Thursday, December 3, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship CLass

Well, we're winding up our study in chapter 10 with the very pointed question of "What in the world does this mean for me?". I think it's unanimous that going through this book together has challenged us in areas of our lives that will and has drawn us closer to our Creator... our Savior. It's helped us to realize that the word of God, the Bible is living and continually revealing Gods will and His working in our lives. God truly loves his children and has more in store for us than we could ever imagine, as long as we let the Creator to continue to be creative in us. It becomes so easy to just muddle through life and really not have to live by faith in God, which He has equipped us to do. If we aren't very careful, our faith will tend to be more in our jobs, our bank account, our retirement, our insurance policies our relationships and so on. We'll find ourselves only calling on and relying on God when we have exhausted all other resources. Trusting in God alone can sometimes be very scary, believe me, I know and more importantly, God knows. That's a huge part of why God sent the Comforter... the Counselor... the Holy Spirit. God knows that left in and of ourselves, we would fail to trust Him but the Holy Spirit is continually at work in us and longs to lead us toward Gods will, if we would but heed His call. After all, it is all believers who make up the body of Christ... the church, and He is the head. The question we have to ask is, "What part am I?" and "Is that part hindered or helped by me?". If I am a part of the arm, how is the arm doing? Is the arm, or at least my part of the arm, listening to and obeying the commands of the head? It is prudent for us to remember that, as believers go, so goes the church. In other words, how we as believers live out our lives is a small picture of the life of the church. If we're not happy with the direction the church of today is going, maybe we need to look at the direction we are going. Does my faith... my obedience... my life, look anything like that of the believers of the early church?
The bottom line or the crux of the matter is, God will accomplish his plan. The question is, will we be obedient to follow along the way, or will we be in the way? How will we answer the King when He asks us what we did with what He gave us? The answer to that question... is eternal.
May we ever remember and never forget the magnificent, undeserving, life saving, truly unfathomable, crazy love the Lord Jesus Christ has for us.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship Class

In chapter 9 we saw the manifestation of chapter 8. Chapter 8 talked about what people who are obsessed with Jesus look like, act like, talk like and so on. Chapter 9 revealed to us some real life examples of just those kind of Godly, sold out to Jesus people. You would think that one might read stories of people like that and be left feeling inadequate, like, what's the point? I could never measure up to someone like that. Those people are "Super Christians". But that wasn't the case at all, in fact it was quite the contrary, I believe we were left feeling inspired. To know that these people are just a few among many who where not born "Super Christians", they where born again to a "Super God". It encourages us to know that this same God and wonderful savior, who called us from death to life, that has done this great work in these ordinary people, can do the same with us. We also talked about many people whom we look up to, many in our own church, as Godly roll models and also what kind of legacy we would want to leave behind to inspire others to follow whole heatedly after Jesus. Many times though we are far too fast to come up with excuses of why we can't do something, or to say it's too much or it's too hard, rather than believing God to sustain us through any obstacles that satan may place in our path. We have a wonderful fellowship of believers at Shiloh that has proven through the years to step out and to go and to do where many would not. I have seen the hand of God on our church many times over the years and I am so thankful to be apart of such a blessed people. I don't think at all that our church is without problems or more Godly than others, but I do think that God, in His rich grace and mercy and divine purpose, has chosen Shiloh for His glory.
I am so thankful that God chose me to be apart of His wonderful family and kingdom. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why He did. Why He would choose a wretch like me. I assure you, it was nothing He seen in me, at least that was of me. I pray God would continue to remove those blinding scales from my eyes so that I may see clearly the path He has for me. Thank you for praying for me and I will be careful to pray for you as well. To God be the glory.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship Class

In chapter 8 we discussed those who are obsessed and questioned if that would be a description of us. What Comes to mind when you think of the word obsessed. I think of someone who is so fixated on something that they are totally oblivious to everything else. I think we can all agree that in most cases being obsessed is not a good thing. But what about being obsessed with Jesus? That brings up the question of being so Heavenly minded that you are no Earthly good. I'm not sure that's even a legitimate question. If we are obsessed with Jesus, it's not possible to be totally oblivious to everything else. At least in the sense that we don't care for others, because that's exactly what Jesus would want us to do, care for others. But it does mean that there is absolutely nothing else that matters more than Jesus. Being totally attuned to Him, His word and His will. I am ashamed to admit, that doesn't describe me near enough. Many days I fall far short of that. But when you think about it, what else matters more?... Ever?... Our comfort? Our bank account? Our home? Our safety?... Our Pride? Many times these things get in the way of the rich blessings the Father wishes to bestow on us, but they are never acceptable, nor are they sufficient. Holding back from our Saviour only robs us of our joy, true joy that is. Far too often our joy is dictated by the ebb and flow of life's circumstances. We must choose joy and then work for it, even in (or, especially in) the difficult and sometimes painful circumstances of life. I think of Paul and Silas singing and praising Jesus, even while they where chained and imprisoned in a cold dark cell. Why would they do that? They knew then what we need to know now, true joy is formed in the midst of trials. That's when we come the closest to, and the most intimate with Jesus who suffered much for you and me. He goes to bat for us before the Father every time we fail? He is our advocate, He spent Himself for us that we might have eternity with Him, suffer free.
No, I think the answer is that we can't be too Heavenly minded. In fact, we should be obsessed with it, holding nothing back. All our comfort, our money, our safety and our pride should be at His disposal... Spend it all!!!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship Class

In Chapter 7 we learned about the sacrifice of this life for the rewards of the next. We come to the realization that we aren't living forever after we die, we're living forever now. We'll have that twinkling of an eye moment when death comes to our door, then go right on living. But, oh how different living will be then. We learned of the silliness of putting so much infuses on money and stuff in the short time we have on this side of eternity. In fact, we should live this life with abandon for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ. All too often we are content with just playing it safe and blending in. Jesus never would have been accused of blending in, more likely, a radical. His walk matched His talk and His motivation was love. John must have been thinking of Jesus' example when he wrote in the 3rd chapter of his first epistle "Little children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth". True love requires sacrifice and NO ONE portrayed that more than our Savior. Jesus gave of Himself, in fact, He spent Himself for others as an example for us to follow. We must learn to love and give as Christ did, to the extent that it's a natural response, so that just looking out for me and mine becomes unattractive.
God has given to us and invested in us that we might give to and invest in others. It gains us no reward to spend on ourselves, but we will be truly blessed when we spend ourselves on others. Why? Because this world is not our home and will never compare to the best life, which is to come.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship CLass

In chapter 6 we sought out our love for Jesus. We thought about what it's like to be "in love" and then compared that with the feeling we have for our savior. Are we "in love" with Jesus? You would think that would be an easy "yes", but then we were faced with a question from John Piper's book "God Is the Gospel". The question: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, all your friends, all your favorite food, your favorite activities, all of natures beauty, no human conflict or natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there? It's alarming for me to think that sometimes I might be OK with that. But thank God, that even the love I have for Him, comes from Him. The love that God provides produces the freedom in us to see with unveiled eyes the truly unconditional love He has displayed for us. The realization that God chose us to be His own and for absolutely nothing we did to deserve it, in fact we deserved the opposite, for Him to turn His back on us. To realize that of all the deserving attributes the Bible contributes to God: the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the creator of all that is, of all that, Jesus said when we pray, say "our Father". Wow! This is the relationship that He wants with you and me. The awe inspiring humbleness that comes with that knowledge should draw us unto Himself and free us to love others as ourselves. It should free us from living in the bondage of sin. In Christ we are free, we are free indeed. There will always be troubles and hardships on this side of heaven, Jesus said we can count on it, but He has also given us all we need, so that we may endure. He's given us... Himself.
Pray with me that we would remember this awesome truth, in the midst of the trials.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism

I have briefly introduced each of these views over the last few days. I will now seek to offer you a chart to compare the two views on their main points. I will then begin to examine each point more clearly over the next weeks.

Free-Will or Human Ability
Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man's freedom. Each sinner posses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man's freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God's Spirit and be regenerated or resist God's grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit's assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man's act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner's gift to God; it is man's contribution to salvation.

Total Inability or Total Depravity
Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not - indeed he cannot - choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance to bring a sinner to Christ - it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation - it is God's gift to the sinner, not the sinner's gift to God.

Conditional Election
God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man's will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. Thus the sinner's choice of Christ, not God's choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Unconditional Election
God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God's choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God's choice of the sinner, not the sinner's choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Universal Redemption or General Atonement
Christ's redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. Although Christ died for all men and for every man, only those who believe on Him are saved. His death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe, but it did not actually put away anyone's sins. Christ's redemption becomes effective only if man chooses to accept it.

Particular Redemption or Limited Atonement
Christ's redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ's redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.

The Holy Spirit Can Be Effectually Resisted
The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. But inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit's call. The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes; faith (which is man's contribution) proceeds and makes possible the new birth. Thus, man's free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ's saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. God's grace, therefore, is not invincible; it can be, and often is, resisted and thwarted by man.

The Efficacious Call of the Spirit or Irresistible Grace
In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.

Falling from Grace
Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith, etc. All Arminians have not been agreed on this point; some have held that believers are eternally secure in Christ - that once a sinner is regenerated, he can never be lost.

Perseverance of the Saints
All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.

According to Arminianism:

Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who must respond) - man's response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, "choose" to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man's will plays a decisive role; thus man, not God, determines who will be recipients of the gift of salvation.

According to Calvinism:

Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Arminian Theology

Arminianism was started by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). He was born slightly before John Calvin died and was actually taught by Calvin's son-in-law. He was a Calvinist until one day when forced to defend his beliefs and found that his opponent could more ably defend his views against Calvinism. This caused Arminius to reject his Calvinistic background and “sought to modify Calvinism so that ‘God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automation in the hands of God.’”

Arminius’s views stirred up controversy in Holland, his home. Arminius asked to speak to the government on the issue but it was never brought before them until 1618, nine years after his death. It was soundly rejected and his followers faced persecution from Calvinists; 200 pastors losing their posts, statesman John van Olden Barneveldt beheaded, Hugo Grotius imprisoned for life but escaping two years later.

By 1625 the persecution had waned and followers began to return to Holland once again. They spread a principle of toleration throughout the churches in Holland so that there was much more religious toleration.

England had been Arminian to some extent before Arminius was born but faced the struggles of the Purituan revolt, Oliver Cromwell, and the Glorious Revolution. This caused “Charles II, who despised the Presbyterians, to reinstitute Arminian doctrine in the Church of England.” This Arminianism wasn’t exactly the same as that taught by Arminius but was similar. John Wesley (1703-1791) later championed the Arminian beliefs, “traveling more than 250,000 miles and preaching 40,000 sermons.”

Arminians followers responded to the five points of Calvinism with five points of their own. The following explanation of the five points is as per the Moody Handbook of Theology.

Election Based on (fore)knowledge- God elected those whom He knew would of their own free will believe in Christ and persevere in the faith
Unlimited Atonement- In His atonement, Christ provided redemption for all mankind, making all mankind savable. Christ's atonement becomes effective only in those who believe
Natural Ability- Man cannot save himself; the Holy Spirit must effect the new birth
Prevenient Grace- Preparatory work of the Holy Spirit enables the believer to respond to the gospel and cooperate with God in salvation
Conditional Perseverance- Believers have been empowered to live a victorious life, but they are capable of turning from grace and losing their salvation

This begins to show us the basic beliefs of both of these systems. We now will begin to look at each belief and compare it more in depth over the next weeks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship Class

In chapter 5 we were faced with the question of "Are we truly committed to Christ or are we just giving Him our leftovers?". We started out with where we left off in the previous chapter and determined that there is no such thing as a lukewarm Christian. Lukewarm people, in fact, are not Christians at all. Although, as Christians many times we may be guilty of displaying lukewarm characteristics in our dedication to our savior and not giving Him the allegiance to which He deserves. Jesus calls for His followers to be fully committed and the evidence of that commitment is fruit bearing. Jesus didn't mince any words in the 16th chapter of Matthew when He said "If you want to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me". Likewise, in the 14th chapter of Luke Jesus says " Anyone who does not give up all he has, cannot be My disciple". Jesus is saying that there should be nothing so important in our lives that it would come before Him. Jesus asks much of us, because He wants so much more for us. He understands we will fail, and that is where His matchless grace comes in. He loves us and longs for us to love others with His kind of passion. Oh, that we could live our lives following as a little child, unblinded by all the worries and cares of this life, so that we could see all that He longs for us to be.
Our challenge is to gaze upon the love that Jesus lavished upon us at Calvary, to the point that it draws us wholeheartedly to Himself. I pray that this realization moves us to give our Lord and Savior "the best of us", not "the rest of us".


Friday, October 16, 2009

New Ideas for Our Fall Festival!

Arminianism vs. Calvinism

This is the first in a series of blog post defining these two ideas of God's work in salvation. Today we will merely seek to define Calvinism and see some of it's historical roots. On Tuesday we will define Arminianism and see it's history. The following is an article from Dr. Joel Beeke entitled, "The Origins of Calvinism". It is much more clear and concise than I could ever be on this subject.

The Origins of Calvinism
by Joel Beeke

The spread of Calvinism was unusual. In contrast to Catholicism, which had been maintained by civil and military force, and Lutheranism, which survived in becoming a religion of politics, Calvinism had, for the most part, only its consistent logic and its fidelity to the Scriptures. Within a generation it spread across Europe. 1 —Charles Miller

Calvinism is rooted in the sixteenth-century religious renewal in Europe that we refer to as the Protestant Reformation. 2 But this great movement was not an isolated phenomenon. It did not simply begin with Martin Luther’s (1483–1546) act of posting his Ninety-five Theses on the church doors of Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, even though those theses were soon translated into numerous languages and distributed to the masses. In one sense, the Reformation originated in Luther’s so-called “tower experience,” which probably predated his theses by a few years. Through this experience, Luther came to grasp the definitive doctrine of the Reformation: justification by gracious faith alone. But in another sense, the Reformation flowed out of earlier attempts for renewal, the most notable of which were led by Peter Waldo (ca. 1140–ca. 1217) and his followers in the Alpine regions, 3 John Wycliffe (ca. 1324–1384) and the Lollards in England, 4 and John Hus (ca. 1372–1415) and his followers in Bohemia. 5 Lesser-known divines, such as Thomas Bradwardine (ca. 1300–1349) 6 and Gregory of Rimini (ca. 1300–1358), 7 came even closer to what would become known as Protestant theology. All these men are properly called forerunners of the Reformation rather than Reformers because, although they anticipated many of the emphases of the Reformation, they lacked a complete understanding of the critical doctrine of justification by gracious faith alone. 8

These forerunners of the Reformation were morally, doctrinally, and practically united in their opposition to medieval Roman Catholic abuses. This opposition is critical to note, since the Reformation began primarily as a reaction to the abuses of Roman Catholicism. Luther did not set out to destroy the Roman Catholic Church and to establish a new church. His initial intent was to purge the Roman Catholic Church of abuses.

Reformed theology thus cannot be fully understood apart from its reaction to problems in the church, such as:

Papal abuses. The medieval papacy was rife with abuses in theology and practice. Immoral conduct was lived out and condoned even by the popes, and grace became a cheap, commercialized religion throughout the church via a complex system of vows, fasts, pilgrimages, masses, relics, recitations, rosaries, and other works. The papal imperative was “do penance” (as translated in the Vulgate) rather than “be penitent,” or “repent,” as Jesus commanded.

Papal pretentiousness. Biblical and historical study by the Protestant forerunners led them to question papal claims to apostolic authority as head of the church. For example, the Reformers concluded that the rock on which the church was built (Matt. 16:18) was the content of Peter’s faith rather than Peter himself, which meant that the bishop of Rome possessed no more than a position of honor. Though the Protestants initially were willing to accept a Reformed papacy that would honorably serve the church, the cruel opposition of the popes to reform eventually persuaded many of them to regard the pope of Rome as Antichrist (cf. Westminster Confession of Faith, 25.6).

Captivity of the Word. Protestants taught that the Roman Catholic Church held Scripture captive, withholding it from the laypeople and thus keeping them in bondage to church councils, bishops, schoolmen, canonists, and allegorists for interpretation. The Protestants worked hard to deliver the Bible from this hierarchical captivity. As Malcolm Watts writes:

The Church of Rome degraded the Holy Scriptures by alloying the purity of the Canon with her apocryphal additions, by supplementing the inspired records with an enormous mass of spurious traditions, by admitting only that interpretation which is according to “the unanimous consent of the Fathers” and “the Holy Mother Church,” and, particularly by diminishing the role of preaching as their “priests” busied themselves with miraculous stories about Mary, the saints and the images, and magnified the importance of the Mass, with its elaborate and multiplied ceremonies and rituals. It was thus that preaching deteriorated and, in fact, almost disappeared. The Reformers vigorously protested against this and contended with all their might for the recovery of God’s Holy Word. 9

Elevation of monasticism. Protestants opposed the Roman Catholic concept of the superiority of the so-called religious life. They did not believe that monasticism was the only way to spirituality or even the best way. By stressing the priesthood of all believers, they worked hard to eliminate the Roman Catholic distinction between the “inferior” life of the Christian involved in a secular calling and the “higher” religious world of monks and nuns.

Usurped mediation. Protestants also rejected the Roman Catholic ideas of mediation by Mary and the intercession of saints, as well as the automatic transfusion of grace in the sacraments. They opposed all forms of mediation with God except through Christ. They reduced the sacraments to two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, thereby stripping priests and the church of mediating power and the sacramental dispensation of salvation.

The role of good works. Protestants rejected the ideas of Semi-Pelagianism, which says that both grace and works are necessary for salvation. This theological difference was at the heart of Protestant opposition to Roman Catholicism, though it was largely through moral and practical corruption that the issue came to the fore.

The Protestant response to Roman Catholic abuses gradually settled into five Reformation watchwords or battle cries, centered on the Latin word solus, meaning “alone.” These battle cries, expounded in chapter 10, served to contrast Protestant teaching with Roman Catholic tenets as follows:


Roman Catholic

Scripture alone (sola Scriptura)

Scripture and tradition

Faith alone (sola fide)

Faith and works

Grace alone (sola gratia)

Grace and merit

Christ alone (solus Christus)

Christ, Mary, and intercession of saints

Glory to God alone (soli Deo gloria)

God, saints, and church hierarchy

The first of these battle cries deals with the fundamental issue of authority, the middle three deal with the basics of salvation, and the final one addresses worship.

In early Protestantism, both Lutheran and Reformed believers embraced these five watchwords. Regrettably, Luther and Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531), the early leader of the Swiss Reformation, parted ways in October 1529 during the infamous Marburg Colloquy, when they could not reach agreement on the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper. 10 From that time on, Protestantism divided into two traditions, Lutheranism and Calvinism—the latter being the Reformed tradition as understood and expressed in the writings of John Calvin and his fellow Reformers.

The Spread of the Reformed (Calvinistic) Faith

The Reformed tradition has its earliest roots in Switzerland with Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575), who established and systematized it after Zwingli’s death. 11 Calvin (1509–1564), its greatest representative and most influential exponent, established Geneva as a model Reformed city. 12 In many respects, Geneva was the most important Protestant center in the sixteenth century. This was not only because of the presence of Calvin, but also because the seminary Calvin established sought to train and educate Reformers for all of Western Europe. Amazingly—somewhat to the chagrin of some of the Genevan populace—the town became the Protestant print capital of Europe, with more than thirty houses publishing literature in various languages. Because of Zwingli’s premature death on the battlefield, the fact that Bullinger’s works 13 were not as easily accessible by the later Calvinist tradition, and Calvin’s able work in systematizing Reformed Protestantism through his Institutes of the Christian Religion, commentaries, sermons, and leadership, the terms Reformed and Calvinism became virtually synonymous. Calvin himself preferred Reformed because he was opposed to having the movement called by his name.

The Reformed movement then spread to Germany. The city of Heidelberg, where the Heidelberg Catechism originated, became an influential center of Reformed thinking. Nonetheless, much of Germany remained staunchly Lutheran. A minority of Lutherans in Germany were affected by Calvin’s thinking, most notably Philip Melanchthon (1497–1560), a close associate of Luther who was unkindly referred to by his peers as a crypto-Calvinist. 14 Eventually, a number of Melanchthon’s followers, estranged from the Lutherans after Luther’s death, joined the Reformed Church in Germany. 15

Calvinism also took hold in Hungary, 16 Poland , and the Low Countries, particularly the Netherlands, where it penetrated the southern regions about 1545 and the northern about 1560. 17 From the start, the Calvinist movement in the Netherlands was more influential than its number of adherents might suggest. But Dutch Calvinism did not flower profusely until the seventeenth century, cultivated by the famous international Synod of Dort in 1618–1619 and fortified by the Dutch Further Reformation (De Nadere Reformatie), a primarily seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century movement paralleling English Puritanism. 18 The Dutch Further Reformation dates from such early representatives as Jean Taffin (1528–1602) and Willem Teellinck (1579–1629), and extends to Alexander Comrie (1706–1774). 19

The Reformed movement also made substantial inroads into France. 20 By the time Calvin died in 1564, 20 percent of the French population—some two million people—confessed the Reformed faith. In fact, this 20 percent included half of the aristocracy and middle class in France. For a while, it seemed that France might officially embrace the Reformed faith. But Roman Catholic persecution and civil war halted the spread of Reformed teaching. In some ways, the French Reformed movement has never recovered from this blow of persecution and attack in the sixteenth century. On the other hand, God brought good out of evil—the Reformed believers who fled France, known as the Huguenots, injected fresh spiritual vitality and zeal into the Reformed movement everywhere they settled. 21

The Reformation spread rapidly to Scotland, largely under the leadership of John Knox (1513–1572), who served nineteen months as a galley slave before he went to England and then to Geneva. Knox brought the Reformation’s principles from Geneva to Scotland and became its most notable spokesman there. 22 In 1560, the Scottish Parliament rejected papal authority, and the following year, the Scottish Reformed “Kirk,” or church, was reorganized. In ensuing generations, many Scots became stalwart Calvinists, as did many of the Irish and the Welsh.

In England, Henry VIII (1491–1547) rebelled against papal rule so that he could legally divorce, remarry, and hopefully produce a male heir. He tolerated a mild reformation but established himself as the Church of England’s supreme head, even as he remained essentially Roman Catholic in his theology. 23 During the short reign of his young son Edward VI (1547–1553), who, together with his council, had a great heart for true reformation, some gains were made, especially by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) through his book Homilies, his Book of Common Prayer, and his Forty-Two Articles of Religion. All of this seemed to be reversed during the bloody reign of Mary Tudor (1553–1558), who reinstated the Latin Mass and enforced papal allegiance at the cost of nearly three hundred Protestant lives. But the blood of those martyrs, including Cranmer, was to be the seed of the Protestant cause in England.

When Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth (1533–1603) succeeded her, many Protestants harbored fervent hopes that the reforms begun under Edward VI would grow exponentially. Elizabeth, however, was content with the climate of British Protestantism and strove to subdue dissident voices. Those who fought too much for reform in matters of worship, godliness, politics, and culture were persecuted and deprived of their livings. Elizabeth’s cautious, moderate type of reform disappointed many and eventually gave rise to a more thorough and robust Calvinism that was derogatorily called Puritanism.

Puritanism lasted from the 1560s to the early 1700s. The Puritans believed the Church of England had not gone far enough in its reformation, because its worship and government did not agree fully with the pattern found in Scripture. They called for the pure preaching of God’s Word; for purity of worship as God commands in Scripture; and for purity of church government, replacing the rule of bishops with Presbyterianism. Above all, they called for greater purity or holiness of life among Christians. As J. I. Packer has said, “Puritanism was an evangelical holiness movement seeking to implement its vision of spiritual renewal, national and personal, in the church, the state, and the home; in education, evangelism, and economics; in individual discipleship and devotion, and in pastoral care and competence.” 24 Doctrinally, Puritanism was a kind of vigorous Calvinism; experientially, it was warm and contagious; evangelistically, it was aggressive, yet tender; ecclesiastically, it was theocentric and worshipful; and politically, it sought to make the relations between king, Parliament, and subjects scriptural, balanced, and bound by conscience. 25

Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists were all part of the Calvinist movement. Some Puritans seceded from the Church of England during the reign of King James I (1603–1625). They became known as separatists or dissenters and usually formed Congregationalist churches. Puritan conformists remained within the Anglican fold.

Eventually, Calvinism crossed the Atlantic to the British colonies in North America, where the New England Puritans took the lead in expounding Reformed theology and in founding ecclesiastical, educational, and political institutions. 26 The Puritans who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony continued to sanction the Church of England to some degree, whereas the Pilgrims who sailed to America in the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth (1620) were separatists. 27 Despite these differences, all Puritans were zealous Calvinists. As John Gerstner observes, “ New England, from the founding of Plymouth in 1620 to the end of the 18th century, was predominantly Calvinistic.” 28

Four more streams of immigrants brought Calvinism to America. Dutch Reformed believers, from the 1620s, were responsible for the settlement of New Netherlands, later called New York. The French Huguenots arrived by the thousands in New York, Virginia, and the Carolinas in the late seventeenth century. From 1690 to 1777, more than two hundred thousand Germans, many of whom were Reformed, settled mostly in the Middle Colonies. The final stream was the Scots and the Scotch-Irish, all Presbyterians. Some settled in New England, but many more poured into New York, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas. “As a consequence of this extensive immigration and internal growth it is estimated that of the total population of three million in this country in 1776, two-thirds of them were at least nominally Calvinistic,” John Bratt concludes. “At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the largest denominations were, in order: Congregationalists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, German Reformed, and Dutch Reformed. Roman Catholicism was tenth and Methodism was twelfth in size.” 29

With the exception of the migrations to America, all of this spreading of the Reformed faith happened by the end of the sixteenth century. 30 The most extensive and enduring strongholds of the Reformed movement became the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Great Britain, and North America.

It is noteworthy that all of these Reformed bodies shared the conviction that Christianity in many parts of Europe prior to the Reformation was little more than a veneer. As these Reformed believers surveyed Europe, they saw what they could regard only as large swaths of paganism. The planting of solidly biblical churches was desperately needed. This explains in large measure the Reformers’ missionary focus on Europe.

In time, the Reformed movement developed into two very similar systems of theology: the Continental Reformed, represented primarily in the Netherlands by its Three Forms of Unity—the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort; and British-American Presbyterianism, expressed in the Westminster standards—the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism. 31 These two systems were not opposed to or entirely separate from each other, however. For example, British Puritans profoundly influenced the Dutch Further Reformation in the seventeenth century. Likewise, the Italian-Swiss Francis Turretin (1623–1687) profoundly affected American Presbyterianism. 32 Turretin’s systematic theology was taught at Princeton Seminary until the 1870s, when it was replaced by that of Charles Hodge.

Calvinism and the Lutherans

Both systems of Reformed theology parted ways with Lutheranism. By the end of the sixteenth century, Calvinism differed from Lutheranism in the following areas:

• Approach to the Lord’s Supper . Lutherans maintained the doctrine of consubstantiation, which holds that Christ is physically present in, with, and under the elements in the Lord’s Supper. They resisted any attempt to explain Jesus’ statement “this is my body” as a metaphor, saying that such efforts opened the door to allegorizing away the gospel itself. Furthermore, they said, if all that is offered in Communion is a spiritual Christ, the sacrament presents a truncated gospel that offers no comfort to believers whose bodies eventually will die. Lutherans would be satisfied only with a concrete, historical Christ.

The Reformed leaders said that the incarnate, historical Christ is now risen and ascended, and therefore is not present in the Supper in the way He was prior to His ascension. Furthermore, the concept of Christ’s spiritual presence does not mean something less than complete; rather, it refers to His ongoing work through His Spirit. The Reformed believed they were affirming all that the Lutherans wanted to protect, but in a clearer, more biblical manner.

• The primary function of the law . Luther generally regarded the law as something negative and closely allied with sin, death, or the Devil. He believed that the dominant function of the law is to abase the sinner by convicting him of sin and driving him to Christ for deliverance. Calvin regarded the law more as a guide for the believer, a tool to encourage him to cling to God and to obey Him more fervently. The believer must try to follow God’s law not as an act of compulsory duty, but as a response of grateful obedience. With the help of the Spirit, the law provides a way for a believer to express his gratitude.

• Approach to salvation. Both Lutherans and Calvinists answered the question “What must I do to be saved?” by saying that Spirit-worked repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His substitutionary work of atonement are necessary. But Lutherans had a tendency to remain focused on the doctrine of justification, whereas Calvinists, without minimizing justification, pressed more than Lutherans toward sanctification, which asks, “Having been justified by God’s grace, how shall I live to the glory of God?” Calvinism thus became more comprehensive than Lutheranism in explaining how salvation works itself out in the life of a believer.

• Understanding of predestination . In the late sixteenth century, most Lutherans moved away from Luther and the Calvinists, who asserted the predestination of both the elect and the reprobate rather than the predestination of the elect only. Reformed theologians believed this shift in thinking was at odds with the content of Romans 9 and similar passages, as well as with the comprehensive sovereignty of God.

The Calvinists were convinced that election is sovereign and gracious, and that reprobation is sovereign and just. No one who enters heaven deserves to be there; no one who enters hell deserves anything different. As Calvin said, “The praise of salvation is claimed for God, whereas the blame of perdition is thrown upon those who of their own accord bring it upon themselves.” 33

• Understanding of worship . Luther’s reform was more moderate than Calvin’s, retaining more medieval liturgy. Following their leaders, the Lutherans and Calvinists differed in their views of how Scripture regulates worship. The Lutherans taught that we may include in worship what is not forbidden in Scripture; the Calvinists maintained that we may not include in worship what the New Testament does not command.

Calvinism Today

Calvinism has stood the test of time. Most Protestant denominations that originated in the Reformation were founded on Calvinistic confessions of faith, such as the Thirty-nine Articles (Anglicanism), the Canons of Dort (Reformed), the Westminster Standards (Presbyterianism), the Savoy Declaration (Congregationalism), and the Baptist Confession of 1689 (Baptist). All of these confessions essentially agree, with the major point of disagreement being the doctrine of infant baptism.

Reformation theology prevailed, for the most part, in Protestant evangelicalism for many decades, but was diluted in the nineteenth century because of several influences, such as the Enlightenment in Europe and Finneyism in America. By the mid-twentieth century, Calvinistic theology had declined dramatically in the Western world, having been assaulted by nineteenth-century liberal theology and revived Arminianism.

About two centuries ago, William Ellery Channing, the father of American Unitarianism, wrote: “Calvinism, we are persuaded, is giving place to better views. It has passed its meridian, and is sinking to rise no more. It has to contend with foes more powerful than theologians; with foes from whom it cannot shield itself in mystery and metaphysical subtleties—we mean the progress of the human mind, and the progress of the spirit of the gospel. Society is going forward in intelligence and charity, and of course is leaving the theology of the sixteenth century behind it.” 34

Channing was a false prophet. Today, even though the world in general is becoming more anti-God and wicked than ever, Calvinism is being revived, although, sadly, it is still a minority position. A fresh hunger for Calvinism’s biblical doctrine and spirituality is causing the roots of Reformed theology to spread throughout the entire world. In recent decades, a significant number of Calvinistic churches and denominations have been birthed around the world. Today, Reformed churches exist in the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, the United Kingdom, North America, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, China, the Philippines, Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Israel, and various additional African and Asian countries. Also, since the 1960s, there has been a resurgence of interest in Calvinistic literature. Calvinistic conferences are being offered in numerous countries; in many of these nations, the number of Calvinists is steadily growing in our new millennium.

Calvinism has a bright future, for it offers much to people who seek to believe and practice the whole counsel of God. Calvinism aims to do so with both clearheaded faith and warm-hearted spirituality, which, when conjoined, produce vibrant living in the home, the church, and the marketplace to the glory of God. It confesses with Paul, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever” (Rom. 11:36). That, after all, is what Scripture, Calvinism, and life itself are all about.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New BLOG Series

Beginning tomorrow I will begin a new blog series discussing the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. This series has been prompted by great discussion I have had with the Thursday morning men's study group concerning John Piper's book "Finally Alive". For many this book has been somewhat of an intro into Calvinist thinking about election and salvation and has raised many good questions. Therefore, I feel it would be beneficial to readers of this blog to get a general overview of both positions and then explore in detail the main points of each position. I will post Tuesday-Friday every week and begin tomorrow with an overview of the positions. I pray that this strengthens us and leads us to further study.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship CLass

Chapter 4 was an eye opening, true test of our commitment to Christ. I think we've often thought of "luke warm" people as those who are morally good people but have no relationship with Jesus. In other words, people who are straddling the fence. But, what do we see when we examine our day to day walk with Christ? Is it full steam ahead or apprehensive? Is it on fire or halfhearted? Is it focused or distracted? Is it... luke warm? We learned that the ugly truth of the matter is that much of our Christian walk doesn't differ very much from nonbelievers. That our Christ likeness is not very Christ like. The Bible says that Jesus is the standard in which we are to live, yet we are content with comparing ourselves to others. The Bible says to take up our cross and follow Jesus, but we're more concerned with playing it safe. The Bible says to give to those in need, but far too often we ask "How much do I have to give?" instead of "How much can I give?" The Bible says to love God with all your heart, sole, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself, but we limit how far we'll go and how much time, money and energy we're willing to spend. 
I'm afraid this "luke warmness" has become epidemic in our churches, but it doesn't have to be. It would do us all good to remember, especially myself, that God is for us and we are never out of His reach. He is in control and has only our best interest at heart. We can trust that if God brings us to it, He will bring us through it. Let us be bold!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Millennium

John Piper moderates while Sam Storms, Doug Wilson, and Jim Hamilton share an evening (just over two hours) in discussion mainly on the Millennium spoken of in Revelation 20. Together the three represent three historic views of the millennium…Storms (Amillennialism), Wilson (Postmillennialism), and Hamilton (Premillennialism).

Hear the audio or watch the video here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Matters of Prayer

I am blessed to pastor such a wonderful flock. I long to be the shepherd God has called me to be and I ask that you would pray for me and for our church in the following ways:
1. Pray for our outreach. Proclaim team 1 went out Sunday afternoon and I was very encouraged to see many stepping out of their comfort zones and boldly declaring the gospel. Pray for Proclaim tonight that we would see much of the same and we would have the heart of God when it comes to outreach.
2. Pray for those who will follow in believer's baptism this Sunday. So far their are six, I know there are more who need to make this public proclamation of their faith, pray for them as well.
3. Pray for me this week. I am getting back into Genesis chapter 9 this week and desire your prayers for understanding and clarity in proclamation. I am also preparing a message to preach at the Association's annual meeting in a few weeks. All messages are important, but I feel a special urgency for this message, pray for me and those who will hear it who represent the 62 churches in Sevier county.
4. Pray for a continued hunger for God for both yourself and this church body. We have really been challenging one another over the last months, and I know we are all prone to wear down and burn out, may God keep the white hot fire of our love for the gospel burning within us.

I love you all, may God bless you mightily in Him.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship CLass

Chapter 3 is the title chapter, "Crazy Love".  In this chapter we were faced with the question of: Do we really know Gods love in our heart or just in our head? We remembered Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, crying out to his father with such emotion that His sweat was like great drops of blood, "please father if there's any other way to save humanity, let this burden pass from me". We can only imagine the suffering Jesus and His Father endured as Jesus took on our sin and represented before His Father, Holy God, what God detests to the point He can't even look upon. All for the love of me and you. We came to understand that the love between parent and child is only a small echo of Gods great love for us. Why is it then do we have such a hard time even fitting God into our day? God doesn't need us, yet He still wants us. We desperately need God, but many times we don't want Him. Yet, in spite of our self centeredness, Gods one goal for us, is Himself. How could this be? Why would the creator of all that is, long so much for you and I? It doesn't make any sense, it's ridiculously insane, it's crazy... it's love.
The cross is not just a piece of jewelry and the Lords supper is not just something we do as Baptists. My prayer for you and I is that these will be constant reminders of Gods enormously compassionate love for us and that we respond with the intense, God honoring worship that Jesus deserves.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship CLass

Chapter 2 of Crazy Love was especially challenging for the name itself, "You Might Not Finish This Chapter". We were brought to a greater understanding of the briefness of our lives as James describes comparing our lives to a vapor or a mist that appears for a little while, then vanishes. We learned that although our time on Earth is brief, relatively speaking, it is extremely important in the realm of all eternity for it is this time and this time only that God has blessed you and I with to have any impact on eternity.  No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, the point of our lives is to point to God. 
I want to eagerly encourage everyone to remember that every day is a gift from God and how we live our days is how we live our lives. Today is important, don't waste it.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Crazy Love-Wrapping Things Up

For the last 11 weeks I have met every Thursday morning at 6:30am with a men's discipleship group and we have read Crazy Love together. I have also attempted to post chapter summaries and thoughtful questions that arose from both our discussion and reading. The time together has not been so much about this book or Francis Chan, but it has been about the fact that we serve an amazing God who has given us friends that are fellow heirs with Christ who are able to walk along side of us and challenge us in our growth. I am a man most blessed in that I am beginning to understand that the relationships God gives us with others are not just so we can be happy and not feel lonely. He gives us relationships with others that He may be glorified in our conversations and so that we may grow in the image and likeness of Christ as we sharpen one another in times together. He gives us these relationships so that we may pray together, corporately confessing that we can't do anything on our own, but we submit our needs and the needs of our brothers to the one who is both just and justifier, creator and Lord, King of Kings. This is a beautiful thing. God gave me brothers in Christ not so we could talk about how they should have played the game differently on Saturday, but so that He may be magnified in all nations. This time together in this book has brought us closer together and challenged us in many ways. May we continue to sharpen one another in our growth for the glory of God. I look forward to hearing from some of you as you get into this study during discipleship time on Sunday evenings. I know that Jay is going to pour himself into this and tell you much about how God has been working in His life. May we each become transparent with one another as we fall deeper in love with Christ and with His church. God bless. Take what you have heard and now live it out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest Post-Crazy Love Discipleship Class

The first Sunday night meeting in the "Crazy Love" class went really well. We were astonished with the Creative power and complexity of God as well as challenged with allowing God to create a new sense of worship in us. I think our prayer life will never be the same as we picture God on His throne, as John describes in the book of Revelation, and realize that is whom we are coming before with our prayers. They are not just messages sent to the sky, we are actually conversing with the creater of all that is. It is humbling to think about it. I encourage everyone, before you pray, imagine yourself standing before God on His throne and see how it transforms your prayer.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Crazy Love Chapters 7-8

Talk about pushing someone out of their comfort zone. Your best life later and profile of the obsessed certainly accomplished that task in my life. I had to continually ask myself the question,"What am I doing?" That's right, "What am I doing?" What I mean by that is if the Christianity that the bible describes is what God requires of His children, then what am I doing? I am comfortable. I am relaxed. I am a lover of money. I am more concerned about my safety and security than those dying and going to hell. I am part of a fat and bloated church society here in America that just does not accept that we aren't living like disciples. I am sick and tired of the game and I pray that you are as well.
Please be praying for one another as we go through the last few weeks of this book that we would not just be hearers of the word, but doers. Also, be praying for the kickoff of crazy love this Sunday night during discipleship at Shiloh. Pray that many are challenged and grow as we have. God bless.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crazy Love Chapter 5

Another week, another great chapter. Just the titles of these chapters are award worthy, "Serving Leftovers to a Holy God", that just grabs you. As we studied this chapter together this morning, the overarching theme seemed to be that many of us felt completely drained by this chapter. In saying that, I mean it made us ask some hard questions. The one first and foremost in my mind was if this is what it means to be saved what have I been doing? We are called to examine ourselves over and over in scripture. We are challenged to see if the Spirit indeed is working in our lives and we are bearing fruit. I have no doubt about my salvation, but I see many areas that need some serious pruning and I attribute that all to the Spirit's work in revealing hidden sins in my heart. I have no doubt been serving leftovers to this Holy God. May God challenge us all in our growth and service for Him. I pray you asked hard questions about yourself through chapter 5 and that you will continue to do that in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Abide in Him

I was blessed by this sermon this morning:

I pray for myself and my church family that we would heed the call to hide the word in our heart and abide in it day by day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Crazy Love Chapters 3-4

In lieu of a little six flags trip and an extremely busy week last week I did not get to post on chapter 3, so we do a little combo work this week and look at chapters 3 and 4 of this book. I pray you are being challenged as you read through and you are growing in your faith and knowledge of Christ.

Chapter 3
As you read through this short chapter I think you can understand it's purpose is to get you to put all that you have read in the first two chapters together and place salvation in it's proper perspective. Seeing God as father is not influenced by earthly dad's but I believe it greatest emphasis is that you get to be His child and you are given an inheritance. Reminding yourself of this truth will keep you everyday stuck with the love of Jesus.

Chapter 4
I appreciate chapter four so much. I have read it over and over again and challenged every time. Why? That's what the word of God does to us. Chapter 4 is one passage of scripture after another breaking down our mundane assumptions of what the Christian life is described as in scripture. We have formed our own definition over the years of a Christian that seems to be very different from that put forth in the pages of the Word. In the video study of this chapter, Francis Chan said that he stands in the foyer of his church very often and wonders how many of the people attending will actually go to heaven? This is a question I am haunted with over and over again. How many members of Shiloh Baptist Church will really go to heaven? I pray for your brokenness in the chapter and pray that the word of God cuts us deep and causes us to seek Him in a way we never have before.

For next week read chapter five. This chapter is worth you reading two or three times by the way.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Go Joe!

I got a little pumped when I saw that they were making a GI Joe movie, and then a quickly remembered what a let down the Transformers skin and profanity parade has been in their two releases. Still though, part of me can't help but want to go see this movie, or at least go to my mom and dad's house and dig out all my GI Joe guys (not dolls, but action figures). I can still remember taking on the world with Snake Eyes and taking cobra commanders body apart and firing bottle rockets at the other members of cobra, what boy aged 35 and under didn't do that? While I am still up in the air as to my viewing of this movie, I thought Plugged In's review might be of some help to those of you on the fence about whether this release merits any of your time and money.

Technology might seem helpful to you, with its cell phones, computers and life-saving medicines. But those are just things technology uses to lure you into a false sense of security while it secretly molds itself into nuclear warheads, self-flushing toilets and Twitter.

Now, in G.I. Joe's world, we've got nanomites. They are not the cuddly-but-inane stars of an animated Nickelodeon show. They are not the latest accoutrement in hip-hop gear. They are, in fact, microscopic computerized insects—the repellent offspring of African termites and iPods. Once powered up, they're able to devour anything and everything in their path—unless their path happens to be the human circulatory system. Once inside a person, they stop eating and instead do one of these three things:

A) Transform their host into an evil, remorseless zombie.

B) Encourage "their" body to regenerate and encase itself in a shiny sheath of metal.

C) Allow the human to disguise himself as anyone he wants.

That makes them irresistible to the dastardly evildoers in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra who want utter dominion over Earth. So they steal the tiny creatures from NATO, slap them into nifty, glassy warheads and aim them at the world's best-known cities.

At the head of this cackling cadre of chaos is McCullen, Scottish boss of the M.A.R.S. weapons manufacturing company. As the man behind the creation of the nanomites, you'd think he would've just kept the microscopic beasties for himself instead of selling them to NATO, then undertaking an expensive operation to steal them back. But no one argues with McCullen—not even his host of creepy, flashily dressed compatriots: Not the mysterious Doctor who has a strange fascination with cobras; not Storm Shadow, the white-dressed ninja; and not Baroness, the slinky, leather-clad lady whose main claim to fame may be her nifty sunglasses.

Who can stop these villains from unleashing masses of nanomites on an unsuspecting world? Why, the fearless fighting men and women of G.I. Joe, of course. The Joes, as they collectively call themselves, are elite military personnel from around the world who sacrifice their lives, futures and normal names (there's Hawk, Heavy Duty, Duke, Ripcord and Snake Eyes) to be part of an ultra-exclusive team.

G.I. Joe seems, at times, to take cues from Star Wars. An example: Everyone, be they good or bad, seems to know or be related to someone on the other team. For instance, Duke—the story's main good guy—was once engaged to Baroness before she turned to the Dark Side. But there's still some chemistry between the two, and by the time the credits roll, we've seen Baroness save Duke, Duke save Baroness, and the two of them save each other.

The rest of the folks over at G.I. Joe headquarters seem to enjoy one another's company and exhibit many admirable traits. Snake Eyes embodies perseverance as well as loyalty to his murdered martial arts master. Ripcord sacrifices pricey hardware and nearly himself to save Washington, D.C., from certain destruction. All of them, of course, are courageous to a fault and willing to put themselves in harm's way for the sake of others.

"When all else fails, we don't," G.I. Joe leader Hawk says. They're very sweet people, really.

When Scarlett loses a tussle with Baroness and laments that her father "taught me to win," Ripcord comforts her. "You get knocked down, you get back up," he says. "Maybe that's what he wanted you to learn."

In a 17th century flashback, we see McCullen's great-great-great (you get the idea) grandfather severely punished for selling weapons to both sides in an unnamed war. That McCullen says, "God willing," his sons will follow in his weapons-selling ways, as a priest mumbles prayers in the background. McCullen's accuser intimates that he may not have betrayed just his feudal lord, but the Lord, as well.

The Baroness wears more leather than a bar full of bikers, and it's all perfectly tailored to hug every curve and bump on her body. Her outfits are also unfailingly low-cut, revealing cleavage. She lustily smooches and cuddles up to half the guys in the film, from Duke (twice) to McCullen to the rich French scientist she's actually married to.

One guy Baroness gives a sultry kiss to is killed by Storm Shadow while they're still at it.

Ripcord has a crush on Scarlett—who also wears her share of hip-hugging ensembles.

The Joes are an action-oriented team determined to save humanity—no matter how many people they have to kill to do it. Thus, it would literally be impossible to detail every moment of mayhem that takes place during this two-hour movie. It'd actually be simpler and shorter to just transcribe the whole thing.

But this is a review, not a recording. So a few low notes will have to suffice: McCullen's first nanomite target is Paris. And when the Joes get wind of the plot, they try to take down Baroness and Storm Shadow before the missile is launched. The result is a 15-minute rumble/car chase during which hundreds of bystanders are injured or (more likely) killed. The bad guys run into scads of cars with their specially equipped Hummer before they even know they're being chased. And when they discover Snake Eyes clinging to the roof of their vehicle, they start shoveling moving cars at him (courtesy of a forklift attachment that your local Hummer dealer may or may not actually offer as an option). Cars that careen over the Hummer land with such violent force that they occasionally catch fire. They almost always strike other moving vehicles. Duke and Ripcord, outfitted in their accelerator suits, follow—heedless of the carnage and traffic disturbances they're causing themselves. Vehicles flip, tumble, explode and occasionally crash into trains.

While all that's going on, Joes and goons fire guns and grenades at one another. At least one bistro is almost completely destroyed. Scarlett shoots a bad guy through the head with an exploding arrow: We later see the victim's contorted body with the arrow sticking out of his head before the corpse starts fizzling and shriveling, like a decaying peach in a time-lapse movie.

And this is before the nanomites eat the Eiffel Tower, along with several passing cars and busses. More untold casualties, we can assume, ensue.

Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow have a history, and we see the two as children, beating each other up to bloody pulps with a variety of martial arts implements. The two fight as adults, too, in a showdown that culminates with one of them being sliced nearly to ribbons before tumbling into a deep, watery pit.

We see people get shot, sliced, diced, stabbed (blades sometimes coming through the torso to stick out the other side) and speared with ninja stars. They're impaled by forklifts, killed by gigantic drills, poked in the face with needles, bitten by cobras and burned to crisps—I'm not done yet—forced to wear red-hot iron masks, painfully molded by nanomites, zapped, hit, kicked, choked and otherwise abundantly abused.

Helicopters go boom and crash. Buildings blow up. Planes are eaten by nanomites. Undersea cities are destroyed. Explosions flower more frequently here than dandelions in my yard in June. Duke and Ripcord go through strenuous, painful training exercises.

The s-word is blurted out four (and a half) times. Other swearing revolves around "a--," "d--n," "h---" and "b--ch. God's name is misused half-a-dozen times or more, and it's paired once with "d--n." Jesus' name is abused once.

Ripcord is given some pain medication after a battle. He says it's "primo stuff."

Hawk appears to disregard direct orders.

Playthings from my childhood are mindlessly mangling the modern multiplex. Transformers. And now G.I. Joes. What's next? LEGOs? Maybe the movie could be called LEGO: Rise and Fall of the Yellow Brick. It's only been a few weeks since I reviewed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and since that was one of the worst movies I've seen all year, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Will G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra be as bad? Or worse?"

The answer: Sure, why not?

G.I. Joe doesn't resort to the same level of cheap, crass, sexualized gimmicks the Transformers sequel employs. The women here are sultry—and there's some sexualized violence that shouldn't be ignored—but none of them turn into cyborgs that brandish snakey, metallic tongues. Characters do not incessantly utter f-word facsimiles. And no one's mother eats marijuana-laced brownies.

But the violence here, semi-cartoonish as it may be, is jarring, pervasive and incredibly hard to excuse. This martial boyhood fantasy all but consecrates carnage-filled problem-solving. The Joes don't just mount an assault on evil, they hammer down our senses, too, battering them into bleeding, whimpering submission.

Plus, it's just plain dumb. This is a movie that makes the original cartoon look like a subtle, high-mindedly satirical take on world affairs. This is a movie in which the bad guys blow a hole through the polar ice cap, hoping the ice will crush the submarines hovering underneath.

Let me emphasize that last bit: This is a movie where ice sinks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

David Platt SBC Pastors Conference

I had heard that this was a powerful sermon from those who went to the SBC. They weren't lying. This is without a doubt one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard. May God bless you as you watch.

David Platt: SBC Pastors Conference 2009 from Todd Thomas on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Crazy Love Chapter 2

It's time for this weeks installment of Crazy Love. I think a lot of you read chapter two weeks ago because of it's intriguing title, "You might not finish this chapter." It was almost like a challenge for me. In this chapter we were confronted with the brevity of life and the fact that we are not the one whom the world revolves around. We are in fact only a small player in the whole scheme of things. My question for you is are you living in such a way that you are making an impact for the kingdom?

In our time together this morning at the men's bible study we discussed this chapter in depth. One of the questions we discussed challenged us to remember someone who died unexpectadly and tell about the regrets they might have had. This provided us with quite a few stories of those who died young in life and made a huge impact on the kingdom, it also confronted us with some lives that had a very negative impact on the ones they left behind. I shared that I have done a lot of funerals over my seven years of ministry. Some of those have been very easy to do. The deceased was very active and growing in their faith, with the fruit to prove it. Others were only professors of faith and showed no fruit or life change. You can imagine those were services that were approached in a very different manner. One easily preached and given as an example for others to strive for as they grow in their faith, the other a seemingly wasted life. I don't want to waste my life.

Consider what you would regret today if you stood before Jesus. What changes will you make in your life that will help you approach the end knowing you have not wasted it. Cry out to the father and draw close to Him that he may show you your dire need of Him and His spirit's work in your life.

For next week, read chapter 3. I will see you soon. God bless.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

News about the body

I am not talking about your personal health. By the way, ours is poor (all three girls sick with a feverish, coughing, snotty thing). I am talking about the body of believers at Shiloh Baptist Church. Summers at Shiloh are always interesting since we have a lot of families and families vacate a lot in the summer. Seriously, some of you guys have had three or four already. They are also interesting here as we approach August because we start thinking about the new church year. I just wanted to let you know some things to be praying about and excited about in the months ahead.
1. The new building should start either today or Wednesday. I know finally. This is the initial stage that will just include the erection of the building. A good start with much work left to do. I am pumped.
2. The nominating committee is hard at work casting a vision for the new year. Please pray for them and pray for laborers.
3. As we begin the new church year in September we will engage in a new evangelism initiative called Proclaim. During proclaim we will strive for church wide involvement in evangelism. We will also provide training in sharing your faith on Sunday evenings during the worship hour.
4. New discipleship training opportunities. This will include a book study, systematic theology class, and intensive scripture memory for children. Please see this as an opportunity to grow in your faith and come out at 6pm on Sunday evenings.
5. Christmas store, missions opportunities, and much much more.

Please be praying, be willing, and be excited about the opportunities God will present us this fall. Believe it or not, Lane Kiffin is not the most exciting thing to hit this town, the unstoppable Gospel is.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One more calvinist video

This video also brought me great joy today. Once again, you might not all get this.

Mariah Carey is a Calvinist?

I laughed so hard at this video. I had no idea how deep Mariah was. I hope you appreciate this Benji.

Crazy Love Chapter 1

Well, I just got back from the men's bible study at church where we are reading through this same book and I was blessed by the conversation and the work in the hearts of the men by our great God this morning. I pray that God is challenging you through his Holy Spirit as you read His word and read this book. Every week on the blog we will summarize the chapter and challenge one another through the comments section.
As I read the preface I was quickly drawn in as he referenced the question he posed to the group of college students at the beginning. Is the church being what the church is called to be in scripture? This question has haunted me over the last weeks as we have thought about men of God and their desire for Him and churches that God uses in a mighty way and we have asked the question Why don't I have that passion and desire? So, I was hooked from the beginning, and thankfully he also tells us in the preface that this is not a come to Jesus and leave the church book. I believe the author knows that the church is the bride and God claims it with the blood of His son.
In chapter one we are confronted with the majesty of God. How do you approach God when you pray, or when you worship? Is He a genie in a bottle or a cosmic waiter in the sky? The creator of the universe, over 300,000,000 galaxies alone just to show His glory, and yet also the personal God who sent Christ to die for you and your sins. This is overwhelming. I pray that you were challenged. That you think next time as you approach God. That you would read through Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 the descriptions of God and begin to think about the God you speak to and how you are even able to speak to Him?
What were you challenged with in this first chapter? I look forward to reading your comments over the next few days and responding to those. For next week, read chapter two. God bless, have a great day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our view of the gospel

In his book, God is the Gospel, John Piper poses the following question:
If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities that you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties that you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?
I believe we quickly answer this question with a resounding no? But do we really mean that? Do we really mean that we love Christ and love the gospel because it brings us to God and not just to God's stuff? I am quick to wonder in the stuff of God, my get out of hell free pass, and not to wonder in the glory that I can come into the presence of the creator and king of the universe by the blood of the lamb. May you wonder this week at the glory of the gospel, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. That he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reading together

I think some of your were overwhelmed with Knowing God, so lets try something different. Last week I read a short little book called Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. I will be going through this book with my Men's Bible study group on Thursday mornings and I think it would be great to also discuss it with you guys that follow the blog. So, between now and Thursday the 23rd, buy Crazy Love and read the intro and the first chapter and we will discuss it beginning on the 23rd. I look forward to sharing in this with you. It is a great book that will challenge you.

Kentucky Missions

During the last week I had a great opportunity to spend some time in eastern Kentucky on a mission trip with around 30 youth and adults from the church. Our God is so good in leading us to Big Creek Missions in Kentucky. Clay and Leslie counties, where big creek operates, are two of the top ten poorest counties in the U.S., there is great physical need there. There is also great spiritual need, as they in many ways are hopeless in this present world. This was a week where God was at work in our group. Many had their eyes opened to life outside of our safe little box, may God continue that and call many of these to leave the safety of home and take the gospel forward to the nations. May we understand better and better all the time about the mandate of missions to us as believers and serve Him faithfully, not wasting our lives here. As I wrap up this post, allow me to commend Big Creek Missions and the director Kevin Rogers. I have been to many youth camps over the years, this one however stands above them all in a love and commitment to God and His word and a love and commitment to the lost and hurting around them. I would highly recommend Big Creek Missions to anyone interested in obeying the Lord and being on mission. Check out for more info.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why don't I have that?

The question is not posed because I am lacking the newest game for the wii. It is not even about the latest fashion or accessory for my Ipod. The question is why don't I have a desire for God like is present in the lives of men and women in the bible, or even other men and women throughout history? Read through the psalms (42 and 63 especially). Is that type of yearning and desire for God so very present in your life that it seems to you to be a matter of life and death? Is it truly to live is Christ and to die is gain for you? For me, I would have to say I am half hearted at best the majority of the time. Why is that so? Over the next few Sunday evening we will seek to answer that question together, and we will spend time on the blog discussing this topic and hopefully have some interaction and help one another grow. My God haunt us about our satisfaction with the status quo of Christianity here in America.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Adopted for Life

As all three of you that read this blog know, Elizabeth and I are in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. We are most likely a year out from bringing this child home and obviously adoption is on our hearts very often. This book however is not just for families who are adopting. It is a heartfelt cry that calls the church to look at their own adoption in Christ and to fulfill the mandate that Christ has given us all to take care of orphans. Moore’s ambition goes beyond asking young families to adopt orphaned children. “In this book I want to call us all to consider how encouraging adoption—whether we adopt or whether we help others adopt—can help us peer into the ancient mystery of our faith in Christ and can help us restore the fracturing unity and the atrophied mission of our congregation.” As Moore explains, “The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world.” It is the gospel that calls us to adopt but it is also the gospel that teaches us how to understand adoption. In fact, “as we become more adoption-friendly, we’ll be better able to understand the gospel.” And so this book is for anyone and everyone.
It is important to note that this is not a how-to book; it does not provide step-by-step instructions for adopting (since there are already plenty of books that do just that and do it well). “Instead I want to ask what it would mean if our churches and families were known as the people who adopt babies—and toddlers, and children, and teenagers. What if we as Christians were known, once again, as the people who take in orphans and make of them beloved sons and daughters?” No one can claim that every person is called to adopt. But it does seem that all Christians are meant to think about the issue since we all have a stake in it. After all, God himself has a stake in it as the “Father of the fatherless” and the One who tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to comfort orphans.
Through nine chapters, Moore first lays theological groundwork for adoption and then turns to matters that are perhaps just a bit more practically applicable (not that I wish to draw too firm a line between theology and practice). In the first chapter he explains why you ought to read the book, even if you do not want to. In chapter two he explains what some rude questions about adoption taught him about the gospel of Christ. After that he turns to what is at stake in this discussion and then gives pastoral counsel on how to know if you or someone you love should consider adoption. He looks to practical aspects of navigating the adoption process (reassuring readers that it is not nearly as bad as most people seem to believe it is) and then covers some of the uncomfortable questions that arise—health concerns, racial identity, and so on. The seventh chapter explains how churches can encourage adoptions and the eighth shows how parents, children and friends can think about growing up adopted. He closes with some concluding thoughts which tie theology and practice into his own family (in which he and his wife adopted two boys before the Lord opened the womb and granted them two more, though he playfully insists he can no longer remember which of his sons are adopted and which are not!). In fact, Moore and his family figure prominently throughout the book as he describes the joys and challenges of welcoming adopted children to his family.
This book blessed me. This book will bless you. I am praying our church will have an understanding of adoption like this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Scripture Memory

Well, I hope that the memorization of Psalm 1 has been a blessing to you over the last week and a half. I know, this is hard work, but it is a good work that will be of eternal benefit to you and those you are in contact with. For the next two weeks we will memorize Philippians 2:1-11 together. We will consider in this passage what it means to put others first and how we can have the mind and attitude of Christ. Remember, try to memorize one verse a day, getting to the point where you can say it aloud ten times without looking at the text. Then review the other verses you have learned every day. Saying the whole passage that you have memorized up to this point aloud ten times before moving on. God bless you. Look for a book review coming up tomorrow about an amazing book I have just finished. By the way, we will try to finish up this set of memorization by July 5th. That gives you two weeks. Work hard.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Notes for the Weekend

What a great week? VBS is always one of my favorite weeks of the year and this year was no different. You just wish you could pour God's word into these kids every day. This is not God's plan though, and He primarily leaves this up to the parents of these children. May God burden their parents to train them up.

Scripture Memory
How are you guys doing with Psalm 1? I still have not heard from anyone. I will post a new memorization on Monday. Until then, keep working hard!

I am so thankful for my church family. It is beautiful to see them unite and serve the Lord like they have this week and at so many other times in the life of our church. May God continue to bless Shiloh Baptist Church.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Memorizing Scripture Together

Sorry about the tardiness of this post. My internet has been down for the last couple of days. I am so glad that some of you desire to hide God's word in your heart. This is how we will approach this: We will begin this week by memorizing Psalm 1 together. It is only six verses and is a great primer for our growth together in memorizing God's word. The best way to go about memorizing is to focus only on one verse at a time. For instance, I would begin today by memorizing, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked." I would do this by reading it aloud ten times and then saying it without looking ten times. Tomorrow, go back over verse one, and add verse two by reading it ten times aloud and then saying it ten times without looking at the text. After memorizing verse two say verses one and two five times correctly in a row before you end your time for day two. Repeat this every day and you will memorize Psalm 1 by next Thursday. Please post in the comment section if you are taking part in this memorization challenge, and may God bless the reading and memorization of His word.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Entrusted with the Gospel (2)

Today I want to spend time focusing upon someone else who faithfully entrusted the gospel to me.
When I was saved at the age of sixteen, Bob Cardinal was no more than the father of one of my very good friends. Today, I would describe Bob as my father in the faith. After my conversion Bob was very influential in my life over the next few years as he was responsible for teaching the high school Sunday school class. He, along with a man name David Allred, faithfully taught us week after week about our great God. I still turn back to some of the material they taught in order to give me a fresh perspective on what I am teaching about. After high school, while I was away at ETSU, I guess there were a few years where I did not really grow and did not have much contact with Bob. However, after Elizabeth and I became engaged, I was quickly informed of a newly and nearly married Sunday school class that Bob and his wife Debbie would be teaching. We entered into the class not knowing what to expect, but what we found was two people who genuinely cared for us and cared about our relationship with Christ. Bob and Debbie are the Godliest people I have ever met and their influence in my life and the life of my family is unspeakable. They were more than teachers, they shared life with us, they embodied the true meaning of fellowship. Thank you so much Bob and Debbie, may God bless you forever for your faithfulness to Him. Thank God for those who entrust others with the gospel, may we go and do likewise.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Entrusted with the gospel

This week I want to focus on 2 Timothy 2:2, "and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." As a believer, it is not all about us. It is about who we are in Christ and what mission He has given us. There are a lot of things we can do that are good things here that will have little or no eternal impact. Let us live with eternity in mind and be faithful to share the hope that we have and also let us endeavor to entrust what we have been taught to others that they may share. This has happened over and over again in my life and I praise God for that. This week I want to encourage you with the stories of men who have shaped me and then encourage you to be one of those men.

I am so thankful for Tommy Pierce. He was the first pastor I ever had, and he faithfully entrusted the gospel to me. For Tommy, this meant he spent time with me. He made time every Tuesday evening one summer to teach me and a group of my friends about leadership, accountability, and loving the Savior. He encouraged me to go to seminary and receive further training and instruction there. He prayed for me and gave me opportunities to preach. He modeled faithful biblical exposition before me week after week. He loved his wife and his kids. He is a man that has impacted my entire ministry, and I am so thankful for that. He did what Paul instructed Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:2. May we go and do likewise.

As you read this today, thank God for men like Tommy Pierce, and resolve to be a man like Tommy Pierce. Entrust what you have been taught to someone else. Pour your life into those who will impact the generations to come.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just Do Something-Review

When a book has a subtitle of, "How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.", you know it is probably worth a read. This definitely proved to be the case with "Just Do Something" by Kevin DeYoung.
“My goal,” he says, “is not as much to tell you how to hear God’s voice in making decisions as it is to hear God telling you to get off the long road to nowhere and finally make a decision, get a job, and perhaps, get married.” He fears that many Christians, because of their unbliblical understanding of knowing and doing the will of God, are wasting their lives doing nothing when they should just be doing, well, something! “I’d like us to consider that maybe we have difficulty discovering God's wonderful plan for our lives because, if the truth be told, He doesn’t really intend to tell us what it is. And maybe we’re wrong to expect Him to.” We so many times think that every decision in life must come with hand writing on the wall, and that just does not seem to be the biblical mandate. God has revealed his will to us in his word and Deyoung asserts that many decisions such as marriage and vocation that are presented to us are fine to pursue being that they don't contradict God's revealed will for us that we find in scripture.
“Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything? And the answer is no.” Though we are free to ask for his direction and though we ought to be devoted to prayer in all matters, God does not burden us with seeking his will of direction ahead of our decisions. “God does have a specific plan for our lives, but it is not one that He expects us to figure out before we make a decision.” “Trusting in God’s will of decree is good. Following his will of desire is obedient. Waiting for God’s will of direction is a mess.” The solution is simple: we are to have confidence in God’s hidden will, we are to search out and believe and obey God’s will, and we are then to use wisdom to make decisions that God will bless. We are to use what Dave Swavely aptly terms “sanctified reasoning.” DeYoung leaves the reader to consider this: “If there really is a perfect will of God we are meant to discover, in which we will find tremendous freedom and fulfillment, why does it seem that everyone looking for God’s will is in such bondage and confusion?”
Here, then, is how we are to live within God’s will: “So go marry someone, provided you’re equally yoked and you actually like being with each other. Go get a job, provided it’s not wicked. Go live somewhere in something with somebody or nobody. But put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and the preoccupation with the future, and for God’s sake start making some decisions in your life. Don’t wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God’s will, so just go out and do something.” God’s will for your life is really not as complicated as you may be making it out to be.