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Archive for May 14th, 2008

David Wells in Above All Earthly Powers offers this analysis of contemporary culture:

The modernization of our world, the transformation of its social fabric, impacts human consciousness in profound ways. And what we have to notice in particular are the ways in which our experience of pluralism rattles through our consciousness. For ours is a world in which options multiply like fruit flies, as we have seen. There is too much to choose between in every area of life. We are bombarded by information and we are constantly having to choose what beliefs we will follow, what styles we will adopt, what kind of people we would like to be. We speak of having “lifestyles” which include matters such as how well we choose to live, with whom we want to live, what kind of beliefs and moral norms we will or will not accept. In all of these ways we choose who we want to be and nothing is allowed to impose itself on us from the outside.–p. 148

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I returned from the BASICS Conference late last night and was blessed again by this time with fellow believers, most of whom are pastors. I enjoy this conference because

  • it is small (700 in comparison to larger gatherings of 5000 men at the Shepherds and T4G conferences)
  • the speakers are lesser known but equally refreshing (this year was Voddie Bauchman and Jerry Bridges along with Alistair Begg who always speaks)
  • the food is great (no other conference features sit down full course meals like BBQ ribs, and chicken breast, open face turkey sandwiches, beef brisket, salad, other vegetables, and quality desserts
  • the fellowship among the men is always close and personal (no airs among the men I meet)
  • the closeness (only 2 hours a way–and with fuel prices what they are, this factors in)

The theme of the conference was “Preaching the Gospel to Yourself” and was designed to remind us as pastors that we never graduate from the gospel.

I appreciated how Alistair started off the conference by praying for three things for all the attenders. He wanted us to be

  • Renewed in our spirit: to have a steadfast heart for God and for God to expose and remove from us a soft (cowardly), sour, or strident spirit among us.
  • Restored: restore to me the joy of my salvation and take away a jaded or overly familiar spirit toward the truths that would be preached
  • Refreshed: Just like Onesimus had refreshed Paul’s heart so he prayed that our hearts would be refreshed by the Word, those who preached it to us, and those who served us.

I believe God answered those prayers in my life. I did leave the conference refrehsed, restored, and renewed..

Jerry Bridges ministered to me in the first session. Several things really stuck out to me:

  • All of us are still practicing sinners. We may not be committing the “big” sins anymore outwardly, but we often practice and cherish respectable sins. So often we become so focused on the flagrant sins of non-believers that we no longer see the respectable sins in our own lives.
  • The secret of communion with God is that we acknowledge our guilt, experience his grace, and respond with gratitude to Him.

He repeatedly stressed how that we are still sinners–saved sinners, but still sinners. That is why we need to preach the gospel to ourselves everyday! Even on our best of days we fall short of the holiness of God. As Christians, we need to learn that we must and how we must take our sins to the cross, otherwise our conscience will be trying to play defense attorney in our lives. So many Christians don’t know what to do with their sin. What we must do is keep taking them to the cross where forgiveness for sins has already been offered!

We must also fight against the temptation to think that we are saved by grace but that we earn God’s blessings! That is a tragic mistake in thinking, but this is our default setting. We always want to put our “good works” into the equation somewhere.

Let us always remember that the gospel means that there was never nor is there ever anything in us or done by us to make us acceptable to God. What makes us acceptable to God is what has been done for us by Christ and what has been imputed or credited to us–namely His righteousness.

Praise God, as John Newton said, “I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior!” And let us keep in mind Galatians 2:20 when we find ourselves struggling with sin and not making much progress against it.

I hope to have more comments on the conference in the coming days, Lord willing!

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Arthur Brooks has a fascinating article about the correlation between money and happiness. The article starts this way,

“On July 23, 2000, a forty-two-year-old forklift operator in Corbin, Kentucky, named Mack Metcalf was working a 12-hour nightshift. On his last break, he halfheartedly checked the Sunday paper for the winning Kentucky lottery numbers. He didn’t expect to be a winner, of course—but hey, you never know.

Mack Metcalf’s ticket, it turned out, was the winner of the $65 million Powerball jackpot, and it changed his life forever. What did he do first? He quit his job. “I clocked out right then, and I haven’t been back,” he later recounted. In fact, his first impulse was to quit everything, after a life characterized by problem drinking, dysfunctional family life, and poorly paid work. “I’m moving to Australia. I’m going to totally get away. I’m going to buy several houses there, including one on the beach,” he told Kentucky lottery officials.

Metcalf never worked again. But he never moved to Australia. Instead he bought a 43-acre estate with an ostentatious, plantation-style home in southern Kentucky for more than $1 million. There, he spent his days pursuing pastimes like collecting expensive cars and exotic pets, including tarantulas and snakes.

Trouble started for Metcalf as soon as he won the lottery. Seeing him on television, a social worker recognized him as delinquent for child support from a past marriage, resulting in a settlement that cost him half a million dollars. A former girlfriend bilked him out of another half million while he was drunk. He fell deeper and deeper into alcoholism and became paranoid that those around him wanted to kill him. Racked with cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis, he died in December 2003 at the age of forty-five, only about three years after his lottery dream had finally come true. His tombstone reads, “Loving father and brother, finally at rest.”

Did millions of dollars bring enduring happiness to Mack Metcalf? Obviously not. On the contrary, those who knew him blame the money for his demise. “If he hadn’t won,” Metcalf’s former wife told a New York Times reporter, “he would have worked like regular people and maybe had 20 years left. But when you put that kind of money in the hands of somebody with problems, it just helps them kill themselves.”

So, what do you think, does money buy happiness?

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