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Archive for November, 2007


The doctrine of the atonement is quite the hot topic these days.  I just started reading The Great Exchange (a gift from my sister-in-law).  Keep your eyes open for a review.  That and a blogversation with Bert about an old manuscript of mine has me working on a manuscript.  It was on a floppy disk, and a series of files.  So, I’m currently converting it to one file and in a better version of Word (it was originally written on my old Macintosh shortly after seminary).  I’m making some corrections and changing the format some.  And I ran across this by Charles Spurgeon:

“Endeavor to know more and more of Christ Jesus.  Endeavor especially to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ.” 

The best books on my shelf on the topic are:

The Cross in the New Testament by Leon Morris (currently out of print)

The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles by George Smeaton (WTS has it under a different title, but The Great Exchange is patterned after it).

The Atonement by A.A. Hodge (where I first saw the illustration of the aspects of the atonement as a diamond, which my manuscript uses as does The Great Exchange)

The Cross of Christ by John Stott

The Cross by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (haven’t read it yet)

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Yesterday’s chapter in Running Scared is in a section on money.  In an earlier chapter he was building the connection between our greed and our wavering allegiences between the 2 kingdoms.  He ends up talking about the tithe, which was something I’d been thinking about for the last week or so.  First Ed, and then me.

“If you don’t tithe, your faith is more than likely small.  You hoard because you don’t believe the Father is generous.  You don’t share in the king’s heart of self-sacrifice.  As a result, worry and fear will be an uneasy undercurrent in your life. … Giving is merely one response to his ongoing generosity.”

I appreciate how he ties this into God’s character and the gospel so it is an issue of sanctification, not justification, which God is working in us.

Here is how a sinner’s heart (like mine) is prone to think: If I didn’t tithe…

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Eric Wilbur tries to weigh the risk vs. reward for the Red Sox and Yankees pursuing Johan Santana.  He mentions that the last time such a dominating pitcher was available (because his team couldn’t re-sign him) was when Pedro was traded to the Red Sox from the Expos.  He was traded for Carl Pavano (who ironically has been a complete washout after helping defeat them in the 2003 World Series) and Tony Armas Jr..  They were top prospects in the Red Sox system.  Pedro went on to dominate the American League until leaving after the Red Sox 2004 World Series.  Those 2 guys never really delivered on the potential, primarily due to injury (pitching prospects are riskier than position players).

Whichever team gets Santana will have to surrender some top prospects.  Those prospects may never pan out, like Armas- or they could be the next Jeff Bagwell or Hanley Ramirez.  Santana could be the left-handed Pedro or…

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Out of Ur sort of enters the Rob Bell discussion with a summary of Rob’s Raleigh, NC stop on his “the gods aren’t angry” tour.  The summary is interesting, the comments are puzzling.  A quick comment about Mark Driscoll’s statements about Rob at the Convergent Conference sparked numerous attacks on Mark Driscoll.  He and his comments were called “irresponsible”, “quick to throw out the heretic label”, “dangerous- a rouge teacher with a serious lack of Christlikeness demonstrated in his conduct”, “needs to mind his own business” and so forth.  I’d been meaning to listen to it, so this drove me to listen to see if I was really missing something.  But first the summary of Rob Bell’s evening in Raleigh.

From the summary, it sounds like Rob, who loves to study and is quite bright, gave a basic study of anthropology and religion.  He interjects Scripture into this rather than using Scripture as the starting point.  Here is the crux of the matter:

“Bell said that big revelation number three came in Jesus. The sacrificial system outlined in Leviticus became corrupt and only led to more anxiety than it relieved. So at just the right time, God revealed that he never really needed our sacrifices anyway. Using quite a bit of humor, irony and pure wit, Bell painted a caricature god who is not complete without what people can provide or perform. Using various sayings from Psalms, Micah, Jesus, Paul’s letters and Hebrews, he drew an alternate picture of the divine: a God who is not dependent on what we do, but who freely loves and pours blessing on us.

“The problem, according to Bell, is not that God is angry with us, but that we think God is angry with us. Thus, Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God: to notify us of God’s lack of anger and to free us from the prison of our misconceptions so that we can truly live well. The place of church and religious ritual is to remind us of our standing with God and freedom to live lives of sacrifice and service.”

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When Nations Die- America on the Brink: Ten Warning Signs of a Culture in Crisis by Jim Nelson Black was written published in 1994, near the beginning of the Clinton Presidency.  That is a bit important.  But I think the cover says it all.

Black uses the research of others to identify the common factors in the demise of the great empires in history.  This is something we should be aware of, and they are:

Increased Lawlessness

Loss of Economic Discipline (both personal and corporate)

Hyper-Bureaucracy

Decline of Education

Weakening of Cultural Foundations

Disregarding of Tradition

Materialistic Mindset

Immorality run amuck

Destruction of (traditional) Religious Beliefs

Devaluing of Human Life

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I went to a seminar on church renewal a little over a week ago.  My Presbytery worked with our denominational board covering church planting and renewal to put this together.  Ken Priddy, a pastor and church consultant, has taken a part-time position with our denomination to assist in the revitalization of many of our congregations through United Front Ministries.  Ken graduated from RTS the year before I did.  Unlike Dr. Nicole, he recognized me.

Why did I go?  Statistics indicate that 80% of churches in America are either in recline or decline.  As a result, 80% of the churches I talk to about a new position will be in one of those positions.  So, I’ve got an 80% of leading a congregation in either recline or decline.  I thought it prudent at this juncture to add some more tools to my toolkit so I can be more effective.

Why Do Churches Go Into Recline & Decline?

– Recline is the bull’s eye that most pastors and congregations aim for.  This is an extension of the empty nest and retirement mentality.  We long for the time when we don’t have to work in the fields very much.  We forget that the rest awaits us (Hebrews 4:9ff).  Right now Jesus is building His church, through us.

– Our default mode is inward, not outreach.  We don’t have to spend much time advocating nurture (though we do need to instruct on what gospel-oriented nurture is).  But we must continually advocate outreach & evangelism.  We must fight to keep evangelism a focus.

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This is a collection of things serious, and silly.

I’m thankful…

– for pre-approval for our adoption of ‘Eli’.

– for the surgery that has repaired ‘Eli’s’ cleft-lip (we aren’t sure about the palate).

– CavDaughter seems willing to share her parents with ‘Eli’ since he doesn’t have any.

– we are all healthy and have comfortable shelter over our heads.

– the choosing of the Father, the work of redemption by the Son, and its application by the Spirit.

– we don’t live someplace where there is already snow on the ground.

– I was able to wear shorts the last few days while doing yard-work.

– I purchased an aerator, saving myself over $100 since the nameless lawn treatment company wanted $135 to do it.

– my lawnmower works better after my neighbor worked on it.

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