Monday, March 26, 2007

Prophecy Cannot Replace Scripture

John Piper argues that the gift of prophecy, while still in use today (as we Reformed charismatics believe), is not the norm for discerning the will of God:

So we are alerted not to carry our enthusiasm for prophecy beyond limits. It is not supposed to become the usual way we make the hundreds of decisions that we must make each day. Why do you think this might be? I think the basic reason is this: if you live your life not on the basis of spiritual wisdom but on the basis of external revelations, you are not compelled to deal so deeply with the corruption of your own heart and mind. It is possible for a servant to hear the commands of his master and do them without really loving his master or being like him. But if the master refrains from telling the servant the details of what he wants done, and simply says, “Go now, and be a good representative for me in what you choose,” then the servant is forced to consider what his master is really like and how deeply his own heart and mind conform to the heart and mind of the master.

Read the entire sermon—including four excellent application points—here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 7)

I am reminded of a phrase in the English language: “damn with faint praise.” If we commend something with little enthusiasm, we are showing that our praise is not heartfelt. It is fake, superficial—even hypocritical. Words of praise only ring true when flowing from a heart full of praise.

The true state of our heart is revealed when we praise something. For example, my coworkers don’t doubt my love of the Copper Cellar hamburger. Why? Because I continually praise it as a great lunch—the best, in fact—and because I partake of that meal every single Wednesday (except in cases of conflicting business appointments, inhibiting sicknesses, or when the restaurant closes and locks its doors). It is obvious that I enjoy the food because I so heartily commend it.

Similarly, our praise of God reveals how much we prize God. Do I see my need for God? Do I recognize that I am desperate for His aid? Do I value God’s presence in my life so much that I would rather stop living than have Him leave me? My heart’s true posture before God is revealed in how I praise Him.

“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You…. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:3, 5). When we see God as better than life itself, we will praise Him with our lips and our life. When our soul is satisfied with God as our treasure, we will praise Him with much joy.

In Matthew 15:8 Jesus said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” May that never be said of us! May we not damn our Lord with faint praise.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Non-VQers Accused of Not Committing Vandalism

[The following “news story” will not make complete sense unless read in conjunction with this article.]

KNOXVILLE, TN – In an unusual turn of events, a group of Knoxville locals was incarcerated last Saturday for not committing a crime. Cornerstone Church of Knoxville members Jill Brickey, Cap Stewart, and Joanna Holbrook were arrested last Saturday when it was discovered that they failed to vandalize any of the vehicles owned by the church’s vacationing college students.

The UT students had taken their annual spring break “Vision Quest” (or VQ) trip to Laguna Beach, Florida. Most of the students rode down in buses, leaving their cars in the church parking lot for the week. Last year Brickey, Stewart and Holbrook (a.k.a., the K-Town Trio) were arrested for smearing window paint all over the unattended vehicles. Some viewed the act as an attempt to serve the college students, whereas others viewed it as a blatant display of depravity. CCK pastors reprimanded the trio by ordering them to read The Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen and write a 10,000-word essay on the relationship between Puritan theology and 21st century vandalism, with an emphasis on ecumenical application.

This year, the college students returned home from Vision Quest at 1:30 AM Saturday morning, only to discover that none of their cars had been hit by any vandalism whatsoever. Some went into shock and needed to be rushed to the hospital.

Police found non-victim Jeff Moore prostrate on the concrete next to his car, moaning, “Why, God? Why me? I don’t understand!” After regaining his composure, Moore explained, “Last year, vandals had written JUST MARRIED on my car, and I wasn’t even in a courtship. Now that I have a girlfriend, I was expecting someone to put something on my car. But now I see my windows haven’t even been touched. Where is the justice in that?” Friends tried consoling him by offering copies of the book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges.

Other college students expressed outrage. “I pay the K-Town Trio good money to regularly write on my car,” Matt Bowman told reporters, his fiancĂ©e holding his hand in an effort to console him. “This is a gross violation of their contractual agreement. I’m calling my lawyers first thing in the morning.”

“Whoever failed to write BOO-YA on my car is a stinkin’ dork!” said Holly Ritchhart. “I mean, I had such a great week in Florida and I was expecting it all to culminate in seeing my vandalized car. But nooooooo, someone decided to take a vacation. Now I’m depressed.”

In a phone interview yesterday, Suzanne Holbrook (now a resident in an Amish community in Pennsylvania) bemoaned the weekend’s events—or lack thereof. [Editor’s note: Suzanne participated in the interview while huddled in a closet in order to avoid being caught by her Amish landlord with a cell phone. Not everything she said could be easily distinguished.] “Great,” she muttered. “I move away to avoid any further acts of vandalism on my car and now the K-Town Trio fails to strike. What kind of sick game are these people playing? Now I’m stuck here in this eighteenth-century design school that’s nothing less than a nightmare. I mean, the only ‘colors’ I’m allowed to work with are black and white!”

“This is an unusual set of circumstances,” officer Andy Young told reporters Monday morning. “In fact, I’m not even sure why we’re detaining the K-Town Trio. They’re more like a group of local do-gooders than villains. I’m ready to finish this ridiculous case and go bust some real bad-guy heads. Hooah!”

Information leaked to the press indicates that Joanna Holbrook is far from happy with the situation. Having not physically participated in last year’s vandalism, she has accused her accusers of accusing her of innocence when she is only innocent by association. She has reportedly made a decision to move to Pennsylvania with her sister as soon as this problem is settled.

CCK staff member Leslie Bowden, having recently returned from the Sovereign Grace pastor’s college only to be told that she still can’t assume a pastorship in the church, took out her anger on Stewart. “I can’t stand that short little twerp any longer!” she fumed to reporters. “In fact, I can’t stand all men everywhere. I’m just going to start my own church-planting organization. I think I’ll call it MSG: Man-free Sovereign Grace.”

The pastoral team of Cornerstone Church of Knoxville has not decided how to respond to the lack of action by the K-Town Trio. “We’re still not in full agreement as to the exact nature of this…uh, inaction,” Mike Plewniak explained to the Knoxville News Sentinel earlier today. “Some on the pastoral team think these individuals exhibited self-control by not vandalizing the college students’ cars. Thus, this lack of crime is an evidence of God’s grace. Others, however, see the lack of action as evidence of Cap Stewart’s inability to initiate any form of servant leadership. So, depending on how we eventually interpret these events, our response to these members could go either way. For example, if we decide to condemn the Trio’s inaction, we might as well give up on trying to turn Cap into a real man and just send him to the next women’s conference.”

In related news, Kevin Shipp, also a CCK member, broke into one of the cages at the Knoxville Zoo and was found chewing on the arm of a monkey. When questioned about the ordeal he explained that it is a new post-VQ tradition. “God spoke to me in writing on my car last year,” he allegedly stated. “Until I hear otherwise, I’m bound by conscience to obey God’s laws, not man’s. So sue me.” Authorities are still investigating the incident.

No one from The Associated Press contributed to this report
© 2007 Stewart D. Caprio

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bauer Power

Last night’s episode of 24 was excellent. No surprise there, really. I mean, a bad episode of 24 is like a hamburger without beef. Jack Bauer has to be one of the most amazing TV characters of all time. His prowess never fails to bring a smile to my face. He is an absolute thrill to watch.

In the spirit of Jack Bauer Appreciation Day (which is a recurring holiday—every Tuesday, in fact), below are some entertaining Jack Bauer sayings I recently discovered. Enjoy!

  • Jack Bauer never retreats, he just attacks in the opposite direction.
  • On Jack Bauer’s Tax Returns, he has to claim the entire world as his dependents.
  • Some people see the glass as half full. Others see it as half empty. Jack Bauer sees the glass as a deadly weapon.
  • When bad things happen to good people, it’s probably fate. When bad things happen to bad people, it’s probably Jack Bauer.
  • When a convicted terrorist was sentenced to face Jack Bauer, he appealed to have the sentence reduced to death.
  • Jack Bauer once arm-wrestled Superman. The stipulations were the loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants.
  • If you’re holding a gun to Jack Bauer’s head, don’t count to three before you shoot. Count to 10. That way, you get to live 7 seconds longer.
  • “You don’t know Jack” is a blessing among terrorists.
  • American Idol is popular only because it has a commercial for 24.
  • The Berlin Wall fell because Jack Bauer needed to get to the other side.
  • If Jack Bauer shot you while quail hunting, it wouldn’t be an accident.
  • Jack Bauer’s family threw him a surprise birthday party when he was a child. Once.
  • When car-pooling with Jack, never yell shotgun.
  • There are three leading causes of death among terrorists. The first two are Jack Bauer, and the third one is heart attack from hearing Jack Bauer is coming for them.
photo credit: Victor Bracco via photopin cc

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 6)

It’s been a while since we visited this series on the book of Psalms. I didn’t mean to take such a long break. Here’s the next installment…

Much of the content of the Psalms is praise, whether the writers are praising God themselves or calling others to praise Him. In fact, the word “praise” appears more in Psalms than in any other book in the Bible—a total of 152 times to be exact (in the NJKV). This is amazing when considered with the word’s use in the rest of Scripture. “Praise” appears only 28 times in the rest of the Old Testament, and only 23 times in the New Testament.

So, the word “praise” appears 152 times in the book of Psalms alone, and only 51 times in the rest of the Bible! Claiming that Psalms is THE book of praise is no exaggeration. Therefore, Psalms is an indispensable tool in helping us know what it means to be a Christian hedonist.

After all, at its root the oft-repeated call to praise the Lord is really a call to prize the Lord—to consider Him as the ultimate treasure. As John Piper puts it in his book Future Grace, “prizing is the authenticating essence of praising. You can’t praise what you don’t prize. Or, to put it another way, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him” (page 3). So, in a very real sense, we could describe Psalms as the Christian’s instruction manual on how to prize the Lord above all else. (Hence the title of this series.)