Thursday, December 31, 2009


At one point yesterday, our three children were happily playing together when I was awakened to a Gospel reality.

We have three boys.

They were conceived by six different parents.
They were born in three different hospitals.
One has blond hair. One has black hair. One has brown hair.

Yet here they were, enjoying one another's company.

They are brothers. They are brothers through adoption.

So it is in God's world.

People chosen by God.
People from different backgrounds.
People that look different.

Yet they are re-created to enjoy "one another's" company.

They are brothers. They are brothers through adoption.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Bloggers are Hot this Monday Morning

I probably spend a disproportionate amount of time reading some of my favorite blogs. But sometimes I'm so glad I didn't miss what someone wrote. This morning was one such day. There were four separate posts that the Lord used to stir my mind, to convict my spirit and to exhort me in pastoral ministry. I'm thankful for the men and women who write to God's glory for the benefit of His church.

1. The first is by Thabite Anyabwile. In his post called "Calvinist Confessions,1," he writes about how the concern of "The Reformed" with precision is fraught with danger towards pharisaism. I've seen this tendency in myself lately and I don't like it.

2. "Letters to Luke (I)," by Tim Challies, is a good example of how to respond humbly, thoughtfully, biblically, yet forthrightly to an atheist.

3. In his "Thoughts on Officiating the Funeral of an Unbelieving Friend," Michael McKinley gives a sobering list of thoughts from his experience. The short list contains some deeply profound insights on making our lives count.

4. Finally, Dr. Albert Mohler provides a great foundational reminder for preaching Christmas messages in, "Where Does the Story of Christmas Begin."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Well-Timed Exhortations and Reproofs on Parenting

In this present season of life, the thing that seems to consume a lot of well-placed energy is parenting. One of the struggles I grapple with daily is to walk the fine line of not bearing the responsibility of producing pharisaical children, while at the same time, helping my children realize that rules and standards have a role to play for their spiritual good.

I know, in my head, that the answer to that dilemma is found in the Gospel. The difficulty comes in applying Gospel-based parenting to day-to-day, situation-to-situation life. I pray daily for God's help in this.

In His kindness, God led me to two quotes today to help me out. I post these in their entirety to perhaps help out those of you who face similar struggles.

This first one comes from Chris Brauns:

Below are two messages that parents of young children should memorize.

The Bible instructs parents to love their children. But, the Bible does not define love as squishy sentimentalism that gives children whatever they want whenever they ask for it.

In fact, Scripture says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (Pr 13:24) Parents who truly love their children consistently discipline them.

As the parent of four children, I do not enjoy disciplining my children. But, one sentence I learned early on is very helpful. In the context of discipline I have learned to say and think:

Message #1: I love you too much to teach you that you can make bad choices without any consequences. As someone has said, “Choose to sin, choose to suffer.” Don’t be deceived God cannot be mocked. You reap what you sow. (Galatians 6:7-8).

Or, when my children are upset with me because they think I am too protective, I say and think this:

Message #2: All your life, I have been willing to die for you. I can honestly tell you that it came down to your life or my life, I would give up mine on your behalf. So, if I am willing to die for you, then having you upset with me because I am protecting you is a relatively small thing in my world. If protecting you, means you being mad at me, then so be it.”

Parents, if you are unwilling to discipline your children then you are being unloving to them.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (Pr 13:24)

The second comes from Elyse Fitzpatrick, as posted by Timmy Brister on the Grace Baptist Church of Cape Coral, FL website.

“Parents who forget that they are law breakers expect their children to keep the law and to make them look good. They expect children who exhibit exemplary respect and self-discipline. Such parents are self-righteous and proud, and all too often they put confidence in themselves, their ability to obey God, and their methodology for extracting obedience from their children. They forget that the Lord didn’t save or bless them because they were law keepers but, rather, because they weren’t.

Although they may know they have failed to keep the law–loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength and their neighbor as themselves–they give their children the law (or house rules) and expect perfect compliance the first time and every time, with a happy heart. Such parents are harsh and impatient and tempted to anger when their children fail. Although they might know the law doesn’t change the heart (and is, in fact, a ministry of death [2 Cor. 3:7]), they expect the law to change the hearts of their children. They forget that they have been adopted and brought into the family, not only as those who misunderstood and slipped up from time to time, but as defiant rebels. Have parents consistently obeyed God the first time and every time, with a happy heart? Children need what parents need–the gospel. Certainly children need to learn God’s law and to have house rules to follow, but gospel-oriented parents give the law to show children their need for a Savior, not to make them obedient.”

- Elyse Fitzpatrick, Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the love of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 159 (emphasis mine).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Wonderful Exchange

I've enjoyed reading through John Calvin's, Institutes in 2009. This morning, I started reading the section on the Lord's Supper. This line was particularly helpful, when writing about our union with Christ as a special fruit of the Lord's Supper (I have added the breaks):

This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that,

  • becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with Him
  • by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us
  • by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us
  • accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power
  • receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us
  • taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself, he has clothed us with his righteousness

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Tribute on Orphan Sunday

The Christian Alliance for Orphans has designated this coming Sunday, November 8th, "Orphan Sunday." Many different churches will be marking this occasion with sermons, videos, testimonies, songs, etc. You can see some of the goings-on at the Orphan Sunday website. I was a little late hearing about that this year and we had other things planned at church, but we'll mark the occasion next year, d.v.

In it's stead, I thought I'd share a tribute to my friends, Lee and Anna Dyck. Here is a portion of their adoption story.

Three years ago my wife and I were challenged with the need to pursue adopting a baby with Down syndrome when we discovered, among other things, that the termination rate for mothers who test positive for having a baby with Down syndrome is between 80 and 90%. This past December the Lord answered our prayers with a beautiful baby girl named Emma, pictured here with her equally beautiful mommy.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction." - James 1:27

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pastoral Training in La Belle Province.

When I was at the Together for the Gospel (T4G) Conference in 2008, I was thrilled to meet some of my Canadian brothers in Christ from Quebec. The Gospel is moving forward in that predominantly secular province, largely through the pastoral training that is taking place by the folks at SEMBEQ Seminary in Montreal.

Over the years, SEMBEQ has brought in the likes of John MacArthur and D.A Carson for training seminars. I was grateful this morning to hear of the partnership between SEMBEQ with Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF).

If you want to hear more about the work of SEMBEQ, CCEF has posted an interview they recently did with Francois Turcotte and Francois Picard.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Example of Why Pray for the Gospel to (re)Appear at Mainline Churches

This is a portion of a letter that arrived at our church from one of our neighboring churches:

I'm writing to ask if you would mind announcing that (our) church is having its annual "Blessing of the Animals" service on _______.

The service includes a blessing for each animal and care-giver. There is also a "table of remembrance," so people are encouraged to bring along pictures of all the animals with whom they've shared their lives over the years.

Yours in Christ,

The following week, this service received front-page coverage in our local newspaper, with a picture of a dog sitting in the church pew with it's owner.

This letter is sad on many levels, not the least of which is that the closing of the letter affirms a common union with Christ. Yet I wonder if the Christ the author professes has been ushered to a 'back seat' in the church he leads.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How the Gospel Applied Leads to Care for the Poor

This quote from Milton Vincent's, A Christian Gospel Primer, better articulates what I tried to say in my sermon from Amos last Lord's Day.

When I see persons who are materially poor, I instantly feel a kinship to them, for they are physically what I was spiritually when my heart was closed to Christ. Perhpas some of them are in their condition because of sin, but so was I. Perhaps they are unkind when I try to help them; but I too have been spiteful to God when He has sought to help me. Perhaps they are thankless and even abuse the kindness I show them, but how many times have I been thankless and used what God has given me to serve selfish ends?

Perhaps a poverty-stricken person will be helped and changed as a result of some kindness I show him. If so, God be praised for His grace through me. But as the person walks away unchanged by my kindness, then I still rejoice over the opportunity to love as God loves. Perhaps the person will repent in time; but
for now, my heart is chastened and made wiser by the tangible depiction of what I myself have done to God on numerous occasions.

The Gospel reminds me daily of the spiritual poverty into which I was born and also of the staggering generosity of Christ toward me. Such reminders instill in me both a felt connection to the poor and
a desire to show them the same generosity that has been lavished on me. When ministering to the poor with these motivations, I not only preach the Gospel to them through word and deed, but I reenact the Gospel to my own benefit as well.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our Role in the Conversion of Others

John Piper covers lots of biblical territory in this article - Should Christians Say That Their Aim Is to Convert Others to Faith in Christ? He points to the dual and non-competing truths that God is the decisive Cause in converting people, and we are His commissioned agents, appealing for the unregenerate to be converted.

The Gospel is Better than Unconditional Love

JT recently alerted me to a 1995 article written by David Powlison in the Journal of Biblical Counseling entitled, Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair." The entire article is worth reading as it persuasively identifies heart idolatry as the root of all human rebellion.

Near the end of the article, Dr. Powlison addresses the tendency among some Christian counselors to psychologize when making a diagnosis. In the course of doing that, Powlison puts words to what, in my observation, is the default pop-evangelical Gospel presentation.

The logic of therapy coheres with the logic of diagnosis: "I accept you, and God really accepts you. Your needs can be met, and you can start to change how you feel and act." Behavioral responsibility is muted, and the process of change becomes a matter of need-meeting than conscious repentance/metanoia and renewal of mind unto Christ.
He continues,

What happens to the Gospel when idolatry themes are not grasped? "God loves you" typically becomes a tool to meet a need for self-esteem in people who feel like failures. The particular content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - "grace for sinners and deliverance for the sinned-against" - is down-played or even twisted into "unconditional acceptance for the victims of others' lack of acceptance." Where "the Gospel" is shared, it comes across something like this: "God accepts you as you are. God has unconditional love for you." That is not the biblical Gospel, however...

The Gospel is better than unconditional love. The Gospel says, "God accepts you just as Christ is. God has 'contraconditional' love for you. Christ bears the curse you deserve. Christ is fully pleasing to the Father and gives you His own perfect goodness. Christ reigns in power, making you the Father's child and coming close to you to begin to change what is unacceptable to God about you. God never accepts me "as I am." He accepts me "as I am in Christ."

I always have the 'this-doesn't-sound-right' feeling when I hear the line "God accepts you as you are." But I've never been able respond to my own satisfaction. When I read this part of the article, I wrote in the margin, "Yes. That's it." Exactly."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Evangelizing the Middle

Dr. Ray Ortlund, Jr has a blog that I have only lately come upon, but have learned to appreciate. Today he issues a call targeted at Christian men in the city of Nashville, in regard to planting churches.

But there was a line that post that particularly caught my attention.
Think of a bell curve. At one end are a few people who obviously are not Christians. At the other end are a few people who obviously are Christians. In between are multitudes of people who are hard to read – good people, talented people, Bible-believing people, not living for Christ. They are nice people living nice lives, going to church, going to hell.
It is this segment of people - I've called it 'the middle,' - for which I have a particular concern.

Could it be that our pop-evangelical churches pander to these kinds of people? Could it be that these people largely feel comfortable in our churches, because we have tried to be too much like the world, rather than being distinctively different? Could it be that people are coming into our churches and hearing calls for behavior change devoid of Gospel foundation? Could it that these people are, in Ortlund's words, "nice people living nice lives, going to church, going to hell."

Those piercing words serve as an exhortation to keep preaching the Gospel, and keep praying that the Lord, in His kindness, might bring conviction of sin and repentance and faith to these "hard to read" people.