Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Russians Understand, Why Don't We?

Pravda has recently run an opinion piece entitled American capitalism gone with a whimper, in which they describe the sorry state to which we in the United States have sunk. Maybe they are onto something, as seen in this excerpt:

Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.


I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5, ESV)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Paul's Prayers

D.A. Carson in A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers, lists the various prayers of the Apostle Paul as contained in his epistles (pages 67-74), and then challenges his readers to review them daily for 30 days. While Carson uses the NIV, I have given the text of the same passages from the ESV.

(All Scriptures below from the English Standard Version Bible, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.

(Romans 1:8)

Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

(Romans 10:1)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

(Romans 12:12)

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Romans 15:5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

(Romans 15:13)

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

(Romans 15:30-33)

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

(1 Corinthians 1:4-9)

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

(1 Corinthians 16:23)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

(2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

(2 Corinthians 9:12-15)

So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

(2 Corinthians 12:7-9a)

But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

(2 Corinthians 13:7-9)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

(Galatians 6:18)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

(Ephesians 1:3-8)

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

(Ephesians 1:15-23)

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

(Ephesians 3:14-21)

(Praying) and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

(Ephesians 6:19-20)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

(Philippians 1:3-6)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

(Philippians 1:9-11)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:6-7)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

(Philippians 4:23)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

(Colossians 1:3-14)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

(Colossians 4:2-4)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God's wrath has come upon them at last!

(1 Thessalonians 2:13-16)

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

(1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

(1 Thessalonians 5:28)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

(2 Thessalonians 1:3-4)

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 3:2-5)

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

(2 Thessalonians 3:16)

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

(1 Timothy 1:12)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

(1 Timothy 2:1-6)

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

(2 Timothy 1:3-7)

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

(2 Timothy 1:16-18)

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

(2 Timothy 4:22)

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints,and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

(Philemon 4-7)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

(Philemon 25)


D.A. Carson, in A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers, speaks of the two extremes of offering praise to fellow Christians. There are those who heap accolades and "atta boys" to the extent that they appear phony. There are also those who believe that the only thanks that we should receive is the Lord's "well done" in the judgment.

Carson offers a middle-ground:

Paul's approach in many of his epistles, and not least here (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) , is radically different from both of these extremes. He encourages Christians by thanking God for his grace in their lives. More precisely, he encourages Christians by telling them that he thanks God for the grace in their lives. Thus he has simultaneously drawn attention to the Thessalonians' spiritual growth, thereby encouraging them, and insisted that God is the one to be thanked for it, thereby humbling them. There is simply no way that these believers can thoughtfully listen to what Paul says and then smugly pat themselves on the back: God, and God alone, is to be praised for the signs of grace in their lives. yet nonetheless they cannot help but feel encouraged to learn that the apostle himself has observed God's work in their lives and rejoices bacause of it. ( pg. 87)

Are we in the habit of looking for signs of God's grace in others, thanking Him for it, and letting them know of our thankfulness?


I am constantly amazed at some of the things that some people find offensive, but this takes the cake! And in Texas of all places!

I guess that causing offense is now the gravest of crimes, and it doesn't matter just how loony the "offendee" is.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

So Much for "Choice"

It might just be the case of a gold-digging mother who has bought suit against a Christian school in Arkansas for counseling her pregnant teenager without her permission, but does anyone else see the irony in this situation? We don't know all of the details about this specific case, but it does illustrate some of the absurdity of our day.

Many "pro-choice" folks think that it is perfectly acceptable for schools to provide abortion counseling, and even direct teens to abortion services, without parental notification. If this is OK, then why not allow for other counseling without parental notification?

Maybe it really isn't about choice after all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Much Ado Over Ida (Nothing)

Unless you have been asleep for the last 48 hours you have probably heard of Ida, the so-called "8th Wonder of the World" and the "Missing Link". Reading some of the hype you would think that Ida was found clutching a document detailing her evolutionary journey towards humanity.

Even Google got into the act, changing their logo:

However, even with all the "Darwin Bicentennial" hoopla, not everyone is impressed. Maybe they remember frauds like Piltdown man, and are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Possibly they have been fooled too many times in the past.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:24, 25, ESV)

Update: Answers in Genesis has a concise review of Ida.

Additional Update: This is the best response I have have seen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Prayers for a Nation

From today's reading in A Book of Private Prayer for Morning and Evening by J.R. MacDuff:

Look in kindness on our native land, in all its interests, sacred and civil. As you have blessed her and made her a blessing in the past, may she continue to realize that she is the honored instrument in Your hand for the spread of truth and the triumph of righteousness.

MacDuff, while living in Victorian Britain, could rightly say that his nation was "the honored instrument in Your hand for the spread of truth and the triumph of righteousness".

Can we say this, today, about either Britain or the United States? I think not.

When did Great Britain cease to "realize that she is the honored instrument in (God's) hand", and begin the downward slide that has led to her being a secular state with an increasingly irrelevant state church? Could it be that the beginning of the end was the time when the men and women of the United Kingdom quit praying as MacDuff did? Have we, in America put more reliance in political structures and forgotten to trust in God?

Christians of both nations need to pray, pray, and pray some more. We need to pray:

Look in kindness on our native land, in all its interests, sacred and civil. As you have blessed her and made her a blessing in the past, may she once again be an honored instrument in Your hand for the spread of truth and the triumph of righteousness.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

You Don't Know?

Give us some men who know the truth! And who will declare the truth! ...The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

A Belated Post: Personal Responsibility

A couple of weeks ago, during my reading of J. Mark Bertrand's (Re)Thinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World, I marked the following passage for inclusion on this blog, but neglected to post it prior to today. This is a remarkable book, and my "one-sentence review" of this work might need to be stretched once I finish it due to the fact that I am having to read this book slowly and carefully.

As a pastor, this excerpt was especially meaningful:

If the struggle to form right beliefs and express them through right action is the central focus of the Christian life, then it stands to reason that you must assume personal responsibility for your spiritual development and the practice of godliness. Remember the fundamental relation between God and man: an unmediated fellowship. No one stands between you and Christ. Although there are many people who are willing to help -- pastors, teachers, mentors -- ultimately the responsibility for your spiritual growth is your own. (pg. 149)

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Yesterday's Grace Gems contained an extract from the writings of J.R. MacDuff (1818-1895), and also listed links to the text of three of his books: Gates of Prayer, Family Prayers, and A Book of Private Prayer for Morning and Evening. I downloaded all three of these, used OpenOffice to create PDF files, and then converted these using the MobiPocket Creator to a format that I can use on my Kindle.

Starting yesterday evening I began using A Book of Private Prayer for Morning and Evening in my personal devotions, and plan to continue until I have completed it and then shift to one of the other books. I have been blessed many times in my reading of Arthur Bennett's compilation of Puritan Prayers, Valley of Vision, and find much of the same richness in MacDuff.

This is what I read this morning:

Seventeenth Morning

"To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12

And He said unto them, When you pray, say —

MY FATHER in heaven, who through Your dear Son have given us power to become Your sons, help me to draw near to You this morning with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, seeking and receiving that blessing of Yours, which makes rich and adds no sorrow with it.

You are forever the same. Vicissitude may be impressed on all around me. The fondest affections may be dimmed or alienated: trusted friends may grow faithless. But You are forever the same.

With gratitude and thankfulness I can trace, in the retrospect of the past, Your gracious footsteps. The way I have hitherto traversed, has been paved with kindness. May I see in every temporal mercy, the image and superscription of Your love. All which gladdens and sweetens my lot, emanates from the cross of Jesus. He who spared not His own Son, has with Him also freely given me all things. Realizing my filial relation, may I have grace given me to "believe on His name." Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! May I "receive" Jesus with a hearty and unhesitating faith in His varied offices, as my Prophet, Priest, and King — the Prophet to teach me; the Priest to intercede for me; the King to reign over and within me, bringing every high thought and lofty imagination, into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

Amid conscious weakness and infirmity, I rely on Your grace and guidance in all the diverse experiences of life; and at last to be presented faultless before the presence of Your glory with exceeding joy!

Look in kindness on those in whom I am interested, and for whom it is alike my duty and privilege to pray. Bring into the way of truth, all such as have erred or are deceived. Have mercy on those who may have fallen wounded in the battle, or who may have turned faint-hearted in the hour of conflict. Restore unto them, the joys of Your salvation, and uphold them with Your free Spirit.

Pity and relieve Your suffering and sorrowing ones, according to their several necessities. Give them the heritage of those who fear Your name. May the thought of the coming glory and its unspeakable joys, reconcile them to the tribulations of the present world.

Have compassion on the whole world. Hasten that predicted time when all kings shall fall down before You; when all nations shall serve You; when they shall bring gold and incense, and shall show forth the praises of the Lord. Saturate Your faithful ministering servants with the healthful Spirit of Your grace, and pour upon them the continual dew of Your blessing.

Help me this day in the engagements of life. May love to You and a desire to glorify Your name, be intermingled with all I think, or say, or do. Whether I live, may I live unto the Lord; or whether I die, may I die unto the Lord; living or dying, may I be Yours! Thus fitted for duty and prepared for trial, with filial reverence and confidence, I would sum up my petitions by calling You— "MY Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. May Your kingdom come. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

Notice that this prayer is so different from most of what we offer in prayer. All too often our prayer consists of a laundry list of wants for ourselves and others. While this prayer recognizes the need for petition (Look in kindness on those in whom I am interested, and for whom it is alike my duty and privilege to pray... , Pity and relieve Your suffering and sorrowing ones...), it does not remain there indefinately. Rather there is an overarching concern for the glory and will of God, a desire for His Kingdom: Help me this day in the engagements of life. May love to You and a desire to glorify Your name, be intermingled with all I think, or say, or do. Whether I live, may I live unto the Lord; or whether I die, may I die unto the Lord; living or dying, may I be Yours!

Lord, teach us to pray.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Question for President Obama

Today's Grace Gem

I had never thought of Leah and Rachel in the way expressed in today's Grace Gem. This is another example of the heart of Charles Spurgeon:

We must be wedded to the Leah of real holiness

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Laban replied—It is not our custom here, to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one." Genesis 29:26

We do not excuse Laban for his dishonesty—but we desire to learn from the custom which he quoted as his excuse. There are some things which must be taken in order; and if we would win the second—we must secure the first. The second may be the more desirable in our eyes—but the rule of the heavenly country must stand—the elder must be married first.

For instance, many men desire the beautiful Rachel of joy and peace—but they must first be wedded to the bleary-eyed Leah of repentance. Everyone falls in love with happiness, and many would cheerfully serve twice seven years to enjoy it. But according to the rule of the Lord's kingdom—we must be wedded to the Leah of real holiness—before the Rachel of true happiness can be gained.

Heaven is not first—but second; and only by persevering to the end, can we enter into it.

The cross must be carried—before the crown can be worn!

We must follow our Lord in His sufferings—or we shall never rest with Him in glory.

Dear heart, are you so vain as to hope to break through this heavenly rule? Do you hope for reward without labor—or honor without toil? Dismiss the idle expectation! Be content to take the difficult things—for the sake of the sweet love of Jesus, which will recompense you for all. In such a spirit, laboring and suffering, you will find that bitters grow sweet—and that hard things grow easy. Like Jacob, your years of service will seem unto you but a few days—for the love which you have to Jesus. And when the dear hour of the wedding feast shall come—all your toils shall be as though they had never been! An hour with Jesus—will make amends for ages of pain and labor!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nobody is Above the Law

Except, it appears, this principle doesn't apply to members of Congress:

Pelosi Confronts Justice.

Clarus Conference 2009

I had the great privilege of attending most of this year's Clarus Conference at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. This was my second year, having thoroughly enjoyed hearing Dr. D.A. Carson, and Dr. Micheal Horton at Clarus 2008.

In addition to the great preaching/teaching from Dr. Ray Ortlund, Jr. and Dr. Sam Storms, I have come to appreciate the worship ministry of Zach Nielsen at Desert Springs. Even though I am, at age 50+, firmly planted in the "traditional worship" camp, I am flexible enough to recognize that other worship forms are valid. This is especially seen in Zach's ministry, where traditional texts are reworked in contemporary clothing. We sang some of the great classics of the faith, from Watts, Wesley, and others, with fresh upbeat arrangements. Even those contemporary songs that are used at Desert Springs are fully "meaty" such as "In Christ Alone" that we sang Saturday morning, and which moved me to tears and thanksgiving for God's goodness. This is not performance ministry for the purpose of eliciting emotional "fuzzies", but rather full strength worship of the living God.

You will want, no, you need, to download the audio files from this conference once they are posted on the Desert Springs website.

Just a couple of highlight notes:

"Delight determines destiny." - Ray Ortlund speaking on Psalm 1

"Loving Jesus, Trusting Jesus, Enjoying Jesus; you can't have one, truly, without the others" - Sam Storms, 1 Peter 1:8

"If you need more than Jesus to make you happy, then your heart isn't right." - Ray Ortlund, 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

"We delight in election because God delights in it." - Sam Storms, John 17:1-2, Ephesians 1:3-18, 1 Peter 2:9-10

There was only one (small) black spot on the weekend. Following Dr. Ortlund's message Saturday morning, where he concluded by presenting a full and free offer of the Gospel, I bumped into one gentleman next to the bookstore and remarked how much I was enjoying the conference. His response was "it was OK until that guy turned into a flaming Arminian." (!?!) It appears that hyper-calvinism is still with us, and is something against which we need to always be vigilant. I spoke later with Dr. Ortlund, and related this conversation. In our short discussion he spoke about the importance of Iain Murray's "Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism" a small book that I have read and have even given copies to others, and the need to guard against this pernicious belief. What I found ironic about this situation is the fact that the theme for the conference was "The Convergence of Doctrine and Delight". God delights in His children's obedience, which includes our participation in His Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations. Doctrine, even the matchless doctrines of grace, is worthless unless we make it real in obediently following Christ.

Natural Revelation

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:19, ESV)

What is even more amazing than this is that "...Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9b, KJV)