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My Uncle’s Eulogy: A Gospel Moment

Funerals are for the living. Funerals are also gospel moments. This is the text of my uncle’s eulogy that I preached on March 31, 2016.  My uncle, Lennox Minors, passed from this life on March 24, 2016 at the age of 75.

I’ve been tasked today with saying a few words. It’s been a bit difficult to gather my thoughts because my thoughts have been everywhere lately. The cares of life regarding work and career have been weighing on me, weighing on my friends and weighing on some of you. I know some of your own personal struggles because we keep in contact. I’ve had three friends or associates lose relatives in the past two weeks – two of them, a brother and sister – lost their mom and just yesterday, the insurance company informed them that insurance will not cover the cost of the funeral or cemetery fees. My friend and fraternity brother Hugh just lost his house and belongings and his downstairs roommate to a fire at his house in Gaitherburg – a few of you might have seen it on the news Tuesday night.  A friend of mine of seventeen years passed a few days before Lennox did – his funeral service is also today (right now, in fact) in Virginia and I was originally going to be there until Lennox died. A high school classmate of mine lost her twin brother the same day Lennox died.

So the troubles of this world are not unique to us individually. They are a shared part of the human collective and human experience.  We all experience loss, disappointment, death, depression, loneliness, anger and sadness, grief, and more. The real question is this – what do we do now ? What does this death – Lennox’s death – mean for us right now ?

I believe, according to scripture, it gives us an opportunity for perspective and reflection. It gives us an opportunity to consider the God of the Universe, His ways, His creation, His goodness and what He expects of us in light of this time in our lives and the moment of our being assembled together.

I want to point you Godward, first and foremost. Consider His ways. Ephesians 1:11 reminds us that God works all things according to the counsel of His will. He does not consult with angels on how the world will be run. He is in control. He does not wait until we act and then react like a chess player – the game is already set, the moves on the board are already known to Him including both what is possible and what will ACTUALLY happen. Nothing catches Him off guard or by surprise. He is not in a ‘fight’ with Satan for souls as if He and His creation are equals. That view gives Satan too much credit and power.

Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson in Daniel 4. After bragging in his arrogance about how he built up Babylon, God struck him so that for seven years, he crawled on all fours like an animal and ate straw. Nebuchadnezzar stated:

” At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”

Let these words also in Ecclesiastes 3 sink in:

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God will call the past to account.

Seek to understand what has been said here by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. Every period of life is ordained by God. Every time – joy, pain, sunshine and rain. I want you to reflect for a moment on the words “He has made everything beautiful in its’ time. He has put eternity into man’s heart so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” Consider His ways. God has put a vast and unending ‘unknowing’ in the heart of man so that men cannot find out what God is doing from beginning to the end. This should remind us to be humble in the face of pain and sorrow. Too often during these times, we can be tempted – either by external pain or internal pain – to conclude that since whatever God is doing at the moment is not something we can understand or not something we would expect a loving God to do, then God is not worthy of our worship, service and devotion. It is easy to serve God when the wine is flowing, the children are laughing and the sun is shining.

Consider His ways. Solomon reminds us that these wonderful and beautiful times are indeed a gift from God. He states “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Lennox embodied much of these two verses with his life. He was definitely joyful – always with a joke, a song, a song with a joke included, always looking for opportunities to make the people around him laugh, always cooking (he loved to feed people when they came over to visit). He took the time to help relatives as he could – I remember a recent time that my mother, his sister, left her keys in a co-worker’s car and couldn’t get into her house. Len provided shelter and food for her like a good older brother should do for his baby sister. Growing up, I remember quite a few times Len did things like that for various family members. Lennox worked hard – I believe I got some of my work ethic from watching him, my grandmother, my mother and my other uncle Rupert. All of them were serious about getting work done and making sure the work was done well. Len spent many years when he first came up to the US spray painting cars in a body shop. I think I asked him about the process of painting cars somewhere around age 10, but I didn’t fully understand the process. All I remember was “that’s a lot of work!”. He enjoyed his job. He took pleasure in it – as scripture says we are to do. Many years during Thanksgiving, he invited my mother, grandmother and I and Lennox over to his long-time apartment in Parkside. Many laughs were had at that table. Many stomachs were full. Much dancing and singing also happened.

These things are a gift from God to us. They are a sign of His goodness toward us. God caused the sun to rise and fall on Len for 70+ years. During that time, countless people were shown hospitality and goodness through the gift of Lennox Minors. Reflect on them and consider His ways. He is good. He has been good to all of us.

Consider your own way in light of God’s goodness. Moses has written in Psalm 90:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
 throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born
 or you brought forth the whole world,
 from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust,
 saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”

A thousand years in your sight
 are like a day that has just gone by,
 or like a watch in the night.

Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:

In the morning it springs up new,
 but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by your anger
 and terrified by your indignation.

You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence.

All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we finish our years with a moan.

10 Our days may come to seventy years,
 or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
 for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
 Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.

12 Teach us to number our days,
 that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Moses gives us a glimpse into the other side of the equation – the frailty and delicateness of life. Each of us in this room is one heartbeat away from standing in the presence of God and giving an account for the life that we have lived.

Consider your own relative goodness in light of God’s goodness mentioned in Ecclesiastes. Why does a good God say “return to death you mortals” ? Why are we consumed by His anger and indignation ? Why should we consider (v. 11) His the power of His wrath and the fear that is due to Him ? Why is there death in the first place ?

God speaking through David says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
 but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is that same fear mentioned in v. 11 that Moses says is due or owed to God. At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums up the entire matter: Now all has been heard;
  here is the conclusion of the matter:
 Fear God and keep his commandments,
 for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, 
including every hidden thing,
 whether it is good or evil.

To fear God is to hold Him, His ways and His Word with reverence AND to hold a healthy fearfulness of Him. It is all of these things. It is the equivalent of being stuck in a F-5 tornado and finding a place of safety where you can observe the power of the storm without being torn away by its wrath. A scary experience, but one that will instantly teach you respect and reverence for the power of a storm.

Look back at verses 8 and 9: You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we finish our years with a moan.

 You must understand: Death exists for two reasons. Death exists because of sin – yours and mine – and because God is good and just. What is sin ? The failure to do what God has commanded be done and the doing of what God has said not to do. In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam to not eat of the fruit of the tree containing the knowledge of good and evil, Adam disobeyed, the penalty was death. He was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and work became toil. All of creation was thrown into what scripture calls “futility” – you plant a rose bush, thorns pop up in addition to the rose. Grass is here in the morning, scorched away by the hot sun later in the day – at least over in some middle eastern countries it is. Worse, that action of sin which brought about physical death also brought about spiritual death and separation from this same good, Holy God. As a result, men and women die. Animals die. Plants die and decay. So sin isn’t just an action – it’s a condition that permeates all of humanity. Death and decay taint all of creation so that, as Romans 8 says, the creation itself groans for the day it will be free from corruption and decay. This is why instead of gentle rains to fix dried out crops, we get flash floods; instead of gentle winds to carry seeds from here to there to begin life anew, we get violent storms ripping the trees from the ground.

You may say “kinda harsh of God to do ?” Understand – God is 100% good. There is no evil in Him. Because God is good, He is also completely just. JUST meaning that He, as the only true and righteous judge in the universe, will not let sin “slide” by. If He did, He would not be good or just. He would be a corrupt judge with an uneven scale for judging. Be thankful He is not a corrupt judge – He has stated repeatedly that He will judge the world. Every corrupt politician – including the ones we voted for – will all give account to God for their actions. Every unsolved murder has not escaped His eye – every murderer will stand before Him and give account. Every theft, every lie, every evil thought and intention – are all included in what God will bring into judgment. Remember: He is a GOOD judge.

In addition, consider the following – in our legal system, the penalty for a lie varies with the degree of honor and seriousness of the situation. If I lie to my mother as a child, I may get a spanking. If I lie to my teacher as a teenager, I may get a suspension. If I lie to my boss, I may get fired. If I lie to the police, I may get arrested. If I lie before a judge, I may get jail time for perjury. So what happens when I lie to the Creator of the Universe whose very essence and being is truth and truthfulness ?

In light of this, consider your own relative goodness. People often say “only God can judge me” or “God knows my heart” as if this is a source of comfort when Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. What happens when your heart, thoughts and motivations – all of them – are laid bear and open before the Creator of the Universe ?

Consider your own relative goodness in light of His perfection.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches the gathered crowds that the standard of righteousness they’d been taught by tradition was not God’s standard. They’d been taught (in the righteousness system developed by the Pharisees) that to ‘look’ at a woman 2 times would not be considered lust. So they made that second look last for a little while. Jesus cuts through these external acts of righteousness and tells them “if you look upon a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery in your heart”.   Don’t be so quick to condemn the Pharisee – how many times have you heard someone say “It’s okay to look as long as you don’t do anything ?” or “I was just admiring her or his beauty ?

The Pharisees had a righteousness code that also stated that as long as you didn’t physically harm the person, you were free to call him “a son of a worthless person who deserves not to exist”. In Aramaic, there was one word that carried this meaning; RACA! Jesus attacked this too – a murderous attitude in the heart is still murder in the eyes of God. The penalty on earth may be different because the physical act hadn’t taken place, but God judges the intentions of the heart as well as the physical actions.

I taught middle school for ten years and have also taught high school for four years before that, going back to teaching high school again this year. A favorite refrain from lying students is “I swear to God I’m telling the truth”. You’ve heard it from adults as well: “Read my lips; no new taxes!” and “I did not have sex with that woman”.

Again, nothing new – the Pharisees had this same righteousness code, only they would swear by things (heaven, earth, Jerusalem, their own heads, the temple, etc….). They would make these ornate and over the top oaths in order to make themselves appear as righteous truth tellers. Jesus made the issue simple: tell the truth. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Swearing by “stuff” is placing more value and reverence in that ‘stuff’ than in the God who gives you breath to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Anything further is from the evil one.

Well, everybody lies, you might say. Everybody breaks one of these commandments at one point or another, right ? We should still be okay ? Right ?

Psalm 130:3 states “if you, Lord, kept a record of sins….Lord, who would stand ?”

Isaiah 64:6 states “All our righteousness before you is as filthy rags.” Think disposable “rags” used once a month.

Jesus sets the standard, dovetailing back to what I mentioned earlier: the Pharisees redefined what ‘neighbor’ meant and believed that your ‘neighbor’ and your ‘enemy’ could not be the same person. So you were free to ‘hate your enemy’.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Again, don’t be quick to condemn the Pharisees – it’s election season. There is a ton of ‘hate the republicans, they’re not one of us’ and ‘hate the democrats, they’re not one of us’ speech flying back and forth on social media, television and radio. People have cut off and hated family members and long time friends over political disagreements over the past 8-12 years. Nothing new. It’s the same problem.

If the standard is perfection as God is good and perfect – and it is – none of us by our own works, have a righteous standing before God. None. James reminds us in chapter 2 that if someone breaks one of the laws, they are guilty of breaking all of the laws.

God being good and just, will deal with all of these sins. I may have stepped on your toes with these words. This is a time to reflect and consider your ways before the God of the Universe. This is a moment to “take stock of your life” as my grandmother – Lennox’s mother – used to say….or as Moses has stated “number your days so that you may gain a heart of wisdom”.

The Bible also tells us that God is exceedingly gracious and patient, even toward those who continually break His laws. This perfect life of perfect law-keeping that you and I were not capable of keeping and doing was done perfectly by one. That one is the One whose perfect life, death and resurrection was celebrated last weekend.

Consider the call of God to repent.

Let me put this another way for you. Suppose you are on trial for a capital crime. The judge reads your charges to you, presents evidence of your guilt in detail, even getting into the inner thoughts of your mind that show you were guilty…. To the point where you couldn’t do anything else but plead guilty….. and then the judge declares you guilty…. Brings out HIS OWN SON to take your penalty…. His son, who was innocent of the crime you were guilty of… went off in your place to face capital punishment. And then…. The Judge comes down off of the bench, takes His robe off, places it around you, takes you home with him and calls you his SON.

This is what God did for sinners like you and I. This is what Jesus’s life – His perfectly obeying the law of God on behalf of those who place their full faith and trust in Him – death – taking the penalty of God’s wrath in full while on the cross in the place of people like you and I who deserved that instead – and His resurrection – rising from the dead to show that the sacrifice was complete AND accepted – meant last weekend, this week and every day we are alive.

Paul writing in Romans 2 warn both Jew and non-Jew alike in the church at Rome that the goodness of God leads to repentance, but for the unrepentant, you are storing up wrath for the day of judgment.

God has not given you this life to waste getting drunk, pursuing pleasure outside of God’s appointed means, and pursuing riches and ‘things’ as though they are the sum of life. He has given you gifts – Lennox – my uncle – was one of those gifts. Everyone doesn’t get to have a funny uncle who tells jokes, loves music, makes everyone laugh, cooks and likes to keep a nice house and have parties. We had that. We are better for it. But make no mistake – it was a gift from God.

But if we ignore the Giver of the gift and simply use the gift, we are being unthankful to God. And Romans 1:18 makes it clear that part of the reason the wrath of God is being poured out on the ungodly is because we do not acknowledge Him and give Him thanks.

Don’t be thankless.

All of us live one heartbeat away from death. One wrong breath. One ruptured blood vessel. One inattentive or drunk driver. One fallen building. One fire with no way to escape, as my friend Hugh’s downstairs renter perished two nights ago. One untreated cancer cell multiplying, like my friend Zach.

The Bible commands us to repent – turn from – our sins and place our full faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His perfect life, death and resurrection on our behalf. Repent means to turn from something – the same way if you were driving to Florida and you saw a sign that said “Welcome to Maine”, you would immediately turn and head in the opposite direction. Place your full faith and trust in Him the same way you would place your faith and trust in a parachute to save you from hitting the ground if you jumped out of a plane.

There is no “piggybacking” into heaven off of someone else’s faith. There’s no “friend’s list”. Your faith must be your own. You must be the one to cry out to God “Have mercy on me, a sinner! Forgive me for the sake of your Son!”

I will not speculate on the final destination of my uncle because I wasn’t here during his final days. The words I have brought are to you, the living. They come from the living God to whom all will stand before and give an account to.

Every death, sickness, moment of joy, moment of grief, time of happiness, day of beauty, every sunrise, every sunset, every storm – all of these things – are reminders from God to reflect and evaluate your life. They are reminders of the God of the Universe telling you about Himself….and about yourself.

They are calls to turn to Jesus Christ in faith. Remember that the One who gives you the wonderful gift of people – friends – relatives, food, shelter, provisions for life, also demands that you fear Him. Fear Him as a young child fears, loves and trusts their father. He’s God…. He has that right.

The one who comes to Him in faith will never be cast out and cast away. Jesus said this in John 6:37-40. As long as you breathe, remember that your sins are not bigger than God. No sin can keep you out of heaven if you turn from them and turn to Christ in faith. Jeffery Dahmer became a Christian in prison a few months before being murdered in prison. The thief on the cross trusted in Christ moments before his death.

One hundred years from now, this issue will be settled for everyone sitting in this room. You sin will either have been paid for in Christ, or you will spend eternity paying for your sins facing the wrath of God mentioned in Psalm 90…and Romans 1-3.

I implore you today – Consider His ways. He has brought you here today to hear this message. He has orchestrated your life to make it here safely today. He has put all of the necessary resources and people in your life for you to be able to stand where you are today.

Consider His goodness toward you. He has raised you up today from sleep – some didn’t wake up. He has clothed you – some are naked. He gives you good friends to walk through life with – some remain lonely. The fact that God is good is shown by the fact that all of you are here today hearing these words.

Consider Your life. Have you wasted it ? A wasted life is a CEO who goes home to his mansion, sits with his money and possessions and feels that all of it is a waste. A wasted life is one spent chasing everything else – recognition by men, acceptance, seeking the next ‘pleasure’, seeking the next dollar and never having enough….

Consider the call to repent. Scripture calls “today” the day of salvation – the acceptable time.   God is gracious and loving toward those who turn from their sin. He calls for you to do so today. Turn from your sin and trust in Christ.

Abandoning Militant Atheism

I had no  idea Christopher Hitchens’ had a younger brother and his brother is a Christian.

Haven’t delved that far into his brother’s faith yet, but ran across (courtesy of a friend’s Facebook status):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/7535715/Can-faith-bring-back-the-Prodigal-Brother.html

So Peter Hitchens travels through militant atheist land and ends up as a believer.

My favorite statement from the reviewer lies here:

Peter Hitchens’s case is that militant atheists dimly sense this truth, and this is what makes them so angry. If God does not exist, after all, why the rage against him? God’s really unforgivable characteristic is that he is alive and well and quite impervious to the assaults even of people as brilliant as Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Of course they dimly sense this truth. Romans 1:18-23. They realize that God exists – and you’re not Him. So instead of going about the routine of ‘making a god they like’, they simply make themselves their own individual god.  The louder they yell and rage (like this young lady), the quieter that ‘obvious’ knowledge of God’s existence gets to them.  It never goes away….underneath it all…they know.  They know, and they hate Him (Romans 3:10-18).

In the meantime, be mindful not to only pray for Christopher Hitchens’ conversion and salvation, but also for his throat cancer. Maybe the brush with mortality will serve to soften his heart a bit as well.

Appreciating Mark Driscoll and Theo-Cultural Blindness

Last year, John MacArthur (whom I highly respect) blasted Mark Driscoll on some comments he’d made in a previous sermon on the Song of Solomon overseas.  I also found out that in late 08 into 09, Driscoll preached a new series and also did some ‘spring cleaning’ to his website for Mars Hill – including deleting the old sermons.

A few weeks ago, while staying up insanely late grading papers (I’m took off from work today to head to a dentist appointment in 6.5 hours of writing this…which means I got sleep for about 3-4 before I went there), I gave a listen to his sermon on Birth Control.

I think, sometimes, that some well-meaning folks have been misreading Driscoll.  Someone who visited Fourth Friday Fundamentals a while back stated that ‘if you knew what he had to deal with, you’d understand why he talks the way he talks. In Seattle, this isn’t considered ‘edgy’ – it’s normal’.  Listening to one of his (Driscoll’s) comments about how he went into a store and a lady confronted him and asked him why does he have five kids (at which point the lady broke into the overpopulation argument and the lack of food argument…both of which are false), hearing about how people frequently picket his church (mostly feminist groups and homosexual groups), death threats and the like, I understand the man quite a bit more now.

I *am* glad that he’s cleaned up his language over the years.  Earlier in the decade, some of the things coming from his mouth made it pretty impossible for me to recommend him as anything more than a Christian shock-jock.  I’m glad to say (from listening to some of his more recent sermons) that he’s matured a bit, specifically since speaking at the DG Conference on the very issue of language a couple of years ago.

Mark Driscoll isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  If you come from a micropresbyterian denomination where you hold strictly to the RPW, don’t do much interaction on social media and/or watch anything other than FoxNews and the History Channel, Mark Driscoll *might* appear worldly to you, since he does something your church tends not to do – interact with the culture, critique it from a biblical standpoint, confront worldliness and persistent sin directly and call it what it is without selling out the gospel (versus simply cursing the darkness from inside the citadel of light you inhabit).  If you are easily offended at someone actually showing passion and emotion in their preaching…. you probably don’t like John Piper. So you probably won’t like Driscoll either.  You probably won’t care for the music at his church either.

That’s okay.   No one’s making it mandatory for you to listen to him.  But I *do* see him attacking from a pastoral perspective, a lot of tough questions and he has a tendency to nail them head on biblically.

Oh wait – now you think he’s all ‘practical’ and not doctrinal. To those folks I’ll simply say….check his sermon archive on the Mars Hill website.  He does a good job of being both biblical and practical, as good preaching should be.

Anyway, that’s my present take on the issue. I can recommend Driscoll now, even while I don’t agree with everything he does at MHC.  If his preaching is reflective of the life of the church, then Driscoll’s church is a healthy church.

No, they aren’t consistently confessional.  No, they aren’t cessationists. No, their worship doesn’t look like 1647.  At the same time, they aren’t filled with false fire (aka happy clappy), doctrinally they are within the reformed tradition and you will definitely hear the gospel every week at this church. All these things are good.

I think we forget sometimes – church men in all eras make mistakes.  The thing is, we all don’t make (or aren’t prone to make) the same mistakes.  Think for a moment if Edwards or Dabney were alive. Would you support their owning of slaves ?  No, but a lot of ‘reformed’ folks have a tendency to show grace to these men by passing off their mistakes in these areas as blind spots, the men simply being ‘products of their time’.   Their works are still recommended, read and proliferated.  Yet, these men committed heinous sins by being engaged in American (key word) slavery.  A black man considered 3/5 of a person (versus Lev. 19:18) ?

What will people from future generations look back at this generation’s Christians and say “What in the WORLD were they thinking about when they did that ?”  People look at the RPW (at least the Exclusive Psalmody aspect of it) now and think that very same thing.  People look back at Geneva and wonder what convinced the city legislature that they had the authority to execute folk for blasphemy.

Just some thoughts.

Happy New Year – So What ?

A little something I wrote three years ago going into 07′.

Thinking Biblically Commentary – January 4, 2007
K. Joel Gilliard

Every year on December 31, great festivals and celebrations around the world are held to ring out the old year and bring in the new year. In fact, starting backwards from December 26th, news broadcasters begin to reflect on past events of the year, who died, who got married and whatever the big news stories of the year that there were.

Many people use this time of year to do their own reflection on the events of the past year in their personal lives. Many make promises to improve themselves in the coming year and as we well know, these things have a tendency not to last.

Many have come to think of New Year’s resolutions as a cliché for ‘Heh. Let’s see how long that lasts.’ People make grandiose claims and promises only to break them before the end of the month (usually within the first 5-15 days of the month).

Now let’s think for a moment. Biblically, if you will.

Is it wrong to reflect over our lives and think on the major events of our lives? Of course not. Is it wrong to make plans for change ? Not at all. Scripture is replete with folks who do these very things – from David in the Psalms to Isaiah in his book.

The problem is our thinking at how to go about accomplishing these ‘resolutions’ that we make. There’s usually two faulty assumptions that go along with most new year’s resolutions-making.

Read the rest here:
Theologically Correct dot Com :: LIVE Your Theology. Blog Archive TBC – 1/06/07- Happy New Year – So What ?

Audio version: http://theologicallycorrect.com/realaudio/tbc-1-06-07.mp3

Found: Posting and Video of Books from T4G08

http://eveartist.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!C90C713B609FA45!662.entry
Don’t know whose blog this is, but I’m glad they included a link to the SGM video on the books AND a list of all the books we got (not including the ones I got at Band of Bloggers).

More from Owen on Mortification

http://theologicallycorrect.com/?p=79. This book is a gold mine!

The Mercy of God and the Wrath of God

Yes folks, I’ve been on a long haitus, but it’s time to get your daily dose of good food goin ‘again.

Here’s some food for thought from William Gurnall:

When I consider how the goodness of God is abused by the greatest part of mankind, I cannot but be of his mind that said, The greatest miracle in the world is God’s patience and bounty to an ungrateful world. If a prince hath an enemy got into one of his towns, he doth not send them in provision, but lays close siege to the place, and doth what he can to starve them. But the great God, that could wink all His enemies into destruction, bears with them, and is at daily cost to maintain them. Well may He command us to bless them that curse us, who Himself does good to the evil and unthankful. But think not, sinners, that you shall escape thus; God’s mill goes slow, but grinds small; the more admirable His patience and bounty now is, the more dreadful and unsupportable will that fury be which ariseth out of His abused goodness. Nothing smoother than the sea, yet when stirred into a tempest, nothing rageth more. Nothing so sweet as the patience and goodness of God, and nothing so terrible as His wrath when it takes fire.

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Pink on the Nature of Saving Faith

I posted this on the CSF devotional list and on the front page of the site, but figured I’d share here as well.

From Arthur Pink’s book “Studies in Saving Faith” – chapter 13, he writes:

Having before us the twofold objective named above, let us ask the question, Is a simple faith in Christ sufficient to save a soul for time and eternity? At the risk of some readers turning away from this article and refusing to read further, we unhesitatingly answer, No, it is not. The Lord Jesus Himself declared, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Repentance is just as essential to salvation as is believing. Again, we read that,

“wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
A “simple faith” which remains alone, a faith which does not purify the heart (Acts 15:9), work by love (Galatians 5:6), and overcome the world (1 John 5:4), will save nobody.

Much confusion has been caused in many quarters through failure to define clearly what it is from which the sinner needs saving. Only too often the thought of many minds is restricted to Hell. But that is a very inadequate conception, and often proves most misleading. The only thing which can ever take any creature to Hell is unrepented and unforgiven sin. Now on the very first page of the N.T. the Holy Spirit has particularly recorded it that, the incarnate Son of God was named “Jesus” because “he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Why is it that that which God has placed at the forefront is relegated to the rear by most of modern evangelists? To ask a person if he has been saved from Hell is much more ambiguous than to inquire if he has been saved from his sins.

Let us attempt to enlarge on this a little, for thousands of professing Christians in these days have but the vaguest idea of what it means to be saved from sin.

First, it signifies to be saved from the love of sin. The heart of the natural man is wedded to everything which is opposed to God. He may not acknowledge it, he may not be conscious of it, yet such is the fact nevertheless. Having been shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5), man cannot but be enamoured with that which is now part and parcel of his very being. When the Lord Jesus explained why condemnation rests upon the unsaved, He declared “men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). Nothing but a supernatural change of heart can deliver any from this dreadful state. Only an omnipotent Redeemer can bring us to “abhor” (Job 42:6) ourselves and loath iniquity. This He does when He saves a soul, for “the fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13).

Second, to be saved from our sins is to be delivered from the allowance of them. It is the unvarying tendency of the natural heart to excuse evil-doing, to extenuate and gloss it over. At the beginning, Adam declined to acknowledge his guilt, and sought to throw the blame upon his wife. It was the same with Eve: instead of honestly acknowledging her wickedness, she attempted to place the onus on the serpent. But how different is the regenerated person’s attitude toward sin! “For that which I do, I allow not” (Romans 7:15): Paul committed sin, but he did not approve, still less did he seek to vindicate, it. He disclaimed all friendliness toward it. Nay, more; the real Christian repents of his wrongdoing, confesses it to God, mourns over it, and prays earnestly to be kept from a repetition of the same. Pride, coldness, slothfulness, he hates, yet day by day he finds them reasserting their power over him; yet nightly he returns to the Fountain which has been opened “for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1), that he may be cleansed. The true Christian desires to render perfect obedience to God, and cannot rest satisfied with anything short of it; and instead of palliating his failures, he mourns over them.

Third, to be saved from our sins is to be delivered from the reigning power or mastery of them. Sin still indwells the Christian, tempts, annoys, wounds, and daily trips him up: “in many things we offend all” (James 3:2). Nevertheless, sin is not the complete master of the Christian, for he resists and fights against it. While far from being completely successful in his fight, yet, on the other hand, there is a vast difference between him and the helpless slaves of Satan. His repenting, his prayers, his aspirations after holiness, his pressing forward unto the mark set before him, all witness to the fact that sin does not have “dominion” over (Romans 6:14) him. Undoubtedly there are great differences of attainment among God’s children: in His high sovereignty, God grants more grace unto one than to another. Some of His children are far more plagued by constitutional sins than others. Some who are very largely delivered from outward transgressions are yet made to groan over inward ones. Some who are largely kept from sins of commission have yet to bewail sins of omission. Yet sin is no longer complete master over any who belong to the household of faith.

The last sentence may perhaps discourage some who have a sensitive conscience. He who is really honest with himself and has had his eyes opened in some degree to see the awful sinfulness of self, and who is becoming more and more acquainted with that sink of iniquity, that mass of corruption which still indwells him, often feels that sin more completely rules him now than ever it did before. When he longs to trust God with all his heart, unbelief seems to paralyze him. When he wishes to be completely surrendered to God’s blessed will, murmurings and rebellion surge within him. When he would spend an hour in meditating on the things of God, evil imaginations harass him. When he desires to be more humble, pride seeks to fill him. When he would pray, his mind wanders. The more he fights against these sins, the further off victory seems to be. To him it appears that sin is very much the master of him, and Satan tells him that his profession is vain. What shall we say to such a dear soul who is deeply exercised over this problem?

Two things.

First, the very fact that you are conscious of these sins and are so much concerned over your failure to overcome them, is a healthy sign. It is the blind who cannot see; it is the dead who feel not—true alike naturally and spiritually. Only they who have been quickened into newness of life are capable of real sorrow for sin. Moreover, such experiences as we have mentioned above evidence a spiritual growth: a growth in the knowledge of self. As the wise man tells us, “he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). In God’s light we see light (Psalm 36:9). The more the Holy Spirit reveals to me the high claims of God’s holiness, the more I discover how far short I come of meeting them. Let the midday sun shine into a darkened room, and dust and dirt which before were invisible are now plainly seen. So with the Christian: the more the light of God enters his heart, the more he discovers the spiritual filth which dwells there. Beloved brother, or sister, it is not that you are becoming more sinful, but that God is now giving you a clearer and fuller sight of your sinfulness. Praise Him for it, for the eyes of the vast majority of your fellows (religionists included) are blind, and cannot see what so distresses you!

Second, side by side with sin in your heart is grace. There is a new and holy nature within the Christian as well as the old and unholy one. Grace is active within you, as well as sin. The new nature is influencing your conduct as well as the old. Why is it that you so desire to be conformed to the image of Christ, to trust Him fully, love Him fervently, and serve Him diligently? These longings proceed not from the flesh. No, my distressed brother or sister, sin is not your complete master; if it were, all aspirations, prayers, and strivings after holiness would be banished from your heart. There are “as it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:13) fighting to gain control of the Christian. As it was with our mother Rebekah—

“the children struggled together within her” (Genesis 25:22)
—so it is with us. But the very “struggle” shows that the issue is not yet decided: had sin conquered, the soul would no longer be able to resist. The conqueror disarms his enemy so that he can no longer fight back. The very fact that you are still “fighting” proves that sin has not vanquished you! It may seem to you that it soon will: but the issue is not in doubt—Christ will yet save you from the very presence of sin.

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2005 recap….. and a statement regarding NSBF

05′ recap:

– I’ll be repenting for the next 60-70 years for not trusting God to bring the perfect woman for me into my life (He did it!)
silencing your conscience is a dangerous thing.
– some relationships were meant to end.

– some relationships NEEDED to end.
– it’s a beautiful thing to see someone who once cussed you out now call you brother .
– it’s even beautifulER to embrace same person as a beloved sister.
– there are quite a few marriage-able and marriage-ready women out there. That doesn’t mean I’m meant to be with them or they with me. They’ll make some blessed man a good wife one day (hi Rosie, Beth, Cora and Janeen!).
– I see what they say by older women know how to treat you better. I picked up on that off just one date.
– a little anger can go a long way toward losing a job.

– God even uses stupid mistakes to bless His kids.
– I absolutely do NOT deserve my new job, the respect and trust I have at my new job, my new car or my new girlfriend. God is really merciful and gracious.
– it was fun to sit for a month, read, make copies of my resumé and fax it off to other school districts, write, prepare and grow spiritually because I got kicked out of my old classroom and still collect the same paycheck.
– face it – you can’t keep a sparkling reputation with everyone. SOMEONE’s going to ‘not like’ you.

relationships change, promises sometimes must be broken.
– the difference in growth or stagnation is often the difference between one church and another.
– who says you can’t resurrect old talents for a good purpose ? (see post prior to this one)
– I’m in my second renaissance. Look out.

One last bit of business to take care of:

To Pastor Fuller and All Folks At New Song Bible Fellowship

;

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Some of you remember my leaving NSBF earlier this year. I did a short blogpost about it back in May. Apparently, some folks brought either portions of the post or all of the post to Pastor Fuller’s attention and they as well as he had problems with it.

Let me go on record as stating that I have no ill will toward NSBF, I believe it is a sound church and that people can and do grow there. My post as to why I left NSBF was not meant as a slam on NSBF or anything of the sort. To those offended, I offer my humble and sincere apologies to you publicly. Only one person has privately approached me (per Matthew 18). I’m still waiting on the rest of the offended to come forward instead of holding onto your grudges quietly.

I have a few short statements and observations while I’m here. I hope they will give you (and whomever else) some insight into the motives of my heart for writing. As always, there’s the link below to leave comments – they get published immediately and everyone can read them. Unless you decide to be slanderous and downright insulting (as some past nemesieseses of mine decided to be), I don’t delete or modify comments. So feel free to post if you have anything to say in response.

1. I do not believe that ‘method’ is neutral (you can teach a child a stove is hot by either telling them or sticking their hand in the flame….but one ‘method’ will get you jail time) – as a result, I know that for me personally, I need expositional preaching and a certain type of fellowship, level of contact and consistency and I did not find that at NSBF. Others have and still do to this day. As I have grown in my theology and as the Lord has been working in my heart to move forward in terms of opportunities for leadership, mentoring, discipleship and training, I found it necessary to be somewhere that all of these things would be properly nutured in me or a wider scale and found more of them in the Free Church than at New Song.

These were the basic points of my initial post. I let several folks (Calvinist and non-Calvinist including one NSBF member) read through them and none of them found them (with the exception of possibly one or two of my comments) to be offensive, malignant, slanderous or otherwise. In fact, they applauded me for the way I still said I would not bash NSBF on the net and how I believed that the church was still a solid church, though not a reformed church. For the sake of the offended brethren, I have removed the previous blog post on why I left NSBF from public view on this blog. I do this in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 6:7 – “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”

2. I do not believe that speaking these things constitutes ‘speaking against God’s work’, as I was told. I could rattle off page after page of financial, spiritual and other blessings that I have had since leaving NSBF, but it could come across as boasting. Instead, I will simply treasure them amongst my friends and those who have been privy to them (which you can easily glean by reading my blog) and give all glory, praise and thanks to God alone for them, as He has been tremendously merciful and gracious toward me. I will boast only in the cross and the God who gives the gifts, because I recognize the God who gives them does so for His glory. I recognize my times of struggle (financial, spiritual and otherwise) as sometimes being a part of God’s pruning of me. The ‘molding’ process in the Master’s hands is not always easy and not always painLESS, but at the end a man is made to shine forth the image of Christ in his/her life. I praise God for the times when I did struggle – they taught me much. I glory in them because ‘before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your commandments’ (Psalm 119:67). Praise Him that He does not deal with us as our sins deserve.

I do thank NSBF for being there for me at some of my rough times. Through prayer, some words of encouragement and other areas of support, I can truly say without a doubt that NSBF has been there for me. Thank you, Pastor Fuller, for those times you had set aside for me where we talked and where you gave me some godly advice. Thank you for driving me around to Sears in Virginia when my battery died on the road on the way home from Men’s Retreat a few years ago. It was God’s Sovereignty that you just happened to have left 2-4 miles behind me on the road so that it wasn’t completely out of the way for you on the way back home.

3. I would still recommend people to NSBF as a good church in the area. There are plenty of things at New Song that are worthy of praise and contrary to what some may think, I don’t believe God has extinguished the lampstand that is NSBF. I pray for God’s continued blessings upon NSBF, as the church has grown in leaps and bounds since its’ inception a decade and a half ago, the church is financially stable, you’re able to do outreach to the community, disciple folks and spur folks onto maturity in Christ. These things are all good and in line with the scriptures and I can say nothing bad about them.

More could be said, but I think this will suffice. I pray that you all are continually blessed and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord during 2006 and that in all things, you continuously seek to give Him glory. This is and always has been the intention of my heart toward NSBF. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me.

Your Fellow Servant and Brother,
Kerry Gilliard

More on Narnia from Al Mohler….

Check out Al Mohler’s review of the film as well as some historical background on the film.

http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2005-12-09.