Jonathan Edwards and Revival in WJE4

Here’s a good section on revival from my recent Jonathan Edwards reading. The Devil likes to get us to swing from one extreme to the other. This is how JE ends part 4 of The Great Awakening.

I don’t know but we shall be in danger by and by, after our eyes are fully opened to see our errors, to go to contrary extremes. The Devil has driven the pendulum far beyond its proper point of rest; and when he has carried it to the utmost length that he can, and it begins by its own weight to swing back, he probably will set in, and drive it with the utmost fury the other way; and so give us no rest; and if possible prevent our settling in a proper medium. What a poor, blind, weak and miserable creature is man, at his best estate! We are like poor helpless sheep; the Devil is too subtle for us. What is our strength? What is our wisdom? How ready are we to go astray! How easily are we drawn aside into unnumerable snares, while we in the meantime are bold and confident, and doubt not but that we are right and safe! We are foolish sheep in the midst of subtle serpents and cruel wolves, and don’t know it. Oh, how unfit are we to be left to ourselves! And how much do we stand in need of the wisdom, the power, the condescension, patience, forgiveness and gentleness of our good Shepherd!1

  1. Jonathan Edwards, The Great Awakening, ed. Harry S. Stout and C. C. Goen, Revised Edition., vol. 4, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2009), 495.

Honey Jars and 18-Wheelers

Life is made of several defining moments, but often the definition is blurry though real. Primarily, in 2001 I looked beyond the stars and asked for forgiveness. I didn’t hear or see anything, but Jesus has been with me since that night. I’ve returned to the home where my mother was murdered and heard the resident describe something she didn’t see. More than once I have stood with my head tilted to the left and my right eyebrow raised, unable to process what I knew had just happened. Last year saw two more events get added to the stranger things note on my computer… and I’ll never get an explanation in this life for the fall October night in 2005 at Ryobi… And tonight I type another line in my note: Honey Jars, 18-wheelers, and an email to Dale Allison.

But between the night Jesus met me and this night, none of the unanswerable events of life have caused me to question the reality of what I believe. The boring days, the days with news headlines and emails, the days of humdrum work or a numb mind that is thinking about things not worth thinking about… that’s where the devil likes to keep us.

But those few mind-exploding paradigm-breaking events of life, the ones that cause thousands of questions and thousands of non-answers… they don’t hurt my faith one bit. They help it. Strangely, they bolster it. How God uses unexplainable circumstances of life to strengthen my conviction in the truthfulness of the 1200 thin pages in a leather cover next to me, I have no idea. But he does. So in addition to thanking God for answered prayers (as the saying goes), we might ought to remember to also thank him for the unanswered paradoxes of all that’s seen and unseen.

So Christian, if no matter how hard you try you feel not-at-home in this world, if you feel like you have few to talk to and fewer who understand, then I’m guessing some of your best conversation partners are not in your contacts—they’re on your shelf. If so, then let me introduce you to another one that you can meet here.

For one thing, this outlandish experience, all by itself, tells me that there is more on earth than my science teachers imagined. The world must be far odder than we regularly take it to be.

Another lesson I come away with is that I cannot be closed-minded about the incredible stories that so many others often tell. To behold the impossible with one’s own eyes inexorably raises the odds that others have beheld it, too. Of course, for a historian such as myself, this opens Pandora’s box. But I did not open the box. I just happened by when the lid popped off. And I cannot put it back on without lying to myself.1

  1. Dale C. Allison Jr., Encountering Mystery: Religious Experience in a Secular Age (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2022), 167–168.

For Mike Heiser, he now sees the Unseen Realm

Someone who could speak both to the academics and the laymen, someone who could teach churchmen and fringe folk, someone that became all things to all people that some might be saved.

Oh Lord Jesus, I’m going to miss this man. It hurts to even read the title below 😦

A Time To Be Born And A Time To Die, A Time To Boot Up And A Time To Shutdown

Last week on Monday, I used my tiny bit of technological knowledge to make a slideshow for a funeral service. Once it was set up, the family walked over to the side of the sanctuary and looked at the pictures of their loved one. I admit that in that moment my mind was on slide transition time, what effect to use between slides, the aspect of portrait images on landscape screens… you know, the kind of things that a nerd like me thinks about.

Still thinking about these trivialities, I softly spoke to a new widow and said, “I hope that it looks ok for you.”

Placing her hand on her mouth with emotion, she said, “It looks beautiful.”

And that is what technology is supposed to do, isn’t it? It is a tool that can be used “for the glory of God and the good of others”1 even if the ones observing or receiving have no interest (either at all or in certain moments) in how the finished product was produced. In the church sanctuary with this family, they had no desire to hear me talk about why I did what I did. The only thing that mattered to them is that those who came to honor a husband, daddy, papa, and friend saw not only a body waiting for Jesus’s return, but they would also reflect on visual reminders that his earthly life was filled with life and loved ones.

Yesterday I left my Saturday-Schoolday in the office a little earlier than normal, and our family headed to Greenville. Last week I cleaned out some files and paperwork in my office, so I grabbed a few hanging folders awaiting review, placed them in a file folder box, and quickly headed home. My wife already had the kids ready and the car running, so I hopped in and worked on the files while we were heading down the road for my sons’ “Coding Your First App” class at the Apple Store I once worked at over a decade ago. Some of the papers were not all that important. However, some of them had me in tears as we rode up I-85. One of them was a letter from a student who went through our youth group when I first became youth pastor. It was a letter he gave me during his final days in high school. Adding to the impact of the letter was that in the years since, he made a second ever best entrance exam to a local Christian college. He then transferred to a closer school and graduated with two degrees in less time than I’ll get one of those same degrees. Today, he is a youth pastor about an hour from our town. I’ll never forget going to watch him present his senior project in public high school: Systematic Theology, lol. I was so proud. And I have to think our rubbing off on each other was mutual… around that same time was when I taught the high school students a miniature version a podcast on systematic theology that revolutionized my desire to learn. Little MP3 devices filled with huge amounts of truth can have such long-lasting impacts.

Going back further in the hanging files was a printed email I had not looked at in many years. In 2010, I received an email from a young lady in Wisconsin who found my program. She wrote to thank me for a simple podcast that explained the Bible “in a way that applies to everyday life.” The reason that particular email was printed is because a second email came later that year. She and her husband had prayed for a baby, one was on the way, and into the pregnancy she had a miscarriage. A few days later she heard my podcast about life and death from Ecclesiastes 3. She said, “I heard you explaining what the bible means when it says that there is a time to die. I immediately felt a sense of calm and acceptance when I listened to that podcast and since I have been praying for the past week to God to help me understand how this could have happened to us, I know that your podcast was the answer to my prayers.”

A little before exit 48 I was in tears trying to read that to my wife. I said, “It was amazing what God did with that USB microphone and my laptop back then.”

I wish I still had that computer (A 12” PowerBook with an 867 MHz G4 and a Plantronics USB headset mic). I remember the day that I watched it get boxed up after I sold it on eBay so that I could upgrade to a more powerful desktop with four hard bays and dual DVD burners. And predictably, I also remember when that desktop got boxed up and my wife and I drove it to Commerce, GA. I still have a picture of it buckled up in the back of my truck…

While my two boys were learning how to make a basic app, I strolled around looking at devices that I know inside and out, yet am still fascinated by. I am sometimes still fascinated by the power of the machines; every so often there will be some sort of hardware advancement that truly is noteworthy. But what fascinates me more than the power of the machines is the potential of those machines to be used for God’s glory. You’d think I’d’ve learned to be content by now. But with discussions in my head that would go neck and neck with how our government is however many trillions of dollars in debt it now is, I tried to think of every scenario that would make one of the new M2 Airs a reality. My setup at work is very nice and very powerful—a 27” 5K monitor with an M1 Pro 10-core with a 16 Core GPU attached to a 12 TB RAID. I used it this week to edit our church’s television broadcast and felt humbly confident that the next television broadcast is the best one yet since I took on that responsibility last year. In my head I thought, “But this one is 2 lbs, so light that I could scoop it up when I run off to my Mdiv classes, powerful enough for non-video tasks like searching my 16,000 books in my Logos Bible Software library, and efficient enough to get almost 20 hours on a single charge.” Then reality set it, the kids’ coding class was over, we joked with a family I have known for many years that came to our wedding almost 20 years ago, and I made it out without any more devices and any more debt. The savers in government would have been proud of me… for a few hours. Later that evening, with reasoning that would rival a young person whose brain has hit 13 years old, I told my wife, “Would you be mad if I got one of those new Airs?” I could use it when portability is key, and I’m hoping to get my website and podcast active again… for hobbies that would also be a help to other people… never for social media, YouTube, and never ever for Gamecock football highlights in the fall… thankfully the store was closed.

Yet, technology can’t solve all the world’s problems, nor does it have it. Sometimes the devices need to be turned off. Saturday, I read the emails from a lady I’ve never met who heard my podcast about death and was comforted that her “baby will never have to face the hardships, sorrow, and evilness of this world.” A USB mic, Sound Studio from Felttip Software, an MP3 file in an RSS feed, and the grace of God helped in ways I could never understand.

But the day before, on Friday, I sat in the living room of someone I have known for over a decade. Not with paper and ink or digits and data did we communicate, but in flesh and blood. And the communication was not so much an exchange of words as it was a physical presence not knowing what to say. One of the most sincere pastors I have ever met in my entire life lost his grown daughter (leaving behind a husband and two children). He didn’t need a podcast, he didn’t need a blog, he didn’t need a YouTube sermon, and he didn’t need a lesson on theodicy. He has a walk with Jesus and a humility in his life that would many podcasters, bloggers, and YouTubers would do well to imitate (but the last isn’t first—yet). For several hours, trying not to say anything dumb or stick my foot in my mouth, I was a man of fewer words than I normally am. I intentionally put my phone with my keys at the door, and I sat in the living room with no technology to distract me. The emails above centered on the message of “there’s a time to be born and there’s a time to die.” I think the lesson Friday (for me) was that “there’s a time to boot up and there’s a time to shut down.”

Christian, what fascinates you in this life? What is it that has maintained your interest for decades? What is it that you have caught glimpses of God’s providential weaving together with the temporal and the eternal, the secular and the sacred, the hobby-ish and the holy?

Other Christians might make you feel guilty for even trying to find God in those parts of life. They might even think you’re crazy.2 They for sure won’t think you’re as spiritual as them. But don’t pay them much attention; the Christians cutting down others aren’t doing all that much anyway. I know. I’ve been guilty of it far too many times in my life.

We are far too covetous in our hearts. I know that as well. I have been guilty of it far too many times in my life. Contentment is learned. And it’s learned more through life’s problems than the printed page. One definition for the leanred in Philippians 4: “I have learned to be content.”

to come to a realization, with implication of taking place less through instruction than through experience or practice3

And maybe that’s how we learn contentment today. My “work week” began Monday morning and ended Friday night being with people who have sadly worshipped alongside Job: “The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away.”

867 MHz used to be so powerful. Now it’s antique. One day entry-level machines with 10 cores and read-write speeds of 5000+ will be obsolete. One day 27” 5K monitors will be low resolution. One day 20-hour battery life in a two pound body will be called short battery life and heavy.

But that day isn’t here yet. So, whatever there is in this life that you love less than God but still love very, very much, use it for the glory of God and the good of others.4 When you need a little contentment, God might do a little taking. And when you have learned a little contentment, God might do a little giving. But whatever he’s doing in your life at this moment, whatever he is teaching you for his glory and the good of others, have so much fun in creating and serving and love for Jesus and so much appreciation for the tools that make it possible that one day old emails, old tech, outdated equipment and outdated methods will still cause tears of gratitude to roll down your face for the never changing Savior who uses the ever changing to make eternal changes for his people.

  1. Foundational point in Tim Challies’s book Do More Better
  2. Did you say in your mind, “Here’s to the crazy ones” when you read that sentence? 🙂
  3. BDAG, page 615
  4. Again, foundational point in Tim Challies’s book Do More Better

“You know I can’t babysit another child.”

At lunch last week my mother said, “Did you think we’d end up here?” At first, I thought she meant the actual restaurant. Then she started talking about 39 years ago when she told Ila Mae Powell, “You know I can’t babysit another child.” She eventually said yes that she would babysit 6-month-old Tony—only God knew the tragedies that would take place down the road.

While eating, my son asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She said, “I’ve got everything I want right here.”

How many people have agreed to babysit a child on the weekends, only to end up being a mother and grandmother decades down the road? I’ve written a tad bit about it already, but it’s another reminder that God writes some amazing stories.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Some Little Bytes in a Big Kingdom

Computer can be used for evil. Computer can be used for good. Whether at The Grammy’s or at Gethsemane, it can be an audio-visual tool that directs a performance and researches symbols or it can edit a service and research the Scriptures.

And as I pray “thy kingdom come” and read the books such as you see in the top right (Heiser), I’m not worried one bit which kingdom wins in the end—because the King has already purchased its victory.

I believe; help my unbelief!

Amen and amen.

True faith is always aware how small and inadequate it is. The father becomes a believer not when he amasses a sufficient quantum of faith but when he risks everything on what little faith he has, when he yields his insufficiency to the true sufficiency of Jesus, “ ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ ” The risk of faith is more costly to the father than bringing his son to Jesus, for he can talk about his son but he must “cry out” (Gk. krazein) for faith. True faith takes no confidence in itself, nor does it judge Jesus by the weakness of his followers. It looks to the More Powerful One (1:7) who stands in the place of God, whose authoritative word restores life from chaos. True faith is unconditional openness to God, a decision in the face of all to the contrary that Jesus is able.1

His belief, however uncertain, was all that was needed, and from this point he plays no further part in the narrative, so that all the attention falls where it should, on the power of Jesus.2

  1. James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 280.
  2. R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 368.

Unknown, Yet Well Known

2002–2006 are probably some of the fondest years of my early Christian life. The summer after I graduated from high school, a friend called to see if I was interested in a 3rd shift job at Ryobi (now TTi). It was relatively simple. Engineers needed test machines to run nonstop to examine the engine and parts, so someone needed to be there at night time to keep the fuel supplied and hourly measurements recorded. There was the occasional frustration, but there was usually lots of downtime. It was before smartphones, so aimlessly wandering social media on a handheld device was not even a reality. Though I wish I had been a more diligent worker (and even more productive spiritually), it was the perfect scenario.

I had been saved for about 18 months, and I had surrendered to the ministry about six months prior. I was about to enroll in Bible college classes at a small school in Greenville, SC. I had an iPod filled with MP3 sermons, a wide-margin Cambridge Bible, and multiple free hours each night to listen to sermons, work on schoolwork, or sit outside and pray. For most of those four years, I was completely alone for almost the entire shift. There was one person I met there who ended up being evidence of God’s providence.

Phil Coleman was one of the first-shift technicians. The only thing I knew about him was from the friend who initially called me about the job: “You’ll like Phil. He’s a preacher.” He had worked for Ryobi for many years and had also spent time as a pastor. The pastor of the church he attended died, and they asked Phil to become the new pastor. It was his second pastorate, and it was an experience with a “discipl-er” who was able to spend time with me.

The first time I preached at a church besides my own was around 2003 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Salem, SC. It was a Wednesday night, and there were probably a half-dozen people there. The first time I preached in a revival was at that church, and the first time someone gave me an offering was at that church. Phil Coleman would drive over an hour to lead the services on Sundays, and for much longer than that on Wednesdays as he left Ryobi for Salem, SC. As time passed, I saw the church body grow. When I left Ryobi, we would still meet occasionally for lunch to talk about how things were going. Our youth group has heard him multiple times (at his next pastorate or when he came to our church). When I had a medical episode in 2018 (which initially appeared to be a seizure, but later the doctors said it was stress), Phil met me for lunch, and we talked about the pressure of introverted people in the ministry.

I am sure that Phil knew that Mt. Carmel would never be a mega-church, but I doubt that was his goal. The son of a pastor, Phil set an example for me that pastors should not primarily focus on how many people are at church as long as the pastor is being faithful. Knowing that Phil’s personality was like mine, I am sure he spent many miles on the way to Salem wondering if he was making a difference. Only eternity will tell what difference Phil has made at the churches he has pastored, but as I share this post in 2023, I am filled with thankfulness to God for the difference he made in my life. Because of a perfect job at a perfect time, God initiated a friendship with a pastor who unknowingly took me under his wing and taught me what perseverance looks like, no matter how few are watching.

He would open the word, go through the verses, the “common people heard him gladly,” and he left the results to God. If my appreciation for Phil Coleman is the tiniest glimpse of Timothy’s love for Paul, then I can only hope to one day make such an impact on someone under my ministry.

I Want To Believe?

I’ve yet to have someone understand all (or any) of the layers of this the X-Files meme I made using this poster in my office at church… but I think Les Sillars with his recent show for WORLD’s new DoubleTake would come close 🙂

Good intro for the those interested or curious.

Mike Heiser, Thank You

”If something in the Bible is weird, it’s probably important.”

Mike Heiser

I’ve always had a fascination for the fringe… and I’m thankful for someone who gave me a biblical worldview that didn’t exclude the unexplainable parts of God’s creation. I have been thinking about Mike Heiser for several days since I read his sobering statement that he only has a few weeks left to live, I have listened to countless podcasts since 2005ish when the format was created, especially in the years I worked night shift. And though I have probably listened to somewhere around 80–90% of his podcasts from the beginning, I downloaded all 458 tonight for archiving just in case something happens down the road with his site, These will be added to the library with the 22 Peeranormal shows of his I already had.

I never got the chance to meet him in person, but he did respond to a couple of emails I sent him. Thankfully, I didn’t wait to tell him how much I appreciated his work. After putting it off, I finally wrote him a letter last November stating several specific reasons I was appreciative of his willingness to engage in topics that other Christian ran from. He emailed me stating he got the letter and it “made his day.” That’s the least I could do… many, many times he has made my day with either a printed page, a recorded interview, or an uploaded video.

May the next few days be days of grace for Mike as he is soon to behold the God who is above all gods, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, the Unseen Realm won’t be unseen to him anymore.

Will He Never Leave Us?

When Peter, James, and John saw the Transfiguration event, they were in the company of Moses, Elijah, and the glorified Jesus. To experience this, Jesus did not need to take them to some location on the other side of the universe far, far, far, far, far away. He simply opened their eyes right where they were. When the event was over, Moses and Elijah departed (a word used only once in the New Testament). When Paul made his trip to Paradise, he went somewhere but even he was unable to explain the physicality/non-physicality of it all…

The trip to heaven is not gained by a certain number of miles from a location but by a certain relationship with Jesus. Being in God’s presence is not spatial but spiritual, and if we really, really, really believe that (with all the curious implications that arise), then we will not say, “One day I’m going to be with God.” Instead, we will say, “I am with God right now.” And that reality will transform our life. I don’t know how near Moses and Elijah still were to Peter, James, and John when the Transfiguration ended. I don’t know how close the cloud of witnesses are to us presently. I don’t know how it works later in Hebrews 12 that the author says we come into the presence of angels, spirits, and Jesus when we worship (believing that would add reverence to our church services, wouldn’t it?).

But I do know this, Jesus said he is with us and will never leave. So Christian, no matter how lonely you feel in this life, remember the portions of the Bible where Jesus supernaturally transcends time, space, and the physical laws we think run the world. Even if it seems as if no one is watching you run this race, realize you’ve got an audience you can’t see—the Greatest of whom being so close that he isn’t just by your side but he’s in your heart.

Farewell, 2022

Dear Christian,

As you look back over the past year, realize that Jesus is in control. The cries of society as well as the cries of your heart are all heard by him. As he rules this universe, he will exercise the same sovereignty in 2023 that he did in 2022. Though it may appear as if your cries are not heard, you can be confident that he is listening.

Perhaps one thing you can cry out to him about is your desire to live for him in such a way that you begin to say, “My life is not my own. I have been bought with a price. To be with Christ is far better.” Some people will not understand those thoughts, so it’s best to not even tell them. Instead, live as a citizen of heaven. Read Revelation 21–22, take a peek at where Jesus is ruling from, and live as if you have already caught a glimpse of the place that he has already prepared for you.

May that sight encourage you as you go into 2023 by faith.