Thursday, November 14, 2013

a troubling question about prayer from Charles Spurgeon

Here is a convicting excerpt from a Charles Spurgeon sermon:

“If the Son of Man were to come into this world, would He find pure faith among His disciples?”

He then gives an example of how people in his church responded when God answered a man’s prayer:

“Mr. Muller, of Bristol, believes in God for the support of his benevolent institution—and God supplies him with all his needs. But whenever you speak about him you say, "What a wonderful thing!"

And here’s where it gets convicting:

“Has it come to this, that in the Christian Church it is accounted a marvel for Christians to believe in the promises of God, and something like a miracle for God to fulfill them? Does not this wonderment indicate more clearly than anything else how fallen we are from the level of faith at which we ought constantly to live? If the Lord wants to surprise His people, He has only at once to give an answer to their prayers! No sooner had they obtained their answer than they would say, "Who would have thought it!" Is it really surprising that God should keep His own promise? Oh, what unbelief! Oh, what wretched unbelief on our part! We ask and we receive not because we do not believe in God!”

Why is it such a shock to us when God answers prayer? That’s a troubling question.

(from sermon no. 3546, entitled “Assurance Sought”)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

5yr Anniversary

Celebrated 5 years of marriage to Ashley Kelsey this weekend. And by celebrated, I mean laid in bed on Vicodin with a hole in my eardrum (yep, my fault). 

Nevertheless, I love that woman and I love living and learning life with her. I love following God with her. I love spreading the great news about the grace and glory of God with her. I love raising (and conceiving!) kids with her. I love looking at her. I love serving her. I love that she still loves me even when I fail to serve her well. I love that her facial expressions won't let her compromise her honesty. I love when she sings (except when I want Ava to stay sleep for just a few more minutes!). I love her skepticism and her refusal to substitute soothing answers for hard truth. I love her orderliness. I love when she tells me my sermon doesn’t make sense (usually before I’ve preached it). I love her willingness to acknowledge her sin and her quickness to repent. I love her daily awareness of her desperate need for God’s grace. I love her food. I love her eye for beauty but her increasing freedom from its often-oppressive standards. I hate some of the random decorative elements in our house (porcelain horse head, other unidentified objects) but I love how it somehow all comes together into a home.

I just love her I guess. Thankful for five years and excited about this next leg of married life.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"I have a fear that the church in the West will disqualify itself from being a missionary-sending region..."

"I have a fear that the church in the West will disqualify itself from being a missionary-sending region by portraying to its membership a Christianity that is a nice religion but that lacks a radical edge. In my visits to the West, the most common response I hear to sermons I have preached is something to the effect: “I enjoyed that sermon.” Sermons should disturb, convict, and motivate to radical and costly obedience. I have wondered whether people’s desired result from sermons is to enjoy themselves rather than to be changed into radical disciples who will turn the world upside down. If this is so, the church has assimilated the postmodern mood that considers inner feelings more important than commitment to principles. A minor feature of wor­ship—bringing enjoyment—has become a primary feature. Such a church may grow numerically, but it would not be able to produce the type of mis­sionaries that the world needs—men and women who will pay the price of identification with the people they serve and endure the frustrations that involves." (Ajith Fernando, 23)

Note: I would balance his comment about sermons by including the fact that at least some sermons should encourage and comfort people as well.

Friday, March 8, 2013

the cost of conversion - thoughts from Rosaria Butterfield

Last year (2012), I read Rosaria Butterfield's amazing autobiography, The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert. I should note that I strongly disagree with some of her theological convictions (on baptism, corporate worship, etc.) and some of her personal opinions. But overall I think the book is profoundly insightful and challenging in ways that overshadow the things I disagree with.

Here are some of her reflections on the nature and experience of conversion:

"Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the 'lost,' if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers."

"Making a life commitment to Christ was not merely a philosophical shift. It was not a one-step process. It did not involve rearranging the surface prejudices and fickle loyalties of my life. Conversion didn’t 'fit' my life. Conversion overhauled my soul and personality."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the local church as an embassy from the future

"Think about the local church as an embassy from the future. It's a formally constituted gathering of Spirit-indwelt kingdom citizens who proclaim and display Christ's end-time rule...these eschatological embassies on earth, spread out like pins on a map, should be characterized by an unworldly culture. It's not defined by sushi, cricket, or burqas, but by the habits of holiness and love and the ambassadorial work of discipling, evangelism, hospitality, and caring for the needy." Jonathan Leeman

I think we desperately need to deepen and expand our understanding of what the local church really is. It's pretty amazing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

resolve to send the day into eternity - adoniram judson

A life once spent is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated through eternity…The same may be said of each day. When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the marks which we put upon it, it will exhibit forever…Each day will not only be a witness of our conduct, but will affect our everlasting destiny…How shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness?! It is too late to mend the days that are past. The future is in our power. Let us, then, each morning, resolve to send the day into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever. And at night let us reflect that one more day is irrevocably gone, indelibly marked."  

Adoniram Judson, quoted in The Life of Adoniram Judson by Edward Judson, pp.14-15

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Are you building the church or building your career?" Mark Dever to pastors

From a message called "Centrality of the Church in Disciple-Making" given at the 2013 Desiring God Pastors Conference

Christians enjoy feeling convicted

“I see a trend in many churches where people are beginning to enjoy convicting sermons. They walk out feeling broken over their sin. The distorted part is that they can begin to feel victorious in their sadness. They boast, ‘I just heard the most convicting message, and it ruined me!’ The focus is on the conviction itself and not the change it is meant to produce—change that doesn’t necessarily follow when we stay focused on conviction. Guilt is not always a good thing. It is only good if it leads us past sorrow to the joy of repentance.” Francis Chan

Monday, January 28, 2013

an honest preacher's prayer

"Lord, by your Spirit, may your people hear a better sermon than the one I am about to preach." (@RevKevDeYoung)

Friday, December 21, 2012

takes work to be concise

“If you want me to speak for two minutes, it will take me three weeks of preparation. If you want me to speak for thirty minutes, it will take me a week to prepare. If you want me to speak for an hour, I am ready now.” 

Winston Churchill

Friday, December 7, 2012

pastors should always be writing

Pastor Peter Schemm published a recent article in the Themelios Journal that encourages pastors to practice writing as a private spiritual discipline. He lays out six benefits of consistent writing (specifically for pastors but they apply to Christians in general):
  1. Writing helps to deepen the mind.
  2. Writing helps to clarify and refine your thinking.
  3. Writing helps us to find a suitable pace of life.
  4. Writing well requires quiet and solitude, both necessary in developing a healthy soul.
  5. Writing (i.e. copying) Scripture helps us to meditate on Scripture.
  6. Writing our prayers helps to make our prayer lives more meaningful.
I love writing as a way of communing with God. Unfortunately, it requires a discipline and quietness that I struggle to maintain.

Friday, November 30, 2012

the church and the reign of Jesus

“The Church is, quite simply, the community ahead of time, the community that acknowledges now what one day will be acknowledged by all.  As ambassadors of a disputed sovereignty, we propose a claim that awaits a future and cosmic vindication.  For those who accept that claim, it is already vindicated by faith.  For them, the future is now.”  

- Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a FridayAfternoon