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Archive for September, 2008


As I slog my way through Nehemiah- which has been every encouraging and convicting- here are the resources I’m using.

  • Ezrz and Nehemiah (NICOT) by Fensham.  It’s been very helpful from an academic standpoint.  Not overwhelming at all.  Sometimes authors in this series have been influenced by the higher critical schools, but this seems to be a solid, conservative volume.
  • The Messaage of Nehemiah (BST) by Raymond Brown.  Very good commentary with some use of the original language and some application.  I really enjoy using this whole series.  It is very useful for preaching and teaching.
  • Nehemiah: Building a City Within the City sermon series by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill.  His sermons are typically about an hour.  At times he can belabor his point, but I learn alot about leadership from Mark.  Sometimes his jokes are funny.
  • The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4 (edited by Frank Gaebelein) including Ezra & Nehemiah by Edwin Yamauchi.

Here are some good resources other guys in the study group are using:

  • Ezra-Nehemiah (WBC) by Williamson.  It comes highly recommended by Tremper Longman.  The Word Biblical Commentary series can seem overwhelming at times.  It works thru each passage in terms of Form/Structure/Setting and then Comment.  It includes lots of work in the original languages.  Some authors have been influenced by the higher critical school.
  • A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah by Packer.  It is thematic rather than exegetical.  That has its place, obviously, but makes it more difficult to use when you’re approaching the text exegetically.  But … it is J.I. Packer so it’s got to be good!

Nehemiah is a helpful book to develop a heart for the city (please, don’t use it during a building program or to demonize those who oppose your ministry- 2 common errors pastors make).  There are lessons about handling conflict both from outside and within the church.  But the main theme is God’s glory- how our great and awesome God works for us, in us and thru us to accomplish the restoration of the city thru the gospel.  It should humble and encourage us seen that way instead of “be like Nehemiah.”  See instead what God has done in Christ.  Okay, off my soapbox……….

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Danny, please smile.  You brought home #17!

This is a happy occasion, let's not quibble about who voted for whom.

I really love this picture.  Like many a Celtic fan, I’ve been frustrated from nearly 20 years.  When I grew up, the Celtics were expected to prevail, and the Sox to fail.  Then the world turned upside down- slowly. 

This seemed so unlikely after the draft lottery fiasco.  But Trader Danny (why the glum face, Danny?) was able to work his plan by trading those chips he’d accumulated into KG and Ray Allen.  Suddenly he had free agents wanting to come to Boston for a chance to be part of something special.  This photo is for all of us who suffer all those many years.

From a CelticsBlog interview Wyc said this:

8. Do you have any untold, behind-the-scenes stories to share with us?   Perhaps something about the KG trade or the Italy trip or even the playoffs?

The first time I saw KG carefully examine each of our 16 championship banners, I knew we were going to likely hang a 17th one. Then he turned to me and promised me we would get number 17. That was unforgettable. Then, I saw KG, Paul and Ray running wind sprints at 8:30 am in early September last year…they were already bonded together and focused. It is a great feeling knowing you are the favorites to win a world championship.

The main players still have the same attitude.  They are working hard already rather than being satisfied with a taste of success.  Go for 2!

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It has been a miserable season for the Red Sox in terms of injuries.  They have been hit hard from the very beginning of the season as Beckett had a back issue.  Those who’ve missed time include Big Papi, Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Lugo (thankfully), Dice-K, Wake, Colon (the low-risk gamble didn’t really pay off).

But the Red Sox STILL made the playoffs.  Putting the season in context, I’m content with winning the Wild Card.  The Rays had a great season, and despite some significant injuries, held on to win the division.  They almost had the best record in the AL.  But the Sox did suffer far more significant injuries to key keys.

And now they limp into the playoffs, possibly to be decimated by the Angels just like the White Sox destroyed them in 2005.  Lowell’s hip is still bothering him, and that affects not just his fielding but also his hitting.  Lowell is an important part of this team.  He’ll try to play, but we’ll see if he can deliver. 

J.D. Drew MIGHT be okay.  As someone who has had a bad back the last few years, you just never know how it will feel.  If it holds up, he could be an important contributing member of the squad- like in last year’s playoff drive.

Lugo had another setback, which allows Lowrie to have an opportunity to shine.  We won’t miss he of the weak bat and suspect defense.

Papi’s wrist is still a huge question mark.  It is a day-by-day thing.  When your big bat has such issues it doesn’t bode well.

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With my current gig as pulpit supply meaning I have to prepare a new sermon, currently on Nehemiah, each week my reading has dropped off significantly.  Addictions: A Banquet in the Grace- Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward Welch has been in process for well over a year.  I started reading it some time ago and other matters would distract me.  I have finally finished it.  The fact that it took me well over a year to read it should not reflect poorly on the book.  In fact, I found it quite helpful.

If you read books on addictions you tend to get the medical model (addiction as disease).  As a result, the gospel seems less helpful.  Welch’s position is much like my own- it has physiological aspect and spiritual aspects.  As embodied spirits, our idolatry affects our bodies as well.

Within this framework, you begin to see how addictions operate as functional saviors, and therefore as idols.  We seek life from our object of addiction, but it can only give us fleeting pleasure that results in death.

Welch is also helpful in reminding us that we cannot make sobriety the new idol.  As Thomas Chalmers says, the human heart “must have something to lay ahold of.”  We cannot and will not extinquish our desire unless we replace them with a greater affection to cast them out.  We must worship Christ instead of the object of our addiction.  We must love Him, focusing on His work for us as the ground for His work in us.  As we meditate on His work for us, we will grow in our affection for Him thereby loosening the bonds of our addictions.  We begin to choose Jesus instead of sex, alcohol, food, or whatever our heart worships.

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I was talking with someone about church planting the other day.  I’m trying to sort out my reasonable options in continuing to pursue another call in ministry.  So he was doing some quick assessment on the phone.  There was one question in particular that was quite interesting.

Are you a maintainer, reorganizer or starter?

Maintainer– this person maintains or administrates an organization, often to maintain the status quo.  They are not innovative or creative.  They may want to improve efficiency or effectiveness, but they will fiddle with the system rather than completely revise the system.  I guess I’d say this coincides with the priestly gifts.

Reorganizer– this person identifies the weaknesses in the system, including its goals, and works to redirect the organization to better goals and more effective processes.  As a result, this person is usually resented in the organization precisely because he/she threatens the status quo.  It coincides with the prophetic gifts in the church.

Starter– this person wants the ground floor opportunity, lacking the patience to change an organization.  They want to institute their structure and goals from the beginning.  It would coincide with the kingly gifts, and would include most church planters.

I can see a reorganizer starting a church when they grow frustrated by resistance to change in existing, established churches.  Since the reorganizer is not always welcome, and may have a difficult time finding a call, they may decide to plant.

Me?  Reorganizer!  I don’t see myself as being able to start ex nihilo.  I need raw materials to reshape and expand upon.  I was constantly trying to reorganize the church (which no doubt was frustrating to those who found comfort in the status quo) to refocus us on God’s agenda done God’s way.  On a staff, I will be the guy who consistently calls the congregation to rethink, refocus and reorganize to become increasingly faithful to Christ.  Not always welcome, but important (as are the starter & maintainer).

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Many a tree has been killed over the topic of the proper mode of baptism.  I am not referring to the use of the trinitarian formula.  I am referring to whether or not one must be immersed or if sprinkling and pouring are also legitimate modes of baptism.  For some people this is pretty much a hill to die on.  For others, this is not an essential of the faith and they permit some flexibility in the matter.

As a credobaptist (believer’s baptism) I often heard that the Greek verb means “to immerse, to dip.”  The total argument was based on the “meaning of the word.”  Let’s briefly investigate this claim.

From The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged):

The Meaning of

baŒptoµ and baptéŒzoµ. baŒptoµ, “to dip in or under,” “to dye,” “to immerse,” “to sink,” “to drown,” “to bathe,” “wash.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not often immerse myself when I wash.  I essentially pour water over my hands, or body when I shower.  Such an understanding would be within the semantic range of the verb.  Immersion is a legitimate mode of baptism, but possibly not the only legitimate mode of baptism.

So far, not very convincing.  Right?  What if I pointed out an instance in Scripture where baptism did not mean “immerse”?

There are 2 parallel passages that help us to see the fulness of the term found in Scripture.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 1, NIV)

Jesus is speaking about the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  The disciples were going to be baptized by the Holy Spirit.  This event takes place in Acts 2, and Peter offers a biblical theological explanation for what the people just experienced, or witnessed (in the case of the crowd who did not yet believe).

16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  (Acts 2, NIV)

Peter informs the people that God promised this would happen.  It was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2).  This “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is described as God “pour(ing) out (His) Spirit.”  The semantic range is more limited- “to pour out, to shed (as in blood).”  We are not immersed in the Spirit

Using this parallelism, in which one verse helps us to understand another (called the analogy of Scripture in the Westminster Confession of Faith & the London Baptist Confession).  This is also part of how we do theology in Scripture.  You include the range of meaning, look at synomyns, other grammatical concerns and historical context.  Here we see that baptism can also mean “to pour.”

If you want to immerse when you baptize- have at it.  But it would be biblically improper to limit the proper mode of baptism to immersion.  Those who have been sprinkled and poured by legitimate churches are just as baptized as you.  The issue is not how much water touches your body.

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The other evening the wife & I were watching the season finale of Burn Notice on our DVR.  I thought it an apt metaphor for our current experience.  The main character, Michael Weston, is a spy who is blacklisted and dumped in Miami.  The show is about his quest to discover why he was blacklisted (false accusations), and how he helps people in need of his specialized skills on the way.

At times I feel blacklisted and dumped in central Florida.  This is all perception, not actuality.  I can’t seem to move forward and on.  It’s as if we are stuck here trying to make ends meet while using my specialized skills to help churches in need.  I can’t explain why we remain here- it is not through a lack of trying (I’ve lost track of the open positions for which I have applied).  But in the midst of this, I have to keep returning to 1 Peter 4:

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)

I am here by God’s will.  I am between calls by God’s will.  I can’t change things, but I can be responsible.  I continue to ‘do good’ or be obedient to Him and work for the good of the church.  I also entrust my family into the hands of my Faithful Creator and Redeemer.  I can’t sit and moan, withdrawing into a shell.  I can trust and continue to do what I’ve been called to do as opportunities permit.  And so I shall, even as I pray:

9 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. … 14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. 17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I have cried out to you; …19   (Ps. 31 NIV)How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.  (Ps. 33 NIV)

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