R.C. Sproul Quote

Jesus’ life was a storm of controversy. The apostles, like the prophets before them, could hardly go a day without controversy. Paul said that he debated daily in the marketplace. To avoid controversy is to avoid Christ. We can have peace, but it is a servile and carnal peace where truth is slain in the streets.”

Thoughts on the Spiritual Creep

I know many people who used to identify themselves as Christians and who used to hold what I would consider to be orthodox beliefs about issues of basic Christian morality. That is to say, things whose evilness was understood was never really debated or argued. It was clear – homosexuality is wicked. Premarital sex is wicked. Looking at pornography is wicked. Masturbating is wicked. Lying to others is wicked. Cursing and using foul language is wicked. These were people who believed and would have argued strenuously that these things were not good, but in fact were sinful, and engaging in them was harmful to one’s relationship with the Lord.

But times have changed, and instead many of the people who once were opposed to these things, are now dabbling in them and have come to a place where they loving and enjoy them, and instead of thinking then bad are now calling them good. It really is a bizarre shift in perspective. The couple of times I have broached the subject, the answer I’ve gotten most is some variation of “I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t think it’s wrong.”  I think the biggest reason for this newfound mindset is a combination of biblical illiteracy, idolatry, and an unhealthy emphasis on personal subjective emotion, which coupled with a lack of introspection results in the formation of an idolatrous view of God.

Let me tell you how I think it plays out. I think it usually starts off with someone attending church with weak preaching which is very man-centered. It is not focused on Christ and him crucified, but focuses instead on felt-needs and on emotions and how the congregants feel about them. They don’t teach that the bible is an authoritative standard and as revelation from God against which we judge our beliefs, feelings, thoughts and actions, but rather they use the bible to proof text and validate our feelings, thoughts and actions. By doing this they minimize the authority of the scripture and instead elevat our feelings on what the bible says as being more authoritative than the bible itself. Deep, exegetical and expositional preaching that seeks to understand and know Christ by seeking to know and understand what the word says about him is not done, but instead bible verses are cherry picked to give authority to what the pastor says on a matter, and knowing God through the scriptures is relegated to the trash heap. They are not being directed to and steered by scriptures, but rather are being led by “well how does that make you feel”?

Because we are born children of wrath, we are bent and inclined towards evil. Even after our conversion, when we are justified and that double imputation takes place, though we are declared righteous and are no longer slaves to sin, death and the devil, we still have a sin nature that while we now war against, is attracted to sin and wants to engage in those activities.  But then you take a woman [or man] who doesn’t know what the bible says, or simply doesn’t care, then the sinfulness of something will not be gauged and weighed by the word of God, but rather by what she thinks and feels about it. So then all of a sudden sleeping with one’s boyfriend is not wrong, because they don’t feel it is. Because the bible is not considered an authority, it is subject to a different and greater authority- herself. Thousands of years of agreed and united historical Judeo-Christian orthodoxy expounding and subject to the scriptures is not binding at all. Rather, a few years of her own opinions supersedes all of that. As a result, the relationship between her and Christ is idolatrous, because she has created in her mind a God of her own making, a God who doesn’t mind that she’s sleeping with her boyfriend, or likes to use foul language, or who think homosexuality is all good and great.

The reality is that these people are achingly ignorant of who God is and what God considers good and bad. Because on what basis does she know anything about God and Jesus? She thinks God is love, but only because she read that in the bible. And so she’ll accept that revelation as true, because it seems good to her, but she’ll deny anything else that she doesn’t like, which is even more evidence of her idolatry. By doing so, she  fools herself  into thinking she has a relationship with God. And yet she doesn’t know anything about him. She has not studied him and spent time with him and learned all she can about him. God has revealed himself in his word, and if you don’t know what it says, then you might as well be the girl sitting in a tree, watching God with binoculars as he passes by in front of the window, thinking that you are in love with him and that they are in love with you, and that one day you’ll be together forever and ever. That’s what you’re doing- you’re stalking him. You’re spying on him. You are a spiritual creep. Your relationship with God consists of passing him in the hall and admiring him from afar, and yet in your mind, the two of you are practically married. It’s a fantasy!

How did you reach the stunning revelation sleeping with your boyfriend is not wrong? Can you honestly tell me that you reached this conclusion by praying for hours and days and weeks about it? That you came to this conclusion because you combed through the scriptures, poring over the word of God searching for the truth, and that after some time, nestled away in there, you found the answer that God was not only unbothered by you having sex with someone whose not your husband, but that he probably promotes it? No. You didn’t. Instead you reached that conclusion by wanting what you want, when you want it, and by sticking your fingers in your ears and ignoring the clear testimony of Christ in his word concerning it. You don’t really want to know God, because if you did you would be searching his holy word to glean everything you can about him. It’s like reading the third word of the eightieth page of a book and thinking that you have the whole plot understood.  If you knew God, you would know what his word commands, and if you loved him, you would obey it, even if some parts of it weren’t attractive to you abd even if it didn’t feel warm and fuzzy. You wouldn’t elevate your feelings aboveGod, and you wouldn’t claim to be good with God while actively repudiating his Word. All it is is active, willful rebellion and clinging to a God of your own making, and instead of actively knowing the one true God,  you bow down to your image of God. You’re nothing but a stalker and a theological pervert, and at this rate you’ll never truly know him.

When should old worship songs be retired?

I was talking with a pastor the other day about one of his worship leaders who has a hard time leaving old songs behind (as in “Shine, Jesus, Shine”). Apparently there are a few songs from the 80s that the worship leader still finds quite moving. Unfortunately, the pastor and many young members of the congregation don’t share his enthusiasm.

Our conversation led me to think of a few questions that might be asked in this situation:

Is it wrong to retire old songs?
If so, how do you know the right time?
Do we even need to be singing new songs?
What makes a song “old?”
Once a song is retired, should we ever bring it back?

Here are a few thoughts on this topic. Hope they’re helpful.

1. Most corporate worship songs won’t pass the “time test.” That’s okay.
Charles Wesley wrote over 6500 hymns in the 1700s. Three hundred years later most churches don’t sing more than 20-30 of them. Percentage-wise, that’s not very impressive. But in terms of effect, few hymn writers have had a more lasting or broad influence than Wesley (Although Isaac Watts, who only wrote about 650 hymns, has a much higher percentage of longevity.) It’s safe to say that in a hundred years we won’t be singing most of the songs we’re singing today on Sundays. Some will last one week, others for a few years, some for decades, and others will still be sung after we’re gone. All have a place in a congregation pursuing both old and new expressions – psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs – of God’s praise. (Col. 3:16)

2. Music can hinder or help the impact of truth on our hearts.
One of the primary purposes of singing as a congregation is to “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly,” (Col. 3:16). But if that word is wedded to poorly performed, unsingable, or distasteful music, people may never hear the word at all. On the other hand when the music is appropriate, enjoyable, singable, and well-played/sung, it can heighten the impact of biblical truth on our hearts. That means we need to give serious thought to whether or not the songs, arrangements, and musical settings we use are truly helping people sing biblical truths with passion. Churches can err in one of two ways. Either our music is so “relevant” that people don’t even notice the words, or our music is so foreign that people have a hard time connecting at all.

3. A song should be retired when the musical setting no longer inspires faith to sing the lyrics.
God intended music to affect us emotionally (Mt. 11:17; Job 21:12). When a tune or musical setting no longer does that, or affects us negatively, we can change the arrangement, alter the melody (if it’s public domain), or stop using the song. It’s a fact that we tire of some tunes more quickly than others. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were bad to start with. It just means they aren’t the “100 year” kind of melodies. Wise leaders are on the lookout for fresh musical expressions to complement those that have stood the test of time.

4. A song should be retired when there are better or just different songs you want to introduce.
More than a few times we’ve taught a song that seems like it will be around for a while. But when you teach around 18 new songs a year, as we do, there’s just no way to keep doing all of them consistently. So some of them are retired by default.

5. Music leaders are called to submit their musical preferences to their pastor and congregation.
I said in my book that my iPod isn’t the best place to start for choosing songs to sing on Sunday. What affects me personally may be vague, ineffective, or even offensive to others. We’re to use our gifts “so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14:6). While there are good reasons to expand the musical palate of a congregation from time to time (to display the glory of God in a variety of ways, enable a broader range of emotional responses, and provide a fresh setting for lyrics), I shouldn’t insist a song still “works” when no one around me agrees.

6. Retired songs should be brought back based on their their lyrical, not sentimental, value.
To sing a song simply because it’s a “old favorite” can subtly emphasize our musical enjoyment more than our passion for Christ. It’s focusing on the “container” more than the “content” (an upcoming post). But there are times when an old, familiar song says exactly what you want to say, and people’s hearts are filled with faith as they sing it (even “Shine, Jesus, Shine”). In the not too distant past I’ve used “In my Life Lord, Be Glorified,””Oh, Lord, You’re Beautiful,” and a few older Sovereign Grace songs that seemed to fit the moment.

More could be said, I’m sure. What about you? How have you handled retiring songs?

Jacked from Bob Kauflin

What Did Jesus Actually Look Like?

What Did Jesus Look Like?

The answer, of course, is that we don’t know.

We do know that Jesus was probably in his early 30s when he began his ministry and would not have had long hair.

It’s fair to assume that Jesus had a beard, in light of first-century Jewish culture and tradition—though Scripture doesn’t say this explicitly. (Isaiah 50:6 says the suffering servant, ultimately exemplified in Jesus, has his beard plucked out, but the NT doesn’t cite this).

Isaiah’s messianic prophecy suggests that there was nothing unusually attractive about him (“he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him,” Isa. 53:2)—though it’s taking it too far to say that he was thereby unattractive or homely.

He was a Galilean Jew who spent a lot of time outdoors, so his skin tone would likely be a darker olive color, as is typical of those in Mediterranean countries.

In December 2002 Popular Mechanics did a cover story called “The Real Face of Jesus.” The positioning of the piece was obviously sensationalistic. But it was nevertheless quite interesting. Using “forensic anthropology” scientists and archaeologists combined to investigate what a first-century Galilean Semite might have looked like, with medical artist Richard Neave commissioned to do the rendering. The article describes the process:

The first step for Neave and his research team was to acquire skulls from near Jerusalem, the region where Jesus lived and preached. Semite skulls of this type had previously been found by Israeli archeology experts, who shared them with Neave.With three well-preserved specimens from the time of Jesus in hand, Neave used computerized tomography to create X-ray “slices” of the skulls, thus revealing minute details about each one’s structure. Special computer programs then evaluated reams of information about known measurements of the thickness of soft tissue at key areas on human faces. This made it possible to re-create the muscles and skin overlying a representative Semite skull.

The entire process was accomplished using software that verified the results with anthropological data. From this data, the researchers built a digital 3D reconstruction of the face. Next, they created a cast of the skull. Layers of clay matching the thickness of facial tissues specified by the computer program were then applied, along with simulated skin. The nose, lips and eyelids were then modeled to follow the shape determined by the underlying muscles.

How tall would a first-century Jew be? “From an analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds.” I admit that it feels a bit strange to think of being over a foot taller than Jesus! But it’s good to have our cultural preconceptions—even prejudices—challenged.

Of course no depiction can tell us what Jesus looked like for sure. But the following rendering is undoubtedly closer to reality than the typical rendering by artists and film-makers:

Soup Kitchens, Service or Cash?

 

There is a troubling trend among Christians as of late that I have noticed, and it has to do with their emphasis on what constitutes loving, Christian service. Particularly, it has to do with the premium they put on certain acts of service or involvement over others, and then denigrate others who do not do likewise. A perfect example of this is found in the realm of the soup kitchen. I have mixed feelings on soup kitchens as a whole, but the issue I have is that there is this belief that it is better to go down to the soup kitchen, roll up your sleeves, do the physical work of making the meals, set up the tables, serve the food and interact with the patrons, than it is to just give money to the soup kitchen so that other people can do it. That is not an uncommon attitude to have, I have since discovered, as it has been impressed upon me many times in the last few years, and especially just recently.

As for myself, I have absolutely no interest in going down to the soup kitchen and involving myself in any way on that sort of level. It’s not my thing. It’s not something that I feel compelled to do in any way, and nor should I be. When I examine the scope of my interests and passions and opportunities that I feel inclined to engage in, that’s just not one of them. On the flip side, I am for supporting soup kitchens and places that minister to the needy through monetary donations so that others can do those very things which they feel called do, and for which I do not. In short- I’m not for doing this type of work, but rather am for supporting the work. And even if I had no interest in supporting soup kitchens, and chose to give neither my time nor my money to them, that still would not make me any less virtuous or concerned or caring than someone who was involved.

And it’s not just soup kitchens, but anything, really. You have people like Kay Warren saying you might not be a Christian if you don’t support orphans, you have people like Bono who equates social justice with Christian faith, and says if you’re not helping out with third word debt or helping AIDS victims, that you can’t possibly be a Christian, and you have all manner of people in between trumpeting their social justice niche for all manner of marginalized people and are shocked and offended when either you don’t help out with your time, or with your money.

But here’s the thing.  The greater Christian body has many purposes and functions, and we read in 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. “

That means that my thing, the thing I support and feel called to give to, work with, minister towards and involve myself in, doesn’t have to be your thing. Likewise, your thing doesn’t have to be my thing. There’s hundreds of millions of us body parts in the world today and the leg, who works in the soup kitchen, is not greater than the small toe who gives financially to places like that. And neither of them are better than the ear, who supports neither, but instead donates money to the cancer ward in the hospital, and neither of them are better than the arm doesn’t give money or support any social justice causes but does his own thing wherever he’s at. It’s foolish to try to guilt trip someone or denigrate them because they’re not involved in the thing that you’re involved with, or because they don’t particularly care about the thing you care about. And not only that, but it doesn’t make you any more pious or moral or christlike if you serve with time vs money, or with money vs time. It’s not intrinsically more loving and kind and compassionate if you go down there and start spooning the food than it is if you open your wallet and help purchase the ingredients to make the soup to serve! Don’t go knocking on other body parts, but instead be glad in the function and purpose that you’re in, and wish others joy in the purposes and functions that they’re in.

John Mark McMillan. Death In His Grave

Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls on men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

Matt Chandler Quote

“Every time an airplane goes down, you’ll find somebody on Larry King talking about “Where was God?” They’ll mention 9/11 over and over, “Where was God on 9/11? Where was He?” But here’s where the blasphemy occurs. Do you know that up until that point, there had been nearly 100 years of air travel where no terrorist hijacked a plane and crashed it into a building, and no one ever went on the Larry King Show. No one ever went on the Larry King Show and said this, “How awesome is God that for the last 100 years nobody hijacked a plane and crashed it into a building.? How awesome is He? How gracious is He? How beautiful is He that He’s protected us in such ways?” So He gets absolutely no credit for the beautiful day and every ounce of blame for the horrific one. Blasphemy. Yeah, it’s who we are. And we’re unapologetic about it.”

How do you know?

Every once in  a while I wrestle with the question of whether or not what I believe is true. That is, I examine my life, the things I care about, my profession of faith, and I think “It is so fantastical. That there is a God, a heaven and a hell, that this life is temporary and brief,  and that there is a whole other world behind the veil.” More often than not- I readily accept those things as patently true and beyond question. Other times, there are these rare, quirky, questioning  moments where I look at the whole and say “What I believe is crazy. How can any of this be true?”

And here’s the thing. I don’t believe it’s true because Jesus has changed my life. I don’t feel that I can lean on that one, because the reality is that life-change is not evidence of the validity and truthfulness of anything . A man can experience life-change by becoming a Mormon,  but that does not make the claims of Joseph Smith objectively true.  The mechanisms whereby external actions are altered may speak of the influence and ability of said mechanisms to act on a creature, but it doesn’t make the reality of it objectively so. I also never look internally when faced with the question “How do you know that this is true?” I don’t look inside of myself and think it true because I feel it is, or because it seems to me that it is so. I don’t say “I just know it’s true”, as a result of superfluous and personal feelings, because I know that objectively that is an indefensible  argument. Someone might say “I feel it’s false.” and then who is right? Both of us only have subjective feelings to go on, which might as well cancel each other out, and I know better than to use the subjective emotive roilings of my soul to calm a heart and mind that wants something solid to rest itself in.

Instead, opposed to those things- I look to history and to the person of Jesus. That is to say, I know it’s true because Jesus Christ proved he was God by rising from the dead and then having it attested to by the eye-witnesses.  That’s what I lean on. It’s not inside me, but outside of me. That the New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts, but they were not. In fact, Jewish anti-Christian propaganda at the time presupposes a resurrection. All the evidence shows that the resurrection of Jesus is an event in history and has at its core objective claims which can be verified and objectively disproved. If anyone ever digs up the bones of Jesus, I’ll be the first person to admit that this great experiment was all a hoax, that I was hopelessly deceived, and that in my foolishness I believed a lie. But that has not happened, and the resurrection still happened in history, and that is the moment when Christ proved he was God, showed that what he represented was right and true, and put the lie to everything else. And so far it has, in all the years I’ve gone there, never failed to wake me, and sustain me, and convince me that this is all objectively true.

The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts.