Friday, July 31, 2009
Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has not created me a woman, a Gentile, or a slave.
Saul of Tarsus probably would have learned this prayer as a boy, and prayed it regularly. Yet in Acts 16 we see him ministering to a woman (Lydia), a slave (the servant girl whose owners used her fortune-telling to gain great wealth for themselves), and a Gentile (the Philippians jailer).
The Gospel had broken his prejudice; he later wrote in Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
That's a mighty Gospel!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It will be interesting to see how the Phillies handle this kind of pressure. Last year they had a nice team, but no one really expected them to win the World Series. Most 'experts' saw last year's run as a fluke, and gave the Phillies little/no chance of repeating as champs.
That's changed with the addition of Lee. A lot of people are saying they're the cream of the crop in the NL, with a good chance to win the whole thing again. But the pressure of high expectations can undo a team who isn't accustomed to that kind of pressure. At least so says the only professional athlete who I know personally. I tend to think he's right.
So I will be interested to see how the Phillies handle their great expectations. I sure hope they can pull off a second straight championship, which hasn't been done by a National League team since before I was born.
Who's got predictions?
John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, page 15.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
"No one from Chick-fil-A put me up to this little commercial. I just thought it worth pointing out how a little kindness can go a long way, not to mention the kindness of God's common grace. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. And everyone can eat at Chick-fil-A."
Your glorious cause, O God, engages our hearts
May Jesus Christ be known wherever we are
We ask not for ourselves, but for Your renown
The cross has saved us so we pray
Your kingdom come
A friend of mine made an interesting observation about the last part of this verse. Kauflin writes that the cross has saved us, but that isn't exactly the case, is it? It was the broken, bloody, body of Jesus Christ, slain as a substitute for sinners, that saves us. I know the folks at Sovereign Grace believe and cherish this wholeheartedly. So I wonder why they decided to write this song as they did.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Using the relationship of Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson, Mahaney quotes Holmes' famous line, 'You see, but you do not observe.' Watson had seen the steps that led up from the hall to the room they were standing in. He had seen the steps several hundred times. But when Holmes asked the simple question, 'How many steps are there?', Watson didn't have a clue.
Sherlock Holmes cared. Observation was a critical tool of his trade. It's critical for us as well as we examine the subject of small groups. You see, too many of us view small groups the way Watson viewed the staircase. We see but we don't observe. We attend a group without understanding its real purpose. We fail to understand why our small group exists.
I think this is a wise, accurate, and sad assessment. Too many people join small groups because they are told it's an important thing to do. But they aren't told why it's important, and they have never thought about it themselves. I know I've been guilty of that myself. As a result, attitudes toward the small group often become indifferent once the initial excitement of a new endeavor wears off. The group stagnates, and eventually dies a slow and painful death.
Having studied Scripture, I am convinced that small groups are in invaluable component of life in the Church. So I am eager to go through the study to see what fruit it bears in my own life and the life of our group.
As I read it, though, I noticed that a few of the characteristics of the Emergent Church also characterize me to some extent. For instance:
I do like and listen to some Of U2's music (though not in church)
I have read and enjoyed a book by N.T. Wright (though I didn't agree with the whole thing)
I think poverty, oppression and racism and AIDS are more pressing political issues than gay-marriage.
There have been a few services in our church where candles have been used.
I think that being the Church is more important than going to church (and I'm not discouraging anyone from going to church!)
It does bug me a bit when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us (at least as our final, ultimate state)
So according to Kevin DeYoung, I'm a tiny bit emergent (though most of the stuff in his tortuously long sentence does not describe me).
My question is: is it a bad thing to be a little bit emergent? Is there any redeeming value to the emergent movement, or should the whole thing be dismissed without further thought?
Monday, July 27, 2009
I'm especially fond of the last verse:
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
You started off telling each other everything. Time flew by when you were together...But now you have nothing to say to each other. The intimacy and trust you once enjoyed are gone -- replaced by bickering, long silences, and hurried conversations about your schedules.
Powlison suggests that three simple questions can be used to connect with your spouse regularly and deepen your relationship:
1. What are your present burdens?If you're struggling to connect with your spouse, give these questions a try and let me know how it goes.
The Bible tells us that we are born for trouble (Job 5:7). So what is the trouble? A sin? A responsibility? An issue at work? A particular conflict? What weighs you down? What was your lowlight of this day? These burdens are the “heat of life.”
2. What are your present joys?
What were your highlights from the day? Was there a moment that brought you pleasure? What are you grateful for?
3. What is your purpose?
This could include the mundane tasks, or broader life-purpose questions. What are your duties for this day? What's on your mind? What do you need to do? What are your goals for this day, week, or year?
Watching Tebow zip passes into the seams of opposing defenses, lower his shoulder in short yardage and exhort his teammates like King Henry V on St. Crispin's Day, one might think that he was put on this earth just to run coach Urban Meyer's spread offense.
Watching him pace the floor of a gymnasium packed with 660 wayward men hanging on his every syllable is to realize that regardless of what position Tebow eventually plays in the NFL, and for how long, the football phase of his life is merely a means to a greater end.
Friday, July 24, 2009
“The object of the work of redemption is not limited to the salvation of individual sinners, but extends itself to the redemption of the world, and to the organic reunion of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ as their original head.
The final outcome of the future, foreshadowed in the Holy Scriptures, is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls, but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all under the renewed heaven on the renewed earth.”
—Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson 2008), 105-106
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as "Born-again/Evangelical".
I take this to mean that no matter how much Christians lament the election of Obama as a serious setback in the cause of protecting the unborn, there is a more serious threat than the liberal political agenda. According to these stats, left-leaning, secular, irreligious people are not the main problem in protecting the unborn; the Churched are the bigger problem.
How tragic. Pastors (of which I am one) will give an account.
People are like bagels: many varieties, but basically they are all good.
This may be a fine description of a bagel, but a quote like this makes you wonder what world the person who said this is living in. Can anyone watch the evening news for 5 minutes and honestly conclude that all people are basically good?
Einstein does make some pretty good bagels. But I'd suggest they stick to bagel-making, and leave philosophizing about human nature to someone else.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Here's the beginning:
Two sports events this weekend, one seen across the globe, the other far more mundane, provided me with an opportunity to teach my six-year-old son a crucial lesson in biblical manhood.
Read the rest here.
UPDATE: A reader of this blog emailed me a good article by Rick Reilly of espn.com addressing the same issue written about here. No talk about a biblical manhood in Reilly's piece, but an interesting look at Tiger Woods' childishness on the course.
The purpose of redemption is not to help individuals escape the world. It is about the
coming of God's kingdom to renew it. God’s purpose is not only to save individuals, but also to
make a new world based on justice, peace, and love, rather than on power, strife, and
selfishness. If God is so committed to this that he suffered and died, surely Christians should also
seek a society based on God’s peace and love.
Thoughts? Agree, disagree, or indifferent?
(I don't understand the strange breaks in the formatting of this quote as it appears on the blog. I guess copy and paste doesn't always mean copy and paste?)
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
To make our drive fruitful, I had printed off this do-it-yourself marriage retreat from the 9marks website. On the ride home, Michelle and I discussed some of the questions and gained some good insights.
For those who are married, I think that working through this lengthy list of questions would be greatly profitable.
But at the lowest pit of her illness, Halle ended up blessing Michelle and me in a huge way. I think it was Wednesday, and Michelle and I were both struggling pretty bad with how this week was playing out. We had serious doubts that we were going to get up to State College for a wedding on Saturday. And we were, quite honestly, none too happy about it. As Halle was sitting in her seat eating a snack, she pointed to the wall and said, 'Daddy, read.'
The frame she pointed to said the following (which I have posted here before):
"Surely if He would not spare His own Son one stroke, one tear, one groan, one sigh, one circumstance of misery, it can never be imagined that ever He should, after this, deny or withold from His people, for whose sakes all this was suffered, any mercies, any comforts, any privilege, spiritual or temporal, which is good for them."
She has pointed to that frame many times, but it had been a couple of months since she had done so. What timing! It was just what I needed to hear. We had thought our vacation was going to be a time of comfort and relaxation, but it wasn't. Yet Halle's pointer finger and sick little voice saying, 'Daddy, read,' was God's way of reminding me that God would not withold ANY comfort from me and Michelle that was good for us. And the rock-solid foundation of this promise was the death of His beloved Son for our sins. If a comfortable vacation is what we had needed, then God would have granted it. He didn't, so obviously it wasn't what was best for us.
So thanks, Halle, for reminding your daddy of some precious truth about our Savior. I hope in the years to come, I'll teach her the very same truth!
Monday, July 20, 2009
Hard to believe that it was just a week ago that I wrote those words. Our week of vacation was anything but refreshing. Yet God was at work teaching me in the midst of it. On Monday, my first day of vacation, I read these words from Job 4, spoken by Eliphaz to Job:
4 Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. 5 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.
Eliphaz is saying, 'You have all the right words to comfort those who are in affliction, but now that the tables have turned on you, you aren't heeding your own advice.' These were challenging words to me. I can speak at length about the sovereignty of God, and God's loving purposes in suffering. But do I heed my own advice when some trouble comes my way?
I had a test in this during my vacation week, as I had to deal with some small pain, not nearly the magnitude that I have helped others through: sickness. Halle was the worst-hit, having pink eye in both eyes and ear infections in both ears. But Felicity got a cold too, and then Michelle and I got it from them later in the week. Between dealing with our sick kids and struggling with our own colds, it was not a fun week. A few times, I felt compelled to take the advice of this 'stress reduction kit'!
But I was grateful that at the beginning of that week, God knew I would need a reminder to heed my own advice. While I had moments during the week in which I struggled, this passage of Scripture was a comfort and a help. His lesson was clear:
To counsel others, you need to start by taking your own advice.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The moving pregame segment on 'All Stars Among Us,' which highlighted 30 individuals who have sacrificed selflessly for the good of their communities, was followed immediately by a commercial for an E-Class Mercedes, the cheapest of which go for $50,000-plus.
Monday, July 13, 2009
I'll be on vacation this week, and I promised Michelle that I would stay off email and the internet this week. So no blogging or twitter for me.
If you read this, I'd value your prayers that Michelle and I would have a refreshing time together and with our girls.
Lord willing, I'll resume blogging a week from today.
Yes, we're focusing on Calvin a lot this year in commemoration of his 500th birthday, but it's not for the sake of Calvin. Being a Christian doesn't mean ignoring everything but God; it means celebrating God and each of his good gifts—whether it's a meal, a family, or a 500-year-old reformer.
If we tried to listen to God or admire God at the expense of listening to or admiring what he's given us, then we would miss out on much of what God has for us. We should be deeply thankful for what God has given us, and that means we're going to think about these gifts and talk about them.I think this is great advice. There have been times when some loving friends have spoken to me of the danger of emphasizing the New Heavens and the New Earth, because it could make some people excited about the wrong things. People might just use God in order to get His gifts.
This is a legitimate concern, and a real danger for God's people. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that cherishing all of God's gifts is the way to most fully honor Him. He has promised us some extraordinary things in the resurrection, and we do well to contemplate and look forward to them.
My prayer for myself and those who read the blog is that we would love and enjoy all the good things God has given to us, but that most deeply we would love God for who He is in Himself.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
But it's hard to get frustrated with Hamels. Even if he was terrible for the rest of his career (which he won't be), what he did last October has made him a Phillies legend and fan-favorite. I'm glad to have him on my team, for sure. But as I watched the second inning last night I thought to myself, 'Man, this guy is inconsistent!'
And right at that moment, I found myself marveling at the greatness of Jesus Christ. Cole's greatness comes and goes, game by game it seems, even inning by inning. But Jesus Christ is infinitely great and admirable, every second of every day from all eternity:
'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever' (Hebrews 13:8).
I have confidence that Cole will turn it around. But I have infinitely greater confidence in Jesus, who is a steady rock for His people each and every day: yesterday, today and forever.
(Why should we groan?)
Friday, July 10, 2009
"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now."
John Piper comments:
What he says here is that the upheavals of creation are like labor pains during the last stages of pregnancy. In other words, something is about to be brought forth from creation, not in place of creation. Creation is not going to be annihilated and recreated with no continuity. The earth is going to bring forth like a mother in labor (through the upheavals of fire and earthquake and volcanoes and pestilence and famine) a new earth.
Jesus used the same imagery of labor pains when he said (in Matthew 24:7-8), "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs."
This earth is like a mother about to give birth to a new earth where righteousness dwells and where God reigns in the midst of his people.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
That such a celebration goes on annually, while on the same day millions of children cry themselves to sleep for lack of the most basic nourishment and clean water, has to be an indication that something is profoundly broken in this world.
But one day justice will roll down like waters...
(Why should we groan?)
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The Roman (Catholic) view of justification starts with baptism. The benefits that accrue from baptism can be lost by committing mortal sin, but they can be recovered by penance. The regained justification lasts until another mortal sin is committed, and the cycle repeats. According to the Roman view, a believer's destiny is determined by the purity of his heart at the time of his death. Even if the believer does not die in a state of impenitent mortal sin, there may be impurities on the soul, necessitating purgatory until the impurities are cleansed...
The soul of the believer may be in purgatory for only a week if he or she is near to sainthood, but more likely the believer will remain there for several hundred years -- perhaps even two million, three million, or four million years -- until, in that place of purging, the believer is so cleansed from impurities that finally, when God looks at him or her, he sees an inherent righteousness."
According to Sproul, all this is presented in the most recent Roman Catholic catechism.
I can't imagine hearing worse news than this. The Church dealt with this bad news 2000 years ago in Acts 15, a passage I'll have the privilege of preaching on this Sunday. Their conclusion:
"Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."
In other words: when Jesus said, 'It is finished!', He meant it.
Now that is good news!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
In a sermon preached in 1740, Jonathan Edwards distinguished between two kinds of prayer: prayer for temporal blessings (food, clothing, health, career success, etc.), and prayer for spiritual blessings (growth in holiness, God's love shed abroad in our hearts, having the light of God's face shining upon us).
Edwards says that almost everyone seeks the former with great frequency and fervency. When we have a physical need, we are quick to pray, and passionate in our praying. But when it comes to praying for the Spirit, for seeking a deeper love for Christ and a sweeter grasp of what it means to be God's child, we pray infrequently and often are passionless when we do pray.
According to Edwards, the fact that we pray so much more instinctively and passionately for money, health, family, social status, etc. more than we pray for the glory of God to shine upon us and others, reveals what our hearts really love most deeply.
In other words, if you want to know your heart's deepest treasure, take a close look at your prayer life. What you pray for most passionately is what you love most deeply. And what you love most deeply is your real god, no matter who you are actually praying to.
That was a challenging word for me today, but one I am grateful to God for.
If you burn a copy of this onto a blank DVD and give it to a friend, you are subject to five years imprisonment:
But if you get pregnant and 8 months later you decide that you don't want this, you can pay someone to kill it and be celebrated for your bravery in exercising your freedom to choose:
What does this say about what we value as a nation? And how long can a nation whose values are so grossly out of whack continue to thrive?
Monday, July 6, 2009
Heaven is the place that we are just "passing through" from this earth to the new earth.
That's an interesting way of thinking about our final state; thoughts?
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Supporters of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya clash with soldiers near the presidential residency Tegucigalpa, Monday, June 29. 2009. Police fired tear gas to hold back thousands of Hondurans outside the occupied presidential residency as world leaders from Barack Obama to Hugo Chavez appealed to Honduras to reverse a coup that ousted the president.
A demonstrator lies on the street, asking for help during clashes between supporters of Manuel Zelaya and soldiers and policemen in Tegucigalpa on June 29, 2009.
(Why should we groan?)
I'm hoping that a cloud of witnesses will keep me running with endurance to the finish line:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Friday, July 3, 2009
I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”
To which I respond:
The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.
So I am not inclined to tweet that at 10AM the cat pulled the curtains down. But it might remind me that the Lion of Judah will roll up the heavens like a garment, and blow out the sun like a candle, because he just turned the light on. That tweet might distract someone from pornography and make them look up...
I pray that's why I tweet too.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
This morning I wrote, 'No'. But I had a change of heart. On Twitter, I'll write (in 140 characters or less) what God is showing me in His Word. That way, anyone who wants to follow me will know if, or what, I've been reading. As I thought about it, communicating important truths with brevity is a valuable discipline. Here's an example:
Rev.9:6 - Torment so fierce that people will long to die but won't be able to; astonishing that Jesus bore this for me on the cross!
Time will tell whether 'tweeting' becomes a priority. For now, you can follow me here, or follow my Twitter updates on the sidebar of this blog.
So today, weeks after the contest was closed, I signed on to Twitter to give it a try. Here's what I came up with:
Sin severed us from God and ruined the good world He made. Jesus died and rose to save all who believe and one day will make all things new.
I tried to weave the individual salvation story of God, sin, Christ and faith, along with the overarching biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, restoration. But it's hard to capture all that in 140 characters!
How did I do? Don't be polite; be honest! And let me know how you'd 'tweet' the Gospel.
(By the way, don't count on many twitter updates from me. When I want to write something it usually takes more than 140 characters, so I write it here.)
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Then-president Richard Nixon, on previously unreleased White House tapes, reacting to the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
I'm not sure which is more offensive: Nixon's disregard for the preciousness of human life, or his racism. I suppose they're both equally saddening.
This year our church has been studying the book of Acts, which we started the first week in January and will conclude towards the end of November. We are not taking a break from the series during the summer.
So what do you think? Should the preaching team have suspended our lengthy series until September? Your answer won't change what we do this year, since the schedule is already set. But it might influence how we think about this in the future.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think...