On the Effectiveness of Reforming from Within

Today I found a great site from some young culturally relevant Southern Baptists at baptisttwentyone.com. I thought the timing was interesting because of my recent post entitled "Wish you would step back from that ledge my friend." I was encouraged to find a group of young evangelicals like me who desire to reach our culture in order to see Jesus' kingdom expanded and his name glorified. I have to admit that I have pretty much written off the Southern Baptist Convention in the area of cultural relevance, and it is encouraging to see a resurgence growing among them. 

The article which caught my attention was again regarding the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll. In particular, they were responding to the Baptist Press' scathing article about Driscoll which I mentioned in a former post. What is interesting is that they too were making a plea for people like myself not to leave the convention but to stay and help reform from within:

We at Baptist21, along with several “older-40” pastors and leaders in our denomination highly disagree with this inaccurate portrait of Mark Driscoll and ask that you stay in our denomination and let your voice be heard. We desire to affect change in our denomination and the world by remaining focused on what matters…

Great thoughts, and even better motive. However, people like myself who have gotten the shaft time and time again find ourselves wondering whether there are many more than just the guys at Baptist21 and "several other 'older-40' pastors and leaders."
One must also wonder about the effectiveness of reforming from within. One glance at church history, and it seems that the cards are stacked against you. Of course the conservative resurgence worked, but could a second resurgence only several generations removed work again?
I think of Erasmus of Rotterdam. He lived during the reformation and even offered his own scathing reviews of the Roman Catholic Church in works such as In Praise of Folly. But he was committed to reforming from within. Erasmus, of course, has his place in history, but he essentially failed at his efforts in reforming the church. Marin Luther, likewise had thoughts of reformation from within. He finally realized, however, that if reformation was going to happen it was going to happen from without rather than from within. Much of what we have as protestants today, we owe to Martin Luther. Where would we be if he never decided to step outside the Convention… um.. I mean Catholic Church?
Reformation from within is possible. Reformation from outside the convention is far more likely. And with only one life to live, I'll take my chances on the outside. After all, my ultimate allegiance was never to the convention. Why spend my time fighting over it, when there is so much more important work to be done. I believe that the modern church is at a major turning point, and when the history books are written about this era, I don't want to be found on the side of Erasmus. I want be found among the Luthers, Calvins, Zwinglis, and Hubmaiers. These guys saw errors that needed be corrected and actually had the cajones to step out and do something about it. Personally, I think Erasmus was scared. Sometimes I wonder if determination to save the convention is bred not out of conviction but fear. Staying within the SBC is safe and familiar. Whatever it takes, I want to be about my Father's business. I laud the guys at Baptist21 and hope there are many more like them. Who knows, maybe the SBC is cabable of another resurgence, but I for one am not going to wait around to find out.

That Was Smooth… Eating his own toenail

The title says it all. mmmmmm. enjoy. Also, several people have accused me of doctoring the footage by adding sound effects. The sound effects are 100% genuine. There are no added sound effects. I just have some hard toenails, that's all. If you think it sounds loud in the video, you should have heard it reverberating in my head!

“Wish you would step back from that ledge my friend…”

My good buddy and Production Assistant John Cheatham alerted me to a great article through his blog. Basically, the topic is Mark Driscoll. Recently, Mark came and spoke at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). It seems that every time Mark comes to the seminary there is some kind of controversy. If you know anything about Southern Baptist seminaries and anything about Mark Driscoll, you know that they don't exactly fit the same profile.

Anyway, the article to which John alerted me was by Dr. Alvin Reid, a professor at Southeastern. Dr. Reid basically came to Driscoll's defense stating that all the great heroes of the faith had their flaws and we shouldn't write someone off just because they do something we don't agree with. John reproduced the whole article on his blog and you can read it here, but I want to focus in a couple of statements. 

Statement # 1: 

I have a problem with Alvin Reid. Yes, I have a problem with myself. I am pretty sure I really love Jesus and my main motive in life is to bring glory to God. I love my family, my students, and my convention. But sometimes I have added to the institutionalism and programmatic ministry that plagues us now. And I have a problem with that.

Wow. That's a solid statement and a sober admission. So many people from my generation are done with the SBC because it has become so institutionalized and programmatic. The SBC has become a well oiled machine which should be a good thing. But anyone who operates machinery knows that a machine doesn't stop for you. It's programmed a specific way and refuses to operate outside of its programming. Anyone who doesn't fit well within the pre-programmed package will get chewed up and spit out. 

That is essentially my story with the SBC and particularly SEBTS. I was an applicant to their Ph.D program. When I didn't make it in, I knew it wasn't because of my 3.929 GPA, my solid academic recommendations, or the way that I nailed the entrance exam. So I tried to inquire as to why I was not admitted, but I was met with resistance and rudeness. When I spoke with a trustee about the way I was being treated his words were that this was "not in keeping with basic christian fellowship." After several months and a review of the situation by the Dean of the Faculty (Dr. Nelson), I was told that it would not be worth my while to reapply as they had no intention of ever letting me into the program. There were several reasons stated (although somewhat veiled) for my outright dismissal. They basically all boiled down to the fact that I don't fit in very well. I was young and naive (still am) and thought maybe I could have an impact on my convention from the inside. Turns out, they don't want people like me and do everything they can to chase us away. Ironically, one of the specific complaints was that I use language that "some have deemed coarse and inappropriate." It's ironic because the seminary now seems to have such a close relationship with Mark Driscoll who has been criticized as using coarse and inappropriate language.  

Statement # 2:
I have a problem with my convention, when we… continually confuse personal preferences with unchanging truth, and when we castigate younger men who love Jesus and His truth for simply doing what we taught them to do: study and honor the Word (when they come to different conclusions than some of us on secondary issues, they scratch their heads at the response they get).

Statement #3:
I am tired of talking good younger men off the ledge from leaving the SBC.

Wow. If I had known Dr. Reid better at the time, perhaps he could have talked me back from the ledge. Instead, several months later I found myself in President Aiken's office saying these words: "I'm over you. I'm over this school. I'm over this convention. I've had enough, and I'm done." Dr. Aiken made no attempt to talk me back from ledge. To be fair, he could probably tell I had already taken the plunge.

The Fall of Man: Sin & Separation from God

Okay, I don't usually do this, but I'm going to post some stuff on sin that I'm getting ready to go through for our church's Mile Marker I class. Most of what I'm posting in my blog will be in an appendix at the end of the notes. There is just so much to cover and so little time.

I'm posting it here because I've began a conversation with a friend on the blogosphere: Scott Comfort. Scott is a pastor at Northgate Church in Phoenix, AZ. Scott first contacted me because he had been reading the "Love God. Hate Sin." stuff. The conversation has taken several new paths, and most recently we have been discussing how to define sin. The timing was perfect since since I have been asked to teach on the subject for Mile Marker I. 

So…. there may only be 1 or 2 people who read my blog who will even care about all of this. But here you go.

The Fall of Man: Sin and Separation from God

a.      What is Sin?

Between the
Old and New Testaments there are over a dozen words which refer to sin. But
three are the most prominent.

Chatat (taj\x;)) – to miss (OT)

Pesha ([v;p,) –
to revolt (OT)

Hamartia (αμαρτια) – to miss the mark (NT)

therefore, is both “missing the mark” of God’s standard of perfection, and the
state of living in rebellion against him, his law, and his character.

Romans 3:23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious
standard. (missing the mark)

sin is “any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude,
or nature” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 490.).

Ephesians 2:3 – All of us also lived among
them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature
following its desires and thoughts (attitude). Like the rest, we
were by nature objects of wrath (nature).

b.      The Origin
of Sin

God did not
create sin

Sin is not a
created “substance” but is rather the perversion or corruption of “things”
already in existence.

Sin is not
an eternal equal and opposite force

Sin began
with the rebellion of some angels

Isaiah 14 –  How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You
said in your heart, "I will
ascend to heaven; I will raise my
throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of
assembly, on the utmost heights
of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most
High." But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.

Jude 6 – And the angels who did not
keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has
kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

2 Peter 2:4 – For if God did not spare
angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,
 putting them into gloomy
dungeons to be held for judgment

Satan, a
fallen angel, enticed Eve and Adam and Eve also rebelled against God. (Genesis 3)

Adam, sin was transferred to all mankind.

Augustinian View – sin was transferred to the rest of mankind
through natural generation

Covenantal View – sin was transferred to the rest of mankind
because Adam was the head of the human race. God’s gift of eternal life to Adam
(and therefore the rest of mankind) was contingent upon Adam’s obedience.

of HOW it has happened, Scripture is clear that sin transferred from Adam to
all of mankind.

Romans 5:12 – Therefore, just as sin entered
the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to
all men, because all sinned

Corinthians 15:22
- For as in
Adam all die, even so in Christ all will be made alive.                           

c.       The Results
of Sin

Sin brings

Physical Death – One consequence of Adam's sin was that
he and the entire human race were to experience physical death. God pronounced

Spiritual Death – Spiritual death is the absolute
absence of fellowship with God. It includes broken communion with God in this lifetime as well as eternal separation from God in a place
called hell. God warned Adam that this would happen in the day that he sinned.  Adam did not die physically on the day that he
sinned, but he did experience broken communion with God 

Genesis 2:17 - but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.

Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in
 Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sin brings

Not all of
the results of sin are just the “natural” outcome due to the nature of sin.
Some results are direct “consequences” because we are guilty before a holy God.

Romans 5:12-21

Sin brings
corruption (“total depravity”)

Every aspect
of our lives has been corrupted by sin: our intellects, emotions, desires,
hearts, goals, motives, and our physical bodies. This absolute corruption is
referred to as “Total Depravity.”

Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above
all things
 and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Romans 3:12 – All have turned away, they have together become
there is no one who does good, not even one.

Romans 7:18 – I know that nothing good lives
in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
 For I have the desire to do
what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 

Because of
our total depravity, man has been rendered incapable of genuinely responding to

Romans 3:10-11 - As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no
one who seeks God

Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 18

Not only am I studying through and praying through the Psalms, I am also teaching through them in our small group. Last night, we studied Psalm 18. So this morning, I thought it would be appropriate to post a "Praying Through the Psalms" on Psalm 18.

I love you, O lord my strength. You are my rock. When nothing else is sure in my life, I know I can count on you. You are my foundation for living. You are my fortress. When the stress of this world and the attacks of the enemy become too much to bear, I flee to you, to hide in your shelter. I take refuge in you. In you I find rest and peace. I am able to relax, take a deep breath, and soak in your presence. You even deliver me from my enemy and the circumstances of living in a fallen world. I call upon you, and you deliver me. You, my God, are worthy to be praised. It blows my mind that I am able to simply call out to you, and you hear my cry. Because of your love for me, you are moved to anger when I am being attacked by the evil one. Who am I that you would care so much about me? I honestly don't understand why you would even give me the time of day. But you have rescued me from my sin because you delight in me! Who am I that you should care for me at all? And yet, you not only care but delight in me. So to whom else would I run, when you have been so good to me? You are blameless and true, and I place all of my faith and hope in you. You are my shield and my refuge. You have saved me and continue to uphold me. You are the only living God. May you be blessed and exalted forever. You are the Great Deliverer. Therefore, I will thanks to you publicly so that many others will come to know you as I know you.

Approaching God with Boldness

I want to follow up with my post a few days ago about how we approach God. I was reading a'Kempis this morning again, and came across some insight that was helpful for me in trying to maintain the balance between approaching confidently (Hebrews 10:19-22) versus timidly and respectfully versus brazenly.

The Hebrews 11 passage says that we have confidence by the blood of Jesus. Likewise, you will see that a'Kempis says that our confidence is in God's goodness and great mercy. Yes, we can approach the throne of God with confidence and boldness, but our confidence has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. It's not because I am worthy in and of myself or even because he has made me worthy. It is because in his goodness and mercy, he allows it because of the sacrifice of his son. Having a proper perspective, then, of who I am and what God has done helps me maintain that balance. Check out this prayer from a'Kempis.

With confidence in your goodness and great mercy, O Lord, I come as one sick to the Healer, as one hungry and thirsty to the Fountain of Life, as one in need to the King of Heaven, a servant to their Lord, a creature to the Creator, a desolate soul to my own tender Comforter.
But why is it granted to me that you should come to me? What am I that you should give yourself to me?
How dare a sinner appear before you? And how is it that you condescend to come to a sinner?
You know your servant, and you see that I have nothing good in me for which you should grant me this favor.
I confess, therefore, my unworthiness, I acknowledge your goodness, I praise your tender mercy, and give you thanks for your transcendent love.
For you do this for your own sake and not because of any merits of mine, so that your goodness may be better known to me, you love more abundantly poured down upon me, and your gracious humility better manifested in me.
Since therefore this is your pleasure and you have commanded that it should be so, your graciousness is also please to me. O that my sinfulness does not get in the way!
Behold, you are the Holy of holies, and I the scum of sinners!
Behold, you bend yourself down to me who am not even worthy to look up to you!
Behold, you come to me! It is your will to be with me! You invite me to your banquet!

That Was Smooth… Getting Slapped in the Face

Okay, here is the one that you have all been waiting for. This one was filmed before a live studio audience (our Super Bowl party). And the "replay" of it finally aired this past weekend at Uprising.  It was the first ever (and perhaps last ever) living filming of a "That Was Smooth" video. Be sure to enjoy it here, because I can promise you this will NEVER happen again!

Book Review: Vintage Jesus

I just finished reading Vintage Jesus, by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears. This is a great book about who Jesus is and what he is all about. If you are familiar with theology and historical proofs regarding Jesus, then there really isn't ever a moment in the book where you will go, "Whoa, I never knew that!" There will be moments, however, where you say "Whoa, I've never heard it put quite like that before!"

This book is good for both new believers and so-called "seasoned" believers who think they know everything (like me). This one is a "buy" book. Don't borrow it. Don't check it out from the Library. Buy it, unless you're poor like me. I borrowed it!

Book Review: Devotions of Jonathan Edwards

This book is an "oldie but a goodie." Printed in 1959 by Baker Book House, these devotions of Jonathan Edwards compiled by Ralph G. Turnbull, are sometimes "hit or miss." Nevertheless, most of the devotions are good, and some are "make you crap your pants" good! This small book contains 104 one page devotions. I read one or two a day for the past 100 days (or so). An example of one that was a "miss" is a devotional about angels. I don't really get the point. I believe angels exist and that they worship God around the throne. Other than that, I don't really care that much about angels. I certainly didn't feel that I had drawn closer to God through reading it! An example of a "hit" is the devotion entitled "God's Sovereignty." When talking about portions of Scripture where God hardens someone's heart, Edwards writes:

When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man's heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin.
God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening.

If you're like me, you may have to read that twice to get it. That's a solid explanation which I had not heard before. And that's a solid thought that stayed with me throughout that day.

This book is a hard one to find. But if you are looking for a daily devotion that's a little bit deeper than "Our Daily Bread" (don't give me any negative comments, I'm not knockin' it) to add to what you are already doing (it's not really a good stand-alone devotional) and you can get your hands on it, this book is worth your time.

Praying Through The Psalms – Psalm 16

It's interesting that most of the personal comments I receive regarding my blog are about the prayers that I post. And as I've tracked the traffic to my site, I've noticed that most of the people that have visited from a search engine were searching for prayers.

Lately, I've been praying through the Psalms. I've done it before, and it's always beneficial to my walk with God. I've mentioned that to a couple of people, and they don't quite get what that means. I've tried to explain it like this: I read the Psalm for the day and use the the words and theme of the Psalm to direct me as I pray. I usually write it out in a prayer journal as I go.

Anyway, because of these recent observations, I've decided to add a new element to my blog: Praying Through the Psalms. For this element, I will post a prayer that I recorded in my prayer journal. I won't post them everyday, but I will post them periodically as I feel so inclined. The Psalm which directed the prayer will be in the title. For this to be fully benefical, you should first read the Psalm, and then read the post. This is not because I feel like my prayers are so special. Actually, what I hope happens is that people will read them and realize how simple and un-special they are, and realize that anyone can do it. If you practice this, you will be blessed by it. I promise.

O Lord, you are my Lord. There is no good in my life except you and those things you have given me. Lord, I praise you this morning because you are my inheritance. You are my everything. You are my life. You have directed every aspect of my life, and things have gone well for me. Life is not always perfect. Sometimes it even sucks. But because you are in control of my fate, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless you, O Lord, for you have counseled me and instructed me and you have given me the grace to follow it. Lord, I have set you continually before me. You are always on my mind. I know that it is you who is guiding and directing me and enabling me through your power. Because of your power in my life, I will not be shaken. Even in difficult times, my heart is glad, and I rejoice in you because I know that you are in control and will not abandon me. My path is certain and my destination is secured. When I don't know what to do, you will make known to me the right path. I will follow you anywhere, even into the deepest darkest abyss, because I want to go wherever I can experience your presence and your power. In your presence there is fullness of joy. And even if I should die, I will go to be with you where there are pleasures forever. When I am on your team, everything is a win-win. To live is Christ. To die is gain.