The Church…

Have you considered what the church is?


The more I consider the meaning and the significance of what it means to be included in both the invisible church of God and the visible church the more important it has become to belong to church that does church the right way.  As a Protestant, we of course would draw a distinction between the edifice we call the church and the people we call the church.  I remember a conversation I had close to fifteen years ago with a gentleman who had been nearly ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, he said:

“You Christians do not even have a proper church… you don’t even need a building to have a church service, yet you call yourselves a church?  We have churches.  We have the buildings in which we perform the mass.  All you need is a tent and some chairs and you call that a church”.

Even though I was a very young Christian at the time, all that I remember saying was, “Amen”.  

Of course the church is more than building it is the people.  But what is the purpose and the reason to have a church service? Why do we as believers of the one true God need to assemble?  It is now possible to sit at my desk in pajamas with a cup of coffee while listening to the morning service at the mega-church of my choice.  That somehow doesn’t seem to fit in with what the Bible tells us of these assemblies and what they were for.  

I seem to have more questions than answers…

Is the church service only meant for the believer?

Should a non-believer participate in singing worship songs?

Is the service meant to evangelize to the lost or teach the sheep?

How should we dress?

How often to have communion?

How should the pastor present the word of God, through stories and jokes?  

Should the message be dumbed down?

Should offensive or hard passages no longer be read from the pulpit?

Should we have a pulpit?

Should the worship music be about a great performance rather leading the people in the worship of God?

How loud is too loud when it comes to worship?

Can the pastor really know all of his flock?

Is a big church bad for true believer?

Is it really possible for a church to start in the shallow end and more than ten years later be even shallower than when it first started?

All comments and additional questions welcome.

How many of you are as guilty as me in saying that Christianity is not religion but a relationship?

But is that true?  Is Christianity more about a personal relationship with God than it is about religion?  The more I read my Bible and the more I learn the less I am am inclined to say that Christianity is a relationship rather than religion.  Many times there is a confusion that arises from the direct relationship that the apostles had with Jesus and the “relationship” we have with Jesus.  We do not have the same tangible Jesus that the apostles had.  We are two thousand years separated from the Judea that Jesus walked in.  He doesn’t come to our parties to turn water into wine, he doesn’t go bass fishing with us and he doesn’t go around healing people and getting the people in power at upset at him.  


Jesus is Lord…

Not my homeboy.  There is a great chasm between the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus that is being proclaimed in many churches.  In many churches he is presented as a hippie that is all about flowers and peace & love and carrying a lamb over his shoulders.  Worship songs, or those that pass as worship songs turn Jesus into some sappy boyfriend.  He is not my boyfriend, I don’t love him like that.  He is not the guy I go to the movies with or the guy I sit around and smoke a cigar with while cracking jokes and passing gas.  He is not just my savior but my Lord.  God is not an old bearded grandfatherly figure but the Almighty Lord God, creator of all.  

Living in the US, we do not have a real understanding of what it means to have a sovereign lord.  We are pampered, living in this nation, a constitutional republic.  We have never in our short history ever had a king to rule over us.  We Christians sometimes forget about the lordship of Jesus, the deity of Jesus.  The only we can even have a relationship with God that is not one of wrath is through the penal substitution that Christ accomplished at the cross.  The unrepentant sinner is not without a relationship to God, it’s just that his is a relationship of wrath.  If Christ is truly our Lord than everything we have and are must be in subordination to him that bought us.  We want a savior but how many of us truly want a lord?  Even in our regeneration we impugn the truth.  How many who claim to be saved think they gained their salvation by asking Jesus into their heart?  Jesus does not come into our hearts to make us saved, he sits at the right hand of God, reigning in glory.  


The only means by which we can have a relationship with God that does not include his wrath is by the work of Christ on the cross.  Jesus never said to repent because he loved you, the apostles never went around converting the gentiles by saying that God had a wonderful plan for their lives, to believe because God loved them.  We come close to God by the dispensing of his word on Sunday, by the partaking of the sacraments and by the water baptism.  We have a copy of his revelation to us, many of us have more than one!  God has limited the means by which we can have a relationship with him, any other way and we may just be piles of dust.  

Personal relationships tend to make a mockery of the objective truth that is the gospel.  To claim a personal relationship is to create your own religion.  This sort of subjectivity leads to unfalsifiable truth claims about what you believe Jesus to be rather than what the Bible says.

Jesus is not your buddy, he is the almighty sovereign LORD.  When we come near to him in prayer or worship we need to be reverent of the work that he willingly accomplished.  He took upon himself the wrath and punishment that he himself demanded in order for us to be in communion with him.  The closer we draw to him, the greater our sin is magnified, the more we should treat our savior and our lord with proper reverence. 

It has been quite a while since last I posted something. I have been a little busy and have spent some time trying to get used to my new job and new schedule.  I enjoy writing late at night and my new position doesn’t really offer me the opportunity to stay up writing until one or two in the morning, but as I get used to my new job I may be more inclined to staying up late.  Or I can just get used to writing earlier in the evening.


As I’ve stated already I have a new job.  I also have a new camera, a Nikon D80.  I liked my friend’s D300 so much I had to have a new camera.  A lot of the nice pics that I have posted here have been taken with Mario’s D300.  It is my first digital camera as I have been a film purist for many years.  I still think my TLR Rolleiflex is better than most cameras available today.  Look for new pics!


I have three Bibles at Abba Bible Designs in Mexico for rebinding. If you are not familiar with Abba, take a look at some of their work at Mark Bertrand’s blog, here, here, here, and here.  From these articles and pictures, I am waiting like a kid at Christmas for my Bibles to arrive.  I am pretty sure they are done binding them, now I just have to wait for the transit time.  In case you are curious in what is being rebound I sent my PSR ESV, USB GNT 4th Edition with Dictionary and a NASB LArge Print Thinline.  All of these Bibles started with a sewn binding.  They are all being done in calfskin.  The ESV will be in red, the GNT in burgundy and the NASB will be in a dark brown… at least thats what I had requested.  Look for a review and pics at Mark Bertrand’s Bible Design Blog.  As soon as I get them in, of course.


The “Is Smoking A Sin?” entry doesn’t seem to die, sadly the comments have been a lot of the same emotionality without any real substance.


I have two new coffees in.  One is a Harar from Ethiopia and the other is Mokha Mattari from Yemen.  I will be reviewing them soon and I also plan to start a series on home roasting coffee.


I do have several ideas for entries and as soon as I have a little more time I will be posting more.  I need to finish my work on Romans 9 as well as my intended work on the atonement.


Until next time, may God be merciful upon us all.


jesus saenz


I want to thank those who have emailed me to ask how I was doing!  Thank you for your concern.


Sung by Luciana Souza


La disculpa no es un regalo propio para

celebrar tú cumpleaños

Primero fue el envio, que nunca fue enviado

y despues

La cena, a cual no tengo disculpa

por no ir

Pero no todo es pérdida

Hice tiempo para el postre

y para la conversación

Cón la nariz

llena de primavera

de fresas y hierbabuena

Y los oidos llenos

de tus risas

Y mis ojós llenos

de tú perfil

Como si el cumpleaños fuera mío

ESV Study Bible

Crossway has just launched the website for the new ESV Study Bible, the Bible is set to be released in October of 2008.  Check it out here.


Features of this new edition include:

  • 25,000 plus notes
  • Over 40 color illustrations
  • Over 200 full color maps
  • 200 plus maps
  • 80,000 cross-references
  • Over 100 articles and introductions

More importantly, in my opinion, is the high quality with which Crossway has planned into the production.

  • All editions will have a Smythe sewn binding
  • Printed on high-opacity, high-quality paper.  This means no bleed through!
  • The text is in single column, 9pt.  The notes are double column 7.25pt
  • Full color maps and feature articles throughout.

The ESV Study Bible will be available in 8 editions.  Hardcover, two TruTone, two bonded leather, two genuine leather and a calfskin.  Thats right, a calfskin edition right out of the starting gates!

TruTone Brown

Although I recommend the use of a study Bible, I haven’t really used mine as of late(Reformation Study Bible, 1599 Geneva Bible.)  From a cursory view of this edition, I look forward to owning one and making good use of it.

Sample page

Sample page

F. Garcia Lorca

I reviewed my new acquisition for J. Mark Bertrand’s Bible Design and Binding Blog.

Click here for the review.


Starbucks launching “everyday” coffee in U.S.

By Lisa BaertleinTue Apr 8, 5:51 AM ET

In a bid to reinvigorate lackluster U.S. traffic, Starbucks Corp will introduce a new, everyday brew called Pike Place Roast on Tuesday and for 30 minutes will hand out free 8-ounce (240 ml) samples.

Free cups of the new coffee, which the company said has a smoother flavor and finish, will be available starting at 9 a.m. on the West Coast and noon on the East Coast at all its roughly 7,100 company-operated U.S. stores.

“It is the best coffee that we have created, maybe, in our history,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz said on a call with reporters on Monday.

Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks master coffee blender, said in a separate call that Pike Place and Pike Place decaffeinated would be offered daily, along with a third bold-style brew from a rotating list.

Starbucks had previously served a different coffee each week, which Linnemann said was confusing to some customers. With Pike Place, Starbucks will deliver drip coffee that is the same, regardless of the day or location.

The company is also focusing on freshness, using freshly ground beans and brewing coffee in smaller batches, with the coffee getting from roaster to sale in seven days.

Linnemann declined to reveal the source of the beans used in Pike Place, named for the company’s original outlet in Seattle and which will sell for $9.95 per pound (450 grams).

The new brew will roll out in domestic markets only and Linnemann said Starbucks was evaluating what brews would be best for international markets.

Traffic in U.S. Starbucks stores has slowed in recent months amid a broader economic downturn and stiffer competition from companies such as McDonald’s Corp, which is aggressively targeting the specialty-brewed coffee market that Starbucks helped establish.

Last year, the efforts of McDonald’s got a boost when Consumer Reports rated the hamburger joint’s drip coffee best.

Tasters from the consumer magazine said of McDonald’s brew: “Decent and moderately strong. Although it lacked the subtle top notes needed to make it rise and shine, it had no flaws.”

Starbucks got a harsher review, with tasters calling its coffee “strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open.”

Schultz said Starbucks was going back to its roots with Pike Place after years of focusing on espresso.

“This is not about competition, this is about Starbucks. What others are doing is not the story,” Schultz said.

Starbucks shares fell 19 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $18.31 on the Nasdaq.

Yahoo News article


It is becoming quite apparent that Starbucks is no longer the only game in town if you are looking for a good cup of coffee and they are beginning to feel the pressure. I am biased against Starubucks but not for any other reason than the fact that their coffee is bad(and overpriced).

If Starbucks is touting their new coffee blend as being smoother both in the taste and finish, as well possibly being their best blend yet, then they are way behind the curve.

Allow me to give a brief presentation on roasting coffee:

There are several factors that go into the final taste of cup of coffee. The main ingredients being the water, the brew method and the most important is the coffee itself. The coffee bean is harvested as a cherry, the “fruit” hull is then removed by any number of methods, each of which will affect the flavor of the coffee. The two major processes being a wet-process and a dry-process. Coffee grown in different regions will have different flavors, not just from country to country but even from farm to farm in the same region. Not just that, there are different varietals that will have a different flavor from one to the other.

As if that wasn’t enough, once the coffee cherry has been harvested and the hull has been removed and the bean has been allowed to ferment, the next major process is the roasting itself. Here is where the rubber meats the road. This where one can take the best coffee harvested that season and turn it into something undrinkable. There is no magic time and temperature for every kind of coffee. An island coffee like Jamaica Blue Mountain or Hawaiian Kona will NOT take the same amount of heat that a coffee from Yemen can take. If the coffee is roasted too fast it will not have developed any complexity, if it is roasted too long it tastes baked. There are stages of roast, or color that a roaster becomes familiar with, phrases like City, City+, Full City, Vienna, etc. are part of the trade. Some roasters even roast specifically for the type of brewing method one uses.

So… why all the hullabaloo with Starbucks? Starbucks coffee tends to be over-roasted, no matter what it is. Once the coffee has been over-roasted it looses it’s characteristic flavors and it all begins to taste the same. When that happens, you loose all the blueberry or dried fruit notes of the Harar, or the citrusy finish of a Yirgachaffe or the… you get the picture? Coffee is an amazing and complex drink that should not be mistreated.

Not just that, coffee is pretty much stale after two weeks of being roasted and is only good for less than two hours after having been ground.

So what is the serious connoisseur of coffee to do? Roast your own coffee!

Poem by Quincy Troupe, read by the author

Brian Thornton of the Voice of the Sheep blog has a three part(so far) series on how to be born again

Part one

Part two

Part three

I would like to add to this fine series with my own contribution

This is your heart


This is your heart after you repeat the sinners prayer


Does the passage in Romans 9 teach national or individual election?

I was listening to a debate on Iron Sharpens Iron, hosted by Chris Arnzen, between Dr. F. LeGard Smith and Dr. Lawrence Carrino. It was a five hour debate that took place over five days on the one hour radio show. Dr. Smith held the position opposing Calvinism while Dr. Carrino was in support of it. Dr. Smith once again provided another example of a semi-Pelagian who distorts the Calvinists understanding of salvation. One of the things that stood out to me was Dr. Smith’s assertion that Romans 9 is about national election and not individual election. He never did an exegesis of any scripture to prove his point, he merely asserted it. You can hear his view of Romans 9 during show one and during his closing arguments on show four. You can also add Dr. Smith to the list of people who claim Calvinism is heretical.






Context of Chapter 9

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

The Apostle Paul is being very emphatic in vv 1-3 in regards his feelings for Israel and their state of reprobation. In the opening verse he employs both Christ and the Holy Spirit in the truth behind his claim that he would wish to take the place of his Jewish brothers, that he would be the one accursed in place of the them. It’s clear that Paul has a deep love and regard for his brothers but he also makes a distinction. In v. 3b, he clarifies that the Jews are his brothers, not of the spirit but of the flesh. This is very important especially in what he will go on to say later in this chapter but also later in his letter, especially in the following two chapters.

In vv. 4,5 Paul begins to make the claim as to the importance of the history of being an Israelite. It was Israel to whom the adoption, glory, the law, worship and the covenants by whom the patriarchy was established through whom the Christ came. In two brief verses, Paul has made a claim for the importance of being an ethnic Jew for it is through them that God has decided to enter into communion with and not anyone else.

If Paul wrote of the importance of the ethnicity in vv. 4,5 why was he so emphatic in vv. 1-3 about wishing to take the place of the accursed Israelites who are cut off from Christ? Because of what vv. 6, 7 tell us.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

I want to address the immediate implication of the fact that not all who are ethnic Israel are Israel, and just in case you didn’t get it the first time, Paul again states that not all who can claim to be the progeny of Abraham are his offspring therefore the promises are not theirs. The reason for Paul’s emphatic appeal to  take the place of his brothers of the flesh, not the spirit, was that they were accursed and cut of from Christ because although the promises were meant for them it is not a physical people or an ethnic people to whom the promises belong but to a people of the promise, a spiritual people.

If we are to take a national meaning in the interpretation of these passages from the first part of Romans 9, it would turn the meaning upside down. In v. 3 we get the first usage of the pronouns in question, “my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Paul is speaking in terms of the individuals within the nation of Israel whom are his brothers. From the beginning of the chapter he is using pronouns when speaking of the individuals. It is the individuals that are separated and accursed not the entire nation of Israel. If it was the nation that was cut off and accursed that would have some serious covenantal implications. How can it be said that this passage has to do with nations rather than individuals when there were covenant promises for the nation?

This would be a problem for one who holds to Dispensational Theology. If there isn’t a distinction between the Church and Israel, then there is no problem with ethnic Israel being accursed and cut off from Christ as the true believers, both Jew and Gentile would still hold claim to the covenant promises. Paul makes sure to clear this up by saying that not all the descendants of Abraham are the children of Abraham and not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. The true Israel is not that of the flesh, like Ishmael but rather they are of the promise as Isaac. Clearly this language is of individuals and not nations.

Backtracking to chapter 8

What is Paul speaking of regarding the failure of the word of God? For that, we have to go back to chapter 8, remembering that chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original manuscripts so that there is no break between chapters. The promise is that of adoption and perseverance and eventually glorification. More importantly it is these promises that are made to individuals not nations.

By following along with the context, grammar and syntax as well as the verbs and pronouns we can clearly see that the promises are for individuals and not for nations and the theme continues through to chapter 9. In v. 1 of chapter 8, it is individuals that are in Christ and individuals that are set free in Christ(v. 2) v. 4 speaks of the righteous requirements of the law and although the law was given to the nation of Israel the fulfillment of the law under the old covenant administration was by the individual. That is, the individual was the one who had to go to the temple to offer a sacrifice during the Passover, etc.

vv. 12-17 further emphasize the fact that this is about individuals and not nations. Does it not follow that when Paul uses the pronoun brothers, he is speaking of individuals for who can make the claim that brothers is ever used of nations? Or what of the use of sons in v. 14, adoption in v. 15 , the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit in v. 16 or what of v. 17 and the use of heirs, fellow heirs, suffer with him and glorified with him? These nouns and verbs clearly demonstrate that this is about individuals. Nations do not suffer with Christ nor are they glorified with him, nations are never mentioned as sons nor are they adopted nor does the Spirit bear witness with the spirit of a nation, these are all personal nouns and verbs.

To continue answering about the word of God not failing as was mentioned in v. 6 of chapter 9, Paul gives us the Golden Chain of Redemption. It is not the full Ordo Salutis, or order of salvation but we have a very lucid passage of the sovereignty of God in salvation.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

I first want to make note of the subject of the vv. as well as the predicates. God is the subject and it is he that is doing the calling(v. 28) foreknowing, predestining and conforming(v. 29) finally it is God that is calling, justifying and glorifying(v. 30). Again, this is God whom is doing these things to individuals and not nations. If we try and make the application here to nations we lose the context, grammar and syntax. The use of foreknew is as a verb and not a noun, as many would like for it to mean foreknowledge. God did not call, predestine, conform, justify and glorify on the basis of him knowing who would respond in faith but rather it is an intimate foreknowledge of the elect. This will be further clarified in v. 11 of chapter 9.

From vv. 31-39 we have the promise of perfection and of perfect salvation to those whom God has called according to his purpose, and it is for this reason that Paul emphasizes his sorrow for the lost Israelites but also is sure to identify the true recipients of these promises and it is those whom God has called in the same manner as he called Jacob, both Jew and Gentile.

Back to chapter 9

8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

This continues the theme of individuals and not nations as it would be impossible to fit a national paradigm into this verse. More importantly are the implications regarding the children of promise. The child of the flesh and the one of promise are allusions to Issac and Ishmael. God did not accept Ishmael as the child of the promise, thus it is said that he is the child of the flesh while Isaac was the child of the promise(Gal. 4:23-28) thus all believers are children of the promise as well.

9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

This is the hinge upon which this whole chapter turns. Is Paul speaking of nations, Israel and Edom or is he speaking specifically of the twins? The context up to this point has been of individuals, the verses leading up to this passage have been of individuals. In v. 8 it is individuals who are the children of God not nations therefore v. 9 is speaking specifically of Isaac, Jacob and Esau. There is no mention of national election or national privilege but of the election of said individuals. God made a promise to Abram(Gen. 15) that he would give to Abram a male heir and from this male heir he would have offspring that could not be counted! And this is the saving faith of Abraham, that he would be given a son of promise by whom his offspring would be many nations. The fulfillment of this is the grafting in of the Gentiles into the tree of Israel, but the Gentiles are not grafted in as nations but as individuals. There are no elect nations outside of Israel and the true Israel is made up of both Jew and Gentile.
In v. 10 we have the implications of the children of promise from v. 8 in that the children of the promise are a specific group. That is why God did not accept Ishmael as the child of the promise, the promise was specific to Isaac though he was not yet born. The children of the promise, those whom can be called the children of God are a specific group having been elected before the foundations of the world(Eph. 1:4-5.)

Furthermore, v. 11 speaks specifically to those who wold claim that election is based on individual selection. That God looks down the corridor of time to see who would have faith and therefore he elects based on personal choice is utterly ridiculous based on v. 11 alone. It is a two-fold cudgel with which Paul smashes the man centered notion that God merely reacts to our choice of faith. First he states that God’s election is not based on anything that has been done, either good or bad because God has elected before the twins were even born. God did not look down the corridor of time to see who would do anything by which he can then choose one or the other. Much more than that, Paul has already told us about the condition of man, that there none who are righteous and not one who seeks after God(3:10-12) but they cannot even do anything to please God(8:7-8.) It was not necessary for God to look to see who would do good or bad since there isn’t a single person capable of doing good in the sight of God.  This why the use of “foreknew” of 8:29 is not of the foreknowledge of God but rather it is of the intimate knowledge of his elect.

The second part of this two-fold statement is that of the sovereignty of God in choosing whom he wills to choose. It is God’s purpose, God’s election and God’s calling. There is no mention of man’s will or his purpose only of God’s will and purpose. Just as with Jacob, he was not a good man, he usurped his brother’s birthright and blessings. Jacob traded lentil stew to his brother Esau for his birthright even though Esau was exhausted unto death(Gen.25:29-34.) Jacob later deceitfully takes Esau’s blessing and Isaac tells Esau that he will serve his brother, Jacob(Gen. 27.) It is when we begin to see the sinfulness of man, how utterly incapable he is of doing what is good in the sight of God that we can appreciate his love. It is not surprising that God hated Esau, what should be surprising to us is that he loved Jacob.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.