Monday, February 27, 2012

Heading to the Polls

Tomorrow is election day in the state of Michigan. Not only will the presidential primaries be held, but votes will be cast for and against a number of other candidates and issues.  As an American, you have a right to express your opinions and vote for the candidates that you feel best represent them. Some would argue that these are not just your rights, but your responsibility.  So go ahead and vote tomorrow.

If you’re a Christian though, let me remind you of these important facts: Regardless of who is ultimately elected, 
  • They serve not just because they got the most votes, but because it is the will of God that they do so (Romans 13:1).
  • As such, and in light of their position, they are entitled to our respect (1 Peter 2:17).
  • We are to pray, intercede and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Ultimately, we need to remember that whoever wins this (or any election), we must not fall into the trap of believing that their election will fix (or ruin) everything. Things are already pretty messed up, and that goes back not to any decision made by a politician, but to Adam’s decision in the Garden of Eden to forsake the will of God (Genesis 3:17-19).

There is One coming though who will set all things right. But He will not come to power on the basis of the electoral college in accordance with the laws of the land. Rather He will come with power that is already His in accordance with the promises of God (Revelation 21:1-5).

Regardless of political trends and election results, may our prayer tomorrow (and every day) be this: Come, Lord Jesus!

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

"Christological preaching feeds the soul and builds faith. Faith is not built by preaching introspectively (constantly challenging people to question whether they have faith); faith is not built by preaching moralistically (which has exactly the opposite effect of focusing attention on the self rather than on Christ, in whom our faith is placed); faith is not built by joining the culture wars and taking potshots at what is wrong with our culture. Faith is built by careful, thorough exposition of the person, character, and work of Christ."

T. David Gordon
Why Johnny Can't Preach

Are You Afraid of Making Decisions?

I lead a college & career-aged group at our church called TwentySomeone, taken from the helpful book of the same title by Craig Dunham and Doug Serven. We recently began a discussion of Kevin DeYoung's book, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will.

One of the things we discussed yesterday was the fact that there are many reasons we become paralyzed in making life decisions. These range from laziness and immaturity to a desire to do what God wants us to do and a fear of making the wrong choice.

In the video below, Winston Smith from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation adds some helpful comments to this discussion.

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Fun...Kurt Warner Comeback?

As I've mentioned before, Kurt Warner was, is and always will be my favorite football player. Part of that is because, being a native St. Louisan, I was a big Rams fan when he helped turn a perennial cellar-dweller into a Super Bowl champion. Then he followed this up by leading the team of my youth (the Cardinals) to the Super Bowl as well.  Furthermore, his personal history of grocery store stockboy turned NFL MVP is one of the great underdog stories of all time. Finally, add to these the fact that he found a way to have a Christian testimony in the midst of all this that was strong and yet not as annoying to non-Christians as that of many other outspoken Christian athletes.
Side note...A little trivia question for you here: In the 47 Super Bowls to have been played, what quarterback threw for the most yards in a game? How about the second most? How about the third?
Answer: Kurt Warner. Kurt Warner. And Kurt Warner. That's right. Of the 94 starting quarterbacks in the history of the Super Bowl, Kurt Warner's three starts were the top three performances in terms of passing yards.
Anyway, sports-wise, I'd love nothing more than to see Kurt Warner make a comeback and play forever. With that in mind, I really enjoyed the following video:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Keller on the Idolatry of Money

"The solution to stinginess is a reorientation to the generosity of Christ in the Gospel, how he poured out his wealth for you. Now you don't have to worry about money -- the Cross proves God's care for you and gives you the security...What breaks the power of money over us is not just the redoubled effort to follow the example of Christ. Rather, it is deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ, what you have in him, and then living out the changes that the understanding makes in your heart – the seat of your mind, will, and emotions. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding and identity, our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without a complete change of heart will be superficial and fleeting.”
Tim Keller
Counterfeit Gods

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Still on the Primacy of Preaching

"Having been called or appointed to minister to a local congregation, begin to minister the Word of God to them at once, depending for all you are worth on the Holy Spirit, and believing that this is the biggest thing you can do for them in all the world. This is your life: not a part of it, but your life. Other things come in, of course, but this is your life, the most thrilling life anyone can live on earth, to expose a group of people, Christian or not, to the all-searching eye of the Word of God."

William Still
The Work of the Pastor

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Fun...Take Your Child to Work Day

Brian Regan on the pride of fatherhood...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Helpful Quotes from a Study of Galatians

Last night I led our congregational Bible study which is working its way through the book of Galatians. Our text was Galatians 4:8-11, and as I prepared for it, I came across a number of helpful quotes from people far wiser than me. I thought I'd share some of them with you here:
Philip Ryken: “A Christian simply is someone who knows God – not someone who knows about God, as if Christianity were some sort of philosophy, but someone who has a relationship with God. In the Bible, the knowledge of God is always personal. It involves an intimate encounter with God the Father, through the Spirit of his Son. Christianity is not a matter of what we know; it is a matter of whom we know.” 

John Calvin : “Paul reminds the Galatians whence they had derived the knowledge of God. He affirms that they did not obtain it by their own exertions, by the acuteness or industry of their own minds, but because, when they were at the farthest possible remove from thinking of him, God visited them in mercy.  What is said of the Galatians may be extended to all; for in all are fulfilled the words of Isaiah, ‘I am sought by them that asked not for me: I am found by them that sought me not.’ (Isaiah 65:1)”
Martin Luther: “Therefore, as many as trust to their own strength and righteousness, do serve a god, but such a god as they themselves have devised, and not the true God. For the true God speaketh thus: No righteousness, wisdom, nor religion, pleaseth Me, but that only whereby the Father is glorified through the Son.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Very Best Idols

Jay Keywood is married to my second cousin-in-law. Now I'm not sure if that is actually a recognized familial relationship, but I am sure that he wrote a good blog post today in regards to idols. In it he makes the following wise observation:
Most of the time, things become idols, not because they are inherently evil, like “murder,” but because God made them good, like “family.” The most intimate manifestations of idolatry are not hidden in the jungles of Cambodia, but thriving right under our noses. 
Click here to read the whole post and see why, as he puts it, the best things make the best idols.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Charnock on the Holiness of God

"It is less injury to Him to deny His being, than to deny the purity of it; the one makes Him no God, the other a deformed, unlovely, and a detestable God. He that saith God is not holy speaks much worse that he that saith there is no God at all."

Stephen Charnock

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day and the Song of Solomon

At Valentine's Day, I've noticed a number of bloggers have turned their attention to the Song of Solomon. I suppose this is to be expected. Whatever exactly this book of the Bible talks about, it clearly does so using terms of romantic love.

Throughout history, Christians have had many reactions to the Song. One is to completely ignore it out of discomfort with the subject matter. It goes without saying that with any part of Scripture, this is an unacceptable attitude.

For those who do look to the Song, there are various ways it has been interpreted. Some within the Church have allegorized it, contending that it is solely about God and his relationship with the church, and it has nothing to say about romantic love between individuals.Yet another way that some have dealt with it is by turning it into nothing more than a marriage manual, neglecting altogether what it might have to say to us about God, and specifically Jesus Christ. To apply either of these approaches, in my opinion, is to fall terribly short of understanding what God is telling us in this book.

A couple years ago at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Conference, Dr. Iain Campbell preached what was not only the best sermon I've ever heard on the Song, but was (especially in its second half) one of my favorite sermons ever on any text. Click on the player below to listen to it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Returning to Hymns

Today The Gospel Coalition posted this real good discussion between Mike Cosper, Isaac Wardell and Kevin Twit on why and how many churches are rediscovering the importance of hymns. Take a couple minutes to check it out.

Old Hymns for Our Day from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

A Word for Preachers...Spurgeon on the Remedy for Evils

"I have only one remedy to prescribe, and that is, that we do preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in all its length and breadth of doctrine, precept, spirit, example, and power. To give but one remedy for many diseases of the body, is the part of an empiric; but it is not so in the affairs of the soul, for the gospel is so divinely compounded as to meet all the evils of humanity, however they may differ from one another. We have only to preach the living gospel, and the whole of it, to meet the whole of the evils of the times. The gospel, if it were fully received through the whole earth, would purge away all slavery and all war, and put down all drunkenness and all social evils; in fact, you cannot conceive a moral curse which it would not remove; and even physical evils, since many of them arise incidentally from sin, would be greatly mitigated, and some of them for ever abolished. The spirit of the gospel, causing attention to be given to all that concerns our neighbor's welfare, would promote sanitary and social reforms, and so the leaves of the tree which are for the healing of the nations would work their beneficial purpose. Keep to the gospel, brethren, and you will keep to the one universal, never-failing remedy. You have read of sieges, in which the poor inhabitants have been reduced to skeletons; and fevers and diseases, scarcely known at other times, have abounded: when the city has at last surrendered, if you wished to give the people what would meet all their wants, you would begin by giving them food. Hunger lies at the bottom of the fever, hunger has caused the other diseases, gaunt and grim; and when the constitution is again built up by food, it will throw off most of the other ills. Give the bread of life to the multitude, and the maladies and diseases of fallen humanity will be divinely removed; I am sure it is so."

Charles Spurgeon 
An All-Round Ministry

(HT: J.J. Sherwood)

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Friday Fun...Making Sweet Music

Watch Christian Videos and Read the Online Bible at

Friday Fun...Starting Lineups

The other night in New Orleans, as the Hornets hosted the Chicago Bulls, Will Ferrell served as the guest public address announcer for the starting lineups. It was, well, unique.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sara Groves...You Cannot Lose My Love

I saw this video from Sara Groves tonight when Scotty Smith posted it and found the song so beautiful that I knew I needed to share it too. What a great promise it is that Christians find in Romans 8:38-39,
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dane Ortlund on Receiving Criticism

Fellow Covenant Seminary alum Dane Ortlund had a great post on dealing with criticism yesterday at his blog, Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology. In it he shared two wrong ways to receive it ("overtly reject consideration of it" or "reject consideration of the critique inwardly, while receiving it outwardly"), before moving on to the appropriate way to deal with critical words from Christian brothers and sisters:
Receive the critical words, consider them. Fill your heart with a sense of God's undentable delight in you as his son or daughter, filter the criticism through wisdom, ponder what has been said, leave behind what was sincere but wrong as far as you can tell, seek the counsel of others if needed, remember that Christ's blood covers all offenses, and redirect your life accordingly.
The whole post is well worth reading as it is full of gospel-empowered wisdom and humility. Click here to check it out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tim Keller on New York City Church Decision

Perhaps you have heard in recent days that the city of New York has announced that churches, unlike secular organizations, will no longer be allowed to rent space from New York City schools. This is troublesome not just for the immediate impact on the city of New York and its churches, but because of the fact that so often, as goes New York, so too eventually goes the nation.

Tim Keller's words at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church online newsletter, The Redeemer Report, were far better than anything I could say, so I simply share them with you here:
I am grieved that New York City is planning to take the unwise step of removing 68 churches from the spaces that they rent in public schools. It is my conviction that those churches housed in schools are invaluable assets to the neighborhoods that they serve. Churches have long been seen as positive additions to communities. Family stability, resources for those in need, and compassion for the marginalized are all positive influences that neighborhood churches provide. There are many with first-hand experience who will claim that the presence of churches in a neighborhood can lead to a drop in crime.

The great diversity of our city means that we will never all agree completely on anything. And we cherish our city’s reputation for tolerance of differing opinions and beliefs. Therefore, we should all mourn if disagreement with certain beliefs of the church is allowed to unduly influence the formation of just policy and practice.

I disagree with the opinion written by Judge Pierre Leval that: “A worship service is an act of organized religion that consecrates the place in which it is performed, making it a church.” This is an erroneous theological judgment; I know of no Christian church or denomination that believes that merely holding a service in a building somehow “consecrates” it, setting it apart from all common or profane use. To base a legal opinion on such a superstitious view is surely invalid. Conversely, I concur with Judge John Walker’s dissenting opinion that this ban constitutes viewpoint discrimination and raises no legitimate Establishment Clause concerns.

A disproportionate number of churches that are affected by this prohibition are not wealthy, established communities of faith. They are ones who possess the fewest resources and many work with the poor. Redeemer has many ties with those churches and their pastors, and our church community invests time and resources to assist them to be good neighbors in their communities.

Let them be those good neighbors. I am hopeful that the leaders of New York City and the legislators of New York State will see the value of a society that encourages all spheres of culture—the church, government, education, business, etc—to work together for human flourishing.

Dr. Timothy Keller
Senior Pastor
Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Carson on Sanctification

"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."

D.A. Carson
For the Love of God, volume 2

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Chapell on Christ-Centered Preaching

"A passage retains its Christocentric focus, and a sermon becomes Christ-centered, not because the preacher finds a slick way of wedging a reference to Jesus' person or work into the message but because the sermon identifies this particular text legitimately serves in the great drama of the Son's crusade against the serpent."

Bryan Chapell
Christ-Centered Preaching

Friday, February 3, 2012

National Prayer Breakfast - Eric Metaxas

I loved the things that Eric Metaxas had to say yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast. The biographer of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out how both men saw truths that others in their time did not see, and we celebrate them for it. Wilberforce saw Africans as human beings worthy of our love and respect in a time when they were sold as property, and fought for the end of the slave trade. Bonhoeffer similarly saw Jews as worthy of our love and respect in the midst of Nazi Germany, and ended up dying in a concentration camp himself as a result.

It's easy for us to see now where these two men were right and the prevailing culture was horribly wrong. If we lived in their day though, Metaxas points out that we should not be so sure of the clarity of vision that we would have had, for apart from God's intervention we are no better than anyone else.

Jesus opens our eyes to though to his ideas, which are different from our own. And so, while we are called to speak out and act on behalf of the powerless, at the same time Metaxas points out, we need to be careful in our attitude toward those who do not see things as we do.

Those of us who know the unborn to be human beings are commanded by God to love those who do not yet see that. We need to know that apart from God we would be on the other side of that divide, fighting for what we believe is right. We cannot demonize our enemies. Today if you believe abortion is wrong you must treat those on the other side with the love of Jesus.

The whole talk is well worth watching, but especially enjoyed the end of it, starting around 58 minutes.

Friday Fun..."Super" Commercials

You may have heard that this Sunday there's going to be a pretty big football game. And while many will be watching it to see who wins between the Patriots and the Giants, perhaps just as many will be watching to see the commercials.

Early indications are that automobile commercials will be among the some of the most talked about ones this year. Here are a few extended versions of the spots you'll see Sunday...

Advertising during the game has become such a big deal, that Volkswagen not only made a commercial that was a sort of sequel to last year's Star Wars-themed spot, they also actually produced a teaser for the commercial that's been floating around the internet the last couple weeks.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hans Bayer on Interpreting Parables

Below is a video of Covenant Seminary professor Hans Bayer on interpreting the parables in the Gospel of Mark. Dr. Bayer was one of my favorite professors at Covenant, and his book, A Theology of Mark will be released by P&R Publishing this April.

This session was from a Brown Bag Lunch series hosted by The Journey, a church in St. Louis planted by  Darrin Patrick.

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Piper on Christian Service

"What is God looking for in the world? Assistants? No. The gospel is not a help-wanted ad. It is a help-available ad. Nor is the call to Christian service a help-wanted ad. God is not looking for people to work for Him but people who let Him work mightily in and through them: 'The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him' (2 Chron. 16:9). God is not a scout looking for the first draft choices to help His team win. He is an unstoppable fullback ready to take the ball and run touchdowns for anyone who trusts him to win the game."

John Piper
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

How We Disagree With One Another

Kevin DeYoung somewhat reluctantly entered the fray of the recent Elephant Room/T.D. Jakes controversy with a blog post today. He has many good reflections and admonitions throughout the post, but I especially appreciated his closing thoughts:
We need a more careful theology of criticism. There are several observations all Christians should be able to agree on, even if they sometimes pull us in opposite directions. (1) Let’s not assume the worst about people. (2) Let’s not shame those who aren’t immediately credulous when someone with a history of bad thinking says something that could be construed as maybe okay. (3) Let’s be very cautious in assigning motive. (4) Let’s not take everything personally or make everything personal. (5) Let’s not get our kicks from criticizing others and mucking around in controversy. (6) Let’s avoid facile condemnations of all criticism, realizing that the statement itself is a criticism and the Bible is full of heroes who had a lot of bones to pick. (7) Let’s accept that in this fallen world only the Lord can fully sort some things out and we don’t have go twelve rounds in every conflict.

So praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God in three persons—for loving me despite so many mistakes, for loving the glory of his name above all things, and for loving the church even more than we do. Let’s pray he brings good out of these hard times.