Thursday, February 26, 2009

At least your name isn't Michael Bolton.

Quotes from 3 of today's birthday boys ...

"It's good to know who hates you and to be hated by the right people."
- Johnny Cash (1932)

"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake."
- Victor Hugo (1802)

"I have to be happy in the here and now because every time you start focusing on your legacy you're really setting yourself up for disappointment."
- Michael Bolton (1953)


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You're the worst kind. You're high maintenance, but you think you're low maintenance.

The following is a quote I shared in Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:4. I think it speaks for itself.

“If you think you’re not bad, then you’re worse than everybody else.”
- John F. MacArthur, Jr.

Click to listen to "Mourning Comes before Strength."
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
-Matthew 5:4 (ESV)

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Friday, February 20, 2009

First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less.

I don't like to be seen as the guy who's always knocking stuff, especially well intentioned things, but I'm frustrated by the "I Am Second" phenomenon that appears to be growing in popularity.

While I appreciate greatly the sentiment of putting the Almighty before one's self, I think the Christian obligation is even deeper than that.

That's why I share my Facebook status for this week:
"Gunny is not second, but rather third: God first, others second, Gunny third."

When I figured out the gist of the "I Am Second" movement, I was immediately reminded of Philippians 2:3.
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (ESV)

In other words ... I AM THIRD.

After I preached on that section of Philippians at Providence Church, the following acrostic was suggested to me, which I share for your edification ... and joy.



Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is you turn them into poor people.

I started a new sermon series at Providence Church on the Sermon on the Mount this past Sunday, beginning with Matthew 5:3.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (ESV)
Click to listen to "Becoming Poor to Get Rich."

In the sermon I shared 7 ways you can know you're poor in spirit from a 1978 John MacArthur sermon, "Happy Are the Humble." After researching those 7 in print, I realized that Johnny Mac got them from Thomas Watson's The Beatitudes.

Some Thomas Watson for your reading pleasure ...

If poverty of spirit be so necessary, how shall I know that I am poor in spirit? By the blessed effects of this poverty, which are:

1 He that is poor in spirit is weaned from himself. 'My soul is even as a weaned child' (Psalm 131: 2). It is hard for a man to be weaned from himself. The vine catches hold of everything that is near, to stay itself upon. There is some bough or other a man would be catching hold of to rest upon. How hard is it to be brought quite off himself! The poor in spirit are divorced from themselves; they see they must go to hell without Christ. 'My soul is even as a weaned child’.

2 He that is poor in spirit is a Christ-admirer. He has high thoughts of Christ. He sees himself naked and flies to Christ that in his garments he may obtain the blessing. He sees himself wounded, and as the wounded deer runs to the water, so he thirsts for Christ’s blood, the water of life. Lord, says he, give me Christ or I die. Conscience is turned into a fiery serpent and has stung him; now all the world for a brazen serpent! He sees himself in a state of death; and how precious is one leaf of the tree of life, which is both for food and medicine! The poor in spirit sees all his riches lie in Christ, 'wisdom, righteousness, sanctification . . ‘. In every exigency he flies to this magazine and storehouse. He adores the all-fullness in Christ.

They say of the oil in Rheims, though they are continually almost spending it, yet it never wastes. And such is Christ’s blood; it can never be emptied. He that is poor in spirit has recourse still to this fountain. He sets an high value and appreciation upon Christ. He hides himself in Christ's wounds. He bathes himself in his blood. He wraps himself in his robe. He sees a spiritual dearth and famine at home, but he makes out to Christ. 'Show me the Lord (says he) and it sufficeth’.

3 He that is poor in spirit is ever complaining of his spiritual estate. He is much like a poor man who is ever telling you of his wants; he has nothing to help himself with; he is ready to starve. So it is with him that is poor in spirit. He is ever complaining of his wants, saying, I want a broken heart, a thankful heart. He makes himself the most indigent creature. Though he dares not deny the work of grace (which were a bearing false witness again the Spirit), yet he mourns he has no more grace. This is the difference between an hypocrite and a child of God. The hypocrite is ever telling what he has. A child of God complains of what he lacks. The one is glad he is so good, the other grieves he is so bad. The poor in spirit goes from ordinance to ordinance for a supply of his wants; he would fain have his stock increased. Try by this if you are poor in spirit. While others complain they want children, or they want estates, do you complain you want grace? This is a good sign. 'There is that maketh himself poor yet hath great riches' (Proverbs 13:7). Some beggars have died rich. The poor in spirit, who have lain all their lives at the gate of mercy and have lived upon the alms of free grace, have died rich in faith, heirs to a kingdom.

4 He that is poor in spirit is lowly in heart. Rich men are commonly proud and scornful, but the poor are submissive. The poor in spirit roll themselves in the dust in the sense of their unworthiness. 'I abhor myself in dust’ (Job 42: 6). He who is poor in spirit looks at another’s excellencies and his own infirmities. He denies not only his sins but his duties. The more grace he has, the more humble he is, because he now sees himself a greater debtor to God. If he can do any duty, he acknowledges it is Christ's strength more than his own (Philippians 4: 13). As the ship gets to the haven more by the benefit of the wind than the sail, so when a Christian makes any swift progress, it is more by the wind of God's Spirit than the sail of his own endeavour. The poor in spirit, when he acts most like a saint, confesses himself 'the chief of sinners’. He blushes more at the defect of his graces than others do at the excess of their sins. He dares not say he has prayed or wept. He lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him (Galatians 2: 20). He labours, yet not he, but the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15: 10).

5 He who is poor in spirit is much in prayer. He sees how short he is of the standard of holiness, therefore begs for more grace; Lord, more faith, more conformity to Christ. A poor man is ever begging. You may know by this one that is poor in spirit. He is ever begging for a spiritual alms. He knocks at heaven-gate; he sends up sighs; he pours out tears; he will not away from the gate till he have his dole. God loves a modest boldness in prayer; such shall not be non-suited.

6 The poor in spirit is content to take Christ upon his own terms. The proud sinner will article and indent with Christ. He will have Christ and his pleasure, Christ and his covetousness. But he that is poor in spirit sees himself lost without Christ, and he is willing to have him upon his own terms, a Prince as well as a Saviour: 'Jesus my Lord' (Philippians 3: 8). A castle that has long been besieged and is ready to be taken will deliver up on any terms to save their lives. He whose heart has been a garrison for the devil, and has held out long in opposition against Christ, when once God has brought him to poverty of spirit, and he sees himself damned without Christ, let God propound what articles he will, he will readily subscribe to them. 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do’ (Acts 9: 6). He that is poor in spirit will do anything that he may have Christ. He will behead his beloved sin. He will, with Peter, cast himself upon the water to come to Christ.

7 He that is poor in spirit is an exalter of free grace. None so magnify mercy as the poor in spirit. The poor are very thankful. When Paul had tasted mercy, how thankfully does he adore free grace! 'The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant' (1 Timothy 1: 14). It was super-exuberant. He sets the crown of his salvation upon the head of free grace. As a man that is condemned and has a pardon sent him, how greatly he proclaims the goodness and clemency of his prince! So St Paul displays free grace in its orient colours. He interlines all his epistles with free grace. As a vessel that has been perfumed makes the wine taste of it, so St Paul, who was a vessel perfumed with mercy, makes all his epistles to taste of this perfume of free grace. They who are poor in spirit, bless God for the least crumb that falls from the table of free grace. Labour for poverty of spirit. Christ begins with this, and we must begin here if ever we be saved. Poverty of spirit is the foundation stone on which God lays the superstructure of glory.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

I came across this quote and I think it's right on the money.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
- H.L. Mencken

Often I think the government, like some music ministers, feel the perpetual need to legitimize their existence.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

if you wouldn't mind marrying me too much.

Just a little romantic nostalgia for your Valentine's Day pleasure.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Benji, Casey, and Gunny Go to White Castle.

Like 2006, 2007, and 2008 I was in Minneapolis for the 2009 Desiring God pastors conference,* which, of course, includes the obligatory trip to White Castle. This year my bus mates were Benji Magness and Casey Jones.

Michael Oh's address, "Missions As Fasting" (manuscript pdf) was convicting on many levels. It was a good reminder of what missionaries give up to follow Christ:
"Missionary fasting requires forsaking comfort, recognition and family."
He noted 2 recent trends which pose a problem to going & sending:
1. The idea that we're all missionaries.
"The term 'missions' historically meant crossing geographical or cultural boundaries to make Christ known. Making Christ known in your native context is called evangelism, which is distinct from missions."

2. The abduction of mission language by non-missional groups.
"... this can lull us into thinking that we don't need to go in order to make Christ known, but can fulfill our obligation from where we are."

This year's keynote speaker was Mark Dever and he spoke to issues regarding evangelism in the church, particularly the pastor's role.

I most appreciated his 5 Things We Can Mistake for Evangelism:
  1. Imposition (of our beliefs on others through manipulation or coercion)
  2. Personal Testimony (of personal experience)
  3. Social Action/Public Involvement
  4. Apologetics (defending the faith) - "Apologetics is responding to the agenda somebody else sets; evangelism is executing God's agenda."
  5. The Results of Evangelism
I've said and/or thought all of these before, but not nearly as systematically or eloquently.

In another session he addressed the focus of the worship service and the need to equip folks for evangelism:
"We don't want seeker-sensitive services, but for our members to have seeker-sensitive lives."

Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Highland Village (Dallas area) spoke to the topic of "The Shepherd and His Unregenerate Sheep."

He walked us through Paul's admonitions in 1 Timothy 4 reminding us that it is far too common to have church members and participants who know about Jesus, but don't actually know Him.

At one point he spoke of how a church can take on some of the character flaws of its leadership.
"I constantly pray that God would protect the people of The Village from me. "

It's been my experience that pastors often think they reach the pinnacle of sanctification upon seminary graduation, but we continue to grow through our service in the church. Chandler said,
"No one unpacked for me that being a pastor was going to be a part of my own sanctification. It’s going to be the process of God disciplining me for the rest of my life."

Dr. John "the Pipe" Piper does a yearly biographical sketch. This year, he shared with us the phenomenon known as George Whitefield: "I Will Not Be a Velvet-Mouthed Preacher." (manuscript)

He paid tribute to a man unparalled in his preaching endurance, physical delivery, and passion, but also a man of complexity (e.g., being a slave owner, but simultaneously undermining the practice of slavery by evangelizing the slave population and treating converts as brethren).

*Check out the conference page to listen or download audio (mp3), video, and/or notes & manuscripts of the sessions, including the Q&A.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

I do ... but I don't know why.

My son was recently the student of the week where you bring a poster about yourself with pictures, etc. He also shared about his favorite things and what he wanted to be when he grows up.

I noticed it said he wanted to be a pastor when he grows up. We then had the following conversation:

Gunny: "Do you want to be a pastor when you grow up?"

Jet: "Yes, sir."

Gunny: "Do you think it would be fun to stand up and tell people about Jesus and about the Bible?"

Jet: "No sir, I don't think that would be fun."

Gunny: [now puzzled] "Well, what is it about being a pastor that you think you would like?"

Jet: "Hmm. I don't know."

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess he wants to be a pastor merely because his dad is one. I thought to myself, "It's a good thing I'm not a hatchet murderer."

Well, it was just another reminder of how important our example can be to our children, good or bad.

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