Monday, December 29, 2008
This week's sermon: "Put in the Fire for the Sake of Prayer"
John's Gospel includes 3 key passages on prayer—all 3 from the words of Jesus in chapters 14 through 16.
First, in 14:13-14, Jesus teaches that prayer is for the glory of His Father. God gives whatever we ask—provided it accords with the pursuit of his glory.
Second, in 15:7-16, Jesus teaches that prayer is for our fruit-bearing. Prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie for advancing God's global mission, not a domestic intercom for calling in personal comforts.
Third, in 16:23-24, Jesus teaches that prayer is for our joy being full. God wants us to be happy, and he means to do it through our prayers.
Yes, prayer is a duty—the way eating and drinking and breathing are duties. But prayer also is a means of grace and a great gift from God.
Zechariah 13:8-9 gives us an additional lesson: God can put his people through the fires of suffering to awaken their appetite for prayer. May we not become so dulled by prosperity that our hearts become too weak to sense our profound need for prayer. And when suffering comes, may it prompt us to turn to God in prayer, rather than turn away in unbelief.
© Desiring God Ministries. Reposted with permission.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
"There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring
And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling
How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing
I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives
And I will walk with You
Knowing You'll see me through
And sing the songs You give
I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing 'cause You pick me up
Sing 'cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne"
It makes my heart want to sing!!!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
As I watch my absolute favorite movie series (many times over because I got it for Christmas) I meditate on how Jesus is not only my Savior and Lord but also my Master. I stand before Him, as His apprentice, trying to imitate His every move (except the miracles, of course) and striving to be just like Him (1 Corinthians 11:1). I come before Him in awe and watch as He uses His life saver (the truth) to defeat the evil forces that plot against Him and to shepherd the numerous nations in need of Him. He is the mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) between me and the Wonderful Counselor (Mighty God, Everlasting Father).
But who exactly gets to be a Padawan? Only those who are strong in the grace that comes from Him through faith (Ephesians 2:8). I suit up before each (spiritual) battle (in the whole armor of God - Ephesians 6:10-19) and take care not to give in to anger in my heart and fall victim to the dark side. Those who do not get to be padawan learners are left saying to themselves, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
I look to my Master for guidance and He sends teachers to instruct me. I, in turn, train up the younglings that have been entrusted to me. Is His grace strong in you?
May His grace be with you!
© 2008 B.T.P.
Friday, December 26, 2008
"For seven years, a Minneapolis couple have shared the gift of love at Christmas - and all year long - by adding a new member to their family."
Check out this article by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and view a slide show of this beautiful family.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
So if you have found yourself on holiday from work and are not quite sure what to do with yourself, may I suggest "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The days before Christmas can be a tiring season of preparation, planning, shopping, and wrapping. But I think as we prepare for the Christmas celebrations, dinners, travel, and gift giving, it’s equally important that we pause and prepare our souls for Christmas.
During this time of year, it may be easy to forget that the bigger purpose behind Bethlehem was Calvary. But the purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death.
Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner. The incarnation reminds us of our desperate condition before a holy God.
Several years ago WORLD Magazine published a column by William H. Smith with the provocative title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).
In part, Smith wrote:
Many people who otherwise ignore God and the church have some religious feeling, or feel they ought to, at this time of the year. So they make their way to a church service or Christmas program. And when they go, they come away feeling vaguely warmed or at least better for having gone, but not disturbed.
Why aren’t people disturbed by Christmas? One reason is our tendency to sanitize the birth narratives. We romanticize the story of Mary and Joseph rather than deal with the painful dilemma they faced when the Lord chose Mary to be the virgin who would conceive her child by the power of the Holy Spirit. We beautify the birth scene, not coming to terms with the stench of the stable, the poverty of the parents, the hostility of Herod. Don’t miss my point. There is something truly comforting and warming about the Christmas story, but it comes from understanding the reality, not from denying it.
Most of us also have not come to terms with the baby in the manger. We sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” But do we truly recognize that the baby lying in the manger is appointed by God to be the King, to be either the Savior or Judge of all people? He is a most threatening person.
Malachi foresaw his coming and said, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” As long as we can keep him in the manger, and feel the sentimental feelings we have for babies, Jesus doesn’t disturb us. But once we understand that his coming means for every one of us either salvation or condemnation, he disturbs us deeply.
What should be just as disturbing is the awful work Christ had to do to accomplish the salvation of his people. Yet his very name, Jesus, testifies to us of that work.
That baby was born so that “he who had no sin” would become “sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The baby’s destiny from the moment of his conception was hell—hell in the place of sinners. When I look into the manger, I come away shaken as I realize again that he was born to pay the unbearable penalty for my sins.
That’s the message of Christmas: God reconciled the world to himself through Christ, man’s sin has alienated him from God, and man’s reconciliation with God is possible only through faith in Christ…Christmas is disturbing.
Don’t get me wrong—Christmas should be a wonderful celebration. Properly understood, the message of Christmas confronts before it comforts, it disturbs before it delights.
The purpose of Christ’s birth was to live a sinless life, suffer as our substitute on the cross, satisfy the wrath of God, defeat death, and secure our forgiveness and salvation.
Christmas is about God the Father (the offended party) taking the initiative to send his only begotten son to offer his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, so that we might be forgiven for our many sins.
As Smith so fitly concludes his column:
Only those who have been profoundly disturbed to the point of deep repentance are able to receive the tidings of comfort, peace, and joy that Christmas proclaims.
Amen and Merry Christmas!
© Sovereign Grace Ministries
Do you try to connect with God the Santa Claus way or the Jesus way?
The Santa way says,
You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.
The Jesus way says,
“I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15).
“Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
Watch John Piper commend the Jesus way:
© Desiring God Ministries
"The internet is a minefield—there is no doubt about it. For every blessing it brings (and there are many) there seem to be innumerable dangers. For every relationship forged and strengthened, there is another damaged or destroyed. For every minute of time saved through some great technological advance, there are hours wasted in distraction and procrastination. For every good use, there are uncounted evil uses. Such is the fate of technology in the hands of sinful human beings."
Click here to read this book review in its entirety.
Monday, December 22, 2008
"As much as I love the 'Hallelujah' chorus, it is merely the beginning of Messiah’s most beautiful part. It is in the third part that the soprano declares 'I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.' It is here that the chorus and the soloists combine to share the gospel message. 'Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.' It is here that we hear the promise of new life to those who are found in Christ. 'Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.' And it is here that Handel puts to music the words of the elders and the living creatures and the angels as they sing 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' It is here that we, those who have been redeemed by Jesus, look to the future with hope, waiting anxiously for the day when Christ returns."
Click here to read this entire article.
"The open door policy. Anyone can visit any time...Their availability at any time, particularly times of need or crisis....they were excited to expand our family by adopting when they were 50 or close to it....That Daddy and Mother’s marriage is another reminder of the Trinity. They are very one and very two....That they were strict without being legalistic when I was growing up....That they don’t meddle, but they’re always available with counsel when asked....That I learned to pray from listening to countless prayers from both of them."Just to name a few.
Click here to read the entire post of "22 things I admire about my parents on their 40th anniversary" by Barnabas Piper.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
My favorite Christmas text puts humility at the heart of Christmas. So this Christmas I am marveling at Jesus’ humility and wanting more of it myself. I’ll quote the text in a moment.
But first there are two problems. Tim Keller helps us to see one of them in a recent article in Christianity Today. He reminds us, “Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves” (Dec. 2008, p. 51). So an article about humility (like this one, or like his) is self-defeating, it seems. But even shy people peek out sometimes if they are treated well.
The other problem is that Jesus wasn’t humble for the same reasons we are (or should be). So how can looking at Jesus’ Christmas humility help us? Our humility, if there is any at all, is based on our finiteness, our fallibility, and our sinfulness. But the eternal Son of God was not finite. He was not fallible. And he was not sinful. So, unlike our humility, Jesus’ humility originated some other way.
Here’s my favorite Christmas text. Look for Jesus’ humility.
Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
What defines Jesus’ humility is the fact that it is mainly a conscious act of putting himself in a lowly, servant role for the good to others. His humility is defined by phrases like
* “he emptied himself [of his divine rights to be free from abuse and suffering]”
* “he took the form of a servant”
* “he became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”
So Jesus’ humility was not a heart disposition of being finite or fallible or sinful. It was a heart of infinite perfection and infallible truthfulness and freedom from all sin, which for that very reason did not need to be served. He was free and full to overflow in serving.
Another Christmas text that says this would be Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ humility was not a sense of defect in himself, but a sense of fullness in himself put at the disposal of others for their good. It was a voluntary lowering of himself to make the height of his glory available for sinners to enjoy.
Jesus makes the connection between his Christmas lowliness and the good news for us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
His lowliness makes our relief from burdens possible. If he were not lowly, he would not have been “obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” And if he had not been obedient to die for us, we would be crushed under the weight of our sins. He lowers himself to take our condemnation (Romans 8:3).
Now we have more reason to be humble than before. We are finite, fallible, sinful, and therefore have no ground for boasting at all. But now we see other humbling things: Our salvation is not owing to our work, but his grace. So boasting is excluded (Ephesians 2:8-9). And the way he accomplished that gracious salvation was through voluntary, conscious self-lowering in servant-like obedience to the point of death.
So in addition to finiteness, fallibility, and sinfulness, we now have two other huge impulses at work to humble us: free and undeserved grace underneath all our blessings and a model of self-denying, sacrificial, servanthood that willingly takes the form of a servant.
So we are called to join Jesus in this conscious self-humbling and servanthood. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . . .” (Philippians 2:5).
Lord, I pray that this “shy virtue”—this massive ground of our salvation and our servanthood—would peek out from her quiet place and grant us the garments of lowliness. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5).
This is my Christmas prayer for myself and for our church.
A humble and merry Christmas to you all,
© Desiring God Ministries. Reposted with permission.
"The name Ryan Ferguson may be familiar to some of the readers of this site. Ryan has appeared at a couple of conferences where he has recited long passages of Scripture. I first saw him at WorshipGod ‘06 where he dramatically recited all of Hebrews 9 and 10 (though he had memorized the entire book). I recently got ahold of Ryan and asked if he would answer a few questions about memorizing Scripture. I trust this brief interview will serve to encourage you either to begin memorizing passages from the Bible or to press on in your conviction that you ought to."
Click here to read the entire article.
An amazing progression occurs in the 3 short chapters of Habakkuk.
The book begins with the prophet protesting that God seems to be standing idly by while his people in Judah plummet into rampant evil and injustice (1:2-5).
God responds that it’s not going unnoticed, and, to Habakkuk’s surprise, God’s already attending to it—by raising up the wicked Chaldeans, “that bitter and hasty nation," to punish Judah (1:5-11).
Habakkuk protests the justice of punishing a wicked people with a people even more wicked! (1:12-2:1). The prophet is confident that God can’t answer him on this score, and so he will “look out to see what [God] will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint” (2:1). Habakkuk is optimistic that he can rebut whatever answer God has to give for this.
God answers and again Habakkuk is floored: God will punish the Chaldeans in due course and bring destruction to their home in Babylon (2:2-20). He assures the prophet, “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20). That includes Habakkuk and his plans for rebuttal.
Habakkuk marvels at the plans of God and consents that he has been duly silenced: “I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us” (3:16). Only he pleads that God will “in wrath remember mercy” for his people (3:2).
Habakkuk now joyfully submits to the sovereign hand and plan of God. O. Palmer Robertson calls these last 3 verses (3:17-19) “the most beautiful spirit of submission found anywhere in scripture” (The Christ of the Prophets, 260).
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
The book’s final line reads, “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”
What is that?
Habakkuk has ended in song! He has gotten a glimpse of the glory of God, and despite the certain suffering that looms on the horizon, he knows that this God will be enough for him. What a progression—from protest to praise.
. . . yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
© Desiring God Ministries. Reposted with permission.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
"One of the most memorable purchases I made as a teenager was The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible in its original King James Version edition, complete with blue leather cover. I still have it, of course, though it now finds itself surrounded by a host of other Bibles on the shelf nearest to my desk. That study Bible opened the Word of God to me in a whole new way, helping me to make connections in the text and to see how subjects and themes run throughout the Bible"
To read this entire article please click here.
"A growing number of researchers and observers are beginning to take note of a huge demographic reality -- those who take belief in God most seriously tend to have more babies. For many years, the conventional wisdom has held that demography determines destiny. Well, now it appears that theology determines demography."
Read this entire article at Albert Mohler.com.
(by John Piper)
Dripping sweat on the paperback's pages, I speed-walked and read for one hour and twenty minutes holding this book in my hand so that I could finish it before my routine was over. That was two weeks ago. Since then I have been trying to figure out how to describe the way it has affected me. It’s mainly because of the Dad, Jeremiah Land.
I am talking about Leif Enger’s first novel, Peace Like a River. Abraham said I should read it. If my sons tell me to read a thing, I do—at least so far.
I fear saying something trite. I read one reviewer who said, “heartwarming.” Like a rifle bullet in the head, it’s heartwarming. The heart needs something bigger and deeper than warming. And this book helps.
The year is 1962. The narrator is Reuben Land, the son of Jeremiah. Here’s the story of his birth when he almost died—or maybe did die.
I was lying uncovered on a metal table across the room.
Dad lifted me gently. I was very clean from all that rubbing, and I was gray and beginning to cool. A little clay boy is what I was.
“Breathe,” Dad said.
I lay in his arms.
Dr. Nokes said, “Jeremiah, it has been twelve minutes.”
“Breathe!” The picture I see is of Dad, brown hair short and wild, giving this order as if he expected nothing but obedience.
Dr. Nokes approached him. “Jeremiah. There would be brain damage now. His lungs can’t fill.”
Dad leaned down, laid me back on the table, took off his jacket and wrapped me in it—a black canvas jacket with a quilted lining, I have it still. He left my face uncovered.
"Sometimes," said Dr. Nokes, “there is something unworkable in one of the organs. A ventricle that won’t pump correctly. A liver that poisons the blood.” Dr. Nokes was a kindly and reasonable man. “Lungs that can’t expand to take in air. In these cases,” said Dr. Nokes, “we must trust in the Almighty to do what is best.” At which Dad stepped across and smote Dr. Nokes with a right hand, so that the doctor went down and lay on his side with his pupils unfocused. As Mother cried out, Dad turned back to me, a clay child wrapped in a canvas coat, and said in a normal voice, “Reuben Land, in the name of the living God I am telling you to breath.” (2-3)
Christians don’t usually deck their doctors. That’s part of why the book works. There’s faith in it, but not like your usual faith. More strange, like the Bible.
Then there’s the way Mr. Enger writes. It’s not artsy. But, listen! It’s not your normal prose either. Stay with me. Here’s a few lines.
- "Once torched by truth...a little thing like faith is easy." (33)
- "Routine is worry’s sly assassin." (27)
- "...a man whose face was a minefield of red boils..." (63)
- "Exile has its hollow hours." (310)
The book is a witness. It ends:
Is there a single person on whom I can press belief?
All I can do is say, Here’s how it went. Here’s what I saw.
I’ve been there and am going back.
Make of it what you will. (311)
What do I make of it? Wrong question.
What is it making of me?
More alive to everything true, I hope. More steady in the wind. More hopeful. Less anxious. Eager for Christ to show up.
Yes. This is a recommendation. Ask for it for Christmas.
© John Piper. Desiring God Ministries. Reposted with permission.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (Ephesians 5:3-7. NKJV.)With the world today and all of its temptations, purity can be quite a challenge. To always be aware of those around me and mindful of whether my words and action glorify God or cause others to stumble. Everything from the way I dress to the words I speak makes a difference. Do I show too much skin? Are my shorts, dress, and/or skirt too short and my shirt too revealing? Is my speech vulgar in nature and sexually appealing to the mind’s eye? Do I cause listeners to picture me in an inappropriate manner or are my words clean, proper, and do they exalt God? Do I maintain propriety? Am I a biblical example of a daughter of the King or a vision of the world?
Two of my favorite Jane Austen movie adaptations are “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility”. In these beautiful stories of fiction the characters were intently aware of self control and respectability. Their modesty was an every moment thing. The only time a man and woman touched was at a ball, holding hands while dancing, or when a man helped a woman into a carriage. Premarital sex was not tolerated and a woman running off with a man was grounds for the whole family to be shamed and lose their standing in society. How have things come so far from there? We have become desensitized to sexual impurity through worldly advertisements, movies, books, magazines, etc. Are we so different from Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:20-21, 19:1-22, 19:24-26.)
When my loved ones look at me do they see a reflection of Christ or someone who could have been found in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and destoyed by God? Am I a good representative of God and Christ Jesus or do I push those around me further from my Heavenly Father and his precious Son? I try to encourage my older children to abstain from sex before marriage as God has asked of us. With His grace we are able to keep our relationships biblical. With Christ, all things are possible!
“1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3. ESV.)
I love that verse, verse 3: "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." That's beautiful!!!
"Millions of people packed themselves into a 3-block radius, while thousands of New York City's finest corralled them behind rows and rows of metal bars. Giant searchlights flooded the area, bouncing off buildings, illuminating the clouds against the velvety night sky. Old and young, the people strained and craned, pushed and pressed to see and hear the festivities at "30 Rock." The air was positively pummeled with roaring helicopters overhead, while below police dogs barked at the hoards of people still flowing up out of the subways. Security was on high alert. The police seemed nervous . . ."
Click here to read the rest of this cover story by David Brickner.
» I would like to request a complimentary copy of Tortured for Christ for my friend(s).
Monday, December 15, 2008
"God has sent His greatest treasure
Shown His love in greatest measure
Sending Christ to bleed and suffer
Purchasing our joy forever
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices
Christ the Lord is born today
He came from Heaven's throne
God is born a man today
To bring His children home"
Today seems to have a "parenting" theme to it. As I checked out World Magazine I came across an piece by Amy Henry. She writes,
"As the children grow, the arc of the swing increases. After all, only a few short years are left in which to imprint on their tender hearts what Christianity is all about, right? Matters of indifference and personal preference become as God-etched as the Original Ten as we fight over issues like going outside with wet hair, attending youth group, and wearing jeans that are one inch below the belly button."
Read the rest of this article.
So often, especially with teens, I feel I fall into this category. Do I act as a prison warden and enforce every little thing or do I slack off and let things slide. This question actually brings me to two fabulous books I encourage all parents to read! They are CHILD TRAINING TIPS by Reb Bradley and SHEPHERDING A CHILD'S HEART by Ted Tripp. Though I may not agree with everything the author suggests (especially in CHILD TRAINING TIPS) I do have to say each of these books has been a huge blessing for me and my children. I highly recommend them!!!
Presented by Gregg Harris.
Jul 27 2008Sunday Morning Series: Don't Waste Your...
Part 4Scripture(s): Psalms 127
Children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. Wise parents train their children and include them in life, thus aiming them at the target of God's glory. When let fly, these children will build God's kingdom, bless their family, and do good in their community.
Download MP3 or Listen Online.
Filed under: Children and Teens Parenting Wisdom
Listen to sermon.
Belgium and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Now imagine a place where the government threatens parents with fines, or even jail time, if they refuse to vaccinate their children - all in the name of "watching out" for the best interests of “its” children. Imagine a country that permits doctors to terminate the lives of “deficient” children up to a year old, even without parental consent, for the sake of “a better society”. To find such a place, you need look no further than the nation of Belgium. Read the rest of this article.
“The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” Really? Let’s not forget that the Lord Jesus was also the human newborn baby Jesus, as we’re reminded in one of the best Christmas books ever—The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Imogene had the baby doll but she wasn’t carrying it in the way she was supposed to, cradled in her arms. She had it slung up over her shoulder, and before she put it in the manger she thumped it twice on the back.
I heard Alice gasp and she poked me. “I don’t think it’s very nice to burp the baby Jesus,” she whispered, “as if he had colic.” Then she poked me again. “Do you suppose he could have had colic?”
I said, “I don’t know why not,” and I didn’t. He
could have had colic, or been fussy, or hungry like any other baby. After all, that was the whole point of Jesus—that he didn’t come down on a cloud like something out of “Amazing Comics,” but that he was born and lived...a real person. (73-74)
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The first comes from C.J. Mahaney and can be found at the Girl Talk blog.
The second is from Albert Mohler's "The Reading List" at Albert Mohler.com.
And, the third from Tim Challies at Challies.com.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6. ESV.)
I appreciate the worldly saying, “You reap what you sow.” There is a ten year gap between the two groups of children being trained up in my home. One group (group #1) is experiencing their teenage years while the other group (group #2) is just starting God’s lessons in this vapor of a life…which is to say they are very young. As I watch the development of the teen group I am seeing the result of seeds that were planted while they were especially little, only being seedlings themselves. The teen group was not trained up in a cross centered home but instead God was mentioned and discussed but was not the main thing. Seemingly small and trivial seeds of magic and helping oneself to treats without permission were shrugged off and discounted. But wouldn’t you know these are some of the seeds that took root the firmest and are causing quite the ruckus now!
Group #1 did not have bible study each week. They did not attend church each Sunday, and the only “biblical” stories they were told came from the occasional Vacation Bible School, a short season of reading God’s word before bed once or twice a month, and reading John Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress. Their media (Internet websites, television shows, movies, etc.) was 100% worldly. And, they were not taught to respect their parents but rather we acted as a buddy more than an authority.
Group #2 has bible study each Wednesday afternoon. They attend church each Sunday complete with Sunday school. They are read stories from God’s word at bedtime 50%-75% of the time. Their media is more biblical than secular and they are taught that God is the main thing, created all things, and is the center of everything. Furthermore, they are instructed God has the ultimate authority and their parents have authority over them according to God’s laws and commandments.
"A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but(E) when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root,(F) they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among(G) thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some(H) a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9(I) He who has ears,[a] let him hear." (Matthew 13:3-9. ESV.)
"Hear then the parable of the sower: 19When anyone hears the word of(Y) the kingdom and(Z) does not understand it,(AA) the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately(AB) receives it with joy, 21yet he has no root in himself, but(AC) endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately(AD) he falls away.[b] 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but(AE) the cares of(AF) the world and(AG) the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and(AH) understands it. He indeed(AI) bears fruit and yields, in one case(AJ) a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." (Matthew 13:18-23. ESV.)
Group #1 is currently struggling with ungodliness, discontentment, unthankfulness, pride, selfishness, lack of self control, anger, envy, jealousy, and harsh words. The seemingly innocent sneaking of treats without permission has grown into stealing and the apparently childlike interest in magic has developed into an obsession with the Wiccan and Druid organizations.
True, there are many outside influences that tempt children whether it is peers (at school or outside of school), relatives, teammates, the Internet, movies, television shows, magazines, teachers, coaches, etc. however, in my opinion, it is the teaching in the home, the planting of the seeds, that really makes the difference. I feel I am a better parent now that I have died to myself and put my faith and trust in God and His precious Son. I am excited to see how God works in the lives of group #2. I try to fix things with group #1 and sew the seeds of God's sovereignty, wrath, grace, and love however I feel I can no longer train them but rather encourage them according to God’s word. Above all, I pray for all the children in my household and beseech God for their salvation.
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' 28He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29But he said,(AL) 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers,(AM) Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:24-30. ESV.)
© 2008 B.T.P.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” (Colossians 3:1-7. NKJV.)
I am very stern with the children in my home when it comes to obedience. Time after time I repeat to them, “When you are disobedient toward me, who are you disobedient against?” To which they answer, “God.” I pray they will grow up to know and understand that defiance toward God is one of the worst offenses there is. I must remind myself of this as well!
My own submission to God and Christ did not come until I was 30 years old. I recall when I first began attending a church in 2006. I sat in the congregation and leafed through the bulletin. I saw they were in need of ladies to volunteer in the nursery and children’s ministry. At that time I wanted nothing to do with serving the young children. As I began studying God’s word each day I felt drawn to helping and before I knew it I found great joy in assisting with God’s precious little lambs. You see, I did not feel I needed to perform good works to earn my place in heaven but rather I felt called after dying to myself. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16. NKJV.)
When faced with trials, my own obedience to our Heavenly Father plays a key role. Refinement (which I will address again later) is such a bittersweet process in my opinion. Though I know our sovereign God does all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28. ESV.), it is obedience to Him that must be maintained when the heat is turned up and the strain of tribulation is felt.
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." (Proverbs
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17. NKJV.)
Monday, December 08, 2008
My most significant transformation came when I began being disciplined in studying God’s word daily…not only by reading but also by listening. I had always believed I had faith in God but it was not the devotion that leads to His grace as I found out in 2006/ 2007 after my greatest struggle with the warfare of the sins of the flesh, and the sanctification of a daughter of the King! At that time I was like two people struggling within one flesh. My worldly desires wanted me to continue living a life of slavery to sin but my heart was being worked on by God and He was calling me to “come forth” and be obedient to Him as my Master. God, of course, won out and I have long since felt the peace that comes with the blessing of His grace. So, do I feel being in God’s word each and every day is important? Yes, I do! I believe it is imperative!
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11).
God’s word renews me each day. The world taunts and my flesh beckons sin to come and temptation to consume me but being submersed in scripture and studying it out every single day keeps me focused on Him. Fellowshipping with the body (my sisters in Christ) also helps to keep my eyes fixed on Christ Jesus and our Heavenly Father. Their words of encouragement, taken from scripture, rejuvenate my soul. Memory verses keep God’s word fresh in my mind and make it easier for me to reference and/or preach to myself while fighting the good fight and as I run the race trying not to stumble and fall. (Ephesians 6:10-12.)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105. ESV.)
© 2008 B.T.P.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:1-10. ESV.)That verse seems to say it all. What an amazing Heavenly Father we have! I find great comfort, a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7.), in knowing He is in control and I am not. He rules over everything and all things are His servants. (Psalm 119:91. ESV.) Like Lazarus, I once was dead…dead in my sin but Christ Jesus came and beckoned me to, “Come forth,” and I was given life and a new heart made of flesh. (John 11:25-26 & 43-44. Ezekiel 36:26-27. NKJV.) And this He does for all whose names are written in the book of life! Though I have loved ones and friends who are currently unsaved, I know when and if Christ Jesus calls they will answer! Praise God!
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24. NKJV.)
John Piper reminds me of God’s grace and His love by saying this,
“This is shocking. The love of God is not God's making much of us, but God's saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.”(By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.)
Every morning I wake and thank God for His sovereign grace. I express gratitude to Him for creating me, for selecting me as one of His chosen to receive salvation. I am grateful it only takes faith on our part to receive His grace, His forgiveness, and a paid ransom. (Ephesians 2:8.)
© 2008 B.T.P.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-2. ESV.)
Up until about two years ago I would have sworn I had a heart that pleased God. That is, of course, until I started questioning whether or not there was fruit and if I had yet received a new heart. (Ezekiel 36:26.) I had grown up in the church, had the head knowledge, and loved God and Christ Jesus with all my heart in high school but did I have eyes to see and ears to hear? (Deuteronomy 29:4.) After high school I was consumed by worldliness, I had no desire to study my bible, and when I did I vaguely understood it. Did I have the Holy Spirit?
“For I know my transgressions,I question if for so long I was mistaken about my relationship with God. Was it one built on His wrath of my wretched sin when all the while I believed it to be one founded on His love? It was not until fall 2007 I realized my Father does not need me. John Piper stated at his Regional Conference in Sacramento, CA, God was perfectly happy with the trinity. He created man to “go public” and glorify Himself. He can create followers from the very rocks beneath my feet! (Luke 3:8.)
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Psalm 51:3-6.
Yet He is merciful and blesses me each day with His sovereign grace. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9. ESV.) God’s sovereignty is truly beautiful. He reigns over everything from man to even the tiniest speck of dust. Nothing is accidental. Nothing is without His approval as even Satan needed permission in the book of Job. And, we need not worry about anything! (Matthew 6:25-34. NKJV.) He created this stunning yet sin filled world and can destroy it in a second if He so wishes. (Genesis 6:11- 8:18.) With my eyes fixed on God there is no reason for me to be anxious! I am only asked to have faith and rest is handled by Him! If only I had trust in Him the size of a mustard seed I could move mountains. (Luke 17:6.)
© 2008 B.T.P.
The new Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, which is now where every visitor will arrive to see the nation’s Capitol, opened yesterday with 580,000 square feet of displays and $621,000,000 worth of history, but no God.
In what appears to be an intentional misrepresentation of the nation’s religious roots, visitors will enter the center reading a large engraving:
We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.
This reminded me of the celebration of the goddess Reason in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on November 10, 1792. There were some similarities between the American and French Revolutions. But that was not one of them. Reason was big here. But she was not yet God.
Continue reading this article at: http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1520_Writing_Religion_Out_of_Our_History/
My study in the book of Proverbs began shortly after my conversion in 1972. And it wasn’t long after this that I began reading and learning from Dr. Derek Kidner’s little commentary. For decades now Dr. Kidner has been one of the scholars holding my hand, leading me through the book, and helping me to discover what he calls “the neglected wealth of the Proverbs” (p. 9).
One of the most distinct features of the commentary is his brief subject studies. In these summaries he covers the topics of God and man, wisdom, the fool, the sluggard, the friend, words, the family, and life and death (see pages 31–56). I wish all Christians could read these brief and pointed studies and experience the grace and wisdom I have derived from them.
When I began my Christian life, I held to a narrow and limited understanding of laziness. Then I read Kidner’s subject study on the sluggard.
I’ll never forget it.
As I began reading, I saw my face in the picture. My definition of laziness was expanded, and its subtlety was exposed. I discovered that I could be—and often was—a sluggard. Here are the words I read:
“The sluggard in Proverbs is a figure of tragi-comedy, with his sheer animal laziness (he is more than anchored to his bed: he is hinged to it, 26:14), his preposterous excuses (“there is a lion outside!” 26:13; 22:13) and his final helplessness.
(1) He will not begin things. When we ask him (6:9, 10) “How long…?” “When…?”, we are being too definite for him. He doesn’t know. All he knows is his delicious drowsiness; all he asks is a little respite: “a little…a little…a little…”. He does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.
(2) He will not finish things. The rare effort of beginning has been too much; the impulse dies. So his quarry goes bad on him (12:27) and his meal goes cold on him (19:24; 26:15).
(3) He will not face things. He comes to believe his own excuses (perhaps there is a lion out there, 22:13), and to rationalize his laziness; for he is “wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason” (26:16). Because he makes a habit of the soft choice (he “will not plow by reason of the cold,” 20:4) his character suffers as much as his business, so that he is implied in 15:19 to be fundamentally dishonest…
(4) Consequently he is restless (13:4; 21:25, 26) with unsatisfied desire; helpless in face of the tangle of his affairs, which are like a “hedge of thorns” (15:19); and useless—expensively (18:9) and exasperatingly (10:26)—to any who must employ him…
The wise man will learn while there is time. He knows that the sluggard is no freak, but, as often as not, an ordinary man who has made too many excuses, too many refusals and too many postponements. It has all been as imperceptible, and as pleasant, as falling asleep.”
-Derek Kidner, Proverbs (IVP, 1964), pp. 42–43.
© C.J. Mahaney
(by Adrian Warnock)
“Have I been born again?" is not a question to be answered hastily. In John Piper's new book, Finally Alive, expect to be challenged. Piper strips away our complacency, arguing that many people falsely believe they are Christians. He begins by arguing that many who claim to be "born again" today are actually not, and that statistics demonstrating that so-called born again Christians are morally indistinguishable from unbelievers only demonstrate that many who think they have been regenerated actually are still on their way to hell.
Have you carefully examined yourself lately to see if YOU are truly saved? Being wrong about this issue will have eternal consequences and Jesus warned us that there will be those in that day who will have thought they were his followers but actually were not:
Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"
By examining the Bible’s teaching on the new birth, John Piper shows us how to be certain our faith is genuine. Because no issue could be more critical, I believe this is the most important book Piper has written. It could be the most important book outside of the Bible that you or your loved one will ever read. I was privileged to have the opportunity to read this prior to launch and it moved me profoundly, challenging me once more to be sure of my own salvation and to appreciate more fully what God has done for me.
This book is being published first in the UK. However, it is now possible to pre-order it, and I understand it can also be delivered to the USA and other countries. It's worth the cost of international postage. If you move quickly (i.e. before December 4th), your order will be free of delivery charges in the UK.
A single copy is now available on pre-order for just £8.99 (which is approximately $14), dropping to £7.64 each if you buy a box of twenty. Buy several copies! Delivery, however, is not possible before Christmas.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Before going any further I must first stop and look to myself and what lies in my own heart. “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34. ESV) hence I feel convicted to reevaluate my own words and behavior before looking toward others when addressing issues. (Matthew 7:5.)
How do I conduct myself with those around me? Humbly I ask and must not get defensive when I am given an honest answer. Do I have a quiet, gentle spirit? (1 Peter 3:4.) Can others see the reflection of Christ in my speaking and actions? Am I quick to anger and slow to forgive? I ask family, friends, and especially those who live with me, and are exposed to my deeds every day, for their opinion. I tend to be on my best behavior in some situations and not as much in others. When do I feel I have the most self control? When do I feel I have the least and why? "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5. ESV.)
I seek counsel from my sisters in Christ. (Proverbs 27:17.) I look to the wiser women for strong, mature biblical guidance. And though I receive input from those who do not have the same faith as I do, those who are not saved, and those who are not yet mature in God’s word, I give their recommendations due weight in an effort to get the whole outside picture of me…which is very humbling! “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy”. (Proverbs 27:6. ESV.)
© 2008 B.T.P.
Last week CJ sat down for an interview with one of my favorite authors and teachers--Jerry Bridges. As I listened to the podcast of their conversation, I was freshly reminded of why I appreciate Mr. Bridges' ministry so much. He is a man who combines a deep understanding of the truths of the gospel with a passion for personal holiness. To listen to him describe his daily pursuit of godliness--which has not waned, but only increased with age--inspires me to new zeal in fighting sin and loving the Savior. I would heartily encourage you to listen and apply.
By Carolyn Mahaney. © Girltalk blog.
Burk Parsons is a pastor at St. Andrews Chapel near Orlando with R. C. Sproul. When you talk with Burk, you know he’s a pastor.
But he's an editor as well. He edits Ligonier’s monthly Tabletalk magazine (highly recommended), and he recently finished editing John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology which contains chapters by Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Michael Horton, John MacArthur, and others (with a foreword by Iain Murray).
Burk agreed to answer some questions from Desiring God about this new Calvin title which officially released on Friday.
Desiring God: What prompted the idea for this volume on Calvin?
Burk Parsons: After I became a pastor, I began to receive all sorts of questions about Calvin and Calvinism—the same questions that I had been asking years before. So I began to pray and seek counsel from wise men to determine if I should write a book particularly for laypeople that would provide answers about Calvin and Calvinism.
I was doing a series of conferences in Colombia, South America, when I realized Calvin’s 500th birthday (July 10, 2009) was just around the corner. I realized that if I wanted to have the book ready for 2009 I would not have adequate time to write the book myself, so I began to assign chapters from my outline to men who might contribute to the book.
I wanted each chapter to represent the man who was writing. For instance, for the chapter titled “Calvin’s Heart for God,” which considers Calvin’s humble service to God and his motto—“I offer my heart to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely”—I wanted a man who represents such humble service and whose life manifests the simple majesty of Calvin’s motto. As such, I asked Sinclair Ferguson to write that chapter.
DG: How did you put together such an outstanding team to write on Calvin?
I threatened each of the potential contributors with the curses of Deuteronomy 28 if they didn’t write. No, not really.
Actually, I suppose that each of the contributors who wrote for the book did so on account of their desire to have a book on Calvin for laypeople.
A couple of other factors likely contributed to their decision to write. First of all, most of the chapters are very short—between 3000 and 5000 words, and I assigned each of the chapters to men who represented their respective subjects on the life, ministry, or theology of Calvin. That made it even more difficult for many of the contributors to decline.DG: The book assumes that the common opinion on Calvin is that he was stuffy and sullen.
Who is the real Calvin that your book wants to portray?
In my preface to the book, I write the following (which gets at your question):
John Calvin was a churchman for all ages. He was a Reformer, a pastor, and a revolutionary. He was a selfless husband, a devoted father, and a noble friend. But above all Calvin was a man whose mind was humbled and whose heart was mastered by the Lord God Almighty.... He saw himself first and foremost as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and he desired earnestly to be taught daily “in the school of Jesus Christ” so that he might rightly know the Lord in order to “trust, invoke, praise, and love him."...DG: What one thing about Calvin do you find most likable?
Although many Christians throughout the world are somewhat familiar with Calvin’s doctrines, most are unfamiliar with the man who was so passionately dedicated to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Given all that the Lord accomplished in him and through him, his legacy to Christians in the twenty-first century is one of devotional, doctrinal, and doxological surrender to the Lord.
Calvin was not comfortable with others speaking more highly of him than he deemed appropriate. He would actually go so far as to correct someone who spoke too highly of him and then proceed to explain to the one making the comment, whether friend or opponent, in private or public, why it was that he was unworthy of such high esteem.
He did this, presumably, on account of his desire to make absolutely certain that God received all glory. From all appearances, Calvin was genuinely concerned not to think of himself more highly than he should and to esteem others better than himself—O that the Lord would grant us such character.
My sincere prayer is that the Lord would use this book not first and foremost to help us love Calvin more but to love the Lord more with all our hearts so that we all might worship the Lord in the way he deserves.
By John Piper. © Desiring God Ministries.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The vision in Daniel 8 is appalling. The great beastly enemy of God is allowed to kill huge numbers of saints.
His power shall be great...and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. (Daniel 8:24)
Daniel is made sick by the vision. But in spite of being sick and appalled, he does his work.
And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. (Daniel 8:27)
That is the way it is in ministry. From one day to the next the news changes. Some hits home so close it makes you sick. Some is global and makes the heart tremble. But we press on in the work we are given to do.
How can we do this? One way is to know that we are “greatly loved.” Three times an angel tells Daniel he is “greatly loved.”
- "You are greatly loved.” (9:23)
- “O Daniel, man greatly loved.” (10:11)
- "O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” (10:19)
Everyone who believes in Christ experiences the same:
“But God...because of the great love with which he loved us...made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
You are loved with “great love”—omnipotent love, omniscient love, unstoppable love, eternal love. Therefore, do not fear. Be appalled at the world, and be productive in it.
By John Piper. © Desiring God Ministries.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Just a few hours ago I stood at the very spot where one of the most significant addresses in American history was delivered -- and where the settled understandings of the Christian ministry and the church's theology were thrown into revolution.
The date was July 15, 1838, the place was the chapel of Divinity Hall at Harvard, and the speaker was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson had been asked to deliver an address to the Senior Class of the Divinity College, and he accepted the challenge. Emerson was then a part-time Unitarian preacher, but his intellectual stature in the movement known as Transcendentalism attracted the attention of the students training for ministry.
More to the point, Emerson had ignited an intellectual explosion the year before, when he was asked to deliver the annual lecture to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard. That address, "The American Scholar," was widely understood to represent a declaration of independence for American intellectuals. No longer should American thinkers be slavishly dependent upon European patterns, Emerson declared. This was the time for the emergence of the American Scholar, a new and advanced form of the human thinker; a scholar who would "plant himself indomitably on his instincts" and refuse to be "timid, imitative, tame."
A year later, Emerson rose to deliver his address to the Divinity School. Speaking to young men studying for the ministry, Emerson repudiated Christianity and called the young ministers to trust their own spiritual instincts and to free themselves from the Bible, from belief in a divine Christ, and from any remnant of orthodox Christianity.
"Historical Christianity has fallen into the error that corrupts all attempts to communicate religion," he declared. "As it appears to us, and as it has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual. It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus." This singular focus on Christ has turned Christianity into an uninspiring religion, he argued. All the "official titles" ascribed to Jesus just serve to make him into a "demigod," Emerson insisted.
Preaching that centers on Jesus Christ as the divine Savior is "vulgar," Emerson asserted. Miracles were eliminated as a possibility. Men and women do not come to be "converted," he insisted, by a "profanation of the soul" that centers on necessary beliefs. Instead, they should be converted "by the reception of beautiful sentiments."
Emerson also attacked the ministers of his day by accusing them of preaching the Bible. So far as Emerson was concerned, the Bible was a dead and lifeless book in itself. Preaching from the Bible will not produce greatness, Emerson explained. To limit the voice of God to the Bible is to shut the voice of God up into a dead book.
"Men have come to speak of the revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. The injury to faith throttles the preacher; and the goodliest of institutions becomes an uncertain and inarticulate voice," he argued.
In other words, the young ministers were challenged to give up preaching the Bible and instead to preach their own religious sentiments:
"To this holy office you propose to devote yourselves. I wish you may feel your call in throbs of desire and hope. The office is the first in the world. It is of that reality that it cannot suffer the deduction of any falsehood. And it is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater of new revelation than now."
Emerson's bold and confrontational call for "new" revelation was translated into his most memorable lines from this historic address -- "Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost, cast behind you all conformity, and acquaint men at first hand with Deity."
In other words, he commanded the young ministers to abandon the Scriptures and to trust their own instincts, religious sentiments, and intuitions as all the divine revelation they will need. "Preaching," he explained, is nothing more than "the expression of the moral sentiment in application to the duties of life."
With his address, Emerson ignited a firestorm. He had boldly and thoroughly repudiated biblical Christianity. His proposal was to replace the Christian faith with a religion of individualistic sentimentality, iced with a coating of moralism.
Nevertheless, even as Emerson ignited a firestorm, the Harvard faculty were themselves mostly Unitarian in outlook. Theological liberalism had already become a fixture by the 1830s. The professors scandalized by Emerson's address might protest his candor, but they had little theological ammunition with which to refute him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1838 "Divinity School Address" was a call to radical theological revisionism, and thousands of ministers have answered his call. It is no accident that evangelical Christianity was so soon set on its heels in Emerson's New England.
Standing in the chapel in Divinity Hall last evening, I was struck by how contemporary Emerson's argument sounds. The call he issued 170 years ago is the very message we now hear from others -- Christianity must change or die. We cannot simply preach a book that is two thousand years old. God still speaks, and a slavish dependence on the Bible is both offensive and ineffectual. Doctrines must go -- intuition and sentiment will be enough.
The issues and arguments are the same. Nevertheless, we have all the evidence we need to show us where Emerson's argument leads. It leads to the death of churches, denominations, institutions, and ministries. It leaves sinners dead in their sins and robs them of hearing the Gospel.
The church has never needed "newborn bards of the Holy Ghost." Instead, the need of the church is for preachers who are skilled in the art of preaching the Word of God -- rightly dividing the Word of Truth, while holding without apology to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
I am glad I visited that historic room in Divinity Hall last night. It served to remind me of what is at stake in our generation -- and for eternity. There are no new heresies, only echoes of the old ones. And yet, the old ones come back again and again.
I tend to procrastinate. So to fight that tendency, I’ve posted the following quote from a nineteenth-century preacher under my computer monitor. I hope these words inspire you to attend diligently to the most important matters each day, by God’s grace.
No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.
(1826–1910), Scottish preacher
Related posts in this series:
1. Are You Busy?
2. Confessions of a Busy Procrastinator
3. The Procrastinator Within
“Blessed be(B) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing(C) in the heavenly places, 4(D) even as he(E) chose us in him(F) before the foundation of the world, that we should be(G) holy and blameless before him. In love 5(H) he predestined us[a] for(I) adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,(J) according to the purpose of his will, 6(K) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in(L) the Beloved. 7(M) In him we have(N) redemption(O) through his blood,(P) the forgiveness of our trespasses,(Q) according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9(R) making known[b] to us the mystery of his will,(S) according to his purpose, which he(T) set forth in Christ 10as a plan for(U) the fullness of time,(V) to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3-10. ESV.)Two of my children have been adopted into my heart. I pray they will one day know how much I love them, that they will have faith that leads to grace, and I ask God for their salvation. Will these children ever know the affection I have for them as I continually sew the seeds of God and His word? And will these seeds fall on rich soil and grow deep roots or will they drop along the path, onto rocky ground, or among thorns (Matthew 13:1-9). As it is now, training these lambs of God up in the way they should go (Proverb 22:6) is quite challenging as they seem to enjoy reminding me that I am not their biological parent. However, with time I am hopeful their feelings toward me will change and God will be working in each child’s heart.
For Christ Jesus said,
“‘I am the(A) true vine, and my Father is(B) the vinedresser. 2(C) Every branch in me that does not bear fruit(D) he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,(E) that it may bear more fruit. 3Already(F) you are clean(G) because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4(H) Abide(I) in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine;(J) you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that(K) bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me(L) he is thrown away like a branch and withers;(M) and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If(N) you abide in me, and my words abide in you,(O) ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8(P) By this my Father is glorified, that you(Q) bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9(R) As the Father has loved me,(S) so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10(T) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as(U) I have kept(V) my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you,(W) that my joy may be in you, and that(X) your joy may be full.’” (John 15:1-11. ESV.)What beautiful promises our Heavenly Father and His Son have made to us when we have faith that leads to grace. I beseech sovereign God for the salvation of my loved ones, especially all of the children in my home whether they are biological children or adopted into my heart. I encourage you to plead for the salvation of your loved ones as well. For those that do not abide in Him will be thrown away like a branch and wither; and the branches will be gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. Infinitely precious saving grace is my heart’s desire for those I love. Please pray for me and my loved ones and I shall pray for you and yours. Praise God!