Monday, October 31, 2011

Tullian on Colossians

Tullian on Colossians from Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Paul doesn’t teach doctrines in Colossians that we can’t also find in his other letters. What’s special about Colossians is not its doctrine; what’s special about it is its dimensions. Paul’s statements in Colossians about Christ are truly colossal—sweeping and immense, soaring beyond the boundaries of our understanding.

As we’ll see, this letter also has huge things to say about our sin and even larger things to say about the gospel and what it accomplishes. In Colossians, Paul is writing to show that Jesus is big, our sin is big, the gospel is big, God’s grace is big, and our rescue is big. There’s nothing small at all about the truths this book communicates. And the epitome, the crowning point of all this vastness, is the incalculable greatness of Jesus Christ himself. (63)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Love Jesus? Love the church!

Mark Dever explains why those who love Jesus must also love the church.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How the New Testament Describes Salvation

Here is a feast for your heart and mind's consumption:
Justification – the lawcourt metaphor (Rom 5:1; Titus 3:7)
Sanctification – the cultus metaphor (1 Cor 1:2; 1 Thess 4:3)
Adoption – the familial metaphor (Rom 8:15; 1 John 3:1–2)
Reconciliation – the relational metaphor (Rom 5:1–11; 2 Cor 5:18–20)
Washing – the physical cleansing metaphor (1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:7)
Redemption – the slave market metaphor (Eph 1:7; Rev 14:3–4)
Purchase – the financial transaction metaphor (1 Cor 6:20; 2 Pet 2:1)
Wedding – the marriage metaphor (Eph 5:31-32; Rev 21:2)
Liberation – the imprisonment metaphor (Gal 5:1; Rev 1:5)
New Birth – the physical generation metaphor (John 3:3–7; 1 Pet 1:3, 23)
Illumination – the light metaphor (John 12:35–36; 2 Cor 4:4–6)
New Creation – the redemptive-historical metaphor (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15)
Resurrection – the bodily metaphor (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1)
Union with Christ – the organic or spatial metaphor (Rom 6:1–14; 2 Tim 1:9)
Inexhaustible richness. Luther was right—
If a person is without warmth about matters pertaining to God and salvation, as the common man does, then the devil merely laughs. But if your words are aglow in your heart, you will put the devil to flight. (LW 22:357)
Thanks to Dane Ortlund for this!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let us not be ashamed to take pious delight in the works of God


"Meanwhile, let us not be ashamed to take pious delight in the works of God open and manifest in this most beautiful theater. For ... although it is not the chief evidence of faith, yet it is the first evidence in the order of nature, to be mindful that wherever we cast our eyes, all things they meet are works of God, and at the same time to ponder with pious meditation to what end God created them." - John Calvin, Institutes 1.14.20

Top picture by billtacular. Bottom picture by Driss.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Churches and the breat commission

More from 9Marks on churches and the great commission:

What does the Great Commission require of local churches?

In order to fulfill Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19), churches must:
  1. Relentlessly preach the gospel. If a church wants to evangelize the world, it must begin by evangelizing its neighbors. First step: clearly preach the gospel in every public service of the church.
  2. Teach people to obey everything Jesus commanded. The Great Commission is a command to make disciples of Jesus, people who follow, imitate, and obey him. Growing disciples make better witnesses.
  3. Equip every member to personally evangelize. The pastor can’t be the only evangelist. A church should train and encourage all of its members in evangelism. Hold Sunday School classes that teach evangelism. Highlight evangelistic material (such as Christianity Explored [link]) for use in personal evangelism. Regularly pray with the church for evangelistic efforts.
  4. Seek opportunities to partner with missionaries in other nations. Churches should not only strive to evangelize their neighbors but places where Christ is not known (Rom. 15:20). Therefore, seek out partnerships with likeminded brothers and sisters who are already laboring in another country.
  5. Pray that God would raise up members who would bring the gospel to other nations. Every church’s situation will be different, but every church should pray that God would raise up some of its own people to pursue foreign missions

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ponder your privileges to support your sanctification

In the twelfth chapter of The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, a Puritan classic on the subject of sanctification written by Walter Marshall, the author indicates one of the purposes of the chapter by stating,
The second thing proposed was to lay before you some necessary instructions, that your steps may be guided aright to continue and go forward in this way of holiness, until you be made perfect in Christ.
Marshall is concerned, at this point, with giving practical, applicable instructions that will aid the Christian in sanctification. The author offers many advantageous admonitions, and the sixth in the series of suggestions was encouraging to me this morning. Marshall proposes,
Consider what endowments, privileges or properties of your new state are most meet and forcible to incline and strengthen your heart to love God above all, and to renounce all sin, and to give up yourself to universal obedience to His commands; and strive to walk in the persuasion of them, that you may attain to the practice of these great duties.
Marshall calls us to consider, to mull over, to think and meditate upon the privileges we have in Christ as a result of being born again. This purposeful pondering will result in an invaluable increase in our sanctification. Specifically, it will strengthen our love for God and our renouncing of sin. This is powerful. So, what are these priveleges and and endowments which we should consider? Marshall lists them,
  • you have fellowship with the Father and Son 
  • you are the temple of the living God 
  • you live by the Spirit 
  • you are called to holiness, created for good works in Christ 
  • your old man is crucified 
  • you are dead to sin and alive to Christ 
  • you are being made free from sin 
  • you have become a servant of righteousness 
  • you shall have eternal life and appear with Him in glory
By no means is this list exhaustive, but it certainly offers and good start to our meditations upon what we inherit when we are regenerated by the Spirit.

Finally, Marshall encourages the reader with this,
Such persuasions as these, when they are deeply rooted, and constantly maintained in our hearts, do strongly arm and encourage us to practice universal obedience, in opposition to every sinful lust; because we look on it, not only as our duty, but our great privilege, to do all things through Christ strengthening us: and God does certainly work in us both to will and to do by these principles, because they properly belong to the gospel, or New Testament, which is the ministration of the Spirit, and the power of God unto salvation (2 Cor. 3:6, 8; Rom. 1:16).
Reflect, reconsider, ruminate, and respond to these truths today!

Monday, October 24, 2011

We believe we're much more unhappy

"Alas," said Monte Cristo, "it is the infirmity of our nature always to believe ourselves much more unhappy than those who groan by our sides."
I must confess the above quote, from Alexadre Dumas' classic work of fiction The Count of Monte Cristo, was convicting to read. The adage that all truth is God's truth is certainly true in this case. I find that I overestimate my own suffering, maximizing it's impact in my own mind. Simultaneously, I also minimize the difficulty that other people are experiencing. I want to have a disposition that recognizes other's suffering and respond accordingly. My inward focus and self- inflated view of my own troubles is far from Christ-exalting.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


 More good stuff from 9Marks:

What should a church expect from its members?

A church should expect that its members will:
  1. Attend services regularly. Hebrews 10:25 commands Christians not to forsake assembling together. Attending services regularly is one of the basic commitments of membership and one of the basic ways that a church member can grow in the faith, get to know other Christians, and allow the church leaders to shepherd and watch over his life.
  2. Attend communion particularly. Members should strive to be present when Christ’s death is commemorated and the church’s unity is displayed in communion.
  3. Attend members’ meetings consistently (if the church is congregational). This is when the church makes decisions as a church that affect the whole church.
  4. Pray regularly. If your church has a membership directory, consider encouraging members to use it as a prayer list.
  5. Give regularly. The apostle Paul writes, “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches” (Gal. 6:6).
  6. Build relationships with other members. Being a member in a local church is like being a hand or an eye (1 Cor. 12:21). You can’t function without all the other parts of the body. Just as a body functions when each part does its job and works together with all the other members, a local church is built up into maturity in Christ as the members minister in an intimately interrelated way  (Eph. 4:15-16, 1 Cor. 12:12-26). So a church should expect that its members will build relationships with other members.
  7. Submit to the church’s leaders. The Scripture says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17).
  8. Serve as God gives opportunity. God has given spiritual gifts to every member of the body of Christ so that everyone would use his or her gifts to build up the entire body (1 Cor. 12:7). A church should expect that all of its members will serve the whole church as God enables.
(Some of this material has been adapted from Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, pages 161-163)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bloodlines documentary

The Christian Fellowship group I supervise at the highschool where I worked watched and enjoyed the documentary Bloodlines. I encourage you to watch it.

Bloodlines Documentary with John Piper from Crossway on Vimeo.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How to Think about Curses in the Psalms

From Justin Taylor's blog:

How to Think about Curses in the Psalms

Many psalms call on God for help as the faithful are threatened with harm from enemies (often called “the wicked”—frequently the unfaithful who persecute the godly, and sometimes Gentile oppressors). In a number of places, the requested help is that God would punish these enemies. Christians, with the teaching and example of Jesus (in passages like Matt. 5:38-48; Luke 23:34; 1 Pet. 2:19-23; cf. Acts 7:6), may wonder what to make of such curses:
From Jack Collins’s “Introduction to the Psalms” in the ESV Study Bible:

How can it possibly be right for God’s people to pray in this way?
Many have supposed that this is an area in which the ethics of the NT improve upon and supersede the OT.
Others suggest that these only apply to the church’s warfare with its ultimate enemy, Satan, and his demons.
Neither of these is fully satisfying, both because the NT authors portray themselves as heirs of OT ethics (cf. Matt. 22:34-40) and because the NT has some curses of its own (e.g., 1 Cor. 16:22; Gal. 1:8-9; Rev. 6:9-10), even finding instruction in some of the Psalms’ curses (e.g., Acts 1:20 and Rom. 11:9-10, using Psalms 69 and 109).

Each of the psalm passages must be taken on its own, and the notes address these questions (e.g., see notes on 5:10; 35:4-8; 58:6-9; 59:11-17; 69:22-28; 109:6-20; and the note on Psalm 137, which contains the most striking curse of all). At the same time, some general principles will help in understanding these passages.

First, one must be clear that the people being cursed are not enemies over trivial matters; they are people who hate the faithful precisely for their faith; they mock God and use ruthless and deceitful means to suppress the godly (cf. 5:4-6, 9-10; 10:15; 42:3; 94:2-7).

Second, it is worth remembering that these curses are in poetic form and can employ extravagant and vigorous expressions. (The exact fulfillment is left to God.)

Third, these curses are expressions of moral indignation, not of personal vengeance. For someone who knows God, it is unbearably wrong that those who persecute the faithful and turn people away from God should get away with it, and even seem to prosper. Zion is the city of God, the focus of his affection (cf. Psalms 48; 122); it is unthinkable that God could tolerate cruel men taking delight in destroying it. These psalms are prayers for God to vindicate himself, displaying his righteousness for all the world to see (cf. 10:17-18). Further, these are prayers that God will do what he said he will do: 35:5 looks back to 1:4, and even 137:9 has Isaiah 13:16 as its backdrop. Most of these prayers assume that the persecutors will not repent; however, in one place (Ps. 83:17), the prayer actually looks to the punishment as leading to their conversion.

Fourth, the OT ethical system forbids personal revenge (e.g., Lev. 19:17-18; Prov. 24:17; 25:21-22), a prohibition that the NT inherits (cf. Rom. 12:19-21).

Thus, when the NT writers employ these curses or formulate their own (as above), they are following the OT guidelines. Any prayer for the Lord to hasten his coming must mean disaster for the impenitent (2 Thess. 1:5-10). Yet Christians must keep as their deepest desire, even for those who mean harm to the church, that others would come to trust in Christ and love his people (cf. Luke 23:34; Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Hence, when they pray for God to protect his people against their persecutors, they should be explicit about asking God to lead such people to repentance.

With these things in mind, then, it is still possible that the faithful today might sing or read aloud even these sections of the Psalms, if it takes place in a service of worship, under wise leadership, for the good of the whole people of God.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Heidelberg and DeYoung on God's will

Question 124. Which is the third petition?
Answer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"; that is, grant that we and all men may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey thy will, which is only good;  that every one may attend to, and perform the duties of his station and calling, as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven. 

I return again this morning to Kevin DeYoung's commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism entitled The Good News We Almost Forgot. I will reiterate my opinion that this is a first-rate book exploring and expounding this historical creed of immeasurable significance. What a beautiful creed and a similarly exceptional commentary on it.

As can be seen above, the Lord's Day 49-Question 124-of the Catechism concerns the will of God as it appears in the Lord's prayer. DeYoung's piercing and prudent discussion of God's will is extremely helpful. The entire chapter is worth reading, but for today consider this excerpt:

We need divine help so the God's will becomes our will ...

God must make us willing. And God alone can make us able ... The will of god is not our duty or drudgery. It is our delight.

And yet, it is a tortuous delight. It requires struggle against sin and the fight of faith. It means death, death, and more death. It would seem easiest for God to simply annihilate our wills and infuse our souls with His. But that's not His way. He prefers slow, glorious growth. He doesn't want His will in us as much as He wants our will to be His. He wants us to want what He wants, love what He loves, and hate what He hates. (229)

"He doesn't want His will in us as much as He wants our will to be His." What a gracious and glorious God He is to both desire this for us and enable us to, step by step, accomplish this. Let our prayer be: "Not my will but Yours be done."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thomas Watson on meditation

I was re-reading some notes I made on Heaven Taken By Storm by puritan Thomas Watson. Like many puritan writers, Watson presents his ideas as an argument that is logical and meticulous. In the section I share today, Watson is discussing meditation. I have broken down his argument into point-form. I found it quite interesting. The topic is meditation.

  1. Meditation – “Hearing begets knowledge, but meditation begets devotion.” “Many say they cannot meditate, because they lack memory; but is it not rather because they lack affection?”

    1. Meditation is:
      1. Retiring from the world
      2. Serious thinking upon God

    2. Reasons we should provoke ourselves to meditate:
      1. Meditation is contrary to flesh and blood
      2. Satan tries to hinder us

    3. What should we meditate on?
      1. The corruption of your nature
      2. The death and passion of Christ
        1. this produces repentance
        2. this fires our hearts with love to God
      3. evidences for our participation in heaven
        1. Were you convinced of sin?
        2. Have you taken Christ on his terms?
        3. Do you have the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God?
      4. Uncertainty of earthly comforts
        1. This keeps us from being deceived by the world
        2. This moderates our affections for them
        3. This causes us to pursue certainty: grace
      5. God’s severity against sin
      6. Eternal life
        1. It is a spiritual life
        2. It is a glorious life
        3. It will cause us to long for spiritual life
        4. It will comfort us in the shortness of natural life

    4. What can meditation do?
      1. It makes the Word preached of profit
      2. It quickens the affections
      3. It causes transformation
      4. It produces reformation
These thoughts on meditation are ... well ... worth meditating on!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sanctification Through Imagination

The imagination-stretching images are God's way of sliding the spiritual defibrillator over the slowing hearts of sluggish Christians. The images are for Christians who are growing lazy and beginning to compromise with the world, Christian who are allowing their hearts to become gradually hardened by sin. The answer is a spiritual shock. It is God's way of confronting worldliness and idolatry in the church. When idolatry begins to lure the Christian heart, God reaches into our imagination with images intended to stun us back to spiritual vibrancy.
- Tony Reinke in Lit!

In this passage, Reinke is discussing the power of imagination and how God uses it in our lives, particularly through the book of revelation. His larger point in regards to books and their reading is that to "view imaginative literature as a genre fit only for the amusement of children is an act of spiritual negligence." We need to use, grow, strengthen, and stretch our imagination for the purpose of our sanctification if nothing else.

I recognize the truth of this concept. Last night, while reading The Count of Monte Cristo, my affections for Christ were raised as I read of reconciliation between some of the characters. The imaginative scenario presented by Alexandre Dumas caused me to reflect upon and rejoice in the reconciliation provided by Christ. It is unlikely that a newspaper or stock quotes or weather report would have the same effect. I have enjoyed and been edified by reading more fiction literature this year-more than I have read in a long time. And I'm appreciating the encouragement and instruction found in Reinke's excellent book.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Enslaved yet accountable

The person thus enslaved to sin cannot believe without the miracle of regeneration, but is nevertheless accountable because of the evil of his heart, which disposes him to be unmoved by reasonable motives in the gospel.

(Piper, John, and Jonathan Edwards. God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards, with the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006. Print. 88)

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sabbath and Heidelberg

Lord's Day 38

Q. What is God's will for you
   in the fourth commandment?

A. First,
      that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained,
      and that, especially on the festive day of rest,
      I regularly attend the assembly of God's people
      to learn what God's Word teaches,
      to participate in the sacraments,
      to pray to God publicly,
      and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

      that every day of my life
      I rest from my evil ways,
      let the Lord work in me through his Spirit,
      and so begin already in this life
      the eternal Sabbath.

I found the second part of the Heidelberg Catechism's answer to this question intriguing. To be honest, I've never heard that concept related to the day of rest. This is a wonderful facet of what 'rest' means for those under the New Covenant. To rest from my evil ways is a compelling admonition that addresses our participation in our sanctification. It is also very apparent that it is often sin that steals our rest from, whether that be in the pursuit of fame or money, or in the fretting and anxiousness of a heart not fully trusting in the goodness of our sovereign God. Let's practice the observance of the Sabbath today and in the power of Christ rest from our evil ways.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The importance of church history

Why understanding church history is important

Andy Naselli pens 8 very good reasons for reading church history:

I often tell people that I majored in history in college because I like stories. I still like stories, but I have pursued an ongoing study of church history because I think it makes me a better Christian and a better pastor. Here are some reasons I think you should read church history, too.

1. Theological
Millard Erickson is right, “History is theology’s laboratory, in which it can assess the ideas that it espouses or considers espousing.” (Christian Theology, 28). Church history shows us our theological blind spots, reminds us of crucial topics our era ignores, provides confessional guiderails, and gives us the writings of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards–among others.

2. Inspirational
If you are like me, ministry is often hard work and the fruit sometimes seems slow growing. Reading stories of God’s work in revivals and awakenings stretches my faith and rouses me to pray bigger prayers. Also, reading about the fruits of long-term, faithful preaching and prayer helps keep me steadfast.

3. Ecclesiological  
Pragmatic approaches to “doing church” are so common today one might think that this is the way it has always been. Reading the Reformers, the Puritans, and others reveals they asked more than just, “What works?”  They thought the Bible teaches what the church is and what it should do.  Historical discussions of the nature and marks of a true church challenge the way we think about the church in a way the latest church growth manual simply cannot.

4. Missiological
We tend to be locally minded and even ethnocentric. Most of us envision a ministry in a place like the one we grew up in among a people that look like us. Learning what God has done to spread the Gospel over the past 2000 years helps broaden our vision.

5. Hermeneutical
Christians have not been using the same hermeneutics book for the past 2,000 years. We are now able to see some of the interpretive errors of earlier eras (for example, over-allegorizing), and try to avoid some of their pitfalls. However, we sometimes forget that our present cultural and intellectual context likely shapes our own biblical interpretation in unhelpful ways. Commentaries and sermons from other eras help reveal some of the errors in our own methods of interpreting God’s word.

6. Reformational
Jesus tells the church in Ephesus, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev 2:5). The problem is that we often don’t “remember.” We don’t realize we have fallen because we never look back to a time when the church was more faithful in certain ways. Church history can help us realize our need for reform and call us back to faithfulness.

7. Correctional
Studying church history shows us how small deviations from biblical truth play out over time. It is helpful to know if you or someone in your church is holding a deviant or unbalanced doctrine before it infects your entire theology. Church history is one tool that will help you do so.

8. Doxological
The sheer fact of believers across centuries and continents worshiping God reminds us that our Lord is over all and everywhere. A poem scratched out by a persecuted Christian in prison, or the testimony of a missionary’s communion with Christ as he faced imminent martyrdom, or the story of whole peoples in Burma coming to Christ, all point to the God who alone can satisfy every human heart.

HT: Already Not Yet

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let the Good News sink in

Gospel transformation

“The gospel transforms us in heart, mind, will, and actions precisely because it is not itself a message about our transformation. Nothing that I am or that I feel, choose, or do qualifies as Good News. On my best days, my experience of transformation is weak, but the gospel is an announcement of a certain state of affairs that exists because of something in God, not something in me; something that God has done, not something that I have done; the love in God’s heart which he has shown in his Son, not the love in my heart that I exhibit in my relationships. Precisely as the Good News of a completed, sufficient, and perfect work of God in Christ accomplished for me and outside of me in history, the gospel is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ not only at the beginning but throughout the Christian life. In fact, our sanctification is simply a lifelong process of letting that Good News sink in and responding appropriately; becoming the people whom God says that we already are in Christ.”
— Michael Horton
The Gospel-Driven Life  (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Books, 2009), 77

(HT: Already Not Yet via  Of First Importance)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review - Awaiting A Savior

When confronted by some social justice issue, whether it be modern slavery or abortion or poverty, many people have one of two reactions. The first is to do something. Write a letter. Raise a sign. Join a march. Protest. There are many avenues for these 'doers', but upon hearing of injustice they immediately take action. That's not me. The other reaction that is common when the dreadful news of some tragic circumstance is revealed is to become overwhelmed and despair of being able to do anything about it. Hearing of starvation, or death due to 'acts of God', or piercing poverty can cause many to throw their arms up or to throw down their arms. That's me. When major suffering of other people is brought to my attention, my first reaction is often one of dejection and despondency thoroughly mingled with pessimism. Armstrong cautions against both these reactions and causes us to consider poverty in another light. Perhaps that is why Aaron Armstrong's book on poverty was a refreshing read for me.

Awaiting a Savior, to my knowledge Armstrong's first book, is an intelligent and penetrating look at poverty that is neither a knee-jerk reactionary call to action nor a curmudgeonly call to maintain the present state of affairs. Armstrong's approach does not accept my tendency to bury my head nor does it raise the alarm for radical protesters. It is a balanced approach to and discussion of an age-old problem; poverty.

The strength of this book is Armstrong's consistent perspective that is based on a theological and biblical approach to poverty. The author considers the problem of poverty by setting aside the symptoms, as well as the cures, and focuses mainly on the disease and its causes.

The ins and outs of poverty are explained as Armstrong traces the origins and early history of sin through the biblical narrative. Sin is the father of poverty and Armstrong reminds us of, or perhaps introduces us to, poverty's heinous legacy which was absent in the creation yet formed quickly after the fall. This is solid Bible-saturated teaching that gives one a foundation for understanding this social ill. This teaching dismisses any hope for a man-centered and man-created utopia. But, it does not leave us without hope.

Hope is found in Armstrong's analysis of poverty in light of the redemption that Christ's life, death, and resurrection provides. Aptly sub-titled The Gospel, The New Creation And The End Of Poverty, this book gives us a solid gospel-perspectives and some faith-engendering gospel remedies. Despite Armstrong maintaining that there will be no end to poverty in this life, he suggests how faith with works, grace-enabled service, gratitude-inspired generosity, and a heart postured to worship Jesus can have a profound effect on poverty and those who suffer from it.

Hope is further entrenched, despite dire statistics and ever present sin, as the author focuses on the restoration of all things which is, of course, the climactic “End of Poverty and an Eternity with Jesus” (93). In his own words, “We must bring immediate relief to those suffering from severe drought and famine, but we must also bring them the promise that there is one who will someday end their suffering” (98-9).

Throughout the book Armstrong encourages endeavours to bring help to those suffering under the weight of poverty. This is not just a book for the head and the heart; Armstrong believes the hands must be used to help those in need. The appendix, along with many appeals throughout the book, gives clear and concise suggestions for an actual response on our parts.

I found this book both encouraging and enlightening and eagerly endorse it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Some people I'm thankful for:

There are many others I'm thankful for, but this picture has a bunch of them!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lit! Interview

I am thoroughly enjoying Lit! by Tony Reinke and I thought I would share this interview with Justin Taylor for today's post:

0:14 – Tony’s desire for the book
1:22 – What kind of books should I be reading? (6 Priorities for determining what to read)
3:17 – Creating time to read
5:10 – Tips for growing as a reader
7:21 – The value of fiction
9:08 – The theological importance of reading

Friday, October 7, 2011

Interesting Article on Apostles

The Biblical Basis for Apostles Today

originally at

by Don Walker

In the synoptic gospels, the term apostle is used of the 12 disciples personally commissioned by our Lord to be the vanguard of those sent to proclaim the gospel — initially to Jerusalem, then to all the nations of the earth.  In the New Testament epistles, apostles are mentioned in two contexts: Paul, in Ephesians 4:11-16, outlines the equipping gifts (Greek word-“doma”), addressing their place and function in the Church; and in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul makes reference to the various ministries (apostles, administrators, workers of miracles, interpreters of tongues, etc.).  It is these two references which provide for us the link between the apostles of the New Testament era and those throughout Church history, even unto our present day.

There are over 80 references to apostles and at least 22 individual apostles mentioned in the New Testament.  (By contrast, there are only four prophets mentioned by name, only one evangelist, and one teacher.)  In addition to Jesus, the Chief Apostle (Heb. 3:1), and the Twelve chosen by Him, we have the following: Matthias-chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:24-26), Barnabas (Acts 14:4,14), Paul (Acts 14:4,14), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25), Silas (1 Thess. 1:1, 2:6), Timothy (1Thess. 1:1, 2:6), James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19, 2:9), Andronicus (Rom. 16:7), Junias (Rom. 16:7).

In addition to these, there are others who, by inference, could be added to the list: Apollos (I Cor. 4:6-13), Titus (II Cor. 8:23), two unnamed brethren (II Cor. 8:23), Erastus (Acts 19:22), Tychius (II Tim. 4:12), Judas (called Barsabbas)  (Acts 15:22-23).

Paul is undoubtedly unique among the apostles.  Unfortunately, because we know more about his apostleship than any other in the New Testament, we make him the model.  This fails to take into account the unusual nature of his ministry.  For this reason, before we can continue, we must consider some of the important factors involved in his New Testament Role.

Paul humbly, but consistently, attests to his apostleship in most of his epistles.  He did not consider himself, in terms of this apostolic ministry, to be in any way inferior to the “Twelve” (2 Cor. 11:15, 12:11-12).  He referred to himself as “one born out of due season” in relationship to the Twelve (1 Cor. 15:5-8).  Paul qualified his having “seen” the Lord on the same level as those who were actual “eyewitnesses” of the Resurrection (1 Cor. 9:1-2, 15:8).  Paul’s apostleship was confirmed with miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 14:27, 15:3-12; 2 Cor. 12:12).  The Council at Jerusalem recognized Paul’s apostolic ministry (Gal. 2:7-8).  Paul wrote 13, possibly 14, books of the New Testament.  Revelation was given unto him unlike any other apostle, except maybe John.  Even Peter said Paul wrote things hard to be understood, but acknowledged his writings as being inspired scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).  Paul was able to say with authority, “I received of the Lord that which I delivered to you” — not of the other apostles, who added nothing to him as far as apostolic revelation was concerned  (1 Cor. 11:23, 15:3; Gal. 1:11-12, 2:1-9; Eph. 3:1-12).

If all apostles were required to have the same credentials as Paul, the field becomes quite narrow.  But there were other apostles in Paul’s day, some about which we know little or nothing.  Were they any less apostolic than Paul was?  Certainly they did not carry the ministry Paul did, but they did function as apostles.
Not all apostles were writers of scripture (Epaphroditus, for example, or most of the “Twelve”.) Nor is their sufficient evidence to conclude that all apostles were necessarily “eyewitnesses” to the Resurrection.  For example, there is no scriptural indication that Timothy was such a witness.  The argument that apostles must be eyewitness of Jesus, based upon Paul’s statement, “Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord” (1Cor. 9:1) is offered by some as a “proof text” opposing apostolic ministry in the Church today.  In actuality, the text seems to show that Paul’s reference to seeing Jesus is only included as a secondary credential, not as proof of his apostleship.

I would contend that apostles have always been in the Church throughout her history. They often times were not called “apostles,” but there is no other way to describe their function. These men were spiritual fathers and master builders. Some pioneered missionary works in unreached lands; others lead movements and established churches. The spheres of influence may have varied with each, but the apostolic function was apparent.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How regeneration affects reading

It is possible to have a photographic memory and the capacity to remember everything you read with flawless recollection.But if the Spirit of God has not reached down and unwrapped the black veil from over your heart, eternal truth will be pitch darkness to you. You may see words on a cold page of paper, but you will not feel the warm brightness of Christ's glory. And you will not experience eternal life.

The day you are lit, the day God removes the veil from your heart and reveals the glory of his Son to you, is an experience that will radically change your life. And beholding the glory of Christ will transform how you read books-every book. (Reinke, Tony. Lit!: a Christian Guide to Reading Books. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print. 32-33)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mark and Doug on gifts

This is video is fabulous. Driscoll and Wilson are two funny, intelligent, gracious and serious pastors who discuss some issues about spiritual gifts. Please watch!

Doug Wilson Interviews Mark Driscoll | Part II - Spiritual Gifts & Cessationism from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review - Lit! - Part 1

Here is a review for Part 1 of Tony Reinke's book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books:

One Book to rule them all, One Book to gauge them,
One Book to bring them all and in the brightness engage them.

Having finished the first part of Lit! A Christian Guide To Reading Books, written by Tony Reinke, I thought I would write a review. Part 1, entitled A Theology of Writing Books, can be summed up with the Tolkien-inspired couplet above. Reinke makes it very clear throughout the early chapters that the Bible is the primary and paramount book that is unequalled and incomparable. We must “be determined to read the imperfect in light of the perfect, the deficient in light of the sufficient, the temporary in light of the eternal, the groveling in light of the transcendent.” (28) That is to say, “Somewhere around 1450 BC, on a remote Egyptian mountaintop called Mount Sinai, an author wrote something so earth-shaking that the publishing industry has never recovered. It never will.” The Scriptures, as God's inspired words, trumps and triumphs over all other books and Reinke returns to this regularly.

The second essential idea proposed in this book is that gospel, and its Subject, are necessary for accurate and authentic reading; “Once God enlightens our spiritual eyes [in beholding Christ], we can read books for the benefit of our souls-whether it's the Ten Commandments, a thick systematic theology, the poems of John Donne, C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, or a microbiology textbook” (36). This spiritual eye-enlightenment is crucial to Reinke's approach to reading as, according to the author, “there is an eternal dimension to everything we read ... we read all of our books illuminated by God and in communion with Him.” (37)

These two concepts, foundational to appreciating and apprehending literature, are presented in an fresh and refreshing manner. Approaching books and reading with our Book in mind and our Savior in our heart seems like an obvious strategy having read the first part of the book. But as I was reading it came at me almost unexpectedly and resulted in me being encouraged in my reading and looking forward to more. These ideas permeate the rest of the chapters in Part 1.

The Bible in general, and the glorious gospel in particular, are the ultimate examples of why Reinke argues that we, as “Christian living in an image-saturated world ... must guard our conviction about the vital importance of words and language. For it is words and language that best communicate meaning.” (50). For the Christian, the Book and many other books are important.

It is Scripture as our gauge, and spiritually reborn eyes, that allow us to read Christian and non-Christian books with discernment. These are what helps us, states Reinke, evaluate what we read and perceive truth where it appears. Simply, a “firm grasp of biblical worldview, learned directly from the study of Scripture, is essential ...” (63).

It is with such sentiments that Reinke boldly states that “[His] conviction is that non-Christian literature-at least the best of it-is a gift from God to be read by Christians” (65). We now see how his theology of books and reading, built upon the preeminence of the Canon and a regenerated heart, is the basis for reading other literature. Truth, beauty, and goodness are all from God and praiseworthy where they are found. And we can hear the “Giver's Voice” in non-Christian writing if we have a strong biblical worldview and and revivified heart.

Finally, Reinke proposes that our imaginations are essential for our pursuit of godliness and we can train and cultivate our imaginations with, among other things, imaginative literature. The author expresses the importance of this genre of literature by giving several examples from the Book of Revelation. A rejection of fantasy, sci-fi, our other fantastical literature may leave us less prepared for comprehending similar biblical passages.

Part 1 of Lit! is a convincing approach to a cardinal theology for books and reading. Reinke has taken great care to make his writing readable and the truths he puts forward on a much written about topic are unexpectedly ingenious and inventive. His stalwart faithfulness to God's inerrant, inspired Word and the necessity of a regenerated life are educating, endearing, and essential to this book's value. I have only read approximately half of this book, yet I do not hesitate to recommend it.

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: a Christian Guide to Reading Books. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Arresting Words

This Sunday at CITO Pastor Garry Milley continued his series from 1 Thessalonians entitled "A Pastor and A People".  One of his key points was this - the real power in listening to the pastor is not the voice of the pastor but that "other voice", the voice of God that speaks over and above the pastor's voice.  It's that "other voice" that is effectual in the life of the Christian as they "Receive" and "Accept" (1 Thess 2:13-16) the word of the pastor, mix it with faith and let it work in their lives.  This was an arresting word for me.  A word that stops you in your tracks, not even because it's something new, or novel or you've never heard anything like it before but because along with the voice of the pastor came another voice...  not audible, but clear.  There is power to change a life when the right word is shared.  Anyone who comes to Christ, inevitably reflects back and identifies words that arrested them.  They may have come by the voice of a parent, another family member, a friend,  a youth pastor, a pastor they never me before, an evangelist or some other faithful speaker.  They may have been simple ... "Can I pray with you", "Wanna come to church this Sunday?", "Here's some good news..."  Regardless, words were spoken.  Repentance, redemption, justification and adoption change real lives.  People heading to destruction, turn around.  "There but by the grace of God", no longer becomes a cliche but a daily, vital, truth because of some arresting words.  Lives of small and great saints departed were lived because they heeded arresting words and obeyed the "other voice".  Over the last few weeks,  I've been contemplating the enormity and power of words.  Words shared from the mouth of Christians are inexplicably the means by which God ordained and commanded for the gospel to be spread.  The words of the gospel, when spoken, can 'arrest' the listener like no other message.   Primarily because the "other voice" accompanies faithfully our speaking of His message.  I am blessed to speak publicly in many locations in my vocation but I doubt a word I speak about medicine will ever arrest someone in a spiritual sense.  However, I'm compelled that speaking for God is a better calling, a more weighty task and as Pastor Garry said (and I can attest dealing with people afflicted by physical illness)...often all we have is words. So speak.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Publishing ... old school

In light of pdfs, Kindles, Nooks, Kobos, and iPads, this quote by Tony Reinke from his new book Lit! is worth remembering and reflecting upon:

Somewhere around 1450 BC, on a remote Egyptian mountaintop called Mount Sinai, an author wrote something so earth-shaking that the publishing industry has never recovered. It never will.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

An article by Kevin DeYoung on families

Love for the Big and the Small


Feel free to make copies of this article and pass it out to your friends. Feel free to post this on Facebook, mention it on Twitter, link to it on your blog. If you are part of a church with young families I promise this essay will be relevant.

I want to talk about the size of our families. More importantly, I want to talk about loving as we want to be loved and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

Scripture says the human race should be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28; Mal. 2:15).  Children are always seen as a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5; 128:3-4).  Church growth happens evangelistically and covenantally.  So I like big families. My wife and I are on our way to a big family with four little ones already. In pre-marital counseling I challenge newlyweds to think through the reasons for birth control (which I am not against) instead of just assuming it. I warn against the abortifacient possibilities of taking the Pill.  I try to dissuade most young couples from the notion that they have to be married for several years before they start a family. I am pro-children big time.

But this does not mean I am anti-small family. All else being equal, I’d encourage Christians to have more than two kids (keeping above the replacement rate). But all else is not equal. There are simply too many things I don’t know about other couples to even dare to judge. I don’t know how difficult it can be too get pregnant or how difficult the pregnancies are. I don’t know the financial situation, the medical history, the family pressures, the cultural expectations. I don’t know what their kids are like, their marriage, or their attitude before the Lord. I don’t know what other God-glorifying, self-sacrificing, world-serving opportunities they are praying through. So when we see faithful Christians with two kids or ten kids, we should praise God and assume the best.

And yet, any pastor paying attention to the hearts and hurts of his church, will tell you that there is a lot of tension around the size of our families. Here is an opportunity for the devil to work discord among us. But here also is a wonderful opportunity to love our neighbors as ourselves and open wide hearts and affections to families that look different than ours (Matt. 22:39; 2 Cor. 6:11-13).

Think of all the trouble we get into in the church, and on this issue in particular, because we assume the worst. Big families assume smaller families are being selfish. Smaller families assume big families are out to prove something. Parents assume their children are rejecting their choices when they make different ones. Children assume their parents would have acted like them if they were more spiritual. And everybody assumes everybody else is assuming something about them!

This is not the way of 1 Corinthians 13 love and it has to stop. Let’s assume the best of each other on this issue and not assume we’re being judged because someone else feels strongly about the way they do things.
And let’s be sensitive to the feelings of others rather than sensitive to perceived sleights and offenses. In some churches women may feel a pressure to be pregnant. Maybe the pressure is stated, maybe unstated, maybe it’s inaccurately perceived. But it is felt, so let’s be careful not to add to the pressure. In a church where literally dozens of women are bursting at the womb almost constantly and all the talk is about latching, stripping membranes, and other pleasantries we must be careful that young women who aren’t pregnant don’t feel inferior or out of place. I can just about guarantee they feel that way already, so you’ll have to go out of your way to welcome, affirm, and include.

On the flip side, there’s no good reason—certainly no biblical ones—why families with five, six, seven, ten, or fifteen kids should be made to feel strange. There’s no need for comments like, “Really, another one?” Or, “Wow, he can’t keep his hands off you!”  Those comments are hurtful, and so are the eye rolls and exasperated sighs and suspicions.  Let those who have eight kids not judge those who have two, and those with one child not judge those with six.

And let me throw out one other verse while I’m at it: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). For most Christians there is almost nothing as joyful as having a baby, and almost nothing as painful as being unable to do so. This leads to lots of awkward church lobby deliberations: “Should I tell her I’m pregnant? She’s been trying for so long, my news will just make her sad. But if I don’t tell her she’ll find out eventually and be hurt that I didn’t mention anything. Maybe I’ll tell her privately. But then that will make her feel singled out. What to do?” There is no solution to this problem. Infertility hurts and babies can make it hurt more. But a step in the right direction is God’s command in Romans 12. Let every young lady rejoice with her friend’s pregnancy and let that same friend weep when her sister in Christ hasn’t or won’t experience the same joy.

I don’t pretend to get all this baby stuff right. I’m sure I’ve been woefully insensitive at times. I’ve probably made silly “you get pregnant around here just by drinking the water” jokes that have been quietly unhelpful. I need God’s help too. But as a pastor I try to set the right tone, dial down the tensions, and encourage every man and wife to assume the best (and assume everyone else is doing the same). It doesn’t make all the tensions go away. But I’m hoping it will help us love each other’s families, the small and the big, in big ways and small.

This article originally appeared in the July issue of Tabletalk [1] magazine.