Monday, November 30, 2015

Theological Courage Today

Contra those who seem to think that being theologically avant garde is 'courageous', "These days, the real adventurers are those who set sail for the risky land of Christian orthodoxy. The real brave men and women are those who consistently go to church, observe the sacraments, hear the word, and submit themselves to the discipline of the church. In an age of autonomy, it’s those who subject their thoughts, behaviors, and passions to an exclusive Sovereign that are the brave few. " -- Dustin Messer


"Distraction [from the deep questions of life, including about relating to God] is the only thing that consoles us for miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." -- Pascal

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Christian Pastor and Foolish Ideas

"Have nothing to do with foolish ideas fit only for the godless and the gullible...." (1 Tim. 4:7, paraphrased). I have a feeling that that verse should have a real impact on my participation with Facebook, blogs, comment threads, etc.

A commentary explained that Paul is telling Timothy that when he encounters such foolish ideas, he is to "'refuse', 'beg off' dealing with them. To discuss them seriously would be to give them a dignity which they do not deserve."

-- D. Edmond Hiebert

Intellectual Slacker?

"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."

--CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Church as Ground Zero....

It’s time for us Christians to stop perceiving “church” as a weekend option and start seeing it as Ground Zero for world reconciliation.

– Ray Ortlund

In View of Who Christ Is...

Given who Christ is and what He has done for us, loving Him supremely – being supremely devoted to Him in everything (even when we don’t’ feel like it, and, in a way, especially then) -- is the only right way to live.

Judge not?

According to the popular understanding of Matthew 7:1, "Judge not....", no one could serve on a jury. So the popular understanding is prolly my judgment.

The Secret of Living...

"The secret of living is fruit-bearing.... The secret of fruit-bearing is abiding.... The secret of abiding is obeying.... The secret of obeying is loving.... The secret of loving is knowing...."

-- Warren Wiersbe, in his classic brief booklet on John 15 "5 Secrets of Living"

Christmas Christ?

"Everybody loves baby Jesus, but few serve King Jesus." -- Godwin Sathianathan

(compare John 15:18,23)

Brother, Where Is Your Identity

Characteristically profound wisdom and insight from David Powlison.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Sad Superficiality of CCM

The world needs true Christianity, a profound and powerful faith and vision -- but so much of American 'Christendom' is anything but....see for example the lyrics of one of the most popular "Christian" songs, 'Hold Us Together', which does not even mention God or Christ, barely alludes to Scripture ("brother's keeper") and drones on with repeated platitudes: 'Love will hold us together...' 'This is the first day of the rest of your life', lyrics that are more reminiscent of The Captain and Tenille and a kitten calendar than of the Biblical Gospel which announces our only hope -- 'Jesus is the Lord who saves'.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Are Feelings of Offense Self-authenticating?

It seems we have come to the place where we automatically think that every person who claims to be offended actually has sufficient reason to be (and that the very feeling of offense is self-authenticating). But surely this can't be true, in view of this exchange between Jesus, his disciples and the Pharisees (in Matt. 15:12-14): "Then the disciples came to him and asked, 'Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

"Jesus replied, '...ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.'” (NLT)

So no doubt it will be very hard work to discern such situations, but surely we should give up the notion that every offended person, every time, in every situation 'has the right' -- has sufficient reason -- to be/feel offended.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Can I Pray Down the Holy Spirit?

“Worldliness in the church is the number one enemy, and that comes in when we have unspiritual people, and we have unspiritual people too often because they are nominal Christians.  They have the language, they have the outward, but they don’t have the power.  So, Paul’s words: ‘The kingdom of God is not in word but in power.’  That whole school of Edwards and Alexander and so on — they believed in the power of religion.  You know, men candidating for the ministry, and the minister saying, ‘Can he pray down the Holy Spirit?’  Imagine that question today.  Can a man pray down the Holy Spirit?  It’s not perhaps exactly the sentence we would say is completely correct, but you know what they meant. . . . When those men prayed, the Holy Spirit did come down.”

-- Rev. Iain Murray, in a 9Marks interview with Dr. Mark Dever.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Billy Graham's 97th Birthday

On Billy Graham's 97th birthday, an appreciation....

First of all, years before I came to faith in Christ, it was Dr. Graham’s preaching via his televised ‘crusades’ that planted the seeds for me in terms of coming to know that I was lost and needed a Savior.   Then as the Spirit drew me to faith, it was his book, “Peace with God,” that helped me to understand how to respond to the Gospel in repentance and faith, and what it meant to follow Christ as a new believer.

Also, his own powerful preaching was an early lesson to me about the centrality and efficacy of preaching God’s Word — a lesson that has stayed with me in my own pastoral ministry.

Of course he is not perfect, and I haven't agreed with all his ministry decisions, but overall his integrity, authenticity and faithfulness (along with that of his late wife, Ruth) has always been a heartening example to me. And when there were times that non-believers would point to the failures and hypocrisies of other ‘televangelists’ in order to cast reproach on the Gospel, I could always gently remind them of Billy Graham.

And so I’m sure there are so many, many others who are like me when I say that, when it comes to Billy Graham, I thank God every time I think of him.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Your Bible Is a Gold Mine"

excellent meditation from Jon Bloom and Desiring God Ministries:

"The word of Christ dwells richly in the one who dwells in it long enough to discover its riches (Colossians 3:16). The Bible is the divine mine that contains the theological mother load. Any theology book based on it is only a small fraction of the Bible’s unquantifiable wealth. That’s why there will be no end to theological book publishing.

The wonderful thing about this mine is that we often find treasure in unexpected places. God loves to lace and layer revelatory riches in what at first seems like a fairly straightforward historical narrative.

One example is the account of Jesus and Peter walking on water in Matthew 14:22–33. This aquatic hike is astounding. But if we’re not careful, we may only see the obvious gold and miss out on much more. Here are a few less obvious nuggets I found when digging recently.

Jesus Makes Us Face Strong Waves in the Dark

Jesus “made” the disciples get into the boat (Matthew 14:22). At the time, they probably didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t an unusual directive from the Master. But in retrospect, it became clear that God knowingly sent them to face an adverse wind all night.

After an exhausting day of ministry (feeding the 5,000), God did not lead them to a rest beside quiet waters, but to row against battering waves for most of the night. The sovereign Lord sometimes intentionally sends us when we’re already weary to struggle against adversity in disorienting darkness.

Jesus Comes in Unexpected Ways at Unexpected Times

When Jesus finally came to the disciples, he came in a completely unexpected way — walking on the water. This so caught them off-guard that they didn’t even recognize him at first (Matthew 14:26). Furthermore, Jesus didn’t show up until “the fourth watch of the night” (Matthew 14:25) — between three and six in the morning.

The weary disciples had been fighting the wind and waves (and probably each other) for long dark hours. No doubt they prayed for God’s help. In the Apostle John’s account, once Jesus reached them and got in the boat, “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going” (John 6:21). This must have come as a welcome relief, but notice that this relief wasn’t provided until they were extraordinarily tired.

When God comes to us in a moment of need, he might arrive in an unexpected, unrecognizable, and frightening way and later than we hope.

Ask Jesus for Impossible Things

Peter’s request of Jesus was outrageous. It may be that this story is so familiar or has been told to us so matter-of-factly that it doesn’t shock us. If that’s true, we need fresh eyes. We must put our sleep-deprived selves in that wave-tossed little boat in the dead of night, feeling the wind-whipped sea spray on our faces while we squint at the strangest thing we’ve yet seen — Jesus standing about ten feet away on the heaving water as if it were solid ground.

Imagine our nerves being on edge from the terror-induced adrenaline rush. Would we ask to get out of the boat and join Jesus on the water? We might best answer this question by asking ourselves how often we are asking Jesus for the privilege of risking the humanly impossible with him now. Jesus may have admonished Peter for having “little faith” (Matthew 14:30), but Peter was a faith giant in that moment compared to the other eleven. He was the only one who asked to do the impossible with Jesus. And Jesus granted it to him with pleasure.

God is pleased when we ask him to allow us to get out of the safety of our “boat” in order to do the humanly impossible with him, and he does grant such requests.

Jesus Sovereignly Responds to Our Asking

This story illustrates a profound mystery: God in his sovereignty interacts with our initiative. Note the very brief but loaded exchange between Peter and Jesus:

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ [Jesus] said, ‘Come.’” (Matthew 14:28–29)

There is towering theology in these few words. Peter recognized Jesus as the sovereign Lord of all nature who was commanding the water to support him. Peter also knew that walking on the water would require faith, but he did not mistake his own faith as the power that would command the water beneath him. So he asked Jesus to command him to come. And when Jesus commanded, Peter exercised faith in Jesus’s word, which Jesus honored. That’s how Peter’s faith helped him walk on water. It’s true that when Peter’s faith weakened, he sank (Matthew 14:30). But his cry to Jesus for help proved that Peter knew where the power to hold him up resided, and was itself an expression of faith. And again Jesus responded to Peter’s faith by pulling him back up (Matthew 14:31).

Notice, Jesus did not call any of the disciples to join him on the water. Peter took the initiative to ask Jesus if he could come. Forgive the pun, but this is deep theological water. If Peter had not taken the initiative to ask Jesus, this aspect of the story might simply be missing. What might be missing from your story if you do not take the initiative to ask Jesus?

God alone has power to command reality, but he encourages us to request whatever we wish in prayer (John 15:7) and he loves to respond to our faith by commanding answers to our requests.

Dig, Find, and Be Enriched

Oh, there’s much more gold in this story to be had, but time and article word limits fail me. I must refrain. Go dig, find it, and you will be enriched. In only twelve verses we discovered four theological nuggets:
1.The sovereign Lord sometimes intentionally sends us when we’re already weary to struggle against adversity in disorienting darkness.
2.When God comes to us in a moment of need, he might arrive in an unexpected, unrecognizable, and frightening way and later than we hope.
3.God is pleased when we ask him to allow us to get out of the safety of our “boat” in order to do the humanly impossible with him, and he does grant such requests.
4.God alone has power to command reality, but he encourages us to request whatever we wish in prayer (John 15:7) and he loves to respond to our faith by commanding answers to our requests.

The Bible contains over 31,000 verses — so much gold and so little time. We’ll never exhaust the gold it contains during our brief lives, but we must discover all we can. The Apostle John said this about the three years he spent with the word made flesh: “Were every one of [the things Jesus did] to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

Well, the written word is written. But of this word we can say that if all it reveals were to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

-- Jon Bloom, Desiring God Ministries

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Love the Lord Your God

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…." (Deut. 6:5). Primarily in view here is the love shown by a subject to a king. To love King Yahweh is to be his loyal and obedient servant (Israel was the Lord’s kingdom people).... Such love is to be total, involving one’s whole being….” -- NIV Study Bible

Living "out of" Faith

Instead of sliding down into a perspective of 'barely getting by' when it comes to living for Christ, it's helpful for me to remember Paul's words, "...anything that does not come from faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23) "So ...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31) so that "you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way...." (Col. 1:10).