Friday, June 30, 2006

The President will Eat Right...on Paper

The President, along with Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese Prime Minister, is about 10 blocks from my house right now eating at The Rendevous--a classic Memphis BBQ joint that serves some of the world's finest ribs. However, they do so on paper plates, in the basement of a downtown high-rise, that must be entered through an alley.

The two leaders are in Memphis because Koizumi is a huge Elvis fan and wanted to visit Graceland while in the States.

The Expulsive Power of a Higher Affection

Lord willing, this weekend I will preach a different text and a slightly different title than Thomas Chalmers' epic making (for me, at least) sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.

It was Chalmers' sermon that the Lord used to further open my eyes to scores of texts in God's Word that teach the amazing truth that our worldly affections don't simply need to be eradicated but replaced with God given affection for Christ.

My text is: Matthew 6:19-34
My title is: The Expulsive Power of a Higher Affection

I will appreciate your prayers!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Exegetical Fallacies

As a requirement, I read Exegetical Fallacies during my graduate studies. That was back when I knew everything.

I'm rereading it now and have been duly convinced that I have effortlessly committed them all. If you are a preacher or teacher of God's Word, I recommend this quick read to you. Even if you don't teach, it would serve any believer well.

Happy exegeting!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Moved & Moved

The long abscence of posts on Solus Christus has been due to our recent move from Minneapolis to Memphis.

Though our physical transit was over 900 miles, our hearts have undergone the greatest move. Mrs. Ida, who lives down the street, took a walk with my family tonight and gave us some schooling on the city. "Those people" she said as she pointed down the road toward some dilapidated homes, "are killing left and right." Clearly, Ida is emotionally desensitized from the incalculable number of murder victims she knew. Lord, use me to reach her! There's no doubt that Willie was strung out on some hallucinogenic, and less doubt that he is someone I'd love to see come to Christ, Grace Church, and deployed as a soldier in Christ's army. Mrs. Deion, apparently the neighborhood grandmother, seems to be a sweet believer and has already made a point to stop by and invite us to worship with her at Apostolic Deliverance Temple of Holiness (Lord willing we will do so on July 23 - which is the next Sunday I'm not preaching someplace). Hank, surprized to live behind a pastor, is being covered in prayer. These, along with Lativia, Chris, Shonda, Jenni, Antoine, Tony, Angela, Mike, Tyler, Dillon, Xavier, and the scores of others we've seen and met in these few days are just some of the people we have been praying for the last year. It's nice to have faces and names go along with the cries for the gospel to speed ahead (II Thes 3:1).

May God be pleased to use us to lead any of these who remain unbeliving to faith in His Son, growth in biblical maturity, and an engagment with God in His global purposes.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

High Crime, Low Income, & Mixed Races

Here's a re-post from February. A snap-shot of our desire to see God work in the city for His glory.

Some have asked, "Why would you want to plant a new church in an area notorious for crime, well below the national average for household income, and on top of it all, an area where we would be a racial minority?" Seriously, have we lost our minds? To some, like Festus, the answer will have to be "yes" (Acts 26:24-25).

There are two ways this question could be approached; the surface, and what lies beneath.

On the surface, there are obvoius implications behind the question. Those who have been submurged in suburban living, nice fenced yards, two-car garages, remote controlled window blinds, nice countertops, homogenous skin-tones, and all of the other ammenities that many Westerners have come to view as "normal life," will have immense difficulty with the notion that God would lead someone to forsake these "necessities." At this level, the question of "Why" we would desire to plant in urban Memphis is hard to answer because we are speaking a different language than the who is inquiring.

At a deeper level, there is something being revealed about the heart of the inquirer, right? Christ said, "But what comes out the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person" (Matthew 15:18). Is it wrong to live in the burbs? No! Unless, of course, the suburbs are a way to fortify oneself in the pride of one’s own culture. There is nothing wrong with culture. God created diversity. There is, however, something terribly un-Christian about lacking an intential cross-cultural love (John 13:35). Christ came from heaven to earth to reach sinners – of whom I am chief. There is no greater culture-cross than that. We are often duped into thinking that there are many noble reasons for operating in monocultural spheres of life. The key problem is that this wars against the gospel of Christ, Who has in His own flesh, "torn down the barrier of all diving walls" (Ephesians 2:14).

To believe in Christ, who effectively accomplished God's atoning work on the cross, defeated-death, and secured salvation by His glorious resurrection, is of paramount importance during one's lifetime! The effect of this type of saving faith in Christ flows out of the true believer in a stream of redemptive love towards all people.

I'd like to hear how several saints from history would answer the question that has been posed to me. Peter, who was crucified upside down. I wonder what he'd say about the "risk" of the inner-city? Paul, decapitated for his inner-city embracing love for Christ, I wonder what he'd say? Christ Himself, mangled, mutilated, and martyred without just cause (Humanly speaking). I wonder how He would answer the question?

How could it be more rational to stay in the burbs with strong evangelical churches on nearly every street corner instead of taking a risk for the gospel in the city where there are few strong evangelical churches? So, in Gospel fashion, I would like to pose a question instead of answering the question. Could it be that God has "many sheep that are not of the suburban fold that must come to Him also?" (John 10:16). We pray that the answer is "Yes!" Please pray with us. Our faith is small, we are easily discouraged by doubters, and we tend to drift toward comfort just like everyone else. "For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything" (I John 3:20)!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An Open Letter of Thanks to Bethlehem Baptist Church

Thank you for allowing me to be your first Church Planting Resident. In these brief months the Lord has been pleased to forge a relationship between us that, should the Lord tarry, I trust will serve the advance of the gospel for generations to come. It is with great eagerness we look forward to partnering with you in spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

It was not without cost that you brought my family to Minneapolis for the year, invested in us, and pledged to stand behind the planting of Grace Church in downtown Memphis. I admire your selfless service of the gospel that is being manifested in a glad-hearted promotion of the kingdom of Jesus, not your own empire.

In particular, I praise the Lord for your commitment to doctrinal fidelity. I'm often asked, "Why are you planting a new church? Aren't there already enough churches?" I'm thankful that you are asking the exact opposite question, namely; "How can we plant more churches?" I'm also thankful that your question always carries a qualifier - "...more like-minded churches?" It is not elitist that you are less interested in quantity than kinship, and for this, I thank God for you.

According to "what works" in today's church planting landscape, you are doing everything wrong. I'm thankful that you are altogether oblivious to labyrinths, missional codes, the latest church techno gadgets, loud (but theologically silent) music, and the monocultural comforts of suburban America. But be not dismayed. Grace Church is certainly not the first evidence in your storied 135 year history proving that Christ's church-establishing favor rests upon you. Be humbled as you continue to be a conduit of His grace to this fallen world. You are a sharp tool in the hand of the Builder of His Church. Until He comes again, may He be pleased to use you to prepare His Bride - spotless, blameless, and beyond reproach.

As we set out to join a band of sister churches who have been sent out from you in times past, I tremble at the weight of the responsibility of representing the Almighty. Thank you for willingly extending your hand to help us navigate the waters. May God be greatly glorified as we now Treasure Christ Together and seek to advance the kingdom of the King of Kings! Lord willing I'll see you in July and have the great joy of thanking you in person. Until then, thank you all.

In Christ, John 3:30
Jordan Thomas

Why Do Theology?

Religion, the fear of God, must therefore be the element which inspires and animates all theological investigation. That must be the pulsebeat of the science. A theologian is a person who makes bold to speak about God because he speaks out of God and through God. To profess theology is to do holy work. It is a priestly ministration in the house of the Lord. It is itself a service of worship, a consecration of mind and heart to the honour of His name."
- Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, Back Cover. (Emphasis mine)

Monday, June 12, 2006

I Really Like This Site

Biblical Training.

Where Will Grace Church Meet?

This is definitely the most frequently asked question about Grace Church. Our answer? "Your guess is as good as mine."

We would love for you to be involved in the Lord's kindness to our new fellowship. Are there any venues you would suggest - close to the river - in downtown Memphis? We've thought of a few, but we would be helped by your thoughts as well.


Filled With Good Things

For the last several days I have been nourished by the truth of this statement in The Magnificat.
He has filled the hungry with
good things;
and sent awaqy the rich
Are you hungry? Have you tasted recently?

Weddings, Moving, & Blogging

Last weekend I celebrated with a wonderful friend at his wedding. I was honored to bring a charge to the bride and groom from God's Word. This weekend I will have a similar honor at another friend's wedding. In addition, our family is scheduled to move to Memphis the day I return.

Needless to say, things are quite busy and we will appreciate your prayers.

Infrequent posts may emerge on Solus Christus. Blogging as normal should resume after we are settled in Memphis.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Isaiah 57:15

Isaiah 57:15 was one of Clyde Cranford's favorite verses. I was blessed to share a couple of devotions today at Bethlehem, and unpacked this verse for the second one. I forgot to share Clyde's poem at the end. Here it is:

He dwells above the twinkling stars
in radiance untold
Yet condescends to name them all,
the silver and the gold

What wonder that He stoops again
to look upon the earth,
Even down to lowly sinful man
to bring Messiah's birth

Yet lower still He makes a home
with those who feel their shame,
and gathers them within His arms
though Holy is His Name.

Ephesians 1:1-14 (Final Meditation) - "So Bless Him!"

Ephesians 1:1-14 is untouchable. The Solus Christus meditations on this text are at best surface-scratching. Take a moment and read this breath-taking passage again.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
I see verse 3 (in red) as the main thought in Paul's mind. That's hard for me to say for a number of reasons, but I think it is right. This is hard to say because there are so many major thoughts in Paul's mind in this text; not the least of which are:
    • Being chosen by God before the foundation of the world.
    • Being chosen for holiness and blamelesness before God.
    • Being a receipeient of God's predestining love.
    • Being adopted by God as His sons.
    • Having Christ's blood redemption.
    • Being released to join God in the praise of His glorious grace.
    • Being given God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
So why are these elevated thoughts not the main thought in Paul's mind? Because these are evidences of why we should obey verse 3.

Verse 3 is a trumpet blast from Paul saying, "So bless Him already!" In Christ, God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (cf. the summary points above). What is the appropriate response to this reality? It is not arguing about views of predestination, or noting the long sentence structure. It is praising God who has blessed you with all of His blessings by giving you His only Son - and nothing less!

So what are you waiting for? Bless Him!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Spread the Word

For the second time in six years I drove away with my bible on the roof of my vehicle. (Between these two incidents I drove off with one of these up there). The first time, I was notified a couple of days later by our church secretary who found part of my Pentateuch and some New Testament fragments scattered down the street infront of the church. She also found the cover and was able to make out the inscription of my name. I still have the remains.

This time was even more impressive!

If you scroll down two posts, you will find the summary of my dinner conversation with Bruce Ware. Upon leaving the church for dinner I placed my bible on the top of my mini-minivan in order to move two of our four carseats (!!!) to make room for everyone to ride together. The bible stayed right where I placed it. Not only that, it stayed up there all the way to Chipotle. Not only that, it stayed up there all the way through downtown to drop Ware off at the Hilton. Not only that, It stayed up there all the way to drop Joseph off at the church. Not only that, it stayed up there all the way to drop Joey off at the Piper's basement. Not only that, it stayed up there until I took an on-ramp for MN Hwy 55. Then she blew. I heard... thud...crinkle...thud, and looked in the rearview mirror and saw a new evangelistic strategy in the making.

It did a beautiful routine of summersaults before landing in the center of the overpass (which is above Interstate 35W!). Just think if it would have stuck to a trucker's windshiled on the Freeway below! I can hear the testimony now... "Well, I's just driving along and BOOM...God spoke to me."

Here's the fascinating part of it all. I stopped the beaut, walked back to the remains, and found a perfectly in tact bible. I kid you not. Now I'm a salesman. If you are tired of your bible falling apart, binding being cheap, or you were gullible enough to splurge for bonded leather, have I got news for you. I think this is the new version of the one I have.

This Blog Is For Grace Church...and People Like You

Solus Christus was started for Grace Church. We began this blog last Fall with a view to having another communication medium for the new church when we begin meetings this coming Fall. A year of blogging for dummies seemed like the right learning curve for us (We're slow learners).

At this point our readership is not extremely large, but we are serving a wider audience than our original intent. Hopefully, we will be able to continue to do so even as we begin shifting toward the original vision. Our plan for the future of Solus Christus goes something like this:
  1. We will continue to be a "generic" blog - making posts of stuff that usually relates to the glorification of God, the treasuring of Jesus Christ, and the spreading of His eternal joy.
  2. Soon, we will begin focusing more specifically on things relating directly to Grace Church. This should increase as our interest meetings in September draw near. Perhaps you will see announcements, invitations, prayer requests, etc...
  3. Once Grace Church begins hosting interest meetings, and especially corporate worship gatherings, Solus Christus will primarily be a venue for ongoing interaction among the GC family concerning "What Lord is saying to Grace Church." This was our initial vision for the blog when we began last Fall. Some of our thoughts are:
    • Posting small portions of our sermons to encourage worshipful interaction, questions, additions, discussion, etc.
    • Each pastor plans to begin submitting a series of devotional paragraphs related to the passages we are worshipping through at Grace Church. Bryan may take a six week series, then Nate, etc... Our hope is that these meditations will fuel family devotions and serve to stir our hearts the same direction for our corporate worship gatherings.
    • We plan to highlight ministries and needs of Grace Church.
    • I'm sure announcements and reminders will regularly surface.
    • Plus, we plan to continue just being a normal blog.
Blessings to you all in Christ!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Theology Primer with Bruce Ware

Perhaps the most profitable way to use this post is to read the next paragraph, then scroll down until something of interest catches your eye and just read that part(s).

I've just returned from a systematic theology primer over dinner with Bruce Ware. Thank you to those who submitted questions for me to ask (even those who didn't do so through this blog). If my memory serves me correctly, I was able to ask each of them. Instead of listing his responses to my few questions, I'll try to recount a synopsis of the entire talk. (I invited two good friends who are TBI students along for the discussion as well. They had plenty of questions too.)
  • The evening began with a radically God-centered worship experience at Bethlehem's Saturday Evening Service. The music, the Lord's Supper, and the message (Isa. 40:12-17!) each revolved around the exalted God of the Bible. Very nourishing feast for the soul! (To hear the message, click my link, then click "Listen to this sermon series-scroll down to Ware's message-should be available around 6/7).
Shortly after the service we jumped into my mini-minivan and headed to Chipotle. From the time we got in the beaut (my van) until the time I dropped Ware off at his hotel, we had this helpful discussion.
  • Dr. Ware apparently didn't finish his sermon in the pulpit because it continued until we arrived at Chipotle. Ware was reveling in God's Self-sufficiency (You simply must read Tozer's chapter). He described this great truth about God as the ultimate blow to the pride of man. (By the way, we encouraged the post-sermon sermon). Ware mentioned that while on an overseas stint during his undergrad days his reading the Bible about five hours each day and reading Tozer was among the most helpful tools in shaping his trajectory of Theology. I concur with the Tozer part, and wish I could concur with the extended season of reading God's Word five hours per day part. Lord, let it be!
  • At the restaruant, we discussed Ware's view of the atonement. He holds an infralapsarian, non-double-predestination, non-limited atonement, four-point calvinistic (minus the "L"), Christ died for all people in all places in the same way view. Ware has contributed a chapter to a book on Five Views of Election in which he defends the infralapsarian view. He's not sure when the book is to be released. What a dinner discussion!
For a brief peek, here's the difference between Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism:

The Infralapsarian View
The infralapsarian view contemplates the salvation of men after the Fall. Those who are chosen to salvation were chosen on the basis of being members of a fallen race which means that all who shall come to faith were elected subsequent to the Fall. According to the Infralapsarian View, the order of events would be as follows.
  1. God decreed to create man in the image of God.
  2. God decreed to permit the Fall of mankind in Adam.
  3. After the Fall, God decreed to elect some of the fallen souls to salvation and to leave others in a natural state of condemnation.
  4. God decreed to provide a Redeemer for the elect whose work of redemption would be sufficient for all.
  5. God decreed to secure the application of this salvation to the elect by means of the Holy Spirit.
Infralapsarianism Defined:
Concerning the order of the divine decrees before creation infralapsarianism is the belief that God decreed to redeem mankind after God decreed the fall of mankind. Thus the fall brought about a proliferation of human life on the earth, all those whom God had not elected.
The Supralapsarian View (The other side)
The term "supralapsarian" indicates that the decree of election to salvation took place before God created man and before He permitted the Fall. According to the Supralapsarian View, the objects of the Divine decree were contemplated merely as men whom God would create, all of whom were on an equal basis in His sight. According to the Supralapsarian View, the order of effects would be as follows.
  1. In eternity past God proposed to elect some of mankind to eternal life and to condemn others.
  2. God proposed to create man.
  3. God proposed to permit the Fall.
  4. God proposed to send Christ to redeem the elect.
  5. God proposed to send the Holy Spirit to apply salvation to the elect
Supralapsarianism Defined:
With reference to the pre-creation decrees of God,supralapsarianism is the belief that God's decree of election came before He decreed the fall. Thus, God chose people for [heaven] and hell free from any influence of what man might do.
  • Then we asked Ware to discuss his view of Christ's Kenosis Experience.
Kenosis - "emptying". Reference to the self-emptying of Christ per Philippians 2:4-11.
  • Ware believes that Christ emptied Himself, but didn't empty anything of Himself. He described the kenosis experience as "subtraction by addition" based on Paul's use of "taking on" in Philippians 2:7. He likened the incarnation to taking a new showroom car down a muddy road, driving like a drunk teenage boy (my analogy), and returning it to the showroom floor. Then, saying to the salesman, "The same car - in all of its luster and glory - is still there, but it is veiled." Ware said the analogy is comparable to Christ's glory being veiled by His being "poured" (His way of translating the root of ekenosin) into a human being. Therefore, said Ware, Christ took on all the limitations of a man, but did not give up any of His Person. Christ poured Himself into a human's body, with human limitations - yet retained all aspects of His deity. Luke 2:40-52 was central to this discussion.
  • We asked about Ware's take on the current position of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to (1) refrain from appointing missionaries who practice a private prayer language, and (2) do not have an authorized baptism.
This Christianity Today article summarizes the IMB's position. Here's a couple of quotes:
Trustees for the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) International Mission Board (IMB) have voted to bar new missionary candidates who practice a "private prayer language" from serving on the mission field.

The trustees voted 50-15 for the new guidelines on November 15, during their meeting in Huntsville, Alabama. The move will not affect current IMB staff or missionaries. Worldwide, 5,122 IMB missionaries work among 1,194 people groups.

During the November meeting, trustees also voted to accept only those missionary candidates baptized in churches that teach believer security and that practice only baptism by immersion.
  • We asked about Ware's devotional life. He spoke with worshipful enthusiasm about his joy of listen to Max McLean's ESV audio while he follows along in the text. Ware expressed a freedom that comes from not having to focus on the reading, but immersing himself in the situation of the text, and enjoy its meaning. He is currently somewhere in Judges.
  • Ware asked questions to me about church planting in the SBC, and made several insightful comments about the rise of emphasis on cultural accomodation that is unintentionally hindering the advance of the gospel. I tend to agree.
Even as I type I'm remembering so many other parts of our discussion. Perhaps I'll blog them later as I'm running out of human bandwidth to do so now.

So That's How It Happened

Ok, you see, it was about 250 million years ago in Antarctica...
The meteor the size of Sydney struck 250 million years ago and must have been the biggest explosion ever seen on the planet, far bigger than the 10-kilometre-wide meteor which hit east of Mexico 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs.
You can read it all here.

Pray Then

"If God already knows why should we pray?" is a common question asked by those struggling with the tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.

I love the clarity of Christ's statements concerning this issue. Recently I've been jolted by a small portion of Matthew 6:8-9.

"...For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then..."

The fact that God knows our needs before we ask is precicely the motive Christ highlighted to stimulate us to pray. There is no tension in Christ's mind!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Luis Mendez

Luis is a pastor in S. America who has been accepted to begin TBI this Fall (After clicking on TBI, click the TBI link on the sidebar of the new window). Today he will hear if his workers visa has been approved.

The elders of Bethlehem were recently informed that Luis could be denied because the agency doesn't like the way he combs his hair. Though some may see Luis' approval or rejection as arbitrary, we know differently. Pray for Luis today.

Rich Text

II Timothy 1:8-10.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bill Gates Does Not Exist

It is foolish for people to conclude that God doesn't exist. My friend Shaun has found compelling data proving that Bill Gates does not exist. Hmm, maybe we've all been duped?

Bitter Sweet

Have you already heard/seen this?