Saturday, June 30, 2012

"The gentle kindness which bruises us"

We call those things mercies which please us, ease us, suit our wants, and fall in with our cravings. Truly they are so, but not less gracious are those benefits which cross us, pain us, and lay us low. The tender love which chastises us the gentle kindness which bruises us, the fond affection which crushes us to the ground -- these we do not so readily recount; yet is there as much of divine love in a smart as in a sweet, as great a depth of tenderness in buffeting as in consoling. We must count our crosses, diseases and pains if we would number up our blessings. Doubtless it is a mercy to be spared affliction, but he would be a wise man who should tell which of the two was the greater boon -- to be for the present without chastisement or to be chastened. We judge that in either case it is well with the righteous, but we will not have a word said to the disparagment of affliction. Granted that the cross is very bitter, we maintain with equal confidence that it is also very sweet.
Charles Spurgeon from The Full Harvest

Friday, June 29, 2012

"The aching may remain, but the breaking does not"

The Silence of God
by Andrew Peterson

It's enough to drive a man crazy; it'll break a man's faith
It's enough to make him wonder if he's ever been sane
When he's bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the heaven's only answer is the silence of God

It'll shake a man's timbers when he loses his heart
When he has to remember what broke him apart
This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not
When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God

And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they've got
When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
'Cause we all get lost sometimes...

There's a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold
And He's kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He's weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

We're all adolescents now

From The Juvenilization Of American Christianity:
"Juvenilization happened when no one was looking. In the first stage, Christian youth leaders created youth-friendly versions of the faith in a desperate attempt to save the world. Some hoped to reform their churches by influencing the next generation. Others expected any questionable innovations to stay comfortably quarantined in youth rallies and church basements. Both groups were less concerned about long-term consequences than about immediate appeals to youth.

"In the second stage, a new American adulthood emerged that looked a lot like the old adolescence. Fewer and fewer people outgrew the adolescent Christian spiritualities they had learned in youth groups; instead, churches began to cater to them."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Constant Reader

Reading up on HOPE...

The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie

Too Good To Be True by Michael Horton

Hope: The Best Of Things by Joni Eareckson Tada

Night Of Weeping, Morning Of Joy by Horatius Bonar

The Last Enemy by Michael Witmer

Sermon Audio

On Sunday I preached part 23 of our current series through Philippians. It is entitled "Strengthened For Contentment" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Silent in Suffering

It is not easy to suffer. No affliction is pleasant. But there is something especially difficult about suffering at the hands or by the words of others. Our first inclination is to defend ourselves. And, certainly, there is a place for that. There were times when the Apostle Paul offered a hearty defense of himself against his accusers. He did this when the accusations against him would harm the church. For instance, when the "super apostles" were troubling the Corinthian church with their version of the prosperity gospel part of their strategy was to discredit Paul and his preaching of the cross. For their authority to be established, they first had to demolish Paul's. So in order to protect the church from error and destruction Paul had to defend his status as a true apostle of the Lord Jesus. He had to deny the lies that he was preaching to enrich himself. He had to deny the accusations that he was hiding a secret life of shame.

However, there are times when we simply must be silent in the face of slander. I'm not sure where to draw the line. But Jason Helopoulos offers some wise counsel. In suffering silently, Helopoulos writes, "I have the opportunity to":

  • look to Christ who suffered silently (Isaiah 53:7)
  • become more like Christ as I endure suffering (1 Peter 2:21)
  • and privilege of suffering with Christ (1 Peter 4:13)
  • complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24)
  • to be tested by fire, so the genuineness of my faith will shine to the glory and honor of Christ
  •      (1  Peter 1:7)
  • remind myself that the Great Judge knows what is true (Matthew 12:36)
  • suffer with Him—knowing that as I do, I shall be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17)
  • suffer as it is a gracious thing in the sight of God (1 Peter 2:20)
  • suffer as it is a blessing and a sign that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon me (1 Peter 4:14)
  • be reminded that my current suffering is nothing compared to the glory that awaits (1 Peter 5:10)
  • truly love my enemies (Matthew 5:44)
  • know more fully the extent of Christ’s love towards me (Ephesians 3:14ff)
  • learn afresh how dependent I am upon Christ (John 15:5)
  • be identified with Christ (John 15:18ff)
  • test my desire for God’s glory rather than man’s approval (Isaiah 51:7-8)

  • Fear of man must not silence you when you should speak. But neither should it lead you to speak when you should not. And suffering for the sake of Christ often means remaining silent in the midst of that suffering. It is hard and bitter. But as our minds are gripped by these truths, that which is hard and bitter can at the same time be sweet and easy to digest.
    Read the whole post HERE.

    Pro-Life Ethics

    Thanks to Justin Taylor for posting these excellent lectures on Pro-Life ethics from Scott Klusendorf:

    Saturday, June 23, 2012

    No Place For Truth?

    Thomas Oden is my favorite Wesleyan theologian. He was a liberal in the sixties. But something happened. He was driven away from theological liberalism to embrace Protestant Orthodoxy. Oden writes with clarity and passion about the need for the Mainline denominations to return to the truth. Until then, there is no ground for unity.

    In Turning Around The Mainline Oden writes:
    Oldline ecumenical debate and planning are prone to misfire through a fundamental misunderstanding of the relation of unity and truth: They do no seek unity based on truth.

    Four modern ecumenical arguments in particular misfire, as shown by David Mills. They even make Christian disunity more likely. These four following arguments have prevailed in liberal ecumenism, each unintentionally eliciting disunity. Each is a mistake “if-then” correlation:

    1. If we can just get together on some common ethical standards, then we will therefore achieve the unity of believers.

    2. If we could have the same open ecumenical feelings or experiences, then we would feel our unity.

    3. If we could just be open to dialogue, then we would grow toward unity.

    4. If we merge the separate institutions based on different memories created by the Spirit, then we would experience our unity through an institution, and thus we now must renew our commitment to the institutional vestiges of ecumenism.

    All these attempts are alike in one way: they put unity ahead of truth. They squander the truth to achieve a superficial unity. All are mistaken. All spawn disillusionment with efforts at Christian unity. Together they have resulted in the ecumenical turbulence that now buffets us.

    All misfire for the same reason: they base unity on something other than the truth, by avoiding the only basis from which Christian unity can emerge—that is the revealed Word whose hearing is enabled by the Holy Spirit and received through faith. (111)

    HT: Kevin DeYoung


    This quarter's issue of Southern Seminary Magazine is worth reading (as they all are).

    Be sure especially to read:

    "Resolute About Biblical Authority Amidst Compromise And Confusion In The Church" by Al Mohler (pp. 36-38)

    "Black And White And Red All Over: Why Racial Justice Is A Gospel Issue" by Russell Moore (pp. 40-41)

    "Resolute In A Gender-Confused Culture" by Denny Burk (pp. 44-45)

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    Sunday's Sermon

    On Sunday I preached part 22 in our current series through Philippians. It is entitled "What Do You Think" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

    There And Back Again?

    The "I've been to heaven and back" book phenomena continues to grow. There is yet another one which has hit the New York Times bestseller list. Now we can read about Mary C. Neal's trip to heaven in her book "To Heaven And Back." Evangelicals love this stuff! The books by Don Piper and Todd Burpo have numerous spin-offs. I recently saw a big, colorful Heaven Is For Real For Kids in a local Barnes and Noble. If I were cynical I'd conclude that all these daily thoughts, calendars, journalskids and women's editions were crass attempts to make more money off evangelical's lack of discernment. But I'm not cynical so I'd never conclude that. Personally, I'd like to see a Mixed Martial Arts edition of one of these trip to heaven books. That's a growing market after all. Now, just watch some enterprising young fella at Multnomah or Zondervan steal this idea.

    Tim Challies, who has written well about the dangers of this nonsense, has a fresh post on Miss Neal's foray into the wacky world of Christian publishing.
    The most recent heaven tourist is Mary C. Neal. Much like Todd Burpo, who is responsible for taking his son’s adventures to print, Neal only decided to write about her experiences many years after the fact, after all those other “I went to heaven” books began to sell in the hundreds of thousands. But that’s definitely just coincidence. She initially self-published her book To Heaven and Back, but once it started generating buzz (i.e. selling lots and lots of copies), Waterbrook Multnomah stooped down and scraped it off the bottom of a shoe somewhere, and promptly re-issued it. With the extra marketing nudge, it has now made its debut on the New York Times list of bestsellers. I gave it a skim—I just couldn’t bear to read it all the way—and found that it is much the same as the others. In fact, it may be worse than the others in that it contains even less Christian theology, less gospel and far more New Age, sub-Christian nonsense. That a publisher of Christian books would even consider taking this to print is appalling.
    Challies goes on to explain well why these sorts of stories are dangerous for Christians to ingest.
    I do not believe that Don Piper or Colton Burpo or Mary Neal or Bill Wiese visited the afterlife. They can tell me all the stories they want, and then can tell those stories in a sincere tone, but I do not believe them (even when they send me very angry and condescending emails that accuse me of character assassination). I am not necessarily saying that these people are liars—just that I am under no obligation to believe another person’s experience. Here’s why:

    In the first place, we have no reason to believe or expect that God will work in this way—that he will call one of us to the afterlife and then send us back to our old bodies. The Bible says that it is for man to die once and then to experience the resurrection. There are many experiences we can have in a near-death state I am sure—dream-like experiences that may even seem real—but the Bible gives us no reason to believe that a person will truly die, truly experience the afterlife, and then return. Those who have a biblical understanding of life and death and heaven and hell will know that for a person to die and visit heaven, to experience sinlessness and the presence of Jesus Christ—for that person it would be the very height of cruelty to then demand that they return to earth. None of these books are at all consistent with a robust theology of heaven and hell, of the work of Jesus Christ, of the existence of indwelling sin. On the surface they may seem compelling, but in reality they raise far more questions than the few they may appear to answer.

    In the second place, the very idea of God calling a person to heaven and back and then having that person share his experience in order to bolster our faith is the exact opposite of what the Lord desires for us. We have no reason to look to another person’s experience of heaven in order to prove that heaven is real or hell is real. The Bible promises blessings on those who do not see and yet believe. Our hope is not to be in the story of a minister or toddler or doctor or anyone else who insists they have been to heaven; our hope is to be in Jesus Christ as God has graciously revealed him to us in the Bible. Faith is believing that what God says in his Word is true and without error. You dishonor God if you choose to believe what the Bible says only when you receive some kind of outside verification. You dishonor God if you need this kind of outside verification.

    A question remains: How do I respond to a Christian who has read these books and who finds great joy or comfort in them? You point that person to what is true. You will need to be careful with tone and timing, but ultimately, it will be a blessing for any Christian to direct his faith to the worthy object of faith. Faith will be strengthened by reading the Bible and believing it. Faith will be weakened by reading the Bible and believing it only after reading 90 Minutes in Heaven. You can serve any Christian by directing him to the Bible and helping him to see that we are called to believe God on the basis of what he says in his Word, not on the basis of another person’s experience. 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven Is For Real and all the rest are not books that beautify the doctrine of heaven, but books that attack the doctrine of Scripture. The Bible insists that it is enough, that it is sufficient, that we have no need for further special revelation from God; these books insist that it is not.
    Read the entire post HERE.

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    In praise of labels

    Dr. Peter Jensen the archbishop (Anglican) of Sydney, Australia, is a courageous leader and an admirable preacher. He also does not mind telling you just exactly what he is. In a series of messages from 2007 Dr. Jensen explains why he is Protestant (and not Catholic), Reformed (and not Arminian), and evangelical (in the historic sense of that term).

    1 - Why I Am A Protestant Christian 
    2 - Why I Am A Reformed Christian 
    3 - Why I Am An Evangelical Christian 

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    "Anatomy Of A Conflict"

    From Mike McKinley
    In an earlier post, I mentioned Mike Minter's Stay the Course one-day seminar for pastors. From that seminar, here is Mike's "anatomy of conflict":
    1. An offense occurs.
    2. A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
    3. Friends take up the offense.
    4. Sides begin to form.
    5. Suspicion on both sides develop.
    6. Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it.
    7. Exaggerated statements are made.
    8. In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
    9. Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
    10. Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
    11. Integrity is challenged.
    12. People call each other liars.
    13. Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
    14. Many are hurt.
    Three observations:
    • First, that is pretty much spot-on with what I've observed in a number of churches. I wish it weren't so, but it's the truth.
    • Second, it seems that once you get to step #5, it's pretty hard to pull out of the nose-dive.
    • Third, conflict in the church makes me long for Jesus to come back soon.

    The Constant Reader

    Justin Taylor has posted a list of one-volume histories of the Protestant Reformation. I have read each of his selections and can tell you that they are all excellent. If I could recommend only one on the list I would probably go with Michael Reeves' The Unquenchable Flame. It is a great read.

    The final title by Carl Trueman is not so much a history of the Reformation as are the other books in the list. It is, however engaging and timely. I say timely because Dr. Trueman explains the continuing relevance of the Reformation and why it still matters to be Protestant. If that does not sound "relevant" to you then I encourage you to read it.

    From Justin Taylor:

    Carl Trueman explains the basic textbooks he assigns in his Reformation classes and ultimately recommends for us Diarmaid MacCulloch’s The Reformation: A History:
    MacCulloch is one of the best Reformation historians alive and this is what I would call a brilliant, scholarly beach read—well-constructed explanatory narrative history, rooted in profound and accurate scholarship, laid out in the grand epic style. My guess is that Ref21 readers wanting a good, scholarly, readable history of the Reformation—and one which will not break the bank—should buy this.
    What follows are some shorter and less expensive introductions to the Reformation:

    Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.

    Read for free the table of contents, Mark Dever’s foreword, and chapter 1.

    “With the skill of a scholar and the art of a storyteller, Michael Reeves has written what is, quite simply, the best brief introduction to the Reformation I have read. If you’ve been looking for a book to help you understand the Reformation, or just to begin to study church history, this little book brings history to life.”
    —Mark Dever

    Stephen J. Nichols, The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World.
    Read for free the table of contents, the introduction and chapter 1, as well as chapter 6.

    “Professor Stephen Nichols is already well-known for his remarkable ability to make history live and sing. This new work is no exception and will simply enhance his well-deserved reputation. It is a scintillating helicopter tour of the amazing men—and wonderful women—of the Reformation. Here conviction joins with courage, holiness with humor, in a wonderful medley of Christian heroes and heroines.”
    Sinclair B. Ferguson

    Kirsten Birkett, The Essence of the Reformation.
    In addition to Dr. Birkett’s overview of the Reformation, this book includes excerpts from classic works by Luther, Calvin, and Crammer.

    Read for free the preface, the table of contents, all of part 1, and portions from the classics.

    “I do not know any book that more succinctly gets across, in readable prose, what the Reformation was about. This new edition combines Birkett’s superb text with some judiciously selected primary documents. This is a book to distribute widely among lay leaders and other Christians who want to be informed of the heritage of the gospel that has come down to us.”
    —D. A. Carson

    Carl R. Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

    “This fine book should be required reading for all Christians—and especially for those who doubt whether the Protestant Reformation has anything left to say to us in our day. Stating that “the Reformation represents a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the church’s life and thought,” Trueman then retrieves Luther’s theology of the cross, argues that because the Reformation “was above all a movement of the Word—incarnate in Christ and written down in the Scriptures,” and because the Spirit works through the Word, “the Word written and the Word preached are both central to Christianity and are not simply cultural forms which can be shed when culture moves on,” and then closes with a chapter on Christian assurance that recognizes our assurance as the foundation for our Christian activity. Along the way, he scatters nugget after nugget of insight into what is core to the Reformation legacy, motivating his readers to embrace this core again.”
    Mark R. Talbot

    Dispatches From The Front now 60% off

    Apart from the Bible, this could be the most important resource we have promoted in my eight years at the bookstore. Rarely have I seen a resource like Episode 2 that so clearly communicates something that our Lord cares so much about. The gospel transforming lives, the Church laying siege to the gates of Hell, and Christians living with a clear view of eternity—it was a profound reminder for me to reclaim my first love.
    - Chun Lai, Director WTS Books
    WTS Books is now carrying the DVD series Dispatches from the Front. They are running a sale for 72 hours, ending on Friday (June 15) at 4 PM Eastern. The entire 5 DVD set is $30 (60% off), or you can get just episode 2 for $5 (67% off). You can also download a free study guide. This is a great resource for youth groups, small groups, families, etc.

    Dispatches from the Front is a series of DVDs which show first-hand the work of missionaries and pastors in some of the tougher parts of the world. I have just watched the episode on Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The low-key presentation enhances the drama and the beauty of the stories told. But be aware: this is sobering stuff. I came away ashamed of my own lack of zeal for the Lord’s work and my ingratitude to him for all of the material comforts I enjoy. This is not a celebration of the pyrotechnic entertainment of the American church; it is an account of genuine works of God. It will convict you of your own sin, drive you to Christ, and encourage you to pray for Christians working on the front lines of the Kingdom and to reassess your own priorities wherever you are. ”
    —Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and Paul Woolley Chair of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary

    “Beware of watching these Dispatches if you don’t like being moved and inspired and shaken out of the ruts of your life. My wife and I were riveted in watching the frontline reports of God’s work recorded in the Dispatches from the Front. This is the sort of information that builds faith in the present providence of God over his mission, and stirs up action for the sake of lost and hurting people near and far. I would love to see thousands of people mobilized as senders and goers for the sake of the glory of Christ and the relief of suffering on the frontiers, especially eternal suffering.”
    —John Piper, author of Desiring God; Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis

    Dispatches from the Front is a thoughtful, moving, understated, and ultimately convicting series of videos depicting the work of the gospel in some of the most challenging corners of the world. Far from glorying in celebrity missions, the stories in these videos depict the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, sometimes in the teeth of virulent opposition. Here are brothers and sisters in Christ who in God’s grace display faithfulness and transcendent joy, unflagging zeal to share the gospel, and an unfettered allegiance to King Jesus. To watch the kingdom advance in the teeth of these challenges is to learn humility and rekindle contrition, faith, and intercessory prayer.”
    —D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; President and Co-founder, The Gospel Coalition

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    On Preaching

    Great teaching on preaching from the John Reed Miller Lecture Series at RTS. 

    2011 – Reddit Andrews

    Lecture 1 - October 26, Chapel
    Lecture 2 – October 26, Lunch
    Lecture 3 - October 27, Lunch

    2010 – Dr. Steve Lawson

    Lecture 1 - Nehemiah 8
    Lecture 2 - Nehemiah 8
    Lecture 3 - Nehemiah 8

    2009 – Dr. Joel Beeke

    Lecture 1 - Calvin’s Powerful Preaching
    Lecture 2 - The Puritan’s Love for Preaching
    Lecture 3 - Preaching Experientially Today

    2008 – Dr. Ralph Davis

    Lecture 1 - Why is the Old Testament Shut Out of Church?
    Lecture 2 - Nuts and Bolts in Preaching Old Testament Texts
    Lecture 3 - The Hard Ministry of the Word

    2007 – Dr. Mark Dever

    Lecture 1 - The Symbol and Significance of Preaching
    Lecture 2 - The Use of Preaching
    Lecture 3 - The Art of Preaching

    2006 – Rev. Mark Johnson

    Lecture 1 - The Call to Ministry
    Lecture 2 - The Call to Preach
    Lecture 3 - The Call to Pastor

    2005 – Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

    Lecture 1 - Preaching Christ
    Lecture 2 - Reaching Our Standards
    Lecture 3 - Using Our Grids

    Dispatches From The Front

    WTSbooks is now offering Dispatches From The Front for almost 50% off.
    Publisher's Description: Believers everywhere desperately need a renewed vision of Christ and the unstoppable advance of His saving work in all the earth. Our view of God’s Kingdom is often too small and limited to what we have experienced. Dispatches from the Front highlights the marvelous extent, diversity, and unity of Christ’s Kingdom in our world. The journal format of each episode underscores the daily unfolding of God’s activity on the “frontlines,” bringing viewers up-close with sights and sounds from distant corners of the Kingdom.
    Our prayer is that Dispatches will magnify our God. It will unite our hearts with our brothers and sisters in different parts of the world. It will awaken us out of our comfortable Christianity. It will expand our vision of the King and His powerful Gospel.

    Sunday's Sermon

    On Sunday I preached part 21 in our current series through Philippians. It is entitled "Living in Light of the Nearness of God" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    The Gospel For Real Life

    Check out these new resoures from the Association of Biblical Counselors and P&R.

    More Summer Reading...

    So, I've added a few titles to my summer reading:

    The Juvenilization Of American Christianity by Thomas Bergler

    Six Days Of War by Michael Oren

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Southern Baptists And Salvation

    Until about three-and-a-half years ago, I had been a life-long Southern Baptist. I was trained in a Southern Baptist university and seminary. I served in Southern Baptist churches as a youth pastor, and later as a senior pastor. For years there has been a controversy within the Southern Baptist fold concerning Calvinism. What many Southern Baptists do not realize is that the founders of the denomination and first seminaries were Calvinistic Baptists. The very first Southern Baptist confession of faith ("The Abstract of Principles") is a baptiststic derivative of the Westminster Standards. However, as time went on Southern Baptists came under the influence of holiness movements and revivalism and consequently began to shed their founding theological moorings. But over the last 15 years or so there has been a significant resurgence of reformed soteriology within Southern Baptist life. For some this has been a movement of God. For others, not so much.

    Recently a document was drafted defining what the writers call "the traditional" Southern Baptist understanding of salvation. It is an attempt to call Southern Baptists away from the Reformed understanding of human sinfulness and God's sovereignty in salvation. Unfortunately the document misunderstands Southern Baptist history and (unwittingly I hope) adopts a semi-Pelagian position on sin and salvation.

    Al Mohler has written a gracious response.

    Also, check out Joe Carter's helpful summary of the debate.

    Roger Olson, a professor at a Southern Baptist institution and self-proclaimed Arminian calls the document semi-Pelagian.

    Tom Ascol has a very helpful series of responses HERE.

    The Attributes Of Scripture

    From Kevin DeYoung:
    Historically, Protestant theologians have highlighted four defining attributes of Scripture: necessity, sufficiency, clarity, and authority. Each of these attributes is meant to protect the truth about the Bible and safeguard against common errors.

    The doctrine of Scripture’s necessity reminds us that we need God’s word to tell us how to live and how to be saved (1 Cor. 2:6-13). General revelation is not adequate. Personal experience and human reason cannot show us the gospel. We need God’s gracious self-disclosure if we are to worship rightly, believe in Christ, and live for ever in heaven.

    The doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency reminds us that God’s word tells us all we need to know for life and godliness in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:14-17). We don’t need new revelations. We don’t need dreams or vision. We don’t need a council of prophets or a quorum of apostles to present to us new information about Jesus Christ and the gospel. Scripture doesn’t tell us everything we might want to know. But it tells us everything we truly need to know.

    The doctrine of Scripture’s clarity (or perspicuity) reminds us that the saving message of God’s redemption can be understood by all who care to hear it (Deut. 30:11-14). This does not mean every passage in the Bible is obvious or that we should shun proper training in all the biblical disciplines. But when it comes to the central tenets of Scripture, we can discern God’s word for ourselves, apart from official church interpretation. There is a meaning in the text and God knows how to communicate it to us.

    The doctrine of Scripture’s authority remind us that God’s word stands above all earthly powers (Psalm 138:2). On every matter in which the Bible means to speak, the last word goes to Scripture, not to councils or to catechisms or to science or to human experience, but to the word of God. We all have someone or something that we turn to as the arbiter of truth claims. For Christians, in the final analysis, this authority must be, and can only be, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
    These evangelical attributes are an easy and important way to remember all that Scripture is for us and to us: necessity, sufficiency, clarity, and authority. Or to put the list into four sentences:

    God’s word is needed.
    God’s word is enough.
    God’s word is understandable
    God’s word is final.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right

    Whate’er my God ordains is right:
    His holy will abideth;
    I will be still whate’er He doth;
    And follow where He guideth;
    He is my God; though dark my road,
    He holds me that I shall not fall:
    Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

    Whate’er my God ordains is right:
    He never will deceive me;
    He leads me by the proper path:
    I know He will not leave me.
    I take, content, what He hath sent;
    His hand can turn my griefs away,
    And patiently I wait His day.

    Whate’er my God ordains is right:
    His loving thought attends me;
    No poison can be in the cup
    That my Physician sends me.
    My God is true; each morn anew
    I’ll trust His grace unending,
    My life to Him commending.

    Whate’er my God ordains is right:
    He is my Friend and Father;
    He suffers naught to do me harm,
    Though many storms may gather,
    Now I may know both joy and woe,
    Some day I shall see clearly
    That He hath loved me dearly.

    Whate’er my God ordains is right:
    Though now this cup, in drinking,
    May bitter seem to my faint heart,
    I take it, all unshrinking.
    My God is true; each morn anew
    Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
    And pain and sorrow shall depart.

    Whate’er my God ordains is right:
    Here shall my stand be taken;
    Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
    Yet I am not forsaken.
    My Father’s care is round me there;
    He holds me that I shall not fall:
    And so to Him I leave it all.

    Words: Sam­u­el Rod­i­gast, 1676 (Was Gott tut, das ist wohl­ge­tan); trans­lat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Ca­ther­ine Wink­worth, 1863, and others.

    Sunday's Sermon

    On  Sunday I preached part 20 of our current series through Philippians. It is entitled "The Agreement That Trumps Division" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

    Saturday, June 2, 2012

    A Prophet In Rough Clothing

    Before any great achievement, some measure of the same depression is very usual. Surveying the difficulties before us, our hearts sink within us. The sons of Anak stalk before us, and we are as grasshoppers in our own sight in their presence. The cities of Canaan are walled up to heaven, and who are we that we should hope to capture them? We are ready to cast down our weapons and take to our heels. Nineveh is a great city, and we would flee unto Tarshish sooner than encounter its noisy crowds. Already we look for a ship which may bear us quietly away from the terrible scene, and only a dread of tempest restrains our recreant footsteps...

    This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord's richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master's use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canann. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn. The mariners go down to the depths, but the next wave makes them mount to the heaven: their soul is melted because of trouble before he bringeth them to their desired heaven.
    Charles Spurgeon from Lectures To My Students (p. 186 - Banner Of Truth edition)

    Thursday, May 31, 2012

    Something is wrong with our ego

    In his new and helpful little book (a pamphlet really), The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller writes:
    The ego often hurts. That is because it has something incredibly wrong with it. Something unbelievably wrong with it. It is always drawing attention to itself - it does so every single day. It is always making us think about how we look and how we are treated. People sometimes say their feelings are hurt. But our feelings can't be hurt! It is the ego that hurts - my sense of self, my identity. Our feelings are fine! It is my ego that hurts.

    Walking around does not hurt my toes unless there is already something wrong with them. My ego would not hurt unless there was something wrong with it. Think about it. It is very hard to get through a whole day without feeling snubbed or ignored or feeling stupid or getting down on ourselves. That is because there is something wrong with my ego. There is something wrong with my sense of self. It is never happy. It is always drawing attention to itself.

    "The gospel is powerful in spite of us, not because of us"

    How often we overestimate our importance! It's not that the way we live does not matter immensely, for it does. It's not that our living does not impact our effectiveness to advance the gospel, for it does. But let us not forget that the power of the gospel does not come from us. The gospel has always been and always will be advanced by a deeply flawed church made up of saved sinners.

    Really good stuff from Duane Lifton explaining why our deeds will never preach the gospel:
    Some today will claim that there is no true evangelism without “embodied action.” In fact, according to one critic, “Unless [Christ's] disciples are following the Great Commandment, it is fruitless to engage in the Great Commission.” According to this view, the gospel is without its own potency. Its “fruitfulness” depends upon us. But this is not the testimony of the New Testament.
    According to Paul—whose itinerant ministry met few of the “embodied action” criteria—the power of the gospel does not reside in us; it resides in the Spirit’s application of the message itself. . . .

    Few would deny that the holistic mission of the church is the best possible platform for our verbal witness, and that our jaded generation will be more inclined to give us a hearing if we are living it out. (Indeed, the longest section of my new book, Word versus Deed, is devoted to the crucial role of our deeds.)

    But this does not permit us to hold the gospel hostage to our shortcomings.

    When has the church been all it should be?

    When, short of glory, will the church ever be all that God wills for it?

    The church has been messy from the beginning, falling far short of living out the Great Commandment. Yet despite our failures, the gospel itself remains marvelously potent, the very “power of God unto salvation” to those who believe.

    The gospel’s inherent power does not fluctuate with the strengths or weaknesses of its messengers.

    This truth is humbling, but also immensely liberating. In the end, my inability to answer objections, my lack of training or experience, even failures in my own faithfulness in living it out do not nullify the gospel’s power. Its potency is due to the working of God’s Spirit.

    Even when we are at our best, the gospel is powerful in spite of us, not because of us. Thanks be to God.
    Read the whole article HERE.

    HT: Justin Taylor

    Wednesday, May 30, 2012

    What Celebrity Culture?

    I just can't figure out why Carl is so convinced that evangelicals have surrendered to a celebrity culture.

    Sunday, May 27, 2012

    Sunday's Sermon

    On Sunday I preached part 19 of our current series through Philippians. It is entitled "Follow The Right Example" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

    Saturday, May 26, 2012

    The Right Way to Leave a Church

    Words of wisdom from Kevin DeYoung:

    1. Try to leave graciously. When someone voluntarily leaves a church (not because of a move or a graduation or a deployment) it is usually a painful experience. You’ve probably been hurt or disappointed. Maybe you dislike the new pastor or the new direction of the church. The temptation in these situations will be toward bitterness. You may want to leave with all your guns ablazin’ but the approach that feels good isn’t always the one that is good. Better to err on the side of gentleness and let the Lord repay your enemies. This also makes it easier for you to admit wrong if you should find some down the road.
    2. Tell the pastor you are leaving. This may be the most important point. Please let someone know you are going. You may want people to notice you are gone, and a good elder board will notice, but if you’ve already decided to leave now is not the time for sour grapes. If you tell the leaders you are leaving, they can pray for you. Maybe they can clear up a misunderstanding. Or maybe they need to learn from your experience. Just don’t go silently into that good night.
    3. Leave off a ledge. I got this imagery from a dear member who recently left our church and did so with great grace and magnanimity. He told me that as he thought about leaving he decided he didn’t want to drift away, slowly pulling away and dropping his commitments. He said he’d rather take a leap off the ledge and be fully engaged until the moment when he decided it was time to go. Be in while you are in, and then when you are out, jump right out.
    4. Learn how to kindly and honestly answer the question “Why did you leave?” People will ask you, so figure out your answer. Don’t kill someone’s character or disembowel the whole church with your reply. Don’t lie either. A simple, straightforward answer will suffice. We didn’t agree with the direction of the church. We disagreed with some of the doctrines being taught. We didn’t feel like we could submit ourselves to the authority of the church any longer. Tell the truth, but speak it in the manner you would want the church to speak about you.
    5. Develop a plan right away for how you will look for a new church. It may take you some time to settle in a new place, but start working on your plan right away. Will you visit these ten churches? Or two churches? Will you visit them once or three times? What is important to you (and your family, and God!) in finding a church? Don’t allow yourself to float aimlessly for months and years. Too many church floaters just float away.
    6. Don’t burn bridges. If you were a faithful member of your previous church, you will keep running into those who are still there. You’ll see them at weddings, funerals, open houses, and school functions. Maybe even family reunions! It’s bound to be a little awkward but do what you can to keep the relationships intact. Many of them are worth saving. And you may need them later.
    7. Keep praying and ask others to pray for you. The ties that bind are not broken easily. In some ways they don’t have to. Obviously, the relationship changes when you leave a church, but you should still want what is best for all those you left behind. And hopefully they still care for you. It never hurts to have more prayer.

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    New Book...

    Congratulations to Dr. David Garner (a friend to me and of Church of the Saviour) for his good work in editing the new book by P&R Did God Really Say?

    Good Apologetics Sites

    Check out these sites which provide good resources and articles on Christian apologetics:

    There are issues and then there are ISSUES

    Great analysis by Denny Burk on the idea of "Post-Partisan" Evangelicals:
    My concern with the post-partisanship of Jonathan Merritt is the message that it sends to ordinary evangelicals. When the ordinary evangelical steps into the voting booth this November, he will in fact have a choice to make. And that choice will involve prioritizing some issues over others. But I think Merritt disagrees. In his new book A Faith of Our Own, he writes:
    Evangelicals…often reduce the immense witness of the Scriptures to only a few culture-war issues—namely, abortion and gay marriage. Both are important issues deserving serious thought. The Scriptures speak often about life and sexuality. But they also regularly address poverty, equality, justice, peace, and care of God’s good creation.
    If Christians act as if the culture-war issues are the only issues or make them so paramount that they dwarf all others, we distill the limitless bounty of the Scriptures into a tiny cup of condensed political juice (p. 89).
    How is a reader to apply this reasoning when it comes to voting? Merritt seems to be saying that evangelicals need not prioritize ending the regime of Roe v. Wade in their exercise of the franchise. If that is the message he’s trying to send, I think he is dead wrong.

    When it comes to voting (which is the extent of political activism for most evangelicals), if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Merritt’s “post-partisan” approach causes the pro-life issue to get lost in the din of competing interests.

    Christians should cast a wary eye toward anyone who suggests that abortion-on-demand is just one among many social ills. In America, it is the single greatest human rights crisis of our time, and to overlook the fact that it is legal in all fifty states to kill a person at any time from 0-9 months gestation is unconscionable.

    Abortion definitely deserves more than “serious thought” in the voting booth. It deserves priority.
    Read Denny's entire post HERE.

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    The Necessity of Affliction

    Scripture teaches us that afflictions and trials are a necessary part of the Christian Pilgrimage. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages believers to stand firm for the Lord, reminding them, 'For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake' (1:29). He connects belief in Christ with suffering for Christ, seeing them both as gifts granted to the church. In the epistle to the Romans, Paul says we are adopted as children of God, making us coheirs with Christ, but our inheritance in glory is conditional on our suffering with Christ, but our inheritance in glory in conditional on our suffering with Christ in this life. He writes, 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together' (8:16-17)...

    Suffering is to be expected, not only as part of our human experience, but also as part of our Christian pilgrimage heavenward. Our suffering, whether a direct result of our faith and defense of the cause of Christ, or something we bear as part of the fallen world, should not surprise us. However, because we are Christians, and therefore heirs of the promises of God, our trials and afflictions have a different purpose - they sanctify us within the grand scheme of God's redemption of our souls.

    Afflictions are the instruments by which God, as Master Carpenter shapes and conforms us to Christ's image (Rom 8:28-29). They are the means by which God completes the good work He began in us (Phil 1:6-7). They are occasions for our faith to grow in steadfastness and maturity (James 1:2-4). They are the means by which God exposes our sin to lead us to repentance (Job 42:3b, 5-6) and to reveal our hearts (Gen 22:1, 12). And they are necessary goads sent to test the genuineness of our faith and prepare us for the return of Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7; Matt 10:22b).

    It is thus foolish for us to think we can avoid trials, difficulties, and affliction as Christians. Why would we want to? If they serve such an important purpose within God's plan of redemption, we cannot afford to live without them. Indeed, we should prefer to live with them. That is what the apostle concluded when he realized how much his trials had benefited him. He says, 'Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor 12:9b-10).
    From Living By God's Promises by Joel Beeke & James A. LaBelle