Monday, June 29, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Treating symptoms or applying the cure?

The way to cure any sickness is to attack its cause. Treating the symptoms, although necessary, does nothing to rid the person of the disease.

The universal sickness of mankind is sin. In American society alone, we see sin’s symptoms in family strife, discipline problems in our schools, widespread divorce, homosexuality, abortions, illicit drug use, dangerous neighborhoods and crime of all sorts. I could go on, but you get the idea.

The only cure for our societal sickness—the only cure for sin—is the gospel: the message that “Christ…suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). I’m convinced that the only hope for this country is another Great Awakening brought about through the preaching and dissemination of the gospel.

Is it just me, or does anyone else sense that we evangelicals, in general, spend an inordinate amount of time and energy merely treating the symptoms of our societal sickness, compared to the time and effort we spend in applying the cure?

Neither social and political activism nor compassionate deeds of mercy can take the place or do the work of the gospel.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

“How goes the battle?”

The following excerpt is taken from J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002), pp. 78-79. Here, Packer quotes at length from Ryle’s book, Holiness, which was originally published in 1877. John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was an evangelical Anglican priest and, from 1880-1900, the bishop of Liverpool.

Victory is the only satisfactory evidence that you have a saving religion. You like good sermons perhaps. You respect the Bible, and read it occasionally. You say your prayers night and morning. You have family prayers, and give to religious societies. I thank God for this. It is all very good. But how goes the battle? …Are you overcoming the love of the world and the fear of man? Are you overcoming the passions, tempers and lusts of your own heart? Are you resisting the devil and making him flee from you? How is it in this matter? You must either rule or serve sin and the devil and the world. There is no middle course. You must either conquer or be lost.

I know well it is a hard battle that you have to fight, and I want you to know it, too.… You must make up your mind to a daily struggle if you would reach heaven.… Sin, the world and the devil must be actually mortified, resisted and overcome.

This is the road that the saints of old have trodden.… Moses…overcame the love of pleasure.… Micaiah…overcame the love of ease.… Daniel…overcame the fear of death.… Matthew…overcame the love of money.… Peter and John…overcame the fear of man.… When Saul the Pharisee gave up all his prospects of preferment among the Jews, and preached that very Jesus whom he had once persecuted, this was overcoming: he overcame the love of man’s praise.

The same kind of thing which these men did you must also do if you would be saved. They were men of like passions with yourself, and yet they overcame. They had as many trials as you can possibly have, and yet they overcame. They fought. They wrestled. They struggled. You must do the same.

What was the secret of their victory? Their faith. They believed on Jesus and, believing, were made strong…and…were held up. In all their battles, they kept their eyes on Jesus, and he never left them nor forsook them. “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” and so may you (Rev. 12:11 [KJV]).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father’s Day Reflection

Yesterday was Father’s Day. Father’s Day is one of those holidays that, for some, carry mixed feelings. So many sons and daughters are burdened with emotional and relational “baggage”, when it comes to the subject of their fathers, and long to hear words of affirmation and/or a heartfelt apology from their fathers for sins that were committed against them. Whereas, on Mother’s Day, there are usually sermons in church extolling mothers, on Father’s Day men get lectures—yearly reminders of the many ways in which we fail.

Well, on this morning after Father’s Day, I want to go on record saying I have no complaints to bring against my “father” and I am seeking no apologies. As you may remember, my great-grandfather—“Pa Bill”, as I knew him—fulfilled the role of “father” in my life. He died almost 20 years ago. Was Pa Bill a perfect man? No, not at all. He had many faults. Some of them were glaring faults, and I’m not sure he was ever aware of any of them. But, honestly, that doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t desire any apology.

On the contrary, if Pa Bill were still alive, I would want to apologize to him, for I owe the greater debt. Like all too many children, adolescents, and 20-somethings today, I was stupid. I thought I knew so much, and didn’t realize how truly ignorant I was. Like so many young people today, I was often disrespectful and insolent. I really was not that way to anyone else except Pa Bill. You see, Pa Bill had little formal education. There were a lot of things he did not know, and sometimes he did or said things that reflected that lack of knowledge. I knew he didn’t know, and looked down on him in arrogance, as if he was stupid and I was the one who knew so much. After he died, I realized I was the fool.

In those months and years after Pa Bill’s death, and still today, my only consolation was the gospel. The only reason I can forgive myself today is because I know God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven me. I confessed my sins to God a long time ago. If he were alive today, I would also confess those same sins to Pa Bill.

And I would do two more things. I would tell Pa Bill how much I love him. The fact of the matter is, with the perspective that comes only with time and maturity, I now love Pa Bill deeply. Secondly, I would tell Pa Bill “thank you” because, despite his faults, he did so many things—most things— right. As a father of two boys, I now see that Pa Bill was an excellent father in the ways that counted most.

Except, when I mouthed off, Pa Bill really should have given me a sanctified butt-whipping.

Click here to read the tribute to Pa Bill that I wrote for Father’s Day 2008.

Don’t be a fool!

“Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding” (Proverbs 10:23).

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).

“A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Proverbs 17:10).

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2).

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Proverbs 18:6-7).

“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling” (Proverbs 20:3).

“Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:11-12).

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:11, 20).

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).

My friend, don’t be a fool!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Bible Conference in Chicagoland

If you live in or can get to Chicagoland, consider attending New Life Fellowship Church’s annual Bible Conference. It will be held June 18-20 (Thursday and Friday evening, and Saturday morning) in Buffalo Grove, IL (a far north suburb of Chicago). The theme this year is “Spreading the Gospel”, with a Scripture focus in the book of Acts.

Returning again this year as the speakers will be

Thabiti Anyabwile, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands;

Anthony “Tony” Carter, lead pastor of East Point Church in East Point, GA; and

Hensworth Jonas, Executive Director of the East Caribbean Baptist Association in Antigua.

The New Life Fellowship Church’s Bible Conference is small, in terms of attendance, size of venue and length of schedule, but the teaching is power-packed with biblical depth. I have found New Life’s conference to be consistently nourishing and uplifting to my soul, and the fellowship with Host Pastor Louis Love, and the good people of New Life Fellowship, is warm and genuine.

Oh, and did I mention that there is no registration fee? That’s right, admission is free! There is also a well-stocked book table, courtesy of Reformation Heritage Books, that you won’t want to miss.

Further details about the conference can be found here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Are you a Christian? Are you absolutely sure?

Listen to this 12-minute video. Please, don’t tune out the person speaking, but seriously consider what he’s saying. What he says is hard, and to our modern ears it sounds harsh, but I think he’s right on target.

Listen and ask yourself, “Am I really a Christian?”


Sunday, June 07, 2009

I can depend on God…

…through storm, through rain,
through sickness, through pain;
I can depend on God.

Listen to this clip from back in the day:

Glory to God!

For those who might not be able to understand the rest of the words in the video, the soloist goes on to sing the following:

I remember that day, I remember the hour—
Filled my soul with the holy ghost power.
I was lost, couldn't find my way;
The Man stayed with me each and every day.
I was sick, couldn't get well;
He healed my body—now I can tell.
I can depend on God.

In other words: You know what God has done for you in the past, so don’t doubt Him now. Trust Him! He’s the same now as He was then, and He’ll be the same tomorrow. You can depend on God because He is trust-worthy.

And He is worthy of our worship.

It’s Good to Know Jesus

Thank God, I know Him! Do you know Him?

Monday, June 01, 2009

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrow, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest.

Dear name, the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place;
My never-failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace.

Jesus, my shepherd, brother, friend,
My prophet, priest, and king;
My Lord, my life, my way, my end,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

—John Newton (1725-1807)