Quote of the Day

May 19, 2017

“Sin is a plague, yea, the greatest and most infectious plague in the world; and yet, ah! how few are there that tremble at it, that keep at a distance from it!” —Thomas Brooks

Work or Not to Work

May 17, 2017

From a former missionary friend of mine:
Being spurred on recently by my kids, I’ve been taking a fresh look at a number of things including time management. It seems that church planting, evangelism, discipleship, and “one anothering” are greatly effected by the prevailing culture’s attitudes toward work, time, and community. Consequently in modern society our credibility and effectiveness as stewards of the gospel of the kingdom seem to be greatly at risk.
If it was a simple matter of just managing your own time well, it would be great, but interactions and relationships with other people are greatly impeded by what Francis Schaeffer identified as the predominant pathologies of modernism: fragmentation, separation, alienation, and isolation.
There are a host of factors that contribute to modern alienation, but it seems that the movement from agrarian economies to industrialized economies in the western world fostered changes in thinking about time and work that would progressively fragment and alienate.
Today I read an interesting article on mercantilism that provides some insight into the thoughts and forces that were at play in the late pre-modern and early modern eras.
https://timeline.com/invention-of-wasted-time-mercantilism-e11df6f8dfa1

Quote of the Day

May 17, 2017

I am convinced that if we want more evangelism, more prayer, more fruitfulness, more holiness, we will not get there unless we start by drinking more deeply and more fully from the fountain that is Christ.–DeYoung

Quote and Prayer

May 17, 2017

I hope and pray that I can be found faithful in this: “Take a saint, and put him into any condition, and he knows how to rejoice in the Lord.”—Walter Cradock

Quote of the Day

May 15, 2017

“Behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies unrepentant sin.”

A Right

May 6, 2017

Author confuses two near-opposite concepts. Christian duty – here, the duty to care for others – is an individual obligation on the part the Christian to glorify God through voluntary, one-on-one care for another in need. 
A right is a restriction, a constraint. It sets boundaries that protect an individual from intrusion, by other individuals or by the state. The right to life, for example, is a constraint against the unlawful taking of an individual’s life by another person. It doesn’t guarantee that you will live in perpetuity, it just constrains the behavior of others. 
This is a dangerous confusion, because, in transforming an individual duty on the part of one person into a right of another, we involve the coercive power of government. 
A right always ultimately authorizes the use of force (a gun) to enforce the right. That’s dangerous when the so-called right is a question of delivering goods and services, such as health care.

Grace and Gratitude 

May 4, 2017

So how can we tackle the problem of a critical, jaded spirit towards the church and her ministry? Undoubtedly there are many potential avenues of addressing the heart issues underlying this problem: the steady need to be personally refreshed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, to walk in renewed sweet communion with Him, to live in the Word and prayer by His Spirit. These are essential to tackling the problem. However, there is another exercise which can prove tremendously beneficial in the life of ministry and the life of your congregation: developing gratitude for the marks of grace displayed in others.[5]

The immediate question is, “How?”
We need to know and remind ourselves what marks of grace, or evidences of grace are. A beekeeper needs to know signs of health and growth in his bee population if he is going to produce honey; pastors, elders, and church members need to be students of the marks or evidences of the grace of God in the lives of people to spur on spiritual development.
An important, initial distinction needs to be made between common or natural graces and special or supernatural graces. Common or natural graces, which we undoubtedly should be thankful for and rejoice in, are found both in Christians and non-Christians. For example: your unbelieving neighbor brings your garbage bin back to the house for you. This is an act of kindness, for which you should be thankful to God and to him. But what is it rooted in? Perhaps a twinge of conscience, maybe a good mood, maybe some understanding of the social benefits of this, but most certainly the ultimate source in the unbelieving heart is tied to a self-love, or some other sinful idolatry, rather than love for God showing itself in love for one’s neighbor.
In contrast, special or supernatural grace is the fruit of the regenerating, transforming, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. God’s glory is the motive, end, and goal of actions or characteristics rooted in special grace. They are fruits that stand as evidences of the work of the Holy Spirit–proof of the power of the Word of God, in transforming, uniting and conforming people to Jesus Christ. These marks of grace are what the minister needs to intentionally study.
Scripture is replete with biblical examples of marks of grace in the saints. Study them. Study fruits of the Spirit displayed throughout the Old and New Testaments. Study the heroes of faith, praying and meditating on how their marks of grace reflect, point to, and are ultimately found in Christ Himself. Study Christ Himself, listen to Him. When you see Christians pursuing a life conformed to the Ten Commandments, positively desiring to keep them in love to God, especially as they are expounded by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, you will know you are seeing evidences of grace. However small the growth may be, if it is in Christ, it is by grace. When you see Christian parents prayerfully living out the call of Deuteronomy 6 to instruct covenant children in the grace and knowledge of God, this is a mark of grace. When you see a Christian leaving a job, a social setting, a relationship, because he wants to avoid the pattern of spiritual decline exposed in Psalm 1, you are seeing evidence of the Spirit’s work. When you see a woman, single or married, pursuing the paradigm of Proverbs 31, you are seeing marks of grace. When you see someone who is beginning, however slowly, to exemplify the Beatitudes, you are seeing evidences of grace. You are seeing the work of the Triune God. And yes, when a Christian, out of love for God and neighbor brings back their garbage bin, this is an evidence of grace.
Is there a biblical basis for calling Christians to look for evidences of grace in the church and the individuals that make up her body? Yes, Scripture not only gives us warrant, but also commands us in Old and New Testaments. Consider Psalm 48. The reader is called to: “walk about Zion” (Psalm 48:12). What is the Psalmist calling God’s people to? To admire the city of Jerusalem, the center of Old Testament temple worship, the place of the presence of God in His abounding grace and sure promise of complete salvation in the Christ to come. To admire the city that God established, then to admire the God who established it. They were called to take an unhurried walk to examine the stone and brick buildings, understanding that God established them by His grace. The Psalmist calls us to meditate on and give thanks for the spiritual reality that the temple and city display: God is building a spiritual city, a people saved by Him, set apart to Him. The New Testament equivalent of Jerusalem, of Mount Zion, is the church, the bride of Christ. Psalm 48 doesn’t call us in the new covenant administration to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem: we are to do this in the church. Walk around it–open your church directory–and look for God’s gracious works!
Psalm 48 provides a pattern of how to do this. The Psalmist says “consider her bulwarks, palaces” (Psalm 48:13) – a clear call to take note with specificity the evidences of the grace of God. In the transition to verse 14, the Psalm gives us the goal of our search and study: trace the graces back to the giver and source of all grace, “for this God is our God forever and ever.” (Psalm 48:14) The Psalm is also passionate in calling us to communicate our gratitude for God’s evident grace to others, “Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of your judgments”, and above all to communicate our thankfulness to God (Ps. 48:1, 8, 9, 10). The whole Psalm is intended as a song of worship.
The New Testament is replete with similar examples. Paul’s ministry exemplifies this over and over in the opening words of his epistles (cf. Romans 1, 1 & 2 Corinthians 1, Ephesians 1, Philippians 1) and throughout these letters. As a Spirit-inspired apostle of Jesus Christ he takes note of evidences of grace with specificity, communicating his gratitude to God and the people of God for them. Revelation repeats this pattern, as our Lord Jesus Christ addresses the seven churches of Asia Minor and through them the church of every generation. Jesus commends the churches for the very marks and evidences of grace that are made possible only by and through Him! Certainly there are rebukes and warnings as well. In some cases, like many of the prophets, Paul’s address to the Galatians, and the words of Christ to the church at Laodicea, there is little to no commendation, due to the urgency of error and sin that needs to be confronted and a concurrent void of marks of grace. At times strong correction, prayerful intercession, and sorrow are the only legitimate response to someone’s life. Yet, recognizing and addressing these occasions, individuals, and at times, churches, does not negate the simultaneous call to look, listen, and take specific note of evidences of grace, to trace them back to the Giver, and to communicate gratitude. Take note of the evidences of God’s powerful, supernatural, actively recreating work for your own encouragement, for the encouragement of fellow Christians, and so that you can praise Him for His unstoppable grace. Open your eyes and see: His mercy, His redeeming love, His new creation is being written over and over throughout His church. He is building a glorious church as He saves people from sin and conforms them to the image of Christ His Son. He is sanctifying his bride so that she grows in holy beauty.
Pursuing a life marked by the biblical paradigm of gratitude for marks of grace is crucial for ministry. Our souls have to overflow spiritual gratitude for the grace of God to us and others if we are going to reach people. Only an overflowing heart can make our life communication passionate and alive to others. A church that overflows with spiritual gratitude will shine. There will be an evident, tangible, distinct sweetness. When rebuke or warning is needed it will then be spoken in a context that evidences love, humility and gratitude, with a gospel heart, and Christ-centered focus. It will be vibrantly gracious rather than critical, petty, jaded or dull. There will be growth in love to God, and love to others, rather than self-love. What would we and our churches be like if we were transformed to conform to Christ in this? Take a few minutes to walk mentally around the parts of Zion you know. As you consider the mighty works of God in the hearts and lives of the saints around you, give thanks and praise to Him, and tell them. Encourage each other, and join together to worship our great God and Savior, the God of all grace:
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…”

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10 (ESV)

William Vandoodewaard is Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He will be speaking on the topic of The Vindicated Word at this year’s US Ministers’ Conference (May 30 – June 01).

Allegiance 

April 28, 2017

“The essence of Christian obedience is not do’s and don’ts but personal allegiance to Jesus.”-Tim Keller 

Purpose of Prayer

April 26, 2017

The basic purpose of prayer is not to bend God’s will to mine, but to mold my will into his.–Tim Keller

Corporate Confession

April 25, 2017

Holy God, You are the all-wise King who created and sustains all things.  You have revealed your glory and majestic power in the world all around us.  Your fingerprints in creation are unmistakable.  Your holiness and power are made evident in your providential care for everything you have made, including us.  Yet we confess that we have not honored you and given you the thanks and praise you deserve.  Instead of worshipping you, we have worshipped idols like power, control, and reputation as if they were treasure.  These things are not worthy of our worship.  They cannot save us and protect us, nor can they transform us into pure and holy people.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for your pure and wise worship of you heavenly Father.  You never flinched from glorifying your Father, growing daily in knowledge and wisdom and the fear of the Lord.  When Satan tempted you in the wilderness, you refused to bow down to him, instead reminding him of God’s Word, which says, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”  Thank you that your faithful obedience and holy wisdom are to us as our righteousness before your Father.

 

Holy Spirit, make wisdom and holiness delightful to the inmost part of our souls.  Draw us daily to the cross.  Show us the perfect life that Christ lived for us, and then shape us so that we can turn away increasingly from the seductive power of the wisdom of this world and receive in its place biblical wisdom.  Grow us daily in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, until you complete that good work on the day you take us to be with you forever in heaven.

In Christ’s name we pray, amen.