Wednesday, February 28, 2007
As I was preparing for this week's men's discipleship group, Invest, I came across this outstanding quote by J.C. Ryle on why we are to study and read the Gospels. I trust his words here will be of good encouragement for your own soul as we are studying the Gospel of John together. Read. Enjoy. Apply. May we grow increasingly "acquinted with Jesus."
"It would be well if professing Christians in modern days studied the four Gospels more than
they do. No doubt all Scripture is profitable. It is not wise to exalt one part of the Bible at
the expense of another. But I think it would be good for some who are very familiar with the
Epistles, if they knew a little more about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Now, why do I say this? I say it because I want professing Christians to know more about
Christ. It is well to be acquainted with all the doctrines and principles of Christianity. It is
better to be acquainted with Christ Himself. It is well to be familiar with faith and grace and
justification and sanctification. They are all matters 'pertaining to the King'. But it is far
better to be familiar with Jesus Himself, to see the King's own face, and to behold His beauty.
This is one secret of eminent holiness. He that would be conformed to Christ's image, and
become a Christ-like man, must be constantly studying Christ Himself.
Now the Gospels were written to make us acquainted with Christ. The Holy Ghost has told
us the story of His life and death, His sayings and His doings, four times over. Four different
inspired hands have drawn the picture of the Saviour. His ways, His manners, His feelings,
His wisdom, His grace, His patience, His love, His power are graciously unfolded to us by
four different witnesses. Ought not the patient to be familiar with the Physician? Ought not
the bride to be familiar with the Bridegroom? Ought not the sinner to be familiar with
Saviour? Beyond doubt it ought to be so. The Gospels were written to make men familiar
with Christ, and therefore I wish men to study the Gospels......Surely we cannot know this
Christ too well! Surely there is not a word, nor a deed, nor a day, nor a step, nor a thought
in the record of His life, which ought not to be precious to us. We should labour to be
familiar with every line that is written about Jesus." J. C. Ryle
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
But I ask you, is this what we see from Scripture?
I believe we see clearly that our biggest problem is not that we don't esteem ourselves enough, but instead that we esteem ourselves far too much. As one goes and surveys the many problems of the Old Testament people of God, it wasn't that they just didn't believe in themselves enough, it was actually due to the fact that they did it too much...as the writer of Judges tells us the source of their problems was that..."In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Throughout the Old Testament, we see the fact that Israel's problem was that they were constantly rejecting God as their true King, and thus, enthroning themselves, their own passions and desires as the true "king" of their own hearts.
By raising our children in such ways that feed the desires and drives of their own flesh, we end up teaching them that their life's orientation is to be themselves. We teach them "self worship" rather than "God worship." We end up ingraining into them a very "man-centered" worldview, rather than a "God-centered" one.
Please don't get me wrong, I am not aiming for a type of self abasement that lowers the value of man to depths lower than the value that Scripture itself places on man. But instead, I think we need to aim for a clarity of how Scripture does view man. In Scripture, we are the given the highest of value of all of the creatures...but, then to see the true nature of our problem - which is not a low value of ourselves, but instead a low value of God. Our true problem being a valuing of our "words," thought, and ideas over God's words - this was the problem in the garden and it is our problem today - rebellion against God, His Word, His way and His glory, while we seek out the advancement of our own. In a word it is called - sin.
So in many ways, I would suggest, we have it all backwards. May we lead our children, as well as our own hearts, to see that our greatest pursuit is to give ourselves to the active, daily esteeming of God's words, ways, thoughts, actions, nature, attributes and glory above any other earthly pursuit. Our soul's satisfaction is never found in ourselves, but only in the One who Created us! May we lead our children in declaring, with the Psalmist..."Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory!" May we say with John the Baptist, "He must increase and I must decrease." May I encourage you that when John the Baptist was saying, "[there is One of whose] sandal I am not worthy to untie," he was not suffering from a posture of the heart that he needed to be corrected. He was not in need at that moment for someone to therapeutically "validate his worth." Instead, he was only seeing rightly, that his worth does not even come close to the level of being able to be deemed worthy of untying The Glorious Savior's sandal. This was not a "low" place, but a very high place of reality that John The Baptist was speaking from! My friend, may I encourage you that only when we see the "low" place of sin, do we see the glorious place of where the glorious Gospel takes us! Only when I see that my greatest problem is sin, do I see the great and wonderful affect of the gospel! And through Him, by being placed in Him, (not my self) I am taken to the highest of all places, being seated with Him, in Him in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). Oh, may we decrease and may He, and He alone increase! May worship of Him increase in my heart and may worship of my thoughts, ways and ideas only decrease.
In our desire to grow in our need to "esteem" God, more than ourselves...I came across this great blog entry by Dr. Al Mohler where he cites the failure of the "self esteem movement"that was published by none other than "New Yorker Magazine" in their article "Praise is dangerous." (The date of this entry was February 16th, so you might have to scroll down to it) http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=876
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
With this blog entry, I wanted to drop a line of encouragement to my fellow brothers (who are married) to spur you on to "love and good deeds" concerning your bride. The fact of the matter is, we all "married up" and as Valentine's Day approaches tomorrow, I am freshly reminded how blessed I am as husband, all the while how much I need to grow and desire to grow in walking out the charge Paul gives here in Ephesians. With that I just want to share with you some reflections on this passage, as well as some ideas on how to apply this to our own lives.
- Grow in your love for Christ. Do you long to grow in love with your bride and knowing how to walk with her in God honoring ways? May I exhort you to grow in your affections for the One we are to imitate. I have found that when I grow in my love for Christ, imitating Him is less of a duty and it becomes more of a heart felt longing to fulfill. I have found this to be true in walking with my wonderful bride. The more I love Christ, the more I find loving my wife as not just something "I'm suppose to do," but what I delight in more and more. The more I love myself and my ways, the less I find my affections stirred for Christ, and thus, the love I am to have for my wife, becomes "programmed responses" of duty that more often than not, can be just superfisial actions that look more like duty, than a delight of my heart that I can't wait to walk out. Men, we must love Christ!
- Mortify selfishness. I am a selfish man by nature. "Me-time" is forever an easy accomplishment in "Matthew World." May I encourage you to seek to put laziness to death, when it comes in relating with your bride. One specific encouragement that I would give, would be many-a-man's tendency, and that is towards laziness as it manifests itself in communication - not wanting to talk, think or lead lovingly and patiently. Again, my friends, I would drive you to Christ. Meditate on His sacrifice on the Cross for us. Think about His patience with us. Think and relish the amount of words Christ has given to us in His Word that communicate to us His great, lavish, deep, life giving love for us. May we imitate this in meaningful words of expressing our love, thankfulness, appreciation and affection for the ones our Lord has given to us. Again, come to Christ to see His care, tenderness and compassion that He has had on us. May we find our motives to increasingly so, to mortify selfishness through our love for Christ, thus making Scripture's application a source of joy and celebration in our acts of love towards our wives, rather than just "mere moralism," (meaning, because "you have to do ______ in order to be a good husband.")
- Look actively for ways to "give yourself up for her." Look for ways, because of Christ and His Glorious Gospel, to out do your wife in showing love and affection for her. We are called to live with our wives in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7), this means we seek to truly understand her and seek to walk in ways with her that will serve her. We seek to understand and then lead her to Christ from there, rather than just attempting to be "understood." In communication, it means we penetrate those moments of awkward silence, with meaningful actions and words that express our compassion, care, love and desire to live our lives with them in such a way that our wives are served in their own growth in Godliness.
Here are some practical helps and resources...
- Boycott Hallmark! Make up your own words! Just kidding...sort of... Being from K.C. I greatly appreciate Hallmark, and I do confess, I buy quite a few cards from them...and this is not a bad place to start...however, may I exhort you to yes, make up your own words expressing your appreciation, love and thankfulness for who she is and all that she does. Tell her of your anticipation for the future, in growing old, in love, together.
- C.J. Mahaney's book, "Sex, Romance and The Glory of God" is an outstanding resource...(as a matter of fact...I need to get that book back out and read it again!)
- You don't have to spend a lot of money for something to be meaningful. Take a picnic at a park. Surprise her with lunch one day, by coming by during your lunch break and having lunch together. Go out for a cup of coffee. Write her a simple note of appreciation. (log on to Family Life Today www.familylifetoday.com they have a great email service, of emailing you romantic tips throughout the month of little things you can do).
- Spend some money. Set aside some funds to bless her with...clothing, a nice dinner, etc.
- Plan your next get away together...this gives both of you something to look forward together that will be just about the two of you and the cultivation of romance. This also will give you more of an idea of the things she likes and would like to do.
- Plan surprises...look to be creative as you can...but the surprises can be as simple as coming home early, making dinner for her and giving her the night off allowing her to go take a bubble bath, relax, read a book, etc.
- Go to the church's website and read "101 Ways A Husband May Express Love To His Wife" then get out your day timer and plan those 101 ways... (http://www.providencecommunitychurch.net/providence/101_ways_to_love_your_wife)
These are just some sugguestions and I trust this will serve all of us as we seek to grow in loving Our Savior and living in the good of the gospel as it applies to our marriages. Thank you men for your godly example, your love for your wives and your love for the Savior. Keep loving! Keep Changing! And remind your pastor of this blog entry often for his own good! Thank you!
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
I wanted to forward this note on to you and to add with it my own note of appreciation, love and thanks to God for you as well. You are a wonderful, loving, caring and giving church. Thank you again, for how you gave this last year to the Kansas Foster & Adoptive Children. And likewise, a big thank you goes out to Andre and Lillian Darrigrand for how they served our church this last year by facilitating the entire clothing drive! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
"Dear Pastor Hoffman, the Darrigrands & Congregation,
I am still just overwhelmed by the donation you all put together for the benefit of foster children! The thoughtfulness in choosing age appropriate gifts enabled our organization to serve 2 wider age ranges this Christmas season! The teen gifts were right on, as to what is in style and needed by some of the youth in care.
With peace and many blessings throughout the New Year.
Kansas Foster & Adoptive Children"
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
First, what are the "Dead Sea Scrolls?" The DSS were first discovered in 1947 in a series of caves located on the shore of the Dead Sea, near Qumran. Most of the documents were written between the time of the "Second Temple Period" (the period just following the end of the exile, when the remnant of God's people were released from Babyolian captivity, by the Persian decree of Cyrus to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.) to about the second half of the first century A.D. This Qumran Community, which consisted primarily of the Essenes people group was seen as one of the primary groups from which these documents were thought to have come. They were a small Jewish religious sect living an ascetic, communal, agricultural life. There are several theories about the location where they were found. Some thinking that this was their communal library, others thinking that their scrolls were hidden there about the time of the Roman dominion of the region and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. in order to preserve them. (Several theories abound).
What types of documents are they? Various types of documents were found in the caves near Qumran, but most important to us were copies of books of the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament. Almost every book of the Old Testament was found except for the book of Esther and Nehemiah. There were also other writings, commentaries, histories, stories, etc. from that time. In the findings there are some of the books that would consist of the "Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha," books such as Tobit, 1 Enoch, and Jubilees. There were also other documents which serve as fascinating windows into the their community life. For example there is a book, which is for all intensive purposes, a book of "community rules" called The Manual of Discipline. There are also several other scrolls of allegorical stories, poems, songs and other books on their ritual laws.
In future posts, I will give more information and my commentary on some of the more "influential" scrolls and the present discussion that is being given about them. There are definitely quite a few "scholars" giving their opinions, revealing their own bias and presuppositions on these documents that we would quite simply disagree with.
If you are able to go to the exhibits, I would greatly encourage you to. Historically speaking, it has been said that this is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest archaeological find of the last century. Concerning the Old Testament texts that were found, they were dated to be about 1,000 years older than the Masoretic texts from which come our complete Old Testaments. When this finding happened, many critics of the Bible waited with baited breath to find a discrepancy in the texts, in hopes to undermine the reliability of the Bible. Well, needless to say, they were greatly disappointed. In the words of Rabbi Morris Margolies,
"These writings include all of the books of the Hebrew Bible except Esther and possibly Nehemiah. The authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Masorah...has served as the accepted text for all editions up to the present day. The Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew Bible has been written more than a thousand years before. A close comparison of this Essene text with the...Masoretic text reveals virtually an identical rendition. If we think about this, it is a miraculous phenomenon that so faithful a tradition could have been so long preserved almost word for word." (from article written by Margolies in the Kansas City Star, p. B10, Sunday, February 4, 2007 - emphasis added)
Rabbi Morris Margolies says, in two words, this is a "miraculous phenomenon"...yes indeed! In one word, "Providence."
(I hope you benefit from this series of entries and that you find them helpful as we learn together...take care)
Friday, February 2, 2007
“It has been said by someone that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God…But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe… The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you down your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.”
Thursday, February 1, 2007
This morning in my devotions I was reading from R.C. Sproul's devotional magazine, "Tabletalk." (I have recently renewed my subscription after having let it lapse for several years, and I am glad to be receiving it again. If you are interested in it here is the link... http://www.ligonier.org/tt.php) In this morning's devotional on Genesis 25, RC spoke of Abraham's death, the grace of old age and his care to leave an inheritance for his children. In that, the challenge was Abraham's care to pass on to his children what he had so graciously received from the Lord.
As I read that, I found my heart going into two different places, specifically thinking about Dr. Sproul's investment into sound doctrine and then to the men of Providence Community Church who, through our Invest classes are investing themselves to grow in the knowledge and truth of God's word...and then the desire to pass that on to our children. Your example is not only continuously encouraging as a pastor, but humbling and provoking for me as a father.
This month, as we meet this Saturday, we are going to be talking about the attributes of God, more specifically the "God-centeredness of God" and our calling to walk out God-centered lives based on sound doctrine. As I have been preparing for this session, I have been reminded of the impact that Dr. Sproul has had on my life through his books. As I began to think deeper about his impact, it has been primarially through his books that display the attributes of God ("The Holiness of God," and "The Invisible Hand" to name a few). We are greatly indebted to him as a theologian, pastor and fellow brother in Lord, as he has made himself a willing tool in the Savior's hand to teach millions through his books and lectures. (As a sidenote, it is incredibly humbling to see that Dr. Sproul will be speaking at Sovereign Grace Ministries' Leadership Conference this year, if any would want to go, it is open to all, but I am sure space will fill up quickly, here is the link for the information on that, if you are interested...www.sovereigngraceministries.org)
With that I am also moved this morning in thinking about this Saturday, (as well as the past sessions and the ones to come) in seeing you men and your heart and love for the Savior and your desire to not only grow yourselves, but to also pass this on to future generations of Providence Community Church. Thank you for your example of loving God's word and seeking to apply it to your own lives. I don't know of a godlier group of humble, gracious brothers. I know at times discouragement can set in as we do the 9-5 day in and day out, but men your godly example of faithfulness to provide, your example to lead your children in loving the Savior, your devotion to his word and your desire to grow in leading your family in this...you are making a difference to give to your children what you have received of from the Lord. Your "sermon" of love and care to your family, while you, yourself growing in ever increasing desparation for Christ, speaks more than what you know. Thank you men for your example and keep changing, keep growing! As we walk through the seasons together, may we seek, by His grace to pass on a legacy of loving, applying and cherishing God's great, glorious grace. Take care, men and I look forward to fellowshipping with you this Saturday.