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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

John Stott

Grace Sight #9 is John Stott.

In Memoriam

We should not ask, "What is wrong with the world?" for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, "What has happened to the salt and light?" (John Stott)

We have received breaking news that John Stott has went to be with His Lord his morning.  He is being designated a Grace Light posthumously. Christianity Today has written an  obituary for Stott on their website.  A widely acclaimed Christian writer, Dr. Stott has left a tremendous legacy of Biblical teaching that brought to light social applications that challenged the thinking of many Christians. The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity has a detailed biography of John Stott on a section of their website.  Though he lived a long life to age 90, his passing will be mourned by Christians all over the world.

John Stott wrote dozens of Christians books and many were published and promoted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Press. The following YouTube video is a presentation of the 50th Anniversary in 2008 of Stott's classic Christian book Basic Christianity.  Basic Christianity sold over 2.5 million copies.

For more information about John Stott visit the John Stott Ministries website.    Many tributes will come in for Dr. Stott in the days ahead, but his lasting legacy is that Christians should be salt and light to the world for the time that the sovereign God gives us on earth and that is accomplished through our relationship to the Word of God.  

"God must speak to us before we have any liberty to speak to him. He must disclose to us who he is before we can offer him what we are in acceptable worship. The worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. Scripture wonderfully directs and enriches our worship."

Rest in peace, John Stott. 

Photo: The photo in this post is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia and used with permission of the owner, Langham Partnership

Expository Preaching

Grace Sight #8 is Expository Preaching.

I love expository preaching. Expository preaching is taking the text of the Bible and expounding it verse by verse. An additional explanation is available at the Gotquestions.org website.

John MacArthur is the author of the book Rediscovering Expository Preaching.  On June 5, 2011, John MacArthur completed the expository preaching of the entire New Testament verse by verse.  His final sermon in the book of Mark, which completed his New Testament series can be found at his Grace to You sermon website.  MacArthur demonstrated 42 years of faithfulness to complete the series, which is my entire lifetime.

John Calvin believed in expository preaching.  In this YouTube video, Dr. Steve. Lawson discusses his book The Expository Genius of John Calvin.

I seem to have been drawn to the expository style of preaching though it was not the norm in the church where I was raised and spent the first four decades of my life. Growing up as a child I would spend my days listening to J. Vernon McGee of the Through the Bible radio program preach through the entire Bible.  I then became an attentive listener of every special opportunity to hear Stephen Manley's expository preaching in revival services.  After circumstances led me to change churches last year, I am very grateful I found one where expository preaching is the norm.  

Many great preachers have taken the expository style of preaching.  G. Campbell Morgan, Chuck Smith, and Arthur W. Pink were prominent expository preachers. Wikipedia says, "Other famous expository preachers include John Stott, Dick Lucas and Charles Spurgeon from England, William Still from Scotland, Phillip Jensen and David Cook from Australia, and Stephen F. Olford, and Fred Craddock from America." 

God can use both expository and topical preaching. We need to pray for all preachers of the Gospel, regardless of their style of preaching.    Pray that all preachers generally and your preacher specifically would study to be approved by God and, "avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness" (2 Timothy 2:16, ESV).   May God be glorified through every word uttered from pulpits in the world.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Christian Camps

Grace Sight #7 is Christian Camps.

I owe a tremendous debt to Christian camps for helping provide a place for me to hear the life-changing Gospel when I was a child and teenager.  It was my privilege in the past to spend ten summers working full-time at a Christian camp. Eight of those years were in excellent camping system operated by The Salvation Army, where I had the opportunity to serve as a year-round Camp Director for five years in Minnesota.

This last week of July and early August is when tempers get on edge as the accumulative effect of late nights at camp take their toil.   It's a time when Director's remind the staff to keep the energy and enthusiasm level up and give a great experience for those children who happened to have their first and only camp experience scheduled near the end of the season.

In my last Summer with The Salvation Army we had the following Scripture passage written out on our staff t-shirts.

"Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you."  (Deuteronomy 23:14, ESV)

I would like to ask everyone to pray for Christian camps.  Pray for the staff, the campers, the financial planning, the risk management, and both physical and spiritual health of all those who will be spending time at camps during any of the remaining days of the Summer.  Pray for all Christian camps and pray for any that your church is specifically affiliated with.

For more information on participating or praying for a camp, Christian Camp and Conference Association gives a database of contact information for Christian camps or one may do a Google search for specific indexes of camps associated with specific churches or religious organizations such as the following sites for organization specific camps.

Grace Light #7

Monday, July 25, 2011

Unanswered Prayers

Grace Sight #6 is Unanswered Prayers.

Unanswered Prayers. Yes they really are a blessing. I've been thinking about prayer and how sometimes prayers go unanswered.   As I thought on this subject I listened to some country music.

Garth Brooks wrote a song in 1990 called Unanswered Prayers.   While Brooks is certainly not a reliable theologian, when I hear the overall message of this song I think of the sovereignty of God and how amazing it is that God loves us enough to not answer all our prayers.  I am reminded that he can see the future we cannot see.  The words to the the astute refrain are:

Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.

Jesus said these words, among many, on the subject of prayer.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7, ESV)

There are two things John 15:7 shows us about how we are able to believe we will receive whatever we ask.   First, we must abide in Christ and second, Christ's words must abide in us.   If like me you think you still aren't abiding like that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, then pray more and accept unanswered prayers as an inevitable byproduct of the fact that we are sinners prone to put self over Christ at times.

In John Calvin's Commentary on John for this verse (John 15:7), he states the following on this passage.  
When he promises that he will grant whatever we wish, he does not give us leave to form wishes according to our own fancy. God would do what was ill fitted to promote our welfare, if he were so indulgent and so ready to yield to us; for we know well that men often indulge in foolish and extravagant desires. But here he limits the wishes of his people to the rule of praying in a right manner, and that rule subjects, to the good pleasure of God, all our affections. This is confirmed by the connection in which the words stand; for he means that his people will or desire not riches, or honors, or any thing of that nature, which the flesh foolishly desires, but the vital sap of the Holy Spirit, Which enables them to bear fruit. 
If we are unable to understand unanswered prayers it could be because we don't really comprehend our own sinfulness.  If we look carefully at John 15:7 we will find it is not about getting God to answer all our prayers.  We get prayer grossly wrong when we see it as a mechanism to get something from God.  Like many concepts, this is partly right. The purpose of prayer is to get something from God, it's to get God himself through abiding in his perfect son, Jesus Christ.  

Just as I trust God to make the arrangements for the next stage of my eternal life, I know he alone knows best for my life on earth. And prayer should never be about me. God has matchless wisdom and infinite power that I am not worthy to behold. I'm not bothered by unanswered prayers. What amazes me more than anything else is that God answers any of my prayers at all.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

John Calvin's Hymn

Grace Sight #5 is John Calvin's Hymn.

The Words to the Reformation period hymn, I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art, are attributed to John Calvin.  While it is uncertain if Calvin actually wrote the words, they are consistent with his teachings and are a good representation of the period of the Reformation.  It is known as Calvin's Hymn despite the uncertain authorship.  The words penned in 1545 point to the redemption of Christ, power of God, sovereignty of God, protection of God, unity of believers, and finally the perseverance of the saints.

I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power,
And give us strength in every trying hour.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness;
O grant to us the grace we find in Thee,
That we may dwell in perfect unity.

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure,
That in Thy strength we evermore endure.

Below is a YouTube performance of Zachary Harris performing what is known as John Calvin's Hymn.

For more information on John Calvin's hymn you may wish to check out the Cyber Hymnal page for this hymn or the explanation of this hymn by Rev. Kyle Sorensen on Sermonaudio.com.

To read other posts on the blog about John Calvin search for the John Calvin Label

Friday, July 22, 2011

English Standard Version Bible

Grace Sight #4 is the English Standard Version Bible.
Christians who have longed for a more readable literal Bible translation will find much to praise in the English Standard Version. The ESV's translation team of over 100 members has admirably attempted to preserve the stylistic variety of biblical authorship and ease of reading (at the eighth-grade level) despite the word-for-word translation, which historically has resulted in a choppier text flow. -- Cindy Cosby

The popular Bible Gateway indexes over 100 translations of the Holy Bible. Many churches and Christians are choosing the relatively new English Standard Version (ESV), among all the options available to them (The ESV Bible was written in 2001).   The following YouTube video explains how the English Standard Version (ESV) is trusted by various Christian leaders.

If you wish to share ESV material there are several  unique ways to do so.
  1. Create a shortened internet link of any verse of the ESV.
  2. Put audio of the ESV on a website.
  3. Retweet from the @esvdaily account on Twitter.
  4. Play the ESV Listener's Bible in a place where others will hear it.  
Students of the Bible will appreciate the detailed ESV Study Bible.   J.I. Packer edited each single note in the ESV Study Bible and in the following YouTube video he explains his work on the massive project.

Nick Kennicott wrote a blog post on "10 Reasons Teens Why Every Teen Should Use the ESV Study Bible".  In addition, Bob Kauflin of Worship Matters Blog wrote a post on "Ten Reasons Why I Appreciate the ESV Study Bible".  These posts have some very practical reason why the ESV Bible is appropriate for all ages and will likely be treasured for years to come.  

The ESV Bible Online site at http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/ lists many ways to utilize the ESV. To keep up to date on ESV developments follow the Crossway blog and search for specific references to any ESV posts. Next time you need to buy a new Bible consider making the ESV Bible your translation of choice.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    George Whitefield

    Grace Sight #3 is George Whitefield.

    George Whitefield (1714-1770)
    George Whitefield had an extraordinary impact on the people of his times and continues to be revered by Christians today.  A favorite saying from George Whitefield is something he wrote in a letter to James Hervey who was suffering from poor health (Source).

    "Fear not your weak body; we are immortal until our work is done."

    The above quotation is very meaningful to me because it communicates that we should work for the Lord and that the sovereignty of God over our life is more powerful than anything that the world can do to us.   My paternal Grandfather, Henry Stokes, believed this premise because he was still winning souls to Christ through personal evangelism until his death at age 93.  As he lived through several decades of the season of old age, each time there was a new convert under Grandpa's ministry, he would wonder if his work here on earth was done and if death would knock on his door.  He would carry this thought until he would find the next person in his life that needed Christ.

    Steve Lawson gave an excellent message on the life and impact of George Whitefield that provides a helpful insight into a study of Whitefield's life.  Here Lawson answers the question, "Why did God use this man in such an extraordinary way?" by giving 8 distinguishing marks of George Whitefield's life and ministry.

    In Dr. Steve Lawson's message above on Whitefield he attributes the following witty statement to George Whitefield:  

    "We are all born Arminians, but born-again Calvinists."

    Charles Spurgeon mentioned the first part of the above George Whitefield statement in Vol. 2, p. 124 of his Sermons, saying "George Whitefield said, 'We are all born Arminians.' It is grace that turns us into Calvinists."

    Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones said about Whitefield, "Other men merely existed, Whitefield lived."  The following is Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones' documentary on the life of George Whitefield.

    It has been incorrectly stated that Calvinists place little priority on Christian evangelism. Whitefield was the greatest evangelist that England has ever produced and he was a Calvinist.  

    Despite their theological differences, George Whitefield was a close friend with John Wesley, the father of Methodism.  The two may have disagreed on the theology of election but they remained respectful to each other according to the following page on the global ministries website of the United Methodist Church.  In fact, John Wesley gave a Funeral Sermon on the Death of the Rev. George Whitefield.   In this sermon, Wesley gives great insight into Whitefield's life saying about Whitefield the following.  

    "Have we read or heard of any person since the Apostles, who testified the gospel of the grace of God through so widely extended a space, through so large a part of the habitable world?" (John Wesley)

    Whitefield died on July 30, 1770 and is buried under the pulpit of a church he founded in Newbury, Massachusetts.  See some fascinating pictures of that church at "Here I Blog" .

    For further study of the life of this genuinely great Christian preacher of the 18th century the Reformed Sermon Archives has a selection of 38 of his sermons available on their site.   Let's follow George Whitefield as he followed Christ.     

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Reformed Theology Source Website

    Grace Sight #2 is the Reformed Theology Source Website.
    Reformed Theology Source website is an excellent source for Reformed Quotations. The Reformed Theology Source is integrated with Rev. MacPhail's website called Thinking Big: The Reflections of Brian MacPhail in the Bahamas. The quotations can be accessed through two types of indexes. The index of authors is at http://www.reformedtheology.ca/author_quotes.htm and the index of topics is at http://www.reformedtheology.ca/quotes_topic.htm.

    One will find here quotations indexed from Affluence to Worship.  If you are looking for a timely quotation for a special occasion or just want to read thoughts from great thinkers, such as Richard Baxter, Jerry Bridges, Jonathan Edwards, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, Charles Spurgeon, Alistair Begg, Jeremiah Burroughs, William Gurnall, Robert McCheyne, John Piper, A.W. Tozer, Loraine Boettner, John Calvin, Michael Horton, Matthew Mead, J.C. Ryle, Thomas Watson, James M. Boice, D.A. Carson, Christopher Love, R.C. Sproul, and George Whitefield you'll want to bookmark this site.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Bob Hostetler

    Grace Sight #1 is Bob Hostetler.

    Bob Hostetler has written an excellent resource called "31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children".  It is set up to provide a different prayer focus each day of the month.

    Sometimes in life we look at our child unable to sleep at night because of sickness, crying after a hard day at school, heartbroken after the break up of a human relationship, or otherwise misguided in their ways and wonder what the most effective thing we can do to help them is.  We want to help them but we don't seem have the power on our own to make everything better.  That's where prayer comes in. Always remember to pray for your children. They were given to you for a reason by the sovereign God.  It is in prayer that you may find that reason becomes clearer.

    Bob Hostetler's resource is also available at Revive Our Hearts Website.