Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This is an encouraging article by Matt Redmond.

If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man [Adam], much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:17)


Why Do Young People Leave the Faith?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The latest issue of Christianity Today includes an interesting article by Drew Dyck called "The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church." According to the article, "the crisis of people leaving the faith has taken on new gravity.... Young adults today are dropping religion at a greater rate [five to six times] than young adults of yesteryear."

The entire article is an worthwhile read, but I want to draw your attention to a few sections that I found particularly intriguing (my emphases in bold):

A teenage girl goes off to college and starts to party. A young man moves in with his girlfriend. Soon the conflict between belief and behavior becomes unbearable. Tired of dealing with a guilty conscience and unwilling to abandon their sinful lifestyles, they drop their Christian commitment. They may cite intellectual skepticism or disappointments with the church, but these are smokescreens designed to hide the reason. "They change their creed to match their deeds," as my parents would say. I think there's some truth to this—more than most young leavers would care to admit. The Christian life is hard to sustain in the face of so many temptations. Over the past year, I've conducted in-depth interviews with scores of ex-Christians. Only two were honest enough to cite moral compromise as the primary reason for their departures. Many experienced intellectual crises that seemed to conveniently coincide with the adoption of a lifestyle that fell outside the bounds of Christian morality.

Many de-conversions were precipitated by what happened inside rather than outside the church. Even those who adopted materialist worldviews or voguish spiritualities traced their departures back to what happened in church. What pushed them out? Again, the reasons for departing in each case were unique, but I realized that most leavers had been exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith. When sociologist Christian Smith and his fellow researchers examined the spiritual lives of American teenagers, they found most teens practicing a religion best called "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," which casts God as a distant Creator who blesses people who are "good, nice, and fair." Its central goal is to help believers "be happy and feel good about oneself." Where did teenagers learn this faith? Unfortunately, it's one taught, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, at every age level in many churches. It's in the air that many churchgoers breathe, from seeker-friendly worship services to low-commitment small groups. When this naive and coldly utilitarian view of God crashes on the hard rocks of reality, we shouldn't be surprised to see people of any age walk away.

The answer, of course, lies in more than offering another program. Nor should we overestimate the efficacy of slicker services or edgy outreach. Only with prayer and thoughtful engagement will at least some of the current exodus be stemmed. One place to begin is by rethinking how we minister to those from youth to old age. There's nothing wrong with pizza and video games, nor with seeker-sensitive services, nor with low-commitment small groups that introduce people to the Christian faith. But these cannot replace serious programs of discipleship and catechism. The temptation to wander from the faith is not a new one. The apostle Paul exhorted the church at Ephesus to strive to mature every believer, so that "we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph. 4:14). Ultimately we will have to undertake the slow but fruitful work of building relationships with those who have left the faith.


These Inward Trials

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Prayer Answered by Crosses"

I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith and love and every grace,
Might more of His salvation know, and seek more earnestly His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray; and He, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that, in some favoured hour, at once He’d answer my request,
And by His love’s constraining power subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel the hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part.

Yea, more, with His own hand he seemed intent to aggravate my woe,
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

"Lord, why is this?" I trembling cried; "Wilt thou pursue this worm to death?"
"This is the way," the Lord replied, "I answer prayer for grace and faith.

"These inward trials I now employ from self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou may’st seek thy all in Me."

- John Newton

The Father disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:10-11)

HT: Desiring God blog

See also: "These Inward Trials," chapter 21 in Knowing God by J. I. Packer


A Sovereign and Personal God

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If you have been a believer for at least a few years, at some point along the way you have likely entered into a conversation (er, debate) over the seeming contradiction between God's sovereignty and human responsibility. I've had countless interactions of this nature over the past 10 years of my life. Typically the end result is that the well-meaning Christian, attempting to defend God, actually presents a caricature of God. (I'm not just pointing fingers here; I've been there and done that myself.) Some Christians attempt to defend God's sovereign authority by undermining Bible passages which emphasize human responsibility and choice. Other Christians attempt to defend God's sinless nature by undermining Bible passages which emphasize God's sovereignty over all things.

There is a third group of Christians: those who attempt to balance these two Scriptural truths. While I applaud this effort, it seems to me that there is both a right way and a wrong way to harmonize God's sovereignty and human responsibility.

The wrong way is to postulate that God is somewhat sovereign and that humans are somewhat responsible (50-50). Or to postulate that God is mostly sovereign and that humans are a little bit responsible (80-20); or vice-versa. Here's the problem: can you imagine if we reasoned the same way about other seemingly contradictory truths in Scripture? It is heresy to argue that Jesus is 50% God and 50% man. It is wrong to argue that the Bible is 80% the Word of God and 20% the product of man. To "resolve" the tension of God's sovereignty and human responsibility in this way is actually to deny both truths.

Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. The Bible is 100% the Word of God and 100% penned by man. Similarly, an investigation of the whole of Scripture must lead us to believe that God is 100% sovereign over all things, and that humans are 100% responsible for the choices they make. I cannot explain the divine-human confluence in the nature of Christ or the nature of Scripture. Nor can I explain the divine-human confluence in human activity. We must accept by faith that there are certain truths that cannot be fathomed by merely human minds: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God" (Deut. 29:29a). I cannot promise you that even in heaven we will have the ability to fully comprehend these mysteries. However, we are accountable for the truths contained in Scripture: "but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29b).

D.A. Carson has written the best Scriptural summary of this topic that I am aware of in his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation. In chapter 9 of this book, titled "A Sovereign and Personal God," Carson explores numerous Bible passages which present both divine sovereignty and human responsibility side-by-side. Carson's summary of these passages and his concluding thoughts are worth the price of the book. Here is a sample of Carson's introduction:

(1) God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in Scripture to reduce human responsibility. (2) Human beings are responsible creatures - that is, they choose, they believe, they disobey, they respond, and there is moral significance in their choices; but human responsibility never functions in Scripture to diminish God's sovereignty or to make God absolutely contingent. My argument is that both propositions are taught and exemplified in the Bible. Part of our problem is believing that both are true. We tend to use one to diminish the other; we tend to emphasize one at the expense of the other. But responsible reading of the Scripture prohibits such reductionism. (p. 148)

After surveying Genesis 50:19-20; 2 Samuel 24; Isaiah 10:5-19; John 6:37-40; Philippians 2:12-13; Acts 18:9-10; and Acts 4:23-30. Carson concludes:

Our two propositions concerning God's sovereignty and human responsibility are directly tied to the nature of God. If God were sovereign and nothing more, we might all become Christian fatalists, but it would be hard to carve out a place for human interaction with Deity, a place for human responsibility. If God were personal and more - talking with us, responding to us, asking and answering questions - it would be easy to understand how human beings are responsible to him, but it would be harder to grasp just how this sort of God could be transcendent, sovereign, omnipotent. The wonderful truth is that God is both transcendent and personal. He is transcendent: he exists above or beyond time and space, since he existed before the universe was created. From this exalted and scarcely imaginable reach he sovereignly rules over the works of his hands. Yet he is personal: he presents himself to us not as raw power or irresistible force, but as Father, as Lord. When he speaks and issues a command, if I obey I am obeying him; if I disobey, I am disobeying him. All of my most meaningful relationships with God are bound up with the fact that God has disclosed himself to be a person. (p. 159)

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen." (Romans 11:33, 36)


"Do It Again!"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"A child kicks his 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 to exult in monotony.

"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 a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore."

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

HT: Justin Taylor


And You Thought You Were Feeling Bad About Yourself Today...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

There are moments in the Christian life when we are acutely aware of the depth of our sinfulness. Perhaps you are at a place in your walk with God where you can relate to this man's feelings:

Often...I have had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness; very frequently to such a degree as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping, sometimes for a considerable time together; so that I have often been forced to shut myself up. I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness, and the badness of my heart, than ever I had before my conversion. It has often appeared to me, that if God should mark iniquity against me, I should appear the very worst of all mankind; of all that have been, since the beginning of the world to this time; and that I should have by far the lowest place in hell. When others [have said] that they were as bad as the devil himself, I thought their expressions seemed exceeding faint and feeble, to represent my wickedness. My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or mountain over my head. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mouth, "Infinite upon infinite...infinite upon infinite!" When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell....
Who was it that could have such a horribly negative view of himself? A murderer? An adulterer? A believer who did not understand the nature of justification and union with Christ? In fact, the author of these words was one of the greatest pastors and theologians in American church history: Jonathan Edwards.

Thankfully, his musings continued:
...And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself; far beyond the sight of every thing, but the eye of sovereign grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth.
Here's the reality: the closer a believer grows in his relationship with God, the more his own failings are exposed by the light of God's perfections. This keeps us humble and dependent on grace until the end of our lives, regardless of how much we grow in holiness. Reminds me of the words of another great pastor and theologian, the apostle Paul:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ... There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 7:24-8:1)


Harvest St. Vincent Launch Service

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pastor Dan and his wife Julie were privileged to be in St. Vincent September 5th for the launch service of a new Harvest Bible Chapel, pastored by our former assistant pastor Al Blake. The Lord worked mightily: 200 people were in attendance and 10 received Christ! Rejoice with us as you watch this video.

"For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:47-49)


Pray Until You Pray

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I really need to do more of this:

"Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying. We are especially prone to such feelings when we pray for only a few minutes, rushing to be done with a mere duty. To enter the spirit of prayer, we must stick to it for a while. If we 'pray until we pray,' eventually we come to delight in God's presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will. Even in dark or agonized praying, we somehow know we are doing business with God. In short, we discover a little of what Jude means when he exhorts his readers to 'pray in the Holy Spirit' (Jude 20) - which presumably means it is treacherously possible to pray not in the Spirit.

"The Puritans...exhorted one another to 'pray until you pray.' Such advice is not to become an excuse for a new legalism: there are startling examples of very short, rapid prayers in the Bible. But in the Western world we urgently need this advice, for many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door bells and run away before anyone answers."

-D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, pp. 36-37


Physics, Metaphysics, and Stephen Hawking

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stephen's Hawking's new book The Grand Design has caused quite a stir, due to statements like this:

Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.

It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.

Of course, that statement begs the response, "so where did the law of gravity come from?" Hawking is doubtless a brilliant physicist, but his reach into the question of the universe's origin exceeds his grasp.

A couple of Christian writers who are much smarter than myself have offered interesting responses. James Anderson's response to Hawking is excellent:
If Hawking thinks there is some law or principle that explains the very existence of the universe, he must have in mind a metaphysical law rather than a physical law. Unless I’m much mistaken, the law of gravity is a physical law. It appears that Hawking intends to leave behind physics (a subject on which he is eminently qualified to speak) and enter the realm of metaphysics (a subject on which he has no particular expertise, so far as I know). It’s more than a little ironic therefore to find Hawking declaring on the very first page of his new book that “philosophy is dead.” If philosophy is dead, why is Hawking now turning his hand to philosophy? No, philosophy is in very good health, despite its frequent mistreatment at the hands of scientists....

Unfortunately even the best physicists aren’t immune to embarrassing themselves when they turn their hands to metaphysics—and they’re most at risk when it comes to religiously controversial topics.

Al Mohler's response includes an exhortation for Christian apologetics:

Hawking has acknowledged that his work “is on the borderline between science and religion, but I have tried to stay on the scientific side of the border.” That seems a strange comment, given the fact that he so routinely crosses that border.

On the other hand, that statement does betray another straightforward dimension of Hawking’s thought. He seems to imagine God only in terms of a deistic deity and a “God of the gaps” who serves as a causal explanation only when all naturalistic theories run out of steam. If nothing else, Hawking’s writings should warn Christians from taking refuge in any “God of the gaps” form of theological argument. If we invoke God only when we run out of other explanations, we will find God disappearing into a cloud of theory and endless theological surrender.

The God of the Bible is not merely a First Cause — He is the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all that is, who rules the universe by His Word. Christians must recognize the “God of the gaps” as a false idol of theological surrender. Furthermore, Christians must also understand that any scientific admission of God as a possible First Cause without continuing rule over creation is no cause for celebration. The triune God cannot be reduced to a First Cause among other causes.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools."
(Romans 1:18-22)


Medicine for Anxious Souls

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"No anxiety ought to be found in a believer, because we have a Father in heaven who is almighty, who loves His children as He loves His only begotten Son." –George Mueller

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." -Jesus (Matt. 6:31-33)


Marketing Madness

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mark Galli of Christianity Today has written a clever article parodying modern church marketing "experts." He imagines what sort of advice a marketing consultant might have offered the leaders of the early church. Here's an excerpt:

First, you need to decide on a logo quickly. Some in your movement are suggesting the cross, no doubt the same group who can't keep quiet about the crucifixion of your founder. This would be a disastrous move in our view. We'd want to do some focus groups to determine the best logo, and no, that does not come cheap. But it is well worth the investment, believe us.

As for your name, that too will take some concerted research. We recommend in the interim that you stay away from "Christians," as that will only remind people of your founder and his gruesome death. We think "Followers of Jesus" would work, as it would focus on the life of your founder and emphasize his ethical genius. It would also downplay redemptive religion, with all its talk of sin and repentance, as well as that business about his coming again (such speculative theology will do your movement no good, in our opinion). "Followers of Jesus" is also vague enough to leave room for the imagination, allowing you to shape the movement according to the felt needs of your target audience.

You'll want to read the whole thing. It's thought provoking.


Deadly Substitutes for God

Friday, August 20, 2010

"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

"Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire is awakened in their hearts. But then, 'as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life' (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, 'The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful' (Mark 4:19). 'The pleasures of this life' and 'the desires for other things' - these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts from God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God."

–John Piper (A Hunger for God, pp. 14-15)


On Missing Pointers to God

Friday, August 13, 2010

"You will have noticed that most dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor; the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all. His world is all fact and no meaning. And in a period when factual realism is dominant we shall find people deliberately inducing upon themselves this doglike mind."

-C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (reprint: New York: HarperOne, 2001), p. 114.

HT: Justin Taylor


Some Conversation About California Judge's Recent Decision Concerning Same-Sex Marriage

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yeah, those partisan ideologues sat through all that testimony and didn't even have the decency to conclude that individual freedom wasn't worth protecting.
First blacks were allowed to wed and now this? Falwell must be rolling over in his grave.
Quote Originally Posted by .....................
I'm really confused on why it matters if two men get married? Last time I knew there aren't groups of gay men running house to house forcing straight to marry them. I just don't really care about the gay marriage debate. I'm much more concerned with the illegal immigration. Maybe California can concentrate on that for a while
Quote Originally Posted by ...................
This isn't a gay or straight issue. It's a question of basic equal treatment under the law.
The above quotes are from some interaction I've had on another website concerning this judge's recent decision to overturn Proposition #8 in California, which was a voter approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Below are some of my comments, explaining my position. No doubt, my conversation with these individuals will continue, and perhaps I will post more of it for you at a later date. I'm hoping this will be helpful to you as you think through this issue and find yourself conversing and debating with others who see it differently. My desire is to hold my ground while displaying the grace and love of Christ in the process.
Here is how I responded:

1. In our society we prohibit certain behaviors that are deemed to be destructive to the over all well-being of our society. These decisions seem to be based on religious teachings as well as CENTURIES of evidence that prove their destructive nature. For example, even though some think it is their right to do these things, and that its nobody else's business if they do, we still prohibit: 1) Men from having sex with and marrying under-aged girls 2) Men having sex with and marrying animals 3) Men marrying multiple women (polygamy), etc... Do I need to keep going?

2. These decisions are based on religious teachings that have been tested and proved in society after society. In fact, there are numerous case studies where the evidence suggests strongly that when these lines are crossed and these social taboos are challenged and changed, it is only a matter of time before the society implodes from its own rottenness.

3. The other reason this should be an issue is because one of the main arguments for the legalization of gay marriage involves agreeing with the unproven premise that "gay" people are born this way, and that this in effect means they have no choice in this behavior. Well, many, many Americans simply don't buy this argument at all, and for good reason. Once this premise is accepted, where does it stop? What happens when enough perverted people decided to begin gathering, marching, demonstrating, etc.. for their "right" to have sex with and marry their horses? This is why it is both dishonest and manipulative to try to suggest that this issue for "gays" is equal to the struggle that blacks had in our nation to gain their freedom and rights. Last time I checked, black people were born that way. No wonder the GLB groups have tried for so long to "prove" they "can't help being gay."

Homosexual activity is sin according to God, just like adultery is sin, just like lying is sin, just like having sex with a dog is sin, just like envy is a sin, just like hatred is a sin, etc... I say this so that it be known I'm not a "gay basher" because I disagree with this decision, and this may be true for others as well. I just happen to believe (as do many others) that the behavior is sinful and it is harmful to our society to officially endorse the behavior. But, I don't think its any more sinful than lying, stealing, cheating, envying, etc., which I have done all those things in my life at one time or another. So, I certainly don't feel that I'm better than someone who participates in homosexual behavior.


Is Doubt Essential to Faith?

Last week the religion section of the Washington Post featured an article by Jason Boyett, a Southern Baptist author and speaker. In the article, titled “The Doubting Christian,” Boyett admits, “There are some days when I'm not entirely sure I believe in God.” The point of his article is to encourage Christians to embrace their doubting. His conclusion:

“Deep in this valley of doubt, I still call myself a Christian and try to serve others, love my enemies, and otherwise live like a follower of Jesus...even on the days agnosticism looks inviting. Even on the days I labor to reconcile evolution with the Bible. Even on the days I'm not certain God exists. I'm a big, fat doubter, and I'm learning to be okay with that.”
Unfortunately, Boyett reflects the modern world's understanding of the concept of faith, but not the Bible's teaching of the concept of faith. He writes:

“Our mistake is that we view doubt and faith as opposites. I grew up thinking of "faith" as the ability to believe in certain presuppositions--that God exists or that Jesus died for my sins. If I could mentally assent to that checklist, I had faith. If I struggled with those beliefs, then I had doubt. Faith and doubt couldn't coexist.

“I've spent three decades learning I was wrong. Doubt is essential to faith. Faith, by definition, requires uncertainty.”
This is a sad but common misunderstanding. The Bible says the opposite is true: "Faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see." (Heb 11:1)

To the modern world (and Boyett), faith means I'm banking on something that I'm pretty sure is reliable, but not certain. For example, the coach of the Detroit Lions might say, "I have faith in my team, and I think we're going to the Super Bowl." (Hmm....) However, according to Scripture, faith means I clearly see realities that unbelievers are blind to, I embrace those realities, and I am motivated to act according to those realities.

What does Scripture Say?

According to Hebrews 11, faith is our spiritual eyes (the eyes of our understanding) being opened to see spiritual (invisible) realities:
• "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see." (Heb 11:1)
• "By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God's command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible." (Heb 11:3)
• "These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them." (Heb 11:13)
• "By faith [Moses] left Egypt without fearing the king's anger, for he persevered as though he could see the one who is invisible." (Heb 11:27)

True believers may be uncertain about where the life of faith will lead them on earth, but they are certain about their eternal reward:
• "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going.... For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Heb 11:8, 10)
• Moses "regarded abuse suffered for Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for his eyes were fixed on the reward." (Heb 11:26)

Christian Doubters

I am not saying that a true Christian will never struggle with doubt. True believers often have times of doubt and struggle. Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith,” includes individuals who had times of severe unbelief. Abraham lied (twice) about his relationship with his wife, for fear of being killed. Sarah laughed when told she would conceive at 90 years old. Many Christians have been encouraged in their struggles by the honest cry in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

But doubt is not “essential to faith.” Doubt is the opposite of faith and is overcome by faith.

Certainly I would encourage fellow believers to be open about their doubts. It’s okay to ask questions. It would be wrong of me (or any Christian) to demonize or reject an honest doubter. But the way to help doubters is not to celebrate their doubting (as Boyett does), but to help them combat their doubts with the sure promises of Scripture. Ultimately, the problem with Boyett’s article is its complete failure to point doubters toward God’s Word. In fact, he lists a Bible verse (James 1:6) as a “culprit”! I much prefer the perspective of the old hymn: “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!”

To me, Boyett’s article is just another example of unhelpful, unbiblical, postmodern drivel. For example, consider his statement: "Answering 'I don't know' to most religious questions isn't just honest, but humble." If the religious questions he's referring to are questions the Bible clearly answers, then answering "I don't know" is sinful, not humble. Reminds me of G. K. Chesterton's statement: “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed."1

This is Practical Stuff

What I'm arguing for is vital in the Christian walk. Boyett states, "These days, if I have faith, it's in my willingness to follow the teachings of Christ despite my hesitations. Faith, for me, is action." This is dreadful counsel. For me, the opposite is true. If I have hesitations regarding the truth of God, Christ, salvation, and eternity, I am much more likely to sin. If I doubt even for a minute the truth of the Bible, I am 100 times more likely to give in to temptation. "If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (1 Cor 15:32). 100% certainty in the truth of God and eternal life is our most powerful defense against temptation. This is what it means to "take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one" (Eph 6:16). However, it is important to remember that our hope of salvation is not in our ability to believe and never doubt, but in Christ our perfect substitute.

Are you struggling in your faith right now? Consider “doubting your doubts.”2 What is your ultimate authority? What is the source of your perception of reality – your doubts or God’s Word? Pray for eyes to clearly see His truth and His promises. “Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe” (John 20:27).
God makes faith solid/ it's not a blind leap, it's an anchor attached to a rock, it's/ God promise on top of an oath/ the evidence of the things unseen the substance of hope// provable and immutable/ absolute truth as usual it's still irrefutable/ God's perspective the true objective/ no other document should be as highly respected
-Stephen the Levite, "What's Your Proof?"
1. Orthodoxy, pp. 27-28.
2. Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p. xviii


How to be a Difference Maker in Your Local Church

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kevin DeYoung provides several suggestions on how to be a difference maker in your local church. Incidentally, these are also good suggestions on how to majorly encourage your pastor!

• Find a good local church.
• Get involved.
• Become a member.
• Stay there as long as you can.
• Put away thoughts of a revolution for a while.
• Join the plodding visionaries.
• Go to church this Sunday and worship in Spirit and truth.
• Be patient with your leaders.
• Rejoice when the gospel is faithfully proclaimed.
• Bear with those who hurt you.
• Give people the benefit of the doubt.
• Say “hi” to the teenager that no one notices.
• Welcome the old ladies with the blue hair and the young men with tattoos.
• Volunteer for the nursery.
• Attend the congregational meeting.
• Bring your fried chicken to the potluck like everybody else.
• Invite a friend.
• Take a new couple out for coffee.
• Give to the Christmas offering.
• Sing like you mean it.
• Be thankful someone vacuumed the carpet for you.
• Enjoy the Sundays that “click.”
• Pray extra hard on the Sundays that don’t.
• And in all of this, do not despise the days and weeks and years of small things (Zechariah 4:8–10).

HT: Sovereign Grace blog


Anchored to Him by the Message of the Cross

Thursday, July 29, 2010

“We ought never to set present communion with Christ, as so many are doing, in opposition to the gospel; we ought never to say that we are interested in what Christ does for us now, but are not so much interested in what He did long ago.

"Do you know what soon happens when men talk that way? They soon lose all contact with the real Christ; their religion would really remain essentially the same if Jesus never lived.

"That danger should be avoided by the Christian man with all his might and main. God has given us an anchor for our souls; He has anchored himself to us by the message of the Cross. Let us never cast that anchor off; let us never weaken our connection with the events upon which our faith is based.

"Such dependence upon the past will never prevent us from having present communion with Christ. Unlike the communion of the mystics it will be communion not with the imaginings of our own hearts, but with the real Saviour Jesus Christ.

"The gospel of redemption through the Cross and resurrection of Christ is not a barrier between us and Christ, but it is the blessed tie by which He has bound us for ever to Him.”

-J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 153-54

HT: Of First Importance


The Three Books

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Always before thou retire at night, read three books, which thou oughtest always to have with thee. The first is an old, gray, ugly volume, written over with black ink. The second is white and beautifully written in red, and the third in glittering gold letters.

"First read the old volume. That means, consider thine own past life, which is full of sins and errors, as are the lives of all men. Retire within thyself and read the book of conscience, which will be thrown open at the last judgment of Christ. Think over how badly thou hast lived, how negligent thou hast been in thy words, deeds, wishes, and thoughts. Cast down thy eyes and cry, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ Then God will drive away fear and anxious concern and will give thee hope and faith.

"Then lay the old book aside and go and fetch from memory the white book. This is the guileless life of Christ, whose soul was pure and whose guileless body was bruised with stripes and marked with rose-red, precious blood. These are the letters which show his real love to us. Look at them with deep emotion and thank him that, by his death, he has opened to thee the gate of heaven.

"And finally lift up thine eyes on high and read the third book, written in golden script; that is, consider the glory of the life eternal, in comparison with which the earthly vanishes away as the light of the candle before the splendor of the sun at midday."

–John of Ruysbroeck


Just Open Your Eyes!

Friday, July 9, 2010

When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Do you even notice them?

They pass you every day on the sidewalk. They live 30 yards from your front door. You wait behind them in line at Kroger. They sit just a few feet from you at a restaurant, talking and laughing with their friends while you talk and laugh with yours. You speak to them at Burger King and Applebee’s but usually only to place your order or to ask (impatiently) for a refill.

They are lost people. Made in the image of God, just like you and me. Dead in their sins, and enemies of God, just like you and I once were. And far too often, we pass right by them without even a second glance.

We like to talk about our desire to see unsaved people believe the gospel, receive Christ, and join our church. However, we will never be a part of this wonderful work of God unless we take the first step...and see the crowds.

Jesus was a busy guy. He had a mission from God that would forever change the course of history and eternity. And he had only three and a half years to accomplish it! Yet He found time for lost people. Whether it was an immoral woman at a Samaritan well or two blind men on the street, Jesus stopped. And spoke with them. And helped. He made time for them because they were a top priority for Him. He knew that he would receive glory as lost people repented and believed.

Most of us are also busy people. We’re involved in jobs, classes, family, friends, church activities, entertainment, hobbies, and multiple other things that sap our time and focus. But let me encourage you today to make it a priority to see the crowds. See lost people and feel compassion for them in their harassed and helpless condition. Ask them how they are doing. They are hurting from the effects of sin! They need Christ! Have a gospel tract or a church invitation ready in your pocket or purse. Take time for a conversation with them. Introduce them to the Shepherd.

Want opportunities to present Christ to lost people? They are all around you. Just open your eyes!


The One Inestimable Gift

Monday, July 5, 2010

"If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things — even lofty and unselfish things — then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call.

"Has it never dawned on us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have recourse to Him in time of trouble as to the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. If here and now we have the one inestimable gift of God’s presence and favour, then all the rest can wait till God’s good time."

—J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth: 1991, 73-74)

HT: Of First Importance


Something Worshipful to Listen to...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Something about reconciliation...

This is an excellent song written by Pat Sczebel. It's a song that really points you toward Gospel thoughts and considers how Christ has been immensely gracious in reconciling us to our holy God. Our church loves to sing this song together.

"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." Col. 1:21-22

Jesus, Thank You from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.

Something new...

A great new worship song by Chris Tomlin..

Something I just like...

This is a song I've always liked. Phil Keaggy is one of the most incredibly talented musicians, yet glorifies the Lord with his music. I love the line in this song that says "True believers made alive in Christ today."

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved." Eph. 2:4-5


The End of Men?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Al Mohler writes here about a disturbing trend. Here's an excerpt:

Is our postmodern, postindustrial society simply better suited to women than to men? Hanna Rosin makes the case for this claim in the current issue of The Atlantic, and her article demands close attention. Men, she argues, are simply falling behind women in almost every sector of cultural influence and economic power. This shift, she understands, is nothing less than unprecedented in the span of human history.
I encourage you to read the whole article, and pray for God to raise up an abundance of Christian male leaders in our generation!


What Does It Mean for God to "Receive Power"?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." (Rev. 4:11)

"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (Rev. 5:12)

One of the most climactic and triumphant portions of Scripture is the heavenly song of the saints in Revelation 4-5, in which they acknowledge the creative power of the Lord God and the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I have always wondered, though: what does it mean for God to "receive" glory, honor, power, wealth, wisdom, might, and blessing?

Surely this cannot mean that God is made more powerful, glorious, or wise through something that is given to him. He has always been all-powerful. (He is, after all, the One who "created all things"!) He has always been all-wise (Rom. 11:33). He has always been completely glorious (Rom. 11:36). The list could go point is, God doesn't lack anything!

As I mediated on these verses, I came to realize that what God receives is the worship and praise of His people. "God receives 'power,' not in the sense that an omnipotent being can become stronger, but in the sense that the strength of His creatures is used to honor Him" (ESV Study Bible). We are to worship and praise God with our might, our wisdom, our respect, our wealth, our joy. This corresponds to our loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength - our entire being! (Mark 12:30)

What receives your most passionate energy and strength? To what do you give your most focused thoughts and creativity? What is the object of your greatest respect and reverence? What is your most valued investment? What most often fills you with joy?

I hope your answer is the worship and praise of God. He is worthy! Why? Because He created you, and because Jesus Christ died for you.

Christian, there is a reason God gives you might and wisdom - so you can give it right back to Him! This is the reason you exist, and this is the source of true joy.

"Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory." (Isa. 43:6-7)


When People are Big and God is Small

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”
-Proverbs 29:25

“Fear of man is such a part of our human fabric that we should check for pulse if someone denies it.”
—Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small

Justin Taylor links to a book that has been influential and helpful in my life. One of the few must-reads on my recommended books list.


Is it a small thing in your eyes to be loved by God?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Is it a small thing in your eyes to be loved by God - to be the son, the spouse, the love, the delight of the King of glory? Christian, believe this, and think about it: you will be eternally embraced in the arms of the love which was from everlasting, and will extend to everlasting - of the love which brought the Son of God's love from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to glory - that love which was weary, hungry, tempted, scorned, scourged, buffeted, spat upon, crucified, pierced - which fasted, prayed, taught, healed, wept, sweated, bled, died. That love will eternally embrace you.”

–Richard Baxter


Is Jesus Really Alive?

Friday, June 11, 2010

It's been a couple months since Easter. But since Christians celebrate Christ's resurrection every Sunday, I thought it would be good for us to reflect on Pastor Dan's Easter message: "Is Jesus Really Alive?" Check out this overview, and rejoice in the truth: He is risen indeed!

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Corinthians 15:19-20)


C.S. Lewis on Humility

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I think this is true. And I pray for grace to become this kind of person:

To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

HT: Justin Taylor


They Can't Believe In Something They've Never Heard...

Friday, June 4, 2010

At Harvest, we're grateful for the privilege of representing the King of kings! And we have many various opportunities this summer to share the glorious, life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out this video on summer evangelism opportunities at Harvest:

To sum up, here's how you can partner with us in evangelism this summer:

  1. 1-on-1 Evangelism (Training class Sunday, June 13 @ 11am, Johnson Elementary School Atrium)

  2. Christianity Explained (Training for 1-on-1 Bible studies with individuals interested in Christianity)

  3. Door-to-Door Gospel Tract Distribution (Dates/times TBA)

  4. Cross-Cultural Outreach Class (Sunday mornings at 11am, Johnson Atrium, July 25-August 15)

In addition, you can partner with us during our Liberty Fest outreach (parade, festival booth, invitation distribution before the fireworks) and during our Outdoor Service/Picnic (counseling, food prep).

Regardless of your gifting or personality, there is no shortage of ways you can get involved in getting the gospel out to our community this summer! Email to find out more.

How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?... As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:14-15)


Jesus at the Center

Thursday, June 3, 2010

“There is nothing in the Gospels more significant than the way in which Jesus deliberately places Himself at the very centre of His message. He does not say with other teachers, ‘The truth is everything, I am nothing’; He declares ‘I am the truth.’ He does not claim, with the founders of certain ethnic religions, to suggest answers to the world’s enigmas; He claims to be the answer — ‘Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.’ He does not offer the guidance of a code or a philosophy to keep men right through the uncertainties of an unknown future; He says, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’”

- James Stewart, A Faith to Proclaim (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing 2002), p. 122.

HT: Of First Importance


Christ is Alive...So Lift Your Voice!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Here is a taste of our recent Easter worship celebration. I arranged a version of the traditional spiritual "Were You There", then we invited everyone to join in on an original gospel-driven song I wrote for Wally to lead. Truly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is something that believers can get passionate about celebrating. It's the Gospel, the good news! I believe our body was engaged together in an authentic, passionate, and diverse time of worship this Easter Sunday. I truly believe God is doing a unique work through our church to reach people from all backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life. I'm glad to be a part of it.

Were You There
Public Domain

Were you there when they crucified my Lord
Were you there when they crucified my Lord
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb

Christ is Alive

Joe Haverlock

The stone could not keep him there He is alive
The stone could not keep him there He is alive
The stone could not keep him there He is alive
Hallelujah Christ is alive

Lift your voice Christ is risen
Lift your voice Christ is risen
Lift your voice Christ is risen
Hallelujah Christ is alive

He conquered death and sin He is alive
He conquered death and sin He is alive
He conquered death and sin He is alive
Hallelujah Christ is alive

Our Hope is found in Him He is alive
Our Hope is found in Him He is alive
Our Hope is found in Him He is alive
Hallelujah Christ is alive

He is coming back again He is alive
He is coming back again He is alive
He is coming back again He is alive
Hallelujah Christ is alive


Friday Afternoon Humor: John Daker

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ok, time for a little Friday afternoon humor. This is one of our favorite YouTube videos, an all-time classic:

This sing-along cartoon parody is even more hilarious after you've watched the original a couple times:

As I think about John Daker, I'm actually impressed by his perseverance all the way to the bitter, awkward end. The "joke" is actually on his teacher. Mrs. Unsicker seems quite confident in her teaching abilies, but her poor student is woefully unprepared for his part in the recital. Yet she plunks right along on the piano, cruelly leaving John to sink or swim on his own. Let that be a lesson for all of us teachers/mentors! :-)

And's ok to laugh at others on occasion, as long as you're prepared to laugh at yourself as well. (I wish you could see me as a 6 year old walking across a church stage to receive an AWANA award and tripping over my shoelaces. My proudest moment turned horrifyingly embarrassing! Unfortunately, no video evidence exists.)


The Great Commission and the American Dream

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

J.D. Greear offers some thought-provoking words on why it is difficult and rare for American believers to radically and sacrificially commit to the Great Commission. Here's his conclusion:

When Jesus has become your beauty (when knowing Him and pleasing Him has become your greatest delight) and when He has become your security (you know that He will take care of your future and all you need to do is obey Him today), then you will be free to follow Him wherever He tells you. You will no longer require nice things and creature comforts to enjoy life; you will no longer require huge sums of money in saving to feel secure. And as your heart is overwhelmed with the grace that God has shown you in the Gospel, you’ll find that there’s nothing you’d rather do with your money than help people find Jesus. That is what will give you the greatest pleasure, and that’s what you’ll consider to be the wisest and most secure investment.

Most people can’t follow Jesus because they are held captive by the American dream, and can’t free themselves of it until they disabuse themselves of the lies and idolatry it is built upon. When Jesus, not money, becomes your God, you will follow Jesus with abandon.
Read the whole article here.

HT: Justin Taylor


"Judge Not" - What does that really mean?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Matthew 7:1 is perhaps the most oft-quoted verse in this postmodern era: "Judge not, that you be not judged." But does that verse mean that we can't call sin ... sin? Or that we can't confront false teachers? Or even that we can't try to discern what is best from what is merely ok?

Check out this 2-minute explanation from John MacArthur: "Judging Others: The Verse Pagans Love to Quote."

What do you think about MacArthur's explanation? Agree or disagree?

*P.S. You may also be interested in MacArthur's answer to the question: "Why Did Jesus Forbid People from Making Him Known?" His answer is well worth 2 minutes of your time.


Churches Helping Churches (follow-up)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's hard to forget the disturbing images of ruin following the earthquake in Haiti back in January. As many of you know, Harvest had an opportunity to partner with an effort called Churches Helping Churches. This effort, led by Pastors James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll, was intended to aid Haitian believers and churches devastated by the quake. The report of how the Lord has used your generosity, along with the generosity of many other churches across America, is remarkable. These numbers are from the Churches Helping Churches website.

4 : months to the day since the 7.0 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince

$2 million : donations received thus far for church rebuilding mission in Haiti

$1.7 million : value of medical supplies secured by CHC for local Haitian clinics

200 : Haitian pastors who will attend a retreat at the end of May so they can be ministered to and heal personally before they go out and minister in their own communities

5, 15 : number of Biblical counseling experts and pastors from the Haitian diaspora, respectively, who will minister to local Haitian pastors at the retreat

We thank God and all of you for what has been provided so far, and feel blessed to be a part of this mission. But there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done. There are still pastors who need support, churches that still need rebuilding, and communities that still need the Gospel.
If you'd like to help, here's how you can pray and here's where you can give.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)



Sunday, May 16, 2010

I want to share just a few quick thoughts running through my mind regarding our services over the last two weeks.

1. God is clearly up to something among us at Harvest. I don't know if you can sense it or not, but I certainly can. His Spirit has been powerfully among us, and I've sensed Him working, moving, shaping, convicting, encouraging, and cultivating us into a community of worshipping believers - BIG TIME.

2. On a personal level, I have sensed a greater freedom and joy while preaching the last couple of weeks than I've experienced in a while. I've been examining the reasons for this and I've come to some conclusions. I won't share all of them at this time, but I will mention just this one: Through my study of Ephesians 5, I have been reminded of the simple prayer - "Lord, fill me with your Spirit afresh and anew once again today." And I've been breathing this prayer to the Lord every day for the last two weeks. I would encourage you to do the same.

3. I'm thrilled we are growing continually in the area of expressiveness, joy, enthusiasm, transparency, and community in the area of singing in worship to our great God! Keep it up, Harvest. Keep giving more of yourself to Him in worship and He will continue to give you a clearer vision of eternity and the times of worship that await us there. Now, that's something to look forward to, isn't it?

4. It is good for us to laugh together, isn't it? Life is hard as I'm sure I don't have to remind you. The people of God ought to be known as a people filled with laughter and joy - a people who don't take themselves too seriously. Let's keep laughing together, praying together, singing together, and following Jesus together - with JOY!

5. Right now, I have a deep down feeling of anticipation regarding our church. His Spirit is moving me in this way - to anticipate. You may wonder, "What are you anticipating?" I'm not even sure at this point, but I believe it will be good because what ever God gives is good because God is good all the time!


The Eyes Jesus Opened First

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jon Bloom of Desiring God has an insightful meditation on the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus who met Jesus after his resurrection. Here's his conclusion:

Their outward inability to recognize Jesus mirrored their inward unbelief of what the Scriptures revealed about him.

Now, Jesus fully intended to help them see. But notice the priority of Jesus’ revelation: before he opened their physical eyes, he purposed to open their heart-eyes.

Why? Because it was of utmost importance that they “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

Jesus knew that between his resurrection and the full establishment of his kingdom would be the church age. His ascension was nearing. That meant these two men, all the other witnesses of the resurrection, and every generation of believers to come would not have his bodily presence for proof or guidance. They would have to rely on his “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) Word to “light [their] path” (Psalm 119:105). Post-ascension, Jesus would be seen through the inerrant testimony recorded in the Scriptures and the imperfect testimony of followers whose heart-eyes were opened.

One last observation. When God ordains things to happen contrary to our expectations (like Cleopas not expecting Jesus to die), those are times when we are tempted to doubt his word—lose faith—and as a result lose sight of him. But not being able to see him doesn’t mean that he isn’t there walking with us. We may not recognize him. Those are not the times to neglect the Word. Rather, those are the times to spend hours looking. That is where you will begin to recover your sight.
Read the whole article here.


Our Great Salvation

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A few weeks ago our Sunday morning Bible Doctrines class studied the doctrine of salvation. Here is a summary - read it and rejoice!

Election: Before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4-5; 2 Thess 2:13; Rev 13:8), God freely chose (1 Thess 1:4; 1 Pet 1:1) certain individuals (Rom 11:7) to be saved (Acts 13:48; Rom 8:28-30).
• This choosing was unconditional, not based on any foreseen merit in those individuals, but only because of God’s loving will (Rom 9:11, 15; 11:5-6; 2 Tim 1:9; Eph 1:5).
• The truth of election is intended to be a comfort (Rom 8:28-30), a reason to praise God (Eph 1:4-6; 2 Thess 2:13), and a motivation for evangelism (2 Tim 2:10; Acts 18:10-11).
• The truth of election is in no way intended to negate man’s responsibility (Mt 11:28; Jn 3:18; 5:40; Rev 22:17; Rom 10:14) or to deny God’s love for all (Ezek 33:11; Mt 23:37; 1 Tim 2:4).

The Atonement: Christ lived a perfect life (Rom 5:19; Mt 3:15), earning righteousness for men (Phil 3:9). Christ died as a substitute for sinners (Is 53:6; 2 Cor 5:21), bearing their sins (Is 53:12; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 2:24) and completely satisfying God’s wrath (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2) as a perfect sacrifice (Heb 9:26). Christ rose bodily from the grave after three days (1 Cor 15:5-8).

Calling: The proclamation of the gospel of Christ (2 Thess 2:14; Rom 10:14; Acts 3:19; 16:14).
General calling: God invites all men without distinction to salvation (Mt 22:14; Acts 17:30; Rev 3:20; 22:17).
Effectual calling: God summons the elect to salvation (Jn 6:37; Rom 8:30; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 Cor 1:9; 1 Thess 2:12).

Regeneration is an instantaneous act of God (Jn 1:13; Jms 1:18) whereby he imparts spiritual life to spiritually dead individuals (Jn 3:3-8; Eph 2:1, 5; Col 2:13).
• Regeneration affects one’s entire being (2 Cor 5:17). It results in immediate saving faith (Acts 16:14; 1 Jn 5:1; Jn 3:5) and a changed life (1 Jn 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:4).

Conversion is a simultaneous turning from sin in repentance and turning to Christ in faith (Acts 20:21; 26:18; Heb 6:1; 1 Thess 1:9).
• Saving repentance includes a genuine sorrow for sin and a sincere renouncing of it (2 Cor 7:9-10; Lk 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19).
• Saving faith includes knowledge of Christ and his gospel (Rom 10:14) and a willing trust in the person of Christ for forgiveness and eternal life (Jn 1:12; 3:16; 6:37; Eph 2:8; Rom 3:22).
A regenerated individual will continue in an attitude of repentance (Mt 6:12; Rev 3:19) and faith (Gal 2:20; Col 1:23) throughout his life.

Justification is God legally declaring (Rom 8:1, 33-34) undeserving sinners (Rom 3:23-24) as righteous, solely on the basis of Christ’s life and death (Rom 5:19; 1 Cor 1:30; Phil 3:9).
• Justification is by grace alone, not by works (Rom 3:24; 4:4-6, 16; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9).

Adoption is an act of God whereby he makes believers members of his family.
• Believers are God’s children (Rom 8:14; Gal 4:5; 1 Jn 3:1-2), with all the corresponding benefits (Rom 8:15-17; Gal 4:6-7; Mt 6:9, 32; 7:11; Heb 12:6, 10) and responsibilities (Eph 5:1; 1 Pet 1:14-16; Mt 5:16; Phil 2:15; 1 Jn 3:10).
• Believers are members of God’s family, the church (1 Tim 5:1-2).

Sanctification is the process by which believers become more like Christ throughout life.
• It is a progressive (2 Cor 3:18; Phil 3:12-14) work of both God (Phil 2:13; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 13:20-21) & the believer (Rom 6:11-13; 8:13; Phil 2:12; 3:12-14; Heb 12:1, 14; 2 Cor 7:1).
• Helps in sanctification: Scripture (Jn 17:17), prayer (Eph 6:18), worship (Eph 5:18-20), fellowship with believers (10:24-25), self control (Titus 2:12), and hope (Col 1:4-5; 1 Pet 1:13).
• Believers are positionally sanctified at the moment of regeneration (1 Cor 1:30; 6:11; Rom 6:14, 18), but the process of sanctification is not fully completed until death (1 Jn 1:8; Prov 20:9; Mt 6:12; Jms 3:2; Heb 12:23).

Perseverance: All those who are truly regenerated will be kept by God (Jn 3:36; 6:39-40; 10:27-29; Rom 8:30; Eph 1:13-14; Phil 1:6) and will persevere in faith (1 Pet 1:5; Col 1:23) and growth (Jms 2:14-26; 1 Jn 4:6; 2 Pet 1:5-10; Eph 2:10) until the end of life (Mt 10:22; Heb 3:14).
• Professing believers who show external signs of conversion but finally fall away demonstrate that they were never truly regenerated (1 Jn 2:19; Mt 7:21-23; Jn 15:2, 6; 17:12; Heb 6:4-6).

Glorification: God fully and finally eliminates the power and presence of sin from the believer, completing his transformation into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29-30; Phil 3:20-21).

Union with Christ overarches every aspect of salvation (Eph 1:3). We were elected in Christ (Eph 1:4; 2 Tim 1:9). We are called into fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 1:9; 1 Jn 1:3; Phil 3:8, 10). We are regenerated in Christ (1 Jn 5:11; Eph 2:10). We believe in Christ (Jn 3:16). We are justified through our union with Christ (Rom 8:1; 2 Cor 5:21) in his life (Rom 5:19), death (1 Pet 2:24; Rom 6:5a), burial (Col 2:12), resurrection (Eph 2:5; Rom 6:5b), and ascension (Eph 2:6). In Christ we are redeemed (Rom 3:24; 1 Cor 1:30; Gal 3:13; Eph 1:7) and we have peace with God (Rom 5:1, 10-11; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Col 1:21-22). We are united with other believers as one body in Christ (1 Cor 12:13; Rom 12:5; Jn 17:21; Gal 3:28). We are sanctified in the reality of our union with Christ (Rom 6:4, 11; Gal 2:20), becoming more like Christ (Rom 8:29; Eph 4:13). Our actions should be in Christ (Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 15:58; Jn 15:5) and in imitation of Christ (1 Jn 2:6; 1 Pet 2:21), even to the point of suffering (Phil 3:10; Heb 13:13). Christ never leaves us (Mt 28:20). We will die in Christ (Rev 14:13), our bodies will be raised in Christ (1 Cor 15:22), and we will be glorified in Christ (Rom 8:17).


Worship With Your iPhone? There's An App For That!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Here's something creative and worshipful too. Enjoy!


Pre-Modernity, Modernity, Post-Modernity

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Seminary is currently writing a series of short articles titled "The Importance of Imagination." Allow me to strongly commend to you the first five articles, in which he compares the pre-modern, modern, and post-modern worldviews. In my opinion, Bauder has a tremendous understanding of this subject. I heard him lecture on worldviews back in '06 at a campus ministry conference, and the 'big picture' he presented has shaped my thinking in the years since. I hope these articles help your understanding as well.

Part 1: Enter the Imagination

Part 2: Premodernity and the Moral Imagination

Part 3: Modernity and the Idyllic Imagination

Part 4: Postmodernity and the Demonic Imagination

Part 5: Imagining the Transcendent


Its Time To Pray!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I can't think of anything our church does that's more important than the times we gather to pray as a church family. Seriously, there isn't a thing that should be more important to us than gathering together to seek God's face and to beseech Him on behalf of our family, church, community, and nation. I want to urge you to prioritize these gatherings of prayer and fight hard to keep the priority high on your list of all the things you have to do. Trust me, you and I won't have to look very hard at all to find a reason not to join with the church family to pray...

You could say:
  • my kids have school the next day and I don't want to keep them out late... OK, its only one hour. We're talking 7-8pm.
  • my son didn't finish his homework... OK, but is it life and death if its not done? How about him seeing in you the priority of prayer?
  • I'm tired after work and want to relax with my family and watch TV... OK, the family thing is great. Why not spend time with your family (and church family) praying instead of vegging on the couch like a zombie?
The truth is this - we ALWAYS figure out a way to do the things we want to do and we ALWAYS find the time to do them. Maybe we just need to ask Jesus to give us wisdom in sorting out our priorities? Seriously, its not like the leadership of the church is asking you to be out of your home every night of the week. We respect the fact many of you have families and young children. But we schedule four of these corporate prayer gatherings every year (once a quarter), and some of you have never come to pray with us even once... Sorry to be so straightforward, but its time for you to think about this reality.

If we are about being like Jesus then we must be committed to prayer because He was committed to prayer. And for goodness sakes, if there was anyone who we would think DIDN'T need to pray, it would be Jesus, wouldn't it? After all, He was God, wasn't He? So, why would He need to pray?

Well, He prayed because in His humanness He needed to have communion with His Father for encouragement, grace and strength to accomplish the Father's will. Anyone in favor of more encouragement, grace and strength? He also prayed to set an example for us. I believe He wanted you and I to see the value of prayer and to walk away from His example saying to ourselves, "If Jesus did it, I'm going to do it."

I could go on and on about this subject, but here's one last thought for you to consider... The early church was a place of amazing, life-altering, manifestations of God's work among His people. Why was this the case? For many reasons, but chief among them is the fact that the early church was committed to fervent prayer. Read the book of Acts for yourself and see how many times the people of God gathered together CORPORATELY with their brothers and sisters in Christ to seek God's face in prayer. Its remarkable, really...

So, to sum it all up, let's pray together. THIS THURSDAY, MAY 6 @ 7PM AT THE HARVEST MINISTRY CENTER. I need it. You need it. Don't make excuses. Let's give ourselves to this matter of prayer and then watch what God does among us. Its going to be awesome!


Imperatives - Indicatives = Impossibilities

A good reminder from Justin Taylor (and Tullian Tchividjian):

The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that "imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities."
Read the whole post here: Imperatives – Indicatives = Impossibilities

Kevin DeYoung writes along the same lines:
The secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us.
Read the whole post here: On Mission, Changing the World, and Not Being Able to Do It All


T4G Gems: C.J. Mahaney

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ordinary Pastors (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

"You must preach the Word with a clear commitment to unoriginality."

"Your church may not have the ambience of a Starbucks. It may not have a cutting-edge website. But if you are faithfully preaching the gospel, there is power. And the church will be edified and the lost will be evangelized."

"Don't think you can craft faithful sermons while isolated from your people. You will not be able to helpfully apply the truth of the Word to their lives."

"So often I expect people to comprehend and apply certain truths quickly, although those same truths took me years to comprehend and apply. That is why your preaching ministry must be 'with complete patience.'"

"Most of the Biblical metaphors for ministry are borrowed from the world of agriculture. That is because God normally works in people very gradually. He is comfortable working by seasons and generations. Unfortunately, my flesh prefers seconds and minutes."

Mark Dever - R. C. Sproul - Al Mohler - Thabiti Anyabwile - John MacArthur - David Platt - John Piper - Ligon Duncan - Matt Chandler - C.J Mahaney


T4G Gems: Matt Chandler (w/ C.J. Mahaney)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Preparing Your Church for Suffering

(Pastor Matt Chandler was recently diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer)

"Just because you build your life on the rock of Jesus doesn't mean the storm won't hit."

It's better to go home to glory, but while we're here there's work to be done."

*C.J. Mahaney:

"Preparing your congregation for suffering should inform your preaching plan."

"The most effective way to prepare your church for suffering is to preach the gospel."

"The great mystery is not 'Why do I suffer?' but 'Why would the sinless Son of God suffer for me?'"

Mark Dever - R. C. Sproul - Al Mohler - Thabiti Anyabwile - John MacArthur - David Platt - John Piper - Ligon Duncan - Matt Chandler - C.J Mahaney


T4G Gems: Ligon Duncan

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Did the Early Church Fathers Know the Gospel?

"We should read the church fathers respectfully, but carefully - keeping in mind the ultimate authority of the Scriptures."

"Paul taught that 'wolves' would rise up from within the church. So it would naturally follow that some of the church fathers would be completely wrong."

"When you read the church fathers on doctrines which were under assault in their time, they almost always get it right. However, regarding doctrines which were not being disputed at the time, they were often wrong. In this way, ironically, heresy served the church."

"Often the fathers erred by reacting too strongly against the culture of their day. This should be a lesson for us."

"Scripture shows that the Word of God always creates the people of God; the people of God never create the Word of God."

"A study of the early church fathers proves the early dating of the NT canon, since these early fathers quote all the NT books."

"Contra Dan Brown, the early church did not struggle with the deity of Christ, but with the humanity of Christ."

"Only the affections of the Spirit, through the gospel, are a match for the affections of the flesh."

"The church fathers did not articulate gospel truths clearly enough so that doctrines like imputation would be sustained through the next several centuries. But the gospel was not lost. Fathers such as Diagnatus, Irenaeus, and Hilary of Partian clearly taught imputation and justification by faith alone."

"Reading the early church fathers is a great evidence of the inspiration of the NT documents, written just before. When you compare them, the difference in quality and glory is remarkable."

Mark Dever - R. C. Sproul - Al Mohler - Thabiti Anyabwile - John MacArthur - David Platt - John Piper - Ligon Duncan - Matt Chandler - C.J Mahaney


About This Blog

The Convergence is three guys from Metro Detroit who love discussing faith, life, and ministry.

Blog Archive

  © Blogger template On The Road by 2009

Back to TOP