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The Present Cultural Crisis: An Address to the Men by Randy Booth

The Present Cultural Crisis: An Address to the Men by Randy Booth

Pastor Randy Booth addressed guests and the men of Providence Church and Christ Church this past Saturday. The talk centered on how to raise men who are aware of the cultural crisis, but yet are able to de-mythologize the entertainment industry.

Click below for audio lecture.

Current Crisis: Why are we losing our children?

The Death of Television by an Ax

The Death of Television by an Ax

This may seem too overwhelming for some. It really is extremely violent. One reader referred to it as one of the “most egregious acts done to technology in the 21st century.” You are about to witness the persuasive death of the world’s most beloved tube through an ax. I confess: this was hard to watch, listen, and watch a couple more times. Entertainment comes through the most bizarre acts. I have a profound admiration for Neil Postman. I understand the addiction of amusing ourselves to death. But not even Postman would propose such violence. Watch. At the end realize that this brief paragraph was meant as a sort of warning. Wives: do not let your husbands see this video!

N.T. Wright’s Plea for the Psalms

N.T. Wright’s Plea for the Psalms

Professor N.T. Wright’s The Case for the Psalms is now available. The introduction is quite captivating. His personal plea is for a return to the Psalms. The Psalms are “full of power and passion, horrendous misery and unrestrained jubilation, tender sensitivity and powerful hope.” a But they psalms have been neglected. They have been used occasionally as a fill-in for worship services making its titanic role minuscule. Wright observes that popular worship songs sprinkle a few phrases occasionally, but overall, the “steady rhythm and deep soul-searching of the Psalms themselves” have been displaced. b This is not to say that churches should only sing Psalms. I personally believe it is unwise to neglect the beautiful theology of the Church put into music. Wright says, “by all means write new songs. Each generation must do that. But to neglect the church’s original hymnbook is, to put it bluntly, crazy.” c. Crazy indeed.


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A Glimpse into the Ruth Commentary

A Glimpse into the Ruth Commentary

Here is a little sample of our labors on Ruth; hopefully to be sent to the publisher before the end of the year:

Ruth also shows the world just what she needs.  In a sense, in this book Israel is in the position of Naomi and Ruth.  Where are Naomi and Ruth at the beginning of the book?  They’re without a king; they’re without a husband; they are left desolate and destitute.  The story of Ruth is proof that God will not abandon his covenant bride but will provide for her ultimately by giving to her a greater Boaz and a greater David, a greater Kinsman-Redeemer, and a greater King who will do in reality what Boaz and David could only do in type and in shadow.

Pleasing God

Pleasing God

Guilt. Shame. Pain. While we undergo these emotions from time to time, some undergo them more consistently. This endless cycle is stifling. Sometimes these are the result of deep sin in our lives. Guilt, shame, and pain can be gifts of God to bring us back to our theological senses. But usually they are the result of a poorly thought view of God.

In the Fundamentalist traditions guilt serves as an antidote to a life of poor discipline. If you didn’t read your Bible, here is a good dose of guilt to get you back on track. Sons and daughters will receive a healthy dose of guilt theology in their first 18 years. The intentions, though noble, are usually disastrous. Pastors and parents instill a vision of perfection; a vision that is unattainable. Children grow up then with a profound sense of worthlessness. Pietism becomes a form of life. Pleasing God becomes wishful thinking.

The other element is shame. We feel ashamed often. Like Adam, we try to hide. We hide knowing fully well that God knows our ways and even the hairs on our head. But still we hide. It is the common reaction of those who have done wrong; and of those who think they have done wrong. Adam sinned and he knew it. But sometimes we do not sin and do not know that we have not sinned. Do you see that point in the list of negations? Sometimes we do not sin, but our view of God causes us to think we have. This leads to shame. Sometimes there is genuine shame. We ought to feel shame for our wrong-doing. We should not boast in them. But I am referring to the false shame many of us are prone to feeling. We flee from God. We act naked when we are fully clothed. We bombard ourselves with false accusations. But in reality we are being self-deceived.

Finally, we feel pain. Helpless pain; a kind of mental dark room. The pain is real, but the reason behind the pain is not. I remember a friend who faced tremendous stomach pain before bed because he feared that God would harm him for something he did long ago.

All of this comes from a genuine desire to please God. But in the process we have formed an image of God that is not scriptural. Further, a view of God that can literally cause pain.

The Christian life is replete with difficulties. The Christian is already the center of abuse for what he says and believes. His life is a direct contradiction to most of the philosophies of this age. Yet, we build on that difficulty with unreasonable expectations. We run around wearing ourselves. We fail to see the shalom of God. We have no rest. We view God our Father as God our tyrant. DeGroat observes that “God’s faithful commitment to bringing about peace in our hearts opens up the possibility for us to relax into the arms of the faithful, attentive, emotionally available Father.” a

How do we please God? We begin to please Him by knowing who He is. Far from a God that dances around your grave, He is a God who dances with you. He does not seek your death. He is your life. Our cares matter to Him. We cast them in full assurance that He sees them and will answer them well.

We can please God with our lives. Our minds can be renewed. We can become God’s pleasing sacrifice (Rm. 12). We are to be daily models of repentance, as Luther once stated, but then there is also freedom through the Son of God. In Him, our guilt and shame was placed. We are united to Him in our pain because He has already endured pain for us.

  1. Chuck DeGroat, Leavign Egypt, 116  (back)
The Grace of Baptism

The Grace of Baptism

The question of baptism and its recipients is truly a matter of grace and not of works. It was my Calvinism that led me away from credo-baptism. I knew–though it took me a while to act on it–that grace was more than a mere soteriological category. Grace was everything and in every act of God for us. The question of an infant’s ability never crossed my mind as a barrier to accepting covenant baptism. The question of God’s grace was the key that unlocked the baptismal font.

Baptism is a heavenly Pentecost. The Spirit is poured, not we who pour ourselves. Everything is of grace; Gratia sunt omnia. God identifies us as His own from the beginning as He did with creation and then He christens us with His spirit. Baptism is the divine hovering. Baptism is gracious because through it God re-enacts the creation of the world. In baptism we are a new creation. a God has copyrighted the world. He labels, gifts, and graces. Man does not have that capacity; man does not create in and of himself, therefore man cannot change his own identity.  We are imitators, but yet only capable of imitating because God graces us with His artistic gifts.

In the beginning, the world is first identified by the Triune God (Gen. 1) and then it is called to praise that God (Ps. 19). We are first identity-less (dark and void), and then God fills us with His Spirit (light and life). Baptism is all of grace. We were void and empty. God looked at us (Ezk. 16) and washed us and clothed us with fine clothing (Ps. 45).

Infant baptism is of grace because it is the re-enacting of creation. Creation begins in darkness– as in a womb– and is washed. It is like our God to destroy nations with fire and to create new ones with a few drops of water.

  1. Thanks to Jonathan Bonomo for this last comment  (back)
Darkness is my Closest Friend

Darkness is my Closest Friend

I have been reading my former seminary professor’s work Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places. It’s a journey. A long one. The basic thesis is that we prefer to taste the luxury of food offered to idols than the bread of heaven. We have forgotten to long for the Promised Land. We prefer the Egyptian culture.

Chuck DeGroat really brings to life this paradox of our journeys from real counseling sessions and personal life-stories. I will be interviewing Chuck at a later Trinity Talk episode, but one clear message from the book is how much we underestimate suffering. Suffering is usually cheapened with even cheaper slogans.

Psalm 88, that psalm of abandonment, is full of realness. In the realness, there is constant suffering.  The Psalmist writes:

You have taken away my companions and loved ones.
Darkness is my closest friend.

The Psalmist feels abandoned in Job-like manner; so abandoned that darkness becomes his closest ally in grief. The pain is real. As Chuck DeGroat observes:

As much as we believe that God can redeem our journey through the wilderness, we should never underestimate its destructive force.

We cannot trivialize suffering and its force. The pain is not to be taken lightly and neither is the journey. The journey brings rough winds and those winds push us around with remarkable ease. The weaker we are the more damage it does to us.

I have just returned from preaching a funeral of a parishioner who committed his life to abandoning God. In his brief time in our congregation he sought death vociferously. But while he sought death he was confronted with the message of life many times. I believe he accepted that message though his garments were stained with fire, as Jude says. This is not the life we have been called to live. We were not created to live in Egyptian bondage. Our bondage was meant as a prelude to glory. In desiring Egypt we become addicted to more suffering and forget that God is preparing us to “flourish in the land flowing with milk and honey. a

Death waits with open arms. Suffering is real. We should not trivialize its force. But at the same time we should desire new companions (Ps. 1). Darkness is the friend of abandonment. At times these are genuine Christian laments. But in lamenting we also remember that God is still the God of our salvation. The Psalmist who laments is the Psalmist who trusts in his God.

  1. DeGroat, 82  (back)
The Power of Labels

The Power of Labels

There is tremendous power in labels. We often are tempted to look at our neighbor and within a few minutes come up with some label about such a person. There is nothing wrong with labels. They can be used wisely. They can help identify certain people. It can help us minister to some in wiser ways. But our tendency is to label people too quickly. The How and When of labeling is a very important tool in our day-to-day interactions. Label sometimes becomes a cheap substitute for loving.

In labeling, timeliness is everything. When we label others we view all their actions through them. And if we have the tendency to belittle others our labels will often not be a very attractive portrait of certain individuals.

The Pharisees in the Bible were quick to label things as authentically Jewish or not. Though Jesus had a few labels of his own for the Pharisees, his primary concern was not so much in what category certain people fell under, His concern was in connecting with these people no matter their economic or social status.

Here is an important lesson for us: Do not label too quickly. Be slow to assume and quick to learn.

God labels us as “children” and “saints.” When Adam’s fall had labeled us forever as “sinners,” God did not cease to meet with us, but He sent His Son to speak to us and to give His life.

There is tremendous power in labels. Be slow to assess. Be gracious in your assessment, for in the manner you label so will others do unto you.

We worship as those marked by the gracious imprint of God. We should be grateful that God did not label us according to what He saw, but that He sought us and called us into His presence.

Al Mohler and the Centrality of the Worship

Al Mohler and the Centrality of the Worship

In a recent article, Al Mohler castigates modern worship. He observes that if evangelicals would agree with the idea that worship is central to the Christian life (a big IF), then the next question is, “What is central to Christian worship?” Mohler observes that the worship wars have led to different conclusions. Some elevate music as the center part of worship. Others advocate an evangelistic-shaped service to draw outsiders to the Gospel. More liturgical churches look at the sacraments as central to worship.

Mohler argues rightly that “many evangelical churches seem intensely concerned to replicate studio-quality musical presentations.” He criticizes the enormous amount of time and money involved in presenting a high quality musical experience on Sunday morning. This builds a society where Christians “shop for churches that offer the worship style and experience that fits their expectation.” The consumerist churches create ecclesiastical consumerist parishioners.

I second and third this criticism; always have and always will. However, Mohler misses a significant portion of the conversation on biblical worship. Mohler, attempting to rescue a Reformed view of worship, writes that “the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God.” But is Mohler accurate in his assessment? Wright, who according to many is very un-Reformed, a observed that “Christian worship is a response of the whole human being and the whole human community to God’s grace and love for the world.” It is the whole human being that worship is re-orienting; not just his intellect, but the whole person. Worship then needs to be centered not only on words, but also in the Christian response to the word. God’s words brought the world into existence, but those words created something; that something was not abstract, but tangible and taste-worthy. b.

When Mohler centralizes the Word preached, he misses what came from those words. Indeed he misses the story of God who created and watched us eat from His creation.

Word and Sacrament are central in worship. Indeed the whole worship service is composed of these two aspects. The Word (includes confession and singing) prepares us to consume bread and wine. c The same Luther who spoke highly of the preached Word observed in his small catechism:

Our preaching should… be such that of their own accord and without our command, people will desire the sacrament and, as it were, press us pastors to administer it to them… For Christ did not say, “Omit this” or “despise this,” but “This do, as often as you drink it,” etc.

There was a certain urgency in Luther’s mind about not separating Word and Sacrament. Luther not only argued for weekly communion, but he saw that the Word was incomplete without the sacrament. He argued that when the Word is proclaimed, the Supper must follow. d

According to Mohler, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper each have a place in worship, but the preaching of the Word ought to be supreme. The position of the Reformers was not the one advocated by Mohler. The Reformation–anabaptist excluded–argued that though the Word plays a monumental role in the worship service (Heb. 4:12) it must not be separated from the Sacrament. e The argument the Reformers made, in my estimation, was not for the supremacy of the Word preached, but the inseparability of the Word preached from the Word eaten. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder!

  1. I dispute that statement  (back)
  2. As an advocate of Covenant Renewal Worship, I argue that the entire service is central, though the service can be summarized in Word and Sacrament  (back)
  3. Incidentally, this is one reason for why Word must come before the Sacraments  (back)
  4. Calvin argued that to avoid the Lord’s Supper is a form of devilish theology  (back)
  5. The Supper was, for Calvin, mutual:  Christ “is made completely one with us and we with him.”  (back)
It’s all about table manners!

It’s all about table manners!

What differentiates us from the beasts of the field? I would say one distinguishing feature is table manners. There is a certain etiquette at the table that we as baptized humans are expected to have that animals are not. Even our little ones are expected to develop their table manners. Our little ones move from a high chair to a table chair when they are able to eat without smearing tomato sauce in their hair. Learning table manners is part of learning the language of the body.

This table– though open to all baptized adults and infants– is not a buffet where you can grab and eat whatever you want whenever you want; this table is a civilized table. It is a table with manners. Here we eat and drink with other image-bearers. This means we are patient, gentle, kind, and loving toward our neighbor. The wine that spills from the shaky hands of our little ones is a sign that God is growing our congregation and teaching us table manners. This is our Lord’s table and Jesus loves to see little ones learning to eat and drink. We must be reminded this morning that in so many ways we are like them. Though our outward manners reveal stable hands when we grab our forks, inside we can at times be clumsy; overly confident; self-assured; pursuing selfish ambitions.

If you come to the table too certain of your table manners, then you might be the type of people that Paul constantly criticizes. But if you come to this table too certain of the Christ who died for you, then you come as those found worthy to eat with the Master of the house. And what is the basis of good table manners: Christ. Is Christ gain for you in life or in death, as it was for Paul? If he is, then prepare your lips to taste bread and wine, and prepare to share a meal with fellow brothers and sisters who are learning day by day what good table manners look like.