Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reflection on “Ordinary Pastor”

Last February my dad and I went to Minneapolis, MN to the Desiring God National Conference. D.A. Carson, one of my favorite New Testament Scholars, spoke on the theme of Father and Son in Scripture. While there I picked up Carson’s new book, “Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson,” a book that spans the life and ministry of his father. Honestly, I picked this book up because I love D.A. Carson; I knew nothing of his father and was more interested in reading the book for his son’s encouragement about the ministry. In my mind, Tom Carson was the medium I could use to learn from his son. Boy was I wrong!

This may be one of the best books on ministry I have ever read. It is not the story of a world-renowned scholar, or the story of a pastor who built a mega-church from the ground up. It is the story of a pastor who dug into the trenches of service where few want to go or will ever answer the call to go. It is a story about a man who saw little fruit through years of intense labor. It is the story of a pastor who we would have never heard of or cared to hear of, had God not seen fit to place his son, a generation later, at the top of the evangelical ladder of scholarship. More than anything, it is the story of most ministers and how success is judged in God’s eyes not in terms of numbers, but faithfulness to the call. This is the way Carson opens the book about his dad:

Some pastors, mightily endowed by God, are remarkable gifts to the church. They
love their people, they handle Scripture well, they see many conversions, their
ministries span generations, they understand their culture yet refuse to be
domesticated by it, they are theologically robust and personally disciplined …
Most of us, however, serve in more modest patches. Most pastors will not
regularly preach to thousands, let alone tens of thousands. They will not write
influential books, they will not supervise large staffs, and they will never see
more than modest growth. They will plug away at their care for the aged, at
their visitation, at their counseling, at their Bible studies and preaching.
Some will work with so little support that they will prepare their own bulletins
… Most of us – let us be frank – are ordinary pastors. Dad was one of them. This
little book is a modest attempt to let the voice and ministry of one ordinary
pastor be heard, for such servants have much to teach us. (9)

The conclusion of the book, so powerful my face was streaming with tears, summarizes the life of this man of God:

Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of
people in Outaouais and beyond testify how much he loved them. He never wrote a
book, but he loved the Book. He was never wealth or powerful, but he kept
growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough … He was not very
good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists. When he died, there
were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no
announcements on television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the
nation. In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the
quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would
never need it again. But on the other side all the trumpets sounded. Dad won
entrance to the only throne room that matters, not because he was a good man or
a great man – he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor – but because he was a
forgiven man. And he heard the voice of him whom he longed to hear saying, “Well
done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord” (147-148).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lessons from the Cicada Invasion

We are currently under invasion by Cicada's (locust) and I am once again struck by the bizarreness of the world. These are animals that come out once every 17 years lay their eggs which will lay dormant for 17 years and then repeat the process. These creatures also make one of the eeriest sounds that I have ever heard, and the sound doesn't come from their mouths but rather from the movement of their wings and legs (I think, I've heard contradictory explanations). These are odd little creatures and as I have been walking around listening to their strange song (my home seems to be a Cicada mall, they are all over everything) I have been reflecting on these odd little guys and I think that there are some things we can learn from them.

First - They display the wondrous creativity of God. God apparently loves diversity (we see this also in the targets of the Gospel - all nations) and with His infinite mind He has given us a world that displays His joy in creating a diverse animal world. Think of Australia for example, that is a wonderfully strange place. The kangaroo for example hops on his hind legs, has arms that he can use to box with, carries their young in a pouch, what a mammal. Then you have the duck-billed platypus, I don't even need to describe that bad-boy. Our God is a lover of order but also delights in expressing His creativity in diversity.

Second - I am once again reminded of the limitations of evolutionary explanations. Evolution is based on the premise that we adapt in ways that preserve our species. I cannot think of a single evolutionary benefit to hiding eggs in the ground that will lie dormant for 17 YEARS. The evolutionary worldview is a pipe dream and when once the mind is opened to the possibility of a divine creator its limitations are clearly impossible to overcome.

Third - The Cicada's also show us that we are quite powerless and dependent creatures. The Cicada's come when it is their time, they eat whatever they please. We are unable to convince them to go somewhere else, we are unable to keep them from eating everything in sight (agricutural societies probably hate these guys). They remind us that despite our proclamations that we are the Kings of the world and the deciders of our own destinies, we are the inhabitors of a world that was created by God and not us, God sustains this world we do not. Our weathermen only have best guesses.

Let us turn to this God in trust and faith. Let us embrace the God who is the creator of beautiful diversity. Embrace not as deists but as those who realize that this creator is known most clearly not as creator but as the Father of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Influential Books

While we are still on the topic of books, I want to turn us to a new arena. Not your favorite books, not the books that you think are the best books. I want you to tell me what books have been most influential in your life. Which books got you started thinking about this or that truth. Which book opened your eyes to a crying need in your life. Which book lit your fire for reading, or for the course of your life. I will go first.

The Hobbit - Tolkien - this was the first that I can remember reading and it gave me a hunger for reading, for a sickly little kid it showed me that my world could be much bigger by the use of my mind.

Doctrines that Divide - Erwin Lutzer - this was one of the first books that I read after becoming a Christian (thank you John) and for a postmodern kid it was powerful to see that truth is real and how important truth can be, and it created a hunger in me to know and embrace truth.

Systematic Theology - Wayne Grudem - I read this for the first time my junior year of college (thanks again John) and it helped me understand the depth and breadth of Christian truth. It was absolutely intoxicating, I was crushed to discover that I had lost it in the move to Louisville. (I immediately bought another).

Preacher's Portrait - John Stott - I read this during my senior as I was grappling with my call to be a pastor, this book was very useful in understanding what it meant for me to be a pastor in the future and useful today for my understanding of what I am to be as a pastor.

The Cross of Christ - John Stott - Before reading this book my understanding of the Cross was pretty general, Jesus died for my sins and through faith and repentance I can be saved. Through Stott's masterwork I came to see the greater depth and beauty of what Christ has done for me. Not the easiest read but will repay the effort.

The God Who Is There - Francis Schaeffer - Schaeffer showed me the importance of worldview. The prison of a non-biblical worldview and the necessity and beauty of a biblical worldview. A Must Read.

Future Grace - John Piper - this book really set me free and straight on the motive for Christian obedience. Through this book I learned how faith is to function in all of the Christian life. Gratitude is not sufficient for living in a fallen world, we need faith in the future grace of God or we will be cowards or compromisers.

Slave of Christ - Murray J. Harris - He clarified for me part of the Lordship of Christ that I had not understood in depth before. That as the One who has ransomed us, He has set us free to become His slaves and now as His slaves we find our joy in obeying Him, we do not have the freedom to decide anything, all of life is lived under the Lordship of Christ, we are either good slaves or bad slaves. Also a call to learn how to discern what His will is, a call to deep study of His Word.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book Review: A Theology for the Church

Theology textbooks are not in short supply these days, and while many of them are profitable for various reasons, they tend to be unhelpful to the average Christian sitting in the pew trying to figure out how to do the Christian life. Yet Southern Baptist seminary president Dr. Daniel Akin has brought a new systematic theology to the table that aims not at scholars classroom, but the Sunday School classroom. The book, A Theology for the Church, brings together a number of SBC scholars who contribute chapters to the work. In this review I will outline the focus of the book, its strengths and contributions to the church, and the weaknesses that hinder the work.

The book is unique on a number of fronts. First and foremost, it is not a systematic theology limited to the viewpoint of simply one author. Fourteen different authors bring their viewpoints to each topic outlined. While the book follows the traditional model of studying systematic theology (i.e. beginning with the doctrine of revelation and concluding with the last things), it approaches each subject with four main questions in view: 1. what does the Bible say; 2. what has the church believed; 3. how do the doctrines fit together; 4. how does each doctrine impact the church today. While each author has the liberty to approach their chapter with their own style and argumentation, all keep within these parameters.

The strengths of this book are numerous, so I will limit myself to mentioning three specific benefits to this book. Standing out above all is the careful balance each writer keeps between instruction and application. While all the contributors are world-class scholars, they are careful to write at a level accessible to the average reader. They deal mainly with the biblical texts as well as interacting with church history, but always in an engaging fashion. Yet the book makes a point in every chapter to show how the doctrine applies to the 21st century church. Akin writes in the Preface, "We believe it is crucial to wed doctrine and life - to recognize the unity of faith and practice" (vii). A great example of this is found in Russell Moore's chapter entitled "Personal and Cosmic Eschatology." After detailing the various biblical truths of the end times and showing the history of thought that has created so many different approaches to the topic, he explains how believers today can deal with issues such as grief, fear of death, burial, forgiveness and even parenting in light of what the Bible teaches about the end times. This is, in my estimation, a tremendous value to any reader who wants to understand how the Bible speaks to life. A second strength is how each chapter seeks to show the unity and coherency of all Scripture. Each contributor sees the Bible pointing to one grand narrative and devote space to showing how these doctrines point to the truth of God and our ability to know God through a relationship with Jesus. The last strength I will mention is more about my own preference. I found it immensely helpful that this book devoted an entire chapter to the doctrine of Angels. Most theology textbooks, if they mention Angels at all, do not flesh out the biblical doctrine. Yet this book spends almost fifty pages unpacking the subject in a very helpful way.

My critiques of this work are going to be picky and weak, simply because this book has been well written. One complaint I have is how some authors did not seem best suited for the topic they were assigned. Paige Patterson is a brilliant man and deserves to be included in this book; however his chapter on the Work of Christ was not up to par with the others. I found his discussion of the history of the doctrine to be thin, which left out many crucial movements. His discussion on the extent of the atonement did not engage his opponents adequately and even caricaturized those like R.C. Sproul and John Owen. Another example is Albert Mohler writing a short concluding article titled "The Pastor as Theologian." While helpful, he would have been better suited feeding us in a chapter on the doctrine of God.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to you. While I think Packer and Grudem have written smaller, more accessible volumes for group studies, this book could be used as a supplement or in a condensed form for those seeking to understand a Southern Baptist approach to systematic theology.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Carousel

Recently I heard a preacher refer to life as a pastor as similar to a carousel. There are highs that are followed quickly by lows, and the process repeats over and over again. This is without a doubt true. The pastorate offers some of the highest joys of the Christian life. We get the privilege of preaching the Word of God to the people of God. We get front row seats to the activity of God in the midst of His people. We get to see lives changed for eternity in ways that some church members rarely see. However, even the best pastors face unrealistic criticism. Criticism from the people of God, the people who should be laying aside the things and attitudes of this world for the joys of the next, that hurts. Facing the despair that comes from seeing death so closely so frequently, in the hospital and in the funeral home. Facing the crushing blow of seeing a new believer abandon Christ and return to the world. Seeing the defection of saints who should be mature simply growing cold and disappearing. Facing a job where we are completely dependent on the action of God for results, we are powerless to make anything happen. The pastorate is a difficult calling.

Yet I don't think that the carousel is limited only to the pastorate. I think that the carousel is experienced by every Christian. We know the joys of serving Jesus and seeing remarkable things happen and then our children go to college and turn from our faith. We all know the joy of an outstanding quiet time followed closely by a fall to temptation. We all know the joy of the presence of Christ followed by rejection by friends or family because of our faith in Christ.

The carousel is a universal Christian experience, that steady alternating drumbeat of joy and defeat. We all face it, but we all face it with the promise that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. We face the carousel with the promise that all those who love Christ will find that every tragedy will be for our good. We face the carousel with the knowledge that it will end, the carousel will end, we will die and enter the presence of our savior or He will return and we will be ushered into the perfection of His new creation, perfect embodied joy in His presence for time beyond time. The carousel is difficult but it is temporary. Cling to the joy that Christ gives us in this world and allow it to give you a hunger for the perfect joy of the next world, a world without the carousel.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Favorite Books

I am trying to be very wise about book purchases so I am asking for your help. I don't have an unlimited amount of money to spend on books or unlimited time to read, so if you would kindly let me know what your favorites are it might help me be a wise steward of the funds God has given me.

My favorite Bible commentary -

My favorite biblical studies book -

My favorite book on church history -

My favorite biography -

My favorite old book -

My favorite theology book -

My favorite devotional book -

My favorite book on evangelism -

My favorite book on preaching -

My favorite book on philosophy/apologetics -

My favorite book of fiction -

I got the idea and some of the categories from Peter Becks blog Living to God

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Movie Review: Prince Caspian

Yesterday, my wife and I went to see Prince Caspian. Both of us are C.S. Lewis fans (fiction and non-fiction) and were excited and nervous about the movie. We were excited to adventure into Narnia again (we were the only adults there without a kid, ours is too young for a theater). But we were a little worried about some reviews we had read.

In terms of being an enjoyable movie, I thought that it was outstanding, lots of drama and intrigue. In terms of being faithful to Lewis I think that they were pretty faithful. There were some changes that I think were unwise, for example the rampant disbelief in Aslan and the Kings and Queen's was gone. Yet they also added some scenes that were helpful in making the transition from book to movie, I don't think Lewis would have disagreed.

The theme that stood out most to me was strength, whose you are trusting in. When the characters acted in their own strength apart from Aslan their was death and destruction, when trusted in Aslan things were marvelously effective. This is a good reminder for us, even us adults. When we act in our own strength and timing there can be nothing but frustration and failure. We must wait for God's strength and wait for His timing.

I also want to mention a scene that is actually incidental to the movie, but I felt was the most moving scene in the entire movie. In a battle scene the fight was taking place within a castle keep. The heroes need to retreat but the enemy has cut the chain holding the gate open. As it began to drop, a Minotaur sees and rushes over and catches it on his shoulders and he holds the enormous weight as many of the heroes escape. Then as King Peter escapes the gate crashes down and crushes the Minotaur. As I watched the Minotaur hold that gate while others escaped knowing that the end would be his death, I was so powerfully reminded of the gospel, of Christ suffering in my place so that I could go free. It was so powerful that I was moved to tears thanking of my savior for holding the gate for me. That scene alone is worth the price of admission, I urge you not to allow that scene to slip by you. It is powerful.

So, go see it enjoy yourself and hopefully allow yourself to be encouraged to depend on Christ in a fuller and deeper sense.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Reflection On Preaching And Passion

To my great surprise and delight, my last post has sparked a wonderful discussion regarding the doctrine of substitution in the context of John 19. As I am continuing to think about this subject I came across an article penned by Paul Weston titled “Proclaiming Christ Crucified Today: Some Reflections on John’s Gospel.” It can be found in the book, Where Wrath and Mercy Meet: Proclaiming the Atonement Today, edited by David Peterson. While this is an immensely helpful article that adds much to the discussion regarding substitution, Weston makes a practical application to preaching and sincere motives towards the gospel that I believe will encourage all of us who love to listen and learn from biblical preaching:
As teachers and preachers, we need constantly to stop and
reflect upon the willingness of the Son to carry through his divine commission.
It will test our motives and fuel our ambitions. As an evangelist, I need to ask
myself, ‘Does this gospel still move and compel me?’ One of the greatest needs
in our generation is for Christians to recover the wonder of the gospel. Many is
the preacher who can communicate well, can argue persuasively, can tell the
finest stories, but who has lost a passion for the gospel. I am reminded of the
words of the great eighteenth-century evangelist George Whitefield who said, ‘I
am persuaded that the generality of preachers talk of an unknown and unfelt
Christ.’ He went on, referring no doubt to unconverted clergy ministering in
numerous parishes of his day, ‘The reason why congregations have been so dead is
because they had dead men preaching to them.’ But there is a reminder here to
preachers and teachers to pursue that energy of heart and spirit that informed
the ministry of the apostle Paul when he wrote, ‘For the love of Christ compels
us, for we are convinced that one has died for all, therefore all have died’ (2
Cor. 5:14) (p. 155).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A New Commandment???

This Sunday we will be beginning a new sermon series on the "one anothers" of the New Testament, looking at the truth that the Christian Faith was designed to be lived in community. Our first message will be in John 13:34-35 where Jesus gives His disciples a "new commandment." However, I have struggled with what exactly the newness of the commandment is. The command to love the neighbor as yourself was originally given in Leviticus 19:18. So the command to love someone other than yourself is certainly not new. I thought that the newness was the new specific target, the new community of faith.

However, this week as I have prepared for this message I have come to a new conclusion, that the newness of the command is to be found in the new standard. Previously we were commanded to love as we loved ourselves. Jesus in this new command has raised the stakes considerably, now we are to love the way that He has loved us. This means cross-like love. We are called to love sacrificially for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Many commentators disagreed with me though. John Calvin, usually a trustworthy commentator said that the newness is not in the command in itself, he says that this truth is not new in and of itself, Jesus calls it new only because of the way that it had been forgotten. Others disagreed as well, so I was wondering what you believe to be the newness of the new commandment, and please share why.

Thanks, In Christ

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Gospel Of John And Substitution

When Jesus died on the cross, He died in the place of lost sinners. He had no sins of His own to bear, but willingly stood condemned before God and received upon Himself the full wrath of God for our sins. This is the heart of the doctrine of penal substitution, or the Bible’s teaching that Jesus paid the penalty for sins serving as our substitute. While we might be able to say more about the work of Christ than this, we certainly may say no less than this. What I have discovered is that the Gospel of John, while making very few if any explicit references to substitution, nevertheless carries this crucial theme throughout the entire book.

As John opens his gospel message he records John the Baptist viewing Jesus from afar and declaring, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the in of the world” (KJV). While this statement is not an explicit statement of substitution, we cannot help but notice the clear imagery of the Old Testament Passover lamb in view. In Exodus 12, the firstborn sons of Israel were “passed over” from the slaughter brought at the hands of the Angel of the Lord by a lamb that was killed in their place with its blood splattered in the doorway. When the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God, this is not a cute little ewe going everywhere that Mary went, but a mental picture of a brutal slaughter to allow escape to the people of God.

Other examples abound as we journey through the Gospel. John 3:16 may be the most famous passage in the Bible, but it cannot be read apart from the context of 3:14-15: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (ESV). Jesus is referring to Numbers 21 when Israel, facing the judgment of God for rebellion, could lift their eyes up to a bronze serpent hoisted high on a pole to find hope. Jesus later speaks of Himself as “the Bread of Life,” and states that “this bread is my flesh which I give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). He calls Himself “the Good Shepherd,” who lays down his life for His sheep (John 10:11).

In John 11:47-52, John’s Gospel takes us into the meeting hall of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious leaders of the day. They are debating about what to do with Jesus and how to minimize the fallout because of His popularity. Caiaphas the High Priest that year responds to the debate in this way: "You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish,” (11:49-50, ESV). While Caiaphas has diabolical motives behind such a statement, John interprets in prophetically in the context of Jesus’ redemptive work as a substitute for the sins of His people (v. 52).

Now while there are numerous other examples throughout the book, there is one particular passage I would like to focus your attention. I have read numerous commentaries and articles, and none of them draw the connection from this passage to substitution. It occurs in John 19:26-27: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" In the ancient world, it was common for fathers or heads of the home who were dying to give an oral testament, or a verbal “Last Will and Testament.” The dying party would place the care of a spouse or loved ones into the hands of a close relative or trusted friend. It was a great honor to receive and in effect it meant taking over the dying person’s role in the life of the family. In other words, Jesus is declaring John the disciple to be Mary’s substitute son in place of Him who is dying. Yet is it possible that the imagery of substitution can be fleshed out further? Can we not observe, based on the motif of substitution powdered throughout the Gospel of John, that Mary’s REAL substitute not the disciple standing beside her, but the crucified Lord hanging in front of her? And could we not also say that this substitute is not just intended for her, but also for John, the rest of the disciples, and even now serves as “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world,” (1 John 2:2)? That Friday Mary may have received a substitute son, but she trusted by faith the one and only true substitute that could bear her sins in an eternal sense.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Authority for Mission

Matthew 10 records the call of Jesus' 12 disciples. Matthew explains that Jesus empowered them for service. The New King James Version (NKJV) says, "He gave them power." This translation might lead one to picture Jesus bestowing special "powers" on His disciples, like superheros, before sending them out to minister. We gain a clearer picture from the translation "He gave them authority" (ESV, NASB, NIV). The word is not dunamis (power, might, strength, force, capability), but exousia (state of control, potential or resource to command, control or govern). Jesus gives them the right, as His representatives, to cast out unclean spirits and heal every disease and every affliction. It is not an ability they have within themselves, but an authority that is granted to them as Jesus' personal ambassadors.
Because Jesus is the Son of God, sent from the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit, He has the right to command the universe. Jesus grants His apostles a measure of this authority for carrying out their mission. They are to do the very works that Jesus has been doing (casting out demons, healing the sick, and proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven). Matthew draws attention to the similarity between Jesus' ministry and that of His 12 disciples by using parallel wording to describe the activities of both Jesus and the apostles: "healing every disease and every affliction" (9:35, of Jesus); "to heal every disease and every affliction" (10:1, of the apostles).
Their identification with Jesus, which is the source of their authority, is so strong that Jesus says, "Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives me receives Him who sent Me" (Matt. 10:40).
We must recognize the unique place the apostles have in the plan of redemption. They had a revelatory ministry that is unmatched by later ministers of the gospel. Their close association with Jesus as His commissioned representatives gives us confidence in their writings, as does the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In a similar though not identical way Jesus sends us on mission with His authority. Notice the impetus of the great commission, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt. 28:18). When we minister "in the name of Jesus," this means (in part) that we are meeting the so-called "gods" of this world with the authority of Jesus Christ, in order to vanquish them with the Truth and advance the kingdom of Christ. "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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. An behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gene Robinson is back in the News

Gene Robinson (the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church) is making news again. Shortly the Episcopal Church will be holding the Lambeth conference held only once a decade. Just before that meeting Gene Robinson and his gay partner will get "married." He says that he is simply doing what God asks of him. He also says that even though earlier he said that he would resign his bishopric if it caused a rift in his denomination, he now says that he no longer has a choice because God has called to him to this "particular historic role." He says that progressive Christians (think liberal) must rescue the Bible from the religious right.

There is a lot wrong with what is going on here. First I want to say that I am one of the right-wing nuts that believes that the Bible is pretty clear about homosexuality (Romans 1 for example). That it is a sin and that like all other sins the only correct response is repentance and fleeing to Christ for forgiveness. Never forget that grace is available for the homosexual and the adulterer and the liar and for the proud and for the tax evader. Many conservatives need to repent of their attitude toward homosexuals, not for their position on homosexuality but for the lack of love shown to the homosexual.

Second we need to address the issue of his calling from God. He is simply deceived. God will not call Christians to do what He forbids in His Word. God will not command anyone to marry another of the same gender because He has forbidden it. God will not call you to leave your spouse for another because He has forbidden it. This is a reminder to us that we need to study God's Word to know what He has blessed and what He has forbidden, then we must submit to His Word. We must remember that God's word is much more trustworthy than our emotions.

Last I want to look at his call for progressives to rescue the Bible from us conservative types. He says that we have misunderstood the Bible. He points to the fact that we have been wrong on some issues and says that we are wrong on this issue and he makes a really bad argument. He compares the Bible's teaching on homosexuality to the Old Testament teachings on eating pork or garments made of two fibers, doctrines that are clearly set aside in the New Testament. The reason this is a bad argument is that homosexuality is condemned in the New Testament. This is simply an apples and oranges comparison. The Bible is clear, Mr. Robinson is not.

What we have here is a number of challenges for Evangelical Christians. We are challenged to stand against the current of our culture and affirm what the Bible affirms. That homosexuality is a sin that needs to be repented of. We are also challenged to disagree with the right heart attitude, to disagree kindly and to offer the grace of Christ to all who would repent and believe in our crucified savior. Last we are challenged to love the Word of God, to love it, study it, and stand with it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Adoniram Judson's Heartbeat for Burma (Myanmar)

This past week most of us have become familiar with Myanmar for the very first time. As Jamie's previous point reminded us, 100,000 souls went into eternity by the cataclysmic event. It has ushered all of us into remembrance of how our lives here on this earth are both precious and brief. Yet I have been especially drawn to this story, because it is the mission field that one of my "heroes of the faith" served faithfully for many years. Adoniram Judson devoted his life to what was then called Burma (Myanmar), seeking to take the gospel to ears who had never heard of Jesus. He buried wives and children in that country, giving all to the mission field God had called him to serve.

Judson was born in 1788 to a Congregational pastor in New England. Even as a small boy it was clear that he was blessed with an amazing intellect. At the age of two or three he could read Scripture passages to his father in the evenings. By ten years old he excelled in advanced arithmetic, studied navigational theory, and had become skilled in the Greek and Latin languages, all the while reading great works of theology. He went to Providence college at 16, graduated with highest honors at 19, all the while teaching in a private academy and writing textbooks in both English and Arithmetic. Through this time he left the Christianity of his parents and became a convinced agnostic. Yet God radically saved him through the untimely death of a college friend (an amazing conversion story to read).

Shortly after his conversion his heart was softened to the great need of missionary work abroad. He and several other young men formed a mission board, gathered sponsors and support, and planned to devote their lives to the going "to the ends of the earth." Coinciding with that he met and married Ann Hasseltine who had herself also devoloped a heart for mission work. Both Adoniram and Ann, along with a fellow missionary named Luther Rice, became convinced baptists while heading overseas to their assignments. This led to resigning from the Congregational board and seeking to begin a Baptist missionary board. He served in Burma his entire life, seeing only a few converts the first years, dug the graves of his children who died on foreign soil, and spent three years in an underground prison hanging from stocks because of government tensions with the West. Yet his grammar of the Burmese language and translation of the Bible into Burmese were used for generations and are still the foundation for works done in the language today. His name is still known in that land because of how important he was in the gospel coming to Burma.

The moral of the story is this: pray for Myanmar, because faithful men and women gave their lives hundreds of years ago to see the gospel penetrate an unreached nation. While we may have just heard of it this week, it has been the place where God has used believers to reach men and women for Jesus. Thank God for Adoniram Judson, and may God challenge us as well to go even to the ends of the earth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
(To read more about Judson, see "To the Golden Shores," by Courtney Anderson, and chapter 6 of "Baptists and the Bible," by L. Russ Bush and Tom Nettles).

The Tragedy in Myanmar

Over 100,000 people are dead in Myanmar (Burma). Think about that, 100,000 people who loved and cried, raised familes and went about their normal lives are gone. The cyclone has devastated virtually an entire nation. Power lines are down everywhere, small inland villages are completely blocked off with no clean drinking water, no healthy food, and no access to medical help. Some villages have been completely submerged. There are warnings now that there are bodies floating in the floodwater and that this is going to cause disease to spread to the survivors of the cyclone.

Now the military led government has made some very questionable decisions. They have refused aid from the US govt. who offered a great deal of money. They agreed to allow UN planes to land and donate food. But the govt. then took the food and stored it. They are refusing to allow any foreign personnel to set foot in Myanmar to help, even medical specialists. The most confusing thing of all is that they are going ahead with a national election that will consolidate the military-led govt.'s power. They are even using a TV message urging the people to do their patriotic duty and vote. There was no mention of the cyclone.

This should be a call to prayer for all of us. We need to pray for the hurting people of Myanmar, that God would provide for their food,water, and medical needs. We need to pray for the church in Myanmar that they would rise to the occasion and be people who are doing their utmost for their neighbor, beautifying the Gospel through their help, but also that they would use this opportunity for sharing the Gospel. Let us also pray for the govt. that their position would soften and that they would allow people in to help. We need to pray that God would use this to open our eyes to the fact that the cause of Christ and our responsibilities are much bigger than our community and location. We need to be world-prayers. We need to have world concerns.

PS - For a discussion of suffering read the earlier post Sailing in the Fog

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How to Hear a Sermon

This week of revival has been really fun, getting to sit with my flock and hear the preaching of the Word with them. But it did get me thinking about how exactly we are to hear a sermon. I fear that too often we come and let the words pass over our ears and then rush off to lunch and forget what we have heard. So what I have here are some ways that we can become better hearers of the Word preached. And I encourage you to leave a comment, this list is not exhaustive and I am certain there are important things that I have overlooked or are simply ignorant of, so let’s help each other to hear the Word well.

Be Rested – Be intentional about Saturday night, if you stay up late then you will be tempted to sleep in and when you do come, then you will probably be drowsy and the words spoken will likely not sink beneath your eardrums.

Be Prayerful – pray for your pastor that he would preach the word faithfully and do it with joy. Pray for your own heart that you would be made more Christ-like through your reception of the message. Pray for those around you hearing the message pray that God would grow them and if they are lost that they would come to a saving knowledge of the Gospel.

Come ready to believe – come with a willingness to believe what is preached. If you come to evaluate the preacher or come with your guard up with reasons prepared to disbelieve the Word preached, then you will probably never benefit from the sermons you hear.

Be a Berean – the Berean’s were said to be noble because they received the Word with eagerness and examined the scriptures to see if the things spoken were true. If you hear something that challenges you or that doesn’t sound quite right, go to the scriptures and see if the things spoken were true.

Be ready to obey – the scriptures call for action. We should come with an attitude prepared to hear from God and to respond in ways that will glorify Him. We are called to be a people in the world and not of the world and this will show clearly in how we live, so lets come ready to hear how we can become increasingly untainted by the fallen world.

Come Ready to Behold God – the Bible is God’s self-revelation; He is showing us His nature and His actions. So every sermon should have something to say about who God is and the beauty of what He has graciously done for us in Christ. So come to behold God in Christ and be ready to be changed by what we behold.

Come with Expectation – God does remarkable things when His word is preached, so arrive expecting God’s presence and power to be present, and be ready to see God in action.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My Paul's

I was reading Said at Southern the other day and come across a post where he was writing about mentoring and the one man who took an interest and the time to mentor him. This reminded me of how blessed I have been, all the other men who are writing on this blog have served as mentors to me. And I wanted to take some time to thank them for the time and energy that they invested in me, and also to introduce them to folks at my church who read our blog.

John Lucas was the first real Christian I ever met who was my age. When I met John I was simply another American kid lost in the postmodern mindset and in love with materialism. Yet in John I was confronted with a man who believed in things that were much firmer than I. He had meaning in his life in a way that was completely foreign to me. John was the first person that I ever remember sharing the Gospel with me. It was through his intentional friendship that I became a Christian. Then he began to teach me and model for me the Christian life. John showed that truth matters and he helped turn my love of reading into an edifying habit of reading theology. And since this time John has continued as an ever present friend and support. He is always there for me, he will probably object but I still see him as a mentor, a guy a little further down the road than me with much still to teach me. John I thank you for investing your life and time in me, I hope that God will use that investment to bless you, me, and others.

Josh Owen I met at the Home Depot where we were both employed, he was also one of my graders (Josh has just finished his Phd) but the first time I spoke to him was at the home depot. We began talking about books and ministry and before I knew it Josh was gone, he had taken a pastorate in Owen County. Later I ran into him on campus and he asked me to give him a resume and it led to me becoming the youth pastor at the church he pastored. There at Richland Baptist Church I learned about preaching by seeing him preach, I went on my first home (and hospital) visit with him. We read books and discussed theology. I saw him parenting small children as a pastor, I saw him be a husband as a pastor, I got to be with his family during their time of family worship. Josh opened his heart, family, ministry and his mind to me in ways that are rare. Josh I thank you for being patient with me and my inexperience. I learned as much at Richland serving with you as I did in my seminary classes. You helped me put the theoretical into a practical framework. Josh I thank you.

Mark Helton (who has not yet posted due to some family needs) is a man I got to know when I came to Sidney. Mark and I pastor churches about twenty minutes apart and we discovered that we share a lot of the same convictions and bad taste in movies (John, he knows what going monk means). So we have gotten to know each other and Mark has spent time talking with me and sharing his experience with me in ways that he certainly doesn’t have to. But it is a blessing to have a like-minded pastor so close to me who can share his wisdom with me. Mark thank you for being willing to share with me and invest hours in me that are hard to come by. I look forward to serving with you on this end of Pike County for years to come.

I am a blessed man. Most men in ministry do have the luxury of such wise counselors. Most men in their formative years do not have such influences guiding them toward truth and faithfulness to Christ. Men I thank you and pray that your tribe may increase. I pray that I may be a Paul to a young timothy that you were and are my Paul’s. Members of Sidney these are the other men who are contributing to this blog, I pray that you will listen to their words, because I have and will continue to.

Call Your Mom

I have a prediction that I am afraid will come true. I predict that in the coming years Mothers day and Fathers day will come under attack, unless the culture changes drastically. Women are already being told that they are failures if they want to stay home and have children and be full-time mothers instead of pursuing careers. It is pretty clear that motherhood is no longer accorded the honor that it deserves. It is a pretty short jump from saying that you should not stay home to saying that you should not have children. Remember what Sen. Obama said a few weeks in a discussion of abortion; he would not want his daughters to be punished with a child. That reveals a great deal of what he and many in the culture believe about children and motherhood.

There is another angle of attack against motherhood and fatherhood and that is the denial that there is any difference between the genders. I have heard it said that the only difference is a matter of equipment. I wonder why adults feel that they must deny what children seem to know instinctively. My three year old daughter loves to play dress up and wear adults’ shoes. Now I can hear the culture respond that she wears those princess dresses because we have encouraged it. So why does she only wear my wife’s shoes? She has never put on my shoes. Motherhood will come under attack because people believe that since we are the same in every other way, motherhood is a hindrance to women. Motherhood is seen as oppressive by many.

So I foresee Mothers Day becoming a day that feminists, liberals, and all the cultural elites will despise. But we as conservative Christians know that God gives children as a gift and it is a high calling to bring children into the world and to be a part of their shaping. So men this Sunday let’s honor our wives and mothers. Let’s make sure they know we appreciate their calling and effort. Let’s show them that they are loved and respected. So men call you mom and thank your wife.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Jeremiah Burroughs on Earthly Mindedness

My favorite puritan preacher was a man named Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646). While he may not have been the most well known preacher of his day, his sermons are still amazingly insightful and practical for the Christian life. There is not a better book on the doctrine of reconciliation, in my estimation, than his titled"Gospel Reconciliation." In another work he penned, "A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness," he ends the book with five practical directions on how to get our hearts free from earthly-mindedness:

1. Be watchful over your thoughts. He writes, "Do not take liberty to let your hearts run too far in the things of the earth. What time you have for meditation, let it be as much as can be reserved for spiritual things.

2. Be humbled greatly by sin. "Just let God lay the weight and burden of sin upon the soul, for that will take off the soul from earthly things quickly!"

3. Take notice of the example of the saints of God in past generations. He suggests reading Hebrews 11:13 and 11:37 to see those who did not recieve the promise of God in their lifetime, but saw them afar and believed them and embraced them.

4. Consider the account you must give to God for all earthly things. "And consider, what if you were now to die and go the way of all flesh. What good would it be to me to remember what contentments and pleasures I had on earth?"

5. Above all, set Jesus Christ before you and be meditating on the death of Jesus Christ. "That's the great thing that will take the heart from the things of the earth. Be looking upon Christ crucified, how He who was the Lord of heaven and earth put himself into such a low condition merely to redeem us!"

Brothers and sisters, I can think of no greater thing we can do than these. Earthly mindedness is the great cancer to the Christian walk. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus ..." (Phil. 2:5) My prayer is that we might seek to think more about Jesus than anything this world has to offer.

Senator Obama on biblical interpretation?

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has stirred a lot of controversy with some of his inflammatory remarks about the good old U. S. A. When confronted with these statements by his former pastor and mentor, Senator Obama complained that these remarks were snippets of sermons taken out of the context of decades of preaching. So, the media was challenged to put them back in their contexts and listen to them again. They did, and everyone, including the senator, was appalled! They sounded even more hateful when heard in context.
Senator Obama, however, understood something that every student of Scripture should know, namely, that words must be understood in their particular context. This rule of hermeneutics (the principles of interpretation) was very important for a recent message I preached on Christ as our sanctification. The text was 1 Corinthians 1:30, "He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (ESV).
What does it mean that Christ is our sanctification? According to many theology books and in popular Christianese, sanctification is a process of becoming more holy or Christlike in our conduct, a process that will not be completed in this life. If we come to this text with this definition in mind, then we come away understanding that Christ is the source of our spiritual growth and maturity. There are passages of Scripture that teach this. But is this what Paul intends in 1 Corinthians 1:30? A great place to begin is to look at the near context of this verse. Just begin with chapter 1. In verse 2 the church of God that is in Corinth is called "those sanctified in Christ Jesus." The word sanctified is in the perfect tense, which in Greek denotes a state resulting from a completed action. In other words, the Corinthian believers were already sanctified and now enjoy a state of sanctification. This is further indicated by the very next phrase in verse 2, "called saints." "Saints" means "holy ones" or "the people who belong to God as a treasured possession" (see Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6).
With this understanding of sanctification, how might we understand Paul's statement in verse 30 that Christ is our sanctification? Perhaps, that Christ is the One whose sacrifice removes the offense that keeps us from God thereby giving us a new position in the presence of God. Out of this new position flows a life increasingly more consistent with a holy God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Paul's point is not about a gradual process, but about a new position. In Christ you are a treasured possession of God!!
If you are interested in the New Testament teaching on sanctification check out David Peterson's book, Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness, IVP.
If you are interested in understanding words in context start with D. A. Carson's, Exegetical Fallacies (chapter 1).

Pastoral Priorities – Part 1 – The Ministry of the Word

In Acts 6 a controversy arises in the Church. The Greek-speaking members of the church began to complain that their widows were being neglected. The twelve (Apostles) gathered with the church and made this announcement. “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” And again in verse 4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Many prominent leaders today would say (maybe only in their thoughts) that this is sheer lunacy. Preaching does not reach people today. They don’t want to hear authoritative pronouncements, they don’t believe in absolute truth. We cannot say 'thus says the Lord' rather we must begin a dialogue. We must give up on preaching and focus on being relational. We must focus on service ministries. And then after we have won their affection maybe we can sneak the Gospel through the back door.

I reject this paradigm. I do not reject being relational, I do not reject service ministries, or even having dialogues. But this attitude I reject. When confronted with a good thing (helping the Greek widows) the Apostles decided that when choices must be made that they must focus on the most important thing which is the ministry (preaching) of the word and prayer. Now I want to be clear that I don’t believe that pastors are the new Apostles. But I believe that here we are given the priorities for Church leaders, which are to begin with Preaching and Prayer (I will discuss prayer in the next post).

Now I am going close with a simple overview of what the New Testament has to say about preaching. For example we see that preaching was central to Jesus coming, that failing to preach the Gospel leads to being accursed, that Paul described preaching as a necessity. This brief survey shows us how central preaching is to the calling of a Pastor.

Luke 4:43 – but he said to them, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose."
Acts 10:42 - And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.
Romans 15:20 - and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation,
1 Cor. 1:17 - For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Cor. 1:21 - For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
1 Cor. 9:16 - For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
Galatians 1:8 - But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:16 - was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;
Ephes. 3:8 - To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
2 Tim. 4:2 - preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

120 Days with Piper

I just finished reading A Godward life by John Piper. It is kind of a daily devotional, though it has only 120 readings. So it doesn't have a years worth. Also the readings tend to be a little longer, two to three pages instead of only one small page. So in format it is a little non-traditional. However, it greatest difference is the subject matter, the devotions are drawn from a pretty wide spectrum of uses. For example there are meditations on scripture and letters to the editor of a newspaper. But the one thing about each meditation is that they are relentlessly biblical, God-centered, and Gospel-centered.

I noticed a few themes during my readings (these were spaced out over a four month span). To mention a few; Piper's horror over abortion (a horror I share), the supremacy of Christ in all things, the necessity and beauty of the Bible, and last the power and inevitability of suffering in the Christian life.

I used this book as a supplement to my own private worship, though it might not be what you would expect, this would be a good book to add to your quiet time. There is a power in Piper's intensity. This would also serve as a nice introduction to Piper's writing ministry.

God Bless, Jamie.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Looking Forward to a True Revival

Tomorrow we begin a series of revival meetings. However, I am uncomfortable with that title, since we cannot schedule revival, true revival is a sovereign work of God. I believe that revival needs to be defined, I believe that revival is an outpouring of the Spirit where the people of God are renewed in their passion for Jesus and in their commitment to serve and please Him. So when we schedule a "revival" what I hope we mean is that we are scheduling a series of worship services in the hope that God might pour out His Spirit in power to renew His covenant people. This is indeed my intention, prayer, and hope.

So let us pray for Shawn Bruce, that he would come and be blessed to preach the word of God in power, let us pray that we will see the outpouring of the Spirit, and that it would spill out beyond the bounds of our church and that we would see a real turning to God in our community and may we have the joy in being used by God in the process.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sailing in the Fog

Tsunami's, Earthquakes, babies ripped apart in the womb when they could survive outside it, marriage's crumbling simply out of selfishness, children sexually abused, wives beaten, women raped, ethnic wars, genocide, memories of the holocaust still haunting our memories, more memories of the oppressive ugly racial slavery that is part of our nations history, knowledge that there is still in our world slavery, the evil of prostitution, Christians being murdered across our world, we are surrounded by a sinful world and burdened with the taint of sin that still clings to us like a second skin. What we will do, what can we think. How will we respond as the children of God, how can we offer hope to this troubled world.

First - we must decide whether we will stick our heads in the sand, hum In the Garden to ourselves loudly enough so that we cannot hear the mess, pinch our noses so that we cannot smell the putrid garbage we walk through every day. Or will rise and be what Christ has called us to be, thinkers who understand rightly what a Holy God is doing with all this mess Will we be light in the darkness, or will you stick you head in the sand. O Christians it is time for us to open our eyes, put on Christ and march out into this dark world.

Second - we have to decide who is to blame. This is a sticky problem if you say that you believe in the God of the Bible, because that God says that He rules over all. In the beginning God created the world and said that it was good. What happened? Adam and Eve sinned and as those given the stewardship of the creation it was all plunged into a fallen, broken, sinful state when they sinned. But if God was sovereign why did He not make a people who would not sin, why did He not rush to their side and stop them from sinning. Here we see that God is not the author/creator of sin, but He did permit it. But Why?

Third - we now come to what I believe is the difficult truth. God had a plan that involved His Son being glorified through the saving of sinners. This plan existed before the creation, look below at Rev. 13:8, when were the names written in the book of life - before the foundation of the world. Look also at who the book of life belongs to - the lamb that was slain. God created a world where His Son would be the redeemer, where His Son would be exalted, God created a theater for the glory of Christ. Are you squirming yet?

Rev. 13:8 (ESV) and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

Fourth - God is dealing with sin already. Look around at your church on Sunday, there you see a bunch of sinners. Hopefully a bunch of redeemed sinners. They/We are evidence that God has already begun to deal with the tragedy of sin. The Cross is proof that God is not dozing on the throne, in the death of Jesus the defeat of sin and all the enemies of God is assured. So as we look at the human evil of the world we must remember that Jesus has died and has been raised and is reigning on high. He will deal with sin as either its atoning sacrifice or as its just judge. Jesus will bring sin to account.

Fifth - we must still deal with the reality of the creation, red in tooth and claw. Tragedies swirling around us. God will deal with this also.

Rev. 21:1 (ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

God will recreate His universe. This fallen world will pass away and we will experience a world without sin, a world without death, a world without cancer, black lung, we will live in a world that is beyond the original creation because the lamb that was slain will dwell in it.

Right now we are like a ship stranded in a fog so thick that we despair of ever seeing anything but fog ever again, yet the nose of the ship is pointed to a safe harbor and we are inching toward it, whether we can see it or not. Someday, in the wise timing of our Father, we will emerge from the fog and gaze full face into His glory and we will never cease to gaze and we will know completely what we have only tasted now.


Memorizing Scripture to Become Like Christ

Wow! Some of you are actually reading what Jaimie and I have to say. That is amazing, since we would both confess to be the dumbest people we know. Thanks to those of you who have sent emails or made comments on the blog. Keep it up because it will force me to think harder and go deeper into conformity to Jesus.

I have recieved a request from one person to post a list of verses for those who may be just beginning to memorize Scripture. I mentioned in a sermon last week that I have a list of 40 verses that is a great place to begin in this discipline. Truth be known, I was given this list in a seminary class that forced me to memorize them under the threat of failing otherwise. I pray you put these to memory for amore edifying reason! Here they are divided into categories:

Psalms 19:1, Revelation 4:11, Matthew 22:37-38, Leviticus 19:2

Isaiah 59:2, Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:27, Matthew 10:28

John 3:16, Luke 19:10, Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21, John 3:36

John 3:3, John 1:12, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9, Romans 10:13, Matthew 11:28, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Luke 13:3, Isaiah 55:7, 1 John 1:9, Isaiah 1:18, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Revelation 3:20, Ephesians 2:8-9

John 10:10, John 6:37, 1 John 5:12-13, Romans 8:16, John 5:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Timothy 1:12

Great Quote by Sibbes

"What is the Gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ's obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, tough feeble and blemished? We are now brought to heaven under the covenant of grace by a way of love and mercy."

I found this to be powerful, it drove me to a greater thankfulness for a God who loved a people as lowly as we, and this sinner as lowly and tainted as I am. We deserved to be judged but we are shown mercy in Christ. Mind-boggling isn't it. We get mercy, we get heaven instead of hell, simply because God loves us in Christ. Amazing.

- From The Bruised Reed, page 36.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Christ in the Garden (From "The Cross He Bore")

Currently I am reading very slowly through Frederick Leahy's book "The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of teh Redeemer." I strongly recommend it to you as a supplement to your daily devotions. While the chapters are relatively short, it guides you through the last twenty four hours of Jesus' life with amazing insight. Here is an extended quote from his chapter "Prayerful Submission," examining Jesus' prayer 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will' (Matt. 26:39):

As we meditate on Christ's prayerful submission in Gethsemane, we should realise that there, as Philip E. Hughes puts it, 'we see him enduing our hell so that we might be set free to enter his heaven'. And so at unspeakable cost he drank 'the cup' to the very last drop. 'Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me? (John 18:11). What obedience! What love! What mystery! ...
Now he gives to his people 'the cup of salvation' (Psalm 116:13). These two cups, one so bitter, the other so sweet, stand side by side: the one cup necessitated the other. One cup was emptied that the other might be filled to overflowing. The first cup guaranteed the second. Both cups are precious and bear the hallmark of sovereign grace. 'What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will life up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord (Psa. 116:12,13).