December, 2013 Archive

It’s a little rough, but here’s my attempt at an Advent poem. They say you only get better with practice, right?

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He had finally arrived! The time had come!
Gather the shepherds, their sheep; who knows where from?
They saw a baby, in swaddling clothes he was placed.
What God saw was his loving extension of grace.

Bethlehem; “The House of Bread.”
Only on Him can we be fed.
A humble King born in a trough;
It was on his beaten back that God’s wrath was wrought.

A son born; Jesus his name.
He had come to give his Father glory and fame.
His advent foretold through clear prophecy,
“Cursed are those who hang on a tree.”

His soft newborn skin with that beautiful baby glow;
A lowly stable the place where God’s mercy was shown.
Then one day with blood trickling down his side,
He took the death that should’ve been mine.

Mary caressed him while all others were asleep,
Kissing the cute wrinkles in his feet.
In those same feet a nail would be driven;
But unto us a Savior was given.

Counting others more significant, in humility he came;
A servant to all in the form of a babe.
Though in the form of God, equality would not be grasped.
Emmanuel, “God with us,” had come at last.

The angels came, in the fields they sang;
A heavenly chorus and trumpets rang.
Dying for sinners, he stood in our place.
Now we can see him with unveiled face.

This gentle baby, the wise men did admire;
Of giving praise and worship they did not tire.
But then it came when he was hoisted up for all to see;
All laughed and mocked at this Jew from Galilee.

Some thirty years he spent living with us;
A King coming off his throne to crawl in the dust.
The empathetic High Priest, with him we can relate.
Drawing near with confidence, and someday entering Heaven’s gate.

Lo and behold, there is news of great joy!
It is only found in this newborn boy.
They saw a baby, in swaddling clothes he was placed.
What God saw was his loving extension of grace.

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Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Compfight cc

This post is an excerpt from a hilarious book that I love and would highly recommend, called Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder: A Good-Natured Roast. If you want an easy and fun read about the new Reformed movement, pick this up here.

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Who Gets to be Called Reformed?

Before we get to specifics, there is the not-small question of who gets to be called reformed. This is a tough one. If you don’t sprinkle babies, are you really reformed? And without the “Reformed,” you’re just the Young & Restless, which sounds exceedingly worldly. Hmmm.

John Piper and Collin Hansen are both Baptists, just saying. For what it’s worth, Zach pastors a Baptist church and Ted (the authors) goes to a Reformed church – but neither of us sprinkle babies. However, Zach is Dutch, which gives him added cache. Ted, on the other hand, is German (his ancestral name is Von Kluck, not Van Kluck or even Vander Klucksma)…aaargh! This is all so complicated. And while we’re being honest, we both still read the NIV from time to time.

An easy out is to continually make the distinction between reformed and Reformed, but do you really want to walk around, saying, “I’m lowercase-r reformed?” Neither do we (so we’ll just stick with the lowercase to keep things simple).

At the end of the day, we needed a concrete formula. We needed certainty. We’re not postmodern, after all. So just grab a pencil and paper, and work through this simple equation:

CW + Ch(Rf) + RCL + CCC + @ – 10(TV) – 20(RW) – ($TBN/10) – (xWB) – 10Em = RQ

The Equation Explained

Number of Crossway books in your collection; plus number of children; times number of children named after reformed personalities; plus number of reformed conference badges/lanyards (T4G, Desiring God, Next, Gospel Coalition); plus Number of Confessions, Catechisms, and Creeds you subscribe to; plus number of hours weekly spent on challies.com, Deyoung’s blog, or any other Gospel Coalition blog; minus 10 if you have cable; minus 20 if you un-ironically have a Rick Warren or Joel Osteen book on your shelf; minus number of dollars pledged to TBN (divided by 10); minus number of times you’ve been watchblogged; minus number of years spent in your emergent phase (times 10); equals your reformed quotient.

Ben’s Note: This is a pretty harsh standard, so if you need to curve your number, add in the beard modifier (your appreciation for beards on a scale of 1-100, divided by 2).

Go ahead and figure out your number. Remember, God is watching…alllllways watching.

Once you have your number, here are the ranges where you might fall:

<0   If you’re elect, that’s news to God

1-5  You’re reading this book to trash it in your emergent blog.

6-20 Enjoy the climbing wall and gourmet coffee bar at your megachurch. You’re fooling no one.

21-50 There’s potential here, but we suggest that you stop coaching your kids’ Little League team, stop surfing ESPN.com, and start spending all of your free time (when you’re not spending time with your Proverbs 31 wife), trolling the YRR blogosphere. We also suggest spending a little bit more of your debt-free expendable income at the Monergism bookstore. Oh, and it’s time to at the “L” to your TULIP. You know who you are.

51-100 What do you think of someone who just does the bare minimum? Seriously, what do you think? Minus ten more points if you get that reference.

100-200 You’ve probably spoken or led a breakout session at a regional reformed conference. Congratulations! Things are looking up for you. Have you considered submitting a book proposal? We know you’ve got 50,000 words stashed away somewhere that you’ve never told anyone about. Maybe you can recycle some old blog posts.

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1) 7 Ways Social Media Makes Pastors Jobs More Difficult

Facebook can be very helpful to pastors. It helps us to know how to pray. It is a great avenue for communicating your message, making announcements, establishing connections, helping people to laugh, and a host of other things.

2) 9 Lies the Media Likes to Tell About Evangelical Christians

So while there are certainly exceptions, I’ve identified nine common lies perpetuated by people in the media. Granted, there are enough vocal evangelicals to bolster each of these stereotypes, so the media isn’t completely responsible. But nuance is necessary here. Thus this post.

3) The Dark Side of Christian Celebrity

What is amazing is how quickly we can make the switch, how quickly we can turn honor into dishonor and love into hate. From the heights to the depths may be only a matter of weeks or months. Then the book deals are gone, the platforms are removed, the Twitter feed vacant. The higher the climb, the farther the fall. The farther the fall, the longer we have to sit back and watch it all unfold. When it comes to our celebrities, we can be every bit as petty and every bit as cutthroat as the culture around us.

4) One of the Biggest Mistakes Pastors Make

Pastors, I want to talk frankly and, hopefully, with a spirit of love, about one of the biggest mistakes I see many of you make. Most pastors have little emphasis, or sometimes, even knowledge about the content that is taught in groups in their churches.

5) Why Does He Look at Pornography?

Something I have found personally helpful in counseling with both men and women through this issue is helping the counselee identify what motivates him or her to seek out pornography. In some ways we might say the actual viewing of pornography is symptomatic of a deeper worship disorder that is happening in the heart. What motivates and precedes the viewing of pornography? Once that can be identified then more specific biblical counsel can often be offered.

6) The Real Problem With Mark Driscolls ‘Citation Errors’

The real danger here is not plagiarism—it is idolatry.

All idolatry debases the image bearers who become caught up in its train. Idols promise superhuman results, and for a time they can seem to work. But in fact they destroy the true humanity of both those they temporarily elevate and those they anonymously exploit. Nothing good can come from the superhuman figure presented to the world as “Pastor Mark Driscoll”—not for the real human being named Mark Driscoll himself, and not for the image-bearers who may be neglected in his shadow.

7) Do Tummy Aches Disprove God?

My tummy hurts. Ergo, there is no god.

This argument may be absurd, but it’s not intended as a reductio ad absurdum. Although in simplistic form, this enthymeme encapsulates one of the primary atheological arguments—the argument from evil.

8) The Women Who Sold Their Daughters Into Sex Slavery

Everything about this is heartbreaking.

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The Song of the Glorified has Three Notes in It:

“And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation! You have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth!” Revelation 5:9-10

1. There is the note of Redemption. You purchased me with Your blood. Jesus ransomed me–the slave of sin, of frailty and futility, of dark despair! And not by a mere act of sovereignty and might. No–but by breaking the alabaster vase of His unblemished body for me, and by pouring forth the costly ointment of His blood. It will be the theme of my praise through the unending years of eternity!

2. There is the note of Royalty. “You have made us kings!” O wondrous thought to quicken the torpid pulses of my soul! I will sit down with Him on His own throne, and He will share His great empire with me!

3. There is the note of Consecration. “You have made us priests!” I am, through Jesus Christ my Lord, a white-robed, white-souled worshiper, thanking and adoring God, offering to Him the incense of prayer, presenting to Him continually the sacrifice of my praise, lifting up holy hands in ceaseless intercession!

Jesus has done it all!“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:12

~Alexander Smellie