Sunday, July 31, 2011

More on John Stott

Here is another tribute to John Stott by Timmy Brister:

Thank You John Stott (1921-2011)

Few people have shaped evangelicalism more in the past 100 years than John R.W. Stott, and this morning he departed to glory with a legacy that will far outlast his lifetime. I never had a chance to meet John Stott, but I felt that I came to know him through his writings in the many ways he came to meet me in the journey of my Christian faith.

In the early days of my studies, I benefited greatly from his classic book Basic Christianity, which I often kept several copies in my car to give away. In the formative days of my preaching, his book Between Two Worlds was foundational to understanding and communicating God’s Word. When I wrestled with the nature, extent, and purpose of Christ’s work on the cross, his book The Cross of Christ rocked my world and plunged me deeper into the glories of Calvary that I had ever been. As I began to consider how to apply what I had been learning to the world around me, his book The Contemporary Christian was a faithful guide.

When I moved onto seminary, my first major topic of interest was understanding evangelical anti-intellectualism, what would you know, but John Stott had written a book on it (actually they are lectures put into a book). In the following years, I began wrestling with evangelical mission, in particular the relationship of evangelism with social action. Stott had two books that I referenced regularly, namely Christian Mission in the Modern World and Our Guilty Silence. Though it is presented as a commentary, John Stott’s commentary on the book of Acts is incredibly helpful and insightful for the mission of the church, and from my reading of Tim Keller very instrumental in his thinking as well.

The are other books by Stott that I enjoyed, but these served almost biographically in my journey over the past ten years and proved to impact me in numerous ways. I’m confident that I’m not alone in saying that God has used John Stott in big ways and small as a trustworthy guide in matters related to the gospel, the church, and the mission entrusted to us. Stott was a faithful steward, and I pray that my generation will carry that baton in the shadow of this churchman, scholar, and missionary statesman for generations to come. Thank you John Stott, for the way God used you to impact my life.

Below is a tribute from Langham Partnership, the ministry outreach of John Stott that has just been made available.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A sower went out to sow

In the fourth chapter of Mark, Jesus shares the parable of the sower. In analyzing this parable, much has been made of the soils. Much has been said about the hardness of the path, the stoniness of the rocky ground, the shallowness of the soil with no depth, the defectiveness of the soil with thorns, and the preparedness of the good soil. But it seems to me, more attention should be placed on the first line of the parable:

Behold, a sower went out to sow.

Everything else in terms of the soils receptability is antecedent to seed actually being sown.

We need a sower of the seed.

I need to sow seed.

Let's pray that there would be sowers; you, me, and others.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The expository kind

In a blog post about recently deceased John Stott, John Piper discusses the kind of preacher he dreamed about being:
In those days, I knew I could not preach. But I knew that this is the kind of preaching I wanted to hear — and if a miracle happened, and I ever became a preacher, the kind I wanted to do. The expository kind. The articulate kind. The coherent kind. The clear kind. The shove-your-face-in-the-text kind. The iron-clad-argument-from-conjunctions kind. The blow-the-gloom-of-ignorance-and-doubt-away kind. The no-nonsense-utterly-realistic-tell-it-like-it-is kind.
Also, Justin Taylor posted a nice piece on Stott:
Much more will be written in the days ahead about this servant of the Lord. (The first obituary has been penned by Tim Stafford at Christianity Today.) But no words of commendation will be as significant as the words John Stott heard earlier today: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Heart This Week...

...expressed in words from long ago.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.


Font size"I don't need to be forgiven ..." - Roger Daltry in Baba O'Riley

"Yet not one of them, not any man that is now in heaven (Jesus Christ alone excepted), did ever come thither any other way but by forgiveness of sins." - John Owen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This was up at the Crossway Blog a few days ago:

Don’t Miss the Point: Questions to Ask While Reading Scripture

From Welcome to the Story by Stephen Nichols

The purpose of reading the Bible is not to find self-fulfillment, although sometimes that’s an easy trap to fall into. There are some questions we can ask ourselves as we read Scripture to make sure we are reading for the right reasons:

  • What does this passage teach about God?

  • What attributes are on display?

  • What work is God doing?

  • How does the biblical author point us to God in this text?

  • Even though God may not be explicitly mentioned in this text, how is he at work in what is happening? How is he directing “behind the scenes?”

  • How does this passage either reveal or reflect the glory of God?

In addition to these information-gathering questions, we can also ask some application-oriented questions:

  • Does this passage offer any models of those who miss the point by not seeing God at work and by not focusing on his glory?

  • Does this passage offer any models of those who get the point?

  • What can I learn from these negative and positive models?

  • What does this text teach me about my own pursuits and agendas?

  • What selfish ambitions and pursuits do I need to repent of in light of what I just read in God’s Word?

  • What have I learned from this text that helps me keep God and his glory at the center of my life?

In short, we need to read the Bible with it’s grand mission in mind: God and his glory. It is only by living for his glory that we find what is best for us.

Learn more about Welcome to the Story or read a sample chapter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marriage and the Life of Faith

I got married to a wonderful young woman on July 16th.

Colleen and I returned from our honeymoon in the early morning hours just yesterday.

Marriage is awesome. Granted the majority of my11 days of short experience with it was spent blissfully in the Mayan Riviera ... I can honestly say I know what all the fuss is about.

The last two mornings I have got to sleep in my own -- though if she were here I would likely have chosen the pronoun 'our' -- bed. Both nights I found myself sleeping on my side, an already unlikely position to find me, half off the queen size bed, with my right arm hanging off the bed and an inch from the floor... probably so that the inevitable fall would be cushioned by my already outstretched arm.

Interestingly, last night I played church softball, where I was assured by several of my already married friends that this is not only normal, but likely to last. Sleeping has been difficult. Sharing my bed has been difficult.

This morning there was another disturbance in the usual calm 'force' of my apartment condo. As I awoke to my morning coffee and sat on my patio with my bible in my lap... Colleen, well... she wanted to talk. She wanted to make a mental list of things that needed to get done in the day. What had to be done after work. What we might make for dinner.

To say this is outside my usual routine is a gross understatement. There are usually no words spoken in the mornings until I stand up to refill my coffee mug, and even then it is usually a murmur to myself.

Here's what is so great about marriage though.

I loved it.

Sure learning to sleep on 30 cm of a bed that used to be entirely mine might not be a smooth transition. Of course I'm going to have to find an earlier time to wake up if I want to enjoy a cup of coffee and my morning reading in silence -- and to be honest they are difficult and frustrating when I am experiencing them... but the amazing thing about marriage is that you are experiencing new challenges with the person you love the most.

I love making sacrifices for Colleen because I love Colleen more than I love myself. I love learning new things about her even if it's that she's a morning talker or a bed hogger.

And what is even more amazing is that because God designed marriage to reflect Him, His nature and His relationship to us, I find that my affections for Christ grow with my increasing affections for Colleen.

Marriage and the Christian life are both things that need to be lived out in order to really grasp their immense value. The reason I love even the challenges of marriage is because you are walking through those challenges with the one you love. Likewise in the Christian faith trials and tribulations are not only bearable, but there is joy in them, joy in sacrifice because you love the one with whom you are running the race.

I look forward to many more connections to my life of faith as Colleen and I work our way back in to reality together.

Storms on healing

Some principles on healing from Sam Storms:
  1. Healing and health are always portrayed in Scripture as the blessing of God - sickness is never good
  2. All sickness is suffering, not all suffering is sickness - we are not called to sickness but we are called to suffer
  3. Sickness in and of itself does not glorify God - faith in spite of sickness does
  4. We must leave room for mystery in God's ways - but we are never excused from praying for healing
  5. God's heart is for healing, not hurting - so keep praying
  6. We must be willing to be perceived as failures - whether or not people we pray for are healed, we have been obedient when we pray

"Many in the church today say they believe that God still heals, but they live as functional deists who rarely if ever actually lay hands on the sick and pray with any degree of expectancy."

(Storms, C. Samuel. The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts. Ventura, CA: Regal/Gospel Light, 2004. Print. 66)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The ministerial work

The ministerial work must be carried on diligently and laboriously, as being of such unspeakable consequence to ourselves and others.

We are seeking to uphold the world,
to save it from the curse of God,
to perfect the creation,
to attain the ends of Christ’s death,
to save ourselves and others from damnation,
to overcome the devil,
and demolish his kingdom,
to set up the kingdom of Christ,
and to attain and help others to the kingdom of glory.

And are these works to be done with a careless mind, or a lazy hand? O see, then, that this work be done with all your might!

The passage above is from Richard Baxter's classic work entitled The Reformed Pastor. Baxter, throughout the book, raises our awareness as to the importance of the ministerial role. This passage indicates the significance the calling of pastor has in the mind of this Puritan. And we should regard the office no less. We should expect our pastors to engage their work with the seriousness that is commiserate with the job list above. But, we should also regard them as such who do this work. We should regularly pray for them, encourage them, and love them. Let's hold them accountable and let's hold them close to our heart.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Clearly evidences itself

But the truth of the gospel so clearly evidences itself by its own light that, if people do not wilfully shut their eyes, or blind themselves by their own pride, and love their lusts, they would easily perceive that it is the truth of God, because the image of His grace, mercy, power, justice and holiness appears manifestly engraven upon it. - Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Storms on faith

Faith is not a weapon by which we demand things of God or put him in subjection to us. Faith is an act of self-denial. Faith is a renunciation of one's ability to do anything and a confession that God can do everything. Faith derives its power not from the spiritual energy of the person who believes but from the supernatural efficacy of the object of belief-God! It is not faith's act but its object that accounts for the miraculous ... The leper in Matthew 8 said to Jesus, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (v. 2). The leper didn't question Christ's ability. He trusted that completely. He did have doubts about the willingness of Jesus to do it. But Jesus didn't rebuke him for such doubts, as if it were a shortcoming in his faith that might jeopardize his healing. He healed him because of the leper's confidence that he could do it. (Storms, C. Samuel. The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts. Ventura, CA: Regal/Gospel Light, 2004. Print. 56-57)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Engage them to read!

Richard Baxter, in his classic work on pastoral work, The Reformed Pastor, gives a clear endorsement to reading outside of the Bible:
See that in every family there are some useful moving books, beside the Bible. If they have none, persuade them to buy some: if they be not able to buy them, give them some if you can. If you are not able yourself, get some gentlemen, or other rich persons, that are ready to good works, to do it. And engage them to read them at night, when they have leisure, and especially on the Lord’s day.
It would be interesting to learn what types of 'useful moving' books he had in mind. Was he speaking of classic works of fiction? Did he have in mind spiritually directed books of the non-fiction variety? The descriptor 'useful' seems to point to non-fiction, but perhaps the term 'moving' points back to fictional stories. Then, again, to read when one has leisure might point towards fictional works whereas reading on the Lord's Day seems to indicate religious works.

I'm not sure what Baxter had in mind, but my suggestion is that you read both as often as you can. I have been focusing on Russian fiction this year having read from Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Chekov. I have some Solzhenitsyn that is in the cue as well. I also enjoy non-fiction and read more of that than I do of fiction. But I encourage you; READ!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Jesus of the whole Bible

Stephen J. Nichols on the importance of creeds:

The creeds force us to consider the "whole counsel of God," whereas we tend to have our favorite places and preferred texts in the biblical canon. To put the point directly, the Jesus of the Bible tends not to be the Jesus of the whole Bible. Rather, he tends to be the Jesus of the parts of the Bible one happens to like. - Morgan, Christopher W., and Robert A. Peterson. The Deity of Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Piper and patches of soul

I really enjoyed this post I came across at the cripple-gate:

The Day John Piper Touched My Chin: Cultural Relevance in Preaching

For those of you who don’t know what a soul patch is, it’s a tuft of facial hair between the bottom lip and the chin. It’s been described as the “You missed a spot” of male grooming. The soul patch sprouted as a fashionable facial accessory in the 1950s when African American trumpeters on the Jazz scene sported it as an identity statement, much like cyclists show off their silky legs as an androgynous emblem of commitment to their hobby. Why this lesson in pogonotrophe? Because it provides the context, or justification for a key part of my story.

Last year John Piper (my favorite super hero) was preaching at the Rezolution Conference (The South African spin-off of Resolved). The mediator for the pastors’ Q&A was a friend of mine and smuggled my spring-loaded question into the line-up. I asked Dr Piper to comment on how much a preacher should take culture into account when trying to reach his contemporaries. I pitted John “I’ve never used an iPod” MacArthur on one side of the debate—the gospel transcends culture so it doesn’t matter if I think Eminem is a colorful candy; I can preach the word in Iambic pentameter and still be relevant, sin, after all, never goes out of fashion. In the other corner I put Mark “I’ve never used cuff links” Driscoll. But Piper saw what I was up to with his x-ray discernment. Nuts.

Richard “Soul Doctor” Baxter lends dignity to the soul patch.

I was hoping for some explanation of why Piper puts up with the Cussing Pastor’s overemphasis on cultural relevance (constant references to cage fighting, TV, strip clubs, and a worship band that sounds like Nine Inch Nails). Is it really necessary to be that culturally relevant? My years at Grace Community Church had proven to me that John MacArthur’s intellectual style, with stringed quartets performing Handel’s Messiah, managed to appeal to poor Filipino immigrants and Mexican laborers as much as it did to LA’s intelligencia. They came for the preaching, not the orchestra.

My question was a thinly veiled attempt to tease out some Piper-esque wisdom on this potentially spicy topic. He leaped over my trap with a single bound. His underwhelming answer was decaffeinated of all controversy. No passionate gesticulating, no mention of potty-mouth preaching, in short nothing to Tweet. So I did what every seminoid who can’t take a hint would do: I got in line after the session and asked him to elaborate.

The guy before me was in no hurry. While he was basking in his mono-a-mono moment with his hero, I formulated my follow-up question like an angler selecting which fly would best dress his hook. By now the blubbering about how Piper had changed his life was getting really teary; and not in a poignant lady weeping on Jesus’ feet way, but more like grown men who cry that much should have-their-own-tissues-handy way. Piper in avuncular tones and kind words interrupted the guy with a bear hug which was either really gracious, or a sneaky technique he had mastered to muffle weepy fawning. Anyway, when he was done I knew Piper would not revel in another public display of affection which would wet his other shoulder, so I skipped the homage and presented my question again, this time specifically mentioning his highly publicized discipleship of Driscoll. He ignored my bait (wily old guy) but he did launch into a vintage Piper sermonette on why my question was dumb.

In front of all the other pastors who were waiting in line, all taking mental notes of tacks not to take with Piper, he proceeded to explain in an unrestrained snarkiness (thanks Challies for my new word), that anyone asking the question was naïve to how inextricable culture is from preaching. That’s when it happened. He touched my chin. I don’t mean because I had inadvertently leaned into his personal preaching space. I mean he reached out and placed 2 fingers on my soul patch, as if to prove the answer was right under my nose all along.

Grabbing the closest visual aid he could, he declared in a stentorian voice that I’m sure could be heard by everyone in the room, “This looks ridiculous.” The giggles from the bystanders drowned out his softening explanation: “On me it would never work, but on you, as part of the whole package, it works great.” He then went on to say that because every preacher is himself inevitably a product of the culture from which he comes, there is no need to try to be relevant or use artificial additives to make one’s ministry seem more relevant. So according to the expert, trying to redeem the basest elements of our increasingly lowbrow culture is not really necessary in order to be missional. Interesting.

You are what you eat. There is no need to try be culturally relevant. Just preach and be yourself. You and your sermons will naturally reflect the culture adequately to reach your people. Obviously foreign missionaries need to work harder at this, but a Westerner preaching to a Western congregation should do whatever comes naturally. You don’t see fish talking about water, as it were. Culture is the tank in which we swim. Stop trying to focus on the medium and just spout out the message. God takes care of the rest.
So there you have it. John Piper touched my chin and made his point in doing so. In my culture it’s not appropriate for a man to touch another’s face. But as part of the Piper package, it works.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You invert the order of the gospel

For, if you make your own faith, love, or good qualifications, to be your first and principle foundation, and you build Christ upon them, instead of building all upon Christ, you invert the order of the gospel, and Christ will profit you nothing. - Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

Christ will not be an addendum, an additive, or an add-on! He is not the addition you attach to your already-formed foundation. He is the foundation on which you build everything else, or, He is nothing.

I think many North American 'Christians' approach Christianity in this fashion. They have a good job, with reasonable families, and passable relationships. They have things pretty much together. But this Jesus guy seems OK so they just tack Him on to what they are already doing.

In God's grace, some of these people realize that Christ is the center and starting point as opposed to a peripheral accessory. These people move from death to life. But many people never get beyond a shallow association with the matchless Son of God. And I doubt that sort of relationship will ultimately profit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Christ in Comparison

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-14 ESV)

To compare is to consider at least two different things in light of their similarities and differences. In these verses the author of Hebrews uses comparison to highlight the following:

  1. sin - is is the ever present enemy of both God and man and as such is something that must be dealt with
  2. sacrifice - sacrifice is the method of dealing with sin as prescribed by God
  3. mediator - the sacrifice for sin requires a mediator to mediate between God and man

  1. frequency - the OT priests offered sacrifices repeatedly pointing to futility whereas Christ made one sacrifice pointing towards efficacy
  2. posture - the OT priests remained standing indicating their work was never finished and therefore was fruitless whereas Christ sat down indicating His work was finished and therefore effectual
  3. sufficiency - the OT priests' sacrificing could never take away sins and therefore ultimately failed whereas Christ's sacrifice has perfected His people and is deemed efficacious

Our sin required a sacrifice administered by a mediator. The OT cultic system and its priests ultimately failed as their endeavours where fruitless and futile. Christ's NT covenant and sacrifice was effectual, and efficacious.

This points to Jesus Christ as the matchless and unchallengeable priest and sacrifice of a superior covenant. That's our Saviour.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A great post by a good friend of the bloggers:

Child Advocate Network - Something called friendship

I was re-reading the introductory chapters of “Too Small to Ignore” by Dr. Wess Stafford today and was re-inspired (is that a word?)

The passion and clarity with which Dr. Stafford, Compassion International’s President writes was just what I needed today! I was looking over my lists of things to do, planning the upcoming weeks, making calls, and writing emails. Some days it all becomes too routine and I find myself prey to discouragement and simply not in touch with my calling at Compassion.

But, gratefully as I read over the pages, I was indeed “re-inspired”!

Children matter to God. Immensely.

I matter. He created me for a purpose and has designed me to reflect His glory.

God has a plan. It includes me!

I may not have my own children… but every child I come in contact with is a “divine appointment”. I have an opportunity to be a positive influence in their lives - here in Canada - and in the developing world and be the love of Christ to them.

My nephew, Samuel and I LOVE spending time together and we’ve become great friends. Some of our favourite things to do are treasure hunting, going for walks, and making pizza. I am incredibly grateful that I have the blessing of being an influence in his life and letting him know he is loved and he is valuable! Recently he left me a message that said: “I love you and I love that you are coming to me, to my house Auntie TT.”

Wess Stafford writes…”When the pathways of our lives and our children’s lives blend together, when we get into their world and bring them into ours, the result is something called friendship. We go far beyond the responsibility and the role of guardian; in fact, we are no longer aware of when we ‘playfully’ enter their world or ‘deliberately’ include them in ours. Instead we genuinely like being with each other. This is child discipleship at its best.”

Be encouraged…. and remember, God wants to use you in the lives of children!

See the original here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nathanael is getting married today!

Nathanael Wright and Colleen Broadhead are getting married today. We wish them the very best!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

5 Strategies for Reading the Bible as Literature

From the Crossway Blog:

5 Strategies for Reading the Bible as Literature

We posted last week on the Literary Study Bible, now available on In the preface of this resource, editors Leland and Philip Ryken say that “when we read the Bible, literary considerations are not optional features to which we might attend only if we have an interest in literary matters”.

In other words, if we really want to understand the Bible, we need to understand the Bible as a literary work. Adapted from the Literary Study Bible‘s introduction, here are 5 strategies, in the editors’ own words, for reading the Bible as literature:

1. In any reading of a biblical text, give precedence to its literary mechanisms and implications.

“A certain priority needs to be given to literary form – not a priority of importance but a priority in the sense of what comes first. To approach the Bible as literature … is not like dessert – something pleasurable to add to more important aspects of the Bible. The literary approach is the first item on the agenda – the starting point for other approaches to the Bible.”

2. Understand the many literary genres of the Bible and be able to identify them in the texts.

“The importance of genre to biblical interpretation is that genres have their own methods of procedure and rules of interpretation. An awareness of genre should program our encounter with a text, alerting us to what we can expect to find.”

3. Appreciate the beauty and artistry of biblical passages.

“Literature is an art form in which beauty of expression, craftsmanship, and verbal virtuosity are valued as rewarding and as an enhancement of effective communication… . Authors cultivate artistry like this because it is important to their effect and intention. The Bible is an aesthetic as well as a utilitarian book, and we need to experience it as such, both for our understanding and for our enjoyment.”

4. Use a literary approach to the Bible to assist other approaches.

“A literary approach seeks to complement other approaches, not to replace them. It is appropriate to say again, however, that the literary forms of the Bible are the means through which the content is expressed, and this means that literary analysis has a particular priority as the only adequate starting point for other kinds of analysis.”

5. Realize the Bible as a literary work speaks to concrete human experience.

“The subject of literature is human experience rendered as concretely as possible. The result is that it possesses a universal quality. Whereas history and the daily news tell us what happened, literature tells us what happens – what is true for all people in all places and times… . While we rightly think of the Bible as revelatory (God’s supernatural revelation of truth), the literary parts of the Bible are at the same time the human race’s testimony to its own experience.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coffee facts

I came across these facts at The Green Beanery:

A study at the Harvard School of Public Health of more than 126,000 people found that men who drank more than six eight-ounce cups of caffeinated coffee per day lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by about half, and women by nearly 30%, relative to coffee abstainers.

People who don't drink coffee have five times the risk of contracting Parkinson's as those who drank four to five cups of coffee a day, according to a study of 8,000 Japanese men reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Eight other studies likewise found that coffee protected against Parkinson's.

Studies in the United States, Japan and Italy showed that drinking three to four cups of coffee a day was associated with an 80% reduction in risk for cirrhosis of the liver, compared with drinking no coffee at all.

U.S. and Italian studies found that three or more cups of coffee a day led to
decreased prevalence of asthma.

A 10-year study of 45,000 men found that two to three cups of coffee a day
reduced the risk of developing gallstones by 40%. Psychological Science, the journal of the American Psychological Society, reported that caffeine boosted memory in elderly people who drank one or two cups of coffee in the morning by raising calcium levels in their braincells. Coffee has also been found to improve long-term memory as well as psychomotor skills.

A study by the Cancer Epidemiology Training Program at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Public Health indicated that coffee could lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I’m a sinner. I take the cross.

Go to your medicine cabinet and look at your medicine. I can tell you your disease if I can look at the drugs you are taking. If you are taking Insulin, it’s a good bet that you are a diabetic.

I’m a sinner. I take the cross.

The cross of Christ is the cure for sin. It’s working on me. I’m might not appear to be doing so well some days. It might look like I’m having a relapse some days. But, I’m getting better.

Pastor Garry Milley, Church In The Oaks, from sermon on July 10, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Deity of Christ - A Book Review

Roasting Coffee and Reviewing Books

When The Deity of Christ, a book sent by Crossway for me to review, was delivered to my house I was in the backyard roasting coffee. I was in process of creating a blend to commemorate a friend's wedding. A blend in the world of coffee is a mixture of coffees from multiple origins and is typically blended to produce a balanced cup. As I perused the volume that had just arrived I was intrigued by the concept behind the book and the similarities between that and the coffee blend I was working on. The Theology in Community series “assembles teams of scholars to explore key theological themes and apply them to contemporary themes.” It seems this series of books is a blend of authors, from various origins, that would result in a balanced book on a particular topic. I generally enjoy these types of books as they expose one to multiple authors with multiple perspectives. With coffee beans cracking in the heat of the roaster, I cracked open The Deity of Christ.

The deity of Christ, in the eyes of the editors, is a topic of paramount import; “The deity of Christ is vital to Christian faith and practice. In fact, nothing is more important than whether or not Jesus Christ is God. If Jesus is not God incarnate, then Christianity is not true; if he is, then it is true. The critical importance of Christ's deity is sufficient reason for this book.” (20) Though no further defence for a book of this sort is needed, the editors share several other reasons this volume is important; an increase in popularity of 'gospels' denying the divinity of Christ, the worldwide expansion of Islam which denies Christ is God, religious pluralism which undermines the exclusivity of Christ's salvation, and the proliferation of cults whose status as cults is a result of their denial of the central doctrine of Christ's deity.

With so much at stake, a book of this sort is more than a nicety; it is a necessity. And though there have been many written works on this topic, a fresh, contemporary look at this integral doctrine should not be overlooked.

A Standard

It occurred to me that the editors and others of this volume, in producing this book, are raising a standard. A quick glimpse in a dictionary for the definition of standard resulted in over 30 definitions. Nevertheless, several of them pertain directly to this book. The deity of Christ, and hence this book, is a doctrine that embodies several of the definitions I came across. The editors and authors of The Deity of Christ employ this doctrine as a standard for the Christian church. How is this doctrine a 'standard'? The doctrine of Christ being divine is a standard in the sense that is something to conform to and a basis for comparison. A Christian church, to be truly Christian, must conform to this doctrine and if an individual Christian's beliefs are found lacking when compared to this doctrine, the designation of Christian is speculative at best. A standard is also a flag representing a sovereign which one can rally to, and the writers call the church to rally to Christ, the second person of the trinity, our sovereign Redeemer. Finally, the truth of Christ's divinity is a standard as in a support; Christ as God provides an unfaltering practical support to the believer and to the church. Practically speaking, Christ's divinity is a necessity for our daily walk of faith.

The Deity of Christ as a book raises a standard in the multifaceted ways described above and presents a myriad of applications. The various authors serve their purpose well in providing a collection of chapters that rally Christians around their King and Saviour, explain and elucidate the doctrine which historic Christianity has used as a means of comparison and conformity, and strategically support the saints in their safeguarding of this tenet of their faith. This book, and the others in this series, attempt this this by approaching the topic through biblical, historical, systematic and practical perspectives.

A Biblical Viewpoint

The deity of Christ as it is revealed to us in Scripture is deftly handled by Ray C. Ortlund Jr., Stephen J. Welllum, and Andreas J. Kostenberger. Of the three, I had only read work by Ortlund, but recognized Kostenberger and Wellum by name and looked forward to their contributions. If this book is to be considered a significant contribution on the subject at hand, then a solid and insightful dealing with the doctrine as it is presented in the Bible is essential. Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, provided the chapter on the deity of Christ in the Old Testament.

Ortlund develops this topic by considering eight significant passages from the Old Testament. Ortlund's careful handling of the topic is evident as he provides three categories to distribute the passages under consideration to: passages inaccurately construed to reveal the deity of Christ, passages accurately construed to reveal his deity, and passages that are unclear concerning Christ's deity. Ortlund's cautious approach sets a serious tone for the biblical perspectives and he leads us into consideration of the New Testament declaring “the deity of the Christ is unmistakably, if mysteriously, revealed in the Old Testament texts.” (58)

Wellum grabs the reigns with his look at the Synoptic Gospels and further on in the book deals with Apostolic witness. Having never read Welllum before, I was unsure of what to expect. I must admit, I was quite pleased. He has organized his chapters in a manner that aids in understanding and his easy-to-read style adds to their readability. I would not hesitate to read more of him in the future. Wellum examines the divinity of Christ in the Synoptics by discussing the implicit and explicit clams to deity. Wellum shows how these gospels implicitly present Jesus as the incarnate God in his fulfillment of the Old Testament, his baptism, his life and ministry, and his own understanding of his death and resurrection. Wellum continues by showing how the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke explicitly portray Jesus as understanding himself to be God through his use of Abba, his self-identity as the Son and the Son of Man, and his statements that declare he does the to works of God.

Wellum also provides an analysis of the evidence of the deity of Christ in the Apostolic witness. This is accomplished by looking at four crucial texts; Romans 1:3-4, Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:15-20, and Hebrews 1:1-4. The thorough explanations of the passages are both enlightening and enjoyable. Again, Wellum's organizational choice of focusing on significant passages, as opposed to categories he used in the earlier chapter, was a welcome change that I found encouraged me to keep reading.

The writings of John are left in the capable hands of Kostenberger. Though I had not read any of his materials, his expertise on Johanine writings is well-known and I anticipated his chapters more than any of the other writers. He did not disappoint. With chapters entitled The Deity of Christ in John's Gospel and The Deity of Christ in John's Letters and the Book of Revelation, Kostenberger completes this book's biblical perspective on the deity of Christ. Kostenberger writes in an engaging manner and I read both of his chapters without putting the book down. Richard Baxter has said, “It is, at best, a sign that a man hath not well digested the matter himself, if he is not able to deliver it plainly to others.” Contrary to the quote, it is clear Kostenberger has digested this material and his command of it results in a clear and comfortable read. Topics covered in the investigation into the gospel of John include Jesus as the Word, the One and Only Son, Son of God, Son of Man, the I Am, Lord and God, the resurrection, and Jesus' foreknowledge. The other chapter by this Johanine scholar looked at relevant passages and concepts from the letters of John and in Revelation he considers depictions of Christ-trinitarian, the first and last, the eschatalogical king/judge/warrior, returning judge and saviour-which are thoroughly convincing. I will definitely be reading more books from this author.

As people of the Book, Christians should expect the biblical evidence for the deity of Christ to be the backbone of any inquiry into the doctrine of the incarnate God. The Deity of Christ definitely emphasizes the Word as it pertains to this topic. It is full of biblical passages and their explanations. These chapters alone would suffice for a book on this topic. Their handling of the deity of Jesus in the Bible is not exhaustive, as that would require many volumes, but it is convincing.

A Historical Viewpoint

The Deity of Christ in Church History is the chapter dedicated to a historical look into the deity of Christ. This was a fascinating look at some of the pivotal issues in church history pertaining to the Son of God. Gerald Bray takes the reader through various eras and errors. The eras include those around the Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds. The errors the church confronted include Arianism, Apollinarianism, and kenoticism. Bray reminds us that despite the fact that “ none of the fathers of the church ever believed that, in confessing the deity of Christ, he was adding anything to the teachings of Jesus himself” (176), the fight for Christ's divinity is an ongoing battle, with a long history, that resurfaces regularly. This chapter was an interesting perusal of the issue in the annals of the church's history.

A Systematic Viewpoint

In an effort to synthesize and systematize the earlier investigations concerning the deity of Christ, Robert A. Peterson arrays five arguments: 1) Jesus is identified with God, 2) Jesus receives devotion due to God alone, 3) Jesus brings the age to come, 4) Jesus saves us when we are spiritually united to him, and 5) Jesus performs the works of God. I found Peterson's categories interesting and in particular his explanation of how Jesus' inauguration of the age to come proves he is God was unexpected and stimulating. This chapter does an efficient job of providing the reader a summary of issues discussed in the book. It also provides the reader a framework with which to harmonize the various strands of argument and evidence promoted.

A Practical Viewpoint

The practical perspective that the affirmation of the divinity of Jesus Christ brings us to as presented by The Deity of Christ is twofold. The first issue of application pertains to the relation between the deity of Christ and cults. This chapter, written by Talbot School of Theology professor Alan W. Gomes, presents a repository of information on Christian Cults and their deficient stance on Christ as God. His method is inviting. He considers the different historical christologies and then classifies modern cults in relation to the cristologies advanced. By explaining polytheism, dynamic monarchianism, gnosticism, Arianism, and modalistic monarchianism, Gomes exposes Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarianism, Oneness Pentecostalism, Christian Science and other belief systems as cults for it becomes evident that all these belief systems undermine a central doctrine of the Christian faith; the deity of Christ. This chapter is an excellent initial resource for further study on the cults.

The second practical perspective concerns itself with missions, world religions, and pluralism. I found this chapter by J. Nelson Jennings the most difficult to read. I think this was because the author brings some unexpected, yet provocative, outlooks and insights into these topics. This is a chapter which I need to re-read, but it was intriguing enough that I will re-read it. Of particular interest to me was the paradigm through which to consider other religions. Jennings suggests that a healthy approach when considering other religions is threefold; consider how sin is involved, consider how Satan is involved, and consider how searching for truth is involved. That concept alone will be very helpful.

'Bonus' Material

One of the positives that I have yet to mention is that many of the chapters have “bonus” material. Whether it is Wellum explaining the Promise-Fulfillment Motif, Kostenberger's overview of First-Century Jewish Monotheism, or Gomes' defining of cults, this book contains plenty of helpful material beyond what might be expected. I have also failed to touch upon Stephen J. Nichols chapter which the book essentially begins with. This is an honest look at the contemporary condition of the church's view of the deity of Christ. Like a good doctor, Nichols observes some symptoms of what ails us, diagnoses the problem, and then prescribes a remedy. I suggest you read this chapter before you decide to buy the book. You'll buy the book if you do.

Some books are classics that you will read many times over your lifetime. This is not that book. Some books are barely worth reading, and having read them, you'll never crack them open again. This is not that type of book either. But, some books are valuable in that they provide you with a resource for future reference that you will consult at different times for different reasons at many times. That is this book. Though I do not foresee myself reading this book from cover to cover again, I am quite certain I will revisit this book for numerous reasons on various occasions. Like a good cup of your favourite blend of coffee, this book will always leave you wanting another sip.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Salvation and Glory

Salvation and judgment reveal God's steadfast love and his holiness. God reveals his holiness and his steadfast love not as an end themselves, however, but as a means to the end of displaying his own glory.
- James M. Hamilton Jr., God's Glory In Salvation Through Judgment

Friday, July 8, 2011

Content to wait

From Dane Ortlund:

George Whitefield, in a letter to an American correspondent concerned about a rash of slanderous public statements about Whitefield:

I am content to wait till the judgment day for the clearing up of my character; and after I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, 'Here lies G.W. What sort of a man he was the great day will discover.'--quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the 18th Century Revival (2 vols; Banner of Truth, 1970, 1980), 2:258

Thursday, July 7, 2011

C. J.'s leave of absence

This post by Justin Taylor is of significant interest to me. C. J. Mahaney wrote a book that has had and is having a profound influence on me; Living The Cross-Centered Life. Also, Sovereign Grace Ministries take a doctrinal stance that is close to my own. I'll be praying for C. J. as well as SGM.

“Why I’m Taking a Leave of Absence”

C.J. Mahaney writes:

Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.

I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others. I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness. But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed. Although my experience of conviction has already started—and this is an evidence of God’s mercy—I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge. Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others. And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private. Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.

So here is what I am going to do. I’ve asked to take a leave of absence in order to give time to considering these charges, examine my heart, and receive the appropriate help from others. With the guidance of the SGM board, I would also hope to pursue reconciliation with former pastors of Sovereign Grace during this leave. I have stepped off the board and I will not be the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries during this period of examination and evaluation. In order for me to receive an objective evaluation in relation to these charges the board is securing the help of a third-party ministry that has no history of relationship with SGM. With counsel from that ministry, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward. After processing these findings, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward. This leave of absence will also help remove any impediment to the panel’s exploration that could potentially arise if I remained in my current position, and it will enable me to fully cooperate in the process.

Just so you’ll know, I have also contacted David Powlison and Mark Dever and asked them to review the charges and provide me with their counsel and correction. I have enlisted them to serve me personally during this time and to ensure this process of examining my heart and life is as thorough as possible. And for the past year I have been the recipient of Ken Sande’s correction, counsel and care. That, I am grateful to say, will continue. And as you would expect I will continue to meet with the appropriate men on the board of Sovereign Grace and benefit from their correction, counsel, and care as well. I am deeply moved as I reflect on how rich I am relationally and I am humbled by the time these men are willing to spend serving me and Sovereign Grace.

My friends, I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I continue to walk through this process. Please pray that God would give me the gift of sight where I have been blinded by my sin and others have been adversely affected by my sin. Pray that I will be convicted and experience godly sorrow resulting in reconciliation where necessary and adjustments to my heart and leadership. Thank you for praying in this way for me.

One more thing. For the past 5 years or so I have become increasingly aware of certain deficiencies in my leadership that have contributed to deficiencies in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ structure and governance, the lack of a clear and consistent process of conflict resolution and pastoral evaluation, and the number of former Sovereign Grace pastors who are offended with me/SGM. I have met with some and by God’s grace there has been reconciliation with men like Larry Tomczak (I wish I had recognized and repented of my sin against him years ago). This brings great joy to my soul. In other cases, appeals for mediation have thus far been declined, but I’m hopeful this process will facilitate further reconciliation. But beyond this, there are still issues that need to be addressed and fixed in our family of churches. And I bear a primary responsibility because it has happened on my watch and under my leadership. I have resolved that I and the Sovereign Grace team can’t effectively lead us into the future without evaluating the past, addressing these deficiencies, improving our structure, and as much as possible pursuing reconciliation with former pastors. So during this leave of absence I will not only devote all the appropriate and necessary time to the independent panel and the charges but also to doing what I can to identify where I have failed to lead us effectively in relation to pastoral evaluation and conflict resolution.

My friends, though my soul can be easily overwhelmed as I contemplate my sin and its effects on others, I am also resolved to examine my heart, address the past, and play my role in preparing SGM for a future of planting and serving churches. And given the mercy of God portrayed in the gospel my heart is filled with hope that his good purpose for us will come to pass and cannot be frustrated. I trust there will be much grace to tell you of at the end of this process.

Dave Harvey has also written a letter on behalf of the Board of Sovereign Grace Ministries:

By now you may have read C.J.’s letter about recent developments in his life and in Sovereign Grace Ministries. We want to take a moment to communicate to you as well concerning these events and inform you of the steps the SGM board is taking in response.

We understand that this news may strike some as sudden and surprising. However, a process has been unfolding over a number of months in which the board has sought to evaluate charges against C.J., assist him in examining his heart and pursuing reconciliation, and bring accountability and guidance to him in this process. Because some of the charges move beyond C.J. to SGM, we also wanted to examine ourselves and our practices both past and current. To that end, we are in the process of securing help from an outside organization that can conduct a thorough and objective review of the charges being brought against C.J. and SGM. We are seeking to identify an organization that has no prior history with us and that has wide respect in Christian circles, and we will keep you posted on that search process as we make progress. We have by no means guided this process flawlessly, but we are learning and growing through this long and difficult process. And we are encouraged by how God appears to be leading us.

It is also important for us to be clear that we are supportive of C.J.’s letter and the decisive actions he has taken. The charges against C.J. are serious, but his response has been one of self-examination and, when possible, specific confession to those sinned against. However, given the numerous events, people, and perspectives involved, the work of an independent panel will be vital to fully examining these charges and arriving at an objective conclusion, especially on those charges with which the board does not agree. We therefore believe the leave of absence is appropriate in the present circumstances to afford C.J. the time to reflect upon his heart and to allow an independent panel space to conduct its review. Like C.J., we are committed to facilitate as thorough and objective a process as possible by an independent panel.

In addition to our search for an independent panel, we have taken other steps in response to these circumstances. In order to secure a broader source of accountability and benefit from a deeper pool of wisdom, we have expanded the board to lead SGM in this season. The current regional leadership team members, all pastors in SGM churches, constitute the additional board members: Craig Cabaniss, Mickey Connelly, Rick Gamache, Pete Greasley, John Loftness, Aron Osborne, Mark Prater, and Steve Shank. We are grateful for the wisdom and experience these men bring to this board and for their willingness to serve in this capacity. To facilitate continuity in our day-to-day operations, the new board has appointed Dave Harvey to act as the interim president during C.J.’s leave of absence.

As for C.J., his primary focus during the leave of absence will be to continue to examine his heart and consider the various charges and offenses, as well as to fully cooperate with an independent panel, once chosen by the board. Any pursuit of reconciliation with aggrieved parties will be guided by the counsel of the board and the independent panel. C.J. has also fully submitted himself to the board’s direction regarding his ministry activities and external commitments during this time.

All of us carry concern for the Mahaneys personally, and the board is working to ensure that a clear and helpful plan is in place to provide adequate care for C.J. and his family during this season. This plan will integrate the local care C.J. receives with other lines of counsel he receives from those outside of SGM.

We realize there is much to process here, and much of it is disconcerting. Our theology serves us well in times like this: God is clearly at work in C.J., in our own lives, and in SGM. Our desire is to embrace all that he has for us in this season, knowing he is working for our good, however difficult that may be. To those in the SGM family of churches, our commitment is that we will, by God’s grace, seek to walk as humbly, wisely, and transparently as possible during this season, and to seek to serve and care for Sovereign Grace churches in whatever way we can. We covet your prayers, and we cherish our partnership with you now more than ever.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The loss of our wealth

From Leo Tolstoy's short story Ilyas:

“Why, in this,” she replied, “when we were rich my husband and I had so many cares that we had no time to talk to one another, or to think of our souls, or to pray to God. Now we had visitors, and had to consider what food to set before them, and what presents to give them, lest they should speak ill of us. When they left, we had to look after our laborers who were always trying to shirk work and get the best food, while we wanted to get all we could out of them. So we sinned. Then we were in fear lest a wolf should kill a foal or a calf, or thieves steal our horses. We lay awake at night, worrying lest the ewes should overlie their lambs, and we got up again and again to see that all was well. One thing attended to, another care would spring up: how, for instance, to get enough fodder for the winter. And besides that, my old man and I used to disagree. He would say we must do so and so, and I would differ from him; and then we disputed – sinning again. So we passed from one trouble to another, from one sin to another, and found no happiness.”

“Well, and now?”

“Now, when my husband and I wake in the morning, we always have a loving word for one another and we live peacefully, having nothing to quarrel about. We have no care but how best to serve our master. We work as much as our strength allows and do it with a will, that our master may not lose but profit by us. When we come in, dinner or supper is ready and there is kumiss to drink. We have fuel to burn when it is cold and we have our fur cloak. And we have time to talk, time to think of our souls, and time to pray. For fifty years we sought happiness, but only now at last have we found it.”

The guests laughed.

But Ilyas said:

“Do not laugh, friends. It is not a matter for jesting – it is the truth of life. We also were foolish at first, and wept at the loss of our wealth; but now God has shown us the truth, and we tell it, not for our own consolation, but for your good.”

And the Mullah said:

“That is a wise speech. Ilyas has spoken the exact truth. The same is said in Holy Writ.”
And the guests ceased laughing and became thoughtful.

From The Bible:

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23; Matthew 19:24 ESV)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The honour of the church

From Richard Baxter as it appears in The Reformed Pastor:

The strength of Christians is the honor of the Church.

When they are inflamed with the love of God,
and live by a lively working faith,
and set light by the profits and honors of the world,
and love one another with a pure heart fervently,
and can bear and heartily forgive a wrong,
and suffer joyfully for the cause of Christ,
and study to do good,
and walk inoffensively and harmlessly in the world,
are ready to be servants to all men for their good,
becoming all things to all men in order to win them to Christ,
and yet abstaining from the appearance of evil,
and seasoning all their actions with a sweet mixture of prudence, humility, zeal, and heavenly mindedness

– oh, what an honor are such to their profession!

What an ornament to the Church;
and how serviceable to God and man!

Men would sooner believe that the gospel is from heaven, if they saw more such effects of it upon the hearts and lives of those who profess it.

(line breaks mine)

Monday, July 4, 2011

I never regretted anything

From Leo Tolstoy's short story Two Old Men:

Efím became thoughtful.

'I've spent a lot of money on this building,' he said 'and one can't start on the journey with empty pockets. We shall want a hundred roubles apiece -- and it's no small sum.'

Elisha laughed. 'Now, come, come, old friend!' he said, 'you have ten times as much as I, and yet you talk about money. Only say when we are to start, and though I have nothing now I shall have enough by then.'

Efím also smiled.

'Dear me, I did not know you were so rich!' said he. 'Why, where will you get it from?'

'I can scrape some together at home, and if that's not enough, I'll sell half a score of hives to my neighbour. He's long been wanting to buy them.'

'If they swarm well this year, you'll regret it.'

'Regret it! Not I, neighbour! I never regretted anything in my life, except my sins. There's nothing more precious than the soul.'

'That's so; still it's not right to neglect things at home.'

'But what if our souls are neglected? That's worse. We took the vow, so let us go! Now, seriously, let us go!'

I found the following line very engrossing: 'Regret it! Not I, neighbour! I never regretted anything in my life, except my sins. There's nothing more precious than the soul.'. What is their to regret outside of sin and its consequences in us and on this planet? Sin is our separation from God; it is the bar that pried us from our Creator. It is the wedge that separated us from our Father. It is the match that ignites God's wrath towards us. And it is the subduing and slaying of sin which required the sacrifice of our Saviour. I also appreciate the focus it puts on what is of real consequence: For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:35-36 ESV)

Sunday, July 3, 2011


From Christ Is Deeper Still:

“How many millions of sins in every one of the elect, every one of which is enough to condemn them all, hath this love overcome! What mountains of unbelief doth it remove! Look upon the conduct of any one saint, consider the frame of his heart, see the many stains and spots, the defilements and infirmities with which his life is contaminated, and tell me whether the love that bears with all this is not to be admired. And is not the same towards thousands every day? What streams of grace, purging, pardoning, quickening, assisting, do flow from it every day! This is our Beloved.”

John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1980), 2:63.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

As was his custom

I have lately been posting up pieces from other blogs. I am doing so again this morning. There seems to have been a plethora of intriguing and helpful resources the last few weeks. This post is from Miscellanies and addresses the issue of church attendance:

B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings (P&R, 1970), 1:421–422:

If ever there was one who might justly plead that the common worship of the community had nothing to offer him it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But every Sabbath found him seated in his place among the worshipping people, and there was no act of stated worship which he felt himself entitled to discard.

Even in his most exalted moods, and after his most elevating experiences, he quietly took his place with the rest of God’s people, sharing with them in the common worship of the community. Returning from that great baptismal scene, when the heavens themselves were rent to bear him witness that he was well pleasing to God; from the searching trials of the wilderness, and from that first great tour in Galilee, prosecuted, as we are expressly told, “in the power of the Spirit”; he came back, as the record tells, “to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and” — so proceeds the amazing narrative — “he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue, on the Sabbath day.”

“As his custom was!”

Jesus Christ made it his habitual practice to be found in his place on the Sabbath day at the stated place of worship to which he belonged. “It is a reminder,” as Sir William Robertson Nicoll well insists, “of the truth which, in our fancied spirituality, we are apt to forget — that the holiest personal life can scarcely afford to dispense with stated forms of devotion, and that the regular public worship of the church, for all its local imperfections and dullness, is a divine provision for sustaining the individual soul.”

“We cannot afford to be wiser than our Lord in this matter. If any one could have pled that his spiritual experience was so lofty that it did no require public worship, if any one might have felt that the consecration and communion of is personal life exempted him from what ordinary mortals needed, it was Jesus. But he made no such plea. Sabbath after Sabbath even he was found in the place of worship, side by side with God’s people, not for the mere sake of setting a good example, but for deeper reasons. Is it reasonable, then, that any of us should think we can safely afford to dispense with the pious custom of regular participation with the common worship of our locality?”

Is it necessary for me to exhort those who would fain be like Christ, to see to it that they are imitators of him in this?

Friday, July 1, 2011

A gospel-centered church is ...

Already Not Yet addresses what gospel-centered church is:

This statement is taken from the web site of Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma, where my good friend Sam Storms is the Pastor. I have adapted it to describe my own church (Bethel Evangelical Church), and dedicate it to the members there. I’m missing them!

What do we mean when we say that Bethel is a gospel-centered church? We mean that the gospel is not simply the entry point into the Christian life but that it is also the foundation and force that shapes all we do as followers of Jesus both in our daily lives and in our experience as the corporate body of Christ. The gospel is the gloriously great good news of what God has done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath and to secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in him by faith alone. Therefore, the gospel is not what God requires. The gospel is what God provides! The gospel is not an imperative, demanding things you must do. The gospel is an indicative, declaring things that God has done. The gospel is not about human action. The gospel is about divine achievement. The gospel is not a moralistic Do! The gospel is a merciful Done! We at Bethel believe that the gospel informs, controls, and energizes all we do. Our ministry values: mission, worship, discipleship, and community, are all the fruit of the grace that God has given us in Jesus.