Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not Sub-Christian Praying

The language of these imprecatory psalms is harsh (dashed heads against rock, broken teeth, etc.), but it is justly fierce, corresponding to the depth of wickedness displayed by those who would join the serpent against God.

And in a footnote,

Appeals for and celebrations of God's judgment in the Psalms are not 'less than Christian'..., as any reader of the book of Revelation can see. In fact, descriptions of the horrifying terror of the coming judgment are merciful warnings that invite the wicked to repent, and they glorify God who will demonstrate his wrath and make known his power (Rom 9:22).

James Hamilton, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 288-89.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dry Off and Get to Work

After Jesus douses us with the sober truth that the world hates us, what do we do? We could sit there and cry about it, but that would only make us wetter. Worse than that, it would lead us to fall away from Christ. Instead, we should recognize that Christ has us in enemy territory for a purpose. We are to testify about Christ. Let's dry off and get to work.

Songs
We Gather Together (#709)
Doxology
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)
Our Great Savior (#434)
Lord, How Delightful (#726)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 6:1-27; Psalm 90
New Testament: Romans 4:1-12

Sermon
Testifying in Enemy Territory - John 15:26-16:4

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Someone Who Gets It!

In our day of Styrofoam wafer Christianity, it sure is refreshing to come across someone who understands the issues at stake in our practice of the Lord's Supper. Russell Moore writes:

Too often in our contemporary Evangelical church culture, the act of barring a member from the table seems quaint or even meaningless. After all, who really cares if he is deprived of a wafer and a splash of grape juice?

Sometimes Christians in other traditions assume that all low-church Protestants take this kind of view, but that’s simply not the case. While disagreeing with the sacerdotal theologies of many of the older traditions, Baptists (before we were to this extent washed up in the riptide of parachurch Evangelicalism) shared with other Christians a common conviction that the Lord’s Table is a place of profound gravity—much more than the kind of “communion” we might have with the Lord and with one another while talking about the Holy Spirit over coffee and doughnuts.

This is why many low-church Protestants have shared historically with their high-church brothers and sisters the conviction that the Supper must be tied to discipline (1 Cor. 5:11). The table is not just an individual reminder of the gospel; it is the very locus of church fellowship, the place where we experience Christ present in proclamation and in one another. It is here that we experience a foretaste of the wedding supper to come, and where we announce those we hold accountable to struggle with us until then. The church is “recognizing the body” of Christ (1 Cor. 11:29) by defining the boundaries of communion at the table in terms of those who are in union with Christ and who are able, should they deny him, to be disciplined.

You can read the whole thing here. It seems as though so many of my Baptist, Presbyterian, and Bible church brothers look at me with blank stares when I talk about these things. We can't even have a meaningful disagreement because they assume that Lord's Supper has as much significance to Christianity as a Jesus t-shirt. They both proclaim Jesus, right? And aren't my personal thoughts of Jesus what the Supper is all about? And after all, it is the gospel that matters, not how we choose to portray it. Why should it matter who we allow to the Supper?
 
No, no, no, my friends. "It is the very locus of church fellowship."

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Bucket of Ice Water

In a violent contrast, Jesus moves from telling his followers to abide in his love to saying that the world will hate his followers. Its the bracing kind of statement that feels like you have just had a bucket of ice water thrown in your face. But it is just what we need if we are going to follow him and accomplish his mission. Join us this Lord's Day for a bucket of cold water in the face.

Songs
Call Jehovah Thy Salvation (#499)
Doxology
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (#588)
He Who Would Valiant Be (#507)
How Firm a Foundation (#610)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 5; Psalm 105
New Testament: Romans 3:19-31

Sermon
The World Will Hate You - John 15:18-25

P.S. Don't forget the afternoon picnic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Show Biblical Love to One Another

Since we have talked quite a bit lately about Christ's command to love one another, I found this post helpful:

37 Ways to Love One Another.

I'm grateful for biblical direction to stir me up to love and good works.

Driscoll

I know that not many people in our church have much to do with Mark Driscoll...and that's a good thing. However, given the realities of technology today, I would be naive to think that you won't come across his teaching somewhere. Some of his teaching is biblical, but you need to be aware of his clearly unbiblical and degraded teachings, as well. Phil Johnson has done us a service by demonstrating how ridiculously unbiblical and obscene Driscoll can be. It's sad that Phil even has to document such things, and it's even worse that so many evangelical leaders refuse to deal with the issue.

The pastoral epistles show clearly how men can go astray in their practice as much as in their teachings. It will not do to defend Driscoll on the grounds that he has some good theology. If he cannot understand why filthy talk has no place in his life (Eph 5:12), then he fails the Scriptural qualifications for an overseer (1 Tim 3:2 - "above reproach," "self-controlled," "sober-minded," "respectable"). All who hunger and thirst after righteousness ought to steer well clear of his degrading ministry (1 Cor 15:33).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dwelling in Christ's Love

How do you make the love of Christ your true home? Jesus tells us to "abide in him." Join us this Lord's Day to seek that true home.

Songs
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (#243)
Doxology
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (Kingsfold)
Psalm 23b
Jesus Love Me (#719)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 4; Psalm 82
New Testament: Romans 3:1-18

Sermon
Dwelling in Christ's Love - John 15:1-17

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just Sentiments

The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.

C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 14.

Eating Our Hearts Out

The riots in England are but another example of how Western societies are consuming themselves from within. The cancer has eaten out our souls. May the true churches of our day proclaim boldly, "You must be born again!"

Update: This article by Mike Ovey assesses the situation well.

Secularization

Charles Taylor on the meaning of the term "secular" in the West.

And so the history of this term “secular” in the West is complex and ambiguous. It starts off as one term in a dyad that distinguishes two dimensions of existence, identifying them by the particular type of time that is essential to each. But from the foundation of this clear distinction between the immanent and the transcendent, there develops another dyad, in which “secular” refers to what pertains to a self-sufficient, immanent sphere and is contrasted with what relates to the transcendent realm (often identified as “religious”). This binary can then undergo a further mutation, via a denial of the transcendent level, into a dyad in which one term refers to the real (“secular”), and the other refers to what is merely invented (“religious”); or where “secular” refers to the institutions we really require to live in “this world,” and “religious” or “ecclesial” refers to optional accessories, which often disturb the course of this-worldly life.

Through this double mutation, the dyad itself is profoundly transformed; in the first case, both sides are real and indispensable dimensions of life and society. The dyad is thus “internal,” in the sense that each term is impossible without the other, like right and left or up and down. After the mutations, the dyad becomes “external”; secular and religious are opposed as true and false or necessary and superfluous. The goal of policy becomes, in many cases, to abolish one while conserving the other.

In conjunction with this, I read Ralph C. Wood's discussion of Flannery O'Connor's insights into American religion.

Yet for all of O'Connor's commonality with the major modern writers, there is also a huge difference: she does not secularize the spiritual. Salvation and damnation are, for her, more than inward states of subjective consciousness; they are objective states of both our immediate existence and our final destiny. The secularizing of the spiritual - at least from Hegel forward - has been one of the most serious mistakes of modernity....That late modern men and women of the West have failed to discern the concrete operations of both the divine and the demonic is largely the church's fault.

Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 156-7.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Don't Try to Go to Heaven without It

Here is something to ponder this weekend. The Christian Curmudgeon asks a provocative question, "Can you go to heaven without being a church member?"

Read it here.

A Good Series on Worship

This series of lessons on corporate worship from Bethany Bible Church looks like it would be worth your while. I've been enjoying growing deeper in corporate worship, and everything that drives me to engage with God truly I count as a gift.

The Fruitful Vine

It is hard to find richer teaching on Jesus' relationship with his disciples anywhere in the Scripture than in John 15. Join us this Lord's Day to hear his words.

Songs
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)
Doxology
Tis the Christ (#150)
Hallelujah! What a Savior (#128)
Jesus Shall Reign (#51)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 3; Psalm 69
New Testament: Romans 2:1-29

Sermon
The Fruitful Vine and Branches - John 15:1-8

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Virtue and Ordinate Love

When the miser prefers his gold to justice, it is through no fault of the gold, but of the man; and so with every created thing. For though it be good, it may be loved with an evil as well as with a good love: it is loved rightly when it is loved ordinately; evilly, when inordinately. It is this which some one has briefly said...in praise of the Creator: "These are Thine, they are good, because Thou art good who didst create them. There is in them nothing of ours, unless he sin we commit when we forget the order of things, and instead of Thee love that which Thou hast made."

But if the Creator is truly loved, that is, if He Himself is loved and not another thing in His stead, He cannot be evilly loved; for love itself is to be ordinately loved, because we do well to love that which, when we love it, makes us live well and virtuously, so that it seems to me that it is a brief but true definition of virtue to say, it is the order of love....

Augustine, The City of God, XV.22

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Ritual

Anthropologist Mary Douglas:

The long history of protestantism witnesses to the need for continual watch on the tendency of ritual form to harden and replace religious feeling. In wave upon wave the Reformation has continued to thunder against the empty encrustation of ritual. So long as Christianity has any life, it will never be time to stop echoing the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, to stop saying that external forms can become empty and mock the truths they stand for. With every new century we become heirs to a longer and more vigorous anti-ritualist tradition.

However, she also recognizes that this anti-ritualistic mindset is problematic.

The Evangelical movement has left us with a tendency to suppose that any ritual is empty form, that any codifying of conduct is alien to natural movements of sympathy, and that any external religion betrays true interior religion.

Purity and Danger, Routledge Classics ed. (New York: Routledge, 2002), 76

Anti-ritualism can be every bit as damaging as ritualism. It has the potential to deeply distort our perception of reality. It can drive a hard wedge between "external" and "internal," and ultimately destroy the very possibility of human communication and society.