Category Archives: Bible

Oh! The Depth of My Depravity

The longer we walk with the Lord, the further we realize we have to go.

When I first started living as a Christian about 12 years ago, I thought I would be uber-sanctified. I thought the struggles I wrestled with then would be over and I would be aglow with holiness. Perhaps I never articulated that but it was an assumption nonetheless. Although my sins from then have ceased, they have morphed into something else. Better, I am realizing the depth of those symptoms is much deeper than I had feared.

I made it a discipline over the past few years to begin asking what was in back of all my actions. I would not be satisfied with the answer, “Well, it’s sin.” I wanted to ask the more precise questions of “why” it was sin, “how” it was sin, and the reason as to why I persisted in that sin. It is far too easy and affords not as much cleansing from sin when we stop short of what the Spirit wants us to learn when we test ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Instead of just saying “I sinned because I am a sinner,” we need to do the hard work of excising the cancer that is parasiting on our heart. To perform heart surgery you have to both break ribs and tenderly cut. This exercise I am getting ready to illustrate is the breaking of the ribs.

One of the disciplines I was taught early in my Christian life was to memorize Scripture. The typical rationale finds root in Psalm 119.11–“Your word I have hid in my heart, so that I might not sin against you.” This is a great motivation for memorizing God’s Word! Another reason is found in Proverb 25.11–“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in fittings of silver.” We want to have God’s word on our lips when a brother or sister are hurting and need encouragement to press forward in a trial.

While these motivations are definitely in back of my desire to memorize Scripture, they are intermingled with a nastier nemesis. I too often times want people to know that I have memorized Scripture so that they will exclaim my knowledge and humility. The things of God become tools to exalt me. The fruit of the Spirit is juiced for my aggrandizement. I am kind, I am good, I am gentle, I am self-controlled for my own glory.

The sooner we realize that all our acts of righteousness are tainted with sin, the sooner we will realize our need of a Savior. The longer it takes, the more we will wallow in pride or self-delusionment.

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Don’t Just Talk About Christ’s Sweetness…Taste It

I have been steeping myself in Augustine over the past four weeks for a paper I am doing on Augustine’s view of Scripture – particularly inspiration. From his second exposition of Psalm 18 (19), this hit hard:

Verse 12. The sweetness of the commandments

12. Indeed your servant keeps them. Your servant tests their sweetness by keeping them, not merely by talking about it, and keeps them because they are sweet even now, and will bring him everlasting health in the future; for in keeping them there is great reward. Heretics are so attached to their rancor that they cannot see this brilliance, nor taste the sweetness.

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The Drama of Doctrine: A Book Summary

The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Westminster John Knox: Louisville, 2005. 493pp. $39.95.

According to the author, “The present book sets forth a postconservative, canonical-linguistic theology and a directive theory of doctrine that roots theology more firmly in Scripture while preserving Lindbeck’s emphasis on practice”  (xiii).  On the whole, this work is a fascinating piece that helps theologian and layperson grasp the energetic nature of Scripture. Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach de-emphasized the autonomy of the exegete while heightening that of his enveloping culture – “the experience and the reasoning of the individual human subject is always already shaped by a tradition of language use” (10). By replacing “cultural” with “canonical,” Vanhoozer is able to say the same of Scripture – namely, it is the shaping subject for humanity. In this way, Vanhoozer reorients theology from theory to wisdom (13).

The author aptly shows how drama is a correcting foil for the theological endeavor. God is both the script(ure) writer and player in the drama. Humans are actors following a script. Theologians are the dramaturge for humanity.  Regarding the script, Vanhoozer makes it clear that this is a not a wooden mimic of the script. Rather, it is likened to a dinner theater, where the audience plays a part in the action and shaping as well. The actors are given roles, and they are so intended to enter into the ethic of the role that their actions and words will reflect the kind of person the playwright intended. Further, the Church acts out her parts in front of the surrounding culture and draws them into the drama that God intended them to live. Poignantly put, “Neither the pastor nor the magisterium should be allowed to become the sole voice or actor in the church. On the contrary, the whole people of God is responsible for participating in and continuing the action. Only an active rather than passive audience can turn deadly theater into ‘ a rehearsal of revolution.’ At its best, the church, as the theater of the gospel, is revolutionary, overturning idols and ideologies alike as it displays the first fruits of eschatological reality” (404; original emphasis).

Vanhoozer’s work should be read by all those who seek to bring doctrine and practice together. While this is not the only model by which we can organize Scripture’s teaching, the author has powerfully argued for it as a major contender. Unlike Michael Horton’s work regarding Divine Drama, Vanhoozer helpfully incorporates the surrounding culture in his model of theology. That is, rather than just saying that he will organize his theology around an analogy that follows the Bible’s own intrasystematic categories (when drama itself is not a category given in Scripture), Vanhoozer helps further theology’s enterprise of incorporating culture and Scripture together.

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Augustine’s Divine Accommodation In Natural Revelation

The divine scriptures then are in the habit of making something like children’s toys out of things that occur in creation, by which to entice our sickly gaze and get us step by step to seek as best we can the things that are above and forsake the things that are below {The Trinity, I. 1. 2}.

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Dwelling through the Text

Mark Driscoll

Nehemiah

This is a story about Nehemiah planting a church in the city of Jerusalem.

Mark suggests that a church planter should write in a journal. He has been strategically prepared (in education, commerce, etc) in the capital of Susa by God for the re-building of Jerusalem. The information was not new to Nehemiah, but it hit him in the new way.

In the same way, the need for church planting in the city is not new information. There is a need – dead church buildings, apostate seminaries, etc. How will this hit you?

Four or five months after the Lord broke his heart he risked being killed by sitting in front of the king. He is willing to lose his high position (he lives in the palace and has much power) so that he can re-build that which has been torn down.

You need to pray and fast and articulate your plan. You better be able to articulate your plan of action before you go and try to gather finances and people. It should be written down. Everything he does is bathed in prayer. There are times that you will have to be confident and bold enough to ask for policies to be changed (Nehemiah asked for a law to be changed).

He asked the king to vouch for him. When you go out, you need to be able to say that there is a group supporting.

You need to continually look for evidences of God’s grace to encourage and keep you from discouragement. Every time Nehemiah’s prayers are answered he gives glory to God for the provision.

There will be those who will oppose you. How do you deal with criticism? Remember that criticism these days is instant, constant, permanent, and global. You need to flee to the Gospel to get through. Criticism will happen. You must assume that this will happen. Set up strong accountability structures around you so that you can give an answer to anyone that will make a charge against you. If Satan can’t make you sin he will make you busy. If he can’t make you fall, he will make you preoccupied with myriad of things. You will emotionally die as people you love will turn against you.

You must learn to let your critics to be your coaches.

Verse 11: He surveys the city at night so that he will be anonymous. He is doing a contextual survey of his city.

He does not tell anyone because he is motivated by a pervading call in his life. If you do not have a sense of calling, then you will give up.

Chapter 4:9 – The trowel is for building and the sword is for defending what you build. Do you know how to defend your people (theologically, physically, legally)? The job of the pastor is to shepherd the flock of God. You must be cautious to not think that you should shepherd wolves that will break into your fold. You have to get rid of them. The heretics that will sneak into your church will rip your church apart – even more probable than the critics from the outside.

Chapter 7 – You need to surround yourself with men of great character. You need to have a priest, prophet, and king who will meet the needs of your congregation.

Chapter 8 – The word is preached and then priests are released into the congregation to care for those who have confessed and believed in the word preached. This is analogous to small group ministries.

13:8 – Underlying much urban ministry is anger. You need to understand godly-motivated anger so that you do not sin. When you see sin, you should be compelled by anger and compassion to be a change agent. Verse 23: There is no room for cowardice in leadership. You need to take action rather than debate about issues too long. You have to be careful the example that you set for your people. 

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Dwelling in the Text

Mark Driscoll

This is the hardest thing for him to talk about since much of it is intuitive. You have to know and love Jesus. To do this, you need to spend time in the text. It will impact your life and, subsequently, your marriage.

Six questions he asks himself when he is studying:

  1. What does the Bible say? Prov 35:6. The Bible is verbal plenary inspiration. The Bible is the primary means by which God uses to speak to us. He encourages us to fast a few days a month in order to simply read the Bible – fasting from internet, cell phones, e-mail, meetings, etc. Jesus often drew away from busy-ness
  2. What does it mean? Letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Use commentaries, other people, resources that will help you get in the life of the original hearers.
  3. What is the take away point? Perhaps it is a word, an image, a doctrine (i.e. providence, atonement), an emotion (Naomi changed her name to Mara), or a life study of a person (i.e. Nehemiah).
  4. Why/how is there resistance to what is true? We have a proclivity to suppress the truth. We need to be honest in our own lives (as we prepare) as to whether we have applied this text to our lives. “Before we can live a life, lead a family, lead a church, we have to acknowledge some of our own resistance.” How do we respond to those who will defend themselves. The Puritans would assume a resistance in their hearers, this is why they spent a considerable time preaching (not because they were merely verbose).
  5. Why does this matter? As my witness, my fathering, my husbanding, my pastoring. There are several layers to everything we learn and apply. Our life will affect our families, churches, and culture. The Gospel will be magnified and spread by our faithful application of this text. “The Bible is not just true, it is helpful.” It’s not like the phonebook that is true, but it helps people live better lives. It’s true that it leads to eternal life, but it is also the way to a better life here on earth. One of the worst reductionisms in our Bible reading is that it is just for me. We need to evaluate our lives one these several levels so that we can make an impact on our culture and spread the fame of Jesus.
  6. How is Jesus the hero? When you talk about Jesus, the Holy Spirit likes to show up to do a work on your hearers’ ears. We cannot merely use the Jesus exemplar so that we tell people to live like Jesus. He is the hero and Savior of men, not merely a model on how to be a better businessman or even pastor (though this is an aspect of Christ’s life).
    1. 25% of the OT is prophetic, which are tied to Jesus’ fulfillment
    2. Christophanies

                     i. “the angel of the Lord”

Types

 i.     Figures and institutions (Adam, priest, prophet, king, sacrificial system)

    Events

       i.     The Exodus, Passover, Day of Atonement

    Titles

       i.     Suffering Servant, First and the Last, Shepherd

     

    What is sad about so many in the ministry is that so many pastors use the Bible for other means other than for knowing Jesus. They go to the Bible for approval, self-exaltation, material gain, puffing up with knowledge, for comfort for our spouse. If you do not go to the Scriptures for Jesus, he will oppose everything you do. He will not be content with being a means to an end.

    Bottom Line:

    The Bible’s true, it’s about Jesus. 

    Table Talk

    Church planting is what happens when a man gets excited about Jesus and tells others about Him. What are ways we can get excited and stay excited about Him?

    Are you a closet light beer drinker? No. I am not a hypocrite.

    Why have you changed from being angry to being heart-broken over those who teach false doctrine? What I perceived to be false teaching knew what they were doing. Now I realize that there is demonic deception so that these people do not know they are teaching false doctrine (who believe they are teaching rightly). Also, I think I have become a pastor (as opposed to merely a prophet) to help people think through issues.

    How can a preacher get better at answering objections in a sermon? Preach more than one sermon (get feedback in between services). Ask for feedback among your elders. Bounce ideas off them. Have an on-line discussion board so you can see questions people have. For those who are getting ready to plant a church, it would be wise to plan your first year of sermons in ministry.

    How do we talk about Jesus being helpful without falling into pragmatism? We need to be afraid of compromise not pragmatism. We want to use our doctrine because it works. We do not want to denigrate our doctrine so that something works. He draws a metaphor of prophet, priests, and kings for our present-day context. Prophets want to have doctrinal solidarity. The priests want to minister to the needs of the people. Kings organize well. We need to learn from each of these offices. Finding out what works best is not a sin but compromise is.

    How do you structure your study time? Office at the church and a study at home. (1) saves on commute time. (2) I can study whenever I want. (3) My wife and kids have access to our libraries. (4) Your family see us studying the Bible. You’re integrating your study into your life. You need to set aside a few days a month to get away and spend time alone with God.

    What is the most-effective way a wife can encourage her church planting husband? [Gracie, Mark’s wife responds] That is husband-specific. I erred in trying to answer that question before I asked him; ask it often since the seasons change, Lots of encouragement even though you think he doesn’t need any help, advice, or encouragement. Even correction is encouragement. Keeping your husband a priority. [Mark resumes] A missional thought pattern should also be utilized when we minister to our spouse.

    Apart from the Bible, what are your top three resources? Biographies are huge. You don’t really know if he knows what he is talking about until he is dead and the full effects can be seen after their dead.

    From your own disciplines, how have you used them to meet with Jesus? I am a constant reader.

    How do you intentionally develop your staff? Set up a culture where we really trust the Bible and love Jesus. So much of what becomes the culture of the church is modeled by the pastor.

    We take responsibility even when you don’t feel like it’s your fault. This is seen in the life of Jesus who took our sin upon himself even when it was not his fault to own. Driscoll would discourage building ministries that will allow them to abdicate their duties to their families and the church. Possibly bring all the families together on Wednesday nights, teach them, and equip them to teach their families.

    Your goal should be to see all your men become elders. You want them to be at that level of elder in their doctrine and life. They all won’t get to there, but that is what you aim for.

         Best advice he has received as a church planter:

    “Be a sanctified version of yourself” (John Piper) – advice given to Driscoll he considers the best advice he has received as a church planter.

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    Where are the Prophets?

    First Things put up an article by Peter Leithart that provokes and informs. I may write more later regarding prophets and prophecy – as this has been a focus of my studies this semester. But for now, read this snippet and pick your jaw up from the last sentence:

    Far from simplifying prophecy, the Bible greatly complicates it. It’s as easy to denounce from a distance as it is to launch smart bombs from a command center on the other side of the world. Gestures of repudiation cost little, and adding the term prophetic lends an aura of piety to our reputations.

    Prophets in the Bible, though, cannot afford gestures. They are called to speak the word of the Lord from within the court, mounting an internal critique. The pressures on Nathan to keep silent after David seized Bathsheba and sent her husband to his death must have been enormous. He could have vented himself in a scathing editorial and then kept his head down. From all appearances, though, Nathan had free access to the court, was a friend of David, and a close adviser. It is said that prophets spoke truth to power, but that goes beyond cliché when we realize that prophets spoke the truth face to face with power, to powerful men and women whom the prophets knew intimately, frequently from their own position of power.

    Power corrupts, and it always has. Court prophets were often pusillanimous yes-men like Ahab’s four hundred, who dramatized Ahab’s coming victory over Aram by shaking around iron horns. But power doesn’t always and necessarily corrupt, and the company of priestly and court prophets also included spokesmen of Yahweh. Faithful “insiders” were always a minority, but the biblical picture shows that we can’t tell a true from a false prophet simply by answering the question, Where is the prophet? Not all prophets are in king’s houses, but some are.

    Judging by the biblical evidence, though, we are as likely to find a prophet in a presidential Cabinet, at the Hague, or roaming the halls of WCC headquarters as we are in the mountains of Northern Idaho or the deserts of Arabia or the desperate ghettos of Chicago. God is no respecter of persons, and a Karl Rove or a Paul Wolfowitz, as scandalous as the suggestion may be, is as likely to be a prophet as a Jeremiah Wright. 

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