Archive for October, 2009

I’ve been holding my metaphorical tongue on this issue for some time.  I am thoroughly convinced that most Americans, particularly those who hold office just don’t get it.  In a number of ways.  They don’t really understand the problem.  And if you don’t really understand the problem you will not put together a good solution.  It seems that the media & majority politicians portray the problems as 1. insurance companies and 2. Republicans.

Here are some of the problems that need to be addressed, but don’t seem to even be mentioned.

  • Health Care Providers. Often they are concerned about their bottom line, and not your wallet or your health.  As a result, tests are repeated instead of examining the results from just an hour ago.  I’ve seen it in my job in health care.  The patient goes from the ER to the main floors and all kinds of tests are repeated.  It is as if the tests done in the ER didn’t occur.  Well, the patient wishes they didn’t because they have to pay for them.  One contributing factor is health insurance providers who pay according to the test, not knowledge & expertise.  But it is also the health care providers who want to pay off their MRI instead of the one at the other hospital you went to last week.  Health care providers also do not have a fixed rate for services.  Often they are re-priced so the people who can least afford to pay more actually do.  Of course there are irresponsible people who don’t pay their bills, and the health care providers recoup the losses by charging responsible people more.
  • Drug Companies.  They now advertise convincing an unenlightened populace that they have a problem that can only be solved by medication.  The use of these new drugs drives up costs, and therefore the cost of insurance.  They seem to be in cahoots with the medical establishment which keeps changing the “normal” results for blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.
  • (more…)

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I assume most of you just went “who?”.  No, he’s not a theologian or a sports figure.  He’s a Florida politician who is gunning for Mel Martinez’ (who was a bit of a disappointment as a Senator) vacated Senate seat.  FL. Gov. Charlie Crist has set his sights on that same seat.  They are in the same party.  One is clear about where he stands, the other has a record of standing in too many places on too many issues.

Rubio has begun to gain name recognition in Florida.  And beyond.  He is a real conservative option for the mid-term elections.  Unlike Crist, he really is a conservative politician.  Here is an interview from the American Spectator.

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When I was offered the opportunity to read and review Christianish by Mark Steele, it looked very interesting to me.  The subtitle is “What if we’re not really following Jesus?”  I am not familiar with Mark Steele, but the subject interested me.

Here are the positives:

  • Mark Steele is a pretty funny guy who can tell a story.  In many ways this is similar to Donald Miller’s best work (in my opinion, Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What).  He uses rather lengthy stories to introduce the topic of the chapter.
  • He has some important things to say.  There are a number great thoughts for the American church to consider.  There are many ways in which we truly are not following Jesus, and Mark identifies a great deal of them.

These things make the book accessible to broad evangelicalism.

The problem is that Mark never really gets to the core issue.  He never even really defines Christianish, but leaves it as fairly obvious.  Each chapter addresses one aspect of what he thinks is Christianish and how we should be instead, but he never gets around to defining the problem of what I call nominal Christianity, or cultural Christianity.  Some great thinkers like Jonathan Edwards (Charity and Its Fruits) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship).  In those books, Edwards calls the problem counterfeit grace and Bonhoeffer cheap grace.  Steele’s perspective would have been deepened from spending time with these men, applying their thoughts to our generation.  This, in fact, is what seems to separate Donald Miller from Mark Steele.  Miller subtly comes off as well read.

Since Mark does not adequately identify the problem, he completely misses the cure.  It basically sounds like try harder, try differently.  It could be imagined that he is talking about repentance without clearly talking about repentance.  You get a sense similar to what I thought of MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus after talking about it in class with Jerry Bridges.  Much of what John MacArthur says is true, but he neglects the doctrine of regeneration which gets to the core of the issue.

John Piper’s recent book, Finally Alive, is essentially addressing the same issues as Mark Steele’s.  Not as hip, to be certain.  But he gets to the core problem & cure: lack of regeneration & believing (and savoring) the gospel.  I think this is part of the problem with broadly evangelical books- they lack a depth of theology and saturation with Scripture.

I am aware that this sounds harsh.  I enjoyed reading Mark Steele’s book.  I just didn’t find it helpful in combating the remnants of Christianish in me, or others.  And address it we must.

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Here is a video clip of an AccuWeather meteorologist discussing the influence of sun spots on “global warming”.  His thesis is that increased sun spot activity is responsible for the warming temperatures.  And that with said activity decreasing, we should have a period of cooling (which we have already entered).  One really interesting thing he shared was a picture of a US submarine at the North Pole in March 1959.  For it to be visible, there was a decided lack of ice, especially for March.  That is 50 years ago, before “global warming.”

Update: Yes, that was pulled. But here are some other things on the subject.


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I must confess that I have never read an Alister McGrath book, until now.  Three years ago a friend recommended The Journey: A Pilgrim in the Lands of the Spirit while I was on one of my journeys to the RTS Orlando Bookstore for a sale.  At some point I started to read it, but got stuck along the way.

Fast forward to my trip to PA earlier this month.  Seemed like a good book to bring.  I’m wondering why I put it down in the first place.  It was very appropriate for the place in life where I find myself.

Alister McGrath confesses that it is too easy for him to intellectualize his faith.  Here he is not advocating an anti-intellectualized faith, but internalizing the truth of our faith so it produces hope in the midst of life’s journey.  To do this he spends some time advocating biblical meditation (see my post on this).  This is part of the map he provides for us to persevere on the journey.

He takes Exodus as his template with alternating stages of wilderness and oasis.  To promote trust and hope in the midst of the suffering that will often mark this journey, he talks about remembering what God has done and anticipating what God will do.  These are essentially the past and future aspects of biblical meditation.

“The present was thus sustained by the memory of past events and the hope of future events.”

Along the way the introduces a series of landmarks from a biblical theology (creation, fall, redemption), and some companions for the journey.  He recognizes the need to learn from those who have gone before us.  He chooses men like Jonathan Edwards, J.I. Packer, C.S. Lewis, John Bunyan and more.


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It was CavWife’s birthday, so a plan was formed.  Disney offers you free admission on your birthday (I hear this plan will come to an end soon).  We had a friend who works for Disney able to sign the rest of us in.  It was a great way to spend the day together, affordably.  Best of all, it was October and temperatures would be more tolerable.

Little did we know, when making these plans, that her birthday would be smack dab in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave in Central Florida.  The Happiest Place on Earth became … the Hottest Place on Earth.

We met our friend who whisked us into the parking lot, free of charge.  We didn’t bring one of our strollers because she could also get us a double stroller, free of charge.  This was looking better every minute.  The only money we had to spend was on food.

We made our way through Main Street USA toward Fantasy Land, little realizing we would nearly be trapped there the entire day.  Going to Disney with 2 pre-schoolers is, well, different.  Everything takes 3 times longer, and there are suddenly rides you never even considered waiting in line to get on.  There are rides you really want to ride that you will never see all day.

We started off on the Merry-Go-Round.  CavSon was not too excited at first, but warmed up to it.  From there we could see Dumbo, and at first CavGirl wanted to go.  But that all changed.  We would get used to this.  We watched Mickey’s Philharmagic, a 3-D show (when it is really hot, you take advantage of these moments in the A/C).  CavSon really didn’t like it when anything came toward him.  CavGirl was reaching for the floating jewels, which was priceless.  Then off to Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight.

in line for Dumbo

in line for Dumbo

While waiting for our fast track time to come, we made a short venture to Tomorrowland hoping that I could ride Space Mountain.  Those hopes were dashed like an egg tossed off a cliff- closed until Winter 2009.  So it was Monster Inc.’s Laughing Floor instead.  It was on the way back that CavGirl decided riding Dumbo would be fun afterall.  Joy of all joys, the line had doubled.  CavWife bailed on us (birthdays have their privileges), missing a monumental tantrum by the boy in line ahead of us.  She also missed the guy in front of us, who must have had a gallon of water ooze from his pores while waiting for Dumbo.  And then there was the Muslim family wearing half a store in the sweltering 90+, feels like 100+, temperatures.


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Too often we hear about selfish agendas, monuments to egos and other disgraceful things when churches make the news.  It is the bad stuff, the proof that we really need a Savior.  Rarely do you hear the news that proves that the Savior lives and changes people- news about sacrifice for others, dying to self so that others might benefit.

Winter Haven is “splant” central.  It is notorious for bitterness and selfish ambition resulting in new churches split off from existing churches to serve self more than Jesus.

One of my friends was pastor of an aging, struggling church.  Closure seemed inevitable.  What to do with the property?

When our church closed we were tempted to sell our assets to other congregations.  But we decided to make them available to other churches, especially church plants, free of charge.

My friend had an even better idea- they just gave their facility to a new church plant.  They wanted to see the facility used to further the kingdom.  It wasn’t about money, but the kingdom.  It was about leaving an inheritance, so to speak, for the next generation.

Here is more.  In the midst of all the stories you hear about how horribly Christians can treat each other, doesn’t this one give you hope?  It does me, and I need that right about now.

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This was received via e-mail.  It came as a forward, so I’m not sure who sent this to me.   So, take this for what is worth.

Good Morning:
As one of the “Special Six” who were thrown out of CRPC illegally (don’t even try to debate that issue, as it is well documented by special Counsel) I would like to bring a few points to your attention:  First, Jennifer is not “one of Dr. Kennedy’s daughters”, she is his and Ann’s, Only daughter (and only child).  Ann (Kennedy) had no part in this movement, other than provide moral support to her daughter and Jennifer was Not the “spearhead” of this or any movement to call for a congregational meeting.  Before you go around supporting the actions of your friend “Tully” I hope you have seen up front and personal the dual personality of this person.  If you haven’t you have a treat in store.
You need to ask yourself, why did Dr. John Wilson, Director of Music and Samuel Metzger, Senior Organist resign?  Why did two Elders resign at the same time, one of whom was the Chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee that brought “Tully” to CRPC and had been extolling him in the face of all the turmoil swirling around for the past several months?
It is extremely easy for people such as yourself to sit on the sidelines, hear only what they want to hear and make judgements about events which they know absolutely nothing about..Live It…and then you can criticize.
I am not going to get on my “soapbox” and have a running commentary on what “Tully” and his minions have put us through, we stoo d up against a devastating dis-mantling of one of the greatest world-wide ministries this country has ever seen and if we had to we would do it again.  TO GOD BE THE GLORY…
But…you know…we have started a New Presbyterian Church, we may not have the “brick and mortar” of 5555 Federal Highway, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., but the Spirit of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ is so strong that as Dr. Kennedy once said
“We can change the World”  Let “Tully” have the brick and mortar  “AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD”

Joshua 24:15

There are a number of disconcerting things about this, if it actually comes from one of the “Special Six”.  I’m saddened by the bitterness that is clearly evident.  I have seen plenty of Search Committee members “turn” on new pastors.  Expectations are unfulfilled, and often the most supportive people during the search process become the first to attack the new pastor.

To make such accusations against a pastor, in this way, is sub-biblical (so this is a teaching moment even if this particular e-mail is fabricated).  Paul addresses this in his pastoral letters.  We are not to take this lightly, but to provide ample witnesses to the offense.  As members who took vows to the PCA and Coral Ridge, such people would bring such charges to the court of which Tully is a member- his Presbytery.  Leaving the church to form a new church is not the loving, biblical course of action.  Nor is public attack on the name of another (as far as I can see, Tully has done no such thing).  Church discipline is the proper, loving course of action- church discipline pursued out of love.

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WTS Bookstore has some good books on clearance.  Check out some of these deals!

The Letters of John Newton– I need to get this.  The one I’ve read was incredible, gospel-drenched wisdom.

Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards.  If you don’t own this- now is the time!  This is a great book by a great theologian.

Revelation by Leon Morris.  From the Tyndale Commentary Series, this small book is by one of my favorite biblical theologians.  Also 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

The Letters of John by John Stott.  Also from the Tyndale Commentary Series.  John Stott is one of my favorite exegetes.

Matthew by R.T. France.  The excellent commentary on Matthew from the same series.  His treatment of the Olivet Discourse was greatly influential in my thinking.

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October 4  Dendalk Presbyterian Church  Dendalk, MD  Psalm 1  Trees, Weeds and the Gospel

October 11 Christ Community Church Mission Apollo Beach, FL Psalm 1 Trees, Weeds and the Gospel

October 18  Morning Star ARP Church Vero Beach, FL  Ephesians 1  The Church: God’s Chosen Family

October 25  Morning Star ARP Church Vero Beach, FL  Ephesians 2  The Church: God’s Living Temple

November 1  Morning Star ARP Church, Vero Beach, FL  Ephesians 4:7-13  The Church: The Body of Christ

November 8 Morning Star ARP Church, Vero Beach, FL  Ephesians 5:22-22  The Church: The Bride of Christ

November 15 Morning Star ARP Church, Vero Beach, FL  Ephesians 6  The Church: Army of God

November 22  Morning Star ARP Church, Vero Beach, FL  Ephesians 2:10  God’s Workmanship

November 29  Morning Star ARP Church, Vero Beach, FL  Matthew 1:1-17  Christ Our Hope

December 6  Morning Star ARP Church, Vero Beach, FL Micah 2:2-5  Christ Our Peace

December 13  Calvary Bible Church, Weavertown, NY  Micah 2:2-5 Christ Our Peace

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I just finished reading Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend by NBA legend Bill Russell (is it just me or is that bad grammar?).  In this book he shares about his experiences as Red Auerbach’s friend, how that friendship developed and his own ideas of what male friendships are like.

That intrigued me.  While in Oxford, I went to the Inklings exhibit.  This group of male friends reveled in their common faith (mostly) and literary projects.  C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were the most famous members of this group.  I wondered how Russ and Red’s friendship was alike and different from theirs.

Matters of faith and other personal things were not really a part of their friendship.  They did revel in basketball, but matters of the heart seemed to have been off limits to these two men.  I don’t doubt their friendship was meaningful, but there were limits to it because they did not share some of the most intimate matters of the heart.

Another thing I found surprising was the lack of accountability between them.  They wanted, and had, one another’s respect, but they were unable or unwilling to challenge one another about matters of right and wrong.  They did not believe that “the wounds of a friend are faithful.”

And so I found that their friendship was different from the male friendships I have enjoyed as a Christian.  Theirs had more limits, and a bit less vulnerability.

The book did give me greater insight into Bill Russell the man, and the black experience prior to the Civil Rights movement.  He shared some stories about his father.  Some of his thoughts were profound.  I guess they would be obvious if I was a minority.  For instance- for a minority to survive, he must understand the majority but the majority can do quite well without ever understanding the minority.  As we move into a post-Christian era in America, I and my kids will have to live by this.  Secularists do not have to understand me.  But for my family to survive and thrive we will have to understand the secularists and pluralists around us.

There were some interesting lessons about leadership that flowed out of Bill and Red’s relationship.  For instance, they focused far more on what a person could do than what they could not do.  Instead of trying to squeeze someone into a preconceived mold, they sought to utilize their strengths to help the team achieve its goals- to win.  This was obviously something they did very well.

Another interesting thing was that everyone has a “little red wagon” in which they carry their agendas.  We should recognize people’s agendas but their agenda is theirs, not ours!  The tipping point is to utilize their agenda to help the group achieve their goals.

Bill Russell and Alan Steinberg have put together an interesting book filled with loosely connected, chronologically disordered stories.  At times that was distracting.  Alan could have exerted more influence over the structure of the book, but, then again, we are talking about Bill Russell here.  I don’t think many people tell him what to do, and if he doesn’t like your suggestion- forget it.

So, while not perfect, this was an enjoyable book, and one that caused me to consider some of the tasks of leadership.  I’m glad I read it.

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“I heard the news today, oh boy…”  One of my former elders sent me a link to the Sun-Sentinel.  I was saddened to hear that the “dissidents” from Coral Ridge, not getting their way in the vote the previous Sunday, have already left and begun the process of forming a new congregation.

They currently call it The Church, and over 400 people attended a worship service led by the organist and choir director who just resigned and a former staff member.

There are ways to leave peaceably, and then there are ways to leave spitefully.  This looks to be the latter- it was rash, hasty and bears all the marks of a knee-jerk reaction instead of patience & love.  And this is disheartening to me.  It must be much more disheartening to Tully Tchividjian and the rest of Coral Ridge.  People can disagree on ministry style (and non-core theological issues).  Churches can plant new churches with a different ministry style.  That is leaving peaceably.  Agreeing that though we disagree, we love and respect one another and will continue to work together though we will work differently.

But “splants” are something altogether different.  They are born of animosity.  They are taking their toys and going to a new home.  I currently live in “splant central”.  While they may initially have success, the rotten foundation ultimately does them in unless there is repentance for the self-will and bitterness that lay at their root.  Such actions say “the gospel is not enough for us to overcome our differences and love each other well.”  Such actions are actually anti-gospel.  As a result, they undermine the work of the kingdom in the community.  This is precisely what I feared would happen, and I wish I was pleasantly surprised by a very different outcome- one in keeping with the finished work of Christ applied to His people.

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Saturday night I was in my hotel room in PA after dinner with the committee.  I’d caught CavWife up on the details of the day.  I decided to read some of The Journey: A Pilgrim in the Lands of the Spirit by Alister McGrath.  I discovered that I had started reading it before.   But since I did not remember anything about it, I started over.

At one point he was talking about meditation.  Though tired, I paid attention since I was going to be talking about meditation in my sermon on Psalm 1 the next morning.  He quoted these words from Geert Zerbolt van Zutphen, who lived in the 14th century:

Meditation is the process in which you diligently turn over in your head whatever you have read or heard, earnestly reflecting upon it and thus enkindling your affections in some particular manner, or enlightening your understanding.

That is a great one-sentence definition of what biblical meditation is.  A text is turned over in your head, you chew on it as a cow chews on its cud.  You are internalizing it as you explore it.  But it is not merely an exercise in reason.  Notice the proto-Edwardsian language: enkindling your affections.  It was to shape the desires of your heart.  It could stir up what Edwards called holy affections.

McGrath goes on to say how this feeds prayer.  We are stirred up to long for what the text teaches, and to passionately pray for it to come about.  I thought about C.S. Lewis’ statement about a holiday by the sea.  We settle for far too little.  God offers us amazing things in His Word, but we are content with far too little knowledge of and desire for them.

I see this as one of the reasons (and there are plenty) Western Christianity is so anemic.  Christians zoom about hither and yon.  We are not meditating upon the Word as a man enjoys a 4 course meal.  We are snacking on it.

When the Spirit brings a text to mind, or impresses it upon your heart as you read it, begin to turn it over.  Explore it, chew on it so that you may delight in it and the One to whom it points.  Let your affections be kindled by truth.

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I’m currently preparing a sermon on Psalm 1 for a trip to PA this weekend.  I’ve preached on Psalm 1 a few times.  After putting together my outline, I looked back at previous sermons on this text.  I was a bit surprised at how different they were, and the different emphases.  I think they show how my own heart has changed, and therefore how my preaching has changed.

The first is from 2001.  I delivered it at a chapel for a Christian school.  Here it is.

Intro:  “You don’t stop playing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop playing.”

I. Godliness starts with a heart commitment (vv. 1-2).  Psalms and Proverbs begin with same idea.  Our top priority gives shape to the rest of our lives.  Paul picks up on this in Colossians 3.  Commitment to Christ doesn’t just alter what we do, but why we do it.  If God is not first in our lives something will fill that gap.  Our spouses, our children, our jobs, retirement or ourselves become of exaggerated importance and warp our lives.  We live for those things and Christ and His will are squeezed out.  Commitment to pursue God and to pursue sin cannot co-exist.  We must forsake one or the other.  Ill. Max and Huck.  What does this heart commitment to God look like?

A. Godly people desire God’s blessing.  The Psalmist is using covenant language here.  He recognizes that true blessing does not come from being committed to anything less than God.  Hebrew poetry uses these parallel statements to describe a life separated from God.  Such people go about their business without regard for God and His revealed will.  The godly person, though among them, does not join them in living that way.  He realizes their ways are cursed by God.  His heart is set on pleasing God, and being blessed by God.  I’m NOT talking about health, wealth and earthly success.  I’m talking about walking with God regardless of our circumstances.   Ill. Joni Tada.


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