Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If You Won't Confront...

A few weeks ago I preached from 1 Corinthians 4:14 on the importance of admonishment in loving relationships. Had I read this quote from Paul Tripp prior to preaching that sermon, I probably would have shared this quote:

"We fail to confront, not because we love others too much, but because we love ourselves too much. We fear others misunderstanding us or being angry with us. We are afraid of what others will think. We don't want to endure the hardships of honesty because we love ourselves more than we love our neighbors."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Always Our Advocate

On Friday morning my family and I headed to York, PA to participate in the wedding of my sister, Laura (here I am on the big day with my dad and two sisters). On the way out the door on Friday, I had a moment to choose which baseball cap to bring with me: Penn State, or Phillies. After a second or two, I grabbed the Penn State hat.

By the time I got into the car, I had realized why I made that choice. On Thursday, the Phillies had completed a rather embarrassing 4-game losing streak to the lowly Houston Astros (insomuch as something as relatively insignificant as a ballgame played by men I don't even know in the slightest could really be called embarrassing). So on Friday, I wasn't in the mood to be an advocate for the suddenly Fightless Phils.

All that had changed by the time I got back from York. While I was away, the Phillies swept the league-best San Diego Padres in a three game series. I don't really have a need for a cap today, but I'm pretty sure that given the weekend success, I'd naturally sport the red and white Phillies' gear as a happy advocate of the home team.

This seems to be a common experience, as anyone who has visited a shopping mall in the Philly area over the past three Octobers can attest to. Where did all these fans come from all of the sudden? The Phils' were hot, and so advocates were springing up everywhere. When they're lousy, far fewer people seem interested in being an advocate (I'm using the word advocate here according to a dictionary definition: to recommend publicly).

We'll throw a parade with two million people for a winner; but when the winners hit a bump in the road, everyone seems to want to abandon ship (including me, getting ready for football season with my PSU cap).

My weekend fickleness of heart in the face of failure was actually an occasion for having my heart stirred for the great Advocacy of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures say, "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Now the word advocate is being used a little differently here, but the overall sense is somewhat similarly. John doesn't write, "If anyone hits a home run with their lives, we have an advocate with the Father." No, he says, "If anyone sins," Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father.

Jesus is my Advocate, and He does not suffer from the same fickleness of heart as I do with the Phillies. Even when I am at my lousiest, when He would have every reason to disown me, Jesus stands beside me as an ever-faithful Advocate before the Father. If my life was a sports' team logo, Jesus would not be ashamed to wear my hat, even though my sin is infinitely more abominable in His sight than being swept in a four-game series by a bad baseball team.

What a great joy it is to know that the King of the universe, the One who upholds all things by the word of His power, is an ever-faithful advocate for all who bank their hope in Him. Even when I am at my worst, Jesus is always at His best in His unwavering love for me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health

From Don Whitney's book by the same title (via Jared Wilson):

1. Do you thirst for God?
2. Are you governed increasingly by God's Word?
3. Are you more loving?
4. Are you more sensitive to God's presence?
5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
8. Do you still grieve over sin?
9. Are you a quicker forgiver?
10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

Remember, this is a diagnostic test, but it's not the remedy. In other words, trying harder to do these ten things better is not going to make you spiritually healthy. The only thing that will do that is embracing all that Jesus is, has done, and promises to do for you in the gospel.

The Sins of Our Spouses

I just started reading Paul Tripp's new book, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage. I've been really helped by some of Tripp's other material, so I was eager to check out his insights on the subject of marriage.

Chapter 1 certainly did not disappoint. Here's a quote that especially grabbed my attention:

When your ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness, or failure of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your spouse, and He is committed to transforming him or her by His grace, and He has chosen you to be one of his regular tools of change. So He will cause you to see, hear and experience your spouse's need for change so that you can be an agent of His rescue.

What a difference such a perspective would make on the daily difficulties of living so intimately with another sinner!

Diagnose Your Idols

From David Clarkson, via Kenny Stokes:
  1. What do you most highly value?
  2. What do you think about by default?
  3. What is your highest goal?
  4. To what or whom are you most committed?
  5. Who or what do you love the most?
  6. Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most?
  7. Who or what do you fear the most?
  8. Who or what do you hope in and hope for most?
  9. Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied?
  10. Who or what do you most delight in or hold as your greatest joy and treasure?
  11. Who or what captures your greatest zeal?
  12. To whom or for what are you most thankful?
  13. For whom or what great purpose do you work?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All Things New

Tullian Tchividjian:

For a long time now, I’ve been convinced that the way most Christians think about redemption is influenced more by ancient Greek philosophy than by the Bible.

Find out how by reading the rest of the article.

The Cross and Criticism

In my sermon from this past Sunday, I mentioned that the church (at its best) ought to be a safe place to be judged.

But the church won't be such a safe place if we do not know how to give and receive criticism in light of the cross. This article by Alfred Poirier gives guidance on how to do that. If you have a difficult time receiving words of correction, you'd do well to read this and glean from Poirier's insights.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bible is not about you

Hearing the sermon from which this clip is taken was a key moment in my spiritual growth. I'm so grateful to God for the ministry of Tim Keller:

What is God Doing?

Paul Tripp:

At any moment in time, the right answer to the question, "What is God doing?" is, "Accomplishing His plan."

That's wonderful news, isn't it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Do I Know God Exists?

I love this guy; I don't know of anyone who can call a system of thought idiotic and sound so nice in doing so:

To God be the Glory

John Piper, commenting on Romans 11:36,

Do you love the thought that you exist to make God look glorious? Do you love the thought that all creation exists to display the glory of God? Do you love the truth that all of history is designed by God to one day be a completed canvas that displays in the best way possible the greatness and beauty of God? Do you love the truth you personally exist to make God look like what he really is—glorious? This is why God created the universe. This is why he ordained history. This is why he sent his Son. This is why you exist. Forever to see and savor and show the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The Blessings of Consecutive Expository Preaching

I introduced my sermon on 1 Corinthians 5 yesterday by explaining the value of consecutive expository preaching (that is, preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible). I mentioned one reason why this kind of preaching is so good for the church: it guards preachers from always getting on their own personal soapboxes, and pushes us to teach on the whole counsel of God as revealed in Scripture.

In Christopher Ash's book The Priority of Preaching, he lists seven blessings of consecutive expository preaching:
  1. Consecutive expository preaching safeguards God’s agenda against being hijacked by ours.
  2. Consecutive expository preaching makes it harder for us to abuse the Bible by reading it out of context.
  3. Consecutive expository preaching dilutes the selectivity of the preacher.
  4. Consecutive expository preaching keeps the content of the sermon fresh and surprising.
  5. Consecutive expository preaching makes for variety in the style of the sermon.
  6. Consecutive expository preaching models good nourishing Bible reading for the ordinary Christian.
  7. Consecutive expository preaching helps us preach the whole Christ from the whole of Scripture.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cremation or Burial...

Does it matter?

I really appreciated -- and agreed with -- this assessment from John Piper.

The bottom line from Piper's response: it doesn't matter ultimately, but cremation is not a custom that the New Testament would naturally lead us to.

Give his response a read and let me know what you think...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christians: Heaven is NOT Your Final Destination

For those suffering from blog withdrawal, this article by Vern Poythress should occupy you for a little while.

It seems to me that if we don't include the redemption and restoration of the cosmos in the fruits of Jesus' victory at the cross and empty tomb, then we've not given Him the full glory He is due for the awesome work He accomplished on the cross.

Give the article a read and let me know what you think...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why God Makes Much of Us

I'm posting this mainly for my own reference, but maybe some of you will find it edifying as well:

True, and Hypocritical, Joy

Jonathan Edwards:

“This is . . .the difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint. The [hypocrite] rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy: the [true saint] rejoices in God. . . . True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures. . . But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice. . . that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, he seems in a sort, lovely to them. They are pleased in the highest degree, in hearing how much God and Christ make of them. So that their joy is really a joy in themselves, and not in God.

Joyful Insignificance

I was excited to see this ad (click ad to enlarge) featured in a guest post on Justin Taylor's blog. I had heard John Piper preach about this once, and was curious to see the ad but hadn't been able to find it:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Mendicant

I love this poem (the word "mendicant" means beggar):

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne

And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.

I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart

I cried, "But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.

This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me."

He said, "My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee."

I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,

As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,

He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

Child Abuse

Randy Alcorn:

Giving a child whatever he wants is child abuse.

Tasty Encouragement

This quote from Jerry Bridges brought encouragement...and made me a little hungry:

While growing up in Texas, I enjoyed my mother's buttermilk biscuits made from scratch every morning for breakfast. But there was not a single ingredient in those biscuits that I would have enjoyed by itself. And even after they were mixed together, I would not have cared for the raw biscuit dough. Only after they were mixed together in the right proportions by my mother's skillful hands and then subjected to the fire of the oven were they ready to be enjoyed for breakfast.

The "things" of Romans 8:28 ("all things work together for good...") are like the ingredients of the biscuit dough. By themselves they are not tasteful to us; we shun them. And we certainly shun the heat of the oven. But when God in His infinite skill has blended them all together and cooked them properly in the oven of adversity, we shall one day say it is good.