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In the notion that we can “create” our own “truth” to express our “reality” which has no foundation on immutable, absolute, historical record or usage is exactly where we find ourselves today. We have gone from “…if it is right, then it is right for all…” to “…if it right for me, that is all that matters…”

Instead of a culture built on the Rock, an unshakable foundation, so that we may build high and broad on the shoulders of great men of the past, our postmodern culture is built on sand-not only is this foundation providing no stability at all, but the postmodern builders have torn down any work scabbed together by their humanist precursors.

Apparently “they” have now made another non-word a word (Mrs. foolarch will get a kick out of this):

irregardless: an erroneous word that, etymologically, means the exact opposite of what it is used to express, attested in non-standard writing from 1912, probably a blend of irrespective and regardless. Perhaps inspired by the double negative used as an emphatic.

Postmodern? Sure. Dumbing-down our culture? Yes. Tip-toeing toward Gomorrah? Absolutely.

This is a small example of the “big lie.”

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” This is the epotime of the Postmodern, liberal, humanist culture…but do you know who said it?

Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
who draw sin as with cart ropes,
who say: “Let him be quick,
let him speed his work
that we may see it;
let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
and let it come, that we may know it!”
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!

Isaiah 5:18-23

Lord, have mercy.

Friday evening, April 18, 2008, I took my wife to see Caedmon’s Call live in concert at Grace UMC in Kokomo, In (my hometown). I have been a fan since they released their self-titled album “Caedmon’s Call” in 1997 and have every studio release since.

Spring Tour

The Band

I came to hear the band Before There Was Time to understand their lyrics; truly the music grabs your attentions, but There You Go, it is the lyrics that give you Hope to Carry On.

Musically, the band’s sound is folksy-pop with smooth harmonies and a kick of rock. (Think Simon & Garfunkel’s “Concert in the Park” performing with a miltia of musicians by the likes of Carole King, Jimmi Hendrix, John Bonham and Neil Peart (at the same time, no less)! This may sound like Trouble, but let me tell you…”This World has nothing…” on these talented musicians.

Become infatuated with the music, but fall deeply in love with their lyrics. Their work is poetic, reformed theology the magnifies the great, Creator, Sustainer and Lover far above the daily grind of everyday. Be Thankful for the true, relevant juxtaposition of our earthen frame with that of the magnificent God; There’s Only One (Holy One) and we are sovereignly formed in the Hands of the Potter to bear the image of Christ. Listen to the words and you will know not only hear Who You Are, but also that There is a Reason for why and how you are.

The Concert

I have been anticipating this event since hearing (three months ago) they would be playing near me. I had never previously seen them in concert; this was my chance. I don’t get to many concerts; my last one was Audio Adrenaline/Mercy Me over one year ago.

Arriving at the church, I noticed quite the variety of concert-goers: I saw elderly women, a bus-load of junior-high youths as well as the expected twenty- and thirty-somethings. I thought maybe we had the incorrect venue or night based on the attendance.

The $12 general admission tickets were an unexpected blessing. The concert went for about three hours and the band played over 25 songs in this small venue (I would guess less than 500 seats max); it felt as if they were playing in my living room. This has to be the best ticket – not just in town – but ANYWHERE; the value (quality and quantity) far excelled the cost or expectations. I would have traded my 40 Acres for these tickets!

Derek Webb, a modern prophet, afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted with his tongue-in-cheek satirical in-your-face style. Nothing was off limits (as expected): fundamentalism, politics, social justice, idolatry, politics, love and hope. It was a fabulous set of songs to Prepare Ye the Way of our hearts to the LORD and our ears to Caedmon’s Call.

Cliff Young, a bare-footed and cap-less Warrior of righteousness, lead the Church (that is, capital “C”) present in worship of the God of Wonders.

Did I mention there were two drummers? There is nothing like double percussion to get you juices flowing and worship the God of The Danse.

The absolute highlight for me had to be the performance of “Hands of the Potter” and “Thankful.” I am so thankful that my redemption and righteousness are not in my hands, that “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the Cross I cling.” I praise the LORD that there is a reason for why/when/how/what things happen, and that I am in the loving and careful hands of the potter who will do with me what he will to conform me more the the image of His Son.

What began in my mind as a “concert” has become not just a worship experience that evening, but continues to roll through my mind these days following.

Jesus Christ is worthy of our worship.

Sola Scriptura | Sola Fide | Sola Gratia | Sola Christus | Soli Deo Gloria

My church played this message at our Good Friday service.

This stands for “One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven.”

What is that, you say?

  1. A Book by Mark Cahill.
  2. Sharing the Gospel with an unbeliever.

Mark was at my church tonight presenting the biblical basis for, and sharing practical tools so that every believer in Jesus Christ can share the Gospel as a way of life.

He shared that while being a witness for Christ there are only three outcomes:

  1. The person believes on Jesus Christ by faith for the forgiveness of sins; this is GOOD ~ eternal life for them & joy for you.
  2. The person does not believe, but a seed is planted; this is GOOD ~ a seed is planted & joy for you.
  3. The person rejects the good news, Jesus Christ and/or even you; according to 1 Peter 4:14 and Matthew 5:10-12 this is GOOD ~ reward for you in heaven.

The only time the sharing your faith is bad is when you do not do it.

Evangelism by all believers is not relegated to a few…with a special gift, but is a command to all believers (Matthew 28:18-20). Not sharing one’s faith is disobedience to Jesus Christ – it is a sin of omission.

I have not ever been active in sharing my faith in Christ; not only have I been disobeying my Lord, but I have not been living up to my Christ-justifying potential:

“and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”

Philemon 1:6

LORD Jesus Christ, forgive my faithlessness.

This is the third in a series of posts to honor the most memorable teachings of my once-pastor.

Before I entered the halls of my church in the fall of 1996, I am not sure that I had ever heard of Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon [bio here]. In fact, upon hearing the surname, I was sure my once-pastor was referring to a fish of the North Atlantic! How wrong I was!

If I had to guess, after Jesus and Paul the Apostle, no one–living or dead–has had greater influence on the preaching of my once-pastor as Spurgeon. Kim would quote from him often; anyone who entered his library office could see the vast tomes, and most with the common name: C. H. Spurgeon. Kim told a story once of how he came across the books by Spurgeon; he was giddy as a schoolboy with his new-found treasure.

What is the big deal? Why is Spurgeon such a hero to my once-pastor?

Spurgeon was a preacher who preached the Word, whether in season or out; he proclaimed the beauty of Christ to hundreds of thousands of people throughout his [very short, mind you] lifetime.

There are many interesting similarities between Kim and Spurgeon:

  • Both were saved and called to preach in their mid-teens.
  • Neither attended seminary.
  • Both started their pastoral ministry in small, rural churches.
  • Both continued their ministry by accepting calls of large [sub]urban, mega-churches.
  • Spurgeon’s sermons were published weekly and widely circulated; Kim’s sermons were published to the radio.
  • Both struggled with disease, chronic pain and clinical depression.
  • Expository preaching was the method of both men.
  • Presenting the beauty of Jesus Christ to people was the passion of both men.
  • Specific, practical application of the expositorily preached Word of God was served up to their churches.
  • Both are reformed, Calvinist baptists in the tradition of the puritans.

Two passages of Spurgeon’s sermons stand out in my mind above all; these are ones that, I am sure, Kim had memorized as well; the first coming from his first sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle:

Metropolitan Tabernacle, LondonFirst Sermon in the Tabernacle

Acts 5:10

March 25, 1861

I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply — ‘it is Jesus Christ.’

My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity, admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, is not his system, or any other human treatise; but Jesus Christ, who is the sum and substance of the Gospel, who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.

And from his last sermon ever:

The Statute of David for the Sharing of the Spoil

1 Samuel 30:21-26

June 7, 1891

“What I have to say lastly is this: How greatly I desire that you who are not yet enlisted in my Lord’s band would come to Him because you see what a kind and gracious Lord He is. Young men, if you could see our Captain, you would down on your knees and beg Him to let you enter the ranks of those who follow Him. It is heaven to serve Jesus. I am a recruiting sergeant, and I would fain find a few recruits at this moment.

Every man must serve somebody: we have no choice as to that fact. Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self, or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find Him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls.

He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was His like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold He always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on His shoulders. These forty years and more have I served Him, blessed be His name, and I have had nothing but love from Him. I would be glad to continue yet another forty years in the same dear service here below, if so it pleased Him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once. God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day. Amen.”

These two sermons bookend and mark out the breadth of ministry of C.H. Spurgeon: Jesus Christ. He never tired of “preaching Jesus,” he never got past the amazing Savior. He never grew bored of the beauty of Christ. It did not matter if he preached Old Testament or New, narrative or didactic, Moses, Job or Paul.

My once-pastor taught me, through the teachings of Spurgeon, a man dead for over a century, the importance of Jesus Christ. Of course, you say, “Jesus is important for the unbeliever unto salvation,” and that is true, but he is so much more. If the Gospel is for the unsaved, unregenerate soul, how much more is it for the saved, regenerate child of God. Jesus is not just “fire insurance” (a one-time transaction) but a “friend of sinners” who “walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”

Check out this math:

Jesus = Gospel

The Gospel is for sinners.

I = sinner; therefore

Jesus is for me.

I love Jesus more the more I see my own wretchedness; I love Jesus less the less I see my own wickedness. (Luke 7:36-50)

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

If you ever get past that, you need to start over, because you never “got” it.

That is what my once-pastor wanted to get across to us; that is what I learned from Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

What is ‘accountability?’

Why do we need accountability?

Is accountability even biblical? If so, what does biblical accountability even look like?

Practically, how do we do accountability?

Accountability…for what?

My story:

I have been in an accountability (“Brothers’ Keeper“) group through my church for over two years now. We originally started with three guys and last year added #4 and a few months ago #5. In the two years we have been meeting, we have treated each other with ‘kid gloves’: most of our meeting times would be more appropriately described as guys reviewing their week including work, family, leisure, personal and ministry punctuated with bits of prayer and in-depth transparency concerning failures regarding sin.

If you can tell a lot about a Christian by looking at his checkbook, the same (or more telling) can be said about his time. Typically, we would meet Thursdays from 9:00 pm — 11:00 pm-ish and this is how those two to 2-1/2 hours would shake out: 1-1/2 hours of review/catching up, 1/2 hour (maybe) of transparent, personal self-exposure and closing [re: 5 minutes] of prayer.

PITIFUL.

Last week, the ice finally broke. With the recent trials in our church where hidden sin has been exposed and the process of repentance and restitution is a showing to be a long, hard [and public] road, hearts are changing. As one elder has quoted Lewis, “Aslan is on the move:” God is not only not surprised by this, but he has foreordained it.

Other stories are similar [post][comments].

God is not only moving in the heart of my once-pastor, but within the broader congregation, as well. (That includes “us guys.”)

Why? Well, according to Merriam-Webster, accountability is “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to [explaining one’s conduct for] one’s actions.” When it comes down to it, we are accountable to God for our sin; we are also weak in our own nature and therefore need help from other like-minded believers to stay clean from the filth of sin.

Sin’s Nature

Sin will not remain secret. The greatest lie if the Evil One is really legion: personal sin doesn’t really harm anyone else; secret sin will never be found out; secret sin doesn’t affect all/any areas of my life; this single act or pattern of sin doesn’t matter; that ‘thing’ is really not a big deal — heck, it can hardly be called ‘sin’; etc.

Here is a [partial] biblical response (not partial-biblical, but a partial-response):

What is done in private, will be revealed in public (re: great reversal)

  • According to Numbers 32:23, “…you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. Your sin will find you; it will expose you.
  • For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)
  • Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “”When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’”” Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

Sin prefers darkness, secrecy and silence (re: cockroaches)

  • And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

Sin = Death (re: dead)

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
  • “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14,15)

People who look sinless in public are really just proud hypocrites (re: Pharisees)

  • …Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness...” (Matthew 23:1-36)

We will be held accountable before God for our sin (re: judgement)

  •  Non-believers will be judged for their sin. “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)
  • Believers will be judged for their sin. “…each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-14)

Next post I will find out if accountability is even biblical and if so, what it looks like.

Kim Riddlebarger, of White Horse Inn fame, has a nice picture of his new Advent Calendar for a ‘Stronger Brother’ (ref.: Romans 14).

Advent Calendar

Some reformed fun at its finest!

This is the second in a series of posts to honor the most memorable teachings of my once-pastor.

I had never heard of Robert Murray M’Cheyne [bio here] before. That is, until my pastor recited two poems by him. The first, titled Jehovah Tsidkenu (meaning The LORD our Righteousness) in one evening service, perhaps the first evening service we attended (which was the same night of the first morning service we ever attended…and we have never looked back). His recitation of this poem was not only amazing to me (because of its length), but because he recited it like he wrote it; like it was his experience. Through tears, he shared:

Jehovah Tsidkenu

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they picture the blood-sprinkled tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu ‘twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me. I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsideknu, my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

I normally would not reprint the entire piece but provide a link, but you must read it for yourself. In the first stanza, he could care not about God or the Work of Christ. By the second stanza, he could appreciate the prose and peotry for their literary merit, but it changed not his heart. In the third stanza, he has an emotional experience, but the death of God on his behalf meant nothing to him. From the fourth stanza to the end, he not only understands his sin in light of a holy God, but revels in Jesus–his righteousness, his Jehovah Tsidkenu before God the Father. The most beautiful line in my opinion is the last one: “Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be;” he puts his entire life in the hands of Jesus Christ.

The second poem my pastor recited from memory by M’Cheyne is as amazing, called:

I Am Debtor

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink, –
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When the praise of heav’n I hear,
Loud as thunder to the ear,
Loud as many water’s noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

Even on earth, as through a glass
Darkly, let Thy glory pass,
Make forgiveness feel so sweet,
Make Thy Spirit’s help so meet,
Even on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
Dark, as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at the height,
Jesus comes, and all is light;
Blessed Jesus! bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe.

When in flowery paths I tread,
Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall – but still arise –
The Spirit comes – the tempter flies;
Blessed Spirit! bid me show
Weary sinners all I owe.

Oft the nights of sorrow reign –
Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain;
But a night Thine anger burns –
Morning comes and joy returns;
God of comforts! bid me show
To Thy poor, how much I owe.

From the recitation of these, my pastor taught me much:

  1. The importance of memorization. Not only can someone memorize long passages of scripture or poems such as these, but one should. The psalmist says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” I can’t have my Bible everywhere with me; but whatever I store in my heart goes with me.
  2. My pastor was transparent. He shared his weaknesses, his faults, his sins and failings; this showed more the grace of God: the LORD can use him, who is imperfect, to proclaim his Gospel, why can’t he use me as well?
  3. The importance of the work of those who have gone before. The church’s heritage is rich with experience and insight; no matter what I am going through, I am not the only one, ever! There is comfort in knowing others have gone before and finished well.

This is the first in a series of posts to honor the most memorable teachings of my once-pastor.

The first thing I would like to share that my pastor taught me is:

The importance of the Scriptures, all of the Scriptures.

Expository, Exegetical Preaching

From the first day we attended the church in September of 1996, he has preached the whole counsel of God. He was preaching through 2 Samuel; if I remember correctly, I know we were there before chapter 9, because I remember his sermon on Mephibosheth. He and the church are committed to expository, exegetical preaching from chapter 1/verse 1 through the end of the book; even through the “tough stuff” like Leviticus’ sacrificial law or Genesis’ genealogies.

Context is King

Context is very important. In order to interpret a passage of scripture, one must interpret it in light of the surrounding context: the immediate verses before and after, the preceding and succeeding chapters, the entire book of the Bible, and the Whole Counsel of God, or the entire Canon of Scripture.

Benefit of the Old Testament

Later, as it seemed we worked through Old Testament narrative in the likes of 2 Samuel and Joshua, through diligent exegesis, interpretation and application, I began to see the sovereignty and love of God in the OT and the beauty of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ flow out of it.

Sometimes, we would be a few weeks in a passage, like a genealogy, and for every sermon, every week his first point of application (of many) would always be:

2 Timothy 3:16,17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

It is through these two passages of Scripture that opened my eyes to the beauty and, frankly, importance of the Old Testament.

Thinking and Seeing Biblically

I can vividly picture my pastor, presenting any number of points of application, placing the Bible on top of his head and saying “through the Bible, we must filter all of life; we must think biblically.” Then he would hold his opened Bible up to his eyes and “look” through it like it was binoculars and state “we must see all things in light of the Bible; we must see biblically.”

God is Always Right

Finally, on this point my pastor has stated numerous times, “If you are in a situation and you are thinking or doing something one way, but the Bible states something else: God is always right, you are always wrong.” The Bible is sufficient for everything (2 Timothy 3:16,17) and my heart is desperately wicked, even I can’t know its depths (Jeremiah 17:9).

In light of the recent events, I need to reiterate one thing that the elders mentioned: the fall of a pastor does not necessarily negate or destroy the ministry he had once had. Whether it be Ted Haggard, whom I do not know, or our pastor whom I do, sin does have current and future consequences, but it does not wipe out our past. Let me say this: Our pastor preached the Word both in season and out of season.

Because of this, I want to share some of the most memorable teaching from the past ten years. I will be posting a series of some of these teachings in the coming days.

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