October 31, 2006

Reformation Day, News, And Systematic Theology

It's Reformation Day! Yes today was the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses! And the world has never been the same.

It's been a while and I'm so sorry for slacking. Here's what has happened since I've been away. We had this. And then there was this. Leading up to this.

God is amazing that he keeps giving me devotions that hit me right where I'm at. This just pegs it for me right now!

So we're in Chapter 2 of Systematic Theology by Wayne Gruden. Chapter 2 focuses on the doctrine of the Word of God.

Gruden breaks down The Word Of God into two basic forms:

A) "The Word of God" as a Person: Jesus Christ

B) "The Word of God" as Speech By God

His Scriptures he uses as proof that Jesus is the word of God are: (Revelation 19:13) (John 1:1) (1John 1:1)

He then breaks down B) into 4 types of speech:

1) God's Decrees: (Gen 1:3) (Gen 1:24) (Ps 33:6). Decree defined here!

2) God's Words of Personal Address: (Gen 2:16-17) (Gen 3:16-19) (Exo 20:1-3) (Matt 3:17)

3) God's Words As Speech Through Human Lips - AKA Prophets (Deut 18:18-20) (Jer 1:9) (Jer 1:7) (Exo 4:12) (Num 22:38) (1Sam 15:3) (1Kings 20:36) (Isa 30:12-14)

4) God's Words In Written Form - AKA The Bible - This is the main focus of systematic theology. (Ex 32:16) (Ex 34:1) (Ex: 34: 28) (Deut 31:24-26)

He goes on to give benefits of why having God's words written down are important. And finishes out the chapter. For the most part I was really wondering "Well Duh, Yea It's God's Word" but then I began to think about the fact that I dont' take God's word seriously nor do I meditate on it day and night. Then he asked the following question to close out the chapter and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Question: Do you think you would pay more attention if God spoke to you from heaven or through the voice of a living prophet than if he spoke to you from the written words of Scripture? Would you believe or obey such words more readily
than you do the scriptures? Do you think your present level of response to the written words of Scripture is an appropriate one?

Wow...kick me down and call me stupid. it's true in my life. I'm sure it's true in others. Why would we listen to his voice more readily than we do his book. They are both the Word of God.

In case you think this is a rudamentary point and it's a given that the Bible is the Word of God, read here, here, and here. I'm beginning to take less and less for granted in life.

October 22, 2006

I'm Sure No One Expected This

So much for the Tigers in 3!...what an idiot whoever wrote that....

I guess the classy St. Louis Cardinals should have showed up after all. After listening to the putrid coverage the last few days, I was beginning to hate the Cardinals for even bothering to interrupt the planning of the Detroit Tiger parade.

More meaningful stuff to come later today, but I had to get this out. That's why the play the games folks! Now it's 1-0 and we have Chris Carpenter & Jeff Suppan waiting comfortable to pitch at home Games 3 & 4. Detroit better win Sunday Night or it might be a Cardinals sweep in the offing!

October 21, 2006

It's Been A While


So much has happened since I last posted. Where should I start? Nobody thought this would happen! I know my Cardinals are huge underdogs but you never know!

It has been a phenomenal week at Upward! Can I just say that these people are awesome.

I'm also beginning a personal journey of sorts. I've decided to go slowly through and really dig into "Systematic Theology" by Wayne Grudem. I'll be sharing that journey on my blog and really want to be daily in my thoughts. It's a great time of year for me. I'm always more reflective and dutiful in my reading and learning in the fall of the year. God uses the autumn to change me in so many ways. I pray that this one will be no different.

So let's get started. I think the first question to ask is: "Why are you studying and reading systematic theology". I like this answer! Also, I think many would argue that doctrine is unimportant and that unity is the main thing. To them, I would say that's not true!

Gruden gives 2 major reasons why we should study systematic theology:

The Basic Reason

The task of fulfilling the Great Commission includes therefore not only evangelism but also teaching. And the task of teaching all that Jesus commanded us is, in a broad sense, the teask of teaching what the whole Bible says to us today. To effectively teach ourselves and to teach others what the whole Bible says, it is necessary to collect and summarize all the Scripture passages on a particular subject
The Benefits To Our Lives

-Overcome Our Wrong Ideas

If there were no sin in our hearts, we could read the Bible from cover to cover and, althought we would no immediately learn everything in the Bible, we would most likelylearn only true things about God and his creation....But with sin in our hearts we retain some rebelliousness against God.

-Able To Make Better Decisions

Whatever the new doctrinal controversies are in future years, those who have learned systematic theology well will be much better able to answer the new questions that arise.

-Help Us Grow As Christians~

The more we know about God, about his Word, about his relationships to the world and mankind, the better we will trust him, the more fully we will praise him, and the more readily we will obey him.

Gruden also goes on to share How We Should Study Systematic Theology. All in all, a convincing introduction to the book. I can't wait to dig into Chapter 2 "The Word Of God"

October 13, 2006

OK....God Keeps Waking Me Up


For those of you who know me, I am a guy who sleeps pretty soundly. I ususally function really well when I get my 8 hours, as do most people, but three times this week God has woken me up.

I'm on a mountaintop right now in my life. Have you ever had those times where everything is great, you're excited about your purpose in life, and you can't wait to tackle a day. But God wakes me up this morning and I'm reading on of my favorite devotionals (Morning & Evening By Charles Haddon Spurgeon) and below is an excerpt from this mornings devotion:

True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory, but experimentally—as a burnt child dreads fire. We shall be as much afraid of it, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway; and we shall shun it—shun it in everything—not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest it should say a wrong word; we shall be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend, and each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcoming, and each morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up that we may not sin against Him. Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This dropping well is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time, but this dear sorrow grows with our growth, and it is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy and to suffer it until we enter our eternal rest.

So I sit here befuddled, but massively thankful to God that he reminds me of my sin today. That he wisely counsels that every mountaintop has a valley of sin perched below it ready for me to fall into. Lord, I pray you protect me from sin today. Keep me from the valley. Help me to guard my tongue and bring honor and glory to you.

Speaking of sinful, did you see what happened last night? Also, for a good read, check out a few words on what's on the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble.

October 11, 2006

Why 12 Hour Days Are Bad For The Soul


It always seems that the busier I get, the more my soul and my walk begin to deteriorate. For some interesting information on the effects of being consumed with work, go check this out.

Although I have to admit that the last few days haven't been so much "overwork" as they have just been a lot of things going on. By the time I get around to posting, I simply have no energy to do so. For me, writing and reading have always helped me stay close to Christ. Meditation and journaling are key elements to a healthy walk with Jesus for me.

Do you ever live with the feeling that you let Jesus down so many times. And do you ever wonder why He takes you back. I do, and I'm amazed sometimes that he does. Every time I blow it, every time I walk away from Him, I eventually become more amazed with the grace that always heals me. The grace that always takes me back. The grace that always lifts me up. Jesus is much more patient with me than I would be with myself. I just don't want to let Him down as much as I do. I want my Jesus to be proud of me.

And then there was this from Spurgeon this morning. A well timed word on how to stay humble!

Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do! We thank thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvellous lovingkindness. Help us to use it aright throughout this day!

October 08, 2006

Saturday Was A Good Day (Sports Wise)


This won't be the most spiritual post I've ever written, but did you see what my Missouri Tigers did to the Texas Tech Red Raiders. This game was a little in doubt early in the 2nd Half, but Missouri's defense proved it was just too much. For more coverage of the drubbing, you can go here and here.

Also, my son Trey had a great day in Upward Flag Football. He had several good flag pulls and threw for an extra point.

The St. Louis Cardinals will have to go for a win again on Sunday after losing yesterday.

On a more spiritual note, I see today that Blue Letter Bible (my preferred online Bible site) has added the ESV (English Standard Version) to its list of translations. This is the version of the Bible that I use for reading and study (although I wished I studied more). If you'd like to know why I use it, you can find a good explanation here.

Also, Spurgeon's morning mediation today is awesome! And this was a very encouraging word as well.

Hopefully, more tonight on some of the audio from last week's life changing conference.

October 06, 2006

Did You Know


It seems that the last couple of days have taken me off track of my goal of posting everyday. I hope that you stay patient with me as I try to be faithful to offer my thoughts on a daily basis. It seems thought that I am not alone, check out how many people actually keep their resolutions.

What I want to talk about today is an excerpt from John Pipers message this past Sunday at the Desiring God National Conference. In it is this excerpt and as I've received feedback about what I meant by "The emergent church is missing the point", I've come to the conclusion that this pretty much sums it up: The nugget is this:

True Knowing Glorifies Jesus

The point is that if our joy is going to reflect the glory of God, then it must flow from true knowledge of how God is glorious. If we are going to enjoy God duly, we must know him truly. How can our joy reflect the worth of God if it is not rooted in truth about God? If you say, “My joy is in the journey toward knowing, not the arrival,” you make an idol out of the journey and you turn heaven into a disappointment. Jesus is not honored most by the exploration of various Christologies, any more than your wife would be honored by your indecision concerning her character. Jesus is honored by our knowing and treasuring him for who he really is.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say something like "It's stupid to argue about doctrine". I think that is the most short-sighted, lazy statement I've ever heard. It is born out of a premise that it's really not important to know exactly who Christ is as long as we have a general idea about who He is or as long as we're having fun. A recent excerpt from a pastor's blog of a church here in South Carolina.

Regarding a discussion in a home group of the great doctrine of divine election:
I still don’t care about the debate…I can argue either side persuasively…but it was fun to get into this talk
REALLY...you don't care? Read what Charles Spurgeon had to say about this "fun" debate..

If Jesus is the one who can "cast the soul into hell forever", don't you think you would want to know EXACTLY who He is and what His thoughts are about important matters of life. Do you really think if He walked here today, that you wouldn't want to gaze intently upon him and understand precisely what he was saying.

And if you say that things like election, atonement, original sin, etc aren't important then you need to ponder the ramifications of John 4:25.

I argue that it's lazy because Truth doesn't inspire people. Emotions do. It's easy to feel. It's hard to learn and understand. It requires digging in and knowing what you believe and why you believe it. Laziness is crippling the church today. Plain simple laziness. And then the lazy people say to those who have wrestled and agonized over truth that they are dumb because they don't just go out and feel.

Remember, the Bible says Jesus demanded that followers "must worship in Sprit and in TRUTH." Doctrine is not un-important. It is not stupid to wrestle over it. It is vital because you cannot worship rightly what you do not know truly.

October 03, 2006

Just When You Thought Being Sick Would Ruin Your Day


So it appears that riding mass transit in Minneapolis was a bad idea for my health. I've come down with a cold and have had a fun day working with the phone system we have at Upward.

After attending an open house for my son's pre-school tonight, I arrived at home to discover that the audio from the Desiring God National conference was online and ready for listening.

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT LISTEN to these messages unless you thoroughly want to be changed in the way you view the church in America. They are powerful and will no doubt impact you. If you don't want to listen to them, then I have to wonder why??

Don't be scared to jump into the deep water with God. Are you really going to say that you don't have 5 hours to give over the next week when you know your life could be changed? I'll be discussing each message over the next few days. I hope you'll join me for the journey.

October 02, 2006

The Long Road Home

And the journey is complete....

After flying back into Springfield, the Backes family had 14 hours to drive back to Spartanburg before calling it an evening. We rented a Toyota Sienna for the trip and was it ever worth the investment. I'm not much of a mini-van guy, but after this trip, I think a purchase is in our near future. What's interesting is the amazing things you see along the way in a 700+ mile journey.

For instance, if you're ever in Sikeston, MO you have to stop here. But the prize for the most interesting place along the journey (at least this time) has to belong to Ballard, KY. It was the town where I saw this:

I saw about four more signs similar in cleverness to this one in about a one mile stretch. If you'd like to read someone's take on these signs, you need to go here!

I've received some emails today asking about my post from yesterday. More specifically, why one of the things I took away from the conference was that the emergent church is missing the point. To expound a little about that, below is a portion of what Mark Driscoll shared on Saturday afternoon regarding missiology in the post-modern church:

Jude 3 tells us to contend for the faith. This is an absolute assault on post-modernism, for there are not multiple faiths or truths. Reformed folk are good at contending and here are some issues that most be contended for:

  1. Scripture is truthful, authoritative, meta-narrative. Pastors then need to give their people the story of the Bible and need to begin where the Bible begins.
    Smaller stories always need to be plugged into the bigger story. It is easy to
    give systematic theology without also continually tell people the story of the
  2. The sovereignty of God must be defended against open theism.
  3. We must contend for a God who has authority and absolute sovereignty.
  4. We must contend for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. "Don't mess with Jesus' mother. I doubt he'd take it kindly."
  5. We must contend against pelagianism.
  6. We must contend for penal substitutionary atonement. There is debate about this, but there shouldn't be because this is the best part of the Book! This doctrine tells us that we are saved from God - from his anger and justice and wrath. "If we lose the exclusivity of Jesus, we lose Jesus."
  7. We must contend for gender distinctions.
  8. We must contend for the exclusivity of Christ.
  9. We must also defend the doctrine of hell. "People don't like hell! They're not supposed to!" That's the whole point! But to deny hell is unconscionable. Everyone believes in hell and we see this in advertising where advertisers tell you who you are, what you will become, and how they can save you from this hell. Everyone is running around trying to get out of their personal hell. Everyone is talking about hell except the church! We must contend for the importance of kingdom over culture. It is more important than culture. "We are seeing an over-realized eschatology." This is an old problem. Emergent, emerging, incarnational Christians are Corinthians and have fallen into the same problems.

So what does all that mean in light of what I took away from the conference. I guess the words that come to mind are compromise and fear. We fear that if we share the Jesus of the Bible, that it may offend someone and keep them from the Kingdom of God. I think the opposite is true. I think the Jesus of the Bible is a glorious, majestic, powerful, jealous King who becomes more and more sweet to us as we discover him in all his facets in the Bible. Emergents don't necessarily deny some of the core doctrines of grace, they just don't share them which I think is worse than telling a lie.

October 01, 2006

Above All Earthly Powers - Post Conference Wrap


First off, if you aren't familiar with Desiring God, then you need to be. These folks get it. And they understand that the critical thing that matters in today's world is the Glory of God.

Above All Earthly Powers just wrapped up. You can read about the conference from the folks who live blogged it here. Also, you may want to buy the book that the conference was built around. It was a powerful conference that left me pondering what the messages shared this weekend meant for both me and Upward.

There are many things I take away from this weekend.

  1. Jesus is King. Not Your Buddy!
  2. Microwave Gospel presentations need to move to the crockpot!
  3. Truth must be defended!
  4. You can learn a lot from one chapter of the Bible. Think about all that is contained in John 17!
  5. The emergent church is missing the point.
  6. John Piper has a clearer view of God than any other man I've ever heard.
Minneapolis was beautiful this weekend. Sunny skies and 70 degrees made for wonderful trips from the suburbs to downtown. If you've never been to Minneapolis, and you get a chance to go, you need to stop in and see the Mall Of America. It actually has a roller coaster inside it!

What's funny is that when I arrived in Minneapolis, they told me that people actually fly to Minnesota just to go to the mall. I quickly said that might be the dumbest thing I had ever heard. However, on my trip to the airport to fly out, I discovered that these folks actually do exist. They are from Fort Wayne and they have 3 great grandchildren and 3 grandchildren. She wasn't overly friendly because of being tired from a full day. I feel sorry for this poor guy. He shared with me that they walked the mall all day.

Most of all, thank you God for grace and truth, embodied and made available to us in your Son. More stories to come later. But I wanted this to be my innaugural post. I look forward to sharing things that hopefully by the grace of God, will be impactful in the lives of the people I know and care about. And hopefully to strangers as well.