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.