Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ephesians 1 - (11th Meditation) - "The Means of God's Saving Purposes"

Ephesians chapter one prompts me to worship GOD.

We've already considered that genuine salvation, according to Ephesians one, is God's plan to bring us to Himself. He is the goal of His saving purposes. But what means does He uses to bring us to Himself?

When I consider the dual truths that (1) God is holy, and (2) the the way He operates is equally as holy, I am drawn by His Spirit to evaluate my life (See Leviticus 11:44; Psalm 77:13).

Though we may not think about it often, it is needful to meditate on the fact that God's modus operandi is holiness. He is holy in His person, and He is holy in His actions. Not only does He want to bring us to Himself (goal) but He also wants to bring us to Himself by holy measures (means). What sort of means could possibly be as holy as Himself? Ephesians answers this question, but first, think about this...

Paris Reidhead, in his classic sermon, Ten Shekles and a Shirt, accurately asessed a crucial problem in our religious climate when he spoke against "utilitarian religion," "a useful God," and "expedient Christianity." Reidhead was arguing against the thought of a "Christian" using God as a means for selfish gain rather than the his most desired End. I agree with Reidhead's asessment. But, have you ever felt the weight of God's means to get us to Himself?

Now to our question. Ephesians teaches us that there is a sense in which the Bible clearly portrays God BOTH as the End (He is the Goal) of our salvation AND the means (He is the way to get to the Goal). Otherwise, there would be no adequate answer to the question. Only God is as holy as God. Therefore, only God could be the means that bring us to God. Now worship as Ephesians unfolds this great truth.

In Ephesians chapter one, the Holy Spirit describes the means with God uses to bring us to Himself in an abundantly clear fashion. I marveled this morning as I meditated on these verses:
He (The Father) chose us in Him (the Son) - Ephesians 1:4

Clearly, in the verse above, the Son is the Means through which God chose us (see also, John 14:6 for another familiar verse where Christ offers a similiar description of Himself as the Means by which a person comes to God as the Great End of salvation).

Notice the litany of verses in Ephesians chapter one that show Christ to be God's means to get us to Himself.
He (The Father) predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself - Ephesians 1:5

The glory of His (The Father's) grace which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Christ) - Ephesians 1:6-7

In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses - Ephesians 1:7

He (The Father) made known to us the mystery of His will (The Father's), according to His (The Father's) kind intention which He (The Father) purposed in Him (Christ) - Ephesians 1:9

Ephesians chapter one displays Jesus Christ ("Very God of Very God" - Nicene Creed) as the means of God's saving purposes.

Here's how my heart is prompted to worship God as I consider Christ as God's means for our salvation:

As we grow in our awareness of what we are saved from (The Righteous wrath of GOD) and what we are saved to (Eternal fellowship with GOD), then we will increasingly marvel at HOW God has chosen to save us(GOD provided His only Son, Jesus Christ)!

Treasuring Christ Together

We give praise to God for Bethlehem Baptist Chruch.

On Sunday, April 23rd, the congreation of Bethlehem voted unanimously to graft Grace Church in to their "Treasuing Christ Together" (TCT) church planting vision, as well as assist Grace Church financially.

Join us in saying thank You to the Lord for yet another tangible piece of evidence that the He is calling Grace Church into existence!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Favorite Hymn?

I will be enjoying the Together for the Gospel conference this week in Louisville, KY. As a result, I will not be adding any posts to Solus Christus. Instead, would you comment on this post with the lyrics to your favorite hymn? I'll begin...

(Hint: You can copy/paste hymn lyrics from this site).

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Ephesians 1 - (10th Meditation) - "The End of God's Saving Purposes"

Our last meditation on Ephesians 1:1-14 sought to worship God by seeing the ground for which He set His saving purposes on His people. This meditation will seek to lovingly and worshipfully embrace His goal for saving us.

Ephesians chapter one is untouchable. A great deal of the chapter is given to what is known as the mysterious work of God in salvation. In other words, Ephesians one discusses the aspect of our salvation that we have absolutely nothing to do with - that which occurred in eternity past!

As we've considered (8th Meditation), God was motivated by love to predestine us to adoption as sons (v.5). There is nothing unloving about predestination - it is the work of God wrought in love!

We also considered that there were several ground reasons, or motives (9th Meditation), that God was moved to lovingly predestine us. Yes, something preceded even our being predestined (v.5) and chosen (v. 4).

That "something" was, as Paul said; "the kind intention of God's will" (v. 5), "the riches of God's grace" (v. 7), "God's kind intention which He purposed in Christ" (v. 9), "God's purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (v. 11).


I'm glad you asked! Paul uses five statements between verses 4-14 that clearly answer our question. Apostle Paul, take it away...

That we would be holy and blameless before Him (v. 4) (See also, 7th Meditation).

That we will eternally praise the glory of His grace (v. 5).

That all things will be summed up in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth(v. 10).

To the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory(v. 12).

That the Pledge of our inheritance that was given to us (THE HOLY SPIRIT!) will result in our being redeemed as God's own possession, to the praise of His glory!(v. 14).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Who Raised Jesus - The Answer

In a recent post, I asked the question, "Who raised Jesus from the dead?"

The overwhelming majority of texts clearly point to God the Father as the answer. Did any of you come across this verse?

Seems like the Father and Spirit participated together in the most cataclysmic event in the history of the world.

The LORD is risen! The LORD is risen indeed!

Grace Church Co-Pastor Team

We are still asking the Lord for over 500 intercessors BEFORE we begin the planting efforts this Fall in Memphis. Willing?

Bryan - Jordan - Nathan

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

We all know the second greatest commandment. Here's a site that will help you see if you can keep it.

(HT: Kenny Moore)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

From Naïve...To Arrogant...To "Not so Fast!"

When I was first introduced to the Puritans (1996), I was discouraged. Primarily, the discouragement rose due to the lack of "puritanesqe" believers I encountered in contemporary culture. Unfortunately, I began to draw some very naïve (or more accurately; very arrogant) conclusions such as:

1. No one today is putting out theological treatments like the Puritans (This may be true).

Then, it quickly digressed to...

2. No one today is writing anything worth reading for Christians when it comes to theological accuracy and life application.

Then, all sorts of unhealthy conclusions could be surmised, such as:

3."I must save the day."

See the fallacy? (I'm assuming that you also are not interested in being an island unto yourself, but are actually seeking to benefit from the help of others - by reading helpful Christian literature).

Thank the Lord for pride-shattering wake up calls, like the one He gave to Elijah in I Kings 19.

You see, I was quickly succuming to the age-old "Messiah Complex." I was going to have to 'save the world from its terrible plight of having no one alive today pointing people to the richness of God's Word.'

Maybe you've also been duped by pride into singing Elijah's sob story - only to hear the Lord essentially declare, "I'm doing just fine without you."

Well, I'm thankful to now know that MANY are contributing VERY SOLID THEOLOGICAL AND PRACTICAL helps in our day - men who's stature I'll never come close to reaching!

Here's a brief list of contemporaries who have been a blessing to my life through their very solid writings - "of whom the world is not worthy." In random order:

Ligon Duncan
Sinclair Furguson
David Wells
John Piper
John MacArthur
R.C. Sproul
J.I. Packer
D.A. Carson
C.J. Mahaney
Richard Owen Roberts
Al Mohler
Mark Dever
John Stott
Iain Murray
Sam Storms
Wayne Grudem
Tom Schriner
Bruce Ware

And the list could go on! Thank the Lord we are not alone - and more accurately, we're not even leading the charge!

Lest this list be viewed wrongly, I must note that I don't agree with each of these men on every issue. Also keep in mind that the list does't even mention the names of people coming to my mind even now as I type; It can't mention those I've never heard of, but are writing excellent works nonetheless; nor does it mention those who are unable to write (because they might be killed for doing so), like the 1000's of Underground Church Pastors & believers in the 10-40 Window

Who are some of the contemporary authors who are contributing to your pursuit of the God of the Bible?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jesus is Alive! But, Who raised Him from the Dead?

Thank God that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead! We love a living Savior! He has defeated the power of Satan, sin and death!

In light of Easter, I was blessed last week in meditating on the resurrection, and wanted to pass along a thought to you. In meditating on the great, and central, truth of Christ's resurrection, have you ever thought about Which Person of the Trinity was responsible for exerting the power that raised Christ from the dead?

Before you simply to think, "The Trinity does everything in unison (which is a true statement), therefore there are no distinctions of responsibility within the Godhead (which is a false statement)," it is essential to our faith to know the responsibilities that each Person of the Trinity exercises with respect to our salvation.

For example, it would be wrong, and un-Christian, to say that God the Son (Jesus) sent God the Father to die for our sins on the cross. Biblically speaking, that simply is not the case. So, it is vitally important to understand the roles of each Person of the Trinity in order to remain orthodox.

So, which Person of the Trinity exerted the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead?

A) Was Christ raised from the dead by His own power?
B) Was Christ raised from the dead by the power of God the Father?
C) Was Christ raised from the dead by the power of God the Holy Spirit?
D) All of the above?
E) The Scripture does not tell us the answer, and we should not spend our energies trying to discern the matter.

In order to provoke others to meditate with you, please supply verse references with your response when possible. Come on, don't be shy.

Interesting Site

USA - Religious Groups & Denominations by Percentage of Population

(HT: My Brother)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mark Dever on Substitutionary Atonement & A Clarification

Mark Dever has contributed a wonderful article to Christianity Today on the issue of Christ's Substitutionary Atonement.

I asked Mark what he intended to communicate by his last line in the article, which reads:

Like Chad, we would do well to accept our guilt and admire God's grace, to let the Holy Spirit encourage us by the Savior's self-denying love to follow his example, and to savor God's love to us in this almost incredible sacrifice.

My question to Mark was:

What did you mean by "almost incredible sacrifice"? Your statement can be taken two ways - 1) Not quite incredible enough to be incredible, or - 2) Very incredible, but believable.

This is Mark's helpful clarification:
Dear Jordan,
The CT article as printed is correct. I was using “incredible” not as “very good” but as “unable to be believed” (as in, ‘this is SO GOOD it is ALMOST beyond being able to be believed’, like when we say something is “too good to be true”). Does that help?
Hope you’re well. It was great meeting you.
Your brother,
Mark D.

How The Apostle Paul Prayed for Christians

Ephesians 1:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, will give the believers a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ.

That believers would know the hope of our calling, the riches of the glory of God's inheritance in the saints.

That believers would know the surpassing greatness of God's power toward us who believe, in accordance with the strength of God's might - which He exerted in raising Christ from the dead and giving Christ all authority.

If this sort of prayer is answered, then surely ten-thousand lesser requests would be met as well! Let's join Paul in praying "big-hearted" prayers for one another as we plead for God to be glorified by Christ being treasured more!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ephesians 1:1-14

If you've recently joined the Solus Christus conversation, here are the links to our Ephesians 1:1-14 series:

1st Meditation
2nd Meditation
3rd Meditation
4th Meditation
5th Meditation
6th Meditation
7th Meditation
8th Meditation
9th Meditation

Are you thinking about theologically straight-laced passionate devotional singing in Christian corporate worship?

Thinking about what you sing, and why you sing it, in corporate worship is important. Below are the links from several well-known Christian leaders who are having an ongoing converstation of sorts concerning a popular song titled, "Draw me close to You."

Each author also defends his perspective of what makes a corporate worship song helpful (or unhelpful).

First, Chuck Colson's article in Christianity Today started the conversation.

Then, Sam Storms "respectfully disagrees" with Chuck Colson's CT article.

Then, Justin Taylor agrees with Sam Storms' "respectful disagreement" to Chuck Colson's CT Article.

Then, Tim Challies "respectfully disagrees" with Justin Taylor's & Sam Storms' "respectful disagreement" to Chuck Colson's article.

Finally, Bob Kauflin responds to all of the responses linked above with his own take on the matter.

What is your perspective?

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Next Generation

The Prayer Vigil was a good/bad experience.

GOOD: Praying with about 400 others for unborn babies was powerful - especially on the sidewalk of the largest abortion clinic in the Twin Cities.

BAD: Seeing a host of Pro-Choice demonstrators on the opposite end of the sidewalk - and several "clients" enter the facility.

Let's continue to join the Psalmist in his plea:

Psa. 78:6 That the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,and arise and tell them to their children!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Good Friday Prayer Vigil

Tomorrow morning at 10:30, Lord willing, I will have the privilge of sharing a meditation from Isaiah 52:13-15 at the annual Pro-Life Action Ministries Good Friday Prayer Vigil.

The vigil is specifically designed to pray for the unborn, their parents, and those who's vocation is to end the life of the unborn. The vigil will be held on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion clinic in the Twin Cities.

My heart's desire is for people to be saved, deep emotional wounds to be healed, and gospel relationships to be established with the unbeliving.

May God be pleased to use Isaiah's description of Christ's mangled body from Isaiah 52-53 to bring eternal healing through His wounds! (This passage was written by Isaiah 700 years before Christ was born!)

"So His appearance was marred more than any man (52:14); He was despised and forsaken of men (53:2); He was pierced through for our transgressions (53:5); And by His wounds we are healed (53:5); But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering (53:10); As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant will justify the many, as he will bear their iniquities (53:11); Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors (53:12)"

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The "CCC"

The abreviation "CCC" is probably used for many things. In my life, for the last 10 years, it has stood for the "Clyde Cranford Challenge."

Early in my discipleship with Clyde, he challenged me to know the contents of every chapter in the Bible, or at least the key theme of each chapter. Wow. Needless to say, I've not mastered this challenge yet. The thought has resurfaced in my mind many times lately, so I've developed an Excel sheet that has a space for every chapter in the Bible. Hopefully, I'll be further along next month than I am now.

If it were a "closed Bible" quiz, how much of the spreadsheet could you fill in today?

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

Mobilizing churches to be missions-engaged churches is implicit in the Great Commission. The object of "make disciples," in Matthew 28:18-20 is "pante ta ethne" (Translated: "of all the nations"; "of all the peoples"; "of all the ethnic groups").

If a church is content to exist as a homologous unit in terms of her racial, ethnic, economic, and social makeup, then isn't Jesus simply relegated to being that church's tribal deity? If the Jesus we love and worship "doesn't work" for other peoples, then haven't we minimized His global redemptive purposes to fit into our own man-made paradigms?

The Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course has served well to mobilize many churches around the world to engage in being a truly missional organism. Seeing the world from God's perspective is integral to loving the peoples of the world with the gospel. Perspectives is a course designed to help Christians do just that - see the world from God's Perspective. We look forward to offering Perspectives, or something similar, as soon as possible at Grace Church.

May God be pleased to mobilize many members of Grace Church through the years to engage in planting churches among the unreached peoples of the world!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ephesians 1 - (9th Meditation) - "The Dominating Theme"

I was blessed to be able to participate in the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching in the summer of 1998. The high regard for expository preaching held by the late Dr. Olford was a strong shaping influence on my view of preaching. Among so many helpful things I learned that summer, one stands out to me more than any other. Dr. Olford taught that students of the Bible should search for three key elements in every passage of Scripture. (Of course his teaching was presented in an alliterated outline - as were the 1000's of sermons he preached prior to his death). He taught that the three key elements one should look for are:

1. The Dominating Theme (Hence, the title of this post)
2. The Integrating Thoughts (Which support the dominate theme)
3. The Motivating Thrusts (Which are usually applications of the dominate theme)

If you were to use this study approach for Ephesians 1:3-14, what would be the dominating theme?

There are so many themes repeated in this chapter it may be difficult to discern the dominating theme. Moreover, it is likely that there are several equal dominate themes in this text.

My evaluation of the dominating theme of this text would be linked to the ground (or, foundation) for why God has shown us mercy in Christ AND to the goal (or, reason) for which God has shown mercy to us in Christ.

For the purposes of this meditation, let's consider the ground, and in our next meditation, the goal.

What is the fountain out of which all of the blessings of our salvation flow? According to Paul in Ephesians one, the answer is:

* "The kind intention of God's will" (v. 4)
* "The riches of God's grace" (v. 7)
* "God's kind intention" (v. 9)
* "The purpose of God" (v. 11)

Again, there are so many lofty themes presented in chapter one, but these thoughts seem to be the reason everything else in the text happens. Even being chosen (v. 4), and predestined (v. 5, 11), and redemption (v. 7), and forgiveness (v. 7), all flow out of the four themes mentioned above (Which I would argue, are really ONE theme).

The theme of Ephesians 1:3-14 (remember, this is one sentence in Greek), is the amazingly free exercise of GOD to predestine, choose, redeem, and forgive His own because of His own "grace," "purpose," and "kind intention" (the KJV renders "kind intention" as, "good pleasure," which I really like better).

It is difficult to refrain from writing the 10th meditation now, which will deal with the goal of God's free agency to act in such a sinner-saving way! Stay tuned...

How to Fold a Shirt

Can you do this?

All Nations Christian Fellowship

ANCF is the newest church plant from Bethlehem Baptist Church (March '06). They are one month old and God is doing many amazing things in and through this congregation already. Today, in an effort to continue to promote kinship between the two churches, the BBC staff meeting was held at ANCF's rented offices.

I thank the Lord for the way "mother" and "daughter" rejoiced in God's grace today!

It is such a powerful testimony to see two churches sharing the same vision of GOD and a passion for the lost. I commend to you the ministry of ANCF. You can hear Pastor Sherard Burns' sermons, and find many other helpful resources on their website.

We are thankful to the Lord for Bethlehem's role in planting Grace Church, and for our older sister, All Nations Christian Fellowship!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Passage, Click, "Waah-laah"

The Bible Commentary feature on the Ethereal Library site is very user-friendly. Just type a book, chapter, and verse and hit enter. Immediately there are a number of commentaries at your disposal, as well as several alternate English translations of the verse.

Several of the commentaries are very solid. I especially recommend Charles Hodges' work.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

New Home

It appears official. The Thomas family will be closing on a new home in Memphis in May, and moving in late June.

Keep the Sawyer's in your prayers as they are trying to sell their home.

Peace Maker Ministries

I'm participating in a two-day Christian Mediation Training Practicum with Peace Maker Ministries this weekend. Excellent training.

Several months ago, the Peace Maker Resources informed the Constitution of Grace Church to include several clauses about how to handle conflict within Grace Church in a biblical way. Thank God for His word, and for those who help us to live it!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Home Prayer

We believe in prayer at home. But, this post is a request for prayer for a home.

Nathan & April are asking the Lord to sell their home in Covington soon so they will be able to move to downtown with Grace Church.

Tracy & I are praying for the Lord to perform His pleasure with regards to a home in downtown that has piqued our interest.

We praise the Lord that Bryan & Angie have been blessed with a rental home in West Memphis, which the Lord provided through friends of Grace Church.

Thanks for praying!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ephesians 1 - (8th Meditation) - "Divine Motive"

"In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself." - Ephesians 1:4-5

A brief technical aside:

This verse is a classic example of how punctuation and verse numbering in the New Testament are not inspired. The NT was written in Koine Greek (Common Greek), in all CAPITAL LETTERS, WITHNOSPACINGBETWEENANYOFTHEWORDS
ORANYPUNCTUATIONATTHEENDOFSENTENCES. Weird huh? Well beyond seeming weird to us, it probably provided many difficulties in translation.

Thankfully, the thousands of existing manuscripts of Greek NT writings have been rigorously scrutinized through the science called textual criticism. The Greek New Testament text used in Seminaries today is a product of this scrutiny, and has been supplied with upper and lower case characters, punctuation, and a footnoted apparatus explaining the nuances found in other existing NT manuscripts.

My reason for noting this technicality in the NT is because the punctuation supplied in the Greek Testament has also carried over into our English translations. Ephesians 1:4-5 is an example of a punctuation boo-boo (That's the technical term:).

The encouraging thing, at least to me, is that you don't have to know Greek to pick up on many of these situations. Just meditate on each word of a good English translation of the NT (like the New American Standard, or the English Standard Version), and you too can see the mistake. In some cases, the punctuation does make a difference in what you believe, and therefore, how you worship.

In all of the English translations of Ephesians, the words "In love" are the last two words of verse four. However, they should be the first two words of verse five. Instead of reading, "...that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love," I think it should read, "In love He predestined us to adoption as son through Jesus Christ to Himself."

Does it really matter? I think so.

A brief meditation:

If the words, "in love" are the beginning of verse five, as I believe was Paul's intention, then we are gazing into a window of glory that is almost too much to stomach!

What was God's motive for predestining us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ? LOVE! Love was His motive!

Why does God love? Because He does!

There was nothing else in existence except for the Triune God when He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself (see verse four)! He didn't predestine us because we did something good, or because He "looked into the future" and saw that we would choose Him. He just loved! Because He loved, He lovingly predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself!

Let the love of our loving God stimulate us to bless Him!

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."


Thank you for your prayers for our pastoral team. We are in the midst of a long discussion pertaining to several minute details related to Grace Church.

We are aware of the spiritual nature of all of life, but will be happy when we can devote more attention to matters that we are more engergized about!

We sense the Lord's help in our discussions, thank you for your prayers!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Birthday Girls

My oldest daughter, Taylor, and my wife of 95.616448% of 7 years, Tracy, both celebrated birthday's last week. I love 'em!

Taylor, your parents love you, and thank God for you! Our chief desire for you is that you will belong wholly to the Lord forever!

Tracy, you are wonderful! I thank God for your love for Him and your love for your five children (including Caleb (due in May) and me!)!

Happy Birthday Girls!


We've already highlighted this site on Solus Christus. But I couldn't help doing so again! Are you kidding me? There's enough here to suffice for a lifetime of fruitful study! And very solid too!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Enjoying God

Sam Storms is the president of Enjoying God Ministries based in Kansas City. He's in Minneapolis this weekend and next, Lord willing, preaching at Bethlehem during John Piper's sabbatical. Along with two other pastors from Bethlehem, I was privileged to have dinner with Sam after tonight's Saturday Evening Service and was greatly benefitted as we discussed as wide range of theological topics. He is truly a gift to the Kingdom, and I commend His writings, sermons, and conference ministry to you.

Enjoying God Ministries