Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Think Pornography Isn't That Bad?

In preparing for the next message in our current sermon series, "Kingdom Living - Matthew 5-7," I just finished reading The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community by Patrick Fagan. Wow! It is a very thorough survey of research on the effects of pornography. Be afraid - be very afraid if you think pornography is not that bad. Please read the paper for yourself.

Let the words of the gracious King, Jesus, in Matthew 5 scare us into a desperate reliance on his grace to rescue us from this great evil:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." Mt. 5:27-30 (ESV)

Some things you can do:
  1. If you are dabbling in pornography get help and run as fast and as far as you can from it. Don't think it is okay - it is very dangerous and destructive.
  2. If you are regularly engaging in pornography get some serious help from your pastor or a qualified counselor - don't delay - it may be too late if you wait.
  3. Assume many if not most of your male friends have struggled with this and need accountability and help from other men who are successfully resisting this danger.
  4. Replace the false and destructive pleasure of illicit sex with the true and lasting pleasure of knowing and enjoying God through Jesus Christ. (read this from John Piper for more help here.)
  5. Support any changes in the regulation of sexually explicit material to keep this horrible stuff quarantined. If we regulate narcotics why should we not regulate pornography?? Take a look at this helpful pamphlet, Dealing with Pornography: A Practical Guide for Protecting Your Family and Your Community from the Family Research Council.
  6. Contact our church if we can help you in any way. See www.KingofGrace.org .

Trying to Deal with S.A.D.?

Do you feel "blue" during the holidays and winter in general? Some of the reason might be S.A.D. Check out this video to learn more.

Are you SAD? from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Some additional resources:
  1. The Gospel Primer - Milton Vincent
  2. Depression: The Way Up When You are Down - Ed Welch
  3. When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy - John Piper
  4. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  5. The Minister's Fainting Fits - Charles Spurgeon
HT: The Gospel Coaltion Blog

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Abortion Distortion

"Just two months before the health-care bill’s passage in the House, a Rasmussen poll found that 48 percent of the public didn’t want abortion covered in any government-subsidized health plan, while just 13 percent did.....The idea that a bunch of pro-life rogue wingnuts have hijacked the agenda and thwarted the national will is a convenient, but fanciful, belief." So says Jennifer Senior in her candid article "The Abortion Distortion" in the New Yorker.

Maybe there is more hope for a reasonable and consistent stand on the right-to-life in our country. Maybe we can get past the demonizing rhetoric and have a good and helpful debate that will result in our country enforcing the most foundational right, a right, if eroded, collapses all other rights and eventually undermines government as we have known it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Rescuing Ambition

My friend Dave Harvey is coming out with another great book. Here is an intro from the Amazon site:

This pioneering book rescues ambition from suspicion by putting it to work for the glory of God.

Ambition has developed a reputation synonymous with the love of earthly honor and fame hunting. As a result, the organ of ambition—the God-implanted drive to improve, produce, develop, and create—is neglected and well on its way to paralysis. For some Christians, dreams are numbed. For others, there are no dreams; life just happens. One thing is certain: ambition needs help.

Dave Harvey is calling for a rescue. He wants to snatch ambition from the heap of failed motivations and put it to work for the glory of God. To understand our ambition, we must understand that we are on a quest for glory. Where we find glory determines the success of our quest. With his transparent humor and conversational tone, Harvey expounds on insights from Scripture and everyday life as he calls readers to reach further and dream bigger for the glory of God.

Go to Amazon here to pre-order.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Purpose of "A Christmas Carol"

Just read a great article on the original context to Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". Bottom line, Charles Dickens wrote this classic and touching Christmas story not that we would wax nostalgic about old-fashioned Christmases but that our hearts would be stirred to give generously to the poor and thus "keep Christmas" well.

A question for us to consider: If Scrooge were alive today what sort of reforms would he make to keep Christmas well? How can we keep Christmas in terms of charity for needy folks?

Perhaps part of how we can celebrate Christmas this year is in giving to the needy. Here are someworthy causes to help us keep Christmas:
  1. Somebody Cares New England
  2. Five Talents
  3. Compassion International
  4. Hands & Feet Project
  5. Blood:Water Mission
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Need Some Good Advent Readings?

Are you looking for some good Advent devotionals? I came across this one from the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. It looks good. You can access it here.

HT: Nancy Wilson

Why Do You Go to Church?

Jeff Purswell has an excellent post on the biblical perspective on "going to church". Check out this excerpt:
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV) ....

Sunday Morning

So back to your home church this upcoming Sunday. When you enter and the music begins, what are you more aware of? Is it the song set? the musicians? the mix? Does the worship band wow you? Does the routine bore you?

Or do you perceive something beyond all this?

Your church is one authentic manifestation of the entire people of God that right now is worshiping before the throne of God. That is the reality of new covenant worship. And when we begin to wrap our minds around that, there springs to mind a thousand reasons to rejoice, to praise, and to sing; and to renounce flippancy, self-display, selfishness, superficiality, sloppiness, and thoughtlessness.

Before the God who is a consuming fire, we don’t shuffle in casually. We don’t demand our artistic preferences. We don’t merely gather with our friends. We don’t merely sing together. As the people of God, we enter into the very presence of God. Encountering God in this way is the very nature of the church. By definition, to be the church is to gather in God’s presence and to worship God together. And when we begin singing, we join the glorious worship that takes place unceasingly before the throne of God.

This is true regardless of how we feel, who leads worship, what songs we sing, or how we think worship went. There is something incredible happening on Sunday morning!

Be the church and go to church. Something eternal is going on in there. Don’t miss it.

(Read more.....)

Sign the Manhattan Declaration

Are you concerned for our culture's misunderstanding of the right to life, the dignity of marriage and religious liberty? Then please consider signing the Manhattan Declaration.

This document winsomely, clearly and boldly presents a Christian worldview on these very important issues. The commitment elegantly communicated in this document is a vital one for every Christian dedicated to historic and biblical Christianity in a time of increasing confusion, controversy and conflict around Christian views of life, liberty and family.

Although some Christians might wrangle over the definition of "the gospel" in this document (see Tim Challis' post), I believe this is finding a tempest in a teacup. By signing the document you are in no way compromising either a Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Evangelical definition of the gospel. The document is constructed to allow Christians to unite over clear and historical Christian teaching on these social justice issues. Let's not lose an opportunity for forming a key and timely alliance because we would rather look for disagreement where none is intended.

I hope you are able to sign it!

Read the introduction below.

The Manhattan Declaration

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (Read More Here, Download PDF Here)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Clarification on Separation of God and Sports

In a recent post I wrote about the faulty idea and practice that you can somehow separate faith from the public arena - in this case, the sports arena. I cited an article written by Tom Krattenmaker from USA Today.

I want to clarify that Tom Krattenmaker is not calling for a "secular" sports arena, at least not directly or explicitly. As a matter of fact, Mr. Krattenmaker is fairly even-handed in his treatment of religious speech in the public arena. You can read his views on religious speech at Graduations here and his view on Intolerant Atheism here. You can learn more about Tom's views at his web site: tomkrattenmaker.com.

I do think Mr. Krattenmaker's article, And I'd Like to Thank God Almighty, unfairly and narrow-mindedly characterizes historic orthodox Christian beliefs and can be understood as a call to "secularization" of sports. But I wanted you to know that Mr. Krattenmaker is more of a friend of free-speech and overt religious convictions than an enemy.

More of the dialogue characteristic of Mr. Krattenmaker's earlier articles will help us all better enjoy the blessings of a free and just society.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The End of Secularism

Another good discussion on the fallacy of "secularism". Here are some excerpts:

The Clothed Public Square

Hunter Baker was once a secularist. He believed in God while attending Florida State University, but he had no room for him outside of baptisms, weddings, and funerals. "If someone started talking about Jesus, it was like they were talking about their bathroom habits," Baker says. "That's how secularists feel, and they wish we would stop using religious language because it makes them uncomfortable." Now the Houston Baptist University political science professor is speaking up about the dangers of secularism. Christianity Today online editor Sarah Pulliam spoke with Baker about his new book, The End of Secularism (Crossway). ....

Secularism goes a lot further than the separation of church and state. Instead of saying that these things have to be institutionally separate, secularism says that religion has to be privatized and taken out of public life. Secularists argue that if we stop talking about God, we will create greater social harmony. But religion is not a hobby. To act as though God doesn't exist is fundamentally dishonest.

Second, it's unfair. [According to secularists,] you have Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, all of which orbit the sun of secularism. That's utterly fallacious. Secularism is really a competing orthodoxy. And if that's the case, why should one of these competitors be allowed to declare itself the umpire?

Read the whole article here. Or, get the book here.

Separation of Church and Sport

Once again, another fallacious appeal to separate "religion" from "secular" life in Tom Krattenmaker's article, And I'd like to thank God Almighty, appearing in USA Today.

While someone might argue persuasively for a humbler, gentler and more respectful advocacy of Christianity in sports it is impossible and fallacious to think we can somehow separate people's world views from what they think, say and do in the sports arena or any other context. Too often these appeals to separate "religion" from the public arena are just veiled attempts (even if unconsciously) to promote a simplistic humanistic worldview in the public arena to the exclusion of any other perspective.

I believe the better approach is a respectful and intelligent tolerance that fully allows divergent views to be freely expressed within the bounds of basic commonly held beliefs and values. I believe a thoroughly biblical Christianity is the best foundation for such an environment.

Read a good discussion of the sports article here. Also read a previous post on the fallacy of a "secular" view here.

Collision: Atheism vs. Christianity

I highly recommend watching the movie, "Collision." It is a documentary/debate on the diverse world views of Atheism and Christianity by some very articulate and winsome proponents of their views, Christopher Hitchins for Atheism and Douglas Wilson for Christianity.

Check out a recent sample of their debate on the Huffington Post:
Religion Is Absurd
by Christopher Hitchens

Religion will always retain a certain tattered prestige because it was our first attempt as a species to make sense of the cosmos and of our own nature, and because it continues to ask "why". Its incurable disability, however, lies in its insistence that the answer to that question can be determined with certainty on the basis of revelation and faith.....

This absurd belief would not even deserve to be called quixotic if it had not inspired masterpieces of art and music and architecture as well as the most appalling atrocities and depredations. The great cultural question before us is therefore this: can we manage to preserve what is numinous and transcendent and ecstatic without giving any more room to the superstitious and the supernatural. (For example, can one treasure and appreciate the Parthenon, say, while recognizing that the religious cult that gave rise to it is dead, and was in many ways sinister and cruel?) A related question is: can we be moral and ethical in our thoughts and actions without the servile idea that our morals are dictated to us by a supreme entity?

If Moses and Jesus and Mohammed had never existed -- let alone Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Eddy or Kim Jong Il or any of the other man-made prophets or idols -- we would still be faced with precisely the same questions about how to explain ourselves and our lives, how to think about the just city, and how to comport ourselves with our fellow-creatures. The small progress we have made so far, from the basic realization that diseases are not punishments to the noble idea that as humans we may even have "rights", is due to the exercise of skepticism and doubt, and to the objective scrutiny of hard evidence, and not at all to faith or certainty. The real "transcendence", then, is the one that allows us to shake off the notion of a never-dying tyrannical father-figure, with its unconsoling illusion of redemption by human sacrifice, and assume our proper proportion as people condemned to be free, and able to outgrow the fearful tutelage of a supreme supervisor who does not forgive us the errors he has programmed us to make.

Atheists Suck at Being Atheists
by Pastor Douglas Wilson

From the perspective of a Christian, the refusal of an atheist to be a Christian is dismaying, but it is at least intelligible. But what is really disconcerting is the failure of atheists to be atheists. That is the thing that cries out for further exploration.

We can understand a cook who sets out to prepare a reduction sauce, having it simmer on the stove for three days. But what we shouldn't get is the announcement afterwards that he has prepared us a soufflé. The atheistic worldview is nothing if not inherently reductionistic, whether this is admitted or not. Everything that happens is a chance-driven rattle-jattle jumble in the great concourse of atoms that we call time. Time and chance acting on matter have brought about, in equally aimless fashion, the 1927 New York Yankees, yesterday's foam on a New Jersey beach, Princess Di, the arrangement of pebbles on the back side of the moon, the music of John Cage, the Fourth Crusade, and the current gaggle representing us all in Congress.

If the universe actually is what the materialistic atheist claims it is, then certain things follow from that presupposition. The argument is simple to follow, and is frequently accepted by the sophomore presidents of atheist/agnostic clubs at a university near you, but it is rare for a well-published atheistic leader to acknowledge the force of the argument. To acknowledge openly the corrosive relativism that atheism necessarily entails would do nothing but get the chimps jumping in the red states. To swallow the reduction would present serious public relations problems, and drive Fox News ratings up even further. Who needs that?

If the atheist is right, then I am not a Christian because I have mistaken beliefs, but am rather a Christian because that is what these chemicals would always do in this arrangement and at this temperature. The problem is that this atheistic assumption does the very same thing to the atheist's case for atheism. The atheist gives us an account of all things which makes it impossible for us to believe that any account of all things could possibly be true. But no account of things can be tenable unless it provides us with the preconditions that make it possible for our "accounting" to represent genuine insight. Atheism fails to do this, and the failure is a spectacular one. Nor does atheism allow us to have any fixed ethical standard, or the possibility of beauty.

Read the whole thing.

The documentary is now available from Amazon.

Check out this trailer:

Introducing Dave Harvey

I am very jazzed to see that Dave Harvey will start contributing to CJ Mahaney's blog, "view from the cheap seats & other stuff."

Dave is the author of When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (Shepherd, 2007). This is one of the best books on marriage I have seen!

Dave is a good friend of mine and a wise and Godly pastor. He is in charge of church planting for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He is also very funny.

He recently wrote his first post. Check out this excerpt:
Because we love proclaiming the gospel, Sovereign Grace Ministries created a new role and asked me to fill it. We’re not big on titles around here so I’m the “person-responsible-for-church-planting, international-expansion-and-church-care-in-Sovereign-Grace.” People typically start yawning about halfway through my title, so I often grab attention by also throwing in “bomb disposal.”

I live in Philadelphia, home of the world champion Phillies and some pretty awesome cheesesteaks. If you don’t know what a cheesesteak is, then eating one someday should immediately go on your prayer list. Many young men feel called to plant churches in Philly after eating one.

But I digress. .....

Sovereign Grace Ministries defines success partly by planting gospel-centered churches. It is so important to us that we dedicate an enormous amount of time, training, resources, and personnel to it. We’ve been doing it for 25 years…it’s in our DNA, our genes, our blood, it’s…well, you get the picture. But here’s the neat thing: It still feels like we are just getting started. There’s still so much to do, so much to learn. And then we’ve got to effectively transfer the whole thing to the next generation so that they can continue the mission in strength.

I hope this is important to you as well. But sheer enthusiasm is not enough. We need to understand from God’s Word why we as a ministry are called to plant and build gospel-centered local churches around the world.

Wow, I get excited just writing about this stuff. And I hope my blog contribution will encourage those of you with the same burden for church planting.

Next time we’ll get started by answering the obvious and foundational question: Why plant churches in the first place?

So log on, grab a cheesesteak and join me next time.

If you have a couple minutes check out his full post here.

Looking forward to more!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Domesticating God

Preparing to preach on 1 Cor. 1:18-25 in relationship to trusting God. DA Carson has been very helpful in this regard. Here is a notable quote..
"Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our needs."

DA Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 15
And from the word of God:
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What Is A Secular Education?

Something I've been pondering for a while. Let me know what you think.....

There is an idea that is commonly held and even vehemently defended in our culture. People might even scoff if you disagree. They will perhaps quote supreme court rulings and excerpts from the constitution as well. The idea is this, that the only legal and proper education for public schools is a "secular" education.

Now this whole idea of "secular" living not only influences our view of education but really our view of everything in the public sphere - politics, community, neighborly talk, relationships at work etc.. "Keep your religion to yourself - that's a private thing." We all assume that life in the public sphere must be secular if we are to get along and coexist as good citizens. While I'm all for getting along and coexisting as good citizens I think that the idea of a "secular" realm is inherently contradictory. I believe a secular view is inherently religious and therefore the idea of a "secular" education violates the first amendment clause that prohibits government sanction of any particular religious view.

Webster defines "secular" as 1 a : of or relating to the worldly or temporal b: not overtly or specifically religious c : not ecclesiastical or clerical .

In order to assume that there are ideas and actions that are secular, not overtly religious, you must assume that there is the ability to divorce ideas and actions from a greater reality than that which is immediately and apparently at hand. So at the core of the secular perspective is the assumption that there is a realm that can somehow be limited to merely the immediate and pragmatic experience of the individual or community. In this place, functionally and hypothetically, there is no God, there is no transcendent truth, there is really nothing more than the individual's or group's experience.

But how do we evaluate that experience? What is it? What constitutes the difference between a "spiritual" experience and a "secular"? What is a group? What is an individual? What is right and wrong? How do we determine it? If secular is the realm with no God, what is God? Where and how is there no God? How do I determine how to interact in such a realm? What are my rights? What are the groups rights? What is a "right" anyhow? How do we get that concept? What is "is"?

Do you see what sort of trouble we get into when we try to carve out a place called "secular"?

I would submit that there is no such thing as a "secular" realm. Instead, we have used this as camouflage to cover what functionally is a state-sponsored religion derived from an increasingly abandoned Enlightenment view of the world that is more-or-less bound to the assumption that the self (whatever that may be) is the ultimate determiner of reality and thus the spiritual center of the universe.

And if this view is the central commitment of our education system aren't we proselytizing our children when we base their education on a "secular" worldview? Is not this a violation of the establishment and free exercise clause of the First Amendment?

Is there a way forward? I think so- so did Abraham Kuyper - that's for another blog.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Creativity and Congregational Worship

Watch this interview of CJ Mahaney and Bob Kauflin on the use of creativity in corporate worship- some very helpful cautions and instruction.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Four Views on Christianity and Culture

I came across an excellent discussion by Ray Pennings on four contemporary views of how Christians are to interact with the world. Here are some excerpts:

..... In my mind, there are at least four distinct approaches evident in Reformed circles today, each of which brings some perspective to the tension that this symposium seeks to address.

Neocalvinism focuses on the comprehensiveness of the gospel claim. "Every square inch" belongs to Christ, and the full effects of the cross—as fully conquering sin, including its effects in the groaning creation—are emphasized. .... That means challenging the presuppositions of secular reasoning and working carefully with both the books of creation and revelation.

The "two kingdom perspective" .. brings at least two valuable insights to the conversation. Negatively, it warns against the hubris that sometimes can accompany an attempt to define "the" Christian position on various contemporary issues. ... Positively, it brings a very strong ecclesiology into the conversation, emphasizing the calling of believers to focus on their place in the church and the bride of Christ, and to emphasize the transcendence of the gospel.

Neopuritans (which I prefer as a term to describe that group which Time magazine described as New Calvinists) focus on the sovereignty of God and the glory of God.... this perspective results in an approach that is more individualistic than corporate, focuses more extensively on responding to the needs of our neighbours through the diaconal ministry of the church, and relies on being an example, resisting cultural trends and intentionally working towards a Christian counter-culture.

"Old Calvinism".... One example of this approach is John MacArthur, who has essentially come to the conclusion that engaging the city inevitably leads the church to worldliness and that when the church attempts to engage the culture, the culture is usually more effective at influencing the church.... Promoting godly living and the fruits of the Spirit is a mission "far more good and profitable to men than any amount of social and political activism . . . [Christians] are content very much to let the worldly people deal with the worldly things of this world."

So to summarize the discussion within Reformed circles today: The neocalvinist says the fundamental presuppositions underlying the debate need to be changed if we are to have meaningful engagement. The two kingdom perspective responds that it won't happen; when we try to engage in discussion, we end up calling things Christian that really aren't, resulting in pride and a misrepresentation of the gospel. The neopuritans say that that is why we should avoid a systemic approach; we should focus more on the individual needs of our neighbors and show them, both in ministries of mercy as well as by positive examples, that faith makes a difference. The Old Calvinists say that in all of this activity, we are losing our focus and getting dirty as we dig around in the garbage cans of culture to retrieve a penny or two of value from the bottom. We and our culture need heart-surgery, not band-aids.

Framing the camps in this way can emphasize the gaps and overlook the significant overlap that in practice one finds as people seek to balance their response to the practical tension that can emerge between gospel proclamation and seeking the peace of the city. I think more work needs to be done in developing a coherent public theology. I believe such a theology needs to be rooted in orthodox doctrine (truth matters, and cultural engagement that focuses on activity without core content inevitably leads astray); have a robust worldview that answers the questions our neighbours are asking (in other words, is less concerned about an agenda than responding to the needs and questions of those around us); has an ethic of integrity (our example is an important part of our witness and the institutional church with her offices must be as a bright light and example); and is lived with a pilgrimage spirit (which probably means more emphasis on the doctrines of providence and eschatology as everyday realities in the life of the believer.)

You can check out the whole discussion here.

HT: Kevin DeYoung

CJ Mahaney Sermons on Video

Check out this excellent resource - CJ Mahaney Sermons on video from Vimeo.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on Two Kingdom Theology vs. Neo-Kuyperism

I have been reading a biography of Abraham Kuyper and digging deeper into his theology and philosophy. The more I read the more I like what he has to say and what he did.

Recently, Kevin DeYoung and some of the guys at the White Horse Inn debated the appeal of the Two Kingdom world view versus the Neo-Kuperian world view. Both views have value and biblical merit. See Justin Taylor's discussion for a good exchange among commentators.

I can't promise to add anything to their discussion. But, with the hope of helping us think a little more through these important ideas....my thoughts.

While I like aspects of the Two Kingdom approach I believe it has some serious drawbacks. Here are some thoughts on the advantages and drawbacks of the Two Kingdom view:

  1. It is a good understanding in wrestling with the reality that the elect are also exiles living in a world largely opposed to the reign of God.
  2. It helps protect the church from forgetting its chief priority of proclaiming Christ and displaying the fruit of the gospel first and foremost.
  3. It allows for participation in the realm of the world, where we often see the work of common grace that is distinct from true kingdom work (it lacks true acknowledgment of Christ as King ie. good government, friendly neighbors, public charities etc.).
  4. It keeps a healthy tension between the already and the not yet in our eschatology.

  1. It can lend itself to a neo-Gnosticism where our spirituality can be disconnected with the nitty-gritty of life lived in a body that dwells in a world that has cultural, economic, social, civic and relational realities that are intimately related to the spiritual.
  2. It can lend itself to an apathetic view of the world and the isolation of the Church from society. Christianity is a comprehensive worldview that is centered on Christ but finds application in every nook and cranny of life, both in a fallen world and in the future re-created world.
  3. It can seem to excuse Christians and Christian leaders from thinking through the particulars of how a Christian is to live in the world because of the inherent difficulty in applying gospel truth to the complexities of life and culture. While there are inherent dangers with any church advocating how to shop or how to invest in stocks or which political party to support or what art forms to promote, this is no reason for separating the realm of the church and the world in this way. We do not wash our hands of the application of the reign of Christ to the nitty-gritty because the issues can become too complicated. We must think biblically about every arena of life. Certainly we must be humble and admit we are culturally biased in our applications, but this is no reason for neglect. "There is a lion in the streets" is the excuse of the sluggard. The reign of Christ extends to all things. We must humbly and diligently seek to apply His truth in all arenas of life even if it means coming up with some messy answers at times.
  4. It seems where it has been embraced it has evidenced, to some degree, the negative effects of the previous three tendencies (ie. Lutheran & Mennonite vs. much of English, Dutch and American evangelicalism). Certainly Neo-Kuyperism has its drawbacks (a subject of a future post) but humble truthful comprehensive Gospel-centered activism, even with its misapplications and messiness seems to have a healthier legacy than the Two Kingdoms approach.

I am eager to think more through this more and hear your perspectives. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guaranteed by God - Romans 8:18-39

I have been studying Romans 8:18-39 in preparation for Sunday. Check out this wordle of this passage from the ESV.

Go to Wordle to see more.

The Sluggard

Check out this poem by Isaac Watts entitled "The Sluggard" drawn from the book of Proverbs. God grant us wisdom to avoid the way of the sluggard!

'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
"You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again."
As the door on its hinges, so he on his bed,
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head.

"A little more sleep, and a little more slumber;"
Thus he wastes half his days, and his hours without number,
And when he gets up, he sits folding his hands,
Or walks about sauntering, or trifling he stands.

I pass'd by his garden, and saw the wild brier,
The thorn and the thistle grow broader and higher;
The clothes that hang on him are turning to rags;
And his money still wastes till he starves or he begs.

I made him a visit, still hoping to find
That he took better care for improving his mind:
He told me his dreams, talked of eating and drinking;
But scarce reads his Bible, and never loves thinking.

Said I then to my heart, "Here's a lesson for me,"
This man's but a picture of what I might be:
But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding,
Who taught me betimes to love working and reading.

by Isaac Watts

HT: Josh Harris

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Parenting Resources

I recently heard a message by Dave Harvey that I would put on my list of the top 25 messages I've ever heard. It was entitled, "Parenting in Weakness" and it was an analysis and application of 2 Cor. 12 to parenting. You don't want to miss this one.

Go to Monergism to download an MP3: "Parenting in Weakness", 2 Cor 11:30-12:10, Dave Harvey.

You might want to check out some of the other excellent teaching on parenting on Monergism. Go to Monergism's Section on Parenting here.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Shack II

Two recommendations for alternatives to The Shack:

  1. Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

  2. How Long, O Lord by D.A. Carson.


The Shack

Sorry for the summer respite from blogging.....

Something I've wanted to do for a while is write a review of The Shack by William Young. I read it this summer and enjoyed many aspects of it.
  1. It is a gripping story that forces us to address some heart-wrenching issues that are very real for many folks.
  2. It warmly portrays the compassion and tenderness of God.
  3. It communicates the nearness of God to us amidst our struggles.
  4. It does a good job of making us wrestle with the mystery of evil.
  5. It attempts to show how God might resolve our questions in a way that is partially faithful to scripture.
But there are some significant problems...
  1. It neglects to adequately portray the unfathomable glory and wisdom of God that is the ultimate answer for our questions about evil and suffering (see the book of Job).
  2. It downplays or even eliminates God's sovereignty over all of creation, even evil. (It is a scary thing if God is not in control - there are no guarantees in such a world.)
  3. It messes a bit too much with clear scriptural revelations of God for a 21st century version of God. (God as a woman, God as a cool older dude etc.)
  4. It does not emphasize the awesome holiness of God and our obvious and complete unworthiness before him. (see Is. 6 for a biblical encounter between God and a man.)
  5. It does not sufficiently highlight the ultimate resolution of evil in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Hope that helps. Read it if you are able to sift the good from the bad, otherwise, stay away from it's ultimately unhelpful portrayal of God and the problem of evil. Also, Check out Trevin Waxes review for a fuller analysis.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two Ways to Live

My friend Jeff sent me this quote this morning. Check it out:
"Two men may have the same affliction; to one it shall be as gall and wormwood, yet it shall be wine and honey and delightfulness and joy and advantage and riches to the other. This is the mystery of contentment, not so much by removing the evil, as by metamorphosing the evil, by changing the evil into good."

Taken from the book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment By Jeremiah Burroughs 1648
Isn't it true that two people can face the same circumstance and based on their relationship with God either experience that circumstance as a curse or as a great blessing?

Thank God that the promise for the child of God is to use "all things" for our good and his glory!

That changes everything.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Little Children, Keep Yourself from Idols!

I spent time reading this post from John Piper out loud this morning. It so helped me! Last night we spent time looking at some home videos of some precious memories. It tempted me to love the gifts more than the Giver and pine for old times. This helped so much!

Take some time to read it out loud and let these truths lead you today. Enjoy. (I recommend reading through Dr. Piper's blog - he has a gift for getting to the core of things - see http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/. )

12 Ways to Recognize the Rise of Covetousness
By John Piper
June 17, 2009

Most of us realize that enjoying anything other than God, from the best gift to the basest pleasure, can become idolatry. Paul says in Colossians 3:5, “Covetousness is idolatry.”

“Covetousness” means desiring something other than God in the wrong way. But what does that mean—“in the wrong way”?

The reason this matters is both vertical and horizontal. Idolatry will destroy our relationship with God. And it will destroy our relationships with people.

All human relational problems—from marriage and family to friendship to neighbors to classmates to colleagues—all of them are rooted in various forms of idolatry, that is, wanting things other than God in wrong ways.

So here is my effort to think biblically about what those wrong ways are. What makes an enjoyment idolatrous? What turns a desire into covetousness, which is idolatry?

1. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God. For example, adultery and fornication and stealing and lying are forbidden by God. Some people at some times feel that these are pleasurable, or else we would not do them. No one sins out of duty. But such pleasure is a sign of idolatry.

2. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired. Great desire for non-great things is a sign that we are beginning to make those things idols.

3. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude. When our enjoyment of something tends to make us not think of God, it is moving toward idolatry. But if the enjoyment gives rise to the feeling of gratefulness to God, we are being protected from idolatry. The grateful feeling that we don’t deserve this gift or this enjoyment, but have it freely from God’s grace, is evidence that idolatry is being checked.

4. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift. If the gift is not awakening a sense that God, the Giver, is better than the gift, it is becoming an idol.

5. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand. It may be that the delight is right. It may be that another person ought to give you this delight. It may be right to tell them this. But when all this rises to the level of angry demands, idolatry is rising.

6. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties. When we find ourselves spending time pursuing an enjoyment, knowing that other things, or people, should be getting our attention, we are moving into idolatry.

7. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t. This is especially true of delights in religious things, like prayer and Bible reading and ministry. It is wonderful to enjoy holy things. It idolatrous to feel proud that we can.

8. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others. Holy enjoyment is aware of others’ needs and may temporarily leave a good pleasure to help another person have it. One might leave private prayer to be the answer to someone else’s.

9. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment. Enjoying anything but Christ (like his good gifts) runs the inevitable risk of magnifying the gift over the Giver. One evidence that idolatry is not happening is the earnest desire that this not happen.

10. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight. We are sinners still. It is idolatrous to be content with sin. So we desire transformation. Some enjoyments shrink our capacities of holy joy. Others enlarge them. Some go either way, depending on how we think about them. When we don’t care if an enjoyment is making us more holy, we are moving into idolatry.

11. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God. There can be sorrow at loss without being idolatrous. But when the sorrow threatens our confidence in God, it signals that the thing lost was becoming an idol.

12. Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people. This is the horizontal effect of losing confidence in God.

Again: Great sorrow is no sure sign of idolatry. Jesus had great sorrow. But when desire is denied, and the effect is the emotional inability to do what God calls us to do, the warning signs of idolatry are flashing.
For myself and for you, I pray the admonition of 1 John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

© Desiring God

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Why All The Rain?

Well, we can answer that on many fronts - from God's providence to the water cycle etc. But, in terms of meteorology - the strength of the Bermuda High and the Icelandic low seem to control whether we have a stormy or sunny pattern. Usually in the winter we have a weak Bermuda high and a weak Icelandic low and thus lots of storms and in the summer we get a strong Bermuda high and Icelandic low leading to sunny weather. (Check out the graphic.)

Currently, we are in a more winter-like part of the North Atlantic Oscillation so we have lots of cold, wet weather. Lord willing we will break into the summer pattern as the summer sun does it work.

A few things to do amidst the two months of cloudy rainy days:
  1. Remember the sun has shone and the sun will shine according to God's kind providence to us - so we can wait for the coming sunny days.
  2. Don't allow the current weather to define our sense of well-being - there is something far more glorious than the weather to do that - God's glory in Christ revealed to and in us!
  3. Thank God that he is the source of all good things and don't take his blessings (including sunny days) for granted.
  4. Fill our days with thanksgiving for these untold blessings instead of complaining about the weather.
  5. Share with others why you are thankful.

Hope that helps!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Last Letter Written

This letter from Ray Ortlund to his family before he died reminds me of my dear friend Jon Mark.

Letter from Ray Ortlund to his family, written in 2000.

Dear Family,

"The time has come for my departure" (2 Tim. 4:6). It's strange to write this when I'm feeling well and vigorous, but unless Christ returns first that departure time will come. When you read this it will have happened.

I have had a great journey with Jesus Christ. From childhood I have known about God and revered Him. The name of Jesus has always been precious to me. I thank my dear parents for this heritage. Now, life on earth is over and I go to meet the Lord face to face. I trust in Him as my sure Savior and rest in His grace at this momentous time of my death. I do not fear death. (I don’t like the pain, blood, and guts of it all!)

Actually I have been anticipating this new adventure and at the time you read this I will be with Christ in heaven. So it’s happened and I’m now in God’s presence, probably shocked at all I’m seeing for the first time.

I am sorry for my sin and failures which have been many, but I know Christ has forgiven them. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Some of those sins have been against you, my dear family, and I am sorry. You probably know my sins better than I. Some you don’t know, I know all too well. But "where sin abounds grace does much more abound."

My dear Anne has been my most treasured friend. If she is still living as you read this I know you will treat her well. When she goes to heaven God will give her blue ribbons and gold medals. What a great woman and wife! She has loved and stood loyally by me all our life together. And our last years have been our best. May God reward her for hard work, a forgiving spirit, relentless faith and enthusiastic acceptance of life as it came. She is a woman of God... my Cadillac. We shall meet on the other side and sing a duet of praise to God. As you know, Psalm 34:3 has been our verse. We trust you’ve seen that we did magnify the Lord.

Each of you children and spouses have been the joy of my life, as have been the grandchildren. I include Melinda and John in this because they are family to us, too. I have never doubted your love for me and you have been too kind. I will see you in heaven and we'll bless God together.

I urge you to remain true to your Savior. I have no doubt that you will. Love each other deeply in your marriages. Keep your family ties strong. Lay up treasure in heaven because the stuff of earth is empty. Bank accounts, houses and furniture mean nothing to me now. Actually they never did. Beware of sin, and confess it as soon as you discover it in your life. And let the Spirit's gift of joy color all your life. As you mature remain a happy person in Christ. Get even sweeter as you get older. Sour old people are a pain.

In my death be sure God is glorified. Jesus glorified the Father most in His death. John 17:1-5 tells us He faced impending death with that prayer for the Father to be glorified. So at my memorial service glorify God. Have a holy party. I was saying to Anne recently that this world has become less attractive lately and I feel a bit out of place. So it's good to go "home" now. I 'd like to make my burial simple. Cremation is fine with me. Bury my remains in a simple container to wait for the resurrection of my new glorified body. If cremation upsets you then don't do it, of course. I want you to be comfortable with it all.

Heb. 13: 20,21: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I love you all and each one. I’ll see you sooner than you think!

HT: Josh Harris

The Two Sides of Thomas Kinkade

As those made in God's image we are naturally interested in multidimensional communication that speaks to the deeper things of life. Art, in it's various forms is a wonderful way to do this. This is an arena of life well worth thinking about and enjoying.

I like most of Thomas Kinkade's art. (Sorry if that offends you.) But I also know it has it's limits. I wouldn't compare it to a Rembrandt but I am more likely to have a Kinkade piece hanging in my house than a Rembrandt.

Joe Carter of First Thoughts has an intriguing discussion of Thomas Kinkade's artwork. Here is an excerpt:

Consider two works of on similar themes. Both are images of the Water Tower in Chicago. Both have similar elements—a carriage, trees, people with umbrellas. Indeed, paintings are almost identical in theme and content, if not in style.

And yet the first is unquestionably technically superior. The use of texture and shadow puts the viewer within the picture. You can almost feel the cold Chicago air and hear the sounds of the serene yet bustling city.

The second painting, however, distances the viewer from the scene. Light is overused (notice the light coming from every window and the background lights that resemble a brushfire), presenting a faux golden glow that is unrealistic and dull. And the carriage, though more sharply drawn than in the first painting, is two-dimensional and distracting. While the first work is worthy of gracing a museum wall, the second is only worthy of garnishing a cheap greeting card.

As you could probably guess, the second painting is by Thomas Kinkade, circa 2004.

But what about the first painting, the more aesthetically superior rendition of the Water Tower? It too is by Thomas Kinkade; he painted it in 1998.

This is what is so distressing about Thomas Kinkade: He is both a creator of some of the most inspiring paintings of the past two decades and a producer of some of the worst schlock ever manufactured by a talented artist.

What do you think?

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jonathan Mark's Memorial Service

Here are the arrangements for Jonathan’s memorial service:

Memorial Service – Thursday, June 25th, 2 pm at King of Grace Church, 28 Chadwick St., Haverhill, MA 01835. All family, friends & acquaintances are warmly invited to join us for a time to remember and honor this dear man, brother and friend in song, scripture reading, worship and sharing. Please come ready to perhaps share a memory, story or aspect of Jon’s life that will help us celebrate and remember him. A reception with refreshments will follow in the King of Grace church fellowship hall. Please bring any heavy hors d’oeuvres or desserts you are able to prepare.

Graveside Service – Friday, June 26th, 10:30 AM, New Hampshire State Veteran’s Cemetery, 110 Daniel Webster Highway, Boscawen, NH 03303. Family members and close friends are invited for a graveside service to say goodbye to our friend, commit him to God and anticipate his resurrection upon the Lord’s return.

Please feel free to contact the church if you have any questions.

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jonathan Mark's Passing

Friends & Family,

Jonathan passed peacefully on to be with the Lord this morning around 12:45 AM. His last day was full of love and peace with many family and friends. Worship music was playing per his request and we were able to read scripture and pray with him. Thank God for these precious days we had with Jonathan over the past week.

We will dearly miss this precious man. We are so thankful for the blessing of his life as a gift from God.

We will let you know as soon as possible what arrangements will be made for his funeral/memorial service.

In His love,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jonathan Mark's Life Insurance

Jonathan’s employer, GES, called this afternoon to assure Jon & Julianne that Jonathan’s life insurance policy is still active. Thank God for their kindness! And thank you all who responded to Jonathan & Julianne’s apparent need. We will still take any donations if you would like to give a gift for Julianne as she seeks to get on her feet. But, the need is not as severe as we perceived it. Thanks so much for your care.

We will update you some more as we can.

Jonathan Mark Update June 18th

Jonathan is laboring to breath this morning. We are not sure how long it will be before God takes him. Thanks for praying and caring for Jonathan and Julianne. We know Jonathan is ready to meet his Savior and King. The loss will be ours, the gain will be Jonathan's.

Yesterday Chris & Kendra Knowles came to visit and Julianne asked if Jonathan wanted to sing some worship songs. Jon said yes. Julianne asked which song. Jonathan replied, "Isn't He Good". It was a holy moment as we all sang with this amazing man. His faith in God's goodness is shining like gold at this moment as he trusts Christ with his whole life and his future. I trust we will shine like Jonathan when our day comes.

With love, Paul

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jonathan Mark Update

Jonathan was moved to Merrimack Valley Hospice House today. It was the first hospice house available and very much a blessing. We see God’s kindness and care in this transition.

The house is located at 360 North Ave. in Haverhill around the corner from a number of King of Grace Church members. You can read more about it here. The facilities resemble a resort/retreat house and should really serve Jonathan & Julianne and those who wish to visit and spend time with Jonathan. There is ample space in the café and family reception area to relax and spend time together with one another without overwhelming Jonathan or Julianne. The room itself is spacious and comfortable with a queen size open-up for Julianne.

Thanks so much for all your care and prayers for our dear friend. He is doing relatively well as the effects of cancer seem to increase. He is still very weak and thin and only speaking a few words or so at a time. His mind is still pretty sharp – he seems to be able to keep track of what’s going on and has often asked about phone conversations and comments he has overheard as he lies in bed.

Please pray for Jonathan’s likely transition to his true eternal home. He has communicated that he feels the peace of God. Please pray he can continue to trust and rest in his Savior and King. Please also pray for Julianne as she faces this difficult loss. Julianne is doing very well considering all that is happening. Jonathan and Julianne’s extended family has been a wonderful support. Please pray for them as they seek to cope with all this.

Thanks for all your help. Please feel free to reply via email or phone if you have any questions or thoughts. I know they would love to see many of their beloved family members and dear friends so we will have to try manage the flow of folks and keep it somewhat quiet in the room.

With gratitude, for Jonathan and Julianne,


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Worship Music - Rain City Hymnal

An Appeal for Our Friends, Jonathan & Julianne Mark

Hi everybody,

Thank you all for caring for Jon and Julianne during these difficult months. They both are doing amazingly well even as Jon dramatically declines physically and faces perhaps his last days. We are hoping to transfer Jon to hospice today. Please pray!

Jon & Julianne have a particular need which you might be able to help. Jon’s life insurance was mistakenly canceled when he was transferred to long-term disability. As a result, they don’t have money for Jon’s funeral costs. It appears he will be able to be buried for free in a veteran’s cemetery in NH because of his veteran status. However, the other costs still add up. Some estimates run as high as $10,000. We are hoping to need less than this - perhaps $3,000.

Would you be able to help by contributing toward Jon’s funeral costs?

You can contribute by writing a check to King of Grace Church Attn: Jonathan Mark and sending it to 28 Chadwick St., Haverhill, MA 01835 or going on line to the King of Grace PayPal site here.

Thanks so much for considering this and for your love & prayers for these guys!

With gratitude,

Paul F. Buckley - Pastor
King of Grace Church
Sundays 10:00 AM
28 Chadwick St., Haverhill, MA 01835-7305
(978) 374-6562

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Got Angry Teens?

Got angry teens? Lost hope for a peaceful family? Concerned for the well-being of your son or daughter?

There are two resources that top my list for dealing with angry teens.
1. Bob Kauflin's message on parenting older teens from the Sovereign Grace Leaders Conference, "The Pastor and His Older Children" (for non-pastors too!) with PDF too, and

2. Rick Horne's very helpful book, "Get Outta My Face," (click here for a review and link to buy.)

BTW: If you haven't read "Age of Opportunity" and "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Shepherd Press, I would recommend you get a copy - you will be greatly blessed and helped - in your parenting and in your own life! And if you are still looking for more input, I gave a teaching last year that seemed to help folks: download "Parenting Teens: An Epic Adventure in Gospel-Centered Parenting".

Hope this blesses you!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Understanding God's Word

I have been using a tool my friend Alex Kirk told me about a ways back. It is called "bible arcing". It is a method for studying God's word by diagramming the flow of thought in a passage. I believe it is something John Piper uses having learned it from Dr. Fuller. It has been a huge help for me. Check out one of my arcs below. (I'm still learning.)

Go to http://www.biblearc.com/ for more info. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Piper on Twitter

John Piper comments on why and how he is tweeting. A couple of excerpts:

"... instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can...."
".... Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet."

Read the full article here.

HT: Josh Harris

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

We Love the Beach

Among the many things to enjoy in God's creation, my family and I love the beach. We are so thankful to be within 20 minutes to some really good beaches. Seabrook, Salisbury, Hampton and Plum Island are all nearby.

My most favorite is Sandy Point State Beach on the very southern end of Plum Island. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Plum Island and then probably another 15-20 to get to the end of the Island. But, it is worth it.

I am looking forward to some more time at Sandy Point!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Foundation of Philosophy

There are so many ideas and philosophies around us - some very deep and impressive. Whatever philosophical approach may interest us one biblical truth must control our pursuit of understanding - without God we can ultimately know nothing. John Calvin summed up the biblical understanding of the pursuit of knowledge:
"Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. .... man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself."
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 1.
That is the starting point for all knowledge and understanding - God himself. Without an infinite all-knowing all-powerful all-Sovereign being there is no true knowing for nothing is fixed and therefore nothing can be truly known. By definition God must possess these expansive qualities or there is something greater than he in the universe and that greater thing would be greater than God and thus truly God. But God must be God and therefore is the source of all truth and only from Him can we know truth definitively.

As one great philosopher said (much more simply):
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."

Solomon,Proverbs 9:10, ~950 B.C
(~600 years before Plato and all those guys that followed !)

Want Wisdom? Fear God.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spiritual Formation

I am preparing for a Retreat in June with my buddy Bauer Evans. We will spend time praying and planning as pastors and find some time for fellowship and fun as well (I believe I beat Bauer last year in our annual 9-hole golf outing.)

One of the things I am doing on this retreat and before is reading through Kenneth Boa's book on Spiritual Formation entitled, "Conformed to His Image". He builds the book on the idea that there are many facets of Christian Spiritual Formation and each one has a place in our walk with God. Here are the 12 facets:
Facet 1–Relational Spirituality: Loving God Completely, Ourselves Correctly, and Others Compassionately
Facet 2–Paradigm Spirituality: Cultivating an Eternal versus a Temporal Perspective
Facet 3–Disciplined Spirituality: Engaging in Historical Disciplines
Facet 4–Exchanged Life Spirituality: Grasping Our True Identity in Christ
Facet 5–Motivated Spirituality: A Set of Biblical Incentives
Facet 6–Devotional Spirituality: Falling in Love with God
Facet 7–Holistic Spirituality: Every Component of Life Under the Lordship of Christ
Facet 8–Process Spirituality: Process versus Product, Being versus Doing
Facet 9–Spirit-Filled Spirituality: Walking in the Power of the Spirit
Facet 10–Warfare Spirituality: The World, the Flesh, the Devil
Facet 11–Nurturing Spirituality: A Lifestyle of Evangelism and Discipleship
Facet 12–Corporate Spirituality: Encouragement, Accountability, and Worship
I look forward to learning from this book so I can grow as a Christian and a pastor in wisely and fruitfully walking with God for a lifetime and beyond.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Ray Ortlund has an excellent post on the sin of gossip. This is a serious sin we all dabble in. I think we need to take it more seriously for the sake of Christ's reputation and the good of our churches and friends. Check out these excerpts and read the whole article here.
The Bible itself is so clear against gossip, probably because we are so inclined toward gossip:

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who does not take up a reproach against his friend. Psalm 15:1, 3

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him: . . .
one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16, 19

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people. Leviticus 19:16, AV

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. James 4:11

Argue your case with your neighbor himself,
and do not reveal another’s secret. Proverbs 25:9

God gave them up to a debased mind . . . . They are gossips. Romans 1:28-29

There are many biblical passages confronting gossip. The witness of God against this sin is overwhelming.

Gossip is our dark moral fervor eagerly seeking gratification. Gossip makes us feel important and needed as we declare our judgments. It makes us feel included to know the inside scoop. It makes us feel powerful to cut someone else down to size, especially someone we are jealous of. It makes us feel righteous, even responsible, to pronounce someone else guilty. Gossip can feel good in multiple ways. But it is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.

Adultery too is a serious sin, and one likely to be disciplined in a church. But I have never seen a church split over the sin of adultery. Gossip is a sin rarely disciplined but often more socially destructive than the sensational sins.

Gossip leaves a wide trail of devastation wherever and however it goes – word of mouth, email, blogging, YouTube. It erodes trust and destroys morale. It creates a social environment of suspicion where everyone must wonder what is being said behind their backs and whether appearances of friendship are sincere. It ruins hard-won reputations with cowardly but effective weapons of misrepresentation. It manipulates people into taking sides when no such action is necessary or beneficial. It unleashes the dark powers of psychological transference, doing violence to the gossiper, to the one receiving the gossip and to the person being spoken against. It makes the Body of Christ look like the Body of Antichrist – destroyers rather than healers. It exhausts the energies we would otherwise devote to positive witness. It robs our Lord of the Church he deserves. It exposes the hostility in our hearts and discredits the gospel in the eyes of the world. Then we wonder why we don’t see more conversions, why “the ground is so hard.”

King of Grace Church has developed an understanding on how to navigate this issue biblically in the church. You can check it out here (p. 95). May God grant us repentance from the sin of gossip! May the power of the gospel transform how we speak in every way!

God Bless, Paul

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Justin Taylor at "Between Two Worlds" recently posted this preview of "Collision" (based on the book). This looks excellent! I would recommend you check it out and perhaps invite your friends.

COLLISION - 13 min VIMEO Exclusive Sneak Peak from Collision Movie on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Out of the Depths

Here is a "Drabble" from my friend, Nicole McLernon. I think you will find this touching and encouraging.

Out of the depths

“I’m sorry.” The doctor looks into my eyes then back down to the floor. “It’s cancer. Your daughter has lymphoma.”

My world reels.

“But you can treat it, can’t you?” My daughter, my 14-year-old princess? Cancer?

“I’m sorry,” he says again.

This is not happening. I am an oncology nurse. I administer chemotherapy; I hold the patient’s hand when they are too weak to even speak; I call the doctor when the patient does not respond; I am silent with the family after they’ve said their last goodbyes.

“It’s progressed too far.”

“How long?”

“2 months.”

I cannot even cry.

Oh Lord, I cry to You

I stumble out of the room. There is my daughter, sitting there. Her eyes lock with mine. I try desperately to fill my eyes with hope, try to give some strength even in my gaze.

I fail.

Her eyes question me. Oh, God. How am I supposed to answer that question? How am I supposed to deliver my daughter’s death sentence? Nothing in my life had prepared me for the rush of love I felt when she was born, when I first heard her cry, when she was placed in my arms for the first time, when her life began.

When I am tempted to despair

Now, nothing in my life has prepared me for this. For the rush of love I feel for her as I search for words that speak of the end, of the grave, of the long goodbye.

I must sit down.

I walk slowly, haltingly. I lower myself into the seat next to my precious little girl. Her eyes have not left my face.

I take her hand.


Was it a minute? Ten seconds? An eternity?

She speaks.


A deep sigh wells up from within me. I strangle the urge to let it out.

“Piper?” I must do this.

Though I might fail to trust Your promises

“Piper. The doctor said it’s too late. We didn’t catch the cancer in time.”

I am calm. Or perhaps I am dreaming and I shall wake up momentarily.

“What does that mean?”

“It means we…” Oh, God. “We only have a little time left.”

“How long?”

“He said two months.”

Am I really having this conversation?

Only now does she look away. But just because she has flung herself into my arms. I wait for tears to start. For her heart-wrenching sobs that will surely shatter mine.

Here they come.

I stroke her hair, silently. There is nothing to say.

You never fail to hear my prayer

We start radiation, hoping not for a cure but just some comfort. Piper is the bravest of us all. She endures. Still, I do not cry.

I hold her hand, like I’ve held so many patients’ hands before. But this time, I am the weary family member. This time, it is my heart breaking.

I bring in chocolate fudge swirl ice cream one day. Piper smiles at me, her eyes alight with joy. She takes a bite. Her face twists in displeasure and shock. The radiation has changed her taste buds so that she cannot even enjoy her favorite treat.

In every trial and loss

“Mom?” She tries to cover up her disappointment in a brave effort to encourage me. “Thanks for bringing it in.”

She looks so small, sitting there in that hospital bed, wearing that ridiculous gown. We’ve laughed about the gown. We call it her “simply telling us people interesting dragons” or “stupid” for short. Piper has always loved words. She’s always learning new ones, sprinkling her conversation with vocabulary that she’s picked up over the years. She gets that from her dad.

Her dad. My husband. The man is exhausted. I finally sent him home last night to get some sleep.

My hope is in the Cross

We bring Piper home when it is clear that there is nothing more to be done. She said she didn’t want to remember her last days being in the sterile hospital environment. Her words, not mine.

The clouds are rolling in as we pull up the driveway. They are dark. Angry. Threatening.

Piper walks up to her bedroom, possibly for the last time. Weariness shrouds her body. Her shoulders stoop forward and she stumbles on the stairs. She makes no protest when Jack picks her up and carries her.

I cannot follow. I turn and run out of the house.

Where Your compassions never fail

“Are you listening?” I scream to the heavens.

As if in reply, thunder booms in the distance.

“How dare you do this? Are you truly all-powerful? All-knowing? Good or kind? What kind of sadistic monster does this to a child?”

Lightening illuminates the sky, causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. The wind swirls around me, whipping my hair around my face, into my eyes and open mouth. Thunder crashes, as if it is trying to frighten me. I am not afraid. I am furious.

“Can you hear me?” I shout again, expecting no answer.

So more than watchmen for the morning

The rain is pouring now. The trees and clouds perform a wild dance in front of me, driven by a relentless wind. I consider going back inside but I am too angry.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to watch your child suffer and die?” I can still be heard, despite the thunder.

There is a brilliant flash of lightening. The thunder rumbles, far in the distance and suddenly, the tempest is over.

The rain is falling gently now. It looks like heaven itself is crying.

Then I hear it, not with my ears, but in my heart.

I will wait for You, my God

“I killed my Son for you.”

That is all. I hear nothing else.

That is all I need to hear.

Tears begin to well up in my eyes. Tears that have not been shed since Piper was diagnosed. Healing tears for my parched soul.

He killed His Son. For me.

I turn, slowly, and walk back into the house. Up to the second floor. Into my daughter’s room.

She sleeps the exhausted sleep of the very ill. I sit down next to my beautiful, dying daughter and take her hand in mine, gently, softly.

“I love you, Piper.”

I wait.

© Nicole McLernon 2009

HT: Bob Kauflin

How Long, O Lord?!

"All we have to do is live long enough, and we will be bereaved.

All we have to do is live long enough, and we will die"

So writes D.A. Carson in his book, "How Long, O Lord." This is an outstanding book addressing the reality of suffering. I have been thinking a lot about this topic. Although incomplete, here are some "pensees".
  • Suffering is unavoidable - whether loss of health, wealth, friends, favor, comfort. It will happen to us all.
  • Suffering tests our foundations. When all else is removed from our lives what remains?
  • Faulty thinking, faulty being, faulty doing will not long endure suffering.
  • It is best to prepare your foundations before you suffer, you may be too troubled in suffering to repair them.
  • The fundamental problem is that our foundations are based on or corrupted by self-reference and relativism. If our foundation is not built on something absolute and enduring then it will fail us.
  • Only God is absolute and enduring and therefore offers a foundation that will endure suffering.
  • The biblical view of God answers us at the most fundamental levels in regards to suffering and offers us an unshakable and verifiable foundation.
Among these biblical answers:
  1. The nature and character of God: all-powerful, sovereign, absolutely good, fully compassionate, all-wise, infinite, eternal, all-glorious.
  2. He himself has suffered the most of any and all in Christ's death on the cross for sin.
  3. He has risen victorious over sin, suffering and death.
  4. He invites us to entrust our lives, our hopes, our sufferings to Him in Christ.
  5. He promises to use our sufferings for good in Christ.
  6. He uses our sufferings to refine our faith, hope, love and joy in Him, purging us of faulty foundations.
  7. One day soon, suffering and sorrow will be resolved and ended in Christ's return.
Hope this helps.