Friday, September 28, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: Jesus and His work

How can we not make much of Jesus and His work in corporate worship? There would be no Christianity without Him and His cross-work. There would be no Christian church without Him and His perfectly completed mission to purchase a people. There would be no Christian worship without Him, as well as His righteous life, substitutionary death and glorious resurrection that create true worshipers.

Paul writes about God the Son’s supremacy and centrality in Col. 1:13-23. In that marvelous text, we see Jesus is, among other things:

-- “[T]he image of the invisible God;”

-- The Creator of all things;

-- “[B]efore all things;”

-- The One “in whom all things hold together;”

-- “[H]ead of the body, the church;”

-- The One who has “first place in everything;”

-- The One through whom God the Father was pleased to “reconcile all things to Himself.”

No wonder we will gather in Jesus’ name this Sunday on the basis of His reconciling work in our behalf to worship the one true God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May we meet with a passion to exalt Jesus as we worship the only One worthy of worship.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For your attention

1. Letter from freed Iranian pastor – Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani expresses his gratitude to God and others in this letter he wrote after being released in early September after more than 1,000 days of imprisonment for refusing to recant his faith in the Lord Jesus.

2. Why you should welcome people inviting themselves to your house – Tim Challies writes about not being “inconvenienced by inconvenience” at his blog. He says, “Let me offer a few reasons that you ought to be willing, eager even, for people to invite themselves into your home.” If you read nothing else in today’s “For your attention,” I urge you to read this. It may transform your home, our church and the lives of many.

3. Christians and embryo adoption – Russell Moore explains with on-target insight why Christians should support -- and participate in -- embryo adoption and why it is not a compromise with in vitro fertilization and other objectionable, reproductive technologies.

4. Which is more important -- public or private worship? -- David Murray, professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich., quotes 17th Century Puritan pastor David Clarkson on the importance of public worship. In a sermon, Clarkson gave 12 reasons why public worship is to be preferred over private worship. (HT: Tim Challies)

5. Some insight into the supposed fragment on Jesus’ wife – Thomas White of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provides some background on the recent report of a fragment supposedly referring to Jesus’ wife and some of the problems with the fragment and such a claim.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'The Glory of God'

Shai Linne is one of the young, reformed rappers who is writing some great lyrics that proclaim robust, gospel-focused theology while glorifying God and exalting Jesus. Linne and his wife are members of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., as are another Christ-honoring rapper, Trip Lee, and his wife. In fact, Linne preached on Psalm 139 yesterday for the church, and Lee is scheduled to preach later this year on Psalm 142. In the video below, Linne performs one of his songs, "The Glory of God," from his album, "The Attributes of God." Timothy Brindle, I think, is the rapper who provides most of the vocal assistance to Linne in the video. You may read the lyrics here.

Worth repeating from the Twitterverse

Here are some of the best tweets from the last week by people I am following:

“No, you don’t actually know what’s best for you. So, get up and obey his call as you rest in his amazing grace.” – Paul David Tripp

“The gospel is not ultimately a defense from pain and suffering; rather it is the message of God’s rescue through pain.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“Lord, make us bold enough to fight the beast, and meek to kneel beside the least.” – John Piper

“The Bible is not a record of good people earning God’s love, but a record of bad people receiving God’s love because Jesus earned it for us.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“We struggle w God hardening Pharaoh. But we should struggle w His mercy to Israel. Look to the doorposts. Israel saved from God not Pharaoh.” – Byron Yawn

“If you don’t have a great cause to live for, you will be your cause.” – John Piper

“God’s grace will take precious things from you, not to leave you poor, but to give you the better riches of Jesus.” – Paul David Tripp

“Ministry motto: His story, His fulfillment of the Law, my joy.” – Elyse Fitzpatrick

“Doctrinal legalism: ‘God’s love for you depends on you.’ Missional legalism: ‘Cultural transformation depends on you.’” – Tullian Tchividjian

“The example of OT saints isn’t ‘be like them’ or ‘look how faithful’ but ‘trust in faithfulness of GOD they trusted’ despite who they were.” – Byron Yawn

Friday, September 21, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: Our awesome God

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,” Jesus said, according to John 4:24. Regarding worshiping God in truth, here are a few over-arching truths revealed in Scripture about the God we will worship together this Sunday (with credit to the Praise Factory curriculum and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology):

-- God knows all there is to know at all times – everything in the past, present and future.

-- God is everywhere all the time.

-- God is perfect in all the attributes He possesses at all times.

God’s perfect, unchanging holiness means even the most moral man or woman, boy or girl cannot enter His presence. Only One who was without sin can enter His presence and make a way for sinners – and that includes all of us -- to enter His presence. God the Son did so by being our substitute in His wholly righteous life and fully acceptable death.

May we gather Sunday with deep recognition of the magnificence of the only God worthy of worship and with great gratitude for Jesus and His work that makes our worship possible.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is the family the most important institution to God?

'Family Portrait' photo (c) 2009, Bill S - license:, explaining and practicing the biblical view of the relationship between the family and the church can be a challenge.

Opinions about how the two should relate to one another run the gamut. In fact, we have seen them run the gamut in just our small fellowship, Covenant Community Church. And those opinions can be strongly held -- sometimes prompting, partly, people at both ends of the spectrum of opinions to depart the church family.

Because of opinions expressed in our church, I have given a lot of thought to the issue over several years. I have wanted to address it at this blog but have not seemed to find a good entry point for the discussion. I think I have now.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw that an acquaintance in the ministry whom I respect a lot had begun serving in a pastoral position with another church. I went to that church's website and found the following statement in the information about its ministry:
We believe that the family is the first and most important institution that the Lord created. Moreover, following God the family should hold the highest priority.
I believe we would all agree the family -- marriage specifically -- is the first institution God established. The other assertions -- "the family is the . . . most important institution that the Lord created" and "the family should hold the highest priority" -- raise questions for me, however. And I think they should for you, if you are a disciple of Christ identified with a church.

In this post, I don't intend to address those questions with answers. I have opinions that I think are biblically based. For now, however, I just want to ask some of the questions I think the statement above raises.

I welcome your responses to these questions and any additional questions you think should be raised.

Here are my questions:

-- Is this -- the assertion the family is the "most important institution" and "should hold the highest priority" -- what we see as we read the four gospel accounts, Acts and the letters in the New Testament?

-- Is this consistent with what Jesus is teaching when He offers some hard sayings at various points in His earthly ministry regarding His disciples' devotion to Him in contrast to their devotion to family members?

-- Does this mean the government is more important than the church, since God established it (Gen. 9) before either Israel or the church and this statement appears to be based partly on chronology?

-- Does this mean an institution based on flesh and blood is more important than one based on the blood of God the Son?

-- Does this diminish the church and thereby diminish the work of Christ in His perfectly righteous life and totally satisfactory, substitutionary death that created the church?

-- Does this mean the church is subservient to the family?

-- What does this mean for church members who are not part of a nuclear family? Is their value less because they are only part of a church family and not part of a biological/adoptive family?

-- Does this mean it is okay for me to think my family is more important than God’s family?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

News through the gospel lens: The Muslim protests

Some Muslims again are participating in protests -- some violent -- at various locations around the globe, this time apparently in response to a short film posted online.

What is a gospel-focused way to view this development?

David Mathis provided helpful insight by posting Sept. 14 on the Desiring God blog some quotes from John Piper and brief commentary. The Piper comments come from an important 2006 article in response to protests by Muslims against another affront to their prophet, Muhammad. You may read Piper's 2006 article here.

Here are some quotes from that article:
The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery.

For Christ, enduring the mockery of the cross was the essence of his mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience.

[A] religion with no insulted Savior will not endure insults to win the scoffers. It means that this religion is destined to bear the impossible load of upholding the honor of one who did not die and rise again to make that possible. It means that Jesus Christ is still the only hope of peace with God and peace with man. And it means that his followers must be willing to "share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" (Philippians 3:10).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why preach the gospel to yourself (No. 13)

'martino vs martinus' photo (c) 2007, spike - license: is another reason -- "Chosen for Prayer" -- to preach the gospel to yourself as provided by Milton Vincent in his book A Gospel Primer for Christians.
When God chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world, He did not merely choose me to be "holy and blameless"; He chose me also to be "before Him in love." To be sure, I am always in God's presence on earth, and in heaven I will be in His presence more fully than ever. But it could also be said that in this life I am especially "before Him in love" when I come "before Him" in prayer and worship.

Therefore, I can infer that prayer is not simply something I am allowed to do as a Christian; prayer is actually one of the great purposes for which God chose to save me. Christ Himself confirms this fact when He makes the following statement to His disciples: "I chose you . . . that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." As a chosen one of God, I was saved to pray; and whenever I come into God's presence to behold Him, worship Him, or make request of Him, I am arriving at the pinnacle of God's saving purposes for me.

God is radically committed to my life of prayer. He shed the blood of His Son so that I might be cleansed and rendered fit to stand before Him in love. He also permitted the brutal rending of His Son so that I might now have a way into the Holy Place through the torn flesh of Jesus. "Draw near," He says in Hebrews 4; "draw near," He says in Hebrews 10; "pray without ceasing," He urges elsewhere. How can I not feel the infinite sincerity of these invitations, especially when considering the painful lengths that God endured so that I might enter His presence in prayer?

Indeed, the gospel itself serves as the sweetest of invitations to pray; and preaching it to myself each day nurtures within me a mighty impulse to come "before [God] in love" and do the praying that I was elected to do.
(Scriptures cited: Eph. 1:4; Ps. 100:2, 68:4; I John 5:14; John 15:16; Eph. 1:7; Rom. 5:9; Heb. 10:19-20, 4:16, 10:22; I Th. 5:17).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Glorious Christ'

The folks at Sovereign Grace Music continue to amaze. Year after year, this collection of musicians -- led by SGM Director Bob Kauflin -- produces songs that glorify God, exalt Christ, make the gospel known and teach biblical theology in its richness. The video below is of an acoustic version of "Glorious Christ" recorded in the SGM studio earlier this year. The song is from the album "Age to Age," which was released in April. This version features a different singer than the album version. He is Eric McAllister. Three of the musicians playing in the studio are members of the band Enfield who help with some SGM songs. Playing the keyboard is Kauflin, who wrote the song.

Worth repeating from the Twitterverse

Here are some tweets from the last week by people I am following:

“God gave us life so that we might live to show He is more precious than life.” – John Piper

“Corporate worship is designed to decimate your allegiance to the kingdom of self and enthrall you with the grace and glory of Kingdom of God.” – Paul David Tripp

“The reason you and I struggle with scandalous grace is because down deep we really don’t think we’re that bad.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“Spiritual growth is NOT arriving at some point where we need Jesus less because we’re getting better and better.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“If you don’t believe you are utterly accepted by God in Christ you will find some other means to define your worth.” – Greg Breazeale

“Prosperity is a great mercy, but adversity is a greater one if it brings us to Christ.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“Christian growth is seen best in our acknowledgment of weakness.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“You and I don’t just need to be rescued from the idols around us. No, we need to be rescued from our idolatrous hearts.” – Paul David Tripp

“Pulpits are full of preachers telling one-legged people to jump higher and run faster.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“True Christians are happy to be despised if, by their being despised, somehow the Gospel is displayed.” – Mark Dever

Friday, September 14, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: Encountering God

In Job 42, the book's namesake responds to God's continual questioning in the four previous chapters -- questioning that points to the truth that God is sovereign and Job is not. When God finishes speaking, Job says, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6). Job encounters God, who reveals Himself to Job. Job responds with worship -- declaring who God is, humbling himself before God with a new knowledge of who He is and repenting of his sins. We gather as a community weekly to encounter God, especially through His Word, that we might know Him better, worship Him and be changed by Him. May we come Sunday desiring this kind of life-changing time of worship of the one true God.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Marriage: Primary or secondary?

One of the concerns I have about the often valuable emphasis on traditional values by the pro-family movement in our country is that we, as Bible-believing Christians, can elevate marriage and the family to a place God did not intend in our effort to demonstrate the importance, beauty and value of these institutions.

We should attempt to protect marriage legally. We should seek to build strong marriages and families. We should not, however, make these really good things -- which are gracious gifts from God -- into ultimate things, as Timothy Keller puts it.

In my opinion, John Piper is one of those pastors and writers who have succeeded at promoting marriage to its biblical position while demonstrating it is not ultimate. David Mathis of Desiring God pointed to this in a recent blog post in which he excerpted the following from Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage:
Focusing on the pragmatic effects of marriage undermines the very power of marriage to achieve the effects we desire. In other words, for the sake of all these beneficial practical effects, we should not focus on them. This is the way life is designed by God to work. Make him and the glory of his Son central, and you get the practical effects thrown in. Make the practical effects central, and you lose both.

. . . I want people to flourish in every way. I want the poor to rise into joyful, self-sustaining, productive work and stable households. Therefore, for the sake of these good effects of marriage, let it be heralded with joy that there are reasons for marriage that are vastly more important.

Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children. Being united to Christ by faith is a greater source of marital success than perfect sex and double-income prosperity.

If we make secondary things primary, they cease to be secondary and become idolatrous. They have their place. But they are not first, and they are not guaranteed. . . . So it is with marriage. It is a momentary gift. It may last a lifetime, or it may be snatched away on the honeymoon. Either way, it is short. It may have many bright days, or it may be covered with clouds. If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way. Every one of them will be, not an obstacle to success, but a way to succeed. The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.
In a post that is somewhat related, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote Sept. 11 on “Christian Values Cannot Save Anyone.” You may read it here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Worth repeating from the Twitterverse

Here are some tweets from the last week by people I am following:

"The gospel can't just b evident in a doctrinal statement. It must b visible in the day 2 day life of the church." -- Matt Chandler

“Grace activates the love for God and neighbor that the law calls for but cannot produce.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“Jesus is never late. Don’t mock His clock.” – John Piper

“Corporate worship is designed to instill a hope deep within you that cannot be shaken by chaos in your circumstances or relationships.” – Paul David Tripp

“Walking with God doesn’t lead to God’s favor; God’s favor leads to walking with God.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“A religion that needs state power to enforce obedience to it is a religion without confidence in the power of its god.” – Russell Moore

“Our tendency to focus on our daily battle with sin instead of Jesus’ victory over sin is the reason we fail in our daily battle with sin.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“The radical sacrifice of the cross was necessary because we have no capacity whatsoever to be righteous on our own.” – Paul David Tripp

“Since forgiveness has been granted it makes no sense to ease your conscience by minimizing your wrongs or shifting the blame.” – Paul David Tripp

“Over-protecting your children teaches them preservation is primary. Over-expecting from your children teaches them performance is primary.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“Freedom happens when the affirmation you look for from others is replaced by the affirmation you already possess in Christ.” – Tullian Tchividjian

“Prayer is a rebellion against my efforts at autonomy.” – Byron Yawn

“A life of worry is the fruit of failing to believe that ‘it is finished.’” – Tullian Tchividjian

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Come to Me'

Michael Bleecker is worship pastor of The Village Church, Flower Mound campus, in the Dallas Metroplex. Matt Chandler is The Village's lead pastor for teaching. Bleecker writes some of the music the worship team and he lead the congregation in each week. He co-wrote "Come to Me," which he plays in the video below.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: 'We' and 'Him'

“[Y]et for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (I Cor. 8:6). These powerful words provide much truth-based fuel for our worship. We worship a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This verse focuses on the first two persons of the Trinity. Paul says all things come from the Father, and “we exist for Him.” We live for His glory and purpose. Paul says while the Father is the source of creation, the Son is the agent in creation, and “we exist through Him.” We live by His creative power, and we also live as Christians “through Him” – through His life, death and resurrection. Our church will gather to worship Sunday with these truths informing that worship: One God. One Lord. Their work. Our purpose. It is about the Father and the Son. May they receive the glory.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When, oh when, will the day come?

'vaikelis' photo (c) 2006, kambodza - license: think the question may have first come to mind after I finally watched the 2011 movie "The Help" about three weeks ago.

It was put into words as Linda and I visited with a godly young friend on Labor Day.

President Obama's decision to make abortion a centerpiece of his re-election campaign lurks in its background.

The question? It is this:

When will we as Americans look back on legalized abortion as we now do slavery and the Jim Crow laws of the South?

And that leads to other questions:

-- Would God -- in His gracious sovereignty -- grant it in my lifetime? At least in the lifetimes of those who are now living?

On January 22 of next year, we will reach the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton -- the Supreme Court's companion decisions that wiped out all state bans on abortion and legalized the practice nationwide throughout all stages of pregnancy. That is four decades and -- even more horribly -- 50 million, closer to 55 million, destroyed unborn children ago. That also is tens of millions of devastated mothers -- and fathers and grandparents -- who chose abortion or pressured for abortion and lived to regret doing so ago.

-- What will we do that those who follow decades from now will not look back on us as we now look back on those professing Christians who supported a form of apartheid in this country and treated fellow image-bearers of God as less than fully human?

There are many steps we can take. I will mention a few that seem appropriate at this time:

(1) We can let the sheer weight of legalized abortion press deeply into our being with a longing that God would break up calloused hearts that have become used to our acceptance of child-killing.

(2) We can intercede for women and unborn babies in desperate straits and for those who influence them. In communities with abortion clinics, we can exercise a prayerful, servant-hearted presence in front of those centers. We can pray for those who promote abortion from spiritual blindness. We can ask God to intervene in our government that justice and mercy would be exalted at every level.

(3) We can live in the light of the gospel of Jesus -- reminding ourselves of it; sharing it with those who push abortion, use it or are tempted to use it; proclaiming it in our churches and homes, making disciples in the process, and supporting ministries that deliver help and the gospel to mothers in need.

Oh that there would never be a 100th anniversary for legal abortion in 2073! Oh that there would never be an 80th anniversary! Oh, even, that there would never be a 50th anniversary!

May it be so, Lord!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What complementarianism is and isn't

It seems to me to be an appropriate time for some further explanation about complementarianism -- what it is and what it isn't. The adults and youth watched, and discussed, a few weeks ago a panel discussion on the subject. The video was from this year's Together for the Gospel conference. Last Sunday, I preached on I Peter 3:1-7, where God gives some commands through the apostle Peter regarding wives and husbands.

Mary Kassian -- a wife, mother of adult sons, author and teacher of women's studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. -- posted yesterday at The Gospel Coalition blog what she titled "Complementarianism for Dummies." You may read it here. A video interview titled "Boundaries Are for Your Freedom" also is included in the post.

Her post is a helpful start in understanding complementarianism, although it should not be considered in any way an attempt to deal with all the issues involved with this subject. A couple of her comments in the post worth quoting are:
Essentially, a complementarian is a person who believes that God created male and female to reflect complementary truths about Jesus. . . .

Who we are as male and female is ultimately not about us. It's about testifying to the story of Jesus. We do not get to dictate what manhood and womanhood are all about. Our Creator does. That's the basis of complementarianism.
Also, if you did not read the post by Don Carson on this topic I linked to Aug. 21, you made do so here. He explains why The Gospel Coalition's leaders use complementarianism instead of patriarchy to describe the biblical view.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Worth repeating from the Twitterverse

I am only a recent convert to Twitter, but my brief time in the Twitterverse has been profitable. I don't tweet much, but I am being challenged and encouraged by many of the tweets from those I follow. I find the pithy comments often to be full of grace and truth.

Below are some tweets by people I am following from the last four days. All these folks are worth following.

"Preachers and Parents: External life change may happen if you give law, but internal life change only happens when you give grace." -- Tullian Tchividjian

"Jesus not only bore your punishment, but he also became your righteousness; both establishing your acceptance with the Father." -- Paul David Tripp

"Believer your standing rests securely not on the consistency of your performance, but on the perfection of Christ's righteousness." -- Paul David Tripp

"Grace never comes as a consequence of our righteousness; it comes as a contradiction to our sin." -- Tullian Tchividjian

"So many Christians protect themselves from inconvenience as though inconvenience is deadly. Fight back!" -- Tim Challies

"Our pursuit of holiness is too often motivated by how we want to see ourselves; driven by a longing to improve our self-image." -- Tullian Tchividjian

"A robust ecclesiology would encourage moms that going to church isn't 'pointless' even if they miss hearing most of the sermon b/c of baby." -- Gloria Furman (And, I would add, the same is true for those who serve in the nursery. -- Tom Strode)

"Corporate worship is designed to make you thankful, not just for possessions and accomplishments, but for what you've been given in Christ." -- Paul David Tripp

"We need to give up trying to live the Christian life on our own." -- Mark Dever

"God is seen to be supreme by the depth and passion of our esteem." -- John Piper

"God's demand: 'be righteous.' God's diagnosis: 'no one is righteous.' God's deliverance: 'Jesus is our righteousness.'" -- Tullian Tchividjian

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Let Your Blood Plead for Me'

Sojourn is a collection of musicians from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Ky. Sojourn's musicians write original songs and do rearrangements of old hymns. They have recorded two albums of Isaac Watts' hymns that they reworked. The one in the video below is "Let Your Blood Plead for Me," a text by Watts rearranged by Sojourn. You may read the lyrics here.