Christian Self Help pt. 2

An addendum to my last post.

I was thinking of the very exclusive nature of self help these days. You read a book to fix your marriage, deal with grief, figure out your troubled teenager, etc. And voila, apply it on your own time, pace, whatever you are comfortable with. This is trouble and forgets the importance of relationships. Our non Christian friends realize this when they go to Dr. Phil or Oprah - they seek someone else's counsel and assistance. I would be lost without my parents, sisters or girlfriend when it comes to my life. I would be a lot more selfish and arrogant than not when I have loved ones telling me in love of my sin. As 'iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen friends.' This is the role of the church - to love each other and assist in helping our growth as little Christs. We are in need of change (we are sinners) and the chief way God brings about change is through believers preaching His word.

its really a beautiful portrait.


Christian Self Help

From my friend Nate Day...

i have extracurricular study to suggest: christian "self-help".

it's a combination of using philosophy and psychology to solve the problems we face like a death in the family or a mid-life crisis, specifically from a christian standpoint, rather than the drugs or paid professionals that people are much more readily willing to utilize in this day and age. you could even call it "self-counseling". i just ran into this book called "Plato, not Prozac" that gives a wonderful argument for using philosophy on a practical level like self-help and avoidance of creating your own problems, but it glosses too quickly over any specific philosophy. "very stimulating," as Dr Campbell might say.
Christian "self help" is a marvelous concept, but when Christians want to talk about self help these days it always seems to be getting away from Scripture. I assert and believe that the Bible is sufficient for living a life that is pleasing unto God. That I can relate 100% to the Christ and other characters in Scripture. However, I believe that psychology is a 'useful adjunct' - to quote Jay Adams. It is a question of how does Christianity and Psychology relate or integrate. (very minimally). there are over 200 thearapeutic systems out there offering support and help to anyone who would hear their message. Scripture can tell me more about humanity than Carl Jung, BF Skinner, Darwin, Freud or anyone. 2 years ago I did a paper on Freud's view of anthropology and human sexuality, talk about twisted. What he and other psychologists proclaim is proven historically and biblically. Rich Ganz proves this well in his book, psychobabble. (this gentleman taught counseling for years, and before his conversion was a psychologist.)

As a useful adjunct, however, psychology assists in determining outward consequences of sin on the mind, life and family. If a person is arrogant and proud that will reveal itself in one's life. Lust can tear apart one's family and relationships.

Philosophy is rather useless in comforting people who are grieving. When philosophy (proper) comes into the discussion of theology and what the bible says, the gospel goes through the shredder. That is because over all philosophy starts with the wrong questions. Descartes noted, "I think therefore I am." Rouseau commented, "I feel therefore I am." It is clear that the major philosophies of today all start with.... me (very narcisttic).

On the issue of grief - scripture speaks profoundly to that reality. Most likely Jesus lost his father, how did He handle it? David lost his son, and after his death how did he handle it? Same with Jacob over Joseph, Abraham over Isaac - though Isaac was not killed (almost). How does God relate to these men? What message did the prophets have for them? David rejoiced that his son was with God. Jer. 19:11 and Romans 8:28 are huge in developing a theology for the hurting and grieving. God is sovereign and we are sinnners. As we sin, we bring havoc to this world, yet all the while God works out His plans for the good of His people - His kingdom. That is the answer to the question of evil.

Ultimately the quesiton is, "How does God relate to you?" This must be examined by finding out how Scripture can relate to me, you, and everyone who is on planet earth. How did God relate to the sailors, Assyrians and Jonah in that OT book? Or in the NT, How did Christ act toward the 12 disciples?


When I consider the NT passages pertaining to church leaders, two offices emerge, the elders and deacons.  It is clear that there are other words for elders (bishop, overseer), which give a certain vision of that position.  On the other hand the deaconate is only described as the deacons.  

Overseers must be men.  Scripture is clear that women are not to have authority over men in church matters and affairs.  There are many people who want to challenge this notion today by calling it archaic and old fashioned, but they would rather hold to the worldly ideal of progression instead of honoring God's word by obeying it.  The Bible takes a mallet and slams the feminist portrait of their eldership.  It is that clear.  Men are to be the leaders in the home and in the church, as they lead their spouses and families to Christ they are to be like Christ to the Church.  

Men are to be the overseers of the church, utilizing their gifts to advance the kingdom of God.  Leading their people to be more like Christ, curing their souls with the tonic of the gospel.  Preaching Christ and Him crucified at everyone, anywhere and everywhere they go.  That is their primary role.  It is the mission of the church to go into all nations making disciples of Jesus Christ.   The fact is that the elders must lead, not in a trustee sense of the word figuring budget needs and what not.  Instead, whether it is in prayer meeting, preaching, evangelism, Gospel Classes or Sunday School, small groups, etc, they must make Christ the focus of the church.

I have the greatest girlfriend in the world. (I am very biased). This past weekend I was at her house and we played tennis and rock climbed. It was so cool and lots of fun.

School begins in one week exactly and am looking forward to it with much delight. My man Seth is already here for RA training and other students who worship at Rose Point are here for various reasons. As the school year dawns on us, we are searching for ideas on what to do for the college ministry and wondering how are we going to do our Bible study - i know it sounds simple but it really is not :-) But a great opportunity is that GCC invited Rose Point this year to come to their church fair on August 31. that is going to be fun


Beer, Piercings, Smoking, and Tattoos...

I've been thinking about this topic all summer. The area of Pittsburgh where I lived was a location where everyone had tattoos. (Yes everyone). Bars where literally every other building on Liberty Avenue, and a friend of mine has his very own brewery. Are tattoos appropriate for Christians? Should believers drink? Is it right for the faithful to smoke? Very often those who profess Christ think that because they don't have a sip of alcohol they will see the pearl gates.

I would like to suggest that it is ok for believers to do any and all of the above with the following conditions and questions. First with piercings. It is necessary to utilize cultural wisdom on this issue as in many African nations an ear piercing means that you are a slave. But in America and Britain, it is the norm for ladies and a good number of men as well. Especially in the inner city culture. Most Christians affirm that it is A-OK to get ears pierced, but don't say anything is ok beyond that. To be consistent, if it is ok to get your ears done, then why not anything else? I would argue it is because they are not comfortable allowing those because they are outside their culture. (Again use Cultural Wisdom)

Smoking and Beer are on the same silver platter in this discussion. A lot of theologians and pastors make an excellent argument for moderation, and that is the biblical standard that I see as most valid and biblical. (Check out Mark Driscoll on this in his book The Radical Reformission.)

Finally is an issue much more tricky, yet I say that getting a tattoo is an issue of Christian liberty, just like the previous three issues. In the very same verse that Christians use against tattoos, Moses outlaws piercings... so why the inconsistency? I would argue it stems because it is outside their culture and lacks history within the church, though some ascetic groups burned marks into their skin.

It is imperative that one uses cultural wisdom, but it is also important to discern biblically your heart and motives. Cultural wisdom is necessary is necessary because often tattoos can stigmatize you from your family, friends, community, essentially your culture. But it is more important to ask questions of the heart.
(1) What are your motives?
---is it rebellion against God, family, your culture?
---is it to express your individuality?
---do you believe that it is how you can best glorify God?
(2) Would it become a barrier to sharing the Gospel to your surrounding culture? or help?

As you search your heart to see if any of the four issues would cause you to fall into sin, or lead others to sin, then don't smoke, drink, pierce or get inked. But if it is the other case entirely then figure out if your culture permits it, then why not?

But in my jet, just get a Henna redone every month :-p But I am looking forward to the next Ask John Podcast from Desiring God, as it deals with this very issue.

Here is something on my mind: If we are fascinated or excited about anything more than the fact that the Son of God voluntarily suffered in our place, bearing the guilt our sins deserved, then we are in big trouble. I get the impression that many today -- both in the broadly evangelical world and in the Reformed world -- are rather bored with the cross of Christ and the justification of sinners through faith alone. But there is no greater mystery and no more glorious theme than this. Do we get bored hearing the "same old gospel?" If so, our ministries and our lives are heading for big trouble. In my opinion, there would be no more powerful influence in our lives and our churches than for us sincerely to exclaim with Paul: May I never boast except in the cross of Christ Jesus my Lord.
- Richard Phillips

[HT] Shepherd's Scrapbook

The only way to rescue our world. (is the gospel)

if you have some thoughts on church leadership, check out my previous post.
Words from Mark Driscoll, Radical Reformission (pp. 108)

St. Paul calls sin the mystery of iniquity, and human history has proven him right. The problem with every culture is not ultimately out there in the culture, but is within the people of the culture. This mystery of the crookedness of the human nature has puzzled lost people in the culture so fully that we now have a veritable army of counselors and psycologists armed with some two hundred different therapeutic systems trying to straighten people out. These systems speculate that the causes of our imperfection range from an unconscious mind filled with primal urges (Sigmund Freud), to a collective unconsciousness from our racial history (Carl Jung), to our environmental (emotional and physical) conditioning (BF Skinner), to the lack of awareness of our inner goodness (Carl Rogers). All we are missing is a theory in which a magic bunny - hidden deep in the drink cooler of a Provo, Utah, convenience store - is the center of an invisible web of mind control causing human beings to do terrible things to one another. Reformission requires that God's people address sin theologically.

First to change a culture, we must change the people in that culture. The question that arises is whether people do what they are, or if they are what they do. The answer to this is imperative, because if we are what we do then all we need to do is train people to act differently and they will change themselves. ... The unredeemed heart is a glutton for sin and death. Only God can give a person a new heart, one with new desires for a redeemed life that contributes to a transformed culture

We must begin by bringing the gospel to people so that they can be given a new heart out of which a Christian life flows. As more people live out of their new heart, new families, churches, businesses, and governments will result that together will transform culture.


questions on church leadership

Recently I started a personal study on "what does the Bible say about church leaders." I was born and raised a presbyterian, and believe in ordination. My driving question is, "are there multiple levels of the eldership or deaconate?" Along with this I have other questions in mine - such as, "What is the role of the Old Testament models of leadership (King, Prophet, Priest) for the New Administration of Grace?" "How do the leaders relate to one another?" "What is the role and need of denominations?" Considering the rise of such movements as Together for the Gospel, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, etc.

This study was sparked by a few comments my friend Sam DeSocio made regarding the differences between the OPC, RPCNA and the PCA. Now, I am not a theonomist by any stretch of the imagination as I see a fulfillment in the civil and ceremonial laws with Christ's atoning death, yet I believe in a covenantal understanding of the scriptures. Therefore the Old Testament has some value and is needed in any discussion of leaders.

thoughts? any questions to add? Scripture passages or books to refer to?

Francis Schaeffer

Two beauties from Francis Schaeffer

"Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting."

"Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world"


Why so many Calvinists?

Mark Dever from Church Matters finished a 10 part series today on why there are so many Calvinists in the church. It is an excellent list though it is hard to just choosing 10.... Dever did an excellent job. Especially when one considers that Calvinists are growing in the Southern Baptist Convention and also the Calvinists are seizing many national conferences. (Sproul, MacArthur, Piper, Zacharias, Mahaney, Driscoll, Keller, Mohler)

1. Charles Spurgeon
2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
3. Banner of Truth Trust - Which was started as a publisher for Lloyd-Jones's works and sermons, along with other Puritan works.
4. Evangelism Explosion (D. James Kennedy)
5. Defense of Inerrancy (RC Sproul had a huge role in this)
6. The Presbyterian Church of America
7. Packer's Knowing God
8. John MacArthur and RC Sproul
9. John Piper (!!)
10. The Rise of Secularism and the Decline of Christian Nominalism

Here are the short essays.

more than gratitude

“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility….I have tried…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different…Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun….If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.” (as quoted in, When I Don’t Desire God, by John Piper)

[HT] The Mahaney Girls


Missional Evangelism

I have one professor at college who believes that Christians should have as little contact with unbelievers as possible. Which makes this notion further right field is that he is the religion department. Sad, especially since he is a pastor as well.

Recently I picked up The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll, in which he critiques the evangelical church's method of sharing the gospel. One criticism he made is that door to door evangelism is more like, "Duck, Duck, Damned." In a rather literal sense, because one expects a person to come to a saving faith because of the information that you present before them. Instead, what we see Christ doing is preaching truth and grace wherever he goes, but he focuses on those who he has a relationship with.

How should we share the gospel then?
1.) Love Christ with our whole being
2.) Show Christ's love by being faithful to Him in all things: including relationships and truth
--This implies that we should make friends with believers and unbelievers alike, as we do so we need to guard our hearts to keep our hearts from sinning.
3.) demonstrate authentic faith in Christ through all of your life, we need to lean on him as we struggle.
4.) the gospel is instead presented naturally in the context of friendship (through word and deed). Live a Christ centered life, lean on Him through all failings, look to Him through all things, with this lifestyle you will naturally share His love with others.
5.) trust in God to do the work as He pleases (After all He called all who believe in Him, to Him.)


Sin Boldly?

Martin Luther, the humble father of the reformation, penned a tract to his ardent disciple Philip when he was doubting his assurance. As always Luther's words were rather countercultural to moralism and legalism, which was predominant to the Catholic church of his day. He is by no means arguing for antinomianism or a 'sin that grace may abound' gospel. Here are his words:
If you are a preacher of Grace, then preach a true, not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. For he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin. This life in not the dwelling place of righteousness but, as Peter says, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. . . . Pray boldly-you too are a mighty sinner.

God saves real sinners. (Praise the Lord)


A little attempt at discerning The 300

Earlier this week I rented The 300.  A movie based on the historical battle of Thermopolae. King Leonidas and his 300 body guards against 1,000,000 Persians.  Leo chose a very strategic point to fight the Persians.  In the end, the Spartans died but caused the Persians to abandon their campaign.  

The movie was ok.... Most of the complaints about the movie is how it is almost entirely effects.  Which is true, as it was purpsoefully made that way in a warehouse.  But that is not my beef, instead I find an anti Christian message preached.  Allow me to explain...  

Persian heralds and emissaries praise their emperor, Xerxes, as the King of Kings and the Lord of Hosts.  This is biblical language, it might be a literary device just for arts sake.  But I am not entirally sure as the Spartans did not want to submit to this "King of Kings" as it would infringe upon their lifestyle.  Constrain them to a certain way of life and follow the Persian gods, but most of all worship the emperor as a deity.  At one time Xerxes is describing himself as a loving and merciful leader who only requires his followers to kneel, while Leonidas requires his to stand.  


Frogs are better then men

I have heard it said, "God did not die for frogs. So He was responding to our value as humans." This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs, they have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in our lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They are not bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great only divine sacrifice can pay it.

-John Piper from For Your Joy