Monday, July 31, 2006

Why Did God Inspire Tough Texts?

John Piper has thought about this question and has put forth four reasons:

1. Desperation (A sense of utter dependence on God's enablement). I see this in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." The natural man (all of us without the Spirit's work in our lives) should feel desperation before the revelation of God. He needs God's help. Well the same thing is true of spiritual - but finite and fallible and sinful - people like me, when I meet difficult texts of God's Word. I should feel desperation - a desperate dependence on God's help. That is what God wants us to feel. That is something he has unleashed by inspiring difficult texts.

2. Supplication (Prayer to God for help). This follows from desperation. If you feel dependent on God to help you see the meaning of a text, then you will cry to him for help. I see this in Psalm 119:18, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law." Seven times in one psalm the psalmist prays, "Teach me your statutes" (119:12, 26, 64, 68,124, 135, 171). Or as Psalm 25:5 says, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me." By inspiring some things hard to understand, God has unleashed in the world desperation which leads to supplication - the crying out to God for help.

3. Cogitation (Thinking hard about Biblical texts). You might think, "No, no, you are confused, Pastor John. You just said that God wants us to pray for his help in understanding, not to think our way through to a solution." But the answer to that concern is, No, praying and thinking are not alternatives. I learn this especially from 2 Timothy 2:7, where Paul says to Timothy, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything." Yes, it is the Lord who gives understanding. But he does it through our God-given thinking and the efforts we make, with prayer, to think hard about what the Bible says. So when God inspired texts like Romans 3:1-8, he unleashed in the world an impulse toward hard thinking. Alongside desperation and supplication there is cogitation. Which leads finally to . . .

4. Education (Training young people and adults to pray earnestly, read well and think hard). If God has inspired a Book as the foundation of the Christian faith, there is a massive impulse unleashed in the world to teach people how to read. And if God ordained for some of that precious, sacred, God-breathed Book to be hard to understand, then God unleashed in the world not only an impulse to teach people how to read, but how to think about what they read -how to read hard things and understand them, and how to use the mind in a rigorous way.
You can read the rest of the sermon here.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tough Texts - #2

Luke 12:49-53 (NASB - Jesus speaking)
I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
Questions for interpretation:

  1. What is the "fire" that Jesus came (and was/is "eager") to kindle?
  2. Didn't Jesus come to make peace on earth? Is there such a thing as Christ-honoring division among family?
Happy interpreting!

Sports Post

Skip this one unless you have an interest in college football.

I'm an avid Arkansas Razorbacks football fan. We have one of the best backs in the country - and he's only a Sophomore. Whelp, guess who's probably out for the season because he broke his toe in a fight at a bar at 4:30 in the morning?

Here's how conversations are sounding all over the State:

Hog Fan A: I gots two werds fur'ya: Seeezun Ovur.
Hog Fan B: Whatcha meen? It don't start fur 'nother munth?
Hog Fan A:
Hog Fan B: Yup, urr'ight.
Hog Fan A & B (In unison): Whelp, mabee next yeer?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Entertaining Angels

A missionary just sent me an email from the hospital where his mother-in-law is nearing heaven's gates. The email said, "She has just told us that angels have arrived and that they should sit down wherever they like. We believe her."

Goosebumps anyone?

Tough Texts - #1

I'm beginning a new series of posts on biblical texts with particularly difficult interpretive issues. But I'm not planning to solve them. That's your job.

I'm hoping for regular commenters to surface along with this series. We want you to join the discussion. I would especially appreciate comments from "laypersons" (Although I don't like that nomenclature).

We all need help making sense of God's Word and applying it to our lives. Don't let fear of misinterpreting the passage stop you from submitting your thoughts. After some time has elapsed I'll let commentators give the "definitive" interpretation of the passage in view.

Here's our first gem: (I Peter 3:18-22: English Standard Version)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Interpretive questions relate especially to the bold/italicized portions.

  1. Did Chirst descend to hell in the days between His crucifixion and resurrection? If not, where was He? Did Christ preach in the days of Noah? If so, how? If not, what does the text mean when it says, "...When God's patience waited in the days of Noah..."?
  2. Does baptism save? If so, explain. If not, what does this text mean?
All 100 or so of our daily readership can at least join in the discussion by submitting a text you've always wondered about. C'mon!

Happy sense-making of the Good Book!

Is Evangelism A "Do Whatever Works To Get 'Em Saved" Calling?

No. No. No. No. No. And, no.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Let Justice Roll Down

Being crushed by a deeper awareness of ongoing racial tensions through the eyes of one of my black brothers is an experience I needed. Two weeks ago, I heard John Perkins speak. This week I heard his voice through the pages of his book, Let Justice Roll Down, where he tells his own life-story, one riddled with racial injustice, extortion, and the murder of those he loved - all in the name of "peace." Now as a believer in Jesus Christ, Perkins is a living example of Ephesians 4:32.

The book is based on a verse in Amos 5:23-24.

Quotable Godward Influencer - GOD

Seek the LORD while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:6-11

Tongues-Speaking in the Blogosphere

Cessationists and continuationists are polar opposites on the spirtual-gifts spectrum.

A conversation has emerged in the blogosphere on the subject of tongues-speaking - coming from both ends of the spectrum. Here it is (so far):

  • Dan Phillips began the conversation with this post.
  • Adrian Warnock responded.
  • Dan responded.
  • Dan responded again.
  • Sam Storms jumped in with the following thoughts: (Wish I knew how to hyperlink to Storms' stuff too?)
"Tongues" in the Blogosphere
Sam Storms
Jul 28, 2006

In recent days two bloggers have taken up the question of the gift of speaking in tongues in the New Testament: see and The latter of these two, written by Dan Phillips, argues that "the Bible only knows one kind of tongues. . . . That kind is supernaturally-acquired human languages."

The argument of Phillips and other cessationists is that modern manifestations of "tongues" have been shown not to be human languages and therefore are not the same as what we read in the New Testament. I have a few comments in response (all of which are taken from my book, "The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts" [Regal]).

Acts 2 is the only text in the NT where tongues-speech consists of foreign languages not previously known by the speaker. But there is no reason to think Acts 2, rather than, say, 1 Corinthians 14, is the standard by which all occurrences of tongues-speech must be judged. Other factors suggest that tongues could also be heavenly or angelic speech.

To begin, if tongues-speech is always in a foreign language intended as a sign for unbelievers, why are the tongues in Acts 10 and Acts 19 spoken in the presence of only believers? Note also that Paul describes various "kinds" or "species" (Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, 970) of tongues" (gene glosson) in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It is unlikely that he means a variety of different human languages, for who ever would have argued that all tongues were only one human language, such as Greek or Hebrew or German? His words suggest that there are differing categories of tongues-speech, perhaps human languages and heavenly languages.

In 1 Corinthians 14:2, Paul asserts that whoever speaks in a tongue "does not speak to men, but to God." But if tongues are always human languages, Paul is mistaken, for "speaking to men" is precisely what a human language does! If tongues-speech is always a human language, how could Paul say that when one speaks "no one understands" (1 Cor. 14:2)? If tongues are human languages, many could potentially understand, as they did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:8-11). This would especially be true in Corinth, a multi-lingual cosmopolitan port city that was frequented by people of numerous dialects.

Moreover, if tongues-speech always is in a human language, then the gift of interpretation would be one for which no special work or enablement or manifestation of the Spirit would be required. Anyone who was multi-lingual, such as Paul, could interpret tongues-speech simply by virtue of his educational talent.

Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul refers to "the tongues of men and of angels." While he may be using hyperbole, he just as likely may be referring to heavenly or angelic dialects for which the Holy Spirit gives utterance. Gordon Fee cites evidence in certain ancient Jewish sources that the angels were believed to have their own heavenly languages or dialects and that by means of the Spirit one could speak them (Fee, 630-31; see Hays, 223).

We should also take note of the Testament of Job 48-50, where Job's three daughters put on heavenly sashes given to them as an inheritance from their father, by which they are transformed and enabled to praise God with hymns in angelic languages. Some have questioned this account, however, pointing out that this section of the Testament may have been the work of a later Christian author. Yet, as Forbes points out, "what the Testament does provide . . . is clear evidence that the concept of angelic languages as a mode of praise to God was an acceptable one within certain circles. As such it is our nearest parallel to glossolalia" (185-86).

The fact that tongues are said to cease at the parousia (1 Cor. 13:8) leads Anthony Thiselton to conclude that it cannot be angelic speech, for why would a heavenly language terminate in the eschaton (see his First Corinthians, pp. 973, 1061-62)? But it would not be heavenly speech per se that ends, but heavenly speech on the part of humans designed to compensate now for the limitations endemic to our fallen, pre-consummate condition.

Some say the reference in 1 Corinthians 14:10-11 to earthly, foreign languages proves that all tongues-speech is also human languages. But the point of the analogy is that tongues function like foreign languages, not that tongues are foreign languages. Paul's point is that the hearer cannot understand uninterpreted tongues any more than he can understand the one speaking a foreign language. If tongues were a foreign language, there would be no need for an analogy.

Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 14:18 that he "speaks in tongues more than you all" is evidence that tongues are not foreign languages. As Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology, 1072) notes, "If they were known foreign languages that foreigners could understand, as at Pentecost, why would Paul speak more than all the Corinthians in private, where no one would understand, rather than in church where foreign visitors could understand?"

Finally, if tongues-speech is always human language, Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 14:23 wouldn't necessarily hold true. Any unbeliever who would know the language being spoken would more likely conclude the person speaking was highly educated rather than "mad."

I'm sure that much more could (and probably will) be said on the subject, but I hope these brief observations will prove helpful in the discussion.
  • Your thoughts next?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Three Ways To Read Your Bible

To make a gross understatement, the Bible is a treasure trove! Though our hearts may, "Amen," still we all struggle to varying degrees with a lack of appetite for God's Word. Realizing there are several ways to approach the Scriptures may help us mine more treasures?

I have been helped exponentially by seeing three fundamental ways that every Christian (with access to a Bible) should approach his or her Bible. (This was passed along to me about 10 years ago from Clyde Cranford in one-on-one discipleship):

  • Leisure - This approach applies to all reading of the Bible for the fun of it! Ever thought of that? Like the latest novel, the Bible should be read for pure enjoyment. I never ceased to be amazed at how God tends to mess with me when I dare to leisure read portions of His Word!
Leisure reading the Bible includes common approaches that many may consider more appropriately labeled "devotional" but really fit best under leisure: "Through the Bible in a Year" reading plans; reading a chapter of the Bible a day; reading a familiar account from an OT narrative; etc.

J.I. Packer marks one of the most signifant spiritual experiences of his life to a time when he read through the book of Hebrews 10 times in one sitting. I'm sure we would all benefit from leisure reading the Bible more often. It is a fascinating book!
  • Study - This approach should not be neglected by any believer who has access to Bible study helps (If you are reading this post, then you have access to helps - it's called the World Wide Web). The study of Scripture can refer to serious academic rigor, but it need not always have such a connotation. When leisure reading God's Word, and you come across a difficult text, pausing to go to a commentary or an online sermon from respected conservative Bible preacher would fit under the category of study.
  • Devotional - Perhaps the most neglected approach, and shamefully so. This refers to meditation on God's Word. Approaching the Bible devotionally means more than reading a verse and saying a prayer. It means doing both simultaneously! Meditation, in short, is reading the Bible with God. Talking with God about His Word. Meditating on every word, phrase, verse, and complete thought. There are few joys like meditating, over a series of days (or months), through an entire book of the Bible. "Wow! I just read that book with God!" Talk about motivation to keep going!
So, are you approaching God's Word in at least these three ways? Begin enjoying God again through His Word!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

PDF posting?

Anyone know how to post a pdf document on a blog?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Happy Seventh Anniversary Tracy! I Love You!

Today marks my seventh year of marriage to Tracy Elizabeth Thomas! Seven years - and four children - later, I love you more than I can express.

You are the prototype of a virtuous woman. The longer I know you (14 years now), the more amazed I am by you. Your depth, yet simplicity, draws me to you. Your childlike faith that is always mixed with a deep reliance in all that God is for you in Christ Jesus makes me want to love Jesus more. Your love for God's Word, for God, and for the salvation of the unregenerate keeps me focused on first-things.

Your mothering nature, always knowing the right thing to do when a child needs something, causes me to force myself to not act surprized when your attempt works every time! Your patient response every time someone says, "Four!? You know how to stop that don't you?," is wonderful to observe. Can a mom love her children more than you love yours? Impossible!

Your willingness to to endure seven moves in seven years - as we've followed this divine mandate to plant Grace Church - is awe-inspiring. Your eagerness to love the city, see the crack-heads come to Christ, and become the "neighborhood Grandma" makes me want to reach "our people" even more!

Simply put, your hospitality is amazing. Not a few times I've called (while on the way home) to ask if 5-10 (sometimes 20) people can join us for dinner, and (so far) it has always been met with a "No problem" on the other end! How do you do that? I try to find something to eat and end up with a Little Debbie, you manage to whip up a four-course meal at the drop of a hat? It is no exaggeration to say that our door is a revolving one. How many people's feet have been under your kitchen table in the last seven years? Literally weekly, somtimes nightly, for the past seven years, you have played the hostess. And that with unspeakable grace. I love you for loving others.

People love you. People. Pretty much everybody that knows you. Overstatement? Nope. Kids, adults, rich, poor, black, white, introverts, extroverts, and especially the nut-case you have for a husband! You ooze lovablilty. It's not difficult to love the lovely.

That's another thing God has shown me through you. He is the Altogether Lovely. It should not be difficult to love Him. For you, loving God seems effortless. I know you battle with unbelief, with pride, with sin. As I've told you many times before - You are wicked. Desperately wicked. Apart from Christ there is no hope for your sin-blackened soul. Because of God's indescribable mercy, you are clinging to Christ as your only hope. I love you more for loving Jesus more than you love me!

I'll put it to you like this. Tonight's date is a miniscule way to say I love you. You deserve every minute of the 90 minute professional massage you will get at Gould's, every taste of the choice sirloin, every complement from my lips, and every hug you will receive. To say "I love you" appropriately, it will take a lifetime. That's just what we'll do! Happy "Versery" Trace! I love you!!!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Greater Deliverance Delivered Greatly

Our family had the joy of worshipping at Greater Deliverance Tabernacle Holiness Church this morning. We were invited by our neighbor, Dionne Wright, and we are so glad to have attended! These brothers and sisters are far and away the most friendly and welcoming group I've ever visited. Tracy agrees. From the moment we arrived (10:30a) until the time we left (2:15p), these sweet siblings in the Lord were lavishing love upon us and expressing gratitude to us for worshipping with them. I can only hope that Grace Church will be half as welcoming as these folks. If so, no one will feel unloved!

The sober-but-lively service demonstrated a deep belief that God is not a static power in the sky, but IS active in the lives of His saints. They get "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." I'd guess that 10 different individuals had a speaking role in the well-planned, but very informal, service - and each one referenced a personally-experienced work of the Lord in the last 24 hours.

Somewhere in the first hour (after seed-sowing), Pastor Westbrook introduced our family (which was unbeknownst to us until it happened), and invited me to the platform to share a few thoughts. Talk about "a word of knowledge," I sure needed something! Thankfully, because of a previous similar setting, I anticipated the likelihood of such a request and had a few thoughts on simmer (every preacher always does). After sharing (actually, while sharing), I got my first "Standing O," a much anticipated benchmark for every preacher.

The enjoyable worship experience this morning has spawned several Godward thoughts today. Mainly, our calling as Christians is nothing less than world domination. Jesus commanded His followers to divide-and-conquer. To reach Memphis with the gospel it will take a lot more than Grace Church! We are looking forward to linking arms with churches like this one (and planting others) as we attempt to Glorify God by treasuring Jesus Christ and spreading His eternal joy.

Convictionally, I don't see eye-to-eye with GDTHC on every issue (I don't know one church, or one Christian for that matter, that I do line up with all the way down. Do you?) I'm a biblically-convinced complementarian, not an egalitarian. Co-pastor Westbrook (Pastor's wife) "ministered" the Word today. There were uniform references to her "ministering the Word" instead of "preaching," so perhaps there is a distinction in their minds between the two? Although she's better than many men preachers I've heard, I still think it's a mistake for her to "minister" in that capacity. Because of new friendships with some in leadership with Sovereign Grace, I've been rethinking the biblical teaching on tongues. Although my jury is still out, I've never spoken in tongues (that I know of). So far, I still think tongues is a known language that is intelligible. If I'm wrong, then GDTHC practiced the gift in healthy moderation today.

Anyone could find plenty of loop-holes in ministries I've lead in the past, and I'm sure it will be the case at Grace Church as well. Though some are scared of doctrine because they see that it tends to divide rather than unify, it is nonetheless incumbent upon every professing believer to acquaint himself or herself with the teaching of Scripture, get a conviction, and live accordingly.

I'm convicted to love Jesus more because of my time with the saints at Greater Deliverance. May God be pleased to cause a similar effect to land on all who worship with us at Grace!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Huge Answer to Prayer!

Significant stride forward today for Grace Church! Thanks for praying, we will share details later. Keep praying!

Also, please pray specifically for:
  • Bryan, who will be preaching in AR this weekend
  • Nathan who will be speaking at a camp all week in Ohio.

New Testament Survey

I thank God for (Good, conservative, evangelical) biblical scholars.

Here's an easy-to-read resource that gives an excellent overview of the New Testament. (My Bible College and Seminary Profs used this book for their NT Survey Course). It is written in very accessible prose - not bogged down with too much technical jargon.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Loving The City - Part II

This post is from Maria Garriott's, A Thousand Resurrections. God is loving the city of Baltimore through the Garriotts who planted a new church in the urban community.
We dreamed of starting a church where black and white, rich and poor would come together to fulfill the mandate of the Old Testament prophet Micah. We envisioned a spiritual community committed to racial reconciliation and social justice, a church bridging the gap between the educated and the street-wise, between those who lived on the edge and those who rose to the top like cream.

I didn't know we would scrape by just above the poverty line for years. That I would live with people who heard voices or had spent most of their lives in juvinile hall or prison. That I would share a house with women who sold their bodies, snorted cocaine, or whose boyfriends choked and punched them. That we would be robbed over and over. That we would give a second chance to young men who would rummage through our drawers to steal Craig's wallet or my grocery money. That the boy next door would deal drugs and that gun battles would sometimes erupt. That a man would be murdered in front of my house for his radio.

I didn't know my children would be lead poisoned. That they would be mocked for being white, then scorned for acting black. That their friend, who ate at our table like a godson, would go not to college with them but to prison. That a little boy with no daddy at home who had baked cookies in my kitchen and hunted snakes with my son would one day lie on the street in a pool of blood.

I didn't know that several times a week my husband would wake in the night agonizing over whether we were failing to reach the neighborhood, whether an African American pastor would be more effective, whether God was still calling us here. I didn't know depression would stalk me.

I didn't know that when I was scraped raw, Jesus would heal me. That when I was broken, God would use my brokenness. That he would use us in spite of ourselves. That Jesus would shine so clearly where race, class, and suffering intersect.

I didn't know I would witness a thousand resurrections. That church members who struggled to pay rent would adopt nieces and nephews to save them from drug-addicted parents. That a woman who saw a teenaged mother roll her baby's stroller into an empty house, and abandon it, would raise that baby as her own. That men who snorted cocaine would get clean and love Jesus. That women sexually abused by their fathers would be healed and would rescue other children. That Muslims from Iraq, atheists from China, and Hindus of Indian descent would find Jesus and encourage my faith. I didn't know that they would become my heroes and friends. I didn't know they would be braided into my heart. - A Thousand Resurrections, 1-2.
As you pray for us and for Grace Church, please pray that God will continue to give us a love for our city, and use us for His any expense to ourselves!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The "Jordan Proof" Valley of Vision

In a previous post I spoke of my tendency to destroy inspired, illumined, and expensive things using my vehicle. Today I made another, but unsucessful, attempt.

I recently touted this God-saturated resource on Solus Christus. This morning I drove away from my grandmother's house with my wife's copy on top of the truck!? Thankfully I'm not in the dog house because "Cabra Bonded Leather" is apparently a great product. Virtually unscathed!

So, how'd it happen? Basically, I was loading another arm-full of Nannie's homeade stuff into the front seat and didn't want the frozen foods to thaw on The Valley of Vision (I'm sure Shepard, Baxter, Bunyan, Watson, Watts, Williams, Doddridge, Romaine, Brainerd, Toplady, Evans, Jay, Law, and Spurgeon would have said, "Good call.") So what did I do? I finagled the groceries under one arm, grabbed The Valley and (ever so gently) placed it on top of the cab. After loading the homemade relish, pickles, bread, and spaghetti sauce I buckled my oldest into her seat, kissed Nannie, jumped in the truck (which had to be returned in 15 minutes - and I was 20 away!), and drove off...

Cabra bonded leather is not as adhesive as my New American Standard's genuine hide. The Valley only lasted one block.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mega Grace Church

We have no aspirations for Grace Church to be the next mega church. The burden to shepherd each soul in the membership of Grace is a pressing weight. But yes, we do want to reach as many people as possible. So how are we thinking about the tension between soul-care and aggressive evangelism? Church planting. This has been our desire from the beginning. Our Grace Church: A Church Planting Proposal, which was affirmed by the elders of Bethlehem in February, states our desires to be a church-planting church:
The leadership of Grace Church is already praying for the grace to be engaged in a movement of church planting churches. We plan to develop a paradigm for training planters, supporting planters, and partnering with other churches to plant many like-visioned churches in the major cities of the world. (Proposal, p. 15)
The Evangelical Free Church of America has a great quote on the benefits of planting new churches:
At the heart of multiplication is the ministry of planting new churches. Not only has church planting proven to be the most effective strategy for reaching new people for Christ, but it has also proven to be an essential aspect of infusing health into those churches which partner in planting efforts. - EFCA
Until King Jesus comes again He will remain busy building His church! We just want to tag along with Him.

Should We Read MORE Than The Bible?

The following post is taken in its entirity from Thabiti Anyabwile's excellent blog. Thabiti was an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C., but is soon to be the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman.

I've gathered some fresh inspiration for fervent reading from the ladies over at girl talk. They included this wonderful quote from Charles Spurgeon in a recent post:

"...listen to Mr. Spurgeon go off about books in response to this verse: “When you [Timothy] come bring the cloak which I [Paul] left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13).

He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He has had wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up in the third heaven, and had heard things unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He has written a major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every Christian, ‘Give thyself to reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves he has no brains of his own.

Legacy of a Legend

Many have grown to love the writings of A.W. Tozer. Someone with a similar writing style, and equally weighty visions of God is Edward Payson. Though he is little known in our day, it is speculated that some 10,000 parents named a son after him in his.

I have richly benifitted from Payson's vision of God, which can be found in bite-sized chunks here.

Also, every believing parent wanting to lead his or her child to and through the gospel will be helped by Payson's daughter's recollections of learning the gospel while sitting on her dad's knee...for a decade.

Quotable Godward Influencer - Steve Smith

(Steve is my Father-in-law).

Your most important discipleship relationship is with your wife and kids.
(Quoted from personal conversation, many times!)

Godward Influencers

Some of the most Godward influencers on my life have been:
  • The Triune God (understatement of the ages!)
  • My wife and kids
  • Clyde Cranford
  • My family (Mom, Father-in-law)
  • College friends
  • John Piper
  • Puritans
Who have been some of the most Godward influencers in your life?

In an attempt to honor these Godward influencers I am beginning a new series of quotes from those who have influenced me the most for His glory. Lord willing the effect will be substantial on those who visit this blog!

Note: All that can be quoted from the lips of God (on this side of heaven) can be found here.

Quotable Godward Influencer - Clyde Cranford
But alas, today the distinguishing mark of a Christian is thought to be some one-time, individual experience that might or might not result in a changed life. To this idea we must say plainly: Repentance that is not ongoing is not genuine; faith that does not involve surrender is not adequate; a life in which holiness does not develop is not Christian. Because We Love Him, 13

Monday, July 17, 2006

Loving The City - Part I

This is the beginning of a series of meditations as I am trying to grow in my love for the city God has called me to reach (Memphis, TN). May the Lord help me as I attempt to look at my city through the eyes of God (Matthew 6:22-23). These are thoughts of a city-loving novice.

A Christian's Responsibility to his City
Based on Christ's Teaching in Luke 10:

Jesus Christ is Lord of Memphis, TN...and very few believe it. What should I do?

like I believe the first half of the previous sentence and like I long to see the second half change.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. - Luke 10:2

TRUST the All-wise, All-loving, All-sufficient Christ Who is sending me here among these people in the this place at this time.

Go your ways; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. - Luke 10:3

men of peace.

And if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him; but if not, it will return to you. - Luke 10:6

my practices (when necessary) to accomodate the non-faith-destroying practices of those I minster to in my city.

And whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you... - Luke 10:8

PERFORM a wholistic ministry to those in my city.

...heal those who are sick... - Luke 10:9

that Christ is King of all!

...Say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you.' - Luke 10:9

all men to repent and trust Christ!

Woe to you, [Memphis]! Woe to you, [Shelby County]! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment, than for you. - Luke 10:13-14

knowing that those who reject me are not rejecting me, but God Almighty.

The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me. - Luke 10:16

Does God Rejoice In God?

At that very time [Jesus Christ] rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit...
- Luke 10:21
Please list other texts that teach the same truth.

One of God's Many Amazing Creations

The Brain...

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Happiest of All!

"...(God) who is the Happy (Gk: makarios) and only Sovereign...." - I Timothy 6:15

Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

John 15:11 - "These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full."
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow'rs before Thee,
Hail Thee as the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav'n relect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Bloss'ming meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain,
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou the Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine:
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the Joy Divine.

Mortals join the mighty chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o'er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music lifts us sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Sweetest Song of All

"The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Zephaniah 3:17

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Weekend Preaching

Lord willing, I will have the joy of preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church this weekend. I will appreciate your prayers.

The text is: John 15:8-17
The title is: The Fullness of the Joy of Christ

I am amazed by Christ's words in John 15:11: "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."

Let These (Concealed) Words Sink Into Your Ears!

"Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they might not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement." - Luke 9:44-45

The Valley of Vision

I commend to you this much-treasured little book of Puritan prayers.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Go Home!

In Luke 8:39, Jesus told the (former) Gadarene demoniac; "Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." Without wanting to commit an exegetical fallacy, I feel that I can identify with this text at some level.

Though once captive to sin, I too have been an undeserving receipient of Christ's soul-freeing power. Now, the Lord is proving His pleasure to send me to my home town that I might join the former demonic by "describing what great things God has done for me."

Next verse? "And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him." Oh Lord, may it be said of me and the Grace Church congregation as well.

Grace Church is coming into existence for precisely this purpose! That we might glorify God by treasuring Jesus Christ and spreading His eternal joy.

Careful Listening

I was struck this morning with Christ's command in Luke 8:18 to be a careful listener.
So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.
This command is near the conclusion of the parable of the sower. Don't miss in this passage that Christ stated His purpose for speaking in parables was in fulfillment of Isaiah 6:9, so that:
So, ultimately, it appears that the responsibility of our care in listening is God's! Unless He grants us the ears to hear His teaching, and the ability to understand His teaching, then the word of God will continue to fall on the soil of hard, rocky, thorny hearts, and we will do nothing with it.

So how does one listen carefully to Christ? You plead with Him to make you a hearer and doer of the Word (Luke 8:21). Be careful how you listen to the Word of the Lord!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Previous Post

We plan to leave Solus Christus on hold for a few days to continue to give people an opportunity to respond to the invitation to the Grace Church Interest Meetings (See previous post). Thank you all for your prayers!

Monday, July 03, 2006

An Open Invitation To The Interest Meetings For Grace Church

Anyone in the Memphis area who is interested in finding out more about Grace Church should read this entire post. You may have a job to do at the end.

Grace Church Interest Meetings - September 10 - October 29, 2006

We are pleased to announce that Grace Church will begin hosting a series of eight Interest Meetings on Sunday evenings beginning September 10. The time and venue are still to be decided. As the Lord inclines your heart, we invite you to join us for these eight meetings.

The Goal of the Grace Church Interest Meetings:

The Interest Meetings are designed to unfold the vision, values, and distinctives of Grace Church. If you sense a potential interest in joining Grace Church, we invite you to participate in all eight interest meetings. Attendance at these meetings will not commit you to Grace Church. The intention is to provide you with an opportunity to be well informed as you seek the Lord regarding His desire for you to covenant with Grace Church.

Church membership is one of the most important decisions in life. Through the Interest Meetings we hope to provide you with a thorough overview of Grace Church as you pray about this highly significant decision. Most assuredly, some who attend the meetings will be convinced that Grace Church is not the place for them. That's wonderful! Read this sentence slowly: We do not want to encourage anyone to leave another church in order to join Grace Church. If the Lord is nourishing your soul and enlisting you in His service through your current church, then we happily admonish you to remain involved in that fellowship. Our heart's desire in planting Grace Church is to glorify God by treasuring Jesus Christ and spreading His eternal joy. One of the primary ways this will happen is by leading unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ and seeing the Lord graft these people into the life of Grace Church.

What Will Be Discussed At The Interest Meetings?
  1. September 10 - Why Plant Grace Church?
  2. September 17 - Essentials of a Healthy Church
  3. September 24 - Grace Church Core Beliefs
  4. October 1 - The Centrality of Christ
  5. October 8 - Vision and Mission of Grace Church
  6. October 15 - Membership Matters
  7. October 22 - Open Discussion Forum & Prayer
  8. October 29 - The Church and God's Glory
What Do I Need To Do To Attend The Interest Meetings?

Our strong desire is to host the Interest Meetings at Jordan's house. However, that may soon prove to be an impractical venue because of the number of those intending to meet with us.

If you are planning to attend the Interest Meetings
would you please help us by responding to this post by clicking "comments" in the lower right hand corner--or by sending us an email. Please indicate your name and the names of everyone who will be attending with you using the following format:
  • Name (and names of those attending with you; spouse, children, etc.):
  • Home Address:
  • Contact #:
  • Email:
  • "Yes, I/we plan to attend the Interest Meetings for Grace Church beginning September 10."
Because of limited space we recommend arranging for childcare for those under five years old. Limited child care will be available during the meetings. You should verify with us if you will need childcare. Children five years old and up are invited to join the discussion.

Helpful Anonymity:

Your intentions to join us will not be posted on the blog for others to see. We will record your information for our planning purposes and contact you with all the necessary details in due time. We want you to come to the meetings because you sense the Lord leading you to attend, not because someone you know might be sensing the Lord's leadership. Proper introductions will be made at the meetings.

We eagerly await seeing the faces of those whom the Lord will lead to pray with us about covenant membership in Grace Church! It will be a day of great rejoicing when the Grace Church covenant community is finally realized. May God be greatly glorified as Jesus Christ builds Grace Church!

Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be the Glory)!
Jordan, Nathan, & Bryan

Grace Church Update - July 2006

Grace Church A Community in CHRIST
Memphis, TN

"...And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

It's great to be in Memphis! Our move signifies yet another confirming evidence that God is proving His eternal pleasure for Grace Church to exist. We are swimming in the wake of His purposes to establish another testimony for His name in the Mid-South. Grace Church--from God's perspective--has been in the plans all along. Having our spiritual senses awakened to join Him in this much-needed work is deeply humbling, and totally invigorating. Thank you all for praying God-sized prayers with us.

We are called to the city. We want to live among the people God has called us to reach. My family moved to downtown Memphis exactly two weeks ago. We followed Bryan's family who moved to the area about two weeks prior. Lord willing Nathan's family will soon join us in this area also. Typing this paragraph is an almost surreal experience. Realizing that it was exactly three years ago this month that I began seeking the Lord's face with these brothers about church planting makes my heart swell with wonder. This city, these people, this home--it is all sweet Providence!

Although Grace Church will not begin hosting Interest Meetings until September, there is much to be done today. Our move was designed to give us a window of time before meetings ensue to get to know people who live and work in downtown. Our heart's desire is to forge relationships with many, to learn from those doing ministry in the city, and Lord willing, be used by God to lead people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. There are so many strong ministries in downtown Memphis, and we have no hallucinations that we are God's secret weapon to reaching this city. We look to join these believers in bringing glory to God by treasuring Jesus Christ and spreading His eternal joy. Please pray with us (now) for God to give us favor with those who live, work, and minister in the city.

In Christ, John 3:30
Jordan, Bryan, Nathan

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Study Bibles?

Have you found a particularly helpful study Bible?
Here are a few I've enjoyed:

The Reformation Study Bible
MacArthur Study Bible
The NIV Study Bible
The Thompson Chain Reference Bible
The International Inductive Study Bible

Others you would suggest?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Bible Overview Sermons

I plan to listen to these this week, Lord willing. Do you know of any good bible overview sermons?

Are You Running To The Light?

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

John 3:19-21