Saturday, February 28, 2009

Stephen's new pet...

Comforting words: "You are a sinner."

"Luther taught that every time you insist that I am a sinner, just so often do you call me to remember the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, upon whose shoulders, and not upon mine, lie all my sins. So, when you say that I am a sinner, you do not terrify, but comfort me immeasurably."

Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader (Grand Rapids: Eeerdmans, 2002),

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We Believe in the Forgiveness of Sins

"Believe in" might be too soft for this phrase in the creed. Maybe "are desperate for", or "are absolutely counting on", or something like that! No, there is nothing a guilty sinner (like me) longs to hear more than, "Your sins are forgiven". So, as it pertains to us humans, this is the most crucial phrase in the creed.

But do you notice where it is placed in the creed? The forgiveness of sins comes right after "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy catholic church, the communion of the saints". Why isn't it up a few lines with the person and work of Christ? I can think of a couple of reasons.

1. The Holy Spirit (through the church) offers the forgiveness of sins. Thus the application of redemption is placed under the work of the Holy Spirit.

2. The forgiveness of sins must be played out in the church.

You see, forgiveness must be the currency of the local church. We must walk in forgiveness, give forgiveness, rejoice in forgiveness, and display forgiveness. The church must be known as a place of mercy and the storehouse of grace.

We say we believe in the forgiveness of sins. Let us show by our love that we also believe in the forgiveness of sinners!

So, who do you need to forgive?

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Thursday, February 19, 2009

So we can repent of the right thing...

Knowing the Nature of Your Evil
February 19, 2009 | By: John Piper

It is important that we know the nature of the evil in our hearts.

Do you think the essence of your evil is disobeying commandments? That?s a good start. But it?s not the essence of our evil. Commands simply name the evil and its fruits, and tell us not to do them.

The essence of our evil is that we prefer anything to God (Romans 1:23; 2:23). Commands do not create the possibility of evil. Commands name it.

Long before we are told not to covet, we covet. Disobeying the command, ?Thou shalt not covet,? is not equivalent to the evil of coveting. The evil of coveting is there first, and then is compounded by the transgression of the commandment not to covet.

Paul said, ?I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ?You shall not covet?? (Romans 7:7). That is, I wouldn?t have known the seriousness of my evil if God had not named it in the law.

But lawbreaking is not the essence of my evil. Desiring anything above God is the essence of my evil, before any commands name it.

One reason this is important to know is that it will affect the way you pursue change. If you think the essence of your evil is commandment-breaking, your focus for change will be commandment-keeping.

That is doomed to fail for two reasons. If we get good at it, we think we have changed, but the essence of our evil remains. If we can?t get good at it, we despair and quit trying.

But if we know that the essence of our evil is not commandment-breaking, but preferring anything to God, then our focus for change will be a change of heart. That is hopeful, because God promised, ?I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh? (Ezekiel 11:19).

This is the new covenant that Jesus purchased with his blood (Luke 22:20). We receive it by faith.


Just a random blog post to see if my iGoogle gadget is working...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Igniting Revival

Our Missions Conference is coming up this March 13th – 15th. We are excited to have Dr. Joe and Kay Kong with us. In preparation for this weekend, I am sharing with you an article by Dr. Kong called "Igniting Revival". Please take some time to read what Dr. Kong has to say to you and to our church!


Evidence of God's Presence in His Church

By Joe Kong

I believe there has been a heart-cry in Alliance churches for revival. Through Dr. A. B. Simpson, God raised up The Christian and Missionary Alliance nearly 120 years ago to bring the gospel to all nations to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our C&MA leaders know that we will not be able to accomplish this enormous task without the extraordinary manifestation of God's presence in our lives and churches. Our deep longing is to be renewed in our fervent love for our Savior and our utter dependence upon Him for ministry.

As director for U.S. Intercultural Ministries, I also want revival in my own heart. My yearning for God is like David crying out, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Ps. 63:1). I thirst for God daily so that "streams of living water will flow from within" me (John 7:38)…

(For the rest of the article - click here!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Experiencing God

The Creed affirms that "We believe in the Holy Spirit" and, of course, all Christians do. But often the Holy Spirit is a "dull, oblong blur" that is relegated to a doctrinal category, not a living reality. And yet New Testament Christians had a rich and full experience of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Consider what we should expect the Holy Spirit to bring to the life of a follower of Jesus:

  • The Holy Spirit gives birth to faith. Jesus told this to Nicodemus:

Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)

Because we are naturally dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2), we need a miracle of the Holy Spirit to make us alive to Christ. This is what he does when he births faith in our lives. Faith is the first cry of a new believer in Jesus!

  • The Holy Spirit pours out love. Paul tells us this in Romans:

"… God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)

We experience the feelings and assurance of God's love through the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • The Holy Spirit overflows in hope. Our prayer last Sunday was for abounding hope though the Holy Spirit:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15:13)

Faith, hope, and love are New Testament essentials. They are also experienced realities. I want more faith, hope and love in my life – and I am betting you do to! How can we have a greater experience of God? Pray! Pray with passion! Pray with earnestness! Pray with desperation. As Paul shows us – pray for the god of hope to fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Friday, February 6, 2009

Great Quote...

Power Only in the Cross

“One moment’s believing, close contact with the cross will do more to break the heart for sin, deepen the conviction of its exceeding sinfulness, and disenthrall the soul from all its bondage and its fears, bringing it into a sense of pardon and acceptance and assured hope, than a lifetime of the most rigid legal duties that ever riveted their iron chain upon the soul.”

—Octavius Winslow, The Foot of the Cross

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

“He will come again to judge the living and the dead”

The thought of a God who will judge us is hard for our 21st sensibilities to swallow. We confuse judgment with judgmentalism and end up rejecting the idea of justice because it sounds mean-spirited and vindictive. Yet when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, he will only be giving people more of what they have desired in life. Paul shows us the two edges of judgment in 2nd Thessalonians:

"They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed". 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Note the two edges:

1. "Eternal Destruction" is defined as being "away from the Lord and the glory of his might". For those who have avoided Jesus, ignored Jesus, created substitutes for Jesus, run away from Jesus, or have been generally apathetic about Jesus will get the just reward of being still further away from Jesus and the glory of his might! As C.S. Lewis once said: "There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way"

2. The reward of the Christian is defined as more of Jesus – what we have desired all our lives! When Jesus returns he will be glorified in his saints and marveled at among all who have believed. The core desire of followers of Christ is that Jesus would get more and more glory. The core passion of followers of Christ is that they would see and savor more of Jesus. And that is just what they will get! We will be in jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, soul-satisfying, wonder and awe as we marvel at the glory of our Lord!

Bottom line: We were created with a capacity for wonder and awe that only Jesus can satisfy. In our sinfulness we look everywhere but to Jesus for our satisfaction. In salvation the Holy Spirit re-awakens a desire for Jesus within us. So – what do you want more of? What does your heart truly desire? Be careful – when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, you will get it!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom