Thursday, May 28, 2009

Please Pray for the Barnes Family

Elizabeth Barnes, 18 year-old daughter of Pastor Ron and Susan Barnes, died on May 17th while she was on a trip to France. The funeral will be on Sunday.

Although I don't know this family, I think I can safely say that our family can identify with what they are going through right now. Their church, Grand River Community Church, is a Fellowship Baptist Church in Elora, Ontario. I hope and trust that their church is taking care of them as well as our church took care of us. I do know that our Saviour is able to sustain them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Feeding Sheep

I've been constantly amazed by the depth of God's Word. I'm preaching a series on 1 & 2 Samuel on Sunday mornings and our Wednesday Bible study is working through Philippians. I am so blessed that I get to study, teach and preach God's Word as a significant part of my vocation. The best part is that if I keep to the text, my appreciation of this Word will continue to grow as long as God gives me strength.

I try not to focus on the negatives "out there" in the Evangelical world, but I am very aware of many starving sheep in other churches. Why can't pastors see that they need to simply preach the Word and - as Christians - preach Christ from all of Scripture?

As I was feasting on Philippians yesterday, I thought of reports from a few people I know about the lack of food at their churches. An illustration came to mind:

Preachers that are doing everything but preaching Christ from the Bible are like shepherds who lead their flock out to the middle of the desert to show them pretty rocks. "OOOH! Look at those pink crystals!" Meanwhile, the sheep are starving and dying of thirst.

Pastors, get down into the valley. Lead those poor sheep to the still waters and green pastures of the Good Shepherd. Proclaim Him, exalt Him, reveal Him from the pages of His Word.

In the eight months since Emily's death, the urgency of knowing and proclaiming Christ has grown in my life. To be honest, I'm sometimes disgusted with myself that this urgency hasn't grown more, but it is growing.

I don't know how people - professing Christians or not - can survive regular life, let alone trials, without seeing and savoring Jesus Christ (to steal a line from John Piper).

If you're reading this and you're a hungry sheep - or if you're not sure you're a sheep at all - a good place to go to test your appetite is a conference that has just wrapped up. The audio is now up. I haven't listened to the messages yet, but I know the speakers by reputation. I know you'll be encouraged and fed by these men. So, go check out the NEXT 2009 messages.

However, internet audio is no substitute for a local church, so make sure that you're in a church this coming Sunday (if at all possible) that preaches Christ faithfully from His Word. If you don't know where to find a church like this, then pray about it and do some serious digging until you find one! So sheep, or sheep to be (by God's grace), go find some food!

If you are a pastor reading this, remember that you're #1 responsibility is to feed the sheep under your care. Don't neglect this - it is truly a life and death priority.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May Long Weekend Snow

Unfortunately, this isn't too rare where we live.

From Last night, courtesy of Josh:

And one from this morning in front of our house:

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Failure is our friend.

That's how I concluded the message on 1 Samuel 2-7 yesterday.

Sure, failure is awful - particularly in these chapters - but look at how Israel responded under Samuel's leadership in chapter 7. There are a lot of lessons there.

The sermon is up. The audio seems rather faint, so I hope it works for you.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity

I was asked to speak to the high school class at our local Christian school. The topic was the uniqueness of Christianity in a relativistic age. I only had 40 minutes, but here's what we covered. I know this paper (which I wrote after the class for the students) is woefully inadequate, but I only had about 40 minutes. I purposely limited myself to two pages, but I hope it gives an outline of worthwhile lines of defense for the Gospel.

Is Christianity the Only True Religion? YKCS Sr. Bible Class

What is the right response to the charge that Christianity is arrogant because it claims to be the only way and truth? I am going to present three lines of argumentation – each of them builds on the prior point:

A. Scripture

The Bible claims to be the only true revelation of God – particularly the only true revelation of the only Saviour, Jesus Christ. Critics respond to this by charging Christians with a circular argument: “You claim authority from a book, but then only turn to that book to substantiate your authority! That’s not fair!”

I would put the question back to the skeptic: “Upon what authority do you claim that all religions are the same or that Christianity is false for making absolute truth claims?” The skeptic has no authority but his own reason. Reason is his book, and it is circular argumentation for him to appeal to that book for a foundation for reason, truth or morality.

The Bible does not leave us without evidences, however:
- The Bible has stood the test of time and influence – not only in the West, but around the world.
- It was written by 40 authors over about 1500 years by a wide cross-section of people. It was not created by an individual or a small group in a short period of time as something new, but was built upon what was revealed beforehand (unlike Islam or Mormonism, for example).
- No book has been more examined, more researched and more trusted in human history. The manuscript evidence for the reliability of the New Testament alone is overwhelming.
- The internal coherence of the Bible is astonishing. The message of human sin and inability and divine intervention, the promise of God’s Deliverer, and the New Testament dependence upon the Old Testament are just a few examples.
- The history of the apostles and the early church underline the authenticity of their message: Who would die as a martyr for a man-made religion? Jesus’ resurrection – which validated his teaching and crucifixion – is the only reasonable explanation for the tremendous explosion of Christianity in the early days of the New Testament church.

What is the track record of purely relativistic humanism? What can it present as an alternative authority?

So, what does the Bible say about itself? Here are a couple of examples:
- But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14 -17 (ESV)

- And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:19-21 (ESV)

There are many other passages that talk about the nature and power of God’s Word (Psalm 19 and Isaiah 55:10-11, for example), but the two examples above teach us some fundamental truths:
- The Bible is God’s Word – not man’s word. This is very significant. Because God, the Creator, has spoken, we can trust His Word. Who could know more than Him?
- The Bible is not just for information, it is for transformation – it is able to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

That leads us to the most important part of the Christian truth claim: Jesus Christ Himself.

B. Jesus Christ

The Bible is full of testimony to man’s need of a Saviour and God’s promise of a deliverer. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ is the one who has come to reconcile man to God. Here are a couple examples of passages that point to Jesus as the Only Saviour for all people:

- Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. John 14:5-9 (ESV)

- This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:11-12 (ESV)

There is logic to the claim that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone:
- How many gods are there? There is only one God – this is the basic confession of not only Christianity, but Judaism and Islam as well.
- God is one in essence, but three in persons. This is an exclusively Christian claim, but it is consistent with the Old Testament (Jewish) Scriptures.
- If God is one, and if Jesus Christ is the revelation of God in flesh (as He claimed), then how many Saviours can there be? There can only be one.

Jesus, then, is the only Saviour. That raises the question: Why do we need saving, and how does this salvation work?

C. The Gospel

The fundamental confusion that many Christians experience when challenged with the narrowness of the Christian truth claims boils down to a misreading of the Gospel. This is due to a loss of the truth of God’s holiness (which is abundantly clear in the Bible) and the doctrine of mans’ sinfulness and utter spiritual separation from God. It is beyond the scope of this brief paper to address these issues, but I challenge you to read through the first three chapters of the book of Romans if these are foreign concepts to you.

Essential to biblical Christianity is a right understanding of the Gospel. If Christianity is about what we do through our good works, the pursuit of morality and sincere worship (or religious rituals), then the charge that all religions are the same will stand against us. Christianity is just another human religion.

If, however, if Christianity makes a radically different claim, a unique claim, then the “all religions are the same” objection vanishes. What is it about Christianity that makes it unique, different than all other religions?

The truth of Christianity is summed up in the declaration of the Gospel – which simply means good news. “Be nice to one another, take care of the poor and the weak, don’t hurt each other,” etc. etc. is not news, it is advice. All major religions share this kind of message.

The Gospel declares, “Christ died for our sins … Christ rose from the dead on the third day … there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus … behold, I make all things new” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3; Romans 8:1; Revelation 21:5). This all centers upon the person and work of Jesus Christ – God the Son, the Son of God. In fact, it is God that enables us to repent, believe and receive this news. We are transformed by the Gospel by the supernatural work of God the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8 and context).

In short, Christianity is unique because it majors on what God has done, not upon what we must do to achieve God’s favour, personal enlightenment or “global harmony” or whatever. This is true for new Christians and it is true for those who have been Christians for decades. We are saved through faith in this good news of what God has done. The Gospel declares that to find peace with God and see the future transformation of this broken world, we must be passive recipients – we must receive God’s salvation as a gift.

This unique message is the foundation of Christianity, and it is the centre of God’s revealed truth. If we try to blend it with other religions, or bend it to the will of modern skeptics, it will be lost. The consequence of losing the Gospel is not merely the loss of a religion, but the loss of the voice and the salvation of God. This catastrophe of unbelief is nothing short of the road to Hell.

May God give us grace to “…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3b).

Friday, May 08, 2009

Emily's Birthday

Emily Joy was born on May 8, 1994. Today was another milestone for our family since her death in September, but it was a good day nonetheless.

We took off for Jasper to get away from the routine (particularly the phone) and spend some time as a family. It was rainy, but we went for a hike anyway. We poked around some shops, had supper at Earls, and then had ice cream at the Marble Slab in Hinton on the way home.

We're doing well, by God's grace. We think of Emily all the time, but we are so thankful for God's promises and His presence with us.

I was going to post a picture from Emily's birthday last year with this post, but it just didn't seem right, somehow. I was glad to review the pictures, but I think I'll hold on to them.

We still have people encouraging us by letting us know that they're praying for us, occasional cards and even little gifts. A few people from the church have checked in on us this week to make sure that we were okay leading up to Emily's birthday. This is all very humbling, and we are grateful for God's people.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Toronto Envy?

There's not much that this Alberta boy would envy about Toronto, of all places, but here is an exception: The Toronto Pastor's Conference.

Here's the scoop:

Speakers: Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker of 9Marks Ministries
Date: June 1,2,3 2009
Cost: $115 -- Includes conference registration, books, several meals, and more.

Register online at if you live a little closer to TO than I do!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

It's a disease of modern times, but it is also evidence of life - of God's continuing mercy and grace. When I visit the nursing home at our local hospital, I don't complain to the people there that I'm too busy!

Some of the family has been busy with music. Juanita accompanied several singers and the girls sang and played piano last week at our regional music festival. The girls have been invited back to sing at the Grand Concert in Hinton on Wednesday evening. That's cool, but it means another trip down the highway.

Josh and Juanita were at the last Bible quizz meet of the year over the weekend. The last one is held at a camp that's about two hours away. Josh's team did well again, and he had a great time.

On Sunday afternoon, right after Juanita and Josh arrived back from quizzing, we went to visit some family that was up from the States. My mom met a couple of here great-grandchildren for the first time. That alone was worth the trip (about 900 km total), but we had a good visit with everyone.

Between the two vehicles, I think we're on pace for over 2000 km in two weeks.

It seems that everyone is busy, and we are not unique in this regard, but it is hard to balance family, church and community activities and obligations in a way that is responsible and God-honouring.

I've been thinking a lot about what to post here - particularly as it relates to what God is teaching us in our loss of Emily. It's hard to sort out what's too personal, what's irrelevant, and what may be helpful as posts on this blog.

I think things may be slowing down around here for our family in a little while, so I hope to get back to more thoughtful posts soon.

Thank you to my few faithful readers who have been putting up with pretty slim pickin's here lately!

P.S. I started a new sermon series on 1&2 Samuel on Sunday. The link is on the top right corner of the blog.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Secret to Soul Satisfaction

One way to fulfilment ...

Joy is not a luxury ...

Is that from a John Piper sermon?

Nope. It is from a brief BMW ad that I saw on TV at the gym today. Between the two statements, they flashed a picture of a 3-series cabriolet.

That's just sad.

It did make me glad that God is working on my heart so that I saw the foolishness of that commercial. The one way to fulfilment and joy is not stuff.

This is a work in progress --my heart is drawn in all sorts of sinful directions -- but thanks be to God that this work is at least in progress!