Sunday, January 31, 2010

Christ is all I need...


I once was lost in darkest night

Yet thought I knew the way;

The sin that promised joy and life

Had led me to the grave.

I had no hope that You would own

A rebel to Your will,

And if You had not loved me first

I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race

Indifferent to the cost,

You looked upon my helpless state

And led me to the cross.

And I beheld God’s love displayed,

You suffered in my place;

You bore the wrath reserved for me

Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ

Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone,

And live so all might see

The strength to follow Your commands

Could never come from me.

Oh Father, use my ransomed life

In any way You choose,

And let my song forever be

'My only boast is You.'

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Sports Fanatics"

An article from "Christianity Today" (online) about 'how Christians have succumbed to the sports culture—and what might be done about it.'

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...." Romans 12:2

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." -- 1 Jn.5:21

I believe recreation and sports can have a very valid, enjoyable place in the life of a Christian... but that doesn't mean that it's not possible for sports to get significantly out of proportion when it comes to the time, energy, expense and interest invested....

See what you think, after reading this worthwhile article.

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Can singing about the gospel become rote?"

Bob Kauflin writes about making sure that a commitment to gospel-centeredness in worship doesn't become too limiting through a misunderstanding of what gospel-centeredness means.

New Experiences of Christ

“One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face and the fountain of his sweet grace and love will do more towards scattering clouds of darkness and doubting in one minute than examining old experiences by the best mark that can be given a whole year.”

-- Jonathan Edwards, quoted in George M. Marsden, "Jonathan Edwards: A Life" (New Haven, 2003), page 226.

-- posted by Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Has Your Heart?

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” I John 5:21

“John’s last line properly leaves us with that most basic question which God continually poses to each human heart. Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight? It is a question bearing on the immediate motivation for one’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings. In the Bible’s conceptualization, the motivation question is the lordship question. Who or what ‘rules’ my behavior, the Lord or a substitute?”

--David Powlison

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

We were created to live worshipfully...

"We were created to live worshipfully — not just worshiping at certain times, but continually — to be in adoring submission, serving the One whom we cannot help but adore and being adored by the One to whom we cannot help but submit. The depth and extent of this relationship is based on the uniqueness of God creating us in His image and in the indescribable intimacy that this singular act of creation made possible." -- Harold Best

Sunday, January 24, 2010

True Conversion

‘What happens then, in a true conversion, is that faith comes to life in the mind as the reality of the truths about Christ (whether they have been read or heard) begin to take life and to felt. (Acts 2:36; 16:14b; Romans 7:7b-10; 10:17; 1 Cor.15:1-5ff.; 2 Thess.2:13)

‘In some shape or form, these truths center on:

· God’s holiness and love (Ex.20:1-21; Jn.3:16-21, 36; Rom.1:18ff.; 3:9-26; 11:22; Eph.2:1-10)

· Christ’s self-giving for us and in our place, on the Cross (Isa.53; Matt.20:28; Rom. 4:25; 5:1-11; 2 Cor.5:21; Eph.1:7; 1 Pet.1:18-19

· His triumph over sin, death and the devil, (Rom.5:20-21; Rom.6:1-14; 1 Cor.15:54-57; Col.1:19; 2:13; 2 Tim.1:10; Heb.2:14-15)

· And our sense of corruption, guilt, misery and despair. (Ps.51:5; Isa.1:5-6; Jer.17:9; Rom.3:10-18; 7:14-24; 8:7; Eph.2:12; Titus 3:3)

‘Then we hear the words of grace in the Gospel. Emotions may well be stirred, for although the perception of spiritual reality is not itself emotional, distress, fear, shame, and hopeful joy are at different times the result of coming to realize the truth of the Gospel. (Ps.32:1-5; Isa.6:5; 12; Luke 18:13; Acts 2:37; 16:34; Rom.6:21; 1 Thess.1:6; 1 Pet.1:8-9)

‘Faith, beginning as this knowledge (this real understanding of the truths of the Christian faith) (Acts 11:13-14; Ro.10:13-17; Col.1:5-6; 2 Tim.1:11; Titus 1:1; Jas.1:18; 1 Pet.1:23-25; 2 Pet.1:3ff.) blossoms into assent in which the will is now engaged; (Acts 2:37; 8:36-38; Ro.1:5; 6:17; 1 Thess.1:9-10) assent issues into heartfelt trust…. (Jn.3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom.1:16-17; 3:22; Rom.10:6-17; Eph.2:8-9; Col.1:4; 1 Jn.5:4-5,10) and from the trust flows real repentance and the turning from sin to Christ.’ (Lk.19:8-9; 24:27; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 26:20; Rom.6:17-23; Eph.2:10; Gal.5:6; Eph.4:17-32; 1 Thess.1:3; Heb.4:14-16; 12:2; Jas.2:14-26; 2 Pet.1:5)

-- David Wells, "Turning to God" (Eerdmans)

"We Are All Worshipers"

“We Are All Worshipers”

New Horizons

Jan. 24, 2010

Paul to the Thessalonians converts: “…your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thess.1:8ff.)

The Bible makes it clear that true conversion (“getting saved”) includes turning from idols (God-substitutes) and beginning a life of serving the living and true God.

Key passages:

  • Rom. 1:20-25
  • Rom. 6:16-18,22
  • Matt. 28:18-20
  • Rom. 7:6
  • 1 Thess. 1:9ff.
  • 1 Jn.2:15-17
  • 1 Jn. 5:21

Pastor Doug reminded us that the basic meanings of the Biblical words for ‘worship’ are to ‘bow the knee (literally, to fall prostrate to the ground) in submission and allegiance’, and to ‘’serve (as a willing devoted slave).

· With that in mind, what does that say about the fundamental nature of a believer’s life (at home, work, at play, at church, etc.)? [Remember again the key passages listed above.]

“Worship is not a special event or any sequence of them. Worship is fundamental to humankind itself, so much so, that we must assume that it goes on all the time, all around us, inside of us, and, in a paradoxical way, in spite of us. …We must first of all understand that there is no one in this world who is not, at this moment, at worship in one way or another: consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, passively or passionately. For in a most comprehensive way, we are always giving our lives over to something or someone that we consider to be worth the most.” (Harold Best)

· What are some of the idols/obsessions/God-substitutes that pre-occupy people today, deterring them from wholehearted devotion to serving God? (Compare Lk. 8:14)

· Could you identify the idol(s) that is the most tempting to you?

· Since living as a Christian involves not only the ‘negative’ aspect of turning from idols and sin, but also the ‘positive’ aspect of ‘serving the living and true God,’ how do we come to know how it is that God wants us to serve Him, and how we can be pleasing to Him?

For future reflection: In order to better understand what worship really is, in your future Bible study and reading, substitute the word ‘serve’ every time you come across the word ‘worship’ (including when people use the word ‘worship’ around church, in conversation, etc.).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why Love the Church?

From Josh Harris:

* Don’t love the church because of what it does for you. Because sooner or later it won’t do enough.
* Don’t love the church because of a leader. Because human leaders are fallible and will let you down.
* Don’t love the church because of a program or a building or activities because all those things get old.
* Don’t love the church because of a certain group of friends because friendships change and people move.

Love the church because of who shed his blood to obtain the church. Love the church because of who the church belongs to. Love the church because of who the church worships. Love the church because you love Jesus Christ and his glory. Love the church because Jesus is worthy and faithful and true. Love the church because Jesus loves the church.

HT: Thabiti Anyabwile

Everyone is a worshiper

"Worship is not a special event or any sequence of them. Worship is fundamental to humankind itself, so much so, that we must assume that it goes on all the time, all around us, inside of us, and, in a paradoxical way, in spite of us.

"So before we talk about the specificities of worship, we must first of all understand that there is no one in this world who is not, at this moment, at worship in one way or another: consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, passively or passionately. For in a most comprehensive way, we are always giving our lives over to something or someone that we consider to be worth the most.

"Worship does not just apply to specific religious activities and to the deeply religious people who have strong feelings about a nameable god (Judeo-Christian or otherwise), and how that god is to be occasionally encountered, pleased, placated, served, and worshiped. In a way that goes beyond nameable liturgical activities, it applies to our deepest expressions — many of them left unseen or unsaid — of our worldview."

-- Dr. Harold Best, Former Dean of Wheaton Conservatory of Music and Author of "Music Through the Eyes of Faith"

Friday, January 22, 2010

"99 Balloons"

On the anniversary of the dreadful Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, this video presents a family who showed commitment to the sanctity of every life with compassion and courage.

"99 Balloons"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Authentic Worship...and the Place of Music (Harold Best)

"As to all of our music, we cannot afford to forget that the whole of all musical undertaking in temple, church, and basilica, is based on a three-in-one commandment, one sentence long, from the Psalms: 'Sing (play) to the Lord a new song.' We can also not afford to forget that it is the commandment, God's commandment, that is of prime importance. We must understand that when God commands, He means what He says, and that it is the commandment that makes music important and not the reverse.

"When we attempt to empower God's commands with something even as wonderful as music we have stepped over a forbidden line, for there is such a thing as musicolatry. We must recognize that as wonderful as music is, and as much as we lovingly strive for excellence in its practices, there are no such ephemera as a theological Mozart effect, or expose-yourself-to-the-masterpieces talk, or what-will-music-do-for-me talk. When music becomes of prime importance and God's work is conditioned upon, or made subject to it, we have already paid the entrance fee into the darkened complexities of religion posing as godliness, of Truth conditioned by beauty, and music taking on the qualities of sacrament, if not Transubstantiation."

-- from Dr. Harold Best, Former Dean of Wheaton Conservatory of Music and Author of "Music Through the Eyes of Faith." From an address entitled "Authentic Worship and Faithful Music-making" presented at the American Choral Directors Association.Location: Music & Worship Interest Session, ACDA National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, February 27, 1999

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Authentic Worship" -- Harold M. Best

I have found the writings of Dr. Harold Best to be some of the most insightful and Biblical when it comes to authentic Christian worship. Here is an extended excerpt from an especially comprehensive and carefully articulated essay on worship (for more information, see below).

"...We are talking more about worship today than possibly ever before in Church history, certainly more than the Scriptures do. We need to remember that when we make worship too much the subject, we risk destroying the very thing for which it is intended. The subject can never be worship until the subject is first of all the Lord. To the extent that attention is overly drawn to worship, to the extent that it becomes the primary object of our work, the overriding protocol, within which the Lord and His work are subjects, we can only assume that we have begun to worship worship, or at least, to worship about worship, therefore to worship about God.

"Visit the typical seminar or conference and you will discover that the attention is on tools for worship (whatever they are), on worship enhancement, ideas, options, and worship leading, in effect, as a spin-off of management technique. And as to the ideas about worship teams, let me say that, theologically speaking, the only worship team that is worthy of the name is the congregation, the people of God who, as a corporate body raise their voices in response to a command, not in acoustical competition with (or surrender to) a select group of miked-in folks.

"I repeat, the attention is, first and last, to be on the Lord, so much so that worship ceases to be the primary subject, the focus, the action in itself. But when we keep ourselves steadied upon the Lord, worship gains its rightful place as the full articulation, but not the substance, of this steadiness. Left to itself, worship is a dangerous thing, for it needs an object, a preposition. For it is not how or when or with what degree of quality, variety, and imagination that we worship. It is whom we worship. It is a passion about God that finds its voice. It is the 'of-God' worship that begins the separation of authentic worship from inauthentic worship...."

-- from "Authentic Worship & Faithful Music Making"
Presenter: Dr. Harold Best, Former Dean of Wheaton Conservatory of Music and Author of Music Through the Eyes of Faith. Harold addresses a diverse audience of professional musicians at the American Choral Directors Association.
Location: Music & Worship Interest Session, ACDA National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, February 27, 1999

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Dug Down Deep" by Joshua Harris

Justin T. introduces Joshua Harris’s new book, releated today. "It’s called Dug Down Deep (Multnomah, 2010). In it he introduces the basics of the Christian faith and uses his own story of how God brought him from atheological generic evangelicalism to embrace humble orthodoxy."

I've read the first chapter, and I think it's excellent...I'm looking forward to getting and reading the book. The book's goal is to show how sound doctrine is essential to healthy, holy living.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Remembering God

“We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible ‘verses’ aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.”

- David Powlison
- posted at "Of First Importance"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Problem of Evangelical Biblical Illiteracy

David Nienhuis, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, has a helpful piece in the latest Modern Reformation on the problem of evangelical students “familiar” with the Bible but still essentially illiterate.

Here’s an excerpt on how it happened:

"...Christians schooled in this rather anti-intellectual, common-denominator evangelistic approach to faith responded to the later twentieth-century decline in church attendance by looking not to more substantial catechesis but to business and consumer models to provide strategies for growth. By now we’re all familiar with the story: increasing attendance by means of niche marketing led church leaders to frame the content of their sermons and liturgies according to the self-reported perceived needs of potential 'seekers' shaped by the logic of consumerism. Now many American consumer-congregants have come to expect their churches to function as communities of goods and services that provide care and comfort without the kind of challenge and discipline required for authentic Christian formation to take place...."

Another excerpt:

"Satan's use of Scripture in tempting Jesus is clear indication that a merely cognitive level of biblical literacy does not automatically result in the formation of a Christian character."

And then there is this:

"There are, no doubt, many reasons for the current predicament. In general we spend far less time reading anything at all in this culture, much less dense and demanding books like the Bible. Not long ago I met with a [Christian college] student who was struggling in one of my courses. When I asked her what she thought the trouble was, she replied, in a tone suggesting ever so slightly that the fault was mine, 'Reading a lot is not a part of my learning style.' She went on to inform me that students today learned more by 'watching videos, listening to music, and talking to one another.' She spoke of the great growth she experienced in youth group (where she no doubt spent a lot of time watching videos, listening to music, and talking with people), but her ignorance of the Bible clearly betrayed the fact that the Christian formation she experienced in her faith community afforded her little to no training in the actual reading of Scripture." [Ouch.]

You can read the entire essay here.

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, January 14, 2010

God's Love for Haiti

Dr. Albert Mohler's provocatively titled essay provides much Biblical wisdom about the tragedy in Haiti, and how Christians should respond. (His title was prompted by the suggestion from some, very sadly, that the earthquake should be seen as indicating some particular level of guilt for Haiti.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Good Fight (the pursuit of holiness)

Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, is interviewed by CT 'on sanctification and making war against sin.'

Chandler's perspective includes the importance of making relationships within the church a key part of the pursuit of holiness.

P.S. -- many Christians are praying for Chandler, who has recently been diagnosed and undergone surgery for brain cancer

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Supernatural Church"

“I bet you’d agree that a group of talented, charismatic leaders can draw a crowd. Find the right creative team, musicians and speakers, and you can grow any church. It doesn’t even have to be a Christian church. The fact is that without making a conscious choice to depend on the Holy Spirit, we can to a lot. (Although, without the Spirit, we wouldn’t actually be drawing our next breath – but I am talking about cognizant and intentional dependence on our part.) My point is that a growing and energetic gathering is not necessarily evidence of the Spirit’s work.”

“…We’ve created a whole brand of churches that do not depend on the Spirit, a whole culture of Christians who are not disciples, and new group of ‘followers’ who do not follow.

“If all God asked for were faceless numbers to fill the churches, then we would be doing all right. Most of us would feel pretty confident. But simply having a good speaker, a service that is short and engaging, a good venue, and whatever else we add to the mix does not make a ‘good’ or ‘successful’ church. God intended for His bride, those who claim His name, to be much more than this.

“God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of His bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of Him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus.

“Perhaps I can talk people into praying a prayer, but I cannot talk anyone into falling in love with Christ. I cannot make someone understand and accept the gift of grace. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. So by every measure that actually counts, I need the Holy Spirit. Desperately.”

-- Francis Chan, from the chapter “Supernatural Church” in his book, The Forgotten God (David C. Cook; pp. 141,143)

Monday Morning Humor

Some ecclesiastical satire at Kevin DeYoung's blog.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What It Takes to Put Sin to Death

"But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Romans 8:13

“Men look upon it as an easy task and as that which will be carried on with a little diligence and ordinary attendance. But do we think it is for nothing that the Holy Spirit expresses the duty of opposing sin and weakening its power by mortification, killing or putting to death? Is there not something special in this, beyond any other act or duty of our lives? . . . Everything will do its utmost to preserve its life and being. So will sin too; and if it is not constantly pursued with diligence and holy violence, it will escape our assaults. Let no man think he can kill sin with few, easy or gentle strokes.”

-- John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1981 reprint), III:546.
HT: Ray Ortlund

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Insightful Column from Michael Gerson...

...a follow-up to the subject of my post yesterday: "Brit Hume's Tiger Woods remarks shine light on true intolerance"

Here is just the conclusion:

"...In this controversy, we are presented with two models of discourse. Hume, in an angry sea of loss and tragedy -- his son's death in 1998 -- found a life preserver in faith. He offered that life preserver to another drowning man. Whatever your view of Hume's beliefs, he could have no motive other than concern for Woods himself.

"The other model has come from critics such as Shales, in a spittle-flinging rage at the mention of religion in public, comparing Hume to 'Mary Poppins on the joys of a tidy room, or Ron Popeil on the glories of some amazing potato peeler.' Shales, of course, is engaged in proselytism of his own -- for a secular fundamentalism that trivializes and banishes all other faiths. He distributes the sacrament of the sneer.

"Who in this picture is more intolerant?"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brit Hume's Christian Witness (related to Tiger Woods)

Justin Taylor has two interesting posts related to Brit Hume's (Fox News) recent public witness regarding the redemption offered by Christ (in relation to Tiger Woods).

I appreciate Hume's bold witness, and his realization that the separation of church and state (a political idea) does not at all mean that Christians cannot live out and declare their Christian faith in 'the public square'

"Brit Hume, Tiger Woods, and Jesus Christ"

"Christianity Today's" Q&A with Brit Hume

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Shadow Cast by the Cross

“Christ’s salvation is of such a kind that it expresses the ultimate reality of guilt and exposes it in all its stark actuality. It exposes it in terms of the wrath of God, but at the same time manifests in the midst of it all the infinite and overwhelming love of God, and enacts the union of God and man in a union and communion that nothing can undo.

"In forgiveness Jesus Christ offers himself on behalf of and in the place of the sinner, and the gulf of human sin and guilt is spanned, but in throwing a bridge over the abyss, the depth and breadth of it are made still more evident.

"That is why Golgotha casts such a dark shadow over the world. That is why the cross unmasks the inhumanity of man, at once exposing sin and guilt and dealing with them at their worst — in mankind’s ultimate attack upon God in Jesus Christ — and out of the heart of that there come two words that reveal the infinite guilt of humanity and the infinite love of God. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”

—T.F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (Paternoster, 2008), 255, 256

(HT: Mark D. Thompson)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Affirming the Worth of Work

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile has a good (and counter-cultural) post here in which he affirms and celebrates the worth and joy of work and working, particularly, in his case, the work of pastoral ministry.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Just do it... (Read the Bible)

“Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it; that will not advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.”

~ J.C. Ryle
Practical Religion, “Bible Reading”, 131.

"A Prayer for the New Year"

Trevin Wax offers this Prayer for the New Year -- an adaptation of a number of the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Word to Worriers from Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon:

'You are meddling with Christ’s business, and neglecting your own when you fret about your lot and circumstances.You have been trying “providing” work and forgetting that it is yours to obey.

'Be wise and attend to the obeying, and let Christ manage the providing.

'Come and survey your Father’s storehouse, and ask whether he will let you starve while he has laid up so great an abundance in his garner?

'Look at his heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind!

'Look at his inscrutable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault.

'Above all, look up to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while he pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you?

If he remembers even sparrows, will he forget one of the least of his poor children?

'“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.”'

HT: Doug Wolter; Justin Taylor

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Recommended reading on Prayer

A number of friends I respect highly recommended a good book in prayer, entitled "A Praying Life" by Paul E. Miller (NavPress). I've just about finished the book myself now, and I agree that it's probably the best book on prayer and praying that I've ever read. It's a highly practical book, both convicting and encouraging, and you can tell that wise theology lies beneath the surface of the very life-related teaching and examples the fill the book.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Excellent Online 'Devotional' Resource

"For the Love of God" by D.A. Carson is a daily devotional designed to walk a person through the Bible in a year while assisting the reader in discovering the riches of God’s Word. Originally published by Crossway Books (volume 1 in 1998 and volume 2 in 1999), this “blog” is really not a blog at all, but a free digital version of the devotional provided by The Gospel Coalition and Crossway Publishers. Their (and my) hope is that this daily devotional will deepen your understanding and appreciation of God’s Word—for the love of God.

Not only are the very practical daily readings clearly based on Scripture, but they also will help you read through the entire Bible in a systematic way.