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August 2006

August 23, 2006

driscoll-cover.jpgMark Driscoll is a bestselling and highly-regarded author. He is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, a popular speaker at conferences, and is founder of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. But is there more to this man than meets the eye? According to a shocking new article in Preaching Illustrated, there may be.

In a bizarre turn of events, Mark Driscoll has become embroiled in a theological doping scandal. Random testing, conducted immediately following the sermon he delivered in his church on Sunday August 20, revealed the presence of unusual and inconsistent teachings. While no official statement has been released, investigators have hinted they suspect Driscoll has been using theobolic steroids. Like the sport of professional cycling, those under investigation are considered guilty until proven innocent. This could prove to be a serious blight on an otherwise surefire hall of fame career.

“This is becoming increasingly common,” said David Pullman, lead investigator in the case. “This guy has no seminary degree, no Calvinistic background. He writes books, preaches sermons, runs a church planting network and has a whole brood of children. Somehow he finds time to do all of this and to maintain theology that is consistently biblical and Reformed. It doesn’t add up.” Theobolic steroids, consumed in small amounts, can increase a pastor’s understanding of theology and his theological output, giving him a decisive edge over competitors.

“It’s little wonder his church has grown so quickly,” said another investigator who spoke under condition of anonymity. “What chance does anyone else have against a guy who is willing to shoot up with theobolic steroids? It is a despicable crime!” Rumors are circulating that discarded syringes containing traces of Reformed theology have been discovered scattered around the pulpit at Mars Hill.

The side effects to theobolic steroids can be serious, ranging from the eventual shrinking of a pastor’s discernment to the complete undermining of his faith. George Wright, a former theobolic steroid user, was recently interviewed about his years of steroid abuse. “It seems so harmless, but soon you become addicted. You set a standard while on the steroids you can’t hope to match without them. Your sermons are great, your theology is sound and people are convicted.” After many years of abuse, Wright found his faith and discernment lessening. Now a decade removed from that abuse, he currently serves as pastor of a PCUSA church and spends his mornings watching preachers on BET and TBN. “Last week I heard Joel Osteen preach a sermon on the importance of eating a healthy breakfast. It was so convicting to me! Joel Osteen is my hero!”

A source close to the investigation hinted that Driscoll will also be investigated for blood doping. This is the process of artificially increasing the amount of theology infused in the bloodstream in an attempt to improve theological performance. Preachers have been known to “donate” a unit of blood following a particularly edifying conference or immediately after reading a good book. This blood is stored and transfused back into the body immediately before a big preaching or speaking engagement. This effectively increases theological output because of the extra theology contained in the blood. Investigators were tipped off to the possibility of blood doping shortly after Driscoll attended a Chris Rock show. “We suspect he mistakenly ‘donated’ blood immediately after the show and returned it to his body several weeks later, immediately before writing Confessions of a Reformission Rev. That will explain a thing or two!”

At the time this article went to print, there had been no statement from Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church. Investigators are expected to report on their findings in the coming weeks.

August 23, 2006

Tuesday August 23, 2006

Literature: Dr. Mohler discusses “The Tragic End of Children’s Literature” and the “Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature.” “The anthology reflects the new postmodern ethos in which ‘the distinction between heroes and villains is often blurred.’ No kidding. As a matter of fact, there are very few heroic figures left.”

Music: Alex Chediak has an article on the moral neutrality of musical genres. “God or the devil can be glorified by classical music, depending on whether it is produced and enjoyed by hearts that prize God or hearts that prize human achievement or self-reliance.”

Canadiana: “The Calgary Sun” has a spooky article about a Christian who was arrested for praying in public. “Maybe if Artur Pawlowski had been holding a flag of the outlawed terrorist organization Hezbollah, Calgary Police would have left him alone.”

Culture: Joe Carter has an interesting article entitled “Pop Semiotics:Whore and Pimp Chic.”

August 22, 2006

Judas and the Gospel of JesusThe Gospel of Judas has had its fifteen minutes of fame. It is but another in an endlessly long line of stories or documents meant to shake the foundations of the Christian faith. Like its many predecessors, it gave National Geographic and anti-Christian authors an opportunity to voice their dissension with the biblical story of Jesus. A book titled The Gospel of Judas shot to near the top of the bestsellers lists and nearly as quickly, shot straight back down. Still, while its popularity was short-lived, it allowed Bart Ehrman and other revisionists a chance to laud the epistle for its new insights into the life of Christ. Surely Ehrman forever cast doubt upon his credibility as a historian when he blathered, “(The Gospel of Judas) is one of the greatest historical discoveries of the twentieth century. It rivals the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Gnostic Gospels of Nag Hammadi.”

August 22, 2006

cd2.jpgContemporary praise and worship music has achieved a poor reputation. It is often regarded as being of poor quality both musically and lyrically. Sadly, this critique is often accurate. Yet there are some who swim against this current. It is only in the last year or so that I have been introduced to an organization that produces music to which these critiques cannot apply. Sovereign Grace Music has released a wide variety of albums which provide not only top-quality music, but excellent, God-glorifying song-writing. The latest project, released only a couple of weeks ago, Valley of Vision, is based on the classic book of Puritan prayers of the same name.

Why would Sovereign Grace create a project based on the prayers of a bunch of dead guys? “That’s an easy one. Puritans like John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, and Isaac Watts knew their hearts, their Bibles, and their God much better than we do. Many of them wrote down their prayers not to be published, but to assess their own spiritual growth and to encourage themselves in times of spiritual dryness. These prayers reveal a personal, humble, passionate relationship with an awesome God, a living Savior, and an active Spirit. Reading their meditations inspires us to pursue the same level of reality as we worship God.” The two-fold purpose of this CD is to encourage the listener deepen his relationship with God as he becomes more aware of his own sin and God’s holiness and that the listener will be inspired to read the book of prayers that inspired the album. “We pray that you won’t simply read them, but that they will become a springboard for your own prayers and meditation in your relationship with our great, merciful, and changeless God who is, ever and always, there to meet us in the Valley of Vision.”

The CD begins with “In the Valley,” sung by Shannon Harris. Shannon has a stunningly beautiful voice, though having heard it live at the WorshipGod06 conference, I have to admit that I love the purity of her voice in a live performance just a little bit better than the slightly more engineered sound on the CD. She sings a powerful song based on the prayer “The Valley of Vision” and asks God to let her find His grace, life and joy. For sake of comparison, here is the original prayer and the song based on it:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

And here is the song:

When You lead me to the valley of vision I can see You in the heights And though my humbling wouldn’t be my decision It’s here Your glory shines so bright So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown To be low is to be high That the valley’s where You make me more like Christ

Let me find Your grace in the valley
Let me find Your life in my death
Let me find Your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You’re near with every breath
In the valley

In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
So let me learn that my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley’s where Your power is revealed

A couple of up-tempo songs follow. “All That I Need,” sung by Stephen Altrogge, declares that Jesus Christ is the believer’s only hope and the only one who can satisfy the heart’s deepest longings. “Heavenly Father, Beautiful Son” is a song of thanks to God for His work of election and for providing His Son as Savior. “How Deep” explores the love of Christ and the mid-tempo “I Come Running” is a song of praise to Jesus, written and performed by Mark Altrogge, acknowledging our need of the Savior. My favorite track on this album, and one we sang near the close of the WorshipGod Conference, is “Let Your Kingdom Come,” written by Bob Kauflin and based on the prayer “God’s Cause.” It is a perfect choice to end a service or conference and calls upon God to let His kingdom come. “Let Your Kingdom Come / Let Your will be done / So that everyone might know Your Name / Let Your song be heard everywhere on earth / Till Your sovereign work on earth is done / Let Your kingdom come.” Perhaps it could have been the final track on the album!

This is followed by “O Great God,” a hymn eminently suitable to corporate worship that celebrates the sovereignty of God and His work of redemption. “Help me now to live a life / That’s dependent on Your grace / Keep my heart and guard my soul / From the evils that I face / You are worthy to be praised / With my every thought and deed / O great God of highest heaven / Glorify Your name through me.”

The CD continues with “It Was Your Grace,” “Only Jesus,” “The Precious Blood,” “It Was Love,” and “Who Made Me To Know You.” Each song explores a different theme and each centers upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. These songs feature vocals by Kyle Davis, Shannon Harris and Megan Russell. Standout tracks, and ones that are most suitable to corporate worship, include “Only Jesus” and “The Precious Blood.”

Valley of Vision is a unique concept and one that could easily have fallen flat. Thankfully, Sovereign Grace did the project justice and have created an album that is beautiful, inspiring and full of the gospel. With many tracks suitable to corporate worship and all suitable for private worship (or for just singing with the car windows wide open), Valley of Vision is a worthy addition to any CD collection. Like previous Sovereign Grace music projects, it is well-written, well-produced and of the utmost quality. I heartily recommend it.

Valley of Vision is available for purchase from the Sovereign Grace Store. Be sure to take a look at the other CD projects available such as Songs For The Cross Centered Life and Awesome God. Sample audio clips, lead sheets and chord charts for this album are available for no cost from the Sovereign Grace Ministries.

August 22, 2006

Tuesday August 22, 2006

Culture: Here is one from the “of course” file: Sexy Music Lyrics Prompt Teens to Have Sex. “The more teens listened to degrading sexual music content, the more likely they were to subsequently initiate intercourse and progress in [other], noncoital activity,” Martino and colleagues report. “These music effects held, even though 18 other predictors of sexual behavior were taken into account.”

Humor: Phillip Bethancourt linked to a humorous chart created by Randy Stinson, dean of the Leadership School at Southern Seminary.

Web: “Light Along The Journey” has a glowing and encouraging review of Discerning Reader. “Hundreds of reviews, well-designed site, why go anywhere else?”

August 21, 2006

noone.gifIn an uncertain world, there are at least six things we can always count on. These six are the focus of J.D. Wetterling’s new book, No One…. Quoting Jesus’ words from the book of John we know that:

  • No One can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
  • No One can come to me unless the Father Who sent me draws him.
  • No One comes to the Father except through me.
  • No One takes it [life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
  • No One can snatch them [true Christians] out of my hand.
  • No One will take away your joy.

These six “no one” statements form the framework for the book. Each one receives thorough, Gospel-centered treatment. Each chapter concludes with the promise that “these are unshakable certainties in an uncertain world.”

August 21, 2006

I hate cars. While they are clearly a necessity, they are just as clearly evil. I guess that makes them necessary evils. I can’t think of too many other significant investments in life that we purchase knowing full well that each time we use it, it will decrease in value. Every day the car becomes less and less valuable whether it drives around or sits in a parking lot. There is no joy in buying a new one, and usually no joy in selling an old one. When buying a car, a scratch is just a little nick that is hardly worth mentioning. When selling a car, that scratch is worth hundreds of dollars. Thousands even. The whole task of buying or selling a car is a game, and an awfully frustrating one at that. I hate the game.

Still, we do need a car and really can’t get by without one. We deemed it time to get a new one and it is sitting outside right now. I started thinking about the cars I have owned and noticed that we could trace the eight-year history of my family through these vehicles.

The first vehicle I bought was a Chevy S-10 pickup truck.

Through my college years I ran a painting business in the summers to help cover my tuition costs. I purchased the S-10 as my company vehicle. It was a great little truck and I still miss the flexibility of a pickup. I have some great memories of driving that truck with Aileen in the passenger seat and our puppy perched between us. The windshield leaked, there was no air conditioning, the interior was spattered with paint and the stereo needed a severe beating most days to convince it to work. Worst of all, the vents would never close properly which made winter driving perilously cold for the feet! But we loved it. We were young, newly married and almost carefree. We had no money and could afford nothing more elegant, for I was in school studying computers and Aileen was working only part time. Unfortunately that little truck came to an untimely end on an icy highway overpass near our first home in Brantford, Ontario. Even then Aileen was pregnant with our first child and we knew that the truck would soon need to be replaced, for there was no room for a third person, no matter how tiny he was.

State Farm was kind to us at the demise of the S-10. Still, it was not worth much and we had, quite literally, no money. It seemed that our best option, and quite possibly our only option, was to get into the leasing game. Relying on a long-time family friend who was and still is a high and mighty in a leasing company, we used the proceeds from insurance to put the down payment on a lease of a slightly-used Toyota Corolla. For some reason we got a purple one that, but for the color, looked a great deal like this:

That little purple Toyota was a barebones model with little in the way of features. I can’t imagine that Corollas come any more scaled-down than this one! It rattled and banged and bounced a lot, but did well for us. We placed my son’s car seat in the back and Aileen would often ride beside him, cuddling and comforting him while we made long drives to the cottage or to visit my family in Atlanta. We had that car for three years before the lease expired.

Based on our positive experience with the previous car, we went with another Corolla. I was now working a good and steady job and we felt that we could afford a little bit more this time around. The new car was several model years later and was at least a package or two more advanced. It had two car seats in the back as my daughter was born soon after we acquired it. Aileen would sometimes squeeze between them to read to the children or to play with them. But the car began to get a little too small. We had a boarder living with us for several years and it was a tight squeeze to get all of us into the car on the way to church. We knew that it was time to move to something bigger.

The next logical step was to get a minivan. We went with a Ford Windstar because of its affordability. I had been laid off twice and had begun my own business which was still fairly new. It was crucial that we keep our costs down. We once again went with a basic model with few exciting features (I wouldn’t have believed a model existed that had power mirrors but only a tape deck instead of a CD player). Because we work from home, we kept the mileage low and never ran into any expensive repairs. In fact, I don’t think we have ever done anything beyond basic maintenance on any of our cars so far.

Another lease has expired and now we’ve got a new car to go along with our new baby. This time we went with a Dodge Grand Caravan. As usual, we have leased a car that has already been on the road for a year as this tend to keep the costs reasonable. This van is hardly a luxury vehicle, but is at least slightly more advanced than the Windstar and I sure will appreciate cruise control for those sixteen hour drives to Georgia! We went with this one because it is big and we are constantly running out of room when we embark on family vacations. I think the next logical stop is a full out cargo van. And I don’t ever expect to get one of those! This at least gives us two more seats to fill.

And so, as I looked at the already rather long list of vehicles we have owned, I can see how God has provided for us. I can trace the growth of my family and the growth of financial stability as God has blessed my business. It is a fun and not entirely pointless retrospective.

August 21, 2006

Monday August 21, 2006

Bible: ESV blog has a roundup of Tony Reinke’s successful attempt to build his own blank Bible patterned after Jonathan Edwards’ similar Bible.

Humor: Nathan Busenitz shows once again the danger inherent in allowing just anyone to own a copy of Photoshop. This time, he has created a list of his favorite slightly revised book covers.

Du Jour This was posted last week by Phil Johnson. It is an excellent, must-read article entitled “Regarding Guilt by Association.” Great stuff.

Humor Bonus: The Riddleblog has a funny list of “You know you’re not Reformed if…”