Monday, December 22, 2008

What is the gospel?

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

- Timothy Keller

HT: First Importance

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Blog Title

Well, I had to make a change...
I hated to do it, but I simply can't be associated with some of what comes up in the search engines when you type in "gregology".

Hopefully those that know me will not even need to consider whether I am connected in any way to those with whom I, up until this morning, shared the former name of this site - but I didn't want to take the chance. Frankly, I didn't even dig deep, but just reading some of the captions of the other sites was enough to get outta dodge... I know some of you will be curious, so it was the stumbleupon page that broke the proverbial camels back... I just don't need that kind of speculation.

And so it goes... with the chagrin of losing the nickname given to me by the great Nigerian pastor Raymond Chikwura, I am moving forward.

Now, the name above may only be a place holder. I chose it in honor of a Canterbury Tale I wrote in high school by the same name. Ask me and I'll let you read it. (If I can find it) Maybe I'll even post it. :-)

I'll also take suggestions on a new name for the blog if you can think of something better. I won't burn to much energy on it, but if something good comes along (my mind or yours) I will revisit.

For now, welcome to The Gentryman's Tale.

Abortion ---> Anarchy?

Over at Between Two Worlds, JT posts a few things RE: abortion that are worth looking at.

I thought the most poignant thing was his reference to a John Piper quote that I will re-post along with the context:

In response to a document urging President Elect Obama to advance "reproductive rights"...

James Grant writes:

It is hard to believe that while my wife and I are desperately doing everything we can to make sure our baby, at 23 weeks, survives and continues to grow in the womb for the next few months, there are others who in this country actually have abortions at this stage.
Think for a minute about what James writes above. What is the difference between the baby growing inside [Mrs. Grants] womb, and a baby growing inside the womb of a mother undergoing abortion?

The difference comes down to one word: want. Few words carry more power in the world today than these: I do not want this child at this time.

Listen to John Piper address this issue:
. . . in a world without God, the will of the strong creates (or nullifies) the personhood of the weak. . . . And the awesome thing is that we endow her will not just with sovereignty over her unborn baby, but with the authority to define it: If she wants it, it is a baby, a person. If she does not want it, it is not a baby, not a person. In other words, in our laws we have now made room for some killing to be justified not on the basis of the rights or crimes of the one killed, but decisively on the basis of the will, the desire, of a stronger person. The decisive criterion of personhood and non-personhood, what is right and wrong, what is legal and what is illegal, is the will of the strong. Might makes right. Might makes personhood. Might makes legal. This is the ultimate statement of anarchy. It is the essence of the original insurrection against God, and against objective truth and right and beauty.

No culture can survive this kind of anarchical thinking indefinitely. Part of the remedy is to spread the truth: Might does not make right. Desire does not define duty. Wanting does not create worth. All of us know intuitively that if someone desires our destruction, that desire does not justify our murder. We know this. We should say it over and over again.
[emphasis Greg's]

Greg:  I had not thought about the issue on these terms before. Kinda scary... </understatement as a means of emphasis>

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another Lighter 'Note'

This is probably more important an issue than these folks make it, but I would like to see more of this kind of thing.

Now, in my church we don't have a praise band, and I am thankful for that.  There is nothing wrong with a praise band per say, but my preference is for hymns and psalms.  I am definitely not opposed to new hymns, but I would certainly want to stay away from the emotionally driven, repeated choruses that for many are the only way to 'tap-in' to the Holy Spirit... That being said... These guys do a great thing... the music falls apart, and they stop playing...  They don't trudge through it, trying to make something happen that is clearly not working.  But they stop, they reset and do it with the excellence that God deserves for His worship.

Now, again, we don't have a praise band - but if we are singing a hymn that few people know, or the accompanist is going to slow or too fast, why can't we stop and do the same?  Switch to a new hymn if it is not making the cut, tell the musicians to slow it down or pick it up - and then just start again.  We should be able to do this without embarrassment or condescension - we are talking about the worship of God.  If it is not all that it can be, should we not take the necessary steps to make it so?

Of course, you have to be judicious about these things - what happened in the above video was clearly a train wreck - nobody could worship or follow with that going on... the pint being you don't stop for every little thing.  But if you are singing a difficult hymn that no one is following and you are trying to open a worship service for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords... stop.  Pick another joyful hymn and start again... it's not about us. It's about God's glory.


HT: Pure Church

What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then...

I wish an older brother would have pulled me aside when I was a young teen and talked to me like this...

I can't say for sure if I would have listened; I didn't listen to much back then... But perhaps something like this would have made a difference. This, coupled with a warning for how sexual sin can destroy your mind, your memories, and make what is meant to be a wonderful gift into a source of deep pain, confusion and difficulty later in your life when you actually want to use the gift of sexuality like God wants you to...

If any young man reads this, take heed...

HT: Desiring God Blog

Monday, December 15, 2008

Had to Share This Too

The awesomeness speaks for itself...

I just absolutely love the people who take the gospel into the culture and let it do its thing.  Thanks Shai Linne for the great example. As Thabiti says in the post where I found this,

No altar call. No manipulation. No mood lighting. Just Jesus crucified, resurrected, reigning. Just the call to repent and believe. Could it be that simple?

HT: Pure Church

Never Thought I'd See it...

John MacArthur on TBN!
And amazingly, it seems like they love him! Then again, I don't watch much TBN, so it's quite possible that the people who are making noise are only a small fraction of the audience... but anyway, this is good stuff, so I thought I'd share. Each video is about 10 minutes, but well worth it.

Praise God that even TBN gets the goods sometimes. I've actually seen a lot of Kirk Cameron recently that is much better than I recall in recent years. He may be getting more reformed as he grows as a Christian. It can only be good for TBN, so long as they keep him around.

HT: Pure Church

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why We Protestants Are Still Protesting...

This is from Reformation Theology ... I am just going to re-post it here because a link simply will not do.

So many people over the years have asked me what the difference is between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. It's not a short answer, but this article briefly points out some of the major ones. Obviously you can't get into all the theology behind these things in a brief synopsis like this, but I wanted to post it here both for myself as a go to reference if I ever need it, and for you, in case you do. (Whoever 'you' might be.)

Here is the post:

Ten Differences Between the Reformation and Rome

This article by Guy Davies appeared in the September/October issue of Protestant Truth. Guy is Joint-Pastor of Penknap Providence Church and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Wiltshire, England.

1. The Roman Catholic Church believes that its traditions and teaching are as authoritative as Scripture. The Reformed value tradition, but accept the Bible alone as their authority, and sole rule of faith and practice.

2. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Pope, as successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome, is head of the visible Church. The Reformed believe that Christ alone is head of the Church and that no man may claim universal primacy over the people of God.

3. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Bible cannot be properly understood apart from the official interpretation of Rome (the Magisterium). The Reformed believe that Christians have a responsibility to judge the truth of all teaching by the extent of its conformity to the teaching of the Bible as it has been commonly accepted with the help of responsible exegesis and the witness of the Spirit.

4. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that we are justified by baptism and that justification must be supplemented and improved by works. The Reformed hold that the Bible teaches that justification is God's declaration that a sinner is righteous in his sight, on the basis of faith in the finished work of Christ, apart from works. We are justified by faith alone. Baptism does not effect justification; it is the sign of it, as well as of the believer’s cleansing from sin and reception of new life in Christ.

5. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Lord's Supper is a re-offering of the sacrifice of Christ and that the bread and wine are actually changed into the body and blood of the Saviour. The Reformed hold that that in Scripture the Lord's Supper is a fellowship meal that is to be kept by believers in remembrance of the finished work of Christ. The bread and wine are significant symbols to believers of Christ's body and blood. At the Lord's Supper, they enjoy communion with the risen Christ, who is present at the Table by his Spirit.

6. The Roman Catholic Church regards its ministers as priests. They re-offer the sacrifice of Christ at the Mass and act as mediators between God and the faithful, taking Christ’s role. The Reformed teach that all Christians are priests, who offer a sacrifice of praise and worship to the Lord. Some, called to be teachers and pastors, are ministers of the Word. Their task is to give themselves to prayer, the preaching of the gospel, and to care for the flock.

7. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that after death the souls of departed believers who have not made sufficient satisfaction for their sins in their lifetime go to purgatory in order to do that prior to going to heaven. The living can affect how long the departed have to spend in purgatory by observing Mass, obtaining indulgences, and praying for them. The Reformed hold that purgatory is not taught in Scripture. They believe, in accord with Scripture, that at death the souls of believers will depart from the body to be with Christ in heaven, awaiting the resurrection to life, glory and immortality.

8. The Roman Catholic Church believes that Mary can be invoked as mediatrix with Christ and that the faithful should pray to her and show devotion to her. Rome also teaches that believers should pray for themselves and for the dead to the faithful departed whom the Pope has designated as saints. The Reformed honour Mary as the mother of our Lord and see her as an example of obedience and love to God. They maintain that there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, and that, despite the protestations of Rome, its teaching takes away from the sole mediatorship of Christ. Prayer and worship is to be offered to God through him alone.

9. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there are seven sacraments and that these sacraments work ex opere operato, effectively conveying grace to those who receive them. For example, baptism regenerates and justifies, and participants in the Mass actually feed on the body and drink the blood of Christ. The Reformed find only two sacraments or ordinances in Scripture, baptism and the Lord's Supper. These are means of grace that are only effective when received by faith.

10. The Roman Catholic Church regards herself as the one true Church through the apostolic succession of her bishops. Non-Roman Catholic Christians are regarded as 'separated brethren' who have schismatically divided the body of Christ. Reformed ministers are not truly ordained to the apostolic ministry. The Reformed define the Church not institutionally, but as a company of believing, godly people where the gospel is truly preached, baptism and the Lord's Supper rightly administered and Church discipline graciously applied. The true apostolic succession consists not in the physical laying on of hands as understood by Rome, but in believing and preaching the gospel proclaimed by the apostles and recorded in Scripture.

Me again: Now, there are some in the RCC who will argue that some of these things have passed out of the church and are no longer held as doctrines, but the fact of the matter is that the councils that put these doctrines in place have never been overturned, and so in the highest orders of the RCC, they still stand.

Disclaimer: I very much love my Roman Catholic friends and believe that they are just as able to be saved by God's grace as I am, in spite of whatever bad theology they hold to - I'm sure mine isn't perfect either.

This Post is Already Obsolete...

This is an amazing video on how fast the world is changing and how technology is affecting our lives.
This generation is in for a roller coaster ride - but I suppose we are already somewhat used to it...

Just thinking back 15 years to when I entered college - even in those 4 years everything changed so drastically - the world was truly a different place when I came out. I went in having never heard of the internet, and I got to watch it be born (commercially) and blossom right before my eyes. I left college with a desktop PC, having easily logged thousands of hours on the web and having started a website advertising business with a friend.

I entered college having never desired or even conceptualized having a cell phone, and left college having owned two different ones... I'm sure those are the two big ones so far in my lifetime - as far as commercially usable products. Both of them have advanced beyond anything I dreamed of even back then - and it looks like that trend will continue.

I thought the most intriguing idea asserted in the video was that by the time I am 70 (if the Lord wills I make it that far), a $1000 PC (which today is NOT a top of the line PC) will have more computing power than the brainpower of the entire human race combined.

I hope we use it for more than surfing porn...

HT: Reformation Theology

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tempered Excitement....

It's been a very long time since I posted something sports related (I think it had something to do with the GIANTS winning the SUPER BOWL - remember that?). And while the Giants are not so quietly rolling over the rest of the NFL in defense of their championship, the Mets are quietly busy frying up deals on the Hot Stove at the Winter Meetings in Vegas.

After two disappointing ends to consecutive seasons, whose blame can likely be laid solely at the feet of the Mets bullpen, I am pretty excited to see that the late innings will now be patrolled by what (if healthy) is being called the best 1-2 relief tandem in the game.

Welcome to New York Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz.

I am glad to have you, but this is New York - so don't expect me to pack up my TUMS just yet. I am excited, but it's still December and my heart is still broken from '07 and '08. But here is to hoping that '09 and the new "Bailout Field" (which is very impressive) will set my mending heart aflame once more. Spring seems that much closer...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Follow Up from a Recent Post

Just more from Rev. Piper to help fill in the blanks of his so called "Christian Hedonism".

“God is the one Being in the entire universe for whom self-centeredness, or the pursuit of his own glory, is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When he
does all things ‘for the praise of his glory,’ he preserves for us and offers to us, the only thing in the entire world, which can satisfy our longings. God is for us, and therefore has been, is now and always will be, first, for himself. I urge you not to resent the centrality of God in his own affections, but to experience it as the fountain of your everlasting joy.”

- John Piper, “Is God for Us or for Himself?

HT: Of First Importance

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Please, Do Yourself a Favor...


Do it. You will thank me... well, no... you will thank God.

HT: Unashamed Workman

What Does it Mean to Love My Enemy?

I have not been privy to the TV talking heads in the last couple weeks, or even those on the radio that I used to enjoy listening to, but have gotten away from in recent years.  So I don't have any first hand exposure to what has been said regarding the recent terrorist attacks in India...

However, apparently there is still a lot of talking going on regardless of whether or not I am listening, which is why I am grateful to those who are listening and writing about it... which brings me to the content of this post.

Go and Read this post by Greg Gilbert on the 9Marks blog.

It is reacting to some of the response on TV and radio by a prominent Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, and how some Christian's have taken it up and embraced it.  It's good stuff, and I think extremely important to think over and reflect on in our current global-political atmosphere, and particularly in light of how terrorism has become a main stream part of our everyday lives.

Here are the concluding thoughts if that trigger finger ain't so itchy:

Not many of us will ever have the opportunity to sit face to face with a terrorist and have to decide what loving that person might look like. But we do have to decide whether we’ll take pleasure in the thought of that person being in hell—or whether we’ll pray and genuinely hope for that person’s salvation and forgiveness. Putting it all together, I think the best and most Christian response is probably this: to be glad when a terrorist is brought to justice and punished, even executed, by the state, but at the same time to pray that someone, somehow, in those final moments is telling him the Gospel of Jesus, and to hope that one day you’ll stand next to him praising Christ as two forgiven sinners who, if it weren’t for him, would both be in hell.

What you simply can’t do, though, is decide that you’re worthy of God’s grace but that other guy is not.

Even if you don't read the whole thing - take that last line to the bank... all day long.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

And Speaking of John Piper...

Here is a recent transcript of a short talk he gave at ETS where he basically outlined, in 7 thesis, what he has spent the last 25 years of his life saying.

It was the spring board for a time of Q&A, which, if the audio does surface, I will try to post here.

But here is what Mr. Piper had to say.

Feel free to discuss.

While we are here... or there, as it were...

While you are over at Pure Church check out these vids from John Piper on retirement:

Now, I'm nowhere near retirement - but I do feel the squeeze of the entertainment lifestyle pressing me in on all sides.  I find it hard to imagine that it could get more difficult than it is to fight it - but I suppose with more time on your hands, all temptation becomes more difficult to fight.


How Should A Member Respond to a Divisive Elder?

I thought this post over at Pure Church was very helpful...

Not that the issue they are discussing over there has any bearing on anything happening at our church, but I thought it was helpful in shaping how to think about divisions in leadership at the local church level.

See, every session/board is going to have differences. Even though we all hold to the same confession of faith, there will still be differences among the leadership - differences in Eschatology, in Apologetic approaches, worship preferences, music styles, etc... the list could go on and on - some issues, of course, will be more or less important and serious than others.

But the important thing that Paul stresses through his letters and that is brought out in the aforementioned post, is the united front that the leadership needs to have before the members of the congregation. Now, I always knew this to be the case, but it never really struck me as to how important and how serious it is for the Elders not to promote those differences among the congregation.

Now, I am sure that does not mean that if someone asks you, that you should not be allowed to speak what you believe. But we must be careful how we do so - so that it does not undermine the unity of the leadership or, as Thabiti puts it "draw disciples after you". It takes real discernment to speak about these issues to those outside of leadership, and great care and wisdom when you do.

In case you are too lazy to click over, here are the important parts of the post:

Basically, a person commented asking what they should do about an Elder who was promoting a view of preaching that was divergent from the churches commitment to Expository preaching. I'm sure you can use your imagination and plug in any other serious concern. Here is part of the response:

1. Insist that he raise these issues with the elders directly (Matt. 5:22-25; 18:15) and immediately cease talking with others outside the elders about this(Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10). If the eldership is advancing one view of teaching and preaching, and he another, that should be addressed inside the eldership so that unity may be maintained (Eph. 4) and the sheep led in a consistent and healthy direction.

If he has integrity, he should resign from the eldership if he finds himself out of keeping with the ministry commitments of that church and its leaders. If this is beyond the bounds of acceptable divergence, he should step down cheerfully and voluntarily, if he loves the church and has godly integrity.

2. If he refuses to address things with the eldership, let him know that you will go directly to the other elders along with two or three witnesses, others who can testify to his spreading his basic disagreement with the rest of the leadership (1 Tim. 5:19). Demonstrate your support of the entire leadership by helping them to keep short accounts with one another and pointing out difficulties of this nature that they may not be aware of.

Essentially, you want to close the court of public opinion and limit the potential for this man to "draw disciples after himself" by bringing this to light in the court of the eldership. As a member, you shouldn't have to try and address these things alone with someone charged to watch over you. Insist that he speak with the other elders. If he will not, yet holds to his contrary convictions, involve the other elders immediately. Let them judge the matter and keep the unity of the church.

3. Pray for and support your elders if they must rebuke this man publicly and sharply. That will be to the benefit of the entire body (1 Tim. 5:20) and help to make this man sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). Your elders may find this a difficult thing to do, so your prayers for wisdom and courage are needed. Hold them up before the Lord so that they would be able to teach, care, and lead their fellow elder well, and shepherd the congregation through the process as well. Since this man has been quietly spreading his views with others, at the least the elders may need to address this publicly for concern stemming from not knowing how far the comments have gone.

5. In all of your interactions and reactions, seek to love deeply from the heart (Col. 2:14), watch and continue in prayer (Col. 4:2), and joyfully submit to those in authority (Heb. 13:17). Be a model of joyful membership in the church. Do everything to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4).
Again, my perspective here is the big picture. How do the members of the congregation respond to an elder who they feel has overstepped their authority or is undermining the rest of the leadership? I'm not sure I have taken these questions as seriously as I should have in the past. As I think on it, perhaps I myself have spoken ill-advisedly in matters where I disagree with the session I am a part of and need to repent? These are matters to be taken seriously, and I am not sure I have done that to the extent that I ought as I execute the office I have been called to. Let's all be more mindful of these things in our churches and encourage our leadership to be the best leaders they can be under the light of the gospel.