Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Great Point

I know I've referenced Whiter than Snow by Paul David Tripp more than once already, but I'm loving this book. After talking about how we respond to those who lovingly confront us about our sin and who we really are, he talks about how we should see ourselves. He talks about how we need the righteousness of Christ and the big grace that comes from God and he says this:
If the Bible's description is accurate, then God's grace is our only hope. Thank God that he has given us big grace! Each one of us needs grace that's not only big enough to forgive our sin, but also powerful enough to free us from the self-atoning prison of our own righteousness. We're not only held captive by our sin, but also by the delusion of our righteousness. Resting in God's grace isn't just about confessing your sin; it's about forsaking your righteousness as well.
Wow! Lord help me to to forsake my own righteousness and rely completely on the righteousness of Christ. For He alone can offer the righteousness that You require.

What will you Read in 2009?

Since 2008 is officially coming to an end, I've been pondering what I would read during 2009. Of course, this could change as more books come out and as I see needs for others, but here is my plan as of right now. I plan to spend much of 2009 reading about the holiness of God and my mandate to be holy. So here are a few of the books I have started and/or am planning to read on holiness:

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges (currently reading)
Pursuing Holiness in the Lord by Jonathan Edwards
The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul
Holiness by J. C. Ryle
Holiness Day by Day by Jerry Bridges
The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges
Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp (currently reading)
The Christian's Daily Walk by Henry Scudder (Thank you Justin Nale)
I also think it's very important to read doctrine so I've decided to attempt to read through a couple of books on doctrine. You can follow a plan to read through the Institutes with others if you'd like. Here are the two that I want to begin working through in 2009.
What are your plans? What would you add to either list?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Resolved

I have been reading through some of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions and have been quite convicted. Here is just one that has been so for me:

Number 56. Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Second Greatest Gift

The second greatest Christmas gift I can think of came to me this year. The first is, and always will be, the gift of God by sending forth Son to be born of a woman to redeem sinful man. There is no question that this is the greatest gift ever.

The second one, however, is as close to that as I can imagine. The greatest gift that I can think of is to know that God has allowed a married couple to conceive and await the coming of their child (or perhaps children). Over the past week and a half or so I had a very strong feeling that Shannon was pregnant. However, she wasn't convinced. On Christmas day I talked her into (though by that point I think she was thinking it possible) to take a test to see. By God's grace we learned that He had gifted us with a baby. Though we don't know any more than that at this point, we rejoice in God's graciousness. We are undeserving to be blessed with another child. We are very thankful and await the new addition to the Alston family.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

God Hates Sin!

This paragraph out of The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges is worth thinking deeply on:
In the deceitfulness of our hearts, we sometimes play with temptation by entertaining the thought that we can always confess and later ask forgiveness. Such thinking is exceedingly dangerous. God's judgment is without partiality. He never overlooks our sin. He never decides not to bother since the sin is only a small one. No, God hates sin intensely whenever and wherever He finds it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What Would you Buy?

If you had just won a $25 gift card for Westminster Bookstore what would you buy? Just for informational purposes, the way I won this was by being down in last place after four weeks of fantasy football with many good friends. By God's grace I won the next 11 games by spanking them (okay, maybe not spanking, but still) and ending by winning the championship game. I would show how proud I am of this, but God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, so I won't. But seriously, what would you buy?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Wonder Why

Last night after the girls went to bed, I sat at my desk at home going over my sermon again before this morning. I thought of a question that caused me to think deeply. The question was, "why did Luke not elaborate on the birth of Jesus?" All it says in Luke 2:6-7 is, "And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." That's it! Nothing else? We have a holiday that celebrates this. Shouldn't there be more?

Here is the answer that I think the Lord led me too after a couple of hours of praying and wondering: It's not so much about the birth as much as it is about the One who was born. In other words, the birth was the means, but the emphasis is on the Christ. While this may seem overly simplistic, it was very encouraging for me to see this. It's why, I think, Luke goes straight into the glorious announcement to the shepherds. This time (and Scripture) is not about a birth; it's about Jesus the Christ!
Not only is it about Jesus, but the three titles given to Him in verse 11 is magnificent. It say that He is Savior, He is Christ, and He is Lord. This is the only place in Scripture that all three of these are together. Oh how precious is this Christ who was born with Easter in mind. Matthew 1:21 points us straight to Easter, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is Holiness Important?

In The Pursuit of Holiness Jerry Bridges writes:
The concept of holiness may seem a bit archaic to our current generation. To some minds the very word holiness brings images of bunned hair, longs skirts, and black stockings. To others the idea is associated with a repugnant "holier than thou" attitude. Yet holiness is very much a scriptural idea. the word holy in various forms occurs more than 600 times in the Bible. One entire book, Leviticus, is devoted to the subject, and the idea of holiness is woven elsewhere throughout the fabric of Scripture. More important, God specifically commands us to be holy (see Leviticus 11:44).
There is no way we as Christians cannot pursue holiness. It's commanded. It also says in Hebrews 12:14 that we are to "strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Without holiness, we will not see God. So is holiness important? Absolutely!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Faith and Suffering

In Philippians 1:29 Paul writes, "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake." Now I know this is written to a very specific church in Philippi. However, the application is such that I've wondered if you can prepare for suffering? And if you can prepare, how do you prepare to suffer?
First off it's important in this passage to realize that both the belief and the suffering is a gift from God. When Paul says it has been granted, he is showing that by God's grace he has enabled you to believe and to suffer. Does this mean we just trust the Lord and not worry about preparing to suffer? Allow me to suggest a few things to consider.
1. We will only suffer well when we trust in a sovereign God. What I mean is that if we don't believe that God is in control of all things then we will have a hard time trusting Him when it appears He's nowhere to be found.
2. We must walk close enough to God and trust in His promises so that when suffering come and we don't feel Him we can know He's still there. For instance, God will remain faithful for He cannot deny Himself. God will never leave those who are His. God will work all things for good for those who are His. God is in control and can do whatever He pleases.
3. Trust that faith is more than a feeling. There will be times in our lives where we do not "feel" God's presence. However, He's there! Exercise your faith and trust that God is accomplishing something for you joy and His glory.
4. If suffering is a gift, then we should expect it and not be caught off guard from it.
5. Remember that as Christians, we want to suffer for the sake of Christ. We will never do this if we don't know Him.
That is not exhaustive. I'm sure there are many other things to say. What else would you add or take away as we prepare for suffering for the glory of Jesus Christ?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why the Story?

Have you ever wondered why the story of David and Bathsheba is in the Bible? In his book Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, Paul David Tripp writes:
First, the New Testament (1 Corinthians 10) tells us that these things were written for our example and our instruction so that we would not fall into the same errors as God's people of old. Yes, this story is in the Bible because it is meant to be instructive. The details are not there to titillate you, but to help you understand things you need to understand about yourself, God, life in a fallen world, the nature of sin, and the power of God's transforming grace. Second, the Bible tells us that the people in the story were people just like us. As you read through the Bible, you know that its history is not filled with accounts of noble people who always did the right thing. No, the characters of the Bible, even the ones that we would tend to think of as heroes, were broken and flawed people. They, like us, were all sinners and, like us, all needed to be rescued by God's grace. "Rescued from what?" you might ask. Just like us, they need to be rescued from themselves.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Wheat is Dying!

My good friend Wil Owens has posted a fantastic piece about those suffering around the world, particularly in India. I have put it in its entirety below, but you should go and check out his blog as well.

Jesus says in John 12:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Someone has said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” History does reveal this to be a faithful saying, and so does the above saying of Christ. Since this is biblical revelation and fact, then surely the Church is on the brink of explosive growth in many places, but especially India.

India has always produced some martyrs each year, but the recent outbreak of persecution has escalated the number of killings. Our friends, Hopegivers International, experienced 4 martyrs among their ministers this year. Reports coming out of the state of Orissa are truly horrifying. *70,000 Christians have been left homeless, 4,000 homes have been destroyed, 3,000 people are missing, 450 churches have been burned, and 77 people have either been burned or hacked to death!

Here are two individual cases. On Sept. 30, Hindu radicals dragged Lalji Nayak from his home and stuck a knife to his neck. They demanded that he “reconvert” to Hinduism, but he refused. They cut his throat with the knife, beat him with an axe, and tortured him. All the while, he continued to “cling to Christ.” The next day he died in the hospital. One witness said, “Even though he was bleeding, he refused to abandon his faith.”

On Aug 24, Pastor Divya Digal was dragged from his home, beaten with stones and rods until dead, and then his body was tossed in the river. His wife, a former Hindu, escaped with their daughter, and is unwelcome by her family because of her new faith.

Now multiply those two cases several times over and you get a glimpse of what is taking place in India!

The persecuted church, however, is a proclaiming church! Those who suffer for the Kingdom and persevere in believing through unbelievable trials shout the Gospel to their tormentors, neighbors, country, and the world! Yes, the Church is under attack in India, and that means – the Church is growing!

Pray for our dear brothers and sisters who are standing firm for the faith and counting the cost with their homes and lives! Pray for the Church in India to explode as a result of these attacks! Surely an enormous Harvest is on the way! The wheat is dying; “much fruit” will come!

* These statistics and the testimonies are from Voice of the Martyrs. You can get familiar with their ministry at http://www.persecution.com/.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I've Been Digging some Shai Linne

I saw him live in MN at Bethlehem Baptist a while back. I recently bought his album The Atonement and  have been really loving it. Maybe you'll like this.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whether by Life or Death

How do you view your life and the glory of God? Do you care about how you live? Do you care about how you die? What is your greatest motivation? What are you greatest concerns?

Paul, writing to the church in Philippi while in prison, states his greatest desire. He has just finished telling them that he would rejoice when the gospel is preached, even by those with the wrong motives (Philippians 1:15-18). Notice, however, that he doesn't say he rejoices in these people with false motives, nor would he rejoice in a false gospel (see Galatians 1:6-9). He rejoices that in spite of the false motives, the true Biblical gospel is proclaimed and bearing fruit (as it says in Colossians 1:5-6). 
Now after saying this Paul goes on to say in verses 19-20, "for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death." When Paul say this will be for his deliverance, he uses the same word that means salvation. However, commentators differ about what he means exactly by salvation. Does he mean from prison? Does he mean eternal salvation? The key is the context of verse 20. If he simply meant that he knew he would be released from prison, why did he say "whether by life or by death"? It seems pretty clear to me that Paul is stating that no matter what happens (salvation from Caesar or eternal salvation) he only cared that Christ was honored in his body.
This is a very radical idea of Christian living. It's convicting on many levels. Recently I've been convicted over how I care for my body (what/how much I eat, drink, exercise, etc.), which is very relevant to how Christ is honored in my body. Also, how I live my life is important. Do I live in such a way that Christ is honored in my everyday life and actions? If I were to die right now, would it be in such a way that Christ is honored? O, how I want to live and die for the glory of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew Henry's Commentary“Death is a great loss to a carnal worldly man; for he loses all his comforts and all his hopes: but to a good Christian it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery and the perfection of his comforts and accomplishment of his hopes; it delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to the possession of the chief good.”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Making Traditions

Noel Piper's book Treasuring God in our Traditions causes Shannon and I to think through what we do to establish traditions for our family in our home. We've learned from several others throughout the years as well. If you don't have that book, I recommend you get it and read it. I hope you will be challenged and think through how to better celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas.

If you've already began thinking through this, what are the traditions that you have/will establish for Christmas?

The Gospel in Hundreds of Untouched Places

Wil Owens has a post today about our friends in India. I've been able to go twice with Wil and work with our friends there. Please pray for them and for much fruit.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Missions is at the Heart of God

I am preaching this coming Sunday on missions. I have been preaching on the gospel for the past 5 weeks (4 weeks on personally understanding and applying the gospel and 1 week on taking the gospel to others). This week I will conclude that series with an emphasis on missions. When I use the word "missions" I mean mostly the idea of going where there is not gospel presence to preach to those who've never heard. This is one of my favorite subjects to preach on because I think missions is at the heart of God. Here's why I think this.

1. Jesus began His ministry with an emphasis on preaching the gospel. In Mark 1:15 Mark's first recorded words of Jesus are, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
2. The gospel according to Mark ends with Jesus saying, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).
3. The apostle Paul didn't want his life to count for anything except to finish his calling from God. Acts 20:24 says, "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received form the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
4. Jesus gave His life so that missions would be guaranteed success. Revelation 5:9-10 says, "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." Christ has purchased people from the ends of the earth who need to hear the gospel.
So missions is at the heart of the Bible and the heart of God. That is not to say that there is not an emphasis on the church and the need to present the church prefect for her Groom. It is to say that in order for there to be the church, there most first be missions.
If you are anywhere near the Pulaski, VA area we'd love to have you come and worship with us this Sunday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who are You?

I know there isn't much traffic on this blog, but there is some. I'd like to know who you are. If you would, please leave me a comment with who you are, where you're from, and what you do. I look forward to meeting some of you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Running

I figure if I put it on here there is some accountability. I've started running. Today was the first day and I ran a mile and walked a mile. I'm trying to take it serious this time as I want to honestly get into better shape. I figured it up today and I want to lose a total for 60 pounds from this past Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). So, well see how that works. Today, it was cold. I learned very quickly that I need to get some better things to run in (any suggestions?) or else I'll freeze or something. I also realized that hills are more difficult to run up and down. Now this post has wasted much space and your precious time, I'll keep you posted as things continue.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai

You can see pictures of Mumbai now that the smoke has cleared. It is quite heartbreaking.

Working on Discipline

It takes work to be disciplined. If it came natural, it wouldn't have to be a discipline. However, I have realized much over the years about how undisciplined I am in most areas of life. Wouldn't you agree that to be disciplined in one area almost always means you have to be disciplined in another area? For instance, to be disciplined in reading means you have to be disciplined in time management. Or, to be disciplined in getting up early to spend time with the Lord means to be disciplined to go to bed at a decent time to get enough sleep. When it comes to studying, I'm learning that for me it means to be disciplined in how and what I eat, to exercise more, and to get proper sleep (I'm sure there is far more). Any suggestions on how to better discipline myself for the purpose of godliness?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Out of Shape

I am sitting here contemplating the fact that I need to exercise and get back in shape. Believe it or not, I played sports year round until I graduated from high school (which seems like a very long time ago at this point....1995). I played soccer which demanded me to be in good shape; I wrestled which made me be in great shape; and I played church softball which kept me going until soccer started back. However, I am no where close to that kind of shape. Now, I'm in a different shape (which you do not need to comment or amen or anything). But the Lord has been convicting me for years now about how I eat and how I take care of my body. I used to publicly claim that I was going to do this or that and then fail at my attempts to get back into shape. Then I quit sharing and hoped to "surprise" people when I got in shape. Neither of those have worked. So, here I am, out of shape, still convicted, and needing a change. So this is a post asking for advice on how to get in shape. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Where do I begin? Keep in mind, I'm heavy enough right now that running hurts my knees and the ankle I broke a few years ago. I may have to lose about 20-30 pounds before I can run. What are your suggestions?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

10 Things I'm Thankful For (in no particular order)

1. The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ who purchased me and took upon Him my sin and God's wrath.

2. The grace of God which enables me to walk with Him everyday.
3. My beautiful wife of 8 years.
4. My precious daughter who is truly a gift from God.
5. The opportunity to preach every week to the same brothers and sister in Christ.
6. My mother who has shown more strength in raising children than any woman I know.
7. Friends who love me enough to hold me accountable before God.
8. Coffee (I have to throw that one in).
9. A heart from God that hopes to adopt in the future.
10. The truth that though I struggle everyday, God is always faithful.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Extended Quote from Mahaney

I have just recently finished rereading Humility: True Greatness by C. J. Mahaney and it was better this time that the previous ones. This quote from the chapter on how to begin each day is a great encouragement and challenge to me:
I've found that it's possible for me to charge into my day motivated by self-sufficiency. But I've also learned that the very act of opening my Bible to read and turning my heart and mind to prayer makes a statement that I need God. i find great benefit from this understanding, because lie you, I have wildly fluctuating emotional experiences from day to day in my devotion. One morning I'm profoundly aware that God is near to me, while the next day I can sense only His absence. In a matter of hours I go from what seems to be an effortless experience of pure joy to asking, "Where are You? Where did You go?"
The fact is, of course, He didn't go anywhere. Yesterday H allowed me to sense His presence; today He seems to be sending the message, "I want you to grow more in your trust of Me; therefore, I'm withdrawing that sense of My nearness."
I've learned that regardless of how I feel when I'm finished reading my Bible in the morning, I can know that I've made the statement, "I need You, I'm dependent upon You." By quietly pausing to study and read and pray before launching my workday, I can be confident that I've taken a step to weaken pride and strengthen humility.

A Challenging Thought for Parenting

In Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney he gives this very challenging word for parents. He writes, "If you aren't faithful to encourage, you can be sure you will eventually exasperate your child. But if you are faithful, then when the time comes for necessary correction - and they will come - the adjustment will be far more effective because the environment you've created isn't correction centered, but grace centered."

How have you sought to create a grace centered environment in your home?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thankful for the Gospel

This morning I was blessed with the glorious opportunity to preach. My message was out of Acts 16:25-34 where the Philippian jailer is converted. I ended with 10 things that we should be thankful for about the gospel. It was a list that was certainly not exhaustive. I'd love to hear more thoughts from you about things that you are thankful for about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More of God

I've been thinking this morning about why we Christians are not more thankful about the gospel of Christ. I think the reason is because we need to know more of God. If we knew more of God we would know that He is holy. If we really knew that He is holy then we would know more of how sinful we really are. If we really understood the depth of our sin how could we not be more thankful for the gospel. So I think we need to know more of God so that we will be more thankful for what God has done on behalf of sinners in Jesus the Christ.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What does the Cross Mean to You?

I want to hear from you. "What does the cross mean to you?" Your answers can be theological or practical. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What Characterizes your Life?

Often times we can quote the fruit of the Spirit from memory. However, how many of you can quote the deeds of the flesh from the verses just before them? And an even more crucial question is: which list characterizes your life? If we walk by the Spirit the fruit of the Spirit will be evident. If we gratify the flesh we will not inherit the kingdom of God. So check your heart and see what characterizes your life.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How Pleased are You with Your Preaching?

Most preachers that I know personally would not ever say they are great preachers. In fact, most preachers I know wouldn't even say they were good preachers. The problem is that what many preachers say and what many preachers feel deep down often times are not the same. I say this because most every preacher I know has to battle pride and being told by their members or friends that they are good preachers. Before you know, you start to believe that statement and, though you'd never say it to others, you think you're a good preacher. As I have began reading Preaching and Preachers (again) by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones I was humbled by this one phrase in the preface, "I can say quite honestly that I would not cross the road to listen to myself preaching, and the preachers whom I have enjoyed most have been very different indeed in their method and style." I was humbled for 2 reasons:

1. I'm sure I think more highly of my preaching than I ever should.
2. I have a tendency to be just like those preachers who minister most to my soul, which could be an indication that I'm to focused on others being "like me."

My pride runs very deep! Am I alone in this struggle?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You Must Be Born Again

As I've been preparing to preach this coming Sunday on John 3, something extremely important comes to mind. This text is very clear that no one can see the kingdom unless they are first born again, and that the only way one is born again is through the Spirit who goes wherever He wills. In The Pillar New Testament Commentary for John, D. A. Carson says of verse 8:

"The point is that the wind can be neither controlled nor understood by human beings (remembering of course that this was written before modern meteorology alleviated at least some of our lack of understanding). But that does not mean we cannot detect the wind's effects. We hear its sound, watch the swaying grasses, see the clouds scudding by, hide in fear before the worst wind storms. So it is with the Spirit. We can neither control him nor understand him. But that does not mean we cannot witness his effects. Where the Spirit works, the effects are undeniable and unmistakeable." (Page 197)

Isn 't it great to know that even though He goes where He wills, we can still see His work when someone is born-again?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Getting Settled

I just wanted to give a quick update about our new ministry. We have moved and are trying to get unpacked and settled in. We had a great first Sunday as we were able to partake of the Lord's Supper together. I began my preaching ministry here with an emphasis on the gospel that will take us through November and looking at aspects of the cross on Sunday evenings that will also take us through November. Starting in December I plan to take Sunday mornings and evenings to work through the book of James. There is a lot of excitement here as well as a lot to learn. The people of First Baptist have been very kind and gracious. I thank the Lord for them and for what He will do in our midst. I'll hopefully start posting more regularly again soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Improving your Blog

Abraham Piper posted 22 very simple ways for a new blogger to improve on his blog. He also invites you to let him know which ones you would remove or what you'd add.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Surveying the Wondrous Cross Conference

The Surveying the Wondrous Cross conference began last night with messages from Justin Childers and Dan Rolfe. You can go to the Christ Baptist Church Sermons site to hear those, plus the ones to be preached today, plus other sermons by Justin Childers and Jonathan Brooks. Unfortunately I'll miss today, but last night was well worth listening to. Justin's sermon from Romans 3 proved challenging and encouraging in the gospel. Dan's message from Galatians 6:14 showed the sufficiency of the cross of Christ without any help. When we add works to the cross we are saying the cross is either meaningless or, at best, insufficient. Take time to hear these sermons. Jason Sessoms will continue to lead in music today and messages from Jonathan Brooks and Justin Nale still await. Praise God for faithfulness and focusing on the cross of Christ.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Surveying the Wondrous Cross

Tonight is the beginning of the conference Surveying the Wondrous Cross. I am excited to see what the Lord will do through this time. If you are in the Rocky Mount/Wilson area we'd love to see you come out for this. It is going to be held at New Hope Elementary School in Wilson, NC. All the details are on the above link as well as who R and R Fellowship is and what they want to accomplish for the glory of God in this area.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Mac-Daddy Bible

With all the hype over the ESV Study Bible that has just come out, I thought I'd weigh in as well. I got mine delivered today by UPS and opened it with absolute joy. When I picked it up out of the box, the first thing I realized is that this thing is thick! After that, I saw very quickly that this is a Study Bible on steroids. I mean this thing is large and in charge. Okay, enough with the goofy lame language there. In all honesty, it appears that it is a great resource to have for anyone who wants to learn and study the Bible. I'm glad I got it.

Pillar and Buttress of the Truth

This past Sunday I had to privilege of preaching from 1 Timothy 3:14-16 where Paul writes:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

One of the greatest points from this text is that the church exists for the proclamation of the truth of the gospel. Both a pillar and a buttress are used to support, or to lift up something else. In the case of the church, it exists to lift up the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Remember the Gospel

I fear that the church in the West today has really misunderstood who the gospel is to be preached to. Certainly we know the gospel is to be preached to those in darkness and lost in their sin. Indeed, when one repents there is joy that spreads through the heart of every true believer. However, the gospel is not just for the lost. Paul trusted Timothy to do great works. He had a deep and abiding care for youth Timothy. And yet, he still reminded him about the gospel. The charge is found in Second Timothy 2:8, "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel." Why do we as believers often times fail to take heed to such a great and glorious charge as this?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Being Missional

Why is it that this word is used in normal context for church plants but rarely do I hear it (could be I don't listen well) used for established churches? In Ed Stetzer's book Planting Missional Churches he talks about missional like this, "Missional implies taking the approach of a missionary--being indigenous to the culture, seeking to understand and learn, adapting methods to the mission field--but winding up in the biblical form of a church. And, although the form is highly flexible, the purpose is the same: to see a biblical church planted in a local culture." I don't think this is something that ought to be reserved to church plants. This is simply what the church is to be. To take this a step further, every Christian is to be missional in the sense of knowing the culture so that you can take the gospel to the people. This is not a calling for a pastor/church planter; it's a characteristic of a believer. Am I missing something?

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Valley of Vision

I have referenced The Valley of Vision several times on this blog because I believe it is one resource that God uses to help sanctify the souls of His saints. The same titled prayer has been very beneficial for my soul this day.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, adn the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine; Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death, thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, thy riches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley.

Pastoring and Church Planting

I'd love to hear some thoughts from some of you pastors and church planters about the difference between the two. Most of my church planter friends are also pastors, but is there a difference?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Church History

There are a couple of major reasons to know church history. First of all, when we don't know church history we are bound and determined to repeat the same mistakes that were already dealt with. More dangerous than that is that we may bring back some of the same heresies. Another reason for church history is so that you do not argue against your history. Have you ever heard someone say that had never heard your view of something when you are closer to the overwhelming majority of church history?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Scripture Memorization

In the internship that I am a part of from Open Door Baptist Church we have to memorize 2 Timothy this semester and Titus next semester. Also, at Christ Baptist Church, which we will be members of in a few weeks God-willing, we are memorizing John 14. To aid with this I have consulted this which is written by Andrew Davis, pastor of FBC Durham. The important thing to remember is the reason for memorizing Scripture. As one of our elders said this morning, we are not memorizing Scripture together for some sort of competition. Rather, we memorize Scripture so that we will have something to always think about to constantly help us preach to ourselves and help conform us into the image of Christ. I would challenge all who read this to find portions of Scripture to memorize. This is a spiritual discipline that cannot be overlooked for the one who sees the importance of being holy as God is holy.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Great Truth is Displayed...

A great truth is displayed when everything else that you value in life is seemingly removed and you still treasure Christ above everything else. It's easy to say that IF everything were removed we would still treasure Christ. It's another thing to treasure Him WHEN everything that you value in your life is stripped away.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Need for Church Plants

There are certainly plenty of gatherings of the church throughout most of our cities, but is there a need for more? The answer to that question is yes. For one reason, stastiticly church plants reach more new people for Christ than established churches. That's not to say that established churches do not reach people, some do. However, it is to say that many new churches have a zeal for evangelism that many established churches have lost. So for those who are committed to reaching lost people with the gospel, church planting is an important thing to consider.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Almost a Month

After taking almost a month off (my wife said I couldn't do it), I've decided to go ahead and start blogging again. However, I am working on determining what reason I'll have for this blog. So as time goes on, I'll try to be clear in what my intentions are for this blog. As of right now, I think the emphasis will be primarily related to church planting, though I will continue to share other thoughts and quotes as I have before. Posts will also be light since I am now working early in the morning, keeping Abigail throughout the day, and going to school full-time. Thanks for being patient and I look forward to more interaction again soon.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Taking Time Off

I have actually been considering closing this blog down, but for now I have decided to take August off. God-willing, after taking a break I'll be ready to blog some more in September. I hope I didn't disappoint you 3 or 4 readers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Philippians 2:12-16

Tonight, God-willing, we are going to discuss Philippians 2:12-16. This is a beautiful reminder that we are commanded to work, and yet it's not us who works. It is God who is working within us both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This is a glorious truth that I'm looking forward to seeing with friends tonight. It looks like we ought to have a good crowd tonight. If you are interested, you can be here at 7:00. If you need directions, just reply with your email and I'll send them to you.

Why Preach?

Over the past several days I have told many people that I am really struggling because I miss preaching on a regular basis. However, as I was praying last night and thinking through some Scriptures, I realized that I was preaching pridefully. Here's what I mean (in way of confession). There is a joy for me to get up and proclaim the Word of God (which is not a bad thing). However, the Bible says that some are called as preacher/teachers to equip the saints. Here's where the Lord really convicted me last night and throughout today. Do I really love God AND people? Actually, if you truly love God you WILL love people. But is my motivation for preaching based on that. In other words, do I preach just to get the point of the text across (obviously of great importance)? Or do I love the people enough to seek their understanding of the text so that it will be applied to their lives and they will be conformed into the image of Christ? It seems like such a fine line there, but it's there nonetheless. If I get up and preach week in and week out, but care not about the affect it has on those who hear, am I really preaching with the right motives? I think the answer is clear. I want to confess that I have preached too many times without thinking and hoping for the proper application of the Word of God. I have preached too often with the desire to hear that it was good and that I handled the text accurately (again, very important). But I have not desired enough to see the Word of God enter into the hearts of men and women so that they would change as a result. So, why preach? For the glory of God! For the salvation and sanctification of His people. Lord help us all to preach Your Word with passion and accuracy so that many more will worship You because of it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Welcome Wil

A while back I wrote a post of gratitude for my good friend Wil Owens. I have also posted on one of his sermons here. You can go here to see more of his sermons and to learn more of him. However, I just found out today that he is also on blogspot now here. So with that being said, I say welcome my friend.

Friday, July 25, 2008

How to Plant a Church

Okay, I have heard that John Piper has preached a sermon that I think is called You Don't know how to Plant a Church. I have no idea if that is the name of it or not. It could be that he just talked about that. Either way, I don't know how to find it. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Christ Alone

From The Valley of Vision
"Christ Alone" 
O God,
Thy main plan, and the end of thy will is to make Christ glorious and beloved in heaven, where he is now ascended, where one day all the elect will behold his glory and love and glorify him for ever.
Though here I love him but little, may this be my portion at last.
In this world thou hast given me a beginning, one day it will be perfected in the realm above.
Thou hast helped me to see and know Christ, though obscurely, to take him, receive him, to possess him, love him, to bless him in my heart, mouth, life.
Let me study and stand for discipline, and all the ways of worship, out of love for Christ; and to show my thankfulness; to seek and know his will from love, to hold it in love, and daily to care for and keep this state of heart.
Thou hast led me to place all my nature and happiness in oneness with Christ, in having heart and mind centred only on him, in being like him in communicating good to others;
This is my heaven on earth,
But I need to the force, energy, impulses of thy Spirit to carry me on the way to my Jerusalem.
Here, it is my duty to be as Christ in this world, to do what he would do, to live as he would live, to walk in love and meekness; then would he be known, then would I have peace in death.

Gathering a Core Group

Since Shannon and I have resolved that, as far as we know, we are planning to plant a church, I would love some wisdom from others. How would you go about establishing a core group of people for the church plant? What things would you stress during the time of meeting before the new church "launches" publicly? What would you determine as the primary reasons for choosing a particular place to plant? I ask all of these questions, and there are plenty more, because I truly want to hear from others. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Will you Pray?

I have had several conversations with people lately about our city, Rocky Mount. The bottom line is that there are several lost people within our city limits who are not consistently hearing the gospel. It is real easy to assume that someone else is taking the gospel to people. I want to call on us all to pray and to seek for opportunities to take the gospel to everyone in Rocky Mount. Sure that is a high goal, but it is also a lofty one. Would you commit to praying for our city and seeking to find ways to take the gospel to everyone within our city limits?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Java Motts Tonight

For those of you who do not know Jason Sessoms, I would like to encourage you to go tonight to Java Motts and hear him and others play music. They are an encouragement to our souls because they sing songs with good theology. Plus, you can have some good coffee at the same time. Add a book in the mix, or a good conversation, and you have a great night. I hope to see you there.

Calling on Rocky Mount

Justin Nale has posted an open letter to the Christians of Rocky Mount. You can go here to read it. Let's not take this challenge lightly. Will we respond as light and salt or not?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

When Service to God is Sin

My friend Wil Owens preached this message this past week. I was able to be there and was truly blessed by his exposition of Joshua 24. You can go here to listen to it and other sermons by him.

What did Christ Accomplish?

As I continue to read through The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, I have been encouraged by the unbelievable Biblical data that Owen presents in this book. His argument has been dealing with what exactly Christ accomplished on the cross for sinners. He has argued that those whom He suffered for He has also been the mediator for. Here's an argument that I've heard before, but I'll quote it from Owen.

To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalist: - God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: "If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?" Ps. cxxx. 3. We might all go to cast all that we have "to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty," Isa. ii. 20, 21. If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect of the world. If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, "Because of their unbelief; they will not believe." But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, they why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.

Psalms

With just a couple more months before the ESV Study Bible comes out, they have released Psalms in PDF for preview. I am not usually a fan of study Bibles, but I think this one has the potential to be worth the money (in fact, I've already ordered mine!). 

You can also go here to see Justin Taylor's post about it.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

A Call for the Gospel

J. D. Greear has a great post here on preaching the gospel. We all need to make sure we're preaching Christ and Him crucified.

Happy Birthday Abigail




My precious little girl, Abigail Grace, turns three today. It is unbelievable to me that three years have already past. She is truly a gift of grace from the Lord. Happy Birthday Abigail! These are a few pictures from her party with family on July 5th.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Death of Death

I have recently ventured into reading John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, and it has already proved beneficial. However, reading Owen is not easy. I don't have enough dictionaries to follow everything. With that being said, I just read this paragraph from the opening section written to the readers of this book. He is combating the idea of a general atonement and the idea of "free-will" which goes along with it. I found this sentence very good.

It seems our blessed Redeemer's deep humiliation, in bearing the chastisement of our peace and the punishment of our transgressions, being made a curse and sin, deserted under wrath and the power of death, procuring redemption and the remission of sins through the effusion of his blood, offering himself up a sacrifice to God, to make reconciliation and purchase an atonement, his pursuing this undertaking with continued intercession in the holy of holies, with all the benefits of his mediatorship, do no way procure either life and salvation or remission of sins, but only serve to declare that we are not indeed what his word affirms we are,--namely, cursed, guilty, defiled, and only not actually cast into hell.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Youth Camp

This week I have an opportunity to preach at a youth camp for FBC Metropolis, IL. My former youth pastor, Cliff Easter, invited me to speak here this week. We've decided to preach and focus on the cross all week. I will be preaching 8 times in five days. Here are the messages:

How will you Hear? (Luke 8)
The Cross and Our Sin (Genesis 3)
The Cross and God's Sacrifice (Hebrews 9)
The Cross and God's Sovereignty (Isaiah 53)
The Cross and God's Glory (Ephesians 1)
The Cross and Justification (Romans 5)
The Cross and Boasting (Galatians 6)
The Cross and Missions (1 Corinthians 1)
We are also going to have a small group time where everyone will read and discuss C. J. Mahaney's book The Cross Centered Life. We would certainly appreciate your prayers. If I can post through the week I will, if not, I'll try to give a summary after Friday.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Learning Greek

I have said for quite some time that my Greek has really fallen off since I took it a few years ago in college. I have decided that it is time for that to change. I am spending the rest of this summer trying to review my Greek so that I will be able to better understand, apply, and teach the New Testament. I have just started reading David Black's book Learn to Read New Testament Greek. Has anyone read this? What are your thoughts about this book? So far, I've enjoyed it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Physical Death to Life is Meant to Demonstrate Spiritual Death to Life

Yesterday morning I was able to preach at Mt. Hermon Missionary Baptist Church. I am not sure if the audio will be available or not, but I did want to draw out my conclusion here. My final point of application was that "Physical Death to Life is Meant to Demonstrate Spiritual Death to Life." Here is my point. When Jesus went into Nain in Luke 7, He demonstrated His power and authority over life and death. In His own mercy and compassion He chose to raise this widow's only son to life. This is amazing! However, this is only a picture of something more amazing. When someone is born again, it is even more amazing (and costly) than this miracle. Let me try to explain quickly. Ephesians 2 makes it abundantly clear that we are all dead in our trespasses and sins. It goes on to say that in God's mercy He made us alive together with Christ. So in truth, when we come to faith in Christ we are raised from death to life. However, when someone is raised from death to life physically (which the gospels have 3 accounts of from Jesus), it does not guarantee eternal life. There is no guarantee of forgiveness. There is no promise of God. For someone to be raised to life spiritually, Jesus had to die. As Hebrews 9:22 says, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." So it was far more costly for Jesus to raise people who are dead in their trespasses and sins than it was for Him to raise people physically. This is also far more amazing. When one is born again by the Spirit (again, His own sovereign choice), there is the promise of forgiveness and eternal life and the reward of being in the gracious presence of God forever. So physical death to life is great, but it is meant to show us that power of Christ who is able to do far more by giving people eternal life through His shed blood on the cross for sinners. He is truly a very compassionate Savior!

How to Better Love your Wife

My wife is not feeling well right now. This has caused me to contemplate a few things. First of all, I clearly recognize that men and women are different. I have no shame in stating this. I believe that God has purposefully created us differently and I praise Him for it. However, that can also be an issue at times. Since we are different, sometimes I am not sure how to better love my wife. I would love to hear some practical ways you demonstrate how you love your wife. I want to be the husband that God has ordained for me to be which means I am to love her as Christ loved the church. So what are your thoughts on how to practically live this command in Scripture out in marriage?

What is a Healthy Church Member?

This looks to be a great book. Thabiti is one that I have come to respect a great deal. I was able to hear him speak twice in the past year and half. You click on What is a Healthy Church Member to get one. I look forward to reading this book.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Compassionate Savior

In the morning I have a great privilege to preach for Justin Nale, the pastor of Mt. Hermon Missionary Baptist Church. I am going to preach on one of my favorite passages in the book of Luke which is found in Luke 7:11-17. One of the most amazing things about this passage is how it reveals the compassion of Jesus Christ. Jesus sees a woman who has lost her husband at some point (she's called a widow) and has now lost her only son. The compassionate Savior is demonstrated as He decides to raise this young man from the dead without being asked. It is His idea. He reaches out to this woman at her most desperate time and declares that He is a gracious, compassionate Savior. Hallelujah! What a Savior.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Man's Great End...Through a Great Savior

This morning in my devotional time I read a prayer out of The Valley of Vision and I read from the book of Hebrews. Both were very helpful and worth sharing with others. I hope you are encouraged through the prayers of saints and the Word of God.

Lord of all being,
There is one thing that deserves my greatest care, that calls forth my ardent desires,
That is, that I may answer the great end for which I am made - to glorify thee who hast given me being, and to do all the good I can for my fellow man;
Verily, life is not worth having if it be not improved for this noble purpose.
Yet, Lord, how little is this the thought of mankind!
Most men seem to live for themselves, without much or any regard for thy glory, or for the good of others;
They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue the riches, honours, pleasures of this life, as if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment, could make their immortal souls happy;
But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these!
And how miserable ere long will those be that sleep in them, for all our happiness consists in loving thee, and being holy as thou art holy.
O may I never fall into the tempers and vanities, the sensuality and folly of the present world!
It is a place of inexpressible sorrow, a vast empty nothingness;
Time is a moment, a vapour, and all its enjoyments are empty bubbles, fleeting blasts of wind, from which nothing satisfactory can be derived;
Give me grace always to keep in covenant with thee, and to reject as delusion a great name here or hereafter, together with all sinful pleasures and profits.
Help me to know continually that there can be no true happiness, no fulfilling of thy purpose for me, apart from a life lived in and for the Son of thy love.

So who is this Son of His love?
Hebrews 7:22-25: This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he hold his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (ESV)

Monday, June 23, 2008

How Should the Church Be? Part 5

You can see the others here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. For this fifth post I will say that the church need to be "Intentionally Unified." The church is to be made up of people from all different backgrounds with different gifts and with different personalities. Last night at our small group with Christ Baptist Church Pastor Justin Childers led us in a discussion through the book What is a Healthy Church. This is a very good small book that everyone should read. One of the points that Justin emphasized was how the gospel is displayed when a bunch of sinners who have been reconciled to God and each other through the cross of Christ can actually get along, forgive, and love one another with all their differences. I think he's exactly right. The church is to display the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to this dark world by living out the gospel together. But don't take his word or my word for it. Listen to how Jesus says this in John 17:20-26 when He prays for His church.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that they world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made know to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
The way the world will know that Jesus Christ is the Messiah sent from God is when His church is unified as one like He and the Father are one. This will not be easy! But the Bible never says that it's easy to be a follower of Christ. Can you imagine a church that is ethnically, socially, economically, educationally, giftedly, and a thousand other ways diverse and unified? This is the radical call of the church. We must strive for unity so that the world will believe. The gospel is at risk when we will not unite as one.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Define Missional

This is an exercise for everyone. Give me your definition of "missional." This is the buzz word that I have heard from several church planters. However, I am not sure if there is any consistence to what it means. Let me know what you think of when you say or hear that a church or person is "missional."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How Should the Church be? Part 4

For my fourth post on this subject, I think it's important to think about the church as striving to display what it will be like in heaven. Therefore, the church should be intentional in seeking to be ethnically diverse. Before I go any further, let me clarify something. If you live in an area where there isn't but one ethnicity, then obviously that will be the make up of the church. However, many of us do not live in such a place. I also want to make clear that there is a major difference between saying, "we are fine with other ethnic groups coming to church" and saying, "we will go out of our way to make sure we are reaching all peoples with the gospel." In the first statement, it is very passive. In the second, we are active. The church ought to be active in its desire to be multi-ethnic. I take this from Revelation 5:9-10:

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."
So it is clear from this passage that the bride that Jesus Christ bought is from every peoples. If this is true, then it's not a matter of how someone is alike or different from others. What matters is that there is one God whom has sent His Son to purchase a colorful bride for Himself. The church must seek to see people come to Christ from every tribe and language and people and nation. When will the church realize this and seek to honor the death of Christ by being as ethnically diverse as possible?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Here

I am very excited that I received my new ESV Journaling Bible in the mail today. One of the first things I noticed was the color and texture of paper (that's for you Jason S.). Actually, I am so excited to use it that I want to read the whole Bible tonight (I'm sure that won't actually happen). To give an update, I went to a local bookstore and looked at the Bible before I ordered it, but it would have cost me twice as much if I bought it there. Westminster Bookstore has great prices, great service, and quick delivery!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Philippians 1:19-30 Tonight

Tonight is Tuesday which means we are having our Bible study at the house. All are welcomed to come and learn and grow with us. We meet at 7:00 and have time of study and discussion until about 8:00 and then we have snacks (and yes there will be brownies tonight Justin O.). If you have some spare time please come and be a part of this.

The text tonight will more than likely take two weeks to cover, but it's a good text (all the Bible is). This text has the well-known verse 21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I am very convicted that my heart is often far from this statement. We need each other's help to have this kind of thinking. Do we only want God to be glorified in our bodies? Either in life or by death?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How Do You Prepare to Hear the Word of God on Sunday?

I read this sermon from Luke 8 by John Piper a while back and looked back over it today. Piper gives 10 exhortations to help you prepare for corporate worship. I've found them very helpful.

1. Pray that God would give you the good and honest heart described in verse 15
2. Meditate on the Word of God. Read portions of your Bible with a view to stirring up hunger for God
3. Purify your mind by turning away from worldly entertainment
4. Trust in the truth that you already have
5. Get a good night's rest on Saturday night
6. Forebear one another without grumbling and criticism
7. Come in a spirit of meek teachability
8. Be still as you enter the room and focus your mind's attention and heart's affection on God
9. When the worship service begins, think earnestly about what is sung and prayed and preached
10. Desire the truth of God's Word more than you desire riches or food

Exciting

Is anyone else excited about this? I can't wait. Phil Ryken seems to be so that's good company.

New Blog

There is a new blog that just started with some of the faculty from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It's called Between the Times. I think it will be very good and worth reading.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Journaling Bible?

I have seen the ESV Journaling Bible for quite some time now, but I haven't broke down and bought it yet. I am wondering if anyone has it and what your thoughts on it are. Is it worth getting? Which one would you recommend and why? Is there enough space to journal really?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How Should the Church Be? Part 3

I have already said that the church should be Biblically saturated and Christ centered. The church should also be God glorifying. Again, this is not one that many people would disagree with in word, but sometimes in practice. This can be done in a variety of ways, but it must begin with Scripture. When Paul writes to the church in Corinth he writes, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) We live in a time when everyone wants to individualize everything, including their Christian lives. I have often heard this verse attached to each individual person. That principle is absolutely true. However, this is written to the church at Corinth. The church is to be God-glorifying in all that it does. One way this takes place is outlined in Matthew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I take this to mean that one way God gets glory is by the church doing good works. This is not the only way, in fact the primary way for a church to be God-glorifying is to be obedient to the Scriptures. If a church is going to be a New Testament church, her primary desire is to be Biblically obedient with the purpose of being God-glorifying.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Not too Late

I meant to post this earlier, but I got busy and forgot to. If you happen to read this in the next little while it's not too late to come to out Bible study tonight at 7:00. We are still looking at Philippians and are enjoying God together.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

How Should the Church Be? Part 2

This one is also extremely easy to agree with.  The church should obviously be Christ-centered. When Paul went to the church in Corinth he was concerned about being single-minded. He writes in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Paul's number one proclamation for the church is Jesus Christ. However, it's not just about Jesus Christ, it's about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I have heard people say that we need to be careful talking about the cross for this reason of that. The bottom line is that the cross of Jesus Christ is everything for those who believe. If it were not for the cross, there would be no church. The Bible is completely about Jesus Christ. It's the unfolding of God's gracious promise to redeem sinners after the fall. So a Biblical church will be focused upon Christ and Him crucified.
A church who is centered on anything else will have all it's affections on the wrong thing. At the same time, this must be true for each individual. The church is the gathering of individual believers who have covenanted together to walk in love and in Christlikeness and to help each other do the same. May we all guard our hearts, minds, affections, attitudes, devotions, friendships, marriages, and anything else we can think of to be Christ-centered. He is to be treasured above all things. He is to be honored in our every thought.
God help me (us) to live for your glory by treasuring Christ above everything else. God help us to put Christ first and to be magnified in our lives and throughout the nations. Help your church be filled with Christ-centered born-again people. Send your Spirit to point us to Christ.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thank God for Good Friends

I have been thinking lately about the grace that God displays through giving us true Christian friends. Not only those who are there when things are good or even when things get rough. I'm talking about those who love you enough to hold you accountable before God. Those who care enough about your sanctification that they will help you see your sin and pray with you for strength from God to fight against it. Those who find ways to point you to Christ and to let you know that no matter what happens the cross is to remain central and reconciliation is possible through the cross. Those who you trust enough to share your deepest struggles with and who will lovingly help you see how you can honor God with your life. Those who are there for you with grace in the tough times when everything else seems to go against you. Those who care about you because they care first about the glory of God.

There are many more things that could be said about good friends, but there can only be a few genuine relationships that happen on this level. I plan to post a few posts about some friends in my life that I would put in this category. These friendships have withstood the test of time and many hardships. So for this post I thank God for my good friend Wil Owens. I first met Wil as he was preaching at a youth ski retreat in January 1999. I am not sure about anything more than meeting him at that point, and then again one year later in January 2000. At this point I was a few months from getting married starting college at The College at Southeastern. Again, I'm not sure how much we communicated at this time, but when I began college Wil was in Seminary there. His wonderful wife, Summer, and my wife, Shannon, became friends as well which enabled us to hang out together (mostly at Dairy Queen in Wake Forest which I dearly want as I type this). That January we all went on a vacation together and that is when our friendship began to develop.

At this time ministry began to be planned together. Wil had been to India several times for missions and was heading back in April 2001. This was his first trip to Andrah Pradesh and by God's grace and provision I was able to go with him. While not very edifying, I still remember Wil pointing out that he knew that my life long goal was to show the world I was an idiot and I was starting with India. Please know this was in humor and fun and nothing negative (I hope). Our friendship at this point became one of accountability in some ways and theological encouragement in many ways.
In April 2005 I resigned from being a student pastor in Rocky Mount, NC to assist Wil in a church plant. Over these last three years I realized what a true friend looks like. There was stress on my side, sin to be sure, and a lack of love for my brother. Wil was a rock of faith that has made me refocus on Christ and the gospel. I can remember Wil helping me to work through some of my toughest theological questions (Wil if you read this, I still hold to my understanding of the Angel of the Lord!), and he was even gracious enough to help me see some areas that I have struggled in greatly. However, it wasn't until after I left Grace Covenant Community Church to pastor that I realized how good of a friend he is. Wil Owens has been used by God in my life for my personal sanctification. Wil has been an instrument in God's hand that causes me to marvel at the glory of God. While many people will come and go throughout one's life, I thank God greatly for my dear brother Wil Owens.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Should the Church Be? Part 1

Over the past several months I have thought a lot about what the church is supposed to be. I am sure there are several opinions about this, but I plan to post a few thoughts in the next couple of weeks. Right now my schedule is slammed with this summer class, but I hope for a break this weekend. For tonight I will simply say that the church is supposed to be Biblically saturated. If it's true that all Scripture is God-breathed, then shouldn't we take seriously what it says? Over the past several years I have been faced with having my preconceived thoughts about the teachings of Scripture challenged because I believe it's His Word and it means something specific and we are to obey it. God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity in a special way called the Word of God. Jesus had a high view of Scripture which is evidenced in the fact that He quoted Deuteronomy to combat the temptation of Satan. He also explained to the disciples on the road to Emmaus that the Old Testament is about Him. There is much to be said here, but if the Bible is not primary, where else do you get your authority? Before you say from Jesus, I trust that that is based on your understanding from the Bible.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In Prison?

As I have studied more of Philippians 1:12-18 for tonight, I have asked myself this question over and over again, "What would you do if you were imprisoned for the gospel?" Or to put it another way, "Would you keep preaching the gospel if you were already imprisoned for preaching and that you knew you may receive the death penalty for doing so?"
There is another question that has arisen for me in this text, "Would you preach the gospel with more boldness if your mentor had already been arrested for preaching?" In verse 14 Paul says, "And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." Did you notice that? They became confident, not discouraged, by the imprisonment of Paul. So what would you do for the gospel?

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Providence of God

Tomorrow night we will pick back up in Philippians. I am excited to see the group after taken last Tuesday off to celebrate my anniversary with my wife. As usual, when studying the Scriptures God convicts hearts and attitudes. It's amazing to me that Paul's imprisonment in Philippi is actually used by God for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul says that what has happened to him has really served to advance the gospel. This the single mindedness of Paul. I'm suffering and imprisoned for the gospel, so I keep preaching! God was not caught off guard by Paul being in prison. In Acts 16 Paul was forbade by the Holy Spirit to go into Asia Minor because He had a plan in Macedonia. Here in Philippians Paul is imprisoned and recognizes that it's for the advancement of the gospel. God has providentially worked in the life of Paul to accomplish the advancement of the gospel to the whole imperial guard. O to have the joy and assurance in Christ as Paul did.  O to trust in the providence of God in all situations.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Today is our eighth anniversary.  I want to publicly say that my wife is the greatest.  She was very instrumental in my coming to Christ ten years ago.  She has been a godly woman who has known me for over half my life.  Words cannot express how thankful to God I am for my wife.  I love you Shannon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Missing my Sister

Sabrina Renee Alston went to be the Lord on this day in 1987.  As the years go by I miss her more and more.  I long for the day when I too will be in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. - Philippians 1:23

Praying for Others

Last night we finished looking at Philppians 1:1-11 and there was some emphasis on the need to pray for others.  I am thinking that I may (emphasis on may) start posting more about Philippians throughout the week, but for now I want to talk about a lesson we (Christians) should learn from Paul.  In verses 3-11 Paul talks about his joyful prayer on behalf of all the Christians at Philippi.  In verses 3-4 Paul says, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy."  So we noticed last week that Paul remembers the believers at Philippi and offers up thanksgiving to his God (notice the personal relationship of Paul with his God) and that he prays for them with joy.  And then in verse 5 he gives the reason for why he remembers them and thanks God for them, "because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."  His joyful prayers of thanksgiving on behalf of those at Philippi are because they are partners with him in the gospel.  This is Biblical fellowship.  It is deeply rooted in and around the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 6 Paul deals with the fact that God began a good work in Philippi and will complete what He began.  In Acts 16 the Holy Spirit forbade Paul and the others to go into Asia Minor to preach the gospel because God was going to do a work in Macedonia, and particularly in Philippi.  God opened Lydia's heart, He freed a demon possessed woman, and He saved a jailor and his family.  God also used the Philippian church to minister to Paul by sending gifts out of poverty and great tribulation (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
Last night we noticed that Paul had a deep yearning affection for them.  In fact, it was rooted in his walk with Christ.  His affection is described in verse 8 as the affection of Christ Jesus.  Wow!  We should all pray that we walk so closely with the Lord that His affection working through us will be aimed at others.  That is why Paul can pray for them with joy.  He loves the church.  He has confidence in God.  And so He prays that God will help them abound in love more and more.  This is a prayer for every church.  May we learn to pray for others within our local churches, and others within the church around the world.  May we learn to pray for others and yearn for them with the affection of Jesus Christ.  May we learn to pray that others will be filled with knowledge and discernment so that they will be pure and blameless before God.  May we pray for others that they will be filled with fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.  May our prayers be such that we want others to live in such a way that God receives glory and praise through their lives.  Let's learn to pray for others the way Paul prayed for those in Philippi.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Where is your Confidence?

As I have been preparing for our Bible study tomorrow night, I have been overwhelmed and convicted by Paul's confidence.  When Paul wants to encourage the church in Philippi he says in chapter 1 verse 6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus."  The word for sure means that Paul was convinced or persuaded of this truth.  I think there are two ways that we Christians can mess up with our walks with God.
1.  Often times Christians are guilty of putting a lot emphasis on what the person has to do.  In other words, the Bible is clear that we are to repent and believe the gospel.  The Bible is clear that we are to bear fruit.  The Bible makes it clear that we are to persevere in our faith to the end.  The Bible makes it clear that we must place all of our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  However, at the risk of missing other Scriptures there is too much placed into the hands of the created.
2.  But there are some who sometimes fall to the other side.  What I mean is that there are some who falsely understand God's grace and God's sovereignty to mean that there is not responsibility of man.  In this situation people miss the point of works that belongs to the created. 
I think those are extremes and most people I know fall in between those.  But you understand my point.  Here is the predicament we sometimes find ourselves in.  We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Let us never forget that the Christian life is a life of hard work.  We must discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.  And yet, we will fail!  So we must never forget that as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, it is God who is at work both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Now back to Philippians 1:6.  The reason Paul could say that he was sure that he who began a good work would complete it is two-fold.  First of all, when God starts something He will finish it...period!  Salvation begins with God.  Jesus is building His church.  The first convert in Philippi was Lydia and the Bible is clear that she is saved because God opened her heart to believe.  All of this is because God starts it, so it is easy to see that God will finish it.  On the other side of that, Paul can be confident because those in Philippi have given evidence of God's work in their life.  The church has now grown and the believers have rallied together to send gifts to the apostle Paul.  They are demonstrating their love for both God and neighbor in the way they act and the deeds they do.  So Paul can be confident that God has begun this work because he can see the works in their lives.
So where is your confidence?  If you have faith, without works, that faith is dead (nonexistent).  And if you have works, without faith, they accomplish nothing.  Work hard in all that you do that you might glorify God with your life, but never ever ever put your confidence in anything other than God who is at work within you.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Busy Tuesday Nights?

This past Tuesday we began our Bible study of the book of Philippians.  We had a good crowd for it, but we would love to see more.  If you are interested, we would love to have you come over at 7:00 as we seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pursue Humility

In C. J. Mahaney's book Humility: True Greatness he recalls talking with Don Carson who had sat down with the late Carl Henry and asked how he was able remain humble for so many decades.  Carl Henry's response is one we should all think about daily, "How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?"  Oh to stand and gaze upon the Savior who paid the ransom for sinners!  Let us be humble.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Humble Joy

I have had a few of you who read this blog who have said you were going to try to come tonight as we begin a study of Philippians.  I find there to be two themes that run through this book: humility and joy.  I think that it will be an exciting time in the word together as we seek to glorify God by learning more of Him through His word.  My hope is that as we study this book together we will become humbly joyful.  Even if you haven't responded, you are welcome to come.  We would love to have you here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Walk by the Spirit

I had the opportunity to preach at Enfield Baptist Church this morning.  I spoke on Galatians 5:16-26 and spoke about the importance of walking by the Spirit.  Paul gives a command to actively and continually walk by the Spirit in verse 16.  Our flesh is at war with the Spirit who is dwelling within those who believe.  I have not typically been good at given specific ways to apply the text.  However, I did give five practical ways that we can actively try to walk by the Spirit.
1.  Learn your Bible.  When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, He used Scripture to fight the battle.  There is nothing in this life that we will be tempted by that Scripture cannot fight.
2.  Learn to pray.  Most of us pray when times are tough, but we need to learn to pray without ceasing so that we will be prepared in our walk with God to fight our flesh at all times.
3.  Find accountability within your local church.  The Christian life was never meant to be a solo journey.  James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another and to pray for one another.  We all need this in our lives.
4.  Place your hope in the finished work of Christ.  While we will battle against our flesh in this life, Jesus has already won the war.  He who began a good work will bring it to completion.
5.  Remember where you've come from.  Look back over the journey of your life since you came to Christ, and let that be an encouragement to you.  Your sanctification ought help you in your daily battles.
If you claim the name of Christ then you have crucified the flesh.  If you say you are in Christ, and yet you do not feel the war against sin, you need to check and see if you really have the Spirit living within you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Prayer Update

For those of you who were praying for my grandmother, she has been released from the hospital.  Thank you for your prayers.  Praise God!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Accountability!

I desperately need to be held accountable by my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Over the past few months I have had several conversations with several friends who have challenged me, made me check my heart, made me think through hard issues, and several other issues.  Iron really does sharpen iron.  I have noticed that we (in America at least) are so individualized that we think we can live this Christian life alone.  This is not the way God has intended it to be.  The New Testament is full of "one another" commands.  I have been looking at these over the past couple of months as I've prayed about church planting and what the church is supposed to be.  The bottom line is that I need accountability...and so do you!  We all need it.  There is not one person on the face of this earth who doesn't need others in their lives to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.  I pray for more brothers and sisters in my life to help me become more like Christ.
With that being said, I have decided to have a Bible study at my house beginning this coming Tuesday night (April 29) at 7:00 PM.  We are looking to church plant, but it may not be in Rocky Mount.  This is simply a time for those who are interested to come together and study the book of Philippians together.  If you are interested in coming, and hopefully sharing life together, please send me an email at ra4jc@aol.com.  I look forward to being challenged by the Bible and encouraged by others.