Music and Meaning | 9Marks

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 in Church, Music

Excellent interview on music in the church.

Who’da Thunk It!

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 in Church, Culture

Current New York City mayor Bill De Blasio has received his share of scorn from those on the right, evangelical and/or otherwise. And much of it has been brought on by his often radical views.

However, we must give kudos when deserved. I was out of the loop last week at Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville and missed this initially. Last week Mayor De Blasio said that he would work with faith-based organizations (churches!) that use public places (schools!) as places of worship. Previous to this the courts had upheld a ruling that the city had the right to ban such meeting in public places. De Blasio’s decision means that the city is permitted but not required to enforce the ban. Or… the city is permitted, though not required, to allow churches to meet in their schools.

Needless to say, this is significant given the number of churches who start in schools. De Blasio’s decision was based on common sense – if one sector of the public is granted use, then any public sector, religious or otherwise, should be granted the same use. In other words, what’s fair is fair!

Kudos, Mayor De Blasio! You can read more here.

Edwards’ Resolution #27

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014 in Resolutions

download27. Resolved, Never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

In other words – remove the worldly clutter. By this I mean (and I think this was Edwards’ intention as well) that we should examine if we “omit,” what we “omit,” and why we “omit” it. For example, I might feel convicted to give up a television program or a good sit down reading. The conviction could come because I need to spend more time with family or use the time in some other way to glorify God. If we aren’t careful here, our omissions could become merely moralism and/or legalism – hence the importance of “except the omission be for the glory of God.” And then, we need to frequently examine not only our omissions and their purpose, but also examine whether we are imposing these things on others and in the course of things imposing legalism on them.

I know in the course of my own life I try to make sure that on the essentials I stand firm but on non-essentials or preferences I do not make my own life the rule for everyone. I have found that when I fail in this regard it becomes easy to judge others unfairly or wrongly – and this is sin. So, our call is to faithfully omit those things that the writer of Hebrews (12:1) calls “every weight,” things that slow us down in our race, along with the sin that causes us to run the race in the wrong direction – all the while keeping in mind that what slows you down, your “weight,” may not be a “weight” or a burden to another.

This is a wonderful story of God’s grace.

Kevin DeYoung wrote an excellent blog a few weeks back on “celebrity” pastors and New Calvinism. Once again DeYoung shows his wisdom and discernment in bringing a true “fair and balanced” approach to the discussion. It is a timely blog with T4G (Together for the Gospel) coming up next week in Louisville, KY.

T4G and TGC (The Gospel Coalition) have both been said to identify with and/or promote both “celebrity” pastors and New Calvinism. T4G and TGC both have biennial national conferences that meet in alternating years. TGC is perhaps more widely known because of its web site, bloggers, book reviews, publications, and Themelios journal. There is certainly overlap in name with the two groups (DeYoung, Anyabwile, and others) and in those who follow and/or identify with both groups.

For what it’s worth, I will be attending T4G next week and am a regular follower of the bloggers at TGC. I would not consider myself a fan of New Calvinism though I identify with roughly 10 of Piper’s 12 features of New Calvinism. I am a true Calvinist soteriologically, adhering to the limited atonement/particular redemption of Christ (I am not an Amyraldian/4.5 pointer). That is a half-point off of feature 1, but I do think it important to make more wise use of acronyms (and labels for that matter). I am a proponent of new hymnody when done well, and I am not against older hymns put to a more contemporary tune, again, when done well. However, I also have no aversion to the old hymns – as they are written in the hymnbook. Which I guess means I am not anti-hymnbook, which also means I am only a half-pointer on feature 5. I am OK with feature 7 as long as it is not anti-denominational. I am a cessationist, which is a whole point on feature 8. Hence, I am roughly a 10-point New Calvinist.

That said, I am looking forward to being with the brethren next week and worshiping our great God in song and Word. May God bless the proclamation of the Word and may those words bear fruit for His kingdom and His glory.

The Puritans on a Gospel-centered Life

Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Puritans

I recently began a study on the Puritans and am reading again J.I. Packer’s classic A Quest for Godliness. The first of the things that Packer says we can learn from the Puritans is how they integrated the gospel into their daily lives. He writes:

As their Christianity was all-embracing, so their living was all of a piece. Nowadays we would call their lifestyle holistic: all awareness, activity, and enjoyment, all ‘use of the creatures’ and development of personal powers and creativity, was integrated in the single purpose of honouring God by appreciating all his gifts and making everything ‘holiness unto the Lord’. There was for them no disjunction between sacred and secular; all creation, so far as they were concerned, was sacred, an all activities, of whatever kind, must be sanctified, that is, done to the glory of God. So, in their heavenly-minded ardour, the Puritans became men and women of order, matter-of-fact and down-to-earth, prayerful, purposeful, practical. Seeing life whole, they integrated contemplation with action, worship with work, labour with rest, love of God with love of neighbour and of self, personal with social identity, and the wide spectrum of relational responsibilities with each other, in a thoroughly conscientious and thought-out way. In this thoroughness they were extreme, that is to say far more thorough than we are, but in their blending of the whole wide range of Christian duties set forth in Scripture they were eminently balanced. They lived by ‘method’ (we would say, by a rule of life), planning and proportioning their time with care, not so much to keep bad things out as to make sure that they got all good and important things in–necessary wisdom, then as now, for bust people! We today, who tend to live unplanned lives at random in a series of non-communicating compartments and who hence feel swamped and distracted most of the time, could learn much from the Puritans at this point. [pp. 23-24]

There are no wasted words in the above paragraph. May we be ever-examining our use of time and plan our days religiously – for the glory of God who gave us this day!

Edwards’ Resolution #26

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 in Resolutions

download26. Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.

Short resolution – though not simple. When it comes to our present assurance, we are often our own enemy. We can and ought to examine ourselves in order to determine why we lack assurance. It could be sin in our life. It could be suffering at the hand of God. It could be that we are lacking in spiritual disciplines. It could be the evil one and his minions falsely accusing us to our own selves. Therefore, to “cast away such things” might prove to be quite difficult.

However, a failure to do so will lead the believer to discouragement and despair. When we lack assurance, we lack hope, we lack joy, and we lack peace. We might fail to persevere because we think there is no need to persevere – that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But the things I just mentioned – hope, joy, peace, and perseverance – are all fruits of our justification. Paul stated it this way in Romans 5:1-8:

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

A lack of assurance is directly related to a lack of trust in God and/or searching for assurance in places other than the gospel. It is a failure to understand our justification (i.e., “no condemnation”) in Christ. I would remind you of two things Lloyd-Jones said: 1) Satan cannot rob you of your assurance, but he can rob you of the joy of your assurance; and 2) Preach the gospel to yourself daily. Both of these things will bring proper focus and perspective on the promises of God for His children and courage and strength to face our fear. In truth,It will also guard against morbid introspection as the gospel rightly places our examination of self in the finished work of Christ (see here). I don’t think it a stretch to say if we lack assurance, we are not fearing God properly.A right fear of God brings joy – a joy that is the spring of hope for eternity.

So then – take great joy in fearing God and trusting in Him. Consider those things that cause you to doubt and cast them on the Cross!