Friday, February 26, 2010

The Goodness of God

I am re-reading the book Biblical Christian Ethics by David Clyde Jones in preparation for a Sunday School class I am teaching and it pointed me to these two great quotes on the great depth of the goodness of God and its sufficiency for our joy:

First, from John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.25.10)...
If God contains the fullness of all good things in himself like an inexhaustible fountain, nothing beyond him is to be sought by those who strive after the highest good and all the elements of happiness… If the Lord will share his glory, power, and righteousness with the elect – nay, will give himself to be enjoyed by them and, what is more excellent, will somehow make them to become one with humself, let us remember that every sort of happiness is included under this benefit.
Then this, from Augustine in The City of God (XXII.30)...

True peace shall be there, where no one shall suffer opposition either from himself or any other. God himself, who is the Author of virtue, shall there be its reward; for, as there is nothing greater or better, He has promised himself. What else was meant by His word through the prophet, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people,” than, “I shall be their satisfaction, I shall be all that men honorably desire” – life, and health, and nourishment, and plenty, and glory, and honor, and peace, and all good things? This, too, is the right interpretation of the apostle, ‘That God may be in all.’ He shall be the end of our desires who shall be seen without end, loved without cloy, praised without weariness. This outgoing affection, this employment, shall certainly be, like eternal life itself, common to all.
And finally, from the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 58)...
What comfort do you derive from the article of the life everlasting?

That, since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life I shall possess perfect bliss, such as eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man - therein to praise god forever.
May these truths increase in us a hunger for holiness today and a longing for the Lord's return. Come, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Congratulations to Wheaton College and to Dr. Philip Ryken

This past Sunday, Dr. Philip Ryken, the Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, announced that he had accepted the position as the President of Wheaton College. Dr. Ryken was preceeded in the historic church’s pulpit by such notable pastors as Donald Gray Barnhouse and James Montgomery Boice.

I have been blesed greatly by the ministry of Dr. Ryken, hearing him at conferences, listening to his sermons via podcast, and reading his books. As I watched the webcast of Dr. Ryken’s announcement, I was further impressed by a number of things which clearly helped make him the wonderful pastor he has been at Tenth:

1) The way he tenderly cares for the flock that has been entrusted to his care. The love that he has for the members of Tenth was evident in the words he spoke and the way he spoke them. He made it clear that leaving them would be a hard experience, “so hard because it has been so good.” The mutual love and sorrow reminded me of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.

2) The fact that he appropriately values his family was evident in a number of ways:

  • His wife’s input was clearly a part of the decision he made
  • His took steps to guard his children from being overwhelmed by a whirlwind of questions from those in the church
  • One of the few prayer requests he made was for his family and the issues that they would have to deal with in their time transition

3) Even with these two priorities (his family and his church), Dr. Ryken made it clear that a kingdom perspective is required. This was apparent in his opening words which were a reminder to the congregation that the session had asked him to issue: “One of the things we’ve really tried to teach and to model as a congrgation…is to, with joy, to give up what we have for the wider work of the kingdom of God.” It was also apparent in the family prayer that he shared: “We are open to God severing every earthly tie of affection, as long as he will preserve that tie of affection with himself, and that we will go where Jesus calls us to go.”

May God bless Dr. Ryken, his family, and Tenth Church during this time of transition.

Congratulations to Jerram Barrs

Congrats to my former professor Jerram Barrs who recently was honored by Outreach Magazine. His excellent book, Learning Evangelism From Jesus was named the book of the year in the area of Evangelism.

This is a well deserved honor. I recently taught a Sunday School class on evangelism, and this book was one of my primary resources in preparation. Jerram epitomizes someone who has the heart of an evangelist and is truly one of the most Christ-like individuals I've ever had the privilege of meeting. It is no exaggeration to say that among the highlights of my seminary education was the opportunity to learn from him.

Kudos, Jerram! And thank you for your service to our Lord and to the Church.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Child-Friendly Church

Beth Lewis Samuelson urges our churches to be more child-friendly in this article.
In a child-tolerant church, families with small, squirmy children are truly welcomed, not separated and exiled. An infant’s vocalizing, a dropped toy, the movement of a restless child in a pew—all are viewed with tolerance, if not sympathy. Parents whose small children start to scream get up and take them to the cry room or the church foyer. The few moments of noise as a child is carried out are endured by the congregation and politely ignored. No one enjoys the disruption, of course, but all are mindful of having been in the same position or, at least, that all are called to “suffer little children to come unto me.”
(HT: Kevin Golden)

Monday, February 15, 2010

John Piper on the New Birth

John Piper synthesizes 1 John 5:1 and 1 Peter 1:23, presenting a great treatment of the relationship between the new birth, faith, and the word of God.

(HT: Thabiti Anyabwile)

Friday, February 12, 2010

2009's Most Redeeming Movies

Christianity Today recently came out with their list of 2009's most redeeming movies. I love best/worst lists, I love movies, and I love things which are redemptive in nature, so it's right up my alley.

In looking at the list, you might be wondering what exactly CT means when they say that a movie was "redeeming." They explain:

We mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of our films have characters who are redeemers themselves; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day Advice for Husbands

Kevin DeYoung's post today is a good reminder for husbands (including me) as Valentine's Day approaches. Men, may we put this advice to work not just in mid-February, but all year long!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Your Faith Has Made You Well

I recently finished going through Luke (which I’ve done many times before) and I noticed something that I’d never really seen before. In Luke, there is a certain phrase which Jesus says four times.

In chapter eight we read of the woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for 12 years. She touches Jesus’ garment and immediately the discharge ceased. In 8:48 we read the words of Jesus: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

In chapter 17 we find the story of the ten lepers who Jesus cleansed, having sent them to the priests to be declared ceremonially clean. When only one returns to thank Jesus, he tells the former leper in 17:19, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

A chapter later we come across the story of the blind beggar who pleaded with Jesus to restore his sight. In 18:42 we read that Jesus healed him with the words, “Recover your sight, your faith has made you well.”

The one other place where we find the exact same words come out of Jesus’ mouth (other than three parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark) is in chapter seven of Luke. Jesus is a guest at the house of a pharisee named Simon. While he is there, “a woman of the city, who was a sinner,” came with a flask of expensive ointment. She wet the feet of Jesus with her tears, wiped his feet with her hair, and annointed them with the ointment.

Simon thought that Jesus should rebuke her, sinful woman as she was. But Jesus’ response was quite different. He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” When those at the table questioned “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman in 7:50, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We miss it in the English, but in Luke’s original Greek, the wording is the exact same. In fact, “saved” is a more literal translation of the word that is translated elsewhere “made… well.” For all four of them, perhaps it would be better to understand Jesus’ words as meaning, “Your faith has saved you.”

This realization of the Greek behind the English helps us to see a wonderful truth. The miracles of Christ are not to be seen merely as benevolent demonstrations of His awesome power. They always point to a greater truth. In the case of the blind man, he was given physical sight, but more importantly, by faith, he had received spiritual sight as well.

Both the leper and the woman with the discharge had conditions that made them ceremonially unclean. Jesus’ healing of them meant that they indeed were no longer sick nor unclean. It also pointed to the greater truth though, that by faith, they were no longer stained by the filth of sin. Now they were clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

May we all know today the joy that they knew, the joy of being made well, truly well. And may the words of the Apostle Paul ever resound in our hearts: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8a).

Book Review: Corrective Church Discipline

I read Don Galardi's Corrective Church Discipline for a number of reasons. First of all, as a fellow pastor in my presbytery, Don is a colleague, mentor and friend. Beyond this though, I have been looking for the opportunity to go deeper in my biblical understanding of the topic of church discipline. This book, which was originally a doctoral thesis, provided me with the just that opportunity.

Galardi spends the first major section of the book looking at the various biblical texts that address the topic of church discipline. He then goes on to give an overview of how these texts have been applied throughout the reformed tradition, specifically by Calvin, Knox and the Westminster Divines. Finally he concludes with a call for greater emphasis on this much neglected pillar of the church.

The subtitle of the book is A Study in Scripture, the Reformed Heritage, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Galardi covers these topics well. Some may be put off by the fact that the EPC is so much in view, both in its current practices as well as suggestions as to what it might do better, but I feel that mutatis mutandis, the lessons of this work are very applicable to other church traditions as well.