Together for the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition

I love a few trends in the church today. One focus is on the missional duty and calling of the church. (Simply being missionaries to the local community your congregation is in.) The other trend that I certainly love is how churches, denominations are finally focusing on the gospel. Congregations of the SBC, OPC, PCA, and Sovereign Grace Ministries are saying, "Hey we are one church." Denominations are losing their distinctives to come together for the gospel. Most people who read my blog, you are quite familiar with the Together for the Gospel Conference, but a few months ago there was another groundbreaking conference entitled The Gospel Coalition. One is much more organized than the other but the focus is the same, the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the coming days I hope to watch the videos on the Coalition's site (they are making all their media freely available!!!) That includes workshops led by men like Mark Driscoll and Phil Ryken, plenary talks by Carson, Piper, and Keller, including several speaker interviews and panels.

From the Gospel Coalition's website:

The evangelical church must stay true to its Biblical foundations, and it must maintain and enhance the effectiveness of its expository preaching, the holiness of its members, the ‘thickness’ of its counter-cultural community, the fervor of its evangelism. But if it doesn’t learn how to do this in our biggest cities then we don’t have much hope for our culture.

If our cities are largely pagan while our countryside is largely Christian, then our society and culture will continue to slide into paganism. And that is exactly what is happening. Christians strengthen somewhat away from the cities and they have made some political gains, but that is not effecting cultural products much. It is because in the center cities (NYC, Boston, LA, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC) the percentages of people living and working there who are Christians are minuscule.

Jim Boice proposed that evangelical Christians need to live in the major cities at a higher percentage than the population at large (See Two Cities, p.163ff.) Currently 50% of the U.S. population live in urban areas (and 25% lives in just the 10 largest urban areas.) Boice proposes that evangelicals should be living in cities in at least the same percentages or more. As confirmation of Boice’s belief consider how much impact both the Jewish and the gay communities have had on our culture. Why? Though neither is more than 3-4% of the total population, they each comprise over 20% of the population of Manhattan (and in other center cities. )

So we have two problems. First, evangelicals (especially Anglos) in general are quite negative about U.S. cities and city living. Second, you can’t ‘do church’ in exactly the same way in a city as you do it elsewhere, not if you want to actually convert hard-core secular people to Christianity. There are churches that set up in cities without adapting to their environment. Ironically, they can grow rather well anyway in cities by just gathering in the young already-evangelicals who are temporarily living in the city after college. But that is not the way to make the cities heavily Christian—which is the crying need today. (Tim Keller)
In the meantime I picked a book from a friend, Sam DeSocio. It is entitled Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard lesions from an Emerging Missional Church. I will certainly review it when I finish it.


Know what your opponent believes

A typical day at the mission brings thoughts of all shapes and sizes running in my head. I debate politics with one of the managers on the issue of 9/11 and how the government covers it up. Later in the day, conversations with the clients range from their (or mine) past history, their current relationship with God (or mine), and some small chit-chat. Then finally on the way home with Nate our conversations cover just war theory, theology, unjust laws, evangelism, music and culture.

Not so today. I was busy preparing for meetings that I had today (which went well). But toward the end of the day I spent a decent amount of time with my homeless friends. One of them had a tract from the Jehovah's Witness. As soon as I saw the word Watch (from Watchtower) I knew what it was - Satan's sermons. I have it placed beside me right now, and read through it. I did not share the gospel with this man at that moment, instead I am focusing on the trust factor. So I spend most of the time listening to him and others, learning about their beliefs and praying over them in my own time.

There are times I want to jump up and down when I hear certain blasphemous ideals, and I restrain myself but let people know where I stand. At the mission I am known as the young Calvinist who grew up in the country who is just now experiencing city life. (Sounds right huh?) One of my bosses does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, but holds that the original manuscripts were free from error. I listen to this, I hear why she holds that men brought their context and culture to bear on their transcription. I see the difference after I listen.... I trust in God's sovereignty over man's radical depravity. God kept His word from falling into Satan's grasp. (Otherwise we might be reading the New World Translation - Jehovah's False Witnesses - instead of the New International Version).

Listening is key to understanding what the opposition holds. I figure that is something my generation is much more willing to do (look at the Emerging Church's conversation - we see it everywhere). Before I started working this summer I was reading a book by Harvie Conn and I shared my thoughts with my mother about it. Commenting on Conn's thoughts she remarked, "we can basically say that not listening is the cause to every major personal, relationship and family conflict.) But as you and I listen.... above all remember..."He who has ears to hear, let Him hear what the Spirit [of God] says to the seven churches."

We listen in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ - which cannot be done without knowing God's word or without love to the person and friend we are talking to. Without love we are like clanging gongs.


Robbie and Steel City 101

If you ever want to know more about what is going on in Pittsburgh... (well concerning me) here is the site for you. It is my roomie's blog, he goes by Nate Day. He will give you a lot of thoughts on culture, music, art, faith and life.... Do we agree on taste and style? no.. Do we agree on theology? Not totally... Do we believe in Christ? oh you bet ya. And we have fun talking about that and how it effects everyday living (i.e. politics, law and being consumers).

Church is for Sinners (pt. 2)

Luke's gospel is an amazing account of the life of Jesus Christ. Our dear doctor accounted many accounts of when and how Jesus healed others. One such account is in Luke 13:10-17...

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your disability." And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, "There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day." Then the Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

And later with the account of Zacchaeus and the 10 lepers, we clearly see God's acceptance of sinners who repent of their sins and believe in the work of Christ. That work being that He can heal them from their ailments. It is this group of people that Jesus came to save, to heal those who need a doctor. People stood back in judgment as Christ called upon Zacchaeus, that he may stay that night at his house. Definitely not a big deal. But it was (to the pharisees) for Zach was a chief tax collector, the boss of the Roman IRS. He stole a lot of money. (he was a thief.) Read more about Zacchaeus here. [Josh Harris' site]

The religion (read Pharisees) at that time did not want thieves to come to church (or prostitutes, lepers, or any one who was rejected). It was outside their comfort zone, and by their saved by works mentality, it was simply unacceptable. But Christ accepted the prostitute, the lepers, a tax collector, and many others. Christ accepted those who saw their need for a savior, saw that they sinned; He did not accept those who were self righteous, stuck up (proud), jerks (unloving), and arrogant.

I love Christ's last words in this passage. After healing and dealing with the Pharisee's Christ replies, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?"

Here we see the purpose of Church. A place were Christ may be preached, be seen, be worshiped, and in the midst of everything going on.... that sinners may be like Christ. That is why Christ should be and must be worshiped. Church is clearly for sinners.


Church is for Sinners

1st Installment of a series about the church, redemption, and the gospel.

There are two guys I really like, Mark Driscoll and Dale Ralph Davis. My first exposure to Driscoll was primarily through John Piper's national conference last year and I have been watching him for the last several months, he is a very sharp guy. I stumbled upon Dale Ralph Davis through a buddy
Steven Steele when I was in Ireland last Thanksgiving. Then again this past semester with Dr. Moeller in Minor Prophets drastically exposed me to him because he was one of her professors at RTS while she was there. (He is a pastor here.) The end of his welcome message is as follows, "Now I must warn you. This church is full of sinners. Everyone who comes here is one. You'll need to remember that if you associate with us – or you may be unnecessarily disappointed."

Both of these men preach and teach a fundamental lesson that is essential to the gospel. That truth is that
church is for sinners. It is an amazing concept really, that God wants those who rebel against Him to worship Him and be His precious children.

Throughout Scripture we see this. Luke 7 ( the forgiven prostitute - one of my favorite passages of Scripture), a pharisee declares, "if this man were a prophet then he would know what kind of person is touching him... for she is a sinner." Christ replied with a parable, concluding "therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." Of course church is for sinners, and Christ expands and says that church is for the redeemed as well. For those who believe in the gospel, that is what happens... they become redeemed, children of God.

We become heirs with Christ: Romans 8:12-17 
"So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."


The Accessible Word by Philip G. Ryken

[given by Isadore]
He began by saying that so many say that the Word of God is not clear. He gave 5 arguments against its clarity:
1. God is greater thant he human mind. He is a transcendent mystery which we cannot know.
2. We need the church to make the Scriptures clear to us.
3. Its a product of men and human language has ambiguity.
4. There are a variety of interpretations...how could we possibly know the correct one?
5. Doesn't the Bible say that its unclear (for instance, the Ethiopean unich)? But really, even the simplest can understand the Bible. Its central message is clear. It is able to make us wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15-17...notice how we keep coming back to the same passages...believe them!) This doesn't mean that we don't need teachers. Jesus taught us. But He taught from the Scriptures. Some parts of the Bible are easier to understand than others, but the basic message is clear. It has been said that in the Scriptures "the lamb may find a foot and the elephant may swim."

But some don't understand the Bible because they are not "of the truth". The problem is not with the Bible but with their understanding. Only those who know Christ can understand.

He concluded by giving us 2 reasons to believe in the clarity of Scripture:
1. The Character of God- Is God able to have us understand? Is He good at communicating? Why wouldn't He be? If Scripture is obscure, then what was the point in giving it? God is good and is able to communicate clearly. The Gospel couldn't be 'Gospel' (Good News) if it wasn't clear.
2. The Testimony of Scripture Itself- Deut.30:11-14, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 119:130, 2 Kings 22. 8-13, Nehemiah 8. Psalm 119:18 is a prayer that God loves to answer.


Driscoll on Idolatry and Religion

You really gotta like this guy. Why you ask? Well he is easy to understand, he is honest and blunt, basically says what needs to be said, he finds great pleasure in God and Christ, he is orthodox and he is a theological calvinist. Mark Driscoll says somewhere, "some of us are ex- fornicators, some of us are ex-adulterers, some are ex-theives, some are ex-gluttons, some are ex-pedifiles, we are all sinners." He preaches the gospel of amazing, relentless grace.

warning it is long... (43 minutes) I recommend watching it though :-)


some fun summer reading

A class I am taking in the fall has some 16 books on the reading list so I am getting a head start on it. (the class is modern Christian writers), one such book is The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. It is a fictional autobiography... well more truth than fiction in a beautiful composed masterpiece. Two examples:

Listening to the Bible read aloud is not only an invaluable immersion in religion as an oral tradition, it allows even the scripture scholars of a monastic community to hear with fresh ears. A human voice is speaking, that of an apostle, or a prophet, and the concerns critical to biblical interpretation- authorship of texts, interpolation of material, redaction of manuscript sources- recede into the background. One doesn't forget what one knows, and the process of listening may well inform one's scholarship. But in the communal lectio, the fact that the book of Jeremiah has several authors matters far less important than the sense of being sought out, personally engaged, making it possible, even necessary, to respond personally to take the scriptures to heart. (pp. 33)

At morning prayer, we heard these words from Ephesians 2: "so you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the founation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone." The altar gleamed, bone white, before the dark wood of the monks choir, and I could dare to conceive of the church as a refuge, a place to find the divided self made whole, the voice of the mocker overcome by the voice of the advocate. It is still a sinful church- how could it be otherwise? - but the words of its prophets and apostles had led me to this sanctuary, and I could dare to imagine it as home, a place where there is no 'other.' (pp. 46)
PS> we raised $17,000 for Light of Life Rescue Mission today at WORD FM :-) YEAH!!


Blessings of the Cross

And being in agony He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44

It was the corruption and wickedness of men that contrived and affected his death. It was by men's wickedness that He was reproached, mocked, buffeted, and spit upon. It was by men's wickedness that Barabbas was preferred before Him. It was men's wickedness that laid the cross upon Him to bear, and that nailed Him to it, and put Him to so cruel and ignominious a death. This tended to give Christ an extraordinary sense of the greatness and hatefulness of the depravity of mankind. Because hereby in the time of his sufferings He has that depravity set before Him as it is, without disguise. When it killed Christ, it appeared in its proper colors. Here Christ saw it in its true nature, which is the utmost hatred and contempt of God; in its ultimate tendency and desire, which is to kill God; and in its greatest aggravation and highest act, which is killing a person that was God. But yet at the same time so wonderful was the love of Christ to those who exhibited this hateful corruption, that he endured those very sufferings to deliver them from the punishment of that corruption. -- Jonathan Edwards
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us. 1 John 3:1
Learn this solemn truth that the Father loves you, the father wants you to be saved, the Father wants you to believe on the son; the very Father who commanded Christ to lay down His life for sinners, You will notice from this that the Father is clear from the blood of all men. He does not want you to perish. "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die." He is not willing that any should perish. "He willeth all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." He does not want you to perish. He commands Christ to go into the world and lay down his life for sinners. Oh! It is true: the Father does not want you to perish. "God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son." "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." God the Father is as earnest in your salvation as Christ is. It was God's part to send the Son, and the Son's part to come and die. And as God the Son has done his part, so Gd the Father has done his. So that, sinners, if you perish, it is because you will not come to him, that you may have life. - Robert Murray McCheyne
Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Proverbs 4:26

Take heed thou dost not turn into those lanes which lead out of the way. There are crooked, paths, paths in which men go astray, paths that lead to death and damnation, but take heed of all of those. Some of them are dangerous because of practice, some because of opinion, but mind them not; mind the path before thee, look right before thee, turn neither to the right hand nor the to the left. Remove thy foot from evil. Tho the way to heaven be but one, yet there are many crooked lanes and by-paths are most beaten, most travelers go those ways; and therefore the way to heaven is hard to be found, and as hard to be kept in, by reason of these... the scarlet streams of Christ's blood run throughout the way to the kingdom of heaven; therefore mind that, see if thou do not find the besprinkling of the blood of Christ in the way, and if thou do, be of good cheer, though art in the right way. - John Bunyan
Yes, be altogether lovely. Song of Songs 5:16

Our lord Jesus makes sinners lovely. When our lord Jesus comes in and covers these sinful ones with his righteousness, and, at the same time, infuses into them His life, the Lord is well pleased with them for His Son's sake. Even in heaven, the infinite Jehovah sees nothing which pleases Him like His son. The Father from heaven loved his only son, and again and again he said of him, "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." What higher econium can be passed upon Him? Our Lord's loveliness appears in every condition: in a manger, or in the temple, by the well, or on the sea, in the garden, or on the cross; in the tomb, or in the resurrection; in his first, or in his second coming. He is not as the herb which flowers only at one season, or as the tree, which loves its leaved in winter, or as the moon, which waxes and wanes; or as the sea which ebbs and flows. In every condition, and at every time, "He is altogether lovely." - Charles H. Spurgeon


The first week on the job

So here I am sitting in an internet cafe that is just around the corner from my place for the summer. Last week was more of an eyeopener than anything else, being awoken and able to see certain prejudices and down casting thoughts upon the homeless of this city. (you can assume the homeless period.) That is really the first lesson... getting past those stigmas. The next is recognizing that my job this summer is not a job. It is a ministry. One of my 'duties' is to interact with the homeless and get to know them better, their needs, etc. All done in order to better understand how to preach the gospel to them. That's lesson number two. God demands that we glorify His name through ministering to one another- especially the down trodden and rejected of this world. If you need proof of that, look at Christ's example and how he interacted with tax collectors, prostitutes, and so on.

At the end of this month I am supposed to preach in the chapel ministry.. which is a very daunting task. I am very thankful for Dr. Duguid's guidance as I approach that date.

But as I part.. a thought to warm your hearts.

It is a great privilege to hear the gospel. You may smile and think there is nothing very great in it. The damned in hell know. Oh, what would they give if they could hear the gospel now? If they could come back and entertain but the shadow of a hope that they might escape from the wrath to come? The saved in heaven estimate this privilege at a high rate, for, having obtained salvation through the preaching of this gospel, they can never cease to bless their God for calling them by his word of truth. O that you knew it! On your dying beds the listening to a gospel sermon will seem another thing than it seems now.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

[HT] the Irish Calvinist