Monday, December 31, 2007

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/31

Looks like bloggers are back to work this morning; as soon as I looked at my Google Reader I noticed 28 new posts. It being New Year's Eve, I thought it wise to point you to a couple articles on the New Year. Matt Harmon points us to Jonathan Edwards Resolutions; which are always good to read this time of year. It is especially important that we remember Edwards' beginning statement: "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake." I reminded our youth on Sunday that even if we make our New Year's resolution something to the effect of "determining to know nothing in 2008 but Jesus Christ and Him crucified", we will fail by January 2nd or 3rd. Therefore we must live under and preach the gospel to ourselves daily.

Many people use this time of year to reflect upon the past year, and sometimes their entire lives. John Piper considers it a yearly dress rehearsal for meeting Jesus. Therefore, this time of year can serve to awaken us to a realization of another year passed and another moment closer to meeting the Lord. Pyromaniacs use the last words of Benazir Bhutto to remind us of the frailty of life. How ironic that her last words were "Long live Bhutto". As this year draws to an end we must remember that the only way to accurately proclaim "Long live..." is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Last night Tim Challies summarized the Reality Check Conference. He concluded his blogging on sessions 6 and 7.

Timmy Brister concluded his 2007 Year in Review with post 10-6 and 5-1. One of these posts that particularly caught my interest was On Hitting Homiletical Homeruns. The conversation was also carried over at Said at Southern, here. The discussion is over plagiarism in the pulpit. The discussion began when James Merritt suggested going to his website and preaching his sermon instead of spending so much time putting together their own. This is not an uncommon thing. I frequently get fliers in the mail encouraging me to stop preparing sermons and do what really matters (and apparently what I should really want to do)--spend time with our youth. I wonder if this might be an unbiblical practice on top of another (shout out to Garrett). I wonder if we had a plurality of elders maybe a teaching pastor could spend time on sermon prep and the other elders could do some of those other things. Maybe the pastor was not meant to be the lone ranger and having to rip sermons off the internet because he spent 30 hours this week at the hospital and in counseling.

The 9 Marks newsletter has been posted online. This newsletter focuses on Corporate Prayer and will be worthy of checking out.

John Piper points us to Clyde Kilby's 10 Resolutions for Mental Health.

Lastly, the Irish Calvinist draws our attention to a video posted on James White's site. It compares Joel Osteen, The Secret, and Stuart Smalley. It would be humorous if Osteen did not boast 20,000+ deceived members. The reason I am so strongly opposed to Osteen is because he is a false prophet that deceives many. He preaches a half (maybe quarter) truth that is divorced from the bloody Cross of the Gospel. The problem is not that God doesn't want to bless us. The problem is that the blessing is not in material things it is in God Himself, and it comes through the Cross. Not only the Cross of Christ but also ours (Matthew 10:38). Here is the video:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Year in Review at FBC New London

The title may be a little deceptive. This will not be a review of all of the ministries here at FBC New London, but only the student ministries.

The first part of January saw us finish a sermon series on Hosea. We finished off January by looking at Fad Jesus. We were introduced to Superhero "Jesus", Cool "Jesus", Homeboy "Jesus", and South Park "Jesus". All of these, as we noted, fall well short of the biblical Jesus. We also had a lock-in at the beginning of the new year.

February was given to relationships. Nikki and I told our story. We also gave some advice on "dating" and laid out for the youth biblical courtship. During the month of February we also had Soup-er Bowl Sunday.

In March we began a 17 week series on Philippians: Advancing the Gospel. This series lasted until June 27th. (It is my hope to put this entire series, as well as a series on 1 John, available online). During this time we celebrated graduated with our seniors. We held "revival" at our church in March. We went on a mission trip to Columbia to help plant Heritage Baptist Church.
Also, as soon as the school semester was over we began our Ministers In Training program. This lasted throughout the summer. We also went to Six Flags in June (or maybe August, I forget)

July was an extremely busy month. We had 4th of July missions, church camp, and VBS. During VBS week we looked at 5 Dangers. Also in July we had Youth Wednesday. That week we were honored to have Ryan Lake preach the message and our youth praise band led the worship.

The first weekend in August we held our second-annual Evangelism Seminar. This year we looked at Evangelism in a Postmodern World. August was actually dedicated to teaching on evangelism. Our sermons for August were geared toward preparing the students to enter their mission field at school.

In September we began a sermon series on the Minor Prophets. The series lasted until last week, when we summarized all of the messages by telling of the Promised King. Each week was an overview sermon on each of the 12 Minor Prophets. As far as activities during this time we were relatively inactive, except the occasional FCA.

These are a few of the highlights of the year for us. Each of these activities and sermons carry memories for me. Some of the messages were used by God to bring salvation to some of our students. We were encouraged by having a few baptisms of our youth this year. Also the number of students involved in Ministers in Training was highly encouraging. Many students also grew deeper in their enjoyment and love for Christ.

2007 was a good year and God blessed us in numerous ways. If I forgot something (like the making of a few of our short films) then please share some of your memories of 2007. My prayer for this year is that we might deepen in our love for Christ. I also am praying that our passion for serving the King might ever-increase.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/29

At 2 Worlds Collide, Don Whitney gives us 31 Things to Ask Yourself this New Year. This first question sets the God-centered pace of these questions: "What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?"

Tim Challies is attending the Reality Check Conference (sponsored by Anchored in Truth Ministries) and blogging after the sessions. So far he has posted on Session 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Sounds like some really great Christ-centered preaching and teaching at this conference. This would be a good conference to take our young people to next year.

Timmy Brister continues his year in review--today is 15-11.

And lastly, as I post this, the Patriots are set to play the Giants in hopes of going 16-0. Tom Ascol reminds us to be praying for Tom Brady tonight as we watch this game.

Tomorrow (or possibly late tonight) I will be posting a 2007 at FBC New London Year in Review.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/28

With 2008 quickly approaching I am getting prepared for the 2008 McCheyne Reading Plan. Thoughts on the Way will be "hosting" a discussion on what we are reading each day. Also helpful is Ben Edington's McCheyne Reading Calendar website. Extremely helpful on that site is an RSS Feed that you can subscribe to; this will assist in having the readings delivered to your Google Reader daily. (HT: JT)

Timmy Brister also is continuing his "Best of 2007" series. Today we are treated to 20-16.

Erik Raymond, the Irish Calvinist, heard an excellent sermon this morning...from a bird. What an excellent reminder that all creation (in some way) preaches the gospel to us. What was the bird's sermon? It appears that he chose for his text Romans 8:18-22. His main point? Raymond says, "It is as if this bird said, “Whoa, son of Adam! That is far enough! Don’t you come running up here on me with that evil, perverted, and contrary heart of yours! Do you not know that that which gives you life is the cause of death in all of the earth!! Your heart is more deceitful than anything else!!” This is an excellent gospel-centered post that you are encouraged to check out.

Josh Harris has given us Part 5 and 6 to his series on Affluenza.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Series in 2008

Starting this Wednesday we will begin a new series entitled Enjoying Grace. The focal point of the sermon series is the notion that the gospel is meant to be enjoyed. If we wanted to get Piper-ish about it we would say, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him". The hope of this sermon series, then, is to admonish you to delight in God.

I am hoping to complete this sermon series in the 5 weeks in January. On February 6th I will be out of town and Chris Kuenzle will be preaching instead. With Isaiah's due date being January 7th it is possible that I will miss a Wednesday night, then the final sermon would be pushed back to February 13th.

The sermon series will be thus:

Sermon One: The Gospel is Meant to be Enjoyed
Sermon Two: The Impossible Burden of Legalism
Sermon Three: The Suicidal Exchange of Licentiousness
Sermon Four: The All-Sufficiency of the Christ and His Cross
Sermon Five: John Newton: An Example of Enjoying Grace

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/27

Everyone seems to be wrapping up 2007 on their blogs. Timmy Brister is providing for us the Top 30 stories of 2007. So far he has covered 30-26 and 25-21. The Shepherd's Scrapbook has also released its Top Post of 2007. I would do one of those lists but it would probably only have about 3 posts, because I am so new to blogging. Maybe at the end of '08.

Randy Alcorn has responded to journalist Joel Stein's column on Heaven. Apparently after a Stein quote on heaven graced cups at Starbucks some Christians became angered (mostly at Starbucks not at Stein). They sent him e-mail's, letters, and Alcorn's book. This led to a conversation between Alcorn and Stein. On the 21st Stein briefly wrote on this encounter. You can read Stein's article here, or Alcorn's response here. I must say that I do have a tremendous amount of respect for Randy Alcorn; but I have to disagree with the way he closed this article. "And maybe someday, after the resurrection, when we’re enjoying God and each other on the New Earth, Joel and Shelly and I and Andy Pettitte, and maybe Jesus too, will reflect on this column as, wind blowing through our hair, we ride the back of a the glory of God."

I have not read all of Alcorn's book and I certainly am no expert on heaven. But my understanding is that heaven will be an enjoyment of God Himself and not so much his gifts. To me riding the back of a brontosaurus seems to cheapen the worth of Jesus. I know that telling an unbeliever that heaven is an eternal enjoyment of Jesus would seem strange and probably not appealing. And I fear that in order to make the rewards of heaven appealing we have made it about playing baseball, riding roller-coasters, and eating more ice cream flavors than Baskin Robbins. I see two problems with this line of thinking. 1) It communicates that Jesus is not a sufficient enjoyment for heaven--so we need other things. 2) If the unbeliever is "won-over" by the prospect of hitting a home-run off Andy Pettite as heaven, then can we really say that he sufficiently sees Jesus as a treasure?

Perhaps my line of reasoning is faulty; and if I so I welcome correction. I tend to get more excited about heaven not in thinking about riding a brontosaurus but in thinking about Sam Storms depiction of an eternal enjoyment of Jesus.

This has very little to do with blogworld but I have to mention that Sunday nights game between the Colts and Titans is huge if you are a Browns fan. Because they stunk worse than a wet dog rolling in stink bait, they are no longer in control of whether or not they make the playoffs. So if the Brownies are going to make the playoffs (despite a possible 10-6) record they have to have the Titans lose. Looks like their season rests on the shoulders of Jim Sorgi (because Manning will sit at least a half). Why is it never simple for Cleveland fans?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Burroughs--Contentment Does Come From Addition

Last time we looked at Burroughs he helped us see that contentment comes not so much by way of addition but by the way of subtraction. This time Burroughs will teach us quite the opposite. "A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by getting rid of the burden that is on him, as by adding another burden to himself." This, of course, makes no sense to the worldly mind. Yet Burroughs continues, "the heavier the burden of your sin is to your heart, the lighter will the burden of your affliction be to your heart, and so you shall come to be content". Burroughs then continues to give several examples of how this seemingly ludicrous statement is actually the way to contentment.

It appears that what Burroughs is attempting to drive deep into our hearts is the notion that our sin before a holy God is so vile and treacherous that any ill situation is fitting. Contentment, it would appear, comes from realizing that every blessing is far better than we deserve. With a mind framed like this a man will quickly become contented. When we realize that we should have been cast into hell a thousand yesterdays ago we quickly feel our blessed estate. Burroughs challenges us to look at our broken estate and come away with a broken heart towards God as well.

This will sound like strange counsel to our 21st century ears. We are told quite the opposite. The prosperity gospel would have none of this teaching. If I am experiencing a trial then it can be directly linked to my lack of faith, says the prosperity teacher. If I would but believe harder and give more then God will pull me out of this mire due to my sin. Burroughs is telling the prosperity teacher that our redemption is enough. The Cross of Christ rescuing us from the burden of sin is all the prosperity that we need. When we feel the burden of our sin, and when the Lord graciously lifts it off, we will experience contentment.

This message will likewise sound foreign to the easy-believism of the 21st century. Simply pray this prayer and God will forgive you, only be sincere, is the cry of the proponents of cheap grace. An adherent to easy-believism will seldom be content when trials come. When the scorching sun comes they will wither away. He has never felt the burden of his sin. The roots of the gospel has never gone deep. He only considers Jesus as a band-aid or a get out of hell free card. The true offensiveness of himself and utter ruin he faces are blind from his sight. He was told to pray a prayer but never to feel the painful burden of sin. Burroughs is admonishing easy-believers to look to their sin. When they sense their utter depravity and hopelessness before God; and when they are opened to see the total justification of Christ; then, and only then, will they find contentment. The Cross is enough!

Reading Plan for 2008

For the past two years in January I have compiled my hopeful reading list for the upcoming year. Every year, after about March, I discover that I am reading different books than I have planned. My eyes have never met some of the pages of my books. In the past I felt guilty and disappointed for not having read some of the books I had intended to. I felt silly that I could not read 10 pages per day of this book, or 25 of another. I realize every February that I am getting wore out and not even processing the books that I am reading. I quit enjoying it an it becomes a labor; and unfruitful one at that. So, by March I start reading the way I should have in January and February. This year instead of being dumb in January I am going to make a list of the books I hope to read, take my time, read at a pace that I can process and learn, and enjoy everything I read. I usually read about 5 books at a time (sometimes more, but usually 5 is what I can handle and still process everything). I will break everything up into 5 categories: Puritan, Pastoral, Devotional, Biographical, and Theological.

Biographical books are usually easier to read and I go through them faster. So, I will have 8 or 10 of those. Devotional books are what I consider "Christian Living" books, these usually are not difficult to read but if they are to sink deep they would require a little time to chew on. Therefore, I will have about 6 to 8 of these. Theological books are very meaty and take a long time to read and chew on. They are usually longer in length. I will attempt to read 3 or 4 of these. Puritans are sometimes tough to read; sometimes easy to read; sometimes nearly impossible to read; all the while extremely worthwhile to read. I have a lofty goal this year of reading 12 Puritan Paperbacks (usually about 150-200 pages). Pastoral works usually need to be read over a few times and spaced out over time to process everything. I will attempt to read 5 or 6 of these this year.

Also, some of the books are a continuance from this year.


Finish Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation
Finish Letters of Samuel Rutherford

  1. The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
  2. The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson
  3. A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine
  4. The Art of Prophesying by William Perkins
  5. Learning in Christ's School by Ralph Venning
  6. The Christian's Great Interest by William Guthrie
  7. The True Bounds of Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton
  8. The Godly Man's Pictrue by Thomas Watson
  9. Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices by Thomas Brooks
  10. Gospel Fear by Jeremiah Burroughs
  11. The Acceptable Sacrifice by John Bunyan
  12. The Anatomy of Secret Sins by Obadiah Sedgwick
  13. Christ's Last Disclosure of Himself by William Greenhill
  14. The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel


Finish A Pastor's Sketches by Ichabod Spencer

  1. Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore
  2. Foundations of Grace (Vol. 1) by Steven Lawson
  3. 2000 Years of Christ Power by N.R. Needham
  4. Jonathan Edwards: Evangelist by John Gerstner
  5. Welsey and the Men Who Followed by Iain Murray
  6. John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken
  7. The Rise and Fall of the English Puritans by John Brown
  8. Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland
  9. By His Grace and For His Glory by Tom Nettles


  1. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
  2. Preaching Christ from All of Scripture by Edmund Clowney
  3. The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson
  4. Basic Greek and Exegesis by Richard Ramsay
  5. The Christian Pastor's Manual compiled by John Brown
  6. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell (Re-Read)


  1. Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
  2. For Us and Our Salvation by Stephen Nichols
  3. When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
  4. The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
  5. Humility by C.J. Mahaney
  6. Loved by God by R.C. Sproul
  7. What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper
  8. The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges


Finish Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos
Finish Justification and Regeneration by Charles Leiter

  1. Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelley
  2. God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper
  3. The Justification of God by John Piper
  4. A New Testament Theology by George Ladd
  5. An Old Testament Theology by Bruce Waltke

Overcoming Sin and Temptation Chapter 6

With the holiday's I am a little behind in our John Owen study. Last week we looked at Chapter 6 of Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation. As always you are invited to join us. You can read the work online here.

Last time we saw what Mortification is NOT. This time Owen will begin showing us what mortification is. Remember Owen's central question in this section: "What must I do to mortify sin in my life?". Today we will see three things that mortification of sin consists of.
  1. Mortification of sin consists of a habitual weakening of sin
  2. Mortification of sin consists of a constant fighting and contending against sin
  3. Mortification of sin consists of frequent success
Part of the process of mortifying sin is to habitually weaken sin--or to put it in other words--we must be constantly crucifying the flesh. Owen gives us a picture of crucifying the flesh:
As a man nailed to the cross he first struggles and strives and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard; when a man first sets on a lust or distemper, to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose; it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when by mortification the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart; it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success.
Owen also helps us see two things under this point. 1) Some lusts are stronger in some people than in others. For example, one man might struggle mightily with lust and not be tempted by alcohol. Another man may be just the opposite. 2) Some lusts are more visible in their vileness. Fornication is particularly noteworthy here. This often can lead men to believe they are mortified when they are not. This is why Owen advises: A man may beat down the bitter fruit from an evil tree until he is weary; while the root abides in strength and vigor, the beating down of the present fruit will not hinder it from bringing forth more. This is the folly of some men; they set themselves with all earnestness and diligence against the appearing eruption of lust, but, leaving the principle and root untouched, perhaps unsearched out, they make but little or no progress in this work of mortification.

Owen closes the chapter by giving us a foretaste (hopefully) of what is to come. He mentions briefly two things that must be in order for mortification to take place. 1) The flesh must be replaced by grace. Pride must be replaced by the grace of humility; unbridled passion by patience; love of the world by heavenly mindedness; and so on. Or, if we want to get Piper-esque we would say that to mortify flesh then our sinful passions must be replaced by a superior passion (pleasure) for Christ. 2) The new man combined with the work of the Spirit using the means of mortification are necessary. (At least that is what I think Owen is saying).


As I read Owen and ponder my own battle with sin I find mixed thoughts. On one hand I see how the Lord's grace in my life has created in me more Christ-likeness and a passion for Jesus. On the other hand I see less of a battle with sin. I wonder is it because I find more pleasure in Christ or because I am no longer passionate about rooting all sin out? Am I as passionate about holiness as I once had been? Regardless of the answer my prayer is that Jesus might take me to the root of all my sinful rebellion and there through his sacrifice we might chop down the roots. I pray that my roots may be deep not in sin but in grace!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/24

Happy Christmas Eve to everyone! The blogworld has been surprisingly busy within the last couple of days; so I will attempt to catch us up on some of the best articles.

Some that saw Tom Brady's interview on 60 Minutes have commented on his need to hear the gospel. In the interview Brady comments on his lack of fulfillment: "it's got to be more than this". Tom Ascol at Founders shares what he would say to Tom Brady, "Your Questions Have Answers". I am far from a Tom Brady fan but excited to hear that perhaps God is showing him the emptiness of everything but Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that not only Brady, but also a host of other's that seemingly have everything, might feel their emptiness and turn to Christ.

John Piper tells us a Kind of Christmas Tale. Timmy Brister has several Christmas poems at his site.

Mark Driscoll has a new video out on the importance of biographies. As one that attempts to read a biography per month, I must also recommend to you reading good Christian biographies. I have learned a ton by looking at the lives of these men and women of God; apparently Driscoll has too. (HT: Intersection)

Does the world really like Jesus but hate the church? Dan Phillips has an answer. His take is that the world likes "Jesus", but the world hates Jesus. A few months ago we did a series on "Fad Jesus". "Fad Jesus" has never been cooler; but hopefully the church does not sell out to Fad Jesus for the sake of relevance. Men like Dan Phillips are helping the church love the true Jesus and forsake "Jesus".

Thoughts on the Way gives us a Christmas Eve reminder of the upcoming McCheyne Reading Plan starting on January 1st. I would really like to encourage our youth to take this "challenge" for the upcoming year.

That's it for today, I will be back to posting on Wednesday! Have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Update on Nikki

A few months ago I had a prayer request for my wife. It was thought that she had a condition whereas she would be required to undergo a C-section to birth our child. At our doctor's appointment Wednesday we found out that everything had moved to where it needed to be. Looks like the bed rest helped and that we are experiencing God's great hand of mercy! We are thankful that the Lord has heard our prayers and that He has chosen to glorify Himself through a natural childbirth. We truly get far better than we deserve!

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/21

I think my fellow bloggers have taken off early for the Christmas season. Today is another slow day.

John Piper reminds us that today is the 200th anniversary of John Newton's death. If you want to read Piper's biography on Newton you can do so here, or you can buy Josiah Bull's excellent work The Life of John Newton, or if you are feeling really saucy you can buy his Complete Works for only $127. You can read his letters for free at Grace Gems and his Olney Hymns for free at CCEL. Ever minute and every dollar you spend getting to know this man of God is well spent.

Old Truth sounds like John Piper today: Worship, Not Evangelism, The Most Important Task. Piper says that Missions exists because worship does not. This article echoes that sentiment as it points us to a quote from Robert Reymond's New Systematic Theology. His central thesis is this: For decades now evangelical churches have been conducting their services for the sake of unbelievers. Both the revivalistic service of a previous generation and the "seeker service" of today are shaped by the same concern--appeal to the unchurched. Not surprisingly, in neither case does much that might be called worship by Christians occur. As a result, many evangelicals who have been sitting for years in such worship services are finding their souls drying up, and they have begun to long for something else.

Yesterday it was announced that Alex and Bret Harris will be releasing their new book, Do Hard Things, in April. Right now it is retailing for 16.99. I am hoping it is discounted quickly, I would love to do a small group on this book in youth group! (HT: JT)

Should I Have Told You I am a Calvinist?

A few days ago I cited an article by Frank Page on Calvinism. Turns out this article by Page has led to quite a bit of discussion on whether or not a candidate should be up front about his beliefs on the Doctrines of Grace. You can read the discussion here.

Many in academia are calling for young pastors that adhere to the doctrines of grace (Calvinistic) to be upfront and lay all their cards on the table. As you read the comments on Founders you will notice that some agree with this (as an issue of integrity) and others find it unfair. I am unsure of where I fall on this and am encouraging my readers to help me work through this issue (I know some of you are Calvinists and some of you are not).

As I am looking back I am wondering whether or not I would have been hired if I would have said upfront that I was a Calvinist. For one I was not nearly as established in the doctrines of grace as I am now. For two I know some of those on the search committee had (and maybe even to this day still have) a very vague understanding of what Calvinism is. I also know that many have false caricatures of what Calvinist actually believe and how a biblical Calvinist would actually engage people with the gospel. It appears to me that what people often reject is Hyper-Calvinism. Therefore, I wonder if all of the work that we have seen God do for the past 4 years would have been quenched from the beginning because I was a Calvinist. As soon as I stated what I believed about the Doctrines of Grace would I have been caricatured?

My stance has been to preach the gospel and to preach the word of God expositionally. If the doctrines of grace come out of the text then I will preach that. If the doctrines of grace are not in the text then I will never force it. My hope has been to be as biblical as possible in my life, practice, and ministry. Most people do not even know that I am a Calvinist. Does this make me dishonest? Many probably assume that I am a pre-tribulational pre-millenialist too. Should I have been upfront about that? Also my views have changed through the years on a few issues as well. What I might have said I believed in my interview I would disagree with now. To me "laying all your cards" on the table does not give room for growth for me (the minister) or for the congregation.

One of the funniest things that I remember was a conversation I had with a man in our church a couple of years ago. We were talking about some of the authors that we both enjoyed reading, as well as some of the Christian artists we loved to listen to. One of the bands that we were talking about we were discussing whether or not they are Calvinist, because they had cited John Piper as an influence. The guy I was speaking to began talking about all of the things he saw wrong with Calvinism. Their anti-evangelism, etc. All of the typical caricatures. Knowing my evangelistic zeal and passion to share the gospel, this man was floored when I told him that I too was a Calvinist. We did not get into a discussion on the theology of it, but by looking at my life and witness he saw that Calvinism does not necessarily lead to all of those horrible caricatures. (Thankfully, he could not smell the pride that emanated from me in my early caged-Calvinist days). So, my question to you is this: Am I deceptive for not sharing with our congregation that I am a Calvinist? Should I be upfront even if people do not ask? Is it right for me to make an issue of it? Or, is it a better approach to preach expositionally and only address the issue when they come up? What do you think?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Promised King

Last night we completed our series on the Minor Prophets. As we reviewed each one of these prophets we saw that each is looking to something greater. Every book leaves us with nagging questions. It is almost impossible to paint a compelling enough picture for you of the heart and longing the Jewish people had for their coming Messiah. Therefore, when we look at the baby in the manger we are not filled with relief, excitement, wonder, and thankfulness at the long-awaited King.

The sermon is in only a little better than outline form, but you can find it here. Simeon knew that he held in his arms the Promised King. As the holiday season approaches we too must see Jesus as the Promised King.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/19

Today seems to be a little slow in blogworld.

Of all the books I have read one of the most frustrating has to be Frank Page's Trouble with the Tulip. Of all the articles I have read one of the most encouraging has been Frank's Page's recent article in the Baptist Press: Calvinism and Southern Baptists. (HT: Founders) Page will be the first to admit that he is not a Calvinist. In fact he believes it is a manmade doctrine. He is cited in his Tulip book as saying, "It is also important to remember that man-made doctrines always hurt God's work" (74). Also he believes that, "manmade doctrines always give way to God's Word" (75). Yet in all of this Page also says, "Most everyone who knows me knows that I am not a Calvinist. However, I have made it clear that I would be fair to those who are Calvinists in appointments in our convention. I have been true to my word. I believe that the issue of Calvinism is one that can be discussed within the family of Southern Baptists. I believe we need to have honest, open dialogue." Although I must question why a man, convinced that Calvinists hinder God's work and give way to God's Word, would appoint them to important posts in the Convention. I still respect his willingness to be open and to dialogue. I praise God for this and pray along with Page that we might have a Christ-like spirit and be diligent in our studies.

Do you ever wonder what the answer to church-wide immorality is? Brian Thornton offers a suggestion. His answer? Simple. Regeneration. Thornton also gives 9 suggestions for combating church-wide-immorality. Of his 9 suggestions one I especially like is #4, "Teach kids the same things as the adults". One that I might have worded differently is #7, where he suggest making the center of our worship the Word and Sacraments. I know that by making Word capital he is pointing us to Jesus, but I would have worded it a little differently. My suggestion: "make the Triune God as revealed in the Scriptures and displayed in the Sacraments the center of our worship".

Also today, Josh Harris continues his study on Affluenza, we are now on Part 4.

That's it so far today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Our Motivation for Preaching Christ Alone

Two convictions frame the background for this post. 1) I believe that our ministries should be like Paul's: "I desired to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified". 2) Our primary motivation for preaching Christ should be nothing except His glory. We will deal with the second conviction first, then the deal with first conviction, and lastly attempt to tie both of these together.

When our primary motivation for preaching Christ becomes something other than His glory we get ourselves into many troubles. There are many secondary desires for preaching Christ that are right and good, but when elevated to the place of primary they become deadly. A prime example of this is "winning souls". If our prime motivation is to see people saved, then typically whatever we do to achieve this goal is justifiable. "If it reaches one soul then it was worth it". Therefore, we are taught to waver on unbiblical practices simply because it "won a soul".

Imagine this situation. A large group of teenagers are drawn to an event by motorcycles, appealing music, drama, food, and other teenagers. After a couple hours of cool motorcycle tricks and funny drama we hear a brief sermon. It does have a few Bible verses and a young man tells of how Jesus has changed his life. We are not told much about God. We are told even less about sin. We are certainly not told of what God requires of us. The "gospel" presentation is watered down at best. Then an invitation is given. Scores of students "come forward" to accept Jesus. They are prayed for and then they meet with counselors for about 15 minutes. During this time the counselors try to discern whether or not they are sincere in their "decision". They get some information, call them saved (so long as they are sincere and can repeat a prayer and nod their head at the right time, of course), and then send them back to their home church to get baptized.

Whether you believe that using motorcycles, drama, etc. in church is biblical or not is actually not the greater issue I am concerned with. I fall on the regulative principle "side" and figure that such "evangelistic tools" should not be used in our churches. The regulative principle is not the foundational issue. The foundational issue I am concerned with is the mindset that drives this type of event. Why is the gospel so "watered-down"? Certainly, it is so that lost people can understand it. The central reason for preaching Christ is, in this case, so that souls might be won. Therefore, we can water down the gospel in the hopes that it will be more appealing and win more souls for Jesus. Also, we have to have a way to keep track of these "decisions". Sometimes an altar call is enough; but, sometimes we are so successful that we have to get cards so that we can see "how many people made decisions". My main concern is that the gospel is neutered. My secondary concern is that people go home confused and often with a false sense of security.

This is a somewhat extreme example. Now imagine this situation. You are attending a conference on missions/evangelism. You hear some very startling statistics. You learn that every 1.7 seconds someone dies and goes to hell. (Which by the way is probably a fairly accurate statistic; and this should cause us concern). You also hear about our lack of evangelism. You think back upon your year and realize that you have not shared Christ with nearly as many people as you could have. You are plagued with guilt (and perhaps you should be). Then the speaker tells you a touching story of someone that he did not share Jesus with and blames himself for that person being in hell. You are urged to think of all your family members and friends that will be in hell within 100 years if you do not share the gospel with them. You go home; you are now depressed but have motivation to share the gospel with people. As you wake up the next morning it is still sticking with you, but you still struggle with fear--and now more guilt. Then the next day you are a little more numb. You continue down this cycle until next years evangelism conference and then you are reminded of your failure and vow to do better this time around. You wake up again to failure.

Now imagine this scene. You catch a vision of the majesty and holiness of God. You begin to realize that God is passionate about His glory. You begin to understand that God wants to spread His glory to the nations. Furthermore, you find that God is glorified whether souls are saved or not. Certainly we want to see souls saved; yet we are able to trust in the Lord's goodness and know that the preaching of His Word is a means to spread His glory to the nations. This causes you to realize that every time you share the gospel it is a "success". Your standard is no longer "how many decisions" but is instead "was God glorified". You still are convicted at times when you do not share the gospel. This time, however, it is different. You are not stricken with guilt because you sent somebody to hell. This time you feel a deep sense of conviction because you have valued man's opinion over the glory of God.

Do you see how this serves as a filter? The first scenario would never happen because you would be more concerned about faithfully proclaiming the gospel than about "winning souls". The second scenario would also be done away with. We can still share the statistics. We can still point out our failures to evangelism. But this time instead of being driven to an "I've got to do better" mentality we will be driven to the Cross. We will plead with God to show us more of His glory. We will repent of not treasuring Him over the fear of man. We will rest on His mercy to stir up in our hearts a proper motivation for evangelism. We will cry out for more compassion. We will plead with Him to stir in our hearts in such a way that we treasure His glory more than anything else.

I am not alone in my convictions either. Martin Lloyd-Jones found the same thing was true. As Lloyd-Jones began studying Scripture, and the sermons of many men that had been used by God in mighty ways, he found 5 things in common in each of their gospel presentations:
  1. The supreme object of the work of evangelism is to glorify God, not to save souls
  2. The only power that can do this work is the Holy Spirit, not our own strength
  3. The one and only medium through which the Spirit works is the Scriptures; therefore, we “reason out of the Scriptures” like Paul did
  4. These preceding principles give us the true motivation for evangelism-a zeal for God and a love for others
  5. There is a constant danger of heresy through a false zeal and employment of unscriptural methods
Did you catch the first one? The supreme work of evangelism is to glorify God, NOT to save souls! Therefore, we see that our primary motivation for preaching Christ should be for His glory! Now why must we preach Christ alone? Why must we preach in such a way that we could say with Paul, I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified?

The reason that we must preach Christ alone is because that is how He is to be glorified. We do not display Jesus as a sufficient treasure when we preach Christ plus something else. If Jesus needs motorcycles to be attractive then He must not be that precious of a treasure. The way we preach Christ displays how much we value Him as a sufficient treasure! There is a great snippet from a Spurgeon sermon at Pulpit magazine's blog today that fits well here; The Importance of Preaching Christ. Spurgeon's central thesis is this: "You [as preachers] have nothing else to employ as the means of good, except the salvation of Jesus, and there is nothing else worth telling."

Therefore, I encourage you to preach Christ. Do it boldly. And do it without ribbons and without bows. And when you are preaching Christ do not do it with the ulterior motive of "winning souls". God will do that work. You preach Christ and Christ alone for His glory alone! Remember the greatest Christmas present came without gift wrapping!

Borrowed Light: Today in Blogworld 12/18

The Shepherd's Scrapbook has released its Top 30 books of 2007. Topping the list this year is the ESV Literary Bible and Waltke's OT Theology. As I scroll through this list I see about 5 or 6 that are on my wish list. Looks like I need to update my list.

Dan Philipps has an excellent post at Pyromaniacs; where he considers the Danger of Confessions. Philipps central contention is this: "while I find much help, encouragement, and instruction in the great confessions, I have to remember: Satan may sift the body of which I am a part. I may find myself alone. Will I be able to say "I believe, and I have come to know"? This is a great question to ask ourselves. I have great fellowship with many of my Reformed brothers, but if they go south on matters of ecclesiology am I am able to stand up for what I believe?

Why do so many men not write like this anymore: "And as often as we muse on Christ the fire burns with us also. And the longer we muse on Him, and the deeper our musing goes, the more the fire burns. And this fire never sinks low, far less ever dies out, as long as we so muse. Think enough, meditating enough, musing enough on Christ, will do it. Thinking that always ends in prayer, and in praise, and in repentance unto life, and in ever new obedience, that will do it. Think you see Christ all through the Four Gospels. Think you see Him die at the end of the Four Gospels. Think you see Him rise again. Think you see Him ascend up into heaven. Think that it is the day of judgment. And think you see the books opened, - till you cry to Him continually day and night, Rock of Ages, cleft for me!" The words are from Alexander Whyte and come to us via The Vossed World. Now it seems like many have abandoned "musing" for "doing". Could it be possible that deep musing creates deep doing? Could it be that the reason we often only see superficial change is because we spend a vast majority of our time thinking and doing that which is superficial?

Brian at Voice of the Sheep has a great article on the visible church. He wonders how often does the world see the church gathering in a public setting. Even on Wednesday's and Sunday's all the world sees are our cars. Therefore, his suggestion is this: Do more things in public with your church body so that the world will see you together with one another. (HT: Challies)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Burroughs--Contentment Comes from Subtraction Not Addition

Burroughs explains what he means by "contentment comes from subtraction instead of addition" when he says: "...not so much by adding to what he would have, or to what he has, not by adding more to his condition; but rather by subtracting from his desires, so as to make his desires and his circumstances even and equal." We are content when our hearts desire is equal to our circumstances. This, Burroughs posits, is why some men are happy with little and others miserable with much. We are rich when we have our desires fulfilled. Burroughs central point in this section (p15) is that, "a contented man has his desires satisfied, God satisfies them, that is, all considered, he is satisfied that his circumstances are for the present the best circumstances".

I agree with what Burroughs is saying. Yet, I would perhaps phrase it a little differently. As C.S. Lewis said:
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (From The Weight of Glory, 1949)
I would say then that Burroughs is correct that contentment comes from having our desires met. As Burroughs has hinted at before; we as Christians are the most contented and at the same time most dissatisfied creatures. Therefore if we are to be contented it will come from having strong desires for the Lord and not having hearts entangled in the world. We will be content with whatever lot we have in the world because that is not where our heart is. Our heart has a much stronger affection and because of that we will not be dissatisfied by our circumstances, but rather we will be panting after the Lord. Satisfied, yet hungry! Burroughs, I believe, would agree with this. Yet I have chosen to word it a little differently than he does for the sake of clarity in the 21st century.

Today in Blogworld 12/17

The first article I read this morning is probably the most sad. Dr. Mohler addresses a new agenda-filled T-shirt worn by toddlers. The T-shirt reads "My Daddy's name is Donor". No, that's not Donner, one of the 8 reindeer; it is a reference to a sperm donor. What is communicated to this little guy is that his daddy does not matter. Mohler sites Catherine Bruton of The Times in London who says: The T-shirt is offered by a company called Family Evolutions, founded by a lesbian couple whose son modelled the shirt. The co-founder, Stacey Harris, says that the T-shirt is empowering. "We want to lift the taboo surrounding donor conception so that kids don't feel that their coming into the world is a shameful secret," she says. "Kids who are empowered will grow up well-adjusted." Despite my concern over the political agenda behind this, I am most pained for this little child and the host of other little boys. What does it communicate to a male child when he is told that daddy doesn't matter? It means men do not matter. It means your masculinity does not matter. Truly sad.

John Piper reminds us that we need to feel homesick: "The likelihood of dying because you are a Christian is closer than it used to be for Americans. The freedom from such threats has generally existed in this country for a tiny portion of history (about 400 years). We have gotten used to it. It seems like the way things must be. So our first reaction to the threat that things might be otherwise is often anger. But that anger may be a sign that we have lost our sense of being aliens and exiles (“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles . . .” 1 Peter 2:11). Perhaps we have settled in too much to this world and this country in particular. We don't feel as homesick for Christ as Paul did..." Continue reading

In Acts29/MBC news, Founders has posted an interview with Kevin Larson. Larson is one of the 3 churches that will be deeply affected by this decision. The St. Louis Post has ran an article as well. My friend Sam of Believers Church, also deeply impacted by this decision, was interview for this article. My only regret is that in the Post article the author refers to these churches as "Emerging". That is not helpful to the discussion.

Josh Harris has parts two and three now posted on his affluenza series.

Pulpit Magazine attempts to answer a very good question about being unequally yoked: Question: Some people have told me that being unequally yoked is talking exclusively about marriage. Others have said that it applies also to business partnerships and other situations. Could you please expand on this? What does it mean to be unequally yoked and what type of a guideline should I have if it is okay for me to have a business partnership with a non-believer? Read the answer here.

And finally Thabiti Anyabwile, from Pure Church, tackles the Satan (I mean Santa) Claus debate. I am hoping that my friend Will accepts my invite to begin writing on this blog. If he does I would love to see him address this issue--I appreciate his stance on Christmas. As for Thabiti he says Down with Santa Claus. Here is his conclusion: "I'm not arguing a dogmatic causality here. I'm simply asking the question, "Why include Santa Claus at all?" Is the imagined upside of following the culture here worth what we think it's worth? And are our justifications helping us to point our children to Christ or masking the reality that we may be pointing our children away from Him? Personally, I doubt Santa Claus is worth it, and pointing our kids away from Jesus at Christmas may be the worst form of child neglect I can imagine."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

MBC/Acts29 Continued debate

The title is a little misleading. This really is not much a debate. Those who have made the decision have remained pretty silent as to the reasons for their decision. The only thing that could somewhat be considered a response is that of Don Hinkle. The BP has also ran an article that gives us a little light. If we combine these two responses we get a few vague reasons. It appears that Hinkle's reasoning is that this decision was made because the Executive Board is the highest authority (except of course the necessary shout out to Jesus and His Word). I always thought that it was the local church--but perhaps I missed that class in Introduction to Southern Baptists. Along with the "just because they can" argument it appears that Hinkle's other reason is that Acts29 is a renegade network with no accountability. Here is his statement: "Because Missouri Southern Baptist churches did not give their Cooperative Program gifts to fund the church plants of another organization. Nor did they give to plant churches who pledge to do one thing, then do another, often putting the church plant and convention at doctrinal odds — and without accountability, something Acts 29 seems to be lacking."

I am trying my best to be fair with these comments. But they seem to be not grounded in truth or any biblical basis so it is very difficult. Acts 29 is a network and does not require affiliate churches to give to them. Therefore, giving to this network is no different than a church giving money to the Purpose Driven Life or for that matter the MBC giving or taking money from Mormons (Tan-Tar-A, MO Baptist College). I am not certain what the "pledge one thing, and do another" is referring to. I know my friends church is doing everything they pledged to do. I think my main problem with Hinkle's statement is that it is not substantiated by anything. They are just accusations; many of which have been addressed and disproven (see here). Timmy Brister does a far better job and is more expansive than I in addressing this, read his response.

When we look at the BP article we learn that the newly elected President of the MBC, Gerald Davidson, "argued that only a handful of board members were informed enough about the Acts 29 Network to be able to vote on any motion that was critical of it. He said on two separate occasions that his knowledge was lacking." It would have been really nice if they had heeded advice and tabled the issue until April. But, as often is the case in our democratic Christianity the majority won: "But Dunn spoke for the majority of board members who have at least heard about The Journey's well-publicized barroom ministry and are bothered by it and vow that it will never happen again." The article is not extremely informative. Yet, it does help us to see that this issue is heated, emotional, and volatile and it appears to have a set course. What bothers me most is that the majority report by Theological Committee was accepted but not the minority report. Also comments by Mark Devine and mounds of evidence seem to be ignored. This really pains me because it is brother fighting against brother.

Also, the Lord has moved in the hearts of many brothers and sisters to set up a fund for these 9 churches that will be hurt by this decision. If you feel so compelled to give then you can do so by sending a check or money order to:
St. Louis Metro Baptist Association
(designate it for the “Show Me Church Planting Fund”)

St. Louis Metro Bapt. Assoc.attn.
Darren Casper
3859 Fee Fee Road
Bridgeton, Mo. 63044

Friday, December 14, 2007

Today in Blogworld 12/14

In less than a month I will get to see my son for the first time. How exciting. Articles like this one, "Delighting in Delight", are especially dear to my heart. I am anxiously awaiting God to teach me more of his gospel through my son. "Delighting in Delight" is the story of a father giving an expensive gift to his son. Especially gospel is this line: "I explained to him that it was my privilege to give him the castle as a gift and that he could show me gratitude not by attempting to pay me back, something he could not do despite his best efforts, but by playing with the castle and receiving from it a great deal of joy." I pray that we remember that our "great gift" is not a castle (as was Tim's son's) but God Himself! What a great gift that Christ has secured for His sheep!

It's flu season, and has been since the day after Thanksgiving. I'm not talking about the type of flu you think though. I am talking about affluenza. Josh Harris gives us part one on affluenza.

You should also check out a really interesting article by Anthony Bradley: Preaching to Smothered Mama's Boys. It's a good one for mothers to read (to know what NOT to do) and for men and fathers to read (to know the need to rescue the young men entrusted to you).

Newton: On Controversy

This might be an especially well timed article amidst the present controversy in the MBC. In a letter, to what appears to be a young man, John Newton advices him on engaging in debate with another over the issue of election. It is the typical Calvinist/Arminian debate. You get the idea that maybe this "young man" that Newton is addressing is a "caged-Calvinist". As I read this it rebukes me of some of pride and arrogance. It also convicts me of a spirit of superiority in doctrine which leads sometimes to bitterness towards my other brothers that "don't get it". This also serves to temper me in the recent Acts29/MBC controversy. I have included points 1 and 3. The entire letter can be found at Grace Gems:

Dear Sir,As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of
truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, nay friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle. But I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a coat of armor; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great armory provided for the Christian soldier, the word of God. I take it for granted, that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

1. As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: "Deal gently with him for my sake." The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul,with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever. But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace, (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit,) he is a more proper object of your pity and compassion than of your anger. Alas! "he knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the Gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes,and not his.

Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, those who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy; but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose, "if perhaps God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth."
If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling-blocks in the way of the blind, or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their prejudices, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

3. This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient, they appear to be so in our day, when errors abound on all sides, and every truth of the Gospel is either directly denied, or grossly misrepresented. And yet we find but very few writers of controversy, who have not been manifestly hurt by it.

Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which at most are but of a secondary value. This shows, that, if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause, and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made! Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray, for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you: he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who, "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not." This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, "not rendering railing for railing, but, contrariwise,blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called." The wisdom which is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the lack of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow-creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of Gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth,therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord Almighty, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts, that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.

Brothers, may we heed the wise counsel of this dear man that is now with Jesus. May we especially take heed to his last two paragraphs. It is my prayer as well as we engage our brothers that we might, as the word of God says, speak the truth in love.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Overcoming Sin and Temptation Chapter 5

Today we will continue Reading the Classics Together with Challies. As mentioned before you can buy the book here. Following along with us here. And read the book online here.

Chapter 5 is the first chapter in the second section. The central issue that Owen will direct us in this chapter is concerning the nature of mortification. In essence this section will help us answer the question, "How do I go about mortifying sin in my life?" He will do this by first showing us what mortification is and is not. Then he will give crucial instructions on what must take place in mortification. And lastly he will get specific and show us how this is to be done. Chapter 5 will deal with showing 5 things that mortification is NOT.
  1. Mortification is not the utter destruction and death of sin
  2. Mortification is not the dissumlation (becoming unlike) of sin
  3. Mortification is not the improvement of a quiet sedate nature
  4. Mortification is not the diversion of sin
  5. Mortification is not occasional conquests over sin
Owen's first point is true, yet very discouraging. We must not think that we can ever actually mortify sin. Yet, we are encouraged to continue in this pursuit as if it might actually be attained. The first point is also somewhat encouraging; especially when you feel like the chief of sinners. It is encouraging to know that you are not the only failure in this endeavor to mortify sin.
The fourth point is also especially convicting. I think there are areas in my life that have merely been diverted into other sins. Sin is so sneaky. How many times have I "conquered" a sin only to fall into pride and self-righteousness. Owen's summation of this point hits a deep chord in my heart: "He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for Pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others, let him not think that he has mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He has changed his master, but is a servant still."
A good majority of the chapter is focused on the fifth point. I would venture that Owen spends such time on this point because of its deceptive nature and frequency in occurence. I know in my own life that often after a "sad eruption" I make promises that I cannot keep. I found it especially interesting what Owen said concerning sin "hiding" during this time. "The whole man, spiritual and natural, being now awakened, sin shrinks in its head, appears not, but lies as dead before him: as when one that has drawn nigh5 to an army in the night, and has killed a principal person—instantly the guards awake, men are roused up, and strict inquiry is made after the enemy, who, in the meantime, until the noise and tumult be over, hides himself, or lies like one that is dead, yet with firm resolution to do the like mischief again upon the like opportunity." This makes me wonder how many sins are in "hiding" in my own life. My prayer is that through the power of the gospel they might be brought out and truly mortified. Oh, how desperate for Jesus' rescue I am!
John Newton's hymn "A Sick Soul" is fitting as my prayer of response:
Physician of my sin–sick soul,
To thee I bring my case;
My raging malady control,
And heal me by thy grace.
Pity the anguish I endure,
See how I mourn and pine;
For never can I hope a cure
From any hand but thine.

I would disclose my whole complaint,
But where shall I begin?
No words of mine can fully paint
That worst distemper, sin.

It lies not in a single part,
But through my frame is spread;
A burning fever in my heart,
A palsy in my head.

It makes me deaf, and dumb, and blind,
And impotent and lame;
And overclouds, and fills my mind,
With folly, fear, and shame.

A thousand evil thoughts intrude
Tumultuous in my breast;
Which indispose me for my food,
And rob me of my rest.

Lord I am sick, regard my cry,
And set my spirit free;
Say, canst thou let a sinner die,
Who longs to live to thee?

Today in Blogworld 12/13

One of my first stops is usually Challies. Yesterday he posted a very interesting article on The Death of Shame. "Aileen and I have continually returned to the question of why so many young people these days seem unwilling or unable to grow up. It is a question that has confused us, especially as we look to many of the young people we know. There was a time when young people seemed eager to grow up, to mature, and to head out into the world to make their mark on it. Or that is how we remember it (we were, after all, married at 21 and parents by 23). But those people now seem to be the exception more than the rule. More and more, it seems, young people (and increasingly older young people) are choosing to stay home, to stay in colleges, to earn a second or third or fourth degree. They are, it seems, refusing to grow up." To find out his conclusion continue reading.

A few days ago I mentioned my confusion about a recent post by Mark Dever. Perhaps Jonathan Leeman has provided an answer. See it here.

Jim at Old Truth has found himself in the midst of a discussion ("argument") over whether or not we should question professions of faith. This morning he pulled the Mark Dever card. "Sometimes I get the feeling that people think there's something wrong with questioning the reality of a profession of faith. It's legalistic, or judging, or holier than thou. Or something. But if evangelists want to see lost sinners saved, and if evangelists know that we sinners can deceive ourselves, then it's not surprising that we want to try to make sure (with all appropriate qualifications about our limitedness) that conversions professed are conversions possessed. Or is it just sour-faced theologians who think about such things? Are preachers who think about such things unevangelistic?" Continue reading for the answer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Burroughs--The Mystery of Contentment

Today we begin Chapter 2 in our study of Jeremiah Burroughs The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Again, a reminder that you can buy the book here, or read it online here. In this chapter, and the third, Burroughs will exposit for us the great mystery of contentment. What does he mean by mystery? He gives an example with this statement: "You never learned the mystery of contentment unless it may be said of you that, just as you are the most contented man, so you are also the most unsatisfied man in the world." What a great mystery it must be that a man is discontent and content at the same time. Burroughs goes on to explain: "though his heart is so enlarged that the enjoyment of all the world and ten thousand worlds cannot satisfy him for his portion; yet he has a heart quieted under God's disposal, if He gives him but bread and water." In order for this to not be utterly insane we must see it as a great mystery indeed. This marks the difference between a godly man and he with a carnal heart. The godly man that is contented will not find his portion in this world and thus will be satisfied with what little he is given. The carnal man will find the world for his portion and thus will never be satisfied.

The heart of the issue lies in what satisfies us. "A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God...therefore, whatever God may give to a gracious heart, a heart that is godly, unless He gives Himself it will not do". As Burroughs expounds upon Philippians 4:7, 9 we see the depth of his thought as it is compared to the carnality of our modern thinking. I have known many of Christians when reading, Philippians 4:9 ("And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ,") will pursue the peace of God. Listen to what Burroughs offers as an observation of that text: "the peace of God is not enough to a gracious heart except it may have the God of that peace. A carnal heart would be satisfied if he might but have outward peace, though it is not the peace of God...but mark how a godly heart goes beyond a carnal. All outward peace is not enough; I must have the peace of God...we must enjoy the Fountain of peace, as well as the stream of my peace".

A good measure of whether or not we have this godly contentment is to ask ourselves whether or not we can honestly agree with Psalm 73:25, "Whom have I in heaven but you and there is none upon the earth that I desire beside you." If you want to further information on this concept I suggest reading Piper's excellent book God is the Gospel. You can purchase it here or read it online here. Piper's central thesis is that the greatest gift of the gospel is God Himself. This strongly echoes Burroughs sentiment that a contented heart is dissatisfied until he has God Himself, but is yet contented with the little the world has because of the measure of grace God has given Him.

The Effects of the Acts29/MBC decision

I just received this e-mail today from a brother that is affiliated with Acts 29 and receives funding from the MBC. It pains me to hear that his salary will be cut because he has good doctrine, a heart for Christ, a heart to reach people for Christ, adheres to the Baptist Faith and Message, and did I mention loves Jesus and is a brother in the Lord. Sad. Here is his e-mail:

Believer’s Church is affiliated with two different groups to further the cause of the planting Gospel-centered churches and reaching lost people with the message of Jesus Christ. One of those groups is the Missouri Baptist Convention and the other is the Acts29 Network. Although there are NO major theological differences between the two groups and they both, in the area of church planting especially, claim to be working towards the same end. One of the groups, by nature of its structure, is incredibly political in comparison to the other as was evidenced this past Monday. In spite of encouraging reports from Mark Devine, professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a recent conference featuring the president and board members of Acts 29 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the executive board of the MBC passed the following motion in a meeting Monday (which many board members were not able to be at because of the weather):

Effective Jan 1, The Acts 29 Network is an organization which the MBC Exec Bd. Staff will not be working with, supporting, or endorsing in any manner at anytime.
It was amended with the following statement:

While recognizing the autonomous nature of all areas of MBC life beyond that of the Executive Board Staff, the MBC Executive Board directs the Church Planting Department and other ministry departments to not provide CP dollars toward those affiliated with the Acts 29 Network.

This has caused quite a stir among many people in the MBC already, but the deed has been done. This means that our church will lose $12,000.00 in funding for 2008. This money will not affect our church budget, as our ministry budget is based of the giving pledges of our members. This is money that I am dependent on for my salary and it will definitely affect us with our second child due in February.

Please be in prayer for the Missouri Baptist Convention; that God would cause them to be more focused on Kingdom power than on personal power and political kingdoms. Also be in prayer for the church plants/planters that this is going to affect. Last of all, please pray for our family. We are confident that God will supply all of our need (Phil 4:19), we’re just not sure where from right now.

Thank you for your prayers and partnership in the Gospel,

Hey here is an idea--go to and help support this brother! On the homepage click on Give. Also, I would encourage you to go to their website and see what type of "heresy" they are preaching at this Acts29/MBC church...His preaching is very foolish (1 Cor. 1:21-22).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Acts 29 and the MBC

I have to be cautious. All of the information is not yet out. My opinion is really really low on the scale of "Whose Opinion Matters". And I am pretty upset about this decision. With that being said, I carefully offer my opinion on this dreadful decision by the MBC Executive Board. Here is the motion:

MOTION:Effective Jan 1, The Acts 29 Network is an organization which the MBC Exec Bd. Staff will not be working with, supporting, or endorsing in any manner at anytime.

Amendment:While recognizing the autonomous nature of all areas of MBC life beyond that of the Executive Board Staff, the MBC Executive Board directs the Church Planting Department and other ministry departments to NOT provide CP dollars toward those affiliated with the Acts 29 Network.

Motion as amended passed by a vote of 28-10 HT: Jim Shaver

What does this mean? It means that if you are a new church plant with the MBC and you are not yet "self-sufficient", then you must decide whether or not you are going to drop your affiliation with Acts29 or the MBC. Because the MBC is providing much of their funding this puts them in a very difficult position. I would love to see Acts29 step up and provide funding in place of the MBC. I would love seeing Acts29 churches stay in the MBC--but the politicians have made this nearly impossible.

I will probably be posting more on this later. Until then there is a little conversation going on at
Founders, Scott Lamb at Thoughts and Adventures, and at Micah Fries blog.

Update: Here are a few additional thoughts I have after doing some research. They are also posted at the Founders blog:

Let me preface by saying that I am not very knowledgeable of all the inner-workings of the MBC; so I could be quite wrong in my hypothesis. Nevertheless after doing a little research I think I have figured out that this is more than just an "alcohol" issue. I think the Executive Board feels that they are doing us a favor by preserving us from the Emerging church movement.

If you know anything about Acts 29 you know that they are not affiliated with the emerging church movement (Emergent, McClaren, Tony Jones, etc.) However, the Theological Committee Review has reported that Acts29 and Emerging/Emergent are pretty much synonymous. Read section 3A of their report

It appears to me that the underlying problem is that they are lumping Acts 29 with the Emerging Church. Emerging Church we should be very concerned with as they often deny the biblical gospel...if you read the review you will see how Acts 29 is lumped in with Emergent...therefore, I think people associate the heresy of Emergent with Acts 29.

Here is the part I am unsure serious did the Executive Board take the Report. But as I have studied I think it is more than "just alcohol". It's motivated out of misinformation and wrongly associating Acts29 with Emergent.

Today in Blogworld 12/11

Dr. Mohler has written about the mainline Protestant concern with homosexual pastors. "Yes, They Said It" gives two exhibits (quotes) that point to the reason we are concerned. One of the men that he quoted is a Lutheran. When we compare that pastors comment to a quote by Martin Luther we see just how far some churches have strayed from their origin. Brian Schmeling said this: "People aren't coming to church to hear that their sins are forgiven; they are coming to experience connection to God, to the people sitting with them in the sanctuary and to people around the world. My theology has thus become more incarnational and relational." In other words, he no longer preaches the Cross. Contrast this with what Martin Luther said about preaching the gospel, "The gospel cannot be preached and heard enough, for it cannot be grasped well enough...Moreover, our greatest task is to keep you faithful to this article and to bequeath this treasure to you when we die". Schmeling and folks like him have exchanged that treasure for a false gospel.

Michael Spencer, the Internetmonk, has made a very thoughtful post about Name Tags. In effective irony he points out the hypocrisy of many who call the Emerging Church (Conversation, Emergent, whatever they are called) vague. His point is that we [insert your affiliations here] are just as guilty as the emergent of being slippery and unidentifiable. His solution serves as a fitting rebuke...we should just wear name tags that spells out who we follow. "Maybe we could just try using the names of favorite teachers, like “Keller types” or “Macarthur types.” What do you think? “I am of Paul.” “I am of Apollos.” It would make everything much simpler."

I will take his rebuke and grow from it--I know I do sometimes follow "Piper", "Sproul", "Edwards", "Spurgeon", etc. And defining my theology by a name tag is wrong, I confess. But I do have to disagree with Spencer on one point at least. What many decry Emergent for is not that they are slippery in defining their names or giving a definition to their theology. Granted, it is frustrating not knowing what to call them (it makes writing more difficult). Slippery name tags is not the problem. Slippery theology is what the problem is. When their leaders refuse to make a stance on homosexuality (something the Bible is clear about) and clothe their border-line (sometimes outright) heretical views with deliberately confusing arguments then they become slippery, and that is what people have a problem with. Nonetheless, the rebuke still stands.

New Attitude points us to a C.J. Mahaney article on "Cravings and Conflict". Every time I read or hear something by Mahaney my level of respect for him grows. After reading this article I wanted to comment on it but found myself only able to say, "Wow". I highly recommend you read this article--you will be blessed. In it Mahaney reminds us that we will face conflict, the question is are we ready for it? This article will certainly help us.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...