Friday, August 24, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What is Your Only Comfort in Life and Death?

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism asks this question and provides a wonderful Bible-saturated answer.

Question: What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
Answer: That I belong--body and soul, in life and in death--not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Do you find yourself grumbling on the way to New York?

What in the world does the truth that believers in Jesus Christ have been adopted by God have to do with grumbling on the way to New York? To find out listen to this short three minute interview with John Piper.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sam Storms on Preaching...

One of my favorite theologians is a man named Sam Storms. In my interactions with Sam over the years three things have stood out to me. The first is that he is a man who seeks to love God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second is that Sam is a joyfully contagious Christian. The third thing is that he loves the gospel. Hopefully, this background information will make you want to read the following article on preaching that he wrote:

An Appeal to All Pastors: Why and How Should We Preach - Part I
Sam Storms
"But if I say, 'I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,'
then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones;
and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it"
(Jeremiah 20:9)
What follows in these three brief articles is a word especially aimed at pastors and teachers and preachers. I hope everyone will take time to read them and heed them, but above all else I pray that those who have been entrusted with the sacred calling of ministering the Word of God will recognize the importance of what is said.
Biblical preaching has fallen on hard times in the western world. There’s certainly no lack of speaking and sharing and shouting. And dramatic presentations and video clips are prevalent in pulpits across America. But there is precious little biblical preaching. The Bible makes a token appearance here and there, but rarely to be explained and expounded and acknowledged as authoritative for how we think and live. Many applaud these changes, seeing in them a much needed shift from the logocentricity (or word-centeredness) of traditional evangelicalism to what they perceive as a more holistic approach to Christian ministry.
There are several reasons for this death of biblical preaching, only a few of which I’ll mention.
(1) For one thing, pastors have stopped preaching because they have stopped studying. In effect, they have stopped talking because they have little to say. If they do have a lot to say, it’s typically their own ideas and idiosyncrasies unrelated to the inspired text.
This next statement may sound harsh...
(Click here to read the whole thing)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Does the Busyness of Life Make It Hard to Read the Bible?

If you are like most people you have probably experienced the pull of life's demands and the effect that can have on regularly spending time in the Scriptures. If you have struggled with this or currently are struggling with this John Piper offers a helpful encouragement in the following four minute sound byte.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Could Jesus Have Sinned?

Sam Storms offers the following thoughts on the doctrine known as the (im)peccability of Christ. What do you think? Could Jesus have sinned? Why or Why not? For those who are interested in hearing Bruce Ware talk about why this doctrine is important click here

This issue may best be illustrated by the use of four Latin phrases:
· non posse non peccare - "not able not to sin" (this describes unregenerate people and the fallen angels)
· posse peccare – “able to sin”, and posse non peccare - "able not to sin" (these describe Adam before the fall, regenerate people, and Jesus, if one denies his impeccability)
· non posse peccare - "not able to sin" (this describes God, the saints in heaven and Jesus, if one affirms his impeccability); we could also include here posse non peccare, because if Jesus is unable to sin he is obviously also able not to sin

That Jesus did not sin is undeniable. The NT is clear concerning his sinlessness (see Luke 4:34; John 6:69; 8:46; 9:16; Acts 3:14; 4:27-30; Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22; 3:18; 1 John 3:5). But was his sinlessness because he could not sin or because he would not sin? Was he constitutionally incapable of sinning or merely volitionally unwilling to sin? To say that Jesus could have sinned, even though he did not, is to say he was peccable. To say that Jesus could not have sinned, and therefore didn’t, is to say he was impeccable.
When he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, could he have succumbed? Was it possible for him not to have resisted? Those who deny impeccability answer yes to both questions. They base their argument on three points, only two of which, I believe, are valid:

First, if he could not sin, he was not truly human. After all, “to err is human.” This argument is weak, for it is not necessary to human nature that one be capable of sinning. In heaven, having been glorified, the saints will be incapable of sinning, but they will not for that reason be inhuman.

Second, if Jesus could not have sinned, he was not genuinely tempted. True temptation requires the possibility of sinning. That he refused to yield to Satan’s temptations no one denies. But yielding must have been possible or the encounter was a sham.

Third, the doctrine of impeccability is based on the assumption that Jesus resisted the devil from the strength of his divine nature. But this is highly questionable. I believe Jesus lived and ministered as a human dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit. As a human, the possibility existed that he could have sinned, but by virtue of his unceasing reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit he did not sin.

It would appear, then, that Jesus is to be conceived as having lived in much the condition of Adam prior to the latter’s fall.

Is the Prosperity Gospel Really Harmful?

Is the Prosperity Gospel really harmful? Desiring God recently reposted the following thought provoking reflections by John Piper on the Prosperity Gospel:

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.
Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.
1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.
Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).
My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?
2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.
Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?
3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.
Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?
4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.
Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.
Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?
5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.
The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?
6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.
Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).
Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?
7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.
What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.
The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).
What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

C.J. Mahaney Testimony...

For those of you who don't know, C.J. Mahaney is the director of Sovereign Grace Ministries and was previously the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gathersburg, Maryland for twenty-five years. Below is an excerpt of a message he recently gave where he shares his testimony. Enjoy...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Piper on Preaching

John Piper offers some reflections on preaching. I highly recommend this four minute video for any Christian...

p.s.--Any videos that Youtube links to at the end of this clip are not my suggestions. If anyone knows how to turn off that feature let me know.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Minneapolis Bridge Collapses...

As most of you have probably heard by now a major bridge collapsed in Minneapolis on Wednesday August 1. As of right now there are at least six reported deaths and numerous injuries. The bridge was a part of Interstate 35W. Before moving to Phoenix last fall I lived in Minneapolis for three years. In fact every day I drove over the bridge on my commute out of the city. I still have numerous friends that live in Minneapolis and my heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones and those who were injured.

How should we think about an awful event like this? Is it a fluke? Is it due to an engineering mistake? Is it a demonic attack? Why were these six people killed? Were they Christians whom the Lord was taking home as an act of mercy? Were they back-slidden believers who were being judged by God? Were they unbelievers who were experiencing God's righteous judgment? Or were those who suffered injury and the loss of their lives made up of a combination of all of the above? There are many questions that will probably never be answered in this life. However, the following six things are at least some of the truths that we should remember when events like this happen so that we are thinking rightly about God and our response:

1. God is absolutely sovereign over all things including collapsing bridges:
Psalm 135:6
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,in heaven and on earth,in the seas and all deeps.
Psalm 115:3
Our God is in the heavens;he does all that he pleases.
Proverbs 16:33 (God is sovereign even over things that seem random)
The lot is cast into the lap,but its every decision is from the Lord.
Genesis 50:20 (God is sovereign over the evil decisions of man)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Jonah 1:15 (God is sovereign over people and objects thrown into the water)
So they [the sailors] picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.
Jonah 2:3
For you [God] cast me into the deep,into the heart of the seas,and the flood surrounded me;all your waves and your billows passed over me.
Acts 4:27-28 (God is sovereign over the most evil event(s) in history)
For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
2. God is good and uses all things to accomplish His plans and to bless His people
Genesis 50:20
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Psalm 100:5
For the Lord is good;his steadfast love endures forever,and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 106:1
Praise the Lord!Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,for his steadfast love endures forever!
Luke 18:19
"...No one is good except God alone."
3. God Himself does not do evil nor is He tempted by evil
James 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
4. When an event like this happens we should not pontificate about it in a merely theoretical way. Nor should we think that those who suffered the loss of their lives or other bodily harm are worse sinners than others. In addition to this we should hear the words of Jesus loud and clear in our own lives that we ourselves must repent. In other words, when we see an event like this it gives us an opportunity to evaluate our own lives and turn from all that is evil and dishonoring to God. It gives us a picture of the coming judgment and should stir our hearts to be right with God.
Luke 13:1-5
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
5. We should weep with those who weep
Romans 12:15
"...weep with those who weep."
6. We should hold out Christ to those around us as the only real hope and comfort in life and death
1 Thessalonians 4:3
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but should provide a helpful starting point for thinking through this horrific event in a God-centered way. May Christ himself bring great comfort to those who have lost family members and those who have been injured.

For another response see this helpful article by John Piper.