31 March 2009

One Little Word shall Fell Him

by Frank Turk

There's a blog out there called "SBC Voices" run by Tony Kummer (link is below), and he's running this contest which I will describe in a second, called "Blogger Madness".

The analogy I want to draw here is the obvious "March Madness" analogy. If Duke is in the Final Four, you root against Duke. Likewise with Georgetown or Syracuse. This is axiomatic; this is self-evident. It's nothing personal or spiteful: it just is. You pray against the schemes of the devil, and you root against Duke. Next.

Now that said, this contest has been a poll-off between nominated SBC blogs (I did not get nominated; Kummer says he didn't know I was SBC, which, you know, whatever), and the winner gets a gift card to the Westminster Bookstore.

Now, the haters are saying, "oh snap -- cent's gonna tell people to vote against iMonk to spoil the man's chances of winning!" But you haters have such small minds. See: I am taking a certain amount of perverse joy in the idea that if my blog cannot win this SBC contest, iMonk probably will. The idea that the most popular SBC blog is somehow iMonk really makes sense to me in an Old Testament justice kind of way.

So no, I am not saying, "vote against iMonk." He could certainly use $300 worth of books from the Westminster Bookstore. Besides, why vote for the 9Marks site? What are they going to do with a gift card?

So here's what I'm thinking: if you share my perverse joy in iMonk being voted up as the most popular SBC blog, go over there and vote for him.

But if you have some objection to that, go over there and vote for Hershael York, who is a professor at SBTS and a pastor.

Here's The Link.

30 March 2009

Ways to avoid dealing with your sin

by Dan Phillips

Christianity can be deucedly inconvenient and confrontive.

It starts out with us being brought face to face with our sin (see Romans 1:18 - 3:20, for instance). We are forced to accept that we're guilty, we have no one to blame but ourselves, and we deserve punishment. More, we can't fix the problem; we have to be rescued. Still more, our rescue can't be on our terms, has to be on God's terms; what is required of us is unconditional surrender and submission to One who calls Himself Lord, and actually means it (cf. Luke 6:46).

Then that same God to whom we've bowed the knee sends us off necessarily to local fellowships, where we will be under the care of at least one pastor, and the rest of the fellowship. Both are tasked by God, specifically, to put pressure on us when we wander off into sin. The pastor is to reprove, rebuke and exhort us Biblically (2 Timothy 4:2). So are our fellow-Christians (Hebrews 3:12-13). Ideally, it should start and end privately (Matthew 18:15-20). But if the sin was a public leader's public sin, it may start (and perhaps must end) publicly (Galatians 2:11ff.; 1 Timothy 5:20).

So we start off with this notion in mind: sin is bad. (Deep concept, eh? Maybe I'll write just on that, sometime.) It kills, it destroys, it defiles; it is attempted Deicide. We want none of it. We come to Jesus to be saved from sin. Jesus gives Himself to save us from sin, He gives His Spirit to steer us from sin, He gives His Word to guard us from sin, and He gives us pastors and brothers to administer needed rebuke and reproof to part us from sin.

Seems clear enough, no? Well, evidently no. Because in evanjellybeanicalism, we've developed a number of potent ways to ward off not sin, butanyone who tries to call us to repentance from sin.

Here are just four. It is by no means an exhaustive list. You will be able to suggest more:
  1. The "grace" card. This is antinomianism, whether nascent or in full-bloom. What? How dare I? Don't I believe in grace? Brother, hear me: I not only believe in grace, I have staked my eternal destiny on the grace of God in Christ. But Biblical grace is how God freely saves me FROM sin's guilt and power (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14). The moment you adduce grace as if it were how God makes it "okay" for me to live under sin's power without feeling guilt, you're no evangelical, you're at best dangerously close to being an antinomian, and you're having crumpets and tea with a virulent heresy (cf. Jude 1:4).
  2. The "judge not" card. This may be the laziest and silliest. Jesus says "Judge not" (Matthew 7:1), then immediately tells us how to bring others' sins to their attention (i.e. not hypocritically, vv. 3-5); then tells us not to give holy things to pigs and dogs (v. 6). So we have to judge enough to identify sin, pigs, and dogs. What mustn't we do? We mustn't judge others' hearts, which we can't see (Proverbs 14:10; 20:27; Jeremiah 17:9; 1 Corinthians 2:11). In a very similar vein, there is the...
  3. "Yeah... but you did it with the wrong attitude." As a response to a truthful confrontation, this is barely more contentful than "Oh yeah?" and "So's your old man." It's more along the lines of, "Oh, well, er... hey, look! A comet!" — except phrased as an accusation. Oddly, the "wrong attitude" set is very judgmental when it comes to mind-reading and heart-examining anyone who dares to try to obey Jesus' command to discern (Matthew 7:3-6) and rebuke (Luke 17:3). At its worst, it evolves into...
  4. Three magic words: "You're not loving." Ahh yes, consider the incandescent splendor of The Love Card™. Do you tell me (truthfully!) that I'm breaking the first, second, third, fifth, and whatever-else commandments? Oh yeah? Well, it doesn't matter, because... you're not loving! So there! Now I don't have to deal with my sin! I'm a victim, you're Torquemada! The beauties of this pathetic, craven dodge are literally countless. Behold, and marvel:
  • Hey, presto! The subject is changed! Mission Accomplished! We're not talking about my (actual) sin anymore, we're all about your (alleged) lovelessness in pointing it out! It's... er... Martinelli time!
  • It's like calling someone a "racist": you are in sin, but your brother is now The Accused, he's assumed guilty, and the more he tries to defend himself, the worse he looks.
  • The bar remains unreachable, and can be raised world without end. "I think you missed this... what about that?... I still think you're...."
  • Unlike your sin, this standard is so vast and borderless that you can use it and re-use until everyone loses interest or dies. Who ever loves enough — purely enough, selflessly enough, heartily enough? Suppose the poor chap works diligently on his attitude of love three or four times; then you get to say, "Why do you keep harping on this? I think you have issues!" It's sheer genius, of a dark sort.
  • Here's the kicker: you (or the person whose sin you're enabling) are the ones in sin, but now you look holy and pious, and the other guy looks bad!
  • You can simply run out the clock until everyone wearies of the subject, and the person who brought it up (to honor Christ with believing obedience, guard the holy name of God, and do you good) just looks bad.
  • And, hey! You get to keep your sin! Because evanjellybeans just don't care about God-shaming, sinner-hardening, testimony-ruining, soul-destroying, kill-Christ sin anymore!
As one has somewhere said, "My brothers, these things ought not to be so."

Yes, the rebuker should do his task humbly and lovingly. Without doubt. But do it he must. It is, after all, what Jesus would do, and did do, and does do (Revelation 3:19).

And we must also remember Scripture has a good deal of wisdom for the rebuked, as well. Here's a mere smattering:
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it (Psalm 141:5a)

If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you (Proverbs 1:23)

...reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning (Proverbs 9:8b-9)

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray (Proverbs 10:17)

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

but he who hates reproof is stupid (Proverbs 12:1)

There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
whoever hates reproof will die (Proverbs 15:10)

Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence (Proverbs 15:32)
In closing. The story is told of President Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge returning from a church service.
"What did the pastor preach about," his wife is said to have asked.

"Sin," the taciturn president responded.

"What did he say?"

"He was against it."
Would Coolidge find such unambiguous clarity in evangelical pulpits — or congregations, or blogs — today?

One wonders.

Dan Phillips's signature

28 March 2009

Better to Be Cold than to Warm Ourselves Where We Are Exposed to Temptation

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.The following excerpt is from "A Sermon for a Winter's Evening," a message on John 18:18, first published in 1910. The text describes a scene in the courtyard outside the High Priest's house on the night of Jesus' crucifixion: "And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals, for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself."

hough no doubt the motives which led both Peter and John into the high priest's house were commendable, Peter's position among the soldiers and hangers-on around the fire was extremely full of peril, and offered no corresponding advantages. Did he not know that "evil communications corrupt good manners"? Did he not know that the men who had taken his Lord prisoner were not fit associates for him? Should he not have felt that, though he might have his hands warmed, he would be likely to get his heart blackened by mixing with such company?

Brethren, I like to warm my hands; but if I cannot warm them without burning them, I would rather keep them cold.

Many things are in a measure desirable; but if you cannot obtain them without exposing yourself to the smut of sin, you had better let them alone. Has not our Lord called us to go without the camp? Are we not warned against being conformed to this world? Deny yourselves the warm place around society's charcoal brazier, for its sulphurous vapor will do you more harm than the cold. Some tell us that we must keep abreast of the times; but if the times run the wrong way, I see no reason why we should run with them. Rather let us leave the times, and dwell in the eternities. If I must, in warming my hands, defile them—I will sooner let them become blue with cold.
C. H. Spurgeon

27 March 2009

On my lameness

by Dan Phillips (with apologies to Milton)

This is an instead-of post. It's lame!

I could just not tell you what should be here, and then you'd not be mad at me. Or, at least, not for that. But, fool that I am....

I'm reading through a book presenting three views on God's will, and one of the chapters is written by the elder and junior Blackabys. Since last weekend I've been, ahem, strongly motivated to write a post expressing my thoughts on, and evaluation of, that chapter.

Taming my response down to post-size and form is a bit like harnessing a volcano. Twice I've tried, and twice I've just run out of time.

Life happened, family-issues happened. Two pressing time-sensitive issues happened. One I won't tell you about yet (maybe never; only if it's a "happy ending"); the other you can see today over at my blog. Since about 2/3 of you don't go there daily, I thought I'd tell you about it very briefly.

I did a review of the moving Knowing over at my hangout. A day or so after it went up, I was contacted by someone connected with the movie, asking I'd like to interview Ryne Pearson, the writer of the original screenplay on which the movie is based. After a brief (for me!) deliberation, I accepted, and spent yesterday's lunch hour in an enjoyable chat with Pearson, followed by working on the interview for much of the rest of the day's free(ish) time.

Then throw in horrible traffic, looking at refrigerators, taking my tiny tot to Cub Scouts, a chat with Frank about a bipedal annoyance or two, and... the groaning realization that I was going to come up lame on the Blackaby-view post. Again.

And I don't want the post to be lame. I feel very strongly about what I want to say. I want it to be just-so. Phil and I chatted about it. I think we see it just about the same, and I think I crisped his goatee as I gave breath to my response to the article.

So, um, sorry. Pray for me. Next week!

Still upset with me? Ooh. Maybe you could use this?

(You laugh. But tell me she doesn't make more sense than Deepak Chopra.)

Dan Phillips's signature

26 March 2009

More than 1000 reasons

by Frank Turk

The above graph plots out exactly why I think we waste our time when you get into Catholic apologetics: all that meta yesterday and the day before, and frankly? Nobody was really reading the blog. Google Analytics says so: no uptick in traffic.

You know why? Because apologetics doesn't win people into Catholicism, and it doesn't win people out of Catholicism. I could give you 1000 reason why I think people join Catholicism -- but there is only one reason to leave -- and it's not because of an argument. The reason to leave Catholicism is actually foolishness when viewed by people seeking a reason: it's that Jesus Christ was crucified, and because death had no power to hold him, He was raised on the third day.

He didn't become bread. He didn't establish a home office in the city of Caesar. But know for certain that He is both Lord and Christ -- so repent and believe in Him.

That's the reason for the hope that lies within us, y'all.

25 March 2009

Establish Elders [1]

by Frank Turk

Before we get kicked off here today, I'm engaging Stuart Wood on the topic of limited atonement at the D-Blog. I promised him I would link here at TeamPyro to that exchange, and there you go.

Phil: Stuart is very concerned that you yourself read that exchange. Please take note.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
I had one thing I was going to write about today as we take baby steps in Titus, but given Dan's post yesterday, I'm going to go a different direction today for one purpose only: to eliminate any free time any of you have for the next 24 hours.

See: Dan popped open the Catholic Apologetics can of worms, and in God's sovereignty it turns out that we have a very interesting statement here from Paul who, we would all agree, was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he wrote to Titus.

And it turns out that Paul told Titus to "appoint elders in every town as I directed you".

One of the things I find striking here is that Paul did not instruct Titus to establish priests is every town in order to set things right -- Paul told him to appoint or establish "πρεσβυτέρους" in every town.

Now, you can interpret that word a lot of ways, but let me suggest something to you: it is a lot more than a stretch to interpret that word to mean, “infallible interpreter of the word”. And here’s why I say that – Paul is here warning Titus to establish elders who are inherently trustworthy, not in whom will be invested some supernatural funny hat which makes them unquestionable and inherently unable to err.

And notice further: that if we roll through Paul’s instruction to Titus, it is required of the elder to “hold firm to the word as taught”, not invested in him – meaning he has an obligation to conform to the apostolic teaching – and not that the elder has the authority or reshape or reinterpret the word as he sees fit.

Now, here’s the Catholic rebuttal to this statement:

That’s a misrepresentation of the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the magisterium, because of course no individual priest is infallible in and of himself. He is tasked with holding true to the doctrines as-taught and promulgated by the Pope and the Bishops. So in actuality, we would agree with you that this passage calls for the local priest to be a trustworthy man.

But here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church actually says, right in the prologue, paragraph 9:
The ministry of catechesis draws ever fresh energy from the councils. The Council of Trent is a noteworthy example of this. It gave catechesis priority in its constitutions and decrees. It lies at the origin of the Roman Catechism, which is also known by the name of that council and which is a work of the first rank as a summary of Christian teaching. . . ." The Council of Trent initiated a remarkable organization of the Church's catechesis. Thanks to the work of holy bishops and theologians such as St. Peter Canisius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo or St. Robert Bellarmine, it occasioned the publication of numerous catechisms.
That the current CCC thinks so highly of Trent also ought to give anyone reading this little post a wake-up call to those who think that Trent is a sort of historical artifact. But my point is not really that your local priest is an unreliable man – he is probably as reliable as the average non-Catholic preacher in any local congregation of about the same size as the parish of the priest we are comparing to. Which, you know, whatever. That’s really a meta-objective of this series – to convict guys like that of what they need to get after for Christ’s sake.

My point is actually that Paul wasn’t building an organ of infallible transmission in calling Titus to call trustworthy men: he was instructing Titus to establish elders who would be a hedge against the natural tendency of men to corrupt the teaching of God’s word.

Paul doesn’t give Titus the authority to “draw fresh energy” into what was taught to him, nor does he really advise that the elders do such a thing, either. Paul thinks that elders have a duty not to innovate the word, but to remain faithful to it. That’s a far cry from what actually happens in the Catholic Magisterium – and you have to admit that if the bishops and priests of Catholicism are the true children of the common faith between Paul and Titus, they ought to be doing at least the basics of what Paul here instructed Titus to make sure that they do.

24 March 2009

Bible interpretation dodge #5 — Magisterium (NEXT! #8)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: We need the Magisterium to explain the Bible to us.

Response A: And who explains the Magisterium? And who explains him? And who explains him? (etc. etc. ad inf.)

Response B: Hunh. So, how did man succeed, where God failed?

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature

23 March 2009

More On the Pornification of the Pulpit

by Phil Johnson

he message I gave at the Shepherds' conference three weeks ago on the pornification of evangelical pulpits continues to generate e-mail and questions. (The message was on Titus 2:7-8 and was titled "Sound Doctrine; Sound Words.") I don't particularly want a drawn-out discussion of that message to dominate our blog. So I answered three or four of the best questions about it HERE two weeks ago and hoped we could move on to other topics.

But a new wave of questions followed that post. In fact, the volume of feedback I am getting seems to be increasing. Positive replies still outnumber negative ones by a very large margin, but the negative ones are getting more and more aggressive. I commented two weeks ago that only a few people had challenged my position and most of them were gracious. I can't honestly characterize the negative e-mails in this second wave as "gracious."

But it seems those who disagree with my position are the most eager to keep me talking about it. My detractors are nothing if not persistent, so today I'm going to answer some of the best questions from that second wave of e-mails:

Are your ears so tender that you are truly injured by the sound of coarse words?

I wish I could say I'm so thoroughly "innocent in what is evil" (Romans 16:19) that I'm traumatized when I hear vile words, dirty jokes, or the casual patois of the porn industry. Sadly, before I became a Christian I was a master at telling smutty jokes. I come from a line of Oklahoma cattlemen. I think my great grandfathers and their sons were blissfully unaware that polite society considered any words or topics off limits. I first learned how to cuss fluently in grade school while fishing with my grandfather. Then I spent my summers from high school through college working on roofing crews, where profanity flows more freely than hot asphalt.

So my problem is not that I am naïve when it comes to filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking. On the contrary, I have had far too much exposure to such things to be fooled by the claim that they can be harnessed and employed as tools for contextualizing the gospel.

Incidentally, my concern about such things is not that they are injurious, but that they are spiritually defiling. Words that inflict pain on those who hear may or may not be sinful. Talk that defiles the hearers is always wrong.

I have heard you use expressions like "damnable heresy" and "pompous ass." How is that different from the strong language you condemn?

1. I don't condemn "strong language" per se. On the contrary, I like robust, vivid language. What I deplore is profane, filthy, lewd, or irreverent talk.

2. Words such as damned and damnable are inappropriate when employed as casual curses, but such words are fitting and proper when we're speaking of literal damnation.

3. Can I justify calling someone a "pompous ass"? In most instances, probably not. But that's not because it's a profane expression. It is not. In that context (as well as all 90 times the word ass appears in the KJV), the term is a reference to a braying donkey.
    Nevertheless, it would be fairly easy to make the case that an expression like that cannot be applied to a fellow believer without violating Romans 12:10 (and probably the spirit of Matthew 5:22). Even using such a label to describe an egotistic unbeliever might violate Colossians 4:6—especially if it's used in an offhand or jeering way.
    Have I been guilty of that? To my shame, yes. A too-sharp tongue is one of my besetting sins. I made a comment about that two weeks ago, near the end of that 400-comment thread: "I'm certainly not proud of every parody I have ever invented or every wisecrack I have made. The sudden rise of profaneness in the pulpit over the past 3 years is one of the things that has driven me to rethink how freely we ought to indulge in hard-edged humor."

In your message at the shepherds conference you used the word defecating. Why is that any better than a shorter, more common word that means exactly the same thing?

Every culture has words that are considered taboo, or in biblical terms, "filthy." It's not merely their meaning that has caused them to be deemed inappropriate. I could give you a dozen or more synonyms for ordure that occupy varying levels of social acceptability, ranging from baby-talk expressions that are not really banned by our culture (but I wouldn't normally use them in the context of Bible teaching)—to words like guano, bear scat, manure, or feces. These would include several more or less clinical terms for specific kinds of excreta.

Contemporary culture is not really as vague as some like to pretend when it comes to the question of which words are "filthy" (like the words that decorate so many hard-core rap songs) and which words are merely vivid and repulsive (like the word diarrhea.)

Scripture expressly says the former is to be avoided; Scripture itself employs the latter, but only judiciously.

Who determines which words are "filthy" and which ones are merely clinical? Is there a list of forbidden words you can send me?

Culture determines this. It's quite true that the standard may be different from culture to culture and generation to generation. But both history and literature prove that it's not nearly as fluid or as nebulous as postmodern language-theorists suggest.

I listened to your anti-Driscoll message and read everything you wrote on your blog about it. You still haven't cited a single sermon where Mark Driscoll used cuss words.

1. If you had read everything on my blog about it, you would know that I have never once accused Mark Driscoll of using "cuss words." Furthermore, I have made that point multiple times—every time someone demands examples of Driscoll's "cussing."

2. If you had given my message a fair hearing, you could surely find a more fitting way of describing it. How about "your message on Titus 2:7-8?"

ne intriguing fact stands out in all the criticisms of that message: not a single critic has challenged my interpretation of Titus 2:7-8; Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4; or the third commandment (Exodus 20:7). My detractors' disagreements fall into two categories: 1) some complain that I don't understand the importance of contextualization; and 2) some complain that I've exaggerated the problem.

If I could ask just one question of them, it would be this: What, precisely, do you think Ephesians 5:4 forbids?

Phil's signature

22 March 2009

Doubt is not a virtue

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The Following excerpt is from "Faith's Dawn and Its Clouds," a sermon preached January 28th, 1872, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

oo many in the church of God regard unbelief as if it were a calamity commanding sympathy, rather than a fault demanding censure as well. . . . Doubts are among the worst enemies of your souls. Do not entertain them. Do not treat them as though they were poor forlorn travelers to be hospitably entertained, but as rogues and vagabonds to be chased from thy door. Fight them, slay them, and pray God to help thee to kill them, and bury them, and not even to leave a bone or a piece of a bone of a doubt above ground. Doubting and unbelief are to be abhorred, and to be confessed with tears as sins before God. We need pardon for doubting as much as for blasphemy. We ought no more to excuse doubting than lying, for doubting slanders God and makes him a liar."

C. H. Spurgeon

20 March 2009

Adventures in Husbandry

Pecadillo Returns to the Blogosphere

by Pecadillo

When we got married last summer, Mrs. Pecadillo and I received many generous and useful gifts from our friends and relatives. One handy gift, bestowed on us by another Officer of the Law and his Mrs. Officer-of-the-Law proved an essential home appliance the very day after we opened it from its gift wrap.

It was a warm Tuesday afternoon. Having just returned home from a Cruise in the Caribbean, our Honeymoon had come to an end. Mrs. Pecadillo was at work, her first day back since the wedding, and I was at home, still on my vacation from work and with little to entertain my feeble, child-like mind. Most of the day had gone by; a wonderful day filled with far too many naps to count. To the untrained eye, it would appear as though I had accomplished little to nothing—and there may have been some truth in that. I knew I needed to do something, but what? My wife keeps the house immaculate, and after all, it's an apartment. There was no lawn to mow and there wasn't anything to fix. All my guns were already clean, the garage was organized, and there were no more pictures to hang. I had to find something to do. After all, I didn't want to let on that my wife had married a bum—at least not this early in the game. Still fresh out of premarital classes, I decided to test my well-documented ineptness of all things domestic and attempt to be productive around the house in my wife's absence; I decided to do the dishes.

A chore of this caliber is a rare feat for me to accomplish. Most kitchenly duties are beyond my meager capabilities and the kitchen in our new apartment proved to be a very strange and unfamiliar place. We hadn't been back in town long, but there were just enough dirty dishes to justify a single load in the machine. Whilst loading the dishwasher, I looked under the sink in search of dishwashing detergent. There was none. However, at the time I felt my options were still wide open. Under the sink I found multiple bottles and containers that appeared to be a large soap collection of varying types and uses. To me, soap was soap, to a certain extent. I'm a guy—but I'm not a Neanderthal; I know the difference between dish-cleaning soap and people-cleaning soap. Obviously a bar of Irish Spring thrown hastily into the dishwasher would not get the job done. I even knew that the girly, body-wash soap that had just recently made its way into my bathroom was also not an option for the dishwasher. However, while surveying the vast collection of dish-cleaning soap found under my sink, a thought occurred to me: how different can all these soaps be? Sure, none of these soaps say that they are meant for the dishwasher, but they're basically all the same thing, right?

I would soon learn just how different they really are.

As I rummaged through the cleaning products under my sink, I eventually settled on a bottle of Dawn PlusTM, Odor Eraser Dishwashing Liquid Detergent. This particular bottle boasted a "splash of lime" scent that I was thoroughly and eagerly anticipating. I had it all planned out, the lovely Mrs. Pecadillo would return home from a long day's work in about an hour. At the door, she would be greeted with a strong and pleasing scent of pure, old fashioned cleanliness with just a hint of lime. The kitchen would be clean, the sink would be empty, and perhaps our stacks and stacks of wedding gifts would be organized. And who knows, the carpet might even get vacuumed while I was at it. I was apparently too busy thinking of more things around the house to clean that I failed to read a few other words written on the bottle of soap. These words, printed in a much smaller font than the rest, were "Ultra" and "Concentrated." These two, tiny little words proved to be the most significant and important words on the whole bottle. Why they were printed in such tiny letters and hidden behind a sunbeam graphic, I'll never understand. As I later discovered, these words indicated that this particular bottle of soap contains 30% more cleaning ingredients per drop than the leading, non-concentrated brand, and thus, much less of this soap is required to get the job done. This is something they should teach men in premarital classes.

Not noticing the important information hidden on the bottle's label, I quickly administered what later proved to be approximately 7 times the required amount of soap typically needed for a single load of dishes. At the time, the only soap I had ever put in a dishwasher was soap that was meant exclusively for dishwashers. Every dishwasher I had ever used has had a small soap container built into the door of the washer that the operator is supposed to fill with dishwashing soap. Not realizing the vast intricacies in soaps that I was dealing with, I filled the container to the brim with the ultra concentrated, super-soap. I even poured a little extra over the dishes themselves just for good measure. I then closed the door with confidence, started the cycle of the dishwasher, and retreated to the living room couch for a little sit-down.

I still had almost an hour before Mrs. Pecadillo would come home from work. That was more than enough time to vacuum the floor, take out the trash, and finish organizing the wedding gift piles. According to my calculations, I had the better part of a half an hour of "me time" before I would need to actually get back up and finish the chores I had assigned myself. Break time was here and I felt like I had earned it. After all, visualizing yourself cleaning a home can really take a lot out of you. Besides, I work hardest and fastest when I'm under a little pressure.

I woke from my nap approximately 25 minutes after starting the dishwasher. As I slowly rose from my favorite spot on my favorite couch, I surveyed the living room and wondered aloud if the load of dishes alone would be enough to account for my day.

Finding it hard to regain the motivation I had briefly experienced moments before my most recent nap, I sauntered into the kitchen to get a better view of the living room. Upon entering the kitchen, my bare feet encountered a terrain they did not immediately recognize. A delayed reaction, possibly related to the day's over-napping, allowed me to walk into the center of the kitchen before noticing the eerie ground on which I tread. I looked down and observed that my feet had totally disappeared. The floor was gone, my feet were gone, everything below the middle of my calves. . . gone. Again, the sleep-educed delayed reaction was playing a significant factor in my psyche. Staring down, I was suddenly jolted wide awake with the discovery that I was standing shin-deep in a blanket of little white bubbles covering the entire kitchen floor like a mound of freshly fallen snow. This unwelcome mass of cleaning product seemed to be flooding out of the dishwasher door. I quickly theorized that there was indeed a big difference between the soaps I had found under my sink. The apparent over-dispensing of soap proved too much for the little dishwasher to handle. The growing buildup of soap suds on the other side of the dishwasher door must have been so powerful and relentless that it literally forced itself to seep out of the water-tight seal between the dishwasher's door and frame. Smaller wads of the soapy lather poured out of the ventilation panel located on the lower portion of the dishwasher door. These less intimidating, mini-masses of suds quickly joined forces with the mighty foaming beast, increasing it's size while taunting me as it consumed my lower half. This dubious monster of white bubbles where the floor used to be was growing before my very eyes, multiplying in size and frothing around my bare ankles like a boa constrictor or a villainous blob from a bad SciFi movie. I was literally sinking into an abyss of my own foolishness and I did not know what to do.

When just then, the very idiocy that had caused this predicament took over completely. I actually thought to myself:

If I throw a couple flashlights in there, this is gonna look just like the pool scene in Gremlins.

Brilliant. Thankfully, I came to my senses and realized my first order of action must be to stop the problem at its source. With that, I stretched out my hand to the dishwasher's control panel. Turning the large round knob counter-clock wise, the cycle was halted. For a moment, froth continued to pour out of the ventilation panel of the dishwasher however as the sound of water draining out of the machine crescendoed like a sigh, the froth ceased to pour. For now, I was safe.

As the proverbial smoke cleared, I discovered that the growing soap beast on the kitchen floor that had once shown no sign of slowing its steady proliferation was now a stagnate body of bubbles, cut off from its life source.

I had won.

A wave of pride swept through me. I had conquered the beast. In a mano a soap battle, I had shown myself the victor. But I wasn't in the clear just yet. Mrs. Pecadillo would be home in literally minutes, and I still had a massive mound of soap to get rid of. But how?

A mop might have worked, but probably not as fast as I would need it to. I'd seen my wife use one of those Swiffer Sweepers® but I feared something like that would only spread the soap around and would not soak it up. I estimated that there were approximately 10 to 15 gallons of soap suds on my kitchen floor. There was literally no portion of the floor left uncovered. A mop was out of the question. Towels wouldn't work either; it would take hours to soak up that mess and it would require using every towel we had. How could I explain that a day where my only accomplishments were napping and a single load of dishes caused me to soil every towel we owned? What I needed was. . . a wet/dry shop vacuum. Yes, of course! We had just been given one for our wedding! Like a foam-covered cheetah, I pounced on our neatly stacked piles of wedding gifts. Rifling through the hoards of decorative bowls and George Foreman grills, I searched for the red-and-black vacuum that I knew was my only hope. "I got it" I yelled to no one in particular. The machine, still in its white-and gray-cardboard box, read "TWO GALLONS." If the shop-vac held only 2 gallons, I would need to get started soon. I looked at the clock and estimated that I had no more than 12 or 13 minutes, tops. With that, I tore open the shop-vac box with more energy and enthusiasm than a 7-year-old on Christmas morning. Shreds of cardboard and paper flew all over the dining room. I had no time for instructions or warranties, It was go time.

Like a flash I forced the electrical cord into the wall socket. Having not read the instructions, I began vigorously pressing the many buttons on the vacuum at random, hoping one of them would activate machine. After a few moments of looking like Helen Keller with a Bopit®, the vacuum turned on. I grabbed hold of the long black hose attachment and thrust it deep into the mouth of the soon-to-be-dead soap monster that was covering my kitchen tile. Within seconds the shop-vac sputtered like a burping baby, indicating that it needed to be emptied. I quickly poured the contents of the small vacuum into the kitchen sink and put it back to work on the tile. Moments later, I repeated the process a second time. Then a third, and a forth. I eventually lost count after 7, indicating that there had been more than 14 gallons of soap foam on the floor. After continuing the process of sucking up the soap from the tile a few more times, the kitchen floor began to look close to normal. While drying off a few problem areas, I glanced at the clock and realized that Mrs. Pecadillo could literally walk in the door at any moment.

I took a step back and assessed the situation; I was actually looking pretty good. The kitchen tile, aside from a few remaining wet spots was shimmering in the natural light of our apartment. The massive amount of soap that had previously filled the entire length of the kitchen floor had actually cleaned every spec of dirt off the tile. I couldn't remember the floor ever looking so good. It literally looked as though I had spent the entire day on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, and then another few hours polishing it. I stood there for a moment admiring the fantastic cleaning job I felt I should have been proud of when I heard it:

"Honk, honk."

I knew exactly what that unmistakable sound meant; Mrs. Pecadillo was home. She had just parked and locked my Dodge Charger which she had inherited through marriage. I knew I had about 30 seconds before she would walk up the single flight of stairs, round the corner, and ultimately enter into the front door of our apartment. Those last 30 seconds allowed me just enough time to empty the remaining contents of the shop-vac into the sink, soak up some last residual wet spots, and hide the lingering evidence i.e. shop-vac, dish rags, and flashlight (I had tried the Gremlins thing. . . it worked). I retreated to the rear closet on the back patio with the aforementioned evidence. As I returned to the living room/kitchen area, the front door opened. In walked the lovely Mrs. Pecadillo, somehow managing to look more beautiful than when she had left that morning. The exchange went like this:

Mrs. Pec: "Hi, sweetheart. How was your—why does it smell like lime?"
Pec: "Ummm. . ."

During this brief greeting, she walked directly into the kitchen and approached the dish washer. Did she know? Could she tell what had happened just from the lime smell? I broke out into a cold sweet.

Mrs. Pec: "You did the dishes?!? Oh baby, thank you so much! I was gonna ask. . ."

The shine off the kitchen tile had caught her eye and she was now in a full trance.

Mrs. Pec: "Oh my word! Baby, you cleaned the kitchen floor! You're amazing, how did you get it so clean and shiny? I could never get it that clean."
Pec: "It actually wasn't that hard. I kinda learned a new way. Call it an ancient Chinese secret."

Mrs. Pec: "Well I think you're amazing. Man, I am so thirsty, it was so hot today. Are there any glasses in the wash?"
Pec: "Uhhhh. . ."

How I could have forgotten to empty the soap from the interior of the dishwasher, I'll never know. I hadn't even touched the dishwasher since stopping its cycle and halting the growth of the soap blob some twenty minutes prior. Logically, if the machine had been so full of the soapy monstrosity that it was literally seeping the froth through its watertight seal, there would still be an unnatural amount of soap in the dishwasher. If opened, the machine's door would surely release multiple gallons of soapy suds back onto the floor in a steady river of foam. There was no stopping Mrs. Pecadillo; her hand was already on the handle of the dishwasher door. As she lowered the door towards the ground, a large cloud of steam shot out of the opening like a mushroom cloud and dissipated into the ceiling. When the air cleared, Mrs. Pecadillo found herself standing directly in front of a monsoon of foaming soap, reeking of lime, and pouring out onto the floor. Mrs. Pec quickly slammed the door shut to stop the massive flooding while simultaneously shouting an unintelligible noise I doubt could ever be fully explained or interpreted.

The jig was up; I was caught. I knew the time had come to face the music and explain what I had done. That's when I said it; the only thing I could say:

Pec: "What'd you do?"

Can anything good come from Nazareth?

by Frank Turk

I have no idea if Phil is going to post today or not, and this post is a sort of stand-alone which I would normally post at my personal blog. However, I think it’s got enough chops to stand up here so I’m going to drop it off for your Friday reading enjoyment, and may the critics have their say.

For your information, I have bullet-pointed this post only because it's really a random list of thoughts I have had in the last two weeks or so, and I have somehow brought them together here. It is an unordered list.
  • I have no idea how Dan and Phil feel about this, but I am completely creeped out by being one of the lesser luminaries (some might say "black hole") in the constellations in the evangelical horizon. I didn’t even realize it until we had to move this year and started looking for a new church – but the truth is, it turns out that I am pretty uncomfortable with being even mildly famous. When strangers treat me like they know me, I have to fight off an urge to flee.

    When I told this to my wife last night, she said, "that’s what you get for plastering your name and face all over the internet, dummy," which is exactly what she should have said.
  • Now I say that last bit to say this bit: there’s something wrong with the celebrity culture of our American church. And this is a fairly nuanced complaint, I think, because what I am not saying is that we should have no heroes of the faith who are alive and well and living in our midsts. What I am saying is that when we see those people – whoever they are – as somehow iconic of our beliefs or our movement or our faith, we are doing the faith and ourselves an injustice.

    May we all have the opportunity to use our gifts for the goods works God intended them to be used for, amen? But let’s never forget that while it is a virtue to do those things which God has ordained beforehand, it is not a virtue to merely admire those who are doing what God has ordained and then nothing else. You are not a Paul-plus-James Christian if you merely enjoy the podcasts from all the T4G guys and all the Gospel Coalition guys. You are a Paul-plus-James Christian if you count trial as joy, and can say that you see that the aim of what the apostles taught is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

    As my friend Ron Mooney says, you have to do the stuff. Celebrity culture inhibits you from doing the stuff.
  • I’m not one of those guys who thinks you can find the Gospel in popular music, but the pagan poets before the band Nazareth said, "Love Hurts." The lesser poet J. Geils said, "Love Stinks". And I tell you that, believers and other readers, to point out something to you which you may not really understand:

    Even the most mundane and in fact profane people know that somehow "love" runs counter-intuitive to what we think we know about the world. Nazareth and J. Geils may have been singing about something we would in fact reject as "love", but the truth that if you actually love you will actually suffer is something we Christians should know best.

    And I say that in the context of sort of riffing on celebrity culture to say this: when we think we have believed the Gospel because we have gone to all the seminars and coalition meetings and what-not, we have completely missed the soteriological boat.
  • Yes: I do mean the soteriological boat. More on that in a minute.
  • Relating to my series on Titus and Timothy, let us meditate on something for a moment: when Paul tells Titus that he was sent to Crete to "set things right", Paul wasn’t telling Titus to establish a seminary or start holding conference calls about meta-issues concerning or afflicting the de facto institutions of the Christian church. Paul (as we shall see in a few weeks) was telling Titus to, in a manner of speaking, move into the trailer park or the apartment complex where these vile Cretans lived and establish elders there who will teach the Gospel there so that real people will be changed and love each other there.

    So the Gospel will save those people.
  • So how does doing otherwise miss the soteriological boat? Why am I not here getting gassed up about the ecclesiological boat?

    It’s because soteriology comes before ecclesiology – I know you reformed eggheads know this in theory, but when I look at you (that is, at us – at me first and then at all of you) it’s like looking at somebody who gets dressed without ever checking the full-length mirror. I think you didn’t really mean to leave the house dressed like that.

    Later in the letter to Titus, Paul says (as Phil rightly pointed out in his plenary session as the Shepherd’s Conference) that the church should be about adorning the doctrine of God our Savior with good works. Instead, most often, we have one of three kinds of things which happen:

    [1] We have stupendous doctrine, mind-blowing doctrinal content, which we have defended so well that there is nobody left standing to hear it and therefore be saved by it. We have mowed down all the enemies of Christ rather than winning them out of their captivity.

    [2] We have no doctrine because of the fear of being type [1] churches, so we have pointless good-works churches which are nice community centers or political outposts for either the left or the right. We have there simply put ourselves in the chains of the enemies of Christ, but at least we’re happy there.

    [3] We have retreated from churches altogether because they are all type [1] or type [2] churches in spite of the fact that the Bible never once calls any church perfect, never tells the believer to live in a personal bomb shelter singing a sanctified version of Peter Gabriel’s "Here Come the Flood", and never says that churches will be fixed by abandoning them.

    But if we took our soteriology seriously – you know: that men do not save themselves but are in fact a danger to themselves spiritually, and that only God saves, and that God only saves by the word of Christ, and that nobody can know unless they hear and repent, and nobody can hear unless someone tells them – wouldn’t we have churches that knew at least as much about love as Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, Roy Orbison and Dan McCafferty?
  • You know:
    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was wounded for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
    And then this:
    Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
    That's what we say we believe -- but can we love like that since we say we have been loved like that?

    Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds, and marks any heart not tough or strong enough to take a lot of pain -- but love is like a cloud which holds a lot of rain.

    I prolly wouldn't give you a nickel for the rest of that song, but here's my point: we are not really Gospel-saved people if we aren't changed by the Gospel into people who know that love hurts but that we are commanded to love anyway. And not merely the bizarre intellectually-satisfied love which stands on one foot on the phrase "love chasteneth" (which is true but wickedly incomplete and insufficient), but has both feet planted on the bedrock that Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
It is a classic 3-pager in WORD at this point, so I’ll end with this: I admit that I am glad that somebody has read any of the bandwidth I have generated over the last 5 years, and if it benefitted you in any way, “SDG” as we say in the Truly reformed circles. But if what all that writing did was make another celebrity, I hope the servers crash and it all gets annihilated and nobody ever reads it again.

At some point, you – me, all of us – have to go out in the yard and befriend that kid whose parents don’t come home at night, or spends half the month in our neighborhood and half with his other parent’s neighbors, or take a plate of supper to the guy next door who’s alone, or whatever. I didn’t write all this stuff to help you grasp the nuances of systematic theology, or to become a name to be dropped. I wrote it so you would go do the stuff.

Now go do it. Start immediately, and if you can’t, start on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s House with the Lord’s people. They are not any worse than the Galatians or the Colossians – most of them. Most of you aren’t either.

Me, on the other hand, ...

19 March 2009

Bible interpretation dodge #4 — mo' PoMo (NEXT! #7)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: I don't think we can be sure of what any Bible verse means.

Response A: Then I'm not sure what you mean.

Response B: How can I be sure what you mean?

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature

18 March 2009

Put it in Order

by Frank Turk
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Last time we were in Paul's letter to Titus, we discussed briefly that it's not really up to you, dear pastor, to decide what you're going to do as a pastor. You don't get to write your own job description. In the same way Paul left Titus for a reason in Crete, you are in your local church for a reason -- and that reason is described for you in Scripture.

The first reason, then, here in Scripture is to put things in order. For Titus, he had an unruly bunch of no-account Cretans to sort out -- and you, unfortunately, have an unruly bunch of no-account [insert your local community here] to sort out.

Now, I have committed to myself (due to my limited time these days to blog) to keep these posts short, but here's a short list of things Paul probably meant by "putting what remained in order":
  • Silencing the insubordinate (Titus 1:10-11)
  • Teaching all kinds of people how to behave (Titus 2:1)
  • Rebuking with all authority (Titus 2:15)
  • Obeying rulers and authorities (Titus 3:1)
There are more examples, of course, but I wanted to use these as {A} we will cover each of them in more depth as we go through this letter, and {B} to show that Paul wasn't giving Titus narrow instruction. What Paul taught Titus, dear pastor, he is teaching to you.

Are these among the things you are doing in your local church, or do these things somehow get lost in the purpose of your church?

You don't have to tell me, but you should be able to tell you in honesty.