Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My 401k

I decided to retire. I cashed out my 401k and bought some books: BDAG, 1-3 John, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, and Adopted for Life.

A sound investment. And money left over to help with rent.

Tree of the Week

Ok, I know I said I was discontinuing this portion of the blog, but this tree is too cool to not bring back the "Tree of the Week" for one last hurrah.

Read more about this tree and others like it at National Geographic.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Turn Off Your Cell Phones...

...or you may have Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig telling you to pick up during their Broadway show, A Steady Rain.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Did I Really Just Do That?

I just had a "did I really just do that?" moment:

I took the trash out wearing socks and flip-flops.

Changing Translations

I have often asked this question: if someday I am a pastor, how will I address particular subtle changes that may be a point of stumbling for a portion of the congregation?

In this video, John Piper is asked about changing from KJV to a more contemporary translation. I found the principles communicated in his answer, although brief, to be helpful in answering the question that I posed at the outset.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Doug Wilson talks Collision

Here is a nice follow up to yesterday's post.

Last night Doug Wilson spoke at the Desiring God National Conference about the debate between himself and Christopher Hitchens. This may be a more helpful tool for those who have actually watched the documentary, but you can always come back to this interview once you watch the film.

Again, Collision is due out October 27.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hitchens vs Wilson

I am excited to watch this:

Collision is due to be released on October 27; you can pre-order it at Amazon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A.T. Robertson and Charles Simeon

Seventy-five years ago today A.T. Robertson died, but not before leaving his imprint on the history of New Testament scholarship. Robertson was arguably The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's most prolific professor. His classes are legend here at Southern and his influence was wide-spread. His Shorter Grammar was the favorite of Pope John XXIII and congregations across the United States eagerly awaited his arrival to hear him preach. The tragedy of Robertson's life was his inability to engage his own family; his daughter was an agnostic and his son never expressed interest in Spiritual things. It is a stern warning concerning the family life of the proclaimers of God's Word.

Also on this day, 250 years ago, Charles Simeon was born. Simeon is a hero of mine as he was the model of perseverance. He served in the same church for fifty-four years many of which were marked by an extreme dislike for him by his congregation. When asked why he did not move on from the hostile situation Simeon would point to the fact that God simply did not provide any other options. Simeon's persistence and faithfulness to God's Word and to the calling God gave him is an incredible testimony. I identify with Simeon as his early years proved him a prideful man; God clearly had a plan to uproot the sin by giving him such a difficult post.

I would encourage you to seek biographical information on each of these men as their lives can teach us so much about the faithfulness of God.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Testimony of God's Work in My Life

Some of you may know how I came to Christ and others may not. And since I recently had to write up my testimony for class, I thought it would be a good opportunity to let you all know how it happened.

Although my personal testimony is not particularly riveting, I have come to understand that it is only by the grace of God that my conversion ever could have happened. All testimonies speak to the power of God because humanity is rooted in sin and not one individual is able to choose God unassisted. The inward condition is manifested differently in each person. My depravity was so radical and my rebellion so great, yet God raised me and gave me new life. That is the miracle of my conversion and all others.

I struggled greatly throughout my early life, desiring to be accepted by those around me. I was loved deeply by my family, but I was a social outcast at school. I found some acceptance at church, but unfortunately through people. I was born into the Lutheran Church, but my family began attending an Evangelical Free Church after my parents got saved. Here I had friendships that waxed and waned, but always seemed to end in a flippant manner. Nevertheless, it was the most acceptance I had outside the home.

It was then that my family experienced probably our greatest trial. My parents decided to separate for a time while they addressed some issues. I saw the security that I felt at home melt away. I only saw my dad on weekends and my mom was less than stable. Also during this time we left our church. My dad began attending another Evangelical Free Church while my mom took my sister and me irregularly to a Baptist church not too far from our house. I did not enjoy either church as I was frustrated with my life circumstances.

By the grace of God my parents rejoined. I started middle school and my family began attending the Evangelical Free church my dad had connected with while my parents were separated. I longed for a new situation to maybe find some security and acceptance. I was disappointed. I began looking for acceptance in different places; in sports, academics, and music. I did not find it.

I started high school and it was more of the same. I was successful by worldly standards. I had a good number of friends for the first time in my life, I played three different sports, I was gifted musically, but I was still empty. I got frustrated and became more and more prideful. If I was good at the things the world said I should be good at, why was I not accepted by it? I determined that it was not me who had the problem, but everyone else. The roots of pride grew deep into the recesses of my heart during this time.

From that point forward I did everything out of selfish pursuit. I found a girlfriend. She liked me and I liked her, or at least I liked the way that I felt around her. I felt accepted, but it was a fa├žade. She hurt me deeply multiple times, but I returned repeatedly to this broken cistern.

I graduated from high school still empty, thinking I had found something in my current relationship. I moved away from home and began attending North Dakota State University. Shortly thereafter the relationship that I had put so much stock in ended. I was broken and stripped of what I thought was fulfilling me. It was then that I was positioned to experience the life-giving power of Jesus Christ.

My conversion was a simple realization. I was utterly wretched, there was nothing good in me, and I needed to be saved. Earlier in life I had heard the gospel, but I never really responded. I had prayed a prayer and rededicated my life multiple times, but never had I grasped the gravity of it. It was here, on my own for the first time at college, that I knew there was never any security or acceptance in the things that I had sought. The wrath of God was on me and I deserved to be separate from him. My heart was rebellious and I needed reconciliation. I cried out to God and he saved me. Christ’s work on the cross meant acceptance by God and eternity with him. Christ became the most beautiful thing to me.

After I experienced conversion my freshmen year in college, my life was transformed. Jesus Christ changed my life in so many ways; I will give but a few.

Firstly, my life has been marked by a love of Scripture. I have a passion for God’s Word. Before my conversion I saw little need for reading a really old book that did not seem to be relevant to my life circumstances. After my conversion I began to see that Scripture is the primary way which God speaks to us.

Secondly, my life has been marked by a love of people. The relationships that I experienced prior to my conversion where mostly geared at fulfilling a need that I had. Now the relationships that I have with my wife, my family, and my friends are in the fellowship of Christ. The gospel changed the way that I view the others in my life.

Thirdly, my life has been marked by a removal of self. I went to college seeking a good job with an inflated salary which included comfort and an early retirement. In Christ my life has taken a whole new direction. I am seeking education to be a full-time minister of God’s Word, which does not pay well, will not be comfortable, and will not allow for retirement. There is no other option. God has given me so much; I want my life to proclaim him, not me.

Finally, my life has been marked by joy. Fighting for joy has been one of the biggest struggles in my new life. I am naturally cynical and somewhat cold. But as I continue to study Scripture and understand the weight of the gospel, joy comes more and more easily. How could I let anything rob the joy that comes with the knowledge of redemption?

I am so grateful that God plucked me from my situation and gave me new life. The compassion he showed me and continues to show me is unfathomable.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Portable Cheese? Shut Up!

One of my all time favorites.

A Test

I just took my first test in seminary. It went well. I am relieved.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Than Raking Leaves

Raking leaves (social action) does not constitute a Gospel presentation; the physical needs of humanity pale in comparison to the depravity of the human heart and its need to be quickened. In Mark 2 Jesus recognizes this and goes right for the jugular; he proclaims that he is the Christ, the God-man, he has the power to forgive sins, and that humanity, no matter what its physical state, needs forgiveness of sins first and foremost.

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Inadequate. That is how I feel. There are so many questions and I have so few answers.

Good thing my adequacy is non-existent; otherwise I might fall victim to self-esteem.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

"So God's grace is the source of every blessing that we have as Christians. Truly, as Jesus said, "apart from me you can do nothing." We have nothing that we have not received. Even our response to his grace is given by grace. When God saves us, he takes way every possible ground of boasting. All the praise and glory belongs to him."
-John Frame, The Doctrine of God

Think you have something to boast about or possess some form of adequacy apart from God? Take a look at him and think again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Verses for Evangelism

In my Personal Evangelism course here at Southern we are required to memorize 40 key verses for evangelism. I have found the list to be quite helpful, so I thought I would pass it on.

Scripture is so important in evangelism; since we claim it to be the ultimate authority in our lives, using it in our witness only makes sense. I would encourage you to adopt this list or a similar list to memorize as together we seek to be obedient proclaimers of the Gospel of Christ.

Psalms 19:1
Revelation 4:11
Matthew 22:37-38
Leviticus 19:2

Isaiah 59:2
Isaiah 53:6
Romans 3:23
Romans 6:23
Hebrews 9:27
Matthew 10:28

John 3:16
Luke 19:10
Romans 5:8
1 Peter 2:24
Isaiah 53:5
1 Peter 3:18
2 Corinthians 5:21
John 3:36

John 3:3
John 1:12
Acts 16:31
Romans 10:9
Romans 10:13
Matthew 11:28
John 14:6
Acts 4:12
Luke 13:3
Isaiah 55:7
1 John 1:9
Isaiah 1:18
2 Corinthians 6:2
Revelation 3:20
Ephesians 2:8-9

Eternal Life
John 10:10
John 6:37
1 John 5:12-13
Romans 8:16
John 5:24
2 Corinthians 5:17
2 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 12, 2001

Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11/01. It was a day that altered history. But I remember 9/12/01 almost as vividly.

It was the day when the questions that I was too numb to form the day before began to take shape in my mind. Who would do this? How could something like this happen? Is this reality? It was the day I began to seek understanding.

Nothing earth-shattering happened on 9/12/01. It was just the beginning of a slow digestion process that we still feel the effects of today, eight years later.

The front page of the New York Times, 9/12/01

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Only Burned-Over Area

Taken from Tell the Truth by Will Metzger

The fire of God's wrath has touched down at one particular point in history. And when it did, it utterly consumed a man as he hung on a cross. It did not burn a large area, but finalized God's work of judgment. The fire of God's wrath will come again in history. This time it will consume the whole earth. Will there be any place to hide? Only on the hill where that cross stood, where the fire has already burned. A person is forgiven if he identifies with Christ who on the cross bore God's judgment for sins. Jesus Christ is our burned-over area, the only safe hiding place.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

After One Month of Seminary...

... I now know for certain that I know nothing.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Being a Just Man..."

So, yesterday in my Greek Exegesis class we were discussing participles which express cause.

Look at these two verses.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

I will spare you all the details of the discussion, but the portion I will highlight is in the second sentence where Matthew states "being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame." "Being" and "unwilling" are the participles.

The discussion was surrounding Matthew's usage of the term "just" or another possible rendering, "righteous." The professor said that Matthew was eluding to the fact that Joseph's "being just" or "being righteous" was imported from beyond Joseph himself.

One of my fellow students raised his hand and asked how a conclusion like that could be drawn; was it not simply possible for Joseph to be a "good guy?"

My professor replied by stating that it would not have been unrighteous or unjust for Joseph to divorce Mary publicly, which at the worst would have left Mary to be stoned and at the best would have meant she could never marry. This would not have made Joseph a "bad guy." According to the law it was the just thing to do. So this means that Matthew indicates something different when he writes about Joseph "being a just man."

Joseph's righteousness consisted of more elements than just following the law; it included grace and forgiveness focused at an individual.

Something to think about...

Monday, September 07, 2009

More Thoughts on Wright, Justification

So, I have been thinking a good deal about the whole N.T. Wright/Doctrine of Justification bit since my post last Friday. My understanding is so limited I am tempted not to go there, but I will anyway.

Watch this video of Bishop Wright discussing his book, Justification.

Alright. A couple of thoughts.

Firstly, Bishop Wright says, when discussing Justification, Paul is not asking "How can you get enough righteousness so that when God looks at you he'll be happy with you," but rather "How can you be sure that you are a member of God's people, that your sins are forgiven, and that, therefore, you are part of the covenant purposes of God which.... have been the way in which God has been addressing and rescuing the world." Are these questions at odds? They seem to be working on two different levels. The unity that Christ speaks of in John 17 is one that is experienced on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, but also answers questions regarding membership into the people of God. It may be true that Paul, when corresponding with various churches and people, is most immediately addressing the latter question, but that does not mean that the first question is not at all addressed.

Secondly, the Reformation may have defined Justification by asking the first question Wright poses. But Scripture still answers the question, "How am I declared righteous before a Holy God when my good works are filthy rags and my nature is totally depraved," which is how I would rephrase the first question. Wright seems to attempt to skew the question a bit by framing the Reformation understanding of righteousness as a "moral quality or virtue" (which some may have seen it as, but certainly not Luther, Calvin, or other Reformation leaders). However, just because the question does not show up in this form until a millennium-and-a-half after Paul writes his letters does not mean Scripture does not address it. In fact, the Bible addresses Justification from the perspective of the first question much more exhaustively then, say, the Trinity, which was not really on anyone's radar until the forth century.

I by no means have any answers about this yet and there is a good chance that all Bishop Wright said went directly over my head and I missed the point entirely. Nevertheless, I will continue to investigate. What this video did was prove to me that Bishop Wright has more convincing to do if he plans on changing the definition of Justification.

I guess the next step is to read his book, which, by the looks of things, will not be for a good while.

Another Blog Design

If you have been a faithful follower of Thorns you have experienced my frustration with the design of the blog through the multiple changes that have occurred in the past six months.

Well, it looks different again. I hope this one sticks. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Resolution 19

Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

Christ is coming back at any minute. You and I do not know when. Our actions should reflect this fact...

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Friday, September 04, 2009

Romans 5:1

SBTS, N.T. Wright, and Justification

Yesterday, five men at SBTS discussed the dangers of the position held by Bishop N.T. Wright concerning the Doctrine of Justification. If you have caught any wind of the ongoing debate I would encourage you to watch this video as it clarifies exactly what the debate consists of and warns against a mishandling of the Scriptural definition of Justification.

Also, note the pun recycling that goes on with Bishop Wright's surname.