A Sermon To Keep You Humble...

I found grace in two old men (day 2)

This is day two of my search for grace in the small aspects of my life. Being a pastor, at times my responsibilities include visiting individuals in the hospital. Recently, due to the volume of visits I was making, I asked a gentlemen named Joe to help me with the hospital visitations. Joe had been attending our church for several months before I sat down with him to discuss my idea of plugging him in. After sitting down with him, I learned that he had both experience as a staff pastor and a desire to serve in the way of encouragement and hospital visitations. I was ecstatic at the proposition of having the help. I was also thrilled that Joe was a gentle grey haired man. I am not saying that all "older" people are comforting and kind, simply that having only a young buck pastor old enough to be your son, giving you encouraging words can leave much to be desired. A week after Joe accepted the idea of accompanying me to hospital visits, I received a call that the father of one of our volunteer leaders had experienced a heart attack and was laying in a hospital bed about an hour away. I called Joe and we headed out on our journey. Extremely rainy weather coupled with an interstate car accident slowed the trip to a crawl. Joe began to tell me his story of life, love, ministry, and hope. The beauty of his story blew me away. Could it be that God was using this trip to minister to me far beyond what we could do for the man in the hospital. When we pulled into the hospital, I dropped Joe off to gather the info on what ICU room we were headed. After parking the car and running awkwardly through the rain to the doors, I again thanked God I had Joe with me. We then headed into the room to pray with the man. After fumbling through a few words of encouragement and semi-humorous stories, something told me to step back and let Joe minister to this man. Then it happened. The connection that God had planned began to unfold in front of me. The two old men sharing and talking about God's grace and sovereignty was overwhelming. At one point, Joe grabbed the man's hand and said, "I know how you feel, but it seems God has more for you to do." God's grace shows itself in the individual ways He blesses people through different individuals. Joe was God's tool to minister to that man tonight. He was also God's tool to show me that God uses each one of His children differently. Thank God for Joe!

I found grace in a baby's meal (day 1)

So, I have decided to take the next bit of time to look for God's sweet grace in the small things in my life. Being that this is only day one of my search, I felt the pressure to come up with a killer example of God's grace. As always, I over searched until I almost gave up. At that moment, my wife called me down to our kitchen table to feed our daughter her first real food. Noelle has been breast fed since she was born and this momentous meal would mark her first step into semi-solid foods. As I held the video camera, my wife put the first slimy spoon full of the rice cereal to her mouth. Clearly she loved the taste but was to overwhelmed to actually swallow. Over and over again, Ellie filled her mouth with what Katie gave her but more ended up on here chin and bib then in her little belly. She simply was overwhelmed with the taste of this new type of food. Interestingly, Noelle was so overwhelmed by the taste that she was missing out on the true value of the food. She experienced the taste and spit out the nourishment. I was brought to my knees at the moment. I realized that we serve and are in relationship with a God who not only allows us to taste His sweet glory, but gives us much more than a temporay pleasure. He gives us the nourishment to carry us through both storms and sunny days!

Pastor Matt Preaches: "It's All About Jesus"

The New Calvinism by David Van Biema (published in TIME magazine)

The New Calvinism

The New Calvinism


If you really want to follow the development of conservative Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have heard "The Old Rugged Cross," a celebration of the atonement. By the 1980s you could have shared the Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of "Shine, Jesus, Shine." And today, more and more top songs feature a God who is very big, while we are...well, hark the David Crowder Band: "I am full of earth/ You are heaven's worth/ I am stained with dirt/ Prone to depravity."

Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism's buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination's logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time's dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.

Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation's other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim: it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don't have to second-guess. Our satisfaction — and our purpose — is fulfilled simply by "glorifying" him. In the 1700s, Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards invested Calvinism with a rapturous near mysticism. Yet it was soon overtaken in the U.S. by movements like Methodism that were more impressed with human will. Calvinist-descended liberal bodies like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discovered other emphases, while Evangelicalism's loss of appetite for rigid doctrine — and the triumph of that friendly, fuzzy Jesus — seemed to relegate hard-core Reformed preaching (Reformed operates as a loose synonym for Calvinist) to a few crotchety Southern churches.

No more. Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don't operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, "everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world" — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle's pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention. The Calvinist-flavored ESV Study Bible sold out its first printing, and Reformed blogs like Between Two Worlds are among cyber-Christendom's hottest links.

Like the Calvinists, more moderate Evangelicals are exploring cures for the movement's doctrinal drift, but can't offer the same blanket assurance. "A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness, divorce, drugs or sexual temptation," says Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. "They have plenty of friends: what they need is a God." Mohler says, "The moment someone begins to define God's [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist." Of course, that presumption of inevitability has drawn accusations of arrogance and divisiveness since Calvin's time. Indeed, some of today's enthusiasts imply that non-Calvinists may actually not be Christians. Skirmishes among the Southern Baptists (who have a competing non-Calvinist camp) and online "flame wars" bode badly.

Calvin's 500th birthday will be this July. It will be interesting to see whether Calvin's latest legacy will be classic Protestant backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884779_1884782_1884760,00.html #ixzz1YGbbaghc

The 8th Day (a post for coffee snobs) by John Rock

The 8th Day

I often joke and tell people that "a little known fact is that on the 8th day God roasted coffee - and it was very very good."

Coffee roasting is, for me, an art form rather than a science, as each coffee crop possesses its own unique flavoring due to weather conditions as well as elements of the environment. Not only does each type of bean have its own unique attributes for flavoring, these attributes are then cultivated by way of a particular roasting style (e.g. Cinnamon, City, Full-City, Espresso, and French roast). Roasting coffee by timers, bells, and whistles replaces the fantastic art with a mundane science and thus replaces good-experience with mundane-methodology. (Huh, sounds like Faith v. Relationship doesn’t it?)

I admit that I am a coffee snob, and for that I do not apologize. I learned to love coffee in the Army even though it was always bad and never meaningful, and even to this day I would much rather drink a cup of 6-hour-old Speedway coffee than a plastic bottle of soda. And so it is that my heart's desire is to experience coffee rather than just consume it day after dreary day.

I am on a quest to experience God through the goodness of His word-spoken creation – particularly coffee. I created a business to this effect, and my goal is not simply to seek out other coffee snobs but to actually create other coffee snobs. There is coffee and there is God, and both can be experienced at the same time. Do you want to see for yourself? Call on me and I can help.


Why I Needed Jesus To Save Me...

When we speak of man's depravity we mean man's natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.

There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his "virtue" is evil in the sight of God.

Romans 14:23 says, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." This is a radical indictment of all natural "virtue" that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God's grace.

The terrible condition of man's heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity.

Man's depravity is total in at least four senses.

Our rebellion against God is total.

Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God.

Of course totally depraved men can be very religious and very philanthropic. They can pray and give alms and fast, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:1-18). But their very religion is rebellion against the rights of their Creator, if it does not come from a childlike heart of trust in the free grace of God. Religion is one of the chief ways that man conceals his unwillingness to forsake self-reliance and bank all his hopes on the unmerited mercy of God (Luke 18:9-14;Colossians 2:20-23).

The totality of our rebellion is seen in Romans 3:9-10 and 18. "I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one seeks for God....There is no fear of God before their eyes."

It is a myth that man in his natural state is genuinely seeking God. Men do seek God. But they do not seek him for who he is. They seek him in a pinch as one who might preserve them from death or enhance their worldly enjoyments. Apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God.

Some do come to the light. But listen to what John 3:20-21 says about them. "Every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."

Yes there are those who come to the light—namely those whose deeds are the work of God. "Wrought in God" means worked by God. Apart from this gracious work of God all men hate the light of God and will not come to him lest their evil be exposed—this is total rebellion. "No one seeks for God...There is no fear of God before their eyes!"

In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

In Romans 14:23 Paul says, "Whatever is not from faith is sin." Therefore, if all men are in total rebellion, everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion. If a king teaches his subjects how to fight well and then those subjects rebel against their king and use the very skill he taught them to resist him, then even those skills become evil.

Thus man does many things which he can only do because he is created in the image of God and which in the service of God could be praised. But in the service of man's self-justifying rebellion, these very things are sinful.

In Romans 7:18 Paul says, "I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." This is a radical confession of the truth that in our rebellion nothing we think or feel is good. It is all part of our rebellion. The fact that Paul qualifies his depravity with the words, "that is, in my flesh," shows that he is willing to affirm the good of anything that the Spirit of God produces in him (Romans 15:18). "Flesh" refers to man in his natural state apart from the work of God's Spirit. So what Paul is saying in Romans 7:18 is that apart from the work of God's Spirit all we think and feel and do is not good.

NOTE: We recognize that the word "good" has a broad range of meanings. We will have to use it in a restricted sense to refer to many actions of fallen people which in relation are in fact not good.

For example we will have to say that it is good that most unbelievers do not kill and that some unbelievers perform acts of benevolence. What we mean when we call such actions good is that they more or less conform to the external pattern of life that God has commanded in Scripture.

However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteousness in relation to God. It is not done out of reliance on him or for his glory. He is not trusted for the resources, though he gives them all. Nor is his honor exalted, even though that's his will in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Therefore even these "good" acts are part of our rebellion and are not "good" in the sense that really counts in the end—in relation to God.

Man's inability to submit to God and do good is total.

Picking up on the term "flesh" above (man apart from the grace of God) we find Paul declaring it to be totally enslaved to rebellion. Romans 8:7-8 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

The "mind of the flesh" is the mind of man apart from the indwelling Spirit of God ("You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you," Romans 8:9). So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.

Ephesians 2:1 says that we Christians were all once "dead in trespasses and sins." The point of deadness is that we were incapable of any life with God. Our hearts were like a stone toward God (Ephesians 4:18; Ezekiel 36:26). Our hearts were blind and incapable of seeing the glory of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). We were totally unable to reform ourselves.

Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.

Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that in our deadness we were "children of wrath." That is, we were under God's wrath because of the corruption of our hearts that made us as good as dead before God.

The reality of hell is God's clear indictment of the infiniteness of our guilt. If our corruption were not deserving of an eternal punishment God would be unjust to threaten us with a punishment so severe as eternal torment. But the Scriptures teach that God is just in condemning unbelievers to eternal hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Matthew 5:29f; 10:28;13:49f; 18:8f; 25:46; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10). Therefore, to the extent that hell is a total sentence of condemnation, to that extent must we think of ourselves as totally blameworthy apart from the saving grace of God.

In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.
(Taken directly from resources at www.desiringgod.org)