Saturday, April 23, 2011

Last Night's Joint Good Friday Service

Last night about a thousand people from five different churches gathered for a joint Good Friday Service in downtown Toronto. The night was hosted by the Senior Pastors of each of the five churches, who took turns reading the seven from the cross throughout the service.

Worship was led by Grace Toronto Church, and my old friend, Ian Cusson, arranged it wonderfully. The night began with a drama, followed by readings intermingled with cross-centered songs with old and new lyrics. Then Joe Boot preached a culturally engaging message on all people's liability before God, and the discovery of life and liberty in the cross of Jesus Christ.

In all, it was a great time of seeing old friends, meeting new friends, worshiping King Jesus for his cross, and making a statement to the city of Toronto that the church of Jesus Christ is united, vibrant, and present. The presence factor was greatly helped by the fact that we met at the Winter Garden Theater at Yonge and Queen, a house that is used most evenings to entertain the masses, was used last night to worship the crucified King Jesus, who died for our sins. Praise God!

One thing that struck me about the evening was the cost of Christian unity. In this internet age, and the age of rapid transportation, I'm taught that I can find a perfect fit for all of my preferences, all the time. I don't download sermons by preachers who almost connect with my personality, and I drive a long distance to get to the church of my choice. Last night's service was awesome, but it also featured some small things that I would have done just a little bit differently if I were in charge. As I walked away from the evening, I found myself wishing those few features were different, and then I caught myself: was I there as a servant or as a consumer? Was I loving the statement that unity in Christ made, or was I selfishly wishing that my preferences were all met? Especially in a gathering that happens infrequently, should not Christians delight to do things a bit differently in order to unite with brothers and sisters from different traditions, who use different methodologies and who come from slightly different cultural backgrounds? The answer to all of these is a resounding 'yes'. This of course is not to mention the fact that I can probably learn a lot from those very people with whom I differ on these fronts. I thank God for the Toronto Gospel Alliance and I hope that many such events are held in the future.

Note: Thanks to Darryl Dash for taking the great pictures!

Monday, April 18, 2011

John Wesley on How to Improve Your Preaching

Justin Taylor records the excellent counsel here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tim Keller On Why We Love Fairie Stories


The Relationship Between Exodus and Leviticus in the Biblical Storyline

From Justin Taylor's Blog...

Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Seminary, a contributor to the ESV Study Bible, and author of a forthcoming Tyndale commentary on Leviticus, has a very helpful explanation here about the place of Leviticus as the storyline of Scripture unfolds:

. . . [I]t is vital to remember that Leviticus is part of a much larger story, especially the one told in Exodus.

You could tell that story like this:

In Exodus the Lord delivers his people from slavery with mighty signs and wonders (1-15) and brings them to Sinai (16-19), telling them there that they are to be his “kingdom of priests and holy nation.”

He confirms their kingdom status by entering into a covenant with them as their king and giving them kingdom laws to follow (20-24).

But that is not all! He is going to be a king who is near to them, dwelling in their very midst, and this is why he proceeds to give them directions for his tabernacle, his earthly palace (25-31, 35-40).

And all of this leads to a very burning question if you’re an Israelite:

How in the world can the holy and pure king of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people? How can he live here—in our very midst—without his holiness melting us in our sin and impurity?!

Answer: Leviticus, which begins by explaining the sacrifices that address sin and enable them to worship this king rightly (Leviticus 1-7).

Answer: Leviticus, which provides them with priests to intercede on their behalf and lead them in worship before the king (Leviticus 8-10).

Answer: Leviticus, which gives them laws to teach them how to deal properly with impurity (Leviticus 11-15).

Answer: Leviticus, which provides a yearly ceremony to remove every last ounce of sin and impurity from the kingdom (Leviticus 16).

Answer, Leviticus, which provides a whole series of laws in other areas to direct them in living like a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Leviticus 17-27).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

George Herbert on Affliction

George Herbert (1593-1633) wrote five poems on affliction. As I read and re-read and contemplated those poems this week, two stuck out as most powerful and profound. I copy/paste them here at great risk, because the medium of the blog is not conducive to thought, reflection, reading, re-reading, and contemplation. A blog is a cotton candy medium that encourages quick tastes (glances at pixels), rather than chewing the cud (deep thought and reflection). However, I post these in hopes that some of you will print this post out, stick it in your pocket, mark it up with a pencil and benefit greatly from it. Upon first reading these two poems, certain lines stuck out to me, but I did not understand everything Herbert was saying. But meditation has been very fruitful for my soul. This is iron for the soul for the person who is willing to spend the time to extract it. So, here you go:

Affliction. (III)

MY heart did heave, and there came forth, “O God !”
By that I knew that Thou wast in the grief,
To guide and govern it to my relief,
Making a sceptre of the rod :
Hadst Thou not had Thy part,
Sure the unruly sigh had broke my heart.

But since Thy breath gave me both life and shape,
Thou know'st my tallies ;* and when there’s assigned
So much breath to a sigh, what’s then behind?
Or if some years with it escape,
The sigh then only is
A gale to bring me sooner to my bliss.

Thy life on earth was grief, and Thou art still
Constant unto it, making it to be
A point of honour, now to grieve in me,
And in Thy members suffer ill.
They who lament one cross,
Thou dying daily, praise Thee to Thy loss.


Affliction. (V)

MY God, I read this day,
That planted Paradise was not so firm,
As was and is thy floting Ark; whose stay

And anchor thou art onely, to confirm

And strengthen it in ev’ry age,

When waves do rise, and tempests rage.

At first we liv’d in pleasure;

Thine own delights thou didst to us impart;
When we grew wanton, thou didst use displeasure

To make us thine: yet that we might not part,

As we at first did board with thee,

Now thou wouldst taste our miserie.

There is but joy and grief;

If either will convert us, we are thine:
Some Angels us’d the first; if our relief

Take up the second, then thy double line

And sev’rall baits in either kinde

Furnish thy table to thy minde.

Affliction then is ours;
We are the trees, whom shaking fastens more,

While blustring winds destroy the wanton bowres,

And ruffle all their curious knots and store.

My God, so temper joy and wo,

That thy bright beams may tame thy bow.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More George Herbert

When first thy sweet and gracious eye
Vouchsaf'd ev'n in the midst of youth and night
To look upon me, who before did lie
Weltring in sinne ;
I felt a sugred strange delight,
Passing all cordials made by any art,
Bedew, embalme, and overrunne my heart,
And take it in.

Since that time many a bitter storm
My soul hath felt, ev'n able to destroy,
Had the malicious and ill-meaning harm
His swing and sway :
But still thy sweet originall joy
Sprung from thine eye, did work within my soul,
And surging griefs, when they grew bold, controll,
And got the day.

If thy first glance so powerfull be,
A mirth but open'd and seal'd up again ;
What wonders shall we feel, when we shall see
Thy full-ey'd love!
When thou shalt look us out of pain,
And one aspect of thine spend in delight
More then a thousand sunnes disburse in light,
In heav'n above.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

George Herbert

George Herbert has instantly become my favourite poet. I'm so thankful that a friend pointed me to him this week; I'd never read anything by him until now. This one, among many, stood out to me tonight...



MY words and thoughts do both express this notion,
That LIFE hath with the sun a double motion.
The first IS straight, and our diurnal friend :
The other HID, and doth obliquely bend.
One life is wrapt IN flesh, and tends to earth ;
The other winds t'wards HIM whose happy birth
Taught me to live here so THAT still one eye
Should aim and shoot at that which IS on high—
Quitting with daily labour all MY pleasure,
To gain at harvest an eternal TREASURE.

Herbert, George. The Works of George Herbert in Prose and Verse.
New York: John Wurtele Lovell, 1881. 172.