Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'...Christianity is an education itself.'

"God has room for people with very little sense, but He wants everyone to use the sense they have. The proper motto is not, 'Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever [intelligent],' but 'Be good, sweet maid, and don't forget that involves being as clever [intelligent] as you can.'

'God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all....

'One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself."

-- C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity" (New York: MacMillan, 1956), p. 61

Monday, June 29, 2009

'God Knows That He's Great...'

" The core problem isn't the fact that we're lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He's great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers."

-- Francis Chan in "Crazy Love"

Sermons on Temptation, by D.A. Carson

A sermon series by D.A. Carson:

The Temptation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3)

The Temptation of Joseph (Genesis 39)

The Temptation of Hezekiah

The Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)

Your Temptation (James 1:2-4, 12-18)

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Whatever Happened to Theology?

"...I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical Church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident inevery incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors.

"It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant.

"Despite this, the changes that are now afoot are so pregnant with consequences that it becomes, for me, a matter of conscience to address them. Conscience, I have learned, is a hard taskmaster, and I have not the slightest doubt that my attempt at doing this will appear quite ridiculous. I will look to some like the foolish dog that sits on the front lawn and, to everyone's displeasure, bays at the moon. But bay I must."

-- David Wells, "No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?" pp.4-5 (Eerdmans 1993)

"Don't Waste Your Life -- John Newton Style"

...at Kevin DeYoung's blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Hills Are Still Alive....

You gotta love the creativity of this, and the delight it produced in those who experienced it....(looks like an outburst of '[not so] common grace' to me).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"The African-American Church Experience"

From Kevin DeYoung...

"Last Sunday night at our church, Eric Washington, Assistant Professor of African-American and African History at Calvin College, spoke to our congregation on "The African-American Church Experience". Eric and his family live in our area and attend our church often on Sunday evenings. They will be moving to Grand Rapids soon, so I asked if he would teach at our church before he left. I learned a lot from him on Sunday night. The lecture is definitely worth listening to." [The link has been fixed.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iron Sharpening Iron (vs. Lapsing into Laodicea)

I have recently been reminded, by means of a new friendship and a longstanding one, that some friends really bring out the best in us, by their example and the understated challenge that accompanies such an example. At the same time, sadly, other people (even those close to us) come closer to being stumbling blocks via their negative example of nominalism and lukewarmness – an apparent ‘form of religion’ devoid of its true, transforming power.

The ‘iron sharpens iron’ kind of friends are people who still hold on to the belief, extreme as it might seem to the nominal, that all of life really is to be lived for the Lord’s glory, and that means (just as importantly) that all of life is to be shaped by Scripture. Such people are not at all content with the status quo, nor the Laodicean consensus that so easily forms over time, in the midst of a significant number of professing Christians.

For these people, the fact that a certain consensus has been reached among a majority of the professing people of God doesn’t really tell them very much – what matters to them is what the Word of God commands and calls us to (as best they can tell, including as they interact with other Biblically-directed believers).

I’m glad for their commitment and perspective. I need it. I’m glad that they speak up when they ought to. I hope they continue to do so – humbly, but persistently. And I hope that I profit from their example and exhortation…and that I have a helpful impact on them as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Heavenly Matchmaker

“The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.

"As the second Paraclete, the Spirit leads us constantly to the original Paraclete, who himself draws near through the second Paraclete’s coming to us (John 14:8). Thus, by enabling us to discern the first Paraclete, and by moving us to stretch out our hands to him as he comes from his throne to meet us, the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, according to Christ’s own word.”

- J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 57 – 58.
posted at "Of First Importance"

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Let my heart be sound in Your statutes...."

a devotional from Charles Spurgeon

A Sound Heart

Let my heart be sound in thy statues: that I be not ashamed. (Psalm 119:80)

We may regard this inspired prayer as containing within itself the assurance that those who keep close to the Word of God shall never have cause to be ashamed of doing so.

See, the prayer is for soundness of heart. A sound creed is good, a sound judgment concerning it is better, but a sound heart toward the truth is best of all. We must love the truth, feel the truth, and obey the truth, otherwise we are not truly sound in God's statutes. Are there many in these evil days who are sound? Oh, that the writer and the reader may be two of this sort!

Many will be ashamed in the last great day, when all disputes will be decided. Then they will see the folly of their inventions and be filled with remorse because of their proud infidelity and willful defiance of the Lord; but he who believed what the Lord taught and did what the Lord commanded will stand forth justified in what he did. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun. Men much slandered and abused shall find their shame turned into glory in that day.

Let us pray the prayer of our text, and we may be sure that its promise will be fulfilled to us. If the Lord makes us sound, He will keep us safe.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Discerning Idolatry in Desire" by John Piper

from John Piper:

Most of us realize that enjoying anything other than God, from the best gift to the basest pleasure, can become idolatry. Paul says in Colossians 3:5, “Covetousness is idolatry.”

“Covetousness” means desiring something other than God in the wrong way. But what does that mean—“in the wrong way”?

The reason this matters is both vertical and horizontal. Idolatry will destroy our relationship with God. And it will destroy our relationships with people.

All human relational problems—from marriage and family to friendship to neighbors to classmates to colleagues—all of them are rooted in various forms of idolatry, that is, wanting things other than God in wrong ways.

So here is my effort to think biblically about what those wrong ways are. What makes an enjoyment idolatrous? What turns a desire into covetousness, which is idolatry? ...

Pastor Piper then lists 12 Ways to Recognize the Rise of Covetousness, concluding with....

11. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God. There can be sorrow at loss without being idolatrous. But when the sorrow threatens our confidence in God, it signals that the thing lost was becoming an idol.

12. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people. This is the horizontal effect of losing confidence in God. Again: Great sorrow is no sure sign of idolatry. Jesus had great sorrow. But when desire is denied, and the effect is the emotional inability to do what God calls us to do, the warning signs of idolatry are flashing.

For myself and for you, I pray the admonition of 1 John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Read the entire article here.

"A mature Christian is easily edified."

Justin Taylor has a great post about being 'easily edified' -- following up on a striking phrase used in a conversation on worship (and music) from a previous post.

Justin writes:

"'A mature Christian is easily edified.'

"Chip Stam cited those words by Harold Best in the first video I linked to earlier. Those words have been rolling around in my heart and mind for the past couple of days.

"Easily edified.

"Isn't that a wonderful goal--a sign of good mental health and genuine obedience of faith?... "

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Discussion on Music in Worship

Justin Taylor introduces and summarizes a very worthwhile discussion on the use of music in worship.

In these videos Pastor Mike Cosper talks with Dr. Harold Best and Dr. Carl ("Chip") Stam about worship practices, theology, and music.(Cosper is the pastor of Worship Arts and the 930 Art Center at Sojourn Church in Louisville. Stam is associate professor in the School of Church Music and Worship at Southern, the founding director of the Institute for Christian Worship, and minister of worship at Louisville's Clifton Baptist Church. Best is Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, and the author of Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts and Music Through The Eyes of Faith.)

To view the video discussion, go here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is Scripture Enough?

"We don't really believe Scripture is enough. It must be supplemented with techniques, programs, experiences, exercises, entertainment. The Reformation put the pulpit (for the preaching of the Word) at the center, and we're working hard to move it aside and replace it with a thousand and one distractions. 'Preach the word!' Paul cried to Timothy as he finished his own course. God grant us ears to hear, greater hearts to grasp, bolder lips to proclaim, and stiffer spines to stand on the Word alone."

-- Dan Phillips (from an interview by Guy Davies)
HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Accomplishment of Christ's Atonement

“Christ’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of the new covenant, in which access to God under all circumstances is guaranteed by Christ’s one sacrifice that covers all transgressions (Matt. 26:27-28; 1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 9:15; 10:12-18). Those who through faith in Christ have ‘received reconciliation’ (Rom. 5:11) ‘in him . . . become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, they are justified and receive the status of adopted children in God’s family (Gal 4:5). Thereafter they live under the motivating constraint and control of the love of Christ for them as made known and measured by the cross (2 Cor. 5:14).”

- J. I. Packer, “Sacrifice: Jesus Christ Made Atonement for Sin (from "Concise Theology")
posted at "Of First Importance"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Amazing Grace" (extended version)

John Newton’s Full Poem
(from which we get the hymn, "Amazing Grace")

In evil long I took delight,
unawed by shame or fear;
Till a new object met my sight,
and stopped my wild career:

I saw One hanging on a tree
in agonies and blood;
Who fixed His languid eyes on me
as near His cross I stood.

Sure, never till my latest breath
can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
and plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had shed,
and helped to nail Him there.

Alas, I knew not what I did,
but all my tears were vain;
Where could my trembling soul be hid,
for I, the Lord, had slain!

A second look He gave that said,
"I freely all forgive!"
"This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I died that thou mayest live!"

Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

Thro' many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
'Tis grace hath bro't me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
the sun forbear to shine;
But God Who called me here below
shall be forever mine.

-- John Newton

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kevin DeYoung on Relating to Jesus as He Really Is

Here is Kevin's intro to his blogpost: The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”

Read his entire post here.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eating Disorders: The Quest for Thinness

In this article, Ed Welch describes how easy it is, in a weight-conscious world that also uses food for comfort, to take the small steps that lead to a full blown eating disorder. He gives a road map for dealing with this difficult problem that includes understanding the thoughts and emotions that trigger destructive eating habits and then encouraging those who struggle with food addictions to take the big step of trusting God, instead of food rules and rituals.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Naming Names

As pastors, one of our important obligations is to seek to guard the flock by warning against false teaching and false teachers (cp. Matt. 7:15ff.; Acts 20:25-32; the Pastoral Epistles; John's Epistles; Jude 3-4, etc.).

To do this effectively, one approach would be to single out contemporary teachers who, in my judgment, are so substantially unreliable in what they teach that whatever their worthwhile content, it is so greatly outweighed by the 'chaff' that they do more harm than good (e.g., Joel Osteen, Brian McLaren,...).

But there is another approach, and that is to call attention to Christian teachers, pastors, authors, theologians who are consistently and reliably faithful and edifying in their teaching of God's truth. So that's what I want to do in this post. The list won't be exhaustive, but my point is that if you learn from people like these, I think you will learn all you need to know about authentic Christianity...

Jerry Bridges
D.A. Carson
Charles Colson
Mark Dever
Kevin DeYoung
Mark Driscoll
Elisabeth Elliott
Sinclair Ferguson
Billy Graham
Wayne Grudem
Michael Horton
Tim Keller
R. Albert Mohler
J.I. Packer
John Piper
David Powlison
R.C. Sproul
John Stott
Joseph Stowell III
Tullian Tchividjian
Paul Tripp
David Wells
Michael Wittmer

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Hast Thou Heard Him, Seen Him, Known Him?"

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Idols oft they win thee, charm thee
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed lest thou turn thee hence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty
But the sight of peerless worth ......

Not the crushing of those idols
With its bitter void and smart [pain],
But the beaming of His beauty
The unveiling of His heart.

Who extinguishes their taper [candle]
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer hath begun?

‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw;
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw.

Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?

Chorus: Captivated by His beauty
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A "Spiritually Hygienic" Person (Authentic Holiness)

"...A spiritually hygienic person is one who combines strengths and flexibilities, disciplines and freedoms, all working together from a renewable source of vitality. This is a person who flourishes like a fine sapling rooted into the bank of a dependable stream.

"What are some features of this flourishing? As Christians see her, a spiritually whole person longs in certain classic ways. She longs for God and the beauty of God, for Christ and Christlikeness, for the dynamite of the Holy Spirit and spiritual maturity. She longs for spiritual hygiene [i.e., true holiness] itself -- and not just as a consolation prize when she cannot be rich and envied instead. She longs for other human beings: she wants to love them and to be loved by them. She hungers for social justice. She longs for nature, for its beauties and graces, for the sheer particularity of the way of a squirrel with a nut. As might expect, her longings dim from season to season. When they do, she longs to long again.

"She is a person character consistency, a person who rings true wherever you tap her. She keeps promises. She weeps with those who weep and, perhaps more impressively, rejoices with those who rejoice.....

"Her motives include faith -- a quiet confidence in God and the mercies of God that radiate from the self-giving work of Jesus Christ. She knows God is good; she also feels assured that God is good to her.

"Her faith secures her from the ceaseless oscillations of pride and despair familiar to every human being who has taken refuge in the cave of her own being and tried there to bury all her insecurities under a mound of achievements. When her faith slips, she retains faith enough to believe that the Spirit of God, whose presence is her renewable resource, will one day secure her faith again.

"Since faith fastens on God's benevolence, it yields gratitude, which in turn sponsors risk-taking in the service of others. Grateful people want to let themselves go; faithful people dare to do it. People tethered to God by faith can let themselves go because they know they will get themselves back...."

-- Cornelius Plantinga, "Not the Way It's Supposed to Be" (p.34-35, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"The Healthiest People Are the Ones Who Praise the Most"

Psalm 145:6-7

"Some people are never satisfied. They think others drive too slow and eat too fast. They're convinced government is crooked, the schools are worthless, and the church is full of hypocrites. Something is wrong with every sermon these people hear, every program they see, every dish of food they are willing to try.

"Such people seem to spend the whole of their sour little lives in front of a complaint window. They are like the pessimistic farmer who had six chickens hatch one morning. He was inconsolable. When someone asked him what was wrong, he replied bitterly: 'I had six chickens hatch this morning, and now all of 'em have died but five.'

"Open, grateful human life resounds not with complaints but with praise. The healthiest people are the ones who praise the most. Family, friends, books, sports, music, nature --all these draw praise from healthy people. 'Did you see that? Wasn't it great!' 'Did you hear what he did for her sister? Isn't she a generous person?'

"But Christians reserve their highest praise for the goodness and greatness of God. The psalms ring with it: 'The Lord is great and greatly to be praised! Praise the Lord!' At creation, says the Book of Job, 'the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy.'

"Praise is a way of expressing awe and admiration for the stunning greatness of God and his deeds, and for the ingenious ways in which God keeps fitting his help to our need. Our prayers ought to include some hearty praise. But whether in prayer or other speech, our praise of God may never be glib. Some people say 'Praise the Lord!' with no more reverence than they lavish on 'Have a nice day!'

"Not that. Our praise of God must be both candid and thoughtful. For praise of God is the very music of heaven...."

-- Cornelius Plantinga, "Assurances of the Heart" (pp. 66-67, Zondervan: 1993)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Martin Luther's Reply to the Devil's Accusations

It is well-known that in his writings in table conversation Luther would often refer to visits from the Devil, how the Devil would come to him and whisper in his ear, accusing him of all manner of filthy sin: "Martin, you are a liar, greedy, lecherous, a blasphemer, a hypocrite. You cannot stand before God."

To which Luther would respond: "Well, yes, I am. And, indeed, Satan, you do not know the half of it. I have done much worse than that and if you care to give me your full list, I can no doubt add to it and help make it more complete. But you know what? My Saviour has died for all my sins - those you mention, those I could add and, indeed, those I have committed but am so wicked that I am unaware of having done so. It does not change the fact that Christ has died for all of them; his blood is sufficient; and on the Day of Judgment I shall be exonerated because he has taken all my sins on himself and clothed me in his own perfect righteousness.

Luther knew what temptation looked like; he knew his own wickedness; but he also knew the all-surpassing perfection and grace of Christ.

-- from an online article by Carl Trueman