Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Have Full & Unshakeable Joy

Below is Martyn Lloyd-Jones's outline of 1 John, the central theme of which he believes is obtaining and increasing one's joy in the Lord, no matter what's going on in the world around us.  This is taken from his sermon "How to Know the Joy."

I.              The conditions essential for obtaining this abiding joy (1-3)
A.   Believe on Christ and know him; have fellowship with him (1:1-3)
B.   How to maintain fellowship (1:3-2:28)
1.    Sin and unrighteousness hinder us (1:5-2:2)
2.    Lack of love for the brethren hinders us (2:3)
3.    Love for the world hinders us
4.    False teaching about Jesus Christ hinders us
5.    But a great source of comfort and strengthening for us is the Holy Spirit
C.   Another essential is a conscious possession of eternal life (2:28-3:24)
1.    Failure to keep God’s commands hinders us
2.    Lack of love to the brethren hinders us
3.    False teaching about Jesus hinders us
4.    We’re reminded again of the Holy Spirit (3:24)

II.            Exhortation to practice these principles in an active manner (4:1-5:9)
A.   Make certain of the spirits (Make sure the one in you is the Holy Spirit)
B.   Make certain you are dwelling in the love of God (4:7-21)
C.   Make certain you are actively keeping his commandments and overcoming the world opposed to you
D.   Make certain you hold right views of Christ and are in a right relationships with him (5:5-9)

III.           The results of doing all this (5:10-21)
A.   Consequence #1: You will have assurance that you are a child of God
B.   Consequence #2: You will have confidence in prayer
C.   Consequence #3: You will have victory and conquest over sin and the world
D.   Final result of it all: You will know in the very depths of your life and being that you are a child of God

The doctrines brought up in the letter
The incarnation
The atonement
Regeneration and the rebirth
The devil
The second coming and the return of the Lord

Friday, October 28, 2011

Awesome Baseball

David Freese

Josh Hamilton
What a great World Series this has been!  I have so enjoyed it.

In the first two games both teams seemed tight, and both were low-scoring.  But the hitting opened up after that, especially with that high-scoring game where the Cardinals did double digits.  Pujols had 3 homers in the 3rd game, and then--mystery--went hitless in games 4 and 5 and most of 6 (until the 9th inning).

The mystery of Tony Larussa's pitching mistake in the 5th game seems to defy explanation, but it was fine with me: Texas won. 

And tonight's game: Wow!  Bobbled balls, dropped balls--several errors that have translated into unearned runs.  Then, 1 strike away from the World Series, Freese hits a long ball to right field that allows 2 to score and tie up the game.  Into the 10th, and Josh Hamilton hits a 2-run homer for TX, his first homer in his last 82 at bats.

Now the Cards have men on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out.  Another pitching change for TX ...  Theriot hits, makes out #2, but bats in a run, 9-8.  TX then intentionally walks Pujols.  Can the Rangers get Berkman out (who homered big in the 1st)?  Hoping for it! 

But no.  Berkman bats in a run, and the score is tied, 9-9.

11th inning: David Freese, the guy who tied it up in the 9th hit a homerun in the bottom of the inning to win it for the Cards.  The final game tomorrow night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Intriguing Picture of God

The description of Diedrich Van Horn in Ten Days' Wonder, by Ellery Queen, strikes me as a great picture of God's majesty and inevitable effect on his surroundings.  Of course, no extra-Biblical analogy to God is perfect, but this one certainly excites the imagination.

(Apologies for the length of the quote)

And then Diedrich Van Horn came quickly down the staircase with outstretched hand and a “Hello!” that caromed off the handhewn beams.
            His son followed him, shuffling.
            In an instant the son, the wife, the house grouped themselves around Van Horn, reshaped, reproportioned, integrated.
            He was an extraordinary man in every way.  Everything about him was oversize—his body, his speech, his gestures.  The great room was no longer too great; he filled it, it had been built to his measure.
            Van Horn was a tall man, but not so tall as he seemed.  His shoulders were actually no broader than Howard’s or Ellery’s, but because of their enormous thickness he made the young men look like boys.  His hands were vast: muscular, wide-heeled, two heavy tools; and Ellery suddenly remembered a remark of Howard’s on the terrasse of the CafĂ© St. Michel about his father’s beginnings as a day laborer.  But it was the elder Van Horn’s head which fascinated Ellery.  It was large and bony, of angular contour and powerful brow.  The face beneath was at once the ugliest and the most attractive male face Ellery had ever seen; it struck him that Sally’s remark about it had been, not a conversational whimsy, but the exact truth.  What made it seem so ugly was not so much the homeliness of its individual features as their composite prominence.  Nose, jaw, mouth, ears, cheekbones—all were too large.  His skin was coarse and dark.  In this disproportioned, unlovely composition were set two remarkable eyes, of such size, depth, brilliance, and beauty they illuminated the darkness in which they lay and transformed the whole into something singularly harmonious and pleasing.
            Van Horn’s voice was as big as his body, deep and sexual.  And he spoke with his body as well as with his voice, not disconnectedly but in unconscious rhythm, so that one was drawn and held; it was impossible to escape him.
            Shaking hands with Ellery, putting a long arm quickly around his wife, pouring cocktails, telling Howard to touch off the fire, sitting down in the biggest chair and hooking his leg over one arm—whatever Diedrich Van Horn did, whatever he said, were important and unavoidable.  Simply, the master was in his house; he made not point of it—he was the point.
            Seeing him in the flesh, in relation to his son and his wife, what they were became inevitable.  Anything Van Horn turned his vitality upon would eventually be absorbed by it.  His son would worship and emulate and, unable to resolve his worship or rival his object, would become … Howard.  As for his wife, Van Horn would create her love out of his, and he would preserve it by engulfing it.  Those he loved attached themselves to him helplessly.  They moved when he moved; they were part of his will.  He reminded Ellery of the demigods of mythology, and Ellery uttered a voiceless apology to Howard for having been merely amused in Howard’s pension studio ten years before.  Howard had not been romanticizing when he had chiseled Zeus in his father’s image; unconsciously, he had been sculpturing a portrait.  Ellery wondered if Diedrich had the gods’ vices as well as their virtues.  Whatever his vices might be, they would be anything but trivial; this man was quite above pettiness.  He would be just, logical, and immovable.
            And Sally had been right; you didn’t think of him in terms of years.  Van Horn must be over sixty, Ellery thought, but he was like an Indian—you felt that his coarse black hair would neither thin nor gray, that he would never stoop or falter; you could think of him only as a force, prime and unchanging.

--from ch. 2, “The Second Day"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What made you pick that Scripture to preach?

Selecting a text to preach on is half the battle in sermon preparation. 

There's one advantage to preaching through a book of the Bible: you know what you're going to preach on next.

But I fill in for the senior pastor, and so I don't typically do a series.

The last two weeks I preached on 1 Thess 1:9-10 and Matt 15:21-28, respectively.

The 1 Thessalonians passage I decided on for a couple of reasons: 1) I'm teaching through 1 Thess in SS, so it was on my mind, and 2) those verses have often struck me as a neat summary of what a Christian is.  My title was "Obviously Christian," and the gist of my message was that Christians should be obviously so, because they are characterized by an obvious change, an obvious service, and an obvious expectation.

A great deal of prayer goes into my selection of a sermon text.  I ask the Lord to guide me to the text he wants me to preach. 

The next week I leaned toward several texts before I settled on the Matt 15 one, including Dan 7:13-14; 1 Thess 2:13; 1 Tim 1:3-7; and 2 Chron 20.  The Matt 15:21-28 text, on the Canaanite woman who was at first rebuffed by Jesus before her daughter was finally healed of demon possession, came to mind as one of those passages I have often thought I need to study more because I didn't understand it so well.  What a rewarding passage that was to me personally as it encouraged me to persevere in prayer.  I hope it was an encouragement to the congregation as well.

Maybe the Government Could Watch This

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Callie!

My youngest's birthday is today.  She's 5.  What a delight Callie is!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ever Sung This One?

Have you ever sung this hymn before? 
Have you ever sung a song like it before? 
Shouldn't we?

"O God, Thy Righteousness We Own"
Charles Wesley

O God, Thy righteousness we own;
Judgment is at Thy house begun!
With humble awe Thy rod we hear,
And guilty in Thy sight appear;
We cannot in Thy judgment stand,
But sink beneath Thy mighty hand.

Our mouth as in the dust we lay,
And still for mercy, mercy pray;
Unworthy to behold Thy face,
Unfaithful stewards of Thy grace,
Our sin and wickedness we own,
And deeply for acceptance groan.

We have not, Lord, Thy gifts improved,
But basely from Thy statutes roved,
And done Thy loving Spirit spite,
And sinned against the clearest light,
Brought back Thy agonizing pain,
And nailed Thee to Thy cross again.

Yet do not drive us from Thy face,
A stiff-necked and hard-hearted race;
But oh! in tender mercy break
The iron sinew in our neck;
The softening power of love impart,
And melt the marble of our heart.

Source: The Cyber Hymnal

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God;
and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome
for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 
(1 Peter 4:17 ESV)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Note or Not Note

A friend thinks that each Sunday morning we should collect all the notes that people take during the sermon and read them.  He suggests we would find a wide diversity--between note-takers, and between note-takers and preacher.

A related issue is this: should the faithful take notes of the sermon?  I know there are some that take issue with the practice, but I can only guess as to why. 
  • The word was meant to be heard? 
  • Note-taking channels the impact of the preached word away from our heart onto the paper; so while we feel like we're attending to the word, we're actually protecting ourselves from it?
  • While we're writing down one thing, we're missing the next?

I find note-taking helpful.  It helps me to focus on what the preacher is saying.  Some preachers I can follow without notes.  They think like I do.  Their sermons progress in a logical, outline-like fashion that proceeds directly from a primary Scripture text.  I have no problem attending to such sermons.

Others' preaching takes different forms, and in some of those cases, attending is not always easy.  Taking notes helps me to stay on task mentally.

(Incidentally, listening to the preached word with ears, mind, and humble heart is worship.  The worship doesn't end when the music ends or the "Amen" is spoken.  During the preaching, the worship should continue: the preacher worships as he preaches and the congregants worship as they humbly and expectantly attend to the preaching.)

Note-taking also aids my memory.  I'm more likely to remember key points of the sermon if I write them down.  And this is true even if I throw my notes away the next day (which is often the case).  Instead of hearing the preached word and thinking about it, in note-taking I am hearing it, writing it down, reading what I wrote down, and thinking about it.  Note-taking reinforces certain points.

Further, I keep some outlines out on my desk or in my Bible for a few weeks before they hit the trash.  This occurs when an especial point really hits home, and I want to review it and think about it for a longer period of time.

Some Sundays I intentionally don't take sermons, in order to break up any rut in my attending to a sermon. 

Should the faithful take notes during the preaching of the word?  I don't think there's any "should" about it.  You can if you like; it's not a moral issue.  Note-taking is not obligatory.  What is obligatory is reverent attending to the preaching of God's word.

Friday, October 14, 2011

BLT a Little Heavy on the B

See steps 1 and 2 here.

The Bible in One's Own Tongue

Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise

I re-watched Luther last night, the 2003 movie about Martin Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes.  Peter Ustinov plays Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, employer and protector of Martin Luther.  He's a political figure but also seems to have a spiritual side.  He has an enormous collection of relics, of which he's quite proud, but--in the movie anyway--they became less precious to him as he reads Luther's writings.

In a later scene, Luther approaches Frederick with his recently completed translation of the Scriptures into German.  (Up to this time, all Scriptures were in Latin, so only priests could read them, a calculated ploy of the Roman Catholic Church.)  After a brief discussion of the upheaval such a translation will cause, Frederick then stretches out his hands and asks, "Well, can I have my present now?"  As Luther slowly brings the new Bible to Frederick, Frederick's old fingers tremble with an anticipatory itch.  Receiving the book, he immediately opens it, and a smile spreads across his kind face as he silently reads for the very first time the Scriptures of One he presumably loves. 

It's a beautiful scene full of meaning for those of us who also love the Scriptures.  I don't know whether it's historically accurate, but it's beautiful.

Imagine not being able to read the Bible for yourself?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Misspelled Word Leads to Beating, Demonstrations

Sept 22: A 13-year-old misspelled an Urdu word in her 8th-grade Pakistani class, which led to charges of blasphemy.  For her mistake she was scolded, beaten, and expelled; students and Muslims staged a demonstration against her; and calls for a blasphemy case against her were issued.  Her apologies fell on deaf ears, and the military spirited her and her family away to safety.

What a horrible thing to live in such a charged environment, where there is no grace.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs

Living on the Water in the Winter

This description of life in the 18th-century British navy leaves me cold.  The second paragraph is especially well-written.

"Winter had come to the Bay of Biscay.  With the passing of the Equinox, the gales began to increase in violence, adding infinitely to the labours and dangers of the British navy watching over the coast of France; easterly gales, bitter cold, which the storm-tossed ships had to endure as best they could ...

"We speak about storm-tossed ships.  But those ships were full of storm-tossed men, who week by week and month by month had to endure the continued cold and the continual wet, the salt provisions, the endless toil, the boredom and misery of life in the blockading fleet.  Even in the frigates, the eyes and claws of the blockaders, boredom had to be endured, the boredom of long periods with the hatches battened down, with the deck seams above dripping water on the men below, long nights and short days, broken sleep and yet not enough to do."

--C. S. Forester, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, "Hornblower and the Man Who Saw God" (ch. 5)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grace not Anti-Law

"... people have a false view of grace.  They think that grace is apart from law and has nothing to do with it.  That is what is called antinomianism, the attitude of people who abuse the doctrine of grace in order to live a sinful, slack or indolent type of spiritual life....  The whole purpose of grace, in a sense, is just to enable us to keep the law....  Therefore if your so-called grace ... does not make you keep the law, you have not received grace....  What is grace?  It is that marvellous gift of God which, having delivered a man from the curse of the law, enables him to keep it and to be righteous as Christ was righteous, for He kept the law perfectly.  Grace is that which brings me to love God; and if I love God, I long to keep His commandments.  'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them,' Christ said, 'he it is that loveth me.'"

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Christ Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets," Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Old & New Testaments Belong Together

"I feel increasingly that it is regrettable that the New Testament should ever have been printed alone, because we tend to fall into the serious error of thinking that, because we are Christians, we do not need the Old Testament.  If was the Holy Spirit who led the early Church, which was mainly Gentile, to incorporate the Old Testament Scriptures with their New Scriptures and to regard them all as one.  They are indissolubly bound together, and there are many senses in which it can be said that the New Testament cannot be truly understood except in the light that is provided by the Old.  For example, it is almost impossible to make anything of the Epistle to the Hebrews unless we know our Old Testament Scriptures."

--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Christ Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets," Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Friday, October 7, 2011

Recent Reads

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, is part science fiction, part mystery, and part alternate history.  Throw in a focus on classic literature, and you have a strange book.  Heroine Thursday Next is with the LiteraTec dept. of the Spec Ops law enforcement agency in England, 1985.  In this place and time, literature is taken very seriously, and crimes against literature are criminal offenses.  With advanced technology softening the boundaries between real world and literary world, beloved fictional characters are in danger of being victimized by criminals in the real world.  The Eyre Affair is the first in the Thursday Next series, but it may be the last one I read.  "It's okay" is the best I can say for it.
My rating (out of 5): 2 1/2

Tonight I finished reading Friday the Rabbi Slept Late, by Harry Kemelman, to Sara.  We both enjoyed it.  A good accessible mystery, with insight into modern Judaism thrown in.  This is the first in the series.  Already a profitable relationship between Rabbi David Small and Police Chief Hugh Lanigan is developing.
My rating: 3 1/2

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith, 1939-1981, by Iain H. Murray, is the second and final volume of this brilliant preacher's life.  There is very little that inspires my thinking and increases my passion for the Lord like biographies of godly men and women.  And this 2-volume biography (at a little over 1200 pages total), is among the best.  This second volume covers Lloyd-Jones's 29-year ministry at Westminster Chapel (1939-1968) as well as his "retirement" years, which were actually years spent in writing and other forms of ministry.  One of the larger sections of the book covers his involvement and controversial stance in the whole push for unity that began to cross Europe in the late 50s, receiving some impetus from the Billy Graham Crusades.  During this time, Lloyd-Jones crosses paths with other well-known evangelical leaders, such as J. I. Packer, John Stott, as well as Billy Graham.  His position on unity, carefully articulated by Murray, left him at philosophical and theological odds with these 3 men, as well as with many others.  The great benefit of reading this book is its spiritual impact on the reader (at least on me).
My rating: 5

In Pursuit of HIS Glory is the autobiography of R. T. Kendall, another man who enjoyed a long pastorate at Westminster Chapel--25 years, to be exact: 1977-2002.  As soon as I finished the Lloyd-Jones bio, I turned to this one, which my parents gave me a year or so ago, because I thought it would be interesting to read of Kendall's connections with Lloyd-Jones, especially in light of mention made of Kendall at the end of the Lloyd-Jones bio.  The two books, in a way, are a study in contrasts.  Both men were reformed in theology, but they were different in practice.  One example: Lloyd-Jones never gave an altar call, felt they falsely induced people into a (deplorable) decision for Christ that was not based in the reality of the new birth, which could only be brought about by the Spirit.  Kendall introduced altar calls and gave them regularly.  Kendall's book challenged me because of his openness and advocacy of the Charismatic movement and his endorsement of such men as Paul Cain.  Men like Cain and Rodney Howard-Browne prophesied about Kendall and others around him, as well as about Westminster.  Some of their prophecies came true, but some did not.  I have a problem with that.  And Kendall's openness to the Toronto Blessing and "holy laughter" gave me pause.  What Kendall desired above all was revival, and he was open to the Spirit possibly working in new ways.  He didn't want to miss the Spirit.  Kendall freely admits, too, his obsession with attendance numbers as a means of legitimizing his ministry.  He acknowledges his weakness in that area, but also partially justifies it.  What I didn't realize until the end of the book was that his congregation was 200-400 throughout his ministry, and the sanctuary held 2500!  That would seem empty.  Kendall's theology for the most part seems sound, though his openness to people like Cain and Howard-Browne seems dubious to me, though he does credit Howard-Browne with healing his wife of a chronic cough and depression.  Some of his pastoral practices were of interest to me as well.
My rating: 3

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Apostle Paul and the Lone Ranger's Horse

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV'84)

N. T. Wright comments that when we first meet Silver in the Lone Ranger series, he is unbroken and untamed, wilful and wild.  Tonto suggests that no one can tame a horse like that.  But the Lone Ranger is not put off, and "by secret means he calls the animal to be his, and the horse responds and gives him a lifetime of service."

Then Wright writes,

"From the moment when the Lone Ranger shows that he can tame the untameable horse and make it into his servant, and even in a measure his friend, the viewer knows that he will be able to conquer all other obstacles in his path as well.  He has already taken the hardest case, and the easy ones will now be--well, easy.  And that is precisely the point Paul is making when he talks of what God had done in his life.  God has taken the wildest, most violent of blaspheming persecutors, and has transformed him into not only a believer but also a trusted apostle and evangelist.  If God can do that, there is nobody out there, no heart so hard, no anger so bitter, that it remains outside the reach of God's patient mercy."

--Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters 12

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Baptist-Episcopalian Distinction

"The Episcopalians like to drink in public and praise God in private, while the Baptists like to praise God in public and drink in private."

--Martin Marty
in the Ken Burns documentary Prohibition

2 Fights, 1 Drunk, 1 Close Call

This past week was an interesting week, now that I think about it.  You know how people seem to be dropping left and right around TV detectives, like Angela Lansbury's character in Murder She Wrote and Miss Marple in Agatha Christie's mysteries?  I felt like I had a touch of their bad luck last week.

Followed a drunk driver down Coliseum one night.  I stayed behind him as he was slowly swerving from lane to lane, determined to honk loudly should he cross into oncoming traffic.  Lost him at a traffic light and didn't see him again.

Wednesday afternoon while I was at Burger King, a loud argument erupted between an older man and a mother of young children.  He loudly ordered a girl out of the area he was in, and the mom came, retrieved her child, and told the man, "You do not speak to my daughter that way."  Well, apparently he did, because he proceeded to speak to the mom that way, too.  It escalated from there in accusations, cursing, and threats. 

Yesterday, while sitting at a traffic light, I heard the sudden loud screech of tires and looked up in time to see a car skidding toward my back end at a 45-degree angle.  Stopping 10 feet back, it suddenly lurched forward again, only to quickly stop again just short.  Focusing now on the occupants, I saw the female driver and the male passenger struggling.  The man forcibly opened the passenger door and tried to get out while the woman grabbed his sweatshirt.  Escaping his sweatshirt, he also escaped the car.  She rolled down her window and yelled at him, then turned swiftly into an alley after him. 

I don't know; maybe your world's always like this.  But for me, the craziness of this sinful world impinged upon mine a little more than usual this week.

Saturday, October 1, 2011