Entries from January 2010 ↓
January 14th, 2010 — Church, Ministry, Personal, Sermons, Theology
My mother recently sent me a great and challenging quote from A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy.
“If some watcher or holy one who has spent his glad centuries by the sea of fire were to come to earth, how meaningless to him would be the ceaseless chatter of the busy tribes of men. How strange to him and how empty would sound the flat, stale and profitless words heard in the average pulpit from week to week. And were such a one to speak on earth would he not speak of God? Would he not charm and fascinate his hearers with rapturous descriptions of the Godhead? And after hearing him could we ever again consent to listen to anything less than theology, the doctrine of God? Would we not thereafter demand of those who would presume to teach us that they speak to us from the mount of divine vision or remain silent altogether?” (p. 71).
January 12th, 2010 — Personal
Here is a new book on an age-old topic that is urgently relevant for families raising young ones today. Parents who are thinking through the issues of sex, dating, and relationships, check out this newly re-released book, Raising Purity authored by my friend, Gerald Hiestand. Gerald is a gifted writer and pastor in the Chicago area and this book is sure to be thought-provoking and helpful.
Here’s a blurb from the back cover of the book:
“Do they know? Do you? Many young people today are confused about the Bible’s perspective on sex, dating and relationships. Should they give dating a chance or kiss it goodbye? What exactly is sexual purity, and how far is too far, anyway? Perhaps our children don’t know the answers to these questions because we as parents are uncertain ourselves.
In this ground-breaking book, Gerald Hiestand provides objective, biblical answers to these vital questions, and unfolds a paradigm-shifting view of relationships and purity that challenges the basic assumptions of our Christian sub-culture. Touching on a wide range of subjects, Raising Purity is sure to help parents and children think clearly, biblically and practically about the God-ordained purpose of human sexuality.”
To check out the website for the book, click here.
You can download the first two chapters of the book for free by clicking here.
January 11th, 2010 — Church, Ministry, Personal, Theology
To insist much on those things that the Scripture insists little on, and to insist very little on those things on which the Scripture insists much, is a very dangerous thing (Religious Affections, p. 438; Yale Edition).
Two vitally important and revealing questions arise out of this statement: (1) What do you insist much on that Scripture insists little on? And, perhaps more importantly, (2) What do you insist little on that Scripture insists much on? And, if you’re wondering about a third, then how about this: In light of #1 or #2, do you find yourself in a dangerous position?!
January 11th, 2010 — Church, Personal, Theology
As many of you know, Katie and I have been wrestling with our housing situation for quite some time now. In the last sixteen months, we’ve moved house three times: down to a rental in Oak Park, back to the house we owned in Wheaton, then to a new place in Wheaton just recently, after we (finally!) sold our house in Wheaton. It’s been an exhausting and, admittedly, at times, very frustrating process. Just recently, in fact, this past Friday, we decided to move ahead with putting an offer on a house back in the Oak Park area, only to receive word a half-hour later from our realtor that the house had just been sold earlier that day!
We’ve prayed all the while for God’s grace to sustain us in the midst of these several transitions; and we’ve prayed repeatedly for the Lord to open up the right opportunity for us. We’ve prayed, you might say, for felicity – for the hand of Providence to orchestrate for us happy circumstances. And we’ve done so unabashedly, knowing there’s nothing wrong with praying this way.
However, I was challenged this morning by reading the following comments by the English Puritan, William Jenkyn. His words were a reminder to me to always seek favor over felicity: the blessing of God over God’s blessings. And should God choose to supply us with the blessings for which we hope, then praise God. But should he not, or at least not in the way we were anticipating, then let the favor of God nonetheless be our chief desire and source of joy.
May these words similiarly encourage and challenge you.
Let nothing please or satisfy you, but the light of God’s countenance and do so receive from God here, as that you may be received to God hereafter. Desire not gifts, but mercies from God; not pebbles but pearls, and always labor for that which God never bestows but in love. Luther, when he had a rich present sent to him, professed with a holy boldness to God that such things should not serve his turn. Always desire the favor of God rather than outward felicity. O desire from God that your portion may not be in this life, but that what you enjoy here may be a pledge of better things hereafter.
January 11th, 2010 — Church, Ministry, Outreach, Sermons
In his book, Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary, Christian writer Frederick Buechner explains how the term “born again” now sounds in the ears of some:
You get the feeling that to [those who use the phrase ‘born again’] it means Super Christians. They are apt to have the relentless cheerfulness of car salesmen. They tend to be a little too friendly a little too soon and the women to wear more make-up than they need. You can’t imagine any of them ever having had a bad moment or a lascivious thought or use a nasty word when the bumped their head getting out of the car. They speak a great deal about “the Lord” as if they have him in their hip pocket and seem to feel that it’s no harder to figure out what he wants them to do in any given situation to look up in Fanny Farmer how to make brownies. The whole shadow side of human existence – the suffering, the doubt, the frustration, the ambiguity – appears as absent from their view of things as litter from the streets of Disneyland. To hear them speak of God, he seems about as elusive and mysterious as a Billy Graham rally at Madison Square Garden, and on their lips the Born Again experience often sounds like something we can all make happen any time we want to, like fudge, if we only follow their recipe (p. 24).
That this is the way being ‘born again’ sounds to some is unfortunate, first of all, because it is a wonderful biblical expression that we find used in several places in the New Testament, not least on the lips of Jesus himself (see John 3:1-10). But, secondly, and more importantly, this is unfortunate because being born again is a profound biblical experience – an experience that not only marks the beginning of the Christian life, but also provides a basis for wonder and worship in our lives. To be born again is the foundation of Christian living, as well as the wellspring of the Christian’s praise, as 1 Peter 1:3 reminds us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
January 6th, 2010 — Personal
Two Implications for Christian Identity
A Happy New Year to all and I hope you had a Spirit filled Christmas break. Here are a couple of comments about our Christian identity from my 1/4/10 sermon. (calvarymemorial.com) I set them before you to begin a conversation on the important topic of Christian identity in a post-Christian society.
First, your Christian identity must be God-centered.
This means you must define who you are in light of who God says you are, not who the world says you are. Notice that with the phrase “elect exiles,” your status with God precedes your status with the world. In fact, your status before God is the reason for your status in the world. You are an exile in the world precisely because you are elected by God. What God says about you must come first; and indeed it must explain who you are in the world and how you experience the world, not the other way around. This is what it means to have a God-centered identity: who God is and what God has done—in particular, what Christ has done—must be central to who you see yourself to be.
Second, your Christian identity will be paradoxical.
For as Christians we are and always will be both elect and exiles. There will always be a tension in the way we see ourselves. We will always be in our element and out of it simultaneously. As elect, we will feel secure in God, yet as exiles we will feel vulnerable in the world. As elect, we will feel confident of our place in history, yet as exiles we will feel insecure of our place right here at home, at work, or among friends. As elect, we will feel in step with the ways of God, yet as exiles we will feel out of step with the ways of the world. As elect, we will experience the joy of being chosen by God, yet as exiles we will experience the pain of being rejected by the world. This is what it means to say that Christian identity is paradoxical. There will always be this sense of tension between being elect, on the one hand, and being exiles, on the other.”
What has your experience been as an “elect exile”? In the tension between those two words, do you identify with the one more than the other?