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December 13, 2009

You know that every now and again I like to post a prayer here. Sometimes it is a prayer from long ago, sometimes it is a prayer that is much more recent. This week I was looking at pastor Scotty Smith’s blog and came across a great prayer—one I could fully identify with and one I so badly needed to pray, too. Smith based it on this passage: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:16-19).

Here is his prayer:


Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you—the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.

May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

November 30, 2008

It is my intention to primarily use email to update the participants in the Memorizing Scripture Together effort (click here to learn about the program). However, this morning I logged in to the software I use to send those emails only to find that it is down for maintenance until 9 AM tomorrow morning. And so I’m going to post this on the blog today just to keep people in the loop. The email blast will go out as soon as the software is available again.

As we began the program last week I received some immediate feedback. Much of it was of the “this is tough!” variety. And I tend to agree. Memorization does not come easily to most of us, so we are only going to commit passages to memory through long, hard work and through endless repetition. Speaking personally, though, I can say that already I’ve found these times to be a blessing. It has been a worshipful time as I’ve repeated God’s praises again and again. I’ve emphasized different words and phrases as I’ve gone through it and have repeated it with different focuses. This has kept it fresh in my mind and has kept me seeking the “heart” behind the passage.

Every week I want to offer a tip, a suggestion, an interview or something that will help us in our efforts. This week’s tip is very simple but very effective.

Use Index Cards. Choose a portion of the verse that you’d like to master that week, and either write or print it on an index card. I wasn’t able to find printable index cards at Staples so instead purchased cards meant to be inserts in name badges (Avery #05392). They are slightly different dimensions but work just fine. Print the verse on one side and the citation on the other. Put this card in your pocket or in your Bible or in some place where you are bound to come across it at least once or twice a day. You may also wish to print up several of the cards and place them around the house—on the bathroom mirror, above the kitchen sink, below your computer’s monitor, on the fridge, and so on. That way, at any time, you will have the verse near you and can recite it a couple of times between other activities. As the program continues you will build up a collection of these cards and you can skim through them every week or two to ensure that the verses stay fresh in your mind. This is a memorization technique “classic” but one that continues to reap benefits.

This Week’s Fighter Verse

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Philippians 2:3

This Week’s Passage

Those of us who are working on the longer passage are focusing on Psalm 8. This is a three week project, taking us until December 14.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8

Join Us!

We would love for you to join us. I plan on sending out weekly emails (every Sunday) to remind you of the commitment and to tell you about the new verse. If you’d like to participate in the program, I ask as well that you sign up for these emails (though you certainly do not have to if you don’t want to). Otherwise, just keep an eye on this blog and dedicate time to memorizing the Scripture passages.

October 01, 2007

Last week I went to Ottawa to enjoy my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful, classy, simple wedding. While the service was great from beginning to end, I particularly enjoyed the brief sermon which drew a startling contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God; between the love of the world and the love of God.

The pastor began by discussing a marriage contract drawn up by Albert Einstein. With his marriage disintegrating and already participating in extra-marital affairs, Einstein made a last-ditch effort to keep his marriage somewhat intact, even if only for the sake of the children. This is the contract he sent to his wife:

A. You will make sure

  1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;

  2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;

  3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, you will forego

  1. my sitting at home with you;

  2. my going out of traveling with you.

C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:

  1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;

  2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;

  3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.

D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.

His wife eventually agreed to them terms. When he received her response, “Einstein insisted on writing to her again ‘so that you are completely clear about the situation.’ He was prepared to live together again ‘because I don’t want to lose the children and I don’t want them to lose me.’ It was out of the question that he would have a ‘friendly’ relationship with her, but he would aim for a ‘businesslike’ one. ‘The personal aspects much be reduced to a tiny remnant,’ he said. ‘In return, I assure you of proper comportment on my part, such as I would exercise to any woman as a stranger.”

This comes from the pen (and from the heart!) of one of the brightest men the world has ever known. It’s a contract just shocking for its boldness and its polite disgust; its undertones of anger. Just imagine the state of the heart that would write such a thing.

What a contrast to the wisdom of the Bible. What a contrast to Colossians 3:5-17:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

What a contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God!

I’m on my way down to Mobile, Alabama where I am going to bring a few reports from the Expositors’ Conference featuring Dr. Steve Lawson and Dr. John MacArthur. I hope to check in a bit later today…

September 28, 2007

In his new book Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges writes about the important discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself every day. Realizing that many people have heard of this discipline but do not know how to practice it, he provides an overview of how he does so. I found it helpful and trust you will too. What could be more important than beginning each day with a fresh understanding of the great work of the gospel and its application to your life?

Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.

I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus’ blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf. This reliance on the twofold work of Christ for me is beautifully captured by Edward Mote in his hymn “The Solid Rock” with his words, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Almost every day, I find myself going to those words in addition to reflecting on the promises of forgiveness in the Bible.

What Scriptures do I use to preach the gospel to myself? Here are just a few I choose from each day:

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.

Whatever Scriptures we use to assure us of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that whether the passage explicitly states it or not, the only basis for God’s forgiveness is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us. As the writer of Hebrews said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22), and the context makes it clear that it is Christ’s blood that provides the objective basis on which God forgives our sins.

April 11, 2007

The day began with David Robertson speaking to us about Robert Murray McCheyne. Robertson, who currently pastors St. Peter’s Free Church, the very church of McCheyne, wrote a biography (Awakening: The Life & Ministry of Robert Murray McCheyne) of McCheyne in 1994 and shared with us some of the lessons we can learn from the all-too-short life of this great Scottish preacher.

We then turned to the second of this conference’s worship services. After Kevin Smith assisted in reading the Word, praying and leading worship, Brian Habig preached from Genesis 11:1-9.

Depravity is not an abstraction but has particular manifestations.

Why are these people building the tower? - The world’s population is increasing but is not expanding outwards as much as they could or as much as they were commanded to. The earth was still wild and people were staying where it was safe and settled. The people decided to make a name for themselves by making a city and a tower that could sustain them. They were effectively saying, “When someone comes from afar they will see this tower—our tower.” Remember that Moses originally wrote this text for a people who had just been released from Egypt and it would be difficult for them to believe that someone could actually make bricks and create huge buildings on a volunteer basis.

What does God not like it? - He is against this project because something that is natural to Him is that He wants people made in His image to spread out and fill His earth. We speak of the Great Commission but the first commission is to fill and subdue the earth. These people are simply ignoring this and do not want to fill the earth.

What does God do about it? - He does something in the short-run and something in the long-run. In the short-run, He comes down, though we don’t fully know what that means. He Himself goes to Babel and draws this conclusion: if they are already doing this and have one language, there is almost no cap on what they will come up with. So he confuses their language, making it so bewildering and confusing that they cannot finish the project and the city goes unfinished. He scatters them over the face of the earth.

In the long-run He comes as both God and man to earth. He comes as the God-man and does not just appear to walk around, but really lives here and dwells in our midst and He says things like “I have come to seek and to save the lost.” He goes to all kinds of people—the poor, women, the marginalized, etc. And finally, lays down His life for His people and is raised in glory. When He is risen from the dead He gathers his disciples together and, before He ascends, says “you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” At Pentecost you get the reversal of Babel so that all languages declare the only name worth naming. Luke goes out of his way to let us see something—he lets us see how the gospel message began to be taken to the world as the people were scattered through persecution (Acts 8). God Himself scattered them in this way.

Habig then reminded the people here that one of the founding principles of the PCA was an emphasis on the Great Commission and, while this continues to be emphasized, many PCA churches have neglected the mission field in their very backyards. We are to spread out where God has placed us. The question for pastors is this: Is that the fruit of what you’re teaching and preaching? Does your own behavior exemplify this? Do you put yourself in uncomfortable places where you will be able to meet people who need to meet the Savior (much as Jesus placed Himself in a strange place to meet the woman at the well)? The exhortation is this: place yourself unnaturally to reach people where you would not naturally go.

If you are a pastor or an elder, I think this is a message you will want to hear.

November 16, 2006

Thursday November 16, 2006

Books: My Thirsty friend describes something I know all too well: the look his wife gives him when he orders yet more books.

Christmas: Jason Furtak writes that “Merry Christmas” is back at WalMart and other major retailers this year, replacing “Happy Holidays.”

Theology: And finally, Alex Chediak points to a neuroscientific study on speaking in tongues.

Interview: Laura Spencer who writes for Associated Content has posted an interview with yours truly.

September 01, 2006


Desiring God has launched their new web site. While the site design has not changed drastically, it is a little bit cleaner and a tad more contemporary. The changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and this is often a good thing. But behind the design lurk some great new features. Rather than describe them myself, I will provide the brief summary supplied by the webmaster.

We are pleased to announce the new desiringGod.org, which we have redesigned from the ground up. We invite you to enjoy our new site and offer you this quick summary of what is new to help get you started.

Our New Site is Easier to Use

First, you will find our new website even easier to use. We want you thinking hard about what we have to say in our sermons and messages—not about how to use our site. You will find improved organization and navigation that allows you to:

  • Always know where you are on the site, and quickly get from one spot to another

  • Discover related content more easily

  • Browse our resources and products in multiple ways, such as our sermons by date, Scripture text, series, topic, occasion, or title

  • See what resources we recommend as most fully articulating our essential ideas, many featured with short audio excerpts to help give you the big picture.

  • Explore an improved topic index

  • View your search results in tabs for each site section

  • Find helpful additional information on our more detailed product pages

  • Purchase, donate, and register for conferences more easily

  • Set up an account and manage your account information more easily

  • Learn about our ministry more easily in About Us

Our New Site Has More Content

Second, you will find an even more complete library of John Piper’s resources. We have added much additional content and several new types of content in our Resource Library. You can:

  • Listen to 25 years of John Piper’s sermon audio
  • Watch videos of the sermon each week (and over the next several months we will post our entire 4-year video archive)
  • Move quickly among the audio, video, and manuscript of a message in a single interface
  • Listen to and watch the messages in a new media player
  • Begin to find more than 200 previously unposted articles and “lost” sermons, as we post them over the next several months
  • Listen to audio questions and answers
  • Listen to and watch audio and video message excerpts
  • Subscribe to our weekly sermon podcast (coming soon) and daily radio podcast

Our goal has always been to serve you by providing God-centered resources from the ministry of John Piper. Now we hope that you will find that content even more accessible and easier to use.

As a web designer I understand the difficulties inherent in upgrading such a massive site. I know also of the inevitable complaints and criticism they will receive, for people tend to react negatively (and often blindly) to change. Still, I think they did a good job on this upgrade and am confident that the site will continue to serve the Christian community. Well done, Desiring God!

Desiring God National Conference News

Here is some related news. The Desiring God National Conference has sold out. I remember noting last year that, while the main part of the auditorium was filled, there were many seats available in the overflow seating. This year they will be full!

The conference organizers write:

We rejoice that so many of you will be with us, yet we also regret that more cannot attend. If you are interested in being added to a waiting list, please contact us at 1.888.346.4700.

Please keep praying for this event, that God would be glorified and his people blessed. Audio of the conference sessions will be made available for free online just a few days after the conference.

NOTE: There will be no on-site or walk-in registration.

September 01, 2006

Several months ago I sat with my wife, discussing future goals and plans. I told her something she already knew: that I wanted someday to begin writing books. Writing runs in my blood and there are few things I enjoy more (though reading would have to come close). As evidenced by this blog, I have a great deal to say, even if I do not always say it particularly well. It made sense to me that I would target three or four years as a likely time to begin this type of formal writing. By then the children would be a little bit older and I would be, I trust, a little more disciplined and sanctified. I thought life would probably have settled down a bit.

Things change. A few months ago a couple of Christian friends, whose wisdom and godliness far exceed my own, suggested that I should think about writing now, for God had seen fit to give me an interest in a particular topic. As I began to research this topic, I found that there were no current books dealing with it. And yet there seems to be a good deal of interest in it. Sadly, many of those who seem to be accepted as experts in the field show great misunderstandings of the heart of the issue.

And so it was that I decided to submit a book proposal to a publishing company for whom I have a great deal of respect. I learned just a few days ago that my proposal has been accepted. The paperwork has been completed and all that now remains is for me to write the book. Tentatively titled The Discipline of Discernment, it will be published by Crossway, likely sometime in late 2007 or early 2008. It will be written for the “thoughtful general reader” (i.e. people like you and me) and will lead Christians with what I hope and trust will be helpful, biblical teaching about spiritual discernment.

You may recall that a few months ago I posted an article summarizing an interview I conducted with an expert in the field of counterfeit currency. In the hour or two we spent together, the point that struck me most was when she asked me if I am careful to always inspect the money I am given. I was surprised by this question and told her I did not realize that there was such an expectation. I simply did not know that the government expects that each of us will inspect money before accepting it. But as she patiently explained, once money has been accepted, it will not be replaced if it is found to be counterfeit. Once I accept it, I become responsible for it. In my mind, this stood as a metaphor for the church today. So few people are discerning because so few even realize it is a God-given expectation. It is my hope, my prayer, that I can encourage Christians to begin the discipline of discernment.

The reason I post this information is not to ask for congratulations or pats on the back for managing to secure a book deal. Rather, I post it to request your prayers. This is a major undertaking for me and I am both thrilled and terrified as I look at the 10 or 15 pages I’ve written and the 150 blank ones that still need to be filled. I know that this project will depend on prayer, without which I will get nowhere and accomplish nothing. And so I ask if you would consider praying for me over the next several months as I study Scripture and attempt to draw out biblical principles related to discernment. I ask you, because without you reading this site, there would have been no book to begin with. Your support, through visiting this site, has allowed this book to happen. And so I humbly ask you to pray that God would give me clarity of thought and the ability to communicate effectively. Pray most of all that He will glorified in all I do and all I write. Without His blessing this undertaking means nothing.

I hope to dedicate Fridays predominantly to writing (beginning today!) and wonder if you would consider marking Friday as a day you pray specifically for this book. I truly believe that Christians need some good teaching on this topic. I have nothing to offer but what Scripture says. I want to saying nothing other than what God says. If you would help me in this by holding me up before the throne, I’d be forever grateful.