Monday, August 31, 2009

Biblical Worship

I have told my church on many occasions that I love singing with them. Yesterday was another reminder of that. Singing the praises of our great God and Savior with these brothers and sisters is one of my greatest joys.

But singing is not the only aspect of a biblical worship experience. In addition to singing, here are some biblical exhortations that could inform our practice in worship:

"Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!" (Psalm 95:6)

"Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!" (Psalm 134:2)

"Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!" (Psalm 47:1)

"Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!" (Psalm 33:1)

"Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!" (Psalm 149:3)

"Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!" (Psalm 33:8)

All these exhortations are made to people who did not yet know the riches of God's love revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. So those of us living on this side of the cross and empty tomb have far more reason to worship than these Old Testament saints.

If the Holy Spirit truly is inhabiting our corporate worship each Sunday morning, should we be seeing more of these manifestations of joy and passion on a regular basis? If we should, why aren't we?

I hope the answer is not that we've established an unwritten rule that you are allowed to clap and raise your hands during times of singing, but if you do anything else you're a little too weird for our liking. If that is so (and as I said, I hope it's not), may these verses be used to inform our thinking about these things.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Life Look

From Arthur Bennett's collection of puritan prayers, valley of vision:

O God,


I bless thee for the happy moment
when I first saw thy love fulfilled in Christ;
wrath appeased, death destroyed, sin forgiven,
my soul saved.
Ever since, thou hast been faithful to me:
daily have I proved the power of Jesus‘ blood,
daily have I known the strength on the Spirit,
my teacher, director, sanctifier.
I want no other rock to build upon than that I have,
desire no other hope than that of gospel truth,
need no other look than that which gazes
on the cross.
Forgive me if I have tried to add anything
to the one foundation,
if I have unconsciously relied upon my knowledge,
experience, deeds, and not seen them
as filthy rags,
if I have attempted to complete what is perfect
in Christ;
May my cry be always, Only Jesus! only Jesus!
In him is freedom from condemnation,
fullness in his righteousness,
eternal vitality in his given life,
indissoluble union in fellowship with him;
In him I have all that I can hold;
enlarge me to take in more.
If I backslide,
let me like Peter weep bitterly and return to him;
If I am tempted, and have no wit,
give me strength enough to trust in him;
If I am weak,
may I faint upon his bosom of eternal love;
If in extrremity,
let me feel that he can deliver me;
If driven to the verge of hope and to the pit
of despair,
grant me grace to fall into his arms.
O God, hear me, do for me more
than I ask, think or dream.

Friday, August 28, 2009

C.J. Mahaney Videos Available

I'm thrilled to see that Sovereign Grace Ministries has posted some videos of various sermons preached by C.J. Mahaney over the years. It's a treat to hear Mahaney, but I think his passion for God and compassion for people is so much more powerful when viewed as opposed to listened to.

Especially exciting was seeing this message posted from the 2007 Leadership Conference titled Trinitarian Pastoral Ministry. I was in attendance when Mahaney preached this, and I have shared with many people how a certain portion of this message (beginning at 21:00, until 25:30) has changed my entire life and ministry from that night on.

One of the highlights of being at Worship God 09 earlier this month was having the chance to tell C.J. in person the dramatic impact his words have had on my life and ministry.

If you have a chance to watch this, I highly recommend it:

Trinitarian Pastoral Ministry from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.

Law & Gospel

"Run John, run," the law demands
But gives neither feet nor hands.
Far better news the Gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

John Bunyan

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Creation's Song

A verse from from Creation Sings the Father's Song, off of Keith & Kristyn Getty's new CD, Awaken the Dawn:

Creation longs for His return,
When Christ shall reign upon the earth;
The bitter wars that rage
Are birth pains of a coming age.
When He renews the land and sky,
All heav'n will sing and earth reply
With one resplendent theme: The glories of our God and King!

A beautiful, poetic expression of one of the great truths that informs the title of this blog, Redemption Groanings:

The entire creation is groaning in the pains of the childbirth, longing for the time when it will be set free from its bondage to decay and enter the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Maranatha, come Lord Jesus! And until You do, grant Your people to be strengthened with hope in singing songs like this.

Passion for God; what is it?

In the book Why Small Groups?, Greg Somerville writes:

The single greatest contribution you can make to a group is your own passionate pursuit of God.

With that in view, Somerville asks the following question in the discussion portion of the chapter:

How would you rate your passion for God at this time? (1 = ice cold, 10 = red hot)

As I thought about this question and brought it up in our group the other night, one response was: what exactly is "passion for God"? I think that is an insightful question. Christians often speak about having a passion for God, being "on fire", or lacking passion for God. But what exactly does that mean?

I suggested that passion for God is summed up by Paul's words in Philippians 1:21:

For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

To be a "10" with passion for God is, in my estimation, being so zealous for God that you regard dying (and all you stand to lose in dying) as gain, because in dying you gain Christ. When Christ is that valuable that you are able to look joyfully at the prospect of losing all to gain Him, you're red hot in your passion for God.

At least that's my thought. What does everyone else think? How would you define "passion for God" if someone asked you what that meant?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why I blog

In a post on the Desiring God blog awhile back, Abraham Piper gave 6 reasons why pastors should blog. This one especially resonates with me: To develop and eye for what is meaningful. Piper writes:

For good or ill, most committed bloggers live with the constant question in their mind: Is this bloggable? This could become a neurosis, but I’ll put a positive spin on it: It nurtures a habit of looking for insight and wisdom and value in every situation, no matter how mundane.

If you live life looking for what is worthwhile in every little thing, you will see more of what God has to teach you. And the more he teaches you, the more you can teach others. As you begin to be inspired and to collect ideas, you will find that the new things you’ve seen and learned enrich far more of your life than just your blog.

This is the kind of person I long to be: one who looks for what is worthwhile in every little thing, and thus sees what God has to teach me in those little things. May all of us, whether we blog or not, labor to glean wisdom and insight from every situation, even the mundane.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Job's Lesson

He is not poor nor much enticed

Who loses everything but Christ.

It won't be long before the rod

Becomes the tender kiss of God.

John Piper

Monday, August 24, 2009

What the Church Ought to Be

A quote from Kevin DeYoung in the book Why We're Not Emergent:

Emergent Christians need to catch Jesus' broader vision for the church -- His vision for a church that is intolerant of error, maintains moral boundaries, promotes doctrinal integrity, stands strong in times of trial, remains vibrant in times of prosperity, believes in certain judgment and certain reward, even as it engages the culture, reaches out, loves and serves. We need a church that reflects the Master's vision -- one that is deeply theological, deeply ethical, deeply compassionate, and deeply doxological.

Churches like this are becoming increasingly rare in this nation. Yet this is Jesus' vision for His Church, the Church that He shed His blood to save and purify. Let's strive with all His strength to be that Church.

(If you're unfamiliar with the Emergent Church, here is a helpful message delivered by Justin Taylor which gives a concise summary of the movement and some of its dangers.)

It hasn't happened in over 80 years...that makes it worthy of a blog post

An unassisted triple play ends yesterday's Phillies-Mets game. Before it happened, I was sure this was going to be another opportunity to thank God for Brad Lidge's sanctifying work in my life:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Don't forget to groan, 8/23

Indian police use batons and their feet against government day laborers during a protest in Kashmir.

(Why should we groan?)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Only Hope

It hit me around ten minutes ago that I have absolutely nothing to say to a person in serious crisis apart from this:

God is good, and God is in absolute control.

If I could not say both of these things, I might as well just keep my mouth shut. But I can say it, because the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection are historical fact. And those historical events were planned by God in order to redeem the world.

If not for these truths, there would be NO hope for the hurting. There would be no hope for anyone.

But praise God, it is indeed true.

He is our only hope!

On dealing with doctrinal controversy

John Newton, former slave trader turned Christian pastor and hymn writer, obviously knew something about grace. His hymn, Amazing Grace, is probably the most famous hymn ever written.

As moving as that great hymn is, I think these words he wrote to a friend have had an even greater impact on me. Though he speaks of writing to an "opponent", I think his words are equally relevant for face-to-face conversation:

As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. . . .

[If he is a believer,] in a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. . . . [If he is an unconverted person,] he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! "He knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ.

That last line says it all. If we really believe that we only know what we know and believe what we believe because of the free mercy and grace of God in Christ, it will season the way we speak to and think about those who don't believe what we believe. And that is so whether the "opponent" is a believer or an unbeliever.

May all God's people exude such charity and humility with those we disagree with.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Even an atheist would have to admit this is an...interesting...coincidence

John Piper:

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, "That looks serious."

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected...a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they've never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday...during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it's building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA's printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: "Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality." The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown. The time: 2PM. The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what's left of the steeple in two...and then lifts.

What might this mean? Read the rest of Piper's article for his Bible-based conclusions.

Twitter can breed narcissism, but it doesn't HAVE to

A tweet from Noel Piper that ought to humble man and provoke great thoughts of God and His grace:

Autistic boy's mom re grace: When I scraped my son's feces off the wall, God said, "Your sin was more repulsive and I cleaned you."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How did we get our Bible, and has it been changed?

Justin Taylor:

If you're looking for a good introductory answer to this question (in 12 pages), here's a helpful presentation by Matt Harmon, delivered at the No Doubt Apologetics Conference in Indianapolis.

I haven't read this yet, but with the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible constantly under attack, it looks like this is a valuable resource for Christians to familiarize themselves with.

What the heavens are telling

(Click photo to enlarge)

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

A tribute to Roi

I know Gerry says that Jeff Coffin is a better sax player, but I love the saxophone because of this man:

He passed away a year ago today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What to pray for (on vacation and any other time)

When I wrote the post this morning on making prayer a part of vacation, I was reminded of this list compiled by John Piper entitled: What Should we Pray for? In it, he lists all the things that the New Testament Church prayed for.

If you ever get to pray and after two minutes wonder what in the world you ought to be praying for, this is a valuable resource.

Good advice for vacations

'Tis the season for vacations, and from reading the Gospels, it seems like this is not a subject Jesus is silent on. In Luke 5:16 we're told of Jesus,

"But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray."

So Jesus is pro vacation. That is, He often withdraws to desolate places for times of rest and refreshment. But what does He do for refreshment? It wasn't just board games and movies for Jesus; He prays. This is true rest for the soul.

Don't get me wrong, I think God takes pleasure when His people enjoy all the good gifts He has given (including board games!). But if you've got a vacation coming, look at Christ's example and make some extra time in prayer a priority.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good Message...Poor Delivery

I created a YouTube account today just to leave a comment on this guy's video:

Here's what I wrote to him:

I wholeheartedly agree with your message, but it's lacking one thing:


Do something about abortion without having to vote for a political candidate

I received this email last week from Stephen Clark, of the organization Project Ultrasound:

Recently I was contacted by the director of Heartbeat of Fremont, OH. Located in a small town just west of Cleveland, this crisis pregnancy center has been serving their community for 36 years, providing various services to women contemplating abortion, to help them see that they have other options, and there is help available.

Heartbeat is moving to a larger facility and wants to purchase an ultrasound but financially it is going to be a huge struggle. They ran into our ministry, and asked if there was anything we could do.
What we want to do is mobilize as much financial support as we can to pass along to Heartbeat of Fremont.

So my question to you is, would you make a small sacrifice for this city and for the women and unborn children who very well may see life, if their mother's could have an opportunity to see them?

No donation is too small, right now if everyone on our members list donated just $10 we would blow the top off of our fundraising goal and have money left over for the next center in need.

If you'd like to donate or learn more about why Project Ultrasounds exists, click here.

(By the way, that's my daughter Felicity in the picture...NOT a collection of cells with the potential for life)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I wish the sky looked like this where I live...

Can't help but think of these words from the Psalmist:

He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.

Don't marvel at the beauty of the night sky; marvel at the Maker of the night sky. The heavens are declaring HIS glory!

Enough Already, Brad...I've learned my lesson!!

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

(Repeat as many times as needed...)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

There are third chances with Jesus

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie on giving Michael Vick a second chance:

"There's no third chances and we know that. If it isn't fulfilled the way we expect it to be, then it will be the end."

Thankfully, this is not how Jesus deals with us. For if all Jesus purchased for us was a second chance, we'd condemn ourselves again in a matter of seconds. But commenting on how many chances we're to give someone, Jesus says:

"I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."

If that seems ludicrous, you need to grasp these words with both head and heart.

(Thus concludes my Michael Vick reporting...I think)

Built on Redemption

Eagles cornerback Quinton Demps, on the signing of Michael Vick:

"This society's built on redemption. Everybody deserves a second chance. We shouldn't sit here and throw the book at everyone. I'm not condoning anything he did. But he paid his debt. He made a terrible mistake. Now it's time to move on."

I love it! This society is built on redemption. Actually, the whole universe is built on redemption, thanks to God's eternal plan through Jesus Christ. If the signing of Michael Vick gets people talking about redemption, then I'm all for the signing of Michael Vick. We who are in Christ have a lot to say about the subject of redemption, don't we?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jesus speaks to Michael Vick haters

Reading the indignation of some of my facebook friends about the signing of Michael Vick has been interesting. I think if Jesus were among us, He might say something along these lines to those who think Michael Vick is a despicable person who doesn't deserve to ever touch a football again:

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Yes, Michael Vick did something awful. I am not trying to minimize that in any way. But Jesus seems to suggest that there is more hope for Michael Vick than for the self-righteous who stick their noses up at people like Michael Vick.

Let's do well to give heed to the words of Jesus, friends. Perhaps the blurry guy to the right of Vick (Tony Dungy) has reached out to Vick because he's reflected long and hard on Jesus' parable. Therefore, knowing his own wickedness, Dungy refuses to condemn a person whose moral character is lacking.

Tony Dungy believes the Gospel; do we?

Cinnamon Muffins, Sin and the Glory of God

On Monday we took the girls out to the Mall to kill some time, and Michelle got a cup of coffee at My Favorite Muffin in the food court. While I was waiting there, I saw one of the muffins was called 'Sinful Cinnamon'. I've noticed this before: food products (especially chocolate and desserts) using the word 'sinful' to market their product (I had to use a picture from cinnabon, though, because their pictures look a lot better!).

The marketers seem to be saying, 'This muffin is so good, so satisfying, so pleasure-producing, that it just has to be sinful!' What a woefully inadequate understanding of both sin and God. God is for pleasure; He created it. The pleasure of enjoying a cinnamon muffin is not sinful (though it could be), but rather is a little taste intended to point us to the One who is the perfection of all pleasure, the One who beckons all people to this feast:

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isaiah 55:1-2)

The next time you eat a cinnamon muffin, a chocolate cupcake, or any other kind of 'rich food', enjoy that pleasure not as an end itself, but as a pointer to the One in whose presence is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

He is preparing a great feast for His people. And there's nothing sinful about that!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are the Eagles just looking for some attention?

I'm not a big Eagles fan, but my jaw about hit the floor when I saw this picture on

Can anyone explain this move, other than the suggestion I made in the title of this post?

The Devil's Missionaries

"If we don't jostle people's assurance when they're not saved, we send them to hell."

John Piper

A Gospel Witness at Wrigley Field

This guy threw a beer at Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino last night, then stood by and watched as another fan who was misidentified as the beer thrower was removed from the ballpark (You can watch the video here; the 'commentary' is goofy, but this is the best video I could find of it).

By the time security saw the TV replay and realized the man they had removed was the wrong guy, the beer thrower had left his seat and could not be found.

This incident ought to move us to worship, because it's a parable of the greatest (true) story in the history of the universe. A guilty man escapes judgment as an innocent substitute takes the punishment that he deserved. This is the Gospel.

Only in the Gospel, the innocent Man willingly takes the punishment for the guilty. The wrath-bearing substitute at Wrigley field last night was an accident; the cops made a mistake. They're trying to find the right guy and punish him. But the death of Jesus Christ was no accident; it was a sacrifice of love to rescue guilty sinners like you, me and the beer-throwing Cubs fan. Because of that death, all who believe need not fear that the Judge will come looking for us. We are justified, forever.

What a joy that in the midst of the good news of a Phillies win, there are precious reminders of the Good News of the glory of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is an egomaniac

In Piper's first talk at Worship God 09 last week, he mentioned these words from Jesus in Matthew 10:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

As I listened to Piper, I was overwhelmed by this thought: Could anyone else on the planet get away with saying something like this, and actually be admired and adored by millions of people?

Imagine Oprah Winfrey saying on her show: If you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of me. Or Barack Obama, or Michael Jordan, or Madonna, or anyone. They would be laughed at. And if they persisted to the point that people actually thought they were serious, they'd be hated, mocked and ridiculed.

Yet Jesus said just this: If you don't love me more than everything and everyone, you are an evil person who is unworthy of being in my presence. Yet here we are, a couple of thousand years after anyone has seen Him on earth, and millions of people around the world adore Him and sing of how great and beautiful and loving He is every day.

Could this be an indication that Jesus is somebody extraordinary? Someone a little more impressive than just 'a good man'? Someone worth expending all your energies to get to know?

There is no one like Jesus!

(Clarification: I don't really believe Jesus is an egomaniac; I am simply saying that based on a lot of what He said, it seems like He was an egomaniac)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Giving Correction

"The reprover should have a lion's stout heart, or he will not be faithful, and a lady's soft hand, or he is not likely to be successful."

George Swinnock

Worship God 09 in Pictures

For those who want to know what I was up to last week, here's a slide show put together by someone from the conference.

The Biggest Mystery in the Universe

When those with a man-centered worldview see pictures like this (of Typhoon Morakot, which has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and taken many lives), they ask:

How could a good God treat people like this? (see comment #111 at the above link for an example)

But that is not the biggest mystery in the universe. Those with a God-centered worldview ask a totally different question:

How could a good God not treat all people like this?

For those who are thinking God's thoughts, this is the biggest mystery in the universe. If you've never been perplexed by this, you've not thought seriously enough about God or yourself.

For those who are curious, The Apostle Paul answers the riddle in Romans 3:25-26.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Gospel & The Poor

Here's a 73-minute talk that Tim Keller gave a few weeks ago on the theme The Gospel and the Poor (If you can't see the video, click here). Keller's address is the first 45 minutes of the video, with the rest being Q & A.

I was deeply stirred and convicted as I watched Keller fly through the Bible's storyline to show the importance of caring for the physical needs of the poor and the oppressed. If anyone watches it (and I hope you will!!), let me know what you think.

Tim Keller: The Gospel and the Poor: A Case for Compassion from Here's Life Inner City on Vimeo.

Atheists must rejoice when they pass by signs like this

A few months ago I came across this picture while surfing the web:

When Paul said that the word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, I don't think this is what he had in mind. His intention was not to say that faith in Jesus Christ is intellectually irrational. I know this because we're told throughout Acts that Paul went into synagogues and reasoned with people that Jesus had to be the Messiah (see Acts 17:2, 17 and 18:4 for a few examples). He did the same with non-believing skeptics (Acts 24:25).

Likewise, Peter specifically urges Christians to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in us when anyone asks (1 Peter 3:15). Our faith is rooted in the historical realities of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Certainly faith is required, but it is not blind, naive faith.

So why would a church want to promote what the atheists (wrongly) love to claim: that Christianity is only for buffoons who like to shut their brains off and not think rationally?

It seems to me that reason is not the greatest enemy of faith; that would be pride. I would suggest that it's more reasonable to believe in God than to disbelieve in Him.

Thoughts? Am I misunderstanding the point of this sign, or am I wrong in saying that the Christian faith is a reasonable one?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Worship God 09 Messages

All the main sessions from Worship God 09 have been posted on the Sovereign Grace website:

The God of Worship (John Piper)
Listen | Download

The Heart of Worship (John Piper)
Listen | Download

The Leaders of Worship (Jeff Purswell)
Listen | Download

The Church of Worship (Thabiti Anyabwile)
Listen | Download

Lessons Learned from Three Decades of Leading (C.J. Mahaney and Bob Kauflin)
Listen | Download

The Future of Worship (Bob Kauflin)
Listen | Download

Far better than a baseball game

Last week I received an email from a friend who asked me if I wanted to go to the Phillies game with him last Friday night. My first inclination was, 'Of course I want to go...too bad I'll be at Worship God 09!'

Of course, this is a very dumb inclination: 'Too bad I have to worship God with 2,000 other people and hear from two godly men (C.J. Mahaney and Bob Kauflin) talk about the lessons they've learned in leading their church in worship over the years...because I'd really like to go that baseball game.' What insanity!

This memory was in my mind as I left Covenant Life Church on Friday night. I had just experienced a tremendous night of worship, teaching and encouragement. We were led in worship by Bob Kauflin, along with a choir of 130 people. At times, the singing was so thunderous that I knew I was experiencing a foretaste of the worship that goes on even now around the throne of the Most High.

Then C.J. and Bob were interviewed by Jeff Purswell about their experiences leading worship and pastoring their church for more than a decade together. There was so much wisdom imparted in this hour-long interview that I'll need to listen to it many more times after it's posted on the web to glean all its treasures. It was both encouraging and convicting at the same time, and filled me with such a longing to serve our church more effectively.

Following the meeting, I had the chance to speak with C.J. for a few minutes and share with him how profoundly his message at the 2007 Leadership conference impacted me. It was in that message that Mahaney challenged pastors: 'Do your people know that every Sunday, no matter your text or topic, that you will bring them to the Cross and preach the Gospel?'

For me, the answer was no. But since that night, I have preached probably 80-90 times, and by God's grace I have not failed to preach the Gospel even one time. I told C.J. all that, and the impact that it has had personally and on our church to grow in our love for the Gospel of Christ. C.J. was so excited he gave me a fist bump...twice (his smile was probably about as big as this photo). Being able to encourage someone who has so extraordinary blessed me was a great blessing.

In addition to all that, I was able to share in this great evening with several others from our church who were likewise blessed and challenged.

So as I headed to the car on Friday night, I thought to myself, 'This was far better than a baseball game!' Even if Friday night had been the only session of Worship God 09, it would have been well worth the trip.

I'll post the audio when it's released, probably today or tomorrow.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Few verses sober me more than this one...

I have the privilege of being the pastor who does the majority of preaching in my church. This is very humbling, as we have several gifted and capable men who are competent for this responsibility.

In light of my responsibility, few passages of Scripture humble me and drive me to my knees like this one in James 3:

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness."

Pray for me, friends. Teaching God's Word to God's people is no small matter.

A new blog for the twitterly challenged

For those who care, I created a new blog to tweet my daily Bible meditations. For some reason I'm still unable to make posts on Twitter, so I'm doing what I was doing there at this new blog, which you can find here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Maybe the funniest sermon introduction I've ever heard

If you're not familiar with Mark Dever's ministry, it probably won't be as funny. But if you've heard him preach even a couple of times, this sermon introduction is absolutely hilarious.

This is Mark Dever like you've NEVER heard him before!

(And you'd do well in listening to the whole thing once you stop laughing; it's a terrific sermon!)

Daily Readings, 8/8

Still no success posting on Twitter (I think I'm the only person in the world still suffering from this crash the other day):

Job24:1- 'Why aren't times of judgment kept by the Almighty?' Careful what you ask for; If God marked iniquities, you wouldn't stand either.

Acts11:23- Like Barnabas, am I glad when I see evidences of God's grace? Or do I prefer to criticize people's remaining deficiencies?

Lk5:35- Fasting is a fruit of longing for Jesus' return, like going w/out food Thanksgiving morning b/c you know the great feast is coming.

1Chr28:9- 'The Lord searches all hearts & understands every plan & thought.' Now marvel: Seeing all that, He loves so much He dies for you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My tweets, 8/7

I can't seem to post anything on Twitter today. I can write up the posts, but when I hit update nothing seems to post (any other tweeters having this problem?). I have come to really love tweeting my Bible meditations, so here's what I read this morning:

Job23:12- 'I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food.' What do I really hunger for: a full belly, or the Bible?

Lk5:31- Only one thing is needed to be accepted by Jesus: awareness of your illness. Let's stop acting like we have it all together.

Acts 11:2- If religious people aren't critical of the places I go to do evangelism, should I be concerned?

Worship God 09 Update

After a good talk from Jeff Purswell last night, this morning we heard from Thabiti Anyabwile on the role and importance of the local church in worship. A couple of quotes that especially gripped me:

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 12 which speaks of the members of the church caring for one another: Every member ought to have a meaningful spiritual interaction with every other member. Is this your goal?

A man who loves God loves the Church, and is loved by the Church with the love of God.

In my opinion, Anyabwile's message is one that every churchgoer ought to listen to. I'll post it when it hits the web.

Horrifying words to hear

During his talk yesterday at Worship God 09, John Piper mentioned these words of Jesus in Matthew 15:

"You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

What a terrifying prospect: to hear Jesus Christ say that your worship is vain, hollow, empty, shallow, worthless. There may be lots of words, many songs, a lot of prayer and a biblically orthodox sermon. But if hearts are not engaged, we are not doing anything of value in God's sight.

Let it never be said of the worship services at Joy Community Fellowship, 'Your worship of Me is in vain.'

In order to never hear these words, we must fight hard for deep, heart-felt joy in Jesus.

May God be pleased to stir that in His people, at JCF and everywhere.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quotable Piper, #2

Some quotes from John Piper's second talk at Worship God 09:

Jesus is praised in death when He is prized above life.

Only God make profound satisfaction in Jesus happen. It’s out of our control—and most people like religion they can control.

One of the main things I have to teach young pastors is look for conjunctions and learn to understand them.

The sweetest moments in life are the ones when we’re so into Another that we forget ourselves altogether.

Another great message this morning, these two messages really capture the core of Piper's ministry. It was a joy to be reminded of these things, though I had heard them many times before.

UPDATE: You can listen to the message here:

My first purchase at Worship God 09

Last night I picked up the book Big Truths for Young Hearts, by Bruce Ware. I had read some glowing endorsements for the book, and when I saw it here I snatched one up right away. I look forward to using this book with Michelle to train our girls up in the knowledge of the Lord. It looks like an outstanding resource for parents with children of all ages.

The forward of the book is written by Ware's two daughters. And as I read the foreword, I was reminded of the awesome privilege I have in teaching my two daughters about the most important thing in the universe: God. I pray that God would use me to impart both teaching and passion for the greatness of God.

Quotable John Piper

Some of my favorite quotes from John Piper's talk last night at Worship God 09:

Galaxies are God's pinky-finger work; he was not tired when he finished.

The only eternal happiness for man is a happiness focused on the riches of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.

The cross marks the end of human self-exaltation & is the birth of radical human exultation in God's self-exaltation.

The cross is not a boost for self-esteem but the deepest, clearest declaraton of God's infinite esteem in his glory & Son.

And my personal favorite from night 1 was Piper's closing sentence:

When God's exaltation of God in Christ at the cross is your joy, your joy can never fail.

Overall, a great first night of the conference. Piper's address was classic Piper, basically saying that the foundation of knowing God rightly is knowing that His greatest commitment is to His own exaltation. And God's God-centeredness is infinitely loving, for it gives to us what is needed to make us eternally happy (His glory) at great cost to Himself (the death of His beloved Son).

I'll post the audio when it hits the web.

UPDATE: You can listen to this message here:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You know it's not your year when this type of thing happens...

I promise that I take no satisfaction in reporting this because it happens to involve the New York Mets:

NEW YORK -- Second baseman
Luis Castillo left the New York Mets' game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night with a sprained left ankle after he slipped and fell in the dugout.

Castillo grounded out leading off the seventh and was on his way back to the bench when he tumbled down the dugout steps and had to be helped up the tunnel by some teammates.

Perhaps the 2009 Mets are being used by God to help me apply this important lesson from Romans 12:

Weep with those who weep.

After all, Mets fans are people too, created in God's image just like us Phillies fans.

Worship God '09

Today I'm headed out with seven others from my church to Worship God 09 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I was quite blessed by the trip last year, and am looking forward to this year's conference. Here's a bit of the schedule for the next few days:

Wed. 7 PM - The God of Worship (John Piper)
Thurs. 9 AM - The Heart of Worship (John Piper)
Thurs. 7 PM - The Leaders of Worship (Jeff Purswell)
Fri. 9 AM - The Church of Worship (Thabiti Anyabwile)
Fri. 7 PM - Lessons Learned from Three Decades of Leading (CJ Mahaney and Bob Kauflin)
Sat. 9 AM - The Future of Worship (Bob Kauflin)

In between all those sessions (including some breakout sessions that aren't listed) I'll be making a few posts, assuming we've got internet access at the hotel.

Don't take a minute for granted

This morning I got on Facebook and saw a puzzling status update from a girl I went to college with:

(Name) is thankful that I wasn't at the gym tonight. Thank the Lord I was with my family instead. Please keep praying for all who were effected by this tragedy.

I had no idea what she was talking about, until I read this article on Foxnews about the murder of 4 people last night at an LA Fitness club outside of Pittsburgh.

It's a stunning and tragic reminder that we do not know what the next hour of our lives will bring. These words from James written 2000 years ago are relevant every day of our lives:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Life is a mist; we don't know when the Lord will not will that we 'live and do this or that'.

So take nothing for granted today, and make the most of every good gift that we have in this unstable world we live in. And for those of you who know Christ, what a great opportunity to praise Him for comfort that we have in knowing that for the believer, death is not dying.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When things don't go your way...

I read this quote a few weeks ago in the book Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore. Though it can be applied to many more circumstances than just adoption, it was one of my favorite quotes in the whole book:

Providence moves forward mysteriously as God works through billions of seemingly inconsequential decisions. 'If one Egyptian tailor hadn't cheated on the threads of Joseph's mantle, Potiphar's wife would never have been able to tear it, present it as evidence to Potiphar that Joseph attacked her, gotten him thrown in prison, and let him be in a position to interpret Pharaoh's dream, win his confidence, advise him to store seven years of grain, and save his family, the seventy original Jews from whom Jesus came,' apologist Peter Kreeft writes. 'We owe our salvation to a cheap Egyptian tailor.'

I'd never thought about it that way, but I like it. When every little thing seems to be going against you, it is good to remember that God is working even in the smallest details for the good of His people.

Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom; do we?

Yesterday, in response to Luke 4:43, I tweeted this:

Jesus: 'I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God.' So is it a problem if our Gospel talks say NOTHING about the Kingdom?

I thought it was timely, then, that later in the day on the Of First Importance blog, I read this quote from Alan Wakabayashi's book, Kingdom Come:

“The gospel is Good News concerning the Kingdom, and the Kingdom is God’s rule over the totality of life. Every human need therefore can be used by the Spirit of God as a beach-head for the manifestation of his kingly power. Whenever and wherever we confront the effects of sin, that interaction becomes a place for us to seek and serve the kingdom of God. It’s not just about lost souls but also about a lost creation. And the kingdom of God is about a creation restored.”

Much about this quote resonates with me. My love for Christ and the Gospel has been enhanced as I have come to learn some of the cosmic implications of Christ's life, death and resurrection. As I have learned that the Kingdom is not only about saving lost souls, but about restoring the entirety of God's lost creation, my wonder and amazement at the glory of Christ's redemptive work has deepened.

But I still wonder if quotes like this unintentionally minimize the priority of evangelism. The curse on creation was a consequence of man's rebellion; likewise the creation's healing is a consequence of man's redemption. If we start talking about the restoration of the creation divorced from the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen as a substitute for sinners to be received by faith, we get into serious danger (see the Emergent Church). That was one of my concerns about Wakabayashi's book, which on the whole I enjoyed (see here and, more along the lines of this post, here).

Despite the dangers, I think Evangelicals probably need to be talking about the cosmic scope of God's Kingdom more than we currently are. If it was a necessity for Jesus ('I must preach the good news of the Kingdom...'), then it ought to be for us too, right?

Anybody have thoughts about all this?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Does this picture say 1,000 words?

Thomas Lofton writes:

Sergeant Crowley, the sole class act in this trio, helps the handicapped Professor Gates down the stairs, while Barack Obama, heedless of the infirmities of his friend and fellow victim of self-defined racial profiling, strides ahead on his own. So who is compassionate? And who is so self-involved and arrogant that he is oblivious?

That may be an uncharitable conclusion to draw from a single photograph. I'm sure if Lofton or I was photographed as much as President Obama, we'd come off looking pretty unflattering more than a few times too.

But what really amazes me about this photo is that it originates not from some conservative, Republican blogger trying to make Obama look like a jerk, but from the White House blog! Seems like some PR guy at the White House fumbled the ball on posting this pic, no?

(Here's a writeup of the meeting between these three, for those who are unfamiliar with the story.)

Improbable Joy

Yesterday I preached on Acts 16:16-40, specifically focusing on Paul and Silas' encounter with the Philippian jailer (you can download the sermon, titled Compelling Christianity, here). I made the point that one of the key ways in which the jailer was compelled to ask the men about how to be saved (verse 30) was the improbable joy they had in the midst of the suffering they had experienced (verse 25).

This was incredibly humbling, and gratifying, to preach about to our congregation. It was humbling because sitting in front of me yesterday were people who have experienced pain and hardship far greater than anything I have experienced. As I preached God's Word, I looked out on people who have buried children, spouses and siblings, people who are currently undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer, people who are facing foreclosures on their homes, people who have been laid off from jobs or are facing the prospect of being laid off, people going through the pain of divorce. And that is just some of the pain that I was aware of; who knows what else people were experiencing as I preached my sermon yesterday?

Yet at the same time, it was incredibly gratifying, because as I have watched our congregation walk through these painful times, I have witnessed so many of them do so with a song of joyful hope in their hearts. These folks have showed me that their joy is not grounded in their ever-changing circumstances, but in the unchanging love and grace of Jesus Christ. They have not only sang, but lived out the truth expressed so well in the song we sang yesterday morning:

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Words fail to express the pleasure I have in serving people who strive so diligently to live out a passion for Jesus Christ both in times of comfort and in times of pain.

To those of you at JCF who read this blog: thanks so much for your faithful testimony. You are a great encouragement to me!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Enjoying God in His Creation

Here's a great post from Tim Challies on what he learned about God through watching the video series Planet Earth. Definitely makes me want to check this series out! Has anyone seen it?