Archive for September, 2009

In history there are few Christian thelogians who thought as deeply about the intersection of desire and the Gospel as the Puritans. The only other that I can think of who did so as profoundly was perhaps Augustine, particularly in his Confessions and Homilies on the Gospel of John. In modern times, C.S. Lewis and John Piper have expended a good deal of thought, effort, and paper exploring the intersection of desires and the Gospel. Nevertheless, this intersection seems to have occupied a whole generation of theologians (the Puritans) and they not only drew from the wealth of great Christians who had gone before them, but like iron sharpening iron they drew from one another. Why spend time resurrecting old theology, particularly the theology of folks with such a tainted name as “Puritan.” Well, first off it is valuable in and of itself. Secondly, we in North America live in a committed capitalistic culture, whose market shares deal in selling desire. As a culture, one could say we run on desire. Therefore, it is imperative that you and I learn what the Gospel does and has to say about our desires. In my opinion no one does it better than the Puritans. Which, after a long introduction brings me to the post below. It is worth spending some time thinking through what is being suggested by Chalmers and by all means click through to read the whole thing.

Under the impulse of desire, man feels himself urged onward in some path or pursuit of activity for its gratification. The faculties of his mind are put into busy exercise. In the steady direction of one great and engrossing interest, his attention is recalled from the many reveries into which it might otherwise have wandered; and the powers of his body are forced away from an indolence in which it else might have languished; and that time is crowded with occupation, which but for some object of keen and devoted ambition, might have drivelled along in successive hours of weariness and distaste – and though hope does not always enliven, and success does not always crown this career of exertion, yet in the midst of this very variety, and with the alternations of occasional disappointment, is the machinery of the whole man kept in a sort of congenial play, and upholden in that tone and temper which are most agreeable to it.

Insomuch, that if, through the extirpation of that desire which forms the originating principle of all this movement, the machinery were to stop, and to receive no impulse from another desire substituted in its place, the man would be left with all his propensities to action in a state of most painful and unnatural abandonment. A sensitive being suffers, and is in violence, if, after having thoroughly rested from his fatigue, or been relieved from his pain, he continue in possession of powers without any excitement to these powers; if he possess a capacity of desire without having an object of desire; or if he have a spare energy upon his person, without a counterpart, and without a stimulus to call it into operation.

The misery of such a condition is often realized by him who is retired from business, or who is retired from law, or who is even retired from the occupations of the chase, and of the gaming table. Such is the demand of our nature for an object in pursuit, that no accumulation of previous success can extinguish it – and thus it is, that the most prosperous merchant, and the most victorious general, and the most fortunate gamester, when the labour of their respective vocations has come to a close, are often found to languish in the midst of all their acquisitions, as if out of their kindred and rejoicing element. It is quite in vain with such a constitutional appetite for employment in man, to attempt cutting away from him the spring or the principle of one employment, without providing him with another. Thu whole heart and habit will rise in resistance against such an undertaking. The else unoccupied female who spends the hours of every evening at some play of hazard, knows as well as you, that the pecuniary gain, or the honourable triumph of a successful contest, are altogether paltry. It is not such a demonstration of vanity as this that will force her away from her dear and delightful occupatiou. The habit cannot so be displaced, as to leave nothing but a negative and cheerless vacancy behind it – though it may so be supplanted as to be followed up by another habit of employment, to which the power of some new affection has constrained her. It is willingly suspended, for example, on any single evening, should the time that wont to be allotted to gaining, require to be spent on the preparations of an approaching assembly. The ascendant power of a second affection will do, what no exposition however forcible, of the folly and worthlessness of the first, ever could effectuate.

And it is the same in the great world. We shall never be able to arrest any of its leading pursuits, by a naked demonstration of their vanity. It is quite in vain to think of stopping one of these pursuits in any way else, but by stimulating to another. In attempting to bring a worldly man intent and busied with the prosecution of his objects to a dead stand, we have not merely to encounter the charm which he annexes to these objects – but we have to encounter the pleasure which he feels in the very prosecution of them. It is not enough, then, that we dissipate the charm, by a moral, and eloquent, and affecting exposure of its illusiveness. We must address to the eye of his mind another object, with a charm powerful enough to dispossess the first of its influences, and to engage him in some other prosecution as full of interest, and hope, and congenial activity, as the former.

read the whole thing here

More from DesiringGod‘s conference on John Calvin. This time from Sam Storms on the resurrection, the “final act in the theatre of God”. Click here for the whole thing.

On August 5, 1563 Calvin wrote a letter to the wife of one of the Reformation leaders in France. She was experiencing physical illness and he wrote to her, “They [our physical afflictions] should serve us as medicine to purge us from worldly affections and remove what is superfluous in us. And since they are to us the messengers of death, we ought to learn to have one foot raised to take our departure when it shall please God.”

I read that a few weeks ago and I began to ask myself, “Do I live with one foot raised in expectation of seeing my Savior face to face?” Calvin did, I’m convinced. And there is ever so much of living now in expectation of that day that we can learn from him.

Why is Calvin such a helpful guide for us in this area? I’ll mention four reasons:

First, Calvin is a pilgrim on this earth, as Julius Kim told us last night. Calvin speaks often in his commentaries of being a sojourner on this earth. Two of the more recent biographies about Calvin highlight this theme. One title is, “John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor” (W. Robert Godfrey). Another is “John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life” (Herman J. Selderhuis).

In Colossians 3:1 Paul exhorts us to seek the things that are above. Calvin said that in doing so we can “embrace our identity as sojourners in this world without being bound to it.”

In Hebrews 11 the author refers to the patriarchs’ desire for a better country, a heavenly one. Calvin wrote on Hebrews 13:14, “We should consider that we have no fixed residence but in heaven. Whenever, therefore, we are driven from place to place, whenever any change happens to us, let us think about what the author teaches here, let us think that our abode is not on earth…they that enjoy a common life here believe that they have rest on this world. It is profitable for us, who are prone to sloth and have often become comfortable in this world, to be tossed to and fro.”

Lest you be misled, when Calvin talks about turning our eyes away from earth and toward heaven, you should never think that he was somehow some sort of other-worldly dualist who despised God’s creation. Far from it. Whenever Calvin talked about his passion to leave this earth and go to heaven, it was driven by 1) his hatred of sin, 2) his own bodily suffering, and 3) his desire to see God.

Calvin was not negligent toward matters of this life or basic responsibilities. Think of his remarkable productivity. This is no other-worldly dualism. This is no “Left Behind” escapist mentality. He knew the better country he desired was the new earth.

Jesus Christ on Trial (Phil 1.18-21)

Posted: September 28, 2009 by limabean03 in Uncategorized
Preached by Rob Sturdy on 9-27-09

I have excerpted below from Lewis’ classic work Mere Christianity. The following paragraphs are for me, some of the most significant of the whole book. Admittedly, I stopped right when it gets good, but perhaps I will post that as well when my fingers are rested a bit

The better stuff a creature is made of- the cleverer and stronger and feer it is- then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best- or worst- of all.

How did the Dark Power go wrong? Here, no doubt, we ask a question to which human beings cannot give an answer with any certainty. A reasonable (and traditional) guess, cased on our own experiences of going wrong, can, however, be offered. The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first- wanting to be the centre- wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught to the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. (The story in the Book of Genesis rather suggests that some corruption in our sexual nature followed the fall and was its result, not its cause.) What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was theidea that they could “be like gods”- cold set up on their own as if they had created themselves- be their own masters- invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history- money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, empires, classes, slavery- the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

The reason why it can never succeed is this. Godman us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on Gasoline, and it would not run on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended- civilisations are built up- excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfich adn cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.

C.S. Lewish, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan 1977) pg 54-55

Is there a God and why does it matter?

Posted: September 28, 2009 by limabean03 in The Awakenings Course, Uncategorized
The first of an eight week course called “Awakenings”

As many of you remember, wildfires ravaged Horry County just a few months ago. Trinity made an appeal to raise funds for relief and encouraged people to give to the Red Cross. We received much support from people all over the country and even all over the world! Included in this effort were our good friends from St. Andrews, Mt. Pleasant, who generously contributed $2000 to the cause. After weeks of careful searching and prayer to see where the funds raised could best be used, we heard of a young woman who was the single parent of two girls. The fire consumed all of their possessions and disastrously, the family had no insurance. Even before the fire the family was living in extreme poverty, with no electricity or running water. It literally took us months to find this woman and even more time to make the arrangements to assist her. But I am pleased to report that with the help of Allison D’Aurizio and Rick Spradlin the ball is finally rolling. You could not even imagine the logistical hurdles involved in this project. Nevertheless many of the pieces are now in place and we intend to “adopt” this family and get their lives back up and running (this time with electricity and running water). In the weeks ahead you will hear of more ways you can assist this family, but for now I’ve included a picture of the family’s new trailer which is used but in good condition. We will rally the Trinity men in the week’s to come to make a few minor improvements and will arrange some kind of introduction so that the relationship between the family and the church can begin.

I am tremendously grateful that once again, God has given us the opportunity to give a new life to a family as a demonstration of the spiritual new life he has given each of us in the Gospel. Praise God!

trailer

Below is an excerpt from a letter by Bishop David Anderson of the AAC. In the paragraph below he bluntly lays out the big elephant in the room in the Diocese of S.C. No doubt some people will be offended by Bishop Anderson’s remarks, but in my opinion they are reality. There are tough times in store for the Diocese of S.C. in the coming months. Please do pray for your clergy and most of all pray for Bishop Lawrence to continue to navigate these incredibly choppy waters.

In the Diocese of South Carolina, there is a dilemma. Some congregations are ready to bolt, even though they have an orthodox bishop, +Mark Lawrence. If Bishop Lawrence is willing to take SC out of TEC, he has the SC courts to back him, and it seems that almost all of his parishes would follow him. If he chooses to stay and TEC continues on its present trajectory, he risks seeing a steady erosion of some of his larger parishes. This in time would leave him with the remaining balance tilted toward the more liberal parishes who want to stay in TEC, significantly reducing his options. Our take on the situation is that the strategic time for Bishop Lawrence to act is in the next three or four months, and if he sends a clear message that departure consideration is on the table, most of his parishes would wait for him. Bishop Lawrence has done one of the best analysis of the wreck of the Episcopal Church by current liberal leaders, and he is widely known to be solidly orthodox. It may be that this is a Kairos moment that has now been presented to him. Pray for him earnestly.

read the whole letter here

Mark Talbot’s talk from the Calvin Conference, sponsored by DesiringGod.  Read the whole thing here.

How can God be tempering all things for good when there is such sin and suffering in the world?

Picturing our world as having a broken stage is illuminating. Seeing everything from Adam to the end is understood as happening on a broken stage. We can’t ever be sure that the floorboards or the speakers or the curtains will always work right.

John Piper wanted my talk to cover some of Calvin’s imperfections. He didn’t want this conference to be a whitewash of this man.

So not only is the stage broken, but we are broken. Not only is the stage treacherous, but we are treacherous. All of us are untrustworthy, even if we are regenerate.

We are bad actors. Not only because we mess up. We mean to act badly.

Combined with all these things, our way through the world is doubly treacherous—we are broken actors on a broken stage.

Yet, Calvin assures us, God governs nature and “all [individual] natures,” including human nature and our individual human natures. Consequently nothing in the natural or human worlds falls out of God’s providential hands.

Absolutely nothing in this world comes about—not even single drop of rain—without God’s having willed it.

“Nothing is more absurd than that anything should happen without God’s ordaining it… Nothing will take place that the Lord has not previously foreseen,” and that he has not, “adapted to make good and agreeable to his perfect plans.”

This is easy enough to agree with until we bump up against things that are so evil, like the Holocaust or 9-11, etc

Found this over at Kendall’s blog.  If he isn’t a regular on your daily diet of blogging you really should put him on your list.  Not only is he a remarkable Christian man who  I admire, but his blog is equally fantastic.  Go check it out here. I’ve highlighted below some particularly impressive statistics.  Don’t let the Episcopal statistics get you down!  The Diocese of South Carolina grew last year.  And perhaps more important for my Trinity folks, Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach grew at a rate of 12% over last year.  Add to that the tremendous gift God gave us at Awakenings last week and I’m confident of better things for us and the Dio of S.C.  God has indeed blessed our efforts at Trinity!  To Him be great honor and glory!!

–Anglican Church in Ghana, from 100,000 in 1970 to 236,000 in 2000!

–Anglican Church of Kenya from 582,600 in 1970 to 3.1 million in 2000

Anglican Church in Nigeria from 2.914 million in 1970 to 18 million in 2000

–Anglican Church in Rwanda from 161,899 in 1970 to 700,000 in 2000

Anglican Church in the Sudan from 300,000 in 1970 to 2.2 million in 2000

Anglican Church in Uganda from 1.281 million in 1970 to 8.580 million in 2000

The American Episcopal church from 3.196 million in 1970 to 2.325 million in 2000

–The Anglican Church in Britain from 27.659 million in 1970 to 23.983 million in 2000

–The Anglican Church of Canada from 1.176 million in 1970 to 784,000 in 2000

–The Scottish Episcopal Church from 86,351 in 1970 to 48,300 in 2000

Happy Birthday Steph!!!

Posted: September 25, 2009 by limabean03 in Uncategorized

47b9d826b3127cce9854a64df9fb00000045102AaNGjJq0cMXMy amazing, lovely, and beautiful wife celebrates her birthday today!  Happy birthday Steph.  Love you!

80

Our good and faithful friends down at St. Andrews, Mt. Pleasant have put together this great resource page to get acquainted with the crisis in the Anglican Communion.  I’ve posted their links below.  Be sure to pay them a visit by clicking here.  You can check out their resource page by clicking here

The Rt. Rev’d Mark Lawrence’s Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina

In this address Bishop Lawrence very helpfully identifies the “deconstruction” of the historic faith.  His critique is wide-ranging and very helpful.

The Episcopal Church: Tearing the Fabric of the Communion to Shreds
A MUST READ DOCUMENT!  This substantial and well-documented report catalogues the scope and magnitude of the nationally and internationally destructive actions of The Episcopal Church.  Noted are issues such as: “a catalog of heresies, canonical abuses, The Episcopal Church’s non-compliance with the requests of the international church, a documenting of legal actions initiated by The Episcopal Church (over 50 lawsuits filed against churches and dioceses) and a listing of clergy, bishops and parishes that have departed The Episcopal Church.

The American Anglican Council’s (the “AAC”) 2009 General Convention Reports
The AAC has for years been a significant voice for the biblical faith within The Episcopal Church.  Their site serves as a wonderful resource for laity, clergy, parishes and dioceses as they seek to become informed of their faith and the threats posed by the damaging actions of The Episcopal Church.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?
The Rev’d John Yates, Rector of The Falls Church in Falls Church, VA, helps to set the stage about recent events in The Episcopal Church in the USA and why The questions facing biblical, orthodox congregations are not that simple any more.

Sex: Should We Change The Rules?
Bishop John Howe of Central Florida has written this straightforward, biblically based analysis of the issue of sexuality, giving answers to tough questions that are compassionate, biblical and consistent with the teaching of Jesus.

Original 40 Days of Discernment Website
This original site was created by several churches in the Diocese of Virginia in 2006 and has served as a local and national resource.

check out Owen’s utterly convicting definition of “atheism” in the quote below

They (ministers) must preach the whole counsel of God with constant prayer (Acts 6.4).  That ministry of the Word not backed by prayer for its success is not likely to have any blessing on it.  Paul is the supreme example of a man of prayer (Rom 1.9, 10).  It is useless to take up the whole armour of God if we do not back it up with prayer (Eph 6.18, 19).  A minister who preaches the Word of God without constant prayer is likely to be harbouring secret atheism in his heart and very unlikely to work holiness in the lives of others.

John Owen, Apostasy from the Gospel (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust 1992)  pg 120

Great time at our first Awakenings meeting!  We had a good turnout, with about 130 people attending and we are expecting many more next week.  It’s definitely not too late to invite a friend.  Below is a list of the remaining sessions.  Pray that God will work and move in people’s hearts and that he will draw even more people to explore these deep and important issues with us next Wednesday at 5:45 at Trinity Church, 3000 North Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach S.C.

5:45 Dinner

6:15 Talk

6:50 Small Group Discussion

Session II (9-30-09): Can I discover God on my own?

Session III (10-07-09): What is a Savior and why do I need one?

Session IV (10-14-09): Who is Jesus?

Session V (10-21-09): Could Jesus really change my life?

Session VI (10-28-09): Why do people go to church?

Session VII (11-04-09): How can I grow spiritually?

Session VIII (11-11-09): How can my life be meaningful?

truckstopA great story from CNN. I saw one of these trucker chapels on my way to Alabama a few weeks ago. Now I know what it was!

JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) — “I gave up smoking, women and drinkin’ last night,” the singer shouts, “and it was the worst 15 minutes of mah life!”

The music blaring from the radio tonight is country. The dessert special is peach cobbler. And the customers are wide-bodied truck drivers, lumbering into a Georgia truck stop at suppertime.

But another group of truckers nearby is singing a new song. They amble into a truck stop trailer adorned with pictures of Jesus and sing the hymn “O Happy Day” in wobbly bass voices.

“I’ve been back and forth between God and Satan over the years,” trucker Harold “Jumper” McBride says as he stands to share his story. “It was a rough life, but I finally found that saving grace to make life a whole lot better.”

It’s the Wednesday night service at “Chaplain Joe’s” truck stop chapel service. The chaplain himself, a lanky, bearded man with tan cowboy boots, sits in the back of his narrow chapel, saying the loudest amens.

For 28 years, the Rev. Joe Hunter has been a chaplain to the truckers. Though most ministers preach to people in the pews, he takes God to people on the go. He reaches out to truckers at fuel stops, in parking lots, on the CB and through a radio show called “Heaven’s Road.”

He hears all sorts of stories: tales of loneliness, thoughts of suicide, struggles with guilt. A Vietnam veteran, he’s even lived a little of what he’s heard.

Yet Hunter says most truckers reaffirm his faith in human nature.

“Every snowflake is different, and God created us that way to be unique,” he says. “I’ve learned to appreciate the goodness of people. I believe there’s some good in everybody, and I love to try to find it.”

read the whole thing here

The Russians, I am told, report that they have not found God in outer space. The conclusion some want us to draw from these data is that God does not exist…But…Looking for God – or heaven – by exploring space is like reading or seeing all Shakespeare’s plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters or Stratford as one of the places. Shakespeare is in one sense present at every moment in every play. But he is never present in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth. Nor is he diffused throughout the play like a gas.

If there were an idiot who thought plays existed on their own, without an author (not to mention actors, producer, manager, stagehands and what not), our belief in Shakespeare would not be much affected by his saying, quite truly, hat he had studied all the plays and never found Shakespeare in them.

The rest of us, in varying degrees according to our perceptiveness “found Shakespeare” in the plays. But it is a quite different sort of “finding” from anything our poor friend has in mind.  Even he has in some reality been in some way affected by Shakespeare, but without knowing it. He lacked the necessary apparatus for detecting Shakespeare.

Now of course this is only an analogy. I am not suggesting at all that the existence of God is easily established as the existence of Shakespeare. My point is that, if God does exist, He is related to the universe more as an author is to a play than as one object in the universe is related to another.
If God created the universe, he created the space-time, which is to the universe as a metre is to a poem or the key is to music. To look for him as one item within the framework which He Him-self invented is nonsensical.

taken from a wonderful little essay entitled “The Seeing Eye” which you can read online by clicking here