Month: December 2012


A paradox is a figure of speech, a play on words.It is a form of statement that seems to unite two opposite ideas, or to deny something by very terms in which it is asserted.” (J.I. Packer, Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God, pg 19)

Example: “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing … having nothing, yet possessing all things” (2 Cor 6:10)

Example: “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10)

Paradoxes in the bible are always dispensable and comprehensible. They are understandable and resolvable. As such, they are not an antinomy.

Still Not Professionals

Reflections on: “Still Not Professionals: ten pleas for today’s pastor’s”. Chapter 1: Brothers, the Ministry Is Supernatural, John Piper (

This is not the overstated professionalism of the three-piece suit and the power offices of the upper floors, but the understated professionalism of torn blue jeans and the savvy inner ring. This professionalism is not learned in pursuing an MBA, but by being in the know about the ever-changing entertainment and media world. This is the professionalization of ambience, and tone, and idiom, and timing, and banter. It is more intuitive and less taught. More style and less technique. More feel and less force.

I think every young (if I still fall into that category) church planter feels this professional push, especially in Southern California. The need for a certain look and the push for a certain style is magnified by the fact that the internet provides an instant comparison chart on what is hip and working in evangelical circles. I would be lying to say that I don’t feel those waves hitting the shores of my heart.

These words brings perspective to my heart:

There is a professional way to crucify. But there is no professional way to be crucified. There were professionals on Golgotha. They were experts in torture. But Jesus was not one of them.

The rawness of the cross is good for me to think about and works in my heart as an antidote for the poison of professionalism and the idolatry of “hipness”.

The chapter ends with these words:

This is a plea for pastors to put the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the power of Christ-exalting truth, and the purity of holy living, above the pragmatic considerations of organization, and above our concerns with compelling style.

Praying for growth in dependency on the Holy Spirit.

In The Sixth Month (Luke 1:26)

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,” (Luke 1:26, ESV)

So strange some of the thing that the Holy Spirit chooses to capture into the divine word.

In the sixth month

Does this matter? Luke is recording here the fact that when the angel came to Mary that Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, was in her 6th month of pregnancy. Why does this matter?

(1) Perhaps it doesn’t – doubtful, as every word is inspired and is there for a purpose.

(2) Perhaps because Luke’s a doctor and he likes details – perhaps, as Luke in his gospel wants to lay out a clear story for Theophilus to understand, so points of chronology is important to Luke. (ex. Luke 2:1-2 – “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Agustus … when Quirinus was governor of Syria). So from a structural and academic standpoint, “the sixth month” time point has meaning.

(3) Perhaps it’s related to verse 36 of the same chapter – In verse 34 Mary will ask the question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin”, meaning this is impossible. I hear what you are saying but my mind has a hard time believing it. The reply from the angel (vs 35) is “The Holy Spirit will come upon you …” and then to give proof that God has miraculous power over the birthing of life, the angel points to Elizabeth – “behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has  ALSO conceived a son” (vs 36). Then he says

For nothing will be impossible with God (vs 37)

There’s so much about the possibility of option #3 above  that I love:

(1) That the miracle Mary is called to believe in has to do with child bearing and so God gives a confirmation in the area of child bearing. God didn’t say “Go look at the sunrise and now believe this miracle I’m going to do”. That would have been so disconnected for Mary. Instead, God gives her help in the realm of life that her faith needed to be birth (pun intended) in. This seems to me just part of the kindness of God to meet us where we need to be met.

(2) That God goes to extravagant ways to help our faith. I’m not sure why Elizabeth had not had a child up to this point. But what is certain is that because she is old and NOW is pregnant, this will help Mary to in fact believe that with God nothing is impossible. Had Elizabeth been a young women, this would not have helped Mary’s faith. Had Elizabeth been old but had 11 other children, this would not have helped Mary’s faith either. But because Elizabeth had lived her whole life barren and lived it a long time that way, and because Elizabeth was Mary’s relative and so Mary no doubt knew of Elizabeth’s plight …. now the pregnancy of Elizabeth shouts and testifies to Mary that a miracle has happened. What is crazy to me is that one of the millions of things God was doing in Elizabeth’s barrenness was preparing a help for Mary’s faith. Amazing that some of the current work in other people’s life is meant to be a future help in my life, and in the same way, so much of what God does in me now is meant to help others later. God is so good with extravagant help. (ex. man swallowing whale, talking donkey, pillar of fire and moving cloud, signs and wonders)

(3) That God is practical in his help : The sixth month. Why then? I think because by the sixth month two things are generally true: (1) the women is showing (2) the pregnancy is relatively safe. Because Elizabeth’s pregnancy will be to Mary that help for her to believe in the miracle that God intends to do in Mary, she needed to see the hint. She needed to hear that Elizabeth was pregnant but she also needed to look over and say “yes, she is pregnant”. It needed to be obvious because what she was called to believe in had never happened before nor would ever happen again. It would not have helped Mary’s faith if the pregnancy was imperceptible. Sometimes God comes subtly to help our faith and sometimes our faith is so weak or God is so gracious that he brings help that is so obvious so that we won’t miss it (i.e. Paul on the road to Damascus).