Author Archives: Eloquorius

Chandler on the heart of Christian obedience

Matt Chandler, Sermon: “Sabbath” sermon, November 22, 2009… four days before Thanksgiving when he collapsed at home with a seizure that ultimately lead to the discovery of advanced brain cancer:

“[Non-believers] think that we obey the moral laws that we obey because we believe that if we do not obey those laws God is going to damn us to Hell, give us cancer, or send some fire out of the sky to blow up our city. They do! They think that our devotion to the Scriptures and to our God is fear-based. Now the reason they believe this is because for some us that’s true. Because we grew up where the pastor at our church utilized fear to get earthly numbers at the expense of heavenly ones. So I’ll say this to you: Heaven is not a place for those who are afraid of hell, it’s a place for those who love God.” (mins 6:56 to 7:54)

“And so we obey the law because the law is good, not because we’re afraid of lightning bolts, pestilence, cancer. God did not make His rules and the grab man and throw him into his rules and say, good luck! ‘Jesus, Holy Spirit, watch!’  […] now I’m not saying that God at times will not crush you.  But for the believer in Christ, the believer cries out like they did in Scripture, ‘May the bones that you crush rejoice.‘ Sometimes God will crush your fingers to get your hands off of what will harm you. And that’s been true in every book of the Bible, in every year in the history of man.  J. I. Packer’s got my favorite quote: ‘And still He seeks the fellowship of His people and will send them both joy and sorrow to detach their hands from the things of this world and attach them to Himself’.”

Keller & Temple: Your religion is what you do with your solitude

Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Sermon: Discipline of Desire Pt. 2 (mins. 17:35 to 20:01)…

There’s a quote by [Archbishop William Temple] that I’ve used for years. I remember in one of my earliest Gospel sermons I used to use this quote because it was so helpful. [Temple] said: “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” I had to think about that for about three years before I figured it out.

What does he mean? He says, “When you don’t have to think of anything, when your mind isn’t being taken to think by the environment…” (in other words you’re not at work, there’s nothing that’s taking hold of your mind… when you’re standing on a street corner waiting for someone or you’re in a place where you don’t have anything to think about) “…where does your mind go? What does your mind habitually go to? What do you most like to think about? What do you most enjoy daydreaming about? What gives you the most comfort to fantasize about?” And he says, “That’s your God. Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” It’s a profound statement.

And you see in some of your cases you’re thinking about a person. Maybe a romantic figure; somebody that you’re in love with, or would like to be in love with, or you’d like that person to be in love with you. Maybe you think about your career; what you’re going to do when you’re done with this job, what you’re hoping to get there. Maybe you’re thinking about the house; the dream house you’ve always wanted to build and you’re saving up and hoping you can get… You see what those things are, according to William Temple, those things are God substitutes.

In the most functional way—I know you’ve heard me talk about idolatry—but I’m saying in this case, maybe a little less fundamental than that, there are certain things that are kind of like the sweets. They’re the sugar cookies. They’re the things that when we get “down” we think about to comfort ourselves. And that’s a form of adoration. It’s form of worship. And they are appetite suppressants and if you want to experience God you’ve got to find those pieces of candy you’re popping between meals so that when you sit down with your quiet time you’re just not hungry.

You’ve been comforted thought of this or that success.
You’ve been comforted by the thought of someone saying, “Will you marry me?”
You’re getting comforted by the idea of a peer group finally saying, “You’re really good at this.”
You’re getting comforted by something.

Watch out for those things. What out for the things that are destroying your appetite.

Keller: A sense of God’s absence is a sense of God’s presence

Tim Keller, expositing the opening words of Psalm 63:1 (emphasis mine):

The Bible never says that finding God is the result of seeking for Him. The Bible always says that seeking God is the result of having found Him. You don’t start seeking God until He has actually met you.

The Bible says that although people have a spiritual hunger in general, people are actually trying in our natural heart… people in our natural habit… are trying to escape the true God in particular. Did you hear that? The Bible says, “Of course people are religious!” In Acts 17 Paul goes to Athens and he stands up in the Areopagus — great moment in Biblical history — and he says, “Men of Athens I see that you are very religious.” And he says, “I even saw this monument to the unknown god. I would like to tell who this unknown god is who you seek.”

Now you see at that point Paul is saying people in general want God, and the Bible says that of in general we need God. We’re contingent beings and there is a spiritual hunger. It’s going to show itself in your life somewhere, some place. So the Bible says everybody is spiritually hungry. But what the Bible is saying also is because of sin, though we want God in general, want spirituality in general, we want experience in general, in particular we don’t want the real God. To seek the real God as He reveals Himself in the Bible is not something we’re capable of.

And notice therefore that the first phrase is, “Oh God, you are MY god.” Now this means David is in a covenant relationship with God. To call God “my” god… how many people in life can you call “my”? Now you may not know me at all. You may know anything about me. But if you overhear me talking with somebody else and you hear me refer to “my Kathy,” “my David,” “my Michael,” or “my Jonathan,” you figure these have got to be this person’s wife or sister or sons or daughter or something like that. You don’t use the word “my” unless you have a relationship is very close and you have tremendous confidence in the relationship. And so you see David is starting off by saying, “I’m in a personal relationship with you. Oh God, you are my God” — and it’s understood, it’s implied — “Earnestly will I seek you.”

What’s the cause? What’s the effect? It doesn’t say, “Because I’ve sought you, you are my God.” He says, “because you are my God, I seek you.” The way you know you’ve met the real God is that you are hungry and thirsty. And the way you know you’ve really met the real God is that you’re really hungry and really thirsty. And the way you know you’ve sort of met the real God is that you’re sort of hungry and thirsty. They stand and fall together; there’s a passion, a hunger.

I’ll put it another way, and this is very important to know: The sense of His absence, the dissatisfaction with His absence, is an evidence that He has touched you.

In other words, a sense of His absence — a longing that that absence be gone — a sense of His absence is a sense of His presence. If He’s not present, if He’s not working in your life, you might know intellectually that He’s absent, but you don’t long for Him.

Tim Keller, Discipline of Desire (mins. 11:40 to 15:02)

Risk-Taking God vs. The True Risk of Open Theism

“To abandon belief in the omnipotence of God may ‘solve’ the problem of evil, but the cost is enormous: the resulting God is incapable of helping us. He may be able to give us quite a bit of sympathy, and even groan along with us; but He clearly cannot help us — not now, not in the future. There is no point praying to such a God and asking for help. He is already doing the best He can, poor chap, but He has reached the end of His resources.” – Dr. Don Caron, How Long O Lord, p. 31

The strength of one’s faith vs. faith in the strength of the One

“It isn’t the intensity of faith, at least not in Christianity. It’s not the intensity of faith that saves.  It’s the greatness of the One on whom it links itself, or, on whom it takes as its object. That is my faith is weak and awful, but it grasps a mighty Christ, a saving Christ, a one-sidely saving Christ. The emphasis is on the object grasped not on the strength of my hand.” – Rod Rosenbladt, Professor of Theology at Concordia University

The Saddest Two Words I’ve Heard in a Long Time

My upstairs neighbor is your typical independent, mid-30’s, never-married/never-dates, professional woman; the stereotypical Ms. No-Thanks-I’ve-Got-It-Handled! A couple years ago she mentioned to me that she would so pregnant and was quite open about the fact that it was a sperm bank baby. When asked, her every reason given centered on her own self-aggrandizement and self-realization; more a child for her home than any desire to provide a home for a child. If I wasn’t already put off by her cool aloofness, I was definitely put off by her joining the ranks of intentional single moms, with all the attitudes and presuppositions that go with the movement.

A couple years ago darling Megan was welcomed into the world, or more accurately, welcomed into her mother’s life-fulfillment experiment. Other than a maternal grandfather, little Megan has known nothing of a father figure and has, of course, largely grown up at some daycare center. Every couple weeks or so I see the two of them and I make efforts to interact with the cute little girl who could grace the cover of any baby magazine.

But two words I heard earlier tonight will forever change my view of the situation upstairs from me.

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You Don’t Need a Do-Over When It’s Done

This past weekend I endured another imbecilic “ice-breaker” in front of the sermon.  Normally I merely tolerate these weekly excursions into the sophomoric, quietly suffering the now-standard pulpit goofiness to entertain the goats and avoid the stigma of taking eternal things too, you know, seriously.

He related the Internet urban legend of the guy who supposedly flushed his car keys at a highway rest stop and proceeded to get stuck in the septic tank in an attempt to fish them out. As the story goes, the fire department rescues the fellow and hoses him off, only for him to realize that his car keys were in his back pocket all along.  The pastor joked, “Now there’s a guy who’d like a ‘do-over’ in life!”

The pastor then pronounced: “God’s word for a do-over is grace!

My heart sank, for my fellow church-goes, for the preacher and for my own prospects at ministry in today’s Christless Christianity.  According to last Sunday’s sermon—so implied—the LORD’s solution for our mistakes (our grandparents used to call it “sin”) is to just give us another opportunity to work harder the next time around; another “do-over” to try and get it right the next time. And the next time. And the next time. Ad nauseum.

This anti-Gospel message of self-effort is nothing more than the filthy rags of self-righteousness. This leaves the sheep to attempt their “do-over” over and over until they either despair of their inability to get it perfect as God demands, or smugly rest in the pride that they did it right on their second or fiftieth “do-over.”  The tax collector and Pharisee—the despairing sinner juxtaposed with the prideful soul who thinks he’s done everything right—are the only two outcomes of preaching the Law instead of the Gospel.

Let’s review:

The LAW: What God demands (sinless perfection) and the consequences of violation (the shedding of blood).
The GOSPEL: The announcement (lit. “good news”) that Christ lived in sinless perfection and the gift of “peace with God through Christ” by complete faith in His death in our place.

As Ken Jones (pastor of Greater Union Baptist Church and regular on the White Horse Inn show) put it succinctly: 

“The law is what God demands, the Gospel is what God has done, and what God has done is what He demands.”

When a preacher speaks of “do” he is preaching the Law. So it is not until he proclaims the “done” of the finished work of Christ that he is preaching the Gospel: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do!” (Rom. 8:3) 

So, what would have been a Gospel-centered conclusion to this story? Something like this:

Unlike the hapless fellow in that story, when Christians find ourselves wanting a do-over we need only look to the perfect life of Christ to know that we don’t need a “do-over”  because it’s all done!

God doesn’t have a word for “do-over” because through Christ crucified God gives us “done!”

Church Membership Process: Second Meeting

September 8 was my second meeting with the elders/pastors of my church to work on the process of creating a membership statement.  They met without me last time to work out among themselves some of the issues I brought up in first session.

Two weeks ago the pastor emailed me requesting my attendance, stating that they had pretty much decided on the more readily defined matters; doctrine and mission. This week they wanted me to focus on researching and helping them with the specifics of personal holiness and church life.

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Classic Case of Anti-male Prejudice in Christian College

Jessica Harris, who runs Beggar’s Daughter (an online resource for women dealing with pornography) was relating an incident early in her walk with Christ.  She “went to a Christian college right out of high school and was caught there” doing pornography. What galls me, but sadly doesn’t surprise me, is the response from the so-called Christian school. Continue reading

Helping my church form a membership process

The elders of my church have accepted my offer to help them navigate the process of developing a membership process. I’m completely honored to have been invited to attend the next elders’ meeting and I presume several of the subsequent meetings until the process is developed and the pastor presents the process and material. They’ve targeted a mid-September time frame for the pastor to begin preaching on it. That’s only about 6 weeks away, and if you ask me, too little time to put in due diligence to thoroughly develop a membership process.But they know I’m a research hound and that I like to write and put together presentations. I’ll be doing all those things, on a very compressed time table.

The first meeting is Wednesday night, leaving me tonight and tomorrow night to wrap up my preliminary research, document where I’m at, and put together a collection of material to hand out. I’ll likely skip the PowerPoint job and simply go with a printed version containing the same bullet points. This will allow them to take notes and take it with them.

As for me, I can sense the spiritual stress already. Old demons come calling, as usual, along with the earthy “crises.”

Finally, the elder with whom I met last week was very understanding about my issues concerning divorce and remarriage as it relates to church acceptance, participation and leadership. His position seems in line with mine and he encouraged me to address the issue openly and early with the rest of the elders. In his email to the me and the elders (the one I was supposed to receive last weekend) he concluded with the following:

Also, brother, thank you for opening up to me about your aspirations for future study of His Word as well as about struggle you’ve had. Humbly admitting your desire to find acceptance in light of your struggle was, in itself, humbling to me and, I believe, honoring to God.

These are all good signs. I merely need prayer for strength, discernment and a “hedge of protection” as we’d say back in the Pentecostal world.