Tuesday, January 31, 2012

If There Were No Minor Key

Would we know that the major chords were sweet, 

If there were no minor key? 

Would the painter’s work be fair to our eyes, 

Without shade on land or sea?

Would we know the meaning of happiness, 

Would we feel that the day was bright, 

If we’d never known what it was to grieve, 

Nor gazed on the dark of night?
“Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.” –Charles Spurgeon

Excerpt from the devotional Streams in the Desert 

Hat Tip: Mars Hill

Living the Three Circles

In honor of his birthday yesterday, here's an excerpt from Francis Schaeffer's book No Little People:, published in 1974:

As I see it, the Christian life must be comprised of three concentric circles, each of which must be kept in its proper place.

In the outer circle must be the correct theological position, true biblical orthodoxy and the purity of the visible church. This is first, but if that is all there is, it is just one more seedbed for spiritual pride.

In the second circle must be good intellectual training and comprehension of our own generation. But having only this leads to intellectualism and again provides a seedbed for pride.

In the inner circle must be the humble heart — the love of God, the devotional attitude toward God. There must be the daily practice of the reality of the God whom we know is there.

These three circles must be properly established, emphasized and related to each other. At the center must be kept a living relationship to the God we know exists. When each of these three circles is established in its proper place, there will be tongues of fire and the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, at the end of my life, when I look back over my work since I have been a Christian, I will see that I have not wasted my life.

Hat Tip:  Miscellanies

Monday, January 30, 2012

Offering Strange Kindle Fire

What if they made this announcement at the start of every church service?
“Please silence your pagers and cell phones as we prepare to worship the living God. We welcome you to use your phones, readers, or other digital devices to follow along in God’s Word, but we warn you that this is the worst possible time to send texts, check email, or bomb angry birds. God demands and deserves our full attention, and he destroyed Nadab and Abihu for offering “strange fire” during worship. So use your kindle fire at your own risk.”
Somehow I don't think that would go over very well!
BTW, the Nadab and Abihu reference is from Leviticus 9 & 10.

From Mike Wittmer

The Future of Libraries

I love my Kindle, but also love physical books and hope they never go away!

Hat Tip: Near Emmaus

100 Years of Schaeffer

Today would have been the 100th birthday of one of my Christian heroes - the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer.Comments below are from The Chief End of Man.
Francis Schaeffer—100?  Who can believe it?!  Schaeffer (1912-1984) was born 100 years ago on January 30th.   On this special occasion, it’s worth taking a few minutes to remember his important legacy.  Many of us were greatly blessed by his life.

Schaeffer was a Presbyterian pastor, then missionary, then apologist, prolific author, evangelist, film maker and activist .  He was one of six evangelical leaders  (along with Billy Graham, John Stott, J.I. Packer, Carl F. H. Henry, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones) who profoundly shaped the evangelical movement in the second half of the  20th  century....
And I liked this.
 ..Schaeffer also knew the power of truth.  He understood that a new subjective view of truth was emerging.   He insisted that God created us in his image and has spoken to us—hence we have a groundwork for knowing truth.  As the idea of truth was being relativized, Schaeffer talked about “true truth” and truth spelled with a capital “T.”   Yet Schaeffer wasn’t content to simply argue for truth, he went further saying that Biblical Christianity provides a unified answer for the whole of life.  And that truth is ultimately found in Jesus Christ. Discovering Christ and his truth leads us back to freedom and dignity.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Growth Seed

"Christian growth isn't found outside the gospel, and it is foolish to pursue any other method with such a goal. Christian growth is gospel growth. There's no other kind, and there's no other way."

      - Michael Chase, The Gospel is for Christians, page 115

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Reminder That Grows Gratitude

"The key to becoming more grateful people, then, is knowing more of the gospel that saves us. The gospel has the power to free us from entitlement.  The gospel humbles us before our mighty yet merciful God. The gospel reminds us of the judgement that we deserved, the condemnation which God saved us from - and our response should be gratitude for undeserved grace. God's will is that Christians give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). If Christians are to grow in gratitude, they must grow in the gospel."

         -Michael Chase, The Gospel is for Christians, page 114

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Personal Note

I haven't been on the web as much as usual for the past few days due to a family medical crises.  Yesterday, my 83 year old mother had cancer surgery.  I am overjoyed to report that her prognosis looks good, the surgeon thinks that they got it all, and does not think that she will need chemotherapy. She was discharged from the hospital today and went home to recover in peace.

Thank you Lord Jesus, for all the grace and mercy we have received this week, for the prayer support of our family and friends, for the wisdom and skill given to a great doctor, and for your healing power at work in Mom's body. And thanks for the Christian testimony of my Mom and Dad and their example of a strong marriage.

To God be the glory!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Perseverence Pays Off

From:  22 Words

Value Lies in the Object

"To say ‘justification by faith’ is merely another way of saying ‘justification by Christ’. Faith has absolutely no value in itself; its value lies solely in its object. Faith is the eye that looks to Christ, the hand that lays hold of him, the mouth that drinks the water of life."

            — John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), page 187

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Small Crowd Came to DC Yesterday

Yesterday a "small crowd" gathered in Washington DC to proclaim the sanctity of life and pray for an end to legalized abortion. The "mainstream" press never thinks this annual event is important enough to cover.  I thought you might like to see pictures of the "few thousand" who came. 

Wisdom on Unequal Yokes

I would like to call the attention of all my single readers to an excellent article entitled Don’t Take It from Me: Reasons You Should Not Marry an Unbeliever by Kathy Keller, wife of Pastor Tim Keller and co-author of The Meaning of Marriage.
Over the course of our ministry, the most common pastoral issue that Tim and I have confronted is probably marriages---either actual or proposed---between Christians and non-Christians. I have often thought how much simpler it would be if I could remove myself from the conversation and invite those already married to unbelievers do the talking to singles who are desperately trying to find a loophole that would allow them to marry someone who does not share their faith.
That way, I could skip all the Bible passages that urge singles only to "marry in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39) and not "be unequally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6:14) and the Old Testament proscriptions against marrying the foreigner, a worshiper of a god other than the God of Israel (see Numbers 12 where Moses marries a woman of another race but the same faith). You can find those passages in abundance, but when someone has already allowed his or her heart to become engaged with a person outside the faith, I find that the Bible has already been devalued as the non-negotiable rule of faith and practice...
She says it better than I could, and perhaps better than any man could. Read it at the link.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Well Dressed?

From: The Sacred Sandwich

Determining Factor

“The determining factor in our relationship with God is not our past or present, but Christ’s past and present.”

                                - Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Hat tip: Peter Cockrell

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

Psalms 139 - Sanctity of Life
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Psalm 139

Pro-Life Passion Shaped by the Gospel

Some interesting ideas from Jared Wilson on A Gospel-Shaped Pro-Life Passion:
If you put overturning Roe v. Wade to a popular vote, I'm in line early ready to vote in favor of protecting the approximately one million unborn babies killed each year, and if you're a politician, the best way to lose my vote is to align with the pro-choice agenda.

Nevertheless, I don't believe laws -- or the protests and petitions and politicking that seek to achieve them -- are the primary way we are going to eradicate abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade is a win -- and it's a win we should work for, hard -- but in my way of thinking, it is not the win.

The emancipation of the slaves and ensuing civil rights legislation was necessary. But none of it ended racism.

I am not proposing an either/or. What I'm proposing is that evangelicals take the harder route, adopt the harder cause, that we pray for and aim for Spiritual change of hearts more than we aim for legal stay of hands.

Here are some thoughts on how we may do this:....

Read it at the link. I agree with him.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Piper on Abortion - Free Download

Desiring God is offering free download of a PDF version of John Piper's short book "Exposing the Dark Work of Abortion." Here’s a sample sentence:
God is calling passive, inactive Christians today to engage our minds and hearts and hands in exposing the barren works of darkness. To be the conscience of our culture. To be the light of the world. To live in the great reality of being loved by God and adopted by God and forgiven by Christ (yes—for all the abortions that dozens of you have had), and be made children of the light. I call you to walk as children of light....

The Next Bourne Movie

To be followed by "The Bourne Eschatology"?

Hat Tip:  Tall Skinny Kiwi

Tecnology & Magic

Some thought provoking material for a Saturday morning.  Who said we can't think on the weekends?
"There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the “wisdom” of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique."

                -C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, page 77:
"In ancient times it was understood that there was a transcendent moral order outside the self, built in to the fabric of the universe. If you violated that metaphysical order there were consequences just as severe as if you violated physical reality by placing your hand in a fire. The path of wisdom was to learn to live in conformity with this unyielding reality. That wisdom rested largely in developing qualities of character, such as humility, compassion, courage, discretion, and loyalty.

Modernity reversed this. Ultimate reality was seen not so much as a supernatural order but as the natural world, and that was malleable. Instead of trying to shape our desires to fit reality, we now seek to control and shape reality to fit our desires. The ancients looked at an anxious person and prescribed spiritual character change. Modernity talks instead about stress-management techniques."

            - Timothy Keller, The Reason For God, page 71

Hat Tip: Miscellanies

Friday, January 20, 2012

Faith Amid Persecution in Pakistan

From My Take: Looking for faith amid persecution at CNN Belief Blog
Imagine living in a country where being born into your family's faith could thwart your chances of learning to read, narrow your employment opportunities to jobs like trash collector, street sweeper, or brick maker, and restrict you to drinking from separate water fountains in your village.

In 2009 in Pakistan, I discovered that these issues as well as life-threatening circumstances are daily challenges for Pakistani Christians who live in segregated “colonies” and make up about 2% of the majority Muslim population....
 I'm still amazed ( and glad) that news like this makes it to the secular press. Read it at the link.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In Praise of Unoriginality

"The soundest and safest Christian reflection consists in "what you have received, not what you have thought up; a matter not of ingenuity, but of doctrine; not of private acquisition, but of public Tradition; a matter brought to you, not put forth by you, in which you must not be the author but the guardian, not the founder but the sharer, not the leader, but the follower.""

-- Vincent of Lerins, quoted in Christopher Hall, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers (Intervarsity, 2002), 27.

Hat Tip: The Gospel-Driven Church

Religion and the Gospel

After the discussion about the "Love Jesus/Hate Religion" video, I thought it appropriate to link to and quote from a post on The Resurgence, quoting the always astute Tim Keller, on the difference between religion and the gospel.
RELIGION: I obey, therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted, therefore I obey.
RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God, to delight and resemble him.
RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his fatherly love within my trial.
RELIGION: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a "good person." Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized, I can take it. I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a "good person." My identity is not built on my record or my performance, but on God’s love for me in Christ.
RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of my environment.
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.
RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles: If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure, inadequate, and not confident. I feel like a failure.
THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time, neither swaggering nor sniveling.
RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to "the other."
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for his enemies and who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. It is only by grace that I am what I am. I have no inner need to win arguments.
RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, regardless of what I say I believe about God.
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life: family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things is an ultimate end for me. None of them is something I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency such things can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

From Eternity to the Eschaton

"From eternity to the eschaton, it is all about Christ."

"Scripture everywhere teaches about Christ. His life, death, and resurrection are the hinge on which the drama of Scripture turns."

— Peter J. Leithart, Athanasius, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Academic, 2011), xvii

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Silent No More

My local paper had a great article Tuesday about the story of a local Christian mother and grandmother, Amy Martin, and her experience of the pain of post-abortion guilt and emotional damage, plus, of course, the healing that came to her in Christ..
It took 20 years after having an abortion for Amy Martin, 45, of Flowood to speak out.
Today, she is one of two state regional coordinators for Silent No More Awareness, an international Christian campaign to inform the public on the possible devastation abortion can cause women and men.
Through gatherings across the country, women share their testimonies of hope and healing after an abortion. Silent No More will hold a gathering at noon Monday at the state Capitol where Martin and other women will share their stories of recovering physically, emotionally and spiritually after an abortion.
I heard Amy speak at Pinelake Church last March. Her testimony is riveting. I recommend viewing and listening to her testimony as I posted it then, and reading the Clarion-Leger article. For info on her ministry see below.
 To contact the Center for Pregnancy Choices with locations in Jackson and Pearl call (601) 713-3113 or visit www.mypregnancychoices.org. Silent No More Awareness - a campaign that seeks to expose and heal the secrecy and silence surrounding the emotional and physical pain of abortion - will hold a gathering at noon Monday at the state Capitol. The public is invited to hear women share their stories of healing after an abortion. For more information, call or email Amy Martin, a regional coordinator of Silent No More, at (601) 818-7273 or jackson@silentnomoreawareness.org or visit www.silentnomoreawareness.org.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Multilingual Jesus

Did you know that we serve A Multilingual Jesus ?  By this phrase, blogger Jim Wright means that Jesus speaks to both those of us who favor and lean toward an objective truth relationship with God (like me) and those who favor and lean toward  a subjective experience based relationship with the Lord (like my wife).
God speaks to some subjectively, and to others objectively, and each often forgets that Jesus is multilingual. Regardless, His subjective love is rooted in objective truth, and He never limits Himself to either/or.

When we become so focused on one, to the exclusion of the other, we are not really relating to a complete Jesus. Rather, we often are seeking self affirmation – a Jesus who simply relates to us on our own terms and within the confines of our own comfort zones....
More from my old friend Jim Wright at the link. (By old I mean I've known you a long time, Jim. I know you are young at heart!)

Are You Up on Spiritual Gifts?

Interesting blog series on Spiritual Gifts at the Confluence | Newfrontiers site.
Paul begins his most famous chapter on spiritual gifts saying: ‘About spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant (1 Cor 12:1).
This series will help us become educated about these exciting spiritual gifts. The three main lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible are found in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 and Ephesians 4. There are also a few other gifts (e.g. hospitability) that seem to be genuine God-given gifts, but that are not specifically mentioned in these lists.
Whilst I try to define each gift clearly to help people recognise them, there is some overlap between the gifts, especially with gifts that are similar or complementary....
More at the link, with continuing updates coming. I recommend it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Open the Book!

Video from OpenUpthe Bible.com

 "Wherever you find yourself and whenever you have have time....
Read, Study, and Meditate on the Bible."

Hat Tip: Cross Eyed

Persecution of Believers in East Africa

I hope we always remember and pray for those Christian believers who suffer persecution for their faith. From Christian News Today:
Far from the world media’s gaze in remote islands off the eastern coast of Africa, church buildings are razed and Christians are ostracized and imprisoned for their faith – leaving one with a skin disease.

On Tanzania’s island of Zanzibar, in one week-long stretch last month Muslim extremists destroyed two church buildings, Christian leaders said. The extremists torched the building of the Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship of Africa in Mtufani Mwera, about 12 kilometers (seven miles) from Zanzibar town, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, said Pastor Julius Makoho. Damages were estimated at 1.5 million Tanzania shillings (US$9,350).

“When I arrived at the scene of incident Sunday morning, I found that the church had been reduced to ashes, with bottles seen close by that could be petrol or paraffin that could have been used for the burning of the church building,” Pastor Makoho said.

As the assailants fled, said one church member who requested anonymity, “I heard them shouting, ‘We do not want a church in this area!’”

To date no arrests have being made.

Daniel Kwilembe, bishop of the 80-member church, said authorities on the predominantly Muslim archipelago tend to take no action in crimes against Christians. Bishop Fabian Obedi of the Pentecostal Evangelical Church of Zanzibar concurred.

“The Muslims are burning our church buildings quite frequently here in Zanzibar, but the government is not speaking against this kind of destruction of our church premises,” Bishop Obedi said.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The John 3:16 Commercial

Loved this commercial that aired during the Broncos/Patriots playoff game on January 14th. Way to go Focus on the Family!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Re the Video: On the Other Hand....

Yesterday  I linked to some critiques of the "I Love Jesus but Hate Religion" video. To be even handed, here's an excerpt from a defense of the video by Stephen Altrogge.
...So let me offer a few of words in defense of the video, because I actually think it’s very good. I’m a songwriter who cares very much about creativity and sound doctrine. I love to see them blended and fused into something beautiful and doctrinally sound.

One of the first rules when it comes to interpreting a song, or any creative work for that matter, is that it must be judged on it’s own terms. In other words, the content must be interpreted based on the author’s intent. The first line of the piece is “Jesus came to abolish religion.” To that I say, “Oh really? Tell me exactly what you mean by the word ‘religion’.” Because the meaning of the entire piece depends on what Jefferson means by the word “religion”. If I’m going to critique it, I need to critique his meaning of religion, not my meaning of religion.
The critique of the video generally runs along the lines of this: Jesus was not against religion. That’s a false dichotomy that Jefferson is creating.

But I think that the wrong question is being asked. The question everyone seems to be asking is: was Jesus against religion? The answer to that question is: yes. And no. And maybe. It all depends on what you mean by the word “religion”.....
More at the link.

UPDATE:  Keven DeYoung and Jefferson Bethke have been talking on the phone and exchanging e-mails regarding DeYoung's critique of Bethke's video.  I wish all disagreements among believers could be handled with this level of humility and class.  Good job, guys!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Regarding the "I Hate Religion but Love Jesus" Video

You've probably seen the latest viral video on Facebook or YouTube- the one by Jefferson Bethke titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” (watch it above). As of this writing the video has reached almost 7 million views.

A lot of my friends have posted it on Facebook.  However, something about it has rubbed me wrong.  I do have a natural streak of rebellion against fads and band wagons. However, my feeling was more than that. There is a lot of good content here, but perhaps something else also.

Then  I found these comments by Kevin DeYoung, Jared Wilson:and Denny Burk.  Wilson says:
It's important not to push back on Jefferson Bethke and his video simply to be contrarian or to avoid liking something because everybody else does. The heart displayed in the video is solid, and he says a lot of right things. But he says a few wrongs one too, and while they aren't wrong enough to overreact, they are wrong enough to note with some cautions.
DeYoung says:
...Bethke’s opening line [is}: “Jesus came to abolish religion.” That’s the whole point of the poem. The argument—and most poems are arguing for something—rests on the sharp distinction between religion on one side and Jesus on the other. Whether this argument is fair depends on your definition of religion. Bethke sees religion as a man made attempt to earn God’s favor. Religion equals self-righteousness, moral preening, and hypocrisy. Religion is all law and no gospel. If that’s religion, then Jesus is certainly against it.
But that’s not what religion is. We can say that’s what is has become for some people or what we understand it to be. But words still matter and we shouldn’t just define them however we want. “Jesus hates religion” communicates something that “Jesus hates self-righteousness” doesn’t. To say that Jesus hates pride and hypocrisy is old news. To say he hates religion—now, that has a kick to it. People hear “religion” and think of rules, rituals, dogma, pastors, priests, institutions. People love Oprah and the Shack and “spiritual, not religious” bumper stickers because the mood of our country is one that wants God without the strictures that come with traditional Christianity. We love the Jesus that hates religion.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Does God Care Whether Tim Tebow Wins?

Check out this well-written and theologically astute article by Owen Strachan in The Atlantic on the question of the week: Does God Care Whether Tim Tebow Wins on Saturday?
Tim Tebow succeeds on the football field because of elves.

You can't see them on television. They're tiny. But when the game gets tight and the Denver Broncos need a fourth-quarter miracle, the elves come out and do his bidding. Forming a dense pack, they push 350-pound lineman aside, knock defensive backs off their stride, and give speed to Demayrius Thomas after he catches a pass.

That's why he wins.

What? You don't buy that? It's a lie, you're right. You know Tebow doesn't accomplish what he does because of elves. But when you hear about his faith, and the connection that some make between his devout Christianity and the success he enjoys on the football field, you might think it's about as likely that Tebow succeeds because of God's direct and benevolent intervention as it is that he wins games because of a roaming band of miniature wood elves.

Both sound ridiculous. God doesn't care about football games, right? If he exists at all, isn't he up there making sure that the planets spin in their proper orbits and, I don't know, that there's enough rainwater falling on Argentinean forests? Doesn't he have better things to do than to propel a certain football team to victories?
How often do you find an article in a secular publication that discusses everything from the Doctrine of Providence, the Theology of John Calvin and Martin Luther, Biblical teaching on suffering, and the interpretation of Ephesians 1:11 and Hebrews 11, all in the context of a sporting event?  And, I might mention, with a quote from Tim Keller thrown in for good measure.

This is a very good article! Read it all at the link above.

Did You Know...

... that 75% of those killed for faith are Christian?

From The Anchoress

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Secret of Maturity

"The gospel's secret of maturity is this: we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us. That's the irony of the gospel, and we find it throughout the Bible. It's unavoidable, inescapable.  we actually perform better in life as we grow in understanding that our relationship with God is based on Christ's performance for us, not on our performance for him. We mature more when we focus less on our performance for Jesus and more on Jesus' performance for us, as we sing: Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. It's Jesus plus nothing equals everything."

              - Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 185

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Qarterbacks

Everybody's excited about Tim Tebow's "miraculous" season and playoff win Sunday over the highly favored Pittsburgh Steelers. But did you know that the other quarterback in that game also has something to teach us about Christianity; namely the power of redemption.

Read God’s quarterbacks: What Tebow and Roethlisberger reveal about evangelical politics in The Washington Post.

There Are Only Two Religions

How many religions are there in this world?  200? 2,000? Nope - Only two!:
Well, before we can get into the question of which one is true, we need to clarify something. There are not thousands of religions. There are not even hundreds of religions. There are only two: one which tells you that salvation comes as a reward for what you have done, and one which tells you that salvation comes by what somebody else does for you. That’s Christianity. All the rest fit under the other. And if you think you can get your salvation by your own efforts, then Christianity has nothing to say to you. But if you know you need to be saved, then you are a candidate.
- Dr. Henry Ironside, quoted by Ben Patterson in Muscular Faith.

Hat Tip:  Take Your Vitamin Z:

The Bottom Line of Grace

"The bottom line is this, Christian: because of Christ's work on your behalf, God doesn't dwell on your sin the way you do. So, relax, and rejoice, and you'll actually start to get better. The irony, of course, is that it's only when we stop obsessing over our own need to be holy and focus instead on the beauty of Christ's holiness that we actually become more holy! Not to mention that we also start to become a lot easier to live with."

- Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 184

(Have I mentioned lately that this is a really GREAT book!)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Give Yourself a Good Talking Too

From another good book I've been reading - Joe Thorn's  Note to Self:
Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness. 
Christians (me included) need to learn from David and the other psalmists how to talk to ourselves!.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation.
(Psalm 42:5 ESV- see also 42:11 and 43:5)
Why indeed?

Hat Tip:  Rick Ianniello

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Real Change

"..real change happens only as we continuously rediscover the gospel. The progress of the Christian life is not 'not our movement toward the goal; it's the movement of the goal on us.' Sanctification involves God's daily attack on our unbelief - our self-centered refusal to believe that God's approval of us in Christ is full and final."

     -Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 173

The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now

The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now - Interesting thought from Russell Moore:
The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.
But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift his church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time (Eph. 4:8-16).
After all, while Phillip was leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, Saul of Tarsus was still a murderer.
Much more from Moore (pun intended) at the link above.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Gospel is Not Self-Improvement

"The Bible never starts with what we need to do; it always begins with what God has already done. To get it the other way around makes Christianity just another self-help program, just another curriculum of self-improvement.  Self-improvement for the value of self-improvement is not the gospell it's not biblical Christianity. And yet so many people, both inside and outside the church, think that's what Christianity is all about."

  -Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 153

Gazing Outward

"Perhaps the biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us outward. The gospel causes us to look up and out, away from ourselves. It turns our gaze upward to God and outward to others, both to those inside the church and to those outside it. The gospel causes us to love God and to love others, which of course is how Jesus summed up the entirety of the law."

- Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 122

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Just A Reminder....

...like me and you!

Emboldend by Grace

"Because Jesus has already earned God's full approval and affection and acceptance for us, we no longer require any of that from anyone else. The gospel alone empowers and emboldens us to press on and strain forward with no anxiety over gaining other people's sanction or good opinion - even God's! All the care and love and value we most crave - full and final approval - we already have in Jesus.

The same is true for the meaning and purpose and validation and direction and freedom and security that all of us long for. His sacrifice for us has earned all this for us directly from God.  With these idols no longer burdening our lives, we're suddenly freed and empowered to live a life of outrageous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon boldness, and unbounded nerve."

   -Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 91

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Marital Hermeneutics

Interesting question (and answer) -

What Interpreting the Bible & Communicating with Your Wife Have in Common

Free From the Encumbrance of Entitlement

""...the freedom Jesus secured for me is not freedom from pain and suffering here and now.  Rather, it's freedom from bitterness, anger, fear, resentment, self-pity, offense and hopelessness in the crucible of present pain and suffering; it is freedom from my burdensome sense of 'I deserve better,' the encumbrance of entitlement. I was realizing that only the gospel can free us from the enslaving pressure to defend ourselves.  That's real freedom - God-sized freedom!"

- Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 75

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Classic For Free Download

This month's free audio-book at christianaudio.com is Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. This book is an absolute classic life changer, and one of the most significant books I have ever read.
A lifelong pursuit of knowing God should embody the Christian's existence. According to eminent theologian J.I. Packer, however, Christians have become enchanted by modern skepticism and have joined the "gigantic conspiracy of misdirection" by failing to put first things first. Knowing God aims to redirect our attention to the simple, deep truth that to know God is to love His Word.

What began as a number of consecutive articles angled for "honest, no-nonsense readers who were fed up with facile Christian verbiage" in 1973, Knowing God has become a contemporary classic by creating "small studies out of great subjects." Each chapter is so specific in focus (covering topics such as the trinity, election, God's wrath, and God's sovereignty), that each succeeding chapter's theology seems to rival the next, until one's mind is so expanded that one's entire view of God has changed.
 Did I mention that it is FREE!

Hearts Melted By Grace

"The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants the church to buy is the idea that it's dangerous and therefore needs to be kept in check. By believing that lie, we not only prove we don't understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church by perpetuating our own slavery. The truth is, disobedience happens not when we think too much of grace but when we think to little of it....

...the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God's radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners. Grace alone melts hearts and changes us from the inside out. Progress in obedience happens when our hearts realize that God's love for us does not depend of our progress in obedience."

     - Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 51

Monday, January 2, 2012

For All Us Losers

"The gospel is good news for losers, not winners.  It's for those who long to be freed from the slavery of believing that all of their significance, meaning, purpose and security depend on their ability to 'become a better you.'"

    - Tullian Tchvidjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, page 49

Tullian on Kindle

My kids got me a Kindle e-reader for Christmas. What a great gift! I am enjoying it both as a tool and a new toy.

The first new Christian book I am reading on it is one I have been greatly looking forward to - Tullian Tchvidjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The quote below is from Amazon's description:
Tullian Tchividjian argues that what we are missing is the gospel—a fuller, more powerful understanding of Jesus and what his finished work means for everyday life.
During a year of great turmoil, Pastor Tchividjian discovered the power of the gospel in his own life. Sharing his story of how Jesus became more real to him, Tchividjian delves deeply into the fundamentals of the faith, explaining the implications of Christ’s sufficiency—a revelation that sets us free and keeps us anchored through life’s storms.
Ultimately, Tchividjian reminds us that Jesus is the whole of the equation as he boldly proclaims that Jesus plus nothing really is everything.
I'll have a lot of quotes form the book on the blog this week. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Old is New

"The old, old gospel is the newest thing in the world; in its very essence it is for ever good news. In the things of God the old is ever new, and if any man brings forward that which seems to be new doctrine and new truth, it is soon perceived that the new dogma is only worn-out heresy dexterously repaired, and the discovery in theology is the digging up of a carcase of error which had better have been left to rot in oblivion."

- C.H. Spurgeon

Hat Tip:  Kingdom People

Every Day is New Years Day

(This is my traditional annual January 1 re-post)

I used to find people who spouted what I considered to be trite phrases like "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" to be very irritating - on the same level with those who plastered smiley faces on everything they owned. However, I have since had to repent of that opinion and attitude, because: (a) I realized I was sinfully proud, and (b) I realized that they were right.

For Christians, every day is New Years Day.

How else can you explain the Scripture in Lamentations 3:22-23: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness." If God's mercies to us are new each morning, then every day is the first day of the rest of my life; every day is new years day. Christ is the God of new creations, new births and new beginnings.

Here's how songwriter Carolyn Arends once put it.

New Year's Day
by Carolyn Arends

I buy a lot of diaries
Fill them full of good intentions
Each and every New Year's Eve
I make myself a list
All the things I'm gonna change
Until January 2nd
So this time I'm making one promise

This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year's Day
This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year's Day
I believe it's possible
I believe in new beginnings'
Cause I believe in Christmas Day
And Easter morning too
And I'm convinced it's doable'
Cause I believe in second chances
Just the way that I believe in you

Last week I wrote that for Christians it is always Christmas. Now I am writing that it is always New Years Day. I'm sorry if this seems trite - but sometimes trite sayings really are true.Happy New Year to you all- and may each day in it be filled with new beginnings, new possibilities, new joys and new mercies.