Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paris Hilton Proves Wisdom of Socrates

Or , as Abraham Piper said, I’m somewhere between Paris Hilton and Socrates

Clothing the Gospel

"The Gospel is to be adorned by both sound doctrine and godly living.  To set the Gospel before parishioners and public without these is to preach an unclothed Gospel."

Grounded in the Gospel, J.I. Packer & Gary Parrett, page 100

(I am really enjoying this book)

A Commitment to Gospel-Centrality

Interesting quote below from a resolution passed at this months meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on the need for churches to be centered in the Gospel (as quoted at Kingdom People)
May we reaffirm our commitment to the supremacy and centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our churches.

May our pastors keep the gospel foremost in every sermon they preach, so that the whole of Scripture and every aspect of life can be seen in the context of how every promise of God finds its “Yes” in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May our churches in preaching, teaching, and discipleship proclaim the gospel to unbelievers, showing them how to find peace with God, and to proclaim the gospel to believers, that through the renewing of our minds we might continually be transformed by the gospel.

May our churches display the gospel by transcending ethnic, racial, economic, and social barriers due to our unity in Christ.

May our churches celebrate the gospel through the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, teaching our congregations the joy of the gospel therein.

May we recommit ourselves to the glory of the gospel by greater faithfulness to the Great Commission both in personal witness and in sending more gospel workers to the unreached peoples of the world.

May our churches and individual believers study, identify, and act upon the lostness of their communities, the nation, and the world.

May each church support its pastor as he leads personally in ongoing Great Commission involvement, both locally and globally.

May we commit to speak to the outside world as those who are forgiven sinners, who have received mercy as a free gift, and not as those who are morally or ethically superior to anyone.

May we seek to live as those who have been rescued by the gospel, evidenced by forgiving our enemies, setting aside personal offenses, crucifying selfish pride, breaking down carnal divisions, and loving one another joyously, counting others as more important than ourselves.

May God pour out His Spirit to make us truly gospel-centered, gospel-saturated people whose lives and words point the world to our Lord Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Never Move On - Move In

"Evangelicals have long acted as though the Gospel was the right 'medicine' for unbelievers, but that believers need to move beyond the Gospel and go one to other things, a movement from the 'milk' to the 'meat.'  But this seems untrue - thoroughly out of step with the biblical witness.  We believe, rather, that is is imperative to think of moving from the 'milk' of the Gospel to the 'meat' of the Gospel.  For in fact the Gospel is more profound and multifaceted than our finite minds can ever grasp.  We never move on from the Gospel; we move on in the Gospel."

-  J.I Packer and Gary Parrett, Ground in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way, page 96

The Relevance of the Timeless Truths

"To be truly relevant, you have to say things that are unfashionably eternal, not trendy.  It's the 'timeless' things that are most relevant to most people and we dare not forget this fact in our pursuit of relevance,"

    -  Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable, page 17

Monday, June 28, 2010

All We Have, All We Need

“You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
- Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Dutton, 2009),

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Social Media: Blessing or Curse?

Are social media websites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) aides to true community living, or distracting hindrances?  Is it okay to connect to others through technology but to not meet person to person with other believers?

From Ed Stetzer at Ligonier's blog comes this opinion:
Those who attempt to find community exclusively online will miss out on the fullness and authenticity of relationships God intends for us to have face to face. Gathering together (Heb. 10:25) requires feet and faces, not just electrons and avatars. Therefore, when a Christian seeks to be a part of a local church only by live streaming the worship service and conversing on message boards, he is short-circuiting the fellowship of the saints and his own spiritual growth. Yet, I do not believe that virtual community and real community are enemies. I see them more as friends, the former as a help to the latter. Unfortunately, for too many theologically-minded pastors, their aversion to the abuses of social media has distracted them from the opportunity they provide.

While social media cannot replace real-life interpersonal relationships, they can assist in building real community by connecting people in ways that allow them to share both the big and small things of life. Web services such as Facebook allow people who might see one another only during church on Sunday, or midweek in smaller community groups, to continue to share aspects of life they would not otherwise. This allows friends to look into the parts of life we share and respond with encouragement or exhortation.
Jeff Lacine at Desiring God made the following comments on the post quoted above.
This is true. Social media can give us more points of contact with one another, whether through pictures, profiles, announcements, etc. However, we need to keep in mind that gathering with other Christians only one day a week for 1.5 hours, and the rest of the week restricting our correspondence to Twitter and Facebook, is not living out the New Testament vision. Even if we gather for worship twice a week, but do not minister to and enjoy one another more informally over meals, in times of crisis, and as friends, we are not living in the fullness of the gospel community God desires for us.
I have a lot of "friends" on Facebook, but have been suffering lately from a lack of true "face to face" community and friendship.  My wife and I are embarking on a search for such a lifestyle and support network. I do think there is a place for social network technology as a support to community, particularly as an aid to contact with friends who are physically distant.  But it does not, and cannot, replace or substitute for having someone siting in the room with you sharing concerns and needs and seeking the face of God together.  Facebook does not come over with a hot meal when you are sick, and Twitter does not sit with you to mourn when you are hurting.

We need real community, no matter how strong we are.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction

This is a good reminder of the difference between condemnation  (bad) and conviction (good):
Condemnation is either from Satan or our sinful hearts. Conviction is a gift from the Holy Spirit.

Condemnation causes us to turn away from God in fear, dread, and shame. Conviction causes us to come to God and freshly place our faith in the perfect life and death of Christ.

Condemnation causes us to wallow in despair and self-pity. Conviction leads to God-centered hope.

Condemnation leads us to believe that we’ll never change. Conviction gives us hope that, even though we sinned, God is still at work in us.

Condemnation is inward, self-focused, and always dwelling on the fact that I have sinned. Conviction is outward, God-focused, and always dwelling on the fact that I have sinned against God.

Condemnation sees God as an angry judge who could strike at any moment. Conviction sees God as a loving Father who disciplines his children.

Condemnation can actually cause us to forget repentance because we are so inwardly focused. Conviction leads to quick (but not hasty) repentance.

Condemnation feels like a black, oppressive cloud. Conviction feels like a sweet, though often very painful, interaction with the Lord.

Condemnation is useless and sinful. Conviction is fruitful and pleasing to the Lord.

I could not have said it better myself  (and always need to be reminded of these truths)

From: Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Center » The Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction

The Gospel in Four Words

“‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’ You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’ He does not want anything. Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’ Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation. ‘I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words. Will you come and have it? It lies open before you.”

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:175.

Hat Tip:  Of First Importance

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Six Things You Never Want to Hear Your Pastor Say...

Here's six things you never want to hear your pastor say (From Bob Hyatt at the Bob blog):
6. "And because it illustrates my point so well, just one more story about my kids..."

5. "For the last time, the money was just *resting* in my account!"

4. "If you'll open your Bibles to the book of Lamentations..."

3. "I saw the most amazing thing at this conference last month and I've been thinking..."

2. "Now, point 18, and don't worry- I only have a few more..."

1. "Hi... it's Pastor. I know it's late, but... I need someone to come bail me out."
From: 6 things you never want to hear your pastor say...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Black Belt

If someone truly had a black belt in humility, wouldn't they lose it if they wore it?  I'm just asking!

Hat Tip: Ever Met This Guy? – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

Another Movie From a C.S. Lewis Novel - "The Great Divorce"

This should be good! I finally got around to reading this book just two months ago. It was a short read, but I could not put it down.
"Veteran producer and Mpower CEO Steve McEveety will lead the production team. Childrens' book author N.D. Wilson ("Leepike Ridge," "100 Cupboards") is attached to write.

Lewis, who wrote the "Chronicles of Narnia" books and often wove Christian themes into his works, published "The Great Divorce" in 1945. Story centers on a man who learns that the sprawling, dim metropolis where he's been living is actually Hell; he hops on a bus headed for the outskirts of Elsewhere, only to discover that the one place worse than Hell, for a self-absorbed ad executive, just might be Heaven.

Mpower was created by McEveety in 2007 after he'd been a longtime exec at Mel Gibson's Icon Prods. He produced "The Passion of the Christ" and "We Were Soldiers" and exec produced "Braveheart" and "What Women Want.""

Hat Tip: The Thinklings,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nothing Much to Say At the Moment

Regarding that last post, I guess it also goes without saying that when you are "living Job," you tend not to blog as much.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Reading and Living Job

I've been reading Job.

Without going into any details, the past year has been very hard on my wife and I, and we are both a a very down place. It just so happened that my Bible reading plan recently put me in the Book of Job - and oh did it seem relevant!

A lot of us in the blog-o-sphere* are still mourning the loss of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, to cancer back in April. Recently his widow, Denise Spencer, posted a heart-breakingly honest article called Sometimes It's Just Plain Hard about the ugliness of death, even for Christians. After reading that, I saw this piece by David Wayne, aka "The Jolly Blogger" -The Truth is Uglier Than We Think, God is More Beautiful Than we Realize. David is fighting his own battle with cancer. David said this regarding Denise Spencer's piece.
She didn't put it this way, but Christians know the glory story but they don't know the cross story. The glory story is that the Christian path is one of glory, observable, overcoming, obviously seen glories as the Christian triumphs over all his enemies. Thus, the Christian has ears to hear the stories of miraculous healings and beatific deaths because those are glory stories. These people live in a world where we can practice a mechanistic kind of magic with God.,,,,

...The cross story says that suffering is the path of the Christian. If you are a Christian, more than likely you will not go gently into that good night...The ugly truth is that the fall still applies and the fall means that the Christian path is a cross bearing path - if you are a Christian expect that life will be harder than you initially imagined it would
There are aspects of the knowledge of God that only come during the down times, the suffering times, the hurting and lonely times. We are in that now. Ours is not to the level of death, but it sometimes feels close to that level of pain. I can only pray that we will come out of it knowing him in a deeper way, and knowing that he is more beautiful then we realize.

* Yes, I know it sounds pretentious to place myself in the "blog-o-sphere", as if I belonged in the same league with Michael Spencer and David Wayne. I am conscious of my own limitations.

Presenting the Five Solas

Is Theology important?

Okay, I admit that I am a theology nut, and a book nut (and some say just a plain nut). But there is a good reason why I emphasize good theology: I believe that right thinking undergirds right living. A major source of so many problems in churches today is that people do not know what they believe and why they believe it. And therefore, we fall sway to the strong influences of a dominating culture of filth and falsehood.

In that mode - Here's a good concise presentation written by Randy Alcorn on Five Central Teachings of the Protestant Reformation, aka "the Five Solas."
What does it mean to be a Protestant? These are five of the major teachings of the reformers by which they distinguished their beliefs from those of the Roman Catholic church of their day. I affirm all five of these beliefs because I think they reflect the Bible’s teaching:
1. Sola Scriptura – “The Bible alone.” Scripture alone speaks authoritatively, and it speaks to all believers, independently of church leaders and councils, human interpreters and so-called spokesmen for God.

2. Sola Gratia
– “Grace alone.” It is only by the unmerited favor of God that Christ went to the cross and paid the price for man’s salvation. Man is by nature depraved—he has no virtue that commends him to God. Therefore God’s grace to him is truly undeserved and amazing, and God’s grace alone has the power to draw people to himself.

3. Sola Fide
– “Faith alone.” Only total righteousness is acceptable to God, and that is found in Christ, not us. Man can only accept Christ’s work by placing his trust in him. Man is justified by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, not by any works of his own.

4. Sola Christus
– “Christ alone.” Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone, and mediated by Christ alone—not by angels, saints, relics, sacraments, priests, teachers, churches, or anyone or anything else. Christ alone was the perfect Savior, and he alone is the perfect prophet, priest and king.

5. Soli Deo Gloria
– “To God alone be glory.” God should be thanked, praised and given full credit for his sovereign grace and spiritual and physical provision. Theology should be God-centered, not man-centered. God should be put in his place and humans in theirs. Our efforts should not elevate and celebrate men but God. We should bring him glory in our work, in our homes and at play. He, not we, should be the center of all things.
Good stuff to know.

Hat Tip: Peter Cockrell and Rick Ianiello

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Defining Self-Righteousness

"Self-righteousness is being more aware of and irritated by the sins of others than you are conscious of and grieved by your own." - @PaulTripp

Hat Tip:  Self-Righteousness Defined - Joshua Harris

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Don't Take Your Unbelief Too Seriously

"Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that he ought not to take his own unbelief too seriously. Only faith is to be taken seriously; and if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, that suffices, for the devil has lost his game."
- Karl Barth, quoted in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton

Hat Tip: The Children Shall Enter - Mike Potemra - The Corner on National Review Online

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Love and Fear

The following paragraphs by David Paul Dorr are so good that I have to quote them in full.
The only way we can get rid of fear is to love. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.”

And fear, in and of itself, is a good thing. At best, fear alerts us to danger so we can avoid harm. But that is not how most of us experience fear.

For most of us it is the low-grade anxiety that what we have will be taken away, or what we want will never come to fruition. Do you see how this is the opposite of love? Fear flows from our concentration on the things we think are best for us, but love flows from our concentration on the things that are best for other people.

This is why military personnel can achieve such feats of bravery. When their comrade gets wounded in battle, the military men and women risk life and limb in order to rescue them. They instinctively know that their fellow soldier’s need is more important than their life. Love has driven out fear.

And really we can see all sin as a failure to love. To steal, which brings on fear of punishment, is to take for ourselves what is rightfully another’s (This is particularly true of illegally downloading music. We fail to desire what is best for the companies that distribute music). To lust is to make another person an object of our desire instead of a person made in the image of God that deserves respect.

So to break the power of fear and sin in our lives, the only antidote is love. But as John points out, we can only love completely when we know that Jesus Christ, because He first loved us, experienced the ultimate terror, the wrath of God, so that we can be free from our fearful self-concern.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What Exactly Is The “Good”?

On of the most popular Bible promises is found in Romans 8:28 - "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  Most Christians love to quote this verse, especially when things are going bad for ourselves or for our friends.  We cling to the idea that if we just hold on through our current problem, God has promised to make it good.

The question comes up, however, as to what exactly the word "good" means in this context.  I like (and agree with) what Mark Altrogge recently said at The Blazing Center:
"So what is the “good” that God is working in us? Ultimately, God causes all things to work together to:
  • Conform us to the image of Christ
  • Bring us into closer fellowship with himself
  • Sanctify us
  • Make us patient
  • Make us compassionate toward others
  • Teach us to trust him
  • Prove and purify our faith
  • Deliver us from temptation and sin
  • Wean us from the world
  • Make us long for heaven
  • Produce endurance in us
  • Drive us to the Word and prayer
  • Humble us
  • Teach us contentment in Christ
  • And ultimately to glorify us"
Notice that the "good" does not necessarily include our personal comfort, security or pleasure. Nor does it often include His bringing our personal situations back to the ways we want them to be. After all, the promise is grounded in His purposes, not ours.

Guess what - Christian spirituality is not easy, is not going to become easy, and shouldn't be portrayed as easy.  Holiness is hard!

But Jesus is worth it.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    More on Brokenness

    Continuing the thought from the earlier post about brokeness, I also like these words from David Paul Dorr
    "I have always thought of brokenness with a good amount of dread.

    My assumption is that I work, but God has to break me in order for me to really be the person that He wants me to be. Can you spot the false assumption? I think I work.

    When something is broken it doesn’t work. The experience of “being broken” is not where God comes in and stops us from working. It’s the experience of realizing that we just don’t work. We are already broken, but we are pretending that we are functional.

    And this is a freeing thought. Whatever God might bring into our lives that creates the feeling of brokenness is something that we are using to pretend that we are not broken. It might be our reputation, or our good looks, or intelligence, or a hundred different things. We don’t need to be broken, we just need to better understand that we just don’t work apart from God.

    But this realization cannot be gained intellectually, it must be experienced. Because one of our greatest enemies is our capacity to pretend — acting that we can have life apart from Jesus. And God is a loving Father. If we are truly His, He will not let us wear the mask for long. Because He wants to give us Himself, which is the only thing that can fix broken things."

    Jesus Uses Broken People (I Qualify)

    Notice the irony in this picture? Quite a mix of brokenness and addictions isn't it - combined with a message on hope for the future.

    I like what Paul Wilkinson said about the message of this sign.
    "Jesus can do more with broken people than he can with people who have it all together. The addicted, the abused, the abusers, the impoverished, the homeless, the users, the people with no self image, the people dealing with temptation, the people on the brink of despair; these are all the people who can be America’s hope for the future.

    The future never looked as bright as when you know you’ve reached bottom and there’s nowhere lower down you can go. I hope it was a great sermon!"

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Quotes on Jesus Shaped Spirituality

    I'm looking forward to reading the late Michael Spencer's first (and only) book, Mere Churchianity.  Trevin Wax at Kingdom People just posted a review of the book, discussing (among many other things) the difficulty he felt in doing a critical review on the work of someone who has recently died and whose life work had been so helpful to him.

    However, the part of his review that struck me the most was this list of "pithy quotes" from the book
    • The life of faith is a battle fought in weakness and brokenness. The only soldiers are wounded ones.
    • God is the Sun too bright for us to see. Jesus is the Prism who makes the colors beautiful and comprehensible.
    • What speaks more loudly of grace: your theological definition of the word “grace” or the tip you leave at dinner?
    • Some Christians claim biblical authority, while only telling you what they have decided in advance what the Bible has to say.
    • Ask yourself this question: If I were to spend three years with Jesus, what kind of person would I be?
    • Jesus-shaped spirituality is cross-centered and Christ-centered. The good news of the kingdom is that the King died to save us.
    • Jesus isn’t looking for admirers. He’s enlisting followers.
    • Evangelicals have invented a spirituality that has Jesus on the cover but not in the book.

    Thoughts like this are why so many people loved Michael Spencer.  A life like this is what it means to follow Jesus.

    Cross and Kingdom - Keep Them Together

    I've done a lot of thinking (and some writing) on how to fit and keep together the message of Jesus (The Kingdom) and the message about Jesus' work on the Cross. Greg Gilbert had this to say on the subject.
    "Put another way, it is the cross—and the cross alone—which is the gateway to the blessings of the kingdom. That’s how you put all this together. You don’t get the blessings of the kingdom unless you come into them through the blood of the King. Therefore if you preach a sermon or write a chapter on the good news of the kingdom, but neglect to talk about the cross, you’ve not preached good news at all. You’ve just shown people a wonderful thing that they have no right to be a part of because they are sinners. That’s why we never see Jesus preaching, “The kingdom of God has come!” No, it’s always, “The kingdom of God has come! Therefore repent and believe!” He didn’t just preach the coming of the kingdom. He preached the coming of the kingdom and the way people could enter it."

    Greg Gilbert, What is The Gospel, quoted at Justin Taylor and Already Not Yet

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Right Understanding

    “From the beginning of my Reformation I have asked God to send me neither dreams, nor visions, nor angels, but to give me the right understanding of His Word, the Holy Scriptures; for as long as I have God’s Word, I know that I am walking in His way and that I shall not fall into any error or delusion.”    -   Martin Luther

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    The Difference

    Here's a good explanation of the Difference Between Religion and Christ:
    Q. How do you spell religion?

    A. D-O — Do this, do that, do the other thing. Your standing before God is/will be based on what you do.

    Q. How do you spell Christianity?

    A. D-O-N-E — It’s all been done for us. There is nothing we can do to earn it, it is the gift of God.

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    A Much Needed Journey

    I like the post this week by Jason Coker at Pastoralia on making the journey from being seeker sensitive to being seeker generating.

    He says that a "seeker sensitive" church invites unbelievers who are seekers after God to come and meet Him at church, but a seeker generating church sees Christians as seekers who go outside the church walls looking for signs of God's activity in the lives and circumstances around them, and seeking to join him in His work.
    "We are no longer in the business of welcoming “seekers,” or even stimulating the latent “seeking” tendencies in the otherwise pluralistic population, Rather, we are the seekers. We are not the custodians of the Kingdom. Rather, the Kingdom is the reign of God produced by a missionary God who is “at work to this very day” in the world around us. Therefore, our task is to go out and seek to find where God is already “at work” in the community and the world around us and, wherever we find God at work, to join God in that work.

    Our task is to be seekers of the Kingdom and to generate new seekers of the Kingdom among us."
    Something to think about.