Monday, June 30, 2008

James M. Grier Website Launched

Dr. James M. Grier, Distinguished Professor of Philosophical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary has developed a new website located at The purpose of the website is to provide access to selected sermons, conferences, articles, book notices and reviews, bibliographies, seminars and other assorted trivia. It is offered with the hope these materials will be helpful for the work of the Kingdom in the world.

Dr. Grier is especially interested in making the material available to present and former students, particularly those from Burma/Myanmar, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Africa, Europe and the United Kingdom.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Gospel as "the A-to-Z of the Christian Life"

“The gospel shows us that our spiritual problem lies not only in failing to obey God, but also in relying on our obedience to make us fully acceptable to God, ourselves and others.

"Every kind of character flaw comes from this natural impulse to be our own savior through our performance and achievement. On the one hand, proud and disdainful personalities come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are succeeding. But on the other hand, discouraged and self-loathing personalities also come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are failing.

"Belief in the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect. The gospel is not just the “ABCs” but the “A-to-Z” of the Christian life.

"The gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ — whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. All our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts, our thinking and our approach to absolutely everything.”

- Timothy Keller, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Living in Line with the Truth of the Gospel (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 2.

posted at Of First Importance

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Sense of God's Holiness

Cornelius Plantinga reflects on the story of Jacob's ladder (Genesis 28) and what it teaches Christians today about the fear of the Lord:

"It's a great tragedy that, in an age of instant friends and popular democracy, many Christians are losing the sense of God's holiness.

"We pray against television background noise. We come into a sanctuary and yak and grin and clap our friends on the back. Our sense of God's holiness has becomes so weak that we are able to speak familiarly of 'the Lord' while stretching our limbs and chewing our gum.

"Jacob cannot worship the Lord until he has know the fear of the Lord. He has a hard night of his stone pillow, a night full of dreams and whisperings and old memories. It is an unholy night until Jacob begins to dream. For this shfity, tainted man, it may have been the turning point. It is not that Jacob is able to climb up and lay hold of God. Not at all. He never could. Jacob's God is far above Jacob's ladder. Yet by this dream and by this ladder, the Holy One of Israel descends to reach for one of his children.

"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place -- and I did not know it!' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place!'"

-- "Assurances of the Heart" pp.30-31 (Zondervan 1993)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Worship and Submission

Harold Best, in his book Music Through the Eyes of Faith defines worship in the broadest sense as “acknowledging that someone or something else is greater – worth more – and by consequence, to be obeyed, feared, and adored…Worship is the sign that in giving myself completely to someone or something, I want to be mastered by it. (pg. 143)

We want to be mastered by the objects of our worship. And indeed we are. We worship whatever rules our time, energy, thoughts, longings, and choices. “Those who make them [idols] become like them; so do all who trust in them.” ( Psa. 115:8, ESV


-- from Bob Kauflin at

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Importance of the Doctrine of Hell

"There are plenty of people today who don't believe in the Bible's teaching on everlasting punishment, even those who do find it an unreal and a remote concept."

Here is an important article on Hell by Tim Keller.

A brief excerpt:

"If Jesus, the Lord of Love and Author of Grace spoke about hell more often, and in a more vivid, blood-curdling manner than anyone else, it must be a crucial truth. But why was it so important to Jesus?"

HT: Tullian Tchividjian

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fearful of the Wrong Things

From "The Courage to Be Protestant" by David Wells (Eerdmans):

"Evangelicals today are fearful, but they are fearful of all the wrong things. They are deeply apprehensive about becoming obsolete, of being left behind, so to speak, of being passed by, and of not being relevant....

"This, of course, was the fear that haunted the older generation of Protestant liberals, so many of whom began their lives in evangelical homes. They were overwhelmed by the need to be relevant to the culture...Their conversation partner was the Enlightenment.

"This lesson, however, is entirely lost on most evangelicals today. The reason is partly that they are treading a different path and so they do not see the parallels. Theirs is not the accommodation to high culture, as was the liberals'.

"That culture was suffused with intellectual pride and humanism, with rationalism and hostility to Christian faith. It is now dying. The Enlightenment, from which much of it arose, has all but collapsed, as has the Christianity that had made itself into an ally.

"The parallels between these older liberals and today's evangelicals are not in the culture to which they are accommodating but in the process of accommodation. Behind each is the same mind-set. The difference is only in what is being accommodated. And the dangers are all concealed beneath the apparent innocence of the experiment.

"The fact is, however, that evangelical Christianity today is as endangered by its postmodern dance partner as the earlier liberals were by their Enlightenment partner." (pp. 48-49)

HT: Martin Downes

"The Church -- God's Greatest Evangelistic Method"

A good, insightful post about the church and authentic evangelism.

HT: Tullian Tchividjian, Jimmy Davis

Monday, June 23, 2008

Grow in Your Grasp of the Gospel

“To grow in your passion for what Jesus has done, increase your understanding of what He has done.

Never be content with your grasp of the gospel. The gospel is life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than any diamond. Its depths man will never exhaust.”

- C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2002), 67.

posted at Of First Importance

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Israel trip pictures

As promised in our evening service, here is a link to pictures of the Israel trip.

The Transforming Effect of Assurance of God's Love

“Terror accomplishes no real obedience
Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness.
No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour
can subdue one lust,
or correct our crookedness of will.
But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin,
and withers all its branches.
Only the certainty of love,
forgiving love,
can do this.”

- Horatius Bonar, quoted by Milton Vincent in A Gospel Primer for Christians (2008), 89.

posted at Of First Importance

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Embrace Christianity?

"C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it's relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it's true. And if it's true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. But there will be many times when it's not relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. To be a Christian is going to be very, very hard. So unless you come to it simply because it's really the truth, you really won't live the Christian life, and you won't get to the excitement and to the relevance and all that other stuff."

This is an excerpt from a very good interview of Pastor Tim Keller, from Christianity Today.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Assurance from God's Word (Beyond Experience or Feelings)

“I suppose many do not understand themselves, when they say they want assurance; for what better assurance would you have than the word of God? If you have his word, and take his word, you need no better assurance.

"And though the assurance of sense be the sweetest, yet the assurance of faith is the surest assurance; for what you get in hand from God you may soon lose the benefit and comfort of it; but what you have upon bond in the promise, is still secure.”

- Ralph Erskine, “Faith’s Plea Upon God’s Word,” in The Works of Ralph Erskine, p. 316, vol. 2.

posted at Of First Importance

"An Explosion of Joy"

“Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact?

"The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”

—Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 116

posted at Of First Importance

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Drawing Seekers, Making Saints"

Collin Hansen, an editor at Christianity Today magazine, writes this article on "why the flagship megachurch Willow Creek is adusting its focus from seekers to saints."

HT: Tullian Tchividjian

Monday, June 16, 2008

"What Is a Healthy Church Member?"

Justin Taylor's post presents what looks like an excellent book: "What Is a Healthy Church Member?" by Thabiti Anyabwile.

Calvin on Assurance Regarding God's Fatherly Love

"...There are very many also who form such an idea of the divine mercy as yields them very little comfort. For they are harassed by miserable anxiety while they doubt whether God will be merciful to them. They think, indeed, that they are most fully persuaded of the divine mercy, but they confine it within too narrow limits. The idea they entertain is, that this mercy is great and abundant, is shed upon many, is offered and ready to be bestowed upon all; but that it is uncertain whether it will reach to them individually, or rather whether they can reach to it. Thus their knowledge stopping short leaves them only mid-way; not so much confirming and tranquilizing the mind as harassing it with doubt and disquietude.

"Very different is that feeling of full assurance (πλεροφορία) which the Scriptures uniformly attribute to faith—an assurance which leaves no doubt that the goodness of God is clearly offered to us. This assurance we cannot have without truly perceiving its sweetness, and experiencing it in ourselves. Hence from faith the Apostle deduces confidence, and from confidence boldness. His words are, “In whom (Christ) we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him,” (Eph. 3:12) thus undoubtedly showing that our faith is not true unless it enables us to appear calmly in the presence of God. Such boldness springs only from confidence in the divine favor and salvation. So true is this, that the term faith is often used as equivalent to confidence.
16. The principal hinge on which faith turns is this: We must not suppose that any promises of mercy which the Lord offers are only true out of us, and not at all in us: we should rather make them ours by inwardly embracing them. In this way only is engendered that confidence which he elsewhere terms peace (Rom. 5:1); though perhaps he rather means to make peace follow from it. This is the security which quiets and calms the conscience in the view of the judgment of God, and without which it is necessarily vexed and almost torn with tumultuous dread, unless when it happens to slumber for a moment, forgetful both of God and of itself. And verily it is but for a moment. It never long enjoys that miserable obliviousness, for the memory of the divine judgment, ever and anon recurring, stings it to the quick.

"In one word, he only is a true believer who, firmly persuaded that God is reconciled, and is a kind Father to him, hopes everything from his kindness, who, trusting to the promises of the divine favor, with undoubting confidence anticipates salvation; as the Apostle shows in these words, “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end,” (Heb. 3:14). He thus holds, that none hope well in the Lord save those who confidently glory in being the heirs of the heavenly kingdom." (emphasis added)

Friday, June 13, 2008

All We Have in Christ

“The Lord willingly and freely reveals himself in his Christ. For in Christ, he offers all happiness in place of our misery, all wealth in place of our neediness; in him he opens to us the heavenly treasures that our whole faith may contemplate his beloved Son, our whole expectation depend upon him, and our whole hope cleave to and rest in him.”

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.20.1
posted at Of First Importance

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Love for Christ; Grace from Christ

“Only love for Christ has the power to incapacitate the sturdy love for self that is the bane of every sinner, and only the grace of Christ has the power to produce that love.”

- Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC; New Growth Press, 2007), 105.
previously posted at Of First Importance

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Transcendent Living Is Christ-centered Living"

“Transcendent living is Christ-centered living. Living for Christ is the only way you will ever be liberated from your bondage to the overwhelming tendency to shrink the size of your life to the size of your life. The only way to spin free of the narrow confines of your little cubicle kingdom is to live in the big sky country of Christ-centered living. You will never win the battle with yourself simply by saying ‘no’ to yourself. The battle only begins to be won when you say ‘yes’ to the call of your King, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

- Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 99.
posted at Of First Importance

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"Now I Go Where I Shall Live by Sight"

We got the sad news this weekend that my wife's sister-in-law passed away after a battle with cancer. She was a cheerful, loving, faith-filled woman -- devoted to the Lord, and to her family and friends. Her going to be with the Lord reminded me of an excerpt from "Pilgrim's Progress" (she loved great literature):

"…I see myself now at the end of my journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am going to see that head which was crowned with thorns, and that face which was spit upon for me.

"I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith; but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with him in whose company I delight myself.

"I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too. His name has been to me as a civet[perfume]-box; yea, sweeter than all perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet, and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun.

"His words I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings. He hath held me, and hath kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his way…."

-- The words of Mr. Standfast at the conclusion of "Pilgrim’s Progress"(part 2) as he crosses the river of death into Heaven

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bible-based Authority and Certainty

"Built into Christianity is a principle of authority. This is because Christianity is a revealed religion. It claims that God our Creator has acted to make known his mind and will, and therefore his revelation has authority for our lives.

"Biblical religion is marked by certainty about beliefs and duties. The diffidence and indefiniteness of conviction which thinks of itself as becoming humility has no place or warrant in Scripture, where humility begins with taking God's word about things.

"All through the Bible God's servants appears as folks who know what God has told them and are living by that knowledge. This is true of patriarchs, prophets, psalmists, apostles, other lesser lights and supremely of the Lord Jesus Christ himself."

-- J.I. Packer, "Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life" p.26 (Shaw 1996)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When Christ Is My Hope

“When Christ is my hope, he becomes the one thing in which I have confidence. I act on his wisdom and bank on his grace. I trust his promises and I rely on his presence. And I pursue all the good things that he has promised me simply because I trust him. So, I am not manipulating, controlling, or threatening my way through life to get what I want, because I have found what I want in Christ. He is my hope.”

- Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 107.
posted previously at
Of First Importance

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Full Assurance

The work which His goodness began
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet;
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below nor above
Can make Him His purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace;
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven!

-- "Full Assurance" by A. Toplady