Friday, July 30, 2010

Off-topic but heart-felt

Rearing godly children

Steps to simplify

Of pigs and religious experience

Jeff Weddle writes about the danger of focusing on personal religious experience at the expense of Scripture:
Making experience trump the Bible is a sure way to get yourself off the strait and narrow. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He is more than willing to use signs and wonders, dreams, experiences or lack thereof to get you to trust your life events over Scripture.

If Scripture is indeed our sole authority for life and practice, let’s make it that. I’m not against experiences; I’m against making experiences the final authority when experiences can be deceiving when God’s Word never is.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Funereal note

I don't often post much personal information on this blog, but then again I don't often wake to find my father dead in his bed. He had been living with my wife, sons, and me since four years ago, when his Alzheimer's disease became too severe for him to keep living alone. We're sad to see him go, but we give thanks that he is now at rest.

My father, H.G. Stanley, was a veteran of the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he helped build the first atomic bomb and win the war against Japan. Today it's probably not politically correct to mention such things, but I give thanks for him and all those (including my late mother), who served our native land with distinction during World War 2.

I look forward with hope and anticipation to that time when we may join him and all the saints of God in the great day of resurrection. In the mean time, we mourn. I hope to be back with you again here soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Credit for their salvation'

Royce Ogle has written a wonderful essay on salvation by grace. He notes, however, the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected is not good news to everyone:

That God is not counting sins against those with their faith in Jesus is not good news for the self-righteous. They are not unlike their first century counterparts were the most religious folks of their time, the sect of the Pharisees. Oh yes, we have plenty of them today.

They love the praise of men. “Listen to me”, “see what I have done”, “notice what I avoid”, “honor me because I am such a good person”. These church members never miss a service, they do all the right things so far as can be humanly observed, but inside they are corrupt to the core.

They want part of the credit for their salvation. The message of the grace of God offends them deeply, it makes them angry. It is not unlike the anger the church folks had against Jesus. “Eating with sinners!”, “Doing things we don’t approve on the Sabbath, the nerve…!” He deserves to die!

But praise God for the good news. And Royce's whole post is a pretty good explanation of that news.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guys over God

Jeff Weddle writes insightfully about those who would use Scripture to deny Scripture:
This is not something that only guys from a long time ago do. Oh no, it lives on in all of us. One of the most prevalent ways modern Christian do this is by using Scripture to prove they don’t have to listen to Scripture.

Yes, this is as dumb as it sounds. It is also highly ironic. But I see it all the time. People use one Scripture to trump another Scripture. The Scripture that is interpreted as leading to the least amount of responsibility always wins.

If you are not going to listen to Scripture, don’t use Scripture to prove why you don’t have to. Just come right out and deny the whole Book. Scripture does not deny itself, so stop trying to make it do so.
Good point.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'The very words of God'

This is helpful: Learning to love Leviticus.

Jesus Christ and him crucified

Phillip Fletcher shares six glorious truths of the Resurrection. Here's my favorite: "The resurrection of Christ means our lives are moving towards a destination. Our lives are not caught in destructive cycles, ruled by chance or conspiracy. His resurrection shouts we are headed towards infinite joy." Amen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Worth considering

Jared Wilson: "Your church might not be a church if. . ."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tired of tightly turning tracks (and a plea)

One reason I started this blog was to help move myself and others beyond some of the tight intellectual circles of my own tradition of Christian thought. You probably know what I mean: a cramped network of echo-chamber writers who cross-reference each others' ideas in a feedback loop so loud it drowns out any alternative perspective (however faithful) on faith and discipleship. In searching for material to link from this blog, I've come across a number of writers who (while we may disagree on significant points of doctrine) have helped my thinking mature in vital ways.

Increasingly, however, I'm becoming aware that some of these new circles, while fresh and freeing to me in years past, are in reality just as tight, cramped, and deafening as the ones I'd been trying to avoid. I'm always looking for new web sites for good ideas, but I keep finding writers entrenched in one or another of these alternative echo chambers (If those descriptions sound vague, it's by design; I want ideas, not a fight).

So here's my plea: can you recommend any Christian writers I ought to be linking to but am not? I really do want your suggestions. And for what it's worth, I prefer reading works by Christians not on the Superstar Preacher Circuit (those guys usually have their own private circles, and let me tell you: they're all pretty tight).

The Book of Eli and the gospel

Whatever you may have heard to the contrary, The Book of Eli, Mike Leake explains, simply does not have a "Christian message."
I’m not just simply straining gnats here. Apparently Eli has the entire Bible memorized. That’s awesome. But he misses the message. In his opinion the message of the Bible is, “Do good to others above yourself.”

There is absolutely no mention of Jesus. No mention of redemption in Christ. The Bible is seen as a great book. But in the end it is placed alongside other great books of faith like the Torah, Koran, etc. The view of Christ and the Scriptures is the typical secular view of what it means to be a Christian.

Don’t get me wrong; we can learn a ton from Eli. His passion for the Scriptures is wonderful. His single-minded devotion to doing what “the voice” told him is compelling. We can learn much from this man. But he does not proclaim a risen Christ. So, I’m shocked and a little disturbed that respected Christian reviewers can say this movie is Christian.
Pretty much all I know about the movie I've read in Mike's post, but based on the information he gives, Mike's assessment sounds right.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good news

"Many religions begin by telling men and women what they should do; Christianity begins with what God has done. The shorthand word for this is ‘gospel’, referring not to a set of good instructions or a piece of good advice, but to the good news of what God himself has achieved – for me, for us, for the world – in Christ."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sad but true

Living simply

Here are a couple of good, short articles on the need for rest: "Time Poverty and the Sabbath" and "Sitting and doing nothing is a lost art" (yes, I have published a book by the latter author, but that's by no means the only reason I linked to his post).

Friday, July 09, 2010


Biblical genealogies today

At Evangel Justin Taylor interviews Gerald Bray on how to apply biblical genealogies today. Some of the answers are worth reading. Here's an example:
What do they tell us about ourselves?

They say that most of us are nobodies from the world’s point of view. We live and die in a long chain of humanity but there is not much that anyone will remember of us as individuals. At the same time, without us, future generations will not be born and the legacy of the past will not be preserved. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses, a long chain of faithful people who have lived for God in the place where he put them. Even if we know little about them we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their loyalty and perseverance when they had little or nothing to gain from it or to show for it.
Good points, along with others in the whole post.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

On Hebrews 10:26-31

Marcus Honeysett explains a sometimes troubling passage of the New Testament.

'Life is long'

Somebody is on to something:

It is sad to see many kids “accept Christ” and then live horrible lives and constantly be assured that they are saved because they “said the prayer” as a kid.

People are not saved because they said a ten second prayer as a child. You do not know you are saved because you remember the day you said your prayer.

You know you are saved because you continue in the faith. This is so frequently said in Scripture it boggles the mind how we’ve seemingly missed it completely.

I wish Jeff had mentioned baptism too, but his basic point stands.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Lessons in rest

Darryl Dash shares what he's learned in the first month of his three-month sabbatical. Along similar lines, Peter Mead writes that a preacher needs space.

Living Word

"God’s Word is not just a set a written texts, it is His Living Breathing Word, blowing through His servant Moses and calling forth the people of God. Just as the LORD breathes into clay and forms Adam, the LORD breathes into and through His people to bring life and righteousness and power and glory. This WORD is not simply ideas, but enters and enlivens human form. Adam comes to life. Israel becomes a people. Ezekiel speaks (blows) over the dry bones and they come to life.

"As the ancient Israelites meditate upon TORAH, they soak and read and speak and sing and act the WORD of the LORD. They dwell in the Life-giving Breath of God. This prophetic faith was never meant to simply be carved into stone. The stone is but a memorial of the real carving, shaping, forming that the WORD of the LORD does as He breathes into the hearts of His people. It is prophetic is the truest sense of the word. “Prophecy” is the wind, breath, word of God that creates, brings light, brings life, and fulfills God’s Will. Ours is a prophetic faith because it is rooted in the creative breath (Word) of God."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Online Bible study tools

Here are a couple of helpful Bible study tools: Old Testament Hebrew lexicon and New Testament Greek lexicon. You'll need the fonts to view the pages in the appropriate languages, but the site (named, appropriately enough, Bible Study Tools) prompts you to download them. Ive also be added links here on the SCRIPTURE RESOURCES portion of the sidebar.

No more downloaded sermons

Matt Redmond explains why he no longer listens to downloaded sermons. This point is particularly insightful:
It all started - or stopped, if you will - because I was tiring of the celebrity pastor phenomenon sweeping the evangelical landscape. For good or ill, it was starting to sicken me. I seemed to hear more people talk about the sermon they downloaded than the one the pastor put over them had delivered for their good. In this I heard the dissatisfaction of past moments in the life of Matt Redmond in their elation. I had so often said and done and thought just as they, it took no degree of imagination to hear my voice say the exact same thing. I had been more than a little guilty of downgrading the importance of the sermon served up by the shepherd appointed to feed my soul and watch it. By God. And I had upgraded the importance of the pastor who would never know me or my family...that is, apart from my desire to follow said pastor around to conference after conference after conference. After conference.

That realization goes right along with the main focus of Matt's decision:

My main reason for no longer listening to sermons by celebrity preachers is...well, I have a preacher. When I am not preaching, he is my preacher/pastor. God has given him to me and my family for my good and his glory. He is the principle human agent I should be looking to for making sure my soul is fed. Are there better preachers out there? Yes. Of course, for there always will be. But they are not my pastor/shepherd. I would prefer for nothing to get in the way of what God has put in front of me to keep me on the way.
One could niggle with Matt's terminology (and spelling), but his main ideas are right on target.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Blessings of fear

Ray van Neste extols the many benefits of fear.

Hidden graves

"Beware of Pharisees; they make you unclean while you are busy trying to be clean."

Spending time on preparation

At Borrowed Light Mike Leake writes in defense of long sermon preparation. Here's the bottom line:
The most important aspect to our ministry is the proclaimed word (which is empowered through Word-centered praying). This happens through “people-work” and through sermons. Be certain that you are giving ample time to both.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Avoiding July Fourth idolatry

Every Christian in the United States ought to read Bob Hyatt's article, "Be Careful What You Worship on July 4." Here's a rather long sample:
Tony Campolo puts it this way: “America may be the best Babylon the world has, but it is still Babylon nonetheless.”

We are exiles living in Babylon, folks. Our corner may be called “America,” or “Canada,” or “France,” but it’s still all a part of the same thing: a world system that transcends borders, is dominated by materialistic consumerism and exploitation, and is fundamentally opposed to the Kingdom of God. And while love and affection for the people living in that system is entirely necessary, and while we should certainly pray for the peace and well-being of the place where God has set us, we need to avoid the mistake we see over and over in Scripture: becoming so enamored with our temporary dwelling—whether that’s called Egypt, Babylon, or even America—that we lose sight of what Hebrews calls “a better place.”

I may carry an Oregon driver’s license, but I try hard to remember where my identity is really rooted. It’s rooted in Jesus, the One whose claims of Lordship will always challenge Caesar’s.

And that means that nationalism, in any degree, is misplaced affection. If Jesus really is our Peace who has broken down every dividing barrier between us, to celebrate the arbitrary lines and political distinctions which divide us is, in a sense, anti-gospel. Jesus expressed anger a number of times in the Gospels, but the most famous was when He saw what should have been “a house of prayer for all nations” turned into something else.
I used to worship with a congregation that sat on our glutes to sing hymns like "Holy, Holy, Holy," "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," and even "Stand Up for Jesus," yet rose to our feet during the singing of "My Country Tis of Thee" or "America." The priorities of that congregation, I think, were clear--and shameful.

My eight years in the U.S. military were a time when I literally offered my life for defense of my country--the land, the people, and the Constitution (though, to clarify, I was never called into combat). But as Jesus reminded us about our very own families, nothing--nation, cause, or kin--has a higher place in the life of a Christian than the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Independence Day preaching resources

A post from few years ago on U.S. Independence Day preaching resources is getting a lot of hits this week; so here, once again, is the link to resources on July 4th preaching.

Interview with Jeff Weddle

As a sort of wrap-up to reviews and interviews on Jeff Weddle's new book, The Gospel-Filled Wallet, I'm including my own interview with Jeff here (Full disclosure: I'm both editor and publisher of Jeff's book through Transforming Publishing). You can read more about the book, as well as more of Jeff's writings on discipleship and money, at his blog.

1. What type of reader is The Gospel-Filled Wallet written for?

For any professed Christian.

2. What prompted you to write the book?

My reading of Scripture coupled with seeing several people die and moving many living people from one house to another. These experiences have made an impact on me. Something was off, so I began examining all my stuff as well. I realized that my experience confirmed Scripture and the Scriptures confirmed my experience: we are to live for heaven; not earth.

3. The first chapter of your book is titled, "I Think I Hate God." Do you really hate God?

The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, so you cannot do those things you want to do. The flesh and the Spirit war at each other and they don't do it because they love each other. I do not hate God, but my flesh nature does, and my flesh nature has its moments in my life.

4. This question has to do as much with my work as an editor and publisher as with yours as an author. Some reviewers of TGFW have taken issue with certain points in your book, particularly your treatment of the OT and your interpretation of loving God or money. In preparing your book for publication, I assumed you had anticipated these criticisms and were prepared for them. Was that the case, or were you surprised by readers' reactions?

I did not go into much detail on my views of the Old Testament in regards to money because it would involve detailing my understanding of Israel and the Church. I chose to skip that and stick with the main point. However, you can figure out my view if you look for it! It did not surprise me that it came up.

I anticipated critiques of my interpretation of "you cannot serve God and mammon." I don’t like it either, but I hesitate to dismiss it too quickly. I think the simple, literal meaning works quite well with all that is said in Scripture since Christ said it.

5. How have your views on money changed, if any, since you originally wrote TGFW?

My views changed, or were solidified, while writing this book. I was more affirmed to give to those who need it, more willing to not spend my money on me, more willing to stop accumulating stuff my wife will have to move when I die, etc.

6. Now that your book is out there, what do you hope to accomplish through its publication?

My initial goal in doing this study and writing it up was to find out what the Christian's responsibility is in regard to money. It was originally intended for me. My hope now is that I will be able to help others consider this matter. I also hope to show how the Gospel is practically lived out in how we use our money. He gave up heaven to suffer for a time here, that we who suffer here might go to heaven. This Gospel example should drive our spending.

7. Any final words?

I would like to thank you, Milton, for publishing this book. I would like to thank all the reviewers for their time and their responses. I would also like to encourage people to consider carefully their attachments to the world. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Lay hold of eternal life.