Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Indispensibility of Expository Preaching

Recently I came across an apt quote by John MacArthur which reminds us of how important faithful, expository preaching is for the health and life of the church:
  • Expository preaching - expressing exactly the will of the glorious Sovereign - allows God to speak, not man.
  • Expository preaching - retaining the thoughts of the Spirit - brings the preacher into direct and continual contact with the mind of the Holy Spirit who authored Scripture.
  • Expository preaching frees the preacher to proclaim all the revelation of God, producing a ministry of wholeness and integrity.
  • Expository preaching promotes biblical literacy, yielding rich knowledge of redemptive truths.
  • Expository preaching carries ultimate divine authority, rendering the very voice of God.
  • Expository preaching transforms the preacher, leading to transformed congregations.

- John MacArthur Jr., Rediscovering Expository Preaching, p. xv.

Consider also these words on preaching from John Piper:

People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow. Preaching that does not have the aroma of God's greatness may entertain for a season, but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul: "Show me Thy glory!"

- John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 9.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On The Ground In Haiti

Since I posted about TouchGlobal (the crisis ministry of the EFCA) and their role in partnership with other ministries in Haiti, some have wondered what is happening and how to strategically pray for them. The following information from TouchGlobal provides such an update:

EFCA TouchGlobal Crisis Response is working overtime responding to the crisis in Haiti. The assessment team is networking with many other humanitarian organizations, the US military and others to mobilize and maximize help quickly. Our teams work each day from early in the morning until late at night securing needed resources and relief supplies and setting up locally-led distribution networks. In recent days, the team secured food for 6,000 people to be distributed in three communities. Other daily activities include:
  • Assessing needs in numerous locations across the area
  • Resourcing medical supplies for teams of doctors
  • Working with Vision of Hope Ministries to support medical/humanitarian needs at a hospital for displaced people in Cape Haitian
  • Working on logistics for long term staff and team presence

Here's what we can be praying for them:

  • For the TouchGlobal first responder team which is physically exhausted. Pray for wisdom as they discern how best to focus their gifts as they serve an overwhelmingly needy people.
  • For financial giving to meet the urgent needs they face.
  • For EFCA construction and medical volunteers who will be needed soon on the ground.
  • For French-speaking ReachGlobal staff who may be open to helping coordinate teams.

You can donate to specifically Christian-oriented relief teams in concert with missions to Haiti here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Pastor And His Books

Recently a friend sent me a video of Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, giving a tour of his personal library. It's a good depiction of how valuable a space to study, think, write and pray is to a biblically-oriented pastor. I'm so grateful for a church family that helped create such a space for me. Enjoy the tour, and find out why even pastors like me who don't drink coffee should buy coffee beans. You can watch it here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Defining Church Success

This week I received a card from a friend who in recent years has been blessed through much of our ministry at Trinity. Part of the card defines a 'successful' church this way:

*Loves one another
*Serves one another
*Bears one another's burdens
*Shares freely God's salvation plan
*Hungers and thirsts after righteousness
*Let's their light shine so God is glorified

Not a bad list - and one, I think, which well sums up Trinity.

Here's my question for you: Knowing what the Bible says about the church, what would you add to that list to describe biblical success for a local church? Post your answers. I'd love to learn from them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Partnership is Crucial in Most Mission

Life on the mission field today requires a nuanced sensitivity - especially in countries where pockets of the true church already exist. Kingdom expansion in such countries, for the most part, don't need pioneer church planters and they certainly don't need patronizing imperialism. They need humble, culturally-sensitive partnership.

As we continue to build our partnership with the Evangelical Free Church of Sudan, we need to think long and well about our attitude as we teach, disciple and resource our African brothers and sisters to reach their own people. One of the best recent articles written to help equip us to think carefully about cross-cultural partnership - and the particular damage which we American Christians are adept at exporting - is called "How [Not] To Be An American Missionary in Scotland." If you're eager to help grow the church globally in a decidedly healthy way, I'd encourage you to read Robertson's article. You can find it here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Help Haiti

We've all been praying for the Haitian people this week in the wake of the earthquake which killed so many and further devastated their already devastated nation. Here in North Carolina one feels it acutely, being geographically approximate to the Caribbean. Many churches here are mobilizing teams to go and help.

What can we North Dakotan believers do? We can give to TouchGlobal, the EFCA crisis ministry, which is positioned to go and serve in the name of Christ on our behalf. To read about what TouchGlobal is doing in Haiti and for a way to give go here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Bible's Main Theme

What is the main theme of the Bible? Not the sovereignty or holiness of God, as important as those are, for without the main theme of the Bible, God's sovereignty and holiness, which are important subthemes, would obliterate us. The main theme of the Bible is the unmerited favor of God in Christ toward chosen but wicked people like us.

I was reminded of that this morning as I read Joshua 7, the story of Israel's defeat at Ai following their victory at Jericho. As you will remember, when Israel sacked Jericho God commanded them to keep none of the spoils of the battle for themselves - the precious metals were to be devoted to the Tabernacle and all the rest was to be devoted to destruction. Then, against the Lord's command, a man named Achan took and hid a valuable robe, 200 shekels of silver and a bar of gold. In order to expose his crime, Joshua made each tribe pass before him until Judah was chosen. Then he made all the clans of Judah pass before him until the Zerahites were chosen. When all the Zerahites passed before Joshua, Zabdi (the head of one family) was chosen. When Zabdi's family passed by him, Achan was chosen.

If you know the story, you know that Achan was stoned to death and burned for his sin, for in keeping the contraband which was devoted to destruction, by extension all Israel had become devoted to destruction (7:12). Achan's sin was more serious than we at first realize, putting the entire nation and the future of God's glorification through them in jeopardy.

In light of the seriousness of their sin, what's amazing about this story isn't that Achan, along with his whole family, was executed (7:24-26). Far more amazing is that the entire clan of the Zerahites or the entire tribe of Judah were not executed. Think about it: since day one Judah had been a liability instead of an asset. Back in Genesis 37 it was Judah who influenced his brothers to sell Joseph into slavery bringing years of sorrow upon their father. A chapter later Judah leaves his family and takes up residence with a family of nearby pagans, marries a Canaanite and later is guilty of refusing to provide for his widowed daughter-in-law, sleeping with a prostitute who turns out to be his daughter-in-law and self-righteously attempting to execute her when her prostitution is exposed.

Now fast forward to Joshua 7 where the tribe of Judah has just been singled out for bringing God's wrath upon the entire nation. In light of this tribe's track record, one couldn't fault God for destroying them outright. After all, for hundreds of years, history had proven that Judah was no good. They deserved no mercy. Right?

Right. That's where God's amazing grace comes in. Grace defines Jacob's prophecy about Judah in Genesis 49:8-10, "Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."

Grace defines God's choosing of Judah's line through which Israel's Redeemer would be born. So, Luke 3 records, "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat...the son of Judah...."

And grace defines the eternal glory in our salvation which will forever be fixed to Judah's name according to Revelation 5:5, "And one of the elders said to me, 'Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

All of us are Achan. All of us are Judah. Only one thing sets them apart - God's grace. Our sin deserves the condemnation Achan received and worse. God's mercy in Christ gives us what Judah received: forgiveness, life and glory in spite of it. Even the lowest points in salvation-history bring us face to face with the Bible's main theme which is our hope: God's amazing grace.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Frighteningly Costly Nature of Saving Grace

"Some years ago I met a woman who began coming to Redeemer, the church where I am a minister. She said that she had gone to church growing up and she had always heard that God accepts us only if we are sufficiently good and ethical. She had never heard the message she was now hearing, that we can be accepted by God by sheer grace through the work of Christ regardless of anything we do or have done. She said, 'That's a scary idea! Oh, it's a good scary, but still scary.'

I was intrigued. I asked her what was so scary about unmerited free grace? She replied something like this: 'If I was saved by my good works - then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with rights. I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace - at God's infinite cost - then there's nothing He cannot ask of me.'

She could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had two edges to it. On the one hand it cut away slavish fear. God loves us freely, despite our flaws and failures. Yet, she also knew that if Jesus really had done this for her - she was not her own. She was bought with a price."

- Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, pp. 120-121

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On The Road Again

As of Thursday I'll be back on the road to North Carolina for two more classes at Reformed Theological Seminary (my fourth and fifth out of eight). Therefore, I'll not be around Trinity for a couple of weeks. Let me encourage you in a few ways during the time I'll be gone:

1. Get involved in Sunday School. This Sunday we resume our classes at 9 am with our regular classes continuing for kids and four new classes for adults. These will include two classes designed uniquely for men and women. I would encourage you all to get involved and grow deeper in the grace of the gospel. If you'd like to know more about Sunday School, contact the church office at 839-5127.

2. Pray for our preachers. While I'm away Nathan Pitchford and Greg Demme will be preaching during our Sunday services. Please pray for them and come expecting to encounter God's grace in His Word.

3. Pray for me. My purpose in pursuing more education is to become a better, more gospel-loving, grace-prizing pastor. Please pray that I would learn much and grow deeply through my classes and interactions with fellow pastors and my professors.

4. If you need to contact me while I'm away, please do so through my alternate email:

See you in a couple of weeks.