A Resting Place

"It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

the fellowship of sinners

"He who is alone in his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone in our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!"

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, February 25, 2005

Jesus' "Embrace of Pain"

"It is the Christian claim that Jesus paradigmatically embodied the central biblical trajectory of embracing marginality and pain - ultimately death - on behalf of both the margins and the center, thus bearing the sins of the world. This radical embrace was vivid testimony to his trust in the Creator of both center and margins, a Creator who is able to bring life even out of death. The person of Jesus, and especially his death on a cross, thus becomes in the New Testament a symbol of the counterideological intent of the biblical metanarrative and the paradigm or model of ethical human action, even in the face of massive injustice."
(J. Richard Middleton & Brian Walsh, Truth is Stranger Than it Used to Be, p. 104-105)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Updating the Links

Over time, I'll be updating the "links" section on the right, adding places that I regularly visit. I may eventually separate the regular sites from the blogs and including more of the blogs I frequent.

For now, here's what's been added:

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals - It's always good to see Reformed folk getting together rather than fighting.
Challies.com - a blog with regular good articles.
St. Anne's Public House - an excellent tape ministry.
Touchstone Magazine - "A journal of Mere Christianity."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Ethics in a Mall Culture

"Postmodernity is, after all, a 'mall culture'...Aimlessly wandering through a mall with an incredible range of consumer options can be extremely tiring. It is not simply the multiplicity of options that tires us; at bottom is the inability to make a normative choice.
But people do act. People do make ethical decisions every day. The problem is that we have no way to argue definitively with each other about the grounds of those actions because all such grounds are the limited and idiosyncratic perspectives of our particular moral community at best, and our own consumer desires at worst. If ethical norms are socially constructed, and if all criteria by which we would judge the legitimacy of social contructs are themselves embedded in other social constructions, then we find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible to come to any final ethical decisions."
(J. Richard Middleton & Brian Walsh, Truth is Stranger Than it Used to Be, p.60)

Monday, February 21, 2005


Yup, he's back on stage. Gordon Lightfoot. The man.

Back when I was in junior high, I didn't listen to any music. Ever. When I was a kid, I jammed to the oldies and all sorts of stuff, but for some reason (maybe 'cause I couldn't understand Bob Dylan at the time, and my dad listened to him a lot), I didn't purposefully listen to much music by the time I was like 11. Then one day, my dad popped Gord's Gold into the car tape deck. I wore that tape out listening to it over and over. Gord's music became something the whole family had in common, something we could celebrate together.

Right around his 1993 release, Waiting for You, my dad surprised us with tickets to a Lightfoot concert down at Chataqua Institute. I remember it settling in..."Wait. You mean I can actually see the guy in concert that I'm hearing on these cds?" It was an incredible outdoor show, my first concert ever. Since then, my family has made two trips up to Toronto to see him at Massey Hall, where he plays once every year and a half. We always stay at the same hotel, and we always have a great time.

Then, of course, Gord went into a coma and it was questionable whether he'd ever play and sing again. Now he's back with a new cd, Harmony, which is simply stunning given all he's been through. His voice is certainly not the deep baritone of the 70's, but it still has that character to it.

He's also resuming his Massey Hall plans. The last time my family went up to Massey Hall was May 9, 1998, and Gord played this set list. Being that he's six years older and has had so many health issues, I'd be surprised to hear such a great set list again. But regardless of how the show goes, this will be a special trip. My brother Brad and I are both married now, and in a month, my other brother, Eric, will also be married. We're taking the whole family - dad, mom, us three boys, and our marvelous wives - to his show on May 21st. I can't wait.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Personal Philosophies

As my own way of looking at things is transitioning from a sort of naive moralism to, well, hopefully something not so naive, I thought the following thought from Lemony Snicket was appropriate:

"Having a personal philosophy is like having a pet marmoset, because it may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all."
(from The Grim Grotto)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Calm Down! Just Calm DOWN!

What am I getting so riled up about, you ask? Al Mohler wrote the following in his blog in yesterday's entry about Brian McLaren, a leading influence in the Emerging Church movement:

McLaren was listed as one of 25 influential evangelicals in the February 7, 2005 edition of TIME magazine. In its profile, TIME referred to a conference last spring at which McLaren was addressed with a question related to gay marriage. "You know what," McLaren responded, "The thing that breaks my heart is that there's no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side." TIME referred to this as "a kinder and gentler brand of religion." Others would be less charitable, for McLaren's "nonanswer" is itself an answer. This is a man who doesn't want to offend anyone on any side of any argument.
It simply amazes me that evangelicals, particularly my wonderful Reformed friends, are so up in arms about his answer. This is the second time I've read a Reformed writer that I respect hammer on McLaren for his statement. Douglas Wilson, whose Credenda Agenda issue on homosexuality a few months ago was so well-written, was unfortunately even harsher than Mohler on his blog recently:

He [McLaren] was asked about homosexual marriage, and his answer said it all. He said that what broke his heart was the fact that no matter what he said, he was going to hurt people on one side or the other. Of course hurting people on the other side is what you are supposed to do in a war. If you know what side you are on.
Um...when did this become a war against the gays? I thought we were in this to save souls. We're in a war in which we're supposed to hurt people? Somebody stop. I want to get off this train. I want to sign up with another country or something, 'cause if Wilson is right, somehow I wandered into the wrong camp. Jesus didn't say stuff like this.

Now, it is absolutely true that people are going to get hurt in these discussions. I'm not saying that we should neglect to do anything about the clear teaching of God's Word because it might hurt someone. But isn't it ironic that Christians are the ones acting the most hurt by McLaren's statement? How 'bout some sensitivity and humilty since we happen to be sinners too? How 'bout we stop acting as if this one sin is the really, really bad one? They're all really, really bad ones, including the ones you and I committed today. Jesus also died a really, really bad death to deal with it. So here's a suggestion. Put down the weapons and stop failing to care about whether or not you hurt someone. Point instead to the One who was hurt (i.e., whipped, beaten, spit on, mocked, and killed) for our sins.

If we evangelicals had enough discernment to realize just how poorly we've handled this issue, we'd see McLaren's statement as a good, foundational, and humble start to this discussion. It stinks that people are going to get hurt when we talk about this. No, it really does. I know. Truth is important; it is vital. But so is speaking it in love. While it is likely, from what I've read, that McLaren (whose works I will definitely be reading in the near future) will be a bit more theologically relaxed (if you will) than I am comfortable with, his attitude is a much needed balance to the vitriolic reactions of many Christians these days.

There's a lot of important stuff to say on this matter, and I do think what we Americans do with it will have wide-ranging cultural and religious implications. But we all need to start with some apologies, and then we can sit down over a cup of coffee with fellow sinners and explain to them Jesus' opinion on human sexuality.

snicket on "fate," and other things

"Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like."
(from The Slippery Slope)

The conversation over at Boar's Head Tavern and the iMonk's last two essays have been a breath of fresh air on the issue of "inerrancy," a word (that I said in a college paper a few years ago) that is probably more trouble than it's worth.

My teaching on 1 Corinthians 15 and the Millenium over at my other blog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

a little odd

I'll let you make what you want of the following story from Brit Hume on Fox News:

Nature vs. Nurture?
A German zoo's plan to introduce females into a group of what they think are homosexual male penguins has angered gay rights groups — who complain that the zoo's actions are trying to turn the penguins straight.
The Bremerhaven Zoo concluded the penguins might be gay after the males tried to mate with one another. Zookeepers say they just want to see whether the birds were acting that way because of a lack of females.
A spokesman added, "Nobody is trying to break up same sex pairs by force."

Monday, February 14, 2005

a familiar pulpit, and Saved!

I was asked by the current pastor of West Bethany Baptist Church to fill the pulpit for him in his absence this coming weekend. I can't say it won't be a little odd being back in the pulpit of the church I pastored for one year. That was overall an extremely odd year of my life. But it will be fun as well. I always love preaching, and it will be good to see old friends.

I watched the movie Saved! this weekend, and while it's a harsh critique of the Christian subculture, a fairly accurate one nonetheless. It was very uncomfortable to watch, and I found myself pretty angry afterwards. Not angry that a moviemaker would pick on Christians, but that he would pick on Christians and be so accurate. We deserve almost everything the movie poked fun at. The "answer" given to the problem of the Christian subculture in the film's resolution ultimately was as shallow as what the movie was picking on. Nevertheless, I think lots of Christians, especially those involved in teen ministry, should sit down and watch this movie. When you don't look in the mirror for a really long time, what you see when you finally do is scary. This is sort of what needs to happen to the American Christian subculture. Hopefully we'd be able to set aside the pride and defensive posture (i.e., persecution complex) and learn what we really look like sometimes.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

leaving the circus

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2 Cor. 2:17).

For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (2 Cor. 10:18).

I mentioned previously that the godlylife.com site was down, and that I had to decide what I planned to do with said site. In the time since its going down and today, I've done a lot of thinking. Here's where I'm at.

I'm tired of the circus of evangelical ministries. As if it were not enough for us to have formed 30,000 denominations of Protestantism, we also have an inumerable number of "Spirit-anointed" ministries, each believing its existence is necessary if the 21st century church is really going to make it. We've got ministries to bring revival, keep revival, teach you how to attract teens, teach you how to attract rich people to your church (not a joke), teach you how to combat postmodernism, or teach you that you need to embrace postmodernism. We've got Christian weight loss programs, apologetics ministries, and plenty of nuts who will take you on a retreat for a weekend to cast demons out of you. On and on it goes, ad nauseum. And the funny thing is, each ministry claims to be specially anointed of God. Each one says some silly thing like, "We believe we've created a ministry that God can use to [insert purpose of ministry]. Blah. I've had it.

Then there's the pastors and the young (and old) know-it-alls. I know a lot about these guys, 'cause I used to be one (and am currently trying hard not to be). These are the guys who honestly believe they are the next hot thing - God's gift to help the church make it through our current times. The church is struggling, but as soon as I get out there and preach, I'll be able (um...I mean God will be able) to bring us all back together, eliminate the heretics, gather the faithful in ecstatic revival, destroy the left wingers from the land, and even ensure that the pot luck dinners are filled up in plenty with good food each Sunday. Aunt Mabel will have repented of that funky smelling peas and beans casserole.

All the while, we are simply mimicking the American market system, selling ourselves to the evangelical world, as though they have a need that only our product (I mean ministry) can fill.

In days gone by, great pastors like Chrysostom, Augustine, and Calvin did not want to promote themselves to their pastoral roles. They had no ambitions to do such things. They wanted to quietly study the Word and write theology. What happened? The church recognized their incredible gifts and made them become pastors.

You see the difference? In our day, as soon as some young hotshot feels "called," he makes sure everyone around him knows it. Then everyone around him, not wanting to "limit God," immediately affirms the young lad and sends him on his way to evangelical stardom. And so another prideful pastor or another parachurch ministry is born.

Well, I don't want to be another one. I don't want to be a great preacher. I don't want to save evangelicalism from its circus-like state. I don't want to be a ringleader in the midst of this nonsense. I want to live a peaceful and quiet life with my wife. I want to become very active in a local church here in my community, teach and preach, worship and love, and write hard. If people hear my preaching or read my writing (I'm not abandoning my plans to write and get published) and want me to come speak (in other words, if THEY recognize some gift in me and want me to come), I'll gladly accept such offers. But I'm done promoting myself. I'm done commending myself as the next great revival preacher or any other such balderdash (great word, isn't it?). Let God, entirely by His grace, commend me where and when He chooses, if at all. I'm going to do my best to quietly, humbly, and joyfully serve.

So it's highly unlikely that the godlylife.com site will return. I may replace it with a personal homepage over time, or I may just stick with this blog. For now, if you want to read what I write, keep coming here. But you don't have to. I'm not trying to impress anyone.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Thank You to IVCF

I just wanted to thank all of you at Geneseo InterVarsity. The last three weeks have been a blessing to me. Again, please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or declarations of heresy. I know I packed a lot of material into a short period of time. I hope you found yourselves challenged and encouraged as you continue to be a light on the SUNY Geneseo campus. I hope to see you all again soon.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

GodlyLife site down

My "home page," www.godlylife.com, is down for some reason, and will be until I get it figured out. As you may know if you've been checking it, I rarely update the site anyway. I've considered making a variety of changes, perhaps even publishing this blog as my homepage, so I may just let the site stay down and not pay on it until I make a decision. I'll make announcements about speaking engagements here at the blog.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Jesus is Lord

Hopefully this post will address some questions that have been asked in various comments as well as outside of this blog. I want to take up the issue of the Lordship of Christ. Eschatology will make an important appearance in this article, as well as some vital questions and unhelpful confusion.

One of my hesitations about the total avoidance of any attempt at a Christian government is the overwhelming chorus of early Christian voices claiming that "Jesus is Lord." Lord of what? The Church? Individual Christians? Or is He Lord of the entire earth? And if so, how?

A key text here is 1 Corinthians 15:20-28:

20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For "God[b] has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

The order of events seems plain: (1) Christ's resurrection occurs. (2) At His coming, the resurrection of believers take place. (3)"The end" comes. (4) Jesus hands the kingdom back over to His Father.

This destroys premillenialism, in my opinion, which means we are left with either amillenialism or postmillenialism. The text seems to favor post- (though I would gladly welcome alternate views if I'm missing something), because by the time the return comes, all things are put under His feet, and death is the final enemy.

Several questions must be answered: Who or what are the enemies? What does all things mean? Does He destroy every rule and power and authority at His coming, or during all the years leading up to it?

Here's the dilemma in my mind: If Jesus' reign is occurring now, which the text clearly says, and His reign ends at His return (hands the kingdom back to the Father), which it also says, and we are not supposed to seek for a Christianized world with Christian governments, then Jesus' reign over the earth is never entire. It is only over the church and was never intended to be over governments at all. Maybe that is indeed what the Bible says; I've got lots of studying to do there.

But something worries me here. If we are not supposed to have Christian governments, are we supposed to not try to elect Christian leaders? Should we not call on them to turn to Christ? Should we, in effect, not evangelize government officials, since the state is supposed to be secular? How do we affect our political atmosphere for Christ if it's not supposed to be Christian? Something tells me we'd do what we're doing now - engage in political power plays that show nothing of the true humility of Christ. Furthermore, it is obvious that we are, indeed, to call all to turn to Christ (Acts 17:30-31).

At the same time (it's like a literary tennis match), Christian governments have been absolutely horrendous in the past. Forced Christianity is never a good thing.

So perhaps I've come right back around to the idea of preaching the gospel to everyone everywhere and letting Christ take Lordship of what He wants to in His time. That's a little too vague for me, but it does keep the gospel primary and political power plays on the back burner. I'm going to explore the merits of this position over the next few days.