I Won A Book

Jacob, over at The Strasbourg Inn, recently did a giveaway contest for the newly released book by Darrin Patrick entitled Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission.

Needless to say, I’m posting about it here because I won the book. I didn’t come here to brag (there’s nothing to brag about, I was randomly selected!), but rather to suggest you watch the trailer for the book here. It’s pretty much the best trailer for a book I’ve ever seen. Granted, I haven’t seen too many.

I’m also posting about it here because Jacob had me share a little bit about the church plant that I’m involved with here in the Durham Region (Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering) – just east of Toronto. Here’s the blurb I sent him:

Harvest Bible Chapel Durham is a new plant (starting in 3 days!) in the Durham Region of Ontario, Canada. Every Harvest Bible Chapel is a part of Harvest Bible Fellowship, which is a fellowship of like-minded churches that share virtually identical doctrine and philosophy of ministry. The first Harvest Bible Chapel was launched in 1988 by Pastor James MacDonald and 18 others in Rolling Meadows, IL (near Chicago). After experiencing tremendous growth and blessing in their church, they began a church planting venture in 2000 which, to date, has seen over 60 churches planted in the 10 years since. Harvest Durham will be the first great-granddaughter church in the movement, as we are being planted by Harvest York Region (located in Markham, Ontario – a northeastern suburb of Toronto) who in turn were planted in 2006 by Harvest Oakville (a city southwest of Toronto) who were planted by Harvest in Chicago back in 2001. So, we’re a part of a church planting movement in a very real sense. It’s a blessing to be a part of something like this and to be able to draw from the collective experience of many church plants.

What I would add here is that WE LAUNCH THIS SUNDAY. Please pray for us. We have a quick way of summarizing our goal as a church:

Lost people saved. Saved people matured. Mature people multiplied. All to the glory of God.

Grace Upon Grace

Currently listening to: “Suddenly” by BT
I actually only started listening to BT because Celldweller did a remix of this track for the Suddenly EP. Once I checked out some of his catalog, I discovered a lot of really great electronic stuff – and honestly, that’s about as specific as I can get, because this guy runs the gamut – trance, techno, house, etc. etc. etc. Good stuff for sure.

Things have been hopping. Between the looming Harvest church plant this coming September in Durham, our soon-coming daughter (or son, if the tech’s wrong!), juggling three part-time jobs, looking for a full-time job, and all sorts of other things… writing has really fallen by the wayside.

It hasn’t been from a lack of things to write ABOUT. There’s an abundance of that. Here, lets bust out some of it. Rather than my usual routine of apologizing for being inconsistent, lets just get right so some of the thoughts and ideas that have been hard at work in my head lately, by God’s grace.

First, something that came up out of my recent studies in John:

John 1:16 ESV
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

How true is that? I think the old adage was “count your blessings”, but lets be really honest – they can’t even be counted.

I love this phrase – “and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”. The Apostle John was no theological slouch (if that weren’t clear from his epistles), nor was he crusty, and so it should not surprise us to find a remark of sheer praise and exclamation here amidst such profoundly theological statements. To think of the ‘grace upon grace’ instilled in my own life is remarkable if I spend any small amount of time bringing to mind the things of the past, or even the things of the prior week.

God’s grace (ie. things I don’t deserve) literally floods my life: Salvation through the gift of faith, a loving wife whose desire is to be useful to our Lord Jesus (full of “theological astuteness” and gentle wisdom), a child in her womb whose development has been (evidently) ideal and healthy, the blessing of godly leadership at Harvest York Region (whose leadership is both humble and authoritative!), a surrounding of friends who spur us on to love and good works, a series of God’s people to counsel and aid, a healthy God-fearing Bible-preaching church of small groups to be part of, the input of godly men in my life, a juggling of jobs to keep me productive for my family, the hope of full time and stable employment on the horizon as God provides, and so much more. I am inundated with grace upon grace – undeserved blessing is a hallmark of my life in Christ Jesus. His fullness is poured out in and around me with alarming regularity amidst both the glorious circumstances and the horrific events of present history.

Yet, just as often as I consider the abundance, I’m wholly mindful of the solid fact that I don’t deserve any of it. I’m a lawbreaker, a mutinous rebel.

I deserve hell, not all this grace upon grace.

The Gospel is an amazing thing – to think even briefly on the fact that the Holy and Righteous God who created me, the God whose laws and standards I spurned and spat on… entered human history, took on human flesh, and took my hell on the Cross. I don’t deserve it. Grace upon grace.

Second, a bunch of quotes that have been ricocheting around my noggin:

“There is no correlation between new and good.” (CS Lewis)

“Duty is a poor substitute for love.” (CS Lewis)

“Joy is a deep, durable delight in the splendor of God that ruins you for anything else.” (Sam Storms)

“Christians who understand gospel logic should be, taking one thing with another, the most accomplished and least envious people in the world.” (Douglas Wilson)

“Curse the scalpel, if you must, but kiss the Surgeon’s hand.” (John Piper)

and, most of all:

“It is written.” (God)

How incredible is it that God has communicated himself to us through a book – the written word? Grace upon grace, all over again, times infinity.

Rejoice?

Currently listening to: “Circles” by Thrice
Thrice recently did a session at Daytrotter, and the results are stripped-down, sparse, largely acoustic, and predominantly wonderful. If you’ve ever wondered what a masterful rock band would sound like when given a room with a bunch of instruments in various states of being, this is a great example. You can listen/download the tracks here at Daytrotter.

I have a bundle of news for those who don’t know me personally – namely, a bundle of Bolton that is on the way! Yes, my lovely Steph and I are happy to announce that (with God’s help) we’re in the midst of welcoming a new human being into the world. It’s one of the reasons that I haven’t been able to devote the kind of time to writing that I usually like to. The other reason is that my rebellious heart prefers distraction, abstraction, and escape to reality. So, truth be told, I’ve been much in the habit of wasting time on things far less than eternal.

I like to call her "wee bee".

So, with that said, and with my apologies implied therein… I would like to share some of what God has been teaching me through his Word as He speaks to me in the midst of the constant swirl and ebb of the circumstances of my life.

For starters, it hasn’t escaped me that for 21 weeks now, I’ve been a father. Granted, I haven’t been conscious of that for all 21 of those weeks, but increasingly as our lives already feel the weight of changes and as my wife’s abdomen swells with new life… I’m conscious of the responsibilities I now carry before God. Being a father means that, in addition to my wife and I, there is now another person for whom I am very intimately responsible. Another person, one for whose training and fathering I will answer, for whose provision I will be held to account, and to whom I must strive to be an example of the gospel in action. My daughter (assuming that the Ultrasound Technician was right – and they’re not always) or son will look to me to be an example of pastoral, godly, disciplined righteousness.

I love my daughter deeply – more with every passing day as she grows and develops and learns and changes and as God shapes and knits her together. I love my daughter, young as she is. I love her, and so many questions fill my mind:

  • What if my daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly in the womb (as a couple we know of recently experienced)?
  • What if, in a few short years, my precious young daughter was killed in an accident in our driveway (as a musician many of us are familiar with experienced a couple years ago)?
  • What if my daughter grows up and rejects Jesus Christ?
  • What if she lives a long and unrepentant life of rebellion and immorality?
  • Someone mentioned to me today that, because of how I love her, she will always be “Daddy’s Little Girl”. My head reeled. Not because I don’t treasure the thought of taking care of this little girl, nor because I really hope she doesn’t stay little. Neither was it because my hope and prayer is that she grows into a godly woman who loves Jesus Christ. No, I reeled because the thing that immediately jumped into my head was a question:

    Is this Little Girl mine?

    Let me explain:

    How dangerous would it be to my soul if I thought she was MINE… of all things? If I believe that she is “mine” and I lose her in any of the above ways I might despair of life or betray God!

    Isn’t it true that so often the line between responsibility and idolatry is very thin?
    Or what about the line between love and idolatry?

    I am responsible for my daughter. I love my daughter.

    But she is not mine.

    At my church, we’re about to start into a series in the book of James. This week we’ll be delving into the first twelve verses, which (among other things) say the following:

    James 1:2-5 ESV
    Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

    If you’ve been a Christian for some time, you probably have encountered these kinds of ideas before. After all, from Genesis to Revelation, God makes incredible good come out of incomprehensible evils. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery and ultimately Joseph saves them from a famine many years later. David is pursued all over Israel and the surrounding areas by Saul (who is rabidly trying to murder him), and becomes a “man after God’s own heart”. Jesus, God of very God, is betrayed, spat upon, brutally beaten, and crucified… takes upon himself sin – that which he justly and righteously hates, and experiences the full Wrath of God poured out against sin… and in submitting himself on the Cross in this way makes a way for sinners to be reconciled to God.

    If you’re like me, the principle makes sense: God allows and sometimes causes trials and suffering in our lives in order to refine and purify us, in order to transform us and conform us into the likeness of Jesus.

    But James didn’t just say “Accept it, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. He said to count it all joy. Joy. In other words, James is saying “rejoice when you suffer!” and “be delighted when you go through difficulty” and “chalk it up as a sweet thing when your circumstances are sour and bitter”.

    What? I understand accepting that, as Joseph said to his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20)… but to rejoice in suffering? How?

    Let me take a stab at it, with my thanks to preachers like John Piper and Matt Chandler for crystallizing this in my thoughts lately:

    Everything we have is loaned to us that we might point to and make much of Jesus Christ and him crucified. ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ – they are all given to us or allowed to us so that in all of it we would rejoice in the Cross.

    The Cross?

    The Cross, through which our worst adversity becomes an instrument of God in subjecting our hearts more wholly to him!

    The Cross, through which everything that would seek to destroy us serves instead to strengthen us – conforming us more and more to the likeness of Jesus!

    The Cross, the greatest sin ever committed, but through which sinners are reconciled to God!

    How else can we move beyond merely accepting our circumstances (especially when they constitute trials and suffering) to REJOICING in them? How else but to see God’s grace and mercy overflowing as he works through our varied and frequently terrible circumstances to accomplish the transformation of our hearts and lives?

    We rejoice in adversity because the worst of circumstances is a gift from God. The worst of circumstances is the gift of a dark, painful, and evil place in which to say to a watching world (and to our rebellious hearts):

    “God is enough! He is all I need! He is my life and sustenance! There is no world, no meaning, and no hope without Jesus Christ!”

    I am responsible for my daughter and I love her… but she is not mine. (May God grant that I never see her as mine!) My daughter, much like every good thing that I have, is a gift from God, created and sustained by him for my joy and for His glory.

    As We Received, So We Walk

    Currently listening to: “In Exile” by Thrice
    They actually just released the video for this song recently on their myspace and, although it’s not as epic as (say) the videos for “Image of the Invisible” or “Digital Sea”… it has a great black-and-white, earthy, early-2000’s Thrice feel to it. Think of a cross between the videos for “Deadbolt” and “Come All You Weary”. Video aside, this is one of Thrice’s best songs from one of Thrice’s best albums. Love it.

    Here’s something that caught me today:

    Colossians 2:6-7 ESV
    Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

    The word “as” seems absolutely key here. Another way of reading this sentence is “Walk in Christ Jesus the Lord AS you received him”. So – for those of us who have received Christ… the question becomes: how did we receive him?

    We received Christ as a gift, through repentance and belief in the gospel.

    1) As a Gift:

    Titus 3:4-7 ESV
    But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    John 3:3 ESV
    Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

    Just as we had no involvement in our physical birth, so we have none in our spiritual birth – other than that, once born, we begin to breathe and live. Salvation is ultimately a gift, something given to those who believe by God himself – something we cannot and have not earned by doing anything. It’s a gracious blessing – something entirely unmerited and unsolicited.

    Similarly, just as our salvation is God’s doing, the life we live from that time on is God’s doing also. Whatever “good” (God-honouring, God-exalting) things we do, we can understand that they are gifts also – things our natural self is entirely incapable of.

    Philippians 2:12 ESV
    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    We are to work out, live out, breathe out, speak out our salvation… actively, voluntarily, volitionally… because we understand that as we do so, it is God at work in us making it happen. So then, living as He desires us to is not something we do, but rather something He does in us, for His good pleasure and enjoyment. This is a great comfort and a great challenge to consider!

    2) Through Repentance and Belief in the Gospel:

    When Jesus spoke to people and told them to do things, he often reduced the ‘action requirements’ down to basics. Some balk at this, thinking that favour with God must be more difficult to acquire. In a sense, those who balk are correct – it is more difficult than they could possibly imagine. Impossible, actually.

    Truth is, the life-changing heart-rending repentance and belief that Jesus speaks of is utterly impossible for human beings to accomplish. Impossible apart from being regenerated (aka “reborn”, “born again”) and given a new heart and a new life – complete with new desires and an unceasing pattern of… you guessed it, repentance and belief.

    Matthew 4:17 ESV
    From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    When God takes hold of sinners as his own, gifting to them new life, they in turn… turn to Him. Repentance is not merely what happened when you “received Christ Jesus the Lord”, but rather it becomes the new pattern and the hallmark of your life from that moment on – a pattern of growth into the likeness of Jesus Christ that scripture calls our sanctification. What is repentance? Simply, it’s turning away from your sin and towards God. Mentally, it’s the process of developing a Christlike hatred toward sin (while cultivating an increasing love for God). Where once we were enemies to God, we increasingly become enemies to sin (particularly our own).

    Mark 1:14-15 ESV
    Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

    Similarly, belief is not just something that happens at the beginning of a person’s walk with God, but rather it becomes the new pattern of your life. Where once you lived in rebellion and unbelief, now you persevere in the faith, believing in the God of the Bible and in His glorious Gospel – the message that in Jesus Christ, God entered human history as a man, lived a perfect and sinless life, died a sacrificial, substitutional, atoning death on the cross, defeated death, and lives forever as King and Lord and God.

    Let’s revisit our starting point:

    Colossians 2:6-7 ESV
    Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

    Do you remember the time in your life when you came to repentance and belief? Experientially, it may not have been a climactic moment of awakening but instead a process. Regardless, do you remember those times? Do you remember the feeling of “scales falling from your eyes”, of understanding and believing what before had seemed foolish and detestable? Do you remember realizing the enormity of your sin, and rejoicing in the grace of God expressed in the atoning sacrifice of his son for you? Do you remember the bliss and the mourning of being brought to repentance?

    Do you remember?

    Friend, just as you received Christ Jesus our Lord… walk that way. Put your roots in him. Build up and establish yourself in the faith, just as Scripture teaches it – and never forget to abound in thanksgiving for what God has done.

    Luke 9:23-24 ESV
    And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

    Ask Pastor John

    Currently listening to: “All The World Is Mad” by Thrice
    Thrice’s newest, “Beggars”, will go down as their best to date. I’m in love.

    John Piper is a pretty regular guy. A pretty regular guy who is passionate about Jesus Christ. He writes books, drops heart-piercing sermons, likes to hyphenate words together, and has managed to gather a lot of biblical wisdom into his noggin over the years.

    Last week he did a live version of his “Ask Pastor John” [APJ] series – in which he fields questions and does his best to answer them biblically and pastorally. With almost no reservations, I enjoy APJ. Thus, I enjoyed watching him respond live as questions came in via Twitter.

    My hope is that you can enjoy it too, now that the segments are posted on DesiringGod. Check them out here:

    Ask Pastor John Live

    The Primacy of Preaching in Worship

    Currently listening to: “Get Me Right” by Dashboard Confessional
    Chris Carrabba is a bit of a tough one to pin down. It’s difficult to know, in his songs, whose voice he speaks from – his own, or those of various characters he creates or whose stories he tells. The answer to that question would seriously uncomplicate the question of what precisely it is that he believes. What he believes is an interesting question because, before he was “The Famous Chris Carrabba – King of All Emo and the man behind Dashboard Confessional”, he was the unknown frontman of Further Seems Forever, an essentially Christian technical rock band. This song is remarkable because it’s the first one (as Dashboard) in which Chris talks in fairly straightforward terms about faith, Jesus, doubt, sin, depravity, and such things. I’m still processing what’s going on – there’s a lot of history to reckon with, and there’s a lot of voices on this record (and all his Dashboard records, for that matter).

    There are about 50 blogs on my feed reader. I read most of them in their entirety every day – it’s a part of my morning routine. One that I recently added was CJ Mahaney’s blog over at Sovereign Grace Ministries. Although I disagree with CJ on some points (and really, we could all say that about anybody if we’re being honest!) I’ve really appreciated his ministry – both in book form and in his preaching.

    I had the opportunity to attend CJ’s breakout session this past April at the Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference and it was, in many ways, a pivotal point for me. Through CJ’s message entitled “The Pastor’s Charge“, God sparked in my heart a desire for pastoral ministry. Does this mean I’m hoping to be a “Pastor” someday? God only knows. Right now, I’m just working through what it means to be pastoral in character and daily practice – both internally and externally. I firmly believe that all believing men are called to strive toward the standards required of all “overseers” as laid out in Titus and Timothy and such. So, in this season of life, one of my particular concerns is to nurture and develop in those areas – striving toward being (as Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 3) above reproach, faithful in monogamy, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not an addict, gentle, not violent, not a money-lover, a good father and husband, dignified, mature in the faith and constantly pursuing humility.

    With that as background, you’ll understand my excitement over today’s post on CJ’s blog, made by his friend Jeff Purswell, entitled “Preaching vs. Worship?” (entitled so as to question the false dichotomy). I’d encourage you to read it. Here’s something that stood out to me:

    Why? Why so much preaching? Why all this talking? Because the primary way we encounter God in worship is through the preaching of the Word of God.

    Think about it this way. Normally, in what we call “worship,” we spend significant time—perhaps the whole time—addressing God, singing to him, praising him, extolling him, praying to him. Wonderful! But in preaching we are no longer addressing God; he is addressing us. Nothing is more important than this moment. And this is why the most important worship leader in your church is your pastor.

    That really gets to the heart of preaching. The Bible is not simply a book that we talk about. When God’s Word is faithfully preached, God is addressing us. God is speaking. We hear not merely a man’s voice. We hear the voice of God.

    And when God addresses us, what is the appropriate response? We respond with glad and reverent hearts, with voices that proclaim his praise, and with lives that increasingly reflect his character.

    God addresses us with a saving Word. We respond to him with faith, praise, and obedience. That is the rhythm of worship.

    This article caught me, striking me as both true and unnoticed. As I reflect on my week-to-week experience of preaching (thanks to my Pastor, for whom I am becoming more grateful constantly), I resonate with the above sentiments on a level I can’t really express at this point. Rare is the Sunday afternoon that I don’t feel at least a little weak at the knees because of the awareness that, despite all of the flawed humanity in the preacher, God spoke to me through the faithful preaching of his scriptures. Further, as I reflect on CJ’s message at the Gospel Coalition in April, I realize the same thing – God spoke through CJ’s exposition of scripture in preaching. He called me to greater faithfulness to Him and His truth. He called me to sacrificially serve and love His church. He called me to grow and mature in Christ. He called me to repent of myself. He called me to teach and learn, to suffer and wrestle, to counsel and to seek counsel. He called me to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow Jesus – the author and finisher, the perfecter, the archetype, the God-man, the dread warrior, the Holy One. He called me to lay down my life.

    It’s not that He hadn’t said all of those things before – they’re all over Scripture. But, God spoke to me that day in a way I hardly understood at the time, and hardly do now. He spoke through the Bible. What an amazing gift!

    May those who preach do so faithfully, and may those of us who listen to their faithful preaching worship with our lives faithfully in response. Amen.

    I Need Church.

    Currently listening to: “This Is The End” – Relient K
    Relient K made a great new album. You should listen to it if the chance comes upon you. It is called “Forget And Not Slow Down”. I am refusing to be using contractions. No reason.

    My friend Ian Hales just made a great post over on the Harvest Durham website. You can read it here.

    The post is the second in his series entitled Who Needs Church?”. He’s examining the components of the local church and the necessity of it in the lives of believers. It’s actually something I’ve been dancing around doing myself for many months, so I’m thankful someone far better qualified (and far better “having his head around it”) stepped up to the plate.

    Personally, the part that was most useful to me is where he mentions that Acts can’t be our model for church structure, as some are prone to demand (house church movement, anyone?). Why? Simple hermeneutics. Acts is a history book – it’s descriptive. So, just in the same way that we wouldn’t take the historical accounts of the Old Testament as prescriptive for how we should live our lives (thus becoming polygamists, as some misguided folks are… prone to demand) we can’t take the embryonic church structure in the book of Acts and use it as our primary source. I’m not suggesting for a second Acts isn’t useful and important, but basic study will reveal that Luke’s purpose in writing Acts was to relay the history of the early church in a rather condensed form. It’s descriptive – describing the events that took place, only occasionally weighing in on things. Conversely, the pastoral epistles of the New Testament are prescriptive by genre and by nature – they prescribe the correct structure for the local church in a way Acts never so much as pretends to.

    All in all, I found Ian’s breakdown quite helpful. I trust you will too. Make sure to check out the first post in the series as well (heck, maybe even add the Harvest Durham blog to your feed reader, fair citizen!).

    Minor note: Harvest Bible Chapel Durham is the recently announced church plant out of Harvest Bible Chapel York Region, and is planned to launch sometime in 2010.

    Can we call it “Body-planting”?

    Currently listening to: “Freedom is Here” by Hillsong United
    I’m a very, very late comer to the worship music scene. I find that as I draw nearer to God, I can’t help but revel in worship. That, and there’s something inherently intriguing to me about songs written for the express purpose of being sung in a large-group setting. If you judge worship music purely on musical merit alone, you’re missing the point – it’s really, REALLY hard to write songs so personal (yet generally connectable) that they lend themselves to such a context. Having said all that, there’s still a lot of garbage worship records out there (and songs)… and Hillsong, as usual, evades such derision. They write good worship songs.

    I’ve been working on two posts, neither of which is ready. One containing continuing thoughts on God’s will, one being the next about finances and stewardship – another of Jesus’ parables.

    In the meantime, I wanted to share this post on CJ Mahaney’s blog by his friend Dave Harvey. It’s about church planting. More than that, it’s about how the church is God’s intended mission to the world. It’s about the church doing the things often left to parachurch ministries. It’s about how much can be lacking when the context of ministry is squarely outside (or alongside) the church rather than within the context of a local body of believers.

    Being familiar with a great example of a church that has recently planted INTO a University campus (pray for them!), such things excite me greatly.

    Check out Dave’s post here.

    With Regards… Inerrancy (Fatigue?)

    Currently listening to: “True Grand” by Sev Statik
    Sev always brings wisdom.
    “God is almighty – He don’t need a logo! Man-made symbols and dress it’s purely just promo
    A broken cross and a fish-head cap / it’s all propaganda… Where the lost relate to that?”

    This morning on The Gospel Coalition site, Russell Moore shared a link to an article by a guy named Bart Barber. The topic? The inerrancy of Scripture. For some, this topic isn’t one they’ve encountered. For others, such as myself, this topic is of extreme interest and importance. I’ve had extensive debates in the last few years on this very subject, with the constant refrain of opposition being that inerrancy dies the “death of a thousand qualifications”. So, with that in mind, I was intrigued by – and thoroughly enjoyed – Barber’s treatment of the objections to inerrancy as presented by a guy named James Denison. Although Barber’s concern and circles are Baptist, I found his breakdown of the objections helpful and I trust you will too. The shakedown is helpfully written with regular folk in mind, which doesn’t exclude the scholars but at widens the accessibility.

    If you’re curious as to precisely what Barber is responding to, he shares Denison’s six primary arguments as follows:

    Those main arguments are six in number:

    1. Denison argues that the word “inerrancy” has been defined and qualified in too many different and highly technical ways to be of any theological use; therefore, we ought to prefer to speak of the “trustworthiness” or “authority” of the Bible.
    2. Denison argues that the concept of inerrancy, since it is applied exclusively to the original Bible manuscripts, actually undermines the faith of believers in their own copies of the Bible.
    3. Denison argues that inerrancy is a recent doctrinal innovation not shared by those in Christian history whom we ought to emulate—that it is not among our theological “roots.”
    4. Denison argues that rather than the denial of inerrancy’s leading to other heresies, the affirmation of inerrancy leads to unwarranted divisiveness.
    5. Denison argues that inerrancy is a philosophical position not supported by the statements of the Bible itself.
    6. Denison argues that the Bible actually is not inerrant; therefore, to apply the test of inerrancy to the Bible is to set the Bible up to fail at a test that it does not and would not apply to itself, and thereby to undermine one’s belief in the “trustworthiness” of the Bible.

    So, I present to you: “An Errant Bible: The Gateway Heresy“. (Strong title? Yes! Blessedly strong!).
    As usual, I’m up for discussion. I think Barber hits some pretty significant points.

    Concerning the Will of God: Simple Moves (Pt. 2)

    Currently listening to: “The Fisherman Song (We All Need Love)” by Mae
    I really think that Mae has finally outdone their sophomore record ‘The Everglow’. No small feat. The recent EP’s entitled ‘(m)orning’ and ‘(a)fternoon’ are excellent examples of sprawling pop rock infused with all manner of savvy and sensibility. I can only assume the forthcoming ‘(e)vening’ EP will follow the same pattern.

    God’s will for us – what an utterly important thing to grasp! Yesterday, I introduced the topic here. Be sure to check that out if you haven’t already.

    Here’s where we left off – thinking about God’s will in practical terms:

    1 Thesselonians 4:3a ESV
    For this is the will of God, your sanctification.

    Seriously though, when I said we often over-complicate it, I wasn’t kidding. Although there are other places where the methodology for ascertaining God’s will (contexually) is shared – such as Romans 12 – there’s nowhere else in Scripture where “God’s will” for Christians is stated more explicitly. I’m guilty of missing this, and you probably are also.

    So what does this mean, that God’s will is my sanctification? What are the implications?

    Well, for starters, this makes figuring out the “why” of things-over-which-I-have-no-control much easier. Whatever happens to me, I can trust that it’s been caused or allowed by God for the purpose of my sanctification. That goes for the things-over-which-I-appear-to-have-control, too. From the ‘out of my hands’ to the ‘I totally blew it’, God allows and orchestrates our lives in such a way that we who belong to him, who are called by his name, to progressively and consistently over the course of our lives becomes more and more like Jesus.

    So, how does this practically affect when I need to make decisions? This is where it splits two vital ways.

    First, it means that prior to deliberating about the many decisions of life, I need to make the primary decision; the decision to live life FOR my own sanctification. Indeed, continually making decisions that PURSUE it. This means that, far above and beyond the importance of any other decision I might make, I must ultimately and continually choose to be obedient to this high calling:

    Philippians 2:12-13 ESV (emphasis mine)
    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    Wow. Ok. Let’s break this down. As believers, we are explicitly called to be obedient to a number of explicit, solid, generally unchallenged callings – things like the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. All of these callings, however, center around bringing God glory. Whether it is the glory for lives transformed by the Gospel we take to all nations, or the glory for the supernatural altruistic love we cultivate for neighbors, enemies, and most of all for God himself. This explicit command from Paul in Philippians (echoed elsewhere) is no different. God sanctifies us for His own glory – he “works in us”, enabling both our will and our work – granting us grace for daily, obedient actions and decisions.

    Yet, we’re called to “work out” our salvation. We’re given a clear calling to sanctification. So very clear. Although God enables our rebellious hearts and minds, experientially we work, we strive, we struggle, we battle, we war, we “fight the good fight”.

    Paul worded it like this:

    Romans 6:19b ESV
    For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

    What does this work look like? What does obedience to this calling look like? God’s will is my sanctification – how do I obediently work that out? How do I “enslave” my cognitive faculties and my utterly mutinous body to righteousness? What choices are ultimate in my life before I even think about the daily grind decisions?

    Here’s some ideas of the kinds of choices the call to sanctification necessitates:

    1. Sanctification and Scripture are intricately tied into each other.
    Nothing could be more explicit (there it is again – explicit!) than when Jesus prayed:

    John 17:17 ESV
    Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

    If that’s not a strong enough argument, I don’t know what will be. Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified by God’s word – namely, the Bible. Scripture. Genesis to Revelation – everything contained therein.

    So, Choice #1 is this:
    I choose to spend time in the Scriptures every day. God’s will is that I be sanctified, and he himself said that I would be sanctified by the truth – his word. I will be in it every day without fail – searching out all of the truth it contains. Studying it, applying it, wrestling with it, and being obedient to what it says. It’s God’s will for me.

    2. Sanctification is rooted in knowing and trusting God – which is expressed in prayer.
    As we just saw, the truth of what God has said in the Bible drives our sanctification. So, what has God said to us in it? Among its whole canon, one constant refrain is that we who believe are called to know God, and in knowing him, we are to entrust everything to him.

    Here’s a good, simple example:

    Psalm 4:5-8 ESV
    Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.
    There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
    You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
    In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

    The Psalmist – David, in this case – contrasts those who don’t know God with those who do (namely, himself!). In this contrast, he compares his joy with theirs and concludes that his joy is far greater. He delights in the peace and the safety of trusting the LORD, and charges us to trust God also.

    So, how does trusting God manifest itself in our lives? We pray:

    2 Chronicles 7:13-14 ESV (emphasis mine)
    When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

    When we have need, when we are oppressed, when circumstances surround us and are so far beyond our control, or when decisions to be made bear down on us and we have no clarity – God asks us to humble ourselves, seek his face, and repent. All of these things are propelled by trusting God, and amidst them, he bids us to pray. When we pray in this way – humbly seeking him with a repentant heart – we are acting out our trust in Jesus to be the one who meets our needs, delivers us from oppression, steers our circumstances, and clarifies our decision making. When we come before God with our petitions, we come to a living, active, powerful Saviour who is more than able to see us through whatever difficulties may face us.

    It’s for this reason that the Apostle says:

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
    Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

    Wow… again with “the will of God” being explicitly and clearly stated. God’s will is that I be sanctified, and that I never cease to pray, to rejoice, to give thanks. The more I know him, the more I trust him, the more I bring everything to him in prayer. He’s worthy!

    So, Choice #2 is this:
    I choose to spend time in prayer every day. God’s will is that I rejoice in who he is, trust him with thanksgiving, and pray without letting up. I will come to him with all my praise, all my needs, all my requests, and all my confessions as he sanctifies me. It’s God’s will for me.

    Some of you might chuckle here – after all, I’ve just described two of the key spiritual disciplines! Let’s recap. First, God’s will is that we be sanctified by spending time diligently studying and applying the scriptures to our lives – depending on him to give us clarity and understanding as we strive to grasp his truth. Second, God’s will is that we be sanctified by spending time trusting him in prayer. Let’s commit ourselves afresh to these disciplines. They’re two of our primary callings in life as believers – two explicit manifestations of our being sanctified, and thus following God’s will for us.

    God’s will is our sanctification, let’s align our wills with his on this.