such as at the end of WWII, where many said war would be banished forever) quickly falls into a state of disarray. One reason why this must be the case is that when we say we want our nation to be healed or the world to be repaired, we pre-suppose that there was a certain healthy or functioning state of affairs. When a physician cures a patient, he does so with the knowledge of how a healthy body should operate; when a mechanic repairs a car, he does so with the knowledge of how the automobile should run. But in this nation and in this world, we have mutually exclusive visions for what a pristine situation should be. The Islamist views the ideal world condition as one in which everyone submits to sharia law, the communist views the ideal as one in which there is no hierarchal government structures, the Zionist views the ideal in which the Palestinians cede their land to Israel, the Darwinists deny the concept of "repair" as they teach the world growing from a state of chaos to increasing order with the strong killing the weak. Not taking these competing ideologies into account, the humanist vision for world reparation will always fail.

The Bible teaches that the world was created by a Sovereign God and that humankind was given dominion over and care for creation, and freedom in creation, as they enjoyed God, worshiping God through His Word. Humans neglected this Word, listening instead to the word of Satan, which called them to worship themselves. Self-worship has characterized humanity ever since, causing perpetual strife with one another and with God. This human rebellion earned God's judgment of death and wrath. But God sent the Word into humanity- the Word took on human flesh and was named Jesus. Jesus worshiped God perfectly throughout His life and then took God's judgment against humanity- the judgment of death and wrath that Jesus did not deserve- upon Himself on the Cross, dying in the place of all who would believe on Him. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and ascended to the right hand of God. Jesus now offers life to all who trust in Him- a life that will conquer death, a life of freedom from self-worship and the strife this causes, a life of freedom to worship God through the Word. This reality- a reality that is so hard to see due to the rebellion of creation and the remaining sin in the lives of those who follow Jesus- will one day become fully manifest on this earth, when Jesus physically returns to the earth and truly repairs the world. No one human nation will be healed in this glorious event, but all nations will give way to the kingdom of Christ.

Many will not accept the account of the Good News of Jesus as outlined above, and we would not wish to force anyone to accept it. But as this Good News goes throughout the world, the Holy Spirit of God will open the hearts of many people from every language-group, tribe, and nation to hear the Word of life. One thing Christians cannot do is to say, "Yes we can repair this world," for world reparation must come through a Savior- Jesus Christ- and if we try to repair this world without direct reference to Jesus, we are engaging in a form of self-worship- rebellion against God- which is the problem, rather than the solution.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

You Can't Change; No, You Can't (Part 2)

"Yes we can to justice and equality... Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity."

These concepts, as spoken by Sen. Obama at the speech in the video from the last post, represent admirable foundational ideals for government. We all want a government that is just and treats citizens with equality; we all want laws that allow for opportunity and that encourage prosperity. Though we certainly have differences of opinion on how to achieve these things, what American would say that we wish government to be unjust, unequal, to restrict opportunity, or to encourage poverty?

Though governmental officials regardless of religion should strive for justice and equality- should promote opportunity and prosperity- it should be obvious that these goals cannot be perfectly achieved by human effort. Due to selfishness, we all fall short of these goals personally, and so all human societies fall short of these goals as well. Justice is based upon truthfulness and we all, at some time or another, have lied out of personal convenience or ambition rather than telling the truth. We have all, in certain ways, failed to promote equality, practicing favoritism instead, based upon selfish personal preferences. Laziness or love of pleasure restricts our opportunities and caps our ability to be prosperous. These tendencies are not only harmful to others, but they are dishonoring to God, our Sovereign Creator. As beings made to reflect God's image, when we practice injustice, we wickedly portray God as less than just; when we practice inequality, we promote the idea that God shows favoritism.

God, who is perfectly just, will exercise justice toward all individuals and societies. He will condemn injustice, inequality, laziness, lying, and selfishness. But in His mercy, God has sent His Son to die on the Cross, bearing the condemnation of all who will believe on Him. He has raised His Son from the grave, and Jesus is now sitting at His Father's right hand in heaven, offering eternal life to all who call out to Him for mercy. Jesus will return and establish a perfect kingdom on this earth, a kingdom in which there is equality between every people, language group, tribe, and nation, a kingdom in which true justice is administered, a kingdom in which there is more than just an opportunity to live according to the purpose for which we were created, but where we are empowered to take full advantage of this opportunity. In the coming kingdom of Christ, prosperity will be so great that the streets will be paved with gold.

Though we can, and should, find ways to improve conditions here and now, we must recognize that we cannot make these changes perfect; we need someone with the power to make these changes- we need a Savior. Dear reader, I plead with you to call out to Christ right now and ask Him for the change in your life that You desperately need.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Can't Change; No, You Can't (Part 1)


This series of posts isn't actually going to focus on Barack Obama, but about a thought I had concerning the above music video itself. The title of these posts- "You Can't Change; No, You Can't"- is not in response to Obama's political message, or to any political message for that matter. History, and particularly American history, has proven that people certainly can change government and governmental policies. But the "Yes We Can" video mentions no specific policy that those supporting Obama would like to see enacted. When we ask, "What change do you suggest we can make?" only two answers are apparent from the video: "Yes we can heal this nation; yes we can repair this world." My concern is that the high level of emotional impact achieved by this video, along with the fact that the video de-contextualizes statements made in a political campaign, tends to suggest that the creators of the video believe in a human power of change that goes beyond what government, or any human person or group, is able to achieve.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Gay marriage" and the Gospel

When driving to and from work and when washing dishes at home (our apartment allows no dishwasher), I often listen to news radio or theological commentary on podcasts. At the end of last week an beginning of this week much of the talk I've heard has been devoted to the issue of "gay marriage," due to last week's ruling on this subject by the California Supreme Court. Frankly, I was not very interested in this subject at first. Though the Bible certainly addresses the issue of homosexuality, I am not currently ministering to anyone involved in a homosexual lifestyle, and so I tended to view this as merely a political issue. In thinking about this further, however, I realized that the issue of "gay marriage" may very well provide an opportunity for speaking the Good News of Jesus Christ to my friends, family and fellow UPSers who do not know him, whether or not they identify as "homosexual."

Though Jesus did not directly address the issue of homosexuality during His earthly ministry (i.e., we cannot point to a particular Bible passage and say, "Here's Jesus' parable on the homosexual lifestyle), Jesus certainly did address marriage, particularly in concern with violations of the marriage covenant. An example of this is recorded in Matthew 19:3-6,

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." [NIV]

In this passage, Jesus points to the opening chapters of the Bible, in which the foundation is laid for our understanding of who God is and who we are. From the very first verse of the Bible, God is presented as the Sovereign Creator of all things. We, therefore, are His creatures and are to be subject to God's will. God's will for marriage is clear in the text of Genesis and as expounded by Jesus: "In the beginning [God] made them male and female... a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

There is a tendency among many non-Christians (and even some who claim to be Christian) to view issues such as "gay marriage" as falling under the category of individual choice. "If that's what they want to do, why should it concern me?" seems to be the attitude. The above consideration demonstrates that "gay marriage" is a demonstration of rebellion against God's sovereign will.

Many people reading this post will say to themselves, "Well, this doesn't apply to me, I'm not gay." But the truth is, we have all rebelled against our Sovereign Creator in different ways. Again, take marriage as an example; Jesus taught,

27 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Matthew 5:27-28 NIV]

Any time that we have looked with sinful desire at a person who is not our spouse, we have committed spiritual adultery and have dishonored God in our hearts.

Marriage is designed by God to be a picture of Christ's relationship to His Church:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. [Ephesians 5:21-33 NIV]

Notice particularly the teaching, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Christ "gave himself up" for sinners- whereas we rebelled against God's will and deserved God's wrath, Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man who lived a perfect life before God, died on the Cross taking all of God's wrath on behalf of those who will follow Him. Jesus was buried, rose from the grave on the third day, and now sits at the right hand of God, offering eternal life to sinners. If you trust in Jesus' work on the Cross and turn away from your rebellion- in whatever form it may take- turning to Jesus for forgiveness, He will certainly forgive you and grant you eternal life: A life of joy in God forever.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kentucky Elections Today

As usual, I will vote for whoever Kentucky Right to Life recommends.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Birthday Wish List

With my birthday coming soon, some of my family will be wanting ideas for gifts I would like to receive. Here is my birthday wish list, in order of importance to me. The links are to places where the gifts may be ordered.

1. The NET Bible (ISBN: 0-7375-0101-4)

2. The God Who Justifies by James White

3. Christ's Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton (please, if you buy this, get a used edition and NOT a ridiculously expensive new edition).

4. Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul

5. Lectures on Romans by Martin Luther (again, please get this one used).


Friday, May 16, 2008

One of the funniest (and saddest) things I've heard in a long time

Friends, you've gotta hear the song at the following link: Musical Interlude


"Get a commentary or"


Thursday, May 15, 2008

We've got our inerrant Bible, but... oops! we forgot Jesus; or, how the liberals were partly right (part 3)

The chapel services at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, should regularly serve as an exemplar for preaching. In the presence of future pastors and missionaries, who will be charged with proclaiming the Word of God throughout the nations and will be responsible for ministering Scripture to God's people week by week, preachers at Southern Seminary chapel should be expected to demonstrate how a man called by God teaches and exhorts his hearers from the Bible. Yet this semester, as I was required to attend 18 chapel services for my Preaching Practicum (which was, BTW, a wonderful class overall), I heard 4 services in which the Good News of Jesus was absent from the preaching. In two sermons, Jesus' name was only mentioned in passing; in one sermon, the name of Jesus was not mentioned at all.


The name of Jesus was not mentioned! Brothers and sisters in Christ reading this post, take a moment to consider this- according to Jesus (for example, in John 5:39), the Bible is all about Him; there are missionaries in countries all over the world who are risking their lives daily to introduce Jesus to men and women through the Scriptures. Yet during this past semester at Southern Seminary chapel, there were 4 sermons in which the Good News of Jesus was absent- in which those hearing the sermon could have heard, understood, and tried to apply the message of the sermon and yet remained under God's condemnation for sin, having never trusted in Christ. Are these examples of faithful Christian preaching? Are they not, instead, examples of how the gospel is being lost in the Southern Baptist Convention? (This question becomes more serious when one considers that the sermons most devoid of Christ were preached by a former president of the SBC and by a current member of the LifeWay board of trustees.)

When voicing this concern to a friend of mine, I was asked, "Does every sermon have to explicitly mention the name of Jesus?" Considering the truth that, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 NIV), and considering that any command given from Scripture is damning apart from Christ, as we have all fallen short of God's glory (see Romans 3:23), the answer to this question must be, "Yes." Every Christian sermon must not only mention Jesus, but must be centered in Jesus, as He is the glory of God and He makes God known (see John 1:14-18).

Perhaps more disturbing than the sermons themselves was the utter lack of reaction that they received from the Seminary community. I heard many brothers praising the style of the sermons- their delivery and various points that were made. I heard virtually no one recognize Who was missing.

If someone speaking in chapel had stood and said, "The Bible is not entirely inerrant. It contains two errors and here they are..." The Seminary would have been all abuzz. The speaker would have been denounced from the pulpit and everyone would have been talking about how horrible the statements were. But as long as a speaker believes that the Bible is inerrant, he gets a pass, even if he fails to proclaim Christ from the Bible. This demonstrates how the SBC has tended to elevate the words of Scripture over the meaning of Scripture. In other words, we have indeed engaged in bibliolatry; we have proven the liberals to be partly right.