Smoke and Prayers

Attention COYN faithful:
If you’ve noticed a relative dearth of posts in recent months (aside from the two sermons), it’s because I’ve been writing for a new blog since the beginning of the summer.  As with the sermon posts, there may be some things that still find their way to this blog instead; but most of my writing from here on out will be found over at Some, uh, Theologica.  I’ll plan to reblog my next several posts here so you don’t miss them; but I encourage you to check out Some, uh, Theologica for other posts from me as well as from my illustrious associates.  Thanks again for all your support!

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Several years ago I heard a parable of sorts which has often returned to mind in my subsequent ruminations on the practice of prayer. I can no longer recall the source of the apocryphal anecdote (feel free to identify yourself!), but I thought it well worth sharing with you.

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Why I Love Religion (And So Does Jesus)

I spy with my little eyes… an interesting video for you to watch!  (Twelve million people have in the past week alone, so you’ll be in good company.)

A while back, we spent a lot of time talking about how younger Christians are now tending toward alternative titles or expressions to identify their spirituality besides Christian.  I use the term spirituality very intentionally, because it appears that many younger Christians have also come to eschew the term religion itself.  Whereas a religion used to be simply a group of people organized around shared beliefs and practices, our poetic friend Jefferson Bethke’s video verbalizes an increasingly prevalent anti-religion bias among the rising generation of Christians, characterizing it as a cold, dead, empty formalism that Jesus hates.

There is so much to be said about this issue that I hardly know where to begin.  So, instead of launching another full-scale investigation and critique like I did with the Christian issue, I happily point you to the blog of pastor Kevin DeYoung.  This is not the first time I’ve commended DeYoung’s work to you (as his review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins is a veritable paragon of winsome AND biblical Christian argumentation), and I am pleased to report that his response to Bethke’s video is equally articulate, edifying, loving, and scriptural.  DeYoung grapples with the issues raised in the video with a grace and care that I almost certainly would have lacked in any attempt of my own.

Of course, another indication that DeYoung has penned the definitive response to the video is that Bethke himself emailed DeYoung about it, which precipitated a series of replies and even a phone conversation between the two.  Fans and critics alike are definitely going to want to read what Bethke had to say in response to DeYoung.

And so I leave you in very capable hands.  Read on!
“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules.  You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.  You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice.  And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.” –Deuteronomy 26:16-19

What Makes Me What I Am

The other day I stumbled across a copy of the essay I had to write for my seminary application.  Part of that essay prompted me to give a “comprehensive account” of my “relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Given the size constraints of the essay, I was not allowed to mail them a Bible for my answer.  (I think that might also have been considered plagiarism.)  So, instead, I scratched out the paragraph below.  When I found this the other day, I was stirred anew by the truths I had been asked to recount, and I thought maybe we might enjoy being truth-stirred together.  I think maybe that’s what the Church is all about.

I believe that Jesus is the promised Christ, the Son of God, and I trust him as my Savior and Lord.  Though I share in the guilt of Adam, my original representative, and though my natural self is totally depraved such that I would never have chosen to embrace God by my own will, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ (who is the second Adam and my new representative) has paid the full penalty for all my sins, satisfied the wrath of God toward me, drawn me to repentance from my sins, given me newness of life through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, and reconciled me to the Father through adoption into his family.  Furthermore, Christ is the sovereign Lord over all things as their Creator and their rightful object of worship and service.  In his goodness, he has crafted man in such a manner that submission to his will and obedience to his commands are the only path to fulfillment in life as they better fit us to enjoy him.  The good works achieved through me are not my own, but rather the work of Christ in me, performed as a thankful response to his abundant love.  Indeed, every aspect of my relationship to Jesus–my regeneration, justification, adoption, and ongoing sanctification–is a gift of grace from the hand of God, received solely by faith in Christ Jesus the Savior and Lord.  Because of these gifts, the way has been opened for me to partake in genuine fellowship with God and with his body, the church, which is a constitutive part of my life in Christ and is my true family in this world.