Sunday, January 28, 2007

Misc. Quotes

"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength'...'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
- Jesus Christ

"None of us keeps the Great Commandment for five minutes. We may think that we do in a surface way, but on a moment's reflection it is clear that we don't love God with our whole heart or our whole mind or our whole strength. We don't love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We may do everything in our power to avoid thinking about this at a deep level, but there is always that nagging sense in the back of our minds to accuse us of the certain knowledge that, in fact, we violate the Great Commandment every day. Like Isaiah, we also know that no one else keeps the Great Commandment either."
- R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, p. 88

"Adultery isn't evil because it's naughty; it's evil because it's blasphemous - it gives a wrong picture of Christ and the Church."
- Russell Moore, 1/26/07

"For God to take a self-effacing posture would be to deny the reality of who he really is."
- Bruce Ware, Sunday School Class at Clifton, 1/28/07

"The hope of missions is the promise of God that he will gather to himself a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue."
- Bruce Ware, SS, 1/28/07

"Suffering is not the worst thing that can happen to a Christian."
- David Sills, Sunday AM sermon at Clifton, 1/28/07

"A missionary is someone who never gets used to the sound of pagan footsteps on their way to a Christ-less eternity."
- David Sills, AM Sermon, 1/28/07

"Jesus + Anything Else = Heresy"
- David Sills, AM Sermon, 1/28/07

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Read Your Bible!

In the final paragraph of my last post I originally included a long diatribe on the power of God's word to transform our lives. I realized I was digressing, so I decided to make it a separate post altogether. So here's the long digression, including some of the text from my previous post:

"The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, fully equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16
God's Word is POWERFUL. If you devote yourself to reading it with understanding, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, it WILL change you! You WILL become more like Jesus! Hebrews 4 even says that God's word is ALIVE! I know prolonged, concentrated exposure to Truth will change me; and I desperately need to change. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you've got to get yourself together spiritually BEFORE you can begin to read your Bible regularly. In fact, it's impossible to get it together spiritually apart from God's word. So go ahead and start reading. Don't think, "I can't read my Bible today because I've sinned so much. I'll feel like a hypocrite after what I've done." DON'T THINK THAT WAY!

But doesn't sin ruin my intimacy with God? Yes. It's hard to open the Bible after you've sinned because reading the Bible brings you into the presence of God; and we are ashamed to be in the presence of God dirty. The Bible exposes us. It is good to feel unholy in the presence of a holy God. (Isaiah 6!) His presence drives us to repentance. It brings us into agreement with him about our sin: that we have done it, and that it offends and grieves him. Then he sweetly forgives our sins because of Jesus, who has already paid for them.

Don't make this mistake: Don't begin thinking that your good performance is the ground of your acceptance with God. Pastor John Piper once said, "You do more to offend God on your best day than will be done to you in your whole life." You see, your clear conscience doesn't mean sin is absent. The sin is not gone; you just can't see it. God reveals it to us bit-by-bit as we live our lives. He is patient with us. Therefore, the apparent absence of sin is not the ground of our acceptance with God.

Do you measure your acceptance with God by whether you've performed well today? Remember: God doesn't accept you because of the good things you do, nor does he refuse to accept you because of the bad things you do. You are accepted because of what Christ alone has done. He has obeyed perfectly for you, and absorbed the penalty of sin for you. You are accepted with God if you are united to Christ by faith. The Father treats those who are in Christ just like he treats Christ himself!

These truths are meant to give us courage to fight sin: We are accepted. We may approach the throne of grace with boldness. He is not reluctant. He forgives gladly when we've sinned miserably. So go ahead and open your Bible! Enjoy God's presence and truth! Ask him to convict you of your badness as you read. He will do it, not to condemn you and make you feel rotten, but to sanctify you and give you hope. Conviction is the good news that God is keeping his promise to make us like Jesus. "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." I'm counting on it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What courses are you taking?

Before I tell you what classes I'm taking this semester, it might be helpful for you to have an idea of my overall course of study. I am working toward a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Biblical and Theological Studies. Here's how the seminary catalog describes this track of study:
This option within the Master of Divinity program is designed to give concentrated focus upon biblical and theological studies. Through this concentration, students engage in intensive biblical language study and explore theology, philosophy, and history in depth. Students with this concentration will likely take Hebrew and Greek simultaneously in varying degrees of intensity.

Vocational Objectives: Biblical and theological studies, Campus/college ministry, Doctoral studies, Evangelism, Pastorate, Preaching
Southern Seminary is divided into schools. I'm in the School of Theology, whose purpose the catalog describes this way:
The primary purpose of the School of Theology is to conduct post baccalaureate professional and graduate theological programs in order to equip students for ministry as pastors, teachers, Christian counselors, chaplains, and urban ministers. In addition, the School of Theology seeks to provide the biblical and theological training that is foundational for other church-related ministries as well as for roles where advanced theological training is required. Central to these educational functions is the development of persons of Christian character, commitment, and integrity.
The bottom line is, I want to know Jesus intimately and pour my life into pastoring a church that displays his glory. I hope the Biblical and Theological Studies track will help me to grow in sanctification as I study the Bible over a period of years. God's Word is SO powerful! If you commit yourself to reading it with understanding, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, it WILL change you. You WILL become more like Jesus! Hebrews 4 even says that God's word is ALIVE! I believe that prolonged, concentrated exposure to Truth will change me; and I desperately need to change . We're all in constant need of reformation. So really the whole point of coming to Southern is this: To go deeper with the Lord Jesus. To that end, I'm taking the following classes this semester:

Elementary Greek, Dr. Jonathan Pennington

Church History I, Prof. Kevin Smith

History of the Baptists, Dr. Shawn Wright

Written Communication, Prof. Marsha Omanson

Cooperative Program Seminar, Dr. Greg Wills (via DVD)

Please pray for me (1) to be diligent in my studies, (2) to enjoy the learning process, (3) for my reading and studying to be Spiritual food that nourishes me, (4) to build meaningful relationships with fellow-students and the professors.

Read about my professors and classes HERE.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Eastern Time (Yawn.)

It is earlier in Central Time,
But Eastern folks don't seem to mind
Staying up an hour later than
Their Central Time Zone-dwelling friends.

Don't they realize what they're losing
Giving up an hour of snoozing?
Count: Twenty-nine thousand, two-hundred
Sleepless hours they could have slumbered.
(That's in a life that's lived to four-score,
Though some of us might croak before

I'm going to miss you, extra sleep,
When grad school hours I have to keep!
Could we nudge this state a little West
So I can get some extra rest?

Monday, January 22, 2007

What Makes A Church Good?

My readers (both of you) know by now that Gret and I are searching for a new church home here in Louisville. This raises some questions. What criteria should we use to make this decision? What should we be looking for? What does the Bible say a church should be like? I have some ideas, of course. I've spent a lot of time in recent years thinking about these questions. But I could be missing something.

So give me some help. If you were us, what qualities, characteristics, or distinctives would you be looking for? What makes a church a "good" church? Leave me a comment listing the qualities you would look for in a church. Rank them in order from most important to least.

PS: Those of you who read our blogs but don't have a Blogger account can still leave comments. Simply click the "comments" link at the bottom of this post, choose "Other" or "Anonymous" and type your comment! I recommend the "Other" option, which allows you to type in a name if you want (and just skip filling in the "web page" field which also appears when you choose "Other").

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Clifton Baptist Church

Today we visited Clifton Baptist Church, which is in Louisville's Clifton neighborhood, very near our campus apartment. We would like to find a new church home similar in size to our dear church in Illinois. No mega-churches for us, thanks. Clifton is a church of about 400 very friendly people (also like our dear church in Illinois). The church building is very old. The sanctuary is beautifully old fashioned with a balcony not only at the back, but also on both sides. The building as a whole is not fancy. The classrooms are plain and the furniture in them is old. But the people are lively and loving. Our old college friend Kevin McFadden, who just finished his Master of Theology degree at SBTS, recommended Clifton to us. He is a member there. (Although this semester he is interning at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.) We enjoyed both Sunday School (9:30) and Morning Worship (10:45) at Clifton tremendously.

Our Sunday School teacher was Dr. Bruce Ware, who gave a wonderfully encouraging and convicting lesson from Isaiah 40. Dr. Ware is an elder at Clifton and preaches occasionally in addition to teaching his regular weekly Sunday School class. (Not to mention his duties as a professor at SBTS.)

The preaching pastor at Clifton is Tom Schreiner, who also teaches at SBTS. Today, however, Pastor Mark Janke preached. Pastor Mark is leading Clifton's upcoming plant of a daughter church in the Louisville area. You can listen to or download (free) recent sermons from Clifton (and Dr. Ware's Sunday School lessons) HERE. Read Clifton's covenant of fellowship and statement of faith HERE.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


"Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'" (Genesis 22:13-14)

"I will praise you forever for what you have done;
in your name I will hope, for your name is good.
I will praise you in the presence of your saints."
(Psalm 52:9)

The Lord has provided Gretchen a job at the bookstore here at Southern Seminary. We have been praying for months for the Lord's provision, and his goodness has surpassed our hopes. Beginning March 1, Gret will be an assistant manager at the bookstore, and a salaried employee. For now, she will be a full-time hourly employee. The job comes with full benefits, plus her "commute" to work will be a 100-yard stroll across campus.

Lucky in Kentucky

I miss you, Emma-
It's such a dilemma!

I miss you, Nancy,
It's making me antsy.

Abby, I miss you!
My eyes need a tissue!

Sue, you are missed too;
Though the days have been few.

Somebody tell Bill:
How we feel, how we 'fill'!

Dear Nate and Janet,
Come visit! Let's plan it!

Bring your Mercedes,
The cutest of babies!

Anna and Bob Cast,
Come visit! (the drive's fast)

So let it be known:
We feel sort of alone
Here in Kentucky.
Yet we know we're lucky-
Right where we should be,
Where Christ knew we would be
Before time began.
You see, this is His plan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

We've Moved, Thank You.

Our move to Louisville went off without a hitch on Monday. God's grace came to us in the form of the many friends and family who generously gave of their own time/energy/money to help us in one stage or another of the moving process. Those friends and family are (in random, roughly chronological order):

James and Christen Taylor (BIG TIME help with packing while staying with us last week)
Greg and Mandy Cooper (and Maddy!)
Johanna Becker
Jake Starr (who took a vacation day to help us load in IL and unload in KY)
Misty Ferguson
Shea Ferguson
Bob and Anna Cast (Let's keep that basement nice and dry!)
Nate and Janet Benzing (and Cede!)
Mom and Dad Benzing (and Emily, Nancy & Abby) thanks for the storage space!
Mom and Dad Neisler (Dad: thanks for the help unloading, the laptop, the grocery money, supper Monday night...)
Calvary Baptist Church family (prayers, love gifts, encouragement, the cost of the moving van)

Here's how you can pray for us over the next two weeks:

1. For God's grace as we encounter new things: new church (tonight!), new home, new town ("How do you get to Kroger again?"), etc.
2. For God's provision: jobs for each of us (PT for me, FT for Gret), new friendships, new bills!
3. That our private and family worship times would be vibrant and faith-building.
4. That we would glorify God by trusting him. (Isaiah 26:3, Jeremiah 29:11)
5. Urgent: that neither of us would develop the slightest hint of a Southern "twang"; or begin to eliminate syllables from our pronunciation of "Louisville".

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Leaving and Going

I've been re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring. It's a good time to read it. In the chapter called "Many Meetings", Frodo visits Rivendell, the home of Elrond the Elf-lord. The description of that house given by Bilbo captures my feeling for our home here in Illinois, which we'll be leaving for good in less than a week:

"That house was, as Biblo had long ago reported, 'a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thingking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all'. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness."

I am confident our new place in Louisville will be the same. It's not the rooms or the square footage or the color of the walls or the water pressure. It's the people who inhabit a place who make it "a perfect house". And the three people who have made our home "a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness" will be present in our Lousiville home: Josh, Gretchen, and (most important of all) the Lord Jesus, who is the reason for our going in the first place. He says in Matthew 28:20, "I am with you always, to the end of the age." and elsewhere we read, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

The Soundtrack of My Last Week in Illinois*

But if I must go,

Things, I trust, will be better off without me.

But I don't want to know;

Life is better off a mystery.

So keep'em coming, these lines on the road,

And keep me responsible, be it a light or heavy load.

And keep me guessing, with these blessings in disguise,

And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes.

Hometown weather is on TV.

I imagine the lives of the people living there.

And I'm curious if they imagine me

Cause they just wanna leave; I wish that I could stay,

And to visit places from my past,

But only for an hour or so.

Which is long enough to smell the air,

To tell the tale and find the door.

But I get turned around.

I mistake some happiness for blessing.

But I'm blessed as the poor,

Still I judge success by how I'm dressing.

So keep'em coming, these lines on the road,

And keep me responsible, be it a light or heavy load.

And keep me guessing, with these blessings in disgu
And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes

And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes.

And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes.

Lyrics from "Faith My Eyes" by Caedmon's Call