Thursday, July 24, 2008
Check out this slide show from T4G 2008, set to How Sweet and Aweful Is the Place. Sweet stuff. I hear there is a CD to be released later this year. Can't wait for that!!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
I suspect that the book will be helpful to men as well (I'm looking forward to reading it), but I'll be eager to give copies to the women in the church. I'm for anything that communicates a big view of God and Christ with a resulting impact on our daily living.
This resource presents the power of theology while exhorting women to apply what they believe about God in the middle of life’s daily battles.
Women in evangelical churches believe in God. However, when they are faced with life’s battles—financial problems, job loss, serious illness—they begin to question the God they know. “Can he really provide for my family?” “Can I truly trust him to get me through this crisis?” If such a woman is not grounded in her knowledge of God, the battles she faces threaten to shatter her wavering faith.
Wendy Horger Alsup recognizes such dangers. In Practical Theology for Women, Alsup uses the power of theology to address practical issues in women’s lives. Her book opens with a general discussion of theology and addresses the most fundamental and practical issue of theology: faith. Then she explores the attributes of God the Father, Son, and Spirit from Scripture, concluding with a look at our means of communicating with God—prayer and the Word.
Throughout the book, Alsup exhorts women to apply what they believe about God in their everyday lives. As they do this, their husbands, homes, and churches will benefit.
Theme: Our Adoption in Christ: What it Means for Us and for Orphans
Date: November 1, 2008
Location: Southside Fellowship (Greenville, SC)
See Conference Schedule
Sessions and Speakers:
The Good News of Adoption (Ephesians 1-2) Rick Phillips (Listen to one of his sermons: How Shall We Now Live?)
God’s Joy in Adoption Russell Moore (Listen to one of his sermons: But Are They Brothers? The Spirit of Adoption and the Unity of the Church)
Adoption and the Multi-Ethnic Family of God (Ephesians 1-2) Carl Robbins (Listen to one of his sermons: Union with Christ)
Our Adoption and Visiting Orphans in Their Affliction (Romans 8:22-23) Tullian Tchividjian (Josh Harris interviews Tullian about his book Do I know God? -Listen to one of his sermons: What the World Needs from the Church)
Q & A with Speakers
More details forthcoming
Two downloadable documents about T4A conferences:
Join our Facebook group here.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
But it seems to me that the Lord is at work, giving me resources from His word that, by His grace, will allow me to pierce the veil of suffering to see the moves of His mighty hand. Among the many things we need during suffering, it seems to me that clarity of vision is most needful. We may endure the suffering itself with grit and resolve. We may find the comforts of Christ in the presence of friends. There may be relief from pain via the common grace of medicines and the like. But all of those will have little effect if suffering occludes our view of God who sits high and looks low, who rules all things from the throne of righteousness, and in our suffering--and our comfort--overflows the banks of our life with the experience of His Son in us (2 Cor. 1:5). Lose sight of God in suffering and no amount of earthly help will in the end be any help at all, just temporary snatches of deeper insanity appearing as relief before agony resumes. The irony will be that the agony will have us closer to God and the relief farther away if in our suffering we have no view of God.
Today I began listening to Mark Dever's sermon series on Job entitled "Losing Everything?". I highly recommend the first sermon in the series, "Job's Trials." I don't think I've heard Mark any better than he was in this sermon.
1--Job's Trials (Job 1-2)
2--Job's Questions (Job 3)
4--Job's God (Job 38-42)
Friday, July 18, 2008
Today I learned that Rev. Jesse Jackson said more than the already crude statements regarding Sen. Obama's private parts aired on news channels over the past week. He apparently used the N-word. Now everyone from the ladies on The View to the usual TV pundits are trying to figure out what's going on with Jackson. And I'm dusting off my pink slip marked Jackson.
I don't know what it is, but iconic African-American clergymen in the twilight of their careers have been falling like flies around Barack Obama. First Wright, now Jackson. Men who have served for decades now watch either their reputation or their work burn like wood, hay, and stubble in the flames of indiscretion, immorality, and public outrage. What will the flames of Christ's judgment do?
I remember the first time I heard John Piper pray that the Lord would keep him from falling and would enable him to finish well. It was a lightning bolt through my soul. I had not been praying that way for myself or for others, and I instantly knew I needed to. I can fall. I can ruin myself, my family, and the reputation of my local church, and most of all bring disrepute upon Christ. In an instant, off-mic, leaning to a colleague, I can do almost irreparable harm.
So, Jackson reminds me that mine is a public life as well. Every pastor's life is a public life. And perhaps a case can be made that every Christian life is a public life. And we all can fall to depths that make us shudder when we're sober-minded enough to think about it. We are Christ's, but Satan has asked to sift us like wheat, sin lies crouching at our doors. We'd better watch our lives and our doctrine carefully.
Having said that, I wonder what the term "Reverend" now means in the minds of Christians. When people call me "Rev. Anyabwile" as they sometimes do, what are they thinking? Are they thinking anything at all really? Is "Reverend" a quaint little title we normally assign to kind old men in collars who've served a gray-haired flock for some time, but also a title that happens to land on younger men destined for that same humble little future? Is anything of reverence, respect, holiness, God-fearing, Christ-likeness associated with the word any more?
Not if Jesse Jackson can be justifiably called "Reverend". I'm not singling out Jackson. We could list the Swaggarts, Lyons, Paula Whites and others who for various reasons make the name meaningless either by their lack of reverence or their misplaced energies. After all, Jackson hasn't been involved with a church as an active pastor for some time as far as I can tell. But beyond the recent comments, we might also point to Jackson's adulterous relationship and illegitimate child just a couple years ago. If the title is going to be more than ceremonial, if Jackson and every other pastor would dignify the pastoral office and the title, we must not only pray that we would not fall, but if we should fall we also must "step down," see ourselves as disqualified, hasten to refuse the label, choosing instead to encourage and pray for others who run the race by God's grace without being disqualified and entangled with the affairs of this world.
Jackson's comments are deplorable. There is no compelling way of explaining why anyone associated with the risen Lord Jesus should say such things, much less why His ministers should profane His name that way. Jackson's words deomonstrate a lack of integrity--campaigning for the abolishment of the N-word's use while freely using it "off air." We will be judged by every idle word we speak. And judgment will begin at the household of God, where those who teach will receive the stricter judgment.
Jackson has run his race. He's run out of bounds set by Scripture. He should dignify the pastoral office and the men who give their lives to it by setting aside the title "reverend," for his actions do not warrant the honor.
We all should be watchful, lest we fall. Let's all pray that those who stand to proclaim the gospel of Christ would be kept and sanctified by the truth in the power of God's Spirit. That "Reverend" would mean something deep and beautiful and awesome and Christ-honoring and cross-embracing and holy and profound and gracious and trustworthy. That those who don the title would be wholly committed to Christ, not distracted by politics and studio lights, humbly working as slaves of Christ for the glory of Christ with the joy of Christ.
To paraphrase Mc'Cheyne, the greatest need our people have is the holiness of their pastor. The perishing world needs to see that as well.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Piper concluded with some excellent personal application questions and a brief appreciation of the church as the body of Christ. If you struggle with the idea or the necessity of membership, I pray you'd listen to the entire sermon and afterward ponder these questions"
Are you an accountable member of a local church? Not just: Is your name somewhere? But, are you committed to discipline and being disciplined according to biblical standards? Have you publicly declared your willingness to be shepherded and to be led by the leaders of a local church? Do you see yourself and your gifts as part of an organic ministering body? Do you show by your firm attachment to Christ’s body that you are attached to Christ?
Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I have the honor of speaking on the Psalms and our emotion in worship. A friend sent me this video. I wonder if this is what Bob has in mind?
For the unitiated, the first few songs were very popular R&B love songs. Should we sing those to God in worship???
"And if it be deemed a great wickedness to contaminate any thing that is dedicated to God, he surely cannot be endured, who, with impure, or even with unprepared hands, will handle that very thing, which of all things is the most sacred on earth. It is therefore an audacity, closely allied to a sacrilege, rashly to turn Scripture in any way we please, and to indulge our fancies as in sport; which has been done-by many in former times."
--John Calvin (in the Epistle Dedicatory, Dedication to Simon Grynaeus, in his Commentary on Romans)
Monday, July 14, 2008
This morning, the Lord graciously granted the opportunity to listen to a couple others expound this wonderful section of God's word. I thought you might wish to hear some of these saints handle this text.
Sinclair Ferguson, "Working Together with Him: Great Distress, Greater Comfort" (2 Cor. 1:1-13)
John Piper, "The Line of Prayer" (2 Corinthians 1:11)
Mark Dever, "Good Grief," from the series Genuine Paradox: Real Christianity (2 Cor. 1:1-2:11)
Also, Piper has posted this related meditation today: Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Plain.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Post One: Reform Is Easier in a Small Church Than a Large One
Post Two: Do What Christians Do... Love.
Post Three: Make Yourself a Help, Not a Problem, to Your Church's Leaders
Eric offers an explanation for why some African American Christians will vote for Obama despite his position on things like abortion and gay marriage. (HT: Lance)
Young pastor, preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace... by not gossiping with your people. So says Spurgeon (HT: DG):
It is the extreme of unwisdom for a young man fresh from college, or from another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so to ruin himself with one-half of his people. Know nothing of parties and cliques, but be the pastor of all the flock, and care for all alike. Blessed are the peacemakers, and one sure way of peacemaking is to let the fire of contention alone. Neither fan it, nor stir it, nor add fuel to it, but let it go out of itself. Begin your ministry with one blind eye and one deaf ear.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Therefore, leading our flocks in the offering of true worship to the living God, in both spirit and truth (John 4:24), with Christ's gathered church, is surely to be the aim of every authentic minister of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6). Such a minister is continuously marked by setting before his heart the salvation of lost sinners and the maturation of Christ's sheep, especially on each Lord's Day, for the purpose of building a God-centered climate and culture. Recently I had the privilege of reading a Third-World missionary church planter's prayer letter that echoed similar aims: "...longing for a God-centered, Christ-exalting, vibrant Biblical church... may we go on to become not merely a legally recognized church, but one recognized in heaven for consistently worshipping God in spirit and truth!"
As a result, leading your church toward a more God-centered worship service is easier said than done. Great patience with God's people and much prayer, coupled with sound and pertinent exposition, must be your overall general guiding rules for such reformation. There are numerous reasons for this approach, and the purpose of this chapter is to discuss them and then point the way ahead. (p. 131)
Later Marcellino summarized:
May God help us to lead our congregations to such God-centered worship that not only our visitors but all who regularly attend our services in an unconverted state may fall down and worship God! (p. 140)
That's a great prayer to offer for every Lord's Day.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Then last night in Bible study, two members of the church approached me separately with small gifts. Both thanked me for what they see as faithful shepherding in their lives.
I can't count the number of times I've been downcast in soul and God kindly sent someone to me to point out evidence of His gracious work in and/or around me. When my soul falls He is ever there to pick it up. I'm thankful for the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:26).
I'm also thankful for the trials that push me out of myself, depletes my self-dependence, and makes me cry to the Lord. "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees" (Ps. 119:71).
It wasn’t a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn’t a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that’s the point. Perhaps it’s very important because that’s where I live everyday. You see, you and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts.
So, I knew I couldn’t back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. "I wasn’t the only one at fault. If he hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation." These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.
Isn’t this interesting. Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness. The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. In so arguing, I’m telling myself that I don’t really need to be rescued by the Lord’s mercy. No, I’m telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the room who caused me to respond as I did.
Here’s the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God, your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
What’s actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument. It’s right there in the first verse of Psalm 51, as David confesses his sin with Bathsheba. I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!
Ask a hundred people if they want forgiveness, and a hundred people will say, "Yeah, sure. And can I have fries with that, and a large Pepsi?" They have no great sense of needing God's forgiveness but believe it would not hurt to have it in their pocket just in case. Religion is, I fear, most often practiced to buy off God's anger, to pay for a sin done, so that one is free to go on in it. We throw ourselves into church or confession as a burglar might throw a steak to a watchdog--to keep him at a safe distance. C.S. Lewis had his own witty way of describing the problem: "Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about 'man's search for God.' To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat."
Our natural belief about ourselves is that we are pretty darned good people, though we are not too proud to admit that we have made a few mistakes along the way. This allows us to confess a little guilt, but in a self-flattering way. We say, "Well, I admit I'm not perfect." We do not mean to be humble here, as in "Now, honey, remember I'm not a perfect husband." We say it defensively: "Okay! I'm not perfect." Translation: "Other than a blemish or two, I sparkle. So get off my case!"
We also like to say, "I'm only human." By this we man, "My sin should be excused because, as a human being, I really can't help it."
Even when we feel guilty, we do not believe it is because we are guilty. (p. 32)
This is looking like it's going to be a great read. I've already been drawn more deeply into the great work of God through Christ Jesus His Son and our Lord.
Challies has a review here.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
There is another reason why many churches have a problem holding their living stones together. We call the church the temple of the Spirit because the Spirit is the mortar that holds the stones together. The church is not to be held together by social bonds such as being of the same race or class or income, but by the spiritual bond of a common possession of the Holy Spirit. Church growth strategists tell us that churches grow fastest when they target people most like those already in the church. They are no doubt right; people are usually attracted to those with similar backgrounds and lifestyles. But the New Testament is clear that the church must not become a club of one type of people but a community that transcends those things that divide people in society. In Paul's day, the call was to transcend the barriers between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, and find unity in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Today's barriers include race (white, black, Hispanic), social class (rich, middle class, poor), and even age (young families, senior adults). Contemporary churches need a greater reliance on the Spirit and a deeper experience of his gift of fellowship if they are to be temples fitly joined together.
I love that last line: "Contemporary churches need a greater reliance on the Spirit and a deeper experience of his gift of fellowship if they are to be temples fitly joined together." Yet one more way we see our need for the presence of God the Holy Spirit in our corporate and personal lives. Yet one more excellent way for us to pray for our local churches--a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit Who cements together the living stones from every quarry until we're fashioned into a spiritual temple suitable for His glorious indwelling.
God has poured His Spirit into our hearts. Such an obviously-stated biblical truth with an extraordinary, ineffable implication and reality for us. God with us--indeed in us!