Monthly Archives: August 2007

Mother Teresa's "Crisis of Faith"

08-25-2007n1a_25teresagk027e6ei1.jpgReformation 21 recently blogged about “Mother Teresa’s Redemption” and her spiritual walk toward the end of her life. Instead of this being filled with great spiritual ecstasies, we find the polar opposite:

By now, many will have heard about the recent revelations concerning Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s crisis of faith. The book version is now out, containing her private correspondence with her spiritual mentors, titled Come Be My Light.
The caption quote to the TIME magazine article sums up Mother Teresa’s
spiritual testimony over the last 66 years of her life: “Jesus has a
very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is
so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”

Mother Teresa would have been classified as a mystic, who based her spiritual walk on subjective experiences. Although here incredible philanthropic work has few parallels in our modern day, we do see a troubled individual searching.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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Are You Acquainted with Art Azurdia? You Should Be!

Along with Tim Keller, Art Azurdia is quickly becoming my favorite preacher. His passion, his exposition, his application, and his love for God and His Word are contagious to every preacher who listens. He serves as the Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of Pastoral Mentoring at Western Seminary in Portland , Oregon (more of his bio here) . His online ministry, Spirit-Empowered Preaching, contains a vast collection of sermons and articles that will surely feed your soul. Among these are some of my favorite sermons:

  • “Preaching Christ in the Power of the Spirit”

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

  • The Doctrines of Grace:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistable Grace
Perseverance of the Saints
Q&A Part I, Part II, Part III

He also has wonderful sermons on Nehemiah, Revelation (81 sermons in all), the Family, and Having a Renewed Passion for the Church.

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Tim Keller Has a New Book Coming Out

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

To say I’m eager for this book to come out would be an understatement.  Plus, Keller writes this book for unbelieversMark Combs had an excellent idea of reading this book with someone you know who is a skeptic to the faith. 

(HT:  Mark Combs/Justin Taylor)

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Being Good Stewards of the Gospel, Part II: Fan Into Flame God's Gift of Faith

(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:3-7, ESV).

Every Christian risks having the flame and the fire of their faith begin to grow dim. Life’s circumstances hit in unexpected ways and we wonder if this Christian faith is what we bargained for. The fire may grow dim when we find ourselves engaged in rebellious and sinful activity which will quench the stirring of the Spirit in our lives.

Timothy felt the pressure of pastoring. That pressure came from trying to please everyone, especially those who were older and more mature than he. He began to feel the pressure and soon began to be afraid of their countenance — he put his focus on them rather than on Christ.

So what was Timothy to do? Paul understood the need to remind Timothy of a number of past events. First, know that someone is praying for you. In verses 3-4 he says, that he remembers him constantly “in my prayers.” When we realize our brothers and sisters in Christ are lifting us up to the throne of grace — especially those who are strong in the faith — that bolsters us. Paul encouraged the Ephesian Christians to “Make supplication for all the saints.” And does not James 5:16 say, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Paul reminds Timothy of his upbringing. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5, ESV). Timothy was given an incredible heritage of faith from his mother and grandmother. Now, while it is true that God does not have grandchildren and that we are not saved based on another person’s faith, we can lean and learn from the example that our family gave. Clearly, the type of faith Lois and Eunice had was a persevering faith — a faith that we need to see more of so that this will encourage us to persevere!

Paul reminds Timothy also of his ordination service! “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (1:6). Is Paul saying that he had a supernatural, magical power in which Timothy received his position of authority in the Ephesian church? No, not at all. What Paul is describing is Timothy’s ordination service, where a congregation senses by the leadership of the Holy Spirit someone who possesses the gifts and the calling to preach the Word and to shepherd the flock. In fact, Timothy may have been called out by this very flock of whom he found himself afraid. He must remember the testimony of the Spirit’s leading of the church

Paul encourages Timothy even further when he reminds Timothy that God gave us type of spirit with certain attributes. Power, love and self-control or discipline are among them.

What about you? Can you look back on times in your life when God helped you in your faith-walk? Maybe a former pastor or a faithful persevering family member?

(To read Part I, click here.)

Please share with us someone or something from your past that helps you in your present walk so the flame of your faith grows stronger and brighter in Christ.

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LearningToRun.com — An Inspiring Running Blog by Joe Thorn

Joe Thorn three months ago began running.  Last week I began running.  Joe three months ago was 45 pounds overweight — I’m 30-35 pounds overweight.  Joe could barely make it 1/4 of a mile his first day.  Same here. 

But God has used Joe to inspire me.  He can now run a 5K in around 33 minutes and has lost 16 pounds. 
So there’s hope for me.  Thanks, Joe, for the inspiration. 

HT:  Mark Combs.

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Being Good Stewards of the Gospel, Part I: Introduction

This morning, we conclude our Stewardship Emphasis. We have dealt with being good stewards of our time, good stewards of our finances, and good stewards of our spiritual gifts with which God divinely designed us.
Some of these issues have been quite personal — digging in to our
deepest areas of need.

I suppose as we begin talking about these issues, we tend to compartmentalize our lives. Recently, I heard one of my favorite preachers, Tim Keller, make a great point about something. Suppose you go to the doctor out of concern for your health. All you want from him is better health. Yet, he begins asking you questions such as, “How much sleep are you getting?” “What is your diet?” “Are you facing any stress in your life?” “How are your relationships?” You find yourself
amazed, even offended, that the doctor is delving into your personal life. You may even say, “Doc, I’m here to ask you to get me healthy. Don’t get into my personal life.”

What’s the point? The point is we are body and soul and they are interconnected. And just as our mental and emotional status can affect us physically, so too are our physical and spiritual status intertwined as well — we cannot compartmentalize. If we come to church saying, “I want to be a good steward of what God has given to me.”   Yet are we willing to allow the Gospel to penetrate and cut out some very personal areas of our lives, or are we like that patient who says, “Doc, I just want to be spiritually healthy! But don’t get into my personal life!”

But as we get into the issue of being good stewards of the Gospel, we find the Gospel is not simply a bunch of facts to embrace, but a life transformed. Like a surgeon, the Gospel comes in and cuts out the infected, cancerous parts that destroy us and heals us. But unlike other religions who insist that the correct outward behavior changes our inward spiritual condition, the Gospel says no — the heart and mind must be redeemed and transformed by the Spirit of Christ from the inside to affect outside behavior. We must constantly live out of
love for the present reality of Christ in us, as Cameron read earlier, the hope of glory.

This morning, we will take a look at the aged Apostle Paul giving some last words to his young protégé pastor Timothy. Timothy was in his mid 30’s as he pastored the church at Ephesus. While Paul was the model of perseverance in his stewardship of the Gospel, Timothy found himself floundering. With Paul in prison and likely facing the sword, with men old enough to be his father challenging his leadership and even bringing in false teachings into the church, with the daily persecutions happening to all Christians everywhere in the Empire, young Timothy found himself with an age old problem: how does one be a steward of the Gospel in the midst of a world that takes offense and even hates not only the Gospel but those who carry it?

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Being Good Stewards of Your Finances, Part IV: Be Satisfied With Your Finances

(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

Now is the place where it all comes together. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 9:6-8:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. [7] Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [8] And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, ESV).

Paul’s point is that what you sow determines how much you are satisfied in God and/or your finances. Those who sow sparingly are saying, “My satisfaction lies in my having enough money to take care of my situation and to maintain my lifestyle.” The one who sows bountifully says, “God will take care of me and make all grace abound to me. He is sufficient for me.”

I was reminded of this yesterday, in fact. Judy Woodward Bates of the Western Recorder, our state Baptist newspaper wrote an excellent article on “Letting go of the love of money.” Many of us have heard that very helpful verse in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Yet, if you notice, when that reference is given, it read “Hebrews 13:5b” and shows that this is only the last eight words of this passage. Here’s all of Hebrews 13:5:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Wow — does this not put an entirely new light on this verse? We find comfort in knowing God will never leave us nor forsake us, but the context of this verse is to keep our life free from the love of money (the negative aspect) and to be content with what we have. In other words, love God more than your money. Loving God in Christ will truly bring contentment and satisfaction — not loving your money.

So when Paul reminds young Timothy of this, we begin to put some pieces together:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, [7] for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. [8] But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. [9] But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. [10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Tim. 6:6-10, ESV).

Let’s piece these passages together. God loves a cheerful giver who sows bountifully, demonstrating that all grace is abounding to him in Christ. This contentment and satisfaction comes in knowing that while our money may leave us, Christ never will so we are to find our satisfaction and contentment in Him! For godliness with contentment is great gain — so we will be happy with the food and clothing we have. Money is not all it is cracked up to be, because the more money one has, the more temptations and snares arise which lead many down the road to destruction.

John Piper noted one time that as he jogs in the mornings, he sometimes stops and talks to people in his neighborhoods and asks them if there is anything he can pray for them about. He noted, “If they were rich, they said no. If they were poor, they said yes.” While that may be quite general, I understand where he’s coming from. Those who are satisfied in their riches and their situation in life do not feel they need prayer because they are financially solvent — while the poor struggle and realize they need something outside of themselves to get by.

What about you? When you read 2 Corinthians 9:6, what category do you find yourself in — sowing sparingly or sowing bountifully? One person who sowed bountifully was asked, “How is it that you give away so much, and yet have so much left?” “I suppose it’s like this … I shovel out, God shovels in, and he has a bigger shovel than I do!”

May we find our satisfaction in Christ and trust him in our giving and in his provision for us. As Piper says, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”

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Together for the Gospel 2006 Lectures and Panel Discussions FREE at Sovereign Grace Ministries

Click here and here to indulge and enjoy the talks from Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, John Piper, and John MacArthur.

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Being Good Stewards of our Finances, Part III: Be Serious in Your Giving

(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

At this point, let’s look at 2 Corinthians 8:11-15. The key word in this particular passage — and even throughout 2 Corinthians 8-9 — is “readiness.” We see it in verses 11 and 12: “So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.” Now really drink deep verse 12: “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:11-12, ESV).

The King James Version translates this well when they say, “When there is first a willing mind.” The word in which readiness (ESV) and “willing mind” comes from denotes a zeal, a spirit, and eagerness and a seriousness toward a particular activity. The seriousness, the eagerness, and the readiness found in giving must not be simply done in theory as we do in theory so many other things. We know if theory that we should read our Bibles — but what about in practice? We know in theory we should pray, give, and go on missions — but what about in practice? What about witnessing? Prayer? The list goes on. And giving could well be added to the list.

Truth is, the seriousness to which we hold a particular activity is only seen in how it affects our lives — what we actually do with our eagerness. And our eagerness and readiness is contagious and infectious. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 9:1-5:

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove vain in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated- to say nothing of you- for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready.

Paul boasted to the people of Macedonia (the ones he used as an example to the Corinthian church) about the Corinthians giving. He told them in 8:12 to finish what you started — turn your zeal into action, turn your seriousness into service, turn your readiness into reality. Paul began bragging and boasting about their generosity. He was bragging to them about their zeal and readiness, as he mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8 — he’s saying, “Don’t let us down — follow through.”

Paul sees this as a serious matter — and my friends, we should as well. Reputations about churches and religious organizations get around quickly. And it seems as if those in our community know quite well what we believe (after all, they hear us talk about it), but do we follow through?

Consider our church covenant. When you join our church, either by coming to Christ or by transferring from one church to another, you agree to our church covenant which outlines how we believe we should Scripturally treat one another. One paragraph clearly states that we are called “to contribute Scripturally to the support of the ministry, the expense of the church, the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel to all nations.” I’ve asked this before, but were you aware we had a church covenant? Were you aware that this is what you agreed to do? Did we take it seriously?

Sadly, we only take it seriously when something serious comes up (building committee reports, missions efforts, when the general fund is down, etc.). But your giving to “the support of the ministry, the expense of the church, the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel” may seem ordinary, mundane, day-to-day, nothing special. But this is a when done with the understanding of the seriousness that should accompany such acts of worship, this can be a blessed thing before the Lord.

Previous posts in this series:

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Being Good Stewards of our Finances, Part II: Be Sincere With Them

(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 8:8. “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” In 2 Corinthians 8:7, Paul tells the Corinthian church to follow the example of the Macedonian church — “see that you excel in this act of grace also.” But what was Paul doing? Here, Paul admonishes them to put into action what they have seen to show that what they are doing is from the heart and not only out of duty.

How does Paul compel them? Does he simply say, “Do this because it’s the right thing to do” and simply appeal to our fleshly strength to accomplish something of this magnitude? Does he simply this by appealing to his own authority as an apostle of Christ to leverage them to do this deed? Sadly, many pastors and leaders in the church only go this far and no farther. They promote God as simply a motivational speaker or as a hard judge who will ‘get them’ if they don’t do this.

Paul takes a different track — look at 2 Cor. 8:9-11:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. [10] And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it.

What do we see here? We see that Paul does not appeal to the Corinthians’ personal strength nor does Paul simply appeal to his authority with a “because-I-said-so” mentality. He says to them, “Look at Jesus!” Every preacher of the Word must do this — not simply say, “Do what I say because I say it.” Nor should we be like so many of our kids’ materials say, “Be like Jesus. Do like Jesus.” We can’t do that in our own strength apart from the Spirit’s guidance.

Jesus was rich, full of glory in heaven. And remember when we looked at John 17 when Jesus said, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). Jesus, being fully God shared his Father’s glory. Yet, he became poor. Don’t forget about that crucial hymn Paul wrote in Philippians 2 where Jesus, though fully God, “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” Philippians 2:7). Through Jesus willingly giving up his riches to become poor, we were able, as Philippians 4:19, to have all the riches that God supplies in the glories of Christ Jesus.

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