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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is This a Good Thing?

I only recently became aware that churches these days are giving incentive pay to pastors based on meeting certain objectives. For example, if the church administers the baptism of 50 individuals, then the Pastor gets a bonus. Or if Sunday morning attendance increases from 350 to 500, then the staff are rewarded financially. This article does not go into any specific objectives set for Deep Creek Baptist Church, but does acknowledge some of their incentives to be based both on objective and subjective tests.

I see the dangers as many, and the benefits as few. What does it say to the world, when our Pastors are not motivated by the Glory of God alone, but God and financial incentive?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Book Review: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Carson, D. A. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000. 93 pp. $14.99.

D. A. Carson is Research Professor of the New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Carson is widely published and is renown for his work in many fields. He is the co-author of a New Testament Introduction. Carson has written numerous commentaries. His writings have broached a wide array of topics including Worship, Christian suffering, Postmodernism, the Emerging Movement, KJV-Only Controversy, and Exegesis.

This short introduction on the doctrine of the love of God had its beginnings in a lecture series by Carson delivered at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1998. This lecture first appeared in print in the 1999 volume of Bibliotheca Sacra.

One might be tempted to ask, "What is so difficult about the doctrine of the love of God?" This is the first question which Carson seeks to answer and in so doing illustrates the growing problem of the biblical ignorance many have when addressing this topic. In chapter one, the author discusses reasons why the doctrine of the love of God is difficult. The first difficult issue in expressing the love of God today is a source issue. Christians should ground their understanding of the love of God in the Bible. Non-Christians ground their understanding in many sources, but not normally in the Bible. The source determines our understanding, and due to the varying sources used to determine the meaning of the love of God we have worldview clashes and a plethora of definitions in the culture.

The second difficulty arises from the first. Understanding the love of God also requires an understanding in complementary doctrines also taught about God in the Bible including the holiness of God, the sovereignty of God, and the providence of God (p 11). The culture in large has already purged these qualities from their vocabulary when speaking about God. This development will necessarily lead to a divergence in our understanding what the love of God entails.

The third problem area arises from the dominant worldview prevalent in industrialized countries, which is Postmodernism. The rejection of the absolute trivializes any attempt to be dogmatic when addressing any topic, not just the doctrine of the love of God. The result of Postmodernism leads to many competing understandings of the love of God, and to reject any of the treatments is considered taboo.

If I have understood Carson correctly, his fourth and fifth difficulties are internal issues. First, Carson says that Christians have themselves been too quick to neglect how the love of God is compatible with God's justice, God's sovereignty, and the problem of evil. Perhaps we have tried to make the love of God seem simpler than what it really is. The author's fifth point is that Christians in their attempts to articulate the love of God have also neglected the diverse ways Scripture talks about the love of God.

This leads Carson to list five different expressions of the love of God used in the Bible, followed by short definitions and Biblical examples. They are:

1. The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father (p 16).
2. God's providential love over all that he has made (pp 16-17).
3. God's salvific stance toward his fallen world (pp 17-18).
4. God's particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect (pp 18-19).
5. God's love is sometimes said to be directed toward his own in a provisional or conditional way--conditioned, that is, on obedience (pp 19-21).

Carson next warns against wrong approaches in the quest for understanding the love of God. First, we should not seek to absolutize any one the five ways in which the Bible speaks about the love of God over the other four. Second, he warns us against trying to speak of these loves independently. Third, he cautions us against a word study approach. Carson's rejects the often preached, "agapao means only unconditional love versus phileo means only erotic love" approach as this has now been debunked academically.

Throughout the duration of chapter 2 through the last chapter (chapter 4), Carson examines biblical texts of each of the five categories previously mentioned. Along the way the author gives a few examples of how each expression of the love of God helps us to understand another expression of the love of God. For example, Carson examines the love which the Father has for the Son from John 5:16-30 (pp 30-34). The Father's love is expressed by his showing the Son all things. The full expression of himself to the Son enables us to more fully understand John 3:16 as the Father so loved the world, he gave his only Son, the Son whom he has uniquely shown all things.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God is very helpful as an introduction into the subject of the expressions of the love of God. The book has many strengths. Already mentioned, Carson helps the reader to see how even the church's understanding of the love of God has been distorted due to the pressures coming from the culture. This book harkens us back to the Scripture as the ground for our understanding the love of God. Carson also encourages us to think comprehensively as well, for the church today is saturated with teaching on the 3rd category he lists, God's salvific stance toward his fallen world (pp 17-18), to the neglect of categories 1, 4, and 5 (see above).

Additional strengths of this book are Carson's discussions on the impassability of God and the relationship between the holiness and love of God found throughout chapters 3 and 4. Carson writes concerning the impassibility of God, "Closer to the mark is the recognition that all of God’s emotions, including his love in all its aspects, cannot be divorced from God’s knowledge, God’s power, God’s will. If God loves, it is because he chooses to love; if he suffers, it is because he chooses to suffer. God is impassible in the sense that he sustains no ‘passion,’ no emotion, that makes him vulnerable from the outside, over which he has no control, or which he has not foreseen . . . Our passions change our direction and priorities, domesticating our will, controlling our misery and our happiness, surprising and destroying or establishing our commitments (p 59-60).

One weakness to the book was perhaps the lack of integration of the fifth expression of the love of God with others. Just how do the conditional promises of Scripture relate to the effective, particular love and the providential love of God for all creation?

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God is a must read for preachers. It has been my experience that preachers have sorely neglected the depth of the riches of the love of God. This book will awaken Christians to the complexity and comprehensive nature of the love of God, and I hope along the way help Christians to know the richness of the love which God has for the church in Christ. In addition to this The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God will serve as a rudder to steer us back to Scripture and away from culture for our understanding of the world around us.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Few Good Quotes on Various Topics

"Things are allowed to be said and done at revivals which nobody could defend . . . If, for a moment, our improvements seem to produce a larger result than the old gospel, it will be the growth of mushrooms, it may even be of toadstools; but it is not the growth of trees of the Lord."
C.H. Spurgeon, An All-Around Ministry, 375-376 (Quoted from Revival and Revivalism, by Murray, xvi)

"Even today the earth sustains many monstrous spirits who, to destroy God's name, do not hesitate to misdirect all the seed of divinity spread abroad in human nature. How detestable, I ask you, is this madness: that man, finding God in his body and soul a hundred times, on this very pretense of excellence denies that there is a God?"
John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion 1, 55-56

"The task of all Christian scholarship--not just biblical studies--is to study reality as a manifestation of God's glory, to speak and write about it with accuracy, and to savor the beauty of God in it. It is a massive abdication of scholarship that so many Christians do academic work with so little reference to God. If all the universe and everything in it exist by the design of an infinite, personal God to make his manifold glory known and loved, then to treat any subject without reference to God's glory is not scholarship, but insurrection."
John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 298

"Worship is the language of love and growth between believers and God; evangelism is the language of introduction between those who believe and those who don't."
Marva Dawn, A Royal "Waste" of Time, 124

"When we fail morally, physically, emotionally, we do not quit worshipping or outpouring, it is that we change gods."
Harold Best, Lecture Notes from the Worshipping Church Class at SBTS in 2003

Monday, January 22, 2007

Dr. Mohler's Reflections on His Recent Health Crisis

Dr. Mohler writes about his recent health crisis in his latest commentary. I know a great many people were breathing a sigh of relief and thanking God for his recovery, including myself. While, I do not know Dr. Mohler personally, I have benefited spiritually from his leadership at The Southern Baptist Seminary, where I graduated in 2003. In addition to this I have greatly been helped through his writings, preaching and teaching at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, and his radio show. I pray God would continue to minister through this servant of the church.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Reflections on the Flood and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

I am preaching from Genesis 6-8 this Sunday. As I was writing out my sermon the thought came to mind, why did so many authors back in December of 2004 just after the Tsunami occurred feel it necessary to defend God's righteousness in light of the massive loss of life? I mean, if God's righteousness was ever in question, it would not have been in 2004, it would have been back in the days of Noah when he decided to blot out the entire human race with the exception of Noah and his family.

The Flood and the Tsunami of 04 were certainly both tragic and heart wrenching calamities. Noah was on a boat for a year, and he must have shed many tears thinking over the massive loss of life. I know I cried my share of tears listening to the stories which came out after the Tsunami of 04. Certainly these were times to mourn with those who mourn, and these were times to love our neighbors.

However, these two events are not occasions for us to put God on trial. In fact, the Flood was a trial of sorts for the human race. We failed. We were judged guilty. And God killed nearly everyone.

No human being is deserving of life. We are fortunate though that God establishes covenants like he did with Noah, sparing his life. God has established another covenant. This one is through the blood of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. Entrance into this covenant requires only that we repent of our sins against God and come to God in faith clinging to the righteousness of Christ. This covenant will protect us from all Tsunami's, floods, and will even save us from the Christ who will come again with eyes aflame and a sword proceeding from his mouth to judge the wicked.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Word About the President

Talking about the President these days, almost without exception, leads to a heated exchange of opinions. Some people address why they think the President has ably lead the country during his tenure (although this group seems to be shrinking daily). Others address why they think the President is leading this country deplorably. Still others are unsure what to think, and largely think his legacy will be written 40-50 years from now.

Here is what I think. The conversations that I would like to have with the President will not be occurring anytime in the near future. Therefore, my task a Christian citizen of the United States of America is to pray for him in the hope that he might make the correct decisions which come before him.

1Timothy 2:1-3 says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,"

I might add that I confessed my sin to God in response to my consistent neglect of this command, and I think many more Christians need to do so as well. I am resolved should politics and talk about the President come up in the near future (and it will), my first response will be to pray before I say anything else.

Will you join me?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Reflection on Philippians 2:14-18

It seems that when I see many Pastors' past experience, there tends to be a large list of churches at which they previously served. While I do not have before me any hard statistics, I believe I have read that Southern Baptist Pastors tend to average around 3-5 years in each pastorate.

Surely there are legitimate reasons why some pastorates end so quickly:
1. Some Pastors are deceived by congregants into thinking the church is one way, but after the Pastor arrives, the church is different. For example, the Pastor might have been told that he will have charge of the spiritual leadership of the church (which he should, hopefully alongside with other elders), but when he arrives, he quickly finds out that he has this authority only on the approval of some families or deacons. In effect, he cannot lead the church, so he ends up leaving.
2. Some Pastors end up having to die on hill for Jesus. For example, the Pastor begins to reach out to the local Hispanic population, and after some time, some of them convert and they begin to come to church. At the next leadership meeting, the Pastor is told that the church is not pleased with the influx of Hispanics. The Pastor says that he is going to continue to minister to this people group. The church eventually tells the Pastor to start looking for new employment.
3. Many Pastors labor genuinely and optimistically in a church for 3-5 years, yet the church will not respond to his leadership and in the end the Pastor decides to leave because of this issue.

Yet we all know that many Pastors leave because a bigger, better, higher paying, better located, perk offering church calls and while his current church is slowly moving forward, the enticement of the invitation from the other church is too powerful to turn down.

In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul exhorts the church toward sanctification (vv12-13), and in v14 he gives practical instruction on how to pursue sanctification. In vv15-18, he gives three reasons why the Philippians should do all things without grumbling and disputing. The first reason is for the Philippians own sanctification (v15a). The second reason is for the sake of the believer's witness to a lost world (v15b).

Interestingly, the third reason for Paul exhortation to do all things without grumbling and disputing is for Paul's sake. In verses 16-17, he says "so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all."

Paul's investment in the Philippians sanctification weighs heavily upon his conscience. He believes that their sanctification is his responsibility. The Philippians must run and finish the race of faith, and Paul sees himself playing a pivotal part in their completion of that race. If they finish, Paul is vindicated and his work has not been in vain, but if they fail to finish the race, Paul seems to see their failure as his own.

Perhaps if Pastors souls were daily pricked with the understanding of this weighty responsibility, we would not be so quick to depart the church where are currently serving. Too often, I believe we do not stay because we have not sufficiently invested ourselves into the lives of our congregations. And as a result, it is easier for us to leave.

Paul says to the Elder Timothy, "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." Let all preachers feel the weight of this commandment. Our congregation's sanctification is our responsibility as we minister on behalf of God in the Holy Spirit teaching the Word of God.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Pray for Dr. Mohler

Hey guys, if you see this please pray for Dr. Mohler. This is the following from

Dr. Mohler's health has sustained a setback. Over the past 36 hours Dr. Mohler has suffered from unrelenting pain. This unusual degree of pain signaled concern for the attending physicians and prompted additional tests this afternoon. In the past hour these tests have revealed that Dr. Mohler is suffering from pulmonary emboli in both lungs. His condition is quite serious and he has been moved to the intensive care unit of Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, KY for immediate treatment.

Please make this a matter of urgent prayer. Thank you once again for your concern and support during these days.

Naomi says that emboli (clots) can form after surgery, and they are very serious.


Dr. Mohler's health has improved significantly. You can check here for the most recent news.

Listening to other Preachers

For some time now, I have both read articles by Pastor Mark Driscoll and articles about Pastor Mark Driscoll (positive & negative), but have yet to listen to any of his sermons. This has much to do with my current residence. I live in rural South Carolina, and we only have slow dail-up available to us. So it takes some time to download sermons.

However, I have made it a point to download some sermons during the night. This week, I downloaded two sermons by Mark Driscoll preached from a series on 1 Corinthians titled, "The Weaker Christian," and "Good Sex, Bad Sex."

I found both sermons to be biblically based and his ability to apply the sermons was exceptional. I found myself agreeing with about 99% of everything he preached. The usual exception I had was an occasional "over-the-top" use of humor.

That being said, I believe I am going to add him to the list of preachers I listen to. You can find his podcasts at both iTunes and here.

As the commenter noted, the link I provided above does not transfer to a site which is dedicated solely to Driscoll's sermons. This updated link, as suggested, takes you to his sermon feed through Mars Hill Church in Seattle.