Dluxe's World

Thursday, November 30

Is there a problem, Officer?

A conversation I've had a couple times over the last couple weeks has inspired me... So, today I will try to offer an answer to the age-old question: Is speeding a sin?

For those non-VBC people on here, our adult Sunday school class has been reading through Jerry Bridges book, The Pursuit of Holiness. One teacher used the example of speeding to show how easy it is for us to sin. But is speeding really a sin?

Obviously, the Bible doesn't specifically deal with speeding. Though Leviticus covers just about everything else you could imagine, it doesn't tell us any limit on how fast a camel should be driven or anything that we could reasonably consider an analog to speeding. So, I think it could be fairly said (as someone mentioned at dinner last night) that speeding is, in and of itself, morally neutral before God. That is, there's nothing inherently immoral about driving over an arbitrary speed limit.

However, I would submit that the Bible does deal with our need to subject ourselves to the 'laws of the land' in several place. Paul's discourse in Romans 13 is the most robust of these and so I've chosen to use that as a launch point... We'll make reference back to some other verses in the following discussion. So, here's Romans 13:1-8 in one big chunk, then we'll pick it apart.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (ESV, emphasis mine)

Paul, writing to the church at Rome, urges the believers to be subject to their governing authorities. Actually, he goes beyond urging and actually commands them to do so... Paul grounds this imperative (Gk. hupotassestho) firmly in the authority of a Sovereign God. Whatever earthly powers are established, they are established ultimately by God and for His purposes. It's really fascinating that Paul calls such earthly rulers as "God's servant"... Looking back, it's obvious few of them were deliberately serving God with their conduct (a fact I'm sure was obvious to Paul as well). There's also the irony that it would be Roman authority which rose as the chief persecutor of the church - eventually swallowing up Paul's life.

So, what does it mean to be "in subjection" to authority? Certainly obedience is at least one virtue that is in sight here. Where authorities levy taxes, we should pay. Where civil laws are established, we should conform. And we should do so joyfully! Ultimately, I obey my parents because they are gifts from God for my good. Same thing with earthly government... My obedience is not to them directly, but is obedience to God through submission to them.

In Jeremiah 29, Israel has fallen into the hands of the Babylonians and many people have been carted off into captivity. But God, through His prophet, makes a startling statement:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (vv4-7)

God's command is that the captive Israelites would, in effect, make the blessing of Babylon their goal, which certainly has a level of civil obedience in view. How counter-intuitive is that? "Love and obey your captors, folks. Seek the welfare of their city, in which you are imprisoned." Look at the book of Daniel, and you'll find that's exactly what some of them did, to the city's great benefit and to God's glory.

What does all this have to do with speeding? A lot, I think. God has called us, as Christians, to be holy and live in a manner that is glorifying to Him. Part of that call is to be humbly and joyfully subject to the earthly authorities that God places over us. We should endeavor to obey the law of the land as long as it doesn't violate Scripture.

There are some stock questions that naturally must be addressed... I wanna take a stab at each of them in turn:

Speed limits are not 'moral' or 'immoral', so why do I need to follow that arbitrary standard? Well, again - I'd offer that God has established the governing authorities over us, bureaucratic nonsense and all, for our good and His glory. Speeding, though admittedly not Biblical grounded, is a law that has been established by a God-ordained government. Our obedience is required because of God's rule over us. By God making it a command, it becomes a moral issue.

That main idea aside, I'd offer three other reasons obeying the speed limit is potentially 'spiritually edifying' to us.
  • We should develop a love of virtue. I think this is what Paul is driving at when he instructs us (in Romans 13:5) to obey for conscience. Mind you, there's nothing virtuous about 55mph in and of itself, but virtue is found in a heart that joyfully obeys the law. Our joy should come from doing what is right in God's eyes even when it is uncomfortable for us or foolish in the eyes of the world. We should want to honor God, not simply stay out of trouble.
  • Skirting the edge of the law breeds unhealthy attitudes in us. First off, it seems we aren't given the luxury by God of picking which rules to follow and which to ignore. If we afford ourselves that right, I think we're in dangerous territory. In addition, think about that feeling you get in your stomach when you're cruising 10mph over the speed limit and see a cop nestled in the woods. We hit our breaks, buckle our seatbelt, and start glancing in our rearview to see if "he's pulling out to pull me over". John Owen, in the book I recently reviewed, points out that if we start pushing boundaries in one area we risk making that kind of limit-testing habitual. "How far can I go without getting in trouble? If I set my cruise for 9 over the limit, it's probably not worth the cop's time to stop me." That's the wrong question...
  • We also need to think of our lives as missionary endeavors. What does my behavior say about God? Do I demonstrate that God is supremely valuable and glorious when Smokey stops me on the side of the highway? There is a sense in which our lives should (indeed, must) look different to the world around us. While driving the speed limit might seem a pitiful way to be different, I think we need to honor God and trust Him to use our right conduct as a testimony to who He is.
Pheh. No one is going to be positively influenced by my driving 55 in a 55. In fact, they'll probably flip me off as they zip past. Is that really a good witness? Assuming you smile and don't return the gesture, then yeah. It is. Why do we really get grumpy when someone is holding up traffic by *gasp* obeying the law? At the root of it is prideful sin. My agenda, my schedule, my desires have become supreme and now someone is negatively impacting them. My obedience to God's rule has become secondary.

Who are we to say that God won't use our little acts of obedience to convict someone else of their own pride and sin? But if we look just like everyone else, then how are we being salt and light? I think this gets at the core of what Paul meant when he said to do everything (eating, drinking, sleeping, driving) for the glory of God. We need to think about how to drive in a way that shows God is most important to us...

Ok... Fine. But where does this obedience stop? You cited Daniel earlier - did you forget that whole bit about the idol and the furnace? I have to admit that I still giggle when I think about the gigantic, chocolate bunny from the Veggie version of the tale.

Our first, and in fact only, allegiance is to God. Everything else is secondary. I love my neighbor because I follow Christ. I'm faithful to my wife because she is God's provision to me and I desire to exalt God's glory. I obey, albeit imperfectly, the authorities God has placed over me because God placed them over me. Everything goes back to the first commandment.

Therefore, my obedience to any earthly power stops when that power contradicts God's higher rule on my life. In the case of Rack, Shack, and Benny, the King decides to force all the people to worship a golden idol he made. Their response to the King's questioning (recorded in Daniel 3:16-18) is clear and decisive. Where these young men had previously been obedient to the King, there is no trace of that honor left. When the King's command comes into conflict with God's command, obedience to God's word stands even though it that devotion may bring death. If you don't believe me, look at the conduct of Stephen, Paul, and especially Christ under persecution from earthly authorities. We don't see people rising up to rebel or fight, but instead are faced with examples to humbly bear, even in our own flesh, the cross of obedience to God.

But isn't this just legalism? Isn't following all the rules what Christ came to end? Isn't that what Jesus chastised the Pharisees for doing? I suppose it depends on how your defining legalism. Rightly understood, legalism is the [mistaken] belief that our obedience to the Law is the basis for our right-standing (justification) before God. Legalism operates on a premise that if I obey, God will accept me.

Using that definition, legalism is heresy and an affront to God. The entire teaching of the Bible is that we cannot uphold the Law perfectly and therefore stand condemned before God for our transgressions. The Good News of Christ is that God Himself offers a perfect sacrifice to pay the debt of sin we owe. Our right standing before God, therefore, is only assured through simple faith placed in the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

So, legalism is flat out wrong.

However, that doesn't mean that we get to stop following the rules!! Paul makes that specific point in Romans 6, where, anticipating the pronouncements of some, he says:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:1-4, 12-14)

Just because we are free from sin doesn't mean we should ignore the law. In fact, exact opposite is true. Because of the unbelievable grace that God has shown us in Christ, we should work diligently to walk in obedience to God. Not because that makes us righteous, but because we have been clothed in righteousness that is not our own... And we should worship our Savior who loved us through lives that are increasingly conformed to his will.

So, is speeding a sin? I don't think you can make any other case stand up Biblically. Now, I'll capitulate a little and admit that I think I have far more heinous planks sticking out of my eyes that need to be dealt with. And perhaps it's worth focusing there instead of 'sweating the small stuff'. Nonetheless, if I desire to be obedient to God - offering my life as an act of worship, that obedience will manifest itself in a willing, joyful submission to earthly authorities...

Meaning I need to slow down a little. And you should, too. Soli Deo Gloria!


Wednesday, November 29

More Mindless WWWednesday

1) Ever have one of those days where you just really needed to blow off some stress? I usually have one of those starting right after a 10am meeting that goes nowhere. Anyway, next time you need a stress reliever, just try some Mindless Violence. Nothing makes your day perk up like shooting some little, green bubble aliens!

2) As a kid, I loved Popular Science magazine! Yes I know... I'm a geek. But there were always cool things inside the glossy pages. Well, now you can view PopSci's Best of 2006 list via the web. While there are a ton of cool things on there, I most smitten with the Bugatti Veyron (for several, obvious reasons).

3) The Nativity Story movie will hitting theaters this week. Like most folks, I'm a little skeptical of how Hollywood would handle anything that I hold dear... Still, the early reviews on this movie seem to be pretty positive. Al Mohler, who I imagine would not be easy to please, played movie critic and gave the film a pretty positive review. Perhaps a trip to the movies should be on the horizon, eh?

3) Chess players are facing the reality of stricter, anti-doping policies from FIDE. Yes, chess players. To quote the article, "I would not know which drug could possibly help a chess player to improve his game." But you can never be too careful I suppose...

4) A word of advice: If you own a buffalo ranch, there may come a time when you have a rare, white buffalo born into your care. These animals are considered sacred by several Native American tribes. Nonetheless, resist the urge to include the word miracle in the animal's name... Trust me, it's a little embarrassing to have to tell the world that li'l MiracleII was struck by lightning and killed.

6) Ok... This video is definitely one of the craziest things I've seen on net. I wonder how long it took this guy to piece everything together... The result is teh intarweb gold.

On the other hand, this video also deserves mention in the 'teh craziest' category. Nothing says funny like nuclear, meteoric Indian men shaking their groove things.
7) Make strange comments in your blog, get strange search engine hits. Check these out:
  • I was finally the top hit on Google for WWWednesday. Then Google mysteriously downgraded me to #2. Sadness.
  • I still am, and will forever be (I imagine) the top hit for click on TMXElmo online and watch him giggle and dance. You just know that search was entered by some panicking mother whose 2-year-old was screaming for more Elmo. And Elmo's power continues to grow... Sinister.
  • Dear Dead Deer sounds like the opening to a really depressing letter.
  • Thanksgiving housewives rejoice here at Dluxe's World. That's right.
  • If you want to know if Islam is mean, you'll get here somewhere down the over 2 million results. I'm still scratching my head over this one.


Monday, November 27

Wrap-up: Overcoming Sin & Temptation (Owen)

By God's grace, the past eight years have been a period of intense spiritual growth for me... The encouragement and fellowship of other believers has been crucial to my walk. One of the constant exhortations from these personal and distant mentors has been to find time to read the writings of the Puritans in general and John Owen in particular.

While I've managed to read the works of some other folks, I hadn't yet cracked the cover of anything by John Owen... I was thrilled when I saw that Crossway was planning to release a newly edited collection of three of Owen's classic works - "The Mortification of Sin", "Of Temptation", and "Indwelling Sin". As soon as Overcoming Sin and Temptation was released, I planned to 'Add to Cart' ASAP.*

Within the first few pages of reading, I became keenly aware of why Owen is called the Prince of the Puritans. Owen's writing is both deeply passionate and amazingly profound. More striking is the contrast of Owen's depth set against the popular spiritualists of our day (see this). I mean, who writes like this anymore?
Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head... [E]very rise of lust, might it have its course, would come to the height of villainy: it is like the grave that is never satisfied. And herein lies no small share of the deceitfulness of sin ... [I]t is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presses on to some farther degrees in the same kind. (p.52)

Or this, expounding on Paul's writing in Romans 7:
Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves. They know their outward estates, how rich they are, and the condition of their bodies as to health and sickness they are careful to examine; but as to their inward man, and their principles as to God and eternity, they know little or nothing of themselves. Indeed, few labor to grow wise in this matter, few study themselves as they ought, are acquainted with the evils of their own hearts as they ought; on which yet the whole course of their obedience, and consequently of their eternal condition, does depend. This, therefore, is our wisdom; and it is a needful wisdom, if we have any design to please God, or to avoid that which is a provocation to the eyes of his glory. (p.238)

Some of you might be saying, "Thank goodness no one writes like this anymore! It's so wordy and hard to understand!" I'll grant you that our modern reading-minds might initially grind gears on this kind of writing. First, I'd issue a challenge: Keep Reading. If you press on a little past your point of comfort, I think you'll find that you'll start getting in 'Ye Olde Gruve' and the words start to click.

Second, I'd mention that the editing in this edition is masterful. While I'm not terribly familiar with Owen's native writing, it strikes me that Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic have done some substantial smoothing to these works. By that, I don't mean that they've paraphrased or softened Owen. Instead, it appears that they've emphasized texts (mainly using italics) and split-up some of the l-o-n-g Puritan's paragraphs... The end result is that it's easy, even in the midst of a long screed, to firmly land on the main ideas Owen is expounding. Once you have those key thoughts, the rest seems to come together nicely. The editors have also carefully footnoted awkward, period vocabulary.

Be prepared to read slowly and savor this book... Owen opens the Scriptures and brings them to bear, quite pointedly, on the darkest impulses in each of us. As one of the liner notes says, a certain professor encouraged all his students to read Owen and prepare for the [surgeon's] knife. At the same time, the great grace of Gospel is proclaimed giving encouragement and strength to us in our battle against sin. This is important stuff, and we should resist the temptation to race/struggle through it. This book has been hugely valuable to me already, and I'm confident that it will continue to impact me as I return to it again and again in the future.

I'm a terrible book reviewer (my first draft started by comparing Owen's prose to a prime strip steak), and I know it. So, I'd urge you to consider my feeble praise in light of the praise of other folks far more eloquent than me.

Then, go click 'Add to Cart'.

* I am exceedingly grateful to Crossway for the opportunity to review a copy of this book!


Friday, November 24

Whitefield for the Weekend [6]

[W]alking with God implies, that the prevailing power of the enmity of a person's heart be taken away by the blessed Spirit of God. Perhaps it may seem a hard saying to some, but our own experience daily proves what the scriptures in many places assert, that the carnal mind, the mind of the unconverted natural man, nay, the mind of the regenerate, so far as any part of him remains unrenewed, is enmity, not only an enemy, but enmity itself, against God; so that it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.

Indeed, one may well wonder that any creature, especially that lovely creature man, made after his Maker's own image, should ever have any enmity, much less a prevailing enmity, against that very God in whom he lives, and moves, and hath his being. But alas! so it is. Our first parents contracted it when they fell from God by eating the forbidden fruit, and the bitter and malignant contagion of it hath descended to, and quite overspread, their whole posterity.

Observe me, I say, the prevailing power of this enmity must be taken away; for the in-being of it will never be totally removed, till we bow down our heads, and give up the ghost. The apostle Paul, no doubt, speaks of himself, and that, too, not when he was a Pharisee, but a real Christian; when he complains, ‘that when he would do good, evil was present with him'; not having dominion over him, but opposing and resisting his good intentions and actions, so that he could not do the things which he would, in that perfection which the new man desired. This is what he calls sin dwelling in him... [A]s for its prevailing power, it is destroyed in every soul that is truly born of God, and gradually more and more weakened as the believer grows in grace, and the Spirit of God gains a greater and greater ascendancy in the heart.

George Whitefield, Walking with God


Wednesday, November 22


I hope this little post finds everyone gearing up for a very restful and thankful Thanksgiving!

1) Kudos to Newsweek on their interesting On Faith discussion page. The magazine has established a panel of experts (?) on issues of faith, pose them questions, publish the panelist's response, and then stand aside as the comment threads explode in flames. As you can see here, Al Mohler has already been to the firing line and spurred a lot of 'conversation'.

2) Ok... This is freaky on too many levels. Meet Bryan Hathaway. Bryan (no relation) was caught getting a little friendly with a deer in a roadside ditch. A dead deer. And this is no first offense, mind you. He'd "previously has served time for killing a horse he intended to sexually assault". As if that isn't enough, check out this gem of a quote from his attorney his court filing:
Whether the term "animal" includes carcasses presented and issue of statutory interpretation... [A]n "organism" is defined as "a living individual; a plant or animal." Thus, the term "animal" refers to a living organism, not a carcass.

In addition defining animal to include carcasses would lead to absurd results. At what point of decompose would the carcass cease being an animal? ... As Billy Crystal noted in The Princess Bride (1987), "There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead."

It's bad enough that attorneys, once considered intelligensia in our society, are having to argue whether or not fornicating with an animal carcass violates a statute against fornication with animals. It's even worse when, to really zing their point home, the refer to The Princess Bride.

3) The whole fascination with Elmo has always kinda bothered me... That voice! That way he always refers to himself with his proper name! CREEPY! But, the new TMXElmo dolls are something altogether new and evil. I'm sure there's a timer in them and they will take over the world on April 15th. Don't believe me? Just watch this video and tell me it isn't frightening!!

4) WWWednesday posts don't usually lend themselves to follow-ups, but this one is worthwhile. In a rare display of sanity, Fox decided to pull the plug on O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It" show and book. The bummer is that, I believe, O.J. still got paid (in advance) for the book.

5) Kids, be careful if you go rummaging through the closets at your school... You never know when you'll come across some radioactive waste! Where was all this stuff when I was a kid?

6) A couple weeks ago, a friend mentioned that the first time she heard Barak Obama speak (following the '04 elections) she thought he could be the Antichrist. We both laughed about this, and I hadn't thought about it again. However, reading this story in WorldNet re: the unholy alliance between Obama and Rick Warren does make you think...

7) Geeks (like me) around the world are mourning today. It appears that Peter Jackson and crew will not be back to direct/produce the movie version of the Hobbit or any other prequel material. Sadness, indeed.

8)This video of Bill Dance is hysterical to me (especially because he sounds like my Uncle Ronnie). Always make sure your trollin' motor is firmly attached.

9) I'm on Google for:
  • Graham Phillips follow up ark of the covenant. Don't ask.
  • I bet you didn't know that I have the most wanted theme in [the] world... Now you do.
  • The fact that someone wound up here seeking extra special make-up tips really bothers me.
  • And though I've posted on a handful of books of the Bible, I can't remember anything from the Song of Saint Solomon...


Monday, November 20

Thinking caps at the ready! [3]

For all the background to this, check out Part One or Part Two...

Continuing to ponder Tim Keller's challenge from this year's Desiring God National Conference: What is the right approach to presenting the Gospel in a post-Christian, post-modern world?

In this post, I'd like to throw up the framework for a 'script' that's been running through my head (in various draft forms) for the last few days.

I'm certainly not suggesting this is anything worth reading, but I think best 'out loud' and figure that I ought to be able to use my blog for that purpose. Again, the interactions that some of us have already had here have been incredibly valuable for me... I hope that they have been for you as well, and I hope they will continue!

1) The Hook - "Why is there so much evil in the world?" or "Why is there so much suffering in the world?"

One of the first challenges that pluralism/diversity presents us is to find a point of entry to conversation. I spent a lot of time trying to think what 'existential realities' are sufficiently common across all ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds that you could reasonably expect them to resonate with any hearer. Two things seemed the most obvious: the problem of evil and/or suffering. We all experience these things, either internally or externally.

The classic Christian catch phrases such as "God loves you and has a wonderful plan..." or "If you died tonight, do you know where you'd go?" both assume some degree of common understand re: God, His identity/existence, etc. In such a multicultural, post-Christian culture, I'm not sure the scaffolding needed for those questions to get traction exist.

By pointing at evil/suffering, we really get at the root of what we live with regardless of any labels we put on ourselves. Muslims see evil and pain, as do Mormons. Even hardcore atheists who deny moral truth can't deny suffering as reality. So, why do these things we all experience exist?

Dr. Keller noted in his address that one challenge is the weaving together of story (Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration) and the theological elements of the Gospel (God, Christ, Sin, Grace, Faith). In the subsequent steps, I've tried - poorly, no doubt - to keep a sense of that dual reasoning... From here on out, I'll just list potential points and scripture references.

2) God created a perfect world, but it was corrupted by the entry of sin.
Sin's presence has been devastating... One single sin is enough to distance us from a perfect, just God by an infinite amount. But every one of us fights the impulses of selfishness, pride, anger, jealousy, and more every hour of every day. Everywhere in the world, people suffer physically and emotionally at the hands of human desires for power and pleasure run amok.

3) God seeks to redeem His Creation and gave us His own Son to reconcile us to Himself. Jesus lived a life of complete innocence, and yet he was put to death. Christ received the punishment for all the sins of all peoples so that the debt our sin created could be paid. Because of His perfect life and blameless death, the just penalty for our sins has been dealt with and the gulf between God and man can be bridged.

4) We can experience restored relationship with God now and have the promise of final restoration in Heaven.
5) Why it had to be this way... Why Jesus is the only way.
Ok... This has gotten really long already, and is already two days overdue. So, I'm gonna pull the trigger. Thoughts, anyone?

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Friday, November 17

Whitefield for the Weekend [5]

[Christ's love] is condescending love, it is amazing, it is forgiving love, it is dying love, it is exalted and interceding love, and it is glorified love...

He saw us polluted in blood, full of sores, a slave to sin, to death and hell, running to destruction, then he passed by me, and said unto my soul, “Live;” he snatched me as a brand plucked from the burning. It was love that saved me, it was all of the free grace of God, and that only. The little experience I have had of this love, makes me amazed at the condescension, the love, and mercifulness of the blessed Jesus, that he should have mercy upon such a wretch... Eternity itself will be too short to set forth the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot, indeed I cannot forbear speaking again, and again, and again, of the Lord Jesus.

And if there are any here who are strangers to this love of the Lord Jesus Christ, do not despair; come, come unto Christ, and he will have mercy upon you, he will pardon all your sins, he will heal all your backslidings, he will love you freely, and take you to be with himself. Come therefore, O my guilty brethren, unto Jesus, and you shall find rest for your souls. You need not fear, you need not despair, when God has had mercy upon such a wretch as I; and he will save you also, if you will come unto him by faith.

George Whitefield, Christ the Support for the Tempted


Thursday, November 16

After the Parade...

Well, it appears that the TeamPyro wave has crested and departed. Looking at the logs for today, it's really just 'us home folks'. If there are any people who've decided to tune in for a while longer, a hearty welcome to you.

I'd really like to chew on the 'post-everything' evangelism question a little more. It has really been keeping me up at night... Not in a bad way, of course - I simply find myself thinking about it whenever I get a moment with a clear head. So, there will probably be a 3rd post in that series later this weekend. I hope that you regulars will have some feedback... And maybe Phil or Frank will grace us with their thoughts again as well.

In the meantime, I've got another George Whitefield post waiting in the wings for tomorrow... Life slowly returns to normal!

Wednesday, November 15

...and rumors of WWWednesdays.

S'up y'all? Thanks for tuning in... Starting off on a serious note:

1) From the 'Rumors of Wars' department. A Chinese, diesel-powered sub appears to have stalked a US Navy carrier group. When you don't know the enemy's there until they pop up and say "Boo!", you have a problem. Sheesh! Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China... Where will it end?

2) On a far lighter note, I've found a solution to getting the birds that are living in the eaves of our roof to go away. Just give them hallucinogenic drugs! Thanks to the city of West Palm Beach for that winner of an idea!

3) Well, it's that time of year again... If you had been saving your pennies to buy your special someone a $20m trip into space, I've got some bad news: The Russian Space Agency reports they're booked solid through '09. See? It really does pay to start shopping early!

3) Have no fear though... There are still some great gift ideas. Use your twenty mil to buy 100 of your closest friends full-sized, wax statues of themselves. If you have friends in the tropics, this might not be such a great gift. There are few things more depressing than watching yourself melt.

4) Continuing on the gift-giving tip... The people at Blendtec have just about done the impossible. I almost want a blender for Christmas. Why? Simple. The people at Blendtec have proven that you can destroy things with your small kitchen appliances to answer the eternal question: Will it blend? These two pages are full of terrible acting, but awesome vids.

5) Speaking of amusing videos, try to picture in your head Woody Allen and Billy Graham sitting down for a chat... Seem a little hard? Here's some help (part 1 and part 2). Thanks for da linkage, Brendt.

6) Last video... I hid this link in a previous post, but I think it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen (a wonderful parody of this). So, I'm reposting it here cuz it makes me giggle. A lot.

7) It's been a hoot having been linked by TeamPyro. Sadly, the discussion hasn't taken off like I hoped it would. But as this graph shows, I've gotten more than a month's worth of traffic in just the past few days. The early bump is when Adrian Warnock decided to grace me with a link back in October.

8) Pity The Folks who got here almost certainly looking for something else:
  • I dunno how far down Google's results for Paint you have to go to get here. But I'm dead-sure that is was a LONG way.
  • I promise to do a post detailing Mark Calvin's Theology, just as soon as I figure out who he is.
  • And, though I linked to it, there's no way I could explain the Reformation Polka.


Saturday, November 11

Thinking caps at the ready! [2]

Well, what a difference being BlogSpotted (r)(C)(tm) makes... I started to publish a follow-up to my initial post re: presenting the Gospel in a post[whatever] context, then I noticed all the links inbound from TeamPyro. So, I decided to press pause for a second. I figured that I could wait and then pull some of the comment content up here to the main page.

I figured it was time to just pull the trigger since the comments haven't exactly rolled in. Nonetheless, a big welcome to those of you who've tuned in for the ride...

To me, two of the first big gotchas that Keller's challenge raised are the issues of Time and Substance. The church in which I grew up got all uppity about the 4 Spiritual Laws as an evangelistic tool one year. I remember boxes of 4SL-based tracts arriving and being stacked neatly in the narthex (yes, we had a narthex) for people to take. Looking back, the appeal to us seemed to rest mainly in two arenas:

1) The 4SL methodology was understandable. This appeal was manifest in two ways:
  • The clear 'method' was critical because I think it's safe to say we were far from well catechized Christians. Our understanding of the Gospel was, in hindsight, pretty weak. So, something like the 4SLs really provided the somewhat-solid foundation for our own understanding of our message.
  • In addition, the 'script' aspect of the presentation gave us confidence... We didn't need to think of 'what to say' or how to respond to questions - it was all right there for us.
2) The presentations were relatively short. The facts of the Good News are plainly laid out and could be presented to someone over lunch, a coffee break, or even just casually talking on the street. There was no need to set aside time or be concerned about 'squeezing everything in'.

Nowadays, both of those past strengths meet new challenges... For one thing, the scaffolding/methodology assumes a certain mono-cultural, semi-white bread, historically Judeo-Christian worldview in the hearer. As Keller points out, that simply won't get you any traction in some contexts today. Say something like, "God loves you", and you might well expect to hear back "Huh? Who is this God guy?" Suddenly the scaffolding and script comes crashing down around you. In the same way, responding to such 'paradigm-busting' questions requires that you invest time into your response (and in the study to arm you to respond).

Tim Keller notes the rising use of the Alpha Program as perhaps the new 'silver bullet' in evangelism. In light of these challenges I think it's easy to see why it's successful. Based on my limited understanding, ample time is set aside for the lessons/Q&A and the material is relatively meaty. So, Alpha presents substantial answers to questions and gives people time to interact with the material in a group.

So if part of the challenge is to formulate an exceptionally pithy presentation of the Gospel to post[whatevers], I think we have a problem. The challenges of a multicultural, pluralistic, post-Christian era mean that we have to be prepared to start from ground-zero and build things carefully.

Setting aside the issue of time, to focus on content... A couple of the comments were especially on-target and helpful, IMHO. Eddie Beal (aka Taliesin) kicked things off by saying that 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 provides a good framework for dealing with both the 'Christ-haunted' and the completely profane people we meet. I think that is a great place to start. As I have been chewing on Dr. Keller's challenge, I had in my head a framework like this:
  • Present Jesus and the Resurrection as historic fact. Postmodernism has created a truth problem, and I think at least one way to tackle that would be to present the historicity of the New Testament Gospels. Jesus was born, lived, taught, died, and rose from the dead. These events are way more than just historically 'plausible'. This discussion could range all over the place, from philosophical, epistemological challenges to real questions about evidence for Jesus having walked on the Earth...
  • Present what Christ taught about Himself. Not only was Christ a real person, but He certainly cast Himself as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world"... Why did He come to earth? What is sin? What is my condition thanks to sin, and how do I get outta this mess? I suppose the goal would be to weave together both the propositional, concrete, systematic theological statements and the overarching story line of redemptive history. I think that this is really at the core of what Keller's driving at. I suppose I don't understand enough about the value of 'story' to the postmodern worldview to flesh this out much more.
  • The Existential Rub. What are the real, personal questions in this person's life to which Christ is the answer? It might be feelings of guilt or shame, facing death, a craving for justice, or any number of things. But how can allow the Gospel to impact their worldview and answer their struggle now? As Frank Turk (aka centuri0n) noted in his comment: "[T]he Christians were presenting this [God] who intersects with reality in the man Christ Jesus, and is working out History for His glory and the salvation of us lousy sinners." Christ is not just ! He is here and now!
  • How then do we live? Assuming that we get this far, how do all the points above impact our day-to-day life, both at the level of worldview and of practical living.
In thinking that through, the one thing that became crystal clear to me was that any of these discussion demand of us that we know what we believe... I noted above that at least part of the appeal of the 4SL and similar programs was that they gave us a theological crutch.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to have internalized much more that a script. Though there's really only one message/lesson (the Gospel), we need to be able to articulately bring that truth to bear on a number of possible challenges or objections.

Everyone's a philosopher nowadays - so we need to be able to present Christ as Truth rather than just an option on the buffet table (Luke's illustration). Everyone is also 'spiritual' - so we need to be able to show the Gospel as superior to all the false faiths and ideas that our sin imposes on us. Everyone wants justice and peace - so we need to show that justice and peace cannot be had without the Gospel and Reign of Christ. For us to be able to do this, the message needs to be especially real and alive to us.

This has turned into more of a rant than a systematic post, and I'm sorry about that. But I'm tired, and I don't feel like re-writing this anymore. I'll try to do better next time. In the meantime, I hope more of you chime in.

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Friday, November 10

Whitefield for the Weekend [4]

I love these Whitefield posts, but I'm sad that this one will be bumping this post off the top of the blog. So, I'd kindly ask you to read that post as well.

On to Brother Whitefield:

"And here, my dear brethren, let me beseech you to go to Jesus Christ; tell him, how you are assaulted by the evil one, who lies in wait for your souls; tell him, you are not able to master him, in your own strength; beg his assistance, and you shall find him ready to help you; ready to assist you, and to be your Guide, your Comforter, your Savior, your All... In Christ Jesus you shall have the strength you stand in need of, the devil shall have no power... Let the devil and his agents rage, let them breathe out threatenings, yes, let them breathe out slaughters, yet we can rejoice in this, that Jesus Christ hath them in his power, they shall go no farther than he permits them; they may rage, they may rage horribly, but they can go no farther, until they have got more power from on high...

Then earnestly entreat of the Lord to support you under those temptations, which the devil may assault you with; he is a powerful adversary, he is a cunning one too; he would be too hard for us, unless we have the strength of Christ to be with us. But let us be looking up unto Jesus, that he would send his Spirit into our hearts, and keep us from falling.

O my dear brethren in Christ Jesus, how stands it now between God and your souls? Is Jesus altogether lovely to your souls? Is he precious unto you? I am sure, if you have not gone back from Christ, he will not from you; he will root out the accursed things of this world, and dwell in your hearts. You are candidates for heaven; and will you mind earth? What are all the pleasures of earth, without an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ? And one smile from him is more to be desired than rubies, yea more than the whole world."

George Whitefield, Christ the Support for the Tempted


Thursday, November 9

Thinking caps at the ready!

Ok... It's no secret that this blog is rather limited in its popularity. I know almost all of y'all and y'all almost know most of me.... Uh, or something like that.

I always intended to write here just to a chronicle of my many struggles, few victories, and other miscellaneous ramblings re: my life in Christ. If you've been reading, thanks! You're the best. If something here was worth coming back for, that's a sure evidence of God's grace.

But now, I wanna put us to work... I've been chewing on something for some time and thought it'd be neat to bat it around with you. There won't be nearly as many of us exchanging ideas as there would be if I were Phil Johnson and this was the vaunted TeamPyro site. This is more like Team Micro. Still, the ones of you I know personally are all wicked smart folks (casting me the role of lovable, tag-along ignoramus)...

Here's the question:

At this year's Desiring God conference, Tim Keller discussed* the way postmodern thinking and an increasingly post-Christian culture is impacting the presentation of the Gospel. Citing Lloyd-Jones and others, he posits that the challenge of evangelism in previous generations was 'awakening' people to the Gospel. Christian concepts of morality and God's existence were, to a large degree, deeply woven into our individual and cultural fabric. Even the people who weren't Christian were likely "Christ-haunted".

As post-Christian culture rises, the West has become a mission field again where people need to be taught the Gospel again rather than simply awakened to it. Add the influence of postmodernism in on top of it all and the 'Four Spiritual Laws' or 'Evangelism Explosion' style of presentation just don't seem to get the same traction as they once did.

So, Keller puts the challenge this way:
It's going to take all our best theological thinking ... to develop user-friendly Gospel presentations that merge both systematic theology and biblical theology in such ways that people can grasp [the message] rather quickly... We have to do theology if we're going to get the Gospel across.

I don't have anything to bring to the table of 'best theological thinking'... But some of you do. So I put these questions to you:
  • If "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" is no longer the right 'elevator pitch' for Christianity in this culture, what do you think is?
  • How do we construct a presentation of the Gospel that weaves both the systematic theological elements (God, Sin, Christ, Grace, Faith) and the 'story arc' elements of Biblical Theology (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration)?
Well... What do you think? [read this as a call for a fun discussion in the comments!]

Download the lecture here[Right-click, Save As, etc]. The whole thing is fabulous, but if you wanna zone in on the just the 'challenge' jump to 21:00 thru 30:30. As a supplement, you could also digest Tim Challies fabulous liveblog notes here or New Attitude's excellent summary post.

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Wednesday, November 8

It's a brand new WWWednesday...

Happy WWWednesday, y'all. The link in the title is all the politico-talk you'll get from me today.

1) Did you stay up too late watching election results? I didn't. Though it appears these NASA workers did... Except for the one guy so disinterested that he's just playing cards.

2) Speaking of geeks and games, I never really bit into the whole Sudoku craze. I recently started [pathetically, slowly] working though one 'mega-easy' puzzle a day at this website. Nonetheless, it's going to be a long time before I get all hot-and-bothered over a puzzle like this.

3) Even as slow as I am, I could get a lot of Sudoku done in 38,000 years. And it seems some charming gentlemen are going to have that much time on their hands. Perhaps they can weave a couple baskets, too?

4) Changing gears completely, here's a fascinating look at what we'll all be eating in 25 years. While I find all this healthy cuisine curiously exciting, I still want to know when I'll get my robot maid and Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle.

5) While not providing food-on-demand, Holly Jacobson and Tessa Churchill are working to put a dent in the world's fuel problems... And MIT appears to be listening. All hail the geek overlords!

6) Speaking of fuel, imagine how much gas this monster takes up to deliver the 45,000 tons of Christmas junk it's got stowed on-board? And think of all the gas that will be produced on Christmas morning as parental-stomach-ulcers throughout the UK flare up trying to put the cheap, plastic crap together?

Electrical mishaps are never good, but they can be fun to watch for pyromaniacally inclined geeks like me. I saw this on the net this week and it got a huge "Whoa!" from me. I bet you'll also be interested in this. Note: No one was hurt as a result of these accidents.

8) Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoons, suffers (suffered?) from a disorder called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Effectively, he lost the ability to speak casually for quite a while... But, it appears that he healed himself! Read his account here. Our brains are unbelievably weird contraptions...

7) Need a 'Teh Dluxe' fix? Remember these search strings and you'll always be able to navigate to my blog!
  • Don't ask me how someone got here looking for angry crab Larry.
  • It's a little known fact that I'm very into fashion. And I predict that the next spring season will find everyone wanting to be seen in a Mengele Monacle.
  • Weird Al better watch it, I know when Weird Al Whomping Day actually is.
  • You can learn a lot about yourself from Google. Little did I know that I was pro-Cessation of the Modern Church...
  • I post about Mark Driscoll fairly often. But, have you read my posts on his rather odd cousin, Mark Disco?? Oh yes... I've long been a fan of his 'best and farest' [whatever that means] work with the OC Bombers [whoever they are]. And you thought he was just a good dancer!*
*This page is almost worth it's own WWWednesday post!! Hee Hee!


Monday, November 6

A Gospel of Grace...

In Friday's Whitefield post, I highlighted the following phrases:
[Now we] are fallen, there is nothing lovely, nothing desirable in man; his heart is a sink of pollution, full of sin and uncleanness.


If I was to paint man in his proper colors, I must go to the kingdom of hell for a copy; for man is by nature full of pride, subtlety, malice, envy, revenge, and all uncharitableness; and what are these but the temper of the devil?

Not unlike everyone else on the internet, I was attempting to, in some small way, respond to the discovery of Ted Haggard's improper conduct. I started to work out some profound, wordy post to offer further reflections on all this.

Thankfully, centuri0n and Tim Challies (both of whom are far better writers than I will ever be) said it all. So, read what they said and envision me nodding. Not to slight Frank Turk, but I found Tim's post especially poignant.
If we look to Ted Haggard as a representative of all that is wrong in Evangelicalism, I think we miss the most important lesson. The lesson we need to learn is that we are every bit as sinful and fallible and willful and depraved as Haggard; perhaps more so. It is only the grace of God that, like a spider being held over the flame by a nearly-invisible web, prevents me from giving in to all the sin that is in me and being dragged down by it. Oh, that He would continue to extend this grace! And oh, that I would take heed lest I, too, fall, for what is in Haggard is in me.

It's in me, too... Sadly, there's a ton of it at the surface which means there's gobs more hidden underneath.

Friday, November 3

Whitefield for the Weekend [3]

Though you may value yourselves as fine rational creatures, and that you are noble beings; and you were so, as you first came out of God's hands; but now you are fallen, there is nothing lovely, nothing desirable in man; his heart is a sink of pollution, full of sin and uncleanness: Yet, though a man's own heart is so desperately wicked, he is told by our modern polite preachers, that there is a fitness in men, and that God seeing you a good creature, gives you his grace; but this, though it is a modern, polite, and fashionable way of talking, is very unscriptural; it is very contrary to the doctrines of the Reformation, and to our own Articles.

But however contrary to the doctrines of the Church of England, yet our pulpits ring of nothing more, than doing no one any harm, living honestly, loving your neighbor as yourselves, and do what you can, and then Christ is to make up the deficiency: this is making Christ to be half a savior, and man the other part; but I say, Christ will be your whole righteousness, your whole wisdom, your whole sanctification, or else he will never be your whole redemption.

How amazing is it, that the ministers of the church of England should speak quite contrary to what they have subscribed! Good God! ...

But let these modern, polite gentlemen ... paint man in as lovely colors as they please, I will not do it; I dare not make him better than the word of God does. If I was to paint man in his proper colors, I must go to the kingdom of hell for a copy; for man is by nature full of pride, subtlety, malice, envy, revenge, and all uncharitableness; and what are these but the temper of the devil? And lust, sensuality, pleasure, these are the tempers of the beast. Thus, my brethren, man is half a beast, and half a devil, a motley mixture of the beast and devil. And this is the creature, who has made himself so obnoxious to the wrath of God, and open to his indignation, that is told, that he must be part his own savior, by doing good works, and what he cannot do Christ will do for him.

George Whitefield, Christ the Support for the Tempted


Wednesday, November 1

Flush the bombers, it's WWWednesday!!

1) Yesterday was Reformation Day. While the rest of the Godblogdom commemorated the start of the Protestant Reformation, I was busy posting about hot summer fashions! Shows you where my mind is... Take some time to read some of the great posts that were made yesterday and thank God for the restoration of the Gospel!

2) Sometimes it's easier to remember things if they're set to music. So in an effort to make the historical facts of Reformation Day stick, I wanted to point you to the Reformation Rap and Reformation Polka!

2) On this day in 1952, US military scientists detonated the first thermonuclear bomb. This would, 31 years later, lead to my first real "movie crush" when Ally Sheedy played the incredibly cute Jennifer in Wargames. Oh, how my 8 year-old jealousy burned towards Matthew Broderick! This flick also produced my all time favorite movie quote, from the surprisingly-witty-in-crisis General Beringer...

"Mr. McKittrick, after very careful consideration, sir, I've come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks."

3) Call me crazy, but I think it takes a lot of guts to ask someone to give you something (for free) and then turn around and sell it for a $120,000 profit. It appears, however, that the town of Chesapeake, MD doesn't share my inhibitions.

4) Next time you think about mugging that 70 year-old who's walking past you on the street, you better think again. Some of our senior citizens have killed people with their bare hands. I do think it's interesting, however, that the suspects haven't been found....

5) I knew that my informed readers would like to know that Kobayashi is continuing his unparalleled dominance of competitive eating world. One has to wonder when the US will produce a gastrothlete who will be able to stop this depressing skid in a sport we used to own! I hope this sounds as a clarion call to all those youth to put down their lacrosse sticks and soccer balls and take up their hot dogs, rice, and matzah balls for America!

I'm kidding, of course.

5) John Hagee is just strange, as this article shows. Someone be sure to remind me that I need a throne if I ever pastor a church. Oh, and I can't forget the over-realized dispensational eschatology.

I only typed that out because "over-realized dispensational eschatology" just sound so cool!!

6) In the interest in posting something serious, Al Mohler kindly provided a nice article (which cites a nice article) regarding the problems facing Methodism today. Here's hoping that more Methodists hear the call back to the Bible.

7) If you Googled any of the following, you might've ended up here:
  • I bet John Macarthur would be just thrilled to know that he and the points of calvin are discussed here.
  • I know all about that Wiesel Stomping Day song by Weird Al. Sadly, I don't know much about his "Weasel Stomping Day" song.
  • You wouldn't believe the number of people who google Mark Driscoll in a given day.
  • My kids would love that someone came here looking for Curious George['s] Mallet.
  • I also have a recipe for slum pies, in case you need one.
Take care!