Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is There a Crisis in Evangelicalism?

A few years ago, Dr. David Wells wrote a chapter in the book The Compromised Church entitled, “The Present Evangelical Crisis: The Word in the World.” I have been thinking about one of his warnings. He said that one of the greatest dangers from this crisis is the fact that there does not seem to be a crisis at all. There are so many signs pointing to evangelical victory that the idea that there is a crisis seems like foolishness to many. This concept is fleshed out more in Dr. Well's book, No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology (I could have used Francis Schaeffer's The Great Evangelical Disaster, but that's really going back a while).

In the years since this book was written (almost ten), many more people have responded to what is wrong with evangelicalism. Some of this response has been good and some has been bad. As a pastor, I've been struggling with the implications of True Evangelicalism (if I can put it that way) for many years. Even in our relatively conservative, Bible-loving, Reformation theology teaching church, purity in doctrine and life can be a tough thing to pursue. Gospel holiness has implications for worship, Sunday School Curriculum, counseling - everything! Making Gospel connections to every area of life is the work of the church. The lure of compromise for the sake of avoiding conflict and increasing numbers is ever-present, as is the remaining sin of all our members (myself included).

This is what concerns me with the vision of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada. There is no talk of a crisis - no real sense of urgency for reform. Yes, there is a lot of talk of a needed turn-around to get churches on side with plans for growing. However, there appears to be a reductionistic attitude about the Great Commission, as if getting more people into our churches fulfills our Lord's mandate. The most frightening aspect of the crisis in evangelical churches is the false sense of security that many people feel in their decision for Christ when they may not be genuinely converted. This is a legacy of 19th Century revivialism that is a plague in Western evangelicalism (if you're not sure what I'm talking about, check out this article).

As an example that could be multipled thousands of times, let me share a story that I recently heard from a man who grew up in an evangelical church with a big youth group. He said that after youth on Friday, they would head out to the bush parties. He also said that the senior pastor's son was a key source for pot at their high school. Again, it looked big and dynamic on the outside, but inside there was death. This comes from a lack of the fear of God. I am afraid that the fear of God and a biblical understanding of sin are foreign concepts in many churches.

Who am I to say if people are real Christians or not? Don't I just have to take their confession at face value? "Judge not that you be not judged" is probably the best known verse in the Bible today, even though people do not know the reference (Matthew 7:1). This is same chapter where Jesus says:
  • "Do not give to dogs what is holy, and do not cast your pearls before swine." Who are the dogs and the pigs? How can we tell?
  • "Beware of false prophets" - Doesn't this require making some judgments?
  • "By their fruit you will know them" - Isn't this life inspection?
  • "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of Heaven" - Wouldn't it be better to warn people in the church with God's judgment before they get to the real thing?

I wholly affirm the perseverance of the saints. However, the warning passages in Scripture regarding false Christians are there for a reason. We can't just dismiss Hebrews 6, 10 and 12 or 1 John, or James or the many other warnings to those whom the Puritans called "false professors."

It is hard to confront people when they are bearing bad fruit or gushing forth bitter water. It takes tremendous courage to stand up to people in the church when they promote bad theology or endorse non-biblical practices by their words or deeds. I've often failed here, but if we pastors continue to fail on this front, we've failed in our greatest responsibility. We are under-shepherds and if we don't take care of the sheep, who will? Wolves wear the clothing of sheep, and they rise up from within the church (see Acts 20). We need to warn people with tears (like Paul), but we still need to warn them.

If we are going to cultivate healthy churches, fulfil the Great Commission and reform the Fellowship, we are going to have to make the main things the main things. We can't assume the Gospel - and that includes concepts like God's righteous wrath, sin, eternal hell and the presence of imposters and false teachers in our midst. If we gloss over these things, we will lose the Gospel. This loss might not occur in this generation, but in will happen.

If we see a turnaround in the Fellowship and 70% of our churches are growing by at least 5% in 10 years (as opposed to 30% today), who will be the watchmen that are dilligent to promote sound doctrine and moral purity? If we have big churches without integrity in life and doctrine, we will go the same path as the United Church of Canada in the 60s. I will be branded as an extremist because of that last comment, but we need to think about it. We need to sound the alarm regarding new persepectives on justification, emergent churches, open theism and gender confusion. These doctrinal issues must be confronted and refuted. We must also urgently appeal for reform regarding the moral compromise that is becoming commonplace among professing evangelicals.

I believe we do need to help churches turn around, plant new churches (particularly in our cities), and rally together to see this generation won for the Lord. However, we need to talk about the dangers all around us and flee to the cross. We must have uncompromised Gospel theology as our absolute centre; otherwise, we will be the blind leading the blind and we will all fall into the pit of the current evangelical crisis.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Change and Revitalization in the Fellowship

I am suspicious of change. It is my conservative nature, I suppose, but it is also because of experience. In the church, I trust the old paths far more than innovation. Part of my experience is a bottom shelf in my office that is full of dusty binders from past efforts at restructuring, refocusing and revising (I’m not alone, ask any pastor with more than 10 years of experience).

Change, however, is frequently necessary. One of the mottoes of the Reformation was, “Always Reforming.” It is human nature to wander away from the truth. We must always evaluate this drift and prayerfully seek to check it by returning to the Gospel. In Philippians 3:1, the Apostle Paul said, “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” In 2 Peter, we find a longer passage on this same point of reviewing the basics:
“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” 2 Peter 1:12-15

It should be evident to anyone with a pulse that change is needed in much of Western evangelicalism. Regarding the Fellowship of Churches that I belong to, I would not want to cling to the status quo or retreat to a vision from twenty or fifty years ago. I am not opposed to streamlining administrative structure, and, as one who is interested in the history of reformation and revival, I know that God uses individuals as His agents to orchestrate dramatic change.

My primary concern is regarding what I do not hear from our national leadership. For several years now, I have heard at national and regional conventions that we Fellowship Baptists are very strong on the Bible and doctrine. I do not believe that is true. I think that many of our churches (from my admittedly limited exposure) have been heavily influenced by the individualistic, moralistic and pietistic impulses that practically define contemporary evangelicalism. We have been told that because we are strong on Bible and doctrine, we must now work to cultivate relationships, develop servant leadership and focus more on prayer and evangelism. More recently, we are told that it is the structure that needs to change to make way for a more effective fulfillment of the Great Commission.



I am convinced that there is no substitute for biblical preaching centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5). This, I believe, is a weak spot in many of our churches. What I am trying to say is that we need to focus far more on what God has done in Christ as less on what we need to do. What we can do has always been a easier sell in the church, but being faithful to Gospel-centered ministry and the marks of a true church is urgent for real health in the long run.

I came across this quote from D.A. Carson recently, and it expresses my worry regarding the focus of the Fellowship very well:
I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being
dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that
take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the
center, we are not far removed from idolatry
. (from The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 26).

So then, change away, Fellowship, change away, but change from the influence of the world and reform to the central standard of the Gospel in all areas of life and worship. Lord willing, I'll be leading our church to this kind of change right along with you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Still Watching the Fellowship

After attending our national convention a few weeks ago I posted some thoughts on changes that are going on in our Fellowship of Baptist churches. I appreciate the comments that I received right away, but there have been a few more today. Our national president, John Kaiser, took the time to answer some of my questions in that post (follow the link to Watching the Fellowship and read the comments, if you wish). Thanks for that Dr. Kaiser, and thanks to all of you who commented. If you missed this post on the first go-'round, feel free to join the conversation with a comment here or at that "Watching" post.

These are not simple issues. I have long thought that being the leader of a group of churches - particularly Baptist churches - must be a very difficult job. Like herding cats, I suppose. Because of our conviction regarding autonomous local churches, many Baptists have been suspicious of increasing centralization, a.k.a. "leave my church alone." By the way, no one in the Fellowship leadership is proposing an interventionist solution to the problems with our association - I'm just pointing out the nature of Baptist groups.

What, then, are associations for? The way I see it, we can do more together with like-minded churches than we can do alone. Leadership training (including the support of schools), missions, accountablity to a larger group of churches (including sharing a common affirmation of faith and receiving help in crisis situations) and encouragment in ministry. These are good things and I am all for Baptist churches in fellowship.

I am going to be an armchair quarterback in the coming weeks and post on what I think should be priorities for our Fellowship. I believe that the need for reform extends far beyond Fellowship into evangelicalism as a whole.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

First Online Messages

We have been planning a church website for a long time, but, with one thing and another, we haven't made it happen.

In the meantime, my first two online messages are up at Fellowship Baptist Church, Saskatoon. I was asked to speak at a conference and then on Sunday morning - they've put both the messages up here. There were a couple more speakers at the conference, but the messages didn't get posted - technical difficulties?

The first one, "The Church's Roots" was on biblical authority from 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. The second one, "How to Fix the World" was from Ephesians 1:9-10.

My mom doesn't use the internet, but in case anyone else in interested, there you go.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Our Glorious Inheritance

While preparing for Sunday's message on Ephesians 1:15-23, I came accross this gem from Matthew Henry:

Besides the heavenly inheritance prepared for the saints, there is a present inheritance in the saints; for grace is glory begun, and holiness is happiness in the bud.

Persistent Grace to Run the Race

I just finished reading When Sinners Say, 'I Do' by Dave Harvey. It is excellent (Tim Challies reviews it here). The subtitle is, Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. I am so thankful that there are new books and messages out there that are Gospel driven and that old cross-centered resources are finding a new audience among many people in evangelical churches who are weary of the essentially secular approach that many churches and groups have adopted.

I have certainly experienced a dissatisfaction with conferences, leadership events and pastors that don't seem to appreciate the centrality of the Gospel for every day. I try to have a good attitude, but when Christian books, events and programs don't look to grace to justify their purpose, they come off flat and shallow. For instance, a few of our men at church went with me to a leadership weekend a few years back. The presenter spent most of his time quoting from secular business books and dropping names of movers and shakers in the corporate world. There was very little Bible, and we didn't hear about anything in that retreat that only God could do (i.e., grace).

The same applies to various aspects of evangelicalism today; church growth, Christian counselling, parenting and marriage seminars and other aspects of Christian life are based on what we do rather than what only God can do. Secular models are borrowed and the Bible is set to the side (or a few proof-texts are pulled out). So many Christians need reform - a paradigm shift, a Copernican revolution.

In his message on the Gospel at the first meeting of The Gospel Coalition, Don Carson identified the problem as a misunderstanding of what the Gospel really is. He said that many believers think that the Gospel is for "tipping people into the Kingdom" and then it is left behind and the focus shifts to what we do. That is not good. The gospel must be central for all of life. As Jerry Bridges says, "preach the gospel to yourself every day" (if you haven't read any Jerry Bridges' books, or if you've just read, The Pursuit of Holiness, find and read The Discipline of Grace).

One critical passage on this theme is Galatians 3:1-3. The Galatians were "foolish" and "bewitched" because, after starting with grace through faith, they began to rely on human effort. Another key text is Titus 2:11-13 (which Dave Harvey unpacks in his book). The grace of God is operative in training us until the day we see Christ face-to-face.

Declaring this Gospel - from the pulpit and among non-believers - is the absolute center of true Christian life. Dave Harvey calls this "persistent grace to run the race." I love that phrase and I plan to swipe it.

Not everyone in my Fellowship of churches, not all the pastors in our Edson ministerial, not all the people in my my church get this concept yet. It is only by a revolution wrought by the Holy Spirit that we will get the Gospel in this comprehensive manner for all of life. I'm going to keep on promoting the gospel by preaching, teaching, recommending great books and messages and hammering away on this theme on my blog.

Thanks, Pastor Dave, for your book and that great phrase, "persistent grace to run the race."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Healthy Churches - A Link to Get Started

I have been collecting some thoughts regarding healthy churches lately. I will do some posts soon, but here is something to get you started, a great post by Mark Dever over at the Together for the Gospel blog. It was written back in July of 2006.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Looking for a Better Way

I have posted on my concerns for the future of my association of churches and, by extension, much of evangelicalism today. In my own circles, I don't hear people denying central truths, but they are eclipsed by concerns for relevance and pragmatic systems.



These are big topics, but one of my frustrations is that many pastors that I talk to don't even get the categories (or think they do and reject my narrowness out of hand). I could point people to David Wells' four books that do such an excellent job diagnosing the problem, or even D.A. Carson's The Gagging of God (I can't believe that book is 11 years old already), but these books take some work.



I don't seem to have the words to express what's wrong briefly, so I have been hesitating to do a blog post or a blog series. Enter the wonderful world of the internet. Now I can just point people to Tim Challies post, "Ruined for Anything Else" and Michael Haykin's post, "Spiritual Vitality and Church Governance." Together, they form an excellent primer for what I perceive to be the greatest problems in our churches today. These two little posts don't say everything, but they are great discussion starters. Thanks, gentlemen!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Watching the Fellowship


Last week I flew to Hamilton to attend the 54th annual convention of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada (FEBCC, henceforth, "The Fellowship"). I have attended a Fellowship Baptist Church since 1981, I took my undergrad and graduate studies at a Fellowship school and I have pastored in Fellowship churches since 1989.


The Fellowship is a diverse group of churches from coast to coast (about 500 of them). There are regional distinctions and distinctions between churches in any given region. We share a statement of faith and a national identity through missions, educational institutions and the national office. Some recent changes have given me lots to think about. I do plan to do a few posts on these changes. If any Fellowship pastors or members of Fellowship churches find this blog, I'd love to have your comments. If you are not a part of the Fellowship but wish to help me think through some of these questions, I'd appreciate your input.


This post is for background. Let me give a little bit more: In the Spring of 2006, the Fellowship hired a new President, Dr. John Kaiser. Dr. Kaiser came from Growing Healthy Churches (formerly American Baptist Churches of the West) in Northern California. He has written a book titled, Winning on Purpose: How to Organize Congregations to Succeed in their Mission. We took the first step toward retooling our National Fellowship this year at convention. We adopted Dr. Kaiser's "Accountable Leadership" model and did away with a multiple board structure for our agencies. This is for a six-year trial period. We can adopt or reject the new way of doing things at any Convention during that time. Dr. Kaiser is confident that we will be sold on the fruitfulness of the new structure.


The more I think about this new direction, the more questions I have. Here are a few of them for a start:


  • Are we an association of churches or a denomination? Is that a meaningful distinction any more?

  • I have serious reservations regarding a corporate model of leadership for local churches, but is it acceptable or even desirable for a National administration? The National Fellowship office is not a church, but exists to serve churches.

  • With that in mind, is it important for an administrative body that serves churches to be theological, i.e. define their terms (missional, disciple, conversion, etc)? Is it safe to assume: a). we are on the same page on doctrine because of our shared affirmation of faith and / or b). theological precision is a local church matter?

  • The ultimate purpose of these changes is to grow churches, both by expanding the size of existing churches and accelerating the planting of churches. What is the most effective way to influence local churches to achieve these goals while respecting their autonomy?

I am not opposed to streamlining administrations to make them more effective in accomplishing their mission. I am not opposed to helping churches grow and multiply - in fact, I could use some help in mobilizing our people to be more mission-minded here in Edson. One thing I do know is that I am not going to cheer for the team that wants to maintain the status-quo (I don't even know if that "team" exists). We do need change and renewal as a Fellowship of churches.


However, I want to know if my restlessness is warranted. Am I asking the right questions? Is there cause for alarm or shall I just hang tight and see what develops?

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Nearly Suspense-Free "Who Said It?"

Other bloggers do "Who Said It?" posts from time-to-time and I never get them. In fact, I sometimes fail to see who got the reference right in the comments because the blogger doesn't ever spill the beans. I won't cause you much anxiety. Below is a quote from a famous person. In this very post, I will reveal where the quote comes from. Before that, however, let me do a little back-story.

I brought this quote to a Bible-study several years ago. We had been "beating up" on the Pentecostals a little too much, I thought, so I brought this quote as a bit of balance. I handed it out and read it and asked, "Who said it?" The answers were interesting. Someone said that it sounded like some subjective mystic, but language was old, so it probably wasn't a modern Pentecostal. They were surprised when I told them who wrote this.

The quote:

“And here again we ought to observe that we are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart. Consequently, we know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself. For each man’s mind is a labyrinth.”

I think this is a great quote. Adoration is indeed the right response to God as we receive what He has revealed about Himself in His Word and in creation. Getting God's truth into our hearts is also absolutely essential so that we may be fruitful, worshipping Christians. Sure, the Emergents and the Charismatics often go too far, but there is much mystery in God and His ways!



So ...

who

said

it?

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-- John Calvin (Institutes, 1.5.9,12)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Simplicity

I found this quote in David Powlison's, Speaking Truth in Love (highly recommended!):

"I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."

Friday, October 05, 2007

It's just .. like ... WOW

Inexpressible, indescribable -- utterly amazing.

In an age of hyperbole -- especially in advertising (car commercials on the radio, anyone?) -- it is difficult to use words to express the glories revealed in God's Word. Actually, it has always been impossible to contain the glories of God and His works in words, but we should always be striving to do that very thing! Theologians teach that God's Word, though holy and perfect, is a condescension to our weakness. I'm reminded of the line in the hymn, "Stoop to our weakness, mighty as thou art." I wonder how our communication will develop over the timeless ages of eternity? We will always have the joy of trying to express the wonders of our Creator and Redeemer. That will be the chief occupation and pleasure of Heaven.

This fall I began a new sermon series on Ephesians. I knew Ephesians was a wonderful book (it has always been one of my favorites), but until I began a close study for preaching, I had no idea how, well, indescribable it was. I am overwhelmed, and I am just beginning.

It struck me this week that if we could even really get Ephesians 1 - even Ephesians 1:1-13 - the church would be done with foolish compromises (worldliness), petty fights, discrimination and partiality, pride in our works, and scores of other sins and faults. This is very practical theology, because we are brought into the very purposes of God, and not just for us, for the universe.

Ephesians is about God and His work for His people. The closer you look, the bigger God's purposes in His Son for His glory in the church become. You cannot overstate how BIG this all is! I'm going to title my October 14th message on 1:7-12, "How to Fix the World" (wouldn't the modern Postmodern don't-be-too-certain-now types love that "arrogance"!). Meditate for a moment on 1:9-10:

... making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Put that together with God's purposes for the church that Paul states in chapter 3 (... so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places ...) and your vision for what Christians are to be and do should grow immeasurably.

I was also humbled again this week by the sobering privilege of preaching. I can read and re-read a passage, do the text work and read commentaries. By that point, I understand the passage. Sort of. There is something else that happens, though, when I write out what I'm going to say to the congregation and then preach it. It is then that a passage often comes alive and I really get it in my heart as well as my head. This might sound rather esoteric, but I know other preachers will know what I'm talking about (if they're expositional preachers, that is!).

Lest you think too highly of me, let me admit that when I feel overwhelmed by what I discover, I am more likely to go get another cup of coffee or go online and check my blogs than I am to fall on my knees in worship, though there has been some of that as well. There is still a sense of Exodus 20:18-19 in my still sinful heart. When the light gets extreme, I often shrink away. I wish I could consistently want to bask in that light - to stay on the mountaintop, but I am so often weak. The more I realize the magnificence of God as He is revealed in His Word, the smaller I feel.

I know that there are some people from my congregation that read my blog (or at least did until I quit for a month), so I might be sticking my neck out with that last paragraph. I'm putting it there intentionally because I want to ask you, again, to pray for me. When I am weak, then I am strong. I want to grow in the grace of the Gospel. I want to be a doer of the word as well as a hearer (and preacher). I know it is only grace that gives me delight in God's Word, and I am thankful for this great honour preaching and preparing to preach.

Who is sufficient for these things?

Monday, October 01, 2007

I Missed September Entirely

I don't have anything against my little ol' blog, but I just haven't had the wits lately to post anything. My new Sunday morning series on Ephesians and our new James Bible study have eaten up all my brainpower. It has been busy, what with a new season of church programs and whatnot, but I can't use that as an excuse because we all make time for the things we value, don't we? I'm not going to make any promises or plans (those haven't worked out so well), but I might be more regular now that things have settled down a bit.

Thanks Steve for asking about my blog last night, and thanks Paul for the comment! Those inquiries are the reason for this post. I hope it's not the only one in October!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What I Did This Summer - Part I


Now that I am posting something, be prepared for a flood of blog posts - they're all pent up from my weeks off (okay, we'll see about that).

I'm going to ease myself back in by doing a couple of photo posts.

What have I done this summer? On about the 19th of July, some of our family went to Jasper with a couple of guys from Sri Lanka that are working in Edson:






We went to Maligne Canyon,





Mt. Edith Cavell,

(where we skipped some rocks on a glacial pool)



and Athabasca Falls



before we went to Jasper to poke around in the shops. There's never enough time in a day trip to see much in Jasper, but it was a good day. We took oodles of pictures, but I'm not going to put any more up on Blogger.

Talking to our friends from Sri Lanka made us appreciate what a land of opportunity we live in. Many places in the world are very difficult. Spending the day in Jasper always fills me with a sense of the glory of our mighty Creator. From the unique mountain birds and flowers to the mountains, glaciers and waterfalls, God's works are astonishing.

Next time, Sunnybrae on the Shuswap!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Checking In

I'm still here. I haven't even been reading as much as usual, much less writing (even comments). Summer days are keeping us hopping. I have an idea or six for a real blog post, but I just wanted to say hello tonight.

We're going on holidays on the weekend. I'm looking forward to it. We're starting with a week at Sunnybrae Bible Camp and then we're going camping for another week with Juanita's parents, brother and family. We hope our travelling is not as adventurous as the Shays!

Josh has been at Sunnybrae since the 1st. He's in the Counsellor in training program for about 5 weeks. He's doing well - we knew he would!

And finally, since Neil wouldn't visit Winnie-the-Pooh for pictures, here's a vintage (2004) picture of the Silly Old Bear in White River, Ontario.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Conflicting Feelings

A thankful H/T goes out to Kim at Hireath for posting this hymn back in May. When I read it I went, "Wow! That Newton guy read my mind!" That's pretty good for a guy that died about 200 years ago.

We've just finished a series on 1 John at our Wednesday night Bible study. It has been a roller coaster ride for me. I've always felt a strange mixture of fear and wonder while reading 1 John. He wrote it to give assurance (5:13), but I've often thought that he could have been more comforting if that was his purpose. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a Christian when I read about not continuing in sin and loving my brother. One evening a while back we were studying chapter 4 (9-19 particularly) and it struck me afresh (as it did when I was preparing during the week) that the prior foundation of our love for God and others is God's love for us. The love of God in Christ permeates 1 John. If we miss that, we will despair because of the high standard set in that book. If we get that, "perfect love casts out fear." It was this same week that I found Newtons "Conflicting Feelings" at Hireath. Wow. I tried to read these lyrics to the guys at Bible study, but I was just too choked up. I retreated to the photocopier and just gave them copies (I did manage to read it with quavery voice later).

One observation: When Newton says that sometimes he finds Sunday a day of guilt and grief, remember that he was the preacher. The more I read about him, and by him, the more I appreciate him.

If you are a Christian, you will be able to identify with Newton as well. If you can't identify, prayerfully read 1 John and ask God to soften your heart and open your mind to the reality of your sin and the wonder of His gracious love in Christ. We love because He first loved us.

Conflicting Feelings

Strange and mysterious is my life.
What opposites I feel within!
A stable peace, a constant strife;
The rule of grace, the power of sin:
Too often I am captive led,
Yet daily triumph in my Head,
Yet daily triumph in my Head.

I prize the privilege of prayer,
But oh! what backwardness to pray!
Though on the Lord I cast my care,
I feel its burden every day;
I seek His will in all I do,
Yet find my own is working too,
Yet find my own is working too.

I call the promises my own,
And prize them more than mines of gold;
Yet though their sweetness I have known,
They leave me unimpressed and cold
One hour upon the truth I feed,
The next I know not what I read,
The next I know not what I read.

I love the holy day of rest,
When Jesus meets His gathered saints;
Sweet day, of all the week the best!
For its return my spirit pants:
Yet often, through my unbelief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief.

While on my Savior I rely,
I know my foes shall lose their aim,
And therefore dare their power defy,
Assured of conquest through His Name,
But soon my confidence is slain,
And all my fears return again,
And all my fears return again.

Thus different powers within me strive,
And grace and sin by turns prevail;
I grieve, rejoice, decline, revive,
And victory hangs in doubtful scale:
But Jesus has His promise passed,
That grace shall overcome at last,
That grace shall overcome at last.
John Newton, 1779

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Nothing But the Blood - Sunday Hymn

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain

Robert Lowry 1826-1899

Dr. D.A. Carson

I like to listen to sermons, lectures, interviews and the like. I listen when I go to the gymn (not often enough) when I drive (via my iPod and an FM transmitter) and when I'm working around the house (thankfully my wife and older children enjoy listening to these messages too).

I have been helped by folks like C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, Alistair Begg and many others. Lately I have been listening to more of D.A. Carson. I have appreciated Dr. Carson's books and messages for over two decades now. I first heard him when I was a student at Northwest Baptist Theological College in 1985 at a conference called "Basic Baptist Beliefs." Two messages particularly stand out from that conference. The first was a message on Ephesians 4 and the second was on contextualization.

Before the conference, I was sitting with a couple of "older" pastors (who must have been in their 30s) in the back row of Faith Baptist Church. They were talking about Carson's days at Northwest. They said he was a real egghead - way too profound for normal people to follow. They didn't expect much from the conference. To their credit, after that first message they changed their tune and admitted that he was an excellent communicator. I was blown away. I own many of his books now, and have benefitted from them immensely.

Back to the MP3s. Thanks to the great work of a blogger that I hadn't come across before and a link a while back from Justin Taylor, I have been working my way through a treasure trove of Don Carson messages. I would strongly encourage you to do the same.

I listened to a message on Friday morning entitled "Pentecost" that was fantastic (#3 in the linked page above - stream only). I told one fellow in the church that this is a course in Biblical Theology in a one-hour message. Dr. Carson has a gift for making familiar passages come alive, all the while being true to the text in context.

I thank God for Dr. Carson's ministry. I hope the Lord gives him many more years, books and messages to benefit the church around the world.

Angels Wish

I'm not into the CCM scene, but there are a few contemporary artists that do pretty well with their lyrics. When I first heard Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Angels Wish" I thought it was cool, but pretty light (this is CCM after all). The more I listen to this song, the more I like it. It is evocative without being too speculative, methinks.

The song jumps off from 1 Peter 1:12 - "even angels long to look into these things." 1 Peter 1:10-12 is such a profound passage of Scripture, coming as it does on the heels of verses 3-9, an exquisite statement regarding our salvation in Christ. This is a great launch pad for biblical theology. This song does not come close to that level of awe and wonder, but it is pretty good. Seeing as it's been stuck in my head off and on all week, I thought I'd share it with you.

Without further ado, here are the lyrics:

Was God smiling
When He spoke the words
That made the world
And did he cry about the flood
And what does God's voice sound like
When He sings, and when He's angry
These are just a few things
That the angels have on me

Chorus:
Well, I can't fly
At least not yet
I've got no halo on my head
And I can't even start to picture Heaven's beauty
But I've been shown the Savior's love
The grace of God has raised me up
To show me things the angels long to look into
And I know things The Angels only wish they knew

I have seen the dark and desperate place
Where sin will take you
I've felt loneliness and shame
And I have watched the blinding light of grace
Come breaking through with a sweetness
Only tasted by the forgiven and redeemed (repeat chorus)

And someday I'll sit down with my angel friends
Up in Heaven
They'll tell me about creation
And I'll tell them a story of grace (repeat chorus)

Steven Curtis Chapman, From the album, All Things New

Monday, May 28, 2007

Our New Wheels

After searching for a replacement Suburban for a couple of months, I decided to do some gas cost calculations. Even using the 'burb somewhat sparingly, the fuel is a killer. We thought we'd go to the local Honda dealer and see if we'd all fit in an Odyssey. We did.

This is a 2002. It's a local van, owned by an older bachelor who had it serviced very faithfully at the Edson dealer. It has a little higher kms, but it is in excellent shape (highway kms, no doubt).

For those that care about such things, the 2002 has a 240 hp v-6, a 5 speed automatic, and this one is an EX with leather. The little girls love the power sliding doors. I hope this van lasts for a good long time.

Everybody's happy, but I'm sure Garry is disgusted.

On the much more significant news front, Clint and Christel have a new baby! Go to their blog and check out the pictures of baby Hunter.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

First 10 Meme

This looked like fun, so I thought I would play along. As usual, I'm rather late, but who cares? You can visit Rebecca's site for a description of what this is (and find links to other people's lists). These are the first 10 things that came up on my iPod when I shuffled the songs:

1. Glory Be To God On High - Sovereign Grace Music, Savior
This is a Christmas Album, but I left a few songs on my Nano because I like 'em. I really dig this whole album, but some of the songs are more seasonal than others.

2. O Love That Will Not Let Me Go - Indelible Grace
I have Indelible Grace 1, 2 and 3. I'm going to get 4 some day. These hymns are great.

3. I Come Running - Valley of Vision
This is not my favorite song on this CD, but the CD is fantastic.

4. Child Training - Bruce Waltke Proverbs Messages # 12
These messages are really old. This was when Dr. Waltke was just getting started in Proverbs, which is saying something. They are very helpful for my Proverbs series, though. It is interesting comparing these to his Commentaries, which are quite recent.

5. How Can I Keep From Singing - Chris Tomlin
When we first got a Chris Tomlin CD, I put this on my iTunes. I've since decided I don't like him much. I may be doing some housekeeping soon.

6. Love Them Like Jesus - Casting Crowns
I received a gift certificate for Christmas (thanks, Ian and Sarah) and I bought this Casting Crowns CD. It was a pleasant surprise - I like it!

7. Wisdom's Inheritance - Bruce Walke # 6
See # 4 above.

8. Whate're My God Ordains is Right - Indelible Grace
A profound song. I've thought since I first heard it that it would be a good one for our congregation to learn. We haven't done it yet. Some people wouldn't get it, but it would be good to have in the mental database for times of crisis.

9. O Come and Mourn - Indelible Grace, For all the Saints
Our family thinks that this song is too bouncy for the subject matter. Having said that, it is a great song on a great series of albums.

10. John Neufeld at the Refocus 2007 Conference
John Neufeld is the pastor of Willingdon Church in Burnaby, B.C. A few of us went to this conference in April and were very glad we did. After his breakout session, I went up to John and said that I was amazed to hear a Canadian, big church pastor talk like that! I was quite impressed. May his tribe increase.

Earth, Rejoice, Our Lord is King!

I came across verses four and five of this hymn in a 1 John commentary by I.Howard Marshall. I hadn't seen this hymn before and have never heard it (the metre is 7777) but the words are worth posting. "Hell is nigh by God is nigher." That line alone would have encouraged me to post this for my Sunday hymn this week!

Earth, rejoice, our Lord is King!
Sons of men, his praises sing;
Sing ye in triumphant strains,
Jesus the Messiah reigns!

Power is all to Jesus given,
Lord of hell, and earth, and heaven,
Every knee to him shall bow;
Satan, hear, and tremble now!

Angels and archangels join,
All triumphantly combine,
All in Jesu's praise agree,
Carrying on his victory.

Though the sons of night blaspheme,
More there are with us than them;
God with us, we cannot fear;
Fear, ye fiends, for Christ is here!

Lo! to faith's enlightened sight,
All the mountain flames with light,
Hell is nigh, but God is nigher,
Circling us with hosts of fire.

Christ the Saviour is come down,
Points us to the victor's crown,
Bids us take our seats above,
More than conquerors in his love.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Not What My Hands Have Done

It's been a long time since I've posted a Sunday hymn. In fact, it's been a while since I've blogged at all. It's not that I don't have anything to say, but my church gets to hear it first - for good or ill!

I have been thinking about the love of God in light of our 1 John study on Wednesday evenings. The last lines of this hymn have been going through my mind, so I thought I'd post this hymn this week. Finding joy and satisfaction in God is not an invention of John Piper's, though I'm thankful for his emphasis on this biblical truth.


Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

7 Random Things

Apparently there's a "100 random things about me" meme out there somewhere. The only one I've seen is the 7 things version. That's okay, 100 is about 93 too many.

1. I was born and raised Mennonite - Northwest Conference, to be precise. My parents left the church in about 1977, but went back to a NWC church in Vernon, B.C. for my dad's last few years. My grandpa Ezra Stauffer was a noted Bible teacher, apparently. He even has some articles in "The Mennonite Encyclopedia."
2. I was totally freaked out by "A Thief in the Night" when I saw it at church (Hillcrest Mennonite, in Grande Prairie, Alberta). So, does childhood trauma explain my current bent towards Amillennialism? Inquiring minds undoubtedly have better things to do with their time.
3. I'm wearing a funky shirt that came from Sri Lanka. My older kids think it's weird, but I don't care. I like it. It was a gift from Niluka, just today. Thanks, Niluka!
4. I bought an 8 gal., 2.5 h.p. air compressor with a bunch of tools (a Canadian Tire bundle) at our Christian school auction yesterday. I paid $110. They were offering it in a recent C.Tire flyer for $250. Should I feel guilty about this?
5. I used to be able to do weird tricks with my super-flexible hands (the only part of me that was ever particularly flexible). Now that I'm older, my hands just do normal things; they just hurt when I try to do weird things, so I don't.
6. I used to love bombing down logging roads (?!) on my mountain bike when we lived in Barriere, B.C. The rides up were lung busters, but the trip down was worth it. I came down like a maniac. I'm amazed I didn't kill myself.
7. I still get bike fever every spring, to some degree. No, not for mountain bikes (I still have one of those), but the kind with irresponsible horsepower. I've owned a 1973 Honda CB350 (the 350/4); a 1981 Suzuki 55o and a 1982 Suzuki 750E. I sold the last one in about 1991.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hide the Children!

Controversies abound:

Disclaimer: I am not making any kind of editorial statement by putting these together, but are the planets particularly out of alignment right now or something?

Disclaimer 2: I make no claim to be the next Justin Taylor (or Tim Challies), so if I have missed some controversy that is dear to you, please accept my apologies.

Transient Glory

I was watching TV the other night with the family and a hockey commercial came on featuring this picture:



I said something to the effect of, "Ah man! That's just wrong! That should have been Chris Pronger! Uhhh.... maybe ... Ryan Smith!"

I was just bugging Josh, but it reminded me that human glory is really hollow. No star players are permanent and neither Carolina or Edmonton made the post season this year.

Just so you don't think I'm more spiritual than I am, I must finish this by saying, "There's always next year!"

Too bad about Vancouver. Go Ottawa!

If not, Go Buffalo! They're almost a Canadian team.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Holy Dissatisfaction - Part II

I have thought for a long time that people – including myself – are too easily satisfied. A growing sense of how satisfying God should be in my life only amplifies that conviction.

A few weeks ago I preached on Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” In light of what satisfies me all too often, that verse haunted me the week I was preparing that sermon. What and who do I love? Where does my mind wander in my unguarded moments? Why do I get up in the morning? Where do I find the motivation for my work?

I have heard people say that they have no regrets in their lives. Oh really? They don’t regret the way their life has been lived so far? How can people say that? What were they aiming for? I regret that I haven’t been a better Christian, husband, father and pastor. I don’t lie awake at night regretting my life. I don’t want to waste time fretting about what’s past, but ongoing shortcomings and sins remind me to be dissatisfied with my present condition. Again, I strive to be content, but not satisfied with my current life before God.

Dissatisfaction in the Christian life can take a nasty turn; that’s why I’m shooting for a holy dissatisfaction. Unnecessary regret and guilt over that which Christ has forgiven is not only pointless, but destructive. Dissatisfaction with the performance of others (which is often a projection of frustration with our own performance) can lead to a critical spirit and even bitterness.

I remember with, yes, regret, my critical spirit at many times in my life. Looking back, I can see that even though I was probably right in many of my criticisms, I had the wrong spirit. I wanted to be seen as being right as an end in itself. Studying without prayer and the cultivation of satisfaction in the grace of God in the glory of Christ leads to pride. This is what the Apostle Paul meant by “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

A holy dissatisfaction does tend project itself to others, but if it is from God, then it is a longing for others to value the right things, namely God Himself. Wanting company in the enjoyment of the good, beautiful and the true is a good thing. It is like the longing I had to share the beauty of Vancouver with my wife a couple of weeks ago (sorry to rub it in, Juanita).

When I’m singing a song in church that is wishy-washy – at best – I tend to find myself thinking, “There are so many wonderful songs we could be singing” rather than, “What a stupid song” (unless it’s really bad!). I hope this is a sign of maturity.

When I write about these things, I feel like a little kid because I’m such a short way down this road of finding satisfaction in God rather than created things. It’s a little embarrassing.

I started thinking about this dissatisfaction because of some John Piper messages I heard at the Refocus Conference a couple weeks ago. Listening to John Piper preach makes me feel small – at least until I listen for a while. At some point along the way, John Piper starts to look small and Jesus looks really, really big. The size of people and created things becomes dim and virtually irrelevant in the light of His glory. A holy dissatisfaction brings God-focused perspective to life.

I’m going to wrap up with a classic C.S. Lewis quote that I am beginning to understand more as the years go by:

"Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Holy Dissatisfaction

What is the purpose of going to theology conferences? I haven’t gone to very many in my day – though I did have the pleasure of being at Together for the Gospel last year in Louisville.

Why go, though? What’s the point? This time, I decided I wouldn’t go the Refocus Conference in Burnaby (only 11 hours down the road) unless I could take somebody with me. The point of going this time for me was leadership development. Five of us went, including two teens. One of those teens (the other one, not my son), said that what he came away with was a greater sense of the fear of God. That’s a good thing. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of leadership development, so to speak. The four fellows that I went with all really benefitted from this experience. The teaching was terrific.

What about me? Was this trip completely altruistic? Hardly. I really did want to go. There were many things that I learned, but it always takes me a little while to decide what cumulative effect of the conference … was? Is? Will be? For example, last year, it took me months to figure out that I was much more settled in my role as a simple pastor here in Edson: “Preach the Word and Love the People,” is the lasting lesson from last year’s T4G. I had been stressed by all the things I wasn’t getting done.

It was great going to Refocus with the other guys. That was one thing I missed about T4G last year (though it was great to meet new friends there). We had a long trip to reflect on Refocus and we have talked about it since we’ve been home. Mark Driscoll’s charge to make church a “man factory” (point 2 behind the #1 point of keeping Jesus and the Gospel #1) was a real eye-opener. Build men on a healthy foundation of the Gospel and then you will build a healthy church that is missions minded (I still don’t like the word “missional”). That was a very helpful message.

John Piper’s messages were amazing. I’ve heard a lot of Piper, but I think these three messages were the best ever. Wow. Go watch the videos. John Neufeld’s messages were a breath of fresh air (I went to his workshop, too). This from a Vancouver mega-church pastor? Very encouraging. Paul Negrut was my friend Brian’s favorite speaker (though he thought highly of the others). I can see why. His message on Psalm 2 brought perspective to suffering in light of the exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ as one who has experienced persecution in communist Romania.

I’ll listen to these messages again. I’m sure they will make a difference in our church. With a whole bunch of memories running around in my brain, one thing is rising to the surface already. Yes, my title: A Holy Dissatisfaction.

I believe that Christians should always be content but never satisfied. On the one hand, we are to trust God’s providential care and sovereign purpose for our lives. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, ESV). On the other hand, how can we be satisfied with our lives when God is the Gospel? Do we have enough of Him yet?

For instance, I’ve often wondered how the grace and work of Philippians 3:7-14 could be resolved. Sure, Paul says that this righteous is not his own, but it doesn’t seem like he has assurance of his own resurrection and he is consumed with his work, apparently. If we see Paul dissatisfied with his own delight in God Himself as the motivation for the effort, then the passage makes more sense.

If we take the New Testament phrases like “make every effort,” “press on,” “that I might know,” and “work out” as a passion for pleasure in God – a holy dissatisfaction with our current preference for created things rather than the creator – then the picture begins to come into focus. John Piper’s messages last week were masterful. I thought I understood the whole “Desiring God” thing (I read that book years ago), but now I think I’m finally getting it.

I think this concept deserves some fleshing out, so I’ll quit here and do another post with some examples of how this dissatisfaction has been surfacing in my life this week and how it differs from mere restlessness and worldly dissatisfaction.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Short Book Meme

Name three characters (from books)...

1). You wish were real so you could meet them.

Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey; Father Brown from the G.K. Chesterton series (I'd rather meet Chesterton, but he wasn't fictional); Gandalf

2). You would like to be.

I'm quite content with being me, but I'll play along: King Frank of Narnia (as long as Juanita can be my Queen Helen); um … this is hard – I have read so little fiction.

3). Who scare you.

Capricorn from Inkheart; Sauron from LOtR (I guess); Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (if watching the BBC movie counts).

I'm tagging safe: The Quizzing Nerd; the Pirates / LOtR confused blogger and my wife.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Coming Attractions (?)

I have been honoured with a tag from Chez Kneel. It's short, so I'll try to do that tomorrow.

I have to do some reflections on the Refocus conference in Burnaby, though others have beat me to it. I even have a title "A Holy Dissatisfaction."

Right now I'm very tired and I'm going to bed.

'Night, all!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On the Road Again




After Wednesday to Saturday in Quebec last week, I'm now heading West. Tomorrow morning (Wednesday) at about 6:00, we're going to start our long drive to Vancouver, B.C. Five of us from our church are attending the Refocus Conference at Willingdon Church in Burnaby, including two teenagers (one of them is my son, Josh).
I'm looking forward to the conference, but I'm feeling a little stressed at being away for most of the week again. I'm anticipating that my highlight will be the reactions of the guys I'm going with. I hope they really benefit from it.
So, can you name all four men in these pictures? They're all at the conference this week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

This is Where I Am Right Now

Orford, Quebec.

I am a board member for the Fellowship French Mission, and this is where our board meetings are being held. I hit the road at about 3:20 this morning and it is now 10:10 Quebec time. Vancouver is just about to start their game with the Stars.

Too bad about the Penguins, though I hope the Sen's do well. Even worse news for the Sharks re. Cheechoo's knee. Hockey's a tough sport.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

40 Minutes Wasted?

No way! We met Bugblasters challenge!




Why John 16:16-19, I'm not sure. I'm sure we'll pay better attention now if he posts on it. It's never a waste of time to memorize Scripture. Josh is better at it than I am, and this challenge was directed at him. I did okay, though, for a rusty old guy. It took me all of the 30 minutes to memorize that passage, though.


The important thing is that the City of Champions will get the respect it so richly deserves.


So both the Esks and the Oil missed the playoffs, they still have a rich tradition of winning.


And there's always next year!


And we'll be waiting for that promised post, Mr. BB.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Older I Get, The Better I Used to Be

I ran a mile on the treadmill at the gym this morning - without stopping (pause for applause). I did it in 8:44. It did cross my mind that I did a mile in 5:20 in high school. That was no big deal then, because I had friends that were faster and I was aware that Olympic marathoners do over 26 miles at a 5:00 pace.

Our human milestones are so empty. While I was at the gym this morning, I was listening to a Bruce Ware message from Mars Hill Church. It was excellent. It certainly put my half-hearted physical attainments into perspective.

Here is part of his text:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his handand marked off the heavens with a span,enclosed the dust of the earth in a measureand weighed the mountains in scalesand the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult,and who made him understand?Who taught him the path of justice,and taught him knowledge,and showed him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,and are accounted as the dust on the scales;behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him,they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. Isaiah 40:12-17

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Goodbye Suburban

They took away our Suburban this morning. We liked that vehicle. Oh well, that's life.

We no longer own a Chevy, just two Toyotas and a Suzuki. Garry would be disgusted.


Lovely day for April 2nd, isn't it? It was -11c this morning. We love Edson, but it's not because of the weather.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Thine is the Glory

Thine is the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the victory, Thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave clothes where Thy body lay.

Refrain
Thine is the glory, risen conqu’ring Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, Thou o’er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

Refrain

No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without Thee; aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conqu’rors, through Thy deathless love:
Bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above.

Refrain

Edmond Louis Budry 1854-1932

Friday, March 30, 2007

Burgled 'Burb Brought Back Busted

Our Suburban was stolen on February 25th. We signed off on an insurance settlement on Wednesday, March 28th. This morning, the 30th, we received a call from a friendly RCMP officer who told us that they found our rig. It was right in town in the parking lot of an old apartment building.

We went to a very muddy impound yard to look at it this afternoon. It looked okay. There was a new, large crack in the windshield, but otherwise it looked sound. The insurance company said that we could either keep the Suburban (after an inspection) or take the cheque and watch it get towed away. We thought we might keep it, but after driving it home, I think not. It just doesn't feel right. They only put about 300 km on it, but they were hard kms. The seat frame is bent and there were some strange sounds. Even if it passes inspection, or requires minor repairs, it's still not the same (it's not exactly "busted" as I said in my title, but I was carried away on the wings of alliteration).

One little gripe: The towing company charged 132.50 (after tax) to tow the thing across our little town and drop it in their swampy yard. We'll get reimbursed, but that's just wrong. That's a booming economy for you. I wonder if they jack the prices up when they figure an insurance company is involved?

I'm hoping to follow up on that Wells quote soon. Maybe even tonight.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

David Wells on the Kingdom of God

The arrival of this reign of God was not nationalistically but spiritually focused, which was what caused the consternation among many of Jesus' hearers. Nevertheless, the prophetic vision began to be realized, albeit in an entirely unexpected way, that God would scatter his enemies (Mic. 4:11-13; Is. 13:19; cf. Joel 3:1-17; Zech. 12:1-9), for Satan's forces were being thrown into disarray (Matt. 12:28-29) and they recognized with fear who Jesus was (Mk. 1:24; 5:7-8). The note of judgment which fell on the cities (Lk. 21:20-24; 23:27-31; Matt. 11:20-24) fell decisively on the powers of darkness and Satan's household was plundered (Mk. 3:27).

All of this happened under God's sovereign hand. We can search for the Kingdom of God, pray for it, and look for it, but only God can bring it about (Lk. 23:51; Matt. 6:10, 33; Lk. 12:31).* The Kingdom is God's to give and to take away; it is only ours to enter and accept (Matt. 21:43; Lk. 12:32). We can inherit it, possess it, or refuse to enter it, but it is not ours to build and we can never destroy it (Matt. 25:34; Lk. 10:11). We can work for the Kingdom, but we can never act upon it; we can preach it, but it is God's to establish (Matt. 10:7; Lk. 10:9, 12:32). All of this is an expression of the eschatological framework present throughout the New Testament. It has profound ramifications for its doctrines of salvation and the way in which it speaks of hope. God's inbreaking, saving, vanquishing Rule is his from first to last. It has no human analogs, not duplicates, no surrogates, allows of no human synergism. The inbreaking of the "age to come" into the present is accomplished by God alone.

– David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005, p. 214.


 

*Footnote 47 in original: George Eldon Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (Waco: Word, 1964), 189.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Odds and Ends

With my wife, son and daughter all blogging, I'm feeling the pressure to keep up. I really am planning to get back into this seriously, but the weeks just fly by.

Tonight I listened to a message by Josh Harris on 1 Corinthians 10. The series on 1 Corinthians at Covenant Life has been great, but this message particularly is a keeper. It is very practical. I think I may burn a few CDs of this one and pass them around.

Our Suburban never turned up. Yesterday was 30 days and we were given a price by the insurance company right away. Not as high as we hoped, but such is life. Sigh. We're not going to be in a big hurry shopping, because we have a surplus car to sell. Spring is coming (here? Dare I hope?), so maybe it will go soon.

I began a sermon series on the book of Proverbs on the 18th of March - with fear and trembling, I must say. I've been enjoying the studying, but I've had a couple of people say, "This is really different for you." On of those people also said, "I don't think I like it." The challenge is having the Gospel present every week without imposing it on the text. Christ is in Proverbs, I just have to pray hard and work hard at making the connections. I may share some of the things I'm learning soon. I have been doing a ton of reading. Starting a new series always means doing lots of introductory reading in commentaries and lots of juggling to come up with outlines.

Not helping at all with the reading is the fact that my glasses were broken on Friday. I shipped them off to a repair place yesterday. I hope they're back by the end of the week. I'm not blind without my glasses, but it is somewhat off-putting to be squinting all the time. I've felt a little woozy and I'm sure it's my eyes.

That's it for now. I have to go watch the Oilers lose. Again.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

May the Mind of Christ My Saviour

It has been a few weeks since I posted a Sunday hymn. I'd like to get back to this tradition. Tomorrow morning we are singing this hymn at the end of the service. I'm starting a new series tomorrow morning. I thought this hymn was fitting after introducing the book of Proverbs. I've never studied Proverbs closely before. I'm already hooked, thanks to commentaries by Bruce Ware and Tremper Longman. This is going to be fun, I think.


May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Kate Barclay Wilkinson (1859-1928)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Great Time Saver: Other People's Blogs

Go read what Kirk wrote. That's close to what I was going to write tonight. I'd rather go to bed and read a book right now, so thanks, Kirk!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Amuddleniallism Defined

Today I listened to Dr. MacArthur's message "defending" Reformed theology against amillenial and postmillenial believers who claim to hold to the doctrines of grace. The title was "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Is a Premillennialist" (you have to sign up and buy the message for $2 if you want to hear it).

I'm going to keep my comments brief (I don't want to write anything that I'll regret later), but let me say that the message was worse than the descriptions of it that I have read. I am disappointed.

John MacArthur did not do anyone any favors with this message - least of all himself. What will be the fallout from this message? There is already a lot of discussion on the 'net:
  • Some thoughtful Christians who are searching for an eschotological home will study the options more carefully after hearing this message. Some of these will end up in the amillenial camp.
  • Postmil and amil folks that were at the conference were offended at the misrepresentation of their position. Some of the guest speakers at this conference are postmil and amil. What a way to welcome your guests.
  • I have read that some historical premillenialists are crying foul because their position has not been well represented (I don't have a link yet).
  • Some Reformed Christians are pointing out the disconnect between the Reformation heritage and revisionist claims made by people like Dr. MacArthur. We don't need a searchlight pointed on our differences. We should be together for the Gospel, not opening unnecessary wounds.

Dr. MacArthur is entitled to his opinion. However, to say that amillenialism should only be the position of Arminians, evolutionists, process theologians and semi-Pelagians is offensive. His characterizations of amillenialists were muddled with criticisms of some of the wacky elements of pop-dispensationalism and radical spiritualization. He made it sound like any Reformed leaning believer that didn't completely endorse his version of eschatology denied any continuity between the covenants and rejected God's faithfulness to His promises. There were more strawmen in that message than you'd find in all of Oklahoma in August.

Okay, I'm getting carried away - I'd better quit soon.

I have friends that are premillenial and dispensational in their eschatology. We can agree to disagree without attacking one another. I don't beat people over the head with my eschatological perspective. Many people in my church couldn't tell you the name of the millenial position that I hold (though they might remember the message on Matthew 24 that I preached recently). I can appreciate that Dr. MacArthur holds his position passionately. I only wish that he had defended it with more tact, grace and care.

At the beginning of the message, Dr. MacArthur said that he was concerned that Reformed people did not give enough attention to eschatology. It's getting some attention now, but I don't think it's going to help his cause at all.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Blah Day

I'm feeling a little guilty about my title. With all of God's good gifts in my life, I should be the most thankful guy around instead of grumbling about a blah day.

It's a gray day – snowing and just below freezing. Don't I have a right to complain? No, not really. But, hey, blogging is all about being "authentic," right?

Sure.

I do suffer from Monday morning blahs sometimes. It's an occupational hazard for preachers. Yesterday was a good day, but some Monday mornings I have a hard time doing anything productive. I don't know how other preachers get away with not taking Monday off.

Josh and Emily were at a quiz meet in Red Deer on Friday night and Saturday with their mom/coach and two teammates and their mom. This was their best meet yet. They finished first in division 2. They've been working hard. Josh has memorized several verses in the next chapter (Acts 17) already. I'm very proud of them and delighted with this quizzing program. Over 200 kids met in Red Deer to compete this time.

No word on the Suburban yet. I'm ready to start shopping, but we have to wait for a couple more weeks. There is no point in shopping until we know, a). if it's going to turn up in 30 days, and b). what the insurance settlement will be.

I'm thinking about writing a little more about eschatology, but my heart isn't in it. I may do another quote from Above All Earthly Pow'rs. Wells has an amazing section on the nature of the Kingdom of God that I have been thinking about in the weeks since I read it. A lot of bloggers have said this, but let me add to the chorus of voices urging you to read this book. It's worth the work.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

End Times Tension

I have read some interesting eschatological blog posts lately – sort of eschatological, anyway.

The first one I saw wasn't eschatological at all, but it got me thinking about end-times views (not enough to leave a comment, though). Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs wrote a post that included praise for Dr. D.A. Carson. Good on ya, Dan. I couldn't agree more. Brilliant is a great word in the case of Dr. Carson. I was not at all surprised, but it made me think about the not insubstantial differences in Kingdom perspectives between Dan and Dr. Carson. Dan's a sharp guy, so I know he appreciates great scholarship from people that he wouldn't agree with on all issues. I hope I'm wise enough to do the same. Interesting, though.

The second one was a little pot-stirring from that very likable, prolific blogger Justin Taylor. He did a sly little comment connected to a conference link. I got a smile out of that one. He did get a reaction in the comments – more than the post warranted. He toned down the title from "you've been warned" to "eschatology" (though the original title is still in the address bar).

The third and last post was by Kirk Wellum expressing concern over some news that he received from The Shepherds' Conference. You'll have to read it. I'll be interested in reading more about this, though I hope everyone involved can keep things gracious. I don't think Dr. MacArthur is doing anyone a service by going after amillenialism.

I hope we're not going to see eschatology wars among Reformed evangelicals. That would be a real waste of time.


Update: I just read Tim Challies' live-blog of the first John MacArthur message. Sheesh. It's his church and all, but what an unfortunate presentation. Kirk was rather tame in his response.

A New Kind of Blogging

This post is a test. I upgraded to Office 2007 (a long story), and I see that they have a "New Blog Post" option when you click on "Blank Document." I filled in my blogger info. when prompted, and here I am trying out this new feature. I'd better go take a look at what this looks like before I spend more time typing here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Odds and Ends

No word on the missing 'Burb yet (thanks for asking, Annette). The insurance company said they'd wait 30 days before considering it a write-off. We've been trying to remember what we left in the thing. Not much, thankfully. Josh realized on Tuesday morning that his math book was in the Suburban. That's inconvienent, but not a tragedy in his world.

Speaking of tragedy, Juanita and I have been talking about the fact that it is not a big deal to lose our Suburban. We appreciate the concern that people have expressed to us, but this is not in the same league as a serious illness, injury or even a house fire. It's a little bother in the grand scheme of things.

Jumping to another topic, I recently did a brief post on baptism. Two commenters unknown to me asked good questions. Ntutak asked about our church recognizing a different mode for believer's baptism. This is a tough one for me personally. I don't represent Terry Stauffer as pastor, but Edson Baptist Church. Of course I represent Jesus Christ and His Word, but in that I am not any differernt from other Christians. As a representative of Edson Baptist, I have to stand by our statement of faith, which says immersion is baptism.

Laura asked about infant baptism. Are Christians who have only been baptized as infants living in disobedience? The short answer to this is, "No," but they couldn't be members of a Baptist church (barring innovative exceptions in some churches). That's not the end of the world, contrary to the opinion of some Baptists - including Baptists that she has apparently encountered (maybe that's what you get for living in Louisville).

I will make an exception to that disobedience answer, however. If a person has been baptized as an infant and is convinced theologically that this is the biblical position, then they should seek out fellowship in a Gospel-teaching paedobaptist local church. If an infant-baptized person is convinced that baptism of disciples alone is the biblical pattern, then they ought to go ahead and be baptized. If they are a Baptist by conviction and unbaptized, then they obviously are living in disobedience to Christ. This should be obvious, but I hope it answers the question.

As an addendum to this subject, let me recommend one of the best conversations that I've heard on cooperation among Christians. In this program, the Together for the Gospel friends - particularly Dr. Mohler - distinguish between different kinds of Christian cooperation. The MP3 is available for free at the 9 Marks website. The link is here. You can stream or download it.

There is an important tension to be maintained between a healthy, disciplined local church and a celebration of Christian unity across traditions. It is not always easy to know where that line lies.

I'm still having a hard time getting blogging time in. I did most of this post back on Tuesday, now here it is Saturday and I'm just getting it done. Life just gets in the way.

The distraction certainly isn't hockey. My Oilers are in the tank. Josh is quite philosophical about the Ryan Smyth trade. He likes the fact that they have 3 first round draft picks coming up (one from the Smyth trade), and Ryan O'Marra is nothing to sneeze at (15th in the 1st round in 2005). Robert Nilsson (the other Smyth component) and Rob Schremp have been going great guns with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins. The future should be interesting. They're playing Calgary tonight. Josh is rooting for them to get a goal. Just one goal. He's fully expecting them to lose tonight. Can't say I blame him.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Burgled 'Burb

Between the time Juanita took the car to church this morning and the rest of the family and I came out to the Suburban, someone had run off with it. That was about a 10 minute window of opportunity.


Yes, I was a bad boy and left it running with the doors unlocked, but can't a guy do that in a small town on Sunday morning?


I guess not.


We've never experienced a stolen vehicle before, so we're off on a new adventure.


We won't be taking the Suburban, though.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Whew!

If life is a highway, I think I just pulled off the 401 near Toronto on Canada Day weekend.

It hasn't been unbearably busy, but things have been hopping. I like to think of myself as a mellow fellow, but I do get stressed about things more than I usually admit.

Juanita has chronicled some of the happenings on her blog, including our daughter Emily's baptism. That was a good day!

The next day we went downhill skiing at Silver Summitt, a neat little hill about an hour north of town (it was big enough for us!). Juanita and Anne didn't do the downhill thing, but it was the first time for Emily, Petra, Josh and dad. I must admit, I wasn't too impressed for the first bit, but once I got the hang of it, it was lots of fun.

We had our church annual meeting last night. It went very well. I always get nervous about annual meetings, but they haven't been a problem here in Edson. Still, that is the reason that I've been uptight lately. We're thankful for our church. We have a lot of fine people here. I do hope we can stay for a long time. 10 years in September. So far, so good.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Baptism Primer

This is a handout that I wrote this morning for our church. Any feedback as to how I can improve it would be appreciated, though I do want to keep this one short.


Question and Answers about Baptism*

Edson Baptist Church

What is baptism?

Baptism is an English word taken from the Koine (common) Greek word baptizo (Koine Greek is the language in which the New Testament was written). Baptism means to dip or immerse. We know this by comparisons with the common usage of the word in Greek from the time the Bible was written and from the context of the New Testament itself.


Baptism is the step of obedience commanded by Christ for believers who have experienced regeneration (new life) from God. Jesus said,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Baptism of disciples (those who follow Jesus) is assumed in the New Testament. When people repented of their sins and confessed Christ as Lord and trusted Him as Saviour, they were baptized (compare Acts 2:37-41, 8:12, 19:5, etc.).

What purpose does baptism serve?

  • Obedience / Submission to Jesus Christ: Jesus said that His disciples were to baptize disciples. Jesus Himself submitted to baptism in order to identify with sinful people, even though He Himself is without sin (see Matthew 3:13-17). Christians submit to baptism out of reverence for Christ. This reason alone should be enough of a motivation for a believer to be baptized.
  • Testimony to God’s salvation: Baptism is a physical picture of a spiritual reality. It speaks of what God has done for sinners in Jesus Christ. The New Testament uses spiritual language to describe baptism by the Spirit of God: For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13, compare Matthew 3:11). Baptism is a physical act of obedience to and identification with Jesus Christ that illustrates a prior spiritual work of God in the heart and mind of the believer. One of the messages of baptism is washing, the cleansing of sin. Note the Apostle Paul’s testimony to his own experience of baptism. He was told, “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Acts 22:16. Baptism says, “I am changed because of what Christ has done for me.”
  • Identification with Jesus Christ. Examples of the principle of identification through baptism:
    • When the Children of Israel went through the Red Sea with Moses at the time of the flight from slavery in Egypt, they identified with God’s message through Moses that they would be delivered to the Promised Land. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (note phrase “baptized into Moses”).
    • When the Jewish people heard John’s call for repentance in preparation for the coming of the Promised Deliverer (Messiah), they identified with his message by being baptized by him in the Jordan River. See Matthew 3:1-6.
    • Christian Baptism is identification with Jesus Christ and the reality of His death and resurrection for our salvation and eternal hope. Read Romans 6:3-5. When we are baptized, we are saying, “Jesus died to purchase my forgiveness with His blood, Jesus rose so that I might live a new life forever with Him.”

When we identify with the work of Jesus through baptism, we are demonstrating what the Christian message is all about. Baptism is like a sermon written in water. It tells the story of what God has done for sinners. Sinners who repent and believe may have their sins washed away, die to their old futile lives and live forever in joy.

  • Christian Love and Unity: Baptism is entrance into unity with Christ and unity with Christ’s people in the church. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 (see also 1 Corinthians 12:13 quoted above).

Must a person be baptized to be saved?

Water baptism is a work that we may perform. As such, it is inconsistent with biblical teaching to say that you cannot be a Christian unless you have been baptized. Salvation (being forgiven and counted righteous through faith in Christ’s finished work) is by grace through faith, not works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

When Peter preached the Gospel to Cornelius and his household, they were baptized by the Holy Spirit before they were baptized in water (though they were baptized immediately afterwards). By this, the Holy Spirit is pointing to the fact that salvation is a sovereign act of God, not a reward for obedient behaviour (compare Acts 2:37-38 and Acts 10:43-48).

There are some passages that appear to point to the necessity of baptism for salvation:

  • Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Acts 22:16
  • Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 3:21

Note that in both of these passages baptism is connected with an appeal to Jesus Christ (his name and his forgiveness, that is, a good conscience before God on the basis of Christ’s work). As a bare act, baptism does not save. Water baptism is a demonstration of the believer’s appeal of faith to God for salvation.

Who should be baptized?

Baptism is for those who believe the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God’s Promised Deliverer has come to bear the penalty for our sin (for all have sinned). Jesus died in our place so that we might have peace with God. Jesus demonstrated his power over death by His bodily resurrection from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). This resurrection is a pattern for us. We who have faith in Christ’s promise of eternal life, secured by His righteous death and bodily resurrection, will be raised to live with Him one day (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

What about infant baptism? Is that a legitimate form of baptism?

Though we rejoice in the common ground that we share as Baptists with many believers in other denominations that practice infant baptism (Presbyterian, Reformed, etc.), we only recognize believers’ baptism as legitimate baptism.

The reason for this is our conviction that the New Testament teaches that baptism is for disciples alone. If you have more questions regarding infant baptism, we recommend that you read an online document entitled “A String of Pearls Unstrung” which is available online at http://www.founders.org/library/malone1/string.html.

*All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.