Sunday, June 03, 2007

Some of My Favorite Music

Well, it's been a few weeks since I've posted so I wanted to share some of my favorite music videos.

This first one is perhaps the greatest acoustic guitar player ever, Tony Rice playing his classic solo, "Church Street Blues." The album by the same name is one of my absolute favorites.

This next one is Tony Rice and Ricky Skaggs doing the old gospel song "Where the Soul of Man Never Dies." Tony and Ricky did an entire album in the late 70's called "Skaggs and Rice" that features this one and several more like. Simplicity at its finest.

The last video today is from a jam band called Greenbroke. I've met and had some lessons from John Moore (mandolin) and Brad Davis (guitar). Great guys and great music!

Thank God for the wonderful gift of music He has given us to enjoy!

Soli Deo Gloira!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Spirituality and Sports

I recently wrote a blog on professional golfer Zach Johnson's public expression of faith in Jesus Christ upon receiving the coveted green jacket as the 2007 Master's champion. Today I discovered an article comparing Johnson with Kurt Warner (both graduates of the same Cedar Rapids, Iowa high school). After leading the Rams to win Super Bowl XXXIV and being named Superbowl MVP, Warner's expressions of his evangelical faith became well known.

As with Warner, Johnson seems to be learning to deal with how to deal with those who oppose his public profession and those who want to exploit it. Everyone from academicians to marketing specialists weigh in with their ideas in this article.

All this brings to light the post-modern idea of the sharp dichotomy between public and private life. The prevalent thought is that it is okay to believe what you want to believe but you must never express those beliefs in a way that might challenge anyone else's private thoughts. Of course those who hold such a philosophy have no understanding of genuine, biblical Christianity.

A true Christian cannot divorce his private faith from the his public words or actions. As the Apostle Paul said, "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col.3:3). He also wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me" (Gal.2:20).

If as believers our old man has died and now we are risen to new life in Christ, there is no possible way that we can separate ourselves from Christ, whether in the church or on the golf course.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Safe from Wrath

From The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures by Thomas Brooks (1675):

Christians, spend your days in admiring the transcendent love of Christ--in undergoing hellish punishments in your stead! Oh pray, pray hard that you "may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of that love of Christ, which passes knowledge!" (Ephesians 3: 18-19).

The love of Christ put Him upon these bodily and spiritual sufferings--which were so exceeding great, acute, extreme, and universal--and all to save you from wrath to come! His miseries, sorrows, and sufferings are unparalleled, and therefore Christians have the more cause to lose themselves in the contemplation of His matchless love. Oh, bless Christ! Oh, kiss Christ! Oh, embrace Christ! Oh, cleave to Christ! Oh, follow Christ! Oh, walk with Christ! Oh, long for Christ --who for your sakes has undergone insupportable wrath and most hellish torments!

Oh, look up to dear Jesus, and say, "O blessed Jesus, You were accursed--that I might be blessed! You were condemned--that I might be justified! You underwent the very torments of hell--that I might forever enjoy the pleasures of heaven! Therefore I cannot but dearly love You, and highly esteem You, and greatly honor You, and earnestly long after You!"

Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Master's Faith

Today Zach Johnson fulfilled every golfer's dream. He won the historic Master's Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

He seemed cool and composed as he made his way through the treacherous back nine and even when he stumbled with a bogey on 17 it didn't fluster him on 18. He missed his approach shot just shy of the right bunker but made a beautiful chip to "gimme" range of the flag to par the whole and win by two stokes over the infamous Tiger Woods.

In Butler's Cabin just before 2006's champion Phil Mickelson helped into his green jacket, he sat down with Master's chairman Billy Payne and answered a few questions from reporter/commentator Jim Nance. He seemed awed and noted that the experience was "very surreal." He gave credit to his instructors and sponsors but then said, "More importantly I give my Lord Jesus all the credit."

I knew that Zach was a great golfer but I didn't know anything about his faith. I did some googling this evening to see what I could learn about Zach's walk with Christ. The most comprehensive article I found was from Links Players International. The article states:

Johnson's wife, Kim, had manufactured a personal ball mark for him. On one side she inscribed the words, "Trust your line," accompanied by the notation Proverbs 3:5,6, which says: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Johnson would set that side up on the putting green and recite the proverbial words to himself.

The reverse side of the homemade mark helped shape Johnson's mindset elsewhere on the course. The inscription was, "One shot at a time," and the Scripture passage was Matthew 6:33-34: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worry of its own."

The article goes on to describe how Johnson came to faith in Christ:

Closeness to God is something that has not always been there for Zach Johnson. He was raised to know Christ and actively participated in the family's church. In fact, Johnson says, he did have a relationship with Jesus. His parents taught their children to take their faith seriously, and Johnson prayed trusting God. But many aspects of his faith were not mature enough to survive the first few years away from home.

"I loved my four years of college," he says, looking back, "but that's kind of when things went astray as far as my faith went. I call those my 'blind years.' I'd go to church with my parents, and it didn't mean as much as it did before. There was not as much prayer in my life."

In 2002, while living and playing his winter golf in Florida, Johnson met his wife, Kim. They lived in the same apartment complex.

"She was the one who brought me a long way back to where I was, but in a more adult mind frame. Before my faith had been more childish.

"She really guided me along," Johnson says. "She didn't push me or pressure me. She just got my mind thinking. She provoked it in a very good manner. That's something I can never repay her for, but it was extremely wonderful."

Still, while Johnson had started thinking about his faith more deeply, he hadn't made any commitments. And even if he'd wanted to commit to Kim, she was hesitant.

"There was something in her heart that she could never marry a non-Christian man," Johnson says.

But Johnson wasn't sure this applied to him. "I always thought, You know, I'm a good guy, I believe in God. She can marry me. At that time I believed that all good people went to heaven, regardless."

In a pre-marital class at Kim's church in Orlando, however, the issue became clearer for Johnson. He needed to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

"One night in particular during that class, I remember that questions were being asked and my mind was searching and wandering. Then I was talking with my mom on the phone, and suddenly everything kind of hits you in the forehead and you just kind of open your eyes. I didn't think I was blind so much," Johnson recalls.

I'm so glad Zach gave credit to the Lord Jesus. He did just say "Thank God." Even an unbeliever could say that. He unashamedly said, "I give my Lord Jesus all the credit."

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reflecting on My Sins

Recently, a recurrent theme in my preaching and teaching has been that of pondering one's own sinful condition, both the sins committed before conversions and the evil thoughts, words and deeds that pour forth from our corrupt hearts on a daily basis.

Modern theology would have us bury the guilt for our sin so that we would have better self-esteem. The prevalent idea seems to be "God has forgiven you so you should forget your sins" or "Because you are in Christ, you are now a saint not a sinner." I don't buy that. Believers are saints but we are saints who still sin. The Apostle Paul didn't believe it either. He wrote in 1 Timothy 1:13-15:

Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

The purpose in reflecting on your own sinfulness causes a great appreciation for the grace that is in Jesus Christ. Not only are we saved by grace, we are kept by grace. If God should remove His sovereign grace from our lives we would immediately fall back into the pit just as if we stepped on a rotten step. Being ever reminded of our sinfulness drives us to humility and builds in us even greater affection for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are great sinners but we have a Great Savior. Paul stated this in verse 16:

And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

The Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote about this same topic in 1662. He called it "self-loathing."

True repentance is a daily turning of the soul further and further from sin--and a daily turning of the soul nearer and nearer to God.

True repentance includes . . . a true sense of sin, a deep sorrow for sin, a hearty loathing of sin, and a holy shame and blushing for sin. To repent is to make . . . a clean head and a clean heart; a clean lip and a clean life. To repent is for a man to loathe himself, as well as his sin. Is this easy for man, who is so great a self-lover, and so great a self-exalter, and so great a self-admirer--to become a self-loather? To repent is to cross sinful self, it is to walk contrary to sinful self, yes, it is to revenge a man's self upon himself. True repentance lies in a daily dying to sin, and in a daily living to Him who lives forever.

May we reflect on our sin so that we will glory in our Savior.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Are You a Note-taker?

Are you a note-taker? Three events in my life this past week spur this question.

First, after returning home from last week’s Shepherds’ Conference, I see in my notebook that I took 48 pages of notes on 8 sermons. Most of these pages are filled and I typically write with a small script.

Second, at the conference before an evening session began I happened to notice Tim Dick’s Christian Note-takers Journal (a leather-bound book designed just for this purpose). I asked if I could see it and was amazed to find in his clear handwriting notes on almost every sermon preached at Cornerstone over the last two years.

Third, I’ve been reading Leland Ryken’s book, Worldly Saints, a book about the lifestyle of the Puritans in the 16th and 17th centuries in England and America. I knew the Puritans loved expository sermons but did not realize that they were also copious note-takers. Ryken states:

Several Puritan practices show exactly how active the person in the pew was. One of these practices was the note taking that became a standard feature of Puritan church services. We read about Comenius, visiting England from the Continent, watching with admiration as London congregations took shorthand notes of sermons. John Brinsley, Puritan educator, advised, “For Sabbaths and other days when there is any sermon, cause everyone to learn something at the sermons. The very youngest [should] bring some notes.

The Puritans not only took notes but used them after the sermon as a source of study. Edmund Calamy said that sermons are like food, “You must eat it; and not only eat it, but concoct it and digest it… One sermon well digested, well meditated upon, is better than twenty sermons without meditation.”

When families gathered after church services there was often a “repeating of the sermon.” Fathers would reflect on notes taken during the sermon to give further instruction and application to their families.

The sweetest sound to my pastor’s ears is to hear the pages of Bible turning as the congregation searches the Scriptures together. One of the sweetest sights is to see heads down and pens quickly jotting down thoughts and Scripture references for further study.

I suggest three reasons why every diligent believer should be a note-taker.

First, taking notes requires attentive listening. If you intend to leave the sermon with a well-filled and useful page of notes, you prepare yourself to listen closely to every word that is spoken. This is especially helpful when you are tired and distracted. Taking notes requires that you pay careful attention and not let your mind wander.

Second, taking notes provides a better opportunity for personal study. Every Christian should be like the Bereans of Acts 17 who “…received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (v.11). It is never enough to merely hear a sermon. How do you know that the preacher is correct unless you are willing to study for yourself? Further study will help you remember the doctrine of the text and make application in your own life.

Third, taking notes will provide a journal of your spiritual growth. Like Tim, you will be able to look back and reflect on key truths you have learned from the preaching of the Word. You don’t need a fancy, leather-bound book. An inexpensive spiral notebook will do just fine. In the years to come, these notebooks will serve as a roadmap of your spiritual journey.

Note-taking is a beneficial discipline that diligent believers have practiced for centuries and continues to be a source of spiritual growth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Shepherds' Conference 2007

I and Cornerstone Elder Karl Barnett are in Sun Valley, California this week at the Shepherds' Conference held each year by Grace Community Church. For an excellent live blog of the conference go to

We had a great day hearing messages by John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Steve Lawson and C.J. Mahaney. This evening we hooked up with Cornerstone member Tim Dick, his brother and missionary to Croatia Todd Dick(whom I recently visited on a mission tour: see February posts), my Croatian friend Brako, my new friend from Northern Ireland Mervin, Faith Baptist pastor Kurtis Spidel and Faith youth leader Haven Reed to a Viet Namese restaurant for pho.

Just to give you a taste, here are some pictures from Wednesday:

Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In Case You Haven't Heard About John Piper...

He's baaaaad!

Soli Deo Gloria!