Monday, February 28, 2011

The Old Cross & the New

Hear the words of A.W. Tozier back in 1966, describing TODAY: The Old Cross & the New:
All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles.

It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental. From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.
Much more at the link.

Cry Over Your Sin, Rejoice Even Louder Over Your Savior!

Christian, You Are a Saint:
Christian, by the grace of God you are a saint. So, by the grace of God you should be living like one! No, this is not a call to moralism, but a call to growth in godliness, and an encouragement to stop all the pessimistic nay-saying about your progress, or lack thereof, in sanctification. You can stop whining about your failure. The gospel is your hope, let it also be your confidence!

Yes, you should cry out over your sin, but you should rejoice in your Savior with an even louder voice! Loathe your corruption, but sing of God’s grace! And do not forget that “the mystery of Godliness” is neither strategy, nor striving, but Jesus himself! He is the secret, the one thing, that makes godliness the progressing reality in the life of his disciples. Yes, you must fight against your internal corruption and the attacks of the Devil. Kill your sin, and live for the glory of God. I’m not encouraging passivity. But, I am afraid that too often we lose sight of Jesus as our confidence. The most critical element in your growth in godliness is not doing, but believing.

What obstacles are confronting, even conquering you as you seek to grow in the grace of godliness? Sin? Circumstances? Satan? These are great enemies indeed, but Christ, the Mystery of Godliness, is with you, for you, and in you! And greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.

You are a saint, a “holy one” by the grace of God. And by the grace of God you can live like one as you abide in Christ.
From Joe Thorn

Sunday, February 27, 2011

He Has Quenched Mt. Sinai's Flame

Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior's name
He has hushed the law's loud thunder
He has quenched Mt. Sinai's flame

Let us love the Lord who bought us
Pitied us when enemies
Called us by His grace and taught us
Gave us ears and gave us eyes

He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He presents our souls to God

Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy's store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more

He who washed us with his blood
He who washed us with his blood
He who washed us with his blood
Has secured our way to God

Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high
Here they trusted him before us
Now their praises fill the sky

He has washed us with his blood
He has washed us with his blood
He has washed us with his blood
He has washed us with his blood
He will bring us home to God

Based on a hymn by John Newton (1725-1807)
© 2005 Essential
Featured in the album "Redemption Songs" by Jars of Clay

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adrian Warnock's Book Review: "Mere Churchianity "

Adrian Warnock, a well-known blogger from Great Britain, has published at his blog a great three part review of the book Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality by the late Michael Spencer. Spencer was known on-line as "the Internet Monk" or the "I-Monk".  His website remains very popular and influential.

The review can be read at the following links:

Mere Churchianity Part 1: What’s wrong with the church:

Mere Churchianity Part 2: Where I disagree with Michael Spencer

Mere Churchianity Part 3: Bringing Jesus Back to the Center

Adrian begins his review by saying:
Michael Spencer was known to Christian blog pioneers as the Internet Monk.  Although he described himself as in the post-evangelical wilderness, and often locked horns with the likes of the pyromaniacs, he never lost the respect of most evangelical and reformed bloggers.  His message was bold. I would often strongly agree with around half of it and strongly disagree with the other half! We were both going to have our debut books published in 2010. Sadly, Spencer didn’t live to see the fruits of his labors as he died before his book was published. Under the care of his successors, his blog continues to be one of the most popular Christian blogs.
I feel that enough time has passed since his death for me to critically engage with his book without feeling embarrassed. I trust that if his wife and others who loved him read this they will hear my deep respect and love for the giant that Michael Spencer was and appreciate that despite my differences with him, I genuinely view him as something of a prophetic voice to the Western church. You see, I emphatically agree with him that there is much cause for concern. We cannot simply be complacent and continue fiddling while Rome burns I generally agree with most of Spencer’s diagnosis of what’s wrong with the Church. Where I disagree quite profoundly is how to fix it.
It has been almost a year now since I read the book, and I quoted from it several times last summer on this blog. With time for reflection, I think I can agree with just about all Adrian says about it.

It is still a very sad thing to me that the "I-Monk" died before his first and only book was published. However, God knows what He is doing. Spencer and his provocative writing on his blog and in his book has been, and will continue to be, greatly missed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What I Heard Tim Keller Say Last Night

"The story of Jesus is not just one of the great stories. Jesus is the underlying reality to which all of the great stories point." - Tim Keller

I got to hear Keller's lecture at Belhaven University in Jackson last night. There was a standing room only crowd, so  I did not stick around for the book signing.  But I did get my copy of the new book Kings Cross and am looking forward to reading it! The book is about the story of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. The quote above is a paraphrase (I wasn't taking notes because I was standing in the back of the room) from his presentation on why he wrote Kings Cross.

Hey folks, Get the book!

Are You Growing in Grace?

Very helpful list here from Scotty Smith on signs of growth in grace.

A sign you’re growing in grace is less bombast about not being a legalist & more humility because you “get” the gospel.
A sign you’re growing in grace is less theological arrogance & greater appreciation for diversity in the Body of Christ.
A sign you’re growing in grace is you work much harder at remembering names and forgetting slights.
A sign you’re growing in grace is that everybody notices it but you.
A sign you’re growing in grace is movement from destructive cynicism towards redemptive engagement. Anybody can spew.
A sign you’re growing in grace is that you’re less like a drive-by-shooting with criticisms & more of a healing presence.
A sign you’re growing in grace is evident when you receive feedback non-defensively and give it clearly & lovingly.
A sign you’re growing in grace is evident when people don’t feel like they have to walk on egg shells around you as much.
A sign you’re growing in grace is when you say, “I’ll be prayin’ for ya”, and you follow through on at least 50%.
A sign you’re growing in grace is committing fewer homicides in your heart of slow drivers.
A sign you’re growing in grace is praying for our government rather than simply being cynical about our government.
A sign you are growing in grace is that you are more disgusted with your critical spirit than offended by others’ sins.
Hat Tip: Timmy Brister and Take Your Vitamin Z

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Said Musa Update: Our Brother Has Been Released

Saw the following at  the blog of Denny Burk
International Christian Concern (ICC) is reporting that Said Musa has been released from his captivity in Kabul, Afghanistan. He had been imprisoned for converting to Christianity from Islam, a crime punishable by execution. Thankfully, aggressive international diplomacy behind the scenes paid-off, and I could not be more grateful to receive this news. Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers.
Unfortunately, there is also another Christian believer facing imprisonment and death in Afghanistan:
 Shoaib Assadullah, an Afghan Christian who was arrested for giving a Bible to a man who later reported him to authorities, remains behind bars. Assadullah currently faces the same charges for apostasy that Musa was rescued from. In a letter dated February 17, and smuggled out of Qasre Shahi prison in Mazar-e-Sharif, Assadullah expressed fears that his execution is imminent. “The court’s decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the criminal code which says, ‘If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to Islamic Sharia law,’” he wrote.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “We cannot be more thrilled about Said Musa’s release. It has been encouraging to see the international community, including churches, reporters and government officials in Europe and North America, work together for the common goal of freeing Said. Many sleepless nights, prayers and tears have paid off. However, the battle has not yet been won. Shoaib Assadullah is still imprisoned in northern Afghanistan and fears the death penalty. We still have a long road ahead before we witness religious freedom in Afghanistan. We must remain vigilant and keep the public and diplomatic pressure alive by continuing to shout with one voice for Shoaib Assadullah until together, we can also celebrate his release.”
Keep praying!

Self Forgetting Happiness

“Christian humility is a self-forgetting happiness in Christ.”

— John Piper "Using Our Gifts in Proportion to Our Faith, Part 2"
(Minneapolis, Minn.: Desiring God Ministries, Nov. 7, 2004)

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

How Obsessed Are We With Facebook?

The World Is Obsessed With Facebook from Alex Trimpe on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Catholic Evangelicals?

What do you'll think of this?
Dimitri Sala is a soul-winner who quotes the Bible with abandon, uses the Four Spiritual Laws as a guide in evangelistic conversations, especially wants to see young people born again, offers a convincing personal testimony about his own communion with God in Christ, reports special moments when God spoke to him (not in place of Scripture but driving home scriptural realities), has a special burden for evangelizing Roman Catholics, and recommends Martin Luther as an inspiring guide to a deeper walk with Christ.
Did I mention that Sala is himself a Catholic priest, and that the initials after his name stand for Orders of Friars Minor (aka, Franciscan)?
Father Sala is the author of The Stained Glass Curtain

From Mark Noll at Book Notes | Books and Culture. More at the link.

The Pro-Life Legacy of Dr. Bernard Nathanson

The Pro-Life Legacy of Dr. Bernard Nathanson :
Bernard Nathanson, a co-founder of what is now NARAL Pro-Choice America, passed away at the age of 84 yesterday. Nathanson, along with Norma McCorvey (the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade) is one of the most famous converts to the pro-life cause. In addition to co-founding NARAL, Nathanson served as the director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health (CRASH), New York's largest abortion clinic. Nathanson has written that he performed more than 5,000 abortions and was responsible for more than 75,000 throughout his career.

After converting to the pro-life cause in the late 1970s, Nathanson wrote the book Aborting America, in which he states that he and other supporters of legal abortion fabricated statistics about the number of deaths due to illegal abortions in order to generate support for the pro-choice cause. This has been invaluable information for pro-lifers, since stories about back-alley abortions persuaded many Americans to tolerate, if not support, legal abortion.

In 1984, Nathanson helped produce the documentary The Silent Scream, which showed an ultrasound of an unborn child being aborted. Many were shocked by the graphic video, and it won many converts to the pro-life cause.
RIP, our repentant brother-in-arms for the pro-life cause.

From Michael New at The Corner

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Calvinists Go To McDonald’s, Arminians Go To Burger King"

Yeah, I know the title grabed your attention.  But now you'll have to follow the link for the humorous details

Calvinists Go To McDonald’s, Arminians Go To Burger King (By Anthony Russo)

Relax, folks, and laugh a little.  I'll see you at McDonalds.

Update on Sayed Musa

To follow up my earlier post, here's an  Update on Said Musa  (HT: Denny Burk). The quotes is from an article by Bob Smietana of The Nashville Tennessean
Musa was arrested after Afghan television aired footage of aid workers baptizing converts. Musa wasn’t in the video, but authorities learned he was a convert.

“This footage stirred up a lot of controversy,” said Aidan Clay, Middle East regional manager for International Christian Concern, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on religious persecution.

Clay, who has been following Musa’s case, said the former aid worker hasn’t been officially charged with a crime and has no legal representation. But he has been sexually assaulted and beaten, Clay said.

Clay said that Musa, 46, was moved recently to a new jail, after American officials intervened on his behalf, and there’s no immediate threat of execution. He credited media reports about Musa for the improvement and predicted more public outcry could lead to his release.

Even if Musa were to be released, however, he would remain a controversial figure and would not be safe, Clay said. Another convert, Shoaib Assadullah, 25, also has been jailed and faces death threats. Officials from the United States and other nations are trying to get both men released.It would be safer for them to leave the country,” Clay said.
Let's keep praying for our brother's freedom and safety, and for the same for his family. And, even more importantly, pray for the witness for the Gospel in Afganistan.

King's Cross Published Today!

Tim Keller's new book King's Cross comes out today! Here's Keller on why he writes:

Introduction to Books & Resources by Timothy Keller from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

Keller will be in my town Thursday night (6:30-7:30pm, Lemuria Books at Belhaven College, 1500 Peachtree Street, Jackson, MS) promoting the book. Guess who's going to see him?

Update:  Review of the book at Desiring God Ministries and a  Review by Colin Hansen at the Gospel Coalition

Monday, February 21, 2011

Keller in "The Atlantic"

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Tim Keller's books?  Here's an excerpt from an interview in The Atlantic on How Timothy Keller Spreads the Gospel in New York City and Beyond. This quote is specifically about his new book, Kings Cross, published this week.
What made you decide to write a book about the life of Jesus?

In a way, the reason why I wrote the book is I'm a Christian minister. And a basic job, I think, is to get people to be attracted to Jesus. That's the purpose of the book: to take the continual, almost inexorable, interest that people have in Jesus—it seems like no matter whether people have a positive or negative view of the church, regardless of whether the culture is secular or religious, there is an interest in Jesus. I'm trying to connect with that because I find Jesus very attractive, and I want people to be attracted to him.

And why did you choose to focus on the Gospel of Mark rather than any of the other three gospels?

You're an author, so you'll probably laugh at this: I chose Mark because it's the shortest gospel. But because it's short, it's compressed, and it moves from incident to incident in Jesus' life very quickly. In Matthew, Luke, and John, you have these long discourses, long pieces of teaching, and they're wonderful in many cases, like the Sermon on the Mount. And they raise a lot of questions.

But if you're really just trying to get exposed to all the aspects of Jesus, in Mark you get three or four incidents: Jesus with the dying girl, Jesus with the Pharisees, Jesus with a scholar. You get so many pictures of him per chapter that very quickly you get a very full-bodied picture of who he is. Also there's a sense of immediacy: it's all in the present tense. Sometimes it says, "Immediately he did this, immediately he did that." It's pretty compelling. I always go there, to Mark, if I'm trying to introduce somebody to Jesus. It's the fastest way to give the person a picture.

There's much more, of course, at the link above.

Other helpful Tim Keller links...

Take My Bent Away

A Song by John Piper
O Jesus, take my bent away
For thinking much of me,
And kill my pride, and from this day
With mercy make me free.
O Jesus, grant the gift to see
The treasure that you are,
And as the night eclipses me,
O be my Morning Star.
And now if I should serve, or lead,
Or give, or mercy show,
O Jesus, let my love be freed,
And like a river flow.
O Jesus, be the treasure of
My heart and all I do,
And may the river of my love,
Alone make much of you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Facebook Scriptures

A selection of Scripture verses on the subject of words and speech, paraphrased for the internet age.
For out of the abundance of the heart, a person Facebooks.  (Luke 6:45)

Gracious blog posts are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. (Proverbs 16:24)

A word fitly posted on Facebook is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)

The posts of a wise man's blog win him favor, but the blogings of a fool consume him. (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

Let your internet postings always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound internet posts that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he posts on the internet, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. (James 3:2)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Truth Doesn't Change

"The soundest and safest Christian reflection consists in "what you have received, not what you have thought up; a matter not of ingenuity, but of doctrine; not of private acquisition, but of public Tradition; a matter brought to you, not put forth by you, in which you must not be the author but the guardian, not the founder but the sharer, not the leader, but the follower."

-- Vincent of Lerins, quoted in Christopher Hall, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers (Intervarsity, 2002), 27.

 Hat Tip:  The Gospel-Driven Church: And So Beware Innovation:

Pray for Afghan Christian Said Musa

We need to pray for our Afghan brother Said Musa:
A terrible drama is unfolding in Afghanistan: There are reports that Said Musa, whose situation I described at Christmas, will soon be executed for the ‘crime’ of choosing to become a Christian. (For background, see here.)

Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak). He worked for the Red Cross/Red Crescent as an adviser to other amputees.

He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.
And what is the US Governement doing about this?
The U.S. government -- reportedly including Secretary of State Clinton -- and other governments have pushed for his release, but to no avail.

But the president has been silent, even as we fight a war that has among its goals the creation of a government that conforms to international human-rights standards.

An American president certainly needs to guard and shepherd his political capital, and should not speak out about every prisoner. But Musa himself has appealed to “President Brother Obama” to rescue him from his current jail. And when an obscure and aberrant Florida pastor, Terry Jones, threatened to burn a Koran, not only President Obama but much of his cabinet, as well as General Petraeus, weighed in on the matter.

If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.
See more at America Quiet on the Execution of Afghan Christian Said Musa - By Paul Marshall - The Corner - National Review Online:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mortality and Legacy

On the morning of Thanksgiving Day in 2009 Pastor Matt Chandler (Village Church, Highland Village, TX) fell to the floor with a seizure and awoke in the hospital to discover that he had brain cancer.

What does a young pastor facing possible iminent death think a bout his mortailty and legacy?  Here's Matt Chandler:- How Cancer Has Changed Me:
It’s made me think a lot more about my mortality. For example, if I die and The Village Church falls apart, do I care? I’ll be honest, I don’t. It seems to me that when you look at history, God raises up certain men for certain seasons in certain places. He pours out his Spirit on them, and when they’re done its very rare for God to continue the work that was done uniquely through him. If I die and The Village ends, I’m alright with that. If believers here find a place where the gospel is preached, and people are being saved, and the mission is being lived out, then I will not have failed.

If I’m going to die in two years, I started asking God what I should do. I put a lot of pressure on myself because in our culture there is the expectation that a ministry has to flourish even after you’re gone. That’s unfair, unhistoric, and maybe even unbiblical. Realizing that took a lot of pressure off of me. I had peace to just faithfully do what I’ve been doing here since day one. Then just let go and see what the Lord does with it.
 Here are some related comments ( not about Chandler, but the general topic of "legacy") from Darryl Dash:
No matter how many people we pastor, our leadership and influence is temporary. We will be forgotten. Even those who rise from obscurity to become leading leaders, so to speak, will be passed over more quickly than we think.

.......I thought of a conference blurb I read. Most blurbs are easily forgotten, but this one stuck. It announced the conference lineup, including this description of one of the speakers (Daniel Montgomery):
Daniel, the senior pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, says his vision statement is, ”Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”
I love that. That may be the best vision statement for a pastor I’ve read. Don’t aspire to rise from obscurity; aspire to attain obscurity, but preach the gospel in the meantime. That’s the type of pastor we need.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy Anniversary to the Ole' King Jimmy

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the English Bible, originally published in 1611 under the authority of King James I of England.

Most believers my age or older grew up using the ole' King Jimmy Bible. What else was there? During my childhood it was the only version I had of the Old Testament. The "Good News for Modern Man" Translation of the New Testament came out when I was about 10. During the 70's I learned a lot of Scripture that still sticks in my memory by singing Scripture songs, almost all from the King James translation. Although by then I was reading either the NASB or The Living Bible, the KJV still had a lot of influence on my generation.

I certainly do not recommend ditching the good new translations (I'm a fan and user of the ESV, myself) to go back to the old classic, but it is worth celebrating it's effects on the English language, and on both British and American history and culture.

If you want to know more about the history and translation of the KJV, I recommend In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture by Alister McGrath. The King James Bible Trust also has a brief history of the KJV translation.

Hey, whatever English version of the Bible you have or like, just read it! Oh, believing and obeying it might also be nice!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Am I Christomorphic ?

I learned a new "big word" today:  "Christomorphic." See Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: The Christomorphic Life:
[Christ's] death becomes metaphorically paradigmatic for the obedience of the community . . . the fundamental norm of Pauline ethics is the christomorphic life.
                  --Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament
                        (HarperOne, 1996), 46

Something to think about- and an insight into the meaning of this Scripture passage.
'. . . always carrying in the body the death of Jesus . . .' --2 Cor 4:10

Monday, February 14, 2011

So Who Was St. Valentine, Anyway?

So who was St. Valentine, anyway?
The first Valentine was a Roman priest martyred under the Emperor Claudius II in 269 or 270 AD, the second was a Bishop of Terni killed in the same century, and little is known of the third who died in Africa.
St Valentine’s Feast Day falls on 14 February, on which day lovers have customarily exchanged cards and other tokens of affection. It is not clear why Valentine should have been chosen as the patron saint of lovers, but it has been suggested that there may be a connection with the pagan Roman Festival of Lupercalia. During this Festival, which took place in the middle of February, young men and girls chose one another as partners. Legend, no doubt embellished if not entirely fictional, has it that the Roman Valentine resisted an edict of the Emperor forbidding the marriage of young men bound for military service, for which offence he was put to death.
Valentine’s Feast is also linked with the belief that birds are supposed to pair on 14 February, which legend provided the inspiration for Chaucer’s ‘Parliament of Fowls’. The crocus, which starts to bloom in February, is called St Valentine’s Flower. The earliest Valentine letter is found in the fifteenth-century collection of Paston Letters. The general custom of sending tokens on Valentine’s Day developed during the nineteenth century, and in the present century has spread to the east, where it appears to be particularly popular in Japan. The exchange of Valentine cards, flowers, sweets and other gifts has thus become a multi-million dollar international industry. It is estimated that in excess of one billion Valentine cards are sent each year in the United States of America alone.

From: The Deacon's Bench, referred by The Anchoress.

Sailing With Wind and a Deep Keel

"Large spiritual passion with small doctrinal understanding is large sails and tall masts on a tiny boat in high winds. It will dart wildly over the surface for a hundred yards. Then one wave, or one crosswind, will bring it all crashing into the unforgiving sea.

Give as much attention to enlarging the depth of your ballast as you do to the height of your sails.
Of course, if you are a sixty-ton flat-surfaced barge, with a broken engine, pray for God to give you sails and wind."
            -John Piper:

Hat Tip:  Large Sails and Little Ballast « Already Not Yet:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Faithfulness Over Visible Results

It is hard to remember that God commands simple obedience and faithfulness, with the results to be left to Him.
“One of the things we don’t preach well is that ministry that looks fruitless is constantly happening in the Scriptures. We don’t do conferences on that.”"

Matt Chandler:
Update:  Check out The EPIC FAIL Pastors' Conference.

Hat Tip: Justin Taylor

The Fact of Evil Transformed

“God did not abolish the fact of evil: He transformed it. He did not stop the Crucifixion: He rose from the dead.”
— Dorothy Sayers Letters to a Diminished Church
(Nashville, Tn.: W Publishing Group, 2004), 122-23

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Where to Point

"We cannot treat the Bible as a collection of therapeutic insights. To do so distorts its message and will not lead to lasting change. If a system could give us what we need, Jesus would never have come. But he came because what was wrong with us could not be fixed any other way. He is the only answer, so we must never offer a message that is less than the good news. We don’t offer people a system; we point them to a Redeemer."
–Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (P&R, 2002), 9

Hat Tip: Dane Ortlund and Already Not Yet

"I Was Decided Upon"

Here's how C. S. Lewis described his conversion in his final interview before he died in 1963.
Sherwood Wirt: "In your book Surprised by Joy you remark that you were brought into the faith kicking and struggling and resentful, with eyes darting in every direction looking for an escape. You suggest that you were compelled, as it were, to become a Christian. Do you feel that you made a decision at the time of your conversion?"

C.S. Lewis: “I would not put it that way. What I wrote in Surprised by Joy was that ‘before God closed in on me, I was offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice.’ But I feel my decision was not so important. I was the object rather than the subject in this affair. I was decided upon. I was glad afterwards at the way it came out, but at the moment what I heard was God saying, ‘Put down your gun and we’ll talk.’”

-- from The Final Interview of C.S. Lewis, conducted by Sherwood Wirt

Hat Tip: The Gospel-Driven Church: "Put Down Your Gun and We'll Talk"

Friday, February 11, 2011

To Be Reaffirmed Daily

"My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever ‘well’ is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works, rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the ‘sweat’ of our own performance. Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to ‘try harder’. We seem to believe success in the Christian life is basically up to us; our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is very freeing and joyous experience. But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily."
              -  Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace

Hat Tip:  Transforming Grace – Tullian Tchividjian

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Super Forgiveness in the Super Bowl

Did you notice this in the Super Bowl?
ESPN’s Rick Reilly. “In 50 years when they write the life story of Aaron Rodgers, they won’t tell so much about his freakish arm, they won’t go on about his Houdini feet, they won’t write about his grace under pressure, his rifle-scope accuracy or his courage when the land all around him was burning. What they’ll write about is his unlimited capacity to forgive. Through all the hell Brett Favre put him, through all the yo-yoing Favre did with his career – all those years — Rodgers NEVER lost his patience, and never lashed out. Instead he forgave, and he got to work. Fast forward to the biggest moment of his life — February 6th; Super Bowl 45; Dallas, Texas. And teammates are starting to turn on him again. They started dropping the ball — literally. Five different, perfect passes went begging.

“The main perpetrator was [wide receiver] Jordy Nelson, a third-year kid who dropped not one, not two, but three wide-open, room-service, pretty-as-you-please passes. But did Rodgers lose patience with him? Did he lash out? No. Rodgers did something amazing. He KEPT throwing it to him. With the game in the balance, and Pittsburgh trying to pull out the greatest come-from-behind Super Bowl win ever, Nelson DROPPED a spiral that could have iced the game. Anybody else but Rodgers would have bitten a hole in his helmet. What did Rodgers do? He threw the very next pass to Jordy Nelson. He ignored his safety valve, and he waited for Nelson. This time, Nelson’s hands were finally true. He caught it for a colossally huge first down. Two plays later, Green Bay scored the winning touchdown, and the game was over. To err is human, to forgive divine. But to forgive in the Super Bowl — is even better.”

Hat Tip: A Place For The God-Hungry » Blog Archive » Ministry Inside.34:

The Anti-Psalm 131

Sometimes the meaning of a Scripture passage comes out clearer if you express it in a negative fashion. For example, consider The Anti-Psalm 131 (from Tim Challies quoting David Powlison):
Psalm 131:1-3
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
and the Anti-Psalm 131
Self, My heart is proud
and my eyes are haughty
and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me.
So of course I’m noisy and restless inside; it comes naturally,
like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap,
like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries.
I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time.
 Helps make the meaning clearer and more poignant, doesn't it?  Ouch!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

For Those Who Blunder

"The cross is the answer to the biggest blunder in human history." The post that quote is taken from was discussing failures and mistakes in church planting, but the concept is applicable to everyone and everything.
The cross is the answer to the biggest blunder in human history, and it is more than sufficient for any blunders we can make. In fact, the Redeemer of sinners loves to redeem the mistakes forgiven sinners make. He loves to remind us we’re not God. And he wants to teach us from the mistakes we make so we don’t continually break important things that don’t need to be broken.
As the chief of blunderers, I am so glad that this is true!

From: Planting Churches That Last (Part 2) - Study Mistakes - Desiring God

I Am Not....But...

This is a perfect description of my life (and probably yours):
I am not what I ought to be.
Ah! how imperfect and deficient.
Not what I might be,
considering my privileges and opportunities.
Not what I wish to be.
God, who knows my heart, knows I wish to be like him.
I am not what I hope to be;
ere long to drop this clay tabernacle, to be like him and see him as He is.
Not what I once was,
a child of sin, and slave of the devil.
Thought not all these,
not what I ought to be,
not what I might be,
not what I wish or hope to be, and
not what once was,
I think I can truly say with the apostle,
“By the grace of God I am what I am.”
—Cited in Letters of John Newton, p. 400.

Hat Tip:  One of My Favorite Descriptions of the Christian Life – Justin Taylor

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are You A Sinner? There’s An App For That!

This sounds like a spoof or hoax. Maybe it is. But according to the BBC:
The Catholic Church has approved an iPhone app that helps guide worshippers through confession.
The Confession program has gone on sale through iTunes for £1.19 ($1.99).
Described as "the perfect aid for every penitent", it offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the sacrament.

I thnik that for the time being I'll just stick to telling Him in person!

Hat Tip: 22 Words:

Mercy Runs

Here's a good story illustrating God's mercy to us sinners from Tullian Tchividjian:
A friend of mine recently told a silly story about a man standing at the gates of heaven waiting to be admitted. To the man’s utter shock, Peter said, “You have to have earned a thousands points to be admitted to heaven. What have you done to earn your points?”

“I’ve never heard that before: but I think I’ll do alright. I was raised in a Christian home and have always been a part of the church. I have Sunday school attendance pins that go down the floor. I went to a Christian college and graduate school and have probably led hundreds of people to Christ. I’m now an elder in my church and am quite supportive of what the people of God do. I have three children, two boys and a girl. My oldest boy is a pastor and the younger is a staff person with a ministry to the poor. My daughter and her husband are missionaries. I have always tithed and am now giving well over 30% of my income to God’s work. I’m a bank executive and work with the poor in our city trying to get low income mortgages.”

“How am I doing so far”, he asked Peter.

“That’s one point,” Peter said. “What else have you done?”

“Good Lord…have mercy!” the man said in frustration.

“That’s it!” Peter said. “Welcome home.”

My friend who used this silly illustration ended it by saying, “Teach the law. The Psalmist called it perfect. Teach it until people are sick of it and cry out for mercy…Mercy always comes running.”


"The faintest whisper of support and encouragement uttered by a Christian in the ears of his fellow believer is heard in heaven."

            —John J. Murray

Hat Tip:  Challies Dot Com:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Life Which Springs From Grace

"Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship. Happy are they who have become Christians in this sense of the word. For them the word of grace has proved a fount of mercy."
 -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 56

Hat Tip: Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: Happy Are They:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Salvation Simplified

"Soteriology simplified: God saves us by himself from himself unto himself for himself."

         —Burk Parsons

(Soteriology is the fancy word for the Doctrine of Salvation)

Hat Tip: Challies Dot Com

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No Kind of Religion At All

Oh, I am really going to have to get this book (and soon)!
“In a sermon Dick Lucas once preached, he recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.
“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?”
“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”
“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?”
“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”
“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”
“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.
And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all.”
—from Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 48.

Hat Tip: What Kind of Religion Is This?! – Justin Taylor:

What the News Will Not Report: Coptic Christians Killed in Egypt

Pray for the Christians of Egypt!
With Internet access now restored, the Assyrian news service has been able to report that an attack on Christians took place in Egypt at about 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 30, in the village of Sharona near Maghagha, which is in Minya Province. Two Coptic families were attacked in their homes and eleven people, including children, were killed. Four others survived, despite having been shot.
The report states that the families knew their attackers, Islamist militants divided into two groups who accessed the Coptic homes through the roofs of their neighbors’ houses. The survivors say the masked attackers of the first home were led by Ibrahim Hamdy Ibrahim. They killed Joseph Waheeb Massoud, his wife Samah, their 15-year-old daughter Christine, and their eight-year-old son Fady Youssef.
The other masked group was led by Yasser Essam Khaled. They killed Saleeb Ayad Mayez, his wife Zakia, their four-year-old son Joseph and three-year-old daughter Justina, his 23-year-old sister Amgad, their mother Zakia, and Saniora Fahim.
Though there has been violence and looting enough throughout Egypt in recent days, these attacks do not appear to have been simple robberies. All indications are that these were deliberate attacks on Christians.
Paul Marshall is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

From: Coptic Christians Killed in Egypt - By Paul Marshall - The Corner - National Review Online

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Too Low An Opinion

In follow up to the previous post earlier today, this is a quote from a letter written by John Newton (author of the hymn Amazing Grace) to a very depressed correspondent:
You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness.
Well, you cannot be too aware of the inward and inbred evils you complain of, but you may be (indeed you are) improperly controlled and affected by them.
You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself.
You, then, not only express a low opinion of yourself (which is right!) but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong. . . You complain about sin, but when we examine your complaints, they are so full of self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience that they are little better than the worst evils you complain of!
                        —Works of John Newton, vol. 6, p. 185.

Hat tip:  How an Inferiority Complex Can Be a Form of Pride – Justin Taylor:

Pride or Plee?

Have you ever noticed how saying “I’m so unworthy” can function more as a form of pride than  a plea for deliverance?
"There are two ways to fail to let Jesus be your Savior.

One is by being too proud, having a superiority complex—not to accepted his challenge.

But the other is through an inferiority complex—being so self-absorbed that you say, “I’m just so awful that God can’t love me.” That is, not to accept his offer."
- Tim Keller, from new book on the Gospel of Mark,  King’s Cross (to be published later this month).

Hat Tip:  How an Inferiority Complex Can Be a Form of Pride – Justin Taylor:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Living in Grace vs Behavior Modification

Today I found ( and loved) this post by Brandon Smith at  Modern March on the difference between responding to God's love and acceptance (grace) versus preaching behavior modification (law) -  See Modification and Motive:

Here are two easy ways to avoid preaching behavior modification:

1) Exalt the Gospel, not Law – A mistake that many pastors make is that they talk too much about what is “right” and “wrong” and take moral stands on gray issues. Many congregants need a wake-up call to whatever sin they have in their life, but the thrust of your advice should not be about quitting the behavior, it should be about the grace of Christ and why His way is better. Otherwise, you enlist a church of robots who are programmed to follow all the rules self-righteously but have no idea about the beauty of grace. People must realize that freedom in Christ necessitates freedom from having to obey like a threatened slave. Furthermore, if the free grace of God is not the lens by which our people see the world, they will come up with their own definition of “good” which will only lead to them getting by day-to-day through the self-made idol of performance. As Spurgeon once said, “Love God, then do whatever you want.”

2) Magnify the Supremacy of Christ – There is a great need in our society for Christ to be enough. With every new self-help book and Oprah Winfrey wannabe, people are finding more places to run to rather than Jesus. It is a shame and an indictment on the church. We spend far too much time pounding their heads with how stupid they are for messing up rather than teaching them about the everlasting joy of following Christ. If our people are not aware that the grace of Christ is sufficient, they will eventually grow tired of trying to impress Him.
 More at the link.