Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Inflammatory Words of Jesus

The Jews of Jesus' day cherished their status as God's special covenant people. They were proud to be the children of Abraham and heirs of the covenant God made with him. Moses was their most revered prophet, the one through whom God had delivered the Law and another covenant. They memorized the books of the Old Testament that Moses wrote (the first five) as well as large portions from the Psalms/wisdom literature and the books of the prophets. Their boast was that they alone, among all the peoples of the earth, knew God and were special to him.

With this in mind, Jesus' words to the Jews in the Gospel of John are remarkably provocative. He meant to scandalize them. Just listen, and remember that he's talking to God's chosen people:
"And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard . . . and you do not have his word abiding in you . . . You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. . . . I know that you do not have the love of God within you." (5:39-40, 42)

"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me." (5:45-46)

"You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also." (8:19b)

"If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing what your father did. . . . If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God . . . You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. . . . Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (8:39b-40, 42, 44, 47)
[At this point in Jesus' exchange with the Jews in John 8, the Jews call Jesus a "Samaritan" a subtle way of saying "You're a bastard." They were apparently aware of the unusual circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth. They had made this charge earlier in the discussion too, in 8:39 ("Abraham is our father.") and 8:41 ("We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father--even God."). Jesus responds:]
"If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.' But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word." (8:54-55)
[Later, the Jews ask Jesus to state plainly whether he is the Messiah or not. He replies:]
"I told you, and you do not believe. . . . you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (10:25-27)
So much for the wimpy, tame picture of Jesus so many people carry in their minds. It's true that he is tender and compassionate, but he's also fierce and disturbing. Remember when he drove the money-changers out of the temple in John 2? He made a whip and drove them out, poured their profits out on the ground, and flipped over their tables. Imagine the aftermath. The merchants had to come back a little while later to clean up the mess Jesus had made of their flea market. I'm sure they were hoping he was gone. Probably the poor people had taken all the poured-out money, or it had been deposited in the temple treasury. The above exchanges with the Jews almost got him stoned--twice--but he was able to escape both times. No, Jesus is not a wimp. He is not tame.

You might be thinking, "But they ended up killing them, didn't they? So they eventually got the better of him." No. Remember his words in John 10:18: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again."

One of the glories of Jesus Christ is that he often says and does what we wouldn't expect him to say or do. He's not predictable. He was always taking his discussions with the Jews in directions they didn't anticipate and didn't want to go. In his earthly ministry he had a way of exposing hearts and getting down to root issues. And he's still doing it. As you read your Bible, let Jesus challenge your assumptions. Listen for him to contradict the way you're presently thinking and living. Let him make you uncomfortable. As you read your Bible, listen to the voice of your surprising, untamed, and courageous Good Shepherd, and follow Him--wherever he leads you. This I can testify: I am discovering that life with him, following him, communing with him, is more wonderful than I ever could have imagined.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Interview With Mary Mohler

Read part 1 of Gretchen's interview with Mary Mohler HERE. Mrs. Mohler is the wife of Southern Seminary president Albert Mohler.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Max Is Here!

Max Garrett Hafeli was born early yesterday morning.

Kari and Max with the hospital
chaplain, who happens to be
the husband and father.

Max, already looking forward
to Sunday's Packers game--
and his next meal.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Further meditations from John 15:18-16:15, Romans 8, and Ephesians 1:2-14:

These passages also help us understand our salvation. Specifically, we gain insight into God’s decision to save people, the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our salvation, and several blessings saved people receive now and in the future.

We are saved because of God’s decision before creation. Jesus told his disciples that he had chosen them out of the world (Jn. 15:9), and Paul teaches us that we were “chosen before the foundation of the world” and that the purpose of God’s choice was “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4). We also learn from Paul that God foreknew us; that is, in eternity past he thought of us in a special relationship with himself, and as a result of this foreknowledge he predestined us to be adopted (Rom. 8:29, Eph. 1:4-5). We have been predestined to receive a wonderful inheritance prepared for us by God (Eph 1:11), and the reason God predestined us to adoption is to bring glory to himself for his grace (Eph. 1:6). Those predestined to life before the foundation of the world are called and justified during their earthly lives, and will one day be glorified (Rom. 8:30). These truths remind me that salvation is all of grace. I have no ground for boasting. I thank him for showing kindness and mercy to me by setting his electing love upon me.

God the Son and God the Spirit are active in our salvation. God gave his Son as a sacrifice for sins (Rom. 8:3, 32), and we were chosen “in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). It was the Spirit who convicted us of sin, righteousness, and judgment when we were unbelievers (Jn. 16:8), and the indwelling Spirit is the firstfruits of our coming inheritance (Rom. 8:23) and the seal (Eph. 1:13) and guarantee of future glory (Eph. 1:14). Our salvation is truly Trinitarian: determined by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit! Thus I give thanks to each member of the Godhead for his work in my salvation. Salvation is of the Lord from first to last!

Finally, these passages reveal many blessings that come to us because we are saved. Some are present blessings we can enjoy now, while others are future blessings that we will receive when Christ returns. Presently, there is no longer any condemnation because of sin for we who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Instead it is sin that has been condemned through Christ’s death (Rom. 8:2). We now relate to God as a loving Father (Rom. 8:15), and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). We who are in Christ no longer have to fear God’s judgment (Rom. 8:15). Additionally, we can rest assured that God uses all circumstances for our growth in Christ likeness (Rom. 8:28), even painful and difficult events (Rom. 8:32-39). Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:39), through whose blood we now have forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7). Many future blessings of salvation await us as well. We will be raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11), we will be glorified (Rom. 8:20, 30), and then the entire created order will be redeemed from decay (Rom. 8:20). At that time we will receive the full blessing of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14) and all things will be united under Christ (Eph. 1:10). I am so thankful for the present blessings of salvation, which impart great peace in the midst of difficulties! These present blessings cause me to long for Christ’s return, when full salvation will become a reality, and the very presence of sin will vanish! These truths also remind me that I have God's favor and that he cherishes me as his child. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ--God is for me!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Holy Spirit

I've been blessed this semester by the Scripture meditations assigned by Dr. Ware for Systematic Theology III. For almost five weeks now, in conjunction with our study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of salvation, everyone in the class has been reading John 15:18-16:15, Romans 8, and Ephesians 1:3-14 three times weekly. The goal is to meditate on these passages with a view to applying them to our lives and ministries. Here's what I've learned so far about the person and work of the Holy Spirit:

In John 15:18--16:15, Romans 8, and Ephesians 1:3-14, I notice several attributes of the Holy Spirit, several privileges the believer receives through the Holy Spirit, several ways the Holy Spirit helps believers grow, and several marks of a true Christian which involve the Holy Spirit.

In these passages we learn several things about the Spirit’s person and his relationships with the other members of the Godhead. Christ sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to minister to believers, for John 15:26 tells us that the Spirit was sent by the Son from the Father, and that he “proceeds from the Father.” He could not be sent until Jesus had departed (Jn. 16:7). His ministry is to declare the message which Christ gives him (Jn. 16:14). The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 15:26), “the Helper” (Jn. 16:7), “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:10), and “the Spirit of adoption”, (Rom. 8:15). These names teach us that the Spirit is true, his ministry is to comfort or exhort the believer, he is from Christ, and he is the one through whom we are adopted into God’s family. We learn in Rom. 8:27 that the Spirit has a mind, and that God the Father knows the Spirit’s thoughts--clear indications that he is a person. I am encouraged when I think of the Holy Spirit as a person sent from Christ as a gift to me! He dwells in me, ministers to me, helps me, and blesses me. I ought to be more conscious of his presence and work in my life.

Believers receive many privileges through the Holy Spirit. By the law of the Spirit we are set free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), for those who walk according to the Spirit fulfill the requirements of the law (Rom. 8:4). The one whose mind is set on the Spirit receives life and peace with God, and is empowered to submit to God (Rom. 8:7). It is the Holy Spirit who will raise us from the dead on the last day (Rom. 8:13). Through the Spirit we address God as Father and receive assurance that we are indeed children of God (Rom. 8:15-16). The Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). He is the “firstfruits” (Rom. 8:23) and the “guarantee” (Eph 1:14) of our future inheritance, and the seal which shows we belong to God (Eph. 1:13). I acknowledge that before this meditation exercise I did not think to praise and thank the Spirit for the many benefits he bestows upon me. I must remind myself of these things regularly and thank the Spirit for the privileges I receive through his work!

The Holy Spirit helps believers grow. In fact, the Spirit’s ministry is so great that Jesus could tell his disciples that his departure was for their good, because when he left he would send the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:7). The Holy Spirit is our Helper (Jn. 15:26), who bears witness about Christ (Jn. 15:26) and glorifies Christ (Jn 16:14). The Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14), and guides us into all truth (Jn. 16:13). The Spirit convicts the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8), making our witness effective. And by the power of the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). I give praise to the Spirit for any growth in grace which has happened in my life and take responsibility myself for the lack. And I pray that he would bless me with yet more growth--that through the Spirit I would see more of Christ’s glory, experience greater effectiveness in my witness, and progress in putting to death the deeds of the body. May it be so!

Finally, we may discern whether someone is really a believer by observing the presence and activity (or lack thereof) of the Holy Spirit in his or her life. A true believer sets his mind on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5). The Holy Spirit dwells in all true believers, thus anyone who is not indwelt by the Spirit does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). The life of a true child of God is marked by Spirit-enabled obedience to God (Rom. 8:7-8) and Spirit-enabled putting to death of fleshly deeds (Rom. 8:13).

Friday, September 07, 2007


Dr. James Parker, Professor of Worldview and Culture at SBTS, distributes the following in his classes. I added my name to the list.

The Distinguished Genealogy of the Students at
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Showing a direct line to John Calvin (1509-1564)

JOSH NEISLER, a student at Southern Seminary, who in the summer of 2007 was a student of:

DR. JAMES PARKER III, who is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. While a student at Princeton, he sat at the feet of:

DR. BRUCE METZGER, who as a graduate of that seminary (class of 1933), was a student of:

DR. JOHN ALEXANDER MACKAY, who was also a graduate of the seminary (class of 1915), was a student of:

DR. BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD, who was also a graduate of the seminary (1876), being a student of:

DR. CHARLES HODGE, a Princeton Seminary graduate (1819) who, for many years, sat at the feet of:

DR. ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER, who was the pupil of:

WILLIAM GRAHAM, a graduate of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) in the year 1773, and as such, was under the tutelage of:

DR. SAMUEL STANHOPE SMITH, who was himself tutored in the same College by:

DR. JONATHAN EDWARDS, JR., who obviously sat at the feet of:

JONATHAN EDWARDS, the third president of Princeton, being educated at both Yale (A.M., 1773) and as an apprentice to his grandfather:

SOLOMON STODDARD, of Northampton, Massachusetts, who was educated at Harvard College (A.B., 1662) at the feet of:

DR. CHARLES CHAUNCY, an immigrant to this country, having been trained at Trinity College, Cambridge University, at the feet of:

ARCHBISHOP JAMES USSHER, the celebrated Hebraic scholar who was a pupil of:

WALTER TRAVERS, the Puritan divine at Christ's College, Cambridge (an associate of Thomas Cartwright and William Perkins) who traveled to Geneva to come under the instruction of:

THEODORE BEZA, the heir of the Reformed movement of his mentor and friend:


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Buckeyes Fans Rejoice!

Michigan's national title hopes were dealt a fatal blow on this, the opening weekend of the college football season, after an embarrassing 34-32 loss to Appalachian State:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - What was supposed to be a tuneup turned into a stunner: Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32. Julian Rauch's 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left put the Mountaineers ahead of the Wolverines and Corey Lynch's blocked field goal in the final seconds sealed one of college football's biggest upsets.

Read More . . .

Keep Up With My Unreality

Collin Hansen, who wrote THIS a year ago, has begun A NEW COLUMN over at CT aimed at keeping folks up-to-date on current issues in theology. In particular, he notes that this might be a handy way for families to keep abreast of things their son or daughter might be thinking about in seminary. He begins the column this way: "Seminary is not reality. That much became obvious to me the moment I met my classmates and began looking over syllabi for classes on Greek, Hebrew, missions, and biblical theology." Well that's true, however, as Hansen himself goes on to note, seminary affords a unique time in a person's life to give focused attention to important theological matters. I came to seminary to know and love Christ more and to become more like him, and to prepare to serve his Church faithfully. So have the 4,000 other SBTS students, which is what makes this place unreal--and wonderful.

The column will be published online every two weeks. Hansen begins this week by addressing the New Perspective on Paul (there is one, and I've heard--I haven't read for myself at all yet--it dismantles justification by faith alone by suggesting that Martin Luther projected the Medieval Catholicism of his day back into New Testament Judaism, and that every Protestant since has misread Paul). Here's a snippet from Hansen's first installment:

The average churchgoer will never have the time or inclination to focus on theology. Even in our most rigorous churches, the cares of this world interfere. Perhaps an encounter with a seminary graduate has convinced them that theology belongs to arrogant eggheads. As a result, what seems so important in seminary produces blank stares in the pews.

For evangelicals—Christians committed to a high view of Scripture—this is a discouraging scenario. More than that, it's dangerous. Christian colleges and seminaries can grow detached from the churches they serve. Hazardous ideas can percolate for decades without so much as a nod from most churchgoers. And parents wonder why their undergraduate daughter or seminary son graduates with odd ideas about everything. So they blame the theologians and the cycle continues.

But what if they knew more about current debates? What if someone could direct them toward resources that would help them think theologically about current events? I hope that in some small way, this column might help those of you who want to care about theology but lack the time to skim blogs. Maybe you'd consider attending a conference if you only knew when or where to go. You might even read the occasional book if someone explained why it's important. As I draw on the help of scholars and friends, I hope this column will become a destination for you to catch what you might have missed in the last two weeks and discern what you otherwise might not have foreseen. Continue Reading...

(HT: B2W)