Friday, January 18, 2008

Driscoll on Birth Control

One of my favorites, Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church Seattle, recently addressed the issue of birth control in his current series, "Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions" (just ignore his heinous get up, it is Seattle). I am linking here his page of additional notes on the issue of birth control, which I think is a treasure store of resources on this hotly debated issue. If you are one seeking some discernment, wisdom, and info in this area, and seek to make a conscience bound decision about it all, I strongly encourage you to work through some of this stuff they provide.

Also, you can track through a series of posts I've done on this issue (in this order, please): part one, part two, and part three; and a very important fourth point of repentance regarding everything you just read if you followed my rules. A post here discusses some of the 'meta' issues involved.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Too Much a Minister and Too Little a Man

“There is such a thing as trying to be too much a minister, and becoming too little a man; though the more of a true man you are, the more truly will you be what a servant of the Lord should be. Schoolmasters and ministers have generally an appearance peculiarly their own: in the wrong sense, they ‘are not as other men are’. They are too often speckled birds, looking as if they were not at home among the other inhabitants of the country; but awkward and peculiar. When I have seen a flamingo gravely stalking along, an owl blinking in the shade, or a stork demurely lost in thought, I have been irresistibly led to remember some of my dignified brethren of the teaching and preaching fraternity, who are so marvelously proper at all times that they are just a shade amusing. Their very respectable, stilted, dignified, important, self restrained manner is easily acquired; but is it worth acquiring? . . . I know brethren who, from head to foot, in garb, tone, manner, necktie, and boots, are so utterly parsonic that no particle of manhood is visible.”
- Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students
“The Minister’s Ordinary Conversation”

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Pray for the Elders

The Four Oaks Elders (and Pastors) will be gathering this weekend for prayer, vision discussion, and strategy for the future. Please pray for us - that God would give us wisdom, unity, love for each other, conviction and direction for His Church for the months and years ahead.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

The tremendous, relentless, comprehensive, and unified effort...

"When people say, 'What's been the greatest influence on the life of your children?' The answer, of course, is the work of the Spirit of God. But beyond that it is the tremendous, relentless, comprehensive and unified effort of a whole congregation of people to bring to bear the truth on their young lives."

--John MacArthur, Certainties that Drive Enduring Ministry

Yes and Amen in the Lord. This is why I committed my life to the local church and commit the life of my family to the local church. It God's chosen instrument to display and communicate His grace through the Gospel of Christ to the whole world. What a joy to be a part of it!


You Might be Emerging...

Take the test. I especially like the 'this is your leg' portion of the quiz. Good stuff. Lighten up.


Genocide Awareness

A bold, and very provocative ministry on the frontlines in the battle against the slaughter of babies is the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (warning: graphic imagery of aborted babies). Yesterday I was able to meet with Mark Harrington who is CBR midwest director, and will be overseeing the Genocide Awareness Project that will be coming to Florida State University (Lord willing) in February. GAP is an exhibit which seeks to demonstrate the horrors of abortion by comparing it to various wide scale human atrocities throughout history. CBR is known for their use of graphic imagery in the fight against abortion. For some great arguments for the use of graphic imagery in the war against abortion in the public arena can be found here and here and here.

The fact is:
- these images are true depictions of a holocaust unparalleled in human history that is accepted - and perpetrated in our commuities;
- we have become numb and apathetic in our efforts to fight against this heinous evil;
- we live in a culture that embraces such powerful imagery in EVERY other area of life and in every other fight (civil rights, animal rights, eco-friendly causes, sexual 'freedom' and promiscuity, violence and warfare, etc.).

When I visited Buchenwald and beheld the stark reality of the sins against humanity and the image of God I was powerfully moved. I was also horrified that such atrocities were committed on a hillside overlooking the peaceful and serene village of Weimar. The villagers insisted they did not know what was happening when in fact they did know, they simply chose to ignore it.

I was able to see the GAP up close when they came to the University of Central Florida in 1999 when I was a seminary student. Tori and I provided housing for two young ladies who traveled the country with CBR helping to staff GAP on various campuses. I can say that this exhibit is extraordinary and highly impactful and done with great care and discernment.

Pray that GAP will be able to come. Mark earnestly pursued our campus parachurch ministries in preparation for his visit. Only two campus ministries were represented, neither would support the project. At the end of the meeting it was just Mark, me, and Barb Shackleford (praise God for Barb Shackleford!!) the director of A Women's Pregnancy Center praying that God would raise up student leadership at FSU in the fight for life on campus (Leon county saw a 30 percent increase in abortions last year, a great percentage I'm sure due to the presence of one of Florida's largest student populations). After we prayed Mark received a callf from a campus student leader who wanted to support and sponsor GAP!

Now, we can pray that God would raise up (through Four Oaks and AWPC if necessary) a student led campus organization for life. Perhaps this upcoming exhibit would spark such an organiztion.

This is THE defining issue of our day, without a doubt. Yes, climate change is an 'inconvenient truth'. But, abortion in America and around the world is a tragic, shaming, disgusting truth perpetrated by all of us who are apathetic, silent, ignorant, or complicit in such sins against the least of the least of these.

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Pray for the Schrock's and Uganda

Terrill and Amber Schrock will be leaving us (in body, but not in spirit!) here at Four Oaks this Saturday. The Schrocks will be flying into London and then from London to Entebe, Uganda. They'll spend several months there in Entebe working with Wycliffe Bible Translators preparing to venture into the Northeastern region of Uganda. They will be serving an unreached people group there called the Ik with the good news of Jesus Christ and the Word of God in their own tongue.

Please pray for safety in travel, for provision in Africa, for endurance in a very difficult area, and for the strength of their marriage, and for power and grace from the Spirit.

And, pray that more from our body would heed the call to take the gospel into all the world!


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Right Around the Corner?

A Finnish pastor was fined recently for 'discrimination' because he refused to be preside over a service alongside a female pastor. Christianity reports on the specifics here. For a bit of commentary, check out what Jeff Robinson of CBMW has to say.

It hurts to admit that we might look to Finland of all places for a glimpse of what the future holds as far as liberty of conscience and freedom of religion. Sadly, we need to see that we are on the same trajectory here in the States. This situation is clearly a restriction of free speech and the freedom of religion, which in this country is protected under an old, archaic, and oft ignored document called The Bill of Rights.

People often ask me why I put such an emphasis on biblical manhood and womanhood in my pulpit ministry and in the life of our church. Here's a few reasons (of many):

First, I believe that these issues (and I am in league with the egalitarians on this point!) are central issues that address the core relationships of humans, families, churches, and society. Our convictions about God's Word related to men and women are critically important and reach into all spheres of life. I do not hold my convictions about male headship in the home and church with reservation. I believe the teaching of God's Word in these areas is life giving and beautiful. It has been nothing but a blessing to my own marriage, to my home, to my ministry, and in our church family.
Secondly, I believe this is an important front in our spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. I think we should be fighting at the front and stepping into the breach.
Lastly, I believe that we can make lasting change and significant impact in our culture with bold and unashamed teaching from God's Word. I want to work while it is day, and the night is coming. I'll thank you to allow me joy in being able to teach and uphold God's Word regarding to men and women with freedom while I can. Soon, I might be teaching and upholding God's Word at a much greater cost.

Pray for Pastor Norro and for the faithful who support and love him. Pray that his actions would be a witness to the truth of God's Word and serve to promote the gospel.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Are You A Calvinist?

Upon discovering my noble vocation as preacher of the gospel, defender of truth, under-shepherd of the sheep, and pastor to the rich and famous (some unsuspecting celebrity must have stumbled upon my blog accidentally at some point-I'm sure of it; and, I'm told that Brad and Angelina were very convicted by my series on Marriage from 1 Corinthians 7) a young man asked what strange church would ever allow themselves to be subjected to my ministrations.
"Four Oaks Church," I said with a winsome and benign pastoral smile.
He grimaced a bit, "Oh, isn't that a Calvinist church?"
It is at this point that I should learn to just say, "Yes. Good day to you!" And go on about my business. The conversations that follow such an introduction are so rarely fruitful. But, I am ever the optimist, hoping that somehow I might engage this fellow traveler in a profound discussion of the glorious doctrine of God's sovereignty and the wonder of his free grace offered to undeserving sinners in the work of His Son Jesus Christ.
So, I replied, "Well, no, we are not a 'calvinist' church perhaps in the pejorative manner you seem to understand Calvinism. We don't want our identity to be formed by anything other than the authority of the Scriptures, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the glory of God. But, I suppose what you're getting at is the fact that I generally affirm as biblically true what have become known as the five points of Calvinism."
Happily, we did indeed engage in quite a lively discussion about God's sovereignty and human responsibility, and how such things impact our understanding of the world and the church. It actually was pretty fruitful all around.
I ended the discussion by referring him to what has become known as one of the most concise and helpful descriptions of and apologies for what is generally called Calvinism. It is the introductory essay to a reprint of John Owen's classic work on the atonement, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by J.I. Packer. I commend it to you, as well.


Some Resources on Imprecation

As I've been working on Psalm 90 for worship at the Lord's Table this Sunday, I came upon a 3-part series by Sam Storms called Those Troubling Psalms of Imprecation (scroll down the series list).

It is well worth it to work through Storms' helpful discussion of this troubling, but also oft overlooked, portion of God's Word.

John Day has an excellent article entitled Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics in Bibliotheca Sacra (the journal of Dallas Theological Seminary) from back in 2002. Spoiler and teaser last paragraph:

"This article has sought to demonstrate that at times it is legitimate for God's people to utter prayers of imprecation or pleas for divine vengeance--like those in the Psalms-against the recalcitrant enemies of God and of His people. This is based on the psalms' theology of imprecation in the Torah, and on the presence of this theology carried essentially unchanged to the end of the canon."

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For the Discerning Ear...

Some of you have remarked that my 'discerning ear' posts are far too narrow in style and taste. Indeed, most of the stuff I listen to is of the indie/alternative flavor, but. . .

Maybe this list is a bit more diverse and outside my box:

Last night I watched PBS' Pioneers of Television: Sitcoms, and was reminded of some the great bluegrass music that was showcased by the Dillards on The Andy Griffith Show. (I especially dig the guy with the pipe and the upright bass.)

One of my favorite guitarists is Leo Kottke. Even though this is a terrible recording, his Arms of Mary is wonderful (I love watching him play and listening, even with the horrible tinny shrill sound).

One of my favorite songs is Vincent by Don McLean (of "American Pie" fame). Doesn't get much better than his performance here with legend Chet Atkins. Whenever I hear this song, I go back to 1970something and Dad is strumming and singing in the hallway as the Braun kids nod off to sleep.

And, while we are talking about great guitarists, check out Mark Knopfler's Golden Heart.

I tried to get Josh and Katie to have Pierce Pettis sing 'Song of Songs' at their wedding. But no luck. This is a powerful and beautiful song.

**Recent News: Pastor Josh contends that it was he who wanted Pierce to sing 'Song of Songs' at his wedding and that it was, in fact, me who insisted against it. I, all the while, maintain that it was my desire to have the song whilst he chickened out. This has become a point of no small disagreement betwixt us and shall continue to be so until he gains a heart of repentance. Until such a time, I shall continue to put up with his griping. You should know, that he has threatened to open up his own blog in order to refute any spurious points which I might post in my blog that have anything to do with him, or Detlef Schrempf. I welcome such a really aren't anybody until someone starts a blog against you. Nonetheless, please pray for your pastors and the unity of the pastoral team.**

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Read thru the Bible

We are only a couple days in, so it is not too late to resolve to read through the entirety of God's Word this year.

Several folks in our church family enjoy reading through the chronological bible. This moves through God's word as it was written through history (beginning with Job...).

I follow the daily readings that are in the back of my ESV Journaling Bible. (ESV has a helpful daily reader bible as well.)

A great bible reading calendar was made by Robert Murray M'Cheyne and can be found here and here.

Get bible-saturated in 2008!


God's Providence and the New Year

There is unrest all over the world, wars and rumors of wars, poverty, pestilence, and, of course, we might be in economic recession in the coming months here in America (which means that some of us might need to moderate gas guzzling for our second car, clip a coupon, or go for a walk rather than go out to dinner). In all of this we remember that God is sovereign and at work in all things:

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Ephesians 1:9-11 . . . in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.
Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Here is a helpful little article on God's providence by J.I. Packer. God's providence is a bedrock doctrine for the saints as they look ahead to another year.

And, here is one of my favorite hymns by William Cowper.

"Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will."

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Make Your Resolutions

Here are Jonathan Edwards' famous 70 resolutions.

The first one is worth memorizing and adopting for yourself. It is the theme of Christian Hedonism.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.


Get out the tissues. . .

...and thank God for these soldiers and their families.