Sunday, May 31, 2009

ESV Bible - Loose Leaf Edition

For a nerd like me things like this are really exciting.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Christian and Clinical Depression

The word 'depression' often carries a great stigmatism in many circles, especially Christian ones. Christians often spiritualise (or demonize) all depression and treat the depressed believer as though he or she is sub-spiritual. Often depression is not talked about out of embarrassment. It can go untreated. The further stigmatisms that come with counsellors and medication also deter many Christians from seeking proper help, and it leaves them tailspinning even more. I'm thankful that Pastor John Mahaffey and his wife, Andrea, told West Highland Baptist Church in Hamilton, their story of Andrea's struggle with clinical depression. What a mother's day gift to the church. I recommend that you download or stream the audio here. I was encouraged in Christ as I listened this afternoon.

John Piper on Breaking an Addiction to Entertainment

Over at the Desiring God web site, there is a weekly feature that I often find helpful. It's called 'Ask Pastor John'. People e-mail DG their hard questions and Piper takes a few short minutes to answer them on video (or audio or transcript). This week's subject is very relevent. Below I've copied/pasted the transcript, or you can stream or download the audio or video here.

I believe I do love Jesus, but most of the time I'd rather spend time being entertained than spend time in God's word. How do I break this hold that entertainment has on my heart?

That's a very good question. And I think it's especially relevant because we live, I think, more now than ever, in a day when entertaining kinds of things are immediately accessible.

I was thinking the other day of the difference between our temptations and, say, 250 years ago, the day of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards would write about the folly of young people getting together to do "frivolous conversation" or other worse things. ("Bundling" it was called: getting in bed together and keeping your clothes on, that sort of thing. Just spice up life a little bit. Life gets boring in New England 250 years ago.)

Today we carry in our pockets radio, television, internet, and games, and anything that would be titillating, fun! And "fun" is a word in the church today that's just rampant! It's an adjective, it's a noun, it's a verb, because we do ministry in order to fit this mentality.

I'm deeply concerned about that. I want to stand for seriousness about God, instead of making him palatable by making him "fun"! Turning him into another piece of entertainment.

So this question is, "How do you break free from that kind of addiction?"

  1. Recognizing it is a huge step in the right direction.
  2. Seek the Lord earnestly about it. Pray like crazy that God would open your eyes to see wondrous things out of his law.
  3. Immerse yourself in the Bible, even when you don't feel like it, pleading with God to open your eyes to see what's really there.
  4. Get in a group where you talk about serious things.
  5. Begin to share your faith. One of the reasons we are not as moved by our own faith as we are is because we almost never talk about it to any unbeliever. It starts to feel like a kind of hothouse thing, and then it starts to have a feeling of unreality about it. And then the powers of entertainment have more sway in our life.

And so those would be some of the things, but ultimately it's a gift of grace to feel the glory of God.

One last suggestion: think about your death. Think about your death a lot. Ask what you'd like to be doing in the season of life, or hours or days, leading up to meeting Christ. I do that a lot these days. I think about the impact of death, and what I would like to be found doing, and how I would prepare to meet him and give an account to him.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Strategies for Evangelism in the Book of Acts

This evening at Binbrook Baptist Church, we are gathering to brainstorm strategies to reach the community around us for Christ. As we open I plan to offer the following devotional on evangelistic strategies from the book of Acts. I want our people to see that the Word and prayer are most important in the life of the local church, but that strategies can and ought to be creatively employed. Even though they are rough and unedited, I hope these notes may spur some thought in others as well. . .

Strategies For Evangelism in the Book of Acts

We are here tonight to brainstorm together, strategies for penetrating the community around us with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our hearts long for Christians who move to Binbrook to settle into a church family where they can serve and be served. If they do not yet have one, we’d love them to come to this church!
Our hearts long even more for unbelievers in Binbrook to be saved!
So we are here tonight to think together about strategic ways we can penetrate this community with the gospel.
I recognize that an evening like this is dangerous. It would be easy for us to rely too much on strategies and not enough on the Holy Spirit working through the Word.
But I also recognize that not having an evening like this could also be dangerous. It would be easy for us to assume that if we focus on the most important things - prayer and the Word - that we are focusing on everything that is important. This may not be the case.
In preparation for this evening I read through the book of Acts very quickly - to get the big picture and to notice some important details about strategies for evangelism modeled by the Apostles.
It is clear in Acts that people become Christians when God works! There is no replacement for this.
Acts 1:8 - you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
Acts is full of witness to Christ using words, especially preaching.
The Holy Spirit working through the Word to bear witness to Christ is the essentials of every church. This is foundational, and central. There is no replacement for this.
Also in Acts you’ll see the following things result in masses of people becoming Christians:
A. Healing followed by a verbal explanation
B. Suffering
C. Boldness in the face of persecution
D. Scattering, followed by more witness
E. Fasting and Prayer
F. Etc
So as we talk about strategies, we must not begin to think they are most important.
But as you read Acts you’ll see that strategies do exist and they are important. They are not most important, but they are important.
Before we brainstorm together I want us to notice a few of these strategies for evangelism that are employed by the Apostles in the book of Acts:
I’ve boiled them down into four categories:
1. Language 2. Location 3. Leadership 4. Likeness

1. Language
*Peter and Paul tailored their messages to their specific audiences. They worked to make it understandable to the specific people they were speaking to.
Acts 2 = all Jews - preached Christ as the fulfillment of the OT. Explained from Old Testament:
Holy Spirit, Crucifixion of Christ; Resurrection of Christ
Acts 17 - all Greeks - began with the existence of God, quoted pagan poets and altars, got down to their level
Look at these other references to persuasive language for the specific audience in Acts:
Acts 14:1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
Acts 22:1-2 "Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you." And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet.

2. Location
Simply put, Paul looked for a place where he could gain a hearing.
When he entered a city he always went to the synagogue first. This was his pattern. He gave the Jews a chance to repent and believe. But as soon as they rejected him he creatively looked for a place to have a hearing among Gentiles.
Acts 19:8-10 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Also: Acts 16 - went looking for converts to Judaism - went outside the city, found women in prayer
Acts 17:16-19 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"--because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?

3. Leadership
The Apostles were to focus on the Word of God and prayer. But there were practical needs in the churches. So:
Acts 6:1-7 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

4. Likeness
In Acts 15 there was a clear decision among Christians that circumcision was not required of converts. Paul and Timothy went out with this message and listen to what they did as they went:
Acts 16:1-4 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.

*Even as they went out with this message, they circumcised Timothy so that they could gain a hearing among the Jews! They sought to look like the people they were ministering to. Or, more properly, they sought to remove as many stumbling blocks as possible, in order to gain a hearing for the gospel.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Basics Audio

I've been back in the saddle for over a week now, after the Basics Conference for pastors at Parkside Church, near Cleveland Ohio. I just saw that the conference audio is now available for free download here. I especially recommend Piper's talk entitled, 'we are workers with you for your joy'.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Biblical Productivity

Natalie and I sat together this evening reading the first chunk of this 36 page pdf by C.J. Mahaney. Every Christian ought to seek to make the most of their entire day, whether in leisure or in work. Thus far this paper has proved very helpful for us both in this regard. Take a look!

Toronto Pastor's Conference

TPC Registration Now Open!

There are a lot of conferences in the Christian world. Some better than others. And you might be asking whether this conference is worth your investment of time, money, and prayer.

Let me give you four reasons I think you should be at TPC.

  1. The content. This conference is all about the local church, the place where you serve and minister. It is not about soon-to-expire techniques or feelings-of-inadequacy-inducing success stories; it is about the simple message of the Bible concerning the Bride of Christ.
  2. The speakers. Many months ago I began the process of trying to get Mark Dever to join us. He has thought and taught much on this topic and has excellent things to say. When I found out that Matt Schmucker was able to join him, I pretty much figured I should go into the conference planning business full time! This is the double-barrel deal on qualified preachers on the topic of the church.
  3. The size. You will rarely have an opportunity to sit under the ministry of these men where, literally, thousands have not gathered. We would love to have thousands at TPC, but likely will have less. That means more access, more time, and more benefit for you!
  4. The glory of God in the revitalizing of His church. I am absolutely convinced that the two and a half days of this conference have the potential to be the means of authentic revival in your own heart and in the hearts of those you shepherd. God blesses His Word and that is exactly what will be taught.
So, plan now to join us. If you register by March 27 you will save $15.00 and likely qualify for free billeting. You will also greatly assist our planning!

Looking forward to serving you from June 1-3,
Pastor Paul Martin

Friday, May 15, 2009

Back From Basics

This past week I was blessed to attend Alistar Begg's 'Basics' conference for pastors with a few friends. I had long been anticipating the fellowship, sitting under the Word (especially John Piper and Alistar Begg), and being led in worship in song by Keith and Kristyn Getty. All three of these exceeded my expectations. I am very thankful for this time of refreshment. Most significantly, God gave me tears of joy over the power of the gospel again. I consider this a precious gift that I hope (and pray) continues. Please pray for me as I enter back into the real world again and seek to continue as a faithful shepherd who labours in Christ's strength!

I also wanted to flag a great new audio resource. Beginning this past monday Alistar Begg has made all of his sermon audio library free for download. Go here to search over 1000 sermons on line! The basics 2009 conference is not yet uploaded, but you can find John Piper's first two messages here.

Stay tuned for some 'you tube' video clips I took on my handy new flip mino camcorder (if this former Luddite can figure out how to do this technolocial miracle).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Movie Recommendation - Fireproof

Last night Natalie and I bunkered down to watch a full movie (a rarity when you have two little kids). A friend had loaned us 'Fireproof' starring Kirk Cameron. I knew it was about the blessing of getting married and staying married, even through very difficult times (contra the dominant message from our culture). I also knew that it was produced by a church, so there were no restraints on the clarity of the gospel. I was not prepared to be moved to tears by a great movie. For a full review, including a trailer for the moive go here:
(If anyone knows how to absorb these links into a single word like 'here' can you let me know?)
I plan to buy a copy of this movie for our church library in the near future.