My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"
29 June 2006
We also have a committee to revise the directory for public worship. There's nothing to vote on this year, but I imagine their update report will generate some debate as well. Their initial work relies on the idea that worship is covenant renewal; this is based on synod's adopted position paper on worship, which you can find here.
28 June 2006
If we really want to understand the times (1 Chr. 12:32), how do we do that? How do we best utilize the church's resources and get helpful information out to her pastors and churches?
How ought the church of Christ to address its political beliefs to the government?
How does the kingship of Christ impact our understanding of society beyond politics?
27 June 2006
- Home Mission Board: this was an encouraging update on where our denomination is focusing in church planting. This board is leading us in a 20/20 vision (20 new churches by 2020) and it looks like many churches and presbyteries are taking up the charge admirably. You can check out the HMB's website here.
- Foreign Mission Board: It's been a big year for the FMB; our mission to Sudan is really taking off well, by God's grace. This is Dave Long's (the most senior pastor) last year as head of the FMB. He's served very well in this big job for a while; synod gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.
Jim Pennington, long-time pastor and missionary to Japan, is our new moderator.
The retiring moderator, Dr. Jonathan Watt, preached on Hebrews 6:10 regarding God not forgetting our works, meager as they are. This morning Bob Hemphill, pastor of Westminster RPC in Denver, began our week's series on mercy ministries by preaching on the parable of the good Samaritan. The highlights:
- Charity is impossible apart from the work of the Spirit in our impovershed hearts.
- Charity is best exemplified by the awesome greatness of our Savior's service to us. Go thou and do likewise...
For your Mac vs. PC enjoyment.
23 June 2006
Several people in our church family are different stages of fighting cancer. One friend had his kidney removed this week. Through it all, I've been encouraged and rebuked - rebuked because of my lack of faith in our God who cares so deeply for His children. Encouraged, not so much by the faith of these dear saints (although there's much for me to learn there as well), but by the grace of God that shines so clearly through His own in times of distress.
This week in Proverbs, I'm preaching on the beginning of chapter 30, which states that "every word of God proves true." Because He knows the weakness of our faith, God keeps reminding us of His power and goodness and faithfulness. This is both to my shame and joy; shame that I need these lessons so often. Joy, for these are the sweetest lessons to learn.
Church planting: our location committee has met a couple times already, investigating and evaluating possible worship locations. We're narrowing it down, but there's some work left to do. There's also some waiting left to do; please pray that God would open the right doors and close the wrong ones.
Our synod's coming up next week in Beaver Falls, PA. Because of our denomination's past flirtations with teetotaling and legalism in that area, and because the issue of wine in communion may come to the floor of synod again this year, I was fascinated to hear about the Southern Baptist Convention's new resolution regarding alcohol (summary: they don't like and you shouldn't either).
This isn't about our opinions or habits regarding the use of alcohol; this is about legalism supported through misreading of Scripture.Justin Taylor commented on his blog (the whole post is very good):
I'm not sure how wise it is to pass resolutions that functionally condemn the actions of Jesus (John 2; Luke 7:33-34; ) and Paul (1 Tim. 5:23). I'm also not sure it's very wise to prohibit that which God has given as a gift (Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:15).
How can such a resolution be supported? By picking and plucking verses from Scripture without considering the whole. There are dire warnings in Scripture against drunkenness. But to present those apart from the rest of the Bible's teaching on alcohol (see the verses Taylor quoted) is to oppress God's people with His own Word. This is why our method of studying Scripture is as important as our belief in Scripture. For this we can't do better than to listen to our confession:
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. (Westminster Confession, 1.9)
This reminds me of a conversation I had a few weeks ago with another church planter. He was speaking of his method of preaching and commented that he "only tells the people what the verse says, without bringing in other parts of Scripture all the time." Perhaps to some this sounds noble, but it is a sure path to oppressing God's people with His own Word. This method of preaching effectively denies the unity of Scripture and the rule that Scripture is its own best interpreter. Couple this with preachers who don't preach systematically through the Bible, and you've got a wizard behind the curtain, pulling the strings to make the Bible says whatever he wants it to.
After gently chastising those of you who hadn't sought out the Derek Trucks Band, a fairly random phone call resulted in a friend's invitation to see the Allman Brothers Tuesday night; the opening act was none other than DTB themselves (Derek is the relatively new guitarist for the Allman Brothers, as well as Eric Clapton's band's new guitarist). My (new best) friend upgraded us to six rows back in the middle. Derek Trucks was the highlight of the night; it was the best guitar I've ever seen live. Even among the seasoned the Allman Brothers, his playing just made everybody else look like they were still taking lessons.
If you'd like to hear some of it, here's a bunch of DTB concerts you can download, all legal and approved by the FDA. So far I've listened to the concerts from the Wanee Festival and the House of Blues. That site itself is pretty cool, too; lots of concerts and other things archived by people who like doing that kind of thing.
Tomorrow is the last day for our garage sale. It sounds like some of the men will be manning the tables whilst the women throw a baby shower. Come on by, we'll give you a good deal.
20 June 2006
Everything is Illuminated - Based on the recent book with the same title, this movie tells the story of a Jewish man's journey to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life during World War II. It's a travelling movie, but also a Holocaust movie. As the story wanders, almost unravelling, then coming to a powerful conclusion, the title is shown to be the theme, that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. Frodo, um, Elijah Wood does a good job as the Jewish traveller, but is upstaged by his Ukranian guide, played by Eugene Hutz. Everything is quite funny and powerful and sweet. Very well done.[Note: Because of a couple "adult" conversations, this movie isn't for kids.]
Cinderella Man - In short: a good boxer loses too much, suffers during the Great Depression, has a chance for a comeback, supported by great wife and cute kids. The high points: Ron Howard's direction and the acting (Russell Crowe & Renee Zellweger), the power and beauty of a wife devoted to her husband, the depth of commitment men ought to have to their families, cool boxing action. The low points: Humanism + savior complex = nothing good (i.e., the idea that you just have to try hard enough and everything's going to be all right leads folk to find hope in all the wrong places), the repeated blasphemies by Paul Giamatti's character as he repeatedly used Jesus name in vain. This is as good a sports movie as you might see, but, underneath the shiny, tear-filled exterior, the lies of hope in humanity remain.
The Island - Where to begin? What might have been a clever concept (engineered clones trapped in a facility find out who they are and fight the man) is slicked-up and turned into one long product-placement video game. The acting isn't bad (but I'd like to get a count on the "come on!!" and "let's go!!" quotes), the action is pretty cool, there are some clever ideas, yet it's like a Twinkie (68% air). Instead of wrestling with biogenetic ethics, it's a simple good guys vs. bad guys action movie pretending to be heavy. And seriously, if they pack any more product placement into this movie, it might qualify as the most expensive commercial ever. Go read a good book.
Joss Stone, the Soul Sessions - We find ourselves split. I like this record, but it's a little too much soul for the wife. Anyhow, if you need some groovy yet romantical-type music, this might fit the bill. A good band, great singer, good songs.
Jim Hall & Pat Metheny - Two jazz guitar masters noodle around for an hour or so. Parts of this record are absolutely wonderful; for instance, the vastly different groove on "Summertime" is worth the price of admission. But the improv pieces will have all but the most dedicated jazz fans wincing a little bit. So, if you can get past the flights of fancy, this is a great album.
The Derek Trucks Band, Songlines - I've reviewed this before (scroll down a bit), but I'm simply astounded that you haven't bought it yet. Really. What are you waiting for? It's one of the best albums I've bought in years.
14 June 2006
I'm trying out del.icio.us. Here are my links so far.
Very good comments about federal vision theology, from a book review of Guy Waters' The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology by David Calhoun.
9Marks, a ministry of Mark Devers. Great interviews & articles!
13 June 2006
On Saturday we studied the lists of qualifications for the elders. While we were all sufficiently humbled by these lists, we were also encouraged by these two quotes from the church's past:
Regarding what it means to "desire" the position of elder (1 Tim. 3:1), Patrick Fairbairn:
It is not merely a post of honour, or a position of influence; not that primarily at least, or in its more direct aspect, but a work of active service, and one that from its very nature brings one into living fellowship with the pure and good. The seeking here intended, therefore, after such an office, must be of the proper kind, not the prompting of a carnal ambition, but the aspiration of a heart which has itself experienced the grace of God, and which longs to see others coming to participate in the heavenly gift.
Regarding what it means for elders to be blameless (1 Tim. 3:2), John Calvin:
He wishes a bishop to be blameless…that he must not be marked by any infamy that would lessen his authority. There will be no one found among men that is free from every vice; but it is one thing to be blemished with ordinary vices, which do not hurt the reputation, because they are found in men of the highest excellence, and another thing to have a disgraceful name, or to be stained with any baseness. In order, therefore, that a bishop may not be without authority, he enjoins that there shall be made a selection of one who has a good and honorable reputation, and not chargeable with any remarkable vice. Besides, he does not merely lay down a rule for Timothy what sort of person he must select, but likewise reminds every one of those who aspire to that rank, to institute a careful examination of himself and of his life.
So, if in my last post I could be so bold as to ask you to pray for your preachers, may I now ask you to pray for your elders; pray that their desire would be for God's glory and your good. Pray that they would indeed be blameless, that God would keep them from such sins that would lessen their authority and ability to guide you in His grace.
09 June 2006
Here's a great preacher's prayer from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers:
My Master God,
I am desired to preach today, but go weak and needy to my task;
Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth,
that an honest testimony might be born for You;
Give me assistance in preaching and prayer,
with heart uplifted for grace and unction.
Present to my view things pertinent to my subject,
with fullness of matter and clarity of thought,
proper expressions, fluency, fervency, a feeling sense of the things I preach,
and grace to apply them to men's consciences.
Keep me conscious all the while of my defects,
and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.
Help me to offer a testimony for You,
and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting Your mercy.
Give me freedom to open the sorrows of Your people,
and to set before them comforting considerations.
Attend with power the truth preached,
and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.
May they people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted,
and help me to use the strongest arguments drawn from Christ's incarnation and sufferings,
that men might be made holy.
I myself need Your support, comfort, strength, holiness,
that I might be a pure channel of Your grace,
and be able to do something for You;
Give me then refreshment among Your people,
and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way,
or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a REdeemer,
or be harsh in treating of Christ's death, its design and end, from lack of warmth and fervency.
And keep me in tune with You as I do this work.
07 June 2006
06 June 2006
Notes Few psalms speak so clearly of – and draw us so immediately to – Jesus Christ. The focus of this twenty-second Psalm is not necessarily the intricacies of the prophecies and their fulfillment, but the humility and humiliation of the Lord’s suffering servant. How is it that the King could ever suffer so much rejection and pain? More to the point of this song, how would the King deal with such rejection?
This song’s glory is that it remains a clear, direct window in the heart of our Savior on the cross. It’s a powerful song through which we come to know more deeply our precious Savior – not just to know of him, but to know him! And in knowing him, we can come to rejoice in our union with him all the more. In this section of the song, we see:
· Jesus’ cry for the Father’s presence (11), being truly in a position where no earthly help was available.
· Jesus’ awareness of his enemies, the “bulls of
· Jesus’ assessment of his heart-condition (14-15), that hope was gone and despair had begun its reign for the coming of the dust of death.
· Jesus’ assessment of his outward condition (16-18). These verses chronicle the realities of his crucifixion: surrounded by evildoers (Mt. 27:27-31), pierced hands and feet, clothing dispersed by gambling (Mt. 27:35), and the gloating of all those who thought they had won.
· Jesus’ second cry for the Father’s deliverance (19-20); even though he had been rejected by the Father, our Savior yet had the faith to believe that his Father would never abandon him to the grave (Acts 2:27). Committing his soul into the Father’s hands, Jesus submitted to the final, utmost cruelty sin has ever imposed: the death of the Son of God.
What are we to do with this song? Should not our hearts overflow with thanksgiving and wonder as we meditate on the suffering of Christ for us? Shouldn’t we be encouraged beyond description by this most vivid example of God’s love for us?
We can also see in this song from what Christ saved us; here in his despair is a perfect picture of hell, the just rewards of our own sin. Here is where we would be if the perfect sacrifice had not filled our place. So, for the heart of the Savior revealed and for the wonder of salvation made new again, this is one of our greatest songs of worship!
- Party in Hell. Hell, Michigan, is doing its best to capitalize on American evangelical superstition. (Justin, are you going? If so, pick me up one of the official titles to "1 square inch of Hell.")
- Tim Lahaye's newest end-times histrionics is arriving.
- The remake of Omen, the movie, is opening today.
And, oh yeah, the Lord's compassions are new this morning.
Pastor Long preached a powerful sermon on death Sunday morning. Part of the spirit of the Lazarus story is that, despite the real pain of what may come, Christ is over all for the church. It's a matter of heavenly, eternal perspective that ought to keep us in the right state of mind. Then Sunday night I preached on Proverbs 28, the first verse of which states unequivocally, "The righteous are as bold as a lion." Boldness, confidence, certainty. These are Biblical adjectives of Christ's church in relationship to the world.
While God's Word gives us no wiggle room in realizing that hard times may and will come, what is the foundational attitude the church is to have regarding this life, this world? Confidence! In ourselves? No. In our nation? Nope. In the progress of humanity? Nada. In the promises of Christ to build His church and include us in that great work? Absolutely!
To be clear, there are things to fear: we have an enemy far more powerful than us (though not more powerful than our King). But as long as our fear of evil drives us to Christ, as long as we believe Jesus when He speaks about His kingdom, the basis of our mission to this world is confidence. Whatever reasons lay behind American evangelicalism's culture of fear, it needs to be put in the grave. The slight broo-ha-ha of 6/6/06 is a reminder that the church's zeitgeist is to be blown and tossed by the wind by every wind of doctrine or hint of scandal.
When we live in confidence in the gospel, things will change. We will make decisions about our kids' schooling based on Christ's kingdom, not based on fear of what the public schools can do to our kids. We will be more evangelistic, believing that we lay hold to the very power of God for salvation for all who believe! We will view worship as a wonderful foretaste of heaven, not a life-preserving icebox of the soon-to-be raptured. And we will love our city. We will care for the environment. ...and so on.
Let's put away fear that denies the gospel promises of Christ. Let us, by the Spirit of power and love, put on confidence and boldness like a lion.
05 June 2006
02 June 2006
So, for any blokes and sheilas out there in internet-land, take good care of them!
I'm hunting. More precisely, I'm trapping.
There's a mouse in my office and he isn't letting me get much work done. He'll be gone soon.
We're headed camping this weekend; Lord willing, we'll see you on the flip side.