My Memory Moleskine: Do Not Be Anxious

Memory Moleskine - Image by Tim Brister

There’s a little under a month left until Easter Sunday. If you’ve been participating in Partnering to Remember, that means we’re coming into the home stretch. As you may recall from past updates, I’ve found myself a couple of weeks ahead on memorizing Philippians, but lately I’ve noticed that I’m having a much harder time focusing on it. I think I have 15 or 16 verses left, but for whatever reason they just aren’t sticking.

Maybe there’s a lot going on right now (which there is). And maybe I’m also being a bit too slack in my discipline (which I am). It’s funny though, I found myself starting to get a bit anxious about it a few days ago.

While working on Phil 4:10-13.

Yeah, I’m ridiculous.

So it’s probably a good thing that I’ve been continually coming back to Phil. 4:6-7

…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 minds in Christ Jesus.

(Confession: Every time I read or speak Philippians 4:6-7, my mind immediately goes to the song that is on the Rizers album. Abigail still adores that record.)

While these verses speak to issues much larger than my tiny, silly anxieties (read: pride issues), it is an excellent reminder that at the heart of anxiety and worry is a lack of trust in and thankfulness to God. Jesus made this point well in Matt. 6:25-34, when he repeatedly points to the birds in the air and the lilies in the valley and says,

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

It’s important to remember, but oh so easy to forget, that we always have two choices in all things: We can live by faith—that is, live with confidence that God will always do what He promises—and be free to pursue His purposes in this life, or we can spend our time worrying ourselves into a tizzy.

I’d much rather do the former than the latter. How about you?

Around the Interweb

The Only Hope We Have, And It Is Hope Enough

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

R.C. Sproul from Together for the Gospel 2008 on the curse motif of the atonement:

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Also Worth Reading:

Controversy: Michael Krahn on what he thinks John Piper meant when he tweeted, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” (Incidentally, Piper responded: “Pretty close.”)

Men: A Bigger Problem Than “Boys Will Be Boys”

Bible: What About the Issues Scripture Doesn’t Address?

Documentary: The Life of George Whitefield as told by The Doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Apparently this video will no longer be available after March 31, so watch it while you can. It’s fascinating stuff:

In Case You Missed It:

Book Review: Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Husbands, Date Your Wives

What Good Will Come From the Bell Brouhaha?

Richard D. Phillips: Your Witness Matters

Meet My Friend Deni Gauthier

Thomas Watson: Let Us Imitate Our Father

My Memory Moleskine: Imitating Godliness

Memory Moleskine - Image by Tim Brister

Working through the final verses of Philippians chapter three couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is their destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil 3:17-21)

I love this call to be imitators of godly people. And I know I’ve written on this before at least once, but it’s something that can’t be stressed too much.

Thursday, I took a few hours while I was working to listen to catch up on the messages I’ve missed from my church while I’ve been out preaching (as well as a couple from Josh Howerton). And I was reminded listening to Norm speak how much I have to learn from him. One of the things that always impresses me is how well he balances earnest, firm contention for the truth with a real pastor’s heart. He’s never afraid to say that something is wrong, to call out sin or false teaching, but you know when he does it that it’s because he cares for people.

He doesn’t want to see people continue in sin. He doesn’t want people to be deceived. He does want people to know Jesus as He is described in the Bible.

That’s the kind of guy I want to imitate.

Do you have someone in your life that you can say is worth following the example of? Who is that person?

Sermon Audio: When God Delivers His People

On Sunday, March 6, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching at Sovereign Grace Community Church in Sarnia, Ontario. The message, “When God Delivers His People,” was preached from Psalm 14:1-7:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

 

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge.

 

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The complete audio is available here: :

You can also download to listen later.

My original sermon notes are available for download here.

I hope you find the message edifying. Please feel free to provide some feedback in the comments. Thanks!

The Lord Keeps Mercy For Thousands

Are we under the guilt of sin? There is a promise. “The Lord is merciful and gracious” (Exod. xxiv. 6) , where God as it were puts on His glorious embroidery, and holds out the golden sceptre, to encourage poor trembling sinners to come to Him. “The Lord, merciful.” God is more willing to pardon than to punish. Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us. Mercy is His nature. The bee naturally gives honey; it stings only when it is provoked. “But,” says the guilty sinner, “I cannot deserve mercy.” Yet He is gracious; He shows mercy, not because we deserve mercy, but because He delights in mercy. But what is that to me? Perhaps my name is not in the pardon. “He keeps mercy for thousands”; the exchequer of mercy is not exhausted. God has treasures lying by, and why should you not come in for a child’s part?

Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial (Kindle Edition)

Archaeology and the Seven Churches

This is a fascinating interview with Mark Driscoll and Dr. Andrew Jackson, one of the foremost authorities on biblical history in the country of Turkey.

In the first video, Dr. Jackson explains the history and importance of the city of Ephesus:

In the second, Dr. Jackson discusses the seven churches of Revelation:

The interviews above are well worth your time and provided some particularly interesting nuggets for me. For example, the order of the seven churches listed in Revelation 2:1-3:22 is deliberately organized for the travel circuit through each region is a very helpful bit of information as it means there was a specific reason for why the books were placed in the order they were.

Most of all, the videos remind me just how important the study of history is to our understanding of Scripture. Archaeological expeditions allow us to get a much better sense of what the culture was like, to see some of the remains of the cities where the gospel first went forward and bring believer today that much closer to our earliest counterparts.

And it’s all the more reason to give thanks.

Do you look into archaeological expeditions of biblical sites? If so, what’s been the most interesting you’ve learned?

My Memory Moleskine: Jesus Plus Anything Equal Nothing

Memory Moleskine - Image by Tim Brister

This week’s section of Philippians finds Paul doing some amazing setup. He begins by writing:

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

So far so good, right? Seems like this is going to be a great encouragement. Next verses:

Look out for the dogs. Look out for the evildoers. Look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

And there it is. Paul lets this outstanding warning fly—look out for dogs, evildoers, mutilators of the flesh… Here, Paul’s talking about the Judaizers who plagued his ministry—those who were trying to say that salvation was through faith in Christ plus keeping the Mosaic Law.

And as we know from reading Paul’s other writings, Christ plus anything equals nothing.

So Paul lets this this fly and then reminds his readers that if it were a question of confidence in the flesh, “I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.”

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day; of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Let those credentials sink in for a second.

Paul was serious business. A Hebrew of Hebrews; a Jew by birth, able to trace his line back to Abraham. A pharisee, a persecutor of the church, blameless in his keeping of the law.

That’s a tough act to follow. And if that’s what we were to have to do to be saved, we’d all be completely lost.

Fortunately, it’s not the end of Paul’s rebuke against the Judaizers and encouragement to the Philippians. All this is just set up for what comes next:

But whatever gain I had, I counted it as loss for the sake of Christ.

Jesus plus anything equals nothing.

How’s your memorizing been this week? What’s God been teaching you through it?

(Audio)Book Review: Justified by Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul

Justified By Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul

Title: Justified by Faith Alone
Author: R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Crossway Books/Christian Audio (2010 edition)

Martin Luther famously said that justification by faith alone is “the article by which the church stands or falls.” So certain of its importance to the Christian faith was Luther that it became the crucial dividing issue between the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Today, however, many evangelicals “know” that we are justified by faith alone but are not entirely sure what it means. And because of this uncertainty, we begin to ask—does it really make sense? And is it really that important?

In his (very) short book Justified by Faith Alone, R.C. Sproul answers that question with a resounding yes as he lays out the Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrines of justification.

One of Dr. Sproul’s greatest gifts as a teacher is his ability to clearly and charitably examine positions with which he disagrees. In doing so, he manages to clear up a great number of misconceptions that Protestants have regarding Romanism.

A key example is whether or not Roman Catholicism offers a works-based salvation. Sproul argues that it is, in fact, not accurate to make this claim. As he examines Roman Catholic teaching, he reveals that faith in Christ is essential to salvation… it’s just not all you need. The congregant’s works of penitence, his acts of contrition, are also required. In essence, the Roman Catholic position is that of faith in Christ plus works equal justification (Justification = Faith + Works).

The Protestant position, however, is that faith in Christ alone brings justification, and our works are our response to and the evidence of our right standing before God (Faith=Justification + Works).

Sproul is also quick to address the common complaint against the Protestant position, which is that it is Antinomianism. In this error, we are saved by faith in Christ alone (justification), and there need be no evidence of saving faith (Faith=Justification – Works). However, the Scriptures are clear that one who says that he has faith, but there is no evidence of it in his life is a liar (cf. James 2:14-26).

Moving from the content to the audio production, this is one place where I find that the book falls a bit flat. Sean Runnette is a wonderfully clear narrator and I’ve enjoyed his work on other productions, but in this instance, I found his reading to be a bit bland. His reading seemed to lack the passion that tends to come out in Sproul’s text (as well as in his speaking). This is only a minor criticism, but it was bothersome enough that I felt it warranted mentioning.

Justified by Faith Alone is an important book, one that I believe readers of all ages and stages would benefit greatly from. Read (or listen to) the book, and gain a greater understanding and appreciation for this crucial doctrine—and praise God that it is by faith in Christ alone that we are saved.

A complimentary download of this book was provided for review purposes by ChristianAudio.com

(Audio)Book Review: Jesus in the Present Tense by Warren W. Wiersbe

Title: Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ
Author: Warren W. Wiersbe
Publisher: David C. Cook/ChristianAudio (2011)

It’s easy for us to be caught up in the past—the mistakes we’ve made, the opportunities we’ve lost, the sins we’ve committed. When we spend all our time focusing on these things, it robs us of our joy. We don’t feel as connected to Christ, nor do we feel the freedom to serve and to give of ourselves fully. But this does not have to be our experience—and by examining the I AM statements of Christ in his latest book, Jesus in the Present Tense, author Warren W. Wiersbe offers readers (and listeners) the hope and freedom that comes from living our lives in the present tense with Christ.

The “I AM” statements of Jesus found in John’s gospel are some of the most poignant examples of Christ’s proclamation of His divinity—and understanding them is crucial to our growth in our love for Christ. After initially dealing with the “I AM” statements that are found throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Moses’ conversation with the Lord in the book of Exodus, Wiersbe addresses with the seven metaphorical “I AM” statements:

  1. I am the bread of life (John 6:35; John 6:48; John 6:51)
  2. I am the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5)
  3. I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7; John 10:9)
  4. I am the good shepherd (John 10:11; John 10:14)
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
  7. I am the true vine (John 15:1)

He also takes a couple of surprising turns in dealing with what are known as the absolute I AM statement of Christ (found in John 6:20; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; and John 18:5) and also what he calls the neglected I AM—Psalm 22:6: [Read more...]

Sermon Audio: Delighting in Devotion

On Sunday, February 20, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching at Gladstone Baptist Church in Gladstone, Ontario. The message, “Delighting in Devotion,” was preached from Psalm 1:1-6:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seats of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The complete audio is available here:

:

You can also download to listen later.

My original sermon notes are available for download here.

I’d love to get your thoughts on how this message has impacted you (if at all). Looking forward to hearing from you!

My Memory Moleskine: God’s Timing for Certain Texts

Memory Moleskine - Image by Tim Brister

This week I’ve been working through Philippians 2:19-30 while at the same time preparing to preach on Psalm 1:1-6.

What’s been interesting is how God’s been using Psalm 1 to apply the principles I’m learning through memorizing Philippians. Here’s what I mean:

In Psalm 1, the Psalmist writes that the man who delights in the law of the Lord, who meditates on it day and night is blessed. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is working on him and in him, conforming him more and more to the image of Christ, giving him a heart for the things that He cares about. The man who delights in the Word of God bears much fruit.

In memorizing Philippians this week, that’s what I’ve noticed in Timothy and Epaphroditus. There is no one like Timothy, Paul says, “who will be genuinely concerned for your [the Philippians] welfare.” Likewise, Epaphroditus longs to see the Philippians again and is “distressed because [they] have heard he was ill.”

These two model the command Paul gives in Phil 2:3-4. In humility, they count others more significant than themselves, and look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.

They are, as the psalmist wrote, “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3) The Spirit’s work is evident in them and they are bearing fruit.

Anyway, that’s pretty much been my week in the text. Like I said, I’m preaching this weekend, so if you could keep me in your prayers, I’d greatly appreciate it.

What’s God been teaching you through your memorization this week?

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 2:1-18(ish)

Last week, I put together a video update (and recited Philippians 1:1-30 with only a couple of minor flubs) and all the while have continued to work hard on Philippians chapter 2. This week on the schedule is Phil 2:1-4, however, I’ve been tracking ahead a fair bit.

Last week, I briefly spoke about false humility (something that verses 1-7 reminded me of), and this week’s reading only continued to reinforce that message.

This struck me most vividly in Paul’s exhortation in Phil 2:12-18:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to work and to will for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning so that you may be blameless and innocent, Children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, holding fast to the word of life so that in the day of Christ, I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

One of the interesting things that has come out of this project so far is how it seems to get almost easier to memorize the text. This is good in that it allows me more time to chew and if a hard verse is coming up (and I’m sure that there’s going to be some really complicated stuff in chapters 3 & 4), I can eat up some of the “extra” time I’ve gained.

On the downside, it’s a breeding ground for pride. “Look at me and how smart I am; look at how keen my mind is,” and all that nonsense (people who know me well know this is a big enough problem as it is).

But verse 13 reminds me that, even though I’m working hard at this it’s God who is at work. I can memorize Scripture because the Holy Spirit is (hopefully) searing it into my conscience and heart. And Paul’s command in verse 14, to do all things without grumbling or questioning, it’s a reminder of the need for humility in obedience. Considered in light of Phil 2:1-8 and his vivid description of Christ’s humility, how can I not make it my desire to submit well, as it has been granted for Christ’s sake that I “should not only believe in Him, but also suffer for his sake” (Phil 1:29).

So, that’s what God’s been teaching me through this project this week. What’s He been teaching you?

Book Review: Is the Bible True…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Is the Bible True . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

Meet Nick. Nick grew up going to church, believed the Bible, and was generally a pretty good kid.

Then he went to college and met Dr. Peterson, his Religious Studies professor, a critical scholar of the New Testament who rocked his confidence in what he (Nick) had been taught about the Scriptures.

Is the Bible reliable? How can we really know that what we have today is really what was originally written? What do we do with all the variances in the manuscripts that exist?

Is the Bible true… really?

These are the questions that Nick was left facing. And they’re the same ones faced by all Christians today, especially those heading off to college where their faith will be severely tested. Without good answers to these questions—and many others—their faith will not stand.

That’s what inspired Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett to write Is the Bible True . . . Really? In this book, the first in their Coffee House Chronicles series, the authors seek to equip and encourage readers as they follow Nick on his quest for the answers to the questions surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

By late January of his freshman year, Nick was a professing agnostic who put a lot of stock in the ideas popularized by the Zeitgeist movie that’s been making the rounds on YouTube for the last couple years and in books by Dan Brown and Bart Erhman.

So convinced is he that he decides to write a twenty-one page paper entitled The Plagiarism of the Bible: How the Bible Stole from Pagan Mythology. Hoping to get his teacher’s input, he instead meets Jamal Washington, Dr. Peterson’s new teaching assistant, a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (and former college football star). As he begins a friendship with Jamal, he finds his new-found agnosticism shattered as Jamal details the real facts surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

So what does Nick (and readers along with him) learn? [Read more...]

My Memory Moleskine: Reciting Philippians 1:1-30 (and a Few Words on False Humility)

As promised last week, here’s a video update:

As I mentioned, I didn’t do too bad that time; actually, I probably should have recorded my dry-run as it was much better. Ah well.

This week, I made my way through Philippians 2:1-7:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of me.

I also started on verse eight, but I’m really shaky on it. What’s most striking to me is Paul’s emphasis on unity and humility. I don’t know about you, but these are subjects I need to really get beaten into my head. Just yesterday (Thursday), I fell prey to one of my all-too-frequent sins: False humility. Seriously, I need to learn how to just take a compliment, or say “yes, I did that.”

Instead, I do this stupid, “Aw shucks, it was nuthin’, Der-hyuk” nonsense.  If there’s one thing that’s going to eventually get me in a lot of trouble, this is as likely to do it as anything else. It does a disservice to me, to those around me and ultimately to God, who gave me the capacity to do all the things I can accomplish.

(And as a side note, it drives my wife up the wall, which is as good a reason as any to knock it off.)

That’s it for this week’s update. How was week five of partnering to remember for you?