Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dating Jesus' Birth and Death

I said on Sunday that Jesus was most likely born in late (Nov or Dec) 5BC and died in April, 33AD.  Rather than getting bogged down in the details on Sunday, I mentioned that I would post links to those details for those who are interested.  I recommend going here, and then here and here.  And if you're really ambitious, you can read this

Thank you, David Brainerd!

Don't you love it when someone puts perfectly into words what you've tried, not so effectively, to articulate?  David Brainerd did that for me today (at least, I read it today).

David Brainerd lived a short life.  He had nine siblings.  He became an orphan at 14.  He was kicked out of Yale for a little "intemperate, indiscreet zeal."  He criticized one of his professors by saying that the man had "no more grace than a chair."  This ended his chances of pursuing pastoral ministry.  But in God's providence, it opened the door to missionary work among the Delaware Indians of New Jersey.  He labored among them for three short years.  He died from tuberculosis in Jonathan Edwards' home in 1747.

This short life, filled with a life-changing failure, has had an enormous impact for the kingdom of Christ.  Jonathan Edwards published Brainerd's journal, with some biographical additions, a few years after his death.  That diary had a life-changing impact on the likes of such missionary pioneers as William Carey, Henry Martyn, Adonirum Judson, and Jim Elliot.  It's never been out of print (since 1749!) and it continues to impact people today.

Okay, already!  So what did he articulate so well?  Here it is.  Read it carefully so you don't miss what he's saying.
God has given me that disposition that, if this were the case that a man has done me an hundred injuries and I (though ever so much provoked to it) have done him one, I feel disposed and heartily willing humbly to confess my fault to him, and on my knees to ask forgiveness of him; though at the same time he should justify himself in all the injuries he has done me and should only make use of my humble confession to blacken my character the more and represent me as the only person guilty. (quoted on p153 of Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey)
Thank you, David Brainerd, for shining light on this path of Christlike meekness and humility!  And now, O God, please give us that disposition you gave David Brainerd!  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Jesus Didn't Die For Just You"

Back in the late spring/early summer (I think) I ran across a free sample chapter from David's Platt's book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream.  We had recently finished working through the book of Philippians.  In that series, we repeatedly pondered the question, "How much is Jesus worth?"  I think that free chapter was called "The Radical Question." The radical question was "What is Jesus worth to you?"  It was good providential reinforcement of what we'd been studying in Philippians.

I haven't read the book (though I believe the Russia team did in preparation for their trip - so maybe you can ask Jean, Chris, or Peter about it), but I did run across an excerpted article in the Nov/Dec 2010 Missions Frontiers magazine (lent to me by Marion Howell).  This excerpt from the excerpt is worth reading and pondering:
We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. ... And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.
If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of "The message of Christianity is that God loves me. " Or someone might say, "The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send His Son, Jesus, to die for me." 
As wonderful as it sounds, is it biblical?  Isn't it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible?  ...if "God loves me" is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? 
God loves me.
Christianity's object is me.
Therefore, when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family.  When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family.  When I consider the house I will live in, the car I will drive, the clothes I will wear, the way I will live, I will choose according to what is best for me.  This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture.
But this is not biblical Christianity.
The message of biblical Christianity is not "God loves me, period," as if we were the object of our own faith.  The message of biblical Christianity is "God loves me so that I might make Him--His ways, His salvation, His glory, and His greatness--known among all nations."  Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around Him.  We are not the end of the gospel; God is.  God centers on Himself, even in our salvation.  Remember His words in Ezekiel: He saves us, not for our sake, but for the sake of His holy name."
Remember our purpose statement: We exist to reflect God's infinite worth through Christ, for the glory of His name and the good of all peoples.  Are you on board?

What if?

"What if there really were billions of people on this planet who are headed to an eternal hell, and millions of them that haven't even heard the name of Jesus?  And what if there were unprecedented numbers of suffering people on this planet?  And what if God decided to give His people on this side unprecedented wealth to make a difference among the lost and the poor?  What if that is exactly what He has done?" (David Platt, quoted in Missions Frontiers magazine, Nov/Dec. 2010, p8.  Thanks Marion for lending me your copy!)

Added to the prayer book - 12/13/10

"God, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am." David Brainerd

I know who I am.  And I know that "apart from [Jesus, I] can do nothing."  So, Psa. 143:1.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good family reading before Christmas

If you want a good book to read with your family leading up to Christmas, I recommend Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade. 

You can read the publishers description and some endorsements here.

We read this with our kids two years ago and they loved it (so did Mom & Dad!).  It's back by popular demand this year and we're enjoying it the second time around.  It may be aimed at elementary school aged kids, but it has something to say to all ages.  (Note: If you order from Westminster, it's likely that it will arrive in 1-2 days.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't Waste Your Life

I love this song...and video:

Clipping weeds or digging out roots?

I ran across Gen. 18:15 this morning and noticed that it was another case of "the sin beneath the sin."
The LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?"  The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?'  Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."  But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh." (Genesis 18:10-15, ESV, emphasis mine)
Some sins tend to be pregnant, frequently giving birth to other sinful progeny.  In Sarah's case, fear gave birth to denial (i.e. a lie).  Fear was the sin beneath the sin (of lying).  Take away: Strike at the root and the weeds die above ground.
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42-43, ESV, emphasis mine)
It looks on the surface like fear of man was their issue.  But Jesus got underneath their fear and showed that their loves determined their fears.  Why did they fear the Pharisees and fear being put out of the synagogue?  Because they loved the glory (i.e. praise, approval, acceptance) that comes from man.  What they loved determined what they feared.  And don't miss that it works both ways.  If we love the glory that comes from God, then we will fear displeasing him more than displeasing people.

In your fight against sin, are you clipping dandelions or digging out roots?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"You...shall talk of them...when you sit..." at Red Robin

I officiated a funeral this morning for a family that attended Bethel for a short time many years ago.  The internment was down at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Bear.  It turned out that I was driving back by our kids’ school around the time Lily gets out of Kindergarten.  I don’t often get to eat lunch during the week with Beth or the kids, so I called Beth and told her I would pick up Lily and take her on a special “daddy-daughter date” lunch.

A few days ago, I asked her what she would like to do the next time we went on a daddy-daughter date.  She said, “Go to Red Robin!”  (For those of you who don’t know, it’s a restaurant.)  Red Robin is a pretty special treat.  And that’s where we went.

We had a great time.  We sat on the same side of the booth and played tic tac toe (3 for the “kitty” – no wins for either of us – she’s pretty good for a 6 year old!).  We cracked the secret code on the coloring page they provided.  We found the “Rad Burger” that was hidden somewhere on the page.  And Lily was hungry.  So hungry that when I asked her if she could handle both of her chicken strips and all of her apple slices, she said, “Of course!  I could eat the whole world!”  I said, “Really?”  She quickly reneged on the claim by saying, “Noooo!  Only God could do that!  (pause)  But he wouldn’t do that.”

I responded by saying, “Yeah, you’re right.  He wouldn’t do that.”  But then I thought of a relatively obscure passage in the book of Isaiah that I love:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.  It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isaiah 25:6-9, emphasis mine)

“Yes, Daddy?” 

“Do you know that there is something that God is going to swallow up someday?” 

“No. What?” 

“He’s going to swallow up death forever one day!  And we’ll be with Jesus forever in heaven and there will be no more death!” 

“Then what will he do with the earth?” (!)

“Great question, honey!  Actually, if we die before Jesus comes back, then our bodies go in the ground and our spirits go to heaven to be with Jesus – like Big Gramma [Beth’s maternal Grandmother].  When she died, her body was buried in the ground, but her spirit went to be with Jesus in heaven.  You see, we aren’t like animals.  When they die, they just go into the ground.  They don’t have spirits.  They don’t have souls.  But we were made in the image of God and we have souls.  Does that make sense?  When Jesus comes back, our bodies will be resurrected and he will give us new bodies that will never get hurt or sick anymore.  And there will be no more death.  He’s not only going to give us new bodies, he’s also going to re-make the earth and everything will be perfect.  And we’ll live happily ever after with God in a new heavens and new earth!” 

“I think the Bible is the best book in the whole world!”

“I think you’re right, Lils.”

“The Bible is my favorite book in the whole world!”

“Mine too!”

“We need to be missionaries and tell the whole world about God.”

“We are missionaries, right here where we live.”

“But we need to get on a plane and tell the whole world…and bring a Bible!”

“Well, Daddy has gotten to talk about Jesus with quite a few people over the years who were sitting by me on airplanes.”  (pause)  “Maybe you’ll get on an airplane and be a missionary somewhere in the world someday.”

“When I have my flower shop, after I close the shop at night I can go and tell people about Jesus.” [A necessary aside: This precious little girl is named Lily Rose and she has always loved flowers.  We’ve half-jokingly, half-seriously said that she will one day own her own flower shop.  Sam has aspirations, among other things, to become a carpenter.  He has thus offered to do all the build-out in Lily’s flower shop for free.  He says, “I am her brother, after all!”]

“You know what, Lils?”

“What, Daddy?”

“I don’t think you’ll have to wait until after you’ve closed your shop to tell people about Jesus.  I bet you could tell people about Jesus even while you’re working at your flower shop.  Do you know what kinds of people often need flowers?  People who are sad.  People who have lost a loved one.  When you bring them flowers, you might have a chance to tell them about Jesus.  And, you could also paint Bible verses on the wall of your flower shop.  Some people might come in and ask, “What does that mean?” and you could tell them about Jesus!”


“So, what are you going to call your flower shop?”

“Lily’s Flower Shop.”

“Sounds like a good name to me.  Could I come and work at your flower shop with you sometimes?”

“(Smile) Yes!”
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Aquaintance or better acquainted?

We begin our study of the Gospel according to Luke this Sunday.  I am praying that it will make a deep and lasting impact on us.  I hope you'll join me in that prayer. 

If you're like me, you've probably never heard of William Hewitson.  Here's what I heard about him yesterday from Dr. Andrew Bonar, a minister in Scotland in the 1800s.
One thing often struck me in Mr Hewitson.  He seemed to have no intervals in communion with God - no gaps.  I used to feel, when with him, that it was being with one who was a vine watered every moment.'  And so it was that he was able to say with truth,  'I am better acquainted with Jesus than with any friend I have on earth.' (The Hidden Life of Prayer, by David McIntyre, 20, emphasis mine)
What would happen if we became a church made up of people who were "better acquainted with Jesus than with any friend [we had] on earth?"  I hope you don't write that off as unrealistic.  I hope it fires your heart with longing to know Christ.  I hope it leads you to the book of Luke...on your knees.  Let's refuse to be merely acquainted with Jesus.  Let's refuse to merely know about Jesus.  Let's press in to know Christ.
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. ... Let those of us who are mature think this way ... join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those (like Mr. Hewitson) who walk according to the example you have in us" (excerpted from Philippians 3:7-21)

The counterintuitive love of Christ

"Today we are all bombarded with the message that we will be more loved when we make ourselves more attractive.  It may not be God-related, and yet still it is a religion of works, and one that is deeply embedded.  For that, the Reformation has the most sparkling news.  As Luther put it: 'sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.'  Only this message of the counterintuitive love of Christ offers a serious solution." (The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, by Michael Reeves, 191, emphasis mine)

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Unattractive sinners + the life-changing love of Christ = lives that grow increasingly more grace
Unattractive sinners + effort to be attractive enough to get God's attention ≠ loved by Christ

Or, we don't obey in order to be accepted by God.  We obey because we've been accepted by God.

"We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Getting the order right makes all the difference.  Transposition is as serious as condemnation.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Satanic fashion designs

1 John 2:15-17
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world--
the lust of the flesh and
the lust of the eyes
and the boastful pride of life
--is not from the Father
but is from the world.
And the world is passing away
and also its lusts;
but the one who does the will of God
lives forever."

Temptation always looks new and exciting, promising real satisfaction.  In reality, it is only the wrinkly old whore (Rev. 19:1-2) of sin dressed in the latest fashions.  There's nothing new under the sun.

Genesis 3:6
"So when the woman saw that the tree was
good for food,
 and that it was
a delight to the eyes,
 and that the tree was
to be desired to make one wise,
she took of its fruit and ate,
and she also gave some to her husband who was with her,
and he ate."

Satan wants you to think he's fashion forward -- and maybe he is.  But we should know better than to think that the clothes make the (wo)man.  They just hide her age-old saggy sinful self.  May the Lord give us eyes to see through the deceitfulness of Satan's fashion designs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Something Greater Than Healing"

I mentioned last Sunday, in commenting on Psalm 73, that we need to beware of the "must be nice" sentiment.  If anyone has reason for this attitude, it's Joni Eareckson Tada: forty-three years with quadriplegia, the last ten years with chronic pain, and now breast cancer.  Here is the interview I referenced.  She is such a beautiful reflection of the omnipotent grace of God!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Blowing the oxygen of the Gospel onto the smouldering wick of sputtering Christian lives"

Some of you read October's book of the month: The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World by Stephen Nichols.  Since I had already read it, I started reading another introduction to the Reformation by Michael Reeves entitled, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation (sure to be the B.O.M. for Oct., 2011!).  It's really good.  I love this quote in the section on the English Puritans:
“When just about everybody went to church, it was entirely undemanding to be nominally Protestant.  And, as much as anything else, it was this that the Puritans fought as they urged people to a personal reformation.
However, there was a considerable danger for such a fight….  That is, the desire to have people respond to the gospel could lead to a focus on the response, not the gospel.  …
Thus the experience of all too many church-goers was that they heard many a sermon on the Ten Commandments, but yet remained fuzzy on how or if God would ever forgive them.  …
The result, said Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680), was that in their concern for their spiritual state, ‘the minds of many are so wholly taken up with their own hearts, that… Christ “is scarce in all their thoughts”.’  Unable to look out and trust in Christ’s free grace, they were forced to a morbid introspection, attempting to see if their own hearts felt good enough, or if there was any faith there that they could trust in (and so trusting, not Christ, but their own faith for their salvation).
It was here that some of the Puritan ministries that are still most refreshing came in with the cure.  Richard Sibbes is a glowing example.  Sibbes (1577-1635) was trained in Cambridge, became a preacher there at Holy Trinity Church … Known by contemporaries as the ‘honey-mouthed’, the ‘heavenly Dr. Sibbes’, the ‘sweet dropper’, he was the most effective evangelistic preacher of his day, so appealing that hardened sinners were said deliberately to avoid hearing him for fear he would convert them.
Speaking into the culture of introspection and moral self-reliance, Sibbes preached a series of sermons on Matthew 12:20 (itself a citation of Isaiah 42:3),  ‘A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory’ (KJV).  Aimed at ‘the binding up of a broken heart’, the sermons were published as The Bruised Reed and the Smoking Flax….
The verse Sibbes expounded refers, of course, to Jesus, and it is a striking feature of Sibbes’s preaching how strongly Christ-focused he is.  And that is no accident:  Sibbes sought to draw his audience’s eyes from their own hearts to the Saviour, for ‘there are heights, and depths, and breadths of mercy in him above all the depths of our sin and misery’.  How so?  Because, since ‘God’s love resteth on Christ, as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in Christ!’  Thus Christian confidence in our spiritual state rests not on our strength of faith or performance, but upon ‘the joint agreement of all three persons of the Trinity’, that the Father loves the Son, and it is in the Son’s merits and not our own, that Christians are loved.  Because God is a loving community, Christians can be confident.
Then, instead of simply laying moral burdens on young and struggling Christians, Sibbes showed them Christ’s attractiveness so that they might love him from the heart.  From then, the Christian’s first task is ‘to warm ourselves at this fire of his love and mercy in giving himself for us’.  Only when Christians do that do they truly stop sinning from the heart (whereas when they merely alter their behavior it does nothing for the sin of the heart).  In other words, Sibbes believed that the solution to sin is not the attempt to live without sin, but the gospel of God’s free grace.
The Bruised Reed is a clarion call for ministers to minister more like Christ, not crushing the weak with burdens, but blowing the oxygen of the gospel onto the smouldering wick of sputtering Christian lives. (pp. 162-165, emphasis mine)
Spirit of God, blow the oxygen of the gospel on us!  Draw our eyes off of our sputtering lives and fixing them on our Savior, so we will know his love that surpasses knowledge (Eph . 3:14-19).  Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In praise of my crown (Prov. 12:4a)

I found a big "Amen" to Proverbs 18:22 rising up in my heart today.  I shouted it out in the house today, but this is my equivalent of getting up on the roof and doing the same.

Links for Adoption & Foster Care

Rachel Metzger mentioned two organizations she is connected with when she and Todd shared on Sunday morning.  I know Todd & Rachel would be more than happy to talk to any of you who are looking for more information.  Here are the links:

Mid Atlantic Orphan Care Coalition
Speak For Those Who Cannot

Here are a few more links you might want to check out:

Orphan Sunday
Abba Fund (I know the director of ministry development, Jason Kovacs.  Just before we left Grace Church of Dupage to come to Bethel, we were working on the establishment of an "adoption ministry" that would provide resources and assistance to families at the church pursuing adoption.  We connected with Abba Fund in this process and were very impressed with them.)

If you have additional resources worth sharing, feel free to post them in the comments. 

Adoption Sunday follow up

I promised Sunday that I would put some recommended resources up as we prayerfully respond to the reality of life in this fallen world filled with orphans.  Here goes:

First, the book by Russell Moore that I am reading is entitled Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption For Christian Families & Churches.

No matter your life situation - young or old, married or single, children or no children - this book has some very important and powerful things to say to you.  It's not just the story of one family's adoption process (though it is that, and it's a good one that will both break you up and build you up), it's also a biblical theology tour de force.  This is not just a book about adoption.  It's a book about God and his big picture purposes for creation and redemption.  Enough with the recommendation.  Just read it!  But if you're not going to read it - at least read this article by Moore.  If you were in the service on Sunday, I quoted from the beginning and conclusion of the article.  The whole thing is really good.  And it's not that long.

I'll put some other links in another post, but let me close this one with a plea.  Would you join me (i.e. go write it in your prayer book now - if you don't have a prayer book, go buy one), as part of the spiritual family that is Bethel Baptist Church, in praying this next year for God's grace and direction regarding our role in adoption and foster care?  What might God do in one year...with ripple effect that breaks on generations to come and the very shores of eternity?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reflection in the fangs

This coming Sunday (11/7) is "Adoption Sunday."  I'm reading Russell Moore's excellent book Adopted For Life.  I was struck by this sobering quote (p29):
"One's "flesh" shows who one's father is--and that's terrifying.  When we "bite and devour one another" (Gal. 5:15), we're imaging one who seeks "someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8), not the One who came to seek and save that which was lost. ... Our birth father has fangs.  And left to ourselves, we'll show ourselves to be as serpentine as he is.  That's why our sin ought to disturb us."
Does your sin disturb you?  Do you ever see the reflection of his fangs in your tendency to "bite and devour one another" [think critical spirit, gossip, slander, unrighteous anger, a sharp (or is it forked?) tongue, biting sarcasm, I-have-to-win argumentativeness, back-biting, back-stabbing, etc.]?  When you do, what do you do? 

Should we not look to the One who swallowed up the punishment that our sinful appetites earned us?  Should we not look to the One who crushed that ancient serpent's head (see Gen. 3:15), fangs and all?  He wasn't seeking someone to devour.  He came to seek and save the lost by giving his body and blood to feed and satisfy us.  When we look at him and feed on him, those selfish passions and desires will be crucified (see Gal. 5:24; 6:14) and we will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22).  And our re:flection will look completely the One who loved us and gave himself up for us (Gal. 2:20).

Friday, October 29, 2010

The heavens are telling the glory of God

Some of you may have noticed the rainbow on Wednesday night.  Beth noticed it and we all ran out to see it and I even snapped a few pictures.  But I was on the wrong side of the church building.  Russell Brown took his pictures from the gym side of the church property.  Here's one of them:

Now for a little biblical theology of rainbows...  The Hebrew word for "bow" is used about 75x in the Old Testament.  About 70 of those times it refers to an archer's bow.  Only in Gen. 9:13, 14, 16 and Ezek. 1:28 does it refer to a rainbow.  You might say, "Okay, so what?" 

A bow is a weapon.  It can be used an instrument of wrath and judgment from one opponent on another.  Look at Russell's picture again.  Which direction is the bow facing in the sky?  In other words, who is the "arrow" aimed at? 

God gave Noah (and all creation) the covenant sign (Gen. 9:8-17) of the rainbow as a promise that he would never again destroy the earth by flood.  When two parties made a covenant in the Ancient Near East, they would often take vows and seal those vows with the cutting of an animal (see Gen. 15:8-21).  Both parties would walk through the pieces saying in effect, "May we be cut apart if we fail to uphold our vows in this covenant."  So, God made a covenant with Noah and all creation and turned the bow toward himself in effect saying, "Woe to me if I do not keep this covenant!" 

One more thing: if you looked at the Gen. 15:8-21 text, did you notice that there was only one party that passed through the pieces in that covenant?  It was God (symbolized by the smoking pot)! 

What does it mean that God alone passed through the pieces?  It means that this covenant was a covenant of promise.  It was a covenant of sheer sovereign grace.  And that's really important, because the New Covenant is the same way for us.  The Gospel is not, "God helps those who help themselves."  The Gospel is, "You can't help yourselves!  The only thing you bring to this transaction is your sin.  All you deserve is judgment.  I will do it all.  I will send my Son and he will take your place.  I will send my Spirit and take out your heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart that beats after me."  Unilateral, monergistic (One worker!), sheer, sovereign, covenant-promise grace!  That is our God!  Whether you see it in the sky or see it in the Supper, this is the from-Him-and-through-Him-and-to-Him-are-all-things God that we worship! 

And with that in mind, the next time you see the bow in the sky, maybe the heavens will speak even louder of the glory of our covenant-making, covenant-keeping God!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hallowed Be Your Name

I read this quote last week and shared it on Sunday in the last installment of our Vision & Values series: "God, Gospel, Mission."  It comes from Dave Harvey's excellent book, Rescuing Ambition.  He is quoting John Stott from his The Message of the Sermon on the Mount
“There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God.  How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world?  No.  Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see him crowned with glory and honour, and accorded his true place, which is the supreme place.  We become ambitious for the spread of his kingdom and righteousness everywhere.” (emphasis mine)

I hope this question gets lodged in our minds and hearts.  I hope we keep asking ourselves, "Am I content that Jesus get just a little bit of glory in DE (and beyond)?"  "Am I passionate to live all of life to God's glory (1 Cor. 10:31), reflecting His worth through Christ for the glory of His Name and the good of all peoples?"

Please join me in praying that we will be passionate for the glory and fame of God!

Monday, October 25, 2010

How might this atheist change your life?

If you've never seen this, it's quite surprising and sobering to be challenged by an avowed atheist to proselytize.  I'm giving no endorsement of the Penn & Teller show or any of their media output, but if that tract did a number on C.T. Studd (see previous post), this video has potential to do a number on us.  Make sure you're paying attention when it gets to around the 3 minute mark.

How an atheist can change your life

I didn't share this yesterday, but it ties in well with our "Gospel Mission" core value. Unfortunately, I have no citation for this quote.  I did a little checking, and I'm still not sure who wrote this up. 

A tract written by an atheist dramatically changed the life of C. T. Studd (1860-1931). It helped him turn from luke­warm Christianity to being on fire for God. After reading the tract, he walked away from great financial wealth and status as one of the greatest athletes in England's history to become a missionary in China and Africa. Here is the tract:

Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influ­ences destiny in another, religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away all earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labor in its cause alone. I would take thought for the tomorrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or ever-lastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach it in season and out of season and my text would be: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

C.T. Studd lived his motto: "Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell?"

Friday, October 22, 2010

A local pastor you should know...and pray for

I first heard about Rev. Jay Harvey and his family this summer from Beth.  She was introduced to him when she sat in a meeting intended to probe the possibility of his son Jacob attending Tall Oaks.  Jacob has cystic fibrosis.  They were discussing his special needs and what it would take to meet them.  Beth was impressed and even brought to tears as she listened to how they have faithfully shepherded Jacob through the challenges of his disease, not the least of which is the reality of a relatively short life expectancy. 

We have also had the Harvey's on our minds and in our prayers because his wife Melody was diagnosed two years ago with a disease called RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy).  I was surprised and encouraged when I saw this post this morning.  I encourage you to read it and get to know this local pastor and his family.  I encourage you to be praying for the Harvey family and for Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Newark as they persevere by God's grace through these significant trials.  What a bright and beautiful re:flection of God's glorious grace they are!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Completely Done

If you listened to "The Prodigal" from the "Sons & Daughters" CD, you may be happy to know that you can download another song from that album for free.  It's called "Completely Done" and it is really good!  I remember how deeply it ministered to me the first time I listened to it.  It's a great celebration and reminder of the glorious done-ness of the Gospel!  Enjoy!