Monthly Archives: March 2009

Do We Know What Jesus Said?

In recent years, I have noticed that many of the twenty and thirty-somethings in my circle ask very pointed questions about the accuracy of the biblical text. Some of the questioners are devoted Christians; others are outside the faith, challenging the foundation of our belief system. Regardless of their background, they are familiar with History Channel documentaries about the Gnostic or Lost Gospels and they have seen movies like The Da Vinci Code.

C.S. Lewis famously argued that Jesus must be either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. There are no other legitimate options. Despite the brilliance of Lewis’ trilemma, his apologetic falls apart if one disposes with the historical data of Jesus given to us in the Gospels. The Jesus of the canonical Gospels must be either liar, lunatic, or Lord. But once you question the historicity of the biblical picture of Jesus, his identity is once again in dispute.

Enter Nick Perrin, former research assistant to N.T. Wright and now the Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. Perrin’s book Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus takes on the recent critics of the Gospels’ reliability in a winsome and readable manner for laypeople.

The impetus for Lost in Transmission is the recent work of Bart Ehrman. Ehrman has made the argument at the popular level that the words of Jesus have been corrupted beyond recovery – intentionally tampered with by the scribes who handed down the words of Jesus.

Readers of Ehrman are struck by the personal nature of his writings. …

Posted in Book Reviews, Jesus | 7 Comments

Screwtape on the Southern Baptist Convention

My dearest Wormwood,

Though it gives me no pleasure to do so, I must tip my hat to you for the wonderful developments you have initiated in regards to the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Surely you need no reminder of the perilous situation we were facing in the not-too-distant past. I had nearly come to the conclusion that all hope was lost. But alas, you surprise me, dear nephew! You have done it again. (It is obvious that I have taught you well.) I do hope you will keep up the bad work.

Still, there is much work to be done. 

Remember that arrogance and pride is your greatest inroad into the Convention.

Due to your negligence (I will say no more… you were younger and inexperienced at the time), we lost the battle over the Enemy’s book some years ago. I worried that the entire Convention would be lost. For years, I feared an unprecedented advance of the Enemy’s mission to seek out those in our own territory. With the institutions reclaiming their fidelity to the Book… well… it seemed our cause was lost.

But you were right to comfort me during those days of anxiety. Yes, you were right to focus your efforts on perpetuating the arrogant attitude that comes easily for some who pursue higher education. You must continue to foster a sense of disdain among the seminary students and professors towards the people in the pews and their uneducated pastors. 

It is no secret that because of your blundering, we lost the liberal theologians who looked down their noses on the “know-nothings” in the local churches. There is nothing we can do about that yet (though I have some …

Posted in Southern Baptist Convention | 25 Comments

Make Me Like Jesus

Heavenly Father,
Make me like Jesus, who, though he was rich,
yet for our sakes became poor
so that many, through his poverty, might be made rich.
Help me to deny myself
and give joy and comfort to those less favored than I am;
and many I learn how much more blessed it is to give than to receive.

- F.B. Meyer

Posted in Prayers | 1 Comment

Subverting our World's Preoccupation with "Success"

    We subvert the Caesar of Success whenever we, as a community of faith, reject the idea that bigger is necessarily better.
    We subvert Success when we go from riches to rags on behalf of the world’s poor rather than finding our hope in moving from rags to riches…
    We subvert Success when our churches partner with one another, not as competitors, but as co-workers in the kingdom…
    We subvert Success as businesspeople when we are willing to downsize, to take pay cuts to spend more time with family, to refuse a promotion that will sacrifice church and family ties.
    We subvert Success by praying for our competitors’ success, by thanking God for the success achieved by others, just as the early church prayed for the governing authorities who were persecuting them.

– a quote from my upcoming book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Jesus in an Age of Rivals

Posted in Excerpts | 4 Comments

In the Blogosphere

Check out what some believe to be the real story of The Wizard of Oz.

Why you should use stories from church history to promote kingdom-mindedness in your congregation.

What is “the gospel”? Seven answers.

Tim Challies uses his reliance on GPS to make a point about over-reliance on Christian preachers and teachers.

Mark Roberts thinks we all need a Simon Cowell in our life.

I have been enjoying the Together for the Gospel LIVE album. 5000 men singing.

The Unclassified Laws of Etiquette

iMonk reflects on the SBC: Death by Nostalgia and Is a Great Commission Resurgence possible?

My Romanian readers might enjoy this interview with Dr. Paul Negrut. (Part 1, Part 2)

Posted in In the Blogosphere | Leave a comment

Praying the Psalms

I once read that Billy Graham prays five psalms a day (completing all 150 in a month). The more I consider that practice, the more I am convinced that such spiritual discipline is much needed in our fast-paced lives. We too often lack  time for prayer and Bible reading.

Most people admit that they would like to pray more. But how to start? How to continue? What to say?

We fail to realize that we have a divine prayer book available to us! Open up the Psalms and you will discover some of the most powerful prayers ever written - powerful because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit himself.

If you are looking for a resource to help you understand how to pray the psalms, then I encourage you to pick up God’s Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms by pastor Ben Patterson. God’s Prayer Book leads you through a selection of psalms, illuminating ways in which you can make these ancient prayers the cry of your own heart.

This is not a book of prayers inspired by the psalms. It is a book that puts the actual psalms in the spotlight. Patterson says just enough to stir our hearts to pray. He is a guide. He does not do the praying for you. 

Neither should you expect a scholarly commentary on the psalms (though I admit I will consult this book whenever I preach through the psalms). God’s Prayer Book is the best kind of devotional – one that shines light on the psalms and and offers some specific prayer points to get you started, …

Posted in Book Reviews, Prayers | 1 Comment

Gospel Definitions: Michael Bird

“Taken together we can infer from I Corinthians 15:3 – 5, Romans 1:1-4 and II Timothy 2:8, that the gospel is both about the person and work of Christ.

“God promised in the scriptures that He would renew creation and restore Israel. The gospel is the good news that God has made these promises good in Jesus, the Messiah and Lord. Jesus died and rose for the purpose of atoning for sins, and through faith in Him and His work believers are reconciled to God.

“The new age has been launched and God has revealed His saving righteousness in the gospel so that He justifies and delivers persons from the penalty and power of sin and death.”

– Michael Bird, Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message

Posted in Gospel Definitions | 6 Comments

Visiting a Mega-Church

Earlier this week, I reflected on a visit to a Roman Catholic church. Today, I am putting down some reflections about a recent visit to a megachurch.

I read recently that some people are attending churches “undercover,” much like mystery shoppers who frequent restaurants and stores and report on their findings. I deplore the consumerist mindset that treats the church as just another company.

But I wonder if our churches might not benefit from “undercover” visitors who take stock of every aspect of the worship, looking for the message of the gospel? How many churches could we attend without hearing about Christ crucified? How many ”worship sets” do we sing that leave out the cross and resurrection? What view would one have of God if they sat through just one typical evangelical worship service? 

The irony you will soon discover in the following description of a megachurch visit is that the Roman Catholics read more Scripture in worship than we evangelicals do. And we’re the ones who believe sola Scriptura, right?

Here are some thoughts on my mega-church visit…

A service at this church is a massive endeavor which takes a tremendous number of volunteers and paid workers. Once we arrived at the entrance to the building, the doors were opened by greeters who said, “Good evening,” and “Hi, how are you?”. Once inside, another lady greeted us and told us she was glad that we were there. My wife and I made our way to the nursery wing, where we dropped off our son. The nursery is filled with volunteers that …

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Visiting a Catholic Church 2

Yesterday, I began describing my visit to a Roman Catholic Church. Today, I am listing some of the positive and negative aspects of the church service.

The Scripture readings formed the high point of the service for me. I am not accustomed to hearing so much Scripture read aloud in church. The first man read a passage from Isaiah which foreshadowed the sufferings of Christ.

The second person to read was an elderly woman. She read from Philippians 2, about Christ humbling himself and then being raised and exalted by God. A woman sang a spine-tingling rendition of Psalm 22, complete with repetitive “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” lines.

Finally, we read the entire Passion narrative from Mark’s Gospel, beginning with Mark 14 and continuing all the way to Christ’s burial at the end of Mark 15. A man to the right of the stage read the narration, the priest said the words of Jesus, the woman to the left of the stage read the other voices in the narrative, and whenever the crowd in the passage spoke, so did the entire audience. This was a creative way to read the Passion narrative. I felt as if I were there, in the crowd, shouting “crucify him” and “come down from the cross.”

The sermon was the most disappointing part of the service. The priest offered a few words about the importance of the coming week. He pointed to the sufferings of Christ done on our behalf, but he did little to …

Posted in Roman Catholicism | 30 Comments

Visiting a Catholic Church 1

As Christians, we gather to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, who willingly gave His life for our redemption. Our worship gatherings express our feelings to God; at the same time, they communicate our view of God to others.

Today and tomorrow, I am describing my visit to a local Roman Catholic church, as well as my thoughts on the worship service. On Wednesday, I will describe my visit to a mega-church.

My visit to a Catholic Church took place on a Saturday night service on the eve of Palm Sunday. (The worship service on Saturday evening is identical to the services on Sunday morning.)

The priest occupies the central position of leadership in the church. It is evident from the moment he walks down the aisle during the procession. He leads the worship time, initiates the prayers and readings, and he is the one who gives the short homily. Other people who were involved in the service included the organist (who was never seen, but played from the balcony), a violinist (who also remained unseen), and a woman who led in most of the singing. Two altar boys accompanied the priest during the procession, and they remained with him onstage. They helped collect the dishes from the Eucharist after the service. Two laypeople were involved in the Scripture readings, one a man and the other an elderly woman. There were no greeters at the doors of this church.

Several things strike me as being important to the planners of this worship service. First, professionalism …

Posted in Roman Catholicism | 12 Comments