Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Living Sacrifice

I first read this prayer in a book by Jerry Bridges. It helps me to obey Rom. 12:1, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

Lord, I am willing

To receive what You give;

To lack what You withhold;

To relinquish what You take;

To suffer what You inflict;

To be what You require;

And to do what You send me to do.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Only One Life

Only One Life

By C.T. Studd Missionary

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say ’twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Only Five Books?

Justin Childers wrote about a question he received from a missionary candidate on his blog:

"Lisa is packing and preparing for this trip [to be a missionary in Russia] and sent me an e-mail with this question: "I'm still wresting with book choices. If you only had five non-scholarly/non-commentary books with you during the next three years what would you choose?"

He has one assumption:
Assume that you have access to the ESV Study Bible online and all Piper books online (in other words, don't include these in your list).

Here is my list of non-scholarly/non-commentary books I would take:

1. The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes This is a refreshing and encouraging read when tempted to be discouraged in ministry. It is a great delight to remember that "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench" (Matt 12:20).

2. The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges I go back to this book regularly when I am tempted to think that my acceptance before God is based on my works. This was such a category shifting book for me when I first read it that I find great delight in just browsing its pages.

3. To the Golden Shore (Biography of Adoniram Judson) by Courtney Anderson When I was in seminary, I would sneak down into the basement of the building and pick out an old copy of this book off the shelf when I started to lose my focus. The story is amazing and faith-building. I was moved every time I read it.

4. Knowing God by J.I. Packer The chapter "Sons of God" (chapter 19) is worth the price of this book- but every chapter is wonderful! This might be the one book I would choose if I could only choose one.

5. The Cross of Christ by John Stott I am listening to "The Cross of Christ" on my ipod as I work out and it is reminding me how weighty and helpful Stott's work is. It is not only encouraging, but it would serve as a helpful reference as well.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

We can do all things through Him who gives us strength

Richard Sibbes, The Art of Contentment Works of Richard Sibbes Vol 5, p. 189

" All our comfort, and all our grace, it comes through Christ, who having taken our nature upon him, and having satisfied God, is fit to derive all grace and comfort to us. For he is near us, he is of our nature, and God in him is well pleased so as we may now go boldly to Christ; we are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. God himself out of Christ is a 'consuming fire.' Now, in Christ God favors man; he is gracious and lovely to us, and we to him; because Christ, his beloved son, hath took our nature upon him, and now in our nature he is in heaven... in him we do all things."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Poems on Ecclesiastes by John Newton

John Newton, a former slave trader who was converted and wrote Amazing Grace, also wrote a number of other hymns. Here are some stanzas about Ecclesiastes. (from volume 2 of his works, p.127)

Disease and pain invade our health,
and find an easy prey;
And oft, when least expected, wealth
takes wings and flies away

I pity those who seek no more
Than such a world can give;
Wretched they are, and blind and poor
And dying while they live

Since sin has fill’d the earth with woe,
And creatures fade and die;
Lord, wean our hearts from things below,
And fix our hopes on high.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mission Pioneer Ralph Winter (1924-2009)

This video is a wonderful tribute to how God uses an ordinary man to do extraordinary things. Ralph Winter, in 1974, was used by God to think of doing missions in terms of "people groups" not merely "countries" in need of the gospel. This understanding, along with the formation of the U.S. Center for World Mission has been a terrific resource for the church and springboard for the gospel spreading to people who have no witness among them.

Ralph D. Winter Tribute from U.S. Center for World Mission on Vimeo.

If you want to hear Dr. Winter talking about unreached people groups in his own words take a look at this video that was produced by Desiring God Ministries.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dying Daily

"I die every day!" -The Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 15:31

"No man would find it difficult to die who died every day. He would have practiced it so often, that he would only have to die but once more; like the singer who has been through his rehearsals, and is perfect in his part, and has but to pour forth the notes once for all, and have done. Happy are they who every morning go down to Jordan's brink, and wade into the stream in fellowship with Christ, dying in the Lord's death, being crucified on his cross, and raised in his resurrection. Then, when they shall climb their Pisgah, they shall behold nothing but what has been long familiar to them, as they have studied the map of death... God teach us this art, and he shall have the glory of it." -- C.H. Spurgeon

O God,
who for our redemption
gave your only-begotten Son
to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
delivered us from the power of our enemy:

Grant us so to die daily to sin,
that we may evermore live with him
in the joy of his resurrection;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

--The Book of Common Prayer

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Imagine: More Heavenly-Minded = More Earthly Good

In his memorable song, "Imagine," John Lennon seems to be asserting that Christians are so heavenly-minded, we're no earthly good. For Lennon, the only way to make a difference on earth is to live as if today is all there is.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

The Bible proclaims precisely the opposite. It's only when our hearts our captivated by the reality of a new world that we can live a radically selfless & sacrificial life in this world. Imagine: if today is all there is, if this life is all you've got, why in the world would you give yourself away to serve someone else?

The truth is, it's the most heavenly-minded people who are the most earthly good.

Do you want to live an unusually remarkable life here, for the glory of Jesus Christ? Then think often of heaven!

"Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:11-13).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Yelling won't change our childrens' hearts (From DG Blog)

This is from the Desiring God Blog.

(Author: Abraham Piper)

Here is the second question in our interview with Paul Tripp:

You've said that we deny the gospel when we use guilt, threats, or manipulation to motivate good behavior. How is that different from the ways God motivates us?

(The following is Paul's answer edited and slightly abridged for the blog. Listen to the audio for his complete answer.)

God's warnings and encouragments are not just tools to manipulate my behavior, because it's clear that God is not satisfied with that. I think that what he is after is my heart.

Isn't that exactly why God rages through the prophets against Israel? He says, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. I won't take that. I don't want your holy days. I don't want your solemn assemblies. I don't want that stuff! I want your heart."

That's not what many parents want. If a parent is yelling at a child, it's not because they want their hearts. They want to create enough fear in that child so that they'll do what they want them to.

If I had the heart in view, I would never motivate that way because it's damaging to the heart of a child. God's warnings, on the other hand, are never damaging to the heart. They're after the heart, because he knows if he doesn't have my heart, he doesn't have me.

In the Old Testament, we see that God's people would actually, on the way to the temple, make sacrifices to Baal. On the way to the temple! That's how deep the idolatry was in their heart. If God is zealous after our hearts, he's never going to allow that.

But often a parent will tell a child to do something, and the child will yell at the parent as he is going down the hallway. But as long as the kid does what he was told to do, the parent is satisfied.

Now what is the yelling telling me as a parent? It's telling me I don't have a submissive child. I don't have that child's heart. That's actually disobedience dressed up as obedience, because the child is raging against authority as they're technically doing what they've been asked. God would never call that obedience.

So when parents call that obedience, they're being satisfied with something God wouldn't be satisfied with. They're telling their children something that is very dangerous, letting them think that they can be obedient without an obedient heart.

This happens when I'm focused on doing whatever I can do to get my kid to do what I want him to. But if I could get at his heart for a moment, then when he goes to bed with his room still messy, it's still a victory. Maybe we haven't gotten to the room cleaning yet, but we've gained ground in the most important thing—the Lord ruling his heart.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Helpless Prayer

From "A Praying Life" by Paul Miller:

"Little children are good at helplessness. It's what they do best. But as adults we soon forget how important helplessness is. I , for one, am allergic to helplessness. I don't like it. I want a plan, an idea, or maybe a friend to listen to my problem... God wants us to come to him empty handed, weary, and heavy-laden. Instinctively we want to get rid of our helplessness before we come to God. [here is the great tie to the gospel] We received Jesus because we were weak, and that's how we follow him. Paul told the Colossians, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." (2:6) We forget that helplessness is how the Christian life works." (p.55,56)

This book is available on the book table.

Don't waste your summer

Here is a post from the "Life2gether" blog that I think is extremely helpful. Follow the links - see especially the "Gospel driven garage sale" post.

Get off the couch this summer!


This summer I want to get off the couch and get into the lives of others. So often we view summertime as a coasting time instead of a growing time. I think this principle applies to most churches as well. Over the years we’ve been taught that summer is a time to make the best with what we’ve got and prepare for the coming fall. So instead of planting seeds we pack our bags and wait for August.

I wonder what would happen if we thought differently. I wonder what would happen if we would simply get off the couch and get into the lives of others this summer. Here’s 3 simple ways to share your life this summer:

  1. Invest and Invite –> get to know your neighbors and invite them to specific things (i.e. over for dinner on Fri. night, to a baseball game on Saturday, etc.)
  2. Spend time on the Front Porch –> make yourself visible and available to your neighbors; don’t hide in your backyard the whole summer
  3. Pray for your neighborhood –> take regular prayer walks around your neighborhood praying for God to give you a greater burden for those in your community (i.e. pray for God to reveal to you specific needs in your neighborhood, pray for him to grant you favor with your neighbors in building relationships, etc.)

These are just 3 ideas to get you started. What else can we do to maximize our summer for the glory of God and the good of our neighborhoods?

  • Read Nelson Searcy’s thoughts on Maximizing Summer
  • Read my post on Rediscovering Mister Roger’s Neighborhood
  • Read my post on Gospel-Driven Garage Sale?
  • Read my post on A Community On Mission
Written by Doug Wolter - Visit Website

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Packer Quote on Communion with God

Justin shared a quote from J.I. Packer about "communion with God" when he talked on Sunday. Here is what he read: (from Between Two Worlds Blog, June 11, 2006)

". . . whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God. Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God. Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour. We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters. Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us. But how different were the Puritans! The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God."

Packer, A Quest for Godliness, p. 215 (chapter 12).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What happens when you mix the ESV and a guitar?

I was blessed to hear Alex Roop play his guitar at two different meetings today. Once in the morning at the Men's Leadership in Roselle then at the 20-30 year old group led by Matt Keefe. I love hearing Alex play and have been encouraged as I have listened (and memorized as a result) to his songs on the Psalms. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Question: Why Would Anyone Believe in Hell?

Answer: Because Jesus does!

“There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the 'cruel and abominable medieval doctrine of Hell' or 'the childish and grotesque medieval imagery of physical fire and worms…' But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of Hell is not ‘medieval’: it is Christ’s. It is not a device of ‘medieval priestcraft’ for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from ‘medieval superstition,’ but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it…. one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ.” -- Dorothy Sayers

"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell." The Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 10:28

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Messy Marriages in the Hands of a Gracious God

Paul David Tripp is coming to Chicago to do a conference for Holy Trinity Church. It looks like an excellent opportunity to cultivate a gospel-centered understanding of marriage.

The price is only $15 per adult and child care is available.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yours! Mine!

Lord, the condemnation was Yours,
that the justification might be mine!

The agony was Yours, that
the victory might be mine!

The pain was Yours,
and the ease mine!

The stripes were Yours, and the
healing balm issuing from them mine!

The vinegar and gall were Yours,
that the honey and sweet might be mine!

The curse was Yours, that
the blessing might be mine!

The crown of thorns was Yours,
that the crown of glory might be mine!

The death was Yours,
the life purchased by it mine!

You paid the price, that
I might enjoy the inheritance!

-John Flavel

HT: Justin Childers

Friday, March 27, 2009

Open & Closed Doors

Jim Gordon (Grace-Elgin) just posted a helpful essay on church growth and decline during persecution.

Here it is in its entirety:

My latest posts have been dealing with the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation 2 & 3. Have you ever wondered why they died? The thought came to me very powerfully several years ago when I visited the imposing site of ancient Ephesus. What a great experience! I couldn't believe I was walking where the Apostle Paul had walked. When I looked over the sight from the top of the hill I thought, "This is history! I'm passing through life but here before me is history."

I've often thought about what may have happened there. Recently I found an answer that is beginning to make sense as I ponder it. Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand -Year Golden Age of the Church in Middle East, Africa, and Asia - and How it Died(How's that for a title?!), answers our question in a post called The Other Side of Church Growth. You can read the entire interview here. The first 3 questions get to heart of the matter.

What causes church death?
In no case that I can see does a church simply fade away through indifference. What kills a church is persecution. What kills a church is armed force, usually in the interest of another religion or an antireligious ideology, and sometimes that may mean the destruction or removal of a particular ethnic community that practices Christianity. So churches die by force. They are killed.

But what about the old saying, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church"?
That was said by Tertullian, who came from the church in North Africa, where the church vanished. If you were to look at the healthiest part of Christianity right around the year 400 or 500, you might well look at North Africa, roughly what we call Tunisia and Algeria. It was the land of Augustine. Then the Arabs, the Muslims, arrive. They conquer Carthage in a.d. 698, and 100 years later—I don't say there were no Christians there, but there certainly was only a tiny, tiny number. That church dies.

Why does persecution sometimes strengthen a church and other times wipe it out?
The difference is how far the church establishes itself among the mass of people and doesn't just become the church of a particular segment, a class or ethnic group. In North Africa, it's basically the church of Romans and Latin-speakers, as opposed to the church of peasants, with whom the Romans don't have much connection. When the Romans go, Christianity goes with them.
But Christianity establishes itself very early as a religion of the ordinary, everyday people in Egypt as things get translated into Coptic. As a result, after almost 1,400 years under Muslim rule, there is still a thriving Coptic church that represents [perhaps] 10 percent of the Egyptian people—which I would personally put forward as the greatest example of Christian survival in history.

Jenkins closes with some remarks we should all consider as we think about the history of the church,

My concern is that when we write Christian history, so often it's a matter of, "Let's look at this expansion, and let's look at this growth and new opportunity." We're not really seeing the doors that are closing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Hunger and I Thirst

In light of our recent series through Exodus, I wanted to direct your attention to a hymn that we (to my knowledge) have never sung at Grace. It fits perfectly with Pastor David's sermons from the last few weeks.

I Hunger and I Thirst #430 Trinity Hymnal

I hunger and I thirst; Jesus my manna be;

ye living waters, burst out of the rock for me

Thou bruised and broken Bread, my life-long needs supply;

as living souls are fed, O feed me, or I die.

Thou true life-giving Vine, let me thy sweetness prove;

renew my life with thine, refresh my soul with love.

Rough paths my feet have trod, since first their course began;

Feed me, thou Bread of God, help me, thou Son of Man.

For still the desert lies my thirsting soul before;

O living waters rise within me evermore.

John S. B. Monsell, 1866

Friday, March 13, 2009

Genesis 3 Personal Ministry

In Paul Tripp's Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands he lists five principles that we can draw from Genesis 3 to develop a biblical understanding of personal ministry. They are:
  1. Thoughts, opinions, advice, and relationships are always agenda setting. Though we may be unaware of it, we daily advise each other what to desire think and do.
  2. Advice is always moral, defining right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, wise and foolish.
  3. We should hunger for the simple dependence of Genesis 1, where everything people thought, said, and did was based solely on the words of God.
  4. The voices of the world appeal to a core delusion in sinful hearts, the desire to be God, able to understand and live life on our own. We need people in our lives who love us enough to call us back to a life with God at the center.
  5. We need the words of God (Scripture) to make sense out of life. We need to listen for the one reliable voice of the Creator. HIs Word alone can cut through the confusion of the world’s philosophy and our own foolishness to make us truly wise. Real knowledge begins with knowing him. Wisdom is the fruit of worship, and received on bended knee. It is the product of a life lived in submission to the One who is wisdom, Christ.”

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Joni Eareckson Tada

Pastor David referenced this post from Justin Taylor about Joni Eareckson Tada today in his sermon.

Here is the video Justin links to where Joni talks about 5 minutes in.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Lord's Pantry Is Stocked Full

This quote from Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) is taken from The Loveliness of Christ which is on the book table:

"There is as much in our Lord's pantry as will satisfy all his [children], and as much wine in his cellar as will quench all their thirst. Hunger on; for there is meat in hunger for Christ: go never from him, but [trouble] him (who yet is pleased with the importunity of hungry souls) with a dishful of hungry desires, till he fill you; and if he delay yet come not you away, albeit you should fall a-swoon at his feet" (p.4)

"Everyday we may see some new thing in Christ. His love hath neither brim nor bottom." (p.viii)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dinnertime Conversation and Devotions

The Life Together Blog posted this helpful article for parents doing devotions around the table:

Mark Driscoll gives a realistic approach to doing family devotions at dinnertime:

Step 1. Eat dinner with your entire family regularly.
Step 2. Mom and Dad sit next to one another to lead the family discussion.
Step 3. Open the meal by asking if there is anyone or anything to pray for.
Step 4. Someone opens in prayer and covers any requests. This task should be rotated among family members so that different people take turns learning to pray aloud.
Step 5. Start eating and discuss how everyone’s day went.
Step 6. Have a Bible in front of the parents in a translation that is age-appropriate for the kids’ reading level. Have someone (parent or child) open the Bible, and assign a portion to read aloud while everyone is eating and listening.
Step 7. Parents should note key words and themes in the passage and explain them to the kids on an age-appropriate level.
Step 8. Ask questions about the passage. You may want to begin with having your children summarize what was read—retelling the story or passage outline. Then, ask the following questions: What does this passage teach us about God? What does it say about us or about how God sees us? What does it teach us about our relationships with others?
Step 9. Let the conversation happen naturally, listen carefully to the kids, let them answer the questions, and fill in whatever they miss or lovingly and gently correct whatever they get wrong so as to help them.
Step 10. If the Scriptures convict you of sin, repent as you need to your family, and share appropriately honest parts of your life story so the kids can see Jesus’ work in your life and your need for him too. This demonstrates gospel humility to them.
Step 11. At the end of dinner, ask the kids if they have any questions for you.
Step 12. If you miss a night, or if conversation gets off track, or if your family occasionally just wants to talk about something else, don’t stress—it’s inevitable.

Adapted from “Family Dinner Bible Studies” by Mark Driscoll in Trial: 8 Witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter, a study guide. (Mars Hill Church, 2009), pages 69-70.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

When deepest fears come to fruition

Thomas Boston (1676-1732) and his wife lost six children in infancy. I came across this quote in his biography by Andrew Thomson, Thomas Boston: His Life and Times

"His youngest daughter, Catherine, had died, and a thought was given to the tenderhearted father which had not been so present to his mind under any similar bereavement. He says, 'I never had such a clear and comfortable view of the Lord's having other uses for our children, for which he removes them in infancy, so that they are not brought into the world in vain. I saw reason to bless the Lord that I had been the father of six children now in the grave, and that were with me but a short time; but none of them is lost. I will see them all at the resurrection. That clause in the covenant, 'I am the God of thy seed,' was sweet and full of sap." (p.83 Emphasis mine)

Friday, February 27, 2009

I don't like the Broncos but...

I am really not a big Denver Broncos fan. Really. I haven't been able to get over all of those last second wins over the Cleveland Browns in '86, '87 & '89. Call me a softy, but this story about John Elway might have changed my opinion a bit...

Hey, pro, don't want to be a role model? It's not your choice. by Rick Reilly

Courtesy Christopher Hamlet
Jake meets John Elway.

This is a story I want to tell ALL athletes who think that what they do, how they act, the little kindnesses they give or withhold from fans don't matter.

It'll take only a minute.

My wife, Cynthia, was adopted. At 36, she found half her biological family on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. Turns out she had four half brothers, one named Lil Bob, who was as big as a tree.

Lil Bob, a bar owner, could pick a man up with one hand and throw him out the front door. He was gregarious and funny and always seemed to have his son, Jake, hanging onto one of his huge legs. Unfortunately, he was also a full-blown alcoholic. Many were the days that started and ended with a quart of Jack Daniel's, although you could never tell.

In size and in heart, Lil Bob was one of Montana's biggest Broncos fans. His hero was John Elway. He joked that he wanted to be buried in an Elway jersey, with pallbearers in Elway jerseys, and an Elway football in his huge hand. His one regret was dropping out of school in eighth grade, ending his football career. His one dream was to take Jake to a Broncos game. Sometimes on the reservation, the dreams come small.

Last March, Lil Bob's liver failed. One awful hospital day, Jake, now 13, walked up to the bed, took his dad's head in his hands, put his mouth to his forehead and told him he couldn't go yet. Told him he needed him to stay and take him to a Broncos game. Stay and watch him grow up and play for the Broncos.

Lil Bob's death, a few days later, seemed to send Jake into that shapeless, black sinkhole where boys go when their best friend is gone for reasons they can't understand. "I tried to talk to him, but he was closed to it," says Jake's mom, Lona Burns. "He started doing bad in school. Kids picked on him. Every day I fought him just to go. His grades dropped. He didn't even care about going to football practice, didn't want to play."

Worse yet, since the day Lil Bob died, Jake hadn't cried.

And then, this past October, one of Lil Bob's best friends — a restaurant owner named Christopher Hamlet — decided to make good on an unfulfilled dream: He bought two plane tickets, packed up Jake and flew to Denver. Jake was finally going to a Broncos game.

As locals, Cynthia and I took them to lunch at one of Elway's restaurants so Jake could see all the jerseys and photos. The kid was so excited he hardly ate. And that was before a certain Hall of Fame QB walked in, all keg-chested and pigeon-toed. Immediately, Jake turned into an ice sculpture.

We introduced them, and it took a few seconds before Jake could even stick out his hand. Apparently, 13-year-olds are not used to meeting gods.

Elway took the time to sign Jake's football and pose for a picture. He even made us all go outside, where the light was better. Then, as we said goodbye — Jake's feet floating a foot off the ground — Elway turned and said, out of nowhere, "Hey, why don't you guys come by the box today?"

And the next thing Jake knew, he was in John Elway's luxury box at the game, asking him any question he wanted, all with a grin that threatened to split his happy head in half.

Then Elway said, "Comin' to dinner?"

And suddenly Jake was having his lettuce wedge cut for him by the legend, who tousled the kid's cowlick. Like a dad might.

Halfway through the night, a guy came out of the bathroom and said, "Are you guys with that kid? Because he's in there talking to his mom on the phone, crying. Is he OK?"

Yes, Jake would be OK.

"Jake came back a changed boy," his mom says. He started climbing out of that hole. He started making A's again. Started loving football again. He told his mom, "When I make it to the NFL, I'm going to buy you a big house in Denver so you can come to my games."

And I ask myself: Why did Elway do all that? Maybe because his late father, Jack, was his best friend, too? Maybe because his own son, Jack, went away to college last fall? Or maybe because that's how he is. In my 26 years of knowing Elway, I've never seen him turn down an autograph request, a picture request, a "Can I just tell you something?" request.

A lot of athletes don't want the burden that comes with being a role model. But what I want to tell them is: You don't get to choose. You don't get to tell 13-year-old boys with holes in their hearts who can help them heal.

I know it's a hassle, but it matters. Because you never know when you might just lead a kid out to where the light is better.


John Piper in Finally Alive speaks about relevance. Using preaching as an example, he writes that there are two ways that people can think of relevance:

1. When someone feels as if something is relevant.

"It might mean that a sermon is relevant if it feels to the listeners that it will make a significant difference in their lives." p.100 (emphasis his)

2. Things that are relevant whether someone realizes it or not.

"The second kind of relevance is what guides my sermons and my writing. In other words, I want to say things that are really significant for you life whether you know they are or not." (p.100)

In thinking about relevance in the second way he says that someone would be wrong to walk out of a sermon and say, "that has nothing to do with the real problems this world is facing." He then writes,

They would be wrong--doubly wrong. They would be wrong, in the first place, in failing to see that what Jesus meant by the new birth is supremely relevant for racism and global warming and abortion and health care and all the other issues of our day... And they would be wrong, secondly, in thinking that those issues are the most important issues in life. They aren't. They are life and death issues. But they are not the most important because they deal with the relief of suffering during this brief earthly life, not the relief of suffering during the eternity that follows. Or to put it positively, they deal with how to maximize well-being now for eighty years or so, but not with how to maximize well-being in the presence of God for eighty trillion years and more. (p.100,101)

Let us pray that those who come to Grace have their eyes opened to the reality of the Word being relevant to real life problems and that they might behold Christ and put their faith in Him that their greatest need might be met.

Book Table

Make sure to check out the book table if you are looking for some good books to read or to study. In addition to books, we have some CD's that include some of the songs that we sing on Sundays.

Here are a few books on the table right now:

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter Edited by Nancy Guthrie

Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney

ESV Study Bible This is a great resource! Excellent commentary on Scripture.

Here are a few books that are coming next week:

The Loveliness of Christ (Soft Gift Edition) by Samuel Rutherford

Knowing God (Hardback) by J.I. Packer
A classic book that you will come back to again and again. If you have not read it, it is worth putting on your 2009 list to read.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blogs from members of Grace

A number of people at Grace in Elgin and Roselle maintain blogs.

Justin Taylor Between Two Worlds

Benjamin Euler Benjamin Euler

Matt Harmon (former member) Biblical Theology

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Now I lay me down to sleep

Matt Harmon, former member at Grace and current Associate New Testament professor at Grace Theological Seminary in Warsaw, IN, just posted some reflections on Psalm 127 and the gift of sleep.

Monday, February 23, 2009

When the Lamp of Faith Burns Dim

"Christ keeps firmer hold on us than we keep on him."

-- A crucial word from J. Gresham Machen's mother to her son when he was passing through a period of "very low spiritual vitality."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What We Can Do to Cultivate an Ever-Deepening Delight in God: Psalm 63

Begin the Day with God: "My soul thirsts for You"
1.  Long for Him, v. 1
2.  Look to Him, v. 2
3.  Receive His Love Afresh, v. 3
4.  Lift up to Him your praise, your life & your hands, v. 4

End the Day with God: "My soul shall be satisfied"
Meditate on the memory of His care for you throughout the day, vv. 5-7

"It is the experience of the Christian to be able to say of our God and Savior that less would not satisfy and more is not desired." (Source unknown)

Face an Uncertain Tomorrow with God: "My soul clings to You"
The Christian life is one of satisfied seeking & confident clinging, vv. 8-11.

“How do I know if God is holding on to me today? If the very circumstances of my life force me to cling to Him…What is the sign that God is holding me? It is not necessarily that I feel safe.  On the contrary, it’s because I don’t feel safe every day that I have to cling to Him.  The very fact that I have to cling to Him is a sign that He is holding me." -- Dick Lucas

"The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms."           -- Deut. 33:27

"... in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." -- Rom. 8:37-39

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How God Creates & Sustains a Thirsty Soul: Psalm 63

1.  He calls us into a relationship with Himself that is personal.

"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (v. 1).

"The longing of these verses is not the groping of a stranger, feeling his way towards God, but the eagerness of a friend, almost of a lover, to be in touch with the one he holds dear." -- Derek Kidner

"Thirst is an insatiable longing after that which is one of the most essential supports of life; there is no reasoning with it, no forgetting it, no despising it, no overcoming it by stoical indifference.  Thirst will be heard; the whole man must yield to its power: even thus is it with that divine desire which the grace of God creates in regenerated men; only God himself can satisfy the craving of a soul really aroused by the Holy Spirit." -- C.H. Spurgeon

2.  He reveals Himself to us in ways that are experiential.

"So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory" (v. 2).

"There is in true grace an infinite circle: a man by thirsting receives, and receiving thirsts for more." -- Thomas Shepard, founder of Harvard University

"Spiritual good is of a satisfying nature; and for that very reason, the soul that tastes, and knows its nature, will thirst after it, and a fullness of it, that it may be satisfied.  And the more he experiences, and the more he knows this excellent, unparalleled, exquisite, and satisfying sweetness, the more earnestly he will hunger and thirst for more." -- Jonathan Edwards

3.  God leads us into situations that force us to make an appraisal of what He is worth to us.

"Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you" (v. 3).

Let us pray with A.W. Tozer:

O God, I have tasted Your goodness,

and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.

I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.

I am ashamed of my lack of desire.

O God, the Triune God, 

I want to want You;

I long to be filled with longing;

I thirst to be made more thirsty still.

Show me Your glory, I pray,

so I may know You indeed.

Begin in mercy a new work of love within me…

Give me grace to rise and follow You up from this misty lowland

where I have wandered so long.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Friday, February 20, 2009

Is God's Love Unconditional?

John Piper answers the question here.  

Justin follows up with a quote from David Powlison. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Focus on the gospel

Last night in Roselle we looked at Galatians 1:6,7 
 "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."

The definition of distort is to"pull or twist out of shape."  What Paul is showing here is that the gospel has parameters.  It can be pulled or twisted out of shape- which is exactly what the false teachers in Galatia were doing.  Paul hammers on the nail of the gospel throughout Galatians, showing that there is but ONE gospel. (1:9)

Notice the ways the gospel can be distorted:
1.  The gospel is distorted when it is a man-made gospel. (1:11)
2.  The gospel is distorted when freedom in christ is taken away and substituted with man-made regulations and rules. (2:4,5)
3.  The gospel is distorted when people do not conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the gospel. (2:14)
4.  The gospel is distorted when justification by faith is minimized or added to. (2:15,16; 19-21; 3:10-14)
5.  The gospel is distorted when the role of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification is ignored. (3:1-5; 14)

Let us, like Paul, not allow the gospel to be distorted in our minds or in our church and yield in submission to those who would want to make little of this wonderful truth. (Gal 2:5)  "Let us pay much closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it." (Hebrews 2:1)

History of Salvation in the OT

As I was looking at the ESVSB this morning I noticed a resource that I had not seen before. Starting on page 2635 there is a section called, "History of Salvation in the OT"  It walks through each OT book and references, with a brief note, relevant verses to the coming of Christ.

For example, the note on Leviticus 3:1 says, 
"Most of the peace offering is eaten by the worshiper (7:15-16), signifying fellowship with and blessing from God.  It is fulfilled in Christ's reconciliation and giving himself as food (John 6:52-57; Rom. 5:9-11)."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Can you use a Cyber-knife to cut a turkey?

Here is Jerry Soen posing next to a cyber-knife that is used to give highly concentrated doses of radiation to cancer patients.  He said it is so accurate that it can match the breathing of a patient and move incrementally as their chest goes up and down!  Amazing!  

We praise God for how He gifts and uses brothers and sisters as they work in a variety of fields for the glory of God.  Keep up the good, God-glorifying work!

The Health of our Souls

"Penitent sorrow is only a purge to cast out those corruptions which hinder you from relishing your spiritual delights.  Use it therefore as physic [medicine], only when there is need, and not for itself but only to this end, and turn it not into ordinary food.  Delight in God is the health of your souls."  

Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory, Part 1, chapter 3, section 13, direction 20

Finally Alive by John Piper

I have been reading "Finally Alive" this week by John Piper and cannot recommend it enough.  It would be a great book to read through with a new believer or to work through with a small group.  Put it on your list to read in 2009!

Justin Childers reviews the book in a series of posts here
He says it is his prayer that this book might gain wide popularity. Amen, may it be so!

The book is available on the book table for $9.50.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Missionaries to Ecuador

It was on this day, January 8, 1956 that the missionaries to Ecuador, led by Jim Elliot were killed. 
Justin Childers has a great post with a video here

See also a talk that Dave Howard (Jim Elliot's Brother-in-law) gave about the life and ministry of Jim Elliot at Grace in 2005.