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Today is a momentous day. My two youngest, Pooh (6) and Tigger (5), both culminated their transition to two-wheeler-hood: they are riding bicycles without training wheels.

We capped this day after dinner with our very first all-family bike ride in the neighborhood. They are getting so big and time is ticking away (…enter bump music from dcTalk…)

Riding bikes, wiggly teeth and the fading of the remnants of “baby talk”, they are growing up fast. Our baby will be six this year, Rabbit is ten. There is only limited time to invest in their lives now, before they begin their own families, have their own children and teach them to ride two-wheelers.

If that is all that life is, then we should “…eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” If the good life is nothing more than a Hallmark card with the soft, hazy picture and some sentimental hogwash on the inside it is not worth it. Don’t get me wrong; I love spending time with my children doing fun things like teaching them to ride bikes, play chess or dribble left-handed. But if that is all of the legacy there is to life – teaching them manners, sharing some “warm, fuzzy” experiences and perfecting their jump shot – then that is not enough.

Life is hard. The Dread Pirate Roberts was correct, “Life is pain…and if anyone tells you differently then they are selling you something.” Without an ultimate purpose, why go on? Ah, despair, right?

No.

Without purpose: despair; with purpose, and living out of it: joy.

So, what is the purpose of life?

“The chief end [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A One.

In this short time I have with my children, I am to invest my time not only in training them to glorify and enjoy God, but doing it myself. Using all of life to disciple them, so that the purpose is both “caught” and “taught.”

The training wheels of the bikes are all off now, but the training wheels of their lives are still firmly in place. They are there for both guidance and protection.

I don’t want to extend the metaphor too far, but call one side “Law” and the other “Gospel.” Along the way, we train them by teaching them the Law of God (also the fact that no one can perfectly keep it and the consequences of not keeping it) as well as the Gospel of Christ (literally “good news”): Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient, keeping the entire Law to the point of death on a roman cross, the innocent willingly paying the penalty of the law-breaker and then being raised to life on the third day removing the sting of death for all who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a process, though. First they ride safely in the driveway on the bike with the training wheels, then the wheels come off and they are stretched to apply their training (knowledge and experience) with dad firmly holding on to them and finally they ride on their own – eventually into the cruel world, busy streets and all – taking them places where they have never gone before now having unconsciously mastered what was once consciously difficult.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:13,14 (ESV)

Oh, I pray that obedience and discipline will one day be unconsciously mastered by them. But, since I am still struggling on my own wobbly ride, I am beginning to understand a little more about the guarantee given to me and longing a little more for Glory.

My prayer is not that they never have difficulty or even that they never suffer, but that the do all things well (including suffering). My prayer is that they, with their whole lives, “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

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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 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.

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!

changthis.com offers, like, a biz-illion short (usually one page) manifestos about change in our culture, business, politics…well, everything.

Faith is noticeably absent though.

An excerpt from their FAQ:

Do you have a political slant?

Yes. We are against demagoguery, dishonesty, shortsightedness, superstition, fundamentalism, unequal rights and violent argument.

We are optimists and we believe that an informed, motivated electorate is likely to do the right thing, given the facts and given a chance.

We reject the status quo of both parties if it is just the status quo.

And we’re realists. We don’t believe it’s a good idea to cut off your nose to spite your face. We don’t believe in anonymity. We don’t think someone should do something just because they can.

All of the above sounds good…but it seems the above worldview is based on the foundation of the ‘inherant goodness of man’ which I, along with the reformed tradition, soundly denounce, both out of experience and because it is true.
I denounce it because of the experience of my own sin; I am not inherantly good.

The reformers denounce it because the Bible states otherwise:

…just to name a few.

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.

I have not (yet) read this paper, but the concept is very interesting:

Redeeming Physics: Biblical and Theological Resources for a God-Centered Approach.

In our homeschool, we are trying to make everything based on a biblical worldview. My oldest child is eight (third grade), but this will come in handy soon.

(HT: JT @ Between Two Worlds)

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).

Video of S. M. Lockridge’s famous ‘sermon’ about Jesus Christ.

(HT: TryingToFollow)

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