Friday, December 19, 2014

No Pressure


From @PastorTullian and itisfinisheddevotional.com

Power of Beauty

The is a excerpt from God's Beauty for the Bored, Busy and Depressed by Tony Reinke
To escape our bondage to sin, we must come alive to the glory of God in Christ. He’s our only hope.
On this theme, theologian Jonathan Edwards was a master. He discovered God’s glory and beauty all over Scripture, and he centered his understanding of the Christian life there.
The classic picture of Edwards as a hellfire preacher, suspending sinners by fishing line over the pit of God’s flaming wrath, simply fails to get a balanced picture of his ministry. He may be most famous for scaring people out of hell with divine wrath, but he spent far more of his time trying to woo people into heaven by proclaiming the beauty of God in the gospel. So writes Dane Ortlund, in a new book destined to be a top book of 2014: Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God (Crossway).
This insatiable desire for God’s beauty stokes the fire of the Christian life. We ask for the same thing every day: “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Psalm 27:4). And we testify together: “all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Psalm 96:5–6).
We must have God’s beauty.
So what does God’s splendor have to do with my daily life right now — in my busyness, in my temptations, in my boredom, and in my spiritual dryness? I recently sat down to talk with Dane Ortlund, who serves as the Bible publishing director at Crossway.
Beauty and Busyness
First, God’s beauty soothes our busy and anxious hearts. 
“The beauty of God’s tender mercy calms me down, lets me breathe again, slows my heart’s frantic scurrying about,” Dane said. “There is so much ambiguity in living as a moral being. In all my anxiety, he is an undeterred and gentle Father who has adopted and justified me. Edwards really felt that. Especially when you read his sermons or letters, there’s an aroma you smell. He really felt safe and loved and calmed because of God and his gentle care for him as a Father.”

Beauty and Temptation
Second, God’s beauty fills the affections of our heart, which is essential if we are going to meet our foes of sin and temptation with success. “The world tells me that selfish indulgence in lust is where the fun is,” Dane said. On the contrary, “Edwards writes all over the place about quietly enjoying the beauty of God, and communing with him in his Son, who is the mighty and radiant friend of sinners like me. To use a word Edwards delightfully used, enjoying God happifies us.”
One of the crucial battles of the Christian life is discovering the true ugliness of sin and exposing its destructiveness. “Sin is the enchanting allure of what is going to kill you,” Dane said. “I can’t help but jump into the water of sin and get slammed against the rocks of judgment and hell and death. I have no willpower to stop. I cannot stop myself. I need a higher loveliness, a more compelling beauty. I am only going to do what I love to do, and I will be that way forever. I cannot function any other way. I have a beauty-thirst that must be quenched, no matter what.”....

Read the rest at the link.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Punch

And in follow up to that post from yesterday....

Worth the Reading (Part 2)

In follow up to this post yesterday, here's part two of "10 Benefits of Reading the Bible" by John Piper:
6. The Word of God Is the Key to Answered Prayer
The Word of God that wakens desire to read and ponder and memorize Scripture is the role it plays in answered prayer.
Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). The words of Jesus must abide in us if our prayers are to be effective.The best way to see what it means for the words of Jesus to abide in us is to look at what Jesus says about abiding a few verses earlier. In verse 5 he says, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” Letting the words of Jesus abide in us means letting Jesus himself abide in us, to us. It means that we welcome Jesus into our lives and make room for him to live, not as a silent guest with no opinions or commands, but as an authoritative guest whose words and priorities and principles and promises matter more to us than anything does.
The reason the abiding of Christ’s words in us results in answered prayer is that it changes us into the kind of people who love what he loves, so that we ask for things according to his will. This is not absolute. It is progressive. The more we know the living Christ by communion with him in his Word, the more our desires become spiritual like his desires, instead of just worldly. This is what David meant when he said in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The desires of the heart cease to be merely natural desires when the heart delights above all else in the Lord. Delighting in the Lord—in the hallowing of his name and the seeking of his kingdom and the doing of his will—transforms all natural desires into God-related desires. That is what happens when the Word of Christ abides in us.
7. The Word of God Is the Source of Wisdom
It is a great advantage to be wise. Wisdom is different from the mere knowledge of facts. Some very wise people have little formal education. And some very educated people, who know many facts, are not wise. Wisdom is the insight and sense of how to live in a way that accomplishes the goals for which we were made: the glory of God and the good of man. And since glorifying God involves delighting in God, and the good of man involves sharing our joy in God, therefore wisdom is the only path to deep and lasting joy.
8. The Word of God Gives Us Crucial Warnings
If we had perfect sight of what is wrong and right, and if we could know the future and the consequences of all behavior and all events, then perhaps we would need no warnings. But we are blind to many things and do not know the future, as God does. We need to be warned often that the step we are about to take is folly. Oh, how many joy killing choices we are spared when we heed the warnings of the Bible! Mercifully God has given us a book that not only points us to the right path but sounds warnings when we are about to take the wrong one.
9. The Word of God Enables Us to Defeat the Devil
The devil is real and terrible. He is much stronger than we are, and he aims to deceive and destroy. Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Yet he has been decisively defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Bible teaches that Christ took on himself human nature so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). The destruction was decisive, though not final. Because of Christ’s shed blood for our sins, the devil cannot destroy those who are in Christ. The reason is that his accusations are no longer valid. The only thing that could sentence us to eternal destruction is unforgiven sin. But the cross obtained complete forgiveness. Therefore, the devil can only kill us, but not damn us.
10. The Word of God Is the Source of Great and Lasting Joy
We have seen at least nine reasons why this is so. Now we see that God, in the Bible, simply says it is so. The wise and godly man turns away from the counsel of the wicked with all their promises of pleasure and finds that “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:2-3). The lovers of God’s Word praise the preciousness of the Bible and the pleasures it brings. They say that it surpasses the most valuable earthly things, gold and silver; and they say its taste on the tongue of the mind and heart is sweeter than honey, and that its richness is like the finest food.
The great conclusion is: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).
*This excerpt was adapted from *When I Don't Desire God: How To Fight For Joy by John Piper.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

He Knows if Your Belief is Bad or Good...

A little levity based on the real St. Nick!

For the back story try here...

    ,,,,,,or here....

            ....or here.

The consequences for badness were a little mre serious than coal in your stocking!

Worth The Reading

This is part one of two posts by John Piper at the Crossway Blog: - 10 Benefits of Reading the Bible
The All-Surpassing Worth of God’s Word
Consider with me just ten of the benefits [of reading Scripture], and as you read them, ask God to give you eyes to see the worth of Scripture and to waken in you an unyielding desire for the Word of God. This is a fight for joy, and the weapon is a fresh sight of how the worth of God’s Word surpasses all things on this earth.
1. The Word of God Awakens and Strengthens Faith
The Holy Spirit does not awaken and strengthen faith apart from the Word of God. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The reason for this is that the Spirit has been sent into the world to glorify Christ. But Christ would not be glorified if the Spirit wakened faith in the absence of the revelation of the glory of Christ in the gospel.
“When the Spirit of truth comes,” Jesus said, “he will glorify me” (John 16:13-14). If the Spirit brought us to faith in the absence of the proclamation of Christ in his Word, our faith would not be in Christ, and he would not be honored. Therefore the Spirit binds his faithwakening ministry to the Christ-exalting Word. Which means that when we go to the Word of Christ, we put ourselves in the path of the Spirit’s willingness to reveal Christ to us and strengthen our faith. And in this faith is the taste and the seed of all our joy. Therefore, the Word that wakens our faith works for our joy.
2. Through Hearing the Word, God Supplies the Holy Spirit
The Spirit of God produces both a subconscious influence bringing us to faith, and a conscious experience of power and personal fellowship that come through that very faith. This explains two things: 1) This is why the Bible can speak of the Spirit blowing where he wills and having merciful effects in our lives before we were able to choose them (John 3:6-8; 6:36, 44, 65). In other words, by his unconscious influence he works in us to enable us to hear and welcome the Word. And 2) this is also why the Bible speaks of the Spirit coming through our hearing the Word of God. In other words, conscious fellowship with the Spirit is given when we hear the Word of God with faith.
3. The Word of God Creates and Sustains Life
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). To that end he taught many things, and then gave his life so that we might have life, eternal and abundant. We are born again into new life by the Word of God. “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:23-25). God makes the preaching of the gospel the occasion for creating new life in the soul of man. “The words that I have spoken to you,” Jesus said, “are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Therefore when John had finished recording the words and works of Jesus in his Gospel he said, “These are written so that you may . . . have life in his name” (John 20:31). The words of John’s Gospel—and all the Scriptures—lead to life.
Oh, how easily we are deceived into thinking that better life, or more life, comes from things that lure us from the Word. But, in fact, it is the Word itself that gives us life abundantly. The life we get from bread is fragile and short. The life we get from the Word is firm and lasts forever.
4. The Word of God Gives Hope
In more ways than we can imagine the Word of God gives and strengthens our hope. We get a glimpse of how many ways the Bible gives hope when we hear Paul’s astonishing assessment of the Old Testament alone: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Not just part of the Old Testament, but all of it—“whatever was written in former days”— was written with the divine design to give us hope.
One of the things this teaches us is that we have not begun to know all the ways it is possible to get hope. We have very small experience in life compared to God’s wisdom.
Sometimes what we need from the Bible is not the fulfillment of our dream, but the swallowing up of our failed dream in the all-satisfying glory of Christ. We do not always know the path of deepest joy. But all Scripture is inspired by God to take us there. Therefore Scripture is worth more than all this world can offer.
5. The Word of God Leads Us to Freedom
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The truth of God’s Word works freedom in many ways and brings joy in all of them. But Jesus signals his focus in verse 34: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” The freedom he has in mind here is freedom from the enslaving, destructive effect of sin. The truth sets us free from this. So Jesus turns this truth into a prayer in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Sanctify means to make holy, or free from sin.
The guilt of sin would bring down the wrath of God on us if the truth of the gospel did not set us free from condemnation through the blood and righteousness of Christ.
This excerpt was adapted from When I Don't Desire God: How To Fight For Joy by John Piper.

Monday, December 15, 2014

True Freedom


From @PastorTullian on Twitter

Myths About Missions

"Ten Historical Myths About World Christianity"- From Brian Stanley at the Gospel Coalition:

As followers of Christ and adherents of the Bible, Christians are called to be a people of the truth. Thus, it is crucial that we seek to understand our tradition as accurately as possible. So consider these top ten historical myths about world Christianity.
1. Christianity is a Western religion.
It neither began in Western Europe, nor has it ever been entirely confined to Western Europe. The period in which it appeared to be indissolubly linked to Western European identity was a relatively short one, lasting from the early 16th to the mid-20th centuries. The church in China, India, Ethiopia, and Iraq is older than the church in much of Northern Europe.
2. Christian missions operated hand-in-glove with the colonial powers.
Sometimes they did, but frequently they didn’t. Missions were usually critical of the way in which empires operated, mainly because they conceived of empire as a divinely bestowed trust. True, they didn’t oppose colonial rule on principle, but then who did before the late 20th century?
3. Christianity was imposed by force on non-Western people.
If this were true, it would reduce non-Western Christians—even today—to the status of passive recipients of Western ideological domination. In fact, Western missions never possessed the power necessary to achieve such capitulation, even if they wanted it, which they did not.
4. Protestant missions began with William Carey in 1792.
John Eliot’s mission work among the Native Americans of New England began as early as 1646. The first Lutheran missionaries arrived at Tranquebar in South India in 1706. In his famous An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (1792) Carey insisted that he had many predecessors.
5. Missionaries destroyed indigenous cultures.
Indigenous cultures were not static entities: to suggest that they were is characteristic of Western modernity. Missionaries often displayed what we would term cultural blindness, but their message, once translated into the vernacular, acquired indigenous cultural overtones. Missionary contributions to the inscription and study of indigenous languages have helped to preserve or enrich such cultures.
6. The 19th century was the great century of Christian missions.
It was the great age of Western missionary expansion, but not the great age of indigenous conversion and agency: that was the 20th century. K. S. Latourette’s "great century" is a misleading phrase.
7. ‘Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization’ was an imperial creed.
It was essentially an anti-slavery humanitarian creed, associated especially with David Livingstone (though he didn’t invent it). For those reasons it often led to advocacy of imperial solutions. Fighting slavery actually led imperial expansion as humanitarians called for deeper commitment from Britain to root out the slave trade at its sources in the African interior.
8. We live in a post-missionary era.
No, we don’t. There are approximately 426,000 foreign missionaries in the world today. In 1900 there were about 62,000. The United States still sends something like 127,000 missionaries overseas.
9. We live in a post-colonial age.
We certainly don’t live in a post-imperial age. Formal colonial rule is usually a last resort adopted by powerful nations who run out of cheaper options of control. Decolonization can be seen as a return to informal means of control. Definitions of what constitutes colonialism are contested: what about the subject status of first nations people in Canada, aborigines in Australia, Tibetans, West Papuans . . . and even the Scots?!
10. To proclaim the unique saving value of the Christian gospel is to be intolerant of other religions.
This is to confuse a theological position with an attitudinal stance. Because of their understanding of the nature of truth, Christians can (should?) believe that others are fundamentally mistaken in their beliefs and still defend to the hilt their right to hold and practise such beliefs.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity.