Today was particularly terrible.
I can't go into all the details... I need to protect the guilty parties.
In a nutshell my day was characterized by doing favors for people taking advantage of me. Having my time disregarded. Having my work dismissed. Being shown incredible disrespect. And a bunch of financial craziness to top it all off.
Then I came home.
Actually, I couldn't come home because the private road I live on was a sheet of four inch thick ice.
So I spent nearly four hours with a coal shovel digging out my road enough to get the cars into the driveway.
When I came home and got stuck I was furious. Fuming. Frustrated. Other f-words. I was already exhausted and then I had to deal with this.
I was probably boiling for about an hour into my shoveling "adventure." I was wet (it started to rain), hungry (I barely ate anything all day) and upset (all I wanted to do was come home and read Amish Vampires in Space).
I started praying.
Not those nice, precious, sentimental prayers. No sir. It was one of those davidic, complain to God about everything that's going on sort of prayers.
I think I already mentioned... I was really angry.
Somewhere in my rabid ranting to the Living God of the universe he brought to mind a lyric from an older O.C. Supertones song, Jury Duty:
The chorus specifically came to mind:
You know I haven’t had the best of days
But I want to stop and thank you anyway
Cuz every single moment whether sleeping or awake
Is your creation
And what you’ve made is good
I don’t always thank you for the rough days and
The hard times in my life
Even though I should
And this just made me angrier.
But I said (still in my furious prayer-mode), "I am flaming-mad. I know I'm going to have to keep shoveling for hours. And I'm going to be angry the whole time, and I'm going to be angry when I come inside to my family. I don't want to be angry... I don't want to be furious, but I can't change. If you don't want me a ball of rage, you're going to have to change me." I shoveled a bit more, then added, "Please help me."
And I'm not sure when it happened. But at some point I started singing that O.C. Supertones song. Then I transitioned to sing the doxology . . . out loud:
Nothing has changed. All the drama and problems still exist. God didn't take away any of the circumstances.
He changed me.
So, while there's plenty of great philosophical evidences for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus . . . here is a simple personal evidence.
God changed me.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words.
2 Peter 2:1-3a
I posted this on my Facebook page a couple of days ago:
My wonderful network of friends and family members thought something physically had harmed my family and was relieved when I posted a few hours later that everyone was physically okay.
But, everything is not okay.
For the last five months I have consistently encountered Christian organizations (music companies, creative types, retreat centers, publishers, churches, etc.) who are promoting the works of non-Trinitarians.
Now let me pause here and say that I do not believe a person has to intellectually ascent to all the essential doctrines for salvation. A person needs to trust in Jesus Christ, crucified, buried and resurrected, for the forgiveness of their sins.
But, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential for Christianity. Both Protestants and Roman Catholics agree on this. To reject the doctrine of the Trinity, is to take oneself outside of the realm of Christianity.
A person has every right to reject the doctrine, but they cannot simultaneously claim to be operating in the realm of Christianity.
Back to the story. As I have brought this issue to the various individual organizations, their leaders have consistently shrugged, yawned and said all they cared about was whether the person believed in Jesus or not.
This all came to a head for me a couple of days ago as I stumbled upon a non-Trinitarian author being promoted by a self-identified Christian publisher. A publisher I love. A publisher I have never bought a bad book from. So, I brought it to the publisher’s attention and he was unconcerned, and even celebrated the fact that we could come to the same Scriptures and draw different conclusions. I wrote a lengthy e-mail back, entreating him to talk to pastors, seminary professors and consult multiple systematic theologies about the importance of the doctrine… and he wrote a short response that he held an M.Div. from a Baptist seminary. He was “at peace” with his position.
At that moment I felt sick to my stomach. I was horrified. I actually began to cry.
After running across the rejection of the Trinity as an essential doctrine for five months, after not seeking this out but it just coming to my attention, after hearing a seminary-trained person dismiss the importance of the Trinity . . . I felt broken.
Every time I expressed concern, the issue was compared to things like baptism, interpretation of Revelation, music-style and even the color carpet a church chooses. This thing, they say, shouldn’t divide us.
Was I crazy? Was I wrong here? Does this really matter? I knew that it did, and I knew my church and associates would affirm my conviction.
But, I was utterly grieved. And not only that, but I decided that I needed to submit myself and humble myself, so I reached out to one of my seminary professors, Dr. Alan Gomes. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t becoming a heretic-hunting fire-breathing pastor.
Dr. Gomes wrote back almost immediately and said:
Do not be discouraged: your labor for the Lord is not in vain. You are fulfilling your calling by what you are doing. And I sense that you know this, deep down. Continue to stand firm and don’t let it get to you.
We live in an age of great theological confusion and muddle—in which the degree of “peace” someone has about his or her position is somehow the test of whether that position is true. What utter nonsense! Yet, when you keep encountering people who think like this (if one can really call that “thinking”) it can tend to make you wonder whether everyone else is sane and you are the oddball. Don’t second guess yourself on this. You know the truth about this and don’t budge on it even if it seems like you’re the only one out there. In fact, you’re not alone, but it may feel like it at times. But even if no other person in your orbit agreed with you, you’ve got the Apostolic witness on your side (Scripture). That was good enough for Luther, good enough for Athanasius, and it’s good enough for you and me.
I’m still weeping.
The doctrine of the Trinity, you see, isn’t a contrivance of the Church. No, it is richly testified to in the Scriptures. The basic definition is: one God who eternally exists in three persons. (This is by, no means, a technical definition).
We see three types of texts that show us the nature of God: 1. There is only one God. 2. The distinction of each of the persons of the Godhead. 3. The full divinity of each of the persons.
So, why is this an essential doctrine?
Because it matters which Jesus we follow.
Do we follow the jesus of Mormonism who was just a man who became one of many gods?
Do we follow the jesus of Jehovah Witnesses who was created by God, and not God himself?
Do we follow the jesus of Arius who was a mighty and powerful creature, but not God?
Do we follow the jesus of the modalists who crucify God the Father on the cross and taught us that jesus humbled himself by submitting to himself?
Do we follow the jesus of Pelagius who was merely a good moral teacher that showed us the best way to live.
No. No. No. No. No.
I follow the Jesus of the Bible. The Son of God! Co-equal. Co-Eternal. Who stooped down. Who humiliated himself by taking on human flesh! Lived the perfect life I could not live. Who willingly sacrificed himself in my place. And rose from the dead! Resurrected in a new, glorified body! I don’t believe in a jesus who showed me how to live… I serve the Jesus who gave me the power to live. I serve the Jesus who sent the Holy Spirit, also co-equal and co-eternal, who comforts me, leads me, guide me and transforms me!
I serve King Jesus: Fully God, Fully man. Fully God otherwise his sacrifice would be insufficient to cover over my sins. Fully man otherwise he could not atone for my sins.
Have I given an argument for the Trinity here? No. Only a brief note on why the Trinity is important. Much smarter and much wiser people than I have written much better presentations than I could present. I suppose if there is good interest in this post I will supply additional resources.
I also must note that I am still praying about releasing the names of organizations who have communicated to me their acceptance of non-Trinitarians as Christians. I don’t really want to do this, but I am consulting mentors who are wiser than me.
But, make no mistake, this is a serious issue.
A neighbor is running up to the gatekeepers of the sheep-folds. There are wolves among the flock. The gatekeepers look back into the pen, a wolf is approaching one of the sheep. The gatekeepers turn back to the neighbor and say, “That’s just a big sheep. We celebrate diversity.” The wolf grabs the sheep by the neck and starts carrying it off.
The neighbor screams, “He’s dragging off the sheep.”
The gatekeepers say, “They’re having a difference of opinion, just let them work it out.”
The neighbor yells, “That wolf just snapped the neck of the sheep… he’s eating his entrails!”
The gatekeepers don’t even turn around and say, “We’re at peace with identifying that as a large sheep. Goodbye.”
My family is safe, yes. But the gatekeepers are watching wolves fatten themselves on the flock.
This issue has already burned a number of bridges for me. Wonderful opportunities are no more.
But it is worth it.
I’ll burn every bridge I have to, and allow my name to be turned to ash… if only to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Summary: Dr. Joseph Hellerman explores the role of power and authority in Roman-era Philippi and contrasts this view with Paul’s vision of the church as a family. He brings this exegesis into a contemporary setting and uses a number of case-studies to demonstrate how abandoning this church-as-family view has led to pastoral abuse of authority. Hellerman also offers a rather detailed vision of how a church can be structured to function more closely as a family.
Review: I had a very difficult time reading some of the case-studies in this book. I found old scars from past abuses being ripped wide open as Dr. Hellerman recounted stories of egregious abuses of authority.
As difficult as these stories were for me, though, this book came at a pivotal point in my ministry as the church I serve is in the beginning stages of changing our constitution and structure.
Rather than diving head-long into his thesis, Dr. Hellerman very wisely walks his reader from the social context of the Philippian church, to the biblical text itself, and then finally casts his vision for a plurality of pastor-elders leading the church as a family of believers.
The book is a good mixture of deep exegesis, case-study stories, historical background and very visual charts. (His chart on the three, descending levels of humiliation of Jesus in Philippians 2 is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity.)
Dr. Hellerman has a phenomenal vision for how team-leadership facilitating church-as-family relationships can work. And it does work. The problem is it is utterly radical. And while there are some contexts that this sort of structure can be implemented, in many church settings this structure would simply not be possible.
The reader is given some ideas on how to move a church closer to a church-as-family model outside of the author’s vision, but they are very sparse in comparison to the rest of the text. I would liked to have seen more strategizes for moving a church towards this family model, or alternatives for churches in different traditions to move towards this ideal within their context.
That one criticism notwithstanding, this is an important book. It is a very important book. I could personally write a book twice the length of this one recounting my own experiences after thirteen years of ministry of abusive authority in the church.
This is must-read material for all ministers with even a mite of authority in their local church. This should be required reading for those with authority in their local churches and denominations.
Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It)
Note: I received a physical copy of this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
Every single year an inordinate number of my friends attend either San Diego Comic Con, or New York Comic Con. While I have lived in both NY and LA, I have never attended either.
And this makes me sad.
Year after year, I vicariously experience the cons through the photos and blog posts of my very geeky and very cool* friends!
But this year is different. This year, everything changes. No more will I have to sit in envy of my friends, because tomorrow . . . a mere twelve hours from now, I shall be attending: BapMi Con!
What is BapMi Con? Well, let me tell you… it’s the Baptist State of Michigan Convention
And I don’t know a single person who’s going!*
That’s right I am going to be the envy of all my friends! Now, they
will have to follow all the awesomeness online! (Stream it live here
There is one drawback, though. I hear there isn’t a lot of cosplay
at these things.
So, I’m working on my costume tonight! Here’s what I have it narrowed-down to:
Rick Warren (Hawaiian Shirt Variant)
Billy Ray Cyrus (Mullet Mode)
I was thinking about going as Jerry Falwell (Zombie-Style) but I was told it was in poor-taste!
*This statement has not been reviewed by the FDA.
So, I’m now a contributor over at Geeks of Doom! So far, I’ve done reviews on comics and trade paperbacks. I’m really excited to be a part of this community of writers from all sort of walks of life.
I write over there under the name “RevN4” (because I’m a Reverend AND I have four Ns in my name)!
But there are weightier issues to be considered… like, what exactly do they mean by “Geeks of Doom?”
Being the hyper-mediocre Greek student that I am, I know enough that this is in the genitive-form and that this translation “of Doom” is the simplest of possible understandings. So, what does the “of” mean?
Here are some options:
Geeks characterized by Doom
Geeks described by Doom
Geeks belonging to Doom
Geeks possessed by Doom
Geeks family relationship to Doom
Geeks whom are a part of Doom
Doom Geeks (Attributive Genitive)
Geeks made out of Doom
Geeks consisting of Doom
Geeks full of Doom
Geeks containing Doom
Geeks whom are Doom
Geeks destined for Doom
Geeks produced by Doom
Geeks who produce Doom
Geeks away from Doom
Geeks out of Doom
Geeks originating from Doom
Geeks related to Doom
Geeks in association with Doom
I, for one, prefer the “Geeks originating from Doom” interpretation myself.
Head on over to Geeks of Doom to see what it’s all about.
It is no secret that I have the best mother-in-law ever!
(You might have a really great mother-in-law, but in a cage match, mine wins. Hands down. No contest. And why are you trying to put your mother-in-law into a cage match with my mother-in-law? You know she's going to lose . . . so you must not love her all that much . . . because she's not as awesome as mine!)
Back in June, she bought me this gigantic action figure set with all seven members of the new Justice League!
I set the box on my desk, knowing that one day I would release them from their containment units and display them in my office.
That day finally came!
But instead of just setting them on top of my desk so that one day batismal candidates can make fun of my geekiness (true story), I decided to put them to "good use."
I am a book reader. I somehow procure books faster than I can read them. So, both at home and at church I have rather unsightly "to read" piles.
This is what my office "to-read" pile looked like moments ago:
But struck with Kryptonian genius, I not only displayed my action figures, but ALSO created categories for my "to read" books.
Here's what it looks like now:
Wonder Woman/Superman: Beefy theological books that I'm going to have to be strong to read!
Batman/Cyborg/Aquaman: Important, contemporary books that I will have to read with a critical mind. Also, possibly lame books (that's why Aquaman is there!)
Green Lantern/Flash: Popular level books that I need willpower to get through... but can be finished in a flash.
So that's my "to read" pile now!
p.s. Just kidding about Aquaman. His comic is one of the best things DC has going right now!
Summary: King Silas of the modern-day kingdom of Balboa struggles to keep the peace as the voice of God turns against him and a heroic young captain, David Shepherd begins to capture the hearts of Silas’ subjects. Following the biblical narrative of Saul and David, this short-lived series explores the story in a present-day setting.
Review: More-so than any other prematurely cancelled series (I’m looking at you Firefly) I wish this series lasted beyond the thirteen produced episodes.
The portrayal of the Silas/Saul character by Ian McShane alone is worth the price of admission. McShane perfectly captured the emotionally volatile character of Silas/Saul. His constant flip-flopping between loving and hating David would have seemed ludicrous if portrayed by a lesser actor, but McShane brings the biblical character to life. We, at once, love and loath this king.
The rest of the extensive cast is equally stellar. So much so, the show feels more like an epic film rather than a weekly series.
The setting of the show is utterly unique. It is a modern-day, absolute monarchy, surrounded by other monarchies. The show-runners went all-out creating a believable setting, and wove modern-spins into the biblical narrative.
For instance, just like in the Bible, mid-season we see Silas meeting David for the first time (unknown to Silas), playing a piano that soothed Silas in a flashback that occurred after David destroyed a “goliath-tank.”
The spiritual center of the story is Reverend Samuels who used to be a friend to the king, but because of the king’s corruption has now become his enemy as he gives Silas oracle after oracle of God’s displeasure.
Christian authors need to take note of this series because, with only a few exceptions, the way conversations with God, prayers and theology is handled in this series is very effective and powerful. There were several moments throughout the series where goose bumps formed on my arms as I listened to words of Silas, David and Reverend Samuels.
There are, of course, imperfections in the show.
The Jonathan/Jack character is portrayed as a closet homosexual (a decision based on a very poor exegesis of the text). But the show seems to both identify Jack’s homosexuality as his core identity, while simultaneously communicating that Jack, at the same core, is a very dark person. It is a very complex situation… at the very least worth pondering even if you don’t agree with the show’s view (whatever that is). Additionally, Jack is neither David’s friend, nor heroic at the beginning of the series.
Another imperfection is the sexual ethic of the world. Mid-way through the series, the ethic seems to be “sex is good if you love the person” but later on, Reverend Samuels seems to say that two characters were married long ago because of their depth of their love (or perhaps recognizing they belonged together). So, the sexual ethic is odd to say the least.
Despite these issues, Kings is a marvelous achievement. Each and every character is imperfect and must work through their imperfections under God, or be destroyed by their own sins. Even Reverend Samuels finds himself disobedient to God mid-season and needs to repent.
Wonderful storytelling, great sets, great locations, near-flawless acting and top-notch writing combine to re-tell a timeless story.
Discerning individuals should watch this show. It is, by no means perfect theologically, nor line-by-line faithful to the text… but it is faithful at its core.
I suggest reading the biblical text (1 Samuel 1-21… or 8-21 if you’re in a hurry) in conjunction with watching the show.
Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It!)
Daniel Overdorf, professor of preaching at Johnson University, gives pastors a full year’s worth of Homiletical exercises and tools to sharpen their craft. Review:
Preaching is an art-from. It is a skillful craft. And like any craft the craftsman needs to both possess and master a large number of tools. The more tools at the craftsman’s disposal creates better pieces of workmanship.
The more tools a preacher has at his disposal, the better his sermons. And Overdorf’s One Year to Better Preaching
is like a hardware store multi-tool-bundle-pack! The vast majority of the tools offered in this resource are extremely helpful for serious preachers.
The negatives on this book are very low. A few of the exercises are only somewhat helpful (“Write in E-Prime” is a concept to be aware of, but may potentially cripple a writing session). Also, going through the exercises week-by-week, one at a time may not be terribly helpful for some. A pastor preaching through an entire book, for instance, will not be able to reconcile some of the exercises with his current text.
These criticisms are minor, though. One Year to Better Preaching
simultaneously sharpens preacher’s abilities and gives them new tools to add to their trade. It’s not a “basics of preaching” text, though. It’s a text to supplement the foundational works out there.
Some exercises will be more helpful to individuals preachers than others, but even the most seasoned teacher will find inspiration to effectively preach the Word of God.
Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It)Find it on Amazon.
If preachers were Batman, this book would be their utility belt!
Note: I received a physical copy of this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
A letter has recently gone viral on the Internet. I saw it on Yahoo! News
first. In essence, it is a letter from a Dad disowning his daughter for kicking out her homosexual son.
This letter is receiving praise in nearly all the articles I’ve read. This morning I also saw George Takei (yes, I follow him on Facebook) had posted the letter and wrote “This grandfather is amazing.”
Here is the entire text of the letter:
I’m disappointed in you as a daughter. You’re correct that we have a “shame in the family”, but mistaken about what it is. Kicking Chad out of your home simply because he told you he was gay is the real “abomination” here. A parent disowning her child is what goes “against nature.” The only intelligent thing I heard you saying in all this was that “you didn’t raise your son to be gay." Of course you didn’t. He was born this way and didn’t choose it any more than he being left-handed. You however, have made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded and backward. So, while we are in the business of disowning our children, I think I’ll take this moment to say goodbye to you. I now have a fabulous (as the gays put it) grandson to raise, and I don’t have time for heart-less B-word of a daughter. If you find your heart, give us a call. – Dad.
I think the wide-spread praise of this letter reveals the culture’s current philosophy: “Hate those who hate.”
Now, what the mom did was wrong. If this letter is accurately portraying what happened, this mom hated her son… and that’s wrong.
But then the grandfather turns around and pours hate on his daughter for her hate. He criticizes his daughter for disowning her son, then turns around and disowns her . This is also wrong.
The current philosophy of our culture is “hate those who hate.”
But Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44 HCSB).
This letter breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that a mother would disown her son. It breaks my heart that a grandfather would return hate with hate. It breaks my heart that so many people praise returning hate with hate.
We all need to be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . so that we can return hate with love. Love for this mom. Love for her son. Love for this grandfather. And love for a people who celebrate the things that should break their hearts.
I preached Psalm 41
this weekend. This psalm concludes Book 1 of the Psalms. It also concludes our series
through this first book. Part of me wants to camp in the Psalms for two more years (we’ve spent over forty weeks in this book). But, the Spirit is moving us on to 1 Peter next week.
Below are the main commentaries I consulted throughout the series along with my thoughts. 1. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 5
by John W. Hilber
(John H. Walton General Editor)
I like this commentary series. It helps modern readers understand the context and situation of the original audience, and thus, gives the reader better insight into the meaning of the text. I found this particular resource only very occasionally helpful for Psalms.
Hilber often dives into the inter-cultural similarities between the psalmist and other Ancient Near East believes systems. While this is interesting, it most often fails to give meaningful insight into how the original audience would have responded to the words of the psalm.
This section of the volume was interesting but not terribly useful for my sermon preparation.
Rating: 2/5 (I didn’t like it)
2. Holman Old Testament Commentary: Psalms 1-75
by Steven J. Lawson
(Max Anders General Editor)
This commentary is very simple and straightforward. I like that. Simplicity coupled with precision is often wonderful. Somewhere around Psalm 8 or so, the quality of the commentary began slipping, though. As I progressed further into this text, the commentary became less and less concrete and more abstract.
Toward the end of my series through Book 1, I found the commentary was simply rephrasing what was already being stated in the text. There were a couple of gems I found in this volume, but those were few and far between.
Rating: 2/5 (I didn’t like it)
3. John Phillips Commentary Series: Exploring Psalms – Volume 1
by John Phillips
I wrote a full review of this commentary here
To summarize: Phillips often uses some really good metaphors and images, but they are often very outdated. I found this volume sometimes helpful during my sermon preparations, but only moderately so. Rating: 3/5 Stars (I liked it)
4. Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on the Psalms
–Volume 1 by Allen P. Ross
There isn’t much to criticize about this commentary. I wish Ross interacted a bit more with the literary features of the text than he did. And the modern application sections were a bit short. But other than those two criticisms (and they are minor), this is a wonderful resource.
Ross dives into the text with both the mind of a scholar and the heart of a poet. He doesn’t minimize the beauty and emotions of the psalms but helps the reader see it more vividly.
I also like that Ross always has a “Big Idea” sentence for each psalm. These sentences are a bit too lengthy and complex for preaching purposes, but they helped me as a preacher make sure my big ideas were on track.
I have been very disappointed by the commentaries on the psalms I’ve sought out. But Ross’ is absolutely wonderful and a must-have for pastors diving into Book 1 of the Psalms.
Rating: 5/5 Stars (I loved it)