30 December 2010

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Altar Call

"I can sum it up by putting it like this: I feel that this pressure which is put upon people to come forward in decision ultimately is due to a lack of faith in the work and operation of the Holy Spirit. We are to preach the Word, and if we do it properly, there will be a call to a decision that comes in the message, and then we leave it to the Spirit to act upon people. And of course He does. Some may come immediately at the close of the service to see the minister. I think there should always be an indication that the minister will be glad to see anybody who wants to put questions to him or wants further help. But that is a very different thing from putting pressure upon people to come forward. I feel it is wrong to put pressure directly on the will. The order in Scripture seems to be this - the truth is presented to the mind, which moves the heart, and that in turn moves the will."
Read more at Aaron Sauer's blog.

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled, The Pastor's Parting Blessing:

The Lord Jesus Christ, by his Spirit, is carrying on in believers daily a purifying work; for he sits as a refiner and he purifies the sons of Levi. He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap. Let us pray that, however trying it may be to us, and whatever rough providences it may involve, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with us all in this respect. May our prayer be, “Refining fire, go through my heart!”

Let the winnowing fan be used; let our chaff be driven away, there is not a particle of it we would wish to retain. We desire to be sanctified- spirit, soul, and body- through him who leads his people without the camp that they may be separated unto himself. May we walk in the light as he is in the light, and so have fellowship one with another, and may the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanse us from all sin.
HT: The Daily Spurgeon

"Rick Warren's Emerging Contemplative Road to Rome Apologetics Weekend"

I strongly urge you to read this important article by Lighthouse Trails. I will post just the introduction of the article here as a teaser, but I pray that you will visit the Lighthouse Trails website to read it in its entirety.

Eight years after the release of The Purpose Driven Life and numerous efforts by discerning Christian believers to warn others of this movement, the Saddleback Apologetics Weekend unveils  more clearly than ever the spiritual direction toward which the evangelical church is racing . . .

In September 2009, Rick Warren held his first Apologetics Weekend conference at Saddleback Church. The conference featured some known apologists such as Norman Geisler and Gary Koukl. (It also included contemplative teacher J.P. Moreland.) The conference was a surprise to some who have followed with discernment the teachings and promotions of Rick Warren over the last decade-it seemed out of place for someone who had promoted the emerging church, contemplative prayer, and kingdom-on-earth-now beliefs to be presenting an "apologetics" conference. No doubt, some assumed that Rick Warren was changing his ways. Just a month prior, at the annual Harvest Crusade by Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith (founder of Calvary Chapel) stood in front of thousands and introduced Rick Warren who was sitting on the platform as his "good friend,"  inviting him to lead the audience in prayer (see video). Just three years earlier, Chuck Smith denounced the Purpose Driven teachings as incompatible with Calvary Chapel teachings and dropped Warren's book from the Calvary Chapel book distribution.


Between the Harvest Crusade and the Apologetics Weekend at Saddleback, both in 2009, it's no wonder some people were thinking Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven movement were now coming into alignment with traditional evangelical thought. But no evidence showed that Warren's focus or direction had actually changed. And one year after the 2009 Saddleback Apologetics Weekend, the 2nd Annual Apologetics Weekendtook place and has provided the proof (once again) that Rick Warren's Purpose Driven movement is indeed going down a path that is contemplative, emerging, and even on an ecumenical road to "Rome." The title of the 2010 "Apologetics" conference was "Who is Jesus?" We believe that the "Jesus" represented at this conference is another Jesus with another gospel, as we will show in this article (2 Corinthians 11:4, Galatians 1:8).


Seeing this year's Apologetics Weekend speaker lineup was even a surprise for Lighthouse Trails. Not because we thought Warren's choice of speakers was contrary to what he believes but because it seemed so blatant and obvious.


This report will focus on three of the speakers at Saddleback's 2010 Apologetics Weekend conference: Philip Yancey, Peter Kreeft, and Scot McKnight. By the time readers finish reading this article, we think you may agree that Rick Warren's  Apologetics conference should really be titled: "Rick Warren's Emerging Contemplative Road to Rome Apologetics Weekend."
Continue Reading

28 December 2010

Just Do Something

Have you spent hours, days, weeks, or months searching for God's will? Have you found yourself paralyzed and agonizing over an important--or maybe even a minor--decision for fear that the wrong choice will drop you out of God's sovereign path? Then you need to read Kevin DeYoung's book, Just Do Something.


A friend of mine from school told me about this book a couple of months ago. As soon as I saw the subtitle, I knew it was a book I had to read. Anything with a full title of Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will - or - How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. is just begging for me to pick it up and read it! So let me pause here and say thanks, L.B., for thinking of me when you found this book and for subsequently telling me about it. This book likely appeals to my friend and I because both of us found ourselves called into the MABS program at The Master's College without any full certainty of how this education would impact our current careers or paths. We both desire to take our education and somehow launch into full-time ministry, but are unfortunately lacking on neon signs pointing us to God's will in this. I've never been one to lay out a fleece or rely on "liver shivers" for my decision-making, but I have (more times than I care to recall) labored far too long and too heavily on certain decisions for fear that I would make the wrong choice, and perhaps in the process go against God's will. Thankfully, my thinking on that changed awhile ago, as I came to realize that, if we are walking with Christ, then we do not need to agonize over decisions as we strive to find God's "elusive" will. Certainly we can and must ask God's wisdom, especially in those large, life-impacting choices, but DeYoung's book confirmed for me that, in Christ, we truly do have the freedom to "just do something." 

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI. Since he is known as one of the "young, restless, and reformed" crowd, I did approach this book with a bit of caution. Not knowing if he would fall into the same box as potty-mouth Driscoll or even pseudo-charismatic Chandler, I didn't want to dive in without my discernment being exercised. I soon came to realize, however, that DeYoung exhibits a strong, straight doctrinal stance and that this would quickly become one of my favorite short books. I cannot deny that this book is written to a "younger" crowd. By "younger" I mean those in their 20s and 30s. This isn't to say that anyone older or even younger can't read this book and enjoy it and glean much from it. In fact, I'd recommend it to anyone who has ever agonized over this issue. I only mention a younger audience because of DeYoung's writing style. His manner of writing is very much the way that I imagine he would converse with someone in a one-on-one setting. I tend to write my non-formal works in much the same way, so perhaps that's why I felt so comfortable with this book from the start.

This short book takes some of the Christian's most common thoughts and approaches to God's will and examines them in light of this one truth: that God has already revealed His will and plan for our lives. That is, "to love Him with our whole hearts, to obey His Word, and after that, to do what we like." It's quite simple and sensible, really. Of course, it's often easier said than done! Modern evangelicalism hasn't helped any, with all of our "Christianese" telling us to seek and not make a move until "God has spoken." It's a wonder that Christians make any decisions at all without a "word from the Lord!" DeYoung dispels these anxieties, even pointing out that our worrying stems from sin.
"Worry and anxiety are not merely bad habits or idiosyncrasies. They are sinful fruits that blossom from the root of unbelief. [...] Worry and anxiety reflect our hearts' distrust in the goodness and sovereignty of God. [...] God's way is not to show us what tomorrow looks like or even to tell us what decisions we should make tomorrow. That's not His way because that's not the way of faith. God's way is to tell us that He knows tomorrow, He cares for us, and therefore, we should not worry." (Page 56-57).
Can I get an "Amen?" DeYoung is careful to back his statements with Scripture and biblical truth as he addresses both minor, everyday choices, as well as those huge decisions such as marriage and career. He makes an excellent point early on in the book when he says:
"Some of this is a generational thing. After all, my peers and I were among the first ones to experience grade inflation, where we got A's for excavating our feelings and 'doing our best' at calculus. We were among the first to be programmed for self-esteem, as we learned that having a pulse made us wonderfully special. For as long as we can remember, we've been destined for superstardom. [...] We've been stuffed full of praise for mediocrity and had our foibles diagnosed away with hyphenated jargon and pop psychology.
It's no wonder we expect people to affirm us for everything, criticize us for nothing, and pay us for anything we want to do. We figure we should be able to find a great job right out of college in a great location that provides the same standard of living our parents have right now, and involves us in the world's troubles in a way that would make Bono proud. We want it all--all we need is for God to show us the way." (Page 30)
When I read those two paragraphs, I had to laugh out loud. I also had to shake my head in sad agreement. I am from that same generation. I remember being told in school over and over that "you can be whatever you want to be. You can even be president!" I remember studying hard for a test and doing well, only to find out that those students who didn't study at all and should have failed didn't receive that failing grade because it may hurt their self-esteem. Self-esteem: that's really a key doctrine of public education, isn't it? We're all great, we're all wonderful, each of us is extra-super-special! Never any mention of sin or depravity. Instead of making students aware of sin, they are, nowadays especially, encouraged to participate in it as homosexuality and "safe sex" are taught even in the elementary schools. Kind of makes a good case for homeschooling, doesn't it? But I digress...

DeYoung offered a real-life illustration that really drove his point home:
"By and large, my grandparents' generation expected much less out of family life, a career, recreation, and marriage. [...] It would be a good exercise to ask your grandparents sometimes if they felt fulfilled in their careers. They'll probably look at you as if you're speaking a different language, because you are. Fulfillment was not their goal. Food was, and faithfulness too. [...]
Recently, I was talking with Grandpa DeYoung, a lifelong Christian now in his eighties. I asked him if he ever thought about what God's will was for his life. 'I don't think so,' was his short response. 'God's will was never a question presented to me or I ever thought about. I always felt that my salvation...depended on my accepting by faith the things that we believe. After that, I don't think I ever had a problem thinking: Is this the right thing for me?'" (Page 31)
Now, don't be mistaken. DeYoung isn't saying in this book that we all need to find a mundane, mind-numbing job and just be happy in it and never desire to do something greater for the Lord. He simply makes the point that, his (and my) generation especially, have been raised to seek this elusive "fulfillment" that was barely a thought in the lives of past generations. We have been so inundated with "bigger, better, and greater" that we can never be satisfied with a steady, reliable, God-provided lifestyle. We are constantly seeking more...and we are using our "search" for God's will as an excuse. The seeker-sensitive and Word-Faith movements have only perpetuated this in Christian circles as sermons about "dreaming big" fill the pulpits of these so-called churches.

The points that DeYoung makes in this book could take me on a hundred different tangents, so I will end my (very high) recommendation with DeYoung's answer to the question, "What is God's will for our lives?"
"[A]s an overarching principle, the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God." (Page 62)
This short sermon excerpt from John MacArthur wonderfully touches on this subject as well:


See Also:
PYROMANIACS' REVIEW OF THIS BOOK
TAKING THE MYSTERY OUT OF KNOWING GOD'S WILL

26 December 2010

Sunday Morning Praise




God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.


Refrain


O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.


In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessèd Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this blessèd morn;
The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.


Refrain


From God our heavenly Father a blessèd angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.


Refrain


“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you afright
This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.”


Refrain


The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethl’em straightaway this blessèd Babe to find.


Refrain


But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.


Refrain


Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.


Refrain


God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred that live both far and near—


That God send you a happy new year, happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.

25 December 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

A very Merry Christmas to you! Praying each of you have a blessed day filled with praises to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who was born to die so that we may live.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 (Isaiah 9:6)

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)


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. (Luke 2:6-7)


After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30)


And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)


“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:12-13)


He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

24 December 2010

Ring, Christmas Bells

I love this Ukranian carol, especially these alternate lyrics:



And for those of us who grew up in the 1980s, here's a little "Claymation Christmas" memory for you:

The Genealogy of Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve!

Please visit The Sacred Sandwich to get a closer look at this marvelous "family tree!"

23 December 2010

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled A Christmas Question, delivered on Sunday, December 25, 1859.


"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given."—Isaiah 9:6. 
If this child who now lies before the eyes of your faith, wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem's manger, is born to you, my hearer, then you are born again! For this child is not born to you unless you are born to this child. All who have an interest in Christ are, in the fullness of time, by grace converted, quickened, and renewed. All the redeemed are not yet converted, but they will be. Before the hour of death arrives their nature shall be changed, their sins shall be washed away, they shall pass from death unto life. If any man tells me that Christ is his Redeemer, although he has never experienced regeneration, that man utters what he does not know; his religion is vain, and his hope is a delusion. Only men who are born again can claim the babe in Bethlehem as being theirs. "But" saith one, "how am I to know whether I am born again or not?" Answer this question also by another: Has there been a change effected by divine grace within you? Are your loves the very opposite of what they were? Do you now hate the vain things you once admired, and do you seek after that precious pearl which you at one time despised? Is your heart thoroughly renewed in its object? Can you say that the bent of your desire is changed? that your face is Zionward, and your feet set upon the path of grace? that whereas your heart once longed for deep draughts of sin, it now longs to be holy? and whereas you once loved the pleasures of the world, they have now become as draff and dross to you, for you only love the pleasures of heavenly things, and are longing to enjoy more of them on earth, that you may be prepared to enjoy a fullness of them hereafter? Are you renewed within? For mark, my hearer, the new birth does not consist in washing the outside of the cup and platter, but in cleansing the inner man. It is all in vain to put up the stone upon the sepulcher, wash it extremely white, and garnish it with the flowers of the season; the sepulcher itself must be cleansed. The dead man's bones that lie in that charnel-house of the human heart must be cleansed away. Nay, they must be made to live. The heart must no longer be a tomb of death, but a temple of life. Is it so with you, my hearer? For recollect, you may be very different in the outward, but if you are not changed in the inward, this child is not born to you.
But I put another question. Although the main matter of regeneration lies within, yet it manifests itself without. Say, then, has there been a change in you in the exterior? Do you think that others who look at you would be compelled to say, this man is not what he used to be? Do not your companions observe a change? Have they not laughed at you for what they think to be your hypocrisy, your puritanism, your sternness? Do you think now that if an angel should follow you into your secret life, should track you to your closet and see you on your knees, that he would detect something in you which he could never have seen before? For, mark, my dear hearer, there must be a change in the outward life, or else there is no change within. In vain you bring me to the tree, and say that the tree's nature is changed. If I still see it bringing forth wild grapes, it is a wild vine still. And if I mark upon you the apples of Sodom and the grapes of Gomorrah you are still a tree accursed and doomed, notwithstanding all your fancied experience. The proof of the Christian is in the living. To other men, the proof of our conversion is not what you feel, but what you do. To yourself your feelings may be good enough evidence, but to the minister and others who judge of you, the outward walk is the main guide. At the same time, let me observe that a man's outward life may be very much like that of a Christian, and yet there may be no religion in him at all. [...] The hypocrite and the devil are very good friends after all, and they mutually rejoice over their profits: the devil leering because he has won the soul of the professor, and the hypocrite laughing because he has won his pelf. Take care, then, that your outward life is not a mere stage-play, but that your antagonism to sin is real and intense; and that you strike right and left, as though you meant to slay the monster, and cast its limbs to the winds of heaven.
I will just put another question. If thou hast been born again, there is another matter by which to try thee. Not only is thy inward self altered, and thy outward self too, but the very root and principle of thy life must become totally new. When we are in sin we live to self, but when we are renewed we live to God. While we are unregenerate, our principle is to seek our own pleasure, our own advancement; but that man is not truly born again who does not live with a far different aim from this. Change a man's principles, and you change his feelings, you change his actions. Now, grace changes the principles of man. It lays the axe at the root of the tree. It does not saw away at some big limb it does not try to alter the sap; but it gives a new root, and plants us in fresh sold. The man's inmost self, the deep rocks of his principles upon which the topsoil of his actions rest, the soul of his manhood is thoroughly changed, and he is a new creature in Christ. "But," says one, "I see no reason why I should be born again." Ah, poor creature, it is because thou hast never seen thyself. Didst thou ever see a man in the looking-glass of the Word of God—what a strange monster he is. Do you know, a man by nature has his heart where his feet ought to be:—that is to say, his heart is set upon the earth, whereas he ought to be treading it beneath his feet; and stranger mystery still, his heels are where his heart should be:—that is to say, he is kicking against the God of heaven when he ought to be setting his affections on things above. Man by nature when he sees clearest, only looks down, can only see that which is beneath him, he cannot see the things which are above; and strange to say the sunlight of heaven blinds him; light from heaven he looks not for. He asks for his light in darkness. The earth is to him his heaven, and he sees suns in its muddy pools and stars in its filth. He is, in fact, a man turned upside down. The fall has so ruined our nature, that the most monstrous thing on the face of the earth is a fallen man. The ancients used to paint griffins, gryphons, dragons, chimeras, and all kinds of hideous things; but if a skillful hand could paint man accurately none of us would look at the picture, for it is a sight that none ever saw except the lost in hell; and that is one part of their intolerable pain, that they are compelled always to look upon themselves Now, then, see you not that ye must be born again, and unless ye are so this child is not born to you. 

Maranatha!

The following can be found on the website of Grace Community Church.

Maranatha
This Christmas season, as we celebrate our Savior’s birth, we must also remember the reasons why He came—to fulfill His Father’s will, to suffer and die for sin, to bring salvation to lost sinners, to conquer the power of death, and to return to heaven in triumph. Though Jesus was born in a stable two thousand years ago, He sits enthroned today at the right hand of the Father and will soon come back again. Thus, as we remember His first coming, we eagerly look forward to His second—our hearts echoing the sentiments of the early Christians, “Maranatha: Come, Lord Jesus.”


The two passages below, both from the Gospel of Luke, set Christ’s first coming to earth alongside His return to heaven—from humiliation to glorification, from condescension to ascension. We worship a Savior who was not just born as a baby in Bethlehem. We worship the living, risen, and ascended Christ.


Luke 2:1–14 
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest,
 And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”


Luke 24:36-53 
While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.”
But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.
And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish;
and He took it and ate it before them.
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,
and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “You are witnesses of these things.
And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and were continually in the temple praising God.

19 December 2010

Born to Die

"The important issue of Christmas is not so much that Jesus came, but why He came. There was no salvation in His birth. Nor did the sinless way He lived His life have any redemptive force of its own. His example, flawless as it was, could not rescue us from our sins. Even His teaching, the greatest truth ever revealed, could not save us. There was a price to be paid for our sins. Someone had to die. Only Jesus could do it.
[...] 
Here's a side to the Christmas story that isn't often told. Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant's head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling cloths, would one day be ripped open by a spear.
Jesus was born to die." (John MacArthur, God's Gift of Christmas, page 107-109).
"But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering." Hebrews 2:9-10

Sunday Morning Praise - Fourth Sunday in Advent

I didn't realize there were two tunes for "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but once I discovered the non-traditional (to me) melody, I found it to be just as beautiful! Still, I'm posting each version here for you to enjoy!








O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

18 December 2010

The Perseverance of the Saints

The following was written by Phil Johnson and can be found at the Pyromaniacs blog. Short and sweet and well-stated, I wanted to share it!

The Perseverance of the Saints

by Phil Johnson

I am absolutely confident no true believer in Jesus Christ will ever lose his or her salvation. Authentic believers can never do anything to forfeit the eternal life that is ours in Christ. Otherwise, by definition, it could not be said that we have everlasting life and will not come into judgment, but have passed from death to life (John 5:24).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).

'm not fond of the expression "eternal security" because of the way the doctrine is abused by antinomians and people who think it's possible to own Jesus as Savior without bowing to Him as Lord. I prefer to speak of the perseverance of the saints,because that expression better captures the gist of what the doctrine entails.

The idea is not that if we once "accept Christ" we are guaranteed heaven regardless of whether we continue in the faith or not, but that those who are truly regenerate will not depart from Christ. The supposed Christian who does depart demonstrates that he was never a true Christian in the first place: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19).

On the other hand, I'm convinced that the saints will persevere not because I have any confidence in the saints' own strength or their own faithfulness. My own security not does not rest in my devotion to Christ, but in His devotion to me. I am "kept by the power of God." His power is what energizes my faith and keeps me in the process of salvation, ready to be revealed at the last time.

That's an echo of the truth of 2 Thessalonians 3:3: "The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one." And 2 Timothy 2:13: "If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself." Also, Jude 24God "is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy."

So on the authority of Scripture I believe absolutely in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But it's not because I have any confidence in the saints themselves. It is God who secures their perseverance.

16 December 2010

Thursday's Spurgeon

From the December 14 evening entry of Morning and Evening:
“I am crucified with Christ.”

Galatians 2:20

The Lord Jesus Christ acted in what he did as a great public representative person, and his dying upon the cross was the virtual dying of all his people. Then all his saints rendered unto justice what was due, and made an expiation to divine vengeance for all their sins. The apostle of the Gentiles delighted to think that as one of Christ’s chosen people, he died upon the cross in Christ. He did more than believe this doctrinally, he accepted it confidently, resting his hope upon it. He believed that by virtue of Christ’s death, he had satisfied divine justice, and found reconciliation with God. Beloved, what a blessed thing it is when the soul can, as it were, stretch itself upon the cross of Christ, and feel, “I am dead; the law has slain me, and I am therefore free from its power, because in my Surety I have borne the curse, and in the person of my Substitute the whole that the law could do, by way of condemnation, has been executed upon me, for I am crucified with Christ.”
But Paul meant even more than this. He not only believed in Christ’s death, and trusted in it, but he actually felt its power in himself in causing the crucifixion of his old corrupt nature. When he saw the pleasures of sin, he said, “I cannot enjoy these: I am dead to them.” Such is the experience of every true Christian. Having received Christ, he is to this world as one who is utterly dead. Yet, while conscious of death to the world, he can, at the same time, exclaim with the apostle, “Nevertheless I live.” He is fully alive unto God. The Christian’s life is a matchless riddle. No worldling can comprehend it; even the believer himself cannot understand it. Dead, yet alive! crucified with Christ, and yet at the same time risen with Christ in newness of life! Union with the suffering, bleeding Saviour, and death to the world and sin, are soul-cheering things. O for more enjoyment of them!

The Scoffers are Here...and They May be Sitting Next to You!

"[K]nowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly." 2 Peter 3:3-7
Scoffers have been around since the time of the early church. We see from this passage that even Peter was already dealing with those who denied the truth of the Lord's Second Coming. I've actually had conversations with people who practically quote word for word the doubting thoughts of the scoffers in this passage as they try to convince me that my hope in Christ's soon return is futile. I love to respond with a smile and point out to them their appearance in the Bible.

The problem is, these scoffers are not atheists or buddhists or hindus or muslims. These are professing Christians. Of course, based upon the theology to which some of them adhere, I would tend to greatly doubt the genuineness of their faith and salvation, but that's not the point here. The Emergent Church flatly denies Christ's soon return, as you'll see in the article below. My question to you is this: how does your church or Bible study deal with the Lord's Second Coming? Do they preach it clearly and unashamedly? Or do they lump the final days into one confusing, muddled mess with a vague reference to a resurrection and no further clarification as to Rapture, Second Coming, Millennial Kingdom, etc? Regardless of your church's views on eschatology, there is little need to present the final days in a confusing manner. But do you leave discussions of the End Times more baffled than when you entered into the conversation? Worse yet--is your church or Bible study choosing to ignore eschatology altogether? Or perhaps even worse--is your church or Bible study choosing to jumble all of the views together without distinction so that they may keep from offending any of the attendees? If Christ's soon return isn't being taught and proclaimed clearly for fear that attendance or giving may drop, then you need to approach the leadership of your church or Bible study. If it mattered enough for God to write it in the Bible, then it is important--and necessary--that it be taught clearly and loudly.

The following article is from Jackie Alnor at Apostasy Alert. I found it to be well-said and timely:

November 26 Show: No Lectionary Needed

Emergent Methodist Tony Jones is frustrated during the holiday season due to the required topics set in the Methodist Lectionary. For those unfamiliar with denominational verbage, a lectionary is publication that gives pastors specific subjects to preach on during the calendar year. It includes things like prayers, scriptures, meditations, stories and sermon notes to incorporate into their messages.

Tony Jones wrote on his blog: "This Sunday marks the beginning of Year A in the
The Revised Common Lectionary.  So here we go again.  We get texts from Isaiah and the Gospels, about John the Baptist and the Second Coming.  And once again we’ve got to preach the immanent advent of the Christ.  “He’s Coming!” we preach, pray, and sing. But is he?…  What I am asking is, How long will people believe us? We preach the advent of Christ every Advent, and I just wonder how long until the parishioners start thinking that we’re the Preachers Who Cried Wolf."

This attitude of ridicule against the teaching of the Christian's expectancy of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ has become the predominant attitude in the visible church during this unprecedented time of apostasy. The emergent church that has caved in to the pressure of the culture to be worldly and relevant lead the pack of scoffers saying, where is His coming?



"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."- 2 Peter 3:3-4

The apostasy in the church coincides with the moral decline of the entire world. Jesus told us that the times of His return would be like the days of Noah and of Lot when mankind had turned his back on God. In Noah's day, the corruption was global and so was the judgment. In Lot's day, the corruption was localized and so the judgment was local. In these last days when God is about to judge the entire world and pour out His wrath on the sons of disobedience, the corruption must again be world-wide. And as He did for Noah and Lot, He first gets His own out of the way before pouring out His wrath. The cup of His wrath is almost full.

The most important question God asks us is "wither thou goest?" What direction are you headed in? Are your feet planted firmly on this terra firma, like Lot's wife who looked back and turned into a pillar of salt? Or are you looking up waiting for your Savior from heaven? The attitude of our hearts will determine whether or not we escape the time of His wrath.

Luke 17:2 " Remember Lot's wife."

What Did Jesus (not) Say About Truth and Love?

"Doctrine doesn't matter. All that matters is that you love, love, love."
HT: Pyromaniacs

14 December 2010

Repentance and Faith

"The question has been discussed: which is prior, faith or repentance? It is an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance... It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith."

John Murray
 HT: Truth Matters

12 December 2010

Sunday Morning Praise - Third Sunday in Advent

I love this song in every language!



Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,

O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

Refrain
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;

Refrain

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;

Refrain

See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;

Refrain

Lo! star led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
We to the Christ Child bring our hearts’ oblations.

Refrain

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

Refrain

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

Refrain

11 December 2010

The Gospel in Micah 5:2

Phil Johnson shares some beautiful truth in this post from the Pyromaniacs blog.
One of the most famous and important Old Testament messianic prophecies is also a Christmas text. It foretold that Christ would be born in Bethlehem: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:2).

That promise loomed large in the minds of expectant first-century Jewish leaders—so much so that many of them were prepared to reject Him because they did not know His birthplace and assumed, naturally, that he had been born in the region of his parents' home: "Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee" (John 7:52).

But I think the most amazing thing about Micah's prophecy is the way the deity of Christ is expressed in the verse's final phrase. Israel's Messiah would be One "whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."

The clear implication of that expression is that the birth of Christ in Bethlehem was not the beginning of Christ as God's Son and our Sovereign. He is eternal. He "came forth" from Bethlehem, but He did not come from there in the first place. His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting"—to use the familiar phrasing from the King James Version.

Notice also that the words of this prophecy are spoken directly by God the Father. Some clear threads of Trinitarian doctrine are woven into the fabric of the text. God the Father is speaking, and in speaking about the One who would come forth out of Bethlehem, He says this: "from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel."

Don't miss the importance of those two words "for Me." God the father is sending this eternal Person to be born and to rule and to redeem His people, and to make righteousness reign over all the earth.

The language is of course reminiscent of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son"—and a host of other similar New Testament expressions. John 10:36: "The Father consecrated [His Son] and sent [Him] into the world." Galatians 4:4: "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law." First John 4:9-10: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." And just a few verses later, 1 John 4:14: "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world."

That is the gospel, and it's imbedded in our text by implication. Christ—God the Son—came to this earth at the behest of God the Father, on a mission of mercy and redemption. He calls us to repent of our sins and believe in Him—and He does all the work of redemption Himself. It's not up to us to atone for our own sin—we simply lay hold of His grace by faith.
Amen.