Monday, September 28, 2009

Helpful Lectures on Gospel Driven Life

In an earlier post, I promoted Michael Horton's new book. So far I have read the first couple of chapters and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I especially appreciate the biblical-theological feel of how he is presenting the gospel as the drama of redemptive-history and his emphasis upon us finding ourselves as players in that drama united to the main protagonist:
Yet God descends to give us a new script: a rich plot in which our original character dies and is raised with the lead character. Instead of trying to find a supporting role for God in our play, God writes us into his script as part of a growing cast for his new world. . . . through this gospel the Spirit sweeps us into the drama, into the new creation that has already been inaugurated. No longer "in Adam," under the reign of sin and death, we are "in Christ," (12).
If you are interested in finding out more about the book, or the concept of living the "Gospel Driven Life" but not yet ready to buy it, you can listen to these lectures that Horton did at the Spring Theology Conference for the Reformation Society of Oregon:
If you haven't gotten the book yet, you can still get it at the discounted price here.

[HT: James Grant; Monergism]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More on Gospel Living

As a follow up to my previous post on The Gospel Driven Life, I thought I would also promote a book I have just finished reading that also promotes a gospel understanding of the Christian life, but from a more personal perspective. Authored by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson, this book seeks to emphasize that the proper way to understand ourselves and our personal struggles is not "by walking beyond the gospel that first brought us into the favor and family of God but rather by moving more deeply into that same gospel," (14, emphasis in original). Stated very simply in the Introduction, the purpose of the book is to help Christians "take the truth of our acceptance before God by Christ's righteousness alone and make it practical as you live your everyday life, (19), because "many Christians . . . just don't know how his incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, and reign ought to impact them in the 'real world,'" (20).

The book is geared towards providing a Christian approach to counseling, which they call "gospel-centered counseling, and define as,
the process of one Christian coming alongside another with words of truth to encourage, admonish, comfort, and help--words drawn from Scripture, grounded in the gracious saving work of Jesus Christ, and presented in the context of relationship (91-92).
The goal of this counseling is not just to help people behave better or to have more self worth, and it is not just geared towards individuals, but rather to help "one grow in his or her understanding of the gospel and how it applies to every area of life and then respond in grateful obedience in every circumstance, all tot he building up of the church and for the glory of God," (92). This book emphasizes the reality that in Christ, we are part of a community and therefore, there should be a communal focus to how we live and deal with our problems.

The book is split up between chapters 1-4, which are general chapters that discuss the different aspects of the gospel and provide specific illustrations for how the gospel should shape our lives, and chapters 5-9, which contain more direct material concerning counseling. In this latter section, the authors deal with such topics as the gospel and sanctification, emotions, and relationships.

For those familiar with a redemptive-historical approach to the scriptures, you will be pleased to find that this book is basically an approach to counseling that is based on the insights gained from a redemptive-historical interpretation. Throughout the book, Fitzpatrick and Johnson look at different areas of life through the indicative/imperative lens--what Christ has accomplished for us and who we have been made in him, and now how we should live in light of our new identities in Christ.

Although Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ is directed towards the topic of counseling, the material can and should be read, reflected upon and applied by all Christians, not just counselors and pastors.

If interested, you can see the Table of Contents and read the Introduction and some of the first chapter here.

Gospel-Driven Life

Thankfully there appears to be a welcome transition away from the "Moral Majority" understanding of the Christian life that distinguishes between a gospel that is believed to make one a Christian and then an ethic that is lived out back to the Reformational understanding that the gospel is a message that shapes not only faith but all of life. In his most recent book, Micahel Horton seeks to reorient our faith and practice as Christians and churches toward the gospel. He writes in the Intoduction:
. . . the gospel creates the kind of community that is even now an imperfect preview of the kingdom's marriage feast that awaits [the church]. The church is its own culture, not only with its distinct story and doctrine, but with its own "politics" and means. Consistent with the message that it proclaims, the church is receiving its life, identity, growth, and expansion from above rahter than creating these for itself and from its own resources, (p. 11, emphasis in original).
Horton has written this as a follow up to his book Christless Christianity, in which he "offered a prophetic wake-up call for a self-centered American church." Now, with this newest book, Horton offers up his solutions and recommendations for a new reformation in the faith, practice, and witness of contemporary Christianity.

If you are looking for a book that will help you better understand how to live out the gospel and not just believe it, if you're looking for more than a Twelve-Step approach to the Christian life, if you're looking for more than a forty day program, if you're looking for more than a Moral Majority political perspective of living the Christian life, then read this book.

For a limited time it is available here for $10.99 (45% off), so act fast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interview on the Church and the Public Square Completed

Over at Letters from Mississippi, David Strain has posted the last installment of his four-part interview with Darryl Hart. Of particular interest to me is part of his answer to this question: How would you suggest 2K thinking should play out so as to avoid sounding like we are advocating a laissez faire attitude to real social ills?
Second, I do not see why J. Gresham Machen is not a good example of how individual believers can be involved in politics or society while still affirming the spirituality of the church and the enormity of the church’s burden to preach the good news. Machen was active in Democratic politics, wrote lots of letters to editors, joined political organizations, testified before Congress to oppose the Federal Department of Education. He was an active citizen, even while saying the church should not be engaged in politics. Here the distinction between the church’s calling as a corporate body versus the calling of individual Christians was key.
Also, his response to David's request for Darryl to ground the doctrine of the spirituality of the church from scripture is good. If the interviews get you thinking and you want more to chew on, you can find Darryl's book here. All four parts are helpful, you can find the first three installments here:

Part I
Part II
Part III

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Torn in Two, From Top to Bottom," Mark 15.21-39 & Exodus 12.21-32

In the sermon tonight I talk about the centrality of the cross-centered life, not only for defining the Christian profession but also for living the Christian life.

You can hear the sermon here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Raised Up With Christ and Devoted to Prayer, Colossians 3.1-4 & 4.2-4

What is the relationship between the plot line of the Bible, missions and prayer? In today's sermon I attempt to show how these three things come together. Back in June, the 76th General Assembly requested that today, September 13, 2oo9, be set aside for a special season of prayer for the work of Worldwide Outreach of the OPC. In the OPC, Worldwide Outreach speaks of more than just foreign missions, it also includes home missions and Christian education. Given this call to prayer for the mission of the church, I thought it would be helpful to look at what God has to tell us about prayer and missions.

In order to do this I look at Colossians 3.1-4 and 4.2-4 together. Here is a preview:
. . . Missions is not something that the church attempts in and of her own strength, wisdom and strategizing for God; rather, missions is about God's plan and his activities, and the church's privilege to participate in what he is doing. And one of the main ways that the church participates in missions is through prayer. Praying for the church's work, then, is not peripheral, but is central. It is central to the nature of missions as God's work and it is central to who we are in Christ.

. . . The Bible is an integrated and true story with a plot line. And the plot line centers on a God who is on a mission to glorify himself, through his Son, by creating a people for his name's sake. From the beginning, God has been on a mission to bring a people to experience and enjoy the eternal fellowship experienced and enjoyed among the three persons of the Trinity.

. . . Paul calls us to understand our place in the drama of redemption, our place of sharing in the role of the main protagonist, Jesus Christ, so that we might know how to live out our new roles in this continuing drama.

. . . And hear me, God will accomplish his ends . . . God is on a great unstoppable mission to glorify himself through the Son by saving a people for his name's sake. When this understanding of God, his purposes, and our new identity in Jesus Christ grips us, how can we do anything other than pray for his mission in which we are participating?!

. . . Those who preach and teach the gospel, those who administer the sacraments and church discipline, those who plant churches here in America, those who go to foreign lands across the globe, those who write and publish studies to help people to be nourished in the their faith and trained for gospel ministry, they are not the only ones who are called to participate in world wide outreach. The congregations, you, Grace Church, also have been called to share in the work by your prayers. Not everyone will be a preacher--but everyone has a role in God's unfolding drama of redemption. When you pray, you participate in the forward advancement of the gospel and the forward advancement of the plot that leads to the ultimate consummation of the story. And therefore we pray.
What a privilege it is to be redeemed and to play a role in God's continuing mission of redemption as we find ourselves bound up and united to the main protagonist of the unfolding drama, raised up with him and devoted to prayer.

You can listen to the entire sermon here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interview on the Church and the Public Square Continues

Yesterday I was asked "What is transformationalism?" Well, a new post over at Letters From Mississippi is a good place for one to look. Part III of David Strain's interview of Darry Hart is now available.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"The Unexpected, Expected Lord Comes to His Temple," Mark 11.1-19 & Malachi 3.1-5

This evening I continued in my overview series of the Gospel of Mark and looked at the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, which is the beginning of the Passion Week. Although this is a very familiar text, it is full of OT allusions and quotations, which makes it quite a tricky passage. So let me say this, listen to the sermon because you may hear a perspective on it that you haven't heard before. Here is a preview:
The Christian life flows from the unexpected humble character of our Messiah. . . . we need to get our expectations in line with the scripture and allow it to shape our outlook on living as Christians in this world. For when we don't, it can lead us to miss who Jesus is and who we are to be in, which can hinder our identity and mission as the church.

. . . And this, then, anticipates the ultimate unexpected character of Jesus' Messiahship - it will surpass by far his unexpected humble arrival and his unexpected judgment against the Jews and blessing of the Gentiles - for the ultimate unexpected character of the Messiah will be revealed in the way in which he will secure the blessings of the covenant and eternal worship of God when he is humbled to the point of death on the cross where he is rejected by both men and God.

. . . So how is your grasp of Jesus? Are you receiving him as the unexpected, expected Messiah? Have you come to grips with your King whose rule is characterized by an unexpected humility? Where your life takes on the character of his rule and his life of humility, lowliness, service, rejection and death that will lead to resurrection and exaltation in the heavenly kingdom? Or do you desire that expected Messiah, who with his coming will break the bonds of political tyranny in order to exalt his people on earth as the powerful and influential? The overwhelming majority of people in Jesus' day expected the wrong Messiah, so that when the unexpected Messiah arrived, they rejected him. And even when he finally began disclosing his identity, he was treated like others and quickly forgotten, for they could not see him rightly because they were so caught up with their religious activities and ideas. You see, there are those who reject Jesus in outright rebellion, like the religious leaders who begin plotting his death. And there are those who reject Jesus as they go about their daily religious routines.
You can hear the entire sermon here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Panel on NT Wright and the Doctrine of Justification

Yesterday at my almost alma mater Southern Seminary (I did half of my seminary training there), they recently held a forum discussing the theology of NT Wright. The panel was moderated by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and included two of my former professors Dr. Tom Schreiner and Dr. Mark Seifrid, along with two guys who were teaching assistant working on their Ph. D.'s who are now professors, Dr. Brian Vickers and Dr. Denny Burk.

N.T. Wright and his doctrine of Justification is associated with the recent controversial teaching known as the New Perspective on Paul. Wright is a prolific writer and some of his books on justification have included What Saint Paul Really Said, Paul: Fresh Perspectives, and his most recent publication Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. In this latest work, Wright responds to conservative Evangelical scholars who have disagreed with him, especially John Piper's work The Future of Justification.

"Meet the Puritans"

J.I. Packer once referred to them as the red woods of the faith; if you like the Puritans and are looking for a good online resource, then check out this new blog.
The purpose of this website is to promote the seventeenth century English Puritans. We intend to do this by means of original research, theological and devotional commentary upon the writings of the Puritans, reviews of books about the Puritans, recommendations of books about the Puritans, and by providing Recommended Reading of helpful materials in your study of the Puritans.
There are quick reference options along the top for Westminster Assembly, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Manton and Book Reviews. They have also included a Recommended Reading List and an essay by Joel Beeke of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, "Why You Should Read the Puritans."

If you haven't already, you ought to go and Meet the Puritans.

[HT: James Grant]

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bearing One Another's Burdens from the Mission Field in Prayer

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ," (Galatians 6.2). In an earlier post, I introduced Grace OPC's deacon Dr. Jim Knox who is serving in Uganda as a medical missionary. Dr. Jim is great about sending updates so that we can know his concerns and prayer needs. I want to share a portion of his latest updates that does well to demonstrate his frustration:
On Monday an infant came into the clinic with severe diarrhoea and vomiting for three days. My nurse actually came to get me and said, "I have an emergency." So, I am thankful that she has learned something and did not wait several hours before coming to get me. We told the parents that this child needs an IV for fluids ASAP. We told them that it would cost 1,200 shillings (there are about 2,200 shillings per dollar). The father said that he only had 1000. I said that is fine, we will start the IV, but could he go and look for the other 200 shillings. He refused. I refused to start the IV if he was not willing to go look for a few shillings. If he is not willing to help his child, then what does he want us to do. I was really annoyed. My nurse actually went to her home and got the 200 shillings. I actually told the man that he was not a very good father--how could he let his child die over 200 shillings, I asked. I was so frustrated. Then, as it turned out, none of my staff nor myself could get an IV started in the child. He had sunken eyes, floppy arms and legs, was lethargic, and was about to die, it seemed to me. Finally, due to some supplies brought by a visiting nurse (thank you, Kate!!), I decided to place an intraosseous (IO). This means that you actually drill a needle inside the leg bone to be able to get fluid to the child. While it sounds absolutely terrible, it actually works extremely well and is the current standard of care even in America if you can't obtain IV access. It is supposedly not any more painful than a regular IV needle. I have done one several times on a plastic maniken (sp?), but I have never done one in real life. I have to say that I was kind of grossed out and my hands were shaking. However, I was able to put the needle in and we were able to begin fluids. Finally, after several hours of fluids, my nurse was able to start a regular IV so that they could be transferred to the hospital. The patient was actually improving very well--a stronger cry, the legs and arms weren't floppy, the eyes weren't as sunken in. So, on Monday afternoon, they headed to the hospital. By the way, this child was one of a pair of twins. They were also malnourished and had to be admitted to the malnutrition program.

Today, the mother came back to the clinic to get something that she had left at our clinic. She informed us that when she went to the hospital on Monday the nurse on duty refused to see her. The nurse told her to go back to Nakaale since they had already started the treatment. Why not finish the treatment at the place where you paid for it? the nurse apparently asked. This makes no sense as we are only a health centre 2 with no admitting provisions, while they are a health centre 4 with a very large ward for admissions. They didn't come back to Nakaale, but they just went home. The child died this morning at around 5 AM.

I have to say that I am furious. When I try to call the hospital, the in-charge denies it, stating that the nurse probably just told the mother to wait--the mother became impatient and then just left. I don't believe it, though.
So, what to do?
This medical incident is not just medical, but reveals a real darkness that has gripped these people. If they don't care about life and death for their children and for their patients, how are they to care about their souls? In all the different aspects of culture shock in moving from Pittsburgh to Uganda, it seems this indifference to death has been the most troubling and frustrating for our missionary doctor. It would be good to keep all our missionaries in our prayers for the grace to navigate the waters of their environments, to handle their frustrations well and keep pressing forward.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9.8