Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Porn again Christians

Carl Truman has said that the biggest danger in the church today is men looking at pornography.

John Piper, when giving his last piece of advice to young Pastors at the recent Resurgance Conference was 'gouge out your eyes rather than look lustfully at a woman who is not your wife.' Porn is a series danger to the church today, and Mars Hill was no different. Mark Driscoll published an in house book on this issue, which'll he now be giving away free, in conjunction with his series on the Song of Soloman. American's spend $12,000,000,000,000 a year on pornography.

'To help these guys, some years ago I sat down and in one day wrote a small booklet about male sexuality that we published in-house. Since then we have gone through thousands of copies and literally cannot keep it in stock. I asked some Christian publishers if they wanted it, and they said it was too hot to handle and so they declined.

So, I decided to just put it online and give it away for free. The book has had a small amount of editing and rewriting since its original version. We’ll give it away at the Resurgence a bit at a time in conjunction with the Song of Songs series I am preaching titled “The Peasant Princess.” Once the entire book has been put online, it will then be posted as a file that guys around the world can download and read on their computer, forward to their friends, or print copies of to hand out as they like.'

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Peasant Princess promo

Say what you like about Mars Hill (or indeed the way we should read the Song) they're certainly not afraid to try something a bit different

Dirty Hope: Bulgaria 2008

I'm just back from twelve days in Svishtov, Bulgaria, a small town on the Romanian border. A group of six of us went to support, encourage, teach and fellowship with the church there, which was planted just over a year ago. It's really really hard to sum up a place like Bulgaria. It's like a heavyweight boxer who eventually wears you down with blow after blow of helplessness and despair. It's really hard to be there and really hard to leave. I loved it! Here are some snapshots of life in Bulgaria.

  • A year ago there was some optimism in the country. They'd just joined the EU and things were looking up. Now however, their funding has been stopped, due to corruption, and the man on the street is in a worse position than he was before, as wages have flat lined but prices have gone up. Two factories face each other across the Danube in Svishtov, the people on the Romanian side earn 2-3 times as much as the people in the Bulgarian factory. Who work 12 hour shifts. 6 days a week.

  • Bulgaria has the highest per capita abortion rate in Europe, and therefore probably the world. Svishtov must have more licensed premises in a smaller area then anywhere i've been, so that's probably not a surprise. The tragedy is the age of the girls involved. We sent time in a school working with 14 and 15 year olds in an English class. It was a lot of fun. What was less fun was seeing those same 14 and 15 year old girls walking into bars near our hotel at 1030 on friday night. There were no bouncers anywhere to be seen. It's not unusual for them to stay out drinking until 330 or 4 the next morning. Tim, who Pastors out there, regularly sees uni students leaving bars and clubs as he walks his children to school the next day. Given the conditions that most of these kids live in, (three or four small rooms, parents, siblings and grandparents) it's perhaps not a shock they don't want to go home.

  • If an unreached people group is a language, ethnicity or nation that can not sustain an indigenous led church, then Bulgaria must be only half a step away from that. Svishtov has 35000 people and one church of about 50-60. Veliko Turnovo has 250000 people and maybe 3 churches numbering about 50-100, Sofia has 2 million people and maybe a dozen churches, a couple who gather over 100 on a sunday morning. Most small towns have no church at all, most big ones, only one. It's shocking. The saddest thing is that when Communism fell in Bulgaria, the people were hungry for truth. Who turned up first? Benny Hinn and his prosperity pals. The prosperity gospel was the first 'gospel' heard freely in Bulgaria for fifty years or so. And it's a bunch of junk. The Evangelical church is still struggling to make up the ground lost by the disillusionment caused in these early years.

  • There is hope. Dirty Hope. In a corrupt, desperate society the only hope is the universally true Gospel. In a happy, comfortable society the same is true. It's good to remember that. The uniqueness of Gospel hope is so clear in places where there simply is no other hope. There is no other hope in Bulgaria apart from Jesus. Every leader always lets these people down. He never will. Living in the west, living in the Bible Belt, it's so easy to forget that. To put hope in people, places or things. That will never ever do. One day these will fail and fall. I love being in Bulgaria, because there i'm reminded that beyond the hopeless despair, there is Hope. The One Hope of the nations. Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gone to Bulgaria: Hold the rope

Monday morning sees me and five others from church fly out to spend just under two weeks in Svishtov, northern Bulgaria. I'm very very excited, for a number of reasons, but mostly because i love Bulgaria and Bulgarians, and i'm fairly convuinced that thats where the Lord has me and rachel in the future. Do pray for me, Ken, Steve, Ross, Eddie and Darren as we fly across Europe. I love these words that Andrew Ryland wrote of William Carey, some two hundred years ago:

Our undertaking to India really appeared to me, on its commencement, to be somewhat like a few men, who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating into a deep mine, which had never before been explored, we had no one to guide us; and while we were thus deliberating, Carey, as it were, said “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” But before he went down . . . he, as it seemed to me, took an oath from each of us, at the mouth of the pit, to this effect—that “while we lived, we should never let go of the rope

Titus 2 and relevance

Wednesday nights at church are a special time. This week we had four different meetings going on, AWANA for our younger kids, a mens Bible study, a womens Bible study, teen church, and the main meeting in the sanctuary. So thats actually five. Wednesday's main meeting consists of about forty minutes of prayer and praise time, followed by a twenty minute message, currently from Titus.

On Wednesday we prayed for something like fifty five minutes, so when i stood up behind the pulpit to preach from Titus 2:2, i had about five minutes to squeeze in twenty minutes of material. I more or less just took a line from each paragraph and expanded it as much as i could. Not much!

There's a lot in Titus 2:2, about the aged man in the church that challenges me. The call on them is high, just as the call on elder is high in the previous chapter. I hope i have the verve for life, the energy and the faithful passion for the Lord that the older men in my church have at their age. I hope i understand the Gospel as much as they do.

And here's what struck me the most about the aged men that Titus talks about. Here's what grabbed me about the older generation of Christians while i was thinking about it last week. I love these men because they get something about the Gospel that so many people my age don't. What i mean is, when was the last time that you heard someone in their seventies or eighties talking about 'making the Gospel relevant'? I don't think i ever have. And you know why that is? Because they understand that the Gospel is the only message in the world that doesn't need to be made relevant...it is relevant, because it deals with everyone's greatest need. Ever. Every time, every culture, every tongue, every ethnicity. Everything, everyone, everywhere, everywhen. That doesn't need to be made relevant. How can it possibly not be?

What is relevant anyway? All it means is relevant to people in their twenties and thirties. What do older men hear when someone says relevant? They hear that they are no longer relevant. What a load of gash. These men are the rock of our church, Travis Sadler, Art Huchock, Marty Martin, and many many more. They are relevant.

Paul got that when he was writing to Titus. I hope i do, and i hope more and more people do.

Friday, September 12, 2008

John John and the Song

Two new preaching series which i'm very excited about.

John Piper on John's Gospel. I'm thrilled that Piper is taking on another book after finishing Romans last year. And i'm thrilled it's a Gospel. I'm also glad that this article shows that John Piper is a church pastor first and foremost, and has been preaching on subjects that his elders wanted him to, rather than for people with iPods thousands of miles away! As someone in the article notes, John is twice as long as Romans, so i guess we'll be done in 2025!

Mark Driscoll on the Song of Soloman. After his stuff on Ruth and Ecclesiastes, it's hard not to be excited by this! Even if some of the sermon's come with a PG rating on his website.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fanny Crosby

On sunday we sung 'Blessed Assurance' by Fanny Crosby songs. It was so good. She has a cool story too:

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Psalm 40:17

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God

I love this verse. I love this verse because i love having my felt needs met. I love having my felt needs met by a wonderful all sufficient, never created God.

I love the flow and the logic of it. I am poor and needy. I don't often feel poor and needy, often i feel rich and sufficient, often i don't feel as though i want for anything. But those are wrong feelings. I am as poor and as needy as i could be. Hopelessly poor and desperately in need. This is my preaching verse. Whenever i'm about to get up and preach i just sit there and stare at this verse while the music finishes or the notices are read pleading with God to make it happen in the next half an hour or so. I am poor and needy.

But. Is there a sweeter word in the Bible than but? Hooray for the buts of the Bible! I am poor and needy but the Lord takes thought of me. Isn't that wonderful. The Lord knows my troubles, my struggles, my lack of faith and passion. I am poor in heart and needy of grace, and the Lord knows. And the best thing about that is that the Lord is there to help. And the Lord is able to help. I am poor and needy but i am not alone. The Lord takes thought of me.

These two wonderful truths drive David to prayer as the Psalm closes. You are my help and my deliverer, do not delay oh my God. We are needy and the Lord is mindful. What else should that do to us but drive us to this prayer. To make this our prayer. Do not delay God, i am poor and needy and you are able to help to and able to deliver. Please do so! What i love about this is that all this prayer does is ask God to be God. All it does is ask God to bring the glory to Himself as the water trough where we can be replenished. All we're asking God to do is be glorified through lifting up his poor and needy people for His own glory.

I love what this verse tells me about God, and i love what it reminds me about me!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Matthew 16:24-27 (2)

There are warnings for us when we savour the world too much. But there’s a wonderful promise in there as well. And here’s our second reason to savour the things of God more than man. Jesus says those who lose their life for His sake that they will fund it. That those who deny themselves and take up their crosses today will find their lives. What does this mean? In John 17:3 Jesus refers to eternal life as ‘knowing the Father and Jesus Christ who He sent.’ So eternal life, to which this verse refers isn’t just about living forever, but about knowing Jesus. Suddenly this is where the cost of ‘losing your life’ becomes wonderfully worthwhile. How does this sound to you? Is Jesus your treasure? Does being with Him perfectly make losing your life sound worthwhile? Well lets see what scripture says on the issue.

It’s clear that to know Jesus is to know life. To know Jesus, to see Him face to face in Heaven is, we read in Psalm 16 ‘fullness of joy’. We read in the same Psalm that there are pleasures forever at His right hand. Psalm 46 calls Christ ‘my exceeding joy’. Fullness of joy? Exceeding joy? Pleasures forever? Being able to do perfectly forever what we were created to do, worship Jesus? This is what makes losing your life worthwhile.

Did you know that you were made for greatness? We were made to behold greatness. Let me illustrate. Would you go to hear a band that made music no better than you could? Would you go to a gallery to look at pictures that you could have painted? Would you support a football or baseball team that couldn’t pass or pitch any better than you? No. We pay money to behold greatness. That’s what we do. No one goes to the Grand Canyon and turns round to say how great or important they are. And what makes the Gospel good news is that to bee with Jesus is to behold the greatest greatness of all. It is to have our hearts wholly satisfied. To hear Jesus say on that final day ‘well done good and faithful servant’, is what makes all the ‘losing of life’ worthwhile here.

Jesus goes on to build on this logic in verse 26 and our next reason: for what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world but lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ These verses build on the last two with some divine solid logic. What good is it, asks Jesus, to savour what to can not keep while you reject what will last forever. Imagine for a second you could own the whole world. Or all the stuff in the world you wanted. What good would it do you in the end? When the world melts like snow and you have lost the only thing that then you need, your soul. Why spend so much time and effort on what will one day burn, and not only that, but what will one day burn and may very well take you with it. These are dire warnings from Jesus mouth. The missionary Jim Elliot summed these verses up when he said ‘he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in exchange for what he can not lose.’ He was right.

Weigh up the rewards and consequences of life in light of Jesus words here, and cast your eyes on the next sentence. ‘or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’ more solid logic from Jesus. What is it in this life that can possibly be worth having that you would exchange your soul for? All the toys in the world are not worth that.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Matthew 16:24-27 (1)

I preached this message twice in the last week. Once at Twin Lakes camp ground, as part of our summer of services there, and once at teen church last wednesday evening. Both times it left me breathless and heartbroken. Breathless with excitement, like the Queen of Sheba, over the glory and majesty of God, heartbroken like Paul, that some people will never see.

What do you savour right now? Are you savouring the thought of the air conditioning in your car as your drive home soon? Are you savouring the start of the new football season? Maybe you’re a Giants fan still enjoying what happened in February. Are you savouring this place? The thought that you have a few days, weeks, or months left here before you return to work. Maybe you’re savouring the thought of lunch.

I ask this because what we enjoy, what we think about, what we set our minds to, what we savour when our minds are at rest is important. It tells us a lot about ourselves. It tells us a lot about how highly we value things in our life. It tells Jesus a lot about how highly we value Him in our life. What we savour is important. What goes on inside our heads matters. It matters because ultimately if will affect the way we live. We what we savour mattered to Jesus.

Shortly before the text that we jumped into this morning Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Moments later, however, Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He must suffer many things, be killed and then rise again on the third day. After Peter rebukes Him for saying this, Jesus turns to Him, and, in verse 23 says ‘…thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be on men’. Peter’s problem was that he was too caught up and preoccupied in the temporary to see the eternal. He was savouring the things of man. He has too world a view of Jesus. But why was this such a big deal. I think, in the next four verses Jesus gives us five very, very good reasons to savour the things of God above the things of men.

Look at verse 24 with me, as Jesus starts to talk about the normal Christian life. He says ‘if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.’ To come after Jesus just means to be a Christian. To the twelve disciples, that’s what being a Christian was, following Jesus wherever He went, literally. They were with Him everywhere for the three years of His ministry on Earth. So this verse tells what we are to expect as we live as Christians. We are to deny ourselves. Being a Christians means not indulging in every carnal wish. The word used for deny here means to utterly cut off and disown. That is what we are to do to ourselves, we must utterly cut off and disown ourselves.

Jesus words could be paraphrased ‘let the Christian refuse any association or companionship with himself. To deny yourself means to fight the old nature, to work against the temptations which always come, and to exhibit self control. We are to deny our ego. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3 that the first requirement for entrance into the Kingdom of God is to be poor in Spirit. To be humble and to be humble we have to deny ourselves because by nature we are proud and arrogant. Being humble is hard. If we’re going to have any chance of real humility, we must always keep in mind our sin and what a great cost Jesus paid for it. In dealing with others we must assume that the most annoying sins we see in them are magnified in us.

The Christian life is one of denial. What does this mean today? It can’t mean wearing camel hair shirts and eating locusts any more can it? Well, if your favourite TV show is too smutty, and leads you into unChristlike thoughts, deny yourself. If there’s something you love to do on Saturday nights that leaves you tired and inattentive for church the next morning, deny yourself, if you find yourself savouring sports, or shopping or gaming more than Christ. Deny yourself. This isn’t needless asceticism; this is a response to the Gospel. This is the recognition that Jesus is much, much greater than all these things. This is to live in such a way that the world will ask us for the reason for the hope that we have.

The second requirement of discipleship is no less costly. Verse 24 continues with ‘and take us his cross and follow me’. Today the idea of taking up my cross has been on the one had mystified, and on the other hand devalued. To take up our cross is not to attain to a higher level of spiritual life that only a few can hope to achieve, nor is taking up our cross having to put up with an illness or a difficult family member or colleague, as real and hard as those problems are.

The original hearers and readers of this verse would have had no difficulty in understanding what Jesus meant. To them the cross was a vivid reality. In the area where Jesus was speaking 100 men had recently been crucified. Just a few years before that 2000 men were crucified in Jerusalem for their part in a rebellion. The disciples would have known that the take up ones cross means to come and die. It means to walk along a road carrying the instrument of your own execution on your back. It means to be seen by all as broken and beaten. It means to be walking on a death march, carrying the wooden beam on which you would soon hang.

When Christ calls you and me to take up our cross he means that we must be willing to do anything, answer any call, make any sacrifice for Christ’s sake. For some it will mean literally death, as it did for some of the disciples, but for most, it will mean the life of self denial. This is why Christ, in rebuking Peter starts off telling him about the cross. Because for the Christian the life of discomfort is normal, not abnormal. Even though what Jesus did on the cross was totally unique, it modeled the sort of life every Christian can expect. Not one of leisure and comfort, but of hardship and suffering.

Why should it be that way though? We haven’t seen any good reasons to savour the things of God yet have we? Well look at verse 25 with me as Jesus gives us our first reason here: ‘for whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake will find it.’ This is the great paradox of Christian living. If we lose our life we will keep it, but if we try to keep our life we will lose it. Whatever does that mean? It means that whoever lives to save or protect his earthly, physical life or live like that is the priority will lose it. It means that if we deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and therefore lose our lives, we will keep them. We’ve already seen that following Christ is not about ease and comfort. We can not chase God and money with all our hearts. If we try to ‘have it all’ in this life, we will one day lose it all.

Challies on Palin

This years presidential race promises to be one of the most intriguing ever...and not just because i live here now! John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate has just about knocked Obama and the Democrats off the front page for the first time in months.

Her speech two nights ago at the RNC was almost universally well received, except on the rabidly liberal news stations, which seem to be intent on throwing their journalistic integrity away rather than just losing it. MSNBC is a case in point. last friday as Palin was giving her maiden VP candidate speech, the breaking news ticker said something like, 'Palin: How many houses does she add to the Republican ticket?' This wasn't a comment section of the show, this was the way they covered breaking headline news.

Challies has got an excellent article on her here.

Oh, and Hanna is just starting to arrive, we've got heavy rain and some winds here at the moment from the outlying clouds, and it should be with us for real in about fourteen to sixteen hours. I'm becoming vaguely obsessed with the weather channel website, which is now in my eight most visited websites (thank you Google Chrome)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hurricanes and the glory of God

Hanna is still hanging around, although she's been downgraded to a tropical storm, she'll probably be a category one by the time she reaches us on friday night. Category one hurricanes just involve eight or nine hours of 70-80mph winds and lots and lots of rain. So we should be fine. Thats plenty though.

This week has made me think though. Here, in a storm that could (potentially) knock my apartment block over, flood Rachel's house, cause serious damage to property, a great deal of disruption, and potentially threaten the lives of people close to me, is where theology really starts to matter. This is where my Christian hedonism, Habbakuk 3:17 regardless of circumstance joy in the Lord rubber, hits the road of destroyed lives. Sure, this is only a category one (probably) but that doesn't mean there aren't tohers on the way.

How, in the light of what i believe about the glory of God in the suffering of Christians, do i pray about this hurricane. Do i pray it avoids us, knowing that means it will batter somewhere else close by, do i pray it hits us and that God will bring to Himself glory through this situation, as though all situations, or do i hold my hands up and say 'your will be done'? I'm wavering between two and three at the moment.

It's good to be tested like this, it's good to be in the teeth of life. I'll keep you posted.

Scenes with Rebekah Cash #1

(Rebekah sits doing her Bible homework)

'Hey i don't understand this question: Joshua lead his people into the promised land, he is a type of whom?'

Ed: (forgetting he's supposed to be helping, not handing out answers, says in a loud voice) JESUS!

I know i'm being silly, but the fact that 13 year olds get that stuff makes me happy!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jephthahs daughter

A few weeks ago i mused on what Jephthah did with his daughter when he returned from war, as i prepared to teach it at Sunday School. Today i might have come across a clue as my daily readings took me to Judges 12:8-14.

Everyone is mentioned in relation to his many (many) children and grandchildren. I wonder if this is in contrast to Jephthah, who could have no grandchildren because he'd pledged his daughter to perpetual virginity. Jephthah had just stopped judging after the shibboleth war with the Ephraimites.

Not a huge step in Biblical history, but interesting to me nonetheless!


We went to the beach on Labour Day. The first Monday of September is known as America's bank holiday, and marks the unofficial end of the summer. Despite that it was still in the mid eighties today and will be hotter tomorrow. But there's something brewing. Yesterday the currents in the sea were incredible. If you waded out above the knee and sat down you'd be dragged all over the place as the tide. This was because of Hurricane Hanna.

At the moment Hanna is hanging around off the west of Cuba, and is slated to make landfall somewhere in South Carolina on Thursday night, and then swing upwards over the weekend to give us some pretty heavy rain. Should do. It's very hard to predict, at this point, where hurricanes are going to end up, so it could just as easily make landfall around here, which is mostly below sea level.

I'm a but nervous. No one else seems to be. It's not like the sword of Damocles is hanging over us, or at least it doesn't feel like it. People are going to breakfast, going to school, working, marrying and generally enjoying the pace of life in easter North Carolina, with little regard to the fact on friday we might all be sleeping in a school hall in Raleigh with most of our possessions spread across the 252.

It draws an interesting parallel in my mind with the second coming of Christ. Jesus told His disciples that just before He returns people will be living the way they always have been, just like they were before the flood. People will poke fun at those who believe Christ is returning just as the poked fun at the family who built a boat in the desert. And even Christians don't know the time or date.

Nevertheless as Friday nears, and the storm with it, we'll all pay close attention to the weather channel and make our plans, pack our bags and plan our route. We know when it's going to come. But we don't know when Jesus will return. So we need to pay much closer attention to the Word, to the Holy Spirit and to preachers than we currently pay to the weather channel. And we must stay on our guard, as for the storm, so for the Lord.

(and even if we do get hit, i could liveblog a hurricane, which might be pretty neat)