8.31.2010

Christ Must Increase--Abounding Grace Radio

In a day of rampant narcissism, cult of personality and shallow spiritually, is there anything we can learn from the ministry of John the Baptist? Just how easy is it to defect from the gospel of Jesus Christ? And what did John the baptist mean when he said, "I must decrease and he must increase"? All this and more on Abounding Grace Radio.
Monday September 6, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Tuesday September 7, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Wednesday September 8, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Thursday September 9, 2010John 3 Christ Must Increase
Friday September 10, 2010Westminster Weekend 22

8.24.2010

Abounding Grace Radio--The WRATH of God

According to Jesus, condemnation is just as much a present reality as a future one. Just what does it mean that the wrath of God abides on those who do not believe? Click to listen to Abounding Grace Radio.

Monday August 30, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Tuesday August 31, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Wednesday September 1, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Thursday September 2, 2010 John 3 Condemned Already

Friday August 27, 2010 Westminster Weekend 21

8.22.2010

What about that Covenant on Sinai?

"It is the swearing of the ratificatory oath that provides an identification mark by which we can readily distinguish in the divine covenants of Scripture between a law covenant and one of promise. For it is evident that if God swears the oath of the ratification ceremony, that particular covenantal transaction is one of promise, whereas if man is summoned to swear the oath, the particular covenant thus ratified is one of law...

We are bound to conclude, then, that the covenantal transaction of Exodus 19-24 cannot be defined in terms of a unilateral promissory commitment from the divine side. This particular engagement was, on the contrary, constituted a covenant by Israel's formal pledging of obedience to God's law. It was a law covenant." Kline, Meredith. By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretaton of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids), 16-18.

8.19.2010

HIPSTER, COOL-GUY, BAD-BOY CHRISTIANITY

Last week, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting article titled "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity". The author, Brett McCracken, has done some careful reflection on the current dilemma of the Baby Boomers who have witnessed the "increasing exodus of young people from their churches", and for the past two decades have been scrambling to overhaul their churches to keep "young members engaged in the life of the church." The boomers thought their kids would like the praise bands, the new hip storytelling approach from the stage, the big buildings, the nice parking lots, the youth church barn and all, but it just didn’t work, they couldn’t buy the souls of their children. Slowly they watched them leave. What have evangelicals done to remedy the problem, according to McCracken? "Hipster Christianity"and the shock tactic.

This new, wannabe cool Christianity offers you cutting edge technology, hip pastors with a metrosexual makeover, along with the coolest of relevant messages. "What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before", says McCracken. The article mentions Rob Bell's book Sex God, and Lauren Winner's Real Sex, along with one of coolest hipsters on the scene, Mark Driscoll who "delivers sermons with titles like 'Biblical Oral Sex', and 'Pleasuring Your Spouse'--the first pastor ever to use the word "vulva" during his sermon."

McCracken is writing in the same vein as many others like David Wells, who have done extensive work in critiquing evangelical stagnation and the marketing mega-church attempt to package its message as something appealing to the consumer. McCracken's exposure offers nothing new to the assessments of Wells and others, but he does represent something that should be viewed as an encouragement to those who share his concerns, namely, a louder, clearer, aggravated voice among many Gen-Xers and Millennials who have finally come to the point where they have had enough. We should hear the voice getting louder--do you hear it? McCracken correctly observes that what is needed is something real beyond the perversity we are "drenched" with daily. What is needed is not some temporal, ephemeral fix to the mere consequences of the misery we have chosen, but (forgive my interspersment) a heavenly solution to the tragedy of a human race dead in trespasses and sins, a real savior who has descended to sinners to give them life.

McCracken is correct in his assessment. The question, of course, is whether there is something out there for young, restless, "reforming" evangelicals that provides the "realness" they are seeking for. Years ago, I would have told people to try a Reformed church. Today, such a recommendation has to be qualified. Does the Reformed church in question actually believe and practice the confession that at one time was the basis for its formation as a church? From my perspective, I seem to be witnessing the same wholesale abandonment of the very thing McCracken is calling for, and this among many Reformed churches which were, at one time, unwavering in the "real" doctrine they confessed.

I hope Reformed people listen to McCracken's plea here and realize the opportunity that is presented to them. Evangelicals are crying for...a God. Do we have confidence in the means God has chosen to make himself known? What are we offering that really is an "alternative" to the mass of evangelicals groping in this sea of chaos? Offer the alternative with confidence! How do we do that, you ask? We begin by knowing and appreciating the very thing we advertise on our church sign: REFORMED.

Here are two articles on this very subject that I wrote last year:
The GREAT SEX CONTROVERSY
Our Faddy American Church Mess

8.17.2010

REGENERATION (Part II)---Abounding Grace Radio

Here is Part Two of our Abounding-Grace Radio series on REGENERATION

Monday August 23, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II
Tuesday August 24, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II
Wednesday August 25, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II
Thursday August 26, 2010
John 3 Regeneration Part II

8.13.2010

The Best Kind of APPLICATIONAL Preaching

"God's ministers [are taught] a great point of wisdom in heavenly divinity, namely, to apply their doctrine to their audience in such manner, as the circumstances of place, times, or persons do require. Some ministers come to an ignorant and unhumbled people, and teach them the gospel, which never knew the law. Here the fierce coal is used, but the lips are untouched, that is, good doctrine taught, but not well applied--for that the law should first be laid to their consciences.

Others bear all upon the law, when it may be their hearers are people sufficiently cast down, and have more need to be raised up with the sweet comfort of the gospel."

William Perkins, The Workes: Duties & Dignities of the Ministry, Vol. III (John Legatt: London, 1618) 456.


Now that would be some good "applicational" preaching!

8.11.2010

HOW TO SPOT FALSE WORSHIP--The DIALOGICAL PRINCIPLE AT WORK

I was recently asked to re-post the worship charts from a blog series I wrote earlier this year: Going Off Roading With God--(See the Worship Service Description HERE , PART I, PART II )
Hear also some recent RADIO Interviews on the Series:
THE STATE of the EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (1)
THE STATE of the EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (2)

Protestants believe worship is to be a dialogical. Our response flows from what he has declared through his servant in the written Word. We are called to separate these as two distinct aspects of worship. Notice the dialogical principle demonstrated below in a standard Protestant liturgy (what we do in worship):

God

People

Call to Worship (Scripture text)

Prayer

God's Greeting (Scripture text)

Song of Praise

God's Will For Us in His Law (Scripture text)

Confession of Sin

(prayer / song)

Assurance of Pardon
(Scripture text)

Response of Gratitude:

Prayer (first part)

Tithes / Offerings

Song of Gratitude

The Word of God spoken (Preaching)

The Word of God displayed (Sacraments)

Song of Response

Doxology of Praise

Benediction (Scripture text)




God speaks in calling us to worship, we respond with prayer; he speaks in greeting us with a word of blessing, we respond with song; he speaks by instructing us in his will for us, we respond in confession and repentance; he speaks by assuring us of forgiveness, we respond in prayer and by giving our offerings; he speaks to us in Word and Sacrament, we respond with gratitude in song and he sends us out, not with a mere dismissal, but with his benediction as his pilgrims. Through and through, there is dialogue, and our responses are only appropriate to what the LORD has already conveyed to us in his Word through his appointed messenger. This is why the Lord constantly instructed his prophets to speak, "only what the Lord has commanded" (Ex. 7:2), as worship begins and ends with Word of God. The same is true for the pastor today.

Now consider the Saddleback model:

God

People


Ready to Worship? Worship Leader

Praise Music -20-30 Minutes

Welcome by Praise Leader

Prayer

Video #1

TOPICALLY DRIVEN MESSAGE DETERMINED BY THE PASTOR, NOT the TEXT

Word of God Forced into Pastor's Topic --->


Video #2

Offering

Praise Music

Dismissed




Now who is absent here? The one element on the God-side if often manipulated by the pastor as he imposes his topic on the text. The Saddleback model claims to have a real worship experience in which we actually meet God. Does the above order of worship show this? An honest assessment of the service shows that Word and Sacrament, the primary means of grace, are not central. The man-side is full with practices more appropriate to the theater than the worship of a holy God.

When a church begins worship with the first twenty minutes of praise music, all you have done is falsely elevate the people's emotions; there has been no place given to have the truth "as it is in Jesus" be our guiding light. Our singing is not a means of grace. Music is a response from us to the grace given to us. We often begin worship with the wrong assumption that real uplifting worship elevates us to God first through music, instead of God graciously condescending to us in Word and Sacrament. This is wrong; this is backwards. Our praise is a response to his nearness to us in the Word spoken.

So, what are you receiving every Sunday?

8.10.2010

Rapture Insurance for Old Yeller, Anyone?

Earth Bound Pet writes, "You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind."

The plan is simple--you pay $110, and if the rapture occurs within 10 years of your insurance payment, Earth-Bound Pet swears to come to your home, take your pet, and care for it in your absence. Each additional pet is $15, and EBP will actually give you a 15% discount if you don't make the first ten year rapture mark and want to extend your insurance.

Is this a joke? Apparently not, more than 200 people have signed up for the service--add it up, that's $22,000. If you are wondering about the chance of EBP employees also being raptured and breaching their contract, no need to fear--they are confirmed athiests. I think the plan would also be convincing if Reformed people had thought of it, but we're just not that cutting edge. READ MORE


The MARKS of True Preaching: Plainness and Powerfulness

I hear very little heavenly preaching today. Perkins observes that preaching should be so plainly set upon the hearer's conscience that his only proper response is a recognition that God himself has spoken through the preacher so as to expose his own personal sins. POWERFULNESS and PLAINNESS--I just love this connection from Perkins:

[Ministers] must preach God's word in evidence and demonstration of the spirit of God. For he that is God's angel, the spirit of that God must speak in him. Now to speak in the demonstration of God's Spirit is to speak in such plainness, and yet such a powerfulness, as that the capacities of the simplest may perceive, not man, but God teaching them in that plainness; and the conscience of the mightiest may feel, not man, but God reproving them in that powerfulness. That this is so, appears by Saint Paul: If a man prophesies aright (says the Holy Spirit) the unlearned or unbelieving man comes in, he thinks his secret faults are disclosed and laid open, he thinks all men see his nakedness, and does reprove him for it; he therefore falls down and says, 'surely God speaks in this man'.

In which words, observe an admirable plainness, and an admirable powerfulness (which a man would think could not so well stand together). First, plainness: for whereas the unlearned man perceives his faults discovered, it follows necessarily he must needs understand; and if an unlearned man understand it, then consequently it must needs be plain. Second, powerfulness; in that his conscience is so convinced, his secret faults so disclosed, and his very heart ripped up, that he says, 'Certainly God speaks in this man'. This is the evidence and demonstration of God's Spirit.
William Perkins, The Workes: Duties & Dignities of the Ministry, Vol. III (John Legatt: London, 1618) 430.

Whose Message Do We Preach?


Consider a typical sermon today:

1. Introduction--catchy, relevant joke to woo in the audience, maybe a movie review (3-5 minutes)

2. Story #1--"let me tell you a story about", possible video...(4-5 minutes)

3. Bible Verse--forced example out of context to be "applicational" to the pastor's theme (5-7 minutes)

4. Story #2 (Personal)--here the pastor makes himself one of the people, non-threatening and connecting (4-5 minutes)

5. Conclusion--some generic call to "live out" the gospel (3-4 minutes).

Sadly, most Christians today are completely ignorant about what constitutes faithful, biblical communication of divine truth. Perkins reminds us of the simple (and obviously the most neglected) responsibility of the gospel preacher:

Ministers are angels, in the very institution of their calling. Therefore, they must preach God's word as God's word, and deliver it is they received it--for angels, embassadors, and messengers carry not their own message, but the message of their Lords and masters who sent them, and ministers carry the message of the Lord of hosts. Therefore they are bound to deliver it as the Lord's, and not their own.

William Perkins, The Workes: Duties & Dignities of the Ministry, Vol. III (John Legatt: London, 1618) 430.

8.08.2010

A Good Lord's Day Reminder

"If you desire to hear the word with profit, observe these things: 1) Before you go to the church, humble yourself in prayer to God, that he may prepare your understanding, affection, memory to receive, and that the preacher may speak to your conscience. 2) After, end hearing with some short prayer, apply the several threatenings, promises, and instructions to your own estate. 3) When you come home from hearing, change all that you remember into prayer, and desire God that you may remember it most, when you should practice it, and use it to teach others, and confer of the things remembered." Richard Greenham, Divine Aphorisms.

8.07.2010

William Perkins (1558-1602) & the LAW-GOSPEL Hermeneutic

That the law and gospel are two parts of the Word of God, and are divers kinds of doctrine. By the law I understand that part of God's Word which promises life to the obeyer. By the gospel that part which promises it to the believer. These I say are divers kinds of doctrine; to the clearing of which consider first, their consent and aggreement; second, their dissent and difference.

LAW-GOSPEL AGREEMENT
First, the law and gospel consent: first, in the author--of both which is God; second, in their general matter, for both require justice and righteousness to salvation; third, in their end, namely the glory of God.

LAW-GOSPEL DIFFERENCE

Second, they dissent in six things:
  1. The moral law is written in nature by creation; yes and since the fall we have some remainder of it in us. Romans 2:15, "the Gentiles show the effect of the law written in their hearts." But the gospel is not in nature, but above the reach of nature created, much more corrupted. The ground of the law is the image of God; but the ground of the gospel is Jesus Christ.

  2. The law will have us do something that we may be saved by it, and that is to fulfill it. The gospel requires no doing of us, but only believing in Christ. Objection: But believing is a work to be done. Answer: The gospel requires it not as a work to be done, but as it is an instrument, and the hand of the soul to lay upon Christ, Rom. 4:5; 3:21; 10:5. Hence it is that the law requires righteousness inherent; but the gospel, imputed.

  3. The law is propounded to the unrepentant sinner to bring him to faith; but the gospel to the believer, to the begetting and increase of faith.

  4. The law shows sin, accuses and reveals justice without mercy; but the gospel covers sin, and is a qualification of the rigor of the law. The law says, "Cursed is everyone, etc." The gospel qualifies that, and says, "Except he believe and repent, every man is accursed." Thus the law which manifests justice is moderated by the gospel, which mingles mercy and justice together: justice upon Christ, mercy unto us.

  5. The law tells us what good works must be done; the gospel, how they must be done. The former declares the matter of our obedience, and latter directs us in the manner of obeying...

  6. The law is no work of grace and salvation, no not instrumentality, for it is a ministry of death; the gospel preached works grace only, though the law may be a hammer to break the heart and prepare the way to faith and repentance.

LAW-GOSPEL CONFUSION

The Papists, who hold that they [law & gospel] are one doctrine only, but herein differ: that the law is more dark, and the gospel more plain, the former more hard to fulfill, the latter more easy; that [law] is as a root of a tree, this [gospel] as the body and brances, by which premises they would conclude Christ to be no savior, but an instrument rather for us to save ourselves by, he giving us grace to keep the law. For a sinner must needs be saved by works, if there be no difference between the law and the gospel, and if the law which requires works were not moderated by the gospel, which requires not works, but faith.

William Perkins, The Workes: Commentary on the Epistle of Jude Vol. III (John Legatt: London, 1618) 495-6.

ABOUNDING GRACE RADIO--Marriage & the Family

The family is the basic buiding block of society. Sadly, we have witnessed the corrosion of marriage and the dissolution of the family on unprecedented levels in our country. Such a dissolution has left us in a state of moral bankruptcy. So what is the answer in our age of broken homes, high divorce rates, and sufferring children? Is there any hope for the restoration of the family? As long as we live in the day of mercy, the gospel always provides an answer to our misery. On this edition of Abounding Grace, we look in depth at one of the benefits of Christ's saving work, namely, the freedom for men and women to again live in the roles that God defined for them at creation. We begin with the Christian wife.


Ephesians 5 The Role of the ChristianWife
Tuesday August 10, 2009
Ephesians 5 The Role of the Christian Wife
Wednesday August 11, 2009
Ephesians 5 The Role of the Christian Wife
Thursday August 12, 2009
Ephesians 5 The Role of the Christian Wife
Friday August 13, 2009
Westminster Weekend 18

8.06.2010

RADIO INTERVIEW--SYNOD 2010 URCNA

Here is an interview on our latest Synod meeting in the URCNA. There are many important issues discussed, especially our stong stand against the Federal Vision, and defense of the Reformed doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. Abounding Grace Radio (Mon-Fri 8:30AM pacific on KARI 550 AM). The latest show is up and it’s a brisk (15 min) wrap-up of the 2010 URCNA Synod London (Ont).