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August 2006

August 31, 2006

Fantasy church is a game in which players moderate imaginary denominations based on the real-life performance of churches and pastors, and compete against one another using those churches’ statistics to score points. The most recent addition to the long list of fantasy activities (other fantasy games include fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy hockey, and so on), it is surely also the most exciting and the most edifying. So why not form a league today and become President of your very own denomination!

Rules:

Each league will be overseen by a Presbyter who will act as commissioner and will form a league of between 8 and 14 players. At the beginning of the season each league will hold a draft. The Presbyter will provide to the players a list of churches which will serve as the pool of available churches. Players will choose churches from the available pool, taking into account a wide range of factors. Each team will draft a denomination of 8 churches. Each player must draft a denomination consisting of at least 2 Baptist churches, 2 Presbyterian churches, 2 Charismatic churches, 1 non-denominational church and 1 flex church (any denomination).

Each week teams will face off against each other in head-to-head match-ups. The team that collects the greatest number of wins at the end of the season will be declared the winner.

Points will be scored as per the chart below. At the conclusion of each Sunday, the league Presbyter will be responsible for collecting statistics from each church and providing these to the players. The Presbyter will tally the points and declare a winner in each of the games.

Scoring Breakdown

Teaching

Sermon length:

< 15 minutes: 2 points
15 - 29 minutes: 3 points
30 - 44 minutes: 4 points
45 - 59 minutes: 5 points
60 - 89 minutes: 6 points
> 90 minutes: 10 points

Number of Bible translations used in the sermon:

0: -5 points
1: 5 points
2 - 4: 3 points
> 5: 1 point

Original Languages:

1 point for each word provided in the original language

Sermon was previously preached by Rick Warren or Bill Hybels:

-5 points

Sermon was previously preached by John MacArthur or John Piper:

-3 points

Sermon was previously preached by Charles Spurgeon:

-1 point

Sermon style:

Expository: 3 points
Topical: 2 points
Conversational: 0 points
Dialogical: -2 points

Sermon outline:

Pastor provides a basic sermon outline: 2 points
Pastor provides a fill-in-the-blanks outline: -2 points

Positive references to Mother Teresa or Billy Graham:

-5 points per reference

Worship

Number of songs:

< 4 songs: 2 points
5 - 7 songs: 3 points
8 - 11 songs: 4 points
> 12 songs: 3 points

Number of instruments used:

1: 2 points
2 - 4: 3 points
5 - 10: 4 points
> 11: 5 points
0: 5 points

Ratio of hymns to contemporary songs:

1:1 - 4 points
2:1 or 1:2 - 3 points
3:1 or 1:3 - 2 points
4:1 or 1:4 - 1 point
0:1 or 1:0 - -2 points

Other

-2 points for each time the worship pastor moans, “Mmmmmm. Thank you, Jesus.”

-2 points for each use of a song currently on the Christian top-40

-4 points for each use of a song on the mainstream top-40

-6 points for each use of a U2 song

-8 points for use of the song “Your Love Is Extravagant”

Church

Conversions:

2 points per conversion (as marked on an official communication card, indicated by a raised hand, or confirmed during an altar call)

Recommitments:

2 points per recommitment (as marked on an official communication card, indicated by a raised hand, or confirmed during an altar call)

Baptisms:

3 points per baptism

Ratio of attendance to membership:

> 1:1 - 4 points
1:1 - 2 points
1:2 - 0 points
1:3 - -2 points
1:4 - -4 points
< 1:5 - -6 points

Ratio of offering to attendance:

> $50:1 - 4 points
$25:1 - 2 points
$10:1 - 1 points
< $1:1 - - 4 points (consider contacting the police)

Sermon available online as free audio download:

2 points

Sermon available as a podcast:

1 point

Use of Powerpoint in worship or sermon:

-2 points (An additional point is subtracted each time the Powerpoint falls behind the song or sermon)

August 31, 2006

Thursday August 31, 2006

Devotions: Erik Raymond, aka Irish Calvinist, has posted a helpful article with suggestions about how to have a meaningful time of family devotions. “Many men struggle in the area of family devotions. It is kind of like evangelism, we know we have to do it but it is the doing it that is the problem.”

Prayer: Amy’s daughter Rachel could use our prayers! “Rebekah, was taken to the hospital today at 2 p.m. Her symptoms include excessive vomiting, chills, hallucinations, and a fever of 105.4 (taken under her arm).”

Weird: I don’t recall if I posted this already: “Escaped Labrador dies after pastor fends off attack.” The dog was beaten off (i.e. stabbed) by none other than Ron Gleason who used to guest blog here.

Blogspotting: “Light Along the Journey” has an embarrasingly kind “review” of my web site.

August 30, 2006

1156946283.jpgI tend to agree with those who believe that liberalism is a mental disorder. I can think of no other explanation for those who hold steadfast to a system of beliefs that are self-contradictory, contrary to reason, and entirely Godless. Nor does Ann Coulter. In her latest book, Godless, she attempts to “throw open the doors of the church of liberalism” to expose the lunacy that exists within. “Liberals love to boast that they are not ‘religious,’” she begins, “which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own high priests, its own saints, its own total worldview, and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as ‘religion.’”

August 30, 2006

Wednesday August 30, 2006

Conference: The Desiring God conference blog is reporting that registration for the Desiring God conference is at 90% capacity. It is going to be a good one. If you are thinking of signing up, you’d better do so in the next couple of days. Even if you don’t go, you can poach your ticket outside and make some money!

Blog: The Rebelution boys have updated their site and have done a great job of it. If you’re a teen, this is a blog you’ll want to bookmark.

Da Vinci: Here’s an interesting headline: “Da Vinci coders vandalise church.” “Treasure hunters trying to crack the Da Vinci Code are believed to be behind criminal damage at a village church with links to the Holy Grail.” Sigh.

Humor: Ian shares an oldie but a goodie. It’s a video showing Al Mohler pitting his wits against an inferior opponent.

August 29, 2006

John Mark Karr has been cleared in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey. Clearly a sick and disturbed individual, Karr claimed responsibility for a crime he did not commit. Only a monstrously sick individual would claim responsibility for the rape and murder of a 6-year-old knowing full well that the crime was not his. Some are suggesting that his claim to this murder is a well-constructed plan to ensure that he will not be convicted for child pornography charges brought against him in California. Steve Janke says, “He won’t pay for any crimes he might have committed for the simple reason that it will be impossible for Karr to get a fair trial. Any jury pool is irredeemably tainted by the publicity. And Karr’s lawyer would be right.”

Frankly, this entire case makes me sick. I can barely bring myself to look at pictures of JonBenet Ramsey, the little girl whose parents dressed her like a sultry and seductive teenager and then marvelled that anyone would respond to her in that way. I am sickened by the sexual violence committed against her. Surely this crime is a stark display of the depravity of mankind. But as I continued to see headlines about the case a strange thought entered my mind. It quickly became obvious that Karr was not the murderer and was somehow using his confession as a means to a selfish end. But still I thought, what would be wrong with having him serve the sentence for this crime? If the state of Colorado charged him with the murder and put him in prison for the rest of his days, would the demands of justice be satisfied? Can justice be satisfied if one man serves a sentence on behalf of another, even if this is done voluntarily? The answer is obvious. The demands of justice could not and cannot be satisfied by the wrong man suffering on behalf of the one who has committed the crime. We do not need to look to the laws of our nations to determine this, for our hearts tell us this is so. God has imprinted the demand for justice into the human conscience.

And yet this is just what happened with Jesus Christ, is it not? Jesus committed no sin, and yet He suffered for my sin so that I can be declared righteous. Was this a grave miscarriage of justice or was this, as the Bible indicates, a perfect expression of both mercy and justice? And if John Mark Karr cannot satisfy justice’s demands on behalf of the man who really killed JonBenet Ramsey, why is it that Jesus can satisfy justice’s demands on behalf of the man who actually did?

I thought about this for some time and asked some friends for advice. I shuffled through five or six systematic theologies as well. All the while I felt stupid for not arriving at an easy and obvious answer. But in the end, my first instincts seemed to offer the best answer. It all comes down to imputation.

There are three times we encounter imputation in the doctrines of Scripture. The first deals with the sin of Adam. In Romans 5 we read, “One trespass led to condemnation for all men…by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” Paul declares that through the sin of Adam, all men were counted guilty. When faced with the choice to disobey God, Adam served as the representative of all mankind. When he sinned, he sinned on our behalf. Wayne Grudem says, “God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us, and since God is the ultimate judge of all things in the universe, and since his thoughts are always true, Adam’s guilt does in fact belong to us. God rightly imputed Adam’s guilt to us.” This word impute is critically important. Grudem defines it as “to think of as belonging to someone, and therefore to cause it to belong to that person.” As the righteous judge, God imputed Adam’s sin to all who would come from the line of Adam. From that moment, all who are born of Adam, all who are sons and daughters of Adam, are conceived and born in sin. We sin because we are sinners.

Imputation is found again in the suffering and death of Jesus. The Second Adam, Jesus Christ was appointed to be the second and greatest representative of the human race. Conceived of the Holy Spirit, Jesus did not have Adam’s sin imputed to him. He was born blameless and perfect in every way. But then, on the cross, sin was imputed to him. He bore our sin. Isaiah 53:6 says, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Galatians 3:13 tells us that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Christ bore our sin and even became sin. In the very same way that Adam’s sin was imputed to the human race, our sin was imputed to Christ. God thought of our sin as being on Christ’s account rather than our own, and so actually caused our sin to belong to Christ. Christ bore this sin perfectly and so satisfied God’s demands for justice.

But, thanks be to God, this is not all, for we soon encounter imputation once more. God does more than allow Christ to suffer on our behalf. While Christ died for us and bore our sin, the fact remains that we are guilty of committing countless sins. And so God also imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. Paul says in Philippians 3:9 that he does not have, “a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” The righteousness he enjoys is not his own, but is a gift of God. Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to him and to all who believe. We are now thought of by God as righteous and therefore are now righteous. Praise God.

Based on plenty of thought and reading, I’ve concluded there are several reasons that John Mark Karr could not satisfy the demands of justice on behalf of another. First, God is ultimately the offended party any time a sin is committed. While a sin may hurt, bother, or even kill me, ultimately all sin is committed against God. And since God is the one who is offended, He is the one who determines how justice can be satisfied. Scripture gives no hint that one person may suffer for another, except in the case of Christ. Second, in order for Karr to suffer on behalf of another person, he would first need to have that person’s sin imputed to him. Without imputation, payment for the crime would be little more than a valueless legal fiction. Only God is able to impute sin, for, as we have seen, all sin is committed against God. Karr might be able to pretend that the sin of another person is actually his, but this would be nothing more than make-believe. Only God could actually impute that sin to him. Third, even if God were to do that, Karr could never suffer perfectly and justly for that sin. The demands of justice could not be met in one who was himself a sinner. And finally, even if Karr did have the murderer’s sin imputed to him, and even if he did bear it perfectly, the murderer would still be counted guilty, for Karr has no righteousness to offer him. Where there is sin, there is guilt. Karr is a sinner, just like you and me. He has no righteousness of his own. If he is to be ushered into heaven, he must first, by faith, believe in Christ and have Christ’s righteousness imputed to him.

We depend on Christ always, fully and finally. Only He is able to bear our sin. Only He is able to offer us His righteousness. Only He, if only we believe.

August 29, 2006

Tuesday August 29, 2006

Blogging: Randy writes about the Christian Law Association and their proposed rules for student websites. “Any student who decides to operate a personal online website or contributes to a blog must register the website/blog with the pastoral staff.”

Technology: Jon the Baptist links to an article showing that “TiVo is spreading the word to religious leaders about its parental controls.” Is this TiVo seeking to help pastors and parents? Or is this using the church for marketing purposes?

Race:This Lamp” shares a shocking story. “The ironically named Fellowship Baptist Church in Saltillo, Mississippi, held revival services. During those revival services, 12-year-old Joe, a boy of biracial descent ‘accepted Jesus into his heart.’ On August 6, at the church’s business meeting, the all-white congregation voted to exclude blacks from its services, including Joe because they did not want him to bring his family members to worship services.

Audio: Capitol Hill Baptist Church (home of Mark Dever) has begun a new podcast. If this is successful, they will also do a IX Marks podcast.

August 28, 2006

I believe in the value of good conferences. Though short-lived, conferences can be a wonderful time of growth, challenge and refreshment. I have been privileged to attend many such conferences in recent years and hope to attend many more in the years to come. As a service to the Christian community, I’ve decided to create a list of conferences that are either offered by Reformed ministries or are of particular interest to Reformed Christians. I draw that line simply to maintain a list that is manageable. You would not believe just how many conferences there are in the wider Evangelical world!

This is a living document that will be frequently updated. I will attempt to note in the A La Carte section of this site when I make major updates to it.

If you would like to suggest a conference to add to the list, please contact me with the appropriate information.

And now, without any further ado, here is the Directory of Reformed Conferences.

August 28, 2006

1857929187A biography is an account of a person’s life written by another person. An autobiography is an account of a person’s life written by that person. We would assume that a biography would be written in the third-person and an autobiography would be written in the first-person. Through reading hundreds of books, that has been my experience. Or it has been until I read Flight Path, A Biography of Frank Barker Jr.. A biography of Frank Barker written by Janie Buck and Mary Lou Davis, it is written in the first person. In the final chapter the authors explain this innovation: “Writing the life story of Frank Barker has been a process of ‘slash and burn.’ So much material that could, and probably should, be included was left out. There is no way to record all the great things God has done in and through him. Therefore, I have written about the man and not his voluminous accomplishments. After two years of collecting information and praying, God led me to write as if Frank was telling his own story.”