April 30, 2007

Why Do You Think That Is?

OK! I'd like to change things up here a bit. I'm REALLY interested to hear folks take on this article by Dr. Frank Page.

Read the article and then leave your comments here (remember civility and Christlike decor) on the question: "Why do think that is?"

"Where's The Heart Of Jesus In This?"

You would think a pastor would be having this probing question as he prepares a sermon. But rather, it's a quote from this interview with Kathy Traccoli at Christianity Today.

I think these are two pretty good paragraphs:

I think we have incredible talent out there. I love that you have the Third Days, the Relient Ks and all this amazing array of artists that I never dreamed 25 years ago would happen. I loved that we have the Chris Tomlins that are creating unbelievable contemporary worship for the church. But what I'll always be afraid for—and I challenge myself on this—is to make sure that Jesus and a lot of what he represents is sacred.

All these young groups coming up are finding their way, just like I was. I just hope and pray that we'll continue to have strong ambassadors, strong characters in the Christian music scene. There's such a fine line in the business and the ministry, I don't think you can ever truly combine the two. There's always an element of Madison Avenue that has to happen. I pray that we don't lose ourselves to the point where we have to ask, "Where's the heart of Jesus in this?"

God - Forgive Me For My Narrow Minded View Of My So Called "Hardships"

When I read stories like this, I realize I've sacrificed or suffered nothing for the cause of Christ. I also stand humiliated at my lack of fervor to pray for those who are being persecuted.

To read more on the subject, you can visit here as well!

UPDATE: Apparently, some of the information in the first letter was a bit pre-mature and un-substantiated. You can read the final letter here:

For All The A's Without B's

Here's a sermon you REALLY need to listen to!

It can be one of the most gutwrenching times you ever go through, but being single does not have to be without joy! And for the married folks in the room, sometimes the moments you cherish most are good afternoons ALONE (especially if you have young kids).

Thank God for single people and for their flexibility and time availability. They are invaluable to the spreading of the Gospel!

UPDATE: You can go to Desiring God here and get more information on this topic.

Money And Lust - Yeaaaa They Need Talked About Too!

Couple of good posts today on "frugality" (Tim Challies) and "modest dress by the ladies" (Pyromaniacs)

Honestly, both are subjects that very few people today get right. These are two really good posts that have a solid biblical foundation undergirding them, even if the theology isn't expressly given in the post itself.

Here's my take on both posts: Quit buying stuff and no more prom dresses at my church on Sunday Mornings!

The Doctor On Revival

Adrian Warnock posts today on Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones views of revival and spiritual awakening.

Compare those with this description of revival that I posted on a few days ago..

It's amazing to me how much more comforting and re-assuring things are when I can know that God is who I need to turn to rather than my own ability to do stuff.

April 29, 2007

I Ask You - What's Wrong With This Video?

I'll join the blogosphere in bringing attention to this church planting video by Mark Driscoll.

Consequently, the video was banned at the conference that ASKED for Mark to put it together. This was the conference and you can read Marks' thoughts on it here.

All because someone criticized it from the stage. (You'll figure out which someone that was). Great video with a great message.

It's Happened To All Of Us, If We'll Just Admit It

There's no doubt in my mind that most people in the ministry, either local church or para-church, go through this at some point in time in their life. The key paragraph here I believe is:

I opened my heart and invited everyone inside. The message that Sunday was unembellished: no humor, no quotes, no poems. It was void of clever sayings orpoints starting with the same letter. But the message was true. I held nothing back. It was the biggest public risk I'd ever taken. It was also my first authentic sermon, the first time the real me made a showing. In the middle of my talk, something happened, something new …

If they'd teach you that in seminary, and to always keep Jesus as the center of the sermon, preaching would be much more fruitful!

Would You Marry Unbelievers?

That's the question of this post.

To be honest, when I first read this article a few days ago, I really didn't know how to process this issue. I've thought about it, ran it through several Biblical filters and here's where I land right now. It's wrong. And there's a reason why a good many pastors will not do a marriage ceremony for two unbelievers.

Let's start with two pretty key paragraphs of the article:

Traditionally, many pastors choose not to perform a wedding ceremony for unbelievers. A Christian wedding is a time of commitment—man to woman, before God and the church. Therefore, it makes sense for a minister of God to reject two people who are not part of the church and don't conform to Christian standards. These people are outside acceptable boundaries of the marriage institution, and many Christian pastors won't support such a union.But would you serve this couple asking for help on their wedding day? I wholeheartedly would. I believe God created the institution of marriage long before our Christian faith developed conditions or boundary markers for it. And in our country, marriage is a legal contract. Couples get married all the time without the church, and they will continue getting married with or without our help. Here's a few reasons why I believe you and I, as Christian pastors, should welcome this responsibility.

Let's talk about the statement: "God created the institution of marriage long before our Christian faith developed conditions or boundary markers for it"

Didn't God's command in the Garden and creation itself set the boundaries for marriage and really all of life. I'm not sure of the logic here or the reasoning behind the statement, but it seems false. God gave Eve to Adam and ordered them to be fruitful and multiply. At that time, still perfect, still sinless, in God's design for marriage if you were. Then the fall, then corruption of not just marriage but all of life in general, thus necessitating Jesus.

Now, onto the next sentence: "Couples get married all the time without the church, and they will continue getting married with or without our help."

Well okay, if that's really the logic you want to use, then we can make this argument all the time about sin and unbelievers. Let's just say that "they're gonna get drunk anyway, so WE might as well be the bartenders so at least they have a Christian influence while they're imbibing" Is it just me, or does that line of reasoning sound utterly ridiculous when you frame it in any other life context.

Now onto the really damaging paragraph in the article:
"If two unchurched people are living together, pastors cannot expect them to cease living in a way the couple thinks is right. Instead of placing conditions upon them—"I will not officiate your wedding unless you two stop co-habiting"—we as pastors should help them move toward a marriage commitment, and therein, help them take another positive step toward Christ."

You can't place conditions on them? You can't possibly call them to repentance can you? You can't ask them to stop sinning? Really? Are you serious? Sin all you want, and we'll be there to condone the behavior. That's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. And if you say, well Jesus didn't ask people to stop sinning before he helped them, you're wrong. Not only did he help them, he most certainly said on numerous occasions: "Go and sin no more".

And by the way, marriage isn't an institution. It's a covenant. One God has joined together.

Let's look at this through the lens of the Gospel. How can God possibly take delight in joining two unbelieving people who stand as objects of wrath in their unrepentant, unregenerate state. How in the world can that possibly happen. And I further the argument that the whole idea of marrying unbelievers becomes more palatable as you weaken the Gospel and begin to turn it into a good or service to be consumed or accepted on man's terms.

One final paragraph, and this certainly speaks volumes of the author: "I urge you to consider planting such seeds of faith in unbelieving couples seeking your help. I echo Rob Bell when he says in his book, Velvet Elvis (Zondervan), "I am learning that the church is at its best when it gives itself away."

That pretty much says it all. Your helping them couldn't possibly be sharing the Gospel and calling them to repentance. Your helping them couldn't possibly be lovingly declining to lower God's standards and condone a marriage of two people who don't understand what marriage truly is. Nope your help has to be pushing them into a committment they'll never be able to keep and to further a life apart from Jesus.

If it's a legal contract, then let the courts do it. If it's to be honoring to God, if it's a God ordained covenant, if it's a Biblical "institution", then encourage them to slow down, examine the Gospel, and go from there. That's the most caring, loving, pastorally correct, and Biblically sound thing you can do.

April 28, 2007

It Was Going So Good! And Then...Welll....

Let's just say that I once again noticed a familiar refrain in this article.

As I was reading it, I came across this passage and got really excited:

The evangelistic strategy will be "flexible, multifaceted," Page said. It will encompass "the more traditional people within our convention and the more contemporary or non-traditional people, old and young, various styles and philosophies of evangelism and church planting, Calvinists, non-Calvinists, various people groups ethnically and various groups from the geographical areas across our country

Wow...you had me at Hello! I was fired up, excited, and anxious to read more. Perhaps, things were headed in the right direction. And, as almost always in the case, the high point was indeed followed by a less than stellar rest of the article. I read this and realized just how little is really going to change:
Asked if he believes revival in the SBC is possible, Page said he does, noting that God voices "no equivocation" in 2 Chronicles 7:14. "I am convinced that the way to turn it around -– [struggles the SBC is having with] baptisms, soul-winning, church transformation -– is going to be through a movement from God that 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us must be prefaced by our humbling, praying, seeking His face and repentance," Page said.It is probable that "in our current culture we're going to continue being in love with things, activities that are not of God, priorities that pull us away," Page said. "I believe God wants us to have a broken heart. And so far, I've seen no broken hearts except on rare occasions."But if enough of God's people get serious about those requirements [in 2 Chronicles 7:14], those prescriptions for revival, then I believe revival can occur," Page said

Do you see the problem with this prescription. It is all based on MAN's ability. If man watches less pornography, then we'll see true revival. If man spends his family into debt less, then we'll see revival. If man cuts off fewer people in traffic, then we'll see revival.

The only problem is that MAN CAN'T BRING REVIVAL and focusing on NOT DOING THINGS is NOT the path to revival. It simply isn't. Search the whole article and you'll see the name of Jesus exactly ZERO times. NONE. ZILCH. NADA.

If we are going to see revival, it has to be by falling in love with Jesus and talking about HIM incessantly and painting Him as powerful and as beautiful as he is. And the crazy thing about that, is that Jesus controls every bit of it. I agree with Dr. Page that prayer is the key. Passionate prayer for Jesus to do something only He can do. God, grant me a heart of flesh. God, take my heart of stone. Jesus, be my righteousness. JESUS, JESUS, JESUS. Maybe if we talked more about Jesus, The Whole Jesus, and Nothing But Jesus and less about strategies, we'd see a spiritual fervor and honoring of God that we desire.

It will not come about by following the Law better.

Amen To That

Just got done reading a blog posting from Josh Harris. Needless to say, I think sometimes we can all fall into this trap. Especially when it comes to the work of evangelism.

Never for a moment should we think that if we somehow, in our human ineptness and rebellion, fail to share Christ with someone, that their eternal destiny might hang in the balance because of it.

April 27, 2007

Sharing The Gospel With Children

Since this is the mission of my life, I had a real interest in this message. It was delivered yesterday at the Childrens Desiring God Conference and is just a phenomenal insight into how to really teach children to see Jesus for who he is.

It's about an hour long. Once again, if you download it and play it at 1.4X speed, it only takes about 30 minutes. And will be 30 minutes well spent.

UPDATE: Here's the link to the written outline and notes as well.

April 26, 2007

Somehow - This Just Isn't A Shock

Did you ever really have a doubt in your mind after watching just an hour of coverage? Here's and excerpt from this article:

TBN "sits on a $340 million cash hoard and owns houses in an exclusive Orange County, Calif., community hidden behind very regal gates," ABC reported. "They control a mansion worth about $4 million, and an even bigger one -- over 10,000 square feet -- that's worth about $6 million. The Crouches also travel the world in a jet worth a reported $7 million."
UPDATE: Now I just won't be able to enjoy the box of cookies like I used to!

April 25, 2007

May God Have Mercy On Me

For my apathy and my rebellion. May he grant me a heart and passion that hates that which is evil and clings to that which is good.

That's all I could think of after reading this: Let The Python Eat Its Tail. Amen.

Father, forgive me! For apart from you, I am a man capable and willing to do anything that my flesh desires to do. Apart from you, I am a murderer, fornicator, idolator. Cause me to walk with You. Cause me to love You in ways and fervor that I never have before.

Ahhh Musicians...They're The Woist!

I really don't have a good reason for posting this other than it had some really peculiar parts to the interview.

It's an interview with Neal Morse on Christianity Today where he talks about his latest album Sola Scriptura. Being the reformed being that I am, I checked it out. What's so interesting is how this interview proves out something Tim Keller said last fall at the Desiring God National Conference and that is:

In today's post-modern world, if we dont' slow down and get the Gospel in deep, people are going to take what you share and grab bits and pieces that they want and they will leave the rest and you will be left with a hodge-podge of theological beliefs that does not even come close to traditional Christian Orthodoxy.

I found it be an interesting read as I think it's representative of a LOT of Christians today. Right on some stuff, really wrong on a lot of stuff.

Bet Ya You Can't Read Just One!

Wow! God chose today to really be a good day of blog posts all around the sphere. As best I can, I'll collect em in a list here and you can read to your hearts content:

This is just good stuff and good for me day in and day out. I am extremely grateful for these bloggers.

April 23, 2007

Seeing And Savoring Jesus Christ

As always, anytime you get to listen to preaching like this, you really do need to take advantage of it. It would take you mere minutes to download every message.

Listen to it in Windows Media Player, speed it up to 1.4X speed, and a 50 minute sermon takes only 25 - 30 minutes to hear. Use it for a devotional each day and see if it doesn't enrich your communion with Christ.

April 22, 2007

Is This Truly A Call To Revival?

Or is this a call to follow the law better . As I read the article, one thing really struck me and that was the the name of Jesus is not mentioned ONE time in the article. GOD is mentioned, but not Jesus.

Now isn't that a hair strange to you? If we are to see revival in our land and see a move of the Holy Spirit, don't you think that Jesus would factor into that equation somehwere?

I could easily see where someone comes away from this article thinking that the conditions leading to revival are: 1) Give Money To The Church 2) Quit Sinning

Sounds like a pretty easy equation, until you leave the blood of Jesus spilled at the cross completely out of it. If we are going to see a new fervor amongst American Christianity it will be because we have recaptured the Gospel from this law following approach. The Gospel is the beauty and horror of the lamb slain on the cross and the peace and justification that won for us.

We must fall in love with Jesus anew. Then and only then, will our hearts be changed and conformed to His image.

Spurgeon, The Emergent Movement, And "Whosoever Will"

A pretty interesting trip around the blogosphere. Here are some posts you'll probably find interesting as you read.

Also, a great post here on where we must not give ground in our "contending for the faith".

April 21, 2007

Are There Apostles Today?

This was an interesting discussion that was had this weekend on a trip to Jacksonville, FL. My take has always been that the apostles of Jesus had a particular authority bestowed upon them by Jesus Himself by their encounters, discussions, and time spent with Him.

I contended that once John died on the Isle of Patmos, and the canon was closed, so too was the office of the apostle in the local church. While church planters, pastors, etc may fulfill certain aspects of an apostolic office, THE OFFICE of Apostle, held by the 12 and Paul is closed for good.

They held a particular authority to speak and establish things concering Christ. They were unique and unlike any other and have no direct successors.

For a more detailed handling of the question, I found this post to be very helpful.

I've Finished Reading "Living The Cross Centered Life"

Ok, so I'm probably late to the party on reading this book but as they say "better late than never". You know, as I read these kind of books, I wish I had known about them earlier. CJ Mahaney just does a great job giving us all a fantastic reminder why the cross should be central to the lives we lead and the thoughts we think.

The book is 14 Chapters long (154 pages) and is a fairly short read. But the message contained in its pages is nourishing to the soul and very helpful.

Mahaney takes you all the way from understanding what the Gospel really is and why it should be central to our lives to giving practical suggestions on how to keep the cross at the center of your daily life.

For perfectionists like me, there is a chapter in this book that was awesome. In it, Mahaney talks about why the Gospel breaks the bonds of legalism and how those who strive for spiritual performance for their justification before God can simply quit "spinning plates" as he calls it and look to the finished work of Jesus on the cross for their right standing before a Holy Creator. I need that more than I'll ever know and as Mahaney suggests, I need to preach it to myself every day.

Jesus died on a cross and bore the wrath I was meant to bear so that I might stand before the Father and have him look on me as he looks on His Son. I am 31 years old and don't have the slightest inclination that I fully and deeply understand this truth. But I pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit that each day brings new depth to my soul in regards to the cross.

April 20, 2007

Maybe It Is The Power Of God Unto Salvation

And not just the salvation of the individual soul, but perhaps the salvation of the entire denomination. Thabiti posts on an article critiquing how the SBC might once again be captured by the Gospel and see a restoration among it's ranks.

Also, Al Mohler has a great post on the VT massacre. It echos what I wrote in a comment to a posting here. Bottom line: You will never prevent evil from manifesting itself as long as we live prior to Christ's return.

April 19, 2007

Do Most Pastors Care This Much?

I was reading Thabiti's blog and he had a link at the end of his post that linked to Ligon Duncan's sermon preparation essay. As you read this, think to yourself and ask yourself this question:

At the church that I'm attending right now, based on what I hear on Sunday morning, do I believe that my pastor is this careful in handling the Word of God.

I'm gonna guess the answer (for the most part) is NO!. Which is sad because what Ligon Duncan does, while a methodology that works for him and not necessarily for everybody, shows that he appreciates and has apprehended the great responsibility and seriousness of preaching.

April 18, 2007

Baptisms Are Down In The SBC - Why Do You Think That Is?

There's a post over on the Founders blog talking about a Baptist Press article detailing that baptisms last year were at a 13 year low in the SBC.

The article brings out other issues as well but it's definitely a big "discussion" right now in the convention.

By The Mercies Of God

"Dear Father,

Thank you for hearing today from heaven and for your intervention in our world. We pray Lord that your Kingdom does indeed come, and that you come quickly. Come Lord Jesus, Come!"

For the millions who have prayed that our nation and our culture would cherish the sanctity of life, this has to be at least in some small way, a very gratifying and humbling moment. I pray that this is a watershed moment as was Pariliament with Wilberforce.

UPDATE: Great article here by Al Mohler.

Are The Doctrines Of Grace Heresy?

Here is a post you have got to check out. It seems that Mr. Falwell has some choice words for those who would subscribe to a certain view of the atonement. Well worth the three minutes to read.

April 17, 2007

Two New Places To Regularly Visit

I'm adding them to the "Things To Check Out List" but also wanted to post on them just in case.

9Marks Ministries - Helping churches rethink how they do church and they are right on the money in my opinion. To read more about who they are go here.

Thabiti Anyabwile - Is a former Muslim who was converted by the grace of God and is now a pastor of First Baptist Church in the Grand Cayman Islands. He is a great speaker and has a blog that you should definitely check out.

April 16, 2007

Dedicated To The Families & Loves Ones Of Those Who Perished Today In Blacksburg Virginia

He called it a tragedy and His words were so true
We all struggle to wonder How could someone do
Such horrible things that hurt so bad
That cause so many people to feel so sad

And yet we never seem to find
The answer to questions that haunt our minds
And are left with confusion inside of our heads
As we lay ourselves quietly down in our beds

And we’ll drift off to sleep tonight and wonder why
God didn’t reach down from heaven and stop this guy
Father how could you let him just blast away
And ruin this marvelous and wonderful day

We’ll put God on trial and say that he failed
As he did nothing as those poor people wailed
We’ll hate him and mock him and spit in his face
We’ll make sure that we put God back in His place

We’ll say to Him you can’t be trusted if you couldn’t stop this
We’ll raise our arms towards heaven and give God our fists
We’ll say to Him you’re worthless and you’re not loving at all
If you couldn’t protect kids inside of that hall

We’ll throw him away and we’ll never look back
He’s not divine at all, this Father’s just a hack
I’ve no use for Him if he is that weak
If that is your God, then the future is bleak

But stop for a while and look through the tears
And travel back with me over 2000 years
And you’ll find a man who knew what you feel
His hurt was authentic and his pain was truly real

He sat in a garden and sweat drops of blood
His tears fell like raindrops thus causing a flood
Of emotion and heartache not matched in its kind
A more gutwrenching experience you’ll never find

Because he was wrestling with one that he loved
His Father in Heaven who reigned from above
And he asked him a question that echoed in the sky
Dear Father oh Father, just please tell me why

It has to happen this way and I have to die
On a tree in the ground under your watchful eye
And be forsaken by you as I hang on a tree
How much more painful do you think this could be

And the answer that came was a curious one
I ask you to do this because you’re my Son
And I need you to die because of their sin
So that my wrath will not consume them ever again

And Jesus rose from the ground and looked straight ahead
Knowing that in a few hours he’s soon be dead
And he did it because of his love for all men
So that those who would believe would be with him again

And he died on a cross with nails in his hand
And forsaken by God in this desolate land
And laid in a tomb for over two days
But on the third one, from the dead he would raise

And he ascended into heaven and sat down on the throne
To make glory and mercy and his grace be well known
He did all the Father had asked him to do
And he did it for me and he did it for you

And he suffered and died so that you may well know
That when days like this happen he didn’t let go
Of the universe and let it spin out of control
He suffered just like you so he could save your soul

And he knows how you feel as you see it unfold
The pain and the horror of those who won’t now grow old
And he knows you have questions and still wonder why
He offers his hand to wipe tears from your eye

And says to you gently I know what it’s like
To feel that pain of the bullets, because my hands felt a spike
And I know what it is to feel scared and alone
But trust me my child I’m still on the throne

And while you may not understand it all right now
Someday you will see clearly and let me tell you how
Place your faith and trust in me and stay close to my side
Like those in the buildings, I once too have died

And by dying I won victory over all of this death
I won back my children who carry my very breath
All things will become clearer in the passage of time
Even though these events have no reason or rhyme

I am Jesus and I was on that campus today
I never left any of them during their darkest day
I sat right beside them as they faced their last hour
I could have stopped the bullets by the might of my Power

But I chose to make a very different choice
I chose to speak to them with a very different voice
So I scooped them up in my loving tender arms
And took them to a place where they could never again be done harm
As they fell to the ground and lay lifeless in that place
I showed them the beauty and radiance of my holy face

I know it seems hard and you may not understand
But the events of today are part of a greater plan
And you won’t grab ahold of what all that will mean
Until you too face that hour and my face you have seen

So rest easy tonight and know in your soul
That I am still here and still in control
And have promised to work all these things for good
Just as I did 2000 years ago, just as I said I would.

Ten Great Christian Biographies To Read

That's the title of a blog post by Dr. Mohler at his blog. It seems he may have been reading this post perhaps? Then again....Maybe not!

April 15, 2007

Great Reformed Reading For The Week

First off, let me say this: The people that you'll find here absolutely rock. They are the greatest group of people on the planet to work for and I'm proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

We are laboring in the strength that God supplies to see this happen. We had a tremendous weekend in Ohio ministering to laypeople and church staff in encouraging them in their ministries. I pray that it was fruitful.

So without further adue, here are some things you definitely need to check out!

- A great blog post on justification and holiness

- The practical implication of Calvinism

- Predestination for God's glory - A Study of Ephesians 1: 3-14

- A great post about Christian Unity

- All you need to know about Christ's substitutionary atonement on the cross

That's five readings and one could easily be done a day. But if you're like me, you want to read them all now.

April 13, 2007

What Really Happened At The Cross?

Al Mohler, president of Southern Theological Seminary, recently wrote an article on the cross. In it, he responds to a view taken by a minister in the Church of England who had a decidedly different view than Mohler did.

To read the full article, you can go here. Below is an excerpt:

What Dr. John repudiates is precisely what the Bible teaches. The Bible does not merely assert that Christ died on the cross for our sins -- it goes on to explain why this substitutionary death was necessary. In Romans 3, the Apostle Paul explains that God put forth Jesus on the cross as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. God's love is demonstrated in the fact that, even as his own righteousness demanded a perfect sacrifice for sin, He determined to send the Son as that perfect sacrifice. In Paul's words, this means that God is both just and the justifier. He rightly demanded an acceptable sacrifice in order to satisfy His wrath, but He also provided that same sacrifice
To read Dr. John's entire view on the cross, go here.

April 12, 2007

Do You Struggle With Temptation?

This might be a really good book for you to read. By the way, if you said no, you are a LIAR! For a pre-review of the book, go here.

I've ordered it and will review it when I'm done reading it!

Lord Walk Through The Garden Of My Heart

Below is an excerpt from Morning & Evening with Charles Spurgeon. To see the full devotion, go here:
Is there no other King's garden? Yes, my heart, thou art, or shouldst be such. How do the flowers flourish? Do any choice fruits appear? Does the King walk within, and rest in the bowers of my spirit? Let me see that the plants are trimmed and watered, and the mischievous foxes hunted out. Come, Lord, and let the heavenly wind blow at Thy coming, that the spices of Thy garden may flow abroad. Nor must I forget the King's garden of the church. O Lord, send prosperity unto it. Rebuild her walls, nourish her plants, ripen her fruits, and from the huge wilderness, reclaim the barren waste, and make thereof "a King's garden."
It is so much my prayer that my heart would be a lush paradise and not a barren desert. More often than not, though, the day goes by and it isn't watered. Not because God didn't send rain, but because I didn't get out from underneath the umbrella of my pride and ignorance.

April 10, 2007

Just How Strong Are The Currents In The Southern Baptist Convention

Here's an interesting article that would be worth the time to read.

Also of note are the long line of comments at the bottom of the post that take to task John Piper. I go with # 2 in the possibilities of what happened...

God's Sovereignty In The Salvation Of Men (Romans 9:18)

If you haven't read this sermon by Jonathan Edwards, then you're missing out. A great exposition of the text and a great defense of election.

Here's an excerpt:

Let us, therefore, labour to submit to the sovereignty of God. God insists, that his sovereignty be acknowledged by us, and that even in this great matter, a matter which so nearly and infinitely concerns us, as our own eternal salvation. This is the stumbling-block on which thousands fall and perish; and if we go on contending with God about his sovereignty, it will be our eternal ruin. It is absolutely necessary that we should submit to God, as our absolute sovereign, and the sovereign over our souls; as one who may have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and harden whom he will

April 09, 2007

Overcoming Sin And Tempation - Chapter 6 (Part 2)

As he furthers his discussion of what mortification is, Owen goes on to say in Chapter 6 that if we are fight our enemy (sin), then it would do us well to understand our enemy fully. And that is the analogy he draws out here. Do we ponder the enemy, or do we just fight it ignorantly. This is powerful paragraph:

To labor to be acquainted with the ways, wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of its success is the beginning of this warfare. So do men deal with enemies. They inquire out their counsels and designs, ponder their ends, consider how and by what means they have formerly prevailed, that they may be prevented. In this consists the greatest skill in conduct. Take this away, and all waging of war, wherein is the greatest improvement of human wisdom and industry, would be brutish. So do they deal with lust who mortify it indeed. Not only when it is actually vexing, enticing, and seducing, but in their retirements13 they consider, “This is our enemy; this is his way and progress, these are his advantages, thus has he prevailed, and thus he will do, if not prevented.” So David, “My sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). And, indeed, one of the choicest and most eminent parts of practically spiritual wisdom consists in finding out the subtleties, policies, and depths of any indwelling sin; to consider and know wherein its greatest strength lies—what advantage it uses to make of occasions, opportunities, temptations—what are its pleas, pretenses, reasonings—what its stratagems, colors,14 excuses; to set the wisdom of the Spirit against the craft of the old man; to trace this serpent in all its turnings and windings; to be able to say, at its most secret and (to a common frame of heart) imperceptible actings, “This is your old way and course; I know what you aim at”—and so to be always in readiness is a good part of our warfare.

April 08, 2007

Overcoming Sin And Tempation - Chapter 6 (Part 1)

In this chapter, John Owen talks about what mortification truly IS. I wanted to break this chapter into 2 parts, because I think this paragraph has enough weight to be considered on its own. He analogizes sin being crucified in our lives to a man being crucified on a cross. Here's the paragraph, and it's a powerful one:

As a man nailed to the cross he first struggles and strives and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; when a man first sets on a lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when by mortification the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success. This the apostle describes, as in the whole Chapter, so especially Romans 6:6

April 07, 2007

Resurrection Week Devotions By Spurgeon

Always good reading. Always nourishing. The Prince of Preachers is one you can never get tired of reading.

Also, other great sermons for the occasion:

April 06, 2007

Biographies That Are Nourishment To The Soul

This has been a tremendous week and a wonderful Good Friday. I wanted to post the links to some of the biographies that I have been listening to lately. I don't know that I can thank John Piper enough for doing these year after year, but if you don't listen to them, it's your loss.

We can learn and be sustained by saints from the past. We should look at their lives and know that others have struggled and fought the same things we fight today. They were redwoods, and we should grow in their shadow.

Here they are:

April 04, 2007

Am I A Pharisee?

The answer I would give would be absolutely and not only that but I struggle with it most of the time. The reason I believe this is so because I am of a species called "human" and that I continue to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling". Meaning that I continue to try to put to death the old man and put on the new man.

I think it is very easy, and very destructive as a Christian, that when you hit a period in your life where you have experienced "sweet" spiritual moments with God, managed daily sin well, read your Bible, had good prayer times, etc to sit back and to begin to think that you accomplished something in it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

John Piper recently did a sermon on this passage and this is what he had to say: (The full sermon can be found here)

And so are so many people today, who are turning away from the doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of Christ alone. What Jesus wants us to see here is that how righteous you are, or how moral you are or how religious you are or whether God has produced that in you or you have produced that in yourself—that is not the basis of your justification before God. That is not how you are accepted and declared righteous in God’s law court.

The issue is: Are you looking totally away from yourself? When you see yourself standing before the holy Judge, and you know that to escape condemnation you must be found righteous in this all-knowing, infinitely-just court, what are you going to look to and trust in? I am pleading with you on behalf of Jesus this morning that for your justification you not look at or trust in what God has worked in you. But that you look at and trust in Christ alone and all that God is for you in him

And that is the issue we must come to terms with. As soon as we look to anything that we do as of value or lasting in our justification before God or look to anything we do as improving our standing before God, we become "refuge" and "Pharisee minded". And the bad part is, I believe, there is not a "putting to death" of this struggle. This is something, because at the root of it is pride, that we will war against all of our days and in all of churches. The degree to which you, me, and the church will be "missional" is solely dependent on the degree to which we look to Christ as justifier and our redeemer.

April 03, 2007

I've Finished Reading "A Hand To Guide Me"

I know I say this about most books, but this is a good one. Certainly not a "theology" book or a book "about God" in any way, but one that is very helpful nonetheless. Denzel Washington has collected 73 stories from people such as Hank Aaron, Muhammed Ali, Yogi Berra, Jimmy Carter, Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H*), Jackie Joyner Kersie, Cal Ripken, Ruben Studdard, Dick Vitale, John Wooden, Bob Woodward, James Worthy and a host of others. Each chapter is a 3-4 page story of their influences in life and who has influenced them the most. You'll read about predictable influences such as teachers, coaches, parents, etc. Each in their own unique way talking about how those people shaped and made a difference in the success that they now enjoy.

Denzel closes the book with this:

It's an incredible thing, the human spirit. It's what keeps us teaching, ever upward, and as I flip through these pages one last time I'm reminded of the powerful role we can play in someone else's life. The good people you've heard from here have all benefited from a guiding hand or two or three. They've been on the receiving end of some profound words of wisdom, or they've patterned their lives after men and women of principle. They've seen one good turn and helped it blossom into another. or they've made a mistake and managed to learn from it and move on. And that's the great lesson we can all take with us as we set this book aside and return to our lives. Keep open--to possibility, to opportunity, to wonder--or remain forever shut off to the encouraging outcomes that await us all. Change happens. The key is to keep reaching for that guiding hand and to keep extending our own. So go ahead. Train up a child in the way he should go...and watch what happens.

Now that is a great quote. But there is one thing absent from this book and from that summary. So I feel compelled to include it here. The guiding hand that very few in the book mention and very few of us ever give credit to is the sovereign, omnipotent, almighty hand of the living God and His son Jesus Christ. God orchestrates the people he will put in our path and he directs our paths from our youth. I wish the book would have closed with this, I think it would have been more appropriate:

"Then HE led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.HE led them in safety, so they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.And HE brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won.HE drove out the nations before them; he apportioned for them a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents." Psalms 78: 52-55

I've Finished Reading "The Treasure Principle"

Overall, a really good book by Randy Alcorn. He challenges the reader to truly think about why God has given you the resources He has. Is it so you can life a life of comfort and ease and cruise on into retirement (John Piper has something to say about that tragedy). Or is it because He expects and wants you to use your finances to glorify Him.

Randy gives six principles that he expounds upon greatly and then has 31 questions at the end of the book to guide you through finding out what God would have you do about your finances.

His 6 Treasure Principles are:
  1. God owns everything. I'm His money manager
  2. My heart always goes where I put God's money
  3. Heaven, not Earth is my home
  4. I should live not for the dot, but for the line
  5. Giving is the only antitode to materialism
  6. God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but rather my standard of giving

This book also shares a bit of Randy's personal story and what led him to write this book. Overall, a very good and short read (100 pages). Small book though so you could easily get through it in a day.

Testimony Tuesday

Thanks to Tim Challies, for hosting this carnival so to speak. I hope that as you read my testimony it is clear that I am completely undeserving of the grace that God has bestowed upon me. And I remain completely in His mercy until He calls me home.

My life is a picture of grace and how the sovereign hand of God can protect and transform the worst of sinners.

I was born August 9th, 1976 to soon-to-be divorced parents. I grew up in Jefferson City, MO and was raised in a Catholic church. My parents, both non-believers, would struggle with everything from alcohol to mental-illness. My mother would be institutionalized four times during my childhood and adolescent years.

At the age of 13, I moved in with my father in a small racist town twenty minutes away from where I grew up. That began a seven year journey as far away from God as I could get. It was during my teenage years that I would try everything to fill the giant void that was in my heart. I had been hurt so badly and wanted to be loved so much, that I would do anything not to feel the pain of the previous 15+ years.

Having lost a full ride scholarship, thousand of dollars, and any sense of moral responsibility, God intervened my sophomore year in college. One night, a friend I had gotten to know through a leadership program we were both in closed the door to my dorm room and shared with me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His words echo to this day as he told me “that I knew ABOUT Jesus, but that I wasn’t living FOR Jesus”. Truer words could not have been spoken.

Christ was not my treasure. What made it even more amazing was that God sent a 6’4, 400 lb. African-American messenger named George Johnson. God sent a black man to share the Gospel with a white kid from the racist backwoods. Diversity is something I cherish.

Since that night, things have never been the same. I met my wife at a small software company. I was baptized at Second Baptist Church and was married shortly thereafter. We moved to St. Louis where God would bless me with the opportunity to lead an Upward Basketball ministry at our local church. In three short years, we watched our ministry grow to over 720 players with the opportunity to minister to over 2,000 people weekly. We had it all. Successful jobs, successful ministry, close to family, great incomes, big houses, a hot tub on the back deck, we had a beautiful new baby boy that was healthy. Things were not as they seemed. My wife and I were working sixty hours a week, letting daycare raise our son, and struggling to maintain Christ as the focus of our marriage. And then a day the world will never forget.

My wife Jenni was in New York on September 11th. I remember not knowing where she was for over an hour and being clueless as to whether or not she was still alive. when we finally made contact, the statement she made to me still rings in my ears “I don’t know what’s going to change, but something has to”. It was that day that we decided to go after God with all we had and never look back.

The following April, I agreed to go on staff with Upward Unlimited, a growing sports ministry in Spartanburg, SC. I hadn’t been there long when a friend introduced me to a man named John Piper. He suggested that I read his book “Desiring God” and it was as though God leapt off the pages at me and once again re-defined the Christian life for me. It was as if God said to me, “leaving everything is not enough, if you don’t do it for ME”. Since that introduction, my world has changed through the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church and Desiring God ministries.

In the last three years, God has transformed us. He has brought people into our lives that have taught us so much about Him, how to love people, and how to love each other. He’s set me across from pastors of churches who have asked me how to reach their community. He’s given me the opportunity to develop dear relationships with people all around the country and to share in the victories as they share the love of Jesus with lost people in their cities.

What does Jesus mean to me? Everything! I see His sovereign hand throughout my life and my ministry. He has prepared me and has been faithful to me every step of the way. Paul argues in Romans that we are justified by faith alone. I couldn’t agree
more. I’ve never been good enough. I’ve never worked hard enough. I’ve never been worth enough. I am a sinner saved by grace. But yet Jesus, the Son of God, reached down from heaven and put His hand upon my life and called me, the least of all people, to enjoy Him forever. I stand in agreement with Paul: “I am what I am by the grace of God”.

April 02, 2007

And The Lost People Came Flooding In At The Good News

I've Finished Reading "Suffering And The Sovereignty of God"

And what a book it is. If you haven't become familiar with John Piper and his teachings, you need to do so for the good of your soul. This book is actually a series of messages delivered at a Desiring God National Conference a few years ago and the messages were just compiled into book format with some really nice additional content that is helpful.

Have you ever struggled in life when you've gone through hard times and suffering. Have you ever thought of giving up on your faith. Has God ever felt so distant you didn't know if he was there. If that's the case, then I think this book would be nourishment to your soul. It's an easy read (205 pages) with some AWESOME appendices. Don't miss reading those.

To give you a flavor of what you'll get in the book, I'm including a poem and a hymn that a couple of the speakers used in their messages. I hope they are as helpful to you as they were to me.

"I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.
He said, My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.
---Martha Snell Nicholson
And the hymn....
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word
What more can he say than to you he has said
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I'll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.
When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you, I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.
E'en down to old age all my people shall prove
my sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
and when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.
The soul that one Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.

It's good stuff. God honoring, Christ exalting, soul nourishing words. Add this one to your library and add it's transforming power to your soul.

April 01, 2007

Christianity And Selective Righteousness

It's a post that's been on my mind for a while now, and tonight is the night to have time to finally do it justice. If you're going to read this post, please read it all the way through. Don't pick one of my first lines, dismiss it, and then quit reading because you've prejudged what I'm going to say.

My text for the post is found in Luke 5: 27-30:

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If you right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell"
We have here one of the most classic texts on Jesus providing crippling insight into the nature of our sin. The Jews had one definition of adultery - actually finding a woman in the act with another man. Jesus had another - even looking at her with lustful thoughts. And lest you think this wasn't that big of a deal, the penalty for this sin in their time was death by stoning. So we're not talking about "no big deal".

As I pondered this text, I have thought back to many situations in my life where I have "witnessed" Christians having selective righteousness. Christians who condemned others for "using profanity", "drinking alcohol", "smoking", "homosexuality" etc....

And then this passage opened up to me. Jesus basically said, if you allow what your eyes see, to influence what your mind thinks, and that thought is contradictory to my word, then it is sin. Follow the flow in the passage. A) Beautiful woman is noticed B) Image of beautiful woman fed to the brain. C) Image found pleasurable by the brain D) Pleasure processed by the soul E) Soul engaged and corrupted although body not engaged to act. F) Jesus calls it adultery nonetheless.

And I pondered the ramifications of what "media" and "television" are doing to Christianity today. Here is the link to the weekly Nielsen TV Ratings. As of the writing of this post here were 5 shows among the Top 20:
  • Greys Anatomy
  • Til Death
  • Two And a Half Men
  • Lost
  • Ugly Betty

For the sake of making my point and yet being relatively brief, and I think I could make them with all of them, read this link to Episode 19 of Greys Anatomy.

In that episode recap, we have:
A) Sex Outside Of Marriage
B) Drunken Intoxication
C) Couples blowing off arguments for appearance sake
D) Co-Habitation
E) Cut Throat Competition For Job
F) Pregnancy Without Knowing The Father
G) Us Choosing Our Appearance
H) Agreeing To Marriage As Long As It's Not Religious

The list goes on. And this is just one episode. In one of three seasons. And it's the highest rated of the five shows listed above. Why do I point this out and what in the world does this have to do with "selective righteousness"...

Imagine the following situations and what your reaction would be:
  • Your local pastor uses multiple "profanities" from the pulpit on Sunday Morning
  • Your youth pastor is caught in a "sexual" relationship before he is married
  • Your staff member at your ministry is pulled over for a DWI
  • Your daughter tells you she's pregnant and she doesn't know who the father is

Most reactions would be of "horror", "disappointment", "anger", "distrust". Most of the people in the above situations would be cast out of their ministries. Lost forever would be the opportunity to be of use for the Gospel. They would be "labeled" as folks who hadn't finished strong. They would bear our reproach and our shame and our judgement.

Now picture Jesus saying to you: "But I say to you, that everyone who looks a television with voluntary intent, and receives such images and messages as "entertainment" has already committed the same sin". That is essentially what he said about adultery, and I think that is what he would say to the millions of Christians today who sit in front of their televisions and take in "voluntarily" messages, entertainment, and media expressly in opposition the Word of God.

There is no difference between engaging in adulterous intercourse and deriving pleasure or entertainment from watching television containing "sexual messages, connotations, or situations depicted outside of marriage". There is no difference between drinking to intoxication and laughing at the jokes of a man depicted to be drunk and hungover on television. The list goes on and on.

And before you call me a fundamental legalist, let me say that turning off the television WILL NOT make you holier before God. You could go the rest of your life without watching a television and still stand condemned before God. The issue is not the act or will of NOT watching television.

The issue is: Are you dealing with your own sin and do you realize that when Jesus breathed the words of the passage above, he brought into play the "passive, voluntary, and received things you see and hold onto" as sins equal to the real act. If you see drunks on TV and receive that with pleasure, the a drunk you might as well be. If you see sex outside of marriage on TV and think the depicted characters are cool, the sexually promiscious and immoral you might as well be.

So before you as a Christian, jump on a person who committed a sin in a physical act, understand Jesus has an entirely different sphere for realms of sin. Sins of thought and invisible will are as condemning and estranging to your relationship with God as sins that are physically carried out. Remember that the next time you turn on the radio or television and then wonder to yourself and ponder the fact that it might just be the reason your communion with God has been so poor.

More to come in the upcoming days and months on this topic.