Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joy to the World!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

I sang this song with the congregation at the Abney Street Church of God in Saint Albans last night. What brought tears to my eyes is the phrase

He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found

That is, the curse of sin and its effects. The Lord came to make his blessings flow far as the curse of sin was found. Thank God in Christ, the blessings flow even to me! Even to me!

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Christianity "Fails" Americans

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)
Pastors are well familiar with the "failure rate" of Christianity. Teenagers who grew up in their youth groups head to college and leave their faith behind. Sunday School teachers who once taught others now drop out of church. Friendships, relationships and marriages crumble and churches lose members. It's epidemic.

I think part of the problem in contemporary evangelical Christianity is failure of many professing believers to understand the religion they allege to profess. They expect God to do things he never promised he would do and, as a result, they grow disillusioned with God.

In short, folks today think Christianity is all about them. Their problems. Their felt needs and wants. Their desires and comforts. What's important to them.

It ain't.

Christianity is about Jesus Christ. It is about following him, obeying him, suffering for him.
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18-20 ESV)

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
(1 John 3:13 ESV)

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 ESV)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Peter 4:12-16 ESV)

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV)
If you think God's primary concern is focused on you getting in the right college so you can get the right job and those promotions so you can make more money, buy a bigger house, nicer car and install a backyard swimming pool then you're kidding yourself. You've been deluded by a false American Christianity. Such petty, pedestrian and bourgeoisie matters don't concern God. God wants to transform you into the image of Jesus.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29 ESV)

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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)
God's primary concern is that you are holy, not happy. And happiness is a by-product of holiness, not an end in itself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

D. A. Carson: The God Who is There—14 mp3 sessions

How do you explain the Bible's storyline to a biblically illiterate person? Carson argues that decades ago the church had to win "Christian atheists"—that is, even people who denied the existence of God had a heritage of Christian information. Today, Carson argues that people are without such a heritage and must be taught even the basic ideas that others took for granted years ago.

Carson wrote a book, The God Who is There, to answer that need. In addition, he recorded 14 mp3 sessions that can be heard for free. I have just finished session one so I may come across things later that I, a Wesleyan, would explain differently than Carson, a Calvinist. However, he is a careful scholar who deserves a hearing.

  1. The God Who Made Everything | MP3 | Video Preview
  2. The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels | MP3 | Video Preview
  3. The God Who Writes His Own Agreements | MP3 | Video Preview
  4. The God Who Legislates | MP3 | Video Preview
  5. The God Who Reigns | MP3 | Video Preview
  6. The God Who Is Unfathomably Wise | MP3 | Video Preview
  7. The God Who Becomes a Human Being | MP3 | Video Preview
  8. The God Who Grants New Birth | MP3 | Video Preview
  9. The God Who Loves | MP3 | Video Preview
  10. The God Who Dies—and Lives Again | MP3 | Video Preview
  11. The God Who Declares the Guilty Just | MP3 | Video Preview
  12. The God Who Gathers and Transforms His People | MP3 | Video Preview
  13. The God Who Is Very Angry | MP3 | Video Preview
  14. The God Who Triumphs | MP3 | Video Preview

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We Find God After God Finds Us

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
(John 6:44a ESV)

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;
'twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
as thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;
for thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
always thou lovedst me.