Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Friendship is a means of grace

Jonathan Leeman, whom I have great respect for, introduces us to some thoughts on a topic that is often under-appreciated and, in fact, crucial to the life of a healthy, godly church: Christian friendships. Jonathan quotes Mark Dever as saying,
"If you don’t have friends in the church, you deprive us pastors of some of our best tools for reaching out to you, especially when you’re hurt or beginning to stray."
Jonathan then goes on to say,
"Friendship is one of the primary means of grace the Lord uses to keep church members growing in grace and bound to one another—like the sinews between muscles. Friendship helps church members to fight sin, disciple younger Christians, and spur one another on to love and good deeds."
(In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Jonathan's father is the director of music/worship at our church and is a very fine musician with a pastor's heart.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Three Amigos Reunited

It often takes a tragedy to reunite friends. Last Friday a very special man in our church went home to be with the Lord. He was only 49. Patrick (our associate pastor) and I were both privileged to be at his bedside and pray for him and sing hymns/songs to him as he slipped into the arms of Jesus. And our third pastor, Jake and his young bride Jaya, who left about a year ago to plant a new church in the greater metropolitan NYC area (Bergen County, NJ) came in last night so that we could all participate in Jeff's memorial service today. It was a bittersweet day. But no small part of the sweetness was spending hours tonight in our living room remembering old stories and laughing long and hard into the evening and sharing a Guinness together. Who cares how tired and cranky our kids were. Here we are back together again, The Three Amigos... Patrick Poteet, John McCracken and Jake Yohannan.

Why I'm not excited about Windows Vista

Well, after 5 years of waiting, Microsoft finally rolled out its latest iteration of Windows today. I'm not excited about it at all. Five years ago Microsoft promised to completely redo the essentially DOS file structure system that has always remainded below the surface of Windows. They promised that with the new Windows Longhorn (as it was originally called) you would actually be able to find the files you needed. But about two years (and who knows how many millions of dollars) into the project, they reneged on that promise and started focusing their attention on making Vista pretty. Whoop-tee-do. Substance has been abandoned for style. That's how I read it. And it just makes me want to ditch my PC and go with the Mac. I started using computers a year or two before MS-DOS was introduced. I first learned on a TRS-80 Model III. Then I went to DOS. Then in college I switched to a Mac. I loved it. It was built as a graphic user interface from the bottom up. But after college I was forced to go back to PC because that's what they used in my first few jobs. But I quickly realized that Windows 3.1 and 98 were nothing but a GUI tumbtacked upon a DOS system. It was clumsy and cumbersome. I'll grant that Windows XP was a huge improvement over previous versions, but Microsoft continues to show no vitality, no creativity, and no real progress in their products. Others do the real work. Then Microsoft buys them out and markets their products. But with their cash-cow, Windows, they still just can't seem to go it right. Microsoft is like the federal government: no one is happy with it, but there's no alternative. Maybe I really will bite the bullet next time and buy a Mac.

Want to share the gospel message? Try "Two Ways to Live"

"Two ways to live" is my favorite tract-like approach to sharing the gospel. Notice that it basically follows the course of redemptive history, rather than being a topical approach to the gospel. I think that this tract helps paves the way to a basic grasp of the flow of the Bible. Remember also, the gospel you convert them with is the gospel you convert them to. Convert them with a gospel of theotainment and they will be dependent on a theotainment ministry. But convert them with the gospel of grace through repentance/faith and they will be converted to biblical Christianity.
Here is the online version of Two Ways to Live:

Marked increase of PCUSA churches leaving for the EPC?

From the Associated Press:
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - In Tennessee, a 2,000 member congregation has voted overwhelmingly to leave the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Leaders of Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga say their congregation can't accept the PCUSA's liberal views on Jesus, the Trinity and the infallibility of Scripture.

Elder Diane Mizell said a key factor in choosing the Evangelical Presbyterian Church was that it allows women to serve as ministers, session members and deacons.

The head of the PCUSA Presbytery of East Tennessee says it's not clear whether the mainline denomination will try to claim ownership of Signal Mountain's church property.
Is Highland Park Presbtyerian Church in Dallas next?

David Brooks nails it on the head again

David Brooks always has good insights. Though a bit dated, this article for the NYT hit the nail on the head. He argues that if Americans want to understand evangelical Christianity, they should put John Stott on Meet the Press, not Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. Read the article here:
I wish Alexandra Pelosi (Nancy's daughter) had listened to Brooks before she made her sadly distorted recent documentary "Friends of God" on HBO ( But that is a post for another time...

How John Stott Prepares a Sermon

Colin Adams in Edinburgh has a good post on how John Stott prepares a sermon. All the guys at Trinity preparing for ministry - and those of us in minstry! - should print this one out and stick it somewhere in the back of our Bible or GNT. I imagine this summary comes from Stott's fabulous book "Between Two Worlds".

D. A. Carson on the Preacher's Task of Understanding Culture

Here is an interesting link from Don Carson on how preachers can go about better understanding culture. It's actually an except from one of his books, "When God's Voice is Heard".

CT: 10 Most Redeeming Movies of the Year

Christianity Today has come out with their list of the 10 most redeeming movies of the year. I love movies, but I haven't seen a single one of these!

"I love Jesus, but..."

Okay, I'm going to post two more funny videos. Clip #1 is again from my buddy Kyu and clip #2 is from my old friend Rick in Austin.

What Preachers Can Learn from Charles Spurgeon

A new issue of reformation21 ( is out. Its feature article this month is "What preachers can learn from Charles H. Spurgeon." Check it out.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Temple's Definition of Worship

The famous Anglican archbishop William Temple provided an outstanding definition of worship:

Worship is

the quickening of the conscience by the holiness of God,
the feeding of the mind by the truth of God,
the purging of the imagination by the beauty of God,
the opening of the heart to the love of God,
and the devotion of the will to the purpose of God.

Why I prefer the ESV translation of the Bible

One of the near tragedies of contemporary Christianity is that we don't have a universally agreed upon translation of the Bible. For all its faults, the King James version once united the English-speaking Christian world with a common translation for all to memorize and quote together. The NIV has been the nearest thing for American evangelical Christians to a universal translation. But many have resisted it for years, choosing the NASB or the NKJV.

I prefer the ESV over the NIV because the original, precise ideas of the Biblical authors is much more transparent to the English reader. For example, one of the great words of the NT is "flesh" (Greek: sarx). When you read the book of Romans and Paul uses the word "sarx", the ESV will always translate it "flesh". So you can string together Paul's theology of the flesh as you read Romans for yourself. But if you have an NIV, you cannot tell when Paul is using the word "sarx". Sometimes it is translated "flesh", but at other times it is "sinful nature" or "man" or "what the nature desires" or "sinful man" or "the sinful mind". And those examples are strictly from Romans 8! Reading Romans 8 in the NIV, you could not know that Paul was developing a theology of the "flesh" by simply reading your Bible. So I find that the NIV does not sufficiently make the author's language accessible to the modern reader and is therefore not an ideal translation for serious Bible reading, preaching or studying. It is a very good translation for general Bible reading, but not careful study.

I love the New American Standard Bible (NAS). I grew up on it and most of my memory work has been done in it. The ESV is slightly superior to the NAS, in my estimation, because of literary excellence. The ESV pays more careful attention to structure and flow of the English language. The NAS accurately conveys the structure of the original language, but does not show concern for excellence in English literary form. So the NAS is a very "choppy" read, whereas the ESV flows with more beauty and simple elegance. There are however places where I do think the NAS captures the translation with more precision than the ESV. I noted this just this past Sunday as I preached on Romans 8:28. On the balance, I think ESV is more suitable for general use in preaching, reading, studying and memorizing than the NAS.

The ESV is superior to the New King James version simply because the NKJ is based on older manuscripts and is thus filled with translations that we know are incorrect. The NKJ translation team was aware of this and decided to put the more accurate renderings in the translation footnotes, but this is too cumbersome to use.

The ESV has quickly ascended into a place of prominence in Reformed churches in the US and the UK. Even some (self-described) Arminian megachurches, such as Prestonwood Baptist Church, have adopted it. So I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the ESV. I think it is worth entire congregations adopting and using together in unison as they learn God's Word. Will it one day overtake the NIV? That, I don't know. But I do think it is the best out there. If you want to get one for yourself, go here.

al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11

If you're interested in understanding the history and ideology of al-Qaeda, look no further than "The Looming Tower" by Lawrence Wright. Larry is a freelance writer, lives in Austin, and has five solid years of research behind this book. It is written as a series of biographical vignettes, which makes for interesting reading (at least to me). Dan Rather (a source I don't quote often) said on the Chris Matthews Show that this book demonstrates that if you really want to understand the world you live in, you can't just watch television. You must read books. I liked that.

The Me Church and the Megachurch

A couple of funny videos. Clip #1 comes from my friend Kyu in Philly. It's biting satire about what we all really want in a church. Clip #2 shows you what a small church of 125 families in Plano, TX is up against.

Christopher's musical world

Christopher's world exists in his head. He can entertain himself for hours. He makes himself laugh. He loves music. "St. Olaf's choir is my favorite choir" is his refrain throughout the day. Although he knows the words to most songs in Handel's Messiah, his favorite song is "My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord". Recently he arranged his toy magnets by color into four rows and calls them the basses, tenors, altos and sopranos. He says that he is the conductor. He's also taught himself to play quite a few songs on the piano. And he is head over heels in love with Cinderella. We're a little worried about this last one.

He can identify all 43 U. S. Presidents by name (or their picture). He can tell you which ones have beards, etc. He has known the names/locations of all 50 states (as well as the Presidents) for over a year. He's now working on knowing the names of all the countries on his little globe. Russia, Greenland and China are currently his favorite countries. We're not coaxing him to learn these things; he just wants to know! And he knows that names of almost everyone at Trinity. I think he knows more names in our church than I do. What I'm really trying to say is this: our child is MUCH smarter than your child! ;-)

Sarah climbs into a toy chest

Sarah is MUCH more coordinated and physical than Christopher. Here, she scooted a chair up next to her toy chest and climb in. She's very pleased with herself. She just went through potty training last week and quickly mastered the task. She refuses to let anyone help her do anything. Even though her speech is limited to a few words, she is constantly mothering all of us. She is a very busy little girl.

31 weeks pregnant

Here is Mindy's profile shot at 31 weeks pregnant. She doesn't look 31 weeks pregnant to me! Our due date is April 4. Christopher was born April 2, 2003. We don't know the sex and aren't going to find out until the baby comes.