Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tozer on True Worship

"If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him one day a week."

Don't Forget to Groan, 3/31

Schneily Similien plays with his new prosthetic leg before trying it on at Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Deschappelles, Haiti, March 22. The 4-year-old was hurt in the Jan. 12 earthquake and had to have his left leg amputated.

Of course the receiving of a prosthetic leg is a great blessing, but the fact that it was necessary and that this boy had to have his leg amputated is another reminder of how broken this world is.

(Why should we groan?)

How the White House Made me Marvel at Jesus

(Recycled from Sunday's sermon, but posted here for those who don't listen to me preach)

This photo was taken last week, when I visited my sister and future brother-in-law in Virginia. On Saturday we visited my other sister Lindsay (far right), who is a student at George Washington University and had just gotten back from spring break in Hilton Head with my dad (next to Lindsay).

I have been to the White House before, but I was particularly struck this time at how difficult it is to get even remotely close to the President of the United States. Police cars block the street, so that cars are unable to get near the White House. If you look at the picture, you'll notice that we are standing in front of one large fence and a smaller blockade to keep us away from even the fence of the White House. There were armed guards and watchdogs at every entrance, and snipers on the roof of the White House.

As I took all this in, I couldn't help but feel small and insignificant. The whole experience gave me this impression: there is someone very important in that house, and I am not worthy to even come near his presence.

It's true that the office of president is a very important position, one of power and great dignity. Yet in comparison to Jesus Christ, the President is nothing more than a grasshopper, or a drop in a bucket. For Jesus is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. And as I looked, from afar, at the White House, I found myself marveling at the greatness of Jesus Christ: that though He is the Lord of the entire cosmos, He is filled with such love for me that He would personally leave His heavenly throne and descend to earth, cutting through all the fences and barriers which I had created by my sin, and rescue me from His righteous judgment, enlisting me in His service as His ambassador.

I have never, to my knowledge, committed an act of treason against my nation or the President. Nevertheless, fences, dogs, snipers and blockades keep me so distant from him. Yet I have committed cosmic treason against Jesus, the King of kings, by turning away from Him to be my own lord and master. Sin is treason, at the cosmic level. It is an attempt to rip away from God the glory and honor that He is due so that I can have it for myself. It is evil beyond our wildest imagination.

But what grace Jesus brings, that though I had made myself His enemy, yet in love He would come and personally bear my wrath and judgment, so that I can be declared innocent in the courtroom of heaven and eternally adopted into His family, as a co-heir of His Kingdom!

I am glad that whichever relative of mine it was decided to get a photo at the White House last week. In addition to reminding me of an enjoyable weekend with my family, it is an ongoing reminder of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ:

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13)

Because of my innate rebellion, I deserve to be much farther away from the King of kings than I was from the President on that Saturday evening. But because of Christ's life, death and resurrection, the Lord of the cosmos brings me through all the gates, guards and snipers and seats me at His table in eternal fellowship with Him, the King of kings.

That is amazing grace!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chill Out -- Postscript

Evidently, the quote I posted the other day about how the gospel frees us to chill out has caused a bit of a commotion over at JT's blog (155 comments as of my last check). To clarify why he posted the quote, JT wrote this.

Then today, Kevin DeYoung weighed in on the commotion with a post on his blog. He's a sharp guy, and I appreciate his insights on most everything I read from him. Here's an excerpt:

The fact is some Christians do need to chill the heck out. There is such a thing as pathological seriousness. It is possible to be too intense. Young Christians, especially when they are getting meaty theology and God-centeredness for the first time, can be prone to manic bouts of self-flagellation, spurts of judgmentalism, and unhealthy hyper-watchfulness. I know because there have been times in my life when I’ve been prone to all three...

I’m not arguing for careless exhortations, nor do I espouse moral relativism of any kind. But discernment is not the same as selling out. If you don’t need to chill the heck out, don’t. But some people do. And if you don’t think any Christians are wound too tight or introspective in unhealthy ways, then I’m concerned for you. Just like I’d be concerned if you thought the gospel was essentially about taking it easy.

I think that's very well said. Read the whole post here.

What do you think is going through this guy's mind?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Magnifying God with a Saxophone

I love it when this guy (the guy on the right, that is) leads worship on Sunday mornings at my church. But, in a different kind of way, God's glory is also magnified when he does this:

Maybe in the resurrection I will be able to play the sax. That would be pretty sweet!

Forgive me, but...

Yesterday in my sermon I mentioned Greg Gilbert's new book, What is the Gospel? Here's a quote I especially appreciated:

It's always interesting to watch what happens when people who insist that God would never judge them come face to face with undeniable evil. Confronted with some truly horrific evil, then they want a God of justice -- and they want him now. They want God to overlook their own sin, but not the terrorist's. "Forgive me," they say, "but don't you dare forgive him!" You see, nobody wants a God who declines to deal with evil. They just want a God who declines to deal with their evil.

FYI -- Westminster Books is currently running a great deal in which you can get this book and Tim Chester's You Can Change (which I wrote about here) for just $14.49. These are two great books for an excellent price. Click here to take advantage of the deal.

By the way, no one is paying me to make this advertisement; I just like recommending books that can help people grow in their knowledge of and love for God!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

John Piper's Upcoming Leave

I was profoundly affected by the humility in this letter from John Piper written to his church. He will be taking a leave of absence from May 1st through December 31st:

As you may have already heard in the sermon from March 27-28, the elders graciously approved on March 22 a leave of absence that will take me away from Bethlehem from May 1 through December 31, 2010. We thought it might be helpful to put an explanation in a letter to go along with the sermon.

I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.

But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me...

Read the whole thing.

I imagine this was a very hard letter to write, but I pray that I'd be able to be this honest with my congregation. If you think of it, keep the Pipers in prayer.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Gospel Frees You to Chill the Heck Out

Maybe it's because I am looking forward to watching some college hoops tonight, but I enjoyed this quote from Jared Wilson posted on JT's blog:

Yes, people watch too much TV and play too many video games and spend too much time on the Internet and what-have-you. But the proper response to our media over-saturation is not a rigorous attention to the explicitly “spiritual” in every margin of life. Be a Christian, not an ascetic. Don’t be lazy, but realize that Jesus Christ did not die and rise for you so that you would stress out about whether you’re being spiritual enough. So take a nap. Watch some television. The gospel frees you to chill the heck out.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does this make you want to read the book more, or less?

Looking at some books online at the Westminster Bookstore, I came across Mark Driscoll's book Vintage Jesus. On the page to order the book, there is this note from the Westminster bookstore staff:

Note from wtsbooks: Style of presentation and use of language in this book do not necessarily represent that which would be condoned or encouraged by the staff or management of Westminster Bookstore. We offer this book for sale as an example of a young pastor committed to presenting the Reformed faith in "edgy" ways that he believes communicate effectively to an unchurched generation. Readers should be aware that Rev. Driscoll's style and choice of words may be disturbing to some.

I found that this note actually made me more interested in reading the book, to see just what was so edgy and disturbing. What about you?

Christians and Politics

With all the talk this past week about healthcare and abortion, Tullian thought it was worth posting a section from his book Unfashionable dealing with the role of politics in cultural change.

And after reading his thoughts, I thought it was worth re-posting here. Let me know what you think:

When it comes to engaging culture, many Christians think exclusively of political activism. I fully agree that Christians need to be involved in the political process; as I’ve argued so far, Christians are to bring the standards of God’s Word to bear on every cultural sphere, politics included.

But political activism isn’t the only thing—definitely not the main thing—God had in mind when he issued the cultural mandate to mankind. Nor is politics a particularly strategic arena for cultural renewal, as theologian Vern Poythress writes:

Bible-believing Christians have not achieved much in politics because they have not devoted themselves to the larger arena of cultural conflict. Politics mostly follows culture rather than leading it. . . . A temporary victory in the voting booth does not reverse a downward moral trend driven by cultural gatekeepers in news media, entertainment, art, and education. Politics is not a cure-all.

After decades of political activism on the part of evangelical Christians, we’re beginning to understand that the dynamics of cultural change differ radically from political mobilization. Even political insiders recognize that years of political effort on behalf of evangelical Christians have generated little cultural gain. In a recent article entitled “Religious Right, R.I.P.,” columnist Cal Thomas, himself an evangelical Christian, wrote, “Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed.” American culture continues its steep moral and cultural decline into hedonism and materialism. Why? As Richard John Neuhaus observes, “Christianity in America is not challenging the ‘habits of the heart’ and ‘habits of the mind’ that dominate American culture.”

For a long time now I’ve been convinced that what happens in New York (finance), Hollywood (entertainment), Silicon Valley (technology), and Miami (fashion) has a far greater impact on how our culture thinks about reality than what happens in Washington, DC (politics). It’s super important for us to understand that politics are reflective, not directive. That is, the political arena is the place where policies are made which reflect the values of our culture—the habits of heart and mind—that are being shaped by these other, more strategic arenas. As the Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher said, “Let me write the songs of a nation; I don’t care who writes its laws.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Waste Your Health

I am 32, and cancer-free (I think). Zac Smith was my age when he learned that he had cancer in his colon. After watching this four-minute video of his story, I found myself longing for this kind of heart whenever my day of affliction comes.

Until then, I want to use my health the way Zac is using his cancer: to magnify the greatness of his God and King, Jesus Christ.

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

The Great Commission

A quote that challenged me this week from The Trellis and the Vine (for more on this book, click here):

The Great Commission is not just for the Eleven (apostles). It's the basic agenda for all disciples. To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker. The radicalism of this demand often feels a world away from the ordinariness of our normal Christian habits and customs.

We go to church, where we sing a few songs, try to concentrate on the prayers, and hear a sermon. We chat with people afterwards, and then go home for a normal week of work or study or whatever it is that we do, in time to come again next week. We might read our Bible and pray during the week. We may even attend a small group. But would someone observing from the outside say, "Look: there is someone who has abandoned his life to Jesus Christ and his mission"?

A heart-probing question, for sure!

The Thrill of Victory (Part 2)

One of the best finishes to a basketball game I have ever seen:

And as I've written before, the thrill of victory is all about the second coming of Jesus.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jesus' Friends

Another quote from Tim Keller, this one from The Prodigal God:

In general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus' life. In every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type (see Luke 15) does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders "the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the kingdom before you" (Matthew 21:31).

Jesus teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.

That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren't appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we'd like to think.

There are a lot of great quotes in Prodigal God, but this one might have provoked the most thought in me. What do you think? Is Keller right? And if so, what are the implications for those of us who follow Christ?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Forget to Groan, 3/22

An injured child cries as he sits next to other victims at the site of suicide bombing in the town of Saidu Sharif, in Pakistan's Swat Valley, on March 13. A suicide attacker struck a security checkpoint, killing scores of people and injuring dozens.

(Why should we groan?)

Doubt Your Doubts

Tim Keller, in The Reason for God:

The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then to ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but that is frequently what happens. In fairness, you must doubt your doubts.

My thesis is that if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs -- you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.

For those of you who have skeptics in your life that you love, this could be a helpful thesis to explore with them. If you've interacted with people who say things like, "There can't be just one true religion," or "If a good, loving God existed, why is there so much suffering in the world," or "Science has disproved the Bible," lovingly encourage such people to doubt their doubts.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Off for the Weekend

I am headed to Virginia to visit some family this weekend, so I likely won't be blogging until Monday.

I'm looking forward to the time visiting with my sister and her fiance, and visiting Sovereign Grace Church in Fairfax.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Are you a Charismatic?

The more I read Dug Down Deep, the more I am enjoying it. It's a thorough, yet accessible, treatment of the most foundational beliefs of Christianity. I am impressed with how well Harris handles subjects like the Church, sanctification and the Holy Spirit in a limited amount of pages.

In particular, Harris' chapter on the Holy Spirit is one I wish every "Charismatic" Christian would read and reflect upon. Harris writes:

When the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, there will be a dynamic quality of holiness, evangelistic boldness, and an otherworldly willingness to play the role of a servant to others.

And again:

You know the Spirit is working if you're more amazed by Jesus, more desirous to serve and obey him, more ready to tell other people about him, more ready to serve the church he loves.

Amen, Josh! May I be that kind of a charismatic!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Current Reads

Right now I'm reading two books that have both been an encouragement to me:

Dug Down Deep by Josh Harris is somewhat of a spiritual autobiography. It focuses on Harris' own journey from a nominal Christian background to the "humble orthodoxy" he now embraces. Chapter 6 on what Jesus did on the cross is probably worth the price of the entire book; but there's lots of other good stuff in there too.

Counsel from the Cross, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson, is written to demonstrate the importance of counselors reminding people of Christ's love revealed in the gospel. All of us counsel people in various ways, whether we regard ourselves as "counselors" or not. And there's no better counsel we can give than to saturate people with the good news of Christ's life, death, resurrection and ascension. Readers are reminded of how to consistently apply the truths of the gospel to every area of life.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Don't Forget to Groan, 3/17

Family members attend the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Kielin T. Dunn of Chesapeake, Va., on March 4 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Dunn was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan.

(Why should we groan?)

Tebow Ad: Update

Last month after the Super Bowl I posed the question of whether the Super Bowl Ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mom was a lot of hoopla over nothing. Would a 30-second ad that didn't even mention abortion or the pro-life cause make any kind of impact?

Based on the testimony in this article, the answer is a resounding "yes"!

Life Lessons from Proverbs 3

Tim Keller shares 5 life lessons from Proverbs 3:3-12. Keller explains that these principles present the major themes of the rest of the book of Proverbs, and provide us a mini-guide to faithful living:

1. Put your heart’s deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don’t think you know better than God’s word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)

4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)

5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12)

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Sports Star Worth Celebrating

Ty Warren of the New England Patriots is not exactly the biggest star in the NFL, but he has won a couple of Super Bowls.

I found this story about him from ESPN's website to be refreshing: Warren passed up a $250,000 off-season workout bonus in order to stay home with his wife and three kids while finishing his college degree from Texas A&M.

In an age of sports stars who think they are invincible because of their athletic prowess, I was encouraged to read about Warren's concern for his family, education and life after football.

I trust there are many stories like this, but unfortunately they don't often make the headlines.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Preach to Yourself

This morning I read Psalm 42, and every time I read that psalm I can't help but think of these words from Martyn Lloyd Jones:

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.

Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’…

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’– what business have you to be disquieted?

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.’”

In my experience at least, it really is true: all my disappointment and unrest of soul is the result of my unwillingness to preach truth to myself about what I know to be true of the great God who has redeemed me and is committed to working all things for my good.

Brutal Honesty

After a challenging sermon yesterday from my friend Anthony Zurlo, I was reminded of this quote from Jerry Bridges.

"The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don't have to play defensive games anymore. We don't have to rationalize and excuse our sins.

"We can say we told a lie instead of saying we exaggerated a bit. We can admit an unforgiving spirit instead of continuing to blame our parents for our emotional distress. We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross. With the assurance of total forgiveness through Christ, we have no reason to hide from our sins anymore."

I would only add that the gospel enables us to be brutally honest not only with ourselves and with God, but with other people. We won't be freed to be open about our sin and God's grace with others without the security of knowing Christ's love revealed in the gospel. And so our fellowship with others will be terribly impaired if we are not resting in Christ's grace that has justified the ungodly.

You Can Change

Crossway Books has re-released Tim Chester's book, You Can Change: God's Transforming Power for our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions. It had originally been published by IVP in England.

I recently read this book and found it to be one of the best, concise books I've read on how change happens in the lives of God's people for His glory. It is full of sound principles and helpful illustrations.

If you're looking for a good book on the basics of the nature of biblical change, this is it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekend Reading: Evangelism and Social Action

There is a lot being said and written about today in the evangelical world concerning the connection between evangelism and "social action."

Almost two years ago, Tony Payne wrote three posts on this subject which I found insightful and biblically faithful (though we may have some slight disagreement on 2 Peter 3, I agree with his conclusions in point #3 of post 2). If you have some time on this rainy weekend, check them out and let me know what you think:

Part 1: What is the relationship between evangelism and social action?
Part 2: How does social action relate to the Last Day and the new creation?
Part 3: What does social action look like for the Christian?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Justifying Brad Lidge, and Me

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard that Phillies' pitcher Brad Lidge is feeling healthy and in command of his pitches, which he was not last season. Apparently Lidge said that he did not want to make excuses last year while he was struggling terribly, so he pitched on in a good deal of pain.

As a Phillies fan, I'd prefer if Lidge had made excuses during the season when he could have been removed from the Phillies' roster, instead of making excuses after the season, when nothing can be done about it.

But what I'm more concerned about is this: how would a robust embrace of the gospel free Brad Lidge from feeling the need to make excuses about his performance either during or after the season?

And, more importantly, how would a robust embrace of the gospel empower me to stop with my incessant excuse-making when I'm not "on top of my game" (ie. I'm not getting enough sleep, the kids are driving me crazy, things are really stressful at work, etc.)?

Ah, Brad Lidge. He truly is an instrument of sanctification in my life.

Disobedience, Not Defeat

"When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated s because we have chosen to disobey."

Jerry Bridges

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Understanding the First Commandment

"You shall have no other gods before Me," says the LORD. But what does it mean to have another god besides the LORD?

Martin Luther puts it this way:

A god is whatever we expect to provide all good and in which we take refuge in all distress...Whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in, that, I tell you, is your true God.

"Do it Again!"

If you have contact with young children, you know how long they can find enjoyment in the same thing over and over again. "Do it again!", is the refrain of a little child. My daughter has certainly got that phrase down.

So it was with great interest that I read this quote from G.K. Chesterton, who suggests that Halle is reflecting to me the image of our Maker:

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough...

It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in nature may not be mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

Don't Forget to Groan, 3/11

(Why should we groan?)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrating (Sinful) Sports Stars

Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But it seems as though recently his accomplishments off the field have been overshadowing his impressive accomplishments on the field. Unfortunately, his off-field "accomplishments" are far less impressive, causing many sports writers and fans to question his character and judgment.

The most recent allegation is that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a 20 year-old woman in a bar bathroom in Georgia. Last summer he was served with a civil lawsuit by a hotel worker who accused him of raping her at a Lake Tahoe hotel where the woman worked. Of course these are only allegations and I do believe a man is innocent until found guilty.

But there is more. He almost killed himself in 2006 when he had a motorcycle accident while riding without a helmet, and has a reputation in Pittsburgh of skipping out on his restaurant tabs. And when I did a search of his name to insert a photo into this post, this photo of an obviously drunk Roethlisberger was one of the first to come up.

Ben Roethlisberger is a sinner. And so am I. I'm not bringing up a record of his sins in order to cast judgment on the man. To do so would be to cast judgment on myself, for I am the greatest sinner that I know. The question on my mind is this: should Christians celebrate this guy, and others like him, by wearing his football jersey? Going to school at Penn State, I know many Christians who watch their beloved Steelers on Sunday afternoons wearing a Roethlisberger jersey.

I personally wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. In fact, my Chase Utley Phillies T-shirt now serves as a dust rag after he dropped the F-bomb in a pre-planned speech on live TV after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. Yet I still have and wear my Jimmy Rollins shirt, though for all I know he may well use the F-word as often as Utley and get drunk as much as Roethlisberger. And when I go to Phillies games, I sometimes wear an authentic Ryan Howard Jersey that my wife got me for a great price at a yard sale a few years ago. Maybe that is hypocrisy; I've not got this all figured out.

As a Christian, I desire that my whole life reflect a hunger for God's glory. That includes my enjoyment of sports. I certainly do it very imperfectly, and I don't think there are absolutes when it comes to areas of Christian liberty like this.

So let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that Christians who wear Ben Roethlisberger's jersey are sinning by doing so. I'm simply saying that I am not comfortable doing so, and am curious what other readers think about this subject.

For those of you who love sports, how do you feel about celebrating and cheering for athletes who are openly living their lives in rebellion against the God whom we love and worship?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grace Changes Everything

This looks like a valuable new resource from Tim Keller: Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything. Keller's emphasis on the gospel each and every week in his pulpit ministry has been immensely useful in my own spiritual growth and my emphases as a preacher.

Trailer for Gospel in Life from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

"The Fundamental Task of Parenting"

Michelle and I read this last night in This Momentary Marriage. What a humbling calling it is to raise children (biological or spiritual):

"The most fundamental task of a mother and father is to show God to the children.
Children know their parents before they know God. This is a huge responsibility and should cause every parent to be desperate for God-like transformation. The children will have years of exposure to what the universe is like before they know there is a universe. They will experience the kind of authority there is in the universe and the kind of justice there is in the universe and the kind of love there is in the universe before they meet the God of authority and justice and love who created and rules the universe. Children are absorbing from dad his strength and leadership and protection and justice and love; and they are absorbing from mother her care and nurture and warmth and intimacy and justice and love—and, of course, all these overlap.

And all this is happening before the child knows anything about God, but it is profoundly all about God. Will the child be able to recognize God for who he really is in his authority and love and justice because mom and dad have together shown the child what God is like. The chief task of parenting is to know God for who he is in many attributes and then to live in such a way with our children that we help them see and know God. And, of course, that will involve directing them always to the infallible portrait of God in the Bible."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Springtime and Salvation

I went for a run outside today for the first time since early December. The temperature is in the low 60's, and it seems like Spring is arriving in the Northeast.

I can't recall ever feeling so excited about the arrival of Spring as I do right now. And I imagine that is because I've never experienced a Winter as harsh as the one we've experienced this year.

It's a little parable of our lives in Christ, isn't it? The glory of our coming salvation gets sweeter and sweeter in light of the bitterness and pain of this present life. As Paul says, "Our light, momentary afflictions are producing for us a weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Going out running today, I kind of felt like I was in Narnia, knowing that Aslan was on the move. How precious it will be, when the true and better Aslan returns to make all things new.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Don't Waste Your Pulpit

A good reminder this morning as I prepared to stand before our congregation and preach from God's Word:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Who Did Jesus Die For?

No, I'm not thinking of the third point of Calvinism (if you're interested in thinking about the question that way, I'd recommend this sermon).

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes:

"We have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."

So Paul says that Jesus died for us ("for their sake", v.14). It is good and right for a Christian to say and love the truth, "Jesus died for me." But in the same sentence he writes that Jesus died for us, so that we might live for Him.

So did Jesus die for us, or for Himself?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Alright Baseball Fans...

Since common grace is on my mind today, let's talk baseball! One Spring Training game is under our belt, so it's time to ask for some predictions.

I'm still somewhat amazed that the guy widely regarded as the best pitcher in baseball actually wanted to play for the Phillies and signed a contract extension for less money because he was so serious about playing here. That makes me an instant fan of Roy Halladay, though I'm not thrilled with seeing Cliff Lee depart after only half a season with the Phils.

So what do you see happening this season? Tell me who you think will play in the World Series, and who will take the crown this year?

What Gifts of Common Grace are You Thankful For?

"Common Grace" is a bit hard to define, but essentially it refers to the grace God gives to all people (believers and unbelievers) which enables them to make valuable contributions to the world's culture, to do civic good and sustain earthly life and blessing (see Matthew 5:45).

Today, in the midst of fighting a wearying head cold, I am exceedingly grateful for the common grace gift of Afrin nasal spray. Whoever created this product has surely been an instrument of God's grace and kindness in my life, supplying me with the gift of breathing!

What's a gift of God's common grace that you are grateful for today?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Matt Chandler: The Gospel on the Ground, and In the Air

This past Sunday, I did my best to answer as plainly and clearly as I could from 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 the question: what is the gospel?

According to Matt Chandler, I only hit the gospel "on the ground" in that sermon. I didn't get into the gospel "in the air". But I'm with him wholeheartedly that both are precious and ought to be unpacked regularly. In fact, if I'd gone on in 1 Corinthians 15 I would have gotten there, but only so much can be said in 45 minutes!

Check out this video to see what he's talking about:

Matt Chandler - 20/20 2010 Session 1 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Humble Orthodoxy

From Josh Harris' new book Dug Down Deep:

“We should strive to hold our beliefs with a charity and kindness that won’t embarrass us in heaven.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Defending and Delighting in Penal Substitution

For anyone interested in thinking through (and worshiping through) the doctrine of penal substitution which I referred to in yesterday's sermon, I highly recommend Pierced for our Transgressions. Reading it will require careful thought and attention, but I can't think of anything more worthy of our careful thought than understanding what Jesus accomplished for His people on the Cross.

The Cross Under Attack

In my sermon yesterday, I mentioned that many of the main points that make the gospel such wonderfully good news are being attacked or belittled from within the ranks of those calling themselves evangelical Christians.

For the sake of time, I did not get into any of those attacks in the sermon. If I'd had the time, I would have at least mentioned this quote from Steve Chalke and Alan Mann in their book, The Lost Message of Jesus.

“The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: God is love”. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil.”

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this statement is blasphemous. What's most alarming is that, from what I understand, Chalke is considered the face of evangelical Christianity in London. And the book in which this quote is found is published by Zondervan, the biggest Christian publisher in the business.

What the Apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29ff) is obviously just as true today as when it was written nearly 2,000 years ago:

"I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert..."