Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jesus' Tomb Found...

There have been numerous responses recently on the alleged finding of Jesus' tomb and the ensuing Discovery Channel documentary. Here are some responses especially noteworthy:

Al Mohler on Larry King Live

Darrell Bock's Response

James White's Response

Ben Witherington's Response

Paul Meier's Response

(HT: Pulpit Magazine)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Resolved Conference, 2007

If you would like to benefit from this year's Resolved Conference, the audio is available online for free. It features the teaching of Rick Holland, Steve Lawson, John MacArthur, John Piper and C.J. Mahaney.

MM - Love That Lasts

For today's Marriage Monday segment, I would like to recommend a helpful resource to you. I have read this book twice, and both times have benefited from it. It is entitled Love That Lasts by Gary and Betsy Ricucci. Here are commenting on the books subtitle, "When Marriage Meets Grace," they say, "[this] reminds us that it is God and His glorious power revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ that are the beginning, the means, and the goal of marriage. What infinite help and hope that can bring to any and every marriage!" They go on further and say...
But let's be clear, marriage is not an end in itself. God's best is a marriage that reflects the marvelous union between Christ and the church, a marriage that contributes to the Lord's purpose of building His church and preparing the next generation, and a marriage that offers hope and help to couples and families desparate for answers. We trust this book will inspire faith, provide biblical guidance, and instill in you a determination to cooperate with the ever abundant grace of God in your marriage.
You can read more about this book, including sample chapters at its page on the Crossway Books website.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Reading God's Word Effectively

I am about 1/3 of the way through Henry Scudder's classic work The Christian's Daily Walk. In it, in discussing how to best use times of solitude he speaks of reading (which I was really excited to read with my bibliophilic tendencies). What he spoke of, though, was not what books to read (at the beginning). He began by showing the preeminence of God's Word. Listen to this wonderful quote:
When you read any part of the word of God, you must put a difference between it and the best writings of men, preferring it far before them. To this end, (1.) Consider it in its properties, and excellencies. NO word is of like absolute authority, holiness, truth, wisdom, power and eternity, Psalm 19:7-11. (2.) Consider this word in its ends and good effects. No book aimeth at God's glory, John 5:39, 2 Cor. 3:18, and the salvation of man's soul, Rom. 15:4, James 1:21, like this; none concerns you like to this. It discovers your misery by sin, together with the perfect remedy, Romans 3:23-24. It proposes perfect happiness unto you, Isaiah 45:1-3, affording means to work it out in you, and for you, Rom. 1:16, 1 Thess. 2:13. It is mighty, through God to prepare you for grace, 2 Cor. 10:4-5. It is the immortal seed to beget you unto Christ, 1 Pet. 1:23. It is the milk and stronger meat to nourish you up in Christ, 1 Peter 2:2, Heb. 5:13-14. It is the only soul-physic (through Christ Jesus) to recover you, 2 Tim. 1:13, and to free you of all spiritual evils. By it Christ gives spiritual sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, strength to the weak, health to the sick: yea, by it he does cast out devils, and raise men from the death of sin (through faith) as certainly as he did all those things for the bodies of men by the word of his power, while he lived on the earth, John 5:25. This book of God does contain those many rich legacies bequeathed to you in the last will and testament of God, sealed with the blood of Christ Jesus our Lord, Heb. 9:15-18. It is the magna carta, a statute-book of the kingdom of heaven, Isa. 8:20. It is the book of privileges and immunities of God's children, Rom. 6:14-22, 1 John 5:13. It is the word of grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance amongst all them that are sanctified, Acts 20:32. For it will make you wise to salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus, making you perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, 2 Tim. 3:15-17.

Whenever therefore you hear this word preached, and when at any time you read it, you must receive it not as the word of man, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, then it will work effectually in you that believe, 1 Thess. 2:13.
In light of this compelling picture of what God's Word is for you, how is your intake and love for God's Word. Do you prefer other books? Does God's Word take a priority in your heart? Is it your daily intake? Do you give priority to reading blogs, the newspaper or God's Word? Oh for grace to draw us to the living, active Word of God.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Church Leadership (Qualified Through Humility)

John MacArthur in Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry writes:
Leadership in the church--and I am speaking of every facet of spirtual leadership, not just the pastor's role--is not a mantle of status to be conferrred on the church's aristocracy. It is not earned by seniority, purchased with money, or inherited through family ties. It does not necessarily fall to those who are successful in business or finance. It is not doled out on the basis of intelligence or talent. Its requirements are blameless character, spiritual maturity, and above all, a willingness to serve humbly.(emphasis mine)
What a fresh reminder. Leadership is simply living out (for all to see as a godly example) what God requires. And what does God require? "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8).

We need to orient our thinking to God's thinking and cease from placing worldly standards above God's. He calls us to humility and this definitely is a necessity in leadership.

Monday, February 19, 2007

MM - Grudem On Marriage

For today's Marriage Monday, we will look at a great quote from Wayne Grudem (in his Systematic Theology) on the subject of marriage. To set up the context of this quote, Grudem has been writing on man as male and female and speaking of errors made in regard to roles. He concludes this section of application by saying:
Husbands, therefore, should aim for loving, considerate, thoughtful leadership in their families. Wives should aim for active, intelligent, joyful submission to their husbands' authority. In avoiding both kinds of mistakes [being too aggressive or passive] and following a biblical pattern, husbands and wives will discover true biblical manhood and womanhood in all of their noble dignity and joyful complementarity, as God created them to be, and will thus reflect more fully the image of God in their lives.[pp.467-468]
Remember, two weeks ago, we spoke of how God has given marriage as a gift to display His glory. Here we are reminded that if marriage is truly going to glorify Him, then there must be a Biblical exercise of roles for the husband and wife. This week, husbands, you are encouraged to lovingly lead your wives. Wives, you are encouraged to respectfully submit to your husbands. For a text that speaks of this, see Ephesians 5:22-32. Live out your role to the glory of God and, in so doing, reflect God's image in your life.

Paul Tripp, The Blogger

One of my favorite authors, Paul Tripp, has come out with a blog. You must bookmark it, especially if you are a pastor and get the privelage of opening God's Word for counsel.

Why I Love The ESV!

Some of you may wonder why I love the ESV translation so much. They recently produced a PDF that explains what they are all about in their translation. This PDF is the introduction to the ESV found in the front of every Bible they produce. This is a compelling and vibrant picture of what the Bible should be. I commend it for your benefit.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Amazing Grace

The movie Amazing Grace will be released in theaters next Friday, Feb 23. This movie highlights the life of William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade in England. It also includes the how John Newton, author of the song Amazing Grace, was used to encourage Wilberforce in this beneficial action for humanity. Check out the movie's website for more information. You can download the trailer (for a Quicktime player) as well.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Modesty Survey Results...

TheRebelution.com just launched the results of their massive Modesty Survey! Over 1,600 Christian guys (including myself) answered questions on everything from glitter lotion and lip gloss to swimsuits and skirt slits! For you girls, it's everything you've ever wanted to ask guys about modesty, but were afraid to ask! For you guys, it's really interesting to see what other Christian guys think!

Most importantly, the survey is presented as a resource to help Christian girls (and guys), not a list of legalistic rules, and it is accompanied by the Modesty Survey Petition (which tons of guys have signed) which encourage young women to focus on the heart, not the hemline, to honor their parents, etc.

TheRebelution.com presents the results of the survey as a big St. Valentine's Day gift from 1,600 Christian guys to all Christian girls—and I can't think of a better one!

Go check it out: www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey

But also make sure you spread the word to all your friends. We want as many Christian girls as possible to see it on Valentines Day, so forward this information on!

Guys, they are still accepting signatures for the Modesty Survey Petition, so this is an opportunity for you to still share your voice on the topic of modesty!

THE MODESTY SURVEY
www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Relationships by Tripp & Lane

Over the weekend I finished Paul Tripp and Tim Lane's excellent book entitled Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. This book is part of a larger series of works produced under the oversight of CCEF. In the acknowledgements the writers express their hope: "As you read this book, we hope you will see that we don't need new or sophisticated techniques to see relationships flourish. It all boils down to basic character qualities that can only be formed in the heart by the gospel. This is how relationships grow and communities form to reflect God's glory and grace. We hope this book will move you down that path in significant ways."

This book contains 15 chapters in a little over 175 pages:
Chapter 1: The Shortest and Most Important Chapter of This Book. In this chapter, the authors set forth how they wrote this book and how they know the content to be true.
Chapter 2: Why Bother? This chapter defines a biblical theology of relationships. It motivates you to further reading because relationships were God's idea.
Chapter 3: No Options points to God as the only hope for having relationships that are healthy.
Chapter 4: Sin exposes the problem sin poses in relationships, especially as it relates to the selfish tendencies we sinfully drift toward.
Chapter 5: Agendas calls on us to lay aside our selfish agendas for the bigger agenda God has in our relating to others.
Chapter 6: Worship produces the foundational stones of good relationships--identity and worship and explains how these are improperly and properly used in relationships.
Chapter 7: Talk equips the reader with the biblical tools to communicate wisely.
Chapter 8: Obstacles explains why conflict exists in relationships and how one can respond to it in a way that better the relationship.
Chapter 9: Forgiveness naturally follows chapter 8. It defines forgiveness Biblically then gets into practical areas in which it can be extended with grace.
Chapter 10: Hope fixes our eyes on Christ and His promises as we live in the middle of the already and not yet.
Chapter 11: Burdens helps take our eyes off ourselves and look for ways to serve others in relationships.
Chapter 12: Mercy defines mercy for the reader then encourages the practice of mercy in relationships through practical illustrations.
Chapter 13: Time and Money speaks of the cost that relationships involve.
Chapter 14: Provision encourages the reader to look to God's provision in relationships for their health.
Chapter 15: Moving Out exhorts us to step out and live relationships out to make God's kingdom visible.

This book has been a great tool in my life already. God has used this to shape me into a better person. I would encourage you to take advantage of it as well. CCEF sells it for $14.39. I also found it on Amazon for $12.23. Regardless of where you get it, devour this book and know relationships that bear good fruit.

Monday, February 12, 2007

MM - Use Valentine's Day to Serve...

For today's marriage Monday segment, I want to especially encourage you to use Valentine's Day to serve others. Here are some specific admonitions...

For the GUYS -- Remember Ephesians 5 encourages us to love our wives as Christ loved the church. How specifically are you going to show your wife that kind of love this week? What could you do to lay aside your selfish tendencies and think of her above yourself? This is more than sending flowers or getting chocolate, this is giving of yourself for her benefit. Look to Christ as your example in giving yourself for her and honor God by expressing love in action this week.

For the GALS -- Remember Titus 2:4 calls on older women to train younger women in how to love their husbands. A first step for you might be to visit with an older woman to see how they are expressing love to their husbands this week. If you have done that, then look for particular ways to excel in this area. This is an area in which God recognizes you need trained. Be submissive. Seek to love better. Put the needs of your husband above your own and in doing so effectively serve them out of love.

Let's make this Valentine's Day unique, not in selfish desires, but in service out of love to our spouses.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Discipleship is the Theme for This Sunday, 2/11

We will be back in the book of Mark this Sunday, 2/11, looking at discipleship and Jesus calling His disciples...I plan to quote Mark Dever from 9 Marks of a Healthy Church in my call to worship. He commented on Edward's classic work, The Religious Affections, and writes:
In his Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards suggested that true growth in Christian discipleship is not finally mere excitement, increasing use of religious language, or a growing knowledge of the Scripture. It is not even an evident increase in joy or in love or concern for the church. Even increases in zeal and praise to God and confidence of one's own faith are not infallible evidences of true Christian growth. What, then, is evidence of true Christian growth? According to Edwards, while all these things may be evidences of true Christian growth, the only certain observable sign of such growth is a life of increasing holiness, rooted in Christian self-denial. The church should be marked by a vital concern for this kind of increasing godliness in the lives of its members.
Is this true of you? Come this Sunday and be encouraged to this end.

Holiness Among Pastors

Thabiti Anyabwile recently addressed pastors at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. I finally got a chance to listen to this message (available online for free) and was greatly encouraged and challenged by it. Here are the 10 applications he offers from Ezekiel 8-9...
1. Promote holiness to make people fit for heaven.Like Sproul's description of the Seraphim, so must people be suitable for God's presence. This suitability is holiness.

Preaching must be incisive, searing in intensity. Enough with how-to sermons, unless its how to be holy as God is holy. Be iconoclasts, idol-smashers. In our day, theological syncretism exists just as it does in this passage. It's true--all roads do lead to God--but all but one lead to God as judge.

Idolatry is not a victimless crime. Let our pulpits, therefore, be sober, theologically sound. Let us set before our people the glory of God and his majesty. Christ is the loveliest of all lovely things. Let us fix our and the peoples' eyes on the loveliness of Christ in his glory and smash idols.

2. Choose your leaders wisely.
Ezekiel sat with the elders of Judah, outwardly leaders of men, inwardly idolaters. Make sure your leaders are not just thought of as holy, presuming godliness in public. Probe. Search. Inspect. These men will shape the church body and sometimes through generations. Select holy men to lead.

If you are on a search committee ask specific questions about personal holiness. Ask how he has progressed. Ask how he will help others progress. Get references from believers and non--the nonbelievers will probably be more accurate. Is he watching and cultivating holiness in his life?

3. Take oversight of the people.
Don't ignore the joy of overseeing the lives of your sheep. Think and pray about visitation and small groups. Take full charge of the oversight of God's people. This is how they will be shaped into his likeness.

4. Be clear on the difference between justification and sanctification.
People tend toward two extremes: all commands are legalism or real, tyrannical legalism. Stand in this tension. Help people know there is no justification without sanctification. We are justified by faith alone, but we are not sanctified by faith alone. Help your people apply themselves to climbing the mountain that leads to the glory and holiness of God. Preach the hard words of Christ not as legalism but as the joyful birthright of those born of God. It is the path of joyful, vibrant Christianity.

5. Meditate on the truth that judgement begins in the household of God.
See the exhaustive perfection of God's holy judgement. Even children stand before a holy God. Do not ignore this teaching with any element of your people. Preaching should call to mind the holiness of God in judgement and correction. What salvation is there without a rescue form this wrath? How will people press on if they don't here the call of the Gospel that urges them to press on in holiness.

If someone tells you, "I don't know God's will for my life," you know at least one answer for sure--be sanctified, press on in holiness. There is no room for coddling our pet sins. Disregarding this is a disregard of God.

6. Meditate on the plight of the lost.
God is committed to the purity of his people. There is a sure and certain day of judgement coming, and on that day the lost will stand before a holy God who does not trifle with sin. They will not remain standing.

Do streams of water flow from your eyes, like the psalmist's, because of those who disregard the word of God? When was the last time you wept and imagined the day of judgement unannounced and quick. It will be a day like this one. School, work, coffee, Super Bowl, snow, marriage, then judgement comes. We dwell among people who dangle on a web over the flames of hell. The driftwood of sin that the lost are holding onto does not float in the flood of judgement.

7. Surround yourself with those who sigh and cry over sin.
It is immaturity to be calloused or flippant toward sin. We want to develop people who view sin from the vantage of God, abhorring it and mourning. These are those who are pursuing holiness and who are most likely to kill sin and care about whether you do too. God does not reckon any among his own who do not groan in response to wickedness. If we do not hate sin we have nothing in common with God. Cultivate this in your people.

8. The holiness of God goes together with the glory of his presence.
If we want to see God in our church, we must cultivate holiness so there is a place for him. Labor for the presence of God's glory, holiness, and a regenerate church.

9. Commit yourself to intercession before the judgement comes.
Knowing the terror of the Lord should drive you to your knees. When you see the lost, plead with God for them. Be like Christ--"Forgive them for they know not what they do."

There's grace in knowing how unholy we are: it motivates us to pursue sanctification all the harder. Recovering pharisees like me and you need to be driven to our knees for ourselves and the lost.

10. Pursue holiness in the joy of the gospel promise.
God will give us a new heart and his spirit. Holiness is a gospel promise.
You can read summaries of each of the sessions (including Thabiti's) at the Desiring God Blog.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

ESV Single Column Reference Bible...

I have long been anticipating this... You can view a sample PDF as well.

9 Marks Stuff...

If you aren't familiar with the ministry of 9 Marks, you simply must get reading their resources. They have a monthly newsletter that contains information useful for any person in the local church. This month's newsletter was on selecting elders. You can access a PDF of this online, or subscribe to receive it through their website to have it delivered to your inbox.

On top of this helpful material, they have monthly audio interviews. This month's interview featured Joshua Harris, Pastor of Covenant Life Church. The discussion was on life and ministry.

I would encourage you to take part of the wonderful resources available through 9 Marks.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shadow of the Cross

This weekend, by God's grace, I had the privelage of reading Walter Chantry's book, The Shadow of the Cross: Studies in Self-Denial. I came across this reading Tony Reinke's blog, Shepherd's Scrapbook. In yesterday's sermon, we witnessed the incredible example of Jesus in ministry from Mark 3:7-12. In my closing applications, I saw that maybe what hinders us from having ministry, indeed Christian lives, that are characterized by the Spirit's power is due to the fact that we are so selfish. Here is one section of Chantry's writing that really affected me:
“What is your notion of revival? You would like to see multitudes pressing into the kingdom, would you not? You long for worship experiences in which your heart expands with wonder, love and praise. You wish to see Christ’s church mighty, conquering her foes, driving all enemies of truth and righteousness before her triumphant march through our age. But how do you envision yourself in the midst of such blessing? There you sit in the church and it all happens by the power of God! And you are there to drink in the joy.

“But are pastors prepared to double their efforts as multitudes of babes cry for milk from the Word? Are elders willing to pare off their schedules all personal relaxation and ease in order to devote themselves to the multiplied tasks involved in keeping up with God’s doings in revival times? Are all believers prepared for the overwhelming demands on time and energy when God’s presence is felt in the midst of His people? Then there will be no time for casual TV programs, vacation trips, or relaxing evenings. There is a cost to the saints in revival. Life-styles will be altered.

“It is to be feared that many in the church desire all their toys for self and revival too. While many moan that God has not rent the heavens and come down, very few deny themselves of food to fast. Self is not denied whole days while saints keep not silence till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth! No axe is being laid at the root of self. Is it not time for those who are in earnest about revival to declare a relentless war on self, resolving afresh that henceforth they will not live unto themselves but unto Him who died and rose again? Not a once-for-all encounter, but a life devoted to denying self and living every hour upon Him who died and rose again. All the great spiritual delights we long for come into the world of a Christian’s experience attended with birthpangs of self-denial.
May God rid us of the selfish tendencies that plague us. Oh, to be like Jesus.

Marriage Monday - Marriage and Honor

One verse that comes to me again and again when thinking of having a God-glorifying marriage is Hebrews 13:4 ("Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." ESV) Looking at R. Kent Hughes great commentary on this verse was very helpful for me. After bemoaning the fact that marriage has throughout time been dishonored in various ways, he writes:
But for those of us who live under the authority of God's Word, marriage is an ordinance of God. Genesis proclaims, after God gave Eve to Adam, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (2:24). Marriage is patently heterosexual and indissoluble. As Jesus said, "Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). Jesus honored marriage by performing His first miracle at a wedding (John 2:1ff). The Holy Spirit further honored it in Ephesians 5 by using it to portray the relationship of Christ and His church (vv.23-32).

Therefore, in the words of our text, "Marriage should be honored by all" -- or more literally, "Let marriage be precious to all of you." As Christians we celebrate marriage. We joyfully surround a couple as out of their depth they make those wild sacred promises to each other. And we celebrate the mystery with ancient invocations and feasting. Marriage is divinely given and deserves our greatest honor!
Maybe like me at times you forget the wonder of what marriage is communicating. Marriage is telling a story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we live marriages that honor God, we must remember that marriage is honorable.