September 2007


One of the main reasons that the local church is to be a community of love is so that others will know the God of love.  God made people in His image to know Him.  The life of the local congregation makes the audible gospel visible.  And we must all have a part in that evangelism.

We can all contribute to evangelism simply by building up the local church–helping to organize it or to lead it.  We may teach and equip.  We may provide hospitality and encouragement.  We may pray and serve and show mercy and give.  But we all have a responsibility to speak of God and the good news both inside and outside of the church.

~ Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, pg. 51.

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stevecarell_theofficeanamericanworkplace_240_0011.jpgDid you watch the premiere of The Office last night?  I was struck with how much God was brought up in the show.  After Michael ran into Meredith with his car he brought all the office staff together for a meeting.  He believed the office was cursed and his aim was to stop it.  How?  At one point, he flat out said that they needed a sacrifice to get rid of the so-called curse and perhaps his guilt over the whole ordeal.  Granted, he was talking about getting some kind of crazy animal sacrifice, but nonetheless, he thought a sacrifice was needed.  Interesting.

Meanwhile Meredith was brought to the hospital after being hit by Michael and she was found to have a cracked pelvis.  However, the doctors also found that she had rabies from being bitten by a bat in a previous episode.  So, in other words, if she hadn’t been hit by the car she may have never known about the rabies.  No one attributed all this to God and his providence, but nevertheless they realized that all this happened for a reason.

Even in a secular show such as The Office, God is still there.  Though we try to supress him, inevitably he comes into the picture.  Though we try to push him out, he comes to the forefont–especially when life throws us a curveball.  Deep down everyone is searching for something to make sense of their world, something to cover up the curse and the guilt they feel each day.  Much like the Athenians of Paul’s day, our culture is interested in spiritual things making gods of their own imagination that will fit their needs.  Like Paul, we must be willing to first listen and learn from our culture and then love them by telling them the truth.  We must tell them that this God is not an impersonal Deity that watches over the office of our lives and meets our needs whenever we flippantly ask him.  This God is the Creator who made all mankind giving us breath and life and everything else that we should seek Him, that we might feel our way toward him and find him, for he is not far from each of us.  And we must be willing to say that though God is patient with us, today he commands all people everywhere to repent and turn to Jesus for salvation.  For He is the only one who can free us from the curse of sin and guilt by becoming a curse for us on the cross. 

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What would you say if you saw someone wearing this shirt?

(HT: Z)

Justin Taylor and Dustin Shramek are two men who have already made a big difference for the kingdom.  Before they became well known in the evangelical world, I simply knew them as friends in college and I still keep in touch with them from time to time.  So, it’s pretty amazing that the following post, written by my friend Justin Taylor, is about my friend Dustin Shramek.  Here’s what Justin had to say about Dustin and the lessons he’s learned in walking through suffering:

Nearly four years ago our friends Dustin and Kellie Shramek lost their precious son, Owen. In the book Suffering and the Sovereignty of God Dustin wrote a chapter about some of the lessons that God taught him–lessons about God, and also lessons about how and how not to minister to those in nearly unbearable grief and pain.

After the book was published, Women Today Radio did a brief interview with Dustin; here’s an excerpt:

How has Jesus sustained you through the dark days?

At first it was hard to see how Jesus was sustaining us through the dark days. Yet deep down I knew that he was. My mother died when I was sixteen, two years after I had become a believer. After her death God lead me to Romans 5:3-5, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Having endured through her death I had come out on the other end with my faith intact and I again had hope that God was for me.

After Owen died my wife, who had not experienced the death of one so close, never believed that she would be able to have joy again. And while I certainly didn’t feel joy, I knew that one day I would. The suffering I had endured through my mother’s death had indeed produced hope. Even though my firstborn was dead I believed that I would again have joy. I had experienced God’s faithfulness and I knew that he would be faithful again.

The text, though, that impacted me the most was 2 Corinthians 7:6, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” During the first months after Owen’s death we felt very little comfort from God. At times I struggled with anger thinking, “God, I know you are sovereign and so you are the one who brought this about. I accept that, but the least you could do is draw near to us and give us comfort.” On the six month anniversary I was reading through all the e-mails and cards we had received from God’s people and I was reflecting on the help we had received from his people in the Middle East and in Istanbul where he was born. Then I read this verse and it dawned on me. God was and is comforting us by the coming of countless brothers and sisters in Christ. Often we don’t feel the warm presence of the Lord in our suffering, but that does not mean he has left us alone. We are a part of the body of Christ and it is through this body that he ministers to us in our darkest days.

When I was a little kid, my twin brother Mark and I each had a book called, My Book About Me.  I loved the book.  It was fun writing down all my favorite things and drawing pictures of what I liked to do.  I was proud of this book because it was a book about me.  Unfortunately some of us have a tendency to think of the Bible the same way.  In subtle ways it can become a book about me.  To this end, Tim Keller reminds preachers, “You must always preach every text in such a way that it reveals Jesus and his saving work. Ed Clowney points out that if we ever tell a particular Bible story without putting it into the overall main Bible story (about Christ), we actually change the meaning of the particular event for us. It becomes a moralistic exhortation to ‘try harder’ rather than a call to live by faith in the work of Christ. There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done?

In the aftermath of O.J. Simpson’s arrest for allegedly leading an armed holdup in Las Vegas, the following people in pop culture attributed all this to “karma.” 

Kim Goldman (sister of Ronald Goldman, whose murder Simpson was acquitted of in 1995) said, “I do feel a little bit of elation.  Maybe karma tapped him on the shoulder.”

Bill O’ Reilly, said this about Simpson’s arrest: ” … many felt karma had kicked in and maybe Simpson would finally get some kind of formal punishment.”

On TMZ.com’s reader comment board, one guest posted, “I don’t care what it takes to put OJ away, karma is coming his way.”

So what’s up with Karma?  What is it and why do people talk about it so much?  Webster defines the word karma as a “force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.”  Or, to put it more simply, what goes around comes around.

Can we attribute O.J.’s arrest to some force that finally caught up with him?  Did Karma come calling or was it something else or someone else that stopped him?

As Christians we affirm that God is King over the universe.  He is the King, and He is the Judge.  Though our postmodern culture plays it off as some mystical force, God is the One who governs all things and will, in his time, bring everyone to justice.  Not everyone will be brought to justice on this earth, but all will be brought to justice in the end.  The following verse (Heb. 4:13) is perhaps the most frightening verse of all when it comes to God’s justice:

No creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.   

According to the Bible, God sees everything and everyone.  He not only sees our actions, he sees the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.  One day we will be judged.  It will not be a judgment graded on the curve.  God will not look at your life and compare it to O.J.’s.  He will judge you on the basis of His holy and perfect righteousness that none of us can have or attain to on our own.  So what must we do?

We cannot expect to escape the judgment of God.  God is patient and desires that all would come to Him and repent of their sins and believe in Christ.  But His patience is not to be toyed around with.  O.J. found that out–at least we hope He did.  The Scriptures tell us that today is the day to be made right with God.  Today is the time for you to turn from your sins and turn to Christ.  Today is the day to admit you have failed and look to Jesus and what He has done to die on your behalf so that you could live.

God’s judgment is coming–that is certain.  My hope is that you and I would find our soul’s rest in the One who took the punishment and judgment for us instead of being judged eternally for it in hell.  It is true.  God’s justice stopped O.J. in his tracks, but it is equally His mercy that stopped him and now beckons him (and us) to turn to Jesus.

John Piper posts about his granddaughter, who was due to be born this week–and was delivered stillborn on Saturday night at 11:54 PM.  Here’s an excerpt:

Noel and I lay in bed at about 3 AM after coming home from the delivery thinking: This seems so preventable. By God and by man. Yes. So easy. But neither man nor God prevented this. Man, because he did not know it was happening. God, because he has his wise and loving reasons that we wait to learn with tears and trust.

Thank you for praying for us.

(HT: JT)

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