Archive for February, 2009

The Rebuilding of Herod’s Temple

No, this isn’t an eschatological prediction of the Jewish people rebuilding the Temple, reinstituting the sacrificial system or anything like that.  Instead, I’m simply giving you all a link to something I found on Tim Challies’ site today.  A British man has been building a scale model (1:100) of Herod’s Temple for more than 30 years (and isn’t finished).  It’s remarkable what he has done, I highly recommend you take a look at the pictures.

We just finished our section on the gospels in our training schools this week, and talked about Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.  For many of us, we can’t picture such a place in our minds.  When we read about Jesus driving out the money changers, we’re probably picturing Him walking into our church foyer.  When the disciples remark to Jesus just how impressive the Temple is, we may not completely grasp what they’re saying.  Well, this man’s model gives us a clue.  I’m not sure where he found the time to do all this, but I’m glad he did.

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I just finished listening to Matt Chandler’s sermon from the 2009 Desiring God Conference (you can download the sermon here).  I found his story of how he ended up pastoring The Village Church in Dallas funny and fascinating, particularly his transformation from anger towards evangelicals to pastoring a church in the middle of the evangelical Bible belt.  I found this quote to be particularly powerful:

In December of 2002, despite my anger towards evangelicals, I became the pastor of a church of evangelicals in what Christianity Today called ‘the center of the evangelical world’.  And despite the fact that my heart had always burned for the prodigal, God sent me to the older brother.  … And I’ll tell you when all of it hit heavy on my heart is sitting in those testimony videos, sitting in those baptism services, and who I had seen to be my enemy and be an enemy of the gospel, had actually been a casualty of religion.

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I’d like to recommend a couple relatively new worship albums.  One, that I heard about only recently, is by Phil Wickham that you can download for free(!) off his website.  Apparently this album has been out for some time, and I’m just late to the game.  That’s not surprising, since I don’t really keep up with all of the latest worship (to be honest, I don’t know how anyone finds the time to keep up with the massive production of worship albums).  This album has a mix of Wickham songs (I knew a couple from church) and some hymns.  I highly recommend it.

Another is one I mentioned a while back put out by Bob Kauflin from the Together for the Gospel 2008 conference.  For the month of February Sovereign Grace Ministries is selling the cd for only $6, or you can download the album for $9.  I recommend you take advantage of the sale while you can.  This cd is a collection of hymns, both old and new, done in a fairly straightforward manner (though you may not love Kauflin’s periodic interjections: “yes!”, “all our sin!”, but I’ll leave that to your personal preference).

But the real reason I’m recommending these worship albums is that they share a similarity that is unique amidst the myriad worship albums released this days: congregational singing.  Both of these albums feature a simple “band”: the worship leader and his instrument (Wickham and his guitar, Kauflin and his piano), and the voices of crowds singing along.  There is no back up band, no guitar solos, no frills.  A man, his instrument and the voices of the gathered redeemed.

It’s telling that such an approach is novel in today’s worship.  Worship has become a highly produced business, complete with tours featuring smoke machines and lazer light shows.  It’s interesting (to me, at least) that even in live worship albums, you only hear the crowd singing at certain points.  But in Wickham’s and Kauflin’s offering, the masses truly carry the day.  Sure, you hear Wickham and Kauflin, but they aren’t the stars of the show.

As I’ve listened to these as I’m working, I’ve had to stop quite a few times because I was powerfully moved by the voices of the crowds (3000 in the case of Wickham, 5000+ for Kauflin) singing praises to God.  I have to admit, I rarely stop working and get on my knees in worship, but have done that while listening to both of these.

Of course, I’m not anti-worship band.  I certainly am moved by the worship at our church (featuring world class drummer and my co-blogger, Brian).  If I didn’t want to hear a band, I’d find a different church.  That isn’t the issue.  But I do wonder if we’ve become dependent on worship bands.  Do we need a power packed band to lead us to a place that we feel like we’re worshipping?  Have we lost the simplicity of letting our voices be our main instrument of praise?

Anyway, I hope you take the opportunity to get ahold of these albums (hey, the price is right) and see what you think.  I encourage you to listen to the voices of those singing together in worship.  It might just give you a small glimpse of what it was like for John to hear the masses singing God’s praises in Revelation.

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Facebook: You’re Dead to Me Now

Facebook has been on borrowed time since I subscribed.  Today, I deactivated my account, despite Facebook’s own “Are you sure?” page.  Said page displays pictures of a few friends with a caption under each that reads, “[name] will miss you.”  Indeed they might, but I have my doubts.  Why?

Here is my Facebook experience, sans exaggeration:

  1. I receive a friend request e-mail from Facebook.  The “friend” can range anywhere from a true friend with whom I have current, human-style contact, or an acquaintance whose name rings a dusty bell from the “early 90’s” section of my brain.
  2. If indeed I know (or have known) this person, I accept their request.
  3. If I haven’t been in touch with said person for a year or more, I view their profile, thus satisfying my curiosity as to “what they’re up to now.”  Here is Facebook’s big payoff: You get to go to your high school reunion without actually going to your high school reunion.
  4. Ten percent of the time, the reinstated friendship results in one or two quick, superficial exchanges of “how are you’s” or “remember when’s.”  After some brief well-wishing, a complete lack of contact follows which is rivaled only by the complete lack of contact that preceded our reunion.
  5. (Optional) A Facebook friend invites me to:  (a) join in a “cause” (usually of the “save the whales” variety).  Joining the cause consists of all of the sacrifice, accountability and personal reward one might experience when forwarding a chain e-mail (i.e., none),  (b) consider a discussion of life insurance or investment options with him/her (no kidding),  (c) become a “fan” of something (e.g., a band, brewery, or celebrity),  (d) play some type of cyber-game, such as entering into an e-snowball fight (whatever that is), or taking a personality test.
  6. Go to step 1.

I confess that the above is a little biting, and it would be wrong for me to assume that everybody has a similar experience.  There have been a few exceptions to the pattern above, but they are just that: few.  As such, I hope I don’t offend friends who truly value Facebook, or could recount stories of happy reunions that had staying power. I certainly wish no ill upon the individuals of my Facebook friend list, nor do I have any rebuke for them (aside from a “Dude…seriously?” for the insurance sales people). In my experience Facebook has been just another flavor of cyber-candy, and in the end I decided that I had enough non-nutrative sweets in my life already. While one prefers Facebook and video games, I’ll choose “The Simpsons” and Homestar Runner.

My own experience aside, the real point of this post is simply to introduce a provocative article I recently read about Facebook. Like most articles we recommend here at BBG, I wouldn’t say I agree with all of the author’s conclusions, but it’s a worthwhile read none the less.

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Christian Carnival CCLXII

Just letting everyone know that Christian Carnival CCLXII is up over at Participatory Bible Study Blog. 

In case you haven’t figured it out, the Christian Carnival is a collection of posts from around the blogosphere posted once a week (normally on Wednesdays, I think).  Brian and I will attempt to contribute to this on a weekly basis and give you all a heads-up when its posted.  My latest post on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount is included this week.

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Prayer is a rather large topic, one I’ve intentionally avoided writing about simply because there’s so much to say.  How in the world do you narrow down the Bible’s teachings on prayer into one post?  Or even a few posts?  That’s a lot to ask.  But last year as I was teaching on the Sermon on the Mount at church, I realized that I could at least narrow it down to cover this particular section of Jesus’ teachings.


In Matthew 7:7-11, we read these words of Jesus (TNIV):


“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.


Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good fits to those who ask him!”


I’ve often heard these words used by those in the “prosperity gospel” sector of the church to claim that we can pray for financial blessings and expect that God will grant us our requests.  After all, He loves to give good gifts!


However, when you look at these words in light of what precedes it in the Sermon, you’ll find that what we are expected to pray for is narrowed a bit more than many realize. 


Consider Jesus’ words in 6:25-34.  Here, Jesus instructs us not to concern ourselves with food and clothing, God will provide those as He sees fit.  In fact, worrying about these things is in line with the pagans, “for the pagans run after all these things…” (v32).  Instead, we are instructed to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (v33). 


Immediately preceding these words, Jesus instructs us not to “store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (v19).  I would think this would directly contradict the idea of praying for wealth.  And you can’t take “treasures” to be solely metaphorical, since Jesus in v24 goes on to say that you can only serve God or Money, not both. 


In the “Lord’s Prayer” (v9-13), we see the type of physical need that we are to pray for.  In v11, we’re encouraged to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.”  Instead of praying for riches, and all the comforts that come with it, we’re instructed to pray for enough to get through today.  This is a call to trust God to provide us with what we need, not necessarily what makes us comfortable and at ease.


But you’ll also notice an alternative focus that is given here, praying for God’s name to be hallowed (the NET Bible translates it “may your name be honored”) and for His kingdom to come here on earth.  Rather than riches, or even a “comfortable living”, we are to pray for God’s kingdom to be made manifest on this earth.


So, notice the juxtaposition throughout chapter 6 on what our focus is to be. 


1. Pray only for enough “bread” to get through the day.  Pray for God’s kingdom to come to earth.


2. Do not store up treasures on earth, because it will one day be destroyed.  Instead, have a mindset that seeks to serve God, rather than Money.


3. Do not worry about food and clothing, because providing those is God’s job.  Instead, we are to seek the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness of God.


So, when we reach Jesus’ words in 7:7-11, given above, we ought to have it in our minds already that Jesus isn’t talking about money and the luxuries this world offers.  The “good gifts” we are to seek can hardly be said to be wealth, fame, etc.  He just spent most of chapter 6 telling us not to seek those things! 


So what are we to pray for?  How about that God’s righteousness and justice be revealed?  How about for His Name to be honored in all that we do?  How about praying for enough to get through the day, so we can have the strength and resources necessary to live these things out?  Even stepping back a chapter earlier, how about we pray for our enemies and for those who persecute God’s people (5:44)?


There is, of course, so much more to be said about prayer, even within the Sermon on the Mount, but I hope this quick look gives us some perspective as we pray.  We cannot forget Jesus’ words in chapter 6 when we reach His words in chapter 7.  Jesus had already laid out limits for His followers in terms of their focus, and had already demonstrated the proper way to pray.  When we keep that context in mind, we should find it intolerable to misuse His words in Matthew 7:7-11.

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