Round Up

Logic On Fire – Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks this question, “What is preaching?”  I’m looking forward to this documentary.

What the Cross Says – The cross speaks of benediction, of pardon, joy and peace with God. It tells you that God is ready to forgive you. It says, listen to me, your sin has been punished. I am here because this is the punishment of sin.

Vague Pastors – When you don’t preach on something, you are preaching on that thing. You are just saying what you think won’t be as controversial or the thing that won’t lose you your following.

Upon This Rock – Jesus said to Simon, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Sinners in the Hands of a Patient God – Finding Jonathan Edwards.

Quote:

The emanation or communication of the divine fullness, consisting in the knowledge of God, to love him, and joy in him, has relation to God as its fountain, as the thing communicated is something of its internal fullness. The warm stream is something of the fountain; and the beams of sun are something of the sun. (Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World)

Fair Is The New Good

“Great writing is the creative use of words. It comes from reading, writing, failing and repeating.

It takes time to become a good writer. Since few have the time, fair is the new good.”

This was the last two lines of an editorial I happened across in the Tulsa World newspaper.  The article was entitled, “Graduates commence to join the real world” and for the most part, at least to me, it wasn’t an article I was impressed with, until the last two lines.  For some reason, it really made me think about what passes for modern Evangelical Church today.  Have we become so busy in this world that we no longer expect “good” from the Church?  It seems to me that all we want to do is show up, spend 45 minutes having a “worship experience” and then go on about our lives, happy with the fact that we have punched our ticket for another week.

“Oh, preacher,” thinks the little old gray haired lady, “You preached too long and now I won’t be able to get that handicapped parking spot and a good seat at the restaurant because all the other church’s have already finished their services.”  “Man, I’m going to miss the opening kickoff if he doesn’t wrap this up soon,” is the thought running through that guy who used to be the college fullback!  “If this pastor doesn’t shut up soon, I’m going to miss DW’s ‘boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys,'” boogity_boogity_boogitythinks the guy who always shows up in the NASCAR hat.

I realize that some who read this might push back some, but isn’t it the truth?  For the most part, we as human beings, desire the “fair” over the “good.”  Don’t believe me, take a look at the furniture you have in your house.  How much of it came from Walmart and how much of it was crafted by true furniture maker and will be passed down to your grandchildren?  How many of us get up in the morning, turn to our Bible’s and spend an hour digging Digging Into The Wordinto the Word of God and then praying that God apply His Word to our lives instead of just getting our “fix” on Sunday?

The problem, as I see it, is that we have such low expectations of ourselves in the area of our spiritual lives, which, by the way, is the most important area of our lives, that we come to expect even our Sunday Service to be just “fair.”  That, sir or ma’am, is absolutely wrong Moral_Judgment(wow, did this guy just make an absolute moral judgement, why yes he did). We should go to Church expecting to be fed meat, and not just any meat, but the meat that has been tenderized by the study of God’s Word, marinated in days of agonizing prayer, and served up to us with the knowledge that it was God Himself that chose to allow us to hear from Him through His chosen servant.

If we end up settling for less than the best of God’s Word, then I submit that we have failed (can you believe this guy, he has committed a major faux pas by making his second absolute moral judgment).  If, as Ephesians 1:3 states, “…[He] has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” and we blow that off by settling for less, what does that say about us as Christians.

Just a little food for thought today!

Round Up

Understanding The Times – For many who live in high alpine terrain, mountain sports like skiing are a way of life. As with any such sport, carnage comes with the territory.

When Evil Dug It’s Own Grave – When you’re in the middle of intense suffering, it’s easy to lose your bearings. Questions arise reflexively: Is God really in control? How can a good God allow so much pain? Is God good?

What’s Wrong With Producing A “Worship Experience?” – Is the Church becoming a consumer driven commodity?

Predestination:  Don’t Say A Word About It Until… – There’s no more surefire way to create awkward silence among family and friends than to say, “Hey everyone, let’s talk about predestination.”

Quote:

“What a wonder is it, that two natures infinitely distant, should be more intimately united than anything in the world; and yet without any confusion! That the same person should have both a glory and a grief; an infinite joy in the Deity, and an inexpressible sorrow in the humanity! That a God upon a throne should be an infant in a cradle; the thundering Creator be a weeping babe and a suffering man, are such expressions of mighty power, as well as condescending love, that they astonish men upon earth, and angels in heaven.” – Thomas Goodwin

 

Loosing Site of Sin

What follows is an article from The Banner of Truth Website and the original post can be found here.

I was reading recently some words of George Swinnock (a mid seventeenth century Puritan) that seemed (at least to me) to describe twenty-first century evangelical Christianity: “We take the size of sin too low, and short, and wrong, when we measure it by the wrong it doth to ourselves, or our families, or our neighbours, or the nation wherein we live; indeed, herein somewhat of its evil and mischief doth appear; but to take its full length and proportion, we must consider the wrong it doth to this great, this glorious, this incomparable God. Sin is incomparably malignant, because the God principally injured by it is incomparably excellent” (Works Vol.4.456, Banner of Truth). Swinnock, of course, is saying no more than the Bible itself says. The ultimate tragedy of sin is not that it spoils my life, disrupts my relationships, scars my world, but that it dishonours, defies, and disgraces my God!

This is a truth, a most basic and elementary truth, that our present generation has all but lost sight of. Sin, if it is mentioned at all, is conceived of almost wholly in self-referential terms. It is described in terms of its “psychological pains and its relational disruptions.” And truly sin does produce deep psychological pains and relational disruptions. The heart and horror of sin, however, is not its effect on me, but its effect on God, “the incomparably excellent” God. This is remarkably highlighted in Psalm 51:4: King David had been deeply convicted of his sin by conspiring to have Uriah murdered. And yet, when he comes to cry to God for mercy, David prays, “Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” David is not denying his sin against Bathsheba, Uriah, his own family, God’s Church. He is, however, telling himself, and us, that the true horror of sin is that it is against God. Sin’s ultimate tragedy can only be defined theologically, not psychologically nor relationally.

This is a truth the evangelical church needs to be reacquainted with in our day. We live in a self-referential culture. The Church, rightly, wants to minister the gospel of God’s grace and love into this culture. The ever present danger facing us is that we contour the Bible’s teaching on sin to suit the felt needs of this culture. This is what “Alpha” seeks to do. The initial concern of Alpha was laudable: How can we best reach the unchurched pagans in our society with the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ? I, for one, deeply admire that desire, and am rebuked by it. But when you look carefully at Alpha, it basically seeks to present sin almost solely as a psychological, personal and social disrupter. And sin is such a disrupter. It is the root of all the evils in this world, personal and global. But until men and women are helped to see that the horror of sin is that it is against God, and makes you his enemy (Romans 5:10), Jesus Christ will never be seen for what he most essentially is, the One sent from God and by God to reconcile us to God, deliver us from the coming wrath, and fit us for eternal fellowship with God. The root of all our ills is our sin-ruptured relationship with the living God.

Many of the great theologians of the Christian Church have called sin “Deicidium,” literally “God murder!” Is that how you and I think of sin? We can so easily lose the felt sense, if not the theological fact, of the sinfulness of sin. If we do, we end up talking about sin in ways that sit easily with our culture. And, when we speak of sin only in self-referential and therapeutic terms, moral responsibility diminishes proportionately. Is there not an obvious connection between the loss of the theological dimension of sin and the moral collapse at the heart of professing evangelicalism?

Where does all this leave us? Not simply parroting what the Puritans preached four centuries ago. They were men of their times; they understood the times they lived in – and so must we. We must labour to speak relevantly into this culture. Paul’s address in Athens (Acts 17) is perhaps a model for us in many ways. We need to speak to people where they are, not where we would like them to be. We need to be less concerned with “success” and more concerned with “faithfulness.” We need to cultivate Paul’s confidence: “…we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” One of our great challenges is to commend the gospel relevantly without becoming gimmicky. This is easier said than done, but do it we must.

Where then do we start? With Sin? No. With God! Let me end, as I began, with some words from George Swinnock: “should this God of glory appear to thee…and show thee a glimpse of his excellent glory…should he discover to thee but a little of that greatness which the heavens and heaven of heavens cannot contain…of those perfections that know no bounds…what wouldst thou then think of Sin?” If we are to see sin for what it truly is, we must first come to see God as he truly is. And so Thomas Goodwin wrote, “if thou wouldst see what sin is, go to mount Calvary” – because there, we see God as he most truly is. The cross of Christ is the glory and the measure of everything.

Ian Hamilton

On 12th December at Westminster Chapel Ian Hamilton is speaking on “The Puritan Doctrine of Sin and the Wrath of God.”

The Blind Leading the Blind

The following is a section out of the book Deep and Wide:  Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend by Andy Stanley.  You are welcome to agree, or disagree with my assessment of this statement made by Mr. Stanley, but before you do, check out the links included below to others who share similar opinions.  So, on that note, lets dive in to Deep and Wide.  Mr Stanley writes:

People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest. Including your spouse. They are on happiness quests. As long as you are dishing out truth with no here’s the difference it will make tacked on the end, you will be perceived as irrelevant by most of the people in your church, student ministry, or home Bible study. You may be spot-on theologically, like the teachers of the law in Jesus’ day, but you will not be perceived as one who teaches with authority. Worse, nobody is going to want to listen to you.

Now, that may be discouraging. Especially the fact that you are one of the few who is actually on a quest for truth. And, yes, it is unfortunate that people aren’t more like you in that regard. But that’s the way it is. It’s pointless to resist. If you try, you will end up with a little congregation of truth seekers who consider themselves superior to all the other Christians in the community. But at the end of the day, you won’t make an iota of difference in this world. And your kids…more than likely your kids, are going to confuse your church with the church and once they are out of your house, they probably won’t visit the church house. Then one day they will show up in a church like mine and want to get baptized again because they won’t be sure the first one took. And I’ll be happy to pastor your kids. But I would rather you face the reality of the world we live in and adjust your sails. Culture is like the wind. You can’t stop it. You shouldn’t spit in it. But, if like a good sailor you will adjust your sails, you can harness the winds of culture to take your audience where they need to go. If people are more interested in being happy, then play to that. Jesus did (Copied from my Kindle, sections 1216-1234).

BAL31875I listened to this quote a while back while on my way to work and it was all I could do to not drive my car off the side of the road in total frustrative disbelief that a supposed minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ could even say something like this, much less print it in a book that will sell many copies and be around for years.  This is an incredible display of arrogant pragmatism that is a slap in the face of any method that Christ, the Apostles, or the Church down through history have used to preach the Gospel.  If I turn to scripture, I find no indication at all that Christ conformed to the culture of his day and used that to his advantage to spread the Gospel.  If anything, he decried the culture of his day.

So, how do you reconcile the above statement with Jesus’ own words? Christ said in Matthew 10:34-39,  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”  Jesus Himself was very emphatic in stating that he came to cause offense in families, which, from what I have observed, is anything but a happy situation.

Culture is very man-centric.  100 years ago, there was no such movement for same sex marriage rights like we see today.  I submit that in just a few years, polygamy, polyandry, and polyamory will be on the front burner and become even more divisive to our current culture.  All of these forms of relationships mentioned above are due to our cultures inability to find ‘happiness’ in life, so it just leads to more and more debauchery.  So, to take this to an extreme, what would a church that practices what Mr. Stanley says above do if someone came into their congregation and said something to the effect that they enjoyed killing someone or having sex with children because it made them happy?  From the quote I shared above there would be nothing you could say to that person to convince them they were wrong because that would take away their happiness, and we should ‘play to that because Jesus did.’

I have absolutely no doubts that Mr. Stanley is a well educated man, probably much smarter than me, but I don’t think he has thought this proposition through to its logical end.  A statement like he makes above is pretty much a license for ‘anything goes’ as long as it makes me happy and if I am one of the people he is trying to reach, then I should come to expect whatever makes me happy from what I experience at his church.  If it doesn’t make me happy, then Mr. Stanley needs to be informed so that he can make the necessary changes to accommodate me, because my happiness is the ultimate goal, right?  Of course, I’m stymied as to how that would work in a church of 20,000 plus people who all want to be happy.  From what I have seen, there is no generic ‘happiness’ that reaches everyone in the same way.

So, Mr. Stanley, you just keep on preaching to the goats you lead because they have itching ears and only hear what they want to hear.  You, sir, do not want absolute truth because that would cause a full on confrontation with the God of truth who is more concerned with His glory than any happiness that you or I could ever have.  And, by the way, should you ever preach the truth of Gods glory, you would find yourself as one of those small, obscure, non-world impacting preachers you so haughtily poked fun at.  Joshua 24:14-15 says:

Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

That word spoken by Joshua is not a request, that is an emphatic statement to put away the culture that was left behind when the Israelites came out of Egypt.  An entire generation fell in the wilderness because they would not put the culture behind them.  I fear for you, sir, as you and others like you are leading an entire generation into a wilderness that has been charted and explored before.  In your quest for happiness, you will find only misery, heartache, destruction, and when it is over, eternity apart from God because you refused to listen to the voice of God.

Like Joshua said, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Other links of interest:

Happiness Questing from The Mortification of Spin Podcast

Carl Trueman weighs in at Reformation 21

Stand Firm in the Faith has a take on this

A View From Serenity Acres

Safe or Unsafe

Dangerous ChurchWhile this picture probably represents a Church building that is structurally unsafe, I wonder how many Church’s around us would fall into the “Spiritually Unsafe” category if we spent a few weeks in them listening to what is being preached and comparing it to the Word of God?  That thought kept running through my mind as I drove to central Arkansas and looked out over what I would estimate to be 100 church’s that were visible from the road I traveled.

Sanctification and Repentence – A Blog Repost

The original can be found here.

Many times when sanctification in the lives of believers is discussed the emphasis is on doing what we should and on not doing what we shouldn’t in relation to God’s’ law, which is all well and good. Yet, when it comes to sanctification I find an emphasis among the reformers such as John Calvin that is too often hard to find in today’s churches:  Repentance.

Moreover, as hatred of sin, which is the beginning of repentance, first gives us access to the knowledge of Christ, who manifests himself to none but miserable and afflicted sinners, groaning, laboring, burdened, hungry, and thirsty, pining away with grief and wretchedness, so if we would stand in Christ, we must aim at repentance, cultivate it during our whole lives, and continue it to the last. Christ came to call sinners, but to call them to repentance. He was sent to bless the unworthy, but by “turning away every one” “from his iniquities.” The Scripture is full of similar passages. Hence, when God offers forgiveness of sins, he in return usually stipulates for repentance, intimating that his mercy should induce men to repent.  “Keep ye judgment,” saith he, “and do justice: for my salvation is near to come.” Again, “The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob.” Again, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him.” “Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Here, however, it is to be observed, that repentance is not made a condition in such a sense as to be a foundation for meriting pardon; nay, it rather indicates the end at which they must aim if they would obtain favor, God having resolved to take pity on men for the express purpose of leading them to repent. Therefore, so long as we dwell in the prison of the body, we must constantly struggle with the vices of our corrupt nature, and so with our natural disposition. Plato sometimes says, that the life of the philosopher is to meditate on death.  More truly may we say, that the life of a Christian man is constant study and exercise in mortifying the flesh, until it is certainly slain, and the Spirit of God obtains dominion in us. Wherefore, he seems to me to have made most progress who has learned to be most dissatisfied with himself. He does not, however, remain in the miry clay without going forward; but rather hastens and sighs after God, that, ingrafted both into the death and the life of Christ, he may constantly meditate on repentance. (Calvin’s Institutes 3.3.20)