Monday, December 25, 2006
In the meantime, I apologize for inability to keep the blog updated.
Okay...Now to the main feature...
For those who haven't heard, my dad has a Myspace page now. Click here to check it out! He puts some neat videos and things on there from time to time. I must admit though that he normally sends the links to me first, so I get a backstage pass, so to speak.
He currently has a slide show of pictures from our family get-togethers. The first section (the large majority) are from the event we had with my mom's family, the McEntire's. Some of the pictures in the middle are of the Wells family event held at my grandmother's house. Then, there are a few taken here at our house with my parents, my sister, and my brother-in-law. It's pretty neat, and I thought it would give some of my friends an opportunity to "meet" my family. Click here to check out the slide show.
I'd also like to give kudos to my dad who did a wonderful job teaching Sunday school this past Sunday. He's the new Sunday school teacher for one of the adult men classes. He did a wonderful job, and I'm very proud of him. It's so great to see him using the knowledge that he has learned over the years. He's always been such a good teacher!
All that was to say that I'm proud to be the son of Mr. Once-Was-Cool!
This has always been, and will continue to remain, the big holiday of my extended family. We gather with both my mom's and my dad's side of the family on Christmas Eve during two separate family functions. It was a blessing to see all of my family again and enjoy the laughs that come so easily with the ones you have loved for years.
However, as good as all of the festivities and gifts are, it's amazing that these temporal things still do not compare with the wondrous gift of Jesus Christ, in the flesh, the incarnate Son of God.
I heard a great sermon yesterday from Pastor Tim Batchelor of Spring Place Baptist Church here in Chatsworth, Georgia. The sermon focused on the meaning of Jesus as Immanuel. It brought to my mind the glorious reality that Jesus Christ walked among real people in real time and space. Brother Tim pointed out that this was not a symbolic title. God incarnate walked among men.
For some reason, my thoughts turned to my new shoes. In a pre-Christmas feeling of compassion, my mom decided to buy me two new pairs of shoes. My old ones were simply horrible. It's hard to describe the condition they were in, but it's like the vinyl part on top was peeling off. They looked pathetic... Both my dad and mom commented on how awful they looked.
At the same time, I thought also of Christ. He was wrapped in swaddling cloths, literally rags. I knew how much I hated wearing my ugly old shoes, but they were all I had. I really didn't have the money to go out and buy some new pairs of shoes to replace. If I had more resources, I sure wouldn't have chosen to keep wearing those old shoes. Yet, when it comes to the incarnation, Christ chose the rags. I don't understand that, but I know that it's true. Christ chose to debase Himself and become low.
My thoughts turn to Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV). Christ "made himself nothing" (Phil. 3:7, ESV) and became a servant. His goal while walking this earth was to glorify the Father and be obedient to Him in all things, including the call to go to Calvary. He chose those rags for His sheep.
My new shoes are a testimony to my parents' generosity and care for me. They have chosen to bestow honor on me through giving me nice things and have taken away the shame of my poor, ratty, old shoes. In a similar way, Christ no longer bears the rags. He no longer endures the suffering of Calvary or the shame of being stripped naked before a crowd and slowly murdered by angry religious zealots.
No, the Father has lifted Him up, and He bears a name to which all in the universe will one day bow. The Father has chosen to honor His Son. He no longer has those rags. Instead, He bears wisdom and power and honor and glory and blessing.
I pray that when I wear my new shoes I'll be reminded of Christ's humiliation and the subsequent glory He bears in His glorified body. I pray that my every step will be a reminder to endure the humiliation of the world as a follower of Jesus Christ as well as a reminder that the pain and suffering of this world brought about by sin will one day vanish.
I thank God for those new shoes, but I think Him even more for the Christ who chose the rags.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Click here to check out what I already have catalogued in my library already. I think I catalogued 115 books yesterday, according to the stats. Please do not pity me for staying home on a Friday night cataloguing books...I rather enjoyed it!
And, finally...yes, this is how some of my free time will be spent during the winter break in December and January. I'm serious, I really do enjoy this!
Friday, November 10, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
For those that don't know, one of my fondest childhood memories was watching the "Howling" werewolf movies with my grandmother. We would shoot the "bad guys" when our hands weren't busy feeding our faces with apple slices, cheddar cheese wedges, and crackers. Ironically, eating healthy always went hand-in-hand with watching monsters. Don't ask me why...
Just to show you how serious of a horror aficionado that I was, I once owned the complete "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie collection on VHS. It didn't include the last movie in the series, which I had on VHS as well as DVD anyhow.
Months after my conversion, I felt it was wise to dump the whole collection in the trash. I didn't exactly have an explicit scriptural support or a well-developed theological under-pinning for that decision. I must admit that I still don't.
However, John's article helped provide another thoughtful response to a topic that is so sure to receive more heat than light.
That's why they call him the Reformed Baptist Thinker!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Thursday, October 12, 2006
It was on May 13th of 1988 that Criswell delivered a sermon that still echoes in the hearts of the conservative Southern Baptist. The address is, "The Curse of Liberalism." I first saw the video after I began working at the music and audio/visual library of SBTS. I remember taking it home and playing the tape after a long day, and I felt like I was watching a western. I can only imagine what it was like to be in that room, but I got a good taste of the atmosphere during the cheering after he announced his sermon title.
To my grandfather, he was a cowboy hero, unabashedly standing for what was true and right. As I grew older, I realized what was at stake. I didn't quite avoid those long, drawn-out conversations with my grandfather about theology and the state of the SBC anymore. I saw a passion in those rants that let me know that he wouldn't put up with anyone tampering with the nature of the Word of God.
One of the last coherent conversations that I remember us having occurred after I made the decision to enroll in Boyce College. He was wary of me coming to SBTS, for he was a pastor in Kentucky for many years and knew where the school had been. I kept telling him that things had changed. I went home for a visit on that Labor Day of my first semester, and he told me about a recent portion of D. James Kennedy's program that he saw where Kennedy was lauding Dr. Mohler and the SBC for its return to its biblical roots. My grandfather was content when he heard that, and he was satisfied with me attending a school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I think it put his mind at ease in those last few months of his life.
He passed away the same year as his hero, W.A. Criswell. Thinking of these two men being laid to rest, I give thanks for my heroes, those who stand upon the truth of the Word of God and do not retreat in the face of opposition. I thank God for Russell Moore, the man who was instrumental in my conversion and who baptized me. I thank God for my pastor, Dr. Mark McClellan, and for his example of humble, wise pastoral leadership and compassion for the flock. I thank God for my mentor in the faith, Todd Crosby, who meets weekly with me to discuss very practical areas of ministry, and who has shown me how to preach with boldness and clarity while rightly interpreting the Scripture.
I encourage you to thank God for the "cowboys" that He has put in your life.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
It's a good look at who Southern Baptists are.
As I'm listening to the lecture now, I appreciate some of Dr. Moore's comments on the emerging church. He used an analogy in which he compared them to bungee jumpers. Bungee jumpers want the rush but without the danger. He said that often emerging church folks will darken the rooms, use candles, etc. in an attempt to be counter-cultural and see themselves as returning back to the ancient church. However, even in the midst of a dark room with candles, they aren't facing the dangers of the ancient church. It's just not the same.
Dr. Moore also pointed out that they strive to be counter-cultural, but you find that most of their views on culture tend to be quite in step with the the culture. Granted, they are counter-cultural to evangelical culture, but they tend to be quite like the world. They desire to distance themselves from the plain folk, like me and my family.
After listening to Dr. Moore's lecture, it made me think a little more about this emerging church business. I must confess that I don't wear Birkenstocks, hang out in coffee shops, or use mild profanities. I don't show video clips during my sermons, and I rarely go to the movies to find engaging quotes for sermons or lessons. I don't refer to myself as a story-teller or elevate narrative. I'm not particularly fond of using props in sermons, and I believe that some types of humor profane the sacred task of expositing God's Word. I don't particularly try to shape myself to fit the mold that the world expects, because, truth to be told, I'd never look cool anyway and would just come across as a phony. I guess the only book I could write is White Like a Cracker.
So, call me simple...I realize that I'm far from emerging, and the emerging folks would say that my "plainness" is keeping me from having more of an impact on the culture. However, when did culture become the starting point for how we live our lives as believers? Food for thought...
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Truly, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow!" This answer had nothing to do with my efforts. The truth is that someone called me about an opportunity. It was not an answer that came about because of my ingenuity or apartment-finding skills. The Lord truly plopped this one in my lap. I still stand amazed in all of this, and I'm extremely grateful for God's faithfulness, even when I am not always faithful to Him.
I encourage you to keep trusting in God even in the midst of personal difficulties. Just weeks ago, I was despairing, and now I am experiencing the joy of answered prayers! I pray that my testimony will be a benediction to your faith in the Savior!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
To make a long story very short, I'm in need of a place to live. The fire department of Jeffersonville, IN is buying our property, and our landlord has agreed to sell it. We only have a few weeks to find a place to live. This process started in February, and although we kept hearing new information every month, it seemed, things have now been finalized. The nail is in the coffin, so to speak, and I found out a few days ago that we will be forced to find a place to live before the end of this month (quite possibly, in less than a couple of weeks).
Even in the midst of all of this anxious mess, I fully believe in the goodness of God! I know that He has a place picked out for me, even if I do not know what that is.
I must admit that I've been reluctant to publicly write something like this...To be honest, I don't like to be seen as "needy." However, I'm in dire need of a place to live, and I need the prayers of other saints. As I was praying just now even, I just had to be honest before the Lord and say that I'm scared that I don't know where I'll be living by the end of this month.
After I prayed about the situation, I was reminded of the lyrics to an old hymn by Samuel Rodigast entitled, "Whate'er My God Ordains is Right." I'm particularly struck by the lines of the 4th verse:
Here shall my stand be taken
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken
My Father’s care
Is round me there
He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to Him I leave it all
The hymnist confirms that he has made a choice and confirms his belief that whatever God ordains is right. In the same way, I think that we, as believers, must decide ahead of time to take the bold stance of recognizing that those things that God causes to happen in our lives are good and right. This is most definitely a bold position, and we must determine to believe it before the troubles come or else we will be prone to view God as somehow unfaithful toward us.
I'm scrambling for a place to live, yet I know that God has ordained this for His glory and my good. It is right. And though worries and anxieties attempt to rob the joy and peace that is rightfully mine as a child of the Sovereign Lord of the universe who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, I know that I am in the caring hands of a loving Father who causes these things to happen to me and already has a provision in place to supply my need. Truly, I know...
And so to Him I leave it all."
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Nevertheless Jim Hamilton has written a helpful article entitled, "May Women Teach Men at Church?" on his blog, For His Renown. In fact, he gives one of the clearest explanations that I have read of 1 Timothy 2:15, which is a legitimately difficult passage to interpret. What exactly is Paul referring to when he writes of women being saved through childbearing? I leave you with Hamilton's understanding of the passage in order to whet your appetite to read the article:
They are not saved through the meritorious work of childbearing, but when by faith they embrace their role as women they show that they are born again. The most prominent way in which women embrace their roles as females is through childbearing, which men cannot do. But lest anyone think Paul is talking about women accomplishing their own salvation through childbearing, he adds, “if they continue in faith. . .” I take this to mean that childbearing is evidence that a woman has embraced her role as a woman, which is evidence that she has genuine faith.
How have I suffered reproach for bearing the name of Christ?
Friday, September 01, 2006
"Just because it's in the Bible doesn't mean you should preach it."
I heard these words on a CD from the White Horse Inn. Michael Horton had interviewed him for the White Horse Inn radio broadcast (click here to read highlights from that interview), and they included the clip from this interview on the highlights/promo CD that WHI produced. I was literally shocked to hear Robert Schuller say these words...
How sad that he would seek to suppress the truth of the Word of God. Even though I'm saddened by such remarks, I have to examine my own life. How often do I not address the whole counsel of the Word of God? I may have my pet sins that I wish to preach against. How often have I railed against the abortionist while harboring bitterness in my heart against those who have hurt me?
Robert Schuller's words are detrimental to the Christian faith, and he will be held responsible before the tribunal of God one day.
Since I do believe that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable" (2 Tim. 3:16, NASB, emphasis mine), I must seek to live my life in a way that reflects that belief. I have witnessed a friend of mine who reflected a desire to bring a theological understanding to a particularly trying situation face verbal opposition. The other person told my friend that they have been around the seminary too long, with the implication that by seeking to bring a theological understanding to bear that my friend was being quite impractical.
However, I take the position that everything that we do as believers reflects a theological understanding. For instance, as some have noted, a church cannot remain neutral with regard to the issue of women in the pastorate. By their practice, they will inevitably take a position. Either they will have a man or a woman installed in the office of pastor. In the same way, everything from our methods of evangelism to the ways we worship reflect a theological understanding, whether we recognize and honor theology's place in the Christian faith or not. For that reason, we need to have a sound theological basis so that we may practice and live out the faith rightly.
In that way, may I and my fellow conservative evangelicals (and especially my fellow Southern Baptists) who have such a high regard for Scripture--as opposed to Robert Schuller--seek to live lives in agreeance with the revealed truth of God's Word.
They have added most of John Piper's sermons from the 25 years of his ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Also, you can now access video clips of Piper's sermons. Let's just say that this beats watching television!
And, I'm quite excited that they have added many of his books to the website, available free of charge!
May the Lord add His blessings to you as you use these resource to listen to the preaching of the Word and become a more fervent follower of Jesus Christ.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
I pray that it will do the same for you as well!
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
1. He is an articulate defender of the Christian faith. Long before I knew much about Southern Seminary, a friend of mine would call and tell me when Dr. Mohler would be on the various news programs. I was always amazed at the clear and calm defense he gave of the Christian faith.
2. He is responsible for bringing reform to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. For that reason, he's either loved or hated by Southern Baptists. I for one love and appreciate him for his service in that regard. I know of others who have stated that they would get a certain degree from our institution, but they wouldn't accept "a degree with Al Mohler's name on it." And, many of my co-workers at one of my jobs highly disdain Dr. Mohler, and he has been the source of jokes, off-hand remarks, etc. I know of others who blame Dr. Mohler for everything that goes wrong on campus. If you find a roach in the dorm room, it must be Dr. Mohler's fault. But, I digress. Let's just say that while there are others who highly disagree with me in my respect for Dr. Mohler, some of those same people have acknowledged that at least he is clear about his beliefs.
3. He is courageous enough to speak up on issues where most of the church dares to speak. I have seen Dr. Mohler berated for his position on women in ministry, and I have seen him defend the exclusivity of Christ while being yelled at by a Jewish rabbi. He has the courage to speak where I often shrink back, and I pray that the Lord will grant me that same courage to declare the whole counsel of Scripture in the face of opposition.
4. He is not afraid to have some fun! Click here to see Dr. Mohler in a battle for the wits! (I must admit that this was my main reason for this post. However, I couldn't write a post like this without first expressing my admiration for the president of the institution where I attend. Enjoy the video!)
Monday, August 28, 2006
If you have a website that you think deserves a spot on the list, feel free to suggest it in the comments portion of this page.
Thanks for dropping in!
9Marks—Few ministries strive for church reform as much as 9Marks ministries. Mark Dever’s goal is to reform the local church, and he sees nine marks that make up a biblical church. My favorite part of the 9Marks ministry is the wonderful collection of interviews with various church leaders. Be sure and visit the website, if for that reason alone! The articles are also invaluable, as well.
Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals—This ministry has some excellent material for those who love the gospel. I especially enjoy the various articles written by top-notch theologians. This is definitely an organization worth supporting.
Alpha and Omega Ministries—I discovered this ministry of James White during middle school due to an on-going dialogue I had with a Roman Catholic apologist. Alpha and Omega Ministries has excellent material on various groups, including Roman Catholicism. The focus of his ministry is apologetics, and he especially focuses on Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, King-James-Onlyism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as Reformed doctrine. I especially commend “The Dividing Line” radio program to you!
Archives and Special Collections (SBTS)--If you're a Southern Baptist, it's no secret that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has a fascinating history. I encourage you to check out the Archives and Special Collections website of SBTS. You'll be able to become well-informed of the history of this great institution as you come across captivating stories, quotes, and facts about SBTS. It's worth your time to take more than just a glance!
Banner of Truth Trust--This organization publishes many good books, including those in the Puritan Paperbacks series. Two of the books that have influenced my life the most are both published by this company: Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed and Arthur Bennett's collection of Puritan prayers entitled The Valley of Vision.
Baptist Theology--The Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary maintains this ministry, which consists of an exposition of Baptist theological distinctives. At the time of this posting, one of the White Papers deals with the subject, "What Makes Baptism Valid?"
Bible.org--Some very useful material can be found here. I especially draw your attention to the NET Bible that they offer. It is a new translation that offers notes from the translators concerning their translation of the texts.
Bible Bulletin Board--As the title implies, this site began as a bulletin board when I was a few years old and before the birth of the world wide web. The value of this site lies in the fact that it has literally hundreds of transcripts of John MacArthur's sermons, including the Q&A section where John MacArthur has responded to questions offered during services at the church he serves. He also offers sermons and resources from Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, and J.C. Ryle. Don't miss this resource! It's been around for a long time for a reason.
Biblical Spirituality--This ministry, The Center for Biblical Spirituality, is dedicated to helping believers grow in their faith. Much of what claims the name spirituality is divorced from the Bible's teaching on the matter. In that regard, I recommend Dr. Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church--I must admit that I've never been to Washington, D.C. While I hope to go one day and visit the usual tourist sites, I mostly want to go visit this church, pastored by Mark Dever, the founder of 9Marks ministries. The church website offers sermons available for download free of charge, so please avail yourself of this opporunity.
Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics--CRTA offers a wide variety of materials concerning doctrine and apologetics (a defense of the faith). While I do not agree with all of the articles and resources on this site, it is mostly helpful and worth including on this list.
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry--CARM is one of the best apologetics resources on the web, hands down! The founder, Matt Slick, offers articles on a plethora of cults and other groups. You'll probably want to bookmark this one!
Christian Classics Ethereal Library--This site is a gem when it comes to biblical and theological resources throughout church histories. From the early church fathers to the full text of Calvin's commentaries, you'll find a repository of wonderful material at one site. This is truly an outstanding resource!
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood--As you can tell by the title of this organization, CBMW is not afraid to address the heated topics of sexuality and gender-related issues. They take a complementarian position, which means that they recognize God-ordained role distinctions according to gender including, for example, the biblical prescription for a male-only pastorate. This is an incredibly politically incorrect stance, but the CBMW's goal is to declare the Bible's position on matters relating to gender and sexuality, regardless of public opinion. For that, I thank them!
Covenant Theological Seminary (Free Classes)--While you may feel free to go to the seminary's homepage, I particularly wanted to link to their Covenant Worldwide page. The seminary has amazingly offered some of its course available for download, including audio files of the lectures, podcast subscriptions, and PDF files of the lecture notes and even syllabi! This is a most unique offer, and I'm thrilled to link to this resource!
Desiring God--John Piper is the founder of this ministry, which takes his name from one of his most well-known, influential books--Desiring God. He is one of the best preachers living today, and probably one of the very few whose books will still be read 100 years from now.
First Presbyterian Church (Jackson, MS)--Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, III is the pastor of this church. He has been invited to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to speak on several occasions. He is a faithful expositor of Scripture, and they offer MP3 downloads of sermons preached at their services of worship.
Getty Music--Keith and Kristyn Getty are musicians dedicated to writing new, theologically-sound, God-glorifying lyrics of faith for corporate services of worship. Their goal is not to be Christian pop stars. Nearly all of their material is written for congregational singing. I have used and highly recommend using their songs in services of worship.
Grace to You--This website offers resources by Dr. John MacArthur, including free daily devotionals and broadcasts of Grace to You radio programs. Dr. MacArthur has authored one of the best study Bibles available, and I frequently consult The MacArthur Study Bible.
The Henry Institute--This ministry of cultural engagement is led by one of my personal heroes, Dr. Russell D. Moore. It was in one of Dr. Moore's theology class and due to his comments that I realized I was lost and came to know Christ. Dr. Moore took the time to come to my church and baptize me. I find his writing very engaging and his sermons to be astute and often convicting. I especially find the many Henry Institute-sponsored forums to be very informative and edifying.
Indelible Grace--This ministry has done a service to the church by offering recordings and songbooks of old hymn texts married to a more contemporary style. Some of my favorite songs come from their CD recordings. They are affiliated with the Reformed University Fellowship, which is also included in this annotated listing.
Ligonier Ministries--Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder of this ministry, as well as the teacher of its Renewing Your Mind radio program. I had the immense privilege of hearing Dr. Sproul teach on the holiness and justice of God during the spring of 2006. Some of his audio materials on apologetics shaped much of my understanding in high school, and I am thankful for Dr. Sproul's faithful ministry.
Living Waters--This is the publishing and resource arm of Way of the Master ministries. They offer several of Ray Comfort's sermons available for free download in various formats, including "Hell's Best Kept Secret" and "True and False Conversion."
Monergism--This site offers numerous free articles and other resources, including links to many Puritan books offered free in complete form. If anything, it's well worth the effort to bookmark the "Free Online Christian Books" section.
Reformed University Fellowship--The RUF a campus ministry that is found on 110 college and university campuses. They offer an excellent ministry to college students that goes beyond pizza fellowships and ultimate frisbee, and I highly recommend their RUF hymnal resource.
RUF Hymnbook--The Reformed University Fellowship has done the church an excellent service in offering this resource to us. I have included some of their songs in worship services and times of personal devotion.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary--SBTS is one of the best theological seminaries in the world! I am proud of this institution, which includes the college I currently attend, Boyce College. SBTS holds a unique and influential place in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention. This seminary offers Christian scholarship that is unabashedly Christian, conservative, evangelical, and Baptist.
Sovereign Grace Ministries--SGM lies somewhere between an independent ministry and a denomination. The Leadership Team of the movement is led by C.J. Mahaney, who has literally written the book on humility, Humility: True Greatness, as well as The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing. Please be sure and check our their music page.
The Spurgeon Archive--I believe that the title says it all. You'll find an immense offering of sermons and writings by Charles Spurgeon. He is still referred to many times as the "Prince of Preachers," and one of the greatest preachers since the apostle Paul. While it's hard to verify the truth of these statements, they may not be very exaggerated at all. Either way, my heart has been oft encouraged by Spurgeon's writings.
Truth for Life--If you've heard a preacher with a Scottish accent preaching on Christian radio stations, it could very well be Alistair Begg, the founder of Truth for Life ministries. I had the opportunity of hearing Begg speak in person at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he has been invited to give homiletical addresses on campus. I enjoy listening to Alistair Begg very much, and he doesn't shy away from proclaiming the full counsel of the Word of God.
Way of the Master--Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron offer this ministry to believers as a means of encouraging other Christians to evangelize. They base their ministry on the use of the law in evangelism, and not simply by speaking to felt needs. Their method is wonderfully biblical.
Way of the Master Radio--This program is hosted by Todd Friel, and features Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, and other guests. They often do live, on-the-air evangelism, and it's both exciting and educational, as well as a bit convicting if you don't share your faith regularly.
White Horse Inn--Radio programs like this are hard to come by. Michael Horton, Kim Riddlebarger, Ken Jones, and Rod Rosenbladt host this apologetically-minded, culturally-engaging, Bible-saturated radio program. It doesn't hurt their cause that they have R.C. Sproul often as their guest, as well.
Last Updated on 1/13/2006.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
The grace of humility is exercised by these rules:
Think not thyself better for anything that happens to thee from without.
If thou callest thyself a fool, be not angry if another says so of thee. He is a hypocrite who accuses himself before others with an intent not to be believed.
Love to be concealed and little esteemed, never being troubled when thou art slighted or undervalued.
Never be ashamed of thy birth, thy parents, or they present employment, or for the poverty of any of them.
Never speak anything directly tending to thy praise or glory.
When thou hast said or done anything for which thou receivest praise, take it indifferently and return it to God for making thee an instrument of His glory.
Use no stratagems and devices to get praise.
Suffer others to be praised in thy presence and think not that the advancement of thy brother is a lessening of thy worth.
Never compare thyself with others....
Be not always ready to excuse every oversight or indiscretion or ill action, but if thou be guilty of it, confess it plainly.
Give God thanks for every weakness, deformity, and imperfection and accept it as a favor and grace of God and an instrument to resist pride.
Upbraid no man's weakness to him to discomfort him. Be sure never to praise thyself or to dispraise any man else, unless God's glory or some holy end do hallow it.
These are wise words, for which we will do well to heed.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
My prayer is that God will continue revealing some sinful attitudes of pride and other sins that are present in my life. I think that pride is one of the hardest sins to detect. It is a very subtle sin, and one that we can so easily mask in religious excuses and pious justifications.
May God continue conforming me to Christ's image. The longer I live the Christian life, the more I see my sin. Pray that I'll never grow comfortable with what I find. Pray that God will grant me the wisdom to see those hidden sins that are as yet beneath my view. I am thankful that, even when I cannot readily perceive it, God is making me more like His Son with each passing day.
It would be beneficial for your walk with Christ to download and listen to Dr. Moore's powerful exposition of James 2:1-9, "The Kingdom of God in the Wal-Mart Break Room: Poverty, Partiality, and the Perils of a Gentrified Christianity" (click here to download the MP3 of the sermon).
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
For your edification and review, here are my meager attempt at note-taking. I'd encourage you to listen to the sermon for yourself.
If God Has Spoken...
1. We do know. Thus, because God has spoken, we do know that He has spoken. Dr. Mohler contrasted our God, the One who speaks but is hidden from sight, with idols that are seen but do not speak.
2. We do know know only by mercy. What we know, we know by the mercy of God, leaving no room for pride, for the revelation of God is mercy. Hearing anything from God is an act of His mercy in communicating with us.
3. We too must speak. Because God has spoken, we cannot stay silent.
4. Then it is all about God and for our good. God has a purpose when He speaks.
5. Then it is for our redemption. A redemptive purpose lies behind revelation. God set before the Israelites both life and death, and He commanded that they choose life.
6. Then we must obey. It is not simply a word for our consideration. It is a command to be obeyed or disobeyed.
7. Then we must trust. In agreeance with the old hymn, trust and obedience go hand in hand. We must trust this God who speaks.
8. Then we must witness. We are here because we have heard. Every student sitting in Alumni Chapel on campus for the convocation seminary is studying because someone else proclaimed the gospel to them.
I don't presume to claim that these notes are totally accurate or verbatim, and I encourage you to listen to the message for yourself.
One of her concerns is that the local church expects too much of seminary students, and in a sense I agree. Jennifer and I know some students who display little or no evidence of the grace of God in their lives. Keep in mind that I was formerly a lost Bible college student, so I'm not speaking hypothetically here! I can tell you from experience that one of the hardest places for a religiously unregenerate man to become converted is the area directly behind the pulpit.
Another of her concerns is the unwillingness of some students to serve the local church. She takes issue with that, and I share her concern.
I have included my comment to her post, but reading her original post (Are we any different?) would definitely help place my comment in the proper context.
I enjoyed the rant! I know what you're saying about unfaithful students. I know of a church that had a couple of SBTS/Boyce couples, and neither couple was all that faithful. In fact, they were some of the poorest attenders when it comes to worship.
Of course, I realize that the tendency is to think that we're the better kind of SBTS (or Boyce) students, which is an equally dangerous position of pride. But, yes, I do know students that I'm fully convinced are not called to ministry and are attending SBTS for the knowledge.
However, I can relate to those kind of students since I was last during most of my time here at Boyce. I had the head knowledge piling up, but my heart was as cold as ice. I thank God that He waited to save me after I came to Boyce and studied for years. It helped me see what life is like as a religious, yet unregenerate man. It makes grace and faith seem all that more real and amazing to me.
So...I guess in the end we should pray for those problem students and exhort and correct them when the need arises. And, let's not rule out the possibility that there are probably several unregenerate students walking among us...I mean, I was one.
If you’ll permit me, I’d like to quote Richard Baxter and Charles Spurgeon. After my conversion, I was given the opportunity to address my congregation and let them know that their Minister of Music had just become a Christian a few days prior…It was somewhat humiliating to admit that I had just come to know the Savior, but humility is an integral part of conversion.
Anyhow, Baxter says to “Take heed to yourselves lest you should be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that gospel which you preach…many a preacher is now in hell, that hath an hundred times called upon his hearers to use the utmost care and diligence to escape it.”
Spurgeon says, “How can [the preacher] daily bid men come to Christ, while he himself is a stranger to His dying love? O sirs, surely this must be perpetual slavery. Such a man must hate the sight of a pulpit as much as a galley-slave hates the oars.” And, “to be lost under the shadow of a pulpit is dreadful, but how much more so to perish from the pulpit itself!”
Okay…That may have veered from the topic of hand, but I guess that my concern through all of this talk of conversion is that:
1. There are seminary students who have had not experienced the miracle of regeneration and are living lives devoid of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. As such, we should not expect such students to display a humility that is God-given. It truly took a miracle of God for me to be able to lay down my pride and quit trying to convince myself that I was who I was not. I was not the believer that I claimed to be, for my idol was myself. It’s only by the grace of God that I came to realize my lost condition and turn to Christ.
2. We, in the American church, are quick to put the talented into positions of leadership. Although I was a music minister and had the training necessary for the task, I was groping in the darkness when it came to my spiritual health. I agree that we too often push SBTS/Boyce students into positions of leadership simply because they’re enrolled in an institution. However, they may not be a member of the universal body of Christ altogether.
3. On a side note…I believe that seminary students should be willing to serve. If God has called them to the ministry and to a place of training for Christian service, I simply cannot understand a test-tube understanding of sanctification and service. We do not grow into Christ’s likeness in a vacuum, separated from the exercise of Christian service in the local body. I’d encourage every SBTS/Boyce student to play an active role in the local church. And, this doesn’t mean being shoved into a position of leadership for which they are not ready. However, they should be willing to crawl out of the cave of comfort and be willing to venture into the unknown territory of serving the body of Christ.
I hope that makes sense, and I apologize for being so verbose, but you really got me thinking about these issues, and I wanted to write down my thoughts before they quickly exited.
Blessings to you!!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I went into your typical Christian bookstore the other day. At the outset, I must be open and admit my view of most Christian bookstores. The truth is, I don't particularly care for your cookie cutter Christian bookstore, and I don't think they bring glory to our great God.
- Most of the merchandise is over-priced, to the point of peddling the gospel at times. I can only imagine the Bibles that could be given away if only they would mark down some 3" cheaply-made plastic crosses (designed for display on the mantle of a wealthy, religious suburbanite) for which they charge at least $10 more than it's worth.
- Much of the music section drives me crazy. The hip-looking CCM artists weigh less than than the hair gel and eye shadow that they primp themselves up with. You'll almost never find a CD cover that doesn't have a young, sveldt glamour-style portrait. It's all so shallow, yet these "goods" are gobbled up like last night's Chinese take-out. The standards, as well, are often well below the world's standards of excellence. Many of these CD's are a showy, cheap imitation of what the "world" actually does better. [Dr. Russell Moore quoted a GQ article, I believe, in which someone compared much of Christian rock to those cheap perfume knock-offs found in your average dollar store with labels that read, "If you like Stetson, you'll love..."]
- Many of the books could only nominally be called Christian. Much of the books come from extreme Pentecostal-Charismatics who believe in a false gospel of health and wealth. They believe that Jesus (you know, the Son of God who didn't have a place to lay his head) wants Christians to be prosperous. Their idea of a "best life" includes developing wealth and influencing people. And, keep in mind that one of these popular authors, T.D. Jakes, denies the doctrine of the trinity, making him a true heretic. So, when I throw out my remarks about Christian book publishers and their authors, it's not just an issue of theological preference but one of theological fidelity.
However...to the point of my rant--"Biblezines," these glossly magazines that contain the text of Scripture interspersed among shallow articles about beauty tips with an array of pictures that simply confirm Hollywood and television's shallow view of beauty. Although I could evaluate the merits of Biblezines, I want to draw your attention to one designed for guys (probably in the early 20's to mid-30's range).
The cover of this particular Biblezine for men includes a wonderful, Christ-honoring comment below the title: "Sexcess: Success with the Opposite Sex!" So, buy the Bible, and it will show you how to get lucky with women. As I read that in that bookstore of that unseasonably warm day after Christmas, I couldn't help but experience a mixture of indignation, dismay, and utter disgust. How sad that the holy, sanctified Word of God is being peddled in such a distasteful manner.
This brings into mind Romans 12:2, which encourages us, "do not be conformed to this world." Instead of mentioning the Gospel or even the Person of Jesus Christ, this Biblezine would rather focus on sex, people skills, prosperity, fitness, and technology--much of these things are actually the major sins that keep most men in bondage: not simply "sex," but fornication, adultery, and pornography; not simply "people skills," but the manipulation of others in the attempt to be winsome and climb the corporate ladder; not simply a desire to do well and "prosper," but the desire to amass wealth out of a sinful, greedy heart; not simply "fitness," but the vanity of obsession with physical appearance; and not simply "gadgets," but the prestige that comes and the finances wasted on purchasing the latest technologies.
Of course, I haven't even mentioned how damaging the picture of the front is to your average male. Is Christianity all about looking handsome and being successful in the business world? Such a "Starbucks Christianity" panders to the vanity of our "Desperate Housewives" culture of philistine debauchery. As a professor of mine stated, what about the healthy teenage girl who picks up one the biblezines designed for her age group and finds only pictures of thin, attractive models interspersed with the Word of God? She is led to believe that this is what Christianity is all about--shallow, physical, lustful beauty. How does one approach this same girl who has been led to the pit of despair and a struggle with bulimia.
May we be careful about becoming so much like the world that the world misses the exclusivity and uniqueness of the Gospel message. Coming to Christ is not about coming to someone that's going to make you a really likeable person and give you success in business or with the opposite sex. It's actually about denying yourself. Remember that Jesus Christ told the rich young ruler to actually give all that he had to follow Christ. However, this young man went away lost because Jesus was able to reveal that this young man had no desire to truly follow Christ. The Gospel is not about finding success, it's about losing ourselves. I paraphrase John MacArthur who has stated that he views salvation as an exchange of all that we are for all that He is. It's about sacrificing and crucifying ourselves, laying aside the "old man," our old way of living, and becoming a new creation (something different altogether). Granted, God will often bless us in many and numerous ways, but true conversion is about giving us, in essence, giving up.
It's about resting in Christ. Jesus did not say, "Come to me, and I'll make sure you find an attractive spouse." No, he says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28, NKJV). Then, notice what he says next, "Take My yoke upon you" (v. 29). He tells us to forget our own will and put ourselves into a yoke with him. The yoke was what combined two oxen for the purpose of labor. God has work for us to do as believers, and it's not always easy. In fact, as I'm studying 1 Peter, I'm reminded that we're called to suffer. The Word of God clearly states with regard to suffering: "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21, NKJV). We are actually called to suffer, and we're to follow Christ's example in our suffering.
So, in lieu of the "Sexcess" caption, I think many biblical ideas could be proposed:
- "Sacrifice: Give Everything to Find Rest"
- "Death: Dying to Self for Life in Christ"
- "Church: It's Not About You"
End of rant...
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
For today's section, one of the assigned readings is 1 Samuel 8. In this chapter, the Israelites are begging for a king, and Carson opens his devotional reading with this simple sentence: "Why people ask for something is at least as important as what they ask for."
After sharing an illustration about a businessman with corrupt motives in requesting that a new committee be added to the company, he questions: "How many of our own requests--in the home, in church, at work, in our prayers--mask motives that are decidedly self-serving?"
Carson notes that, through asking for a king, "the people are not simply lossening their ties to a prophet like Samuel, they are turning away from God himself (8:7-8). The result is horrific: they get what they want, along with a desperate range of new evils they had not foreseen."
So, I encourage you to take a moment and examine the motives behind many of your supplications to the Lord. You may just find that you have a lot more in common with these Israelites than you previously thought...
Friday, August 11, 2006
I happened to catch the program, hosted by Kirk Cameron of Way of the Master, while Tedd Tripp was on the screen. Tripp and his brother Paul are a part of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, an organization that offers resources for a biblical approach to Christian counseling.
The Reformed Evangelist has a new post about this with links to the program.
By the way, check out Way of the Master. It's really fascinating, and I find myself emboldened to share my faith (as well as convicted by my frequent timidity) after I watch or listen to their television and radio programs.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
I thought it might be helpful to provide an annotated listing of the links that I have provided. My design is to give you information on why I chose to link to each of these blogs. Some of the following blogs are helpful for their theological and practical content for Christian living, others are helpful in providing a clean and entertaining diversion from the daily stress of life, and others are blogs by good friends of mine that may fall into one or both of the above categories.
Finally, keep in mind that I don't agree wholeheartedly with the blogs listed below. If I find major theological errors on the following blogs, I may choose to take them off the blog roll. Otherwise, I have found most of these blogs to be extremely helpful and/or entertaining.
Angela C. Starnes—Angela and I have been friends for years since my first semester when we were in Dr. Turner’s voice studio together. She is a faithful friend and a committed believer. She writes her blog mostly to give her family and friends updates on her life. However, she often writes tacit articles about her personal experience as a believer, and these often prove to be an encouragement to me.
Authentic Truth—I cannot remember how I discovered this blog, but the author writes from a Reformed, Dispensational, and Baptistic background. If you visit, be sure and peruse his material on the Emerging/Emergent Church movement.
Between Two Worlds—Most evangelical blog rolls include this blog by Justin Taylor, for good reason! The strength of this blog lies in the many links to current events and issues of theological concern. He’s one of the preeminent evangelical bloggers, to be sure, and I highly recommend his blog.
Biblical Foundations—This blog by Dr. Köstenburger contains information on several issues including: New Testament studies, marriage and family concerns, as well as the Da Vinci code craze that has swept the nation. He is a top-notch scholar Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and although his blog is normally updated only a few times each month, the articles are well worth reading.
ChangedbyHim—Paul Helms is at the helm of this blog, and he writes from a Reformed perspective. He’s a good friend of mine that I’ve only met in person a few times, but we share a heart for the gospel and the glory of God. Paul is actually a very capable and articulate poet of the Christian faith as well as the daily experience of Christian living, and you’ll find much of his poetry scattered throughout his blog.
Challies—Challies is one of the most useful blogs to be found in the world of evangelical blogs. Challies freely uses the following labels to identify himself: Christian, Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical, Conservative, and Searching (and I would add Baptist, as he attends a Reformed Baptist church). I recommend checking out his “A La Carte” section daily! Great stuff!
Conventional Thinking—Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, inaugurated this blog as an avenue to discuss issues pertinent to Southern Baptists. While the blog takes the approach of an in-house dialogue with other fellow Southern Baptists, much of the material found here is valuable even if one is not familiar with the inner workings of life in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Mohler’s Blog—Dr. Mohler’s blog covers issues ranging from politics and culture to concerns in contemporary theology. He can be found frequently on Larry King Live and other media outlets defending the conservative, evangelical position on cultural issues. While his blog is not light-reading, it is frequently helpful and typically very current in its focus.
Faith and Practice—This blog is a great resource when thinking about issues of discernment. The authors frequently approach contemporary theological issues and how evangelicals are to approach various theological viewpoints. Plus, there’s also some funny stuff found here from time to time!
For His Renown—Dr. Hamilton is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at the Houston Park Campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written some excellent posts on various theological issues that I have found to be very helpful.
Founders Ministries Blog—This blog is maintained by Dr. Tom Ascol, the Executive Director of Founders Ministries, an organization of Reformed-minded Southern Baptists. Much of this blog focuses upon current struggles within the Southern Baptist Convention as well as issues pertaining to Reformed theology.
JollyBlogger—JollyBlogger writes from a Reformed (PCA) perspective, and he frequently writes about something he’s read. I have found much of what he has written to be helpful, and he often draws my attention to helpful resources.
Josh Harris—While he is best known as the author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris also writes a wonderful blog! He’ll often post chunks of material from his books or sermons, so be sure and check this site out from time to time.
Pulpit--If you enjoy John MacArthur and Grace to You ministries, be sure and check out the Pulpit blog. As I’ve come to expect from MacArthur, this blog is quite bold, and it addresses issues of concerns to pastors and ministers from a very conservative, Reformed perspective.
Purgatorio—This blog makes me laugh on an (almost) daily basis! He is a master of photo-essays, and he finds some of the most interesting photos found on the internet. His photos are often a way of providing a cogent critique of modern Christianity, especially the commercialism and watered-down theology that has infected the church.
Pyromaniacs—Phil Johnson of Grace to You ministries heads up this blog, and it is one of the best in the blogosphere! The theological stance of the bloggers is in line with John MacArthur’s theological positions, and (like MacArthur) they offer stinging evaluations of modern Christianity. The posts can be long at times, but they are quite substantive and worth the read. This is one blog that I check often.
Reformation Theology—I think that the title of this blog says it all. It provides some great theological information, and it occasionally swerves into the realm of practices. However, it’s one of the weightiest blogs that I frequent, and it could not be considered light reading, that’s for sure.
Reformation21—This is the official blog of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and I have often been alerted to quotes, articles, current events, and other issues as a result of finding some links in the posts on this blog. I enjoy stopping by often to see if Ligon Duncan has recently written something new. It’s well worth the time to visit this site.
Reformed Baptist Thinker—The author of this blog, John Divito, is a friend of mine, and he is also a deacon at the church I formerly served, Parkwood Southern Baptist Church. John currently attends The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he serves as webmaster. When he’s not doing his webmaster duties or reading for classes, he somehow finds the time to post some excellent posts on his blog. As a former Mormon, he’s particularly knowledgeable in the area of Mormonism, and he often blogs about the goings-on in the Mormon church.
Reformed Blacks of America—This is one of the most unique blogs that I have seen, and I think the title is self-explanatory. The bloggers on this site speak openly about Reformed theology and its relationship with black evangelicalism. This is a very insightful blog!
Riddleblog—While I do not agree with some of the material on this blog, especially as relates to eschatology, I find much of what I find here to be quite useful.
SBC Outpost—SBC Outpost often takes a critical stance regarding the Southern Baptist Convention in certain areas. Although I don’t agree with the author completely, these posts have provided food for thought at times, and that is most certainly a good thing.
SBC Witness—Most of the bloggers that write for SBC Witness are current students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They are conservative and proudly Baptist, and I have enjoyed much of what I have read in their posts.
The Conventicle—I cannot remember exactly how I discovered this blog, but just as the SBC Witness blog, it is a blog operated mostly by students. They are unabashedly fond of the Puritans, and they have often drawn my attention to many good resources.
The Reformed Evangelist—It’s rare to find a blog devoted to the topic of evangelism, especially one coming from a Reformed perspective! I’m thankful for the presence of this blog in the blogosphere, and it provides a much-needed balance to the questionable evangelistic methods often used accompanied with equally questionable theological presuppositions. You probably won’t find poor methods or theology here, and that’s a relief!
Theme of my song—Jennifer is a friend of mine as well as a co-worker here in the music and audio-visual library at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary library. She is a very patient person and has often endured my theological rants and venting. Sorry, Jennifer!
Together for the Gospel—The Together for the Gospel conference was a historic event. I regret missing the conference, but I appreciate the fact that this blog, which began before the event, has continued. The men writing for this blog are some of my heroes, and I’m thankful that they have continued their dialogue for all the world to see.
Worship Matters—Bob Kauflin serves as the Director for Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries. His blog entries come out of years of experience and insight into the nature and practice of worship. Kauflin has spoken frequently at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I find him to be one of the most humble worship leaders that I have met.
Last Updated on 1/12/2006.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
I do not ask whether you attend your church regularly, whether you have been baptized, and received the Lord's Supper, whether you have the name of Christian. I ask something more than all this: are you holy, or are you not?So...I ask you the same question. Are you holy? This is the question that I have asked myself recently, and I have sought to live more like my Savior.
I do not ask whether you approved of holiness in others, whether you like to read the lives of holy people and to talk of holy things, and to have on your table holy books, whether you mean to be holy, and hope you will be holy some day. I ask something further: are you yourself holy this very day, or are you not?
And why do I ask so straitly, and press the question so strongly? I do it because the Scripture says, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." It is written, it is not my fancy; it is the Bible, not my private opinion; it is the word of God, not man: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
Alas, what searching, sifting words are these! What thoughts come across my mind, as I write them down! I look at the world and see the greater part of it lying in wickedness. I look at professing Christians and see the vast majority having nothing of Christianity but the name. I turn to the Bible and I hear the Spirit saying, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
Surely it is a text that ought to make us consider our ways and search our hearts. Surely it should raise within us solemn thoughts and send us to prayer.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Note: Here's another post from my previous blog. I'm not quite sure that I would agree with all that Piper has written in Future Grace, but the portions that I quote here were certainly "food for thought" for my life. This was originally posted on the Dec. 23, 2005.
Thoughts of the gospel flood my mind frequently. Granted, I'm not thinking about Christ's death, burial, and resurrection during every second of each day, but I am consistently and daily amazed by His acts of grace. However, as John Piper's excellent work Future Grace points out, true saving faith is a faith in "future grace."
I'm really not sure if I can summarize the thrust of his book very well in a brief way, but the main gist of it is that we live by faith in the promises of God and what He is for us and will be in the future. Piper tears down the belief that the Christian life is to be lived simply out of gratitude. For one, that is not mentioned as the ongoing motive for faithfulness throughout Scripture. Plus, if we live our lives forever trying to "payback" God for His grace, it sort of nullifies grace. Then, we're just trying to keep our salvation through works. Instead, looking to God through faith is what keeps us faithful. In this way, salvation is not just belief in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. It is trusting in Him, and "the focus of my trust is what God promised to do for me in the future" (p. 6). After being converted and born again by the Holy Spirit, we live our lives by trusting in Christ, and this trust is displayed in complete embrace of His promises. Here is where the talk of "embracing Christ" comes in.
In chapter 15, "A Taste of Spiritual Beauty," Piper opens with a sobering series of questions: "Is it possible to believe the promises of God about the security of the saints, and yet be lost? If faith in future grace means believing the promises of God, how is it that those promises could be believed and yet the 'believer' not be saved?" He then quotes Matthew 7:21-23, where Jesus asserts that not everyone who has called on Him will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Part of the issue here is one of facts and experience, or as one of Piper's headings assert, "The basis of believing determines the experience of believing." Mere mental assent alone will never save anyone. I know people who live the lives of total pagans and show no evidence of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, yet they will loudly proclaim, "I believe in Jesus Christ and in the gospel." However, "being persuaded that Christ and his promises are factual is not by itself saving faith" (p. 200).
The difference comes in the "experience of believing." We often make the mistake of asserting that belief in the gospel is equal to believing whole-heartedly that a certain man will be able to traverse the mighty Niagara Falls on a tightrope. It is quite another to come when he beckons and climb upon his back for the ride across. Piper quotes Charles Hodge as he asserts that true, actual saving faith "is a faith which rests upon the manifestation by the Holy Spirit of the excellence, beauty, and suitableness of the truth...It arises from a spiritual apprehension of the truth, or from the testimony of the Spirit with and by the truth in our hearts" (p. 201). Hodge then moves on, according to Piper's citation, to discuss Luke 10:21, where Jesus speaks of having hidden spiritual truth from the wise only to lavish it upon those that are as babes. Piper explains: "In other words, the truth about Jesus and his ministry and the kingdom of God was seen externally by some; but to 'the babes' God revealed it. This revelation enable that spiritual apprehension and taste which moves the heart to embrace and savor the reality, not just think that it is true" (p. 201).
Aye, there's the rub..."that spiritual apprehension and taste which moves the heart to embrace and savor the reality, not just think that it is true." This is the road to which I came back in February. Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I saw the beauty of the gospel of Christ, not just the facts. In fact, I don't know if I mentioned this in my testimony, but as I was praying to beg God for His salvation, I remember looking at my theological library and telling God, "I'll give it up if I have to. I'll quite Boyce College if that's what You require and move down to Georgia to work in a carpet mill the rest of my life." I knew fully well that were I to receive Christ it would obviously jeopardize my experience prior to then. For the truth of the matter was, and rightfully so, that once I surrendered my life to Christ I knew He would have the reigns of my decisions. What if He actually didn't want me in the ministry anymore and, after coming to saving faith, one of my first acts of obedience (after baptism) would be to move back home. Granted, I love my parents, but I did not want to move back home, I did not want to surrender the degree that I had worked so hard toward attaining, I did not want to give up the bulk of theological books that I had amassed, and I most certainly didn't want to surrender the education that for which I've work so hard.
However...At that moment, embracing Christ meant more to me than all those hopes and dreams. I knew that if I didn't have Him that I was utterly and totally lost and forsaken. I knew that my life was about to be turned upside down, and that scared me. But it was not as scary as pondering the thought of living without Him. It was at that moment that the walls came crashing down. There wasn't a flood of tears, but after the initial praying, there came a flood of peace. I don't know how else to describe except to say that the sin that I was carrying fell at my feet. I watched "Secondhand Lions" today with my dad, and one of the men told a story of fighting Arabian soldiers in a shiek's dungeon with money bags attached. The boy, after having listened to his great uncle tell of fighting with hundreds of pounds of coins attached, remarked that it was impossible to fight the soldiers. So, the man revised the story some and admitted that he had a little help from his brother as well. In my own case, I was seeking to live a life that was Christian-ish with bags of sin bearing down on me like a fierce wind to the sails of a boat. I was a slave to that sin, and it took me where it wanted me to go. I was seeking to fight the wiles of the devil with only my sin, and I was failing. Were it not for Christ, Satan would have eventually slain me, and I would be crying up from the pit of hell for relief from my damnation, only to endure an eternity of punishment, which is what I deserved. Instead, Christ invaded my heart, and I saw Him as altogether lovely and worthy, and I laid down those bags of sin so that I might fully embrace Him with both arms.
To continue this thought of embracing I turn to the last few pages of the chapter. Piper maintains that there are two things "necessary for saving faith to emerge" (p. 202):
1. "One is to use our preception and our mind to hear and see and understand and validate a testimony to the truth of Christ."
2. "The other is that we must apprehend and embrace the spiritual beauty and worth of Christ through the illumination of the Holy Spirit."
Basically, when you embrace Christ you put all of your faith and hope into Him. You forsake your life of sin and turn your life to Christ (repentance). The FAITH evangelism strategy describes sin as turning from something (sin and self) and turning to someone (Jesus Christ). It is the point in which you decide that you're trusting in Christ and you forsake the life of sin that you've lived up until this point. Instead, your sights are set on Jesus. As Jesus reminded us in His discourse to Nicodemus in John 3:1-21, we must look to Christ as the Old Testament Israelites looked to the bronze serpent and were healed. Jesus Christ was lifted up in the same manner that He might draw men to Himself and save those that put their faith in Him and fix their eyes upon Him to live their lives for Him.
As Piper writes here and elsewhere, he summarizes faith as "being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus" (p. 206), or "Another way to sat it would be that, in all the acts of saving faith, the Holy Spirit enables us not just to perceive and affirm factual truth, but also to apprehend and embrace spiritual beauty. It is the 'embracing of spiritual beauty' that is the essential core of saving faith. This is what I mean by 'being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.' Spiritual beauty is the beauty of God diffused in all his works and words. Embracing this, or delighting in it, or being satisfied with it, is the heart of saving faith" (p. 206).
Such a kind of faith will continue. In fact, those who seem to abandon the faith were never really of it to begin with. Gazing upon Christ will leave the believer forever longing for Him. In fact, the most miserable person is a backsliding believer who longs to embrace Christ but lets their sin block renewal with Him. Like the erring husband who seeks the embrace of his lover, only to find himself to proud to admit to her that he was wrong. Eventually, his love and desire for her (and her loving forbearance and kind patience) will cause him to reconcile. Much in the same way, the true believer will embrace Christ. Those that forsake the faith only show their lack of ever having had it; they were merely spiritual flirts, of which Christ was the latest fling. They then move swiftly onto physical love, alcohol, lies, acceptance, or a myriad of other "gods" with whom they seek to satisfy the long in their soul for embrace.
Let me beg you, if you have not already, embrace Christ by grace through faith. Believe that He lived a sinless life in your place, died in the cross in your place, and rose again that you may too rise if you put your trust in Him. Repent! Cry out to Him for forgiveness, and He will save you and cleanse you from your sin.
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me!
It made me think. I had never considered that when Paul asked for books and parchments near the end of his life, the books were probably other religious writings and not actual books of the Bible. This definitely made me think, and that's one think I definitely need to do more often!
Monday, July 10, 2006
Perhaps you, like me, have too often turned quiet time into a performance. If we perform well for God, we enter our day filled with confidence that God will bless us, and that He will have to bless us. We feel that our performance has earned us the right to have a day filled with His presence, filled with blessings, and filled with confidence. And, of course, when we turn in a poor performance, we feel that God is in heaven booing us and heaving proverbial rotten vegetables in the form of removing His presence and, in the words of a friend, "dishing out bummers."
Quiet time becomes tyrannical when we understand it as a performance. Bridges provides a pearl of wisdom. "Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace." Whether we are having a good day or a bad day, the basis of our relationship with is not our performance, for even our best efforts are but filthy rags, but grace. Grace does not just save us and then leave us alone. No, grace saves us and then sustains us and equips us and motivates us. We are saved by grace and we then live by grace. Whether in the midst of a good day or bad, God does not base His relationship with us on performance, but on whether or not we are trusting in His Son.