Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Psalm 37

Psalm 37 (NET) reads:

By David.

Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed!
Do not envy evildoers!

2 For they will quickly dry up like grass,
and wither away like plants.

3 Trust in the LORD and do what is right!
Settle in the land and maintain your integrity!

4 Then you will take delight in the LORD,
and he will answer your prayers.

5 Commit your future to the LORD!
Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.

6 He will vindicate you in broad daylight,
and publicly defend your just cause.

7 Wait patiently for the LORD!
Wait confidently for him!
Do not fret over the apparent success of a sinner,
a man who carries out wicked schemes!

8 Do not be angry and frustrated!
Do not fret! That only leads to trouble!

9 Wicked men will be wiped out,
but those who rely on the LORD are the ones who will possess the land.

10 Evil men will soon disappear;
you will stare at the spot where they once were, but they will be gone.

11 But the oppressed will possess the land
and enjoy great prosperity.

12 Evil men plot against the godly
and viciously attack them.

13 The sovereign Master laughs in disgust at them,
for he knows that their day is coming.

14 Evil men draw their swords
and prepare their bows,
to bring down the oppressed and needy,
and to slaughter those who are godly.

15 Their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 The little bit that a godly man owns is better
than the wealth of many evil men,
17 for evil men will lose their power,
but the LORD sustains the godly.

18 The LORD watches over the innocent day by day
and they possess a permanent inheritance.

19 They will not be ashamed when hard times come;
when famine comes they will have enough to eat.

20 But evil men will die;
the LORD's enemies will be incinerated--
they will go up in smoke.

21 Evil men borrow, but do not repay their debt,
but the godly show compassion and are generous.

22 Surely those favored by the LORD will possess the land,
but those rejected by him will be wiped out.

23 The LORD grants success to the one
whose behavior he finds commendable.

24 Even if he trips, he will not fall headlong,
for the LORD holds his hand.

25 I was once young, now I am old.
I have never seen a godly man abandoned,
or his children forced to search for food.

26 All day long he shows compassion and lends to others,
and his children are blessed.

27 Turn away from evil! Do what is right!
Then you will enjoy lasting security.

28 For the LORD promotes justice,
and never abandons his faithful followers.
They are permanently secure,
but the children of evil men are wiped out.

29 The godly will possess the land
and will dwell in it permanently.

30 The godly speak wise words
and promote justice.

31 The law of their God controls their thinking;
their feet do not slip.

32 Evil men set an ambush for the godly
and try to kill them.

33 But the LORD does not surrender the godly,
or allow them to be condemned in a court of law.

34 Rely on the LORD! Obey his commands!
Then he will permit you to possess the land;
you will see the demise of evil men.

35 I have seen ruthless evil men
growing in influence, like a green tree grows in its native soil.

36 But then one passes by, and suddenly they have disappeared!
I looked for them, but they could not be found.

37 Take note of the one who has integrity!
Observe the godly!
For the one who promotes peace has a future.

38 Sinful rebels are totally destroyed;
evil men have no future.

39 But the LORD delivers the godly;
he protects them in times of trouble.

40 The LORD helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from evil men and delivers them,
for they seek his protection.

Psalm 37 is another contrast between the life of the godly man, which is preserved by YHWH, and the life of the wicked man, which is cut short. I love the imagery of the first two verses, "Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed! Do not envy evildoers! For they will quickly dry up like grass, and wither away like plants." I have pretty mcuh been listening to Son Lux's album, At War with Walls and Mazes non-stop since I got it, preferring it even over U2's new one. The words of this psalm bring to mind the words of my favorite song on the album, "Wither":

They will wither away.

You don't have to be afraid.
Like the grass beneath your feet.
You don't have to be afraid.
They will wither away.

The ones who try and kill you
The one who tries to save youIs bigger.

You can hear the song in all its glory here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Psalm 36

Psalm 36 (NET) reads:

For the music director; written by the LORD's servant, David; an oracle.

An evil man is rebellious to the core.
He does not fear God,
2 for he is too proud
to recognize and give up his sin.

3 The words he speaks are sinful and deceitful;
he does not care about doing what is wise and right.

4 He plans ways to sin while he lies in bed;
he is committed to a sinful lifestyle;
he does not reject what is evil.

5 O LORD, your loyal love reaches to the sky;
your faithfulness to the clouds.

6 Your justice is like the highest mountains,
your fairness like the deepest sea;
you preserve mankind and the animal kingdom.

7 How precious is your loyal love, O God!
The human race finds shelter under your wings.

8 They are filled with food from your house,
and you allow them to drink from the river of your delicacies.

9 For you are the one who gives
and sustains life.

10 Extend your loyal love to your faithful followers,
and vindicate the morally upright!

11 Do not let arrogant men overtake me,
or let evil men make me homeless!

12 I can see the evildoers! They have fallen!
They have been knocked down and are unable to get up!

Psalm 36 is an expression of confidence on the Lord's goodness and his ability to save. In contrast to the evil men who don't fear God (v. 1) and who invent ways of doing evil (v. 4), the Lord's love reaches to the sky (v. 5) and his justice is like a mountain (v. 6). God is the one who gives and preserves life (v. 9), and the human race can find shelter under His wings (v. 7). In His justice and loyalty, the Lord makes sure that wicked fall down and that they can't get up (v. 12).

I love vv. 8–9, "They are filled with food from your house, and you allow them to drink from the river of your delicacies. For you are the one who gives and sustains life." This is a good thought to remember.

"Father, I thank You for giving us life. The more I reflect on what it means to be 'alive,' the more I realize that to be alive in you is to be truly alive. I thank You for this psalm and the reminder to 'drink from the river of Your delicacies.' You are good to us, and our faith gives us something to celebrate. I pray that I would be more conscious of Your goodness and mercy. In Jesus name, Amen."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jesus Creed Article Up

Scot McKnight has posted the article that I wrote for his "Friday is for Friends" segment at Jesus Creed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Darrell Bock on Bart Ehrman

Dr. Darrell Bock has offered his initial thoughts on Bart Ehrman's new book, Jesus, Interrupted.

Ehrman is a graduate of Wheaton College who has since lost his faith. He is now chair of the Religion Department at UNC Chapel Hill. He has written several books on the New Testament and the Historical Jesus targeted at popular audiences. Ehrman admits that his arguments are nothing new. He just wants the public to know what convervative scholarship "ignores."

Enter Darrell Bock. He is a Research Professor of New Testament at Dallas Seminary and one of the major players in the IBR Jesus Group.

Bock points out what Ehrman confesses--there is nothing new in the book. Bock would disagree that conservative scholars have ignored the issue. He's right.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Psalm 35

Psalm 35 (NET) reads:

By David.

O LORD, fight those who fight with me!
Attack those who attack me!

2 Grab your small shield and large shield,
and rise up to help me!

3 Use your spear and lance against those who chase me!
Assure me with these words: "I am your deliverer!"

4 May those who seek my life be embarrassed and humiliated!
May those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed!

5 May they be like wind-driven chaff,
as the LORD's angel attacks them!

6 May their path be dark and slippery,
as the LORD's angel chases them!

7 I did not harm them, but they hid a net to catch me
and dug a pit to trap me.

8 Let destruction take them by surprise!
Let the net they hid catch them!
Let them fall into destruction!

9 Then I will rejoice in the LORD
and be happy because of his deliverance.

10 With all my strength I will say,
"O LORD, who can compare to you?
You rescue the oppressed from those who try to overpower them;
the oppressed and needy from those who try to rob them."

11 Violent men perjure themselves,
and falsely accuse me.

12 They repay me evil for the good I have done;
I am overwhelmed with sorrow.

13 When they were sick, I wore sackcloth,
and refrained from eating food.
(If I am lying, may my prayers go unanswered!)

14 I mourned for them as I would for a friend or my brother.
I bowed down in sorrow as if I were mourning for my mother.

15 But when I stumbled, they rejoiced and gathered together;
they gathered together to ambush me.
They tore at me without stopping to rest.

16 When I tripped, they taunted me relentlessly,
and tried to bite me.

17 O sovereign Master, how long are you going to just stand there and watch this?
Rescue me from their destructive attacks;
guard my life from the young lions!

18 Then I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise you before a large crowd of people!

19 Do not let those who are my enemies for no reason gloat over me!
Do not let those who hate me without cause carry out their wicked schemes!

20 For they do not try to make peace with others,
but plan ways to deceive those who are unsuspecting.

21 They are ready to devour me;
they say, "Aha! Aha! We've got you!"

22 But you take notice, LORD!
O sovereign Master, do not remain far away from me!

23 Rouse yourself, wake up and vindicate me!
My God and Lord, defend my just cause!

24 Vindicate me by your justice, O LORD my God!
Do not let them gloat over me!

25 Do not let them say to themselves, "Aha! We have what we wanted!"
Do not let them say, "We have devoured him!"

26 May those who want to harm me be totally embarrassed and ashamed!
May those who arrogantly taunt me be covered with shame and humiliation!

27 May those who desire my vindication shout for joy and rejoice!
May they continually say, "May the LORD be praised, for he wants his servant to be secure."

28 Then I will tell others about your justice,
and praise you all day long.

I had to smile as I read this psalm. It's not that there is anything funny about the psalm, I just smile at NET's translation approach sometimes. I love it. It's real. I love v. 16, "When I tripped, they taunted me relentlessly, and tried to bite me." That is so much better than ESV's "Like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth" and NIV's "Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me." Granted, it's not as poetic. But you get a better feel for what is going on with the language. I also love the taunts in v. 21, "Aha! Aha! We've got you!" and v. 25 "Aha! We have what we wanted!" (ESV translates v. 21 "Aha, Aha! our eyes have seen it!" and NIV translates it "Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.") Plus, the NET puts the Hebrew in the footnotes and tells you how they came up with their translation. (Plus they let you reproduce their translation for free as long as you give your work away for free.)

I am on a bit of a "loyalty" kick right now, and I notice the theme in this psalm, too. Notice in vv. 13–16 that the psalmist says, "When they were sick, I prayed for them like they were my brothers. But when I fell into trouble, they didn't return the favor. Instead they kicked me while I was down."

Another interesting thing that I noticed was the psalmist's accusation against his enemies in v. 20. He says that they do not seek "peace" (Hebrew shalom), but instead they use words of treachery (Hebrew mirmah). These are the opposites of what Psalm 34 said about fearing the Lord. Psalm 34:13–14 says that to fear the Lord you should avoid words of mirmah and instead seek shalom.

Perhaps this was a significant part of the OT ethic. The temptation was to take advantage of others—to deceive them and kick them when they were down. Fearing the Lord meant that you would treat your neighbor as a brother by pursuing peace instead.

"Father, I pray for eyes that see deceit and treachery and don't ignore them. I pray that I would promote peace in my church and in my community. You are a God of righteousness and of peace. You are a Father to the fatherless and a defender of the oppressed. Amen."

Could It Be . . . SATAN?!

Mark Driscoll and Deepak Chopra are debating the existence of Satan on ABC Nightline. Well . . . isn't that special?

I haven't watched it all, but I liked Mark Driscoll's approach in his opening arguments. "Yeah, the Bible talks about Satan. But it also talks about Jesus. Let's talk about him . . ."

Now we know how Driscoll would describe the Gospel in 1 minute to secular 20-somethings.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Psalm 34

Psalm 34 (NET) reads:

Written by David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, causing the king to send him away.

I will praise the LORD at all times;
my mouth will continually praise him.

2 I will boast in the LORD;
let the oppressed hear and rejoice!

3 Magnify the LORD with me!
Let's praise his name together!

4 I sought the LORD's help and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

5 Those who look to him for help are happy;
their faces are not ashamed.

6 This oppressed man cried out and the LORD heard;
he saved him from all his troubles.

7 The LORD's angel camps around
the LORD's loyal followers and delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good!
How happy is the one who takes shelter in him!

9 Remain loyal to the LORD, you chosen people of his,
for his loyal followers lack nothing!

10 Even young lions sometimes lack food and are hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11 Come children! Listen to me!
I will teach you what it means to fear the LORD.

12 Do you want to really live?
Would you love to live a long, happy life?

13 Then make sure you don't speak evil words
or use deceptive speech!

14 Turn away from evil and do what is right!
Strive for peace and promote it!

15 The LORD pays attention to the godly
and hears their cry for help.

16 But the LORD opposes evildoers
and wipes out all memory of them from the earth.

17 The godly cry out and the LORD hears;
he saves them from all their troubles.

18 The LORD is near the brokenhearted;
he delivers those who are discouraged.

19 The godly face many dangers,
but the LORD saves them from each one of them.

20 He protects all his bones;
not one of them is broken.

21 Evil people self-destruct;
those who hate the godly are punished.

22 The LORD rescues his servants;
all who take shelter in him escape punishment.

Psalm 34 is a praise psalm to YHWH for His acts of deliverance. In v. 2 the psalmist writes, "let the oppressed hear and rejoice!" In v. 6 he adds, "This oppressed man cried out and the LORD heard; he saved him from all his troubles." The psalm emphasizes the Lord's faithfulness to the oppressed who cry out to Him.

The psalmist points out that it is "the Lord's loyal followers" who are protected and who lack nothing (vv. 7, 9). (This is how the NET translates the phrase "those who fear the Lord.") How do you fear the Lord? The psalmist says by not speaking evil words (v. 13), not using deceptive speech (v. 13), turning away from what is evil (v. 14), doing what is good (v. 14), and striving for an promoting peace (v. 14). Those who do such things show their loyalty to YHWH. He, in turn, will be loyal to them.

So, we get a short description of the OT ethic here in Psalm 34. (Granted, this is not an exhaustive list, just what was on the psalmist's mind as he penned the words.) First, there is the ethic of speech. I don't think the psalmist is talking about profanity here. Verse 13 is literally, "Guard your tongue from evil, and your speech from words of treachery/deceit." I think this is talking about slander and deceit. I like the image of treachery in this verse. When we lie to someone we betray them. Why would God be loyal to someone who is treacherous to his brother? We can seriously hurt people with our words, and the psalmist reminds us that God isn't fooled. Second, there is pursuit of good. Verse 14 says to do what is "right," (Hebrew tov, most often translated "good" as in creation when God said "it is good") and to promote "peace" (Hebrew shalom, better translated as tranquility and prosperity, not just absence of violence).

I feel that it is the church's responsibility to promote shalom in our community. That is why our church participates in so many community development projects. It matters to God that there are poor people around us who aren't experiencing shalom. Part of our "fearing the Lord" is promoting shalom for the people around us who don't get it. [Shameless plug for Kiva.org--it's a great way to promote shalom globally.]

"Father, I thank you that You hear the oppressed. I pray that we would hear the oppressed as well. You are good, and we confess that we rely on You for protection, deliverance, and vindication. We await Your redemption of Your world, and we ask for the strength to represent you well in the mean time. Amen."

Spiritual Life Questions

Two questions I asked my Spiritual Life class last night:

"What does it mean to be spiritual?"

In other words, "What is the difference betweeen 'the spiritual life' and 'normal' life?"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Psalm 33

Psalm 33 (NET) reads:

You godly ones, shout for joy because of the LORD!
It is appropriate for the morally upright to offer him praise.

2 Give thanks to the LORD with the harp!
Sing to him to the accompaniment of a ten-stringed instrument!

3 Sing to him a new song!
Play skillfully as you shout out your praises to him!

4 For the LORD's decrees are just,
and everything he does is fair.

5 The LORD promotes equity and justice;
the LORD's faithfulness extends throughout the earth.

6 By the LORD's decree the heavens were made;
by a mere word from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.

7 He piles up the water of the sea;
he puts the oceans in storehouses.

8 Let the whole earth fear the LORD!
Let all who live in the world stand in awe of him!

9 For he spoke, and it came into existence,
he issued the decree, and it stood firm.

10 The LORD frustrates the decisions of the nations;
he nullifies the plans of the peoples.

11 The LORD's decisions stand forever;
his plans abide throughout the ages.

12 How happy is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen to be his special possession.

13 The LORD watches from heaven;
he sees all people.

14 From the place where he lives he looks carefully
at all the earth's inhabitants.

15 He is the one who forms every human heart,
and takes note of all their actions.

16 No king is delivered by his vast army;
a warrior is not saved by his great might.

17 A horse disappoints those who trust in it for victory;
despite its great strength, it cannot deliver.

18 Look, the LORD takes notice of his loyal followers,
those who wait for him to demonstrate his faithfulness
19 by saving their lives from death
and sustaining them during times of famine.

20 We wait for the LORD;
he is our deliverer and shield.

21 For our hearts rejoice in him,
for we trust in his holy name.

22 May we experience your faithfulness, O LORD,
for we wait for you.

Psalm 33 is a psalm of praise for YHWH's faithfulness. The opening lines of the psalm instruct the community to offer up praise to YHWH with their voices and their instruments. Then, the psalmist moves to reasons that YHWH deserves praise--His righteousness, His power in creation, His power over the nations, and His faithfulness to those who fear Him. Then, the psalmist notes the futility in relying on military strength instead of YHWH, and once again urges the community to put their trust in YHWH.

I am becoming more sensitive to the notion of loyalty in the Scriptures (especially in the OT). We translate the Hebrew chesed as lovingkindness or faithfulness, but loyalty is often the idea of the word. The ancient Hebrews understood YHWH as a loyal God. He knew who were His own and He looked out for them. In response, He asked the people to be loyal to Him by obeying the law, etc.

So, the verses that stick out to me in this psalm are vv. 18–19, "Look, the LORD takes notice of his loyal followers, those who wait for him to demonstrate his faithfulness by saving their lives from death and sustaining them during times of famine." The NET says that "loyal followers" is a dynamic equivalent of "those who fear him." So, the psalmist encourages us to "fear the Lord" and "wait upon Him." What does that look like?

In the context of this psalm, I think it has to look (in part) like vocalizing to others God's greatness. There is a reason that the psalmist encourages the community to break out the ten-stringed instruments--God deserves them. We can't take lightly what happens in our worship services when we are singing to YHWH. God invented music, and He enjoys listening to the songs of His people. Another part of "fearing the Lord" is following His ways when we can think of shortcuts to success. (This is what I think the vv. 16–17 are getting at.)

How do I respond to this psalm? First, it's a reminder to me that I need to be vocal about my appreciation of God. Second it's a reminder that I need to follow Jesus and not worry so much about what might happen to me.

"Father, I thank you for Your goodness to me. I thank You for Your provision and Your answer of prayer. Too often I worry about things that are insignificant in the cosmic scope of history. You're there. You're faithful. You're able. You're wise. Amen."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Evangelical Untouchables 1

Michael Spencer has posted the first installment of a series called The Evangelical Untouchables on his blog, Internet Monk. (The series is a gangster theme--Untouchables as in Elliot Ness.) As I mentioned here earlier, I am one of the evangelical pastors he is interviewing for the series. Our first assignment was to describe the Gospel as we would to a group of unchurched 20-somethings. Then, we were to discuss a little bit of what our church was doing to promote the Gospel.

Friday, March 20, 2009

El Tiempo Ha Venido

Michael Ewen is in Guatemala right now doing some independent humanitarian work (his family is a part of Believers Fellowship). He focuses on micro finance, clean water projects, and food aid, and his blog is El Tiempo Ha Venido. Check out what he is doing; it's good stuff! I am sure that when he gets back to Washington he is going to look to expand the project. I think my church will get involved!

Psalm 32

Psalm 32 (NET) reads:

By David; a well-written song.

How happy is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven,
whose sin is pardoned!

2 How happy is the one whose wrongdoing the LORD does not punish,
in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 When I refused to confess my sin,
my whole body wasted away,
while I groaned in pain all day long.

4 For day and night you tormented me;
you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer. (Selah)

5 Then I confessed my sin;
I no longer covered up my wrongdoing.
I said, "I will confess my rebellious acts to the LORD."
And then you forgave my sins. (Selah)

6 For this reason every one of your faithful followers should pray to you
while there is a window of opportunity.
Certainly when the surging water rises,
it will not reach them.

7 You are my hiding place;
you protect me from distress.
You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance. (Selah)

8 I will instruct and teach you about how you should live.
I will advise you as I look you in the eye.

9 Do not be like a stupid horse or mule,
which will not obey you
unless they are controlled by a bridle and bit.

10 An evil person suffers much pain,
but the LORD's faithfulness overwhelms the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the LORD and be happy, you who are godly!
Shout for joy, all you who are morally upright!

Psalm 32 celebrates the happiness that comes to those whose sins have been forgiven. Verse 4 is chilling, "For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer." When was the last time you prayed something like that? Once again I am struck by David's view of YHWH's involvement in the everyday events of his life. If things weren't going well, it was because YHWH was tormenting him.

This thought carries over in vv. 9–10, " Do not be like a stupid horse or mule, which will not obey you unless they are controlled by a bridle and bit. An evil person suffers much pain, but the LORD's faithfulness overwhelms the one who trusts in him." David thought that sinful behavior would lead to pain.

I love the words of verse 3, "When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long." What a great description of the effect that secrets have on us.

For the last six months I have been preparing a class for my church called The Spiritual Life. I have wrestled with the Scriptures’ teaching on spirituality--what it is and how we can be "spiritual." I have tried to balance two things in the class--what I believe the Scriptures teach about spirituality and what has worked in my own spiritual life. I can't say which is more important. I think the Scriptures should interpret our experiences, but I also think that our experiences should color the way we read the Scriptures.

One of the things that I keep coming back to in the spiritual life is confession. When I ask myself how people really change, I have to say: (1) they get serious about changing (i.e. they "repent"), and (2) they find accountability (i.e. someone to whom they can confess). This is how I change. This is how I have seen others change. This is (not coincidentally) what I think the Scriptures teach about change.

American Protestants fear confession. We are private and we don't want to come across as too Roman Catholic. We think, "My sins are between me and Jesus. I don't need a priest." Really? How well does that work? In my experience, it doesn't. If I don't have accountability, I don't change. I continue to experience Psalm 32:3–4.

"Father I thank You for Your grace. I thank You for Your faithfulness to Your people and Your willingness to forgive. We confess that we fall miserably short of the life to which You have called us. Father, I thank you for the Christian community. I thank you for my brothers and sisters on the journey and the support that they lend me. I pray that You would make me more authentic, that I would understand true shame but not be ashamed. I pray that my failures would drive me closer to You and not farther away. I pray that You would renew in me a longing for the redemption that You have started in me. Amen."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

N.T. Wright, Antony Flew, and Gary Habermas on Flew, Richard Dawkins, and Resurrection

Dr. Gary Habermas has posted some videos of a conversation between himself, N.T. Wright, and Antony Flew about God and the resurrection. Flew was a preeminent atheist philosopher who recently converted to Deism based on Plato's argument from first cause.

Wright and Habermas interview Flew and ask him what would have to happen for us to know the God that Flew says he believes in. Flew agrees that resurrection or some other impossible event is the only type of thing that could "prove" God's intervention in history (i.e. to bridge the gap between Deism and Theism).

Flew also answers Richard Dawkins' accusations that he is senile.

(HT: Ben Witherington)

Psalm 31

Psalm 31 (NET) reads:
For the music director; a psalm of David.

In you, O LORD, I have taken shelter!
Never let me be humiliated!
Vindicate me by rescuing me!

2 Listen to me!
Quickly deliver me!
Be my protector and refuge,
a stronghold where I can be safe!

3 For you are my high ridge and my stronghold;
for the sake of your own reputation you lead me and guide me.

4 You will free me from the net they hid for me,
for you are my place of refuge.

5 Into your hand I entrust my life;
you will rescue me, O LORD, the faithful God.

6 I hate those who serve worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.

7 I will be happy and rejoice in your faithfulness,
because you notice my pain
and you are aware of how distressed I am.

8 You do not deliver me over to the power of the enemy;
you enable me to stand in a wide open place.

9 Have mercy on me, for I am in distress!
My eyes grow dim from suffering.
I have lost my strength.

10 For my life nears its end in pain;
my years draw to a close as I groan.
My strength fails me because of my sin,
and my bones become brittle.

11 Because of all my enemies, people disdain me;
my neighbors are appalled by my suffering--
those who know me are horrified by my condition;
those who see me in the street run away from me.

12 I am forgotten, like a dead man no one thinks about;
I am regarded as worthless, like a broken jar.

13 For I hear what so many are saying,
the terrifying news that comes from every direction.
When they plot together against me,
they figure out how they can take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O LORD!
I declare, "You are my God!"

15 You determine my destiny!
Rescue me from the power of my enemies and those who chase me.

16 Smile on your servant!
Deliver me because of your faithfulness!

17 O LORD, do not let me be humiliated,
for I call out to you!
May evil men be humiliated!
May they go wailing to the grave!

18 May lying lips be silenced--
lips that speak defiantly against the innocent
with arrogance and contempt!

19 How great is your favor,
which you store up for your loyal followers!
In plain sight of everyone you bestow it on those who take shelter in you.

20 You hide them with you, where they are safe from the attacks of men;
you conceal them in a shelter, where they are safe from slanderous attacks.

21 The LORD deserves praise
for he demonstrated his amazing faithfulness to me when I was besieged by enemies.

22 I jumped to conclusions and said,
"I am cut off from your presence!"
But you heard my plea for mercy when I cried out to you for help.

23 Love the LORD, all you faithful followers of his!
The LORD protects those who have integrity,
but he pays back in full the one who acts arrogantly.

24 Be strong and confident,
all you who wait on the LORD!

Again in Psalm 31, David cries out to YHWH for deliverance from his enemies. Again, his enemies serve worthless idols (v. 6), they conspire to take his life (v. 13), they chase him (v. 15), they lie (v. 18), they target the innocent (v. 18), they are arrogant (v. 18), and they are slanderous (v. 20). This seems to be the cause of his distress.

The only part that doesn't fit is vv. 9–13, in which he describes his situation in terms of illness. There could be two things going on here. It could be that David was ill and that his enemies were telling people that the illness was proof that God had turned on him. Or, it could that the illness language is metaphor for the distress he was experiencing from his enemies. (i.e. "My situation is so bad that people don't want to be near me. It's almost like I have the plague!")

My suspicion is the latter. David seems most concerned about deliverance from his enemies, not from an illness (v. 15). If he really was sick, he would have considered the possibility that the Lord had turned on him. I don't see that here.

That being said, vv. 9–13 stick out to me as the distinctive of this psalm. With great poetic skill David describes the pain resulting from slanderous attacks. Just the other day a friend of mine was telling me about some of the rumors that were going around about him and how much pain it caused him. He could identify with vv. 9–11!

And yet, David expressed confidence. His prayer was for vindication (vv. 1–2, 17–18). He was confident that the Lord would deliver him because God's reputation was on the line (v. 3). Finally, he recognized the covenant God had with his people (v. 7, 16, 19, 21, 23). God is loyal, and He protects His own.

For me this is a reminder of two things. First, I need to guard my tongue. I can hurt people with my words and not even know it. Second, I need not worry about doing "damage control" over my reputation. God sees who has integrity and who doesn't. If someone spreads lies about me or my character, God will vindicate me. My response is not to lash back, but to cling to my integrity and pray.

"Father, I thank you for Your faithfulness. I thank You that we can trust You to protect and vindicate us. We echo the psalmists words that You are worthy of praise and that You determine our destiny. We ask You to smile upon us. Amen."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Psalm 30

Psalm 30 (NET) reads:
A psalm--a song used at the dedication of the temple; by David.

I will praise you, O LORD, for you lifted me up,
and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God,
I cried out to you and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you pulled me up from Sheol;
you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

4 Sing to the LORD, you faithful followers of his;
give thanks to his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment,
and his good favor restores one's life.
One may experience sorrow during the night,
but joy arrives in the morning.

6 In my self-confidence I said,
"I will never be upended."

7 O LORD, in your good favor you made me secure.
Then you rejected me and I was terrified.

8 To you, O LORD, I cried out;
I begged the sovereign Master for mercy:

9 "What profit is there in taking my life,
in my descending into the Pit?
Can the dust of the grave praise you?
Can it declare your loyalty?

10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me!
O LORD, deliver me!"

11 Then you turned my lament into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.

12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;
O LORD my God, I will always give thanks to you.

The most chilling line of this psalm is the second half of verse 7. It starts, "O LORD, in your good favor you made me secure," but then adds, "Then you rejected me and I was terrified." That theology is alien to me and I wish it wasn't.

It's not that I wish I would be rejected by God. Obviously, I don't. But it's only the person who has abandoned all confidence in himself and who truly looks to God for protection who can be "terrified" when he senses rejection.

I don't know if I have written about "the fear of God" on this blog before, but it's something that I think is lacking from a lot of our theology. We tend to gravitate toward verses like 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love." (NET) In doing so, we ignore all the OT passages about the "fear of God" (we prefer to talk instead about how the word "fear" should be translated "respect" or "reverence").

One of my former professors, Gunny Hartman, used to say, "I don't know about you, but I serve a God who smokes people for picking up sticks on the wrong day." That God seems strangely foreign to me, and I don't know that's a good thing. I think there was a healthy amount of fear involved in the ancients' understanding of God. YHWH could be a great and terrible God, and if you got on His bad side, bad things happened to you. I think genuine worship flows out of this fear (note verses 1 and 12). It's tough to worship a God that you don't fear.

Now obviously I am just pointing out one side of God. C.S. Lewis' depiction of God of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia is probably the best illustration of the need to balance fear with friendship. We can trust God. He's not a tyrant. But neither is He Mr. Rogers.

"Father, forgive us for taking You too lightly. Forgive us for being too comfortable. We confess that You are great and that it is a 'terrible' thing to be abandoned by You. We praise You for Your continuing acts of faithfulness and deliverance. Amen."

Faith Only Lasts Three Generations?

In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman quotes a Chinese proverb, "Wealth only lasts three generations." The proverb means that when someone becomes wealthy through hard work and wise decisions, they normally pass a little bit of this ethic to their children along with the wealth they leave behind. Their children usually pass down the wealth to the third generation, but not the work ethic, so the third generation squanders the wealth. Friedman's warning is that the ethic that made America great is missing in the rising generation and that without major changes the future could be bleak for the American economy.

As the question of the hour for the American evangelical church is, "Why aren't twenty-somethings in the church?" I wonder if perhaps the Chinese proverb could be applied to faith. Maybe "Faith only lasts three generations."

Americans of three generations ago were great. They made our nation great, and they made evangelicalism great. In the hard years of our country—during World War 1, The Great Depression, and World War 2, a huge number of people became evangelical Christians. Theirs was an authentic faith birthed out of struggle. They experienced first-hand loss, poverty, and gross evil. They had to rely on God. They saw first-hand what the world looked like without God, and the prayers they prayed in fox holes stuck with them when the wars ended.

The generation after them inherited this faith, but they didn't have to work as hard for it. My generation in turn has inherited that faith, but we haven't had to work at all for it.

Essentially, we have a generation of trust-fund Christians who are living off of the faith of their grandparents. It’s no wonder we are leaving the church.

So, what does the future look like for evangelicalism? I think the prediction of our loss of numbers and influence is accurate. I think that when someone has a radical conversion to Christ as an adult, the effects of this conversion will spill over for about three generations. Right now our numbers are high because there were such a large number of adult conversions three generations ago. But the effects of this "revival" or "awakening" are wearing off as the older people are passing away and their less-committed descendants are walking away. So, one of two things will happen:

1. America will continue as it is and Christianity will decline in influence to the levels of Europe. There will continue to be genuine conversions, and these conversions will leave ripples for three generations. But unless the younger generations undergo significant spiritual experiences that cause them to "own" their faith for themselves, the ripples will stop after three generations.

2. America will undergo a catastrophe or in some other way experience "revival." World War 3 or an economic meltdown throws all predictions of the end of Christendom out the window, as they may lead to another time of mass conversion. These conversions may not be to evangelicalism, but to whatever branch of Christianity that best offers hope and an explanation of the catastrophe. The numbers of that branch will swell for three generations.

Regardless of which scenario plays out, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, we have a big God who is in control of history. He knows where it is going, and He's going to win in the end. Second, not everyone in the church is a Christian. Just because evangelicalism has large numbers and great influence doesn't mean that "Jesus is winning." The church will always consist of genuine believers and those who just show up for sociological reasons. We should expect nothing more. Third, Christianity is a global movement, not an American one. Ours is an age of a post-Christian west and a post-western Christianity. While the numbers may be down here, the Gospel flourishes in South America, Africa, and East Asia. More and more we will look to them for spiritual leadership. Finally, our kids have to embrace the faith for themselves. They can't inherit our faith. We can do our best to model Christianity for them (and we should, because they can tell what we really believe), but ultimately God has to speak to them, and they have to respond for themselves. So we need to pray for them.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Evangelical Untouchables

Following up on the success of his Liturgical Gangstas series, Michael Spencer is starting a new series on Internet Monk called The Evangelical Untouchables. He has chosen seven evangelicals to represent six sub-cultures of evangelicalism--Southern Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church of America, Christian Missionary Alliance, and two from Dallas Seminary.

I applied and I am on the squad representing DTS and "Non-denominational/Bible Churches." The other DTS guy is Michael Patton from Reclaiming the Mind.

I'll link to all future posts. I have no idea what we will be discussing (but I suspect it is about "The Coming Evangelical Collapse").

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Calvinism Is So Hot Right Now

Want to be a part of the movement that is changing the world? Become a Calvinist. So says Time Magazine.

On a related note, I will be following up my "Why I am not a Calvinist" with my "Why I converted to the New Perspective on Paul" post here shortly. I am almost done with the rough draft and I hope to have it done by the end of the month. It's 23 pages right now, so it will be 6 or 7 long posts.

Psalm 29

Psalm 29 (NET) reads:

A psalm of David.

Acknowledge the LORD, you supernatural beings,
acknowledge the LORD's majesty and power!

2 Acknowledge the majesty of the LORD's reputation!
Worship the LORD in holy attire!

3 The LORD's shout is heard over the water;
the majestic God thunders,
the LORD appears over the surging water.

4 The LORD's shout is powerful,
the LORD's shout is majestic.

5 The LORD's shout breaks the cedars,
the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf
and Sirion like a young ox.

7 The LORD's shout strikes with flaming fire.

8 The LORD's shout shakes the wilderness,
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The LORD's shout bends the large trees
and strips the leaves from the forests.
Everyone in his temple says, "Majestic!"

10 The LORD sits enthroned over the engulfing waters,
the LORD sits enthroned as the eternal king.

11 The LORD gives his people strength;
the LORD grants his people security.

The phrase in verse 1 translated "supernatural beings" by the NET is the Hebrew bene elohim--literally "sons of god" or "sons of the gods." The ESV renders it "heavenly beings," the NIV "mighty ones," and the RSV "heavenly beings." The English versions consistently interpret the phrase as supernatural or heavenly creatures--perhaps angels or pagan "gods."

Whatever David meant by this phrase, he urges the supernatural beings to acknowledge and worship YHWH. He is God of the gods.

David then goes on to describe YHWH's power--His voice cracks trees in half and scares the nations so that they jump like young calves and oxen. The only proper response to His power is to cry "Majestic!"

Finally, David brings it home and reminds Israel that it is this God who gives them strength (i.e. military power as in 1 Sam 2:10) and security (Hebrew shalom).

Again, the psalmist has quite a different worldview than most moderns. He seems to be saying to the people, "Don't worry about such-and-such a nation. If they invade us, YHWH is going to smoke them with the power of his voice." The theology was practical. It helped people sleep at night.

However, 3,000 years later we question David's promises. Sometimes, evil people prosper and the righteous are snuffed out. Sometimes God doesn't give strength or security to His people. Even God's own Son cried out from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

So, what do we do with psalms like this? A lot of people like to spiritualize them. They say "The Lord is my strength and security," but they mean it in kind of a pop-psychology positive thinking sense--"Even when my life sucks, I can still be strong and at peace mentally." That may well be true, but that is not what the psalmist had in mind when he wrote these words thousands of years ago.

As you can probably tell, I am not a fan of spiritualizing OT language like this. I don't think the words mean that we can be at peace mentally even when we are getting beat down physically. I don't think we can paraphrase this psalm, "The Lord allows me to be delusional about my life circumstances."

Now, I am not denying that God gives us peace of mind. But I think we read "peace of mind" into "peace" way too much in the Bible. I think the ancients were looking for literal peace and literal strength and literal protection. So, how do we reconcile that with our experiences, when we don't see peace and strength and protection? Do we punt and say, "well, the Bible is just talking about peace of mind"?

No. We remember that we still serve a God that can break trees with His voice, and that the story isn't over yet. God has promised to one day make all wrongs right and to wipe away every tear. We can't forget that this is our hope.

"Father, we confess that You are majestic. We cry out with the 'heavenly ones,' 'Majesty!' Forgive us for doubting your ability to save. Forgive us for forgetting your promises. You are enthroned as eternal king, and Your reign will be one of justice and peace. We pray that as we await Your reign, that we may be agents of righteousness, mercy, and peace in Your earth. Amen."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Psalm 28

Psalm 28 (NET) reads:

By David.

To you, O LORD, I cry out!
My protector, do not ignore me!
If you do not respond to me,
I will join those who are descending into the grave.

2 Hear my plea for mercy when I cry out to you for help,
when I lift my hands toward your holy temple!

3 Do not drag me away with evil men,
with those who behave wickedly,
who talk so friendly to their neighbors,
while they plan to harm them!

4 Pay them back for their evil deeds!
Pay them back for what they do!
Punish them!

5 For they do not understand the LORD's actions,
or the way he carries out justice.
The LORD will permanently demolish them.

6 The LORD deserves praise,
for he has heard my plea for mercy!

7 The LORD strengthens and protects me;
I trust in him with all my heart.
I am rescued and my heart is full of joy;
I will sing to him in gratitude.

8 The LORD strengthens his people;
he protects and delivers his chosen king.

9 Deliver your people!
Empower the nation that belongs to you!
Care for them like a shepherd and carry them in your arms at all times!

Reading this psalm makes me wonder how dangerous David's life was. Just about every one of his psalms has a line in it that says something like verse 1, "If you do not respond to me, I will join those who are descending into the grave." On the one hand, the psalms are poetry, so David could be using some poetic license here. Maybe he was in some danger, but used some hyperbole to get God's attention.

But on the other hand, David was a man of war (some would even call him a "warlord"), so he was not unfamiliar with violence. Perhaps one of the drawbacks of being an ancient near eastern monarch was that there were always people waiting in the wings to take you out. Perhaps it wasn't always "good to be the king."

I don't know which to think, but I am leaning toward the latter. Maybe in David's day, the best warrior was king. He gained his throne by the sword--perhaps he had to keep it by the sword.

Can you imagine what that life must have been like for David? Sure, you live in a palace and you can have anything you want, but you also have some serious anxiety. Everyone around you has thoughts of what it would be like to take you out and sit on your throne, and the only thing keeping them from trying to stab you in your sleep is the thought that by the power of YHWH you were able to kill this 9 foot tall dude. That might do something to your faith. It might affect your prayer life. It might give new meaning to your worship. Imagine what David meant by "I am rescued and my heart is full of joy; I will sing to him in gratitude."

"Father, I thank you for Your strength and for Your protection. May my songs be songs of gratitude as I remember your acts of kindness and faithfulness toward me and my tribe. You are rigtheous and merciful. Amen."

Michael Spencer on "Why They Hate Us"

After receiving national media attention for his "Coming Collapse of American Evangelicalism" article, Michael Spencer has re-posted a 2002 article on why non-Christians hate us so much. It's worth a read. Here are my two favorite sections:
Most evangelicals are not the moral cutting edge of contemporary social issues. Despite the evangelical conscience on issues like abortion, it is clear to many that we no longer have the cutting edge moral sense of a Martin Luther King, Jr. or a William Wilberforce. Evangelicals are largely annoyed at people who tell them to do the right thing if it doesn’t enhance their resume, their wallet, their family or their emotions.


7. We take ourselves far too seriously, and come off as opposed to normal life. Is it such a bid deal that Christians are offended at so many things others consider funny? I’ll admit, it is a small thing, but it is one of the reasons ordinary people don’t like us.

I read an incident written by a preacher to an internet list I monitor. He told about taking his youth group on an outing, when the students began singing a popular country song about a guy who leaves his wife to pursue his fishing hobby. It’s a hilarious song. But this fellow’s reaction was predictable. He asked them to not a song about a marriage that breaks up, and to instead sing something that honored God. I routinely hear students ridiculing a fellow teacher who labels much of what students find funny as “of the devil.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Psalm 27

Psalm 27 (NET) reads:

By David.

The LORD delivers and vindicates me!
I fear no one!
The LORD protects my life!
I am afraid of no one!

2 When evil men attack me
to devour my flesh,
when my adversaries and enemies attack me,
they stumble and fall.

3 Even when an army is deployed against me,
I do not fear.
Even when war is imminent,
I remain confident.

4 I have asked the LORD for one thing--
this is what I desire!
I want to live in the LORD's house all the days of my life,
so I can gaze at the splendor of the LORD
and contemplate in his temple.

5 He will surely give me shelter in the day of danger;
he will hide me in his home;
he will place me on an inaccessible rocky summit.

6 Now I will triumph
over my enemies who surround me!
I will offer sacrifices in his dwelling place and shout for joy!
I will sing praises to the LORD!

7 Hear me, O LORD, when I cry out!
Have mercy on me and answer me!

8 My heart tells me to pray to you,
and I do pray to you, O LORD.

9 Do not reject me!
Do not push your servant away in anger!
You are my deliverer!
Do not forsake or abandon me,
O God who vindicates me!

10 Even if my father and mother abandoned me,
the LORD would take me in.

11 Teach me how you want me to live;
lead me along a level path because of those who wait to ambush me!

12 Do not turn me over to my enemies,
for false witnesses who want to destroy me testify against me.

13 Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience
the LORD's favor in the land of the living?

14 Rely on the LORD!
Be strong and confident!
Rely on the LORD!

Psalm 27 is another great example of David expressing his confidence in YHWH's ability to protect him. Although the immediate context may have been a conspiracy of false witnesses (v. 12), David extends his confidence even to times of violence and war (vv. 2–3).

The basis of David's confidence is YHWH's willingness to take him under His arms. He writes, "Even if my father and mother abandoned me, the LORD would take me in" (v. 10). David is confident that YHWH's faithfulness means protection from enemies (v. 5).

In response to YHWH's protection, David swears that he will offer sacrifices and sing songs of praise (v. 6). He also asks YHWH, "Teach me how you want me to live; lead me along a level path because of those who wait to ambush me!" (v. 11) David recognizes that the way of the Lord is both wisdom and covenant responsibility.

The verses that stuck out to me today are the last ones. David asks, "Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the LORD's favor in the land of the living?" (v. 12)

This is a great and terrible question. As followers of Jesus, we recognize that YHWH is in supreme control of the universe. No one can thwart His will. No one can harm whom He protects. No one can protect whom He is against. Where would we be if we did not think that YHWH was for us?

I am reminded of something Alistair Begg said in chapel during my freshman year of college, "I am not tossed about on the waves of chance." Where would I be if I did not believe this?

Finally, in verse 13, David exclaims, "Rely on the LORD! Be strong and confident! Rely on the LORD!" Is he talking to himself or to others? Perhaps both.

"Father, it is easy to forget about Your control over everything that happens. It is easy to fear. It is easy to worry. It is easy to despair. Father, we confess Your greatness. We confess Your power and Your might. No one can stop You. No one can control You. No one can slow you down. And Father we thank you for your faithfulness and Your goodness. We thank you that You hear our prayers and that you wish our welfare. We confess our trust and reliance on You. Amen."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Obama and Stem Cell Research

Ryan T. Anderson has a great article on President Obama's decision to lift restrictions on federal funding to research involving the destruction of human embryos.

Anderson suggests that new research may soon render stem cell harvesting from human embryos obsolete. The article is a pretty scathing critique of the president's decision, and it is worth a read. (HT: Between Two Worlds)

Wolfhart Pannenberg, The Apostle Paul, and Son Lux Prove God

Ever since I read volume one of Wolfhart Pannenberg's Systematic Theology, I have been drawn to his approach to apologetics. He argues that the gods are best known through their respective religions, and that the gods "prove" themselves as the claims of their religions come true in history. The prototypical example of this would be the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal to see whose god could bring down fire and thus justify himself as the true god. YHWH brought fire and He proved himself to be the true god.

Thus, Christianity can be evaluated without bias by people outside of the faith. Christians claim that YHWH is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and that history is unraveling according to his purposes.

Can we prove that?

How would we prove that? What would be sufficient evidence?

First, the soft postmodern/critical realist apologist would say up front that it is impossible to prove 100% that God is, but he would also add that 100% certainty is not an appropriate standard for "knowledge" or "proof." We don't have 100% knowledge of anything, and yet we live our lives relatively free of anxiety about the unknown. Thus, 100% knowledge is not the standard we use in everyday living, so it's not the standard to which we should judge our knowledge of God. Like everything else, we cannot know for sure, but we can know.

Of course, this will not be the case forever. Some day, the dwelling place of God will be with men once again, and we will know for sure that God is. When the dead are raised; YHWH will be vindicated as Lord and God. But until then, we don’t know for sure. But that doesn't help us believe here and now. How can we believe now?

The Apostle Paul thought that God had intervened in human history in two radically conclusive ways during his lifetime: (1) the death and resurrection of Jesus, and (2) the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the people of faith. To Paul, these two events were the "proof" that YHWH was at work in the Christian community.

Now, I think we have good historical evidence for the truth of proposition (1). However, Jesus' resurrection happened 2000 years ago and we can't recreate it. It remains a one-of-a-kind event, and its historicity isn't much comfort to those who were born long after it happened.

But what about proposition (2)? Can that be the proof of God's existence? I think so.

To me, the "proof" that YHWH is Lord and God is the work of the Holy Spirit in the community of faith. As the church keeps in step with the Spirit and lives out Jesus' command to love one another, we prove to the world (and to ourselves) that God is.

I was reminded of all of this I was listening to Son Lux yesterday. He has a great song called "Raise." The music is so powerful that the lyrics by themselves don't do the song justice, but here they are:

Raise a living thing from nothing.
Then I will know for myself who you are.
Clothed in skin a pile of dry bones.
Then I will know for myself who you are.

I will feel breath come into my body.
Then I'll know just who you are.

Raise a living thing from nothing.
(simultaneously) Clothed in skin a pile of dry bones.
Then I will know for myself who you are.

Raise a living thing from nothing.
(simultaneously) Clothed in skin a pile of dry bones.
(simultaneously) I will feel breath come into my body.
Then I will know for myself who you are.

Will know for myself
You are who you say you are.

Then I will know for myself.
Then I will know.
Then I will know who you are.

Then I will know for myself.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Article by Matt Edwards to be Posted on Jesus Creed

Yes, that Matt Edwards. Yes, that Jesus Creed.

Scot McKnight asked readers to submit articles for his new "Friday is for Friends" segment. I submitted an article and he liked it. He said it would be published on the last Friday of March. I will link to it.

Michael Spencer on the Collapse of Evangelicalism

Michael Spencer predicts the collapse of American evangelicalism in the coming years. I think he is right. Little in popular evangelicalism has anything to do with Christianity.

At this point, I think churches need to focus on orthodox faith and missional living. Let the megachurches, radio stations, political groups, and trinket stores rest in peace.

Spencer--My Prediction:The Coming Evangelical Collapse
Spencer--The Coming Evangelical Collapse: What Will be Left?
Spencer--The Coming Evangelical Collapse: Good or Bad?

(Plus he references Michael Horton. Horton's book In the Face of God changed my life.)

Get On Your Boots

U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon came out this week. The first single on the album is "Get on Your Boots." Here are the lyrics:

The future needs a big kiss
Winds blows with a twist
Never seen a moon like this
Can you see it too?

Night is falling everywhere
Rockets at the fun fair
Satan loves a bomb scare
But he won’t scare you

Hey, sexy boots
Get on your boots, yeah

You free me from the dark dream
Candy floss ice cream
All our kids are screaming
But the ghosts aren’t real

Here’s where we gotta be
Love and community
Laughter is eternity
If joy is real

You don’t know how beautiful
You don’t know how beautiful you are
You don’t know, and you don’t get it, do you?
You don’t know how beautiful you are

That’s someone’s stuff they’re blowing up
We’re into growing up
Women of the future
Hold the big revelations

I got a submarine
You got gasoline
I don’t want to talk about wars between nations

Not right now

Hey sexy boots
Get on your boots, yeah
Not right now
Bossy boots

You don’t know how beautiful
You don’t know how beautiful you are
You don’t know, and you don’t get it, do you?
You don’t know how beautiful you are

Hey sexy boots
I don’t want to talk about the wars between the nations
Sexy boots, yeah

Let me in the sound
Let me in the sound
Let me in the sound, sound
Let me in the sound, sound
Meet me in the sound

Let me in the sound
Let me in the sound, now
God, I’m going down
I don’t wanna drown now
Meet me in the sound

Let me in the sound
Let me in the sound
Let me in the sound, sound
Let me in the sound, sound
Meet me in the sound

Get on your boots
Get on your boots
Get on your boots
Yeah hey hey

I am pretty sure that this is an allusion to Isaiah 52:7, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"

Here's the video
U2 - "Get On Your Boots" - OFFICIAL PROMO: Video

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

God of the Moon by Kees Kraayenoord

What do you think about this video? I guess YFC of Great Britain made the slideshow.

(Hat Tip to Brian Auten of the Boar's Head Tavern)

The Good Life Sermon 10--Conclusion

A couple of weeks ago I finished my sermon series called The Good Life: Redeeming Suburbia through Counter-cultural Living. I loved the series. In it, I compared the messages of suburbia about living the good life (taken largely from David Goetz's excellent book, Death by Suburb) with the message of Jesus about living the good life (taken from the Gospel of John).

In the conclusion, I reviewed all of the messages we have encountered to this point, and then showed how they worked together to form an overarching metanarrative or framing story about the good life. I said that because we believe a different story, we should be living different lives. In short, Believers Fellowship (or your church) should be an advertisement for a better way to live.

In some ways, it was a bit sad to finish this series. Because I only teach about 13 times per year, and many of those times have assigned topics, it took me 9 months to get through this 10-week series. That gave me 9 months in the Gospel of John, and 9 months of interacting with the works of Father Raymond Brown and Dr. Craig S. Keener (both have written excellent commentaries on John).

I am still fascinated with The Gospel of John and the apostle who created it. Since we spend so much time wrestling with Paul's words written mostly in epistle form--parsing words, dissecting sentence structure, tracing argument--it's refreshing to look at the Gospel of John and see how another Christian thinker has packaged the Gospel in a story. Instead of talking about our unity with Christ and how our baptism into his death unites us to his resurrection, John tells a story about a dead guy named Lazarus. Jesus said, "Lazarus come forth," and Lazarus got up and walked.

We need Paul. But sometimes we need a good story.

You can listen to the final message in The Good Life, any of my other sermons, or the ones by Gary Albert here.