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The Good Shepherd January 31, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links, Quotes.
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Here’s a great quote on our faithful Shepherd from Robert Murray M’Cheyne:

“In the countries of the east, brethren, you know that the shepherd goes before the sheep, and they follow him. When he says, “Let us go to the well,” they follow him. When he says, “Let us go down into that dark valley,” they go after him. So it is with Christ. Christ never asked a sheep to go where he never went himself. He has borne all that he calls his sheep to bear.”

God is indeed good to us, in calling us to go nowhere but where He has already walked. The sermon from where this quote is taken can be read here.

Larry

Concluding Thoughts January 31, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

Thanks for your (lengthy) insights on cultural engagement.  I think you are certainly right that there are many areas in the Christian life in which we have freedom, and we must be careful to guard ourselves from enacting rules which would strip the freedom we have in Christ.

For some time I have said that the main question to ask about the “neutral” areas of Christian freedom (like movies and clothes, etc.) is to ask “What’s right about it?” instead of “What’s wrong with it?”  This is, I trust, what you were getting at when you said that we must ask ourselves how such and such a thing will help us to win the race.

The problem is that many people do not ask “What’s right?” about their music or their TV or their clothes or anything?  They live life asking only what’s wrong with it, as if they are content to “do” as little as they can in order to sufficiently appease God so that He will not send them to hell.  Surely that is not running the race in such a way as to win the prize.  If Christ has truly ravished our hearts, we will want to bring every area of our lives into conformity to His will.  We may not succeed perfectly in doing this, but that is the goal towards which we are striving for.

I am not in a place to judge Mark Driscoll’s life to find out why he is as “engaged” in the culture as he is.  Does he do it only so that others might be saved through his being able to “engage” with them on their level?  Does he do it because he has a love for the things of this world which he is not putting to death sufficiently?  I really have no way of knowing.  I only know that personally, I am not strong enough to even have a TV, let alone watch something as sexually provocative as MTV.  Driscoll seems to have no problem with that.  Is it that he is stronger than me, or is that he has been infected by the culture so much that he is not even able to tell how it affects him?  Surely I do not have the answer.

I do know that it is very possible to be culturally engaging without subjecting yourself to filth from the entertainment industry.  John Piper ministers to many people in the same age range as Driscoll; one trip to a DG conference reveals that pretty clearly.  He is “relevant” not because he can talk about the coolest TV shows, movies and music stars, but because he speaks a timeless message that is the satisfaction of every human heart’s desires.  Yes, that message needs to be put into words and sentences that connect with a particular cultural context, but I do not think that the possession of a TV, nor the naming of the latest stars, is needed to do that.

Matthew 5:17-19 is calling, brother.  If you want to muse out loud on something for the sake of the blog, how about looking at those verses?  It is a tough text, so I cannot spend too much more time pondering Driscoll’s strengths and weaknesses.  It is sufficient to say that, like all of us, he has both.  Where his weaknesses are is for him to discern, not me.  I have enough of my own to think about.

Larry

Becoming All Things to All Men January 31, 2007

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

I like this sticking to one topic thing.  A little on-line conversation is a good thing.  It helps me think through a topic a bit more than just jumping here and there.  I hope I am not alone and trust this is the case.   I suppose this is something of what we were envisioning from the beginning.  Let’s do it more.

Anyhow….back to the actual discussion at hand.  First, I’m not sure what you mean by saying that I had (have) the tendency to speak as if I had it all figured out (ha…ha!).  You are right brother.  Whatever we see clearly in others, we can usually know for certain that we can find it within.  This is no exception for sure.  I would also add that whatever we are presently fighting against within ourselves (for we usually have a few specific battles going on at any given time–provided we are actually fighting!), we are must more prone to see in others.  The fact that I am fighting for a more humble, gracious spirit makes me more and more prone to see it (possibly) lacking in others.  I want to know what it looks like brother.  So be one who shows me and I will strive for the same.

Next, a few thoughts regarding cultural engagement that served as part of our dinner conversation last night.  Abigail wasn’t too into it, but Erin was, so I’ll share.  We were talking about Paul’s verses in 1 Corinthians 9 where he speaks of becoming all things to all men.  You know them, but if you want to quote them, that’s probably a good idea.  I’ll just keep flowing here with the fast typing.  Anyhow, we were forced to ask ourselves a few questions like:  what does it mean to engage the culture?  And how can we ‘engage’ without compromise?  And how can we be like Paul today by becoming all things to all men without stumbling ourselves?  Here are a few thoughts.

First, we need to recognize that when it comes to any given culture, everything we see and encounter fits into one of three categories.  Either it is 1) ‘wrong’ and must be rejected  2) ‘right’ and it must be embraced  or  3)  ‘neutral’ and it must be discerned.   I got this from somewhere (probably from the conference Driscoll hosted actually).  I’m thinking it was Ed Stetzer, but I can’t remember.  Either way, I think it is right on.

Whether it be entertainment on television or simply the values we find our culture immersed in, or political decisions or styles of dress or whatever (and there is much more of course), we are desperate to figure out which one of these three categories they fit in.  Is it wrong, right, or neutral?  If it is (1) wrong, our action is simple:  reject it.  Get rid of it.  It has no place in our living for Christ and witnessing to His glory.  If it is (2) right, then be free to embrace it as a good thing and realize that it is probably a product of Christian influence (though not necessarily).  Use it with wisdom.  Don’t let it become a snare, but be fixed on Christ and make Him known.

Those are quite simple, but for the third–if it is neutral–I don’t think the action is so plain.  It requires some definite discernment.  And it is here that–in my humble opinion (and I hope it is humble!)–that we can find help in discerning the kind of things that we need to embrace to become all things to all men.  So, if whatever it is in culture or society that we are considering, is, in our opinion, neutral, I think we need to ask ourselves two questions.  Our answers will determine what we will or will not do with whatever it is we are wrestling with.

1)  How will embracing this help me run my race so as to win? (1 Corinthians 9:24-26).  And…

2)  How will embracing this help or hinder my bearing witness to the worthy and beauty and Lordship of Jesus Christ?

The two questions most definitely go hand in hand, primarily because if we truly run our race to win, we do what is best for our own witness to the worth and beauty and Lordship of Jesus and thus, the good of others.  But I would warn against our stopping there.  For too often I believe we can make our pursuit of victory in the Christian life a selfish matter.  It is possible, mind you, to become too caught up in your own sanctification.  Hear me on this one.  It’s not possible to become too caught up in God, however, it is possible to become too caught up in yourself even if in a religious or spiritual way.

And that is exactly why I think the second question is so important.  For it is only when we focus on the reign and rule of Jesus Christ in the hearts and minds of everyone in the world that we can truly grow in sanctification.  We grow in holiness not so much by focusing on our own holiness but by focusing on the Lord and on making Him known to others.

Naturally, this requires a certain degree of focus on others that will sometimes take us out of our little ‘Christian’ comfort zones in order to become all things to all men.  Let me try a few examples:  First, take something neutral like a movie (of course, not all movies are ‘neutral’ but that is another matter), say, ‘The DaVinci Code.”  Let me ask myself:  Is this helping me run my race to win?  My initial answer would probably be ‘no.’  I could think of numerous other activities that would stir my soul a great deal more and give me a greater fire for Christ.  But then I need to ask myself the question:  Would viewing this movie enable me to bear more faithful and fruitful witness to the worth and beauty of Jesus?  The answer: maybe.  It could be yes or no.  And the reality is, we might come to different answers–and that is entirely ok.  Such is the nature of Christian freedom.

Now, take one more example:  Clothing.  Ok, so some might say this isn’t neutral, but let’s just point out that clothing is neutral.  Styles might not be, but clothing itself is.  Anyhow, ask yourself after thinking of a specific style of dress (and this applies to both men and women, but quite possibly to women more):  Will this help me run my race so as to win?  Answer:  yes or no or neither (and for most of what I see for women in the stores, especially young women, I will answer for you:  No!).  If  you are then unsure though, ask yourself:  Will this specific style help me bear more faithful witness to Christ?  This should make things a little clearer.  Particularly for teenagers who who might think they need to dress like their friends to reach them, consider the possibility that you might reach them best by showing you aren’t enslaved to the fashions of this world, that is, by not dressing like them.  However, for those who think we should all go back to the 1880’s and dress like the people then, you might be a bit off.  Old styles aren’t any better than the new (provided they fit into the neutral category of course).  To a certain degree, dressing like the norm can be good for faithful witness to the gospel.

Again, this is a tough matter and one that is not so clear cut.  But this is exactly the reason why it calls for humility of heart.  We don’t have all the answers.  And we might end up differing with someone we love and respect.  What shall we do?  Keep on loving and respecting them of course!  And keep on doing all you can to run your race so as to win and to help others do the same.

On and on I could go in this steady stream of consciousness, but that is enough (or yes, maybe too much!) for now.  Give me your thoughts brother.  I look forward to them.

Seeking to run my race so as to win and help others do the same,

Joe

Wednesday Morning Prayer January 31, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:19-21)

Humble us, Father, under Your mighty hand. The rights of a piece of clay are non-existent in the all-powerful hand of its Potter. Keep us mindful, Lord, that You may do with us as You please. You do not answer to us; rather, we must answer to You. Remind us of the Creator-creature order, lest we be filled with pride and demand answers and explanations for Your infinitely wise purposes. Make us glad in being Your clay, and do with us, Lord, whatever pleases You. For we are Yours, and we exist only to magnify the riches of Your glory. Let us live joyfully for that glorious cause.

Larry

Removing our Specks January 30, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

Good word from you on the MacArthur/Driscoll post from earlier. As I mentioned in responding to Erin’s comment, I totally agree that MacArthur was negative throughout and that was not necessary. I think you know this already, but I want to make clear that I didn’t post his article because I agreed with him through and through, but because I thought it would stimulate some conversation among the Blog Nation. So far you and Erin have been the only ones to comment, but maybe others will follow.

I was struck in your last post by these words:

“You know I respect him (MacArthur) a great deal, but he speaks in that article as if he had all the answers, as if his church had everything figured out. And though I respect their church a great deal, I’m not willing to go there.”

I am grateful, brother, that you are not willing to go there. It is not a good place to go. But you know as well as I that we have gone just there in the past. In fact, I would say these exact words have been leveled at both of us from time to time, whether justly or unjustly. Many times, it has been justly. I know you have grown in this, bro, and I hope I have too. But it is something how the things that really can get under our skin are the very things that we are often guilty of ourselves. Let us strive to remove the specks in our own eyes before we seek to remove the logs in the eyes of MacArthur or Driscoll or anyone else.

Sometimes God bestows a wonderful grace on us by showing us our own sin through the lives of others. I hope wrestling through this article helps us to better discern and crucify the remnants of our own arrogant, critical spirits. Surely God has been gracious to give you victory. As I said, I hope others can testify that He has given me some victory as well, to the praise of His glory. May we continue to walk in a humility that adorns the great and glorious gospel of Christ.

Larry

Another Prayer Aide from Piper January 30, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links, Prayer.
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Joe,

I intend to respond to your last post regarding Johnny Mac And Driscoll later this afternoon, but for now I wanted to post a little resource that could be helpful to some.

John Piper gives several strategies to pray for the soul; whether it be ours or another person’s. I know that personally, prayer can be so difficult at times because my mind is so disorganized, that having lists like this is a a great help to making sure that we pray for the things that are close to God’s heart.

Check it out, and my prayer is that your prayers for your own soul and for others would be strengthened and energized by this list.

Larry

Embracing the Good, While Rejecting the Bad January 30, 2007

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

Alright, so let’s get this conversation started a little bit regarding the article you posted yesterday. It was an interesting one, no doubt, and one that didn’t surprise me. John MacArthur is a man I highly respect. As I expected, I walked away unsurprised by his convictions. And as usual, his expresses himself very clearly and persuasively. Here are a few thoughts.

First, as Erin pointed out to me before I read the article (there’s your shout out love!), MacArthur didn’t affirm anything about Driscoll. The few things mentioned were that his soteriology (‘study of salvation’) and systematic theology were right on. But the context was one in which he was clearly not commending Driscoll. The whole of those paragraphs were in fact, quite critical.

This bothers me not because MacArthur was wrong about what he said, but because it seems quite difficult to me to point out what someone is doing wrong without affirming and embracing what they are doing right. The question I would have to ask would be: is there anything in Driscoll’s thought that is worth embracing? Or to even an esteemed man like John MacArthur, is there anything in your thought that might be lacking in this area of cultural engagement? Frankly, the tone of the article would lead me to believe that I would receive a ‘no’ answer–and I don’t think that is good.

And the reason I don’t think it is good is again not because Driscoll doesn’t do things that aren’t good. I agree that Driscoll says things from the pulpit that shouldn’t be said in the pulpit. And maybe he focuses too much on cultural engagement. However, is it possible that most Reformed folks today focus too little on cultural engagement? Is it possible that we, in large part, are ministering to a culture that was 40 years ago?

I think it needs to be said that everyone is ministering to a particular cultural context whether they realize it or not. Driscoll might overdue it, but I have to wonder if it is possible also to ‘underdo’ it. Also, I think it needs to be pointed out that when we have discussions like this, we need to carefully define what we mean by ‘culture.’ I would suspect that Driscoll would disagree with how MacArthur said he would define. So that could lead to us having to go back to square one.

Anyhow, that is point number one (sort of). I could ramble on, but that is enough to get the ball rolling for now. In summary, I would have liked to have heard something that sounded humble by Dr. MacArthur. You know I respect him a great deal, but he speaks in that article as if he had all the answers, as if his church had everything figured out. And though I respect their church a great deal, I’m not willing to go there. And I doubt he would go there either. For I believe Driscoll does have an emphasis that we need to hear. Now, it is quite possible that he goes too far in that emphasis. But I think we need to be careful about going too far in the other direction. And the tendency to do so will be quite strong when we run into a brother like Mark Driscoll.

Alright, give me your thoughts brother. I look forward to them (and to giving you some more!).

Seeking to grow in wisdom and honor the Lord in all things,

Joe

Tuesday Morning Prayer January 30, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“The lips of the righteous feed many…” (Proverbs 10:21).

We know, Lord, from the book of James, that the tongue can be an instrument of great hurt and evil.  But when we have seen and cherished the gospel of Christ, our lips are to become instruments of righteousness, through which others would come to know and love You more.  Help us, Lord, to speak in such a way that many would be fed with the words of life.  Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from Your mouth.  So open our mouths to speak Your words, so that the souls of Your people would be nourished with Your glorious truth.  Guard us from all malicious, destructive speech, and empower us to speak only that which edifies others and exalts our Lord Jesus.

Larry

Johnny Mac on Mark Driscoll January 29, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

I can remember a day when your theological world revolved around John MacArthur (and the Bible of course!). But we don’t mention him too much anymore. I’m wondering what you think about this article in which MacArthur says some pretty challenging things about Mark Driscoll’s ministry philosophy of cultural engagement. Plus, I have to say it was a bit humorous to hear (or read, I suppose) MacArthur use the phrase, ‘Gangsta Rap’! Here’s a nugget from Johnny Mac:

“Even when you marry such worldliness with good systematic theology and a vigorous defense of substitutionary atonement, the soundness of the theoretical doctrine doesn’t sanctify the wickedness of the practical lifestyle. The opposite happens. Solid biblical doctrine is trivialized and mocked if we’re not doers of the Word as well as teachers of it.”

And I thought these words were especially tough:

“His defense of substitutionary atonement might help his disciples gain a good grasp of the doctrine of justification by faith; but the lifestyle he models—especially his easygoing familiarity with all this world’s filthy fads—practically guarantees that they will make little progress toward authentic sanctification.”

Check the whole article out. MacArthur, as always, is not shy about telling us how he feels! And I think he makes some legitimate points. I trust you know I’m not posting these quotes as a way of bashing Driscoll. As we have discussed earlier, he is an interesting character. I can certainly learn some things from him. But I think MacArthur is right in saying that his level of cultural engagement is a bit perplexing. Let me know what you think; I’d love to go back and forth a bit on this one.  And of course the rest of the bloggers are welcome to join in too!

Larry

Random Monday Musings January 29, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

Thanks for keeping things rolling the last few days, it is very nice to have this be a ‘conversation’ between two friends rather than the monologue it has been over the past few weeks. Then I went away and left you to do a monologue with yourself!

The title of this post suggests that I am still getting back in the swing of the things after the retreat this past weekend, and I probably won’t be fully in ‘blog-mode’ until tomorrow (whatever being in blog-mode means!). But I did want to thank you for your informative posts over the last couple of days and for getting us back into the gospel of John! Good stuff, brother, on the glorious workings of the Triune God.

Also, I had intended to put that Mohler article up and it slipped my mind, but we were exactly on the same page with that one. Reading is often scoffed at by people who think that Christians should just get out there and do something rather than fill their minds with information. But I trust it’s your conviction too that right actions that honor Christ will flow out of the apprehension of right thinking about Him. And if our thinking does not manifest itself in acts of love, then we haven’t learned as we need to!

The retreat was quite a blessing, to my own soul and I hope to many of our students. Preaching five messages was incredibly humbling. Because there was so much to prepare, I felt totally unprepared going into most of the messages. I mean, I did do preparation, but it is a lot different when five messages are going through the brain than just the one that is usually burning within me. My mind was all over the place and as I stood up before the group at the beginning of each session, I was truly desperate for God to speak through me because I knew that in and of myself, I had nothing.

And of course, that is a great place to be: utterly dependent on the Almighty and desperate for His mercy. Each session, He came through in a mighty way, and it was encouraging to know that it had nothing to do with me, and all to do with Him and His glorious grace. Of course, time will tell what the enduring fruit is in the students who heard the challenge to ‘run in such a way as to win the prize.’ But I know that I was blessed in seeing God glorify Himself by sustaining me physically and spiritually through a couple of draining days. Thanks to all those who were praying for me.

I also had a hearty Amen for you in the area of the Lord’s Supper. We finished the retreat yesterday morning by taking the Lord’s Supper together, and it was a sweet and sobering time. Those two words do not fit together well in the bulk of our culture, but in the eyes of the Kingdom some of the sweetest things in life are also very sobering. Life is indeed serious. Joyful, but serious.

Anyway, yesterday was the first time I was able to lead the time of communion and it was a great blessing. It is true that the Lord’s Supper can become such a routine that it loses its spiritual beauty and wonder. But God really opened my eyes yesterday to see what a staggering thing it is to be able to ‘proclaim the Lord’s death’ in the taking of the elements. It was for me, a highlight of the weekend, and a great way to keep the Cross at the center of a weekend which had to do in large part with our response to God in the pursuit of Him.

Even in our daily pursuit, we are utterly dependent on the Cross: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil. 3:12). We run hard after God not because it is the way of obtaining favor with Him, but because Christ has made us His own by faith alone. And even that faith was a God-given gift! The pursuit of God is the evidence of salvation, not the means of obtaining salvation. So to run the race we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on the saving work of Christ crucified for sinners. The Lord’s Supper was a great reminder of that yesterday.

Alright, these have truly been some random musings, but I wanted to at least get up an update and thank you for your prayers. I may be taking it easy on the blog the rest of the day, but I am grateful that you have been making up for lost time the last couple of days!

Talk to you later, brother,

Larry

Language and the Glory of God January 29, 2007

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

I’m thinking you are in full swing blogging today brother, but I’ll see if I can get a good word in here.   I don’t have time for John 1:4 although it is my hope and pray that I will get through a few verses in the next few days.  If the Lord wills….I will blog and do this or that.  That’s Scripture right?

Anyhow, I had a thought the other day (just one thought that is) concerning language.  As you might know, I hear a good bit of Spanish these days.  Most of it I don’t understand, but I am picking up on more and more.  It takes time and a great of focus.  Combined with my hearing a great deal of Spanish, I was looking through some notes I had on a Hermeneutics book I have to read for school.  Anyhow, at one point, the author said something to the effect that the point of language was to understand and be understood.  I liked that.  And in light of those two realities, I want to say more.

For what struck me was how central the use of language is to our human experience and to the work of redemption.  Allow me to state the obvious for a second:  we Christians submit our lives and thoughts and conducts to a Book.  Of course, we would call it the book, but either way, it’s still a book.  And it contains words and sentences and verbs and all that good stuff.  We read it and have the way in which we think renewed.  Then we begin to talk and act differently and our conduct and speech somehow–when combined with the conduct and speech of many others doing the same–changes the environment in which we live.  So we respond to speech that has been written in a book with lives that change the world.

But what also must be noted is the centrality of speech in the way in which we change the world.  Look at what you do:  preach the Word–in my opinion the most important thing in all the world (and that is not an understatement).  You look at speech all week (and blog a bunch of course!) and then speak about that speech.  And your speaking (combined with all the other great preaching going on) changes the world.  Or the combined speech of a bunch of preachers who failed to look at speech all week changes the world for the worse.  For then they just get up on their soap boxes with a bunch of shallow nonsense that doesn’t help anyone, but that’s another matter.

Actually, it isn’t another matter.  It’s the same matter.  The speech of the preacher changes the world.  America is now filled with preachers who speak little about ‘Bible speech’ and a lot about ‘whatever people seem to want to hear speech’ (an interesting term I realize).  And what is the outcome but a shallow Christianity and a sinking culture.

Also, and this was in fact, my original thought believe it or not, we must realize the degree to which we shape the world around us by our words.  The whole atmosphere of a room can be changes (for good or ill) with a few spoken words.  There is an incredible degree of power to what we say.  Thus, it is imperative for us to understand and be understood.  And to take seriously the Lord’s warnings that we will be judged for every careless word that we speak.  For by our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned.  That is some serious stuff.

There is more of course, but my time is up for now.  Let us labor brother to study the word of Scripture and speak the words of God.  And mind you that this isn’t merely for the preacher (although that’s huge of course), but this is for every human being in every sphere of existence (including pro-basketball players).   It is vital for us to speak in such a way and with such words that we help mold and shape the environment in which we live for the glory of God.  May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us words of power once again.  And may you, brother, be a man who studies speech and proclaims speech in such a way that others cannot help but speak about all they have seen and heard.

Speaking of His riches with you,

Joe

Monday Morning Prayer January 29, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules” (Psalm 119:164).

Give us grace, Father, to love Your law. You are good and You do good, and all Your commandments are for our good and for Your glory. Help us to come before You not only once or twice, but multiple times throughout the day to give You praise for all that You are and all that You have promised us in Your Word.

Grudem in Class January 28, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

You know I love his Systematic Theology (it is my nightly read and I think you are reading it now as well), so these mp3 lectures are definitely worth checking out.

Peace,

Joe

The Lord’s Supper January 28, 2007

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
2 comments

Lar,

I trust the Lord is granting you grace to stir your ‘crew’ up to action.  Or to be more precise: up to disciplined action.  It is sorely needed in the Christian community–and every community.  Sadly, we are now some very undisciplined people, so your messages regarding the diligent pursuit of God, with, I trust, a particular emphasis on that which occurs in private, are much needed I am sure.  I pray that the Spirit of God moves in such a way that resolves are made, resolves that last.

My thought for the day comes from church.  Yes, I was thinking about blogging while at church, weak fellow I am.  Of course, you have to remember that I can’t understand 98% of what is going down.  But I’ll stop making excuses.  Anyhow, what struck me this morning is the blessing that is the Lord’s Supper.  The church we attend here takes it every week.  That might sound like a lot to those who aren’t use to such a practice.  I can understand.  There was only one other church that we attended (a PCA church in Kansas City) that took the Supper every week.  When I first realized that that was their practice, I was inclined to think that the ordinance might lose its power.  But this was definitely not the case.  In fact, I grew to enjoy the practice.

And that has indeed been the case here.  Of course, one more element must be considered, namely, the fact that it is more or less the only message I can understand in the whole service!  But isn’t that one of the beauties of the ordinance?  I think so.  The Lord has filled His Word with word pictures that magnify the glory of our Savior.  And He gives us His ‘Supper’ to do the same.  And when we take it every week, we can count on hearing the gospel loud in clear, no matter what the sermon text might be.  Not to mention, sins must be confessed, and a certain degree of reverence is enjoyed within the assembly of the saints as we think of our sin and flee to the cross.  Then we are able to meditate on our union with the Savior as we partake of the bread and the cup.

I am thankful for the Supper!  The Lord knows our frame, that we are but dust, and He ordains His ordinances accordingly.  We are wise to focus in and enjoy for the sake of His great name.

Alright brother.  Lord willing, I will catch you soon.

Partaking of Christ with you,

Joe

Sunday Morning Prayer January 28, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“1Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! 3Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150)

Fill our hearts, Lord with praise that bursts forth from our innermost being as the psalmist does here. While all of creation testifies to Your glory, You have fashioned us as humans to uniquely put You on display. We alone are said to be created “in Your image.” Grant us this day, Lord, to worship You in a manner worthy of that high calling. Fill our tongues with praise and our hearts with adoration for You, our King and Savior.

Larry

A Must Read on Reading January 27, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links.
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By Al Mohler.  I would encourage everyone to read it.  In my opinion, we can’t speak too much about this subject.  We do not realize how illiterate we are becoming as a culture.  I know that I, for one, always wish I had read more.  How many of us will come to our final day regretting the massive amounts of time we spent on current media compared to the few hours we spend in books?  For us, a life of no regrets means more reading.  So I need to stop blogging and pick up a book!

Joe

John 1:3 January 27, 2007

Posted by Joe in Gospel of John.
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Lar,

It is good for us to return to the gospel of John.  Now that is a great understatement huh?  For sure it is!  Anyhow, you charged me with commenting on verse 4 during your weekend away (which I am of course praying for brother!), but after reviewing our posts so far, I think verse 3 is deserving of more words.  After all, it doesn’t seem like we are in any rush to get through the book.  And it surely won’t hurt lingering over the Scriptures!

John 1:3 reads, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Again, we find John emphasizing the fact that Jesus is Divine.  Of course, he is not doing so explicitly in this verse, but implicitly.  By saying that all things were made through Jesus Christ–the Word–John is clearly implying that He is above the created order.  That is to say that Jesus Christ is Creator!

Yet the word through is an important one.  Though the Triune God always acts in harmony with Himself in His three Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do perform different functions or roles.  There is a clear economy of action within the Trinity–or it should be said, a glorious economy of action within the Trinity.  Though they act as One and as equals, God the Father is clearly stated to be the One from whom are all things, while Jesus Christ is the One through whom are all things.  And that is an important distinction.  1 Corinthians 8:5-6 makes this plain.

“For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Lest we think that this somehow implies an inferiority of the Son to the Father, we are wise to look at the created order and in particular, the marriage relationship.  The Bible makes plain that the husband and wife are equal persons.  Both have been created in the image of God (“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27)  However, in the marriage relationship, the male and female perform different roles or function.  The Bible makes plain that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church and as God is the head of Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:3 says,

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

This points plainly and significantly to the great reality that there can be and is equality within the Persons of the Trinity (and in this case specifically, the Father and the Son) while those Persons perform different roles or functions and in fact, submit to one another.  Marriage is beautiful when the husband is properly and faithfully performing his role as the head and the wife is properly and faithfully performing her role in submission to her husband.  Such marriages are supposed to be a faint reflection of the submission within the Trinity.  Marriage is a high calling indeed!

Back to the point, however, we can see that the world was created by the Father through the Son.  Other verses could be cited, but suffice it to say that verse 3 of John chapter 1 makes plain the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things as Creator and God.  “Without [Jesus Christ] was not any thing made that was made.”  Such truth should make us fall down at His sovereign feet in adoration in worship.  And it should especially do so when we keep at the forefront of our minds what He, the Creator, has done for us!

Lines such as these in Scripture should and must cause worship deep within our souls for the One who, though He created all things, submitted Himself to the rules of the created order, to that we might be reconciled to our God and take part in His great work of redemption!  Let us labor to keep such glorious truth in view as we worship our Maker and Sustainer–Jesus Christ.  And let us never fear of exulting in Him too much!

I’m praying that your preaching this weekend might point those listening to seek Him harder and rejoice in Him more.  May the Lord grant you mercy brother.

Basking in the One through whom God the Father created all things,

Joe

Saturday Morning Prayer January 27, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Father, we yearn to be free from this world and its crippling, soul-decaying lusts. We are hungry to be alive to You and all that You are. We confess that the road is difficult, and our flesh is weak. We are powerless apart from Your grace. Please Father, for the sake of Your name and for the glory of Your kingdom, mold us, transform us, and conform us to Your image and likeness. Crucify us to this dark world, and let us delight no longer in the bait of Satan. May we become, both in our hearts and in our actions, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for Your own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of You who have called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light. For it is there, in Your light, that we long to dwell. We ask these things for Christ’s sake, and in His name.

Out For the Weekend January 26, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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I want to thank those who have been praying for me over the past week or two as I’ve been preparing messages for a retreat that begins tonight. I’m taking off in around an hour, so I’m going to leave the blog in the capable hands of Joe for the weekend (assuming he still has internet access!)

I do have a couple of prayers scheduled to go up in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, but I’ve found that setting the posts to go up at a scheduled time does not always ensure that they actually get posted. So hopefully they will go up as scheduled. Otherwise, Joe can fill us in on life in Spain (and hopefully give us some thoughts on John 1:4!).

Thanks again for the prayers, and if anyone reads this over the weekend, keep them coming! I will need it with five messages to be preached over the next 36 hours!

Larry

I’m Back for Good (if the Lord wills) January 26, 2007

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Yo brother,

Sorry about missing you yesterday and this morning (for you), but for some reason our telephone and Internet were non-existent since early yesterday morning. It was an interesting turn of events, as you might imagine. We were excited to get things back in order and in contact with everyone, but then we find out that for whatever strange reason, there was a central communication issue that led our line to be cut. No matter the horizontal reason, I trust there were some good vertical ones that I one will day learn of in Heaven.

At the very least, I thought it to be a situation that highlights the importance of saying that phrase, Lord willing, or ‘if the Lord wills.’ I use it quite often, but I’m not sure that I used it in my last post. But isn’t it O so true! How often we take for granted a certain situation or circumstance (either present of future) that never comes to pass. Or at least doesn’t come to pass to the degree that we might like.

Also, it is worth noting the way that the Lord will many times grant a blessing for a season only to take it away at another time. Or take it right away for a season. It’s as if He gives us a taste of a certain blessing at the front, then takes it away, so that we will fully appreciate and enjoy it down the road when it returns. I have seen this time and again in my life, from the little things to the big things. And I believe it proves true in all of our lives. And if we haven’t seen it yet, maybe this post will help shine some light on either a past or future circumstances. The Lord isn’t interested in simply granting blessings for blessings sake. Instead, He grants blessings with a view to having them appreciated and enjoyed in such a way that He is honored.

Often, this means He will grant a taste of the blessing, then take it away, only to give it again. Why? For our good and His glory–so jealous is He for the two! If nothing else, we can know for certain that our sovereign God delights to work for His people in such a way that He aims to bring utmost satisfaction in His Son. And He does this through both the big things and the small things. There is nothing outside His sovereign control. The death of a sparrow or the coming and going of an Internet connection. Nothing takes Him off guard. Nothing happens without a purpose and a plan. There is such comfort and joy in this truth!

Also, one more thing is worth noting: I find it interesting and awe-inspiring that the Lord tends to do a great work through the little inconveniences of life. I think we miss Him here quite often. Sure, it is wise to talk about learning from God and drawing closer to God during the difficult seasons of life, but what about when your little girl pees her pants (which literally just occurred and interrupted this post!)? Or when you lose the Internet you just got? Or when your AC is down? Or when someone stops by at the most invonvenient moment? Etc. Etc. How we respond in these unexpected moments speaks volumes about where we really are with the Lord. For such moments, I am very thankful and thus, rejoice. The Lord is working on us in a thousand different, and perfectly wise ways. Most of the time, we don’t even know He is working–and that makes it all the more glorious!

Alright, enough for now brother. Lord willing, I am back on line for good, with many more posts coming!

Beholding His glory and grace in the details and inconveniences of life with you,

Joe

p.s. I wrote most of this post before catching up with the past few days posts.  Incidentally, I think much of it fits perfectly with your last post re: gratitude.  The presence of thanksgiving–continual thanksgiving that is–is an incredible deterrent to poor and sinful responses to the inconveniences of life (which are of course, the Lord’s good and providential will).  Nothing brings peace like thanksgiving.  It is quite possibly the best way to fight when we begin to feel ourselves a bit out of sort.  So with all that being said, Amen to your last post brother.  Let us rejoice in His good graces and gifts, being thankful always in obedience to His word!