Saturday, October 31, 2009

Glory Robbers

A guest post by Gino Curcuruto:

It doesn’t take long living where I do (sadly, or anywhere else) to see people being devalued. So often people are seen less as image bearers of God and more as objects we can use. In our neighborhoods we see this everyday. Women whom God created in His own image are objectified and used to serve the sinful lusts of men. We have multiple establishments where women are paid quite well not to be expressions of God’s likeness but rather to be objects used for man’s sinfulness.

And when I bring this up, when I mention what goes on in a strip club, are you sitting there (like most people do) thinking, “How horrible...What’s wrong with those people... That’s just sick.” Yes, it is disturbing. But are you able to think about how despicable it is that God is being defamed when his image bearers are objectified? That is the greater horror.

Human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation and have inherent value because we are made in God’s image; created to bring him glory. Yet, we treat God’s creation as objects for our own interest. We take what was made to bring glory to God and twist it into something that brings glory to us. And in doing so, we “steal” God’s glory. We are Glory robbers.

But you don’t have to go out to strip clubs to see people being objectified. You simply need to look inside your own heart. Have you ever dismissed someone as insignificant? Have you ever said, “Oh, I’ll be okay. I’ll just get Mary to do it.” Or, “Don’t worry about Joe, he doesn’t really matter.” You’ve thought these things, I’ve thought these things. We’ve even said them. We may not be paying women to be objects of our perverted sexual fantasies but we certainly have perverted the value of people by making them objects used for our gain. We belittle people by using them as tools to get what we want. We fail to recognize them as unique beings created in God’s image for the purpose of bringing Him glory. No, we see them as useful accessories that can help us achieve our desires and bring us glory and happiness.

Oh how wonderful it would be if we could see people the way God sees them! As broken individuals rather than objects. To see them as sheep without a shepherd or sinners in need of a savior. To the degree that the gospel has penetrated our hearts, we can begin to see people the way they really are: a broken piece of God’s good creation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How do we know what is true?

A guest post by Jim Weidner:

I enjoy listening to Michael Smerconish on 1210 AM on my way to work. His guests and topics are timely and thought-provoking. I had been thinking about what I might write as a guest-poster for Larry’s blog, when I checked 1210 this morning (10/23/09) and heard a familiar voice – the voice of prominent evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins is probably the most well-known and outspoken atheist in the world. To get an idea where he’s coming from, his first book was called The God Delusion. In fact, in answer to a question about miracles and the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers throughout the ages, he matter-of-factly called such experiences “hallucinations.” I kid you not. He believes that all the religious are seriously deluded people. He is happy that, in his opinion, our society is finally getting away from the “stranglehold of religion.” He states all of his opinions as “facts,” and since he also states that evolution is a “fact,” I question whether he really understands what a fact is.

Please don’t take this wrongly, but Mr. Dawkins is one of the most arrogant, condescending, and rude people that I have ever heard speak. I surmise that even non-believers who have been in his presence come to such a conclusion. Watch his interview with Ben Stein, who is Jewish, in the documentary “Expelled.” On the program today, he scoffed at Dinesh D’Souza when asked if he would debate him. He made it quite clear that he did not consider D’Souza of a theological stature worthy of his time.

After his interview on 1210 today, Smerconish remarked rather pointedly to his co-hosts that Mr. Dawkins didn’t seem impressed or even to care to be lumped in with a Nobel laureate, a former big-city US mayor, and an ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan. In mentioning these people, Smerconish was inviting Mr. Dawkins to post a comment on the radio program’s website, kind of their “Wall of Fame.”

And here was Mr. Dawkins comment, posted on the website: “How do we know what is true?”

How Pilate-like! “What is truth?”

Jesus said: “…for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Every on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

Jesus said: “Sanctify them [his followers] by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

John writes of Jesus: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 17)

How ironic then, that Jesus says this of the Holy Spirit’s working in the lives of believers, which Dawkins so blithely derides as delusional: “But when he, the [Holy] Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)

Wow, Jesus talked a lot about truth!

Oh, that God would soften Richard Dawkins' arrogant, God-hating, hard heart – the same kind of heart everyone has before they come to Christ – that he might be given a heart of flesh.

And, Oh, that the Holy Spirit would open his eyes so that he might come to know this truth -- the truth revealed in Jesus Christ, who is Truth incarnated.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Holy Longing for Christ

A guest post by Joe Crispin:

The primary reason I enjoy reading Larry’s blog is, it seems, the primary reason he writes it, namely, to encourage in his readers a holy longing for the life to come.

I don’t know about you, but even though I never lack for things that frustrate me or produce in me a longing for something more, I am O so slow to long for the right things. For Christ. For holiness. For the New Heavens and New Earth. For the glory of God to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Not only that, but I am also so slow to respond rightly when I rightly long. That is, when I do finally recognize what I should be longing for and indeed, deep down, what I am really longing for, I am still slow to act in that moment as I ought. Sometimes I just can’t figure out what I should do. Or I might be overwhelmed with the gravity and cosmic scope of sin. Poverty is everywhere. Pain. Struggle. What can I really do?

The interesting thing about this, however, is that the two are intimately connected. For I believe that the reason I am so slow to know what to do right here and now is because I do not long consistently and/or proactively enough.

Did you catch that? Consistency and proactivity seems, at least to me, to be two central keys. Day by day, moment by moment cultivation of a holy longing for Christ and all that He values is one of the most practical things I can do for myself and the world. For it is only as I come to consistently long for that which I should long for that I can truly serve others as I ought.

If I know what I am truly longing for, I will know what I ought to do now. And if I really want what I should want, I will want to do what I ought to do.

If you understand anything I just said, you should be motivated (as I am) to read this blog more. For Larry does a great job giving us glimpses into how life ought to be, how it is now, and how we should respond in light of those two things. Though one post might not rock your world, if you listen in day by day, the way you view the world might well be changed.

All that being said, I am motivated to read much more. I hope you are as well. And I also hope Larry is even more motivated to write!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Soldiers for Christ

A guest post from Scott Leary:

I was channel surfing this week when I stumbled upon the Military Channel. I have not served in the military and probably never will. But the show that was on intrigued me. It was a documentary on the Navy Seals and the training they endure called BUD/S. BUD/S (Which stands for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) is a 6-month SEAL training course held at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, CA. The Navy Seal website states in reference to BUD/S, “There will be an exceptional few with burning desire who persevere when their bodies are screaming to quit, yet continue on. These men experience a tremendous sense of pride, achievement, brotherhood and a new self-awareness that, “I can do anything!!”

As I watched this show, I watched the 20 yr olds unite as brothers. They willed each other through incredible pain and hardship. It was all in preparation for battle which some, if not all of them may see for our country. This reminded me of another battle out there. The battle is for salvation of the lost. This battle is fought by those who serve Jesus and further his mission through his Church. Paul tells a young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-4 :

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

I want to make two points for you today. One is that Paul warned Timothy of hardship and suffering in verse 3. Faithfulness to God and his truth will include hardship. It is inevitable. Paul wanted Timothy to know that. Soldiers suffer hardship as I saw from watching the Navy Seals train. Seals are faithful and train themselves for a mission just as believers in Jesus do. Jesus is our commanding officer in military terms. We ought to have a burning desire to see him glorified and worshipped even though that may mean that we suffer hardship to that end.

However Paul did not leave Timothy on that note. Lets go a little deeper. Secondly, Paul also told him in verse 3 to “Share in suffering as a soldier.” Soldiers never fight alone. They never leave their comrades behind. The Greek word in this verse means to suffer hardship with someone. The Christian faith must be lived out in community with others. We must share our very lives with other Christians and non-Christians, old, young, married, single, child, teenager, believer, unbeliever. It does not matter. Our aim is to bring others to Christ and the way we do that is through community and the sharing of God’s word.

So I hope we learn through Paul that soldiers of Jesus Christ will experience hardship but through God’s grace and the joy of being in Community, we can all endure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keeping the Sabbath Wholly

A guest post by my beautiful bride, Michelle Lazarus:

As we are looking forward to our vacation, I thought it would be fitting to recommend a book that I am currently reading about the topic of rest. It is called “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” by Marva Dawn. And though I’m not finished with it yet, the chapters that I have read have been very helpful and informative.

Being married to a very busy man and also spending my days with a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, I very often feel like rest will just have to wait for another season of life. Larry does “have a Sabbath day” every week, when we theoretically get to enjoy the day together as a family. But for the past several months, I have felt like there is just something missing to our day of rest…something very important.

I have begun to wonder more and more about how I can serve my family more faithfully by making sure we have a day to connect with God and with each other; and to really enjoy these primary relationships in our home; and to see each other flourishing throughout the remainder of the week because of the rest we have gotten for our bodies, minds and souls on our Sabbath day.

Most importantly, I want to be pleasing to the Lord in our weekly observance of the Sabbath (for goodness’ sake, it is one of the 10 commandments! and I don’t think He means for us to just go to church on Sunday and consider ourselves ‘good’!), while not being legalistic either by just filling up another day with things to do. If the Sabbath is made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, I want to take advantage of the power and the peace that lies in this hidden practice that I really don’t know much about.

So anyway…that is some background as to why I think this is an important topic to study. And after some careful consideration of the dozen or so books that I found regarding the Sabbath, this is one of them that seemed to look really good.

In closing, here is the dedication found in the beginning of the book, which made me excited to read the rest of it. I hope I’ve enticed you to join me in my search for more wisdom and guidance in this area.

This book is dedicated to all the people who need the Sabbath—

the busiest, who need to work from a cohesive, unfragmented self;
social activists, who need a cycle of worship and action;

those who chase after fulfillment and need to understand their deepest yearnings and to hear the silence;

those who have lost their ability to play because of the materialism and technologization of our society, who need beauty and gaiety and delight;

those who have lost their passion and need to get in touch with feelings;
those who are alone and need emotional nourishment;

those who live in community and need solitude;

those who cannot find their life’s priorities and need a new perspective;

those who think the future is dictated by the present, who need hope and visions of the future to change the present order;

those who long for deeper family life and want to nurture certain values;

the poor and the oppressed, who need to mourn and to dance in the prison camp;

the rich and the oppressors, who need to learn nonviolence, stewardship, and God’s purposes in the world;

those who suffer, who need to learn how suffering can be redemptive;

professional theologians, who need to bring the heart back into theology;

those who don’t know how religion fits into the modern world, who need a relationship with God;

those who are disgusted with dry, empty, formalistic worship and want to love and adore God; those who want to be God’s instruments, enabled and empowered by the Spirit to be world changers and Sabbath healers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lessons at Lunch

A guest post by Gerry Deloach:

Hi everybody in blogland. My name is Gerry and I have the privilege of writing a post for Larry while he is away. I am a Middle School Band Director. Part of my daily responsibilities as a part of the Middle School Faculty is lunch duty. This is the time of the day that I get to monitor 8th grade students while they eat their lunch. Today as I was walking around the cafeteria I thought about how thankful I am for God's saving grace and the fact that for those who are saved, God will never let us go:

"...neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Romans 8:38,39

What does this have to do with the cafeteria? Well as I walked around I thought, if the teachers were not in the room monitoring and basically guiding the students in the right behavior, these students eventually would turn into a mob and chaos would reign. Food would be on the floor, wrappers and trash would be everywhere, possible fights and theft of others lunches would probably be the norm.

This probably would not happen right away but over time without any type of restraint the inappropriate behavior would escalate. Far fetched? Maybe...maybe not. Apart from Christ we love sin. I am so thankful though that in our lives we will never be without that monitor. We will always have the Holy Spirit guiding and directing us, if we are believers. I am also thankful for the common grace that God has poured out to all people. This common grace allows a teacher to step out of the lunch room for a minute and not have a mob scene ensue.

I'm thankful for my lunch duty and God's common grace, saving grace, and never ending grace.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vacation Time

Vacation time for the Lazarii this week, which means no blogging for me. But so as to keep things moving here at Redemption Groanings, I've asked some of my friends and faithful blog readers to contribute one post each. They'll be going up through the week, and I hope you'll enjoy their musings.

Lord willing, I'll resume with some blogging of my own on November 5th.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vacation Reading

I'll be off work for ten days beginning on Monday. Here's what I hope to read:

A Praying Life
, by Paul Miller

Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller (is anyone surprised by this?)

On Being a Pastor, by Derek Prime & Alistair Begg

Anyone think I have even a chance of reading all three of these in ten days?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Saint Larry

John Piper:

In the New Testament, 'saint' isn't one who is really spiritually mature, but every knucklehead in Corinth who is in Christ.

And every knucklehead in Pitman too. Praise God!

Good advice for reading a book...and for dealing with people

Mortimer Adler, in his book How to Read a Book:

"Do not say you agree, disagree, or suspend judgment until you can say, 'I understand.'"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 10/22

Sarab village resident and opium addict Islam Beg offers his opium pipe to his grandson in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. The 2009 United Nations World Drug report, released earlier this year, notes that the illicit drug market worldwide has now become a $320 billion-per-year industry.

(Why should we groan?)

A Treasury of Sermons from Redeemer

Those who know me well have likely heard me talk at some point about the impact that Tim Keller's ministry has made on my life. His sermons and books have taught me more about the Gospel and my own heart than any other teacher outside of Scripture.

So I was delighted to see a wealth of new sermons (actually some old and some newer, but all new to the site) posted for free at Redeemer's site. Bookmark this site and enjoy!

What God-rejectors fail to realize

A wise insight from Randy Alcorn:

God-rejectors can maintain the illusion life is good without him only because in his kindness he’s not withdrawn all his good gifts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More Marital (and Parenting) Wisdom

A couple of weeks ago I posted a short quote that offered a powerful reminder about marriage.

Here's another one I read yesterday, this time from Tim Keller:

People want a 'designer life.' But marriage is two broken people having little broken people.

So I guess we shouldn't expect a life of comfort and constant bliss?

What Penn State football fans have taught me about suffering for Jesus

What have these guys taught me about the way God uses our suffering and adversities to enable us to testify more powerfully to the surpassing value of Jesus Christ?

Here's the audio clip from last Sunday's sermon in which I try to explain.

(Thanks to my friend Gino for helping me to create this file.)

The Tower of Babel, Part 2?

This is a remarkable story:

It's a symbol for all humanity, says the reporter toward the end of the video.

But a symbol of what?

UPDATE: Looks like because of some glitch, if you're reading this in a feed reader you'll have to click through to my blog site in order to see the correct video (if you're looking at a video of a woman learning karate, that's not the right video!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 10/20

From Amazing Grace Baptist Church, in Canton, NC:

Halloween Book Burning

Burning Perversions of God’s Word
October 31, 2009

7:00 PM – Till

Great Preaching and Singing

Come to our Halloween book burning. We are burning Satan’s bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, ect. These are perversions of God’s Word the King James Bible.

We will also be burning Satan’s music such as country , rap , rock , pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel , contempory Christian , jazz, soul, oldies but goldies, etc.

We will also be burning Satan’s popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort , Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham , Rick Warren , Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll , John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn , Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa , The Pope , Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, etc.

We are not burning Bibles written in other languages that are based on the TR. We are not burning the Wycliffe, Tyndale, Geneva or other translations that are based on the TR.

We will be serving Bar-b-Que Chicken, fried chicken, and all the sides.

If you have any books or music to donate, please call us for pick-up. If you like you can drop them off at our church door anytime. Thanks.

There may be "chicken and all the sides", but it seems like there's a distinct lack of grace at Amazing Grace. But I don't want this to be an occasion for being self-righteous toward those who are self-righteous. It's an occasion to groan.

(Why should we groan?)

The Thrill of Victory

If a comeback victory in a baseball game elicits this kind of jubilant exhilaration, imagine the euphoria when the Son of God comes back to complete His triumph over all His enemies, including death itself.

That is going to be one amazing celebration! Celebrations like the one in South Philly last night give a certain kind of experiential foretaste to the kinds of images we see in the closing chapters of the Bible. By all means, I enjoy the foretaste; but I don't want to be so captured by it that I'm not most gripped with the thrill of Christ's victory of sin, Satan, death and hell.

Hopefully we'll get another foretaste tomorrow night!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Paradise ain't's free

Michelle saw this at Bed, Bath & Beyond last week and told me I should write a blog post about it. So I'm happy to oblige today.

Yes, the makers of this...whatever the heck this thing is...probably didn't have any important theological truths in mind when they made this, but they've got it just right. Paradise ain't cheap. It cost the Son of God His life to redeem God's broken creation from its bondage to decay.

But entrance into Paradise is free:

"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." (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at God's right hand are available to all without money. Through faith in Christ and His atoning death and resurrection, we are eternally rich, and heirs of paradise.

A Little Nostalgia

After yesterday's sermon illustration (I'll post that some time this week), I couldn't resist looking on Youtube to see if they had any footage from the 1995 Michigan-Penn State game at Beaver Stadium.

All I could find was this 9-second clip of the biggest play of the game: a fake field-goal run in for a touchdown by Joe Nastasi. Not the greatest quality, but a trip down memory lane for me:

The Gospel Song

Recently Halle has been going around the house saying, "Holy God...took my sin!"

I'm not exactly ready to baptize her yet, but it does make me praise God for those who write songs that articulate such profound truths in a way so simple that a child can get it:

Holy God in love became
Perfect man to bear my blame

On the cross he took my sin

By his death I live again

And it makes me pray with more fervency that in the course of time, Halle (and Felicity) would come to truly grasp the glorious wonder of what she's been saying around the house.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why Keller's New Book is Important

Tim Keller:

While traditional idol worship still occurs in many places, internal idol worship - within the heart - is universal.

His new book, Counterfeit Gods, comes out this week. You can also watch Keller talk about why he wrote the book:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pitiful, but Planned...for my Good

In a comment yesterday, Ralph wondered why Phillies fans are always so cautious about the hopes we have for our team. Well, Ralph, did yesterday's 8th inning give you an answer?

Yesterday's game was pitiful. Actually, it was only the bottom of the 8th inning that was pitiful. But that inning was so pitiful that it was enough to make an entire game pitiful (and maybe an entire series).

I was still a bit irritated about it all this morning, when the Lord brought to mind Proverbs 16:33,

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

The image of casting lots is far-removed for us, but to put it in modern terms: The dice are rolled in Las Vegas, and every result is from the Lord. God governs all things in the universe, even something as seemingly random and irrelevant as the roll of the dice. And if that is so of dice in Vegas, it's also true of errant throws in Los Angeles.

God is working all things for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). That good is, according to the next verse, conforming us to the image of Jesus. Given the scope of "all things" highlighted in Proverbs 16:33, I should have confidence that God is working for my good in the miserable defensive display yesterday afternoon.

What kind of good? Maybe reminding me that I shouldn't put my hope of anything in a multi-millionaire second baseman who probably doesn't know Jesus Christ in a saving way. Chase Utley's got a need far greater than simply getting the ball smoothly to first base, and that's what really ought to concern me.

Will that help when Game 3 begins tomorrow night? I sure hope so. Baseball is fun, but it's a game. The people playing who we so admire and get frustrated by, they are real people in need of a real Savior. That is infinitely more important than whether the Phillies can make it back to the World Series.

Friday, October 16, 2009

When the sermon's drawing to a close

Over at the 9 Marks blog, there's a discussion going on about how to end sermons. I appreciate such a discussion, because I have found that conclusions to the sermon are one of the toughest aspects of preparing. And while I know there are not many of you reading this blog who preach, there are many of you who listen to preaching. So maybe it would be helpful to understand what's happening at the end of a sermon. It sounds to me like that's a really good plan.

When I read these words from Michael McKinley, I found a great "Amen!" stirring within my soul. I think he encapsulates well what I'm trying to do as the sermon draws toward its close:

All through the sermon, I find myself intentionally with-holding something great, some wonderful way that this text shows them what they have in Christ. I want the listener to feel the weight of what they've been called to and their hopelessness apart from Jesus... then I conclude by exalting Christ and the glories of his salvation. That sends them out with Christ in their nostrils and his praises on their lips That's the plan, at least.

It sounds to me like that's a really good plan. Exalt Jesus; you can never go wrong with that, can you? May it be, Lord, that people would leave Sunday's worship service with Christ in their nostrils, and His praises on their lips.

Sunday's sermon could be a short one...but it probably won't be

This coming Sunday's sermon on Acts 23 in a nutshell:

God's servants are invincible until their work on earth is done.

Hopefully I'll be able to put a little meat on that in the next 48 hours!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wisdom for Busy Moms

I know there are some moms with young kids who read this blog (and some men with wives who are moms of young children). I came across this blog post yesterday and thought it might be a blessing to the moms. I know from my own wife that it's a challenge to find quiet time with the Lord in the midst of the craziness of caring for young kids. That's what this article addresses.

Holly Elliff, the writer of the post, has earned the right to be heard on this matter I think. Her opening words are:

Let me give you a little peek into my life. I have eight children and two in heaven I never got to meet. My kids are currently 32, 30, 27, 23, 21, 18, 15 and 13. I also take care of my mom who has Alzheimers and have four grandchildren age 2 and under! Although I'm not exactly in your shoes right at this moment, I do know what it feels like and I so understand what "tired" means.

Check out the rest here.

Who's Got Predictions?

Game 1 is tonight; what's going to happen in the series?

I say Phillies in 7, with Cliff Lee pitching the Phils into the World Series with a Game 7 gem.

(That's the optimistic Larry; the realistic Larry thinks the Dodgers are going to win in 6. I hope realism is overrated.)

Four Truths about the Resurrection

I've written before of my concern that there is a great deal of ignorance among Christians about the future hope of resurrection. So it's important to be reminded of things like this, even if we think we know it already: four truths about the coming resurrection.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't waste a cloudy day

I looked at the 10-day weather forecast this afternoon, to find that there doesn't appear to be a sunny day until Tuesday. That means lots of clouds for the next four or five days.

But the next time clouds in the sky threaten to make you gloomy, ponder these two truths that the clouds bear witness to:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

Clouds remind us of some pretty precious things. God is faithful. He has blotted out your transgressions and redeemed you. So don't be grouchy when the day is filled with them!

What I wanted to say Sunday...but didn't

There was something I wanted to say this past Sunday in my sermon, but because it was tangential to my main point I decided not to say it. It was in my notes, but when I got to it in the sermon, I passed over it.

The Apostle Paul had come to Jerusalem and taken four Jews into the temple to perform a purification ritual. Some Jews from Asia came and stirred up the city against Paul, saying that he had brought a Gentile into the temple (which was strictly forbidden). Luke writes,

29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. (Acts 21:29)

Here's what I wanted to say:

The problem with these folks from Asia is that they supposed something that hadn't actually happened. They saw Paul with Trophimus. They saw Paul in the temple. So they assumed that Paul had brought Trophimus into the temple. But it didn't happen. Their anger against Paul was rooted in an assumption which wasn't true.

There's a valuable warning here: beware of assuming the worst about a person's actions or motives without first making sure you've gotten the facts straight from that person. I wonder how much strife in the Church could be avoided if, instead of assuming what person X did or said or feels or believes, we actually went to that person and asked them about the situation rather than assuming things about their actions and intentions?

I think Christ's church might reflect our Savior a lot more if we took that simple step of communication. Don't assume the worst about a person; assume the best, until you're proven wrong.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Made for the City

Today on my day off I packed my three lovely ladies into the car to visit my Mom-Mom in Wayne. She turns 90 tomorrow. As we passed through Philadelphia on the Schuylkill Expressway I took my customary few seconds to gaze at the skyline.

I thought about how many times I'd driven past the Philly skyline in my lifetime, either as a driver or passenger. It's at least several hundred times, maybe in the thousands. Yet every time I drive past it, I find a bit of awe in me as I look at that skyline. 30+ years of driving through the city has not dulled the excitement of admiring all those massive buildings.

This is true not just of downtown Philly, but any big city I have visited. I lived in Chicago for 9 months and drove through downtown every day to and from work, and the city had the same effect. Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Baltimore, New York, Toronto, Milan. They all have the same effect on me. But of course Philly is the nearest and dearest to my heart. There's just something about cities that produces a childlike wonder in me.

And just today it hit me what that "something" is: I was created to enjoy a city as my eternal home. The last chapters of the Bible describe the glorious return of Jesus Christ, bringing to consummation God's eternal plan to personally dwell with His people and renew the entire cosmos from the decay and corruption that have marred it since the Fall. At the center of this vision is a city:

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:10-11)

Creation began in a garden, but it will end in a city. A big city. A few verses later, John writes that the city is about 1,400 miles long, wide and high. That's around the length from Tallahassee to Minneapolis, and the width from Philly to Dallas. The glory and honor of the nations will dwell in this city; the possibilities of what it will be like are astounding.

Our final state will not be a disembodied state floating around in clouds. It will be reigning in the city of God with King Jesus, whose glory will so radiate throughout the city that there will be no need for the sun or moon.

After driving through Philadelphia and being impressed by the skyline, I simply can't begin to fathom what it will be like to watch the city of God coming down out of heaven, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. But I believe Jesus is honored when we try to imagine it. After all, He gave us a lavish description of it at the end of the Bible to whet our appetites for it, don't you think?

So the next time you drive through Philly (or whatever big city you're closest to), let the glory of earthly cities act as a beam pointing you to the majestic reality of the heavenly city that will be our final home.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Quote Part 2

“Everything is necessary that God sends; nothing can be necessary that he withholds.”

John Newton

Some Monday Quotes

A couple of good quotes from chapter 6 of Why Small Groups?, which my group will be discussing tonight:

"The test of a congregation, apart from personal holiness, is how effectively its members penetrate the world. American churches are filled with pew-sitting, sermon-tasting, spiritual schizophrenics, whose belief and behavior are not congruent." -- Bill Hull

"The reason most of us do not see opportunities to serve is that we are continually thinking about ourselves instead of others." -- Jerry Bridges

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kindness & Calvinism go together (at least they should)

I have never been fond of the label Calvinist. I remember the first time I ever heard it, and I didn't like it then. I don't like it now. And I don't think I ever will like it. But that label is, more or less, an accurate description of my theological leanings.

With that said, I wish all...Calvinists (boy I don't like that word!) took these words from Abraham Piper to heart (I'm glad he took more than 22 words on this one). His conclusion:

"Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we're pretty sure we'll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It's humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better Calvinists."

Autumn Scenes

Evidently, God likes color:

If this is the beauty now, what will it be like when the whole creation is set free from its bondage to decay and enters into the freedom of the glory of the children of God?

(See more photos here)

Friday, October 9, 2009

An Odd Sermon Illustration

As I was thinking about the Apostle Paul today, in preparation for my sermon Sunday on Acts 22, I remembered this commercial:

Wasn't Paul a little like the Energizer Bunny? Beaten, flogged, slandered, falsely accused, stoned, shipwrecked, etc. (see 2 Corinthians 11:25ff).

Yet he kept going and going and going...for Christ.

I want to be like him.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Battle

Anyone who knows me well knows that my life is full of flagrant hypocrisies. Yet Christ bore all my wrath. Believing this is a daily battle.

Today, I feel like I'm losing the battle. But I take comfort in knowing that Jesus never loses a battle. He said:

"This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." (John 6:39)

That's good news today. It's good news every day, but especially when I'm most aware of my sin.

Paul's Ambition

In Acts 20:24, Paul says:

"I do not account my life of any value, if only I may..."

How would you finish that statement?

I think it's good to ponder this daily...especially during MLB playoffs.

5-1 wins and brilliant pitching performances aren't what gives my life value.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eschatology Discussion

If, like me, the area of eschatology (the study of the last things) is an area where your knowledge is limited, you might find this two-hour discussion helpful. John Piper, Sam Storms, Doug Wilson, and Jim Hamilton weigh in on the different schools of thought regarding Christ's return.

If anyone watches this, let me know what you think.

American Idolatry

Did anyone see Mark Driscoll on Nightline the other night? If you missed it, here’s the six-minute link to watch the ABC News feature of Driscoll discussing idol worship in America. Apparently, the show is doing a series going through each of the Ten Commandments.

I thought Driscoll did an outstanding job, and I am somewhat shocked that a major network would air this. Let's pray that God would use it to make many people question their idols, see their futility to give what they promise and turn to the One who is worthy of worship.

The Key to a Good Marriage

According to John Piper:

Success in marriage is not finding the right person, but being the right person in the power of the one perfect Person.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Not Divine Schizophrenia

In Luke 19:27, Jesus says (in the form of a parable) that He desires that His enemies be brought before Him and slaughtered.

A few verses later, Jesus weeps over His enemies in Jerusalem and longs for their salvation(v.41).

The emotional life of Jesus is complex, but it is not contradictory.

People who desire more than a superficial understanding of Jesus ought to think long and hard about this.

Don't Forget to Groan, 10/6

About 5:00 pm on September 30th, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck just offshore of the town of Padang in Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake toppled buildings and started many landslides, smashing homes and swallowing up entire villages. Over 1,000 people are known to have died, an additional 3,000 still missing (see more photos here).

(Why should we groan?)