Thursday, December 31, 2009

iTunes Giveaway Reminder

Just a reminder, if you're interested in receiving a $10 gift card for iTunes, leave a comment on Monday's post by the end of the day tomorrow (Friday) to be eligible for the drawing.

"I Believe in Purgatory"

Chris Castaldo, in Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic,

Some of you are wondering how it is I can believe in purgatory. Let me tell you. The word purgatory describes purification or purging from sin. In the Roman Catholic tradition this is believed to happen after people die in order for them to enter heaven spotless and pure.

I also believe in purgatory; however I believe that it happened once and for all on the cross of Jesus Christ. When the Lord hung between heaven and earth and shed his blood, he did so as a substitute for humanity. He paid the penalty for our guilt once and for all, as it says in 1 Peter 3:18: "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."

In his death Jesus perfectly satisfied the righteous requirement of God's law, which is why he says in John 19:30: "It is finished". In Christ, the work of purging is finished. We are fully accepted by God on account of what Jesus has done for us. This is the gift that keeps on giving. It's not guilt; it is grace.

In other words, the question isn't if you believe in purgatory. Both Christians and Roman Catholics believe in it. The question is when and how you believe purgatory happens. In Jesus, purgatory is finished, once and for all. This is at the heart of the good news.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Gospel for Your Spouse

In Milton Vincent's A Gospel Primer for Christians, Vincent writes the Gospel narrative that makes up most of the book in the first person. Vincent explains why:

"Everything in sections 1-3 is written in the first person (I, my, me), for all that is said in these sections is your testimony if you are a believer in Jesus. Therefore read these words, or better, speak them aloud as a way of testifying daily to your own heart the truth of what God has done for you and made available for you in the gospel. You'd be amazed at the difference such a practice can make in your life."

That's definitely good advice. I've profited from the book immensely since I got it over a year ago. But last night I decided to use it a bit differently than Vincent suggests. Michelle and I sat down after bed and read section 2 to one another, putting in the other's name instead of the first person singular.

So the effect was that each of us preached the gospel to the other, and also reminded ourselves of the glorious work that Christ has accomplished in the life of our spouse. That is a good thing to do, since inevitably I will sin against and hurt Michelle. When this happens, it's precious for Michelle to be reminded of the gospel's work not just in her life, but in mine. And of course it goes the other way too. I will be much more inclined to treat Michelle in light of the gospel when I am pondering the gospel's power in her life.

So if you have A Gospel Primer for Christians, give this a try with your spouse and let me how it goes. Michelle and I are thinking about doing it weekly because we enjoyed it so much. And if you don't have a copy of it, I'd like to give you one. I'll give a copy of it to the first two people who leave a comment on this post.

Man: the Glory and Garbage of the Universe

In Graham Cole's book, God the Peacemaker, he quotes Blaise Pascal speaking on the paradoxical wonder that is every human being:

"What sort of freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe!"

Because all people are made in God's image, human beings are the glory of the universe and are capable of incredible things. But because of the Fall, humans are the garbage of the universe, with corruption and rottenness staining all we do. If we forget that man is in the image of God, we might be too pessimistic about humanity. But if we forget that man is fallen, we will surely be too optimistic.

Holding both truths seems to me to be the most healthy way to think about mankind. We are both the glory and garbage of the universe, a wonderful mystery indeed.

(By the way, for anyone interested in reading more about this, I'd recommend Anthony Hoekema's book, Created in God's Image.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Magnificent Obsession

I haven't heard this song from Steven Curtis Chapman in some time, but Michelle broke out the Declaration CD the other day and I was reminded of how much I love it:

Lord, You know how much
I want to know so much
In the way of answers and explanations
I have cried and prayed
And still I seem to stay
In the middle of life's complications
All this pursuing leaves me feeling like I'm chasing down the wind
But now it's brought me back to You
And I can see again

This is everything I want
This is everything I need
I want this to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You, Jesus
Be my magnificent obsession

So capture my heart again
Take me to depths I've never been
Into the riches of Your grace and Your mercy
Return me to the cross
And let me be completely lost
In the wonder of the love
That You've shown me
Cut through these chains that tie me down to so many lesser things
Let all my dreams fall to the ground
Until this one remains

You are everything I want
You are everything I need
Lord, You are all my heart desires
You are everything to me

You are everything I want
You are everything I need
I want You to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it all to be for You
I want it all to be for You

Law & Gospel

What is the relationship between the Law and the Gospel? I like the way it's put in The Gospel-Centered Life:

"The law drives us to the gospel and the gospel frees us to obey the law. Realizing all that God expects of us should drive us in despair to Christ. And once we are united with Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit causes us to delight in God's law and gives us power to obey it."

Monday, December 28, 2009

If You're Looking for a Reason to Never Eat a Hot Dog Again...

Then watch this:

(Via 22 words)

Merry Belated Christmas...

I don't take for granted that those of you who read this blog make an investment of time to interact with my musings. So to express my thanks to those of you who take the time to read the blog, I want to give someone a $10 iTunes gift card.

Just leave a comment on this post with your name between now and Friday. Then I will pick one name and that person will receive the gift card.

Thanks again for taking the time to check in with me on the blog.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Known Universe

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).

Friday, December 25, 2009


Even non-religious people know that Christmas has something to do with peace on earth. The Old Testament word from which the concept of peace is drawn is the Hebrew word shalom.

For those who might be wondering about that word shalom in the last post, here is some explanation from Neal Plantinga. This also I had posted over at the Seeking Him blog, but haven't posted it here.

In essence, the word shalom is translated peace, but it's not merely speaking of merely an inner calm. Shalom is cosmic in scope, and centers on reconciliation with God. Plantinga explains:

“They (the prophets) dreamed of a new age in which human crookedness would be straightened out, rough places made plain. The foolish would be made wise, and the wise, humble. They dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run with wine, weeping would cease, and people could go to sleep without weapons on their laps. People would work in peace and work to fruitful effect. Lambs could lie down with lions. All nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood, and all nature and all humans would look to God, walk with God, lean toward God and delight in God. Shouts of joy and recognition would well up from valleys and seas, from women in streets and from men on ships.

“The webbing together of God, humans and all creation in justice, fulfillment and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

God's Grand Goal

For a few months now I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Graham Cole's book God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom. The book came out last week and I got my copy on Tuesday.

I'm not even halfway through it, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. In the introduction, Cole writes:

The grand goal of the divine [story] is nothing less than to secure God's people in God's place under God's reign living God's way enjoying God's shalom in God's loving and holy presence as both family and worshipers, to God's glory.

What a grand goal that is! And through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is the certain hope of all who trust Him. On this day of celebrating Christ's incarnation, let's not forget the grand goal that He came into the world to secure.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chandler Update

Here is the most recent update from Matt Chandler. He will begin radiation and chemotherapy next week. Some prayer requests:

  • My doctors
  • That God might glorify Himself in amazing ways through all of this
  • The Village Church and our elders
  • Complete healing
  • Healthy appetite
  • Protection from side effects of radiation
  • Protection from side effects of chemotherapy
  • Peace for my family…specifically my children and their salvation
    • Audrey 7 yrs. old
    • Reid 4 yrs. old
    • Norah 6 ½ months

Christ is All,
Matt Chandler

A Taste of Redemption in Every Episode

(Originally posted on the Seeking Him blog, 7/10/08)

One of the TV shows that I enjoyed most in high school and college was a show called Quantum Leap. Just recently it has dawned on me why I enjoyed this show so much.

Here’s a synopsis of the plot-line of the show, for those who aren't familiar with it:

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”

In every episode, Sam Beckett enters into the life of someone in time in order to put right something that once went wrong. In other words, in every episode Sam Beckett’s mission is one of redemption. And this, of course, is a little taste of the greatest (true) story ever told:

“11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12).

Perhaps the creators of Quantum Leap were atheists, I do not know. But I do know that even secular, unbelieving people love to tell and hear stories of redemption. After all, it is the story of the world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 12/23

A boy suffering from malnutrition is cradled in the arms of his mother at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia on July 11, 2009.

(Why should we groan?)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Rebuke

In my sermon on Sunday, I made the point that before we see Christmas as a warm expression of God's love, it is good to remember that Christmas is a rebuke: we are so profoundly sinful and rebellious that God had to personally come down from heaven to earth and remedy our miserable plight.

I was encouraged this morning to see that C.J. Mahaney agrees.

What is the Gospel?

This is another post in which I'm basically just filing something for my own reference, but hopefully it can be useful for others as well.

I've had to go to the 9 Marks blog around half a dozen times in the last year trying to find these three posts from Greg Gilbert. Now I'll just do a search on my blog for "Greg Gilbert", which will make things easier.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

And a postscript.

Vital Virginity

Intriguing title, right? Well, it wasn't my idea; that's the title of this post from Kevin DeYoung. The upshot is that the virgin birth is essential to the Christian faith. Find out why by reading his post.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Don't Forget to Groan, 12/21

War-orphan Faustin Mugisa, 8, who has machete scars on his head and body, stands at the Kizito orphanage in Bunia in northeastern Congo February 24, 2009. Mugisa was left for dead in a pile of corpses when ethnic Lendu militiamen hacked to death his mother and seven siblings in 2003. Mugisa's father discovered him alive and took him to the bush to recover, but his father was later hacked to death by the same militia group.

(Why should we groan?)

Good musings for this year's family gatherings

A couple of good posts on sharing your faith, on Christmas or any time:

Russell Moore gives a few quick thoughts on what followers of Jesus ought to remember, especially if you’ve got a difficult extended family situation: peace, honor, humility, maturity and perspective. Some of them aren't quite so quick, but it's well worth the time to read his thoughts.

Chris Castaldo (who recently published a book on ministering to Catholics that I am currently reading) unpacks this statement: “Evangelism is the activity in which the entire Church prayerfully and intentionally relies on God in sharing gospel love and truth, in order to bring people one step closer to Jesus Christ.”

Praying we'll bear witness to Christ in both word and deed this Christmas (and every day!).

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Lamb is the Lamp

In getting ready to preach on the prophets, I've been revisiting Isaiah's depiction of the New Jerusalem in Isaiah 60. That means I've been thumbing through Richard Mouw's book, When the Kings Come Marching In. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this book.

Here's one of my favorite (lengthy) quotes:

“I noted earlier the evangelical declaration that ‘It is well with my soul,’ and insisted that this is an important and profoundly biblical expression of Christian assurance. But it is not enough. It is a central confession, but it is a central confession; it is not a full expression of Christian assurance. The God who declares here and now that it is well with my soul is the same creating Lord who once looked at the whole world he had made and proclaimed, ‘This is good.’ This God wants once again to say that things are well with his entire creation — and he will someday do so when he announces, ‘Behold, I make all things new…’ ‘It is well with my soul’ is only a first step, an initial fruit of God’s redeeming activity. We must share in God’s restless yearning for the renewal of the cosmos…

“In their own ways evangelicals have operated with a restricted view of the redemptive ministry of Jesus. They have placed limits on the scope and power of the Cross. In boasting of a ‘full gospel’ they have often proclaimed a truncated Christianity. In speaking of a blood that cleanses from all unrighteousness, they have consistently restricted the meaning of ‘all’. They have given full reign to the blood of Christ within a limited area. They have seen the work of Christ as being a totally transforming power only within individual lives. They have not shown much interest in the work of the Lamb as it applies to the broad reaches of culture or the patterns of political life, nor as a power that heals the racism, ethnocentrism, sexism and injustice that have for so long poisoned human relationships. To such Christians we must insist that the Lamb is indeed the lamp of the City; just as we must insist to liberal Christians that the light which illuminates the City does indeed issue from the Lamb who shed his own blood as a ransom for sin.”

God's Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom

A leopard walks with a tranquilizer dart hanging from its neck, in the residential area of Jyotikuchi in Guwahati, the capital city of the northeastern state of Assam, India on March 15, 2009. Three people were mauled by the leopard after the cat strayed into the city before it was tranquilized by forestry department officials.

One day, it won't be so:

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11)

The entirety of God's creation will again be at rest. Come, Lord Jesus, with healing in Your wings.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I just love redemption stories

What a great story:

The man in the interview, James Bain, was released from prison today after thirty five years of incarceration for a crime he did not commit (if reading via feed reader, you may need to click through to the blog to see the video). DNA tests showed that he did not kidnap and rape a 9 year-old boy in 1974. You can read the rest of the article here. He appears to be giving God all the glory and is not embittered toward anyone, saying that the state of Florida owes him nothing; he is the one indebted to God for His mercy.

Of course, that means the actual criminal has never been punished for this crime. But Jesus will see to it that this wrong is one day put to right as well:

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land." (Jeremiah 23:5).

In Christ, that righteous branch has come. And He will come again, to put right every wrong in this sin-stained world.

Reading the Whole Bible

In my current sermon series on the Bible's storyline, I have been speaking about God's plan for the whole creation a bit more than I normally do. I imagine there are some who might be wondering, though they haven't actually asked me, why I am doing that. This portion of The Gospel Coalition's vision for ministry explains my convictions well:

II. How should we read the Bible? (The hermeneutical issue)

  1. Reading “along” the whole Bible. To read along the whole Bible is to discern the single basic plot–line of the Bible as God’s story of redemption (e.g., Luke 24:44) as well as the themes of the Bible (e.g., covenant, kingship, temple) that run through every stage of history and every part of the canon, climaxing in Jesus Christ. In this perspective, the gospel appears as creation, fall, redemption, restoration. It brings out the purpose of salvation, namely, a renewed creation. As we confess in CS–(1), [God] providentially brings about his eternal good purposes to redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation, to the praise of his glorious grace.
  2. Reading “across” the whole Bible. To read across the whole Bible is to collect its declarations, summons, promises, and truth–claims into categories of thought (e.g., theology, Christology, eschatology) and arrive at a coherent understanding of what it teaches summarily (e.g., Luke 24:46–47). In this perspective, the gospel appears as God, sin, Christ, faith. It brings out the means of salvation, namely the substitutionary work of Christ and our responsibility to embrace it by faith. As we confess in CS–(7), Jesus Christ acted as our representative and substitute, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
After discussing briefly how focusing only one of these two ways of reading the Bible can lead to serious imbalances, the document continues:

We do not believe that in best practice these two ways of reading the Bible are at all contradictory, even though today, many pit them against each other. We believe that on the contrary the two, at their best, are integral for grasping the meaning of the biblical gospel. The gospel is the declaration that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has come to reconcile individuals by his grace and renew the whole world by and for his glory.

The vast majority of my preaching fits into the "reading across the Bible" category. And I think this is right, because there is no salvation if we do not grasp this deeply. Seeing the Gospel as God-Sin-Christ-Response is absolutely imperative to any vital, biblical ministry.

But the "reading along the Bible" category is also important to see full the scope of what God has done, is doing and will do in the world. It seems that this gets talked about a lot less, though, which is why I am coming back frequently to that theme in these sermons.

Because I am eager for Jesus to receive all the glory that He is due as the Savior of man and the Redeemer and Lord of the whole cosmos, I think it's important to read both "along" and "across" the Bible. I hope my preaching ministry is marked by biblical faithfulness in both of these areas.

(You can read the rest of the Gospel Coalition document here).

Well Phillies Fans...

Are you happy with this picture?

I definitely have mixed feelings about this one. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keep Praying for the Chandlers

I trust many of you have seen this already, but it's certainly no harm in being reminded of this more than once. Continue to pray for Matt Chandler and his family:

On Tuesday, Dr. Barnett informed Matt and Lauren that the findings of the pathology report revealed a malignant brain tumor that was not encapsulated. The surgery to remove the tumor, the doctor said, was an extremely positive first step; however, because of the nature of the tumor, he was not able to remove all of it.

Matt, who is being released from the hospital today, is meeting with a neuro-oncologist this week to outline the next steps of the recovery process. There is a range of treatment possibilities but the exact course of action has not yet been determined. He will continue outpatient rehab.

You can read the rest of the update here. On his Twitter account, Chandler posted this:

Path report is 2ndary at best...good report doesn't mean much, bad report doesn't mean days r numbered and nt by ths report

I am incredibly grateful for this man's testimony. I pray that I will be able to suffer like him.

Christians were made for community

"In Him you also are being built TOGETHER into a dwelling place for God" (Eph2:22). You were made to experience God most fully in community.

Don't Forget to Groan, 12/16

Sixteen-month-old Aubrey Melton reaches for her father SSG Josh Melton as she views his remains with her mother Larissa before his funeral service June 27, 2009 in Germantown, Illinois. SSG Melton, who was serving in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard, was killed in Kandahar during an IED attack June 19.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Beginning of Wisdom

John Piper:

The beginning of wisdom is that I have absolutely no say in how God should run the world, and I am peaceful with that.

Christian, you've got power

The power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us who believe (Eph1:19); "Can't" shouldn't be in the vocabulary of a Christian.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gospel Power

To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.

William Cowper

God's Goal for History

What's God's aim for this universe? Not just saving individual souls, but uniting the whole cosmos in the celebration of His Son:

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:7-10)

So yes, God has a wonderful plan for your life. That is unspeakably precious. But He also has a plan for this:

And the plan for us and for the Sombrero galaxy (28 million light-years away from us on Earth) is the same: to be a unified symphony declaring the glories of our great God and King, Jesus Christ.

Does He Shine in a Punt Return?

I'm not nearly as passionate about the Eagles as I am about the Phillies, but I have to say that DeSean Jackson is pretty amazing. That punt return last night was incredible; unfortunately my wife could not really appreciate it too much as she doesn't care for football at all.

Anyway, watching that punt reminded me of this quote from Richard Mouw in his book He Shines in All That's Fair:

"If God is glorified by his non-human creation -- which seems to be a fairly modest claim to endorse -- then it seems reasonable to assume that God takes delight in those non-human created phenomena (Psalm 104:31). And then it also seems to be quite plausible to assume that God takes delight in various human states of affairs, even when they are displayed in the lives of non-Christians...

Let me be concrete: I think God takes delight in Benjamin Franklin's wit and in Tiger Woods's putts and in some well-crafted narrative paragraphs in a Salman Rushdie novel, even if these accmplishments are in fact achieved by non-Christian people. And I am convinced that God's delight in these phenomena does not come because they bring the elect to glory and the non-elect to eternal separation from the divine presence. I think God enjoys these things for their own sakes."

That quote is all the more intriguing in light of Tiger Woods' recent downfall, but the book was written in 2001. Everything in me wants to agree with this statement; I am fairly certain that the pleasure I experienced in watching that punt return was a God-centered pleasure, and I am also inclined to think (though I'm less certain) that I took a God-centered pleasure in it because God took pleasure in it in some way, whether Jackson is a Christian believer or not.

Like I said, I want to agree with Mouw's statement. But is this, in fact, a biblical statement? Is there even one passage of Scripture which would explicitly say that God takes pleasure in the skill and abilities of people whose lives are lived in rebellion against Him? If there is one, Mouw didn't quote it in making this statement about Tiger Woods and Ben Franklin.

So what's your take on this? Leave a comment and let me know what you think...not just about sports skill, but any creative, cultural activity performed by Christ-rejectors.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chanukah Tears

In honor of Chanukah, which began last night, I was going to post the famous Adam Sandler Chanukah song for some good laughs (actually I did post it for three minutes, did anyone see it?).

Then it hit me that the Apostle Paul wouldn't be chuckling at that song; he'd be weeping over his kinsmen who are without Christ, wouldn't he? Come to think of it, Jesus would be weeping too.

Sometimes we don't really take time to think about the things we laugh at.

Pray big prayers, Christians

From a hymn by John Newton:

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Conduits of Grace

"...and you shall be a blessing" (Zch8:13). God's mercies are meant to be channeled to others. We're conduits, not cul-de-sacs, of grace.

Worn Hats, Worn Jeans...Worn Earth?

The other day in Target, I saw a dirty, faded Eagles hat for sale. It was brand new, but made to look worn out and beaten up. People like that kind of look. That made me think of how jeans today are often made that way too (like this photo). They actually sell jeans that look like that, at full price!

So if we like our hats and our jeans worn, is it possible that God also made the Earth to look worn? And that's why people dispute about whether the Earth is 'New' or 'Old'?

Of course, I'm not a scientist, and the age of the earth is not an area of theological study that I have spent much time contemplating.

Just sharing one of my musings from Target...I know, I need to get a life.

But does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Yet I will rejoice in the LORD..."

If you ever wonder what to pray for me, ask God to make Habakkuk 3:17-18 a reality in my soul. May I count all to be rubbish, if only I have Christ.

My Favorite Christmas Song

I love the mood this song sets and the yearning it expresses for the Messiah to come. I think it so perfectly captures the mood of what God's people must have been feeling after 400 years of silence:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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

Psalm 147:4 seems a lot more amazing in light of photos like these (click photos to enlarge, and increase worship experience!):

The Manhattan Declaration

Last week in a comment Matt asked me to weigh in with some thoughts on a document recently released called the Manhattan Declaration. To my fault, I did not get back to him, so I thought I'd make a post about it (sorry Matt!).

Essentially, the Manhattan Declaration is a document written by evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders affirming their support of the pro-life cause, traditional marriage and the right to freedom of religion. What has made the document somewhat controversial is in Evangelical circles is the question of whether it is right for an Evangelical to work for these causes by signing off on a document with other branches of Christianity that have a fundamental disagreement about the Gospel.

To read both sides of this debate, you can read this post from Al Mohler (who happily signed the document) and this one from Alistair Begg (pictured at right, who declined to sign, though he is supportive of the three causes that the document defends).

Of his not signing the document, Begg writes:

In accord with others who have chosen not to sign, my reservation is not with the issues themselves, or in standing with others who share the same concerns, but it is in signing a declaration along with a group of leading churchmen, when I happen to believe that the teaching of some of their churches is in effect a denial of the biblical gospel.

However, Mohler writes:

I signed The Manhattan Declaration because it is a limited statement of Christian conviction on these three crucial issues, and not a wide-ranging theological document that subverts confessional integrity. I cannot and do not sign documents such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together that attempt to establish common ground on vast theological terrain. I could not sign a statement that purports, for example, to bridge the divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals on the doctrine of justification. The Manhattan Declaration is not a manifesto for united action. It is a statement of urgent concern and common conscience on these three issues -- the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the defense of religious liberty.

My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent -- and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground.

I have deep respect for both of these men, but based on what I know of the document, I would probably side with Mohler (pictured left) on this one. My personal conviction is that signing a document with others whose view of the gospel is heretical does not necessarily affirm or give approval to their false gospel. I think the issues are significant enough that co-laboring with others whose view of the gospel is deficient is worth our effort, and need not compromise our passion for the gospel.

That said, I haven't actually read the document myself, so maybe if/when I do, I will see certain statements pertaining to the gospel that so alarm me that I would be unable to sign it. But I'm thinking if Mohler was willing to sign it, I don't think I would find any of those.

If you've made it this far in the post, you probably have an opinion too. What do you think? Is the Manhattan Declaration a compromise of our esteem for the biblical gospel? Or is it an opportunity to work with others whom we disagree with for the sake of the common good of our nation?

Let me know what you think...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Even in the Old Testament, Sinners Hate a Substitute

"Nevertheless, the men rowed hard" (Jonah 1:13).

Sinful men want to earn their salvation, even when a substitute has offered himself.

Is God all that matters?

Abraham Piper is always thought-provoking; this post especially grabbed my attention yesterday. The title of the post is: If you think God is all that matters, you can't love people or honor God.

Then Piper writes:

God’s story includes essential roles besides God’s.

He’s not honored as the MAIN character when we act like he’s the ONLY character.

Piper was responding to this quote from Paul Washer:

"God saved you from Himself; God saved you for Himself; God saved you by Himself."

So what do you think about Piper's response?

Monday, December 7, 2009

On Reading Books...

Words of wisdom from Martin Luther:

The writings of all the holy fathers should be read only for a time, in order that though them we may be led to the Holy Scriptures. As it is, however, we read them only to be absorbed in them and never come to the Scriptures. We are like men who study that sign-posts and never travel the road. The dear fathers wished by their writing, to lead us to the Scriptures, but we so use them as to be led away from the Scriptures, though the Scriptures alone are our vineyard in which we ought all to work and toil.

Gifted Hands

Michelle and I watched this movie the other night and really enjoyed it. It's not the greatest cinematic production, but the story itself (which is based on the true story of neurosurgeon Ben Carson) is amazing.

We both walked away from the movie marveling at God's "common" grace; that is, the grace that He gives to all people (even unbelievers) to do civic good and sustain life and earthly blessing in His creation:

Has anyone else seen it?

Video from Chandler to his Church

I just watched this video that Matt Chandler recorded for his church family to watch during their weekend services. It was recorded before he went in for his brain surgery last week (here's the most recent update on his recovery).

After watching it, I really couldn't even come up with words to describe how I felt. Wow, I just long to lead my family and church in this kind of way.

Pray for me, brothers and sisters. I desperately need it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Living Embodiment of the Last Post

Matt Chandler is one man who is, by God's grace, doing a marvelous job of embodying the three truths Justin Buzzard commended for our constant reflection.

On Thanksgiving morning Chandler suffered a seizure, collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Today he is having a five-hour brain surgery to remove a large portion of his right frontal lobe. Chandler writes:

The last seven days have been some of the most interesting of my life. I have felt anxiety, fear, sadness and a deep and unmovable joy simultaneously and in deeper ways than I have felt before. I am grateful for this heightened sense of things. Today at 10:45 a.m. CST I will have a good portion of my right frontal lobe removed. I head into that surgery with a heart that is filled with gratitude and hope.

He goes on to mention ten things he's grateful for. I praise God for Matt's courage and steadfastness during this time. What an example of resting in God's sovereign, wise, goodness.

Remember to keep the Chandler family in prayer.

Three Life-Changing Truths

Justin Buzzard couldn't be more right. To the degree that we own in the depths of our hearts these three realities, our lives will be unshakable and our souls filled with joy, even in suffering:

1. God is sovereign.

2. God is wise.

3. God is good.

Labor to embrace these three realities every day...or better yet: every hour.

(Be sure to read Buzzard's entire post, as he unpacks and applies these three precious truths)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Enjoying God's Creation

In my sermon last Sunday I said that one way to apply the doctrine of God's creation is to enjoy the physical world that God has given us.

This may sound odd to some people, who have read the New Testament and (correctly) observed the emphasis on suffering, groaning and endurance, not enjoying the physical creation.

That is why this blog is called Redemption Groanings; we must labor to remember that this world is not as it ought to be. If not for our own indwelling corruption, we would weep over the condition of this world much more than we do now.

While the emphasis on groaning is strong in the New Testament, that does not preclude the enjoyment of God's created world. The same man who said that he died daily and endured hardship as a good soldier of Christ (the Apostle Paul) also wrote to his beloved disciple Timothy:

"Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Paul goes on to tell Timothy that he should "put these things before the brothers," and thus be a good servant of Christ (v.6). I take this to mean that even in a fallen world in which our lives are filled with groaning, a faithful pastor will remind his people to enjoy and celebrate God's creation.

Mysteriously, this fallen creation can still be called good, and enjoyed by God's people as the theater for displaying God's supreme beauty and excellence.

That means that, as Christians, we of all people ought to delight in stuff like this.

So yes, we should groan in this fallen world. But we can (and should!) also celebrate.

Hubble Telescope Advent Calendar

Bookmark this one and marvel at God's majesty during Advent:

Keep checking this page, because every day, for the next 25 days, a new photo will be revealed here from the Hubble Space Telescope, some old and some new.

Maybe my wife can explain to me what this explanation of the above photo means:

This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars and new details in complex structures in the hot ionized gas swirling around the central 300 light-years. This view combines the sharp imaging of the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with color imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope survey to make the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the Galactic core. The core is obscured in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infrared light penetrates the dust. At this distance - 26,000 light-years away - Hubble reveals details in objects as small as 20 times the size of our own solar system.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I read this in Michael Horton's new book (The Gospel-Driven Life) and was encouraged by it:

What is grace?

God's Riches At Christ's Expense

That's worth an eternity of unpacking, but it's a pretty great start!

Lord of the Wine

When the prophets spoke of the coming glory of God's Kingdom, ushered in by the Messianic King, it seems that wine is common image:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. (Isaiah 25:6)

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the
Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; (Jeremiah 31:12)

“And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk," (Joel 3:18)

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the
Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. "(Amos 9:13)

"Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with
wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the Lord." (Zechariah 10:7).

Then Jesus shows up, and the very first thing He does to manifest His glory (John 2:11) is turn 150 gallons of water into the best wine anyone has ever tasted.

Coincidence? It seems like with His first miracle, Jesus wants to show the world that He is the Lord of the Feast.

Jesus was most surely "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief". In a culture of hedonism, we'd do well to remember that often. But likewise, it's worthwhile to remember that Jesus became a man of sorrows in order to prepare the greatest feast we've ever dreamed of.

Following Him is not gloomy.

Carson says it better than I can (is that a shock to anyone?)

D.A. Carson, in Christ and Culture Revisited:

"Christians cannot long think about Christ and culture without reflecting on the fact that this is God's world, but that this side of the fall this world is simultaneously resplendent with glory and awash in shame, and that every expression of human culture simultaneously discloses that we were made in God's image and shows itself to be mis-shaped and corroded by human rebellion against God."

That's a good summary of what I was trying to communicate in my sermon last Sunday on the tension that exists in this world, which is still a theater for God's glory and yet has been grossly perverted by sin.

Is it any wonder that Carson says better in one sentence (albeit, a long one!) what it took me 30 minutes to say?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Prayer Request

In my preaching, I try to be transparent, making it clear that I'm far from perfect and have many struggles.

I want my blogging to be the same. It wouldn't be "real" if I just got online and posted some engaging quotes or ideas for you to consider. So if you'd be willing to pray for me, I'd value you're praying these words from Psalm 94 in my behalf:

"When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul."

Back to blogging tomorrow...