Saturday, April 30, 2011

the wisdom of God

New worship song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.  For lyrics go to the GettyMusic site.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

he is risen!

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, 'Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.'"  (Revelation 1:17-18 ESV)

Friday, April 22, 2011

good friday thoughts on the cross

"And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left."  (Luke 23:33 ESV)

"And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain..." (Revelation 5:6 ESV)

"There stands the mysterious cross—a rock against which the very waves of the curse break. He who so mercifully engaged to direct this judgment against Himself hangs yonder in profound darkness. Still He remains the Morning Star, announcing an eternal Sabbath to the world. Though rejected by Heaven and earth, yet He forms the connecting link between them both and the Mediator of their eternal and renewed amity. Ah, see! His bleeding arms are extended wide; He stretches them out to every sinner. His hands point to the east and west; for He shall gather His children from the ends of the earth. The top of the cross is directed toward the sky; far above the world will its effects extend. Its foot is fixed in the earth; the cross becomes a wondrous tree, from which we reap the fruit of an eternal reconciliation.”  

(F.W. Krummacher, "The Crucixion")

“Jesus is the divine curse-remover and creation-renewer. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross broke the curse of sin and death brought on by Adam’s cosmic rebellion. His bodily resurrection from the dead three days later dealt death its final blow, guaranteeing the eventual renewal of all things ‘in Christ.’

"The dimensions of Christ’s finished work are both individual and cosmic. They range from personal pardon for sin and individual forgiveness to the final resurrection of our bodies and the restoration of the whole world. Now that’s good news—gospel—isn’t it? If we place our trust in the finished work of Christ, sin’s curse will lose its grip on us individually and we will one day be given a renewed creation.

"The gospel isn’t only about reestablishing a two-way relationship between God and us; it also restores a three-way relationship among God, his people, and the created order. Through Christ’s work, our relationship with God is restored while creation itself is renewed. This is what theologians mean when they talk about redemption. They’re describing this profound, far-reaching work by God.”

(Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different)

"The Cross is the abyss of wonders, the centre of desires, the school of virtues, the house of wisdom, the throne of love, the theatre of joys, and the place of sorrows; It is the root of happiness, and the gate of Heaven." 

(Thomas Traherne, Centuries, #59)

Photo above by Diane Finlayson (

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

resources for the epistle to the hebrews

Dr. Thomas Constable's Notes on the Bible
(Scroll down to Hebrews -- free pdf download)

Dr. Jack Arnold's teaching notes on Hebrews. (Free online, downloadable.)

The New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) The Epistle to the Hebrews, by Paul Ellingworth.  (Book, technical, excellent.)

F F Bruce is always good on the text and background.  (Book.)

Various commentaries on Hebrews, online, free, verse by verse.

Commentary on Hebrews, by John Calvin.  (Online free, or download as pdf for small charge.)

Ligonier's top 5 commentaries on Hebrews (blog)

Audio MP3s...

Dr. S. Lewis Johnson's teaching series in Hebrews (at Believers Chapel in Dallas, TX)

John Piper's messages on Hebrews. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

leaving church part 3

This is a third missive from a close friend who moved away from our community and his first real home church, relocating to a new community.  Their search for a solid evangelical church has been eye-opening to me, as to the options in our American culture.  My friend is not extreme, nor too curmudgeonly, but is very perplexed by the three-ring-circus display of the kinds of churches which call themselves evangelical.

His first two installments are found here and here.

It occurs to me this morning that [our former church, a good experience, he says] also needs to prepare its congregants for moving out into the larger world beyond it.  There should be a program guiding such folk in finding their next church and how to live among the cacophonous mess that calls itself Christianity. 

[My daughter] has been invited to join a homeschooling house church. Fortunately, she has declined. One of their foundational beliefs is that creation occurred in six literal days (by which they mean 24-hour-days though they leave this unstated). This is third on their list, before a belief in Jesus as Savior, though perhaps I'm reading too much into the order of their presentation. Then again, it's not clear they believe that Jesus is God, only that he was begotten of God.

Anyway, we would appreciate a few prayers in support of our church search, though I am concluding we have little chance of finding something appropriate in this part of the world. My son has had much better fortune in finding a church [outside the U.S., in a developing nation].

I had hoped to recapture the feeling of looking forward all week to going to church rather than marching myself there out of a sense of duty toward my children and grandchildren. I no longer have this expectation. Now I'm just hoping we can find a church that teaches the Bible and does not have an obnoxious Sunday service after which many in the congregation stand around complaining about the noise or on better days giving thanks that this week they left out the drummer (as we did indeed rejoice about this past Sunday).

And I do not think this is a matter of seeking a pleasant experience according to my personal tastes, though it is about avoiding an unpleasant experience as church has become around here. 

I get challenged by some who question my belief that there are rules for worship. But surely not everything goes. If it did I would argue that we should gather together on Sunday morning and have a beer for Jesus. From what I'm reading in "Drinking with Luther and Calvin", the two reformers both thought (as do I) that beer and wine are gifts from God to be enjoyed freely. They wrote that enjoying strong drink was a form of expressing thanks for his Providence.

If smoke machines are OK, then why not flame machines? And how about that snake handling stuff, now that's really cool and its even in the Bible. And why shouldn't the girls and boys sit thigh to thigh on the same chair in the sanctuary on Sunday morning given that God made them to be attracted to each other and to appreciate each other's beauty? Or why not just turn Sunday morning into a men's pancake breakfast?

So I do conclude there are rules for Sunday morning corporate worship. And I do think that introducing elements into the service that will divide the body of Christ cannot be a good thing despite the fact that Rick Warren himself says its OK and just has to be accepted.


Monday, April 11, 2011

25 ways to be a servant-leader

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  (Mark 10:42-45 ESV)

From Men's Fraternity, "the Quest for Authentic Manhood", comes a list of ways to be a "servant-leader" to our family.  (NB. This is not a check list for this week, but rather objectives for a lifetime.)

The husband has a leadership role in marriage - the role of "servant leader."

1. A servant-leader includes his wife in envisioning the future.

2. A servant-leader accepts spiritual responsibility for his family.

3. A servant-leader is willing to say "I'm sorry" and "Forgive me" to his family. 

4. A servant-leader discusses household responsibilities with his wife and makes sure they are fairly distributed.

5. A servant-leader seeks the consultation of his wife on all major financial decisions.

6. A servant-leader follows through with commitments he has made to his wife.

7. A servant-leader anticipates the different seasons his marriage will pass through.

8. A servant-leader anticipates the different stages his children will pass through.

9. A servant-leader frequently tells his wife what he likes about her.

10. A servant-leader provides financially for his family's basic living expenses.

11. A servant-leader deals with distractions so he can talk with his wife and family.

12. A servant-leader prays with his wife on a regular basis.

13. A servant-leader initiates meaningful family traditions.

14. A servant-leader plans fun outings for the family on a regular basis.

15. A servant-leader takes the time to give his children practical instruction about life, which in turn gives them confidence with their peers.

16. A servant-leader manages the schedule of the home and anticipates any pressure points.

17. A servant-leader keeps his family financially sound and out of harmful debt.

18. A servant-leader makes sure he and his wife have drawn up a will and arranged a well-conceived plan for their children in case of death.

19. A servant-leader lets his wife and children into the interior of his life.

20. A servant-leader honors his wife often in public.

21. A servant-leader explains sex to each child in a way that gives them a wholesome perspective.

22. A servant-leader encourages his wife to grow as an individual.

23. A servant-leader takes the lead in establishing with his wife sound, biblically-supportable family values.

24. A servant-leader joins a small group of men who are dedicated to improving their skills as a man, husband, and father.

25. A servant-leader provides time for his wife to pursue her own personal interests.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

truly non-partisan

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.  (1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ESV)

One remedy for "boasting in men" is to realize that the people we boast about, or unduly admire, or put our trust in -- whether teachers, preachers, mentors, counselors, leaders, musicians or artists -- are actually given to us by one God for our own advancement in glory, not for the glorying of celebrities. 

But to go further: "all things are yours".  Included in this...

"The world is yours."  (If we belong to God, we will inherit the earth.  Even now, all things that happen in the world happen for the good of God's people.)

"Life is yours."  (We have the gift of life, now and eternally.  This cannot be lost.)

"Death is yours."  (This is important to remember, too, that following Jesus may bring us the privilege of dying for his name.  But such a death does not separate us from God, rather it is one more aspect of the image of Christ upon us.)

"The present is yours."  (We are called to live in the "now" by his power and grace.  The present tense is a gift from God to us.)

"The future is yours."  (Our future is as bright as the promises of God!)

"You are Christ's, and Christ is God's.  (Our freedom and glory is not one that is autonomous, and yet our inheritance is gloriously unbounded.  We are united to God through Jesus, and therefore "all things are ours."  So we don't have to be petty and partisan and prone to celebrity-itis.  If we have the gospel straight we don't need to divide up in little groups on the basis of a popular teacher or preacher.)