Friday, August 31, 2007

Congregational Singing

Bob Bixby, an old college friend of mine and now a pastor in Illinois, has posted a great piece on congregational singing. If at all possible, read it before Sunday and come to church prepared to give God your all by faith!

With Reverence and Awe

Last Sunday, as we looked at Hebrews 11-12, we discovered that worship that is acceptable to God flows from gratitude. This gratitude is produced as faith grasps the realities of what God has given us in Christ. Furthermore, acceptable worship is accompanied by reverence and awe.

But what is "reverence and awe"? In some ways that seems like an easy question; we know what the words mean. But in practice, this is a different matter. It seems that in America we have no cultural pattern of reverence. It may, in fact, be considered a bad thing, for it means thinking and feeling that another is better or greater than I am. We are conditioned not to give instinctive deference to authority, and if we do give deference, it is only because we believe we will benefit from it. When we meet someone, we shake hands; we do not bow.

But on the other hand, I believe that we do have patterns of reverence in our society. The problem is that it is reverence for all the wrong things. Celebrities, rock stars, and sports stars receive great adulation and deference. The monk Thomas Merton famously wrote that advertising treats all products with the reverence due to the sacraments. While we wouldn't agree with his approach to the sacraments, his point is well taken. In our idolatrous culture, people and things take the place of God in our worship, and the "reverence" we display is appropriate to its object.

The challenge for us as believers, then, is to re-learn what reverence and awe looks like when it is directed toward the one true and living God. The author of Hebrews reminds us that he is a consuming fire. Acceptable worship must take this into account.

Songs
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (#52)
Fairest Lord Jesus (#21)
How Great Thou Art (#28)
Psalm 95
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)

Sermon
With Reverence and Awe - Hebrews 12:28-29

We will also celebrate the Lord's Supper together.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 11 - Justification


11.5 God continues to forgive the sins of all the justified. They can never lose their justification; but they may, by reason of sin, fall under God's fatherly displeasure; in which case, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg God's pardon, and renew their faith and repentance, God will not usually restore to them 'the light of His countenance'. [Ps. 32:5; Ps. 51; Ps. 89:31-33; Matt. 6:12; 26:75; John 10:28; 1 John 1:7,9.]

11.6 Believers in Old Testament times were justified in precisely the same way as New Testament believers. [Rom. 4:22-24; Gal. 3:9.]

The Local Church Is God's Plan

This article about ministerial students wanting to serve God in ways other than the local church reminded me again of how lowly the local church is in the eyes of many Christians today. Oftentimes Christians have experienced problems in local churches or little seeming productivity, so they immediately gravitate toward something that seems to promise fewer problems or greater results. Yet I believe that in the long run all the alternatives to local church ministry actually work to undercut our ability to make mature disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the NT the local church is God's plan for making disciples in the world today. I believe that those activities which fall within the parameters of the mission and purpose of the church should be reserved to the church. This is the God-given structure in which we are to carry out his work. Christians may participate in other legitimate activities and organizations; however, these should not be considered equivalent to the mission of the church. For example, Christians who wish to apply their Christian principles to politics may rightly do so (in fact we all must do so), and they may determine that they would like to form a political action committee to accomplish this objective. This is good. But it is not good for them to claim that they are fulfilling the Great Commission or making disciples of Jesus Christ by doing so. Jesus Christ did not leave his disciples with a political agenda that they were to pass on to others. Christ’s disciples are responsible to pass on the truth of God’s Word, and this is properly the function of the church.

Here is another example which might be more controversial. I believe that the job of training ministers of the gospel should not be delegated out to para-church organizations. I am all for having well educated pastors, but we must not confuse qualifications for the ministry with a Bible college or seminary degree. The only real place where the biblical qualifications for ministry can be developed and assessed is in the local church. See this article by John Frame for a similar perspective.

American Christianity has been explosively creative about developing models of ministry outside of and apart from the local church. If we had put that much energy and thought into developing our local churches, we might find ourselves in a very much improved spiritual situation right now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Church Membership - Again

Pulpit Magazine has a good two part article on "Why Membership Matters." You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

How To Listen To A Sermon

Blogger Tim Challies has posted a useful and challenging excerpt from George Whitfield on how to listen to a sermon. I am going to take these recommendations to heart!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Acceptable Worship

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be at the foot of Mt. Sinai when God met with the Israelites there? It is hard to imagine a more awesome, terrible manifestation of the presence of God - blazing fire, darkness, storms, a voice which spoke with such unbelievable power that those who heard it literally thought they were going to die. Even Moses, the man of such intimate acquaintance with God, said, "I tremble with fear." When faced with such a God of overwhelming power and holiness, what could we do except worship? To do otherwise, to turn away from him, to treat him lightly, would have been the height of folly.
But now consider this - it is even more foolish to turn away from the grace of God now offered in Jesus Christ. The privileges and blessings of the gospel are so awesome that it should produce in us extreme gratitude which moves us to worship God with reverence and awe.
This is what we will meditate on and commit ourselves to this Sunday. Please be in prayer that God will give you and each one of those who attend the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him as we meet together.

Songs
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (#23)
Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)
He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions (#149)
Our Great High Priest Is Sitting (#173)
Arise, My Soul, Arise (#174)
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)

Scripture Reading
The Untouchable God - Exodus 19

Sermon
Acceptable Worship - Hebrews 12:18-29

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 11 - Justification

11.3 By His obedience and death Christ paid in full the debt of all those who are justified. By the sacrifice of Himself in His blood-shedding on Calvary, and His suffering on their behalf of the penalty they had incurred, He fully and absolutely satisfied all the claims which God's justice had upon them. Yet their justification is altogether of free grace, firstly because Christ was the free gift of the Father to act on their behalf; secondly because Christ's obedience and His satisfying the demands of the law was freely accepted on their behalf; and thirdly because nothing in them merited these mercies. Hence God's exact justice and His rich grace are alike rendered glorious in the justification of sinners. [Isa. 53:5,6; Rom. 3:26; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:6,7; 2:7; Heb. 10:14; 1 Pet.1:18,19.]

11.4 From all eternity God decreed to justify all the elect, and in the fullness of time Christ died for their sins and rose again for their justification. Nevertheless they are not justified personally until, in due time, the Holy Spirit actually applies to them the benefits of Christ's Person and work. [Rom. 4:25; Gal. 3:8; Col. 1:21, 22; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Pet. 1:2.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Socialization?

Probably the number one question homeschoolers receive is "What about socialization?" If you have ever wondered what to say in answer to that question, Home School Legal Defense Association President J. Michael Smith has a very good response.

More on the Importance of Local Church Membership

We've been talking a lot at our church lately about the church, particularly the local church, and the importance of our participation in it. (You can here our sermons on this topic here.)

Presbyterian pastor Ligon Duncan has some more good thoughts on this when he notes that the local church is the place that Jesus chose for discipleship. Very Important!

Thoughts about the Medium and the Message...From an Unlikely Source

What does Calvin and Hobbes (yes, the comic strip, not the theologian and the philosopher) have to teach us about Christianity? Click here to find out.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Consecrated Ears

I haven't been able to post much this week. Something about preparing for an ordination council keeps me busy. But I would like to share just a little meditation in preparation for tomorrow's service.

My brother and I have been memorizing Scripture together. Every Saturday I email the verses I have learned to him over in Iraq, and whenever he can he sends an email to me with the verses he has memorized. Currently we are working on Psalm 40, and as I thought about it today, it seemed a perfect passage to prepare our hearts for our corporate hearing of the Word tomorrow.

Today I was meditating on Psalm 40:4-8. This is a bit of a difficult passage, as can be seen by comparing some different translations, so I did just a little bit of study on it to help myself understand it. The thought of v. 5 connects with v. 4, expressing the blessedness of God’s protection. God did not forget David (i.e. God’s thoughts were toward him). He did many mighty deeds of deliverance for David, more than David could even recount. Because of this, David expressed total consecration to the Lord in vv. 6-8. In v. 6 he is probably talking about the sacrifices offered after the victorious military campaign. David realized that it was not the mere presentation of the ritual offerings that God really wanted; it was a total personal commitment to God. That commitment showed in that David had open ears. The idea is that David listened to and internalized God’s will. His total commitment to God meant that he listened to what God had to say, and he then responded by complete obedience. He passionately desired to do God’s will.

This little passage really is a beautiful expression of total consecration to God. These words were applied to Christ in Hebrews 10:5-7. That is the challenge for you and me as we meditate on this passage. When we think about the great deliverance that God has worked in our lives, we should be moved to listen intently to God’s Word, to meditate carefully on its meaning, and to passionately obey God’s will.

Let's think about "open ears" and our time of corporate worship tomorrow.

1. Notice that God gives open ears. Pray that God will give you open ears. The most terrible fate of anyone would be to hear the Word of God while having heavy ears (Isa 6:10; Jer 5:21), for when the life-giving Word falls upon ears that will not hear, it is God's judgment.
2. Notice that open ears are the manifestation of and the gateway to a consecrated heart. Do we approach the hearing of God's Word with an utter abandonment to his will? Hearing God's Word this way is an act of total worship, complete consecration to him and to what he wants from us. And when we receive God's Word this way, it takes up residence in the core of our beings, so that every thought and action becomes a conduit for expressing the passionate commitment we have to obey God.

I'm looking forward to a gathering of consecrated ears tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 11 - Justification

11.1 GOD freely justifies the persons whom He effectually calls. He does this, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins and by accounting them, and accepting them, as righteous. This He does for Christ's sake alone, and not for anything wrought in them or done by them. The righteousness which is imputed to them, that is, reckoned to their account, is neither their faith nor the act of believing nor any other obedience to the gospel which they have rendered, but Christ's obedience alone. Christ's one obedience is twofold-His active obedience rendered to the entire divine law, and His passive obedience rendered in His death. Those thus justified receive and rest by faith upon Christ's righteousness; and this faith they have, not of themselves, but as the gift of God. [John 1:12; Rom. 3:24; 4:5-8; 5:17-19; 8:30; 1Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 1:7; 2:8-10; Phil. 3:8,9.]

11.2 The faith which receives and rests on Christ and His righteousness is the sole means of justification. Yet it is never alone in the person justified, but is invariably accompanied by all other saving graces. Nor is it a dead faith, for it works by love. [Rom. 3:28; Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:17,22,26.]

Emotional Religion

Dr. Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, recently addressed the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship annual meeting on the topic of emotion in religion. It will be well worth your time to listen to his message!

Explaining the Baby Bust

Albert Mohler discusses a good article on why Europe's birth rate has declined so precipitously.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Election

Pulpit magazine has been posting some good articles about election. Today there is a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on the topic.

What Are We Doing Here?

Note: I am going to begin posting our Sunday morning service information here on the blog, as I have been doing at our church website. My hope is that this will help you to prepare in your heart and in your family for our corporate worship.


What are we doing here? Every person and every human institution must ask and answer that question, at least implicitly. Christ gave churches the answer to that question when he said, "Go... and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you."
Make disciples. That is what we are doing here. It is a great job with a great outcome.

Songs
Come, Thou Almighty King (#63)
Arise, My Soul, Arise (#174)
Only Trust Him (#297)
There Is a Fountain (#267)
Amazing Grace (#247)
What Think Ye of Christ? (#363) [This one may be unfamiliar to many of you. If you have an opportunity, it would be good to look it up before Sunday morning.]

Scripture Reading
Being Christ's Witnesses - Acts 26

Sermon
Make Disciples - Matthew 28:18-20

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Death is a Right...And a Duty

Albert Mohler has an excellent post this morning about one huge problem involved in believing that death is a personal right. That problem is that the right to die inevitably devolves into a duty to die, especially for those deemed disabled or a social burden. He concludes:

Calls for assisted suicide arise at the intersection of human despair and political opportunity. The absence of a Christian worldview leaves personal autonomy as the foundation of ethical choice. Death becomes, of all things, a matter of individual rights.

The only real alternative to this logic is the framework of the biblical worldview -- a worldview that understands every single human life to be sacred, every individual to possess full human dignity, all life to be a stewardship, and death to be a matter for God, not we ourselves, to decide.

Make no mistake. When death is claimed as a right, it will soon become a duty. You don't have to be in a wheelchair to see where that leads.

I would like to tack on this related thought, even though it is a bit tangential. One way to fight this kind of public policy is to head it off at the pass before it ever gets to the point of debating about a "right" to die. We can do this by taking the responsibility for health care out of the hands of the government and restoring it to families. One of the major levers that pro-euthanasia activists use to pry public opinion and legislative votes to their side is the "social cost" of taking care of elderly or disabled people. But if the government is not footing the bill for the care of these people, then they have no more traction. Restoring health care to the family would be a difficult step in America, due to the fragmented nature of the family and the lack of personal responsibility (i.e. it is always easier to vote to get the government to do something for me than it is to try to do it myself), not to mention the deeply entrenched special interests of the health care industry. But Christians can and should take the lead in such changes, if for no other reason than that we have direct biblical teaching that leads us toward this way of life (1 Thess 4:11-12; 1 Tim 5:4, 8, 16).

Loading the Truck

Last night we had a great discussion on sharing the gospel with those who feel they are righteous or who are trying to achieve righteousness through their good works. A good approach is what Jesus modeled for us with the rich young ruler. We need to "load the truck" with the whole moral law of God so that they can feel the enormous weight of the burden they are trying to carry. When they realize they can't do it, then they are in a position to hear the gospel.

If you can come on Wednesdays, it is a great time of fellowship and learning in Christ!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 10 - Effectual Calling

10.3 Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases. The same is true of all elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called through the preaching of the gospel. [John 3:3,5,6,8.]

10.4 Men who are not elected, even though they may be called upon to embrace salvation by the preachers of the gospel, and may be the subjects of some common operations of the Spirit, cannot be saved, because they are not effectually drawn to Christ by the Father, for which reason they neither can, nor will, truly come to Him. Much less can men who do not receive the Christian religion be saved, no matter how diligent they are to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the teachings of the religion which they follow. [Matt. 13:20,21; 22:14; John 4:22; 6:44,45,65; 17:3; Acts 4:12; Heb. 6:4-6; 1 John 2:24,25.]

In section 10.3, the confession swims into some deep theological waters where the sunlight of revelation does not penetrate clearly. Not only are these deep theological waters, they are deep emotional waters. Who can go through the pain of a miscarriage or the death of a young child without that pain wrenching these kinds of questions from her mind? Who can view the horrors of abortion without wondering what becomes of all these poor children murdered in the womb? In light of this, it is tempting to try to squeeze something out of the Bible to answer our questions. However, the truth is that we simply do not have sufficient biblical revelation to be able to assert unequivocally what happens to children we know who die in infancy.

This does not mean, however, that we have no guidance from the Bible. There are some things that we do know which can help guide our thinking in this doctrinally and emotionally challenging area.
1. We do know that infants are not innocent and that they deserve God's wrath. From conception they are viewed by God as guilty (Ps 51:5) because the guilt of Adam's sin has been reckoned to their account (Rom 5:12), and their sin nature manifests itself immediately after birth (Ps 58:3). It is false to claim, as some have, that Christ's sacrifice wipes out Adamic guilt for everyone so that infants are considered innocent until they commit their own sins.
2. If infants are to be saved, it must be on the basis of Christ's redemptive work and the application of that work to the infant by the Holy Spirit. Without regeneration, there is no hope of salvation (John 3:3).
3. It is possible for God to elect, call, and regenerate infants. This is certainly not God's normal mode of operation, for he normally calls people to himself through the proclamation of the gospel. Yet there is no biblical reason to believe that he could not or would not regenerate infants.

Perhaps it is impossible for us to go much beyond this point with the revelation we have. We do know that God is a saving God who delights to display the glory of his grace, so we might suppose that he would elect, call, and regenerate multitudes (maybe all) of those who die in infancy. But we must also realize that God would be entirely just to leave all humans in their sin. So we cannot venture to predict what God would do in any given situation. We can be confident that God will do what will bring the most glory to him and be the most good for all of his creation. We must trust God, and, like Job, lay our hands on our mouths if we are tempted to question God's justice.

So, the statement of the confession proves to be a model of judicious theological statement. It affirms all that we do know from the Bible, without delving into speculation.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Statement on Church Discipline

As a follow-up to our sermon Sunday morning, please read this statement on church discipline provided by Don Whitney. This is about as clear and concise a statement on this topic as I have found anywhere.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Will the Real Men Please Stand Up?

Here is a link to a challenging post by Presbyterian pastor Tim Bayly on men protecting women and children from danger. It is most interesting because it is in the context of missionary work. I am thankful that Pastor Bayly is posting these ideas. They need to be heard in our day. It may not be too long before Christians have to take a stand on women being drafted into the military. If we don't understand these principles in our churches, how can we expect to live them out in a world that is intent on destroying them?

Hanging Over the Pit of Hell...On a Bridge

Albert Mohler uses Jonathan Edwards' sermon "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God" for some timely words on the tragedy in Minneapolis.

Update: Desiring God ministries has posted a video of the scene with a challenging message from John Piper.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 10 - Effectual Calling

10.1 AT a time appointed by and acceptable to God, those whom God has predestinated to life are effectually called by His Word and Spirit out of the state of death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. Their minds are given spiritual enlightenment and, as those who are being saved, they begin to understand the things of God. God takes away their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh. He renews their will, and by His almighty power He sets them to seek and follow that which is good, at the same time effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ. And to all these changes they come most freely, for they are made willing by divine grace. [Deut. 30:6; Ps. 110:3; Song 1:4; Ezek. 36:26,27; Acts 26:18; Rom. 8:30; 11:7; Eph. 1:10,11,17,19; 2:1-6; 2 Thess. 2:13,14.]

10.2 God's effectual call is the outcome of His free and special grace alone. Until a man is given life, and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is dead in sins and trespasses, so is entirely passive in this work of salvation, a work that does not proceed from anything good foreseen in him, nor from any power or agency resident in him. The power that enables him to answer God's call and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, is no less than that which effected the resurrection of Christ from the dead. [John 5:25; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:19-20; 2:5,8; 2 Tim. 1:9.]