Risk In Missions, Love, and Evangelism

Mission_10.40Window_600Following Christ can be dangerous. But as John Piper argues in Risk is Right, the ephemeral dangers are completely obliterated in the light of the unspeakable rewards that await those who risk all for Christ.

This was brought home to me in two ways. First, Nancy Writebol quoted the words from Risk is Right that speak these truths so eloquently:

There are a thousand ways to magnify Christ in life and death. None should be scorned. All are important. But none makes the worth of Christ shine more brightly than sacrificial love for other people in the name of Jesus. If Christ is so valuable that the hope of his immediate and eternal fellowship after death frees us from the self-serving fear of dying and enables us to lay down our lives for the good of others, such love magnifies the glory of Christ like nothing else in the world.

What makes this amazing is that Nancy is an ebola survivor; she took a huge risk to help others through Christ’s love to her own personal safety.

But the second way was that I was reminded of Nancy’s statement by a missionary that we support at Zion. Continue reading

Horton on the Holy Spirit at Moore Annual Lectures

horton_holyspiritMichael S. Horton, the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary CA, was the speaker for the Annual Moore College Lectures for 2014. Held August 14 – 22 in Sydney, Australia, the schedule was as follows:

Public Lecture: How the Spirit Changes Everything Public Evening lecture

Lecture 1: Lord and Giver of Life

Lecture 2: The Spirit of Christ

Lecture 3: The Spirit of Holiness

Lecture 4: The Spirit and the Bride

Lecture 5: The Age of the

The video recording of the lectures are also available here. The audio lectures can be found here, and a sample is given below.

From the brief snippets of the lectures that I’ve listened to, I have found this to be classic Horton, bringing the text of Scripture into new light. Whether it is emphasizing the legal duties of paraclete in John 14 in the covenant lawsuit, or how unbelieving Israel is identified with the world so that Christ’s disciples are excommunicated as latreia, there will be a lot to appreciate for those who enjoy vintage Reformed theology from fresh exegesis.

You can find out more about Dr. Horton’s travels and teaching in Australia here.

A Prayer of Illumination

Westminster_Assembly2

The following prayer is inspired by Q&A #155 of the Westminster Larger Catechism, “How is the Word made effectual to salvation?”

O Lord God, our Father who has spoken in Your beloved Son,

Grant, we humbly pray, Your Spirit to assist Your Holy Word. By Your power, turn on the lights in our soul, so that Your Word would be a lamp to our feet, and lead us in the paths of righteousness. In Your wisdom, grant that we would become convinced that Your way leads to life, and our ways and wisdom will lead only to death and destruction. May Your Spirit grant us the grace of humility, to not think highly of ourselves, or our talents, or how many Facebook friends we have, but to think highly of Jesus, that He may increase even as we decrease.

Lord, may your Spirit take us on a journey this morning. Lead us, O Father, away from our places of comfort and self-sufficiency, and the never-ending labyrinth that always brings us back to self. Instead, may we walk by the Spirit as He leads us to our eternal safety in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that as we hear Your Word preached, we would undergo a spiritual makeover, coming away more and more like Jesus. Father, change our thoughts so that we would have the mind of Christ. Lord, transform our loves and desires, so that we would have faith working through love, the kind of love we discover in Your Holy Word as demonstrated at the Cross. Teach us to obey You here on earth, even as You are obeyed in heaven.
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Dissecting Hope

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john_owen2Hope is a glorious grace, whereunto blessed effects are ascribed in the Scripture, and an effectual operation unto the supportment and consolation of believers. By it are we purified, sanctified, saved. And, to sum up the whole of its excellency and efficacy, it is a principal way of the working of Christ as inhabiting in us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Where Christ evidences his presence with us, he gives us an infallible hope of glory’ he gives us an assured pledge of it, and works our souls into an expectation of it.

Hope in general is but an uncertain expectation of a future good which we desire; but as it is a gospel of grace, all uncertainty is removed from it, which would hinder us of the advantage intended in it. It is an earnest expectation, proceeding from faith, trust, and confidence, accompanied with longing desires of enjoyment… Gospel hope is a fruit of faith, trust, and confidence; yea, the height of the actings of all grace issues in a well-grounded hope, nor can it rise any higher (Rom. 5:2 – 5).

The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded

Ferguson: Children’s Sermons Are Not For Legalism

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sinclair_ferguson“Actually, it [how we teach redemptive history to 3 and 4 year olds] is a huge test of where ministers are. One of the things that has stuck me throughout the whole of my life, because I’ve lived in a world where ministers give children’s sermons, is how many evangelical ministers turn into legalists when they give children’s sermons. And its there, when they’re speaking to the children, that it becomes clear how little of the redemptive story they understand; how little they understand how the Gospel works, and how little they understand who Christ is.”

Sinclair Ferguson on teaching truth to little minds (at the 54:20 mark)

The Finished Work of Jesus Needs No Addition

EVENSONGWe prayed this prayer from The Valley of Vision at our Evensong service last night at Zion Evangelical & Reformed Church.

Evening Renewal
My Father, if Thy mercy had bounds, where would be my refuge from just wrath? But thy love in Christ is without measure. Thus, I present myself to Thee with sins of comission and omission, against Thee, my Father, against Thee, adorable redeemer, against Thee and Thy strivings, O Holy Spirit, against the dictates of my conscience, against the precepts of Thy Word, against my neighbours and myself. Enter not into judgment with me, for I plead no righteousness of my own, and have no cloak for iniquity. Pardon my day dark with evil.

This night I renew my penitence. Every morning I vow to love Thee more fervently, to serve Thee more sincerely, to be more devoted in my life, to be wholly Thine; Yet I soon stumble, backslide, and have to confess my weakness, misery and sin. But I bless Thee that the finished work of Jesus needs no addition from my doings, that His oblation is sufficient satisfaction for my sins.

If future days be mine, help me to amend my life, to hate and abhor evil, to flee the sins I confess. Make me more resolute, more watchful, more prayerful. Let no evil fruit spring from evil seeds my hands have sown; Let no neighbour be hardened in vanity and folly by my want of circumspection. If this day I have been ashamed of Christ and His Word, or have shown unkindness, malice, envy, lack of love, unadvised speech, hasty temper, let it be no stumbling block to others, or dishonour to Thy name. O help me to set an upright example that will ever rebuke vice, allure to goodness, and evidence that lovely are the ways of Christ.

Lawless: 14 Pastoral Time Management Tips

14-Tips-for-Time-ManagementChuck Lawless gives fourteen useful tips over at Thom Rainer’s blog. They are not couched in the productivity language used by David Allen, but the GTD ninja with their antenna up will certainly note some similarities and cross-over. So for example, Lawless says handle each item once, and GTD processes (do it or context it).

Move papers one time. Stacks of things to do frustrate me. The only way I know to avoid stacks is to deal with papers and documents quickly.

Lawless talks about inserting breaks in the work flow, reminiscent of 43 Folders’ Merlin Mann and his (10+2)*5 productivity hack.

Take regular breaks. The break need not be long, but even a few minutes can help you re-focus your efforts. Take a walk, go to the restroom, call a friend, throw a baseball, read the paper, go outside – do somethingthat re-energizes you for the rest of the day.

Several good things to chew on. One simple thing that I could immediately envision paying off dividends had to do with body posture when somebody “drops by” for a chat:

Limit the duration of drop-by visits by standing. If you sit with someone in your office, your body language suggests you have plenty of time to visit. Remaining standing – even going to the door and standing in the office doorway – is a simple way to say, “I’m happy to visit, but I have only a few moments.”

In my “Midwest Nice” context, I can see this working very well! Of course, there are other things Lawless suggests that I would struggle to accomplish (“14. Clean your desk every day before you leave.” He’s joking, right?!)

Of course, there are a lot of other things that need to be said for helping pastors with time management. Some tasks are sacred – sermon prep, prayer & study, evangelism, and discipleship. Pastors will need to guard those in how they manage their schedules. I remember the first week serving my current congregation, and by Saturday night I had but in a 55+ hour week and hadn’t taken one minute for sermon prep. Thankfully, I had written several sermons previously, knowing about a steep launch schedule. But what was most distressing was there was nothing all that unusual about the busy week I had just completed – it would be easy to be that busy every week. Pastors must set careful priorities.

Recently, I’ve seen more and more pastors tout the virtues of a virtual assistant (here’s one example). Research firms have recently made news due to current debates in wider evangelicalism. The extent that pastors could enlist the help of such organizations is something that needs to be thought out more carefully before being embrace, in my opinion. What strategies do you think pastors need to think about with regards to wisely stewarding their time?

Read the whole thing: 14 Tips for Time Management.

Our Idol is the Worship “Experience”

AlexMcDonaldAlex McDonald is a pianist. But not just any pianist: he made his orchestral debut at 11, earned a Doctorate in Musical Art at Juilliard, recently competed in the 14th Van Cliburn International Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, and is younger than I am! World magazine interviewed Alex McDonald, where he made a staggering point about worship. I hope to come back and revisit this idea in greater detail, but for now, consider his suggestion all of our arguments about music styles in the “worship wars” are just a smokescreen for the idolatry in our hearts.

What role do you think church music should play in one’s experience of worship?

In modern churches, we have a graven image of what the experience of God ought to be like, and we want our music to simulate that experience in us. It could be an organ or a praise team—either can create a God experience that may not have any of God in it at all. But people will feel like they’ve worshipped. Continue reading