28 April 2006

Attending Church with Expectation

by David Cunningham, Pastor of Christ Community Church.
Dear friends,

It's been said that life is about relationships.  I tend to agree.  That would hold true for Christ Community as well.  We gather because we're in a relationship with God through Christ or we're seeking one.  This is primary.  It gives meaning to all we do. 

Why do we sing each Sunday?  We sing because we can't help but sing.  We've been transformed by grace.  We're not the way we once were and it's better!  Our words are expressions of thanks and praise to God for sending Jesus to be our mediator.  This is part of relating to God, to enjoying Him.

We also gather to hear from God.  He speaks to us through the Bible.  The Bible is food for our souls and we come to feast on it together.  What a privilege to gather around truth and respond to it.

We gather not only to relate to God but to one another.  God has saved us into a family.  We have privileges and responsibilities towards one another.  What a shame if we miss this!  How empty and dry our times would be if we just "show up" with no eagerness to serve and love one another, to pray for one another, inquire about life, and encourage grace in one another's lives . . . .

Let's arrive with great expectations this Sunday!  Let's arrive expecting to meet with God together.  Let's arrive to encourage, love, and serve.  I believe wonderful things will happen if we do.

Grace to you,

David Cunningham

Extract from the E-News of Christ Community Church:  http://www.christcommunity.org.au/index.asp

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24 April 2006

Burning, Humble, Worshipful, Missionary Love Called Calvinism

Strong Meat for the Muscle of Missions: Thoughts on the Ministry of Adoniram Judson

by John Piper

"More and more I am persuaded that a deep and lasting missions movement will need a deeply rooted doctrine of salvation. On vacation I read some of the memoirs of Adoniram Judson. You recall he was a Congregationalist-turned-Baptist who went to Burma in 1812 and didn't come home for thirty-three years.

Courtney Anderson tells the thrilling and romantic story in To the Golden Shore, but like so many missionary biographers, Anderson seems not to know what made Judson tick. It's the memoirs that let you see the theological roots. We are so theologically superficial today we can't even imagine how passionately doctrinal these early missionaries were.

What made Judson tick, very simply, was a white-hot evangelical commitment to the sovereignty of grace (a burning, humble, worshipful, missionary love called 'Calvinism'). He wrote a Burmese liturgy and creed that included the following statements: 'God, originally knowing that mankind would fall and be ruined, did, of his mercy, select some of the race, and give them to his Son, to save from sin and hell...The God...who sends the Holy Spirit to enable those to become disciples who where chosen before the world was, and given to the Son, we worship' (Quoted in Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory, 153).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question Twenty, goes right to the heart of Judson's faith and ignites the fuse of missions.

Question: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the condemnation of sin and misery?

Answer: God, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, having chosen a people to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the condition of sin and misery, and to bring them into a condition of salvation by a Redeemer. (Ephesians 1.3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2.13; Romans 8.29-30, 5.21, 9.11-12, 11.5-7; Acts 13.48; Jeremiah 31.33)

The term 'covenant of grace' is filled with sweet and precious hope. It refers to the free decision and oath of God to employ all his omnipotence, wisdom, and love to rescue his people from sin and misery. It is wholly initiated and carried through by God. It cannot fail. 'I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me' (Jeremiah 32.40).

The covenant of grace is valid for all who believe. Whosoever will may come and enjoy this salvation. And, since this 'willing' is a work of God's sovereign grace (Ephesians 2.5-8), those who believe and come are the elect--'chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world' (Ephesians 1.4). The covenant was sealed in the heart of God before the world was (2 Timothy 1.9).

This covenant of grace is the cry of victory over all the battle strife in missions. The grace of God will triumph. He is covenant-bound, oath-bound to save all those who are foreordained to eternal life from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation (Acts 13.48; Revelation 5.9). 'Jesus [died] for the nation [of Jews], and not for the nation only, but [to] gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad' (John 11.51-52). The battle cry of missions is, '[The Lord has] other sheep, which are not of this fold; [He] must [covenant-bound!] bring them also, and they will [sovereign grace!] hear [his] voice' (John 10.16).

Adoniram Judson preached one sermon in English while in Burma. His text was John 10.1-18. What was his point? 'Though enclosed in the Saviour's electing love, [his sheep] may still be wandering on the dark mountains of sin.' So the missionary must cry out to all with the message of salvation in order that, as Judson says, the 'invitation of mercy and love, which will penetrate the ears and hearts of the elect only,' may be made effectual (Quoted in Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory, 149).

If we desire to see the likes of Adoniram Judson, William Carey, John Paton, Henry Martyn, and Alexander Duff rise up among us again, let us drink from the same strong doctrine that mastered them for the cause of missions" (John Piper. A Godward Life. Multnomah: 1997. 230-232).

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23 April 2006

End of the Spear, 8 January 1956.

Fifty years ago Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming and Roger Youderian, after befriending Auca Indians in Ecuador, seeking to freely offer them the bread of life, were each met with spears and machetes and died in the service of their Lord Jesus Christ.  They were each aged between 27 and 32 and left behind wives and children.
Having just read a biography of Jim Elliot, I am encouraged by his great passionate love for Jesus Christ and also by the weaknesses that he struggled with.  Although he had weaknesses that many could relate to, the Lord used him powerfully in His service.
Jim desired not only to go to the mission field himself but was passionate about exhorting others to go also.  Prior to leaving for missions himself, Jim used his giftedness in preaching to tour churches, and campuses, to exhort many to head to the mission field to reach out to those who had never heard the gospel of the free grace of Christ.
One time Jim bailed up a friend, Ed McCully, in the sports locker room after Ed won a national speaking contest.  "Hey, McCully, so you won the national oratory contest.  Great stuff, McCully.  You have a lot of talent, don't you?  Where'd you get that ability?  You know where you got it.  God gave it to you.  So what are you going to do with it, McCully?  Spend it on yourself all your life making money for yourself?  You have no business doing that.  You ought to be a missionary.  I'm praying that God will make you one".  (From Jim Elliot, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc.  Used by permission).  Jim was also a persistent man of prayer that regularly had the ear of our Lord.  After this conversation Ed followed through with his plans to go to law school but didn't complete his studies.  Rather, Ed ended up dying along side Jim on the mission field. 
Although viewed as tragic by many, Jim Elliot would have never agreed.  If you were able to ask him today he would speak from heaven saying, "It was worth it!".  The Lord used Jim's death to reach more lost than Jim could have done if he'd lived.  Jim's death raised awareness to the missionary cause and inspired many to head to the mission field.  Our Lord brought Jim and the others to their eternal home early and abundantly gave them their hearts' desire: the manifest joy of their Lord in heaven; the Aucas were later reached and many saved; awareness for the need of missions increased in the church;  and many more missionaries heard the call. 
Among the immediate response, more than twenty fliers from the United States promptly applied to take Nate's place. More than 1000 college students volunteered for foreign missions in direct response to the story of the Five Martyrs. In Ecuador, at the mission stations, attendance by Indians at schools and church services reached record levels, and the number of conversions skyrocketed. A Jivaro undertook to go at once to another Jivaro tribe that had been at war with his own tribe for years, bearing the Christian message, and his visit brought peace between the two tribes. 
The wives of these men and sister of Nate must also be included among the heroes of the story.  Each of them returned to the mission field afterwards or served mission work in some capacity.  Marilou McCulley returned to Quito, in Ecuador, to set up a home for missionary children who attended school in the city.  Olive Fleming helped her set up the school before returning to the States.  Barbara Youderian returned to work among the Jivaro Indians.  Marj Saint (Nate's wife) took up a new post in Quito, Ecuador.  Racheal Saint (Nate's sister) and Elizabeth Elliot continued to work among the Indians in Ecuador. 
A few years later Racheal and Elizabeth were able to make contact with Aucas and amazingly lived for years among the very people that had killed the ones they loved, living even among the very men that committed the act.  Ironically, during Jim's college years he believed the riggers of pioneer missionary work was to be undertaken by single men unencumbered by the domestic responsibilities associated with married life.  It was the women these men brought with them that saw the realisation of their vision.
Dawa, an Auca Indian who had witnessed the killings, thirty years later shared, with Olive Fleming, how she had been amazed that the missionaries didn't use their guns to defend themselves.  They had fired into the air, trying to frighten their attackers, didn't hurt a single Auca, but rather let themselves be killed.
Jim understood that which all believers ultimately receive in the service of their Lord: great gain!  Jim's famous quote reads, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose".  Our Lord put it this way,  "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor" (John 12:25-26).  Whether your service be great or small, you will receive honor from your heavenly Father in your service of Jesus Christ! To God be the glory, to us be the gain!  Our Lord is good.
Below I have included some links that may be of interest and an article that gives a more detailed outline of the events leading up to their deaths.
   Your brother in Christ- 
"Father, take my life, even my blood if You will, and consume it with Your enveloping fire.  I would not save it for it is not mine to save.  Have it, Lord, have it all.  Pour out my life as an oblation for the world.  Blood is only of value as it flows before Your alters".  Jim Elliot.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints".  Psalm 116:15
Link to Movie Site:
Check out the 'Path of the Spear' link for Steve Saint's story (son of Nate).
Photo of Jim & 2 sermons:                 
Famous quote from his Journal:         
Stamps commemorating the slain missionaries, issued by the Ecuador government:

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22 April 2006

An Open Letter to Tom About Myspace Advertisements

Dear Tom,

I must say that I'm very thankful for Myspace. You've created a great service that has allowed me to meet many new friends, be encouraged in numerous ways, and enjoy some great music. For these things, and many others, I have nothing but the most heartfelt thanks for all of your hard work. And the fact that you offer all of this free is almost beyond ability to express in words. I hope that Myspace continues to be successful for you. But I have one concern. I question some of the advertising with which you've chosen to associate Myspace. I know that Myspace cannot remain free without advertising, so I do not question advertising as a whole. I only question whether or not we must be forced to see scantily clad females in some of the advertisements in order to log in, view our profiles, or proceed to some of our friends' pages. There are many reasons why this form of advertisement is harmful.

1. Instead of seeking to divert sexual desire, these images join sex industries which rouse feelings and emotions which are already burning to be released.

2. The picture becomes a source of endless degradation on which men feed all day long, keeping them from setting their minds on more noble and better things.

3. These ads present relationships with nothing more than having sex. The women are not to be prized because of the companionship that they might offer emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually but only as means of sexual fulfillment. It bottles up a large male population that have no healthy expression in marriage, and threatens the community by not treating the problem of a group building up more and more sexual frustration.

4. By equating the service with sex, the ads are asking for the men to mentally unclothe the women.

5. Should we think that this is what the woman in the ad wants us to think about her when she is out in publicthat she is nothing more than a sexual object to be unclothed at the whim of any male who passes by?

6. These advertisements are just another way in which women are stereotypically degraded as nothing more than sexual toys for the enjoyment of men who want women with no personal thoughts, individual feelings, and moral convictions.

7. These ads reveal that the chain of reasoning is not too far-fetched to see how men can move from viewing women in God's image to merely sexual objects. After sexual objects, they become bodies to buy. And after bodies to buy, they are just means of sexual gratification which (in their minds) make it permissible to force a woman to please men.

8. No matter how productive the ads are for attracting consumers, each picture is a misuse of the woman's body which does harm both to the woman and the person viewing her.

9. Therefore, think of the many women who must feel uncomfortable coming to Myspace because of the pictures to which they must compares themselves. What might be a very fruitful experience (making friends, catching up with lost friends, etc.) becomes an experience that multiplies insecurities and pain.

10. Not to mention, what of the thousands of women who are forced to measure their worth and attractiveness by a standard made available merely through extensive computer editing, plastic surgery, or makeup? This ultimately, if only subconsciously, leads women to dwell in a unhealthy manner on their looks, and to find no worth in themselves when their outward beauty does not measure up in their minds.

11. These pictures do not just cause frustration in females, but also cause life-threatening eating disorders and depression.

12. By removing the bounds of offences against good taste, such advertising helps to bring the demise of all that should be treasured in what is already a fragile issue in personal identities and relationships.

13. The ad also brings multiple heartaches, abuses, and criticisms to marriages where husbands fix unrealistic outward demands on wives who do not measure up to how men think a wife should look. Such problems lead to the breakdown of marriages, the destruction of families, and the ghosts of self-criticism that stay for decades and generations.

14. Have you considered the implication that such ads have on children and youth who will and are coming to Myspace? Should we not be laboring to teach our children to be respectful and wholesome young men and women? But these ads create an environment for sordid thoughts, foul language, condescending criticism, and abusive behaviors. Nothing good comes through such advertisements.

15. Parents are already struggling with children who have an unhealthy obsession with nudity. We must seek to help the parents who are struggling to have their children see that sexuality can be a healthy, God-given joy in marriage. But these ads strip sexuality of its beauty, purity, and joy.

So I ask you to consider if there is not a better, more noble, way to advertise. Myspace is not filled with 63 million single males. By considering these other groups, I'm sure Myspace will grow larger and more popular. I also acknowledge not all the advertisements are like this. Some, I'm sure, are innocent and harmless. Could we not have more family-oriented advertisements? Would it be possible to set preferences for advertisements under our individual accounts? And I do not question the right to post whatever one would like on his or her "Myspace." If I am visiting another's site, I have no right to limit his or her content. All I ask is that my own space not be filled with these images. Nor do I want to be forced to see the images when I am trying to visit my friends. Tom, think about the big picture. You have a wonderful thing before you. Consider the good that can be done for future generations, not just the money that can be gained through the exploitation of females.

Elijah Layfield

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21 April 2006

Baxter Quote

"We must feel toward our people as a father toward his children; yea, the most tender love of a mother must not surpass ours. We must even travail in birth, till  Christ be formed in them. They should see that we care for no outward thing, neither liberty, nor honor, nor life, in comparison to their salvation... When the people see that you truly love them, they will hear anything from you...Oh therefore, see that you feel a tender love for your people in your hearts, and let them perceive  it in your speech and conduct. Let them see that you spend and are spent for their sakes." - Richard Baxter

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Falling in the Love with the Gospel (All Over Again)

"Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (Psalm 20:6-7 ESV)
Awhile back, my wife and I attended the ASK Membership class at Bethlehem. It's the required class for membership and ministry. I had one of those amazing, God-besotted times where the weight of the glory of God and the majesty of Jesus just gripped my heart. I've heard the gospel, believed the gospel, preached the gospel, but to just sit there and hear David Livingston go through the gospel in such a God-honoring way floored me. I was gripped by every word and my heart was set afire and set in motion to the truths declared.
When was the last time someone told you that God loves Himself more than you? When was the last time someone took the time to make sure you saw the weight of God's glory--the beauty of it--and our duty to reflect that beauty, that fullness? How can we ever understand our falling short of God's glory (as it says in Rom. 3.23) if we never even know how "glorious" God's glory is? Or when was the last time that someone told you, "God commands you to be happy?" When were you shown that your passion to be happy is not contradictory to God's passion to be glorified (they are the same). Could you tell me the last time someone told you that God was vindicating His righteousness on the cross?
God had run the risk of appearing unrighteous in His love of sinners. He had not dealt with us as we deserve. His righteous justice demands death and punishment NOW. The moment we sinned, the moment Adam sinned, God should have struck us down. But He kept on loving us. And Christ came to the Cross, turning away His wrath, atoning for our sins, and vindicating the truth that God IS righteous. He is righteous because Christ receives all of our bad, and we receive all of His good. And that forgiveness (restoration of our relationship with God) is availible to every sinner who trusts in Christ and turns from sin. Therefore God was not unrighteous in loving sinners in spite of their sin. He is absolutely righteous because all the love with which He loved us was purchased by Christ on the cross.
But no, we hear the gospel every day. Or you may even be like me--you even preach it to yourself every day. And you struggle to feel the gravitos of the weight of glory. And then God comes in a moment and does in one hour, or twenty minutes, or five seconds, what you'd been trying to do in all of your week's worth of Bible digging. Thank God that He doesn't just give truth and step back to wait and watch. I need Him to set fire to my heart and my mind. And I know you do too. So, I've included the outline that Pastor David used for the meeting. Why don't you take some time and ask the Lord to meet you at the gospel again (just like He always does).
Quest for Joy
by John Piper
Six Biblical Truths
Did you know that God commands us to be glad?
"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)
1) God created us for his glory
"Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth,... whom I created for my glory" (Isaiah 43:6-7).
God made us to magnify his greatness - the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God's glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
2) Every human should live for God's glory
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his design. So our first obligation is to show God's value by being satisfied with all that he is for us. This is the essence of loving God (Matthew 22:37) and trusting him (1 John 5:3-4) and being thankful to him (Psalm 100:2-4) It is the root of all true obedience, especially loving others (Colossians 1:4-5).
3) All of us have failed to glorify God as we should
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
What does it mean to "fall short of the glory of God?" It means that none of us has trusted and treasured God the way we should. We have not been satisfied with his greatness and walked in his ways. We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and treated them as more valuable than God, which is the essence of idolatry (Romans 1:21-23). Since sin came into the world we have all been deeply resistant to having God as our all-satisfying treasure (Ephesians 2:3). This is an appalling offense to the greatness of God (Jeremiah 2:12-13).
4) All of us are subject to God's just condemnation
"The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23).
We have all belittled the glory of God. How? By preferring other things above him. By our ingratitude, distrust and disobedience. So God is just in shutting us out from the enjoyment of his glory forever. "They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
The word "hell" is used in the New Testament twelve times - eleven times by Jesus himself. It is not a myth created by dismal and angry preachers. It is a solemn warning from the Son of God who died to deliver sinners from its curse. We ignore it at great risk.
If the Bible stopped here in its analysis of the human condition, we would be doomed to a hopeless future. However, this is not where it stops...
5) God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal life and joy
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..." (1 Timothy 1:15)
The good news is that Christ died for sinners like us. And he rose physically from the dead to validate the saving power of his death and to open the gates of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just (Romans 3:25-26). "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to God is where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.
6) The benefits purchased by the death of Christ belong to those who repent and trust him
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out" (Acts 3:19).
"Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
"Repent" means to turn from all the deceitful promises of sin. "Faith" means being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Jesus. "He who believes in me," Jesus says, "shall never thirst" (John 6:35). We do not earn our salvation. We cannot merit it (Romans 4:4-5). It is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a free gift (Romans 3:24). We will have it if we cherish it above all things (Matthew 13:44). When we do that, God's aim in creation is accomplished: He is glorified in us and we are satisfied in him - forever.
Does this make sense to you?
Do you desire the kind of gladness that comes from being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus? If so, then God is at work in your life.
What should you do?
Turn from the deceitful promises of sin. Call upon Jesus to save you from the guilt and punishment and bondage. "All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). Start banking your hope on all that God is for you in Jesus. Break the power of sin's promises by faith in the superior satisfaction of God's promises. Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and very great promises, which can set you free (2 Peter 1:3-4). Find a Bible-believing church and begin to worship and grow together with other people who treasure Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).
The best news in the world is that there is no necessary conflict between our happiness and God's holiness. Being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus magnifies him as a great Treasure.
"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." (Psalm 16:11)

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This is a great idea. I had hoped to mention it to you, but ya'll beat me to the punch. Thanks so much for letting me take part in this blog. I can't wait to read what is on your hearts as we treasure Christ in, over, and through this blog.

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