Monday, August 29, 2005

Personal -- Congratulations!

Congrats to my good friends, Marius and Tamar Pundys! They just adopted a beautiful baby boy, born August 27, 2005. Peter Joshua Pundys was 7 lbs., 3 oz and 19 inches long! Congratulations!

See more pictures here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Just for Fun -- Church Signs

We've all seen our share of ridiculous church signs, like the one down the road from my church that use to read, "Wal-mart is not the only saving place." Church signs range from the disappointingly pathetic to the enragingly blasphemous. Well now you can create your own ridiculous church! Check it out:

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Personal -- Fall Semester

I just finished registering for the fall semester. They still call me a full-time student, and I'm beginning to wonder how many different "full-time" things I can be called all at once! Please pray for me this semester.

Here's my schedule, for those of you who are interested:

Mondays: My day off!

Tuesdays: 9:30 – 11:30, Principles of Preaching (Davey); 11:30 – 1:35, Theology of Pentateuch (Soltau)

Wednesdays: No classes

Thursdays: 7:30 – 9:00, President’s Hour; 11:30 – 1:35, Exegesis of Poetry (Soltau)

Friday: No classes

I’m also taking an iSchool (online) class with Dr. Ebert called The Use of the OT by the Writer of Hebrews.

If you're interested in Central Seminary, check out the website:

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Just for Fun

It would be funny...if it weren't too true!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Rutherford – Assurance and Confrontation

There are two things that have been bothering me over the past several weeks. One regards the issue of assurance of salvation; the other touches on our boldness in confronting followers of Christ for their sin. The trouble for me is not that we tend to lack teaching on assurance, but that we tend to be very different in how we teach assurance from what I find in men like Rutherford and, more importantly, Paul and Christ. Along those lines, I find Jesus, Paul and Rutherford confronting sin in their followers in a way that I find myself very uneasy about. I constantly struggle with the questions, “Am I being too harsh? Am I being too merciful? Am I being too impatient? Am I being too patient?” That balance is very difficult to achieve. Here are some of the things I’m reading from Paul, Jesus and Samuel Rutherford that make this battle in my mind so difficult.


“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21 NIV).

I can’t miss the fact that discord, jealousy and selfish ambition are in that list—qualities that can be found in many young men and women.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:1-5 NIV).


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Mat. 5:27-30 NIV).

Jesus in no way offered a “wait-and-see-how-it-goes” policy for dealing with sin. He insisted on “radical amputation.”


“You may put a difference betwixt you and reprobates, if you have these marks:

  1. If ye prize Christ and his truth so as you will sell all and buy him, and suffer for it.
  2. If the love of Christ keepeth you back from sinning, more than the law, or fear of hell.
  3. If you be humble and deny your own will, wit, credit, ease, honour, the world, and the vanity and glory of it.
  4. Your profession must not be barren and void of good works.
  5. You must in all things aim at God’s honour. You must eat, drink, sleep, buy, sell, sit, stand, speak, pray, read, and hear the Word, with a heart-purpose that God may be honoured.
  6. You must show yourself an enemy to sin, and reprove the works of darkness, such as drunkenness, swearing, and lying, albeit the company should hate you for so doing.
  7. Keep in mind the truth of God that you heard me teach, and have nothing to do with the corruptions and new guises entering into the house of God.
  8. Make conscience of your calling, in covenants, in buying and selling.
  9. Acquaint yourself with daily praying; commit all your ways and actions to God by prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. And count not much of being mocked, for Christ Jesus was mocked before you" (Letters of Samuel Rutherford, 83-84).

Here lies my dilemma: Though the gospel itself is very clearly by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, our assurance of our salvation rests on the evidence that it produces. That is easy enough to understand. The dilemma part of it comes for me when teens in my youth group seem more keen on lying than on telling the truth; when sexual sin becomes a lifestyle for a person—even though he or she “really wants to be free” from it; when God and his Word are only Sunday and Wednesday necessities. These are the situations I find myself facing and wondering how best to respond. When Rutherford wrote to John Gordon of Cardoness, he challenged him on his salvation with these words:

“I beseech you, Sir, by the salvation of your precious soul and the mercies of God, to make good and sure work of your salvation, and try upon what ground-stone you have builded. Worthy and dear Sir, if you be upon sinking sand, a storm of death and a blast will lose Christ and you, and wash you close off the rock. O for the Lord’s sake look narrowly to the work.... Know this, that those who never had sick nights or days in conscience for sin, cannot have but such a peace with God as will [fester] and break the flesh again, and end in a sad war at death. O how fearfully are thousands beguiled with false hide, grown over old sins, as if the soul were cured and healed” (Letters, 49-50).

So the question, for me, remains then, “To what extent to do I boldly challenge a professed faith that displays little or no evidence of genuine conversion?” For some time I resolved that impasse by insisting that it was not my duty to judge a person’s salvation, and that may still be the correct approach. However, the more I read of men like Jesus, Paul, Rutherford, Spurgeon, Owen, Baxter, et. al., the more I come to the conclusion that maybe that is exactly what my job as a shepherd is.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Personal -- Summer Retreat

We just returned yesterday from a trip to Alpine Camp at Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia. We took 10 of our teens on a summer retreat. We went whitewater rafting and rappelling and had a great time! I'll be putting some pictures up on the Grace Student Ministry website this week. Be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Personal -- Whitts Moved In

Congratulations to Paul and Christie Whitt and their family on finally getting moved in up at Northland Baptist Bible College. Paul is transitioning from a job as the world's greatest youth pastor to a job at Northland as...something important. For all of you Northland grads, you really missed out. Paul Whitt is a man of God that will be used greatly at Northland for many years to come! Here they are in the soon-to-be-frozen wasteland of NBBC:

Monday, August 08, 2005

Personal -- Baby's First Picture

We have our first pictures of our baby! Here's my favorite:

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Theology/Personal – When Theology and Reality Collide

There is a dichotomy in the Christian life that is too often too true. It goes along with the worn out joke about my being a “cemetery” student. The assumption tends to be that seminary students get all filled up with theology and, as a result, become disconnected from reality. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the trend these days in seminaries such as CBTS, Master’s and the like. Local church oriented seminaries tend to be very strong in helping students live out the theology they learn in the classroom.

Sometimes it’s easy to “apply” theology. For instance, we believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Practically, then, we don’t try to earn our salvation through good works. Easy enough, right? It gets a little stickier though in some less than obvious situations. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to learn how to live out some of the most important theological truths that I have ever learned.

Here’s how it works. One of the foundational truths that supports all that I teach my teens is that we have been created for the glory of God and that we fulfill that purpose best when we find Christ to be our most satisfying treasure. It is a truth that God taught me several years ago in a very real way, and it is a truth that my teens are finding real in their own lives. But how does it work?

What do you do when the people you love the most betray you and turn on you? How do you react when you get the phone call that someone you love has terminal cancer? Can you really insist that a young couple find their joy in Christ when they just experienced a miscarriage? Can I, as a youth pastor, honestly counsel my teens with, “Rejoice in the Lord,” when their lives seem to be going all wrong? Does this theology really work when it collides with reality?

Absolutely! My teens and I have all had the privilege of seeing a deeply rooted delight in God change the most practical, down-to-earth things. Carrie and I get to rejoice with them and they get to rejoice with us even in the most difficult situations precisely because the theology is true. Hebrews 11:6 talks of the nature of true faith as being a belief that God exists and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. We have seen him reward; we have seen him give us drinks from his river of delights (Ps. 36:8). When life seems to fall apart and when circumstances get seemingly impossible to bear, we show everyone around us that Christ is a greater treasure than anything we may have lost. This is the attitude of Job, of Paul, of Christ himself.

One of the tests of our theology is what happens to it when it collides with real life circumstances. I’m glad that this theology holds up well when “real life” strikes. Rutherford was right: Christ truly is a treasure worth rejoicing in more than anything…or anyone…else.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rutherford -- Christ a More Precious Treasure

Rutherford had many noble friends. Two of his best were Lord and Lady Kenmure. The Kenmures were very active in helping Rutherford and the kirk of Scotland in their quest for a spiritual reformation. In 1630, when Rutherford’s wife passed away, he wrote the following words of trust and resignation to his friends, the Kenmures:

“Whether God come to his children with a rod or a crown, if he come himself with it, it is well…. It is better to be sick, providing Christ come to the bed-side, and draw aside the curtains, and say ‘Courage, I am thy salvation,’ than to enjoy health, being lusty and strong, and never to be visited of God.”

Rutherford had an amazing perspective. Rutherford had been through this testing with his wife and had held out a constant hope in God. So four years later when Lord Kenmure died, Rutherford was able to write this piece of faith-filled counsel to Lady Kenmure:

“Your Lord never thought this world’s vain painted glory a gift worthy of you; and therefore would not bestow it on you, because he is to provide you with a better portion. Let the moveables go, the inheritance is yours. You are a child of the house, and joy is laid up for you.”

Is Christ that great a treasure to me? Am I so filled with the greatness and worth of Christ that I can call all else I hold dear “moveables”?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Theology -- Paul's Perspective on Fads and Fad Bashing

It seems that one of the recent fads in conservative evangelical and fundamental blogging has been to bash fads of broader evangelicalism. Fads such as Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Everything and Joel Osteen’s false gospel of happy thinking have been the subject of intense fad-bashing from Sharper Iron, PyroManiac and several other notable blogs. I want to take this opportunity to both congratulate my blogging colleagues on their perceptivity and at the same time to distance myself from them.

Congratulations…and thank you.

To Phil Johnson and those at Sharper Iron and other blogs who have taken up the cause of exposing bad theology and bad philosophy, I say a hearty and sincere thank you. It is indeed saddening to see hoards of professing believers spend their money on what is not bread and their labor on what does not satisfy (Isa. 55:2). It is a sad indication of the state of evangelical Christianity when books like Eldredge’s Wild at Heart top the best-seller list, yet the average Christian book store doesn’t even stock a Puritan work (never mind having a Puritan section). Certainly our brothers and sisters in Christ need to be awakened to the unbiblical content and philosophy of these “faddish” men.

The other side.

On the other hand, I have a deep desire to have a Paul-like attitude about men with whom I disagree. When Paul wrote to the Philippian believers (Phil. 1) he addressed some of the “fad” preachers of his day:

12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (NIV)

That line from verse 18, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached,” really gives me reason to pause and reflect. To the extent that a popular writer/speaker proclaims Christ, to that extent I must rejoice! Just for clarification, I understand that Joel Osteen’s “gospel” is not the gospel of Christ. So I do not rejoice in his proclamations. I also understand that I probably have far less insight into the ministry of Rick Warren than others who have exposed his faulty philosophy of ministry. But to whatever extent he preaches the gospel, I will rejoice in that. If I must wait until I find pastors and churches who have my same philosophy of ministry and hold my same theological dogmas before I can rejoice, I will probably live a very un-rejoicing life.

This is my attempt to live out Augustine’s sound advice: “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” I do not want my blog or my life to be characterized by “fad bashing” or even “fad bashing bashing,” but by something positive and constructive. There must be appropriate exposure of that which is harmful to the Body of Christ, but there must also be generous grace with those with whom we disagree.


With Paul’s example in mind, let me propose an alternative to harsh, unrelenting condemnation. If a man or ministry proclaims the gospel, whether from bad motives or good motives, whether from bad philosophy or good philosophy, let us rejoice with them. Let us seek first to rejoice in the gospel, and then to expose the error. So to my Fundamentalist friends, let me encourage you not to write off men such as John MacArthur, John Piper, Mark Dever and others, simply because they don’t wear your badge or apply your doctrines in the same way that you do. To my Evangelical friends, let me encourage you not to discount everything a Rick Warren, or someone like him, may say just because they get their pneumatology wrong or their philosophical foundations are shaky. Seek first to rejoice in the gospel, and then to expose the error.

If this method of dealing with fads is not what Paul had in mind, then I welcome your suggestions as to how to have a Philippians 1:18 attitude.

One of Samuel Rutherford's "Directions for Christian Conduct": “That words be observed, wandering and idle thoughts be avoided, sudden anger and desire of revenge, even of such as persecute the truth, be guarded against; for we often mix our zeal with our wild-fire.” (From Rutherford’s letter to John Fleming, Bailie of Leith, from Aberdeen, March 15, 1637.)