Thursday, December 24, 2009

Those Whom Live Closest to You

I was re-reading a portion of one of my favorite books from 2009 - Broken-Down House by Paul Tripp. This quote gripped me as I think about spending time with my family this Christmas season:
John [1 John 4:7-12, 16-21] essentially says that if you want to know the true quality of your relationship with God, don't look at your theological knowledge, biblical literacy, church involvement, etc. (although all these are very important). Instead, you should look at the quality of the relationships you have with those whom you live closest to.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger Woods through a Biblical Lens


Here is a thoughtful article by David Bahnsen on the Tiger Woods adultery scandal.

Here is a tidbit of what he says:

The postmodern tendency to “wonder what they may be going through behind closed doors” does not resonate with me (other than the cynical smile it puts on my face). To me, these people are dirtbags, and I believe that marital vows are meant to be broken in any society that condones murdering babies, breaking business covenants with bondholders, forcing a Darwinian view of human origin that necessitates moral relativism, etc. I find all of it deplorable, but I certainly do not find it surprising. We have a recipe for a certain cake, and when the cake comes out of the oven exactly as the recipe called for, why would we wonder why the cake does not taste like a meatloaf? Media savagery, marital infidelity, and the rest of this despicable enchilada are all part of the present societal recipe. If I spend 18 years teaching my children that the highest ethic is not getting caught, and that the real measurement of their satisfaction in life ought to come from their hedonistic enjoyment of it, I am expecting to get Bernie Madoff, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, and Brittney Spears, all rolled into one (though sadly, with less money).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving in an Evil Day

I enjoyed reading Douglas Wilson's post on Thanksgiving Day. He reflects on our Christian duty to give thanks in the midst of an "evil day."
As one who is preaching through Ephesians, I enjoyed his reflection on Ephesians 5.

Read and Enjoy

BLOG and MABLOG

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

John Owen on Sin

I've been reading The Mortification of Sin by John Owen recently. This paragraph really stood out to me,
As sin weakens, so it darkens the soul. It is a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God's love and favour. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them.
Owen writes this as an encouragement for believers to take seriously the biblical call to mortify (kill) the sin in our lives by the Spirit.

Dear Father,
Please do not let me let sin (known or unknown) go unmortified in my life. For the sake of my soul, my family, my church, and my ministry increase in me the desire to kill sin and strengthen me in battle against it. May my church and home be a place of humble vigilance. May You surround me with godly brothers and sisters in Christ who will lovingly speak the truth to me. And may my ultimate aim in mortifying the sin that is in me be Your honor and glory. Amen.

You can read Mortification of Sin for free here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pray for Your Preacher


This Sunday I preached a sermon entitled "Hear the Word" from 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

At the beginning I asked the congregation to pray for me in regards to my charge to "preach the word."

Here are the five things I asked them to pray for:



1) Pray that I would preach the Word with accuracy. Pray that I would not add to it or leave something out.

2) Pray that I would preach the Word with clarity. Pray that I would be given a gift and I would work
hard to make the truth clear and understandable (use of words and language).

3) Pray that I would preach the Word with power. Pray that I would have what the old timers called “unction in the pulpit.” Pray that God would use His Word to bring life.

4) Pray that I would preach the Word with perseverance. Pray that I would not be weary in well doing but faithful regardless of apparent fruitfulness.

5) Pray that I would preach the Word with my life. Pray that my walk would match a faithful preaching of the Gospel.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions on the Tongue


When Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a young man he wrote several resolutions that by God's help he would seek to keep for the glory of God. Since I have been preaching on the tongue (from Ephesians 4:29) I thought I would post his resolutions that relate to the tongue: (obviously we talk a bit different than from the 18th Century)

16.Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

34. Resolved, in narration's never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Every Word Matters



Tomorrow I am preaching (Lord willing) on Ephesians 4:29:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.



Here is a good video by Paul David Tripp from the 2008 Desiring God Conference.




Friday, October 16, 2009

A Good Book on Understanding Catholics


I just started reading a very interesting book by Chris Castaldo called Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic. Castaldo is a former Roman Catholic and is now an evangelical pastor.

In His first chapter he gives the top five reason people have left Catholicism for evangelicalism (according to a questionnaire):


Five areas that they found in a non-catholic, evangelical faith...

1 - Every believer is called to full-time ministry.

2 - Relationship with Christ must take precedence over rule-keeping.

3 - We enjoy direct access to God in Christ.

4 - There is only one proper object of devotion - Jesus the Savior.

5 - God's children should be motivated by grace instead of guilt.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Don't Fasten Foreign Apples on a Bad Tree


Last Sunday I preached on the importance of our words and the nature of the heart.

Here is a helpful picture of the illustration I gave last Sunday. This illustration comes from Paul Tripp. Changing our behavior in regards to our words (or anger, or truth telling...) without getting to the heart that produces sinful words is like a man who thinks he fixed his dying, apple-less apple tree by fastening store-bought apples on it. Mat Adams made me a picture to illustrate this illustration. :)

"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
(Luke 6:43-45)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fake Beauty All Around

Someone sent me this video. After you watch it, you may want to go back to the beginning.



This reminds me of what C. S. Lewis said in Screwtape Letters.

At one time we have directed it to the statuesque and aristocratic type of beauty, mixing men's vanity with their desires and encouraging the race to breed chiefly from the most arrogant and prodigal women. At another, we have selected an exaggeratedly feminine type, faint and languishing, so that folly and cowardice, and all the general falseness and littleness of mind which go with them, shall be at a premium. At present we are on the opposite tack. The age of jazz has succeeded the age of the waltz, and we now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind of beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female's chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children. And that is not all. We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being "frank" and "healthy" and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist—making the rĂ´le of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast!
Oh, and a much more important and AUTHORITATIVE SOURCE ON THE SUBJECT:

...but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. (The apostle Peter - 1Pe 3:4)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Husband's Headship and the Idiot Box


From Douglas Wilson in Reforming Marriage (a must-read marriage book):

Wives - "pushing a man to be a spiritual leader will not make him one. He may not be much of a leader but he is enough of one not to be lead into leadership by a women..."

"Obviously, this does not mean the husband has the right to continue his abdication. When a man just sits there like a spiritual dead weight, fellowship is hindered. Husbands have a responsibility to "nourish and cherish" their wives (Eph. 5:29), and staring at the Idiot Box until it is time for sex is not one of God's appointed means for doing so."

Ephesians 5:22-30 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (26) that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (27) so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (28) In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, (30) because we are members of his body.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Parenting Seminar Resources


Last Weekend we had a parenting seminar at Grace Church called "One Generation."

Pastor Dave did a tremendous job putting this weekend together. It was exciting to see many families present with the desire to know and obey God in regards to parenting.

We watched 3 sessions by Tedd Tripp, the author of Shepherding a Child's Heart.

You can watch these sessions here below provided by Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. If you click on the "streaming audio" you will find options to download them as mp3s.

Session 1: The Call to Formative Instruction

Session 2: Giving Kids a Vision for God's Glory

Session 3: Helping Kids Understand Authority

Session 4: Helping Kids Understand the Heart

Session 5: Overview of Corrective Discipline

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2 Songs - I Need You and Because


The more I grow in my faith towards Christ, the more I realize my desperate need for Him in all things. This is why I love this song that we sang for the first time last Sunday. We will sing it again tomorrow (Sept 13). You can listen to and read the lyrics to "I Need You" by Kristian Stanfill here:




I Need You - Na Band

I am frail, broken easily
Without fail, my strength keeps failing me
All alone, I'm powerless
To lift myself from the pit that I am in

I need You, Jesus
I need You, Jesus

From Your throne in heaven's light
Descended down into my broken life
To right the wrong, to make a way
To bear the load that I deserved to bear alone

I need You, Jesus
I need You, Jesus
I need clean hands
I can't, You can
I need You, Jesus

On the cross on our behalf
The Son of God bore the Father's wrath
And by His blood, the scars and pain
The perfect Son, took the fall and took our place

In His grace and unfailing love
The risen King gave His hand to us
To lift us up, from the pit
And set our feet upon a rock that ever stands



The Kids learned this song, BECAUSE, during VBS and sang it for us last Sunday. We will sing it again this Sunday. It is the Gospel! I want my kids singing these words. I want myself singing these words.



Because He gave His life,
Because He bled and died,
Because He rose again, I come…

And I admit to God I am a sinner
And I repent and turn away from all my sin.
I believe that Jesus is the Son of God
And that He came into the world to save us all.
I confess my faith in Jesus as my Savior and my Lord
And I do this because of His great love.

Because He loves me so
Because He makes me whole
Because He is my friend, I come…

For the wages of sin is death
but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ…

So will you admit to God you are a sinner?
Will you repent and turn away from all your sin?
Will you believe that Jesus is the Son of God
And that He came into the world to save us all.

Will you confess your faith in Jesus as your Savior and your Lord
Will you do this? Will you do this?
Will you do this because of His great love?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Would Jesus Spank His Child?


We would like to invite you to join us on September 18-19 at Grace Church for our parenting seminar called "One Generation."

Through video and audio messages we'll hear from Voddie Baucham, John Piper, Tedd Tripp, and a few others. We'll also hear from several "seasoned" parents at Grace Church and pastor Dave VanAcker will offer some opening and closing thoughts.

To wet your appetite on the subject of parenting, here is a clip by John Piper answering the question: "Would Jesus spank a child?"


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Worldliness...quotes

Here are some quotes from my sermon on Sunday on worldliness:

Imagine I take a blind test in which my task is to identify the genuine follower of Jesus Christ. My choices are an unregenerate individual and you.
I'm given two reports detailing conversations, Internet activity, manner of dress, iPod playlists, television habits, hobbies, leisure time, financial transactions, thoughts, pas¬sions, and dreams.
The question is: Would I be able to tell you apart? Would I discern a difference between you and your unconverted neighbor, coworker, classmate, or friend?
Have the lines between Christian and worldly conduct in your life become so indistinguishable that there really is no difference at all? (C. J. Mahaney, Worldliness)

Worldliness is departing from God. It is a man-centered way of thinking; it proposes objectives which demand no radical breach with man's fallen nature; it judges the importance of things by the present and material results; it weighs success by numbers; it covets human esteem and wants no unpopularity; it knows no truth for which it is worth suffering; it declines to be a 'fool for Christ's sake'.

Worldliness is the mind-set of the unregenerate. It adopts idols and is at war with God. Because 'the flesh' still dwells in the Christian he is far from immune from being influenced by this dynamic. (Ian Murray, Evangelicalism Divided)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Real Self Coming Out


In my sermon series I am in Ephesians 4. Here Paul urges the church to show patient love with a commitment to the hard work of maintaining unity. I have talked a lot about the fact that we live in a broken down house (this world and our sinful bodies/lives) where a Restorer (Jesus) has come and is promising to RESTORE.

One of the things He does in this restoration process is to reveal our Sinfulness which often is seen in the form of selfishness. One of God's gifts to us is to show us where we need to grow by allowing us to go through trials and difficulties even when it means that other people provoke and sin against us. Our reactions to these situations often teach us a lot about ourselves and should help humble us as we observe how self-centered we really are. I was reminded of this in my reading of C. S. Lewis this morning:


When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. Apparently the rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always there in the cellar of my soul. Now that cellar is out of reach of my conscious will. I can to some extent control my acts: I have no direct control over my temperament. And if (as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do - if, indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what we are - then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about. And this applies to my good actions too. How many of them were done for the right motive? How many for fear of public opinion, or a desire to show off? How many from a sort of obstinacy or sense of superiority which, in different circumstances, might equally have led to some very bad act? But I cannot, by direct moral effort, give myself new motives. After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Should You Leave Your Church if Your Not "Growing"?


Here is a pastorally wise article by John Piper on the following question:


If there is nothing specifically wrong with my church, but I feel like I've stopped growing, is that a good enough reason to look for another one?



I doubt it. I'm taking seriously the statement, "there is nothing specifically wrong with my church." There is always something wrong with your church!



So I'm just assuming this is a doctrinally sound church and a church in which pastoral care and mutual love is happening, and so on. And I would say, if you've stopped growing then you can't point to your church. It sounds like you can't blame your church.



Something else is going on here, and you need to dig down to the obstacles that emerge in you, and find out whether it's because you've stopped serving or praying or giving your life away. Given this first statement, "If there is nothing specifically wrong with my church, but I feel like I've stopped growing," I would say, do not assume going to a new church is going to change that.



What will happen in a new church, probably, is some artificial new buzz. The worship will sound different, the preaching will sound different, and the difference will feel energizing for a while. But it's artificial. It's probably not the main cause, and you're going to bump into the same stall at that church.



And if you keep doing that, you're going to fail to find out what the problem is. Because I think the Lord would have us grow continually in a church as long as we're there and as long as life lasts. And growth has lots of other obstacles to it than church.



So get people around you who can counsel you as to what the real issue is here, why you're stalling. And it probably isn't church.



From Desiring God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Berea Class Beginning September 13



Our adult (teens included) Sunday school class will begin a new book starting September 13th led by pastor Dave VanAcker. This class takes place before the worship service at 9 AM. A nursery and kids classes are running at the same time.

The new class will cover the subject of learning how to read and study the Bible by yourself and the book we will be using is Gordon Fee's How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth (I highly suggest your invest in buying this book). Here is some more information about the book:


Discipleship Starts in the Home


We are planning a parenting seminar for September 18-19 at Grace Church. The theme is about raising your kids to be followers of Jesus - disciping your children. I hope you can join us during this time.

Here are some related blog posts from Resurgence:



2 Witness on Abortion - from Al Mohler


Here is a good article by Al Mohler:

Looking across the moral landscape of the last half-century, one issue looms larger than all others -- abortion. Considered from a historical perspective, the intensity and duration of the abortion debate came as something of a surprise. Handing down its infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court declared the abortion question settled and closed. They were wrong.


Almost four decades after Roe v. Wade, Americans are still torn over the issue of abortion. Indeed, the intensity of the abortion debate in 2009 exceeds that of 1973. The controversy over abortion is not only unsettled and unresolved -- it is still developing before our eyes. To the great consternation of abortion-rights proponents, Americans have not accepted abortion on demand as a permanent reality. As a nation, we have debated any number of issues beyond abortion in recent years, but abortion remains the controversy that is most central, unavoidable, and deeply personal.



The personal dimension of the abortion controversy came to light this week from two unexpected witnesses. The first is Sarah Kliff, a reporter for Newsweek magazine. In a very personal column, Kliff describes her experience visiting Omaha, Nebraska and the abortion clinic of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, now perhaps the nation's sole specialist in late-trimester abortions. As Kliff writes, her experience covering abortion for the magazine over the past two years has led her into contact and conversation with a range of persons on both sides of the abortion debate. She recognizes that, "both sides feel abortion is an issue worth waging war over."


Given her journalistic experience, Kliff describes herself as "well-versed in abortion policy, the pro-choice and pro-life arguments, the latest legislation." Her next sentence delivers the surprise: "But I'd never actually seen an abortion; I'd never watched the procedure that activists vehemently defend or deplore."


But that is exactly what happened when Kliff went to Omaha to research her article on Dr. Carhart. Even as she anticipated observing the abortion, Kliff confessed to hesitancy and reluctance. She observed a first-trimester abortion, even though Dr. Carhart does perform late-term abortions. Why was she so ambivalent?


In her words:

Why was I reluctant to watch? To be fair, I'd never observed a surgery and knew myself to frequently flinch at 'Grey's Anatomy.' But abortion isn't like the complex, bloody operations you see on television: medically speaking, it's a simple and common procedure. About 1.2 million were performed in 2005, the same, numberwise, as outpatient cancer surgeries. I was nervous, I think, to watch something so controversial; no one protests outside cancer clinics. I didn't know how I'd react. Would I find the surgery repulsive? Encounter women whose choices troubled me? Whom I disagreed with? I was uneasy about coming in such close contact with such substantial decisions.

Observing the abortion, Kliff writes of seeing a woman prepared for the procedure and then of the suction tube that was inserted within her. Her report is both chilling and honest. "Carhart used a suction tube to empty the contents of the uterus; it took no longer than three minutes. The suction machine made a slight rumbling sound, a pinkish fluid flowed through the tube, and, faster than I'd expected, it was over."



As Kliff recounts, she felt no physical discomfort observing the procedure. Nevertheless, she did experience a very strong emotional reaction. After describing this emotional reaction and her encounters with patients in the abortion clinic, Kliff tells of returning home only to discover that her friends who supported abortion rights "bristled slightly when I told them where I'd been and what I'd watched."



In a profound statement, Sarah Kliff acknowledges that Americans just do not talk about abortion as they talk about other surgical or medical procedures. "Abortion may be a simple procedure medically," she explains, "but it is not cancer surgery."



Sarah Kliff does not condemn abortion in her article and she does not articulate a pro-life understanding of the abortion issue. Indeed, she speaks of abortion as involving a weighty choice that, "depending on how you view it, involves a life, or the potential for life." This is a very weak way of describing the moral question of abortion, but it is at least a start. Sarah Kliff's honest reflections on her experience of observing an abortion are, perhaps more than she knows or recognizes, a witness to the horror of abortion. Her description of "pinkish fluid" flowing through the suction tube is almost impossible to force out of one's mind.



Another unexpected witness this week is actress Kourtney Kardashian. Her recently announced unplanned pregnancy became part of Hollywood's scandal and publicity circus. But what caught the attention of the media this week was her decision to keep the baby and the straightforward logic behind her decision.



Kardashian has not adopted a pro-life position on the abortion question. Indeed, she told Peoplemagazine: "I do think every woman should have the right to do what they want, but I don't think it's talked through enough." The actress told of many friends who just assured her that abortion was the easy way out. "Like it's not a big deal," the actress recalled.



Interestingly, Kardashian's decision to keep her baby was at least partially prompted by her experience of reading the testimonies of women who regretted their abortions. "I looked online, and I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories of people who felt so guilty for having an abortion," she explained.

"I was just sitting there crying, thinking, 'I can't do that,' . . . And I felt in my body, this is meant to be. God does things for a reason, and I just felt like it was the right thing that was happening in my life."



As she thought about her decision, Kardashian concluded that "all the reasons why I wouldn't keep the baby were so selfish." She also received encouragement from her doctor. "My doctor told me there is nothing you will ever regret about having the baby, but he was like, 'You may regret not having the baby.' And I was like: That is so true."



The Culture of Death looms as a massive threat, but its foundations are crumbling. Unexpected witnesses such as Sarah Kliff and Kourtney Kardashian help us to see how moral insight can emerge from unexpected experiences, reflections, and witnesses. Some of the most profound witnesses to the horror of abortion and the sanctity of human life do not even know that they are so. The evil of abortion cannot be hidden once it is seen, and a voice for life cannot be forgotten once it is heard.


___________________________



I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler.

Friday, August 21, 2009

All I Have Is Christ Video

This summer at Grace Church we learned the song by Jordan Kauflin called "All I Have Is Christ."

Here is a video of Jordan singing this song at the Next 2009 Conference.

I highly recommend buying the download of this 13 song album at Sovereign Grace for $5. Every song is tremendous.

Here are the lyrics to the song again.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Friday, August 7, 2009

Relationships - A Mess Worth Making


Over the past few weeks I read an outstanding book by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp called Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. The title itself is worth the price of the book. The book was no disappointment. It has been very timely to read this book as I prepare to preach through the second half of the book of Ephesians (4-6). In these chapters, Paul is concerned that Christians live out their salvation in the context of the messiness of relationship.

Here are 8 important points from the book that give us a biblical perspective on our relationships with other people:

  • You were made for relationships
  • In some way, all relationships are difficult
  • Each of us is tempted to make relationships the end rather than the means
  • There are no secrets that guarantee problem-free relationships
  • At some point you will wonder whether relationships are worth it
  • God keeps us in messy relationships for his redemptive purposes
  • The fact that our relationships work as well as they do is a sure sign of grace
  • Scripture offers a clear hope for our relationships

I thank God that he keeps us in messy relationships for His redemptive purposes! He is in the process of restoration and sanctification.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Knowing Where You Live - A Broken-Down House


Last Sunday I reintroduced us to the book of Ephesians (since we have been away from there for a while) by setting the context of chapters 4-6 where I will begin in two weeks.

Where do we live? This is an important question to answer and remember. Here are some very challenging questions given by Paul David Tripp (in Broken-Down House).

Let me ask what may seem like a stupid question. Do you know where you live? No, I don't mean your street address. I want you to see the most deeply spiritual and profoundly personal implications of this question.
Do you bring to each day the realistic expectations that come from a cogent understanding of your life, yourself, and your world? Still confused? Then let's break it down a little.
Is there anything that is disappointing you right now? Is there a relationship or situation that is leaving you hurt and confused? Are there personal problems that you simply have not been able to solve? Do you ever feel alienated, alone, or misunderstood? Have you had to deal with mistreatment or injustice lately? Have you been hurt, angry, fearful, or discouraged? Is there any place in your life where you feel like giving up or giving in? Does your life ever seem much more complicated than it should be? Does it seem like you are always having to deal with obstacles of one kind or another?

Do you wish you didn't have so many problems on your plate? Does it bug you that even the easy things in life don't turn out to be nearly as easy as you thought they would be?

Are there problems in your past that still haunt you? Do you regularly face difficulties you have sought to solve, but which still lie open and festering? Have you ever envied someone else's life? Have you ever wished you could start over in some area of life, but you know you can't? Have you ever felt too weak and too unqualified to deal with what is confronting you? Does your life seem to move too fast for you ever to be able to catch up? Has there ever been a day in your life that was fundamentally problem-free? (23-24)
Here are my three points from last week:
  1. We live in a broken down house because of sin.
  2. A gracious Restorer has come to this house with the promise of restoration.
  3. We are called to live a restoration lifestyle.
Ephesians 4-6 is about living a restoration lifestyle based on the fact that the RESTORER has come and promised great things. This restoration lifestyle is not a me and my personal project that God is going to do in my soul (although he does work on individuals). He is working a restoration on us as a church--a community. He intends to transform individuals as well as groups of individuals who realize that they were made for more than themselves. This means we are called to live in a "broken-down house" together which can be quite messy. Apart from the Spirit's power we have no hope. However, Christ has promised to be with us and work in us through His Spirit to make us One Body.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Imagine Yourself As a Living House


C. S. Lewis on God's work of sanctification in our lives:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Biblical Manhood, Sports and Self-Control


On Sunday night I took a layer of skin off my left leg while sliding into second base. I was clearly...clearly safe but the umpire while standing behind home plate declared me out. The same umpire thought the tie went to the fielder when I beat a grounder to first but was declared out. I played third base (if you can call it "played") and committed more errors in 3 innings than a good pro does in a 162 game season. Frustration...disgust...excuses...

Sports have been a sanctifying instrument in my life because it has often revealed to me sinful areas of my heart--pride, lack of self-control, selfishness, identity in sports not in God...

I found the following words from Jeff Robinson very helpful, inspiring and encouraging as he reflects on manhood, self control, his son's little league and last week's British Open.

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Young men: Learn self-control
Jeff Robinson (July 21, 2009)

Two sports events this weekend, one seen across the globe, the other far more mundane, provided me with an opportunity to teach my six-year-old son a crucial lesson in biblical manhood.

The first event unfolded Saturday on a little league diamond near our home in a game involving my son. After getting a hit in each of his first two at-bats, Jeffrey grounded out to first base. He stroked a nice, hard grounder, but the first baseman made an even nicer play. A runner moved from second to third base on the play and thus it was, in baseball parlance, a productive out.

As his coach, I was pleased. As his father, I was less pleased, however, by what happened next: Jeffrey threw his batting helmet in anger. In the dugout, he knocked around some equipment and even gave his glove a brisk toss. Now, this is certainly no way to treat your equipment, but that is beside the point. As the team went back into the field for the next inning, I kept Jeffrey in the dugout with me. "You're out of the game for the rest of the day," I told him. Needless to say, he wasn't thrilled.

After the game, we talked about sportsmanship and self-control and idolatry and doing all things to the glory of God. We talked about the humbling nature of baseball, how even Ted Williams failed seven times in 10, how you must put failure behind you and how the game parallels the Christian pilgrimage. Self-control and learning how to fail gracefully are critical lessons for future men to learn; they are a critical part of manhood, a critical part of a man's ability to lead well. "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." (Prov. 25:28) Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23) and Paul urged young men to be self-controlled (Titus 2:6). I want my sons to learn this lesson in baseball, where the damage is limited to a scarred helmet, rather than in real life, where the damage can be catastrophic and eternal.

Event No. 2, the British Open golf tournament that concluded Sunday, provided the perfect illustration for a lesson on self-control. At 59, Tom Watson missed becoming the oldest golfer to win the esteemed tournament when he left short an eight-foot putt on hole No. 18. Watson had made that putt ten thousand times before, but this time he missed and lost a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink. In overtime, Watson's game fell apart. On the third hole, he drove deep into the rough while Cink, who spoke afterward of his Christian faith as a steadying reality, salted away his first victory in a major tournament.

It was Watson's calm demeanor over those final five holes that provided the lesson. After misfiring on one of the playoff holes, Watson strode calmly down the fairway, doffed his hat and smiled to the cheering gallery. When he missed the putt that would have clinched the win, there was no club throwing, no foul language, no fit of anger, only a slight grimace and a pained smile. In the end, Watson stood at Cink's side, wearing a smile, graciously extolling his younger opponent before the media. Pure class. Real manhood.

Life in a fallen world is fraught with losing, for biblical Christianity is a perennial competition between two factions warring for supremacy over the human heart. God warns us about this reality early in His Word (Gen. 3:15a). All men fail on some level and even the most sanctified man will emerge from this war with scars from battles lost and battles won. My son must learn to deal with victory and defeat now. I pray that these lessons will make clear his desperate need for the One Victorious Man, the One who won the war over sin and death and yes, even helmet throwing and glove kicking, once and for all (Rom. 5:19).

(HT - Tim Challies)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Sovereign Grace Music for a Good Price


Here is a good cd to worship with -- "Next 2009 Live" -- the live recording of the NEXT 2009.

Many of the songs are familiar (we sing several at Grace - "All I Need Is Christ", "Jesus, Thank You").

You can download this album here for $5.

I haven't listened to all the songs but a new one to me, "I Need You", is worth the entire album price.

Here are the songs:

Track List (click for lyrics)


God over All
His Name Is Jesus
He Is Jesus
Praise the Lord
By This We Know Love
All I Have Is Christ
Jesus, Thank You
I Need You
The Name above All Names
What a Savior
I Will Glory in My Redeemer
Blessed Is the One
Oh the Deep, Deep Love