Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another Reason We Need Community

John Stott, writing 27 years ago (I Believe in Preaching, p. 69):

It is difficult to imagine the world in the year A.D. 2000, by which time versatile micro-processors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today.

We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brain-power, as the machine has transcended human muscle-power.

Much less welcome will be the probable reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary.

In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk and listen to one another in person rather than on screen. In this human context of mutual love the speaking and hearing of the Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's More Important: Church or Family?

An on-going concern I have as a pastor is about families who idolize the family at the expense of the church, and on the other hand families that expect the church to completely handle the spiritual formation of their children. There is a healthy balance between church and family that Chris Brauns helps us evaluate in a recent post:

Both the Church (consisting of local churches) and the family are central aspects of God’s created order.

The Church (again I’ll say meeting in local churches) is God’s plan for this age. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood (Peter 2:11-12). Indeed, the local church is as much God’s plan for this age, as the Ark was for Noah’s (Ephesians 3:10). Recall that Jesus taught that a commitment to Him takes precedence over even immediate family (Luke 14:26).

At the same time, the family is part of God’s created order and continues to be singularly important. Ephesians 5:22-6:4!

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Prayer for Dummies (Like Me)

That's the title for my message this Sunday, and I think one of my favorite titles. Paul shows us from Ephesians 1:15-23 that our prayers should be:
  1. Thanks-driven
  2. Christ-centered
  3. Others-oriented
  4. Wisdom-focused
That's a good list for evaluating your prayer life. How are you doing?

Listen to the message here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why We Need to Pray

This Sunday I'll be speaking on prayer from Ephesians 1:15-23. I came across the following quote from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a famous British preacher who died in 1981. If you have been following the Ephesians teaching series at Oxford Bible Fellowship or through the web you know we've been in some pretty heavy theology, so we really need this quote.

The ultimate test of my understanding of the scriptural teaching is the amount of time I spend in prayer. As theology is ultimately the knowledge of God, the more theology I know, the more it should drive me to seek to know God. Not to know "about" Him but to know Him! The whole object of salvation is to bring me to knowledge of God...If all my knowledge does not lead me to prayer there is something wrong somewhere.

Read more from Lloyd-Jones here.

More posts on prayer to follow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Free Tim Keller Sermons

If you haven't been exposed to Tim Keller yet, you're missing out. He has quickly become one of my favorite authors and speakers. His church, Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, has just released 150 free sermons and lectures from Keller's last 20 years of ministry. Check it out. Here's what they say:

Redeemer’s Sermon Ministry has been faithfully recording, cataloging and reproducing all of our sermons for the past 20 years. To celebrate all 20 years of our history, and to meet the growing demand for our church’s teaching in New York City and around the world, we have created this resource of 150 sermons and lectures covering a broad array of topics, completely free to download and share.

The recordings chosen for the Free Sermon Resource were culled from classic sermon series as well as lectures and seminar addresses delivered to various Redeemer ministry gatherings, and are intended to present to the listener the full scope of teachings they would receive over several years of active involvement at Redeemer.

Many other free Tim Keller resources here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Donald Miller's New Book

If you're a fan of Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller has a new book out called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Chris Brauns offers a thoughtful review. A couple excerpts from the review are below.

Part of the positive:
Donald Miller has a fascinating ability to engage readers as he reflects on the journey of his life. I first noticed this in Blue Like Jazz, later when I watched an interview , and, again last week when I read his latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (AMM). AMM was easy to read and entertaining. While I haven't read the entire Donald Miller collection, it's hard not to like him in his books. He has made me laugh more than once.
Part of the conclusion:
Reading the strength with which I have expressed my concerns, you may question if I was sincere with the initial positive things I said about AMM. Was I only taking a preliminary swipe at being charitable before I unloaded? My response is that I truly do affirm those things about AMM. But, that is why this book is a dangerous combination. Many will read this book. It will resonate. But, I fear that it plays to the weakness of our day. We spend too much time looking at ourselves. We don't need a million more mirrors all pointed back at our small stories. Rather, we need to see how our individual episodes relate in a Christ-centered way to the story of creation, fall, and redemption.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Leadership Lessons from 50 Years of Ministry

Chuck Swindoll, the well-known Bible teacher and chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, offers 10 lessons from nearly 50 years of ministry.
  1. It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.
  2. It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed
  3. It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.
  4. It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real.
  5. It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.
  6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.
  7. Attititude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.
  8. Integrity eclipse image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.
  9. God's way is better than my way.
  10. Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.
Which one strikes you? What would you add?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Secure in Christ

How can you be sure of your salvation? Paul gives us 4 ways we know for sure that those who have believed in Christ are kept secure in Christ. They come from Ephesians 4:11-14.
  1. We are God's possession (v. 11, 14)
  2. The Holy Spirit has sealed us (v. 13)
  3. The Holy Spirit fulfills God's promise to save us (v. 13)
  4. The Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance (v. 14)
William Barclay (commentary on Ephesians, p. 100)
What Paul is saying is that the experience of the Holy Spirit which we have in this world is a foretaste of the blessedness of heaven; and it is the guarantee that some day we will enter into full possession of the blessedness of God. The highest experiences of Christian peace and joy which this world can afford are only faint foretastes of the joy into which we will one day enter. It is as if God had given us enough to whet our appetites for more and enough to make us certain that some day he will give us all.

And some final help from Paul in Phillipians 1:6 (ESV):
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Listen to the message on eternal security here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rob Bell Fan? Read This

Kevin DeYoung has a great post on Rob Bell. He begins:

Rob Bell's theological trajectory is not good. Case in point, this article from the Boston Globe.

Here, for example, is Bell's definition of an evangelical, completely devoid of any theological or historical meaning.

I embrace the term evangelical, if by that we mean a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness, a hopeful outlook. That's a beautiful sort of thing.

And here's Bell's take on the heart of Christianity:

At the heart of the Christian story is resurrection, the belief that this world is good, and that, as a follower of Jesus, a belief that God hasn’t abandoned the world, but is actively at work in the world. Even in the midst of what can look like despair and destruction there is a new creation present.

He gets two points for mentioning resurrection and minus ten points for not mentioning the resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus Christ for the justification of sinners (Rom. 4:25). Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Are Christians Discernibly Different?

William Barclay in his commentary on Ephesians (p. 89):
Here is the challenge that the modern Church has been very slow to face. In the early Church, Christians never had any doubt that they must be different from the world; they, in fact, knew that they must be so different that the probability was that the world would kill them and the certainty was that the world would hate them. But the tendency in the modern Church has been to play down the difference between the Church and the world. We have, in effect, often said to people: ‘As long as you live a decent, respectable life, it is quite all right to become a church member and to call yourself a Christian. You don’t need to be so very different from other people.’ In fact, Christians should be easily identifiable in the world.

It must always be remembered that this difference on which Christ insists is not one which takes us out of the world; it makes us different within the world. It should be possible to identify Christians in the school, the shop, the factory, the office, the hospital ward, everywhere. And the difference is that Christians behave not as any human laws compel them to, but as the law of Christ compels them to. Christian teachers are out to satisfy the regulations not of an education authority or a headteacher but of Christ; and that will almost certainly mean a very different attitude to the pupils under their charge. Christian workers are out to satisfy the regulations not of a trade union but of Jesus Christ; and that will certainly make them very different workers. Christian doctors will never regard a sick person as a case, but always as a person. Christian employers will be concerned with far more than the payment of minimum wages or the creation of minimum working conditions. It is the simple fact of the matter that if enough Christians became hagios [the Greek word for "holy"] different, they would revolutionize society.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


On Sunday, I continued to unpack the concept of "Union with Christ" from Ephesians 1:7-10. A main focus was on forgiveness, and particularly freedom from guilt. If you are struggling, like so many of us do, with a guilty conscience about past decisions, missed opportunities, failure, or whatever, you need to experience the fullness of Christ's forgiveness. Listen to the message here. And if you don't have time to listen, just meditate for a minute on this text:

Psalm 103:8-13 (ESV)
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

For more on forgiveness, check out these resources:
Unpacking Forgiveness
by Chris Brauns
The Peacemaker
by Ken Sande.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

5 Reasons for Purity on a Thursday

This world offers many opportunities for failing at purity. Fortunately God offers countless reasons to fight for your purity. Here are 5 of them from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.
  1. Purity is God's will for your life, and God's will is always the best way to live (v. 3, 7).
  2. Impurity is a sign that you are not a follower of Christ (v. 5).
  3. Impurity damages, wrongs, and hurts those you are impure with (v. 6).
  4. God is the avenger of those damaged, wronged, and hurt by your impurity (v. 6).
  5. Disregarding God's call to purity is rebellion against God himself (v. 8).
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (ESV)