Archive for December, 2010
As we come to the end of 2010, and as I have been traveling with my family on vacation, I have been thinking much about how to evaluate this past year and how to prepare myself for the next. There are many ways to go about such evaluations and goal settings, but Justin Buzzard has listed some helpful questions he has used for just such a process.
I will be looking at these questions with my wife over the next couple of days. I hope you find them helpful.
May the Lord grant us much grace to finish strong in 2010, and to run hard after Christ in 2011.
“Once upon a time, in a land far, far away . . .” Many wonderful and timeless children’s stories begin with this classic line, indicating that it is a story which seeks to touch the hearts of children from all times and places. The Christmas account is one of those stories that impacts both young and old in every place and time. However, when you read the Christmas story, you quickly notice that it is different from all those fairy tales that begin in an unknown place and time. What is it that makes the Christmas story so different?
First of all, the Christmas story begins in a real time and place. It is not a “Once upon a time” tale; it is rooted in history. During the reign of Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.) and in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Luke 1:26), the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a son. The angel did not come to a far away land, but to an unimportant city of Galilee called Nazareth (Luke 1:26).
Secondly, the Christmas story involves real people. Mary was a young girl, who was betrothed at the customary age of 13 to 15 years of age to a man named Joseph, whose descendants included David, King of Israel (Luke 1:27).
Finally, the Christmas story is about one real and unique person. The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, and she would name him Jesus (Luke 1:31). Matthew reminds us that this Jesus had real descendants, for he was the son of Abraham and the son of David (Matthew 1:1). Once we understand the historical context of the Christmas story, we are prepared to ask in Christmas fashion, “What Child Is This?”
From the historical record left to us by Luke, we read that Jesus would be great. Comparing the announcement of Jesus’ birth with that of John’s we realize that, even though both John’s and Jesus’ conceptions were miraculous, Jesus’ was greater. John was conceived by aged parents too old to have children (the mother also being barren). Jesus, on the other hand, was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit by a girl who had never been with a man (Luke 1:34).
Jesus’ work would also be greater than John’s. Whereas John the Baptist is described as “the prophet of the Most High,” Jesus would be called “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), indicating Jesus’ unique identity as the man who was the only begotten of God (John 1:14) and God Himself (John 1:1, 8:58). As the promised Son of the Most High, Jesus would rule on the throne of His father David forever (Luke 1:32-33), fulfilling God’s promises to David (2 Samuel 7). As the Messiah/Christ, Jesus would live a life of obedience and save His people from their sins by dying in their place on the cross. This is the Christmas story. It is the true story about how the God over all creation became a man and died on the cross, so that we who deserve death because of our sin, could have life. This is the Jesus we worship. This is the Jesus we celebrate this Christmas. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas.
The Lord has blessed High Pointe Baptist Church with faithful men who serve as our elders! On Sunday evening, January 9, at our annual members’ meeting, the elders will be presenting two new elder candidates to our congregation. What is the church’s responsibility in this process?
Before coming to High Pointe, I was asked something to the effect of, “If you came, what would be your greatest concern?” Though an overwhelming debt was a great concern, my greatest concern was and ever will be the elders of High Pointe. “If the elders are faithful men who believe God’s Word and are united in God’s vision for His church,” I shared, “then we can, by God’s grace, weather any storm. However, if the elders are not faithful and not united in God’s vision, then it doesn’t matter how well things may appear to the church because disaster will soon follow.”
Having felt so strongly about the necessity of faithful elders and their potential effect on the church, the first book I preached at High Pointe was 1 Timothy. Paul’s first letter to Timothy is a sober reminder that as go the elders, so goes the church. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders of the potential danger that men from among themselves might arise to speak twisted things to draw away people to themselves (Acts 20:29-30). 1 Timothy shows that Paul’s concern for the Ephesian church and its elders was real and had already materialized (1 Tim. 1:3-7). Therefore, in 1 Timothy 3, Paul outlines for Timothy and the church the kind of men (1 Tim. 2:12-15) the church should affirm as elders. As I understand 1 Timothy 3, there is one overarching qualification to be an elder—”an overseer must be above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2). To be above reproach does not mean one must be perfect, sinless. To be above reproach means that when (not if) accusations come against an elder, they do not stick because that man is not characterized by what he is being accused of. Paul shares four areas in which an elder must be above reproach:
Above reproach in his personal life: the elder must be a man who pursues holiness and is characterized by fighting sin. He should be a man of good character: “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, . . . not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money (1 Tim. 3:2-3).
Above reproach in his family life: the elder must be a man who has first displayed maturity in shepherding his own household well. He must be faithful to his wife, not neglecting her but loving her and caring for her; he must be faithful in his parenting, disciplining his children. If someone cannot manage his own house, how will he be able to manage God’s house (1 Tim. 3:4-5)?
Above reproach in his doctrinal life: the elder must be a mature and maturing believer (not a new convert). He must hold firm the truth of the word and be able to teach the sound doctrine of that word to others (1 Tim. 3:2, 6).
Above reproach in his public life: the elder must also be well thought of by outsiders (1 Tim. 3:7). How will an elder lead if he does not have a reputable name?
What is the congregation’s role in this process? Pray for your elders and for potential elders, for the Chief Shepherd, leads His flock through human under-shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4). Consider their lives to see if they meet the qualifications of an elder. If so, then follow their example (Hebrews 13:7) and follow their leadership (Hebrews 13:17). If you have questions or concerns about the men being presented to the church as candidates, feel free to address your concerns with one of your elders in a manner that protects the individual’s dignity and protects you from gossip. If you have a personal difference with an individual, then address such matters directly. May the Lord continue to raise up faithful men to lead His flock.
Ben Witherington has a helpful post setting the record straight about the third Narnia movie which came out December 10. The review is well worth the read. Here is his conclusion:
To all Christians and other lovers of Lewis I would say this—- please during this Christmas season come out and support this film, not least so we may see more of Narnia in the future. This is certainly a film appropriate for families to see, though a couple of the scenes in 3D with the big sea monster may be a little too intense for wee bairns as small as Reepicheep. Be that as it may, we must say— Well done good and faithful servants at Walden. Inherit the Kingdom yourselves.
I am looking forward to enjoying the new Narnia movie, which is no longer in the hands of Disney. Witherington states that at the hands of 20th Century Fox, this latest installment is more faithful to Lewis’ story and its Christian message.
“Urban Meyer is stepping down as football coach at Florida, the school’s athletic director announced Wednesday.”
As a Florida Gator, I wish him well. It’s obviously been a difficult season for him and the team. Perhaps he regrets not sticking to his initial decision about this time last year.
Our students recently worked through Greg Gilbert’s, What is the Gospel? over a weekend in November. 9 Marks has posted a picture of our groups-check it out!
A couple of Sundays ago, I mentioned D. A. Carson’s, The God Who Is There as a very helpful introduction to the Bible’s storyline. Here is a brief description from The Gospel Coalition website:
In February 2009, Don Carson presented a 14-part seminar entitled “The God Who Is There” at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. This series will serve the church well because it simultaneously evangelizes non-Christians and edifies Christians by explaining the Bible’s storyline in a non-reductionistic way. The series is geared toward “seekers” and articulates Christianity in a way that causes hearers either to reject or embrace the gospel. It’s one thing to know the Bible’s storyline, but it’s another to know one’s role in God’s ongoing story of redemption. “The God Who Is There” engages people at the worldview-level.
The Gospel Coalition has linked to all 14 sessions in both audio and video formats, and they are available for free. I would highly recommend going through these. Enjoy the video of session 1, below:
(Note: This is a re-post from November 30, 2009.)
Now that the Christmas season has officially begun, we will be invited to join in the purchasing and accumulation of “stuff.” How will we fare in the face of such consumeristic materialism? Dave Harvey, in his chapter on “stuff” in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, reminds us of four lies we believe about stuff that chain our hearts to this fleeting world: (1) My stuff will make me happy; (2) My stuff makes me important; (3) My stuff makes me secure; (4) My stuff makes me rich. As we have seen in this recent economic downturn, however, stuff is elusive; it is passing away right before our very eyes. So, how can we combat materialism and covetousness this Christmas? Harvey offers some wonderful counsel that we would all do well to heed.
Consider your true riches. When you consider that God has given us Christ while we were sinners, then you will see just what a treasure Christ is and how rich you are. Christ is the one who was rich and became poor for us, “so that you, by his poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Now, through Christ’s death, we are sons and daughters of God and rightful heirs with Christ of the Father’s inheritance. So, consider what you deserve (death and hell) and consider what you have received—you are rich in Christ! Nothing in this world compares!
Confess and Repent. Because our culture is consumed with materialism and covetousness we sometimes forget that they are both sin. Confess your sinful desire to be satisfied with stuff, and turn away from that desire by faith in order to find your satisfaction in Christ. The Lord is faithful and just to forgive us all our sin, including materialism and covetousness, if we simply come to him and ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Express specific gratitude. Marketing strategies seek to breed discontent with what we have in order to get us to buy what we don’t need. We must be thankful for Christ and His saving grace, but we also need to be thankful for everything that God has granted us. Not only has He given us Christ, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). But that’s not all. As our heavenly Father He is our great provider. So, every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). Are you thankful for the house, car, clothing, food He has provided for you? Everything you have that is good has come from His hand!
Dematerialize your life. When you realize how rich you are already and come to terms with the reality that you don’t need all that stuff to make you happy, then you will understand how much stuff you have that you don’t need. Yet, someone else may need the stuff you have—clothes, food, car, etc. So, why not give your extra stuff away! Find out what needs people have and fill that need if you can.
Give generously. Harvey says, “few things kill the coveting heart quicker than depriving it of stuff. Few things reflect the heart of God more than giving graciously.” I know this to be true from personal experience. Giving generously through tithes and offerings is a great place to begin growing in giving. Yet, as Randy Alcorn suggests, tithing is only the training wheels of giving. Let us ask God to give us hearts like His: hearts that give generously and sacrificially. Only then will we be free from the bondage of stuff.