28 July 2011

Light Bulb Theology

This has been around awhile but its worth another read and a laugh...

How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?

Charismatic: Only 1 – Hands are already in the air.

Pentecostal: 10 – One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None – Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholic: None – Candles only. (Of guaranteed origin of course.)

Baptists: At least 15 – One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad and fried chicken.

Episcopalians: 3 – One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Mormons: 5 – One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, you are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined – Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. Bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday lighting service and a covered dish to pass.

Nazarene: 6 – One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None – Lutherans don’t believe in change.

Amish: What is a light bulb?

26 July 2011

We don't have to pretend...

Gracious and wise words from Mark Dever...

Embracing trials doesn’t mean that we are to pretend that they are not trials. It simply means that we are not to let our reactions to them be determined by how they first feel to us. How many times do parents have to do this with children? Or doctors with patients? Or good public servants with constituents, if they’re to serve them well?

And we should be encouraged by remembering that God is glorified by our perseverance in trials. First Peter 4:19 says, “Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Through every trial we learn that God is enough. We don’t need this or that good circumstance in order to feel that it’s worthwhile to serve God and to love Him. Like Paul with his thorn, by considering trials as part of our faith in God, we display His strength through our weaknesses.

Read the whole post here.

25 July 2011

Paul's Prayer for the Colossians

Originally from Canada, Rev. Ron Scharfe spent much of his life as a professor, having taught courses in Bible and Philosophy at Indiana - Purude Univeristy Fort Wayne, and Fort Wayne Bible College, and taught courses in a number of places around the world including Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Jamaica and elsewhere.  Rev. Scharfe has also served as a pastor, and is an active member of the Evangelical Theological Society.  He attended Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, Carleton University, Toronto Baptist Seminary, Chicago Lutheran School of Theology, Concordia Seminary, and the Institute of Holy Land Studies.  Rev. Scharfe has two married daughters, and seven grandchildren.

24 July 2011

Turn Our Sighs Into Songs....

A Prayer about God Working In and Through Our Pain

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Heavenly Father, the story wrapped around this one verse demonstrates there’s simply no other god as merciful, gracious, and engaged as you. Your forbearance is immeasurable; your kindness is inexhaustible; your plans are irrepressible. We worship and adore you.

When your people received this letter of encouragement from Jeremiah, they were in exile in Babylon. How could they not feel bereft, bewildered, even betrayed by you? Yet, by your own testimony, Father, when you lead us into difficult seasons, it’s not to punish us but to prosper us. When you send hardships, it’s not to bring us harm but to give us hope. When you discipline us, it’s not to send us into the “dog house” of your displeasure, but to free us from the consequences of our foolishness… and to guarantee our good future.

You’re not a God who reacts out of irritation, but one who always acts out of great affection. You know the plans you have for us, individually and corporately. There’s no happenstance in heaven; no randomness in redemption; no coincidences, just providences. You don’t make up things as you go along. You never engage in “trial and error.” “Stuff” doesn’t just happen, sovereignty is always happening.

Father, this way of thinking would be utter madness if you never sent Jesus—a big time spitting into the wind; the spin of all spins; delusional at best, demonic at worse. But Jesus is the “Yes” to every promise you have made. His life, death and resurrection are the guarantee of our gospel-prosperity, living hope, and glorious future. Apart from Jesus there is only hopelessness unimaginable. Because of Jesus there is joy unspeakable.

So bring the truth, grace and power of this gospel into our current situations; into our personal stories of pain; into the brokenness our local churches; and into the needs of our communities. Turn our sighs into songs, our cynicism into servanthood, and our grumblings into the rumblings of a coming visitation of the Holy Spirit. Comfort us that we might comfort one another. Bless us, that we might bless others. Mercy us, that we might mercy others. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and compassionate name.

Scotty Smith
Pastor for Preaching
Christ Community Church
1215 Hillsboro Rd.
Franklin, TN 37069

It's good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace Hebrews 13:9

22 July 2011

History of the Heidelberg Catechism

Great lecture...

HCRT 2010 - The Heidelberg Catechism from SERK Heidelberg on Vimeo.

Packer on Scripture

As today is J.I. Packer's birthday it is only fiting to read something from him...

by J. I. Packer

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”—Psalm 119:105

See the psalmist’s picture. He has to travel. (Scripture regularly pictures life as a journey.) He was in the dark, unable to see the way to go and bound to get lost and hurt if he advanced blindly. (This pictures our natural ignorance of God’s will for our lives, our inability to guess it and the certainty in practice of our missing it.) But a lamp (think of a flashlight) has been handed to him. Now he can pick out the path before him, step by step, and stick to it, though darkness still surrounds him. (This pictures what God’s word does for us, showing us how to live.) The psalmist’s cry is one of praise, thanks, admonition, testimony and confidence—praise that God glorifies his grace by giving men so precious a gift as his word; thanks because he knows how much he himself needed it, and how lost he was without it; admonition to himself and any who might read his psalm always to value God’s word at its true worth and to make full use of it for the purpose for which it was given; testimony to the fact that already in his experience it had proved its power; and confidence that this would continue.

The psalmist would have committed to memory the Pentateuch, the law of Moses in its narrative context, and in his meditations would be working from that. We are privileged to have the entire Bible available to us in printed form. How well do we know it? How much do we love it? Happy are we if we have learned, in defiance of modern skepticism, to make the psalmist’s words and meaning our own.

Some 170 of the psalm’s 176 verses celebrate the ministry of God’s revealed word in the godly man’s life as his source of guidance, hope, strength, correction, humility, purity and joy. Psalm 19:7-14 and 2 Timothy 3:15-17 more briefly do the same thing. Do we know anything of what Paul and the psalmists knew of the power of Scripture to reshape, redirect and renew disordered lives?

Why does contact with God’s scriptural word transform some people while leaving others cold? First, some let the written word lead them to the living Word, Jesus Christ, to whom it constantly points us; others don’t. Second, not all come to the Bible hungry and expectant, conscious of daily need to hear God speak. “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it,” says God (Psa 81:10). The open mouth is a gesture of hunger and dependence. “With open mouth I pant, because I long for thy commandments,” says the psalmist (Psa 119:131). Desire for God, springing from a sense of our need of him, is the factor that decides how much or how little impact Scripture will make upon us. Bible reader check your heart!

What Bishop J. C. Ryle wrote in a tract over a century ago remains wholly relevant:
You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.

To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.

Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible…Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible…Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?

There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons? If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience…Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.

If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him…Your sword is held loosely in your hand.

If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.

If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little—but read it a great deal…Remember your many enemies. Be armed!

J.I. Packer

21 July 2011

Praying for the World


Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

My soul is much more afflicted with the thoughts of the miserable world, and more drawn out in desire of their conversion than heretofore. I was wont to look but little further than England in my prayers, as not considering the state of the rest of the world; or if I prayed for the conversion of the Jews, that was almost all. But now as I better understand the case of the world, and the method of the Lord’s Prayer, so there is nothing in the world that lies so heavy upon my heart as the thought of the miserable nations of the earth. It is the most astonishing part of all God’s providence to me, that he so far forsakes almost all the world and confines his special favour to so few; that so small a part of the world has the profession of Christianity, in comparison of heathens, mahometans and other infidels! And that among professed Christians there are so few that are saved from gross delusions, and have but any competent knowledge: and that among those there are so few that are seriously religious, and truly set their hearts on heaven. I cannot be affected so much with the calamities of my own relations or the land of my nativity, as with the case of the heathen, mahometan, and ignorant nations of the earth. No part of my prayers are so deeply serious, as that for the conversion of the infidel and ungodly world, that God’s name may be sanctified, and his kingdom come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven; Nor was I everbefore so sensible what a plague the division of languages was which hinders our speaking to them for their conversion; nor what a great sin tyranny is which keeps out the Gospel from most of the nations of the world. Could we but go among Tartarians, Turks, and Heathens, and speak their language I should be but little troubled for the silencing of eighteen hundred Ministers at once in England, nor for all the rest that were cast out here, and inScotland and Ireland. There being no employment in the world so desirable in my eyes, as to labour for the winning of such miserable souls: which maketh me greatly honour Mr. John Eliot, the Apostle of the Indians in New England and whoever else have laboured in such work.

17 July 2011

How Does God Comfort?

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

How  does God comfort those who are cast down? His method is various. He adapts the comfort to the sorrow. He first writes the sentence of death upon all comfort outside of Himself. If you have been accustomed to scrutinize narrowly God’s way of dealing with you, you will often have marked this peculiar feature—that before He has unsealed the fountain, He has cut off the spring. In other words, He has suspended all human channels of comfort, preparatory to the fulfillment of His own exceeding great and precious promise, “I, even I, am he that comforts you.” It was thus He dealt with His Church of old. “Therefore, behold, I will allure83 her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (Hos 2:14). In that wilderness, as a “woman of a sorrowful spirit,” she is brought: in that wilderness she is separated from her companions; yet in that dreary, lonely wilderness the God of all comfort speaks to her heart…

This is one way by which God comforts the disconsolate. Overlook it not. It may be painful, humiliating, and trying to faith; but the issue, like all the conduct of our Heavenly Father, will be most blessed and holy. Is He now, in your case, writing the sentence of death upon all creature comfort? Does no eye pity you, no heart feel for you, no tongue address you, and is no hand outstretched to rescue you? Look now for God! For He is on the way, in the time of the creature’s failure, Himself to comfort you.

By sealing a sense of pardon upon the conscience, God comforts the disconsolate. There is no comfort equal to this. As our deepest sorrow flows from a sense of sin, so our deepest joy springs from a sense of its forgiveness. What comfort can there be where this is lacking? What sorrow where this is felt? “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29). This was the comfort which God commanded the prophet to speak to His spiritual Jerusalem: “Say unto her, that her sins are forgiven.” And this is the message which the Lord sends to His whole Church. This comfort have all His saints. Your sins, O believer, are forgiven. “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins,” says God (Isa 44:22). You are not called upon to believe that God will pardon, but that He has pardoned you. Forgiveness is a past act; the sense of it written upon the conscience is a present one. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:14), has forever put away their sins.

Faith in the blood of Jesus brings the soul into the possession of a present forgiveness. And when God the Holy Spirit thus imprints a sense of pardoned sin upon the troubled conscience, all other sorrows in comparison dwindle into insignificance. In all kinds of trouble, it is not the ingredients that God puts into the cup that so much afflict us, as the ingredients of our distempered84 passions mingled with them. The sting and the core of them all is sin: whenthat is not only pardoned, but in a measure healed, and the proud flesh eaten out, then a healthy soul will bearanything. After repentance, that trouble which before was a correction, becomes now a trial and exercise oF grace….We should not be cast down so much about outward troubles, as about that sin that both procures them and envenoms85 them. We see by experience, where conscience is once set at liberty, how cheerfully men will go under any burden: therefore labor to keep out sin, and then let come what will come.

Thus, beloved, God comforts His conscience-troubled people. He loves so to speak to their hearts! Is it any delight to Him to see you carrying your burden of conscious sin day after day and week after week? Ah, no! He has procured the means of your pardon at a great price—nothing less than the sacrifice of His beloved Son—and will not the same love which procured your forgiveness, speak it to your heart? Oh yes, the sun in the heavens pours not forth its light more freely, light itself speeds not more rapidly…than the pardon of sin flows from the heart of God to the humble and the contrite mourner. Is sin your trouble? Does conscious guilt cast you down? Look up, disconsolate soul! There is forgiveness with God. It is in His heart to pardon you. Repair to His feet, go to God’s confessional, and over the head of the atoning sacrifice acknowledge your transgression, and He will forgive the iniquity of your sin.

14 July 2011

Suffering part 2

In the last post on this subject I hope I demonstrated at least to some small degree that we will all experience suffering at some point in our lives. Some will have short bursts, others will have longer exposure but pain and suffering will come. Jesus, Paul and Peter definitively express this fact. So how do we deal with it? How do we help others through it? As we are not islands, Scripture makes it clear we are a community of believers in His church. The church, then, needs to know how to be a haven for its own suffering people. Author and teacher Nancy Guthrie offers six ways to accomplish this in her address at The Gospel Coalition 2011 titled “Is Your Church a Safe Place for Hurting People.”

A safe church will

1. Overcome the awkwardness to engage with the hurting person
We need to overcome our fear and talk to the hurting saint.

2. Make room for tears and sadness
People need time to heal. They will be sad. Give them room for a time to cry.

3. Go deeper than deliverance in prayer
Stop trying to pray away suffering. Pray that the suffering will be used to bring God glory.

4. Gently challenge spiritualism and sentimentality with spiritual truth
Teach and preach the truth. Get away from false assumptions about trials & suffering.

5. Anticipate family (both blood and church) pressure points
Hurting people will feel out of place, come along side them, be with them. Help them to start to turn their focus away from themselves.

6. Facilitate turning misery into ministry
Suffering people need to turn their misery into ministry by helping others. Through serving healing comes.

My few notes above do not do justice to Guthrie’s talk. I strongly urge you to listen, pray and apply these few principles for those who are hurting in your church.

12 July 2011

Suffering part 1

Suffering is real, it is painful and it is not recognized or dealt with Biblically in the modern evangelical church. It seems that a false understanding of suffering is present; “Now that I’m a believer I will enjoy a pain free life.” Or, conversely, “I must be in sin so God is punishing me.” Both assumptions are false and do more damage to ourselves and the church than we can ever imagine.

So let’s look at a Biblical viewpoint of suffering and how we are to deal with it. Can we first agree that it is real and agree that if one hasn’t suffered yet, one will? It is inevitable. “In this world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). What else could Christ mean here? We will have trials, sufferings, pain, sickness and persecutions in our lives. As D.A. Carson reminds us in his book, “How Long, O Lord?”, now is the time to prepare for suffering, it is often too late when you find yourself in the middle of a deeply painful situation to try to start dealing with it Biblically. Thus it is critical to have a theology of suffering now before it strikes you or a loved one.

Carl Trueman, in his fine work titled, "Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," brings to light some crucial truths on suffering in his chapter, "Meeting the Man of Sorrows." On page 40 we read

Suffering and weakness are not just the way in which Christ triumphs and conquers; they are the way in which we are to triumph and conquer too. … [I]f suffering and weakness are the ways God works in Christ, it is to be expected that these are the ways he will work in those who seek to follow him. … [O]ne becomes a theologian by suffering the torments and feeling the weakness which union with Christ must inevitably bring in its wake.

What a powerful statement. For most of us we’ve had it backwards for much of our Christian walk, have we not? Continuing on page 42 he states

[A]s Christ accepted suffering and death as part of his own life and ministry, so those who seek to walk in his footsteps should expect no less. Indeed, for Luther, suffering and weakness are the essence of the Christian life, for it is in our suffering and weakness that God achieves his proper work in us: … of bringing us to heaven.

Here’s the bottom line:

[O]nce we are saved, we can expect suffering and weakness as part and parcel of the Christ-centered life. We should, therefore, not be surprised when difficulties arise in our lives, for these are an essential part of God’s alien work whereby he achieves his proper work within us (pg. 43).

Suffering and weakness are with us and we can’t escape them. It’s time to stop fooling ourselves; sin has a way of convincing us of the very opposite of what we should believe. Many ministers and churches teach just this very thing: good things are from God, bad things are from Satan, the world, other people and the list goes on. Thus, the true nature of pain and suffering are never faced and people are duped by a false theology. They experience no comfort because they believe they have failed God and are being punished or some other power other than God has caused them their suffering. Neither choice is Biblical or healthy.

Are you suffering? Then Jesus Christ has suffered too and knows in a deep and mysterious way what you are going through. Are you lonely and isolated? Then Jesus Christ has been lonely and isolated too. The brokenness of the created order engendered by sin is laid bare in the life and work of Christ (pg. 48).

[S]uffering and weakness, in whatever form they may come, are an inevitable part of life in a sinful broken world and are therefore something with which the church must genuinely grapple if it is to take seriously the God of the cross (pg. 49).

How does the church grapple with this truth? First and foremost, it must teach and preach the truth of suffering for Christ’s sake. It must not deceive its hearers any longer and point its hurting people to Christ. And, its members must then make it a safe place for those who are suffering. How? Next time we’ll turn to Nancy Guthrie for some advice.

11 July 2011

The Doctrine of Perseverance

Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance Explained and Confirmed

A Prayer about Our Groans and the Spirit's Groans

A wonderful prayer from Scotty Smith, thanks Scotty.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27

Dear heavenly Father, we cannot thank and praise you too much for sending your Spirit into our hearts. He doesn’t just guarantee our eternal inheritance, he groans within us—identifying with the brokenness of our lives and praying according to the perfection of your will. What comfort, what joy, what freedom this gives us.

Our comfort comes from knowing that having weaknesses and pain is not a sign of spiritual immaturity but of spiritual reality—of new life within us. We are your “already and not yet” children—already adopted and destined to be like Jesus one day, but presently filled with birth pangs. There is a profound ache—a longing inside of us which is best expressed by groans. These are deep groans, painful groans—like a mother birthing a child in the wilderness without the aid of anesthetics. You’re not calling us to “grin and bear it” stoically, but groan with the confidence your Spirit enters our groans.

Indeed, our joy comes from the assurance that we don’t groan alone. Though sometimes it feels like it, you haven’t abandoned us Lord—you never have and you never will. Like the most engaged mid-wife, your Spirit is present in our pain and longings—praying for us according to your will; encouraging us throughout the whole birthing process; guaranteeing us you will bring to completion the good work you have begun in us. Nothing is going to keep us from entering the fullness of our adoption and the redemption of our bodies. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Our freedom comes as we quit pretending we’re not pregnant with glory and stop reaching for anything, anything that will numb our pain. Blessed Father, by the grace of Jesus and the power of your Spirit, free us to cooperate with what you are doing in our lives. It hurts, but it hurts for your glory and our transformation.

And free us to enter into one another’s groans and longings, as well. You are adopting a gigantic family of fraternal twins—all guaranteed to be like your beloved Son, Jesus. We’re in this journey together. Show us how to encourage one another, and all the more, as we see the great Day of our full redemption getting closer and closer. O that our churches would be more like big birthing units and less like sedentary retirement communities. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ beautiful and faithful name.

Scotty Smith
Pastor for Preaching
Christ Community Church
1215 Hillsboro Rd.
Franklin, TN 37069

Follow Scotty Smith's blog at the Gospel Coalition.

10 July 2011

John Calvin 10 July 1509

In honor of Calvin's birthday...

I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Saviour of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake.
I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of thy pure day.

Thou art the life by which alone we live
And all our substance and our strength receive.
Sustain us by thy faith and by thy power
And give us strength in every trying hour.

Our hope is in no other save in thee;
Our faith is built upon thy promise free.
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure
That in thy strength we evermore endure.
- John Calvin

08 July 2011

Aim for the Ordinary

Some people have smarts, money, status and just plain pizzazz; other people don’t. God calls and uses those who don’t, though he occasionally makes exceptions. The people who ate with Jesus were the marginalized, the misfits, the ones who had to work for everything they ever got and still couldn’t make it, the unattractive, and the ones who didn’t seem to be worth much, at least in the minds of the cultural elites. You wouldn’t think that such a group would be at the very center of a world-shaking movement that will last forever. Even ordinary people would stock their inner circle with the best and brightest if we were to rule the world. But God is different. He delights in using average people to advance his Kingdom.

Fishermen rather than Pharisees.
Shepherds rather than rich men.

-Ed Welch

Pride is such an insidious sin. It wells up in all of us. This post from Ed Welch is well worth a read and much thoughtful consideration. Let's all be average. Be blessed.

07 July 2011

Calvin on Prayer II

Let us be mindful of the importance of prayer. Let's look to Calvin again for more insight:

Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God. This we shall accomplish in regard to the mind, if, laying aside carnal thoughts and cares which might interfere with the direct and pure contemplation of God, it not only be wholly intent on prayer, but also, as far as possible, be borne and raised above itself. I do not here insist on a mind so disengaged as to feel none of the gnawings of anxiety; on the contrary, it is by much anxiety that the fervour of prayer is inflamed. Thus we see that the holy servants of God betray great anguish, not to say solicitude, when they cause the voice of complaint to ascend to the Lord from the deep abyss and the jaws of death. What I say is, that all foreign and extraneous cares must be dispelled by which the mind might be driven to and fro in vague suspense, be drawn down from heaven, and kept grovelling on the earth. When I say it must be raised above itself, I mean that it must not bring into the presence of God any of those things which our blind and stupid reason is wont to devise, nor keep itself confined within the little measure of its own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God. (From Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It by John Calvin.

06 July 2011

Critical Questions (9) Galatians 3:1-22

What use is the law?

Galatians 3:17-22

17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

05 July 2011

Calvin on Prayer

No one could have said it any better than John Calvin:

To prayer, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those riches which are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father. For there is a kind of intercourse between God and men, by which, having entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain. Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections. Hence, admirable peace and tranquillity are given to our consciences; for the straits by which we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully satisfied with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him, and that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us. (Taken from Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It.)

04 July 2011

Cool Church?

An exceptional article from Relevant Magazine by Rachel Held Evans. One quick quote:

People sometimes assume that because I’m a progressive 30-year-old who enjoys Mumford and Sons and has no children, I must want a super-hip church—you know, the kind that’s called “Thrive” or “Be,” and which boasts “an awesome worship experience,” a fair-trade coffee bar, its own iPhone app and a pastor who looks like a Jonas brother.

While none of these features are inherently wrong (and can of course be used by good people to do good things), these days I find myself longing for a church with a cool factor of about 0. That’s right. I want a church that includes fussy kids, old liturgy, bad sound, weird congregants and—brace yourself—painfully amateur “special music” now and then. Why? Well, for one thing, when the Gospel story is accompanied by a fog machine and light show, I always get this creeped-out feeling like someone’s trying to sell me something. It’s as though we’re all compensating for the fact that Christianity’s not good enough to stand on its own so we’re adding snacks. But more importantly, I want to be part of an uncool church because I want to be part of a community that shares the reputation of Jesus. Like it or not, Jesus’ favorite people in the world were not cool. They were mostly sinners, misfits, outcasts, weirdos, poor people, sick people and crazy people.

She's nailed it. Thanks for a great post. Read the entire article here.

Throughout the World - Matthew 28:16-20

To exalt, proclaim and treasure Jesus Christ
That He may have devoted followers throughout the world.

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in [1] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


02 July 2011

Finding God in the Waiting Room

If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the cancer-clinic waiting room reminds us that our lives are a vapor; that our days are all numbered; that He gives us life and breath and all things, and, therefore, we are utterly dependent creatures; that sin is real and has a million tragic consequences; that pride is ridiculously ugly and meekness wonderfully beautiful; that we are called to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping; that people are either saved or lost; that God’s grace is real, His Son all-sufficient, and through the cross, cancer will one day be no more.

Read, the entire post from Mike Pohlman on The Gospel and the Oncology Waiting Room. It is an extremely poignant post for all of us.

01 July 2011

Critical Questions (8) Matthew 16:26

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16:26