Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant?

Christianity

Some Thoughts on Psalm 73

These days I am preaching on psalm 73 at Wangsung English Ministry . This is a very deep wisdom psalm and it has a ‘pivotal’ role in the editing of the Psalter (it appears in the middle of the Psalter, the first of Book III).

To prepare for my sermon I try to read a few good commentaries (the best must be the one by Allen P. Ross) and to listen to a few good sermons (usually from the Gospel Coalition site).  Of course – one of the best on this must be Martyn-Lloyd Jones (see his book Faith on Trial).

This week I decided to also take a look at the Jewish perspective, and I found in my library the book   A Rabbi Reads the Psalms, by Jonathan Magonet.  It has some good insights, but I am not sure (from reading only the section on psalm 73), that it is worth the buy.

In any case, I find this quote from Levi Yitschak of Berditchev useful in connection with Psalm 73 (p. 188):

“I do not beg You to reveal to me the secret of Your ways – I could not bear it.  But show me one thing; show it to me more clearly and more deeply; show me what this, which is happening at this very moment, means to me, what it demands of me, what You, Eternal One of the world, are telling me by way of it.  Ah, it is not why I suffer, that I wish to know, but only whether I suffer for Your sake.”


Tatsuya Shindo – The Commitment of a Yakuza Preacher

Tatsuya Shindo was a gangster in Japan.  More precisely he was a Yakuza.

He converted to Christianity in one of his prison stints and is now a pastor/preacher in a converted bar.  You can read more about him here.

What really inspired me, and should encourage every church planter, was his commitment to preaching.  After he became a Christian in prison, he felt called to be a pastor and to preach the gospel.  According to his testimony at the TTGU Chapel, he preached for 6 months only to a dog.  That was his only audience, but he persevered because he believed that God called  him to preach the Gospel.

How many of us have displayed and will display that kind of commitment and perseverence?

Now he has been blessed by the Lord.  His church is full and he has been used by God for a revival in some of Japan’s toughest jails.

Praise the Lord and let’s keep our brother Tatsuya Shindo and Japan in our prayers.  Maybe revival in Japan will start from the prison!?


A Great Conference on God, Manhood, and Ministry

I am back from India and from a short vacation. 

I feel that I need some solid teaching from people who are wiser than me (and there are many of those).

Therefore, I decided to watch live the conference on manhood from John Piper’s pastoral conference.

Doug Wilson has has started with “Father Hunger” in Leading the Home.  It looks good with solid biblical teaching.  I highly recommend it.

If you are interested, you can find the link here: http://www.desiringgod.org/live. ENJOY!


Christmas in Korea 2011 – Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most

I am still in Seoul.  And it is cold (-5C).  But thank God for my warm office (thanks to my portable heater) and so much more!

While I am still preaching through Isaiah 9:6 (I should preach on Sunday on “Prince of Peace”) I find it easier to borrow from someone else than to write my own Christmas thoughts (I may have more to say on Saturday evening, but that is kind of late :)).

So here is a fine writing from Matt Redmond about Christmas:
Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most.

Great points and hard to argue with the man!

Here are some of my favorite lines:

“I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays…Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone…Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place…Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.”


Reading the Bible with the Reformers – Timothy George

Even though I was raised in a Romanian Baptist family without any access to the church fathers or the reformers (it was under communism when Christian literature was very scarce), I was attracted toward them from the very beginning.  While many of the church fathers are usually associated with the Orthodox Church which was understood as being (mostly) dead in Romania when I grew up as a Baptist, there is no doubt in my mind that many of the writings of the church fathers are still very useful for the church.  After all, the Holy Spirit has a history, and to read the Bible with the church fathers, the Reformers, and the Puritans is like having a bible study across the centuries.

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EASTER GREETINGS from the EMPTY TOMB

Here are some greetings (only 2 minutes) from the empty tomb from Dr. Bryan Chapell, author of Christ-Centered Preaching .

HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY to all!
Pastor Cris


The Boundaries of Love

I recently read a story about a group of about eleven women who were asked if they were faithful to their husbands. Only one answered in the affirmative. Another one of them was also faithful, but was too ashamed to raise her hand to acknowledge that.

This is the kind of culture in which we live, a culture in which people are ashamed of fidelity. Al Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary is correct when he says that “we are an adulterous generation.” And this is confirmed by a spokesman of Generation X: We are the first generation in which adultery is now not an issue. We have so little expectation of monogamy or of faithfulness, adultery is just no big deal.” Gladly, that is not true of his entire generation, but it does seem increasingly true of the culture at large.

However, in this context of unfaithfulness, when society considers adultery the modern/sophisticated (even mature) way to live, the Bible is again countercultural by insisting that the mature is the one who lives in obedience to God. And God’s word on this issue is very clear and direct: You shall not commit adultery! In an “adulterous generation” we are called to faithfulness in marriage.

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Bono on Grace

Here is a great interview of Bono from The Poached Egg.

http://www.thepoachedegg.net/the-poached-egg/2010/09/bono-interview-grace-over-karma.html.

 


Interview with Shahbaz Bhatti in October 2010 – Seoul, Korea

This is a heavily edited interview with Bhatti in Seoul, Korea.  The editing was done mostly by a student from TTGST.  For the interview I had about 5 written questions, but I also asked him some random questions when I did not forget what I wanted to ask! 🙂

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Preaching the Ten Commandments Today

These days, following the lead of our pastor Daniel Kim, we are preaching through the ten commandments at Hallelujah English Ministry. In Hebrew it is actually the ten words (עֲשֶׂ֖רֶת הַדְּבָרִֽים).

I just started another website to post some material related to this. You can find the new website here Preaching the Ten Commandments.

When I heard about the intention of the senior pastor I was not very excited. I never preached from the ten commandments and I was planning to continue my preaching through Genesis (the Isaac story), and later from Ecclesiastes. However, since pastor Steve Chang started preaching through the ten commandments while I was in the hospital (he preached through the first four), I had to continue when I came out, especially since he left for his sabbatical.

As I started preparing for my sermons I realized that there was a lot of wisdom in preaching through the ten commandments, as they reflect the character of God and as the law functions as a mirror that should lead us to God and the cross. (Of course – the law has other functions: map/guide, muzzle/restrain etc).

So far – I find these books the most useful for my preparation (my time is limited, partly because of my knee injury):

Keeping the Ten Commandments by J. I Packer – this is a good and brief introduction to the commandments from a great contemporary theologian.

 

Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis by Philip Ryken – this is the best resource for teaching/preaching I have found so far. It is very insightful and informed!!! He gives very good guidelines for understanding OT law and has a very good grasp of the Reformed catechisms (Heidelberg and Westminster) and of today’s culture.

 

Words from the Fire by Albert Mohler – this is also very insightful, but I find Ryken better.

You can get all of these 3 books on KINDLE (as I did), and that makes it much easier to take notes. If you can only afford two (or have limited time), go for the first two.

Two more books look useful, but I have not been able to access one of them in time though I wish I had it (it is not available in Kindle):

How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments by Edmund Clowney. I do not have access to this, but knowing Clowney’s theology and preaching I am sure it would be very useful. See the first review on Amazon for a good idea about this book.

The Ten Commandments in History: Mosaic Paradigms for a Well-Ordered Society also looks good (and I found it in my library), but I have not had very much time to look at this and I haven’t used it (almost) at all in my preparation. However, it seems worth looking at especially for its chapter on Jonathan Edwards etc.

My sermons (from the 5th commandment on) can be found here. They are from the early (10 a.m.) service because the second one is not recorded anymore. However, starting in March we will have only one service at 11:30 am.

Again – some material/notes for preaching the ten commandments should be poster here: Preaching the Ten Commandments.


Bono on Aids, Poverty, Malaria

Thanks to Danut Manastireanu I found this interview by Bill Hybels with Bono.

Bono talks about Aids, malaria, poverty etc.

Theology is not his strength, but one must admit that he has a genuine compassion for the poor and a passion for justice.

It is worth listening to this rock star’s perspectives and learn from him.


The RADICAL Disciple

John Stott is a great Christian teacher and example for many of us. He certainly is a model of humility and passion for me. There are a few people I know who are so dedicated to help the Majority World get a firm grasp on the Scripture and Christian discipleship.

I am currently reading his book (thank God the semester is over J) The Radical Disciple. You can find a fine review of this book here.

This is a much needed book for any Christian, especially the typical suburban American one who is all too happy to live in a nice neighborhood taking his children weekly to AWANA in a nice $30K + car with climate control, and who gives to mission sparingly (both of his time and money). In other words, this should be a great book for me, because it is a call to radical discipleship.

Here are a few highlights from the introduction (my emphasis):

“My concern in this book is that we who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus will provoke him to say again: “Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

For genuine discipleship is wholehearted discipleship [radical came from radix = root – anybody whose opinions went to the roots and was thoroughgoing in their commitment]…

Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective: choosing the areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority.

AMEN! Hard to argue with that!

In this book Stott looks at “eight characteristics of Christian discipleship that are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously.” These are: nonconformity, Christlikeness, maturity, creation care, simplicity, balance, dependence, and death.”

I am already beginning to like this book and I hope to post more info about it soon.

You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am (John 13:13). It is time we OBEY HIM!


Disturb us, Lord

A few Romanian blogs (see Vasilica Croitor and Danut Manastireanu) picked up and translated a great prayer by Sir Francis Drake (1577).   I like it a lot and I found it in English here. Here is the text:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Francis Drake,�an adventurer and essentially a legal pirate (What else�is a second son supposed to do to make a living?), wrote this prayer as he departed Portsmouth on the Golden Hind to raid Spanish gold on the west coast of South America. He ventured at least as far north as the non-Spanish parts of�California, claiming it as “New Albion” – New England- and returned to his Queen (the long way – via circumnavigation)�with loot worth over a half million pounds sterling, and received his Knighthood for it.

I hope you enjoy it too.  Many (most of the?) times I do need to be disturbed by the Lord from my complacency.

Below is the Romanian version recited wonderfully by Emil Bartosh!


Christians in the Middle East – Iraq

Most people heard about the bad news about our Christian brothers coming from Iraq. It is very sad indeed.
The same can be said about our brothers in Egypt. (By the way – this site from Raymond Ibrahim has some very good and sensible insights on Islam).

I have had students from Iraq – and most of them were very good students. You could tell they were serious about Christianity and ministry. The following letter is from one of them who is ministering in Iraq.

May God bless him and let’s join him and the other persecuted Christians in prayer: Hebrews 13:3.

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Charles Bridges on Wisdom Literature – Proverbs 8

I love Charles Bridges on Proverbs and Ecclesiastes . They are true classics.

Of course – his understanding of Wisdom is fully Christological. The following is an excellent example from Proverbs 8.

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Meet the Puritans – John Cotton (1585-1652)

I am currently working on an essay about the Puritan interpretation of Ecclesiastes, so I am brushing a bit more on my knowledge of the Puritans.

So far I have decided to look at the works of three Puritan writers: John Cotton, John Trap, and Edward Reynolds (Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole are easily accessible).

For anyone interested in knowing more about the Puritans, these books will go a long way: Meet the Puritans, A Quest for Godliness, and Worldly Saints.
John Cotton is very fascinating, and the comments of Spurgeon are very relevant, especially on his writing on Ecclesiastes: “By a great linguist and sound divine. Ecclesiastes is not a book to be expounded verse by verse; but Cotton does it as well as anyone” (from Spurgeon’s Commenting & Commentaries).

The most detailed information about Cotton comes (as far as I know) from Benjamin Brook’s The Lives of the Puritans (vo. III). You can download this for free here: http://www.archive.org/details/thelivesofthepur01broouoft.

The following passages give us a good idea about the man (from Benjamin Brook):

He was educated in Trinity, then Emmanuel College, Cambridge and came to faith through the preaching of Dr. Sibbs.
“Mr. Cotton was a divine indefatigably laborious all his days. He lived under the conviction of that sacred precept, “Be not slothful in business, but fervent in the spirit, serving the Lord.” He rose early, and commonly studied 12 hours a day, accounting that a scholar’s day. He was resolved to wear out, rather than rust out.
He was a man of great literary acquirements, and so well acquainted with the HEBREW, that he could converse in it with great ease. He was a most celebrated preacher…remarkable for practical religion and Christian benevolence, and his whole life was filled with acts of piety and charity.
He was a person of great modesty, humility, and good –nature; and though he was often insulted by angry men, he never expressed the least resentment.
A conceited ignorant man once followed him home after sermon, and with frowns told him that his preaching has become dark or flat. To whom he meekly replied,” Both brother; it may be both: let me have your prayers that it may be otherwise.”

…He is denominated “an universal scholar, a living system of the liberal arts, and a walking library. He was deeply skilled in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and an extraordinary theologian.””

WOW – you must be inspired by such a Christian scholar/theologian/preacher! I am surely!


2010 European Christian Book of the Year

It is nice to see that evangelical Romanians are “coming of age”, and that both Baptists and Pentecostals are looking back to try to uncover the people who collaborated with the Secret Police (securitate) from within their own ranks.

The Baptists (Daniel Mitrofan) published a few years ago Pigmei and Uriasi [Dwarfs and Giants], and the Pentecostals (Vasilica Croitor) just published Rascumpararea Memoriei [The Redemption of Memory].

While I have not read any of these books (I only read about them), both books ruffled a lot of feathers. For that I am not surprised.

It seems (again from second hand info) that the Pentecostal book is more balanced and fair. In any case, congratulations to Vasilica Croitor for winning the 2010 European Christian Book of the Year.

I assume that it is a pretty good book if it won this award and I hope to read both of them someday to learn from both the dwarfs and the giants!


Bible Briefs – For Your Study of the Bible

I just found out about some Bible Briefs published by Virginia Theological Seminary.

While I have not read any of them yet (I just downloaded a few), they pretend to be “highly readable pamphlets introducing the books of Scripture. Each pamphlet presents a concise (tract-size), stimulating introduction to a biblical book from either the Old or New Testaments to begin adventuring through the actual Scriptures.”

The following paragraphs are also from their website:

Feel free to print out these PDF downloads and use them for group study, for personal Bible study, or as a resource for sermons.

Created in partnership with Forward Movement Publications, Bible Briefs is a long term project aimed at producing introductions to all 66 books of the Bible. As new research and insight into the Scriptures emerges, we will produce new, up-to-date pamphlets to be available alongside older, classic ones. As we press forward with excitement, we encourage your support by using and spreading the word about these materials. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Let me know if you find any of them useful!


A Passionate Prayer for Awakening

This prayer for awakening (from http://www.desiringgod.org) has relevance for every Christian Church.

Send LORD a remarkable awakening that results in…

  • hundreds of people coming to Christ,
  • old animosities being removed,
  • marriages being reconciled and renewed,
  • wayward children coming home,
  • long-standing slavery to sin being conquered,
  • spiritual dullness being replaced by vibrant joy,
  • weak faith being replaced by bold witness,
  • disinterest in prayer being replaced by fervent intercession,
  • boring Bible reading being replaced by passion for the Word,
  • disinterest in global missions being replaced by energy for Christ’s name among the nations, and
  • lukewarm worship being replaced by zeal for the greatness of God’s glory.

AMEN!


Wells on the ‘Marketers’

Here I am reading David Wells’ book The Courage to Be Protestant. It is a very useful read and it has many quotable passages.

Here is one on the Bill Hybels and Rick Warren type of churches [p. 14]:

Here also were churches smelling of coffee and reverberating with edgy music…The music is contemporary…Rap or heavy metal would not be cool.

What results, all too often, beneath all the smiling crowds, the packed auditoria, is a faith so cramped, limited, and minuscule as to be entirely unable to command our life, our energies, or, as a matter of fact, even much of our attention. One church advertises itself as a place where you will find “loud music” and “short services.”
It has a “casual atmosphere” but, it wants us to know, it also offers “serious faith.”

This is always the rub in this experiment: the form greatly modifies the content.  The loud music and short services are part of the FORM, but the form, put together to be pleasing, actually undermines the seriousness of faith.  The form is in fact the product, and in this market the sale has to be done quickly and as painlessly as possible because the customers have itchy feet.  This greatly militates against the seriousness any church wants to have. And that is why a deep chasm has opened between the church marketers and historic Protestant orthodoxy.  It is less that the truths of this orthodoxy are assailed than they are seen to be irrelevant to the building of the church.  They are, it is believed, an impediment to success…

No comment, but you may want to look at the useful review by Trevin Wax.


Creation and Evolution – Waltke’s View and Consequences

Bruce Waltke is one of the best known scholars in Old Testament studies. I heard him speak, I read some of his writing, and I like him a lot. At 79 he still keeps going by teaching OT in various places (it looks like he is moving to Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, FL)!

I am writing this brief blog just to draw attention to the fact that Waltke has weighed in on the issue of theistic evolution. This weighing in has led to his departure (he was NOT forced to resign as some outlets suggest) from RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL) and to a flurry of blogs.

These blogs shed additional light on this most important issue for Christianity in the 21st century: latest info, John Hobbins, and Justin Taylor. John Hobbins has the links to many bloggers who discussed this topic.

It remains to be seen where this story will go and what its impact will be in the evangelical world!


EASTER 2010 (Passover)

Another Easter is approaching, and sometimes it is difficult for pastors and teachers to preach and teach with wisdom, passion and integrity during these  most important times in the Christan calendar.

After all – we have all preached on the cross and resurrection before.

How can our hearts be kindled again to preach and teach with passion?

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WHY WE LOVE THE CHURCH

I was glad to see that an alumni from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary won the Christianity Today Book Award.  His name is Kevin DeYoung and he blogs here.  The book is entitled: Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion.

You can listen to an interview with him here.

Is it always inspiring to see graduates from GCTS do great things for the Kingdom of GOD! PTL!

It is also great to see someone loving the Church and writing about that love!


WHY JOHNNY CAN’T PREACH – The Annual Review Idea

As a co-pastor at an English Ministry – I try to read a few books on preaching per year, in the hope that my preaching will slowly improve.

I recently picked up a funny and instructive good by T. David Gordon (I am pretty sure he taught me Intermediate Greek at GCTS – even though I remember falling asleep in some of his classes from my early shifts at UPS :)): Why Johnny Can’t Preach.

[This is an useful book for any pastor – I just don’t see how you could pass this one to your pastor without more or less sending the message that he can’t preach :)].

There are many insights in this book – I will limit this post to his section on “The Annual Review” (pp. 33-34):

“My final argument to prove that preaching is in bad shape today is the annual review – or, to be more exact, its absence.  Almost no churches conduct an annual review of the pastoral staff [this is certainly true in Romanian Baptist churches…]…I believe it is absolutely essential for any professional to have an annual review of his labor.  Those of us who teach are reviewed; those who work in business are reviewed.  Every other realm of labor recognizes the importance of an annual review, in which strengths and weaknesses can be assessed as a means to a more fruitful service in the future…

So why don’t churches routinely conduct annual reviews of their ministers? Because ministers don’t want to be told that their preaching is disorganized , hard to follow, irrelevant, and poorly reasoned; [TRUE – I certainly don’t want/like to be told that…] and because churches do not want to insult their ministers or hurt their feelings.

Therefore, I suggest that the very absence of annual reviews stands as glaring proof that preaching is so bad today that no one – neither the preacher nor the hearer – can tolerate the thought of how painful it would be to provide an honest assessment.”

Hard to argue with T. David Gordon on this one.  I am convinced that an annual review of my preaching would hurt…but I believe that it would be for my good and that of the congregation!