Friday, January 30, 2009

Evil Explained

This week we're back in Revelation looking at the horror of God's wrath poured out on His enemies in chapters 8-9. Highlighted are the destructive tragedies of history caused by creation gone bad, demonic forces let loose and depraved humans in unrestrained violence. It is all used by God to a good end. Still, there is a greater, ultimate purpose of the presence of evil in our world. John Piper explains it well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meet Our Mentor

Over the years many of you have heard Vince and me (and Greg Strand before us) talk about our seminary mentor, New Testament Professor DA Carson. He had such a profound effect on my understanding of the Bible, theology and life that I named my son after him. In case you'd like to know more about him, here are some vital stats:
  • * Born and raised in French Quebec, the son of a Baptist pastor and an English mother

  • * Grew up poor and marginalized as a Protestant; sometimes beat up for his faith

* Met his English wife while studying at the University of Cambridge

* Has taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for more than thirty years

* Writes poetry, piano compositions, NT commentaries and theology books

* Reads about 500 books per year (I'm quite serious)

* Travels to many countries each year to preach and assist Bible translators

* Enjoys entertaining students in his home

* Is humble and self-effacing, loving most the glory of Christ and His Cross

Though Carson's many books are all worth reading, many believe he's at his best in the pulpit. If you're interested in learning from him, here is a link to many of his messages/lectures on-line.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Learning From The Lost

Penn Jillette is not a Christian man. He is an entertainer - a comedic magician who doesn't believe in God. Could such a person teach us something significant about evangelism? Watch the video to find out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 the gospel

Already at 3 am this morning, busloads of people were circling RFK stadium in Washington, DC, looking for parking near the Capitol Building where they hope to be part of the standing room only crowd of thousands - maybe millions - to watch our next president take his oath of office. It's been a long time since Washington has witnessed such electric excitement. Why? Because - whether you're one of them or not - millions around the world see in Barak Obama a future of hope: hope for those caught in the cycle of inner city poverty, hope for those who grow up fatherless, hope for those who find themselves subtly marginalized because of the color of their skin or the ethnic origin of the name they bear. For millions on the margins, Barak Obama's presidency, which begins today, waves a banner of hope.

At the end of the day, though, such hope is only transitory. Hope for a life and world beyond poverty, instability and racism is a good thing. We should all hope for the increasing eradication of such blights in our world over the next four years. At the same time, many of the most wealthy, best eductated and most 'ethnically accepted' people in America are equally without hope today. The fact that suicide rates among the rich and enfranchised in our world greatly outstrip those of poor minorities should not be lost on us. It reminds us that the hope the human heart most longs for will not be found in healthcare reform, a renewed economy or the end of bigotry. The best America we can envision is not ultimately worth hoping in.

What, then, is? In Galatians 5:5 Paul tells us. "For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness." Such righteousness - right standing with a holy God - cannot be gained through our efforts or built by our strength. Peter tells us the source of righteousness which gives us true hope: "For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteousness for the unrighteous, to bring us to God...." (I Peter 3:18)

As I write this, thousands are packing the Capital Mall, frenetic with excitement over a new leader in whom they've found hope. But at best their hopes will be only momentarily and superficially realized. At worst they will be dashed against the promises which a human sinner like themselves could never fulfill. True hope is not found in Washington. It's not found in Barak Obama, John McCain or any politician. It's found in Jesus - the One Who died to make our righteous standing with God the Father possible - not just on this Inauguration Day but forever. Our hope is found in the gospel.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Book Worth Studying: Our Own Sinful Hearts

Most men love to hear the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of free love....But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be inquiring after the weeds and briars that grow in them they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other. This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself.

It may be some who are wise and grown in other truths may yet be so little skilled in searching their own hearts that they may be slow in the perception and understanding of these things. But this sloth and neglect is to be shaken off if we have any regard unto our own souls....This, I say, will lead us to meekness, compassion, readiness to forgive, to pass by offenses....[But those refusing to do so] are only fit to delude themselves, to disquiet families, churches and all relations whatsoever.

- John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, p. 283

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What a Real Christian Looks Like

The marrow...of Christianitie doth not consist, as too many suppose, in outward shewes, profession, talking; in holding strict points, defending precise opinions, contesting against the corruptions of the times; in the works wrought, external forms of religious exercises, set tasks of hearing, reading, conferences and the like; in some solemn extraordinary abstinences and forbearances, censuring others, etc.

[The marrow of Christianitie doth consist] in righteousnesse, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost; in meekness, tenderheartedness, love, patience, humilitie, contentedness; in mortification of sinne, moderation of passion, holy guidance of the tongue; in works of mercy, justice and truth; in fidelitie, painfulnesse in our callings, conscionable converstation with men; in reverence unto superiors, love of our enemies and open-hearted real fruitful affectionatenesse and bounty to God's people; in heavenly-mindednesse, selfe-deniall, the life of faith; in disesteeme of earthly things, contempt of the world, resolute hatred of sinne; in approving our hearts in God's presence, a sweet communion with Him, comfortable longing for the Lord Jesus, etc.

- Nicolas Byfield, The Marrow of the Oracles of God, 1630

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why Helping African Christians Matters

As the news everyday reveals, the needs all over the world are tremendous - even right here in Minot, North Dakota. In light of that, why is it so important that we as a church are forming a partnership with a church of African believers in Labone, Sudan? One compelling answer comes from an unlikely source: a British journalist who happens to be an athiest. You may be surprised to discover what he has to say here.

Top Reads in 2008

As we say 'goodbye' to 2008, many are lauding the best books published last year. Since I did not read many books published in 2008 but did read many excellent books, here are ten of the best I gave my time to by category:

Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier (missions)

The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer (military history/memoir)

Craftsmen by John Crotts (manhood)

Doing Things Right by John Ensor (courtship/marriage)

The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute (relationships/conflict resolution)

The Christ of the Prophets by O. Palmer Robertson (biblical studies)

Jesus Made in America by Stephen Nichols (church history)

The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller (biography)

A Secular Faith by DG Hart (Christianity and culture)

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs (sanctification)