Memoirs Of An Ordinary Pastor: Don Carson
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Memoirs Of An Ordinary Pastor: Don Carson
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By personal calling and Scripture, I am bound to the word of God and to the preaching of what the Bible says. There are few things that burden me more or refresh me more than saying what I see in the Bible. I love to see what God says in the Bible. I love to savor it. And I love to say it.
Monday, December 29, 2008
But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people."
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
>Lets look at verses 1 though 3 together. Paul tells Titus what the membership of his church should look like, how they should behave in every day life. Church members then and now are to be subject, are to be obedient, and need to be ready for every good work. The words ‘principalities’ and ‘powers’ and ‘magistrates’ here refer to the human, secular authorities we all live under. The federal and state government, the local authorities in Washington. The elected officers whom God has provided for us. We are to obey them as far as we can without being moved to disobey a clear command of God. So we should pay taxes, drive legal cars, pay our bills, and a multitude of other laws. We are also called to obey the magistrates. The only exception to this comes when a command from the secular powers is clearly, and directly against a command of God. For example in Acts 4:18-20 Peter and John are told ‘not to speak of teach in the name of Jesus’. But obviously they do. And obviously they have to. So the Christian is to be a good citizen outwardly. Responsible and diligent in all that they do. The church is doing it’s job when people can say ‘we may not agree with their views on truth and homosexuality, but this place would be a lot worse if they all left’ we need to seek the peace and seek the good of where we live.
We also need to be good citizens inwardly. Paul tells Titus’ church to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers but gentle. Just as we need to be good citizens to people’s face, we need to be good citizens behind their backs as well. It is no good at all to obey someone but then to speak evil about them. Jesus is not interested in that sort of obedience. It means nothing. We are to obey them and speak no evil of them. Coupled with that we are not to be brawlers, but gentle, showing meekness unto all men. It’s easy to read that verse, see the word brawlers and reassure ourselves that since we’ve never been in a fist fight we’ve nothing to worry about here. Jesus is interested in inward obedience, not just outward though. So when we get angry with someone, we may as well have punched them. That’s why Paul mentions it next to meekness, because meekness is the opposite of quarrelsome.
Why should we be meek? Well, there seem to be three, related reasons here, and it’s obvious to Paul, and hopefully it’s just as obvious to us! Look at verse three ‘for we ourselves were once sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, and hating one another. Do you see Paul’s point? We can not but be meek when we are faced with things that make us angry, because all they do is serve as a mirror to your old self. Regardless of how long ago we were saved, there was a point in all of our lives when we were like this. There was a point in all of our lives when we were driving by our sinful desires, by our divers lusts, by our anger…just by our sin. Look at the list that Paul writes to Titus here, we’re all in there somewhere, whether it’s malice and envy, hatred or foolish disobedience, there is enough in all of our pasts to remind us that we need to be meek.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
1) Town centres.
In 1987 Bill Bryson set off in search of the perfect American small town, 'Amalgam, USA' if you like. He aimed to pick out his favourite parts of the towns he found on his road trip around 46 of the lower states. In the book The Lost Continent, Bryson laments that essentially, every town looks the same, that instead of Amalgam USA he found Anywhere USA, a strips of malls, stores and fast food joints. And he was right. I haven't walked through a busy, pedestrianised town centre since i got here. There aren't any.
2) Intelligent, impartial TV news
Only those who have never lived without the BBC would ever advocate its dissolution. It's no surprise that most of the world go to the the World Service or the BBC website for their news. Even the major news networks in the USA (CNN, NBC, Fox) can be incredibly one eyed at times.
3) Cold and dark nights
I know. I'll probably change my mind within hours of landing at Heathrow Friday morning, but i can't help that. It's been 60-70F for the last couple of weeks here, although we did have a cold snap in early November. Yesterday i was walking around in a polo with the sun warm on my back...it just doesn't feel right for December! I want to coat up to leave the house and then fling myself on the nearest radiator as soon as i get in.
4) Radio 1.
For variety and creativity, Radio 1 can not be beaten. It's just that simple. The local music station (BOB 93.3) has about 8 records and most of the shows are syndicated... which isn't bad in itself, but is a bit cheap. Also, most of the time it drives me to listen to talk radio, which is informative, but probably not very good for my effected liberal soul!
5) Driving a manual car
I ^heart^ clutch control.
6) Earnest, English, evangelical prayer.
Matt Herring, now a Relay in Exeter, prays as well and as heartily as anyone i've ever met. It's worth downloading Mike Reeves talks just to him pray (it's worth it for more than that as well!) Prayers here are different and there's nothing less worthy about that, i guess i just miss what i grew up with.
7) Slade and miscellaneous other Christmas songs
Christmas songs here are very classy, and thats cool, but i miss Noddy Holder yelling 'merry Christmas everybody' at the top of his voice while i hunt for cards in Hallmark.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
When we sin, do we consider ourselves to be in the pig sty - the long journey back home stretches ahead of us? Or do we consider ourselves to be already in the Father’s arms? There’s a big difference.
I remember speaking with a Christian man about his extra-marital affair from years earlier. As he spoke about the pain of those memories I said to him “You realise that in the midst of the very worst of that, Jesus was rejoicing over you as a Bridegroom rejoices over His bride.” He paused for a long time and said “That makes it a hundred times worse!” I said “Yes it does. A thousand times worse.” We think that we manage to sin away in a corner somewhere. No, no, no. Just read 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 to see that we are very much united to Christ in our sin!
We stink of pig in the Father’s arms. That’s a thousand times worse than stinking in the sty. But it’s a million times better too.
The point of our turning - and our life of turning and turning again to the Father - is in His unchanging embrace. When you sin don’t imagine yourself alone in the sty. You are there in His arms - reeking and held fast. It’s a thousand times worse. A million times better.
We went through Ruth in Sunday school this morning. It's just about...just about possible to read it all in sections, preach and be done in forty five minutes. Just about. William Cowper's words 'behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face' probably don't apply to any book of the Bible as well as they apply to Ruth.
So what of the excess of meaning? What do we learn from Ruth?
1) Ruth story is our story. Ruth was a foreigner, an outside, an outcast. She was away from God, outside His people and His blessing. She didn't know Him. Boaz redeemed her. He not only redeemed her and bought her into Israel, though him she becomes an ancestor of Jesus. Spurgeon says that Jesus is our glorious Boaz. He brings us in from the wilderness, He brings us into God's presence, God's place, with God's people. Jesus is our kinsmen redeemer
2) Sometimes the way we feel about God's work in our life is wrong. Sometimes we look at our circumstances, and whats left of our hopes and we say with Naomi 'the Lord's hand is against me, do not call me sweet.' This was how it looked for Naomi. No husband, no sons = no one to provide for her. These were terrible times for Naomi. Was she judged by God. I don't know. I wrestled with this this week. I think we can say with confidence that Elimilech was judged for going to Moab, and his sons were for marrying Moabite women and Naomi suffered as a result, but was she herself judged? The question of whether Naomi was right in 1:20-22 is what the rest of the book exists to answer. It really should be named for her!
3) In the darkest of times personally, God is working. We must never allow the wall that our circumstances form around us to judge God and His work. We have no need to ever despair because of what we can or can't see around us. God was marvellously at work in Naomi's life when she was in despair, Ruth, Boaz, her redeemer Obed, nourishment in old age, hope for her future. All these things God was working in her life despite of her despair.
4) Linked to this, in the darkest times of national history, God is at work. Judges was a dark, horrible, pagan time. God was at work bringing about His purposes in them. His plan was not disturbed and has never been disturbed by mans sin. And what a plan this was that God was bringing about. Ruth is in Jesus' line. She is great King David's great grandmother. God's purposes are being fulfilled in the worst of times. In the worst of times God was bringing about the birth of His Son. In the worst of times, He was doing the greatest thing ever.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Paul tells Titus to speak about, to exhort and rebuke his church with everything that he’s just written to him. The preacher’s job then, is the constantly remind the church of the truth of the Gospel and what our response should be to it. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to ‘exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today.’ The preacher is to exhort with the Gospel and rebuke with the Gospel. Exhort simply means to encourage, to plead, to stir up affections. To ever place before the eyes of the church the beauty of Jesus, to stir them to live changed lives for Him. The word used here means to use more than words. Paul wants Titus to use everything at his disposal to have his church live and speak for Jesus.
The preacher is also to rebuke those who are not interested in the Gospel, those inside the church, who don’t care whether or not their lives are changed. Paul tells Titus to watch out for and rebuke these people in his church. To catch the foxes in the vineyard.
Paul tells Titus that he has all authority to do those things. All authority. Not just a bit, not just when people in his church like his message. All authority, all the time. The preacher has this authority, not because of himself, but because of his call, not because his words are valuable, but because he speaks the words of the Bible. And the Bible is the word of God.
The preachers’ authority only remains as long as his message is the same as the message of this book. The English theologian J.I Packer puts it like this: ‘preaching that does not display divine authority, both in its content and its manner, is not the substance but only the shadow of the real thing. Yet the Bible is the real preacher, and the role of the man in the pulpit or the counseling conversation is simply to let the passages say their piece through Him.’ The preacher’s authority does not come from his church, nor from a board of deacons nor his education but from God, though His word. The preacher is not a lifestyle guru, he is not just what happens between the offering and Sunday lunch, he is a man chosen by God to herald the most important message in the world. And as long as he is faithful to the Gospel, he has the privilege of ministering with God given authority.
Paul finishes this verse of advice to Titus with the words ‘let no man despise thee’. Why does Paul end his advice here, why doesn’t he finish on the point of authority, why doesn’t he end on a charge to preach the Gospel as he does elsewhere? Paul knew that because of Titus’s work and message he ran the risk of being despised by people in his church. Maybe because he came from the wrong part of the island, maybe because his family wasn’t important enough, maybe he was young like Timothy, but more than likely just because people didn’t want to hear what he’s got to say. Titus ran the risk of being despised and Paul wanted him to be clear that no man is to despise him because there is no one in the church who is to be free from Gospel centered pastoral authority. Paul wants Titus to know this, he wanted Titus’ church to know it and he wants us to know it.
We’ve seen time and time again in our study in Titus that we are to live lives that look different to the world, and in verse 14 we see clearer than ever that this ability comes from our crucified Lord. Here we see in verse 15 that we are to listen well to our preacher, a man whose authority comes from our crucified Lord.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Very sad scenes that religious reportage has come to this, that the religious correspondent of a major news periodical could write an article so one sided and lazy. Interesting that she makes the 'Genesis supports bigamy' mistake that Tim Keller mentioned in his Preaching to the Heart lectures. And this isn't The Sun...this is Newsweek, someone we're supposed to be able to trust for it's non biased standpoint.
Very sad... probably also very indicative of the direction the media will take towards Evangelical Christianity. But then i guess we knew that already.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
A hayride essentially involved putting on a lot (a lot) of clothes, and climbing up into the back of a dump truck, 12-16 feet up in the air, filled with hay, and riding round town in it, singing carols to invalid members of the church, and then defrosting at Taco Bell thereafter. It was a lot of fun.
We must have had 15-20 kids and teens packed into the back of the truck...the hay bales didn't last long, and soon the back of the truck became more akin to a wrestling arena as...well, teenage boys were teenage boys.
So it was cold, it was high, it was, y'know, sort of dangerous out on the roads in the back of a lorry without anything to hold us in, but a lot of fun. And on saturday we took part in the Washington Christmas parade, which took us around downtown in all of twelve minutes (yeh it's a small town) and that was more normal!
Friday, December 05, 2008
Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.
But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.
Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Verse 14 carries on the sentence from verse 13 talking ‘about looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us’. Here we learn something else about who Jesus is, not only is He the great God and our Saviour, but also He gave Himself for us. In these four words ‘gave Himself for us’, there is a hugely important, life changing, faith strengthening point. Jesus gave Himself. His death on the cross was no tragic accident, God the Father did not have to adjust His plans or make a painful last minute decision. This was the plan from the start and John 10:18 illustrates it well ‘no one taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up’. Jesus gave Himself for us.
Why? Well look at verse 14 with me again ‘that he might cleanse us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ I love reading the Bible because it moves our attention away from ourselves and towards Jesus. Notice that He did not die to give us an easy life, or a bigger house, or a happy family, or a million other material benefits, although of course, every material benefit is because of the cross, Christ died to redeem us from iniquity. This is much better, this is much more important. This is our needs being met in a stunning way. Our felt needs and our real needs are often very different things. My felt needs often revolve around my ego and my material gain; my actual needs are to have my sins forgiven. They are glorious seasons of the soul when my felt needs are my actual needs, when I am convicted of my sin and come to the throne of God, via the cross of Christ, for mercy. If there is one thing that is clear over and over in Titus, and of course, in the rest of the Bible, it’s that God’s people are to reflect God’s character. God’s people are to love holiness and hate sin. This is a further unpacking of that.
We are released from our captivity to sin. Mark 10:45 ‘to give His life a ransom for many’. Jesus ransomed us from the power of the enemy to be pure, to be peculiar and to be practicers.
We are to be pure for Jesus, as we see in verse 14. Jesus gave Himself to purify us. We are to throw off the sin that so easily entangles. The question when it comes to sin shouldn’t be ‘how far can I go’, but ‘how far can I get away’, how much can I expose myself to the glory and wonders of Jesus Christ, and how much can I serve Him, not how much sin can I get away with.
We are to be peculiar for Jesus. We see this in the middle of the verse where it says ‘unto Himself a peculiar people.’ This word has the sense of being owned or set apart for Jesus. Once we were peculiar for sin, we were set apart for sin, we were committed to sin. Now we are called to be peculiar for Jesus, set apart for Him, by Him. We are to be committed to Him. This is so much better. This is life itself!
We are to be practicers for Jesus. This is what is meant at the end of the verse where it says ‘zealous of good works’ we are to be full of enthusiasm for good works. Good works are no more an optional extra for the Christian than apples are an optional extra for an apple tree. Good works are part of being a Christian. We once were zealous for sin, we once looked for opportunities to sin, and we once served sin with all our hearts. Sin was our master. Now that Christ has redeemed us He is our Master, we must ask Him daily for a new heart so that we desire to serve Him as well as we used to serve sin. Hebrews 9:14 tells us that ‘the blood of Christ…will purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.’
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
Mars is, depending on orbit, between 56,000,000 kilometres and 309,000,000 kilometres from Earth.
Venus is, depending on orbit between 38,200,000 kilometres and 261,000,000 kilometres from earth.
At the moment i can see both of them from the back door.
It's good to feel small sometimes.