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.
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.
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!
Anyone who has had any contact with Christians living in Muslim countries knows that the Christians who dare to stand for what they believe have a very hard time. This ‘hard time’ depends on the Muslim country, as some are more open (e.g. Jordan, Indonesia etc.) than others (Saudi Arabia etc.).
Here is the case of a Christian brother from Egypt. His name is Hani Nazeer. Unfortunately, (and this is also typical, especially for Evangelical Christians) he is hated by both Islamists and “Christians”, as the article states:
“Hani is in between the hate of the Islamists and the hate of the Christians,” he said. “The Islamists of course are against him, and the church [leadership] is against him, so he’s being badly squeezed between the two.”
Let’s pray for Hani that he remains strong in his faith, and that many will come to faith through his witness!
So everywhere we are determined and defined by Him who breathed into us his breath and called us by our name. And when all grows silent and empty about us, when we are restless and lost in a gloomy maze, when we cry out in the dark and none seems to answer, let us remember the saying of Pascal:
I would not seek thee, O God, if thou hadst not already found me. Even my restlessness and my longing show me that thou art at work upon me.
Or we can pray: If in the madness of my passion and the wild commotion of my life I forget thee, do not thou forget me.
God is always greater than our faith, because the breath of His Spirit is stronger than the dust of the earth. And with this certitude one can live.
Truly this is something you can live by.
If I know this, then I know the theme, the point of my life; then my life can succeed.
[From How the World Began – by Helmut Thielicke, pp. 85-86]
I just listened to a very useful podcast from Michael Duduit.
It is an interview with George Barna about one of his latest books: The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter.
The tribe of most concern to me (as a teacher and pastor) is the Christian one (the rest are of secondary interest). Unfortunately, the Christian tribe is split in two: the casual Christians (67%) and the “captive Christians” (only 16%). The former group consists of Christians “who would not cross the street” to share the gospel with an unbeliever. It is a group which “is not excited about sharing their religious belief…” They do not create their lifestyle around their faith, rather let their faith “sip into their lifestyle.”
Wow. What a challenge (weighty errand – to use Spurgeon’s expression) for pastors who stand up in their churches every week and preach to a large percentage of “casual Christians.” The goal must be to get the casual Christians become “captive Christians” (these are Christians who are really serious and knowledgable about their faith). These are the ones “caricatured in the media, for whom their faith is everything.”
But who is adequate for this task? No one. Apart from the grace of God and the power of the Spirit we have no chance of success! How great is the need for prayer before preaching and reaching out! Please pray for your pastor, he needs a lot of help from above!
Which tribe are you from? Listen to this podcast (if you don’t buy the book). It may be eye opening!
I am excited about a new book I just bought: Ancient Christian Devotional (Lectionary Cycle C).
This book is from the InterVarsity Press FORMATIO series (Tradition – Experience – Transformation).
FORMATIO books from InterVarsity Press are about “being transformed by Christ and conformed to his image,” and they intend to integrate God’s Word with spiritual practice by prompting its readers “to move from inward change to outward witness.”
“We believe that each of us is made with a deep desire to be in God’s presence. Formatio books are intended to help “fulfill our deepest desires and to become our true selves in light of God’s grace.”
I must say that the goals of the FORMATION series are most worthy, and I am looking forward to ‘swimming’ in this book. After all, St. Chrysostom gives very good advice (quoted on the first page of this book):
Listen carefully to me. Procure books [of the Bible] that will be medicines for the soul….Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind. (Homilies on Colossians 9)
This is a book for Christians who lack the grounding in the riches of church history…who are rootless and are drifting in a barren secular and ecclesiastical landscape.
If you are one of those – consider this book to get rooted in the WORD!
One of the best commentaries (and a true classic) on the book of Proverbs is the one by Charles Bridges.
You can download it for free here .
Here are his excellent comments on Proverbs 18:12 – Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.
We have had both of these proverbs separately (16:18; 15:33). Surely this repetition was intended to deepen our sense of their importance. It is hard to persuade a man that he is proud. Everyone protests against this sin.
Yet who does not cherish the viper in his own heart?
This morning I was reading 2 Kings 4-7 and something unusual caught my eyes. In chapter 5 the text speaks of a certain Naaman, a commander of the army of the king of Syria. The pagan king of Syria “was leaning” on Naaman’s arm.
Chapter 7, on the other hand, speaks about another commander, the captain on whose hand the king of Israel leaned.
Both of these military figures are faced with difficult situations, and they are also confronted by the Word of God. One is a leper (Naaman), and the other is facing famine and a siege. For both the only hope is Elisha, the man of God who speaks the Word of God.
What makes this juxtaposition of characters somewhat shocking (and really a rebuke to Israel and its people) is that the foreigner, the one on whom the pagan king of Syria leaned, believed the Word, obeyed it, and lived, while the Israelite captain did not believe the Word of God spoken through Elisha and died in unbelief.
A fairly long passage is dedicated in the Bible to the foreigner Naaman who believed and was healed. By contrast, the unbelieving Israelite captain (serving an unbelieving king – Joram son of Ahab) has a sad end, repeated twice in chapter 7 (vv. 17 and 20): … and the people trampled him in the gate, so he died, as the man of God had said…
There are many trials and exceptional situations in a man’s life. Help us LORD to believe you and your Word in a world and culture of unbelief.
Healing and life is only in a life of FAITH!
There is a great panel discussion about what it means to be a pastor with Tim Keller, John Piper, Crawford Loritts, Ligon Duncan and Stephen Um (chair). This took place at the 2009 National Conference of The Gospel Coalition.
Here it is: 2009 Panel Discussion . Enjoy and learn!
Our new website is being set up. You can find us now here.
Please let us know if you have any comments/suggestions, or if you would like to help out with the design etc.
The sermons (both audio and video) can be accessed by going to the SERMONS section. We hope to be able to post some of the previous sermons too, but this will take some time.
Many blessings and grace to all the members of the congregation.
I post a message received from our dean JS Lee:
“I would like to share a precious information with you. It is about a documentary movie called, “Calling 소명” which is about a Korean missionary couple. This movie is playing at selected theaters only for a limited time, so I wish you make time to watch this touching story of a Korean missionary couple whose commitment and sacrifice for a small tribe in Amazon area are quite extraordinary. You can find more information at http://blog.paran.com/calling2009 I know Apgujung CGV plays this until May 6, but only once a day. However, 중앙시네마 (near 명동성당) plays several times a day until May 10 (maybe even after that, but I don’t know). I think it would be good to share this information with our students, your church members, and of course your family and friends. This way we may contribute a bit to Christian film makers.”
I hope to go and see it. You should try to see it too!
Well, well, well – I never thought that I would add Hugh to my prayer list (though it is clear that he needs it more than most).
The infamous Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy etc., was actually raised in a good Methodist home. The rest is history.
Hugh is one of those famous stars who seems to remain perennially immature, and has not figured out yet (though he is 83) that “he can get no satisfaction” (he has tried plenty] from human beings (aka “playmates”) regardless of the size of their breasts.
Having said that, there seems to an awakening in his soul. There seems to be a longing in his heart to meet the only superstar that really counts and can satisfy. Thus, he recently said (check out Foxnews):
“[I’d] like to find out what [Jesus Christ] was all about,” he added. “Separate the reality from mythology. Find out the roots of what has become a major religion of my time. I was raised in a good Methodist home and I had questions about organized religion, and I would love to have the answers.”
Let’s pray for Hugh that he meets the real Jesus Christ. For it is only the real Jesus Christ who can change his life and really satisfy his heart!
The article for his quote is here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,518219,00.html
This morning I finished reading Psalm 33. It has a great last verse:
`%l”) Wnl.x;îyI rv,ªa]K;÷ Wnyle_[‘ hw”åhy> ^åD>s.x;-yhi(y>
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
It contains that great theological and comforting word ds,x, (chesed) – well translated here as steadfast love by ESV. Can this be the equivalent of grace in the New Testament? I think so (see John 1:14).
And then there is the verb (yachal) translated here as hope. Another meaning of the verb is simply ‘to wait.’ Isn’t that what hope is all about – to wait for God to act in history and in one’s personal life? Isn’t hope simply anticipation – a trustful expectation that God will act at the right time no matter how difficult and hopeless our circumstances look?
He will act – not because we are good and deserving, but because of his chesed!
Praise be to God!
I am reading an interesting book called A City Upon a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History. What follows is a great excerpt from a sermon on the birth of Jesus by Lancelot Andrewes. Lancelot was a biblical scholar and “the greatest preacher and linguist of the day,” according to the author Larry Witham (p. 13). Wow – now that is a deadly combination! I am not sure I know any people who are both great linguists and preachers these days (?).
In any case – Lancelot is a “witty orator” and deserves a hearing. Here is the excerpt from his sermon on Immanuel (p.13 of the book):
For if this Child be “Immanuel, God with us,” then without this Child, this Immanuel, we be without God. “Without Him in this world,” (Eph. ii. 12), saith the Apostle; and if without Him in this, without Him in the next; and if without Him there – if it be not Immanu-el, it will be Immanu-hell; [note that “Immanu” means “with us” in Hebrew] and that and no other place will fall, I fear me, to our share. Without Him, this we are. What with Him? Why, if we have Him, and God by Him, we need no more; Immanu-el and Immanu-all.
What can I say to this, but a big AMEN!? May God be with all of you and let Him be all for you throughout the life.
I am somewhat obsessed with joy. It is not that I am an especially joyful person; but I wish to be more joyful, especially since joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Well – recently I was given the chance to write an article about joy for a Bible dictionary. I will post the text below. I wish I had the time to do more research, and I hope to come back to this subject in much more detail (I had a limit of 800 words).
Meanwhile, before I post my text, I would like to list this relevant note from John Piper (www.desiringgod.org) about Benjamin Franklin (deist) and George Whitefield:
That is right. You read correctly. This post is about learning from Hollywood, especially from the comments of Art Linson who has teamed up with De Niro for a spoof on Hollywood (“What Just Happened). The interview with both of them can be found here on CNN. The movie is a satire dishing the dirt on the highs and lows of Hollyood based on Linson’s book “Bitter Hollywood Tales From the Front Line.” The book details the experiences of AL as a movie produced (“The Fight Club,” “Into the Wild” etc.).
What struck me in this interview was the comment by Linson about the courage and determination to succeed in Hollywood (my emphasis):
I finally made it back to Amman, with a few more books and a lot less money. There were many memorable moments during this trip – I will mention here only some highlights.
I did get to meet John Piper. That is right – I briefly shook his hand as he was browsing at ETS through the Christian Focus publications. The conversation was brief (I kind of froze 😦 ), but it is still something to brag about. 🙂
We also had a wonderful dinner at ETS with (most of?) the Romanians present there. I got the pleasure to meet Sorin Sabou (El-Roi Romanian Baptist Church in Chicago) and Adonis Vidu (Gordon-Conwell). I also enjoyed the time with ‘older’ friends: Emil Bartos, George Hancock Stefan, and Radu Gheorghita.
As I promised yesterday in Church – I am posting a link to a guide to pray for China and the olympics. The guide can be found here., and a short explanation can be found on John Piper’s site. Even if you do not follow this guide and prefer to pray for your own (Korean, Romanian, American, Canadian etc) athletes, let’s pray for China and religious freedom during the Olympics.
Also – this morning I was ordering the books for the upcoming study (Growing Your Faith – by Jerry Bridges) and I got lured into checking our some of the debates with the New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens). Besides many interesting books that I discovered (perhaps a post on this some other time), I think that you will find useful to read this (free) debate between C. Hitchens and Doug Wilson.
The debate is in five parts and discusses the question, “Is Christianity Good for the World?” I only read the first part, but I think that all of you will find the exchange very useful.
Blessings and JOY,
Perhaps I should have entitled this post: “Another Reason Why You Should Kill Your Television!” For I have mostly killed mine and the news that I just read (see below) only strenghtens my decison.
I “killed” mine by disconnecting the cable, so I can only watch selected DVDs (and that is not very often since Isaiah came on the scene 🙂 ).
The news that I am talking about can be found here. It seems that “Marriage gets little respect on network TV shows that instead revel in the pleasures of extramarital and even kinky sex, according to a study released Tuesday.”
The whole study is really disturbing:
Steve Green is in Korea at the invitation of John Song and our school. This evening I had the privilege and joy to hear him in concert with Song Jong Mi (an amazing Korean Christian singer) at a Presbyterian church in Seoul.
I must say that this was by far the best concert that I have ever been to. (And I have been to U2’s Zoo TV tour in SD in the 90s).
Perhaps most of you heard the news that gay marriage will soon be legal in California (this is the state to which I immigrated more than 20 years ago). Somewhat expectedly the news was met with both joy and outrage. Many gays in California and in the rest of the nations seem very happy (most perhaps do not really care since they have no plans to ‘marry’), while many conservatives call this an ‘outrage.’ At least this is the word that James Dobson used.
In this post I will summarize the first 4 ways in which Wright presents the modifications of Christian faith.
1) There is virtually no spectrum of belief about life after death. Even though Christians came from various strands of Judaism and paganism, they all changed their belief to focus on one point of the spectrum…there is an “overwhelming impression of unanimity” about the resurrection.
[Note: The full title should be (it would have been too long): The Root of All Sin: Why Atheists Can’t Be Happy and Many Christians Aren’t]
Most Christians are familiar with Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question about the greatest commandment. The question and answer are found in Matthew 22: 36b-40.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Based on this text John Piper has a penetrating analysis on the root of all sin. It is worth reproducing below:
“The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God…ALL SIN comes from a desire to be happy cut off from the glory of God and cut off from the good of others. The command of Jesus [to love others as yourself] cuts to this root, exposes it, and severs it.”
Piper goes on and equates this root of all sin with PRIDE. At first sight, it is difficult to see the connection, but it is clear that he is on the right path because pride is historically considered the most deadly sin in Christianity (it is the sin that we find in Lucifer himself).
Piper explains the connection:
“Another name for this root of sinfulness is PRIDE. Pride is the presumption that we can be happy without depending on God as the source of happiness and without caring if others find their happiness in God. Pride is the contaminated and corrupted passion to be happy. It is corrupted by two things:
1) The unwillingness to see God as the only fountain of true and lasting joys, and
2) The unwillingness to see other people as designed by God to share our joy in him.
If you take the desire to be happy [which is good and put there by God Himself] and strip away from it God as the fountain of your happiness in God, what you have left is the engine of PRIDE. PRIDE is the pursuit of happiness anywhere but in the glory of God and the good of other people for God’s sake. This is the root of all sin.”
I think that Piper is right on and this analysis was eye-opening for me. Pride has to do with misguided self-love. And this means at least two things:
1) Atheists cannot be happy (for they do not even believe in God who is the real fountain of joy and happiness).
2) “Christians cannot be happy either.” They cannot be happy unless they understand that the greatest commandment can only be made visible in the second. It is not enough to say that you love God, this love must find its true and normal (visible) expression in our love for the neighbor.
Piper explains in greater detail the root of all sin and the path to real happiness. It is a service that he does for every human being. For Pascal was right when he said:
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end…This is the motive of every action of every man, even for those who hang themselves [of course – this is a classic case of a misguided act of self-love].”
Have you been looking for happiness and satisfaction in the wrong places? Consider going to the Source. All other streams get lost in the desert.
It is worth reading the rest of Piper’s article. See here (chapter 32). He explains very well the importance of God and of loving one’s neighbor.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.