Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"I'll Stand by Merits"

I'm not sure if you've been following this story about the coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan.

Ryan appeared on some kind of reality show, on which he apparently uttered some profanities.  In the days following, Tony Dungy, a former coach and professing Christian, voiced his disappointment in Ryan's words, saying "the league doesn't need that."

And now Ryan has responded to Dungy inviting him to training camp to see that Ryan's really not that bad of of a guy.  There was one comment from Ryan in this latest article that caught my eye.

"I'm a good person," Ryan said. "Just because somebody cusses or whatever doesn't make them a bad person. Just because a guy doesn't cuss doesn't make him a good person. So, I'll stand by my merits."

Now, Ryan can't be faulted for making such a comment (1 Corinthians 2:14). But it is good for us as Christians to recognize that this is likely typical of unregenerate man's view of goodness. Most people will proclaim their own goodness. But it is this claim that doesn't finally hold water when it comes to our last reckoning. For we know full well that we cannot possibly stand in front of Holy God "by my merits." God's standard is perfection. The only way we can stand is by another's merits, namely the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

We can only pray that Rex Ryan would come to this realization. Perhaps the spirit of God might be pleased to use Tony Dungy or anyone else to point out this fatal flaw in Ryan's response.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Helping Questions for Bible Studies

Colin Adams, over at Unashamed Workman is a pastor's friend. He consistently shares good resources, and seems to have access to great preachers (see sidebar on his blog, called 10 Questions interviews). Today he shares some questions for Bible study from J.I. Packer, which I am re-posting  below. These are not just for pastors, but for Small Group Leaders, Bible Study leaders, or for those seeking to interpret a passage for themselves.

J.I. Packer suggests that we ask 6 questions of any bibilcal text. I’ve found these most helpful:
(1) What do these words actually mean?
(2) What light do other scriptures throw on this text? Where and how does it fit in to the total biblical revelation?
(3) What truths does it teach about God, and about man in relation to God?
(4) How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?
(5) What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure? For what practical purpose do they stand in Scripture?
(6) How do I apply them to myself and others in our own actual situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?
J.I.Packer, Among God’s Giants: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, p138.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Reminders of Grace are Not Dry Cereal for the Soul"

I believe it was Jerry Bridges from whom I first read that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. To that point I love this paragraph from Bryan Chappell in his Christ Centered Worship:Letting the Gospel Shape our Practice

The corruption and weakness of our natures make it vital that we preach the gospel to our own hearts every day. Reminders of grace are not dry cereal for the soul; they are daily bread, blessed manna, and needed meat. For those in whom the Spirit dwells, grace is the fuel of obedience and the foundation of hope. Without its regular support, we quickly resort to self-dependence or private despair. The maturest of believers most appreciate regular nourishment from the truths of God's love. The old gospel song is true: those who know "the old, old story" best are "hungering and thirsting to hear it, like the rest."  While the gospel's power can become lost in canned and stale recitations, its sincere and authentic expression is a never-ceasing source of joy that is strength for God's people. Worship that keeps the gospel before God's people serves their deepest needs and highest aspirations, enabling them to feed on God's grace while praising Him for it (p. 117).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Adoption Reflections - Story #2

As I said in an earlier post, I aim to start posting adoption stories in this site. Our family has been forever affected by adoption.  If you are a Christian, you have been forever affected by adoption. You were a spiritual orphan adopted by your heavenly Father. And now you are a son or daughter of God. 

My contention is that, as Christians, our transition from orphans to sons/daughters in a spiritual sense ought to move us to care for the many orphans that populate our world. Reflect on your spiritual condition before you were adopted. Then find a way to care for orphans. The possibilities are endless - domestic adoption, international adoption, adoption funding, foster care, pregnancy care, right to life advocacy, orphanage volunteer, starting an adoption ministry at your church, etc.

By way of disclosure, I must admit that my wife and I did not fully realize the spiritual implications of adoption when we entered the process. Our eyes were opened to the realities of vertical and horizontal adoption at some point during the process. Our initial motive could be viewed as selfish. We wanted children. We were told we would not be able to have children the way most people have children. So we immediately pursued adoption. And God has blessed us with three boys.

Sounds simple. But, trust me, in between the periods of those previous sentences, there are many stories.  Each adoption was fraught with varying levels of anxiety.  In our case, all three adoptions have had good outcomes. But I am well aware, that's not always so. Josh and Miranda's story is a case in point. It is a story of hope, grief, loss and hope.

After the experience of the past three weeks, Josh amazingly still has the where-with-all to reflect on the experience. Here is part of that reflection. 

Miranda and I know and love Jesus Christ – not the one on television commercials for churches, not the one who says he’s just there to make you healthy and happy, but the one in the Bible. We don’t believe because I’m a pastor. We believe he actually lived the life we should have lived and actually died a death that we sinners deserve to die. We actually believe this. I know for many of you that’s completely crazy. And I agree. Christianity looks quite foolish. That’s part of what attracts me to it.

The cool part about an adoption story is that as Christians, Miranda and I know what it is like to be adopted. God didn’t have to graft us into his family, but he did. 
Read the entire story. And then pray for Josh, Miranda, the "boy we called 'Cash'" and the birth mother.

HT: Jason Kovacs

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The God-Centeredness of Christ's Sufferings

Frederick Leahy on Matthew 26:67-68 - "Then (the religious leaders) struck Him and spit in His face."

O my soul, what a sight is this! As with tear-dimmed eyes we look on this terrible scene - do we? - we behold with wordless wonder the matchless love and infinite condescension of the one who came to seek and to save the lost.

Here, however, there is an error to avoid, the danger of seeing the loving obedience of Christ as primarily and exclusively for the sake of man, when, in fact it was primarily out of the love of God that he accepted the cross... This is a truth too often overlooked.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two Voices in Caiaphas' Courtroom

I'm being aided in my personal Holy Week reflections by Frederick S. Leahy's little book, The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Suffering of the Redeemer. In numerous places in the margins, I'm finding myself scribbling the words, "great insight." My eyes are being opened to the redemptive significance of the plot/trial leading up to the crucifixion.

Here is one such instance.Concerning the high priest's garment-tearing response to Jesus' confirmation that He is in fact the Son of God (Mt 26:63-65), Leahy writes,

Ultimately two voices have spoken in that courtroom, the voice of God and the voice of Satan: both said, 'One for all.' But there is fundamental disagreement between them. God speaks in terms of redemptive substitution, substitutionary atonement; Caiaphas, who is Satan's tool as much as Judas, speaks in terms of elimination. God would have his Son die for his people so that they might live; Caiaphas would have Christ die in order to be rid of him, and so he sticks by his policy (John 11:49-50) that one man should die for the people rather than that the whole nation should perish.

Thus predestination and human responsibility meet as Christ is condemned. He was 'delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,' yet 'crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men' (Acts 2:23). God's eternal purpose was realized in the death of His Son.

Jesus as Lamb and Lion

Exulting in Diverse Excellencies - a worship-inducing reflection on the Person of Christ from Kevin DeYoung. Here's how it starts:

Secularists and liberals might take him if he were a Lamb. Muslims might love him if he were a Lion. But neither side will worship Jesus Christ as both.
Read the rest.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Luther: He Rides No Stallion

Thankful to Chris Brauns for pointing out this quote from Martin Luther. I used it in my sermon today.  
This is Luther's comment on the Palm Sunday passage in Matthew 21:5 - "Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’"
He is presented as sheer grace, humility, and goodness, and whoever believes that of him is blessed.  Look at him!  He rides no stallion, which is a war animal, and he comes not with fearful pomp and power, but sits on a donkey, which is no war animal but which is ready for burdens of work that will help human beings.  Thereby he shows that he does not come to terrify people, to drive or oppress them, but to help them, to carry their burdens and take them on himself.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Men's Breakfast

I just returned from our men's breakfast. It was good to chat with some men around the table. Part of my table conversation was with a Filipino brother talking about the spiritual situation in his country. That led to another conversation on church history, which ultimately led to conversation on the consummation of redemptive history.  All the while, I was thinking about how good it was for men converse about things other than the all-to-typical fare of news, sports, and (in this neck of the woods), soil conditions.

After breakfast, I showed an interview with C.J. Mahaney on the topic of biblical manhood. I've seen this interview a couple of times, but one thing C.J said stood out at me this morning. Paraphrasing, he said that instead of viewing home as a refuge for our relaxation, us men need to view at as a context in which to serve our wives and children.

Ouch! I was convicted. I know too often I come home just wanting to be served and to put my feet up after a hard day. But this is not a good example of male headship. Male headship is played out in service. And as men, the arena in which our service should be played out is, first and foremost, the home. Servanthood is an expression of Christ-like headship without abdicating leadership, authority and responsibility.

Here is the entire 40+ minute interview

Q&A on Biblical Masculinity from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Adoption Reflections

I'm always on the lookout for adoption stories - stories of Christians who have understood how the reality of God's adoption of us as orphans into His spiritual family, ought to inform our care for orphans. I was able to draw out that application in my sermon on Sunday from Ephesians 1, and now I've decided that whenever I hear or read of such a story, I'm going to post it here.

Here the first one:

Adopted in Christ from Grace EV Free on Vimeo.

HT: Challies

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Like Snow in May

Brock and Jen are close family friends. Mrs. Potato and I enjoy their company for many reasons, but mostly because we are very like-minded in the things of God. For the past few years, I've been secretly hoping that Jen would share her thoughts with a larger audience. Well, over the last few months, my hopes have materialized in the form of Like Snow in May.

Since it's her birthday tomorrow, I thought I'd give a "shout out" to her new blog. Head on over. Jen's thoughts and musings merit your careful thought and attention.