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


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

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


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


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?