Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Attorney General will NOT target Calvinists

This post from Tom Ascol made me laugh.

A Beautiful Bride

For all her flaws the church is the bride of Christ. What a beautiful metaphor. Every time I criticize the church I cannot help but be reminded of how much the Lord His bride. I think it's easy to love the idea of church but when it comes to the specific people who make up the congregation to which we belong it becomes a bit more challenging. But that is when love really matters. It is always easier to love a concept than it is to love fellow sinners.

Please take time to read this post by Tim Challies and be encouraged.

Oprah the Theologian

Oprah wants to change the world. Her pagan spirituality is often embraced by undiscerning Christians who drink up what she says. Make no mistake. Oprah's promotion of pagan writers and teachers like Wayne Dyer, Marrianne Williamson, and Eckhart Tolle has served to advance eastern mysticism among her audience. Check out this post from Apprising Ministries.

The Old Atheism

Check out this great article in the latest issue of Modern Reformation.

Jesus the Rock Star

This is an interesting article about the preaching of Tadd Grandstaff pastor of Pine Ridge Church. I think a lot about preaching, corporate worship, and the church. I hope we can agree that it matters what we say about Jesus.

Any thoughts about the rock star stuff?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Talking back to my inner Nimrod

Tomorrow I am preaching from Genesis 11:1-9. It’s the account of Nimrod, the people of Shinar, and their quest to build a great city with a tower reaching into heaven. They were building, we are told, in order to make a name for themselves. They were seeking to bridge the gap between man and God by their own power and ingenuity. They were seeking to erase the distinction between creature and Creator. The account tells us almost everything we need to know about mankind. We are a prideful lot. We seek lives of independence from God.

But I probably shouldn’t write in generalities. The fact is I am a prideful man. I love my independence. I am far too interested in my own name while not nearly as interested enough in God’s great name. I find God’s interests often competing with my own. It is in those times when my inner Nimrod rises up within me. My inner Nimrod wants recognition and respect. He wants to be served. In those moments the only voice that can adequately talk back is that of Jesus.

The person and words of Jesus are an open rebuke to my inner Nimrod. Paul tells us in Philippians that Jesus, though in very nature God, nevertheless put away His divine rights and became a servant. In His teaching ministry Jesus turned upside down the prevailing attitudes about greatness. In the kingdom of Christ greatness is not about who finishes first or gains the most but who serves in anonymity.

As He was explaining to His disciples that His time had come to offer up His life Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Obviously, Jesus is referencing His coming death which would bear the fruit of redemption. It makes sense that histories most significant death bore histories most significant fruit. But there is, it seems to me, an application to be had for all of us who know Jesus. Fruitfulness for God involves a kind of death.

Humility is hard to come by. Everything in us resists humility. We resist with all our might those things that make us humble. And so I have been thinking about Jesus’ metaphor of the grain of wheat. Seeds are put into dark, dank holes and covered over. They are drowned with water and then left to rot in the soil. Only then, after enough time has passed does the fruit come. It’s never pleasant but it’s good.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jeremiah Wright and The Good Life

For an advocate of liberation theology Jeremiah Wright knows how to live in high style. As one who regularly decried the materialism of "rich white folks" Reverend Wright has certainly cashed in. Timmy Brister posts this report on the recently retired pastor's new digs.

As Timmy points out, this story raises some important questions about the call of Christ to deny self. It's not so much about Jeremiah Wright as it is about whether we will serve or insist on being served, whether we will seek to give or receive. It is about whether or not we are willing to follow the One who had no place to lay His head.

Redmond on Wright

Recently Al Mohler aired an interview he did with Eric Redmond, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church. The topic is black liberation theology and the state of theology among African American Christians. It is worth listening to.

One of my favorite writers

Sinclair Ferguson writes for the academy, the laity, and even children. He is also one of my favorite preachers.

Easter at Granger

This scene from Easter Sunday at Granger Community Church raises some interesting questions about the purpose of our corporate gatherings. Any thoughts?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jesus and History

Craig Blomberg, one of our most important New Testament scholars, has written an excellent article entitled "Jesus of Nazareth: How Historians Can Know Him and Why It Matters." The article was posted by The Gospel Coalition.

If you would like to read more by Dr. Blomberg, here are just a few of his books:
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
Jesus And The Gospels
Interpreting the Parables
Making Sense of the New Testament

Measuring Up

This was posted over at Pure Church. I so identify with these words that I had to post them. This is an excerpt are from Don Carson's excellent book Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (pp. 92-93).

"So many aspects of ministry demand excellence, and there are not enough hours in the day to be excellent in all of them. When I was a young man, I heard D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comment that he would not go across the street to hear himself preach. Now that I am close to the age he was when I heard him, I am beginning to understand. It is rare for me to finish a sermon without feeling somewhere between slightly discouraged and moderately depressed that I have not preached with more unction, that I have not articulated these glorious truths more powerfully and with greater insight, and so forth. But I cannot allow that to drive me to despair; rather, it must drive me to a greater grasp of the simple and profound truth that we preach and visit and serve under the gospel of grace, and God accepts us because of his Son. I must learn to accept myself not because of my putative successes but because of the merits of God’s Son. The ministry is so open-ended that one never feels that all possible work has been done, or done as well as one might like. There are always more people to visit, more studying to be done, more preparation to do. What Christians must do, what Christian leaders must do, is constantly remember that we serve our God and Maker and Redeemer under the gospelof grace."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

T4G Highlights

God willing, in a few weeks the MEBC pastoral staff will pack up and go to Together For The Gospel. Here are some highlights from the 2006 conference. What a blessed time that was!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Soul Winning for Dummies

I found this posted over at Paleoevangelical. Mark Dever read this same passage at the Gospel Growth conference in October. It’s from C.S. Lovett’s little book “Soul Winning Made Easy.” It represents so much of what was wrong in evangelism training in the past. It also raises some important questions about the way many evangelicals understand regeneration and conversion.

“You have just said to your prospect . . . "Jesus is waiting to come into your heart. Will you open the door? Will you let Him come in?" He makes no reply. Great forces are at work inside him. His soul is a battlefield. The Holy Spirit and Satan want his decision. You wish you could jump into his heart and help him, but you can't. So you do the one thing you can do . . . press him to make a decision . . . one way or the other.

“CAUTION: You can't leave him in "no-man's land." The Longer you wait, Satan's advantage increases. So silently start your countdown . . . 5-4-3-2-1. That's it. You wait no longer. Lay your hand on his shoulder (or arm if a man is dealing with a woman) . . . and with a semi-commanding voice say . . . "Bow your head with me."

“Note: Do not look at him when you say this. He won't act if you do. Instead, bow your head first. The sight of your bowed head, the authority in your voice, the touch of your hand on his shoulder and the witness of the Spirit combine to exert terrific pressure. Out of the corner of your eye you will see him look at you with wonder. Then, as his resistance crumbles, his head will come down in jerks. When your hand feels the relaxation of his shoulder, you'll know his heart has yielded.

“Note: If your man is going to say, "NO," he has to do it now. You've brought him to the place of decision under terrific psychological pressure. If he can't bring himself to receive Christ, he'll say to you ... "I can't do it." Then deal with him as you would the person who says, ‘NO.’”

Many of us can’t help but laugh a little at Rev. Lovett’s instructions. However, we see this same sort of “regeneration by technique” repeated often in the church today. The corporate gatherings of God’s people have been transformed into variety shows for bored church shoppers. Evangelism is left up to the professionals on Sundays who, combined with cool stage lighting, props, and hip musicians will convince seekers to “pray the pray” whereupon they will immediately be assured of their eternal salvation. Been there, seen that, and, unfortunately, done that.

Eldredge and The Voice of God

Tim Challies offers this helpful review of John Eldredge's new book.

If you would like to learn more about the biblical teachings regarding God's guidance check out:

Discovering God's Will by Sinclair Ferguson
Finding The Will of God by Bruce Waltke


The ordination service for Kris McGee was a blessed time. It was great to hear more about the church plant in Kansas City. I was also moved by the words of Kris' brother John. Thanks to all those who made it a special time for the McGees.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Confusing Christianity with Politics

Russell Moore has written a helpful article on the Jeremiah Wright (Obama's pastor) hubub.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Take and Read

Excellent introductions to Christian theology and living:

I love these books because of their biblical faithfulness and readability. You do not need a seminary degree to fully appreciate and benefit from these wonderful books. I would encourage you to add them to your personal library.

A Faith To Live By
by Donald MacLeod
The subtitle to the book is "Understanding Christian Doctrine." This readable book delivers! MacLeod, a Scottish theologian, takes the reader on a journey beginning with the inspiration of Scripture all the way through to Heaven and Hell. Faithfully biblical and grounded in historical orthodoxy, A Faith To Live By is an outstanding overview of Christian doctrine.

Concise Theology
by J.I. Packer
Dr. Packer, the dean of evangelical theologians, offers a basic theology in this accessable book. The approach of Concise Theology is to introduce the reader to the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith through a collection of essays based upon words like Trinity, Justification, Grace, Sin, Sanctification, etc.

The Christian Life
by Sinclair Ferguson
Dr. Ferguson writes books for seminarians, laypersons, and even children. The Christian Life is perhaps the best overview of the Scripture's teachings on Christian living I have ever read.

Jesus' Tomb?

Thomas Madden wrote a terrific response on National Review Online to last year's outrageous and now almost fully discredited "documentary" which aired on The Discovery Channel. If you recall there was much buzz about the supposed discovery of Jesus' ossuary (bone box).

Scientific Ethics?

In a field where the notion of God has been completely removed there is little room left for questions of right and wrong. Ethics become entirely utilitarian: if it can be done then it is good.
Check out this story from Reuters.

Victory Achieved

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him."

- Colossians 2:13-15

"When the Christian looks at the cross, he sees two accusations nailed to it. Our Lord's own accusation is clearly displayed, and beside it, that terrible accusation against us that Christ himself nailed to his cross. Not only did he release us from the guilt and dominion of sin, but he led captive those powers of darkness that had held us in bondage, utterly defeating and humiliating them. That suffering and finally lifeless figure at Golgotha seemed to human eyes the epitome of weakness and failure. His enemies rejoiced. This self-styled king, they thought, would trouble them no more. Yet this was the moment of crisis for the world, the exact moment when Satan was cast out, mortally wounded, with his armies in full retreat."

- Frederick Leheay from The Victory of the Lamb

"He grappled with them and mastered them, stripping them of all the armor in which they trusted, and held them aloft in his mighty oustretched hands, displaying to the universe their helplessness and his own unvanquished strength...Had they but realized the truth, those 'rulers of this age'...'they would not have crucified the Lord of glory' (1 Cor 2:8). But now they are disabled and dethroned, and the shameful tree has become the victor's triumphal chariot, before which his captives are driven in humiliating procession, the involuntary and impotent confessors of their overcomer's superiority."

- F.F. Bruce from his commentary on Colossians

Between Friday and Sunday

John Piper offers some helpful insights about the oft repeated legend that Jesus went to hell for a time after He died.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter and Commercialism

This is a fascinating article from Slate on why Easter is more resistent to commercialism than Christmas.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Kansas City Church Plant

Check out the temporary website for Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City. Redeemer Fellowship is the church that Kris McGee is planting with Kevin Cawley. We are excited about Kris' new ministry. What a privilege it was to ordain Kris into the gospel ministry on Sunday evening. I will post pictures of the event soon.

Man's Inability

The great Puritan Thomas Boston on the doctrine of man's inability. This is worth reading.

Our Modern Aversion to "Sin"

USA Today on whether or not we have lost the notion of sin.

Gloriously Ordinary

In the latest issue of Touchstone an article by Michael Horton levels a critical eye on the contemporary fad for churches to have extraordinary pastors. As an extraordinarily ordinary pastor I feel that pressure regularly. Many of the conferences marketed to pastors today are led by sparkling, muscular, dressed-to-the-nines mega-church pastors. The gist of these conferences is: “Come learn how to be an awesomely awesome leader! Learn how to grow your church so that it will be awesome!” Invariably, the only ones to take the stage at such events look like Abercrombie models and have thousands in their congregation.

Don’t misunderstand. I am in favor of churches growing. I don’t have anything against a pastor being good looking. I also don’t have anything against being in good shape and having nice teeth. What I have a problem with is the selling of an idea of pastoral ministry that departs from what God has commanded of the shepherds of His flock.

Horton writes:
“Never mind Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to submit to elders and pastors as official ambassadors of Christ. These days, even in more confessional denominations, it seems that instead of being the Lord’s servant, ambassador, and minister of reconciliation, a pastor is supposed to be the community’s quarterback, class president, or the one voted ‘most likely to succeed.

“It used to be that the pastor had an office and worked in his study, but today the pastor has a job and works in his office. Whereas Peter organized the diaconal office so that the apostles could devote themselves to the Word and to prayer, ideal ministers seem increasingly to be managers, therapists, entertainers, and entrepreneurial businesspeople…

“Perhaps, like the immature and sectarian Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:5-9), we celebrate the extraordinary minister more than the ordinary ministry of the gospel.”

We are seeing the rise of a fairly new phenomena: the super wealthy pastor/entrepreneur. Now, it used to be that only the prosperity preachers were in that category (Copeland, Roberts, Dollar). But now conservative evangelical pastors are rising to super-stardom. They are becoming kings of media mini-empires. Their bad to mediocre books sell well. I received a mass mailer yesterday from a rising star in the evangelical church. He pastors a meta-church in Houston (not Osteen). His is a typical pastor-driven, super cool, rock concert, awesomely awesome church/mall (Did I string together enough sarcastic rants in that description?). Their latest building project tops 30 million dollars. And guess what? He and his wife have written a book. The readers are challenged to take the 30 day journey through the book (less strenuous than 40 days) and improve their lives. In fact the advertisement guarantees that the authors will transform my life in 30 days. Believe me when I tell you that I am not jealous. I am fearful however. I am fearful that he (and others like him) is becoming the standard. “If I can have a church that big, a book deal, expensive clothes, and speaking invitations THEN I will have arrived.” What is lost in all the professional lusting is the ordinary and often unnoticed work of shepherding God’s people.

The greatest problem I have with many of these rising young stars is their lack of commitment to faithful biblical proclamation which, along with prayer is the hallmark of a faithful minister. But the ordinary means that God has given his under-shepherds has been abandoned for the trappings of extraordinary success. The call to be awesomely awesome has trumped the call to be men of the Word. In the end this will do great damage to the body of Christ. The biblical call for the churches pastor’s and elders to be shepherds is openly mocked by many of today’s super-pastors like Andy Stanley.

Horton writes,
“When churches abandon the ordinary ministry for extraordinary ‘excitements sufficient to induce conversion’ (Finney’s phrase), eventually the innovations become traditions and the insatiable craving for ever-new experiences of spontaneous expressivism, like a drug addiction, leads eventually to the spiritual equivalent of a heart attack…

“There are no easy answers to finding the right balance between caring for the flock already gathered and seeking those who are far off. However, the New Testament does, I believe, lead us to a crucial conclusion: namely, that the same ministry that leads us and our children to Christ, in an ever-deepening communion with him and his body, also reaches strangers, which most of us (as Gentiles) were ourselves. The church in its ever-widening and ever expanding circumference is always a creation of the Word” (emphasis mine).

If you are a pastor I would encourage you to read Don Carson’s new book Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Reason For God

Check out this website. "The Reason For God" is currently on the NY Times bestseller list. I recommend it not only as a means to equip believers for the work of evangelism but also as a tool to pass along to skeptical friends and family members.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bob Dylan and Jesus

This is Dylan from 1980. Okay, so his voice is an aquired taste but the man wrote some amazing gospel songs back in the day.

Goldsworthy at Southern

Take time to listen to this important lecture by Graeme Goldsworthy from his time at Southern Seminary this week. Goldsworthy is one of the church's most important writers and teachers. His work on the centrality of the Gospel in biblical interpretation and preaching is desperately needed in the church today.

Thanks to the folks at "Said at Southern" for making so many wonderful resources available.

My Boys

These are from a year and a half ago when we spent some time at Lake of the Ozarks. My boys are pretty serious about their water sports.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why I Preach Expositionally (6)

Biblical exposition teaches proper biblical interpretation.

So many theological errors today are the result of poor skills in biblical interpretation. Expositional preaching and teaching is a means not only to teach the content of the Bible but how to interpret it properly. Some of the best lessons we learn come by way of observing someone skilled perform a particular task or discipline. A church that preaches and teaches the Bible well will produce men and women who know how to read and understand the Bible properly.

It is common for men and women to view the Bible as a kind of guidebook for successful living precisely because that it how it is preached. The minister, not wanting to bore his flock with the grand narrative of God's redemptive plan in Christ, prefers instead to pluck from the Bible various principles that are guaranteed to produce for everyone who gives them a try.

Sound exposition, on the other hand, will teach a congregation that the Bible is God's revelation of creation, corruption, redemption, and new creation. The Bible is not a treasure book of inspirational principles. Exposition models a way to study the Bible which keeps Jesus and His gospel as the central matters of concern. Those who receive the faithful exposition of the Scriptures will see Jesus enlivening every page as all history moves to and then from the cross. The Old Testament will no longer simply be a collection of moral stories but part of the unfolding revelation of God's amazing grace in Jesus Christ. The New Testament will then affirm that what is most essential for man is not what he does for God but what God has already accomplished for him in the Savior.

Alone In The Garden

Take time to listen to this excellent discussion on The White Horse Inn. My experience in pastoral ministry for 20 years only confirms the observations of the panel. The American church is awash in neo-gnosticism. We have become as subjective in our approach to truth as non-believers. I know what it is like to challenge someone's spiritual experience or long held opinions about God. Too often professing Christians prefer to hold on to what they feel over what God has clearly revealed in His Word. "Don't confuse me with the Bible" is becoming the unspoken mantra of contemporary Christianity.

Increase Your Carbon Footprint

I thought this was hilarious! Is there anyone who could send this to Al Gore?

Protecting Children From The Gospel

Russell Moore has written a disturbing post on a decision made by a Christian children's curriculum publisher to leave out the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ because it is too scary for pre-schoolers.

This actually should come as no surprise. The sermons and lessons that people are regularly hearing in "evangelical" churches are able to stand alone without Jesus. They hear about a Jesus who helps them with their problems, makes their kids well-adjusted, fixes their marriage, and guarantees success. They are told about "biblical principles that will help them in their daily lives." In the process, the preacher is careful not to bore his hearers with too much information about Jesus or content from the Bible. Michael Horton has been sounding the alarm over this trend in recent years. In the latest issues of Modern Reformation Horton asserts that the modern evangelical church is actually helping to secularize our culture. He writes:

"Could evangelicalism grow and experience success even if God didn't exist? Sociologist Christian Smith has done extensive research revealing that the spirituality of America's teens is best described as 'moralistic therapeutic deism.' In fact, other sociologists have come to similar conclusions concerning older generations as well. So while evangelicals are often quick to launch public protests against 'secular humanists' for diminishing the role of God in American society, it would seem that the more likely source of secularization is the church itself. I am not claiming that evangelicalsm is 'atheistic' or even 'deistic' in principle, but that in practice it is losing its interest in God and the grand story of his saving work in Jesus Christ" (emphasis mine).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Moralism vs. Christ-Centered Exposition

This article by Tim Keller explains much about why I preach the way I do. I fear that most evangelicals hear therapeutic moralism on Sundays rather than a faithful Christ-centered exposition of Scripture. The difference is radical. In typical contemporary evangelicalism the gospel is something added on at the end of a sermon rather than being presented as the sole rationale for faith and obedience. As a result most Christians hear sermons that do not need Jesus in order to make sense. In this way the Christian comes to see Jesus in strictly utilitarian terms. He is not the One who, by his death and resurrection delivers us from God's wrath. Rather Jesus becomes a means to better one's life. Keller writes,
The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought
out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not "used" the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people's problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel--a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, "The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine ...Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually." (on Gal.2:14f).

Tim Keller at UC Berkeley

Also, Keller's newest book "The Reason for God" is now on the New York Times bestseller list. That's a good thing!

Paul Tripp

Paul Tripp answers questions about his new book "A Quest for More."

I also highly recommend his books "Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands" and "How People Change" co-authored with Tim Lane.

Metro East is looking forward to hosting Paul Tripp on April 4th and 5th for his conference, "Marriage, There Really Is A Better Way."

How To Complain To God

I am preaching from Psalm 22 tomorrow. The Psalm provides profound insights into Jesus' sufferings on the cross. It is also a Psalm of complaint. David does more than cry out to God for help. He questions, even complains about God's seeming absence and slowness to respond. Ultimately the Psalmist finds God to be utterly faithful and praise worthy. But David's alternating between despair and hope, doubt and faith provide a helpful analogy of our own jumbled responses to God.

Doug Smith has written a helpful article on appropriate ways to "complain" to God.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Doctrinal Prioritizing

Al Mohler suggests a structure for "Theological Triage." This article from the latest edition of the 9 Marks Journal offers important insight on knowing how to distinguish between first order and second order doctrines.

Christians and the Old Testament

An excellent article by Graeme Goldsworthy on the Old Testament.

Goldsworthy's book According to Plan is essential reading for a better understanding of the Bible. Take and Read!

Obama's "Sounding Board"

Ronald Kessler at The Wall Street Journal has written an interesting article on Barack Obama's controversial pastor. I wonder if a Republican candidate would be advancing toward the White House if his pastor spewed forth such racist venom?

Preaching To The Choir

Trevin Wax offers this good reminder in the pages of Christianity Today.

Why I Preach Expositionally (5)

Biblical exposition protects the church from error.

It is always tempting for the preacher to tell people what they want to hear. Popularity has its advantages. Because of this, preaching is often more a reflection of popular fads than it is an exposition of Scripture. In his penetrating critique of the church growth movement Os Guinness writes,

The preacher, instead of looking out upon the world, looks out upon public opinion, trying to find out what the public would like to hear. Then he tries his best to duplicate that, and bring his finished product into a marketplace in which others are trying to do the same. The public, turning to our church culture to find out about the world, discovers there is nothing but its own reflection.

The ironic lack of clear biblical exposition in “conservative, Bible believing” churches has led to a tragic fulfillment of what the apostle Paul warned: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (II Tim 4:3-4).

Faithful exposition of the Scriptures from pulpit, in small groups, and at home is the only safeguard against an otherwise inevitable drift toward error. In his tender farewell to the Ephesian elders Paul told them, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26). The Bible is being all but completely ignored from the pulpits and classrooms of too many churches. There is a famine of Scripture among God’s people which leaves them highly susceptible to error. Those entrusted with the duties of preaching and teaching must possess an unshakable commitment to biblical exposition “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wagner Vs. The Facts

Timmy Brister posts an effective rejoinder to Bill Wagner's assertions about Calvinists and evangelism.

Makes Me Wanna Scream!

Okay, so maybe I’m not having the best day. Maybe I’m a little sensitive to these kinds of issues today but reading Michael Horton’s article in this month’s issue of Modern Reformation makes we want to scream.

Horton writes:

"Based on numerous studies conducted by his research group, evangelical pollster George Barna writes: ‘To increasing millions of Americans, God – if we even believe in a supernatural deity – exists for the pleasure of humankind. He resides in the heavenly realm solely for our utility and benefit. Although we are too clever to voice it, we live by the notion that true power is accessed not by looking upward but by turning inward.’ Unless something changes, Barna thinks, ‘it will be very man for himself, with no second thoughts or regrets about the personal or societal implications of this incredibly selfish, nihilistic, narcissistic way of life…

After citing a series of reports, Barna concludes, ‘In short, the spirituality of America is Christian in name only.’

We desire experience more than knowledge. We prefer choices to
absolutes. We embrace preferences rather than truths. We seek
comfort rather than growth. Faith must come on our terms or we reject
it. We have enthroned ourselves as the final arbiters of righteousness,
the ultimate rulers of our own experience and destiny. We are the
Pharisees of the new millennium.

"Barna’s studies suggest that most Americans value time and efficiency over everything else, minimizing long-term commitments, maintaining 'independence and individuality at all costs,' even to the point of being skeptical of institutions, people, and authorities. After all, people are told every day, 'You are unique,' and that they shouldn’t submit to the expectations of others. Above all, 'Trust your feelings to guide you. Relying upon absolute principles places unrealistic limitations on you. Only you know what’s right or best for you at any given moment, in those circumstances.' Finally, 'Set goals and achieve them…Have fun…Stay in good health…Discover and revel in the purpose of your life.' These are the principal values according to Barna’s surveys of American adults today. After expressing alarm at such trends, however, Barna himself advocates a market-driven outlook that reduces the Christian faith and mission to human-centered techniques of pragmatism and consumerism that might even have made Finney blush. There is this huge disconnect between what we say we believe and what we actually seem to believe when the rubber meets the road."

My own experience as a youth pastor and now pastor confirms everything Horton writes. Too many local congregations have been transformed from the body of Christ to a loose coalition of disparate groups who must each be catered to in order to maintain their patronage. It all seems to be about me, my needs, my gifts, my talents, etc. More proof that the church of Jesus Christ has been transformed into the culture’s image with a few Bible verse thrown in.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

God's Stern Love

"God's love is stern, for it expresses holiness in the lover and seeks holiness for the beloved. Scripture does not allow us to suppose that because God is love we may look to him to confer happiness on people who will not seek holiness or to shield his loved ones from trouble when he knows that they need trouble to further their sanctification."

J.I. Packer from Knowing God

Burning Bridges

Tom Ascol has posted these observations concerning an upcoming conferece at FBC Woodstock.

More on Southern Baptists and Climate Change

This is a pretty fair reflection of my thinking on the issue.

Southern Baptists Seeking to Control the Climate

Funny Stuff from Timmy Brister.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why I Preach Expositionally (4)

The proclamation of the Scriptures is the chief means by which God builds His church.

P.T. Forsyth wrote, "It is, perhaps, an overbold beginning, but I will venture to say that with its preaching Christianity stands and falls." I don't think Forsyth was overstating the matter. God uses means and His chief means for building His church is the proclamation of His Word. The right preaching of God's Word has always been recognized as an indispensable mark of a true church. There are many things the church does that are not fundamental to her identity. But without the proclamation of God's Word there is no church.

From the very first words of Scripture we learn that God chooses to create by means of His Word. What is more, the Sovereign Lord chooses to address His creatures through His Word. God's people have always been an auditory lot. While pagan religions reveled in all manner of sensual experience God called His people to live upon His Word. In the past God spoke to his poeple through prophets and other mediators. But now He has spoken through His Son (Heb. 1:1,2). And it is through the Scriptures that we gain the fullest and only reliable revelation of Jesus Christ.

The church was founded at Pentecost through means of a sermon (Acts 2). The church grew and matured through the teaching of the apostles. Paul, the most important church planter in history was singularly committed to the primacy of preaching. For two thousand years the church has had the apostle's teaching in the form of the New Testament.

In his outstanding book Preaching The Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, Graham Goldsworthy writes:

"It is clear from the New Testament that the primary means by which the church grew was through the preaching of the gospel. The apostle Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians that he was determined to know nothing among them but Christ and him crucified, expressed it simply: 'we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles' (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2). The act of proclaiming, or preaching, was not the giving of opinions or of reinterpreting old religious traditions in new and creative ways. It was proclaiming the word of God. Whatever the form of the proclamation, the content was the gospel of Jesus, and it was by this means alone that people were added to the church. 'Faith comes through what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). We note to begin with that the word of God now attaches to both Jesus and to the testimony, so that we rightly refer to the Bible as the word of God."

Resources for Discipling Children

Monergism has a collection of great resources for discipling children. There are about 80 products referenced so take your time and shop for something that would work for your family.

Reaping the Whirlwind

The sexual revolution is coming home to roost. This report really should come as no surprise. We have the most sexually educated generation in American history and the most sexually adventurous/irresponsible generation. Perhaps there is a connection. Could the National Education Association, Planned Parenthood, and the Democratic National Committee have misled us?

Vision Statements

Rick Philips has posted these helpful thoughts about church vision statements.

Why I Preach Expositionally (3)

The Scriptures are the primary means by which God sanctifies His people.

Sanctification is the work of God to make His people holy. He promises to do this (Rom 8:29; I Cor 6:11; Phil 1:6; Heb 13:12). And like so many of the things God does He sanctifies His people through the use of means. Certainly, God uses such means as fellowship with other believers to make us more like Christ (Heb 10:24-25). He even uses suffering for this purpose (Rom 5:3; James 1:3; I Pet 5:10). But God’s primary means to sanctify His people is His Word. Jesus prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus warded off the attacks of Satan by quoting God’s Word. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4). The Psalmist wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word…I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (119:9, 11). Paul tells us that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” (Eph 5:25-26).

Consider it an honor Dr. Packer

Further evidence that the Anglican Church in Canada has lost their marbles.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Great Books on the Cross

Some of my favorite books dealing with the crucifixion of Jesus:

Cross Words by Paul Wells
The Cross of Christ by John Stott
The Atonement by Leon Morris
Mission Accomplished by Michael Horton
The Seven Sayings... by A.W. Pink
The Message of the Cross by Derek Tidball
From Glory to Golgotha by Donald MacLeod
The Heart of the Cross by Ryken & Boice

The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy
Is It Nothing to You? by Frederick Leahy
Fifty Reasons by John Piper
The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul
Christ Our Mediator by C.J. Mahaney

The Glory of the Atonement Hill & James (editors)
The Cross in the New Testament by Leon Morris
The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris
Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray

The Terrors of Gethsemane

"And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.' And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'"
- Matthew 26:37-39

"And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
- Luke 22:43-44

"He grounds his own willingness upon the Father's will, and resolves the matter wholly into that."
- Matthew Henry

"All I can say is that as I ponder [Gethsemane], through that darkened window, there is a mystic light shining, showing me the terrors of the Cross more clearly than I see them even when I come to Calvary."
- G. Campell Morgan

"Gethsemane is not a place for hurried theological tourism: it is where the believer must linger, watch and pray."
- Frederick Leahy from The Cross He Bore

"Gethsemane supplies the medicine for the ills which followed upon the forbidden fruit of Eden."
- Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why I Preach Expositionally (2)

Biblical exposition is the means by which God produces faith in the hearts of sinners.

This sounds strange and unnecessarily narrow in a day when the church places such high priority on subjective experience and popular Christian books promise to help us hear from God in new and exciting ways. But the Bible is clear that the lost will not believe “without someone preaching” to them (Rom 10:14). What is more, faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). “But doesn’t God speak through beautiful music or majestic mountains?” Well, yes and no. Creation, indeed, testifies to God as the Mighty Creator (Rom 1). On the other hand, our knowledge of God’s redemptive work through the cross of Christ is entirely dependent upon what He reveals in His Word. No one will deduce from seeing a mountain that they are sinners hopelessly alienated from God and therefore must trust entirely in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. This knowledge comes from the Holy Spirit as He illumines the inspired Word of God.

The power of the preached Word of God is illustrated through the prophet Ezekiel. God gives the prophet a vision of a valley full of the dead carcasses of a vast number of people. All that is left is dry bones. After viewing the bones God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” God then commands the prophet to “prophesy” or preach to the mass of bones:

"Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord" (37:1-6).

This vision signifies God’s power to create spiritual life through the proclaiming of His Word. In his vision, Ezekiel preaches as the Lord commands him and the results are astonishing.
I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come fro the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army (37:7-10).

Next, God interprets the vision for Ezekiel. God tells the prophet that the bones represent the people of Israel. God’s promise to His people, “I will put My Spirit in you and you will live” (37:14) is illustrated by the vision of the valley of dry bones. And how will God breathe new life into His dead people? It will happen through His Word. There is nothing inherently powerful in the act of proclaiming God’s Word. The power to create new life belongs to God alone. The proclamation of the Word is merely the means that the Sovereign Lord has chosen to use. God commands Ezekiel to speak His Word to His people while they are dead, and as he obeys, those once dead come to life. To this day the Spirit of God uses “that Word above all earthly powers” to bring the dead to life. “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26).

Douglas Groothuis on the conscience of evangelicals

Justin Taylor posted this article from Douglas Groothuis("Evangelicals, for God's Sake, Please Wake Up").

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Take and Read

Sam Storms new book, The Hope of Glory, is a series of 100 daily readings through the book of Colossians. It is a model of practical, theological, doxological, and devotional Bible study. Take and read!

The Audacity of Obama

Read this powerful letter to Barack Obama from Sherif Girgis, Princeton student and Rhodes Scholar (

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why I Preach Expositionally (1)

The health of the church depends upon the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word. It is, after all, from the Bible that we learn who God is and how He accomplished redemption for sinners through the sacrificial death of His Son. It is by the proclamation of the Word of God that sinners come to faith in Christ (Rom 10:9-17). From the Bible we learn what worship, fellowship, evangelism, ministry, and stewardship ought to be. From the Bible we learn how to properly love one another, resolve conflict, and provide accountability for the sake of Christ-likeness. The church would not exist if not for God’s Word.

This affirmation flows from the Protestant conviction that the Word of God creates the church and not the other way around. Perhaps you have always assumed that to be true, not knowing that the official position of the Church of Rome is that the church created the Bible. This error places the hierarchy, traditions, and dogmas of the church at the center of the church rather than the Word of God. To assert that the Word of God is at the center of the church is not to deny that Christ is the Head of the Church but rather that the primary means by which Christ rules His church is through His Word. I once heard John MacArthur comment that the trend away from biblically faithful preaching is in reality an attempt to overthrow the Head of the church by removing the Word of the Head of the church from the church.

Donald MacNair calls a commitment to the Bible the hallmark of a healthy church. He writes, “When I speak of the Bible as the hallmark of the healthy church, I mean that a church’s defining characteristic should always be the faithful use of the Bible, God’s holy and inerrant Word…To use the Bible faithfully in ministry, we must enunciate its truths. We must be convinced of its authoritative relevance to any situation. And we must spell out its implications for daily living and for the new problems that we constantly face.”[1]

There have always been voices from within the church that claim preaching is not relevant. We certainly hear those voices in our own day. The use of videos, drama, meditation, prayer labyrinths, and many other sensory experiences crowd out time that should be given over to the preaching of Scripture. The result is a potentially dangerous elevation of subjective experience over the guidance of God’s revelation through His written word.

God has always called His people to be an auditory lot. God is into words. As much as sensory experiences may excite us, God has always been committed to forming a people from the power of His words. This is reflected in the act of creation described in Genesis. Pagan religions depicted creation as coming about through such highly experiential means as wars between the gods or even sex acts. But God created all there is through the power of His word (Gen 1).

God originally spoke to His people directly. As a result of sin God’s people needed mediation to hear from God so He spoke to them through His laws and the prophets. Next, God spoke in the most profound way through His Son (Heb 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is referred to as “the Word” in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. Since the time of the apostles God speaks to His people through Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible, His completed Word. This is also how God chooses to create new life in those dead in their sins (Rom 10). Christians must never despise the importance of God’s Word faithfully proclaimed. The preaching and teaching of the Bible must never lose its place of prominence in the church. Our very life depends upon it.

Metro East desires to be a church known for faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God. Fads will come and go and the prophets of church growth will search feverishly for ways to make the church more “relevant.” Scripture never promises that the words of God and the Gospel will be popular. Indeed we are promised that preaching and the message of the cross itself are foolishness to the world (I Cor 1:18-25).

The preaching at Metro East can be broadly classified under two headings: 1) Sermon series’ covering specific books of the Bible and 2) Sermons and series of sermons that address specific doctrinal topics. In both cases the sermons are expositional or expository.

Expositional preaching focuses squarely on the biblical text. It is preaching that takes the main point of the text and makes it the main point of the sermon. An expositional sermon is one that strives to say what the text is saying; no more, no less. Mark Dever writes, “Expositional preaching is preaching in service to the Word. It presumes belief in the authority of Scripture – that the Bible is actually God’s Word; but it is something much more than that. A commitment to expositional preaching is a commitment to hear God’s Word – not just to affirm that it is God’s Word but to actually submit yourself to it”[2]

[1] MacNair, Donald, The Practices of a Healthy Church (P&R: Phillipsburg, PA, 1999) p. 64.
[2] Dever, Mark, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2000) p. 27.

Evangelical Without the Evangel

Phil Johnson on "the Down Grade" of our time (Pyromaniacs: Gospel Lite).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Gracia Burnham on the Sovereign Goodness of God

While out and about yesterday I was listening to "Family Life Today" on the car radio. They were airing an interview with Gracia Burnham who I am blessed to serve as pastor. She was recounting the year she spent in captivity in the jungle with her husband Martin. It is an amazing and terrifying story. If you have never read "In the Presence of My Enemies" I reccommend it.

Anyway, as the interview was concluding Gracia made one of the best, if not the best explanation of the sovereign goodness of God I have ever heard. Gracia confessed that had she been in charge the whole incident would never have happened. Who would not agree? Had she been in charge then she and Martin would never have been kidnapped and held captive for a year in the jungle. Of course most supremely had Gracia been in charge of events then her beloved husband Martin would still be with her serving the Lord. Who cannot fully agree with Gracia?

And this is where Gracia made the statement that made my eyes fill with tears and say out loud, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" as I was driving. She said, "But God is God. He does the choosing, not me; and I trust that He is good." It sounds simple at one level. But when it comes from the lips of one who has forgotten more about suffering that most of us will ever know those words stand out brightly. Those words carry a freight train of theology. They are doxological words. A God like this brings forth praise from the lips of those who know Him. They are devotional words. A God like this inspires awe and grateful obedience. They are mysterious words. Who can fully comprehend a God like this? Are we not left silent like Job in the presence of such a God?

Thank you Gracia for your testimony. I thank God for His grace in persevering you. I thank God that you have been given a glimpse of His glory in the face of your suffering.

We are the seed of Abraham

Having been so strongly influenced by premellinial dispensationalism most evangelicals have little knowlege of or appreciation for God's radically new administration of the new covenant. Prominent preachers like John Hagee have gone so far as to say that Jesus is not Israel's Messiah. Indeed, some of the contemporary manifestations of dispensationalism promote the idea that there are two ways to salvation, one for Gentiles and another for Jews. This of course is a tragic misreading of the biblical text.

The church of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all that was foreshadowed in ethnic Israel. The New Testament makes plain that "not all Israel is Israel." The seed of Abraham is made up of all those who come to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. National Israel was the Old Covenant type of Spiritual Israel now fulfilled in the church. Some of my heroes hold another view. But I respectfully disagree. I believe the best way to understand the biblical witness is that there is no longer a separation between the church and "Israel." When we speak of "God's people" we are not speaking of any nation. We are speaking of those whom God has saved out of every nation, tribe, language, and people. Bruce Waltke writes:

"Today, the seed of the woman and the heirs of Abraham's covenants are mostly Gentiles, who originally inhabited Anatolia, Greece, and Rome (Rom. 16:20). Using's Paul's metaphor of Romans 11:16-24, the natural branches (i.e., ethnic Israel) of the olive tree (the historical covenant community) have been mostly broken off, while the wild shoot (i.e., Gentiles) has been grafted in to be nourished by the sap of the tree (i.e., God's spiritual life that flows from a covenantal relationship with him; Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 2:11-22; 1 Peter 2:9-10). Delitzsch says, 'We are all Japhethites dwelling in the tents of Shem.'

"Apart from the preservation of an elect remnant within ethnic Israel, these ethnic divisions no longer exist in God's administration. Today his church includes the Ethiopian eunuch (Ham), Peter and Saul (Shem), and Cornelius (Japheth). God is no respector of a person's ethnic origin but only of his or her spiritual condition. In God's household, none is unclean (Acts 10), and in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, for all are Abraham's seed (Galatians 3:26-29)."

From Genesis - A Commentary by Bruce Waltke (p. 153).

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Magnifying the Value of God

Jason over at FideO posted this. Great stuff.

Worship on Earth and in Heaven

Derek Thomas has some good thoughts on the continuity of heavenly and earthly worship (

Obama's "mistake"

Obama is consistently wrong on the most pressing moral issue of our time (

Running Scared

Ed Welch is a PhD is neuropsychology and the director of the School of Biblical Counseling at the Christian Counseling Educational Foundation. Welch is also a self described "fear specialist." In his latest book, Running Scared Welch brings a refreshing honesty about his own tendency toward worry and anxiety. What is also wonderful about Running Scared is the author's dependence upon God's Word. For Welch the Bible is sufficient for every issue in the life of the believer. Welch, like all the members of the CCEF (David Powlison, Tim Lane, Paul Tripp) brings together the skills of a seasoned counselor and a profoundly biblical worldview. Much of what passes for Christian counseling today is nothing more than Freudian or Rogerian psychology with a few Bible verses thrown in. The truly biblical counselor, like Ed Welch, however operates from a radically different world-view than Freud or Rogers or Skinner. The foundational assumptions of the biblical counselor are different from those of the secular psychologist.

The subtitle of Running Scared is "fear, worry, and the God of rest." Welch is a dependable guide through both the complexeties of the human heart and the Word of God. I also highly recommend "Depression" and "When People are Big and God is Small" both by Welch.