Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ephesians 4:25 Outline

Ephesians 4:25-28 Truth, Anger and Theft (1)

I. Put off a life of speaking untruthfully and put on a life of telling the truth, for God’s glory and the body’s unity (25a,d)
"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, . . . for we are members of one another."

Paul's command to us here is not legalism, but an expression of Gospel logic and the life of grace.

Paul is telling us that our false speech, our untruthfulness, puts the unity of the body at risk and robs God of the display of his glory in the church.

At the root and behind all untruthful speech is pride: petty pride or self-advancing pride.

II. Speak the truth to your neighbor and your fellow believers (25b-d)
"SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another."

When we do not tell the truth to fellow members of Christ's body, we are literally lying to our own self.

Paul is calling us to live like Christians, to live out grace, to enhance the unity of the body and to promote the glory of God, through our truth-telling.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Reflections on T4G

As I mentioned in the First Epistle this week, from Wednesday to Friday I was involved in a ministers' conference called Together for the Gospel. You can find out more about it here. 3000 ministers (2/3s of them under 45) gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Galt House for this celebration of biblical, Gospel truth and grace.

There is a good bit of feedback already out there in the blogosphere. Here's a sampling.

Tim Challies Notes from liveblogging T4G
T4G Introduction
T4G Session One - Mark Dever
T4G Session Two - Ligon Duncan
T4G Session Three - Al Mohler
T4G Session Four - R.C. Sproul
T4G Session Five - John Piper
T4G Session Six - C.J. Mahaney
T4G Session Seven - John MacArthur

Justin Taylor - Links to T4G

Adrian Warnock - Extensive list of T4G comments, resources and blog links

Chris Polski - Very kind review of T4G

Peter Bogert - His reflections on T4G

Steve Weaver - T4G afterglow

Tom Brouwer - Gracious words about T4G from the Truthseeker

Jason Robertson - Fide-O's generous assessment of T4G

Drew Jones - Comments on the "loot" he got at T4G

Anthony Carter - Non Nobis Domine gives initial thoughts on T4G

Light Along the Journey - Reflections on Piper's "Expository Exultation"

Neither Right Nor Left - Reviews of the T4G sessions

Mike Hess - his summary (see also his "what I learned today" posts) of T4G

Corner of River and Rhett - be forewarned, this is my overly gracious, youngest brother's assessment!

Sandy - Vine and Branch asks a question about what God is doing through T4G.

Bob Kauflin - Worshiping God in Song at T4G

Shaun Nolan - Great observations on T4G

Kirk Wellum - Another brief reflection on T4G

Purgatorio - Pics of the bloggers of T4G

Keith Walters - Some T4G resources and links

What were we trying (by God's grace) to promote at T4G?

What do we want to see come out of this extraordinary international gathering of (predominantly young) pastors and churchmen?

We want to see a strong coalition of Bible-saturated, truth-driven, God-entranced, prayer-soaked, aggressively evangelistic, Christ-treasuring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, sovereign grace-loving, missions-advancing, hell-robbing, strong-thinking, real-need-exposing, soul-winning, mind-engaging, vagueness-rejecting, wartime-life-style-pursuing, risk-taking, justice-advancing, Scripture-expounding, cross-cherishing, homosexuality-opposing, abortion-denouncing, racism-resisting, heaven-desiring, imputation-of-an-alien righteousness-proclaiming, justification-by-faith-alone-apart-from-doing preaching, error-exposing, complementarian, joyful, humble, courageous, happy pastors working together for the Gospel. (thanks to John Piper for much of this language)

And we want to see them leading a strong coalition of evangelical churches who, while they hold as faithfully and biblically as they know how to certain doctrinal distinctives not shared by all other biblical evangelical churches, band together for the Gospel on a robustly doctrinal, historic, orthodox, reformational, world-opposing-while-at-the-same-time-world-loving, Bible-preaching, Scriptural-theology-inculcating, real-conversion-prizing, deep biblical evangelism-practicing, New Testament church-membership-implementing, church-discipline-applying, healthy and growing Disciple-making, biblically led basis – for the display of God’s glory in the churches.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Real Men Don't Attend Church

A recent address by Randy Stinson (given at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and an article by Holly Pivec (writing in Biola Connections) are well worth your time.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Simplify, Simplify"

One of the few observations with which I can agree with Henry David Thoreau is, "Simplify, simplify."

C.S. Lewis once wrote, "It is terrible to find how little progress one's philosophy and charity have made when they are brought to the test of domestic life."

I was originally drawn to Lewis because of his deep appreciation for the simple, the ordinary, the everyday. Contrary to popular opinion, Lewis’ foremost contribution in his Christian books is not "rational" proofs for the existence of God, miracles, devils, or the resurrection. It is his imaginative vision of what genuine Christianity looks and feels like in action.

As Austin Farrer accurately notes, “[Lewis’] real power was not proof; it was depiction. There lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader feel at home.” Gilbert Meilaender's, "The Everyday C.S. Lewis" captures this uniquely Lewisian perspective. We need to hear this again and again.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Martin Luther's Greatest Hits!

Cindy Mercer drew my attention to this. Well worth reading, and then buying the 4 CD set.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

For you Shakespeare Fans Out There

Happy birthday, Will. Or is it?

Shakespeare online says:

The baptismal register of the Holy Trinity parish church, in Stratford, shows the following entry for April 26, 1564: Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare. The actual date of Shakespeare's birth is not known, but, traditionally, April 23, St George's Day, has been Shakespeare's accepted birthday, and a house on Henley Street in Stratford, owned by William's father, John, is accepted as Shakespeare's birth place. However, the reality is that no one really knows when the great dramatist was born. According to the Book of Common Prayer, it was required that a child be baptized on the nearest Sunday or holy day following the birth, unless the parents had a legitimate excuse. As Dennis Kay proposes in his book Shakespeare

If Shakespeare was indeed born on Sunday, April 23, the next feast day would have been St. Mark's Day on Tuesday the twenty-fifth. There might well have been some cause, both reasonable and great -- or perhaps, as has been suggested, St. Mark's Day was still held to be unlucky, as it had been before the Reformation, when altars and crucifixes used to be draped in black cloth, and when some claimed to see in the churchyard the spirits of those doomed to die in that year. . . .but that does not help to explain the christening on the twenty-sixth.(54)

No doubt Shakespeare's true birthday will remain a mystery forever. But the assumption that the Bard was born on the same day of the month that he died lends an exciting esoteric highlight to the otherwise mundane details of Shakespeare's life.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Modesty conversation over at Girltalk

Girltalk is a blog hosted by C.J. Mahaney's wife, Carolyn, and their three daughters. It is fantastic. They have posted a seven part series on "Fashion and Following the Savior" and also this thoughtful entry on Modesty on Your Wedding Day. Click here to read it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Do you know any "real" pagans?

Last night in our prayer meeting we mentioned several straight-forward, practical points for ministering in a pagan culture from D.A. Carson’s excellent book, The Gagging of God:

1. Develop relationships with pagans. “Many Christians, not least Christian preachers, simply do not know any out and out pagans. It is time they did. They should rearrange priorities and befriend some of them. When more and more people think of church as alien, the only way, humanly speaking, that people are going to attend public services and hear the gospel well articulated the context of a worshiping community is if friends invite them.”

2. Be bold and humble. “This is not an invitation to discourtesy. But boldness, coupled with an unassuming humility that conveys the impression that Christians are only beggars telling others where there is bread, will always elicit better attention than the half-embarrassed, semi-apologetic bearing of the person who is more frightened of people that of the living God.”

3. Expository Preaching. "In my view, it is usually best (though there are exceptional circumstances that overturn this preference) that . . . sermons be expository messages, not topical ones. . . . This approach is wiser than the purely topical approach with minimal reference to biblical texts because (1) it directs people’s attention to the Bible, not to the preacher, and, if done properly draws them into reading the Bible for themselves, and (2) by directing people to think through texts, the preacher is helping them to linearly, coherently, through God’s gracious self-disclosure in human words."

4. Trust God for outcomes. “Remember that men and women are not converted, finally, by our oratory, theological brilliance, or homiletical skill. God in his mercy may use all these and many, many more gifts. But only God is able to bring people to himself. That is ample incentive to prayer.”

5. Grow. “Finally, speaking of prayer, it is vitally important to recall how our secular, postmodern society affects those of us who are believers. We may think we are being faithful, when somehow we no longer believe in the God of the Bible—the God who is sovereign, the God hears and answers prayer, the God who alone can save. . . . In other words, it is of paramount importance that those of us who are believers live and breathe in the atmosphere of God-centeredness, of gospel-centeredness. This will drive us to our knees in intercession, and incite us again and again to reform our lives, our churches, and, so far we are able, our world, in line with the Word of God.”


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Roof is Going On at 1390 North State Street

As I drove in to the church today, I noticed that the construction workers are beginning to put on part of the roof over the new sanctuary! I'm simply amazed at the progress that has been made in the last nine months. From this point on we will more and more get a feel for the finished structure. Do pray for the workers safety.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"David Livingstone I presume"

"I am a missionary, heart and soul," wrote Livingstone. "God had an only Son, and He was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation of Him I am, or wish to be." In this service I hope to live; in it I wish to die." [David Lingstone]

On this day (April 18) in 1874, the body of David Livingstone was interred in London's Westminster Abbey. Livingstone had died almost a year earlier, on May 1 1873 in what is now northern Zambia. He died in a mud hut on his knees in prayer. London gave him a 21-gun salute and a hero's funeral among the saints in Westminster Abbey.

The inscription on his tomb in the Abbey contains the following:

BORN MARCH 19, 1813
DIED MAY 1 1873,


Monday, April 17, 2006

Luther on Christ's Resurrection

Several of you asked for the quotation from Martin Luther that we read last night before the evening service. Luther preached the sermon, based upon Mark 16:1-8, on Easter morning some time in the mid-1520s. The original title was "Of Christ's Resurrection." The entire sermon can be found here.

"Therefore I must look unto Christ who has taken my sins upon himself, crushed the head of the serpent and become the blessing. Now they no longer burden my conscience, but rest upon Christ, whom they desire to destroy. Let us see how they treat him. They hurl him to the ground and kill him. 0 God; where is now my Christ and my Savior? But then God appears, delivers Christ and makes him alive; and not only does he make him alive, but he translates him into heaven and lets him rule over all."

"What has now become of sin? There it lies under his feet. If I then cling to this, I have a cheerful conscience like Christ, because I am without sin. Now I can defy death, the devil, sin and hell to do me any harm."

"Now, this Gospel he has not taken with him into heaven, but he caused it to be preached throughout the world, so that for him who believes in Christ, sin and death, should be destroyed. This is the true Gospel, which bestows life, strength, power and marrow, and of which all the passages of Scripture speak."


Some Resources on "The Gospel of Judas"

A number of folk have asked for some reliable things to read in getting up to speed on The Gospel of Judas media flap. Here's a brief introduction and some resources. I understand that Peter Jones is writing a NewsCWiPP about it.

The news media have beeen trumpeting the publication of a "long lost" and "suppressed" ancient document, called The Gospel of Judas for the last few days (remember: it's Easter Time, when the mainstream media has to indulge in its homage to the gods of modernty by "debunking" historic Christian faith and doctrine). The National Geographic Society announced the publication at a major media event, just in time to boost publicity for its Sunday night special on the National Geographic Channel.

Al Mohler says: "According to some commentators, the publication of this new document will force a complete reformulation of Christianity and our understanding of both Judas and Jesus. In reality, nothing of the sort is in view. The document is highly interesting, however, offering an ancient and authoritative source into the thinking of heretical groups who offered alternative understandings of Christianity."

"The document purports to be written by Judas, even though it certainly was written long after Judas's death. Nevertheless, the very existence of this document, rooted in the third century after Christ, indicates something of the struggle Christian leaders confronted in defining and defending the authentic Gospel against heretical groups such as the Gnostics."

"A quick look at The Gospel of Judas reveals the contrast between this document and the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The English version, edited by Rudolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, presents an accessible and readable version of the portions of the Codex Tchacos now available. The most remarkable feature of this text is its thoroughly Gnostic character. The substance of this gospel bears virtually no resemblance to orthodox Christianity--a fact which explains why the early church recognized this writing for what it is, and rejected it as neither authoritative nor authentic."

Al also quotes this helpful observation, from of all places The New Yorker magazine (which I mentioned and read from in the Sunday morning sermon on Ephesians 4:14-16).

"Adam Gropnik of The New Yorker takes a few shots at "fundamentalists" and the concept of biblical authority in his review of the story, but he also makes some essential points in these two paragraphs:

Obviously, "The Gospel of Judas" appears at a time of a new fashion, not to say rage, for "alternate" Gospels and revisionist retellings of the Jesus story. These are not the egalitarian, feminist versions of the story that were among the first fruits of the Nag Hammadi discovery. Instead, the new obsession is to introduce, or reintroduce, into Christianity something hidden, strange, and cultic--to reveal a deliberately suppressed story. And yet an odd double rhythm is at work. By making the Gospel story more occult, one also drains it of its cosmic significance; making it more mysterious makes it less mystical. (If Dan Brown or the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" are right--and they aren't--then Jesus is reduced from the Cosmic Overlord to the founder of a minor line of Merovingian despots.) "The Gospel of Judas" turns Christianity into a mystery cult--Jesus at one point describes to Judas the highly bureaucratic organization of the immortal realm, enumerating hundreds of luminaries--but robs it of its ethical content. Jesus' message in the new Gospel is entirely supernatural. You don't have to love thy neighbor; just seek your star. The Gospel of Judas is, in this way, the dead opposite of the now much talked of Gospel of Jefferson, the edition prepared by the third President, in which all the miracles and magic stuff are deleted, and what is left is the ethical teaching.

Orthodox Christians will point out, correctly, that there is no new "challenge" to the Church in the Judas Gospel, much less a crisis of faith. This is an ancient heresy, dealt with firmly, not to say brutally, throughout Church history. The finding of the new Gospel, though obviously remarkable as a bit of textual history, no more challenges the basis of the Church's faith than the discovery of a document from the nineteenth century written in Ohio and defending King George would be a challenge to the basis of American democracy. There are no new beliefs, no new arguments, and certainly no new evidence in the papyrus that would cause anyone to doubt who did not doubt before.

Al Mohler commentary on "The Gospel of Judas"

Al Mohler blog on "The Gospel of Judas"

Al Mohler radio interview on "The Gospel of Judas" with Darrell Bock

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Christ Exalted in his Resurrection

Westminster Larger Catechism Q.52 How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?

A. Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God, to have satisfied divine justice, to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it, and to be Lord of quick and dead: all which he did as a public person, the head of his church, for their justification, quickening in grace, support against enemies, and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Day before the Day of Resurrection

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

(Robert Lowry)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Quick Culture Temperature Check

On this Good Friday, there are some results from a couple of recent polls worth a quick ponder. FRC reports:

Two new polls were just conducted on morality and religion this week that produced some interesting results. The Pew Research Center's "Social Trends" study, designed as a barometer of modern morals, was released here in D.C. Number one on the list of moral wrongs is adultery according to 88 percent of respondents. Only 3 percent think it's acceptable. Of those polled, 79 percent said it was wrong to cheat on your taxes. Drunkenness was disapproved of by 61 percent. Abortion is wrong; say 52 percent, and 50 percent disapprove of homosexual conduct. At first glance the numbers may be disappointing, but remember we've had forty years of a sexual revolution promoted by the media and the popular culture. In spite of their "do your own thing" motto they have not been able to enlist a majority of Americans on their side. Ironically, the birth place of this revolution, college campuses, may be seeing a rebirth of morals and religion. Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP) also released a poll--this one of U.S. college students. Fifty-four percent said they were concerned about the moral direction of the country. Seventy percent of collegians say religion is "somewhat" or "very important" in their lives. Twenty-five percent report having become "more spiritual" since entering college. It's also interesting that 62 percent of young Republicans see religion's influence in America declining, while 54 percent of young Democrats see it as increasing.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

When you think you've heard it all

Can anyone explain to me why Easter, traditionally associated with rabbits, has a traditon of hiding eggs? As far as I know, rabbits don't lay eggs!

Well, nevermind! It's not that important, but it is curious just how silly people are prepared to get in the name of religion.

And it is the silly season! From Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, to the latest Gospel of Judas hype, the world is going crazy, falling over backwards to ensure that we believe in anything so long as it isn't remotely sane or rational! Conspiracy theories are always more entertaining than just plain vanilla Christianity.

Take Tom Cruise! Well, would somebody take him? Anywhere at all will do. But Scientology is crazy--fruit-loop crazy. The thought of reincarnations of Cruise, minus engrams, is too painful to contemplate.

Scientologists believe that the ultimate goal is to realize one's true nature as an immortal spirit, a thetan. The path to salvation, or enlightenment, includes achieving states of increasingly greater mental awareness--Pre-Clear, Clear, and ultimately Operating Thetan. An Operating Thetan is a spirit who can control matter, energy, space, time, thought, and life. Practitioners ("Auditors") are regarded as ministers and counselors who assist others to achieve self-enlightenment. Auditors help others to identify their prebirth, current, and past-life disturbances, which are obstacles to happiness and spiritual enlightenment.

There's a Boycott Mission Impossible 3 site on the web, I believe! Sign me up!

Who said that the resurrection was difficult to believe?


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Father Facts

"Dad, I love you." Sweet words from a seventeen-year old boy basking in the glow of a well-pitched baseball game. I will treasure those words from last Monday night.

Men, if you are not familiar with Ken Canfield's, National Center for Fathering, be sure to check it out. It is worth your time. Below is a small sample from the site:

"My dad is the best dad ever. I would kiss a pig for him." 1st grader

"My dad is a Frito-Lay man. That is an important job because Frito-Lay means chips, which is food. That is so important because you could not live without food." 1st grader

"The dad in my life isn't really my dad. He's my Grandpa. But he's been like a dad to me since before I was born. . . .I hope that as I get older Grandpa will teach me all the stuff he knows about wood, and first-aid, and everything else he knows about. My Grandpa isn't my Father, but I wouldn't trade him for all the dads in the world." 3rd grader

"…You know what else my dad does? He braids my hair. I'm the only girl I know whose dad braids her hair. I think that's a perfect dad. He already is the world's greatest dad to me. I just wanted everyone to know that." 5th grader

"One time I had an assembly and I was a soloist and my dad was in the first row and after my song I smiled at my dad and my dad smiled back and started crying. That was the best thing I ever saw." 6th grader

"Since my real father couldn't care for me, after my mother died my uncle took me to live with his family. . . .He saw me through rough times and was there to put a light in the darkness. My uncle will soon no longer be just my great uncle but the greatest dad I could ever have dreamed of having. He is now officially adopting me. There is no way I can live without him. I know that he knows that I love him. No matter what happens I always will. He means everything to me. I will stand by his side as he stands by mine, and never forget what a great father he is." 7th grader

"Fatherhood is a lifelong commitment. I have seen through my father's actions, words, and decisions that he will be committed to me and my life from the second I was born, almost 13 years ago, to the day I die....Even if you assembled the most brilliant team of scientists and artists there was, there still is no possible way you could duplicate my father." 7th grader

"Although we have a firm foundation, there is one thing I would like to hear more of. . .I wish my dad would say that he loves me more often. I know he does through his actions. I mean, what kind of dad would do all this for someone he didn't love. But every night before I go to bed I say: `Night Dad. Love You. See You in the morning.' And he says, `Uh huh!' I wish that sometimes he would say I love you back." 9th grader

"We do not always agree, but generally get along well. He has helped me through some tough ones such as, dare I say it, puberty. He has even given me the "boy talks." He was the one that talked me through my first break-up. If I would have had a choice, I do not think that I would have chosen anyone else for my family. He may not be the best guy in the world, he even admits it, but I love him." 9th grade girl

"...I finally am getting to tell someone what a wonderful father I have…. My dad and I have a beautiful relationship that is indestructible. I love him with all my heart. I would be nothing without him in my life… He will always be the best father in the world to me. I love you Dad!" 10th grader

"I don't know what it is to have a father. I see people that have one and wish I had mine. I've always wanted to feel the love of a father. Sometimes my days are bad and I cry because I need someone there to talk to, to share my troubles, my fears and most of all my dreams. I've been through a lot of bad moments and if he would have been there none of this would have happened because he would have been there to protect me. I feel empty inside." 11th grader - (her father abandoned her and her mom when she was 2)


The problem of pain

Today, in the midst of speaking to CMDA [Christian Medical and Dental Association], my fifth of six visits this Spring, and a Systematics Honors class (on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit), I am spending a few hours contemplating pain--literally, in the form of "root canal."

Everything I have heard about this procedure fills me with dread. And since the procedure is being done by one of our ruling elders, I fear "the revenge of the pew." All those long sermons coming home to roost under the surgeon's drill. I can barely write... I'm such a chicken about pain.

But it gives me pause to contemplate the "problem" of pain. Not on any any highbrow plane you understand...far too early in the morning to be contemplating the musings of the philosophers on suffering. Just one thought for now: that God uses the disorder, decay, and resulting pain (physical and psychological) as his chisel in our lives to sculpt us, or changing the metaphor, get us into shape by rigorous self-discipline. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Jesus each day. Living with chronic pain and feeling weak is God's way to grow a servant's heart. Healing of spirit can take place despite (or even because of) the non-healing of the body.

Pain! Does it have to be so, well, painful?

The story comes to mind of David Livingstone's encounter with a lion:

"He shook me as a terrier dog does a rat. The shock produced stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the shake of the cat. It caused a sort of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror, though quite conscious of all that was happening."

You can see where this is going. Some pain is necessary, for our sanctification. But, O for those compensating analgesic effects that dull its sharpness and severity. It's OK, for a while at least, to ask with our incarnate Savior, "If it be possible, let this pain pass from me." But then must come the resignation: "Not my will but thine be done."

So, my prayer: "Lord, if it be your will, make Dr. Story merciful! This is your will, is it not? Isn't it?... Hello?"

Monday, April 10, 2006

David Elkin asks, "How do you know if you are doing well?"

A special thanks to Dr. David Elkin again for his message to our men at the Men of the Covenant Luncheon last Thursday.

Below is a brief outline of his message:

How do you know if you are doing well?

How do you gauge yourself?


I rely on the approval of layers of people:
My chairman
My colleagues
My wife
Hate to say it, but not really, my kids
My friends

There are many voices out there telling you things; to whom are you listening?

A Christian man seeks approval from God, not man

I almost said that a Christian man serves God, not man, but that seems pretty well obvious to most of us, I think.

It’s harder to think of where we get our approval from. It’s easy to say we serve God, not Man; but it’s harder to say we seek the approval of God, not Man.

It’s a subtle difference, one of directionality, if you will. To serve is outward-focused; seeking approval can be the reverse direction.

Because by nature, if you are a leader, you will be getting feedback from man. And the desire you might have is to gauge your behavior on that feedback.

It’s hard to rely solely on approval from God.
Walking through the halls of work, school, church, do you look for people (women) to notice you?

More importantly, if you serve God, you will almost certainly not get the approval of Man. Not always, mind you. But almost certainly.

Look to examples from Scripture:

David, in the Psalms. Crying out to God to get the vengeance on those who slander and pursue him.

Paul: for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Ultimately, Christ. “My meat is to do the will of my Father.” Also, you want to hear from Him “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

A true Christian leader is smart enough to listen to other Christians whom he trusts to give him good counsel. Moreover, he is smart enough to seek out that kind of support.

If you seek approval from man, in the fundamental sense, as opposed to man as used of God, then you will live in fear.

Indulge me a bit, as I have been playing recently with this whole concept of Fear of God and fear in man.

But chasing after approval from man will lead to fear; looking for approval from God leads to contentment.

Even in the light and reality of indwelling sin. Meaning, we can find contentment despite the fact that we are still sinners who are redeemed of the Lord.

But . . . those who seek approval from men are doomed to the life off the addict: they are always searching, never coming to rest in the truth. They are always looking for that next “hit” of approval. If who you are is dependent on what others say about you, then you must by necessity be dependent on them. And that is completely the opposite for the Christian. We are dependent on God alone. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Worse, if you look for approval internally, you will fall. Internal will condemn you. If you gauge how you are doing in this life based on how you feel or based on internal expectations and perceptions, then you are trapped. Because what is inside will fail you.

Example: Athletes who talk about “digging deep, finding the strength to carry on, etc.

Example: Two ways to assess performance: others and self.

For the Christian, there is a third way, a via media. We look outside ourselves, and we look past others. We look to God. Only He provides the true standard for what we should be doing, how we are “measuring up.”

And the glorious thing is this: He demands perfection, and then He accepts us in Christ.

Stop looking for approval from any source other than God. He alone can provide you with ultimate approval.

How do you know if you are doing well?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The cross

[In preparation for tonight's sermon, the second on the crucifixion account in Mark's Gospel, I have pulled an extract from J. I. Packer's introduction to a work by the puritan, John Owen entitled The Death of Death in the Death of Christ]:

When the Calvinist sings

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all;
He died that we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to Heaven,
Saved by His precious blood

he means it. He will not gloss the italicized statements by saying that God's saving purpose in the death of His Son was a mere ineffectual wish, depending for its fulfillment on man's willingness to believe, so that for all God could do Christ might have died and none been saved at all. He insists that the Bible sees the Cross as revealing God's power to save, not his impotence. Christ did not win a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers, a mere possibility of salvation for any who might possibly believe, but a real salvation for His own chosen people. His precious blood really does "save us all;" the intended effects of His self-offering do in fact follow, just because the Cross was what it was. Its saving power does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it. The Cross secured the full salvation of all for whom Christ died. "God forbid," therefore, "that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Twin Lakes Fellowship

A few of the more disreputable characters at this year's Twin Lakes Fellowship Conference... no time for a report now, I've a sermon to get ready for it this morning. A fuller report in these pages soon!


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ezekiel Bulver Discovers Himself

One of the central themes of postmodernity is human "situatedness." Postmoderns are invariably preoccupied with why we think the way we do, not what we think. They focus on the process of attending, not the object of attention. Therefore, arguments are not to be refuted; they are to be "situated." Although C.S. Lewis died four years before Derrida published Of Grammatology, he foresaw the coming of postmodernity and personified it in Ezekiel Bulver, a creative inventor who discovers (like Descartes) . . . himself! See the entire essay here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

First sermons ignorant of greatness

One of my very first sermons I ever preached was on the text Ephesians 5:14, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." I had been asked to preach for Dr. Stuart Olyott, then pastor of reformed Baptist church in Liverpool, England. I look back now and remember just how dreadful the sermon was. But what it lack in exegetical finesse, I tried to make up for in evangelistic zeal.

Today in history (April 4, 1742) is the anniversary of a very famous sermon preached on this very text before the university of Oxford by a young student at Christ-church, Charles Wesley.

Here are some of things Wesley said that day:

  • In what state is thy soul? Was God, while I am yet speaking, to require it of thee, art thou ready to meet death and judgement? Canst thou stand in his sight, who is of "purer eyes than to behold iniquity"? Art thou "meet to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light"? Hast thou "fought a good fight, and kept the faith"? Hast thou secured the one thing needful? Hast thou recovered the image of God, even righteousness and true holiness? Hast thou put off the old man, and put on the new? Art thou clothed upon with Christ?
  • "Hast thou received the Holy Ghost?" If thou hast not, thou art not yet a Christian. For a Christian is a man that is "anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power." Thou art not yet made a partaker of pure religion and undefiled. Dost thou know what religion is? --that it is a participation of the divine nature; the life of God in the soul of man; Christ formed in the heart; "Christ in thee, the hope of glory;" happiness and holiness; heaven begun upon earth; "a kingdom of God within thee; not meat and drink," no outward thing; "but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" an everlasting kingdom brought into thy soul; a "peace of God that passeth all understanding;" a "joy unspeakable, and full of glory"?"


Monday, April 03, 2006

It's That Time Again

We are thrilled to have Dr. David Wells with us tomorrow at the Twin Lakes Fellowship. His recent book, Above All Earthly Pow'rs, gives us a detailed map of the postmodern landscape. Dr. Wells is not only a world renowned theologian. He is a Red Sox fan--a typical Red Sox fan:

"May has always followed April, summer has always followed winter, and in New England, the Red Sox, as far as memory records, have always faded in fall just as the leaves are coming into their full glory. (It is a funny coincidence: both are dying but only the leaves are worth watching). There was interruption in the pattern in 2004, but all Red Sox fans know that normality will soon return!"

Somehow the great game manages to survive despite the hubris of many of its players. On the lighter side, today is an appropriate day to offer a few of my favorite baseball related quotations, in no particular order. A special thanks to Rosemary Thomas (Derek’s wife and avid Braves fan) who gave me the first quotation.

“I think there are only three things that America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced.” Gerald Early

“Baseball, like Pericles' Athens (or any other good society), is simultaneously democratic and aristocratic. Anyone can enjoy it, but the more you apply yourself, the more you enjoy it.” George Will

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." Bart Giamatti

"As I grew up, I knew that as a building (Fenway Park) was on the level of Mount Olympus, the Pyramid at Giza, the nation's capitol, the czar's Winter Palace, and the Louvre — except, of course, that is better than all those inconsequential places." Bart Giamatti

"I love baseball. You know it doesn't have to mean anything, it's just beautiful to watch." Woody Allen

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." Ted Williams

"The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again." James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989)

"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical." Yogi Berra

"It could be, it might be... It is, A home run!" Harry Caray

"Back, back, back, back... Gone!" Chris Berman of ESPN

"It's a great day for a ball game; let's play two!" Ernie Banks

"Well I can't rightly say (which player hit the ball hardest), but the ones (home runs by Babe) Ruth hit got smaller quicker." -Walter Johnson in Ken Burns Baseball (1994)

"Don't worry, the fans don't start booing until July." Earl Weaver

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring Forward

Don't forget to set your clocks an hour ahead at bedtime tonight (I know they say to do it at 2 a.m. - but go ahead and get a head start). That means the early service is going to come mighty early tomorrow morning at 8:30 (which will feel like 7:30!). I'm thinking of a prize for all who get there on time.