Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Questions for the New Year

Today is the last day of 2008 so the question is: What do you have planned for 2009? Will you make resolutions for the year or will you make commitments for eternity? In our church bulletin this past Sunday there was a section titled Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year by Donald Whitney. As I read the list I realized these are great questions for the New Year but more importantly for my Christian walk. So I challenge you to read and remember these ten questions:

What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from the last year?

What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten year? In eternity?

Happy New Year

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Pear Tree

"There was a pear tree near our vineyard, laden with fruit, tempting neither for color nor taste. To shake and robe this, some lewd young fellows of us went late one night, having according to our mischievous custom prolonged our sports in the streets until then, and took huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the very hogs, having only tasted them. And this we like to do only because it was disliked by others."

Have you seen your heart this way? The natural man needs no reason to sin but sin. "Self-glorification" is the theme of his life. Augustine goes on to say, "Now behold, let my heart tell You what it sought there: that I should be gratuitously evil, not being tempted with anything but evil itself." What a great confession. We have no one to blame or nothing to blame but our own foul, wicked heart. But hear the good news, if you see yourself in this state praise God for His Spirit's work in your heart. Only the work of the Spirit can reveal such truth. Seeing the true state of your natural heart is the ultimate pride crushing blow but in humility we give our lives to Christ and His atoning work on the cross.
(Quotations from The Confessions of Saint Augustine)

Grace upon grace,

Monday, December 29, 2008

In but not of

"But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."
John 17:13-19

"The believer, though in the world, is not of it: by faith he triumphs over its smiles and enticements; he sees that all that is in the world, suited to gratify the desires of the flesh or the eye, is not only to be avoided as sinful, but as incompatible with his best pleasures."
-John Newton as quoted by J. Todd Murray (Beyond Amazing Grace)

The best pleasures are what ultimately satisfy the soul. What the world has to offer will always fail the deepest longings of our heart. Why? Because they were never meant to satisfy our deepest longings. The point of this world is to bring glory to God by living a life clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He makes it plain in Psalm 16:11, "You (God) make known to me the path of life, in Your presents is fullness of joy, at Your right hand pleasures forevermore." Only God can fulfill our deepest desires. Only God can give us the "fullness of joy."

My challange: Examine yourself to see if you are of the world or in it for the service of the King. If you are of the world repent and trust in the blood of Jesus Christ. The world is just offering temporary pleasures but God promises the best pleasures that are eternal.

Grace upon grace,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Greatest Story Ever Told

"Alright check it: let’s go back in time, brethren
Divine lessons always keep your mind guessing
The glory of the Triune God’s what I’m stressing
The origin of humankind was fine- blessings
Were plenteous- God is amazingly generous
Crazy benefits in a state of innocence
God told the man what he could taste was limited
Not long after came our nemesis in Genesis
He scammed well, man fell, damned to hell
The whole human race- he represented it
Fooled by the serpent, man through his work
Woman through birth- even the earth ruled by the curses
But instead of a wake immediately
God said her Seed would be the One to crush the head of the snake
Yo, wait what’s this? Whoa, a gracious gift!
In Jehovah’s faithfulness He clothed their nakedness
This was so they would know their Savior’s kiss
And bliss- but first, many growing pains exist
Suffering in the worst form, ugly deeds
Eve’s firstborn seed made his brother bleed
Indeed things got progressively worse
Every section of the earth's been affected by the curse
And though God’s judgments against sin were gory
Praise the Lord! It’s not the end of the story

Next scene: man’s sin was extreme
God gets steamed, man gets creamed
The Lord is so Holy that He drowned them in the water
Fire in the valley of slaughter- Sodom and Gomorrah
But at the same time, He’s so gracious and patient
That from one man He created a whole nation
Eventually enslaved by the mentally depraved
They cried out to the only One with the strength that He could save
He brought them out with signs and wonders- satisfied their hunger
Then He appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder
Where He laid down the law for God-ruled government
Commonly referred to as the Mosaic covenant
Sin’s imputed- so for man to know he’s unrighteous
God instituted animal sacrifices
This was to show our constant need for atonement
And when it came to sin, the Lord would never condone it
And when His people disobeyed and went astray
He raised up prophets and kings to lead them in the way
But they would get foul with their idolatry- wet and wild
Prophecy- send them into exile
To take their punishment like a grown man
Then with His own hand He placed them back in their homeland
And while in their forefather’s land they dwelt
They awaited the arrival of Emmanuel

After 400 silent years filled with sighs and tears
In Bethlehem the Messiah appears
God in the flesh- Second Person of the Trinity
At thirty begins His earthly ministry
Baffling cats with accurate, exact facts
And back to back miraculous acts
A stumbling block to the self righteous
But the humbled- His flock, said “There’s no one else like this”
He came from heaven to awake the numb
Demonstrated His power over nature, son
A foretaste of the Kingdom and the age to come
But the reason He came was to pay the sum
For the depths of our wickedness, our wretched sinfulness
Bless His magnificence- He’s perfect and innocent
Yet He was wrecked and His death- He predicted it
Next He was stretched, paid a debt that was infinite
He said that He finished it- resurrected so the elect
would be the recipients of its benefits
Through faith and penitence we get to be intimate
His grace is heaven sent, it never diminishes
Now the Holy Spirit indwelling is the evidence
for heaven's future residents who truly represent
Jesus, the Author, Producer, Director and
Star of a story that will never, ever end!

The greatest story ever told
A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold
The greatest story ever told
Restoring all that the enemy stole
The greatest story ever told
The glory of Christ is the goal, behold
The greatest story ever told
It's the greatest..."
-Shai Linne

Friday, December 26, 2008

What makes speaking out against sin an act of love or a hate crime?

A big topic in our day is whether or not speaking against homosexuality is a hate crime. A hate crime is defined as “a crime, usually violent, motivated by prejudice or intolerance toward a member of a gender, racial, religious, or social group” ( The media only portrays this issue in one direction. It never fails when this topic is brought up on the news the cameras always find the group of “Christians” holding up signs with derogatory words and God hates ______. So what makes speaking out against sin an act of love or a hate crime?

What the media portrays as Christianity is not grace filled or Christ saturated. Christians are sinners saved by grace. C. J. Mahaney writes, “Through the cross I realize that no sin committed against me will ever be as serious as the innumerable sins I’ve committed against God. When we understand how much God has forgiven us, it’s not difficult to forgive others.” While those people may have good intentions the way they go about it is not graceful. They are on the attack against people but not sin. They are fighting in a sinful manner. They neglect Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for the building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Derogatory words speak nothing of grace. I am not saying homosexuality is acceptable but there is a way to go about the issue with love and grace.

“Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted” (1 Timothy 1:9-11). Paul also says in Romans “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). God does not hate homosexuals but He does hate homosexual activity (sin) and His wrath will be poured out on those who are unrepentant. This is not only the case for homosexuals but for all who practice sin (Read Romans 1:18-32). “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). I am not arguing Christians will be perfect in this age but repenters who are convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin.

We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking the truth may not always be the easy thing but it is always the most loving thing. Christians need to be praying for the lost and reaching out with the gospel message in a loving manner. We need to always remember but for the grace of God we are no different. Jesus died to break the chains of sin. God poured His wrath on Jesus for the ungodly. It is an act of love to plead with someone to repent and turn to Jesus. It is an act of love to pray for the unrepentant heart.

I must add a person who claims to know Christ but also claims to be a homosexual is deceived to the truth of God’s word. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). There is no doubt homosexuality will be a stronger struggle for some over others but that is no excuse. The practice of any sin should call us to an examination to see whether we are in the faith or not. John Piper says, “People only sin because they believe the lie that sin’s pleasures are superior to God’s.” As a Christian we are to do battle with sin by the Holy Spirit. “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Romans 8:13). Fighting sin by our own willpower is a lost battle. Only through the precious blood of Jesus Christ can a soul be changed.

Father, I confess my own heart is bent to forget your great grace that saved a wretch like me. Many times I laugh at such corrupting talk and then become angry when I see how the media portrays Christians. I am a Pharisee Lord, please forgive me. You are appalled by my righteousness which is as filthy rags. Thank you for Christ’s blood He shed for me. Thank you for covering me in Christ’s righteousness. I can think of no sweeter thought then the atoning work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. Holy Spirit, convict me of sin in my own heart. Teach me how to be compassionate to others but constantly mortifying the sin in my own heart. Help me to speak the truth with the love of Jesus Christ.
Grace upon grace,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Born to die

"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Colossians 1:13

"How can the Son be the 'beloved' of the Father and yet also the object of his wrath and judgement? Such is the glorious, soul-saving, redemptive mystery of penal substitutionary atonement.
It is possible because the Son and the Father are united in their love for the elect and together entered into a covenant to redeem them from their sins. This could be accomplished by the Son's willingly and freely offering himself as a substitute who would wholly absorb the wrath of the Father, which those for whom he died deserved.
Had Jesus not satisfied the wrath of the Father, we would still be under the dominion of darkness, held captive in our sins, and subject to the authority of one who hates us. But thanks be to God, joyful and whole-hearted thanks, because he has, at great and unimaginable cost to himself and his beloved Son, extricated us from the grip of Satan and now embraces us with an eternal and irrevocable love."
-Sam Storms

This is the purpose of the birth of Jesus Christ. Celebrate the great salvation given as a gift from the risen Savior. The risen Savior was born this day, in the city of David, to die for sinners like you and me. Rejoice, rejoice for the Lord is great and worthy of all praise, honor and glory.

Grace upon grace,


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Absolute marriage

Due to the importance of the issue below we will continue our book review next Wednesday.

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
Genesis 2:24

My friend, Stephen Bean, has a post today at about Proposition 8. Please go read.

Check back with me on Friday with my post: What makes speaking out against sin an act of love or a hate crime?

Grace upon grace,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Walk in love

"Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness...But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes."
1 John 2:9,11

"Hatred is the defining mark of those who walk in darkness. They fail the moral test of the believing community: To walk in love! It is one thing to perform an act of loving kindness toward someone else; it is entirely another to walk in love toward them!"
-Lance Quinn

Monday, December 22, 2008

The great equation

A helpful equation from Mark Driscoll:

Christ + anything ruins everything

Friday, December 19, 2008

More than a feeling

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!"
Psalm 34:8b

"'Natural' people can have some perception of God's greatness, power, and awesome majesty, and this tends to convince them that the Bible is the Word of a great and terrible God. They may even have a sense of the great guilt that sin against this God brings, and the dreadfulness of His wrath. Because of their guilt and fear, they then tend to believe more readily what the Bible says about the world to come. But this sense of fear and guilt is not enough for a truly spiritual conviction, for these people have no sense of the beauty and sweetness of God's holiness. And yet this fear and guilt are sometimes mistaken for a saving conviction, and the emotions that result are assumed to be a saving feeling of the heart."
-Jonathan Edwards (Religious Affections)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Something to ponder for a lifetime...

"Shall we presume on God’s grace by tolerating in ourselves the very sin that nailed Christ to the cross?"

-Jerry Bridges (Respectable Sins)

A Call to Discernment

Chapter 8 - The Dangers of Discernment

"I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil."
Romans 16:19b

"Because of our fallen natures, discernment is a practice that can lead to many dangers. While the Bible exhorts us to focus on what is good and to be innocent as to what is evil, many people who seek to be discerning inadvertently practice a counterfeit discernment that is merely a shadow of the real thing. There are many traps awaiting these people. Spiritual discernment is a matter of the heart and must be done with a pure heart and for pure motives."
-Tim Challies

Monday, December 15, 2008

"to be sin"

“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

I cannot even begin to recall how many times I have heard this passage but the other night when I read it the words “to be sin” just struck me. To think that all my evil, lustful, prideful, idolatrous thoughts and actions nailed Him to the cross. In the words, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” the wrath of God, for my sins, was poured on Jesus. Then God tells us in Colossians “you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His (Jesus) death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Colossians 1:21-22). God crushed His Son and poured out His wrath on His Son so we might be presented “holy and blameless and above reproach before Him (God the Father).” Wow! How do we not stand in awe of God? Why are my affections so prone to the world and not this love? Nothing this world has to offer is greater then the truth that God the Father made His perfect Son “to be sin” so sinners like you and I could be presented to the Father as holy and blameless.

Grace upon grace,


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Power of the Cross

Last night my wife and I had the privilege to see the Getty's. As I read the words on the screen and heard them sung I was in awe of who God is and what He has done for a sinner like me. Here are the words to The Power of the Cross:

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

CHORUS:This, the pow'r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev'ry bitter thought,
Ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the vict'ry cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

FINAL CHORUS:This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

-Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

Friday, December 12, 2008

Contra Mundum

Contra Mundum (against the world) was the great orthodoxy of Athanasius. Athanasius was a man who contended for the deity of Christ. This orthodoxy of Contra Mundum makes it sound as if Athanasius had no joy in life but was always doing battle against the world. Athanasius response to that thinking would be:

"Let us be courageous and rejoice always...Let us consider and lay to heart that while the Lord is with us, our foes can do us no hurt...But if they see us rejoicing in the Lord, contemplating the bliss of the future, mindful of the Lord, deeming all things in His hand...-they are discomfited and turned backwards."
-Athanasius as quoted by John Piper

Athanasius knew where true joy was found. He fought for it with joy, a bliss of the future and recognized the sovereignty of God. Piper says, "If something is worth fighting for, it is worth rejoicing over. And the joy is essential in the battle, for nothing is worth fighting for that will not increase our everlasting joy in God. Courage in conflict must mingle with joy in Christ." True joy is in defending what is true joy, Christ. Don't argue or get involved with conflict for the sake of nothing; fight for the truth, contend for the gospel and rejoice in the increase of everlasting joy in God.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Authentic doing

Last night I had the great privilege to read a biography of John Owen. I would encourage any of you to read about this man or just read his stuff. He is not easy to read to starting with a biography can help give you understanding. I read John Piper's biography of Owen in his Swans are not Silent series. Here is a little taste of Owen:

"Our happiness consisteth not in the knowing the things of the gospel, but in the doing of them...I hold myself bound in conscience and in honor, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of any one article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it, in its spiritual sense, that I may be able, from the heart, to say with the psalmist, 'I have believe, and therefore I have spoken'."
-John Owen

Piper says of Owen "His aim in all he dad was to grasp the mind of Christ and reflect it in his behavior. This means that the quest for holiness was always bound up with a quest for true knowledge of God."

May we strive to know God, through His Word, and reflect Him in our behavior. May Christ be exalted through our lives.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Call to Discernment

Chapter 7 - The Gift of Discernment

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1

"All Christians are given gifts of the Holy Spirit that serve to bring unity to the church by manifesting the Spirit and serving other believers. Among these gifts is the gift of spiritual discernment. People with this gift will have special ability to separate truth from error and to discern whether something originates with God or with Satan. There are a wide variety of opportunities to serve the church through this gifting. Even though not everyone has been given the spiritual gift of discernment, we are all to pursue this discipline."
Tim Challies

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die

To absorb the wrath of God
To please His Heavenly Father
To learn obedience and be perfected
To achieve His own resurrection from the dead
To show the wealth of God’s love and grace for sinners
To show His own love for us
To cancel the legal demands of the law against us
To become a ransom for many
For the forgiveness of our sins
To provide the basis for our justification
To complete the obedience that becomes our righteousness
To take away our condemnation
To abolish circumcision and all rituals as the basis of salvation
To bring us to faith and keep us faithful
To make us holy, blameless, and perfect
To give us a clear conscience
To obtain for us all things that are good for us
To heal us from moral and physical sickness
To give eternal life to all who believe on Him
To deliver us from the present evil age
To reconcile us to God
To bring us to God
So that we might belong to Him
To give us confident access to the holiest place
To become for us the place where we meet God
To bring the Old Testament priesthood to an end and become the Eternal High Priest
To become a sympathetic and helpful Priest
To free us from the futility of our ancestry
To free us from the slavery of sin
That we might die to sin and live to righteousness
So that we would die to the law and bear fruit for God
To enable us to live for Christ and not ourselves
To make His cross the ground of all our boasting
To enable us to live by faith in Him
To give marriage its deepest meaning
To create a people passionate for good works
To call us to follow His example of lowliness and costly love
To create a band of crucified followers
To free us from bondage to the fear of death
So that we would be with Him immediately after death
To secure our resurrection from the dead
To disarm the rulers and authorities
To unleash the power of God in the gospel
To destroy the hostility between races
To ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation
To gather all His sheep from around the world
To rescue us from final judgment
To gain His joy and ours
So that He would be crowned with glory and honor
To show that the worst evil is meant by God for good
-John Piper

Here is the link to purchase this book. I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pre-order Piper's new book

Here is a link to Desiring God for Piper's new book Finally Alive. You can pre-order now for $5.

Misery, happiness, price

"It is amazing to me - that I do not find my heart all on fire with love to Jesus - when I consider - from what misery I am redeemed; to what happiness I am called; and what a price was paid for my soul! Alas! Alas! my guilt and grief are that my thoughts of Jesus are so faint, and so infrequent; and that my commendations of Him are so lamentably cold and disproportionate to what they ought to be!"
-John Newton

Friday, December 5, 2008

Honor those you love...

Finding someone to look up to these days is not always an easy task. I’ve been blessed with many men who love Christ and love ministering to His people. I have been blessed to do ministry with one man for several years. He has made a bigger impact on my life than he may know. We have two huge things in common: Christ and music. We both have a great passion for seeing Christ glorified in life and music. What he may not know is most my passion has come from his instruction, guidance and teaching.

He has taught me many things about Scripture behind the scenes. He has counseled and held me accountable. He has also counseled and challenge many youth to have a passion in life for worshiping Jesus Christ. Praise God for the truth that has gone forth from this man and the impact he has had on so many. I love him for how you have shaped me and helped me become who I am today. I really appreciate how he has challenged me to love Christ and be transparent with my life.

Thank you Jim McMurry for being a friend and counselor I will always cherish. I hope this encourages you to keep serving the way you always have: sacrificially.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The mission field in the pews

Yesterday I sent out a link for John Piper's new book coming out called Finally Alive which Adrian Warnock says about the book, "By examining the Bible's teaching on the new birth, John Piper shows us how to be certain our faith is genuine. Because no issue could be more critical, I believe this is the most important book Piper has written. It could be the most important book outside of the Bible that you or your loved one will ever read." WOW!! I would definitely have to recommend you pre-order this book that will be coming out in 2009.

One response I got back from a friend of mine in Wisconsin I wanted to share. I found it to be a very interesting and an insightful point:

"We have been doing all we can to get unsaved folks into the church for the past decade or more, but now the problem is, our church's are filled with people who don't really know Christ, but think they do because they are part of a church. We have a huge mission field sitting in our pews every Sunday morning."

-Michael Middleton

Writing Religion out of our History

Please go read this important article on Desiring God's blog.

A Call to Discernment

Chapter 6 - The Will and Discernment

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Romans 12:2

"Once we know what is true about God, we can rightly know His will for our lives. We do not seek to know God's secret will but His revealed will that tells us to be filled with the Spirit, to be sanctified, and to be thankful. And in honoring this will, we must exercise discernment as we distinguish between choices that are consistent with God's self-revelation and those that are not. We are truly discerning in obeying God's will only when we can say that His will is our delight."
-Tim Challies

Monday, December 1, 2008

The greatest admission in the world

The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin..If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
-1 John 1:7,9

"The greatest admission in the world is to acknowledge personal sinfulness. It is the key admission out of which forgiveness is granted and guilt is removed!...Don't be deceived about your spiritual condition! To conceal your true condition (as if we really could), is to cut off the only avenue for true cleansing. To re-define sin as sickness or disease, or to blame someone or something else, is Satan's deceptive lie! What you must do is confess your sinfulness, and when this acknowledgement occurs, God is faithful and just (which means He will do what He promises to forgive and that He is righteous in His dealings with sinners based upon the work of Jesus on the cross), to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
-Lance Quinn

God's promises

"Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honor, and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure, and pays with pain; he promises profit, and pays with loss, he promises life, and pays with death. But God pays as he promises; all his payments are made in pure gold."
-Thomas Brooks