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.

Only Two Men

The TV sit-com "Two and a Half Men" may soon be down to only two. From CT Gleanings:
The youngest member of CBS's "Two and a Half Men" soon could be walking away from the raunchy show after 10 years—and he's urging other viewers to do the same.
In a YouTube video posted by Forerunner Christian Church, 19-year-old Angus T. Jones calls the show "filth" and encourages viewers to stop watching. Jones says he began to doubt his role on the show—where he earns an estimated $350,000 per episode—after converting to Christianity.
"I'm not okay with what I'm learning, what the Bible says and being on that television show," Jones stated.
He also urged viewers, "If you watch 'Two and a Half Men,' please stop watching ... Please stop filling your head with filth."
According to the Chicago Tribune, "The CBS network and Warner Bros Television, which makes the comedy, both declined to comment on Monday on Jones's remarks."

Satisfied by the Naked Longing

Tullian Tchvidjian (Glorious Ruin, pages 177-178) on understanding the Book of Job:
"Take the book of Job. Some commentators actually become exasperated with Job because it seems to go on and on, endlessly repeating the same arguments without providing any definitive answers. there's just chapter after chapter of Job and his friends covering the same territory over and over again. But the redundancy serves both a theological and a literary purpose. Yes, it does go on, and on, and on, with no definitive answers - which is exactly how most of us experience suffering in real life. that is, you are in good company. Job wasn't given a definitive answer either. God did not come to him at the end of the book and say, You made it Job! Now let me tell you the real reason why you suffered. All we find at the bottom of Job's suffering is a naked longing for God. Which, it turns out, is enough."
That is the best summation of the message of Job I have ever heard or read.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Zombie Eschatology

From The Sacred Sandwich

Amazing Achievement of Justice and Mercy

God, I ponder Your achievement.
You don’t condone my sin,
nor do You compromise Your standard.
You don’t ignore my rebellion,
nor do You relax Your demands.
Rather than dismiss my sin,
You assume my sin,
and incredibly sentence Yourself.
Your holiness is honored.
My sin is punished…
and I am redeemed.
You have done what I cannot do -
so I can be what I dare not dream -
Perfect before You.
- Max Lucado

Hat Tip: Trevin Wax

Closing the Idol Factories

"As our idols reveal to us, we all have some corner of our lives where we need to be converted afresh, where some false hope needs to die if faith is to be born. This side of the pearly gates, you and I can be relied upon to forget the goodness of the gospel. Like factories, our hearts, to paraphrase John Calvin, will never cease to produce new idols. The only hope lies in hearing the crushing word of the Law and the absolving word of the gospel every day. Every minute!

As an aside, this is precisely why churches need to preach the basic gospel every Sunday. Sermons with advice (or "application") about relationships or money or social justice will always fall flat, regardless of how sound the advice may be. they do not take into account the depth of suffering experienced in the life of a believer or the sin that persists in every Christian...."

           -Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin, page 165

Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Expiration Date

"...I was not, and am not, immune to these toxic assumptions. It took the repeated defeats of my adult life for me to even begin to grasp the sustaining power of the good news, that God's grace doesn't expire after the first conversion or nervous breakdown. This is such good news! You see, along with the vast majority of professing Christians, I had reduced the gospel to what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved before moving into the deeper waters of sanctification. But suffering taught me that the only deeper waters are those of our own need: none of us ever grow to a place where we no longer require the 200-proff version of God's mercy and forgiveness." 
      - Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin, page 164
Yes! Give me the old 200 proof version off the Gospel!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Glory in the Bloody Display

So where is God’s glory most manifested?
In God’s goodness -
when Jesus is ‘glorified,’
lifted up and hung on a cross,
displaying God’s glory
in the shame, degradation, brutality,
and sacrifice of His crucifixion,
and by this means returning to the glory
He shared with the Father
before the world began.

The most spectacular display of God’s glory
is in a bloody instrument of torture
because that is where God’s goodness was most displayed.

It is good to sing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’
but we must also sing, ‘On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame’ -
because there God displayed His glory in Christ Jesus,
who thus became our tabernacle, our temple,
the meeting place between God and human beings.”

- D.A. Carson, The God Who Is There, 115-116

Hat Tip: Trevin Wax

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cure for Backsliding

I recommend this article by Joe Thorn on The Cure for Backsliding:
The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.” Proverbs 14:14
A godly life is not a sinless life, but a life marked by faith, obedience, and repentance. Sin is an ongoing reality in a godly life, as is the act of killing sin. While no Christian is or can be perfect, he can be mature. And this not only means that in the church we will have varying degrees of maturity and godliness, but we may also have some who are not progressing in faith, but actually declining in it.
What is backsliding?
All Christians are sinners, but not all Christians are currently backsliding. Backsliding is not the loss of one’s salvation (this is impossible), nor the loss of God’s love and care (his faithfulness endures forever).
To say it simply, a backslidden Christian is one whose communion with Christ is waning and whose faith is weakening. I shared what some potential symptoms of a backslidden condition look like in a previous post on my site. Today, I would like to point us to the cure for a backslidden heart.
Much more at the link.

The Only Good Black Friday

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Song of Thanksgiving

   David's song of thanksgiving (from 1 Chronicles 16

    Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
        make known his deeds among the peoples!
    Sing to him, sing praises to him;
        tell of all his wondrous works!
    Glory in his holy name;
        let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
    Seek the LORD and his strength;
        seek his presence continually!
    Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
        his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
    O offspring of Israel his servant,
        children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tugging Hard

“Throughout American history, the most successful church movements have not been the ones that kept up with contemporary culture, but the ones that were confident enough to tug hard against it.”

                   -Russell Moore

Hat Tip: Tim Challies

Fighting Fair

From The Sacred Sandwich

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Proverbial Wisdom

Found some good material from R.C. Sproul on how to interpret the Book of Proverbs.
Every culture seems to have its own unique, collected wisdom, pithy insights of the wise. Oftentimes, these tidbits are preserved in the form of the proverb. We have proverbial sayings in American culture. I am thinking of sayings such as “A stitch in time saves nine” or “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

The Bible, of course, has an entire book of such pithy sayings—the book of Proverbs. However, this compilation of proverbial wisdom is different from all other such collections in that these sayings reflect not just human wisdom but divine wisdom, for these proverbs are inspired by God.

 We must be very careful in how we approach and implement these wise sayings. Because they are inspired does not mean that the biblical proverbs are like laws, imposing a universal obligation. Yet, some people treat them as if they were divine commandments. If we regard them in that way, we run into all kinds of trouble. Even divinely inspired proverbs do not necessarily apply to all life situations. Rather, they reflect insights that are generally true.
He goes on to give some examples on how to understand seemingly contradictory proverbs. I recommend reading the whole thing.

Aware of Weakness


RT @PastorTullian "The Holy Spirit's ministry is not to make us stronger so we need Jesus less but to make us aware of our weakness so that we need Jesus more."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Freedom to be Small

"The world tells us in a thousand different ways that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. The richer, the more beautiful, and the more powerful we grow, the more security, liberty, and happiness we will experience. And yet, the gospel tells us just the opposite, that the smaller we become, the freer we will be. This may sound at first like bad news, but as we will see, it could not be better news.

In the Bible, slavery is equated with self-reliance.... When your meaning, your significance, your security, your protection, your safety are all riding on you, it actually feels like slavery....

...God wants to free us from ourselves, and there's nothing like suffering to show us that we need something bigger than our abilities and our strength and our explanations. There's nothing like suffering to remind us how not in control we actually are, how little power we ultimately have, and how much we ultimately need god. In other words, suffering reveals to us the things that ultimately matter, which also happen to be the warp and woof of Christianity: who we are and who God is."

        - Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free:, pages 142-143

A Matter of Perspective

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Practicing a Spiritual Discipline

Finally, a spiritual discipline I can easily enjoy!

Present in the Defeats

"...a theology of glory sees God at work in the victories of life ratter than the defeats.

...a theology of the cross allows us to love and serve a suffering person independent of whether on not, or how fast, he is healing. We can walk with these people in their present pain, as opposed to impatiently focusing on their future health.

God is right there, not somewhere else."

    -Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free.  pages 122-123

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Story is All About Jesus

 Tim Keller: on two ways to read the Bible:
There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done? If I read David and Goliath as basically giving me an example, then the story is really about me. I must summons up the faith and courage to fight the giants in my life. But if I read David and Goliath as basically showing me salvation through Jesus, then the story is really about him. Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants (sin, law, death) for me, I will never have the courage to be able to fight ordinary giants in life (suffering, disappointment, failure, criticism, hardship). For example how can I ever fight the ‘giant’ of failure, unless I have a deep security that God will not abandon me? If I see David as my example, the story will never help me fight the failure/giant. But if I see David/Jesus as my substitute, whose victory is imputed to me, then I can stand before the failure/giant. As another example, how can I ever fight the ‘giant’ of persecution or criticism? Unless I can see him forgiving me on the cross, I won’t be able to forgive others. Unless I see him as forgiving me for falling asleep on him (Matt.27:45) I won’t be able to stay awake for him.

In the Old Testament we are continually told that our good works are not enough, that God has made a provision. This provision is pointed to at every place in the Old Testament. We see it in the clothes God makes Adam and Eve in Genesis, to the promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs, to the Tabernacle and the whole sacrificial system, to the innumerable references to a Messiah, a suffering servant, and so on.

Therefore, to say that the Bible is about Christ is to say that the main theme of the Bible is, ‘Salvation is of the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9).

Hat Tip: Peter Cockrell

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sign Open to Interpretation

Here's hoping that the word "hurting" is meant as an adjective, and not as a verb!

Hat Tip: Trevin Wax

Deconstructed by Jesus

More from Tullian Tchvidjian's new book Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free:
"When the goal becomes conquering our sin instead of soaking in the conquest of our Savior, we actually begin to shrink spiritually....The tragic irony in all of this is that when we focus so strongly on our need to get better, we actually get worse." (page 82)
"I've said it once and I'll say it again and again, because I need to be reminded myself.: Christianity is not first and foremost about our behavior, our obedience, our response, and our daily victory over sin. It is first and foremost about Jesus! It is about His person, His substitutionary work, His incantation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return. We are justified - and sanctified - by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. Even now, the banner under which Christians live reads, 'It is finished.' Everything we need and everything we look for in things smaller than Jesus, is already ours in Christ." (page 83)
"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, praise be to God." (page 92)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Change Not


Rejecting Karma

"Grace fundamentally rejects the circularity of karma."
 From an article by Tullian Tchvidjian in Relevant Magazine - Does God Punish Disobedience? The article is excerpted from chapter 4 of Glorious Ruin.

Read it all at the link.

An End In Itself

 More from Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free:
"Contrary to popular belief,Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is about bad people coping with their failure to be good....The gospel is a proclamation that always addresses sinners and sufferers directly (i.e., you and me)" (Page 78)

"Think about it: How often have you heard the gospel equated with a positive change in a believer's life? 'I used to __________, but then I met Jesus and now I'm __________.' It may be unintentional, but we make a serious mistake when we reduce the good news to its results, such as patience, sobriety, and compassion, in the lives of those who have heard it. These are beautiful developments, and they should be celebrated. But they should not be confused with the gospel itself. The gospel is not a means to an end, it is an end in itself." (page 79)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bold Witness

From The Sacred Sandwich

I Stink At Prayer

I stink at prayer. Pete Wilson's words below clarify why.
Do you ever wonder why we’re  so inconsistent with prayer? While I won’t speak for you I’ll admit one of the main reasons I don’t pray more consistently is in a word: pride.

I love this quote from one of Matt Chandler’s messages. He said,
“Prayer, more than any other spiritual discipline, reveals what’s really in your heart and how much pride you operate in. Prayer, more than any other discipline, reveals what you really believe about you, what you really believe about God, and how much pride is in the tank of your soul.”
Why do I stink at prayer? Because I’m so good at pride!

I believe one of the greatest reasons so many of us struggle with prayer is because we live under a prideful illusion that we’re in control. And control is this addictive illusion that will permeate your consciousness over time and make you begin to believe you really don’t need to pursue God.
The greatest need many of us have is to recognize that we are not in control.... and that He is. Wilson also said "Worry isn’t the result of your problems. Worry is the result of you thinking you can control your problems." Truth there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We Are Actors, Not Directors

More from Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free:
"The gospel frees us to speak honestly about the reality of pain, confident that nothing rides on our ability to cope with or fend off suffering. Before we can even begin to grapple with the frustrations and tragedies of life in this world, we must do away with our faithless morality of payback and rewards.....We must return to the beginning (and end) of the whole affair: the cross." (Page 68)

:While God does indeed use the suffering in our lives, He is interested in much more than improvements in your personality or circumstantial happiness; He is interested in saving you. He is more than your Helper; He is your Redeemer. We do not have the primary role in this drama after all; we are the actors, not the directors. Sometimes it requires getting on our knees for us to see the truth." (page 69)

Pro-Life for Dummies

Stand to Reason blog has a good Pro Life Crash Course - i.e. how to present the pro-life position in non-friendly environments.
The most important question to resolve when discussing whether or not you can kill the unborn is the question, "What is it?" If it's not a human being, then there's no problem killing it. If it's a valuable human being, then one can't justify killing it.*
There are three stages your argument will have to address:
  1. Is it a human being?
  2. Should this human being have the rights of other human beings?
  3. Respond to objections.
This is a good and helpful presentation. Read it all at the link.

Hat Tip: Rick Ianiello

Monday, November 12, 2012

God Hidden in Our Wreckage

Pastor Tullian on Luther's concept of the Theology of the Cross:
"A theology of the cross...understands the cross to be the ultimate statement of God's involvement in the world this side of heaven. A theology of the cross accepts the difficult thing rather than trying to change it or use it. It looks directly into the pain, and 'calls a thing what it is' instead of calling evil good and good evil. It identifies God as 'hidden in [the] suffering." Luther actually took things one key step further. He said that God was not only hidden in suffering, but He was at work in our anxiety and doubt. When you are at the end of your rope- when you no longer have hope within yourself - that is when you run to God for mercy. It's admittedly difficult to accept the claim that God is somehow hidden amid all of the wreckage of our lives. But those who are willing to struggle and despair may in actuality be those among us who best understand the realities of the Christian life."

- Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free, pages 42-43

Reading Through the Ruin

In case you haven't noticed, I'm reading Tullian Tchvidjian's new book, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free, and will be posting a lot of quotes as I work my way through it.

This is a book that is simultaneously deep and easy to read. It's going to take me some time to digest, and I'm finding it highly relevant to my recent and continuing life struggles - as I'm experiencing a lot of ruin that doesn't feel very glorious for the present.

You should check it out -you will not be disappointed.

The Freedom of Who

"But the gospel is not ultimately a defense from pain and suffering; rather, it is the message of God's rescue through pain. In fact, it allows us to drop our defenses, to escape not from pain but from the prison of How and Why to the freedom of Who."

     -Tullian Tchvidjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free, page 38

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day Salute

Today is Veterans Day in the USA. November 11 was originally called Armistice Day, in memory of the end of World War I. It is now called Veterans Day in honor of all U.S. military veterans.I wish to make special recognition today for and to:

1. 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), Uncle Cranford Nelson (Navy), Cousin Harry Nelson (Navy), Cousin Jimmy Walters (Marine Corps), Cousin Shain Vice (Major, US Army), Brother-in-law Gary Meier (Army), nephew Dale Meier (Army, 82nd Airborne), and any other family members I'm forgetting.

2. All our men and women serving and protecting us on the front lines of Afghanistan, and many other dangerous places around the world.

3. All current and retired American veterans.

4. The families of those lost in Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, and so many other places.

I am thankful and grateful for your service and sacrifice.

Friday, November 9, 2012

All Need to Hear

RT @liberatenet:

Because Christians and non-Christians are both sinful, all people need to hear the law.

Because Christians and non-Christians are both sinful, all people need to hear the gospel.

Charting the Trinity

Click to Enlarge -
From Visual Theology at Challies.Com

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Books of the Bible - A Periodic Table

From Visual Theology at Challies.Com.   Click to enlarge.

Interpreting Your Biography

Don't let your biography shape your theology. Instead. let good Biblical theology interpret your biography.

Don't form your ideas about God, morals, or truth based on your personal life experiences, good or bad. Instead, interpret, evaluate and understand your identity and experiences through the lens of the Bible, through what God says about you, about us, about humanity. Most of all, understand who you are through the lens of Jesus Christ, your Savior and Lord, and what he said and did, and does for us.

Therein is freedom from being defined by your past. Therein is freedom to live joyously in the present. Therein is freedom to face the future unafraid.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pray and Vote

To my American readers:

No matter what happens in today's elections, Jesus Christ will still be Lord, God will still be sovereign, and he will reign forever. The Kingdom of God is neither coming nor failing through whatever happens in this election. The gospel is the news that matters most, and it tells me Jesus will be Lord tomorrow, same as yesterday and ever after

Pray, and vote, and pray some more. Exercise your right to vote. Then, let God exercise His right to be God.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ministry in Cougar Town

Here's Jamie Wright (aka "The Very Worst Missionary") on why evangelistic ministry is harder in California than in Central America. The context is her observation of a middle aged, married woman flirting with a younger man, in front of her own daughter. If you are not reading Jamie, why not? You should be.
I always think it's interesting when people pat us on the back for being missionaries to Costa Rica. Perhaps they think we were doing something difficult because they don't know that in Costa Rica there's a bleeding-Jesus-in-a-crown-of-thorns bumper sticker on every bus, taxi, and pizza delivery scooter. You can easily engage nearly every person you cross paths with in a conversation about God or Jesus or Faith or whatever. It's really not hard. Every town has grown up around a church, faith is taught in public school, and there's pretty much a missionary on every corner. In Costa Rica, “Jesus” is generally a familiar and comfortable word – not an instant conversation killer.
We've been back in the NorCal suburbs for a whole three months now, and all I can say is that ministry is way harder here than it ever was in Costa Rica. Being an agent for Love and Grace in a place where people truly don't recognize their own need is really tough. Watching a married woman angle for an affair with a younger, hotter man while her daughter looks on is gut-wrenching. ...And sorta hilarious.... But seriously? Gut-wrenching.
I believe Jesus has competition in the American suburbs like no place else on Earth. Everyone here is surrounded by so much shiny new stuff, it's hard to see the Light. Here, depravity is hidden behind tall double doors, and the things that separate us from God often come gleaming, right out of the box. The contrast between Dark and Light has been cleverly obscured by the polish of materialism and vanity. Here, poverty is internal, hunger is spiritual, and need feels non-existent. But it's there.
Behind the facade of perfection in Cougar Town, past the fake boobs and fancy cars and fat paychecks, and at the bottom of aaalll thoooose wine glasses, there's a need so desperate, a loneliness so great, and a brokenness so crushing that you can practically hear the collective cry for Redemption. But the beautiful thing to be found in all of that mess is that there's a Savior here, too, and He's ready to fulfill his promises. 
Jesus is here, in Cougar Town. 
And for the first time in my life, I feel like maybe I'm supposed to be a missionary...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Asking For the Gift of HImself

From  C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms  (Harcourt Brace, 1958), 52-53
There, despite the presence of elements we should now find it hard to regard as religious at all, and the absence of elements which some might think essential to religion, I find an experience fully God-centered, asking of God no gift more urgently than His presence, the gift of Himself, joyous to the highest degree, and unmistakably real. What I see (so to speak) in the faces of these old poets tells me about the God whom they and we adore. 
Have you asked Him for the gift of Himself today?

Hat Tip: Dane Ortlund

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Need All Saints

Love these "All Saints Day" Tweets from Brian Zahnd! (Twitter @BrianZahnd)
I need the whole church—the whole church in historical length and ecumenical width.

I need my Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal brothers and sisters.

I need the accumulated wisdom of the church from every age. My congregation is 31 years old. My church is 2,000 years old.

I believe in Jesus—the Hope, the Light, the Savior of the world. I trust in no other plan, program, or politician. Here I stand. Amen. 

Not Our Identity

I am a firm believer that Martin Luther got it right when he said that Christians are "simul justus et peccator" (Latin for "simultaneously righteous and sinners") I believe that so much, I wish I had a T-Shirt with those Latin words blazoned upon it. However, it is important to remember that this statement describes our present walk in the "now and not yet," but not our identity before the presence of God. I like this clarification by Jono Linebaugh at Liberate:
...In light of this, it’s important to clarify that simul iustus et peccator is NOT a description of our Christian identity; it is NOT a description of who we are before God. What it is, however, is a description of the both/and that characterizes the Christian life as lived.

The pastoral payoff here is that it enables us to affirm (without crossing our fingers) that in Christ—at the level of identity—the Christian is 100% righteous before God while at the same time recognizing the persistence of sin. If we don’t speak in terms of two total states (100% righteous in Christ and 100% sinful in ourselves) corresponding to the co-existence of two times (the old age and the new creation) then the undeniable reality of ongoing sin leads to the qualification of our identity in Christ: the existence of some sin must mean that one is not totally righteous. This is acid at the very foundation of the peace we have with God on the other side of justification. To say simul iustus et peccator is therefore not to say that “sinner” is our identity; it is to say that while we remain sinful in ourselves we are, in Christ, totally righteous.
That's what it means. That's how we live. That's what He has done.