Monday, December 31, 2012

Leadership Lessons from RG3

We're Washington Redskins fans at my house, so there was a lot of football joy last night as the 'Skins beat the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East Division title. We are also very excited about the present and potential future achievements of rookie 'Skins quarterback, Robert Griffen III, aka "RG3", last year's Heisman Trophy winner.There's a whole lot more to this talented Christian athlete than first meets the eye.

Read Denny Burk's take on Leadership Lessons from RG3. For background, here's a link to the Washington Post article he quotes from.

Bible Reading Plans for 2013

For the past two years I have used an annual bible reading plan developed by the church I attend. I like the fact that I'm reading the same passages at the same time as many others in our church family, and intend to follow this plan again in 2013.

If you are looking for a plan to read through the Bible in 2013, here are some suggestions.

You Version
Tim Chester's Plan
Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers & Slackers
A Two Year Bible Reading Plan
Crossway Books's ESV Reading Plans
Ligonier Ministries has several reading plans

Justin Taylor has a good summary of some of these plans.

Happy Bible Reading!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Idolatry = Covetousness

From Tim Challies:

“For what is idolatry if not this: to worship the gifts in place of the giver himself?” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.36) Calvin summarizes well what it means to commit idolatry. Idolatry may well be in full view in the days to come as so many of us make our New Year’s resolutions. Do we make these resolutions because we want to honor God? Or are we resolving to do things that make us feel better about the idols we worship? Losing weight may be a noble goal, but not if we want to lose weight for all the wrong reasons.

The clearest places we see idolatry defined in Scripture are in two similar passages from Paul’s epistles:
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
In both of these passages, idolatry is used synonymously with covetousness. The Greek word behind covetousness (pleonexia) is defined as “the state of desiring to have more than one’s due,” which is to say that a covetous person is not content with what they’ve been alloted by God—including God himself—and so they are constantly looking elsewhere for their satisfaction. Does that sound at all familiar?

This means that idolatry is the same as covetousness in the sense that, as people remain (or become) discontent with who God is and what he has done for them, they look elsewhere for satisfaction. They divert their eyes from the Giver and look to his gifts for their fulfillment. This can include all sorts of physical pleasures, none of which is inherently bad—food, sex, exercise—as well as intangible things like ambition, productivity, learning, and social acceptance. As Tim Keller has taught us, anything can be, and everything has been, an idol.

The lesson for us in these, the final days of an old year, is to choose our New Year’s resolutions carefully and biblically."

No Pay Back

"If we are not careful, serving can become a way we try to earn the love we've already received from God, to 'pay Jesus back' for His generous grace. While churches preaching the grace of god would never suggest that serving or volunteering contributes anything to a person's salvation, a subtle tendency among us leads us to believe that serving is a way to stay 'in good' with God.  therefore, unless serving is continually and unapologetically connected to the gospel, it can become a burden, a manipulator, a guilt reliever, or a back-handed method we employ to just keep serving ourselves...."

"...Serving as an attempt to pay God back for His grace is futile - not only because our best efforts would prove woefully inadequate in paying Him back- but because there is nothing to pay back. the gospel reminds us that the debt of our sin has already been paid in full..."

 -Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church,  pages 68-69 (italics in the original)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Translation Wars Side Effects

From The Sacred Sandwich

Deeply United

"The gospel is the deepest foundation for community. What connects believers is the reality that we were all very messed-up people, broken before a holy God, yet rescued and given new life in Christ  What unites believers is deeper than anything that can divide."

       -Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church,  page 50

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Encouragement to Chase Lions

From Mark Batterson:
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don’t try to be who you’re not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Don’t let fear dictate your decisions. Take a flying leap of faith. Chase the lion!

Bigger than Just Me & Jesus

"Not only does our worship as rescued sinners reflect an eternal reality, God also supernaturally utilizes our corporate gatherings to mature and encourage His people in ways not available anywhere else. God designed our faith to be communal and interdependent - and markedly supernatural. When believers gather together as a worshiping community, we benefit from all the spiritual gifts of the body of Christ. Worship reminds us that the Church is bigger and more beautiful than any one person or a few leaders alone. Each of us, worshiping together, is used of God to build each other up in Jesus."

     - Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church,  page 41

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

At the Threshing Floor

I've been listening to and meditating on this song by Tony Miller, Threshing Floor, DesertSong Music. These words reflect where I am spiritually at this moment.

God I stand before you
broken and alone
I bring to you my whole heart
And lay it at your throne
Cries of desperation
Rise to you my Lord
Here at this threshing floor

God I know you're sovereign
The plans of man will cease
Everything that's been conceived
      by insecurities
Kingdoms that are built on sand
Will fall and rise no more
Here at this threshing floor

So take my heart
And turn it inside out
Come separate me for your glory
There's a time to sing and dance
To celebrate and shout
But, now I'll fall on my face
For you are holy

Discipline is painful,
But I know I'm not alone
It's a loving confirmation
You receive me as your own
In your hand is mercy
I could never ask for more
Here at this threshing floor

You train my heart
To worship you
That's what this place is for
Here at this threshing floor

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Always Christmas

In Narnia it was said that the White Witch made it always winter and never Christmas.

For all who are in Christ it is always Christmas, no matter the season. May the spirit of the season stay with us all year.

Merry Christmas to all! 

Festival of Gladness

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival
of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ:
Grant that we,
who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer,
may with sure confidence behold him
when he comes to be our Judge;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer

Hat Tip: Trevin Wax

Monday, December 24, 2012

Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Message

Here's the famous Christmas Eve message from the crew of Apollo 8, in orbit around the Moon 44 years ago tonight, on Dec. 24, 1968, and featuring the reading of Genesis 1 from the Bible. Enjoy..... and Merry Christmas!

The Babyhood of God

“The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God – God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh. God has undertaken not only to repair the damage, but in Jesus Christ the human race is put in a better condition than when it was originally designed.”

“Beware of posing as a profound person; God became a Baby.”

- Oswald Chambers

Hat Tip: Trevin Wax, Peter Cockrell

Run to Your Healing

"The cross should continually testify to us that God fully knew we would need to be justified. Therefore, unconfessed sin is actually the foolish decision to run away from our healing and growth rather than toward it. We hang on to things we believe will satisfy us, thinking we need those more than what God offers to provide...

....When people walk in honesty about their fears, shortcomings, and needs - not in thoughtless disobedience, but in grace based freedom and forgiveness - they reveal a deep understanding of the gospel. to confess our sins to one another is to violently pursue our own joy and the glory of God...and to exponentially increase our rejoicing and worship, both individually and corporately."

 -Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church,  page 31 (italics in the original)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Handel's Bible Course

This morning I made a fire on my back porch and listened to Handel's Messiah while enjoying the peaceful cool morning.

Listening to the Messiah is like taking a 2 hour course overview of Old Testament prophecy about Jesus, with the opportunity to meditate on his fulfillment of those prophecies in our salvation. Every word in every part is straight from Scripture. What a wonderful and amazing piece of music!

If you haven't done so already, I recommend taking the time to listen to Handel this Christmas season.

Individual Transformation & Corporate Identity

"Try this sentence on for size. A church that understands where its power comes from is a place where individuals are transformed and empowered to join God's corporate family and participate in God's plan to reconcile all things to Himself. Did you see all the pieces there? Individual salvation and transformation leads to a corporate identity., which is then used by God to redeem, restore, and reconcile all things in heaven and on earth by making peace through the blood of the cross.

And all by the gospel."

   -Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church,  page 21 (italics in the original)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Avoiding Gospel Amnesia

"...We seem to have developed gospel amnesia, forgetting that the gospel not only creates and sustains the Church but also deeply shapes the Church. Present and future.

All of the Epistles in the New Testament were written to Christians, and they each contain a heavy emphasis on the gospel and its implications for the people of God. This suggests that for churches who believe the gospel, the Spirit of God repeatedly wants to bring them back to the gospel. It means the Church is gospel-centric, in its existence. She must not move on from the gospel, must never graduate from the gospel. The gospel, in fact, provides our ongoing, day-by-day motivation to pursue holiness and to experience the reality of what God claims we already are in Christ: perfect, spotless, and blameless."

   -Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church,  page 17 (italics in the original)

Joy to the World, Ya'll!

Love this appreciation of Joy to the World, from Randal Van Meggelen at Ligonier Ministries:
The popular carol Joy to the World was penned by Isaac Watts in his Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719). Watts paraphrased 138 psalms through the lens of their fulfillment in the redemptive work of Christ.

Though Watts never intended for the hymn to be sung merely during Advent and Christmas, most hymnals properly list it as an Advent carol. During Advent we celebrate the threefold advent of Christ in His incarnation, His dwelling in our hearts by His Spirit, and His glorious return at the last day. These three aspects are each portrayed in Watts' hymn, Joy to the World.

This famous hymn is one of my favorite carols because it faithfully conveys the resounding message in Psalm 98 that Jesus saves. Salvation is completely of the Lord. Christ is our Victorious Warrior whose "right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory" (Psalm 98:1). He is our Savior who, in fulfilling His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17), "remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel" (vs. 2) and blessed all nations. "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God" (vs. 3). He is the Prophet who reveals His Father's will. "The LORD has made known His salvation"(vs. 2). He is our King (vs. 6) and Judge (vs. 9). He saves us from the penalty, pollution, power, and ultimately, the presence, of sin.

Defining the Message

"The gospel. What is it, really? In its simplest form, the gospel is God's reconciling work in Christ - that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God is making all things new both personally for those who repent and believe, and cosmically as He redeems culture and creation from its subjection to futility."

  -Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church,     pages 7-8 (italics in the original)

I'm currently reading this book, and will be posting quotes in the coming weeks. Here's the book description at Amazon:
The Reformers viewed the gospel as not merely one thing among many in the life of a church but rather the means by which the church exists. When the gospel is rightly declared and applied to God’s people, the church becomes “a creature of the Word.” She understands, embraces, and lives out the reality of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in more than her doctrinal statement. The gospel impacts all the church is and does.
Creature of the Word lays out this concept in full, first examining the rich, scripture-based beauty of a Jesus-centered church, then clearly providing practical steps toward forming a Jesus-centered church. Authors Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger, and Josh Patterson write what will become a center- ing discussion piece for those whose goal is to be part of a church that has its theology, culture, and practice completely saturated in the gospel.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Don't Miss Jesus in Your Christmas

 From Jared Wilson by way of Peter Cockrell:
“There is a great danger this Christmas season of missing the point. And I’m not referring simply to idolatrous consumption and materialism. I’m talking about Christmas religiosity. It is very easy around this time to set up our Nativity scenes, host our Christmas pageants and cantatas, read the Christmas story with our families, attend church every time the door is open, and insist to ourselves and others that Jesus is the reason for the season, and yet not see Jesus. With the eyes of our heart, I mean.

I suppose there is something about indulging in the religious Christmas routine that lulls us into thinking we are dwelling in Christ when we are really just set to seasonal autopilot, going through the festive and sentimental motions. Meanwhile the real person Jesus the Christ goes neglected in favour of his plastic, paper, and video representations. Don’t get distracted from Jesus by “Jesus.” This year, plead with the Spirit to interrupt your nice Christmas with the power of Jesus’ gospel.”

Contemplate This Mystery

He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.  

            - St. Augustine of Hippo

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Other Social Media Connections

Did you know you can access this blog on Facebook  -The Journeymans Files.? Yes you can! I'm also on Twitter @bg_simmons.

Love to see you there also

Listen to the Words

Many of our most beloved Christmas carols and songs are full of good Biblical and theological content. However, it is easy to miss the truth we are hearing or singing due to long familiarity.  I encourage you to take some time to really listen this Christmas season.  Don't let the music just wash over you without hearing the words!  For example:
"Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as God with Man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel!" 

From "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing": by Charles Wesley
There is A LOT of truth packed into those few brief lines!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Oreo Calendar

Finishing The Circle

Hope everyone has enjoyed and benefited from the quotes I've posted from Mark Batterson's The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears. I got a lot out of it and look forward to reading some of Batterson's other books, including: 

This is a great book, and I highly recommend it. And, as I said before, if I still lived in the Washington DC area, I'd certainly visit his church.

Do You Feel the Shiver?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Watch For The Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas:
We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bread of Life in the House of Bread

Bethlehem, thou Bethlehem
House of Bread
Within your walls, the Bread of life rests His lowly head
With His truth, the hunger of our spirit will be fed
In Bethlehem

Bethlehem, thou Bethlehem
House of Bread
To your doors the ancient words of prophecy have led
Call the weary pilgrim in, the banquet feast is spread
In Bethlehem

Honor stands upon your name
How beautiful, how right
This Child, the Bread of life
Should grace your gates tonight

Bethlehem, thou Bethlehem
House of Bread
Your heritage is woven with a single golden thread
Shining through the centuries, our hungry hearts have sped
To the child of Bethlehem

Honor stands upon your name
How beautiful, how right
This child, the Bread of life
Should grace your gates tonight

Bethlehem, thou Bethlehem
House of bread
Bethlehem, thou Bethlehem
House of bread

Availed For Me

Thinking on the words of this great Charles Wesley hymn this morning, especially verse four.
O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise,The glories of my God and King,the triumphs of his grace!
My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad the honors of thy name.
Jesus! the name that charms our fears,that bids our sorrows cease; 'tis music in the sinner's ears,'tis life, and health, and peace.
He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free; his blood can make the foulest clean; his blood availed for me.
He speaks, and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive; the mournful, broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe.
Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ; ye blind, behold your savior come, and leap, ye lame, for joy.
In Christ, your head, you then shall know, shall feel your sins forgiven; anticipate your heaven below, and own that love is heaven.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Every Prayer, Every Promise

"Drawing prayer circles isn't about proving yourself to God; it's about giving God an opportunity to prove Himself to you. Just in case you have forgotten - and to ensure you always remember - God is for you. I can't promise that God will always give you the answer you want. I can't promise He'll answer on your timeline. But I can promise this: He answers every prayer, and He keeps every promise. That is who He is.That is what He does. And if you have the faith to dream big, pray hard, and think long, there is nothing God loves more than proving His faithfulness."

                  - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 195

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayers for Newtown

The Keys Are in Your Pocket

Great story from Tullian Tchvidjian:
On at least two occasions in the last year I’ve been late for a meeting or an appointment and haven’t been able to find my car keys. Certain that either my wife or one of my three children have misplaced them, I’ve frantically run from room to room blaming someone with misplacing my keys: “Has anyone seen my keys? I’m late for a meeting. Who was playing with my keys? I put them right here on the counter and now they’re gone. They didn’t just vanish into thin air! Who picked them up? Where are they? I’m late. ” And right about the time I’m ready to order mass executions in my home, I’ve walked into my bedroom one last time to look (huffing and puffing, moaning and groaning), put my hand in my pocket and found my keys. They’d been there the whole time.

Every time I tell that story, people laugh. And rightfully so. What forgetful moron falls prey to frantically looking for car keys that are in his pocket? Me. That’s who.

The truth is, however, that this is the way we Christians typically live: frantically and frustratingly searching for something we already have. The gospel is God’s good news announcement that everything we need we already possess in Christ. Because of Jesus’ finished work, Christians already have all of the justification, approval, significance, security, freedom, validation, love, righteousness, and rescue that we desperately long for, and look for in a thousand things infinitely smaller than Jesus.

Through the Holy Spirit, God daily delivers the gospel to forgetful Christian’s like me, declaring, “The keys are in your pocket.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why Born of a Virgin?

From Douglas Wilson at The Resurgence:
...Because Jesus did not have an immediate human father, he was not entailed in sin with the rest of us. Because he had a true human mother, he was as human as we are; because he was without sin, he was more fully human than we are. From this we can see that the virgin birth is not just a random miracle story, designed to impress the gullible. It is a miracle, all right, but it is a miracle like the other miracles connected with the person of Jesus Christ. Like the incarnation itself, this miracle is necessary for the salvation of lost and sinful men.
Jesus Christ was “descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3–4). The Spirit who worked powerfully in that resurrection was the same Spirit who exercised his power when Mary first conceived. It was the same person, the same purpose and plan, and the very same power (Luke 1:35).
More at the link.

Breaking the Spiritual Sound Barrier

"Just like the sound barrier, there is a faith barrier. And breaking the faith barrier in the spiritual realm is much like breaking the sound barrier in the physical realm. If you want to experience a supernatural breakthrough, you have to pray through. But as you get closer to the breakthrough, it often feels like you're about to lose control, about to fall apart. That is when you need to press in and pray through. If you allow them to, your disappointments will create drag. If you allow them to, your doubts will nosedive your dreams. But if you pray through, God will come through and you'll experience a supernatural breakthrough."

                                                                   - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 162

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reason for the Season

The Reward for Praying Boring Prayers

"Praying through is long and boring, but it is the price you pay for miracles..."

"...We live in a culture that overvalues fifteen minutes of fame and undervalues lifelong faithfulness. Maybe we have it backwards. Just as our greatest successes often come on the heals of our greatest failures, our greatest answers often come on the heels of our longest and most boring prayers. But if you pray long and boring prayers, your life will be anything but boring. Your life will turn into the spiritual adventure it was destined to be.  It won't always get you were you want to go, but it will get you through."

       - Mark Batterson,  The Circle Maker, pages 138, 140

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Not Just the ABC's, But the A to Z

“The gospel shows us that our spiritual problem lies not only in failing to obey God, but also in relying on our obedience to make us fully acceptable to God, ourselves and others.

Every kind of character flaw comes from this natural impulse to be our own savior through our performance and achievement. On the one hand, proud and disdainful personalities come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are succeeding. But on the other hand, discouraged and self-loathing personalities also come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are failing.
Belief in the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect. The gospel is not just the “ABCs” but the “A-to-Z” of the Christian life.

The gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ — whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. All our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts, our thinking and our approach to absolutely everything.

— Tim Keller
Paul's Letter to the Galatians: Living in Line with the Truth of the Gospel
(New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 2

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Prayer Seeds

"...praying is planting. Each prayer is like a seed that gets planted in the ground. It disappears for a season, but it eventually bears fruit that blesses future generations. In fact, our prayers bear fruit forever."

              -Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 133

Monday, December 10, 2012

Created by the Promise

"The church was born by the word of promise through faith, and by the same word is nourished and preserved. That is to say, it is the promise of God that makes the church and not the church that makes the promise of God. For the Word of God is incomparably superior to the church, and in this Word the church, being a Creature, has nothing to decree, ordain, or make, but only to be decreed, ordained and made. For who begets his own parent?"

    - Martin Luther,

Quoted in Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered Church, page 15

Hard Prayers and Praying Hard

"The hardest thing about praying hard is enduring unanswered prayers. If you don't guard your heart, unresolved anger toward God can undermine faith. Sometimes your only option is to trust because it's the last card in your hand, but it's the wild card. If you can trust God when the answer is no, you're likely to give Him praise when the answer is yes. You need to press in and press on. By definition, praying hard is praying when it's hard to pray. And it's the hard times that teach us to pray hard. But if you keep praying through, the peace that transcends understanding will guard your heart and your mind."

                 - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 122


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Gospel in Carols

From the Cripplegate, a great presentation of how the gospel message is contained in so many Christmas Carols:
The carols that we sing each year do such a magnificent job of underscoring who Jesus is and why He came. It makes me sad, really, when I hear secular musicians singing Christmas carols; the irony strikes me about how these musicians, who make no claim to believe in Jesus, sing these beautiful songs about His birth. And the reality is that they have no idea what they are singing about. Perhaps you are in a similar place, familiar with the tunes of the great Christmas carols because you’ve heard them every winter season. But you’ve never stopped to consider their lyrics. Let’s consider some of these great songs and the profound truths they proclaim.
1. In O Holy Night, we are reminded that the world was “in sin and error pining,”  wasting away until our dear Savior “appeared and the soul felt [the] worth” of His salvation.
2. In God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, tidings of comfort and joy come from knowing that “Jesus Christ our Savior” was born “to save us all from Satan’s power, when we were gone astray.”
Human beings, guilty of disobedience and rebellion against God, are enslaved to sin. They face God’s wrath against them. The Bible says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and that “the wages of sin is death” including eternal separation from God. But, “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
3. In Hark the Herald Angels Sing, we learn that only through “the new born King” can “God and sinners [be] reconciled.” We are also reminded that Jesus, being God, took on human flesh. “Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord; . . . Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity.” These words echo the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men,” the Lord Jesus Christ. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”—providing a way of salvation for those who deserve nothing more than God’s condemnation....
Read it all at the link.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hyperlinked Prayers

"..Our most powerful prayers are hyperlinked to the promises of God. When you know you are praying the promises of God, you can pray with holy confidence. It's the difference between praying on thin ice and praying on solid ground. It's the difference between praying tentatively and praying tenaciously.You don't have to second guess yourself because you know that God wants you to doubleclick on His promises."

          - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 91

Dear Santa...

Bloggers are sometimes so selfish! (irony intended)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Don't Be Stupid

J. Lee Grady has a great column up at Charisma entitled 10 Stupid Things Ministers Should Never Do.
If you aspire to ministry, don’t be stupid. Decide now to avoid these obvious pitfalls.
I had the privilege of sharing a pulpit with Dr. Mary Ann Brown two times. She was bold, prophetic and painfully blunt. People who hate women preachers hated her even more because of her no-nonsense sermons—always delivered in her Texas twang. She would get her audience laughing and then skewer them with a hot blade of truth.

When this spiritual giant died last month at age 73, I remembered the last words she said to me when we were together at a conference in Chicago in 2011. After lamenting the fact that so many ministers in the United States were failing, Mary Ann locked eyes with me and said with stern, motherly authority: “Lee, please don’t ever get stupid.”

I knew exactly what she meant—and I’ve pondered her words often, especially since her death. I don’t want to be stupid; I want to finish well. So how can we avoid spiritual stupidity? We can start by avoiding these 10 mistakes that have become common in our movement during the past decade. If you are a minister, or if you aspire to be one, please decide now that you will never copy these behaviors....
Read it all at the link...... and don't be stupid!

Living the Unoffended Life

Do you ever get jealous when God seems to answer others' prayers, or even answer your prayers for others, while your requests are seemingly unheard? Listen, then, to Jesus' promise to the unoffended believer in Matthew 11.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” - Matthew 11:2-6 ESV
Some comments from The Circle Maker:
"Living an unoffended life is not some Zen-like experience. It's living a life surrendered to His sovereignty, His majesty and His love. Jesus promises blessing if we are not offended when He does things for others. And if He does it for them, He might do it for us. I don't know why God does what He does. I do not that 100 percent of the prayers I don't pray won't get answered."
             -Mark Betterson, The Circle Maker, page 89

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Trek

An oldie, but still funny.

"To Dream the Impossible Dream..."

"If you've never had a God-sized dream that scared you half to death, then you haven't really come to life. If you've never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small. If your vision isn't perplexingly impossible, then you need to expand the radius of your prayer circles."

                  - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 76

Grace in the Storm

From Grace in the Storm - How to pray for people affected by Super Storm Sandy.

Lord, have mercy!

Only Love Remains

Some wisdom from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
There will be just one thing in the end, and that is the love that was in our thoughts, worries, wishes, and hopes. Everything else ends and passes away—everything we did not think, and long for, out of love. All thoughts, all knowledge, all talk that has not love comes to an end—only love never ends.

Now if we are aware that something will come to an end, then it is probably not even worth starting. Life is too short and too serious for us to have time to waste, to spend on things that will only come to an end. Now and then we realize this for ourselves with shattering clarity. On New Year's or on our birthday, when we look back at what we have done during the past year or in the period of our lives just past, we are sometimes horrified to see that we have done nothing of lasting value. All our worries and efforts, all the things we have thought and said, have long since died away to nothing. Nothing is left—except perhaps an act of love, a loving thought, a hope for someone else, which may have occurred almost by chance, perhaps without our even being aware of it.

Where this is leading is clear: everything, all our knowledge, insight, thinking, and talking should in the end move toward and turn into love. For only what we think because of love, and in love, will remain, will never end.

Why must everything else come to an end, and why does only love never end? Because only in love does a person let go of himself or herself and give up his or her will, for the other person's benefit. Because love alone comes not from my own self but from another self, from God's self. Because it is through love alone that God acts through us—whereas in everything else it is we ourselves who are at work; it is our thoughts, our speaking, our knowledge—but it is God's love. And what is ours comes to an end, all of it—but what is of God remains. Because love is God's very self and God's will; that is why it never ends, it never doubts, it stays its course …. It goes out to enemies as well as to friends, and it never abandons anyone, even when it is abandoned by everyone. Love follows after its beloved through guilt and disgrace and loneliness, all of which are no part of it; it is simply there and never ends. And it blesses every place it enters. Everywhere it goes, it finds imperfection and bears witness to perfection.
- From, The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Slaves or Kings

“Outside of Christ we are slaves, the best of us are all slaves. In Christ, the lowest of all is a free man and a king

          — Richard Sibbes, Glorious Freedom  28

Hat Tip: Of First Importance


Papal Tweeting

The Pope is now on Twitter - @Pontifix.  I'm sure our Catholic friends will rejoice at the number of evangelicals now following the Pope!

Large and In Charge

"...God is omnipotent, which means by definition, there is nothing God cannot do. Yet many of us pray as if our problems are bigger than God. So let me remind you of this high-octane truth that should fuel your faith: God is infinitely bigger than your biggest problem or biggest dream. And while we're on the topic, His grace is infinitely bigger than your biggest sin"

              - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 71

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Think on "These Things"

From the Gospel According to John:
I say these things so that you may be saved. (John 5:34)
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)
These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:17)
I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. (John 16:1)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. (John 16:33)
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)
                       - JESUS

From Tim Brister 

The Answers Will Find You

"...I learned that we shouldn't seek answers as much as we should seek God. We get overanxious. We try to microwave our own answers instead of trusting God's timing. But here's an important reminder: If you seek answers you won't find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you.."

              - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 63

Monday, December 3, 2012


"The power of the gospel comes in two movements. It first says, “I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe,” but then quickly follows with, “I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope.” The former outflanks antinomianism, while the latter staves off legalism. One of the greatest challenges is to be vigilant in both directions at once. Whenever we find ourselves fighting against one of these errors, it is extraordinarily easy to combat it by slipping into the other. Here’s a test: if you think one of these errors is much more dangerous than the other, you are probably partially participating in the one you fear less."
    - Tim Keller in Center Church, page 48 (Kindle)
Hat Tip: Reformissionary

Bored With the Bible?

Some good material on Bible reading and study, from Elliot Ritzema at The Resurgence:

Reading the Bible is a discipline, which means it isn’t always fun.

But we persist in studying because we know that it is God’s Word to us, and because we know that in spite of a dry spell here and there, God’s Word is absolutely dependable (Isa. 55:10–11). Devoting ourselves to Bible study will pay off in the long run. Charles Spurgeon offers us a blunt reminder to not neglect this discipline: “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers.” If you need some encouragement to dust off your Bible today, perhaps these words from men of faith can help.

1. You’ll never run out of things to learn from the Bible. No matter how much you study, there’s always more to discover.

Such is the depth of the Christian Scriptures, that even if I were attempting to study them and nothing else from early boyhood to decrepit old age, with the utmost leisure, the most unwearied zeal, and talents greater than I have, I would be still daily making progress in discovering their treasures.
 —Richard Baxter

2. It’s worthwhile to invest the time to do more than a quick skim.

Remember, it is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee’s touching of the flower that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time upon the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian.
—Thomas Brooks

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Not Always Spectacular, But Always Supernatural

"Worship gatherings are not always spectacular, but they are always supernatural. And if a church looks for or works for the spectacular, she may miss the supernatural. If a person enters a gathering to be wowed with something impressive, with a style that fits him just right, with an order of service and song selection designed just the right way, that person may miss the supernatural presence of God. Worship is supernatural whenever people come hungry to respond, react, and receive from God for who He is and what He has done. A church worshipping as a Creature of the Word doesn’t show up to perform or be entertained; she comes desperate and needy, thirsty for grace, receiving from the Lord and the body of Christ, and then gratefully receiving what she needs as she offers her praise— the only proper response to the God who saves us. "

- Geiger, Eric; Chandler, Matt; Patterson, Josh . Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church 

Another book on my wish list!

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Oh....That's What They're For!

Hat Tip: 22 Words

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Christmas Addiction

Okay, it's December, so the Christmas season has officially begun. Time to indulge my Annie Moses Band addiction!

It's not Christmas for me without the Annie Moses Band.

Creed as Doxology

From Jared Wilson - The Apostles Creed as worship 
It’s possible that we have become so familiar with the creed that we’ve become blind to some of its unique qualities. First, notice that the creed is not merely a catalog of doctrines but is phrased as a confession. “We believe” it urges us to say. Sincere recitation of the creed requires faith in the God who has accomplished these great things and belief that these great things were accomplished. In this way, the Apostles’ Creed is not just theology, but doxology, and as it is so often included in the liturgy of Christian worship services, it is meant to be recited together, as a body of believers, as an act of worship.

The Apostles’ Creed is not simply textbook theology; it is hymnbook theology! It is the song of a liberated heart, similar to the biblical confessions and doxologies, the eruption of personal confession that is faithful profession. The creed is a confession in the truest sense of the word: Christians confess with the creed that these are things they must believe to be saved.

Business is Good

From Radio Free Babylon.  Click on picture to enlarge

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dream Big

"..Prayer and imagination are directly proportional: the more you pray the bigger your imagination becomes because the Holy Spirit supersizes it with God-sized dreams. One litmus test of spiritual maturity is whether your dreams are getting bigger or smaller. The older you get, the more faith you should have because you've experience more of God's faithfulness. And it is God's faithfulness that increases our faith and enlarges our dreams."

"...God wants you to keep dreaming until the day you die. You're never to old to go after dreams God has put in your heart. And for the record, you're never too young either. age is never a valid excuse."

     - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, page 42

An Example of True Humility

Love this story of a truly great but humble man, as told by Doug Nichols to Tim Challies:
It was a long time ago, in the summer of 1966, that Doug was working for Operation Mobilization and was stationed in London during their big annual conference. He was assigned to the clean-up crew. One night at around 12:30 AM he was sweeping the steps at the conference center when an older gentleman approached him and asked if this was where the conference was being held. Doug said that it was, but that just about everyone had already gone to bed. This man was dressed very simply and had just a small bag with him. He said that he was attending the conference. Doug replied he would try to find him a place to sleep and led him to a room where about 50 people were bunked down on the floor. The older gentleman had nothing to sleep on, so Doug laid down some padding and a blanket and offered a towel for a pillow. The man said that would be just fine and that he appreciated it very much.

Doug asked the man if he had been able to eat dinner. It turns out that he hadn’t eaten since he had been travelling all day. Doug took him to the dining room but it was locked. He soon jimmied the lock and found some cornflakes and milk and bread and jam. As the man ate, the two began to talk. The man said that he and his wife had been working in Switzerland for several years, where he had a small ministry that served hippies and travellers. He spoke about his work and spoke about some of the people he had seen turn to Christ. When he finished eating, both men turned in for the night.

Doug woke up the next morning only to find out that he was in big trouble. The conference leaders came to him and said, “Don’t you know who it was that you put on the floor last night? That’s Francis Schaeffer! He’s the speaker for this conference! We had a whole room set aside for him!”

Doug had no idea that he was sleeping on the floor next to a celebrity, that he had told a man to sleep on the floor who had a profoundly important ministry. He had no idea that this man had helped shape the Christian church of that day, and really, the church of our day. And Schaeffer never let on. In humility he had accepted his lot and been grateful for it.
 This attitude is one reason among so many others why Francis Schaeffer will always be one of my heroes.

The Freest Person on Earth

Wow. Just wow.
"You see, real freedom is not liberty to do what we want or the absence of distress. Real freedom is the deep-seated confidence that no matter what, God really will provide everything we need (Philippians 4:19). The person who believes this is the freest of all persons on earth, because no matter what situation they find themselves in, they have nothing to fear (Philippians 4:11). "
                        From Jon Bloom at Desiring God

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vague Prayers

To borrow a phrase- "What happens in vagueness, stays in vagueness."
"God does not answer vague prayers.."

"The more faith you have, the more specific your prayers will be. And the more specific you prayers are, the more glory God received... If our prayers aren't specific, however, God gets robbed of the glory that He deserves because we second-guess whether or not He actually answered them. We never know if the answers were the result of specific prayer or general coincidences that would have happened anyway."

"...When you spell out your prayers with specificity, it will eventually spell God's glory."

             - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, pages 25-16

Canonical Bands

Okay, this really appeals to my warped sense of humor! From the Twitter feed #CannonicalBands - A mixing of Bible characters with names of pop & rock bands. Funny stuff!
Corinthian Clearwater Revival
Second Peter, Paul and Mary
The Rolled-Away Stones
Hebrews Springsteen
Matthuey Lewis and the News, one of the Fore! gospel bands
Simon and Peterfunkel
Hosea and the Blowfish
Frankie Valli & the 2 Samuels
Lazarus and the Grateful Dead.
Emerson, Luke and Pauline
The Deuteronobie Brothers
Second Kings of Leon
Guns and Romans
The Jonah Brothers
Earth, Wind, and Sheol
3 wise night
Pearl James
U2 Timothy
MaccaBee Gees
Habakuk Street Boys
Cold Pray

And the best of all:

Led Zephaniah

Bold Prayers Become the Script Of Your Life

"Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn't offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. if your prayers aren't impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don't require divine intervention. But ask God to part the Red Sea or make the sun stand still or float an iron axhead, and god is moved to omnipotent action...."

"...It is absolutely imperative at the outset that you come to terms with this simple yet life-changing truth: God is for you. If you don;t believe that, then you;ll pray small timid prayers. If you do believe it, then you'll pray big audacious prayers. And one way or another, your small timid prayers or big audacious prayers will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into two totally different people. Prayers are prophesies, they are the best predictors of your spiritual future. Who you become is determined by how you pray. Ultimately, the transcript of your prayers becomes the script of your life."

          -Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, pages 13-14

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reading the Circle Maker

I'll be posting quotes over the next few weeks from Mark Batterson's new book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.

Books on prayer are a dime a dozen - there are a lot of them. My pastor mentioned this one in a sermon a few months back, and it was on sale in our church book store. I'm not much for following fads or jumping on band wagons, for books or otherwise, but hey, it was on sale 40% off!  I bought it, but didn't expect much. I was wrong.

This is a great book! I was underling stuff on almost every page. It is simultaneously deep, scripturally accurate, balanced, inspiring, thought-provoking, attention grabbing and easy to read. What else can you ask for!

The title comes from a rabbinic legend about Honi, the "circle maker," a 1st century BC Jewish prayer warrior who ended a long drought in Jerusalem by drawing a circle in the dirt and praying within his circle until rain came. The full story starts off the book

Batterson pastors an interesting church: National Community Church in Washington DC, also known as Theater Church. They are a multi-site congregation, and as the alternative name says, they meet in theaters, with a vision to have a branch in theaters at every Metro subway stop in DC.  Having lived and worked for many years in the DC area earlier in my life, I was drawn in by Batterson's stories featuring landmarks I am familiar with. If I lived in DC today, I'd certainly at least visit this church.

Expect a lot of quotes to be posted from this good book.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Summation of the Glorious Ruin

I hope you've benefited from the quotes I've posted over the past few weeks from Tullian Tchvidjian's new book Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free. You can search this blog for the tag/label "Glorious Ruin" to find all the quotes.

As of now I'd list this book as one of the top 5 I've read in the past few years. I suspect I'll be re-reading it many times in order to absorb everything he says. I do not mean that it is a hard read - it's not. I mean that the content is such that it must be digested over time and used to evaluate my personal life experiences. I suspect you would find the same.

Here is the key thought from my first read through of the book.

Most books about suffering focus on the "Why" question (why must I suffer?) and/or the "How" question (how can I grow from or benefit from my suffering?).  Tullian moves past both of those to the more important "Who" question. From Martin Luther's "Theology of the Cross" he points out that God is most revealed in suffering, because He is a God who saves us through His own vicarious suffering on the Cross of Christ. We prefer a "Theology of Glory" - where God always and only blesses and prospers us. The Cross, however, reveals that the place of pain is the place were God is most clearly revealed in Scripture and life experience and where He is most truly known. Although the author of the Book of Job tells us why Job suffered. Job was never given that answer. He was never told "Why." His "friends" spent all those chapters moralizing his suffering (If you were good you would not suffer) and minimizing it (Just get over it). Job's only answer, all that he was given,  was a revelation of Who - the one true eternal God whom he met in his suffering. That revelation made him a "glorious ruin." That answer was enough.

"I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
                 (Job 42:5-6 ESV)

The gospel enables us to escape from the prison of How and Why, and find freedom in the Who. The only answer is meeting God in Christ -and, to borrow the title to one of Tullian's other books, "Jesus + Nothing = Everything."

My brief thoughts do not do the book justice. Whether you agree with these comments or not, go read the book for yourself. I do not think that you will be disappointed.

Next on my reading and quoting list - The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson.