Monday, May 25, 2009

Senior Pictures

Got to go out Friday night and take some pictures of this year's only senior boy. I've known David since he was in sixth grade. How wonderful to see him grow into a young man who wants to serve God with his life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From a Student's Essay

Part of the essay questions was this:

Question:  Give your reasoning for why so many modern authors are pessimistic in their outlook.

Answer:  Probably because they're bitter at someone for punching them in the nose or something.  They write it out on a piece of paper because pretty much all your authors were geeks in school and if they would have punched the guy back they would have gotten murdered and thrown in a garbage can.  So that's why all your authors are pessimistic.  

I gave him a couple of points just for creativity.  

Monday, May 18, 2009

Latest Student Quote . . .

"You mean Madagascar is a real place?  I thought it was just a made up name for a movie!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Questions and Answer Times

John Lennox:  We do Christianity no service at all when we do not claim the clear results of science.  Science is a bit of evidence that points toward God.  Science can't tell us everything, but it can tell us somethings.  Don't position yourself as an obscurant.  

John Piper:  I would point out their hypocrisy.  Do you use 911?  Do have a refrigerator?  Do you have heat in your home in the winter?  We are glad enough to enjoy the benefits of science?

In what ways are Americans unprepared to suffer in the way the Bible describes?

John Piper:  Suffering is something we are all wired to shy away from.  Teaching is lacking.  Suffering should be talked about regularly.  If you want to live a godly life, suffering will happen. The lack of preparedness is real, due to a lack of teaching.  Also, we live in America.  We have pills for everything.  We have 911.   It's like American Christians have to work to get into hard situations.

Alistair Begg:  Rather than a theology of suffering, we've had a theology of triumphalism.  Come live in America, everything's great.

What are the common mis-steps of a pastor who thinks his church is spiritually and numerically stagnant?

John Piper:  We beat up on our people.  We criticize them.  We get so discouraged, that we get mad.  Anger becomes our default to disappointment.  

Alistair Begg:  We might capitulate.  We bow under the pressure and give up.  Call another pastor who's been through the same thing.  Sometimes we assume that we as pastors are right, and everybody else is wrong.  Perhaps you're actually making a hash of it.  

Where ought we go to college?  Christian college or secular university?

John Lennox:  There are dangers in both places.  When children are little you want to protect them, not because they are any better but because you don't want them infected.  When children become adults they must decide to stand for what they believe.  There is the danger of staying inside the Christian ghetto.  We need salt and light in the secular universities of the world.  

John Piper:  In a Christian setting you have an 18 or 19 year old helped by a professor to form a Christian world view.  I was so naive that if I'd been thrown into a secular environment, I'd be in trouble.

Alistair Begg:  Where is the place of the family and the church?  The necessity of standing for Christ in the university in England produces stronger Christians in those schools.

What do you believe the greatest challenge for Pastors will be in the next ten years?

John Piper:  The same things they've always been.  Staying red hot for God.  Read your Bible and pray.  That's all you can do.  To stay relevant talk about the half a dozen things that eternally never change.  Death.  Marriage.  Sickness.  Family.  If you can help people understand those things, you will always be relevant.  If you prick Spurgeon he bled Scripture.  If you bleed the young pastors these days they bleed movies.  That doesn't help at a funeral, a wedding, or when your baby dies.  

Alistair Begg:  Uhhh . . .

John Lennox:  To stand vertically and stable for God in a society that will try to marginalize you.  The pressure will only increase.  In Europe they face legislation that will affect the way Christians confront sexuality.  Whether we are pastors or not, we'll face a tidal wave of opposition.  To withstand that we must soak ourselves in God.  We must faithfully teach the Bible not in trivialized sound bytes.  Engage others, but revel in the freshness of the Word of God.  We must be ready for people to criticize us.  

What advice for the pastor who tries to maintain a stable relationship with his wife during an increasing avalanche of pastoral duty?

John Piper:  Get a team of people around you who know your family and know your marriage who can help you with the dynamics of your relationship.  You need advocates when you say, "I can't do that.  I can't be at that event."  Ask them to help you prioritize your life.  Win the trust of the congregation so they don't have to constantly try to be on top of you.  

Alistair Begg:  Tell your congregation, "I will be your servant, but you cannot be my master."  Sometimes a church is driven by the deacon who's been in office for 147 years or the church member gives 40% of the churches finances.  Some pastors just are a poor mismanagement of time.  They waste their time and their ministry and their lives.  Not everyone functions in the same way.  We must be skeptical with ourselves.  

John Lennox:  Your wife is your most important relationship.  You've promised yourself to be faithful to your wife till death you do part.  Speak to the church elders that you need to spend time together.  Beware of getting more involved in the lives of others than you are in the life of your family.  Be utterly honest.  Ask your wife what she sees.  What is happening?  Where did it start?  When did it start?  

What advice would you give to men seeking to start in the pastoral ministry?

Alistair Begg:  Read your Bible.  Seek out the type of people you aspire to be.  Ask them questions.  Read voraciously and widely.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Lennox on the Scriptures Addressing the Mind

What better book than the book of Revelation for us to address the connection between the Scriptures, imagination, and the mind?

Revelation 4- 
"The late CS Lewis opened the doors of my imagination."

The central theme of these chapters is the throne of God.  It is like a vast work of music.  In chapter 4 is a description of the throne, climaxing at the end of chapter 4 with the worship of God as creator.  The music rises even higher in chapter 5 where we see the lamb as the redeemer of the world.  At the end of chapter 6 the music  climaxes with the wrath of the lamb.  The music ends with all the nations of the world surrounding the throne of God and bowing before him as creator. 

This reminds us of the ultimate goal of spending time before the word of God.  To worship God in spirit and in truth.

True worship is an assault against the materialism of our age.  It assaults post-modernism which denies the truth.  Worship assumes that we realize what ultimate reality is.   God.

Worship is a response to God.  

Why do we study our Bible?  Because we have a sermon to prepare?  If you're not careful you'll study to prepare a message not to get to know God.  Are we simply in a process of churning out sermons?  What's the goal of it all?  God!  

Part of worship connotes bowing before God.  Why would we want to bow to God?  What portion of his nature calls us to bow?  The throne of God.  Materialism denies that there could be any other world, let alone a world with a throne.  A throne that is sat upon by God himself, not some sort of force.  

Let's look at the throne:
-  Surrounded by a vertical green rainbow.  Perhaps the symbol of the rainbow connects with the remembrance of God's grace in Genesis.  God's throne is a throne of grace.  

-  Circle of 24 elders surrounding the throne.  Are these divisions of priests?  Representatives of worldly nations?  Disciples?  Apostles?  At the least they represent God's giving other creatures real authority.  He's given them both authority and capacities to run things.  

God gives men great responsibility.  He called Adam and Eve to tame the garden.  He called Moses to work with the people of Israel.  He called parents to handle the authority of training their children.  He called us to work with our churches.  

We're not finished with this business of authority.  Some think heaven will be boring, but they haven't been through the door, have they?  

Do I believe in delegating?  Or do I feel that no one can do it as well as me?  Did someone delegate authority to you?  Did they allow you to make mistakes?  

- Seven lamps of fire (the seven spirits of God).  Light and government?  What do they have to do with one another?  God governs by light.  They arrested Christ under the cover of darkness.  Christ saved us from darkness.  Paul says we were called out of darkness into the glorious light of Christ.  Darkness is used by evil as a strength of control.  

The light guides us.  Christ no longer calls us servants.  He calls us friends.  He's told us everything we need to know.  We tell our friends more than we tell other people.  We don't keep them in the dark unless we're trying to hide something.  

- Before the throne a sea of glass.  The Israelites did not like the sea.  Doubt is like a roaring sea in the heart of humans.  It tosses us to and fro.  We are lost and confused.  But, cannot God calm the sea!  Jesus cannot only stand on tumultuous seas himself, but he can help you to stand.  Perhaps the sea is roaring in your heart or in your family.  It's hard to believe there is any power able to calm the sea of your life.  Christ can create a beautiful sea of glass.  

- Four living creatures.  God is pro-life.  John finds life surrounding God at every turn.  His throne is a living throne because God is a living God.  "In him is life, and his life was the light of men."  If you try to explain life apart from God you end up in the dark.  

The living creatures cry out, "Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty!"  This throne defines what it means to be holy.  Only God himself is the source of morality.  "Worthy are you, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."  

Why am I?  You and I exist because God wanted me to be.  God wanted me.  He wants me now.  By God's will I was created!  Where will you find that in any other philosophy in the world?  

- The scroll with seven seals.  If we know that these seals bring judgement, why would we want them opened?  Atheism thinks it solved the problem by banishing God.  However, with banishing God they banished ultimate judgement.  Only God can bring that perfect, final, righteous judgement.  

John turns expecting to see the mightiest of animals.  Instead he finds the weakest.  A tiny lamb.  A  tiny lamb that looks as those it was slain.  This lamb had seven horns (for power) and seven eyes (for wisdom).  Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God -  I Corinthians 1:23-25.  

Richard Dawkins said of Jesus, "Jesus, how unworthy of the universe?"  No, how unworthy of Jesus Christ is the universe.  

Why is this lamb worthy?  He was slain.  His blood ransomed us.  Bought us.  He's been doing some buying.  He's bought me and given me as a present to God.  This is incomprehensible.  He bought me?  He bought me!  Why would anybody buy me?  How could I possibly be ashamed of a God like that.  

We are to love the God with all our mind, but if that truly happens it will affect our hearts and emotions.  

- The seals are opened.  From this results war, plague, family, and death.  It causes many things that shatters confidence in Christ.  The opening of the seals proves the reality of the wrath of Christ.  It's the measured response of the God of the universe.  

If there is a God and he's holy righteous and true then he knows I am not.  He knows I sin against him and against others.  Must there not be a response to that?  Only Christianity offers both the justice and the offer of escape.  

- An innumerable crowd from every nation.  How did this crowd get before the throne of God?  
As we stand before the throne we realize that we will hunger and thirst no more.  No more tears.  The Creator of the universe will wipe away our very last tear.  He will personally eliminate the tears.  He is a caring, sensitive God.  Spend time with that God and wait till he himself appears.  Only when Christ appears to you will you have something to say.  

We will think at the moment we see heaven, "If I had known it was like this I would have invested more in it."  

John Lennox @ the New Atheism

The New Atheism is simply a more violent and radical alteration of the classical atheism.  

They're not Post-modern.  They believe in truth.  Either Jesus was God, or he was not.

New Atheism is seeking to answer these questions:

Should science do away with religion?
What will science put in its place?
Can we be moral without God?

"The world should awaken from the long nightmare of religion"  .  .  .  New Atheists.

The New Atheism was said to have been founded because of 9/11.  The events of that day are the result of religion.  Even when confronted with the fact that those events were based on the fringes of religion, they state that fanatic religion thrives on the edges of moderate religion.

Richard Dawkins, "Atheists have no faith."
Christoper Hitchens, "Our beliefs are not a belief."

"These things are written in order that we might believe."  Our belief is a response to evidence.  A portion of our belief is based on the New Testament.  We have trust in a person only if there is evidence for it.  Our faith stems from the evidence provided in the New Testament and the Bible as a whole.  

Faith is not strictly a component of Christianity.  All scientists have faith in the existence of the universe.  

Christian theism gives a basis for intelligible science.

New Atheism stakes much on the unacceptable face of religion, namely warring religion and violence.  They speak of the Taliban and Northern Ireland.  Our response should be that those who commit violence in the name of Christ act contrary to the words and actions of Christ.  Even Pilate exonerated Jesus Christ from the charge of terrorism and fomenting rebellion against the government.  In fact, the New Atheists should congratulate Christ for standing against violence.  

If we are going to speak of violence and its causes what must we say of Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tsetung?  All atheists!   So on one hand they will attempt to exonerate religion.  On the other hand they attempt to accuse theism.  

The atheists throw all religions into the same pot.  They compare the Taliban with the Amish.  Do they want us to compare them with Stalin?  All religions are not equal.  There are huge differences between Christian, Bhuddist, and Muslim teaching.  

Has science already destroyed God?  Is he buried?  

Beware the false logic of false alternatives.  

"Thanks to the telescope and microscope science has destroyed the need for God."  Christopher Hitchens.  More false alternatives.  It's as though we have to choose between the two.  We don't.  We should not confuse mechanism and agency.  

The New Atheists claim the conflict is between science and religion.  That's false.  We don't have to reject one to claim the other.  The conflict, rather, is between two world views.  Theism and secular humanism.  Science points towards God, not away from him.  

Richard Dawkins argues with a scientific twist that God is not probable.  The question is not, "Am I probable?"  The question is, "Am I actual?"  Do I exist?  

Who created the creator?  Richard Dawkins thinks this is the best argument in his book.  We're automatically assuming that God was created.  But we believe that God was not created.  These arguments that seem so plausible, try applying them back to the people who comment on them.  
Do we need God to be morally good people? 
Dawkins and Hitchens seek to take a moral high ground over God.  They want to maintain the liberties of western Europe while removing the basis for the liberties they enjoy, God and the Bible.  

What will happen if we take atheism to its obvious moral conclusions?  Violence

John Piper on The Doctrine of New Birth

John 3:1-10
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered,“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘Youmust be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 

The world doesn't need chatty, fun little messages.  It gets that all the time.  We stand on the brink of eternity.  The folks in your audience may not survive to hear you again.  Give them the truth of the Gospel.

About hyper-Calvinism . . . We can say to every person on the planet, "God loves you!"  Come to the cross of Christ!  Come to salvation.  Jesus wants you to come to salvation.  

"I have a burden for the people who come and go from the church.  That they know themselves loved with a love greater than John 3:16."  

John 3:16 describes a love that for a mass of people.  It's for all people.  But the Bible discusses a love that is greater than that.  

Philippians 2:4-5
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!

The love described here is different than the love described in John 3:16.  This love makes us alive in Christ.  It didn't happen because we raised ourselves from the dead.  We were dead.  We were vertical corpses.  Jesus spoke to Lazarus and raised the dead.  That's what preaching is.  Speaking the words of Christ in the belief that those words have the power to raise the spiritual dead.  

If we have been called from the dead it's because we are fully loved by Christ.  Not some fractional love spread across all humanity. 

I Peter 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

The Biblical writers always reference their dead condition.  They were lost, blind, dead to all things God.  Then God breaks in on them and reveals to them the light of his glory.

So what happens in the New Birth?

It's significant that Nicodemus is a Pharisee.  He's at the top of the religious pool.  Yet Jesus strikes him with the fact that he needs new life.  Nicodemus doesn't need more religion.  He needs life.  Nicodemus is essentially a living dead person.  Essentially it's the same problem for every person in the world.  We need a living spirit to become spiritually alive.  Supernatural life, not just turning over a new leaf.  

The Holy Spirit comes upon a person and creates in them a new life that wasn't present before.  
Verse 8 simply means that God is sovereign in the new birth.  The Holy Spirit comes along and overcomes your spiritual unresponsiveness. Something happens and your start to be made alive.  You're not the one who was doing it!  You won't say, "I got smart.  I was better than my brother."  No, it's God who does it!  If it hangs on us to get ourselves born again or keep ourselves born again we will fail.  But if God's in charge he won't let it happen.  

God is our only assurance.  He bought us, and he keeps us.  John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life . . .

Why is this even important?  

Ten descriptions of our condition:
- We are dead
- By nature children of wrath - Ephesians 2:3.  It's not because we do bad things, but because we are bad.  No one will be in hell unjustly.
- We love darkness and hate the light - John 3:19.  We didn't have a problem with our wills before we were saved.  We have a love problem.  We love darkness.  It's not as though we sin out of duty.  No.  We sin because it feels good.  
- Our hearts are hard as stone.
- We are unable to submit to God - Romans 8:7.  We cannot submit to God.  We cannot please God.  However, just because we cannot doesn't mean we aren't responsible.  We're still held responsible.  Just because we cannot does not excuse us.  
- Unable to accept the Gospel - I Corinthians 2:14.  We cannot understand God.  We think of Christianity and God as foolish.
- Unable to embrace Christ as Lord - I Corinthians 12:3.  No unsaved person can call Jesus Lord from the heart.
- Slaves to sin - Romans 6:17.  This obedience comes from the heart.  We thank God, because our obedience comes only from him.  
- Slaves of Satan - Ephesians 2:1-2.  We followed the Prince of the Power of the Air.  We walk in tandem with the Devil.  
- No good thing dwells in me.  Nothing!  

This is why we all need to be born again.  We can't make this happen.  I can't.  That's why we must pray.  

How does this happen?  
- The Holy Spirit freely gives life- John 3:8, Ephesians 2:5
- Through the Good News.  The Gospel.  The Word of God - I Peter 1:23-25.  We must preach though we can't save anybody.  Yet Paul says we are to save people.
- Brings faith - I John 5:1.
- Belief in the Son - I John 5:11

Alistair Begg @ the Basics Conference

II Corinthians 5:20
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 

We are called to preach in a way that persuades people's stubborn wills.  Even the apostolic precepts and precedents make this clear.  

Acts 18:4  Every Sabbath Paul reasoned in the Synagogue seeking to persuade the Jews and Greeks.  

The passionate longing of Paul was to be used of God to persuade both Jews and Greeks to the bountiful blessings of Christ.   He ministered from morning till evening trying to convince them about Jesus from the Old Testament and the Prophets.  Paul urged others, especially in II Timothy, that the primary role of a pastor is teaching.  "Timothy, continue in what you've been taught."

This preaching and teaching is set always in the context of suffering.  Paul knows that will be the eventuality.  The level of suffering was connected specifically with the level of teaching.  Paul uses words like trouble, distress, and even despair of life itself.  These are no conventions or contrivances, but events Paul suffered through daily.  

"God kicks the legs out from the stools on which his servants sit comfortably."  Why does God do this?  To keep us from believing our own press reports.  To keep us humble.  To keep us from relying on ourselves.  

There was nothing particularly safe about what Paul did.  Even the believers to whom he ministered said they would have nothing to do with him.  

II Corinthians 5 is set in the context of God's compulsion.  Paul is commanded by God to preach the word.  Spirit-filled, Bible-based, Christ-exalting delivery of the Scriptures is used to consecrate the Word of God to the hearers.  

Preaching is unpopular right now.  But none is more unpopular than actual Apostolic preaching which calls on the human heart to change its wicked ways.  

"I'm always encouraged by the passage in  Numbers where God opens the mouth of Balaam's donkey.  Some weeks it's as though God says to me, "Shut up, Begg.  If I need to I'll use a donkey."  

Every Sunday we are forced to recognize our own incapacities:  Our sin, our hurts, our failures.  And on top of that Satan is working to blind the eyes of the unbelievers to the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ.  On top of that we might fall prey to the familiarity of the very truth we preach.  We must come to the Scriptures in reverence, awe, and wonder.  If not, we risk falling into the contempt that comes with familiarity.  

As well as the deeply personal issues we face, we face terrible cultural issues.  People don't want prerequisites, perplexity, and exposition.  The theme of most messages is simple entertainment.  We want the congregations to sit back, relax, and enjoy themselves.  

We need clarity on the Gospel.  If we're confused in your own minds you'll never be clear in the pulpit.  We must know the Gospel and understand it so we can make it clear to others.  

We must preach, reason, convince, give ourselves, serve, tell them.  That's why we were created!  Sometimes we must beware of urging on our congregations things that we won't do ourselves.  

Telling people the blessings of the Gospel or warning them of the curses of rejecting the Gospel is not the same as telling them the Gospel.  

God requires the righteousness of Christ of us.
God achieved the righteousness of Christ for us.
God proclaim  the righteousness of Christ to us.
God bestowed  the righteousness of Christ on us.

Boldness is needed after the clarity.  We need to be clear of what we ought to be bold about.  The more clear we are, the more bold we ought to be.  Our boldness and authority comes straight from our relationship with God.  

The task of a minister is to be ambassadors for Christ.  Being an ambassador doesn't draw attention of himself, but the attention is turned toward the one who sent the ambassador.  

Urgency is needed.  Implore the listeners!  How is the service ended?  Is there a seriousness?  "We can't give the impression that we are clever and God is great, at the same time."  Is there a gravity to our messages?  To lend a sense of gravity, we must feel that sense of vital gravity.  What we preach is indispensable.  

"Christ commissions us to present Christ to the unsaved sinner urging, pleading that they commit themselves to the Savior."

Monday, May 11, 2009

John Piper on Justification

"When you preach through the book of Romans you bump into the doctrine of Justification."  

Justification is increasingly embattled in our day.  It's confused, reduced and contradicted.  In so doing the lines between Protestantism and Catholicism are being blurred.  And those are significant lines.  They have been and should have been and should be defended.  

Unfortunately the new perspective on Paul and justification is redrawing the map of the New Testament.  It's muddied the waters for men in seminary.  Now the historic "By faith alone . . ." has changed.  Faithfulness in life has replaced faith alone.  

"I love this doctrine.  I live on this doctrine.  This doctrine feels to me not only principially saving, but daily saving."

So what does the Bible say about this truth?

John 7:17
17 If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 

A will that is seeking God can see things that those who are opposed to the truth may be totally blind too.  

Why is this an issue?
- Preaching through Romans
- Friends and men who are asking hard questions about Justification
- Writing and speaking presenting new arguments about the issue
- The personal need for the doctrine of Justification

Philippians 1:20
20 As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 

The word "honor" means to magnify.  Not magnify like a microscope, but like a telescope.  We need to display the beautiful galaxy that is Jesus Christ.  

"I tried to teach and preach and father and husband to make [Christ] look great."  

The glory of Christ is being diminished by the new definitions and understandings of Biblical Justification.

Three ways in which the glory of Christ is diminished with the new definitions
- One of Christ's greatest achievements is being denied.  
- Love is the great outcome of the Christian doctrine.  What happens you make love the foundation rather than the outcome?

- The fulness of the glory of the Gospel is diminished. 

Philippians 2:6-8
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The disobedient Adam causes us to be counted as sinners.  The obedient Christ causes us to be counted righteous.   All of this is the obedience of Christ demonstrated.  

The righteousness of Christ Paul talks about in Philippians 3 is what type of righteousness?  

Philippians 3:5-9
5 Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 

Paul is saying that his verdict of righteousness found in verse 6 is not good enough before God.  Paul needs the righteousness of Christ in verse 9.  It's from God in Christ, not in any way Paul's own.  

II Corinthians 5:21  "In him we might become the righteousness of God."  
Romans 4:6 "He imputes righteousness to us apart from works of the law."
Romans 5: 18-19

What do you say to a person who comes to you and says, "The forgiveness of God is all that I need.  Everything else is superfluous.  I don't need anything else since I have that"?

When the cross is diminished of one of its achievements pastorally the church begins to hurt.  You take away one of the weapons of the arsenal.  

Since the goal of all our ministry is love we flip the goals the wrong way when we make it the foundation.  Love is not the foundation, it's the fruit.  Look what has happened to the mainline denominations.  They've compromised the gospel.  They've given up the truth of the gospel.  Sure, they have love, but that's it!  And that isn't really, truly, eternally changing anything!

We want churches ready to lay down their lives for the world.  Churches full of love toward others.  The love must be driven by imputed justification, that will produce a radical life of love.  

Networking at the Conference

Being at a conference like this forces you outside of your regular box.  

At dinner our group filed in close to last and thus had to split our group and spread out through the crowd.  

In the providence of God I found myself sitting three feet away from a pastor based out of Franklin, PA.  He lives and ministers less than an hour from me, yet I probably never would have found him but for this event.  

Now we talked, we joked, we listened to the ministry blessings and burdens of each other.  

Good to meet men we've never known who love God and want to glorify him with their life.  

Dr. John Lennox @ the Basics Conference

Augustine wrote:  "Beware of mathematicians out of all those who utter empty prophecies."

Bring Scripture back to Christian music and go against the stream of mindless repetition.  

"American football can best be described as a series of prayer meetings interrupted by war."  

Mark 12:28-31

I Peter 3:13-17

13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

Born in Northern Ireland to a home of vigorous discussion.  "The Christian faith provided a cradle for the developing mind that God had given me."

"I was greatly blessed to have the opportunity to study at Cambridge where I was taught to think."

It's sad when an educational system doesn't teach the children to think, and the churches don't allow the children to think.

In college "I sensed in my heart and mind the need to settle the question.  Was my faith in God due to my Irish mind?"  Is the Christian faith true?  

We must come to a settled conviction that what we're dealing with is the truth.  Jesus claimed to be the truth.  It's not simply a claim to say true things.  He claims to be something deeper than that.  He claims to BE the truth.  

Jesus Christ stand behind every true scientific claim.  He IS the truth.  

Let us stop being ashamed of bringing our beliefs into the marketplace of truth.

Sharing faith.  That is one of the most immense responsibilities.  God is quite capable of changing the minds of people who do not have the same religious background as we do.

In the hot house of universities it's easy to go along with a Christian group.  Many Christians have not thought through their faith sufficiently.  It doesn't withstand the force of the secular world.  The bedrock knowledge of Scripture is needful to stand in the public winds of secularism.  

Some have only a technical belief in the inspiration of Scripture.  We say we believe in the inspiration of Ezekiel, yet when we are asked what is in the book of Ezekiel we cannot say.  

It's one thing to feed the lambs in our congregations.  We are also called to feed the sheep.  Lambs require only milk.  Sheep need much more.  

"My view of Scripture changed in one evening. I found a man who knew, knew Scripture."  

We must first be utterly certain that the Scriptures are true.  Then we must take it out and present it in the marketplace of the world.  

"I'm grateful for the conviction of my wife that she has never stood in the way of the ministry.  She has put up with more than a wife ought to bare."  

The New Atheists have declared was on religion on the basis of science.  "Religion poisons everything," says Christopher Hitchens.    

Young people are discovering that parents and pastors can't cope with the questions presented at college.  Pastors feel threatened and intimidated by scientists.  Thus the Christian view is being squeezed out of the marketplace and pushed into silence.  

How do we approach the situation?  

Let's take comfort from the New Testament.  This is not the first time Christianity has run afoul of the government and popular culture.  Paul and his team had no internet, no concordances, no advanced teams.  Without those things they confronted the pantheon of Greco-Roman gods.  They confronted Epicureans and Stoics in the marketplaces of the ancient world.  

It is either Materialistic-Humanism or Theistic Creationism.  

We are being called to do what Peter said, Be ready to give a defense of anyone who asks of the hope that lies within us.  We have no option but to get involved in the heat of the battle.  To stand aside and say nothing gives the perception that we have nothing to say.  

We shall never engage the minds of others if our own hearts and minds are not engaged.  We cannot bring someone's mind to where we ahve not been ourselves.  

Peter tells us we ought to be ready to give a "Dialogue" about Christ.  "If I go a week without being involved in a dialogue I sense something is wrong."  Are we among the world?  Are we answering the questions the world is asking?  If we aren't in the marketplace, we don't know what the world is asking!  

Apology - This is not a special area of theology.  In fact, all Christians are called to give this defense.  What did Paul do?  He relates his life story on the steps of the Antonia fortress.  He speaks of the change in his life from a religious bigot to Christian.  Paul gives a defense to various characters in the book of Acts.  He relates the change and experience he had.  He is told that he is to give a defense in Rome.  What is that defense?  It's evangelization.  It's a answering of the questions.  It's what we must do the moments we open our mouths in any city in the world.  

What ought to be the context of this defense?  A state of fear.  Look at verse 14.  Peter is speaking from a context of fear.  And Peter knew that fear.  He experienced it.  He experienced it so much that he denied Christ three times because of it.  

What do we fear?  Mistakes?  Misunderstanding?  The changing laws?  

There is not limit to what God can do with a man who fully trusts him!

We have no clue of the riches of Scripture.  That is because we don't take God seriously.  Has God really said what the Scriptures say?   

This is after all a very big battle and God has given us one weapon.  A sword.  The sword of the Gospel.  The best way to keep a sword sharp is to keep using it.  Not on our fellow Christians!  We ought not play religion like children, just throwing labels at one another, while the world out there laughs and says, "I told you so!"  We are not to be dogmatic about things the Scripture is not dogmatic about.  

How is it that our knowledge of the stock market, sports, and other things grow so quickly, but our knowledge of the Scripture seems to stay the same.  Then the moment we go to speak in the marketplace of ideas, it becomes quickly apparent of our lack of knowledge.

But what if we can't answer every question?  Just tell them, I don't know.  We don't lose our authority by admitting something we don't know.  However, if we tell people we know something that we don't know, we quickly lose authority.  

How do we begin this dialogue?  We are to be asked.  If we aren't asked, perhaps we ought to ask others of their hope.  Yes, they don't have any hope, but that will begin the conversation.  

*Are we giving out copies of the Bible?   It must speak that we believe in it if we are willing to give it away.

There is a confusion that leads people to say, "You can't reason people into the kingdom."  It's obvious what they mean.  Use your reason and persuasion to the hilt, but don't trust it.  Don't trust reason and use God.  Trust God, then use the reason he's given you.  

CS Lewis said, "God has no more patience with theological slackers than he does with any other kind of slacker."

Christian faith is not blind.  It's evidenced based.  "These things are written that we might believe."  We must fight against the idea that faith is a believing in things that have no evidence.  
Sanctify in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Set him apart as your supreme value!

John Piper @ the Basics Question and Answer

Question:  If you are presenting Jesus Christ as supremely worthy, but your people continue to seek earthly, temporal pleasures how do you react to that?

Answer:  I'd be discouraged.  I try not to resign.  I search my heart to see if I am living it and seeking it faithfully.  Is it me?  You want to own your own responsibility first.  

Am I praying for it?  This is a miracle when this happens.  I pray "Do the impossible.  Change our hearts of stone."

Get near your people in moments of crisis.  Be in their face about what's going on.  Why are they in pornography?  What are they doing?

In the end, we need revival.  I've never seen anything near a historic revival.  We look at the buildings and convince ourselves of success, but how many are laying down their lives.  Our kids look like everybody else's kids.  Our marriages are a mess.

Corporate prayer.  "Lord, just come! God do something unusual."

Don't give up.  I asked Iain Murray once, "What do you do in between the revivals?"  His response, "Don't despise the day of small things."  If God is using you don't despise the small things.

Question:  This is a big thing in churches today, the use of coarse language.  I wanted to hear your opinion of those things.  

Answer:  I assume you are talking about John McArthur and Mark Driscoll.  I would encourage nobody to become coarse, filthy, ugly in their language.  

I don't think your mouth needs to be dirty in order to relate to twenty-somethings in Seattle.  

I'm just not drawing the line that John is drawing on Mark's ministry.  I'm going to Mark and getting in his face about his ministry.  It's not just the language that I'm in his face about.  I'm saying, "Come on.  Let's clean this up."  

He's accomplishing things in Seattle no one else is accomplishing.  I'm cutting him a lot of slack.  His doctrine is right on.  I don't want to see either doctrine or holiness watered down.  

Question:  In the mid-nineties you referenced some hard times in your ministries.  Can you explain that?

Answer:  I found an individual in our staff to be in adultery.  It cost the church over 200 members.  I was accused of lying.  Just prepare yourself to get shot.  If you deal with difficulties in your church you're going to get shot.  

The Lord was unbelievably merciful.  We had elder meetings until 2 or 3 in the morning.  God never forsook us.  He kept us together.  There was one Sunday morning I couldn't even preach. I asked a man from the Baptist General Conference to speak.

When one of the main staff members deceived the church for years people lost their faith.  They asked "What's real?"  

Sometimes in the life of the church their needs to be a long, lean season.  

John Piper @ the Basics conference

Title:  We work with you for you joy.  

Piper prays that our time together be maximumly useful for the Gospel.

II Corinthians 1:24
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy.  For you stand firm in your faith.  

Paul works for the joy of his churches.

Do we?  Is that the point of our pastoral ambition?  Paul is after the awakening of the affection of joy in his people.  

II Corinthians 11:23-

Joy is costing Paul his life.  That's what we're supposed to do in the ministry: work for the joy of his people.  

This is a thought-through, deeply rooted statement of his ministry.  

II Corinthians 2:1-4
2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?  3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

One of the reason Paul works for joy is because the joy of his people brings him joy as well.  Working for their joy brings him joy.  

So what is the point of all this joy?  Is this simply a sop for the spiritual needy? 

No, when we see the universe-creating and miracle-working power, righteousness-performing and wrath-bearing death it brings joy.  If you don't delight in that, you don't see it!  

The devil blinds the eyes of unbelievers so they can't see the beauty and joy of Christ.  Our job is to open their eyes!  I have to present Jesus to my people every week!

Our task is to so labor, so live, so counsel, so preach so that our church rises in joy toward Jesus Christ.  

What about duty?  What about sacrifice?  What about all the missing people on Sunday night?

The point of all the joy is not a pampering, but a preparing to suffer.  

Duty driven sacrifice for Jesus will not impress the world.  Many in the world can gut out their sacrifices.  Few can rejoice in the day they suffer for the Lord.  

Matthew 5:11-12
11“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We're not pampering our people.  It's not some soft, tender psychological community.  It's a radical Christ-focused joy that stands when everything else falls away.  

"I'm a western, wimpy, non-suffering pastor.  I know that.  So I try to listen to those who live with pain.  And they all seem to say what I see" in these verses.  

How do you do this?  Work with them for their joy.  

Show Christ as extremely desirable.  Let them know, help them see that jobs, wealth, prosperity, homes and all those things are not to be desired like Christ.  Where there treasure is their heart and everything else will follow. 

How?  "Live it, brothers!"  

"You have to get up every day and fight the fight.  We must get up every day.  There is nothing automatic about the victories."

George Mueller: "I wake up every morning and labor to be happy in Jesus."

Going to the Movies

Yesterday I went to Pittsburgh to hang out with my dad.  "You hung out with your dad on Mother's Day?  What about your mom, you big creep?"

Well, both mom and sister are in LA to celebrate Dave's (my brother-in-law's) graduation from The Master's Seminary.  That along with Keara's soon giving birth are keeping life very exciting for the Kistlers on the west coast.  So, my dad and I decided to hang out.  We stopped at the Apple Store in Shadyside, then I dragged him down to the Waterfront against his better judgement and treated him to see Star Trek.  

Growing up we used to watch reruns of the show on Saturday night after dinner.  Since we didn't have cable it was either that or flip to PBS for reruns of the Lawrence Welk show.  I still have nightmares of thousands of rising bubbles.  

I have some thoughts on the movie, but I'll save those for another time.  It was the movie trailers that struck me yesterday.  As usual it seemed like we sat through six dozen trailers before the actual movie began, but most of them caught my attention in one way or another.  

Trailer Review: Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation - Unlike most warm blooded, twenty-something American males I've never seen more than five minutes of any Terminator movie.  Obviously my Baptist pastor father was not a big fan of the series while I was growing up, and since then I've never bothered catching up.   That said, the trailer looked amazing.  I mean that very specifically.  The visuals in the trailer emotionally stirred me.  It looked as though each frame from the movie could have been paused, turned into a still image, printed, framed, and hung from an art gallery wall.  The Director of Photography (I believe that's the term) did a phenomenal job.  The composition, lighting, and desaturated color looked perfect.  Not a movie I really care to see, but I got to admit I was impressed.

Trailer Review: Year 1

Year 1 - I dislike, greatly dislike, Jack Black.  Perhaps dislike isn't a strong enough word.  Disdain - no, needs to be even stronger.  His movies are SO dirty.  I'm sure that's a slight overstatement, but only slight.  I have no desire to see any movie with him in it (King Kong excepted).  Even the trailer for this movie left me feeling less pure than the moments before I saw it.  

Trailer Review: Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost - Will Ferrell can be just as bad as Jack Black.  I avoid about 9 out of 10 of his movies.  Then, every once in a great while Ferrell comes out with a movie like Elf, and I think he's suddenly about to reform and go pro-family in his choice of flicks.  Land of the Lost isn't one of them.  Most of the preview left me with a scowl on my face thinking, "This is dirty and not funny."  It's the worst of both worlds.

Trailer Review: GI Joe

GI Joe - Having spent most of my childhood years playing with these action figures, I thrilled at the idea of a movie based on the series.  Then I saw the trailer.  With more than a little sadness I must confess this movie looks STUPID!  

I think the reason the recent comic to live-action movies (Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine, X-Men) have generally done so well is based on their attempt to make the movies as realistic as possible.  I realize men dressed as bats, spiderweb slinging teens, and clawed Aussies aren't at all realistic, but they try to be.  The Batman series crumbled in the 90's as it slipped further and further from reality.  The Fantastic Four movies bombed because they are so unrealistic.  Spiderman and Batman soared at the box office because we can all empathize with a young man trying to win his red headed sweetheart or a hero-at-heart fighting regret and bitterness.  That, and we love the action sequences associated with these blockbusters. 

I could be totally wrong, but the GI Joe trailer looks like it’s all action sequences and very little real plot line, emotion, or character driven story.  

Trailer Review- Transformers

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Keara, Dave, and I sat down at the theater a few blocks from their apartment to watch the first Transformers.  None of us really enjoyed it.  In fact the only element of the movie I loved was the incredible soundtrack by Steve Jablonsky.  As I watched this new trailer the theme music crescendos again.  Ahh!  Yes!  Even now I have the sound of the brass coursing through my brain.  

Good trailer, except for the part with Megan Fox.  If you take time to find and watch the trailer you’ll know the part I’m mentioning.  She’s wearing a long modest pair of culottes and sitting in a most un-provocative manner atop a motorcycle.  She practically looks Amish.  If you’re a woman it’s probably ok to see.  If you’re a man, trust me - not good.  Why does Hollywood always have to do that to us?  Both my dad and I turned away and blushed red.  At least I blushed red.  

Can’t wait for the soundtrack though.  The sequel’s soundtrack is always better than the original (Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman, Bourne).  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Grace for a Picnic

Yesterday our school celebrated its 27th school picnic.  We drove up to the Slippery Rock Baptist Camp, and by 3:00 in the afternoon kids were playing softball, volleyball, basketball, and paintball.  Other than the wind the weather was perfect.  All were in good spirits.  It was going to be a great afternoon.  

Suddenly a worried teacher came rushing out from behind the gymnasium.

"Where's the nurse?" she asked.

I didn't know.  I wasn't even sure we had a nurse present.

"What?" I responded.

"Where's the nurse?  Where's Mrs. Webber?" she asked again.

Thankfully I'd just seen the lady strolling across the field.  I pointed the direction, and we both began jogging.

"What happened?" I said.

"The top of a tree broke and fell down on Travis."  

In my mind I pictured a five or six foot branch falling from a tree and knocking the poor tenth grade boy on the head.  The nurse would check him over, bandage any scrapes, ice any bumps, and declare him fit for the rest of the day.  

Moments later we found the nurse and were entering the paintball field.  Though still a ways off I could see a crowd had gathered around the boy.  Two women walked past me.  Both were crying, and one was trying to comfort the other.  I heard someone shout, "We called 9-1-1!"  

What was going on?  Suddenly I guessed my mental image was far from the truth.  

I saw Luke Jones, another of the school teachers and the camp's caretaker, hurrying back to the scene.  

"Luke, I'll direct the ambulance in while you check on the scene."  Luke knew Travis well, and I thought he'd be the best person to stay with the kid.  I ran to my car, threw it in gear, and took off down a back trail towards the front of the camp.  The trail would take me close to where the top of the tree had fallen.  When I pulled close to the accident I had to stop.  "The top of the tree broke and fell on Travis," she had said.  It was no five or six foot branch, but rather the top two-thirds of the tree.  A huge thirty foot mass of leaves and branches lay stretched across a clearing in the woods.  I could see staff, parents, and students trying to pull the tree off the boy.  
A few minutes later the ambulance was following back down the same trail.  I wanted to keep the ambulance from driving through the center of camp and only raising the level of panic.  Dan Gwilt told me later that one of the fourth grade students had run through the camp shouting, "He's done for!  He's going to be paralyzed for life!"  

Only when I got the EMT's out to the scene did I realize there were two students struck by the tree.  A second ambulance was on its way.  I led the second ambulance back as well, and by that time the emergency personnel was loading Travis, who was more seriously injured, onto a stretcher.  

Alex (the second student) was taken to the hospital only to be sent home a few hours later with a brace and bottle of pain killers.  Travis' injury required more attention.  Taken to the hospital in Butler he was diagnosed with trauma and internal bleeding.  They then transported him to one of the hospitals in Pittsburgh.  Jeff Gwilt, our youth pastor, and I were about to drive down to see him when his grandfather called.  He's ok.

This morning I received even better news - He's coming home this morning.  Home with his mom for Mother's Day.  

Yesterday, after the ambulances drove off one of the workers came to me.  "Ken, if that tree had fallen just a few feet to the left or if Travis was standing just a few feet to the right we'd have had a hearse here, not an ambulance."

All that said . . .  I have to ask . . . is it well with your soul?  God chose to spare the lives of these two boys, but what if he had allowed them to die.  Where would they be at this moment?  Heaven?  Hell?  It's given to all men once to die and then the judgement.  What will be the result of your judgement?  Heaven or hell?  You can't cheat death.  It can come at any moment.  A tree, a car, a bullet, a fall, a sickness, heart attack, seizure . . .  The moment after our heart stops where will you be?  

Is it well with your soul?  Are you right with Jesus Christ, Creator God?  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More Student Quotes

So the other day I had a student describe their ancestry.  It went like this.

"I'm German from Germany.  I'm Irish from Ireland; and I'm Jewish from . . . from . . . from Jewland."

Ah, kids!  They never cease to entertain.