Media Mash with Sean Hannity

I stumbled across this segment of Sean Hannity’s show this morning and really liked it. He points out the media bias that plagues the drive-bys. It’s worth the watch.

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Pink Panther 2

Ah yes, with great joy, I share the trailer to the upcoming movie, Pink Panther 2. I loved the first one with Steve Martin. He is the only one in the world that could play the part and do it justice. I have yet to acquire that movie for my library, but I’m hoping to do so when it reaches bargain basement prices at Wal Mart.

Well, now, without further adiuex … further wasting of your time, here is the trailer. (I’m hoping I can get a group together from my church to go see it).

Being 47!

No, I didn’t just turn 47. I’ve been 47 for 9 months now. But I’m feeling it today in full force. Today, it’s a pulled muscle in my shoulder. It hurts so bad, I cannot lift my arm above the my belt. I’m only typing this to prove to my lovely bride that I can type without it hurting. It still hurts. But I can type. I need to type. I have a sermon to write, and a bulletin to finish. If I can’t do this… well, today will be really long.

We’re heading out to the doc in box here in a few. I don’t think I can type much more than this. I will preach from an outline and a heavy dependence upon the Holy Spirit (as is the case most Sundays).

I wonder… with so many minor ailments at 47, what’s 87 going to be like?

Snow Day

We had our first snow day of the year on Tuesday. In fact, it was pretty much OUR neighborhood that got the snow. The rest of the county missed out. They got the flurries, but not enough snow to stick to the ground.

Needless to say, it was exciting for Andy as he learned some of the joys of snow, like removing it from the car, taking it, balling it up and throwing it at Daddy. Yes, he threw his first snowball on Tuesday. Subsequently, he got his with is first snowball on Tuesday as well, courtesy of his Daddy! We had fun getting the car ready.

We didn’t get to build a snowman, so that will have to wait. But it was fun for a day.

Sad Sporting Event — True Christ-Like Character

I’m not sure if you heard about this or not, but the girl’s basketball team of Covenant School of Dallas beat Dallas Academy’s basketball team 100-0 the other night. The game was not only lopsided, but an embarrassment to the winning team. They are now seeking a forfeit of the game because of their unsportsman like attitude, i.e., they were still taking three point shots into the third quarter after leading 59-0 at half time.

But that is not what caught my attention. What caught my attention was the following paragraph from the story:

Covenant coach Micah Grimes and head of school Kyle Queal did not immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press on Thursday.

In the statement on the Covenant Web site, Queal said the game “does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition. We humbly apologize for our actions and seek the forgiveness of Dallas Academy, TAPPS and our community.”

Kyle Queal??? Wait a minute, I know that guy! He used to be the singles pastor at Park Cities Presbyterian Church. It’s rare that you see people you know making the news. and thank goodness, since most news is bad. Given the incident, it’s good to see Kyle seeking to do the right thing.

I’m proud he is taking a “Christ-like” approach to it all. It would have been nice to see the coach do that during the game, but I can understand that sometimes, emotions in sports get out of hand. Given that blunder, it’s good to see they are seeking a course of action that is honoring to Christ.

The other neat aspect of the game is the character displayed by the losing team, Dallas Academy. They never gave up, even though they were outmatched. That has caught the attention of Mark Cuban, who has invited the entire team to his suite during one of the Dallas Maverick’s home games.

At a shootaround Thursday, several Dallas Academy players said they were frustrated during the game but felt it was a learning opportunity. They also said they are excited about some of the attention they are receiving from the loss, including an invitation from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to see an NBA game from his suite.

“Even if you are losing, you might as well keep playing,” said Shelby Hyatt, a freshman on the team. “Keep trying, and it’s going to be OK.”

This entire story show that the axiom: “Sports don’t build character, sports reveal character,” to be true. And while the game itself was ugly, true Christ-like character is coming to fruition. Read the entire story here.

Seminary Education

A friend from the real world asked me what books I would recommend he read if he wanted a good seminary education. It’s an interesting question because so much of what I had to read while I was in seminary was just pure junk. In fact, several years ago, I pulled out most of the books I picked up while and seminary and gave them away to a pastor I knew in town. I probably had three boxes of books. I knew that since he would just set them on his shelf to make himself look smart, there was no danger in him reading them.

Needless to say, I don’t think much of my seminary education, or the seminary itself. I got a masters in theology, but most of the theology I know, I had to learn on my own. The best two theology professors they had were in the historical theology department. The rest of them were so set on the trite fads of the day, they were useless.

But that is not the point I’m making. The point is: what books would I require for a good, solid theological education? Here is a partial list… and if you were to read these books, and understand them well, you will have a better theological education than most the seminary students of the day. (Excluding the following seminaries: Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, any of the Reformed Theological Seminaries, and… that’s all I know where you can get a great education, and don’t follow fads of the day).

OK, here are a few that I highly recommend.

John Calvin’s Institute of Christian Religion, the one edited by McNeil. I know that many think of this as a systematic theology, with all the dryness of seminary dissertation. But it is not. Remember, not only was Calvin a great theologian, he was also a pastor and wrote from a pastor’s heart. It also helps to understand the world he lived in so that you know that battles he was fighting. That helps as well. But even if you don’t know the setting and history, it is still and edifying book.

J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, or any of his other works. Ryle writes like a pastor, well grounded in Reformed theology. His entire goal was to help believers in their walks with the Lord, and it shows in his writings. Realize, that he didn’t set out to write Reformed theology, but what the Bible said. That was his source. (He was Anglican as well).

Michael Horton’s Putting Amazing Back into Grace, and Christless Christianity. These two books capture the essence of the gospel better than anything else I have read besides Scripture. Horton addresses the battles of our day and we need to understand what is taking place in the pulpits across America. Christless Christianity really deals with this aspect, but gives a very clear picture of the gospel.

John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad, and Brothers, We are Not Professionals. The first book deals with the concept of missions with the premise that missions are necessary because of the absence of true worship. Brothers, is more of a treatise to fellow pastors, but is still worth the read.

John Owen, any of his works, but particularly The Death of Christ, The Death of Death. This latter book helps explain the atonement better than any other book. He is arguing for particular redemption, aka limited atonement. To this day, there has been no descent repsonse to refute his arguments. If you can find the copy with the introduction by J.I. Packer, get that one. His introduction alone is worth the price of the book.

If you want a great systematic theology, Louis Berkhof’s is excellent. I recommend anyone who is going into the ministry to have this book on your shelf, and pull it off frequently. He really deals with theology in a helpful manner.

Also R.C. Sproul’s Chosen By God is excellent as well. This one really helped me understanding God’s election of His people.

Augustine’s City of God, deals with Christ’s Kingdom verse man’s kingdom.

Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor. This is one of those books that a pastor should read once a year. Which reminds me, I need to pull my copy off the shelf and read it again.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, along with G.I. Williamson’s commentary on the confession. Read both the larger and shorter catechisms as well. It’s amazing how many questions we have as Christians that are answered by this catechisms with both clarity and Scriptural support.

And finally, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. This book is truly excellent in helping us understand the Christian life. It’s worth taking the time to study.

In fact, all these books are worth the time to study and understand. There you go. That would be my suggestion for starting your theological library. If you have suggestions, please put them in the comments section.

Law and Gospel by Michael Horton

Romans 3:21-22 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all[a] who believe. For there is no difference.

One of the problems today in evangelicalism is understanding the difference between law and gospel. Michael Horton does an excellent job explaining the two in his latest book, Christless Christianity. In his section on, Why Law Makes Sense and the Gospel Sound Strange, he writes after quoting Romans 3:21-22:

So the law reveals the righteousness that God is, by which we are judged (and therefore condemned); the gospel reveals the righteousness that God freely gives to sinners through faith in Jesus Christ… Salvation, from start to finish, is his work for us, not a matter of saving ourselves or even of cooperating with him. It is a divine rescue operation. Even our sanctification is grounded in God’s act of justifying us and uniting us, by his Spirit, to Christ’s death and life (Romans 6).

So there are really only two religions in the world: a religion of human striving to ascend to God through pious works, feelings, attitudes, and experiences and the Good News of God’s merciful descent to us in his Son. The religions, philosophies, ideologies, and spiritualities of the world only differ on the details. Whether we are talking about the Dalai Lama or Dr. Phil, Islam or Oprah, liberals or conservatives, the most intuitive conviction is that we are good people who need good advice, not helpless sinners who need the Good News.

I think he nails the gospel with impressive clarity. We are not saved, so that we can save ourselves the rest of the way. We are saved completely. He rescues those who are completely and totally helpless, not those who bring their own wills, desires, etc., to the table. We don’t even come to the table. He picks us up, and brings us there. His saving work is done completely by Him, not us.

And all the congregation said, amen and Amen!

BTW, I highly recommend Horton’s book to you. It’s the best book on the gospel for 2008!

St. Frances of Assisi

St. Frances of Assisi is reported to have said:

“Preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words.”

I remember the first time I heard that. Just like half those in attendance that day for chapel at DTS, we all went, “Awesome! What profundity!” Or some blather like that. We did that because on the surface of the statement, it sounds so biblical and Christ centered. It basically means that if we get our lives right, then we won’t have to use words at all when it comes to sharing the gospel. People will naturally be drawn to us, because our lives are so spectacular and special, they will see the greatness of who we are, and then, when they ask how we became so great, we can remember to point them to Christ.

Ah! What wisdom! What insight! What heresy!

Don’t get me wrong. I respect St. Francis of Assisi. I’m not sure in what context he was making the statement. But as it is presented, it is heresy.

Why?

For several reasons. The first is the one that always bothered me. God has chosen to advance the gospel through the preaching of His word. 1 Corinthians 1:21 and Romans 10:14ff. These sections show that we are to preach the gospel to those for salvation. This is His chosen means to advanced the Kingdom. Not living out the gospel.

Which brings me to my second problem with the statement. It assumes we can live out the gospel and truly puts an unnecessary burden on the life of the believer because it says: “If we want to see people come to know Christ, then your life must be perfect.”

Sorry, but we cannot ever live to that level of perfection. If we could, there would be no need for the gospel at all. All we would need to do is try harder in life, getting our life perfect, and see great hordes of people coming to know Christ. If this is what must be done, for anyone to come to know Christ, no one would.

The reality is that even though we are saved, (I’m writing to believers), we are STILL sinners. Our lives are imperfect and we still need the gospel in our lives. To place Assisi’s statement on us, is truly a wretched form of legalism. It shouldn’t be done.

The third problem I have with Assisi’s statement, as presented, is that we are NOT the gospel. Let me see if I can be clear on this. Jesus Christ is the gospel. He is the One that lived the perfect life, fulfilled the Law, satisfied God’s wrath, died on the cross on our behalf and was raised again from the dead. That IS the gospel. WE are NOT the gospel We are never to preach ourselves, but to preach Christ crucified. He is the One that brings salvation, not His children living the perfect life, or best life now.

The best way to understand evangelism, and sharing the gospel, is that we are all sinners in need of Christ. Not: “I’m already saved, so you need Christ, because I’ve reached a wonderful level of perfection, you wretched sinner!” We are all in need of the Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ, not the church, not those in it.

I believe once the church starts getting this point correct, we might truly see a revival or a reformation. But as long as we are preaching ourselves as the gospel, the church will remain small and shallow. The gospel needs to be preached… by proclamation, not by our lives. To think otherwise, is to place ourselves in the pace of Christ. That is heresy.

Why Is It???

Why is it that toddlers feel a need to turn their cereal bowls upside down on their heads after finishing the cereal? Seems like both boys have taken up this practice at some point. Joey did it this morning. Is this sort of like the drunk and a lamp shade?

We took the photo of the boys at the zoo last week. We were at the penguin exhibit waiting on the zoo keepers to feed the penguins, but we left instead because it became to crowded for our liking. It’s really hard to chase two boys around an exhibit, watch a wagon and carry a camera.

Evangelical Idolatry

In my previous post quoting Micheal Horton, “I” had the comment: “They want to hear about their will and God not being able to touch their sacrosanct wills which they worship in place of God – and have no clue how wrong that is.”

That is a great comment and observation. This really is one of those issues that I believe separates true Christ-centered Christianity from the typical evangelicalism and part of why the church is so weak. Far too many Christians want to bring their own wills to the table and claim credit for their salvation. That human pride, that is so contrary to true Biblical Christianity, continues to rear it’s ugly head, and in the process, weakens the true biblical message.

How so?

It does so because at the heart of the free-will debate is man’s exalting his own will against God’s will and what the Bible says about us. I know that we always want to say that we have “free will,” but that is not what Scripture indicates. The Scripture indicates that before the Spirit moves in us, we are dead in our sins and trespasses.

Now allow me to clarify what I don’t mean when I say we don’t have free will. We do have free will when it comes to the choices we make about aspects of our lives. A better way to understand this is to call it self determination. But because of our depraved nature, our choice, when it comes to God, is bound by our sin nature. We will only make decisions in life based upon our nature, and our nature is not inclined towards God. Romans 3 says: There is no one who seeks God. This is not just hypothetical, but a reality for all mankind.

We don’t seek God because that is not in our own will, or desire. We do not desire that which is holy because of our sin. Just look at Scripture of the occasions when an angel appears before an actual believer. They typically have to say, “Do not fear,” because they are sinful fallen men, in the presence of something holy and without sin. The same is true with God. We don’t desire to be in His presence. Even those who are saved struggle with this. This is why there is so little prayer, but I digress.

The point is that many hold to free will or self determination as the ultimate factor in our salvation. They refuse to give up on this, making free will an idol, as opposed to rendering to God what God is due. He is sovereign in ALL things, including my salvation. That means that He brings it about completely. Yes, I do believe, and my faith IN Christ is the means He uses to apply His salvation to me, but even that faith He works in my heart (Ephesians 2:8-10). The only thing we truly bring to our salvation, is our sin.

Again, this leads to objections along the lines of, “but them we are just automatons. We are not truly free.” No, and yes. We must accept that when God brings about salvation to His elect, He does not violate them in any way. What He does as change our hearts so that we do desire what we desire the most is Christ. We truly do want Him. By His sovereign hand, He has brought us to Himself.

A friend recently told me that she didn’t really understand that much about Calvinism. I have to admit, that most people don’t know that much about Calvinism. For most, they think it is something bad because their pastors have said so. In reality, most Christians, when they study the Scripture, will often agree with many of the aspects of Calvinism, without realizing it. This is because Calvinism is true Biblical theology.

If they know more about Calvinism, I think many would be less likely to disparage the understanding of Scripture. Again, for those of us who are Calvinist, we believe this understanding to be simply true Biblical theology. We don’t believe the Bible reveals to us a God that has set things in motion, then He stepped back and hopes all things work out together for good.

Quite the opposite. Romans 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. In other words, He is working through His providential hand to make sure all things work out together for good for His people.

But His providence extends beyond His people, to all of creation. The Westminster Confession of Faith helps capture this idea clearly.

I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold,[1] direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things,[2] from the greatest even to the least,[3] by His most wise and holy providence,[4] according to His infallible foreknowledge,[5] and the free and immutable counsel of His own will,[6] to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.[7]

Here we can see that God is in control of all things. All of history is unfolding according to His immutable own will. What is important to God, is His will and His glory, not ours. Yes, He does love us, with a special love given to His elect children, but that love is not the love that many say it is, giving us what we want and desire of the world.

The view that God is somehow a theological Santa Claus is another evangelical idol. What He means by His love and what many mean by it, are two different things all together. For God’s love is meant to redeem us and restore us into a relationship with Him, through the atoning work of His Son. What many mean by God’s love is that it brings us the junk we want, as in, “you can have your best life now, if you take control of your life and look to God to give you what you want.” In other words, God is there as a coach to help us get our silly goods in life. The focus is all wrong because we see God as our help mate for our glory. Yet the Bible shows that all things are there for His glory, not ours. What brings Him the most glory is for us to trust in His Son for our salvation, and not our own fig leaves of righteousness. This certainly leads to salvation, but not necessarily our best life now. In fact, it’s best that we wait for our best life when He chooses to give it to us. I’m hoping my best life is in the hereafter, not the here. That life is eternal, this life is temporal. Any goodness we have here will be short lived. So do we really want our best life now? I hope not.

Let’s be careful not to fall into these levels of idolatry.