Friday Sports etc: First Cardinals game

Thanks to some good friends (I’m looking at you, Gary and Sue), my son Isaiah got to go to his first professional baseball game on Monday night at Busch Stadium. The Cards were squaring off against the not-so-liked Cincinnati Reds (the fans booed when Brandon Phillips came to bat, which was humorous, and probably a teaching moment I failed to use).

Isaiah was in to the game for the most part. He was a bit distracted by the continuous yelling of the vendors selling their wares (he thought they were humorous, and they were). It was a good contest. The Cardinals got down by a run but loaded the bases in the fourth inning. With two outs and a full count, Kolten Wong blasted a shot into the Cardinals’ bullpen for a grand slam! How many folks get to see a grand slam at their first game? It was great.

The Cards went on to win the game 4-1 and Isaiah especially liked the fireworks at the end, which he got to enjoy after the grand slam as well. It was hot, it rained a bit, and we didn’t get home until after 1am, but it was about the best first game a kid could have (he still hasn’t stopped talking about it). Can’t wait to take him to more!

Here’s some pics:


Watching the game (even momma enjoyed the game since she got to talk with friends the whole time, see below)


Our view from Big Mac Land (Isaiah was intrigued by the dugouts, which are kind of strange if you think about it)

image

Having some fun!

image

A great crew (Thanks again Gary and Sue, pictured left, it was Sue’s first game as well, also fun to catch up with old friends Josh and Beth and their newest addition, who wasn’t quite up for the game just yet, but his day is coming).

wm

 

Thursday Links: ‘A Call to Teenagers to be Free’ (John Piper)


I don’t want to write too much about today’s link because I really want you to spend your time reading the article. I have been encouraged, challenged, convicted, and more by the writing and preaching of Piper over the last twenty years, and this article is a good example of why. If you have teenagers or potential teenagers then you must take the time to read this article (maybe even read it with them). Even if you don’t, you should read it to know better how you can encourage the ones you know. May the Lord raise up a generation of men and women who will treasure God above all and never settle for the scraps of culture. Seriously, give it a read:

A different kind of teenager

wm

(HT Christie Rodgers and Wally Vinson, who greatly encouraged me as a teenager!)

Wednesday Word: Background Material


I am currently working on a new sermon series through the book of 1 Corinthians. In doing so, I normally read the ‘Introduction’ section of all of the commentaries that I will be using for that book. The issues discussed in this section are what we could call background material to the book. To be honest, it can be very dry reading, which is why most folks never get around to it (that’s what pastor’s are for, right?) But there is some really helpful stuff for our study of the Word as well. What is that you ask? Here’s what I find most helpful:

  1. Author and recipients: It is helpful to know who wrote the letter and to whom it was written. What I think is particularly helpful is undertanding the relationship between the author and the recipients. So for example, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church at Corinth. He planted that church a few years before he wrote the letter (see Acts 18). Understanding his relationship with the believers there will help us make better sense of his discusson of divisions over leadership in chapter 1 and chapter 3. Likewise, it is helpful to know a little bit about the recipients. The believers in Corinth dwelled in a particularly diverse city, filled with various religions and a reputation for sexual exploits. This helps us understand why Paul addressed these issues in chapters 5, 6, and 7.
  2. Situation or occassion: It is good to know the circumstances surrounding the writing of the letter or book. Why did Paul write to the Corinthians at this time? We know that the church was probably a few years old and it seems that they were struggling to not look like the culture out of which they had recently been saved. They valued wisdom and rhetoric, they continued to battle sexual temptation, they were divided socially, all issues that Paul addresses in his letter. Also, they had written to him and he is responding to their letter (see 7:1).
  3. Purpose: It is so easy to miss the forest for the trees when studying books of the Bible. We pull verses out of context and read them and apply them in ways that are not consistent with the author’s original intent. So it is good to begin our study by asking the big question: Why did Paul write this whole letter? Not just this one verse or this one chapter, but why did he write the whole book? Keeping this purpose in mind will help us as we study the individual parts. For example, 1 Corinthians 13 is what as known as the ‘Love Chapter’ in the Bible. In it, Paul describes what true love looks like. Thus, it is a chapter about marriage right? Well, not exactly. Yes, Paul’s teaching there can be applied to romantic relationships, but that is not the focus of the chapter. Paul is writing the letter to help the Corinthians apply the gospel to various areas of their community of faith. Christ is not divided so the Church should not be divided. Christ died to set us free from sin, so we shoud not continue in it. We were given the gift of the Spirit and gifts of the Spirit to build each other up, not to tear each other down. If we keep our eyes on love, the most excellent way, then we will live out the gospel in our practice of the gifts (chapters 12-14). Remembering the overall purpose of the letter can help us better understand and appy the specifics.

And the good news? All of this background information can be found in a good study Bible. Normally they have introductions to every book of the Bible that will cover things like author, recipients, situation, and purpose. As you read and study through books of the Bible, it is good to pause and consider this background material when you begin. It will help you in understanding the meaning.

One word of caution, sometimes background material is used to actually lead away from the meaning of the text. Just because someone quotes someone from history or describes a particular historical issue, does not mean that Paul had that in mind when he wrote. So be careful with that.

Let me recommend a couple of good study Bibles to help with background information:

  • ESV Study Bible: Published by CrossWay in various formats and just a great overall tool for studying the Word. (pictured on the left above)
  • HCSB Study Bible: I have not used this one as much but it seems to be a great resource as well. (pictured on the right)

Give these resources a try as you seek to study the Word well!

wm

Tuesday Books: ‘The Pursuit of God’ (Tozer)


When I was in college, a pastor agreed to send me books if I would write a page response to each one I read. Every time I would send him a response, he would send me a book. Looking back I understand how gracious it was for him to do that. The second book he sent me was ‘The Pursuit of God’ by A.W. Tozer and it was life changing. Let me try to explain why.

When I went to college I had been in Church my entire life. I loved the Lord and wanted to spend the rest of my life serving Him in some way. Yet, I had never gotten around to getting that serious about the Bible and theology and doctrine. And to be honest, I just wasn’t that interested. I was passionate about serving God, but I was not all that excited about knowing Him through the study of His Word. But slowly the Lord began to change that. He used various means to show me the value of reading good books and studying the text and I actually began to enjoy that. He began to show me that passion for Him meant passion for study, passion for reading, passion for digging deep. It wasn’t about sacrificing one for the other, it was about feeding my passion for my Savior by feeding myself through good study. Tozer’s book really helped me see that and appreciate that.

I don’t agree with everything that Tozer wrote. In fact, I don’t agree with the first sentence of the first chapter of this book. Yet, his writing draws me in and I find in him someone who loved God more than he seemingly knew how to explain. His passion for God, not things about God or meetings about God or organizations for God, but for God Himself is evident on every page of this book. He has tasted and seen that God is good, and he never wants to leave the feast. He is a theologian not because he wants to get a degree or hand out degrees, he is a theologian because he wants to know God. He wants to drink deep. I was drawn in by these desires as a college student struggling with my own identity as a follower of Christ. I had no real desire to be a scholar or theologian, but I wanted to know Christ. Tozer helped me see that a desire to pursue God led to a desire to know Him through study of His Word. Call it theology, call it academics, call it whatever you want, but whatever you call it, use it as a means to know Christ more. Let that desire feed all the others in life. Tozer’s book taught me this and more.

It is a short book, my copy only has 119 pages, but it is packed with powerful writing. Let me give you some examples:

  • He closes each chapter with a prayer and I have often repeated this one: “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.”
  • “The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things.” His second chapter, ‘The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing’, is a precurser to books like ‘Radical’ and ‘Crazy Love.’
  • “The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the church is famishing for want of His presence.”
  • Another prayer: “O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with visible things. The world has been too much with me. Thou hast been here and I knew it not. I have been blind to Thy presence. Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me. For Christ’s sake. Amen.”
  • “Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).”
  • “God being who and what He is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full Lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that is in our power togive Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.”

Well, that is at least a taste of Tozer’s work. Give the rest a try and take time to drink deep, not of the man who wrote the book, but of the God who inspired the pursuit.

wm

Monday Music: ‘All I have is Christ’ (Jordan Kauflin)


We sang  this song in our service yesterday at Church and I thought I would link to it today. If you are unaware of Sovereign Grace Music then I encourage you to give them a listen. To be honest, I don’t always like their recordings because I do not prefer their sound, but the songs are well-written and great for corporate worship. We use them at our Church and want to learn more.

‘All I have is Christ’ was written by Jordan Kauflin, the son of Bob Kauflin who is the main person behind Sovereign Grace Music. It is a song with a simple but profound message: although I am surrounded by so much, at the end of the day, all I have is Christ and He is enough. It is a gospel song that begins with our lost and desperate state outside of Christ (vs. 1). Then moves to our redemption at the cross (vs. 2) and our longing to follow Christ with the rest of our days (vs. 3). And the chorus is our confession:

“Hallelujah, all I have is Christ

Hallelujah, Jesus is my life.”

The song captures well the absoulute centrality of the gospel for all of life. Jesus is all we have and all we need. Give it a listen and be encouraged. Maybe even see if you could start singing it at your Church along with other Sovereign Grace songs (if you are not already singing them). Here is the song:

All I have is Christ

wm

(sorry I am posting this late, the routine was thrown off by a trip to see the Cards play, more on that on Friday!)

Friday Sports etc: Youth Camp Games


As I noted on Wednesday, I have spent a few days at my local Youth Camp this week. My main task was to lead the Bible study for the guys on biblical manhood each day, which I enjoyed greatly. But that was not my only involvement during the week. I also got to stick around and play some games with the campers during the afternoon session. Games like ultimate frisbee, paint ball, and basketball (including a couple of rounds of ‘Knock Out’, which we called ‘Gotcha’ as kids). I thought I would end my week with some observations from these games:

  1. I am going to show these kids how to play… It seems that I started every game with this thought, which was quickly replaced with this thought…
  2. I am too old for this: It usually only took a few minutes of playing the game to realize that age really is a factor when playing sports. Granted, I kept playing and had a great time, but I am well past my prime…at everything!
  3. I am really terrible at Ultimate Frisbee: This was my second or third time to give this sport a try and it showed. I can throw a frisbee ok. I can catch one pretty good (sometimes on one finger, well not very much). But I am not very good at either of those when trying to move my team down the field for a score. I made terrible throws (one that cost us a score) and I dropped two throws in the endzone for scores (is it called an endzond in Ultimate Frisbee?) And after a couple times down the field, my lungs were screaming at me #2 (see above)! I am not good at this sport, which leads me to my next observation…
  4. Sports teach humility: It’s good for the soul to lose and to lose big! It’s ok to make the long walk to the other end of the field knowing that you are not doing well and that no strategy or plan (outside of cheating and getting rid of the old guy on our team) is going to help. And it’s good to laugh about it, line up for the coming throw, and just keep playing. These are good lessons learned on the fields at Youth Camp!
  5. I am really terrible at paint ball: I suited up, loaded my gun, listened to the rules, took my spot on the course…..and got shot. I suited up again, noted that my gun was still loaded because I only got off a couple of rounds, took a different spot on the course….and got shot again. And apparently I did not listen to the rules that well because neither time did the paint ball actually bust when it hit me, which means I could stay in the game. But I didn’t. I raised my hands and called myself out like the terrible paint-baller that I am, which leads me back to #4 again….and again.
  6. Summer camp is hot: I sweat through like 5 sets of clothes. On the first day I had to teach after playing/humilitating myself at Ultimate Frisbee. The Word was like a fire in my bones that spread to my arms and my legs and my shirt and hands and hair. I looked like a revival preacher before I even got started (minus the suit and tie of course)!
  7. Playing sports makes connections: I don’t want to make too much of this, but participating with the students in different activities helps build relationships. We bond when we lose together (I hear this happens when you win together as well but I did not get to experience that this week). We bond while trying to shoot each other with flying balls of paint that don’t always break on impact. We bond as we stand around in sweat-drenched clothes talking and laughing about how it all played out. The best way to love on students and point them to Christ still goes back to a simple truth: spend time with them. They appreciate that. They respect it, even if you are too old and too slow. They connect. I don’t know, maybe they even listen a little more to the guy who obviously needs a shower and a change of clothes, maybe not. Either way, having fun with them on the field is a great way to love on them and connect with them.

So there you go, seven observations from playing sports at camp this week. It was a great time and I already look forward to next year. Maybe I’ll practice on my frisbee throwing and my paint ball shooting between now and then. Nah, probably not. Gotta stay humble!

wm

Thursday Links: ‘The Bible does not condemn homosexuality’ (Adam Phillips)


I need to start this post by stating clearly: I do not agree with the article that I am linking to today. I think the author offers a gross misinterpretation of the texts that he addresses.

Nevertheless, I find the article interesting because it is a clear example of what the Church faces in talking about homosexuality and the Bible with the current and next generation. Let me try to explain what I mean.

There are those who believe that homosexuality is acceptable and could care less what the Bible has to say about it. You can quote them passages and talk with them about what they say but they are just not interested.

There are also those who believe that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality along with all other forms of sex outside of marriage (you can put me in this group). They are not really going to be that swayed by Phillips’ article.

Yet, there is another group that is somewhere in between. Maybe they have friends or family members who are gay. Maybe they struggle to see what is wrong with their relationships. Maybe their committments to their partners seem more faithful and loving than the heterosexuals they know. Maybe they are just struggling with condemning homosexual behavior for a different reason. Yet, they want to believe in the Bible. They are not ready to throw out the Scriptures. They know there is some good stuff in there so they don’t know what to do with what the Bible says about homosexuality.

Enter Adam Phillips, author of the article below and pastor of Christ Church: Portland. And here’s what he says: ‘The Bible does not condemn homosexuality.’ He writes an article that quotes historical references and talks about greek words. He reiterates again and again how he wants to take the Bible seriously. He mentions several books and offers links to other authors who agree with him. He walks you through the texts that mention homosexuality and explains how they are actually not talking about homosexuality but something totally different (and totally more heinous). And he says to that third group: “You can have it all! You can believe in the Bible and not condemn your homosexual friends and family members. In fact, you should do both if you really want to honor God. People have been wrong about the Bible and homosexuality and now we can fixt that.”

I wish I could tell you to just dismiss it. Just pretend like pastor Phillips and others like him have no influence. Pretend like no one is paying attention to their arguments. But that is a mistake.

Rather, we need to understand what he is claiming. We need to think about his arguments. And we need to be able to refute his interpretations of the text. Not because we are going to convince him that he is wrong (although I pray for that), but simply so we can help others see the errors in this approach to the Bible. I have no doubt that Adam Phillips genuinely loves homosexuals and genuinely wants to help and serve them. I just believe that his approach is wrong. Unfortunately, many will continue to be persuaded by his arguments about the Bible.

So I cautiously encourage you to read the article. See if you can catch what leads to his questionable conclusions about the passages he discusses. Think through how you would respond to these arguments (always focus on context). Not because you want to win, but because you want to love those who are truly struggling with what the Bible says about homosexuality for whatever reason. We must study to show ourselves approved and rightly handle the word of truth, which implies there is a wrong way to handle it (2 Timothy 2:15). May the Lord give us grace as we seek to love on those who struggle with same-sex attraction by pointing them to forgiveness and victory through Christ. May we be faithful to His Word, and to helping others understand it, by His grace.

Here is the article:

The Bible does not condemn homosexuality

wm

Wednesday Word: Biblical Manhood (2 Samuel 6, 11)

image

I have been speaking at our local Baptist Association camp this week and was asked to teach about Biblical manhood. Easy task, right? Well, not exactly. Although we can point to scores of stories in the Bible that demonstrate what we believe to be manly characteristics (courage, bravery, sacrifice, etc.), these attributes are not simply reserved for men. There are also stories which demonstrate these traits in the women of the Bible.

So what can we say in particular about Biblical manhood? I think a good place to start is Paul’s charge to husbands in Ephesians 5. He tells the men to lead like Christ and to love like Christ. This is perhaps an oversimplification of the call on men’s lives, but it is a good place to begin thinking about our unique roles. We are to be leaders in our families and homes. We are not to rule with a heavy hand and treat other people like doormats. No, we are to lead like Christ, who led by service. Likewise, we are to love like Christ, not in the shallow and syrupy way that the world defines love, but in the sacrificial way of our Savior, who paid for our sins at the cross. We are to love and lead like Him.

Yet, we face some serious obstacles in this pursuit. We are discussing three at the camp: pride, lust, and laziness. I chose these because they are the ones that I have struggled with the most and the ones that I see other men struggling with as well.

Our pride keeps us from being biblical men. The world sees arrogance as almost a prerequisite for leadership. And men who sacrificially love their wives and families are often seen as weak. Both of these appeal to the pride of a man and cause him to struggle following the path of Christ. So we looked at the example of David in 2 Samuel 6 and his willingness to humble himself before the Lord in extravagant worship (including a lot of dancing, watch out Baptists!). When mocked for his worship, he replied: “I will make myself even more contemptible (undignified, humble) than this!” David was not so concerned about his reputation in this instance to allow his pride to keep him from truly worshipping the Lord. And we who live on this side of the cross, how could we ever let our pride keep us from serving the One who left glory, took on flesh, lived a perfect life, and died naked in our place on the cross. The cross is the key that unlocks the door for our humility.

Our lust keeps us from being biblical men. I tremble for the men of today and tomorrow who carry around in their pocket access to feed their lust and destroy their souls. It is an on-demand drug-dealer, who never runs out of product and never charges a dime. But it is not hard to see where lust will lead. David stays home from war, gazes on a beautiful woman, gets her pregnant, and kills her husband in the first 17 verses of 2 Samuel 11. The King, the man after God’s own heart, who was not too proud to worship the Lord with all his heart, is an adulterer and murderer in no time at all. The great hope we have from that passage is that the story does not end in chapter 11. When David is confronted, he is broken over his sin and repents. You can read his own confession and repentance in Psalm 51, which he shared with all of Israel. And our God is a God who forgives the truly repentant. How could He do that? How is that just? Because Jesus paid for the sins of David on the cross, just like He paid for my lust as well. Through confession and repentance, through being honest and talking with others, we can battle the sin of lust and have victory through Christ.

Our laziness keeps us from being biblical men. Hard work is hard to come by. It’s easier to play video games and look at Facebook and read blogs (uh-oh) than it is to spend time in prayer or studying our Bibles or memorizing Scripture. Some men will work hard with their hands to provide for the family (which is great) but will then use that as excuse to be lazy in spiritual disciplines. We have to fight against that tendency. I have to fight against that tendency. I have to do the work, all the work, required to be a faithful follower of Jesus. Not because I am trying to earn my way to heaven, but in response to the fact that my ticket has already been purchased. He worked hard for me on the cross, suffering under the righteous wrath of the Father, so that I can work hard for Him as a joyful expression of my praise for such a Savior!

I pray the Lord will raise up a generation of biblical men who make war on their sins through faith in Christ and who will lead and love God’s people, for their good and His great glory! Will join with me in praying for our future men?

wm

Tuesday Books: ‘The Wingfeather Saga, books 1-4)’ (Andrew Peterson)

 Andrew Peterson is a great musician (I plan on posting some of his songs on a Monday at some point). He is also a great author. The combination of the two is rare, but it does happen (Rich Mullins was a good writer but he never wrote any fiction, at least I don’t think he did).

When Peterson came out with his first book, a children’s fiction tale about a family trying to save their world from Gnag the Nameless, I was a bit skeptical. Even after the first few chapters of the first book, I still was not sure how it was going to work out. But four books later and I am hooked. These books will make you laugh at times (Peterson has children of his own and it shows) but they will also draw you in with the coming of age story of two brothers and their young sister. Their family has been targeted by the enemy because of its history and significance. The books tell the story of their fight to survive.

My favorite individual book in the series is ‘The Monster in the Hollows’ (book 3) because it tells a compelling story that stands on its own apart from the larger story, while at the same time moving the backstory forward (which is hard to do). I would tell you more but I really don’t want to give away the plot.

The final book in the series ‘The Warden and the Wolf King’ was released last year and brought the saga to a fitting close. Without giving too much away (I hope), let me just comment on one scene that was my favorite. Janner, the eldest brother, is struggling with his own identity and his own purpose, wrestling with things like jealousy and selfishness. Peterson’s description of that battle and its resolution in the final book was worth reading the whole series for me. It is powerful and moving and the common battle of every man. Only the Maker can give us peace in that war.

If you like good fiction, then I really encourage you to give this series a try. I was amazed at just how good a gifted songwriter could write a memorable tale!

wm

Music Monday: ‘Expository Preaching’ (Shai Linne)


Christian rap has actually been around for a good while. Most have heard of DC Talk (sorta rap) and maybe The Gospel Gangtas (memorable name that I can’t remember how to spell), but some folks had never really paid any attention until Lecrae came along and started getting some mainstream play (ok, that is probably a gross overstatement, but it is true for some).

But there have been some great artists through the years. I cut my teeth on groups like Dynamic Twins and SFC and Freedom of Soul (their song ‘Blue Sky Lies’ is still one of my favorites). I later listened to guys like T-Bone and Preachas who began to sound better and better. None of these folks got a whole lot of air-play on Christian radio (another reason I am not a huge fan of the medium) but they were able to put out a few great albums that were an encouragement to many, myself included.

Lately, Christian rap has had a huge surge in popularity (thanks to guys like Lecrae). I think this is a good thing for a couple of reasons:

  1. The new rappers seem to be solid theologically. They are writing whole albums about doctrine and the book of Romans, which I think is great.
  2. Rap songs allow the artist to talk about much deeper issues than your typical pop song. This is due primarily to the fact that you can get more words in a rap song (like three to four times as many). And it is easy to fit in words like ‘propitiation’ and ‘eschatology’ in rap music, not so much in other styles (trust me I’ve tried).

So I am thankful for the current popularity of Christian rap.

One of my favorite new Christian rap artists is Shai Linne. I actually met him at one point when he was serving as an intern at Mark Dever’s Church. Again, he is serious about doctrine and theology, and that is clear in his music. A great example of this is the album “The Church” which essentially takes each of the 9 Marks of a healthy Church (from Dever’s book) and dedicates a song to them. Where else are you going to hears songs about the importance of polity (government) and church discipline? It is a great concept for an album.

My favorite song on the album is Shai Linne’s ‘Expository Preaching.’ He speaks of its importance in the first verse. In verse 2 he addresses the congregation and in verse 3 he encourages the pastors (and offers a good definition). It is a great song about an important subject. Give it a listen and see what you think:

Expository Preaching

I think Christian rap has improved over the years and I think the new approach is here to stay, which is a good thing! You may not like the sound, but hopefully you can appreciate the content.

wm