Thursday, December 27, 2007

How Are You Feeling About Jesus?

How Are You Feeling About Jesus?[1]

In B. B. Warfield's compelling sermon “The Religious Life of Theological Students,” delivered to the student body of Princeton Seminary, he writes:

“You will never prosper in your religious life in the Theological Seminary until your work in the Theological Seminary becomes itself to you a religious exercise out of which you draw every day enlargement of heart, elevation of spirit, and adoring delight in your Maker and your Savior.”

The goal of the theological student then, is to do all of his work in the name of the Lord – in agreement with His will and character. It is, as Warfield later suggests, “to study as in the presence of God.” It means viewing study as an act of worship and a way of delighting in God – not just having thoughts about Him. If we believe the framers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism were correct, it means to glorify God and enjoy Him as you study! That is how very many theological students begin – but so very few maintain and, more importantly, end this way.

Pastors often find this temptation, to allow Bible study to become academic and have no effect on the heart. Amazingly, it is very easy to lose sight of Christ in the midst of all our thinking, speaking and counseling about Him.

And of course, the Christian mom, or plumber or dentist or engineering student or software engineer is faced with the same challenge – to “do all things in the Name of Christ Jesus.” This means that we are to be both cognizant and dependent upon Him and if we are, that will have some effect upon us.

In fact, I will be very bold and suggest that there is something spiritually off with us if the general pattern of our experience is not one of being regularly startled or humbled or warmed or shocked or challenged or rebuked or intrigued or enflamed or humbled or angered or broken by our contact with Jesus Christ.

I have four children. In the continual ebb and flow of those relationships, there are days when I tear up with joy over them and then there are days when I might look at the little olive plants around my table and ask, “Where is the gardener! Let's do some pruning!” My point is that these people affect me. This is the very nature of relationship and it is a relationship that we have with Jesus Christ if we are born again. Thus, if we are unaffected by Jesus, if there is nothing happening in us as a result of our contact with Him – then we are in the very worst state of all!

We have grown cold and dull. Apathetic. We are on the dangerous road to soul destruction! Thus, I am asking you today, in your deepest heart, in those most intimate parts of your soul… what is your experience of Jesus. I am not asking you what you know about Him. I am asking you if He is having any affect on you. I believe I can ask you this question on the authority of God's Word – for that perfect book teaches us that no one stayed neutral toward Jesus while He was on this earth. It was impossible for a man or woman or boy or girl who had real contact with Jesus to remain untouched in the soul. Their responses greatly varied, but there was a response!

My goal here is to amass a host of examples of these responses. I am setting out to stack them all up against you then push the whole load on top of you. I will be asking you – what is YOUR response to Jesus.

Dear ones, may God be gracious to use this Word to melt, condemn, encourage, pierce, edify or whatever needs to be done to our hearts. But may there not be a single one of us who feels content to go on indifferently – unfeelingly – with Jesus!

Look briefly with me at these examples of how people responded to Jesus from the Gospel of Luke:

As a boy in temple… astonishment

Luke 2:47-48 “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.”

The initial response of Nazareth residents….marveling

Luke 4:22 “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”

Capernaum synagogue members after casting out demon… amazement

Luke 4:36-37 “And they were all amazed and said to one another, “ What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.”

The great catch of fish… conviction

Luke 5:8 “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’”

Paralytic through the roof healed…awe

Luke 5:26 “And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.’”

In Judeadesire

Luke 6:17-19 “And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.”

Raising the Nain widow's son… fear

Luke 7:15-17 “And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.”

A prostitute anoints Jesus feet with tears and perfume… worship

Luke 7:37-38 “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

Disciples after Jesus calms the storm…shock

Luke 8:25 “He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’”

After Gerasene demoniac cured… paralyzing fear

Luke 8:35-37 “Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.”

After Jesus’ transfiguration… astonishment

Luke 9:42-43 “While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”

With the Pharisees… anger

Luke 11:53-54 “As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

Bent woman healed on Sabbath… shame / joy

Luke 13:17 “As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame , and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

Bartimaeus… praise

Luke 18:42-43 “And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

Triumphal Entry…. rejoicing

Luke 19:37-40 “As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! ” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

People and Pharisees During the Passion Week… hate / hunger for more

Luke 19:47-48 “And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.

Pharisees finally silenced… silent awe

Luke 20:26 “And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.”

After His death… repentance

Luke 23:47-48 “Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.

My point? Simply that wherever men came into contact with Jesus they were provoked, or undone or dissembled. Something happened to them.

Is something happening to you? Is your “adoring delight in you Maker and Saviour” growing and expanding and deepening? Are you being affected by Christ? Can you read your theology, study the Greek of John 1, consider the lives of saints from years past and simply stay the same?

I am convinced that one of Satan's great delights in the theological school is to create a man who thinks like a Christian and talks like a Christian and even acts like a Christian… but does not FEEL like a Christian… and is content with that!

Such a man ventures nothing on Christ. Such a man lives happily without prayer. Such a man tolerates mediocrity in his relationships. Such a man justifies his sin because he is cold to the convicting work of the Spirit. Such a man speaks great truths about God without the faintest flutter in his heart. Such a man is hollow, lonely, aimless and of no eternal impact on this earth. I know… for far too often I am that man.

What we need is to have our feelings melted again by His real presence. How can we do this?

Let me be clear, we are not to go on some search for experience or feelings! Our search is for Christ, not emotions or new highs or mystic experiences. I am saying, though, that if we find Christ, we will feel something! Thus, no feelings and no response may be a very good indicator we have a cold heart.

How do we find Jesus then? I know of only one recourse to suggest to you. Start with the big truths about our Saviour again. Did God not send His only son to be a man and to walk on our tiny planet? Did this Jesus not speak and do we not have the very Words of God in our hands? Do we believe there is a literal hell full of souls enduring eternal punishment for their sin? Do we believe there is a literal heaven full of souls basking in eternal bliss? Do we believe that this God has made Himself known to us by glorious grace and called us to tell men of His gospel – that they too may have life in Christ?

If you are a Christian, then I say these are the Truths that you do believe – and truths they are brothers! If they make no indentation on our callous hearts then we have good cause to stop everything else and to beg this Almighty Creator to enflame our hearts and make Himself known to us.

We must keep seeking Him, not willing to let go the Saviour's leg until we receive the blessing. Oh, He may undo you in the process and you may find the dislocation of all you think you need. But I say, hold on until you meet Him afresh – until you are in awe or amazement or fear... until you must worship. Seek Him until you feel that you must have more of this Saviour in order to live. Keep seeking and praying and looking until you are shocked or shamed into joy, rejoicing and praise! Don't be content, brothers, to feel nothing when you think of the real Jesus! Don't settle for mud pies when a glorious feast awaits you. Beg your Saviour, “Lord, be my one great delight!”

If we are feeling nothing when we think of Jesus, then we must take stock of our heart's condition. Apathy and indifference to Jesus may very well be your greatest enemies in this world. Somehow brothers, find a way to make all that you do to His glory. Somehow, find a way to enjoy Him in the midst of what looks to be drudgery and work. Pray Psalm 63 until you can say every word of that most precious Psalm as your own. He satisfies, brothers… and nothing else does. He is so worth losing all to gain. Make your life one of worship and delight in your Saviour.


Hark! the Name of Jesus, sounded

Loud, from golden harps above!

Lord, we blush, and are confounded,

Faint our praises, cold our love!

Wash our souls and songs with blood,

For by thee we come to God.

John Newton, Hymn #82, Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver, 1779). Originally titled “Praise for Redeeming Love.”

[1] Adapted from a sermon preached at Toronto Baptist Seminary on September 7, 2004.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Who Said It?

'Tony Blair has my prayers and good wishes as he takes this step in his Christian pilgrimage.'

- Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, leader of the Anglican church on former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to become a Roman Catholic.

And you wonder why the Anglican Church is in rapid decline? J.C. Ryle where are you?

What to Do with Your Unsaved Relatives this Christmas

The Blazing Center: What to Do with Your Unsaved Relatives this Christmas

Mark Altrogge has some really wise advice on how to love your unsaved relatives. This is good stuff no matter what the time of year, but with lots of family gatherings approaching for many, you need to read this and be encouraged.

I love that Altrogge guy! (You know, in a very manly and appropriate kind of way!)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Lumps: Is There a Crisis in Evangelicalism?

New Lumps: Is There a Crisis in Evangelicalism?:

My friend, Terry Stauffer, has a very thoughtful article on what is really needed in churches that are a part of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada. In reality, what he identifies as weakness and suggests as antidote are accurate regardless of our denominational link. I think he strikes at the heart of "Hybels-we-repent (based on a recent survey)-mega-church-madness..."

"If we see a turnaround in the Fellowship and 70% of our churches are growing by at least 5% in 10 years (as opposed to 30% today), who will be the watchmen that are dilligent to promote sound doctrine and moral purity? If we have big churches without integrity in life and doctrine, we will go the same path as the United Church of Canada in the 60s. I will be branded as an extremist because of that last comment, but we need to think about it. We need to sound the alarm regarding new persepectives on justification, emergent churches, open theism and gender confusion. These doctrinal issues must be confronted and refuted. We must also urgently appeal for reform regarding the moral compromise that is becoming commonplace among professing evangelicals."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Book Review - A Christian Leader's Guide to Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch

My first exposure to Alexander Strauch came back in 1987 when my friend Bob Hodel urged me to read a copy of a new book called Biblical Eldership. I loved the concept of the book and ate it up that summer back in Canada as I prepared to return to The Master’s College, now feeling more called than ever to pastoral ministry.

Strauch’s new book, A Christian Leader’s Guide to Leading with Love is another excellent offering in the realm of Biblical leadership. This book is very simple, yet very profound in it’s premise. Concentrating primarily on the writings of Paul, Strauch looks at the descriptions and commands of love and applies them to pastoral leadership. I don’t know, maybe others have thought in this category before, but Strauch’s disarming style, careful exegesis and balanced application were rather groundbreaking for me!

I chose to read this book slowly, working on different aspects of love as I progressed, and found it a wonderful study. Strauch knows churches – sheep and shepherds – and he writes this book as a seasoned soldier who smiles through his battle scars. I kept having the sense that my old friend Walter was writing!

I would recommend this book for every church leader – but elders in particular. It would make an excellent study to be used at the start of each elder meeting. The chapter could be read at the meeting and discussed or one of the men might make a summary of the contents and present that to the others. If nothing else, it would be a great book to buy all your elders for their own encouragement.

You don’t need to limit this book to the “set apart” leaders in your church, though! Far from it. “Love” is a central topic to Christianity as a whole, thus any believer would benefit from this careful study.

I hope Mr. Strauch writes more. He has already blessed the church with much!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Preacher – Do You Become Like Your Text?

I was pondering some changes in my life since starting to preach the Gospel of John. After spending nearly three years in Romans and the linear thought of Paul, I found the first few months in John very labour-intensive. Now, the start of a new book is always more work as you begin to grow deeper in the author’s intentions, flow of thought, word usage, etc – but this was different. The abrupt change in style was forcing an abrupt change in study habits!

I had always loved John but been scared to preach it. I am by nature more comfortable with a book like Romans (in style, not content – the depth in this letter scared me off preaching it for 7 years!), but John has all this godly “double-entendre,” parallelism (not parallelomania, Tom!), OT connectivity, and depths and depths of meaning buried in each text. It is a selah book – you have to stop and ponder over and over again.

(For example, how does one really preach John 1:1-18 with any adequacy? I took Carson’s advice and polished it off in one sermon! To do otherwise would have meant we would still be there!)

But, here is the observation I have made. The more I study John, the more slowly, meditatively, and thoughtfully I seem to live. What I am suggesting is that immersing myself in that book is changing me to take on some of the characteristics of the literature... or one might say, of the author.

Now, it is odd to speak so bluntly about myself in this public forum, and I am sure that coupled with any good that is taking place in my life through this process there are truckloads of my sin. But I post this to ask of other preachers: Do you find that you “become like your text?” Maybe everybody else has already thought about this and I am must cluing in now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review - Jesus the Evangelist by Rick Phillips

Jesus the Evangelist is the first book I have read by Rick Phillips; I hope it is not the last! The book’s subtitle, “Learning to share the gospel from the book of John” neatly summarizes this just under 200 page manuscript.

Phillips begins by examining what is true about Jesus from John 1, proceeds to consider the content of the Gospel (what it really is) from John 3, then looks at the practice of evangelism as modeled by Jesus in John 4. The Word, the Nicodemus exchange and the Woman at the Well frame the book.

What I most appreciate about Phillips content is his winsome application – it is good, old Word-based application that helps the reader see how the text ought to shape the way we live. He has some great illustration as well.

I would recommend the book for three kinds of people: 1. Those expositing John’s gospel – there is much here for preachers. 2. Those wanting to be motivated in their personal evangelism – Phillips primary target audience. 3. Those who are unsure of the Gospel – even self-admitting non-believers.

Come to think of it, I would also commend this book to all my emergent friends. Here is a fine example of Biblical evangelism that works within a certain culture – without embracing everything in that culture! Phillips’ chapters on John 4 will be extremely helpful to those who want to “be real” with culture. There is a way to do this without selling out the Gospel.

This book would make a great Christmas gift to anyone on your list... especially if they attend Grace Fellowship Church and are sitting under the weekly exposition of the Gospel of John!

CD Review - Indelible Grace V

We have much to learn in our singing from those saints who walked before us and it would be a shame if the church forgot her rich ancestry just because of a distaste for common meter in excruciatingly high keys. Thankfully, Indelible Grace has released their new album of re-worked or modernized hymns... and it is great.

Artists like Sandra McCracken, Matthew Smith, Derek Webb and others have contributed to this, in my opinion, the most diverse compilation so far. The hymns they have re-tooled are all excellent choices and the musical style is very nice. (I have always loved the IG albums, but I sometimes found them a little too “Nashville” for extended listening - a man can only take so much country music. This album has a much broader range.)

As a fan of setting great old hymns to new tunes, I cannot commend this effort and this album enough! Check out the website for how to order and to listen to some extended samples.

(Or you can order from Westminster Books here...)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Favourite Ornament

Last night we pulled the Christmas boxes out of storage so the young ‘uns could decorate the little trees in their rooms. As my boy carefully unwrapped his decorations, he came across one rather plain and homey ball, not the nicest of ornaments by far... yet the most meaningful to me.

Six years ago Will was in an intensive care room at the Hospital for Sick Children in downtown Toronto. He had contracted RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and this would be one of his worst days. Unable to breathe on his own for nearly a week now, his condition was worsening with only a small area of one lung able to process a portion of the oxygen being forced into him through a ventilator. We spent the better part of the day wondering if every Christmas to follow would be a memory of losing our son.

That was a long and sad day. But a lovely nurse at the hospital had brought in a few little ornaments and hung them on his hospital bed. And they stayed up there, dangling on the side bars, getting banged and dropped until Will left that bed and that hospital – a healthy little boy.

n the kindness of His providence God spared the boy and yesterday we went man-shopping at Princess Auto! What a blast to have him running down the aisles, grabbing some big tool, and saying in his loud voice, “Whoa! Dad! Look at this!!! WHAT IS IT?!?!”

That little red ornament represents 6 years of grace!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Worship in Song Conference - March 1, 2008

Every once in a while we have folks asking us about how and why we sing the way we do at Grace Fellowship Church. This is actually something we have thought a lot about and worked very hard at developing; in fact, it is an ongoing project for us!

As churches think about how to sing in a Gospel-centered and culturally-relevant way, they are faced with a whole string of questions. My experience has been that most people answer those questions out of their preferences rather than the objective Truth of Scripture.

I teach a course on Worship at Toronto Baptist Seminary and it is always exciting to see my students wrestle with what the Bible actually has to say on the subject. We had the idea not long ago to provide the church-at-large with the brunt of this material in a very practical one day conference. We are calling it (quite originally!) "Worship in Song Conference."

The day will include workshops for everyone from keyboardists to sound guys to service planners and we also hope to model (as best as we can) the principles in action with 4 times of worship in song. I plan to give three messages: Why we sing, what we should sing (how to find and choose songs) and how to lead corporate worship singing.

The whole thing is going to take place, Lord willing, on Saturday, March 1, 2008 here in Toronto and we invite you to reserve that date now. Registration will open soon and be open to the first100 registrants only – we want to keep this as practical and as personal as possible. Stay tuned here and to our church website for details!

Monday, December 03, 2007 - Why You Must Believe on Jesus

Why You Must Believe on Jesus

I hope you don't find it odd that I am giving you a link to the audio of a sermon I preached last week. I generally think bloggers are a little odd for doing just that - hypocrite that I am. But we had lots of folks miss our Sunday worship services due to a sudden snow storm, and I am convinced that there are many others who might profit from considering John 3:31-36.

I sought to give 5 reasons from this text of the Bible why you must believe on Jesus Christ. If you are already a Christian, I think you will find some encouragement from the Word. If you have not made an about face from trusting in yourself to trusting in Christ yet, then I think you would be wise to listen. If you don't want to listen, then just read the words written by John long ago:

"He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."

The Blazing Center: 8 Ways to Get More out of Your Bible

The Blazing Center: 8 Ways to Get More out of Your Bible

My friend Mark Altrogge has a really helpful little post on how to read the Bible.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review - A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity, by R.C. Sproul

Book Review - A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity, by R.C. Sproul

Teaching a seminary course on Worship means I am always looking for new books to inform and help my understanding of the church’s primary goal in life. I was happy, therefore, to pick up a copy of R.C. Sproul’s latest offering on the subject of worship.

I have to admit I found the work rather disappointing.

Dr. Sproul is a great thinker and prolific author, so who am I to suggest this work is lacking? But having read from cover to cover, I think it is a book that has the potential to do more harm than good.

Sproul has always had a “shock value” to his teaching – some of us can remember being blown away by statements and illustrations he has made over the years. He also has a strong sense of humour... which may be why (with four chapters defending infant baptism and statements like “dispensationalism... is a nineteenth century departure from orthodoxy”) he dedicated this volume to Dr. John MacAruthur.

The book is essentially an examination of how we are to worship God. Sproul’s framework for discovering this is predominantly to look back to how Israel worshiped God in the Old Testament. Now, that right there will cause many to pause and scratch their heads. New Testament worship is discovered by examining the Old Testament? To be fair, Sproul goes to great length to say that the New Testament has the final word on this matter. “Of course, we can’t go to the Old Testament and discover what is there in terms of the format of worship and then simply carry it across and superimpose it into the New Testament community” (15). Yet, while giving a nod to the discontinuity between the Testaments, he can also say, “we can discern principles in the patterns of worship that God revealed from heaven to His people in the Old Testament, and... those principles can and should inform the patterns our worship” (19). This sounds a little too much like having your cake and eating it, too. In fact, this would be my primary criticism of the book. Sproul’s approach flatlines the story of the Bible and results in a somewhat willy-nilly hermeneutic that plucks from the Old whatever “seems to fit” the New.

That is why you end up with Sproul arguing that

· Infant baptism is necessary and the only Biblical position (chapters 6-8)

· We ought to consider the use of incense in worship services (172)

· Pastors wearing robes might be a good idea (147)

· We ought to meet to worship in buildings that communicate the glory and beauty of God (144)

Sproul backs off making any of these assertions (except infant baptism) as “do or die” Biblical principles, but I don’t think that matters.

There is an old axiom in seminary education that says, “The teacher’s questions become the student’s doctrine.” In other words, when a professor suggests a certain thing “might be true,” eager students often consider that to be what the fellow really believes and is too scared or too constrained by other forces to come out and say. Zwingli’s questions on baptism led Grebel and others to embrace the doctrine... a time when this axiom proved incredibly useful! But this manner of instruction mostly leads to confusion and muddled thinking.

For example, when Sproul floats the idea of using incense in worship, he undercuts the clear teaching of Scripture that he has already referenced only paragraphs earlier. In 2 Corinthians 2 and other passages, we are taught that physical incense has been replaced by other things: prayer, ministry, service, a life pleasing to God, etc. The Old Covenant physical smoke symbolized the New Covenant reality or fulfillment. By noting this passage, then suggesting a return to the old, outer rite, Sproul deadens the developing revelation of Christ in the Bible’s story and pulls the rug out from under the New Testament teaching. This is a pattern throughout the book.

I thank the Lord for R.C. Sproul! He has been used of God in so many ways in my generation and has personally blessed me on numerous occasions. But when it comes to worship, there are many more cogent and helpful books to read before this one. I recommend buying “Worship by the Book” edited by D.A. Carson. The first chapter of that work will do ten times more to bolster your worship than thousands of robes, new cathedrals or billowing incense.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stumping Haykin

Some of the people I love in this world are the faculty and staff of Toronto Baptist Seminary. It is an honour to teach with them and it was a joy to have them to our home last week for our annual Christmas Celebration. The ladies provided us with a wonderful meal and my dear bride made the surroundings warm and inviting (like usual!).
The highlight of the night came when I, the consumate Game Meister, made everyone play my own version of Family Feud. It was a battle of Principals - Team MHaykin versus Team Kwellum! Ah, what bliss!
But the greatest moment of all is captured so wonderfully in this photo taken by my daughter.

Here is Michael trying to form an answer to the following brain-stretching question: "Name one thing you do on vacation." Not only did it take him 13 minutes to form a reply, but he was wrong! Out of all the respondents to my survey, NONE answered, "Visit the cemeteries!!!!"

Friday, November 23, 2007

Interview at Unashamed Workman

Colin Adams is an Associate Pastor with preaching responsibilities at Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh and also the creator of a very nice blog called "Unashamed Workman." It is a great blog dealing with preaching and pastoral ministry - making me a regular reader.

Colin has been running a series of interviews asking different expositors the same 10 questions. This week he posted my answers to those questions. [I should also note that Mark Driscoll's picture is way cooler than mine...]

Friday Fun: For All of You Who Have Been Wondering Who Multi-Commentor "Kenny" Was....

Very simple. "Kenny" is "Noah."

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Glory of God - The Glory of God

It was great to have my friend Pastor Perry Edwards preaching for us at GFC this past Sunday. Perry is the preaching elder of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of Oromocto, New Brunswick.

He took Revelation 4-5 as his (large) text for the Sunday morning sermon and I must say gave us a glorious glimpse into the wonder of Jesus Christ. I highly commend the sermon to you - you can download it by clicking on the link above.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Mainstream Media Interprets the Divorce Debate Sparked by a CT Article

An Evangelical Rethink on Divorce? - TIME:

"Still, the controversy suggests that even the country's most rule-bound Christians will search for a fresh understanding of scripture when it seems unjust to them. The implications? Flexibility on divorce may mean that evangelicals could also rethink their position on such things as gay marriage, as a generation of Christians far more accepting of homosexuality begins to move into power. (The ever-active Barna folks have found that 57% of 'born-again' Christians age 16-29 criticize their own church for being 'anti-homosexual.') It could also give heart to a certain twice-divorced former New York mayor who is running for President and seeking the conservative vote. But that may be pushing things a bit."

I doubt anyone (Instone-Brewer, Kostenberger, Piper) who has participated in this debate is very happy with these conclusions!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Bizarreness of Preaching: Some Monday Reflections on a Long-winded Sunday

I had received the question many times before, but never with such sincerity. After telling the 8 year old in the car beside me that I was a pastor, his perplexed face looked at mine and he queried. “Well, what do you do the rest of the week?” So much for bonding with my kids classmates!

I thought of that little guy today as I sat here in my study reading Mariano Di Gangi’s new book, “Great Themes in Puritan Preaching.” Di Gangi noted how many consider the Puritans to have been obnoxious bores... especially when you consider for how long they preached! I had to chuckle to myself. I found out Sunday night that my morning sermon had droned on for exactly 60 minutes. Sixty minutes of me speaking and others listening. It is a rather bizarre thing when you think of it. First of all, I need to say that I generally have a very precise “feeling” for time – as in down to the exact minute. But Sunday was different. There was a conspicuous fatigue in the air at GFC Sunday morning and a lot of our "regulars" were gone. That all made for a different experience, preaching wise, and somehow I thought I had preached for around 40 minutes. Twenty whole minutes off! Yowza! (Which is probably something close to what most of the parents of small children were saying around minute 43!)

Di Gangi writes of some long-winded Puritans, “Undoubtedly, some of their homilies would have benefited from sensitive editing. But such criticisms say more about the shortness of the average listener’s attention span today than they do about a Puritan pastor’s supposed prolixity [wordiness]” (p. 18).

It is remarkable to me that the folks of GFC stayed with me on Sunday morning when I was too long. I think it says much more about them than me (in one respect). There is a hunger for the Word in that lion’s den and whomever the pulpiteer, he had best deliver at least a little meat!

My text Sunday morning was John 3:16 and the love of God. It has been some time since I have laboured as much in preparation and preaching of a text. I felt like a schoolboy trying to describe the heavens or a spelunker shining his penlight around a massive underground cavern... there was so much to say! Yet, every word that tumbled out of my mouth felt like felt. It landed soft.

I think, I hope(!), we got a few good glances in on the love of God for the world... but I still felt such a lack. Even as I preached I thought, “Why aren’t you more affected by these things, Preacher!?”

Which leads me to this stunning observation – preaching is odd. Think of it! You are called to labour in the Word, study men’s hearts to figure out how best to get the Truth of that Word into them, then stand and talk (interestingly, not redundantly, but with passion) and your topic is... God! The ineffable, almighty, eternal, good, holy, transcendent yet immanent, Creator of all things – including you (and your voice and mind and heart, etc). And to top it all off, good Christian people sit and labour to listen – working hard to understand what God wants to say through their appointed “stammering tongue.”

I am so glad there is a Holy Spirit.

Sometimes while I preach my mind is praying to the Spirit, begging Him to come and work. Unbelievers were in my church Sunday – and there I was offering them life. If such a thing as a “salvation gun” existed, I would have shot them between the eyes! I want them to be in heaven. But, by God’s appointment and design, it all comes down to this:

“...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:9-17).

Preacher, take aim and fire off the Word. Regardless the skill or incompetence, that Word will not return void. It may be bizarre at one level, but isn’t it also so remarkably grand!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Mom and Dad!

Thanks to brother Ryan's cell phone you can have a glimpse of a new baby - only hours old! (And a couple of happy parents!)

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SHE is born! JLF Adds to His Quiver...

I am pleased to announce that my able assistant has made me a Great Uncle once again (yeah, Julian is my nephew) as of 9:30AM or so this morning.

Beautiful little Caitlyn Adele Freeman was born at 8 pounds and 4 ounces - one week early. She is a doll. Of course, she fell right to sleep in Uncle Paul's arms!

We are all thanking the Lord for the Lord's good grace to Julian and Stacey (and Susie, too!).

Friday, November 02, 2007

TBS Names New Interim Principal

Kirk Wellum Takes on the Role

Michael Haykin has done a wonderful job building the work of Toronto Baptist Seminary over the last several years, and I am delighted to see that things will continue in that direction under his replacement. (Michael is joining the full time faculty of Southern Baptist Seminary, while continuing to teach here in Ontario on a less frequent basis.)

Readers of my blog will be familiar with Kirk Wellum. Kirk pastored for many years in Sarnia, ON (church plant), then Ancaster, until accepting a full time teaching role at TBS. He is a much respected and sought after professor, preacher, counselor and leader. Not only that, he shares a Starbucks with me on Wednesday mornings!

He brings a wealth of theological insight, practical experience and love for students that has all of us at TBS quite thrilled to see him take on the Principal’s role for the next year. It brings both continuity and growth to the school.

Please pray for my brother and for the work of the seminary. We need TBS in Canada, and I am often pleasantly surprised (some might even say, "shocked") at the quality of education one can get right here in Toronto. May the Lord prosper the work to His glory!

5:07PM - This just posted at TBS website:

"Interim Principal Appointed
November 1, 2007

The Board of Trustees of Toronto Baptist Seminary is pleased to announce the appointment of Rev. Kirk Wellum as interim principal, effective Jan. 1, 2008. Rev. Wellum joined the faculty last year as Professor of Systematic Theology and brings with him a wealth of pastoral experience gained over 20 years of ministry. He will be replacing Dr. Michael Haykin, who is stepping down from the principalship in order to take up the position of Professor of Baptist History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
We are grateful to the Lord for the invaluable service that Dr. Haykin has rendered to the Seminary and rejoice that he will continue to serve as Professor of Church History and Reformed Spirituality at TBS. We ask you to join us in praying that the Lord would give wisdom and grace to Rev. Wellum as he settles into his new responsibilities and for the Lord’s blessing on Dr. Haykin in his continued service to the Lord."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Toronto Baptist Seminary - New Promotional Video

Get a good look at where I teach every week!

Nice to see the PMac, Nicko and others in there, too!

"Dear" Jesus? - What Words Should Start Our Prayers?

Psalm 65:2 “O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.”

Bruce Ware was speaking at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors a few years back and commented how he was careful to teach his children to address God in prayer without the word “dear” attached to the front end. His point? Something to the effect that the word “Dear” in this form of address is really more suitable to a written letter than a prayer.

At the time, I considered it a bit of overkill, but it is one of those thoughts that has kept pecking away at my considerably small brain.

I have been paying special attention to the prayers recorded in Scripture lately, and I cannot find a one of them that begins with the word “dear” (or some equivalent). In fact, most of the prayers recorded in the Word begin with the expression, “O,” to the Name of God followed by terms that extol some virtue or attribute of God.

Look at this quick sampling (Name of God, attributes of God):


2 Samuel 7:18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?

1 Chronicles 29:10 Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.


1 Kings 8:22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day.


2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.


2 Chronicles 20:5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.


Ezra 9:6 “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.


Nehemiah 1:4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned.


Jeremiah 32:16 “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying: 17 Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.


Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. (Daniel 9)


Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

Matthew 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Early Church

Acts 4:23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them...

Thus, it seems if we desire to address God in a way that is modeled in the Scriptures, we would do well to begin by calling Him by Name. In fact, in nearly all of these prayers, the Lord is being addressed by His covenant Name, YHWH. And in nearly every prayer in the Bible, those who pray begin their petition by recounting some attribute(s) of God that relates most particularly to the request they are to make. So, when deliverance is needed, God’s saving work is extolled. When forgiveness is needed, He is praised for His mercy and steadfast love. When enemies attack, God is given glory for His sovereignty and the fact He made everything that is.

The name and character of God ought to be at the start of our prayers.

But not in a formal, distant sense.

By addressing God with terms like, “Dear Jesus,” we may be treating prayer like a child’s Christmas list for Santa Claus. Starting our prayers with words that reflect a direct connection to the Lord, followed by words that recount who God is in His essential nature will help us to pray aright. Praying in this manner will also help to guard us from “praying for the audience” that sometimes creeps into our corporate meetings for prayer.

None of this can be blown out of proportion, but if you are like me, you want to do things the way the Lord would like them done. The prayers of the Bible are there for a reason and I think the modeling our prayers after what is there will take us long way in the School of Prayer.

[Note: We had the most remarkable meeting for prayer last night at GFC... the Lord seemed to be quite “there.” I mention that because this post has nothing to do with our meeting last night nor with anyone who prayed last night. It is just something that I have been thinking about for a while.]

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Church Government Models May Encourage the Toleration of Sin

In my pastoral theology class today we continued our study of what qualifies a man to be an elder. We have been systematically making our way through every single character qualification written in the New Testament. It is a humbling study!

In considering the command found in Titus to have “believing/faithful children,” one of my students made a keen observation. He commented how church government often impacts how we view these qualifications. For example, if our church government is something like one pastor, and a second board of deacons or elders or managers or what have you, there is an added pressure on the church to tolerate sin/disqualification in a pastor. Why? Because if the church were to remove the pastor, they are a ship without a captain!

However, if a church operates Biblically, with a plurality of elders (equal in standing, ministry and responsibility – albeit, to use Strauch’s term, there exists “a leader among equals”) then if one elder is disqualified (sad as this may be!) there is freedom to remove him without ripping apart the overall leadership of the church. Removing a solo elder is a much greater threat to the church. (This is partly why we wrote into our constitution that any time our local church is without 2 or more elders, the church must apply to a sister congregation to have their elders join the solo elder in leading our church.)

This is one more reason I think the Lord was quite right when he established two offices in the church – elder and deacon – and determined that both offices should be filled by a plurality of qualified men.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Haykin to Speak on Newton at November Meeting

The Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Fellowship (formerly known as FRPS) will be holding it's November 19th meeting at Toronto Baptist Seminary with Guest Lecturer Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin. Details are below and include FREE LUNCH for pastors!

“The Life of John Newton”
Presented by Dr. Michael Haykin
November 19, 2007
10:00 AM

Welcomes you to our November Meeting at: Toronto Baptist Seminary
130 Gerrard Street East, Toronto,
Ontario, M5A 3T4 (416) 925-3263
In the chapel of Jarvis St. Baptist Church
(Limited free parking is available!)

You must register in advance by calling 416.925.3263

Thursday, October 25, 2007

On 18 Years Together...

Sunday marked 18 years of marriage for me to Susan. She remains my one true love. To honour her for putting up with me for so long, I wrote an epic poem... part of which I read to her on Sunday night at church. You may not like the fact I read it to her in front of my friends at church, and I assure you that is not something I do every week... but I had some things to say to my flock about my wife.

Here is the poem. I hope you are in some manner encouraged by the thoughts behind the mangled verse!

On 18 Years Together
Poetry is not my strength
Especially when serious
I tend to make my listener’s shout,
“Please stop, Tall Sir, you weary us!”
And this is tied to the fact
That words, to me, are pun-ish
Perhaps you think that I am cracked
I like to think it’s funnish
But enough of me, at least for now,
For I’m out to write of another
A woman, wife, church member, friend
And the very best of mother

I met her back in 85
Me 19 and she 18
When I first saw her, I came alive
And started my long waiting
She had another suitor then
And then another and another
Until my best friend took her out
And I was tempted to think, “Why bother?”

But patience paid her sweet reward
In 1988
When I said, “Um, well, hah-hah... Sue,
Would you go with me on a date?”
She answered, “Yes.” O, sweet word!
A dream come true for me!
I barely believed what I had heard
The Year of Jubilee!

And soon that girl was more than friend
I knew for sure I loved her
Time for courting drew to an end
Marriage is what I preferred
And to my joy, her Dad said, “Yes”
That’s two “yes’s” for those now scoring
But it was that third and final, “Yes”
That sent my heart a-soaring!

The great day came 10 months later
When she walked an aisle
Vows made before our Creator
Then out we went with smiles
To a world unfriendly to couples wed
In purity and love
But with a God who spoke and said,
“Just set your eyes above.”

Thus, 18 years ago, this day
I took to me mine wife
And God has blessed in every way
Through joy and even strife

Now you should know, dear GFC
How much you owe my bride
There’s much to her you do not see
But let me be your guide
Of meals sent and people in
More coffee brewed than Starbucks
A home where guests feel free to grin
And the food is beyond deluxe

A place this pastor wants to be
Even though he’s there all week
Not a home he tries to flee
And “greener pastures” seek
So I am freed to pray and think
To study in the Word
It’s my bride you should thank
If a decent sermon you’ve heard!

And you don’t see the love she gives
When sinned against by me
Nor do you watch just how she lives
Praying for you faithfully
Then sitting here week by week
With 4 kids all alone
While trying to listen to the weak
Words of me as I intone

But I see, Susan, at least in part
And am so glad you said, “Yes”
For when I’m near you, my Dearheart
I feel so deeply blessed
And I want these folks to know
(Yes, that’s partly this poem’s end...
And hope my words and roses show)
You’re still my very best friend.

[end of part one] [part two is private]

Toronto Taxi Fare Finder

Toronto Taxi Fare Finder

It's not perfect, but here is a little tool that is helpful for guesstimating taxi fares between destinations. You just input your start and finish locations and it gives an estimated fare along with tip. I love things like this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bruce Springsteen, Bob Kauflin and Leading People...

Bruce Springsteen on Meaning and Purpose | Worship Matters

Bob has a great post here on the difference between self-exaltation and Christ-exaltation. Every person that leads in any aspect of the church's corporate worship ought to read this carefully!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Walter on Not Giving Up in the Middle

Grace Fellowship Church: Walter on Not Giving Up in the Middle:

"The Devil has more than one trick in his bag. Sometimes he will try to fear you into sin, sometimes he will try to lure you into sin, and other times he will just sit back and let you drift into sin.

I wonder if Shem ever got bored? Every day, year after year hammering like a fool on that giant floating barn. Did he ever feel like giving up? Did he ever get tired of the smell of gopher wood? Did he ever question the whole project and say to Noah, “Dad, I’m tired of all this pitch under my nails! Ark schmark! Let’s go to Disneyland!”

Or what of Methuselah? 969 years on earth! The average man works 1/3 of his life. If Methuselah retired at 69, he had to live off his RIF for 900 years! That must have been some good investing! Did he ever start to wonder, “What is this all about anyway?” “I’m 813 years old... let’s see... what HAVEN’T I done?”

Or what of the 7 churches described in the Revelation to John? Most of them had pretty exciting starts! The Ephesian church began with a city riot, for example (Acts 19). But they ran into trouble some 50 years later. Although they are commended for their endurance in some things, they had not endured in all things. They had not endured in their love for God. Now, why was that? I am not sure I know. But I’ve been married as long as Yonge St. and know that if a man is not deliberate, if he doesn’t keep at the little things, the love he has for his wife will wane.

And I would bet a nickel to your dollar that the same is true in the life of a church. After a while, the same old things can seem... well, like the same old things. Another sermon, another prayer meeting, another lunch, another worship service. And if we are not careful, we’ll begin to think of church like some Muslims think of their 32nd wife – not much at all!

Now the Lord in His grace may send along some hailstorm or earthquake to shake things up and wake things up – but I would rather stay at the course than have the Omnipotent flex his arm in order to get our attention!"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Strauch on Why You Should Hug In Church

I have argued for several years now that a time of greeting ought to be regularly included in the corporate worship services of God's people. This seems to bug a lot of folks, especially those who like to show up 2 minutes after a service begins and leave during a closing song! Others feel it is a disruption to their own focus on the Lord. But I would argue that this is a much too self-centered approach to worship.

Consider, for example, the one reason the New Testament gives us to sing in our corporate worship - "teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom." Singing is to be to one another in our church gatherings... it is not for your pleasure alone.

In like fashion, we need to participate in all aspects of corporate worship... corporately. Think of all the times Paul sent greetings to local churches. Have you ever noticed how many times he told them to "greet one another?" This is a Biblical command for Christians.

I do think there is cultural latitude on the application of the command. My father-in-law used to be a part of a denomination that took this Scripture quite literally and every service began with some smooching. Men kissed the men, and women kissed the women - and never the twain did meet! (Yes, on the lips... think of it in European ways and it is not so threatening... maybe...). Anyway, we don't kiss at Grace, but we often include a time in our worship of God to greet each other - and we try to teach our folks that this is more than "make the visitors feel welcome!" It is another aspect of our worship of God who exists in Trinitarian relationship.

Now, all of this is to introduce this quote from Alexander Strauch's new book "Leading With Love." I have been slowly making my way through this excellent work and trying to work on some weak and sinful areas of my life. But I loved this little section on the physical expressions of love in a church. So I have reproduced it to bless you!

Showing Physical Signs of Affection

One physical expression of Christian love is the “kiss of love,” and it is “one of the beautiful customs of the early Christians.” Peter urged his readers to “Greet one another with the kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14), which is a practical outworking of his earlier instructions to love one another fervently as brothers and sisters:

Love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22)

Love the brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8)

This “kiss of love,” which Paul also refers to as a “holy kiss,” is an outward, physical sign of “mutuality ... oneness of status and identity which all Christians share across divisions of race, class, and gender.” But it is a “holy” kiss, not a sensual kiss. It is to be expressed with respect and in all purity.

Whether we apply the “kiss of love” with an actual kiss, hug, or hearty handshake, we are commanded to greet brothers and sisters affectionately. Our greetings to one another should visibly express the reality of our family oneness and love. So let us not be impersonal, standoffish, or cold. Let us not take one another for granted. People need physical expressions of love as well as words of love. This physical expression of love is one concrete, practical way we live out the New Testament command to love “one another earnestly” (1 Peter 4:8).

John Stott, a naturally reserved and proper Englishman, has learned from his extensive world travels, especially to Latin America and Africa, to enjoy the affectionate physical embrace of fellow believers. In closing a letter to a friend, he quips: I “send you a greeting and a hug (I’m now a life-member of the Institute of Hug Therapy!).”

Paul too was a member of the “Institute of Hug Therapy.” At the end of Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesian elders, Luke records: “And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him” (Acts 20:37).

The children in our churches need to feel expressions of love too. Our Lord Jesus welcomed children. They were a joy to him. He was not too busy to pay attention to them. He touched, prayed for, and blessed them (Matt. 19:13-15). Mothers and children felt comfortable coming to Jesus because his nature was welcoming and affectionate. Let us also be protec¬tive of and loving toward children.

The local church is “the household of God” (1 Tim. 3:15) and should be filled with loving words and demonstrations of familial affection. Sadly, the atmosphere in some churches is more like a funeral home than a loving family home. There is little affection and warmth.

Legitimate emotional feelings are suffocated. People hardly know one another. They keep their distance, and the only display of affection is a speedy handshake before exiting the church doors. Such behavior is not authentic Christian brotherhood and sisterhood. It does not represent people who are faithful to the “new commandment.”

How to Get Started

To create a more loving atmosphere in your local church or in a group you lead, start by regularly praying for growth in love. Use these Scriptures as a guide in your prayers:

  • And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more. (Phil. 1:9)
  • And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. (1 Thess. 3:12)
  • [I pray] that you ... 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. (Eph. 3:18-19)

Even if your church or group is a loving body, you always can excel still “more and more” in love (1 Thess. 4:10,). Teach what the Bible says about love. How often do people hear a careful exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 3:14-19 and 4:1-16, or 1 John 4:7-21? Most church-goers do not know the biblical demands of love and need in-depth teaching on this subject. Challenge the people you lead to grow in love.

An atmosphere of love doesn’t come by teaching alone. Church leaders need to model love. There are teachers, musicians, and others in the church who have voluntarily served for years. They need to know that their faithfulness to God and the congregation is appreciated. Express your gratitude to them and encourage others to do the same. There are people who clean, repair, and maintain the church building; don’t let them go unnoticed. They should be thanked verbally or with a gift or card. Don’t take anyone for granted. God doesn’t!

Don’t allow your church to be a place where members of the body of Christ have only superficial interaction, or worse, where they come and go without even speaking to one another. Again, it is your responsibility to lead by example. The church is not a business corporation, military institution, or government agency. It is the “household of God,” so act accordingly. Reach out to others in love. Greet them with a “kiss of love,” an affectionate hug, or a “holy handshake.” Make it a point to remember people’s names.

The church is to be a close-knit family of brothers and sisters who express Christ’s love to one another. It is to be a life-transforming community where people grow and become more like their loving Lord. Your church can become a more loving community and experience greater unity as you teach and lead with love.

From: A Christian Leader's Guide to Leading With Love by Alexander Strauch. (Lewis and Roth, 2006). Another critical work for pastors is Strauch's Biblical Eldership - I highly commend it to you!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pray For These Boys, Too!

One of the real joys in my ministry is teaching pastoral theology courses at Toronto Baptist Seminary. Every semester I like to post a picture of my class and ask you to pick one of these men for whom you will pray. Most of these fellows are still in preparation for pastoral work, and a couple are already in the middle of it.
I thank the Lord for these men. They are a great group of guys and the Lord has been with us so far. Pray that He uses every class to bring glory to His Name and to shape all of us more into His likeness.
Spain, Hong Kong, the Bahamas, China and Canada are all here in our little class... remarkable when one considers what the Lord might do!

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I think my tie was too short that day.

It's an early morning, man!!

Michael Haykin says, "Sweet," "Awesome," and "Jars of Clay" All in One Post


MAGH is always full of surprises!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Westminster Bookstore Has a New Look!

Westminster Bookstore

Great to see that our friends at WTS Bookstore have a smart new website up and running! Be sure to head over and take a peak.

Military Missional Work Available!

Pastor Perry Edwards is a friend of mine leading a church beside the enormous Canadian military base in Oromocto, New Brunswick. CFB Gagetown is the second largest military base in Canada and one of the largest in the world. Almost every Canadian soldier does time at “Gag Town.” Sovereign Grace Baptist Church is about 3 minutes away from the front gate.

When I visited there this past winter, I got cold. But I also got a feel for the unique ministry opportunity facing Perry and the good folks at SGBC. The longest most military families stay at Gagetown is 3 years. Then comes a transfer to another base or a tour of duty. That means that any families or individuals that join the church will not be there for long.

Perhaps that is why not many churches have made inroads into the base. I was delighted to see that was not the case with SGBC. Oromocto itself only boasts about 8400 people, so you can imagine there are not many mega-churches with that small population base. But the 70 people of SGBC are faithful givers and have a desire to evangelize as many soldiers as they can for the short time they reside on the base. And they know this will not result in swelling numbers at their assemblies over the long haul. In other words, this is true, servant-hearted, self-sacrificing mission.

The church has approved a new budget to hire a part-time “military evangelist” – a man who will be a member of SGBC but spend 10 hours per week or so developing relationships with military personnel in order to preach Christ and Him crucified. If you know of a man who might fit this assignment, then feel free to email me and I will put you in touch with Perry.

May the Gospel of Christ go forward with power from Gagetown! What a wonderful testimony for SGBC, if at the end of many years there were a whole host of soldiers living all over the world who could point to them as the means of their salvation!