November 2009

[By Tim Keller, H/T B2W]

For much of his life, John Calvin had two close friends — Farel and Viret. Farel was very hot-headed and out-spoken, while Viret was of very mild temperament, an instinctive peace-keeper. Farel often came to Geneva and stayed at Calvin’s home, where, sometimes with Viret, the friends would have long talks about theology and current events over a glass. Calvin delighted in the company of his zealous friend. Nevertheless, as time went on he came to see that Farel’s inflexible nature made him a doughty defender but a limited propagator of the gospel. He often sent his own discourses and letters to Viret, whose job was to moderate his language. Calvin himself had been more hot-headed as a young man, and he worked to curb his own tongue.

After Farel inappropriately denounced a prominent woman in Geneva from the pulpit, which turned her whole family against him, Calvin wrote him a remarkable letter:

“When you have Satan to combat, and you fight under Christ’s banner, he who puts on your armor and draws you into battle will give you the victory. But…we only earnestly desire that insofar as your duty permits you will accommodate yourself more to the people. There are, as you know, two kinds of popularity: the one, when we seek favor from motives of ambition and the desire of pleasing; the other, when, by fairness and moderation, we gain their esteem so as to make them teachable by us. You must forgive us if we deal rather freely with you…You are aware how much we love and revere you…We desire that in those remarkable endowments which the Lord has conferred upon you, no spot or blemish may be found for the malevolent to find fault with, or even to carp at.”

Here Calvin draws an extremely important distinction. There are two very different motivations for adapting and accommodating our message to the sensibilities of a group of people. The first motive is ‘ambition’ — we do it for our sake, for our own glory and approval. The other reason we may accommodate people is for their sake, so that we can gradually win their trust until they become open to the truth they need so much. The first motive will so control us that we will never offend people. The second motive will help us choose our battles and not offend people unnecessarily. The Farels of the world cannot see any such distinction — they believe any effort to be judicious and prudent is a cowardly ‘sell-out’. But Calvin wisely recognized that his friend’s constant, intemperate denunciations often stemmed not from a selfless courage, but rather from the opposite — pride. He wrote of Farel to Viret saying, “He cannot bear with patience those who do not comply with his wishes.”

There’s a reason for gaining people’s esteem that is not vain-glorious, and, at the same time, there’s a motivation for boldly speaking the truth — that is vain-glorious.

The letters of Calvin and the information for this came from the great new biography by Bruce Gordon, Calvin (Yale, 2009) pp.150-152.


[Kevin DeYoung knocks a pitch into the upper deck.  If you haven’t been paying attention, a lot of really popular preachers have been getting a lot of press by redefining what Christianity is about.  This will bring you up to speed.]

Have you heard the New Gospel?  It’s not been codified. It’s not owned by any one person or movement.  But it is increasingly common.

The New Gospel generally has four parts to it.

It usually starts with an apology: “I’m sorry for my fellow Christians. I understand why you hate Christianity.  It’s like that thing Ghandi said, ‘why can’t the Christians be more like their Christ?’  Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, and (more…)

Today is the big day for college football fans here in the Palmetto state.  Prayers will begin long before the noon kickoff (12:10 or so since it is on ESPN), and many will seek a divine sign of favor.

I know how it works.  I used to pray for my team to win every year.  I used to pray for interceptions, fumbles, freak touchdowns, and utter humiliation of the despised gamecocks.

But now I’m not like that.  I pray for good examples of sportsmanship and teamwork.  … …  nah, I still hope for a good ole smashing of our cross state rivals.  But maybe not so much humiliation.

In the spirit of good humor, I present to you a short piece on Christian End Zone Touchdown Celebrations.  Stole it from  Enjoy.

by Bryan Allain

Going down to one knee to pray is good, but you’ve got to admit it’s a little played out at this point. This is 2009 people, it’s time to step it up! As always, I am here to help. What follows is a guide to help you craft and execute a memorable Christian end-zone celebration, separated into 5 Tiers of awesomeness from Rookie to Hall of Fame.

Making the Crucifix:
For some, too Catholic. For others, too coordinated. It’s like playing connect the dots on your upper torso. How does it go again? Mouth, sternum, left nip, right nip? Bonus points if you finish it off by kissing a cross necklace.

Pointing to the Sky:
This is a great way to give praise to God for your achievement, but it can get confusing. Are you pointing to God or are you dedicating the touchdown to a recently deceased loved one? Or maybe you’re a fanatical bird watcher and a peregrine falcon just flew over the stadium with an albino field mouse in its talons. Now that would be something worth looking at.

Going to the Ground to Pray:
I appreciate the gesture, but what type of prayers are actually being offered up after a score? I have trouble concentrating during prayer if there are birds chirping too loud outside my window and you’re telling me someone surrounded by 50,000 cheering fans and a bunch of teammates slapping his helmet is going to get past “Dear God…”? Color me skeptical.

NOTE: Many athletes will combine all 3 of these by praying on one knee, then doing the crucifix and pointing to the sky. While it’s a nice combo move for sure, it still doesn’t get you out of the Rookie Tier.

Reenact a Famous Bible Story:
There are many Bible stories that can be effectively acted out in 15 seconds or less. Adam biting the apple, David dancing wildly before the Lord, or Saul being blinded on the road to Damascus would all make for great mini-theater in the end zone. Just stay away from anything in The Song of Solomon if you’d like to avoid a suspension.

Take Communion in the End Zone:
You’ll get penalized for using props in your celebration, but remembering the life and death of Jesus’ is worth a 15-yard penalty, right? Bonus points if you can drink the grape juice through your helmet without getting any on your uniform.

Slay Your Teammates in the Spirit:
You’ll need a few teammates to join in on the fun, but won’t it be worth it when the power of God drops them to the ground? Bonus points if you have cheerleaders stand behind the players to catch them and lay them gently on the ground. Extra bonus points if you get referees to lay modesty cloths over the slain players’ midsections.

Make a Dove Descend on You:
Having a dove descend onto your helmet after scoring a touchdown? Awesome. Dealing with angry reporters in your post-game press conference who think you’re trying to claim you are the son of God? Not so much. Proceed with caution on this one.

Force the TV Announcers to Speak in Tongues:
How great would it be if, following your touchdown on Monday Night Football, Tony Kornheiser tried to crack a joke and it came out sounding like gibberish to the millions of people watching? Answer: pretty great. Just don’t try this one when John Madden is in the booth. Most listeners won’t be able to tell the difference between his normal diction and an angelic tongue.

Perform Healing on Injured Teammate:
Why not take a page out of Benny Hinn’s playbook and pray for an injured teammate after finding the end zone? Bonus points if the teammate is in street clothes and immediately runs to the locker room to get his uniform on after God has healed him through your prayer. You’ve not only helped your team by scoring, but you’ve supplemented the depth chart as well. MVP, indeed.

Turn the Football into a Swine:
Turn the pigskin back into a pig and you’re not only showing off the power of God, you’re also making a confusing statement against macro-evolution. Bonus points if the pig reenacts Mark 5 by running out of the stadium and hurling itself into the nearest body of water.

Being taken away like Enoch:

In the ultimate form of an end zone celebration, let God whisk you away to heaven as he did with Enoch long ago. The downside: you’ll never score another touchdown. The upside: Hey, you went out on top! And you’re in heaven now, which means no more two-a-days at training camp.

Whether you’re a die hard sports fan or sports hater, I’m curious: what do you think about end zone celebrations? Do you like it when athletes act like they’ve been there before, or do you enjoy seeing the wacky stuff players can come up with to celebrate a score?


[H/T: Thabiti Anyabwile]

[Thabiti Anyabwile had a great post that should be reading for all men.  Once you get past the exposition on the text, you may find a surprise.]

I’m reminded this morning that the foolish sins of leaders have devastating effects on the lives of God’s people. In 1 Chronicles 21, King David instructs Joab and the commanders of the army to take a census of Israel. For that decision, incited by Satan (v. 1) under the sovereign control and anger of God (2 Sam. 24:1), God displays his wrath against the people of Israel.

David confesses his sin simply and powerfully: “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly” (v. 8). What was his great sin and the very foolish act?

It’s not simply taking a census. In numerous passages of the Old Testament a census is taken. A census was taken for military purposes (Num 1:3, 45; 26:2), for the sanctuary tax (Ex. 30:11-16; 38:25-28; Num. 3:40-41), for populating the land (Num. 26:52-55; Neh. 3:40-41), for organizing the Levites (Num. 3:14-39; 1 Chr. 23), and for building the temple (2 Chr. 2:17-18). The census isn’t itself the problem.

The great sin, the foolish act, was to act:

1. Independent of God’s purpose. In all the other instances of census taking, there is a specific God ordained purpose for the census. The census isn’t an end itself; it serves some other goal in God’s expressed will. David’s action was taken without consideration of the purposes of God.

2. Ignorant of God’s power. Joab speaks to warn David against this act, saying, “May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are!” (3a). David blows past his friend’s warning. He wants a count, and seems to think his own military prowess depends upon the size of his army and not the “size” of his God.

3. Unappreciative of God’s gifts. Joab goes on to point out, “Are they [the people] not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this?” (3b). The Lord had taken David from the sheep pastures and made him king over all Israel. He had been given a stewardship, to shepherd all of the people of Israel. Even if he had an exact head count, it would not change his stewardship responsibility and privilege for every one of them. He failed to appreciate them singly and ultimately collectively.

4. Undeterred by advanced warning. Joab concludes his speech by saying, “Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” (3d). The counting of the people by the head of the people would bring guilt on all of the people. Indeed, the three possible punishments all affected the entire nation (vv. 11-12). David’s sin is not a victimless crime. He vaults over Joab’s warning, and with him the entire nation lands in the pit of God’s wrath. He awakens to his folly in v. 17, praying to God he says, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let you hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” The life of the leader affects the people.

I’m certain I’ve committed every one of David’s errors and thus very great and foolish sins of my own
. Before the day is over, I’ll have done it several times again. I’ll lose sight of God’s purposes. I’ll act without dependence upon His power but my own. My sinful heart will grumble in some pastoral responsibility, failing to see the precious gift and privilege it is to serve as a shepherd of God’s people, entrusted to my care. And, boy, will there be warnings everywhere. But I’ll not see or heed some of them. And with pride far surpassing David’s, I’ll act foolishly and sin greatly against the God I love. And in some way, sometimes small and sometimes significant, one or more of the sheep will be affected. I’m a great sinner, the worst I know.

But what shines through most gloriously in this chapter isn’t David’s sin; it’s God’s mercy. God’s wrath is terrible, but His mercy triumphs over judgment. God sends the judgment but He also stays the sword of the angel of the Lord. He doesn’t have to, but He accepts David’s sacrifice. The altar David builds will one day become the Temple of Israel. The sacrifice David also will one day be surpassed by the perfect sacrifice God will make of His own Son. And by His sacrifice the Lord Jesus becomes a living stone Who makes of us living stones in a new temple to the Lord (1 Pet. 2:4-5). And one day yet future, soon to come, He’ll bring us into His glorious presence where the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will be the Temple of that place (Rev. 21:22). Shining all through 1 Chronicles 21 and the remainder of the Bible is the staggering mercy of God toward sinners!

The Lesson: Avoid foolish, sinful leadership by depending upon the purposes, power, gifts and warnings of God, as you look to the mercy of God in Christ and the hope of glory.

The Lord would have us meditate on this psalm today.  Weigh it.  Memorize it.  Use it to give Him thanks.

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into His presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, He is God!  It is He who made us, and we are His;  we are His people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise!  Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

5 For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

(Psalm 100)

Although Thanksgiving Day is not specifically a Christian holiday, it is in my mind one of the most obviously Christian observations on the calendar.  Where other holidays remember a specific event, Thanksgiving is set aside for the purpose of, well, giving thanks.

And of course that is what makes the difference.  One might be (more…)

Next Page »