Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Voice at Piper's

I've posted here before about my friend Curtis Allen, aka rap artist "Voice," and his work. Voice just came out with a new record called The Crucible. You can learn more and listen at www.ihearvoice.com. You can also read an interview with Voice that Justin Taylor did a while back.

But here's something truly mind-blowing. Voice was given the chance to join the worshippers at Bethlehem Baptist Church and share his song "Unstoppable" at their Sunday meeting. Check this video out.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Change Happens Because of the Gospel

Today I'm working on a message I'll be giving to the small-group leaders of our church. The theme is "change." We're taking two days away to talk about sanctification, how God's Spirit works in us to change us and conform us to his image. The main goal of my message, which opens the retreat, is to remind us all that the basis of the ongoing work of change is the finished work of Jesus who died and rose again for our justification.

In his book The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges quotes nineteenth-century Scottish pastor and author, Horatius Bonar. Read this slowly and let its truth sink in:

The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily [communion] with a crucified and risen Lord. All divine life, and all precious fruits of it, pardon, peace, and holiness, spring from the cross. All fancied sanctification which does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross is nothing better than Pharisaism. If we would be holy, we must get to the cross, and dwell there; else, notwithstanding all our labor, diligence, fasting, praying and good works, we shall be yet void of real sanctification, destitute of those humble, gracious tempers which accompany a clear view of the cross. False ideas of holiness are common, not only among those who profess false religions, but among those who profess the true. The love of God to us, and our love to Him, work together for producing holiness. Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to god’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.

God calls us to participate, to cooperate with the work of his Spirit and, empowered by his grace, to work diligently. But all this labor must be founded on the objective reality of free pardon.

What sin are you struggling against? Anger? Lust? Anxiety? Do you long for a sense of pardon, peace and greater holiness? These fruits spring from the cross. You will only see real lasting change as you believe and apply what Jesus has done for you through his death for you. He has loved you with a perfect love. It is not the result of your works. It is a free gift. Turning from this truth as some sort of twisted self-inflicted punishment will only drive you further from the grace needed to change. Have you ever tried that? “I can’t think about grace, I need to feel condemned for a week as punishment.” It doesn’t work. As Bonar put it, "No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will."

No, but "the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches."

I pray whatever sin you're facing will be uprooted as you believe and trust "the free pardon of the cross."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Dynamic, Speaking Word of God

During my devotions today, I read this passage in J.I Packer’s book God Has Spoken. It filled me with fresh love for God’s word, and faith to preach His word. On this Lord’s Day, I hope this motivates you to take to heart and apply the word you heard preached today in your local church:

The “Word of the Lord” conveyed by the prophets in their oracles, and the “Word of God” set forth by the apostles in their sermons, was always a word applying directly to its hearers, summoning them to recognize that God Himself was thereby addressing them, calling on them to respond to His instruction and direction, and working in them through God’s own Spirit to evoke the response which it required (cf.1 Thess. 2:13). Similarly, the Bible as a whole, viewed from the standpoint of its contents, should be thought of, not statically, but dynamically; not merely as what God said long ago, but in general as what He says still; and not merely as what He says to men in general, but as what He says to each individual reader or hearer in particular. In other words, Holy Scripture should be thought of as God preaching—God preaching to me every time I read or hear any part of it—God the Father preaching God the Son in the power of God the Holy Spirit. God the Father is the giver of Holy Scripture; God the Son is the theme of Holy Scripture; and God the Spirit, as the Father’s appointed agent in witnessing to the Son, is the author, authenticator, and interpreter of Holy Scripture.

Doesn’t this truth excite you to study God’s word and hear it preached? God is speaking right now, today, through his word.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sex Is Not The Problem Reviewed

For anyone interested, Tim Challies just reviewed my book Sex is not the Problem (Lust Is).

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Double-Edged Sword of Technology

This week on our pastors’ retreat we studied a portion of David Wells’ book Above All Earthly Powers. In the first chapter, he describes the two-edged sword of technology that has made possible incredible advances and opportunities, and how it has “now become a profoundly psychological reality.” I found his observations intriguing. It is not just a physical conquest of nature--technology crowds in on, shapes, and influences our mental and emotional state. He writes,

The benefits of technology all come packaged in values—values which are naturalistic and materialistic. These fill the air, quite literally, all the time. We find no solitude. We have no escape. The experience of this new culture is intense and intrusive in ways that older cultures never were.

He goes on to describe how technology tends to push us to only think about means, how to do things better and faster:

And everything in life is then evaluated by this same standard: what is done better and faster must be right. This leads, for example, to books on spirituality that read like the owner’s manual for operating a machine, replete with steps, easy-to-follow directions, and practical “how-to-do-it” formulae. In so reducing the greatness of God and of his truth to formulae and rational steps, this mindset makes of Christian faith a small, this-worldly, manageable formula for success which, in the end, comes to differ every little from all the of the other small, manageable formulae for success of the secular therapeutic kind which are also on the market.” (Pages 35- 36)

I’d never really contemplated how the advances of technology can shape my view of other parts of my life--particularly faith. But what Wells describes here is very true, and it might explain why the church today often chases down the latest spiritual fad with the same zeal that consumers run after the newest cell phone or iPod. We want “new” in every other part of life, so why not faith?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Domesticating God

My mentor, CJ Mahaney, frequently cites D.A. Carson’s book The Cross and Christian Ministry as the most influential book in shaping his view of pastoral ministry. If that doesn’t make you want to check it out, here’s a compelling quotation to whet your appetite:

In other words, the message of the cross is nothing other than God’s way of doing what he said he would do: by the cross, God sets aside and shatters all human pretensions to strength and wisdom.

This is a central theme of Scripture. God made us to gravitate toward him, to acknowledge with joy and obedience that he is the center of all, that he alone is God. The heart of our wretched rebellion is that each of us wants to be number one. We make ourselves the center of all our thoughts and hopes and imaginings. This vicious lust to be first works its way outward not only in hatred, war, rape, greed, covetousness, malice, bitterness, and much more, but also in self-righteousness, self-promotion, manufactured religions, and domesticated gods.

We ruefully acknowledge how self-centered we are after we have had an argument with someone. Typically, we mentally conjure up a rerun of the argument, thinking up all the things we could have said, all the things we should have said. In such reruns, we always win. After an argument, have you ever conjured up a rerun in which you lost?

Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our needs.” (Pages 14-15)

By the way, this is an excellent book for any Christian--not just pastors and leaders.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dylan's No Prophet

Our church is studying 1 Corinthians. The first few chapters focus on the fact that worldly wisdom and God’s wisdom revealed in the cross cannot be reconciled. This quote from Bob Dylan during his “Christian phase” is a telling example of how worldly wisdom always rejects the gospel no matter how cool the messenger:

Years ago they used to say I was a prophet. I'd say, "No, I'm not a prophet." They'd say, "Yes, you are a prophet." "No, it's not me." They used to convince me I was a prophet. Now I come out and say, "Jesus is the answer." [And now] they say, "Bob Dylan? He's no prophet." They just can't handle that. (Quoted in Bob Dylan's Unshakeable Monotheism -- Part III: The 1980s, by Scott Marshall.)

I don’t know the full story of Bob Dylan’s faith. Does he claim any kind of faith in Christ today? If anyone knows or can point me to an article, I’d be grateful. Anybody have his latest album? If he’s no longer a Christian, I guess he’s back to being a “prophet” in the world’s eyes.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Slight & Short

This month, the magazine Christianity Today featured a cover story on young, theologically reformed pastors. I was anxious to read it because I’d been interviewed for the article and, if they quoted me, I hoped that I would come across as deep and profound. As it turned out, they did quote me. But my dreams of profundity died when, in the midst of the article, I encountered the following sentence describing me. It read, and I quote, “Slight and short, Harris doesn’t stick out in crowds.”

Now, I know I’m short. And I don’t mind acknowledging that fact. But it was something new to be called slight and short in the same sentence. And, to be honest, “slight” was a new word for me. I wasn’t totally sure what it meant. So I looked it up in my dictionary.

You know, the great thing about dictionaries is that they list various definitions for words. So I was planning to pick the most favorable definition and hopefully salvage my dignity. But here were my options:

1. Small in degree, inconsiderable
2. Not profound or substantial; somewhat trivial or superficial
3. Not sturdy and strongly built

That wasn’t working out real well, so I turned to the thesaurus. I was hoping that maybe there was some distantly related synonym for slight like “buff” or “stud muffin” that I could claim. But here’s what I found. Synonyms for slight: small, tiny, minute, inappreciable, negligible, insignificant, minimal, remote, slim, faint, minor, inconsequential, trivial, unimportant, lightweight, superficial, shallow, slender, petite, delicate, dainty.

Dainty?! Man, I think I’ll stick with “slight.”

While I nurse my worthless and wounded pride, I would recommend checking out the Christianity Today article. I think its author, Collin Hansen, did a great job. The trend his article spotlights encourages me, and I pray it will continue. After you read it, I’d love for you to comment here and share your impression of it. Please feel free to share how the article does or doesn’t reflect your own theological journey.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Piper and Driscoll are Friends

I'm grateful that Pastor Mark has posted this note and email exchange showing the unity between these two men. I hope the people who appreciate both of them will rejoice in and reflect this gospel partnership.

(HT: JT)

CJ on Desiring God Conference

Here's CJ's take on the conference.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Follow Up on Piper/Driscoll

I didn't get to attend the final session of the conference because I was speaking at the local Sovereign Grace Church in Minneapolis. But I have heard that it was the best message of the conference. I'd love to have comments from those who were there.

And, in an expression of real humility, Piper acknowledged that he's not above his own version of cleverness. Van.Diesel posted the following comment that describes it:
i thought it was interesting that at the begining of piper's teaching at the last session of the conference, he referenced the point he had made to driscoll specifically regarding driscoll's cleverness in style and delivery. pastor john then shared something someone had pointed out to him after he encouraged driscoll on that point; piper's own cleverness rests in his ability to "do" theology. piper humbly conceded the point, and expressed his own desire to be relevant. i thought it very becoming of him.

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