Archive for July, 2009
Please pray for Jeanine and the girls as they are on the road to Florida! Above you can see how stressed Zoe gets when she travels. Jeanine and the girls began family vacation today without Gabrielle and me. Gabi is staying with me to fulfill some responsibilities she has in town, and I am hoping to continue working on my dissertation while they are away.
Gabi and I will fly to Orlando and join the crew on Monday, August 10, Lord willing. We will get to visit with my parents, then spend some time at our usual get-a-way in Daytona Beach Shores.
A few months ago we had some precious friends abandon the gospel way to live under the law. Somehow they were convinced that Christianity as we express it is corrupt; it has been corrupt since Constantine they said. If one were to be a true believer, one would have to abandon all of this we see today and follow Yeshua and live under Old Testament law.
If I would not lead our church to worship on the Sabbath, then I was in sin, and I would be held accountable because the law demands Sabbath day worship, and to break the law is sin. After all, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).
To be sure, sin is lawlessness. That is what the Bible says, but sin is much, much more than lawlessness. I would go further and say that the essence of sin is NOT lawlessness. Lawlessness is simply a symptom. To think that the essence of sin is lawlessness is to have a low view of sin.
Sin may be described in a variety of ways: missing the mark, transgression, lawlessness, etc. However, I would argue that the essence of sin is unbelief. I was reminded of this truth again yesterday as I was reading from Leviticus Numbers 20. The children of Israel were complaining as was their custom (this time about lack of water), so God directed Moses to take the staff, assemble the people and “TELL the rock before their eyes to yield its water” (Lev. Num. 20:8). Moses did just as the Lord commanded, except instead of speaking to the rock, “Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice” (Lev. Num. 20:11). Ironically, water came out, so you would think everything was fine, right? Wrong!
It was this incident that caused Moses to be prohibited from entering the promised land. Now, technically, Moses did not break a “law.” Nowhere in the decalogue does it say, you shall not strike rocks when God tells you to speak to them. Actually, in a previous incident God had directed Moses to strike a rock for water. God’s rebuke is insightful. “And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not BELIEVE me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them'” (Lev. Num. 10:12).
Here we see the essence of sin as unbelief – Moses did not believe God. Whatever his actions were flowed from his unbelief. It was the same in the garden. Adam and Eve did not believe God and His promises; instead they chose to believe Satan and his promises. It was the same for the children of Israel who failed to enter the promised land. The writer of Hebrews records that “they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).
So, though sin manifests itself in a variety of ways, the essence of sin is unbelief. I was reminded of this truth again this morning as I was praying. Each morning I try to read one of the prayers in The Valley of Vision. This morning I read and prayed a prayer on penitence which says, “O Lord of grace, I have been hasty and short in private prayer, o quicken my conscience to feel this folly, to bewail this ingratitude; my first sin of the day leads to others . . .”
It was that phrase that struck a blow in my heart. “My first sin of the day . . .” Now, the author was referring to the sin of “hasty and short private prayers.” A law mentality would be satisfied simply with checking off the fact that prayer was had. However, when you understand that sin is unbelief, then this prayer makes perfect sense.
I was struck because the statement exposed MY UNBELIEF! I have had hasty and short private prayers. This exposed what I was believing about God! It exposed a law perspective on prayer – I am a Christian; I am commanded to pray; I should pray; if I love God I will pray; so, I prayed today. What I was really saying by my hasty and short prayers was – God I don’t really need you today; I don’t need your wisdom; I don’t need your counsel; I can make it in my own strength!
This first sin of the day leads to others, for if I am self-dependent in my prayers, then I will be self-dependent in other things. I must believe in God for strength, for wisdom, for counsel, for guidance. I must look to Him and no other, including self, for as John Piper notes in Future Grace, the essence of unbelief is pride – turning away from trusting/believing/being satisfied with God and turning toward self.
So, if sin is unbelief, then the way to fight sin is by faith. We’ll look at that later.
Update: 1 August 2009 – I just realized that my brain is not functioning properly. All this time I have been reading in Numbers, not Leviticus. At some point I got Leviticus in my brain, and everyday I would open my Bible and read the next verse. Just this morning I happen to look as I opened my Bible and realized that I am in Numbers. Then I realized I had been posting that I was reading in Leviticus. Sorry about that! I have been so focused on reading and writing that I made this blunder.
Day 18 – Monday, July 27
Monday was a blur. I enjoyed working through Lints’ second chapter where he outlines the history of evangelicalism. This got me thinking about the historical developments in ecclesiology within evangelicalism, so I pulled some other books off my shelf and started working through various books.
I had lunch with Todd Terry, our church planting resident, and we debriefed his preaching experience while I was out. While at lunch, I received some amazing news which was an answer to prayer. I hope to share the news with the congregation whenever I am free to do so.
I went back to the office and continued working through the history of evangelicalism. Afterwards, I went to the grocery store for Jeanine. Since I told her she was a female Spock over the weekend because she does not express emotion, I took her on a spontaneous date to see the new Star Trek movie. Though she does not like science fiction, she enjoyed it.
Day 19 – Tuesday, July 28
Today, our second daughter, Grace, would have been 15 years old. Jeanine got out some things by which we remember Grace and shared with the girls.
Since I am preaching this Sunday, today was a work day. I met with our ministry team at Texenza Coffee, and we reviewed the upcoming preaching schedule.
At 11:00 a.m., we had our full staff meeting, and after ward we celebrated birthdays with Pizza Hut pizza (my favorite)!
I finished planning our Sunday evening preaching schedule through January 2010. We will be doing a series on 20 basic beliefs every Christian should know. Grudem’s little book by that name will be the resource we recommend for the congregation.
Tonight, we had dinner with friends, and Jeanine made pecan pie with chocolate chips (my favorite) to celebrate my birthday (tomorrow).
Tomorrow, I will be able to focus again on reading and research – hopefully a little writing.
I’m in transition this week as I enter my last week of sabbatical but also have to prepare to preach this coming Sunday. We are taking a break from 1 Corinthians during August for reasons I will explain this Sunday morning. Regardless, here is the preaching schedule for our morning worship gathering for the next several weeks.
Ancient-Future Church: One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic
A Teaching Series on the Nature of the Church
August 2, 2009
The Apostolic Church: Word-Centered
August 9, 2009
The One Apostolic Church: United in Diversity
August 16, 2009
The Apostolic Church: Missional
Preacher: Todd Terry
Text: To be Determined
August 23, 2009
The One, Holy Apostolic Church: You Shall Be Holy
1 Peter 1:13-2:12
August 30, 2009
The Apostolic Church & Discipleship
Preacher: Ben Wright
Text: Ephesians 4
September 6, 2009
The One, Holy, Catholic Apostolic Church: The Heavenly Assembly
Day 17 – Saturday, July 26
On Saturday morning I continued reading Leviticus Numbers and had a brief prayer time, then I spent the morning reading in the area of ecclesiology. In the afternoon, I went to my laptop and reworked a section of chapter 2.
The older girls had rented a movie that was of absolutely no interest to me, but when taking a break in the afternoon, I happened to be out just as they were beginning the movie. A few moments caught my attention, then I found myself sitting with them to watch Confessions of a Shopaholic. Yes, I watched the movie. However, much to my surprise it actually had an interesting storyline and clear message against the accumulation of stuff – well, in this case clothing. The character in the movie was obsessed with clothing and sought to find her satisfaction in shopping, but she would quickly realize that it was never truly satisfying. After finding herself living a lie, her life unraveled at the appropriate climactic moment and she lost everything! Well, she lost everything only to find out what was truly valuable. It was a modern day parable exposing the vanity of trying to find satisfaction in things and the perils of going into debt to try to buy happiness. What a pleasant surprise!
After supper, I moved away from reading in ecclesiology and began working in the area of theological method. I was pretty wiped out, so I went to bed early.
Day 18 – Sunday, July 27
I woke up this morning and read from Valley of Vision and had a time of prayer for our services at High Pointe and found myself praying about the days ahead when I will be in the pulpit again.
This was our final day of visiting churches, so we went as a family to a church other than High Pointe. I have been encouraged by our time at other churches, and I have been encouraged by God’s grace toward High Pointe through Todd Terry’s and David Seaborn’s preaching in my absence. We were especially blessed today to return to High Pointe on Sunday evening. It was a joy to be “home” again! It was a joy to see our church family, and it was a joy to hear Todd preach a message where the gospel rang through loud and clear. Afterwards we went to Jason’s Deli with church family and hung out. We love our High Pointe family, and we have missed them greatly. I look forward to being in the pulpit this Sunday morning and evening if the Lord permits.
On Sunday afternoon, I picked up Richard Lints’, The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology. I had the opportunity to spend a few hours working through it and found it most helpful and encouraging. Chapter 2, is a great reminder of the history of evangelicalism. For those not familiar with the roots of evangelicalism, Lints does a masterful job in a concise presentation to give you a good picture which is quite illuminating.
I am looking forward to working through more of Lints on Monday and continuing working on theological method for the rest of this week.
Day 15 – Thursday, July 23
I have to confess that Thursday was the first day I felt I hit a wall. I was prepared for the day, then a few items came up at the office. I got involved in some church matters, and my mind started to focus on addressing the matters at hand.
I tried to read to no avail, so I called Jeanine and asked her to meet me so we could go for a drive. She was gracious enough to do so, and we spend a little time together.
Day 16 – Friday, July 24
By God’s grace, this morning I was back in the groove. I had brought my books home, so after a protein shake, I closed myself in my bedroom, had prayer and read Numbers. I was convicted by the lack of faith of the spies who entered the promised land and had to ask myself if I would have been on of the ten in fear or if I would have been like Joshua or Caleb. I’m afraid I know the answer, so I asked the Lord to work in me the faith of Joshua.
I picked up Horton’s People and Place again. Unlike Horton’s popular works, his academic writing is quite verbose and at times tedious. I finished working through the necessary parts today. Horton’s ecclesiology has some strong points. However, though he is proposing a theological method where he incorporates both biblical and systematic theology, I found he lacked on the biblical part and was heavy on the philosophical/theological.
After finishing Horton, I picked up Miroslav Volf’s After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. Volf teaches theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and proposes a free-church ecclesiology. On Saturday, I will devote my time to working through Volf. Hopefully, I can have another productive day.
Since I am a Florida Gator you will be tempted to think I am biased. However, you have to be encouraged by Tim Tebow no matter who you root for.
Quite frankly, I don’t fully understand all the media fuss. Could it be that a young man living his life in light of the gospel of Christ is so rare that when it is observed in someone watched by all of America they find it so difficult to believe that they call him Superman?
Notice his perspective on life and football from a reporter’s point of view:
- He isn’t about to cut down on an exhausting schedule that has included mission trips, speaking engagements and countless interviews — in addition to class and football.
- “I kind of look at it from a little bit different perspective,” Tebow said. “If I’m going speaking or working at hospitals or what not, it can get tiring, physically, emotionally. But at the same time, it’s so worth it for me. It’s worth it to be a little tired or get a little bit cranky.
- “I look at it as I’m trying to make a difference, and that’s more important than football for me.”
I am not bragging on Tebow; I am actually quite sad that there is such a vacuum of Christian witness in athletics that Tebow seems to be somewhat of an oddity.
May the Lord have mercy on Tim Tebow, and may He raise many more Tebows for His glory.
Day 13 – Tuesday, July 21/Day 14 – Wednesday, July 22
The days are now starting to run together. I had to ask Jeanine this morning what day it was.
The Lord continues to be gracious toward me during this sabbatical. As I mentioned before, I am reading in areas that require much more careful thought and assessment, so my pace is dramatically slower. This is good, nonetheless.
I spent yesterday morning and early afternoon working through Simon Chan’s ontological ecclesiology. Though he is Pentecostal, at the end of the day he proposes a liturgical theology in which the ontological nature of the church is exhibited in the sacraments-a very Roman Catholic perspective. The people of God are incorporated into the body of Christ in baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit, and they become the one body of Christ “by eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ” (29) – totus Christus. Though he denies pantheism, what Chan has given us is a liturgical ecclesiology by which the church is ontologically united to Christ through the sacraments.
After working through Chan’s ecclesiology, I read a few reviews and was completely wiped out! So, I went home in the early afternoon, took a little break, then began working through Michael Horton’s People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology. So far, it has been very helpful and directly answers some of the issues I had with Chan’s ecclesiology. More than likely, I will be working through Horton for the next several days.
After a good quiet time (continuing in Leviticus) and prayer time (for our elders, staff and ministry workers) this morning, I will spend the day continuing to work through Horton.
I couldn’t sleep this morning, so I got up at 4:00, drank some coffee and had a fruitful quiet time (continuing in Leviticus) and prayer time focusing on missionaries and church planters today.
After prayer, I opened up Bavinck for a little while, then decided to try and get a little more sleep from 5:30-7:00. I then got ready and headed to my study at the church office where I continued working through Bavinck’s ecclesiology. I cannot stress how helpful Bavinck is!
I am now reading various articles and essays on the nature of the church. Should we define the church ontologically, on the basis of its essence or functionally, on the basis of what it does: evangelism, etc. Most works on the church today written at the popular level come at ecclesiology from the functional side – missional, etc.
I’ve been spending some time working through Simon Chan’s ontological ecclesiology this evening as explained in Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community. Much interesting reading.
On a positive note, I sent in chapter one for one of my professors to review. I am hoping to get some feedback to be sure I am on the right track! The Lord has been gracious and my time has been fruitful thus far. I have about 11 days left to go of uninterrupted time. Please continue praying with me that these last days will be as fruitful as the first.
Day 10 – Saturday, July 18
I failed to have a quiet time Saturday morning because I stayed up late again on Friday night, so I slept in on Saturday. Praise God our salvation is by grace, not works. I got up to mow the lawn, and I have to confess that I think the lawn won! I spent two hours in the hot sun trying to get the yard back in order and finally did it. I was so worn out that I had to rest for a little bit of time.
I did manage to get some reading done in the afternoon. I worked through Colin Gunton’s ecclesiology in chapter four of The Promise of Trinitarian Theology. Unlike all the popular books on the church I have previously been reading, I am now into writings that require my thoughtful care and attention. Presently, I am working through various ideas on the nature of the church, how we view/define the church. Gunton proposes an ontological (what the church is, its being) view of the church as opposed to a functional view (what the church does, its doing), rooted in the Trinitarian relations between the persons.
After Gunton, I moved on to Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4, and it was a breath of fresh air. I enjoy Bavinck. He is clear, thorough and sweeping in the breadth of information and sources with which he interacts.
Jeanine, Hope and Gabi attended Gabi’s last performance of The Music Man and got home late. It was a joy to know that many of our High Pointe family took time to support Gabi in this endeavor!
Day 11 – Sunday, July 19
Having gone to bed early the previous night, the Lord awakened me at 5:00 a.m. I enjoyed a wonderful quiet time, making my way through Leviticus 1-4. I spent my prayer time praying for High Pointe’s services and for unbelievers I personally know – that they would turn to Christ.
I then went for a three mile walk/run (more walk than run) which I sorely needed. It had been a while, and it felt great to be able to do that. I returned home and started back in on Bavinck. After the girls began to get up I showered, and we all readied ourselves for worship. We attended the 11:00 a.m. traditional service at First Evangelical Free Church in South Austin. Pastor Rob Harrel, a dear brother in Christ, was there, but the staff is preaching for the next several weeks. It was an encouraging message from the letter to Smyrna – Revelation 2:8-11 on perseverance.
After worship I took the girls to Panera Bread, one of Jeanine’s favorites. We then attempted to find the Barnes & Noble on Brodie Lane. Needless to say, the girls had a good time laughing at me while I drove around in circles in South Austin. But we did make it, and Jeanine bought some books on healthy eating for Alex and the rest of us.
After resting for a little bit at home, we went to the 5:00 p.m. service at The Austin Stone, where Halim Suh preached another encouraging message from 1 Corinthians 15 on our resurrection. The Lord is doing a great work at The Stone under the leadership of pastor Matt Carter.
Since Alex is beginning a new diet for her health, she wanted to go out with a bang, so we ate our “last supper” at Chuy’s. It was not our best experience at Chuy’s, but it was fun to be together. The Lord has been gracious to us as a family during this sabbatical, and we have learned much from worshipping with other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are encouraged by what the Lord is doing in Austin, but we greatly miss our High Pointe family. All our girls are ready to “come home” to High Pointe. And so are we!