Saturday, November 29, 2008

Light of the World - Chris Tomlin

I am preaching this coming Sunday on "The Promise of Light" from Isaiah 9:1-2.

The Greatest Defect of “Present-day” Christianity

A recent conversation brought to mind a quote I had once read by E.M. Bounds. Though he wrote this almost 150 years ago, I believe it is still relevant today in a Christian culture that often claims faith in Jesus is more about being happy than it is about being holy.

It cannot be stated too frequently that the life of a Christian is a warfare, an intense conflict, a lifelong contest. It is a battle, moreover, waged against invisible foes, who are ever alert, and ever seeking to entrap, deceive, and ruin the souls of men. The life to which Holy Scripture calls men is no picnic, or holiday junketing. It is no pastime, no pleasure jaunt. It entails effort, wrestling, struggling; it demands the putting forth of the full energy of the spirit in order to frustrate the foe and to come off, at the last, more than conqueror. It is no primrose path, no rose-scented dalliance. From start to finish, it is war. From the hour in which he first draws sword, to that in which he doffs his harness, the Christian warrior is compelled to "endure hardness like a good soldier.”

It is just at this point in much present-day Christian profession, that one may find its greatest defect. There is little, or nothing, of the soldier element in it. The discipline, self-denial, spirit of hardship, determination, so prominent in and belonging to the military life, are, one and all, largely wanting. Yet the Christian life is warfare, all the way.
(From “Prayer and Vigilance” in The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Favorite Music

In response to the number of people who have commented on how much they enjoy listening to the music on the playlists on this blogsite - I have also now set up a link page of some of my favorite music that not only includes the playlists but also a number of music videos of songs I cannot find titles for on the playlist website. You can access the link page by clicking on the picture below "My Favorite Music" on the right hand side of this site - or simply by Clicking Here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God is able to make all grace abound in all things at all times

(This past Sunday morning God truly touched the hearts and blessed the lives of those who were with us during our worship time together. As a pastor I am always deeply humbled and overwhelmed with joy how our Lord sovereignly and intimately moves among His people. The same spirit was with us during our business meeting the same evening - yes, at a business meeting! Here is the devotion that I shared with them that evening in opening our time together.)

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

It’s somewhat hard to make sense of all that is going on in the world. At times it seems we are in a time of unprecedented chaos – the world is at war, economic uncertainty and financial instability abound, there is great political division in North America and much unrest in the lives of people, in our communities, in our countries and throughout the world. Yet I remember those same things were going on 40 years ago.

Historically 1968 is now seen the watershed year during the second half of the century. The summer of discontent ultimately became a year of chaos. And we lived through it. God proved He was still God. As the world and Canada and the United States is going through turmoil in these days, we will too. Port Alberni and the communities around us will feel the effects of what is going on. But you have seen hard times here before. And though it wasn’t easy, you lived through it. God proved He was still God.

Watching CTV news the other night I found myself discouraged. They didn’t have much good to say about anything. But I did hear something which caused me to laugh – one of the reporters said we are “living in times of uncertainty.” Well, maybe for some people. But not for me. And not for you. God is still God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

During the political season, it was good to know that the world would not fall apart or hold together because of who won or lost. The Lord gives and takes away. God will always remain. As we watch the price of gas plunge and the value of our dollar do the same, what a blessing to know that our treasure is not on this earth but in heaven. We are not here to possess the world – but to show the world that Jesus possesses us.

As we gather together at times such as these, our decisions must be based on God’s truth and the assurance of God’s character. We must not use caution to hide our fear or wisdom as a cover for our weakness, but rather stand with the psalmist who writes: "Though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling . . . God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear" (Psalm 46:1-3).

As we face the uncertainty of what will happen in regards to our employment and our health and our families and our future, we can stand on the assurance that we intimately know the One who knows the certainty of “all things.” Our God, in His sovereignty, is working out “all things” - for our good and for His glory.

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Yes, we have to live in this world and work through the struggles and trials that will be constantly before us. But brothers and sisters, for those of us in Jesus Christ there are a great many unseen things at work - that are vastly more precious than what we see in this world. God is at work “in all things at all times.”

In the days before us, we need to remember that our hearts are attached to something greater. We were created for God and His purposes. Someday we will inherit both the Kingdom of God and this world. For now we must deal with both the blessings and the struggles that God gives us. He gives both so that “in all things” we would show that Christ is our treasure, not the things of this world. And so we need not fear. We must not retreat. These things will pass. God is still, and always will be God. Jesus is, and always will be Lord and Savior.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

The Vetting of God and The Deal Killer

"Vetting" - to subject to expert appraisal or correction; to evaluate for possible approval or acceptance. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Obama's vetting could chase away candidates
CNN November 22, 2008

In addition to the already invasive FBI background check, the Obama team is requiring prospective candidates to complete a seven-page questionnaire that requires the disclosure of nearly every last private detail. In addition to the obvious questions involving past criminal history, candidates are asked about personal diaries, past blog posts, and the financial entanglements of extended family members.

"This questionnaire they've been giving to people who are thinking about signing up for a government job is extremely invasive," said David Gergen, a CNN senior political analyst and adviser to four past presidents. "I've never seen anything like this at the presidential level before -- the FBI asks these kind of questions, but to have the presidential transition team asking these questions requires ... great volumes of records that have to be checked out."

But political analysts say the Obama team's unprecedented degree of scrutiny could result in several qualified individuals deciding to forgo consideration for a top post. "There is no question about the fact that the burdensome nature and the probing nature and the disclosure required for people coming into the administration is a deal killer for them," said Kenneth Gross, a political law and ethics lawyer in Washington.

This article caused me to reflect on who would be “qualified” for the position of being a born-again Christian if we were “vetted” by God like people are so often “vetted” by others in the world. Of course the answer is – no one. The sins of our past - along with our present sins and those sins to come - would be the "deal killer."

You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-7

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't Waste Your Pulpit

This coming Sunday I will be preaching on the last commandment from series of messages we have been going through at Arrowsmith Baptist Church on the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20:1-17. When preaching through the Ten Commandments one is always challenged to speak truth in love without sliding off into either legalism or liberalism. And so I was encouraged this past week to run across this video from John Piper.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wings of Joy

(This is by A. W. Pink, from Profiting from the Word; reprinted in the 2008 fall issue of Heartcry.)

Joy is to the soul what wings are to the bird, enabling us to soar above the things of earth. This is brought out plainly in Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Confession of sin and mourning over the same have their place, and communion with God cannot be maintained without them. Nevertheless, when true repentance has been exercised and things put right with God, we must leave those things behind and press on to the things which are before us.

Where there is despair, there is no longer power for obedience. If there be no joy, there can be no worship.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Please Help Us, Preachers!

(This letter to the editor was included in the 2005 Fall issue of Heartcry, A Journal on Revival and Spiritual Awakening. Thank you David Nelson for bringing this to my attention.)

Dear Pastors,

The other day I heard a pastor (not my pastor) preach a lifeless, passionless, pointless sermon with no power and no fire. I am not referring to animated “aerobic exercise class” preaching. (Vance Havner, a great man of God, preached with power and passion and fire, yet he was not animated but monotone and motionless in his preaching style) The message I heard the other day was a waste of my time, and that provokes me to say the following to preachers:

We are thirsty and we are hungry. We are hurting and we need help. We need the fire of God and we need the power of God. And preacher, we need you. You have a special calling on your life, and God has chosen you to be His voice.

But what we don’t need are more “cute,” alliterated sermons, as helpful as alliteration can be in communicating a message. What we don’t need are more sermons that have three points, six sub-points, and a cute, closing story or poem, as helpful as that may be in communicating a message. What we don’t need are more funny, silly jokes in sermons. What we don’t need is for you to keep referring to yourself when you preach. And what we don’t need is to hear more sermons from the Internet or from some book that was purchased at the latest Christian bookstore sale.

What we need is for our preachers to have the fire of God. What we need is for our preachers to have the power of God. What we need is for our preachers to have a passion for the messages that are proclaimed. What we need is for our preachers to feed us from the written Word of God. What we need is for our preachers to be consumed by fire from heaven so that we ourselves may join you in being consumed by God. What we need is for our preachers to be consumed by their passion for the Word of God.

Please help us, preachers. We know that we have a personal responsibility for our own walk with God. But we need help. We are weak, we are frail, we are forgetful. We need to hear from heaven. We don’t need to hear about fishing trips or cruises in sermons. We don’t need more covered dish suppers at the church. We don’t need to hear about the local football team in messages that are preached. We don’t need to hear of accomplishments and awards and degrees. What we want to hear is that you have been approved by God to proclaim His Word to us.

We are perishing in the pews, and we perish because there is little or no vision of God in some of our pulpits. We are tired of hearing Proverbs 29:18 misinterpreted and applied to long-range planning. We, the people, are perishing because there is no vision of God.

Rise up! Stand up! And don’t settle for mediocrity! Don’t settle for less! Get all you can from God, give it to us, and then go back and get some more. Pursue God with passion. Don’t go into the pulpit until you have a message from Him to proclaim to us. Don’t preach until you know that you are right with God. Don’t go into the pulpit until you know you are anointed by God and have the fire of God.



Why Get Out of Bed in the Morning?

"For behold, your enemies, O Lord, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered." (Psalm 92:9)

Here is true story I ran across the other day while I was studying for this coming Sunday’s sermon on Exodus 20: 16 - “The Commitment to Truth.” The context of my reading at this point was on the ultimate victory we have in the truth of the gospel through Jesus Christ, which gives us ultimate victory over all evil and even death.

Andrew Melville dared scorn the Earl of Morton’s threat to hang the Scottish reforming ministers.

“Tush, sir,” said Melville, “threaten your courtiers after that manner. It is the same to me whether I rot in the air or in the ground. The earth is the Lord’s. . . . Let God be glorified; it will not be in your power to hang or to exile His truth.”
Of this Dale Ralph Davis writes:

Knowing that Yahweh’s enemies will perish breeds a holy defiance in God’s people against all threats of the enemy. If not, why get out of bed in the morning?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The five-word antidote to grumbling

Here is a blog posting by Tony Payne from the Sola Panel which is true not only for the church but for all of life.

The five-word antidote to grumbling

by Tony Payne

This story has been passed onto me second- or third- or possibly fifth-hand. Who knows how accurate the details are, or whether the words were spoken exactly in this way? But from my knowledge of the man in question, it is entirely believable. In fact, if it isn't true, it's the kind of story that would almost be necessary to invent.

An eminent and well-known English preacher was approached by a congregation member who complained about some aspect of church life. It may have been that he didn't feel welcomed, or that he was finding it hard to make friends and fit in; it could have been that he was finding the service dissatisfying or the preaching too long; it could have been that the music was not to his taste or that his family was not being catered for to his satisfaction. The details of the complaint have been lost in the telling and re-telling of the story.

The preacher listened to the complaint, paused, and then replied with five words that cut straight to the heart of not only the man's problem, but the problem with all grumbling and complaining in church. He simply said, “It's not about you, stupid!” and walked off.

It was a stunningly rude response—the kind that this preacher seemed uniquely capable of getting away with in his very English way. But doesn't it exactly express what is wrong with grumbling and complaining in church?

It really is the height of idiocy to think that church is about me and my needs and my family and my satisfaction. It completely overturns the teaching of the Bible—that church is about God and Christ and loving other people. In fact, if we wanted to summarize Paul's rebuke to the dysfunctional Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11-14, a pretty reasonable slogan would be “It's not about you, stupid!”.

So the next time you're feeling grumpy about church, and are complaining that this or that aspect leaves you cold, remind yourself of the five-word answer to grumbling. And if you're really game, when someone starts grumbling to you about how they don't like the music or how they're sick of the preacher's jokes, just give them a slightly incredulous look, shake your head, and say, “It's not about you, stupid!”.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Slightest Degree - Andree Seu

A great thought column by Andree Seu from the November 1st edition of World Magazine.

The slightest degree
by Andrée Seu

In 1914 Ernest Henry Shackleton, with 27 men, led the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with the intention of crossing the continent from Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, 2,000 miles. In 1915 their ship Enterprise was crushed by pack ice after drifting for 10 months, forcing the band of explorers to camp on floes for more than a year.

When no safe footing remained, they took to three lifeboats, finally reaching the uninhabited Elephant Island. There Shackleton left 22 men behind and took five to attempt to row the tiny James Caird across 850 miles of choppy seas to the South Georgia Island whaling station. Gray skies rendered the sextant nearly useless. A mere half of one degree off and the expedition would miss the island by hundreds of miles. They made it.

Regarding another adventure, Alexander Solzhenitsyn ponders how the 13 American colonies could in 200 years have veered so far off course, finding themselves bogged down in "the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness." He traces the problem to a small "sextant error" unnoticed at the ship of state's first sailing:

"How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present debility? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. . . . This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very foundation of thought in modern times. . . . We are paying now for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms" (Harvard, 1978).

Small mistakes at the start of a voyage translate into great wide misses of destinations. What is true of polar expeditions and nation building is true in individual lives. We may have yards and yards of good doctrine, but to no avail if there be one rotten link of unbelief.

But let us speak of better stories, like the one I learned from a Christian counselor, and pass on to you with permission: A woman counselee writes:

I was listening to Elisabeth Elliot one day.

"Is your husband an enemy?" Elisabeth said. My ears grew large to listen.

"Does your husband feel like your enemy?"


"What does the Bible say about how to treat your enemies? . . . Love them. Do good for them. Pray for them."

"Do good," I thought. Could it really be that simple?

I set my mind to do one good thing for George every day. In the name of the Lord. I couldn't do it for George, but I could do it in obedience to God. George is my husband, and this is the Lord's command to me.

I started with a spice cake, George's favorite dessert. Simple enough. But as I did these things, I just became so broken. Had I really been so, so selfish, and thoughtless all these years, that these little things could mean so much? Gradually, I saw my true heart as George had seen it all these years—so cold and bitter and awful. Was I really as bad as this? Yes. Yes.

Finally I was broken. Over time, compassion for George replaced bitterness. And dare I say it, even love begins to grow. Glimpses of delight? Yes, even that. God began to show me how He loves George too, and just how foolish I have been. I feel like Isaiah 61 is coming to pass: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: beauty for ashes; gladness for mourning; a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

A woman on a hazardous journey. The seas are choppy and the way is narrow. God commands, "You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" (Deuteronomy 5:32). The slightest degree off in either direction, and the woman would have missed her joy. Let the Captain be Christ and the sextant be faith.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Suffering - Joni Eareckson Tada

Here is the link to the video that we watched together at Arrowsmith Baptist last Sunday evening. It was a message from Joni Erickson Tada who spoke at the 2005 Desiring God National Conference "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God" on October 8, 2005.

Click Here to watch or listen to the message.

In The Palm Of Your Hand - Alison Krauss

In the midst of the fall colors, I was reminded of this song/video:

If I could have the world and all it owns
A thousand kingdoms, a thousand thrones
If all the earth were mine to hold
With wealth my only goal

I'd spend my gold on selfish things
Without the love that Your life brings
Just a little bit more is all I'd need
'Til life was torn from me

I'd rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be
Faith can see right through the circumstance
Sees the forest in spite of the trees
Your grace provides for me

If I should walk the streets no place to sleep
No faith in promises You keep
I'd have no way to buy my bread
With a bottle for my bed

But if I trust the One who died for me
Who shed His blood to set me free
If I live my life to trust in You
Your grace will see me through

I'd rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be
Faith can see right through the circumstance
Sees the forest in spite of the trees

If I could have the world
If I could have the world and all it owns

Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama - Eric Redmond

Eric C. Redmond is an African-American who most recently served as the 2007-2008 Second Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Here are a few quotes from his response on Justin Taylor's blog in regards to Barack Obama being elected President of the United States:

The question for me at this time is this: Can I continue to live Soli Deo Gloria under a President whose moral judgment already is questionable before he takes the oath of office? Yes I can, for I can be obedient to Scripture, praying for the one in authority (I Tim. 2:1-8), honoring the one in authority (1 Pet. 2:13-18), submitting to the one in authority (Rom. 13:1-7; Tit. 3:1), and seeking righteousness for the entire citizenry (Prov. 14:34). These I will seek to do by grace. I will "honor the good appointment of God." . . .

My humble proposal of an attempt to be Christocentric rather than Afrocentric will not be received with approval by many African Americans that I know. I hope to live long enough to witness another African American become a candidate for President of the United States of America—a candidate who is pro-life and pro-righteousness. Yet my hope may ring hollow to many other African Americans who are celebrating a Democratic victory that happens to seem pro-African American. To the celebrants, I might be labeled as sore loser seeking to justify his reasons for siding with conservative white America rather than with Black America. . . .

If you cannot stand against your own culture where it does not square with the Scriptures, you are the one who is ashamed of Christ, and such shame has nothing to with philosophical or ontological Blackness; it only has to do with your view of the majesty of the God who calls you to deny yourself in order to follow Christ.

To read the full blog posting, Click Here.

Thoughts on the Election - Francis Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-Studies at Baylor University. Here are a few quotes from his response on Justin Taylor's blog in regards to Barack Obama being elected President of the United States.

For conservatives, there is much work to be done. We not only have to be the loyal opposition when bad policies are proposed, we have to present our views respectfully and intelligently. For those of us who are Christians, we have to remember that the City of God is not the City of Man, that the Kingdom of God is established from the inside out and not from the top down. In other words, we cannot immanentize the eschaton.

Having said that, we have a responsibility to love our neighbors as ourselves, which may require that we support and defend policies and positions that we believe advance the common good, and with which some of our fellow citizens surely disagree. For this reason, especially on issues such as marriage and the sanctity of life, we must be artful and thoughtful in our public advocacy, assertive while not being abrasive.

Like so much of life on this side of eternity, politics must be put in perspective. It is not everything, but it is not nothing either. It has its place. For this reason, it is the better part of wisdom to end my brief comments with the oft-quoted, but not often reflected upon, words from the Book of Ecclesiastes:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

To read the full blog posting, Click Here.

In God We Do Not Trust - Mark Driscoll

In my years of pastoral ministry I have worked very hard to not be political. I believe that my job as a pastor is to preach and teach the Bible well so that my people make their decisions, including their voting decisions, out of their faith convictions.

This election season which has dominated the cultural conversation for many months has been particularly insightful regarding the incessant gospel thirst that abides deep in the heart of the men and women who bear God’s image. Without endorsing or maligning either political party or their respective presidential candidates, I am hopeful that a few insights from the recent election season are of help, particularly to younger evangelicals.

First, people are longing for a savior who will atone for their sins. In this election, people thirst for a savior who will atone for their economic sins of buying things they did not need with money they did not have. The result is a mountain of credit debt they cannot pay and a desperate yearning that somehow a new president will save them from economic hell.

Second, people are longing for a king who will keep them safe from terror in his kingdom. In the Old Testament the concept of a peaceable kingdom is marked by the word shalom. In shalom there is not only the absence of sin, war, strife, and suffering but also the presence of love, peace, harmony, and health. And, this thirst for shalom is so parched that every election people cannot help but naively believe that if their candidate simply wins shalom is sure to come despite sin and the curse.

The bottom line is obvious to those with gospel eyes. People are longing for Jesus, and tragically left voting for mere presidential candidates. For those whose candidate wins today there will be some months of groundless euphoric faith in that candidate and the atoning salvation that their kingdom will bring. But, in time, their supporters will see that no matter who wins the presidency, they are mere mortals prone to sin, folly, and self-interest just like all the other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. To help extend naïve false hope as long as possible, a great enemy will be named and demonized as the one who is hindering all of the progress to atone for our sins and usher in our kingdom. If the Democrats win it will be the rich, and if the Republicans win it will be the terrorists. This diversionary trick is as old as Eve who blamed her sin on Satan rather than repenting. The lie is that it’s always someone else’s fault and we’re always the victim of sinners and never the sinner.

Speaking of repentance, sadly, no matter who wins there will be no call to personal repentance of our own personal sins which contributes to cultural suffering and decline such as our pride, gluttony, covetousness, greed, indebtedness, self-righteousness, perversion, and laziness. And, in four years we’ll do it all again and pretend that this time things will be different. Four years after that, we’ll do it yet again. And, we’ll continue driving around this cul de sac until Jesus returns, sets up his throne, and puts an end to folly once and for all.

In the meantime, I would encourage all preachers to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and repentance of personal sin. He alone can truly atone for our sins. He alone can deliver us from a real hell. He alone is our sinless and great King. And, he alone has a Shalom kingdom to offer.

Lastly, for those preachers who have gotten sidetracked for the cause of a false king and a false kingdom by making too much of the election and too little of Jesus, today is a good day to practice repentance in preparation to preach it on Sunday. Just give it some time. The thirst will remain that only Jesus can quench. So, we’ve still got work to do….until we see King Jesus and voting is done once and for all.

from TheResurgence