Wednesday, December 30, 2009

John Piper at The Village Church

Pastor Matt Chandler is beginning treatment for a malignant brain tumor that he had removed early in December. His testimony to God's goodness and sovereignty is a great encouragement. Continue to pray for him, his family and his church. (For background, see Matt's video testimonies to his church: Video 1, before the surgery. Video 2, after the surgery).

This morning, I listened to Dr. John Piper's message from The Village Church this past Sunday (12/27/09). Juanita listened to it this morning and highly recommended it, so I took some time at the office and opened my Bible to Romans 8 and took some notes.

Let me say, if you have ever struggled with God's goodness and sovereignty in the face of suffering and evil (and who hasn't?), take the time to listen to this message. Give it your full attention.

Here is a little excerpt:

God judicially sentenced the world to what it is today. It was a judgment on the world in response to sin. And I admit that you have to have – and I’m calling you to this, it takes years sometimes to get people to this – you have to have a very high view of God’s holiness, and justice and glory and deservingness and worth and a very clear view of the outrage and the horror and of sin and rebellion against that in order to keep this world from looking like an overreaction to Adam and Eve.

... It doesn’t make any sense unless you know how great God is (See Isaiah 40).

I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that the most significant lessons that God has been teaching me since Emily’s murder have been boiled down, condensed and presented in a precious and heartrending exposition in this message. I can’t overstate how good this message is, and how important it is that you digest the truth of Romans 8:18-25 in its biblical context in, before, and after suffering in this sin-soaked world. God has not left us without answers. God has not left us without hope.

P.G. Wodehouse

Both Josh and I received Wodehouse books for Christmas this year, among other things. We were both pleased. Wodehouse is great holiday reading.

I'm well into Leave it to Psmith. Wodehouse stores are predictable - blatant foreshadowing, typical characters, cringe-worthy predicaments - but the writing is so good that you are always looking for the next zinger. The rest of the prose, between the zingers, is worth basking in because it is so well-crafted.

Here's the opening paragraph,

At the open window of the great library of Blandings Castle, drooping like a wet sock, as was his habit when he had nothing to prop his spine against, the Earl of Emsworth, that amiable and boneheaded peer, stood gazing out over his domain.

A bit later, when Psmith informs his friend about his desperate financial situation, he says,

That low moaning sound you hear is the wolf bivouacked outside my door.

Good fun, that writing. Wodehouse is not for everyone, but I prefer to use it like dark chocolate - it's best consumed slowly along with a strong cup of black coffee.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Every year I wrack my brain trying to think of a new idea for a Christmas series. There's nothing wrong with the traditional passages, and I probably preach on those every other year. Last year, I did a more traditional "Witnesses of Christmas" series, so this year, I wanted to do something different.

Our family went to a Michael Card concert last fall and he said something about God wanting to dwell with us, about what a wonder and encouragement that is. On the way home, Juanita and I talked about how that would be a good Advent sermon series, so, I stole the name from a NYC conference on urban church planting and the "Dwell" series was born.

The Dwell series was a flying tour of Scripture in five messages:
  • Dwell 1: In the Beginning - Genesis 1-5

  • Dwell 2: Children of Abraham - Genesis 15

  • Dwell 3: The Promise of the Father - Luke 24:49

  • Dwell 4: God With Us - John 1:14-18

  • Dwell 5: Forever With the Lord - Revelation 21:1-5
For those without the time or inclination to listen to these messages (totally understandable), I'm going to do a brief synopsis of each message here in the next few days

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It was -30 this morning, so I put on my Hawaiian shirt. It seemed like the thing to do. I told my daughter Petra that I put it on in defiance of the cold weather. She said, "I don't think it will make any difference." I said, "I know it won't, but it makes me feel better."

That little exchange got me thinking on a more serious line on the way over to the church. Isn't that like so many people that reject God's claim on their lives? They have to know that there is a God, and that He has the right to judge them, but they put on their brave faces and assert their right to live their lives as they see fit, in defiance of His right to set the rules.

This assertion of human rights over God's right won't make any difference on That Final Day. God will judge everyone according to His law - both the written code and the code that He's written on the conscience of everyone.

Who will stand on that day?

The answer to that question hinges on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and upon Him alone. It is because of our rebellion against God's right to rule that Christ came. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). In Jesus Christ, God became flesh to rescue defiant rebels from God's just judgment. He is our ransom, our deliverer, our Great High Priest and Final Sacrifice. He is risen from the dead and the Father has appointed Him as judge over all.

Now, what will you do with Jesus this Christmas season?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pray for the Chandlers

I have come to appreciate the ministry of Matt Chandler. I don't listen to all of his messages, but I have benefited from many of them. After brain surgery last week, Matt and his family just received the news that they did not want to hear. There will be more treatment ahead. You can read an update from his church if you would like more details.

We were moved by a video message by Matt recorded for his congregation just before his surgery. Juanita and I could identify with several things that he said. We, too, have been humbled by the outpouring of support from people in our trial. We have experienced that Christ provides strength when it is needed. We want to honour Him in everything.

Many bloggers are posting this news, but I particularly appreciated this post from Kevin DeYoung. It has a lot of content in a short post.

Please pray that Matt and his wife Lauren would grow deep and strong in God's grace and that God would restore Matt to many more years of preaching.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holding on in the Face of Loss

I was asked by a friend for some advice about holding on to God through the
loss of a friend. I've removed the personal indicators, but I thought the body
of the letter might be of some use to others:

It’s hard to give “one-size-fits-all” advice about keeping God’s character and purposes in perspective, but there are some basics that we must cultivate in the good times so that when tragedy strikes, we have a Rock to stand on. Tragedy and loss will hit every family if we live long enough. It is possible to grow a theology of suffering in the midst of suffering, but it is much harder. All things are possible with God, however.

I was asked to share at our Baptist association's regional convention in May. I took the opportunity to tell the pastors there to prepare their people to die well. That might sound morbid to some, but is there anything else more important that a pastor can do?

I don’t know you well enough to know what you’ve been doing to prepare your heart for the shocks of this fallen, broken world. The message in much of popular Christianity is “happy, happy, happy,” but that’s not realistic, or biblical. I know you know that much, but in the past couple of years – even before Emily’s death – Juanita and I have been growing in our awareness of our own sin and the brokenness of the world. Things are not the way they’re supposed to be. The Bible teaches on suffering so much.

My testimony regarding keeping – and growing – my faith in the midst of loss boils down to this: 1. God is much bigger than I thought He was, and, 2. My sin is much worse than I ever considered. God is good. Because He is good, my sinful soul and body deserve Hell. Anything less than that is mercy. I am a sinner. Sinners die. That’s justice. That I would be transformed and live with a resurrected, perfected body with Christ forever is a mystery and an unspeakable wonder! The suffering and death in this world is the result of man’s rebellion against God. That evil is the “normal” of a fallen world. The joy of salvation, comfort in suffering, and the hope of eternal life are all gracious gifts from our good and loving God. The cross proves the evil of my sin and the love of God simultaneously.

The early church was accused of preaching a message that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). That’s not quite it. The enemies of the Christians got it wrong. The world is upside down. Christians preach right-side-up, and the world doesn’t like it. The key to getting this is the cross of Christ. This is where we find God’s love, life and assurance. Christ has risen, and so shall we rise.

When you’re overwhelmed and angry at God, turn to the Psalms. They give us permission to express a wide range of emotions to God. Start with Psalms 42, 46, 62 and 73. Then look again to the cross. See the end of the Gospels and also Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Also check out Isaiah 59. You’ll get a better appreciation of the depths of human sin and the extreme lengths that was willing to go to God in order to bring us forgiveness and the gift of righteousness.