Wednesday, April 30, 2008

T4G Musings, Part 2

Ligon Duncan spoke during the first session on Systematic Theology and its relationship to pastoral ministry. Duncan reminded us that in our culture today doctrine, theology, and Systematic Theology are under duress. Much to the disagreement of post-moderns, Systematic Theology is important. Contra the Emergents, he argued that the Bible is not a story narrative. The story line of redemption has to be pieced together with Biblical and Systematic Theology.

Post-modernism's notions of meaningless language are detrimental to theology. The idea that language is not inherently understandable (that it is merely a social-linguistic byproduct, ala Richard Rorty and his Philosophy and Mirror of Nature) comes from medieval gnosticism and post-Kantian philosophy and is entirely abiblical. Rather, he points out, we see from Genesis 2 that language is inherently understandable. And because it is understandable, we can know its referents--we can know God Himself, because He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Duncan did a brilliant job of showing that a personal Systematic Theology is unavoidable, even for a post-modern. Since a personal Systematic Theology is simply topical--what do you believe about something in particular, we all believe something even if it is to say that "I don't believe anything about that topic." If someone comes up to you and asks, "What do you believe about hell?" you won't tell them a story. You'll say simply what you believe to be true. This is what Systematic Theology does, and as Duncan points out, what Christ said on the road to Emmaus. When I had thought of this passage before, I honestly thought more along the lines of Biblical Theology (a storyline of redemption through the Bible pointing to Christ), but he observes that Christ told them all "the things" concerning Himself.

Finally, Lig' brought it down to what doctrine is important for. Romans 11:32-36--it's important for God's glory. John 15:12-16--it's important for our assurance. Ephesians 5:25--it's important for marriages (and note the ethical implication that is derived from the doctrine of atonement!). Philippians 3:1--it's important for your joy! Theology is for all of life, not just the classroom or the sanctuary.

Listen to the full sermon here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Consider It Joy

In the middle of loss, whether it is your job, health, family, money, or even your life, it is often difficult to understand, let alone embrace, James' admonition to be joyful about these trials. I have been overwhelmed lately with all the loss I see happening to those close to me. Yet I've found God to be true in everything He says and by faith, I believe that He is good in all that he does because He is good Himself.

The following excerpt is from Paul David Tripp's book, Lost in the Middle, which deeply encouraged me last year as I walked through the pain of deep loss with some dear friends. Tripp says something very astounding that shook me up considerably:

We don’t tend to be very excited about being Christ-like and holy.
Instead, we get excited about being around people who love and affirm us. We get excited about children who grow up and do what is right. We get excited about making plans that actually come true. We get excited about physical health. We get excited about investments that have a good return. We get excited about having a safe, successful, stress-free, and predictable life. The problem with all of these things is not that they are wrong to desire. The problem is that we have settled for far too little. And we are surprised, shocked, and disappointed when God shakes them in order to refine us. You see, God has planned more and better things for us than we would want for ourselves. He is not content for us to be content with situational and relational ease. He will settle for nothing less than that we would become partakers of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

How do you assess a good day? Do you tend to celebrate the smooth-running, unobstructed days and curse the days when difficulty has been in your path? How small a trial is able to make you angry? How quick are you to question God and his goodness? How apt are you to lash out at others who seem to have gotten in the way of your plan? How much do you envy the apparent ease of others? How much is your joy and contentment directly tied to comfort and ease? Are you in an agenda-collision with your Lord? Do you live with a destination-mentality, cursing the heat of preparation when it comes your way?

You can read the full excerpt from the book here. (I highly recommend you purchasing this book and reading it for yourself.)

In addition, as I was thinking about this subject this morning, my CD player came to this song on Graham Kendrick's What Grace CD:

"Consider It Joy (When Trials Come)"
by Graham Kendrick

Though trials will come
Don’t fear, don’t run
Lift up your eyes
Hold fast, be strong
Have faith, keep on believing
Lift up your eyes
For God is at work in us
Moulding and shaping us
Out of his love for us
Making us more like Jesus

Consider it joy, pure joy
When troubles come
Many trials will make you strong
Consider it joy, pure joy
And stand your ground
Then at last you’ll wear a crown

Though trials will come
Won’t fear, won’t run
We’ll lift up our eyes
Hold fast, be strong
Have faith, keep on believing
We’ll lift up our eyes
For God is at work in us
Moulding and shaping us
Out of his love for us
Making us more like Jesus

Joy, pure joy
Consider it joy, pure joy
Joy, pure joy
Consider it joy, pure joy

Patiently trusting him
Ready for anything
’Til we’re complete in him
In everything more like Jesus

Consider it joy, pure joy
When troubles come
Many trials will make you strong
Consider it joy, pure joy
And stand your ground
Then at last you’ll wear a crown
Then at last you’ll wear a crown
Then at last you’ll wear a crown

Copyright © 2001 Make Way Music,

Monday, April 28, 2008

Andrew and Grace Need You To Pray

This is from Andrew & Grace's blog. Please read and pray for wisdom to make the best decision evident to them.

via Grace's Journal by Andrew Mark on 4/28/08

Our family is faced with the toughest decision yet. The docs at Mayo and my radiation oncologists think that my best chances of survival are to do another surgery and remove everything - remaining part of tongue, voice box, epiglotis, etc. That would mean that I would not be able to talk, eat, or smell, and I would breathe out of a hole in my neck. The radiation oncologists at Mayo and UMN think that this cancer is radiation resistant because it didn't die with last year's radiation so they don't think radiation will work this year.

It is believed that a massive surgery would increase my chances of cure, but not by very much. We had asked Dr. Yueh to do whatever it took during my surgery in March to remove the cancer, even if I could never eat or talk again but he opted not to cut it all out at that time because seeing the aggressiveness if my tumor and how it was scattered rather than in a single mass, it was unlikely that removing everything would get it all anyways. Dr. Moore at the Mayo Clinic thinks there might be a slightly better chance of survival if I was willing to do the surgery. The only thing is that Dr. Moore at Mayo wasn't the one who operated on me, so he didn't see how the tumor was behaving firsthand. On the other hand Dr. Yueh was able to see exactly how the tumor was behaving and made a decision in the operating room based on his extensive experience.

So I have 3 options:
1) A second course of radiation and chemotherapy
2) A third surgery plus a second course of radiation and chemo
3) Seek alternative therapies such a immunotherapy, nutrition, etc.

At this time there is not enough evidence that shows that a major surgery will greatly increase my chances of survival. If it was clear that I would survive, or perhaps have a decent chance at survival, then I would definately do it. Otherwise, I'm not so sure it is worth it because of is would greatly affect the quality of life that I have left. Besides, after having 2 surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, a third surgery could have life threatening complications.

Please pray for claritiy in this decision, and that God would heal me of this disease and allow me to be a husband to my wife and a father to my children for years to come.

I am going to start chemotherapy tomorrow anyways, and radiation starts next Monday. So I have until the end of this week to decide. I am trying to get an opinion from Sloan Kettering and MD Anderson, and asking more questions of Dr. Yueh and Dr. Moore this week. Pray that those meetings will bring clarity to the decision.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Home Update

Just a quick update on the sale of our home... The inspection didn't happen until yesterday (Thursday). Our realtor called today and said that so far there were no major issues to worry about! Praise the Lord! Keep praying that this will go through smoothly both for us and the buyers, and that both agents would be able to make a decent profit on the sale in spite of the economy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's not fair!

Audrea and I have struggled recently over the seemingly unfairness of our house situation. We have never missed a payment on it. We put a downpayment on it (not 20%, but still not a 0% down). We have a nearly perfect credit score. Yet in the last year our house value dropped 17%--to a point where we now owe more on it than it's worth.

Many sellers today are taking one of two options: to "walk away" or to "sell short". (Selling short means working with the bank to only pay back part of the original loan value. In other words, if your mortgage was 150K and you asked the bank if they'll just take 135K.) The problem is, both options lack ethical integrity (unless in the latter you have simply asked for mercy from the lender).

We would never consider "walking away", but we have considered asking our lender for mercy to sell short. The problem is this: they're only doing this for those individuals who have been unable to make their payments. To Audrea and I, this seemed unfair. But if we think about it in light of this outstanding post from my friend Andrew, we simply must fall down on our knees in praise to God for His mercy in not giving us what we deserve.

Thank you, Andrew!

via Grace's Journal by Grace Mark on 4/21/08


One of the hardest parts of the day is to sit with my family and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with them. An abundance of my favorite foods are strewn out across the table and my nostrils are filled with rich aromas of garlic, and breads, and pasta and sauces. I suddenly feel envious of others who get to taste and eat rather than having to inject medical formula directly into their stomach with a syringe. My mouth waters as I cherish vivid memories of being satisfied with a hearty meal after a long workout at the gym. Then I cringe in fear of not being able to experience that ever again. To be hungry for the rest of my life.

Can there be anything on God's good earth that is more satisfying than my wife's lentil soup or my mom's chinese cooking? Food is a wonderful thing and it used to bring me so much joy and satisfaction, but can I still have joy without it?

I struggle all day long to answer yes to that question. People often express their deep sympathy to me and say, "its just not fair that you would have to go through this. That really sucks". I often struggle in my mind thinking the same thing. The truth is that it isn't fair. My life just isn't fair.

Lets look at just a few of the facts of my unfair life.

1) Born 9/11/81 to loving parents, David and Joyce Mark.
2) My parents loved me.
3) My parents loved me so much that they never gave up on me despite my disrespect and rebellion. They always supported me.
4) I got to go to UCLA for college and experience so many things in life.
5) I became a Christian at the age of 20 and got to go to John Macarthur's church and learn so much about God through the bible.
6) I miraculously landed a job at Motorola, which I absolutely love. Going to work for me was exciting and fun.
7) I married the most amazing, beautiful, bright, caring person, aka Grace Uriarte.
8) We had AJ - the coolest kid on the block.
9) Then we got to have Gracie, sweet little Gracie.
10) Then I had cancer, but God restored me to complete health after that.
11) We got to move to Minnesota and we absolutely love it here.
12) I got cancer again and survived a very complicated surgery.

Its just not fair that I got to live richly for this long, while others die young. Its just not fair that God would sacrifice His only son so that I could be forgiven of my sins and receive life everlasting rather than perish in hell where there will be weeping and knashing of teeth forever.

Deut 8:3 says "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD."

When God rained manna down on the Israelites when they were starving they could only collect enough for the given day. God satisfied their hunger for a day, but He didn't provide for tomorrows hunger until tomorrow. Its true that cancer sucks because it could rob me of tomorrow. But it sure can't take away today. Joy is not found in tomorrow, it's found in today. Today I can find my nourishment in God who is my daily bread. God is making me hungry so that I might look to Him to satisfy me. Today I can rejoice because knowing God is so much more satisfying than the finest of foods.

Psalm 63:1 says, "O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water."

The true hunger of a human being is not for food, it is for God. And only God can satisfy the hungry soul.

Monday, April 21, 2008

God Is Answering Your Prayers!

We have an accepted offer on our home in Maple Grove! Though the amount is far less than we started out a year ago, the completion of this sale would get this major burden off of our backs. The buyer appears to be very solid financially (putting 20% down), but the sale is contingent on the closing of their existing property on June 13th. In addition, full completion of the purchase offer is contingent on the inspection which may occur as early as tomorrow.

Please pray for the following specific requests:
  • The inspection would not turn up any surprises that would cause the buyer to want to back out. (We've been extremely clear in our Seller's Disclosure about any flaws we could think of, so the only thing that could come up would be surprises to us.)
  • The buyer would not come back with any improvement requests which would require us to shell out even more cash.
  • For our sake and the buyer's, that the closing on the sale of the buyer's existing property would go through without a hitch.
  • Finally, that we would continue to be able to be good examples of Christ-centered living to our realtor who has already had customers in the past try, very rudely, to convert him from his Judaism to Christianity.

Thank you for asking for God's providential care to continue in our lives.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Midwest Earthquake?!

UPDATE: The quake actually originated from the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone which is much closer to our hometown of Danville, Illinois.

At 5:36 this morning, Audrea and I heard a rumbling and experienced our bed shaking. My first thought was that the kids bunkbeds downstairs fell apart. I ran downstairs and checked on the kids and then on down to the basement and everything seemed normal. When I got into bed, Audrea wondered if we had just experienced an earthquake.

Well, we just looked at the news this morning, and we did, in fact, experience a 5.2 scale earthquake. According to the USGS, the earthquake centered around Mt. Carmel, Illinois. What a trip!!

Here in the Midwest, this is quite the rarity. I know the last time I experience one was in the late 1980's. I seem to remember after that there was quite a bit of scare about whether we would ever have a large scale earthquake since we are right over the New Madrid Seismic Zone. For some rather entertaining footage, check this out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

T4G Musings, Part 1

By the generous providence of God I was blessed to attend Together for the Gospel over the last 3 days! I had the opportunity to fellowship with great friends and be deeply encouraged in my faith.

I spent the majority of the time with my newest friend, David Ward, who leads worship at Redeemer Bible Church. (FYI, you should check out David's music and Worship Organizer.)

Wednesday for lunch I was blessed to spend time with the pastors of Eden Baptist Church in Savage--Dan Miller and Jon Pratt. Dr. Pratt taught me Greek exegesis at Central Seminary. Over lunch, I learned that Central will be taking on Dr. Pratt as their full-time professor of New Testament Studies. This will be filling a huge gap that had been left by Dr. Bob Milliman. It was such an encouraging time of theological conversation.

Wednesday evening I went out for supper with a dear friend I had met and grown close to in my early days of college in Danville, Illinois--Kirby Myers. Kirby is shepherding a growing church that God enabled him to plant in 2002 in the Indianapolis area. I was also able to spend some time with a very sharp guy that I had only known briefly while I worked at the Open Door Christian Bookstore when it was located in Danville--Scott Gunter. He is a missionary to India working with Pioneers.

Finally, Wednesday evening during the singing I recognized someone from the back of their head who I hadn't seen since last summer--Cory Rintala! We were able to worship together this morning during the first session and briefly catch up.

It is so fantastic to be able to know so many godly friends who are experiencing growing ministries and seeing God's glory be magnified!
Over the next few days I am going to post some of my thoughts on each of the sessions. In the meantime, I'll let you peruse over the stack of books I received for free as an attendee:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

In the Hands of an Angry God

This is so important for you to watch.

(Thank you, Kim, for finding this video!)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Disgusting, but Funny

I'm sorry to gross anyone out, but this picture is too funny to not share. It's "Biter Biscuits" at their worst.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Biblical Theology According To Goldsworthy

Evangelical biblical theologian, Graeme Goldsworthy was just here on campus and delivered three lectures on Biblical Theology. For those who read my blog and are unaccustomed to the term "biblical theology", I find a helpful distinction between it and "systematic theology" to be that systematic theology is the organization of all the exegetical data from the Bible into logical categories whereas "biblical theology" is not so much about fitting data into a system, but adjusting our minds to the Bible as a whole storyline in itself with a goal in sight. Tom Schreiner provides a helpful discussion about the difference here.

Men like Schreiner and Goldsworthy are able to more eloquently than me provide helpful definitions of Biblical Theology like this one from Goldsworthy:

Biblical Theology is the study of how every text in the Bible relates to every other text in the Bible. It is the study of the matrix of divine revelation. At the heart of the gospel is the person of Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God come in the flesh. The nature of the Gospel is such that it demands that it be the center of the biblical message. Biblical Theology is then, the study of how every text in the Bible relates to Jesus and His gospel. Thus we start with Christ so that we may end with Christ. Biblical Theology is Christological for its subject matter is the scriptures as God's testimony to Christ. It is therefore, from start to finish, a study of Christ.

You can listen or read all of his lectures from the SBTS website or simply click on them here:

"The Necessity and Viability of Biblical Theology" (MP3) (PDF)
"Biblical Theology in the Seminary and Bible College" (MP3) (PDF)
"Biblical Theology and Its Pastoral Application" (MP3) (PDF)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Incredible Healing

God has provided Andrew with some astonishing recovery! He is talking which is far more than the doctors had anticipated. He was expected to go through months of speech therapy! Read here about God making the unbelievable believable.