Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Joy in Suffering - C.J. Mahaney

Those who know true joy in the midst of suffering are those who recognize that, in this life, our suffering is never as great or as serious as our sins. As Jonathan Edwards wrote, "How far less [are] the greatest afflictions that we meet with in this world . . . than we have deserved." That's the divine perspective of suffering. Regardless of the severity of suffering we experience in this life, it will always be less than what we have deserved for our sins.

So how will we respond when our circumstances seem to contradict God's character and promise? How will we react when God appears idle to us, when He seems to be tolerating sin and refusing to relieve suffering? How will we respond when life doesn't make sense? . . . Will we be complaining? Or trusting? Will we react to our trials with anger or resentment or indignation - or by asking God to be glorified in and through our suffering?
from "Humility: True Greatness" by C.J. Mahaney, page 149.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Microwave Christianity

On Saturday March 28th Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, attempted to "re-create" Pentecost by offering the opportunity to receive salvation, baptism and church membership all in one day. Click Here to see his invitation.

Warren did fall short of his goal of the "3000" at Pentecost; they trained 2400 members and baptized 800. (I know, the numbers do not make sense until you read the invitation - they offer membership before baptism!). To read the results, Click Here.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Al Mohler on Manhood

Recently Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary, spoke on his radio program about boyhood and manhood and the need to recover the biblical understanding of it. Below are the 13 Marks of Manhood as he presented them. Click here if you would like to listen or download the audio(s).

Biblical Manhood means you have the . . .

1. Spiritual Maturity sufficient to lead a wife and children.

2. Personal Maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father.

3. Economic Maturity sufficient to hold an adult job and handle money.

4. Physical Maturity sufficient to work and protect a family.

5. Sexual Maturity sufficient to marry and fulfill God's purposes.

6. Moral Maturity sufficient to lead as an example of righteousness.

7. Ethical Maturity sufficient to make responsible decisions.

8. Worldview Maturity sufficient to understand what is really important.

9. Relational Maturity sufficient to understand and respect others.

10. Social Maturity sufficient to make a contribution to society.

11. Verbal Maturity sufficient enough to communicate and articulate as a man.

12. Character Maturity sufficient to demonstrate courage under fire.

13. Biblical Maturity sufficient to lead at some level in the church.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunrise over Welsh Mountains

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

This is for the Knapps - members of our church family at Arrowsmith.

from AW

My Favorite Quote of the Week

Charles Spurgeon, regarding his reponse to someone who was strongly opinionated:

". . . so I spoke out my opinion as freely as he did his, and gave him a Roland for his Oliver without the slightest compunction."
from "C.H. Spurgeon: Autobiography, Volume I - The Early Years" - page 237

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Smiling Upon Sovereign Grace - Erik Raymond

This is a post from Erik Raymond's website from April 20, 2009.

The Christian life is simultaneously pride smashing and smile producing. And frankly, you cannot have one without the other.

The truth of that matter is that too many of us do not smile large enough upon the realities of sovereign grace because our pride is not appropriately smashed by the reality of human inability.

In other words, we think highly of our own merit and think lowly of diving grace.

The reality of the matter is that we (the Christians) do not have a real good spiritual résumé. We read in Colossians 1.21 that we were “were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” This is to say that we were separated from God (alienated). And as a result, the disposition of our mind was hostile. This literally means “haters in the mind.” Well who are we ‘hating’ in our minds? It is the One whom we are alienated from. Just as Romans 1.30 indicates in its catalog of depravity, we were “haters of God”. It only follow then that the one who hates God in his mind is going to be ‘doing evil deeds.’ We were the spiritual insurgents who strapped the explosives of self-serving, God-belittling sin to our chest as we aimed to thwart, undermine, and mock the will and glory of God at every turn. This is truly the essence of evil.

Apart from Christ we are alienated; we have no way to God. But on top of this, we are neither able nor willing to come. We are content in the giving God the stiff arm with one hand and with the other, holding up the mirror as we admire our own perceived glory.

But God does not leave us there.

He powerfully, lovingly, mercifully, and graciously overtakes the sinner with an irresistible view of the glory of Jesus Christ. This is called sovereign grace.

In 2 Corinthians 4 we learn that in addition to being totally depraved we are under the influence of Satan’s eye blinding techniques (2 Cor. 4..4). But notice what we can’t see? The text says “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

It is the glory of Christ that we are blinded from seeing.

Ah, but what does the ever gracious and sovereign God do?

The God “who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4.6).

God has made us to see the glory of Christ! We did not stumble upon this truth. We were not taught it by men. We didn’t inherit it in this country like some sort of unalienable right. NO! The sovereign God of the universe has crashed through your sinfully barricaded heart with his powerful sovereign grace so that you would be able to see the beauty, worth, goodness, power, and attractiveness of Christ! He has done this for you!

You could never nor would never, ever see him on your own. But God, according to his kindness, mercy and grace has given you eyes to see the most precious sight available. And he has given his Spirit so that you might enjoy the most satisfying One available.

It is through this seeing and savoring of Christ that you agree with God about the glory of his Son. You are to continue to drink from the inexhaustible river of delight and feast upon the true manna from heaven.

But as you continue to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34.7a) smile large Christian– because you know that your seat at this feast is all of grace.

William Cowper

William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper") was an English poet and hymn writer. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. He suffered from periods of severe depression, and although he found refuge in a deep and passionate faith in Jesus Christ, the inspiration behind his much-loved hymns, he often experienced doubt and feared that he was doomed to eternal damnation. His association with John Newton (who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace") led him to partner with Newton in writing a hymnbook that ultimately become famously known as Olney Hymns. On this day in history, 1800, the incredibly gifted but frequently and deeply depressed William Cowper died at the age of 68.

Click Here to view a video bio of Cowper'sife from Mars Hill Church. Below is one of his more well known poems which became a hymn entitled “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Learning to Say: "I'm Sorry" - Anthony Griffith

Here (below) is Anthony Griffith's powerful testimony to God's sovereign grace.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Stages of the War for the Heart

A number of people at Arrowsmith have been blessed lately by the ministry and insight of Paul Tripp. One of his books that I have enjoyed is Instrument in the Redeemer's Hands, where he unpacks the truth of James 4:1-10. Justin Taylor recently posted this, and so I am reposting here for those who might be interested – and because I wrote my doctoral thesis on the spiritual battle for the heart. Here is how Paul Tripp sees the war for the heart according to the following stages:

Stage 1: Desire. "The objects of most of our desires are not evil. The problem is the way they tend to grow, and the control they come to exercise over our hearts. All human desire must be held in submission to a greater purpose, the desires of God for his kingdom." (p. 85)

Stage 2: Demand. ("I must.") "Demand is the closing of my fists over a desire. . . . I am not longer comforted by God's desire for me; I am threaten by it, because God's will potentially standards in the way of my demand. . . . The morphing of my desire changes my relationship to others. No I enter the room loaded with a silent demand: You must help me get what I want. . . ." (p. 86)

Stage 3: Need. ("I will.") " I now view the thing I want as essential to life. This is a devasating step in the eventual slavery of desire. . . . To 'chriten' desire as need is equivalent to viewing cake as I do respiration. . . ." (p. 86)

Stage 4: Expectation. ("You should.") "If I am convinced I need something and you have said that you love me, it seems right to expect that you will help me get it. The dynamic of (improper) need-driven expectation is the source of untold conflict in relationship." (p. 87)

Stage 5: Disappointment. ("You didn't!") "There is a direct relationship between expectation and disappointment, and much of our disappointment in relationships i s not because people have actually wronged us, but because they have failed to meet our expectations." (pp. 87-88)

Stage 6: Punishment. ("Because you didn't, I will. . . .") "We are hurt and angry because people who say they love us seem insensitive to our needs. So we strike back in a variety of ways to punish them for their wrongs against us. We include everything from the silent treatment (a form of bloodless murder where I don't kill you but act as if you do not exist) to horrific acts of violence and abuse. I am angry because you have broken the laws of my kingdom. God's kingdom has been supplanted. I am no longer motivated by a love for God and people so that I use the things in my life to express that love. Instead I love things, and use people--and even the Lord--to get them. My heart has been captured. I am in active service of the creation, and the result can only be chaos and conflict in my relationships." (p. 88)

So what do you do when desire has morphed into demand into need into expectation into disappointment into punishment? The first step must be vertical, not horizontal. Because relationship problems are rooted in worship problems, James's solution, Tripp rightly notes, is "Start with God":

"Submit yourselves therefore to God" (James 4:7).
"Draw near to God" (James 4:8).
"Cleanse your hands . . . and purify your hearts" (James 4:8)
"Humble yourselves before the Lord" (James 4:10).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cultivating a Spiritual Mind

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

This past Sunday, as I was greeting people leaving the church after the service, I was asked by someone if I could post a Bible memory verse on this blog each week. What a blessing! One the great things that is happening at Arrowsmith in these days is the hunger and thirst for the Word of God we are experiencing together. God is working in the hearts of many in our church – from life-changing responses to the sermons, to the large group that is consistently attending Acts 2:42 (our Sunday evening teaching/prayer time), to those who are asking for more Bible verses to memorize. I am reminded of the words of Richard Lovelace from his book Renewal as a Way of Life -

As individuals we need to invest time in two kinds of background study. First, we need to move out to theological integration. We need t pore through the text of Scripture repeatedly, allowing the Holy Spirit to rebuild our minds and confront our spiritual needs. . . . Second, we need to study theology, because systems formed in the past, do have relevance for the present. Modern theologians have repeated the most elementary errors because they have failed to study carefully the history of doctrine. . . .

I am more and more convinced that Christianity has lost control of Western culture because it has failed to spend time and money on cultivation of the mind. The result is a modernism that cannot transform culture because it has capitulated to paganism, and a fundamentalism which has no traction because it is out of touch. The only way we can avoid these polar dangers of destructive and protective enculturation is to invest time, money, and prayer where the impact is the greatest: in the formation of Christian hearts and minds.
I will begin posting a weekly Bible verse on this blog, which will be changed every Monday.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Romans 8:5-7)

A Surprise Message from California

Many of you know by now that our daughter Jennifer along with two of her dear friends (Bethany and Becka) won the $10,000 first prize this past Sunday night on America's Funniest Videos. Because the showed was taped a few weeks ago they were not allowed to tell anyone - which was made more difficult by the fact that they needed to fly out to Los Angeles this past Sunday also to tape the show to pick the $100,000 prize winner. While we cannot divulge who won, we can tell you that the winner will be revealed on the evening of May 10th on AFV.

Click Here to see a video they made while they were there taping the show.

The Joy of Reservation Confirmation Codes

I recently made hotel reservations for the BCBC annual meeting in the spring and the Desiring God Conference in the fall. Both times I had to ask that the reservation confirmation codes be repeated back to me - and I was reminded of Brian Regan. Here it is . . .

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Six Biblical Guidelines for Loving Each Other Amid Differences

Here is the counsel John Piper gave his pastoral staff and their wives at a recent retreat. This is also really good counsel for all of us who claim Christ. To read the whole thing (biblical support and explanation) – click here.

1. Let’s avoid gossiping.
2. Let’s identify evidences of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.
3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.
4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.
5. Think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.
6. Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right. And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel.

from JT

"My Dream Is To Spend My Life Doing What I Feel That I Was Born To Do"

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong..." 1 Corinthians 1:27

from Jennifer

Monday, April 13, 2009

Marriage - Men and Women

Mark Driscoll recently shared two messages at Mars Hill Church about the biblical responsibilities for men and women in marriage (March 15 - "Women and Marriage" and March 29 - "Men and Marriage"). I would highly recommend taking a look at both - viewing them in order (watch the video on women first, and then the video on men). Below are clips from each message, and also the full video from each (along with a link to the website if you are having trouble playing the video on this website).

Marriage and Women

Clip: God’s Character and Submission

Full Video: Marriage and Women (click here for website)

Marriage and Men

Clip: Can Guys Change?

Full Video: Marriage and Men (click here for website)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Does Satan Exist? A Nightline Face-off

Here is the first clip of the Nightline Face-off (debate) regarding the existence of Satan between Pastor Mark Driscoll, Deepak Chopra, Annie Lobert, and Bishop Carlton Pearson. This is truly worth watching.

To watch the full “face-off” ABC Frontline – Click Here.
To watch the full “face-off” on YouTube – Click Here.

How the Apostles Followed Jesus

"Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:38-39)

33 A.D. – Jesus was beaten, flogged and crucified just outside the city walls of Jerusalem.

44-45 A.D. - James was the second recorded martyr after Christ’s death (Stephen was the first). His death is recorded in Acts 12:2 where it is told that Herod Agrippa killed him with a sword.

54 A.D. - Philip was tortured and then crucified by hostile Jews in Phrygia.

60-70 A.D. - Matthew was beheaded at Nad-Davar.

63 A.D. - James the Lesser was cast down from the top of the Temple in Jerusalem and beaten to death.

64 A.D. - Peter was crucified by Roman executioners; he thought himself unworthy to be crucified as his Master, and, therefore, he asked to be crucified “head downward.

67 A.D. - Paul was beheaded in Rome by order of the Roman Emperor Nero.

70 A.D. - Andrew was crucified and then hung on an olive tree at Patrae, a town in Achaia.

70 A.D. - Thomas was thrust through with pine spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and burned alive.

70 A.D. - Nathanael (Bartholomew) was flayed (skin removed from his body) and then crucified.

70 A.D. - Matthias was stoned while hanging upon a cross.

72 A.D. - Judas Thaddeus was beaten to death with sticks.

74 A.D. - Simon the Zealot was crucified by a governor in Syria.

95 A.D. - John is the only one of the twelve Apostles to have died a natural death. Some traditions tell us that he was thrown into boiling oil before the Latin Gate, where he was not killed but undoubtedly scarred for the rest of his life.

Research by C. Michael Patton

To read the whole document - Click Here.

The Power of Prayer - Richard Lovelace

The early church won the Roman Empire by the strength of its prayers, even though its theology was often weak and its morale was shaken by repeated waves of persecution. Pedestrians in Romans streets sometimes felt the walls shake from the "Amens!" of Christians in catacombs or hidden rooms. And eventually the walls of the empire collapsed like those of Jericho. (Dr. Richard Lovelace, Renewal as a Way of Life, pg. 172)

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.(Acts 4:31)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Was Jesus Really Buried for Three Days and Three Nights?

"For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40)

I have been asked a few times if Jesus was really in the tomb for three days. By the way we count days and nights, it does not seem to work out. And so after some research, here is the answer:

1) The Jews officially and legally defined a normal calendar day to be from sunrise to sunrise. Although we consider a day to be from midnight to midnight, we usually think of our day as beginning when we rise in the morning. The Jews began their day in the morning. Matthew 28:1 supports this: "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave" (Matthew 28:1, NASB). We are reading here that the first day of the week (Sunday) began at dawn.

2) The Jews also officially and legally defined a fraction of a day as a whole day (a day and a night). Jesus was crucified on Friday, the very same day he was taken down from the cross and was buried – and so Friday was the first day (considered as a whole day, a day and a night) our Lord spent in the tomb. The next day was the Sabbath (Saturday) which was then the second day. And on then on next day - the first day of the week (Sunday) which followed the Sabbath day (Saturday) which we count as the third day - the day the Lord Jesus arose from the dead. Even if Jesus spent only a small fraction of the first day of the week (Sunday) in the tomb, it was officially and legally counted as a whole day (as if a day and a night).

Silence in Heaven before Jesus Comes

For those who asked about this reference on Sunday evening, here it is:

"When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (Revelation 8:1).

from Mary Ellen

Which is more difficult: Removing a tree stump or doing your taxes?

On Monday I finally put my U.S income tax forms in the mail, so I can now work through my income taxes for Canada. This has been a much longer and more tedious process for me than normal, as this is my first full year working in Canada as an American citizen. The real difficulty in all of this is that my tax status as clergy is defined much differently in the U.S. than it is in Canada, and there seems to be a variety of opinions as to what that looks like the tax forms of each country. And so after hours of asking questions, reading tax guides, and checking income tax websites – I finally was able to get what needed from another pastor who is also an American citizen, and who has lived in B.C. for quite some time.

And so as I walked out of the house on Monday to mail my U.S. tax forms, I glanced at the spot in my front yard where I had removed a stump with an axe and a shovel the week before – which caused me to wonder: “Which was more difficult: Removing the tree stump or doing my taxes?” At that very moment I said: “Doing my taxes.” Time will ultimately tell; there are still about five more stumps in our yard that need to go - and I also still need to file my income taxes in Canada. And so in these days I join with the apostle Paul in asking that I might "be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy" (Colossians 1:11).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Groaning and Hoping with Fallen Creation

Last Sunday part of my sermon dealt with how sin has affected not only humanity but also all of creation. This has been somewhat of a recurring theme for me of late - my commitment to memorize Romans 8 has brought this to light and as well as my devotional reading of Charles Spurgeon’s autobiography has reflected the same.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption . . . the whole creation has been groaning together . . . and not only the creation, but we ourselves . . . groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:20-24)

I groan daily under a body of sin and corruption. Oh, for the time when I shall drop this flesh, and be free from sin! I become more and more convinced that, to attempt to be saved by a mixed covenant of works and faith is, in the words of Berridge, “To yoke a snail with an elephant.” I desire t press forward for direction to my Master in all things; but as to trusting to my own obedience and righteousness, I should be worse than a fool, and ten times worse than a madman. . . . (Spurgeon, Autobiography Vol. I - pg. 179)

Oh, could I become like holy men of past ages – fearless of men – holding sweet communion with God – weaned more from the world, and enabled to fix my thoughts on spiritual things entirely! But when I would serve God, I find my own deceitful heart full of the very essence of hell, rising up in my mouth, polluting all I say and all I do. . . . (Spurgeon, Autobiography Vol. I - pg. 180)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? . . . No, 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 8:31-32, 37-39)

Rejoice! For Heaven awaits us, and all the Lord’s family! The mansion is ready; the crown is made; the harp is strung; there are no willows there. May we be enabled to go on, brave as lions, and valiant for truth and cause of King Jesus, and by the help of the Spirit, vow eternal warfare with every sin, and rest not until the sword of the Spirit has destroyed all the enemies in our hearts! May we be enabled to trust the Lord, for He will help us; we must conquer; we cannot be lost. Lost? Impossible! For who is able to snatch us out of our Fathers hand? (Spurgeon, Autobiograpy Vol. I - pg. 180)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mark Driscoll Interview on ABC Nightline

For those of you who do not know much about Mark Driscoll, this should help.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Baptizing in Front of a Larger Congregation

God is truly at work in some many ways Arrowsmith in these days - and as a result I continue to wrestle with finding time to post my thoughts and reflections. In other words - when the sheep are on the move, shepherds have much more to do.

One thing that struck me lately has been the great Celebration Sunday our church family shared together on March 22nd. The Spirit of God was truly alive and at work in our midst as six people were baptized during the service - and there was a special energy of spirit and heart during our worship, attendance was overflowing, a great fellowship meal time followed, and in the evening we had some passionate, spirited discussions during our Acts 2:42 teaching time.

One verse in particular kept going through my mind during the baptisms: "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19). This verse seemed to give greater significance to our special morning. During the baptisms and afterwards I kept thinking that while this was a great day for our church family at Arrowsmith, what was happening in the church sanctuary on that day was in many ways a much bigger event on a grander scale - the universe itself had been yearning with great anticipation ("the creation waits with early longing") for those who would surrender their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ and become children of God. ("for the revealing of the sons of God").

The work that God does in our lives has greater significance than we will ever know.