Archive for December 2008
This is from the funny files.
Yesterday morning I assisted in worship. I was leading the congregation as we read out loud together the Apostles’ Creed. As I was reading, something landed right in the middle of my bulletin in the exact portion of the Apostles’ Creed that we were reciting. A jumping spider had hurled himself from the end of the pulpit mic onto my closely perched bulletin. As nondescript as possible — while still reading — I flicked the spider off my bulletin.
“That was weird,” I thought to myself. “I bet that will never happen again.”
The next time I was in the pulpit was later that night. I was up to preach in our evening worship service. I got up to read from John 4. As I began reading it happened again! A spider jumped from the pulpit mic onto the exact portion of the Bible I was reading. Again, I quickly sent him flying into the front row — while trying not to lose my place as I read. I almost broke out into laughter. Though I’m glad I didn’t because I’m not sure how I would have explained that to the congregation. “Uh, you see….there was this spider…. and, well…. this morning…..”
My assumption is that the spider(s) came from the poinsettias that were positioned near the pulpit.
That goes down in the books as one of those odd public speaking moments. A once in a lifetime occurence…that is until next Sunday.
I’m preaching my first “Christmas” sermon tonight at our Christmas Eve sermon. I decided to focus on the wise men.
You would be surprised at how little we know about these guys. For example,
- There weren’t necessarily three. They offered three gifts but there could have been 20 of them as much as there could have been two.
- They weren’t kings. Apparently the song, “We three kings of Orient are” assumed they were kings because of their portrayed dress in early Christian paintings. They were definitely religio-philosophers of the star gazing sort.
- We really don’t know what country they were from. They may have been Medes, Persians, or Chaldeans. All we know is that they came from the East.
- We don’t know how they heard the Jewish messianic prophecy that brought them to Jerusalem.
- We don’t know what the “star” exactly was. It could have been a star, a planet, a comet, or something else.
- From all apparent Biblical accounts they probably weren’t at the manger the night Jesus was born. Context leads us to believe they showed up a few weeks later before Jesus’s family left Bethlehem. Sorry to spoil your manger scene.
But what we do know about them — little that it is — points us to the fundamentals of the gospel.
- They were Gentiles. It is amazing that these non-Jews were the chosen delegation to great the arrival of king Jesus. The gospel is for people of every tribe, tongue, and nation.
- They weren’t offended. They walked into Jesus’s humility and poverty. They didn’t think they had the wrong house. The humble servant of the Lord didn’t offend them in the least. The gospel is about a Savior who though he was rich became poor that we in his poverty might become rich.
- They worshiped. You find in the Magi of Matthew 2 arguably the most intense worship of Jesus that side of his resurrection. They saw him, fell prostrate before him, and worshiped.
- They showed Christ exalting generosity. They gave him gifts. Gold for a king. Frankincense — commonly used in temple worship — for someone in close relationship with God. Myrrh — used for preparing dead bodies — or a man who would one day face the grave.
The little we know about these wise men points directly to the truth of the gospel. Christmas myth tends to cloud the gospel clearly presented in the birth of our incarnate Lord.
May you this Christmas take the advice of the song “O Holy Night”, and “fall on your knees and here the Savior calling, for Christ is born.”
I admit it, I’m no Tim Challies. You won’t find a meter on my site of consecutive days blogged. I lose my blogging inertia easily. Sometimes I really enjoy it and others I wonder whether or not it is a waste of time.
Recently I’ve been feeling more of the latter — the blogging doldrums.
But some recent conversations have been well timed to contradict my blogging depression. It seems that folks do read what I write and do like interacting through comments. So in addition to opening up comments again, I am reminded that blogging is a good thing and can be used by God for at least some benefit in the advancement of his kingdom.
What are the reasons I started blogging and continue to blog? Here are a few:
- Blogging shows me the state of my heart. I can look back on past posts and ask the question, “How well am I understanding and articulating the gospel right now?” Sometimes I like the answer I give and other times I don’t. There are few things that help me discern Christ-centeredness of my soul than frequent writing.
- Blogging gives me a venue to participate in my generation’s communication of the classic truths of Christianity. Every generation needs to declare and apply the classic truths of Christianity. Blogging gives me a place to do just that. A secret around here at Mining Grace is that when I’m stuck on something to write about I just pick some segment of a creed or confession and make devotional comments on it. In that way I expose my readers to classic Christ honoring documents that they will probably never read on their own.
- Blogging reaches people with the gospel. I’ve been shocked at what a diverse group of people will read what you write just because you post it on a blog. What a responsibility to write well! I am infatuated with the gospel of Jesus Christ and want other people to be equally infatuated. Blogging gives me a chance to communicate the gospel to people that I will never have the opportunity to talk to in person.
- Blogging helps me in my ministry. I blog about what I am studying. Writing it down helps me to understand the argument I’m trying to make. It hones my preaching and teaching. Many times, working through a blog post will help me see a different angle on some topic I’ve been thinking through. The discipline of writing helps me as a communicator.
- Blogging helps me interact with my congregation in ways no other medium can. I can follow up on a point in a sermon. I can express encouragement or rebuke. I can let people in on different facets of my personal life that make me more approachable. Blogging makes me a better pastor.
These are just a few of many. Who knows how long I will continue to call myself a blogger? For now, I’ve made it through another blogging slump thanks to the encouragement of some good friends.
I hope to always blog in such a way that exalts Christ. If I cease doing that, the sooner I hang up the ol’ keyboard the better.
You should check out some of the preliminary posts in the series.
Ligon provides ten reasons to follow along with them:
Why should you read through Calvin’s Institutes with the lads here at ref21 as we blog through this work every weekday of 2009? Ten reasons:
1. Because it the most important book written in the last 500 years.
2. Because it is foundational for every Reformed systematic theology ever since.
3. Because Calvin was the best exegete in the history of Christianity.
4. Because Calvin is one of the five greatest theologians in Christian history.
5. Because he wrote it as a “sum of piety” not as an arid, speculative dogmatic treatise.
6. Because it gave J.I. Packer the idea for “Knowing God.”
7. Because Calvin thought and wrote succintly and clearly. “Brevitas et claritas” was his motto – brief and clear!
8. Because you will know God better, if you read it prayerfully and believingly.
9. Because it’s the 500th anniversary year of Calvin’s birthday. Don’t be a party pooper.
10. Because I agree with what Derek and Iain say in their posts.
Blogging is going to look a little different over here at Mining Grace from here on out.
As you know from my announcement, my attention has turned toward church planting. You’ll probably see a good bit more about that in terms of content. I’ll also continue to provide my thoughts on parts of the Bible or on old creeds that interest me. In addition to that you’ll probably also notice some more personal posts updating you on what is going on with me, my family, my ministry in Mississippi, and my preparation for church planting in Culpeper.
Another big change is that I’ve done away with comments. Its not because I don’t love you or don’t think you have anything profound to say, its just that I don’t have time to moderate all those gems you lob in my direction. For every helpful comment there are three that are down right goofy unhelpful. So if you want to talk about something I’ve written please feel free to email me, friend me on facebook, or interact with me on twitter.
What has consumed my time most recently is trying to come up with a three year budget for my church plant. That will enable me to approximate how much I need to raise from donors–churches and individuals–before we can go to the field.
People keep telling me, “It is a horrible time to ask people for money.” My response is, “Yeah, but its never a horrible time to plant a church.” I truly believe that God has taken the money for the Culpeper work and scattered among people who need to be involved in it. My privilege is to find those people and invite them to invest in a work God has already planned for them.
In the end, I want to see people who don’t know Jesus come into relationship with him. I want to see the people in Culpeper without a church find a church home where they can be encouraged and built up in grace.
For now it is the difficult work of excel sheets, donor charts, and lots of phone calls.
I’m also working on an official prospectus for the Culpeper work which I’ll link to once its done.
Keep praying for what Jesus is doing in Culpeper!
The fact that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not brought to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel, nor on Christ, who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but on the people themselves who are called. Some in self-assurance do not even entertain the Word of life; others do entertain it but do not take it to heart, and for that reason, after the fleeting joy of a temporary faith, they relapse; others choke the seed of the Word with the thorns of life’s cares and with the pleasures of the world and bring forth no fruits. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).
-Synod of Dor, 3/4.9
If you will not come to Christ it is no fault of the gospel, Christ, or God. It will be your own. Either you will reject the gospel outright — assured of your own ability to please God with the wreckage of your life. Or you will play with the gospel like watching a movie — allowing it to entertain you and move you only so far before you return it for next week’s new release. Or you will receive the gospel only so far as it requires nothing back from you — eventually leaving it for some other product that promises better results. In all these instances you will have left the gospel and refusted to come. The fault and guilt of your unbelief will be your own.
This category of books is huge. So instead of recommending every book out there I’m going to recommend my all-time favorite marriage book and my all-time favorite parenting book. I consider these to be must reads and have personally benefited greatly from them. They are,
Continuing in our series of book suggestions for Christmas gifts we’ll tackle fiction today. Good Christian fiction is hard to come by so I’ll concentrate on the three classics that everyone should read. On a personal note, we are on a continual cycle of reading through these in my house. In fact I’ve literally read the covers off of my Narnia and Lord of the Rings books. Hardbound editions of both are on my wish list this year.
The must reads for any age are,
Its official. Finally. [sigh of relief] I have been called to be the church planter for the Culpeper Mission Church in Culpeper, VA. Excitement and terror are throwing a big party inside my soul right now. I couldn’t be more excited to help the growing core group start a church for the honor of Jesus. At the same time church planting is no walk in the park. In fact, all the church planters I know say it is incredibly difficult. I’ll keep you posted as things progress.
It’ll be another six months until we’re on the ground in Culpeper. Most of that time will be spent,
- Praying like crazy
- Raising financial support
- Raising prayer partners
- Growing in my knowledge of the fundamentals of church planting
- Preparing to leave my current church well
Needless to say, I could use prayer for my family and my ministry.
For more information on Culpeper you can check out:
Nevertheless, all who are called through the gospel are called seriously. For seriously and most genuinely God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him. Seriously he also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and believe.
-Synod of Dort 3/4.8
The gospel is a matter of life and death. It is a subject that should be treated with the utmost of seriousness. You have heard the gospel a hundred times from a hundred different people in a hundred different ways. But have you ever considered its seriousness?
If you haven’t, you should.
I’ve benefited deeply from the writing of CJ Mahaney. His books — as well as his wife’s books — are excellent examples of how to apply gospel truth to practical living. Any of them would make great gifts.
If you’re looking for books on apologetics — the reasoned defense of the Christian faith — then look no further. I’ll give you three very different but equally well written and important works.
- Mere Christianity, CS Lewis
- The Defense of the Faith, Cornelius Van Til
- The Reason for God, Tim Keller
If you had to go with one to start with, I’d go with Keller’s book.
I’m thankful that my wife is so good at gift giving. She communicates with the rest of the family, finds great gifts, and makes sure they get there on time. If up to me, none of those three crucial steps would occur. But I do love books. I love giving books and getting books. So I figured I’d offer some suggestions for book giving this Christmas. Maybe someone on your list is “hard to buy for” or maybe you need to populate your own wishlist. Either way, may these books be my gift to your gift giving.
First up: Bibles. I love the ESV. It is the translation I’ve always wanted. Add to that the most recent publication of the ESV Study Bible and you’ve got a host of gift ideas.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
- Hebrews 11:3
Why are you here? That is the question isn’t it? It is the question that first springs up in college dorm rooms late at night though the maturity to tackle it won’t spring up for another few years. It is the question that breeds bubbly hope when you meet that girl who make you feel pleasantly nauseous. It is the question that soaks you with sweat when you first hold your own child. At each of these junctures the human heart cries, “I was made for something, for some purpose.”
Made, made for some purpose. Do you want to know what that purpose might be? Have you given up the hope of finding it? According to the author quoted above a right understanding of your made-ness is inextricably combined with that powerful word faith. It is by faith in God and his sovereign plan for the world that we understand everything was made out of nothing into something for a reason. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we come to grips with our own sinful inability to live with a holy God. It is through faith in the cross-work and resurrection of Christ that we come to understand God’s compassion on sinful humans, making a way for them to be reconciled to himself. It is by faith we understand that Jesus bore the sins of all who would believe on him so that they would never have to bear the wrath and judgment of God. It is by faith that we realize God’s unadulterated favor falls on those who have been brought to repent of their sins and believe that Jesus is who he says he is — the savior of sinners.
It is by faith we come to realize why we were made. Because it is by faith that we find God the one who has made everything for a purpose.