Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Luther on the Accusations of Satan

"So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!'"

Martin Luther

Free Download of Ligonier's Luther and the Reformation

Today, in celebration of Reformation Day, Ligonier Ministries is offering a free download of R.C. Sproul’s recently released ten-part series, Luther and the Reformation. It is being made available in audio and video form. Take advantage of this great opportunity to learn about one of history's most influential figures.

Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other

Happy Reformation Day! 495 years ago, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.While there were certainly those "pre-reformers" who came before him, this act serves as the symbolic start of the Protestant Reformation.

A little over three years later, at the Diet of Worms, Luther would be called before Emperor Charles V and was asked to recant his teachings. His famous response has been oft-portrayed. Others will no doubt today share a similar clip from the 2003 film Luther starring Joseph Fiennes. I figured I'd stand out a little and go back an extra half-century and share this clip from the 1953 version of Martin Luther starring Niall MacGinnis.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Word For Preachers...Stephen Smallman on Discipleship

"No doubt we will need to confess that we are weak disciples or new disciples or struggling disciples--but it is vital that believers understand that they are disciples...Those who are pastors and teachers in Christ's church should let this truth sink deeply into their consciousness so that it impacts their preaching. One reason Christians make discipleship an added commitment is that they have only heard the gospel as a call to believe in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, not as a call to follow Jesus. We need to preach a gospel that assumes discipleship because to believe in Jesus is to follow Jesus as his disciple. Before we fault the members of our churches for their weakness in this area, we need to ask ourselves what is the content of the gospel message we have been consistently proclaiming."

Stephen Smallman
What Is Discipleship?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Scotty Smith on God's Story

"(W)e are made to live in God's Story...for God's glory...with God's joy. It's only within God's Story that our stories find their true meaning and destiny. This is the story that we have in common with God's people of every generation.

"Think about it: though we spend much of life relegating God to bit parts in our little autobiographies of self-fulfillment, God generously 'enfolds' us into His cosmic Story of transforming love! Could any of us possibly want or hope for more out of life?

"We are called into a story that enfolds our own stories in a grander narative--a story that is going somewhere, a story that is taking us with it. There really is a Great Story that goes on forever, in which each chapter gets better than the one before. We dwindle or we grow. Which will you choose?"

Scotty Smith
Restoring Broken Things: What Happens When We Catch a Vision of the New World Jesus is Creating

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jesus...Better Than Expected

We are blessed to live in an age where the internet provides us with a cornucopia of good teaching on which we might feast. And while I would strongly speak against making the internet your primary source of church involvement, listening to sermons online can be a wonderful supplement to an already healthy Christian life.

In this sense, I am thankful are Kevin DeYoung's pulpit ministry at University Reformed Church in East Lansing and for the fact that his sermons are so easily accessible via the internet. I regularly listen to Kevin's sermons and benefit both as a preacher seaking to hone his own preaching skills as well as (more importantly) as a Christian who is regularly fed as Kevin opens and expounds upon the word of God.

He recently preached form Acts 3 dealing with Peter's address at Solomon's Portico. In it we see that though Jesus may not be what we thought or were expecting, he is, in reality, far beyond our understanding and even better than our expectations. Kevin states,
Do you notice how Peter paints such a stunning picture showing the contrast between human assessment of Jesus and God's assessment of Jesus? There will always be what men and women think about Christ, and then there is what God says about Christ:

You thought he was a false prophet, Peter says, but according to Moses he was THE Prophet.
You spoke against him, but Samuel spoke of him.
You said his father was the devil, God said he would be the son of father Abraham.
You had no ears to hear the gospel, but the Lord said you should listen to whatever he says.
You considered him a blasphemer but he was the Holy One of Israel.
You treated him wickedly, but he was the Righteous One of God
You gave life to a murderer, and you murdered the Author of Life.
You handed him over to die, God raised him up from the dead.
You denied him before Pilate, God glorified him in heaven
The One you delivered to the Romans, God has made your Deliverer.
And the One you would not save, God sent to be your Savior.

Have you ever known a man like this? Has there ever been such a gulf between what a people thought of someone and what he actually was? And can you hear this Savior speaking to you?
Some of you have been sort of checking out the church, sort of checking out Christianity or you've been sort of sleep-walking through your faith for twenty years, and yet you know  God has been saying something to you. And if you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd this morning, do not harden your hearts. You have never met a Savior like this and you have need of a Savior like this. And if he is calling, you would do well to heed his call.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Sidney Griedanus on Christ-Centered Preaching

"In 1976, while a pastor in Delta, British Columbia, I preached a series of sermons on Ecclesiastes. After hearing one of these theocentric sermons, a retired pastor approached me and said, 'I appreciated your sermon, Sid, but could a rabbi have preached your sermon in a synagogue?' I was dumbfounded by the question, but it set me to thinking about the issue of Christocentric preaching. Of course, a rabbi and I have the Old Testament in common. Moreover, since wisdom is a reflection on 'customary orders in the world,' the message of wisdom literature would be the same for the church as for the synagogue. So yes, a rabbi could have preached that sermon in a synagogue without causing offense. But if that was the case, had I preached an 'Old Testament sermon' instead of a 'Christian sermon'? Should not my sermons on Old Testament passages reflect that these passages now function in the context of the New Testament? Should not the sermons of Christian preachers be distinctively Christian?"

Sidney Griedanus
Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meditating on the Glory and Love of Christ

Today I came across this helpful reminder from John Owen in The Glory of Christ:
I would urge you to prepare your minds continually for heavenly things by meditating seriously on the glory of the love of Christ.  This cannot be done if the mind is always full of earthly thoughts.  Do not be satisfied with general thoughts of the love of Christ but think of it in a more detailed way.
  1. Consider whose love it is: the love of the Son of God who is also the Son of Man. As he is unique, so his love must be unique. 
  2. Think of the wisdom, goodness and grace shown in the eternal acts of his divine nature and of the pity an love of his human nature in all that he did and suffered for us (see Ephesians 3:19; Hebrews 2:14, 15; Revelation 1:5). 
  3. We deserved hatred, but, "in this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (John 4:10). 
  4. What power this love has in its effect on our lives, enabling us to bear fruit to his glory.

Friday Fun...A Bird's Eye View

Here is a guided tour of the earth, as seen from the International Space Station. Pretty cool.

(HT: Challies)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Owen on Beholding Christ's Glory

"Some say they have a desire to behold the glory of Christ by faith, but when they begin to view this glory they find it too high and difficult. They are overcome, like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. I admit that the weakness of out minds and our inability to understand much of the eternal glory Christ prevents us from keeping our thoughts in a steady and unbroken meditation for any length of time. Those who are not practised in the skill of holy meditation in general will not be able to meditate on this mystery in particular. But even so, when faith can no longer hold open the eyes of our understanding to think about the Sun of righteousness shining in his beauty, at least we can still, by faith, rest in holy admiration and love."

John Owen
The Glory of Christ

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Alexander on Preaching as Primarily Spiritual

Left to ourselves, we may do many things with a congregation. We may move them emotionally. We may attract them to ourselves personally, producing great loyalty. We may persuade them intellectually. We may educate them in a broad spectrum of Christian truth. But the one thing we can never do, left to ourselves, is to regenerate them spiritually and change them into the image of Jesus Christ, to bear his moral glory in their character. While that is the great calling of the church of Christ, it is essentially God’s work and not ours.

So it is possible to be homiletically brilliant, verbally fluent, theologically profound, biblically accurate and orthodox, and spiritually useless. That frightens me. I hope it frightens you, too.

Eric J. Alexander
What is Biblical Preaching?

Is That Song Theologically Incorrect or Just Theologically Incomplete?

I saw a great post on worship today from Zac Hicks calling on us to distinguish between those songs that are theologically incorrect, and those which are theologically incomplete. As Zac points out, "Sometimes in our zeal for truth, we blur that line and dismiss songs with a prophetic kibosh, branding them with the scarlet letter of "bad theology" when the truth is that they are not wrong, just incomplete."

Far too often this is more a reflection of our biases than our gospel fidelity. Zac argues that by differentiating between theologically incorrect and the theologically incomplete, we can guard ourselves from this, understanding that whatever songs we sing in worship, we need to use them in their proper doxological context.

He goes on to elaborate on the benefits of making this distinction:
The incomplete-wrong distinction opens up new possibilities for engaging songs that seemed to be ruled out before.  It becomes more about weight and balance within a whole service (or within a whole series of services).  This distinction also allows us to assume a more humble posture with our brothers and sisters from traditions which differ from ours (and God knows we could use more humility!) without compromising on what we feel is solid, biblical truth.  It seizes on 1 Corinthians 13's encouragement that, within the body of Christ, "love hopes all things."  So before you dismiss a song outright because you believe it's "wrong" (which it still might be), stop and ask yourself if this song wouldn't be more "right" when given its full doxological context. 
Click here to read the whole post, and if you are involved in the planning of worship services, I strongly recommend that you to regularly visit Zac's blog.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Are You a Supermom?

I'm a firm believer in the concept that there is no more difficult (nor more underappreciated) job in all the world than being a mom. There has always been a lot of pressure on moms, and in this age where everyone is so quick to share their successes via social media (and conversely, so slow to share their failures), it seems to me that the pressure to "measure up" could often be crushing. And even if this isn't a temptation for you as a mom, your (righteous) desire to do what's best for your child is no doubt mingled with the reality that you at times fall short of this lofty goal.

Against this backdrop, Stephen Altrogge offers what I thought was a helpful word of encouragement for moms at his blog today. He writes,
Moms, Jesus wants you to chill out about being a mom. You don’t have to make homemade bread to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to sew you children’s clothing to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to coupon, buy all organic produce, keep a journal, scrapbook, plant a garden, or make your own babyfood to be a faithful mom. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but they’re also not in your biblical job description.
Altrogge goes on to present what that job description is:
  1. Love God.
  2. Love your husband (unless your a single mom, of course).
  3. Love your children.
Click here to read the whole post and I'd love to hear your feedback...especially if you're a mom!

(HT: David Crabb)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Antidote to Both Legalism and Antinomianism

Below is a video promo from Sinclair Ferguson's book, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. The whole video is worth watching, but the 30 seconds from 1:15 to 1:45 especially are pure gold as Ferguson points out,
"Characteristically as Christians, we either fall down on the side of legalism or we fall down on the side of antinomianism. And we've often thought the way to solve legalism is to just have a little touch of antinomianism. Or the way to solve antinomianism is you need more law, whereas when Paul deals with both of those pastoral problems he deals with them essentially in the same way: by pointing us to the grace of God that is in Jesus Christ."

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weekly Words of Wisdom...Carson on God and the Problem of Suffering

"(I)f we expend all our energies pondering providence and wondering how to exonerate God, we may lose sight of the obvious. If at some point we stop worrying about whether God can vindicate himself this time, and start worrying about how we ought to be responding, under the God of the Bible, to this or that case of suffering, we may learn a little earlier to call upon the Lord for help, not for self-justification; in faith, not in bitterness. That we come to an end of ourselves will then be an incentive to sue God for grace, rather than an incentive to curse God and die."

D.A. Carson
How Long, O Lord?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Farewell, Majority Status

In a blog post today, Russell Moore mentions a new study by the Pew Forum that finds that for the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority.

Two sentences from Moore particularly caught my attention:

Frankly, we should be more concerned about the loss of a Christian majority in the Protestant churches than about the loss of a Protestant majority in the United States.
The American Protestant majority is is over and to that  I say, “good riddance.” Now let’s pray for something new-like a global Christian majority, on earth as it is in heaven.
Click here and read the post in its entirety to find out the reasons for these comments.

New Album from the Gettys

Of all the people writing new hymns for the church, Keith & Kristyn Getty are among my favorites. Their new album, Hymns for the Christian Life is available today.

(HT: David Crabb)

Alive Day

A little over six years ago we moved to Michigan from St. Louis, Missouri and enrolled our son in first grade. We signed him up for Cub Scouts, and one of the first things he got to do as a scout was walk in the Grand Blanc Homecoming parade.

At the time, the St. Louis Cardinals were in the thick of the 2006 pennant race. As I walked in the parade with my son, I did so proudly wearing my Cardinals cap. Imagine my surprise when I noticed another individual walking with us in the parade who was wearing a bright red Cardinals sweatshirt. I introduced myself to the man, and was glad to meet another Cardinals fan so far from home!

Just a few weeks later though, that man, Hal McIntire was in an accident that resulted in him losing part of his left leg below the knee. I can imagine that in such a situation, it would be easy to become bitter and adopt a "woe-is-me" attitude. Hal instead remains a positive, upbeat person, who seems to have a smile on his face every time I see him. He is truly an inspiration to me, as well as to many others who received the following note from him today:
Hello, today October 9, 2012 is the six year anniversary of the accident in which I lost the lower part of my left leg. I wanted to let you know I am doing great, I even played in a real baseball league this year:) I am very glad I survived the accident and have been able to enjoy some great experiences and got know some new people the last 6 years.
A while ago I ran across an article about some of our brave troops in Iraq who have also lost limbs in the war. One of their inspirational observations that hit home with me was that they very well could have died the day they lost their limbs. They choose to call that day their "Alive Day". Like them I could have easily been killed or worse my children could have died that day.
So please join me in celebrating my "Alive Day". Please no presents. All I ask is that you reflect on the good things you have in your life and be thankful for your health and the friendship and caring of good people like you. Thank you again for being a part of our lives.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Lloyd-Jones on Seeking God's Power

"What then are we to do about this? There is only one obvious conclusion. Seek Him! Seek Him! What can we do without Him? Seek Him! Seek Him always.  But go beyond seeking Him; expect Him.  Do you expect anything to happen when you get up to preach in a pulpit?  Or do you just say to yourself, 'Well, I have prepared my address, I am going to give them this address; some of them will appreciate it and some will not?'  Are you expecting it to be the turning point in someone's life? Are you expecting anyone to have a climactic experience? That is what preaching is meant to do. That is what you find in the Bible and in the subsequent history of the Church. Seek this power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when the power comes, yield to Him. Do not resist. Forget all about your sermon if necessary. Let Him loose you, let Him manifest His power in you and through you. I am certain, as I have said several times before, that nothing but a return of this power of the Spirit in our preaching is going to avail us anything. This makes true preaching, and it is the greatest need of all today -- never more so. Nothing can substitute for this. But, given this, you will have a people who will be anxious and ready to be taught and instructed, and led ever further and more deeply into 'the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus'. This 'unction', this 'anointing', is the supreme thing. Seek it until you have it; be content with nothing less. Go on until you can say, 'And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.' He is still able to do 'exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.'"

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones  
Preachers & Preaching

Friday, October 5, 2012

Should I Even Vote?

In a month, Americans will be beckoned to the polls to vote on (among other things) who should be President of the United States. While there are other candidates on the ballots in many states, for all practical purposes, it would seem that this is an election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the candidates of the two major parties.

I have friends who are Democrats who love President Obama. I also have friends who are Republicans who think Mitt Romney would make an incredible President. That being said, in all honesty, I have a hard time getting excited about either candidate.

Thabiti Anyabwile apparently shares this sentiment. He wrote a post on Wednesday as well as a follow-up post today in which he explained why he would not vote in next month's presidential election. I don't necessarily agree with all of Anyabwile's conclusions, but I found his thoughts to be (at the very least) thought-provoking as I consider my duty as I serve Christ in this election as well as others.

In his final paragraph today he writes:
It’s not rhetoric I want in my candidate, or invented lives and embellished pasts, faux images and focus-group-tailored soundbites. I want to elect a free man, someone who stands flat-footed and leans into the cross-current of moral drift with conviction and courage. If he’s out there, he has my vote. And if a two-party system denies a righteous man opportunity to stand for justice then the system itself is the evil we need to oppose.
You can read today's entire post by clicking here. I'd love to hear your feedback on this topic.

Friday Fun...The Human Jukebox

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Iain DuGuid on Suffering

"This world is a place where we are constantly being called to exercise faith and trust in God’s promise in the face of the evidence of our senses. Your sufferings are not a sign that God is out to get you. Your sufferings are not even a test to see if you can have faith like Abram’s. No, your sufferings are the path of discipleship that God has chosen and designed for you. Suffering is the furnace in which God will refine your faith and will grow your ability to trust in him as you find him faithful to his promises yet again."

Iain Duguid
Laying Hold of God

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Conference Reminder

Don't forget! The 9th annual Mid-Michigan Conference on Reformed Theology is coming up in just over three weeks. Make sure you take advantage of this great time of fellowship and teaching on October 27th.

The conference this year will focus on the theme of Genesis: Five Testimonies to Grace. The speakers (all pastors from throughout the region) are:
If you would like more information (or would like to access audio from past years' messages), you can access the conference page on Calvary's website by clicking here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Piper on Our Aim in Preaching

"Our aim in preaching is not to help our people feel treasured, but to help them treasure God. We must aim to preach in such a way that we breed a kind of people who feel loved not when they are made much of, but when they are patiently helped to enjoy making much of God, even when they themselves are slandered, ridiculed, persecuted, and killed. This is impossible with man, but with God all things are possible. When the Holy Spirit comes in power on our preaching, people see that Christ is treasure and they are loved, and that those two things are one. God has ordained that one way they see Christ treasured in us is how we are sustained by Him in suffering."

John Piper
Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching