Jan 6, 2015

The Podcast Pastor

"Many Christians find biblical and spiritual nourishment from faithful podcast preachers. This is a good thing. It gives people the opportunity to build God's Word into their lives during the week as they jog or drive or clean or just sit and listen. But with this benefit comes the question, How should we encourage these same Christians, who are benefitting form podcast preaching, to orient themselves toward their pastor(s) in the local church?
Let it be clear that we ought to deeply appreciate our local pastors, under whose shepherding and preaching we sit week in and week out. They are indispensable, as a gift from God, to His church. God does not say in Scripture that He has given podcasts to the church, but pastors and teachers. Ephesians 4:11-12: "He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry."
He gave these pastors responsibility for particular flocks. That is what it says in 1 Peter 5:2-3: "Shepherd the flock of God that is among you" - a pastor is not responsible for a flock across the world or down the street - "exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." Pastors will only be examples as they live and minister among a particular people. This connectedness between pastor and people is a calling for the pastor and a gift to the flock.
This is the picture that God has ordained: that flocks exist, and shepherds exist, and that the shepherds have accountability for a particular flock; and that the flock should submit joyfully to its particular shepherd. This is a structure that no podcasting pastor can replace.
These local-church shepherds, then, are given an astonishing responsibility in Acts 20:28: "pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock" - that is, all their flock - "in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with his own blood." This is a massive calling - and an enormous burden. Take heed to all the flock, he says. This is your flock. You are their shepherd. Watch over them, care for them, as no more podcaster can.
And the counterpoint is that all those sheep should know that this is the local pastor's responsibility, and they should submit to that gladly. They should want it. They should feel wonderfully blessed by being in a church where this is believed. And so God tells us, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls" (Heb. 13:17). And He says we should be eager "to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work" (1 Thess. 5:12-13).
In other words, God has designed normal Christianity - vibrant, healthy, durable, culture-shaping, mission-advancing, justice-elevating, Christ-exalting Christianity - to be a web of relationships, in local churches, led by faithful shepherds, who live as examples and care for the souls of their particular sheep. No online preacher can take the place on the ground of these shepherds.
Let me add two further considerations:
     First, what we should desire from our pastor in his preaching is not mainly rhetorical or oratorical skill, but faithful explanation of God's Word and application to our lives, especially the life we are living together right here in this church and city, making an impact on our specific community. So I say to every church member, value your pastor as the one who opens the Scriptures for you in your situation, in your community, in your web of relationships week in and week out. Support him in this.
     Second, we need to acknowledge the huge importance of corporate worship, as a whole, in the life of a believer. Gathering with God's people every week - gathering, not just putting on your headphones and listening to a worship song - to exalt Jesus together, and hear each other say great things about the One whom we love and cherish, is the way God means for us to thrive in relation to him. I have found this weekly rhythm of corporate communion with God essential to my faith over the last fifty years.
Preaching is essential to that corporate experience. Preaching is not after worship. It is worship. It is the pastor exulting over the truth of God's Word. It is expository exultation. In other words, preaching is not an isolated moment of instruction, as if the service just switched from music to class. No, the service is worship from start to finish. We are going vertical from beginning to end, and we are connecting with God through prayers and communion and singing and giving and in the sermon. We are leaning on the pastor to draw us into his explanation and exultation over the Word of God as part of corporate worship. Podcasters cannot do this. If people only hear preaching outside the context of corporate worship, they are neglecting part of its life and power.
I love podcasting. I think it has a place in the growth and learning of contemporary Christians. But nothing can replace the church gathered and the community of believers under the leadership and care of shepherds who minister God's Word to them and care for their souls."
Dr. John Piper is chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis and former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is author more than fifty books, including A Godward Heart.

Article taken from Tabletalk, September, 2014

Jan 3, 2015

Martin Luther

Lord Jesus,
You are my righteousness,
I am your sin.
You took on you what was mine;
yet set on me what was yours.
You became what you were not,
that I might become what I was not.
- Martin Luther

Jan 1, 2015

Psalm 65:11

"You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance."
Psalm 65:11

Dec 31, 2014

New Year's Eve, 2014

Happy New Year's Eve!

Preaching The Gospel to Yourself

"There is great security in the salvation of the Lord. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and His decision stands. The Holy Spirit has caused us to be born again, and there is no means by which we can destroy the life He has given us. Every believer has been crucified with Christ, and nowhere in Scripture do we see a way we can be uncrucified. Every one who has believed in Jesus Christ is justified, and no work of man or Satan can overturn the verdict of God. Jesus exercises sovereign care over all His people. Those in His hands cannot be taken from Him. Yet, despite the security of our salvation and standing before God through Jesus Christ, we can still find our way into trouble when we wander away from the hope of the gospel.
And wander we do. While wandering can come in the form of giving in to immorality, it more often masquerades as a kind of Christianity. For many, the Christian life is driven by doctrinal precision. We may rightly value our confessional heritage and see the importance of robust theology, but this can itself become the goal for which we strive while missing the connection of all theology to the gospel. Knowledge often "puffs up" and the resulting pride leads us into confessional confidence over gospel confidence. Some Christians base their spiritual life on emotions-the deep stirrings of the heart that are often connected with the profound truths of God. But while the truths of God never change, our experience of them does. And when the feelings are not there, our faith ends up in crisis. In finding confidence in our emotions, we wander from what should be our only hope in life and in death. Many of us lose sight of the gospel as we focus on our own works and how well we are doing spiritually. By measuring ourselves against self-imposed standards, we believe ourselves to be strong or weak, but in each care the fix is found in doing our best, rather than the work of Christ.
Fundamentally, the gospel is forgotten when it no longer functions as our ongoing hope and confidence before God, or when it becomes unessential for the practical, daily living of the Christian life. The gospel we often forget must be reclaimed and retained for the safety of our souls, and this is done through preaching the gospel to ourselves.
Preaching the gospel to ourselves is calling ourselves to return to Jesus for forgiveness, cleansing, empowerment, and purpose. It is answering doubts and fears with the promises of God. Do my sins condemn me? Jesus has covered them all in His blood. Do my works fall short? Jesus' righteousness is counted as mine. Are the world, the devil, and my own flesh conspiring against me? Not even a hair can fall from my head apart from the will of my Father in heaven, and He has promised to care for me and keep me forever. Can I really deny myself, carry my cross, and follow Jesus? Yes, for God is at work in me, willing and working in me for His own pleasure. This is what it looks like to preach the to ourselves.
This private and personal preaching can only happen when the Word of God is known and believed; when God's law reveals our sin and helplessness, and His grace covers that sin and overcomes our weaknesses. Preaching the gospel to ourselves is not simply the act of studying the Bible (though we can preach to ourselves in that act), but it is actively calling ourselves to believe the promises of God in Jesus His Son.
We preach to ourselves through the disciplines of prayer and meditation on Scripture. In praying, we look to God to graciously meet our needs, and in the act itself we exercise faith. In his exposition of the Lord's Prayer, Thomas Manton said, "Prayer ... is a preaching to ourselves in God's hearing. We speak to God to warm ourselves, not for his information, but for our edification." The gospel promises in God's Word guide us in prayer, leading us to the safety of Jesus' service and sacrifice. By meditation, we call to mind the gospel; by prayer, we claim the gospel as our great hope.
Most of us need to rediscover the gospel. And such a recovery is needed daily because our need is ever present and our hearts are prone to wander. But gospel recovery only happens when we feel the weight of our sins, the weakness of our flesh, and the frailty of our faith. This means that only those who know themselves to be unworthy sinners and God's Word to be true will find the gospel to be not only good news, but good news for their own souls."
Rev. Joe Thorn is lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois.
He is author of Note to Self and the forth-coming book Experiencing the Trinity:
The Grace of God for the People of God.
Article taken from Tabletalk, Jan. 2015

Dec 30, 2014

Alistair Begg

"In saying we will worship God, we're saying that we will
give Him the chief place in our thoughts and interests."
Alistair Begg