Friday, December 30, 2011

The True Parable of Clergy With Sticks: A Warning Against Superficial Christianity

I'm not sure if you've seen this video or read about this in the news, but this is both priceless (the SNL skit writes itself) and tragic.  Recently Areminian clergy and Greek Orthodox clergy fought with brooms in the middle of the Church of the Nativity which is believed to be built over the birthplace of Jesus.  So here we are in the Christmas season in which we celebrate the incarnation of our Lord and the clergy of these two Christian traditions are fighting over jurisdiction issues inside the church.

At first I thought this was a parody, only to find out that its true.

I post this because this Sunday we will be discussing the Parable of the Soils in which Jesus describes the superficial Christian and I couldn't help but think about church hoppers, those who are easily offended, high maintenance believers, and those who cause divisions in the church. This is what we look like.  Unfortunately, Christians seem to have a habit of devouring and destroying one another.

Superficial Christians, as we'll discuss Sunday, care about their wants, demands, and desires instead of caring about the others around them.  Superficiality is a cancer in our churches and it leads to complacency, complaining, and divisiveness.   But the gospel is better than that.  The gospel calls us to crucify our pride and our superficiality and to pick up our cross and to follow Christ outside the camp.

We need more Christians who are willing to die to themselves and live to Christ rather than continue to crucify Christ so we can live for ourselves.

Telegraph - Clergymen fight with brooms at Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem 

For more:
GBC - MacArthur on the Lessons of the Parable of the Soils
GBC - Things of This World - dc Talk
Sermon - November 8, 2009 - "God Be Merciful To Me a Sinner": The Gospel in 7 Words
GBC - Matthew Thus Far: Matthew 1-5
GBC - The Sermon on The Mount Series
GBC - Matthew 8-12 - The King Has Come: The Gospel According to Matthew Series
GBC - The Last Week of Jesus: From Triumphal Entry to Triumphal Grave Series
GBC - Fruitie-Tales: Living By the Fruit of the Spirit Series

MacArthur on the Lessons of the Parable of the Soils

From John MacArthur's sermon, The Responses to the Gospel:

The first lesson in the parable is to look at your own life to see what kind of ground you are. Here's the second lesson, and I love this. The second lesson is this, the issue in the parable is not the talent of the sower, did you get that? It is not the talent of the sower. You take a little kid, barefoot, five-years-old, wants to go out and sow a field with his daddy. His father knows how to do it beautifully, boy, he throws that seed just mechan ... and the little kid's going along throwing seed all over the place. And you know something? It may not be as much seed hit the good soil when the little guy throws it as when his dad does, but when the seed hits the good soil, it doesn't matter who threw it, right? It's going to grow. It does not depend on the talent of the sower. And that's so important to know.

Some people say - We'll I'd like to preach the gospel, I'd like to witness for the Lord, but I'm... I'm not very talented. That isn't the issue. You got the seed, the Word of God? Throw it! The issue is the condition of the soil, not the talent of the sower. I...I'm always amazed to hear people say - Oh, you know, if we could ever get so-and-so saved, oh howmany they could win to the Lord. No, no, no, no. Or, - If so-and-so ever got turned on, wow could they be a great soul winner. No, no, no, no. No, it is not the talent of the sower; it's the nature of the soil. But let me tell you something, folks, the more you throw the better the opportunity you're going to hit some good soil. I mean, some people are letting out a seed or two every year, and it is really tough. You just keep slinging it and you'll be amazed how much good soils lying around... no matter how incapable you may be as a sower.

And then, remember this. That sometimes the Lord plows up the stuff that doesn't receive the seed the first time, so don't give up. In fact, you know, they had a way of sowing sometimes in Palestine that was quite interesting. They would throw the seed first, and then plow it under afterwards. Sometimes you've just thrown the seed; you throw it there and before the birds can hit it, comes the Holy Spirit with the plow... and plows it under. So, be faithful ... hard soil, shallow soil, weedy soil, may not always stay that way, by God's grace He may do some tilling in that soil ... so keep throwing the seed in that same field over and over, over and over, over and over and see if the Lord won't break up the soil.

For more:
GBC - Things of This World - dc Talk
Sermon - November 8, 2009 - "God Be Merciful To Me a Sinner": The Gospel in 7 Words
GBC - Matthew Thus Far: Matthew 1-5
GBC - The Sermon on The Mount Series
GBC - Matthew 8-12 - The King Has Come: The Gospel According to Matthew Series
GBC - The Last Week of Jesus: From Triumphal Entry to Triumphal Grave Series
GBC - Fruitie-Tales: Living By the Fruit of the Spirit Series

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Things of This World - dc Talk

My all time favorite band is without a doubt dc Talk. The three singers are now exploring their own solo projects and have been doing so for about a decade. Nonetheless, I still listen to a lot of their newer solo stuff and their older stuff. One song that has resonated with him because of its power is their great song "Things of This World."

The reason I bring this up is that this upcoming Sunday we will be discussing Matthew 13:1-23 and the Parable of the Soils.*  As you may know, in the parable some of the seed fell upon the path (which gets eaten by birds) rocky soil (which springs up but then withers because it has no deep roots), thorny soil (which gets choked by "the things of this world"), and the good soil (which grows and bears a lot of fruit).

That third soil - the thorny soil - is what reminded me of this song.  Jesus says, And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  That is exactly what this song is about.

70 years is all we got
To accumulate goods that seem to mean a lot
For the first 20 years, you're off to school
Learnin' principles and learnin' the tools
To make lots of money, the ultimate goal
Gain the whole world and yet lose ya soul
Huh, humanism is on a roll
20 gets the the knowledge, 30 years to apply
and just 20 years left for askin' why
I didn't realize what it was all about
And, was there any use in this rigorous route because

Things of this world are passin' away
Here tomorrow, but they're sure not here to stay
Things of this world are passin' away
So lay your treasure above
And start to live for Him today

All done for self in this world will pass
And all done for Christ in this world will last
Sounds like a simple task...
But everyday life seems to get in the way
No time to serve, barely time to pray
Our focal points lost and we get tossed
In the wind, cold facing the cost
Of fallin' without stallin' or even callin' the Lord
While you were blackballin'
He was waitin' for you to see the light
And find for yourself, these things are trite


Our mind transforms a want to a need
A simple process that we call greed
Ya say ya like to have money, well I do too
The problem starts when the money has you
Workin' overtime to keep up with the pace
A lifestyle that you want to embrace
But it's 2 steps from where your needs are met
You're keepin' up with the Joneses, but your all in debt
Which will lead to stress, not meeting the bills
While ya sportin' a Benz with all the thrills
The domino effect's gotcha life in check
A temporary stitch and ya livin' a wreck

[chorus x2]

Don't lay up your treasures upon this Earth
They'll soon pass away
And all return to dirt [x4]

Things of this world are passin' away
Here tomorrow, but they're sure not here to stay
Things of this world, things of this world
The things, the things, the things of this world

Don't lay up your treasures upon this Earth
They'll soon pass away
And all return to dirt [x2]

*  The parable is sometimes known as the Parable of the Sower, but in my estimation, this is a parable more about the soils than the sower.  

For more:
Sermon - November 8, 2009 - "God Be Merciful To Me a Sinner": The Gosple in 7 Words
GBC - Matthew Thus Far: Matthew 1-5
GBC - The Sermon on The Mount Series
GBC - Matthew 8-12 - The King Has Come: The Gospel According to Matthew Series
GBC - The Last Week of Jesus: From Triumphal Entry to Triumphal Grave Series   
GBC - Fruitie-Tales: Living By the Fruit of the Spirit Series  

November 27, 2011 | Psalm 22: The Lord is My Deliverer

Last Sunday we looked at another Psalm of David.  This one is both a Psalm of Lament and a Messianic Psalm.  Next to Isaiah 53, no other text in the Old Testament offer us such vivid and accurate descriptions of the cross than this.  Yet in all of it, we not only see Christ hanging on the cross for our sins, but we hear the cries of a desperate man pleading for help trusting his God will deliver him.


For more:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Repost | Advent: God With Us

Wow!  Simply Wow.  Here is the gospel with emphasis on the prophecy, birth, death, resurrection, and return of Christ.  Thanks to the Village Church and Isaac Wimberley for writing this and producing this video.

If the video doesn't work, you can view it here.

Advent: God With Us from The Village Church on Vimeo.

HT: Justin Taylor

Here are the lyrics to this song/poem.

The people had read of this rescue that was coming through the bloodline of Abraham
They had seen where Micah proclaimed about a ruler to be born in Bethlehem
Daniel prophesy about the restoration of Jerusalem
Isaiah’s cry about the Son of God coming to them
So for them—it was anticipation
This groaning was growing, generation after generation
Knowing He was holy, no matter what the situation
But they longed for Him
They yearned for Him
They waited for Him on the edge of their seat
On the edge of where excitement and containment meet
They waited
Like a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waited
Like a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited
And in their waiting, they had hope
Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen
To a God who had promised a King
A King who would reign over the enemy
Over Satan’s tyranny
They waited
So it was
Centuries of expectations, with various combinations of differing schools of thought
Some people expecting a political king who would rise to the throne through the wars that he fought
While others expecting a priest who would restore peace through the penetration of the Pharisee’s fa├žade
Yet a baby—100% human, 100% God
So the Word became flesh and was here to dwell among us
In His fullness, grace upon grace, Jesus
Through Him and for Him, all things were created
And in Him all things are sustained
God had made Himself known for the glory of His name
And this child would one day rise as King
But it would not be by the sword or an insurgent regime
It would be by His life
A life that would revolutionize everything the world knew
He would endure temptation and persecution, all while staying true
Humbly healing the broken, the sick and hurting too
Ministering reconciliation, turning the old to new
A life that would be the very definition of what life really costs
Saying—if you desire life, then your current one must be lost
And He would portray that with His own life as His Father would pour out and exhaust
And Jesus would be obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross
So just 33 years after the day that He laid swaddled in the hay
He hung on a tree suffocating, dying in our place
Absorbing wrath that is rightly ours, but we could never bear the weight
So He took that punishment and he put it in the grave
And He died
And when I say that He died, what I mean is that He died
No breath, noheartbeat, no sign of life
God is a God of justice, and the penalty for our sin equals death
That’s what Christ did on that cross
Then… On the third day, in accordance with scriptures, He was raised from the grave
And when I say that He was raised, what I mean is that He was raised
Lungs breathing, heart pumping, blood pulsing through His veins
The things that He promised were true
He is the risen Son of God, offering life to me and you
Turning our mourning into dancing
Our weeping into laughing
Our sadness into joy
By His mercy, we are called His own
By His grace, we will never be left alone
By His love, He is preparing our home
By His blood, we can sing before His throne
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
So now we, as His bride, are the ones waiting
Like the saints that came before, we’re anticipating
He has shown us that this world is fading
And He has caused our desire to be for Him
So church, stay ready
Keep your heart focused and your eyes steady
Worship Him freely, never forgetting
His great love for you
Immanuel, God with us

HT:  Folk Angel

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 18, 2011 | Psalm 137 - The Lord is My Refuge

This past Sunday we concluded our series looking at the various genres of Psalms called The Songs of Psalms.  I hope it has been helpful to you as it has been to me.  Each week I had the joy to dive deeply into these great writers and their songs and was encouraged, challenged, and exhorted each week.  Preaching and studying the Psalms isn't always easy, but it is always worth the work.  Here is the last sermon in our series from the Imprecatory Psalm, 137.


For more:
GBC - Spurgeon on Psalm 137
GBC - Repost | Justice and the Implications of Atheism: Doug Wilson Hits the Nail on Its Head
Sermon - October 16, 2011 | Psalm 23 - The Lord is My Shepherd: Peace in the Shepherd's Arms
Sermon - October 23, 2011 | Psalm 99 - The Lord is My King
Sermon - October 30, 2011 | Psalm 8 - The Lord is My Lord
Sermon - November 6, 2011 | Psalm 1: The Lord is My Delight
Sermon - November 13, 2011 | Psalm 51:  The Lord is My Salvation
Sermon - November 20, 2011 | Psalm 136: The Lord is My God

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Repost | The Gospel and the Story of Everything

I love videos like this and there are tons of them on YouTube.   I may not like every little thing in this video, but its overall message needs to be embraced and articulated by Christians everywhere.  I have found that telling the whole story of Scripture is a powerful tool.  Whether one is talking about salvation, the church, God's providence, or whatever, telling the whole story is helpful.

Also, avoiding the many problems of short changing the gospel can be prevented if we approach evangelism and Christian mission in this way.  The gospel is individual, communal, and cosmic and this approach reveals all three.  It also places us in the story of God. Thus we matter on account of our creation by the Creator, and by participating in the grand story that God is writing.  The church matters.  Sanctification matters.  Prayer matters.  Spiritual growth matters.

Finally, this approach presents a more balanced approach to the various aspects of the gospel such as redemption, deliverance, justification, ransom, etc.  Redemption, for example, is tied clearly to God's work in delivering the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  God as redeemer/deliverer is a powerful message that the New Testament writers pick up on.  We, like they, are in bondage to sin.  Only God can deliver us.

Anyways, here is the video.

HT:  Evangel  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spurgeon on Psalm 137

The mother of all Imprecatory Psalms, 137, is a real challenge especially verse 9 which calls for the infaticide of the children of Babylon in violent language:  How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones Against the rock. The apparent barbarism of this verse is immediately apparent and how do we reconcile a verse like this (and others could be used here) with the message of Scripture of grace, forgiveness, and mercy?

Well, the Prince of Preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon, warned us of viewing this in the wrong light.  He writes:

Let those find fault with it who have never seen their temple burned, their city ruined, their wives ravished, and after children slain; they might not, perhaps, be quite so velvet mouthed if they had suffered after this fashion. It is one thing to talk of the bitter feeling which moved captive Israelites in Babylon, and quite another thing to be captives ourselves under a savage and remorseless power, which knew not how to show mercy, but delighted in barbarities to the defenceless. -Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 137.

Spurgeon, as always, is right.  It is easy for us to judge the Psalmist for his strong language, but just listen to the voice of the mother who pleads for the death penalty against the man who murdered her child. Is it barbarism or a cry for justice and vengeance?  This Psalm is echoed in the voice of the angry father who’s daughter was raped. This Psalm is echoed in the voice of the child who watches his parents destroy each other in anger and abuse.  This Psalm is echoed in the voice of a nation who at the rubble of two buildings scream, “Go get them George!” Who then replies, “I hear you, the whole world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

Before we speak in outrage over this text, let us realize that we have uttered similar things and it is right to beg God to defend the righteous and to judge the wicked.

For more:
Sermon - October 16, 2011 | Psalm 23 - The Lord is My Shepherd: Peace in the Shepherd's Arms
Sermon - October 23, 2011 | Psalm 99 - The Lord is My King
Sermon - October 30, 2011 | Psalm 8 - The Lord is My Lord
Sermon - November 6, 2011 | Psalm 1: The Lord is My Delight
Sermon - November 13, 2011 | Psalm 51:  The Lord is My Salvation
Sermon - November 20, 2011 | Psalm 136: The Lord is My God

Repost | Justice and the Implications of Atheism: Doug Wilson Hits the Nail on Its Head

Sunday we will be discussing Psalm 137 - the mother of all Imprecatory Psalms.  As I sit here and prepare, I can't help but think about how the dangerous implications of the church's effort to wussify God.  By watering down what it means to love and defining God as love with that weak definition can lead to only 2 logical conclusions about God and evil:

If wrongs will not be made right, if judgment will not reign down, if wickedness will not be destroyed either (1) God is either Wicked or a Wimp or (2) Wickedness & evil are relative & illusions.

I came across this realization from a brief quote from Douglas Wilson.  Consider the following:

The following quote was just published by Doug Wilson at his blog Blog and Mablog regarding the difference between Christianity and atheism regarding justice and the problem of theodicy.  It is simply too good to not to pass along.  The quote is taken from Wilson's book Letter From a Christian Citizen:  A Response to "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris.

If the two of us [an atheist and Christian] were looking at a new report of the latest atrocity, I would say that at some point in the future, in some fundamental way, that will be put right. You want to say, as an atheist, that it will not ever be put right. But you refuse, for some reason, to take the next logical step and admit that there is therefore nothing wrong with it now. (54).

I can't think of a better way of confronting the issue of theodicy with an atheist then that.  Great post from Wilson.

HT:  Doug Wilson 

For more:
Blogizomai - Collision:  An Important Documentary About Faith and Atheism  
Blogizomai - Atheism and Moral Relativistic Parenting: Touchstone Takes on Harris
Blogizomai - Harris on the Science of Morality:  Nice Try But No Cigar  
Blogizomai - Natural Morality:  The Disconnect Between Darwinism and Morality
Blogizomai -Freud's Wish Fulfillment: Why Atheism Can't Explain Atheism
Blogizomai -The Atheist Debates
Blogizomai -Atheism Is Not Great - The D'Souza and Hitchens Debate
Blogizomai -John Lennox: The New Atheism and the Gospel  Blogizomai -D'Souza: Are Atheists Cultural Christians
Blogizomai -Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Blogizomai - Re: Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Review -"Atheism Remix" by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Review -"The Delusion of Disbelief" by David Aikman
Review -"The End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias
Review -What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza

Review - "Life After Death" by Dinesh D'Souza 
Reviews - Mohler:  An Argument Against Atheists - Dinesh D'Souza on Christianity

Monday, December 5, 2011

Repost | "Jesus + Nothing = Everything" by Tullian Tchividjian

I have read a lot of good books this year, but without a doubt, the best book I have read all year is Tullian Tchividjian's new book Jesus + Nothing + Everything.  The context of the book is Tchividjian's struggle as a pastor to wade through the storms of ministry.  After merging his church with the late Dr. D. James Kennedy's church, Tchividjian ran into serious struggles and hardships that almost led to his firing.  Once he went on vacation one summer, he was ready to quit until he started to read Paul's letter to the Colossians and was gripped by the gospel.  He writes:

His good news met me in my dark place, at my deepest need.  Through his liberating word, I was being transformed, freed, refreshed.

I started learning to see the many-faceted dimensions of the gospel in a more dazzling way.  it's almost as if, for me, the gospel changed from something hazy and monochromatic to something richly multicolored, vivid, and vibrant.  I was realizing in a fresh way the now-power of the gospel - that the gospel doesn't simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance . . . Through my pain, I was being convinced all over again that the power of the gospel is just as necessary and relevant after you become a Christian as it is before.

Tchividjian sings my tune.  This is a book about the gospel, pure and simple.  The title summarizes it all.  Wherever we may be, whatever we may be struggling with, Jesus is enough.  Jesus equals everything.  We need nothing else.  The gospel is just as much for the redeemed as it is for the lost.  The gospel not only tackles our past and assures us of our future, but meets us where we are in the present.

Yet the problem in all of us is idolatry and legalism.  All of us have idols that we worship and through is experience at his church, the author came to realize this.  What mattered most to him was being loved by his congregation and followed by his church.  Thus when he was attacked and challenged, his world was falling apart.  Yet he learned, through the power of the gospel, that Jesus was enough.

But maybe our idol is very different.  The author walks the reader through various idols and how the gospel is better than them.  The problem with idolatry is that it implies that we need Jesus and something else in order to be happy, contentment, and at peace.  Legalism does the same thing.  Tchividjian offers some sharp critique of these two demons.  He writes, for example:

So if we aren't naturally prone to look to the finished work of Jesus for us as it's presented in the gospel for the 'everything' - where are we looking?

Typically, it's not that Christians seek to blatantly replaced the gospel.  What we try to do is simply add to it.

He then goes on to elaborate CS Lewis' argument in Screwtape Letters that a Satanic strategy against the Christian is "Christianity And."  It is the opposite of what Tchividjian argues in this book.  Christianity And Vegetarianism.  Christianity and Faith Healing.  Christianity And the New Psychology.  Christianity And . . . Such a mindset, which haunts us all, destroys the gospel and prevents the gospel from truly ministering to us. This is all idol worship.  Jesus + X is idolatry and not the gospel.

In fact, idolatry and legalism hold us in bondage.  They make us slaves.  Finally someone of prominence other than John MacArthur is speaking the language of slavery when describing sin and its hold on us.  The gospel frees us from the bondage of sin, idolatry, and religion.  Such things convince us that without them and their control on us, we will not be content or happy.  But the gospel says otherwise. All we need is Christ and nothing else.  That is true freedom.  No need to satisfy these false gods anymore.  He writes:

For each of us, the "everything" that Jesus can represent in our lives is always linked, directly and inescapably, to our most basic need - a rescuer to free us form our slavery to sin, from our bondage to self-reliance, and from the burden of our idols.  It's a need we never grow out of.

He's right.  The gospel is constantly freeing us from slavery when we see our redemption and hope in Jesus Christ - past, future, and yes, present.

I could say more about this book, but you get the point.  It is a book about the gospel.  The sweet, liberating gospel.  A gospel that meets us where we are, brings us to the Savior, and calls us to leave everything behind because we need nothing else but Him.  No more chasing after the wind, worshiping non-existent, false idols.  No more religion.  No more legalism.  No more hypocrisy. Just Jesus.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  Every pastor ought to read it and shape their ministry around the gospel.  Not religion, ritual, or church politics, but on the gospel.  Every struggle needs the gospel.  Every moment of bliss and rejoicing needs the gospel.  Every sermon needs the gospel.  Every prayer needs the gospel.  And every book - and here we have one - needs the gospel.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything: Intro from Crossway on Vimeo.

This book was given to me free of charge for the purpose of this review.

For more:
Reviews - "Life's Biggest Questions" by Erik Thoennes
Reviews - "Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word" by Stephen J Nichols  
Reviews - "King Solomon" by Philip Graham Ryken 
Reviews - "Am I Really a Christian?" by Mike McKinley
Reviews - The Beginning and End of Wisdom" by Douglas Sean O'Donnell
Reviews - "Thinking. Loving. Doing." by John Piper & David Mathis