Sunday, September 30, 2012

3-2-1 Gospel

321 from Jeremy Poyner on Vimeo.

321- A simple graphic presentation of the gospel. Interesting that it starts with the Trinity (3), moves to the two Adams (2) and then to our oneness (1) with Adam in sin and Christ for salvation.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grace is a But, Not a Therefore

"God’s grace always, always, always comes as a contradiction to what makes natural sense to us–it always comes as a but, not a therefore.....

....Not long ago a gentleman approached me after a talk I had delivered and said, “I’m 60 years-old and have had great success as a businessman and I’m here to tell you from experience that grace doesn’t work in this world.” My immediate response was, “Well maybe it appears that way only because grace isn’t from this world.”"

-Tullian Tchvidjian at Liberate

Revival Pending

Hopefully, they're just waiting for the Holy Spirit to move!

Hat Tip: Ed Stetzer

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thanks for the Prayers

From Radio Free Babylon (click to view larger)

Confronting Empty Promises

This is the best, most clearly stated, definition of idolatry I have read.
"What is an idol? Traditionally we define is as anything that is more important to us than God. But I find that people shrug that definition off too readily. It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking that nothing is more important to us than God.

So let's define it as this: idolatry is when I look to something that does not have God's power to give me what only God has the power and authority to give.
It's when we take good things like a successful career, love material possessions, even family, and turn to them in the hope that they'll provide what only God can provide.
It's when we buy into the empty promise that such things can give us the significance, security, safety and security we crave.
It's when we feel a God-given appetite and try to fill it with something that isn't God."
- Pete Wilson, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You're Believing, page

(This is a VERY GOOD book, BTW)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Twitter Updates

Haven't done one of these in a while, so, without further delay, here's some Twitter highlights.
RT : Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps. Ann Voskamp

RT : Our bad things turn out for good. Our good things can never be lost. And the best things are yet to come. 

RT : To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.~GK Chesterton

 RT : Whatever we may mean by “Christian growth,” it is ultimately this: less faith in me, more faith in God.

 RT : "God sends no one away empty - except those who are full of themselves." - D.L. Moody

 RT : Worship gatherings rooted in the gospel are not always spectacular, but they are always supernatural.

RT : God doesn't care what you have, so long as He has you!  

RT : What old resentment are you coddling instead of bathing in the gospel? (God's forgiven YOU for crying out loud!)

 RT : The beginning of love for [others] is learning to listen to them. Bonhoeffer

 RT : “Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes.” – Martin Luther

 RT : "we never pray for folks we gossip about, and we never gossip about the folk for whom we pray!" - Leonard Ravenhill

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Divorce Myth

We've all heard the statement: "Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world!"

Here's the truth...
People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith---whether Christian or other---have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.
The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.
What appears intuitive is true. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes---attend church nearly every week, read their bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples---enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public, and unbelievers.
 Note that it is belief combined with practice that makes the difference, not just profession of faith. Much more at the link.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Same Message

A wise and valuable message from Tullian Tchvidjian:
A friend of mine was walking down a street in Minneapolis one day and was confronted by an evangelical brother who asked, “Brother, are you saved?” Hal rolled his eyes back and said, “Yes.” That didn’t satisfy this brother, so he said, “Well, when were you saved?” Hal said, “About two thousand years ago, about a twenty minutes’ walk from downtown Jerusalem.” This is the gospel message. It’s just as important for Christians to believe for their sanctification as it is for pagans to believe for their justification; for it is the same message, the same salvation, the same work of God. It’s just as important for the evangelical church today as it was for the reformers in the sixteenth century. Without this simple, but mind-boggling message, there is no hope, not for the sinner nor for the saint.
 The entire article that paragraph is excerpted from is amazing, and very instructive. Please follow the link to read it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Megachurch Trends

I saw an interesting article by Thomas Rainer at Lifeway on Seven Updated Trends on Megachurches. I was particularly interested in #6.

Trend #6: A greater interest in groups. Megachurch leaders have a growing interest in groups as the church mechanism for assimilation, evangelism, fellowship, ministry, and more in-depth teaching. Groups have different names: small groups, Sunday school, life groups, home groups, etc. Megachurch leaders know that the health of their congregations can often be measured by the health of their groups. As the church grows larger, it must intentionally move smaller as well.
A very important concept is buried in that last line: "As the church grows larger, it must intentionally move smaller as well." Note that it must be intentional.

I see signs of all seven trends in my area, and at the church we attend. How about you?

Another Lost Gospel Fragment

From: The Sacred Sandwich

The One Who Fulfills and Forgives

"The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one. The living God, who revealed himself both at Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and, if you fail him, can truly forgive you."

Hat Tip: Keller Quotes

Thursday, September 20, 2012


 “If holiness makes you a sourpuss, you’re doing it wrong.”

   - From Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps

HT: Tony Reinke

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Cathedral of Astonishment

"If we reduce the Christian faith to only that which we can explain, we end up with a paper-thin, watered down, cheap knock-off of Christianity that no longer has the capacity to astonish...""

"..What we need in our faith, theology, and witness is to build a cathedral of astonishment. Or more accurately, we need to rediscover and preserve the cathedral of astonishment that is authentic Christianity when it is imbued with mystery and beauty."

   - Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity, pages 163, 165 (italics in the original)

Where You Are

"God is not interested in what you think you should be or feel. He is not interested in the narrative you construct for yourself, or that others construct for you. He may even use suffering to deconstruct that narrative. Rather, He is interested in you, the you who suffers, the you who inflicts suffering on others, the you who hides, the you who has bad days (and good ones). And He meets you where you are. Jesus is not the man at the top of the stairs; He is the man at the bottom, the friend of sinners, the savior of those in need of one. Which is all of us, all of the time."

(Excerpted from Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free, by Tullian Tchvidjian, pg. 80)

Hat Tip: Liberate

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Am From the Future

"Jesus was telling the Pharisees 'You keep asking when the kingdom of God is going to come, but it's already here. You just haven't seen it.' Jesus was telling the Pharisees that the future had arrived with what he was doing and with what was happening among his disciples. But you have to be born again to see it. It takes new eyes. Those who have been born again and have new eyes have sen the kingdom of God - they have, in fact, seen the future.. .."

" a baptized believer, this is my confession: I am from the future. I have seen and tasted the powers of the age to come."

       -Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save the World, page 132-1333

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ugliness Abosorbed

"Jesus didn't take a pragmatic approach to the problem of evil; Jesus took an aesthetic approach to the problem of evil. Jesus chose to absorb the ugliness of evil and turn it into something beautiful - the beauty of forgiveness."

               -Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save the World, Page 21

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No New Revelations

Hat Tip: Joe Thorn

George Whitefield Resources

Steve McCoy has a new "George Whitefield Resource Page" - Excellent!

Ways & Means

From a great article by Tim Keller on Revival Ways and Means:
The primary means-of-revival that everyone agrees upon is extraordinary prayer. That’s the clearest of all and so I won’t spend time on it. The second means is a recovery of the grace-gospel. One of the main vehicles sparking the first awakening in Northampton, Massachusetts was Edwards’ two sermons on Romans 4:5, “Justification by Faith Alone,” in November, 1734. For both John Wesley and George Whitefield, the main leaders of the British Great Awakening, it was an understanding of salvation by grace rather than moral effort that touched off personal renewal and made them agents of revival. Lloyd-Jones taught that the gospel of justification could be lost at two levels. A church might simply become heterodox and lose the very belief in justification by faith alone. But just as deadly, it might keep the doctrine “on the shelf” as it were and not preach it publicly in such a way that connects to people’s hearts and lives.

The third factor I would mention is renewed individuals. Sprague points out how certain church leaders can be characterized by the infectious marks of spiritual revival – a joyful, affectionate seriousness, and “unction” – a sense of God’s presence. In addition, often several visible, dramatic life-turnarounds (“surprising conversions”) may cause others to do deep self-examination and create a sense of spiritual longing and expectation in the community. The personal revivals going on in these individuals spread informally to others through conversation and relationship. More and more people begin to look at themselves and seek God.

A fourth factor I will call the use of the gospel on the heart in counseling. Sprague and John Newton in his letters do a good job of showing how the gospel must be used on both seekers, new believers, and non-growing Christians. The gospel must cut away both the moralism and the licentiousness that destroys real spiritual life and power. There must be venues and meetings and settings in which this is done, both one-on-one and in groups. See William Williams, The Experience Meeting, a leaders’ manual for revival-promoting small group meetings in Wales during the first great awakening
 Read the whole think at the link. I agree with what he says about Charles Finney. And BTW - Have I mentioned lately that I really like Tim Keller's stuff?!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grace in Disguise

Some thoughts on grace from one of my favorite writers, Kathleen Norris:
"If grace is so wonderful, why do we have such difficulty recognizing and accepting it? Maybe it’s because grace is not gentle or made-to-order. It often comes disguised as loss, or failure, or unwelcome change."
From “The Grace of Aridity and Other Comedies,” The Best Spiritual Writing 2004
"For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go."
From  Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life
Hat Tip: Liberate

Never Forget

Hat Tip:  Marshall Ramsey at the Clarion-Ledger

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beautiful Truth, Beautiful Goodness

"Truth and goodness need beauty. Truth claims divorced from beauty can become condescending.  Goodness minus beauty can become moralistic. to embrace truth and goodness in the Christian sense, we must also embrace beauty...." - Pages 28-29

"...But when the beautiful is severed from the absolute (God), what passes for beautiful can be anything and everything - which is to say nothing.  There really is a profound connection between the loss of beauty and the loss of meaning..." - Page 30

""The cross is a beautiful mystery - a mystery where an unexpected beauty is in the process of rescuing the world from its ugliness. Beauty will save the world."  Page 31

From Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Beauty and Allure of Christianity, by Brian Zahnd

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More Contemporary Than Thou

Hat Tip: Ed Stetzer

Prime Examples

"...nearly everyone admires St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa of Calcutta whether or not they are Christians. St. Francis and Mother Teresa are preeminent examples of lives shaped by the cruciform to a degree that their lives of co-suffering love have come to be universally recognized as lives of beauty."

 - Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Beauty and Allure of Christianity, Page 27

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I Want the Whole Gospel

I want the whole gospel:Every single ounce of truth; give it to me straight just like it is in the Bible.

I want the whole gospel:Don’t dilute the living water—it might not quench my thirsty soul.

I want the whole gospel:Turn on the light of Jesus Christ and don’t shield my view—I need every beam of His radiant glory to dispel the darkness in me.

I want the whole gospel:Don’t block the door, or I might not get through.

I want the whole gospel:I need an accurate map to the narrow road, because only a few are finding it.

I want the whole gospel:Because I am wholly lost, God’s verdict is wholly just, and my damnation is wholly certain.
My heart is wholly depraved and my sin is wholly mine.
My efforts are wholly futile and my escapes are wholly hopeless.
I need a whole Savior, whose whole suffering, wholly satisfies a holy God.

Please, please don’t cut the corners. It’s appointed unto man once to die and I have to be sure I get it right.

I have to have the whole gospel—give it to me straight. Nothing else will do!

Yes…God help us, let’s give the whole gospel.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Too Small?

"A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small."

                          - Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

The Beauty of the Crucifom

More quotes from Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity, by Brian Zahnd, on what is means to live according to the pattern of the Cruciform:
"..the cruciform (the shape of a cross) is the eternal form that endows Christianity with its mysterious beauty. Simply put, the cross is the form that makes Christianity beautiful! The cross is the beauty of Christianity because it is at the cross that we encounter co-suffering love and costly forgiveness in its most beautiful form." - Page 6
The cruciform is the aesthetic of our gospel. It is the form that gives Christianity its unique beauty. ....,,,to those who have eyes to see, the cruciform shows for a transcendent beauty - the beauty of love and forgiveness. It is the beauty of Christ's love and forgiveness most clearly seen in the cruciform that is able to save us from our vicious pride and avaricious greed." -Page 7
"The beauty of the cruciform by which Jesus saves the world through an act of co-suffering love and costly forgiveness is the same beauty that must characterize the church if we are to show forth the glory of the Lord in our world." - Page 10
"The cruciform as a pattern gives us a means of evaluating our own form and how we present ourselves to the wider culture. With an eye on the cruciform, we can ask ourselves 'Does this attitude, this approach, this action, look like Jesus on the cross?' If our attitude, approach, or action cannot be reasonably compared to the image of the cruciform, we need to abandon it." -Pages 18-10

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Where Grace Rules

"Relational flourishing happens only when ledgers are destroyed, when score-keeping comes to an end. It happens only where grace rules."

      -Tullian Tchvidjian (Twitter @PastorTullian)

Beauty Will Save the World

I've been reading a unique, inspiring and fascinating book by Brian Zahnd entitled Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure &  Mystery of Christianity. Wonderful book!

I've never before read a book about an apologetic of beauty. He believes that the church needs to recover the form and beauty that are intrinsic to Christianity. He finds that beauty in the story of the Cross, expressed through believers living "cruciform" lives, that is, lives marked by grace, sacrificial service and forgiveness. Zahnd begins with this thesis on page 2:
"Christianity as the ongoing expression of the Jesus story lived out in the lives of individuals and in society is a beauty that can save the world." 
Or, as C.S. Lewis put it:
"We do not merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to  bathe in it, to become part of it."
          -C.S. Lewis, The Weight & The Glory
Expect a lot of quotes from this book in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More Than A Symbol

Interesting - a strong case for the regular, weekly celebration of communion, made by a Pentecostal preacher! Check out this great article by Jonathan Martin, pastor of Renovatus Church in North Carolina.
Yesterday, I announced formally that we would be celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly at Renovatus.
I have been moving in that direction for many years, and have even ironically claimed it to be the best way to orient a weekly worship gathering. Why precisely I have been so reluctant to pull the trigger, I do not know. We just wrapped up our Love Feast series, which was intended to be about Christian community. And indeed it was, but to my surprise it became as much about communion—or to be more precise, the way that communion must be the basis of our community. We came to the Lord’s table weekly during the series. And as God continued to confirm so much of what we had been sensing for years-that much of our destiny and calling as a church is wrapped up in this path of sacramental Pentecostalism, the time was right to make it our ongoing practice......
....There are many reasons I am compelled to lead our congregation to the table weekly: from Scripture, from early church tradition, from following my own Pentecostal tradition back up the line to Wesley, from the simple prompting of the Holy Spirit. But today I want to focus only on one. When Chris and I tag-teamed the message a few weeks ago, he shared something of his own journey to discover the power of the Lord’s Supper as a Pentecostal. He said it all started with a simple remark from a mentor who said that grounding the worship service in the sacrament is the only way to keep it from being too oriented around the personality of the preacher. That stung me. I do feel powerfully compelled and even used by God to preach, and there are many ways/forms that people respond to the preached word in our church. Perhaps this still seemed to be enough before now. Perhaps some of it is the blind optimism of youth, thinking that while I’m far from perfect, the work of the Spirit in the preaching is enough to sustain the congregation.
I have continued to ponder those words. Lord knows I have a big personality, so big it scares me. Thus I have no desire for anybody to ground their faith or their life in me. But when the preaching gets more press (and more space) in the worship experience, perhaps this is still what we invite people to do. I know for my part, I am feeling my fragility these days. I have as great a confidence in God than ever to change lives, but a much a more sober estimation about the value of my own life to the church....
Love his phrase "sacramental Pentecostalism"!

What do you think?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Center Church - A Model for Ministry

Tim Keller has a new book coming out this week - Center Church.

Above is the trailer for the book. Here's a synopsis:
In Center Church, Timothy Keller offers challenging insights and provocative questions based on over twenty years of ministry in New York City. This book outlines a theological vision for ministry—based on classic doctrines but rethinking our assumptions about church for our time and place—organized around three core commitments:Gospel-centered: The gospel of grace in Jesus Christ changes everything, from our hearts to our community to the world. It completely reshapes the content, tone and strategy of all that we do.City-centered: Cities increasingly influence our global culture and affect the way we do ministry. With a positive approach toward our culture, we learn to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic and underserved places for gospel ministry.Movement-centered: Instead of building our own tribe, we seek the prosperity and peace of our community as we are led by the Holy Spirit.