Books and Men

Yeah... today I fed my addiction.  To be honest I gave in weeks ago...  My books from Desiring God arrived; Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure and God is the Gospel.  They will be good reads in the coming months (I first need to read for my Modern Christian Writers class).  I trust that they will be edifying, as always John Piper is always gospel centered and preaches the message of grace.  

I am going to be transparent.  Not really a good thing on the internet.  There is one thing that I really crave, and that is genuine fellowship that Christian brothers can have.  When men can come together and share their struggles, encourage one another, cry with one another, running together.... doing things together and training together in this spiritual battle that we are in.  My Christian Sisters, you are great and I love the fellowship that I have with each and everyone of you.  We are all to war together, not against each other.  But there comes a moment when the relationship that we each need is only fulfilled by relationships with our own gender.  That is how God designed us.  It is a known fact that 2 are better than 1, 10 are better than 6 in a battle.  Because of the nature of Spiritual warfare we need each other.  

What should relationships and friendships look like for a Christian??
(1) be Christ centered.  I don't care if you are a democrat or a republican, I don't care.  What I care about is if you love Jesus Christ and follow the ideals He set for us.  The Gospel is for every single kind of person that exists on this planet.  Look at the 12 disciples to see this.  Simon was a zealot, a revolutionary... When we read of Simon think of a guy who wanted to change the world by force with his sword.  On the other hand we have Matthew, this dude worked for the IRS of the Roman Empire!  Peter went to trade school - he was a fisherman.  It is clear that the gospel is for people of all classes, and the theme of Acts is that believing Gentiles are now saved as well.  Look also at the sheer amount of believing women in the gospels and Acts.... the gospel is for women too... It is great! 
(2) focus on Christ - when you do you will want to remove those things that distract you from being the man (or woman) that God wants you to be.  
(3) have fun and enjoy the great gifts and pleasures that God has given us.  God created a whole world full of tiny little things.  (the Arts- music and movies, sports- basketball, soccer, etc., humor, cooking, you fill in the blank) 
(4) be honest with each other.  We need one another.  I need you.  I need someone's shoulder to cry on.  Honesty is clearly a virtue that God desires and takes great pleasure in. Our lives are so much easier when we communicate clearly and are forthright with what is going on.  God uses friends to sharpen us.  As Iron sharpens Iron.... Honesty only aids us in our pursuit of holiness.
(5) Trust in God.  David found it through the fellowship of God's Spirit at the deepest points of His life.  While it is true that man will let you down, God will never.  But the principle is still the same.  We need to trust in men and open ourselves to critique and failure.  Christ was betrayed by men and let down by those who were closest to Him.  Jesus Christ can identify with us completely and knows exactly what we are going through.  


12 steps to become like Jesus

As I work at the mission and in the context of addiction recovery, I learn a lot about popular Christian psychology regarding addiction. I don't like what I see and hear because it is works oriented. At the core of this Pop Christian psychology you find that there are twelve easy steps to become like Christ. Someone out there took the 12 steps that Alcoholics Anonymous uses and applied a spiritual message to them. They are as follows:

(1) recognize your brokeness
(2) the birth of faith
(3) Allowing God to guide your life
(4) self examine yourself
(5) Confession of sins
(6) inner transformation - aka 'repentance'
(7) purification of character
(8) examine your relationships and prepare to make amends with others
(9) the discipline of making amends
(10) maintaining progress in your recovery
(11) prayer and meditate
(12) ministry

As you can see it sounds really biblical. But is it? Is there such a thing as a roadmap to Christian living? 12 basic steps to be perfect. My main beef however is that halfway through the list of Christian living is repentance... Scripture teaches that all of life is repentance... Turning from our idols and addictions (they are synonymous) and looking to Christ. That is not recovery... The semantics of the word seem to stress that when you recover you return to your original state as a human. Instead repentance teaches that you turn from evil to good, from sin to perfection.

'Repentance is the way we make progress in the Christian life. Indeed, pervasive all-of-life repentance is the best sign we are growing deeply and rapidly into Jesus. The purpose of this kind of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of our union with Christ in order to weaken anything contrary to God's heart. [read idolatry]'
- Tim Keller


religious pluralism anyone?

On my commute to work this morning a nice blue bumber sticker on the back of a jeep caught my attention. One because it was very creative and i had to focus to make out the message, the other reason why it caught my attention was that it was advocating for religious pluralism, or relativity, pragmatic belief... whatever you know it by. I call it religious pluralism due to the influence of Harold Netlands book.

Undeniably American culture today is a realm of relativism, postmodernism, and pragmatic beliefs. Christians add to this confusion as we struggle to understand how to reach the culture for Christ's crown. A worldview like this is a direct challenge to the gospel message! It robs God of His glory and sets up man as god... no matter what the faith, religion, etc. All paths lead to heaven. It is a threat to the message of salvation... that mankind can only find redemption through Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Wouldn't it be a beautiful world if Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism all led to heaven? Sure it would be, IF the focus was not on Christ or God's glory. GK Chesterson once said,
"I will not curse God for not having multiple ways to heaven, instead I will praise Him for having one."
Religious Pluralism and Universalism only succeeds and satisfies the mind if the motivation and reasoning for that worldview is misplaced in someone or something else other than God.

To close let me say that religious pluralism adds a lot of confusion to the spiritual scene. If all roads lead to heaven, is there a better way than another? Is Christianity the best or is Islam? Who is the author of evil in the world? Is it one of the gods, or a consequence of man's free will? As you think about it more, universalism and pluralism arise out of a desire to see all people go to heaven- no matter what the cost, even if it is at the expense of God's glory.


How to reach the culture (by Tim Keller)

First, remember that post-everything people like narrative and story. They tend not to like the older kind of preaching that simply enunciated doctrinal principles. Neither are they excited about the newer user-friendly sermons of seeker-churches on how to handle fear, how to balance your life, and so on. So, do we throw overboard everything we have done? Absolutely not. We turn to Geerhardus Vos who says that every single part of the Bible is really about Jesus. If you know how to do Christ-centered preaching, then you turn every single sermon into a kind of story. The plot of the human dilemma thickens, and the hero that comes to the rescue is Jesus. Christ-centered preaching converts doctrinal lectures or little how-to talks into true sermons. Post-everythings who are interested in narrative are reached by such preaching that is deeply Reformed.

Second, remember that post-everythings are experientially oriented. They do not just want intellectual propositions. For them lifes meaning is grounded in what they experience. Of course, as Reformed Christians we are very word-centered, and we know that eternal truth is not based on our subjective experience of it. But Reformed preachers have a tremendous resource for an experience-oriented generation in Jonathan Edwards. Edwards taught that a sermon should not only make truth clear, but also should make truth real. In Edwards we find ways to preach that are Reformed, committed to objective truth and, at the same time, deeply experiential.

Third, remember that post-everythings are very much against moralism and self-righteousness. But Reformed preachers have Martin Luther to help with this concern. Traditional gospel presentations assume that the people want to be good. But our kids generation wants to be free. Luther said, "Look, you want to be free? Good. It's good to be free. But you are not. You are living for something and, whatever that something is, it enslaves you." If a person lives for reputation, then he is a slave to what people think. If a person lives for achievement, then he will be a workaholic. As did Luther, we should tell such people, You want to be free? Fine. But you are not going to be free unless Jesus is your salvation. When post-everythings rejected Christianity they thought moralism and Christianity were the same thing. But we can show post-everythings that the two are not the same, and that freedom really is in Jesus.

Fourth, take note of post-everythings concern for social justice. They innately sense that the church is not credible without care for mercy and justice. We can address these concerns with the wisdom of Hermann Ridderbos and other Reformed theologians who stress the coming of and the presence of the Kingdom. The Reformed understanding of salvation is not simply that God is rescuing individual souls out of the material world, but rather he is also redeeming all of creation. God is going to bring complete healing and shalom to the material world eventually. This makes Christianity (as C.S. Lewis says)a fighting religion against poverty, hunger, and illiteracy. We must bring this Kingdom message of Reformed theology to post-everythings.

Fifth, recognize that post-everythings love art because they love the material world. Abraham Kuyper's understanding of Reformed theology enables us to say to post-everythings, Christianity is not just a way for you as an individual to get peace, love and groovy vibes in Heaven. Christianity is a comprehensive worldview. You can be a Christian artist, dancer, manager, or minister and these are all ways of living out the gospel. When post-everythings hear that, they get extremely excited. They have never considered that Christianity embraces the whole of life.

Finally, remember that post-everythings are not strongly swayed by evidences and proofs. If you start to present evidence for the deity of Christ or the proofs of God, post-everything eyes will glaze over. But the
presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til can work with post-everythings. I think Reformed theology provides us with tools for our culture that Josh McDowell's kind of evidential apologetics does not.

read the whole thing here


I began to believe or at least live out that Jesus was not empathetic for me, that Jesus was not for me.  That Jesus is some sort of task master that I was trying to please him.  It was if He said to me, 'if this church tanks, I love you.  If you lose your vocal chords, I love you.  If no one hears the gospel, I love you.' My love for you is not based on your success for me.  If you dont get this, that in this moment that everything unravels on us.... you are going to be among the [failed] stats of ruined church plants.  You are going to be shot because you are not bulletproof.  If you dont get that Christ is saying right beside you, I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH, you will die.  He walked what we walk, if we dont get this... we are running from Christ, not to.. And the release that we find will kill us.  If you get to that place that the gravity of the world, of this calling, that death works in us that life works in others... if you dont get that Christ is there for you... you will die because you dont find help in Christ.   Somewhere you began to believe that Christ was not an empathetic person there for you, instead He is a person to avoid...

- Matt Chandler
taken from Gravity: the weight of pastoring and the knowledge of Christ (Resurgence)


We do not have to make ourselves suffer in order to merit forgiveness. We simply receive the forgiveness earned by Christ. 1 John 1:8 says that God forgives us because He is ‘just.’ That is a remarkable statement. It would be unjust of God to ever deny us forgiveness, because Jesus earned our acceptance! In religion we earn our forgiveness with our repentance, but in the gospel we just receive it.

- Tim Keller


"The essence of idolatry is not so much the denial of the reality of God, as it is the denial of the relevance of God."  

- Iain Duguid 


"Satan is real, hell is real, people are dying, sin is alive, repentance is needed, healing is necessary and people need a Jesus who bears a sword and fights for them and men pursuing death for the same cause."

-Anthony Bradley

[HT] Sam Desocio


Sproul on Penal Substitution

It seems that Penal Substitution is the new rage. If you want to know what I mean look, here, here, and here. The excerpt is on my book list now... along with Stott's "The Cross of Christ," Murray's "Redemption Accomplished and Applied," and of course "Pierced for our Transgressions."

In some instances, the prevailing indifference to the cross mutates into outright hostility. I once was asked to deliver a lecture explaining the relationship between the old and new covenants. In the course of delivering this lecture, I referred to Christ's death as a substitutionary, vicarious sacrifice for the sins of others. To my surprise, someone in the back of the room yelled out, "That's primitive and obscene." I was taken aback for a moment, so I asked, "What did you say?" He said it again with great hostility: "That's primitive and obscene." At that point, I had recovered from my surprise, and I told the man I actually liked his choice of adjectives. It is primitive for a blood sacrifice to be made to satisfy the justice of a transcendent and holy God, but sin is a primitive thing that is basic to our human existence, so God chose to communicate His love, mercy, and redemption to us through his primitive work. And the cross is an obscenity, because all of the corporate sin of God's people was laid on Christ. The cross was the ugliest, most obscene thing in the history of the world. So I thanked the man for his observation. (pp. 10-11)

[HT: Justin Taylor]


Church is for Sinners (pt. 3)

It is amazing God builds His church.

Ever wonder why the church grows? It truly is nothing short of a miracle. The other day I was sharing the gospel with a young lady and boom! She took every rabbit trail possible that I fell for. Yesterday I was giving the gospel message in chapel at the mission. It was my first time really giving an effort at preaching.. if we can call it that. Responses varied from sitting still to a few attentive faces. I guess that is what happens on any given Sunday in church. This makes sense though when everyone wants a god to fit in our god shaped hole in our hearts, yet people choose anyone and everyone else other than the true King of Kings.

Another miracle is that the church does not fall apart. I believe that anyone who understands sin and the heart of men believes this, and which is why grace is so amazing in biblical theology. It is God's precious grace and His love that keeps men from sin and idolatry even though we do struggle. Matthew 16:18 offers a great promise, "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

You really do need to love the great sovereignty of God, specifically in light of how everything falls together despite of our sin. God is sovereign. Here is the beauty of biblical theology (Its commonly known as Calvinism). God ordains what we are all going to do, He ordained that I would work at Light of Life, my relationship with Jen, my love of rice krispees and orange juice, to my feet being tired at the time I am writing this. God's sovereignty and faithfulness to His promises is what builds the church. Not us, for we are sinners. Not the latest fads and trends in the church. Its all about Christ and the gospel. Its Jesus Christ Himself who brings people to salvation, not us or the preacher.

humbling isn't it?


An Urgent Call to Stand

Book Review: Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

A few days ago I met with a friend, Sam Desocio and he kindly lent me Confessions of a Reformission Rev. by Mark Driscoll. Well, I read it, in the space of 3 days. Which was slightly impressive considering I went home and church, visited Jen, and did some other things as well. Though I have a book that I still need to finish reading after not touching it for 4 weeks. (sad)

The Overview:

This book is part autobiography of Driscoll's first 10 years of church planting, and part biography of the life of Mars Hill. Confessions is meant to school people and to assist in training men to be church planters.. Driscoll ultimately says, "learn from my failures." Which he shows himself as he is, a sinner through the lense of Scripture.

The Bad News:

Like Tony Campolo, Mark needs to watch his mouth. Driscoll points out that he is known as the cussing pastor and his book reflects his personality using words that could be considered as crude. Also Driscoll sees the constant need to reorganize Mars Hill... I don't necessarily see that paradigm in Scripture. (Though the apostles changed the way ministry was done with the concept of elders and deacons - it is something that merits further study.)

The good news:

I like Driscoll, despite the crude language. I trust the readers of the book are male adults (primarily). For those outside that category I would say he uses crude language. (At times John Piper does that). But I like Mark because he raises good questions and points out several flaws within evangelicalism. His preface contains 10 questions that pastors and church leaders should consider for the ministry Christ has given them.

more good news:

1.) Driscoll is a theological calvinist, he loves and preaches election and sovereign grace. Which is fantastic!!

2.) He says that he sees more biblical evidence for unicorn led churches instead of congregationally led churches (decent understanding of church officers)

3.) Holds a very robust and solid Christology (in a day and age where Christ is seen as a hippie, this is sorely needed. Remember I do work in a homeless mission, so I am told that I am to leave my Christology at the door. I like seeing Acts 3,4 boldness.)

4.) Christocentric preaching - he sees himself as a missiologist and an evangelist.

5.) big on training church planters

6.) gaining greater acceptance from the reformed community (Keller, Piper, Harris)

In Short -- Good Book, Good Questions, and while I may disagree with those conclusions, Driscoll's focus is seeing people come to know Christ. Which is done in a way that glorifies Christ and sees Him in a beautiful and precious way... which is to be applauded.


It is a completely weird religion we have; all other religions have a god that requires merit or a sacrifice at least. For a baby sin you bring a mouse, for a big sin you bring an elephant. But in Christianity you have God who says sin is sin, you cannot bring anything to atone for it. God is pissed at me but He loves the world He created and sent His son to atone for you. God presents the wrath-bearer for us on His own initiative.

Dr. Schaefer


Relentless Grace's 100th Post

(its so exciting I can't think straight, so here is a modern day hymn by the Getty's, which by the way sums up the blog.)

IN CHRIST ALONE my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
–For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
–Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!


Reformission: Reaching Out without Selling Out

I promised a few days ago a review of Driscoll's book Confessions of Reformission Rev. This is not it, instead it is an overview of Mark's biggest theme which is in another book.

As Reformission combines the best aspects of each type of Christianity. (The Gospel, The Culture, and The Church) Living in the tension of being culturally liberal yet theologically conservative Christians and churches who are absolutely driven by the gospel of grace to love their Lord, their neghbors, and their fellow Christians. (pp. 15)

Driscoll has three basic presuppositions, one is about culture, the other about the church, and the last is about the gospel. And these assumptions all intertwine. It is the the gospel transforms people, creating the church, thus transforming culture. Driscoll teaches that Gospel Christians will take up the good news and live it out in their lives in a godly way. He is not alone on this presumption - Tim Keller, John Piper, Josh Harris, Mark Dever, DA Carson, and many others preach the same message.

It is a beautiful message to preach and certainly grasps the biblical understanding of how Christians are to reach the world. Driscoll sums it up as... reformission begins with a simple return to Jesus, who, by grace saves us and sends us into reformission. Jesus has called us to the gospel (loving our Lord), the culture (loving our neighbor), and the church (loving our Christian brothers and sisters.)

The Parachurch fails here being a simple formula that sacrifices the church (gospel + culture - church). And Liberalism skews Christ as it burns the gospel (Culture + Church - Gospel). And our fundamentalists say the church and gospel has nothing to do with culture (Gospel + Church - Culture). All in all it sounds a lot like R. Niehbur's Christ and Culture models.


When I was younger I got a happy meal at McDonald's once and the toy was a cheap transformer. That was the extent of my morphing car toys (I know... it is sad.) Instead I picked up legos. But I am glad that Hollywood did not turn my aquanauts into a movie and instead when with the cult classic, Transformers.

Being that summer is the seasons for movies, yesterday I went out with Jen to see Transformers. I looked forward to watching it since I saw the trailer. Short story - it was great. The transformers were not the main actors, instead brought Even Steven's Shia LaBeouf and Tad Hamilton's Josh Duhamel (Jen noticed that one) to the big screen. I appreciated this and brought more than just special effects to theaters, acting, plot and theme were all huge parts of the film.

Topics of this visual sermon included loyalty, friendship and commitment. There are negetive aspects as well, with Shia and his female counterpart being highschoolers you have some high school humor, but that only goes to show you the reality of the characters and helps people identify. And just to have that Hollywood element of teenage sensuality.

My kid sister saw it and loved it, so did my buddy Seth (the Mountain Man), so if my word is not good enough for ya there are two more. Harry Potter and Bourne Ultimatum are the next blockbusters to come, But I am not sure which is better of the three... Ocean's 13, Transformers or Live Free or Die hard as they are all in their own genre and world.


I read this and thought that Driscoll summed up my walk with God... though I really need to work at the discipline and joy of conversing with God. (Prayer)

Functionally my devotional life is a bit mystical, like Jonathan Edwards' was, so it would make most charismatic Christians happy even though I've never spoken in tongues. I spend a lot of time in prayer, silence, solitude, study, and the other contemplative disciplines to hear from and connect with Jesus. I do believe that God is sovereign over all of life and the Holy Spirit will guide me through all of life as I walk in step with him. Corporately, however, I have struggled with how to more effectively implement prayer church wide. (Mark Driscoll pp. 169 from Confessions of a Reformission Rev.)


John McClain, Morphing Cars and Driscoll

Last week I had the blessing to hang out with my fellow Light of Life Interns several times. One moment was when we went out to watch Live Free or Die Hard. I highly recommend seeing this one - it is definitely better than any of the past three. The script has a lot less swearing in it (a flaw in the previous 3!) and has several very good messages in it (family, being a father, loyalty). In the end as the credits roll by you think.... John McClain is the man.

other movies to watch:
TRANSFORMERS in 2 days!!! I played with these as a kid, watched the cartoons. First as they were sweet drawings then when they were 3-d and computer generated... I think i just admitted watching cartoons when I was 12.

PS. Book review of Driscoll's coming up in the next few days and more thoughts on church and the gospel. It is a good book, good questions are raised, but I don't like his conclusions, and methodology.