Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Off to the airport later today. Went out for early morning coffee a few minutes ago, to attain consciousness. On the way listened to David Crowder, "For the glory of it all." (Video posted below, Wednesday, 21 May.) I am weary in the ministry, but not weary of it. Yes, I need a break. And it will be wonderful to see family. But I can't wait to preach again at Immanuel. This gospel is glorious good news for broken people. I love it. I want everyone to hear it. Can't wait to get back to it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Away for a while

Jani and I are leaving town for two weeks, to see her family in Minnesota and our children and grandchildren in Canada. Thanks for checking in. God be with you.

The cross a comfort

"When I was an object of much contempt and derision in the University, I strolled forth one day, buffeted and afflicted, with my little Testament in my hand. I prayed earnestly to my God that He would comfort me with some cordial from His Word, and that, on opening the book, I might find some text which should sustain me. . . . The first text which caught my eye was this: 'They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear His cross.' You know Simon is the same name as Simeon. What a word of instruction was here -- what a blessed hint for my encouragement! To have the cross laid upon me, that I might bear it after Jesus -- what a privilege! It was enough. Now I could leap and sing for joy as one whom Jesus was honoring with a participation in His sufferings."

Charles Simeon, quoted in H. C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon, pages 59-60.

Slave of Christ

"The book of Romans is the flagship of the Pauline fleet. Flying proudly at the top of the mast of this ship is a flag bearing the words, 'Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus' (Rom 1:1). This flag is two-toned, its white indicating complete freedom yet total surrender, and its purple symbolizing royal ownership and therefore incomparable privilege. The slave of Christ is the emancipated dependent of Christ as well as the willing bondservant of Christ, the exclusive property of Christ as well as the honored representative of Christ."

Murray J. Harris, Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ, page 155.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The love of God to you

"Oh, you are not dealing with trifles when you are dealing with the love of God to you. It is not a spare corner of the heart of God that He gives to you, as you may give a little love to the criminals in the jails, but the great, inconceivably vast heart of God belongs as much to every Christian as if there were not another being in the world for God to love! Even as Jehovah loves His Only-begotten, so does He love each one of His children."

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Old Testament, III:568.

I didn't get it

On Memorial Day weekend we Americans remember gratefully all in our military who have died for our country. That gratitude has grown on me through the years.

I was raised in the most privileged surroundings in the history of the human race up to that point. We were more secure, better fed, more advantaged than any previous generation ever. Things worked.

Then in the late 60s, having forsaken God, my Woodstock generation stood up one day and said, "Hey, why not trash all this?" And we did. I'm sorry.

By now I am amazed by things that never amazed me before. For example, a neighborhood. What an astonishing thing a neighborhood is. People have houses that keep the rain and bugs out. A hidden system channels the sewage away to a treatment plant. Flip a switch, the lights go on. Run out of sugar, borrow some from next door. Get into trouble, pick up the phone and there are police and firemen and medics literally waiting to help out. It's amazing. A neighborhood doesn't just happen. It is the result of many years of intelligent and caring purpose. And all that time, somebody was out there with a gun in his hand, putting his life on the line to say to the bad guys, "You will not destroy our neighborhoods." Some of our military paid a heavy price to do that.

Yes, we have serious failings as a nation. And we all are entitled to think for ourselves about how to solve these problems. That entitlement doesn't guarantee a good outcome. We might screw it up worse, or we might make it better. I don't know which way it's going to go. I do know this. Like never before, I am grateful to all our military people through the years for their sacrificial service to the rest of us. I honor them. I owe them that.

I'm beginning to get it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Revival testimony

"A very frequent dwelling for some considerable time together in views of the glory of the divine perfections and Christ's excellencies, so that the soul has been as it were perfectly overwhelmed and swallowed up with light and love, a sweet solace and a rest and joy of soul altogether unspeakable. The person has more than once continued for five or six hours together, without interruption, in a clear and lively view or sense of the infinite beauty and amiableness of Christ's person and the heavenly sweetness of his transcendent love. So that (to use the person's own expressions) the soul remained in a kind of heavenly elysium and did, as it were, swim in the rays of Christ's love like a little mote swimming in the beams of the sun that come in at a window. The heart was swallowed up in a kind of glow of Christ's love coming down as a constant stream of sweet light, at the same time the soul all flowing out in love to him, so that there seemed to be a constant flowing and reflowing from heart to heart. The soul dwelt on high, was lost in God, and seemed almost to leave the body. The mind dwelt in a pure delight that fed and satisfied it, enjoying pleasure without the least sting or any interruption. . . . What was enjoyed in a single minute of the whole space, which was many hours, was worth more than all the outward comfort and pleasure of the whole life put together -- and this, without being in any trance or at all deprived of the exercise of the bodily senses."

Jonathan Edwards, recording the revival experience of his wife Sarah, in Works, I:376.

Maria Sue Chapman, 2003-2008

"He took them in his arms." Mark 10:16

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Laughter is wonderful

Many of us look at Justin Taylor's superb blog, where I found this clip, but I couldn't resist it here too.

Living well

"Isaac Hann was a little-known Baptist pastor who served a small church in Loughwood, England, in the mid-18th century. At the close of his ministry the membership of his church numbered twenty-six women and seven men. Underneath the list of members for that year this poignant note appears: 'These are the men that remain at present, though not above four of these do in any shape keep their places [attend].'

Rev. Hann would be unnoticed today, one of those pastors who never quite 'made' it. But when he died at the age of 88, his parishioners placed a commemorative plaque in his honor of the wall of their little meeting house. It reads in part:

Wit sparkled in his pleasing face,
with zeal his heart was fired;
few ministers so humble were,
yet few so much admired.

Ripened for heaven by grace divine,
like autumn fruit he fell;
reader, think not to live so long,
but seek to live as well."

Thanks for this to my dear friend David Roper of Idaho Mountain Ministries.

The hope that no disillusionment can destroy: "Everything will change"

Thanks to Dane Ortlund.

Anybody home?

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, . . . ." Revelation 3:20

The church at Laodicea had to be told that Jesus was no longer inside. By now he was outside, standing at their door, knocking, asking to be welcomed back in. I wonder when he left them. I wonder why they didn't notice. I wonder how they responded when they heard this knock on their door. I hope they ran to the door and threw it wide open.

It would not be a waste of time for every church board -- elders, deacons, whatever -- to take one hour out of all the many hours they spend together and devote just one hour to these questions:

What are the unmistakable signs of Jesus' presence in a church, according to Scripture?

What evidences do we see here among us of his wonderful presence?

Is his presence as powerfully real now as it has been in the past?

If not, how quickly, how practically and how radically can we run to the door and open it up again?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quick tour of Mars

You and I may or may not like the places we live. But here's a thought I'd never had before today: "Wherever I may be, it's better than Mars."

Check this out: Quick tour of Mars

Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing this out.

Wonderful surprise

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

The record of our lives is spliced into the history of Someone Else, who bears all the consequences on himself. And his record is written into our stories, so that all the advantages of a perfect life in the sight of God become ours. And all we do is receive this with the empty hands of faith.

The wonderful surprise called justification by faith, centered in the cross of Jesus.

To be, to know

"While I know Christ's righteousness, I shall the less care to know my own holiness. To be holy is necessary; to know it, sometimes a temptation."

John Owen, Works, VI:600-601.


"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither . . . revilers . . . will inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

I was struck by that word "revilers" in my personal Bible reading this morning. It means "those who speak in an insulting manner." The verbal form means "to assail with contemptuous language, to utter bitter complaint or denunciation." Jesus said, "Whoever says 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire" (Matthew 5:22), "On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36). It is so easy to think, "My words are no big deal. I'm not DOING anything bad. In fact, I'm justified in what I'm unleashing out of my mouth. Look what they did!" Interesting, isn't it, how we excuse our own unguarded words, even as we wince in pain at the words of others?

There will be no shouting matches in heaven, no put-downs, no reviling, because there will be no revilers. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. He is a fountain of overflowing sweetness. What a lovely environment heaven must be.

Have our mouths spoken reviling words we need to take back, now while we have the chance? Are we ready for heaven? Is a little whisper of heaven what people experience through the words coming out of our mouths?

Friday, May 16, 2008

New metaphor, new privilege

For most of my ministry, I saw myself as climbing a mountain -- college, seminary, ordination, early service and so forth. Getting underway. Nearly everything still out ahead. Far from the mountain peak, but constantly ascending.

By now the picture has changed. I am running a relay race. The baton is in my hand. I am rounding the turn at the far end of the track, and my teammates are waiting for me on the straightaway just ahead. They are younger than I am, though they won't stay young for long. They will soon be in my position. But right now, my responsibility is to get this baton into their hands. Not that I think I'm good at this. I've never been here before. But it's a privilege, and the time has come.

Okay, Lord, let's go for it.

Seeing Christ

"On these pages you will find the living Christ and you will see Him more fully and more clearly than if He stood before you, before your very eyes."

Erasmus' preface to his Greek New Testament, quoted in Earl D. Radmacher, editor, Can We Trust The Bible?, page 92.

Criticism or honor?

"In everyday life we are continually soaked in this unhealthy atmosphere of mutual criticism, so much so that we are not always aware of it and we find ourselves drawn unwittingly into an implacable vicious circle: every reproach evokes a feeling of guilt in the critic as much as in the one criticized, and each one gains relief from his guilt in any way he can, by criticizing other people and in self-justification."

Paul Tournier, Guilt and Grace, pages 15-16.

Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33

Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

The gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone apart from works creates a new, life-enriching social environment of honor. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Longing to go home

"I must have the Savior indeed, for he is my All. All that others have in the world and in religion and in themselves I have in thee -- pleasures, riches, safety, honor, life, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, bliss, joy, gaiety and happiness . . . . If a child longs for his father, a traveller for the end of his journey, a workman to finish his work, a prisoner for liberty, an heir for the full possession of his estate, so in all these respects I cannot help longing to go home."

Howell Harris, quoted in D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans, page 300.

Letting our full weight down

"Whom did he consult?" Isaiah 40:14

"Both before and after his elevation as king, and even in the act of creation itself, Marduk [the high-god of Babylon] did not act alone, but only on the advice of Ea [Marduk's father]." R. N. Whybray, The Heavenly Counsellor in Isaiah xl 13-14, page 75.

The pagan gods worked by committee. The biblical Lord of heaven and earth acts alone, out of his own exuberant all-sufficiency.

Compulsive polytheists that we are, it is unsettling when we fall into the arms of God as our only hope. But inevitably, God takes us there. We find ourselves in places where God is all we have, and there we discover that "he gives power to the faint" (Isaiah 40:29).

A child took his first plane ride. Afterwards his parents asked him what he thought of it. He said, "It was okay. But I didn't let my full weight down." The personal corollary to the all-sufficiency of God is letting our full weight down on him alone. If the Creator of the universe isn't enough for our need, who or what is?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Have a happy day

Preaching includes felt struggles for people -- as never before

"I began to speak, as the Lord gave me utterance. At first, the people seemed unaffected, but in the midst of my discourse the power of the Lord Jesus came upon me, and I felt such a struggling within myself for the people as I scarce ever felt before. The hearers began to be melted down immediately and to cry much, and we had good reason to hope the Lord intended good for many."

George Whitefield, quoted in Archibald Alexander, The Log College, page 19.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why plant more churches?

There are multiple reasons to keep planting more churches, many of them already discussed elsewhere, and expertly, too. But when I ask myself about it, here is one reason that makes an impact.

When God looks down on this world, what moves him to compassion? One thing is the sight of a world with too few churches. Too few Christ-honoring, Bible-believing, revival-ready, open-hearted, welcoming churches. Is there one city in all this world with too many such churches? I have no assurance that God thinks so.

A truth too often overlooked in our times is that churches are God's only biblically authorized strategy for world redemption. Churches are his Plan A, and he has revealed no Plan B. Where in all the Bible are we authorized by God to create rivals to his church? I do not invalidate parachurch (that is, side-bar) ministries. I gave nine years of my life to one, and with a happy conscience. But every parachurch ministry must openly support, rather than challenge, the churches within its scope of influence. Every Christian and every ministry everywhere must have a passion for the unique prestige of the church in the revealed ways of God.

At a practical level, churches require more patience and humility. Maybe that's why Christians invent alternatives. But here is the gospel: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Planting new churches spreads that love.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Taking a day off to the glory of God

"So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

On this day, my usual Monday day off, I will glorify God by redirecting my trust in him from work to rest. I work by faith in him, I rest by faith in him. On this day of rest, by his grace, I will ease back on the throttle, trusting in his all-sufficiency. I will pay more attention to my wonderful wife, mow the lawn, ignore my cell phone, try (at least) not to fuss in my mind, take a drive with Jani at dusk along the Natchez Trace Parkway to see if the deer are out, not shave, wear jeans, enjoy Camaros on youtube, linger over the Bible for an especially long quiet time, think carefree thoughts all day long -- in general, just let the world go by with a Sabbath-faith in God while knowing that tomorrow morning my work will be cheerfully waiting for me, demanding my full attention again, as it should, but none the worse for having had to wait.

It's Monday. I will glorify God.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Frontline prayer

"Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical and totally focused on physical needs inside the church or on personal needs of the people present. But frontline prayer has three basic traits: a) a request for grace to confess sins and humble ourselves, b) a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church, and c) a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory."

Tim Keller, "Kingdom-centered Prayer," Redeemer Report, January 2006.

Contention or revival?

"It is an instructive and solemn fact, brought out in the history of more than one revival, that when a whole neighborhood had been well watered with the showers of grace, no drop of blessing has descended there where a spirit of controversy and strife had obtained a footing. The Spirit of God hovered around but fled from the scene of discord as from a doomed region where his dove-like temper could find no resting-place. . . . Ever remember that 'his work is sown in peace of them that make peace,' and no dwelling can be more distasteful, no vessel more unsuitable to him, than a heart which delights itself with matters that provoke contention and strife. . . . Labor with all diligence to keep your own minds in the peace of God, and in your intercourse and connection with others ever to strive for 'the things which make for peace.'"

The Revival of Religion: Addresses by Scottish Evangelical Leaders delivered in Glasgow in 1840, pages 373-374.

Friday, May 9, 2008

This is what I want my life to say

Jesus is all the world to me
My life, my joy, my all
He is my strength from day to day
Without him I would fall
When I am sad, to him I go
No other one can cheer me so
When I am sad, he makes me glad
He's my friend.

Is there anything greater than that?


"Malice needs nothing to live on; it can feed on itself. A contentious spirit will find something to quarrel about. A faultfinder will find occasion to accuse a Christian even if his life is as chaste as an icicle and pure as snow. A man of ill will does not hesitate to attack, even if the object of his hatred be a prophet or the very Son of God Himself. If John comes fasting, he says he has a devil; if Christ comes eating and drinking, he says He is a winebibber and a glutton. Good men are made to appear evil by the simple trick of dredging up from his own heart the evil that is there and attributing it to them."

A. W. Tozer, We Travel An Appointed Way, page 82.

Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). When negativity about someone else comes out of our mouths, could we be announcing, without realizing it, a judgment against ourselves?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Celebrity or legacy?

Interviewer: There's a huge difference between leaving a legacy in the lives of people and people having starry eyes toward a celebrity. What would be the difference between a celebrity's influence and a legacy maker?

Howard Hendricks: I do not think that celebrity is in any way Christian. Celebrity is something that is attached to you by people. A legacy is something that God produces in your life. He uses you but you're not the center of the activity. And I find that we're living in a society in which celebrity-ism is everything. Hollywood runs by it. All of the sports run by it. Politics run by it.

But in the final analysis that's just what people think. The truth of the matter is they frequently don't know the whole story. What intrigues me is to read the true stories of some of these Hollywood stars. I mean, you want to throw up in the process of listening. What's going on behind the scenes? The utter promotion of an individual with no basis in fact.

But when you are talking about a person who leaves a legacy, no one can ever question the impact of it. He or she may not know the true impact. But God does. And it remains permanently.

Dallas Connection, Spring 2008, page 1.

"I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide." John 15:16

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I never get tired of hearing this

"This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ's, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ's but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them."

"Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, 'Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am thy sin. Thou hast taken upon thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is thine. Thou hast taken upon thyself what thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not.'"

Martin Luther, quoted in J. I. Packer and Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood, page 85, footnote 31.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Leaving the work of salvation to God

"When Jesus judges our imperfection, he does it with such compassion that he releases us from the fear that we must pretend to be better than we are. He assures us that if we will be honest with God, God will be gracious with us. And the moment we enter into a gracious relationship with God, we not only fall heir to the promises of the gospel, but we are also ready to accept our present duties in the kingdom of love.

With pride dethroned, we are able to accept a much more modest concept of the self. We are delivered from the error of thinking that we must prove ourselves all the time. Kindness and truth become acceptable signs of status. Destructive anxiety cannot overwhelm us, for we are content to leave the work of salvation to God."

Edward John Carnell, The Kingdom of Love and the Pride of Life, pages 152-153.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Two words

This is not the most profound insight into personal growth. But it's worth thinking about. I do complicate my inner dialog. I make excuses. I drag in irrelevant factors. So, what's so bad about Bob Newhart's two words? Or, translating those two negative words into four positive words, "Why not just obey?"

Thanks to Chris Gensheer for drawing my attention to this clip.

A strong foundation for the next generation

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Proverbs 1:7

"The search for knowledge can go wrong, not as a result of individual, erroneous judgments or of mistakes creeping in at different points, but because of one single mistake at the beginning. . . . Faith does not -- as is popularly believed today -- hinder knowledge; on the contrary, it is what liberates knowledge [and] enables it really to come to the point."

Gerhard von Rad, Wisdom in Israel, pages 67-68.

We should not look for some higher, more relevant perspective to validate the biblical gospel. That gospel is the light by which we see everything else. It judges everything else as true or untrue, relevant or irrelevant. It liberates us from our unbelief and darkness, so that we see and understand and really come to the point.

This underlies many surface-level questions Christians are struggling with today. It we will keep Proverbs 1:7 in mind, all will be well, even with our mistakes. But if we do not allow Proverbs 1:7 to exert its liberating power in our thinking and planning and strategies, we will lay sandy foundations for the next generation, however successful we may appear to be at the moment.

Prayer: a gift to us all

"In contrast to the Old Testament, the religious literature of ancient Mesopotamia rarely presents free, personal prayer."

Walter Beyerlin, editor, Near Eastern Religious Texts relating to the Old Testament, page 112.

"Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:8

Friday, May 2, 2008

God fulfills his purpose - 5

I cry out to God Most High, who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

God Most High is attentive to us all every moment of every day. He always will be. Not one promise of his will fail. Not in the slightest detail. Instead, his promises will prove to be better than we expect, better by far. Right now Jani and I have the privilege of serving Immanuel Church, Nashville. It is a delightful foretaste of the service we will offer him forever. God will fulfill his purpose for us, and God will fulfill his purpose for you.

"They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 'Worthy are you, our Lord and God.'" Revelation 4:10-11

God fulfills his purpose - 4

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

During these momentous years, God gave me a friend. I now have the privilege of being her husband. She has served him at my side for over 36 years. I have never seen Jani say No to the will of God. We have both struggled along the way. But I have never seen her conclude, "No, I will not obey his Word. I'm doing this my own way." And her trust in him has empowered me to live all-out for him. God fulfilled his purpose for me. And, I believe, for her too.

God fulfills his purpose - 3

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

In 1972, as a second-year seminary student, I was in Dr. S. Lewis Johnson's Greek exegesis course. He was instructing us in the use of the text critical apparatus in the UBS Greek Testament, the very copy of which is open before me now. As I was sitting there, toward the back of the classroom, fascinated by the history of the manuscripts, the strong thought came to me, "This is what I was made for. This is what I desire to give myself to. This is the call of God on my life -- the serious study of the Bible." God fulfilled his purpose for me, and I dove in joyfully.

God fulfills his purpose - 2

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

In 1969, as a junior at Wheaton College, my confidence in my capacity to know God was shaken. I didn't doubt his existence. But I stopped believing that I knew anything of him. The questions seemed far more compelling than the answers. When at home in L.A. for Christmas break, I went to a New Years Eve "Jesus Movement" concert. Through the truth and music that night God imparted to my subjectivity a clear and distinct -- and intensely joyous -- sense of his glory, subduing my doubts. I still needed to think things through, but now I knew God was there to guide me. He fulfilled his purpose for me, and I turned back to him.

God fulfills his purpose - 1

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

In 1966, as a junior at Blair High School in Pasadena, I ran out of this gym one day, jumped into my dad's VW bug parked at that curb, cranked it up, swung the wheel around and without thinking started a quick U-turn. I still remember the look of horror on the face of the driver of a huge car I did not see as it sped by, barely missing me. A fraction of a second earlier, and she would have broad-sided me and I would have died. But God fulfilled his purpose for me that day, and I lived.

God's power at its greatest

"Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace." Isaiah 53:5

"God's power is at its greatest not in his destruction of the wicked but in his taking all the wickedness of the earth into himself and giving back love."

J. N. Oswalt, "Isaiah," in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, page 222.

The central theological principle of the Bible . . .

"Thus the central theological principle of the Bible [is] the rejection of idolatry."

Moshe Halbertal and Avishai Margalit, Idolatry, page 10.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Prophetic power today

"There is not one of [the Old Testament prophets] who did not receive this new certainty of God in such a way that the whole previous pattern of his life, the thoughts and plans by which he had till now regulated his relationship to the world, was not smashed, and replaced by a mighty divine imperative obliging him to undertake something which hitherto he had not even considered as a possibility."

Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, I:345.

"There is something magnificent about these prophet-dreamers who are so sure of God."

Ralph S. Cushman, Practicing the Presence, page 108.

Let's remember today that humility does not mean we are hesitant about God but only about ourselves and very sure of God. Let's remember today that brokenness does not mean we are weakened in resolve but only in sin and very bold for God. Let's remember today that when our whole previous pattern of life is smashed it is not destroyed but only remade into even greater usefulness to God. And let's remember today that God intends to accomplish gospel miracles through us we don't even believe are possible.

Have a prophetic day.