Monday, September 27, 2010

Illumination for the Soul

Today I read this quote from Pastor Tullian:

If you’re suffering and you’re angry, bitter, and joyless it means you’ve idolized whatever it is you’re losing.

Then about 60 seconds later I read this question from Paul Tripp:

"How is your present disappointment, discouragement, or grief a window on what has actually captured your heart?"

They've given me a lot to think about today. It seems like there is still a lot of elder brother in me. As often as I preach the gospel, evidently I am still tenaciously committed to my own self-salvation project.

Thankfully, the Father invites the elder brother to the feast just as He welcomes the younger brother.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Painful Liberation

Pastor Tullian:

Much pain we experience is God prying open our hands & taking away something we’re holding onto more tightly than him.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Cecropia Moth

In his book Trusting God, Jerry Bridges opens his chapter titled Growing through Adversity with the following illustration:

One of the many fascinating events in nature is the emergence of the Cecropia moth from its cocoon -- an event that occurs only with much struggle on the part of the moth to free itself. The story is frequently told of someone who watched a moth go through this struggle. In an effort to help -- and not realizing the necessity of the struggle -- the viewer snipped the shell of the cocoon.

Soon the moth came out with its wings all crimped and shriveled. But as the person watched, the wings remained weak. The moth, which in a few moments would have stretched those wings to fly, was now doomed to crawling out its brief life in frustration of ever being the beautiful creature God created it to be.

What the person in the story did not realize was that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon was an essential part of developing the muscle system of the moth's body and pushing the body fluids out into the wings to expand them. By unwisely seeking to cut short the moth's struggle, the watcher had actually crippled the moth and doomed its existence.

The adversities of life are much like the cocoon of the Cecropia moth. God uses them to develop the spiritual "muscle system" of our lives (see James 1:2-4).

So don't lose heart in your wearisome struggles; God is preparing you to fly.

How Duty Becomes Delight

William Cowper:

To see the law by Christ fulfilled, to hear his pardoning voice;
changes a slave into a child and duty into choice.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spiritual Dehydration

An excellent post from C.J. Mahaney addressing a common struggle for Christians:

Let me begin this post by asking you four direct questions about the condition of your soul right now:

  • Do you sense that your affections for the Savior have diminished recently?
  • Has your appetite for Scripture weakened?
  • Does your soul seem dry?
  • Does God seem distant from you?
If so, you are not alone. These struggles are common to even the most mature Christians—so common that Scripture anticipates them. But these are serious problems and must be addressed and not ignored. They don’t just go away over time. So how should we respond?

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Quest for More

As Phillies fans get ready for the big series against Atlanta this week, this video provides a good ballast for enjoying the short-term pleasures of twalk-off home runs without turning our favorite sports team into an idol.

Jason Werth cannot die for my sins. The right hand of Roy Halladay can throw a baseball really well, but it does not offer fullness of joy nor pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Chase Utley did not form the galaxies by the power of his word.

The glory of sports is a pointer to something more. Paul Tripp provides a wonderful reminder of this:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who's Going to be Left Behind?

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' fiction series Left Behind was wildly popular in Christian circles a few years ago. I confess that when I became a believer ten years ago, I devoured the first 7 books in the series in rapid pace.

The idea of people being left behind seems to come from Matthew 24:

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.

It seems to me, though, that interpreting this text as the rescue of believers from earthly corruption almost totally reverses the meaning of the passage. The comparison with the days of Noah makes this plain. In the days of Noah, it was the ungodly who were taken away, experiencing God's wrath in judgment for their sin. To be left behind -- as Noah and his family were -- was to experience God's mercy and grace.

So who is it that's going to be left behind?

We All Need the Gospel

Pastor Tullian:

The gospel is the good news that God rescues sinners. And since both non-Christians & Christians are sinners, we both need the gospel.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pesky Presbyterians

You don't expect to see the guys on Sportscenter praising the excellence of the Presbyterians, but that's what happened. Is it ethical for them to do something this deceitful?

I guess it was predestined to succeed...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Dose of Humility

Randy Alcorn:
"We who have not formed galaxies and fashioned worlds should not be so quick to tell God how to run the universe."
See Job 38:4

A Free Dose of Humility

A few months back I read Josh Harris' book Dug Down Deep. Recently I saw that one of the chapters from that book is available to read online for free. The chapter, titled Humble Orthodoxy is well worth your time. You can read it here.

I long to be known as a man who embraces a humble orthodoxy, and am eager to see those I have the privilege of serving be known for the same. Do yourself a favor and read this excellent chapter...and be sure to apply the material!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Real Lasting Rest

I was really encouraged -- in my parenting of the two little girls God has entrusted to me and in my living with daily trust in Him as a child -- by this blog post from Paul Tripp. The conclusion:

Real rest is found in trusting the Person who is in control of the things you don’t understand.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lessons in the Field

This morning I read these words from Proverbs 24:

I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.

I want to be a person who can be out for a walk, see a nasty-looking yard and receive instruction from God through it. God is speaking to us everywhere, if our ears are tuned to hear His voice.

The Hands of God

Scotty Smith:

The tear wiping hand of God comes to us freely because the wrath bearing hand of God fell on Jesus fully.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Resources on Work

As promised to my congregation, here is a listing of some helpful resources for those who might want to think more deeply about the subject of work from a Christian perspective:

A Biblical Understanding of Work, a very good sermon by John Loftness of Covenant Life Church, laying out a nice overview of a doctrine of work.

Loftness refers to this article by D.G. Hart in an issue of Modern Reformation magazine, which fleshes out the doctrine of work as it relates to the 1999 movie, The Big Kahuna (you may need to create an account and log in to view the article, but doing so is free).

God at Work, by Gene Veith. A good, introductory level book looking at the doctrine of vocation, or calling. It touches not only work, but also callings in the family, church and state.

An article from Veith from World Magazine entitled, Arenas of Service. A good introduction to the doctrine of vocation for those who don't want to read a whole book about it.

Another good book on the doctrine of vocation is The Call, by Os Guinness.

In his book Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper has a very good chapter on work titled Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5. You can read the entire book online here (the chapter on work begins on page 131)

Two sermons by John Piper: Tentmakers in Minneapolis and Why God Wills Work. The chapter from Don't Waste Your Life pulls from material preached in these two sermons.

Tim Keller has some good sermons on work that are available for free online: Made for Stewardship, Work, Work and Rest. I've learned a great deal on this subject from Keller.

In Michael Horton's book Where in the World is the Church? there is an excellent chapter on work (he's where I got my Loverboy reference from). The whole book is well worth reading, and is one of the best, most balanced books I've come across in the area of Christian engagement in culture.

You can watch a video of a talk Horton recently gave on work here.

Dorothy Sayers has a pretty famous article on work titled, Why Work?, which can be read here. To be honest, I've not read the whole thing, but I've enjoyed what I've read of this.

Leland Ryken has written a good, thorough book on the subjects of work and leisure called Work and Leisure in Christian Perspective. I am pretty sure it's the same book that I read published under the title Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure.

For those especially interested or involved in business, Wayne Grudem has a little book titled, Business for the Glory of God.

The book Engaging God's World by Neal Plantinga is not about work per se, but the biblical worldview it lays out is one that can fuel wise thinking about work.

If you're wondering about the practice of slavery from a biblical perspective, this recent sermon by Matt Chandler titled Slavery and the Skeptic gives clarity on the subject. It's also a good apologetics resource.

If the sermon is too time-consuming for you to listen to, this article from the Village website highlights some of the same material on slavery in a shorter format.

Corporate Worship

Paul Tripp:

Corporate worship is a regular gracious reminder that it's not about you. You've been born into a life that is a celebration of another.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Most Popular Third String Quarterback of All TIme?

It may very well be Tim Tebow. Check out this article from Yahoo Sports.

A God You Can Trust

Occasionally -- not often, but every once in awhile -- I come across a quote that is so edifying, thought-provoking, challenging, refreshing, etc. that I can't help but post it here on the blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. This quote from Don Carson is such a quote:

You can trust a God who not only is sovereign but bleeds for you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sermon Preview

How can this all-too familiar scene on the Schuylkill expressway help us to have a better attitude about our jobs? I'll be starting this Sunday's sermon with an explanation.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gospel Adornment

This Sunday I'll be preaching on Paul's instructions to Christian slaves, who are to work diligently, not be argumentative, be faithful, "that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior." It's one of the texts that has had a big place in my life for the past 3 years or so.

I just came across this quote from Paul Tripp on Twitter, and maybe I will share it on Sunday:

Allegiance to the theology of Scripture is not demonstrated by a doctrinal vocabulary, but by a life shaped by the truths you've embraced.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Demolishing Arguments

(Adapted from Paul Tripp's Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands. You should stop reading this post and get this book ASAP and read it...seriously...right now...)

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul sees one of his aims in ministry as demolishing all arguments and opinions that are contrary to the knowledge of God, and taking every captive thought to make it obedient to Christ.

What does that actually look like? The next time you experience a difficult situation that is embittering you or causing you anxiety, try out this exercise. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Truth: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man."
Ask yourself: where have you been tempted to think that your situation is unique and that you have been singled out for particular suffering?

Truth: "God is faithful."
Ask yourself: Where have you tended to believe that God has been unfaithful to His promises for you?

Truth: "He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability."
Ask yourself: Where have you thought that you've been given more than you can handle or that the extreme pressures of the situation have caused you to sin?

Truth: "He will provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
Ask yourself: Where have you tended to feel trapped, with no reasonable way to deal with your situation?

Demolish the arguments, and take every thought captive to Christ.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Gladness of Jesus Christ

I wrote yesterday that my biggest battle each day is to truly embrace the fact that conformity to Jesus -- not my own personal ease and comfort -- is really the good life.

One of the important biblical pieces of weaponry that I have to fight that battle is the truth of Jesus' indestructible joy. It's only because Jesus is infinitely happy that being conformed to Him is actually good news. If Jesus isn't joyful, being conformed to His image will be dreary.

To stoke my fires for this truth of Jesus' joy, this morning I re-read John Piper's chapter, The Indestructible Joy, from his book Seeing & Savoring Jesus Christ. It's a wonderful little book -- one of my favorites by Piper. You can read the whole book online here (the chapter I refer to begins on page 30).

I also noticed that the people at Desiring God made a 41-day reading plan to go through the book along with several passages of Scripture each day. It looks like a beneficial study, and you can check that out here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Good Life

Last week I tweeted:

My biggest battle each day is to embrace the fact that conformity to Jesus - not comfort and ease - is truly the good life.

This has been a profound insight for me lately, occupying a good bit of my thinking and praying. If you're ever inclined to pray for me, I'd certainly value your taking this "tweet" and turning it into a prayer.

You Can Change

The other day, Michelle and I finished reading Tim Chester's You Can Change together. I've mentioned this book several times on the blog over the past few months, and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a primer on the basics of biblical change.

In the summary portion of the last chapter, Chester gives six bullet points that are tremendously important for fighting the daily fight of faith. I think we're going to put these up on our refrigerator:

* Change is a lifetime task
* Change is a daily task
* I can change
* I will change
* I am a sinner
* I am righteous

Read the last chapter of the book to fill in the details on those six bullet points. I'll give a free copy of the book to the first two people who leave a comment asking for one.