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Matthew’s Spiritual Journey

Archive for October 2008

Sharing the Father’s Welcome

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Thanks to blog posts by Keren and Dennis, I learned belatedly that you can read Edmund Clowney’s “Sharing the Father’s Welcome” on Crossway’s website (which is more useful than the link in my earlier post).

I am thankful to have access to this writing, especially because Tim Keller wrote that Dr. Clowney’s teaching influenced his understanding of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Also on Crossway’s blog, I found the link to free podcasts of “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World,” a 18-session lecture series by Clowney and Keller. I had previously listened to the 21-minute introductory podcast and found it very useful in understanding the structure and goal of Tim Keller’s sermons each Sunday.

Written by Matthew

October 27, 2008 at 10:43 pm

The Prodigal God

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Rev. Tim Keller’s new book is now available. He explains what is in the book and why he wrote it.

It is an expansion of my sermon on the Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15. Kathy and I have long felt that this was the clearest and best single exposition of the gospel I’ve been able to do over the years. My interpretation of the parable was originally based on a sermon called “Sharing the Father’s Welcome” that I heard preached by Dr. Edmund P. Clowney over 35 years ago. That sermon had a profound impact on how I preached for the rest of my ministry. In some ways the teaching of this sermon is at the very foundation of Redeemer’s ministry.

What’s the book about? It’s about being ‘prodigal.’ The word ‘prodigal’ is an English word that means recklessly extravagant, spending to the point of poverty. The dictionaries tell us that the word can be understood in a more negative or a more positive sense. The more positive meaning is to be lavishly and sacrificially abundant in giving. The more negative sense is to be wasteful and irresponsible in one’s spending. (Some people think prodigal means ‘wayward,’ but there is no dictionary that indicates that the word means ‘immoral.’) The negative sense obviously applies to the actions of the younger brother in the Luke 15 parable. But is there any sense in which God can be called ‘prodigal’? I think so.

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Written by Matthew

October 27, 2008 at 4:47 pm

NYT: Finding Jesus on Facebook

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Saturday’s New York Times has an article about churches using up-to-date technology to cater to the younger generation. It mentions Redeemer Presbyterian Church and its Beta Groups, one of which Susan and I are leading this fall.

Redeemer is also bringing the Internet into the chapel. At a Redeemer service on the Upper West Side, a group of college graduates were in the back of the room tapping away on laptops.

They helped newcomers sign up for a “Beta group,” a seven-week fellowship group meeting in different parts of the city. Using a Google map, people could browse by neighborhood, check for a special focus, like all-women or artists-only groups, then sign up by clicking the group they wanted and entering their name and e-mail address.

“You know when you say ‘Sign up at home’ that people will forget between the church and their PC,” said Aaron Bjerke, an intern for Redeemer who was helping people sign up. “This takes care of it right away.”

And, Aaron Bjerke is none other than my fellowship group coach. A really nice guy. Congrats, Aaron!

Written by Matthew

October 26, 2008 at 10:09 pm

The Unforgiving Servant

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Inspired by this morning’s service at Redeemer, I searched WordPress blogs for Miroslav Volf and came across a sermon (posted in September) by Dave Faulkner, a Methodist minister in the UK.

Mr. Faulkner’s sermon looks at Matthew 18:21-35 (The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant) to discuss what and why of forgiveness. Below are couple of quotes from his post.

What is forgiveness?

Miroslav Volf is a Croatian theologian who has written much on forgiveness and reconciliation, especially in the light of his experiences through the wars in the Balkans after the collapse of communism. One of his books, ‘Free Of Charge‘, was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book in 2006. In it, he says that forgiveness means we blame but do not punish. We do not pretend about the offence. It is real. But we choose not to punish, or press for punishment.

That is rather like God’s treatment of us with regard to our own sin. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we might repent and follow Jesus. The Spirit of God never pretends that the sin was a fiction. Otherwise, we could never repent and walk in the ways of God’s kingdom. But having convicted us, there is no sentence and we are treated as if we had never sinned, even though we have. If this is how God treats us, then it is also the goal we seek in our journey of forgiveness.

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Written by Matthew

October 26, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Forgiveness Flounders Because…

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Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion—without tranposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself…and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.

By Miroslav Volf in Exclusion and Embrace, as quoted in the worship program (in pdf) at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on October 26

Written by Matthew

October 26, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Our Family’s Annual Memorial Trip

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Susan’s father passed away on October 28, 1997, just a few months before our wedding. On Saturday morning, my family of four and a sister-in-law made our annual trip to his resting place. We took a bus from the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, met Susan’s sister, drove to Paramus, paid our respect, sang one of his favorite hymns, read a passage from the book of Romans and walked around amid colorful trees under gray sky. At one point during our trip, Andrew took this short video of his mother and sister.

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Written by Matthew

October 26, 2008 at 7:34 pm

The Fellowship of Grace: Study Guides 1-4

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Below are links to the first four weekly study guides for the sermon series, The Fellowship of Grace, at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

You can listen to Rev. Keller’s free sermon (streaming or mp3) about the prodigal sons. Also, search and sign up for a fellowship group that is most convenient to you.

Written by Matthew

October 25, 2008 at 11:45 pm