Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reflections after the Revival

One of the first things I noticed when I preached at Grace was the awkwardness of not being at Sidney. I had not realized how close that we had become until I was preaching somewhere else. The first few minutes were downright uncomfortable. Praise God that was overcome, but it did give me a new appreciation for my flock.

A Pastor and the church he serves develop a special relationship. I love preaching pure and simple, it is the greatest privilege that God has given me in His service, but I love best of all preaching to my church family. Its like after being married after awhile a husband and wife develop a kind of shorthand, being able to say much more with fewer words, sometimes with just a look. I didn't have that kind of shorthand at Grace, I wasn't sure what they had heard, what I needed to to explain in detail and what was a new concept to them. Whereas here at Sidney I know what you have heard for the last year and a half, and that allows us some freedom in the directions that we move. And you are probably the only people that even try to laugh at my jokes. (Thank you for that)

So I guess I'm trying to say that I enjoyed getting to preach my first revival (Mark if you're reading thanks so much for the opportunity) but I miss you all at Sidney. I love you dearly and I am eager to get to worship with you again and to share with you again the Word of God.

Replacing Sinful Thoughts with Godly Thoughts

This past Sunday night our church began working through a wonderful book titled "Returning to Holiness." Written by Greg Frizzell of the General Baptist Convention of Oklahoma, it stands out because of how shockingly simple it is in format yet crushing in how it penetrates the soul. The book divides into seven chapters, each dealing with a particular category of sin that Scripture speaks to in the Christian life. Each chapter is filled with topical Scripture verses that are relevant to the sin issue at hand, immediately followed by an admonition concerning the danger of that sin's continual residence in the believer's heart. He then provides questions that are intended to help examine the depth of our hearts as we prayerfully consider if confession and repentance are necessary. I must confess, I have numerous pages in my journal already filled from sins revealed to me!

This past week our first subject was "sins of thought." I preached from Psalm 119:15-16: "I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy Word." The question I posed was this: how can we remove old, worldly, sinful thoughts that hinder our walk with Christ and replace them with thoughts honoring to Him. I presented a simple outline of four words, followed by a summary statement:

1. Read: The Art of Dwelling upon God's Word
2. Reflect: The Art of Doing God's Word
3. Rejoice: The Art of Delighting in God's Word
4. Remember: The Art of Devoting God's Word to Memory

All four must be a consistent presence in our daily lives to do battle against the sins of thought Satan will thrust our way. As Frizzell said in the book, "you cannot love God and not love His Word." And may I add, point three is the crucial element. If you simply have reading, reflecting, and remembering the word of God in your life, you will be a blissful legalist. Pharisees can do all of those quite well. Only a Jesus loving, Spirit filled, sanctification hungry Christian can find joy in opening the Bible for the purpose of raking out the sinful thoughts of lust, pride, greed, etc, and replace them with God's Truth. May God grant us all that grace!

Book Recommendation – Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life - Whitney

When you hear a word like Discipline I think we immediately begin to resist and conjure up images of doing thankless tasks without reward or joy. And this is where Donald Whitney’s book shines so clearly. He has taken the title and thrust of his book from I Timothy 4:7 where Paul writes “Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness.” (NASB) Dr. Whitney holds out for us the outcome and that is Godliness, Christ-likeness. We are often willing to go through some absurd hardships for things that bring us joy. Men practice for hours learning how to swing a golf club because they enjoy the outcome of being good at golf. In this book we are shown some of the avenues available to us to grow into godliness where true and lasting joy are available.

The Disciplines that are discussed are as follows; Bible Intake, Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Serving, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence and Solitude, Journaling, and Learning. Some of the Disciplines discussed at the beginning of the book are the more traditional and familiar, and he does an excellent job showing us how we can pursue godliness through these practices. As the chapters go on we get into more unfamiliar territory and I think that this is a real benefit for us. We are exposed to new Disciplines that can aid our pursuit of conformity to the image of Christ.

I will not belabor this post but I want to recommend this book very highly. This would make a great book for your summer reading. Helping you to get refocused on our calling to grow into the image of Christ.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Great Summary of Essential Truth

This quote comes from The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander,

They say that we must “Make sure people know that God is our holy Creator and righteous Judge; that we have all sinned against Him, offending His holy character, alienating ourselves from Him, and exposing ourselves to His righteous anger; that He sent Christ to die the death that we deserved for our sins; that Christ’s death and resurrection is the only way to be reconciled to the one true God; and that we must respond to this Good News by repenting of our sins and believing in the Gospel if we would be forgiven by God, reconciled to Him, and saved from the wrath to come. Make sure people know that they must persevere in a lifestyle of repentance and belief, displaying an increasingly loving and holy lifestyle that proves that we are His disciples.”

This passage was directed toward church leaders but I believe that serves as a core of what we all must cling to and I thought that I would share it with you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Here We Go! (First Blog for John)

This is my first entry on a blog that I am proud to have joined. The title itself (though Jaimie ripped it off of another pastor!) conveys the essence of the Christian journey as far as I can see. Our passion as believers must be centered upon beholding the glory of God in Christ and becoming more and more shaped into His image (1 John 3:1-3). My prayer and petition most Sundays as I stand behind the pulpit ofthe church I pastor is this: "Lord grant for me and this flock I have been entrusted to look more like Jesus today than we did yesterday." I confess that it is a simple prayer and xontains nothing profound, yet I believe it contains what is the heartbeat of our daily Christian walk.

Let me ask you a question I am asking myself. This morning (if you do your devotionals in the morning), was your goal to read Scripture for the sake of knowledge, or to seek more conformity to the image of Christ? Absolutely we should seek to know God more and more, and that only comes through reading and meditating on Scripture. But isn't the end to which we are engaging in the text so that we might be continually "transormed BY the renewing of our minds" (Rom. 12:2). Now I do not practice this as well as I ought, but tomorrow I plan to rise early, brew a hot cup of Joe in my trusty Bun coffee maker, sit down with my Bible and pen, NOT simply read the Bible and know a little bit more than I did before, but to pray I might be shaped a bit more to look like the Savior who purchased me by His own blood. I pray you do the same.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Art of Manfishing by Thomas Brooks

The Art of Manfishing is a very surprising book. When I read in the foreword that it was written by a twenty-two year old man who was not yet a Pastor it is an astounding work. I remember what I was capable of at twenty-two and it puts the book into a different light. As a book of the puritan era it differs a great deal from the kind of books that we tend to write these days. A whole book expounding one small verse is unheard of. Yet that is exactly what I found here. Brooks is expounding the statement from the Gospels that we are to follow Christ and He would make us fishers of men.

Maybe reflecting the pragmatic spirit of the age I was most taken with part two of the book where Brooks explains how a minister may come by the art of Manfishing. The last chapter was the most brilliant portion of the book. Here he looks at the life of Christ and His dealing with sinners and lays out for us what it means to be a fisher of men.

First, Christ took not on Him the work of preaching the Gospel without a call. Second, Christ designed His Fathers glory in the work. This is a powerful reminder in our day with all the focus on church growth and there seems to be an attitude that whatever works is good. Brooks reminds us that in all our efforts at leading people to Christ the goal is the glory of God and we must use methods that bring honor to God. Third, Christ had the good of souls in His eye. The mindset of putting notches in the belt or scalp-hunting does not honor God and it certainly is not real love for the lost. Instead we must have a Spirit-given burden and love for those who are still separated from Christ. Fourth, Christ had not only the good of souls before His eyes but He was much affected with their case. Fifth, Christ was much in Prayer. A greater dedication to praying for the lost would certainly be a benefit to others and would benefit us as well. We also need to be reminded that it does not depend on our cleverness for people to be saved. It is not our skill in apologetics that souls depend on, rather it God making sinners dead in sins and trespasses alive together with Christ. Sixth, Christ condemned the world. A greater and deeper death to the world is needed in all our lives. Death to our need for approval, death to our need for people to like us, death to our avoidal of contention. Christ come and kill our pretensions. Seventh, Christ was useful to souls in His private converse. We must lay aside conversations that are only frivolous, talk of football and other kinds of nonsense is fine if there are also serious conversations that are urging one another to greater love and devotion to Christ.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reading Poll

I have a curiosity to exercise today. I am curious what kind of reading most of us do. So today I would like to ask what was the last book you read from cover to cover.

I wills start with my own, the last book I read from cover to cover was Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God.

Now I want you to click on the comments area and let's discuss our books and reading habits.

Apologies and Prayer Requests

I want to apologize to the readers of the blog that there haven't been many posts of late. My wife's grandfather passed away this week and we've been absorbed with preparations and family who have come in. So there are the apologies. Also be praying for the family, there is going to be a great deal of grieving to do, but hopefully no worldly grieving since her grandfather was a believer.

So pray for our family but pray that the grieving process would be healthy and that their would be tears of joy mingled in the tears of loss.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Mystery of the Trinity

I have been reflecting on the trinity recently and how some have tried to explain it. For example Jonathan Edwards (I’m not bashing the man, I deeply appreciate him) Essay on the trinity attempts to explain the Trinity. He describes Jesus as the reflection of the Father and the Spirit as the effusion of love that they share. This kind of explanation seems unwise because it would seem to diminish the real personhood of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Please don’t think that I am denying the Trinity. I am most certainly not. I believe that the Trinity is one of those bottom floor truths that are essential to Christianity being Christianity. I believe that the Trinity is taught clearly in Scripture. Let’s peek at a few passages for example:

John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Matthew 28:19 - 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, (singular name)

1 Cor. 12:4-6 - Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (Lord is a divine title)

I would also like to mention Wayne Grudem’s excellent summary of the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity.

1) God is three persons
2) Each person is fully God
3) There is one God (From Systematic Theology, page 231)

If we stray from any these statements – we are straying from a necessary truth.
I think that our problem with explaining the Trinity is two-fold. First it is completely outside our experience. We know of nothing in our lives that corresponds to a being who is truly one but exists in three real persons. Many of the examples we give like the candle (wick, wax, and flame) or water (ice, water, and mist) either deny the oneness of the trinity or it denies the real personhood of each member of the trinity.

Second we have to admit the fact that we are limited finite creatures. God is not a man. We are made in His image but we are not gods. So there are going to be things that are simply beyond the ability of our limited minds to grasp. As Thomas Watson said “the plumbline of reason is too short to fathom this mystery.” (From his Body of Divinity) For another example think of the teaching of scripture that God is sovereign, yet man is responsible. There some truths that will simply not be able to understand until we have glorified bodies and minds.

So what do I think is the solution? I think that we must affirm the Trinity as it is taught in the Bible, we must state the truth as it is stated in the Bible, then I think that we refrain from trying to explain how it works. Any analogy from this world that we try to use will simply be too limited to accurately explain this beautiful doctrine.

Let us behold the Trinity, celebrate the Trinity, preach the Trinity, worship the Triune God, and look forward to the day when we are better able to understand how this relationship works.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Vicarious Greatness – On Being a Fan

I am a sports fan. Here at Sidney we have many sports fans. Why? Why are we sports fans? For example I am a fan of the New England Patriots. Why? I have never played for the Patriots, I have never worked for the Patriots, and I have never had a relative play for the Patriots.

Now I think that if we go to a little league and see moms and dads screaming at umpires we get that don’t we. Even if we think that some of what they do is distasteful. Those people are passionate because they are passionate about their kids. But what about college and sports teams. Why do we follow certain teams and not others, and why do we care at all.

I have a theory. It’s what I call vicarious greatness. When the Patriots won their three super bowls I got to celebrate. I got to harass my wife (a Jets fan) because my team won even though I had never played a down of football. I get to share in something that I could never do myself. I could never throw a football like Tom Brady, or tackle like Tedy Bruschi. But because I am their fan I get to share in their greatness. I feel great because of my connection to them.

This can be healthy and unhealthy. Healthy in the sense that our teams can inspire us to attempt challenging things and there is the entertainment value (when it is not crude or vulgar). But it can be unhealthy if we are so invested in these teams that we find more joy in there successes and little joy in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.

We must not allow our hopes and dreams to be tied up in am athletic team that we are not involved in. Be entertained but have your own dreams. Live your own life. Attempt great things for God. Be inspired by the hard work of athletes, but let that inspiration drive to set goals and work hard at achieving those goals.

P.S. – Now I want to share with you where I learned the uncommon word vicarious. It is in my study of the Cross of Christ. Christ’s death in our place was a vicarious death, earning a vicarious atonement. He bears our sins in our place as a substitute. Then when we come to Him in repentance and faith, because of what He did we get forgiveness of our sins. Like Brady’s passing it has absolutely nothing to do with my ability or effort, it is a free gift offered by the One who suffered in our place.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God – C.J. Mahaney

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend. He told me that this was a great book for husbands, as we try to be good husbands. The other issue is that in every marriage there is usually some tension surrounding sex. Think of all the jokes you know about sex in marriage. All the jokes about women and their late night headaches, men and them being like animals. These stereotypes are funny but unhealthy and Mahaney has given us a much more balanced and Biblical view of sex within marriage. One warning for men though, of you this book is a book of techniques for making you a better lover or simply getting you more sex, you will be sadly mistaken. That may indeed be the outcome but the approach is much different.

The book begins by saying that every marriage should have a great sex life. Hear what Mahaney has to say, “It is God’s desire that every Christian couple, including you and your wife, regularly enjoy the best, most intimate, most satisfying sexual relations of which humans are capable. We’re talking really, really good sex.” He is pointing to the truth that sex is part of God’s good creation. Sex is not a dirty thing that we must simply do for the purpose of having children. It is also not a thing that we should feel guilty for enjoying. It is a gift from God for the good of every marriage.

Then Mahaney spends some time explaining what marriage is. He points to Ephesians 5 for the Biblical understanding of what marriage is and what’s its purpose is. He says that every marriage is to reflect the amazing truth that every marriage is to reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church. This points to many things but most fundamentally it means that as the Christ-Church relationship exists for the Glory of God so does the marriage relationship.

Mahaney then gives us his bottom floor truth; before we touch our wife’s body we must touch her heart and mind. This is where the second word of the title comes in; he is telling us that we must romance our wives. This is not something that we do to win a wife, but rather to win and then cherish her. We are to pursue her for the entirety of our marriages. Ephesians 5 tells us husbands that we must love our wives as Christ loved the Church. This means sacrificial leadership. Mahaney tells us that this means that we must study our wives to see what surprises and delights her. We MUST touch her heart and mind. This is important because of the difference between men and women. Generally men are more visual and physical, whereas women are more relational and emotional. This applies to the way we experience intimacy. We must love our wives the way they experience intimacy and feel cherished and loved and not expect them to feel and respond the way we as men do.

The practical stuff shows up in the fourth chapter. Here he gives us seven methods of kindling romance. I will simply list them but if purchase the book he explains them well. He says that we need a weekly date night; spontaneous phone calls; notes, cards, and letters; gifts (not only on her birthday); music; getaways; and surprises. This list shows us that we really need to be intentional and to extend some effort. Romance and a wife that feels cherished doesn’t happen by accident. It is work but it is worth it, a marriage full of deep and passionate intimacy is very satisfying and God glorifying.

Mahaney also points to the power of words. He draws this from the words used by the lovers in the Song of Solomon. For example;

Song 1:15-16
Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
behold, you are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.
Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful.
Our couch is green;

Song 4:1-7
Behold, you are beautiful, my love,
behold, you are beautiful!
Your eyes are doves
behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
[2] Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twins,
and not one among them has lost its young.
[3] Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
and your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
behind your veil.
[4] Your neck is like the tower of David,
built in rows of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
all of them shields of warriors.
[5] Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle,
that graze among the lilies.
[6] Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
I will go away to the mountain of myrrh
and the hill of frankincense.
[7] You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.

He says that we must use carefully composed words to bless our wives, and to romance them.

I am going to draw the review to a close now. I hope that this brief review has whetted your appetite. Buying and reading this book does not guarantee anything, but it has power to help you be a better husband and may help you and your wife to have a more satisfying sex life. I recommend this book very highly and I am certain that it would be helpful for every Christian husband.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Prayer Request

Most of you know of my friendship with Mark Helton (he will also be posting here as soon as he can), we have prayed for the health of his mother recently and his father in the past. I just got an e-mail describing an emergency situation. His father is in the hospital and is in critical condition. I am simply asking you to pray for Mark's Dad and their entire family that have been through so much recently. Please pray.

Love and Blessings

Bro. Jamie

Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Outstanding Generation.

As many folks in our church have figured I have preference for old books (John Piper's being a noticeable exception). I also tend to have certain favorite old authors, yet there is an exception.

This would the movement and generation of leaders called the Puritans. They were in my opinion a most remarkable group of people. So while I look at other books and say that there is only so much time for reading and due to lack of time I have to say no to many books, I look at the Puritans and give them a blanket yes. There as not yet been a book by a Puritan that I did not benefit from reading (they also show a tendency to be shorter than most modern books, which is nice).

I said all that to say this, Timmy Brister ( has organized what he is calling the Puritan reading challenge. Where we would read one Puritan book a month.

Here is the schedule.

January: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (128 pp)
February: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel (221 pp)
March: The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson (252 pp)
April: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks (253 pp)
May: Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ by John Bunyan (225 pp)
June: The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (130 pp)
July: A Lifting Up for the Downcast by William Bridge (287 pp)
August: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs (228 pp)
September: The True Bounds of Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton (224 pp)
October: The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie (207 pp)
November: The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (256 pp)
December: A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine (148 pp)

This is a wonderful idea and I recommend it to anyone who might be interested. Timmy has a way on his website to order them all at once or you go to Amazon and get them month by month pretty inexpensively.

This is probably not practical for many, but if you have the time, finances, and inclination this generation would certainly be a means of growth for you.

God Bless

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pastoral Priorities – Introduction

Over the coming weeks I will be doing a series of blogs on what the priorities of a pastor are according to the Bible. We develop a lot of expectations for what is supposed to be in a lot of different ways. We develop them for example through our church traditions, through a beloved pastor, and through our own tastes and whims. Yet none of these things bear any authority if they disagree with the Word of God, therefore I intend to search the Word to discover what God has announced as our priorities.

My motives for such a study are as follows:

My first motive is for my own benefit as a Pastor. For any man to weather the storms that come during any ministry there must be a solid foundation and standard to base faithfulness on. Without that anchor when the storm comes the boat will simply be adrift and at the mercy of the winds. Yet if there is an anchor then a man can weather any storm. When the storm arrives he can look at his life and ministry and in an honest evaluation say I have to striven to do what is right and most important, I can be at peace.

My second motive is to encourage my brother pastors. Criticism and pressure come easily in the life of any church. If any of these men are facing these trials I want to give them a tool or method of evaluation that can encourage them to say, I have been faithful to my Lord whatever else may come I have done the main thing. And I promise you as a Pastor this is the thing that will bring greatest peace in the life of an embattled pastor.

My third motive is to give church members a way to better serve and follow their pastors. Once we know what our pastors priorities are then we can better pray for them. We can better free them up from unimportant tasks and then encourage them to focus on the essential tasks.

My fourth motive is to clear up some confusion. For example one of my favorite books by John Piper is Brothers, we are not professionals. In that book he attacks the professionalism that has set into the minds of many ministers and congregations. Ministry is not about skill sets and networking, it is about spiritual life and vitality. Listen to what Piper has to say; “there is no professional childlikeness (Matt. 18:3); there is no professional tenderheartedness (Eph. 4:32); there is no professional panting after God (Ps. 42:1)”

I am excited about these coming posts and I hope that you are as well.

God Bless.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Caleb's Faith

Today I was reading in the book of Joshua and came across this gem.

Joshua 14:10-12 (ESV) [10] And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. [11] I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. [12] So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said."

This statement was made by Caleb after the initial conquest of the promised land. The thing that I found so amazing was his confidence in God. It wasn't just trust it was a bold risk taking assurance that God was powerful and because God had made him a promise he had nothing to fear. We certainly could use more of this kind of trust and faith in the Church.

Caleb had something to fear, he wanted the hill country where the Anakim (think defensive linemen fighting punters) lived. This is an insane request unless you believe that God is faithful to His promises. God has made many promises to us that should make us bold.

Matthew 16:18 (ESV) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Church has this promise, why are we terrified. We will not be ultimately defeated. Cowering in fear is simply evidence of our lacking faith.

Isaiah 55:11 (ESV) so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God's ultimate Word is the Gospel, the good news of Christ's death in our place, when we speak this word we should have the confidence that God will keep His promise. Now how He keeps that promise may not be according to our liking or timing, but He is God and we are not.

Let us claim these promises and with Caleb stand up and march out into a hostile world. We may have to face some spiritual Anakim but if we are boldly faithful like Caleb I trust that we will see some fortified cities of spiritual darkness crumble.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Overweight - Sinful?

I have recently woken up to the fact that I have gotten very overweight (everybody else already knew) and I am working rather strenuously to lose that weight. Now I am concerned about my health and my family's need for me long term, but another question is on my mind. Is it actually sinful to be overweight?

This is not an issue addressed as directly as others in the Bible, yet I think that it does lay out some important principles that bear directly on the issue.

First the Bible does address the sin of gluttony and does condemn it directly. For example in Deut. 21 the issue of a rebellious son is being addressed and one of the examples of his rebellious nature is that he is a glutton, then he is taken to the city and is stoned to death, now I realize that we no longer observe this law but the principle is clear God is not fond of gluttony. This bears directly because most times when we become overweight has something to do with being gluttons. I am aware that there are some medical conditions that can lead to a person being overweight without being a glutton but they would be the exception and not the rule.

Second the Bible says that we are to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us. Certainly our bodies are gifts from God, this would mean that we are to care for our bodies in a way that would honor God and would honor the gift that we have been given. When we are good stewards of the earth that means that we are trying to use it in such a way that it remains beautiful and useful. Certainly a body that is overweight is not as useful as a body that is in good health. Also we want the earth to remain useful to us in the long term, the same issue applies to our bodies we want to be able to use them long term to please and honor God.

These issues and many others have convinced that it is indeed sinful to be overweight, so my new commitment (only a few months old) to weight loss is not only an issue of health, it is also an issue of repentance.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

I recently finished reading J.I. Packers classic Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. I found this book to be absolutely compelling and inspiring. At the end of the book I walked away with a number of confirmed or new convictions.

That methods are relatively unimportant. Packer emphasizes that the message is essential, we must be focused on the content of the Gospel, that it is through faith in Jesus and His atoning death in our place that saves us from the consequences of our sin. If this message is in place and central it seems relatively unimportant what method or tried and true ministry we use. It simply matters that we proclaim Christ and Him crucified.

That God is sovereign should inspire confidence in us. God is at work. He will bless our efforts. There will be a harvest. So we should go out in confidence because it does not depend on our abilities or skills or evangelistic method. The work of God is decisive not ours. This certainly does not mean that we sit on our hands and do nothing rather we recognize that it is God's normal method to use means to accomplish His will. So we are given the message and God uses our proclamation of the Good News as His method of bringing sinners to Christ.

The last thing that I want to mention is Packer's comfort with truths that often make us uncomfortable. The truths that seem to conflict (in this case God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility) that we feel as if we must decide to believe only one and reject the other. Packer shows us that both can be genuinely true and that we can trust God to be more complex than any human, and that in His complexity both can be true. Now we get to wait for the time when we are in His presence and all these things are made clear. But we may not care because we are in His presence.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Real Tragedy

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright (Barack Obama's former pastor) has caused quite an uproar lately with the clips that were played of his preaching. However, I think that there is something tragic about what I heard that seems to have been missed by many.

Many have been offended by the language he used. I find this atrocious as well. The pulpit should be a place for making God known, and it should be done with reverence and respect, acknowledging the enormous privilege of being allowed to preach the word. But this is certainly not the greatest tragedy of the scandal.

Others have been offended by his hatred of America. I was appalled with everyone else with the way he spoke of our country. But this is not the saddest part of these sound bites.

The saddest part, the actual tragedy of the whole thing is the complete abandonment of the Gospel. What this man is preaching is not the New Testament Gospel. He is not preaching the good news of the crucified savior who has died for sinners. This is the great tragedy, he has been given an opportunity to turn sinners toward Christ, to expose them to the only true hope that we have, the death of Jesus as our atoning substitute, but instead he offers them social liberation. What good is social liberation for a few decades (I am not saying that social justice is a bad thing) compared with an eternity spent either in eternal torment of eternal joy.

I choose to spend the bulk of my time dealing with our deepest need, the sin problem of humanity, and I pray that you will to.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why Bother

The first question I have to answer is why bother the world with another blog. The simplest reason is that Abraham Piper convinced me with his list of six reasons why Pastors should blog. I found his six reasons compelling.

My second reason is that this will provide me with another opportunity to interact with the people of my church (mine out of love not possession), this opportunity will also allow them to get to know me in ways that may not possible through any other avenue.

Last, the nature of the blog gives me an arena for discussions that are not natural discussions for the pulpit, so these benefits and reasons are the justification for adding another blog to the already cluttered world of blogs.

(As you can tell this blog is directed toward the people of the church I serve, however everyone is welcome)

God Bless