Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A.W. Tozer on True Faith

"The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in. What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day."

-- A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

HT: Randy Alcorn; Justin Taylor

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Big Picture

The Restoration of the Entire Cosmos...

“The object of the work of redemption is not limited to the salvation of individual sinners, but extends itself to the redemption of the world, and to the organic reunion of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ as their original head.
The final outcome of the future, foreshadowed in the Holy Scriptures, is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls, but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all under the renewed heaven on the renewed earth.”

—Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson 2008), 105-106
posted at "Of First Importance"

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Only Alternative...

Here is D.A. Carson's conclusion to his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew's Gospel):

"The sermon ends with what has been implicit throughout it -- the demand for radical submission to the exclusive lordship of Jesus, who fulfills the Law and Prophets and warns the disobedient that the alternative to total obedience, true righteousness, and life in the kingdom is rebellion, self-centeredness, and eternal damnation."

-- Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 194 (Zondervan: 1984)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Antipsalm 23 vs. Psalm 23"

David Powlison writes an Antipsalm 23:

I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death,
and then I die.

Powlison writes:
The antipsalm tells what life feels like and looks like whenever God vanishes from sight. As we hear about Garrett and the others, each story lives too much inside the antipsalm. The "I'm-all-alone-in-the-universe" experience maps onto each one of them. The antipsalm captures the driven-ness and pointlessness of life-purposes that are petty and self-defeating. It expresses the fears and silent despair that cannot find a voice because there's no one to really talk to.

. . . Something bad gets last say when whatever you live for is not God.

And when you're caught up in the antipsalm, it doesn't help when you're labeled a "disorder," a "syndrome" or a "case." The problem is much more serious: The disorder is "my life." The syndrome is "I'm on my own." The case is "Who am I and what am I living for?" when too clearly I am the center of my story.
But, he says, the antipsalm needn't tell the final story.
It only becomes your reality when you construct your reality from a lie. In reality, someone else is the center of the story. Nobody can make Jesus go away. The I AM was, is and will be, whether or not people acknowledge that.

When you awaken, when you see who Jesus actually is, everything changes. You see the Person whose care and ability you can trust. You experience His care. You see the Person whose glory you are meant to worship. You love Him who loves you. The real Psalm 23 captures what life feels like and looks like when Jesus Christ puts his hand on your shoulder.
Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Powlison continues: Can you tasted the difference?...

You can read the whole thing here.

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Moments of Silence in Corporate Worship

Justin Taylor introduces this good post from Pastor Mark Dever:

Here's an excellent post by Mark Dever on how they have built in moments of silence in their worship service at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He writes:

There's silence between various aspects of the service. I encourage service leaders to NOT do the "no-dead-airspace" TV standard of busy-ness. We LIKE "dead air space." "Dead air space" gives us time to reflect. To collect our thoughts. To consider what we've just heard or read or sung. The silence amplifies the words or music we've just heard. It allows us time to take it all in, and to pray. We have silence to prepare ourselves. We have silence between the announcements and the scriptural call to worship. We even have a moment of silence AFTER the service! I pronounce the benediction from the end of II Corinthians, invite the congregation to be seated. And then, after about a minute of silence, the pianist begins quietly playing the last hymn that we had just sung. During those few moments, we reflect and prepare to speak to others and depart. We do business with God. We prepare ourselves for the week ahead.

I'm a sound addict. Even as I write about silence now, I've got Paganini blasting in my study! But yesterday morning in church during one of our silences, I became aware of how corporate a labor such public silence is. Everyone works to be quiet. People stop moving their bulletins or looking for something in their purse. There's no movement. We, together, hear the silence. It engulfs us. It enhances our unity. It is something we all do together. Together we consider what we've just heard. Together we contribute to each other's space to think.

In many churches it is a sign of excellence and efficiency for there to be a continuous flow--no breaks in the order (e.g., as soon as the music stops the person is already at the pulpit, ready to pray or to read Scripture). But I think what Mark advocates here is very healthy.

Read the whole post.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Jesus Christ Establishes His Church"

"...Moreover, we see here the power of Jesus Christ in
establishing his church, even in spite of the world’s resistance,
because those who were powerful and in control at that time, or
seemed to be, resisted the church and raised every possible barrier
to keep it from being established and thus impede the gospel’s
progress. Yet he overcame enormous obstacles with towering

"The way he did it shows clearly that all the glory must be
attributed to him alone. For if he had chosen great, knowledgeable, or
powerful personages, it could be said they had much to do with it
and shared his glory. But what do we see here? Poor people of no
account, undesirables. For all Christians at that time were thought
of as dogs. Everyone held them in contempt. Everyone also thought
the apostles were the refuse of the world, as Paul notes (1 Cor. 1:28).

"But knowing that is the kind of people God has chosen to preach
the gospel in his name, what could we say but ‘What an odd lot
of unsuitable overseers for that job’? That would be our immediate
reaction from our perspective. Nonetheless, God used them to
preach the gospel everywhere despite the fact that princes and their
officers resisted it with all their might.

"In addition, they did not have weapons to establish the gospel
violently; they had only the word of God, and the common folk
sided with them…."

-- excerpt from John Calvin sermon on Acts 1 from “Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 1-7” (Banner of Truth, 2007)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Childlike Obedience

“God has declared in the gospel that whenever we come to him, we are to call upon him freely and openly as our Father, who has adopted us as his children. If we do not have this assurance, the thought of serving God will make us grind our teeth.

"If, however, we are persuaded that God looks upon us favourably; if, though we are weak and can do nothing worthy of his approval, he accepts us in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we will surely be filled with courage.

"We will be like a ship’s sail that has been stretched and filled by the breeze! Thus, our hearts will run to obey him, like a ship driven along by its sail, when we know that God delights in us and accepts our works, not wanting us to be compelled into servitude. He is happy for us to be his children, and that we desire to obey him.”

- John Calvin, Sermons on Galatians (preaching on Gal 5:1-3)
posted at "Of First Importance"

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Ray Ortlund:

I cannot listen to "My Song Is Love Unknown" . . . without being moved to the depths of my being that I have such a Friend. If you have him too, you know what I mean. If you don't have him, you can. Are you willing to be beFriended?

Willingness is all he asks.

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Theological/Ethical Chaos in the Episcopal Church

Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, responds to the assertions of 'heresy' from the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

"In her opening address to the Episcopal Church's recent General Convention, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the church's presiding bishop, made a special point of denouncing what she labeled 'the great Western heresy'—the teaching, in her words, 'that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.' This 'individualist focus,, she declared, 'is a form of idolatry.'"

But as Dr. Mouw argues, "The 'individualism' we profess is not only not a heresy—it is at the heart of the gospel."

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Anglican Bishop Tom Wright on the Schism Caused By the American Episcopal Church

Bishop and theologian Tom Wright explains that "the Americans know this will end in schism" as they continue to defect from the Christian tradition over the issue of ordaining practicing homosexuals to the pastoral ministry.

As the sub-title of his essay puts it: "Support by US Episcopalians for homosexual clergy is contrary to Anglican faith and tradition. They are leaving the family."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Focus on Christ

“The holiest Christians are not those most concerned about holiness as such, but whose minds and hearts and goals and purposes and love and hope are most fully focused on our Lord Jesus Christ.”

- J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 134.
posted at "Of First Importance"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When Imagination Exceeds Obedience

"Those like myself, whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there."

--C.S. Lewis

Friday, July 10, 2009

John Calvin's Continuing Impact: His Ministry of the Word

Kevin DeYoung has another insightful post, this time about why John Calvin's ministry of teaching continues to have such an impact today.

(Today is the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Prayers of Jesus for Us

“It doesn’t matter how complicated, how desperate, perhaps even hopeless your life has become. No matter how overwhelmed you may feel by your problems, if your trust is in Jesus Christ, you can be sure that he is praying for you now and through that prayer he will provide for you the resources to bring you relief or enable you to carry on.

The most important thing that you and I need to learn about prayer is this: first of all and ultimately, prayer is not something we do but what Jesus does for us.”

- Richard B. Gaffin, “Christ, Our High Priest in Heaven
posted at "Of First Importance"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Who is occupying the throne today?"

“In our vision of ultimate reality, who is occupying the throne today? Are we authentic New Testament Christians, whose vision is filled with Christ crucified, risen and reigning? Is guilt still reigning, and death? Or is grace reigning, and life?

"To be sure, sin and Satan may seem to be reigning still, since many continue to bow down to them. But their reign is an illusion, a bluff. For at the cross they were decisively defeated, dethroned and disarmed.

"Now Christ reigns, exalted to the Father’s right hand, with all things under his feet, welcoming the nations, and waiting for his remaining enemies to be made his footstool.”

—John Stott, The Message of Romans (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 162
HT: "Of First Importance"

Monday, July 6, 2009

"The Scandal of the Public Evangelical"

A thought-provoking essay by Mark Galli at "Christianity Today" online. (I tend to think that Galli may overstate the point he's trying to make, but his main idea is worth considering.)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

C.S Lewis on Hell

"Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others...but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine.

"It is not a question of God 'sending us' to hell.* In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud."

-- C.S. Lewis, quoted by Tim Keller in "The Reason for God" pp.78-79 (Dutton 2008)

*I don't think that Lewis gets it entirely right here, but the key idea he's making is an important one. I'd encourage you to read his fascinating little book, "The Great Divorce."