Monday, December 31, 2007

This Week's Top 3 NBA Teams

The top 3 teams in the NBA as 2007 comes to an end are as follows:

3. Boston Celtics--Kevin Garnett's intensity has carried the C's to the best record in the NBA. If they still have the best record after facing the top teams in the West then they might move up to 1a. However, the Pistons recent victory over the Celtics keeps them at number 2 for now. Random Fact: KG's field goal percentage last year 47.6% this year with Boston 55%.

2. San Antonio Spurs--I really don't like the Spurs and would love to drop them out of the top 5 because of their recent struggles. However, when the Spurs are healthy they are the team to beat in the West. Random Fact: Tim Duncan is the 3rd leading scorer on the Spurs. Not a bad third option.

1. Detroit Pistons--Motown has some of its mojo back as the Pistons have run off nine straight wins. If you were coaching against the Pistons who would you focus on stopping? Hamilton (18 ppg and 47% 3PT)? Billups (17.5 ppg 7.6 assists)? Prince (13.6 ppg and one of the best defenders in the league)?

Friday, December 28, 2007

How to Fight Discouragement?

John Piper offers the following helpful advice for fighting depression and discouragement:

Has the Need for Western Missionaries Ceased?

Is there really a need for Christians from the Western world to take the gospel to the two-thirds world?  Aren't there enough Christians in every geo political nation of the world to evangelize and disciple their own countrymen?  Is K.P. Yohannan correct to say that the main thing that the Western church should do is send money to support local ministries?  John Piper offers the following helpful 3-minute reflection:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Free Christmas Song Download...

Sovereign Grace Ministries is offering a free download of the song "Christ the Lord Is Born Today."  This offer is valid from now until December 31, 2007.  Click Here to take advantage of the offer.  When you check out of the store enter CHRISTTHELORD   as the promo code.  

Christ-Centered Christmas: Part 3

I recently ran across the following worshipful quote by Augustine on the Incarnation:

"Man’s Maker was made man that the Bread might be hungry, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired from the journey; that Strength might be made weak, that Life might die."  --Augustine
(HT: Justin Taylor)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christ-Centered Christmas: Part 2 (Grudem Audio)

Another great way to focus our hearts and minds on Christ during the Christmas season is to listen to others talk on the person of Christ.   Wayne Grudem has given the following audio lectures on the person of Christ:  (Click on the links to listen)

Christ-Centered Christmas

One of the most helpful ways for me to focus my heart and mind on Christ during the Christmas season is to read what others have written on the miracle of the incarnation. Below is a thoughtful reflection on the incarnation  that I recently came across written by Thomas Watson (1600-1679):

"And thus it was that when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And thus it came about that He who had created this world of ours descended into it, and made Himself one of His own earthly creatures, and lived all His appointed time on earth in all the emptiness and limitation and dependence and subjection that was involved in His great work which he had undertaken to perform for His Father. For it is wholly true and it is wholly due to Him that it should be told us concerning our Saviour that He made Himself of no reputation. The whole heavens and the whole earth had all resounded with His great reputation as soon as He had finished the formation of the heavens and the earth and all the host of them. On the seventh day of creation the Son of God ended His great work which He had created and made, and He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. And on that first Sabbath day all the morning stars sang together before Him, and all the sons of God shouted for joy in His presence. But when the predestinated time for the Son's humiliation and for our salvation came He arose and descended down from His Father's house and left all His heavenly renown and reputation behind Him. And then, as the great prologue has it, He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. How His own received Him, and what entertainment He had at their hands, we read with unspeakable shame and pain on every page of the four Gospels. At the same time all that was no surprise to Him; neither did the reception that He received on this earth take Him at all unawares. From the beginning he had foreseen it all, and had prepared Himself for it all. 'Lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is all written of Me.' He means that such things as these were written of Him: such awful things as these: 'I am a worm, and no man. I am a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn. They shoot out the lip, they shake the head.' The Son of God foresaw Himself as in a glass in that awful twenty-second Psalm. Again, this was written, and He had often read it: 'He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him.' And again, He foresaw that all this also would be written concerning Him, and He had often in anticipation read it. 'Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it on His head. And they put on Him a purple robe, and bowed the knee, and said, Hail! King of the Jews. And they smote Him in His face with their hands.' Yes, indeed: the Eternal Son, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, made Himself of no reputation! And that one word, of no reputation, makes us sinful men to stop and think. For, how we all live and labour for a reputation! How we are all puffed up with our reputation when it comes to us! And how we are all cast down when our reputation departs from us." --Thomas Watson
(HT: Rebecca Stark)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Incarnation

One of the most amazing miracles in the history of the world is the fact that God the Son became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. Ponder this helpful quote by John Frame regarding this most amazing truth:

"Have you ever considered the utter mystery surrounding the incarnation of Christ - God entering our time and space while remaining above time and space as our sovereign Lord? The eternal becomes temporal; the infinite becomes finite; the Word that created all things becomes flesh. It is beyond human comprehension.  The one who knows all things (John 16:30, 21:17) must "grow in wisdom" (Luke 2:52). The all-sufficient one (Acts 17:25) must hunger and thirst (Matt. 4:2, John 19:28). The creator of all must be homeless (Matt. 8:20). The Lord of life must suffer and die. God in the flesh must endure estrangement from God the Father (Matt. 27:46).  In Jesus (God the Son), God, who knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10), must watch His eternal plan unfold bit by bit, moment by moment. He grows from infancy to childhood to adulthood, responding to events as they happen. One time He rejoices; another time He weeps. From day to day, from hour to hour, the changeless God endures change. "                                --John Frame

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wayne Grudem On the Attributes of God

Below are some audio lectures by Wayne Grudem on the incommunicable attributes of God.  (For those who are wondering the incommunicable attributes of God are those that are unique to Him.)

Another Gift Idea

If you are looking for a Christmas present for someone who likes to read good books (or perhaps you are trying to figure out what to buy me for Christmas:)  ) then might I suggest N.T. Wright's masterpiece on The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Effects of a Diminished View of God's Holiness

What happens when we have an inadequate view of God's holiness?  Are there any practical effects of this doctrine? Is this just a doctrine that theologians have needlessly pontificated over? The following quote by David Wells explains some of the effects of a diminished view of God's holiness:

The loss of the traditional vision of God as holy is now manifested everywhere in the evangelical world. It is the key to understanding why sin and grace have become such empty terms. What depth or meaning, P.T. Forsyth asked, can these terms have except in relation to the holiness of God? Divorced from the holiness of God, sin is merely self-defeating behavior or a breach in etiquette. Divorced from the holiness of God, grace is merely empty rhetoric, pious window dressing for the modern technique by which sinners work out their own salvation. Divorced from the holiness of God, our gospel becomes indistinguishable from any of a host of alternative self-help doctrines. Divorced from the holiness of God, our public morality is reduced to little more than an accumulation of trade-offs between competing private interests. Divorced from the holiness of God, our worship becomes mere entertainment. The holiness of God is the [foundation of reality]. Sin is defiance of God's holiness, the Cross is the outworking and victory of God's holiness, and faith is the recognition of God's holiness. Knowing that God is holy is therefore the key to knowing life as it truly is, knowing Christ as he truly is, knowing why he came, and knowing how life will end.
--David Wells, No Place for Truth:  Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology

Friday, December 14, 2007

J.I. Packer On The Importance of Theology

J.I. Packer offers the following challenging thoughts on the importance of theology:

“Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”
- J. I. Packer, Knowing God

(HT: Joe Thorn)

Presidential Candidates on the Issues...

For those who are wanting to know more things about the presidential candidates than whether they believe in inerrancy or not check out the following links:

Top 5 NBA Teams...

The top 5 NBA teams as of 12/14 are:

5.  Denver Nuggets--(14-8 overall 4-1 in their last five)  Iverson and Anthony are starting to click as the Nuggets have won five of six.  Random Fact:  Marcus Camby is averaging 14.8 rebounds per game.

4. Detroit Pistons--(16-7 overall 3-2 in their last five)  The Pistons just know how to win.  They are one of the least selfish teams in the league.  Random Prediction:  Look for the Pistons to hand the Celtics their first home loss of the year on Wednesday December 19.  Random Fact:  All five of the Pistons Starters average in double figures.

3. Phoenix Suns--(17-6 overall 3-2 in their last five)  The Suns lost back to back games to the teams with the worst records in the league.  They then beat the Jazz in a slugfest.  Their back to back losses may have awakened a sense of focus in a team that was on cruise control.  Random Fact: Sometimes it is just about desire the      6' 10'' Amare Stoudamire averages 8.6 rebounds per game.  As a matter of comparison 6'4'' Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets averages 8.7 rebounds per game.

2. San Antonio Spurs (17-5 overall 3-2 in their last five) The Spurs beat the Mavericks and the Jazz, but then lost back to back road games against the Warriors and the Lakers.  In the loss to the Lakers neither Duncan or Parker played. Random Fact: Ginobili is the teams sixth man yet he leads them in scoring with 20.5 ppg while playing under 30 minutes per game.

1. Boston Celtics--(19-2 overall 5-0 in their last five) They have played a pretty light schedule so far, but their record says it all. While I still think the Spurs would win in a best of seven the Celtics move in to first place because of the Spurs recent losses. If the big three can stay healthy they should be the number one seed in the East. Random Fact: Posey is shooting almost 50% from three point range.

All ESV Bibles 45% Off

Westminster Bookstore has reduced the price of every one of their ESV Bibles to 45% off retail! Click Here to See the Details.  This would make a great gift for Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gentleness in the Pastorate

John Frame gave a talk some time ago about the need for gentleness in the pastorate.  If you are actively involved in preaching/teaching God's word and you have a passion for truth then I want to encourage you to read this article:

Indeed, there has been among us, I think, some confusion about what to do with gentleness. Certainly the old liberal theologians distorted the concept when they used it in effect to eliminate the wrath and judgment of God from their preaching. God, they said, was so gentle, so kind, that he would never punish anyone for sinning against him. Thus they robbed God of his justice; indeed, they replaced the biblical God with a grandfatherly, lenient, and indulgent god out of their own imaginations. Together with this distortion of God was a distortion of Jesus. The liberal Jesus was a kindly soul who hugged babies and patted lambs on the head, but who had within him not a drop of righteous anger or jealousy for the truth. For the liberal, surely, such a God and such a Christ would not approve of any stern measures to preserve the holiness of his church. In liberal churches formal discipline for doctrinal matters, indeed even for moral transgressions, became a thing of the past. Evangelicals understandably reacted against that misunderstanding of the divine gentleness. They heaped ridicule and scorn upon the "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" of the liberal theologians and set forth Jesus as the risen and ascended Lord of heaven and earth, who would soon return in flaming fire to bring his terrible judgments on the earth. C. S. Lewis's Aslan was, he reminded us, not a tame lion. Christ is a "tiger." And so, we have argued, there is a place for formal discipline in the church. Sometimes pastors must be stern, strong, jealous for the righteousness of God. Many Reformed teachers today, fortified by such teaching as Abraham Kuyper's "life is religion," Van Til's apologetics of antithesis, Jay Adams' nouthetic counseling and the dominion theology of the Christian reconstruction movement, especially emphasize that Christians are not to be wimps. We are not to meekly tolerate the wickedness of our society, but we are to be a true Christian army, putting on the whole armor of God, casting down imaginations, bringing every thought captive to Christ, conquering all human enterprises in the name of King Jesus. So swings the pendulum, from walk-all-over-me liberalism to dominion militancy...(Click here to read the entire article)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

David Powlison On Suffering

I thought this quote by David Powlison taken from Suffering and the Sovereignty of God was particularly insightful:

So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is Why me? Why this? Why now? Why?...[then] He comes for you, in the flesh, in Christ, into suffering, on your behalf. He does not offer advice and perspective from afar; He steps into your significant suffering. He will see you through, and work with you the whole way.... This reality changes the questions that rise up in your heart. That inward-turning "why me?" quiets down, lifts it's eyes, and begins to look around.

You turn outward and new, wonderful questions form. Why You? Why You? Why would You enter this world of evils? Why would You go through loss, weakness, hardship, sorrow, and death? Why would You do this for me, of all people? But You did. You did this for the joy set before You. You did this for love. You did this showing the glory of God in the face of Christ. As that deeper question sinks home, you become joyously sane. The universe is no longer supremely about you. Yet you are not irrelevant. God's story makes you just the right size. Everything counts, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard times. But you have already received something better which can never be taken away. And that better something will continue to work out the whole journey long...

Finally, you are prepared to pose—and to mean—almost unimaginable questions: Why not me? Why not this? Why not now?

(HT: Josh Harris)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Very Helpful Pastoral Wisdom...

John Piper was recently asked how he deals with the fact that most people do not spend much time in prayer or the word. Below is his transparent and very helpful response:

I have to battle discouragement, anger, and desires to just leave and find a little group of people who are totally sold out for the Lord. But the Lord enables me—at least he has over the years I've been at Bethlehem—to see that Jesus dealt with the same issues. He had 12 guys who all forsook him at the end. My people haven't all forsaken me. One of Jesus' closest friends denied him three times. I've never been denied like that in any crisis. Judas betrayed him utterly and handed him over to death. I've never been handed over to death.

My little battles with the sins of my people, which is an echo of my own sinfulness, is nowhere near as painful as what Jesus dealt with. Therefore I think it is a rebuke to me that I have to struggle as much as I do to be merciful and patient and kind.

The Bible is filled with exhortations to us shepherds that we love the sheep and recognize that they have to be led to green pastures and still waters, and that they're going to get lost and break their legs and dirty their wool. It's our job not to get uppity or angry with our people. Instead, we are to get down with them and do everything we can over the longhaul to keep lifting them up.

We're always going to be dealing with a defiled and imperfect and immature church. I don't think it will ever change. Right up until the day people die or Jesus comes the church will always be a gathering place for sinners, and some will be soaring and some will be stumbling, crawling, or leaving. Shepherds who have to have a perfect church are just not going to survive.

In other words, I preach the gospel to myself: that I have been loved with a patience so extraordinary that for me to turn around and show patience to my people and take them wherever they are and bring them along isn't that big of a sacrifice.

To read or listen to the complete interview click here

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Great Children's Book...

A friend of mine from Minneapolis wrote this wonderful children's book a few years ago. This would make a great Christmas present for those with kids or grandchildren. WTS is currently making the book available for 30% off. Click Here to learn more about the book.

Martin Luther's Preface to Romans

Looking for something to read on Paul that is pre-New Perspective? Consider Martin Luther's preface to Romans. The following is taken from the opening paragraph...

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture...(Click Here to continue reading)

Responses to Mitt Romney's Speech...

For those who are interested to see how people have been responding to Romney's speech check out the following links that Justin Taylor has highlighted:

Neuhaus on Romney's Speech (click here for a direct link to the article)

Hart on Romney's Speech (click here for a direct link to the article)

Hansen and Grudem on Romney's Speech (click here for a direct link to the article to Hansen's Response or Click Here for Wayne Grudem's Response)

Alex Chediak has also posted a response to Romney's Speech and it can be read by clicking here

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mike Huckabee: Gaining Momentum

Two recent articles reflect on Huckabee's continued surge in the preliminary polls:

1) Huckabee Rises to Second in GOP Race

2) Huckabee doubles up rivals in new Iowa poll

D.A. Carson Audio Lectures on Missions

Missions as the Triumph of the Lamb
(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Mark Driscoll on Women's Ministry

What does an outspoken Complementarian like Mark Driscoll think about the role of women in ministry in the context of the local church? His response may surprise some of you...

Krister Stendahl: The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West

Stendahl's article on the Introspective Conscience of the West contains some of the key ideas, in seminal form, that have been developed by the New Perspective. Click here to read the article

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Piper on Christians and Politics

John Piper was recently asked how Christians can have a positive influence on American politics. Below is his response:

Within churches, Christian organizations, and across the media, God can raise up spokesmen who--from a prophetic, radical, and biblical standpoint--can lay hold of that which is only seen in part by Republicans, Democrats, and Independants. They can then gather those biblical components together into a whole and, leaving party distinctives aside, exalt that...(click here to continue reading or listen to the interview)

Mitt Romney Speech on Faith in America

For those of you who are interested you can watch the speech on Faith in America that Mitt Romney gave in College Station, Texas on December 6, 2007:

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thinking About Changing Churches?

Mark Dever suggests the following helpful questions to ask and attitudes to cultivate before you leave a Church. (These are taken from his book What Is A Healthy Church).

Quick Tips:If You’re Thinking about Leaving a Church . . .
Before You Decide to Leave

1. Pray.

2. Let your current pastor know about your thinking before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel.

3. Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant?

4. Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships.

5. Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life—places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more (Matt. 7:3–5).

6. Be humble. Recognize you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt).

If You Go
1. Don’t divide the body.

2. Take the utmost care not to sow discontent even among your closest friends. Remember, you don’t want anything to hinder their growth in grace in this church. Deny any desire to gossip (sometimes referred to as “venting” or “saying how you feel”).

3. Pray for and bless the congregation and its leadership. Look for ways of doing this practically.

4. If there has been hurt, then forgive—even as you have been forgiven.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Bible: Giuliani, Romney, and Huckabee

One of the interesting questions asked during the YouTube debates was whether or not the candidates believed every word of the Bible. I do not think that belief in inerrancy should be one of the major qualifications for the next President of the United States, however, it is interesting to see how the candidates handled the question. Especially in the modern political scene where religion is often (and primarily) used as a playing card to foster "conservative" support. I appreciated Huckabee's forthrightness and clarity in addressing the questioin. Watch the video and share your thoughts in the comment section.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on The Excellency of Christ

"Would you have a Savior that has given some great and extraordinary testimony of mercy and love to sinners, by something that he has done, as well as by what he says? And can you think or conceive of greater things than Christ has done? Was it not a great thing for him, who was God, to take upon him human nature: to be not only God, but man thenceforward to all eternity? But would you look upon suffering for sinners to be a yet greater testimony of love to sinners, than merely doing, though it be ever so extraordinary a thing that he has done? And would you desire that a Savior should suffer more than Christ has suffered for sinners? What is there wanting, or what would you add if you could, to make him more fit to be your Savior?"
--Jonathan Edwards

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Modern Threats to the Church

D.A. Carson was recently asked what threats the Church is facing today. Below is his three minute response...

Note: Any videos recommended at the end of this video are done so by YouTube. In light of this, I do not recommend that you click on any of them.