Monday, December 29, 2008

Top Ten of 2008

I recently saw that many of the blogs I read were featuring their favorite books published in 2008, I checked the books I read this year and discovered that I hadn't read enough books published this year to make a top ten list. So I decided to simply list my top ten books read this year. Some of them are pretty old some are new, but I loved them all. (Honorable mention: I read this little book of Yogi Berra quotes that made me laugh so hard). They are not ranked, I just put them in alphabetical order. Enjoy and feel free to share your favorite books of the year.

Steve Brown - Approaching God: How to Pray - great little book on prayer.

D. A. Carson - Ordinary Pastor - an encouragement to all of us ordinary pastors to persevere, and also for all of us ordinary Christians.

Murray J. Harris - Slave of Christ - revolutionized my understanding of an important biblical principle.

J. Gresham Machen - Christianity and Liberalism - Machen provided a devastating crituque of liberalism, in my mind completely establishing that Christian liberalism and Biblical Christianity are two different religion.

C. J. Mahaney - Humility - especially convicting was his challenge to always be discerning evidences of grace in others when many of us tend to see only the negatives, that chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

George Marsden - Jonathan Edwards - outstanding biography, made a man come to life when before he had simply been a set of sermons.

David McCullough - 1776 - really it should be a national holiday whenever a new McCullough book is released. We should at least throw some kind of nerdy party.

R. Albert Mohler - Atheism Remix - made us all aware of the new atheistic movement and then reduced them to ashes.

Bill Waterson - The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes - honestly it was a delight to find a collection of Calvin and Hobbes that I hadn't yet read.

Christopher Wright - Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament - my new favorite work of biblical theology.

Be Transformed

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12.2

When I was a kid I envied my brother, Jeremy, for his artistic ability. The closest I could come to his creations was to trace other people's artwork. I confess that I even tried to pass off my traced work as originals. Of course, anyone who collected the Amazing Spider-Man series of comics had my number! A person can have some nice looking "artwork" by tracing, but you can't create something new by tracing others' works. Unfortunately, many Christians conduct their lives by tracing. Their conduct simply reflects the attitudes, beliefs and practices of the world of unbelievers around them. The choices they make and the actions they take are but carbon copies of the scheme of this world. This is what Holy Spirit calls us away from when He says, "Do not be conformed to this world."

The answer of course is not simply to avoid worldliness. Many Christians attempt to live this way and wind up very depressed because the "Christian life" is all about what I'm not doing. This Scripture gives the positive exhortation "be transformed." Transformation involves a new reality. John Owen points out that in the New Birth we are really transformed but not absolutely transformed. There is much transformation that takes place after regeneration. Thus Paul can speak of being "transformed into the same image (i.e., of Christ) from one degree of glory to another"; and state that "while our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor 3.18; 4.16). We might speak of this as the process of maturing by the grace of God, effectually working in us. It might be a good exercise to ask yourself whether you have matured spiritually in the past few months.

This transformation takes place, according to the Word of God, by the "renewing of your mind." Just as the New Birth is the work of the Spirit of God, this renewing of the mind is also the Spirit's work. Again, note what we possess really versus what we possess absolutely. On the one hand, Paul can say to the Corinthian Christians that "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2.16). On the other hand, Paul exhorts the Philippians to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2.5). Calling on Owen again, at the New Birth our minds were genuinely made new since we are "not in the flesh but in the Spirit" (Rom 8.9). Yet, God calls on us to have our minds "renewed" because they are not completely renewed. The Spirit continues this work of renewal by presenting Christ to our minds by the instrument of the word of God (see 1 Cor 2.6-16 for the Spirit's work in the Apostles' teaching; 2 Cor 3.12-18 with regard to the Old Testament, particularly).

The result of this renewal is that we might discern the will of God. We will discern what is the good, acceptable, and perfect way to think, feel, behave. Only in this way will we fulfill the exhortation of the first verse to present our whole person to God as a sacrifice, living, holy and pleasing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Grace Creates Worship

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. - Romans 12.1

Therefore and by the mercies of God both point to the previous exposition of God's compassion in action as the ground for the exhortation. The grace of God, expounded in chaps. 1-11, expect a certain response. Apart from this grace this response would not only be unanticipated, but also impossible. Thus, the mercies of God are not merely a motive for the obedience enjoined in chaps. 12-15, but the fountain from which it flows or the soil in which it grows. It is instructive that Paul does not refer to the economy of salvation just expounded as "doctrines" but as "mercies" or more fully "compassion in action."

The words present . . . . sacrifice and worship are cultic concepts derived from the OT worship at the Tabernacle/Temple. The product of and proper response to God's grace in Christ is worship. That this is not limited to activities at particular sacred spaces and sacred times is made clear by the object (your bodies) and the character (spiritual) of the worship.

The use of the word bodies makes the imagery of OT sacrifice all the sharper, and emphasizes the totality of devotion called for. All of our existence, in everything we bump into in this life, is to be offered to God. The word spiritual or reasonable clarifies that this cannot be merely external conformity, or going through the motions. The use of these two words (bodies and spiritual) together can correct perverse thoughts about the Christian life. On the one hand, there are those who believe that what they do matters very little as long as they "believe." Sinful behavior is often excused by saying, "God knows my heart." But the word of God says, "present your bodies" and "glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6.20). On the other hand are those who pride themselves on their external conformity to the commands of Scripture, but are not inwardly changed. True worship is spiritual or reasonable, as Douglas Moo explains, "in the sense of 'appropriate for human beings as rational and spiritual creatures of God': a worship that honors God by giving him what he truly wants as opposed to the depraved worship offered by human beings under the power of sin (see Rom 1.23-25)." (Moo, Romans, NICNT).

This sacrifice of our bodies is living because we have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (6.4-11). This sacrifice is holy because, having been set free from sin, we are set apart as God's servants (6.22). This sacrifice is acceptable because we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, "if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you" (8.8-9).

Do not be mislead by those expositors who wrongly say that the aoristic aspect of present implies a once-for-all presentation of the self to God. The aorist is the default tense of the infinitve in the NT, hense it is the least marked tense. If the present or perfect tense were used, then something could be said regarding the kind of action. The aorist alone does not define the kind of action (progressive, perfected, etc.). The fact that Paul is writing to a church whose members would no doubt be at different maturity levels spiritually is a good argument for seeing this presentation as a repeatable discipline, not a one-time act.

In light of the dawning of a new year and this exhortation of Holy Spirit, let us resolve, as Jonathan Edwards did on the twelfth day of January, 1723, "frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God."

Josh Owen

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I have always been amused by Penn and Teller, the magicians / comedians who have a wonderful balance of humor and crassness. But never in a million years would I imagine that the talking half of the act would remind me of how my seriousness about evangelism shows how serious I take the gospel. Watch this video of an avowed atheist telling about a faithful brother loving him enough to share the Gospel. And then pray as I am for that kind of radical devotion to Jesus and love for people.

Click Here For Video

HT: Ed Stetzer

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This morning I read Christopher Hitchens' recent article on titled "Tis the Season to be Incredulous: The Moral and Aesthetic Nightmare of Christmas" Hitchens can only be described, in my humble opinion, as a militant atheist and a leading contender for the most-miserable person on the face of the earth. His tone is continually hateful and hostile, and this article is no exception. His goal is, in his own words,
to write an anti-Christmas column that becomes fiercer every year while remaining, in essence, the same. The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state.

This vitriolic message climaxes as he addresses the topic of Christianity and the inspired Word of God, followed by his "solution" to Christmas for the cultural landscape of this nation:
Suppose we put the question like this: Imagine that conclusive archaeological and textual evidence emerged to prove that the whole story of the birth, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth was either a delusion or a fabrication? Suppose the mother had admitted shyly that, in fact, she had fallen pregnant for predictable reasons? Suppose we found the post-Calvary body?

Serious Christians, of the sort I have been debating lately, would have no choice but to consider such news as absolutely calamitous. The light of the world would have gone out; the hope of humanity would have been extinguished. (The same obviously would apply to Muslims who couldn't bear the shock of finding that their prophet was fictional or fraudulent.) But I invite you to consider things more lucidly. If all the official stories of monotheism, from Moses to Mormonism, were to be utterly and finally discredited, we would be exactly where we are now. All the agonizing questions that we face, from the idea of the good life and our duties to each other to the concept of justice and the enigma of existence itself, would be just as difficult and also just as fascinating. It takes a totalitarian mind-set to claim that only one Bronze Age Palestinian revelation or prophecy or text can be our guide through this labyrinth. If the totalitarians cannot bear to abandon their adoration of their various Dear Leaders, can they not at least arrange to hold their ceremonies in private? Either that or give up the tax-exempt status that must remind them so painfully of the things of this material world.

Merry Christmas Mr. Hitchens, and God bless you!

Now compare those remarks to this video message taped years ago from then-President Ronald Reagan and you decide which captures the heart of charity and love this Christmas. Click Here For Video

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Born Under the Law

Luke 2.21-40 captures many key themes of Luke, such as the role of the Holy Spirit in the earthly life of Jesus Christ, God's uplifting of the poor, and models of Christian devotion/discipleship. One of those themes is Christ's obedience to the law. The observance of the law on behalf of Jesus is referred to six times in this passage (vv. 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 39). Robert Stein, in his commentary on Luke (NAC) states that this is Luke's way of saying that the law is still relevant and pressing on the believer's life, a guide for conduct. Thus these duties carried out on Jesus' behalf become an example for the disciples of Christ.

The problem with this interpretation is that each of the laws fulfilled are ceremonial - circumcision on the eighth day (21); purification (22); redemption (23-24, 27, 39) - not moral. Clearly, Luke would not have Theophilus following Mary and Joseph's example in order to be a disciple of Christ. Luke, after all, is the one who records the decision of the Jerusalem Council regarding circumcision and other ceremonial stipulations being imposed on the Gentile churches: "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden that these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well" (Acts 15.28-29).

Stein might argue that it is not the ceremonial aspects of the law, but the law as the command of the Lord that Jesus' parents follow and thus become exemplary. This would be one way of avoiding the contradiction between his interpretation and the clear teaching of Acts, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews and the NT in general regarding the ceremonial aspects of the law.

But it may be that Luke had a very different purpose in recording their obedience to the law in these particulars; namely, to illustrate that Christ was born under the law. Even when His fulfillment of the law was in another's hands, God saw that He fulfilled it.

But when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!" so you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Galatians 4.4-7

Another thought: Isn't it interesting that the first-born son was to be redeemed by a sacrifice because every first-born male belonged to God. Thus every first-born animal was to be sacrificed to God or its neck was to be broken, but every first-born man was to be redeemed. Jesus was redeemed by payment to the sanctuary (Luke 2.23; cf. Exod 13.2, 12-13; Num 18.15-17), but He would later be sacrificed for the redemption of covenant-breaking, lawless sinners.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Recommendation - The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn is abundantly qualified to write this book. He participated in a peaceful protest of an abortion clinic that led him to be sued and sentenced to pay the clinic millions of dollars which he refused to do. The only way that he could avoid funding abortions was to make only minimum wage which he immediately did, resigning his pastorate and refusing his book royalties. Basically the closest a protestant can get to a vow of poverty. He learned to live with much less than he was used to and at the same time learned to give with less. So out of this background what he says about money and giving come from a place of personal integrity and experience.

The central thrust of the book is what he calls the Treasure Principle: the idea that you can't take it (money/possessions) with you - but you can send it on ahead.

He then unravels the Bible's teaching on the use of money throughout the book giving six treasure principles. I found the book very helpful personally and as a tool for a sermon series that is in the works.

Highly recommended for all Christians in our materialistic culture.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Study Bibles

I recently had an eye-opening experience at a bowling alley. A lady who knew that I was a Pastor came up to me and asked me a question about a passage in the Bible and her interpretation was a little bit out of left-field. She told me that she had learned it from her study Bible. As we discussed the passage I could not get her to really look at the passage, she was hung up on the study notes.

I remember as a baby believer in college that my study bibles (yes it quickly became plural) were incredibly helpful in my early growth in understanding the Word. I remember lugging two very large study bibles to a dorm bible study. I also remember John’s devotion to his MacArthur study bible. I heard many a sermon from John holding that huge Bible in the pulpit. I was a study bible junkie and I still feel the urge to buy every new study bible (the ESV Study Bible is calling my name).

So the question I’m asking myself is what role a study bible should have in the life a believer. I have had both positive experiences and negative experiences. So what I would like to do is sort of weigh out the positives and negatives, and see where we land.

First in the positive category a study bible can help a baby believer take their first steps in understanding the Word. I remember knowing nothing a junior in college and with every passage I had questions, and my study bible’s really helped.

Another positive is the benefit of all the specialty bibles floating around. For example I love my Apologetics Study Bible. So if you are feeling a little uninformed in an area you can probably find a study bible to help you. Or if you are really passionate about a subject (such as apologetics) then you could benefit from reading the bible with consistent notes that show how apologetics reflects on whatever passage you happen to be reading.

The last benefit that I can find is the benefit of having some notes with you in the church to test the orthodoxy of what you are hearing. But this could also be a negative in that you could get distracted be reading the notes instead of listening to the message. Also you could make Tim LaHaye or John MacArthur your test of orthodoxy instead of testing scripture with scripture.

In the negative category there is the fact that by the nature of the space allowed nothing is treated in depth. Sometimes such a bare bones treatment isn’t helpful at all.

Also because publishers want to sell bible’s they avoid offending people, which means that they tend to avoid the really controversial passages, which in my mind would be the biggest need for a study bible.

Another negative is the unwavering devotion that can develop between a believer and the study bible that helped them greatly when they first started reading the bible.

There is also the danger that I have seen where there is confusion between what is inspired scripture and what is the fallible guidance of people.

Now in light of these few positives and negatives what recommendations seem wise? For a little honest disclosure, I no longer use study bible’s in my quiet time and very rarely in the study.
This may be for a couple of reasons, my library has grown and with the commentaries on my shelf the study bible’s have been dwarfed. Also I have grown in my knowledge of the Word and no longer lean on study bibles the way I used to.

So I think that I would recommend a study bible to a new believer to help them begin growing in the Word. But in the light of the dangers a believer who has extended themselves in studying the Word would appear to be wise to lay aside their study bible, keep it as a resource as a tool, but study the Word on its own merits with no intruding thoughts from anyone else.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Top Ten of 08

Steve Brown - Approaching God: How to Pray

D. A. Carson - Ordinary Pastor

Murray J. Harris - Slave of Christ

J. Gresham Machen - Christianity and Liberalism - Machen provided a devastating crituque of liberalism, in my mind completely establishing that Christian liberalism and Biblical Christianity are two different religion.

C. J. Mahaney - Humility

George Marsden - Jonathan Edwards

David McCullough - 1776

R. Albert Mohler - Atheism Remix

Bill Waterson - The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes

Christopher Wright - Knowing Jesus throiugh the Old Testament

Deception - The Human Condition

I was going through a checkout line today and spotted a headline that reads as follows:

"Dead loved one's say . . . Hell is a blast"

That anyone would find such an article credible let alone intriguing shows the desperation in every human heart. This just reminds me to pray and share the Good News of my Risen Savior who alone fills that need, all the more.

Tension in the Christian Life

"I am not what I ought to be. Ah! How imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be. I abhor that which is evil, and I would cleave to that which is good. I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon I shall put off mortality and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Though I am not what I ought to be, what I wish to be, and what I hope to be, yet I can truly say, I am not what I once was, a slave to sin and Satan; I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge, 'By the grace of God, I am what I am.'"

- John Newton

In light of Josh's post on the pre-regenerate work of the Holy Spirit I thought this quote on the tension that remains even in the regenerate heart was apt, so I thought I would share it with you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Real Point - A Christ-Centered Christmas

Have you ever felt like you had a really good point to make but have been frustrated by how it came off. Well that's been my experience since I posted last. And I think I've realized my mistake, finally. I sat down to write with a settled conviction and instead wrote about a tangent instead of the real point and the real conviction.

So here's the real point we need to work hard as churches and parents to make sure that we celebrate a Christ-centered Christmas. This may or may not mean having Santa involved, but it must mean that Jesus is involved and central. It must mean that we tell our kids and everyone who will listen the story about how God entered the world in human flesh to set apart a people for Himself. We must work hard and be intentional.

There are dangers and hindrances, Santa can be one (John is living proof that it doesn't have to be), the materialistic fog that we all live in is another, and there are distractions that are in and of themselves good things. For a lot of families this is the only time that they can all get together, and this is good, we should celebrate the opportunities to be with the people that God providentially placed us with (not an accident whatever my brothers choose to think). But we still must insure that Jesus remains the center of this day.

That was my real point, I agree with John that Santa's role is a matter of conscience, that is absolutely true and Christians can disagree in good conscience, but what we cannot do is allow Jesus to slip out of the spotlight. Sorry for the misunderstanding.


For every hour spent in his study chair, he (the preacher) will have to spend two upon his knees. For every hour he devotes to wrestling with an obscure passage of Holy Writ, he must have two in the which to be found wrestling with God. Prayer and preaching: preaching and prayer! They cannot be seperated. The ancient cry was: "To your tents, O Israel!" The modern Cry should be: "To your knees, O preacher, to your knees!"

E.M Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer (online version,

Unregenerate Partakers of the Spirit, Beware!

John Owen lists three works of the Spirit in a person that precede regeneration. These works generally precede regeneration, but regeneration does not necessarily follow from them. As his focus is on the work of the Spirit, he does not include those duties that fallen man can perform apart from the Spirit's special ministry, namely, an outward attendance to the word of God and a "diligent intention of the mind, in attendance on the means of grace." He reduces these works of the Spirit to three points: 1) Illumination; 2) Conviction; 3) Reformation.

1) Owen says, "Now, all the light which by any means we attain unto, or knowledge that we have in or about spiritual things, things of supernatural revelation, come under this denomination of illumination." He argues that there are three degrees of illumination. a) The first degree is a subduing, though not eradication, of the natural man's antipathy (negligence, sloth and pride) to divine revelation, which allows him to have a head knowledge of the truth. b) The second degree is a special effect of the Spirit by the word on the minds of men which adds clarity, greater assent, a weak joy, and gifts regarding spiritual truths. c) The third degree, unlike the first two, communicates saving grace to the heart.

2) Conviction, according to Owen, involves a) an unsettling sense of the guilt of sin in light of the law and judgment of God; b) sorrow for sin because it is past and cannot be changed (legal sorrow); and c) humiliation for sin, which is the outward effect of the fear and sorrow in the acts of confession, fasting, praying and similar disciplines.

3) "Oftentimes," says Owen, "a great reformation of life and change in affections doth ensue heron; as Matt. 13:20; 2 Peter 2:20; Matt. 12:44."

He observes that the effects of this work rests in the mind, conscience, affections and conduct. But the will is not renewed, therefore, it is continually inclined to sin. The mind, though enlightened to a degree, has not proceeded as far as to delight in God. The conscience is worked upon, but not purged. The affections, though stirred to fear, sorrow, joy and delight about spiritual things are not fixed on heavenly things. The affections are not fully for God, but abide sin to remain. With regard to conduct, many sins are left unregarded, known sins are left unhindered, and energy for spiritual life gradually decays.

In his typical pastoral manner, Owen calls us to self-examination to ensure that we have not mistaken these motions of the Spirit for regeneration.

Now, because it oftentimes maketh a great appearance and resemblance of regeneration itself, or of real conversion to God, so that neither the world nor the church is able to distinguish between them, it is of great concernment unto all professors of the gospel to inquire diligently whether they have in their own souls been made partakers of any other work of the Spirit of God or no; or although this be a good work, and doth lie in a good subserviency unto regeneration, yet if men attain no more, if they proceed no farther, they will perish, and that eternally. And multitudes do herein actually deceive themselves, speaking peace unto their souls on the effects of this work; whereby it is not only insufficient to save them, as it is to all persons at all times, but also becomes a means of their present security and future destruction.

May God keep us from saying "peace, peace" when there is no peace.

John Owen, The Holy Spirit, (Bath, England: Johnstone and Hunter, 1850-53; reprint, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1965), 228-242.


Even though I have been overwhelmed lately and unable to post on the blog, I have somehow managed to find time to post comments on this blog and another (, both of which have been controvesial subjects. Both have also been fun discussions showing the love and charity brothers and sisters in Christ can have when they disagree on theological issues. In light of the Jamie's last post (see below "Santa is Dangerous) I have decided to stir the pot a bit more than I already have and give a couple of links on this subject. The first is on Justin Taylor's blog and summarizes two helpful articles. The second is by one of my favorite theologians, R.C. Sproul, exhorting us not to be a "Scrooge" at Christmas. While we do this in fun, I want to state my love and respect for my brothers on this blog. They are men of integrity that love Jesus, their families and their churches. My prayer is that healthy debate done in love and respect would be modeled on this blog of brothers!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christ Was Born a Martyr

Skip Ryan, in Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), page 20, wrote:

Glory in the Gospel of John is used to describe the death of Christ. That is amazing. In John 12:23-24, for example, we read, "And Jesus answered them saying, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.'" John Donne, in The Book of Uncommon Prayers, says, "The whole of Christ's life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death."

Most evangelicals are understandably slow to use the language of martyrdom of Jesus. Certainly we don't want to portray the cross as an unfortunate turn of events in the life of Jesus that he had no power over. Jesus laid down His life, no one took it from Him. Yet, in as much as He died for His witness to the Truth, He can be said to be a martyr, a theme, I would argue, presented in the book of Revelation. Take some time to reflect on the Golgotha that Christ found in Bethlehem.

Santa Claus is Dangerous

What is Christmas truly about? If you ask the average Joe you'll probably hear that its about showing Christmas spirit or giving gifts or eating too much or seeing family. Earlier this week on a kid show my daughter was watching a frog explained that he had a star on his tree because every year the biggest prettiest star comes out for Christmas, or something like that. As a culture we have forgotten why we have a holiday on Dec. 25 every year.

Look at the things that we actually focus on during Christmas, family gatherings (not bad but not the point), giving gifts (they do serve a point but not the materialistic insanity that we have going on), Christmas Tree's (who remembers what point they serve), and lots of Christmas movies (that have nothing to do with the real reason for Christmas).

The real purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. That's it, that's all. But people who care little about Jesus or who actively hate Him still want to celebrate Christmas, no matter how much debt it puts them in. So I think that we as those who love Jesus should find ways to celebrate Jesus' birthday distinctively. Start some family traditions that are focused on Christ. For example my family tries to make Christmas feel like a birthday party for Jesus. We have a birthday cake, we sing the Happy Birthday song (I know it sounds awfully cheesy), we put up happy birthday banners, all aimed at keeping the main thing the main thing.

Now I want to share the really controversial thing that we do. We aren't teaching our kids about Santa Claus. Yes I know many of you are cringing right now (all both of you) but I really think that Santa is the chief distraction. In most American homes Santa has replaced Jesus. Think about how many cartoons kids will watch this year about Santa compared with cartoons about Jesus' birth. Santa is dangerous because he draws our kids hearts away from Jesus and focuses them on a fat guy offering them toys (sounds like a guy you don't want in your neighborhood).

So I want to challenge everybody to reconsider Santa and to be intentional about having a Christ-centered Christmas.

PS - the original version of this post was a lot more hostile and was originally titled Santa Claus is a tool of the devil, Edna talked me out of it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Reflections On Being a Pastor

Alistair Begg and Derek Prime have given us a real gift and resource in this book. Here is a book that dispenses real practical wisdom to Pastors. The real advantage of this book is the wide variety of topics that it addresses.

I found the chapters discussing the devotional life of pastors to be very challenging and helpful. The chapters on the practical ministry of the pastor was also very helpful, the focus on the priority of study and preaching was challenging. The concluding chapters on family and leisure were very hard because it is so easy to say yes to the concerns that feel so pressing, but we cannot neglect our families. Also the discussion of the challenges of the wife of a pastor was really an eye-opener. I felt really convicted to make some changes to intentionally benefit her. It has also helped me to pray for her.

The concluding chapter on the perils and privileges of ministry was a little scary. Completely true but scary. There were twenty pages on perils and only two pages on the privileges. More balance would have been encouraging but it was good to be reminded that there are challenges to ministry that we need to be realistic about.

There are a few drawbacks, at times the advice appears to be based on a culture that is foreign to ours, the Scottish church culture that Derek Prime is so different that the advice isn't all that helpful. Also the chapter on delegation seemed to coming from a couple of pastors that are from large churches who are unfamiliar to the reality of small-church ministry.

But overall what we receive here is a picture of ministry that is word-centered and focused on benefiting the people of God, the undersheperds and enhancing the glory of God. Highly recommended.

PS - this would also be a good read for church members because it would help them understand the pressures their pastors are under, and how they could better encourage them and pray for them.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

John Owen's Echo

As I mentioned in one of my responses recently, I have been reading quite a bit of John Owen lately. I have adopted him as my "witness" from among the great cloud of witnesses to learn from. In this, I am following the advice of John Piper which I heard him offer at a conference of the Jonathan Edwards Institute several years ago. He recommended that we find one theologian/pastor/missionary from church history to study, and to learn all that we can from that person. Of course, it must be someone who is exemplary in conduct and orthodox in teaching. The person must also have enough published writings available to make a thorough study possible. Piper had chosen Jonathan Edwards. At this conference, he held up the two volume copy of Edwards' works published by Banner of Truth and said, "If you can't buy any other book on the book tables, you need to buy these. Don't buy a Piper book. If you've read one Piper book you've read them all. I only have one message that I repeat over and over in every book. Besides, I'm only an echo of Jonathan Edwards." I'll add that having read both men there is no denying the profound influence Edwards has had on Piper, for the glory of God and the splendor of Christ's Bride, the church. After reading several of Owen's works, though my heart's desire is ultimately to be conformed to Jesus Christ, I believe it would honor God if I were but an echo of John Owen. I came across this statement of Richard Daniel's from his book The Christology of John Owen on
…there is one motif so important to John Owen, so often and so broadly cited by him, that the writer would go so far as to call it the focal point of Owen’s theology…. namely, the doctrine that in the gospel we behold, by the Christ-given Holy Spirit, the glory of God "in the face of Christ" and are thereby changed into his image…. (92)

Jamie, I can't think of anything more in line with the vision of this blog: Convinced of the truth that we will become what we focus on. Therefore we focus on beholding Christ in the hope that we will become like Him.

Expect to hear many echos of John Owen in the days ahead.

Josh Owen

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to everybody (both of our readers), I hope that you get to spend the day with family stuffing your face with Turkey and Ham and enjoying some great football (doesn't it seem wrong that we're stuck with the winless Lions on Thanksgiving). But I want to give you a challenge and ask you a question.

First I want to challenge you to take advantage of this opportunity, most of have lost people in our families and this is a guaranteed opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with them. So I think that we should take of this day and seek to share the Gospel.

Second I want to ask a question, in the new polling spirit of the blog (thanks John) I want to ask you who and what you are thankful for. First is there a particular person in church history that you are thankful for, is there a certain family member that you are thankful for, and tell me one thing that you are thankful for in regards to your spouse. Share anything you like those are just a few ideas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The last post I put up asked for readers to tell us their favorite book of the Bible and why it is meaningful. In honor of the week of Thanksgiving, I would like to post another question for you to respond to: What person recorded in the biblical narrative has special significance in your life and why? This is an opportunity to express gratitude to God for the inspired Scriptures that narrated the lives of everyday men and women like you and me to declare the revelation of God. Now once again, I have to lay down some ground rules for a few individuals (i.e. Josh). First, you cannot say "Jesus," and then respond "because he saved me." Every blood-bought believer claims Jesus as the King of our hearts, so with that stated up front you can explore other avenues of gratitude in the narrative of Scripture. Also, if you choose the Apostle Paul, please go into some depth on the explanation as he will most likely be a fan-favorite. Otherwise, have fun and give us two or three heroes of Scripture you are thankful for.

Kung Fu Panda - A Reflection

Last night my family watched Kung Fu Panda. My Dad could and probably should be the president of the Bruce Lee fan club so I kind of have a soft spot for Kung Fu flicks (I grew up convinced that Enter the Dragon was the greatest movie ever made), and the movie was enjoyable, nothing offensive to the kiddo. But there was one hitch that left a bad taste in my mouth. No there wasn't any foul language or nudity or anything like that, but sometimes it is the more subtle things that trip off the radar. And this was one of those moments for me.

It came near the end of the movie when the Panda has really become the Dragon Warrior and has earned the right to see the Dragon Scroll, he opens the scroll that is supposed to give limitless Kung Fu power (pretty cool for any kid under 13) and what he discovers in the scroll is the problem for me, the scroll is simply a blank reflective surface. What the Panda learns is that all the power that he needs is simply to believe in himself. And when he does this he easily beats up the bad guy.

Why is that a problem, don't we want our kids to believe in themselves. To have a healthy self-esteem and self-awareness. Well sure, but part of a truly healthy self-awareness is that we are not truly independent people. I depend on people everyday. I need other people. But the deeper and more troubling angle is that I don't want my kid or yours to be convinced that they have in themselves all they need because the truth is that our kids and everyone of us are desperately dependent on God. We need His strength, we need His Wisdom, we need His forgiveness, we need His daily guidance, we need to experience His love, and the deeper fact is that all we have has been given directly from His kind hand. When we look at the source of hope it is not an inward look. When I look inward I am frightened by what I see, by what I'm capable of. But the true look of hope is an outward look into the face of God, because we see there love and power perfectly mingled. In His kindness He perfectly cares for His covenant people, and in His power He is able to care for them without ever a worry of failure. So lets keep our kids and ourselves from looking at our reflections and instead gaze into the face of God.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Ok, it seems life as usual is kinda slow for the B&B bloggers, and the 2 of you who actually read us are probably wondering why. Ministry and life seem to be extremely busy now for everybody, so I am going to do something a little different for the next few posts to get involvement back up.

For this post, I would like you to respond in the comments and tell me what is your favorite book of the Bible and why? (NOTE: please do not use the cliche 'I love them all.' I am stating up front that every believer loves the whole of Scripture, but some portions have deeper significance and minister to us more than others. Josh this especially goes for you!).

Pick your favorite book (or passage if that suits you) and tell us why it benefits your soul. I hope to see many comments, and I will put my favorite in shortly, and add another post like this next week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Favorite Philosopher

My favorite philosopher once said this,

The only reason I need these gloves is cause of my hands.


The other teams could make trouble for us if they win.


We made too many wrong mistakes.


90% of short putts don't go in.


Why buy good luggage you only use it when you travel.

Give a big round of applause for the unrivaled use of the English language by your favorite and mine, Yogi Berra.

I needed a laugh today and thought I would share.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


As I am reading through E. M. Bounds' wonderful works on prayer, he says this to men (not to exclude women from prayer but to show how pitiful we men are at the discipline):

It is man's business to pray, and it takes manly men to do it. It is godly business to pray, and it takes godly men to do it. And it is godly men who give over themselves entirely to prayer. Prayer is far-reaching in its influence and in its gracious effects. It is intense and profound business which deals with God and His plans and purposes, and it takes whole-hearted men to do it. No half-hearted, half-brained, half-spirited effort will do for this serious, all important, heavenly business.

May God give me and other men out there a burden to be "manly men" who are on our knees in battle for King Jesus!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spurgeon: An Honest Man

Laying on my desk right now is a copy of James Taylor's "Pastors Under Pressure." The book is published by Day One and the Forward is written by Derek Prime. Without reservation, I call it a most solid and helpful book. The table of contents lists the following chapter titles: Identity, Discouragement, Criticism, Loneliness, Dryness, Failure, Temptations, and Moving On...Or Out. Do any or all of these works speak to you? Initially, I wanted to crack a joke about the nature of the book, thinking that every pastor who took the time to read this would laugh at least a little. However, it's Monday morning. Most pastors are not in laughing moods on Mondays...including myself. The issues are too painful for jokes, especially those of the Monday morning variety. Thus, I've decided to simply let the chapter titles speak for themselves.

In talking to pastors on a weekly basis for a number of years, I have come to believe that books like Taylor's are much-needed tools for those in service to God, especially pastors. The chapter titles, while eloquently presented, are sad in that most folks would never think of "their" pastor having to deal with any of the issues listed above. While the pastor's heart is deceitful like everyone else's, it remains sensitive to the high calling we've been give and the natures and struggles of those around us...epecially those under our care. The weight of this is tremendous and can certainly weigh the heart down...even to the point of depression.

I once had the "privilege" of sitting next to a group of about 7 men at a local restaurant. (I recognized a couple of their faces, but they clearly did not know me) My wife was with me and our dinner was supposed to be a night out for a little R and R. Instead, my wife and I got to listen to the men describe the recent departure of the pastor at their church. The discussion was lengthy and mean. It included the following: how easy the job was, how he "wasn't really that good in the pulpit," we paid him more than enough money, he had alot of free time, he'll miss us because we were good to him, and the ever-popular "I wish the Lord would call me to do it so I could show others how to do it." (No, I'm not kidding)

In all fairness, the observance of the ministry and the minister uses at least two different sets of lenses: those in the pew and those behind the pulpit. At the restaurant that particular evening, both sets were present, but only one was clearly represented. My wife gave me the "eye" that clearly said I was to not say anything. I spent my dinner in a crouched position hoping my wife would give me the "go ahead"...but it was never granted. Thus, my dinner and evening were all but ruined.

It's sad, isn't it? Most folks have no idea what pastors and those involved in Christian service go through in the course of the day. I've yet to meet a pastor who cannot identify with the "weight" of the office. I've yet to meet one who hasn't experienced loneliness, criticisms, etc. Some well-meaning folks claim they can understand what the ole pastor is going through...but I'm not sure it's possible for those on the outside. I'm reminded of a quote from a former pastor of mine, "It takes another pastor to truly understand another pastor."

Like many of you, I hold up Spurgeon as one my heroes of the faith. We've all been blessed to feed on the sermons he prepared over a century ago. A blog is not the place to discuss his vast ministry...for there is simply not enough room to cover it all. Many of us have read of his amazing ministry and we probably all have books bearing his name with scores of sentences underlined and highlighted. His sermons are filled with passion, conviction, urgency, However, in reading his "Causes and Cure of Fainting," a sermon he preached in June of 1877, I came across a paragraph where Spurgeon opens his own heart about the painful reality of wanting to "faint" in service to God and the depression that can overtake us all if we're not careful. Pay particular attention to his honesty, hence the title of the blog.

He says,

Yet another frequent cause of faintness is the spirit itself sinking. There is a certain condition, in which the heart seems to go down, down, down, down; I know not how to describe it, but everybody who has ever had that painful experience knows what it is. You can hardly tell why you are so depressed; if you could give a reason for your despondency, you might more easily get over it; but, like David, you cry to your own heart, 'Why are thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?' You try to argue with yourself to find out the reason why you are so despondent, and why you look at the black side of everything, and imagine that things will go amiss which will turn out right after all. Your friends tell you that you are nervous, and there is no doubt you are, but that does not alter the case. I will not blame you; I will, however, say to myself, and urge you to say to yourself, 'Hope thou in God: for thou shalt yet praise him, who is the health of thy countenance, and thy God.' Better still, I pray our sympathizing Saviour to say to you, 'Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me;' and on his loving bosom leave all your sorrows and your cares.

I read this particular part as though he was speaking directly to me...pastor to pastor. I, for one, appreciate his straightforwardness and honesty. Too many books have been written that tell us if we would just love Jesus enough, we'd never have a bad day, bad mood, or bad anything. Today, I entered the office with a heavy heart. Yet, I am encouraged by what I find here. Spurgeon and Taylor have both "been there." And while I'm grateful for plethora of "nuggets" I've gleaned from Spurgeon over the years...I'm particularly grateful for this one I discovered this morning. I'm glad he was honest about it.

Spurgeon's words are timely. I firmly believe the load pastors are bearing will only become heavier. As our nation drifts from her foundation, as churches become increasingly secular, as more and more members fall away from the church, as the Bible is viewed with increasing skepticism, as doctrine is replaced with experiential emotion, and as postmodern thought dismisses truth on virtually every level...the outcome is all but predictable. The truly called pastor sees this...and feels this. The weight is real. To make it through these times, we need to be clinging to God as never before. In the same sermon, Spurgeon warns of trying to stand in our own strength. It will eventually give out, regardless of our giftedness. Let us be honest about what's before us and do all that we can to prepare for our times.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation Day

Oct. 31 1517, an Augustinian Monk nailed a set of theses for debate on the Wittenberg Church door, little suspecting that the world would never again be the same. The Monk's name was Martin Luther and his theses were the beginning of the recovery of the Gospel for the Christian world.

We moderns tend to think of this day as costumes and candy, but we as Christians have shamefully forgotten our heritage. We have forgotten that the Gospel, though never entirely lost, had been pushed into the shadows and God then used Luther to bring His Gospel back into the center. Let us never forget what God did through Luther and the reformers, let us never forget the courage they showed against the Holy Roman Empire. We should be thankful for the sacrifices the made.

I am deeply thankful for what Luther did (and consistently amused by him), and I was wondering how you celebrate this day if you do. And if you haven't in the past do you have any idea's. To give an example my family watches the Luther movie every year on this day. How about you feel free to share, I would like to hear some idea's.


Denny Burk has a great post on his blog ( that contains a video of John Piper, Pastor of Preaching and Vision and Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, discussing the upcoming election and the abortion issue. I would highly encourage all to read it and watch the video as Piper is one of the most helpful pastor / theologians in the church today. Thanks Denny for your great blog, and here is the link:

Thursday, October 30, 2008


If you are anything like me, prayer is a spiritual battle. Communicating with God regularly and intentionally does not come naturally to fallen sinners, mainly because sin itself is substituting something worthless for something worthwhile. Every moment of every day provides numerous distractions that threaten to keep us from praying to our Heavenly Father (even writing a blog!). These distractions, while they might be beneficial and worthwhile, are not the best thing when we ought to be enjoying a time of sweet communion with God. But even if we do pray regularly, are we praying in a way that is “spiritual?” Are the prayers we cast at the feet of our Holy, righteous, loving Father-God prayed from a heart that desires nothing but Him and His glory? I believe that prayer is the window to the condition of a heart. Prayer exposes what truly resides in the affections of our soul, though every earthly eye is blind to it. So what are the “spiritual” things that will flow from a heart soaked in the majesty of Jesus? John Piper in a parenthetical statement gives nine nuggets to wet our appetites, as there are no doubt many more:

1. The Glory of Christ
2. The Hallowing of God’s Name
3. The Salvation of Sinners
4. The Holiness of Our Hearts
5. The Advance of the Gospel
6. Contrition for Sins
7. The Fullness of the Spirit
8. The Coming of the Kingdom
9. The Joy of Knowing Christ

Brothers and sisters, let us lift up spiritual prayers with joy!

(Adapted from John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, p. 139)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Goals and Priorities for Pastors

I fear that too much of thinking about goals and priorities for pastors is influenced by business practices and not informed and shaped by the scriptures. This outline of Goals and Priorities for pastors is taken largely from On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. And they did a great job of going to the Bible for their understanding of goals. Enjoy.

Feed the Flock - John 21:15-17 - When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

Our goal as preachers is to provide spiritual nourishment for the flock entrusted to our care. We do this through faithful preaching of the scriptures.

Proclaim the Whole Will of God - Acts 20:27 - for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

This is once again a call to faithfully preach the Scriptures, but this is a call to preach all the scriptures. We will make God's will for salvation, sanctification and we will do it without hobby-horses or cowardly avoiding difficult truths.

Present Everyone Perfect in Christ - Col. 1:28-29 - Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

We are to strive to motivate every Christian in our care to grow. We are to show them the purposes of God for them in Christ. We as Pastors will be held accountable for this process because we are striving to PRESENT everyone mature in Christ. So our goal is to help them to grow in such a way that we will be able to present them to Christ.

Prepare God's People for Works of Service - Ephes. 4:12 - For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

It is arrogant for us to think that we have all the gifts necessary for the work of the ministry. It is foolish for the flocks we serve to think that we their Pastors have all the gifts necessary. We must take seriously the New Testament teaching on Spiritual Gifts and realize that all of us are necessary and that we all have gifts necessary for accomplishing God's will for our church. We as the Pastors must make it a priority and goal to discern giftedness and empower the people for ministry.

Equip God's People to Be Fishers of Men and Women - John 10:16 - And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

We must be concerned for the flocks participation in the Great Commission, to personally be fishers of men, and for the sheep who have not yet come. Therefore, we teach, we train, and we give an example.

Keep Watch Over Yourself and the Flock until the Task is Complete - Acts 20:28 - Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

We must keep watch over ourselves - they remind us of the greater victory for the Enemy when a Christian leader falls. We are also to help our people run their race, keeping watch over their souls.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Call For Weight Gain

Only heaven knows how many commercials are plastered on our televisions that call for us all to lose weight and build up our bodies. Most of the commercials have both male and female models who look like they been sculpted in museums who would like for us to believe they achieved such physiques doing some exercise on a particular machine for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week! Being more than a little overweight myself, I cannot help but have a natural resentment towards such folks. However, on some of my "weaker" days, I have caught myself looking for the cordless phone before the 800 number disappears from the screen! Complementing the exercise commercials are the diet commercials. These contain famous people and some not so famous smiling into the camera telling us how they've lost 40, 50, 60 pounds or more on this or that plan! The imagery from these things certainly makes an impression and several lines from these commercials have made it into society's vernacular. One of the most memorable is the guy saying, "I gave all of my fat clothes to my fat friends." Gotta hate that guy! Wonder how his fat friends felt about his commercial?

In preaching through Mark's gospel on Sunday mornings at our church, I have encountered some very "weighty" Scriptures. From Jesus forgiving sin to the high costs of discipleship, the weight is unmistakable! Yet, many of America's pulpits have found ways to trim back the weight for the "sake of the hearer!"

It is no secret that modern topical sermons purposefully avoid the biblical doctrines of sin, hell, judgment, and the like. People who preach like this, instead, choose to highlight the "positives" of the gospel. Subjects like heaven, forgiveness, and blessings are all but sure to be Sunday "homeruns." Most conservative preachers have books lining their shelves highlighting this failure committed by thousands each and every Sunday. Tying this in to my introductory comments, one might say the pulpit is "losing weight."

I am now in Mark 8. This is one of the greatest chapters in the book and is certainly a pivotal chapter in the ministry of Christ. Soon, Jesus will turn south and begin a timely journey to Jerusalem, the site of His impending death. After Peter's great confession a memorable scene occurs. Jesus, for the first time, begins to speak concerning what will happen to Him when He gets to Jerusalem. In fact, Mark writes that Jesus spoke plainly about what would happen. It is at this point Peter rebukes Jesus! Matthew's account in chapter 16 sheds a little more light on this rebuke as Peter basically says there is no way he will let this happen to his Master. Jesus sharply rebukes Peter for his outburst for He knows the cross is absolutely necessary for our redemption...something the disciples will come to understand in time.

Immediately following this exchange, Jesus begins to instruct the disciples and the surrounding crowd on the particulars of following Him. It is in this setting we find the remarkable statement by Jesus, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The verses which follow are also weighty as well.

After preaching on these verses, I went home and started thinking about the "weight loss" in America's pulpits. Certain doctrines being purposefully avoided has always been a serious threat to the church. But the problem is bigger than that. By not preaching the high costs of discipleship as well, the door has opened even wider for the shallow and pitiful prosperity guys who plague our country and blast lie after lie from behind their expensive pulpits. Not many today desire to hear sermons about denying ourselves and bearing crosses or, truth be told, following Jesus. To hear some of the big wigs tell it, God's primary concern is blessing you more than He already has. God surely wants you to have 3 instead of 2, 5 instead of 4.

Of course, the well-fed believer knows better. Once you feast upon God's Word, you develop and desire a taste for more of it. Preachers certainly have work to do...but so do those in the pew. It's a great thing to drop some weight here and there. But we must keep in mind, physical weight loss is often good and beneficial to one's body. Weight loss in the pulpit is to everyone's detriment.

This blog is a call to put meat back into the diet from our pulpits! Sweets turn to fat and make us lazy. Same thing happens in churches! The truths of our Lord are sharp, distinct, and powerful. May we be gripped by the words and demands of our Lord. May we share these truths with our people with hearts devoted to Christ. May they see these things in us!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Elder and the Pedophile

Two men entered the First Baptist Church to worship. The first one, an elder, stood to pray and said, "God, I thank you that you have set me apart from the world, and that I am not a homosexual, a drug addict, an abortionist, or a pedophile. I attend church whenever the doors are open and I tithe every week from all my income. Then a pedophile stood to pray and said God have mercy on me for I have sinned.

Then Jesus said that the pedophile went home justified.

If that was as uncomfortable for you to read as it was for me to write then you and I have far too much in common with the unjustified Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14.

Let us beg for forgiveness for our pride and our lack of love and mercy for our fellow sinners.

Lets remember that only difference between us and any sin is the restraining hand of God, not goodness in us.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Love with Eternity in View

I have been reading Hugh Binnings Christian Love very slowly as a devotional aid and I came across this gem that I wanted to share with you.

What an unsuitable thing might a believer think it, to hate someone in this world whom he must love eternally; and to contend and strive with those, even for matters of small moment (importance), with bitterness and rigidity, with whom he shall have an eternal, uninterrupted unity and fellowship. Should we not be assaying here, how that glorious garment suits us? And there is truly nothing makes a man so heaven-like or God-like as this - much love and charity.

Hugh Binning, Christian Love, 27-28.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I have been told repeatedly that reading theology is boring and that church members will not ever read theology, we have to focus on programs and entertainment. Well I don't believe that advice and neither did Buddy Gray. He pastors the Hunter Street Baptist Church where they have started Theology Reading Groups (TRG's), and now over 800 people have read Grudem's Systematic Theology, and other theological works. It sounds absolutely intriguing and encouraging. So, I'm encouraging you to go read the article at Baptist Press.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Gold from Piper

Here is another Quote from Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Christ. I have been pleasantly surprised by the depth and quality of this little book, I highly commend it to you as a devotional resource, your eyes will be turned to the beauty Christ on every page and be led in prayers that will challenge you to a closer walk with God. This reading is in the chapter on the suffering of Christ and I found it to be very powerful, enjoy.

Two great purposes were accomplished in the suffering of Christ, which are really one purpose. First, “Christ . . . suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The suffering of Jesus brought us to God who is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore. Second, in the very hour of death the Father and the Son were glorified. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). Our joy in savoring God and his glory in saving us are one. That is the glory of Christ’s incomparable sufferings.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nutty Idea's Abound

When you are committed to a worldview that values animal life above human life nutty ideas are going to sound plausible. Take for instance the idea proposed by PETA. They are proposing that Ben & Jerry's stop using cow milk for Ice Cream and begin using human mothers milk.

Now first of all this seems a little creepy to me. But think about the logic here. Milking cows is cruel because it causes them to suffer. Ok if milking causes suffering then why is it a better alternative to milk women and cause them to suffer. PETA confirmed for me again what I am convinced they believe, that animals are superior to people.

We simply cannot as Christians hold to a view like that. We are told in the Bible that we are made in the Image of God (Gen. 1:27). This gives us a uniqueness and a dignity that nothing else in this creation has. We must respect that and act accordingly. Our wives, mothers, and daughters are of infinitely greater value than that of any female cow. We are also told that we are to care for the earth as stewards (Gen. 1:28 to begin with). This means that we are to use the resources of the creation in a way that benefits those made in the Image of God, in a way that honors our God the creator, and that does not needlessly destroy what God has made.

Here is the link if you want to read the article

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brian McLaren on the Gospel

Brian McLaren was asked the question, What is the Gospel? Here is his response...

“I think this is where it gets interesting because one of the ways that what we do becomes colonization, when we’re going to represent a religion and trying to make converts to a religion… but the good news isn’t the good news of Christianity, it’s the good news of the Kingdom of God. And I think that Fatmire [Muslim peace activist also present at conference and sitting next to him on the panel] working for peace, is an agent for peace, and I’d much rather her be working for peace being who she is than… becoming a person in a church worrying about the list over there on that wall. [on “the list” are things non-essentials like speaking in tongues, etc.)

So, to me there’s something we really have to grapple with about whether the border of a religion is the border of the kingdom of God. And I think that’s a question we’d be wise to raise. I liked what you said about there not being despair when you’re among the extremely needy people. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we found out that God is present wherever there’s suffering because God is there bringing healing and God is really present wherever people are working against injustice because that’s the work of God, wherever people are working for peace. And then the we find that the place that God isn’t is where you have a bunch of affluent people who are self-absorbed… and that wouldn’t surprise me why they would get depressed, because, in some way, it’s not that God isn’t present but they’re snoring through the presence of God.”

First off how do you respond to the question What is the Gospel by jumping immediately to colonization, that betrays a great deal about where he's at.

Second, how can the Good News not be the Good News of Christianity. When Jesus was asked the question how can one know the way He responded in this way.

John 14:6-7 - Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [7] If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

When Jesus was giving His disciples their last command before His ascension, He did not command that we all become peace activists, He commanded that we, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20)

I am not denying that we have a calling to help the poor, but our primary calling is to share the Good News of Jesus substitutionary death, His death that brings us forgiveness, and reconciliation with the Father. How can any news compare with this, how can any calling compare with the privilege of sharing the news that will spare people eternal torment and grant them eternal life in the presence of God.

McLaren appears to be fleeing the shame of conversionist Christianity, let us embrace the conversionist Christianity of our Savior, and lets close with His words.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

The Excellence of Christ

I have been reading Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper and I have been really been impacted by the book. Over the coming days I will share with you some of the great quotes from this fantastic book. I want to begin with a passage describing the excellence of Christ as seen in His mixture of excellencies.

For example, we admire Christ for his transcendence, but even more because the transcendence of his greatness is mixed with submission to God. We marvel at him because his uncompromising justice is tempered with mercy. His majesty is sweetened by meekness. In his equality with God he has a deep reverence for God. Though he is worthy of all good, he was patient to suffer evil. His sovereign dominion over the world was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission. He baffled the proud scribes with his wisdom, but was simple enough to be loved by children. He could still the storm with a word, but would not strike the Samaritans with lightning or take himself down from the cross.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Last Sunday at the church I am attending, I saw a clip from the new movie coming out in theatres called "Fireproof." This movie is produced by the same group that brought us "Facing the Giants" a few years back and its lead character is played by "Growing Pains" child star Kirk Cameron. In an interview with the Today show, he told how even though the movie script called for him kissing the actress who played his on-screen wife, producers had to use some "Hollywood magi" because of a commitment to only kiss his real-life wife of 17 years. He states:
“The reason this movie was important to me personally is because I love my wife dearly,” he said. “We’ve been married for 17 years … and we have six children. So marriage is a very special and sacred thing to us. In a day and age where marriage is falling apart, we want to make movies and projects that really uphold and have a high view of that which is beautiful and wonderful in our culture.”

This is a radical statement in our day, and I thank God for a man like Kirk Cameron who will stand on his convictions in the public eye. This is a picture of the Gospel to every husband as we should too seek to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Here is the link to the full article and the video interview, both of which I encourage you to check out. I am also excited to see "Fireproof" with my wife, and I pray husbands reading this will do the same.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Reflections on Humility by C. J. Mahaney

I just finished reading Humility and it one of the rare books that I am sad to finish. It was a deeply challenging book that I wish every Christian would read and I am certain that every Christian would benefit from.

Mahaney defines Humility as “honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” I found that definition to be powerful. It was a humbling experience to be forced to realize that because of my sinfulness I deserve death and hell, that is what I deserve yet God has chosen to show me grace and mercy through the Cross of His Son. So when I look at all the good in my life I am forced to confess that I can take credit for none of it. It is all simply an opportunity to praise the goodness of my great God.

Two of Mahaney’s strengths shine in this book; he is always a gracious and is open about his own struggles. The book is not written as a learned treatise from a man who portrays himself as a paradigm of humility, rather as a shared education from a proud man pursuing humility urging us to join him in that pursuit.

Mahaney is also intensely practical. Throughout the book there is guidance on how to cultivate the attitude of humility. I found especially helpful his guidance on how to start the day and I am already benefiting from it. He advises that we should begin each day acknowledging our dependence on God and expressing gratefulness to Him. There is a great deal of practical guidance of this nature throughout the book. But starting the day in this fashion has changed the nature of how I face the obstacles of the day, how I approach the appointments and duties of each day, they are no longer seen as opportunities to work or to accomplish things or even simply to do what must be done; but rather as opportunities to rest in God’s strength and to see Him at work.

I commend this book to you and all the work of C. J. Mahaney. May God Bless him and preserve him so that he can continue to be a conduit of blessing to the church.

Able to Rebuke

The battle for the Bible is not over, friends. I was reminded of this in a painful way this morning. At a Baptist pastors' gathering this morning, the keynote speaker called Paul's words "opinion" because they were spoken by Paul, "not the Lord." He went on to make other remarks that confirmed his low view of Scripture. A mild reproof in love was offered when he finished.

We young evangelicals like to believe that our fathers' fight is not ours. Let's remember that the battle for the integrity of God's word began in Eden ("Did God really say . . .?"). The people of God have been tempted by the worldly-wise and numerous other seductions to disregard the word of God in faith and practice in every generation.

This occasion was a stirring reminder to me of Paul's words to Titus that an elder must "hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."

Monday, September 15, 2008


Today I was out in my car and caught the tail end of the Albert Mohler program on my radio. He was discussing a shocking announcement made this past week by a well-known Christian singer that he was in fact gay. The problem was I tuned in too late to hear Mohler state exactly who was being discussed. I now know that he was talking about one of the most famous Christian singers of the 80s and 90s, Ray Boltz. I have Boltz 2 volume greatest hits downstairs in my basement. I remember numerous Fourth of July celebrations using his song "I pledge Allegiance to the Lamb." I still tear up listening to the song "Watch the Lamb," as I contemplate my Savior going to His death for my sins. Needless to say, this news is shocking to me.

I am broken by this as a fan of his music. He believes Himself to be a "gay Christian." This is the way God made Him. He states at the end of an interview with a Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) magazine that “This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself."

Here is what we need to take away from this: 1. It is possible to point others to the redeeming work of Christ on the Cross that removes our sins and calls us to trust and repentance, yet never truly be changed personally. I have seen Ray Boltz's concerts lead many to understand the gospel, yet he himself has apparently missed the point the whole time. The gospel is not about accepting ourselves the way we are as he seems to believe; it is about Christ dying for us as we are to mold us and make us like He is. The gospel is about Jesus loving us enough to NOT leave us as we are, but change us into His glorious likeness. 2. We should not throw stones, but instead pray for him and his family. I am concerned about a person who lives in a homosexual lifestyle and sees no problem with it in view of Scripture. But I am concerned about his soul more than anything else. He is implicitely stating that he sees no sin in the homosexual lifestyle, thus believing God now loves him because he has accepted the "truth" about himself. Yet the Bible reveals the real truth about ourselves as sinners in need of redemption from our sins, not acceptance of them. Satan is the deciever and Scripture reminds us that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God," (2 Cor. 4:4). Could it be that what he "feels" as God's acceptance is really the sinister work of the Serpent who decieved our first parents in the Garden?

I am going to bed tonight praying for Ray Boltz. If you would like to read the full article (WARNING: website may be graphic and offensive to readers), here is the link:

I also encourage you to check our and listen to the Monday broadcast.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reflection on “When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem"

Richard Mouw is an author and theologian that I have found to be both insightful and frustrating. I can sometimes read him and discover new truths about Scripture that delight my heart; then other times I stand at a distance unable to follow his lead. In a word, he is the kind of author I love to read because he is never boring and will always force me to reconsider every preconceived notion I have developed. “When the Kings Come Marching In” is case and point. The book is not a commentary on Isaiah’s vision of the New Jerusalem (though it certainly could function in that respect) as much as it is a treatise developing the proper understanding of cultural involvement in this life for Christians. He asks the question that will guide the thrust of the entire book: “How ought Christians to (sic) understand the proper patterns of their cultural involvement,” (p. 3). By cultural involvement he means the broad sweep of cultural life including but not limited to economical, political, artistic, educational, etc. And he believes that the Bible has a multifaceted view on culture that cannot be restricted to only one particular attitude. Thus he uses the vision of Isaiah 60 to show how God would have believers live now in light of what is to come.

I found this book incredibly helpful in many respects. For one, it provided me a reminder of the biblically correct view we must hold of our heavenly destination. Too many Christians today wrongly believe in a bodiless heaven that looks more like Greek philosophy than Scripture. It is true that at death the soul is separated from the body, but that is an unnatural effect of sin that God never intended and will one day redeem through the finished work of Christ. Mouw rightly reminds us that “Christians’ bodiless presence with the Lord is not the final state of blessedness. Our ultimate goal is to be raised up for new life in which we will realize our true destinies as followers of Jesus Christ,” (p. 19). But even with that in mind, Isaiah’s view of heaven is not limited to “me and my state of being,” but he is interested in the future of corporate structures and cultural patterns. Mouw points us to the presence of the ships of Tarshish and the goods and commodities from across the globe being brought into the heavenly city in worship to God. The question we must ask is how can God allow instruments of pagan nations and sinful uses be brought into God’s new city for His glory? Mouw answers, “God’s present attitude, then, toward these instruments of culture is an ambivalent one. As tools of human rebellion and objects of idolatrous trust, he hates them, and he warns his people not to be contaminated by them. But he hates them because of their present uses. And his hatred will lead him to transform them into proper instruments of service,” (p. 32).

A second blessing I received from this book is the full picture Mouw provides of the role of Christians now in culture and society in light of our role to come in eternity. He believes that believers need a complex perspective on culture and society, especially government, because of the complexities of a world created by God, fallen from God, and being rescued by God’s redeeming work in Christ. He clarifies: “What we must show present-day political authority is honor, because we recognize that it is called to perform an important ministry. But as those who know the radicality of the sin that presently affects both individuals and structures, we can only properly ‘honor’ political authority today by constantly calling it to perform the kind of ministry that God requires of all those who administer human affairs,” (p. 68).

The final point that I will mention regarding this book’s helpfulness to my soul is how it consistently and accurately pointed me to the centrality of Christ in all of Scripture and culture. In fact, I walked away from this book with a broader view of Christ’s redeeming work. He critiques a problem he sees in many Christian circles today, which is as he states it giving “full reign to the blood of Christ within a limited area,” (p. 111). This limitation is done by seeing Christ’s transforming power only within the scope of human lives. Mouw observes that Christ’s redemptive work applies to a broader reach of the cultural and societal patterns of the world. In a longer quote, he defines this in a most helpful way: “In an important sense, then, the ‘world,’ the cosmos, which Jesus came to save was bigger than the world he originally created. Not only did this world contain many more people than had populated the original Garden, but it was filled with the languages, habits, ideas, beliefs, customs, social organizations, inherited artifacts, technical processes, and values to which (Richard) Niebuhr refers. And then items were touched by human rebellion. They comprise sinful culture. But they do belong t the fullness of the cosmos for which Christ died; ‘for God sent the Son into the cosmos, not to condemn the cosmos, but that the cosmos might be saved through him’ (John 3:17),” (p. 113).

I do not agree with everything Mouw states in this book, but I am walking away from it with many more questions and challenges to my views of Christ and culture. And I have already adjusted some of those views thanks to Mouw, particularly in that while believers should not be centrally focused on changing culture, we should be looking to the redeeming of culture that God will bring. This is a hope that allows us to seek small glimpses of that transformation today.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reading Habits for Growth

I feel that the reading of books is personally a powerful aspect of my commitment to spiritual growth (not to replace or compete with the primary Spiritual Disciplines of Bible-reading and Prayer). However, like everything else in the Christian life we must be intentional about what we are doing. Growth in Christ never happens by accident. Sometimes it looks really confusing, but the seeds were sown and harvested, now I am not denying the work of the Holy Spirit in our growth. Nor am I denying the sovereignty of God in our spiritual lives, rather as a wise man once said, "we should trust God and keep our powder dry." Trust in the sovereignty of God should empower us and encourage us to strive to grow spiritually.

I think that this means that we should have a reading plan. I have combined the advice of John Stott and Albert Mohler personally and at the end of the post I will share my personal reading plan, not to exalt myself but simply to give an example of an intentional reading plan. John Stott says that every pastor should read for an hour every day, thus underscoring the importance of reading. Albert Mohler says that the pastor (I also think that this advice is helpful for all Christians) should read broadly and consistently in different categories.

I think we need to be careful to read toward our needs. For example, I read three books at a time, I have discerned three needs that I need to be addressing perpetually. I think that we need to have our minds informed and challenged. So I try to always be reading what I call a brain book. I also need to have my heart inflamed toward Christ. I call this my heart book, I try to identify authors and theme's that feed my soul (Christian biographies have proved especially powerful), we all need this in a continual manner. My last book is a book to keep my imagination alive, I am always reading a book of fiction or history to keep the old imagination alive and well. This is very important for a pastor, to stave off dryness or an overly academic air sneaking into the pulpit. I think that we also need to read toward our unique ministry calling. So if you are a pastor, read a book about being a pastor, the same for youth ministry or prayer ministry.

To get a little narrower, we need to read in different categories for our minds. As a pastor I have identified several categories that I must be reading in at all times, it functions as a rotation for my brain book. My categories are Theology, Biblical Studies, Church History, Practical ministry, Philosophy/apologetics, and the puritans.

Now in conclusion I want to explain why I shared so much of my personal reading habits. It's not because I think that mine are exemplary, far from the truth. I am really convicted about the need to be intentional in our reading habits, which is why I wrote this weird post in the first place, but it is also the reason that I shared so much simply to give an example of an effort to be intentional. The second reason is that I want you all to share your reading plan and give me some counsel on how I can improve.

Along these lines give a listen to the Mahaney, Harris, and Purswell.

Friday, September 12, 2008


The book of Revelation is therefore an incredibly important book because it is a book about Jesus, no less than the four Gospels, and the primary book that reveals to us the picture of Jesus in heaven today as opposed to on the earth yesterday. Sadly, the book of Revelation has become the fishing pond for Christian wingnuts with an affinity for goofy charts to string together endless debates about what the mark of the beast is, who the antichrist is, and whether or not locusts are really code word for Blackhawk helicopters. Such people need both new hobbies and the right meds. Revelation is a book about Jesus and emphatically declares that in the opening line of the book, which describes the entire book as "the revelation of Jesus Christ."

- Mark Driscoll, Vintage Jesus, p. 150

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Review of Atheism Remix by Albert Mohler

I want to begin by saying that I am biased. I am a student of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of which Dr. Mohler is president. I am also a regular listener to his radio show. Basically I’m a fan. Now in regards to the content of the book; I am a Theist, a Christian, an Evangelical, and a Baptist. Now with all (maybe not) of my biases on the table, let me say this is a good book. In a very succinct way Dr. Mohler addresses and exposes the errors of the New Atheists. A worthwhile read.

The New Atheists that Dr. Mohler highlights are what he calls the four horsemen of the atheist apocalypse. They are in no particular order Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. He selects these four due to popularity and book sales. These are the first atheists to really strike a chord in popular culture instead of simply remaining in a passionate minority, the book sales show that something new is happening.

These four are serving as something new, they are evangelists for atheism. Not content to sit in ivory towers among other elites they are taking their message of non-belief on the road. They are bold, they are consciously rejecting faith in any God but the Christian God in particular, and they believe that theism of any kind is a cultural evil (to different extents) and that it should and will be eradicated. They also believe that it is time to abandon religious liberty (once again to different extents) since faith in God is so dangerous and they go so far as to question the right of parents to teach faith in God to their children.

Dr. Mohler evaluates the critiques of both Alistair McGrath and Alvin Plantinga. He finds both extremely helpful but underwhelming because both share the New Atheists acceptance of evolutionary theory. So in conclusion he contends that we must not advocate of defend the idea of God, but rather the personal God who has revealed Himself in the Bible.

Mohler is careful to point out that most of the people that we will share the Gospel with are not going to identify with the New Atheists, but they may be aware of their arguments and be influenced by them. However the New Atheists have picked the right battle. It is only the personal, supernatural God of the Bible that matters, and that is worth all the fuss.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lordship of Christ

"There is not an of any sphere of life over which Jesus Christ does not say, Mine."
- Abraham Kuyper

Sunday, September 7, 2008


For the last month, I have enjoyed the opportunity to sit and hear preaching instead of being the preacher. As I am waiting for God’s direction into a new pulpit, I am striving to discover and demonstrate the marks of a healthy church member (or attendee as is the case currently). I think bare minimum that includes serving in the church and supporting the pastor, though we could discuss many elements. But in this season of sitting under another man’s pulpit ministry, I have asked myself the question, “what should be happening to me as I come and hear the Word of God proclaimed?” Too often I have been guilty of coming to worship, taking my seat, singing the song, listening to the message and then going home. But should I not go into the house of God with an expectation to leave differently? Should not every Sunday be an exercise of sanctification for my soul? In asking these questions I have come to understand that there should be at least three results evident after I have sat under the Word of God

1. The mind should be INFORMED. Regardless of what church you go to, true preaching is a monologue. It is a proclamation of truth that demands a response, but that response is demanded AFTER the facts have been declared. Too many believers today hold low standards of expectations for the preaching of God’s Word. “Just give us that good ol’ gospel preaching.” Now I love the gospel, but knowing the gospel and loving the gospel is a lifelong endeavor. Paul always preached the gospel, yet gave practical insights into the daily lives of believers. We should expect to come to church and learn new truths or discover old truth in new light. Now this means that if I walk away from the preaching without my mind informed, one of two problems has occurred. It could be that the preacher has not effectively done his job. God’s Word must stretch him before it stretches me. Too often pastors fall to the extreme of preaching a commentary they have read the week prior. I fear that too many preachers spend more time studying their commentaries than the text of Scripture. Or the opposite extreme is that they treat the message as an emotional pep talk or entertainment platform. In this case performance and relevance overshadow the text of Scripture. But let me be honest at this point. I have sat under preachers who may be less than par according to my preferences, but are faithful men who love Jesus and study the Word to be approved workmen. More often than not the reason my mind is not informed is because I am not engaged in the Word. Satan is not just a deceiver and a destroyer, he is a distracter. So many times the worship experience itself is spiritual warfare and I must fight the good fight. Every true gospel message, even by the poorest of preachers, will provide some nugget of truth that I can store up in my mind and walk away amazed at the glory of Jesus.

2. The heart should be REFORMED. The Bible has a great deal to say about my heart, and for the most part it declared how corrupt and wicked it is apart from Jesus. Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” That is a fearful thought when I look at what lies within my heart. I think Proverbs 4:23 captures it clearly in saying, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” So when I come to worship something should happen in my heart. My mind can be informed, but if my heart stays the same then I have not truly been impacted by the Word of God. Every time we come to the text of Scripture, whether publicly or privately, the goal should be to leave differently than when we came. Reform is a change; it is taking a shape that already exists and making it better. So in this case, it is taking my sinful, corrupt heart and reshaping it to be more like the heart of Jesus. My prayer every Sunday should beg Jesus to change my heart to be like His. I believe that many who read this post are pretty good at the informing part of preaching, but here is where we truly need God to give us grace.

3. The life should be TRANSFORMED. While this result may only result after the first two are accomplished, this is the only one that has visible evidence. Only God will see the first two; here is where we can worship by edifying other believers in Christ. If the Word of God consistently affects my life and how I go through each day, that will be seen by others and will build them up by saying, “if God can do this in me He can and will do it in you too.” If you and I were to leave worship this Sunday, go home and meditate on the text for the morning, praying that God would give us grace to become more like Jesus, and then go to work or school living out that reality, what would be the result among our peers? My prayer tonight is that God will take the Word I hear on Sunday and allow me to live it on Monday. How about you?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Prayerlessness worse than adultery

I've been reading John Owen's treatise on the mortification of sin. Owen is incredibly comprehensive and Christ-centered. At one point he pondered why God does not immediately remove some besetting sin as soon as we implore Him. He answered with the following points.

First, our struggle with some particular sin is usually caused by a general failure to "watch" our relationship with God. A man's struggle with sexual lust may not be caused by television, movies or a scantily clad co-worker, but by a general neglect of prayer and the regular hearing of the word of God.

Second, the propensity to neglect our relationship with God should be more grievous to us than the frustration of any particular lust.

Third, quite to the contrary, we are often unaffected by the neglect of our relationship to God, while we come under terrible conviction for succumbing to particular lusts.

Finally, Owen suggested that for this reason God does not remove the besetting sin from us. Instead, he uses the conviction of this particular sin to awaken us to our poor general condition. This sin actually becomes the occasion for a renewal (even if brief) of our pursuit of that relationship, as we come to God, confessing our sin and weakness, praising His mercy and grace, and clinging to the Crucified as our only hope.

Indeed, God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose. Once again I am reminded that I am a studied sinner and Christ is a steadfast Savior.