Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sam Crabtree: Responses to Proponents of "Gay Marriage"

One of my Facebook friends--two of them actually--posted this excellent blog post by Sam Crabtree. In it Sam responds to a number of arguments made by proponents of "gay marriage," and it is definitely worth the time it will take to read. You can access the article here. Notice that they offer it in PDF version on the site as well.

Reformation Day Video

Today is Reformation Day, the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saint's Church in Wittenberg, Germany. In honor of this day, Desiring God ministries has posted a video about John Calvin, the Word of God, and the Reformation. It's about 6 minutes long and definitely worth the time, you can see it  here.

God bless, and happy Reformation Day!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"The Motions" by Matthew West

I spent a little time working on my sermon today which is based on Hebrews 2:1-4 which says, "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." 

My musings on these most powerful words made me think of Matthew West's song, "The Motions." I've always loved this song, but today it really spoke to me so I thought I'd post it here. Hope it blesses you, too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Are There Still Apostles Today?

Today after church a family approached me and asked a question that I get from time to time: do Apostles still exist in the church today? I offered a few thoughts in response but then just sent them the following text from two sermons I preached in 2007 on this topic. You'll notice that my own view develops from one sermon to the next, and now, five years later, my view has continued to develop in the direction I suggest in the final five paragraphs. 

If you're really interested in this subject, I created a chart which organizes all of the uses of the word "apostle" by those to whom it refers. I don't think I can paste that into this blog--I'm not that tech savvy--so if you want a copy of that, just contact me and I'll gladly e-mail you the PDF. 

With that, here is the text of two portions of two sermons:

From November 11, 2007 (you can listen to the messages here). 
The first gift or office that Paul mentions here is that of apostles. The Greek word for apostle, which is simply pronounced apostolos, means “messenger or one who is sent,” usually with the implication “one who is sent in an official capacity.” So, an apostle is an official representative or an envoy or an ambassador of something of the sort. The word was used widely in the culture at that time, so it’s not unique to the church, but again it was almost always used to designate one who represented another in an official capacity. 

Now, one of the major questions in our day about the office of “apostles” is this: Does the office of apostle still exist, or was this office reserved only for the twelve? And by the twelve, I mean those who were appointed by Jesus in Luke 6:12-16 and called “apostles,” minus Judas plus Paul. Many of you are aware, I’m sure, that in Acts 1 the eleven apostles appointed a man named Matthias to take the place of Judas. But in my view, which is not just my view, the eleven apostles got ahead of God with this appointment, and in fact Paul was God’s choice to replace Judas. I’m not going to take the time to defend my view here but if you want to follow up on that with me feel free to write me a note or something. 

Does the office of apostle still exist today, or was this office reserved only for the twelve? The word apostolos is used 84 times in the New Testament, and it overwhelmingly refers to offices that do not continue to exist. Seventy–four times it specifically refers to the twelve apostles, and once in Hebrews 3:1 it refers to Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession.” These 75 texts represent almost 88% of the uses of the word, which is of course the overwhelming majority. 

However, there are four texts which apply the term “apostle” to five people who were not of the twelve, namely, Barnabas, Epaphroditus, probably Silas, and two unnamed brothers. I’ve listed the passages for you on the power point so that you can look them up for yourselves (Acts 14:14, Philippians 2:25, 1 Thessalonians 2:6, and 2 Corinthians 8:23). The reason I say “probably Silas” is because he’s not directly mentioned in these texts but in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 Paul writes, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.” 

And the question is, To whom is Paul referring when he says “we”? If Paul is referencing his visit to Thessalonica described in Acts 17:1-9, then he’s probably referring to Silas because Silas was there with him. But even if he’s not referring to Silas it’s clear that he’s referring to someone who was not of the twelve because none of the other eleven apostles were there with him in Thessalonica. Be that as it may, there are four passages that clearly refer to five people who were called apostles but were not of the twelve. 

In addition to these four passages, there are seven other passages that use the term “apostle” in such a way that it is unclear if they refer exclusively to the twelve or if they include some beyond the twelve. Again I have listed these texts for you on the power point so that you can look them up for yourselves (Luke 11:49;1 Corinthians 12:28, 29; 2 Corinthians 11:13; Ephesians 4:11; Revelation 2:2, and 18:20). The presence of these seven ambiguous passages, combined with the four clear passages, cause me to conclude that the term “apostle” was used in a broader sense than the twelve, even while the twelve were alive. Were there only one such passage, I would probably consider it an anomaly, but that there are four clear passages and seven ambiguous passages seems to me to make a pretty strong case that the office of apostle did extend beyond the twelve and that it might still exist today. 

Now, I’m not saying that the office of apostle does still exist to this day, but I think the evidence I’ve just summarized lends credibility to those who argue for that idea. I can imagine them asking, If the term was applied in a broader sense than the twelve even when the twelve were alive, why not after they had died? And if the Bible never clearly says that the office of apostle was given only to the twelve, then why should we limit how Jesus chooses to structure his church by our foregone conclusions? And those are good questions. 

But even if we allow for the possibility that the office of apostle exists today—and just for the record, the jury’s still out on this question for me—it is clear from the Scripture that we should not apply the term lightly, and here’s why. Drawing from the first four passages I listed for you on the power point we can say that an apostle who is not of the twelve is characterized by at least four traits: 

(a) he is personally involved in missionary endeavors or bold evangelistic efforts in a leadership capacity—I get this from looking at what the five non-twelve apostles did in all these passages; 

(b) he has been well-tested “and found earnest in many matters” (2 Corinthians 8:22). No one was appointed an apostle on a whim—it took much time and much testing of theology, character, lifestyle, and fruitfulness; 

(c) he is well-known and respected among a wide-circle of the church (2 Corinthians 8:18); and 

(d) he has been appointed by the church to such an office (2 Corinthians 8:19). No one in the Bible was a self-appointed apostle, as are many of the people who are calling themselves apostles today. 

Furthermore, even if there are modern-day apostles, several key factors will forever distinguish the office of the twelve from any other: 

(a) Jesus Christ directly appointed the twelve, eleven of them while He was in the flesh and one of them, Paul, by direct and visible revelation on the road to Damascus. 

(b) With the exception of Paul, the twelve participated with Jesus in his earthly ministry. As the apostle John said in 1 John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” And even though Paul did not participate with Jesus in his earthly ministry, his relationship to Christ is still unique in that he received direct revelation about the gospel from Christ in a way that others did not, and will not. You can read about those revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 and Galatians 1:11-24. 

(c) The apostles, or those closely associated to them, wrote the New Testament. Thus, the teaching of the twelve apostles was authoritative in a way that is forever unique to them. No one, however great a teacher he be, will ever parallel the teaching of the twelve, and especially those whose writings were gathered into what we now call the New Testament. 

All to say, even if there are modern day apostles they’re not even in the same league as the twelve and they never will be. And if there are modern day apostles that’ll be just fine with them because they will be much more concerned with the state of the gospel in the world and their own humility of heart and their own obedience to Jesus and their own fruitfulness in live and ministry than they are with having a particular title conferred upon them. The attitude of any apostle, if they exist today, would be something like this: “Call me what you will, that doesn’t matter to me—I just want to fight the fight of faith for the glory of God and the building up of the church. I just want to do the work of ministry, I’m not after fame or accolades or titles.” In other words, the heart of a true apostle is the heart of humility. The heart of a true apostle acknowledges with joy the fact that the only reason they’ve been called and gifted and named is for the glory of Christ who gifted them and the equipping of the whole church. The heart of a true apostle is to serve and not to be served. The heart of a true apostle is to marvel with much gratefulness that they have any part whatsoever in the glorious plan of God to raise up the church until she reaches the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. 

From November 18, 2007 
Last week I gave you some details about the uses of the word apostle in the New Testament, and I was slightly off on a couple of my numbers. So, I very carefully checked my work this week and I prepared a handout for you on the uses of all the words in Ephesians 4:11 so that you can look into these things for yourselves and check my work. You should have received that on the way in this morning, if you didn’t please let me know and I’ll make sure that gets into your hands. 

The reason I took the time to go into some detail about apostles, and that I’m taking even more time this morning, is because we have been talking about the unity of the church, both in terms of this local body of Christ and in terms of the broader body of Christ in this city and around the world. And in our time this question of whether or not there are still apostles is a serious one and the way we answer it has many implications. There are several prominent movements within the larger body of Christ today that are teaching that the office of apostle still exists today, and they’re appointing apostles and calling on others in the body of Christ to submit to them. 

In fact, last year, when I was still on staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church, we received a letter from a man in the Twin Cities who proclaimed himself to be one of the apostles of the Twin Cities and he said that in order for God’s blessing to come upon the city, the churches in the area would need submit to his leadership—can you imagine that, telling John Piper he has to submit to your leadership when you don’t even know him? And this isn’t just an issue in the larger Twin Cities, there are pastors in this very city who hold to this same basic view, namely, that the way to invite the blessing of God on a city is to put the proper authority structures in place, which includes apostles. Therefore, it’s important for us, as a church that values the unity of the broader body of Christ, to know where we stand on this issue and to know how to defend our position biblically to those who don’t agree with us. 

If you remember from last week I said that there are four passages in the Bible that call five people apostles who were not one of the twelve apostles—and I was accurate in saying that by the way! And I said that since there are five different people who were not of the twelve but were still called apostles, we have to at least leave the door open to the possibility that the office of apostle exists today. Well, I spent a little time this week reading and thinking about those four passages and I want you to know that my view of what those passages are teaching is shifting. 

You’ll probably remember that the word apostle means “one who has been sent in an official capacity”—and apostle is a “sent one.” The word was used this way in the broader culture in Paul’s day, and it was used that way in the Bible as well. But I’m beginning to think that there may be in the Bible two different ways this word used—one which refers to the twelve apostles who hold a very unique and everlasting office in the church to which no one else will ever attain, and the other which refers to those who had been sent on a mission by the church, who after their mission was complete would no longer be called apostles. In other words, I think the Bible calls some people apostles in a very official and permanent way, and it calls other people apostles in an official but temporary way. 

Let me take you to just one text to show you what I mean, Philippians 2:25-26. Now, before I read the text let me point something out here: do you see in the middle of these verses where Paul calls Epaphroditus “your messenger”? The word for “messenger” in the Greek text is apostolos—“your apostolos, your apostle. So when I get to that part of the verse I’m going to read it that way. Verse 25: “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger [apostle] and minister to my need for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.” 

Now, what’s going on here? The church in Philippi had sent Epaphroditus to Paul to minister to his need, and in that capacity they called him an apostle. But I’m sure that they did not confer on him the office of apostle, rather they were simply describing his task—he sent by the church on a mission. And when Epaphroditus returned to the church I’m sure they would not have continued to refer to him as the apostle Epaphroditus, but simply as brother because his mission was complete. When you look at the other three passages that call four other people apostles you find much the same thing: it’s not so much that an office was conferred upon them as their activity was being described. 

So, I want you to know that as your pastor I’m leaning away from the view that there are still apostles today in the sense that I don’t think there are people who hold the office of apostle. I think there are people all over the world right this moment who have been sent on missions by the church, and I see no biblical reason why these people could not be called apostles. But in these cases the word is simply describing their activity, it’s not conferring an office upon them. In the near future I’m going to prepare a more formal statement on what I think about this issue and why, and when that’s done I’ll make sure to make copies of it available for everyone in the church.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Some Thoughts on Psalm 110

This week at Glory of Christ Fellowship I will be preaching about the use of the Old Testament (OT) in Hebrews 1:5-13, and more particularly how the author read the seven texts he quotes in the light of Christ. Since I cannot cover all seven OT quotes in detail in one sermon, I plan to look at Psalm 110, and its use in Hebrews 1:3, 13, with a view to training our church how to read the OT in the light of Christ. 

Back in the summer of 2011, as part of a doctoral course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I wrote a brief exegetical (interpretive) paper on this Psalm and as I read over that paper today, I thought it might be helpful to publish it here. If this is of interest to you, I encourage you to open your Bible to Psalm 110, pray, read the Psalm carefully, and then consider my thoughts. May the Lord give you "a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him" as you study his Word (Ephesians 1:17). And please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions you have, as I would love to interact with you about whatever the Lord puts on your hearts. 

Hermeneutical Commentary on Psalm 110:1-7 

Exegetical Commentary. The authorship of Psalm 110 is a topic of great debate but there is sufficient evidence to believe the opinion of later scribes, namely, that it is “A Psalm of David” (v 1; Beale, 83; VanGemeren, 696). For the purposes of this paper I will assume Davidic authorship. The implication of this assumption is that King David wrote Psalm 110 as a song to be sung by the priests and people of Israel. It was intended to be pressed into their minds and memorized, to be the fodder of meditation and rejoicing as they reflected on the power of their God, Yahweh, flowing through the rule of their great King-Priest. As important as the particulars of the song is the fact that it was meant to inform the mind and inflame the heart toward God. 

With this function in mind, the opening line of the Psalm, “Yahweh says to my Lord,” both inspires and puzzles. It inspires because it is built on the firm foundation of the speech of the God of Israel, the same speech that caused the universe to fling into being (Gen 1:1-2) and called Abraham to be a conduit of blessing for the nations of the earth (Gen 12:1-3). It puzzles because of the word “my.” If David, the great King of Israel, is in fact the author of this Psalm, then to whom is he referring when he writes “my Lord”? 

Some suggest that David was humbly referring to himself in the third person, or that he had a court prophet or poet write on his behalf (VanGemeren, 697; Beale 942). If this point of view is correct, then the point of the Psalm is that the Davidic King rules by the will of Yahweh and not his own authority or the will of the people. He is a theocratic ruler fully submitted to Yahweh and yet he is very close to him, in fact, he sits at his right hand. 

There does seem to be some Scriptural evidence for the idea that the king of Israel sits on the throne of Yahweh over Israel (1 Chron 28:5, 29:23, 2 Chron 9:8), however, this evidence refers to the reign of Solomon (though it may have implications beyond Solomon) and it does not include the language of “sitting at the right hand” (Beale, 83). Further, the series of excessive exaltations of this King throughout the Psalm, including the inalterable declaration that besides being King he will also be “a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (v 4), point to one who is more than an earthly king. 

As one muses on who this “more than a king” might be in the mind of David, it quickly occurs that it could be the Messiah of Israel, the promised deliverer. The idea of the Messiah did not have to be equal to the person of Jesus in the mind of David, rather, he could simply have thought of the Messiah as “the anointed one.” The Holy Spirit who inspired David to write obviously had a fullness of knowledge of the object of his words, and yet this does not imply that David must have known all that the Holy Spirit knew. David may have only seen a shadow of things to come, or he may have seen the fullness of the glory of Jesus, we will never know. However, for our purposes all we need to know is that if David did see even a shadowy figure of this Messiah, he could have written the words “my Lord” in reference to one other than himself. I am persuaded, along with B. C. Davis (2000), that this is the case. David had the Messiah in mind when he penned Psalm 110 and pressed it into the minds and mouths of the people of Israel. 

Further proof of this point of view outside the Psalm itself, are the words of Jesus in Matt 22:41-46. In this pericope, Jesus clearly taught that David was referring to one other than himself. This point was not disputed by his opponents. They all agreed that David was speaking of the Messiah. The question, then, was this: “Whose son is the Christ?” (v 42) Jesus’ opponents answered that he is David’s son, but Jesus retorted, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord…? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (vv 43-45) 

Jesus was not hereby denying that the Messiah was the human descendant of David, rather, he was asserting  that he was not merely this. The Messiah, the great King-Priest, was both the son of David and the son of God, an argument so compelling and irrefutable that no one could answer him or would dare ask him any more questions (Beale, 82-83). 

Thus, I conclude that whatever David knew, he was consciously writing this Psalm about the Messiah and not about himself, and he was aware that this Messiah was both his descendant and Lord. This undoubtedly filled him with a sense of awe, a sense which he wished to share with the people of God whom he served and loved. 

With this in mind, David expressed two great pronouncements made by Yahweh to his Lord. First, Yahweh installed this King as his Vice-Regent by making him to sit at his right hand—the place of ultimate power and honor—and promising to establish his rule for him (v 1). The King was not to put his enemies under his feet, rather, he was to sit and watch and be in awe of Yahweh as he did this for him. It was Yahweh who would cause his scepter to stretch forth from Zion, thus extending his rule. And having done this, he commanded the King to “rule in the midst of [his] enemies” (v 2). His word to the King was, “Rule your enemies for I have subdued them for you.” 

As the King submitted to this command, Yahweh promised that the people would willingly follow him and present themselves ready for battle (v 3). This particular clause is famously difficult to interpret, but whatever the interpretive possibilities, it does imply that the people will willingly present themselves to the King in great numbers, and that they will be ready to fight. And as it was with the previous promises, so it is with this one: they will come on the basis of what Yahweh had already done for the King. 

Second, Yahweh promised in the strongest of terms to make this King “a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (v 4). Melchizedek served as the king-priest of Jerusalem in the days of Abraham (Gen 14:17-24), and thus the point David is making in this Psalm is that this King will rule in like manner: he will be both King and Priest. He will embody two offices which were strongly separated in the Word of God and the culture of Israel. 

In v 5 the subject of the verbs shifts from Yahweh to his King-Priest whom David calls Lord. We know that this Lord is the subject of the verbs contained in vv 5-7 because in the first four verses David has been careful to distinguish between “Yahweh” and his “Lord.” Thus, it is very unlikely that David would now apply the word “Lord” to Yahweh. Further, the subject of these verbs is said in v 7 to “drink from the brook by the way” which most certainly cannot refer to Yahweh himself. 

Therefore, the logic of these verses is this: on the basis of the subjecting work of Yahweh, the Lord—the great King-Priest—will walk in obedience to his command and rule in the midst of his enemies. He will shatter kings, execute judgment, shatter chiefs, and “drink from the brook along the way,” that is, find all the nourishment and supplies and refreshment he needs throughout the whole of the process. Therefore, “he will lift up his head,” that is, raise his head in triumph to the glory of Yahweh who in fact made his enemies his footstool. 

As the people of Israel sang and memorized and meditated on this Psalm, I think they would have seen at least four meanings in it. First, they would have known and rejoiced in the fact that one day God would place a great King-Priest over Israel who would reign forever. David was great, but this King-Priest would be much greater. This truth would have filled their hearts with a sense of awe and anticipation and hope and faith. 

Second, they would have rested in the fact that Yahweh was very great and in control of the destiny of Israel and the raging of the nations. Third, they would have realized that submission is the key to entering into this rule, both that of the King-Priest who humbled himself before Yahweh and that of the people who humbled themselves before the King-Priest. Finally, they would have been motivated to in fact submit themselves to both David and this coming King-Priest. As they watched him offer himself freely to Yahweh, they would have freely offered themselves to him. 

Biblical and Theological Commentary. The relationship of this Psalm to the broader corpus of Scripture has already been alluded to in my previous comments. However, I do want to point out three things. First, the widespread Apostolic usage of this Psalm implies that the authors of the New Testament envisioned it as Messianic (cf. Matt 22:44, 26:64; Mark 12:36, 14:62, 16:19; Luke 20:42-44, 22:69; Acts 2:34-35; Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 1:5, 5:6, 7:17, 7:21, 8:1, 10:12-13, 12:2). They clearly saw Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 110, as did Jesus himself (Matt 22:41-46). 

Second, the persistent use of the divine name “Yahweh” in this Psalm connects the God of this Psalm with the God of the Pentateuch and the broader story of Israel. Whoever this King-Priest is, the one thing Israel would surely have known was that he was the fulfillment of the promise of God to their father Abraham to bless the nations through his offspring. 

Finally, though this King-Priest is in a category all by himself, the pattern of Israel’s leaders submitting to the Yahweh who subdued their enemies is a long one. Joshua made this truth explicit hundreds of years before David when he told the people that if they loved the Lord their God and clung to him, he would drive out their enemies before them (Josh 22:1-6, 23:1-16). Clinging was always the key to conquering; failing to cling was the harbinger of defeat. This means that the vision of God for the destiny of Israel was always that he would rule and that his people, particularly his rulers, would walk in loving submission to him. David saw the fulfillment of this vision in the person of the great King-Priest of Israel. 

Relevance to my Ministry Context: I am presently preaching through the Pentateuch as a way to prepare our people for a thorough study of the book of Hebrews. Since Psalm 110 plays such a significant role in that book, I plan to preach one sermon on this Psalm at some point in our journey through Hebrews 1. The allusion to Psalm 110 in Hebrews 1:3 and the direct quote of it in 1:13 form an inclusio which gives meaning to the whole string of quotes in this chapter. Psalm 110 is then alluded to no less than six times in the remainder of the book which has caused some to suggest that Hebrews is a homiletic commentary on Psalm 110 (Attridge, 26). Thus, gaining a better understanding of this Psalm will help the people I serve gain a better understanding of Hebrews, which in turn will hopefully deepen their love of and fidelity to Jesus himself, the great King-Priest. 

The practical implications of this Psalm for the life of our church are much the same as they were for its original hearers or singers, as it were. First, our people will see that God has placed a great King-Priest over us who will rule the nations at the command of God the Father. Second, our people will see that God is in control of all things and that he will fulfill the work he has begun in Israel and Christ. Indeed, as he was faithful to the nation of Israel, so he will be faithful to the church. Third, our people will see that submission is still the key to entering into the joy of God in Christ, as Christ submits to the Father and we submit ourselves to Christ. Finally, our people will be motivated to joyfully surrender themselves to this great King-Priest and serve him all the days of their lives. 

Admittedly, these applications are not in line with the modern propensity to preach about “four ways to deal with stress,” or what have you. However, as the people of God behold the greatness and glory of God, the sight of him will put other things into perspective. I will likely take a few minutes to give at least one example of how these things can impact normal, everyday life, but then again I may simply exalt the glory of Jesus as high as I can and allow the Holy Spirit to help his people figure out what it means for them. Father knows best, and when the time comes I will do my best to submit to him in this. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thank You for Praying for Abba Pregnancy Center's Banquet

Thank you so much for those of you who lifted us up in prayer tonight at the Abba Pregnancy Resource Banquet. It was a very blessed time! The venue was great, the servers--almost all of whom were volunteers--did a great job. The various speakers really gelled well together, and maintained a holy, reverent, and respectful attitude. The videos we watched were real and powerful. Bottom line, the Lord was with us. In and through all the details, the Lord of Life showed up and blessed the night and we're so grateful to Him, and thankful for those of you who prayed. 

Please continue to pray! Every day Abba stands for life, and we need you to stand with us in prayer so that we'll have power to do what God is calling us to do. And thanks for this as well. May the Lord grant us to power to do his will, in his way, for the glory of his name and the good of the unborn. 

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard [the gospel of Jesus Christ], lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:1-3) 

I love so many of the old hymns--they're rich with meaning and seem to bear more and more fruit in my life the longer I sing them. And among my very favorites is the one written in 1752 by the twenty-two-year-old Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Robinson was converted to Christ under the preaching of George Whitefield and became a pastor, but sadly he neglected his salvation and drifted away from Christ. How did this happen? I don't know the details, but I do know the answer: one small step at a time! 

As Robinson drifted farther and farther away from Christ, he began to travel in search of peace. On one of his journeys he met a young woman who asked him what he thought about a particular hymn she had been enjoying. At first he tried to avoid the question because, as it turns out, it was his very own hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing! But alas, he could not escape the grace of the Lord that pursued him every day, and he broke down and told the woman who he was and what he had done. She assured him that the "streams of mercy" were still flowing, and with this Robert Robinson was restored to fellowship with Jesus and his people. 

Oh the mercy of God that pursues us to the end! Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

I pray that you'll read these historic and precious words with a new found appreciation. Here is the hymn as originally penned by Robinson: 

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

3. Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

5. O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Cloth├Ęd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Call to Prayer for Abba Pregnancy Center's Banquet

Many of you know that I serve as the Chairman of the Board for Abba Pregnancy Resource Center in Elk River, Minnesota. This Thursday, October 25 @ 7:00 p.m. we will hold our annual banquet and I'm posting this entry to ask for your prayer support. Here's a note I just sent out to our church--thanks so much for standing with us in prayer! 

Dear Glory of Christ, 

We are now less than 48 hours away from Abba Pregnancy Resource Center's annual banquet, and I'd like to ask you to join us in fervent prayer. Many preparations have been made and all involved in leadership will be busy between now and the time the banquet begins at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, but over and above all the details we need the presence and power of Jesus upon us. So please join us in prayer! Specifically, you can pray for...
  • The Presenters: Ralph Kiffmeyer, Greg Pagh, Joan Parsekalleh, Marcus Bachmann, and Charlie Handren
  • The A/V Team: Brett Springfield and Dan Smith 
  • Our 20-25 volunteer servers (as well as the staff and servers of Rockwoods Grill in Otsego) 
  • Other volunteers attending to a number of matters 
  • That the Lord would raise up a small army of prayer warriors between now and Thursday evening 
  • That the Lord would move people's hearts to give to the ministry and serve in various capacities 
  • That the Lord would move in our land and bring abortion to an end in our lifetimes: 3,300 children are killed every day by abortion in the United States, and 30 children every day in Minnesota--but our God is great and He can bring abortion to an end, so let us pray with faith! 
  • That the mercy of the Lord would cover those who have participated in an abortion, and move the hearts of those considering abortion to choose a different path  
Thank you so much for praying! As Hudson Taylor said, "When we work, we work; when we pray, God works." So indeed let us give ourselves to fervent prayer, trusting alone in the might and mercy of  Jesus Christ who conquered sin and death! Thanks again. 

With hope in Jesus, 
Pastor Charlie 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pray for our Men's Retreat

This week, October 18-20, the men of Glory of Christ Fellowship will retreat to Miracle Bible Camp which is near Hackensack, Minnesota. There's still room for anyone who wants to come, so don't hesitate to just show up if you'd like! For those of you who can't come, please hold us up in prayer. We'll be meditating together on the meaning and implications of Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." 

So the theme is "Living by Faith in the Son of God" and the hope is that we will learn to rest in Jesus, doing our part but allowing Him to shoulder the various burdens of life. 

Thanks so much for praying, your partnership is deeply appreciated! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Look at Minnesota’s Future Without the Marriage Protection Amendment

What follows is a communication I received from the Minnesota for Marriage team. Friends, there is a lot more at stake in this amendment than meets the eye, and we should thus be as educated and prayerful as possible as to how we should vote. 

CANADA: A Look at Minnesota’s Future Without the Marriage Protection Amendment

On Monday, the Minnesota Catholic Conference and Minnesota for Marriage hosted an event featuring The Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, Ontario; several other prominent Canadians; and legal experts who described the consequences Canada has faced since legalizing same-sex “marriage several years ago.

One of the panelists, Dr. Steve Tourloukis, a Christian father of two from Ontario, described his experience with public education after marriage was redefined: “Education bureaucrats have started referring to themselves as ‘co-parents,’ and administrators in my kids’ school refused to even tell me when my own children would be exposed to same-sex ‘marriage.’ How can this be happening in a democratic country?”

Damian Goddard, a former prominent Canadian sportscaster lost his career simply because he tweeted out his support for traditional marriage: “That day, I was a high-profile, 6-figure earning, tv anchor for one of Canada’s leading sports broadcasters. Twenty-four hours later, my career and everything I had been working towards had been smashed on the rocks of political correctness. I was fired on the spot. And looking back, I don’t regret a thing and would do it again. I choose not be fearful of the truth. And that truth is this—society needs to uphold marriage, and children need to be upheld by their mother and father.”

Phil Lees spent 29 years as a Canadian educator and experienced firsthand the change in curriculum after Canada redefined marriage: “It is critical that the people of Minnesota understand that if same-sex marriage is legalized, the new law will require that public schools teach this new definition of marriage and will not accommodate those people, who - for personal, moral, cultural or religious reasons - sincerely disagree that people of the same-sex can marry each other.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sharing the Love of Jesus as an act of Worship

Today on our church's blog,, my good friend Asa Veek began a series of posts on the subject of evangelism. After today he'll be posting follow up entries every Tuesday, and I would highly recommend that you read them. Rather than cluttering the universe with more of my own words, let me allow Asa to introduce the series for you! 

Asa writes, "In this series of posts, I try to balance some of the theological underpinnings of evangelism with some practical training. You will also find links to more in-depth training programs and resources. I can make myself available for small-group and one-on-one coaching if someone is interested (I can be reached at the contacts in my signature block). 

"This is a topic which I am passionate. It's not because of anything I bring to the table: I'm an introvert, I'm not much of a people person, I can struggle with being eloquent in my words, and I have a tendency to be moody. And yet, through all of my personality drawbacks and shortcomings, God has placed this passion within me, and that makes me believe even more that this is something He's worked in me. I'm by no means an expert, but I've made enough mistakes - and done enough things right - over the years that I think I have something to share, and I am still learning as I go along. 

"My prayer through this series is that people's heart for the lost is inflamed. As I state in one of the early posts, I view evangelism as an act of worship, not mere duty. My prayer is that we can change our thinking and be compelled to share, not from a sense of duty, but from a place of worshipful gratitude and thankfulness." 


Asa Veek
Google Voice: 763.445.9672 * Cell: 763.234.0153 * Home: 763.441.2017 
1226 4th Street NW * Elk River * MN * 55330
View my LinkedIn Profile

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Don Carson on Inerrancy: Is the Bible without Error?

I really enjoyed this word on inerrancy from Don Carson this evening, and thought I'd pass it on to you.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Are We Living in the “Last Days”?

Hebrews 1:1-2a says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...” 

In his commentary on Hebrews, F. F. Bruce argues that we should understand the phrase “in these last days” as a Hebraism that means, “in the days when the words of the prophets are fulfilled.” For evidence of this position he sites Genesis 49:1, Numbers 24:14, Deuteronomy 4:30, 31:29, Isaiah 2:2, Jeremiah 23:20, 30:24, 48:27, 49:39, Ezekiel 38:16, Daniel 10:14, Hosea 3:5, and Micah 4:1 (The Epistle to the Hebrews, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 46, fn 14). 

He makes a compelling case, although we must leave room for the likelihood that these first century Christians may have expected Jesus to return in their lifetimes. Whatever the case may be, we are on safe biblical grounds to interpret the phrase to mean “the time between the first and second comings of Jesus wherein the words of the prophets were fulfilled.” 

Look up the verses and tell me what you think!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Fathers, Date your Daughters

I’m sitting in the commuter lounge of the Coffman Union Building at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. Rachel is in a meeting with the Homecoming Committee, after which we’ll hop in the car and head to Elk River together. We’re both tired, and feeling a little goofy, so we might not talk about anything substantial, but then again we might. We often do. I know my daughter well, I love her deeply, and that hasn’t come cheap. 

When I was in seminary, I had a friend who grew up as an only-child and a pastor’s-daughter so I asked, “Deborah, Rachel is three now (or maybe she was four), what would you say to me as I prepare for the ministry and work with Kim to raise Rachel?” Tears welled up in her eyes as she answered, “I always wished that I could capture my dad’s attention the way the church did.” 

Tears welled up in my eyes, too. I committed myself on the spot to pursuing my daughter, capturing her heart, and without making an idol of her, putting her before my ministry. So that week we went on a date, and then we went on another and then another and then another…and fourteen years later, by the grace of God in Christ, we’re still at it! 

Fathers, if we’re to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 2:4), then we must know them. Discipleship happens through relationship, and relationship takes time. It was the love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that propelled the Son into the world, and the purpose of his mission was to enfold the elect into that love. The heart of the gospel is the very heart of God, and if we’re to teach our children the gospel we must capture their hearts and draw them close to God’s heart. 

And as we do, we image God to them. We show them the heart of the Father who gave his only begotten Son, not to secure external conformity to the Father’s commands, but to create in us a heartfelt desire to do what our Father desires. 

Over the years, Rachel and I (and Kim, of course) have walked through many ups and downs together, and through it all she has gained emotional security, the ability to communicate, the gift of laughter, an understanding of relational commitment, a model for what marriage might look like, and many more things. But more importantly, she has seen with her eyes an image of the God who pursues his beloved from the heart, and who aims for their heart. 

So, fathers, date your daughters. Capture their hearts. It will take time, commitment, sacrifice, creativity, and prayer, but the dividends will far outweigh the costs as you learn, by the grace of God, to image the heart of God. 

With joy in Jesus, 
Pastor Charlie

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Church Membership as Citizenship--Jonathan Leeman

Capitol Hill Baptist Church, of Washington DC, has an ancillary ministry called 9 Marks Ministries. They have a wonderful series of multi-media resources on their website, the latest of which is a presentation by Jonathan Leeman entitled "Church Membership as Citizenship." It summarizes much of what 9 Marks teaches and is very helpful as a basic introduction to the subject of membership.

You can find the lecture here. God bless you, and have a great day! 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Receiving the Message of Hebrews in Head and Heart

In chapter ten of his book The Enemy Within (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1998), Kris Lundgaard suggests several ways our flesh works to douse the fire of our first love for Jesus. One of his points seems particularly appropriate for those of us at Glory of Christ Fellowship as we commence our journey through the letter to the Hebrews. 

The author of this great sermonic-letter was immensely learned and he writes in such a way as to cause us to think carefully and ponder deeply the person of Jesus Christ. However, it would be a grave error to think that he thinks thinking is an end in itself. Rather, his design in leading us to know more about Jesus is to lead us into a life-changing encounter with Jesus. He writes to wake us from our slumber and stun us into worship and obedience as we come to understand who Jesus is, what he's accomplished for us, and how he means to apply those accomplishments to our lives and churches. 

Therefore, I thought it might be good to pass on the following words from Kris Lundgaard. "'Knowledge puffs up' (1 Corinthians 8:1). When Paul said that to the Corinthians, he wasn't suggesting they stop learning the Word of God. He was condemning knowledge that seems to grow but never moves the heart. 

"A person with a big head and a small heart can learn the doctrines of sin, yet never be convicted of sin. He can learn the teachings of grace and pardon and the great atonement for sin, yet never feel the peace of God that passes understanding. When the flesh gets a person to the point that he can sit under the teaching of the Word, and even delight in it for its intellectual beauty, yet not be changed, he has snuffed out the wick of his first love" (117-18). 

May the Lord give us minds rich with the knowledge of Jesus, and heart aflame with passion for Jesus. May we receive his Word and allow his Spirit to shape our lives by that Word.