Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Identity Issue




Who are you?

In this video, pastor Jeff Vanderstelt helps us rethink the way we perceive ourselves, reminding us that our identity as believers is first and foremost in Jesus Christ and what he has done on our behalf.

Our worth is not impacted by our successes or failures. Rather, we have Christ's righteousness leading to God's total acceptance. With God, our being always precedes our doing. This is the good news of the gospel—good news that frees us to live for him each and every day.

HT: Crossway

Friday, April 24, 2015

Who Is Orthodox

An "oldie but goodie" article by Michael Patton - Six Views on What It Means To be Orthodox
Have you ever been called a heretic? Have you ever had someone say that your faith is “unorthodox”? Have you ever wondered what it meant to be “orthodox”? No, I don’t mean Greek Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox. I am talking about orthodoxy which carries the meaning of “straight or right teaching and worship.”
The answer is not easy. For some people, “orthodoxy” is a shallow word meaning that you agree with them. For others, it means you agree with their particular denomination or local church confession. For many, it is a meaningless heavy handed designation that should no longer be used.
What does it mean to be orthodox in your beliefs?
There are really six primary views that I find represented in the church today. I am going to try to explain these views using both established and original terminology....
Read it all at the link.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Myth of a Perfect Church

From Church in A Circle - the Myth of the Perfect Church:
Human beings are created with an inbuilt tendency towards idealism. Fairy tale stories and superhero movies reflect our need for happy endings and superhuman abilities. We grow up with romantic and unrealistic expectations of life, which are often dashed against the rocks of reality, leaving us hurt and disappointed.
You can see this idyllic imagination at work in our searches for a romantic partner. My youngest daughters (age 6 and 4) sometimes take turns being a bride and marrying each other, already living out the dream of “happily ever after”. They don’t yet know that every marriage involves two very different and flawed humans, who will have downs as well as ups, and who will never fully be able to meet each other’s needs and expectations.
When it comes to church, we have the same idealism, only even higher. After all, we have Scripture verses to back it up. We long to be part of an intimate community of people who love one another, accept us as we are and empower us to be all we can be.
Our idyllic notions often take a battering in institutional church, so we turn our hearts towards a romanticised notion of “organic church”. In our minds, this new-and-improved-model-of-church will meet all our needs and bring us towards “happy ever after”. In the real world, organic churches have their problems too – their power struggles, personality clashes and failure to meet people’s expectations.
Organic church life can be amazing. In fact, institutional church life can be equally amazing. However, just like a marriage, any of these relational settings needs to be approached with the right mindset and commitment to playing our part. There are certain characteristics which will create the transformational community we long for – honesty,authenticity, acceptance, kindness, patience, love. The problem is, these things come at a cost. They require effort and truckloads of maturity. They are not always easy and they don’t always feel good.
If you want to find some magical, picture-perfect church community, give up now. However, if you’re prepared to struggle with your own issues, put up with other people’s foibles, and commit for the long haul, you may just find glimpses of the joy and fellowship you crave. It won’t be an easy journey, but along the way you will change yourself and your church community, for good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Compact Devotions

"In fact, countless devotionals and study Bibles are based on the concept of getting our clarity in two minutes or less. This trains us to think there is “time with God” and “our time.” The compartmentalization of His voice to set times we commune with Him is a dangerous place to live. Is it our goal to spend the slightest amount of time possible with the Lord and still be in relationship with Him? I’m not discounting the effectiveness of these publications or their place in our lives at certain times, but their very existence validates a system that tries to battle the noise with the least amount of commitment—just like a specific type of soda in your grocery store indicates a precise kind of beverage-drinker guzzling down that exact flavor of food coloring or aspartame. (What exactly is caramel color, anyway?)

Noise is battled fifteen, ten, and five minutes at a time.

But do you think it’s working?

As the body of Christ, are we winning this struggle?

Has it worked for you?

Are you still a servant—or, more truthfully, slave—to the noise?

I’ll let you decide.

Continually packaging God’s Word in compact and easy-to-use ways will continue to produce compact and easy-to-use followers of Christ—who possibly have compact dreams and easy visions."

     - Eric Samuel Timm, Static Jedi: The Art of Hearing God Through the Noise

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Too Clever



HT: Challies.com

The First Speaker


HT: Paul David Tripp
I'm sure you've heard this idiom before: "talk is cheap."
Whoever came up with that saying was onto something, just like the person who came up with the phrase "actions speak louder than words" - it's much easier to talk about something than it is to actually follow through with it.
While these expressions may hold weight in the real world, I don't particularly appreciate them, and here's why: they're fundamentally unbiblical because they devalue the significance of our words....
Read more at the link.

Paul the Bibliophile


When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (2 Tim. 4:13)

Did you know the Apostle Paul, writer of a large part of the New testament, was a lover of books? Loved this commentary on 2 Tim. 4:13 by C. H. Spurgeon (via Justin Taylor)
We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. . . . A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle!
He is inspired, and yet he wants books!
He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books!
He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!
He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!
He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!
He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!
The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.
Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service.
Paul cries, “Bring the books”—join in the cry.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy



HT: Bruce Van Horn @BruceVH

Avoiding the Hysteria

I fully and enthusiastically agree with this post from J. Lee Grady - Don’t Get Caught Up in Last Days Hysteria 
Everywhere I go today I meet Christians who are wringing their hands and fretting about how dark the world has become. Some are conspiracy theorists who say the world's economy is controlled by dark forces. Others are convinced that recent astronomical phenomena signal the end of the world, and they are stocking their garages with food to prepare for Armageddon. If I suggest that Jesus might want to pour out the Holy Spirit in a fresh way on this generation, some people get angry. They want God to hurry up and judge America!
Why so much pessimism? It's partly because many people have exchanged their passion for God for a misguided fascination with doomsday eschatology. They latch onto Bible prophecy "experts" who make a living speculating about things nobody knows for sure. And this sky-is-falling mindset never produces good fruit. Here are four reasons we should avoid an unhealthy overemphasis on the end times:
1. It's distracting. Nowhere does the Bible give us permission to speculate about when Jesus will return or when the world will end. He gave us one major focus: To reach everybody with the gospel. Evangelism should be our obsession. The healthiest churches I know are those that are winning the lost, discipling new converts and investing their people and money in reaching nations.
Churches that become consumed with eschatology drift into weirdness, and they eventually lose sight of the Great Commission. Jesus' last words to His followers were clear: "You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Yet when He ascended into heaven, the angels rebuked the disciples because they were staring into the clouds. They said: "Why do you stand looking into the sky?" (Acts 1:11). In essence they were saying: "Don't sit around and wait for Jesus to return. Get busy doing what He told you to do."
2. It's depressing. I don't go to church to hear one person's opinions about Islamic terrorists, why weather patterns are changing, or how European bankers plan to manipulate the world economy. Why focus on the negative? Do we believe in the lordship of Christ, or not? I have read the book of Revelation, and it ends with Jesus on the throne! He is the victor—no matter what men conspire to do or how hard they fight against His authority.
Churches that only talk about blood moons, wars in the Middle East, the Antichrist or the date for America's demise leave no room for the joy of the Lord or the hope of His ultimate triumph. My Bible says we have a future and a hope. We have the promise that, as the gospel is preached, "all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Num. 14:21). Why should we be pessimistic about the future when we know Christ will overcome all His enemies? People who focus on doomsday theology are killjoys who derive morbid pleasure from spreading fear and anxiety. A gospel without hope is not the gospel!
3. It's deceptive. A group known as the Adventists predicted that Jesus would return to earth in 1874. When this didn't happen, the group's leaders covered their error by suggesting that Jesus appeared "invisibly" on that date. A theology developed around these ideas that is still accepted by Seventh-day Adventists. In the 1970s, when Americans were so worried about gas shortages and war in Israel, author Hal Lindsey sold millions of copies of his book The Late, Great Planet Earth—and he predicted the world would end in a few years. Many other Christians have made similar predictions—such as the Y2K scare in 1999 or Harold Camping's infamous warning that the world would end on May 21, 2011.
We have no business setting dates for the end of the world. God alone sets His timetable.
Jesus said of His return: "Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matt. 24:36). If anyone claims to know when the world will end, you can be sure he is a false prophet. What we should be telling people is that Jesus died for them, and that they have been given a chance to receive His forgiveness while they are on this side of eternity.
4. It's divisive. Christians have different views of the end times. Some are post-millenialists while others emphasize the Rapture. This is not something we should be arguing about because no one has the full revelation of the future. I tell people I am a "pan-millenialist." I believe it will all "pan out" in the end! I am not as concerned about how the last days will unfold as I am about how many people I can take to heaven with me. We should all be united in our desire to share Christ with others.
I know Jesus will return one day, and it gives me great comfort to know that all heaven will say of Him: "The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). Let's live our lives as if He were coming back today, but let's work as if He weren't coming for 100 years. Let's stop hoping for judgment and instead pray for mercy for our wayward country. Let's stop being so negative and instead show people the supernatural joy that only Jesus gives.