“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”
- Timothy Keller
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the state of the church as we enter a new year. In these uncertain times we naturally look to reliable and wise voices to guide us through the fog. And who is more reliable and wise then yours truly? To help you plan ahead, I’ve compiled my list of the top five predictions to watch for in 2009.
The next BIG word: Post-Missional
There was a time when everything was “postmodern." Then we all “emerged.” Now it’s nearly impossible to find a ministry that isn’t passionately “missional.” But in 2009 I predict the truly innovative ministries will be “post-missional.” No one will actually know what post-missional means but the word will become ubiquitous, finding its way into the subtitles of at least 34 percent of all ministry books published in 2009.
The next BIG outreach trend: The 30-Day Alcohol Challenge
A number of churches have gotten enormous attention for variations of the 30-Day Sex Challenge. These ministries have tried to attract the sexually charged unchurched by proclaiming that Christians have better sex and more of it. In this “more is more” philosophy of Christian liberty, I predict the next hot outreach trend will focus on alcohol as a way of deconstructing the church’s teetotaling reputation. Pastors will challenge church member over 21 to drink everyday for a month—an expensive proposition for Lutherans who only drink imports.
The next BIG book: REVEAL 3: You Go, I’m Staying Right Here.
The Willow Creek Association published REVEAL: Where Are You? in 2007. Last year brought REVEAL 2: Follow Me. In 2009 I predict we’ll see the publication of a third book in the series, REVEAL 3: You Go, I’m Staying Right Here. The new book will outline why changes to Willow’s ministry strategy really aren’t, and how it’s more seeker-sensitive than ever.
The next BIG celebrity pastor: Rod Blagojevich
I predict that after the embattled, corrupt governor of Illinois is forcibly removed from office he will have a “come to Jesus” moment at the federal penitentiary. He will emerged with a new mission and one of the most marketable conversion stories since Stephen Baldwin. Because of his bountiful mane, Brother Blago, as he’ll be known, will likely end up a televangelist.
The next BIG catch phrase: “Jesus is my bailout plan”
With the government issuing bailouts to banks, mortgage brokers, and the Big 3, I predict that the “bailout” language will quickly be adapted to Christian t-shirts and bumper stickers. Other possible phrases to be seen in ’09: “My 401k is in Heaven,” “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: These Big 3 Don’t Need a Bailout,” and “SEC: Secured Eternally in Christ.”
Of course some will aim for bigger targets than weight loss (no pun intended). But do any of us really think that much is going to change? Do we really think that last year’s bad habits and lack of discipline are suddenly gone because time ticked a little farther forward? Most people will do the same bad things last year that they did this year.
That’s what total depravity would seem to indicate anyway. Spiritually dead children of wrath do not need a fresh start from a new year. They need reconciliation with God through the blood of Christ. They need the Holy Spirit to dwell in them to maintain obedience to our Lord.
No amount of new years can substitute for that. And indeed history indicates that there are plenty of sin-induced human tragedies in every new year. New Year’s is a prime reminder of the need for the gospel.
Of course it is different for Christians. We have the Holy Spirit, which means that we always have the power to increase our devotion to Christ. We don’t need a new year for that. If New Year’s is to be of any help to us, it will be in our tangible experience that, unlike the rest of sinful humanity (and unlike the sinful humans we once were), there is change we can believe in.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
O Eve!My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Life without end.
— Sr. Columba Guare copyright© 2005 Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey
Monday, December 29, 2008
"The defining matter of the church's life is not to convert and bring people to faith (the evangelical heresy) or to bring in the ethical commonwealth (the liberal heresy). The defining matter for the church's life, for which the church exists, is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. He, not we, converts people and brings in the reign of God."
The Crucifixion of Ministry, page 132
Sunday, December 28, 2008
We have always had worship and the presence of God, but why is it so intense right now? The answer lies in what’s going on around us. Whenever the Lord prepares to bring about a massive change for a nation and or the world, he pours out his presence on his people so that they can be empowered with grace, wisdom and authority. God’s empowerment allows us to see God’s vision of what he wants to accomplish and how we are to help bring it into fruition.
We, as the church, have been enjoying and playing in God’s intimate presence for a while now. I believe he’s bringing us to a place where we are going to have to make a choice. Will we continue to play, or will we allow God to change and use us. This is the time for the church to shine when everything seems turned upside down and hopeless in the world. If we as God’s people can use God’s intimate presence as a stepping stone, we will radically change the world.
We must stop looking at ourselves and our own agendas. When we do we’ll see that the Lord has given us the tools. Himself. That’s all we need. If we come before God’s throne and worship him, he will touch us with himself. His grace will give us the ability to get rid of the garbage in our lives and his mercy will show us the next step we need to take to help produce his kingdom here on earth.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
"Most of us are familiar with the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. The problem in common understanding is that we imagine it is something we do and over which we have control. A relationship with Jesus, rather, is his act in the freedom of his love, through the work of the Spirit, in which he binds us to share in his life as the truth of God. It is not truth as an idea, an argument or a proposition. It is truth as personal being who encounters us on his own terms by being in relationship with us. Here is knowing on a wholly new level."
Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, pages 95-96
During my prayer time at the church, the Lord started asking me one question over and over again. “Are you willing to die for me?” I admit I wasn’t thrilled with the question, so, I asked are you talking about spiritual, physical or emotional death?. He never answered but patiently waited for mine. I didn’t do it lightly but I said yes. Over a period of time, my answer to God’s simplest, yet hardest question has changed my life.
The Lord’s presence is a gift that he gives to his children, but it’s not without cost. The price is everything we own, all that we are, our dreams and all of the people we care about. How are we to pay such a price? We can’t, not on our own. Each time we worship God, we hand over a small part of ourselves to him and he in return replaces that part with his character. God’s gracious gift of himself is what allows us to walk deeper into his own presence. The more we give of ourselves to the Lord in worship, the more we are changed into his likeness. God’s presence inside of us is what gives us the ability to accomplish whatever he asks of us.
The Lord uses people that are willing to come before him. God never forces his will on anyone, but waits patiently until we are ready to give our all for him. I started thinking of different times in history when the Lord used people to help bring about his glory in their era. Each person was flawed, and with as much sin in their lives as anyone else. What made them different were the choices they made. All were worshipers and had a close relationship with Jesus. Each one made massive mistakes, but when they did they cried out to God, repented and went on with God’s original plans for them.
Here are a few examples of people that had an intimate relationship with God and because of it, changed history. In Genesis, the Old Testament, in the Bible is Abraham. Abraham helped to create the beginnings of the nation of Israel. Joseph, also in Genesis, saved his people, the Jews, from annihilation. King David is in the books of Chronicles and Kings in the Old Testament. David was known for his intimate worship and love of God. David sinned greatly, but when he was confronted he repented with his whole heart. David brought the nation of Israel into it’s glory days. It was the most powerful nation of its time.
The twelve disciples in the New Testament knew Jesus personally and spread the gospel to the Jews. Paul who wrote over 1/3 of the New Testament helped to spread the gospel to the gentiles. Martin Luther, the founder of the Methodist Revival created a stir in the early 1500's. He stood against church heresy and helped to bring God’s saving grace to a whole continent. Charles Finney was a big evangelist in the 1800's. Finney sent a man into a city to pray one week before his arrival. Revival broke out everywhere he went, and sometimes without his saying a word. Finney helped to bring the gospel to a whole nation. The nation that was changed was the United States of America. There are many, many more who changed history with their love of God and their obedience.
(Part Three Tomorrow)
“It’s simple. Just list all the jobs you’ve had in your life, in order. Don’t bust your brain: no durations or details are necessary, and feel free to omit anything that you feel might tend to incriminate you. I’m just curious. And when you’re done, tag another five bloggers you’re curious aboutOkay, here goes mine:
Summer jobs in school:
- Lifeguard (twice)
- Moving & Storage
- Mattress Store
- Sales (Office equipment & computers)
- Computer Consulting
- Public Accounting
- Government Accounting
- Government Executive
- Corporate Accounting
Anybody else want to try?
Friday, December 26, 2008
The point is that Jesus is both God's Word spoken in our flesh and received and heard as a man is a truly radical theological insight...
...The argument presupposes that even were God to speak, outside of the Spirit of the Son hearing on our behalf, we would not hear and receive that Word, for only the Son can hear the Word of the Father. So Christ is not only the One who spoke forth the Word of God, but also the One who received the Word of God when he took flesh, not for his own sake, but for our sakes. (The Crucifixion of Ministry, page 81)
Several years ago, the Lord called me to go to our church building to pray. I thought I was starting a prayer ministry, but it turned out to be a season for me alone. The Lord touched me in the most intimate way, and at the same time I started feeling the weight of sin on my back. I asked the Lord, why is it that the more I come before you, the more I see all of the things that need to change within me? The Lord told me that he created our relationship to be this way.
Everyone needs to understand what sin is. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, the first two people God created were Adam and Eve. They had perfect unity with God, their creator. Until one day they made a decision behind God’s back and tried to hide it. When God confronted them they shifted the blame to each other. Their decision put a wall between them and God. Sin was born. Sin is turning our backs on God and doing our own thing. Sin separates us from God because God is sinless.
God can not tolerate sin, but he also wants a relationship with us so he created a unique way for allowing us to come before him. 1) God pours out his presence; 2) which produces a hunger for repentance (Repentance is turning and walking away from something that separates us from God’s presence); 3) that helps us to accept God’s leading in our lives.
When we experience the intimacy of God, we are changed forever. We no longer want our own desires to be fulfilled. We want what the Lord wants and we don’t care who gets the credit for it. Our focus changes from being on ourselves to being on Jesus. God’s presence causes a hunger so deep within us, that we want more and more. Entering God’s presence also creates a desire to get rid of any obstacle (sin) that can keep us from coming before him.
(Part Two Tomorrow).
Thursday, December 25, 2008
In Narnia it was said that the White Witch made it always winter and never Christmas.
For all who are in Christ it is always Christmas, no matter the season. May the spirit of the season stay with us all year.
Merry Christmas to all!
From the New Testament until the present, Christian theologians have rightly celebrated that Jesus is forever the God-man. He is glorious not merely in assuming our human nature but in remaining our brother and continuing as the visible “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Without his continuing humanity, there would be no humanity in the Godhead to which we may be joined for all eternity
From a post by David Mathis at Desiring God
Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts.
Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.
Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra, a port city that the apostle Paul had previously visited (Acts 27:5-6). Nicholas reportedly also traveled to the legendary Council of Nicea, where he helped defend the deity of Jesus Christ in AD 325.
Following his death on December 6, 343, he was canonized as a Saint. The anniversary of his death became the St. Nicholas holiday when gifts were given in his memory. He remained a very popular saint among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, with some 2,000 churches named after him. The holiday in his honor eventually merged with Christmas as they were celebrated within weeks of one another.
Another legend about Nicholas that I just love is that the good bishop got so angry at the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicea that he punched Arius in the nose. Good for Nicholas!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I was a space fanatic who wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. I knew all the astronauts by name. I cried in January 1967 when three men died in the Apollo 1 fire. I had models of the various spacecraft and wanted to explain to anyone who would listen what was happening out at the moon.
Therefore, I chose both. Sitting inches from our black and white TV, I manually switched channels back and forth to see both the Skelton show and the moon broadcast.
Thus I was able to hear these words: "And for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you. 'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..'"
The astronaut crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders then took turns reading Genesis 1 from the King James Version of the Bible. As they read the ancient words, the on board TV camera showed the lunar landscape passing underneath the small and lonely spacecraft. The memory of hearing and watching that broadcast, and experiencing it live, is still awe inspiring even after 40 years.
Commander Frank Borman closed the broadcast with "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, and a Merry Christmas to all of you, all of you on the good Earth."
Here's wishing a Merry Christmas this night, forty years later, to all of you on the good earth.
poised on the brink of two worlds:
One, land of eternal day,
the other, earth of mire and clay.
legions of heavenly host,
bright faces covered, praising,
all chanting, voices raising.
chaos yawning, swift and deep,
known, yet unknown. Fear unfurling,
death and darkness churning, swirling.
One last look at golden glory.
The Three part; He is now One.
The Father’s voice says, “Go well, my Son.”
into the abyss.
His next memory will be a Mother’s kiss.
~ Denise Day Spencer, January 1999
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Watch For The Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas:From: Take Your Vitamin Z
We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.
(HT: James Grant)
But in addition to being glorious, mysterious, and wonderful, the incarnation is a powerful indictment of every person who has ever lived. Jesus’ birth is a judgment that says we are all guilty before a holy, righteous, and just God, and that we can do nothing to save ourselves from his wrath. Without Jesus we are lost, utterly without hope, condemned. We are in desperate need of a savior. And the idea of a defenseless infant being our savior sprinkles our indictment with a bit of humiliation.
Quite frankly, that is pretty offensive. Being told your are wrong, lost, helpless, hopeless, and condemned doesn’t exactly make you want to celebrate by running out to buy presents for your friends and family and trimming up the tree. At a time when Christianity in America has been so focused on seeker-sensitive services and has gone to great lengths not to offend anyone, Christians have forgotten a very important truth: the Gospel is offensive.
In fact, if the offensiveness of the Gospel is removed then there is no Gospel left. Without an understanding of what we need to be saved from we would never recognize or even look for a savior. For Jesus to come into the world as a savior without offending anyone makes no sense. Jesus didn’t come into the world as a good example, he came to do what we could not do for ourselves. A drowning man must understand his circumstance accurately to recognize the hand that will pull him to safety and give him a reason to grab it. The offensiveness of the Gospel is what makes it Good News since it reveals what we are saved from and why we need a savior, as well as who that savior is.
This is what makes Christmas merry – it is the arrival of the way that God has provided for his righteous judgment to be satisfied. Everything that makes us lost, wrong, hopeless, helpless, and condemned is what Jesus came to take from us – our sin. The coming of the savior in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago is only worth celebrating if we understand what he came to save us from. And that is the offense of Christmas.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
“Christian faithfulness is possible only because Jesus Christ has us grasped firmly by the scruff of our spiritual necks and will not lose hold.” (Page 48)
“Our response of faith, repentance and obedience is the Spirit-led consequence of Christ having seized hold of us, not the condition for it.” (Page 77)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Praying for you, David.
From: Of First Importance
“And here is the source of true kindness. The salvation of Jesus humbles us profoundly – we are so lost that he had to die for us. But it exalts and assures us mightily — we are so valued that he was glad to die for us. Because we are sinners totally accepted by grace, we have both the humility and the boldness necessary to serve others for their sake, not ours.”
- Timothy Keller, “The Grace of Kindness”
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Remembering one of the great Christmas movies of all time!
I remember seeing this in a theater when I was a child. My kids got it on DVD for me last Christmas. It is so bad that it is a perverse pleasure to watch.
Jared Wilson had some wise words on the controversy at The Gospel-Driven Church
Here's the thing: Warren is not saying anything outrageous for a Christian minister. He is simply, as most evangelical Christians do, saying that babies should get to live and that homosexual behavior is sin. That he is getting branded a radical hatemonger for these things should tell us a lot about the culture we live in, which -- PAY ATTENTION HERE -- doesn't care if you're a cool, goatee-sporting, social justice loving, Obama voting Christian. If you simply follow the Bible's counsel about life and sin, you're Hitler.Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Seminary on why he would not have accepted the invitation to pray at the inauguration.
We will see more and more of this. And hear me on this also: this is not cause to rejoin the culture war and restock the Christian Coalition. It is certainly not cause to give up caring about social justice or whoever's being elected president. But it also not cause to give up living the rightside up culture of the kingdom of God, which turns all worldly niceties on their heads. And inspires people to hate us.
Don't be surprised. Don't rev up the marketing campaigns to renegotiate public approval.When they hate you, when they insult you, when they curse you, it's not because you fell out of God's favor. Being hated was promised by Jesus to those who follow him.Jesus doesn't need new PR. (He doesn't need anything, really.) He wants self-crucifying, dead-to-the-world, cross-taking lovers of Truth.
If the world doesn't think you're stupid, maybe you're doing something wrong?
Friday, December 19, 2008
But the Gospel, in the form of God’s promises and mercy, is alive in the midst of all this weeping, grieving and blame.
The Gospel is the invitation to stop grieving, to stop letting the past control the present. The Gospel is an invitation to holy joy. In fact, the Gospel is the command to stop weeping and to feast, to laugh, to share and have a party.
Surrounded by ruins. Deserted. Dominated. Full of suffering and questions. Convicted of their corporate complicity and continuing guilt in the failure to be the people of God. Failed witnesses. A failed mission to be a chosen, holy, priestly nation.
Plenty of reasons for tears, and not many reasons for feasting. But they are commanded to feast, not fast, and to have holy joy, not endless weeping.
Over and over, Jesus declares the days of mourning and grieving are over; that the joy of the Gospel of the Kingdom has come. The Pharisees react predictably: God wants guilty sinners making bigger promises for bigger obedience. The parties and banquets that Jesus’ inaugurates are too much and too soon.
The Pharisees want the weeping and the grieving. The Gospel of God wants us at the banqueting table, laughing, sharing, celebrating.
Slingin' Sammy Baugh, 94, a record-setting passer, punter and defensive back who led the Washington Redskins to two NFL championships in 16 seasons with the team and whose wide-open style of play helped usher professional football into the modern era, died yesterday at Fisher County Memorial Hospital in Rotan, Tex...
The article goes on the describe the famous freezing cold game against the Chicago Bears on December 12, 1937.
The Redskins, on the other hand, had a secret weapon, although the exploits of rookie quarterback Sammy Baugh -- "Slingin' Sammy Baugh," from his baseball exploits -- had made him less of a secret as the season unfolded. On that championship Sunday, those hardy fans shivering in the stands at Wrigley Field witnessed a legend in the making, a star who, like Ruth or Jordan, transformed the way the game is played.
The first time the Redskins got possession of the ball, the Bears had them backed up near the goal line on an out-of-bounds kick to the 5-yard line. Baugh, who had never played in such treacherous weather, ambled onto the field, stood in his end zone and calmly assessed the Chicago defense. His breath misting, he watched the Bears, then walked over to the Redskins huddle.
"Punt formation," the 23-year-old quarterback told his teammates, "but we're gonna pass." Ten surprised teammates stared back at him.
"On two," he barked.
The Redskins broke the huddle, and Baugh dropped back to punt, a common strategy in those days before slimmer, easier-to-grip footballs and split-T offenses opened up the game. On the snap, the Bears' formidable front line scratched, clawed and burrowed ahead on the icy surface, intent on blocking the kick.
The 6-foot-2 Baugh, with his offense lined up in what was essentially today's double-slot spread, straightened and whipped a forward pass from the end zone, possibly the first such throw from that precarious field position (and certainly the first such throw on ice, with players in sneakers). Running back Cliff Battles gathered in the ball and rambled 42 yards before being pulled down. A few plays later, Battles scored on a reverse, and the Bears realized that with Baugh on the field -- he played both offense and defense -- they were in for a game.
Rest in Peace, Slingin' Sammy Baugh.
Hat Tip: The Corner
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Each of these "Survival Bracelets" has 15 to 20 feet of 550-pound test paracord inside. If you ever need to use the cord for something, just unravel the binding. When you're done, you can send it back to manufacturer Survival Straps and they'll rewind it for you free of charge.
Hat Tip: Joe Carter
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network, in conjunction with Dr. Gerry Breshears of Western Seminary, has written a book I think should be considered a modern day classic on the doctrine of the atonement and the cross.
The book is structured as a series of letter to individuals in his church, with names usually changed to protect the guilty. Each person's problem or life situation is briefly described, and then Pastor Mark writes them a personal letter applying one aspect of the work of Christ on the cross to their situation. For example, to a young woman who was sexually abused Jesus is described as Christus Victor. To a man betrayed by his wife, Jesus is his New Covenant Sacrifice. To a proud and self-righteous church member, Jesus is his Gift Righteousness. For a man captured by lust, Jesus is his Redemption.
The book is generally well-written. I found almost every page to be dripping in both compassion and truth held in a proper tension.
I found the weakest chapter to be the one where he expounds his understanding of what he calls "Unlimited Limited Atonement" for his young son Gideon. I have heard a sermon by Driscoll on this very topic in which I thought he did a better job explaining what he means by that term than he does in this book.
Unlike in his other books, in this work Mark Driscoll has restrained his characteristic blunt sense of humor and his often expressed street level communication style. I am not sure if he did that on purpose due to the seriousness of his topic, or maybe has just matured as he gets older. His style has never bothered me, because I can see the fruit that his ministry has produced and understand the environment in which he usually ministers . However, it has offended some readers. If you are one of those who have not liked his earlier writing style, you should know that this book is different in tone.
Who would benefit most from reading this book? I recommend it for two target audiences. First, this is a must have for the library of anyone doing pastoral counselling. Second, the book will be helpful to either new believers or to anyone lacking formal theological training who wants to better understand the Biblical doctrine on the atonement. This book is one that will be a valuable part of my library, and I consider it well worth the investment.
Incidentally, my copy of the book had a printing and binding mistake. Pages 209 through 240 were bound upside down and in reverse order. I do not know if this problem occurs in an entire print run, or I just got a bad copy. When you buy the book I recommend that you check your copy for this error before you take it home.
(My book review policy is here)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
...I believe this truth is one that is hard for many men to receive. I'm talking about Christians here, who are supposed to get it. I've seen this in my own experience time and time again. We continue applying the merit template: I'm good, and so God loves me (or, similarly, I'm a Christian, and so God loves me); I'm bad (or, I have weak faith), and so God is miffed, disappointed, maybe even angry. I have seen Christian men cling persistently to this template like drowning men to a water-saturated log. They say they believe in the grace of God, but they live like they don't. Maybe that's because to let go of the log would mean admitting they'd been wrong all these years. Men don't like to do that.
The grace of God is powerful, but there is something in us, in our flesh, that resists it. We need to be realistic about ourselves in this. The gospel remains "hard to believe." That is, hard to accept, to walk in. To trust. The merit-template feels much more natural and intuitive. That's where we're at home. It's what we understand. Rewards for the good, punishment for the bad. But God is asking us to believe him when he says, "I love you now and forever, I have forgiven your sins, and my plan is to walk with you in a garden as I once did with Adam. After the cross, there is no longer any room for shame and hiding."
I have to constantly remind myself that my moment to moment fellowship with God is just as much dependent on the grace of God as is ultimate eternal destiny.
How about you?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
For the next ten days (Dec. 15-25), you have the opportunity to register to win all ten of my favorite books this year. Plus, an ESV Study Bible. That’s $260 worth of books!
#1. THE REASON FOR GOD - Tim Keller
#2. CULTURE MAKING - Andy Crouch
#3. SURPRISED BY HOPE - N.T. Wright
#4. WHY WE’RE NOT EMERGENT - Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck
#5. HOW PEOPLE CHANGE - Timothy Lane & Paul David Tripp
#6. THE BIG PICTURE STORY BIBLE -David Helm & Gail Schoonmaker
#7. JESUS MADE IN AMERICA - Stephen Nichols
#8. RESIDENT ALIENS - Stanley Hauerwas & Will Willimon
#9. WORSHIP MATTERS - Bob Kauflin
#10. The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries - Jeffrey Greenman, Timothy Larsen, and Stephen Spencer
Click the link above for details on how to register.
Do you think Christologically about the the Holy Spirit? Suppose we’re talking about our New Testament freedom, in the Spirit, to learn to live as God intends. What difference does Jesus make to that freedom (over and above the difference made by, e.g. Moses or Isaiah)? Is it just that Jesus made Pentecost possible - and so the Holy Spirit was given after him - and the Spirit makes obedience possible?
If so, your understanding of the Spirit isn’t Christological.
Revival movements - even ones which start well - need to beware of this danger: rightly speaking of the inward moral power of the Holy Spirit, but doing so unchristologically. That way lies the worst sort of legalism. (The Montanists1 were an early example.)
The antidote? Reflecting more deeply on what it means for us to be in Christ. Through his Spirit, we enter into Christ’s freedom. We participate in Christ’s authority within the created order.
Or, to put it in Paul’s words, we are no longer slaves, but sons.
Monday, December 15, 2008
What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city?
Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio.
Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached.
- Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church
HT - Tullian
From: Kingdom People
Sunday, December 14, 2008
“Come for repentance, if you cannot come repenting. Come for a broken heart, if you cannot come with a broken heart. Come to be melted, if you are not melted. Come to be wounded, if you are not wounded.”
From: Of First Importance
(BTW, If you are not reading Of First Importance every day, you are missing out on a blessing.)
On the afternoon of October 28 I suddenly began to feel really disoriented and very sick. Shortly after arriving home I began passing a lot of blood. I mean A LOT OF BLOOD!! We called the paramedics who rushed me to the hospital, amazed I was still conscious because of the amount of blood I lost.
A colonoscopy revealed that I had an enlarged prostate on my left side. We were told that it wasn't common to have just one side enlarged and that "when that happens - the chances are better than 90% that the patient is dealing with a cancerous condition". Needless to say, that really frightened us. Someone had tossed the "C" word at us.Cool perspective huh?
On top of that, it wasn't the cause of the bleeding...we still didn't know why I bled so much. I passed blood more than 30 times over the next two days. One of my nurses even said "you shouldn't have lived through that much blood loss".
Well, we got a diagnosis of Diverticulitis for the bleeding issue. Diverticulitis is fairly common and treatable with a change in eating habits and exercise routine.
But we had some time to wait for the results of my PSA test to come back and confirm the cancer. Well during that few weeks, we did what we always do---begged for prayer from you guys.
We got the results back last Thursday and I'll end this by saying that God doesn't place as much value on percentages as we do!!! The doctor said that not only did my test fall well withing "normal" range - he couldn't even find any swelling in my prostate at all!! I asked him what the chances of that were. He said a prostate just doesn't decide to swell up and then swell back down again without some medication at least. Then he asked me if I was a praying man. Of course, I told him I absolutely was.
Interestingly enough, if I had not bled the way I did - I would have never stumbled on to this issue with my prostate. The doctor's conclusion about the bleeding was "maybe that was God getting you to me so he could heal your prostate".
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Does the fact that we can no longer see the stars have anything to do with our loss of wonder?…It seems like when we were more aware of milky ways and horizons, it was easier to believe. Could Joan of Arc have led her army, could she even have thought to, could she have trusted enough, without having a sense of something greater, bigger than herself?
We have obliterated the stars with our artificial light – but perhaps we’ve blinded ourselves, too. Without the wonder, the greatness of the galaxies in our sight, we’ve lost the ability to believe in, or expect, miracles. When you cannot see the glory of God’s creation, how can you wish to glorify the Lord? No longer seeing anything greater than ourselves, we turn inward, we worship our own thoughts, our invention, our desire.
She's right. It is good to see and consider the stars in the heavens.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him,and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)
Friday, December 12, 2008
"The new “3-D Worship Experience" at Faitpoint Church was a great success until Pastor Jin Crabtree accidentally inflicted widespread retinal damage with his Hawaiian shirt."
Thanks to The Sacred Sandwich for the picture and quote, and the laugh.
One day a man fell into a pit. He was unable to get out of it as hard as he tried. Finally someone came along. It was Confucius. He observed the situation and said, “Poor fellow, if only he’d listened to me he never would have fallen in there.” Later Buddha walked by. He saw the man in the pit and said, “Poor fellow, if he’ll come up here, I’ll help him.” Then finally Jesus Christ came along. He said, “Poor fellow!” and jumped in the pit and lifted him out. (From A Foreign Devil in China by John Pollock, p. 54). That story illustrates the meaning of Christmas. The story of Christmas is the story of the incarnation.From Phillip at The Thinklings
He writes about the tension between passion and balance, between fervor and temperance.
How, then, do we sort out the voices in our head that call for balance? I think we need to think clearly. Some of these voices we need to hear, and others we must reject. There is a place for balance—not in our character, but in our actions that spring from that character.
Here's how I think it works:
- In our character (being), we should seek virtues, not balance.
- In our actions (doing), our character may demand that we act in a balanced way.
We should be holy, loving, wise, compassionate people. But being those sorts of people may demand a balance in the way we live and act in different ways at different times. This, however, must not be used as a cop-out for unvirtuous character.
Thsi is just an excerpt. The rest of the article is also well worth reading,
Thursday, December 11, 2008
But inside it's so delightful
As long as there's no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow let it snow!
You got to let us southerners act a little silly when it snows (as it is doing as I post this). It happens so rarely here.
"“Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom—but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed—but surely.
Many suns, showers, and frosts, pass upon it before it comes to perfection. And in winter, when it seems to be dead—it is gathering strength at the root.
Be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means, and endeavor to look through all, and fix your eye upon Jesus—and all shall be well. “
—John Newton, Letters of John Newton
(Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth: 2007)
(HT: Grace Gems)"
From: Of First Importance:
A friend once told me: "If God wants to make an oak tree He takes 100 years. If He wants to make a squash He takes six months. Would you rather be an oak tree Christan or a squash Believer?"
“Viewed as a whole . . . the Christian account of history is eschatological not only in the sense that it comes to a definitive and everlasting end, but in the sense that the end is a glorified beginning, not merely a return to origins. The Christian Bible moves not from garden lost to garden restored, but from garden to garden-city. God gives with interest.”
- Peter J. Leithart, Deep Comedy (Moscow, Id.: Canon Press, 2006), xi.
Hat Tip: Of First Importance
His six points are:
1. Accountability, accountability, accountability.
2. The one man show is over.
3. Chill out.
4. Character is more important than anointing
5. Lay hands on no man quickly.
6. You can't have revival without repentance.
Read the whole thing for his explanation of each point.
You know, every one of these lessons should have been learned from the televangelist scandals in the late 80's. I hope we finally learn them this time.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Reading can be spiritually liberating. God has given us books are a means of grace to expose our souls to what is hidden behind the black veil of personal ignorance. Like faithful friends and good churches, reading good books will help protect us from self-deception. The late Oscar Levant said he stopped reading because, he chided, “I find it takes my mind off myself.” I’m thinking in a different direction. Books save us from ourselves.I always knew there was a good reason why I love to read so much. I just couldn't say it so well as Tony has. Thanks, brother!
And books inform us of truth. Obviously not all books enlighten, but many books do. Through disciplined reading we discover the reality of our condition. Through reading, we can see the depth to which our sin is rooted in our hearts and reflected in our attitudes and activities. It’s through reading that we come to appreciate the deep glories of Calvary.
And reading is deeply enjoyable. The pleasure of literature—those existential moments when the reader falls into the page and becomes oblivious of this world—is one of the great blessings we can never take for granted. This imaginative quality is possible only because we have been made in the image of God.
I would call myself a postmodern conservative. I am postmodern in that I believe that every worldview begins with specific presuppositions (Cornelius Van Til) or basic beliefs (Alvin Plantinga), is best understood as a distinct narrative (e.g., the biblical worldview is creation, fall, and redemption), and is unable to objectively prove itself to someone who refuses to be convinced. I am postmodern because I concede that everything we know is filtered through our unique perspective. And yet I am conservative because I believe that our finite and often flawed thinking is able to know the truth about God, ourselves, and the world.I've never heard it put that way before. nor have I heard those two outlooks pulled together into one person's world view. Sounds like a concept worth some thought. I probably need to read his book also.
I am also conservative because I believe that right doctrine matters as much as good behavior, and in fact the latter only truly proceeds from the former. I also believe that this right doctrine is the historic beliefs of the church found in Scripture, the Apostles and Nicene Creed, and most faithfully expounded in the Reformed branch of Protestant Christianity.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
My dad, in his mid 70’s, after years of fearing God, praying to God and hoping that God would take him to heaven, finally learned about the cross and all that it means to the very heart of our faith.
How does that happen? Dad wasn’t in church much, so it’s no surprise, but that still doesn’t soften the blow. Dad didn’t know what I knew as a 16 year old boy. He didn’t know about the cross until Charles Stanley told him. When he did, it was good news. Good news for a man with many sins, many failures and many, many fears. Now he knew that the cross wasn’t just a bad event done to a good man. Now he knew the cross was for him.
This is why I tell my preachers that I want them to preach the Gospel. I don’t want their stories and anecdotes if they aren’t leading us to the cross. I don’t want to hear lessons from the Bible to help my students be better people. I want them to hear about, be moved by, be compelled to consider the God who was crucified for them.
Billy was written as an accompanying volume to the recent theatrical film release by the same name. Both the movie and the book tell the story of a young Billy Graham in his formative years as a preacher and evangelist. Both frame that story with the deathbed remembrances in 2001 of Charles Templeton, a friend of Graham’s during those formative years and, at that time, an even more famous evangelist than the future world figure. Templeton, in both the book and real life, began to doubt the truth of the Bible and turned away from Christianity, abandoning his ministry. He later became well known as a famous sceptic.
Although Templeton is an actual historic figure, the framing scenes in the book involving a television producer attempting to obtain some form of dirt or scandal on Dr. Graham from his dying, pathetic old friend are surely contrived. I should say that they are contrived, yet effective for dramatic purposes.
The pivotal scene in the book is a night in California in 1949, just prior to Graham’s Los Angeles Crusade which catapulted him to international fame. Templeton has mocked Billy for his continuing belief in the Bible as a trustworthy source of truth, telling him that it would be intellectual suicide to continue to believe and preach the Bible as true. With his life-long characteristic modesty and integrity, the young evangelist began to question his faith himself. While wandering down a forest trail he finds a stump that serves as an altar of prayer. Billy Graham knelt at that stump and wrestled that night with his doubts. In retrospect, the significance of that night for his future career cannot be overstated. He ultimately decided in that forest clearing that he believed the Bible to be the Word of God, and that even if he could not explain away all the questions, he would take the Word by faith and stand on the Bible as his solid foundation. He recommitted his life to the Christ revealed in the Scriptures. For the rest of his life Dr. Graham confidently pronounced his characteristic phrase “the Bible says” with full conviction and unerring faith. From what I have read in other biographies of Dr. Graham, this story is basically accurate.
Is this a great book? No. Is this the best work written on Dr. Graham’s life? Of course not. But is Billy a good book? Yes it is. It would be very hard to write a bad book about such a good man. Greatness is its own literary inspiration.
I had wanted to see the movie when it appeared in theaters earlier this year. Unfortunately for me, ratings and profits were apparently so poor that it disappeared form our local theater before I could see it. I must say that the book Billy has accomplished one thing for me that should be the goal of any movie tie-in book: It increased my desire to see the movie. I fully intend to obtain a copy once the film is available for purchase on DVD.
There's a half million dollars sitting on the corner of Mississippi and President streets [in Jackson, MS], but no one could possibly steal it.
That's because the cash is in the form of pennies - 50 million of them - that collectively weigh 156 tons.
The coins, which fill a glass house on the grounds of the Mississippi Baptist Convention building, provide a visual reminder of the number of abortions performed in the United States since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. [Photo above shows memorial with only 26 million pennies in 2007.]...
"We just needed something to memorialize and help people see the magnitude of abortion over the last several decades," said the Rev. Jimmy Porter, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention's Christian Action Commission.
Called the "Memorial to the Missing," the penny-filled structure is a project of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, which set out more than two years ago to collect one penny for each child who would have been born were it not for legalized abortion.
Now that the convention reached its goal of collecting 50 million pennies, it plans to invest the money in a fund dedicated to anti-abortion causes.
Monday, December 8, 2008
He was not conceived in the womb of Mary for those who had done their best, but for those who know that their best is “like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)–far from good enough–and that in their flesh dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). He was not sent to be the source of our good expereinces, but to suffer the pangs of hell in order to be our Saviour.
Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, p. 17
(HT: Martin Downes)Hat Tip: Aready Not Yet
Of course, a bibliophile like me could not pass up any offer with the words “free books” in it. I signed up, and will soon be posting my first book review as part of this program.
This provides a good opportunity to post a policy on book reviews for this blog.
1, If I review a book under the Thomas Nelson review program I will explicitly say so.
2. If a review does not state that I received the book from the Thomas Nelson program, then you can assume I’m just talking about it because I especially liked, benefited from and agreed or disagreed with the book.
3. I will give my honest opinion of any book reviewed, positive or negative, whether it was received from Thomas Nelson or not.
4. I will be glad to interact with readers in the comments section of the blog on any book I review.
First, let me say that I think there is good in The Shack. It has helped many people see the warmth within the triune God, and God’s warmth toward them as well. For that I am grateful.
The Shack raises the problem of evil and offers hope to those who have been overwhelmed by tragedies they can’t reconcile with God’s sovereignty and goodness. I appreciate the fact that Paul Young doesn’t resort to openness theology, to arguing that God doesn’t know about the evils that are going to happen and therefore can’t prevent them. He sees God as all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good. And he certainly gets in touch with human need, weakness, and grief. One of the most memorable phrases from the book is “The Great Sadness,” an expression that connects to many people’s deepest hurts, regrets, and longings.
I believe that those who are well-grounded in the Word won’t be harmed by the weaknesses and deficiencies of the book. Unfortunately, few people these days are well-grounded in the Word.I think this book would have better served the church thirty years ago, when there was so much more legalism and too little talk of God’s grace and forgiveness. Ironically, though there is still some legalism, there is also significantly less knowledge of Scripture and spiritual discernment and concern for orthodoxy. Which means that some people, perhaps many, will fail to recognize and filter out the book’s theological errors, and therefore be vulnerable to embracing them, even if unconsciously.
I truly rejoice for the many people who feel a greater closeness to God from reading The Shack. In that sense, I think God’s hand is on the book. I only wish His holiness and our need to come to him in awe, and a high regard for the local community of believers were as apparent in the book as God’s grace and love and warmth. However, for those who need to sense more of the latter, and who can blow away the chaff and stick with the grain, I pray God will use the book to help them.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I've been to Pearl Harbor and seen the Arizona Memorial. I've seen the oil drops still rising up from the battleship's sunken hulk. I've seen the bullet holes that still exist in buildings on Hickam Air Force Base. It wasn't that long ago.
This is also a good day to pray for the men and women in uniform who are in harms way today on our behalf. God bless them and their families.
"Ministers can't forgive sinners, raise the dead or bring in the kingdom of God. Neither can we grow congregations, convert sinners or heal the dying...Jesus has to show up and do what he has promised to do." (pages 9-10)
"Ministry should be understood as a sharing in the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ, for wherever Christ is, there is the church and her ministry." (page 11)
"...Jesus is God active in the life of the world, in our personal lives and in ministry at every turn. The issue is not How does Jesus get in on our ministries? Instead, because he is the living and reigning Lord, the issue is now What is he up to, and how do I hitch a ride on whatever he is up to? (page 12)
"Displacement literally means the death of our ministries. All that we think we should do and can do and are doing in ministry must be put to death. Why? Because too often our ministries are in the way. Even when we conduct them from the best spiritual, therapeutic and moral motives, they are not redemptive. Only the ministry of Jesus is redemptive." (page 13)
I think I'm going to really like this book!
- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 75.
Hat Tip: Of First Importance
The answers are well worth reading.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
You read that right. A New York Post blurb about the singer/actress (whose father is a Baptist minister) reads, in part:
“JESSICA Simpson wants to head off to college to study theology - and watching TV was her inspiration. ‘I've been contemplating taking a college course in religion,’ the bubblehead told Marie Claire.”
Fox News has more revealing comments as to why the starlet wants to study religion: "I love religion. I remember whenever the book 'The Da Vinci Code' came out, the Discovery Channel did this three-night piece on it that I TiVoed and then watched eight times."
God save us from such deep theological thinking and insight.
Apologies to all the smart blonds I know.