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Preacher Thoughts



A blog formerly known as, kerux noemata.



Last Build Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2017 21:57:47 +0000

 



Preach the Word. Just Preach the Word.

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 21:57:00 +0000

“What is truth?”Pilate asked a fair question. I wonder how the average pastor would answer it?Your answer to that question may be the most important conclusion you come to in life. It is certainly the most important conclusion you will come to in ministry. Have you ever wondered why Paul spent so much time writing about preaching? Maybe you have not noticed it before, but just read through the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) and note how many times the words teach, charge, confess, command, practise, urge, keep, guard, remind, follow, entrust, think over, remember, rightly handle, correct, continue in, rebuke, declare, insist, and preach are repeated. On top of this are the repeated warnings to not get off-track and embroiled in arguments and speculations and basically anything that distracts from the teaching, etc. And there is no question that Paul had in mind a certain body of data as he wrote these instructions. There was something to be taught that was not original to the teacher. Hence, the memorable verses…2 Timothy 3:14–17 [14] But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)We ought to assume then that there is a constant temptation to pull other things into our pulpit than the truth. Why else would Paul repeat the command so many times? No doubt he had sat through his own share of church services where some (perhaps well-intentioned) teacher had read the scroll then waxed eloquent for then next 55 minutes about nothing in particular. As loving and kind as the Apostle was, I cannot help but wonder if there was not the odd time of him standing up in the middle of a useless lecture only to say, “The text, man! Preach the text!”It is of growing concern to me that more and more preachers in the Reformed tradition seem unable to discern when they are importing their own ideas into a sermon, as opposed to saying what the text says. I would give $100 to hear a boring man tell me what a text says and help me to understand it better, than listen to some tattoo-covered, did-you-notice-my-biceps, infomercial boy blab on and on about his opinions. What good are opinions when you are facing death?I read the account of Lazarus and Rich Man the other day. That rich man had gotten all he wanted in life. Now he was starting an eternity in the torment of hell. Luke 16:24 [24] And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ What a horrifying image. Just one drop of water. One drop! For a relief that would not last. And there was none. Preacher, did that Rich Man listen to opinions his whole life? Where were the prophets calling out his sin and warning him of hell? I do not like preaching on hell. The only reason I ever preach on hell is that it is in the Bible. I can barely handle the emotional intensity of preaching on hell. But I must preach on hell. You must preach on hell. For God has declared there is a hell and he has called us to warn everyone about it. Do you have the kind of inner commitment to say what the Bible says, regardless of what kind of trouble it is going to get you in to? Regardless of what kind of discomfort it is going to bring you? More than that, are you committed to study hard enough and long enough with your own mind (not just an assortment of commentaries!) to know what it means? And are you willing to labour to make it known as clearly as you can to anyone who will listen? Some people think preaching is easy. I will admit getting up in front of a room and talking has gotten easier for me over the years[...]



Who Hardened Pharaoh's Heart?

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 16:42:00 +0000

I have found this article by G.K. Beale to be a really helpful resource in understanding the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. It is technical, but you can skip the parts in Hebrew and still get the gist of things. If you are trying to carefully think through the first cause of hardening (was it Pharaoh or God or both?) then this is a must read. I am grateful you can read it for free!
Here is a sample:
"A classic and important objection to this idea is that it associates God too closely with the cause of sin. No doubt the theologian must be very careful in discussing God's relation to sin. Nevertheless, the above exegesis shows that Exod 4-14 says that God was the ultimate, unconditional cause of Pharaoh's volition while holding him accountable for his disobedient volitional acts. While many theologians see an antinomy between divine sovereignty and human freedom in Exod 4-14 and Rom 9, the present evidence places the mystery between divine sovereignty and human accountability."





Interest and Enjoyment: A Father's Day Thought

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 14:44:00 +0000

I was talking with a friend the other day about our fathers. The conversation moved to those men besides our dads who made a father-like impression on us. One of those men for me was my father-in-law, Bob Hueni.
Bob was a man’s man. I mean, he was a little short by my standards, but he was all man. It’s funny what impresses you about a person once they’re gone. As I thought about his deep encouragement in my life I was struck by how few times he actually said something like, “You’re going a great job, Paul.” Because that is almost always what I felt from him. I realize now that so much of that affirmation came from two things.
First, he took an interest in my life. A real interest. Not just in my pastoring (since he was also a pastor), but in all the other stuff, too. We went to Leafs games, worked on the lawn, talked about the Blue Jays… just lots of stuff that he really didn’t have any reason to be interested in other than it was my interest.
Not only did he take an interest in these things, he enjoyed them along with me. Some of my happiest memories of Bob are cheering along the 1993 World Series Champions Toronto Blue Jays from a little hotel room in Southern California. Bob and Letty had come out to visit and made an extended stay of it. We had a blast cheering for the boys in blue. That died in the wool Cubs fan enjoyed my team.
I realize now how precious this all was. And is.
It makes me want to copy him all the more. Take an interest in other people’s lives and enjoy it with them. Sounds like a great plan. In fact, it sounds a lot like how God loved us in Christ.



Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.




Why is the Super Bowl on a Sunday?

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 22:16:00 +0000

The Super Bowl is tomorrow. Maybe you have heard about it? I was thinking about the big game today and got to wondering what I would do if the Toronto Maple Leafs were in a Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup. That would be the ultimate game of all time I would never want to miss. But I would miss it, if it happened to fall on a Sunday when we had a church service. 



I suppose you could argue that I would have to since I am the pastor of that church, but I am 95% sure I would miss it even if I was not a pastor. You see, there was a time when my love of hockey would have tempted me to change a service time in order to get in a game. But then I had this Game 7 scenario run through my mind and I thought, “At some point, you just have to die to things you love.” That was remarkably freeing. And not just because some people can record games and watch them later. It was freeing because it exposed and toppled an idol in my heart. I looked at a thing I adored (hockey, especially winning Leafs hockey) and the Lord. He tells me to not forsake gathering together with my church. So, I looked at the idol, looked at my Lord’s command, and the decision was easy. I went with the Lord. And these kinds of decisions really are freeing. I was no longer enslaved to a thing. 
I am sure lots of friends will joke that it is not much of a self-denial as my Leafs are perennial losers. Fair enough. But, should they start to win, I am glad to have this decision already made. What does all this have to do with the Super Bowl. Just that I think you should free yourself from every form of cultural bondage. Value God and His people above the Super Bowl. You will be glad you did. Super Bowls crack and rust. The Kingdom of God does not. If your church ends up not having services during the game, then by all means feel free to enjoy wisely. But don't forget that fellowship is not restricted to your church service times. Maybe a brother or sister is going to need you tomorrow night. If you are set free from your bondage to football, then you will be free to serve. And Jesus said, “It is better to give than to receive.”



The March for Life Wrecked Me

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 15:40:00 +0000

The size of the crowd caught me off guard. Some early estimates placed it well over half a million. I am not one for crowds and find anything more than 6 kind of suffocating, so shuffling in line for 45 minutes to get screened and frisked in order to stand 100 meters from the Vice President of the United States was not my comfort zone. Neither was holding a sign that read, “All people are created in the image of God.” And that is ironic, because I like to preach about that. I like to preach about that in my church or other churches that are friendly to the Gospel and trusting of the Bible. But there was a sense in this very public demonstration that not everyone in Washington agreed with my sign. It was just last week another march took place that had a lot more famous people and they laid down the law that anybody like me, anybody who believed in the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb, was not welcome at their march. And it was like that vibe still hung in the air. So, I felt like a quiet Canadian in a big American thing and it was uncomfortable.I also felt like I had failed. The March for Life is a Roman Catholic project. Sure there have been evangelical voices in the March over the years, but hardly so. At least 30% of the crowd seemed to be of high school age. Entire Catholic schools had bussed in hundreds of their students to stand for life. I was standing in a sea of the high pitched voices of cheerleaders.  And I was ashamed that my tribe, the evangelical world of which I am happily a part, had done so little for so long. We were a mere flea on this elephantine event. When Dr. Mohler spoke last night he reflected on how Catholics had centuries of thought and writings in the area of moral law to turn to when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down. They also had orders of nuns and other social agencies to immediately help women in crisis pregnancies. So, they knew what to do. We didn’t. A few years ago I was walking past an abortion clinic in a US city and passed two elderly Catholic women who went there every week to lovingly tell the young moms going in those doors that they had other options. Walking with a friend we inadvertently ended up between the sidewalk counsellors and that girl. That poor, scare girl. It all happened very fast but I was changed that day.I know my situation is different. Canada has strict rules about how close you can stand to an abortion facility and even what you can say. Plus, we lack that decisive moment like Roe v. Wade to mark our country’s decision to take life rather than protect it. And we are so Canadian. It is not in our nature to march or protest or hold up signs. But I still felt waves of grief for how little I have done to help the marginalized and hopeless in my neighbourhood. I have done some things. But not as much as I should. So, marching along the Mall with my new friend, Kevin, was a bit of a surreal experience. I was proud to stand for life, yet ashamed I had never done so before. I was thankful for these dear Catholic friends, yet ashamed that we evangelicals had watched in silence for so long. I was thrilled to stand not just for the protection of the unborn, but the flourishing of all human life (especially of the disabled, the refugee, the minority, the oppressed, the aged); yet wondering what more I could do to help the very people I say I want to protect and serve. All of this going on while T-shirt vendors hawked their wares, the odd food truck offered a cup of hot coffee (for a price!) and some guy on a segue dressed up as Uncle Sam handed out flyers. America.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Avenir Next'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Going to this March, staying in it and actually walking along and carrying my sign was an act of obedience for me. I felt I needed to do this to honour the Lord and take my stand. I am glad I did. But[...]



Weakness

Sat, 17 Dec 2016 22:29:00 +0000

Monday morning I went out to shovel the snow. It is Saturday evening and I am still a mess. All it took was one short push of a broom across the hood of my truck, attempting to clear the snow off my vehicle before I shovelled, when that electric shock zapped me mid-back. It had happened before so I started for the front door. I managed to get in the house and to the living room floor. Flattened. In pain. Broken. Sometimes I feel so capable and happy to be able-bodied and of generally sound mind. Then a day like Monday shows up and I remember all over again how weak I am.The next few days were on the floor, to the doctor, stronger muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories, a 45 minute attempt at work in the office and back to the floor. In fact, I had to hit the floor once I got to the office.I don’t like not working. I don’t like having to get other people to put my socks on my feet. I don’t like standing at the window and watching my wife, children and mother(!) shovel my driveway as more and more snow hits. I don’t like not being able to do what I want, when I want to. But there has not been much choice. If I stand, my legs go numb. If I sit, my back seizes up. So I go back to the floor. It is definitely improving, but I am still feeble and walking around with that sense of “one bad move and you’re done.” In other words, I am weak. And I do not like it. I first noticed my repulsion to this weakness when I found more comfort in Netflix than my Bible. It took my mind off the pain and distracted me from my condition. I am just watching a movie…But the more I considered this, the more I realized how deep was my resolve to care for myself. More than that, to find my own happiness. Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” But I could only say, “When I am weak, I dig down even harder to survive without His grace. My power is sufficient for me.” I was startled by the revelation, for I have felt a particular closeness in my fellowship with God this fall and winter. I have found my heart wanting more and more of Him. But when this trial appeared, all it did was show me how tight a grip my (supposed) self-sufficiency had on my most secret heart. Thankfully, in His grace, He stretched out the pain and floor time almost an entire week and kept whispering, “You’re not strong enough.”I wonder why we are so afraid of weakness? In my best moments I glory in His power in the middle of my powerlessness, but perhaps that is only in those areas of my life that I am willing to admit I need Him. I don’t want to need help to get up, to get dressed, nor to move from one part of the house to the other. I want help with big projects or seemingly impossible situations in other peoples lives. I just don’t want help with brushing my teeth. All of this made me think of some of my disabled friends, some of whom would be thrilled to move as much as I am moving today. So many of them seem to have reached a calm acceptance of their lot. They are not humiliated by their humble situation. Acceptance. Contentment. That seems to be at the heart of it, doesn’t it? But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. (2 Corinthians 13:4a)I asked the Lord that I might growIn faith, and love, and every grace;Might more of His salvation know,And seek, more earnestly, His face.’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,And He, I trust, has answered prayer!But it has been in such a way,As almost drove me to despair.- John NewtonSo in the end I thank Him. He loves me so faithfully t[...]



Child Dedication Services: Some Friendly Last Words from Us Paul's

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:30:00 +0000

Many Points of Agreement and One Observation on Paul Carter’s Evaluation of My Article on Not Performing Child Dedication Services (Paul Martin)I really enjoyed reading Paul Carter’s engagement with my article on why we do not practise Child Dedication services in our corporate worship at Grace Fellowship Church. And that sentence was intended to be really precise. Paul’s article highlights a second issue that I want to engage, but some points of agreement first.First of all, I agree that looking to the one instance of a baby being dedicated (1 Samuel 1) is bad form, but I have heard this very appeal on numerous occasions! Not from guys like Paul, but from many others. In fact, it was hearing this exegetical fallacy so often that caused me to start there in my presentation. (Again, I should note that what I posted was a lightly edited version of something I wrote twenty years ago.) So, I agree that looking to that text is a terrible way to justify a position, but I have heard it done (either vaguely or specifically) on so many occasions that I thought a careful look at what that passage was actually saying was in order. So, I basically agree with what Paul wrote on that point.I also agree with Paul’s statement that “the abuse of a thing is not the negation of a thing.” But I think Paul would agree with me that neither is it the endorsement of a thing. Child Dedication services are a great example of something that two churches, in very different contexts, might come to very different conclusions on - and both be right. I also want to stress my agreement with Paul that we don't become all “grim and forbidding.” (Paul is such a good author. I love his turn of phrase!) So, just to be clear, at Grace Fellowship Church we tend to do wild and crazy things like, wait for it, applaud when we see a new baby in the service for the first time or include a very specific word of thanksgiving to God for a newborn in our pastoral prayer. I even try to visit hospitals and hold babies and pray for them there. To be honest, I really love kids and enjoy them immensely. So, I don’t think we are grim and forbidding nor ungenerous. We just don't have a special Child Dedication service as part of our corporate worship. And that leads me to that thing that Paul’s article highlights in a kind of accidental way (I think). Paul quotes Matthew 19:13-14 as a kind of endorsement of such a service. This starts to lead us into the waters of what is typically called the Regulative Principle, or the Hooker Principle, depending on where you land on such things. Basically, it is the way students of the Bible have tried to answer the question of what is allowed in a corporate worship service. If you run with Bishop Hooker, you basically surmise that anything not prohibited is permitted. If you put yourself under the Regulative Principle, the basic gist is that you will only do those things that are positively commanded. Now, read enough and you will realize it is hard to find three pastors who agree on what are those prescribed elements of corporate worship.From my perspective, I think an official Child Dedication Service in an official Sunday Worship Service is very close to adding in to the list of things we can do. In other words, it might be something the Bible does not prescribe and therefore should not be included in corporate worship. Paul might look at Matthew 19 another way and suggest that is exactly the kind of endorsement needed. Either way, I wonder how different our practise looks in comparison to First Baptist Church of Orillia’s practise in the end. We are both very happy when a baby is born.We both publicly thank God for that child and pray for her parents.We both do this in a public worship service, albeit in very different forms. p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Avenir Next'; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {[...]



Child Dedication Services Are Not Such a Good Thing

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:56:00 +0000

My good friend, Paul Carter, recently posted an article on Baby Dedication services that jogged a memory. I recall spending a lot of time thinking through these things when I was a young pastor. There seemed to be a great deal of confusion over what a dedication service was and, more importantly, what it did. As much as I love Paul and appreciated his article, I disagreed with his conclusion. Since he really is my friend, I thought I would offer a different opinion here, in part so you can see that pastors who really do love each other really can disagree about stuff. I should note that Paul is the best kind of baby dedicator I can think of! He makes clear what he is doing and what he is not doing. I still disagree with him, but at least he is not all loopy. Here is how I thought through the matter. For an opposite conclusion, be sure to read Paul’s post.-----------------------------------Where Does the Idea of a Baby Dedication Come From?The only Biblical reference for a baby dedication is 1 Samuel 1:28 “So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.”  These were Hannah’s words as she brought her freshly-weaned son, Samuel,  to the temple and gave him to the priest, Eli.  Hannah had prayed fervently for a child to end her barrenness, and had promised the Lord that, should He enable her to conceive, she would (literally and physically) give her child to God.  The practical, geographical location to do this was the Temple in Jerusalem.  So when she dedicated Samuel to the Lord, she actually gave the child to God’s human representative on earth, the High Priest. It was here in the temple that Samuel grew up and received an annual visit from his mother from far-off Ephraim (1 Samuel 2:19).Thus, the only biblical example of dedicating a child to God consisted of actually giving the child to the God… and walking away.  This is affirmed by Eli’s prayer for Hannah to have more children “in place of the one she dedicated to the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:20).  The Hebrew word translated “dedicated” (used only here in the Old Testament in this way) means, “to lend.”  It is a business or commercial term that means to either “borrow or lend some valuable asset to another.”  In Samuel’s case, he was permanently lent to the Lord by his parents to do the Lord’s work. If we work from this example, to dedicate a child to God means to permanently lend him/her to God. Are There Other Examples in the Bible of Parents Dedicating Their Children to God?No. The only other times the word “dedicate” was used refer to items being handed over to the temple or the Lord for His use (especially those items recovered in war or given to Israel as a gift from other nations.) Why Do Some Churches Hold Child Dedication Services Today?There is probably a wide range of answers to this question including the infamous, “We don’t know! It is just what we have always done.” But I think on the whole, there is generally one good motivation and one not so good.Genuine LoveChristians love their children and acknowledge them as a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127). They note how Jesus invited little children to come to Him that He might pray for them (Matthew 19:13-15). In a desire to thank the Lord for the real gift of these children, many churches feel some kind of public ceremony of thanks to God and prayer for the child is appropriate.This is a good motivation. We ought to be thankful to God for our children and we ought to rejoice when parents are blessed with a newborn. However, there might be other ways to do this that do not involve a dedication service. Theological Envy?A less noble motivation is theological envy. Some Christians understand infant baptism to be a parallel to the Old Covenant requirement of male circu[...]



Intentional Spiritual Friendships

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 14:46:00 +0000

Something we are going to seek to work at in the coming year at Grace Fellowship Church is what I like to call intentional spiritual friendships. We tend to let fear or fancy dictate most of our relationships - we avoid people that intimidate us and strain to cozy up to folks we think will make us happy. Neither of these motives is Biblical love.When you join our church you enter into a covenant with all the existing members “to seek to watch over your fellow members, in brotherly love” and “to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling.” In other words, you declare your intention to get to know the other members and to build a relationship with them around the Gospel, not fear or fancy. That takes work. At least, it takes initiative, risk and some death to self. And that is wonderful.So, the goal for our members to is to seek to cultivate relationships with other members that are centred on God. Intentional spiritual friendships. Sometimes the most difficult aspect of this is the intentionality component. How do I get started? At our Members’ Meeting last night I listed a bunch of potential ways to do this and promised one sister I would post the list on the blog so it could be reviewed and hopefully spark some ideas. So, here you go!One woman gathers with others one morning per week to complete the new Missional Motherhood study by Gloria Furman.A brother looks on our (soon to be released) “Where I Work Map” for a brother who works in same geographical vicinity. Even though he has never met this guy before, he shoots him an email and suggests that eat their lunch together once a week and read through the book of Acts one chapter at a time.A couple asks another couple (or two!) to set aside one night a month to get together. Before each meeting they will all read one chapter of Tim Keller’s, The Meaning of Marriage, then spend time talking together about what they learned and how they intend to apply it in their own lives.A group of friends pull together a Truth Application Group then meet at a home every Monday night to discuss the previous week’s sermon.Five sisters decide to study True Womanhood 101 in our building on Wednesday nights while GraceYouth is going on.An older dad grabs five single young adult men and has them come over to his home every Sunday night after church service to talk about life and how they are progressing in their own sanctification.Man2Man /  Woman2Woman. You join a group or start a new one.A couple with a young family decides that dad will meet with some brothers on the first and third week of every month and mom will meet with some sisters on the second and fourth. That way, one of them is out every week one night, but childcare is taken care of.These are just a handful of ways to intentionally cultivate spiritual friendships. Can you think of some more?preacherthoughts.blogspot.com[...]



BOOK REVIEW: "Being There - How to Love Those Who Are Hurting" by Dave Furman

Sat, 10 Sep 2016 14:20:00 +0000

Dave Furman has written a helpful little book for the church. “Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting” is just what it sounds like - a how-to manual to care for the hurting. It may seem like this is unnecessary for Christians, what with the Gospel and the indwelling Spirit and all that, but Dave has lived through suffering in the first person and he writes from the perspective of the sufferer and the one who has caused suffering in others.There are two things about this book that are very unique. One is that the first chapter is addressed to the suffering that caregivers and those surrounding the sufferer experience. The first chapter, not the last. This is not what I expected when I picked up the book, but having lived through some of this stuff myself I am so glad to see this topic addressed. Too often the faithful spouses, family members and friends of the suffering never have their experiences addressed, but that is precisely where good Gospel balm can be applied:“We must remember to love those who are hurting not because they’ve done anything for us, but because of what Jesus has already done for us. You will get the strength to help the hurting only when you understand what God has done for you in the gospel.”  (35) “Your strength to care for the hurting comes directly from Christ. You have no hope to truly help the hurting if you are disconnected from Christ, the vine.” (38) “You must be much with Christ before you are anything for anybody else.” (40)The second big surprise in the book was that, in my opinion, the second to last chapter was the best. (Side note: It is a pet peeve of mine that most popular Christian books seem to have two to five chapters of good material followed by endless prattle to fill publishing pagination requirements. Give me blank pages rather than empty thoughts!) This chapter is entitled, “Whatever You Do, Don’t Do These Things” and it is brilliant. Dave gives a kind of Top Ten List of stupid things people do and say for the hurting. Most of these are not new, but it floors me how often these same old bad moves get played. I am thrilled to have a comprehensive list to hand out to the church, especially to new or aspiring elders, to say, “Don’t do these things and you are 80% of the way there to helping the suffering.”I don’t want to make it sound like the book is a big gripe session. Dave writes in a winsome style mostly because he is a winsome guy. I feel like I am pretty attune to suffering and disability, but even after the third time I forgot Dave can’t shake hands when we greet each other, he still reminded me with a big grin and an invitation for a hug. That may not sound like much to you, but if you read the book you will see how the Lord has applied the Gospel to Dave’s life to move him from depression to love, and this in the context of authentic Christian friendships. “People suffering with pain, depression, or loss will be pressed in ways they’ve never been pressed before. Naturally, their sin will show itself. It’s not an excuse, but they will need faithful friends who will be committed to the well-being of their souls by rebuking them in love. Help your friends know that they need to stay in community and that the cross has already criticized them more than anyone else can.” (109)The fact is, the local church ought to be the one place where the suffering are loved. If we really grasp what Jesus endured for us, we will have an increasing capacity to love the troubled. Not that this is an easy thing. No one said anything about easy, but Jesus did talk a lot about death to self.“When we serve those who are depressed, disabled, handicapped, and hurting, we’re going to have to serve without need for recognition or thanksgiving. Our giving of service cannot be[...]



Why Did the People of Lystra Think Paul and Barnabas Were Greek Gods? (Acts 14)

Thu, 04 Aug 2016 16:26:00 +0000

About 50 years before Paul and Barnabas entered the small town of Lystra, the Latin poet Ovid wrote his epic Metamorphoses. In it, he described a fictitious scene in which Zeus and Hermes took on human appearance and asked a thousand homes in Phrygia for lodging. They were rebuffed again and again until they came to the unassuming cottage of Baucis and Philemon.Ovid is putting into poetic form what was a widely-known myth. This helps to explain why the citizens of Lystra were so quick to identify Paul as Hermes and Barnabas as Zeus after the miraculous raising of the paraplegic. Nobody wanted to miss extending hospitality to those two Greek gods again since, in the myth, they wiped out the entire area with a flood for their failure! You can read it here if you like this kind of thing.The Story of Baucis and Philemon Thus Achelous ends: his audience hear With admiration, and admiring, fear The Pow'rs of Heav'n; except Ixion's Son, Who laugh'd at all the Gods, believ'd in none: He shook his impious head, and thus replies. These legends are no more than pious lies: You attribute too much to heav'nly sway, To think they give us forms, and take away. By Jacob van Oost (I) - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36404794The rest of better minds, their sense declar'd Against this doctrine, and with horror heard. Then Lelex rose, an old experienc'd man, And thus with sober gravity began; Heav'n's pow'r is infinite: Earth, Air, and Sea, The manufacture mass, the making Pow'r obey: By proof to clear your doubt; in Phrygian ground Two neighb'ring trees, with walls encompass'd round, Stand on a mod'rate rise, with wonder shown, One a hard oak, a softer linden one: I saw the place, and them, by Pittheus sent To Phrygian realms, my grandsire's government. Not far from thence is seen a lake, the haunt Of coots, and of the fishing cormorant: Here Jove with Hermes came; but in disguise Of mortal men conceal'd their deities; One laid aside his thunder, one his rod; And many toilsome steps together trod: For harbour at a thousand doors they knock'd, Not one of all the thousand but was lock'd. At last an hospitable house they found, A homely shed; the roof, not far from ground, Was thatch'd with reeds, and straw, together bound. There Baucis and Philemon liv'd, and there Had liv'd long marry'd, and a happy pair: Now old in love, though little was their store, Inur'd to want, their poverty they bore, Nor aim'd at wealth, professing to be poor. For master, or for servant here to call, Was all alike, where only two were all. Command was none, where equal love was paid, Or rather both commanded, both obey'd. From lofty roofs the Gods repuls'd before, Now stooping, enter'd through the little door: The man (their hearty welcome first express'd) A common settle drew for either guest, Inviting each his weary limbs to rest. But ere they sate, officious Baucis lays Two cushions stuff'd with straw, the seat to raise; Coarse, but the best she had; then rakes the load Of ashes from the hearth, and spreads abroad The living coals; and, lest they should expire, With leaves, and bark she feeds her infant fire: It smoaks; and then with trembling breath she blows, 'Till in a chearful blaze the flames arose. With brush-wood, and with chips she strengthens these, And adds at last the boughs of rotten trees. The fire thus form'd, she sets the kettle on (Like burnish'd gold the little seether shone), Next took the coleworts which her husband go[...]



Make Me a Barnabas

Tue, 14 Jun 2016 19:49:00 +0000


Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:36-37)

And when [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. (Acts 9:26-28)

The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:22-26)



I have spent a fair bit of time over the last years working to build coalitions and Gospel-centred cooperative movements. I have noticed that the best builders of these kind of groups are pastors who are generous of time and money, quick to build relationships between others and godly. They are not petty, suspicious, or worldly.

My life was deeply impacted by reading Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. To me, Whitefield was a master at bringing men together by emphasizing what they had in common instead of where they differed. Later in life, John Newton became a second mentor to me in this regard. Both men, in my mind, were Barnabas’s in their day. I hope that when I die I might be remembered in the same way. I want to give my life to helping Christians move closer together rather than further apart. 


Lord, make me a Barnabas.



Announcement: Here We Grow!

Wed, 08 Jun 2016 17:39:00 +0000

You may not have heard our big news. Grace Fellowship Church has two encouraging announcements to make.A New AuditoriumFirst off, we have prayed for many years that the Lord would provide us a physical meeting place of our own. He has faithfully done that through our long-term partnership with Timothy Christian School. TCS has been a great landlord and I hope we have been a decent enough tenant. Even though we have desired our “own” place, we have developed a very workable relationship with the school that enables us to do almost everything we want to do as we work around their schedule. Last summer we started talks with the school concerning a building project. It has been their desire to increase the gym size which would be of immediate benefit to us. Grace Fellowship Church currently pushes some 50 folks into a video feed overflow room so getting a new auditorium that seats 400 instead of 200 is a big help to us.The project also includes an addition along the front of the building with a new lobby area and new office space. As we got to talking, the school offered to include us in the project. So, for a donation of $150,000, we help finish the new auditorium, gain all new (real), permanent office space, and guarantee our rental for the next ten years. This seemed like a great move to our members, so we jumped in with both feet. We intend to help with the purchase of seating and a sound system on top of this $150,000 donation. We are excited to work with the school on this and even more excited to get renovated bathrooms! :-)A New Summer Meeting LocationThe construction is scheduled to begin July 1. That leads to our second announcement. Since the bathrooms are being gutted and most of the parking lot will be fenced off over the summer, we have decided to move our summer services to a nearby school. For every Sunday in July and August we will be meeting at St. Basil the Great College School (20 Starview Lane, North York, ON, M9M 3B2 - just 3km from our current meeting location). Due to the increased rental cost and the unavailability of TCS, we are only able to offer one service during the summer at our normal time of 10AM. The nice things about being at St. Basil are that we will all be in one room, there should be some air conditioning for the hot months of the year and there is still plenty of free parking.We are super grateful to TCS for inviting us in to their building project. Although we do not end up increasing our capitol (our donation does not buy ownership), we are pleased to help another Christian group and thrilled to have a facility for our unhindered use during our rental times. Plus, TCS is a great group of people to work with. We are thankful for the Lord’s provision.Want to Help?A number of pastors and other folks have asked me if they can help us in any way. That is part of the reason for this post. We have about $92,000 pledged toward our $150,000 goal. I am thankful that a church of our size, economic standing and age (we are very young) has been able to come up with these funds, but it leaves us a little shy of what we need. So, if you would like to help us in this project you are welcome to make a donation. You can do that online at gfcto.com/donate It would be pretty cool to see the Lord provide that needed $58,000 by September 1 when we intend to make our donation to the school. We are so very grateful to our wise God for all the ways He answers our prayers and supplies our every need. If you have a second, please thank Him with us for all He has done!preacherthoughts.blogspot.com[...]



Ministering to the Sick - Some Practical Considerations

Thu, 21 Apr 2016 15:59:00 +0000

I came across this little list the other day and thought it might prove helpful for young pastors in particular. Much of this I learned from tagging along with my father-in-law to hospital visits during our summer vacations. But this is the kind of stuff every Christian can do. Your Demeanour - - You should be humbly confident.the sick are already struggling to not be anxious, they don’t need you to add to their anxiety“pray yourself up” before meeting with them; yours is a spiritual workenter the room slowly, but with a smile that is full of love don’t let your eyes rivet on tubes and monitors... look into the eyes of the sick or the family that attends themhospitals are not modest or clean - just deal with ithave some idea of what you are going to say before getting there --> a plan breeds confidence (I like to have a Psalm in mind that I have read over in advance)Your Speech - - You should get to Christ and the Gospel.there is lots of time to talk about physical conditions, but not everyone has someone in their lives to remind them of Christremember to speak in a calm, conversational, not-too-loud voice (this is where nervousness can kill you - getting too loud or stuttering, etc)have a specific passage of Scripture to read and comment onI like to use whatever the Lord has blessed me with recently in my own devotional timeyou do not need to read all of a passageadmonish through the Word (e.g. “Here the Psalmist says that God’s voice can still a war or move a city... how glad I am that our Saviour is that strong.  He is still that strong and will be for you.”)keep your admonishment simple, and clear... no need to “preach the whole counsel” today; avoid obscure thoughts or things that do not relate to sufferingdon’t shy from asking simple questions that remind them of Jesusdon't shy away from asking difficult questions. The very ill often want to speak of death, their salvation, heaven, their assurance, etc. Often some of the sweetest fellowship happens when you ask a saint if they are prepared to die.Your Timing - - You should serve the sick, not your schedule (whenever possible).ask family and/or medical staff when the sick one is at their bestif you visit in hospital, avoid shift changes (frustrates nurses) and mornings (when much lab work, etc completed)if visiting in hospital, it is great to tell duty nurse who you are (“I am an elder/deacon from Grace Fellowship Church, their home church”) and who you plan to visitusually 5-10 minutes per visit is good for those recovering from surgery or suffering from serious ailments (you have to be careful here to not appear rushed like you have other things you would rather be doing, and not to overstay a welcome.  People are usually quite tired when very sick and long visits only wear them out -  you become counter-productive)you may stay longer for new births, etc... again, offer to leave within 10 minutes and stay if they beg you to do sothe dying: you will get to know when things are drawing near to the end; I always pray that I might be there as they pass, if not, be ready to stay for long seasons to minister to the family and to be with them afterwardsprior to surgery is a great time to pray with someoneday of surgery, give plenty of recovery timeYour Prayer - - To the point, to the cross and for their good.keep it simplekeep it short; don’t be offended if a person duped up on morphine falls asleep!pray the Gospelpray the Truth you have taught/admonished withintercede for what they need most: Christpray believingly Your Person - - A live body visiting is better.emails are okaya card is bettera live visit is bestbeing there communicates love: you have taken time ou[...]



Friday Fun: A Little Hip Hop From My Boy

Fri, 04 Mar 2016 21:32:00 +0000

A few months ago the boy's dreams came true and he got some studio time with a couple of musicians in our church.

What you are about to hear is a one-take wonder. Remus had a basic track laid down and the boy just went to town. One take. Over. See ya.

It pops up on my iTunes feed every couple of weeks and every time it makes me smile. Everything is perfect about this. :-)

You can listen here.



Canadian Winter of the Soul

Thu, 18 Feb 2016 21:55:00 +0000

The Canadian winter can wreak havoc on the Christian soul. I see it every year. Good people just wear down under the cold and grey and shortened sunlight hours. This winter has been the mildest I can remember, but that doesn't solve everything. In fact, not even July solves everything.

John Newton made this observation in this wonderful hymn. He compares his soul to the winter ground pining for spring. I have always enjoyed that imagery and found this hymn in particular a tonic to the soul. Lewis's famous, "always winter, never Christmas" line captures what many of us feel by the end of February. If that is you, use Newton's words to direct your heart back to Jesus.



See how rude winter's icy hand
Has stripped the trees, and sealed the ground;
But spring shall soon his rage withstand,
And spread new beauties all around.

My soul a sharper winter mourns,
Barren and lifeless I remain,
When will the gentle spring return,
And bid my graces grow again?

Jesus, my glorious sun, arise,
'Tis thine the frozen heart to move;
Oh! hush these storms, and clear my skies,
And let me feel thy vital love.

Dear Lord, regard my feeble cry,
I faint and droop 'till thou appear;
Wilt thou permit thy plant to die?
Must it be winter all the year?

Be still, my soul, and wait his hour,
With humble prayer, and patient faith,
'Till he reveals his gracious power,
Repose on what his promise saith.

He, by whose all commanding words,
Seasons their changing course maintain;
In every change a pledge affords,
That none shall seek his face in vain.



An Open Letter to Jemima Kirke (Star of Girls)

Thu, 04 Feb 2016 20:16:00 +0000

An Open Letter to Jemima Kirke(Star of Girls) allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/m1DhscWRT9w/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/m1DhscWRT9w?feature=player_embedded" width="320">Dear Jemima,Besides sharing the lovely name of my grandmother you also have this in common: Your life has had its share of difficulties. I thought of her in some of her trials as I watched you share the story of your abortion.I assume the intention of a video like this is to make me think. It worked and how I wish we could sit down over a dinner at my house and talk in person. In lieu of that, may I interact with some of your ideas here? Your words are in italics. Mine follow.In 2007 I became pregnant with my boyfriend at the timeI know you know this, but you did not have to get pregnant. You and your boyfriend could have had a very meaningful, enjoyable and sexless relationship. I simply want to point out that although your pregnancy might have surprised you, it was not by accident nor was it spontaneous. You became pregnant because you had sex with your boyfriend. That was a choice you made. I think that is important because all of our decisions have consequences. How we respond to them is so crucial to who we become as a person.I wasn't sure I wanted to be attached to this person (your boyfriend) for the rest of my life - my life was just not conducive to raising a healthy happy child - I just didn't feel it was fair, so I decided to get an abortion and I went to Planned ParenthoodI can understand your concern about marrying the right person. I stressed over that decision, too. But there is a jump in your logic. You go from concluding the relationship was not conducive to raising a child, directly to aborting that child. Did you notice that you called your child a “child?” I did. But if your concern was really for that child in your womb, you would have never killed it. Lots of wonderful people I know adopt children. Sometimes family members who understand the predicament you are in offer to take the child. There are hundreds of options for that child. You say you did not feel it was “fair” to your child to bring it into the complex world in which you then lived, but was it fair to her to end her life?Because I couldn't tell my mother that I was pregnant I had to pay for it out of pocketI understand this, too. There is a stigma attached to unwed pregnancies. I don’t know enough about your relationship with your mom to comment much more than that, but I do know that every major city in North America has a Pregnancy Care Centre where very kind and loving women will help you navigate those waters. We are terrible predictors of the future. I have watched many delicate situations between mothers and daughters end up wonderfully. Not every time. But often. Especially when they realize that regardless of the circumstances of the pregnancy, new life is here. reproductive issues are something women especially should be able to talk through togetherAgain, I agree with you. In fact, that is what I am trying to do, even though I am a man. But I have noticed that you need a man to get into this situation. Oh, for more men to step up and exercise their responsibilities. I honour the man who has the courage to tell the women he got pregnant that he will take care of everything. Whether that is financially supporting the new mom  and child or helping arrange an adoption.  Men are more of the problem here than we often admit.(I’m) a mother of two… I have two daughters and I would love it if when the[...]



Pastoring a Culturally-diverse Church

Mon, 28 Dec 2015 19:11:00 +0000

I have been thinking a lot lately about cultural diversity in the church. Toronto is still widely regarded as one of, if not the single most ethnically diverse city in the world. And thankfully that is reflected in many of our churches.But guys like me did not grow up with this kind of diversity. There were two visible minorities in my public school. Yet that demographic has completely flipped in my lifetime. I love it! Standing with my daughter at a college expo a few months ago I looked around the massive room and saw one other white person. One! That was amazing for a guy who grew up here.And I am not lying about loving it. I find the process of learning another culture totally fascinating and at times, dumbfounding. As a pastor, I am constantly asked to step into people’s lives and ask, “What does the Bible say about this?” which is an entirely different question than, “What do I think they should do?” I think (or hope, at least) that our situation has made me a better reader of the Word.Cultural IdolatryOur church really does enjoy cultures. There is, in my opinion, a very healthy mix of culture-respect, culture-denial and culture-enjoyment and so much of this is fuelled by a kind of self-deprecating humour toward one’s own culture. I think that is one of the ways the Gospel changes people. We stop idolizing culture, learn to enjoy parts of it for what they are worth, and even laugh at some of our weird eccentricities. All because we worship a Saviour who rescues souls out of “every tongue and tribe and nation.” The Gospel is of far greater importance to us than our culture.Cultural DominanceStill, I worry sometimes about how to keep things good. I recognize that my culture is the dominant culture of my church, if for no other reason than I planted this church. I watch with real interest certain countries struggle to understand the needs and pains of their non-dominant cultures. It is almost like one of those conversations where two people are yelling at each other in two entirely different languages. They just cannot comprehend what the other is saying. So, I worry that the same thing might creep into our church. But the Gospel answers this. If Christ left the glory of heaven to die in my place, it ought be my joy to leave the comfort of my culture and actually give preference to the culture of another. Isn’t this what Paul was doing when he became “all things to all people?”Fake OnenessI also worry that we will feign oneness in the church, without risking cultural offense. This might seem the opposite of what I was saying before, but I think part of learning to really love folks of wildly different cultures from your own is learning to ask questions that might get you in a lot of trouble. If we let fear control our church relationships, we will never come out and ask the things that would really help us understand each other. But this too, is exactly where the Gospel is needed. If you and I are both saved by the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, even if my question is dumb and offensive, you have to confront me, I have to repent and you have to forgive me. Done deal. That is why I think Christians are the ones leading the way when it comes to crossing ethnic barriers. I recognize that place and history have put me in a very unique and advantageous situation to live an ethnically-diverse church life. But it will take more than immigration and social policy to make it work. Praise God for His one Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Saviour of the world.preacherthoughts.blogspot.com[...]



When You Don't Delight in God

Thu, 22 Oct 2015 14:07:00 +0000

At Grace Fellowship Church we have one primary mission; to delight in God, to the glory of God, for the good of all people. We think this best summarizes the purpose of every Christian’s life.But choosing to be happy in God is not easy. We contend with the world, the flesh and the devil, and at any given moment might be fighting against all three. At our prayer meeting last night we tried to come up with the most common ways we fail to delight in God. After that, we tried to answer each from the Word. This gave us a great framework from which to pray for our church family.I was so blessed by this I thought I would share it with you.Obstacle to Delight        --> AnswerFear of man      --> Fear of GodSelfishness      --> Self-forgetfulnessDiscontentment     --> ContentmentAnxiety     --> PrayerDoubt     --> FaithIdolatry     --> Worship of GodGrumbling     --> JoyPride     --> HumilityDistraction     --> Single-mindednessCarelessness     --> DeliberatenessThis list helps in several ways.It helps identify what might be going on in our heart when we are not delighting in God.It provides a possible antidote for what ails us.It gives us a great list of things to pray for fellow church members any day of the week. preacherthoughts.blogspot.com[...]



About that Tim Challies Guy

Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:14:00 +0000

I no longer have the first email I received from Tim Challies, but I remember the first time I saw him. Tim had found me from my “world famous blog” and had suggested we get together for lunch. I pulled up to a local restaurant and spotted a computer-programmer-looking guy standing sheepishly by the door. “That must be him,” I thought. And I was right.Little did I know where that first meeting would take us. Soon after that lunch, the Challies family made Grace Fellowship Church their home. It was not the easiest transition, but it was certainly deliberate. Tim knew where he wanted his young family to worship.After becoming members, Tim and Aileen began to serve in various parts of church life. And one of the first things Tim did was to sit down our elders and ask for spiritual oversight. Whatever this blog phenomenon was, Tim knew it could prove dangerous to his soul unless he was submitting to the elders of his local church. To be clear, this was never intended to be a kind of editorial oversight, but the kind of shepherding that every worker should seek. Tim wanted to be grounded, held to the Truth and have people in his life who really knew him and pursued his soul. Over the years, the church began to recognize a teaching gift in Tim. Soon, the elders saw gifts of leadership and the training of others. We spoke to Tim about the potential of becoming an elder in our church (a long and thorough process) and he was eager to pursue it. He was ordained to the office of elder on May 16, 2010.Not long after this, our church began preparing to plant another. The elders thought it best to add to our pastoral staff in the process and Tim was asked to join the team. Tim jumped in with both feet and began full-time pastoral work all the while keeping this challies.com thing running. Every day. For, like, 9 million days in a row. When Tim came on staff, we knew about this website. And we agreed it was good for him to keep it going. The fact that he managed to do that for the next five years while never shirking his pastoral responsibilities had a few of us, well, I guess just me, wondering if he was actually a superhero. Alas, such was not the case.About a year ago we began to recognize that Tim was going to have to turn away from one of his commitments. This was not an easy thing. For any of us! Grace Fellowship Church loves her pastor. And Pastor Tim loves his church. But both the website and blog had grown to the point where they needed more than Tim could give. We prayed, talked, and thought. As elders, we loved having Tim as one of our pastors. But we saw and believed in the value of what he was bringing “the outside world” via his website. We also thought that Tim had been uniquely gifted by God to do it. (Not many people have the consistency, integrity, theological chops and wisdom to do this.) So, we affirmed our love for Tim and our total approval of his stepping down from full-time pastoral work in order to focus on writing and the website. Tim remains an elder along with our other outside-employed elders, but resigned his duties as a paid staff member effective September 30.A couple of notes.1. At a later date, I hope to talk about my personal love for my brother. Working with Tim these last five years has been one the real joys of my twenty years of pastoring. I count it a big personal loss to not have my brother in the office anymore. 2. God remarkably supplied a replacement for Tim in the span of about two weeks. One of our church plants sent her interns to our offices f[...]



The Gospel Coalition - Ontario: Another Radio Interview with Neil Boron and Robbie Symons

Fri, 18 Sep 2015 14:46:00 +0000

It was a delight to spend time with my friend Robbie Symons yesterday talking about The Gospel Coalition Ontario Conference. We were hosted by Neil Boron of WDCX fame. Neil is a good egg. 
I was able to spend some of the morning working talking around the them of my workshop. I plan to show how prayer, the preaching of the Word and a spirit of gospel-centred cooperation between churches are signs of potential revival to come. It led to some discussion about what marks a true reviving work of the Sprit as opposed to some manufactured, synthetic and man-centred work. I noted these three foundations, but Robbie added a fourth being an overall sense of brokenness and humility in God’s people. I think he was right. 
Already we are seeing some glimmers of what might be the Lord’s work. I know of pastors forging prayerful partnerships with men outside of their “tribe” and churches that are financially supporting new works in which they have no vested interest. Besides this are the little meetings to pray that are popping up on the radar. None of these things are being advertised or promoted. Just God’s people doing His work in the world.
I remain very hopeful that the conference will be a catalyst to even more of this. When Neil asked me yesterday why people should come, part of the answer I gave him was so they could be at the start of something great. At least, if the Lord is going to do something, how good to be in on the ground floor and be a part of a movement toward all the things Jesus prayed for in John 17, not the least of which is the truth-fuelled unity of all of God’s people. 
The reach of radio is quite remarkable. Anyone that thinks that medium is finished because of the interwebs had better think again. I continue to have people visit our church or call or introduce themselves to me at events from that one interview we did earlier this year. I am praying that the Lord uses yesterday to draw out a few more of His own who perhaps have not heard of us yet. 

Pray then, that God will use all of these things to make His Name greater in Ontario.



The Ethics of Undercover Operations, Secret Videotapes and Stings

Thu, 16 Jul 2015 17:48:00 +0000

A recently released video exposes Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood, discussing over lunch the “intentional harvesting of organs and other tissues from babies aborted in Planned Parenthood clinics.” It is a very difficult video to watch for several reasons, including wondering what it was like for Dr. Nucatola to wake up with an assumed private conversation plastered all over the world-wide web.I was targeted once by a Jehovah’s Witness in an undercover operation. Initially, he portrayed himself to be an earnest spiritual seeker, but as the conversation progressed it became obvious he was a pro and I was the subject of a rather elaborate sting. It was a very unpleasant feeling to realize I had been “had” and even more unpleasant to speculate that I had been recorded in the process. I felt violated and exposed.This was primarily due to one statement I made. Feeling angry that this guy was wasting my time, I said something like, “Look, I’ve been a student of Greek for 7 years and you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Unfortunately for me, he did know his Greek, or at least the bad Greek he had imbibed from that cult and he started to run circles around me. It was a rookie mistake. But a rookie mistake on a private phone call is one thing. What if it was being played back to a Jehovah’s Witness National Convention? So, I squirmed watching the Nucatola video. First, I squirmed from the sheer horror of her casual description of tearing apart babies to harvest their organs for money. But I also squirmed over the ethics of the sting. Was it really fair to set her up with questions and edit that material together?Of this, I am not so sure.First off, I am not naïve. I realize there is no way any high-ranking official of Planned Parenthood would openly admit this “procedure” was being practised with the cameras rolling in their face. Not without gallons of nuance, distraction and spin. In all likelihood, it would be flatly denied. This is why police departments use under-cover officers. The bad guys generally don’t admit their wrong-doing when a uniformed officer walks up and asks them, “Did you rob the bank?” Just watch one episode of Cops if you don’t believe me. The undercover operative is a con man, gaining the confidence of the criminal so that he will admit his crimes.The actors in the video did just that. They gained Nucatola’s confidence and led her to admit without prejudice a potential felony. (There is some debate about the criminality of her admission.) So, they exposed a potential crime through deception. But keep in mind, they were actors, not agents of the state.The Bible is clear that no Christian is to lie. Ever. That said, there are three cases of deception that deserve careful attention. John Murray unpacks them very helpfully in his book, Principles of Conduct.The first is called concealment or evasion. An example from the Bible would be Samuel going to Bethlehem to anoint David as Israel’s new king. God instructed him to say only that he was going there to sacrifice. That’s all. And that was true, but it was not the whole truth. Saul was an agent of evil in the land. He was intent on holding on to his rule at any cost including killing any threat to his throne. On this sinful trajectory, Saul did not deserve to know the whole truth. However, no untruth on Samuel’s part was involved. Samuel never lied about what he was going to do in Bethlehem a[...]



The Gospel Coalition - Ontario Chapter (Update)

Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:58:00 +0000

It has been a real joy for me to lead the Ontario Chapter of The Gospel Coalition over the last year. In a meeting with a large group of interested pastors yesterday, I detailed what the Lord has done so far.On April 25, 2014, John Mahaffey (West Highland Baptist Church), Dwayne Cline (Hughson St, Baptist Church)  and Tim Kerr (Sovereign Grace Toronto) invited a small group of us to meet together in order to talk about the history of TGC-ON and what purpose moving forward might serve. The best part of this meeting was getting to know some men I had only heard of before and sitting in a room with a bunch of brothers who all understood the significance of striving for Gospel-cooperation. From this meeting, we determined to call an even broader group together to continue the conversation.On May 21 we met in Mississauga with 40 pastors and church leaders. Introductions were made and a lively discussion followed concerning the place of TGC and in particular, how it might fit into our Canadian context. All agreed that something was needed and from the 40 attendees an executive team was chosen.That executive met on June 25th and decided, among other things, to maintain the name (TGC-ON) and to start the re-birth of this movement with a conference. We determined this conference ought to have a predominantly Canadian voice and the search for speakers and workshop leaders started.By December 10 we had enough in place to call “the 40” together again to Young Nak Presbyterian Church since this would be our conference home. After announcing a speaker lineup that included Don Carson, John Neufeld, Robbie Symons and Mark Clark, we asked the representatives to consider underwriting the expense of the conference with financial gifts. The executive alone pledged to give over $20,000. We also announced our desire to start talking to other Canadian TGC chapters and Gospel-movements to discuss forming a TGC Canada.Yesterday, we updated our group again with these tidbits:Men, Women and the Bible Conference Paul Carter (First Baptist, Orillia) announced more details of this conference for young church leaders being held at Muskoka Bible Conference May 14-15 with Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. There are only 20 spots left so if you are thinking about it, think no more. Register! Dan MacDonald and Paul have done a fantastic job getting this event together.TGC Ontario Conference UpdateJohn Mahaffey updated the group on the 12 workshop leaders and their topics. He also informed us that registration for the conference will go live on April 30. This is important as there are only 800 spots available. The conference will run over two days on October 16-17, 2015. Personally, I expect the event to sell out. At TGC Orlando Update Dwayne Cline explained to the men how an email had been sent to all the Canadian registrants at TGC Orlando inviting them to a brief meeting at the end of the conference. A very large contingent showed up between two meetings furthering our contacts and giving men like Yanick Ethier (Quebec) and Steve Bray (Newfoundland) an opportunity to connect with everyone as well. On the whole, it is exciting to see how much the Lord has done - especially when you consider this whole thing is run by a bunch of busy pastors who have many other things they could be doing. But men are investing in this movement because they know its great value in the work of God in our day.The day ended for me with a live radio interview co[...]



Conflicting Feelings (John Newton)

Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:57:00 +0000

I doubt a church could sing this poem very well, but like so many of Newton's works in the Olney Hymnal, this one stands as a brilliant little piece of easy poetry. Why is it we Christians can be so annoyingly inconsistent at times? Why is it I fail even after following Jesus for 32 years? Ah, it is a fallen and broken world in which we live. And we are broken, albeit "being fixed" kind of people. The battle with sin will end in the Great Day, not Tuesday. And that means there will be failures along the way.On the one side, we feel like great victors over all. The next moment we lie to the little girl who opens the door for us. We are conflicted. One day we will be complete. Grace shall overcome at last...Conflicting FeelingsStrange and mysterious is my life.What opposites I feel within!A stable peace, a constant strife;The rule of grace, the power of sin:Too often I am captive led,Yet daily triumph in my Head.I prize the privilege of prayer,But oh! what backwardness to pray!Though on the Lord I cast my care,I feel its burden every day;I seek His will in all I do,Yet find my own is working too.I call the promises my own,And prize them more than mines of gold;Yet though their sweetness I have known,They leave me unimpressed and coldOne hour upon the truth I feed,The next I know not what I read.I love the holy day of rest,When Jesus meets His gathered saints;Sweet day, of all the week the best!For its return my spirit pants:Yet often, through my unbelief,It proves a day of guilt and grief.While on my Savior I rely,I know my foes shall lose their aim,And therefore dare their power defy,Assured of conquest through His name,But soon my confidence is slain,And all my fears return again.Thus different powers within me strive,And grace and sin by turns prevail;I grieve, rejoice, decline, revive,And victory hangs in doubtful scale:But Jesus has His promise passed,That grace shall overcome at last.preacherthoughts.blogspot.com[...]



Look Unto Jesus (Charles Spurgeon)

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 17:19:00 +0000

It is ever the Holy Spirit's work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, "Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus." All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that "Christ is all in all." Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee--it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee--it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument--it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by "looking unto Jesus." Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee."My hope is built on nothing lessThan Jesus' blood and righteousness:I dare not trust the sweetest frame,But wholly lean on Jesus' name."(Adapted from Morning and Evening, June 28, Morning Reading)preacherthoughts.blogspot.com[...]