Thursday, April 30, 2009

Keller on The Gospel v. Religion

I do not simply mean by ‘gospel-centered’ that ministry is to be doctrinally orthodox. Of course it must certainly be that. I am speaking more specifically.

(1) All religions operate on the principle - “I obey--therefore I am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel is - “I am accepted by God through Christ--therefore I obey.” Two people living their lives on the basis of these two principles may (do!) sit right beside one another in the pew--and both are strive to obey God’s law, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in two radically different spirits, resulting in two radically different personal characters. Since it is easier to understand the difference between the gospel and irreligion, let’s lay out the differences of religion and the gospel.

(2) We must communicate the gospel clearly--not a click toward legalism and not a click toward license. Legalism/moralism is truth without grace (which is not real truth); relativism is grace without truth (which is not real grace). To the degree a ministry fails to do justice to both, it simply loses life-changing power.

(3) I can't tell you how important this is in all mission and ministry. Unless you distinguish the gospel from both religion and irreligion--from both traditional moralism and liberal relativism--then newcomers in your services will automatically think you are simply calling them to be good and nice people.

From Being the Church in Our Culture

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The truth about lying

The only way Satan can effectively be the Father of lies is by knowing the truth so well.  pantsonfire

Our lives are not so much a quest to gain truth as it is to live by the truth that has been revealed to us.  Our problem is often not that we are unaware of the truth.  Our problem is that we are painfully aware of the truth and we rebelliously reject it.  Lying is not a problem of information it’s a problem of knowing the truth but not liking it.

Idolatry is at the heart of lying.  How more prideful and idolatrous can you be than to stare reality in the face and attempt to reconstruct it with a reality of your own making? 

The only hope we liars have is that the truth of the gospel might penetrate our hearts in such a way that we love reality more than a lie.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Facebook and Twitter for 2 Weeks

I started yesterday.  For 2 weeks I am going to try to be active on facebook and twitter.  I will see which of these assists in ministry the most.  I will keep one, probably not the other, maybe neither.  So if you are on facebook feel free to add me as a friend if you have not already.  And you can follow me on twitter at @mikeleake

Am I cool now? 

Paul Tripp on How to Effectively Minister the Word

tripp In the past year the Lord has led me to the writings and ministry of Paul Tripp. What a blessing of transformation in my life. My latest read has been Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. I am only on chapter 2 but so far it has been wonderful. Here is a sample. Tripp is discussing the “spiritual cut-and-paste system” of Christian ministering of the word:

“In this kind of ministry, self is still at the center, personal need is the focus, and personal happiness remains the goal. But a truly effective ministry of the Word must confront our self-focus and self-absorption at its roots, opening us up to the vastness of a God-defined, God-centered world. Unless this happens, we will use the promises, principles, and commands of the Word to serve the thing we really love: ourselves. This may be why many people read and hear God’s Word regularly while their lives remain unchanged. Only when the rain of the Word penetrates the roots of the problem does lasting change occur.”

(Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p.24-25)

By the way that picture of Tripp....yes....the 'stache is real. How can you not listen to a man with the discipline to have a mustache like that????

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Preaching Where They Aren’t

The goal of preaching is to be faithful to the text.  But in order to be faithful to the text do I need to communicate it in such a way that people are able to “get it”?  Would I really be faithful to the text if I stood behind the pulpit and ripped off a few Greek sentences of the original text and then sat down?  I mean how much more faithful to the text can you be than just saying the original then shutting up and sitting down?  Is it possible that being faithful to the text means preaching it the way Jesus would? 
headscratcherOne of the pitfalls of verse by verse preaching through a book of the Bible is sometimes you get to a text where your congregation is not at.  Let me give you an example.  I do verse-by-verse preaching with our teenagers.  A decent portion of our teenagers are unchurched: their parents do not attend, a fair portion does not attend on a Sunday themselves, most are just beginning to discover who Jesus is. 

I have been preaching through Ephesians.  As we have went through the first 3 chapters it has been relatively easy to preach on.  We are looking at God’s great global purpose of redeeming broken people and a broken world.  We have frequently discussed that part of this process of redemption is restoring our broken relationships with one another.  The students have a context for understanding that.  But when we get to talking about life within the body they have little context for understanding that. 

Ephesians 4-6 is all about life within the body.  So, in order to remain faithful to the text it means that I have to have ridiculously long introductions to get the students to a spot of understanding.  You may not read it in a preaching manual (and I would never pretend to be qualified to write one) but I think it is perfectly acceptable to stop “preaching” and start “teaching” if you can tell that you’re hearers are totally clueless.  Wouldn’t it be unfaithful to the text to just keep plodding along (of course spiritualizing it by saying stuff about the power of God in His Word) while your congregation is totally lost?  Didn’t Jesus stop for questions?  Didn’t he welcome interruptions? 

I am not saying that we need to always preach in a dialogue.  I am merely saying that we need to be certain to preach where our people are…if we don’t then we are only stoking our own ego’s…and not being faithful to the text or the God it proclaims.

Quite a bit of this can be done in the preparatory stage.  It might mean a longer introduction and taking a couple more weeks on the text—but so what, the goal is being faithful to the text.  So, I would encourage preachers to spend just as much time “expositing” their congregation as they do “expositing” the text.  Then put those two together into a sermon.  And if you get up there and realize you goofed and are preaching over their heads—then don’t just get through your notes…be humble enough to start asking questions or something to get back on the same page. 

So, what do you think?  Am I a heretic?

Trying to understand “Cowboy” Church

For the second time I am reading Ed Stetzer’s landmark book Breaking the Missional Code. I agree with most if it. But one thing I am having a hard time with is this statement and the implications that come out of it:
Our growing cultural diversity requires a church within the reach of every people group, population segment, and cultural environment if we are to be faithful to the Great Commission”.
The implication here is that if you live in an area that has lots of “cowboy’s” then perhaps a cowboy church would help reach people with the gospel. cowboychurchOr maybe you live around a bunch of skateboarder’s; then you have a skateboarding church. Maybe it’s fried chicken that unites your community; well, then you obviously have the green light to call it Southern Baptist.

I get the principle and it seems to make sense…but…is it biblical? I do see the idea of being missional and contextualizing the message so that people can even hear the gospel. In other words if I go to Korea then I need to either learn to speak Korean or get a translator. Yes, the gospel is powerful and it is the word of God that changes lives—but it needs to be heard in your own language or else it just sounds like babbling. So, I get that. And I get that a cowboy hears the message of the gospel differently than a banker from Vermont. But to me having a cowboy church is contrary to the heavenly scene of people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language.

Maybe to cross a cultural boundary I need to speak a little cowboy and maybe learn how to catch a greased pig. But shouldn’t the gospel be the thing that unites people instead of our culture? Isn’t the gospel meant to break culture so that there is no longer slave nor free, Greek nor Scythian, cowboy nor Indian Native American.
Help me understand…

UPDATE: Here is an example that might make my point more clear. I am a Clevand Browns fan. Now, let's pretend that I live in a community of Browns fans, all eight of them. If I want to take the gospel to Browns fans then I need to find some commong ground. So, I share the gospel with them over an argument over whether or not Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson should be the starting QB. Let's just imagine that a few of them end up coming to know Christ. We decide to plant a Brown's Church.

I preach with a football helmet on. The fans wear those dog masks and have those crazy dog bones. We even let a few of the extra chunky guys come to church with their shirts off (only the guys though). We are certain to let out our services before the game starts (then we have "fellowship" time where we watch the games together). And the few times when the Browns get a prime time game we hold special services. It is our goal to attract more and more Browns fans to church.

Now, I know this is a silly example...but have I really described church as it should be? Wouldn't a better example of church be that a Browns fan and a Steeler's fan link arms, skip out on a football game, and go share the gospel together to a lost Raven's fan.

Maybe I'm missing me understand...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dr Mohler on Lord's Prayer

Dr. Mohler is preaching a powerful, insightful series of sermons on the Lord's Prayer in Southern's Chapel this spring. In his inimitable style, he addresses the issue of prayer that the church needs to hear today. After all, we have turned prayer into our own personal litany of repetitive, meaningless phrases of little thought and consequence.

The introductory sermon begins on February 10. The sermons are all well worth downloading, hearing, and contemplating. Once this is done....get on your knees and start praying!

I Don’t Want to Be “That Guy” in Matthew 7

My friend Chris and I used to joke about our desire to not be “that guy”. You don’t want to be “that guy”. unclericoYou know, “that guy” that you point at with the comb-over that fools nobody, you don’t want to be him. Or “that guy” decked out in eye black, pinstripes, $125 cleats, and wrist bands playing church-league softball. You don’t want to be “that guy”. Or “that guy” that still sports a mullet, drives a 1980’s Camaro, smoke’s Camel cigarettes, and drives through town waving a 12 foot Old Dixie. Nobody really likes “that guy”. Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite is “that guy”. Nobody wants to be him.

There is one “that guy” that I definitely do not want to be. It’s “that guy” that struts up to Jesus confident of his acceptance; like the confident batter that begins walking to first in the certainty that the umpire will call “ball four”. I do not want to be “that guy” because it doesn’t end well for “that guy”:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

I have to be honest; Matthew 7 has always left me a little uncomfortable. I always get a little afraid that maybe I will be “that guy”: you know, the guy that stands before Jesus full of confidence, only to get thrown into the fires of hell. Please do not misunderstand me. I do have confidence that I will be with Christ for eternity. But I think the poor saps in Matthew 7 had that same confidence. And if I am being honest, that scares me a little bit.

This Week in Blogworld 4/24

Audio is now available from the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors Conference. 

This was really helpful for me.  In the past couple of months the Lord has changed the way I think about blogging.  Tony Reinke helps to confirm that by his message at the Band of Bloggers gathering:  How can bloggers steward the teaching of the young, old, and dead?

Dan Phillips makes an excellent point with this one: Porn and paper pastors.  This article is not about pornography or pastors that struggle with pornography.  This article is about those that follow “paper pastors” instead of the one’s that God has given them.

Last week I linked to Kevin DeYoung’s series on high places.  A couple days ago he put up his final one, Part 5: Prayerlessness

Scot Sterner gives great counsel on “What to do with criticism”.  (HT: Z)

The video for LeCrae’s Don’t Waste Your Life is now available:

(HT: JT)

NFL Draft is this weekend.  I am going to be really sad when the Browns trade Brady Quinn, Braylon Edwards, and who knows who else to get a host of rookies that will be traded in two more years for another host of rookies.  Still wondering why I was happy when the Browns signed Mangini as their coach. 

I thought this was a pretty good summary by John Samson on the 5 Big Myths About Calvinism.  I’m sure an Arminian could easily write 5 Myths about Arminians as well.  But articles like these are beneficial to keep us from discussing around the issues and burning straw men in the process. 

What we’ve seen in our churches is now proven in statistics:  The SBC is continuing to decline says Ed Stetzer.

Thoughtful article by C. Michael Patton on The Forgotten Pulpit.  (And he means pulpit literally).

Alongside The Gospel Coalition, D.A. Carson and John Piper had an evening session about The pastor as Scholar and The Scholar as Pastor.  Thankfully Andy Naselli live-blogged it here.

If you get a chance watch Piper’s message from The Gospel Coalition:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Modeling the Gospel by Asking for Forgiveness

“You might be the only Jesus that some people ever see”. Undoubtedly, you have heard that phrase. It is supposed to motivate us to holiness—especially around unbelievers. And it’s a decent statement. But, have you ever totally blown it around an unbeliever? If you are the only Jesus they will ever see then their view of Him is going to be pretty shallow. Perhaps, you said something stupid. Maybe it was something that you did that Jesus would probably not have done. Is your witness totally blown at this point?

It is my opinion that evangelicals have bought into the myth that a follower of Jesus has to be perfectly like Jesus in order to be an effective witness. This is not to say that holiness is not important. This is not to deny that we are to adorn the gospel with our lives. But if the gospel requires perfect examples of Jesus then nobody is going to come to embrace the God of the gospel.

One of the consequences of this myth is that discouraged believers struggle with personal evangelism. Because they are very aware of their sinfulness and because they assume they will “blow it” by their lives they are timid in sharing the gospel. I understand that often this is an excuse for not engaging unbelievers, but nonetheless, such a fear is present. Alongside this are believers that shamefully stop engaging an unbeliever with the gospel once you’ve “blown it”.

Perhaps the biggest consequence is that in order to be perfect examples of Jesus we fake it. We are often surface and inauthentic as we engage unbelievers. We do this because to really be authentic would be to show our brokenness. And because the gospel that is often shared is “Jesus will fix your life” we make a really poor example of an “abundant life”. So we fake it; and that is perhaps the most ineffective witness that we can have.

Here is the point: the most effective witness might be to believe the gospel enough to ask for forgiveness. If you blow it then perhaps the best way you can proclaim Jesus is by modeling repentance and believing in the power of Jesus enough to be authentic. So, if you blow your witness (and you will) then show Jesus by being humble enough to admit that you are wrong, don’t stop modeling the gospel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All of Life is Repentance

Steve McCoy has done the church a service by making available in one location everything Tim Keller.  One such article he links to is this one: All of Life is Repentance.  In this article Keller compares religious repentance to gospel repentance. 

Religious repentance, says Keller, is "selfish, self-righteous, and bitter all the way to the bottom”.  It is selfish because we only do it to avoid punishment.  It is self-righteous because we can be duped into doing it as a means of atonement.  And it is bitter because, “in religion our only hope is to live a good enough life for God to bless us.  Therefore every instance of sin and repentance is traumatic, unnatural, and horribly threatening.  Only under great duress does a religious person admit they have sinned because their only hope is their moral goodness.” 

Contrast this with gospel repentance that hates sin because of love for God.  Gospel repentance receives grace rather than trying to earn it through self punishment.  And finally a firm understanding of the gospel does not produce bitterness but rather joy in repentance.  As Keller nicely sums up, “The more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you.  But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more you [are] able to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of your sin.”

When you understand the difference between religious repentance and gospel repentance then, and only then, can you begin “to profit from a regular and exacting discipline of self-examination and repentance”.  Keller then uses a statement by George Whitefield to put together a few questions to foster gospel-centered repentance:

  • Deep Humility v. Pride
  • Burning love v. indifference
  • Wise courage v. anxiety
  • Godly motivations (a single eye)

You’ll have to read the whole article to see how Keller expounds upon these…it’s only two pages and well worth your time. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Gospel or Leprosy

crying-tearsThe Gospel hurts worse than having a leprous heart.  I know that in the end it hurts far worse to have a heart deadened to God.  But this side of redemption having a heart sensitive to the Spirit and fighting sin hurts.  It hurts when the gospel rips idols out of my heart.  It hurts when I am fully exposed.  It hurts when the gospel will not allow me to hide (from God or neighbor).  It hurts when the gospel makes me face things I would rather not.  The gospel hurts. 

Leprosy on the other hand—you don’t feel a thing.  Of course this means that you are also deadened to beauty.  You cannot really feel kisses.  You cannot really feel a warm embrace.  Sunsets are ignored.  Food tastes bland.  Life feels dull.  But leprosy doesn’t hurt; or at least it doesn’t appear to at the moment. 

So do I believe Jesus enough to let the gospel hurt?  Or will I try to put on a leprous heart?

Watch the Gospel Coalition Conference Live

I am sure that you already know this but you can watch a live feed of this year’s conference here: 2009 National Conference

This year’s theme is Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of 2 Timothy.  Pretty solid keynote speakers this year.  Here is the schedule (CST) of the speakers: 

April 21stentrustedlogo

Tim Keller 2:00

John Piper 4:00

Phil Ryken 7:00

Mark Driscoll 8:00

April 22nd

K. Edward Copeland 9:30 AM

Bryan Chapell 11:00 AM

Ajith Fernando 7:00 PM

April 23rd

Ligon Duncan 9:30 AM

D.A. Carson 11:00 AM

The full schedule is available here.  I am not sure how the live feed will work during the Workshops. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

The irrelevance of preaching man’s myths

A little known web gem is that Themelios (the journal now operated by The Gospel Coalition) is available free of charge.  Check out back issues, here.  This morning, while reading through some back issues, I came across this quote by C. Rene Padilla:

“If Christian preaching is often regarded as obsolete, the solution is not to adapt the message to the mood of the day, but to let preaching be molded by the Word of God.  It is at this point that preachers for whom relevance is the most basic consideration in preaching are frequently mistaken—they fail to see the link between relevance in preaching and faithfulness to the gospel.  It is only in the degree in which preaching is allowed to be an instrument of God’s Word that men and women can receive it as a word from beyond, breaking into the human situation and acting with saving power.  There is nothing more irrelevant than a message that simply mirrors man’s myths and ideologies!”

What a great quote! You can read the full article here: God’s Word and man’s myths.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This Week in Blogworld 4/17

John MacArthur confronts explicit teaching on Song of Solomon. (AKA Mark Driscoll) Read part 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The more I read the writings of Kevin DeYoung the more I appreciate him. He has begun a series (that is almost finished) on our high places. In these he is focusing on our idolatrous blind spots. Read The lack of Psalm singing, Worldliness in entertainment, The idol of youth, and Our lack of church discipline. Part 5 should be up some time within the next day or so.

Did Christ Have Gray Hair? Turns out your answer is more important than you think…

Great words from Dr. Moore: The Devil is a Boring Preacher: The High Stakes of Dull Sermons. Here is an excerpt: “If lost people don’t like your message because they’re hostile to the gospel, you’re in good company. But if you’re boring the people of God with the Word of God, something has gone seriously awry. It may be that you preach just like the devil, and that you don’t even know it.”

It sure is sad that Piper is defiling himself by having such conferences as this: Advance ‘09. UPDATE: I apologize for not being initially clear--I'm being silly by saying Piper is defiling himself by having such a conference as this. I think Advance '09 will be awesome. I even would love to attend--but will probably not be able to. So, sorry if anyone misunderstood and thinks I'm hating on the Advance conference.

Nathan White wonders why we have “altars”…I’ve wondered the same thing.

JT points us to an interview with Paul Tripp about marriage.

This is powerful:

Cardboard Stories from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

HT: Jared

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Would Jesus Have Died For Only You? Your Thoughts Here…

No doubt you have heard the phrase: “if you had been the only person on earth Jesus would have still died for you”.  If you want you can discuss the validity of this claim.  However, I would prefer that you answer two questions:172027__passion_l
1) How is such a statement helpful?
2) How might such a statement be harmful?

Thanks.  I am working on something and really need your help with answering this .

Who Makes the Better Southern Baptist?

colonel_sanders(2) passion_scourge

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Mission of Legalism

This is a very interesting post by Tony Kummer.  Last week Thom Rainer conducted a “straw poll” where he sent out this question on Twitter:  “What do you think when you hear Southern Baptist?”  Tony put together a Wordle to capture the answers:
Read more at SBC Voices, Timmy Brister’s blog, or Thom Rainer’s original post
In case you are not familiar with Wordle, the size of the word indicates its frequency.  A few things leap out at me. 
1) Southern Baptist are seen as legalistic.  This could legitimately be legalism or it could be perceived legalism by those that are repulsed by holiness.  Sadly, I think it is legitimately legalism.  If it were perceived legalism then I don’t think you would see “Disney, boycott, tradition, and controlling as big (or bigger) than Jesus. 
2) Jesus is smaller than Pharisees.  And I think, sadly, this could be a tad accurate.  Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves”.  If we had some of their sermons and Wordled them I think missions would be large…right alongside Law.  Perhaps Southern Baptist are still very big on missions—lets just hope that it is to proclaim the grace and redemption of Jesus. 
3) Maybe…just maybe…the reason why Jesus is not bigger is because denominationalism is more in line with a fallen world than a redeemed one.  Maybe …just maybe…Jesus is not bigger because our mission is to create more Southern Baptists and our goal is to preserve a Baptist Identity more than passionate followers of Jesus.  Maybe…just maybe…Jesus is not bigger because our fellowship is more centered around Fried Chicken than the Gospel. 

Review of The God I Don’t Understand

Author: Christopher J.H. Wright

Pages: 224 pages

Publisher: Zondervan

Price: 15.59

Genre: Biblical Studies, Theology, General

Quick Summary:

This book is exactly as it is subtitled: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith. If you are looking for a detailed theodicy then you will not find it here. If you are looking for a manual on engaging in apologetics concerning the problem of evil this book might be helpful but it is not the author’s main purpose. Wright tackles four very difficult subjects: the problem of evil, the Canaanites, the cross, and the end of the world.

I agree with Gary M. Burge’s endorsement of the book when he says, “Wright uses his long experience as a theologian/teacher to skillfully and winsomely bring us through the dead-end solutions we often hear and lead us in fruitful and promising directions”. That is very aptly put. Wright’s purpose is not to put a period on these discussions but to steer them in a proper direction; even if that means at the end of the day we are left shrugging our shoulders.

What I Liked:

I have only recently begun reading the writings of Christopher Wright; what I have read thus far I absolutely love. He informs with scholarly precision but communicates pastorally. This book is honest and transparent. When he is confident about something our author shares it as truth. When he is unsure about something he is refreshingly honest. If every believer engaged in these questions with this type of attitude I am convinced we would go a long way in accurately representing the greatness of God.

I also must mention that, in my opinion, the introduction and last chapter are worth the price of the book.

What I Disliked:

Have you ever had a really pretty picture or beautiful piece of furniture but it has to sit in your closet because you cannot find a place that it rightly fits? This book is like that. It is packaged for the average consumer but deals with issues birthed in academia. It would easily fit in my library next to all of the books dealing with the cross. But then again it would also fit in an eschatology section…or perhaps it would fit in my Old Testament section…maybe it will go in my apologetics section.

Should You Buy It?

That depends. To use a baseball metaphor: are you looking for a solid multi-position player that excels in nothing but is dependable in many or are you looking for a single position guy that knocks the ball out of the park but can’t hit for average? If you need a utility infielder then this book is for you. The truth is I think all of us need to read this book, because it outlines for us how to engage in tough questions of faith. Don’t read this book to answer your questions; rather, read this book to learn how to effectively ask them

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, April 13, 2009

Baseball Trivia

It is possible to be the winning pitcher in a baseball game without ever throwing a pitch.  How?
No Google or asking your Uncle Marty who lives on baseball and beer. 

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Preaching on Idolatry

I am convinced that my preaching on idolatry in the past has been missing something.  Let’s consider Psalm 115:1-8:

115:1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, 05-13Xbox_360
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.

In preaching on idolatry in the past I have mentioned such “idols” that we bow down to in our day: television, computers, iPhone’s, XBox’s, etc.  It seems like a major chasm exist between our obsession with television and God’s warning against bowing to an idol.  (Granted television can be, and is, a major vice).  What I mean is that the harlotry I engage in is far deeper than just sitting before a television screen or making too much out of a human relationship.  My idolatry—and I think the idolatry of those I minister to—goes far deeper. 

I really like the way Christopher Wright explains idolatry in his excellent work, The Mission of God.  There he considers four broad categories in which we often manufacture our gods from: things that entice us, things we fear, things that we trust, things we need.  (p.166-169)  By using such broad categories Wright helps us to see the vast array of things that entice us to idolatry.  And these categories also help me to understand where the fundamental problem for idolatry lies; my own prideful God-rebelling heart. 

The specific idol is not the issue—the wayward heart is.  It does not matter if it is a piece of wood, stone, plastic, or even a fictional image we have yet to make visible.  Therefore, we must not address the idols but rather the prideful God-rebelling heart that is bowing to them.  A heart that engages in idolatry is a heart that is not satisfied in God.  The only reason to engage in idolatry is that your God is not big enough to entice you, He is not big enough to protect you, He is not faithful enough to come through for you, and He is not sufficient enough to provide for all of your needs. 

Again I turn to Christopher Wright, “In worshipping [idols], we give them allegiance, we attribute power and authority, we submit ourselves to something that we have created…Whether addressing the piece of wood he has carved for himself as if it were actually a god or calling out to the invisible state gods…the worshiper is engaged in an exercise in futility.  The one is as much a produce of collective human imagination as the other is the work of individual human hands.  There is no salvation in either” (Wright, 153). 

So, the next time I preach a text dealing with idolatry I will address the wayward heart and let the Holy Spirit convict on the specific idols. 

There is so much more I want to say about this…

I Really Love My Wife....

Just thought you should know.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Do we need to defend God?

defense If it Baal will “defend himself” then how much more our God?  In Judges 6:31 Joash defends Gideon by saying that Baal, if he really is a god, will contend for himself: “Will you contend for Baal?  Or will you save him?  Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning.  If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down”. 

This is a legitimate question:  What do we communicate about the greatness of God (or Christ) when we come to his defense?  I do not necessarily mean when we proclaim what God has communicated about Himself in the face of opposition or even defending the truth of what God has said against misrepresentation.  What I mean is the feeling that we have to come to God’s defense and protect Him. 
In what way should we defend God?  And in what way might it detract from His greatness? 

Friday, April 10, 2009

This Week in Blogworld 4/10

What Happened to the 12 Apostles as Proof of Easter; a great article by C. Michael Patton.

What is the significance of the shedding of blood in the atonement? RC Sproul answers.

Tim Challies hits this one out of the park: Evil as Entertainment. Combine this with Steve Camp’s “disclaimer” and you have a really excellent article.

Joe Thorn’s “Note to Self” was a good note for me too.

Sometimes I read the sermons from Geoff Thomas for my own sermon preparation. I was very excited to find this by Colin Adams: Preaching on Preaching.

“World” has a broad range of meanings. John Samson outlines the meaning of “world”. UPDATE: I should mention that he outlines the meaning of the word "world" in the Gospel of John, not the entire NT.

I have not gotten a chance to read this yet but it looks interesting. Michael Patton gives us a primer on Ghosts, or The Christian View of the Supernatural.

Tim Chester continues his discussion of Creating Communities of Grace.

I really like John Piper’s take on his visit to a main-line Protestant church; read it here.

Jay Adams asks, "Is All Help Truly Help?”

Alvin Reid continues his discussion of Towards a Great Commission Resurgence. This time he tackles Convergent Evangelism.

Tonight you can watch the Mars Hill Good Friday service live.

Didn’t know there was a third one of these…if you haven’t seen first 2 you should……but don’t think less of me after you do.

What If…There Had Been No Resurrection

I used to collect comic books.  One of the particular series that I liked was the what if“What If…” series.  What If…Daredevil Killed the Kingpin?  What If…the Fantastic Four All Had the Same Power?  What If…Kraven the Hunter Had Killed Spider-man?  This past Sunday evening I had the opportunity to preach.  I recycled an Easter sermon from last year:  What If…Jesus Was Not Resurrected.  The text is from 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.  Here are the points and sub-points:

I.  What If…Christ is Not Resurrected?

  1. Christian preaching (proclamation) is in vain
  2. The faith of Christians is in vain
  3. The writers of the New Testament cannot be trusted; they are false witnesses and guilty of misrepresenting God. 
  4. Christians, believing they are forgiven, are in fact still in their sins
  5. Those that have died have no hope (there is no hope of an after-life)
  6. Christians are people to be most pitied

II.  What If…Christ is Resurrected?

  1. Christian preaching is NOT in vain
  2. The faith of Christians is NOT in vain
  3. The writers of the NT are reliable (at least this goes a long way in proving that)
  4. The sins of believers has indeed been removed; we have newness of life
  5. We do have hope of an after-life
  6. Rather than being pitied believers have hope and meaning in their lives

The resurrection is vital to our faith.  It is worth noting that what is being addressed in Corinth is not a denial of the resurrection of Jesus but resurrection altogether.  Even so, to deny the resurrection is to deny the Christian faith. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Replanting the Garden of Eden

Came across this quote by bible commentator R.C.H. Lenski while reading a MacArthur sermon:
Cure selfishness and you've just replanted the Garden of Eden.
As we know the only cure for selfishness is the work of Christ alongside the inner working of the Holy Spirit.  Thankfully, some day selfishness will be cured and the Garden of Eden will be “replanted”.  May the Lord work in our hearts to root out selfishness. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Unity Within Before Our Relationship with Those Outside

It is worth noting that in Ephesians 4 Paul focuses on unity within the body before he focuses on our relationship with those outside the body. Ephesians 4:1 serves as the introduction to the rest of the letter. Everything Paul says after this statement flows out of “living lives worthy of the calling by which we have been called.” The call of Ephesians 4:1 is to live in such a way that you accurately represent what God has done in your life. What he has done in principle we are to live in practice. 4:2-6:20 is what that statement looks like in practice.

In 4:2-16 Paul focuses on walking in unity. In 4:17-24 he focuses on walking differently than we once walked (or even in the present to walk differently than those outside the body). I do not think it is an accident that Paul focuses on relationships within before he focuses on our relationship with the outside world.

In other words, if you look different from the world but you aren’t in unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ then you aren’t really walking in a manner worthy of the calling. Jesus died to redeem our relationship with him but also to redeem our relationship with one another. Relationships and unity within the body is not an option.

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Preaching on the “Big Sins”

Recently Trevin Wax shares an illustration given by Matt Chandler at the Desiring God conference. It is an excellent demonstration of the difference between moralism and the gospel:

During my freshman year of college, I sat next to a 26-year-old single mother trying to get her degree. We began a dialogue about the grace and mercy of Christ in the cross. Some other guys and I would go over and babysit her child and try to talk with her. A friend of mine was in a band playing in the area and we invited her to hear him. She agreed. She thought it would be a concert. I knew better. It was shady and she agreed to come.

The minister got up and said, “Today I want to talk to you about sex.” And I immediately thought, Uh oh. He took a red rose, smelled it, showed how pretty it was. Then, threw it out in the crowd and told them to smell the rose. “I want you to smell it and touch it and feel the texture in it.” (There were about 1000 people there.) He then began one of the worst, most horrific handlings of what sex is and isn’t that I ever sat through. It was fear-mongering at its best.

I’m thinking, with Kim beside me, What are you doing? As he wrapped up, he asked, “Where’s my rose?”

Some kid brought the rose back and it was broken. The petals were broken. And he lifts it up. And his big crescendo is to lift up that broken rose and say, “Now who would want this?”

Anger welled up within me and I wanted to say, “JESUS WANTS THE ROSE! That’s the point of the gospel! That Jesus wants the rose. That he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

I can share from personal experience how unhelpful such illustrations are to those that have messed up sexually. Before coming to Christ, and even after, I struggled with sexual immorality. Maybe that’s putting it too nicely; I’ll just say it…I was sexually immoral. After coming to Christ I remember many of these illustrations.

chocolate_cake One such illustration involved chocolate cake. We had a delicious piece of chocolate cake (I guess it was delicious I don’t like chocolate caked). The first person took a bite and we began passing around the cake. Finally, when the cake had been around the circle for a little while the leader commented on how disgusting the cake was. And this is how we are when we give ourselves away sexually. And you know there is a good point in there somewhere. But what was communicated to me; one that had messed up? “You are no longer good for anything in this area of your life, nobody wants you, you are disgusting, you’ve blown it”. Redemption and the love and restorative power of Jesus were not what I was driven to. Instead I was driven to despair—which alongside pride is the only destination for moralism.

So, long before Matt Chandler shared this argument, I have been intentional in how I speak about sexual immorality. I know from experience what it feels like to be that “rose nobody wants anymore”. I do not use such illustrations. I do speak of the damage that sexual immorality does and encourage teenagers to make biblical decisions. But I do not do so apart from the redemptive power of Jesus. I also am careful to remind those that are sexually pure that such a state will remain only through the grace of God. So, I am very thankful that Jesus still wants that rose.

Pastor be careful how you speak on such things. Not just about sexual immorality but abortion, homosexuality, alcohol, gambling, and those other “big sins” that we forbid. Be sure to preach boldly on such things but do so to point to the redemptive power of Jesus and not to make us better people.

UPDATE: The great people at DG have now isolated this part of Matt's sermon--watch it here:

(HT: Abraham)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lyric Change??

In his book, The God I Don't Understand , Christopher Wright suggests a change to the lyrics of Stuart Townend’s hymn “In Christ Alone”. Wright suggests that it be modified to capture the greater biblical fullness of meaning (132-133).  The original lyric is:

“…till on that cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied.
Wright suggests that it be changed to:
...till on that cross as Jesus died God's wrath and love were satisfied"
I disagree with Wright’s suggestion.  I understand that his hope is to recover the idea that God’s wrath and God’s love are “intrinsically connected to one another” (130).  However, I think this change to the lyric would be a tad confusing.  Satisfaction is a propitiation term.  In Townend’s lyric is has to do with the permanency of the wrath of God being removed from us by the cross of Christ; it speaks of finality.  To say that love is “satisfied” in the same context that you are speaking of wrath being “satisfied” would either lower what is meant by wrath being fully taken away or lower the eternal nature of love.  Love is eternal and to speak of it as being “satisfied” in the same way that we speak of wrath being “satisfied” is confusing at best. 
What do you think? 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Charles Simeon’s “Rules for Himself”

In preparing for a lesson on 1 Corinthians 13 I skipped across this by Charles Simeon out of a Robert Rayburn sermon:
    1. To hear as little as possible what is the prejudice of others; charles_simeon 2. To believe nothing of the kind till I am absolutely forced to it; 3. Never to drink into the spirit of one who circulates an ill report; 4. Always to moderate, as far as I can, the unkindness which is expressed toward others; 5. Always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.
This certainly would go far in building up the body of Christ if these rules were observed. If you are unfamiliar with the life and ministry of Simeon I would suggest reading John Piper’s excellent biography. You can also buy Piper’s Roots of Endurance book.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Review of The Forgotten Spurgeon

Author: Iain Murray

Pages: 254 pages

Publisher: Banner of Truth

Price: 8.40

Genre: Biography/Church History/Pastoral

Quick Summary:

In The Forgotten Spurgeon Iain Murray analyzes the three great controversies in Charles Spurgeon’s ministry. The first issue is his stand against the “diluted Gospel fashionable in the London to which the young preacher came in the 1850’s”. The second issue is Spurgeon’s famous Baptismal Regeneration debate in 1864 (comparatively little attention is given to this issue). The third issue is the one that some believe may have killed him: The Downgrade Controversy.

Iain Murray’s hope in this book is to recover the historical Spurgeon; hence it’s title The Forgotten Spurgeon. As Murray tells upon reading much of Spurgeon he discovered, “that Spurgeon of the sermons was a forgotten man and the more I read the more the conviction deepened. By which I mean that despite the modern encomiums bestowed on him as ‘the prince of preachers’ and despite the anecdotes which still survive in the evangelical world about his abilities and his humor, some of the most important aspects of his ministry have been forgotten” (4). And it is these “important aspects” that Murray hopes to recover.

What I Liked:

Perhaps my favorite writer of Christian history is Iain Murray. Some might accuse him of adding his own theology to history; I prefer to think that is what helps Murray make history come alive for us today. In my opinion Murray accomplishes his objective; he does indeed recover some of the important aspects of Spurgeon’s ministry. He also shows how some of these same issues are plaguing our own day. Especially telling are the sections on the Downgrade Controversy. Throughout this work Murray appears to be faithful to history, faithful to Spurgeon, and faithful to Jesus.

What I Disliked:

I tend to agree with Spurgeon on all three of the issues of focus in this book, therefore, I may not be in a position to say what I disliked. Perhaps, someone of a more Arminian bent might rail against some of Murray’s (mostly Spurgeon’s) comments on Arminianism. I personally found the book helpful—others might think Murray did not deal effectively enough with history.
Also, the color scheme on the cover is hideous. I know it's shallow to say that but it's really that hideous, it must be mentioned.

Should You Buy It?

If you are interested in Spurgeon then most certainly, but be certain to also purchase Spurgeon V. Hyper-Calvinism. If you are interested in the Calvinism and Arminianism discussions then this book will be of interest to you. Those that study church history will benefit as well. I also think church leaders need to read this book; it is a needed corrective to some of our modern ills.
A little tip on buying it; if you want it new get it here, but you can find a used copy cheap on EBay or Amazon.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
UPDATE: To see the updated edition of this book that Steve refers to in the comments go here. Cover looks much better!

This Week in Blogworld 4/3

C.J. Mahaney has an article on Ordinary Pastors.

In January James MacDonald named Brian McLaren as a false teacher, here. Now he is explaining why naming false teachers is biblical.

Jon Bloom gives helpful advice for skeptics in our lives.

Trevin Wax writes a very interesting article: Screwtape on the SBC.

John Piper asks Does God Lead Us Into Temptation?

Tim Chester compares communities of grace with communities of performance. Excellent article, you need to be sure to read this one.

Also, perhaps one of the best SBC articles for the year was recently written by Alvin Reid: We Have Reached a Tipping Point.

Mounce discusses John 15:2-3

JT links to an audio series by Paul Tripp on Survivor Skills. Haven't gotten to listen yet but I'm sure they are great.

Pastors what do you think of this dare? (HT: Milton)

INLOW needs to recruit this guy:


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review of Preaching to a Post-Everything World

Author: Zack Eswine

Pages: 288 pages

Publisher: Baker Books

Price: 12.23

Genre: Preaching/Pastoral

Quick Summary:

Standing in the long line of Christ-centered preachers Zack Eswine offers Preaching in a Post-Everything World. Quite a bit has changed since the days of Geerhardus Vos and even since the first edition of Bryan Chapell’s landmark manual Christ-centered Preaching. Eswine offers this book as a new chapter in the Christ-centered preaching movement. I cannot summarize this book any better than Tim Keller already has:

“Zack Eswine moves the Christ-centered preaching movement forward with this volume. He not only calls us to carefully contextualize our message to various cultures, sensibilities, and habits of heart, but he also gives us a host of practical tools, inventories, and guidelines for doing so. All the while he assumes and strengthens the foundational commitment to preaching Christ and his restoring grace from every text. A great contribution”.

What I Liked:

Eswine writes in a way that will appeal to the preachers of a post-everything world. The seminary student or graduate will find this a needful corrective to the sometimes impractical world of academia. The non-seminary educated preachers will also benefit greatly from the non-technical everyday approach this book takes. Throughout this book Eswine holds the delicate balance of being Christ-centered and culturally relevant.

There were numerous times in this book when I had to put the book down and pray that the Lord would change my heart. The Lord used this book to reveal idols in my own heart and areas where I lack a pastor’s heart. This book is both convicting and informative. This is one of those books that you have to read numerous times. Thankfully, there are helpful appendixes to assist in preparing sermons.

What I Disliked:

Honestly, there is very little that I could not recommend in this book. It is biblical, practical, well-written, attractive, informative; really everything you would desire in a preaching book. I would say that it will help you best if you have read Bryan Chapell’s Christ-centered Preaching. In my opinion you cannot read one without the other.

Should You Buy It?

Unreservedly, yes. If you are a preacher in the 21st century this book is one that needs to be on your books shelf. Again, I would suggest buying/reading Chapell’s book along with it or as a prerequisite. This is 12 bucks well spent.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The King Will Rescue Thee

It is National Poetry Month. I love to read poetry and I love to write it. I'm not sure I am all that good at either but it's still a joy that I have.

John Newton used to write a hymn/poem after many of his sermons. It has been a desire to do that myself. I've done it twice. You can read Newton's here: Olney Hymns. Here is a poem I wrote in response to a sermon on Zechariah that I preached.

The King Will Rescue Thee
Based on Zechariah 9:9-13

Prisoners held by foreign hand
with chains of oppression
We drown in the pit of strange land
another’s possession

Come, O King, set us free
keep us out of wars dread
No rescue in sight do we see
we will wait on deaths bed

In the distance barely to see
the King is forth coming
Prisoners of hope shout for glee
his beauty is numbing

Rescued we are from foreign rule
yet still we are not free
Bitter irony that tastes cruel
the slave master was me.

Prisoners captive by laws writ,
with chains of mock freedom
We drown in the waterless pit
kings of our own kingdom

Come, O King, set us free
break the chains of sins sway
No rescue in sight do we see
we sink in miry clay.

In the distance barely to see,
the King to come for us
but this time on Calvary’s tree
where he will pardon thus

Blood of freedom flows from his vein
doth cover the sin of thee
King forever always to reign
has cleansed you and me

Jesus, the King, ever to be
Will ye ask Him to rescue thee?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Ripple Effect of Humble Confession

I have a confession to make I sometimes struggle with doubt. Deep doubt. Sinful doubt. One of the greatest areas that I battle is in regards to God's ability to change believers. The sinfulness of believers (myself the chief) causes me to question whether or not God really is able to sanctify his followers. Yes, I know that we have to choose holiness over sin and I know that this is a huge part of the slowness of our progress in holiness.

One of the greatest areas that causes me pain (as I am sure it does Christ as well) is when believers are involved in ridiculous slander and pride. I can be horrible about this myself. I know that I stand guilty of slander and deep pride. Of this I must confess and repent anew.

This is proof that God is in the process of redeeming a people for Himself and that He is able to conquer our sinful hearts and bring unity where there once was discord. Only God could have done what is taking place in the heart of Steve Camp as it concerns Mark Driscoll. You have to read Steve Camp's humble confession and repentance. It caused my heart to leap for joy and my confidence in the power of God to grow. Grace truly does reign.

Isn't it amazing the ripple effect that a humble confession can have? It really proves the truth of Scripture in regards to the unity of the body of Christ. Sin hurts every member and repentance heals! Oh, how I long for the day when the bride is in unity and we stand before Jesus pure and spotless.

Hump Day Humor: Aprils Fool's Gone Wrong Edition


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