Monday, January 31, 2011

Praying God's Promises

(This was the previous "inspirational" thought for the day in the Greene County Dailies from January 20th).

My wife and I are going through Charles Spurgeon’s “Cheque Book on the Bank of Faith,” his daily reminders of the various promises of God.  His purpose in writing was simple—to cause believers in God’s Word to actively pray for what God has promised to his children.  Each day we have been reminded of some provision that the Father makes for those who follow His Son.  As I have looked at these promises, I’ve been struck by two truths.   First, there are many things I ask God for that he has not promised—health for me or my loved ones, positive outcomes in times of trouble, or even clear paths to follow Him.  Little wonder I sometimes struggle with unanswered prayer.  But I also often fail to pray for what he has promised—forgiveness, wisdom, mercy,  grace, endurance, holiness, and love, to name just a few.  Perhaps if I asked for more of what he says he will freely give, and a little less demandingly for things I assume should come to pass, my prayers (and my life) might be more pleasing to God and fruitful in my life.  I’m going to try—how about you?

Joel Rosenberg on the crisis in Egypt

I have great respect for Joel Rosenberg's analysis of events in the Middle East, and having read this post I recommend it to you as a summary of what is going on and the dangers that may lie ahead, not just for the rest of the world, but for Christians in the region.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lost, then Found

(The following appeared in the Greene County Dailies on Thursday, where I know am officially a devotional columnist--providing an "inspirational" thought for the week.  I'll post them here for those who don't get those newspapers.)

An old preacher once said that for the lost sheep to be found, he has to get lost first.  He meant that we will not seek God’s mercy and grace until we realize just how much we need it.  Our experience of God’s goodness will not be awakened and grow until we first discover how little we deserve it.
One hindrance to that awakening is a loss of the concept of sin.  When I do wrong, I prefer to think of it as a mistake, often due to inability or lack of knowledge.  I don’t want to see any moral ramifications of my actions.  But there is such a thing as sin—the violation of God’s moral law, summarized in the ten commandments and applied to our attitudes as well as actions by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
What comfort does that bring—to say I don’t just make mistakes, but that I sin against God in action and thought?  Simply this—it is only for those who are (by their own admission) sinners that Christ died. You can’t be found by him until you know you’re lost! Fortunately, “I once was lost, but now am found!”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Thoughtful Comment on the Re-writing of Huckleberry Finn

My good friend Grant Horner has a new post at his blog Profetcetera in which he tackles the recent announcement of a new edition of Mark Twain's classic novel, Huckleberry Finn, in which the offensive racial epithet that is used in the novel is changed to a non-offensive word.  Grant makes a strong case against this action, and I would simply say I agree with his analysis.  If you want to see a good example of a Christian applying good analysis in this situation, check out the post.

One quote I particularly enjoyed: "If satire has to be explained to you, you do not deserve its riches."  That's Grant at his professorial best!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tim Keller's "Prodigal God" Tells The Story Straight

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian FaithI seem to have providentially stumbled into a streak of soul-stirring and uplifting books.  The latest in this streak should not have surprised me, since Tim Keller's books have been powerful and edifying reads-- The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism--was an apologetic masterpiece (even in those places I disagreed with a point or two, I had to admit it was masterfully written); then Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (wow, the title says it all, but doesn't--read the book).

Now its The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith that has stirred by soul.  Keller's treatment of Luke 15's parable of the prodigal son is not original--he cites Edmund Clowney's sermon as his inspiration, and others have made similar points.  But I have not read as powerful a treatment as this short book.

Most compelling in my mind is his argument that the sons represent two equally dangerous rejections of the loving Father--either through total disregard of his character and desires, or through rigorous rule keeping that establishes a debt from the Father.  I think that my own life and my ministry seem to be much more challenged by the attitudes of the older, moral brother.  I would encourage anyone and everyone to read this book and see if you see yourself in the stories.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dane Ortlund on "The Grace of God in the Bible"

Posting at his blog, Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology (what a delightful name--obviously showing the deliciousness of good doctrine), Dane Ortlund reflects on how God's grace is seen in every book of the Bible. Be blessed with this.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What brings Revival?

Here is a wonderful article by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, on the subject of the means by which the church experiences revival.  I've said many of the things here, but no one says them quite as well as Tim Keller does.  Enjoy the article!

More on Church Membership

For those who still might need convincing that church membership is valid or important, let me encourage you to read Mark Dever's ministry article at the 9 Marks site, found here, that goes into much more depth than I could in ten minutes or less yesterday.

Nine Marks of a Healthy ChurchAsking you to join the fellowship officially if you have not done so is not about numbers, or us seeking to control you--rather it is to know who is committed to the same vision and covenant that we all share.  I hope those of you who have not done so will consider it, and those who have will consider carefully the responsibilities we have taken on for each other's good.

And I can also commend to you Dever's great book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, if you are interested in the subject of church health generally.  It is an very good read. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Radical" is, well, radical.

Now that I've finished the book, I have to say that David Platt's Radical: Taking Your Faith Back from the American Dream is one of the most compelling books I've read lately.  It is drawn from sermons, and it preaches!  It also persuades, even if you can pick some nits with some of his illustrations or what some may say are overstatements (see links from my previous post on this book when I was half way through it. 

What I would have to say is that you cannot read it without wrestling with the question, is my practice and expectation of Christian living shaped primarily by my culture and surroundings, or by the teachings of the New Testament?  After reading this, I am wrestling, and that's a good thing.  You may need to do so as well.  I'm old enough to have heard most everything Platt has said here, and have even said some of it myself in the past, but the presentation here is still compelling.  I highly commend this book for your reading and consideration.  But be prepared to become very uncomfortable.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Epiphany!

OK, most of you didn't even know that it was Epiphany, let alone were celebrating it.  That's fine, since most of us didn't grow up following the traditional church calendar.  But this was a celebration of the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God in the world.  In the western (Roman) tradition, from which Protestantism sprang, it commemorates the coming of the wise men--which supports my contention that the wise men were not at the birth!  Gentiles from a faraway land came and announced just who this child was to those in Israel who had ears to hear.  In the eastern (Byzantine, or Orthodox) tradition, it is a general celebration of all the ways Jesus was manifested as God in the flesh (they call it "theophany"--God manifestation).  This includes the birth, the Magi's visit, and Jesus' baptism by John. 

What was the point of this celebration?  The fact that God's redemption plan was NOT some sort of secret wisdom hidden from view, but that it was manifested.  Paul spoke of this in his "mystery" references (remember Ephesians 3:1-13)--God's plan of redemption hinted at in ages past now revealed in Christ Jesus.  He was to be a light dawning on the people walking in darkness (look up Isaiah 9:1-7).

If Advent begins the story with anticipation and waiting, and Christmas tells us the promise is fulfilled, then Epiphany becomes the unfolding of this promised light--the beginnings of the ministry of Jesus preaching the gospel of repentance.

John's introduction of his Gospel speaks of this powerfully:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... (vv. 1-5)
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (v. 9)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (v. 14)
May your Epiphany day, and every day be one where the light of Christ shines to you, in you, and through you!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Another good Bible reading program

The Gospel Coalition has another great Bible reading program to add to our suggested resources. Click the title, or click here to find it--it is through the Bible in two years, with repeats of the psalms. A special feature is that it is driven by literary units/stories, not just chapters. Take a look!

A Call to be "Radical"

I'm currently reading the book, Radical, Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, by David Platt.  It is an excellent book in many ways, and it certainly will provoke a lot of people, both positively and negatively.  I find it uncomfortable, in a good sense.  Platt makes me ask if I am defining my expectations of Christian living through the lenses of American concepts, rather than biblical ones.  I'm only half way through, so I can't review it yet.  I can tell you that it is worth the time to read.

However, I read a section that had generated some negative comments in otherwise glowing reviews, and came across this review by Kevin DeYoung, with responses from David Platt.  It is an example of careful analysis, as well as thoughtful and charitable response.  I was almost as blessed by this interchange as I have been by the book. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Moving the Blog to Blogger

Because creating and editing my blog has become much easier to do through, I have decided to move "The Village Pastor" here.  This site hosts my other blog, and gives much more functionality to the site.  Previous posts (before today's date) will still be available at the old site

Following up on the Bible Reading sermon

If you wanted to check out any of the resources mentioned in yesterday's messge, click on the title of this post, or click here to get to the audio, outline, and additional helps mentioned.

And let me add two additional encouraging words for you.

First, if you miss a day, or two, or a week, DON'T QUIT.  As soon as you realize this and want to get back to it, start where you left off.  Don't let guillt keep you away--that is Satan's tool, not God's, in this case.  I miss from time to time, and so does everybody else, I imagine.  If you don't, then I want to learn from you--seriously!  Vacations and times when my schedule is not my own are especially hard on consistency.

Second, if I didn't mention this in your service--choose a version you want to read and find helpful to read.  For reading (not in-depth study) you can use the ESV, the NIV, the Message, the NLT, the NASB, the HCSB, the KJV, the NKJV--you name it, as long as it is a translation that seeks to be faithful to the meaning of the original text.  All these are translations--from very free (the Message) to very literal (the NASB).  After you get going at this, you may change versions if you are covering similar ground to have the Word speak in fresh ways to your heart.

If you went to a Grace Group after the messge, then you know that one of the matters we hope to instill in our community groups is accountability.  Can I encourage you to have others who ask you how your reading is going?  It is a way fellow believers can encourage and exhort each other to keep it up.

I'm praying for you all this week, that you will be reading and having God teach you this week!