It’s a Daily Workout

No, I don’t mean whatever it is you’re doing for exercise (or not doing, as the case may be). I’m referring to what a Christian must do if they are to be living as a Christian: killing sin every single day of their lives. Hear this from John Owen:

Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you.

I missed last week’s installment of walking through ‘Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers’ by John Owen. Tim Challies and several of his readers (myself included) are reading through this great work (again for many of us). It is a breath of fresh air, taken in gladly and necessarily, in our world today.

Chapter 2 explains why ‘Believers ought to make the mortification of indwelling sin their daily work’ (page 49). Here’s Owen’s outline:

  • Indwelling sin always abides; therefore it must always be mortified
  • Indwelling sin no only abides, but is still acting
  • Indwelling sin is not only active, but will produce soul-destroying sins if not mortified
  • Indwelling sin is to be opposed by the Spirit and the new nature
  • The results of neglecting the mortification of indwelling sin
  • It is our duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God and grow in grace every day

The following are a few select quotes from chapter 2:

He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, does but half his work (Galatians 6.9; Hebrews 12.1-2; 2 Corinthians 7.1) (Owen, ed. Kapic & Taylor, page 51)

When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone (page 51)

If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? (page 52; and of course, to spoil the rhetorical nature of this inquiry, I’ll shout an enthusiastic, ‘NO!’)

There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever did any of his kind. (page 53)

…when poor creatures will take blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil, and never rouse up themselves to a vigorous opposition, can they expect anything but to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and that their souls should bleed to death? (page 54, under the heading, ‘The results of neglecting the mortification of indwelling sin’)

This chapter hits particularly hard within my soul. I recognize far too much neglect, simply too much laziness in the killing of indwelling sin within me. Sin is a harsh master, and far too often, I have become, unwittingly or no, too comfortable with it. As Andy Dufresne once said (The Shawshank Redemption)…

Tickling Your Ears…Eyes? Mind? on Tuesday

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re ready for a trip over a variety of topographies today. Several things I’ve come across and wanted to point you toward for your enjoyment, for your betterment, for the expansion of your thinking. Here goes…

I Need A Miracle, I Need A Blessing, I Deserve the Best…

As you can probably tell, my thought is about the same as the song…no; you really don’t.

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Okay, maybe what I really, really need is a…COFFEE NAP!

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Actually, seeing this is rather remarkable…black-and-white-portraits-of-faces-painted-black-and-white-8

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And just when I thought I was doing and being SO-O-O Good!

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Dan Phillips has this amazing ability to hit it out of the park just about every time…like this one.

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Well, that ought to keep you busy for at least five minutes. See y’all later!

Worshiping the Lord

penguin_loadYesterday’s Lord’s Day was truly delightful, for me, at least. It had been a somewhat heavy week. We have an elderly man who is dying, most likely to go home to be with the Lord quite soon. I’ve known him for at least 15 of the 18 years I’ve ben at Cornerstone. He’s a dear brother and is so ready to go to be with his Lord and Savior. Personally, some other matters have been weighing heavy upon me. So, coming into this Lord’s Day, my heart wasn’t quite ‘feelin’ it’.

Yet God is good…all the time. I cried out to Him and He heard my cry. ‘Meet with us, this day, O Lord. Soften our hearts so we might worship you aright.’ I used some of the words from Keith Green in one of the prayers:

The people who assist in selecting our songs of worship always do a wonderful job at their task. We began with an old Horatius Bonar song, rendered ‘new’ by Matt Richley, ‘Nothing That My Hands Can Do’, an excellent reminder, right from the very beginning of worship, that we come with empty cups, holding them up and asking God to fill the cup of our salvation.

This was followed by ‘Cornerstone’, a Hillsong tune that incorporates old hymn lyrics (‘The Solid Rock’) with a new refrain. When we acknowledge that we bring nothing, but Christ brings all and upon Him we stand…well, the work on our hearts was begun.

After time for prayer, we came back with our hearts’ longings: ‘Take My Life & Let It Be (Consecrated, Lord, to Thee)’ with a segue into ‘Sanctuary’. Here’s our version from yesterday at Cornerstone (it’s not a professional recording; just a digital recorder set out to catch all the voices):

After preaching from Proverbs 5.1–23 and 6.20–35, about ‘The Myth of Greener Grass’, we ended with a heart’s cry to run to the cross, flee to Christ, and have Him be our refuge and shelter. Again, here’s our version of the hymn, ‘I Am Resolved’:

God is good and gracious, His mercies were certainly new to us that morning. May His name be praised.

Biblical Portraits of Creation – a review

Biblical Portraits of CreationAbout the Book – A faithful and edifying exposition of key chapters or sections of the Bible that speak of the glories of creation. It represents an ideal resource for pastors who want to preach a series on creation. And with its use of study questions, it can be used with profit for group Bible study.

About the Authors –

Walter Kaiser, JrWalter C. Kaiser Jr. is president emeritus and Colman Mockler Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has written numerous articles more than 30 books, including Recovering the Unity of the Bible  (Zondervan), Toward an Exegetical Theology  (Baker), and Hard Sayings of the Old Testament
(IVP).http://www.walterckaiserjr.com

Dorington G. LittleDorington G. Little is the Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Hamilton, MA. Prior to moving to Boston in 1997, he pastored in Boone, Iowa. He is a graduate of Wheaton College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

 

My Review – I’ll begin by saying I highly commend this book to you. Written by a pastoral scholar (Kaiser) and a scholarly pastor (Little), the authors do a masterful job of something Dr. Kaiser used to remind his students of again and again when I had him as a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School: ‘Keep your finger in the text.’

While acknowledging that the issue of creation and science – literal six days, intelligent design, theistic evolution, or something else – can be complex, they do not allow that to keep them from the task of showing how the biblical text – God’s very words – show forth His creativity, His power, and His sovereign power over all things which He has created. One won’t have to read far to discover where the authors fall on this issue, they consistently let the Bible speak for itself, rather than imposing their views and understanding upon the text.

This book, however, is not meant to be an apologetic against some non-biblical form of teaching about creation as much as it is an apologetic in exemplary form of how the Scriptures display God and His glory in His creation – both in nature and in man, especially the redeemed. Any read may benefit from this volume, but pastors, teachers and bible study leaders will find themselves exceptionally benefitted by the format of each chapter. Following a concise, clear introduction of the text’s theme and relevance, a brief homiletical tool is given so one can easily see the focal point in the text presented, the homiletical keyword from that text, as well as the homiletical interrogative (what question do we ask the text to answer). Next comes an outline of the passage, completed by the presentation of the text, using this outline. For a young pastor, just coming into ministry, this can prove advantageous in setting into place an expositional style of preaching/teaching that always shows the parishioner/listener/student where the truths and principles are coming from in the selected text.

As I mentioned, I had Dr. Kaiser as a professor while at seminary and I am so glad to see he has not lost his way in handling the Scriptures nor in presenting them. I’ve known Dori, as a friend and as a pastor for many years as well (we once, and sadly, still do, share the same hairline!). Both of these men do an admirable job in their respective chapters. However, I’ll have to say I found Little’s chapter on Matthew 1.1–17 (‘Jesus and the New Genesis Advent’) as well as ‘Our New Creation Confidence for Proclamation and Living’ (2 Corinthians 4.6; 5.17) to be the most uplifting of all. Kaiser ends the book with a great and necessary challenge. Then, an appendix includes an article Dr. Kaiser wrote some years back for the ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) on the literary genre of Genesis 1, arguing for a close literal interpretation.

Get yourself a copy of this book and dive right in. Better yet, buy one for your pastor or bible study leader and encourage them to use it in their preaching or teaching.

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Biblical Portraits of Creation may be purchased at:

Amazon.com

Weaver Book Company

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Be Killing Sin Or Sin Will Be Killing You

killing sinRomans 8.13 says, ‘For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.’ (ESV)

Over the next fourteen Thursdays, I’ll be joining a host of others in reading through John Owens ‘Mortification of Sin’ or, as the title published by Crossway reads: ‘Overcoming Sin & Temptation’ (this edition has been edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, Crossway Books, 2006). There are actually three main sections in this work. Tim Challies has invited us to join him in going through the first section, one short chapter at a time (e.g., Chapter 1 is only five pages, so if you’d like to jump in, grab a copy of the book and read on; you won’t be far behind for long).

owenOwens’ intent overall is to assist believers in putting off sin & its presence, and in putting on godliness & its powerful glory. He’ll use Romans 8.13 as his primary text. The updated edition by Crossway helps the reading of Owen, especially for the first-timer, become a matter of great joy.

Chapter 1 lays the foundation for what will follow. The author needs to lay the ground work so the reader will then know what is being taught by the Apostle Paul. He gives five simple points from just the phrase: ‘but it by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.’ Here are those observations:

  1. Conditionality: ‘but it’ suggests the condition, which, sadly, to many has meant cause and effect: ‘If I do this, then this will happen.’ Owen says, rather, that this leads to problems. Instead, the condition is one of ‘means and end.’ There is a connection; use this means and this end will result.
  2. Persons: Paul is speaking to believers about what needs to be done in their lives. Owen draws from the truth of Romans 8.1 – ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ For those who are under no further condemnation, live this way.
  3. Cause & Means: rather than man’s superstitious and self-redeeming notions being used to make each one of us ‘feel better’ about ourselves, God’s intended cause and means is the Holy Spirit. Anything else is simply false religion.
  4. Duty: Kill it. It’s just that simple. It’s what we’re to be about, constantly, without end. Killing sin in the body means to take away its power and strength and vigor to make us do what it wants. The ‘body’ is simply the seat of our corrupted affections, our fleshly desires, if you will.
  5. Promise: a fitting end to this task is that of life eternal. Owen recognizes that in the Scriptures, eternal life is not just about quantity (forever); it’s about quality (the joyful and abundant life we now life and will live for all eternity).

I should not have read Tim’s post this morning before finishing my own. It will seem I’m mimicking his words instead of adding my own. However, I, too, am struck by how odd this seems to the modern ear, whether Christian or not. I cannot say when I last heard a pastor preach on this (discounting myself). John Piper says it best, in the Foreward to the book:

As I look across the Christian landscape, I think it is fair to say concerning sin, ‘They have healed the wound of my people lightly’ (Jer. 6.14; 8.11, ESV). I take this to refer to leaders who should be helping the church know and feel the seriousness of indwelling sin (Rom. 7.20), and how to fight it and kill it (Rom. 8.13). Instead the depth and complexity and ugliness and danger of sin in professing Christians is either minimized–since we are already justified–or psychologized as a symptom of woundedness rather than corruption.

Amen, Brother John, amen. So, get ready to learn how to kill this enemy of our souls. Otherwise, it will be killing you.

Where Are We Headed? Why Are We In This Handbasket?

going to hellOkay, I’m going to get in trouble for some of this; and for other bits, I may receive a few chuckles (which will be commendation enough, I suppose).

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Joel Osteen…well, let’s be honest, it’s his wife, Victoria… is in the news and causing the interwebs to be all a-buzz. Co-pastorette, Victoria Osteen, addressed the gathering at Lake Avenue Church in Houston, TX and told all the eager listeners that our worship and obedience is not really for God’s glory (although, that’s ‘one way’ to look at it). You’re not really doing it for God; you’re doing it for yourself and that’s what makes God happy.

I can’t sum it up any better than this:

Al Mohler addresses the issue, perhaps, in a bit more serious manner.

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In a follow-up to yesterday’s comments about pastors focusing on preaching the Word to their congregations, I spent some time thinking on this:

One sure way to tell your pastor is vastly unprepared to deliver a message from God’s Word is when he spends the first twenty minutes telling stories and giving illustrations (of what, for goodness’ sakes; he hadn’t even read the text for the morning yet), fifteen rambling minutes on the first of five points and five minutes on the final four points, only to conclude by saying, ‘Sorry, I just don’t have enough time to elaborate on these’ (even though he’d preached for nearly one hour).

Harumph!

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And lastly, lots of evangelicals are wringing their hands because so many of their children, having grown up in the church, leave home for college and promptly give up on the church. Much has been written on this (some of which is so bold as to actually suggest that many of the college-bound kids aren’t even truly converted! Gasp! What? But they’ve gone to church all their short lives!). One of the more sane suggestions is that when they spend all their lives at churches that entertain them as children and young teens, then end up having to actually act and live as adults in a ‘real’ church, they find out nothing appeals to them…so they leave and drop out. Yes, wearing your best suit and tie and having a rousing game of mud-football for a ‘Welcome Back To The School Year’ bash might possibly be construed as entertainment. If this were the only time, I seriously doubt that would be cause for Joe and Suzie Teenager to drop out of church in a year’s time. But what if this is the consistent pattern of things in this youth group…or dozens of youth groups…or hundreds of youth groups? What if the majority of gatherings are led by pastor-wanna-bes who are convinced the only way to keep the church kids and draw the unchurched kids is to be, as Steve Martin so eloquently expressed it years ago, ‘A Wild and Crazy Guy!’?

And what if nothing more serious than sharing communion with other teens in your youth group consisted of using hamburger buns and Coke as the elements (because they were the bread and drink of ‘the day’)? And not just eating the elements yourself, but feeding the guy or girl next to you and spouting the Catholic mantra of ‘The Body of Christ; the Blood of Christ’?kiss-it-goodbye

Sometimes I think we’ve truly reached the end…and then more craziness jumps up and smacks me in the face.

So, might as well pucker up and kiss it all good-bye.

 

Post-vacations Observations

Ann & I were gone last week and it was a much needed break. Now begins the attempt to return to ‘life as we know it.’ Here are just a couple of quick observations on events and experiences while gone:

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Apparently, the ‘huge’ hubbub of late is of certain risqué photos being leaked/stolen from female celebrities phones which had been stored in ‘the cloud.’ Some are outraged and pursuing legal action (yeah, good luck with that). Some are embarrassed and ashamed (they should be, and don’t go all ‘But they’re the victims here!’ on me). For a few, it will continue to feed the ‘I’m a celebrity and I can’t stand to be ignored’ mentality they have developed during their moments of ‘fame.’ For none will it end their career; that just doesn’t happen anymore. For every single one of them, no matter what their previous public persona may have been, it reveals an inner heart issue: a over-developed love of self and a tremendous lack of modesty. Nude selfies do not simply show a lack of modesty. Even being ‘merely’ scantily clad fails to show the lack of modesty. The lack is shown is their personal display, no matter the outfit or amount of fabric.

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Another pastor has fallen; this one within the last three weeks or so. Names will not be mentioned by me, nor will the sordid details (of which I’ve been made privy to a few). What is sad is the harm to self, spouse, family and congregation. What is more egregious is the shame thrown at the gospel and the centerpiece of that gospel: Jesus Christ. Having visited that church during the Sunday of our vacation, being good friends with one of the staff there, and having heard John Piper open the Word on that Sunday gives me exceptional hope in this same gospel to redeem, reconcile, heal and strengthen this now broken body of Christ. I commend this message to you, especially if a church you’ve attended has ever had this happen, whether among staff of laypeople.

Here’s the link: A Bitter Providence and Barley Harvest

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Finally, pastors…stay home!

What do I mean by this? I mean, too many pastors are getting caught up in the ‘I can do so many things: missions trips, teaching overseas, conference speaking and more’ syndrome that they fail to realize the detriment to their own flocks. The pastoral care that gets neglected, the sermon preparation that is ignored and the preaching that is lackluster and without focus are just a few of the drawbacks to our continuing celebrity pastor worldview which is such a part of the air we American evangelicals breathe today. I’m tired of hearing of hungry parishioners, longing for the preached Word of God, and failing to receive it. Senior pastor, if you want to go overseas three or four or five times a year to instruct international pastors who lack access to training, fine. Drop the ‘senior’ in your title and let someone else be the ongoing pastor/preacher. Let someone else feed the sheep at home while you travel and help others learn how to feed their sheep. But stop trying to do both.

I know, I’m in a small circle here…probably a circle of one, but as I hear sheep bleating to be feed the rich. life-giving, life-sustaining Word of God and not getting it, this becomes a bigger concern for me.

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Well, there were other things I saw, heard, learned and experienced while gone, but I’ll save those for another day.