My body of death

Leave a Comment
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5






I am nothing apart from Christ. Anything I attempt to do in my own strength, regardless of what appearances may suggest, is a complete waste of time and will ultimately fail.

I am nothing apart from Christ. I know this and yet I constantly catch myself making decisions and enacting plans as if this truth did not exist. Far too often I find myself embarking on tasks without seeking God's wisdom the way I should.

What is it about us that even when we know what God's Word teaches, we still find ourselves operating as though we don't. I empathize with Paul more and more when he said "Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

I pray that God will convict and humble me to the point where the knowledge that I am nothing apart from Him will permeate every fiber of my being and the very idea of operating outside of that principle will be foreign to me. May He crucify my flesh and may I willingly submit it to be crucified daily.

Land of 1000 Hills

Leave a Comment
Next week my wife, Katherine, and I are going to the Orange Conference in Atlanta. We are actually going down to volunteer with Land of 1000 Hills Coffee.

If you haven't heard of them you should check them out. They are doing some pretty incredible things in Rwanda with the coffee farmers there.

Servants and Stewards

Leave a Comment
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.


I have been studying to teach 1 Corinthians 4 this week at my church's Wednesday night service Digging Deeper. Chapter 4 begins with the statement above from Paul. In Chapter 3 he has cited their practice of identifying with human teachers as evidence of their spiritual immaturity. He makes the case in chapter 3 that Jesus is the one who does all the real work in the process of new birth and continuing spiritual growth and that teachers are merely instruments being used by God in the way He intended them to be used. I think these passages have a great deal to say to those of us who have been called by God to pastor today. Not only does our culture, much like the Corinthians, look to idolize and elevate pastors to an unhealthy degree and argue the merits of one over another, but some pastors have bought in and even encouraged this practice. I think sheep and shepherds alike can benefit from Paul's instructions in this chapter.

Chapter 4 begins with Paul instructing the Corinthian church in the proper way to view those set up in authority as teachers and ministers over them. The 2 terms he uses are servants and stewards.

A servant is one who does everything his master asks and only that which his master asks. His purpose is to obey the master. His usefulness is measured in how well he obeys the commands given by the master. Our master is Jesus Christ and it is to Him and Him alone that we answer and must give account to. It is not the servants task to decide what the master would ask of him just as it is not the ministers job to define the task our Master has left for us. Our job is to hear from our Master and faithfully carry out His charge.

A steward is one who has been left to manage the affairs of the master while he is away. Upon the return of the master, the steward will be asked to give an exact account of how the master's affairs were managed. Paul tells us that the affairs we have been left in charge of are the "mysteries of God", chief of which is the Gospel. By using the idea of a steward, Paul makes it very clear that we have no ownership in the mysteries of God. We did not author them nor did we determine what shape they would take on. Our job is to manage them properly and distribute them to the household of faith as the Master would if He were here. He is returning and when He does, we will be held accountable for our handling of His affairs and His household.


Paul makes it very clear that ministers are not to be exalted above their proper position as faithful servants of the Master, Jesus Christ. All that we have to offer to the body comes from God and He alone. Recognizing such dictates that neither should lay people elevate minister to a lofty pedestal nor should those of us called as ministers seek to be elevated beyond what is proper. Our reward will come from the Master when He returns and sees that we have been faithful with the Gospel He entrusted us with.

Song of Solomon "Conversation"

Leave a Comment
I have been following the conversation between, for lack of better names, the MacArthur and Driscoll camps on the issuse of Driscoll and others handling of the Song of Solomon. While I do fall in the MacArthur camp on this issue and think that at the very least Driscoll has taken some creative license with the text (and at worst used it with little regard for its actual intent for his own purposes), I find another concern in this whole debate to be equally concerning.

It seems to me that most of the pro-Driscoll arguments are exactly that: pro-Driscoll. The rhetoric attempting to exonerate Driscoll's handling of the Song of Solomon text seems to mostly consist of the following few arguments:

1. Opponents of Driscoll are prudes.
2. This type of explicit teaching is necessary in the name of contextualization for this generation.
3. Opponents of Driscoll just don't like Driscoll.

What concerns me is there seems to be very little, if any, awareness from the pro-Driscoll camp of the following:

1. Some of the conversation seems to echo very closely the remarks Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 3 when he chastises the church there for their tendency to cling to and identify with God's servants instead of Christ Himself. There seems to be much more defending of Mark Driscoll than there is defense of his interpretation of the text he preaches from. The issue isn't so much Driscoll as a person as it is his interpretation and portrayal of the text.

2. Was Song of Solomon written to teach explicit matters of sex.....because if it wasn't then we can't use it that way now regardless of what we think will draw and keep people in the seats of our churches.

3. The appearance of a serious lack of humility. Proverbs 13:1 and Psalms 141:5 (and I am sure there are others) teach us that to receive a rebuke is of great benefit. To take offense at rebuke is the mark of folly, especially without any attempt at self examination in front of the Word to determine if the rebuke is applicable to our behavior. Yet what I have seen is great offense being taken by anyone defending Driscoll at the idea that he may be wrong in this instance.

I am aware that not all Driscoll apologist fall into these pitfalls and that some or many MacArthur fans do. Regardless of who you agree with on this issue or where you yourself stand, do me and all of us a favor: Be humble, make Christ more important than any teacher or preacher, and make sure that what is being taught is true to the text and the intent of its author. Only by doing these things can we be sure that we are being faithful to the call Christ has given us to preach the word in season and out so that men and women may be transformed by its power.

I know I will be examining myself to make sure I am doing the same.

Taxes, Tea, and the Gospel

Leave a Comment
I am sure you have seen or heard about (or maybe even attended) these "tea parties" to protest some of Obama's tax policies. Now, I am not going to say that people should never go to protests like these. I will tell you what bothers me a bit about protests like these.

Typically, these are filled with "right-wing" or "Evangelical" or "fundamental" Christians. How many of these Christians get upset enough to protest when they see the Word of God being misused or when they see sin in their churches. Why is it that we get all up in arms over goings on in a kingdom that even Christ Himself said wasn't His (John 18:36)?

Seems like it would be a much wiser thing to save our energy and passion for things concerning the Kingdom of God than worrying about taxes. Even if taxes go up, did not Jesus promise to provide for us if we seek His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33)?

Two Kingdoms

Leave a Comment
Scripture is very clear that there are 2 distinct kingdoms that we must contend with. One being the Kingdom of God, and the other being the kingdom of the world.

in John 18:36, Jesus makes it clear that his kingdom is not of this world:

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."



In Revelation 11:55, John relates how one day, the kingdom of the world will become a part of God's kingdom to be ruled by Christ:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."



The bible even tells us in Ephesians 2:19 that as believers we are not a part of this worldly kingdom:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,


If there are 2 distinct kingdoms, and we are a part of God's kingdom, why do so many believers live as if the principles from the worldly kingdom work in the Kingdom of God?

Why do we continue to live as though the things that the world tells us lead to success, happiness, joy, etc. will inevitable lead to success, happiness, joy, etc. in God's kingdom?

What so many of Christians have done is try to import worldly principles into God's kingdom. Those principles get rebranded with religious titles and jargon, but they are, at heart, worldly principles.

The most prevalent of these in my experience is the principle of success. What is success and how do you evaluate if you are successful or not?

The world tells us success is found in measuring the results of a task. If your job is to sell cars, success is found in how many cars you sell. Success is black and white and very measurable. As a matter of fact, if you can't measure the results of what you are doing, then you are doing something wrong.

What happens is that definition of success is imported into the life of the believer or the life of the church. The assumption is that church success is somehow found in numbers (attendance, tithing, baptisms) and that we have to have a plan to track and measure these numbers. To be successful, we must find a way to increase those numbers. Most of the time hearts are in the right place. Pastors and church leaders legitimately want to be successful, they just are going about it the wrong way.

The problem with this confusion is that when numbers become the measurement of success, then increasing numbers at all costs is justified regardless of methodology. Welcome to the can of worms known as "contextualization". The chain of reasoning goes like this:
1. The more people saved and baptized the better
2. In order to get saved, people must hear the gospel.
3. People must come to church to hear the gospel.
4. We must get people to come to church and stay long enough to get saved.
5. Whatever it takes to get people to come and stay at church is justified because it leads to fulfilling number 1.

The root of this problem is in allowing the worldly definition of success to define success in the kingdom of God. When we allow worldly wisdom to reign in God's kingdom, nothing good can come of it.

Paul warns the Colossians of this very thing in Colossians 2:4-10:

I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.


The lesson to be learned is this: nothing transfers from the world to God's kingdom. We must unlearn everything we think to be true and allow Christ to become our wisdom. Christ alone through His word defines success and everything else in His kingdom. Any attempt on our part to add to Christ's wisdom does nothing but empty the cross of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).

Good Friday

Leave a Comment
From the Boomer in the Pew:


This post is part of a 13 day series, joining other Christian bloggers from around the world, reading together Frederick S. Leahy's classic, "The Cross He Bore".

Matthew 27:45 - Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

Golgotha is most holy ground. As Frederick Leahy states, "the wisest thing to do is to remove one's shoes and bow in penitent, grateful silence."

We must not forget that something transpired, in these three hours, that made one of the Roman scoffers proclaim that this was indeed the Son of God. I wish I could force upon everyone to read Leahy's last chapter. There is not one poorly spent word.

The first striking thing on this day, to the observer, was darkness. Growing up a city boy, I always imagined darkness from the perspective of the city. Although dark, I could always see. There might be moon, stars, and certainly the glow of city lights.

But no, I suspect this was more like cave darkness. Total absence of light. Added to this was a horrible earthquake, and the very rocks on the ground were split in two. Take a moment to take this scene in. Imagine the horror! One moment we have the mother of Christ, crying at the foot of the cross, with soldiers hurling insults, and then....wham.....darkness....earthquake....the very rocks under your feet mysteriously splitting apart! All of creation was groaning.

The other mistake I previously had, as I imagined Golgotha, was to look no further than the physical torture of this man. Sure, I believed that he was God, but I was blind to all that was really happening here.

The vision of this very moment was what nearly killed my Christ in Gethsemane!

Here, in darkness, mercilessly hidden from man's view, was my Christ bearing the full brunt of God's power and wrath. Here my Christ descended to hell! Here my Christ, in Satan's last hopeless terror, bore all of hell's vehemence.

Here, prophesy after prophesy, from the Hebrew's sacred canon would be fulfilled.

Here at this Passover, was the ultimate sacrifice being made. Only this Passover...this plague of darkness...was for all mankind.

Imagine the joyous angels proclaiming Christ's birth, and see the contrast of the God-man, in darkness bearing God's wrath, and Satan's desperate fury.

How kind that God would make utter darkness in this moment. Seeing Christ on the cross is painful enough. Seeing Christ broken by his Father's wrath would surely obliterate me. Seeing Christ bear my sin, my pride, my contempt, my selfishness? Who could continue to exist?

For three hours this continued. Darkness! All of creation groaning, spitting, cracking, breaking! God's wrath pouring out! Satan furiously, and feverishly with terror running about!

And then....oh...my Savior....then...perhaps the most precious three words ever uttered...

It...is...finished!

I used to think this meant that Christ was about to die. No, no, my mistaken heart. IT, is finished! Good just conquered evil. The narrow path of my salvation was just laid clear. The coat of my righteousness was just fabricated.

Here, on the most horrid scene imaginable, my heavenly adoption was offered, through the most unimaginable, freely given, yet horribly wrought, gift eternity will ever see.

Here, my beloved reader, is most holy ground. Here, my beloved reader, is the most unspeakable gift.

Do you see it?

I pray that you will, if you haven't already, accept this most precious gift.

For me, this Easter will be unlike any other.

Abba,

I am completely mute! I have no words!

Yes Frederick Leahy, you are right, penitent, grateful silence.

Matt Chandler at Desiring God 2009

Leave a Comment
This is a message from Matt Chandler given at the Desiring God 09 Pastors Conference. If you can set aside an hour or watch this in smaller pieces, do it. It is well worth your time whether you are a pastor or not (but especially if you are a pastor.)You can watch the video of the message or just listen to the audio.

Matt Chandler

Thoughts on Calvin's Institutes II

Leave a Comment
Some more thoughts as I, slowly, work my way through The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.....

Mingled vanity and pride appear in this, that when miserable men do seek after God, instead of ascending higher than themselves as they ought to do, they measure him by their own carnal stupidity, and, neglecting solid inquiry, fly off to indulge their curiosity in vain speculation. Hence, they do not conceive of him in the character in which he is manifested, but imagine him to be whatever their own rashness has devised. This abyss standing open, they cannot move one footstep without rushing headlong to destruction. With such an idea of God, nothing which they may attempt to offer in the way of worship or obedience can have any value in his sight, because it is not him they worship, but, instead of him, the dream and figment of their own heart.


There really is nothing new under the sun. If I didn't know better, I would think that Calvin was writing a commentary on our culture today. Too often I hear people rejecting sound biblical doctrines because they can't imagine "their" God acting in such a way. What they don't realize is that they have allowed the culture they live in, whether it be within or outside of the church, to set parameters for God that He must now reside in. Anything that is brought to them concerning God that exists outside those parameters is immediately dismissed as being false. Instead of scripture being the authority that sets the boundaries (or lack there of) for God, their self made boundaries for God now become the test for the validity of scripture. Somehow, the idea that a fallen creature imposing limitations on the character and actions of its own Creator seems perfectly normal.

As Calvin points out, one of the major downfalls of this thinking is that we are no longer worshiping the one true God of scripture, but instead an idol of our own making with no power to actually accomplish anything in and through us. There is only one God and He has revealed Himself to us in His word. Our choice is to accept Him as He is, or not at all. He makes no concessions or apologies for who He is because He is perfect in every way. Any attempt on our part to define Him outside of His own definition is by its very nature a lessening of who He is from the Creator and Sustainer of all things into a worthless false God.

Jason Gray

Leave a Comment
Jason Gray came to Northside today and led worship for us. If you haven't heard of Jason Gray, don't feel bad. He isn't very well known in the commercial Christian music circle (you won't hear any of his music on WayFM or whatever Christian music station you have near you). I had never heard of him until he came to our church in February and opened for Matthew West and Sanctus Real.

I am pretty picky about music I listen to, especially Christian music. Obviously I like for the music to be appealing to the ear but I also need my Christian music to be theologically sound. Jason Gray passes both of those tests with flying colors. He is a great song writer and I love his acoustic, mellow sound. I highly recommend you go to his website and check him out. He also is a great guy. I hope we can have him back to the church soon and I am very excited about the fact that he just finished recording a new cd.

Go check him out at www.jasongraymusic.com. You won't regret it.

Living in the Valley

Leave a Comment
Have you noticed that when God wants to teach you something, and I mean teach you something so that it is impressed on your heart in a manner you will not forget, he rarely seems to do it in a way that is easy for us. I think Sunday school, discipleship groups, accountability groups, small groups, etc. are all great things and I and many others have learned a great deal in those settings. But most of that learning is head knowledge, it's theoretical. At some point we have to learn how to live out that knowledge.

I think God also uses the small things in life to really drive home His points home with us. This is where a lot of Christians, I think, get off track. They are waiting for the big life changing event so that they can practice living their faith. In so doing, they sometimes miss the day to day chances to put their knowledge of God into practice.

I am in the middle of experiencing this myself right now. For those of you who don't know about me, I am married and have 4 children. The 6 of us live in a 1200 square foot 3 bedroom house. Because our youngest is only 6 months old, she sleeps in one bedroom alone so she won't wake anyone else up when she gets up in the middle of the night to eat. Doing the math, that means my other 3 children (ages 8,6,and 2) all share one fairly small bedroom.

What God is teaching me through this season of our life as a family is that I have not yet learned the secret of being content in every circumstance (Phil 4:11-12). It is the daily living in a house that by all worldly standards is too small for us that God is teaching us what it really means to be content with His provision for us and to trust in His plan for us. That doesn't mean that we don't pray and ask Him for a bigger house, but we always acknowledge that His plan is best and try to rest in that should He keep us where we are.

We often talk of mountain top experiences and needing to return to the valley. What we need to realize is that most of life is lived in the valley. Not that it isn't joyful and wonderful, but it is at times monotonous and normal. It is in the monotonous and normal that we learn what it really means to follow Christ and how to live out all the knowledge He is granting to us. I know I am learning a lesson in contentment and faith now that I will never forget.