Sunday, March 25, 2007

Nothing is Beyond You

Rich Mullins had a awy of writing songs full of simplicity and and yet he never shied away from the complexities of life. I listened to this song last night and was struck again with how vivid his vision of Jesus was. My wife and I had a friend of ours sing this song at our wedding.

Where could I go, where could I run

Even if I found the strength to fly

And if I rose on the wings of the dawn

And crashed through the corner of the sky

If I sailed past the edge of the sea

Even if I made my bed in Hell

Still there You would find me

'Cause nothing is beyond You

You stand beyond the reach

Of our vain imaginations

Our misguided piety

The heavens stretch to hold You

And deep cries out to deep

Singing that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

Time cannot contain You

You fill eternity

Sin can never stain You

Death has lost its sting

And I cannot explain the way You came to love me

Except to say that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

If I should shrink back from the light

So I can sink into the dark

If I take cover and I close my eyes

Even then You would see my heart

And You'd cut through all my pain and rage

The darkness is not dark to You

And night's as bright as day

Nothing is beyond You

You stand beyond the reach

Of our vain imaginations

Our misguided piety

The heavens stretch to hold You

And deep cries out to deep

Singing that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

And time cannot contain You

You fill eternity

Sin can never stain You

And death has lost its sting

And I cannot explain the way You came to love me

Except to say that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

Friday, March 23, 2007

Are You or Your Kids Thieves?

The following is my newest column for our church's newsletter...

You and your children might be thieves. And you might be guilty of this crime knowingly or unknowingly. “How?” you might ask. A couple questions for you. Are you or your children illegally downloading music using Limewire or other file-sharing software? Are you burning copies of music files or cds and selling or giving them away? If you answered ‘yes’ to one of these two questions, you are then guilty of stealing. The difference between the above offenses and walking into a store and putting a compact disc under your shirt (for you or a friend) is only in the mode of theft. “Wait,” you might say, “is that a little legalistic?” No, it is not. For what is going on in the heart that knows it is illegal according to our nation’s laws to do such a thing? The heart says, “I must do this thing, illegal or not, or I will not be satisfied! I am so desirous of this music for my happiness that I will not pay for what the artist has created! I will take it!” And the heart will deceive itself and justify its actions in the name of ministry or kindness to others or itself. “It should be free!” That may be so but it isn’t. “I can’t afford it or so-and-so can’t.” Do you or anyone else need it (entertainment) to the point of breaking the law…are you not satisfied with what you have? What do you have?

One of my students in the youth ministry realized his crime. He deleted and got rid of his (not his!) illegally obtained music. Hundreds of songs (some Christian music) he now must do without. How can he do it? He told me in so many words, “Not having those songs is not my biggest problem! Christ has dealt with my biggest problem and I am satisfied with him.”

Is this legalism? Is this fanaticism? If it is then I pray God would give us these. For if we are to believe “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) then we must believe our counting “everything as loss” would include those things we might lose which we obtained by breaking the law or without a view to the worth of God in the Universe. I am riveted on a vision of a group of students who can “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). I crave seeing this in their parents and in the leadership and throughout our congregation

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why I and A few Others are Starting a Classical Christian School

We live in an unbelievably na├»ve and superficial age and it’s the last thing most people would think to say about it…What I mean by superficial is, something is superficial when the treatment of it involves everything you can say about it except the main things. Now as a scholar you can say many things intelligently about many things and if you leave out the main connections in reality, you are treating it superficially. Therefore, I conclude the communication media in America are all superficial. I conclude that the educational enterprises in our Universities are all superficial. I conclude that virtually all news reports are superficial. Virtually all history books are superficial. Virtually all public education is superficial. Virtually all editorial news commentary is superficial for one very simple reason that a child can understand. It’s because of the incredible, unspeakable, unimaginable disregard for God in it all. God is the main reality in the universe and is the main connection, purpose, ground and sustaining power of everything that is. And therefore anytime you treat anything without relation to God, you are superficial. And the fact that that sounds odd to us shows how infected all American evangelicals are with our God-neglecting, God-belittling and our increasingly God-despising age. If you watch enough TV you cannot help but forget God, he isn’t there. And the sheer absence of God is blasphemy…

I pray for my sons and my daughter. I have 5 kids and two of my boys are out of school now, one is in college and one is in high school and my little girl hasn’t started school yet. And I pray, “Oh God, in all of their learning grant that they would see God and that they would see you. May they see you in geometry. May they see you in history. May they see you in philosophy. May they see you in English. May they see you in physical education. May they see you in spelling.”


And I can hear the cynics, “right, a Christian spelling…there are Christian ways to spell words. Give me a break Pastor John.” Now that’s the way a cynic, a superficial 20th century saturated, God-neglecting cynic, responds to talking about God-centered spelling.

I’ve had two kinds of sons, academic and nonacademic. And they fit the pattern perfectly, son number 1, the scholar…son number two, the athlete - the jock, as soon as he could get out of high school he was done, he was gone. And he’s red hot for Jesus by the way. Well, I remember the day when this dyslexic non-speller said to me, “why should I care about spelling the way everybody else spells.” And he meant it because it hurt so bad. And I said, “Well ummm, you won’t be able to communicate as well if you don’t learn to spell the way everybody else spells.” “I don’t care about communicating well…why should I care about communicating well?”

Now here we are public school teachers, you got this kid in your class and he raises his hand after flunking his second spelling test. “Why should I care about communicating?” Now right here were about a millimeter beneath superficiality, not very far. And the ways are gonna divide right here teacher. What are you gonna tell him. Here’s one answer, this is the blasphemous answer, the standard answer, the 20th century answer, the public school answer. “Well, if you don’t learn how to spell or you don’t learn how to communicate you wont succeed in business and you wont make as much money and you wont advance in the community.” And here’s the real clincher, the bottom line gospel – “you wont have as high self-esteem. So get to work and work and we’ll help you.”

Godless. Godless answers all.

Here’s another answer, my answer to my son and to anybody who will listen. “Ben, you should want to communicate and care about communicating because you were created in the image of God and God is a great communicator. Your in his image son, your in his image. To be a human being is no small thing and he is a great communicator and you should want to communicate and not be indifferent to putting obstacles in the way.” Number two; “you got something infinitely important to communicate Ben. You got God to communicate. You got love to communicate. You got salvation to communicate. You got Jesus to communicate. You’ve got the gospel to communicate. You’ve got eternal life to communicate. You’ve got purpose to communicate. You can’t be indifferent son, to whether you communicate and put obstacles in the way of your communication.” Third, “Ben, God is love and his love is scorned when we treat as a matter of indifference whether or not we communicate good things for people they desperately need to hear from us.” And finally, “you need to communicate and care about communicating and not putting spelling stumbling blocks in the way of your communication because language is God’s idea from the beginning – “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god…” It’s God’s idea. He is not a God of chaos and confusion. He’s a God of beauty and of order. He’s not a god of anarchy, even spelling anarchy.”

And you know if you are sitting out there now and you don’t care about the supremacy of God in spelling then you wont get my plea…you just wont get it…

- John Piper, The Spremacy of God in Preaching

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Piper from Ligonier Conference 2007

Faith and Reason

The Challenge of Relativism

The Commitments of Westminster Youth Ministries

I had this in PDF format and linked to it in another now-deleted post. Deleted? Yeah, no one could see it. So I will simply put it here in its entirety as a post for all the world...errr, 5 people to see. Please feel free to suggest corrections

Westminster Youth Ministries

Westminster Youth Ministries exists to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Our Primary Commitments

1. The glorification of God

a. We believe because God’s first commitment is to glorify himself, our first commitment is to glorify Him in this youth ministry. (Isa. 48:9 – 11)

b. We believe we should do this by seeking to see him and his glory in his word week after week through expositional Bible Study, doctrinal studies and discussion of contemporary issues. (Ps. 119:105, Rom. 16:7, Titus 2:1)

c. We believe our biggest problem is that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and all other problems are nothing compared to this problem. (Rom. 3:23)

d. We believe the triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the only thing in the Universe that can eternally satisfy our souls longing to be happy. (Ps. 34:8; 70:4, Phil. 1:21)

e. We believe that only a Sovereign God who rules the Universe according to his own pleasure is the only God worthy of worship. (Acts 4:24, Rom. 11:36, Phil. 2:13, 1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 6:10)

f. We believe only God by the power of his Spirit will satisfy us in the midst of suffering. (Hebrews 10:32-34; Rom. 8)

g. We believe because the cross of Christ Jesus is the centerpiece in history for God’s revelation of His glory, we ought to make the cross of Christ Jesus the centerpiece of all we do. (Gal. 6:14; Phil. 2:8; Heb 12:2)

h. We believe the gospel because it is the message of the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. (2 Cor. 4:4 – 6; 1 Peter 3:18)

i. We believe in God’s love for us because he at great cost to himself made it possible for us to see his glory. (John 11: 1-6; Heb. 12:2; Rom. 15:8,9)

2. The good of others.

a. We believe that the most loving thing we can do for others is to do whatever it takes for others to see the glory of God. (2 Cor. 4-6, 13-15)

b. We believe the only thing in the Universe that will satisfy the longings of those we love is God. (Ps. 90:14; 103:1-5)

c. We believe any behavior that gets in the way of others seeing the glory of God cannot be love. (Rom. 1:22-23)

d. We believe God will not be glorified in a youth ministry where youth do not feel safe from gossip, hatred and bigotry. (2 Cor. 12:20; 1 John 4:20; Gal. 3:28)

e. We believe God will not be glorified in a youth ministry where youth are comfortable in their sin. (James 4:4)

f. We believe God will only be glorified in a youth ministry if their comfort in life’s trials is Christ alone. (Phil. 1:21)

g. We believe God is glorified and others are loved when we seek God in prayer on behalf of them. (Romans 15:30)

Secondary Commitments

We believe all of the above because of the testimony to these things in the Old and New Testaments. (Rom. 11:36)

We believe discipleship will only happen if students and their parents are committed to the same. (Luke 11:9, Prov. 22:6)

We believe the doctrines of the Reformation, including the doctrines of grace should not be shied away from but should be exalted over since they glorify God in all he does and they are widely testified to in the Scriptures. (Romans 8:28-9:24, Eph. 1:3-11; 2:4-10; John 6:44; 15:16)

We believe the parents of youth are their primary disciplers; all who work with the youth ministry are aids in Discipleship. (Prov. 1:8; 6:20; 22:6; Deut. 4:9-11)

We believe youth ministry should be characterized by thinking deeply about what God says about himself and his creation in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. (Acts 17:11) 2 Peter 3:15-18)

We believe because the hard texts in the Bible are inspired by God they should never be skipped but instead diligently studied in youth ministry. (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 3:15-18))

We believe God in his providence has given youth a capacity to go deep with Christ in Study and prayer. (Luke 1:38; 1 Tim. 4:12)

We believe God in his providence has given provocative texts to get our attention on Christ and these are especially helpful in youth ministry. (Rom. 11: 32-36)

We believe fun is not the litmus test of whether a thing ought to be done in youth ministry; instead God’s glory is. (1 Cor. 10:31)

We believe the ESV is the best translation available today and therefore it is the best translation to use in youth ministry. (Psalm 19:7-14)

We believe that because youth ministry should give youth more of God and since God is the most enjoyable thing in the Universe, youth ministry should be enjoyable. (Psa. 70:4; Rom. 5:11; Phil. 1:18-26)

Interview With Noel Piper on Girl talk

Here you can get to know Noel Piper, wife of John Piper on the excellent blog for girls, Girl Talk.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia: My Review

I took a group of Junior High students to see Bridge to Terabithia this past Wednesday. While I was anxious to see the movie because of the comparisons to The Chronicles of Narnia, I was also very skeptical because I am always skeptical when anything is compared to Lewis' classic tales.

Let me start by telling you what I liked about the movie and then tell you why I would never recommend the movie without some qualifications.

First, the characters are a little predictable since the heroes are underdogs and misfits at their school and at home. But I could not help but love the characters in this story. They were genuinely likable and part of this is because of the good acting done by the actors. The smile of the actress who played Leslie is infectious and magical.

Second, the friendship forged between Jess and Leslie, our hero and heroine is powerful. Again, I work with Junior High and cannot notice how "fictional" such a friendship is. A friendship full of trust and actually the friends being friendly? How about a friend who genuinely shows selfless generosity? To be honest, all my students know is cruelty and humor and usually those are mixed. This is why they are so enamored with horror movies and laugh at each other so easily and very rarely show compassion to each other. Watching the friendship between the two main characters in the movie gave me a little hope for if it can imagined then possibly by God's grace it can accomplished.

Third, the movie is simply well-made. Thanks to Weta, the special effects guys responsible for The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, we have some incredible visuals born of the imagination of our heroes.

Now for what I did not like. I have not read the book so I cannot comment on it specifically. But the movie puts a bulls eye on the back of evangelical Christianity's belief in God's judgment, takes aim and fires. And it takes a cheap shot at that. It uses the conversations of extremely cute children about whether God would damn sinners to hell. The children who believe are the ones most easy to laugh at in the scene while the child who will not believe God would be doing such a thing is the very one with the magical smile. Thankfully, my kids saw it for what it was and discounted it. They are thankfully mired enough in a biblical worldview to be happy with the God as he is presented in the Bible.

I would recommend this movie only with the understanding that it needs to be discussed with wisdom and discernment afterwards.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Hello, My Father Just Died"

I couldn't help but get teary-eyed as I read John Piper's journal entry regarding his father's death. Maybe it was because my own father is in the hospital and is having yet another arteriogram today. And I love my father for many of the same reasons Piper loves his. And maybe I got a little choked up because I know God used Piper's father to give us all the ministry of John Piper and Desiring God Ministries. I have no idea who I would be - shallow, unloving, tragically superficial and probably wasting away in the throes of ministry - if it had not been for Desiring God, et al. And I cannot help but thank God for Piper's dad.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Secret of Oprah

Click here to read about "the Secret" of Oprah.