Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pray for Fukushima First Baptist Church

Want some help in praying for the people of Japan?

Tim Challies' blog has quotes from Akira Sato, a Baptist pastor in Fukushima, near the nuclear reactor with so many problems. His people have endured the worst of the troubles from the quake and tsunami, and some of them work at the nuclear plant facing danger from radiation. Pastor Sato wrote:
Yesterday (Friday, March 18) one member who has been with us since the disaster had received an order from his company and left for work in the nuclear plant. (He is a leader of the plumbing job). As the family of God, knowing the departing pains of his loved ones, in tears we dispatched the brother with prayers. He left here with the Lord. Beside him, there are others, our precious members, who have been working hard at the plant. O, Lord, please protect them with your almighty hand! I beg you, please! ‘Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, ….that thine hand might be with me, and that wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.’ (1 Chronicles 4:10)”
Read more about Fukushima First Baptist Church at Challies Dot Com. Let's remember to pray for them. May the Lord be with our brothers and sisters in their suffering, and their service to their suffering community.

Counterfeit Gospels Explained

Here's Trevin Wax explaining the core concept of his new book Counterfeit Gospels:

From: Kingdom People

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Story of "The Crazy Worship Lady"

Have you ever met (or acted like) The Crazy Worship Lady ?

From Parchment and Pen
(Be sure and read the last few paragraphs)

"Confessions of a Beth Moore Convert"

Any Beth Moore fans out there?

At CT's "Her.meneutics" blog, Karen Spears Zacharias has published her Confessions of a Beth Moore Convert, subtitled "Why the Bible teacher with the big Texan hair may just be our female Billy Graham."
Her studies present the Scriptures in a straightforward fashion. She often concedes that there are different ways of considering the matter. "There is a big difference between a head full of knowledge and the word of God literally abiding in us," she warns. She’s funny but never demeaning (which can’t be said for many these days). "Everyday temptation and intentional demonic seduction are as different as a snowball and an avalanche." Anyone who has experienced the two, and survived, knows the truth and wry humor of that statement. Moore's workbooks have the same general theme in that they repeatedly point people to the Jesus who can and will, given the chance, completely transform their lives. I'd go as far to say she is the female Billy Graham, unabashedly falling on her face in prayer in front of the masses.
I have enjoyed some of Moore's books and videos (although her speaking style is not my cup of tea), but I can't agree with the "next Billy Graham" comment. There won't be a next Billy Graham, because he was and is a unique gift of God for one season in history. However, Beth Moore and her Living Proof Ministries have a lot of fans and have helped many to get into the Word more deeply. This article should please her fans and rankle her detractors (but maybe change a few minds).

Confronting Christian Consumerism

Why is the term "Gospel Centered" becoming so prevalent in the Christian blog-o-sphere?
The prevalence of “gospel-centered” language is a reaction to the kind of failed discipleship methods that many of us once thought would sustain our Christian faith. Church leaders haven’t always rooted discipleship in the gospel, so for many Christians the biblical mandate to grow in faith has led to continual frustration. What’s been proclaimed is an endless array of steps, secret formulas, or studies that lead to deeper truth. Therefore, many of us once considered the gospel as essential for believing in Jesus but unimportant for actually following Jesus. So what’s crucial in this gospel-centered movement is its fresh emphasis on Christ’s work for our growth and obedience.

Gospel-centeredness is a critique of our consumeristic culture, in which new is better and the latest is greatest. Contrary to this mindset, Christians don’t grow in faith by discovering the latest formula or completing the program with the newest “truth.” Human growth methods have no power to conform sinners to Christ for the glory of God. What Christians need isn’t something new but something old – the Old Story of Christ Crucified and Risen. So the gospel-centered movement certainly appeals to believers who recognize the spiritual bankruptcy of “Christian” consumerism. There is no greater news, no deeper teaching, than the gospel.
Excerpted from an interview with Mitch Chase, author of The Gospel Is For Christians, by Trevin Wax at Kingdom People.  Looks like another book I really want to read!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No Change

“Whatever cultural shifts take place around us, whatever socio-political concerns claim our attention, whatever anxieties we may feel about the church as an institution, Jesus Christ crucified, risen, reigning, and now in the power of his atonement, calling, drawing, welcoming, pardoning, renewing, strengthening, preserving, and bringing joy, remains the heart of the Christian message, the focus of Christian worship, and the fountain of Christian life. Other things may change; this does not.”

–J. I. Packer, Celebrating the Saving Work of God: Collected Shorter Writings of J.I. Packer (Paternoster, 1998), p. 46.

Hat Tip: Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Benefit of Daily Going Backwards

Something to preach to yourself every day (i.e. to remind yourself of on a daily basis):
I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on.
Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation, but Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an Advocate, Mediator, and Friend. But what we need most is a Substitute. Someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves.

The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of me and my performance and more of Jesus and his performance for me. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my effort over God’s effort for me makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.

You could state it this way: Sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification–receiving Christ’s words, “It is finished” into new and deeper parts of our being every day, into our rebellious regions of unbelief. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. Or, as Martin Luther so aptly put it in his Lectures on Romans, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.

From Tullian Tchividjian, Hat Tip Take Your Vitamin Z

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Little Known Principle of Bible Study

I am adopting this as my own principle of Hermeneutics:
“Whenever you see someone doing something really stupid in the Bible, do not say to yourself, ‘How can they be so stupid?’ Instead say to yourself, ‘How am I stupid, just like them?’”

From R. C. Sproul, Jr. at Ligonier Ministries Blog

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Testimony to Racial Reconcilation and Healing

The video above from the The New York Times discusses the increase in racially mixed marriages in the southern United States. The second couple in the video attend Grace Temple in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the church my daughter and her husband also attend.  I think this is a great testimony to the Lord's work in racial reconciliation and healing.

The accompanying NY Times article can be read here. I love this quote from the article:
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called Sunday morning church service the most segregated hour in America, but one would not know that at Grace Temple Ministries, the neighborhood church where the Norwoods worship and socialize with other mixed-race families. The pastor is white and the assistant pastor is black, and the creative arts pastor is Latino. During a recent sermon, the congregation’s guiding ethos on social issues was clear: “Let us not be guilty of thinking as the culture and society decides,” said the pastor, Dwayne Higgason. 
Praise God for this testimony!  I appreciate and applaud the work of Pastor Dwayne Higgason at Grace Temple.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Himself at Home

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes (from Mere Christianity ):
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Free Audio Book: "Jesus: the Only Way to God" by John Piper

There's that word again - Free Book! Another FREE download (did I mention no charge) of an audio book at ChristianAudio.Com- Jesus: the Only Way to God by John Piper:
"If the evangelical church at large was ever too confrontational in its evangelism, those days are gone. In our shrinking, pluralistic world, the belief that Jesus is the only way of salvation is increasingly called arrogant and even hateful. In the face of this criticism, many shrink back from affirming the global necessity of knowing and believing in Jesus. In Jesus, the Only Way to God, John Piper offers a timely plea for the evangelical church to consider what is at stake in surrendering the unique, universal place of Jesus in salvation.
The price is right: I'm getting my copy!


Love this quote from Tullian Tchividjian: (quoting Michael Horton):
Everything in the Bible that tells us what to do is “law”, and everything in the Bible that tells us what God has done in Christ to save us is “gospel.” Much like medieval piety, the emphasis in much Christian teaching today is on what we are to do without adequate grounding in the good news of what God has done for us in Christ. “What would Jesus do?” becomes more important than “What has Jesus done?” The gospel, however, is not just something we needed at conversion so we can spend the rest of our Christian life obsessed with performance; it is something we need every day–the only source of our sanctification as well as our justification. The law guides, but only the gospel gives. We are declared righteous–justified–not by anything that happens within us or done by us, but solely by God’s act of crediting us with Christ’s perfect righteousness through faith alone.
Perhaps if we spent more time asking and answering the question "What has Jesus done?" we wouldn't have so many problems with "What would Jesus do?"

I'd like a WHJD bracelet, please!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Praying For The Ordinary

As we prepare for our church services this morning, and every Sunday morning, perhaps we should be Praying For More of The Ordinary:
When you pray for the church, what do you seek? In all of our praying for the church I believe we should be praying for more of the ordinary operations of God’s Holy Spirit. We do not need God to do something strange; something that he has never done before. What we need is for God to convict men and women of their sin, draw them to Jesus, and cause them to be born again. We need God to sanctify his people by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the word. We need God to unify his people around the Gospel and the mission he gave to the church. We need God to do what he has promised he would do. We need more of that. And more of God’s ordinary work is a good definition of “revival.” Revival is not so much God doing some thing new, but God doing something old. It is God doing more of what he has always done.
As we pray for our churches and our worship gatherings this weekend, let’s pray that God would do what he always does, but in greater measure. 
From Joe Thorn:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Upside Down

“The pattern of the Cross means that the world’s glorification of power, might, and status is exposed and defeated. On the Cross Christ wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away. Jesus Christ turns the values of the world upside down.”

— Timothy Keller, The Reason for God  (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 196

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

I'm No Better

Love this song by Shaun Groves.  He said "When asked by a magazine to make a public statement about a friend’s sin I wrote a song about my own instead."

No Better (Demo) from Shaun Groves on Vimeo.

No Better
Words & Music by Shaun Groves
(C) 2010 Simplicity Street Music/ASCAP
When you sling your stone
Aim it at her heart
Where every crime comes from
Where every stumble starts
And save the next for me
Muster all your skill
‘Cause sin in secrecy
Is the hardest kind to kill
Lay me down with the liars
The brawlers, thieves and backbiters
Lay me down with the others
‘Cause I’m no better
There’s no justice here
Just as well you know
We’ve all got hell to pay
But grace pays all we owe
Lay me down with the liars
The brawlers, thieves and backbiters
Lay me down with the others
‘Cause I’m no better

Lay me down with the takers
Politicians, cheats and heart breakers
Lay me down with the others
‘Cause I’m no better

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rural Route Epistle

A little Friday morning humor from:   The Sacred Sandwich:

Signs You Are Not Wakened to the Gospel

For yours and my meditation and self examination, here's an excerpt from the new book Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson, to be published this fall.
The purpose of this book is not to shake your assurance but to bolster it, and in doing so to invite you deeper into your own spiritual brokenness to find the glistening diamond-riddled cave of the gospel treasure. But if at this point you are scratching your head, stretching your faculties to understand what is meant by divine entertainment, transferred affections, gospel-centrality, and the like, allow me the tender ministry of pressing on your assurance like a doctor would a troublesome extremity. Allow the application of a diagnostic test.

The Scriptures do tell us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, so the aim of this diagnostic is not to shake your foundation, but to shake off whatever might not be of God that has been erected upon it.

Some signs you have not experienced gospel wakefulness:

1. The gospel doesn’t interest you—or it does, but not as much other religious subjects.
2. You take nearly everything personally.
3. You frequently worry about what other people think.
4. You treat inconveniences like minor (or major) tragedies.
5. You are impatient with people.
6. In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
7. The Word of God holds little interest.
8. You have great difficulty forgiving.
9. You are told frequently by a spouse, close friend, or other family members that you are too “clingy” or too controlling.
10. You think someone beside yourself is the worst sinner you know.
11. The idea of gospel-centrality makes no sense to you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's About Missions, Not Green Beer!

"I am a servant of Christ to a foreign nation for the unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in Jesus Christ our Lord." ~ Patrick
Mark Driscoll has a good post up wishing happy birthday to St. Patrick: One of the Greatest Missionaries Who Ever Lived!

Follow the link for a excellent short summary of the life and legacy of Patrick of Ireland. And I agree with this statement: "Saint Patrick's Day should be about missions, not green beer."

See also: Crossway Blog: The Life & Ministry of St. Patrick

“Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing”

Yep, this is where I live -. How about you?
"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.”
—The Apostle Paul, Letter to the Romans (9:1)
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
—The Apostle Paul, Letter to the Philippians (4:4)

“[We are] sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
—The Apostle Paul, Second Letter to the Corinthians (6:10)

Hat Tip:  Justin Taylor

St. Patrick's Breasplate for 2011

It's time once again for my annual post of the prayer attributed to St. Patrick of Ireland, commonly known as "St. Patrick's Breastplate."

There are various versions and translations of the prayer know as St. Patrick's Breastplate, contained in the ancient Book of Armagh, from the early ninth century AD. Isn't this a much better heritage from the good Saint than getting drunk on green beer?  Here's a good translation for prayer today.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Absorbed and Forgiven

"If the cross shows me that I am far worse than I had ever imagined, it also shows me that my evil has been absorbed and forgiven. If the worst thing any human can do is kill God’s son, and that can be forgiven, then how can anything else not be forgiven? "

— Rebecca Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons, (San Francisco, Ca.: Harper & Row, 1989), 104

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Joining the Threefold Conversation

"The whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers."

         - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

"You don't have to get your Trinitarian Theology all sorted out before you can pray to the Trinity. Our God hears prayers. He does not wait for us to pass the Theology test before he listens to us praying....

,..Whether or not we understand the doctrine of the trinity, God has his Trinitarian theology in good working order long before we show up, and our prayers are founded on the Father, Son and the Spirit."

       - Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Change Everything, page 211

Monday, March 14, 2011

Responding to the Disaster in Japan

The news from Japan over the past four days has been so overwhelming in its intensity and horror that it is difficult for me to know how to react and pray. I am sure that is true for many others. Adrian Warnock, a fellow blogger from Great Britain, has published a characteristically helpful post on 10 Ways a Christian should respond to the earthquake in Japan:
As Japan braces itself for a possible further serious earthquake, and deals with the consequences of such massive devastation caused by the last one, not to mention the risk of a major nuclear incident, how should Christians respond? Please understand that none of this is intended to claim that we have all the answers to such a disaster. In fact, like Job’s friends’ initial response, often the best thing we can do is say absolutely nothing, and share people’s pain. 

I write this article with many unanswered questions. But, unlike those who allow suffering to drive them away from God, I am convinced that only God makes sense of suffering. For if the Japanese who died really were just the random fruit of evolution, why should it matter to us if they died? But if each of them are made in the image of their creator, and lovingly crafted together in their mother’s womb, our inherent feeling that suffering is NOT welcome in this world makes perfect sense. God loves every human being, they are precious to him.
 Adrian goes on to list the following ten points.
  1. We should not be surprised
  2. We should be humbled before the awesome power of "Nature."
  3. We should not assume the end is at hand
  4. We should not assume the end is not at hand
  5. We should not specifically blame the Japanese.
  6. We should not blame God, but we should pray.
  7. We should understand that suffering is in the world due to sin in a general sense.
  8. We must not assume the devil "won" this time.
  9. We should look forward to the day when there will be no more pain.
  10. We should share the glorious gospel of Jesus that brings us hope and work to relieve suffering.
 Please go to the link to read his entire piece.  May God have mercy on the people of Japan, and may his mercy extend to us all.

You Are More

I heard someone perform this song at church on Sunday, and I just LOVED it.  Listen and be blessed.

"You Are More" by 10th Avenue North

But don't you know who you are,
What's been done for you?
Yeah don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

Avoiding the Arrogance that Assumes...

"But do you know where constant worry comes from? It’s rooted in arrogance that assumes, I know the way my life has to go, and God’s not getting it right. Real humility means to relax. Real humility means to laugh at yourself."
- Tim Keller, King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, ch. 12

Hat Tip: Justin Buzzard  and Take Your Vitamin Z

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Watch Jesus, Think Trinity

"To get the big picture, we have to see Jesus not in isolation but in Trinitarian perspective.  He is sent by the Father, and everything he does is done in company with the Holy Spirit.

...When we turn our eyes upon Jesus and learn the habit of asking how the Father and the Holy Spirit are co-present with him, we can see that many of the most beloved biblical stories from the life of Jesus Christ have a Trinitarian background we had never noticed....

....the baptism story should give us the interpretive key to the rest of the New Testament as well, because the Holy Spirit's anointing power is always on the incarnate Son, and the Father's good pleasure in his beloved is the secret of everything Christ Does."

From The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, by Fred Sanders, Pages 133, 135-136

Theology Geek T-Shirts?

If you have really gone "Theology Geek," check out the T-Shirts for favorite theologians at Missional and Theology Shirts, Decals, Hoodies, and More! //

Is this considered "missional" now?  I think I'm going to pass on this one!

Although, I did like the shirt with this John Calvin quote: "I consider looseness with words no less a defect looseness with the bowels"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Not Many of You Should Presume to Be Teachers - Or Bloggers?

A profound warning to me and my fellow bloggers from CT Magazine - Not Many of You Should Presume to Be Bloggers:
Throughout the history of public theological debate, there was one constant—those debates only took place between a few select people—Moses, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and so on—who gained respect through a lifetime of scholarship.

But the invention of social media, like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, created a radical departure in communication. In pre-2004 Christianity (that is, Christianity before Facebook was invented), only a small group of Christian leaders and teachers had access to the printing press—but today everyone has WordPress. In pre-2004 Christianity it was difficult to become a published author, but today everyone is surrounded by dozens of "Publish" buttons.

Every time we log into Facebook it asks us, "What's on your mind?" Twitter wants to know, "What's happening?" When controversies large and small erupt, there are devices in every direction begging us to not just take a side, but to declare our position on the largest publishing platform ever constructed by humanity.

What few of us realize is that when we press those "Publish," "Post," "Comment," and "Send" buttons, we are making the shift away from merely "believing" truth and stepping into the arena of publishing that belief. In doing so we are effectively assuming a position of leadership and teaching that prior to 2004 was not available to us.
 James warned us, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1, NIV1984). James goes on to graphically portray the incredible power that our tongues have both to praise and to curse especially in the context of teaching. He then says, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life." (James 3:13). Solomon echoes similar wisdom, "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent" (Prov. 17:28).
I would ask everyone to click on  the tab at the top of this blog and read the page entitled "You Have A Right to Know." I am scared by the responsibility of publishing on the subjects of Theology, the Gospel, and Biblical truth, and beg for your prayers. I am not going to stop, but I know I desperately need Jesus!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Always the Prescription

"...gospel-centrality is always the prescription, even when we're not feeling it. The gospel is where the power is. "Feeling it" or not, looking elsewhere is not a viable option. Always go to Christ, because he is strong -- stronger even -- when we are weak."

From Jared Wilson, The Gospel-Driven Church

Running From, Running To

Saw a insightful article by Mike Leake at SBC Voices about Running From Lust::
Flee sexual immorality...” 1 Corinthians 6:18

"It has been said, and rightly so, that sexual immorality (lust, etc.) is the only sin that we are told to run away from. Everything else we are typically told to stand firm and fight—but sexual sin can become so ensnaring that we are told to run away from it. I agree.

However, I do believe there is a huge difference between law running and gospel running. One runs out of an overflow of love and grace the other runs out of fear, guilt, and shame."
He then discusses the difference between "Law Running" and Gospel Running," with great quotes like these:
"Gospel running is radically different.  Gospel running is what happens when you are so blown away by what Christ has done that your affections actually begin to change.  You flee sexual immorality much the same way I run away gagging from a poopy diaper."

"...Law running is simply running away from something.  Gospel running is running away because of Someone and to Someone."
He concludes: 
"So if you find yourself struggling with lust it’s not a methodology problem—it’s a heart problem. You aren’t fundamentally struggling with lust because you’ve let down your guard and aren’t following your 10 steps to stay away from porn. You are fundamentally struggling with lust because your affections for Jesus are low. If you want to battle lust then do things to stir your affections. Don’t focus on trying to not lust. Focus on Christ—preach the gospel to yourself until your affections start to change and the emptiness of lust is exposed."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Approval & Improvement

"Our improvement comes from God’s approval; God’s approval does not come from our improvement."                 - Tullian Tchividjian
Hat Tip to Peter Cockrell's Facebook Page 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Will Studying Theology Kill My Faith?

Will studying Theology kill your faith?  

From: Credo Clip: Will theology kill my faith? | Parchment and Pen

It can, if the pursuit of facts and abstract knowledge replaces communion and obedience. But it can also strengthen faith.

It's a little like asking "Will knowing more about my wife, her history, her opinions, her concerns and values, hurt our love?  Silly question - you need both the relationship and the accurate knowledge of the loved one that feeds that relationship. To continue the marriage analogy, do not separate what God has joined together!

Spontaneity & Tradition Belong Together

"We must be careful in all our talk about liturgical prayer not to rule out the spontaneous moves of the Spirit. Just as liturgical traditions have much to offer us by way of roots, the charismatic and Pentecostals have much to offer us in zeal and passion. Tradition and innovation go together in God’s kingdom. Jesus was Jewish. He went to synagogue “as was his tradition” and celebrated holy days such as Passover. But Jesus also healed on the Sabbath. Jesus points us to a God who is able to work within institutions and order, a God who is too big to be confined. God is constantly coloring outside the lines. Jesus challenges the structures that oppress and exclude, and busts through any traditions that put limitations on love. Love cannot be harnessed.

Liturgy is public poetry and art. You can make beautiful art by splashing paint on a wall, and you can also make art with the careful diligence of a sculptor. Both can be lovely, and both can be ugly. Both can be marketed and robbed of their original touch, and both have the potential to inspire and move people to do something beautiful for God. So it is with worship. More important than whether something is old or new, winsome or classic is whether it is real. The Scriptures tell us to “test the spirits,” and the true test of the spirit of a thing is whether it moves us closer to God and to our suffering neighbor. Does it have fruit outside of our own good feelings? Beauty must hearken to something beyond us. It should cause us to do something beautiful for God in the world."


Hat Tip to my friend Elysa at Musings from Graceland

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An Awesome Testimony of Grace & Healing

This is an absolutely awesome testimony of grace, forgiveness and healing, which I was privileged to hear live last Sunday morning at Pinelake Church. Yes it is long (41.5 minutes) , but well worth the listening time.
Amy Martin shares her testimony about God's love and grace. Pregnant at sixteen, Amy and her boyfriend Mitch did what everyone said was best and had an abortion. Vowing to forget that it ever happened, they moved on with their life. They had another child, got married, went to college, started their careers and served at their church. From the outside everything looked great...

The Past and Grace from Pinelake Church on Vimeo.

Hat Tip: The Past and Grace on Vimeo:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Three Minute Version

In the video below, Dr. Sam Storms explains What is the Gospel (i.e. the basic content of the essential message) in only three minutes:

Hat Tip: Parchment and Pen blog at Credo House Ministries

To Thee I Breathe My Soul's Desires

When sins and fears prevailing rise
And fainting hope almost expires
Jesus to Thee I lift my eyes
To Thee I breathe my soul's desires
Are you not mine, my living Lord
And can my hope, my comfort die
Fixed on the everlasting word
That word which built the earth and sky

Jesus, I lift my eyes
To Thee I breathe my soul's desires
Jesus, I lift my eyes
To Thee I lift my eyes

Here let my faith unshaken dwell
Immovable the promise stands
Not all the powers of earth or hell
Can e're dissolve the sacred bands

Jesus, I lift my eyes
To Thee I breathe my soul's desires
Jesus, I lift my eyes
To Thee I lift my eyes

Here oh my soul
Thy trust repose
If Jesus is forever mine
Not death itself that last of foes
Can break a union so divine

Jesus, I lift my eyes
To Thee I breathe my soul's desires
Jesus, I lift my eyes
To Thee I breathe my soul's desires

"Jesus, I Lift My Eyes" © 2005 Essential
As featured on the CD Redemption Songs by Jars of Clay

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Gospel of God & the God of the Gospel

"The Gospel is God-sized, because God puts himself into it.  The living God binds himself to us and becomes our salvation, the life of God in the soul of man. We are saved by the gospel of God to worship the God of the gospel."  - page 117

"The good news that Jesus brings is that God has chosen to accomplish our salvation by being himself for us, by opening up his own life and bringing us into fellowship."  - Page 120

From The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders

Friday, March 4, 2011

Doing What Actually Matters...

From a message by Mark Driscoll - Video Games Aren’t Sinful, They’re Just Stupid :
Video games are not sinful, they’re just stupid. And they’re stupid in this way: Young, particularly men, and now women are joining it, they want to get on a team, be part of a kingdom, conquer a foe, and win a great, epic battle. So they do it with their thumbs and it doesn’t even count. Nobody’s really liberated. The Taliban is not really conquered. Women are not really freed from oppression. Generations are not really changed. It’s all fake. It doesn’t count.

You want to do something? Get off the couch, unplug the electronics, give your life to Jesus, find some other guys, and do something that actually matters. Leave a legacy for women, children, generations, not just the high score on some stupid game. It’s amazing. A whole world filled with guys who want to be on a team, go to a war, defeat an enemy, and save a princess.

That’s the story of this book, the Bible. And if you want to be part of that kingdom, you got to get off the couch and follow that king. And you do not quit. You fight differently when you fight for ones you love, a kingdom, and a king.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Radical Together

If you enjoyed reading this...

...then you should be looking forward to this! (To be published in April)

Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything

More awesome stuff from Tullian Tchividjian:
Jesus plus nothing equals everything–the gospel– is daily becoming for me more than a theological passion, more than a cognitive reality. It’s becoming my functional lifeline! And it’s this rediscovery of the gospel’s power that is enabling me to see that,
Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak;
Because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose;
Because Jesus was Someone, I am free to be no one;
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary;
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.
This is beginning to define my life in brand new, bright, and liberating ways. I believe God wants this liberating truth to define your life as well…and the life of the church corporately. Because I’m telling you right now, when you begin to understand that everything you need and long for, in Christ you already possess—it enables you to live a life of scandalous freedom, unrestrained fearlessness, and unbounded courage. Nothing in this broken world can beat a man who isn’t afraid to lose! And when you’re not afraid to lose you can say crazy, counterintuitive stuff like, “To live is Christ and to die is gain!” That’s pure, unadulterated freedom.
Amen and Amen!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pro-Life Optimism

There are great reasons for pro-life people to be optimistic - and to keep praying and working for change. Trevin Wax has posted an encouraging list - Top 10 Reasons I am Optimistically Pro-Life : Kingdom People:
Those of us who believe unborn children deserve human rights can be encouraged. Though we still have many hurdles to overcome before we arrive at the place where all human life is legally protected in the United States, we can be optimistic about the end result. Here are 10 reasons why...
Read the whole thing at the link. One of the most exciting things he mentions is this scene from the television program "House," based on a real incident when an unborn child reached out to grasp the finger of a doctor during fetal surgery.

After the operation, House calls the child a “baby” instead of a “fetus”. Can you believe this?! There is a lot to be excited about here.

Another Afghan Christian Faces Execution

As reported by Denny Burke, Another Afghan Christian Faces Execution. His name is Shoaib Assadullah. The quote below is a translation of a letter smuggled from his prison cell
My name is Shoaib Said Assadullah. I am 23 years old. For the last four months I have been imprisoned in Qasre Shahi prison, Mazar-e Sharif for the crime of apostasy, which means I’ve changed my beliefs.
Not only has my freedom been taken from me, but I [am] undergoing severe psychological pressure. Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened to death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti government prisoners who are in jail.
These assaults on my human dignity have affected me negatively, close to the point of death. On the other hand, the court has delayed their decision so that my apparent psychiatric problems will be cured. I do not think this is possible in prison.
My case is supposed to be sent to the court shortly, because the prosecutor has the right to hold a case only for 30 days. 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 [Afghan] criminal code which says, ‘If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to the Islamic Shariah law.’
Furthermore, my mother died less than a month ago from the grief that her beloved son was jailed with the threat of the death penalty over him. The authorities did not even allow me to attend the funeral ceremonies and pay my respects to her. This is against Clause 37 of in the [Afghan] law regarding prisons.
Not seeing my mother for the last time was more painful than anything else. I would like to add that freedom is a gift from God. This means that we have to respect human freedom and dignity. Clause 24 of Afghan Constitution says, ‘Human freedom and dignity is an unalterable right. The government is committed to respect and protect human freedom and dignity.’
Article 3 of the [U.N.] Universal Declaration of Human Rights is violated if the Afghan government does not respect Articles 18 and 19. [1] Article 3 of Declaration of Human Rights says: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’ Simply stated, if Sharia law is implemented in my case, the Articles 1, 2, 3, 18 and 19 of the Declaration [of] Human Rights will be violated.
I request that you follow my case.
Let us pray for our brother in Christ.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Free Audiobook: The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul is making available for free in the month of March an audio copy of R. C. Sproul’s classic book, The Holiness of God. Did you notice I said FREE, as in no charge?  Yep, absolutely free. All you have to do is open a free (there's that word again) account with them and download it.

This book, and the video series that went with it, changed my life when I read and viewed them back in the 1980's. I know that is a rather trite cliche, but in this case I mean it.

If you have not read the book, do so!  I'm gong to get the free audio copy too.

Hat Tip: Justin Taylor

NYT Bestseller "Son of Hamas" Now Out in Paperback & Arabic

NYT Bestseller Son of Hamas in Paperback & Arabic
One year after the debut of the controversial bestseller, Son of Hamas (March 2, 2010, SaltRiver), by Mosab Hassan Yousef, with Ron Brackin, Tyndale House released the long-awaited paperback edition, featuring an updated epilogue that includes the amazing account of Homeland Security’s attempt to deport Mosab as a terrorist.

“That was crazy,” Ron Brackin told reporters. “Mosab is the guy who keeps calling Muhammad a terrorist on international television.

“Last week, we were talking about all the turmoil in the Middle East, and he reminded me of his prediction in 2010 on FOX News that Islam would cease to exist within 10 years. Now, only two years later, Islamic regimes are crumbling faster than the Berlin Wall. Mosab said Islam has survived for fourteen decades only because it’s been crouching inside the high protective walls of ignorance and isolation. But the technical and information revolutions are tearing down those walls. One and a half billion Muslims can find the truth on the Internet at sites like, in chat rooms and on satellite TV.”

Also on March 1, Son of Hamas became available in Arabic for free download worldwide. Al Hayat (Life) TV is distributing the electronic edition via the Internet on its web site (, Facebook page and through its email list. Al Hayat reaches 95 percent of the Arabic-speaking people of the world and is the first to challenge the deceptions of Islam. It is the most popular Arabic-language, Christian-content channel in the world, regularly reaching between 20 and 50 million Arabic-speaking people.
From the web site of my old friend Ron Brackin, co-author of Son of Hamas.