Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What does it mean to be "reformed"?

Someone asked me recently if I was “reformed”. That was a loaded question if there ever was one! Some mean “reformed” to be simply holding to justification by faith alone. For others it is a more detailed theological position that encompasses issues from salvation to baptism and even the end times. Others just mean, I think, “Do you read a lot of John Piper and like to discuss Calvinism among your Christian buddies?” The basics of what it means to be reformed and what I mean when I say I am reformed are captured in the “Five Solas”. These are five Latin phrases that came out of the Protestant Reformation to distinguish one’s theological convictions from the official positions of the Roman Catholic Church. R.C. Sproul calls them the battle cries of the Reformation. Here are those phrases which represent the pillars of what one should mean (and what I mean) when he claims to be reformed:

1. Sola Scriptura (By Scripture alone): The Bible is the rule of faith as it is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God, it is the instrument of salvation, and it is accessible to all.

2. Sola Fide (By faith alone): Justification by God is through faith only, without any mixture of good works but genuine faith is evidenced by good works.

3. Sola Gratia (By grace alone): Salvation is a gift or grace from God meaning that it is unearned or unmerited.

4. Solus Cristus (Christ alone): The only mediator between God and man by which we are saved is Jesus Christ.

5. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone): Since the miracle of salvation is accomplished completely through God’s will and power He is solely deserving of the glory.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What rights do babies have?

The Mexico City Policy prohibits U.S. funds to be received by non-governmental agencies outside the U.S. unless they agree to "neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning." In other words, our country is not going to pay for abortions of people in other countries or for our own citizens who may seek an abortion in another country. President Obama is planning on lifting this ban today.

Thursday was the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the legalization of abortion in America. Since January 22, 1973 nearly 50 million babies have been killed before birth. These children need to be mourned and need to be fought for. Truth must be spread. Even if our nation refuses to recognize the moral issues present we must ask the legal question of when babies have rights. That question has been asked and answered regarding race and gender so it should be answered as it concerns the unborn. Follow the links below to read how John Piper explains that Abraham Lincoln’s reasoning against slavery should apply to the rights of the unborn. There is also a link to a post by Justin Taylor regarding the issue of abortion in the early church. Then view the video of Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe) for a candid confession.

HT: Justin Taylor

Delicious Temptation of Celebrity

Several days ago I read Acts 14 and what an amazing story! Paul and Barnabas are so eloquent in communicating the gospel that they are almost too eloquent. The people began to spread the rumor that they were the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes incarnate! The temple priest of Zeus even wanted to make sacrifices to them. This was no compliment to Barnabas and Paul.

Fame and fandom are delicious temptations aren’t they? I wonder today if preachers who might find themselves with this level of celebrity would embrace it or denounce it as Paul and Barnabas did. Would one today chalk it up as “an opportunity for greater influence”- essentially spiritualizing the idolatry of the people and the glory being robbed from God? I really pray that if ever that attention should fall on me I would be blanketed with humility driven by a fear of God and a passion for His glory.

The story doesn’t end there. Paul and Barnabas rejected the celebrity-status knowing it would incur the wrath of the people. In fact Scripture says the people, “Stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city supposing him to be dead.” Of course the Lord restored Paul’s body and his ministry with Barnabas pressed forward, but what great persecution came from this choice! Given the options of being adored by the masses or being greatly persecuted by the same what would we with our 21st century soft-skin and tender egos choose?

I pray we would choose the rebuke of men remembering the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Paul's first (recorded) sermon

I'll be adding some new posts soon, but taking a little break this week. I have been reading through Acts with my church this month and several days ago read through Paul's first recorded sermon in Acts 13:16-41. Just to think through the magnitude of it I typed it out (which is a helpful practice). I thought you might enjoy reading through it yourself here (from the NASB; paranthetical references and italics added). Paul is in Pisidian Antioch on the Sabbath and after the customary reading from "the Law and the Prophets" Paul is asked to give the exhortation or sermon (read the rest of chapter 13 to see the results).

Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen! The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance—all of which took about four hundred and fifty years.

After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all My will” (1 Samuel 13:14).

From the descendents of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie” (Matthew 3:11).

Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead; and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people.

And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7). As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David” (Isaiah 55:3). Therefore He also says in another Psalm, “You will not allow your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psalm 16:10). For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.

Therefore let it be known to you brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: “Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you” (Habakkuk 1:5).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Books That Changed My Life

You know those books you read that have a profound impact on your thinking or point in life? I thought it would be fun to put a few of those that had significant impact on me for varying reasons and to varying degrees. If you'd like post your list in the comments. These aren't necessarily in order of significance.

1. Romans... I'm not trying to sound pious by putting a Biblical book here and frankly the Bible as a whole is the single most life-altering book. It's what we should build our lives on, but when I was in college I started reallly digging through Paul's magnum opus and my view of God and my salvation have never been the same.

2. Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Eliot... This really gave me a vision for where I wanted to be in my heart and mind. I read it during college (like many of these books) and it really challenged me in the area of sexual purity. When I struggled with temptation this book was a constant reminder of the need to repent and pursue godliness.

3. Desiring God by John Piper... This isn't my favorite Piper book (Pleasures of God) or even the most motivational to me (Don't Waste Your Life), but I read it when I was 21 and it was my first exposure to Piper's ministry. I re-read it some years later so I could really understand what he was saying without jumping to some erroneous conclusions.

4. Divided by Faith by Christian Smith & Michael O. Emerson... Thank you Rodney Woo for obliterating my rose-colored glasses concerning racism and the church by making me read this book. This book makes me mad, frustrated, and zealous for change all at once.

5. Cur Deus Homo? by St. Anselm... As for the really old stuff, Augustine, Calvin, and some of the Puritans have been very impacting to me, but this work by Anselm really helped me flesh out a Biblical understanding of the atonement. It's not quite "penal substitutionary" in this piece but it points down that road.

6. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala... Not without its problems, but it really gave me an upclose vision of the Holy Spirit at work and the limitless potential when we are submitted to Him fully. Great stories in this book!

7. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge... The further I get from this book the more disagreements I have with content, but at 25 years old it really served as an edifying challenge to me toward Biblical manhood.

8. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever... His book, The Deliberate Church fleshes a lot out practically which I prefer but this book really took my mind away from the shallow ambitions and worldy success often sought in ministry. It gets you to the core elements of a NT church a faithful pastor should pursue- namely, the priority of the WORD.

9. Knowing God by J.I. Packer... Single best book I've ever read on the doctrine of God. It challenged me to read the WORD more thoroughly for understanding the character of God rather than "looking for answers" to my questions or felt needs.

10. Dynamic Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. This is not his classic "Spiritual Leadership" which I've actually never read, but a follow-up which examines the life of Paul. It is essentially a biography of Paul and it blew me away!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good words, Great music

We need to fill our minds with good words. You know the old saying that goes, "Garbage in, Garbage out"? Jesus said it even better, "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Mat 12:34). So to combat all the noise that the world fills our head with I like to take time to listen to good music and read good books. Here is a music recommendation- Enfield. They have a great sound, insightful lyrics, and their songs are genuinely cross-centered. On top of that it actually feels original which is a rare thing in the Christian music genre (which I'm admittedly not much a fan of). I've worn it out on my iPod. So check 'em out and fill your mind with good words.

Is this guy a false prophet?

This Sunday for our Night Light service at 6pm I'll be teaching about how to fight against false teaching. So I want to take a couple posts to expose a little false teaching here by way of example. Let's start with the "Oasis of Love". Joel Osteen may be one of the happiest guys on the planet. He may be genuine in everything he says and writes. Even so, he is genuinely wrong in a lot of his teaching. I believe Joel Osteen has the spiritual gift of exhortation or encouragement. It is obvious the Lord uses him in this way. However it is equally obvious that he has not heeded the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:6 to be, "Constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine." Paul also says in verse 13, "Give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching" and in verse 16 to "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching". Mr. Osteen's admitted ignorance as it concerns the sound doctrine of the Word has often been taken advantage of by the Enemy to deceive and confuse people. We need to pray for him but we also need to be wary of what he says. There is an old saying that someone can know just enough to be dangerous.

Go HERE for an insightful review of Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Feature

If you noticed the strange photo on the right column of the screen you are probably wondering who that is. It you don't know me, then it isn't me. This is supplied through the Joshua Project which raises awareness and provides research regarding the unreached people groups of the world. Hopefully it will help you- as it will help me- with praying for these groups daily and for the missionaries that God will call there.

Why Baptist?

Yesterday I was driving through the community and saw that another Baptist church has apparently removed the word ‘Baptist’ from their name… or at least their marquee. This is not a new trend and has actually been the fad du jour for about 10-15 years. So why drop the name Baptist? Some churches will say that the name is a barrier for people to come to church. Others will say that they want to “cast a wider net”. Some just do it because it honestly seems like the cool thing for churches to do and let’s be honest, a lot of pastors really want to be cool (whatever that is).

The way I feel is that if you are going to start a new church call it whatever you like, but if Baptist is part of your church’s tradition then don’t be ashamed of that. It is not an embarrassing thing, really… unless you don’t know the history and significance of the name. One of my former professors, Jim Hamilton, now a professor at Southern Seminary says, “The whole point of being a Baptist is being biblical. We Baptists aren’t Baptists because our parents were Baptists, because we think Baptist culture is superior to all others, or because we think identifying ourselves as Baptists will improve our standing in society. We’re Baptists (or should be) because we think that being Baptist is the most biblical way of being the church.”

I am not saying that the Baptist tradition has everything right and there certainly have been some black-eyes on the historical face of Southern Baptists over the last 100 years. That said, it does represent some things that we should communicate with people up front. I loathe the “bait and switch” method of outreach- woo them with coolness and then subtlety mention in the bulletin or website that they are now in fact Baptist. That’s not cool at all and it certainly doesn’t show much integrity.

Here is why I am Baptist and unashamed to put it on our church marquee: 1) I believe the doctrinal beliefs (particularly the reformed view of salvation by faith alone and the views on baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and ecclesiology reflect what the Bible teaches (these are reflected in statements such as “The Baptist Faith & Message”- 2000); 2) I believe the International Mission Board is the best mission agency in the world and its support through the Cooperative Program is the best way to network local churches across the globe to do Kingdom work; and 3) I believe in the autonomy of the local church with each church pastor-led, deacon-supported, and congregationally governed.

While I am sure there are genuine and credible reasons to “drop the name”, though none come to mind, let the identity stand as existing churches are concerned. Again, I am not saying all churches should be Baptists or that new churches should necessarily use the name, but let’s not be ashamed of the rich heritage of faith we have.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Praying before the Inauguration

The 44th President of the United States will be sworn in next Tuesday, January 20. I came across photos of George W. Bush before and after his Presidency. Wow! The job really takes a toll on a man physically and I can only imagine the emotional and mental pressures he must feel throughout his four to eight years in office. Can you see the difference eight years makes?

This got me to thinking about how we can pray for the next man who will take this office- Barak Obama. Take the next eight days to lift him up to the Lord in these specific ways beginning today:

Day 1. Pray for the wisdom of the Lord to pervade his thoughts.
Day 2. Pray for strength of character and convictions.
Day 3. Pray for his wife Michelle and their marriage.
Day 4. Pray that he will be attentive to edifying support and counsel and discerning to harmful counsel.
Day 5. Pray for his health, physical stamina, and safety.
Day 6. Pray for his children Malia Ann (10 yrs old) and Sasha (7 years old- the youngest White House resident since JFK Jr.).
Day 7. Pray that his eyes would be opened to truth and guarded from deceit.
Day 8. Pray that his growth in God's Word would increase.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What is a Deacon? (part three)

Does Paul describe women deacons in verse eleven? Paul makes a point to speak specifically to women under the heading of deacon qualifications. He doesn’t make that distinction when explaining the qualifications of pastors (“overseers”- verses 1-7). Just to be clear, my argument against women exercising ‘teaching authority’ over a man is a biblical one and not a cultural reaction. Likewise, my argument against women serving as pastors is a biblical one and not a cultural reaction. So to be consistent, my argument for women serving as deacons (in the appropriate context) is a biblical one and not a cultural reaction.

There is a case to be made for women serving as deacons or deaconesses, but it should be noted that men ought always to take the lead as an example. Moreover it is important in our society that seeks to emasculate men at every turn for Christian men to take leadership at every possible opportunity. If there are no qualified men or if men lack the courage to lead it is an indictment on us and thank God for those women who will step up to the plate until qualified men are found.

Regardless of whether this passage is interpreted to mean women who serve in the office of deacon, wives of deacons, or generally to women who serve in the church there are qualification which apply for all. In verse eleven Paul says she is to be ‘dignified’ in character, she is not to be a ‘malicious gossip’, she is to be ‘temperate’ maintaining self-control and not controlled by any substance, and finally she is to be ‘faithful in all things’. No one honors the Lord in public ministry if they are not faithful to the Lord in the other areas of their life such as their sexuality, their home, their reputation outside the church, or their personal study of God’s Word.

I am not advocating the ordaining of women to this office. Even if you agree that Paul makes the case for women filling this ministry role it is not always appropriate or edifying to do so depending on the context. What should always be heavily considered in choosing people to serve in any leadership or ministry role in the church is whether the unity of the church is preserved and God is glorified.

What is a Deacon? (part two)

Paul outlines the qualifications for those who desire to take leadership in the church through the office of deacon. More broadly applied these verses teach us qualities of an excellent servant and leader in the church. In verse eight we are taught four of these qualifications. He must be one with ‘dignity’. The office was more than custodial. The apostles said the first deacons were to be, “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6). So Paul requires that candidates must have honorable character. He must not be ‘double-tongued’. An excellent servant is one who demonstrates truthfulness. A gossip, slanderer, or rabble-rouser neither honors the Lord nor builds up the church. He must not be ‘addicted to much wine’. An excellent servant is unhindered by alcohol and his judgment is not be clouded. He must not be ‘fond of sordid gain’. Deacons' reputations should be marked by integrity and be found trustworthy as it concerns money.

In verse nine Paul says that he must be one who ‘holds to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience’. Deacons are not required to teach but they must have a thorough understanding of the gospel and live in such a way that is consistent with the gospel.

Then in verse ten Paul says that he must be ‘tested before serving’ and be ‘beyond reproach’. The candidate must have his character and service tested and observed before he is given the responsibility of office. An excellent servant in the church is one who proves himself a deacon before being given the title.

Verse eleven describes women who serve in the church- more on that in the next blog entry. Paul continues in verse twelve saying that he must be the ‘husband of only one wife’. As with pastors Paul is concerns with a man’s moral and sexual purity. He must be a ‘one women man’. We can dissect this a thousand ways but the bottom line is that his character and reputation must be marked by his faithfulness to his spouse. Finally, he must be a ‘good manager of his children and his own household’. Like pastors, deacons are to prove their spiritual leadership in their home first. If one does not lead by the Word of God at home how can he lead by the Word of God at church?

Paul closes this section of his letter by emphasizing the reward of excellent service, particularly for those who function as deacons. He receives “high standing” which means trust and appreciation from his fellow believers. He also receives “great confidence” which describes the joy in seeing the power of Christ at work in ministry. Finally Paul reminds Timothy of the responsibility of the church as a whole- not just pastors and deacons- to be a display of God’s glory.

What is a Deacon? (part one)

Last night during our evening Night Light service we examined 1 Timothy 3:8-16. In this section of Scripture Paul teaches Timothy what qualities ought to be present in a candidate for the office of deacon. First, what is this office? What is a deacon? The word ‘deacon’ is the English transliteration of the Greek word which means servant. Sometimes in the New Testament the Greek term refers broadly to one who is a servant or one who serves and is sometimes even translated minister. In other texts as in 1 Timothy 3, it is clearly identifying a specific role within the church. In one sense we are all deacons as we are servants of God. Pastors are servants or deacons of the Word for example, but there is a defined role of leadership established for the church first seen in Acts 6.

In this text the ministry of the Word was being interrupted because of other needs in the church. Seven men were set apart to serve in a capacity that would both address these needs and free up the apostles to carry out the ministry of the Word. That’s the model we have for the relationship between pastors and deacons in the NT. The office of deacon was not set up as a ‘board member’ to make policy or to govern. Too often churches mirror corporations instead of the Bible so they have the pastor as CEO and the deacons as board of directors. Perhaps they try to mirror government with the pastor as the executive, the deacons as the judiciary and the congregation as the legislature.

The first deacons were assigned three tasks in Acts 6: 1) Care for the physical needs of the church; 2) Maintain unity in the church; and 3) Support the ministry of the Word. Deacons implement and carry out the hands-on ministries of the church. Every deacon should have his hands dirty with the soil of ministry.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Good Counsel on Pre-marital Counseling

This morning I read an interview with Winston Smith, the Director of Counseling at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. You can access the whole interview HERE, but I wanted to share an excerpt on marriage and pre-marital counseling that was very helpful to me. In response to a question about essentials for giving pre-marital counsel Smith says,

"I think for the most part, young people get married because their dating experience has taught them that they are really good at having fun with each other. They have enjoyed wining and dining each other. And they want to cement that fun with marriage. It is really nice being married to somebody that you enjoy and have fun with, but ultimately marriage isn't about fun. Fun can be one of the great byproducts of marriage, but ultimately a marriage is a picture of Christ's relationship to his bride, the church, and his love for her. It is our opportunity and our obligation in marriage to image that—to be a walking, talking portrait of that kind of love. And you know what? That kind of love doesn't just show up in the good and happy times. That kind of love is sometimes most visible when things go wrong. We know Christ's love because he came to us in our messiness, our ugliness, our brokenness and our rebellion. This kind of marriage requires a couple to meet each other in those messy, scary places. In marriage counseling, I want to prepare people for this most critical part of imaging Christ. I need them to be willing to look at the messiness before they get married so they'll know if they are making a wise decision."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sharing the Good News with Joy!

This Wednesday I will begin teaching a class about how to share the gospel naturally and with joy. The “Gospel Sharing” class will run about 7-8 weeks. We’ll meet in the Fellowship Hall at 6pm. After the teaching/ workshop time we will conclude with intercessory prayer for our non-Christian neighbors and hurting church members. This morning I read a great quote about evangelism from Mark Driscoll. I thought it was very helpful...

"Evangelism is the speaking and showing of the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who do not yet know Him. Evangelism is the natural overflow of a life lived in joy as a worshiper of God. Sadly, evangelism is often portrayed as something that Christians must do as a duty, rather than something that they get to do as a delight."

Here is the link to the whole piece- Evangelism by Mark Driscoll.

If you would like to join the class please come this Wednesday, January 7 at 6pm. We’d love to have anyone who is interested in sharing the good news of Jesus more clearly and passionately. Of if you are not a believer and simply what like to understand the essential truths of faith please come as well!

Monday, January 5, 2009

What is an "Overseer"?

Sunday night I continued my series through the Pastoral Letters of Paul with an examination of 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Here Paul instructs Timothy on how to properly vet those who desire to be candidates for the office of “overseer”. What is an “overseer”? The title overseer describes those men who have been vested with the responsibility to lead the church through the ministry of the Word. The New Testament uses three words to describe the office we most commonly refer to as pastor. The three Greek terms used for the office of pastor are: episkopos (overseer/ bishop), presbyteros (elder), and poimein (shepherd/ pastor). There is substantial evidence in the New Testament that these were all interchangeable titles describing the same office. Here are three significant examples:

In Acts 20:17 Paul addresses the “elders” of the church in Ephesus. There was a group of men who provided spiritual leadership. Then in verse 28 refers to them as “overseers” charged “to shepherd” (pastor) the church. Then in Titus 1:5 Paul instructs Titus to “appoint elders” then addresses the same office in verse 7 with the title “overseer”. Finally in 1 Peter 5:1-2 Peter encourages the “elders” of the church to “shepherd” or to pastor the “flock of God”.

This is one office that was commonly represented in the New Testament by a plurality of men at each local church. Over the course of history the title of this office has been represented differently in different traditions (pastor, vicar, bishop, minister, elder, etc). Most Southern Baptist churches in last 100 years or so have grown away from having a plurality of elders to simply designating one elder as pastor. In many churches the deacon body or collection of committees has assumed the responsibility of the elder body but this is not the blueprint the Bible gives us. While there is significant benefit to a church having a body of pastors or elders just as they have a body of deacons, churches must have at least one pastor who is responsible for being the lead elder (spiritual leader/ teacher), overseer (administrator/ one who will give an account- Hebrews 13:17), and shepherd (care giver).

In the remaining verses of this passage Paul provides fifteen qualifications for this office: 1) He must be ‘above reproach; 2) He must be the ‘husband of one wife’; 3) He must be ‘temperate’; 4) He must be ‘prudent’; 5) He must be ‘respectable’; 6) He must be ‘hospitable’; 7) He must be ‘able to teach’; 8) He must not be ‘addicted to wine’; 9) He must not be ‘pugnacious’; 10) He must be ‘gentle’; 11) He must be ‘peaceable’; 12) He must be ‘free from the love of money’; 13) He must be ‘one who manages his own household well’; 14) He must not be ‘a new convert’; 15) He must be one of ‘good reputation with those outside the church’.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mystery of Revival

As a pastor I must remind myself that I'm called to faithfulness, not success. Of course it is natural to earnestly hope for the movement of God to take place among the people you are preaching to. I want to see souls saved. I want to see revival. However, it is the Lord's perogative whatever visible results of ministry occur. To pine the visible results is only to allow pride, frustration, and envy to creep in. Then to take credit when visible results occur is to rob God of His glory. So lest I be tempted to make success my ambition rather than faithfulness I listen to the words of John Wesley who spoke with regards to the mystery of revival...

"We do not throughly understand the meaning of that word, 'The times and seasons God hath reserved in His own power.' Undoubtedly He has wise reasons for pouring out His Spirit at one time rather than another; but they lie abundantly too deep for human understanding to fathom."

From the Letters of John Wesley edited by John Telford; quoted in Wesley and Men Who Followed by Iain H. Murray (p 24).

"What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." -Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Happy New Year!! Are you anti-New Year's Resolutions? We often stray from making them because we know we'll soon stray from keeping them. Consider what the word "resolved" means- to formally declare or decide; to make progress from dissonance to consonance. It is an act of the will to change or commit to a change of action. That's a good thing to do every day. The beginning of a new year provides some mental clarity and a sense of a fresh start so we often make several or significant such declarations. Jonathan Edwards provides us a great example of this as a lifestyle. At nineteen years of age in 1722 the man who would become arguably America's greatest theologian wrote out a series of resolutions- statements of change he sought to live by. He didn't do so to brag but out of a determination to magnify the glory of with every part of his life. So January 1, 2009 is a good day to start living resolved. If you slip- and you will- step right back.

Two simple resolutions I've challenged myself and my church with are to systematically read more Scripture on a daily basis and to intentionally invite people to church (and take as many of those opportunities to share the gospel). For January our church has committed to read a chapter of Acts every day (with three catch-up days) and invite one person to be our guest at Sunday worship every day of the month. That's simple and a great start to a new year. What are you resolved to do in 2009 for the glory of God?