Friday, May 27, 2011

A New Commandment

In a sense, Jesus' instructions to his followers can be wrapped up into one command: "Love one another, as I have loved you." Jesus tells his people to practice divine love and so to participate in divine life. Join us this Lord's Day so that the Spirit can teach us this new commandment.

Come, Christians, Join to Sing (#67)
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (#249)
Jesus Loves Me (#719)
Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (#211)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 43; Psalm 113
New Testament: Matthew 25:14-30

A New Commandment: Love One Another - John 13:34-35

Friday, May 20, 2011

You Can't

Peter had it all backward. When Jesus told him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now," Peter responded with "Why not?" In Peter's mind, there was nothing he would not do for Jesus, including dying for him.

But, Peter had it all backward. The truth was, Jesus would die for Peter. The truth was, Peter did not have the strength to follow Jesus like he thought he had. The truth was, Jesus had to shatter Peter's self-confidence and show him what it truly meant to be his disciple. Join us this Lord's Day as we, like Peter, learn from our Savior.

Holy Savior, We Adore Thee (#73)
He Who Would Valiant Be (#507)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#530)
Praise the Savior (#17)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 42; Psalm 111
New Testament: Matthew 25:1-13

How to Follow Jesus when You Can't - John 13:31-38

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Honor of His Name

When God is faithful to his promises, as he always is, it is dangerous for those who do not obey. I came across this in conjunction with my scripture reading this morning.

The people have been exiled from the land because Yahweh has kept the covenant he made with them at Sinai. As Eichrodt states, "All that survives the destruction of state and Temple is the God who is jealous for the honour of his Name" (James Hamilton, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment, 186).

Four Promises of Forgiveness

Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict, gives four promises involved in forgiveness (p. 209).
  • "I will not dwell on this incident."
  • "I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you."
  • "I will not talk to others about this incident."
  • "I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship."
Our sermon last Lord's Day, "A Lesson for Little Ones - Forgiveness," explains more about the crucial practice of forgiveness.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Lesson for Little Ones

When a male sinner and a female sinner get married and start having little baby sinners, there will plenty of trespasses and sins to go around in the home. If that family is to function, there will need to be generous helpings of forgiveness served up regularly. Similarly, in God's family it is imperative that we little ones practice forgiveness thoroughly. Join us tomorrow to allow God's Spirit to train us in this powerful practice.

Chosen of God (#290)
The King of Love My Shepherd Is (Text: 336; Tune: St. Columba)
I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord (#224)
Blest Be the Tie that Binds (#219)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 41:46-57; Psalm 105
New Testament: Matthew 24:29-51

A Lesson for Little Ones - Forgiveness - Matthew 18:21-35

Friday, May 13, 2011

Psychology, Self-Esteem, Stress, and Other "Dirty" Words

Because we want to know and love God deeply as a church, one of our goals is to constantly reshape our minds according to God's Word. This is one of the overarching objectives of our current seminar on dealing with anger in our children (and in ourselves). We must learn to think biblically.

This means, of course, that we cannot simply accept what our society hands to us in the way of understanding our own lives, and this even extends to the terminology we use to describe ourselves and our problems. Ed Welch explains in this post why it is important to carefully consider how we talk about our problems.

Biblical counseling has a history of being picky about words. Sometimes it sounded as if we had our own version of George Carlin’s dirty word list. For example, off limits were terms like: self-esteem, needs, psychological, or any psychiatric diagnosis unless you were going to critique it a bit first.
Well—we have our reasons.
He lists several terms in common circulation which need to be examined according to what God says, such as
  • Psychological problems
  • Self-esteem and other self-words
  • Emotional problems
  • Stress
  • Free-will
  • Personality
  • Addiction
  • Some specific diagnoses such as ADD, Bipolar, Asperger's, etc.
He concludes,

This agenda to reclaim everything in the psychological bin is, I think, an ordinary one. As people who have received revelation and illumination, we always ask, “What does God say about this?” From political processes to financial investments, to how we treat our neighbors, we want Scripture’s interpretive gaze to claim everything.
(Read the entire post.)

I like that last line. The Bible looks out from the commanding heights of ultimate truth and claims interpretive rights over the entire world. That's part of why we want to be relentlessly biblical.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Ordinary Means of Growth

This article by Ligon Duncan has much sound wisdom as he expounds on the "ordinary means of grace" view of ministry. He concludes,

This means, among other things, that ministry is not rocket science. Gospel faithfulness does not require the minister to be a sociologist. Because ministry is not determined (in the first place) by reading the culture but by reading the Word of God. The ordinary means minister wants to connect with the culture, but when it comes to determining method and priorities he moves from text to ministry, not from culture to ministry. He neither changes his message nor his methods based on the polling of the most recent focus group (though he strives to be fully cognizant of the obstacles and opportunities that his biblical message and methods face in his particular cultural context). He fully understands that there is no such thing as an unsituated biblical ministry, or an uncontextualized ministry (and so is careful not to universalize his particular cultural moment, nor to confuse it with universal, biblical norms). He also fully appreciates that some churches have unhelpfully baptized cultural norms and methods from the past, without realizing that baneful cultural influence. But he also knows that many churches, in the quest to contextualize the Gospel and the ministry, have in fact compromised them.

So he’s constantly going back and asking “what are my marching orders?” And when he remembers, it doesn’t require a Ph.D. in semiotics to interpret them: preach the Word, love the people, pray down heaven, disciple the elders, promote family religion, live a godly life. And what are the church’s marching orders: delight in the Lord’s Day, gathering with the saints to drink in the pure milk of the Word every Sunday morning and evening, as families; pray together as a congregation once every week; worship and catechize at home in families; love one another and all men.

What will a church look like that is committed to the ordinary means of grace? It will be characterized by love for expository Bible preaching, passion for worship, delight in truth, embrace of the Gospel, the Spirit’s work of conversion, a life of godliness; robust family religion; biblical evangelism, biblical discipleship, biblical church membership, mutual accountability in the church, biblical church leadership, and a desire to be a blessing to the nations. Along with this all, there will be an unapologetic, humble, and joyful celebration of the transcendent sovereignty of the one, true, triune God in salvation and all things.

I encourage you to read the whole article.

(HT: Reformed Baptist Fellowship)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Go into All the World

This Lord's Day, we have the privilege of hosting the Escalera family, missionaries to Liberia. They will be working with Pastor James Togba of Maranatha Baptist Church in Cauldwell, Liberia to train church leaders and planters. We are thrilled to see the gospel go forward in Liberia, so please join us to hear what the Lord is doing!

Salvation! O My Soul, Rejoice! (#291)
There Is a Fountain (#267)
Hark! the Gospel News Is Sounding (#293)
For My Sake and the Gospel's, Go (#695)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Genesis 41:1-45; Psalm 146
New Testament: Matthew 24:1-28

Missionary Mark Escalera

Here's the Church, and Here's the Steeple

Gene Edward Veith asks,

Architecture, like other art forms, expresses meaning.  Do you know why older churches built steeples?  Why they had bells?  What does it mean that today’s churches tend to use cheap materials?  Why are they being made to look “more like a mall”?  What does it mean when the sanctuary has a stage with studio lights, big speakers, and a drum set?  What do these design features  tell us about contemporary Christianity?

Today we pretend that meaning doesn't matter, and then we wonder why we live in a pagan culture.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Every Lord's Day

How often should a church take the Lord’s supper?

Let’s cut straight to the chase: I think the New Testament indicates that the early church took the Lord’s supper every Lord’s day, that is, every Sunday.

James Hamilton makes the case that it is best for churches to take the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day. Our church switched to weekly observance a couple years ago, so those who are new to our church (and may still have questions as to why we do this) will find his entire article helpful.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

On Mission

It is clear that John's definition of mission is not that mission is "everything the church is sent into the world to do," as Stott famously wrote...but Spirit-led, evangelistic outreach that preaches forgiveness of sins on account of Jesus' vicarious cross-death.

Andreas Kostenberger, A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters (515, fn. 32, emphasis added)

Rulers of the Gentiles Lord It Over Them...

...and it isn't always at the point of a sword.

I was much inclined to abolish the practice of allowing the people corn at the public expense, because they trust so much to it, that they are too lazy to till their lands; but I did not persevere in my design, as I felt sure that the practice would some time or other be revived by some one ambitious of popular favour.

Augustus Caesar, as quoted by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars