Friday, September 28, 2007

Loving the Lord Your God Alone

Have you ever wondered what it actually looks like to love the Lord our God with all of your heart? I have. That's why I am so excited about our new study from the book of Deuteronomy which commences this week. I am excited about studying it myself, but I am particularly excited about living it out together as a church. What honor can go to Christ as we do that!

Songs
All Glory, Laud, and Honor (#11)
Praise Ye Jehovah (#4)
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#495)
O God, Our Help in Ages Past (#49)
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (#23)
How Good Is the God We Adore (#738) Note: This hymn may be unfamiliar to many. Try learning it this week in your household.

Scripture Reading
Jesus is Lord - John 5:1-29

Sermon
Remember Who Is the Lord - Deuteronomy 1-3

God's Absolute Sovereignty

In Pulpit magazine today, John MacArthur has a good post on God's absolute sovereignty. Take a look at it.

Church Planting

Albert Mohler has a thoughtful blog post on church planting today. Having now been involved in church planting myself, I entirely concur with him when he says that one inescapable question that must be asked is, "What is a church?" This seems like an obvious question, but I'm not sure that we (and I include myself here) have adequately answered this question. We need to further wrestle biblically with questions such as
  • When is it biblically appropriate to start a new church in an area where there is already a gospel-preaching church?
  • Are we hindering the progress of the gospel long-term by multiplying ministries just to get our particular flavor?
  • Are we practically denying the unity of the body of Christ by starting churches focused on particular demographic groups?
Much more could be considered. But I would say that ecclesiology is a front burner issue for us if we want to advance the cause of Christ in a lasting and eternal way.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Integrating Families for Accomplishing God's Purposes

As you folks know, at our church we work on intentionally building a multi-generational perspective. We work to integrate families for the cause of Christ. Interestingly, a leading NT scholar has recently endorsed this basic idea on his blog. Dr. Andreas Kostenberger has posted some thoughts entitled "Kingdom Families" which I would encourage you to read. While Dr. Kostenberger's practice may differ from ours somewhat, I am thankful that he is putting these ideas out there. Our churches need to seriously consider this topic.

P.S. Dr. Kostenberger has written a book on the family which is must reading for anyone who wishes to study this topic. It is entitled God, Marriage, and Family (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004). I would encourage you to get it. He has also contributed a chapter entitled "Marriage and Family in the New Testatment" to the volume Marriage and Family in the Biblical World, ed. Ken Campbell (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003).

Human Rights and Justice in War

For those of you who are interested in the just war issues, especially concerning our country's current war on terror, then I believe you will find Keith Pavlischek's article "Human Rights and Justice in an Age of Terror" to be a good response to some thinking erroneously labeled "evangelical."

Building a Culture of Faithfulness (Part 3)

Creation, Mankind, and the Fall

Along with recognizing who God is, recognizing what God does is a most important part of our understanding of life. God planned, created, and controls the universe with a special creature in it – mankind. Here is where we come into the story as we know it.

God Created the Universe

Before time began, when God was all that was, God planned this great universe in which we live. God has a single, all-encompassing purpose or plan (Eph 1:11; 3:11; Rom 8:28), which was freely made (Eph 1:11; Ps 115:3; 135:6; cf. Isa 40:13-14; Rom 11:34). It is eternal (Isa 22:11; 37:26; Acts 15:18; Eph 3:11; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20), and it does not change (Ps 33:11; Isa 14:24; 46:9-10; Acts 2:23; Jas 1:17). God has no plan B, nor could he ever need one. This plan is universal (Prov 16:4; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11). It includes the material universe (Ps 119:89-91), the rise and fall of rulers (Acts 17:26; Rom 13:1), the length of one’s life (Job 14:5; John 7:30), the circumstances of each one’s life (James 4:13-15), the manner of one’s death (John 21:19), the free acts of men whether good (Isa 44:28; Eph 2:10) or evil (Gen 50:20; Lam 2:17; Amos 3:6; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Rom 11:25-26, 31), the salvation of believers (Eph 1:5; 1 Peter 1:2), the doom of the ungodly (1 Peter 2:8), great world events (Rev 13:8; 17:17), and even the most trivial circumstances (Job 36:32; Prov 16:33; Matt 10:29-30).

Furthermore, this plan is unconditional or absolute. It does not depend upon any pure contingency (Eph 1:11). My systematic theology professor in seminary, Rolland McCune, whose ghost walks through many of these pages, said, “If one speck of cosmic dust is on the loose in an area of pure chance, then everything else is affected to a lesser or greater degree. If one raindrop or snowflake falls with absolute randomness, then the whole universe is suspended on a lesser or greater degree of randomness.” God’s plan also incorporates the means to the desired ends (Prov 16:9; Ezek 36), as well as the results of any planned event or entity (e.g. Acts 2:23). Therefore, this plan makes certain everything that happens (Isa 14:27; 43:13; Dan 4:35; Acts 13:29).

We must note carefully, however, that this plan does not impair human responsibility in the least. In fact, it actually establishes man’s responsibility to God. God’s plan makes all things certain, but God does not force, coerce, or compel men against their wills. Men are free to choose according to their own natures. Men are always responsible to God for their choices (Matt 18:7; Luke 22:22).

From this we can see that the universe God planned is the direct opposite of the universe according to the evolutionary hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, everything that happens takes place according to random chance. But “chance” or “luck” does not exist in God’s universe.

God did not leave his plan on the drawing board. He put it into action by creating the universe. Creation is the Triune God’s free act of making all things out of nothing in six days, all very good, for his own glory (Gen 1:1-31; Col 1:16; Rev 4:11). This creation was made out of nothing (ex nihilo). It was supernatural and instantaneous (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, etc.). It was after its kind (Gen 1:11, 12, etc). It had the appearance of age (Gen 1, 2), and it was very good (Gen 1:31). It was perfectly suited for God’s intended purpose.

It is very important that we understand the relationship between God and the universe that he made. The proper relationship can be illustrated this way:






CREATION IS DISTINCT FROM GOD YET ALWAYS DEPENDENT ON GOD[i]

Once God created his universe, he did not leave it to go its own way. He controls his universe. This is usually called his providence. He preserves his universe by upholding all of properties he gave to the universe (Neh 9:6; Heb 1:3). This means that God is at work in and through everything that happens. And as he upholds his universe, he controls everything he has created in order to fulfill his perfect plan (Ps 103:19; Prov 19:21; 21:1; Rom 8:28). Everything we experience, from sunshine and wind to automobiles to love, is ultimately from God’s hand.

All of this underscores the fact that what God does, he does as the Lord (Exod 6:7; Deut 6:4-5; Rom 10:9)! God is the living and active God, and in all his actions he acts as God. We will never come to grips with the realities of this world (i.e. gain wisdom), if we do not observe and respond to God as Lord.

God Created Mankind in His Image

In addition to understanding who God is and what he does, we must also make sense of who we are and what we are to do. God directly and supernaturally created man as male and female in holiness in his own image (Gen 1:26-30; 2:7, 18-25; Matt 19:4). All human beings are descended from Adam and Eve (Gen 3:20; 9:19; Acts 17:26). To be “in God’s image” means that mankind was created as a personal, spiritual, and moral being in order to relate to God and be his representative ruler on earth (Gen 1:26-28; 5:1; 9:6). Therefore, the ultimate reason for man’s existence is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever (Ps 63:1; 1 Cor 10:31; Rev 4:11).

Many crucial points flow from this biblical teaching. Mankind has not evolved. He has dignity and is qualitatively distinct from animals. He has a specific nature and purpose given by God according to which he must function. He is responsible to God. He was created to have a relationship with God. But…

Mankind Rebelled Against God

Mankind and the universe are not now like God created them. Why not? The answer is what we call the Fall. Adam and Eve fell from their state of holiness by sinning against God (Gen 3:1-6).

“Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature”[ii] (1 John 3:4; 5:17). Sin is fundamentally refusing to honor God as God. Because Adam was the representative of the human race, God reckoned (imputed) the guilt of his sin to all mankind. In addition, every person receives from Adam by birth a corrupt nature, leading to all kinds of sins (Ps 51:5; Rom 3:23; 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:21-22). Because of sin, all men are separated from God and are the objects of his wrath, and so are subject to all miseries in this life, to death, and to the torment of hell forever (Rom 6:23a; Rev 20:15). Everyone is totally depraved, alienated from God and under his condemnation, and completely unable to do anything to contribute to salvation (Rom 1:18-32; 3:10-19; Eph 2:1-3).

Mankind’s sin not only affected humans; it affected all of creation (Gen 3:14-19; Rom 8:20-22). There is not a rock in the dirt that has not been impacted by God’s curse in response to sin. Besides the material world around us, sin has affected all forms of human society (Gen 4-11). Human societies are inveterately idolatrous, constantly replacing the worship of the one true and living God with worship of creatures and created things.

As we interpret the world around us, we must always remember that it was created good but has been corrupted by evil. All human activities are tainted by sin.

Excerpt from The Buried Life

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,

But often, in the din of strife,

There rises an unspeakable desire

After the knowledge of our buried life:

A thirst to spend our fire and restless force

In tracking out our true, original course;

A longing to inquire

Into the mystery of this heart which beats

So wild, so deep in us – to know

Whence our lives come and where they go.



[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 268. See Grudem for illustrations of the false relationships between God and the universe in materialism, pantheism, dualism, and deism.

[ii] Ibid., 490.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 14 - Saving Faith

14.1 THE grace of faith by which the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls is the work of the Spirit in their hearts. Normally it is brought into being through the preaching of the Word. By the Word and its ministry, by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, by prayer, and also by other means appointed by God, faith is increased and strengthened. Luke 17:5; Acts 20:32; Rom. 10:14,17; 2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 2:8; 1 Pet. 2:2.

14.2 By faith a Christian believes everything to be true that is made known in the Word, in which God speaks authoritatively. He also perceives in the Word a degree of excellence superior to all other writings, indeed to all things that the world contains. The Word shows the glory of God as seen in His various attributes, the excellence of Christ in His nature and in the offices He bears, and the power and perfection of the Holy Spirit in all the works in which He is engaged. In this way the Christian is enabled to trust himself implicitly to the truth thus believed, and to render service according to the different requirements of the various parts of Scripture. To the commands he yields obedience; when he hears threatenings he trembles; as for the divine promises concerning this life and that which is to come, he embraces them. But the principal acts of saving faith relate in the first instance to Christ as the believer accepts, receives and rests upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life; and all by virtue of the covenant of grace. Ps. 19:7-10; 119:72; Isa. 66:2; John 1:12; 15:14; Acts 15:11; 16:31; 24:14; Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 11:13.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Building a Culture of Faithfulness (Part 2)

A Biblical Understanding of the World

As we begin, it is necessary to understand that from a biblical perspective there are only two basic world views: Christian and non-Christian. There are various types of these two worldviews, but they all boil down to these two. They can be distinguished by their presuppositions – that is, their most fundamental convictions about reality, knowledge, and conduct. The Christian worldview holds that “the one living and true God has self-attestingly revealed Himself in the Christian Scriptures.”[i] The non-Christian worldview is based upon unbelief and an unwillingness to submit to Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. From the Bible we learn the framework of reality through which we can properly interpret the world.

The Personal, Triune God Is Great and Good

Men, have you ever stopped to think about the difference between your car, your dog, and your wife? Even to make this comparison invites your wife’s scorn or wrath. Why? Because you know that your wife is in an entirely different category from your car or your dog. She is a person. Without even reflecting on it, we automatically know that a person is something quite different from a machine or an animal.

One of the most important truths we can know about God is that he is personal. He is not a machine or a force. Although the Bible never directly states that God is personal, everything the Bible says about God reveals that he is a personal being.

  • God is alive (Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10; 1 Sam 17:26, 36; Ps 42:2; 84:2; Jer 10:10; Matt 16:16; Rom 9:26; 1 Thess 1:9; 1 Tim 4:10). God has energy in himself which he directs by his own intelligence into activity. God is able to do things (e.g. speak; create, preserve, and direct the universe; deliver his people; save men from sin; judge and punish sinners).
  • God is intelligent (1 Sam 2:3; Isa 11:2; Pro 3:19-20; Rom 11:33).
  • God has purpose (Isa 14:26-27; Eph 3:11).
  • God is active (Deut 11:7; Ps 92:4-5; John 5:17; Phil 2:13). Out of his own self-sufficient energy, God does things (e.g. creation, providence, salvation).
  • God is free (Ps 33:10-11; 115:3; 135:5-7; Job 23:13; Dan 4:35; Eph 1:11). God is not bound by anything outside of himself.
  • God is self-conscious (Exod 3:14; 1 Cor 2:10-11). God knows himself exhaustively.
  • God is emotional (Ps 5:5; 103:13; 145:8; Jer 31:3).[ii] God is maximally engaged in the outworking of his plan in creation.

The fact that God is personal rules out any form of pantheism, materialism, and fatalism. God is not an abstraction, a philosophical absolute, or a distant “supreme being.” Only in Christianity is the “absolute principle” personal. The personal is more fundamental than the impersonal.

Christians have “become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion. But they have not seen this as a totality – each thing being a part, a symptom, of a much larger problem. They have failed to see that all of this has come about due to a shift in the world view – that is, through a fundamental change in the overall way people think and view the world and life as a whole. This shift has been away from a world view that was at least vaguely Christian in people’s memory (even if they were not individually Christian) toward something completely different – toward a world view based upon the idea that the final reality is impersonal matter or energy shaped into its present form by impersonal chance”

Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto


Not only must we understand that God is personal, we must also recognize that he is three-in-one. Christians often note how important God’s tri-unity is to our salvation: the Father chooses and sends the Son, the Son becomes a man and accomplishes redemption, and the Spirit applies redemption to us. There is an eternity’s worth of good truth to meditate on and rejoice over in that last sentence. Nevertheless, this does not exhaust the practical ramifications of God’s tri-unity.

God’s tri-unity is the basic ground of all of created reality. It is also the pattern for all personal relationships.

Biblical Evidence that God is One

  • God’s unity means that the whole essence of God is in each person of the Trinity.
  • Each of the three persons is recognized as God.
    • The Father is God (John 6:27; John 20:17; 1 Peter 1:2).
    • The Son is God (John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20).
    • The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 3:16).
  • These three persons are one and the same God.
    • The Father and the Son are One (John 5:18; 10:30, 33; 14:10-11; 17:22).
    • The Father and the Spirit are One (1 Cor 2:11; 3:16).
    • The Son and the Spirit are One (Rom 8:9; Gal 4:6).
    • The Father, Son, and Spirit are One (John 14:16, 18, 23).

Biblical Evidence that God is Three-in-One

  • Old Testament Suggestions
    • Suggestions of plurality – Psalm 2:7; 45:6-7; 110:1
    • Suggestions of three persons – Isa 48:16; 61:1
  • New Testament Proof
    • The baptism of Jesus – Matt 3:16-17
    • Announcement to Mary – Luke 1:32, 35
    • Formula of Christian baptism – Matt 28:19
    • Apostolic benediction – 2 Cor 13:14
    • Personal distinctions in the Godhead
      • The Father and the Son are distinct persons (John 3:6; 5:26; Gal 4:4).
      • The Father and the Son are distinct from the Spirit (John 14:6-17; 15:26).
    • Several other texts – 1 Cor 12:4-6; Eph 2:18; 4:4-6; 2 Thess 2:13; Heb 9:14; 1 Peter 1:2; Jude 20-21; Rev 1:4-5
  • The three persons are objective to each other.
  • The three persons are equal in being, power, and glory. All are called God and can be worshiped (e.g. John 5:23).

The unity-in-diversity and complex harmony of the Trinity is not just a theological puzzle for nerdy academics to debate. It provides the necessary basis for philosophy, ethics, art, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics, history – in short, everything!

Now, since the personal, triune God is the ultimate creator and sustainer of everything that exists, it is welcome news to learn from the Bible that he is great and good. From beginning to end, God is the main subject of the Bible. The Bible reveals much about God’s personal qualities through names, images, and descriptions. The personal qualities that make God who he is are usually called his attributes. Since God is who he is, it is impossible for us to come up with one way of categorizing God’s attributes that adequately conveys everything about God. In fact, the Bible itself does not attempt to do this. Thus the following list is simply one way of trying to grasp God’s personal qualities that make him who he is.

God is Great

· Self-existence or life (Exod 3:14; John 5:26)

· Infinity (Ps 147:5; 1 Kings 8:27; Rom 11:33)

· Perfection (Ps 18:30; Matt 5:48)

· Omnipotence (Jer 32:17; Isa 40:28; Rev 19:8)

· Omniscience (Ps 147:4; Isa 46:9-11; 1 John 3:20)

· Omnipresence (Ps 139:7-10; Jer 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28)

· Wisdom (Ps 104:24; Rom 11:33; 16:27)

· Eternity (Ps 90:1-2; 102:11-12; Heb 1:12)

· Immutability (Ps 33:11; Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17)

· Incomprehensibility (Ps 145:3; Isa 55:9; Rom 11:33)

God is Good

· Holiness (Isa 6:3)

o Holiness of majestic transcendence (Ps 99:3, 9)

o Holiness of moral purity (1 Peter 1:15-16)

· Truth

o God is the true God (Jer 10:10; John 17:3; 1 Thess 1:9)

o God is the truthful God (1 Sam 15:29; John 17:17; Titus 1:2)

· Love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8)

· Righteousness and justice (Deut 32:4; Ps 89:14; Rom 3:26)

· Faithfulness (Ps 119:90; Lam 3:23; 1 Cor 10:13)

· Mercy (Deut 4:31; Ps 103:4; 2 Cor 1:3; Eph 2:4)

· Grace (Rom 5:17; Eph 1:7; 2:8)

Since God is the creator, sustainer, and director of the universe, God’s personal characteristics are the governing factors of all of reality. So in our interpretations of life, we must do so from the perspective of who God is. Later on, we will apply this to our national history as Americans and to our current situation. But remember, this is not an abstract exercise. Building a culture of faithfulness means that we are getting to know and live for an incredibly great and good Person, and so we answer the Psalmist’s call, “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps 37:4)!

God’s Grandeur

Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1899)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.



[i] Robert L. Reymond, The Justification of Knowledge (Evangelical Press, 1976), 72. Cornelius Van Til puts it this way, “A truly Protestant apologetic must therefore make its beginning from the presupposition that the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, speaks to him with absolute authority in Scripture” (The Defense of the Faith [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967], 179).

[ii] See John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2002), 608-11.

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 13 - Sanctification

13.1 THOSE who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, have a new heart and a new spirit created in them; and by His Word and Spirit dwelling within them, this personal work of sanctification is indeed carried further. All these blessings accrue to them by reason of the merits of Christ's death and resurrection. Sin's mastery over them is completely broken; the evil desires to which it gives birth are increasingly weakened and dealt their death-blow; and saving graces in them are increasingly enlivened and strengthened. The practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, is thus promoted. John 17:17; Acts 20:32; Rom. 6:5,6,14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:24; Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:11; 1 Thess. 5:21-23; Heb. 12:14.

13.2 Sanctification, as defined in this way, extends to every part of man, yet remains incomplete in this life. Sin's corrupt remnants continue to defile all parts of man, causing within him a continual warfare that does not admit of reconciliation; the flesh rises up against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. Rom. 7:18,23; Gal. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Pet. 2:11.

13.3 In the war of flesh versus Spirit, sin's corrupt remnants may for a time gain the upper hand, yet the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ enables man as a new creature to gain the victory. And so the saints grow in grace, moving on towards a fullness of holiness in the fear of God. They earnestly endeavor to live according to heaven's laws, and to render gospel obedience to all the commands which Christ, as their head and king, has laid down for them in His Word. Rom. 6:14; 7:23; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; Eph. 4:15,16.

God Is the Treasure of My Soul

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who made last Sunday such a special occasion for me and my family. It is an unspeakable honor and joy to serve the Lord with all of you!
As I have talked about with some of you, I am planning to begin a series of messages on the book of Deuteronomy. However, this coming Sunday I would like to insert another message while I have this break between series. It is a message that is right at the heart of who we are and what we are doing, so I hope to preach it periodically for many years to come. It is entitled, "God My Exceeding Joy" based on the words of Psalm 43:4. It is about why delighting in God's presence is our highest good.

Songs
Come, Christians, Join to Sing (#67)
Hark, the Voice of Love and Mercy (#134)
It is Finished (#138)
The Savior of the World (#127)
Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today (#156)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice! (#291)

Scripture Reading
Earnestly Seeking God - Psalm 63

Sermon
God My Exceeding Joy - Psalm 42-43, et al.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Iraq Policy as a Revelation of Idolatry

I don't often comment on political matters on this blog, but I couldn't pass up this opportunity to give an example of something we talked about in our series, Building a Culture of Faithfulness. One of the current idolatries we discussed is humanism as it is expressed in an unflinching faith in Democracy with a capital D. Democracy will solve our problems, it is often said, and this faith has been the guiding light with respect to American policy in Iraq.

Sadly, both for us and for the Iraqis, democracy has been confused with freedom, peace, and a bunch of other good things. But reality has a way of laying bare our confusions, for it is the one true and living God who reigns, not mankind. The state of affairs in the Middle East for most of the past century, and particularly the state of affairs in Iraq right now, is exhibit A for this fact. Our faith in Democracy is bound to be disappointed.

Although not writing from a biblical perspective, Thomas Sowell has seen this problem and has stated it with laser-like clarity in two excellent articles in the National Review Online. You can read the first one here and the second here. Let me just add this exhortation: as Christians, let us repent of any hope for this world apart from Jesus Christ, let us put our trust in him, and then let us use the current situation to show men the foolishness of trusting in anyone but him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Favorite Hymns

Phil asked if I would pick out some of my favorite hymns for my ordination service on Sunday. That is a great idea, but it is also extremely hard for me to narrow down which ones of my favorite hymns we should sing. There are just too many great hymns that have meant so much to me in my life in Christ. This morning I sat down and made a list of the hymns that strike me as being my "favorite." Choosing these hymns was a great spiritual exercise, as I had great delight in "singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness...to God." There are many hymns besides these that I truly love, but here are the ones I picked out, in no particular order.

Arise, My Soul, Arise
There Is a Fountain
God Himself Is Present
Holy, Holy, Holy
Amazing Grace
And Can It Be?
How Sweet and Awful Is the Place
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
Praise the Savior
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
O Worship the King
Crown Him with Many Crowns
O God, Our Help in Ages Past
Jesus Shall Reign
All Creatures of Our God and King
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Joy to the Word!
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
'Tis the Christ
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Blest Be the Tie that Binds
I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord
Come, Thou Fount
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
It Is Well with My Soul
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness
O Thou in Whose Presence
Be Thou My Vision
O for a Closer Walk with God
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
He Who Would Valiant Be
Take My Life, and Let It Be
Am I a Soldier of the Cross?
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
How Firm a Foundation
God Is the Treasure of My Soul
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
May the Mind of Christ My Savior
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Let All Things Now Living


What about you? What are some songs that you love to sing with thankfulness to God?

Two Good Articles for Homeschooling Moms (and Dads)

Due to preparations for my ordination council (among other things), I have not been doing much online this week. I do, however, want to point your attention to two good articles for mothers who home school. In "An Unlikely Candidate for the Job," mother of ten Vickie Farris describes from personal experience how God has used the weak things of the world (namely, her) to accomplish his purposes by his power. Zan Tyler also points out "The Blessing of Living on One Income." Many people, including Christians, assume that two incomes are a necessity in today's economy. Such thinking is extremely short-sighted. Mrs. Tyler's article brings out a few aspects of biblical wisdom that relate to living on one income.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pastors and Deacons

Our series of messages on the practice of the local church is coming to a close. We have examined from Scripture what the church is, who the church is, church membership, baptism and the Lord's Supper, church discipline, disciplemaking, and worship. (If you missed these messages, you can listen to them here.) We will close the series by considering church leadership.
Some folks nowadays consider church leadership and organization to be no more important to a church than the color of the carpet. Any form will do, they say, as long as it is done in a way that honors God and accomplishes the purpose of the church. In response, I maintain that in order to honor God with our church leadership and organization, we must take seriously what he has revealed about it. He has given us sufficient and clear revelation in this matter. If we intend to be a church that is fully knowing God and making him known, then we had better put into practice the leadership and organization that he wants us to have, knowing that the way he has revealed it is the way it will bring the most honor to him.

Songs
Come, We That Love the Lord (#223)
All Creatures of Our God and King (#59)
Holy Spirit, Lead Us Now (#198)
The Church's One Foundation (#221)
The Living Stone (#225)
How Sweet and Awful Is the Place (#238)

Scripture Reading
Paul Instructs the Ephesian Elders - Acts 20:17-38

Sermon
Pastors and Deacons - The Organization of the Local Church and Why It Matters
1 Timothy 3:1-13, et al.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Church Councils

In light of our upcoming ordination council, here is a timely brief statement of how councils operate.

Parenting Wisdom

Ok, so this article isn't biblical, at least directly anyway. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't resist linking to it. "Don't Suffer the Little Children" contains a great deal of wisdom, and humor too. I think you will enjoy it.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Building a Culture of Faithfulness (Part 1)

We are nearing the end of our series entitled Building a Culture of Faithfulness. I plan to collect the lessons, revise them a bit, and put them on paper so that everyone can have a copy. As I work to revise them, I hope to post them piece by piece on the blog. This will provide at least a limited forum for interaction about these important topics. Here is the introduction.

We hear a great deal in Christian circles these days about culture, especially about “engaging” it. Unfortunately, we have widely divergent ideas about what culture is and about what it means to engage it. In this little essay, I am using the term in the sense of something that is cultivated. Christians must intentionally cultivate faithfulness to our Lord in every area of life. That is the earnest desire which motivates me to put these thoughts on paper. I want High Country Baptist Church to build a culture of faithfulness.

In his recent work Americanism, David Gelernter explained with great clarity how our Puritan forefathers sought to build a culture of faithfulness. They came to America to build a city of God set upon a hill so that the entire world could see. Although the culture they built eventually devolved from faithfulness, their efforts did powerfully stamp our national character. Their faults and shortcomings should be instructive to us, but so should their vision. They saw all of life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and passionately pursued their ideal of a pure church in a godly society.

In order to bring some biblical focus to this passion, I will first offer a sketch of a biblical worldview. This is the necessary foundation for the building project we undertake. But this by itself is not enough to enable proper application. The Bible must be interpreted and applied within a given context. Thus, we must also understand our context as Americans in the early 21st century. I will offer a simple (some might say simplistic, but I hope it is generally accurate) and all-too-brief survey of our history, noting the ideas, events, people, and institutions which have shaped our current situation. I hope this section does not come across as exceedingly negative, for there is much for which we can give thanks in our American history and culture. Nevertheless, I do need to point out those areas where we have departed from a biblical perspective, so that we can more accurately see how we now stand.

Gelernter’s book also serves as a perfect foil to introduce these problems of 21st century Americanism. He enthusiastically believes that “the religious idea called ‘America’ … tells an absolute truth about the meaning of human life, a truth that we must take on faith.” This American religion has both a creed and a context. The creed, according to Gelernter, is three simple words: liberty, equality, democracy. These beliefs have been worked out in the context of American Zionism, the belief that America was the chosen land and Americans the chosen people, who thus had an obligation to spread their beliefs and the benefits of those beliefs to the whole world. Abraham Lincoln said it best in his annual message to Congress, December 1, 1862: “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth.” Gelernter hails with reverence Americanism as the last, best hope of earth, and he does not worship alone. In a review of Brink Lindsey’s new book, The Age of Abundance, in the New York Times Book Review, George Will asserted, “We are a creedal nation, dedicated to a proposition, which is approximately this: All people are created equal and have a right to spacious freedom that produces unequal outcomes.”

These claims are breathtaking in scope; yet I believe that they are on target in terms of what many Americans implicitly believe. But is this the way Christians should think? Is America really the last, best hope of earth? Are the values America stands for truly righteous? What does God have to say?

In the last section of this essay, I will attempt to sketch an overview of how Christians can build a culture of faithfulness in our current setting. Much more needs to be said, but this will hopefully set us on the path toward building a culture of faithfulness.

Baptism and the Covenants

Justin Taylor has posted an interview with Steve Wellum on baptism and the covenants in Scripture. I have had discussions with some of you on this topic, so I thought you might be interested in this very thorough interview. It might be challenging for you if you are not familiar with the history of this debate; nevertheless, it would repay the effort it takes to understand it.

By the way, if you want to study the topic of baptism, the best book I know of on this topic is the one Wellum contributed to, Believer's Baptism, edited by Schreiner and Wright.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 12 - Adoption

12.1 FOR the sake of His only Son, Jesus Christ, God has been pleased to make all justified persons sharers in the grace of adoption, by means of which they are numbered with, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of children of God. Furthermore, God's name is put upon them, they receive the spirit of adoption, and they are enabled to come boldly to the throne of grace and to cry 'Abba, Father'. They are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by God as by a Father. He never casts them off, but, as they remain sealed to the day of redemption, they inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation. [Ps. 103:13; Prov. 14:26; Isa. 54:8,9; Lam. 3:31; John 1:12; Rom. 8:15,17; 2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 4:4-6; Eph. 1:5; 2:18; 4:30; Heb. 1:14; 6:12; 12:6; 1 Pet. 5:7; Rev. 3:12. ]