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Your King Has Come

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Caesar Augustus’ birthday was honored as the “birthday of the god!” A stone monument (Priene Inscription) was erected 9 yrs before Jesus’ birth celebrating Caesar as “a savior for the world” whose birth was the beginning of “good tidings for all people.”  It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [euangelion] for the world that came by reason of him which Asi…

A Word to Sermon Critics

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We've all done it. I have. I'm you at times have too. We listen to a sermon not so much to hear how I should change or repent or be challenged or encouraged, but rather how the preacher's got it wrong. We pick apart his arguments or his delivery or his choice of tie (or lack of one). As a preacher, I'll think how I could have said it so much better. Sometimes I wonder, have we come to church to learn or to lecture? 

Martin Bucer, over 400 years ago, addressed those who were sinfully critical of preachers and their preaching. His words are as needed today as (apparently) they were needed then:

This is why Christians are first of all to ask the Lord with great earnestness to grant them faithful ministers, and to watch diligently in choosing them to see that they walk in accordance with their calling and serve faithfully; and when these ministers come to warn, punish, teach or exhort in the Lord’s name, not to dismiss it thoughtlessly and despise this ministry, as sadl…

Approaching Marriage with the Gospel

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My wife, Heather, once said that our marriage is the most beautiful, most broken thing she has ever experienced. I concur. I still think that Dave Harvey wrote When Sinners Say 'I Do' about us. I'm not sure what either one of us was expecting when we entered marital bliss, but I do know that we both got a whole lot more than we bargained for.

Paul Tripp wrote a wonderful book called What Did You Expect? for those of us who woke up after the honeymoon and wondered (though we would never say it outloud), "Who is this person next to me and what happened to the person I married?!" Tripp explains how he approaches marriage with the gospel:
My whole approach to marriage is the Gospel, because I’ve got to understand that marriage is about a flawed person living next to a flawed person in a fallen world, but with a faithful God. So, I can’t look to my husband or wife to be my own personal messiah. No one is ever married to the fourth member of the trinity. There’s th…

Approaching evangelism from another angle

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For a number of years now, I've been trying to re-emphasize the importance of outreach at the church I pastor. More specifically, I've been trying to move everyone toward engaging in evangelism. Whenever I bring up the subject, I hear someone say (sometimes audibly), "Oh no! Not evangelism!" The word conjures up images of street preachers or door-to-door witnessing that has all but been abandoned by everyone except "cult" groups. Perhaps another approach is needed. We can start by defining what evangelism is. What I mean by evangelism is simply speaking about the gospel of Jesus Christ--everything from "preaching the gospel to ourselves" (as Jack Miller and Tim Keller put it) to bringing up God (or more specifically God's work for us in Christ) in conversation with those who are disinterested or curious or in open rebellion against him.

There has been a mixed response to my attempts at getting us back to this essential part of the mission. Some…

The Habit of Thinking

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"The great intellectual tradition that comes down to us from the past was never interrupted or lost through such trifles as the sack of Rome, the triumph of Attila, or all the barbarian invasions of the Dark Ages. It was lost after the introduction of printing, the discovery of America, the founding of the Royal Society, and all the enlightenment of the Renaissance and the modern world. It was there, if anywhere, that there was lost or impatiently snapped the long thin delicate thread that had descended from distant antiquity; the thread of that unusual human hobby: the habit of thinking." 
G. K. Chesterton

The Miserable Ones

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One Baptism

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Over the Christmas holidays, my parents came down for a visit. We had a wonderful time celebrating Christ's birth. For me the highlights were having my mom and dad in our Christmas services. During one small group class we went through Ephesians 4:4, 5--"There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--one Lord, one faith, one baptism." I knew our discussion would be interesting.
You see, I'm a Presbyterian pastor. My mom and dad are Baptists. Christians have disagreed about the proper mode and subjects of baptism since the early days of the church. We all agreed, however, that "one baptism" here refers to the baptism of all believers into one body, which is the result of the Holy Spirit bringing us alive in Christ. Baptism is an outward sign of the inward reality of the believer being in Christ as the result of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. All genuine believers who are "in Christ" a…