Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Appreciated This Quote

Contrary to what many Christian’s have concluded, the gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day and in every way. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Consider it All Joy - I -- James 1:1

Here is a sermon from back in June. I wanted to try out Vimeo for posting sermons, and this is the first I am posting. Due to the 500Gb upload limit per month for the free service, I may never catch up to where we are currently, but I will try. :)

Consider it All Joy - I from James Vellenga on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Next Dan Brown Novel (Courtesy of

A long-forgotten labyrinth deep beneath the streets of Ottawa.
A shadowy cult determined to protect it.
A frantic race to uncover the Kiwanis Club's darkest secret.

The First Glyph

When celebrated Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Parliament Buildings to analyze a mysterious geometric form—drawn on a calling card next to the mangled body of the head docent—he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Quintinati, a secret branch of the Kiwanis Club that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, the Vatican.

Langdon's worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Quintinati appears at the Rideau Canal to deliver a grim ultimatum: Deposit $1 billion in the Kiwanis Club's off-shore bank accounts or the exclusive clothier of the Swiss Guards will be bankrupted. With the deadline fast approaching, Langdon joins forces with the dexterous and enigmatic daughter of the murdered docent in a desperate bid to crack the code that will reveal the cult's secret plan.

Embarking on a frantic hunt, Langdon and his companion follow a 1100-year-old trail through Ottawa's most sacred statues and venerable buildings, pursued by a hypoglycemic assassin the cult has sent to thwart them. What they discover threatens to expose a conspiracy that goes all the way back to Joseph Prance and the very founding of the Kiwanis Club.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

For Some Reason This Made me Chuckle

Or click this link.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Tag you're it!!! Let others know a little more about yourself by re-posting and tagging your friends. Re post note as your name "ology"

1) What is your salad dressing of choice? Thousand Islands

2) What is your favorite sit-down restaurant? Mandarin

3) What food could you eat for 2 weeks straight and not get sick of? Cocoa Peanut Butter Smoothy

4) What are your pizza toppings of choice? pepperoni, extra cheese

5) What do you like to put on your toast? peanut butter, honey, cinnamon sugar

6) How many televisions are in your house? 2

7) What color cell phone do you have? black

8) Are you right-handed or left-handed? left

9) Have you ever had anything removed from your body? tonsils, kidney stone, slivers

10) What is the last heavy item you lifted? Easy up shelter

11) Have you ever been knocked unconscious? Not that I know of, but I could have been unconscious and not know because I was unconscious at the time.

12) If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? Nope, God knows and that is good enough for me.

13) If you could change your name, what would you change it to? No idea.

14) Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000? No, I like hot sauce and want to keep it that way. Add another zero to the end of that number and I might consider it.

15) How many pairs of flip flops do you own? NONE!!!!

17) Last person you talked to? Justin

18) Last person you hugged? Annette

19) Favorite Season? It is a toss-up between Spring and Fall

20) Favorite Holiday? Thanksgiving

21) Favorite day of the week? I was going to say Sunday afternoon, but it is a tie with Monday.

22) Favorite Month? May

23) First place you went this morning? Classis meeting in Springford

24) What's the last movie you saw? Cars

25) Do you smile often? No.

26) Do you always answer your phone? No

27) It's four in the morning and you get a text message? I would not know since I turn off the ringer of my cell at night

28) If you could change your eye color what would it be? Green . . . no brown . . . no green . . . hold it I have both with Hazel eyes. No change needed.

30) Have you ever had a pet fish? yes still do.

31) Favorite Christmas song? Joy to the World

32) What's on your wish list for your birthday? A real MIG welder.

33) Can you do push ups? A few.

34) Can you do a chin up? Nope. Can't now, never could.

35) Does the future make you more nervous or excited? Neither or both.

36) Do you have any saved texts? Yes, but I can't read them because the screen on my cell is cracked.

37) Ever been in a car wreck? Sort of.

38) Do you have an accent? Canadian!!!

39) What is the last song to make you cry? So long ago I can't remember.

40) Plans tonight? Final prep on sermons for tomorrow.

41) Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom? Yup.

42) Name 3 things you bought yesterday. Adjustable trailer ball mount, 30Amp auto reset breaker, 20 amp auto reset breaker.

43) Have you ever been given roses? Yup.

44) Current hate right now? Our Mazda Protege.

45) Met someone who changed your life? Yes.

46) How did you bring in the New Year? Sleeping.

47) What song represents you? No idea

48) Name three people who might complete this? Annette, and likely no one else who has not already done it.

49) What were you doing 12 AM last night? Reading a book.

50) What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up? Time to go to a meeting . . . I don't wanna go.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seeing Things Differently -- James 1:9-11

How do you see poverty and riches? Check out what we find about it in James.

Seeing Things Differently -- James 1:9-11

Friday, June 19, 2009

Office Cleaning

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Closing Thoughts, but Not Yet

I was going to post my closing thought on General Synod, but when I woke up this morning I was exhausted. I tried getting up, but ended up back in bed. Tried again and got some reading and commenting on other blogs done, but now I want to sleep again. I guess this is the big crash I expected based on how busy and draining Synod was. I have a meeting tonight, so I think I will take another nap and see what I can get done.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Thoughts on GS Today

[A brief prefatory note. I was up until 3:40AM and awake an out of bed by 7:15AM so if there are typos, grammatical errors, or sentences that make no sense, it is the fatigue speaking as it is after 11PM of a very busy day.]

Today was an historic day in the RCA, at least it was the first step. What may you ask was this historic event? It was the passing of the recommendation to add the Belhar Confession as the RCA's fourth standard of unity.

I think my study of the Belhar started more or less several years back. I read through an early copy and found it difficult to understand, and the parts I did understand were troublesome. When I arrived, I was quite sure that while I supported what the Belhar called for as concepts, that at the same time I could not support it as a standard of the RCA. What I appreciated though, was what seemed like a much better translation of the Belhar that was distributed to delegates. I read through it several times, and although I still had difficulties with it, I was much happier about it should the vote be positive to add it. Yet, I was still concerned for possible misuses in particular in the area of using it to support advocacy for homosexual ordination and marriage, in areas of weakness, in particular in terms of the foundation and root and fountain of our reconciliation being reconciliation with God through Christ's death on our behalf for our sins, and the resulting ministry of reconciliation being primarily, albeit not exclusively, one of calling others to be reconciled to God. From that the reconciliation, unity, and justice exhibited by the people of Christ grows and finds its power. (That may be a run on sentence, but I am tired.)

I went through the advisory discussions, and the rest of a Synod that left the impression that those who had concerns were being pushed very hard to vote in favor, although I realize this was likely not intentional but more of a reflection of the passion and joy those who had worked to get to this day viewed things; and I was still not in support of it. By Saturday, I was exhausted, frustrated, and while not as adamant in not voting for it, still unable to do so.

Sunday, however, was a blessing, worship with the people of Fair Haven Ministries was like healing rain for me, filling me with praise to God and feeding me with the fine preaching of the Word of God. Yet, the Belhar was still there. Sunday night it seemed the push went into overdrive with several people speaking from ecumenical partners speaking of the importance of passing the Belhar. I started to feel pressed, guilted, and manipulated again. Yet, instead of thinking the worst, or assuming the worst of intentions from those who planned things, I decided instead to work as long as it took into the night in study of the Belhar and Scripture and in prayer in hopes I could speak in solid support or denial of the recommendation to adopt the Belhar.

I labored into the night. I spent time talking with a brother and sister in Christ about my struggles. I prayed. I read. I thought. I prayed some more. This kept going until the early morning, and even after I had realized I had moved closer to having my concerns satisfied and went to bed still unable to support the recommendation, in bed I prayed some more until the last time I checked my clock at 3:40AM.

Then, Monday, having come to appreciate and value the Belhar, but still being held back by my concern on its lack of expansion on the foundational reconciliation being between God and people through faith in Jesus, and that our message of reconciliation is primarily that we are to be reconciled to God, I was unable to vote for the Belhar the way it stood. The recommendation came, and the discussion started. I stood to speak, frustrated by an earlier speaker. I told of the strengthened joy I had in the truth that we are all from one family in Adam, and the terrible further truth that due to his sin we are also all in the same pit, under the power of sin without the redeeming, reconciling work of Christ received through faith, and my concern on the weakness of the Belhar's development of that foundational reconciliation with God through faith in Christ, and our ministry being one primarily of calling others to be reconciled with God. Then I said I could not vote for this because of that.

As the discussion progressed I heard person after person, brothers and sisters in Christ, people who are part of the far greater unity we have beyond Adam, that unity in Christ through faith; speak of how then needed the Belhar. They spoke of how it would be for the benefit of the congregations they served, the communities they ministered in, the teaching of their children, and more. Then verses I had studied the night before while studying the Belhar came to mind, Philippians 2:3b-4, "in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." My brothers and sisters needed this. Yes, that could mean struggles I would have to face due to misuse of the Belhar. Yes, that meant me not being completely satisfied with the short mention of the foundational reconciliation and ministry of reconciliation that is found in the Belhar. But, I realized I was, at least in part, looking out to my interests before theirs. I stood up to speak of how the discussion from the floor and the scripture moved me to now be willing to support the recommendation, only to have the delegate before me call the question. I would have liked to see the discussion continue, for it had benefited me greatly, giving me clarity so I could vote in favor of the Belhar as our fourth standard, and rejoice with those around me in this historic move to battle divisions between fellow believers based on colour, ethnicity, and culture which have so marred the church.

To my brothers and sisters, family in Adam, all sinners in need of a Saviour in Adam, children of God through faith in Christ, and brothers and sisters much deeper than blood in him as well . . . I rejoice with you this day, and pray that your hopes for the Belhar to help bring healing and reconciliation might not only come to pass, but that God, "who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" may do this far more than you hope and pray even now. To him be the glory forever.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Closing Sermon by Ian Hamilton

Closing Sermon – Ian Hamilton

2 Corinthians 4
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, 1 we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants 1 for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, I believed, and so I spoke, we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

It is in 2 Corinthians that Paul reveals quite deeply his heart and soul. He is battling against false apostles, against questions of his authority, and you can sense the intensity and humanity of the language of Paul from the beginning of the letter. The is a note of sanctified frustration. He feels deeply and keenly the slanders that have been raised against him and his ministry. As you read from chapter 2:11 on you can see him seeking to vindicate his ministry, but at the same time he is also seeking to encourage his own heart in in God.
In chapter 1 and 2 we hear of his struggles, his burdens, his experiences of opposition of the wiles of Satan. He knew struggles. Struggles much like we face. Struggles of inadequacy, of opposition, and more.
Twice in chapter 4 he wrote, “We do not lose heart.” Paul had many reasons to lose heart. Much opposition, the weightiness of his calling, and the opposition inside and outside the church.
Then Paul describes himself and other gospel ministers as “jars of clay.” What a description. What a way to speak of those called to gospel ministry. But, that is the reality out of which we live our live in Jesus Christ. We are jars of clay who belong to the God man who is glorified clay.
So why doesn't Paul lose heart? First of all because of the greatness of the ministry God has entrusted to us (v1). It is amazing how easily we can lose the sense of the greatness of the ministry we have received from Jesus Christ. How can it be? This is an amazing ministry. Paul tells us in various ways what this ministry is.
It is the ministry of a new covenant. That covenant that the prophets spoke of. That new covenant of the Spirit not of the letter. We are men at the end of the ages who have been called out and brought into this astonishing privilege that prophets look into with astonishment and amazement. This is what we have been called to do.
Further, it is a ministry of righteousness. If the glory of the ministry of condemnation had glory, how much more the glory of the ministry of righteousness. We stand before people every week to speak to them of a message revealed from heaven, incarnated in Jesus the Son, and in him God has provided righteousness in this righteous one. We know that, but we need it impressed on us day by day by day.
This ministry is a ministry of the light of the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It is a ministry to declare the glory of Christ who is the image of God. The one who is glorious above all. In our frail jars of clay we are called and ordained to make him know.
In this Paul is in one sense encouraging and reassuring himself about the sheer privilege of what God has entrusted to him. This treasure of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Brothers this is the ministry the Lord Jesus Christ has call you to, has called me to. We need to understand it is a ministry that is our by virtue of our being ministers of the great minister Jesus Christ. Our minister is not only a reflection, but more so an overflow of his ministry. The great pattern that marked his ministry was death and resurrection. There is an inevitable cross like pattern to all Christian ministry. Paul is reminding himself that all he has faced is because he has been united to Jesus Christ the minister of the new covenant. That ministry has been stamped on him and all ministers of the new covenant. Death works in us, but life in you.
That is the principal pattern of New Covenant ministry. Peter tells us not to think it is strange when trial come upon us.
Martin Luther stated, “Those who are in the teaching office should teach with the greatest faithfulness and expect not remuneration but … expect death, violence, and danger.” How many young men would be pressing to be in the ministry after words like that.
[Stepped out]
We don't deserve better. We are hell deserving sinners, but we HAVE receive mercy. We have received mercy, and God is pleased to use us. What an amazing thing. In that mercy he gave us this treasure of making him known. In our weakness. We are sad clay that God has come to in mercy.
This is to show the surpassing power belongs to God not to us. This is not new, think of Gideon. Death works in us, and life in you. Some face inexplicable trials, and all we can say is with Jobe, “It is the Lord.” But even this is in his mercy to make known the knowledge of his glory in the face of his son.
Every time we stand before the congregations we serve we are doing the most significant thing in the cosmos. And, of all people we are debtors who have received unfathomable mercy. The sovereignty of God is not first disclosed as a doctrine to confess, although it is, but for God to disclose his grace. His is sovereignty that is bathed in the glorified compassion of the man of dust.
We have been privileged beyond language. Maybe you feel the utter utter weakness of your person in ministry. Brothers our weakness is held in the strong keeping of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In him we are weak, but we are strong. God is pleased to take puny men and have his voice resound in them and through. We do not lose heart. We have received mercy. And even when it seems we will we have one who is at the right hand of the Father who intercedes for us and comes to us in the power of the Spirit in our wretchedness.
May God help us to be faithful ministers of Jesus Christ.

NOTE: I had to step out during this sermon, so my notes are missing parts of it.

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Modern Challenges to Calvinism by Walter Chantry

Modern Challenges to Calvinism – Walt Chantry

2 Timothy 3:1-17
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom 1 you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God 1 may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Conferences like this a good because we meet so many godly men. One of the thoughts that come to all godly ministers is this trouble in their heart – Am I laying a foundation that will last? Will the gospel be proceeding from this church in this community when our children and grand children have grown?
Many have been greatly effected by the resurgence of the doctrines of grace. In some institutions where these teachings were once found, had turned aside from the truth in the late 18 and early 19 hundreds. Could it be that the same thing could happen in the next 30 years? Could that pattern be repeated? Could those teachings of Calvinism disappear?
There is a danger. We find the truth of that all the way back in Revelation in the seven churches that stood on the brink. There was the treat of their lamp stand being removed. If this happened with the very churches the apostles founded, what about now? That is but one instance. Think of Judges, of Amos, and the other prophets.
In 2 Timothy 3 Paul tells Timothy what he must know about the church, and he points to the time of the last days, that time from the ascension to the second coming. He points out that Timothy should realize this about the last days. It will be perilous times, difficult times, grievous times for the Christian churches. Yes, Jesus will build his church through this same time. The gospel will be preached through all the world to all the nations before the end comes. Yet, with this we have troubles as well. He warns of those things we must steer through in those perilous times.
First, because of human depravity both outside the church, and remaining in those in the church. He does it in a vivid manner. “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” Lovers of self, like Narcissus, the daffodil, a poisonous plant. Lovers of self, focused on self. Is that not the way of many today. Lovers of money, seen in those who promise money will come to those who follow their way. Hedonists who love pleasure more than god. People who want entertainment and the church moves that way to entertain. In doing so making them part of the church when they are still all these things which are not to be there. This is indeed the direction America is moving.
But there is a second danger here as well. Paul describes false religionists. They are people who have a form of godliness but deny its power. They have the rigors and rituals of religion, but not the reality. They should be avoided. They are the type who capture the weak and take them captive by deception. They deceive others and at the same time are deceived themselves.
With all this Timothy gives several correctives. He tells Timothy that he himself must be different from what he finds around him. He should continue in what he has learned and been assured of. Don't go in the direction they have. Do not tolerate it. This is a call to be confrontational with false religionists. 1 Tim 1:3ff, calls for Timothy to tell them not to teach other doctrines, to avoid idle talk in ignorance. 1 Timothy 4, we find another mention of the latter times. That then people will turn from sound doctrine to the doctrine of demons and Timothy should command and teach and be an example to the congregation through reading, exhortation and doctrine. Then again in chapter 6, when people turn from wholesome words of scripture of Christ, Timothy should withdraw himself from them. This continues in 2 Timothy.
With this Paul reminds Timothy of the reality of suffering for living godly lives in Christ Jesus. That is the reality. Persecution is part of living in Christ. This is just as true in North America. The church needs the preaching that reminds them constantly there will be suffering as part of following Christ. Willingness to suffer for Christ, in Christ, was a mark of the reformers and other. It is the reality of the church that is loyal to Christ.
Notice how Paul points to the time he and Timothy labored together and the example Timothy saw in Paul and his sufferings. It is important that such examples are seen by young pastors as they work with older pastors. Timothy saw that example, and Paul could point to it.
Finally, there must be a biblical system of doctrine that is handed down and preserved int eh chruch. Paul leads into that in verses 16-17. All Scripture is God breathed. Scripture has all you need for the ministry, but you must understand it. This is where confessions and catechisms are helpful. They bring the teachings of scripture into a form that can assist.
Are we prepared to be part of the solution of the problem of churches rising in one generation to the truth and falling in the next. Where are the ways departure is being seen today? Certainly in the area of revelation and scriptural sufficiency. Charismatics saying they are reformed, with few saying the are not. Some call themselves reformed and simply ignore parts of reformed understanding of the scriptures. Even doctrine of covenants who twist it into some sort of dispensational understanding even though they don't call it that. Abandonment of worship and church office. And the list goes on.
We do need to deal with this, or where is the “Thus saith the Lord” for our generation.

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Reflections on the Conference Thus Far

Once again the Banner conference has been a great challenge and a great blessing to me. This conference I have struggled with discomfort and fatigue.

I pulled a muscle in my back the Monday previous to the week of the conference as I put as new window lift motor in my van. It seemed to heal fairly well, but I kept re-injuring it so when we left for the Banner it was fairly uncomfortable. That discomfort has been increased by both the hotel bed, and the beds here at Messiah College neither of which provide the kind of support needed. That has led to less than sufficient sleep and the accompanying fatigue.

Thankfully, but for the presentation by Jonathan Watson on Wednesday afternoon, God kept me alert enough to not only take notes, but to hear the speakers clearly. Today, however, has been a struggle to keep up with my notes, and if tomorrow is any indication I will not be able to get too much note taking done for the closing sermon.

In spite of all of this, I have still found the conference to be excellent, humbling, discouraging, and encouraging. It has shown me once again how far from the pattern of what a pastor should be I am, yet has given the encouragement that in union with Christ I can be transformed to be more like the great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ.

The fellowship has been good, and I have met several other people including a contingent of men from the PCUSA. Yes, you read that correctly, the PCUSA. I know as an RCA pastor my presence could be seen as surprising by some as well, but even I am not the only RCA pastor at the conference. It heartens me to see these men present here. It heartens me to know that even in these mainline denominations, God has called men to faithfully minister, and is working to form Christ in them. My hope is to see many more at future conferences of these men who have held the line, that they may be strengthened and built up to the building of the Church and glory of Christ.

Now to the next session.

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Union owth Christ: Gospel Implications by Sinclair Ferguson (Session #7)

Union with Christ: Gospel Implications – Sinclair Ferguson

Colossians 3:1-17

The theme is found throughout the letter and 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” is sort of the start of this section. The life lived in Christ is one filled with a spirited atmosphere of thanksgiving. That sort of joyful thanksgiving should mark us and our ministry.
Probably the best known verse from Paul on union with Christ is 2 cor 5:17. If any in Christ, new creation, old gone, new come. This speaks of a total change and entering into a new reality, a new order. Paul is exploring this glorious transformation, life in the new order, life in the new creation. Fro the moment the new creation has a kind of interwoveness with the old creation. Hence, Paul seeks to encourage them to live more and more in the new order while still living in Colossi. As you live out your new life in the setting of the old order there is a perpetual tension, warfare, groaning. This is true even as the believer progressively overcomes, there is still an ongoing struggle.
Paul is concerned that the progress of grace in sanctification should not be falsely short circuited by things like do not handle, do not taste, do not touch. Paul wants real progress, but that progress is learning the language of the gospel. It takes time like learning any new language.
He was speaking about what has been called the two states of Jesus Christ. His humiliation all the way to death, followed by the glorious exaltation of the Lord Jesus in his resurrection, ascension, and coming again. Paul longs that people see Christ in his majesty and glory. Since the Christ we are united to was humbled and exalted we come to share in his humiliation and exaltation while not doing so in a saving sense.
Paul in these verses speaks about a mortification and a vivification of the Christian believer in Christ. We are bound to him, who has taken his resurrected body to the right hand of the Father, person to person, embodied person to embodied person. There is an external and an internal mortification and vivification. We share in his sufferings that we may share in his glory. Internally we share in the mortification by putting to death the old flesh, and put on the new life in Christ.
We as pastors stand as living models of this. The whole of our lives are going to be fitted into this pattern. Understanding this can be a glorious release seeing the pattern in the providence God is working in our life. This can bring extraordinary fruitfulness. This is modeled in Calvin, his sufferings seeing God transformation of him into the likeness of his Son. To see those who caused his sufferings as being used by God to polish him in grace.
There is a need for understanding external mortification. In chapter 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,” He is not saying that there is something lacking in the saving work of Jesus Christ. But instead he is point to his own personal participation in Jesus Christ, in union with Christ, and these are part of his stewardship for the church. Paul teaches this in many places. In 2 Corinthians 1 how his despair even unto death was used by God.
Many sufferings are completely inexplicable in this world. The reason is they have no relation to this world. Job's suffering is a good example. His sufferings have to do with something beyond this world. We know the heavenly scene, but as far as we know, Job never knew. There is suffering in this world thats only interpretation comes outside of this world.
Yet for a Christian there is something different that allows them to embrace these sufferings. This amazing principle that in our union with Christ death works in us that life might work in you (2 Corinthians 4). When Christians are suffering and don't know why, we need to point them to accepting the stewardship of that suffering that the life of Jesus might be seen in them by others. In our union with Christ we are often weak in him.
This whole way of thinking in Paul seems to be one of the clearest evidences that the experience of Paul on the Damascus road was not just a call but a conversion. The line of thought that sees that event as only a call, not a conversion is wrong. Hints of this are found throughout Paul's letter and the accounts in Acts. In his persecution of the church starting to be recorded with the kill of Stephen and the Damascus road he saw that all of Christ's people are so united to him that to persecute them is to persecute Christ, and that death worked in Stephen that life might work in Saul.
This has nothing to do with us screwing ourselves up and saying I must suffer more. No this suffering is in the hands of God. Instead it is seeing that our union with Christ will have both an internal and an external manifestation. So that we can find comfort even in our sufferings, and even those sufferings show us that God is working in us in our sufferings bringing life.
Internal mortification and vivification can be seen in a symphony in four movements. First there is orientation, second mortification, third transformation, fourth disposition.

People often want an single answer to very difficult questions. We need to work harder at re-orienting their thinking. Our minds need to be reconfigured to think in the right patterns. It is hard work getting that way of thinking in place. That only comes are we and others are saturated by the Bible being sanctified in the truth. That is why Calvin would preach 5 times a week so the word would sink deep in and people would start to have their understanding oriented properly by the Word of God. The secret of holy living is in the mind not the emotions or other places. (Stott) Seek things above and set mind on things above. The resources for this must be fed into our mind because we do not have these resources in us. This new orientation needs to go down so deep that we understand that we have died, risen with Christ and our life is really hidden with him.

We could spend the rest of our time on this. To do so would be unbalanced. Paul works through the various spheres of human sins: private, public. These must be put off. While in Christ these things linger on and need to be dealt with. What Paul is doing is encouraging Christians to name sin for what it really is, not just say we are failing a little bit. More, he encourages them to look at it from God's perspective v6. Then, remember you are a new person. Then he says act decisively—just do it.

Never mortification with out this. The two go together. We need the power of a new affection, putting on those graces that make the atmosphere of our lives suffocating to our old nature. Be like Jesus. How? By being joined to him him you can. The problem here is your will, your sloth.

Lets the word of Christ dwell in you richly. We need to be word saturated people. Worship that destroys idolatry—teach and admonish on another as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Let thankfulness dominate your activity, and realize Christ is all and in all. It is all about Christ.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Persuasive Preaching 2 by Alstair Begg

Persuasive Preaching # 2 – Alistair Begg

Next year May 25-27, 2010. Speakers: Jerry Bridges, Craig Troxel, John Mayberry, Jeff Kingswood

Act 25:23-26:32

Preaching in itself is a daunting task, especially if we take into mind their dead hearts and blind eyes. Newton about preaching, “We are not to reason but obey.”
Last evening, confusion, fear, and complacency are enemies of preaching that seeks to persuade. As we look at this text this evening in his preaching to Agrippa and Berenice we are looking at how this sermon bears the marks of clarity, boldness and urgency.
The background of this text is Paul's accusation of being a trouble maker and his arrest. He was brought before Felix and Felix never issued a verdict looking for a bribe from Paul. Then the new governor Festus explores this and Paul eventually appeals to Caesar So Festus brings Paul before King Agrippa and Berniece who came to visit him, looking for something reasonable to send along with Paul when he is sent to Caesar Agrippa is interested in hearing Paul himself. This opened a great door for Paul to preach the gospel and for Agrippa to hear the gospel.
In consideration of the scene as it unfolds in verse 23. There was great pomp and all that means for the entrance of a king. Agrippa was one of the line of Herods. He was not from a nice group. His fore-bearers were brutal, arrogant and bloody in their rules. Paul was simply brought in. He was chained. Power seemed to lay with the assembly of the seeming great, not with this one man. Comfort to remember that God raises up and brings down princes and rulers. God reigns.
Festus starts speaking, but Agrippa tells Paul he can speak for himself.
We find that in Paul's introduction that he was a religious prodigy. He was marked out even among the notable religious people of the day. His Jewish background was notable. Given his Jewish heritage he lived with the hope of Israel. That is the significants of this section, and it gave significants to his interaction with the law and prophets. The hope that God would come and deliver his people and raise up a banner of salvation from the house of David. Every Jewish boy grew up with this hope. Paul makes clear that the basis of the charges against him is the hope of Israel, in Jesus who fulfills that hope. So he asks in verse 8, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”
In our day when people are willing to talk about anything and everything the resurrection may be passe. The issue is the resurrection of Christ. The bodily risen Christ.
In verses 9 to 11, we find Paul identifies his own personal opposition to Jesus and the message of Jesus, and his opposition of those who followed and taught Jesus. In doing this he puts himself in the place of those who do oppose the resurrection of Jesus. He opposed it.
Then he points to how he is the way he is not in 12-18. God intervened. What is important to notice is that Paul so clearly wanted the kings salvation. He did not want the kings favor, so he did not stop at verse 18, but pushed on beyond that. Being didactic was not sufficient. He instead exhorts from the truths he has laid down, calling for faith in Jesus. He was not disobedient to this vision, but he preached. This moved a monologue to a dialogue. He goes beyond the accepted propriety of the situation.
First in verse 19 following he first of all gives and explanation. He explains why he would be preaching, Jesus sent/commissioned him. Jesus not only rescued him, but he sent him. The terminology is similar to John 20 in the sending of the other apostles.
Then he says where—Damascus, Jerusalem, the Gentiles. Notice he gets the essentials of the gospel in 3 times.
First in verse 18, “ I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Calling those listening to wonder are their eyes open, are they in darkness or light. He brings us repentance and faith.
Then in verse 23, “what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” This message was nothing new. It was the same message as Moses and the prophets. He is pointing out how Jesus is the Messiah who the Old Testament is looking to.
Who does he go to, “small and great alike.” No difference in the message no matter who he is speaking to. He was pointing out to the king that the message is the same for him as everyone else. We are all in the same need. He was no preferrer of persons.
Then in 24 and following we find him interrupted but Festus. It was not really his place to do this. It was Agrippa who gave Paul the freedom to speak. There are various possible reasons, but for whatever reason he thought it sounded crazy.
Notice how Paul deals with this. If you respond wrongly, dismissive or condescending, all gain will be lost. Paul responded respectfully giving Festus his place, “most excellent Festus.” He is candid, and reasserts that it is true and rational. And, he did it skillfully going back to Agrippa's knowledge and familiarity to the facts so he can speak freely to him while with Festus not so much.
Then he applies all this. He now turns from the third person use for the king, Paul moves to the second person. He addresses the king directly. He breaks all propriety asking king Agrippa, “do you believer the prophets?” He was doing what he did in the synagogue, reasoning with him. If they would get to the point of believing the prophets, he would point out Jesus is the Messiah. Then that nudge, “I know you do.” At that moment we find a moment of engagement. He has the king before him and the king answers, but with a question of his own—a political out. How did he say it? We don't know. But, he knew what Paul was trying to do. He knew Paul was trying to persuade him.
Wouldn't it be horrible to think you were a persuasive preacher and the people didn't know you were trying to persuade them.
Look at Paul's reply. “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” You can see the evangelist here. What a moment. Clear, bold, urgent.
Finally, 30-32, an abrupt ending. The king gets up with the others and they all leave. What happened to all those who where there with the king? They leave. While talking together they say, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” Instead of dealing with what Paul said, they turn to technicalities and trivialities. Do you encourage the people to take that moment following the service to ask one another, “What do you think about this?” or “Do you believe?”

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Calvin the Pastor by Ian Hamilton

Calvin the Pastor – Ian Hamilton Session #4

Philippians 3

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

John Calvin was many things. Above all, though, he was a pastor – by calling, choice and conviction. He never forgot for one moment that he was a pastor. What he was and did was shaped by this sense that he was a pastor. The goal of this paper is to have us more and more follow the example not of Calvin, but of the chief shepherd Jesus Christ.

Calvin saw pastoral ministry as both pulpit and personal admonitions to individual sheep. He sought to follow Jesus pattern. Lest we idealize Calvin we need to remember while he did well and what he aspired to, he himself was grieved by how far short of the idea he strove for he fell. He had a volcanic temper, which afterward caused him the deepest distress. Yet he is still a model for us.

Seven features of his ministry:

  1. Calvin's pastoral ministry was carried out in the conviction that Jesus Christ is the church's chief pastor.

We are to rule the church under him in no other way but in that he should still be the pastor. This should be key note of an pastoral ministry that goes by that name. We are under the chief shepherd and he is the one who will hold us to account. It is his people purchased with his own blood. People united to him, in whom he dwells, who he carries in his arms in spite of all their shortcomings. This is what brought him back. When first asked back his was response was something like “Over my dead body.” But a year later he came back in light of this view of Christ as the chief shepherd. He was a man truly subdued by God. He never lost sight of the fact he was answerable to Christ.

  1. It reflected his conviction that love for Christ is the animating pulse beat of Christian ministry

No man can faithful serve the church or feed the flock if he does not look higher than men. No man can complete this office unless the love of Christ directs him. If there was not love for Christ the man is disqualified from pastoral ministry no matter how gifted. If this is absent, everything else is absent as well. So Jesus asked Simon, “Do you love me?” What motives you in your pastoral ministry? Do you do what you do out of heart love for the Saviour?

  1. His ministry reflected the servant ministry

It is part of a good pastor to not only be aloof of all aspects of domineering but more so to look to how to serve believers. Pastors are servants of believers just as Christ came not to be served by to serve. We are their servants for Jesus' sake. We must speak but with a servants heart. If not we should keep our mouth shut. Calvin's ministry reflected this in many ways.

  1. The preaching and teaching of the gospel was God's principal means to feed sheep.

The ministry of the word under Christ. Not just the ministry of the word, but under Christ the head and only shepherd of the church and only true food of the soul. Christ is the essence, the content of our preaching. He is the only true food for the soul. We are to bring Christ to the people of God. As a pastor John Calvin immersed himself in preaching, teaching and writing this. The ministry of the Word has first place in ministry. Pastors have two voices, on to call the sheep and the other to drive away the destroying wolves so the people can recognize the voice of the chief shepherd. Preaching is addressed not to types but to individuals. Thus we need to know the individuals in our churches as individuals. Jesus knows his flock by name. We need to know the people we are called to pastor so we can direct the word to their particular needs.

  1. Emphasized pastoral visitation

Calvin believed the pattern was Acts 20, together and house to house. Pastors are to visit individually, but at the same time the sheep are to listen to the pastor when he comes individually to them. Open hearted reception of the pastor's ministry will only happen when the people come to know our hearts, that we love them and seek God's best for them. They can know that in part from the pulpit but only in part. We are sheep who are shepherds, and the people need to know we stand before them a clay jars. They need to have access to our humanity. [My thought is that often they don't want that, they want a super pastor who is not really human at all and opening up only results in a increased questioning of the pastor.] We need to visit.

  1. Never wearied of telling his congregation to get out of themselves and into Christ.

The sinner does not dwell on his own compunctions or tears, but always dwells on Christ. The better we know Christ the more nobly will his grace work in our souls. He constantly directed people to Christ in all situations. This is the burden of pastoral ministry to point people to Christ. Even when we think they know this remember they are never as far along as you think they are, nor are you as far along as you think you are.

  1. Was indelibly shaped and impregnated with his overflow of his union with Christ.

Union with Christ was both the context and inner dynamic of Calvin's ministry. His whole life was one of deaths and resurrections. Death of children, sins in the extended family, opposition of people and leaders, and more were part of his life. Seen in his humiliations and his risings. That is the pattern. It was not necessarily a huge visible theme in his writings, but was of his life.

Some lessons learned:

In Calvin:

  1. We see a humanity that endeared people to him. Being a great preacher is not enough, then need to see our humanity

  2. We a great sense of his own weakness so that any strength he had comes from God. We need to understand we are weak and rest in the great sufficiency of God.

  3. We find a reminder that the best and most useful theologians are those who labor daily in the Word to feed the flock. God raises up pastors because theology is not an end in itself.

  4. We see a pastor willing to lay down his life for the flock of Christ.

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Union owth Christ: Gospel Foundations by Sinclair Ferguson (Session #3)

Union with Christ: Gospel Foundations Sinclair Ferguson (Session #3)
Colossians 3
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your 1 life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: 1 sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 1 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self 1 with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, 1 free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The topic of the union with Christ arose at least in part for a connection with Calvin especially in Book 3 of the institutes. He said, “All of what Christ has done for us is of no value to us so long as we remain outside of Christ.” Union with Christ is a tremendously important theme, but largely neglected. Could be because it is not only part of the substructure but also emerges in the proclamation of the gospel. But, more likely because it is something that has been sidelined in the minds of organizers of conferences and those who attend conferences. If you surveyed the themes of conferences you would rarely find union with Christ or Christ as the focus on Christian conferences and has been marginalized. So this is a very timely theme.
It is important because in almost every letter Paul writes when he writes of a church or theological problem, Paul remedies it by teaching believers what is means to be united to Christ. Every malfunction in the live of Christians is founded in a malfunction in their union with Christ. To be a Christian is to be in Christ, a phrase Paul uses again and again. To believe in Christ is to believe into Christ in Paul. This believing into is not found anywhere else in Classical literature. It is believing into union and communion in Christ. This is not some added extra, this is the definition of Christian life.
As under shepherds this union with Christ should be a major part of our toolbox. We should never consider a believer outside of that person being united to the Lord of Glory. This is the lens through which we view the Christian life.
It is this very thing Paul is dealing with here in Colossians. So we go into Paul's workshop to see the design of the gospel as he sees applying it to the life of the Church. The way in which we preach to God's people and pastor and counsel is integrally related to whether union with Christ is a central tool in our tool box. It is central to new testament ministry and the gospel. Jesus taught this, Paul taught it, John did it. They all do it, and we should learn from that fact as pastors for how we pastor and how we preach.
Colossians is helpful to see this in particular in light of its background. Whatever the false teaching was in it details, it did have to do with offering Christians fullness. This is clear from the language of fullness that Paul uses in this letter. It is repeatedly used. It is not like there is a false teaching on fullness and Paul says forget about fullness, he says there is a false teaching about fullness but here is your real fullness in Christ. He wanted the Colossians to see that true fullness that is theirs in Christ, in his fullness alone.
There is a late 20th and early 21st century aspect to this false teaching. There is a continuing offer of fullness held before Christians today that is fullness outside of Christ saying that if one really wants fullness they need to do these things beyond what they have in Christ. Paul in Colossians points out that all the fullness you need is given to you in Christ. The problem here is not that you lack fullness in Christ, but that the privileges of being united to Christ have not been fully realized by us. What you experience right now is not all there is. There is much more, much advance, but all that is to come is founded in the fullness received from union with Christ.
A ministry of the gospel must show all the glories of Jesus Christ. It leads them into the riches we have in Christ. You can't teach people the wonders of union with Christ without teaching them the glories of Christ. If we are to be known for anything on our dying day may it be, “He Preached Christ!”
This is not guaranteed simply by preaching through scripture. Often they look for where 'you' are in the text instead of where 'Christ' is in the text. We can easily preach personal experience not Christ. What response does your ministry invoke from people?
It is easy to preach about people's sins. It is a work of supernatural grace to preach Christ so people are not left broken down but lifted up to all the fullness of God's grace found in Jesus Christ. Union with Christ is a magnificent doctrine but all hinged on doctrine of Christ.

What is the basic structure of Paul's teaching on Union with Christ?

1)There is a grammar embedded in how Paul speaks the gospel. You cannot speak it without that grammar. If you are going to speak a language properly you need the grammar of that language sunk deep into you. That is just as true in speaking the gospel. We need to know its grammar. The grammar of the gospel is strange to us, and we are still learning that grammar. That shows up in our preaching. Sometimes we misuse the grammar to put the emphasis on the wrong syllable. It is possible to talk grace but still sound law. It is possible to have a community that talks grace but sounds law. Every imperative in the gospel is rooted in gospel indicatives. That is why being able to expound gospel indicative is so important to gospel preaching. We need that grammar to become carved in our being. Effects both the way and the tone we speak the gospel.
2)There is a chronology in the gospel. The present Christian life in rooted in the past. Move from being in Adam to being in Christ. We are in Christ, with the destination that is in the future. When he appears, you will appear with him in glory. Jesus will not come again until everyone united with him comes with him. Paul works this way often working back to the past to all that Christ has accomplished for us, and then moves forward to how we live in the present based on both past and the future that is coming. When the end is Christ won't come unless he can come with me, it puts a completely different perspective on our ministry and how we look at one another. The sheep can be a pain in the neck, but Christ bore them on his neck and refuses to leave them behind carrying them home.
3)Also geography. Notice the opening verses in chapter 3. You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. How many times have you said this to yourself this past year. Is it any surprise that those in the congregation don't know it. That the situations they face are so difficult for them because they don't know where their true life is found. What a consolation that is to live in such union and communion with Christ. We are citizens of heaven who are living on earth. Once we grasp that so many other things fit into place. It is a second birth which comes from heaven and makes us citizens of heaven so our real life and real citizenship is there not here. Not just that we are going to heaven, but we belong in heaven in Christ. This is how Paul thinks.
4)There is a rhythm that is found in this as well. Perfectly found in this passage of Colossians. You are united to Christ therefore you put off the old and put on the new. The important thing is to never try to do the one without the other. Never try to mortify sin out side of the vivification of the life of Christ in us. When one does not know this they are prey for false teaching.

We should not be content with a C- on this, on all that is theirs and ours in union with Christ. The understanding of this union with Christ is at the heart of the gospel ministry. How often do we consider and meditate upon Christ. Is our great ambition to know Christ. It is easy to have that switch to wanting to serve him rather than know him, where knowing him will lead to serving him. Danger to mortification of sins without looking to the glories of Jesus Christ. Not just that we have his blessing, we have him and with him all his blessings. Christ in you is not the gospel, Christ outside of you suffering and dying for you is, then through that Christ in you.
Union with Christ make things clear about who we are. It makes clear relations in the church, these are people in whom Christ is happy to dwell. It is something that changes how we look at all things. We need to go back to this again and again and again until is dawns on us some more.
How dominant in my ministry is Jesus? How pervasive is the privilege of union with him?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Persuasive Preaching 1 by Alistair Begg

<Persuasive Preaching – Alistair Begg (Session #2)

We were told that Alistair was going to speak not on Job but on Persuasive Preaching

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The purpose of this talk is to introduce preaching that confronts, that seeks to pursuade others.

Murry--”Preaching is a personal, passionate plea.” based on 2 Cor. 5:20. This was Paul's approach. He did not give orations, or testimonies that people could do with as they will. He sought to convince or persuade them from the Scripture. He was urgent, bold, clear and stove to convince. That is what is exhibited in Acts through Biblical exposition.

This was not only his practice, but his precept. So it is what he sought to teach and call others to do as well. It was what he called Timothy too as well.

It is important to pause and recognize that to do this and to teach this was often costly. He paid a price for doing this in opposition and trouble. So it was for Timothy. Remember the call to Timothy 1 Tim 1:8 to join Paul in his suffering.

Similarly in 2 Corinthians we find the exact same frame work. Trouble, distress and great pressure are words that mark the beginning of that letter.

Doing this is not a soft option even today. If we are going to do this today it will be a hard course. At the beginning of this letter Paul points out that all this happened so that he would realize all he did must be done in trust in God. Similarly in chapter 12 with the thorn in the flesh. This type of preaching was one one hand facing sever human opposition and on the other divine compulsion. If we do not share that divine compulsion, we will not be able to be bold as he was.

Preaching is unpopular. If you look generally in the congregations of the nation you will find that it is. In particular, preaching that is persuasive is unpopular.

When speaking about persuasive preaching we are talking about the sort of preaching God ordained, grounded in the Scriptures, done in the knowledge that God deins to us people like us to proclaim thisn great and glorious message.

That challenge before us, in particular in light of the unpopularity of this (2 Cor. 4 blinded eyes) is this is a message that people are blind to, Satan opposes. He is not upset about Christian morality, family values, or a whole host of other things where we can preach for months without the cross.

Three Challenges:

  1. The personal challenge

Some of us are naturally fearful and timid. Some of us actually use that as a basis for us not to be bold in our approach saying we are incapable of this. God did not ask us to stand between the majesty of his holiness and his people in their needs and hide behind our weaknesses. He put the treasure in clay pot. We are talking about the persuasive work of God's Spirit when we speak of being persuasive as God uses this little, insignificant person.

Some of us face the situation of self preservation. So we may be tempted to step back from the preaching of the law or the cross of Christ. Especially in terms of evangelism

And the danger of familiarity. We can become so used to it we miss the glory and the grace of the task.

  1. Cultural Challenges

We live in a culture much like “Waiting for Godot.” A world that is a joke filled with meaninglessness. That is the world we live in, and which people come out of. The only danger to them is a persuasive preacher. People don't want prerequisites, perplexity, or exposition. If we remove these things from preaching, we have something, it is called entertainment. This is where things are going. Don't introduce perplexity, prerequisites, or exposition. Just enjoy we are here for your safety and comfort. Paul introduced all these things because he did not look at people like he used to, how the world does.

  1. Biblical Theology

Some of us are in danger because of our deep seated and right convictions. If we are not careful, as a result, we can become almost tongue tied when we come to the point of pressing on people the necessity to believe. Our churches should pulse with the urgency of gospel proclamation. God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17.) In the worst of cases there is almost an abandonment of evangelism at all, or at least evangelistic preaching. Edification and multiplication, but not taking seriously the task to persuade men and women. Sometimes seen in “a conspicuous awkwardness in a preaching the free offer of the gospel.” Men who are laboring under the inhibitions that offer the free offer of the gospel and persuade people we somehow or another it impinges on the sovereignty of God almost as if we think the non-elect might be saved. But the call and the sovereign choosing of God go together. Look at Matthew 11:25-30.

If the enemies of persuasive preaching are confusion, fear and complacency; the remedy is:

First of all clarity:

To know and be clear what we are persuading people to. That the gospel is to be presented full and free (2 Cor. 5:19.) As a person who preached at the church Alistair pastors said, “For something to get clean, something else has to get dirty.” That is the gospel. This is the wonderful story we have to tell. Christ taking our sins, that we might be clean. The good news is God has dealt with our alienation through Christ's righteousness imputed to us.

Second authority:

It is the reconciled who become the messengers of this good news. We are God's ambassadors. Sent on behalf of Christ. That is where the authority comes. His representative, committing to us this message of reconciliation, knowing what it is to fear the lord. Because we fear the Lord we try to persuade men. We are convinced, so we seek to persuade because the love of Christ compels us. The fear of God. The prospect of standing before him with pants on fire or with gold, silver, and precious jewels. It is the love of Christ seen in the cross that compels us. This is especially, but not exclusively, on ministers. Not to glorify the minister but to comfort the listeners so that when then hear the gospel they might know that God is dealing with them.

Third, urgency:

The gospel is polar opposites—heaven/hell, alienation/reconciliation, etc. Realizing that gives urgency. We know the truth of hell, and the glory of heaven. When you fish your wife asks you one question, “Did you catch anything?” and she is completely unimpressed when you answer, “No, but I influenced a few.” Expect people to be converted and preach in light of it anticipating such.

The most persuasive have been clear, bold and urgent.

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Opening Sermon by Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson – Conference Sermon – Hebrews 11:1-16
Text Hebrews 13:8
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

It is rather incongruous to have a whole conference devoted to someone like Calvin in light of the fact that in part the Reformation sought to remove this sort of honoring of people. However, it is still something worthwhile, but some caveats.

1)We need to be honest. Show the truth including the weaknesses of those we remember. None of them are perfect
2)Realize that the faithful labor of the multitude of faithful pastors is high in the estimation of God.
3)Heb 13 calls for us to consider our leaders. The focus is not on living leaders, but those who have gone before, perhaps who had been martyred.

We do well to recall them, consider them, and imitate them in how they have been commendable and avoid their mistakes. So how do hey and John Calvin in particular help us.

1)As an encouragement to persevere.
Persecution was a reality to the believers this letter was written to. They faced huge pressures to the point that some were tempted to leave the faith. The letter was a call to persevere. From chapter 11 on the author puts forward a very human face – naming names, pointing to examples. Highlights the fact we often respond more, are effected more by people than propositions. Help is found both in the teaching of conferences such as this and the fellowship found there.
We find here in Hebrews also that we are to remember in particular those leaders who spoke the word of God to us. Others help us in many ways, but those who do so through the ministry of the word do so in an enduring manner lasting through every age to the end of life.
In this day and age when many are remembered for their charisma, the trends they start in the church, that those who have left an enduring mark at those who have left a mark of bringing deeper, clearer understanding of the Word building on those who came before. It has always been through the advancement of the understanding of the word of God that the church has grown.
Often this increase has been found in the face of great struggle. See this throughout church history. Someone like Athanasius comes to mind. John Calvin did so as well. Opposed by secular authorities, fellow ministers, fellow Christians, and plagued by personal sufferings, Calvin persevered. He could have walked away, but as the Lord had called him he served the people faithfully until the day he died.
What an encouragement in the face of our struggles, especially as ministers of the gospel. It is a call to labor in the word. To keep going in the face of illness and distress. To peresever in the face of troubles and opposition. If such things happened to him, should it surprise us to face similar struggles. As the Lord gave strength to those who came before us, so the Lord gives strength to us. It is encouraging to see how they as men were kept by God even more than they kept going.

2)Model of faith and life
The writer calls us to consider them as an example of truth faith and a true Christian life. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. This is not a call to some mere memorial day for John Calvin or others, but to weigh them and learn from them.
It is much to easy to turn reformed heroes into protestant saints. We need to remember the cultural distance, the historical distance, and their own weaknesses, but there is still value in learning from them. We are to look at the legacy they left behind on the church after they have gone.
John Calvin is appropriate for this as he has left such a large effect. There are no less than 10 major areas where he has left a lasting imprint not just in the church but in the world as well since then. Looking back shows us men who made a “splash in their present” but left no enduring legacy, but others did.
As we consider them we need to recognize those elements in their lives worthy of being emulated. This leads to a consideration of their way of life. How is made them men of substance. How truth was at the core of who they were. The great mistake many make in entering into ministry is that as long as they have good theology they will have an effective ministry. There is much more to it than this. Watch you life and your doctrine. When doctrine is effecting your life properly is that is will be reflected in your life.
One of the great dangers in reformed theology is that its intellectual rigor can attract people who use it as a cudgel. Instead it is to be truth that shapes heart and mind and life. So we see in Calvin in his teaching and the godliness that characterized all of him. He could have been proud, but he was humble and gracious and loving and catholic spirited. He was truly a man of God.
The faith we are to emulate is the faith seen in a godly life. Let us follow that example.

3)The are men who lead us to Christ
This is the preeminent reason. These leaders the author Hebrews mentions were leaders who lead them to Jesus. That is why we have this seeming random verse 8. It flows naturally out of what comes before because it is him who they lead us to. They pointed us to our Saviour. It is not what they were in themselves, but what they were in Christ. How they were used by him.
Looking at the list in Hebrews 11, and looking at church history it becomes readily apparent how very different they are. What is constant in all of them. It is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. Through it all Jesus remains the same. Both in his deity and as mediator between God and man. That is unaltered from the Old Testament (yesterday) the New Covenant time (today) and forever (into eternity.)
These people point us to Christ by what they teach and how they display Jesus in how they live. There is a derivative sense in which every faithful minister will be a suffering servant like their master. Some in extremity as the server God faithfully. Serving at great cost to themselves and those they love. They do not walk away when the going gets tough. The do not lose heart when they are made aware of their weakness, but in faith keep serving.
So is it appropriate to have a conference about John Calvin. Yes because he is one of those men.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Count Down!


Monday, May 18, 2009

More Van Work

Now that I have the front end rebuilt, I have moved on to another project, the driver's side window motor. This should be an easy fix, and for the most part it has been. I had one bolt and nut that was stripped and needed to be cut off. Then came what has me stuck. I got everything hooked up, and tried the motor. It worked, but in reverse. Up is down and down is up. I am not sure if this is because I may have been shipped one for the wrong side or if I put the plug in backwards. I am going to pull it out and see what I can see.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

10 More Days

Ten more day until the day we leave for the Banner of Truth Minister's Conference. This has become a must attend conference for me since 2003. Each year I look forward to it for several reasons.

First, the preaching. The Banner consistently brings wonderful preachers in to speak at the conference. Sometimes their names are not well known. Other times they are very well known. Overall, the vast majority are well worth listening to. I find the preaching to be the primary highlight of the conference.

Second, the fellowship. At the Banner I have come to know many ministers from many denominations. Some pastor large congregations. Others pastor smaller congregations. What sets them all apart is a devotion to God and to proclaiming his Word. Unlike some conferences there is a unity I don't often experience. What is noticeably lacking is a seeming arrogance of those who have larger congregations that I have run into elsewhere, as if those of us pastoring small congregations made up primarily of elderly people are doing something wrong. Even the speakers live in the same dorms and eat in the same room as the attendees.

Third, the food. In general the food is excellent, and there is lots of it.

There are other things that I am looking forward to. The rest. The spiritual refreshing. The ice cream. Even the travel there and back.

Right now I am out of gas. I am dry and dusty, and I am counting the days until we depart.

I highly recommend this conference to men who are pastors and elders.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Van Update

Evening Update:

After getting home from my meeting at about 8:30PM, I started back on the van.


Removed rivet heads from passenger's side upper ball joint, knocked out rivets, and separated it from the steering knuckle.
Slide the splash shield off off to give better access to the lower ball-joint.
Removed tie-rods on the passenger's side.
Removed separated lower ball joint and then pressed it out.

It got dark so I stopped.

This is what it looks like now:

What comforts me is the fact that the other side was the same and it is all back together.

What I have left to do is:
Press in the lower ball joint (Yeah! Then I can return the press and get the deposit I left to borrow it back.)
Mount the upper ball joint.
Re-installs splash shield, put on ball joint nuts and tighten to torque specs and grease.
Install new tie-rods, the ones on this side were in much worse condition than the other side.
Install shocks
Pack bearing and install hub/rotor
Install new pads and re-attach caliper.
Take it to get aligned.
Do rear brakes.

The list is getting smaller. I might even have it done by the end of the week, although the rear brakes could be a real chore.

Driver's Side Back Together

Early this morning I got the drivers side of the van back together. The bearings greased and installed, the rotor/hub installed, the new pads installed and caliper bolted in. I did a little work at lunch as well on the passenger side, but still have a lot to do. I was hoping to get the rivet heads for the upper ball joint ground off, but it took more than the time I had available. If the Executive meeting is over early this evening, and it is still light out when I get home, I may take the grinder to them again and see if I can get them out. If I can, tomorrow morning I can hopefully get the two ball joints done as doing them shouldn't take more than 1 to 1.5 hours. I should have that time before lunch. Then maybe Wednesday Evening I can get the bearings, rotor and brakes done. That would be nice. Then all that would be left is the shocks, and tie-rods. On the other hand, I doubt I will have time to do all that, so it might not be until Friday or Saturday. I would like to get the lower ball joint done so I can return the tool.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Progress on my to-do on the van

I made some progress this morning. I got the ABS sensor wire I accidentally sliced back together and heat shrink tubing over it. I remounted the splash guard and ABS sensor, and I got the tie-rods adjusted close to the old ones and installed.

Progress has not all been good. I went to the shocks thinking I could get them removed before we leave for the day, but when undoing the lower shock mount bolts I snapped the clip that holds the nut in the inaccessible location where it is located. That means the bolt just keeps spinning. If anyone has any suggestions I would appreciate them.

Once more into the breach.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Working on the Van

Over the past week or so I have gotten to some maintenance on our GMC Safari van. When I got new tires on it I was told, and found myself, that the brakes were in need of being done. While checking over things I found a couple of tie-rods showing wear, and a couple of ball joints. I decided since I did the rear shocks last year, that the front shocks should be done as well. So I have been working on things over the past week. I has been slow going since this is the first time I have done this, and I am both running into things that the manuels assume people would know which I don't (but which people from Astrosafarivans have helped me with) and wanting to make sure everything is done correctly. Also ended up having to make a few runs for tools that I didn't realize I needed or sockets that I did not have the correct size of. At one point things looked like this:

Actually at one point even more was removed than what you see there, but it is slowing coming back together.

So what is left?

To Do:
Adjust and install driver's side tie-rods, and grease.
Fix wire for driver's side ABS speed sensor.
Pack driver's side bearings with grease.
Install bearing in driver's side hub/rotor.
Install driver's side hub/rotor, caliper and brake pads.
Remove and install driver's side shock.
(That would finish the driver's side.)
Tear down passenger side (remove caliper, hub/rotor, upper and lower ball-joints, tie-rods and shocks.
Install ball joints.
Adjust and install tie-rods.
Install shocks.
Pack bearings and install.
Install hub/rotor, brake pads and caliper.
(That will finish the front end)

I still have to do the rear brakes, but that is only a few hours of work (at least it should be). However, my focus right now is get the front end complete ASAP.

I am hoping the passengers side will take less time as now I have the tools, and I have figured out the way to do things in the removal that I didn't know before.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I'm Going to General Synod

It was confirmed this week, I am going to be a delegate to the upcoming 2009 General Synod (June 4-9) I was not scheduled to be a delegate, but one of our assigned delegates was unable to attend. Now I have a bunch of reading to do between now and then.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Excellent Observation

Merv Bud responds to some articles in the November/December 2008 Faith Today in which they spoke of doing good deeds to people around them. Instead of pointing to Jesus when asked why they did this, they responded with, "Because we think you deserve it."

I'm with Merv on this because if it is the deserving of the people that motivates this, then those good deeds are, 1) Not reflective of the gospel of grace, that God gives us what we most certainly don't deserve, and 2) It is not in any way pointing people to their need for Jesus but instead leaved them thinking they are pretty deserving of good which none of us are, and 3) If the good they do is not motivated by the desire to glorify God because of his love in Jesus Christ, then its motivation is wrong and 4) If the motivation really is the desire to glorify God for his love in Jesus, then they are sinning by saying it isn't.

I wonder with the missional push in the RCA whether those who encourage good deeds being done are at the same time emphasizing that they must be done with the words to point to Jesus as both the motivator of their actions and the solution to peoples real problems? If it isn't, then there is a big problem.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Good CS Lewis Quote

I have no idea where this quote comes from. It was the CS Lewis quote of the day, and I liked it. If you know where it is from I would love a detailed reference.

It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
-- CS Lewis

Monday, March 16, 2009

Good Advice For Governments and All of Us During These Econimic Times

Maybe they should have paid more attention to school house rock.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Banner of Truth Ministers Conference

I am already registered. I recommend this conference to all men who serve as elders or pastors. It is a time to be taught from God's word, not those programs that come and go, but the enduring Word itself so you can better minister the gospel.

I have found it a blessed time where I can fellowship with other pastors. It is a time where I am fed spiritually. It is a time where I find my soul refreshed.

This year the speakers very much intrigue me as those I know I respect a great deal. They are
  • Sinclair Ferguson
  • Alistair Begg
  • Walter Chantry
  • Mark Van Dixhoorn
  • Mark Johnston
  • Jonathan Watson
If you desire to know more check out The Banner of Truth US Conference.

If you are going, tell me so I can keep an eye out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Bugs Me

I was reading over at Pyromaniacs today about the discussion surrounding Phil Johnson's talk at the Shepherd's Conference. While I don't have any huge issues with what Phil had to say in that post, I have not heard his presentation from the conference yet so I won't comment.

However, in the meta following that post there was a comment that really bugged me.

Everyday Mommy posted this:

"If you are a pastor, you'd better make the time to counsel dozens and dozens. It's your job."

I realize this is a common though today. But, is the pastor's job ultimately to counsel dozens and dozens? I can think of the pastor being exhorted to preach the word, but I cannot think of the pastor being exhorted to counsel dozens and dozens. The pastor's primary task is to preach. With that comes prayer. While aiding people with his good counsel is a part of his task, it is not something that should be done when the issues could be much more effectively dealt with in a sermon.

The issue under discussion there was sexuality, and I do believe that since the Bible deals with it, pastors not only should, but must deal with that Christian sexuality looks like, its bounds and directly deal with the issues that arrise when we realize that Jesus is Lord of sex as he is Lord of all, especially when we live in a culture that denies anyone can make demands on their sexual activities. How that is done in the preaching of the word is important, but it should be done there because if one depends on dealing with it only one on one it means first of all many people who are secretly struggling with sexual sin will not have that dealt with because they are keeping it secret. Second it means that instead of having the pastor completely bogged down in doing nothing but one on one counselling as sexual sin is pervasive in all age groups today, he can deal with those who are most in need of counselling while also addressing the others who may not be. Last of all, it is a testimony to a world that thinks it knows all about sex, that sex as God designed it is part of the good creation he made in the beginning and that is it not something dirty.