Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's Not About Me!

As I’ve been studying the Scriptures lately, one of the themes I have seen cropping up time and again is the fact that life doesn’t revolve around me. Far too often, my first reaction to things is to ask, “How does this impact me?” And while it is a perfectly good (even necessary!) practice to look for ways to apply the Bible to our own lives, I would argue that we need to go much further than that in our application of God’s word.

Let me show you what I mean. Consider 1 Timothy 1:15-17…
15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
In verse 15, we see Paul urging Timothy to maintain humility, realizing that he has received mercy instead of what he deserved. To remember this truth on its own would be good, but it is altogether insufficient to simply end there. Verse 16 goes on to explain that this mercy was not intended to terminate on him, but was to be an example to others so that they might trust in Christ as well, and similarly experience his mercy. At this point, it might be tempting for us to think that this is where Paul is going with what he is saying, but then verse 17 reminds us that it’s not even those other believers who are, in the end, the focus of God’s work. What is most important is that all honor and glory would forever be God’s alone.

Last Sunday I preached from Mark 6:45-52, which (falling right on the heals of Jesus feeding over 5000 from just five loaves and two fish) tells the story of Jesus walking on water. As Jesus climbs into the boat, Mark informs us that the disciples were utterly astounded, “for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (v. 52). The reason they were astounded was not ultimately that Jesus had walked across the water nor that he had silenced the wind and the waves. As amazing as these things were, Mark suggests that if they had “understood about the loaves,” they would not have been so astounded at what Jesus had done.

The problem is that they (like the crowds) thought that what Jesus was doing in feeding the 5000+ was merely filling empty stomachs. Yet again though, Jesus intended for the glory of God to be made manifest. What he had actually done was display that the laws of nature do not govern him, but rather he governs them; he was showing them that he is God!

God is constantly at work meeting our needs. He does so with such frequency that quite often we don’t even notice it. When we do notice it though, let us remember that this is not all that he is doing. He is yet again drawing our attention to the fact “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Sproul on Holiness and the Justice of God

"Was it unjust for God to say to Adam and Eve that they would die when they sinned? Think about it. Was it evil for God to impose the death penalty for all sin? If you say yes, be careful. If you say yes, you are saying it as an expression of the very fallen, sinful nature that exposes you to the death penalty in the first place. If you say yes, you slander the character of God. If you say yes,you do violence to His holiness. If you say yes, you assail the righteous Judge of all the earth. If you say yes, you have never come to grips with what sin is. We must not say yes. We must say no and say it with conviction.

R.C. Sproul
The Holiness of God

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Word for Preachers...John Broadus on Doctrinal Preaching

"To a certain extent it is proper that we should conform to the tastes of the age, for they frequently indicate its real wants, and always affect its reception of truth; but when those tastes are manifestly faulty, we should earnestly endeavor to correct them. The preacher who can make doctrinal truth interesting as well as intelligible to his congregation, and gradually bring them to a good acquaintance with the doctrines of the Bible, is rendering them an inestimable service. Doctrinal preaching is not necessarily dry. In fact properly presented doctrine, didactic instruction, may be the most interesting kind of preaching. Men wish to know, delight in knowing. All depends on the way in which it is done. The dry preacher will make all subjects dry; dull anecdotes, and tame exhortations have sometimes been heard of."

John Broadus
On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Fun...Uncle Drew

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don't Be Too Quick To Abandon Traditions

While it may be debatable as to whether or not it is a good thing, it is undeniable that we are in the midst of an age when many within the Church have deemed it either wise or expedient to abandon much of the Church's heritage and many of her traditions.  Trevin Wax has some good observations dealing with this fact in a great blog post originally posted in 2007, and re-posted at his blog this morning. Early on, he makes a concession:
Before we go on, we must admit – yes, our Christian traditions can become dry and lifeless. In many churches, they are ritualistic and cold. Most of the time, though, rigor mortis sets in when traditions are not understood or explained. When rituals become dry and empty of significance, the answer is not to throw them out, but to rediscover their purpose.
This extends not only to the shape of our liturgy and the parts that make up a worship service. It includes even the language we use. Wax points out the eschewing within the church of such theological terms as "justification," "redemption" and "propitiation," in an effort to be "seeker-friendly."
Christian leaders cop out by dismissing such terminology because “the lost don’t understand.” The greater danger is “the saved don’t understand.” If our preachers, teachers and writers would reconnect the church with the depth and majesty of the theological terms so many want to throw away, perhaps the cry against hard words would fall silent.
Words are more than just definitions in a lexicon. They remind us who we are – citizens of God’s Kingdom.
Click here to read the whole post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Matt Chandler on Church as a Hobby

"(N)obody can really attend church as though it's a hobby; to do so does not reveal partial belief but hardness. The religious, moralistic, churchgoing evangelical who has no real intention of seeking God and following him has not found some sweet spot between radical devotion and wanton sin; he's found devastation. The moralism that passes for Christian faith today is a devastating hobby if you have no intention of submitting your life fully to God and chasing him in Christ."

Matt Chandler
The Explicit Gospel

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Baxter on Taking Heed to Ourselves

"We are the nurses of Christ’s little ones. If we forbear taking food ourselves, we shall famish them; it will soon be visible in their leanness, and dull discharge of their several duties. If we let our love decline, we are not like to raise up theirs. If we abate our holy care and fear, it will appear in our preaching: if the matter show it not, the manner will. If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors or fruitless controversies, our hearers are like to fare the worse for it. Whereas, if we abound in faith, and love, and zeal, how would it overflow to the refreshing of our congregations, and how would it appear in the increase of the same graces in them!...Above all, be much in secret prayer and meditation. Thence you must fetch the heavenly fire that must kindle your sacrifices: remember, you cannot decline and neglect your duty, to your own hurt alone; many will be losers by it as well as you. For your people’s sakes, therefore, look to your hearts. If a pang of spiritual pride should overtake you, and you should fall into any dangerous error, and vent your own inventions to draw away disciples after you, what a wound may this prove to the Church, of which you have the oversight; and you may become a plague to them instead of a blessing, and they may wish they had never seen your faces. Oh, therefore, take heed to your own judgments and affections. Vanity and error will slyly insinuate, and seldom come without fair pretences: great distempers and apostasies have usually small beginnings. The prince of darkness doth frequently personate an angel of light, to draw the children of light again into darkness. How easily also will distempers creep in upon our affections and our first love, and fear and care abate! Watch, therefore, for the sake of yourselves and others."

Richard Baxter
The Reformed Pastor

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Calvin on the Primacy of God

"For, quite clearly, the mighty gifts with which we are endowed are hardly from ourselves: indeed. our very being is nothing but subsistence in the one God. Then, by these benefits shed like dew from heaven upon us, we are led as by rivulets to the spring itself. Indeed, our very poverty better discloses the infinitude of benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, especially compels us to look upward...Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and--what is more--depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, fell abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone."

John Calvin
Institutes of the Christian Religion

Reflections on Covenant Theological Seminary

Rev. Joe Novenson, lead teaching pastor at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and seminary board member, shares some reflections on Covenant Theological Seminary.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Word for Preachers...DeYoung on Preaching With Authority

"The only hope we preachers have for success in the ministry is the  power inherent in the word of God. We can have no other confidence. The  only things really worth happening in your church will only happen by  the power of the word. The word may seem slow or foolish or irrelevant,  but it will not disappoint. It cannot return empty.
"Critics like to say about evangelicals, “You worship the Bible, a dead letter, words on a page, blah, blah, blah.” Don’t mind those  critics. Satan uses their critiques more than God does. The devil wants  you to think there’s no power in the word, that it’s not living and  active, that it’s not sharper than any two-edged sword, that it’s not  the imperishable seed by which men and women are born again. The devil  wants you to believe you are fruity and fruitless for wasting your time  in study and wasting your breath on Sunday. The devil wants you to voice  your cynicism, your skepticism, and your sophisticated reasons for  supposedly worshiping Jesus by revering the Scriptures less than he did.  Don’t buy it. Look at every preacher worthy of emulation from any  century and you will find a man preaching with authority.

"So preach with confidence and conviction this Lord’s Day. Preach as  if you were utterly and completely dependent on the word of God to do  the work of God. “Declare these things;  exhort and rebuke with all  authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus  2:15). Preach like you mean  it."

Kevin DeYoung

"Her Children Rise Up and Call Her Blessed"

When it comes to going to bed, my eight-year-old daughter is a world class staller. I thought I was good at it as a kid with my routine of asking for a drink of water, etc., but she has made an art form of it. Asking for extra hugs is a good tactic, albeit a little elementary. In my case in particular, the well-timed (i.e., right as the lights go out) theological question is quite effective in gaining a few more minutes of awake time. Last night though, was an all-timer. As I'm turning away from her bed to walk out of her room, she drops this one on me: "Daddy, I liked your sermon today."

Well, I'm not sure if she is the most discerning homiletical critic in the world, but I'll take it. And I was of course happy to chat about it with my eight-year-old for a few minutes, even though bedtime had long passed.

Anyway, if you'd like to hear some preaching that comes with my daughter's recommendation, you can click here and listen to my Mother's Day sermon from Proverbs 31:10-31, "Her Children Rise Up and Call Her Blessed."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Fun...Russian Taxi Cab

I never realized that in order to be a taxi cab driver in Russia you have to first pass a swimming test...

(HT: Trevin Wax)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Quick Thought on Prayer

This morning I was considering the words of 1 John 5:14-15:
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
There are those who take such passages of Scripture and use them to develop a "prosperity gospel" that essentially preaches, "Trust God, and you will become healthy and wealthy." This is far from wise.

Rather, what we are promised here (and in many other similar passages) is that if our will is aligned with  God's, then we will receive those things for which we ask in prayer. If we really believe this to be true, then whenever we come before the Lord in prayer, our first and foundational petition can be none other than "Father, conform my will to that which is your own."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Jared Wilson on a Resurrection Gospel

“A resurrection gospel is a full gospel. What we are accustomed to is a simplistic, stripped down gospel, a gospel that suggests, ‘You have issues, but Jesus died for you; now be a good person.’ The full gospel says, ‘The problem is a radical one no less serious than death and it requires a radical intervention no less powerful than resurrection’ The full gospel says that the level and quality of your messed-up-ness is complete, exhaustive, and irreconcilable by you, but the gift of God's grace extends infinitely, eternally, covering it all. It reconciles us fully to God in a way that can only be described as bringing a dead person back to life.”

Jared Wilson
Your Jesus Is Too Safe

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Lloyd-Jones on the Authority of Scripture

"While men believed in the Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God and spoke on the basis of that authority you had great preaching. But once that went, and men began to speculate, and to theorise, and to put up hypotheses and so on, the eloquence and the greatness of the spoken word inevitably declined and began to wane. You cannot really deal with speculations and conjectures in the same way as preaching had formerly dealt with the great themes of the Scriptures. But as belief in the great doctrines of the Bible began to go out, and sermons were replaced by ethical addresses and homilies, and moral uplift and socio-political talk, it is not surprising that preaching declined."

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Preachers & Preaching

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mike Horton on "Masculine Christianity"

Within the New Calvinist movement, and evangelicalism in general, there are many who would advocate for a more "masculine" Christianity. Mike Horton responds in this recent article from Modern Reformation magazine. In it he gives an interesting take on gender stereotyping within the church, and the need for our ideas to be more grounded in the Scriptures.

It is well worth reading the whole thing, and I recommend you do so. But if you want just a summation, here is where he ends up:
My point is that the larger goal here shouldn't be to trot out more gender stereotypes from our culture, whether feminist or neo-Victorian, but rather to rediscover the ministry that Christ has ordained for making disciples of all nations, all generations, and both genders. We need less niche marketing and more meat-and-potatoes service to the whole body of Christ. There, men and women, the young and the old and the middle aged, black, white, Latino, Asian, rich and poor hear God's Word together, pray and sing God's Word together, and are made one body by receiving Christ's body and blood together: "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." In that place, at least, there are no women's Bible studies and men's Bible studies, distracted youth groups and child-free golden oldies clubs, but brothers and sisters on pilgrimage to a better homeland than those that have been fashioned for us by this passing evil age.

Friday Fun...Beat-boxing Cellist, Kevin "K.O." Olusola

I'm not sure I have words to adequately describe this. You'll just have to watch. And hang in for the full five're already 30 seconds in!

(HT: J.J. Sherwood)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wednesday's* Words of Wisdom...Matt Chandler on Gospel-Centeredness

Oops! I didn't post this yesterday. But "Thursday's Words of Wisdom" just isn't quite as catchy...

"(A)ll your church attendance, all your religious activities, your Sunday school attendance medals, your journals, having a "quiet time," reading the Scriptures -- it's all in vain if you don't have Christ. When you read (1 Corinthians 15:1-7; Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 2:20-3:5 and Philippians 3:4-9) together, you get a feel for his attack on the Christian, moralistic, therapeutic deism of his day. We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the power of his resurrection. If you add to or subtract from the cross, even if it is to factor in biblically mandated religious practices like prayer and evangelism, you rob God of his glory and Christ of his sufficiency."

Matt Chandler
The Explicit Gospel

Every Nation Day of Prayer

I recently received Scotty Smith's book Everyday Prayers. It is a compilation of Scripture-centered and gospel-saturated prayers that Scotty has written through his personal study of and meditation on God's word. With this being National Day of Prayer, I found Scotty's prayer for today to be extremely helpful. It is adapted from a prayer posted a couple years ago at the Heavenward, his blog hosted by The Gospel Coalition, and further adapted (as I found after posting this) in today's post. Here's how it reads in the book:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10
Loving Father, on this “national day of prayer” it's easy to think of several things to bring before you. First of all, I praise you for heavenly citizenship. Thank you for making me a citizen of the realm from which I eagerly await the return of the true King, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He's already reigning, and one day he will return to transform all things—including my body to be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21). What comfort and what joy that good news brings!
Secondly, as broken as our country is, I’m very thankful to be an American citizen. I praise you for the many freedoms we still enjoy and the multiplied privileges that go with being a citizen of this great nation. I bring our sitting president before the occupied throne of heaven, and I ask you to be at work in his heart and through his hands.
As with all “kings,” you set them up and you sit them down at your discretion, so I trust you for the accomplishment of your sovereign purposes through our president, in keeping with the eternal wisdom of your heart. I don’t look for a lasting city in our country but for the City builder and maker is God—that would be you!
Lastly, the more I understand the gospel, the more I find it easy to pray in light of John's vision of the "every nation" day of prayer. Oh, for the day when men and women from every nation, tribe, people and language will be wearing the white robes of grace-secured salvation, while waving palm branches of praise and shouting in perfect harmony, "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10).
Because that day is coming, free me to be a better citizen of two countries until the kingdom of God arrives in fullness and the King of glory arrives in splendor. I pray in his sovereign and saving name. Amen.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

A couple weeks ago I made reference to D.A. Carson's wonderful biography of his father, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.
It was recently brought to my attention that the downloads of the book are available for FREE in PDF form thanks to The Gospel Coalition.

If you are a pastor, please read this book. It is certainly on my short list of those books which have had the most profound impact on me. In an age when we are especially prone to idolize "celebrity pastors" who have gifts and opportunities that most of us will never experience, Carson extols the virtue of faithfulness, which each one of us has the capacity to exercise.

PRTS Conference: The Glory of the Father

Joel Beeke, Burk Parsons and Derek Thomas will be among the great lineup of speakers at the fourth annual Puritan Reformed Conference, held August 23-25 in Grand Rapids. I attended the last two years when the conference themes were The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit and The Beauty and Glory of the Son. This year's theme is (not  surprisingly) "The Beauty and Glory of the Father." Each of the conferences I have been to has been a blessing to my soul, and I have every confidence that this one will be no different.

Space is limited and they are almost certain to end up having to turn people away for this conference, so don't hesitate; click here to register online before July 22 and receive the early registration rate of just $65. I am steadfastly convinced that there is not a better value available anywhere for this type of conference. There are even great deals available for hotel rooms in connection with the conference.

The schedule for the conference is as follows:

August 23 (Thursday evening)

6:00 – 7:00pm

7:00 – 8:00pm
Welcome, Prayer, & Singing
Opening Message – Jerry Bilkes, Father and Son in the Exodus (Hos.11:1, etc.)

8:15 – 9:15pm
Plenary Session #1 – Derek Thomas, The Holiness of the Father in the Old Testament

9:15 – 10:15pm
Exhibits Open – 10:15pm, Day One ends

August 24 (Friday)

8:30 – 9:00am

9:00 – 10:30am
Welcome, Prayer, & Singing
Plenary Session #2 – Bart Elshout, The Father’s Love for His Son (Jn.3:35)

11:00am – 12:00pm
Plenary Session #3 – Burk Parsons, The Father’s Beautiful Hand of Blessed Chastisement (Heb.12:4-13)

12:00 – 1:45pm
Lunch Break

2:00 – 315pm
Plenary Session #4 – Ryan McGraw – The Need for a Trinitarian Piety

3:30 – 4:30pm
Breakout Sessions:
David Murray, Counseling and the Fatherhood of God
Burk Parsons, The Glory of the Father in the High-Priestly Prayer of Christ (Jn.17)
Paul Smalley, Richard Sibbes on the Mercy and Faithfulness of the Father
William VanDoodewaard, Your Father in Heaven (Mt.5-7)
4:30 – 6:30pm
Dinner Break

6:30 – 7:00pm
Special Music – TBD

7:00 – 8:15pm
Plenary Session #5 – Joel Beeke, The Apostle John and the Puritans on the Father’s Adopting, Transforming Love

8:30 – 9:15pm
Q&A Session (moderated by David Murray)
Joel Beeke
Derek Thomas
Burk Parsons
Bart Elshout
9:15 – 10pm
Exhibits open – 10:00–10:45pm, Day two ends

August 25 (Saturday)

9:00 – 10:30am
Welcome, Prayer & Singing
Plenary Session #6 – William VanDoodewaard, The Father’s Mercy (1Pet.1:3-5)

10:45 – 11:45am
Plenary Session #7 – Derek Thomas, Seeing the Father in the Face of Jesus (Jn.14:9)

11:45am – 12:00pm
Closing Song & Prayer – 12:00pm, Day three ends