Thursday, August 30, 2007

Teaching at Living Water Community Church

In February, 2007, Pastor Tom Steller and I had the opportunity to fly to my hometown of Vancouver, WA, and teach a weekend seminar on the Bible study method called "arcing." The following two links are for audio from that session. The first audio is where I taught through the arc for 1 Samuel 12:19-25. I had recently preached on this same passage before a bunch of seminary students, and now had the opportunity to preach through it to a church congregation learning to study their Bibles. I hope you can tell the difference between the two! Click here to listen to the first sermon.

Arcing 1 Samuel 12:19-25

This second audio is from the very last session of the weekend. I was to close out the weekend by teaching through the arc of Romans 11:33-36. It was a sober and wonderful moment. Unfortunately, the last ten minutes of the audio were lost! The whole weekend was supposed to have been videotaped and yet nothing turned out except for about seven hours of poor audio. This is the very last twenty minutes.

Arcing Romans 11:33-36

This passage is so profound and deep; I wish my exposition of Paul's wonder at the depth and riches of God's wisdom and knowledge had survived technology!

My First Sermon...

Clicking on the link below will play the very first sermon that I ever preached to a congregation. I had taught in Sunday school situations for over five years, but had never preached. Various circumstances, including our decision to leave Vancouver, WA for seminary, led to this opportunity. On June 6, 2004, I preached this sermon to a total of about 650 people spread across three services. I believe this audio is from the second service. If you listen to John Piper often, you will recognize much from this sermon.

Quest for Joy

Despite my inexperience, it is my prayer and hope that my passion for the Glory of God is apparent.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What Everyone Needs to Know About Stem Cells

From Chuck Colson's Breakpoint:
In October, surgeons removed 500ccs of bone marrow from Carron’s left hip. The cells were cultivated, and four hours later, 30 million stem cells were injected into the right side of Carron’s heart.

Read the result: "Your Own Stem Cells Work!"

Calvinist Resurgence

Mark Dever (and others!) have noticed a resurgence in the Doctrines of Grace (or Calvinism), especially among younger Evangelicals. In an effort to analyze this movement, Dever posted 10 blog entries detailing where all these Calvinists have come from. The following is a lengthy quote from his tenth post:

My point in this already too-long entry is not how much Arminianism changed, but how incomplete their labors were. They said God hadn’t predestined and elected the way most earlier Protestant theologians understood Scripture to teach, but they didn’t say God couldn’t. In a nominally Christian culture, Arminianism may appear to be a satisfying explanation of the problem of evil—“God’s good; it’s our fault”. But as the acids of modernity have eaten away at more and more of the Bible’s teachings and even presuppositions about God, that answer is proving woefully insufficient to more radical critics. It appears merely like moving the wrinkle in the carpet. A backslidden United Methodist may be satisfied with such teaching, but a Deist, a Buddhist or an atheist would have no reasons to be. A. C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and their like will not for a moment be satisfied with someone saying “Well, God could have made this world without suffering, but in order to be loved with dignity by free beings, He decided He must allow such sin and suffering as we experience.”

Really? Then hang being loved with dignity! Forget the whole experiment! It costs too much! Furthermore, what kind of God NEEDS to be worshipped? What kind of deity is this?!

And it’s this line of questioning that I think has quietly, deeply, perhaps subtly been re-shaping the field into one in which the half-measures of Arminianism are not even beginning to be satisfying. They are attractive to fewer and fewer people. Their adherents average age will grow even as their numbers shrink. They will be recruited mainly from the churched, and perhaps even those who’ve nurtured grievances against God, for allowing this or that to happen.

Reformed theology, on the other hand, teaches about a god who is GOD. The kind of objections that seem to motivate Arminianism are disallowed by the very presuppositions Calvinism understands the Bible to teach about God. This God is sovereign and exercises His sovereignty. This God is centered on Himself. And this God is understood to be morally good in being so Self-centered. In fact, it would be evil, wrong, deceptive for Him to be centered on anything other than His own glory. There is no apology about this.

I highly suggest you read all ten posts. Here are links:

Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 10 of 10

Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 9 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 8 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 7 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 6 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 5 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 4 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 3 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 2 of 10
Where'd all these Calvinists come from? 1 of 10

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wayward Children

Every parent's fear is to have a rebellious, wayward child. Sometimes, despite the best effort at raising a child for Christ, they rebel.

Abraham Piper was such a child. By the grace of God he has since returned and wrote this piece of advice for parents with wayward children.

Read 12 Ways to Love your Wayward Child at the DG blog.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Kids are Bored...

I remember my years in elementary school. All that I longed to do was go outside and play. Once I learned to ride a bike, we went all over the county (literally) and caught frogs and snakes and generally had a great time from sunup to sundown.

My kids, however, would rather stay inside and play. We guard the TV and greatly minimize viewing times. But while kids play Barbies or Star Wars or Legos, we can't seem to get them outside.

Read this article by Jerram Barrs with me and help me see what we can do...

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Bedtime "Ditty"

For those of you with children, we think you will appreciate this "ditty."

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Monday, August 06, 2007

For I am Not Ashamed...Wendy's Dad Goes Home

Wendy's father passed away on July 5, and our family life has been dominated by this event for the last three weeks. If you have experienced death before, you know how it brings issues of mortality to the forefront of our minds. It sweeps away the clutter surrounding death and the desensitization that we feel after watching death repeatedly on TV or in movies. Death is no longer something that simply happens on the screen, but it is real and painful and final and has consequences.

About a week before Steve died I had the opportunity to read scripture with him over the phone. He was dying of cancer, and our prayer was that Christ would sustain his faith through this process. My wife had flown out to be with him and her mother. I read to him from Philippians 1:20-21. “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” This was our prayer and Steve’s eager expectation too. He did not want to look at his life and be ashamed. When I read this passage to him, I did so with the intent that his faith be sustained until the end so that Christ would be honored in his body—either in his life or in his death, and that he would not be ashamed by his own actions.

This passage in Philippians reminded me of Romans 1:16-17, which says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Now in light of our Christian commitment to take the gospel to our neighbors and co-workers and family and friends, it is imperative that we, along with Paul, not be ashamed of the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ’s sinless life, his death, and his resurrection, opening a way that through faith we might live.

There is something very interesting connecting these two passages. They are connected because of the word “ashamed.” If I am a Christian who wants to share Christ with my neighbors and co-workers I can not be ashamed of the Gospel. Nor do I, at the end of my life, want to be ashamed by the way in which I had lived. Instead, I want to be like Paul and declare that it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that Christ will have been seen as glorious in my life. So there you have it. We should not be ashamed of the Gospel, so that when we are at the end of our life, we will not be ashamed of our conduct.

Do you notice the nuance of difference in the object of our shame in these two verses? In Romans, Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel. In Philippians, he does not want to be ashamed of himself. There is a slightly different Greek word used in the Romans text from the word used in Philippians. The word used in Romans has a meaning of being ashamed of something outside yourself. Hence, Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel. The Gospel is outside himself.
Jesus used this same word in Mark 8:38 when he said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” If we are ashamed of Jesus, who is outside us, he will also be ashamed – same word – of us when he comes in glory.

Here is an example from the life of Steve Geil. He lived a life that was NOT ashamed of the Gospel. Once, Steve and I stood in a fast-food line near a soldier recently returned from Iraq. Within moments Steve was talking Gospel to this man. Steve was not ashamed of the Gospel, even with total strangers in a public place. Here is another example. In the late seventies, early eighties, Steve ran a bus ministry for his church. On Saturdays, he would go to a neighborhood and start knocking on doors. He explained who he was and asked if he could take these people’s children to church the next day. If the people agreed, Steve would pick up their children the next morning in the church bus. Every Sunday he brought a gaggle of kids to church. All because Steve was not ashamed of the Gospel.

The second nuance of the word ashamed in Philippians has to do with being ashamed of something we are or something we do. Paul is sitting in jail and does not know whether he is going to live or die. He is writing to the Philippians and explaining to them in the first chapter how it is a good thing he is in prison because it is serving to advance the gospel. He does not really know whether he will make it out of prison alive. Paul writes, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” Here Paul does not want to be ashamed by something he does or something he is. He is concerned that Christ might NOT be honored in his life. But notice what the object of Paul’s potential shame is: it is himself. He does not want to be ashamed of his own behavior in regard to honoring Christ. Instead, he both expects—eagerly—and hopes that Christ will be honored in both his life and his death.

Whereas in Romans, Paul is not ashamed of something external, the gospel, here he does not want to be ashamed of something internal, his behavior. The same Greek word used in Philippians is used by John in 1 John 1:28. “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” John is exhorting his church to abide in Christ, so that they won’t be ashamed for their behavior if they don’t abide in him. Do you see the difference in the object of shame?

Here is another example from the life of my father-in-law. He died in his bed, while his wife gently wiped his faith with a cool cloth. His last words in this life were, “That feels good. Thank you, Jesus.” And then he stopped breathing. His last words in this life honored Christ. His prayer, our prayer was answered in that whether in life or in death, Christ was honored in his body. But there is more. I don’t know how many people attended the funeral, maybe 250? During the time of reflection, when people stood up to say some last words, there was a recurring theme. “I am here because Steve Geil knocked on my door and took my kids to Sunday school.” “I am here because when I told Steve I couldn’t come to church because I had to roof my house, he got out of his car and helped me finish the job so that I would not have an excuse. I came to church.” “I am a Christian because Steve Geil was not ashamed of the gospel.” “I am here because Steve Geil told me about Jesus.”

I believe that when Steve crossed over from this life to the life to come, his eager expectation and hope became a reality. In both his life and his death he was not ashamed, because he had lived a life and died a death that brought glory to Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 03, 2007

God is Sovereign...Down to the Details

On Wednesday afternoon, August 1, 2007, at approximately 6:05 PM, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi river collapsed. It was also my first day of full-time work at Bethlehem Baptist Church after a 21-year career in civil engineering. I put in a full day, and due to some emails, I left later than I would have normally. I had told Wendy I would be home at 6:00 PM, but noticed the clock in the car was 5:52 PM when I drove out the parking lot. I navigated the downtown traffic and merged onto I-35W. I called Wendy to tell her I would be late as I crossed the bridge. I looked at the clock, 6:00 PM. I drove home, had dinner with my wife and kids, and did not know of the tragedy that happened moments behind me until around 8:30 PM that evening.

How can we not believe in a sovereign God who causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on both the just and the unjust? He knows the numbers of hairs on our heads and a sparrow doesn't fall apart from him. He ordains fish to swallow wayward prophets and worms to eat the roots of shade bearing plants. He stores snow and controls whirlwinds. He keeps bushes from burning and brings empires down with plagues. God is an awesome God.

The number one question that I should ask is why did the bridge not fall while I was on it? I am a sinner just like everyone else on the bridge. This is, as Jesus says in Luke 13:1-5, a warning call for repentance. O my Lord, I repent. Thank you for sparing my life and giving me a few more days. Please, in your sovereignty, cause them to be glorifying to you.

Please read what my pastor wrote about the bridge collapse. It is worth your time. You can read it here.