Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Blessed are the Peacemakers

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously proclaims, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9, ESV). In the wake of all that occurred last night in Ferguson, it seems to be quite the appropriate message for us today.

When Jesus spoke of peacemakers, he no doubt had in mind the concept of shalom (Hebrew for "peace"). What we need to keep in mind though is what exactly is encapsulated in shalom. Cornelius Plantinga states the following: 

"The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, whole ness and delight -- a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as it's Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be."

So while it is right for us to be against rioting, arson and looting, it is not enough for our peacemaking to end there. We must also be against systemic injustice, racism, division and oppression. We must realize that it is not enough to try to KEEP peace, especially when true peace doesn't actually exist. We must strive to MAKE peace. 

We need to humbly admit that our point of view just might not always be the point of view of ultimate truth. We must demonstrate empathy before leaping right to judgment. When we can't understand how there could be any logical explanation for a person's actions, that should cause us to wonder if there's a piece of the puzzle we don't see or at least don't fully understand. This involves great deals of listening before speaking; patiently asking for explanation instead of quickly offering criticism; humbly asking God to give us the vision to see where peace needs to be made, the wisdom to know how we should respond, and the courage to follow through with action.

Peacemaking is hard work. It is at times painful. It is always costly. It certainly was for Jesus, the true Son of God, the ultimate peacemaker. He, at ultimate cost to himself, not only KEPT peace, but MADE peace. May we prayerfully and humbly seek to follow his example.

"For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." (Ephesians 2:14-16, ESV)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Can Leviticus Actually Be Good News?

It was said of Willie Mays that his glove was the place where triples went to die. I suppose it could be said that Leviticus is the place where Bible reading plans go to die.

Many a person has begun a Bible reading plan at the start of a new year with high hopes and the best of intentions. Things generally begin well. The stories found in Genesis keep things moving along and the mighty acts of God in Exodus usually keep the reader on track. 

Then something happens. That something is Leviticus. With all of its detail and minutiae regarding ceremonial law, many a reader simply loses interest. What, after all, does all of it have to do with the Gospel?

Against the backdrop of this reality comes a new commentary on Leviticus  by Dr. Jay Sklar from IVP's Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series. Jay is Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, where I took two semesters of Hebrew from him. As unbelievable as it may seem, each class period could truly be classified as a devotional experience. If a man can turn the study of Hebrew into a devotional experience, he can no doubt show us how the Gospel sings in Leviticus. That, after all, is what it is intended to do. 

He begins by pointing us to a vital, though often overlooked fact: Leviticus can only be properly understood in light of the story that immediately precedes it.
The story immediately before Leviticus is one in which the Lord redeems the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and enters into covenant relationship with them. They are to be his ‘treasured possession’ who are to fulfill a special role: being a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’, and in this way spreading the Lord’s kingdom of justice, mercy, goodness and love in all the earth. What is more, they are to do this with the Lord himself dwelling in their midst in the tent of meeting. If you were an Israelite, all of this would lead to some burning questions: How in the world can the holy and pure King of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people? How can he live here, in our very midst, without his holiness melting us in our sin and impurity? And how can we live as his people in such a way that we really do extend his holy kingdom throughout the earth?
Leviticus answers these questions.
But that’s not all Leviticus does.
(I)t also casts a vision that takes the Israelites back to the Lord’s intent for humanity from the beginning of the world: to walk in rich fellowship with their covenant King, enjoying his care and blessing, and extending throughout all the earth his kingdom of justice, mercy, kindness, righteousness, holiness and love.
And all the while Jay reminds us, “If what we see in the Old Testament  is an acorn, what we see in Jesus is a magnificent oak. This is especially true for the themes of Leviticus.”

I am very thankful to have this commentary on my bookshelf and I highly recommend that you do the same.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Frozen, Freedom and the Gospel

If you (like me) have a pre-teen daughter, you have perhaps seen the Disney movie Frozen. Almost certainly you have heard your daughter sing the movie's hit song, Let It Go (performed above by Idina Menzel).

Trevin Wax offered some great thoughts on the movie and the song in a post today at his Kingdom People blog. He points out:
Thousands of little girls across the country are singing this song – a manifesto of sorts, a call to cast off restraint, rebel against unrealistic expectations and instead be true to whatever you feel most deeply inside. What’s ironic is that the movie’s storyline goes against the message of this song. When the princess decides to “let it go,” she brings terrible evil into the world. The fallout from her actions is devastating. “No right, no wrong, no rules for me” is the sin that isolates the princess and freezes her kingdom.
He goes on...
 A popular idea in our culture is that there are only two ways to live:
  1. Through authenticity, expressed in rebellion against cultural constraints
  2. Through an ordered life, expressed in rule-keeping
Neither of these paths are the way to true fulfillment though.Wax concludes,
Christianity teaches explicitly what Frozen only hints at: salvation comes not through self-discovery or self-restraint, but through self-sacrifice.

All across the country, little girls are singing about self-discovery. Let’s make sure that after they see the film, they are given songs about self-sacrifice.
 Read the whole post here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

John Piper's Poem, "The Calvinist"

When many people speak (or hear) of Calvinism, they think of a "faith" that is cold and unfeeling. This short poem, in video form, does a wonderful job of getting at the essence of what a Calvinistic understanding of God and his word ought to look like. My prayer is that I, by God's grace, may be this kind of man.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Need Thee Every Hour...A Capella

I heard this yesterday really enjoyed it. All the parts are sung by one man, Sam Robson. His voice sounds really good with, well, his voice. Check out other a capella arrangements by Robson here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I Think My Boyfriend's a Calvinst

This song by a young lady named Jacki McLeod is, in my opinion, absolutely fantastic.

He won't buy me roses
None of those daffodils
He just buys me TULIPS
To explain the way he feels

He said, "I treasure the Pslams, 
On my heart they are engraved.
But there's room for your name too, 
In a special spot I've saved."
"Can I ask you on a date...
Even though you're totally depraved?"

I think my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
He's always reading an NKJV
I think my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
Quoting Romans 8:28-30.

I think my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
But ultimately, 
It doesn't matter -
I didn't choose him, he chose me.

He said, "All I'm looking for is a godly woman,
I don't care if she's not pretty."
And considering your complexion,
It's a good thing I believe 
In unconditional election."

He said, "perseverance of the Saints is well illustrated 

By the way I put up with you constant complaining."
I said, "You're an epistemological, presuppositional, and post-millennial Covenantal Calvinist, also a theonomist, superlapsarian, and Reformed Presbyterian, but never an Arminian..." 
Don't say I am complicated!

He said, "Babe I'm sorry, 

I'll tell you something true."
"You're so unblemished, 
I could sacrifice you."

I think my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
He's got a tattoo that says "I heart RC Sproul"
I think my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
He made me burn my NIV Bible

I think my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
But ultimately, 
It doesn't matter -
I didn't choose him, he chose me. 

He said, "I wish I was the Holy Spirit 
So I could be inside your heart."
He said, "God told us to multiply, 
So baby, let's start!"

One day he said, "I love you Grace". 
I said, "My name is Jacki, you fool."
He said, "Are you sure your name isn't Grace?
Because you're irresistible."  

And that's what I knew, that...
My boyfriend's a Calvinist;
Il parles fran├žais comme Jean Calvin.
I know my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
Born in August like St Augustine.
I know my boyfriend's a Calvinist;
But ultimately, 
It doesn't matter -
I didn't choose him, he chose me. 

(HT: Jason Helpoulos)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Your Beauty is Awesome

Quite impressed by the witness of these Egyptian believers whose church was bombed...

(HT: Tim Brown)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Sermon Series on the Book of Ruth

Beginning this Sunday I will be preaching a series entitled Divine Faithfulness: The Book of Ruth. I can't wait, as Ruth is one of my favorite books of the Bible. As Sinclair Ferguson writes,
The book of Ruth is not a work of deep theological reasoning like Paul's epistle to the Romans, yet it is full of theology. It is not a magnificent symphony on the work of Christ like the Gospel of John, yet it ultimately points to the coming of Christ. It is not full of vivid apocalyptic imagery like the book of Revelation, yet it traces the details of God's working in the unfolding of the events of history. It is not basic instruction about the kingdom of God like the Sermon on the Mount, yet it contains important lessons about life in the kingdom.
If you live in the Flint area, we'd love to have you join us at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings this fall as we examine this Old Testament treasure of a book. Audio of sermons in the series will be posted on our website as well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Crazy Busy

If your life is anything like mine, you probably have the occasional busy day. Okay, more realistically, EVERY day seems to be a busy day. Because this is such a reality for so many of us, Kevin DeYoung has written the book Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. This week, Westminster Seminary Books has them available for half price (just $6.00).

Check out the following video preview in which DeYoung discusses the dangers of busyness and (especially) the video below it which includes DeYoung's cute, funny children.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Courage in the Ordinary

The other day I was listening to The White Horse Inn radio program and they had Tish Harrison Warren as a guest. I've never heard of Warren before, but I loved what she had to say about their topic this week: Courage in the Ordinary.

She recently wrote a blog post dealing with that very topic. In it she pointed out the desire that many Christians have to do something radical or revolutionary for Christ, a desire that she not only has experienced, but acted upon through various ministry efforts throughout her early adult years.

Despite this desire to be extraordinary for Christ though, she has come to see the value in the ordinary.
Now, I’m a thirty-something with two kids living a more or less ordinary life. And what I’m slowly realizing is that, for me, being in the house all day with a baby and a two-year-old is a lot more scary and a lot harder than being in a war-torn African village. What I need courage for is the ordinary, the daily every-dayness of life. Caring for a homeless kid is a lot more thrilling to me than listening well to the people in my home. Giving away clothes and seeking out edgy Christian communities requires less of me than being kind to my husband on an average Wednesday morning or calling my mother back when I don’t feel like it.
She continues...
And here is the embarrassing truth: I still believe in and long for a revolution. I still think I can make a difference beyond just my front door. I still want to live radically for Jesus and be part of him changing the world. I still think mediocrity is dull, and I still fret about settling. 
But I’ve come to the point where I’m not sure anymore just what God counts as radical. And I suspect that for me, getting up and doing the dishes when I’m short on sleep and patience is far more costly and necessitates more of a revolution in my heart than some of the more outwardly risky ways I’ve lived in the past. And so this is what I need now: the courage to face an ordinary day — an afternoon with a colicky baby where I’m probably going to snap at my two-year old and get annoyed with my noisy neighbor — without despair, the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I’ve done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that that is enough.
None of this is, of course, to criticize caring for the homeless or providing help somewhere on the other side of the globe. It merely reminds us that while we often spend much time and energy "looking for ministry opportunities," in reality we have many of them staring us in the face each day. And though they might not seem as glamorous or important as others, we must remember that we serve a God whose economy is radically different than our own.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

See The Man Who Ate New Orleans

I've posted before about Ray Cannata, who is not only the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, but is also known as The Man Who Ate New Orleans. He is so called because of his successful quest to eat at every (non-chain) restaurant in New Orleans. That quest was part of a larger story though, a story told in Michael Dunaway's documentary film of the same name.

It's not just a story about food though. It's a story of one man's love for the city to which God had called him. Ray likes to say, "New Orleans is the best picture of Heaven that I know on earth.  It's also the best picture of Hell I know."  This balance, he says, provides both something to look forward to, as well as something to be a part of fixing. Ray and Redeemer have been a big part of that effort ever since Hurricane Katrina.

I've been excited to see the finished film ever since I met Ray a few years ago. Just yesterday I saw the following note on the film's Facebook page:

We're very very proud to announce that TMWANO will be premiering next Tuesday, August 28, for $2.99 streaming rental at Seed&Spark! Seed&Spark was started by some dear friends of ours (superstar founder Emily Best was chosen by Indiewire as one of 20 people changing the face of indie film), and it's a great, great concept. Check it out, for sure. We'll also be available for digital download and on DVD that same day (details to follow). And we're planning a big red carpet theatrical debut in Atlanta for the night of August 27th, so mark your calendars!!! 
A couple years ago I shared the trailer below. Check it out. Or even better, check out the film next Tuesday at Seed&Spark!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jesus on Every Page

I am very much looking forward to reading Jesus on Every Page by David Murray. Sinclair Ferguson offers the following endorsement: "With deceptive ease Dr. David Murray brings his readers on to the Road to Emmaus for a few hours of conversation about Jesus and the Old Testament. With an enviable grace and simplicity he teaches us how to read the Old Testament as Christians."

And if you buy the book this month, Dr. Murray is offering a bundle of great resources along with it for free.

If you're still not sold, check out the video trailer below:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Glory of Christ Conference Info

October 26th, Calvary Presbyterian Church will host the 10th annual Mid-Michigan Reformation Conference. The theme of this year's conference will be The Glory of Christ and, as has become our custom, a group of gifted pastors from the region will be assembled to address us.

Brief profiles of each of the speakers are listed below along with the specific topics on which they are speaking. As I'm sure you will agree, this is shaping up to be one of our best conferences yet!

All that is required is that you register for the conference, which you can do (for FREE...including a hot lunch!) by clicking here. If you have any questions, please email them to me at Pete@CalvaryFlint.com.

Join us this October as we behold The Glory of Christ!

2013 Mid-Michigan Reformation Conference Sessions

The Glory of Christ in His Incarnation & Temptation -- Pastor David Crabb has served as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lapeer since 2010. He is in the process of a transition to a new position with Training Leaders International, a ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. TLI sends teams of people around the world to train pastors who otherwise might not have access to sound theological education. David’s responsibilities will include writing curriculum for, as well as organizing and leading these teams. His educational background includes a BA in Rhetoric & Public Address from Bob Jones University and an MDiv from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and he is currently pursuing a DMin from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. David and his wife Stephanie have two daughters.

The Glory of Christ in His Transfiguration -- Rev. Jason Helopoulos is the Assistant Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, having previously served as church planter and Pastor of Providence PCA in East Lansing. Prior to that, he had served on the staff of Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Dallas as a pastoral intern for one year and as an Assistant Pastor at Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lexington, North Carolina. Jason received a BA in History and Secondary Education from Eastern Illinois University and a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary. A regular blogger on The Gospel Coalition and Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals websites, Jason also the author of A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home. He and his wife Leah have one daughter and one son.

The Glory of Christ in His Ascension & Intercession -- Rev. Chuck Jacob has been Senior Pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church (EPC) for almost a decade, having previously served as an assistant pastor at 2nd Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Memphis, Tennessee. Chuck received his MDiv from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and while in seminary, he spent one year in Glascow, Scotland as a pastoral intern with Rev. Eric Alexander and Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. Before attending seminary, Chuck received a BA in Economics from Stanford University and worked in Washington DC for eight years, first as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board and then as a lobbyist for Apple. Chuck and his wife Diane have two daughters and one son.

The Glory of Christ in His Inauguration & Second Coming -- Dr. Don  Galardi is pastor of Community Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Owosso, where he has served for over 33 years. His educational degrees include a BA in Biblical Studies from John Wesley College, an MA in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Religious Studies from Trinity Theological Seminary. Don is a grader of written ordination exams for the EPC, has served as moderator of the EPC’s Midwest Presbytery, and is the author of the book Corrective Biblical Discipline: A Study in Scripture, the Reformed Heritage, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He currently is a board member for Gospel Through Colombia, which provides theological education for Protestant congregations throughout that country. Don and his wife Diedre have one son, one daughter and seven grandchildren.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Word for Preachers...William Still on Preaching the Whole Word of God

"Beyond the deeper truths of the Gospel -- which, alas, so many do not teach and preach for, I fear, reasons obscure to others but known to themselves -- there is the darker blackcloth to the Good News, namely, the penal and corrective judgements of God, upon which the scintillating diamond of the Gospel shines with a thousand facets. The judgements are also the Word of God; and only he who preaches and teaches the whole Bible, dark and light, rightly dividing the Word of truth, fully proclaims the Word of God. After all, we see a rainbow only on the clouds."

William Still
The Work of the Pastor

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...DeYoung on Christ and Communion

"The Lord's Supper is not only a visible reminder of the gospel, it is a spiritual feast where Christ is present as both the host and the meal. His presence is not physical, but it is real. At the Table, Christ nourishes us, strengthens us, and assures us of his love. We do not celebrate an absent Christ in the Supper, but enjoy communion with the living Christ. As Richard Baxter remarked, 'Nowhere is God so near to man as in Jesus Christ; and nowhere is Christ so familiarly represented to us, as in the holy sacrament.'"

Kevin DeYoung
The Hole in our Holiness

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Fun...Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Check out this video of a dog seeing its owner for the first time in six months:

...and then there's the video of a cat's reaction in a similar situation: