Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Guitar Mystery Solved

As I tell my guitar students, the world is neatly divided into two classes of people, "guitar-players" and "cattle." If the video clip (below) makes your pulse race, then you are the former. If you've never, ever, ever wondered (consciously or subconsciously) how the Beatles managed in one chord to make you ache for what followed in "Hard Day's Night" then you are the latter. Note: Randy Bachman was one half of "The Bachman Turner Overdrive" who gave us the iconic "Takin' Care of Business" and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet", etc. This is really cool. Enjoy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Apologetics Columbo Style

I've been a fan of Greg Koukl's for some time, mostly for his ability to equip "Joe Average" to naturally and faithfully engage unbelievers in spiritually edifying conversation. This video is an excellent example of Koukl's gift. You can view the video here.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


Okay, I admit it, I'm a sucker for sentimental sports parables. But I doubt I'm the only one who can viscerally relate to the "agony of defeat" and the aching desire to run a race like the athletes who persevere when simply persevering (not winning the prize) becomes the goal. The video below is a triple threat (hanky-wise) for my ilk, because it combines the drama of sport, the love of a father and a moving sound-track. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Priority of Home in Missions

"The first step in foreign missions is domestic mission. The first step toward Africa is right across the street." - From the blog-post here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Religious People Boogeyman

I have for a long time been uneasy with the well-meaning attempts to pit "religion" against "relationship", and/or "religion" against "true faith" etc. The Bible condemns "false religion" and commends "true religion" (e.g. James 1:26-27.) But it never speaks of religion as malum in se (intrinsically evil.) As we reprove the insipid apathy and hypocrisy within the church, wouldn't it be best to use the categories that scripture gives us rather than inventing our own?

Jared Wilson has some very helpful insights on this topic here. Enjoy.

A quick way to walk a mile in another's shoes...

Remember: You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

HT: Toby Sumpter

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mercy Has a Backbone

As Paul wrote, "Forgive one another even as God has forgive you in Christ Jesus."

HT: Danielle De Jong

Friday, August 26, 2011

Strength in Weakness

"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)

There is a constant temptation to believe that we are the most effective in ministry when our families and our churches are the strongest. We are indeed called to an obedient ordering of our families and churches. But we need to remember that God is never hindered by our sinful failings in community, and in fact delights to use our stumblings as so many opportunities to display His ever-readiness to forgive sins for Jesus' sake. It is the proclamation of God's grace that saves the world, not our perfectionistic pursuit of holiness. God's strength is not manifested in our strength, it is revealed in our weakness. As a pastor friend of mine recently observed:

"My postmillennialism is of a particularly robust variety. I believe the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, in spite of all our labors. I believe in a kind of consubstantiation for our mercy ministries -- the grace of God is apparent in, with, and under all our incompetencies. How so? It's a mystery, my son."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The War of 1812 (or was it....?)

Okay history students, pop quiz: Who fought in the War of 1812? Why was this war fought and who won it? If you're not really sure then here is a very short video for you. WARNING: This will not help you answer the above questions, but it will help you with your self-esteem issues. After all, ignorance loves company, right?

HT: Mitch Milner

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Giving Thanks Always for Everything

One of my favorites parts of our weekly worship service is something we call "The Prayer of Thanksgiving." It's a prayer that is composed and prayed by one of our men to lead the congregation in expressing our thanks to God for His gracious provision and kind mercies.

During this prayer I am invariably prompted to thank God for things which I have either forgotten or neglected to thank Him for; including and perhaps even especially hard providences. Here is a wonderful example of the well-written prayers that our men offer up in the Lord's Service:

Heavenly Father,

We thank you for adopting us into your kingdom and putting us to work in the business of the impossible, the business where you call us to believe like Job when our lives seem to crumble. We know your power but forget our place. You speak to the void and it takes shape, you speak to dirt and it takes on your image, you speak to tiny crawling ants and they lift twenty times their body weight, you speak to the lost who hate you and they take up their crosses and follow you. Lord, we do not understand your ways, your readiness to forgive, your endless grace, your mercy, and your promises to bless us, but we are grateful. We thank you for making us your sons and daughters and for promising to sanctify us, to change us, to mold us. We are so thankful that you choose to use the broken, the weak and the unlovely to further your gospel in ways that seem impossible to us.

Thank you, Father, for not always giving us what we want, but always what we need. We confess that even though you give us our daily bread, our manna from heaven that satisfies our needs, we still grumble in discontent and catalog our wants. Please teach us to love our manna especially as you bring us through the wilderness. Thank you that when we bow down to our golden calf's you knock them down and make us taste the bitterness of sin, and then forgive us, knowing full well we will sin against you again.

Lord, thank you for margaritas and cold beer to gladden our sun-bathed hearts, with each sip we taste the joy that runs rampant in your kingdom. Thank you for gardens that give us tomatoes and beets and carrots and basil. Thank you for summer heat and for houses and cars with air-conditioning so we hardly break a sweat as we run from one to the other. Thank you for swimming pools, and lakes and rivers to cool and refresh our bodies.

As stock prices rise and fall we remember that we come empty handed into your kingdom, and that you give us all that we have. Please take back our tithes and offerings here, they have always been yours.

Lastly, Father, thank you for hearing the prayers of your stiff necked people, and thank you for hearing your son as he mediates for us.

All these things we pray in Jesus’ name, amen. (Jason Helsel)

Let Grace be Your Teacher

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12)

We tend to think that God's law is the best "teacher" and the most effective way to get people (including ourselves) to "renounce ungodliness...and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives." But according to Paul, the grace of God is much better suited for this task. And Victor Hugo seems to agree. Viz.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Recipients or Stewards?

(Romans 1:4-5) and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

(Ephesians 3:1-2) For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

Paul understood himself to be a recipient of God’s grace, but note in both the passages above, he understood himself to be more than a recipient of God’s grace. In the first passage Paul notes that he received God’s grace in order to lead the Gentiles to the “obedience of faith.” And in the second passage Paul declares that he is a steward of God’s grace, given God’s saving mercies in order to pass them on to the Gentiles.

And this reminds us that God’s gifts only truly become ours as we purpose to give them away. We, like Paul, are not merely recipients of God’s grace, but stewards responsible to pass on the riches that God has entrusted to our oversight/administration. We are conduits, not repositories of Gospel riches.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Highest Priority

"The thing that makes us a community, the thing that binds us together, is the fact that we worship together. Make worship your highest priority. When you do the vertical work of worship, you will discover that much of the horizontal work is already done. If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another." (Douglas Wilson to the students returning to New Saint Andrews College)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Blessings of Strife

"He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper." (Edmund Burke)

In the Heat of Discord

Wise counsel for pastors and congregants in the heat of discord. (Lord, please make me "quick to listen and slow to speak.")

Church Leaders and the Fellowship of the Grievance from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

One Thing

“One thing have I asked of the LORD . . .” (Psalm 27:4)

“. . . but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42)

“But one thing I do . . .” (Phil. 3:13)

"A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing.

It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He sees only one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.

Whether he lives, or whether he dies – whether he has health, or whether he has sickness – whether he is rich, or whether he is poor–whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense–whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish – whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise – whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame – for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory.

If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it – he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if he is consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him." (J. C. Ryle, Home Truths)

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, June 13, 2011

All the Families of the Earth

God promised Abraham saying, "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Isaiah foretold a day when, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). John foresaw a day when there would be "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Rev. 7:9).

It seldom gets reported in the news (secular or Christian) that God is actually doing what He promised to do. But He is. Really. Consider the following:

Today there are approximately 6.7 billion people on the earth, comprised of approximately 24,000 people groups (ethnicities.) Of these 24,000 people groups, about 16,000 have embraced the Gospel of Jesus and now have solid, thriving churches committed to evangelizing their own people. This leaves about 8,000 people groups who lack churches, evangelists and scripture (in their own language.) Not bad considering where the church began 2000 years ago.

At Pentecost the disciples of Jesus were an infinitesimal portion of the human population (approximately 120 out of 170 million souls). But look how the church has grown in proportion to the general population!

By A.D. 100, one in every 360 people was an active believer

By A.D. 1000, one in every 270 people was an active believer

By A.D. 1500, one in every 85 was an active believer

By A.D. 1900, one in every 21 was an active believer

By A.D. 1970, one in every 13 was an active believer

By A.D. 2010, one in every 7.3 was an active believer

Now, as noted above, there are still about 8,000 ethnic people groups to be reached. But the good news is that the number of churches per unreached people group has gown dramaticaly over the last hundred years. Viz.:

In 1900 there were 20 churches/unreached people group

In 1970 there were 150 churches/unreached people group

In 2010 there were 1000 churches/unreached people group

This is not an excuse to “let go and let God.” Rather, this is a call for us to find our place in this incredible story of redemption that God is writing; to pray, give, send and go until the number of those who love and worship Jesus is, as John foresaw in his heavenly vision, beyond human reckoning.

*Statistics from the U.S. Center for World Missions

Great Commission Both/And

As Spurgeon and others have noted, the doctrines of human respsonsibility and divine sovereignty have no need to be "reconciled" simply because (at least in God's mind) they are already "friends." A good example of this is the two ways in which the the New Testament speaks of the Great Commission and its fulfillment.

At the end of Matthews's Gospel Jesus gives the Great Commission as an imperative when he commands his followers, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19)

But in Luke's account of the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus speaks of the Great Commission as something that will certainly be fulfilled when he informs his disciples, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So which is it? Is the command to disciple the nations a directive for us to fulfill, or a certainty which God will sovereignly accomplish? Yes, and amen. And neither to the exclusion of the other.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Gospel Priorities

My dear wife Ellen, my "minister to the minister", is constantly on the hunt for quotes and resources to stoke the fires of my teaching and preaching ministry. She is also an ardent fan of Alistair Begg from whom the following George Smeaton quotes were gleaned:

"When we lose sight of the grandeur of the Gospel, the passion for the lost will cease."

"To convert one sinner from his way is an event of greater importance than the deliverance of a whole kingdom from temporal evil."

Following the above quotes, Pastor Begg paraphrased Smeaton by saying, "To convert one sinner from his way is an event of greater importance than the deliverance of Sub-Saharan Africa from the problem of AIDS."

This might, at first glance, seem like an overstatement. But when you "do the math" it really is not. The suffering experienced by untold millions from the horrors of AIDS is, for all its pain and grief, finite suffering. The suffering of one sinner in hell, because of its severity and duration, is infinite suffering.

Smeaton is right, when we lose sight of the greatness of the Good News, we cease to care for those who are perishing in their sin. We cease to be distressed at the prospect of our neighbors spending an eternity in hell. But the opposite is just as true: When we are daily reveling in the gracious extent of God's saving mercies, enjoying sweet communion with God, in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and walking consciously in what David termed "the joy of our salvation", then we are filled care and concern for the lost and are moved, not merely by duty, but rather by joy to invite them to love, worship and enjoy Jesus as we do.

May God restore to us a vision of "the grandeur of the Gospel."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

According to Plan

As Spurgeon once noted, we should never try to reconcile the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human responsibility simply because they were never at odds to begin with. They are, at least in holy writ, "friends" if you will.

But this does not prevent many from trying to twist and wrack the doctrine of divine election into something a bit less offensive, and a bit more logical. But Graeme Goldsworthy, in his most excellent introduction to biblical theology, warns those who would attempt to revise God's revelation:

"Election is a principle that is developed throughout the biblical history, and we should be careful not to misunderstand it or try to reshape it by human logic into a more acceptable doctrine. We cannot solve this mystery by resorting to easy solutions such as suggesting that God foresees the faith of those whom he subsequently, and on that basis, elects. Nor may we erect false, if apparently logical, objections to the doctrine such as saying that election based on God's free grace reduces us to robots or puppets on a string with no wills or power to make choices." (Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible.)

Saved to Save

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

The Christian life is all about rescue. God has rescued us from His just and holy wrath, and doing so, has turned us into the instruments that He will use to rescue others from the same. As Solomon notes in Proverbs 24, rescuing others is not optional. It is an activity for which the LORD will call us to account. And note that the LORD will not accept ignorance as a valid excuse for not attempting to "hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter."

Life Together IV

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16a)

Although it is right and good to hold in high esteem the importance and efficacy of the Word preached, we ought nonetheless to remember the importance of ministering God’s Word to one another daily simply by speaking it to one another. To do this aright, we need to understand and apply the three things commanded by Paul in his letter to the Christians in Colosse.

Firstly, we need to be personally taking in the Word of God until it can be truly said that it “dwells in us richly.” In other words, to the extent that scripture colors the way that we look at everything, directing the way that we interact with others and even giving shape to our affections and desires. And this is only accomplished by means of a steady diet of hearing the Word read, sung and preached in the great assembly, and personal Bible reading, meditation and memorization.

Secondly, Paul reminds us the Word of God treasured up in our souls in not for our benefit alone. It is to be shared with the brethren in ways ranging from encouragement to reproof and everything in between.

And lastly Paul insists that we minister the Word of God to one another “in all wisdom.” To be sure “all of Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, etc.” But to minister the Word wisely we must know, not only the content of the Bible, but the present needs of our brother or sister; particularly the unique way they need to hear the Gospel applied to their present circumstances. And the only way to do this is to live in the sort of tight-knit, knowing-and-being-known, serving-and-being-served, loving-and-being-loved community to which God calls every disciple of Jesus Christ.

As Bonhoeffer noted:

“…God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s sure.” (Life Together, p. 22-23)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Life Together III

One of the surest proofs of our desperate need for ongoing sanctification is our ability to turn the great blessings of God into burdensome duties. God enjoins His people take a day off once a week and we immediately begin to fret, moan and argue about all the things we can’t do and can’t get done. God assures us that children are a very great blessing and we immediately run the cost/benefit analysis in order to calculate how raising offspring will negatively affect our future, freedom and finances. Similarly and sadly, many Christians have twisted the inestimable blessing of Christian fellowship into an irksome duty to be performed and endured. But Bonhoeffer reminds us:

“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer…It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of the Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now had had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” (Life Together, pages 19,20)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life Together II

As Bonhoeffer correctly notes, we modern Christians take so very much for granted:

“So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live the life of fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.” (Life Together, p. 18)

Life Together I

I am currently reading the new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes and very much enjoying it. And reading this excellent offering has sent me back to one of my all-time favorites books by Bonhoeffer: Life Together (a discussion of Christian fellowship). I have read and reread Life Together several times. But having a new/deeper understanding of the historical and theological context in which it was written is making this reread particularly sweet and edifying. Here’s a little slice from the chapter entitled Community (pages 17-18):

“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of the cloistered life but in the thick of the foes. There is his commission, his work.”

And then commenting and querying with a quote from Martin Luther he writes:

“'The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever had been spared?'”

Stay tuned for more…

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ode to the KJV

I grew up Christian. I came down the birth canal and landed in church. I cannot remember a time when I was not being prayed with and prayed for. Growing up, I very often went to sleep to the sounds of saints downstairs in our living room praying and singing choruses lifted directly from the King James Version (e.g. "Therefore the redeemed of the LORD...") My first Bible was a KJV, read to me before I could read it for myself, and read by me for decades after that. Most of the scripture that I have committed to memory is from the KJV and most of the Bible study tools that I have acquired over the years are keyed to this wonderful translation of the origninal text. The name of this blog is a tribute to the portions of the KJV that I don't understand, but whose lyric poetry I love nonetheless.

Just like the culture that I live in, I have been profoundly shaped by the words and cadences of the KJV. The difference being that I recognize and give thanks for such, while my culture does not. Enjoy the video.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Meals, Community and Mission

I very much enjoyed Tim Chester's "Total Church" and now he has a new book describing the communal and missional potency of shared meals. Here is Justin Taylor's interview with Chester about his new book. It looks like a good read.

Monday, May 02, 2011

"An elder must be...hospitable" (Paul)

(Hebrews 13:2) Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul outlines the qualifications requisite for a man who would serve the church of Jesus Christ as an elder. One of the character traits listed is “hospitable” which in Koine Greek is a compound of two words, philo (brotherly love) and xenos (alien, stranger, one who is without.) We tend to think of hosting a fellowship meal for our Christian brothers and sisters as practicing “hospitality”, but as Darrin Patrick observes:

“Contrary to popular belief, this qualification doesn’t mean that the pastor and his wife should have potlucks at their house for all the people in the church. Nor does it mean that pastors’ home should be a revolving door for people in the church to come and hang out, watch network television, and “do community.” The word “hospitable” refers to the way the pastor and his family welcome those outside the faith. In other words, to be hospitable is to be a friend of sinners and thus to be like Jesus.”

Neither Boy Nor Man, Ban

“We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. Let’s call this male Ban, a hybrid of both boy and man. Ban is juvenile because there has been an entire niche created for him to live in the lusts of his youth. The accompanying culture not only tolerates this behavior but encourages and endorses it. (Consider magazines like Maxim or movies like Wedding Crashers.) This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry.

Ban may be a frightening reality in the church, but he is the best thing that ever happened to the video game industry. Almost half (about 48 percent) of American males between the ages of eighteen to thirty-four play video games every day – for almost four hours. The average video game buyer is thirty-seven years old.” (from the Preface of Darrin Patrick’s, Church Planter)

Friday, April 29, 2011

O, let the nations be glad...

Peter Leithart once quipped that his ideal Sunday morning liturgy would be "Nigerian Anglican." In other words a worship service that blended the timeless truths and forms of historical Christendom with the full-bodied gladness of culture not yet calloused to the freeness of God's free-grace and eager to worship the LORD with hands as well as heart. Enjoy.

HT: Allie Bradley

"Next time someone asks me..."

Ouch. Sadly, those of us who regard ourselves as the guardians of "the doctrines of free grace" are not generally regarded as either the preachers or practitioners of the same. Trevin Wax has some helpful thoughts on this regrettable situation here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Most Urgent Duty

From the Introduction of Evangelism, edited by John MacArthur

“…the cares of this world and the distractions of daily life vie for our time and attention. Eventually, as the disciple becomes more and more familiar with the gospel, that profound initial sense of wonder and amazement fades somewhat. The gospel is still good news, of course, but we begin to think of it as old news, and that sense of urgency is lost.

It is therefore necessary to remind ourselves constantly how utterly vital the task of evangelism is, and how desperately in need of the gospel this fallen world is. Evangelism is not merely one incidental activity in the life of the church; it is the most urgent duty we as Christians have been given to do. Virtually every other spiritual exercise we do together as members of Christ’s body we will still be able to do in heaven-praising God, enjoying fellowship with one another, savoring the richness of God’s Word, and celebrating the truth together. But now is the only time we have for proclaiming the gospel to the lost and winning people to Christ. We seriously need to be redeeming the time (Eph. 5:16).

A Christian does not need to be individually called or specially gifted to be a herald of the good news; we are commanded to be witnesses of Christ, commissioned to train others to be disciples. This is an individual obligation, not merely the collective responsibility of the church. No duty is more significant, and none bears more eternally rewarding fruit.

Furthermore, the field are white for harvest (John 4:35). The current generation is as ripe for the gospel message as any other generation in history. No matter what aspect of contemporary culture you examine, what you will discover are crying spiritual needs-and people whose souls are parched and famished for truth. The answer to such a spiritual famine in our land is not the artificial arousal of religious sentiment, not more political activism, not a better public relations campaign, and certainly not for Christians to adapt their message to the prevailing secular worldview.” (page 8)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Special Thanks to the Folk at GCC

"For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you." (Paul to Philemon)

A very special thanks to the elders of Grace Covenant Church for "refreshing" my heart and the heart of my dear wife, Ellen.

At every gathering of The Spurgeon Fellowship the good folk at GCC treat two pastors (and their wives!) to a one night stay at the beautiful Bavarian Lodge in Leavenworth, WA. And at our last TSF, Ellen and I were blessed to receive one of the certificates.

We went up to Leavenworth late Sunday afternoon for our stay. We'd never been inside the Bavarian Lodge before. Wow, and double wow. The old country charm and beauty of the lobby lowered our blood pressure a few points even before we had reached our room on the fourth floor overlooking downtown Leavenworth.

Upon entering the room we were blessed to discover that a CBF (Christian Book Fairy) had visited our room and deposited ten treasures by authors Piper, Mahaney, Alcorn, Goldsworthy, etc. There was also dinner money tucked into an thankyou card (isn't that a bit backwards? Uhmmm...You're welcome for giving us this gracious gift????) Don't you just love the ridiculousness of grace?

We had appetizers, salads, and a really nice bottle of Italian wine at Visconti's Restaurant, strolled back to the hotel and snuggled in to our Bavarian refuge. The next morning we slept in, read together, went for a walk along the river and ended our retreat with brunch at Sandy's Waffle Haus.

Dear folk at Grace Covenant Church, I can't say it any better than the apostle Paul. So, from Ellen and me, we have derived much joy and comfort from your love, our brothers and sisters, because our hearts have been refreshed through you. Thank you!

With Gospel Affection,

Gene and Ellen

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Without the Gospel...

John Calvin’s preface to Pierre-Robert Oliv├ętan’s 1535 translation of the Bible. “To all those who love Christ and his gospel,” Calvin writes:

Without the gospel

---everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

---we are not Christians;

without the gospel

---all riches is poverty,

---all wisdom, folly before God;

---strength is weakness, and

---all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

---children of God,

---brothers of Jesus Christ,

---fellow townsmen with the saints,

---citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,

---heirs of God with Jesus Christ,

by whom

---the poor are made rich,

---the weak strong,

---the fools wise,

---the sinners justified,

---the desolate comforted,

---the doubting sure, and

---slaves free.

The gospel is the Word of life.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spurgeon on Loving the Lost

Charles Haddon Spurgeon on love for the lost:

To be laughed at is no great hardship for me. I can delight in scoffs and jeers. . . .

But that you should turn from your own mercy, this is my sorrow.

Spit on me, but oh repent!

Laugh at me, but, oh, believe in my Master!

Make my body as the dirt in the streets, but do not damn your own souls.

He also passionately exhorts the church:

If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies.

And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay.

If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one person go there unwarned and unprayed for.

Further, he instructs:

The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you.

If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest, too.

But if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they are lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy, too.

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, March 07, 2011

I'd like you to meet my former pastor...

Ellen and I were blessed to have Jim Wilson as our pastor when we were first married. Jim discipled me before we were married, gave the exhortation from God's Word at our wedding ceremony and he and his wife, Bessie, continued to pastor/disciple us for six months after we were married. The story that Pastor Wilson tells in this short video is one drawn from a barrel of several million that he could tell, a barrel of evangelistic encounters that is still being added to, even to this day. Enjoy.

Stories with Jim Wison: Korean War from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation...

"Take ten minutes and let your heart break and burn, weeping with joy along with brothers and sisters you will only meet in heaven:" (Justin Taylor)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Prescription for the Day: A Sheet of Paper

As the second wisest man who ever lived noted, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..." So stop taking yourself and your problems so seriously and go find a piece of paper. I think maybe we can learn a thing or two from little Micah.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eight Tips for Talking to Your Kids About the Sermon

By Joe Holland

They sit there next to you and their feet don’t even hit the floor. You’re thinking, “What, if anything of this guy’s sermon is sinking into my kid’s head?” And with that little thought you’ve already decided not to engage your child about the sermon. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let me introduce you to the most important rule when talking to your kids about the sermon: They retain more than you think they do. The second most important rule is like it: They understand more than you think they do.

In the interest of these two truths I’m writing this brief guide on how to talk to your kids about a sermon. I’m writing it both as a preacher and as a parent of four boys under the age of 8. I’ve failed, succeeded, and failed some more at talking to my kids about Jesus. Hopefully the tips you find below will help you as they’ve helped me.

At the heart of the gospel is Jesus introducing us to his loving Father. In worship we get to make a similar introduction—we get to introduce our kids to Jesus. Don’t miss that opportunity.

8 Tips for Talking to your Kids about the Sermon

1. Remember the outline. It doesn’t matter if you keep written notes or not. Remember the gist of what is being taught. If your pastor preaches for 40 minutes, then try to make a mental note of what you’ve covered at the 20 minute point. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get every point. Get as many of the big ones as you can.

2. Know the one, main point. Every passage and every sermon—no matter what your pastor says—has a main point. Grab it when you see it go by and don’t let go. And as a word of caution, every preacher has a bad day. Sometimes the structure of the sermon looks like a piece of abstract art. If so, do the best you can. But don’t let the guy close in prayer without having a main point in your head.

3. How is Jesus the hero? Now that you have an outline and main point, make sure you have Jesus too. How was Jesus the hero of the sermon? Kids are incorrigibly self-centered—and so are a few adults. Make sure you have a ton to say about Jesus, no matter what the passage or where the preacher went with it. Without an emphasis on Jesus your little saints will grow up thinking that the Bible is all about them.

4. Engage your kids with open ended questions. You know the outline and you can keep to the main point. You know you’re going to talk a ton about Jesus. Now engage your kids with any kind of question you can think of… except ones that can be answered, “yes” or “no”. Here are some examples:
o In the story questions: “What would have thought if you were an Israelite soldier and saw big ol’ Goliath walking up to little David?”
o Emotions questions: “If you were blind, how would you feel if Jesus put his hands on your eyes and fixed them so they could see?”
o Leading questions: “The rich young ruler was wrong because he thought he could earn God’s favor. Why is it silly to think we can earn God’s favor by doing enough good things?”
o Action questions: “What would you have done if Jesus had made a hurricane turn into a cool breeze right in front of you?”
o Application questions: “If Jesus has forgiven you, do you think you can forgive Tommy when he wings a Tonka truck at your head?”
o Use your imagination questions: You know your kids best. Make up some questions.

5. Make sure the gospel is clear. Jesus died for sinners. It’s very simple and can get very complex. But no matter the passage, don’t you dare teach your kids moralism. Tell them that Jesus has done everything necessary for them to know that God is overjoyed with them. When you tell them to do something, feel something, or think something, show them how those things are motivated by God’s love and not by fear, guilt, or pride.

6. Be the first to pray and confess. Talking to your kids about the sermon is as much letting them watch you learn from the sermon as it is teaching them about the sermon. If the preacher is helping your congregation diagnose sin, show your kids how it affected you. You could say, “You know, sometimes, daddy struggles with being angry. And it’s then that I realize I really need Jesus.” And when it comes time to pray, let them pray after you. Model for them what it looks like for a Christian to talk to God.

7. Chase rabbit trails. Your kids will lead you down them. Go with them. You’ll find out a ton about how they think. And you may just enjoy the unexpected stroll off the beaten path.

8. Remember the first two rules. After all this, it may be you feel like it was a complete waste of time. It’s at that point you must remember the first two rules:
o They retain more than you think they do.
o They understand more than you think they do.

And I promise you this, they will remember these times with you. They will forget a ton. But they won’t forget Sunday afternoons with daddy and mommy talking about Jesus.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Planned Parenthood

This will simultaneously take your breath away, break your heart and fill you with rage.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Is....

Here is Justin Taylor's distillation of Paul Tripp's thoughts on the nature of love taken from Tripp's excellent book on marriage, What Did You Expect?

“Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving”

Love is willing. Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). The decisions, words, and actions of love always grow in the soil of a willing heart. You cannot force a person to love. If you are forcing someone to love, by the very nature of the act you are demonstrating that this person doesn’t in fact love.

Love is willing self-sacrifice.

There is no such thing as love without sacrifice.

Love calls you beyond the borders of your own wants, needs, and feelings.

Love calls you to be willing to invest time, energy, money, resources, personal ability, and gifts for the good of another.

Love calls you to lay down your life in ways that are concrete and specific.

Love calls you to serve, to wait, to give, to suffer, to forgive, and to do all these things again and again.

Love calls you to be silent when you want to speak, and to speak when you would like to be silent.

Love calls you to act when you would really like to wait, and to wait when you would really like to act.

Love calls you to stop when you really want to continue, and it calls you to continue when you feel like stopping.

Love again and again calls you away from your instincts and your comfort.

Love always requires personal sacrifice.

Love calls you to give up your life.

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another.

Love always has the good of another in view.

Love is motivated by the interests and needs of others.

Love is excited at the prospect of alleviating burdens and meeting needs.

Love feels poor when the loved one is poor.

Love suffers when the loved one suffers.

Love wants the best for the loved one and works to deliver it.

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation.

The Bible says that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. If he had waited until we were able to reciprocate, there would be no hope for us.

Love isn’t a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” bargain.

Love isn’t about placing people in our debt and waiting for them to pay off their debts.

Love isn’t a negotiation for mutual good.

Real love does not demand reciprocation, because real love isn’t motivated by the return on the investment. No, real love is motivated by the good that will result in the life of the person being loved.

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.
Christ was willing to go to the cross and carry our sin precisely because there was nothing that we could ever do to earn, achieve, or deserve the love of God. If you are interested only in loving people who are deserving, the reality is that you are not motivated by love for them but by love for yourself. Love does its best work when the other person is undeserving. It is in these moments that love is most needed. It is in these moments that love is protective and preventative. It stays the course while refusing to quit or to get down and get dirty and give way to things that are anything but love.

There is never a day in your marriage when you aren’t called to be willing.

There is never a day in your marriage when some personal sacrifice is not needed.

There is never a day when you are free from the need to consider the good of your husband or wife.

There is never a day when you aren’t called to do what is not reciprocated and to offer what has not been deserved.

There is never a day when your marriage can coast along without being infused by this kind of love.

HT: Justin Taylor

God is Always at Work

“One of the things we don’t preach well is that ministry that looks fruitless is constantly happening in the Scriptures. We don’t do conferences on that.” (Matt Chandler)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Satan's Battle Plan

"As the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer. If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day." (Dr. Andrew Bonar)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Message of the Bible in One Sentance

Dane Ortland over at Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology recently asked a gaggle of wise men the following: "What's the Message of the Bible in One Sentence?" Below are their answers:

Greg Beale:
The OT storyline appears best to be summarized as: the historical story of God who progressively reestablishes his new creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption, resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to extend that new creation rule and resulting in judgment for the unfaithful (defeat and exile), all of which issues into his glory; the NT storyline can be summarized as: Jesus’ life of covenantal obedience, trials, judgmental death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit has launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-and-not-yet promised new creation reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to extend this new creation rule and resulting in judgment for the unfaithful, unto God’s glory.

Dan Block:
God was so covenantally committed to the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life!

Craig Blomberg:
God is in the process of recreating the universe which has been corrupted by sin and has made it possible for all those and only those who follow Jesus to be a part of the magnificent, eternal community that will result.

Darrell Bock:
The Bible tells how the loving Creator God restored a lost humanity and cosmos through reestablishing his rule through Jesus Christ and the provision of life to His honor.

Mark Dever:
God has made promises to bring His people to Himself and He is fulfilling them all through Christ.

Kevin DeYoung:
A holy God sends his righteous Son to die for unrighteous sinners so we can be holy and live happily with God forever.

Zack Eswine:
Apprenticing with Jesus to become human again.

John Frame:
God glorifies himself in the redemption of sinners.

Scott Hafemann:
The Triune God is the beginning, middle, and end of everything, 'for from him (as Creator) and through him (as Sustainer and Redeemer) and to him (as Judge) are all things' (Rom 11:36).

David Helm:
Jesus is the promised Savior-King.

Paul House:
The movement in history from creation to new creation through the redemptive work of Father, Son, and Spirit who saves and changes corrupted people and places for his glory and their good.

Gordon Hugenberger:
The message of the Bible in one sentence is that genuine truth, unlike every human philosophy, is far too luxuriant, too enthralling, too personal, too all-encompassing, too sovereign, and too life-changing to be reducible to one sentence (or, as Einstein once put it, the challenge is to 'make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler').

Kent Hughes:
God is redeeming his creation by bringing it under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Andreas Kostenberger:
'God so loved the world that the gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life' (John 3:16).

Phil Long:
God, who made us and everything else, loves us and gave himself for us that we might live forever with him as new creatures in a new creation—the news is good!

Sean Lucas:
The message of the Bible is the transforming grace of God displayed preeminently in Jesus Christ.

Ray Ortlund:
The Lover of our souls won't let the romance die, but is rekindling it forever.

Grant Osborne:
God created mankind in order to love them, but we all rejected his love, so God sent His Son to bear our sins on the cross in order that by believing in His sacrificial atonement, we might have life.

George Robertson:
The Bible is the record of God's promise of and deliverance through Jesus Christ.

Leland Ryken:
The message of the Bible is twofold: to show how people can be saved from their sins through faith in Christ's atonement AND how to live all of life as a follower of God.

Tom Schreiner:
God reigns over all things for his glory, but we will only enjoy his saving reign in the new heavens and the new earth if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the crucified and risen Lord and who gave himself on the cross for our salvation.

Mark Seifrid:
Verbum caro factum est.

Jay Sklar:
The first sentence that comes to mind is that of my colleague Michael D. Williams, who describes the Bible's story about the world as follows: God made it, we broke it, Jesus fixes it!

Erik Thoennes:
The main message of the Bible is that the one true God is displaying his glory primarily in redeeming and restoring his fallen creation by fulfilling his covenant promises and commands through the glorious person and atoning work of Christ.

Doug Wilson:
Scripture tells us the story of how a Garden is transformed into a Garden City, but only after a dragon had turned that Garden into a howling wilderness, a haunt of owls and jackals, which lasted until an appointed warrior came to slay the dragon, giving up his life in the process, but with his blood effecting the transformation of the wilderness into the Garden City.

Bob Yarbrough:
He—God in Christ—shall reign forever and ever; so today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart but believing the good news take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Very helpful, brothers! Thanks very much for this. And may I say how particularly tickled I am with the brevity of Seifrid, Frame, and Helm, the strategic literary deployment of chiasm and alliteration by DeYoung, and the answer that is more substantive than some whole dissertations I have read, despite having less than .0001% the words, by Beale.

My response would be something like: Despite ongoing rebellion on our part, the holy God of the universe refuses to leave us to wallow in our sin, eventually and climactically becoming one of us, in the moral mud, to restore us to glory, if we will receive his love in trusting contrition. (Dane Ortland)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Little Help for My Friends

"In the morning we should look forward to the duties of the day, anticipating those situations in which temptation may lurk, and preparing ourselves to embrace such opportunities of usefulness as may be presented to us. In the evening we ought to remark upon the providences which have befallen us, consider our attainment in holiness, and endeavor to profit by the lessons which God would have us learn. And, always, we must acknowledge and forsake sin. Then there are the the numberless themes of prayer which our desires for the good estate of the Church of God, for the conversion and sanctification of our friends and acquaintances, for the furtherance of missionary effort, and for the coming of the kingdom of Christ may suggest. All this cannot be pressed into a few crowded moments. We must be at leisure when we enter the secret place." (David McIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer)

This book is, as John Piper, Wayne Grudem and others have noted, a rare gem and probably worth reading at least once a year.

In an effort to simplify McIntyre's above exhortation I have begun praying DOT morning and evening. In the morning seeking God's grace for the duties, opportunites and tempatations that lie before me and rehearsing God's promises for the same. And then in the evening praying DOT again, this time looking for lessons learned, seeking forgiveness for neglects and transgressions of God's law and rehearsing God's delight to pardon, cleanse and receive me for Jesus' sake. For one who is so easily discouraged in prayer, this simple exercise has been a great help already, to me and a handful of saints who began praying thusly after hearing about it in sermon a few weeks ago.

If you purchase and read the book for yourself I would love to hear your comments here at Parbar Westward. Blessings!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Helping You Realize Your Untapped Love for Classical Music

I laughed as Benjamin Zander explained the glory of "one buttock" piano playing. And I'm not embarrassed to say that I wept when he played the final chord of the Chopin prelude. This presentation is a twofer. It is at the same time a lovely apologetic for classical music and a prime example of true communication. If you watch the lecture you'll most likely laugh and you might even shed a tear, but you won't think the same about classical music again. This guy is a-mazing. You can enjoy the video for yourself here. Let me know what you think.

HT: Rachelle ("Good-morning Rochelle") Johnson

Monday, January 03, 2011

Desire. Choice. Consequence.

I love stories and enjoy musing about their structure and what makes them work (or not work.) If we are to understand the grand story of redemption that God is currently writing, and our own stories within the grand story, then we simply must understand the nature and flow of story.

I recently read this article by Jonathan Rogers that appeared on website that I frequent and found some helpful insights into both the structure of story and how to use it to form godly character in our children (and grandchildren.) You can read the full article here, and here (below) is an excerpt to pique your interest. Enjoy.

Desire. Choice. Consequence. It’s what character is made of too.

It is that parallel between story development and character development that makes story such a valuable tool in shaping your child’s character. In the midst of life’s battles, it can be hard for a child—for any of us—to step back far enough to see the connection between desire, choice, and consequence. In a well-told story, on the other hand, it is easier to see the big picture, even as we inhabit it in a small way.

If you are going to use stories as a means of shaping your child’s character, it is important, of course, to find stories that teach the right things. But that is not the only important thing; it is at least as important that you get in the habit of talking to your child about the stories he or she experiences. Help your child see the connection between desire, choice, and consequence by asking questions like these about the stories you read together:

- Why do you think the character made that choice? What was he trying to get?
- Did that choice get him what he wanted?
- What else did it get him?
- What was the cost of that choice?
- Do you think the choice was worth the cost?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Ten Questions With Which to Begin the New Year

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1.What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2.What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3.What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4.In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5.What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6.What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7.For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8.What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9.What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10.What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question. (Don Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life)

HT: Justin Taylor