Monday, August 31, 2009

John Murray "The Work of the Minister of the Gospel"

John Murray was a professor (at Westminister Seminary in Philadelphia) and mentor of James Grier, who was one of my professors at Cedarville College (now University) and Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary (now GR Theological S). He continues to be a mentor to me for life and ministry.

Here is a link to an ordination charge preached by Professor Murray, which compellingly describes the authentic work of a minister of the Gospel, in terms of both the preaching of the Word and of pastoral care.

HT: Justin Taylor

"...One Another..."

Printed below are the notes from the teaching time in our New Horizons adult Bible fellowship yesterday:

Living Out the “One Another” Principles of True Christianity
Discussion question for New Horizons for 8/30/09 “Mutual Encouragement….”

1. What, in your own words, are the principles of ‘mutuality’ and ‘reciprocity’ all about when it comes to interacting as Christians? (see 2 Cor. 8:13-15, and compare Rom. 1:11-12)

2. What are areas of your life where you have ‘plenty’? And in what areas could it be said that you have been and/or still are 'in need'? (To ask these questions another way: in what areas are you more fortunate/advantaged?....and in what areas are you less fortunate/disadvantaged?)

3. In what areas of life does the Bible give us examples of mutuality/reciprocity?

-- Rom. 1:11-12 _________________________________

-- 2 Cor. 1:3-5 ____________________________________

-- 2 Cor. 8:13-15 _________________________________
(see also Acts 2:25 and4:32-35)

-- 1 Cor. 12:4-7 ____________________________________

4. What gives us the confidence and incentive not to wait for others to ‘go first’ when it comes to seeking to be a blessing/help to others? (2 Cor. 9:10-11; Luke 6:38; Luke 14:14; Matt.20:28; Matt.25:31-46; 2 Cor.9:12-15; 1 Jn.3:16-18)

5. If, at first, these principles of mutuality/reciprocity seem demanding and even a little scary, what are some first steps/small steps that you could take this week to be involved, applying these principles, in the lives of Christian friends you know? Or what are some ways you’re already applying these “one another” principles?

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Three Gifts for Hard Times"

William J. Stuntz (a Harvard Law School professor) writes compellingly about 'what I've learned as life has taken a turn for what most people think is the worst.' (from "Christianity Today" online)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Why College Matters to God"

Michael Wittmer has a good post on what looks to be a very worthwhile book, making the case for a Christian worldview in college education.

The Cost of Being a Real Christian

“It does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run.

“Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory.”

~ J.C. Ryle

Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle, p. 174.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Forgotten God" by Francis Chan

A few months ago I was challenged and encouraged by Francis Chan's "Crazy Love." So I was eager to read his latest book, "Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit" (co-authored with Danae Yankoski). On the back cover the book is described as "a compelling invitation to rediscover the Holy Spirit's power in our lives" and I think that's a good description of the content of this convicting, inspiring book.

In fact for many Christians it may serve as an invitation to discover and experience the Spirit's empowering presence for the first time. Chan's exhortations are applied not only to individual Christians, but to churches and congregations, reminding us that it is only as the Spirit works through the Word that the work of God can really be accomplished. And it is only by the power of the Spirit that we can worship God as he wants to be worshiped and serve Him as He wants to be served.

There were places in the book where I'm not sure I entirely agreed with how Chan had expressed certain ideas, and for a more comprehensive and in-depth study of the person and work of the Spirit one could turn to J.I. Packer's "Keep in Step with the Spirit" or Sinclair Ferguson's "The Holy Spirit."

But Chan's book is more accessible for a wider group of readers, and I believe it succeeds very well in calling on professing Christians and churches to experience all that God intends for us by prayerfully and obediently embracing the supernatural enabling of the Spirit of the living God.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Depersonalizing God's Wrath... Undermining the Cross

D.A. Carson:

"In recent years it has become popular to sketch the Bible‘s storyline something like this: Ever since the fall, God has been active to reverse the effects of sin. He takes action to limit sin's damage; he calls out a new nation, the Israelites, to mediate his teaching and his grace to others; he promises that one day he will send the promised Davidic king to overthrow sin and death and all their wretched effects. This is what Jesus does: he conquers death, inaugurates the kingdom of righteousness, and calls his followers to live out that righteousness now in prospect of the consummation still to come.

"Much of this description of the Bible's storyline, of course, is true. Yet it is so painfully reductionistic that it introduces a major distortion. It collapses human rebellion, God's wrath, and assorted disasters into one construct, namely, the degradation of human life, while depersonalizing the wrath of God. It thus fails to wrestle with the fact that from the beginning, sin is an offense against God."

Read more here at Justin Taylor's blog.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dead in Trespasses and Sins

“When a man’s heart is cold and unconcerned about religion – when his hands are never employed in doing God’s work – when his feet are not familiar with God’s ways – when his tongue is seldom or never used in prayer and praise – when his eyes are blind to the beauty of the kingdom of heaven – when his mind is full of the world, and has no room for spiritual things – when these marks are to be found in a man, the word of the Bible is the right word to use about him, and that word is, ‘Dead.’”

~ J.C. Ryle

Old Paths, p. 124

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Pastor's Job

"As a pastor, I do not think it is my job to entertain you during the last days. It is not my calling to help you have chipper feelingswhile the whole creation groans. My job is to put the kind of ballast in the belly of your boat so that when these waves crash against your life, you will not capsize but make it to the harbor of heaven—battered and wounded, but full of faith and joy."

-- John Piper, "Spectacular Sins" (Crossway)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bible and the Christian -- J.C. Ryle

"Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. By reading that book we may learn what to believe, what to be, and what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace.

"Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!”

~ J.C. Ryle
Practical Religion, p. 97

From a new site featuring quotes from J.C. Ryle (1816-1900).
HT: Justin Taylor

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Idolatries of the West (pt. 2)

"...What can be said about affluence applies with equal force to our current fascination with and exploitation of sexuality. Carnality in all of its forms -- from Playboy to the debauchery of pornographic movies -- offers liberation of the spirit through sexual experience. What it actually produces is only bondage, a bondage that is addictive. No matter how demeaned and debauched the sexuality may be, it demands of its devotees their total allegiance.

"It becomes a way of life that is a substitute for that way which the Law and Word of God hold out. It is idolatry. And it participates in the judgment that God pronounces on all other forms of idolatry."

-- David Wells, "God the Evangelist" (Eerdmans 1987) p.20

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Idolatries of the West (pt. 1)

"In the affluent West, the most prevalent forms of idolatry are...overtly nonreligious: covetousness, greed, and sexual sin. (Paul links these sins to idolatry in Rom. 1:21-32; 1 Cor. 5:11; Gal.5:19; Eph. 5:5 and Col. 3:5.)

"The experience of affluence undoubtedly creates both an appetite for possessions and a worldview in which the meaning of life is decided in terms of what can be bought, owned, sold, and used. To have is to be.

"This is not only the seedbed in which greed and covetousness take root, but also the seedbed that produces the rapacious alternatives to the truth, worship and service of God...."

-- David Wells, "God the Evangelist" (Eerdmans 1987) p.20

A Powerful Video on Missions

You can view the video here.....

"The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time." -- Carl F.H. Henry

"Go, send, or disobey." -- John Piper

HT: Justin Taylor

The Way to Avoid Legalism

A helpful reflection from Lee Irons: "The way to avoid legalism is to believe that, as the Law teaches, only the perfectly righteous may be admitted into heaven...." Read his entire blog post.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, August 15, 2009

As We Prepare for the Lord's Day....

Dear fellow-pastors and ‘worship leaders’ – if the Gospel of the Cross of Christ is not the fundamental answer to the questions we focus on tomorrow (Sunday) – if it’s not the ultimate solution to the problems we address – haven’t we raised the wrong questions and focused on the wrong issues?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grieving the Spirit

" expose our hearts to truth and consistently refuse or neglect to obey the impulses it arouses is to stymie the motions of life within us and, if persisted in, to grieve the Holy Spirit into silence."

-- A.W. Tozer

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Sweetness and Satisfaction of the Spiritual Life

“First comes the actual exercise of the mind, fixing thoughts and meditations upon spiritual truths. . . .

Next comes the inclination of all the affections toward these things, whereby they cleave to the spiritual truths and make an engagement unto them. . . .

Finally comes a relish and a savor in which lies the sweetness and the satisfaction of the spiritual life. We taste then by experience that God is gracious, and that the love of Christ is better than wine . . .

If we settle for mere speculations and mental notions about Christ as doctrine, we shall find no transforming power of efficacy communicated unto us thereby. But when, under the conduct of spiritual light, our affections do cleave unto him — then virtue [change in character] will proceed from him to purify us, increase our holiness, and sometimes fill us with joy unspeakable and full of glory . . .

Where light leaves the affections behind, it ends in formality and or atheism; where affections outrun light they sink into the bog of superstition.”

- John Owen, quoted by Timothy Keller, Gospel Christianity 2 (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2005), 35.
posted at "Of First Importance"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Randy Alcorn: Taking Charge of the Television

Randy Alcorn has some helpful thoughts about taking charge of the television. You do not have to agree with all of it to benefit from his advice. Here are his points (but click through to read his reasons):

1. Keep track of how much time you spend watching.
2. Decide in advance how much TV to watch per week.
3. Use a schedule to choose programs for the week--then stick to your choices.
4. Keep your television unplugged, store it in a closet, and/or put it in a remote part of the house (prevents mindless flip-on).
5. Periodically "fast" from television for a week or a month. Notice the "cold turkey" effects. (Avoids addiction, reminds you of all that can be done when TV off).
6. Choose programs that uplift rather than undermine biblical values.
7. Use the "off" switch freely. If it's wrong and you keep watching, you're saying "I approve." (Unless it doesn't present temptation and you're critically analyzing it).
8. Use the channel changer frequently.
9. Watch and discuss programs together as a family--to avoid passivity and develop active moral discernment through interaction. (Avoid the second TV set that splits the family and leaves children unsupervised).
10, Don't allow young children to choose their own programs--that's the parent's responsibility.
11. Don't use television as a baby sitter.
12. Spend an hour reading Scripture, a Christian book or magazine, or doing a ministry for each hour you watch TV.
13. Consider dropping cable, Showtime, HBO, or any other service that you determine is importing ungodliness or temptation into your home.
14. If you find you can't control it--or you're tired of the battle--get rid of your television.

[HT: Josh Harris; Between Two Worlds]

Saturday, August 8, 2009

True Christianity Is Supernaturally Spirit-ual

"The Christian life in all its aspects -- intellectual and ethical; devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness -- is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it.

"So apart from him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all."

-- J.I. Packer

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Substitutes for True Spirituality

"We may as well face it: the whole level of spirituality among us is low. We have measured ourselves by ourselves until the incentive to seek higher plateaus in the things of the Spirit is all but gone....

"[We] have imitated the world, sought popular favor, manufactured delights to substitute for the joy of the Lord and produced a cheap and synthetic power to substitute for the power of the Holy Ghost."

-- A.W. Tozer

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Atonement and Christian Worship

Here is an excerpt of Andy Naselli's interview with Graham Cole on a crucial theme:

How would you describe the relationship between the atonement and Christian worship?

The worship of heaven, which we join when we gather as God’s people, is based on God’s revealed character and mighty works as Creator (Rev 4) and Redeemer (Rev 5). The only fitting response to such grace is that exhibited by the elders in heaven. They worshiped (i.e., adopted the protocol one does in the presence of such majestic selflessness). In the light of the cross we can only look away from ourselves and acknowledge in word and body language someone other than ourselves as the worthy one: the Lamb slain for us. That is the connection.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the Road to Jesus' Coronation

“Our good King, the Lord Jesus, the ruler of all creation, has indeed returned and come to restore his good intentions for creation. He has come to judge evil, pay for our sinful rebellion and establish his reign of peace, love and justice. The end to the bitter reign of sin, death and Satan has been pronounced through Jesus’ cross and resurrection. Jesus is on the way to his final coronation on the last day, when the trumpets will blow, the dead in Christ will rise up, and every knee will bow at the name of our King, the Lord Jesus. And now here we are, still on the road to Jesus’ coronation with the good news that the King has come.”

- Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi, Kingdom Come (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2003), 130-131.
posted at "Of First Importance"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Responding to Correction

From Between Two Worlds (and a sermon from Josh Harris):

Being told you’re wrong is never fun. And there is a range of responses we can make when others correct us. In his sermon Sunday on Proverbs 9:1—18, Joshua Harris explained how each of these responses exposes our character. The wise and the fool are measured, at lest in part, by their response to correction and reproof (see vv. 7—9).

Harris explained the spectrum of responses like this:

The Wise—(1) Loves correction. (2) Pursues correction.
The Growing—(3) Appreciates correction. (4) Begrudgingly accepts correction.
The Simple—(5) Is open-minded to correction. (6) Is indifferent towards correction.
The Fool—(7) Is annoyed by correction. (8) Judges those who correct.
The Scoffer—(9) Hates correction.

Read the entire post....