Thursday, January 29, 2009

hebrews 1

Here is my sermon from this past Sunday. It is on the first 3 1/2 verses of Hebrews.

These verses continually push me towards worship. I hope they do the same for you.

(You can also click here for a downloadable version.)

May God be gracious and keep us from drifting.


Friday, January 23, 2009


i'm trying out a banner at the end of my subscription advocating for action against abortion.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

the fine line

Kary Oberbrunner
was my pastor for most of my senior year in high school. I remember him being a passionate guy and, oddly enough, basically the same age I am now. He is a gifted pastor, speaker and author and he recently wrote a book called The Fine Line.

It's a book about relevancy. How can we live in the world and not be of the world. The book covers a lot of ground in a very short space. He writes quick and to the point. For you visual learners out there, he makes use of several good diagrams of the information he's presenting. (I remember him doing that years ago, too.)

I'm always nervous when I hear about a book on relevancy. Most of what is out there is about how to be culturally savvy. How to watch movies, TV, use the internet, listen to music and do everything the world does in order to "reach" them. Kary doesn't do this. He says this is the polar opposite of how we should strive to be relevant to the world. It is not about doing what is hip at the time it is about two simple things: Love for God and love for man.

He does this by first giving us some basic groups within Christianity, people he calls Separatists and Conformists. Separatists are law-following and world-hating people who become irrelevant because they refuse to speak to others where they are. Conformists are world-loving and law-abusing people who become irrelevant because they refuse to stand on truth. He calls the middle ground people, the fine line people, Transformists.

By using those groups he is able to speak to people on both sides of the fence. People like me who lean on the Separatist side and others who lean on the Conformist side. He breaks it down for both of us by telling us what it means to be relevant is to simply follow Christ.

Two quotes from the book:

This is (in my opinion) a great summary of the whole book. He's talking about Paul and how relevant Paul was (all things to all people):

After his conversion, Paul didn't pursue relevance. Instead, he pursued Jesus. But by pursuing Jesus, he naturally became relevant. And as long as he kept following Jesus, he was relevant.

And, one of my personal favorites out of the book because it speaks to me and my reluctance to be humble and honest before God:
But when it comes down to it, we don't feel safe opening our hearts to a God who killed his own Son. We'd rather have a God we can manage and control.

Kary really did a great job with this book. It is an easy read and, at the same time, extremely convicting and challenging. If you don't believe me just read the chapter called "The Girl Bashers." You'll hang your head in shame.

I recommend the book to you. You can pick it up on Amazon for $10.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

tuesday martyr: nicolas ridley

Nicolas Ridley was a reformer in England and was considered to be among the most learned and well-taught of the group. He, for a long period, considered transubstantiation to be a viable teaching, but later in life after more careful study of both Scripture and the ancient fathers of the faith concluded it to be false. After this, he spent much time, along with Thomas Cranmer, teaching the people of England about the false nature of the doctrine.

I found this line of his short biography most challenging for myself (I am one to put forth radical change with short bursts of teaching rather than a long-haul approach.):

"But this opinion of the real presence having been so generally received in England for three hundred years [referring to transubstantiation], these eminent reformers went to work with great caution, and by gradually proceeding in their public discussions, afforded time for the people to consider the subject more leisurely, and of course more effectually."

All accounts of Ridley show him to be a kind, gentle and noble man who took care to correct false doctrines in a loving manner. He was not the brute force of Luther, but he (along with Cranmer) convinced the Church of England that the body and blood of Christ was not contained in the sacraments. The bishops of the Church then drew up a 5-point document to show this to be the case.

After the death of King Edward, the terrible Queen Mary came to power. She quickly stole back all that the reformers had worked for and had many of them put to death. Ridley was among the first, supposed to be an example in order to stamp out the reformer movement. He died along with another man, Latimer, and the protestant movement grew immensely under her persecution.

May God grant us the patience to correct in order to properly build the church.


(Most of this was taken from A Puritan's Mind)

Monday, January 19, 2009

the right to life

I couldn't not say something about the right to life and our future President today. But, since I am often a little too haughty in speech, I'll let others do my talking.

First, my friend, Talia, is going to the Right to Life march in DC this week. Hopefully the voice for the voiceless will be heard and our nation will begin repenting for our horrible acts against unborn children.

Second, the pastor of Immanuel Baptist has written an open letter to President-elect Obama that you should take a look at.

And finally, if you can stomach it, go here and watch a video on the hideous nature of abortion in America.

May God grant us the strength to repent of this crime, no matter the time it takes. It has taken more than 200 years for us to realize that, indeed, all men are created equal before God by electing a black man as President; hopefully we'll get this one straightened out sooner than that.

During the time it took me to write this another baby's life was taken in the name of "women's rights" and denied its right to life.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

18 words: the devil

I know its a couple of days late, I apologize.

In his chapter on the devil, Packer gives reason for the state of the evangelical church today. Specifically the "spineless, powerless, unevangelical compared with what they were a century ago." That "collapse" is in large part due to our reluctance to believe in and talk about the devil. He has become a myth and has gone unnoticed for many, many years.

The present state of the church does two things: "it fools men, by keeping from them the knowledge of their danger as objects of the devil's attacks, and it dishonors Christ by robbing the cross of its significance as a conquest of Satan and his hosts."

To right this problem we must get a firm grasp on who God is, because if our portrait of God is false, then likely our portrait of the devil will be fallacious as well. Scripture is clear that Satan and his demons "are of quite unimaginable badness--more cruel, more malicious, more proud, more scornful, more perverted, more destructive, more disgusting, more filthy, more despicable, than anything our minds can conceive."

And, so, the devil is active in this world and God is allowing him this temporary power in order to execute judgments against us for a time. But, the Christian has hope that the world does not. We have Christ.

And so, in order to withstand the wicked and evil nature of the devil we must, as Paul says, put on the whole armor of God and prayer at all times, taking confidence that He has won and will win every battle and that we will have the power to resist the devil. James gives a similar promise chapter 4 verse 7 "resist the devil and he will flee from you."

We have an enemy, we have a weapon and we have a promise. Go and fight.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the terrible temple and the throne of grace

God is a god of glory. Unbelievable, immense, awe-inspiring glory that makes your hands sweat and your heart race and your knees quiver. To think that standing before God would do anything other than make us burst at the seams is to think of the wrong god. God's very presence is enough to make a mountain shake (Exodus 19.)

This is the same vision that we get in Isaiah 6 in the year that Uzziah (the king) died. First, a little background on Uzziah from 2 Chronicles 26 and 2 Kings 15.

He was, for the most part, a good king. He did a lot of things right but then his pride took over and he decided to enter the temple and light the holy incense instead of letting Azariah and the priests handle it. He went in and desecrated the earthly temple of the Lord God and was stricken with leprosy until he died. He messed with something declared holy on earth and God was angry enough to curse him with disease and shame.

Now, in the year that Uzziah died, Isaiah is swept up in a vision to the very throne-room of heaven. He is put in the very temple of God in a place that is not declared holy, but it is holy because it is where God is. And Isaiah knows that on earth, if you enter the temple of God unclean, you are usually cast out of Israel, or even killed for some offenses. So, now Isaiah is in the heavenly temple and is, rightfully, scared out of his mind. Trembling in fear. Sweat pouring off his hands and face. Finding it hard to swallow. Fighting back tears.

And he cries out "WOE IS ME! WOE IS ME! I'M A MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS AND I LIVE AMONG A PEOPLE OF UNCLEAN LIPS!" He is afraid because he knows he is guilty and is standing in the presence of a righteous and holy God.

This is the God that rules the world. This is the God of Christianity. He is still seated on his throne and his robe still fills the temple. The seraphim still call in loud voices that he is "holy, holy, holy" and their voice still shakes the temple thresholds of heaven. He is to be feared. He is great and powerful and mighty.

Then, after Isaiah declares his own guilt, God mercifully sends a seraph to cleanse his lips so that he can endure the voice and presence of God.

In the same way, Christ has done this for anyone who believes in Him, that he died for their sins so that they can stand in God's presence without fear of death. In Hebrews 9 and 10 we read that Jesus spilt His blood as an eternal sacrifice to purify us of our sins and evil conscience. His sacrifice gives us confidence to enter the most holy place of heaven without fear because we are wiped clean and look righteous in God's eyes.

Therefore, we should have a full assurance of faith because He is faithful. He died for us to save us from Himself. To save us from our certain death in His presence because of our sin. Because He has done that, we can draw near to Him in faith. He is gracious. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved from the terrible temple of God so that you can enter boldly the throne-room of grace.

And, if you are a believer and have tasted the sweetness of His salvation, then declare it boldly to save others from His presence. This is what Isaiah says when, after reading off many prophecies of Christ and many condemnations of God's justice, he says in chapter 12:

Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.


(this is the first lesson of a series I am doing called "The Mission of the Gospel: A Call to Evangelism." I hope to reduce the lessons into a readable format each week so that you can be spurred on toward a greater diligence to preach the Gospel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

tuesday martyr: john frith

John Frith was one of the first in England to preach against the ideas of transubstantiation (that Jesus is physically in the Lord's supper) and purgatory. He wrote a few books on the subjects and argued that neither were found in the Scriptures or among the early church fathers and that the monks of later years added them so that they could gain power of the people.

He wrote against a man named Thomas More and quickly found himself in trouble. He had, before this, been under surveillance for some time, but his writings against More caused the roman church to go after him with more diligence.

One of his supposed friends, William Holt, turned him over to More and Frith was taken to be tried and finally, burnt for his teachings. When the two archbishops came to take him, they wanted nothing more than to help him escape because they believed him to be a righteous man and knew that he would be killed for what he taught. Frith, however, said that it would do an injustice to God's truth to stand aside and not proclaim it before the council and the world, so he cheerfully went and was cheerful even in the flames of his fire. He called for the forgiveness of those who burned him and did not seem at all to be pained by the flames until he was finally consumed by them.

He died in 1533 and was a student of William Tyndale.

(Much of this was taken from a Puritan's Mind.


Monday, January 12, 2009

18 words: world and sin

The World:

When I saw the two words 'world' and 'sin' next to each other I immediately assumed that the majority of the 'world' chapter would focus on the idea of flesh, worldly desires and the wickedness of living a carnal lifestyle. Then, in the first page, Packer hits me with this statement "In our thoughts of the world, man is always at the centre." Yikes. He had me pinned.

He goes on to talk about the awesome creation that is the world (and the universe.) One of the most challenging parts for me was when he talked about renouncing things of this world: money, career, business, sport, marriage, home, etc... he said that we must remember that "what is given up in such cases is something good, not something evil."

He continues this thought later by stating "Whether a man is worldly thus depends, not on how much enjoyment he takes from the good and pleasant things of this life, but on the spirit in which he takes it."

The latter half of the chapter then talks about the effects of sin on the beautiful world and how Christ has come to redeem it in every way. As Christians, this will be a day of rejoicing, when the world will be as it was and should be; a world without sin and death, pain and suffering, a world that is beautiful and awesome and magnifies God in every way.


Packer rightly states that "our first need in life is to learn about sin..." If we don't know the state we are in and the consequences of it, the good news of Christ will seem overdone and un-needed. But if we know what sin is in our lives, it will come as the greatest news we could ever possibly hear.

My friend, Alex Costa, recently gave a mini-seminar on the holiness of God and then blogged a few notes about the idea. And, in this chapter on sin, it is pointed out that sin must start with an understanding of God's holiness. His complete perfection, magnificence, terribleness and holiness. We must know God as God before we can know ourselves as sinners.

(As an encouragement on getting to know our Holy God, I encourage you to read and meditate on Isaiah 6. Think of the awesome terror that fell on Isaiah as he entered into the temple of heaven and the fiery seraph voices shook the temple entrance. God created those amazing creatures and Isaiah fears this God and cries "Woe is ME!" God's holiness demands an awareness of sin.)

Something else that will help in understanding our sin, because we are quick to justify ourselves as "not that bad" in comparison with others, "man is not depraved and sinful "in the sense that everything in man is as bad as it could be, but that nothing in man is as good as it should be." This comes through an awareness of who God is and what he demands. When we look at ourselves in light of perfection then we realize that nothing we have ever done can stand up to that scrutinizing test.

And so, through the knowledge of the Holy God comes the knowledge of sin. With this knowledge comes a fear of retribution. And so, now, the grace of God through the death of His Son becomes eternally good news. Hebrews 9 and 10 now stand as great testimonies to the love of God.

So, be aware of your sin and repent today. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

issues with my computer

A thousand apologies for not posting on Sin and the World from 18 Words. My computer at the church decided to really go nuts this week and no longer works for more than a minute or so (long enough to click on "new post" but not enough time to type anything.)

And, unfortunately, I keep forgetting the book at the office and I can't very well right my notes from memory. So, I promise you that the post will come around noon tomorrow (after my morning meeting and before I head to work at the store.) Until then, I leave you with some Scripture. Read the whole thing and then just read the bolded sections:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

-Ephesians 1:3-14

Amen? Yes. Amen!


Friday, January 9, 2009

short sermon

Today I preached what was easily my shortest sermon. It lasted less than 10 minutes and contained several different remembrances of Ashley. Interwoven was the Gospel, as seen in John 14:1-7. There is only one hope, and it is Christ. He has promised that if we believe in Him, that he died for our sins and rose the third day to save us, we will be with him in paradise.

Despite its brevity, this sermon affected me more than any other time I have talked about the Gospel. As I looked out at the faces in the room, I became acutely aware of the fact that some of these people would never concede to the grace of God and would instead, choose hell because of the hardness of their hearts.

Fresh in the eyes of death, I saw the finality of the Gospel. That, at some point, we will no longer have the ability to teach them the Gospel. How horrible a thought. So horrible, that my whole body feels weak. How terrible the grace of God can be, when it is denied by the very people he came to save.

This brings the idea of evangelism (a topic that I'm teaching in a Wednesday evening class) to a new height. Oh, that my complacency towards those who don't believe would be kindled.


(18 Words will be posted tomorrow: the World and Sin)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I've often spent time in prayer and conversation about my convictions on giving. It is a sensitive topic, but it should be discussed.

Personally, my views have changed fairly drastically since my early Christian days. These past couple of years I've tried to figure out when and where to give and when to withhold.

I've become increasingly convinced that giving to those who are outside the body of Christ (those who do not consider themselves Christians, not just those outside our immediate church) should not cease for any reason other than a loss of means to give. Basically, that we should give until we can't to those who are without Christ. The reason is simple: Christ gave to us while we were still sinners and saved us...and hopefully that will be true of us on earth, that through our continual giving, Christ might show himself and save them. (To note, I think it is necessary and good that we share the actual words of Christ, the Gospel, with those whom we give to, as well.)

To those within the church, it gets stickier. For those who call Christ Lord, it seems we should not give to excess if we are enabling sin. That could be the sin of laziness or the sin of irresponsibility or some addiction. There should be rebuke in those instances. However, if the family of the person is in need (if there are kids or a spouse) then you must give despite their sin, because others are dependent on the giving.

I think the latest essay in Themelios sums it up nicely. It's long, but worth the read.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

a freebie

I forgot to post this yesterday.

Desiring God is giving away all sorts of good stuff (if you win).

1st prize: Logos Scholars Library (that would be sweet), tickets to the upcoming conference (already going, but it'd be nice to go for free), and John Piper's sermon index.

2nd prize: tickets to the conference and the sermon index

3rd prize (98! of these): the sermon index


tuesday martyr: john hooper

In the wake of Zwingli, John Hooper came up and began making himself "obnoxious" in the eyes of the Queen and others.

He did, however, find some favor in the King who wished him to become bishop of Gloucester. The presiding bishop disagree and, at one point, imprisoned him for over a year for not wearing the proper clothing to be consecrated. Hooper finally decided to give over to the demands and wore what he claimed were "useless garments."

After the death of King Edward, things took a quick downturn because Queen Mary despised the reformed church and quickly had Hooper (and others) imprisoned. Hooper was held from 1553 to 1555, at which point he was burned at the stake.

During his time in prison he wrote 24 books and numerous short articles and treatises. At the time of his death he continued to pray and preach as he was being burned. The flames blew sideways much of the time, so he lived for nearly an hour amidst the flames and not once called out in pain, but continually shouted praises until his tongue became too swollen to talk.

It is these men that have continued to build on the foundation of the prophets and apostles...hopefully we'll continue to add to the gold and jewels of the building in our lifetime.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

a funeral

Tonight I got the call I've been dreading from one of my best friends. His sister, Ashley, died this afternoon after years of battling cancer.

I've known her for practically my entire life and grew up with her a year behind me in school (in the same grade as one of her brothers and a year behind my friend.) She hung out with us in high school and we went to the same youth group.

After I'd left for college she got into some trouble, got pregnant, moved out of the house, in with a boyfriend. It was not a pretty time. Now, her little boy Brandon, is a favorite at her parents house and with all of his adopted uncles (including me.)

And now, I'll be preparing for my first funeral. It feels very surreal, that the first person whom I preach over will have been someone I grew up with for 20+ years. I always thought it would be some stranger from the church who I barely knew. This funeral seems to close to my heart and part of me wants to bail.

So, keep the family in prayers as they grieve the loss of their daughter. It has been a difficult number of years and even harder in these last weeks. May God receive the glory due him in the giving and taking of life.

in Him who sustains,