Fall Semester is Here

I'll be taking three classes during the Fall Semester at Erskine Seminary:

-Hebrew I
-Systematic Theology I
-Worship and Preaching I

Of these three class I expect for Hebrew I to be the most taxing. I've already taken Greek I - III, but I've heard that Hebrew is a lot different. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to learning the language so that I can become a better interpreter and teacher of the Old Testament.


On the Side of the Road

One van + three small children + hunger + rain - gasoline - cell phone = an opportunity to mature in Christ.

So, here's the story. The gas gauge on our van is broken, so we have to track our mileage in order to make sure that we don't run out of gas. (Usually, we try to refill at around 320 miles.) Unfortunately, on our way to pick up dinner our van decided to run out of gas at 290. As the van was sputtering to a stop the girls starting crying and saying, "What's happening? Why are we riding in the grass beside the road? Is our car going to blow up?" After we assured the girls that our lives were not in danger, they calmed down a bit.

To make the situation worse, I had accidentally left my cell phone at home. So, I had to pursue the only option available to us: walk to the nearest gas station. (Did I mentioned that it started raining shortly after we broke down on the side of the road? Plus, I was wearing flip-flops.). After a short walk down the street, crossing six lanes of traffic (Clemson Blvd.) and spending way too much for a gas can, I eventually made it back to the van.

While this certainly was not the way I had planned to spend my afternoon, these events gave Amy and I the opportunity to teach and pray with our girls. As Christians, we must continually remind ourselves (and others) that trials--no matter how large or small--give us an opportunity to mature in Christ as we learn to trust in Him for all things.


I Need Sleep, But He Does Not

I am tired and weary.

As I type these words I am having trouble keeping my concentration. You're probably thinking, "why don't you go to bed?" And that is good advice that I will heed in a minute or too. But I wanted to take a moment to praise my God, my Strength, My Keeper.

I'm at the end of my Summer session for seminary. Over the last week I've read, written, and studied both early in the morning and late at night. So, when I way that I am weary and tired, I mean both mentally and physically. Yet, as I read Psalm 121 tonight, I was reminded of God's greatest. When I am weary, I am reminded that He does not sleep or slumber. When my strength is gone, His strength is magnified. Where would I turn if I did not have the Lord? I lift my eyes to Him, and I find help.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.


Alora's Poison Ivy Song

In my previous post, Family Worship and Alora's Song, I wrote about the song that Alora Grace made up and sang to Ann-Marie. Yet, she also sang another song about poison ivy. I'm not quite sure why she was thinking about poison ivy, but I thought that it was cute. So, here's the poison ivy song:
Never go near poison ivy.
You have to scratch it in the night,
And that is not good.
If you cannot get if off
You can die.
God's little children don't want to die.

Family Worship and Alora's Song

During our family worship time each morning we take time to sing songs, read/act out Bible stories (using this awesome children's Bible), and learning from the First Catechism for children. Amy and I always hope and pray that God's Word will sink into our girls hearts. So, when we see the girls applying God's Word to the circumstances of life we are overjoyed. And that's exactly what happened yesterday.

For some reason our youngest daughter Ann-Marie Joy was crying in her room. When our oldest girl Alora Grace heard Ann-Marie, she decided to try and calm her down by singing a song. The great thing about the song is that Alora made it up and it is filled with truth about God. Since my wife has already posted the song on her blog, take time to check out Alora's song on Amy's blog.


Getting Personal

In theological terms we often speak of God being omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent...and all of these affirmations are true. God is the all-knowing, all-present and all-powerful God. Yet, how do these attributes of God intersect with our lives? How does knowing these truths about God actually change the way that you and I think, act and feel? I believe Psalm 139 helps us to see how these deep theological truths about our great God come crashing into our day to day living.

Take a moment to read the first six verses of this Psalm. As you read, take note of what the Psalmist says about God:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (ESV, emphasis mine)
Now, take time to read the verses again, this time focusing on the personal pronouns:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (ESV, emphasis mine)
This is personal theology at its best. God doesn't simply know all things...he knows all things about me. To some people the thought of such a personal theology is a little unnerving. They were probably okay with God knowing all things about that guy or that girl. But all this "me talk" seems to get a little too close for comfort because we realize that God knows about all the things that we try to hide--all the things that we try to keep out of the sight of others. In other words, we are laid bare before this All-Knowing God.

On this point James Boice writes:
For an unsaved person this powerful, pervasive knowledge seems intrusive and frightening, and with good reason. God is the end-time judge with whom we must reckon. Strikingly, the response of the psalmist is not fear. He is not trembling when he thinks of God's omniscience. On the contrary, he shelters himself in God's knowledge and marvels at it. For the psalmist, God's knowledge is not a threat; it is a refuge (Psalms, Volume 3, 1204).


The Pastor-Theologian and Ecclesial Theology

As a person who has a deep love for both the church and academic reflection, I was encouraged by this article. Here's a quote from the article:
There is a need to counter the sentiment that says, "Deep, penetrating commentaries and books on the atonement--that stuff is for the academy. Pastors should stick to writing pop theology and Christian living stuff." God forbid! Expounding God's Word and reflecting on the nature of the atonement, etc., needs to be brought back into the domain of the church. We need a return to the days when pastors wrote theology that was richly theological, deeply biblical, historically informed, culturally aware, prophetic, and intelligent--not so it would be accepted by the academy, but so it would renew the church.


Monergism.com Recommendation

Although I have a number of recommended websites linked in my sidebar, I wanted to point your attention to Monergism.com. They recently updated the site, and it is now even better. If you're looking for classic and contemporary Christian resources (articles, mp3's, study tools, FAQ, book reviews, etc.) on the web, then monergism is a great place to start.


Psalm 119 and Memorization

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. In my Bible, it spans over five pages. This Psalm praises God for His Word (i.e. His law, testimonies, ways, precepts, statutes, commandments, rules, paths, etc.). In this Psalm, one of the ways in which God calls us to respond to His word is by memorizing and meditating on it. For example:
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you (v.11)

I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways (v.15)

Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works (v.27)
Some Christians of the past (William Wilberforce, David Livingstone, etc.) chose to respond to verses like these by memorizing large portions of Scripture like Psalm 119...all 176 verses of it! Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "There's no way that I could memorize that many verses. I've hardly memorized any verses." And that's where the crux of the matter is for you and I. We must begin with simple obedience. The reason 176 verses seems so daunting is because we have hardly committed any verses to memory.

But if we are to be obedient to God and His Word, we must be people who "hide" the Word in our hearts. So, how should we go forward in this task? I'll give three suggestions:

First, begin by asking God to give you the desire and ability to memorize His Word. This is certainly one prayer that is line with His desires for us.

, start small and work your way up. No one begins by attempting to memorize 176 verses at the same time. They begin by putting one new verse to memory, and they build from there. So, start with one verse and work your way forward. Psalm 119:11 would be a great one to begin with, wouldn't it?.

, speak God's Word to others. One of the greatest ways to learn something is to teach it to others. The Psalmist recognized this also: "With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth" (v.13).

May God bless you in your endeavor.


Matthew West - The Motions

I heard this song on the radio and enjoyed the lyrics/sound. After watching this video and finding out the story behind the song, I like it even more. Embedding wasn't available for this video, so you'll have to check it out here. Enjoy.

Humility and Hope

The sermon that I preached on Sunday ("Humility and Hope" in the series A Traveler's Guide for Christian Pilgrims) is now available here (and it is also archived here). The sermon is on 1 Peter 5:5-7. I've provided an outline of my sermon below:

I. The Position of the Humble
1. Under the elders
2. Under others
3. Under the mighty hand of God

II. The Practices of the Humble
1. Listen to godly counsel
2. Serve and sacrifice for others
3. Cast their cares and anxieties on God

III. The Promises to the Humble
1. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble
2. God exalts the humble at the proper time
3. God cares for the humble


Praising Themselves, Obscuring His Glory

"God cannot bear with seeing his glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to him is the sacrilegious arrogance of those who, by praising themselves, obscure his glory as far as they can."
-John Calvin, as quoted in Humilty: True Greatness, 33.


Gnosticism and the Church

I'm becoming more and more convinced that Gnostic thought is a big problem within the church today. (Of course, Gnostic thought within the church isn't new. The New Testament writers and the early church often fought against this heresy). So, what is Gnosticism, and how is it influencing the church? Read more here.

Pliny's Test

In his book The Christians as the Romans Saw Them, Robert Louis Wilken writes about a test that Pliny used in order to determine whether or not people were Christians. For those who denied being Christians, how could Pliny know if they were telling the truth? In order to combat this problem, Pliny developed the following test:
He had statues of the emperor Trajan and of the Capitone gods--Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva--brought into the room. Those who had already admitted that they were Christians he sent off to be executed, as he had done with the first group. Those who denied the charge he asked to repeat after him a "formula of invocation to the gods" and "to make an offering of wine and incense" to Trajan's statue. He also ordered them to "revile the name of Christ" (25).
After reading this passage, 1 Corinthians 12:3 came to my mind: "Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit" (ESV). May the Spirit give each of us boldness as we stand against a world that wants us to revile our Savior. Let us stand firm in the faith and proclaim along with Peter and John: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20, ESV)


There it is again!

Over the last few weeks, Philippians 2:5-11 has frequently been on my mind.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This passage has come up during my devotional time, in conversations with people, while preparing the youth for a service project, and most recently during sermon preparation. Throughout the Scriptures we are told to meditate on the Word of God. It seems that the Lord has wanted me to spend time meditating on this passage. And the more I read it and think through it, the more I stand in awe of my Savior: Fully God. Fully Man. Servant. Obedient. Crucified. Savior. Name above all names. Lord.

How do we respond to such a great Savior? We worship Him. We believe in Him. We adore Him. We bow to Him. We glorify Him. We imitate Him. "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus."