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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Death by Love: Reflections on the Cross

This might be the best sermon on the cross I've ever heard. It has so many quotable lines that it was simply un-quotable for time's sake. Mark Driscoll lays out the person and life and death of Jesus in such a way that God lays his hearers bare.

God brought me to laughter and tears, repentance and faith, prayer, fuller desires for Him and His Word, and a deeper resolve to preach this true and right and good news about Jesus Christ. I learned to love and adore and think about and praise Jesus for who He is. I pray that you will, too.

The Dangers of Raising Children to Be Pharisees

John Loftness over at the Married Life blog writes:
Pharisees find their righteousness coming from their own works—what they do and what they avoid doing. They prefer to measure themselves by the standards of other people, either living in guilt that they have not attained self-righteousness or condemning those who do not measure up to their level of goodness.

We can feed this to our children. They need to know that based on God’s standards, we are all failures: that no one attains to righteousness by his own works; that the only remedy for our mounting sins is Jesus’ payment on the cross.

We train a child to be a Pharisee by:

* Calling her a “good girl”—despite her whining, or referring to him as a “basically good kid”—despite his recent rascally behavior.

* Accepting his grudging compliance to end correction rather than a willing heart.

* Allowing him to think that mouthing the words, “Please forgive me,” reflects a contrite heart that recognizes the need for forgiveness.

* Comparing him favorably to other children: “Don’t be like that nasty boy…”
This is a great article on parenting. Please read it. For our own hearts and those of our children, church, and neighbors, we would do well to examine our views and applications of Biblical, Christ-centered, heart-focused grace over against our own rampant self-righteousness and Phariseeism.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Justin Taylor Roundup

Thanks to JT for all these great links:
All are worth reading.

TheTwo-Night Update

Someone recently said that we don't keep you guys up-to-date on our lives enough, so here goes:
  • Sunday nights, we have "Pancakes at the Treeces," and you all are always invited. Stephen, Shem, Sarah, and Supe (the new Quad-Squad) came over and ate tons of food, then we went to see "Over the Hedge," at the $1.50 movie theater. The movie was funny, not to mention convicting. We may have to comment on that sometime . . .

  • Mom came to town yesterday for work, so B and I set up a dinner date with her. She treated us to On the Border, and it was delicious. My burrito was so big it couldn't fit on the plate! We enjoyed lenghty discussions about the faithfulness of God in family, maturity, provision, and life. Thanks for the fun, Mom!
We posted a new section of links to the right called, "Smart," which is meant to give you some help with those "hard to reach" websites like smart movie reviews and translating languages. Okay, basically it's a miscellaneous place to put cool stuff. Check it out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Make My Mouth a Fountain of Life

Proverbs 10:11 says, "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence." (See also 13:14, 14:27, 16:22)

This is so often my prayer because I know that my mouth is often not a fountain of life, but instead gives the "sword thrusts" that Proverbs also speaks of (12:18). So, wanting to get into a God-given habit of encouragement and knowing that believing precedes and requires doing, I post many of them here for you to read and be encouraged. May God use these word for His glory in Jesus. He is the only way I could write such words.

My wife, my love, the Bible says that you are God's gift to me (Prov 18:22, 19:14, 31:10), and I am believing it more and more every day. God's grace is so evident in the way you help, follow, encourage, and listen to me, and in how care for our neighbors and our church. You are my best friend, my #2 always to Jesus, my wife, my love, my song, His greatest gift in the flesh to me, and a great cook. I can see that your love for Christ and for me grows daily as we work Him out in more and more of our details. He is surely at work in you to pour out His love and make you more like His Son. I am excited about whatever length of time God gives us together.

Stephen, your notes over the summer have been just what my heart has needed. Your fellowship and conversation over the last two and a half years is just what the good Lord Jesus ordered for me. He has given you such a gift of encouragement, listening, and preaching. I miss you, my brother, and can't wait for you to get back.

Gary, I spoke with you this morning and you are always an encouragement. "There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother," (Prov 18:24) is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus but He is certainly using you as one of my closer-than-brothers. Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times, a brother is born for adversity." That is you.

John Aaron, you always have something funny to say. You often lighten my heart. It is God's blessing on me to be able to see you - the brother I have long prayed for - grow up into His man.

Mom, I am growing more and more thankful for your involvement in our lives. You always want to help and encourage and share, just like the Holy Spirit comes along to help us. Your faith in God's enduring faithfulness is a constant testimony to your sons and daughter.

Dad, you always have some sort of practical advice to give me. The Lord has given you a gift with people and taught me many of those things through you. I am excited for you as God grows your third son up into a man.

Mattrock, I just wrote you an email and was reminded that we are as close as ever, even when you're far apart. I am reminded of how Paul wrote that he was with his churches "in spirit," and I think that means in prayer, in heart, in mind - not in some ghostly way, but in a real, heartfelt way. That is how I would characterize our communication lately - with each other in spirit. May God keep it that way, that we may press on toward His upward call in Christ Jesus. The music will be much better there!

John Aaron, how I enjoy being your older brother! You have taught me so much. I am thankful for your frank and honest look at life, your sense of humor, your care for others, and desire for happiness. May you find it in God the Son.

TCC - the elders, the guys, the community group, the families - you all are a constant encouragement to us. God has given our church the gift of hope - living hope in the resurrection of His Son - and you all live it before us and speak it to us regularly. Thank God for you being the body of Christ with whom we want to live and raise our family. We look forward to the coming weeks and years with you.

Papa Ben and Dolores, the Dunlaps, Stan the Man, the Macdonalds, the Bill Treece family - I'm not even sure you guys would come to our blog; but if you do, please know how thankful B and I are for your help and support during our engagement, wedding, and marriage. You all mean so much to us and are a tangible evidence of God's love and comfort toward us.

The E Family, how I have loved learning to love you. Steve called me yesterday and it was one oof the high points of my day. Praise God for your steadfastness in love and prayer and your commitment to each other and to us. We look forward to our next family vacation.

Jason and Paul and Robert - the guys at work - I am thankful for you three keeping me sharp, productive, and accountable. It can be boring and tedious working alone downstairs, but God has given me you guys to keep me jumping.

I'm sure I forgot some people, and I should have added some since I began this a month ago, but may God use this to encourage your hearts and point you toward the Life - Jesus Christ. He is the One who says, "I am the resurrection and the life," (John 11:25).

Monday, August 14, 2006

Are You Immersed in "Christian Subculture"?

"And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples."
Matthew 9:10 (see also Matt. 11:19, Mark 2:15, Luke 5:30)

"The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’"
Luke 7:34

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is pictured as the Son of God who spends time, even a great deal of time, with the known sinners of His day. In this Desiring God National Conference 2006 video, Pastor Mark Driscoll says,
"Many Christians don't have significant experience outside their Christian world. They listen to Christian radio; they listen to Christian music; they watch Christian television; they read Christian books; their kids go to Christian school; they go to Christian church; they go to Christian events; they go to Christian concerts; their friends are Christian; they go to community group or home Bible study with their Christian friends; they vacation with their Christian friends; and meanwhile their neighbors don't know Christ.

But the Bible says we're supposed to love our neighbor and we're supposed to practice hospitality, which is the welcoming of our neighbor. Well, to do that, we need to get to know our neighbor. And I think that is an attentiveness to the lives of lost people."
I am very convicted by this, and I suspect many of you are, too. It is sad that so many of us think that holiness before God consists in being around or not being around certain people and situations rather than in the blood of Jesus alone. This legalism is both sickening and deadly, and our very own "evangelical" churches are the ones who have perpetuated it.

So I asked myself, and I ask you now, "When was the last time you spent significant time with an unbeliever? A sinner? A tax collector? An atheist? And if you can't remember, or you haven't, why not?"

(The best thing I've ever read on Christian liberty is a paper by Martin Luther, called Concerning Christian Liberty.)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Round-Up #2

John Piper has returned to Minneapolis to preach his first sermon since being back and write his second fresh words article. Both are based on Luke 18:9f, and both are excellent. The sermon is on justification by faith and the article on speaking to people rather than about people.

In this same justification vein, Phil Johnson has many posts on 2 Corinthians 5:21, this new one being quite strong. I really like this blog, too, even though it's long. The hard reads are worth it.

Desiring God has also put together this page for resources on justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Thabiti is still blogging away on preaching the Gospel to muslims.

Vishal Mangaldwadi, "an international lecturer, social reformer, political columnist, and author of thirteen books," has his own site, with helpful resources on the Bible's power for social and personal change, with a special focus on India.

Ligon Duncan posts this wonderful wedding and marriage prayer at Reformation 21.

Mark Dever posts on the Bible, church membership, and the Lord's Supper.

Finally, Tim Challies is live-blogging the Sovereign Grace Worship God 2006 Conference.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Reproof and Wise Men

"Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you."
Proverbs 9:8

I was reading in Proverbs yesterday, trying to hustle through this middle section of chapter nine to get back to the contrasting descriptions of Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly, when I noticed this section of verses. The writer of Proverbs wants us to know something about wisdom and something about wise men. He wants us to know that wisdom and wise men are the polar opposite of foolishness and fools.

The following verse goes even further. It says that wise and righteous men are teachable - they grow in knowledge. Scoffers show a foolish hatred towards loving, reproving messengers, while wise men receive these words with love. And not only are wise men teachable, they're imperfect! Wise men are not perfect! Only God is perfect! What a freeing thought! God's people are called to be wise and yet not perfect! Amazing! His Word tells us to love reproof! Oh, that we would remember this truth when we feel the pressure of perfection! Oh, to be freed from legalism! To know the fear of the Lord forever!

So what do we do with these truths? Go around rebuking people for their incessant foolishness? Not exactly. These verses teach us that we ought to be thankful for loving rebukes, for kind reproofs, for good and hard words. That's right - thankful. We ought to love the messengers more, not less. And ultimately, we ought to love the God who constantly shepherds us with His rod and His staff (Psalm 23:4). Both the rod and the staff are meant to comfort God's sheep.

After quoting Proverbs 3:11-12 in Hebrews 12, the writer goes on to explain the text:
"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
So the sign of God's grace in a believer's life is not a nice, solitary, private life, but one in which there is love that disciplines and reproves. So the question for you and me is this: do you love reproof? Do you love the person who rebukes you in your arrogance and selfishness? Are you thankful for that person's kind words, or are you angry at them for breaking your bubble of self-righteousness and wounding your conscience?

The truth is that Jesus has already exposed our arrogance and self-rightouesness on the cross. He took upon Himself the wrath of God against all who would ever believe in Him and paid for their sins on His bloody cross. By His perfect obedience to God and at the price of His very life, He bought and gave to His people the ability to hear and believe the words of God - His Holy Spirit. Now, by trusting in Jesus's life and death and resurrection in our place, we can hear God's loving words - both the rod that breaks us and the staff that gathers us close. We can love the God who reproves us - both by His written Word and by His messengers, the very people around us. And we can even love those people, too. That, my friends, is the mark of wisdom.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"God Told Me So . . "

Over against the simple reading of Scripture to hear God's voice (see below), many people say that God speaks directly to them outside of the Bible. Thabiti Anyabwhile proposes this Biblical response:
The next time you hear someone say "God told me to do so and so," ask them to prove it before you follow along with them. If God has spoken then surely it should be evident in His word. If God said it then it shall surely come to pass (Deut. 18). But if God has not said it, then that "prophet" is a false prophet, a deceiver, a twister of God's "word" to his or her own destruction. Mark such a man and avoid them.
Often it is quite a complicated and difficult situation when someone "baptizes their whims in God-talk," as Thabiti says. But the issue is still the same. Those who love Christ cannot stand to hear others lie in His name, and that is basically what is going on in these situations. We must love people and love them well enough to say, "No, God did not say that to you."

Monday, August 07, 2006


Check this out and worship the God of lightning and of the whole universe.

"Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth."
Job 37:3

Friday, August 04, 2006

Piper on Living an Eternally Valuable Life

Yesterday at work I listened to John Piper on Family Life Today" talking about his book, Don't Waste Your Life. His and the hosts' comments reminded me that deep, Biblical thoughts about eternity ought to be the Christian's daily bread. We need to be reminded that life isn't for playing; it's for enjoying and displaying Jesus Christ. Let this talk encourage you to think about the truths of the Bible and their implications in your everyday life.

I thought of:
  • posting more Scripture on our walls
  • reminding each other of eternity more often
  • clinging less tightly to treasured possessions that are not Jesus
  • clinging more tightly to the only Treasure, Jesus
  • giving cheerfully to others
  • praying together more
  • praying with eternity in view
  • talking of eternal wrath and eternal joy with our friends and family
  • using the final judgment to shape our thinking on particular situations
  • living as exiles and sojourners on this earth (Heb 11, 1 Pet 1)
  • becoming obsessed with Christ's heaven instead of hypnotized by this world
  • caring more about Scripture than movies, music, tv, or current events
  • surrounding ourselves with people who help us in these regards
  • ministering to people who need to know that ultimate judgment awaits and that only Christ can save
These are just a few of my own suggestions, and they are certainly not meant to be commands or law. I just want to learn how to live in light of the Savior who shapes our lives on this earth and in eternity.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Time of Our Exile

The Bible talks about exile and exiles quite a bit:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Hebrews 11:13

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia . . .
1 Peter 1:1

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile . . .
1 Peter 1:17

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11
And that's only from Hebrews and 1 Peter. Yet this is something that we have struggled with quite a bit - how do we live as exiles on this earth? How do we keep in mind the fact that this place is not our home? How do we wander on toward heaven?

A friend's post helped me a good bit today. I remembered how I wept in longing for heaven, how I often feel a stranger here, how I feel helpless to get home. These are all good reminders - beautiful signposts God has placed along our journey as husband and wife. They scream out, "Come home," "My home is where your heart is!" and "I am the only who can get you here!"

Our hearts are there, our hope is in the enthroned Christ, and our eyes are fixed on Him. May He encourage us and bring us finally home. Home is where Jesus is.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"Fountain of Life" in Psalms and Proverbs

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Psalm 36:9

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Proverbs 10:11

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Proverbs 13:14

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27

Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly. Proverbs 16:22