Friday, August 31, 2007

Kingdom and Gospel Part 4: Roberts Does it Again!

Ok, I'm going to stop talking and just keep point to his series. It couldn't have come out at a better time. In the latest installment, he accounts for why the loss of kingdom language. I definatley see his point, but don't think this means we should neglect it (nor do I get the impression that's what he's implying. But the most valuable part of this post is the story about the "evangelistic approach" of his roomate at Harvard. Great Stuff!

Music Meme

I was tagged by Dave Griffiths on this one. Though it may be short, it's makes up for length with creativity. First of all, I offer his definition:
Music Meme
Meme: "any faddish phenomenon on the internet." (
Wikipedia) Now, the Q&A:

1. You would be surprised that I listen to __________.

I offer two here; an artist in general and a specific song: The artist? Sheryl Crow. I don't know what that says about me, but it is what it is. The song? Enter Sandman by Metallica - Hands down the best song EVER to workout to.

2. You probably have never heard of __________.

This one's easy. BDP (Boogie Down Productions - I swear I'm not making this up...check out the link). I went through a hip hop phase in Jr. High school....well ok, in Jr High shcool I had the hots for a girl who liked hip hop, so I listened to it for a couple of months and even bought some tapes and CDs. Wow. I can't believe I disclosed that in cyberspace. Cathartic....sort of.

3. I hope nobody sees this amidst my collection: ___________.

Hmmmmm. This was a tough one. I actually had to get up and go look at our CD collection. Sure there's the token Wilds or SMS, but that's to be expected. I had to dig into my sermon tape library for this one. A sermon entitled "The Man God Uses" by Tom Farrell.

In turn, I tag Baylor, Barker, Logan (or you can guest post on my blog), G and Bob.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Now THAT's What I'm Talkin About: Kingdom and Gospel Part 3

If my first two posts on Kingdom and Gospel left you confused or unclear about just where I was going with all this, PLEASE take a few minutes to read Mark Roberts post on The Mission of God and the Missional Church. While it is part of a series, the link I used will bring you to the section on the mission of Jesus. It is the best thing I've read in a long time that articulates exactly what I was driving at in the relationship between Kingdom and Gospel.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Colossians 1:12-14 and the Kingdom

" thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

This passage was read this past Sunday in the course of our morning message. The Spirit really captured my attention on the larger context of Colossians 1 and the supremacy of Christ. To put it anachronistically, Paul sounds an awful lot like a Christian Hedonist. Anyway, due to my recent meanderings on the kingdom, my attention was also drown to verse 13, and I found myself a bit stumped. Verse 12 seems to be pretty black and white on the current presence of the Kingdom, but as I thought about it, I don't think this was ever a passage I raised in question to a traditional or revised dispensationalist (ie someone who thinks the Kingdom is wholly future). Mind you, it wouldn't be a problem for a progressive, a covenant premill or amiller. While I can certainly offer my own speculations, I'm curious does anyone know how a normal dispensationalist would dodge...ah I mean handle this text on the Kingdom? Ok, that was a cheapshot, I admit it, but seriously...I'd be curious for a concrete answer from either a dispensationalist, a recovering dispensationalist or even someone who has a "friend" that's a dispensationalist.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lectures on Biblical Theology

While 50% of my posts are already hat tips to Justin Taylor, Mike Bird and Scot McKnight, this ones was just too good to pass up. Creation to New Creation: An Introduction to Biblical Theology is 16 lectures by David Peterson of Oak Hill College that will fill the hefty lacuna some of you may have experienced in your academic studies.

And since I'm hat tipping Taylor already, those of you in Chicagoland ought to keep in mind JP will be speaking on Campus at Wheaton. Apparently "double barrell" was already booked elsewhere....Bruno, shame you for not getting the word out :-)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do Christians Make Good Employees?

This question can be answered at least two ways. There is a part of me that wants to say "no" becuase I've been burned on more than one occaision by "christians" with whom I've done business. But of course, you'll notice the quotes and that leads me to the second answer: those who are following Jesus (ie - christians who don't need to have the qualifying quotes around the word) often and typically are good for business and to have as employees.

This has come to my attention in several contexts in which I've been employed ranging from retail to sheet metal shops to the cubicle kingdom in which I currently bear the yoke. Embracing the Christian worldview and the Lordship of Jesus in all of life typically makes you a pretty easy employee to manage. 1) You grasp principles such as authority, submission, discretion, integrity and deference 2) You attempt to live a life of character which results in respectful (read: professional) interactions with your superiors, your peers and your subordinates 3) You strive to do things to the best of your abilities to bring glory to the Lord (ie you demonstrate a work ethic).

Basic, but mindblowing to most bosses. When I worked in the sheet metal shop, it was remarkable to me that my boss LOVED ME because I came in on time, took break and returned on time and was willing to put in occaisional OT as necessary. When I worked in retail my boss was THRILLED that she didn't have to tell me to smile and say things like "thank you" and "sir or maam" to our customers. When I was framing, my foreman would give me practically anything I wanted because I hadn't lost my license for dui's and could actually drive myself to work. And now at the world's local bank, I've had several managers comment on the reliability of the seminary students that work there and it's amazing to see how fast we advance through the system. The irony of the whole thing is that the values they want their employees to live out (perceptive, progressive, respectful, responsive and fair) and the manner in which they want them to behave (treat others as you want to be treated, be professional and polite and kind to your peers and our customers) often have significant overlap with fruits of the Spirit. In fact they could just sum it up by saying "Be like Jesus"....but of course they can't say that.

PS - the comments section on the last Kingdom and Gospel post has far surpassed the content of the post itself. As is so often the case, bouncing ideas off of Mike has helped me hone in on what I'm getting at.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Now Reading

Alright, I think I've made it far enough to go public with what I'm currently reading (I'm finallly going to update my side bar too). I am currently reading The Institutes by Calvin and NT Theology by Marshall. I was reticent to mention these books because: 1) They are both well over 200 pages 2) neither has any pictures 3) Driscoll did not co-author either of these. Nevertheless, I am in book two of The Institutes and closing in on the 100 page mark for Marshall. Will I ever finish either them? Only time will tell...though I'm sure a reprobate snowball would stand a better chance.

P.S. The Kingdom and Gospel discussion is still going in the comment section of Part 2. I may end up with a part 3 in a week or two, but we'll see. Either way, I appreciate all the contributions so far. I tend to sharpen ideas by tossing them out for discussion and I have benefited from all the responses so far. Please keep them coming.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Good Church Plants

Congrats to Osborne and Lerro and company who recently had their first service at Trinity Church in Smyrna, Delaware (outside of Dover). I was thinking about pointing this out in a post for those who may not follow their blogs, but as I thought about it, it occured to me that doing that would also increase the likelihood of the Church coming up via a Google search. That is, the more people link to your site, the easier your site can be found by search engines. That being said, I've already linked to their church in this post and I plan on adding a new category to my sidebar (Gospel Centered Church Plants). I would encourage as many people that have blogs who read this to do the same as another way of helping to advance the Gospel via technology and hopefully help some brothers.

Likewise, since I brought up these guys, I though I'd also mention Providence Community Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, the plant started by Chad and Paul. Please take the 5 minutes or so and post links to these guys as well. There are others coming down the pike pretty soon, Thomas and Valentine, G and Mattias, etc. When I hear of these guys and others planting Gospel centered churches putting together sites, I'll be posting them here as well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Kingdom and Gospel Part 2

Yes, the inversion of the title was intentional and it kinda tips my hand as to where I'm going in this second post. I'm going to just cut to the chase, with only one caveat: I may be guilty of a PUI (posting under the influence) due to some heavy duty back pain I've been blessed with as of late. I am on both prescription pain killers AND muscle relaxants - all that to say I've got a get out of purgatory free card (read: plausible denial) if any of the following transgresses orthodox boundaries :-)

If the idea of God's people under God's rule is a (the?) central theme of the Bible (and yes that is a big, though highly possible "if" but for present company, we'll just assume it - and yes Thomas and all you other Graeme worshipers you can add to that "in God's place") then I think perhaps we've (by we, I'm thinking western Christianity in the evangelical strain whose roots [at least the western part of them] lie in the Reformation no matter how bad free-willers may try to deny it) tried to replace that center with another. Huh? Ok....

In the last post I made mention of texts that seem to connect the "gospel" to announcements of God's sovereign rule. While I may not be a biblical theology kinda guy (though I'm getting better here) that does seem to be a theme of tremendous continuity connecting the Testaments. So perhaps the "Gospel" could be better summed up as "God's Kingdom is already/not yet coming and you better get on board" as opposed to "Ask Jesus to come into your heart." The center shifts so it's no longer "eternal fire insurance" oh and you get the Kingdom to boot; but rather, "You want the Kingdom, well you need a new heart and the only way you get that is if God replaces your heart of stone with a heart of flesh and gives you new birth by His Spirit." The difference may be subtle as it actually plays out in conversation (and it may not be), but there is a big difference. In the first model, the Kingdom is incidental to personal salvation; whereas in the second model personal salvation is "incidental" to the Kingdom.

If nothing else, this seems 1) to make better sense out of the sort of textual data mentioned in the previous post while still allowing for the the traditional soteriological texts 2) it allows for a more simple continuity regarding salvation in both Testaments (though Ockham's Razor is not infallible) 3) as an added perk, it puts to death the whole Lordship debate.

As G pointed out well in the comment section of the first post, I am not saying the Gospel is less than justification/conversion/redempton etc. It is that AND more. As Baylor alluded, it gives a better explanation of why the Ressurection was so important (Romans 1 - he was appointed Son of God with power...His reign has begun). Speaking of Baylor, his recent post about the criticism Derek Webb has received for defining the Gospel when put on the spot and not including penal substitution (which I would imagine he does hold to), this strikes close to home. The critics (watchbloggers/TRs) consider anyone placing undue emphasis on the Kingdom when talking about the Gospel is "left leaning" (read: Liberal). Nevertheless, I think we may be missing a big part of the Gospel when we claim to be proclaiming it. The good news is Jesus is King! (and as NT Wright would be quick to add 'and Ceasar is not' but there I go off into liberal land again). By simply proclaiming Him as Savior, we are missing part of who He is - a crucial part - and not being biblical (or at least New Testament) in our gospelizing.

This is precisely why the Gospel is a stumbling block to some - yes because of the scandal of a crucified God - but also because they don't want to bend the knee. If Jesus wants to save me, hey, I'm all for it, but if this somehow entails me having to bow before Him, I bow to no one. Yet this is precisely what we've done in western evangelism (I don't know how it's done in other parts of the world, I can only speak of what I know). Perhaps it's because (to hat tip Krister Stendahl) of the "introspective conscience of the West" but often all we care about is "What do I have to do to get out of hell?" or "How can Jesus make my life better?" "Screw the rest of the message, that's all I care about." And such thinking has left us with what I would suggest is a reductionistic and misleading approach to the Gospel. I'm not knocking Reformed theology nor dropping penal substitution or justification; I'm adding and reordering.

Anyway, that's all for now. I'll post more on this if it percolates anymore in the future (and it probably will). I'd also love any thoughts or feedback anyone cares to offer.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Prayer List for your Pastor

Scot McKnight recently listed some statistics about pastors that would and probably should be easily converted into a prayer list for your pastor. Scary stuff.

Recent Acquisitions

If you didn't get in on the DG sale a month or two back, then it sucks to be you. While I was tempted to go hog wild, I limited myself to these three (to be fair, I do already own a book or two of Piper's). Future Grace is a must for discipleship in your church, I plan on reading The Justification of God when I hit Romans 9 preaching through the book (when I plant a church some day) and Dawn and I are planning on reading through What Jesus Demands from the World together.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Harry Potter and the Vindication of Bruno

No, not the title for book 8, just the facts. All you nay sayers, check this out.

Gospel and Kingdom Part 1

No, not a guest post by Graeme, just some reflections on the topic. As I began to put together the strands for this post, I was amazed by how far back they go. The gist of the question I wish to raise can be phrased a number of ways: What is the Gospel (sure, that one's novel)? What is the message and mission of Jesus? What is the theme of the scriptures? etc, etc. Much has been written and discussed within contemporary evangelicalism (particularly the strands touched most deeply by postmodernity) regarding the corporate dimension of the Gospel/redemption. While I'm not advancing precisely that sort of an agenda, I have often noted that the four books of the NT commonly referred to as Gospels bear little in common with what we call the Gospel nowadays. To be sure they incorporate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (a la 1 Cor 15:1ff), however, that only comes up at the end. Much of the material, particularly the proclamations of Jesus seem more kingdom oriented than "evangelistic" as we often think of it. And don't misunderstand me, I'm not bashing EE here (though I've done that elsewhere); I have yet to see any evangelistic program/presentation/literature, etc. that sounds anything similar to the message proclaimed by Jesus in orientation. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

It probably started when I first noticed that in Romans 10:15 when Paul is talking about the beautiful feet of the ones who preach the Gospel, he's referencing Isaiah 52:7. Now the interesting thing about Isaiah is that the Gospel there, isn't "Jesus died for you" but rather "Your God Reigns." I remember thinking, could this be a summation of the Gospel? My first thought was of 1 Cor 12:3 - No man can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Spirit. Even more obvious, back in Romans 10:9 - If you confess, Jesus is Lord....Now, to take the phrase Jesus is Lord and the phrase Your God reigns....particularly in view of the fact that both phrases occur in "Gospel" context...well, now that's what I call continuity. At the time I brushed it off as being in danger of too much reductionism.

Then, over the course of the last several months, our ss class at BBC was going through the life of Jesus. Again, I became convinced (in large part from what I had gained in reading Wright's JVG, reading the Gospels for the first time in a LONG time and dialoging with my brothers and sisters, especially James Lane) that Jesus was going around spending a ton of time talking about the Kingdom and not so much time about why we should pray for him to come into our hearts. You just don't see that too much in the Gospels.

So all of this has been percolating in my head for a while now. Just a week or two back I was reading in the opening chapters of Acts and I was hit with it again. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 is filled with Kingdom ideology. In fact, repentance doesn't even come up until the very end when the hearers say, "what should we do?" Obviously the message itself didn't answer the question. Typically our "evangelistic" presentations spend virtually ALL of their time explaining what Jesus did and what we should do.

Okay, by now some of you are probably thinking I've gone from fundy, to evangelical right off the cliff to pagan. No, I am NOT denying the individual, redemptive implications of the death of Jesus. What I am saying, is perhaps we've emphasized that dimension of the atonement so much so that it has become the sine qua non of the Gospel, when perhaps that's not exactly what was at the core of the Gospel as it appears in the scriptures. However, this has already turned into much more than I anticipated; thus, I'll put off the defense of my orthodoxy and (more importantly) just what it is I'm trying to say for Part 2.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Piper Online

Justin Taylor has helpfully pointed out here that all of the workshops Piper offers at Bethlehem now have all the audio and class notes online. I'm sure it's old news in the blogosphere by now, but I still thought it was worth linking to here.

Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll

Since my interests in many ways lie in the model of ministry exemplified by Driscoll and Mars Hill, I have had many informal conversations about what I think/know about these topics. Since many of the guys I know have fundamentalist baggage, I thought it might be helpful to post a first hand perspective of Mars Hill from someone with a similar background. I came across this comment in the comment section on MacArthur's post on "grunge christianity" a while back thanks to Jones' link. I since emailed Jonathan and asked if he'd mind if I posted the comment in full on my blog. I appreciate his can check out his blog here. Below is his "comment" in full.

Starting off, I’ll openly admit I’m a member at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, where Mark Driscoll is my teaching pastor. I grew up in strict fundamentalism, attending high school at Maranatha Baptist Academy in Watertown, Wisconsin, and taking both my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Bob Jone University in Greenville, South Carolina. I have attended many forms of theologically and culturally conservative churches. I am an armchair theologian at best. I have read quite a few of these comments but did not read all of them, so my apologies if someone else has already addressed this.
The point of Pastor MacArthur’s article seems to be the certainty of sinful results in a life or ministry dedicated to “cultural relativism.” Pastor Mark’s style is offered as the primary example. Whether or not Pastor MacArthur’s article is correct in its overarching theme or not is not my place to say. But I do wish to tell you what I’ve seen and learned since coming to Seattle and joining the work at Mars Hill.
1) Conversions. Mars Hill is one of the most unusual churches I’ve attended. I have never before been involved anywhere where I have seen this number of committed, growing new believers. Twice a year or so, we’ll have major baptismal services, often at one of the beaches around Seattle, wherein fifty to one hundred new, adult converts publically declare their commitment to Jesus. I want emphasize that these are nearly all adults. Prior to coming to Mars Hill when I was 27, I can recall one baptismal service at one church wherein a majority of the converts (seven) were adults.
2) Growth/Sanctification. These new believers do not stay stagnant, nor do they typically leave Mars Hill as they mature spiritually. Seattle is a damaged town. It seems nearly everyone has been or is currently abused, addicted, abandoned, hurt, etc. This is a sad place. What I see happening at church, especially through the small groups I’ve been involved with, is a tremendous amount of change, not by simple personal resolution and determination to be more holy, but by the work of the Holy Spirit. (I have no other explanation for it.) Addicts admit their struggles, reject their idols, love Jesus, share the gospel, and become positive members of society. Fathers and husbands take responsibility for the sin and trouble they’ve wrought in their own lives and in their families and then work for change. People turn from every kind of sexual impurity to live in the light and love of Jesus, no longer abusing others or themselves. For the people of Mars Hill, holiness and sanctification is not just a change of thinking but a change of how one lives one’s life. That doesn’t mean any of us are perfect. Do we participate in a variety of things that my own church background and family’s traditions would consider sinful? Yes, we do. (Being human is not sinful. God has made each of us to enjoy different aspects of his creation and thank him for them.) However, everyone I know at the church is careful not to lead another believer into sin, even if that “sin” is just a conscience issue. We take responsibility to help our brothers and sisters. Do we participate in anything that Scripture plainly forbids? No, we do not. Again, we are also careful to help our fellow believers avoid temptations in their own lives and willingly give up our freedoms for the sake of God’s children. If one of our number does violate Christ’s commands, we confront him or her and help that person walk in repentance and humility. If that person continues in sin, we will deal (and have dealt) with him/her in the way Scripture commands.
For us, sanctification is not an issue of external change. It is the growth of Christ in each of us as we continually submit our lives and actions to him. As he changes us, we begin to see changes in each other, not necessarily in dress or stylistic preferences, but in how we relate to God and one another.
3) Love. Never before have I been at a church wherein the people were willing to consistently expose their own sin and evil and offer the undeserved kindness and love of Jesus to one another. While we may appear to be “come as you are,” we are not “stay as you are.” We are committed to Jesus and desire over anything else to reveal him to our fellow believers, our neighbors, and even our enemies through attitudes and acts of love. Love is creative and takes understanding of the one you are trying to love. As I tell my friends in my small groups, we do not love someone in order to make him become a believer. We love those God has put into our lives whether or not they ever become believers. We love one another as Christ loved the church. This is the work of God in a believer. This is an undeniable gift of his presence.
Please note that I am not saying that results or outcomes determine the appropriateness of a particular methodology. Nor am I an official voice of Mars Hill Church. I am not even a small group leader. I’m just a regular member who loves his church family and wants to share the wonderful things Jesus is doing in Seattle, despite our stumbles and foibles. We aren’t perfect and likely never will be. However, we do appreciate your prayers as we seek to share Jesus with our city.
Thanks for listening, and all the best as you share Jesus with the people where you live!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Down but Not Out

I haven't been online at all this week, in fact I'm a bit scared to check my google reader account. Nevertheless, I've heard I've been mocked at least once for my reading habits (again) on at least one blog during my online sabbatical. I've been working through a 3 week certification process at work that culminated this week and my Mom has been in town visiting for Noah's b-day. Therefore, whatever time hasn't been spent at HSBC has been spent with my fam squeezing in occaisional sleep only when necessary. Anyway, all that said, I should be back into the swing of things in the blogosphere by the beginning of next week. Some food for thought - I'm wanting to do a post on the whether or not individual conversion is/should be at the heart of the Gospel. I have been thinking on this theme for the last few months as a result of some time spent in the Gospels this past spring and some conversations with James Lane in our Sunday School class at BBC. Some recent days in the first few chapters of Acts has brought me back to this issue and I plan to post some thoughts on it first thing next week.