Sunday, August 30, 2009

You have no right to go to hell

"The gospel does not say, 'There is a Savior, if you wish to be saved'; but, 'Sir, you have no right to go to hell -- you cannot go there without trampling on the Son of God.'"

John Duncan, quoted in Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, page 97.

Trouble soon be over

For all blokey blokes

Oldie of the week

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nothing else but Christ alone

"Faith, if it is to be sure and steadfast, must lay hold upon nothing else but Christ alone, and in the conflict and terrors of conscience it has nothing else to lean on but this precious pearl Christ Jesus. So, he who apprehends Christ by faith, although he be terrified with the law and oppressed with the weight of his sins, yet he may be bold to glory that he is righteous. How? Even by that precious jewel Christ Jesus, whom he possesses by faith."

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, page 99.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Holier than thou

I was asked recently, "How come a stereotype of the church today is one of a 'holier than thou' mentality?"

Great question. It's a real problem. Three thoughts.

One, the problem is not sin in the church. The problem is concealed sin in the church. That problem is intensified by Christian aloofness: "You people over there have cooties. We Christians are better." Are we?

Two, when church people put others down, there are two possibilities. One, their faith isn't in Jesus' superiority. Their faith is in their own superiority. There is no awe, gratitude, humility, because they aren't really Christians. Two, they're new Christians, they're coming in with some baggage, and they're learning. And can any of us say, "I'd never do that"?

Three, if you accuse Christians of being judgmental, are you being judgmental? Do you feel that Christians are beneath you? Why are you so comfortable with your non-Christian friends? Does their company help you feel safe from Jesus? Is that what really bugs you about Christians -- you feel another Presence, and he scares you?

I know this. We Christians will see more repentance in our city when our city sees more repentance in us. And we can be honest about our failings, because it isn't our performance that makes us okay. It's Christ's performance for us. That's the gospel. It's so freeing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So good

"'For myself,' she continued, '. . . I believe that what's right today is wrong tomorrow and that the time to enjoy yourself is now, so long as you let others do the same. I'm as good, Mr. Motes,' she said, 'not believing in Jesus as a many a one that does.'

'You're better,' he said, leaning forward suddenly. 'If you believed in Jesus, you wouldn't be so good.'"

Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood, page 221.

The whole earth is full of God's glory

"The little birds that sing, sing of God; the beasts clamor for him; the elements dread him, the mountains echo him, the fountains and flowing waters cast their glances at him, and the grass and flowers laugh before him."

John Calvin, quoted in Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers, pages 192-193.

The outstanding non-event

"What is important in history is not only the events that occur but the events that obstinately do not occur. The outstanding non-event of modern times was the failure of religious belief to disappear."

Paul Johnson, A History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1980s, page 698.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Only one hero

There is only one hero in the gospel story. His name is the Son of God.

One implication: While you and I should live wholeheartedly for him, we should not set for ourselves standards and routines that are unsustainable long-term. The truth is, we are weak. We must, and we may, factor into our lives the rejuvenation that weakness requires. Let's believe the gospel so much that, along the way, we goof off and have fun and even sleep in now and then. We'll be more useful to the Lord for the long haul.

Kevin DeYoung wisely writes:

"No doubt some Christians need to be shaken out of their lethargy. I try to do that every Sunday morning and evening. But there are also a whole bunch of Christians who need to be set free from their performance-minded, law-keeping, world-changing, participate-with-God-in-recreating-the-cosmos shackles. I promise you, some of the best people in your churches are getting tired. They don’t need another rah-rah pep talk. They don’t need to hear more statistics and more stories Sunday after Sunday about how bad everything is in the world. They need to hear about Christ’s death and resurrection. They need to hear how we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. They need to hear the old, old story once more. Because the secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us."

HT: Justin Taylor.

Heavy gospel dose

Proverbs 9:12

"If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it." Proverbs 9:12

Receiving wisdom cannot fail to help, nor can it be taken away, because wisdom enters the heart (Proverbs 2:10). The key is to stay open, eager, teachable.

Though a scoffer abuses one who tries to help him (Proverbs 9:7), ultimately, he alone suffers for it. What is a "scoffer"? A scoffer is a person whose defiant tongue reveals a heart so self-assured (or self-pitying) that it rejects instruction. This fault-finding attitude may begin as a choice, but it hardens into character.

Ironically, the wise love to learn (Proverbs 1:5; 9:9). Instruction feels to them like love. But the unwise know so much already, instruction feels to them like an insult.

The gospel is Christ himself calling us all into "newness of life" (Romans 6:4) by being "transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Romans 12:2). The "new" is the gospel adventure into personal change. It cannot fail to help. It cannot be taken away.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

He is willing

"Unbelief says, 'Some other time, but not now; some other place, but not here; some other people, but not us.' Faith says, 'Anything He did anywhere else He will do here; anything He did any other time He is willing to do now; anything He ever did for other people He is willing to do for us!' With our feet on the ground, and our head cool, but with our heart ablaze with the love of God, we walk out in this fullness of the Spirit, if we will yield and obey. God wants to work through you!"

A. W. Tozer, The Counselor, page 116.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What my dad wrote in my new Bible

On my seventeenth birthday, my dad and mom gave me a new Bible. I still have it. This is what dad wrote inside:

"Your mother and I have found this Book our dearest treasure. We give it to you and doing so can give nothing greater. Be a student of the Bible and your life will be full of blessing. We love you. Philippians 1:6. Dad"

You were right, dad. Our dearest treasure. Thanks.

Do not starve yourself any longer

"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is lack of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercise. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular yours."

John Wesley, writing to a younger minister, quoted in D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, Letters Along The Way, page 169.

The Pulpit

The pulpit, therefore, (and I name it filled
with solemn awe, that bids me well beware
with what intent I touch that holy thing;)
the pulpit (when the satirist has at last,
strutting and vaporing in an empty school,
spent all his force, and made no proselyte;)
I say the pulpit (in the sober use
of its legitimate, peculiar powers)
must stand acknowledged, while the world shall stand,
the most important and effectual guard,
support, and ornament of virtue's cause.
There stands the messenger of truth. There stands
the legate of the skies; his theme divine,
his office sacred, his credentials clear.
By him, the violated law speaks out
its thunders, and by him, in strains as sweet
as angels use, the gospel whispers peace.
He 'stablishes the strong, restores the weak,
reclaims the wanderer, binds the broken heart,
and, armed himself in panoply complete
of heavenly temper, furnishes with arms
bright as his own, and trains, by every rule
of holy discipline, to glorious war,
the sacramental host of God's elect.

William Cowper, 1731-1800

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The whole object of being a Christian

". . . the whole object of being a Christian is that you may know the love of Jesus Christ, his personal love to you; that he may tell you in unmistakable language that he loves you, that he has given himself for you, that he has loved you with 'an everlasting love.' He does this through the Holy Spirit; he 'seals' all his statements to you through the Spirit. . . . You believe it because it is in the Word; but there is more than that; he will tell you this directly as a great secret. The Spirit gives manifestations of the Son of God to his own, to his beloved, to those for whom he has gladly died and given himself."

D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 7.1-8.4, page 61.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A close personal friend turns 40

Forty years ago next month, I bought this Greek New Testament at the Wheaton College bookstore. It has become a close personal friend. Though I haven't changed as much as I should have over these years, the deepest changes have come to me through this book, where God has met me. I am thankful.

Another forty years, and I won't be here. For that too I am thankful. Someday this book will fall from my hands. Until then, "Bring me the books, and the parchments" -- and my Greek New Testament.

My Hebrew Bible too, of course.

Fearful fantasies

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

"It is an easy matter for a man to speak these words: 'Freedom from the wrath of God, sin, death, etc.' But in the time of temptation, in the agony of conscience, to apply them to himself in practice and to feel the excellency of this liberty and its fruit is a harder matter than can be expressed.

Therefore our conscience must be instructed and prepared ahead of time, so that when we feel the accusation of the law, the terrors of sin, the horror of death and the wrath of God, we may remove these heavy sights and fearful fantasies out of our minds and set in their place the freedom purchased by Christ, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life and the everlasting mercy of God. And although the opposite feelings are very strong, let us assure ourselves that it will not long endure. . . . If our freedom could be apprehended with a sure and steadfast faith, then no rage or terror of the world, of the law, sin, death or the devil could be so great but it would soon be swallowed up as a little drop of water is swallowed by the sea. . . . Let us learn, therefore, to magnify this freedom of ours, which no emperor, no prophet or patriarch, nor any angel from heaven has obtained for us, but Jesus Christ the Son of God."

Martin Luther, commenting on Galatians 5:1

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

God so charged Christ, implicated him, loaded him with our sin, that at the cross he was treated as if he embodied our sin, so that we, just because we are in Christ and for no other reason, might be treated as if we embodied the righteousness of God, perfectly fulfilling his law, receiving the smile and welcome of the Judge.

It is finished.

HT: Handley C. G. Moule

It wasn't a rhetorical question

When I asked, in a post below, "So, what are you going to do about this?", it wasn't a rhetorical question. It can't be. The message demands a clear response.

I can think of basically three responses.

1. "I will do nothing about this." The good thing about that response is its clarity. Tragic, but clear.

2. "I will give my whole life to pressing the gospel forward in this and the next generation. I here and now surrender my entire life to the Lord Jesus Christ for his purposes only. I will review everything in my life asking, 'Does this help me advance the gospel, or not?' I will bring my entire life under the judgment of gospel-centered priorities. I will pray that God will lead me further in this purpose, whether he wants me to become a church planter, an evangelist, a mother of radical Christians for tomorrow, or a businessman making as much money as I lawfully can so that I can plow it into the cause of Christ. I am SO IN." Another clear response. And filled with glory.

3. "I'll think about it." No, you won't. Thinking about it is the very thing you intend not to do. You deeply intend to do nothing, but staying busy enough that you always have an excuse. Your response is the same as #1, except that you are being dishonest with yourself and with Christ.

So, in trusting submission to the glorious purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ, what are you going to DO about it?


"When a good man or woman stumbles, we say, 'I knew it all along,' and when a bad one has a gracious moment, we sneer at the hypocrisy. It is as if there is nothing to mourn or to admire, only a hidden narrative now and then apparent through the false, surface narrative. And the hidden narrative, because it is ugly and sinister, is therefore true."

Marilynne Robinson, The Death Of Adam, page 78.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Luke 11:5-8 and how to pray

"See the man at midnight. Imitate that man. Act it all alone at midnight. Hear his loud cry, and cry it after him. He needed three loaves. What is your need? Name it. Name it out loud. Let your own ears hear it. . . . The shameful things you have to ask for. The disgraceful, the incredible things you have to admit and confess. The life you have lived. The way you have spent your days and nights. And what all that has brought you to. It kills you to have to say such things even with your door shut. Yes, but better say all these things in closets than have them all proclaimed from the housetops of the day of judgment. Knock, man! Knock for the love of God! Knock as they knock to get into heaven after the door is shut! Knock, as they knock to get out of hell!"

Alexander Whyte, "The Man Who Knocked At Midnight," in Lord, Teach Us To Pray, pages 174-176.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The two conditions of freedom

"When are men truly free? Men are not free when their action is determined by a mere whim or caprice. In such a case the whim or caprice is their master. Men are not free when an authority of some kind forces them to do something whose essential rightness or importance is not apparent to them. In true freedom two conditions must be fulfilled. One is the universal validity or worth of what one is asked to accept; the second is the personal voluntariness with which one is able to act. Such freedom is reflected in the line of the hymn, 'Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.' . . . There is no serfdom involved when the human spirit becomes the voluntary joyous agent of the Infinite and the Holy."

John A. Mackay, God's Order: The Ephesian Letter and This Present Time, pages 65-66.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What is repentance?

Question: What is repentance unto life?

Answer: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.

So says the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

"A saving grace." God alone can awaken repentance. That's how sleepy our consciences are. We need the smelling salts of the gospel waved under our noses to wake us up. Most of the sins we commit we don't notice. We might even feel good about them at the time.

"Out of a true sense of his sin . . . with grief and hatred of his sin." Not just embarrassment over getting caught but sorrow over offending the Father. Self-assurance dissolves into self-hatred. A new thought enters in: "I hate my heart."

"Apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ." If we suspect that God despises us for our sins, we will have no incentive to turn back to him. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. The Father rejoices to honor his prodigals. This truth sets us free to repent.

"Turn from it unto God." We don't make ourselves better first. We just turn, we turn back to God, spattered with our filth. It is God himself to whom the penitent go. Not to deeper self-fixation but to the all-merciful Father God. We fall into his arms.

"With full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience." Not "Oh, I'm so broken," with no follow-through, no change. "Brokenness" can be an excuse for inaction. True repentance gets traction for "new obedience," unprecedented obedience, bold new steps in obeying the Bible we've never taken before, such that our family and friends start wondering, "What's gotten into him?"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to act during revival

"As persons will greatly expose themselves to the curse of God by opposing or standing at a distance and keeping silent at such a time as this, so for persons to arise and readily to acknowledge God and honor him in such a work and cheerfully and vigorously to exert themselves to promote it, will be to put themselves much in the way of the divine blessing."

Jonathan Edwards, "Thoughts on the Revival," in Works, I:386.

What is faith?

"Faith is believing that Christ is what he is said to be, and that he will do what he has promised to do, and then to expect this of him."

C. H. Spurgeon, All of Grace, page 47.

Grace or moralism?

Eric Ortlund dissects failed and (deceptively) successful forms of self-salvation here.

Psalm 1, a new translation

Blessed is the man
who doesn't stick his neck out,
doesn't think for himself,
doesn't revere anything.
But he laughs on cue
while watching TV day and night.
He is like everybody else.
In all that he does, he gets by.
The believers are not so,
they don't move with the times.
Therefore, the believers will not stand
in the court of human approval,
nor Christians at the best parties in town.
For who's to say what is right,
and doesn't everybody go to heaven?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why should election frighten you?

"And why should [the doctrine of] election frighten you? If you have chosen Christ, depend upon it he has chosen you. If your tearful eye is looking to him, then his omniscient eye has long looked on you. If your heart loves him, his heart loves you better than you can ever love."

C. H. Spurgeon, Revival Year Sermons, page 49, altering the "thou" pronouns to "you."


"I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish -- that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder. I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality and sensuality that they have practiced." 2 Corinthians 12:20-21

Our sins are connected deep inside us, more than we see. We compartmentalize. We tell ourselves we can sin in one area and it will stay contained in that area. It's easier to rationalize that way. But the reality of what we are and how we work is more subtle, more interrelated, more inevitable. When the Corinthian church was bouncing off the walls with quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit and disorder, and when Paul probed deeper, what he found down there was unrepentant sexual sin.

Tactful or cowardly?

"Instead of our being free to love and to plead, to warn and to rebuke, we are hung up with our own inner problems. We are inhibited. We are ourselves guilt-ridden. ("What will she think of me if I say that?") We are not prepared to lay cards on tables or to call spades spades. . . . We beat around the bush, not because we're tactful but because we're cowards."

John White, Eros Defiled: The Christian and Sexual Sin, page 167.

The true weal and safety of the soul

"If we must needs pass in review the erring thoughts and words of men, let us be sure that our final object is not a criticism of error but the clearer apprehension and possession of truth. They who believe may, by reason of the very loyalty and fervor of their devotion, so anxiously and eagerly watch the fleeting, earth-born mists which for a moment have threatened to veil the face of the Sun of Righteousness as to forget that the true weal [well-being] and safety of the soul is only assured while her eye is persistently fixed on His imperishable glory."

H. P. Liddon, The Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, pages 43-44.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Light, burn, consume

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus."

Jim Elliot, quoted in Shadow of the Almighty, page 247.

The most difficult ever written

"The books of Israel's prophets are among the most difficult in the Old Testament, and probably among the most difficult books ever written."

Delbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea, page 124.

God did not give us a comic book. But precisely because the Bible is so challenging, it's satisfying. God treats us like adults.

There's something about our culture that leaves us men feeling deeply trivialized: "My capabilities are video games, pornography and goofing off, I will never change, and I see no reason to change." Then along comes the gospel and tells us that we matter to God. Along comes theological grandeur that lifts our minds into lofty things. Along comes the cause of Christ that gets us working in ways that will still matter a bazillion years from now.

At the center of this revolution is the Bible. It gets us reading and thinking and studying and discussing and going deeper than we've ever gone before, deeper than we've ever dreamed of going.

Thank God for the Bible. Difficult, but not impossible.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sending God back to school

"We have the idea that God could not reign if he did not have wise and understanding people to help him. . . . [The wise and understanding] are always exerting themselves; they do things in the Christian church the way they want to themselves. Everything that God does they must improve, so that there is no poorer, more insignificant and despised disciple on earth than God; he must be everybody's pupil, everybody wants to be his teacher. . . . They are not satisfied with what God has done and instituted, they cannot let things be as they were ordained to be. . . . These are the real wiseacres, of whom Christ is speaking here, who always have to have and do something special in order that the people may say, 'Ah, our pastor or preacher is nothing; there's the real man, he'll get things done!' . . . Should God be so greatly pleased with these fellows who are all too smart and wise for him and are always wanting to send him back to school? . . . Things are in a fine state indeed when the egg wants to be wiser than the hen."

Martin Luther, preaching his last sermon, on Matthew 11:25-30, quoted in Luther's Works: Sermons I, pages 383-384.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No, you cannot

When John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was brought before the empress Eudoxia, she threatened him with banishment if he insisted on his Christian independence as a preacher. "You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father's house." "But I will kill you," said the empress. "No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God," said John. "I will take away your treasures." "No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there." "But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left." "No, you cannot, for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you, for there is nothing you can do to harm me."


HT: A debtor to mercy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I drank of God's pleasure

"In the evening, I was weak in body, so that I could not say much at the house where I supped; but God, by his blessed Spirit, greatly refreshed and comforted my soul. I drank of God's pleasure as out of a river. Oh, that all were made partakers of this living water, they would never thirst after the sensual pleasures of this wicked world."

George Whitefield, Journals, September 22, 1740

Inerrancy: a recent doctrinal invention?

"Listen, dear Erasmus. Do you suppose any Christian will patiently endure to be told that the evangelists in their Gospels made mistakes? If the authority of Holy Scripture at this point is shaky, can any other passage be free from the suspicion of error?"

Johann Maier von Eck, writing to Erasmus, 1518

Six reasons why I'm glad to be involved in Acts 29

1. At age 59, it is high time for me actively to give myself away to younger men. Acts 29 gives me the opportunity to love and serve the next generation. (2 Timothy 4:5 [“Fulfill your ministry,” not “Fulfill my ministry”])

2. I am inspired by the men in A29. They are doctrinally conscientious, risk-taking, hardworking, imaginative, manly, fun. If there are some rough edges, they'll get knocked off in time. (Proverbs 28:1)

3. With A29, I can participate in a new movement of the Holy Spirit. All my adult life I have longed for revival. I want the final season of my life to be under all the blessing God will give. A29 is open to God. (Psalm 63:1)

4. I benefit from wise coaching. My A29 coach has been where I am. This monthly contact builds in regular accountability, goals and coherent progress. Not control or intrusiveness but counsel and support. (Proverbs 13:20)

5. I admire the selfless commitment to Christ and his Church embodied in the structures of A29. The system has been assembled in a generous way, everyone pitching in, helping out, each rejoicing in the progress of others. (John 3:30)

6. I have so much to learn about gospel ministry. I need wisdom to understand and adapt and contextualize with Stott’s “between two worlds” faithfulness. A29 specializes in missional wisdom. In my opinion, this is their greatest strength. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


"I am not afraid the book will be controversial. I am afraid it will not be controversial."

Flannery O'Connor, The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women, page 65.

A thirst for life

"It is not because [the Christian] has had so little of Christ that he yearns for more. It is precisely because he has had so much of Christ that he is sure God intends him for the perfected experience. . . . Paul knew that what had entered him on the day of his conversion was life of the eternal order. He possessed it; it was there. Yet Holtzmann is perfectly right when he says that, 'Biblical religion in general, Pauline in particular, is a thirst for life.'"

James S. Steward, A Man In Christ, pages 201-202.

The gospel for complete idiots: priceless

1. I am a complete idiot.

2. My future is incredibly bright.

3. Anyone can have this future.

HT: Mockingbird.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How George Whitefield studied the Bible

"There he is at five in the morning . . . . on his knees with his English Bible, his Greek New Testament and Henry's Commentary spread out before him. He reads a portion in the English, gains a fuller insight into it as he studies words and tenses in the Greek and then considers Matthew Henry's explanation of it all. Finally, there comes the unique practice that he has developed: that of 'praying over every line and word' of both the English and the Greek till the passage, in its essential message, has veritably become part of his own soul."

Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, I:82-83.

Our deepest evil

The Times of London reports horrific persecution of Christians in Pakistan here.

The key sentence: ". . . but clerics called for their death." Of course. Moral fervor is our deepest evil. When we intend to serve God, but forget to crucify Self moment by moment, we are capable of acting cruelly while feeling virtuous about it.

Let's always beware that delicious feeling that we are the defenders of the holy. Christ is the only Defender of the holy. He defends us from persecutors. He defends us from becoming persecutors. We can take refuge in him. But that esteem of him also means we regard ourselves with suspicion, especially when judging another.

Proverbs 30:7-9

HT: Vitamin Z.

Music City USA

Our great performances leave us secretly disappointed. It's why the perfect performance of Someone Else makes such a difference. Check it out here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Too gospel-centered?

“It is not easy to get the law killed. Something of a legal disposition remains even in the believer while he is in this world. Many a stroke does self and self-righteousness get, but still it revives again. If he were wholly dead to the law, he would be wholly dead to sin. But so far as the law lives, so far sin lives. They that think they know the gospel well enough betray their ignorance. No man can be too evangelical [gospel-centered]. It will take all his life-time to get a legal temper destroyed.”

Ralph Erskine, Sermons and Other Practical Works, II:276.

HT: Paramount Church.

Psalm 23

David Powlison articulates the anguish we talk ourselves into when not abiding in Christ. It's the photographic negative of Psalm 23:

I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need.
Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless.
I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed.
It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck.
I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing.
Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself.
Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone . . . facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone.
No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough.
I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death,
and then I die.

But here are the green pastures and still waters we can always run to, by faith, through the finished work of Christ on the cross:

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

HT: Justin Taylor.

Back from Northern Ireland

Jani and I have returned to Nashville with hearts overflowing with gratitude for God's goodness. To be involved in New Horizon was a great privilege, and we enjoyed our friends there deeply. It was especially meaningful to spend time with our dear friend, Don Carson.

We're glad to be back now at Immanuel Church for a new year of ministry development. I feel more pumped than ever before.

But wherever we go, it is becoming clear that God the Holy Spirit is stirring hearts in a wonderful new way, creating powerful new conditions for the future. I want to see what lies ahead.