Friday, September 30, 2011

How We See Other Denominations

The other day I saw this chart which, in a somewhat whimsical way, depicts how people of various denominations tend to see people differently based upon their denominations. 

I found it comical (and in many cases stunningly accurate).  Beyond this though, it caused me to think about how we should think of people who do not share our denominational affiliation. 

It occurs to me that the main issue in our attitude toward other Christians ought not to be one's denominational label, but whether they have been united with Christ through faith by God's grace.  Put simply, those who have, are in the family as our brothers and sisters.  Those who have not, are not.  As a result, we must always remember, there are many people outside our denomination who are in.  And sadly, there are people inside our denomination who are out.

Now I'm not saying we should eschew denominational affiliations.  I believe they are valuable as we seek to be encouraged and corrected in our efforts to faithfully live out our doctrinal understandings according to the Word of God.  But as we do this, let us always do so "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (For) there is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:2-6)

Friday Fun...Surfin' Bulldog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Preaching in Prison

Mike Wittmer recently had the opportunity to preach at a prison in Muskegon, Michigan.  When he blogged about it, he noted how the prisoners worshiping there longed to hear truths that came straight from Scripture as opposed to creatively crafted messages that emanated in the imaginations of men.  Oh that this would be true of us all!  Mike went on to state,
Bottom line:  it’s wonderful to worship with a redeemed group of 75 prisoners, singing “I will rise when He calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain,” because they sing like they mean it, as if they desperately need it to be true. God is working in our prisons, and if you ever get the chance to preach there, or even to worship there, take it. There’s nothing else quite like it.
Click here to read Mike's whole post.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...C.S. Lewis on Properly Ordered Love

"When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards that stage in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

C.S. Lewis

(HT: Matt Ballard)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Man Who Ate New Orleans

When speaking of his adopted home town, my friend and fellow-pastor Ray Cannata is fond of saying, "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.

In 2005, on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, Ray moved to New Orleans to become the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.  Though he could see that life there would be anything but easy, he immediately fell in love with the city and its culture.  Since then, Ray and the folks at Redeemer have been a part of rebuilding more than 500 houses.

Ray has not just helped rebuild New Orleans though.  He is also The Man Who Ate New Orleans.  In an effort to truly understand the culture of his new home, Ray committed himself to eating at all the various (non-chain) restaurants The Crescent City offered.  This quest will reach its culmination in a "Last Supper" on October 21, which will double as a benefit to raise money for the continued rebuilding effort.

Along the way, the project morphed into a documentary film by director Michael Dunaway, which focuses on the music, food and rebuilding of New Orleans, as experienced through Ray's visits to over 700 eateries. Check out the first video below to get a quick glimpse at the project.  If you'd like a little more in-depth look, including a discussion between Ray and Dunaway, check out the second video as well.

The Man Who Ate New Orleans Sizzle Reel HD from Michael Dunaway on Vimeo.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Word for Preachers...Al Mohler on the Preacher's Authority

"Far too many pastors operate under the assumption that the authority they enjoy is their own, that they somehow earned or achieved it, rather than merely receiving it from the hand of God.  Similarly, the people in our churches are often fooled into trusting the wrong kind of authority, an authority that originates in man and man's abilities rather than in the call of God...The preacher's authority lies not in profession, not in position and not in personality.  It lies in the Word of God alone."
Al Mohler
He Is Not Silent

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Fun...The Voca People with a History of Music

Not even sure how to introduce this...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...John Murray on Union with Christ

"Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ...We are not able to understand all that is involved, but the fact is plain enough that there was no election of the Father in eternity apart from Christ.  And that means that those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestining love apart from union with Christ -- they were chosen in Christ.  As far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its fountain we find 'union with Christ'; it is not something tacked on; it is there from the outset."
John Murray
Redemption: Accomplished and Applied

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Word for Preachers...Bryan Chapell on Leading Believers to Jesus

"Faithful expository preaching unfolds every text in the context of its redemptive import. The success of this endeavor can be assessed by a bottom-line question every preacher should ask at the end of each sermon: When my listeners walk out the doors of this sanctuary to perform God's will, with whom do they walk? If they march to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil with only me, myself, and I, then each parades to despair. However, if the sermon has led all persons within sight of the Savior and they now walk into their world with his aid firmly in their grasp, then hope and victory brighten the horizon. Whether people depart alone or in the Savior's hand will mark the difference between futility and faith, legalism and true obedience, do-goodism and real godliness."

Bryan Chapell

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Fun (part 2)...Love Tap

As it is Erin's and my 16th anniversary, and since (as I mentioned earlier) our first date was a sequel, it only seemed appropriate to have a part 2 to this week's Friday Fun.  I saw this the other day and knew I had to pass it along, and today seemed appropriate. 

(HT: Challies)

Marriage: Sixteen Years In

Sixteen years ago today, I was blessed beyond measure to gain Erin as my wife. It was without question one of the defining moments of my life and I have never ceased giving God thanks for so blessing me.

One year ago today I wrote "Marriage: Fifteen Years In" which is by far one of the most popular posts I've ever written. I still feel the same way about the things I said then, only more so. To see what I mean, click here.

Pat Robertson, Alzheimer's and Divorce

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by anything anymore.  Late Wednesday night though, I sat there astonished at what I was reading. Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson had proclaimed that a man would be morally justified in divorcing his wife if she had Alzheimer's disease.

Let me be perfectly clear on two things:
  1. Alzheimer's is a  terrible disease, and I can't fathom the depth of the loss and pain and loneliness that one would feel as their spouse succumbs to its ravages.  My heart truly goes out to all people in such a situation; the cross that is theirs to bear is more than I can imagine.
  2. Pat Robertson does not speak for Christians and his is not a Christian position.
His statement underlines a fact that is already painfully clear to anyone who bothers to pay attention: Within the church, we have fallen into thinking about marriage in the way our culture thinks about it, as if it were merely a man-made institution created for our personal gratification that we adhere to so long as it "works" for us.

The problem with this view is that the Bible presents a radically different picture.  It says instead that marriage was instituted by God himself, and that not just for our own benefit, but that it might be an image of the relationship that Christ Jesus has with the Church (Ephesians 5:25-33).  Therefore, whenever a husband does anything in marriage, he is de facto making a statement about the character of Christ.

Now am I saying that every "statement" I make about Christ by means of my marriage is perfect?  Absolutely not.  I am ashamed to say that far too often I have not loved my wife "as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her."  I am ashamed not just because that is what my wife deserves, but even more so, because it is what Christ deserves.

Yesterday Russell Moore wrote a piece that said much of what I would want to say on this topic, only better than I would have said it.  He writes,
At the arrest of Christ, his Bride, the church, forgot who she was, and denied who he was. He didn’t divorce her. He didn’t leave...And the church, across the ages, isn’t significant because of her size or influence. She is weak, helpless, and spattered in blood. He is faithful to us anyway. 
  Moore goes on, 
It’s easy to teach couples to put the “spark” back in their marriages, to put the “sizzle” back in their sex lives. You can still worship the self and want all that. But that’s not what love is. Love is fidelity with a cross on your back. Love is drowning in your own blood. Love is screaming, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” 
Click here to read Moore's entire post.  It's well worth your time.  And pray that we all would have the ability by God's grace and to his glory to stay faithful to the promises we made to our spouses to love them "for better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part."

Friday Fun...Memories of a First Date

In December of 1989, Erin and I went on our first date.  We had dinner at Rich & Charlies (still one of our favorites) and took in a movie at the main theater of the newly renovated Esquire.  The film showing that night: Back to the Future 2.

Well, today is our sixteenth wedding anniversary, and while it certainly would be a stretch to call this week's edition of Friday Fun "romantic," I figured it at least qualifies as "nostalgic."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...Thomas Boston on Enduring Affliction

"A just view of afflicting incidents is altogether necessary to a Christian deportment under them; and that view is to be obtained only by faith, not by sense. For it is the light of the Word alone that represents them justly, discovering in them the work of God, and, consequently, designs becoming the Divine perfections. When these are perceived by the eye of faith, and fully considered, we have a just view of afflicting incidents, fitted to quell the turbulent motions of corrupt affections under dismal outward appearances."

Thomas Boston
The Crook in the Lot

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Francis Chan on Unaswered Prayer

This past Sunday, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I preached a sermon dealing with (among other things) the fact that though God is always working in all our life situations, we often cannot make sense of what on earth he is doing.

This applies not only to major things like tragedies, but also to more personal things, like our prayer life. In the video below though, Francis Chan wisely points out that often when our prayers are not answered, it is not because God is not listening, but because of other factors over which we have far more control.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

New Zac Hicks Album: Without Our Aid

Last December I told you about my friend and fellow pastor, Zac Hicks, who had won the Church of the Servant 2010 New Psalm Contest with his arrangement of the 100th Psalm "All People That on Earth Do Dwell."  That song as well as eleven others are included in the album, Without Our Aid, which is being released today by Zac + Cherry Creek Worship.

Zac is a talented musician and composer as well as a deep and biblical thinker who rejects the triteness all too common in contemporary Christian music, striving to incorporate a profound and developed theology into his songs.  I encourage you to click here, check out the new album, and if you like what you hear, purchase a CD or download the MP3s.

Click here to read all about the album at Zac's blog and check out the promotional video below  which sheds a light on Zac's heart and this album.

Without Our Aid: Behind the Album - Zac Hicks from Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Word for Preachers...T. David Gordon on Preaching Redemptively

"Now, since Christ rescues us from both the guilt and the power of sin, one aspect of his work is the work of sanctification, whereby he renews us into the image of God and conforms us to his own likeness.  So Christian proclamation includes the shaping of a Christian moral vision, and preaching Christ does not exclude, but intentionally includes such a vision.  But it is never appropriate, in my estimation, for one word of moral counsel ever to proceed from a Christian pulpit that is not clearly, in its context, redemptive.  That is, even when the faithful exposition of particular texts requires some explanation of aspects of our behavior, it is always to be done in a manner that the hearer perceives such commended behavior to be itself a matter of being rescued from the power of sin through the grace of Christ.  When properly done, the hearer longs to be rescued from that depravity from which no sinner can rescue himself; and the hearer rejoices to know that a kind and gracious God is both willing and able to begin that rescue, which will be completed in glorification."

T. David Gordon
Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Weep With Those Who Weep"

This Sunday, on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I will be preaching from John 11:32-37, which is a portion of the story of Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead. In it we will see find many of the same difficult questions and doubts that perhaps we dealt with ten years ago:
Was God not powerful enough to prevent it? Or did he just not care enough to bother? What kind of God is this, anyway?
As I've prepared for this sermon though, one thought has struck me more than any other. I shared it yesterday on Facebook and many seemed to appreciate it, so I thought I'd share it here as well. It was this little piece of pastoral advice:
When ministering to those in mourning, resist the urge to lead off by quoting Romans 8:28 ("And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.") Instead, try living out Romans 12:15 ("Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.")
That is in no way to dispute the truth of Romans 8:28. It is every bit as true in the face of terrible suffering as it is on the best of our days. But in the most raw and tender moments of pain, what is needed, far more than answers and explanations, is an equally tender response. It is what John 11:35 (the shortest verse of the Bible) tells us our savior offered: "Jesus wept."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Mike Horton on Our Source of Comfort

"Not only at one point (justification), but from beginning to end, the relationship in which we stand before our God is founded on God's own oath, fulfilled in the work of his Son, made effective through the work of his Spirit.  For Christ, by his personal fulfillment of the covenant of creation, has won for us the right to ear from the Tree of Life. The inheritance that he attained according to a covenant of law is now ours according to a covenant of promise. There simply is no better foundation for confidence and no richer source of daily comfort in life and in death."

Mike Horton
God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology

Friday, September 2, 2011

Before the Throne of God Above

This Sunday in worship I'm looking forward to singing one of my favorite hymns: Before the Throne of God Above.  The words were originally written in 1863 by Charitie Bancroft and the tune was composed by Vikki Cook.

I think my favorite lyrics in the hymn are the following:
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Below is a beautiful version of the hymn from Edgewood Community Church in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Friday Fun...Great Chinese State Circus Does Swan Lake

Okay.  Ballet is not the normal fare here.  But when I saw this, I knew I wanted to pass it along.  And Friday Fun seemed to be the best place.

Take four minutes and watch an absolutely amazing performance.