Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Take for example this quote from James V. Brownson's The Promise of Baptism: An Introduction to Baptism in Scripture and the Reformed Tradition. He's answering the question, "What is a Christian?" Brownson first talks about what it means to be an individual Christian:
So Christians are disciples, followers of Jesus who seek to learn and to grow, and who live their lives trusting that God has called and chosen them before they even made their own choice to become disciples. They are thus deeply aware of God's kindness and grace which precedes and empowers their own commitment to Christ. Disciples live by faith, trusting in this grace as the foundation for their lives. (p. 5-6)
He then moves on to consider the wonderful truth about our union Christ, summing up this way: "Christians are always learning and growing toward becoming in their daily lives the kind of persons that they already are in their union with Christ." (p. 7)
Finally, he draws out the corporate implications of what it means to be an individual Christian united to Christ:
Up to this point, we have been discussing what it means to be a Christian. But in a very real sense, there is no such thing as an individual Christian. When God joins Christians to Jesus, God also joins them to something bigger than themselves; they become incorporated into the church, the "body of Christ." In the New Testament, it is inconceivable for Christians to think of themselves as united to Christ without also thinking about the ways they are united to other Christians. This was true even in Jesus' own ministry. He didn't have one disciple; He had twelve, and many more beyond his "inner circle." Almost all of the learning of Jesus' disciples took place as a group, rather than one-on-one interactions with Jesus. This same pattern continued in the early church, as Christians gathered in groups called ekklesiai (the Greek word for "churches," which can also be translated "meetings" or "assemblies"). From the beginning, it was unimaginable that someone might become a Christian without also becoming part of a church, a local gathering of disciples of Jesus. The union with Christ experienced by Christians also unites them to each other. (p. 7)
If we're clear on what the thing is, we're clearer on subsequent questions. If we know what a Christian is beyond "my personal relationship with Jesus," then we're likely to be clearer on the nature and necessity of church membership. I wonder if those who oppose church membership aren't guilty of not having thought enough about what it basically means to be a Christian.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Fifteen Years of Faithfulness. It was a great treat to join the saints at CHBC this weekend to celebrate Mark Dever's 15th year at the church and to give God thanks for all He has done there in that time. God in His kindness has sent 27 pastors to at least five countries from CHBC in 15 years. That's not counting all the interns and staff persons who are faithfully serving in other ways. May the Lord greatly magnify Himself with more fruit and make all our ministries as fruitful in their own right. Here's a post and video from one member. (HT: Gospel Coalition)
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. A very funny, insightful, and educational look at the Confederate subculture of the South. Also a decent overview of some Civil War facts and fiction. I thought the war was over, but apparently it's still being fought in some quarters. The title suggests the book might be mocking, but it turns out to be a rather warm outsiders (author Tony Horowitz is Jewish) look into what's inside things like Civil War re-enactments, Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, and other such things. Very good read, including some provocative concluding chapters examining the current state of "race" relations in Civil War and Civil Rights battleground states.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
--John MacArthur, "Triumphantly Encouraged: The Privilige of Ministry, Part 1" (1997 Desiring God Pastor's Conference)
- I don't worry about my wife breaking our marriage vows and commitment because I'm relying on her love for me to keep her faithful.
- I don't worry about whether the children have been cared for, because I trust or rely on her love to care for the people and things I care for.
- I don't worry about whether there will be a nutritious and delicious meal at home after work, because I rely on her love to show itself in providing for that need.
- I don't doubt that in her arms I'll find comfort and consolation when I'm hurting because I know she loves me and she is there for me.
- I don't doubt that she will talk with me for as long as we're able or I like because, relying on her love, I know she will delight to keep company with me.
- When I put the key in the door to come inside the home, I know she is going to be there and not have abandoned me because I'm relying on her love for me.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
But here's the Quizno's hot tub commercial. As a fellow human being and empathetic southerner, the "hillbilly is stupid" approach is... well... stupid. I find it offensive. What about you?
One More in the Coffin of "Race"
Another Reason "Race" Makes No Sense
Mark Noll Lectures on Race, Religion and American Politics
Talking to Children About "Race"
Thabiti's Top Ten Tips for Talking About "Race"
From Paul Tripp’s chapter, “War of Words,” in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, pp. 43-44 (Justin's emphasis):
I have committed to pray three prayers each morning.
The first one is a confession: “God, I’m a man in desperate need of help this morning.”
The second prayer is, “I pray in your grace that you would send your helpers my way.”
The third prayer is, “And I pray that you would give me the humility to receive the help that comes.”
Monday, October 12, 2009
I want to share one of the prayers that I prayed from time to time when I sensed that something was amiss in my child’s life (and this continues to this day, even now that they are young adults). The prayer was this: “Lord, Please reveal sin.” I prayed for everything hidden to be exposed by the light—and then I kept my eyes and ears open and remained spiritually attentive.
The Lord never failed to answer this prayer. Sometimes, it was extremely painful when sin was revealed—but I asked God not to hold back in exposing and dealing with sin. (P.S.: Make sure you’re willing to have Him reveal and deal with the sin in your life too!)
Read the entire post. I think we'll start to ask the Lord to do this in our lives as a family.
"'R. C. Sproul,' someone said to me in the 1970s, 'is the finest communicator in the Reformed world.' Now, three decades later, his skills honed by long practice, his understanding deepened by years of prayer, meditation, and testing (as Martin Luther counseled), R. C. shares the fruit of what has become perhaps his greatest love: feeding and nourishing his own congregation at St. Andrew's from the Word of God and building them up in faith and fellowship and in Christian living and serving. The St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary will be welcomed throughout the world. It promises to have all R. C.'s hallmarks: clarity and liveliness, humor and pathos, always expressed in application to the mind, will, and affections. R. C.'s ability to focus on the 'the big picture,' his genius of never saying too much, leaving his hearers satisfied yet wanting more, never making the Word dull, are all present in these expositions. They are his gift to the wider church. May they nourish God's people well and serve as models of the kind of ministry for which we continue to hunger."
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina
"R. C. Sproul, well-known as a master theologian and extraordinary communicator, now shows that he is a powerful, insightful, helpful expository preacher. This collection of sermons is of great value for churches and Christians everywhere."
W. Robert Godfrey, President, Westminster Seminary California
"I tell my students again and again, 'You need to buy good commentaries and do so with some discernment.'Among these commentaries there must be preacher's commentaries, for not all commentaries are the same. Some may tell you what the text means but provide little help in answering the question, 'How do I preach this text?' R. C. Sproul is a legend in our time. His preaching has held us in awe for half a century, and these pages represent the fruit of his latest exposition, coming as they do at the very peak of his abilities and insights. I am ecstatic at the prospect of reading the St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary series. It represents Reformed theology on fire, delivered from a pastor's heart in a vibrant congregation of our time. Essential reading."
Derek W. H. Thomas, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Minister of Teaching, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi
"R. C. Sproul is the premier theologian of our day, an extraordinary instrument in the hand of the Lord. Possessed with penetrating insight into the text of Scripture, Dr. Sproul is a gifted expositor and world-class teacher, endowed with a strategic grasp and command of the inspired Word. Since stepping into the pulpit of St. Andrew's and committing himself to the weekly discipline of biblical exposition, this noted preacher has demonstrated a rare ability to explicate and apply God's Word. I wholeheartedly recommend the St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary to all who long to know the truth better and experience it more deeply in a life-changing fashion. Here is an indispensable tool for digging deeper into God's Word. This is a must-read for every Christian."
Steven J. Lawson, Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, Alabama
"How exciting! Thousands of us have long been indebted to R. C. Sproul the teacher, and now, through the St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary, we are indebted to Sproul the preacher, whose sermons are thoroughly biblical, soundly doctrinal, warmly practical, and wonderfully readable. Sproul masterfully presents us with the 'big picture' of each pericope in a dignified yet conversational style that accentuates the glory of God and meets the real needs of sinful people like us. This series of volumes, a joint effort between two premier publishers, is an absolute must for every Reformed preacher and church member who yearns to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus. I predict that Sproul's pulpit ministry in written form will do for Christians in the twenty-first century what Martyn Lloyd-Jones's sermonic commentaries did for us last century. Tolle lege, and buy these volumes for your friends."
Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
"John Wesley once said of a colleague that Scripture so thoroughly pulsed through his spiritual veins that he 'bled Bibline.' The same could be said without exaggeration of R. C. Sproul. More specifically, one could easily say that he 'bleeds Pauline.' The theology of the Apostle to the Gentiles courses through Dr. Sproul's veins in all of his work. Therefore, it is a special privilege to be able to read his sermons on Paul's Letter to the Romans. Romans has turned the world upside down for two millennia. Not only did it lead to Augustine's conversion; it was a primary source for his defense of the gospel against Pelagius. This epistle was the catalyst for the Reformation and shaped the minds and hearts of many leaders of the modern missionary movement. Romans continues its revolution to the present day and each of R. C. Sproul's expositions reminds us why. Read this book and, by God's grace, you'll never be the same."
Michael S. Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
Note that full maturity is not for just a few people. The goal is to "present everyone mature in Christ" (Co. 1:28, emphasis added). "Everyone" (literally, "every man," panta anthropon) appears three times in the Greek and in the ESV. In practice it may be that not everyone grows, as they should, to maturity. But that should not be the case. It is not excusable. We cannot rest until all are discipled to maturity. This is a problem with large churches unless there is a concerted attempt to ensure that everyone in the large church is in a small group. Otherwise it would be easy for people to come just as consumers. They get lost in the crowd as anonymous recipients of the programs offered by the church.
Numbers are important because they represent people who have come within the sound of the gospel. This is why Acts twice mentions the number of people who had joined the church (2:41; 4:4). But our focus should not be simply on numbers. We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to grow. Each individual is important to God and thus to the local church also.
A minister, visiting a family in his congregation, noticed there were many children in the house. He asked the mother, "How many children do you have?" She began to count off on her fingers saying, "John, Mary, Lucy, David...." The minister interrupted, "I don't want their names--I just asked for the number." the mother responded, "They have names, not numbers."
Everyone must be cared for, and we must not rest until that is done. As a church or Christian group grows, structures have to be set in place to ensure that individuals are not overlooked. If that is not done, even thought the church may claim to have grown, it has not grown in the biblical sense. It has just become fat!
Reading this in my quiet time this morning, I was left with three questions:
1. How many churches are simply becoming "fat" and not attending to the biblical vision shared here?
2. Much is made of the decline in attendance at mainline protestant churches over the years. But if groups like the SBC were more faithful in their membership practices, how much different would the decline between evangelical and mainline churches really be?
3. How is every one of the persons in my care growing spiritually? Are they? Do we have a coherent plan for their growth?
I've long been struck by the vision of pastoral ministry that comes through in the Apostle Paul's letters. He's consistently to grow both the size of the church and the depth or maturity of the church. He has a broad kingdom-sized concern for the entire church wherever she gathers, and a laser-like, motherly/fatherly concern for every individual believer in his care. Here's just a few statements in from his letters:
Eph. 4:11-13 --"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...."
Col. 1:28-29--"We proclaim Him, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me."
1 Thes. 2:9-12--"For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory."
Acts 20:18-21--"You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in pubic and from house to house...."
It's challenging. But pastoral ministry ought to maintain a focus on the entire body and a keen interest in the development and growth of each saint.
How many are in our care? How many can we account for? How many are making progress in the faith? How many do we pray for by name? How many need a fatherly or motherly admonition and exhortation? How many do we really want to know in these ways?
Many of us will no doubt consider the numbers of people in our charge and instantly feel discouraged at the prospect of ever serving them all individually. We'll feel the "impossibility" of serving a large church this way. And we'll be tempted to shrink back to "manageable" activities and settle for "realistic" goals for contacting our people.
And yet, as Paul points out, we don't do this in our strength. It is His mighty strength at work in us. And even if we should fail to serve all as fathers and mothers, that's no reason to not serve any or to settle for serving a small few.
Think of it this way. The Lord himself gave His blood for each and every one of His sheep individually. Can we really imagine negotiating terms with the Savior that allow us to care for a few of that number? Can we imagine ourselves looking into the Savior's hands and side and saying, "Yeah, I think it's reasonable that we only target this number or this cluster of members for pastoral care. Let's aim at 50% and hope for the best with the rest."
No, we can't imagine that, can we? The Lord calls us to great things and places before us great challenges. Let His men rise up in faith and dependence upon His gracious aid, and strive with all His might to care for every sheep in our care so that we will deliver them mature and unblemished on the day of Christ!
Disciples are made, not born. And they're made by men who heed the Lord's call and give themselves shoulders to the plow in this great work.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20).
By the Numbers
Toward Reforming Membership Practices
Mutual Belonging As Local Church Membership
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Kevin DeYoung (here and here)
Anthony Carter (here and here)
Mike McKinley (here and here)
My favorite question is #8, "Which of the main T4G speakers could you take to the mat, so to speak?"
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
3. No Fishbowl. Boy, I can't tell you how important it is for a pastor's family to be able to live without the constant critical observation of others in the church. "The fishbowl" has robbed many a pastor and family of a healthy family life, of grace they need from others, and for opportunity to grow among the people. It's one of the things that pastors going to a new charge worry about. I don't think we have ever felt ourselves to be in a "fishbowl" here at FBC. Certainly people watch our lives, and we hope what they see glorifies our Savior. But our failures, shortcomings, and idiosyncrasies have met with grace upon grace from the saints at FBC. We've been allowed to be ourselves--my wife just another sister in the church rather than "first lady" or "pastor's wife," my children to be themselves without being labeled PKs, and so on. There is so much grace from God through our people in this one aspect alone. And I know all of the pastors are deeply appreciative.
4. Gospel Hunger. I love preaching to a people who want to hear the gospel every time we gather. The saints think something is wrong if they don't hear the cross in preaching. The other day, I had a brother tell me he didn't hear the gospel clearly in a sermon I preached. He was I right. I was thankful that he listened closely enough to tell. The gospel is simply becoming more and more foundational to our lives together, loved for the beautiful truth it is, and missed when not present in some obvious or rich way. I appreciate ears and hearts tuned to the truth.
5. Gospel Partnership. Gospel hunger has led to a deeper gospel partnership. It's nothing but encouraging to think of how the folks here have so eagerly committed themselves to the spread of the gospel. The church was supported in its early years by Lottie Moon funds, and now increasingly it's a sending church. The Lord has graciously grown our missions budget, moved a number of his people to live more actively evangelistic lives, generated constant support for pastors serving beyond the walls of the church, and so on. I feel like I know what the apostle meant when he wrote to the Philippians praising God for their fellowship with him in the gospel from the first day until the last.
6. Eagerness to Be Shepherded. I don't know that I've ever seen a church of people so eager and willing to receive pastoral care and leadership. As elders, we actually have to slow down to make sure we're not leading too fast or too easily accepting the people's support before making sure we're on the same page. If there were a choice between rebelling and perhaps too quickly submitting, the sheep here will almost always err on the side of submitting too quickly and easily, if there is such a thing. In through it all, one gets the sense that folks are genuinely grateful for their shepherds and the shepherding they receive. That's fun.
7. Compassion. I can't really keep pace with the amount of compassion in the church. There are lots of people in the body with gifts of mercy. And I really appreciate that because that's not my primary gifting. They challenge me personally, act as models for me, and call me to think about how we lead and steward that gifting. It's a good thing to be stretched by the compassion of your people.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Deuteronomy 6:5 makes intense love the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Moderate love is a sin. Maybe the worst sin.
Colorado Springs, CO – The Devil is back in time for Halloween in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, an audio production from Peabody-award-winning Focus on the Family Radio Theatre®. The full-cast dramatization of the diabolical classic debuted worldwide today.
Hosted by C.S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, and starring Andy Serkis (Gollum, Lord of the Rings) as the voice of Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters was recorded in London by world-class actors with an original score and motion picture quality sound design, and includes a “making of” DVD that features footage from C.S. Lewis’ home, church and other frequented locations. Also included are a bonus CD of ten original songs and a collector’s booklet.
The Screwtape story centers around correspondence shared between Screwtape, a senior demon, and Wormwood, his apprentice, as Screwtape mentors Wormwood in the skills necessary to entrap, dominate and torture humans. Most of the 31 letters lead into dramatic scenes set either in Hell or World War II-era London. In writing this masterpiece, Lewis re-imagined Hell as a gruesome bureaucracy with demons laboring in a vast enterprise. Avoiding their own painful torment, as well as a desire for control, is what drives demons to persecute their “patients.”
Anticipation for the release of Screwtape has been building among audio enthusiasts as well as Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis fans. An entire website was built to support the production’s debut, providing downloadable ringtones, avatars and wallpaper. Guests can follow conversations between Screwtape and Wormwood on Twitter, and utilize available social media to join in the discussion.
“Bringing The Screwtape Letters to the world of audio drama has been a career dream,” said Screwtape director Paul McCusker. “To work with this caliber of cast and crew on such a beloved classic is an unparalleled experience. And the themes are timeless. The struggles, fears and failures addressed in this work still plague humanity today. In our culture, we’re hesitant to talk about evil. Here, in the character of Screwtape, evil speaks for itself.”
The Screwtape Letters was produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre® and is distributed by Tyndale, with full authorization from the C.S. Lewis estate.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Friday, October 02, 2009
But, I think we also need a congregation appreciation month. There should be some place where pastors set aside time to express their appreciation for their people. We should do this everyday as we pray for the people, but it seems reasonable to set aside a special season of thanksgiving and gratefulness to God for saving His sheep and calling us to tend them. I know that my dull heart can use a season like this. So, this month, I'm going to try each day to give attention to at least one reason I'm thankful for the people God has graciously allowed me to serve. And since it's already October 2nd, here are two:
1. Humility. This past Sunday I had the joy of meeting with a new couple to the island. They were excited to be in Cayman and even more excited to be at FBC. They commended the church for a number of things, but what stood out to me was their praise to God for the humility they sensed in the people of FBC. I think they were spot on in recognizing God's grace in this. It's really one of the first things I noticed when I first visited in January 2006, and one of the things I say to people who ask me what the church is like. I say, "The saints at FBC are a humble people, sweet, who love the Lord and His gospel." I'm deeply appreciative of the humility that God has worked in the life of this congregation over its 32 years of existence, a humility that springs from the cross, is deepened through service, sweetened through suffering, and evident to others. May He continue to grow us in humility.
2. Generosity. Boy, there are too many instances to name in this short post. The folks at FBC do not give to be seen but as an act of private, joyful dedication to the Lord. So, I'd be out of bounds to get too specific about people or acts. But as pastors, we're well cared for. When there is a need, people respond with giving and sharing. We're growing in hospitality and openness with our lives. God has freely given us all things with Christ His Son, and the people at FBC give to one another like they know God's generosity to them in Christ.
These are two reasons I'm deeply appreciative of the people the Lord has given me to shepherd. Tomorrow, Lord willing, one other.
Pastors, why are you appreciative of your people?
Thursday, October 01, 2009
C.J. has a link to the audio from the God Exposed conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Great stuff for the soul and the pastor needing encouragement.
And here are some pictures from the conference.
Also, here is the panel discussion hosted by Baptist 21 during the God Exposed conference.