No people ever rise higher than their idea of God

In a sermon summarizing the book of JUDGES, Mark Dever included this wonderful quotation from the late Dr James M. Boice, which explains our culture today — as well as our often unrealistic expectations of it….

No people ever rise higher than their idea of God, and conversely, a loss of the sense of God’s high and awesome character always involves a loss of a people’s moral 1426724_35081700values and even what we commonly call humanity. We are startled by the disregard for human life that has overtaken large segments of the western world, but what do we expect when countries such as ours openly turns their back upon God? We deplore the breakdown of moral standards, but what do we expect when we have focused our worship services on ourselves and our own often trivial needs rather than on God? Our view of God affects what we are and do…

(taken from Dr Boice’s sermons on Psalms, Vol. 3, p. 912)

John Piper & Me (#2)

A few months ago, John Piper marked his 30th anniversary in the pulpit of Bethlehem Baptist Church, where I was once a member and a pastoral intern (we were called “apprentices” in those days). As I mentioned this relationship here in The Breadline, I was asked by a blog reader:

What was John Piper like on a personal level, how did he influence or change your perspective on ministry, and what would you say is the most important thing he taught you?

My first answer had to do with John’s vibrant model of a ministry driven by reformed theology. Let me follow up that post with this (and hopefully one more).

Second: I came to know about passionate, biblical worship by attending BBC, led by Pastor John Piper. I first went to hear the preacher, but then was awe-struck by the dynamic, reverent and God-centered worship in that place. Words are hard to come by to adequately describe how significant an impact those worship services made upon me. My very definition of worship is built upon one that John taught —


You can read about John’s theology of worship in his book DESIRING GOD, MEDITATIONS OF A CHRISTIAN HEDONIST [his website allows you to read the book for free online, or to download a PDF copy for free].

There John describes worship with a wonderful word-picture:

The fuel of worship is the truth of God, the furnace of worship is the spirit of man, and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, contrition, trust, gratitude and joy. …

The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands and obedient lives.

Preaching sound, biblical theology fuels the passionate worship of a great God! I discovered that thanks to the ministry of John Piper (and Tom Steller and several other dear people at BBC).


[the first post with this same title was in October 2009]

Love the church…

Dr Derek Thomas recently wrote of his love for the church – I couldn’t agree more! Ponder his warm, even passionate words…

“Love me, love my dog,” they say, and my poor dog has been sick all summer and continues to be in bad shape. But it is not dogs I am writing about here; it is the church. Jesus seems to say, again and again: “Love me, love my church.”

Something is terribly wrong when professing Christians do not identify with the church and love being a part of her. Something is wrong when professing Christians fail to be passionate about every aspect of the church and long to invest themselves in her, taking all that the church represents and does to heart. Listen, for example, 1187054_hdr_churchto the way Paul instructs the Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).

I fell in love with the church the moment I was converted as a freshman in college in 1971. Having never attended any church until then, I discovered a community that was, to me, like a family: caring, loving, and nourishing. The church I found was able to tell me that I was wrong about some things without driving me away. I knew that I was loved. The church showed me acts of kindness and fellowship that I recall with affection to this day. I was introduced to expository preaching from the start – a style of preaching that puts the Bible above the personality and idiosyncrasies of the preacher. I discovered communal prayer times, and joyful singing, all of which have been the mainstay of my Christian life ever since. True, I have had my share of worship wars, when Christians disagree over important things and sometimes trivial things; but for all that, I have taken delight in her rituals of song and sacrament, prayer and proclamation, more times than I can relate. I love the church. I fully endorse Calvin’s way of putting it (and the shadow of Cyprian that lies behind it): “For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels” (Inst. 4.1.4). In the church, I have discovered saints and angels (though not, as far as I know, real angels). I have witnessed deeds of extraordinary kindness done to myself and to others, and I have been the beneficiary of kindnesses done to me by those who remained anonymous.

Yes, there is a dark side to the church as there is to all things in this fallen world. The church is not perfect. It has her share of malcontents and killjoys, her energy-sapping attention-getters and despondent hearts. Adullam’s cave has nothing on some churches I have seen, but none of this robs me of my love for the church. Even at her most eccentric – the King James Version’s rendition of 1 Peter 2:9 as “ye are … a peculiar people” is painfully accurate, if quaint — she is still Christ’s body. “Love me, love my church” is what Jesus seems to say in the Bible. I would not have it any other way. Would you?

Happy New Year! The best is yet to come…

star1Last night at church we had a fun time of fellowship. We welcomed the new year with the reading of this Scripture and a reminder that we are closer to the return of Christ, and His making all things new. Rejoice in expectant hope! Behold all that awaits the faithful…..

Revelation 21
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”


A great Father’s Day

Sunday was one of the best Father’s Days I’ve had — with all seven kids (and a wonderful wife) treating me like a king, and showing old dad lots of love. There were some great gifts for me (including a homemade rap music dvd about me), and a menu to make your mouth water (featuring brats cooked on the grill, and key lime pie for dessert). There were times of sharing and saying “the meaningful stuff” behind the hugs and kisses (eg: “I love you and appreciate all you do”). I am really blessed!

Yet even more satisfying are the blessings of a day spent with my Heavenly Father. Our morning worship, time in the Word and fellowship with the saints were all sweet things for my soul! The Lord’s Day (Sundays) is a “Father’s Day” every week for those who are in a right relationship with their Creator God. It is our opportunity to praise and honor Him as our gracious Provider, great Protector, and loving Lord. The Lord’s Day is our time to say to our God: “we love You, and appreciate all You are and do.”

Let your minds think on this a little while. May we not be ungrateful or presumptive spiritual offspring, but spritiual sons and daughters filled with a deep sense of awe and unmerited honor if we know the one true and living God as our Father in heaven.


Tuesday: Manton on the goal of worship

God will be sought in his own ordinances. Christ walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. If you would find a man, mind where is his walk and usual resort. …

To serve God is one thing; to seek him another. To serve God is to make him the object of worship, to seek God is to make him the end of worship. …

It is not enough to make use of ordinances, but we must see if we can find God there. There are many that hover about the palace, that yet do not speak with the prince; so possibly we may hover about ordinances, and not meet with God there. To go away with the husk and shell of an ordinance, and neglect the kernel, is to please ourselves because we have been in the courts of God, though we have not met with the living God, that is very sad.

…So a formal person goes from ordinance to ordinance, and is satisfied with the work; a godly man looks to … go away from God with God.

— on Psalm 119:2


Go, labor on: spend, and be spent

Do not grow weary in well-doing was one application from Sunday’s sermon (from the end of Isaiah 28). I concluded by reading the lyrics of this great hymn by Horatius Bonar…

Go, labor on: spend, and be spent H. BONAR, 1843

Go, labor on: spend, and be spent,

Thy joy to do the Father’s will:

It is the way the Master went;

Should not the servant tread it still?

Go, labor on! ’tis not for naught

Thine earthly loss is heavenly gain;

Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not;

The Master praises: what are men?

Go, labor on! enough, while here,

If He shall praise thee, if He deign

The willing heart to mark and cheer:

No toil for Him shall be in vain.

Go, labor on! Your hands are weak,

Your knees are faint, your soul cast down;

Yet falter not; the prize you seek

Is near—a kingdom and a crown.

Go, labor on while it is day:

The world’s dark night is hastening on;

Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away;

It is not thus that souls are won.

Men die in darkness at thy side,

Without a hope to cheer the tomb;

Take up the torch and wave it wide,

The torch that lights time’s thickest gloom.

Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray,

Be wise the erring soul to win;

Go forth into the world’s highway,

Compel the wanderer to come in.

Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice!

For toil comes rest, for exile home;

Soon shalt thou hear the Bridegroom’s voice,

The midnight peal, “Behold, I come!”