Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Swim in the Reality of What You Have

Some of the best writing on the meaning of grace and acceptance in Christ continues to come from Tullian Tchividjian:
"Christian growth does not happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Rather, Christian growth happens by working hard to daily swim in the reality of what you do have. Believing again and again the gospel of God’s free, justifying grace everyday is the hard work we’re called to.

This means that real change happens only as we continuously rediscover the gospel. The progress of the Christian life is “not our movement toward the goal; it’s the movement of the goal on us.” Sanctification involves God’s attack on our unbelief—our self-centered refusal to believe that God’s approval of us in Christ is full and final. It happens as we daily receive and rest in our unconditional justification. As G. C. Berkouwer said, “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.”"
From:  Tullian Tchividjian - Rethinking Spiritual Growth

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Fan or Follower?

Another book I have added to my wish list! - Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman.  The Amazon.com description says:
"Are you a follower of Jesus? Don't answer too quickly. In fact, you may want to read this book before you answer at all. Consider it a 'Define the Relationship' conversation to determine exactly where you stand. You may indeed be a passionate, fully devoted follower of Jesus. Or, you may be just a fan who admires Jesus but isn't ready to let him cramp your style. Then again, maybe you're not into Jesus, period. In any case, don't take the question---Are you a follower of Jesus?---lightly. Some people don't know what they've said yes to and other people don't realize what they've said no to, says Pastor Kyle Idleman. But Jesus is ready to clearly define the relationship he wants with his followers. Not a Fan calls you to consider the demands and rewards of being a true disciple. With frankness sprinkled with humor, Idleman invites you to live the way Jesus lived, love the way he loved, pray the way he prayed, and never give up living for the One who gave his all for you."
I'm starting to see some blog buzz about it:
"I believe what we’re looking at here is a book that has the potential to pick up where books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt left off and move us to the next level of commitment." 
-Book Review: At Thinking Out Loud

"His “fan or follower” metaphor woven through not a fan. is simply inspired.....Not a fan. is a bottom-line reality check for every pew-sitter—from Boomer to GenXYZ
Review by Ron Brackin at This and That
So many books to buy and read!

Update:  Found out today (6/1/11) that I won a copy of this book in a drawing at the blog Thinking Out Loud.  Looking forward to reading it. Thanks, Paul!

Defining the Good News

“At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and offered to all who believe. This is therefore very ‘good news.’

Jesus’ life is good news, for his obedience to the Father and fulfillment of the law is for us. While we as sinners fail to keep the law, Jesus was perfectly faithful. Jesus’ death is good news because his death was a payment for our sin, and by it we are cleansed from our guilt and released from condemnation. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because his victory over death is ours and through it we look forward to a resurrection of our own.”

              - Joe Thorn, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself

Hat Tip: Gospel Definitions: Joe Thorn : Kingdom People

Monday, May 30, 2011

The New & Better

True & Better from Peter Artemenko on Vimeo.  Tim Keller Summarizes the Old Testament- It's All about Jesus, the "True and Better"
 "Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Memorial Day Memories

On "Memorial Day," Americans honor our veterans, especially those who died defending our freedom.

Although I do not know of any family members who died in combat, I want to remember those of my relatives who did serve and helped protect our nation:  My Dad (Col. B.F. Simmons, USAF, retired), my late Grandfather (Jefferson L. Simmons, Mississippi National Guard in WWI in France), my late Uncle Franklin Simmons (Navy "Sea Bee" in WWII), Uncle Charles Shirley (Air Force), Uncle Hal Shirley (Army National Guard), Brother-in-law Gary Meier (Army), nephew Dale Meier (Army, 82nd Airborne), and any other family members I'm forgetting.

Thanks to all American veterans and to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all. Thanks to those serving now in so many far away and dangerous places. You are remembered and honored today, and every day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Grace Over Legalism, Truth Over License

More from Costly Grace:
"If I am full of grace, there is no excuse for legalism in my life (Matthew 23:4; 11:28-30).

If I am full of truth, there is no excuse for unrestraint (licentiousness) either (Matthew 5:17-20; John 8:11).

The only reason to live legalistically or licentiously is unbelief in the adequacy of the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ who freely supplies grace and truth for my every need. Or an unwillingness to let him be himself - full of grace and truth - through me.

We must go to Jesus not only to learn how to live, but to receive the life from which we live - his life place in us to create in us the righteousness of God and the characteristics of Christ.  The essence of discipleship, then, is to know Christ at a level of intimacy that can only be sustained by his constant presence in our lives."
Jon Walker, Costly Grace: A Contemporaries View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, page 21

Jesus is the Textbook

"The Word of God who stands before us is not a problem to be solved, but a person to know; when we try to relate to him as a 'how' or 'what,' we end up in the never-ending cycle of trying harder to fit into an equation that God never meant for us to solve..."

"...Discipleship means we are inseparably bonded to Jesus.  Without him, there can be no discipleship: he is the curriculum we study; he is the Word we believe; and he is the Way we live...

.... Jesus is our textbook on how to live connected to God, how to make decisions with the mind of Christ, and how to act on promptings from the Spirit rather than self-impulse.  The more intimate we become with Jesus, the more successful we will be at becoming like him."
Jon Walker, Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, pages 18-19

(Just started reading this book, and so far I am very impressed!)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

All For the Glory of God

"We are selfless followers of a self-centered God. We exist for the glory of God, and God exists for the glory of God.  The ultimate key to joining together in radical obedience to Christ is found in fostering a humble view of ourselves and a high view of God in the church.  For when we see ourselves as completely dependent, utterly desperate children of God who live exclusively for him, then we will give ourselves in total abandonment to him for his great purpose in the world: the declaration of his gospel and the demonstration of his glory to all the peoples of the earth."

- David Platt, Radical Together, page 120
Now that's a description of God that you do not often see; "a self-centered God."  Yet, in the context within which the author is using it, I think it to be entirely appropriate.  What do you think?

C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

C.S. Lewis on the Problem of Forgiveness:
. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.
As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought.
But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.
C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper Collins, 2001; Originally published 1949), 181-183

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stripped of Our Personal Empires

"If you are in Christ, God will not allow you to enter his reign with a kingdom-grasping pride. You will be stripped of every haughty look, every personal empire, in order that you might enter as a little child, looking for a Father's inheritance. This will come either through personal repentance, learning to humble yourself, or by God's humbling you through his working it out in your life to knock down your empire so that you can be found in his."

- Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried, page 148

Hat Tip: Joshua Harris

Piper Interviews Warren

John Piper on his interview with Rick Warren:
This 98 minute interview that I did with Rick Warren was recorded on May 1, 2011, during the Desiring God Regional Conference at Saddleback Church. It's the fulfillment of a commitment we made when Rick was not able to come in person to the Desiring God National Conference in Minneapolis in October, 2010.

The nature of the interview is mainly doctrinal. I read Rick’s The Purpose Driven Life with great care. I brought 20 pages of quotes and questions to the interview. You will hear me quote the book dozens of times. With these quotes as a starting point I dig into Rick’s mind and heart on all the issues listed below (with the times that they begin on the video).

My aim in this interview is to bring out and clarify what Rick Warren believes about these biblical doctrines. In doing this my hope is that the thousands of pastors and lay people who look to Rick for inspiration and wisdom will see the profound place that doctrine has in his mind and heart.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Camping Missed

In all has searching of the Bible for numbers, codes and calculations of dates, Harold Camping seems to have missed something very important. In fact, he missed the center of the Bible's message - He's missed Jesus!

From Cranach: The Blog of Veith:
"...it is what a certain Mr. Harold Camping missed this weekend. I’m certain that you’ve heard of him. The media has paid an unusual amount of attention to him and his prediction that the end of the world was going to begin yesterday. I don’t want to go into the details of all that he said. But you know what he missed? Christ. Not that he’s not a Christian. I’m not saying that. I don’t know what’s in his heart. But in all his study of the Bible, he looked for numbers and clues and codes and all sorts of things . . . but he missed Christ. And that’s what the Scriptures are all about. They’re not about hidden clues, secret teachings, mysterious numbers, and being able to calculate days and times. They’re all about Jesus. About his death and resurrection. That dying and rising with Jesus is the truth, and the way to eternal life."

That's something important for all of us to remember:  If your thought and message are centered on anything other than Jesus, you've missed the point.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Afflictions Eclipsed by Glory,

Love this song by Dave Crowder. Love the video also (even if he is so weird looking!)

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us oh
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking
So Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way

He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
I can stand a weird looking singer to get lyrics like this!

Amateur End Game

From: The Sacred Sandwich:
BTW, Harold Camping now says the end is October 21, 2011.  Wish he would just return to "The End is Near."

From the Book to the Spirit

"The Bible is not in a church leader's hands so he or she can give people answers to every question they have and guidance for every situation they face.  Instead, the Bible is in a church leader's hands to transform people into the image of Christ and to get people in touch with the Holy Spirit of God who will not only give them counsel for every situation they face, but will also walk with them through the situation.  And when church leaders use God's Word for this purpose then church members develop a healthy dependence on God's Spirit and a healthy admiration of God's glory."

               - David Platt, Radical Together, page 49

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Links

Some harvests from my internet grazings:
A World Without the King James Version

A Pirate's Life for Me - Ben Witherington's review of new Johnny Depp pirate movie

World's Biggest Treehouse

The Church of Oprah

President Obama as the 2nd Jimmy Carter

..Because We Want To

"...as we trust in Christ, he changes our hearts, minds and lives.  He transforms how we see, feel and act...

...any low-grade sense of guilt gets conquered by a high-grade sense of gospel that compels a willing, urgent, joyful, uncompromising, grace-saturated, God-glorifying obedience in us.  We live sacrificially, not because we feel guilty, but because we have been loved greatly and now find satisfaction in sacrificial love for others.  We live radically, not because we have to, but because we want to."

            - David Platt, Radical Together, page 31

Monday, May 23, 2011

Come Thirsty & Drink

 Have I mentioned recently that I love me some Tullian?!
"As I mentioned a few posts ago, preachers these days are expected to provide a practical “to-do” list, rather than announce, “It is finished.” They are expected to do something more than placard before their congregations eyes Christ’s finished work, preaching a full absolution solely on the basis of the complete righteousness of Another. It’s important to remember that the application that defines Christians is the application of Christ’s work to them, not their work for Christ.

John Piper once asked, “How do you glorify a water fountain? Come thirsty and drink!” Jesus is not glorified by our “doing” things for him. He is glorified by our resting in, and receiving, what he’s done for us."

Quote From:  We Are Seasoned Do-It-Yourselfers – Tullian Tchividjian:

Free to Follow, Free to Obey

"The reality is that when you believe in Christ for salvation, you not only are declared right before God as Father, but you are also begin to walk with God as friend.  In addition to new birth, Jesus gives you new life: a life of joyful obedience and overflowing love.  So when you hear Christ's radical call to live sacrificially, you do not think In the gospel I am free to flout his commands.  Instead you think In the gospel I am free to follow his commands.  And the faith that God has graciously given to you begins to produce radical fruit from you."

         David Platt, Radical Together, Page 30

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 22, 2011: The Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity

It is past 6 pm in my time zone, and we're all still here. 'Nuff said about  that

It is easy to make fun of Mr. Camping, but we must also remember compassion on those who fell for his deluded teachings, and the Pastoral Challenge and Opportunity When the Rapture Doesn't Happen.  Here are some kind and wise words from Eric Landry (via Justin Taylor):
We must be very careful about how we respond. Will we join our friends at the “Rapture Parties” that are planned for pubs and living rooms around the nation? Will we laugh at those who have spent the last several months of their lives dedicated to a true but untimely belief? What will we say on Saturday night or Sunday morning?
History teaches us that previous generations caught up in eschatological fervor often fell away from Christ when their deeply held beliefs about the end of the world didn’t pan out. While Camping must answer for his false teaching at the end of the age, Reformational Christians are facing a pastoral problem come Sunday morning: how can we apply the salve of the Gospel to the wounded sheep who will be wandering aimlessly, having discovered that what they thought was true (so true they were willing to upend their lives over it) was not? If this isn’t true, they might reason, then what other deeply held beliefs and convictions and doctrines and hopes might not be true?
It’s at this point that we need to be ready to provide a reasonable defense of our reasonable faith. Christianity is not founded upon some complex Bible code that needs years of analysis to reveal its secret. Christianity is about a man who claimed to be God, who died in full public view as a criminal, and was inexplicably raised from the dead three days later appearing to a multitude of witnesses. When his followers, who witnessed his resurrection, began speaking of it publicly, they connected the prophecies of the Old Testament to the life and death and resurrection of this man who claimed the power to forgive sins. This is the heart of the Christian faith, the message that deserves to be featured on billboards, sides of buses, and pamphlets all over the world. It is also the message that needs to be reinvested into the hearts and lives of those who found hope and meaning in Harold Camping’s latest bad idea.
 Amen to that!

End of the World Humor

Today is May 21, 2011.  If I am still around after 6 pm today, thus proving Harold Camping to be wrong once again, I'll be sure to let ya'll know!

Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy the day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

To the Followers of Harold Camping

Unfortunately, there are a lot of deluded people that are going to need to hear this come Sunday, May 22. From Walking Together Ministries comes a very wise Open Letter to the Followers of Harold Camping:
To The Followers of Harold Camping,
I am not writing this letter to offer you more of the condemnation you no doubt are already receiving from many quarters. I am writing instead to plead with you to think clearly in what will soon be the aftermath of the failed prophecy that you have embraced. I do so not to rub salt in the wound, but because you will soon find yourselves at an interesting crossroads in life at which you will be faced with many options. I am writing to encourage you to reject the bad options and embrace the wise ones.
I believe that you are sincere people. I believe that many of you sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus and I believe that many of you sincerely trust in the scriptures. Unfortunately, in embracing the prophecies of Harold Camping, you have sincerely believed in a false prophecy and a false prophet.
On Sunday, May 22nd, many of you are going to face feelings of confusion, loneliness, isolation, and even shame. Many of you will likely become objects of derision and punchlines in jokes made at your expense. You will reach a point where you will begin to wonder how what you previously believed in with such certainty could have been so very untrue. In light of this fact, let me offer you some words of perspective and encouragement for the future:
Much more at the link. I agree with all of it.

Should Christians Care about Harold Camping?

From CT Magazine, Should Christians Care about Harold Camping's, May 21, & Doomsday?  The Article features comments from Al Mohler, Tim LaHaye, Ed Seatzer and Lee Grady

A Permanent Place To Stand

“We stand in grace through the access that Jesus has gained for us. Jesus not only rescues us from the wrath to come, he not only forgives our sins, but he has obtained for us a place to stand in grace, a place of total acceptance and security, fully qualified and not fearing sudden disqualification or forced removal.”
— Terry VirgoGod's Lavish Grace
(Oxford, UK: Monarch Books, 2003), 13

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

The Great Exchange

Here's a simple explanation by Mark Driscoll of "the great exchange" - Christ's righteousness for our unrighteousness.

This is the center of the Gospel - and so many Christians do not really get it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Digesting the Implications

Continuing to enjoy and learn from the list of Gospel Implications by Scotty Smith, posted at Provocations & Pantings:
Gospel Implications: Since the Father has lavished his love upon us in Jesus, let’s not hoard it. Love boldly today.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus has worked for us, we must rest in him. A most freeing imperative, indeed.
Gospel Implications: Jesus was the 2nd Adam who succeeded brilliantly as our substitute. Quit trying to be a 3rd Adam.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus made and will glorify our bodies one Day, we must neither despise, abuse or worship them.
Jesus has the only set of shoulders broad enough to carry the burden of your sin, brokenness, shame and despair. Offload.
Because Jesus is a wonderful, merciful Savior, you can abandon yourself to him right now, with your tears, fears and woes.
Much more at the link.

Christians Get Depressed? Who Knew!

Here's a revelation for you - Christians Get Depressed Too. Well, duh!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 out of every 10 adult Americans currently suffers from depression. Depression is not confined to the United States. The World Health Organization describes depression as “common” in the world today, affecting an estimated 121 million persons. If we were to consider those who have not been clinically diagnosed with depression, but who suffer periodically from mild forms of depression, these figures would undoubtedly swell.
Depression, then, is widespread. It is in our families, our neighborhoods, our places of work, and in the church. How ought believers to minister to those who are bearing this burden? Regrettably, it is just here that well-intentioned but uninformed Christians have done more harm than good. Sometimes they offer little more than pious cant. Sometimes they end up blaming the depressed person for his depression. The impact on the depressed Christian can be devastating.
Much more at the link, which features a review of a book Christian Get Depressed Too by Dr. David Murray.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Very Good News

"At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and offered to all who believe. This is therefore very ‘good news.’
Jesus’ life is good news, for his obedience to the Father and fulfillment of the law is for us. While we as sinners fail to keep the law, Jesus was perfectly faithful. Jesus’ death is good news because his death was a payment for our sin, and by it we are cleansed from our guilt and released from condemnation. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because his victory over death is ours and through it we look forward to a resurrection of our own."
— Joe Thorn - Note To Self

Hat Tip: Of First Importance and Aleady Not Yet

Wednesday Link List

Some harvests from my interweb meanderings:

Has the Pro-Life Cause Reached a Tipping Point?

10 Things Submission is Not 

Is Technology Bringing Down the Church?

The Sad Views of Stephen Hawking

 Albert Mohler on The Terrorist and His Porn Stash

Christianizing the Social Network - A review of Tim Chailles' new book

Where to Find the Best Prices for Books


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Gospel Explanation: Three Essential Things

What one Scripture passage would you use to explain the essential gospel message to an inquiring unbeliever? I would never have thought of using 1 Thess. 1:8-10 until I read this piece by Tony Payne at -Desiring God:
...if you had the opportunity to open up one simple Bible passage, and briefly explain to someone what it meant to be a Christian, where would you turn?

I would turn to 1 Thessalonians 1, verses 8-10:
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
And with all the boldness, fluency and clarity that I wish I had in real life but only ever have in scenarios, I would read the passage with my new friend, and then say something like this:

"This part of the Bible is a letter written by one of the early Christian teachers (named Paul) to some people who had become Christians after he had shared the Christian message with them. And as he writes to them, he reminds them exactly what they did to become Christians. So it gives us a very neat summary of what the Bible says it means to become a Christian.

"It basically meant doing three things.

Even To Old Age & Gray Hairs...

From my youth until now in my fifties I have sought to serve the Lord Christ, - very imperfectly, partially and incompletely, but with commitment that has been renewed again and again. Now, for the remainder of my life - how ever many years the Lord grants me -  I will hold to this promise which I read last night.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.

(Psalm 71:17-18 ESV)

God is faithful, People! He does not fail us or forsake us! I can testify!

And I do hope the application of a little "Grecian Formula" to my numerous gray hairs does not negate this promise!

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Gospel Implications

Ready for some more Gospel Implications?  Here we go!
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus is praying we’ll be filled with his joy, staying dour, smug, & cold is not an option.
Gospel Implications: Because Jesus has perfectly obeyed the law for us, we don’t have to, we GET to.
Gospel Implications: Because Jesus cannot possibly love us more than he already does, we can focus on loving others.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus is our Advocate & Intercessor, who even purifies our prayers, we can pray big & boldly.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus is the ONLY perfect spouse, let’s not expect our spouse to be Jesus to us.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus IS a perfect spouse to us, let’s love our spouse more sacrificially & extravagantly.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus ONLY & ALWAYS speaks words of life to us, how dare we harm one another with OUR words?
Gospel Implications: Because Jesus is redeeming a pan-national Bride, we must decry & repent of all racism & tribalism.
Gospel Implications: Since we are in Christ and condemnation free, all self-contempt must be repudiated as unbelief.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus came to set prisoners free, we must not stay enslaved to bitterness, greed and vanity.
Gospel Implications: Do not think/act like an orphan, for you are a legally adopted, dearly loved child of your Father.
 Can't get enough of this!

Some Gospel Implications

Love this! Need this! From Gospel Implications, Part 1 @ Provocations & Pantings:
Gospel Implications: Jesus’ imputed righteousness demolishes our hope of meriting God’s favor and fear of losing it.
Gospel Implications: Because Jesus is currently making all his enemies his footstool, our right to anxiety & fear is gone.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus took our guilt & shame on the cross, we can’t use those dark tools in our relationships.
Gospel Implications: Since Jesus in making all things new, we can’t disengage from the culture & abuse the environment.
Gospel Implications: Since God promises the sufficiency of his grace, we can’t bail as quickly from difficult situations.
Gospel Implications: Because Jesus said “It is finished”, all attempts at supplementing his work are blasphemous.
Gospel Implications: Because the throne of heaven is occupied, you can get off of your high horse.
Gospel Implications: Because one day we will be as lovely & loving as Jesus, holiness should be a passion & joy today.
Gospel Implications: Because Jesus will not sleep or slumber tonight, we can.
More to come.  Glorious (and truthful) stuff!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Path of Delightful Firmnesss

"but his delight is in the law of the Lord,and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:2 ESV)

"I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word."  (Psalm 119:16 ESV)

Why would one delight in the Law (rules, statutes, Commandments) of God? Delight in grace is easy to understand - but joy in the Law not so much.  Here's C. S. Lewis' wise explanation:
"Their delight in the Law, is a delight in having touched firmness; like the pedestrians delight in feeling the hard road beneath his feet after a false short cut has long entangled him in muddy fields."

          - From C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, page 55
I hope you stay out of the mud today.

Out of My Hands

It's out of my hands. It always has been, always will be. Thank God!

And It's out of my hands
It was from the start
In light of what You've done for me
In light of what You've done for me

You lifted my head
Set me apart
In light of what You've done for me
This is what You've done for me
It's out of my hands

Hat Tip: Passionately Waiting:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some Saturday Links

Some links from my internet wanderings:

A World Without the King James Version

A Short History of Christian Rock Music

God is more interesting than stealth helicopters

Pauline Christology: Implications for Understanding Synoptic Christology

Ben Witherington Reviews the Movie "Thor"  
 (Nothing spiritual about it, but a good action flick for a comic and sci-fi buff like me!)

Hope to the Broken

“The life of Jesus offers hope to the broken, to those who recognize their inability to keep God’s law, and to those who are frustrated with their falling and failings. The gospel is the life of Jesus for sinners. His righteousness is our righteousness, and this gives us hope and confidence before God. Here the broken find encouragement, for in Christ we are righteous.”

— Joe Thorn, Note To Self
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2011), 31

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Gospel vs. Hyper-Spirituality

The Gospel Against Hyper-Spirituality:
The best way I can illustrate hyper-spirituality is like this:

Imagine I give my daughters a new dollhouse. It’s a beauty. It’s four stories tall, ornately detailed, equipped with working lights and windows that slide up and down, and contains ample room for all their many dollies and dolly accessories. I give it to them and tell them I love them. But for some reason they think I don’t really expect them to play with it, but rather to spend any awareness they have of the dollhouse standing before me, thanking me for it. They somehow get it into their heads that to go into another room and play with the dollhouse is ingratitude, that I won’t feel properly thanked (or even pleasure in giving them the gift) except in their direct thanks to me. They don’t ever enjoy the dollhouse; they just show how much they love the gift of it by thinking of ways to thank me other than actually playing with it.

This is the view of God that belongs to the hyper-spiritual.

In the illustration—hypothetical, I assure you, since my daughters would be exponentially more enamored with a new dollhouse than with their lame ol’ dad—my daughters are zealous for something good: thanking their dad for the gift. But they have missed the point of both the gift and my relationship to them as a loving Father who gives good gifts. Echoing Romans 10:2, they have a zeal, but not according to knowledge.

Hyper-spirituality is what happens when we (usually implicitly) think that obedience to God and giving glory to God is about payback. We turn astonishment over the gospel into fuel for measuring up. We assume God requires a nearly monastic attention from us, a focus so self-consciously rigorous it must understand the concept of freedom in Christ in ways that don’t sound much like freedom.
Excerpt from Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson

Blogger Down: We Now Rejoin Your Regularly Scheduled Program...

Okay, Google's "Blogger" platform has been down for most of yesterday and today. I, along with many other bloggers using that system, have lost some posts.

Upsetting? Yes.  Frustrating? Yes. Some work necessary to restore things? Yes.

But Jesus is still Lord, God is still in control.  Life goes on.  We now rejoin your regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What a Concept! - Shallow Small Groups

This is funny - but too close to reality for a lot of people and churches.

God save us from shallowness. May God bring about true community in our churches!

Hat Tip: The Blazing Center, Nine Marks

How To Shock An Angel

I have shocked the angels! I have astounded the heavens! You probably have also. The quote below is from The Blazing Center » How To Shock An Angel:
What could cause an angel to be appalled? What could so deeply stun an angel he would describe himself as desolate? Angels have seen Satan and demons. They’ve seen the gamut of every kind of human atrocity. They’ve seen the foulest evil men and women can perpetrate. You’d think nothing could shock them. Yet there is something that completely desolates, bewilders and undoes the heavenly beings.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water. (JE 2.12-13)
The heavens aren’t surprised by the actions of demons. They’re not shocked by the behavior of wicked men and women. But what stupefies and bewilders them is when God’s people forsake the soul-quenching fountain of living waters for muddy dilapidated wells. They’re stunned and horrified when believers seek joy from the world rather than Jesus.
May the angels be less shocked and Jesus be more pleased and glorified by my future response to his grace.

Talking - What a Concept!

Maybe we should just talk to each other! What a concept.  Some thoughts from Bob at Wilderness Fandango:
"Social media has weighted these "conversations" against the local and in favor of the "digital." In other words, a lot of digital voices talking among themselves, agreeing and disagreeing, having their weighty say, while down at the street-level there's relative silence. So it seems to me.

Just musing here, but what if we all just, well, shut up. I mean, we don't really need more books, do we? More and more and more every year? We don't need more marketing? We don't need more promises . . . if you'll only attend the conference, buy the book, sign up for the daily edevotional. What maybe we need is "faith working through love," (Gal. 5:6) which happens relationally, locally, after we put down the book, look up from the smart phone, close the lap top, and actually talk to the person next to us."
That's what church fellowship should be like, or at least include - a place and atmosphere where people can actually talk to each other openly, and not via text messaging or twittter feed. I can't survive without it, and  I bet you can't either.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Look Up - Not In

When you are hurting or in trouble, do you look inward or outward / upward. Here's some Gospel soaked wisdom from Tullian Tchividjian on Where To Look When You’re In Trouble
When you’re on the brink of despair–looking into the abyss of darkness, experiencing a dark-night of the soul–turning to the internal quality of your faith will bring you no hope, no rescue, no relief. Every internal answer will collapse underneath you. Turning to the external object of your faith, namely Christ and his finished work on your behalf, is the only place to find peace, re-orientation, and help. The gospel always directs you to something, Someone, outside you instead of to something inside you for the assurance you crave and need in seasons of desperation and doubt. The surety you long for when everything seems to be falling apart won’t come from discovering the dedicated “hero within” but only from the realization that no matter how you feel or what you’re going through, you’ve already been discovered by the “Hero without.”

As Sinclair Ferguson writes in his book The Christian Life:
True faith takes its character and quality from its object and not from itself. Faith gets a man out of himself and into Christ. Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ. Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others!
By his Spirit, Christ’s continuing subjective work in me consists of his constant, daily driving me back to his completed objective work for me. Sanctification feeds on justification, not the other way around. To be sure, both doctrine and devotion go hand in hand, but the gospel is the good news announcing Christ’s devotion to us, not our devotion to him. The gospel is not a command to hang onto Jesus. Rather, it’s a promise that no matter how weak your faith may be in seasons of spiritual depression, God is always holding on to you.
Martin Luther had a term for the debilitating danger that comes from locating our hope in anything inside us: monstrum incertitudinis (the monster of uncertainty). It’s a danger that has always plagued Christians since the fall but especially Christians in our highly subjectivistic age. And it’s a monster that can only be destroyed by the external promises of God in Jesus.

Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a bonafide peace that’s built on a real change in status before God—from standing guilty before God the judge to standing righteous before God our Father. This is the objective custody of even the weakest believer. It’s a peace that rests squarely on the fact that we’ve already been “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (v. 10), justified before God once and for all through faith in Christ’s finished work. It will surely produce real feelings and robust action, but this peace with God that Paul describes rests securely on the work of Christ for us, outside us. The truth is, that the more I look into my own heart for peace, the less I find. On the other hand, the more I look to Christ and his promises for peace, the more I find.
So, when pressed in on every side, look up. In God’s economy, the only way out is always up, not in.

As one who has often battled the monstrum incertitudinis, I find these are good and needed words!

A Tuesday Link List

Some random links from my Internet browsing:

How to Listen to Joel Osteen Unto the Glory of God

Why Won't God Just Tell Me What to Do?

Matthew 18 and the Internet

How Many Chinese Christians Are There?

Lot's of other bloggers post these link lists. Perhaps it is time for me to make an occasional foray into this style of blogging. What do you think?

Monday, May 9, 2011

More Zahnd Stuff

If you have enjoyed and benefited from the content I've been quoting from Brian Zahnd's book Unconditional: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness, then you should check out his website for the book (unconditionalthebook.com) and his blog (brianzahnd.com).

Oh, you should also buy and read the book!

Ugliness Transformed to Beauty

"Don't miss this miracle! The miracle of the redeemed Roman cross! Ugliness transformed into beauty.  A miracle achieved not by erasing its history but be transforming its identity. The miracle of forgiving grace! And if the forgiveness of Christ can save a symbol from its ugly association with torture and death and transform it into a symbol of grace and beauty, then no sinner is beyond the reach and saving grace of God's love.  The history of the cross is not obliterated through forgiveness - it retains its history of death - but the identity of the cross is transformed by forgiveness."

 - Brian Zahnd, Unconditional, pages 193-194

Reading Scripture Cruciformly

"Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, the Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the clearest revelation of who God is." - Hans Urs von Balthasar.
"...our reading of Scripture must be centered at the cross...So where shall we center our reading of Scripture? Where is the touchstone? What is the definitive lens for interpretation?  Where shall we point in Scripture and say, 'There is God! That is what God is like!' I agree with Hans Urs von Balthasar that it is the cross. It is in the ugly brutality of crucifixion that the beauty of God's love is most clearly revealed.

Of all the possible ways of understanding the nature of God, I insist that none is more complete than when we see Jesus Christ hanging upon the cross with his arms outstretched in a loving embrace of the whole world - an embrace that included his enemies.  To understand God best, we should look to Christ upon the cross forgiving a world that has rejected him.  This is the love that saves us."

   - Brian Zahnd, Unconditional, page 190

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Mighty Fire of the Gospel

"The chief and fundamental thing in the Gospel is this, that before you take Christ as your example, you recognize and accept Him as God's gift to you; so that when you see or hear Him in any of His work of suffering, you do not doubt but believe that He, Christ Himself, with such work or suffering of His, is most truly your very own, whereon you may rely as confidently as if you had done that work. . . . See, this is to understand aright the Gospel, that is, the infinite grace of God. . . . This is the mighty fire of God's love toward us whereby He makes the conscience confident, joyful, and content."

                   - Martin Luther

From:  Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: The Mighty Fire of God's Love

Thursday, May 5, 2011

You Might Be an Idolator If…

Here's a healthy (but painful) self-test for idolatry:  You Might Be an Idolator If…
"How do we know if we love something too much? Where is the line between a healthy enjoyment and an idol? Idolatry is often subtle. It can creep up on us in the form of good desires, like getting married or excelling in the work place. You may have created idols for yourself if:
  • You are crushed when you don’t get what you want. When that end of the year bonus you have been anticipating for months is taken from you, does it shatter your joy?
  • You stake your happiness on getting what you want. All of your friends are finding their soul mates and getting married, and you can’t even find a date. Do you resign to bitter hopelessness in your singleness?
  • You grumble and complain when you don’t have what you want. Are you angry with God for not creating you with the supposed external beauty that everyone around you seems to have?
  • You demand what you want. Have your humble prayers for healing from a physical ailment turned to angry demands of God? Do you feel you deserve to be healed?
When good gifts (like marriage, beauty, healing, or money) turn into idols, they become terrible and consuming masters. To destroy these idols, we must put them off by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us a deep love for God that drives out all lesser loves and gives us power over our idolatrous desires, in both our thoughts and actions. Through the Holy Spirit, we find contentment.
If we have made an idol out of something good that does not need to be driven from our lives entirely, such as a desire for children, repentance comes in the form of prayer. Stop demanding that God give you children, but rather pray humbly, offering your requests to God but submitting to his all-knowing plan for your life."
Excerpt modified from chapter 4 of The Greener Grass Conspiracy, by Stephen Altrogge

It's the Beginning, Middle, and End

Some good teaching by David Paul Dorr  on "Justification’s Beginning, Middle, and End:
Most of us learned justification as the beginning of our relationship with God, saying “we trusted Jesus alone for our salvation; we were declared “righteous” in God’s sight, given the very righteousness of Jesus as a gift.”
But what if justification by faith has a beginning, middle, and ending? Meaning this: when we initially believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior and receive Him by faith we are in, what Douglas Moo, calls, “the initial phase of justification.” But our justification is proved true as we walk out our life by faith, all the way to our death.....
After some more good teaching from Galatians (read it at the link) he concludes:
So how do you know if you are a living a life of faith after beginning by faith? Look at the fruit of your life. If the fruit of your life is fear then you are not living by faith. If what is coming out of you is the works of the flesh: jealousy, envy, strife, hatreds, sexual immorality, impurity and other things like these — then you can know that you are not living by faith. But if the fruit of your life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control as a whole, then you can know that you are living by faith.
These are not emotions. They are motives. If you are motivated by fear (If I don’t get life right then I won’t get the life I want) then you can must assuredly know that your initial faith is a of little use.. You are trusting the law, heaping condemnation on yourself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Missionary Turf Wars.

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary  (a pretty good missionary IMHO) is complaining about missionary "turf wars," where one mission group claimed "ownership" of a group of poor children, not wanting other missions to work in their turf.

But, seriously? Missionaries fighting over poor kids? Tell me you see how messed up that is. Tell me you know, deep down inside, how ridiculous it is. Tell me, please-oh-please, tell me, that this is all a bad joke and that you know that there’s no such thing as too much Jesus… Tell me we’re on the same team, fighting for the same side – tell me we can work together to bring Faith, Hope and Love to the least of these…
Tell me this is not a competition.
Tell me we are the Church.
Then, let's act like it’s true.
Go get 'em, Jaime! (If you are not reading her blog, check it out- both funny and inspiring)

Bent Upon Myself

I was feeling selfish today. Surprise - I'm a SINNER! Then I read this:
"The biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us upward and outward. Martin Luther picked up this imagery in the Reformation, arguing that sin actually bends or curves us upon ourselves (homo incurvatus in se). We were designed to embrace God and others, but instead we are now consumed with ourselves. The gospel causes us to look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbor and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we’re doing. There’s nothing about the gospel that fixes my eyes on me. Any version of Christianity, therefore, that encourages you to think mostly about you is detrimental to the faith–whether it’s your failures or your successes; your good works or your bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience."
Forgive me, Lord, for focusing solely on myself today. That last sentence hits hard.  May Christ be Glorified!

Quote from:  Up And Out, Not In – Tullian Tchividjian

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Praying the "Smite Them" Psalms

More powerful words about forgiveness and justice from Unconditional? by Brian Zahnd:
"...The choice to forgive is not an exoneration of the criminal; it is a choice to end the cycle of revenge and leave the matter of justice in the hands of God.

This perspective on justice helps us understand what is know as the imprecatory psalms- the cursing psalms.  These are the angry psalms that plead for God to do justice by inflicting his wrath upon the wicked. What we learn from the imprecatory psalms is that rage against injustice belongs before God.  Instead of holding rage against injustice in our heart where it is allowed to fester and corrupt, we place our rage before the throne of God, recognizing that God and God alone is capable of judging the world in righteousness. Anger against deep injustice is unavoidable.  That anger can be brought before God in an appropriate way through the imprecatory psalms..." 
"...The purpose of the 'furious parts of the Psalms,' as C. S. Lewis called them, has to do with placing our anger concerning violent injustice before God and trusting God to bring about justice.  But a word of caution: The imprecatory psalms are how the saints have prayed concerning violent and murderous injustice - from ancient Semitic warlords to Nazis.  But is is not how we are to pray concerning our brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we simply cannot get along. How Dietrich Bonhoeffer might pray concerning Hitler is not how we are to pray concerning irritating church members. The prayer of imprecatory rage is a response to the monstrous, not the petty."
          (from pages 118-119, italics in the original)
 If you have not read this book, I cannot praise it highly enough. Get it! Read it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Free Audio Download for May

This month's Free Downloads on christianaudio is The Next Story by Tim Challies
Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by advances in digital technology. We rely upon computers, cell phones, and the Internet for communication, commerce, and entertainment. Yet even though we live in this “instant message” culture, many of us feel disconnected, and we question if all this technology is really good for our souls.

In a manner that’s accessible, thoughtful, and biblical, author Tim Challies addresses questions such as:
• How has life—and faith—changed now that everyone is available all the time through mobile phones?
• How does our constant connection to these digital devices affect our families and our church communities?
• What does it mean that almost two billion humans are connected by the Internet … with hundreds of millions more coming online each year?

Providing the reader with a framework they can apply to any technology, Tim Challies explains how and why our society has become reliant on digital technology, what it means for our lives, and how it impacts the Christian faith.
Did you notice I said FREE! You can't beat that price!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Worth Hearing

Surprisingly to me, the Bishop of London's sermon at the royal wedding of Will & Kate was well worth hearing, and hearing again with deeper concentration.
...William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.

A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life......

....As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practice and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.
Here's a link to the whole message. Perhaps my surprise at the quality of this message says something uncomplimentary about me.  If so, I admit it.  God bless the royal couple, may they take these words to heart and show a better pattern and example of marital commitment than so many other celebrities (and ordinary people) do.

Hat tip: A Place For The God-Hungry » Blog Archive » Words Worth Hearing–The Royal Wedding Sermon:

Lovely Source of True Delight

Thou lovely source of true delight whom I unseen adore
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight that I might love Thee more
Oh that I might love Thee more

Thy glory o'er creation shines yet in Thy sacred word
I read in fairer brighter lines my bleeding, dying Lord
Oh my bleeding, dying Lord

'Tis here whene'er my comforts droop and sin and sorrows rise
Thy love with cheering beams of hope my fainting heart supplies
My fainting heart's supplied

And ah too soon the pleasing scene is clouded over with pain
My gloomy fears rise dark between and I again complain
Oh and I again complain

Jesus my Lord, my life, my light, oh come with blissful ray
Break radiant through the shades of night and chase my fears away
Won't you chase my fears away

Then shall my soul with rapture trace the wonders of Thy love
But the full glories of Thy face are only known above
They are only known above

Oh come let us adore
My bleeding dying Lord
© 2005 Essential

(As heard on Redemption Songs by Jars of Clay )