Sunday, December 30, 2007

Welcome to the UK!

I have decided that there are two things in this life that I absolutely love: sleep and coffee. Unfortunately, it does not square that you should have one with the other for it typically occurs that you have one without the other (or because you do not have one you have one you get the other). At this moment, I would prefer either and I am without both.

Traveling to London Friday evening, I did not sleep at all. Upon arrival, three hours after getting through customs, searching for lost baggage, and my first game of Crazy 8's, I was privileged to eek out roughly 45 minutes of quality nap time. About 9:00pm I was able to return to sleep and granted approximately three more hours. After that, however, there has come no rest for this weary traveler. Thus, I have spent the last six hours here in the hotel lobby as to not wake my roommate and be presented with the opportunity to study. Good times, I must say, although disturbing that the hotel staff has rendered me homeless.

God was gracious to provide two flights over that were coupled with great conversation and true fellowship. On a walkabout He again supplied the opportunity to converse with a Muslim man and a Jehovah's Witness concerning the condition of their souls. I trust that the Lord might be merciful to water any truth that I may have planted and erase any error that I may have caused.

Hopefully my baggage will arrive today and I will be comforted with a change for these now three day old garments. Also, it will come as a security knowing that twenty packages of McCormick's Mild Taco Seasoning have not come to desecration. Some things in life are more important than others. At this moment, I think my vote goes for coffee.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't Go to Hell, Go to Lourdes!!

I read the strangest thing yesterday. Two things, actually, and I could not help notice the striking contradiction between each. One was in a book and written in allegorical fiction while the other was actual news story representing real events with real people. What strikes me as odd, however, is that what is supposed to be allegorical was actually truth and what was supposed to be truth is nothing more than man's made up tales.

Here is the run down, but I warn you - this really sounds like a bad infomercial:
According to this article from the London Telegraph, Pope Benedict XVI has issued a decreed mititagting the time spent in purgatory. And how much would you expect to pay for such an indulgence? One Million Dollars? $500,000? How about $19.95 plus shipping and handling? Neither actually. All that is required is a trip to a little town in France.

But wait, there's more!

"In August the Vatican opened an airline service offering pilgrims direct flights from Rome to Lourdes." Now that is what I call a seeker-friendly church! What service! What a way to make people welcome! What a way to make sure EVERY member has a false sense of security and instead of trusting in the cross to pay the penalty for sins they can now trust in a stamp on their passport! Wow, sign me up!

But wait, there's more!

As an act of full disclosure, The Vatican has issued a few other requirements to be sure that you receive the proper plenary indulgences that you so rightly deserve. You are to visit not simply the city of Lourdes, but rather

"devoutly visit the following places, preferably in this order -
1) the parish baptismal font used for the Baptism of Bernadette;
2) the house of the Soubirous family called the "cachot";
3) the Grotto of Massabielle;
4) the chapel of the hospice where Bernadette made her First Communion

- and pause to reflect for an appropriate length of time at each of these Jubilee sites, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, some legitimate form of the Profession of Faith, and the Jubilee prayer or some other Marian invocation."
But be sure to act now! This offer is not available in stores, and is only valid until December 8th, 2008!!

But wait, there's more!

For nine days, and nine days only, if you visit "a blessed image of the Holy Virgin Mary of Lourdes in any church, chapel, grotto or other suitable place in which it is solemnly displayed, and in the presence of that image perform some pious act of Marian devotion, or at least pause to reflect for an appropriate length of time, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, some legitimate form of the Profession of Faith, and the Jubilee prayer or some other Marian invocation" you are still eligible for the plenary indulgences. I am sure that a quick Google Search can produce an image within a fifteen mile radius of your house. But remember, this offer is not available in stores, nor is it good until the end of 2008. You must act only between the days of February 2nd and February 11th of this coming year if you want to get in on this extraordinary deal!

But wait, there's more!

If you happen to be elderly, disabled, or for some other reason can not make the travel required, have no fear! Thankfully, the Pope has made a way for you as well! Be advised that "if, between the days of 2 and 11 February 2008, they complete a "spiritual visit" (to the aforementioned places) in the desire of their heart, recite the prayers indicated above, and trustingly offer the pains and discomforts of their own lives to God through Mary." Be sure that you make a note in your day planner, alert your in-home nurse, set your Outlook Calendar - whatever you have to do - but do not miss the days February 2-11 if you plan to truly be a part of the faithful. You early birds, don't try to get in on Fenruary 1st. Forgiveness is not available that day. And for you tardy transgressors, don't make your attempt on the 12th either - no soup for you!

In all seriousness, I wish I was making this up. I wish this were not true. I wish that 1 billion of the Roman Catholic practicioners were not being led astray in such a manner. True, not all Roman Catholics subscribe to the official teachings of the Vatican and I sincerely believe that there are some Catholics who are Christians. I also sincerely believe that there are many so-called Protestants who are not Christians. This includes Presbyterians, Methodists, Non-Denominational, and yes, even Baptists. Further, even Southern Baptists! Unfortunately, our human nature wants us to trust in a works based system rather than to throw ourselves wholly at the mercy of the cross. We want to know that we have had some small part to play in our own salvation, or at least in the lessening of the purification which we must undergo. False doctrine, false teaching, false gospel - which makes it no gospel at all.

And after reading this startling article in the morning, I read what is supposed to be allegorical fiction later in the day. In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress the main character, Christian, is on his way to the Celestial City after entering through The Wicket Gate. Up to this point he has been weighed down immensely by a heavy burden that has been on his back from the beginning of his journey. He has attempted to rid himself of the burden to no avail. Finally, he finds the answer to relieve him from this burden that has so easily entangled him and weigh him down. He finds his solution; he finds the cross.
"Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could anyone ease the grief that I was in,
Until I came here. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here be the cords that bound it to me crack?
Blessed Cross! Blessed sepulcher! Blessed rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me."**
I will take this fiction any day.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9)

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." (Rom 11:6)

**John Bunyan. Pilgrim's Progress (Lindenhurst, NY: Reformation Press, 1999), p 48

HT:Irish Calvinist

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Friday, December 14, 2007

It is Finished

Biblical scholars beware: this is not an attempt to make Scripture match my means, but the phrase is applicable nonetheless:

It is finished.

I have anticipated this day for the past ten years and I had an idea of the range of emotions that I would feel. However, as in many things in life, I am not really sure if I have lived up to any of those expectations. In fact I am a bit surprised by what has really captured my attention. As you can read in my testimony, in 1998 I was a part of the graduating class of Dover High School in Dover, DE and promptly whisked from Senior to Freshman again at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. And seemingly just as quickly as I entered the ranks of aspiring scholastics everywhere I exited without fanfare and without a degree. Today, however, I am given grace to say “it is finished.”

After a lengthy evening that merged with the morning that has yet to see an end, I entered my Church History classroom of Southeastern Bible College in order to make this part of the church, history. From Christ to Chalcedon was the subject of the exam and I believe I performed decently. This day marks a turning point in my educational career as finally it can be declared that my bachelor’s degree “is finished.” True, there are a few more steps to go, but this milestone is finished. Summa Cum Laude? Magna? How about “thank the.”

I thought that this day would bring about loud shouts of joy coupled with a hearty “hip, hip, hooray!” So far that has not been the case. Strange as it may be, I am quite humbled as I think of the grace that the Lord has provided to me in order for this day to come about. His grace was evident as He called me out of darkness and into light granting me the grace of repentance and a hope for a future. His grace was evident as He sovereignly orchestrated events in such a way that it was abundantly clear that the path of education was where I was to go. He gracefully opened doors, He gracefully closed doors, and He gracefully shed light little by little all along the way. If He had revealed it all at once, I would not have been able to take the full dose and my fears likely would have overwhelmed me. But He is gracious; He knows what He is doing. He provided, He provided, and He provided again. If this provision were contingent upon my obedience, my goodness, my faithfulness, my consistency, or my deservedness it would never have come to pass. I have failed in so many ways and at so many times and against so many people that this could not possibly be the reason. The only justifiable answer that will suffice is that in His infinite wisdom and according to His sovereign good pleasure He has deemed it good that this grace should fall to me.

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.” (Psalm 66:1-2)
This day has given me great reason for reflection and no matter which way I look at it, I must acknowledge that God deserves all credit and glory. That He would even let me learn the tiniest truth (for all truth is God’s truth) is an act of His grace. I was once an enemy of the cross and I was once alienated and hostile in mind doing evil deeds (Col 1:21). I am still at times hostile in mind and doing evil deeds, but His power subdues my will and bends it to His own despite my continual rebellion. For reasons only known to Him, He has graciously chosen to redeem me from destruction.
”Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.” (Psalm 66:5)
There are so many individuals and organizations that have contributed to the progression towards this day. Administrations, professors, friends, mentors, classmates, and the countless individuals who I will never recall their names but somehow in some way have made an impact on me for good. God is indeed sovereign.

However, as important as all these are, aside from the Triune God, there is only one who is worthy of mentioning by name – my wife Kimberly. No one has sacrificed as much as she has in order to see this day arrive. No one has endured more heartache, suffered the burden of financial stress, emotional anguish, and the fires of sanctification than she. I can not rightfully even include myself in this category. She has labored through sleepless nights which lead to irritability and distance on my part. She has had to endure through times of seeming separation as I was studying and preparing assignments. She has had to bear the brunt of my poor choices when I have wrongfully chosen to study rather than sit with her. And above all these, she comes in direct contact with my own sinfulness on a daily basis as she sees the unseen of who I really am. And by God’s grace, she still chooses to love me and is willing to come up under me and support the mission to which she believes that we have been called.

Kimberly, you are a trophy of His grace and I am abundantly undeserving of His provision. There is not a day that passes that I do not thank God for you multiple times, and to my shame, I do not make this clear to you. You have given so much of yourself and I trust that the Lord will reward you for such. You are “far more precious than jewels” and there is no other who I desire to make proud. The praises of men are fleeting, but the praises of a wife will last forever. I want to make you proud. “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

I love you. This day is rightly more yours than it is mine. So together we say, “It is finished.”

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Monday, December 10, 2007

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

This song is quite powerful because it is quite true. To make a wretch His treasure. It was my sin that held Him there. Why should I gain from His reward? His wounds have paid my ransom.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Col 2:13-15)

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

Words and Music by Stuart Townend
©1995 Kingsway's Thankyou Music

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr's, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Paul Washer asks "How Do You Know?"

"If you do not have a new relationship with sin, then you do not have a new relationship with God."

Paul Washer's ministry is HeartCry Missionary Society.


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John Calvin on Prayer

Commenting on the prayer issued by the psalmist in Psalm 118:25: “Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!” John Calvin offers this insight:

“Instructed by their example, let us not fail to pray ardently for the restoration of the Church, which, in our day, is involved in sad desolation. Besides, in these words, we are also informed that Christ’s kingdom is not upheld and advanced by the policy of men, but that this is the work of God alone, for in his blessing solely the faithful are taught to confide...God can, indeed, of himself, and independently of the prayer of any one, erect and protect the kingdom of his Son; but it is not without good cause that he has laid this obligation on us, as there is no duty more becoming the faithful than that of earnestly seeking for the advancement of his glory.”
May I also seek to advance His glory through prayer among and for the nations.

John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Volume VI, Psalms 93-150, trans. James Anderson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, rpt 2007), p. 396

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Free Download - Your Choice of 10!

An extra offer this month from our friends at

Each year at Thanksgiving we like to do something to say "Thank You" to you, our customers. This year we got a little carried away. We asked some of the best publishers who provide audio content at to participate in our offer. The result is that you have a choice of any one of ten audiobooks for free. These are all premium audiobooks. It's a wonderful offer. Now this year we can say thank you to you, and also thank you to all the publishers who participate in this offer. That's a lot of thanks!

Browse the selection of audiobooks that you can receive for free. And also take time to click on the links that will take you to the websites of the publishers who joined us in this offer. They have many more wonderfully thoughtful books for you to enjoy.
You will need to enter coupon code THANKS2007 to begin the free download process.

Just in case you were curious, here is the one that I chose from the list:

Also, if you have not already taken advantage of ChristianAudio's Book of the Month for November, Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, I would highly recommend it to you as well. You will need to enter coupon code NOV2007 at the checkout. Hurry, this offer will end at the end of the month.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

DH Williams on Teaching Christians

"We too often assume potential church members already know the fundamentals of their faith, whereas in reality they are usually incapable of explaining the basics of “the pattern of sound teaching” (2 Tim 1:13). This need for equipping cannot be displaced in favor of simply giving one’s own testimony any more than to say a personal experience of the faith can be substituted for a reasonable grasp of that faith. If it is the case that the church, as the apostle phrased it, "is the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15), then ecclesiastical leadership must not shirk from the critical and time-consuming job of imparting Christian truth or catechizing those who profess to be a Christian. Nothing can replace the formation of a theologically and biblically literate people. Nothing is more essential."

D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1999), p. 77-78
I am still not sure whether or not I agree with Williams’ overall thesis in his book (to be determined by the end of the week), but his position on the doctrinal fidelity of the church being maintained in order to produce many generations of biblically astute congregants can not be denied. Without this “Tradition” as he calls it, we would not be who we are or believe what we believe.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Call That Never Comes

Today is a day like no other. Correction, today is a day that is unique unto itself compared with the previous 364 days in the year, but last year on this day, it was relatively the same as it has become this year. Today, October 31st, is a day marked by significance. Today is Reformation day, true. Today is Halloween, also true. Today also marks the day that caused a minor reformation (at least in my own household) when at 8:45am on the maternity ward of Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, IL I came bursting forth into glorious day to let the world know that I have finally arrived. That was twenty-eight years ago today. Sixty-six years ago today an event of similar proportions occurred in a small town in Missouri when Kenneth Leroy Armstrong was born. I am Kenneth C, my father is Kenneth L and therein lies the problem.

It was always a special occasion in my young life knowing that there was one thing in this world that I shared with my father alone and no one else. Others could have the same hair or eye color, his physical build, and his sense of humor (dry wit as it may be – OK, I got that one too). Others could share in his activities, his hobbies and interests, his business, his time, his affections, and even his home, but no one else could share his birthday. That is where I became uniquely special all to myself. This was not uniqueness in the sense of selfishness, but simply a uniqueness that allowed him and me to have something that no else could completely understand.

My family has an odd unspoken tradition that has been around for as long as I can remember. Every year each member of the family will call the birthday celebrant and sing – yes sing – “Happy Birthday” to them. Even if we get an answering machine, we still sing and make merry for the other. My wife thinks this rather peculiar; I am actually quite fond of the custom. And so, each year would pass with the multiple phone calls and multiple birthday celebrations being sung to my tune. However, there was always one call that was different and somehow a little more special than all the rest. Not that the others were not unique and valuable, but this one call was set apart because not only was I sung to, I also had the opportunity to sing. My father would call (or I him – whoever won the race) and the originator would sing first followed by the recipient. He was the only one in the world that would sing to me and then I him for the very same reason – we simply shared the same birthday.

I received my last birthday call from him on my eighteenth birthday, October 31st, 1997. He died eighteen days later at the age of fifty-six. It was not until I celebrated my birthday in 1998 that I really realized how special this call was, for it was this year that the call did not come. And since that time my birthday has never been the same. I cannot think about it without thinking about him. I cannot remember birthdays past without replaying the various phone calls and the dual singing. And now I think of the call that never comes. My mother will call, my sister, my brother, all singing “Happy Birthday” in the best off-key that they can (since no one in the world really sings the tune correctly). Other friends will call with well wishes and I appreciate each greatly. But I desire earnestly the call that never comes. To have him know my wonderful wife and the joy that she brings me. To have him know his future grandchildren should the Lord choose to bring such blessings into our lives. To have him sing to me. This day is like the days that have passed over the last ten years. I continue to wait for the call that never comes.

However, (and this is good news!) there is a call that has come and will continue to come for all time. This was the call of Christ bidding me come to Him for salvation. It was the call of the One who gives the dead life. Not to the dying, but the dead. He sent forth His word to break down the door of my heart and He called me to His side for all eternity. I wait for a call that will never come, but I wait with hope because of a call that has come - and will one day come again, knowing that “the LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph 3:17). And that is all the “Happy Birthday” singing I need.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Steve Lawson on the Church's Vison of God

"Never has the need been greater for the truths of sovereign grace to be firmly established in the church. Her thinking about God desperately needs to be flowing in the right direction. As the church thinks, so she worships; and as the church worships, so she lives, serves, and evangelizes. The church's right view of God and the outworking of His grace gives shape to everything that is vital and important. The church must recapture her lofty vision of God and thereby, be anchored to the solid rock of His absolute supremacy in all things. Only then will the church have a God-centered orientation in all matters of ministry. This, I believe, is the desperate need of the hour."

--Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume 1, (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishers, 2006), p. 23.

Amen and Amen.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

The Gospel According to Paul Washer

This is Paul Washer who is the founder of HeartCry Missionary Society. Until last week I was not acquainted with this fervent preacher of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As the weeks press on and if the Lord should choose to tarry, I hope for this to change.

HT: Puritan Fellowship located in Manchester, England which has several other Paul Washer videos and sermon links.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Day She Said "Yes"

We met for the first time a few years ago. I only noticed her from afar and never thought that I would quite get near. I had a friend who knew her well and detailed many of the desirable qualities that she possessed, but still, I did not know her myself. And so, thus remained the state of our relationship and continued as such for a lengthy period of time. During this time, I would check in on her progress, the comings and goings, just so that I could somehow be involved with the details of her world. Alas, I could only observe from the edge. I could only peer in through the gate or over the fence into a world in which I knew nothing about. A world that I desired to be apart of, but was prohibited access. In fact, access is only permitted to a privileged few and the rest, like me, could only ponder the mystery of the undiscovered.

As time wore on, eventually I had my first official encounter with her. We met, we spoke, we even exchanged our information. I already had her essentials, but now she had mine!! My hope was elevated, my expectation awakened, and my heart imagined the possibilities of our future together. Not just my future or her future – our future. This was exciting, but my excitement quickly diminished as my phone did not ring, my mailbox did not ding, and I assuredly had not been crowned king. I contemplated the possibility of pursuing another but the muse did not amuse and I found myself wanting the original all the more. Thus, I lingered at her door for what seemed to be eons until I finally decided to make contact. This would be my chance. My one opportunity to make the best impression I could, for in this business, the impression really does matter.

Before I could take my plunge of contact, I decided that I would choreograph this waltz in order to dance in concert with her rhythm. Timing being essential, I delayed as long as I was able. This may not seem to be the most orthodox of all tactics, but since this was my one shot, I decided I better make it count. I rehearsed. I wrote letters and I wrote more letters. I even had friends write letters and detail all of the best facets of this diamond we call me for it was matter of dire straits that she saw the best side glimmering in all its glory. (And since there is not much glory to glimmer, we had to set the polish just right!) I ordered my affairs, dressed in my best suit (of two) and marched past her gates into the very bowels of her being. I wanted her to know me and I her, so we sat face to face for the first time. Before we were mere amalgams of information; now we were personal, sharing information about ourselves that is reserved for those of the “in” crowd. And since this was a close encounter of the first kind, I pulled out all of the stops. Without further delay, I popped the question. "So soon?" you ask. Maybe for some, but not the case with me. All this observing from afar had proved beneficial and my studies had been confirmed. She was the real deal and I could not let this opportunity pass. “What next?” you say. Silence. Deafening Silence. Silence so thick no sound could pierce its being. Silence of the black hole variety. Silence that has a sound all too itself that can not be described because you can not hear it, only feel it.

And more silence.
And more silence.
And more silence. (Do you get that it was silent?)

I did not hear from her.
No phone calls.
No e-mails.
No fax.
No smoke signals.
Silence. Mystifying, doubting, silence.

And then yesterday, twenty-six days after I first dropped the question that would forever change the future course of my life (and possibly our life) the silence broke…. She said “Yes.”

No, I’m not getting married to another woman – my wife and I secured that everlasting knot June 4, 2005. No, I do not have a secret family, nor am I a covert operator for the CIA. The “she” referenced is more like an “it” or a “they” at least. This “She/It/They” is Beeson Divinity School, the graduate seminary of Samford University. I have been extended an invitation to begin graduate studies with her/it/them in the spring following my degree completion in December. It is quite an exciting time around the Armstrong household and we have much to be thankful for by means of God's sovereign grace. He has opened "to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ" (Col 4:3) and this calling includes the educational preparation needed to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). More updates to come...

In the meanwhile, if you would like to help support Beeson in their vision to see a fully-funded student body, click here.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Willow Creek Repents

This article Willow Creek Repents is something that we truly do not see often. It is not common that one of the most influential churches in the country (for better or worse – you decide) stands up and says “we made a mistake.” But this is exactly what has happened with Willow Creek Community Church.

From the article:

”We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”
Wow. This never happens. May Willow Creek be found faithful to the gospel and to the Church's growth, not simply church growth.

HT:Between Two Worlds

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Most Important Thing About You...

In his book,The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1961) AW Tozer asserts that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (1). Everything about our worldview flows from who (or what) we think God (god or gods) is (or was – for those who think that he/she/it is dead). I have used this quote in many a writing jaunt over the years because it speaks so much truth. Well, somehow I am still amazed at the ability for others to conjure up the god of their making. Let me suffice it say, the God of the Revelation can beat up the god of your imagination.

The text reads:
Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the idea of God – or at least someone else’s idea of God. Yet maybe you yearn for a loving, spiritual community where you can be inspired and encouraged as you search for your own truth and meaning. This is a church, you ask? Welcome to Unitarian Universalism.

HT:Pyromaniacs which is simply an excellent blog if I've ever seen one!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dr. Moore - To the Point

Two articles that I read today are well worth your time. Both are encouraging and honest. Both attempt to address the reality of lives lived out in relationships. Both point us towards the cross of Jesus Christ, where real relationships begin. It was there that Christ made “peace by the blood of His cross” for those “who once were alienated, hostile in mind and doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in is body of flesh by His death in order to present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.” (Col 1:20-21). One is written by a great theologian to whom the church stands in great debt. The other is written about him.

The first is an article titled Commentaries and Character written by Dr. Russ Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary addressing the exemplary character of William Lane. Lane has written extensively and not the least of which is his two volume commentary on Hebrews from the Word Biblical Commentary Series published by Nelson. Dr. Moore references the work for its scholarly form and repute but of Lane he says "Still, it is a rare providence to read a commentary by a man his own disciples still revere, because he washed their feet, gave his time and energy away to them, and pointed them to Christ." Dr. Moore continues on to speak well of his Southern colleague and next-door-neighbor, Dr. Thomas Schreiner, who in Moore’s words, "His peace, joy, love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control might not cause him to conjugate Greek verbs any quicker. But these virtues point to a reflection on the Scripture that will lead to a body of work that is more than wood, hay, and stubble. They also remind me, as I read, that I believe in more than just total depravity. I believe in the Holy Spirit."

The first article is written by Dr. Moore. The second article is written about him. Written by Robert E. Sagers, who serves as special assistant to Dr. Russell D. Moore, Happy Birthday, RDM is a tribute from a Timothy to a Paul for the latter’s investment in the former. Sagers has had the privilege of developing a relationship with Dr. Moore over the last three years as they have lived life together. From Sagers’ ode:

"But in all these times the power and conviction with which he preaches the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps when you are as immersed and saturated in the revelation of God recorded for us in Scripture as Dr. Moore is, the Holy Spirit of Christ cannot but be present and active in such proclamation."

"I have felt the pressure of sensing Dr. Moore's presence in the back of the room as I preach, even when he thinks he has hidden his face so well, because he cannot help but look up and smile. I have been on the receiving end of a stinging rebuke when Dr. Moore thought I was being foolish, and I have been on the receiving end of warm encouragement when he thought that I was feeling defeated…In other words, Dr. Moore has chosen to live life with me, a living of life that sometimes works itself out in 4 a.m. trips to the seminary…"
And my personal favorite of all, Sagers concludes,
"In all these things, Dr. Moore has shown me Jesus. His leadership is exemplified in his daily taking up of the basin and the towel. In fact, if I could characterize Dr. Moore's life and ministry in only two sentences, I would again borrow from Paul: "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me" (Col 1:28-29).""
First read the article by Dr. Moore which will then help you appreciate the article about Dr. Moore.

I am thankful for Dr. Moore, his work at Southern Seminary, and the men like him around the world who are committed to adopting a “true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2; cf. 2 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4). Happy birthday, Dr. Moore.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Athanasius on Looking Past Life

“Christ alone, using common speech and through the agency of men not clever with their tongues, has convinced whole assemblies of people all the world over to despise death, and to take heed to the things that do not die, to look past the things of time and gaze on things eternal, to think nothing of earthly glory and to aspire to immortality.”

--Athanasius, On the Incarnation, translated and edited by A Religious of C.S.M.V. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996), p. 85. (Probably first written around 318ad.)

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Bookstore Manager Gives His Life for The Gospel

A fellow brother in the Lord, Rami Ayyad, gave his life on account of the gospel this weekend. This twenty-six year old manager of the only Christian book store in Gaza, The Teacher’s Bookshop, was found dead Sunday, October 7th.

From the Christianity Today article:

"At 6:25 a.m. Sunday October 7, Ayyad's body was found near the bookshop. "Signs of bullets and knife stabs could be clearly seen on his body," the Bible Society release said. Unconfirmed reports added that his head had been severely injured.

Ayyad leaves behind two young children and his pregnant wife, Pauline. Ayyad helped lead Gaza Baptist Church's Awana club and directed the church's summer children's camp."
AsiaNews reports that "He went missing Saturday October 6th in the afternoon and his body was found yesterday in a city street, tortured and with two bullet wounds to the head. Authorities from Shifa hospital confirmed that his body carried diverse knife wounds."

I also found this quote from a non-Protestant encouraging:
"David Maria Jaeger, an Israel Franciscan in the Holy Land said: 'Ayyad was an intrepid Christian, a glory for the entire community of believers in Christ who live in His homeland. The fact that he belonged to the Protestant community underlines that what unites us outstrips what divides us. And its not the first time in the Region that the protestant evangelicals enlighten us and teach us to have faith in Christ, free from conditioning, free from fear and a presumptuous “prudence”, which all too often burden so many of us Christians'."
I am a BookStore manager in Birmingham, AL and I doubt seriously that I will ever be threatened with my life because of the work that I do. There is another world out there that we – I - do not see.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Life of David Brainerd - FREE Audio Book

Free Audiobook of the Month America's greatest Theologian, Jonathan Edwards, had a heart for missions. And Edwards deeply respected David Brainerd, who gave his life for missions to Native Americans. The Life of David Brainerd is an inspiring tale of one of the most notable missionaries in American history.

Use the coupon code OCT2007 to receive the Download Format of The Life of David Brainerd for free in the month of October.

Our Price: $0.00
List Price: $25.98

Click the picture or click here

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Update from Desiring God

As noted yesterday, Desiring God is offering seriously ridiculous discounts on all of their books but they are having troubles with their server. I have attempted several times today to get in but to no avail.

GOOD NEWS HOWEVER! I just received this e-mail from Abraham Piper of Desiring God:

We are now taking orders for the sale by phone. If you are having trouble
placing your order online, please call us at 1-888-346-4700. We will be
taking calls until 7:00 P.M. CT. If this doesn't work for you, you can of
course continue placing orders online for the rest of the day.


Abraham Piper
Web Content Editor
Desiring God
These guys are just too good!

Excuse me, I need to make a phone call.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Exciting Book News!!!

Here is some extremely exciting news that I received Monday but have not had the chance to do anything with until now:

From Desiring God:

All Books $5
Every book in our store will be $5 on June 27-28, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

No limits, so spread the word.

(This sale is online only.)

Yes, that would include excellent titles such as:

And MANY MANY MORE all for only $5 each!! You do pay minimal shipping fees, but it will pay for itslef!

The bad news, however, is the DG servers are so completely overwhelmed that I can not get in!! I attempted to fill an order early this morning but failed when the "Proceed to Checkout" button was an invalid link. Kumbaya is what I have to say to that.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

VOM Prayer Updates

After reading these, I feel shame for my woeful self-pity that has lazily accepted the comforts of a Christian's life in Bible Belt Birmingham.

From Voice of the Martyr's (VOM) prayer update 6/12/07:

Three Sunday School Teachers Released from Prison – VOM Sources/ Compass Direct News

Praise God! Dr. Rebekka, Mrs. Eti and Mrs. Ratna have been released after two years in prison. We rejoice and thank you for your prayers. According to Compass Direct News, a crowd had gathered to welcome the women as they walked free from Indramayu district prison in West Java. An eyewitness told Compass, "The women appeared happy and peaceful as they emerged from the prison gates. All three said they had no fear for the future and were convinced that God would protect and guide them forward." Psalm 46:7, 1 Peter 2:9-10, Psalm 32:7

UPDATE: House-Church Leader Sentenced to Six Months – China Aid Association

On June 4, 2007, Beijing house-church leader Hua Huiqi was secretly sentenced to six months in prison at Chayang District People's Court. According to China Aid Association (CAA), Hua's wife and lawyer were not allowed to attend the trial which lasted about two hours. CAA expects Hua to be released from prison next month. Pray Hua and his mother are strengthened and encouraged in prison. Pray for their release and for God to heal Shuang Shuying. Psalm 103:1-5

Two Christian Leaders Killed, VOM Coordinator Attacked – VOM Sources

- On June 2, 2007, two Christian leaders were stabbed to death at a Christian school and orphanage in Etah District, Uttah Pradesh. According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts, it is believed Samuel Masih and Aman Singh, leaders at the school, were brutally killed by anti-Christian Hindu extremists. "Aman Singh's body had more than 20 stab wounds, while Masih had been stabbed five times. Police are investigating. Robbery has been ruled out as a motive, and the family suspects that religion was a factor," the contacts said. Pray for the families of those killed. Pray believers in this area will be strengthened and encouraged despite the hardships they face.

BANGALORE – On June 8, 2007, a coordinator for The Voice of Martyrs was attacked at his home by Hindu extremists. According to VOM contacts, more than 150 extremists were bussed in from different areas and gathered at his house, which also serves as a house church. "Brother N hid in a room while other believers contacted the police. While the police arrived, the crowd grabbed him and beat him severely. He has cuts and bruises and was nearly unconscious when he was taken away to the police station and hospital." Pray for healing for Brother N's injuries and for believers in India who are experiencing an increase in persecution. Psalm 147:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10

For more or to sign up for updates visit Voice of the Martyr's

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Book Review - The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander

The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry On the Gospel
By Mark Dever and Paul Alexander
Crossway Books, 2005
Category: Church Helps
ISBN: 1581347383
202 pages
Indexes: General Subject and Scripture
$14.99 MSRP

Let me begin by stating what many may wait to share until the end: I loved this book. I have read and reviewed Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, which is interestingly, the most visited page on my blog. Church leaders from all over the world have Google’d its title and landed on my page, however, I seem to be one of the few in the blogosphere that did not like the book. I presume folks have merely moved on until they found a more satisfactory review to suit them. I am curious if this review will spark as much interest. I suspect not for a few reasons: first, The Deliberate Church is over two years old (published in 2005) which signifies - by church-growth model standards - it is beginning to get info in the mail from AARP. Second, The Deliberate Church is not one of those books that will easily satisfy those who are looking for a church-growth model. Seemingly contradictory, let the author’s explain:

”We have called this book The Deliberate Church because we wanted a title that might serve to throw us into the fray of the church methodology debates. American evangelicalism is now dripping with the various kinds of churches: The Emerging Church, The Purpose Driven Church, The Connecting Church, The Disciple-Making Church, a critical assessment called The Market Driven Church, and almost any other kind of church you could possible want. We thought keeping the format of “The _______ Church” for a title might get our foot in the door of the debate. “Deliberate is the best word we could find to succinctly describe what we’re talking about (22-23).
And the title to this two hundred page work will not disappoint you because the subtitle really defines its intention “Building Your Ministry on the Word.” For Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, this is precisely what they have done.

Contrary to Simple Church, The Deliberate Church is heavy laden with Scripture which a quick glance at the Scripture index will prove. However, these Scriptures are not merely pulled from thin air in order to accomplish the author’s purpose, but rather, the author’s derive there purpose from Scripture. A competent and faithful expositor of God’s word, Mark Dever founded IX Marks Ministries with the hopes of helping other church leaders develop their ministry based upon what the biblical calling for ministry is – not what the next great statistician has to say about trends and growth models. Therefore, The Deliberate Church is not only heavy laden with Scripture, it is heavy laden with GOSPEL – the good news that the God of this universe Who is there has revealed Himself faithfully throughout the course of history, ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ, and is continuing to summon men to Himself as He seeks worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). From the introduction:
This Gospel, then, is that God is our holy Creator and righteous Judge. He created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, but we have all sinned, both in Adam as our representative head, and in our own individual actions (Rom 5:12; 3:23). We therefore deserve death – spiritual separation from God in Hell (Rom 6:23; Eph 2:3) – and are in fact already spiritually stillborn, helpless in our sins (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:6-8); Eph 2:1) and in need of God to impart spiritual life to us (Ezek. 37:1-14; John 3:3). But God sent His Son Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man (Phil. 2:5-11), to die the death that we deserved, and He raised Him up for our justification, proving that He was God’s Son (Rom. 5:1; 1:4). If we would have Christ’s perfect righteousness credited to us, and the penalty for our sins accounted to Him, we must repent of our sins and belie in Jesus Christ for salvation (2 Cor. 5:21; Mark 1:14-15)

This Gospel alone (Gal 1:6-9) is the one we are commanded to preach (2 Tim. 4:2). This Gospel alone contains the theology that must drive our ministry methods. This Gospel alone is the one God uses to create a people for Himself. This Gospel alone both enables and informs our participation in God’s redemptive purposes. Consequently, this Gospel alone deserves to shape and evaluate both our methods and our ministries (28-29)”
A lengthy quote, yes, but an important one, for this theme repeats itself over Andover again throughout the book. The Gospel is what transforms enemies of God into worshipers. The Gospel is what transforms cultures enraged against the Truth to individuals who seek to love God and love neighbor. Without the Gospel, the true Gospel – the BIBLICAL GOSPEL – you do not have a church. You may have a quaint gathering of morally upstanding members of society, but you do not have a church. You may have a country club, a rotary club, lion’s club, or even the Red Cross, but without the Gospel you do not have a church. And without the Gospel, the church loses her purpose.

This book is divided into four major sections (following two forewords, two prefaces, and an introduction. With an intro like this – it better be good! And it is!) They are as follows:
1. Gathering the Church
2. When the Church Gathers
3. Gathering Elders
4. When the Elders Gather
Given that the final two sections of the book deal with the election and function of elders, I presume many will not give this book a second look (at least those coming from a Baptist background). However, I believe that Dever presents a balanced view of the elder polity. I will be the first to say that I am not fully equipped to formulate judgments as to which form of church government is the most biblical , but be sure that Dever’s thrust is not to accept elder polity, but rather promoting church unity.

Having said this, let me point to a few highlights from each section. Let me remind you: if you are in any position of church leadership – this book will be of benefit to you.

Dever says that there are four primary responsibilities of any pastor: Preach the Word, Pray for Your Flock, Develop Personal Discipling Relationships, and Be Patient. With these four in mind, a minister is set to begin to build his ministry on the Word. Preaching the Word may be a given, but not unless it is understood in Dever’s context. To “Preach the Word” means to preach the WHOLE Word. To preach expositionally, not topically, through the Scriptures is to let the point of the text be the point of the sermon, not to seek Scriptures to fit with the point you are intending to get across. Dever asserts (and is also a reoccurring theme throughout the book):
”What you win them with is likely what you’ll win them to. If you win them with the Gospel, you’ll win them to the Gospel. If you win them with technique, programs, entertainment, and personal charisma, you might end up winning them to yourself and your methods (and you might not!), but it is likely that they won’t be won to the Gospel first and foremost (44).”
The danger and pitfall of any ministry organization, but specifically a local church, is to fall into the snare that program’s are what win people. Sure, it is great to offer free pizza on Friday nights in an effort to provide a safe haven for the high school students to hang out, and it is good to provide “Mother’s Day Out” programs so that moms can have a safe place to leave their children while they run some errands. It is also good to offer workout facilities, Book Stores, and divorce care support groups. These are all “good” things that benefit the society as a whole. However, if there is no gospel, then they are not truly good things. If there is no gospel there is no life change. If there is no life change, there is no true Christian. If there are no Christians, there is no church. See the progression? Without the gospel, the church ceases to be the church and is no different than the aforementioned Lions and Rotary clubs. Thus, programs do not truly effect life change. The only thing that effects true life change is God’s word accurately preached under the Holy Spirit’s initiative. Therefore, programs may be used as an inroad to preach the gospel, but it can not serve as a substitute for it.

Dever then discusses his policies for taking in new members and doing what he calls “responsible evangelism.” What does he mean by this?
”The way we do evangelism will inform the way our hearers understand the Gospel. The way our hearers understand the Gospel will inform the way they live the Gospel. The way our hearers live the Gospel will have a direct bearing on the corporate witness of our churches in our communities. The corporate witness of our churches will in turn make our evangelism either easier or harder, depending on whether that witness is a help or a hindrance (51).
In other words, if we are to be “responsible” in our evangelistic efforts we are not allowing ourselves to rise to the level of the individual who is “responsible” for another’s salvation – only the Holy Spirit is capable of causing regeneration in the life of another. But, where we are “responsible” is in the way that we accurately present the Gospel. Do we clearly present that all creation is created by God and subject to His rule? If we truly are a random process of time plus chance, then where is accountability to anything? If we are indeed created, which we are because Scripture affirms such, then there needs to be a concept and understanding of sin or rebellion or estrangement from God. Then, and ONLY then – never before, do we offer the solution. Premature decisions are simply premature. Therefore, we should never feel the pressure to “close the deal” and attempt to bring an individual to a decision point at any given moment. We must be sure that the individual is responding to the Holy Spirit and the authority of God’s word – not our own personality or persuasiveness.

Section 2 deals primarily with the “how” and “why” the church gathers together. The church may gather at times for regular corporate worship, Bible study, budget meetings, discipline issues, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, etc. Dever then examines what he believes to be the specific role of the pastor in each of these gatherings. Before this, however, he does offer a brief synopsis of worship styles comparing the Regulative Principle to the Normative Principle. Simply, the Regulative says we will only worship in such a way which is commended to us in Scripture. The Normative says that we will not worship in such a way that is prohibited by Scripture. Thus, the Normative is much less stringent than the Regulative. Dever prefers the Regulative. In turn, he says that we must read the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, and the see the Bible. He uses the “see the Bible” as a way that we partake in the Lord’s Supper.
“[Everything] that happens up front in a corporate worship gathering is part of the teaching ministry of the church. Everything teaches, whether you intend it to or not. The songs teach people doctrine and the proper affections for God. Your prayers (or lack of them) teach people how to pray themselves. The kinds of prayer you pray (or don’t pray) teach people about the important differences between prayer of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. The way you administer the ordinances teaches people about their meaning, and even the very meaning of the Gospel. Your preaching teaches people how to study and use the Bible appropriately. Everything from the call to worship to the benediction counts as teaching. Teaching is everything (90).”
This concept caused me to think about our worship services specifically and I began to see how true this really is. When we pray, how we pray, why we pray began to show up quickly. What we sing, how we sing, and when we (congregationally or led by a choir or soloist) began to teach me immensely how our church and its leadership viewed them (or at least seemingly). I say seemingly because the message that was conveyed may not be the message that was intended to be conveyed. But, much like every other conversation the intended message is often lost in the reception of the hearer. This caused me to think greatly but will have to wait for ruminations of another time.

Sections 3 (Gathering Elders) and 4 (When Elders Gather) were less intriguing to me, probably most due to the fact that I am not a church elder, nor am I in a position of governance in our church. Thus, it was good for informational purposes; however, I did not find much direct application. But, for the elder or pastor, this section will provoke great thought and possible change in structure if read thoroughly. Dever discusses the purpose and importance of a plurality of elders that leads a church. Being that his church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, is a Baptist church, this is not a popular concept among many, but I believe one that needs to at least be considered. Dever makes his case for a plurality of elders from the familiar Biblical texts Acts 6:1-4; 20:17-38; and 1 Timothy 3:1-3. Dever says that the plurality of elders accomplishes six major goals:
1. It balances pastoral weakness
2. It diffuses congregational criticism
3. It adds pastoral wisdom
4. It indigenizes leadership
5. It enables corrective discipline
6. It diffuses “us vs. him” (133-135)
I have never bee actively involved in a local fellowship that practices the plurality of elders so I can not attest the practical validity or not. However, I do follow Dever’s argument for such an instance. Be clear, Dever does not say that this is the ONLY way to govern a church, but one he believes to be the most faithful to the Biblical model. Some who advocate for the single elder system state that it is not so much that the single pastor desires to have ultimate control, but that ultimately someone has to be the one to take final responsibility for the matters of the church. Someone has to be the Truman of the bunch to let the “buck stop here.” I can sympathize with both sides of the argument. Either way, the emphasis needs to be placed upon faithful shepherding of the local body – whatever form that takes. Elder boards and deacon boards have a tendency to be power hungry and attempt to throw their weight around on every issue of the church from the color of the carpet to how much should be spent funding oversees missions. This, I believe, is completely contrary to Scripture. Scripture is clear that deacons are not to run the church, they are to serve her. Thus, unity of the body is what should be strived for, not that which suits a few individuals. In some congregations this will mean plurality of elders, in some it will mean single elder.

Were I to return this book and reread it, which I am sure will happen at some juncture in my tenure, I believe I will read the conclusion first. Here, Dever and Alexander tie together several threads that seem to have been sown throughout the beginning of the book. Here is the main thrust of the book:
”The biblical hallmarks of church health – holiness, faith, love, sound doctrine – are cultivated in us as we are captivated, by Him.

What this means is that we want to build our churches in a way that makes this corporate captivation with Christ a normal part of our lives together…If people are transformed ever more perfectly into the image of Christ by gazing at Him, then the job of the pastor and evangelist is not to come up with more innovative or clever methods. It is rather to present people with the clearest picture possible of biblical truth. The more clearly we present Christ’s person and work to our local churches, the more clearly we will come to reflect His glory together as if in a mirror.

This is why it’s so important to begin (and continue!) a work by expositional preaching that clarifies the Gospel and makes much of God. This is why we want to present God and Christ clearly and frequently in evangelism. This is why we want to keep all our methods as plain as possible – so that we don’t obscure our message with our method…Nothing else has transforming power for the church but the Word of God plainly set forth in preaching and in living…What is needed most today is a commitment to being deliberate about setting forth the truth plainly, because the truth as we gaze on it is what transforms us, what builds us up and sets us free (John 17:17; Acts 20:32; John 8:36).” (195, 196, 197)
This is really what the Gospel ministry is all about: the Gospel. Nothing else transforms. The Deliberate Church will be a valuable edition for any church leader, pastor, elder, and even church member who desires to know how to help establish his ministry in the word. May we all be deliberate in our worship and seek to bring others to worship around the throne as well.

Lord, cause us to be the true “church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Today I Remember...Again

The only words that would suffice are His...

“Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind- so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 52:12-53:12 ESV)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Today I Remember: Yesterday Was Memorial Day

Yesterday was Memorial Day. Yesterday; and today I thought of it. This may be one of those posts that leaves me looking a lot less spiritual than I really am, and a little more real than you (or I) would like me to be. But, the fact remains: it is what it is.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, and as mentioned above, I finally thought of it today. Sure, I looked forward to the extra day off in the week which provided more time to be with my wife. I was thankful that our favorite coffee shop was open until noon so that we could spend the morning hours with java to sip and talk satisfaction in Christ. I was thankful that our granny saved us some ribs and corn on the cob for us to indulge ourselves in. I was even thankful that Movie Gallery was still offering free rentals that extended through Monday (due back by Saturday) and Kimberly had capitalized on that “free”dom every day this weekend (which is an oddity in itself). However, it was not until the night hours that the thought even came to me that this day, Memorial Day, was not so much about me, but about those who died for me.

Over lunch we discussed the various wars of times past: WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even the Iraq War and how it relates to a possible conflict with Iran. However, each of these were in context with my grandfather’s service in the Korean War, but not necessarily tied to “War” in the truest sense of the word. We discussed how many of his five brothers were called to service, his thoughts on the draft, and eventually ended up with the social security and the casinos. We always end up with the casinos. But the thoughts of men who gave their lives for the freedom of America, men who died to protect the families that they loved, or men who died in order to advance the gospel never entered into my mind. I wish this were not true, but I would not share it if it were not.

So, after my uneventful afternoon lazily being entertained by a World War II era movie (even now, this is the first time that I even thought to link this movie with the significance of the day!) and a great lunch, thoughts of service men and women who have given their lives for my freedom had not caught my attention. Then last night, I stumbled upon a documentary featuring the men who fought at Iwo Jima towards the end of WWII. The men featured in this documentary were real men; real men who loved Jesus and loved their families. They did not enter into their country’s service merely because they were drafted (though some of them were) or merely because this was something that the government told them they had to do (though this was true as well). Rather, many of these men who were featured went to Iwo Jima in an effort to defend their families. They went to Iwo Jima not to spread democracy, but to prevent the spread of an atheistic mentality to sweep across the Pacific and infiltrate their living rooms. They fought (and many of them died) after thirty-six agonizing days in brutal conditions of which I know nothing about. Many left wives and children at home. Some returned, more did not. Boys left fatherless, women without husbands; the war knew no favor. Brothers lost brothers, fathers said goodbye to their sons. Those days on Iwo Jima before the infamous raising of the American Flag have been lost to much of history and only remains in the minds of a select few. I can’t say that I have forgotten, to a certain extent, I never knew.

This documentary was incredible and with commentary on what it meant then and what it means now to be a father passionate about the gospel was moving. I did not see it until the end, but it gripped me from the beginning. There were men who returned to Iwo Jima for the sixtieth anniversary of the battle, many in wheelchairs, more with canes, all with heavy hearts. This little film helped put into perspective that these were real men, fighting in a real war, with real bullets, and real death. That meant that there were real boys and real girls who lost their fathers forever.

From the website:

"More than 406,000 Americans died during the Second World War, leaving an estimated 183,000 children fatherless. Hundreds of thousands of other fathers did return from war, some who tragically never connected with their children. But within the ranks of the survivors and the heroic dead were a remarkable collection of men who made it a life mission to speak the providences of God and the meaning of manhood to the boys who would fill their shoes. Through wartime letters and present-day pilgrimages to the bloody battlefields of their youth, the ancient warriors have spoken. Their thankful children rise to honor and surpass their legacy. They are “The League of Grateful Sons.""
I have never suffered a day in my life; the least I could do was give honor to their memory. Forgive me for forgetting.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The World Wide Web Operations of Operation World

In our day of the high-tech, low-touch world, we often rely on electronic means of communication because they are more convenient than placing a phone call. Once upon a time, if you wanted to speak with someone you either: picked up the phone, wrote a letter, or high tailed it over to the location of choice in order to speak face-to-face. These days are long gone, thus any improvements to the methods of electronic communication are welcomed with open arms. I am often amused by the many web pages that have a “contact us” option somewhere hidden obscurely on a 4th click page just underneath an unrelated ad. Then, the “contact us” button merely leads you to either a generic e-mail address to which you can pray that someone will indeed read the e-mail, process it, and respond to you before Haley’s comet arrives again. Thus, when I experienced the electronic form of REAL customer service yesterday, I was shocked to say the least.

One of my new favorite websites is Operation World (whose link appears to the right). This website, along with the links it provides, is a wealth of resources for any individual seeking to pray for the nations. While perusing said website yesterday, I noticed two things:

1. The links to the CIA World Fact Book were not working (the CIA has moved the links to another server), and
2. I was not able to search for country specific information, only the country of the day was available.
Normally, I would let both of these alone since I can only imagine the amount of time and effort it takes to maintain this website and since it has been such a great resource for me, I did not want to log a formal complaint. However, since the CIA links were not working, and the Operation World website has a specific section to “Help improve Operation World links for Web Sites” I thought I would cordially inform them of the non-working link. I also decided to send an e-mail to request if the possibility of searching for country-specific information would be available as well.

Here’s where the e-service comes in. Would you believe that within one hour I received THREE e-mails not only acknowledging my inquiries but also received direction and answers! I could not believe it. The first came in and said, “Thank you for letting us know about the links” (or something of that sort – I have since deleted it). OK, form letter I thought, but there was a specific individual’s signature tag, not just “Customer Service”. THEN, the second e-mail came from a gentlemen who forwarded my e-mail to two other individuals saying “Dear Jen/Jason, please get back to KC on this…thanks…blessings, Anjali.”

A few things to note:
1. He said “Dear…” This is not a common introduction anymore for many of us have been trained to be “formal” in our introductions therefore translating “Dear Jen,” (note the coma) to “Jen:” (not the absence of “Dear” and the replacement of a semicolon). This struck me as odd, but refreshingly odd to say the least.
2. I found it interesting that he used my name in the reply, not simply “this guy” or “customer” or some other impersonal title. When I saw my name, I felt like I was a part of the team, working together for a greater purpose. Given the nature of the website is to promote global prayer for the nations, this should not strike me as completely unheard of, but frankly, it is not often heard of. Personal touch goes a long way.
Then, about fifteen minutes later I received a lengthy reply from none other than the co-author of the book Operation World, Jason Mandryk himself! He informed me of the purpose of the website and offered a suggestion of where I might find some other useful information. (He recommended 24-7 which seems to be what I was looking for!) I was absolutely floored to think that individuals within an organization would take so kindly to responding to a virtually anonymous web inquiry. There is hope for the redemption of our high-tech culture yet! I tehn responded to jason’s e-mail with this,
"Thank you for an extraordinarily expedient response! Honestly, I do not think that I have ever received two personal responses from one general website inquiry! This just furthers my understanding that the folks at Operation World take their work seriously for the glory of God. Thank you for your commitment to excellence."
I would highly commend the Operation World website to you for your use. And, having been a first-hand witness to the organizations commitment to excellence and the glory of God, I will sure to continue to visit!

***It must be noted that I do own a copy of Operation World in book form that rests no more than three feet from me (even as I type now), but my laziness prevented me from opening the book when I desired to search on the internet. Maybe there is even hope for me.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday is for Missions: England (Enlgish-Speaking Britons)

The United Kingdom boasts a population of almost 60 million people derived from over 100 different people groups. The dominate people group is of course, English-speaking Britons which accommodate for 40 million individuals. Of these 40 million individuals, about 75% claim to be adherents to Christianity, however, surprisingly only 8.5% claim to be evangelicals. What does this mean? Well, in laymen’s terms: this is a country derived of people of a “spiritual heritage” who have been reduced to cultural Christianity without any true gospel accomplishing a life change. These 8.5%, however, are the third most evangelical people group within the country next to Jamaicans (24.72% - who’d of thought??) and the Ulster Irish (21.82%). These numbers would not classify the English-speaking Britons as an “unreached people group,” but there is still a great need for a strong, Biblical, gospel witness in their country.

The Muslim presence is increasing greatly in the country and, as the home of the 2012 Olympics, Islam is preparing for a global influx of visitors. This in itself presents great barriers to the gospel’s progress; however, I would say that the even greater barrier is that of nominal Christianity. When Christians do not impact their cultures with truth, truth becomes obscured, God is not glorified, and therefore, seldom do individuals make lasting decisions to follow Christ. Therefore, our greatest need for prayer is that the Lord would strengthen the existing church and send a fresh move of His spirit upon His people. Pray that these Christians would be burdened for their communities and that they would be given the boldness to share truth with their neighbors.

The Church of England is the dominant denomination among Christians and second is the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England is largely Episcopalian and is the official state church, however as previously mentioned, makes a nominal impact among the culture. Atheism, agnosticism, and spiritualism (New Age) are increasing in popularity as secularism sweeps across Western Europe. This is a danger that will silently effect the United States as well in the coming years, long before many of us take notice. Many churches in England are now either bars or lofts, depending upon the district, and increasingly, many are becoming mosques for Muslim worship.

From the IMB’s Western Europe Website:

”Will you pray that the following strongholds of Satan will be demolished as Western Europeans come to know the Truth of Jesus Christ?
1. humanistic education
2. dependence on material comfort
3. pagan traditions
4. a sense of futility
5. depression and suicide
6. sexual promiscuity
7. Dependence on drugs, alcohol and tobacco
”Intercede for refugees and immigrants living in Western Europe, many of whom are from countries closed to the Gospel. These are unreached people groups now living within Western European borders. The majority have fled their homelands seeking economic, political, and religious asylum. Many are at a point in their lives where they are very open to the truth of the Gospel message. Pray that God's Holy Spirit will speak to their personal Savior.”

For more info:
CIA World Fact Book
Joshua Project
IMB’s Tell Europe

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Boice and Barnhouse on Jonah's Run

"Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil a has come up before me." 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD." (Jonah 1:1-3 ESV)

Some thoughts on Jonah’s run from the Lord from James Montgomery Boice and Donald Grey Barnhouse:

“In his excellent preaching on Jonah, Donald grey Barnhouse often called attention to it by highlighting the phrase about Jonah “paying the fare.” He noted that Jonah did not get to where he was going since he was thrown overboard, and that he obviously did not get a refund on his ticket. So he paid the full fare and did not get to the end of his journey. Barnhouse said, ‘It is always that way. When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. On the other hand, when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and He pays the fare.’ That’s worth repeating [says Boice]: When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. But when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and He pays the fare.
Boice then draws the parallel between Jonah and Moses infant life. Jochebed, Moses’ mother, hid him as long as she could until she was forced to put him in a basket of reeds and place him in the river. Miriam, the sister to Moses, watched to see what would become of him. When Pharaoh’s daughter discovered Moses, Miriam asked her “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you? And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go." So the girl went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him.” (Ex 2:7-9)

Boice comments:
“I will pay you.” That is the point for which I tell the story. Jonah went his own way, paid his own far, and got nothing. Jochebed went God’s way. Consequently, God paid the fare, and she got everything. I repeat it once more: When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. But when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and He pays the fare.”
Boice then concludes this section drawing one last parallel and promise as written by the Apostle Paul: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Ph 1:6)
”Quite often we look at that verse merely as a statement of the “eternal security” of the Christian, which is all right. God will certainly continue His work with us, regardless of what happens, and will preserve us for Heaven. But this verse also means – we must not miss it – that God is so determined to perfect His good work in us that he will continue to do so with whatever it takes, regardless of the obedience or disobedience of the Christian. Will you go in His way? Then He will bless your life and encourage you. Will you run, as Jonah ran? Then He will trouble your life. If necessary, He will even break it into little pieces, if by so doing He enables you to walk in His way once again. If you disobey, you will find your initial disobedience easy. But after that the way will grow hard. If you obey Him, you will find the way paved with blessing.”
All too much like Jonah, I am.

James Montgomery Boice. The Minor Prophets: Volume 1, An Expositional Commentary, Hosea-Jonah(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1983 rpt 2006), p. 267-268, 270

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday is for Missions: Georgia

As a new feature at Easily A Muse, I have had in mind to dedicate Monday's to missions awareness of the gosepel needs around the world. I would heavily recommend the website Operation World as a reference and one which I have heavily drawn from. A permanent link will appear at the right and all of these entries will appear in the category "Missions".

No, we are not referring to the state that lies between Alabama and South Carolina. We are referring to the country of Georgia which gained its independence in 1991 from the Bolsheviks after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, soon after gaining its independence, its first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, became dictatorial and was overthrown by an armed revolution. Political unrest has been the general state over the last fifteen years marked by the Chechen Wars of the 90’s and increasing political strong-arming from the new Russia. Pray, that the Sovereign Lord of the Universe would establish a government based on truth and not power. Pray for His Lordship to be made known.

Georgia rests on the eastern edge of the Black Sea and has borders of Russia and Chechnya to the north and Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the south. Georgia has immensely fertile soil and was at one time Russia premier suppliers of tea and citrus fruit, however, much of the population remains well below the poverty line as rebels have dominated any economic activity in recent years. Pray for opportunities to resent themselves for individuals who are seeking to provide fro their families may do so for the glory of God.

The Georgian Orthodox Church is the predominant religious establishment in the country and 62% claim Christianity as their affiliation. However, much like North America, there is merely a veneer of religiosity colored with Christian overtones, but few can indeed profess to have a saving, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. For most, it is an expression of nationalism for “to be Georgian, is to be Georgian Orthodox.” Protestant denominations comprise about one half of one percent (.53% which equates to .0053 of the total population). Baptists and Pentecostals are the largest congregations of these Protestant groups, however, disunity amongst these two groups (imagine that) has proved to be a hindrance to the gospel work. Pray for unity among these brothers in sisters in Christ that they would, as Jesus prayed, “all be one, just as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:21)

This country is “open” to the gospel and as such, we ought to thank God for allowing this providential window to remain. As Georgia is the home for almost 1 million Muslims (about 20% of the population) this could provide a ripe harvest for the Lord to see multitudes of Muslims come to Christ and then act as missionaries to the neighboring, heavily populated Muslim countries. Pray that the Lord of the Harvest might send workers into His fields with a faithful Gospel witness.

For more info go to
Operation World
CIA World fact Book
Georgia’s Wikpedia Page

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Marriage Retreat...for the Glory of God (1)

This past weekend, Kimberly and I had the privilege of attending a marriage retreat hosted by our church in Orange Beach, AL. Our speaker was Jason Allen, who is the Executive Assistant to Al Mohler at Southern Seminary and also is the interim pastor of a small church in Louisville. It was a joy to hear from him and his wife, Karen, rejoice in the things of God and His goodness that He has displayed towards them in their uncommon union. I was impressed with his ability to communicate biblical truth in a real, practical way and to seek to see the glory of God in all things. I was doubly impressed when I discovered that he dwells at the tender age of thirty.

Probably for my own posterity and the need to continue to reflect upon the truths that we discussed, I decided that I would provide a basic outline of each of his sessions based upon the notes that I took. I’m sure that I will not do his Christ-exalting preaching justice, but the attempt will be made nonetheless. The session headings were not given by Mr. Allen himself, but are also my attempts at summation. Here goes…

1st Session: The Sovereignty of God in Marriage
Jason chose as his text Romans 8:28-30 to begin our retreat and I found this remarkable to say the least:

Rom 8 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.
Jason chose this text because, in his own words, "This is a touchstone passage for the entire Bible, paradigmatic for all of Christianity." It is from this passage that we learn that God indeed has a plan even when life seems to be falling apart. When life simply can not be calculated we rest in the knowledge that God’s nature is good and that His plan is also good. As stated previously, I considered this to be a remarkable foundation from which to build a marriage retreat, for it is from this same foundation that Christianity finds its base.

If God is not 100% sovereign then He is not sovereign at all. He can not be 99.99% sovereign for this would indicate that there is some realm of nature (even the most minute) that does not operate under his control. For philosophers, this is where the Law of Non-contradiction comes in to play. In brief, the Law of Non-Contradiction says that something (whether or a person, place, thing, object, idea, etc) can not “be” and “not be” at the same time. That is to say a “table” can not “be a table” and “not be a table” at the same time. True, the table may function in different manners at different points in time, however, the table is still the table. In the same way, God can not “be sovereign” and “not be sovereign” at the same time, He is either one or the other, not both. Therefore, and moving all of the logic aside since Scripture teaches that God is sovereign over all of His creation, then we must also affirm that He is sovereign over all of creation.

Jason adds: “God, in His absolute sovereignty, absolute power, and absolute control, has a specific plan for this universe, His Church, and for my life.” This thusly includes (but is not limited to) my family, my job, my daily routines, my church fellowship, my suffering, and my marriage. I had a friend who once said that everything is “Father filtered,” meaning that nothing comes into our lives without first being ordained and approved by God. (The question is then begged as to the concept of evil and the fallen nature of humanity. This will have to wait for another post, if I wish to not clog the blogosphere. I will come back to this at a near point in the future, however, as this is also one of the “problems of philosophy” that I have been wrestling with from a Christian worldview perspective.)

Mr. Allen then included that a few points to take away from God’s plan is that it provides “assurance, confidence, sobriety, focus, and joy.” Assurance because we might rest knowing that the world is not dependent on man and his fallen ways, but on a God who is perfectly holy, perfectly just, and perfectly true in all His ways. Indeed, even the angels in Heaven who are predetermined to carry the bowls of God’s wrath gather around the holy throne and
“sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3-4 ESV)
Our confidence is therefore found in knowing that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). God’s plan also provides sobriety as we remember that there is indeed a coming judgment, and even before that, there is a day that has been appointed for every living creature to die. None of us will die one half-second before it was intended before the foundations of the world were established when the plan existed only in the mind of God.

This then, should lead us to focus as we understand that our days are but few, and that as image bearers of God, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and in submission to His Spirit we ought to seek to live each day for the fullness of God’s glory and for the praise of His name.

All this leads to what might be known as our everlasting joy. When a life is lived for God’s glory, the life will experience joy triumphant and interminable. We can live with the confidence of knowing that God’s plan is intended to result in my greatest joy, that is, the endless joy of knowing Him, the One who created us and saved us by bringing us - who were once far off - into an eternal covenant through His provision which accomplished our redemption.
“Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God.” (Psa 43:3-4)
He is to be our eternal, everlasting, ever-increasing joy as we understand the unfolding nature of His plan.

Allen then sums up the goal of God’s sovereign plan with this purpose: God’s sovereign plan exists for “the greater glory of God and the holiness of His people.” Too often, I attempt to separate this statement into two parts. The first part, “the greater glory of God” I affirm because I understand that all things exist for God’s glory. God is glorified when sinners come to Him in repentance seeking to trust in Him alone for salvation. God is glorified when His children repent of their known sin as well in hopes of purifying their relationship and growing to be more like Christ. God is even glorified, dare say I, when non-believers continue in their sin, for their sin will always stand in stark contrast to His holiness and ultimately His glory will be revealed (here on earth or at the day of judgment and beyond, but it will one day be revealed). However, the second part, “the holiness of His people” I tend to shrug. Yes, this may be awfully unspiritual of me to confess, but I too often do not truly seek to be sanctified by the washing of the word. I do so in theory, of course, but how often do I truly submit myself to the sovereignty of God’s lordship so that I might be intentionally made holy. The only way in which a sinful man such as myself might be made holy is through the cleansing of the sin which so easily entangles. Thus, I must be made aware of my sin and truly repent of it if I am to be conformed to His likeness. My sinful nature rebels against this process, but I admit, that once on the other side of the fires of sanctification I am thankful yet convinced that I have still yet to arrive.

Up to this point, on might have supposed that he had arrived at the wrong conference. This was to be a “marriage conference” right? Yes, it was, and that is precisely the point. Although this was the first marriage gig that my excellent of wife of two years and I have attended, I can only presume that most marriage conferences begin with “Communication 101”, “Roles of the Husband/Wife”, or “What to Do When Your Children Leave Home”, or the like. To be sure, all of these are important issues to discuss and items that need to be addressed sooner or later. However, if we do not have the bedrock of God’s sovereignty then we have missed the point altogether for not only our marriage, but our entire Christian life. As mentioned above, God can not be 99.99% sovereign if He is to be truly sovereign. But when we come to grips with the awesome reality that God is indeed 1,000,000,000,000% sovereign then we can be illumined to the biblical truths that:
I. God’s plan is for my good.
II. God’s plan is for my holiness.
III. God’s plan is for His glory
Jason gave these three truths and then wonderfully brought the idea of God’s sovereignty into the context of our marriages.

I. God’s plan is for my good.
“…all things work together for good.”

Because God is sovereign, I can trust that He is working His plan for my ultimate good. I may not agree with what that “good” is because my sinful natures prevents me from fully grasping the concept of God’s goodness, however, this does not negate God’s goodness nor the goodness of His plan. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psa 136:1). Jason then follows that this means “that although my wife or my husband is not perfect, she or he is perfect for me.” What a marvelous thought! True, Kimberly is not perfect and neither am I. (I am a lot “less perfect” than she – that’s for sure!) However, we do trust that God’s plan is perfect and that we have not been brought together by a cosmic accident of time plus chance. I trust fully, because the Scriptures affirm this, that God, in His sovereign plan, before the foundations of the world were established, knew my name, knew when I would come into being, knew the path that I would take, and knew who my wife would be long before I had the concept of “girls.” This is not to say that God saw the choices that I would make and then chose to operate His plan in accordance with my choices. Rather, in His sovereignty He gave me the freedom to freely choose the choices that I did make all the while in accordance with His plan that caused me to be in position with exactly where He wanted me to be. And He did the same for Kimberly. Therefore, we are not permitted to ever entertain the idea “maybe I should have chose differently” or “we should have never been married” or “since this isn’t working out we should just divorce.” NO NO NO! To do so would be to deny the goodness of God and the goodness of His plan! This sin must be avoided at all costs.

II. God’s plan is for my holiness.
“…to be conformed to the image of His Son…”

Because God is sovereign, I can trust that His plan is for my holiness. As stated previously, my sinful nature tends to attempt to buck this truth and kick against the goads when it comes to my holiness. However, rest assured, no matter how much I buck or how much I kick, God’s truth abideth still. It is important to note here, that even in our post-modern society, truth is still truth whether we adhere to it or not. Truth is still truth whether we agree with it as truth or not. Truth, real truth, is fully independent of any human validation. It is along this line that we read in the truth of Scripture that His children were intended to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Thusly, we can note that everything that comes into our life has been “Father filtered” for the purpose of conforming us to his image. More specifically, my job, my marriage, my finances, my children (if the Lord chooses to bless us with them), my possessions, my achievements, my _________(fill in the blank) is intended to conform me into the image if Jesus Christ. Moreover, in light of God’s sovereignty, this proverbial argument that we are having is intended to produce an opportunity for Kimberly and I to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ (to steal from Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker. Even more specifically, my wife is one of God’s chosen agents of sanctification in my life. Again, oftentimes the agent receives the brunt of what is an individual who does not wish to be sanctified. But I am increasingly thankful for the ministry that the Lord has given to Kimberly to point out faults in my character or areas where I am not living in a Christ-like manner. Notice I did not say that I am always immediately thankful, but prayerfully, I am moving towards that direction. She has the ability, the authority, and the responsibility of no other individual on the face of this earth to carry out this ministry, and I do in kind for her. Dennis Rainey wrote in his book The Christian Husband that I should be more concerned with my wife’s holiness than her happiness. I believe this to be true and the vice-versa applies to her as well.

III. God’s plan is for His glory
“…in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Because God is sovereign, I can trust that He works all things not only for my good and my holiness, but ultimately for His glory. This is the reason that all things exist anyway – for His glory. For, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork”(Ps 19:1) and even we as individuals should consider “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17). Jason exhorted each of us to “live life in such a way that Jesus Christ gains first place in everything.” He is to have preeminence in every aspect of our lives. Our jobs, our marriages, our finances, our _______(fill in the blank). He is to have first place everywhere! This is especially true in our marriages. For, if at ANY time I seek to usurp His position and desire that I be first place in our marriage, we are destined for a sinful situation. When I believe that all of my needs are to be considered before Kimberly’s I am obviously putting myself before not only her, but before the One who sovereignly brought us together in the first place. It is He who foreknew, He who predestined, He who conforms, He who calls, He who justifies, and He who will one day glorify. Sure, man is responsible for the sinfulness of his own actions, but none of us come to God on our own terms. He sets the stage and draws us to Him. This is a part of His sovereign grace to conform us to His image for His ultimate glory. He does this so that He might be the firstborn and preeminent among all. Come to terms with this truth, and all of life will seem to coincide.

This first session was indeed incredible and set the stage for each session that would follow. What an incredible place to start! God is sovereign and we are not, a truth which also must be understood before our marriages are to be successful for His glory. Failure is not an option, so we seek to rest and trust in the truth of His sovereign grace that plans and redeems from eternity past until eternity future. What a mighty God we serve!

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