Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy Belated Birthday, Earth

Speaking of the earth, did anyone else besides me forget to wish it a Happy 6009th Birthday on Monday? Well, according to some, we should have.

It was on that day, October 23rd, in the year 4004 BC, that God (allegedly) created the world. Well, that is, according to James Ussher (1581-1656) (Anglican archbishop of Armagh, Ireland; Primate of All Ireland; and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin) in his book, The Annals of the World (circa 1658).

That means, according to Mr. Ussher, Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise on Monday, November 10, 4004 BC; and Noah's ark touched down on Mt. Ararat on May 5, 2348 BC (that was a Wednesday, bye the way).

So, Happy Belated 6009th Birthday, Earth.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Earth, The Environment, And The Church?!

Humans Will Need Two Earths; Global ‘Footprint’ Left by Consumption is Growing (
Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 if current trends continue.

What should be the Church's, the Body of Christ's, (Biblical) response?

Alarm? Action? Ignore/dismiss it? Simply chalk it up to the enviro-wackos? What?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Humble Orthodoxy

Some great resources on living a life of humility:

How to Disagree with Other Chistians - Humbly (Pastor Mark Lauterbauch, Grace Church, San Diego, CA)

Humble Orthodoxy (MP3) (Pastor Joshua Harris, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD)

Humility: True Greatness (Pastor CJ Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries) and audio message (MP3)

More Great Quotes: Why Doctrine Matters!


"As a man is known by the company he keeps, so it is with a doctrine." (Correspondence, 1934, Arthur W. Pink)

"If Error be harmless, then Truth must needs be useless." (Baptist pastor, Abraham Booth [1734-1806])

"A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent." (John Calvin)

Previously Posted, 8/1/06

"There is nothing which is so wrong, and so utterly false, as to fail to see the primary importance of true doctrine. Looking back over my experience as a pastor for some thirty-four years, I can testify without the slightest hesitation that the people I have found most frequently in trouble in their spiritual experience have been those who have lacked understanding. You cannot divorce these things." (Heresies, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

"When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth, - when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us, - when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the thing abides in our hearts - when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for - then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men (Preface to The Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated [1655], in The Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, Vol. 1 [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965])

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"
(Abraham Kuyper [1837-1920], inaugural address at the dedication of the Free University)

"How is God's name hallowed among us? When both our doctrine and living are truly Christian." (Martin Luther, Larger Catechism)

Previously Posted, 3/4/06

"A nontheological faith cannot explain itself, but too theological a faith loses contact with the reason for its existence. . . . Too much enthusiastic faith without a corresponding degree of theological understanding is almost certain to lead to error, perhaps to serious heresy. Too much doctrine unaccompanied by a living and growing faith is the recipe for dead orthodoxy." (Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, pg. 154)

"It is of exceedingly great importance that we should have right notions and conceptions of the nature, attributes, and perfections of God. It is the very foundations of all religion, both doctrinal and practical; it is to no purpose to worship God, except we know what we worship. . . . It is impossible we should love, fear, and obey God as we ought, except we know what He is, and have right ideas of His perfections, that render Him lovely and worthy to be feared and obeyed." (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723 [Vol. 10], pgs. 416-418)

Do you have any you'd suggest be added? Please let me know!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Accepted by Him: Amazing Love, Amazing Grace!

It is because Jesus Christ cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Matt. 27:46) that I am now able to cry out, "My God, my God, why have you accepted me?!"

It was He who, in love, chose me; adopting me in Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace. And that, not because of anything about me, but according to His good pleasure. (Eph. 1: 3-6)

"Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" (Hymn, Amazing Love, Charles Wesley)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Church Music: A Checklist

What type of music is appropriate for church worship services? While the question is simple enough, the answers given are often both complex and controversial. Yet, the question is a crucial one to consider because music is a central part of Christian worship. If our music does not please the Lord, neither will the worship that music is intended to produce.

So how can churches be God-honoring in the music they use? In order to answer this question correctly, we must begin by looking to the principles of God’s Word. Neither personal preferences nor cultural trends can be our guide. Even in the area of music, Scripture must be our authority.

Below are ten questions that pastors and church leaders (along with the congregation as a whole) should ask about the worship music they use. Drawn directly from biblical principles, these questions may not answer every specific case, but they do provide a theological checklist for examining church music.

1. Is Your Church Music God-Focused? Without question, true worship must be God-centered (Ex. 20:3–6) for He alone is worthy of our praise (Ps. 148:13). He deserves our most fervent devotion and our highest priority. He is our exalted King and He must have center stage. Anything short of God-centered worship is idolatry (cf. Jer. 2:13, 27–28), and false worship is clearly unacceptable (Deut. 12:29–31; 16:21–22; Gal. 5:19–21).

Because the purpose of church music is to provide a vehicle for worship, it must be God-focused rather than man-centered (cf. Ps. 27:6; 150:3–4). Any other purposes or priorities are secondary. From the style and performance to the audience and their reaction, nothing should ever usurp God’s place as the supreme object of our affection. Because biblical worship demands a God-centered focus, church music (if it is to legitimately be called worship music) must begin and end with Him.

2. Does Your Church Music Promote a High View of God? It is not enough for church music to merely focus on God, if the view of God presented is inadequate. Too many Christian songs come dangerously close to violating the commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7) by treating Him in a common, almost mundane fashion.

Music that is worthy of our Savior must promote an accurate and exalted view of who He is (cf. Is. 40:12–26). Throughout Scripture, all who encountered the living God were radically changed (Moses in Ex. 33–34; Isaiah in Is. 6; Peter, James, and John during the Transfiguration in Matt. 17). There was nothing ordinary about the Lord they saw or the trembling worship-filled response they had. Our music then, if it is to facilitate heartfelt worship, must clearly convey the majesty, glory, and honor of God (cf. Heb. 10:31; Rom. 11:33–36; Rev. 14:7).

3. Is Your Church Music Orderly? The God whom we serve is a God of order. This is most clearly seen in His creation of the world, where He brought form and function out of a watery mass (Gen. 1; cf. Rom. 1:20). It is no surprise, then, that the Apostle Paul commands the Corinthians that “all things [in the church] must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Cor. 14:40).

Along these same lines, Ephesians 5:18 commands believers to continually be under the control of the Holy Spirit at all times. Church music, then, should never encourage participants to exchange the control of the Spirit for the control of some other force—be it emotional, psychological, or other. Rather, church members are to be under the influence of the Spirit-empowered Word of God (cf. Col. 3:16). Mindless emotionalism, often hyped up by repetition and “letting go,” comes closer to the paganism of the Gentiles (cf. Matt. 6:7) than to any form of biblical worship.

4. Is the Content of Your Church Music Biblically Sound? While instrumental music is certainly appropriate during the worship service (cf. 2 Chr. 5:13), most church music includes lyrical content. At the very least, these lyrics should be both intelligible and biblically accurate—readily conveying Scriptural truth to all who sing them (cf. Eph. 5:19–20).

Beyond accurate, lyrics should also be clear and in keeping with the biblical context. For example, songs that come from the Old Testament (even when the lyrics are directly cited from a passage) should not be made to apply to the church today if they only apply to Israel before Christ. (An excellent example of this is when Psalm 51:11 is sung without any explanation of the context.)

Lyrics should never be trite or flippant in their treatment of great biblical themes. Instead, church music (no matter the style) should deepen the biblical and theological understanding of the congregation. A song that is inaccurate, out-of-context, or trite only hinders the spiritual growth of those who sing it.

5. Does Your Church Music Promote Unity in Your Church? As noted above, the primary goal of church music is worship. Yet, Scripture also speaks of Christian songs as a form of edification (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19–20). Because the church is a body (1 Cor. 12), our worship toward God includes our service towards others (Rom. 12:1–9).

The goal of corporate worship then is to glorify God while serving others. With this in mind, the right approach to church music never selfishly demands personal preference, but always looks out for the interests of others (Php. 2:1–4). Moreover, if something we do tempts a fellow Christian to fall into sin, we must proceed with great caution and care (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8).

6. Is Your Church Music Performed with Excellence? Church music, along with everything else we do, should be done for the glory and honor of God (1 Cor. 10:31). As our perfect Master and loving Father, He certainly deserves the very best that we can offer. To give Him anything less falls far short of what He demands. Even Old Testament Israel was expected to give the first and the best to the Lord (cf. Lev. 1–7; Num. 18:32).

Needless to say, if it bears His name, it’s worth our best. While a church may not have the resources to hire a full orchestra or recruit a large band, the music should still be done whole-heartedly and with excellence. Music that is not sincere, from a pure heart, is not worship (Ps. 24:3–4; Amos 5:23). And music that is done without excellence is usually distracting, thereby taking away from the God-centered atmosphere essential to true worship.

7. Does Your Church Music Prepare Your People for the Preaching of God’s Word? Second Timothy 4:2 commands us to “Preach the Word!” Just a few verses earlier, the Apostle Paul expounds on the sufficiency of Scripture and its importance in our lives (2 Tim. 3:16–17). It is only through God’s Word that we learn about Him; it is only through the Bible that God reveals Himself to us. The Scripture, therefore, must be the centerpiece of corporate worship—providing both the construct and the climax.

For this reason, times of singing (when God’s people speak to Him) should never overshadow or eclipse preaching (when God speaks to His people through His Word). Instead, worship through song should compliment the proclamation of the truth. Church music that takes place before the sermon should prepare the congregation for what the Holy Spirit wants them to hear. And church music that follows the sermon should be an appropriate response to what has just been received (cf. Col. 3:16–17).

8. Does Your Church Music Adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The New Testament model of church life implies that the local assembly is to primarily function as a place of worship and edification (cf. Acts 2:41–42). Evangelism, on the other hand, is expected of believers “as they go” throughout the rest of their daily activities (Matt. 28:18–20).

This being said, the local church (as an assembly of Christians) must still present a good testimony before a watching world (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23–25). After all, Paul commands us to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10), and Peter exhorts us to “proclaim the excellencies” of God (1 Peter 2:9). Church music, then, should be a wonderful witness to the greatness of our Lord and Savior. It should never tarnish His reputation or confuse unbelievers as to what the gospel teaches.

9. Does Your Church Music Promote Passionate Worship? As noted earlier, church music must be God-focused, reverently presenting Him in all of His majesty. At the same time, it should never be boring, dry, or stale. After all, God is not boring. And heaven (where the primary occupation is worship) is also not boring (cf. Rev. 4–5).

While maintaining a proper respect for God, biblical worship is always brimming with personal passion and Christ-exalting emotion (cf. 1 Chr. 15:29; 16:4–6). Of course, the expression of this passion will manifest itself differently in different congregations. Furthermore, this passion must be expressed in an orderly, Spirit-controlled manner. Nonetheless, passionless worship—sounding more like a lullaby than a glorious anthem—is not really worship at all (John 4:23).

10. Is Your Church’s Philosophy of Music Based on Biblical Principle? Although numerous preferences and opinions exist, your church’s philosophy of music must be based on biblical principles. Church leaders should not simply adhere to certain standards because they have always done so. Nor should they blindly permit any type of music to be played in their church services. Instead, they should search the Scriptures (like the Bereans of Acts 17:11), determining the biblical principles that undergird a right philosophy of music in worship.

Once the principles have been established, the music leader has the liberty to apply those principles in different ways depending on the specific needs of his congregation. In the end, pastors must be careful not to exalt personal preference to the same level as biblical principle, or to ignore biblical principles under the assumption that everything about church music is preferential.

(This article was originally written by Nathan Busenitz, for Pulpit Magazine, and was later republished as an addendum in John MacArthur's Fool's Gold? [Crossway, 2005]).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Contrast in Esteem: Self- or God-Esteem?

In our world today, we often hear believers saying, "God is on my side! He wants me to feel good about myself and have a positive vision for my life;" and/or praying, "God, I thank You . . . that I have discipline and self-control, and that I can make good decisions."

In contrast, it was Apostle Paul who told the church,

"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Romans 7:14-24 (ESV)

What a difference! Perhaps the Apostle Paul should "get with it" and join the 21st Century, eh?! I mean, it's God who wants us to feel good about ourselves, right?! Riiiiiiiiight.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reformed Bloggers Encouraged; Challenged

Dr. Andrew Jackson, a friend of mine, and creator and blogger of, recently reflected on his perception that some "Reformed and Calvinistic blogs ... often portray and attack Arminian theology as being almost heretical." He has encourage Reformed bloggers to read Roger E. Olson's book, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.

I'm curious.

If you are a Reformed/Calvinistic blogger, do you plan to take up Dr. Jackson's challenge?

And for those that may have already read the book, what are your thoughts of the book?

And for everyone - what do you think of Dr. Andrew's assessment/perception regarding "Reformed/Calvinistic" blogs?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

When Will I; When Will We . . . ?

When Will I (we) . . .

~Take more precious my relationship with Christ than my relationship with recurrent sin(s)?

~Find my Savior more lovely than I do my sin?

~Allow His kingdom to come and rule in my actions, and His will be done; rather than my kingdom and my will?

~Be as aggrieved by my sin as He is?

~Rather in my heart to aggrieve my sin, than to aggrieve Him?

~Be holy even as He is holy?

~Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness rather than only doing so when it's convenient or best suits my needs?

~Rather boast in the cross of Christ, instead of my job, my salary, the car that I drive, the house in which I live, or my family and its position in the community?

~Answer His call to die (to my sin), in order that I may truly live?

~Default in faith; rather than in doubt?

~Be more in love with Christ and the grace He's given, than in love with my sin?

~Rather be bound to Him, than demand my freedom to exercise my will?

~Be in such a state of antithesis with the world of man that it becomes the thesis of my life?

~See that everything this world has to offer is nothing when compared to His riches in glory?

~Live as a mere sojourner in this land, recognizing my residence is elsewhere?

~Daily live the truth that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world?

~Stop accepting (or acquiescing) to a paper mache crown when I've been promised one of gold?

~Stop substituting the truth for a lie?

~Choose to no longer be so reluctant to live by faith and not by sight?

~Give even a fraction of trust to God and His providence as I do to nearly any chair in which I sit without giving even a scintilla of thought as to whether it will hold and sustain, and not fail, me?

~Finally relinquish the driver's seat (or the remote control, eh guys?!) of my life to Him?

How about you? What do you ask yourself?

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou has brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox - that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Arthur Bennett (Banner Of Truth, 1988)