Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I Listen to John Piper

I'm often asked by many of my friends in church why I take time to listen to John Piper preaching, after all the preaching at our own church is far from naff. Well, after listening to his message at the Resurgence conference last night on How My Pastoral Ministry Shapes my Pulpit Ministry, Piper himself made it clear why.

In his talk, Piper outlined 16 foundational convictions that shaped how he preached, and 16 examples of how pastoral ministry has shaped his preaching. All 32 points are valid reasons why I would commend Piper's preaching to you, but the following points hit the nail on the head and make it clear why I love to hear this man preach.
  • Preaching is more than teaching; it is the rising of the preacher’s heart to exult over the exposition of truth. It is both exposition of biblical texts and exultation over the reality in those texts.
  • Preaching is worship, it does not follow worship. If it isn’t worship, it isn’t preaching. We are exulting over the truth and beauty and worth of what we see in texts.
  • People are changed into God-glorifying lovers of Christ by seeing Jesus Christ in the fullness of his biblical beauty through Spirit-anointed expository exultation.
  • In preaching I am jealous to show my people the very words in the Bible in which I see the glories of God and the path of Christ-exalting joy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Worship & Family

I've found this article helpful since our oldest son (4) has been participating with us in our church services. It is a timely reminder as our 2 year old will do the same, not too long from now. Here's a snippet, but all of it is worth reading.
The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents do not cherish the hour. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. You can't impart what you don't possess....

Sunday worship service is not useless to children just because much of it goes over their heads. They can and will grow into this new language faster than we think—if positive and happy attitudes are fostered by the parents.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hospitality

I found this post full with tips on hospitality, not least four things to keep in mind as you seek to cultivate a hospitable heart.
  • Hospitality isn't based on having the "right" house.
  • Hospitality isn't always convenient.
  • Hospitality isn't always comfortable.
  • Hospitality is always about serving others.
Nicole at 168 hours is continuing her series on hospitality also. Here are some of her recent posts on the subject.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Complaint Cycle

Nancy Ann at Femina writes:
Certainly feminism illustrates for us the complaint cycle, but women of all persuasions do the same thing in a myriad of ways. It all begins with discontent. I think it is safe to assume that Eve had been content in the garden until the serpent made his evil suggestion. “Why don’t you get to eat from this tree?” Apparently, Eve had not felt deprived until that moment. The discontent is what set her up for the deception (aka, lie) that immediately followed. And she bit.

Women are far less vulnerable to deception when they are content. How many contented Christian women are apt to marry an unbeliever? No chance. But a discontented woman is more prone to rationalize and swallow the deceit. “Well, he went to church as a kid. And he’s not an atheist. And I prayed that if God didn’t want me to marry him, that He would take away my love for him, and He didn’t take it away, so I think that is a sign.” A contented spirit gives you a clear head and enables you to see the folly.
Read more

Monday, February 18, 2008

On Marriage, Relationships & Compost

There's been a few things that I've either read or listened to today that I thought might be of some use to someone thinking about marriage & relationships. Lydia at The Purple Cellar shared Four C's (in order of priority) that are vital for a biblical relationship that will lead to a godly and healthy marriage.

1. Christianity - Christianity is certainly the first and most important "C." Has the man you like given his heart to Christ and is he living out that commitment? If not, that's all you have to know; you needn't take time to consider the the remaining three "Cs."

2. Character - The second "C" is character. Discerning someone's character takes time, and uncovering what you need to know about the character of the man you like is best done, initially at least, in a group or family setting.

3. Compatibility - Next to be considered is compatibility. Discovering whether you are compatible with another at a deep level also takes time. The bottom line is this: if you don't enjoy each other while you are dating, you won't enjoy each other in marriage either.4) Chemistry

4. Chemistry - That physical wow factor, is the "C" to consider after the first three "Cs" are all in place. All too often this is the driving "C," the one we put first. The most healthy relationships prioritize it here, in fourth place.

Colin and I also spent sometime listening to a couple of downloads while driving through to visit family today. One of the sermons was from John Piper's series Marriage, Christ & Covenant: One Flesh for the Glory of God. His sermon, God's Showcase of Covenant-Keeping Grace, had it's usual gems worth sharing. Here are a few things we took on board:

1. Marriage is the doing of God and marriage is for the display of God.

2. Marriage exists most ultimately to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.

3. You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church. Why?
  • It lifts marriage out of the sordid sitcom images and gives it the magnificent meaning God meant it to have;
  • It gives marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ obtained and sustains his bride by grace alone;
  • It shows that the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission are crucial and crucified. That is, they are woven into the very meaning of marriage as a display of Christ and the church, but they are both defined by Christ’s self-denying work
Also in this series, Marriage: Forgiving & Forbearing concludes with a helpful image:
Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Good Linking, Smart Thinking

There have been some great reads in the blogosphere recently. Here are some links to avail yourself of -
  • He's A Keeper! Post of the week for me! Really helpful questions to ask if you are single/dating/engaged.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stirred as a Pot of Paint

I'm enjoying reading Dr Helen Roseveare's book Living Faith: Willing to be Stirred as a Pot of Paint. I have just come to that part in her story that provides the explanation for the book's title. During reconstruction work in Zaire in 1969 following the devsatation caused by the civil unrest in 1964-5, Dr Roseveare was involved in the development of a medical training school. She writes:
Moving around inspecting all the different areas of work, I went in search of the painters (student volunteers) to see how they were faring. They were not in the first classroom, which suprised me. When I did not find them in the second room, I became suspicious. I looked at the woodwork around the door, which had not noticeably changed since I last saw it. I touched it gingerly. There was a sort of brown, sticky "goo"... I moved quickly across to the library. There they were, chatting away, brushes in and out of the paint pot, up and down the woodwork, totally unconcious that they were making no impression. The window frames looked just as before. I strode across to them and looked into the paint pot.

There was a sold mass of white matter, under a very thin remaining layer of rapidly dissapearing linseed oil. The pot had not been stirred....

I demonstrated the art of stirring. Hard work, right down to the bottom of the can, till all that was solid was stirred into the diluting oil, to become one consistency. It changed colour. It would not go so far now, but it would achieve the purpose for which it was designed. I left the two students, duly mollified, I thought, painting away with renewed vigour. Some half hour later, I suddenly realised that I had failed to explain that the paint would need stirring every so often until the job was completed...

We needed to be stirred until there was no seperation left between solid and liquid, between secular and spiritual, weekdays and Sundays. Our lives needed to be one of consistency, through and through, ready to do the task for which we were created. This stirring would need to be continued daily until the task was completed.
I wonder if we could pray as she did:
Please go on working in me until I really am transformed into the image of your Son. Today I mean this, with every ounce of my being, but when You start doing it, and the stirring hurts, and I feel I can't take it anymore, maybe I'll cry out to You to stop. Please when that happens, don't listen to my cry to stop, but just remember my vow to you today to be available to You, and just go on working away at me to make me like You want you to be.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

More Respectable Sins

After reading the odd chapter here and there I've decided to reread from the beginning, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we Tolerate. It's a great book and I can't recommend it enough. I mentioned previously that it would be a painful read and perhaps some of you might have been put off, wondering whether the book is only going to give you a good going over. Well let me say, it does and it doesn't!

Jerry Bridges is in no doubt whatsoever that uncovering those underlying "acceptable" sins in our lives is a sore job and so his first few chapters set you up well for the hard bits. I particularly enjoyed a chapter which dealt with 7 things to do when addressing sin in your life. I thought I'd share them to encourage you as you seek to walk by the Spirit and put to death the desires of the flesh.

1. Apply the Gospel - "As we struggle to put to death our subtle sins, we must always keep in mind this twofold truth: Our sins are forgiven and we are accepted as righteous by God because of both the sinless life and sin-bearing death of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater motivation for dealing with sin in our lives than the realisation of these two glorious truths of the gospel."

2. Depend on the Holy Spirit - "Regardless of how much we grow..we never get beyond our constant need of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual life may be compared to the motor of an electrical appliance. The motor does the actual work, but it constantly depends upon the power source of the electricity to enable it to work."

3. Recognise your responsibility - "Work as if it all depends on you, and yet trust as if you did not work at all."

4. Identify specific responsible sins - "As you identify a particular sin, give thought to what situations trigger it. Anticipating the circumstances or events that stimulate the sin can help in putting it to death."

5. Memorise and apply appropriate Scriptures - "We should bring to bear specific applicable Scriptures to each of our subtle sins. These Scriptures should be memorised, reflected on, and prayed over as we ask God to use them to enable us to deal with those sins. The psalmist wrote: 'I have stored up your word in my heart , that I might not sin against you.' (119:11) To store up means to lay aside for future need."

6. Cultivate the practice of prayer - "It is through prayer that we consciously acknowledge our need of the Holy Spirit, and...continually acknowledge the presence of those persistent sin patterns in our lives."

7. Involve one or a few other believers with you - "We need the mutual vulnerability with and accountability to one another, as well as the praying for one another, if we want to make progress in dealing with sin." More practically, Bridges suggests asking others for their evaluation of the subtle sins in your life: "Set aside time with your spouse, your brother or sister, or a good friend. Ask for their honest feedback. Assure them you will not become defensive or question their evaluation. Just listen but don't respond. You might ask them to rate you in each area according to a scale something like this:
  • Not a problem
  • Occasionally a problem
  • Frequently a problem
  • Characteristic of your life
Even if you don't agree with their assessments, take them to heart in humility. God may be using the other person to open up areas you have been in denial about."

Monday, February 04, 2008

Grease & Grudem!

Grease & Wayne Grudem - not something I'd usually associate together - however, this priceless video proves me wrong! For the record, the lyrics are:-

"Why this man is thematic, he’s charismatic, he’s systematic,
Why he’s Wayne Grudem! (Wayne Grudem)
He did not author Scripture but provides a clearer picture - Oh Yeah!
(Keep reading whoa keep reading)
Wayne may not be Jesus but he writes mean exegesis- Oh Yeah!
(I’ll buy a copy, I’ll kill to buy a copy)
You put it on the flo-or and it props open your door,
Or if you need to sit- you can climb on top of it - With Wayne Grudem
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go

Go Wayne Grudem with your intellectual writing style,
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
Go Wayne Grudem you make ha-rd doctrines less of a trial
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
You are extreme, but God’s supreme, oh Wayne Grudem
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go

(There are) many heresies which we-e now clearly see- Oh yeah!
(oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Despite him being bald, hundred-thousand copies sold - Oh yeah!
(oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
His six appendice-es leave you praying on your knees.
Although he’s not inerrant he’s a heresy deterrent - Wayne Grudem
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go

Go Wayne Grudem with your intellectual writing style,
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
Go Wayne Grudem you make ha-rd doctrines less of a trial
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
You are extreme, but God’s supreme, oh Wayne Grudem
Go Wayne Grudem with your intellectual writing style,
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
Go Wayne Grudem you make ha-rd doctrines less of a trial
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
You are extreme, but God’s supreme, oh Wayne Grudem
Grudem, grudem, grudem, grudem
Grudem, grudem, grudem, grudem yeah!"