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Great Testimony May 31, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

Here’s a great testimony from the Desiring God blog about a risk-taker for the Kingdom.

Such stories are such a refreshment, and a challenge: what am I doing to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light?

Larry

Calvary Love May 31, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes.
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Joe,

The first time I posted this, back in December, I think you suggested that we frequently be reminded of this portion of a prayer from Valley of Vision.  We have several new readers since then, and for the sake of our own soul’s joy in the glory of Christ’s love, here it is again:

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell’s worst
that I might attain heaven’s best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped away from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded
brightness,
expired that I might for ever live.

Thursday Morning Prayer May 31, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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And Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.

“There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s,
and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the power of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

Mohler on Transgender Pastor May 30, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

Thanks for posting those words from Newton. Sovereign Grace Ministries has a song on the Bob Kauflin Hymns Project that comes from those words, called The Look. Check it out if you have a chance.

I’m a bit busy today, but here’s an interesting article by Al Mohler on a Methodist pastor who decided she didn’t want to be a woman anymore. An excerpt:

“The saddest part of the Sun’s report comes when the pastor claims that “today God’s gift of medical science is enabling me to bring my physical body in alignment with my true gender.” This is an illusion of incredible tragedy. Modern medicine is truly capable of many wonders, but it cannot turn a woman into a man, nor a man into a woman. Doctors may perform drastic surgery and prescribe hormone therapies, but they cannot make a woman into a man. Rev. Drew Phoenix will be no more capable of biological fatherhood than Rev. Ann Gordon. Those who overlook this fact are hiding from reality.”

I’m grateful for Mohler’s commitment to expose the lies of our culture,

Larry

Update: I made a change in the title of this post, which was originally called ‘Mohler on the Methodist Church. A reader wisely and humbly suggested to me that the title I had put on it unnecessarily implicated the entire Methodist Church in this one instance. He was quick to point out that not all Methodists would embrace this pastor’s decision, and felt that my title could have given people a wrong impression.

Many thanks to the humble brother who pointed this out to me, and loved me enough to correct me.

The Gospel May 30, 2007

Posted by Joe in Quotes.
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Lar,

More on the hard texts sometime tomorrow, but I came across this poem by John Newton. I am sure you have seen it, because C.J. Mahaney cites it in Living the Cross-Centered Life (I am reading through it again). I just had to post it. I want to encourage everyone to make sure they read it out loud–and with passion. Read with some fire! For these are very powerful words that are meant to stir both our thoughts and affections.

In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear;
Till a new object struck my sight
And stopped my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree
In agonies and blood;
Who fixed his languid eyes on me
As near his cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath
Can I Forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt
And helped to nail him there.

Alas, I knew not what I did
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave which said
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for they ransom paid
I died that thou mayest live.”
Thus while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by him I killed.”

May we take pains to continually marvel at God’s work in the gospel!

Thankful for the good news,
Joe

Wednesday Morning Prayer May 30, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down. (Psalm 18:27)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, Jesus said, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. You despise the proud, but You take delight in rescuing the humble.  Deliver us, O God, from our selfish pride.  Remind us today that we are but dust, and that all of our righteousness are as filthy rags before You.  We cannot merit Your favor, unless we are clothed in the righteousness of another.  And to the praise of Your glory, You have provided such a substitute.  Help us to be able to say with Paul, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.’  Slay all pride and arrogance that remains within us, and help us to cling to You for life and breath and everything.

Speaking of Hard Texts… May 29, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

In light of the discussion earlier today, I was reminded of this text in Judges 14 that I read a few mornings ago. I had intended to write a bit about it then, but never got around to it:

“1Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” 3But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” 4His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.”

Here are the facts:

Samson wanted to marry a Philistine woman, which was not lawful for Israelites to do.

His parents pleaded with him not to do it, but to take an Israelite wife according to the Law.

Samson refused and committed sin in doing so.

The writer tells us that Samson’s sinful actions were ‘from the Lord’, because He was seeking an opportunity to judge the Philistines.

Now that is a tough text! Since you gave us such good instruction from a tough text in Isaiah, what do we do with that one, brother?

Larry

Them and Us May 29, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

Looks like it didn’t take you long to swing back into old form on the blog, brother!  I knew you’d be back with a bang this week, and you wasted little time in bringing a tough Scripture before us.  The verses in Isaiah you shared and your words along with it made me think of two things:

1) Great spiritual food is found in the hard texts of Scripture.  It is natural to read verses like the ones you shared and be inclined to read right over them, looking for something more palatable and easier to understand.  There are not many people who like to give thought to the idea of ‘judicial hardening’; God giving people over to their hardness of heart by blinding them to further revelation.  People like to think even less about the fact that, though we are all equally condemned by the Law, alienated from God because of our sin and objects of His just wrath, that God does not judicially harden all of us, but some He graciously and miraculously awakens to new life in Christ.

While these truths aren’t popular, your post reminded me that there are precious, valuable lessons to be found in the hard places.  One of my favorite Piper quotes is that ‘Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves.  Digging is harder, but you might find diamonds.’  So true, isn’t it?  There are diamonds to be found in the Bible’s hard sayings.  Let us not neglect them, to our own soul’s harm.

2) We must first apply the Scriptures to us, not others.  I was especially struck by the ‘us’ which you placed in italics in your last sentence: “May the Lord grant us repentance soon.”  I was thankful  for your awareness that we must start dealing with our own evasiveness in dealing with God’s truth, because in much of what you wrote leading up to that last sentence, it seemed like a lot of the focus was on pointing the finger at others.  There was a lot of ‘They’ and ‘Them’ in your post, so I think it was very valuable that you brought it back to ‘us’ at the end.  How easy it is to read the Word, or hear a sermon, and think of how someone else needs to hear that word, while never looking at our own hearts.

Very dangerous, I know you would agree.  So while I loved your reflections on this passage, let’s strive to apply it first to our own hearts,which are soft only by the grace of God,

Larry

Lessons from Isaiah May 29, 2007

Posted by Joe in Scripture Meditation.
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Lar,

So I was reading Isaiah 29 today and came across these words,

“Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with win;
stagger, but not with strong drink!
For the Lord has poured out upon you
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers).

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’ And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read'” (Isaiah 29:9-12).

Those are some intense words huh? But there they are in sacred Scripture. The first thing we should point out is that Isaiah was clearly prophesying of a coming judgment upon Jerusalem in this passage. He spoke about the coming judgment quite a bit. Israel had grown wicked and the enemy was coming as the agency of God’s judgment. Jerusalem would soon be destroyed and the Jewish people taken into Babylonian captivity.

Yet Isaiah also notes a behind the scenes work here–another aspect of the Lord’s judgment upon His people. The work? Verse 10 says that the Lord Himself has closed the eyes and covered the heads of the people. And the parathenses make it plain that He has done so through the raising up of false prophets and poor leaders. Verse 11 and 12 then point out that because of the presence of these false prophets no one can understand Isaiah’s prophesy. They all look around and think he is mad. They have spent so much time sitting under false prophets and poor leaders that when a good word comes along, they have no ability to understand it. Whoever has, to him more will be given, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

A few lessons to point out. 1) When the Lord is going to judge a religious people, we should expect a great growth in the number of both poor and false teachers. In this age, it means we should expect teachers who barely speak of Christ while calling themselves Christians. It also means that leaders will be raised up in our churches who might not even be Christians. The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If we have eyes to see, we can’t help but look around and see the possibility of coming judgment.

2) The more people listen to either poor or false teachers, the less capable they will be of understanding faithful, God-centered teachers. Sadly, we see this in the church all the time. People who have sat in church for years under pathetic teaching (maybe not even false, but barely surviving at least), all the sudden hear the good news with clarity and they think the guy preaching (or sharing) it is nuts. We have probably experienced this from various fronts, family, friends, and audiences of all kinds. People have their religion. They have heard the prophets before. They have heard the Word preached–or so they think. All the sudden the real thing comes along and it is as a book that is sealed. Their hearts have been hardened by poor teaching. Their capacity for truth has shriveled to the point that they call that which is true false. What a very dangerous and sad thing.

Our only hope brother is for an outpouring of the Spirit of God. New eyes must be given to the thousands who sit in church blind as can be. It’s as if they can’t read–or at least they don’t want to open the scroll. They are comfortable. They are at ease. They have their religion. And they would rather hold onto that which is false (or paltry) instead of rejecting it for richer waters. We need a miracle. We need a work of God. Or else we will have to face up to His work of judgment.

Tough realities, but it seems wise to face up to them and embrace the burden that automatically comes. What other choice do we have as the people of God? Sadly, most seem to refuse to face the facts and instead choose to drown them out with the great noice of the present day. May the Lord grant us repentance soon.

Seeking the Lord for a great work of His Spirit,
Joe

Tuesday Morning Prayer May 29, 2007

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Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. (John 21:4)

This is not an isolated post-resurrection incident.  There are several times where You appeared to Your disciples, yet their eyes were kept from seeing that it was You.  How gracious You were in dwelling among Your people and in speaking to them the words of life, yet they did not know that it was You who was beside them.  In the same way, how many times are You dwelling in our midst, speaking tenderly to us, but our eyes and ears are not opened to the revelation of Yourself.  Give us sensitivity to Your Spirit, Lord, so that in any and every experience we would know Your deep and abiding presence.  May the clouds of our circumstances not veil our eyes from the bright Shining Son who is with us always, to the end of the age.

A Quick Lesson May 28, 2007

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

As has been quite apparent over the past few weeks, I have not been in my best blogging shape. Playoffs took quite a bit more time and energy (and changed the schedule). But now I find myself in a different season of life. The season is over sadly and adjustments need to be made. One of those adjustments is getting back into blogging condition.

Now, although you know I thorougly enjoy blogging with you brother, I have to admit that I didn’t feel like blogging today brother. I wrote countless emails, but I was hesitant to blog. Why? I mean, afterall, I have blogged consistently with you for what is it, 10 or 11 months now? What’s my hold up?

The answer is plain. The longer we leave off a paricular exercise or habit, the harder it is to regain our former shape. As is the case with hoops, there is a big difference between sitting out for 3 weeks and sitting out for 3 months. If you choose the latter, getting back into shape is all the harder. So it is even with a simple thing like blogging–or anything else. Our habitual muscles are either getting stronger or weaker.

As it relates to life, there are numerous lessons we can learn. From a very pratical perspective, what are we as Christians doing to change our bad habits? And/or what are we doing to regain habits now lost? These habits of which I speak could be anything from reading the Word to how we respond to our kids to what time we wake up in the morning (which is another thing that got off base for me during these past few weeks).

My advice is simply to do what we know we need to do whether we feel like it or not. Usually, this is the safest bet, because on this fallen planet it isn’t often that I feel like doing all that I know I should do. So I encourage everyone, reflect on your habits. What needs to go? What needs to return? Then pray for the grace and make the call. Schedule it on (as I have blogging for the coming week). And get the ball rolling by taking a first step right now. After a few minutes, you might find yourself right back into form. That is, you might find yourself writing yet another long blog post!

Until later brother.
Changing my habits by the grace of God,
Joe

Monday Morning Prayer May 28, 2007

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Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.” (Psalm 16:1-2)

May these words be a true expression of our heart’s satisfaction in You, O God.  ‘I have no good apart from You.’  Help us to truly embrace this, and to receive all our joys in this world as revealing more of You, the true giver of joy.  As David would write at the end of this Psalm, in Your presence is fullness of joy, and at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Help us this day to really feel in the heart, and not merely acknowledge with our lips, that in all the joys of this life, You are our deepest joy.  Grant that we hold everything in this world loosely, knowing that all of it can be taken away from us, yet nothing can separate us from Your love in Christ.  May Christ be the supreme treasure of our hearts, today and every day.

Sunday with Larry and Michelle May 27, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

So we’ve been slacking a bit over the last few days, don’t you think?  Hopefully you’ll get us off to a good start to the week tomorrow, though it is a holiday for us in the States!

Since I don’t have much time to write anything, I figured I would just post this sermon on biblical headship that Michelle and I will be watching together in a little bit.  In the midst of a busy season, we are trying to get some rest today and as I have mentioned before, this series of messages by Piper on marriage have ministered to our souls.

If anyone else has a chance to listen/watch/read it, let me know your thoughts,

Larry

Sunday Morning Prayer May 27, 2007

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O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved. (Psalm 15)

O God, make us fit and acceptable worshipers of You this day.  The only one who can ascend Your holy hill is the one who is blameless and does what is right.  And so we praise You for the Cross of our Lord Jesus, where You cleansed us from all iniquity, provided for us the perfect righteousness of Your Son, and purified for Yourself a people of Your own possession, zealous for good deeds.  So help us this day, Father, to walk in practice with the righteousness that we have positionally in Christ.

Thinking Like Theologians May 25, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

This post is a response to Jim W.’s comment on a previous post titled The Importance of Deep Thought. If you haven’t read Jim’s comment, give it a read by scrolling to the bottom of that post.

As is always the case with Jim, his comments are wise and perceptive. Because he’s more of an ‘artist’ than I am, he is able to get in their minds much better than I am able to. His dissection of the song ‘Why?’ is very good and accurate, much better than I could have done! But of course, as I read, I had some thoughts come to mind. So what follows are three things I would say in response to Jim; not to critique his comments, but simply to keep the discussion going.

First, all people are theologians. Every person who listens to the song ‘Why?’, or any Christian song, is a theologian in some sense. Jim mentioned that most Christian songwriters are first and foremost artists, not theologians. That is probably true in capturing their thinking, but should that be something that we are okay with? I’m not an authority, but I don’t think I’m okay with it. Theology is but a fancy word for the study or contemplation of God. Which means that Nordeman, every songwriter, and every listener of Christian music is in a sense ‘doing theology’ in writing and listening to Christian music.

From reading Jim’s comment, I got the sense (and maybe I was wrong) that he was saying that artists should not be held to the same high theological standards that a preacher should be held to. Jim suggested that while a hymn or song for corporate worship should be held to higher scrutiny, a ‘pop-song’ like ‘Why?’ shouldn’t be held to that same standard. I think that I would humbly disagree with that perspective, and for why I disagree, I share my second point of response to Jim:

Second, too many Christians today are dependent on Christian authors and artists for Truth. Why should Christian pop artists strive for strong theological accuracy in all their songwriting? Because I think that many well-meaning Christians blindly assume that if a woman as popular as Nichole Nordeman says this in a song about Jesus, then it must be true.

I wish that all people who listened to music thought about what they listened to the way Jim does. But I highly doubt that the majority of people do. While Jim may be right that I was theologically dissecting the song too much, I would venture to say that Jim artistically dissected the song far more than the average listener would. The average listener would assume that Nordeman knows what she is talking about, and that if she’s singing it then it is true.

My desire would be to see Christian artists who know that people look to them as a source of truth, and therefore striving for theological precision in all their words. If I should strive for theological precision in opening the Word of God for 25 young people on Sunday night, then I think Nordeman and other Christian artists should strive for the same precision when they write songs about Jesus which millions of people will listen to and form thoughts about God from. But maybe I’m wrong about that, I don’t know.

My third point of response is to simply say this: I long for the day when we in the Church will have our affections shaped by the Truth, and not the other way around. CJ Mahaney writes about this perceptively in his book Living the Cross Centered Life in a chapter called The Divine Order. First comes truth, then comes affections. In his comment, Jim wrote,

“Artists are people who minister to us exactly because they feel life and emotions more deeply than the rest of us non-artists. They are called to stir in us these emotions.”

I agree with him on this, but still would add that to stir in us emotions in a way that honors God, Christian artists should be arousing emotions with the truth of God’s Word. God wants us to think deeply (1 Corinthians 14:20) and feel deeply. And the depths of our feelings should be proportionate to the depth of truth.

Far too many Christians think with their emotions, and then people like me sometimes come off looking like cold intellectuals because we care not only that people have strong feelings for Christ, but want those strong feelings rooted in solid truth. I’m not saying Jim in any way gave the impression that I was a cold intellectual, but that is often the criticism I received in a Charismatic church where I regularly wondered if the Church’s desire for emotions was affecting their understanding of truth.

One of the great passions in my ministry is to see ‘normal’ Christians (and by that I mean non-preachers and teachers, from who we expect careful thought) thinking maturely about God and the Bible, full of deep affections that are shaped by the truths of the Bible. I think that, by and large, that is absent from American Evangelical Christianity. And I wonder if one way that passion of mine could be advanced is if Christian ‘artists’ were aware of their deep influence on what people believe, and used that influence to write doctrinally rich pop songs that stir the heart with mighty affections. There are some who do it well, Caedmon’s Call being a good example.

These are just my (hopefully) humble thoughts, brother. Hopefully they keep the discussion going,

Larry

Friday Morning Prayer May 25, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.

I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.

Puritan Prayer

Lessons from Athanasius, Part 4 May 24, 2007

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This will be the last post on lessons from the life of Athanasius, with the help of John Piper. I hope others have had their souls stirred by the providence of God in the life of one courageous man, who would not allow the truth about Jesus to be suppressed. Here’s a final lesson, which again is especially relevant for me:

Joyful courage is the calling of a faithful shepherd.

Athanasius stared down murderous intruders into his church. He stood before emperors who could have killed him as easily as exiled him. He risked the wrath of parents and other clergy by consciously training young people to give their all for Christ, including martyrdom. He celebrated the fruit of his ministry with these words: “in youth they are self-restrained, in temptations endure, in labors persevere, when insulted are patient, when robbed make light of it: and, wonderful as it is, they despise even death and become martyrs of Christ”34—martyrs not who kill as they die, but who love has they die.

Athanasius contra mundum should inspire every pastor to stand your ground meekly and humbly and courageously whenever a biblical truth is at stake. But be sure that you always out-rejoice your adversaries. If something is worth fighting for, it worth rejoicing over. And the joy is essential in the battle, for nothing is worth fighting for that will not increase our joy in God. Our people must see that.

Courage in conflict must mingle with joy in Christ. This is what Athanasius loved about Antony and what he sought to be himself. This was part of his battle strategy with his adversaries:

Let us be courageous and rejoice always. . . . Let us consider and lay to heart that while the Lord is with us, our foes can do us no hurt. . . . But if they see us rejoicingin the Lord, contemplating the bliss of the future, mindful of the Lord, deeming all things in His hand . . . —they are discomfited and turned backwards.35

So, brothers, even if at times it may feel as though we are alone contra mundum, let us stand courageous and out-rejoice our adversaries.

What a challenge! Contending for truth is easy, when compared to finding joy in the battle instead of discouragement and resentment. O Lord, grant us all the joy that should mark those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!

Larry

Lessons from Athanasius, Part 3 May 24, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes.
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Joe,

I said yesterday that there were a couple more lessons from the biographical message on Athanasius that have really been ministering to me, so I will post one now and another later today. It is so cool how the life of a man who was born in the year 298 can still teach us such valuable lessons about life and ministry.

The truth of biblical language must be vigorously protected with non-biblical language.

Athanasius’ experience was critically illuminating to something I have come to see over the years, especially in liberally minded baptistic and pietistic traditions, namely, that the slogan, “the Bible is our only creed” is often used as a cloak to conceal the fact that Bible language is used to affirm falsehood. This is what Athanasius encountered so insidiously at the Council of Nicaea. The Arians affirmed biblical sentences. Listen to this description of the proceedings:

The Alexandrians . . . confronted the Arians with the traditional Scriptural phrases which appeared to leave no doubt as to the eternal Godhead of the Son. But to their surprise they were met with perfect acquiescence. Only as each test was propounded, it was observed that the suspected party whispered and gesticulated to one another, evidently hinting that each could be safely accepted, since it admitted of evasion. If their assent was asked to the formula “like to the Father in all things,” it was given with the reservation that man as such is “the image and glory of God.” The “power of God” elicited the whispered explanation that the host of Israel was spoken of as dunamis kuriou, and that even the locust and caterpillar are called the “power of God.” The “eternity” of the Son was countered by the text, “We that live are alway (2 Corinthians 4:11)!” The fathers were baffled, and the test of homoosion, with which the minority had been ready from the first, was being forced (p. 172) upon the majority by the evasions of the Arians.38

R. P. C. Hanson explained the process like this: “Theologians of the Christian Church were slowly driven to a realization that the deepest questions which face Christianity cannot be answered in purely biblical language, because the questions are about the meaning of biblical language itself.39 The Arians railed against the unbiblical language being forced on them. They tried to seize the biblical high ground and claim to be the truly biblical people—the pietists, the simple Bible-believers—because they wanted to stay with biblical language only—and by it smuggle in their non-biblical meanings.

But Athanasius saw through this “post-modern,”post-conservative,” “post-propositional” strategy and saved for us not just Bible words, but Bible truth. May God grant us the discernment of Athanasius for our day. Very precious things are at stake.

One more lesson is coming this afternoon,

Larry

Thursday Morning Prayer May 24, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

Help us, Father, to be courageous and bold as Stephen was before the Jewish council.  We live in a world polluted by sin, and You have redeemed us in order that we might shine Your light in this world.  Yet far too often, in the name of ‘love’ or ‘tolerance’, we do not confront people about their sin and are unwilling to speak hard words of truth to those who need them.  Help us to always be mindful that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20).  May we be willing to renounce our comfort by speaking hard words, in love, to those who You have graciously placed in our lives.

Lessons from Athanasius, Part 2 May 23, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes.
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Joe,

As I wrote earlier today, I am spending today and tomorrow posting some quotes from Piper as he spoke on the life of Athanasius at the 2005 Pastors’ Conference. These lessons brought such delight to my heart, that the completion of my joy compels me to post them here for others to enjoy and be strengthened by. So here’s another valuable lesson (I plan to post two more after this one):

Loving Christ includes loving true propositions about Christ

What was clear to Athanasius was that propositions about Christ carried convictions that could send you to heaven or to hell. There were propositions like: “There was a time when the Son of God was not,” and, “He was not before he was made,” and, “the Son of God is created.” These propositions were strictly damnable. If they were spread and believed they would damn the souls which embraced them. And therefore Athanasius labored with all his might to formulate propositions that would conform to reality and lead the soul to faith and worship and heaven.

I believe Athanasius would have abominated, with tears, the contemporary call for “depropositionalizing” that you hear among many of the so-called “reformists” and “the emerging church,”younger evangelicals,”postfundamentalists,” “postfoundationalists,”postpropositionalists,” and “postevangelicals.”36 I think he would have said, “Our young people in Alexandria die for the truth of propositions about Christ. What do your young people die for?” And if the answer came back, “We die for Christ, not propositions about Christ,” I think he would have said, “That’s what Arius says. So which Christ will you die for?”

Athanasius would have grieved over sentences like “It is Christ who unites us; it is doctrines that divides.” And sentences like: “We should ask, Whom do you trust? rather than what do you believe?”37 He would have grieved because he knew this is the very tactic used by the Arian bishops to cover the councils with fog so that the word “Christ” could mean anything. Those who talk like this—“Christ unites, doctrine divides”—have simply replaced propositions with a word. They think they have done something profound and fresh, when in fact they have done something very old and stale and very deadly.

This leads to a related lesson . . .

Which I plan to post tomorrow!

Larry