Burden Bearing

Paint CanRather than waiting until we can do something really “spectacular,” let’s daily be on the lookout for opportunities to help bear the burdens of others in simple, significant ways. I trust this post by Tim Challies will be a help as we seek to develop that servant perspective: An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians.

 

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on February 25th, 2015 | Comments Off

One of my favorite saints…

SpurgeonNope, not Drew Brees, though I like him. I’m speaking about those people who have surrendered their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledged the finished work of the Son of God on the cross. When I say saints, I mean believers. And one of my favorite saints is C. H. Spurgeon. I know he’s a favorite of many folks out there, but I have only recently reacquainted myself with him.

I obviously don’t agree with everything he says, nor do I with any human but Christ, but I have been extremely blessed by the gift God gave this man to bring out the implications in a Bible text.  MandE

I recently purchased the edition of Spurgeon’s devotional, Morning and Evening, edited by Alistair Begg. It’s a wonderful little book, with short passages meant for Spurgeon’s congregation to ponder, based on a particular text. (I read this in conjunction with Scripture; I’m not advocating reading only devotionals.)

I wanted to share a line from this morning’s reading:”Afflictions are often the black foils in which God sets the jewels of His children’s graces, to make them shine brighter.” This particular morning’s section is in response to Job 10:2, and reflects on how the child of God responds to adversity. So. Good.

The entire section is available here.

Such a good reminder for me to see trials as they truly are. I pray it would be helpful to you.

Geoff

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Published in: | on February 20th, 2015 | Comments Off

Yeah, Well, But What About the Crusades?

In the background of this picture is what remains of a Crusade-era fortress just off the coast of Sidon, in present day Lebanon. Vestiges of battles long ago can still be seen today, and the on-going arguments of their causes and their lasting legacy also continue.

DSCN0989

Kevin DeYoung has recently written an article regarding the Crusades on the Gospel Coalition blog (Yeah, Well, What about the Crusades?). As Muslim and Christian relations are a hot topic these days, and since the Crusades are often used as an argument against the truth claims of our faith by unbelievers of all kinds, it would benefit every believer to have at least a cursory understanding of the Crusades. History can serve as a caution that our faith is not attached to any human leader or government, but is founded in the person of Jesus Christ, and we find who He is and what He demands in the pages of Scripture.

–Pastor Dave

 

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Published in: | on February 10th, 2015 | Comments Off

Biblical Dating: Is there such a thing?

We have just started a short series on dating in high school on Wednesday night.  It’s been a while since we’ve gone through the topic together.  No matter how many times we walk through this topic, I’m always a bit surprised to find how much of the world has tinged or even taken over our understanding of relationships of any kind.  That said, there are a ton of biblically based resources out there to refute the seemingly universal understanding of dating.  I would like to share one that has been very helpful for years now to me in walking through this touchy topic with students and parents. There are others, but this one has been of particular value.  It’s bible-saturated and bible-driven, which is especially hard to find:

The Biblical Dating Series by Scott Croft

Scott Croft was an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C. for many years. If you’re wondering what biblical dating might look like, this article is a good place to start.  Either way, whether it’s for you or to help with someone else, I have found this biblical treatment, and its associated Q&A section, very helpful.  I hope it’s helpful!

Geoff

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Published in: | on February 5th, 2015 | Comments Off

The Will of God

Pastor Greg and I have been reading some of the early church fathers together and are currently reading works by Cyprian of Carthage. It is amazing to read the writings of Christians who lived centuries ago yet share the same faith. Cyprian was a church elder in the third century and actually had oversight over a number of churches in North Africa. This was during a time of intense persecution of the church and many cyprian-of-carthage1Christians were martyred. During all of this, in his Treatise #4 on the Lord’s Prayer, Cyprian spells out in chapter 15 what God wants from us as Christians. It is a beautiful explanation of God’s will for us and I am hopeful that it will move you the way it moved me to call on God for more grace to live according to His will –

“Now that is the will of God which Christ both did and taught. Humility in conversation; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals; to be unable to do a wrong, and to be unable to bear a wrong when done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love Him in that He is a Father; to fear Him in that He is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ, because He did not prefer anything to us; to adhere inseparably to His love; to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully; when there is any contest on behalf of His name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that constance wherewith we make confession; in torture, that confidence wherewith we do battle; in death, that patience whereby we are crowned; – this is to do the commandment of God; this is to fulfil the will of the Father.”

Fight on!

Jon Peirson, elder

1Tim 6:12

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Published in: | on January 28th, 2015 | Comments Off

What is Your Problem?

IM000643.JPGWhen I was in college, I had a 1968 Mustang. It was a fun car to have, but as with all old cars, it had a lot of problems. This was back in the day when you could actually work on your car yourself with some patience, a little know-how, and a basic set of tools. I remember one time the car was having trouble starting. I replaced the battery. It was an easy job. I went to Sears, bought a new one, removed two brackets, installed it, and guess what? The car didn’t start. The problem wasn’t the battery. Then I replaced the alternator. This was a more difficult job. It was harder to reach, and I had to wrestle with the belt, but after losing both some skin off my knuckles and my patience at least once, I had successfully installed a new alternator. The car still didn’t start. Then I discovered the solenoid. Yep, that was it. If I had known from the get-go that this was the real problem I could have saved myself a lot of time, money, and aggravation. It was a learning experience. What did I learn? I learned that I did not want to be a mechanic.

Well, what’s the point? The point is, you can’t find a solution until you’ve correctly identified the problem. We live in a world that is broken. It is filled with people who are broken. When God made all things, he declared that it was good. When he made man, he declared that it was very good. But that is not the world we live in now. We live on this side of Genesis, chapter three. We live in a world that is not the way it ought to be, and we contribute to the state of that world. Cornelius Plantiga, in his book NOT the Way it’s Supposed to Be – a breviary of sin, takes 200 pages to describe what is sin, its nature, and its effects. He says that before the fall of man in Genesis three, the creation was in a state of shalom; that is, the creation was living and working as intended, and in harmony with its Creator. When sin entered into the world, that shalom was broken, things became what they were not supposed to be, and this is the reality we know today. When Christ came, he showed us how things are supposed to be, and through his work on the cross and his resurrection, he made it possible for us to enter into life the way it was supposed to be.

Everyone knows the world is broken–that things are not as they should be–but not everyone agrees as to what the problem is. Some say it is injustice or a lack of education or opportunity. Some say it is economic inequality, social and relational isolation, a lack of green space or public parks in urban neighborhoods, etc. The common thread in all these supposed problems (and the list is never-ending) is that the problem is perceived to be outside and not inside of us. There is a famous story about G.K. Chesterton once being asked by a London newspaper what he thought was wrong with the world. He very quickly and succinctly replied, “I am.” Now, the story may actually be legend, but it does catch the wit and attitude of Chesterton, and, more importantly, it gets it right. What is wrong with the world is found inside of us, not outside of us. Sin is the problem, and it’s universal, and it’s fatal. The Bible clearly teaches that all have sinned (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:9-18) and all are deserving of God’s wrath (John 3:16-21, 36; Ephesians 2:1-3). But the good news of Jesus Christ declares that we do not need to bear the wrath of God ourselves. Jesus took our punishment upon himself, so that through him, we might have life (Ephesians 2:4-10; Acts 10:43; Acts 4:12).

Now, unbelievers are blind to the reality of sin. Therefore, unbelievers cannot supply the solution to the problems of the world. Only the church, as it looks to and obeys the Scripture, can do this. I don’t mean to say that unbelievers cannot do good things. Unbelievers can be generous, they can dig wells and build hospitals, but they cannot address the root issues that branch out in all the tragic ways we witness each day. The best a society can do is create laws which prohibit evil and then prosecute those who violate such laws. However, the worst society can do is create laws which condone and promote evil and then prosecute those who violate such laws. And let me further clarify that it is God alone who can bring about the change. He graciously uses his people through the guidance and power of his word and his Spirit, but God alone can deliver a darkened and dead soul into the kingdom of his beloved Son. God alone can convict and convince a person that he or she is a sinner in need of a Savior.

Here’s my concern. In spite of thousands of years of human history that would testify otherwise, I still hear people say that man is basically good. Often in the midst of a political pep talk, you will hear someone extol the virtues of the goodness of man and exhort the crowds that if only we could come together in mutual understanding, we could make the world a better place. Hooey! I can understand why unsaved people say and believe this, but this is not what really concerns me. What really concerns me is that Christians believe this as well. This lie of the devil has crept into the Church and has sapped us of power. We will never see lasting change in our own lives, in our own battles with sin, until we humbly confess it is our main problem. Further, we can offer our culture nothing if we only offer them solutions that they can come up with in their own. Plantinga says it this way: “In short, for the Christian church…to ignore, euphemize, or otherwise mute the lethal reality of sin is to cut the nerve of the gospel. For the sober truth is that without full disclosure on sin, the gospel of grace becomes impertinent, unnecessary, and finally uninteresting.”

We must not forget what the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian church: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

–Pastor Dave

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Published in: | on January 15th, 2015 | Comments Off

Understanding God

BriefHistoryTimeStephen Hawking is the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University. Debilitated for many years with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), he has nevertheless done much to make theoretical physics accessible to general readers. His A Brief History of Time defied all odds by becoming a worldwide bestseller despite the technical subjects it covered. He clearly is a gifted scientist and communicator.

A frequent figure on documentaries, Professor Hawking has again been in the news lately with the release of “The Theory of Everything,” a movie based on his life with first wife Jane Wilde. But what most caught my eye in recent weeks was not the movie publicity, but a NBC report of his interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.[1] During the course of that interview Hawking clarified a comment made in A Brief History of Time, where he had said that discovering the unifying scientific principles known as the theory of everything would enable scientists to “know the mind of God.” In the El Mundo interview he made it clear that this statement was not to be understood as his believing there actually is a God:

 “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”

 In that same interview he also said,

“In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind.”

These are astonishing statements. Professor Hawking is indeed a brilliant theoretician, but the hubris reflected in these words is nonetheless staggering. The Bible makes it clear that not only is there a God, but his ways are incomprehensible to us. Consider these passages:

 As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number. (Job 5:8–9)

Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. (Job 11:7–9)

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:14)

 God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. (Job 37:5)

 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3)

 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:3)

 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11)

Advanced degrees and impressive scientific learning do not ensure that we know or embrace the truth. As the Apostle Paul makes clear, our minds are hardened and veiled unless Christ intervenes. It is only when we turn to the Lord that the veil is removed (2 Corinthians 3:14–16).

Otherwise the sobering words from the opening chapter of Romans remain true for all who have not experienced this gracious, sovereign intervention on God’s part:

 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:21–22)

May we humbly fall down and worship such an unfathomable God, glorying that he would make it possible for our sins to be forgiven so we can be in his holy, resplendent presence forever!

–Pastor Greg

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/im-atheist-stephen-hawking-god-space-travel-n210076. Accessed December 17, 2014

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Published in: | on January 2nd, 2015 | Comments Off

Thank you!

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  –Romans 1:21

Thanksgiving is part and parcel of the Christian life. Giving thanks is to be as common to the believer as breathing. As the bird flies, and the fish swims, the Christian gives thanks—or at least he ought to. If he does not, he robs God of his honor; joy and peace eludes his grasp; and continuing in this state of ingratitude may be an indication that the person is still unregenerate.

Romans 1:21 has long fascinated me. Paul connects the recognition of God with the honor that is due him, and the act of giving thanks to him. Not only that, but he then continues to say that those who refuse to do so (honor God and give thanks to him) become fools whose very cognitive function becomes futile and darkened.

The word in our English Bibles which is translated “give thanks” or “thanksgiving” comes from the same Greek word from which we get the word “Eucharist.” (Mt. 26:27; Mk. 14:23; Lk. 22:17; 1 Cor. 11:24). From very early in the history of the Church, the observing of the Lord’s Table was referred to as the Eucharist. How good and fitting it is that something so central to our faith, Communion, has the name “thanksgiving” assigned to it.

At this time of year, both at Thanksgiving and at Christmas, it is our habit to pause and give thanks to God for who he is and what he has done. However, the Apostle Paul, who was especially fond of this word (the overwhelming uses of it in the New Testament came from his pen), makes it clear that thanksgiving is not only to happen on special occasions, but at all times (Eph. 5:20; Col. 2:6-7).

Giving thanks has at least two positive results. One, it keeps us humble before God. To say “thank you” is an admission that we are not the center of the universe—that we have received something from someone else that we would not have had otherwise. Perhaps this is why Paul connects thanksgiving with honoring God. Second, it preserves and encourages our joy. When we are discontent—when we want what don’t have or have what we don’t want—we become nearsighted, unable to see beyond ourselves and our present, undesirable circumstances. IMG_1361It’s like this photo I took today. If I looked only at the ugly wires and poles, I would miss the glorious sky. Similarly, giving thanks pushes our focus beyond the immediate to the ultimate, to the eternal.

Finally, giving thanks is a choice. It is often most beneficial to practice when we don’t really feel like it. It is an exercise of faith, believing God and his promises such as Romans 8:31-32…What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Choosing to give thanks frees us from being slaves to our emotions, and brings us back to the rich truths of God’s great and gracious love for us.

–Pastor Dave

 

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Published in: | on December 17th, 2014 | Comments Off

Not just a Savior…my Savior!

“Behold here what the Gospel is, namely, a joyful sermon concerning Christ, our Saviour. Whoever preaches him rightly, preaches the Gospel of pure joy. How is it possible for man to hear of greater joy than that Christ has given to him as his own? He does not only say Christ is born, but he makes his birth our own by saying, to you a Saviour.

Therefore, the Gospel does not only teach the history concerning Christ; but it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates… Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own?”

(Martin Luther, “Christmas Day, Luke 2:1-14, The Story of the Birth of Jesus; and the Angel’s Song,” Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. 1, p. 149.)

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Published in: | on December 14th, 2014 | Comments Off

Fighting Sin With The Majesty Of God

For nearly 350 years, believers have been encouraged to do battle against sin as they have read John Owen’s Christian classic, The Mortification of Sin. Thanks to encouragement from Tim Challies’ influential blog (www.challies.com), that audience was expanded the last few months. Tim invited people to read a given chapter each week, and then the following Thursday would provide his own summary and observations of that section, inviting others to post their reflections and applications as well.

It has been a joy to be a part of this virtual book club. Each chapter of The Mortification of Sin is filled with rich truth and practical strategies for “putting sin to death.” Chapter 12 was particularly powerful to me, as Owen encourages the reader to do battle with sin by considering the majesty and glory of God. I found this incredibly helpful! Here is the concluding paragraph of that chapter:

“Let us, then, revive the use and intendment of this consideration: Will not a due apprehension of this inconceivable greatness of God, and that infinite distance wherein we stand from him, fill the soul with a holy and awful fear of him, so as to keep it in a frame unsuited to the thriving or flourishing of any lust whatever? Let the soul be continually wonted to reverential thoughts of God’s greatness and omnipresence, and it will be much upon its watch as to any undue deportments. Consider him with whom you have to do, –even ‘our God is a consuming fire;’ and in your greatest abashments at his presence and eye, know that your very nature is too narrow to bear apprehensions suitable to his essential glory.”

 I would highly recommend the book. And if the language seems a little too archaic (it was written in 1656), a quick Amazon search will return editions that have been put into more readable, modern English.

–Pastor Greg

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Published in: | on December 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off