"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Sunday, September 30, 2007

For your consideration:

Pictured above is Trinity Broadcasting's multi-million dollar headquarters and their gold plated chairs. Trinity Broadcasting boasts $190 million in revenue every year peddling "prosperity gospel." Or the idea that Christ came so that you would be rich with money, especially if you buy their indulgences, I mean give to their ministry.

No, this is the kind of fast I want.
... I want you to share your food with the hungry
and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people.

When you see someone naked, clothe him!
Don't turn your back on your own flesh and blood!

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

These are the verses Christ used in Luke 4 to announce His mission. Who do you trust to interpret Christ's mission?

Below is video for the song "Jesusland" about what Christ might think of this mentality:

Friday, September 28, 2007

What the world needs...

"What the world needs is a religion born in defeat and catastrophe"
-Fulton J Sheen

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Edwards and Newton: Battling Doubt

So do we merely accept doubt and unbelief? I was interested in searching for Edwards’ prescription for doubt and found it in his thoughts on those who take communion but have doubts:

“And though the pastor is not to act as a searcher of the heart, or a lord of conscience in this affair, ...but... to be helpers of their joy, and promoters of their salvation.”
-Qualifications for communion

And his Resolution 25: "Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it."

But how? Jay Bennett probably knows better as he has made Edwards the focus of his studies, but I like hymns, so Newton fills in the gaps vividly for me in "Begone Unbelief": look to Christ, not to your faith or will, by Christ is faith strengthened:

1. Begone unbelief, My Savior is near,
And for my relief Will surely appear:
By faith let me wrestle, with God in the storm
And help me my Savior, the faith to adorn

2. Though dark be my way, Since he is my guide,
'Tis mine to obey, and His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, And creatures all fail,
The word he has spoken will surely prevail.

3. Why should I complain, Of want or distress
Temptation or pain? He told me no less

The heirs of salvation, I know from his word
Through much tribulation Must follow their Lord

4. Since all that I meet will work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, The medicine food;
Though painful at present, will cease before long,
And then, O! how glorious, The conqueror's song!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Doubt: Hymn for the week

"Why must holy places be dark places?" -C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

William Cowper lived a life to study. He wrote "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" and "Sometimes a Light Suprises." Some men's lives are read to know what great heights in faith may be reached (i.e. Paul and Adoniram Judson). Others are examined to know failure and depression are not the marks of a bad saint ( i.e. David Brainerd and William Cowper). Cowper lived a life painfully aware of his own inadequacies in depression, and even attempted suicide. John Newton and William Cowper began writing a hymnal together, but Cowper, due to his crushing depression, was unable to finish all of his half.

C.S. Lewis said we should not present ourselves to God as we should be, but as we truly are. Many times our modern songs tell us what we should feel. Cowper lets us know, we should not only tell God what we think He wants to hear, but admit to God our doubts so He can heal them like in this lesser known hymn/poem:

The Lord will Happiness Divine:

The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me gracious God, is mine
A contrite heart or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel
If aught is felt, tis only pain
To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclined
To love Thee, if I could
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that's good

My best desires are faint and few
I fain would strive for more:
But when I cry, "My strength renew",
Seem weaker than before

Thy saints are comforted, I know,
And love Thy house of prayer;
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.

Oh make this heart rejoice or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it, if it be.

Hear this hymn put to song once, in a decent way: here

In this Album

More on William Cowper from John Piper. (MP3)
On Battling Unbelief: Book by Piper

Monday, September 24, 2007

Doubt: The companion of faith

“I believe, help my unbelief.” - Mark 9:24

Many believers are told their doubt is not normal as a Christian. Doubt perhaps shows they really are not a Christian. To all those of little faith a Southern Baptist minister is quoted, at another site, as saying at the end of his sermon:

“If you’re not 100% sure that you are saved…if you are 99% sure, but have even 1% of doubt, then I want you to come forward this morning and repent. You need to rededicate your life to Christ.”

Sola fide run amok! Is faith binary: either a 0 or 1, either on or off? I thought to balance this quote with a little quotation on doubt I found illuminating in one of my classes. I will wait until the end to tell you who said it:

We ought not to seek any more intimate proof of this than that unbelief is, in all men, always mixed with faith. [cf. Luke 24:11-12] …While we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. On the other hand, we say that believers are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief. …In the course of the present life it never goes so well with us that we are wholly cured of the disease of unbelief and entirely filled and possessed by faith. Hence arise those conflicts; when unbelief, which reposes in the remains of the flesh, rises up to attack the faith that has been inwardly conceived. But if in the believing mind certainty is mixed with doubt, do we always come back to this: that faith does not rest in a certain and clear knowledge, but only in an obscure and confused knowledge of the divine will toward us? Not at all! For even if we are distracted by various thoughts, we are not on that account completely divorced from faith. Nor if we are troubled on all sides by the agitation of unbelief, are we for that reason immersed in its abyss. If we are struck, we are not for that reason cast down from our position. For the end of the conflict is always this; that faith ultimately triumphs over those difficulties which besiege and seem to imperil it. (John Calvin, The Institutes 3.2.4,17,18)

Doubt is an evidence that there is a faith to doubt. While we chase assurance, we are all reminded to pray the prayer of Mark 9:24, “I believe, help my unbelief” for '100% total assurance' is a fa├žade we might fake because we think we are supposed to, or a delusion we might imagine, but it is a fish we will never catch and demon we will never cast out this side of glory, when faith becomes sight. Though doubt is common, we still pray "help my unbelief."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Prayer for the Church: A Hymn to get you through the rest of the week

Jesus, with Thy Church abide

I never tire of complaining about the church. I complain that she turns herself into a community center, a self-help center and a concert hall. Of course, it rarely occurs to me:

1. she is us; and
2. We cannot leave her for she is our mother as
3. She is the body of Christ

To realize the Church is made up of depraved people (us) makes us realize the necessity of prayer for her sin (our sin). To realize she is the body of Christ makes us accept we have no hope of being in Christ without her. This moving hymn by Thomas Pollock (pictured right) is a prayer for the Church. Pollock ministered to the poor of London as a minister in the Church of England. Here are the better verses:

Jesus, with Thy Church abide,

Be her Savior, Lord, and Guide,

While on earth her faith is tried:

We beseech Thee, hear us.

Keep her life and doctrine pure,

Help her, patient, to endure,

Trusting in Thy promise sure:

We beseech Thee, hear us.

All her fettered powers release

Bid our strife and envy cease,

Grant the heav'nly gift of peace:

We beseech Thee, hear us.

May she guide the poor and blind,

Seek the lost until she find,

And the broken hearted bind:

We beseech Thee, hear us.

All that she has lost, restore,

May her strength and zeal be more

Than in brightest days of yore:

We beseech Thee, hear us.

May she holy triumphs win,

Overthrow the hosts of sin,

Gather all the nations in,

We beseech Thee, hear us.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

Lately I've been wondering: what does “evangelical” mean?

In reading up on the subject, people have been called evangelical in 3 different historical time periods with 3 different meanings:
1. 1500s - “Evangelical” was almost universally synonymous with Lutherans. As the split appeared between the followers of Calvin and the followers of Luther, most of the former took the label of “Reformed” and most of the latter took the appellation of “Evangelical.” Yet, some Reformed would also refer to themselves as evangelical, as this merely identified themselves with Luther’s recovery of the gospel. [Hence, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America claim the label of evangelical, meaning little of what is meant today]

2. 1700s - “Evangelical” refered to the new religious furvor associated with the Wesleys and Whitefield in the Methodist revival movement in England. The emphasis of the “evangelicals” was on personal conversion and an experiential response to the gospel (John Wesley described it as a “strange warming”). Evangelicals often insulted the Anglican establishment by preaching the need of conversion (the gospel) to baptized church members.

3. 1900s - After the 20s and 30s revealed the inadequacies of mere “Fundamentalism” in its blunt, militant, separatist reaction to theological liberalism, the neo-evangelicals adapted some of the revival techniques of the Second Great Awakening attempting to be “nice fundamentalists.” In America, this movement was most commonly associated with Billy Graham and Harold Ockenga, a Baptist and Presbyterian respectively and in England with Martin-Lloyd Jones and John Stott, a separatist Methodist Calvinist and an Anglican minister respectively. Yet after these leaders, evangelicalism began to focus on the same fundamentals that all Christians share, and ignore distinctives.

D.G. Hart recently wrote an entertainingly controversial book where he contends that “evangelical” means little more than “someone who likes Billy Graham.” Some may have an affinity for J.I. Packer, but his Reformed Anglican views offend many separatists, and some like Christianity Today, though it is derided by many a purist. Even the doctrine of "faith alone" is questioned as a necessity by the keepers of the gate. In an increasingly post-Graham world, the loose alliance of people may shatter between those who often like to "take their ball and go home" in regards to denominations. Hart voices the opinion of some Reformed and most Lutheran theologians who like their distinctives and rather not abandon them. Hart claims the term is no longer meaningful or useful in historiography as those called evangelicals will have no common identity after Graham and now that evangelistic revivals have fallen out of favor.

While I agree with much of Hart‘s criticisms of “generic evangelicalism,” and bad theology coming from revival evangelism, I think he might be a little too harsh on “the e-word.” I am not quite ready to abandon the term “evangelical” as long as it can be an adjective describing a general alliance, rather than noun conveying a lowest common denominator. In other words, the depths of Christian spirituality are found in its traditions, be they Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican or pietist/puritan. These traditions can come together in common cause, for the gospel. But in doing so, they should not lose the depths of the spiritual insights gained by the Reformed focus on the doctrines of grace, or the Lutheran/Anglican sacramental spirituality, or the puritan communion with God through the word. If they lose these distinctions, they run the risk of becoming irrelevant while chasing relevancy and dull while “sharpening” our gospel message.
So check out Hart's book if you want your assumptions challenged, though most will not agree with his solutions, his diagnosis is important to contend with...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Towards a revival of hymns: A hymn to get you through the rest of the week

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

I threw a shoe at my TV the other day. I made the mistake of watching a few minutes of Daystar, the gnostic, epicurian heretics posing as a Christian TV network. The host asked for money, promising financial blessings if one pledged to give him money. The host said “Some say God doesn’t want us to be rich, well then does God want us to be poor?! I wouldn’t serve a God that wanted me to be poor!” Don’t worry, you don’t serve Him. I listened to Henry Lyte’s hymn, as sung by Andrew Osenga, shortly after and immersed myself in the lines:

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain

Here’s the full hymn, another one that is not seeker friendly:

1. Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I've sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

2. Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

3. Man may trouble and distress me,'
Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, 'tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, 'twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

4. Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

5. Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o'er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father's smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

6. Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven's eternal days before thee,
God's own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.


Here’s the sheet music if you would like to attempt to force your worship leader to play it during the invitation Jesus bids us come and die: click here

Buy a CD with a modern version here.

And here's the RUF hymnbook online.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My King

So Life Action is making a visit to our church this week. As is normal for me I have been praying through having an open heart for yet another program which is suppose to change my wretched existence. Well all in all it has been good and I am glad they are here. But this video definitely got me stirred up quite a bit. Guess they succeeded in getting to me with lights and sound and well, hard to be cynical when I watch it, and I am tired of being so cynical. Had our church applauding throughout. Check it out...

1Sa 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD.
1Sa 8:7 And the LORD said to Samuel, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them."

Caedmon's Call

Buy this album. Seriously. Caedmon's Call is pretty much the only Christian band worth listening to lyrically and instrumentally. This blog is for theology and this is the only band from which I hear GOOD theology. SO SUPPORT THEM SO THEY STICK AROUND!!! Derek Webb is back involved in the band, and so is Andrew Osenga, a former member of my old home church of East White Oak Bible Church in Normal IL. EWO's choir director even provides some trumpet support, not much though: its folky.

If you need an endorcement, here's Christianity Today's.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hymn for the Day. (from preferably dead hymnists)

A while ago, my brother posted on hymns. Hymns, like biographies of saints, are an untapped treasure of the church. I think I might start periodically posting some lesser known hymns (like with the Newton post) from Isaac Watts, John Newton, Charles Wesley, William Cowper, and others. I join my friend Mike Freitag in lamenting how they are slowly being replaced by self-focused choruses like:

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
[Ain't I great! Well...and the Son]
And I will open up my heart
[really, the Holy Spirit doesn't do that?]
And let the healer set me free
["Let Him"? If you are not free how can you "let Him"?]
I’m happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
[Daily? That's some good discipline. Better than me]
For I will always sing
[Ever stop for air?]
Of when your love came down
[What does that even mean? maybe when "Your Son" came down?]


I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever
[Is God's name "You"? Could you really sing forever presently?]

These lyrics are sung, because it preserves the "dignity of man" as important and "empowered." As Mark Noll said, we are what we sing. We don't know what to do with hymns that when they use "I" a lot, talk about our inadequacy and sin like:

A Hymn to God the Father:

Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin
, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as He shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, Thou hast done;
I fear no more.

[Thou [God] hast done, not "I will" do. Hmm...and John Donne wasn't even a Calvinist...]

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dr. D. James Kennedy

Dr. D. James Kennedy died in his sleep last night. He pioneered "Evangelism Explosion" that took a Florida Presbyterian Church from tens to thousands, all with new converts. Kennedy would readily admit he never converted a soul, God could only do that. Kennedy was a great preacher and a witty, funny, and ardent Calvinist. R.I.P.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

John Newton: the anti-Prosperity gospel

[What I love about John Newton (the author of Amazing Grace), among other things, is: He's a dead theologian. He is unincumbered by our modern belief that Christ died to give me a big house, a BMW and health. How offensive: the idea God has us suffer on purpose?! Roger Olsen says the "Calvinist God" scares him. Me too. Well, at least I fear Him, I think I am supposed to. I may think Piper pushes it too far sometimes, by not connecting purpose with suffering, but I also think he is right."I Asked the Lord" has been put to modern music in this album.]

"I asked the Lord" by John Newton:

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?“
’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”