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Jul 16

The Misery of Life and the Mystery of Rain

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

In Job 5:8–10, Job says, “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields.”

Why is God amazing? Rain! Really? Really.

Here’s a reflection by John Piper on rain in his article, “The Great Work of God: Rain.”

If you said to someone: “My God does great and unsearchable things; He does wonders without number,” and they responded, “Really? Like what?” would you say, “Rain”?

When I read these verses recently I felt like I did when I heard the lyrics to a Sonny and Cher song in 1969: “I’d live for you. I’d die for you. I’d even climb the mountain high for you.” Even? I would die for you. I would even climb a high mountain for you? The song was good for a joke. Or a good illustration of bad poetry. Not much else.

But Job is not joking. “God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number.” He gives rain on the earth.” In Job’s mind, rain really is one of the great, unsearchable wonders that God does. So when I read this a few weeks ago, I resolved not to treat it as meaningless pop musical lyrics. I decided to have a conversation with myself (= meditation).

Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come on the fields from another source. From where?

Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, over several hundred miles and then be poured out from the sky onto the fields. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 27,878,400 cubic feet of water, which is 206,300,160 gallons, which is 1,650,501,280 pounds of water.

That’s heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it’s so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That’s a nice word. What’s it mean? It means that the water sort of stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What’s that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide. That’s small.

What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea and takes out the salt and then carries it for three hundred miles and then dumps it on the farm?

Well it doesn’t dump it. If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the billion pounds water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh a billion pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that’s the way to ask the question)? Well, it’s called coalescence. What’s that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger. And when they are big enough, they fall. Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up, if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it.

I think, instead, I will just take Job’s word for it. I still don’t see why drops ever get to the ground, because if they start falling as soon as they are heavier than air, they would be too small not to evaporate on the way down, but if they wait to come down, what holds them up till they are big enough not to evaporate? Yes, I am sure there is a name for that too. But I am satisfied now that, by any name, this is a great and unsearchable thing that God has done. I think I should be thankful – lots more thankful than I am.

Jul 11

Suffering for Sanctification

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel

John Piper has written a bit about suffering in the course of his ministry. Any pastor preaching the Bible will, actually. Here’s a nice piece from Piper on suffering, titled, “Trouble: Faith’s Best Friend.”

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” — James 1:2-3

The testing of your faith through trials produces endurance. What is the opposite of endurance? Well, I suppose the opposite of “endurance” is “petering out”. When faith doesn’t endure it peters out. So if you don’t want your faith to peter out then you need some trials. Because James says it is trials that “produce endurance.”

This is odd. Most of us would say that faith endures in spite of trials, not because of trials. Most of us think that when trouble comes faith is threatened. We don’t usually attribute the duration of faith to the trouble it meets. But duration is what endurance means. James says, faith lasts, faith endures, because it meets trouble and threat.

This is odd. We might be willing to say that faith becomes deeper or stronger through trials. But that’s not the same as saying that faith endures because of trials. That’s like saying a marathon runner is able to finish the race because he keeps getting bumped into. Would any runner say that his ability to endure to the end of a race is enhanced by the number of people that knock him down?

Perhaps. Suppose there was a runner who loved flowers. Here he is, running along at the head of the pack when all of a sudden he is carried away by the beauty of a rose garden beside Lake Calhoun. Forgetting the race and the reward of the wreath, he starts to leave the road and smell the flowers. But all of a sudden, out of nowhere, someone (!!) knocks him flat on his back. It hurts so bad that his nose for roses is gone. But suddenly he realizes that the race is still on and only those who finish get a prize. And he is up and running.

And if this happens several times, some clever sports writer might write an article and say, “Hey rose-lover, count it all joy when you get knocked down, because it produces endurance—the only runner in the marathon who finished the race because some ‘fan’ kept knocking him down!”

Maybe it’s us runners who are odd, not God.

And could it be that the health, wealth and prosperity teaching of our day is the enemy of faith because it teaches that faith’s best friend is her enemy?

Heading for the tape with you,

Pastor John

On Sunday we’ll hit sermon 3 in our 5 week series through Job. If you’d like to read ahead in prep for Sunday, Sunday’s sermon will be from Job 32-37.

Jul 4

Seven Links for the Fourth of July

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel

Our citizenship is in heaven, and yet we are embedded in the world. It’s important to know where we are and when we’re living in order that we might praise God accordingly and live wisely as those send here with the gospel.

With that in mind, here are seven articles to read over this fourth of July weekend.

9 Things You Should Know About Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence,” Joe Carter

“Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only two presidents to sign the document, both died on the Fourth of July in 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration. Adam’s last words have been reported as ‘Thomas Jefferson survives.’ He did not know that Jefferson had died only a few hours before. James Monroe, the last president who was a Founding Father, also died on July 4 in 1831. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.”

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” Kevin DeYoung

“I understand the dangers of an unthinking ‘God and country’ mentality, let alone a gospel-less civil religion. But I also think love of country–like love of family or love of work–is a proximate good. Patriotism is not beneath the Christian, even for citizens of a superpower. So on this Independence Day I’m thankful most of all for the cross of Christ and the freedom we have from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But I’m also thankful for the United States. I’m thankful for the big drops of biblical truth which seeped into the blood stream of Thomas Jefferson and shaped our Founding Fathers. I’m thankful for our imperfect ideals. I’m thankful for God-given rights and hard-fought liberty. I’m thankful I can call myself an American.”

Christians Face Abuse Around the Globe,” Robert P. George

“With media attention riveted on the Middle East, it is tempting to assume that persecution against Christians occurs almost exclusively in that region. But assaults against Christians are worldwide, transcending any one regional, ideological, or religious bent. Combating this problem entails a much broader solution. According to the findings of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), evidence abounds of persecution elsewhere.”

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” Jon Bloom

“We know that our democratic republican form of government has its origins in Athens and Rome and various other Western democratic experiments. But where did this vision for the dignity and freedom of all human beings come from? Jerusalem — by which I mean the Bible.”

Pastors, Politics, and the American Republic,” Jonathan Parnell

“America and its founders. Now that’s a conversation folks can get passionate about, whether in political rhetoric or some Christian circles. However, beyond any dispute on the role Christianity played in those early days, we can say undoubtedly that public opinion in 1776 considered Christians beneficial to the American republic. In short, the consensus was that Christians bring a lot of societal good in a representative democracy. The man who led the way in articulating this benefit was John Witherspoon, founding father, Presbyterian minister and president of Princeton University, among other things. Though he flies under the radar in many history classes, Witherspoon’s influence is significant. And while he embodied the major intellectual traditions of his day, he has a helpful word on the gospel’s influence in society. Witherspoon contended that the contribution of ‘true religion’ to the public order is the morality of its adherents. Or said another way, the gospel’s influence on society comes by the means of transformed lives.”

American Equality and Ideals,” Justin Taylor

Quoting C.S. Lewis: “I am a democrat [believer in democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.”

What John Piper Said in Washington, D.C.,” John Piper

“More than ever since 9/11, Christians in America, and especially Christians in the U.S. government, should make clear that there is a radical distinction between Christianity, on the one hand, and American culture and the American political system, on the other hand. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, and all other non-Christians need to know this for Christ’s sake.”

Jun 27

Does the Bible Actually Affirm Homosexuality?

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel

That’s a question you need to settle.

In 2011, Christopher Yuan published a book by the title, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope. It’s his story of salvation. He was a fully engaged in a homosexual lifestyle for years as his mother prayed for him. Then, as this good story goes, God saved him. Now he writes and speaks on the subject. Here’s his site.

This year, Matthew Vines published a very different book with a very different story on the same topic. It’s titled, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. You may have heard about it. In our seminar on the topic of homosexual marriage in April, we addressed a number of the arguments raised in Vines’ book. You should have confidence that the Bible is clear. The seminar will help.

So, will Christopher Yuan’s review of Vines’ book at Christianity Today, “Why ‘God and the Gay Christian’ Is Wrong About the Bible and Same-Sex Relationships.” Here’s from the opening section:

[Vines'] aim is not to present new information, but to synthesize gay-affirming arguments and make them accessible for a broader and younger audience. Vines does a good job fulfilling this goal. Unfortunately, his book consists of some logical and exegetical fallacies, and it does not address the shortcomings of the authors to whom it is most indebted. And although Vines professes a “high view” of the Bible, he ultimately fails to apply uncomfortable biblical truths in a way that embraces a costly discipleship.

Read his whole article here. For another helpful response to Vines’ book, check out, God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, an ebook written by professors from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Jun 18

10 Years, 500 Sermons

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you
and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,
and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”

— 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

[RSS and email readers, click here to view this video]

This is the video we played to your surprise and to the surprise of Ryan Kelly on Sunday morning after he closed his 500th sermon. It was also a good time to celebrate Ryan’s 10th year with us (which actually happened back in August). We’ve been tracking his sermon total for a few years now and Sunday provided a nice moment for us to reflect on God’s grace in the life of our church in the gift of a preacher and in the fruit born from his Word.

After Ryan preached, he prayed and then asked the congregation to stand before the last song. As he walked off stage, Drew asked everyone to sit and introduced the video. After the video, Ron shared for a few minutes from Ryan’s life and ministry and invited Ryan and Sarah up to receive two gifts. First, a signed used NHL playoff hockey stick from former Red Wings player, Steve Yzerman. This is a rare find from one of Ryan’s favorite players from Ryan’s favorite team from Ryan’s favorite sport. This gift was given from a number of Ryan’s friends, a few from the church and several from around the country. Then, our church family (though you didn’t know this at the time!) gifted Ryan and Sarah with a trip to watch the Red Wings play in a city of their choice sometime in the next year.

If you weren’t able to be with us and wish you knew ahead of time, we sure wish we could have let you know! But then Ryan would have almost certainly found out. And as it is, he was clueless and befuddled, and after that, choked up and crying right in front of us. It was perfect.

Here are a few photos from the end of the service.

Ryan Preaching #500

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“500 Sermons” video

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Ron tells the story of Ryan’s ministry

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Ron asks Ryan where the Red Wings play hockey because he forgot

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Ron presents the first gift

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Ryan and Ron go in for the hug

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Ron mentions a second gift that includes Sarah

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Jun 11

Contrasts for a Climax of 1 Samuel

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

In Sunday’s sermon, “Thus Saul Died,” from 1 Samuel 31, Ryan highlighted a number of contrasts between Saul and David that help bring the book of 1 Samuel to its climax and conclusion. Ryan showed these across a few slides, but we thought we’d compile these fascinating contrasts for you here on the blog.

Contrasting events, Same Day

On two separate days there are a series of contrasting events that happen alongside one another. There are clear queues in the text, but it can be hard to pick up at first. Ryan pointed them out to us on two slides.

Day 1:

  • Saul hears of Philistines assembling for battle against the Israelites (1 Samuel 28:4-5)
  • David discovers the terror of Ziklag city raided, burned, and families taken (1 Samuel 30:1-6)
  • Saul inquires of the Lord in vain just silence (1 Samuel 28:5-6)
  • David inquires of the Lord and hears and is led out with God’s blessing (1 Samuel 30:7-8)
  • Saul sets out to Endor for a medium (1 Samuel 28:7)
  • David sets out to pursue Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:9)

Day 2:

  • Saul faces Philistines and is slain (1 Samuel 31:1-5)
  • David finds Amalekites and decimates them (1 Samuel 30:16-20)

The Contrast Increases toward the Close of the Book

As the book nears its close, the contrasts between David and Saul get more and more pronounced.

  • David inquired of the Lord and was led (1 Samuel 30:8)
  • Saul inquired, but got only silence, then judgment (1 Samuel 28:6-7)
  • With no strength David strengthened himself in God (1 Samuel 30:4, 6)
  • With no strength Saul was “strengthened” by a witch (1 Samuel 28:20, 22)
  • David was divinely rescued by Philistines (1 Samuel  29)
  • Saul was divinely judged by Philistines (1 Samuel 31:1)
  • David faced God’s enemies with confidence (1 Samuel 30:9, 10)
  • Saul faced God’s enemies with fear (1 Samuel 28:5, 19-20)
  • Facing death, David sought the Lord for strength (1 Samuel 30:6)
  • Facing death, Saul asked his servant to expedite it (1 Samuel 31:5)
  • David pursued and struck down the enemy (1 Samuel 30:17)
  • Saul fled, hid, and was struck down by the enemy (1 Samuel 31:1-3)
  • With David, none of his 400 men died (1 Samuel  30)
  • With Saul, everyone around him died (1 Samuel 31:6)
  • Israel’s enemies fled before David and his people (1 Samuel 30:17)
  • Israelites fled after Saul’s death (1 Samuel 30:7)
  • David plundered the enemies (1 Samuel 30:20)
  • The Philistines plundered Israel (1 Samuel 31:7b-10)
  • David sent out good news of victory to his people (1 Samuel 30:26)
  • The Philistines sent out “good news” of Saul’s death (1 Samuel 31:9)
  • David led Israel in peace, care, and blessing (1 Samuel 30:24-26)
  • Saul led Israel into utter chaos, shame, and exile (1 Samuel 31:7-10)

Jun 5

Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children

2014 | by Nathan Sherman | Category: Gospel,Quote,Recommended Link

Last year John Piper posted an article, “Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children.” In the eight months or so since I’ve read this, we’ve tried to implement the nine principles that Piper offers in the parenting of our children. Each time we discipline our children (who are all under the age of 6), we ask:

1) Why am I about to discipline you? (Because I love you)

- and -

2) What would happen if I didn’t require your obedience and discipline you? (You would be on a trajectory of greater disobedience and rebellion)

In these formative years of childhood, we are trying to cultivate quick obedience from our children to their human authorities, so that when they are no longer children, they will, Lord willing and by his grace, quickly obey their heavenly authority.

I am writing this to plead with Christian parents to require obedience of their children. I am moved to write this by watching young children pay no attention to their parents’ requests, with no consequences. Parents tell a child two or three times to sit or stop and come or go, and after the third disobedience, they laughingly bribe the child. This may or may not get the behavior desired.

Last week, I saw two things that prompted this article. One was the killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California, by police who thought he was about to shoot them with an assault rifle. It was a toy gun. What made this relevant was that the police said they told the boy two times to drop the gun. Instead he turned it on them. They fired.

I do not know the details of that situation or if Andy even heard the commands. So I can’t say for sure he was insubordinate. So my point here is not about young Lopez himself. It’s about a “what if.” What if he heard the police, and simply defied what they said? If that is true, it cost him his life. Such would be the price of disobeying proper authority.

I witnessed such a scenario in the making on a plane last week. I watched a mother preparing her son to be shot.

I was sitting behind her and her son, who may have been seven years old. He was playing on his digital tablet. The flight attendant announced that all electronic devices should be turned off for take off. He didn’t turn it off. The mother didn’t require it. As the flight attendant walked by, she said he needed to turn it off and kept moving. He didn’t do it. The mother didn’t require it.

One last time, the flight attendant stood over them and said that the boy would need to give the device to his mother. He turned it off. When the flight attendant took her seat, the boy turned his device back on, and kept it on through the take off. The mother did nothing. I thought to myself, she is training him to be shot by police.

Click here to read Piper’s nine principles and how the gospel transforms obedience.