Monthly Archives: November 2012

Because None of God’s Doctrines Are At Odds with God’s Purposes

“There can be nothing in the Bible adverse to the salvation of a sinner. The doctrine of predestination is a revealed doctrine of the  Bible; therefore predestination cannot be opposed to the salvation of the sinner.”

– Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts

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At Last

These are real photos of grooms seeing their brides for the first time on their wedding day:

I officiated my brother Jeremy’s wedding to his darling Danielle earlier this year, and I got choked up standing there as I watched him get choked up taking in the beatific vision of his bride appearing at the end of the aisle, her father at her side, about to take the steps to give her away. It immediately took me back to that June day sixteen years ago when I saw Becky appear in her bridal gown. Seeing her again in that moment was seeing her for the first time.

You can’t recapture that moment, of course, but you can. The dad’s advice to his son in Proverbs 5:18-19 seems to assume so. Sometimes I look at my wife all these years later — quite often, actually, and I promise I’m not trying to brag, because it honestly says more about her than about me — and think “Good Lord, how did this beautiful person get made? And how did she wind up in the closest proximity to me possible?” Right before I got married, as I talked to my own dad about marriage, I made a joke, saying, “Well, what if I fall out of love?” And my dad quipped right back, “Then you fall right back in.” Falling out of love with my wife has not been easy, by God’s grace …

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Come and Rest — It is Finished

This is a photo of Shiite Muslims in New Delhi, India flagellating themselves in honor of the grandson of Mohammad. As I study this image, I experience a mixture of feelings and convictions.

Resonance — I understand deep in my bones the essence of this impulse. The inclination to self-abasement as justification is embedded in each one of us. These men have the courage to indulge it, to take it seriously enough to harm themselves as some form of propitiation. They know a gap between themselves and holiness must be bridged.

Fear — Because of the resonance, I am fearful. For them and of myself. It is not really humility that drives self-justification but pride, and pride is not something to be indulged, even if on the surface it appears to be assaulted.

Pity — I feel sorry for them for not knowing the gospel, or for having rejected it. I pity them for believing the bridge can be built by their own blood. I pity them for thinking they must beat themselves up to be righteous.

Gratitude — I am so very thankful for Christ and his gospel. Christ is my righteousness because he — the sinless Man — took the stripes I deserve. Which means I don’t have to take them any more. I don’t have to beat myself up to honor him. By self-flagellation, literal or metaphorical, will no man be justified. I am thankful that Christ bore my sins to kill them and leave them dead, and therefore the …

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The Apostles’ Creed as Doxology

I’ve begun a new series through the Apostles’ Creed for Christianity.com. You can read the first entry here.
A taste:

It’s possible that we have become so familiar with the creed that we’ve become blind to some of its unique qualities. First, notice that the creed is not merely a catalog of doctrines but is phrased as a confession. “We believe” it urges us to say. Sincere recitation of the creed requires faith in the God who has accomplished these great things and belief that these great things were accomplished. In this way, the Apostles’ Creed is not just theology, but doxology, and as it is so often included in the liturgy of Christian worship services, it is meant to be recited together, as a body of believers, as an act of worship.

The Apostles’ Creed is not simply textbook theology; it is hymnbook theology! It is the song of a liberated heart, similar to the biblical confessions and doxologies, the eruption of personal confession that is faithful profession. The creed is a confession in the truest sense of the word: Christians confess with the creed that these are things they must believe to be saved.

Read the whole thing.

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6 Questions Worship Service Planners Should Ask

I think some of the silliness passing for “worship service” in many evangelical churches could be solved by those in the planning stages asking better questions, which is to say, more first principle, self-reflective questions. I have some suggestions, naturally. Of course, these aren’t the only questions worth asking, but I think they provide some good guardrails for those involved in the entire liturgy of a worship gathering, from sermon prep to music selection to sacrament to announcements and all the other nuts and bolts of a service.

1. Is there support for this service element in the Scriptures?
Even if you’re not a regulative principle church, this is a non-negotiable.

2. Is this element comprehensible to outsiders?
Total understanding of every element is not possible, of course, and spiritual acceptance isn’t possible for those outside the faith, but unbelievers and other visitors should be able to discern what you’re doing, even if they don’t know why you’re doing it.

3. Is this element edifying to believers?
Not simply: Is this entertaining or amusing, or will this attract attention or provoke? But: Is this edifying? Is it conducive to the building up of the saints in Christ and God’s love?

4. Is this element offensive, alienating, or marginalizing to any section or subsection of the church body?
People scoff about music being too loud, but so often this is a legitimate concern for older folks. People may disregard music or sermons that are boring or boringly presented, but so often this is a legitimate …

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Pastoral Opening in New England

Southside Bible Fellowship, a church desiring greater gospel-centrality in Manchester, New Hampshire, is looking for a lead pastor. Check out the church blog for profiles of the ideal candidate and the church, as well as a downloadable application packet (upper right menu).

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What We Need Now (and Evermore)

If you, like me, believe last night’s election results constitute the sovereign chastening of God’s people in this nation for employing idolatry in opposition to the calling of evil good, you are, like me, poking under the hood this morning to diagnose “the problem.” I have already succumbed to the temptation to Wednesday morning quarterbacking. But it is both too soon and too late for that. If, like me, you are a pastor or otherwise a leader of God’s people in a church, we have an opportunity now to steel ourselves and renew our zeal to our primary responsibility.

Brothers, repent with me of the impulse to propagandize and prognosticate. Let’s feed the sheep. Let’s not go about our weekly sermon preparation and personal discipleship in sackcloth and ashes. Let’s get into the vineyard of God’s word, get some holy sweat worked up, whistling while we work, lifting our hearts in worship. Let’s get into the kitchen of study and prep and start putting together the banquet. And come Sunday let’s spread the feast out rich and sumptuous, beckoning our people to taste and see that the Lord is good. They don’t need our doomsdaying or dimbulbing. Still less do they need our shallow pick-me-ups and spitpolished legalism. Like our brother Wesley, let us set ourselves on fire with gospel truth that our church families might come watch us burn.

And when we gather Sunday with the saints, let us shepherd them to repentance and sincerity, reminding them of the holy God …

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A Gospeled Man

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
– 1 Timothy 6:11-12

As I view what it means to be a man through the lens of this instruction from Paul to Timothy, I am reminded again of the holy activity of true masculinity (and true personhood, generally). Flee, pursue, fight, take hold. Paul is nothing if not verby. I am struck, though, by how often I fail at these things. I am busy about things that so often don’t matter and passive about things that do. I am lazy. I can’t be bothered. And when I look for where I ought to get the oomph of holy pursuit from, I see Paul couching the masculine imperatives in the masculine indicative: “O man of God.” If this is what I am, this is what I can do. Furthermore, I see the importance of “taking hold of the eternal life to which I was called” for the other actions.

The godly man is a gospeled man. He has seen who he is in Christ, he is moved by what God has done for him in Christ. If I don’t get this part, all the rest will just be a self-salvation project, an exercise in self-righteousness.

I need a better vision. I need a better …

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An Election Day Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray for these things foremost:

That your kingdom will come, that your will be done in the United States as it is in heaven.

That you will in no ways remove blessings from our country but rather pour more out according to your will and in keeping with your mercy and holiness. We pray for justice for the indigent poor, the marginalized, the sick, the dispossessed, the oppressed, the unborn killed by abortions past, and the unborn endangered by the threat of abortions to come.

That you will keep your church unified in the gospel of your Son Jesus Christ and in the harmony of love and humility.

That you will keep us from idols, political or religious or otherwise, knowing that our permanent residency is the kingdom of heaven.

And that you will send your Spirit on a mission of Christian revival in this land, which is our only hope of salvation from sin and shame, and from leaders and lawgivers who cannot escape sin and shame nor deliver us from them.

In the authoritative name of Jesus I pray,
Amen

Elsewhere:
(Scotty’s prayer today is better.)

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By Faith, By Faith, By Faith

The just shall live by faith.
– Hebrews 10:38

The experience of every believer is, in a limited degree, the experience of the great apostle of the Gentiles, the tip of whose soaring pinion we, who so much skim the earth’s surface, can scarcely touch — “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” “Like precious faith” with his dwells in the hearts of all the regenerate. Along this royal highway it is ordained of God that all His people should travel. It is the way their Lord traveled before them; it is the way they are to follow after Him. The first step they take out of the path of sense is into the path of faith.

And what a mighty grace do they find it, as they journey on! Do they live? it is by faith. Hebrews 10:38. Do they stand? it is by faith. Romans 11:20. Do they walk? it is by faith. 2 Corinthians 5:7. Do they fight? it is by faith. 1 Timothy 6:12. Do they overcome? it is by faith. 1 John 5:4. Do they see what is invisible? it is by faith. Hebrews 6:27. Do they receive what is incredible? it is by faith. Romans 4:20. Do they achieve what is impossible? it is by faith. Mark 9:23.

Glorious achievements of faith! And, oh, how eminently is Jesus thus glorified in His saints!

– Octavius Winslow, taken from his Morning Thoughts, or Daily Walking …

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