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Lifting our Hands July 30, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

Sam Storms writes a somewhat lengthy blog post on the lifting of his hands in worship. It’s worth checking out.

Good to have you back by the way. We need to get things going again for the sake of blog nation!
Peace,
Joe

Why I Love Jesus July 30, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

It dawned on me that since we went into the hospital on the day I preached about how the Cross reconciles us to God, I never posted about how the Michael Jordan video made me admire Jesus more.  Here’s what I said in my message:

So what makes Jesus so great?  How can I take 20 minutes to describe what Paul calls ‘the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ’?  I think it is the mingling of transcendence and imminence that come together in Jesus that makes Him so beautiful in my eyes.  By that I mean that Jesus is unfathomably big and great and above all and unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  He is infinitely higher than us, beyond us, unattainable and unapproachable.  But with that highly exalted splendor, He has come near to us and made Himself available so that we can have access to Him. 

 

An illustration will help.  When I worked for the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan came to the United Center for the first time since his retirement.  Being an employee I had access to areas that even the media did not.  They swarmed him, but could only go so far.  I went through a hallway, and there he was, standing 10 feet away from me.  I was in the presence of the greatest basketball player who has ever lived.  I felt like a ten-year-old!  He looked my way, and then got into an elevator with a couple of people, and he was gone.  That was as close to greatness as I could get, and it lasted a fleeing moment.

 

That’s how it is with the people who this world esteems as great: athletes, entertainers, musicians, etc.  You can’t get close to them.  They have body guards and gates around their mansions and you can’t draw near to them.  They’re so far away, unapproachable.  I got a glimpse of Jordan, but it’s not like he invited me out to dinner or anything!  But Jesus is ten billion times greater than all the ‘great’ people of the world put together.  He dwells, according to 1 Timothy 6:16, in unapproachable light.  But the greatness of Jesus is that though He is so highly above us, He does not keep us at a distance, but comes near and invites us to enjoy Him to our heart’s content.     

Blessed be the Name of the Lord July 26, 2007

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Lar,

This quote from Charles Spurgeon is a powerful one. I trust you can sympathize with the parents that Joshua Harris speaks of even more now that you are a father.

Of course, the reality rings just as true no matter what we may be speaking of. God opens doors and closes doors. He does whatever is good to Him to do. Whom am I to argue? The answer is plain.

Catch you later,
Joe

Reading July 24, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

Here’s a great post on reading that you can peruse when you return to blog nation. And of course, everyone reading this blog is encouraged to do so as well. It is a good one.

Reading to His glory,
Joe

Congratulations Papa July 24, 2007

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
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Lar,

I was going to get this post up ealier, but I was without the internet for a little while. Anyhow, I wanted to let the world know that you have a very good excuse for your lack of blogging during the last few days, for you are now the proud daddy of Halle Charissa (that is how Erin had it spelled at least). She was born yesterday at whatever time in the evening at 6 pounds and 20 inches. Congratulations brother. I am excited for you and am sure that I am not alone. Children are indeed a reward from the Lord. I will be praying for you to faithfully reflect the Lord to young Halle for the glory of His great name. I trust He will grant you much grace. Here’s a picture Erin had posted on our blog.

Better Blog Reading July 23, 2007

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Lar,

Abraham Piper weighs in with his wisdom on the reading of blogs. I thought it was a great post for anyone who reads blogs. So if anyone is reading, don’t be shy….click right here!

Seeking to make the blog reading experience always better,
Joe

Those who are Faith in Little… July 23, 2007

Posted by Joe in Quotes, Random Musings.
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Lar,

I trust you can finish the last part of that verse….“will be entrusted with much.”

I confess that as of late I have not been faithful with this blog! I am sorry brother. Yet as is often the case, seasons of unfaithfulness can often lead to greater resolve for future faithfulness. I hope and pray that is the case for me writing on this blog. At the very least, I will be checking in with you once per day this week.

To begin, here is a quote from John Newton. He writes,

“Two heaps of human happiness and misery; now if I can take but the smallest bit from one heap and add to the other, I carry a point. If, as go home, a child has dropped a halfpenny, and if, by giving it another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel I have done something. I should be glad to do greater things, but I will not neglect this. When I hear a knock on my study door, I hear a message from God; it may be a lesson of instruction; perhaps a lesson of penitence; but, since it is his message, it must be interesting.”

There is much to say about this quote, but I’ll point out two things. First, Newton was content to be faithful in the smallest of details. He wisely realized that the big things in life are the small things. And only those who are faithful in those small things will be entrusted with the great. Second, note His trust in the wise providence of God. Do we recognize divine appointments? I confess, I often am annoyed by ‘interruptions’, but then I must ask, who is interrupting me? Isn’t it the Lord? If I believe it, I will welcome and enjoy every single moment. Pray for me, that I might not resist the will of our God!

Enough for now Lar. Lord willing, I will catch you soon, but I have a feeling that I won’t hear much from you today. But that is a good thing really and can be explained further to those who read.

Seeking Him with you,
Joe

Piper on Romans 9-11 July 19, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

The good people at Desiring God recently posted a series of messages from a four-part lecture series that John Piper did a few years ago on Romans 9-11. There is also a question-answer session.

Not everyone will like Piper’s…style. For instance, in the first message he says, ‘Most Arminians don’t have a clue how they got saved.’ In wrestling through issues of sovereignty and free will, I am learning that statements like that tend to alienate someone who disagrees to the point that it may be a stumbling block to their embracing the truth. I trust that, as has been the case with me, the matters addressed in Romans 9-11 are such a passion in Piper’s heart, that sometimes things come out more ‘edgy’ than he may have intended.

Regardless, these messages are well worth listening to. They will stretch your vision of God and, if God grants grace, enlarge your affection for Him.

Larry

Belief and Behavior July 19, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes.
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Joe,

Here’s a great quote I read from Tim Keller:

“Normal preaching should be evangelistic preaching. Ordinarily, ‘edificational’ preaching is more oriented to behavior (”you must obey Christ in this way and this way”) while ‘evangelistic’ preaching is usually oriented toward belief (”you must believe in Christ in this way and this way”). But this misses the unity of the human soul. Edwards in his Affections argues persuasively that, essentially, “if you truly believe, it changes behavior, and if you are not behaving properly, it is because of unbelief.” A person may say, “I know God cares for me, but I am still petrified with fear.” No. If they are running in fear, it is because they don’t ‘know’ God’s care.

Therefore, any failure in behavior in Christians is due to unbelief. The antidote to unbelief is a fresh telling of the gospel. So, if a sermon is Christ-centered in its exposition and application, and if it is oriented toward a) dismantling the unbelief systems of the human heart, and toward b) re-explaining and using the gospel on the unbelief – then it will be highly illuminating to non-Christians even when it is aimed primarily to Christians. Preaching that cannot both edify and evangelize at once is choosing behavior over belief or belief over behavior.”

Laboring to edify and evangelize in every message,

Larry

He Commands Even the Unclean Spirits July 18, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

I’m not sure how you are progressing with your Greek studies, but maybe this will be a small incentive to press on. And maybe it will be an encouragement to others who have never conceived of studying biblical Greek to consider this hard and rewarding goal of reading the New Testament in the language it was written in.

One of the ways in which Greek has been valuable to me is that it forces me to slow down when I am reading. It is so easy to breeze through some of the most glorious statements in the Bible without a hint of wonder because we read them so fast that we don’t even consider what they’re saying!

I was reminded of this a couple of times this week already. I am working now on translating a passage in Mark 1 for Greek tomorrow. In it I read this:

τί ἐστιν τοῦτο; διδαχὴ καινὴ κατʼ ἐξουσίαν· καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασι τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις ἐπιτάσσει, καὶ ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ.

Now that doesn’t help too many people out I know! But here’s what it means: ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits, and they are obeying him.’ Jesus had just rebuked an unclean spirit, and the people were in awe. And I should be in awe, except I usually read it so fast that I don’t feel awe! But when I have to read it slowly (since my Greek still isn’t that great!), ‘even…the unclean spirits…he commands…and they obey…him…’ How my soul was stirred!

So let this be a lesson to us all, whether we read in Greek or in English. Slow down when you read! It doesn’t matter whether you get through your Bible in a year reading plan; it matters that each day you see in the Word a reason (or better, multiple reasons!) to stand in awe of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but awe doesn’t happen for me in 60 seconds. It happens with long, careful, serious reflection.

And I’m grateful that Greek helps me to do that!

Larry

Jesus and Michael Jordan July 18, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

As I said, last week in preparing for my message for this Sunday morning I was pressed to think much about the greatness of Jesus. As I did that, I found myself surprised to be drawn to this video of Michael Jordan. If you’re wondering how in the world contemplating the greatness of Jesus drew me to a video of Jordan winning the Bulls’ sixth championship, you’ll have to come hear the message this Sunday! (Is that like a sermon cliff-hanger?)

Larry

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty July 18, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes.
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Joe,

As you know, God’s faithfulness has been so manifest in my life numerous ways over the past few weeks.  This morning as I recounted some of those mercies, I was drawn to the words of a great hymn.  I may have posted it on here before, but can we consider these words too often?

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Adoring His mercies,

Larry

How I Feel vs. What is Real July 17, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes, Random Musings.
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I remember Sinead O’Connor from her ripping in half a picture of the pope on Saturday night several years ago. Apparently she has just released a new CD that is 99.9% based on the Old Testament Scriptures. I found this portion of a recent interview with her in Christianity Today stunning. Even more stunning, this CD is being marketed to Christians!

I couldn’t help but thinking of Mahaney’s chapter in Living the Cross Centered Life on truth and emotions. The entire article is full of her saying, ‘I think…I feel…’ May the folly of her own beliefs guard us from the temptation to examine what is true in light of how we feel about the truth.

Are you a Christian?

O’Connor: Yeah, by birth and by culture.

Is Theology an album for Christians?

O’Connor: I wouldn’t say it’s just for Christians. It’s 99.9 percent based in the Old Testament. To say that it’s an album for Christians would imply that it’s not for other people. But I think it’s a record that would appeal to all kinds of religions.

What does Jesus mean to you?

O’Connor: I’ve had a lot of faith in Jesus ever since I was a little kid. I always joke with my friends that I have a cab company called “Jesus Cabs.” And I tell my friends, “If you ask Jesus for anything, it will happen. But you have to believe that it’s going to happen.”

What about now? Where do you stand in your faith in Jesus?

O’Connor: I think everybody has an individual relationship with Jesus. I kinda really do believe in this Trinity thing, that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all one thing. I understand Jesus as being an interceder, someone you ask when you really need a big favor from God. I also feel that Jesus is inside everybody. It’s almost like an energy or a thing that lives inside of us.

How about his role as a Savior?

O’Connor: I grew up in violent circumstances [in a later e-mail, O’Connor clarified that she was abused as a child by a family member], and Jesus was a Savior to me insofar that he would make me forget what was going on. But to say that Jesus is a Savior can sometimes translate as, “Unless people know doctrine, they’re not going to be saved.” I don’t believe that. I believe God loves everybody. And at the end of the day every creation of God goes on to God and his love equally. So I have difficulties with the implication that because somebody on the other side of the world doesn’t know Jesus, they don’t get saved.

So there’s no such thing as Jesus being the one way, truth, and life?

O’Connor: I believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and that whole kind of thing is one particular energy. If you want a put a picture of a body on it, then fine. But I call it an energy. Some people paint a picture of Jesus. But to me, he’s an energy. That energy is the same no matter where you are in the world or whose side you’re on. If you call it Allah or you call it God or you call it Buddha, it’s all the same. I thing God saves everybody whether they want to be saved or not. So when we die, we’re all going home.

So it doesn’t matter your lifestyle, we’re all going to heaven.

O’Connor: Yeah, I don’t think God judges anybody. He loves everybody equally. I think there’s a slight difference when it comes to very evil people, but there are not too many of those in the world.

God’s character is very human; he goes through the whole gamut of emotions that a person might go through.

By human, do you mean fallible?

O’Connor: People often say, “If there’s a God, why does he let bad things happen?” We expect God to be perfect, but if we’re made in God’s image, then perhaps God isn’t perfect. And that’s OK. But I also believe that partly we are God. We are part of God and God is something that’s in us and all around us.

Electronic Babysitters July 17, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links, Random Musings.
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Lar,

My linking to this post by Al Mohler is by no means a substitute for some thoughtful blogging. I simply believe that we need to spend more time pondering the topic he addresses, namely, the use of the television and Internet–with particular reference to children. You know that I am not a big fan of television, not because it is wrong to watch, of course, but simply because it seems quite difficult to watch a good deal of it and at the same time, have a heart that burns for God. I dare not say that it is impossible to watch television and have a heart for God, but maybe, just maybe, our standards might be a bit too low for what it really means to have a heart on fire for the Lord. Lord knows, we often settle for much less than His best. Might their be a correlation between our lukewarm affections for God and the amount of media we expose ourselves to? I suppose everyone reading can imagine my answer!

Yet as it relates to children, my convictions grow even stronger. Continual exposure to the television and Internet just don’t seem to be helping anyone. Erin and I always laugh at the so-called ‘educational videos’ that are available for children. Of course, they aren’t all bad, but come on…honestly…are they better than reading books? And yes, you can read and watch, but let’s be honest, there are not a whole lot of children who are doing a lot of both.

I might say more later, but for now let me say that whatever your convictions are, as Christians, we are free to watch and free not to watch. May we all strive for faithfulness to our God, for it is before Him that we rise and fall.

Seeking Him with you,
Joe

Kill the Children? July 16, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

Here is a good article by Marvin Olasky over at the World Magazine Blog. He doesn’t cover it all in such a short article, but it is definitely worth the read.

Thankful for His mercy,
Joe

Fear July 16, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

Check out this photo I found on Challies’ website.  Then consider that it is an infinitely more terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Praise be to God that in Christ He has rescued us from the wrath to come!

Larry

Philip the Calculator July 16, 2007

Posted by Joe in Quotes.
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Lar,

I figure I can’t go wrong starting the week with a little Tozer. These comments are comical, but at the same time, desperate to be heeded. Here is Tozer commenting on John 6:7.

Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” –John 6:7

Here in the New Testament was Philip the Calculator–Philip the Mathematician, Philip the Clerk. There was need for a miracle, and Philip set out to calculate the odds. Probably every Christian group has at least one person with a calculator. I have sat on boards for many years, and rarely is there a board without a Philip the Calculator among its members. When you suggest something, out comes the calculator to prove that it cannot be done….

As I say, I have been sitting on these boards for many years, and there are always two kinds of board members: those who can see the miracle and those who can only see their calculators and their strings of calculations….

The people with the calculators have seen the problem, but they have not seen God. They have figured things out, but they have not figured God in.

Philip the Calculator. He can be a dangerous man in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every suggestion made in the direction of progress gets a negative vote from this man.

Now Lar, even if we aren’t one to give a negative response to any God-sized ideas, we might at least be inclined to give a fellow brother a certain kind of look that states the same. Let us ask ourselves: what are we praying and working towards right now that is impossible without God? May the Lord grant us the grace to be men of faith, men who are not afraid to do that which only God can do. May the Lord grant us the grace to, in William Carey’s words, expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. Nothing less is worthy of Him.

Praying big prayers with you,
Joe

What Makes Jesus Great? July 13, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

I’ve just finished my preparation for the message I hope to preach on July 22nd on the Cross reconciling us to God. I had to prepare this one a bit early, as I want to leave time for the arrival of our baby girl Halle Charissa, who is due on the 18th. As I’ve prepared the message, one of the questions on my mind has been, What makes Jesus so great?

So I want to encourage our readers to respond to this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts (our readers, and you too, Joe) about why Jesus is so precious to you. What is it about Him that grips you with a sense of His greatness?

I’ll post the fruit of my reflection on that question after I preach on the 22nd. Until then, I hope everyone will encourage one another with thoughts of the Savior’s greatness.

Larry

PS — Jim W., since I am sending you my manuscript in preparation for your part in leading the service, you better not leak any information!!

Update from DG July 13, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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I received this praise/prayer request today by email from Desiring God:

From a writer this past week:

Thank you so very much for your sale! What a crazy amazing thing that you did. I am chronically ill and suffer pain constantly. I run a small support group of women who suffer from chronic pain and illness. We are a Christian group. I was able to order “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God” for the five charter members. I was also able to order my sister a Bible. My husband is an excellent provider and we do have health insurance but things are still extremely tight financially. So, I cannot afford to buy many books. I know that to some it was just a great deal and it was. But, to some of us it was…like a miracle. I could have never done something special like this for my group…or bought a Bible for my sister.

We thank God for the response to our $5 book sale! Here are some highlights:

  • Total orders: nearly 11,000
  • Total books ordered: 127,115
  • Total number of countries represented: 24
  • Orders were placed from all 50 states, two military APOs, two territories and Washington, DC

We are very grateful for this overwhelming response. But those are only the numbers and it is the souls that matter. Please pray that God would powerfully work through these books to bring hundreds of people to himself and to strengthen the faith of those who already believe.

Wisdom from Al Mohler July 13, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

Justin Taylor linked to Al Mohler’s post today on his blog, but I also wanted to do the same. In it he discusses the recent Papal statement that the there is no true church outside the Roman Catholic Church. This should come as no surprise to us really, but I do think it is good for everyone involved. For it certainly clarifies our division in this ecumenical day. Make no mistake about it, the gulf is huge and the stakes are high in this divide–even today.

More could be said and maybe will be said later. Until then….
Joe