Thursday, December 23, 2010

Help in the Fight for Purity

Here's a helpful post by Justin Taylor with resources for those struggling with pornography. Even if you are not "addicted" to porn these resources can be very helpful in your fight for purity.
This is an important, painful poem from a woman whose husband was addicted to pornography.

If you are struggling with porn, or seeking to help someone who is, there is help:

Some free resources below:

I'd add to this list the book I recommend the most for those struggling with purity, Josh Harris' Sex is Not the Problem, Lust Is.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Your Church Looking for a Pastor?

A quick plug here for Chris Brauns' new book on finding the right pastor to lead your church. Chris is a pastor in Illinois and my wife's uncle. You can check out a website on the book here and below is the book.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Incarnation Invasion

Back in November I posted a link to an Advent e-devotional put out by Gordon-Conwell Seminary. I thought this one was particularly good:

LUKE 3:1-9
David A. Currie
I’ve been rethinking how we handle Christmas music. It’s not so much carols in October; it’s what we hear on Christmas Eve. I think we should add a prelude from the scores of films like The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan.

Why? Because the Incarnation is an invasion. The eternal Son of God becomes human to reclaim God’s creation from self-centered usurpers–like us!–and to restore God as its rightful ruler. Jesus’ birthday is God’s D-Day.

Before any invasion, special operations forces are sent in to prepare the way, to try to get the local population to welcome the invaders. A friend of mine, a Navy SEAL, gave me a general idea of what’s involved. They live off the land, blend into the countryside, avoid population centers and seek out possible sympathizers ready for change.

Sort of sounds like John the Baptist: he hangs out in the wilderness, eats locusts and wild honey, wears camel camo and prepares people for the Incarnation invasion, the coming of Christ. Like a typical soldier, John gets right to the point: “Join the repentance rebellion! Switch your allegiance from self-serving to Christ-serving. Sprout fruits that reveal your roots” (vs. 8-9). These remain our Advent orders, as timely as we prepare for Christ’s second coming as they were for his first coming, as necessary for our neighbors as for John’s.
While you're at it, you may need to listen to Trip Lee's Invasion. The video is just okay but the lyrics are incredible. Here it is:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

National Geographic Photos

Take some time to worship the Creator by checking out the incredible photos from the 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest. Here is my favorite, a photo by Stephanie Swartz:

Revelation 5:1-5 (ESV)
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Born to Die

A great Christmas song from Bebo Norman that links the incarnation of Christ to his purpose for coming:

Bebo Norman Born To Die lyrics

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christians Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction

Justin Taylor recommends a recent book on homosexuality. His comments are very helpful and a much needed word on helping those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. I pray that the church I pastor will be a place of help and hope for those struggling in this area. I think a first step is the need for a safe place to express the struggle, to know that if you struggle with homosexual feelings you are not alone. One of Satan's deadliest tactics in this area is to keep you quiet and alone in your struggle. You need a small community of people to help you, and in the process you can help them with their struggles too.

You might also check out this message I gave last year on Homosexuality & Abortion. Here is the book recommendation from Justin Taylor:
I would encourage all heterosexual pastors to seriously consider buying and reading this book. Part 1 of this book is the best thing I know for growing in empathy, understanding, and insight with respect to true believers who feel—and struggle against—same-sex desires.

A friend who struggles with same-sex attraction but has experienced much grace and strength recently suggested that the church has positively developed two modes of response to homosexuality: apologetics (responding to homosexual revisionists who want to distort the Bible to further an agenda) and evangelism (seeking to win homosexuals to the Lord). But the missing element is member care (caring for, nurturing, discipling, loving, and accepting those already within the body of Christ who are secretly struggling with sin in secret). As Wesley Hill comments in the book: “It is not secret that a large number of gay Christians feel frightened at the thought of sharing the story of their sexuality with their fellow believers.”

Read the full recommendation here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is the Bible Mainly About Me?

I know Tim Keller has been getting a lot of press from me lately, so why not one more. This is a great video, which we showed at church on Sunday, in regard to what the Bible is all about.

Using a clip from Tim Keller’s talk at a 2007 conference, Heath McPherson created the video using the art of Gustave DorĂ© (1832-1883):

HT: Collin Hansen via Justin Taylor

Friday, December 10, 2010

Three Reasons Why Eternal Punishment is Eternal

It seems that the biggest hang-up people have with the concept of hell is that it is eternal. The argument goes like this, "It doesn't seem fair that someone who sins for a relatively short time on earth should have to pay for their sins by being eternally punished in hell." This is an important concern for us to consider. Why is hell eternal?

I want to offer three lines of thinking in answer to this question. The first comes from C.S. Lewis via Tim Keller. The other two are more original (though I believe they have the support of Scripture, and others have probably formed similar thoughts). At the same time, I'm still processing them, so any thoughts you have would be helpful. You can comment by clicking "Discuss this Post" below.

1. A relational explanation (Lewis/Keller).
This explanation basically goes like this: At some point our body will die on this earth, but our soul lives on into eternity to experience what we have desired and lived for in this life. So if you desire Christ and trust him as your Savior, that is your eternity. If you rejected your Creator and want to live without him here, you will do so for all eternity. There's a lot more to this, but you'll need to read chapter 5 of The Reason for God for more.

2. A better understanding of justice.
We understand the concept of justice and punishment for people who are unjust, for people who do "bad" things. But if we are able to judge them for that - if we find it acceptable to pronounce judgment on someone else for being bad, that means we feel we are morally superior to them. That is, our morality condemns them for being less moral. At the same time, we realize that we are not perfectly moral. We know that we probably deserve some punishment for bad things we have done. But still, we feel like we can say that Hitler or a rapist or someone who hurts us should receive punishment because we are at least a little bit more moral than them.

Now, take that same concept and apply it to God. While we are somewhat moral (and therefore feel just in pronouncing judgment on others that we deem less just), God is infinitely just. He is righteous and just to a degree that we cannot fathom. And if we cannot fully fathom his righteousness and justness, then we also cannot fathom our injustice, badness, and violation of his rightness.

This is another reason that hell is eternal. God is infinitely just (beyond our understanding), and we are infinitely wicked. And this is exactly why the cross is so awesome. Jesus paid the price we couldn't pay. He paid the price we cannot even fully understand. But we can understand it a little bit because we operate the same way with people we deem to be unjust. We just need to take that concept and magnify it a million times to realize what is going on between a holy God and sinful people.

3. A proper understanding of "paying for sins."
If hell was temporary wouldn't that mean that people are basically "paying off" their sins? But the Scriptures are clear that we can't pay for our sins - only Jesus can. Further, it would seem that if it were possible to pay for sins, then the sinner should be remorseful. Like a serial killer would need to repent for his murdering in addition to serving a ton of time in prison. But even then, could that really pay for his crimes? Normally our society doesn't think so because we put serial killers in prison for life. What we are saying is that there is no way he can ever pay for his crimes - therefore the best we can do is have him spend his whole life in prison or be executed. No one believes that his time in prison actually pays for his crime, but it is the worst sentence we can come up with. Likewise, hell does not pay for sin. Even though hell is eternal, not one sin has been paid for because apart from Jesus there is no repentance and no possible payment.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some More From Keller on Hell

I'm indebted to Tim Keller's work on the subject of hell. He has brought a balanced perspective to this difficult topic in a way that doesn't undermine the message of Jesus. At the Redeemer website, he has an article on the importance of hell. He starts out by saying:
In 2003 a research group discovered 64% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die, but less than 1% think they might go to hell. Not only are there plenty of people today who don't believe in the Bible's teaching on everlasting punishment, even those who do find it an unreal and a remote concept. Nevertheless, it is a very important part of the Christian faith, for several reasons.
He goes on to explain four reasons hell is an important part of the Christian faith:
1. It is important because Jesus taught about it more than all other Biblical authors put together.
2. It is important because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything.
3. It is important because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.
4. The doctrine of hell is important because it is the only way to know how much Jesus loved us and how much he did for us.
His conclusion:
The doctrine of hell is crucial-without it we can't understand our complete dependence on God, the character and danger of even the smallest sins, and the true scope of the costly love of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to stress the doctrine of hell in unwise ways. Many, for fear of doctrinal compromise, want to put all the emphasis on God's active judgment, and none on the self-chosen character of hell. Ironically, as we have seen, this unBiblical imbalance often makes it less of a deterrent to non-believers rather than more of one. And some can preach hell in such a way that people reform their lives only out of a self-interested fear of avoiding consequences, not out of love and loyalty to the one who embraced and experienced hell in our place. The distinction between those two motives is all-important. The first creates a moralist, the second a born-again believer.

We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the pre-eminent teacher of love and grace in history, "I am less barbaric than you, Jesus--I am more compassionate and wiser than you." Surely that should give us pause! Indeed, upon reflection, it is because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus' proclamations of grace and love are so astounding.

Check out the full article here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jesus on Heaven & Hell

Here's the message I gave on Sunday about heaven & hell, along with the major points.

The most helpful thing I came across in preparing for this message was the C.S. Lewis/Tim Keller explanation of eternity as an extension of our life here, so that if I desire Jesus, trust him, and seek a relationship with him here, that will extend on into eternity. This is the essence of heaven - relationship with Jesus. On the other hand, if I reject Jesus and do not desire a relationship with him here, that will continue on into eternity. This is hell - separation from Jesus.

Jesus on Heaven & Hell
Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus desires that all people would be saved from hell (Ez. 18:23; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; John 3:17).

Jesus on Eternity
+ Eternity is about final judgment based on what you do with Jesus
+ There are two possible eternal destinations
+ The focal point of eternity is relationship (or separation)

Jesus on Hell
+ It's separation
+ It's eternal and conscious
+ It's suffering

Jesus on Heaven
+ It's relationship with Jesus
+ It's unfathomable joy
Listen or download the audio.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jesus on Heaven

Since I provided some links about hell in the last post, I figured we should balance this with a healthy perspective on heaven. The most comprehensive work done on heaven comes from Randy Alcorn in a book entitled, you guessed it, Heaven.

In the book, he addresses all the common questions and many not-so-common questions about heaven, such as:
  1. Is Heaven a realm for disembodied spirits, or a physical place where we'll have bodies?
  2. Is there a difference between the Heaven we go to when we die and the Heaven we'll live in after the resurrection?
  3. Won't it get boring? What will we do? Will we work? Rest? Play?
  4. Will we be the same people? With the same personalities and emotions? Will we become angels?
  5. What will we look like? What age will we be?
  6. Will we eat and drink?
  7. Will there be a continuity between our past lives and our future ones? Will we remember our old lives, family and friends?
  8. Will there be races? Nations? Earthly civilizations?
  9. Will there be culture? Art? Music? Sports? Entertainment? Technology?
  10. Will we laugh, celebrate and have fun?
  11. What will it mean to reign with Christ?
  12. What kind of rewards will there be? If some have greater rewards than others, will they be happier?
  13. Will there be animals? Might our pets be there?
  14. Will we be married and have families? Will we have sex?
  15. Will we be capable of sinning? Could there be another fall?
  16. Will we be able to meet and talk with past historical figures and Bible characters?
He also has a number of free articles and audio available at his website, Eternal Perspective Mnistries.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jesus on Hell

This Sunday, I'm speaking about Jesus on Heaven and Hell. IX Marks ministry put out an ejournal that was dedicated to the topic of hell. Check it out for some helpful articles, including:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Redux: The Story of Jonah

This has been making its way around the web, so you may have seen it already. It's quite an impressive work of story-telling.

The Story of Jonah on Vimeo.

Caveat: I'm most definitely not endorsing any of the other videos from this church, but this one is pretty good.