12/30/2007

Another great song…

I sang “In Christ Alone” this morning at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, TN. It captures so much of the true gospel message. It was powerful to sing it with the thousand or so others in attendance at this church. I’ll post the lyrics below as found here. The story behind the song is given here.

“In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend / Keith Getty

IN CHRIST ALONE my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand!

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music

12/28/2007

The More I Read, The More Sense He Makes…

I’ve looked up some things on Ed Stetzer’s site over at NAMB Center for Missional Research. This guy found some interesting points from some survey work he has done regarding unchurched people’s perception of Southern Baptists:

“almost half of those surveyed just have no familiarity with who we are”

This is most disheartening. We spend a lot of time discussing our “Baptist Identity.” It seems that the people we are supposed to be trying to reach are not in on the discussion.

“Among the unchurched people who expressed an opinion, almost three times as many said [a church’s identifying itself as Southern Baptist] it would have a negative impact [on their feelings for toward that church].” – This held true even in the southern states.

It’s startling. We have a long way to go. But we are ot without hope:

...it may be more difficult to engage them in church based evangelism. It will require us to build relationships with them in order to break the negative image they hold before many will consider the claims of Christ. But in spite of this, the opportunities are great. Many recent studies have shown that the unchurched are willing to listen and consider the claims of the gospel… we must encounter people in the flow of life to have an impact. We must think incarnationally and not just attractionally to reach the unchurched today. And the way to do that is to get outside our church facilities where the people are, and bring them inside where we are.

The short version seems to be that people are interested in Christ, just not our part of His church. I for one will try to learn to be more interested in them than I am in us.

12/27/2007

A Voice

Ed Stetzer talks some sense over at Resurgence:

Yes, scripture shows that we share Christ, starting with people's understanding, interests, and needs. But we cannot and must not end there, for their needs can only really be met (whether they realize it or not) by meeting Jesus.


Could there be a voice of common sense in the war of words over the seeker-sensitive movement? I think I may have found one.

12/25/2007

Christmas Carols are Really Hymns

I had the chance last night to attend a Christmas Eve Service at my brother-in-law’s church in Knoxville: Redeemer Presbyterian. Thankfully, they do not share the annoying Baptist tendency to sing only a few verses of the song. (We say, “The first and the last verse;” or “The first, third and forth verses.”) I was reminded of some wonderful truths buried in the verses we don’t usually sing.

“Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.” - O Come All Ye Faithful, verse 3.

An allusion to the first chapter of John. The wonderful truth that God has freely chosen to reveal Himself to us in the Person of Christ, very God and very man.

“Nails, spear, shall pierce him through; the cross be borne for me, fo you.” – What Child is This, verse 2.

That Christ came to die for us is often ignored by our culture. He came to die for us. He emptied Himself , voluntarily not exercising all of His power and attributes, to pay the ultimate penalty for all who have faith in Him.

“To free all those who trust in Him / From Satan’s power and might.” - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, verse 3.

Christ won victory over the guilt of our sin and the power of Satan to hold us in sin’s grip. Christus Victor, Christ the Victor.

“Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, verse 3.

Christ has won victory over death and the grave. Our loved ones who die in Him will live again. Death has no victory. Death has lost it’s sting. Christus Victor, indeed!

And last that hit my notice (not all that can be learned, I am sure):

“No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make his blessings flow / Far as the curse is found…” – Joy to the World, verse 3.

The curse earned for us by Adam and Eve has been broken. It can be cast away. We can join Him in exercising dominion over His world.

That God would have us join with Him in this most noble of endeavors blows me away. I hope we can learn to steward our resources, protect our environment, care for those who do not have the necessities of life, and love in practical ways those God created in His image.

Merry Christmas!

12/23/2007

Immanuel

Thanks to Vitamin Z for my Christmas quote for this year:

"God with us." It is hell's terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it; the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it. Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, "God with us," back he falls, confounded and confused. "God with us" is the laborer's strength; how could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor, if that one word were taken away? "God with us" is the sufferer's comfort, the balm of his woe, the alleviation of his misery, the sleep which God gives to his beloved, their rest after exertion and toil. "God with us" is eternity's sonnet, heaven's hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. - Charles Spurgeon

John Newton on Election

On the election discussion, I leave you all with John Newton, author of Amazing Grace:

“...You have objections to the doctrine of election. You will however, agree with me, that the Scripture does speak of it, and that in very strong and express terms; particularly St. Paul … Admitting, as I am sure you will admit, the total depravity of human nature, how can we account for the conversion of a soul to God, unless we likewise admit to an election of grace? The work must begin somewhere. Either the sinner first seeks the Lord, or the Lord first seeks the sinner ... In your own case you acknowledge he began with you; and it must be the case universally to all that are called, if the whole race of mankind are by nature enemies to God … What has made us differ from our former selves? Grace. What has made us differ from those who are as we once were? Grace … They who believe there is any power in man by nature, whereby he can turn to God, may contend for a conditional election, upon the foresight of faith and obedience: but while others dispute, let you and me admire, for we know that the Lord foresaw us (as we were) in a state utterly incapable of either believing or obeying, unless he was pleased to work in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure.”

“As the doctrines of election and perseverance are comfortable, so they cut off all pretense of boasting and self-dependence, when they are truly received in the heart, and therefore tend to exalt the Savior. Of course they tend to stain the pride of all human glory, and leave us nothing to glory in but the Lord. The more we are utterly convinced of our depravity first to last, the more excellent will Jesus appear.”


from John Newton, Author of Amazing Grace, as quoted here.

12/20/2007

Passion

"I know when apostolic passion has died in my heart. It happens when I don't spend my quiet time dreaming of the time when Jesus will be worshiped in languages that aren't yet heard in heaven. I know it's missing from my life when I sing about heaven, but live as if earth is my home. Apostolic passion is dead in my heart when I dream more about sports, toys, places to go and people to see, than I do about the nations worshiping Jesus." - Floyd Mclung, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (William Carey Library, 1999)


I pray that God would awaken in us a holy zeal to see His Name glorified among the nations this Christmas Season. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church I am a member of celebrates this time of year with the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, a chance to give to further the cause of world missions. The International Missions Board of the SBC fielded over 5,000 missionaries, and I can count several family members in that noble cadre. Let us give and pray that other might go and tell.

12/15/2007

Wow

I found a great video over at Extreme Theology. He titled it Wow. I’m with him; I’ll say it again backwards, wow.

I agree with this young black woman that Christ has been distorted in the ways she mentions. I long to see Christ raised in all His glory.

See the comments section on the post linked above for some insightful discussion.

"Good" Works

I found a great post over at Girl Talk on our “good” works while I was looking for a quote. Here’s a taste: “I must follow the example of one David Dickson who said: “I make a heap of all my bad works and all my good works and I flee them both to Christ.””

12/14/2007

Free Advice

If I were a full-time, on-campus seminary or Christian college student, I would follow the advice given here.

Controversy

Thanks to a link from Borrowed Light on controversy found via the Founder's Blog. John Newton makes great sense here.

Newton had a unique way of handling controversy, and Calvinists like me could learn a lot from him in how to deal with people who disagree with us. I’ve heard it said he used his Calvinism like sweetner in his tea: you don’t eat raw sugar, you mix it into your tea in just the right amount, let it permeate the whole cup, and then enjoy your tea.

My hope is that I will use the doctrines of grace in the same way. I let them color everything I write or speak on behalf of Christ, but I don’t let them become the main thing in and of themselves.

12/10/2007

Another Shooting

Prayers for those at New Life Church and at YWAM

A good collection of links to information is here.

Books, and friends

I’ve been tagged by Ryan Jones with a book “meme.” Here goes.

1. One book that changed your life: “The Holy Bible, English Standard Version” (Read it in 90 days; I dare you! Okay, if you can’t do it in 90 days, at least do it in one year.)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: “The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: I’m with Chesterton: “A Practical Guide to Shipbuilding.” I’m an Eagle Scout; I can stay alive until I get the ship built.

4. One book that made you laugh: “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

5. One book that made you cry: "The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

6. One book that you wish had been written:“Systematic Theology” by John H. Gerstner

7. One book that you wish had never been written: “The Jews and Their Lies” by Martin Luther

8. One book you’re currently reading: “The Future of Justification” by John Piper

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: “Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem

10. Now tag five people:

Augustinian Successor

LP Cruz

Stephen Newel

thatatheistguy

Debbie Kaufman


I just don’t want to stop there. Books I highly recommend, in order from highest to lowest:

The place to go before, during, and after:

“The Holy Bible, English Standard Version”

How to Get It:

“The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul
“Saved from What” by R. C. Sproul
“Christ Alone” by Rod Rosenbladt
“Faith Alone” by R. C. Sproul
“All of Grace” by C. H. Spurgeon

How to Give It Away:

“Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” by J. I Packer
“Evangelism Explosion” by D. James Kennedy
“Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless” by C. John Miller
“Let the Nations Be Glad” by John Piper
“Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper

Why It is what It is:

“When Skeptics Ask” by Norman H. Geisler
“The Law of Perfect Freedom” by Michael Scott Horton
“Keeping in Step With the Spirit” by J. I. Packer
“One Holy Passion” by R. C. Sproul (this has recently been published under a different title that I can’t remember, it’s about God’s attributes)
“A Summary of Christian Doctrine” by Louis Berkhof
“Counted Righteous in Christ” by John Piper
“Reasons for Faith” by John H. Gerstner

Why you should be a Baptist:

“Baptist Beliefs” by E. Y. Mullins
“Baptism and Church Membership” by Errol Hulse

Some titles for those who want to go “off the deep end:”

Any and All Bible Commentaries by John Calvin
“Commentary on the Book of Galatians” by Martin Luther
“Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” by John H. Gerstner (great for 'recovering dispensationalists' like me)
“Systematic Theology” by J. P. Boyce
“Getting the Gospel Right” by R. C. Sproul
“Systematic Theology” by Charles Hodge
“Classical Apologetics” by Sproul, et. al.
“The Shape of Sola Scriptura” by Keith Matheson
“The Works of Jonathan Edwards” – Yale University Press Editions (Read the man himself, not just Gerstner’s or Piper’s interpretation of him, good though they may be. Good luck with the long sentences.)

Egyptian Records of the Exodus?

William Lane Craig gives a short account of a presentation at “the joint annual conventions of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.” He attended:

One of the most bizarre and intriguing sessions … a meeting of the American Society for Oriental Research in which the speaker showed what he claims are Egyptian records of the Exodus! These are not new discoveries, but known material which has just never been connected with the Exodus. It has to do with paintings and inscriptions on the walls of the tomb of Thutmose III (ca. 1500 B.C.) which show (in color!) waters parting and Egyptian soldiers and the Pharaoh himself being drowned. There are references to the Nile’s being turned to blood and other aspects of the biblical account. Typically, these Egyptian narratives are taken to refer to some primordial event in Egypt’s mythological past. But the speaker said that at the very least they falsify the conventional wisdom that there is just nothing in Egyptian records like the Exodus. An archaeologist I spoke with denounced the claims as baloney (he was considerably less polite), but it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. David Noel Friedman, a highly respected Jewish scholar, is helping to publish these findings very soon.


It will be very interesting to see if more comes of this.

12/08/2007

An Effort at Clarification – Faith and Repentance

I have been listening to a series of lectures / sermons by John Piper on "Understanding Future Grace". I’d like to add my two cents.

Pastor John makes a comment in the second lecture that he thinks Calvinists have not spent enough time and effort exploring why it is that the new birth leads to a change in a person’s life. I’d like to offer some thoughts on why this is the case.

Faith is of it very essence a form of trust. The article on faith from the 1689 London Baptist Confession discusses faith as follows:

By faith a Christian believes everything to be true that is made known in the Word, in which God speaks authoritatively. He also perceives in the Word a degree of excellence superior to all other writings, indeed to all things that the world contains. The Word shows the glory of God as seen in His various attributes, the excellence of Christ in His nature and in the offices He bears, and the power and perfection of the Holy Spirit in all the works in which He is engaged. In this way the Christian is enabled to trust himself implicitly to the truth thus believed, and to render service according to the different requirements of the various parts of Scripture. To the commands he yields obedience; when he hears threatenings he trembles; as for the divine promises concerning this life and that which is to come, he embraces them. But the principal acts of saving faith relate in the first instance to Christ as the
believer accepts, receives and rests upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life; and all by virtue of the covenant of grace.


To have faith in Christ is to trust Him and what He did to pay the penalty for our sin and provide a righteousness we can be credited with. But I propose that faith involves more.

If we are to trust Christ when He tells us how to get to heaven, we should also trust what He says about how to live our lives here on earth (John 3:12). We don’t get to pick and choose what we trust Christ on. This trust results in a changed attitude.

What do we need to have this kind of trust? We first need to believe certain facts about Christ. Among them: that He was God come to earth and that He died on the cross for our sins. (The exact minimum knowledge required for a person to come to saving faith is a worthy topic of discussion, and I defer to R. C. Sproul in his book The Truth of the Cross.)

But saving faith moves beyond this intellectual assent to facts. It moves into the area of trust. The old illustration about a chair is a good one. There is a chair setting in the room with me as I type this. It looks like a strong chair. It is not bent or damaged. I have seen other people sit in it. I have no reason to believe it will not hold me up. But it is not holding me up right now for a very simple reason: I am not sitting in it. For the chair to hold me I have to make a decision to sit in it, walk across the room, and actually put myself into the seat. I have not trusted the chair until I have sat in it.

Saving faith is like that. I rest all of my hope for friendship and fellowship with God in this life and the next in Christ and what He did for me. The old acrostic is a good one:
FAITH – forsaking all I trust Him. I stop trusting in what I have done, my “good” works, to earn my way into heaven. I begin to trust Christ.

Wrapped up in this trust in a confidence in what He said about how to live life (John 3:12). This trust will result in a change in our behavior. We are transformed by the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:1-2). Our change in attitude toward our sin results in a change in the way we live our lives. Our minds are set on things above (Col. 3:1-17), and we live where our minds are set (Romans 6:1-12, 8:1-11).

Saving faith carries within itself the seed of repentance. Confident trust in Christ leads to a change in the way we live. Not perfection. We always find that the good we want to do, we do and the evil we do not want to do we do (Ro. 7:7-25). But we begin to live lives of repentance, keeping short accounts with God and confessing the sin His Spirit brings to our minds. We continue to trust that Christ’s sacrifice pays for our sins.

Of course, Piper is right we he says that we begin to desire Christ above all else and treasure Him above all things. We do find our joy in Him. We are not trusting a set of facts; we are trusting a person. It is impossible to truly trust a person we do not respect and admire. It is not easy to trust a person whose company we do not enjoy, and to trust a person with all of our lives is the most difficult type of trust to have. We find our delight in Christ because of His winsomeness and uniqueness. We are awakened to Christ’s attraction by a decisive work of the Holy Spirit.

Is this a good way to see saving faith? Does this cover the bases? Is it amateurish exegesis? I’d like to get some other opinions on this.

I’d also like to ask if this kind of faith is a faith that you posses. Do you trust Christ with your life? If not, why not? What stands in the way?

12/03/2007

Dangerously Surrendered

I recently purchased and read Kay Warren’s new book, and I must confess I am impressed. Take everything that Rick Warren has ever written and place it on one hand. Take Kay Warren’s book onto your other hand. You will instantly fell the greater weight on the book Kay has composed.

Is it perfect? No book written by mere men / women ever is. We always lack the spark of the divine. Kay cites several authors I have never heard of, and these may bother me after I find out more about them. But those things should not take away from the force of this book.

Here’s a sample:

We are such wimps – really, we are. Living in a sophisticated developed country where life is full of comfort and conveniences has weakened our character and our resolve. We often look for the easy way out of challenging situations and even pride ourselves on doing the minimum required – just enough to get by. Discipline, sacrifice, cost – these are not popular concepts.

When was the last time you read a magazine article on how to grow in self-sacrifice? About the only time we’re willing to be self-disciplined or sacrificial or to pay a price is when it has a personal benefit to ourselves – when it helps us achieve a goal that matters to us. We keep hoping we can get something for nothing. We cling to the
fantasy that following Jesus won’t cost us anything.

Not so!

– Kay Warren, Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2007, p. 200.


She raises a clear challenge to all of us who have become complacent in our riches and slothful in our engagement of those suffering around us.

May God use this book to turn many to praise His name.

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