Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dangerous Verses

I found this list of 17 often misquoted verses in a post by Trevin Wax, reviewing a book by Eric Bargerhuff titled The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood (Bethany House, 2012)

I can see (and in many cases have seen) how each of these verses can be misused. What do you think?


“The utter uniqueness of the Christian message — the heart of the gospel — is found in the three words of Christ from the cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). The message of every other religious system, without exception, is predicated on some variation of another three words, which stand starkly opposed to the gospel’s three words. Religion’s three words are: ‘Get to work.’ And this is the heart of the bad news behind every approach to spirituality, enlightenment, or salvation that is not Christian.”

— Jared C. Wilson Gospel Wakefulness
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2011), 131

Planks & Specks

I don't think this is quite what Jesus meant! (Matthew 7:3-5).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Gratitude

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

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

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost Wishes

On this Pentecost Sunday, may the Holy Spirit fall afresh on every worship service where Jesus is named as Lord. May He exalt the Savior, lead the worship, inspire the preaching, call the chosen, convict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted and empower the people to go forth and witness.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Friday, May 25, 2012

All In Vain, Unless....

“All your church attendance, all your religious activities, your Sunday school attendance medals, your journals, having a “quiet time,” reading the Scriptures—it’s all in vain if you don’t have Christ.
We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the power of his resurrection. If you add to or subtract from the cross, even if it is to factor in biblically mandated religious practices like prayer and evangelism, you rob God of his glory and Christ of his sufficiency.
Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for us, not because of all the great stuff we’ve done but because Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death.
My sin in the past: forgiven. My current struggles: covered. My future failures: paid in full all by the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace found in the atoning work of the cross of Jesus Christ.”
— Matt Chandler The Explicit Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 15

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Basic Human Wiring

" be human is to worship. We reflect God's glory by our worship of him, which means to hold him as the object of our deepest desires and as worth of our imitation. Worship is not just singing songs in church; it's how we live our lives every moment of every day - every thought, word, deed, feeling, and desire. You worship what you live for, whatever is most worthy of you attention and devotion. It is what drives you at the core, and it flows from the essence of who you are. You can't turn off worship. It's your basic human wiring. To not worship is to not live."

Mike Wilkerson, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, page 29

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Ground for Inherent Dignity

 " have great dignity as a human being, not primarily because of your own goodness but because you are made of the kind of stuff that is capable of making God's much greater goodness visible to others. This is the bedrock upon which the enduring dignity of every person is established - no matter how sinful, abused, impaired, or oppressed. Male and female from the womb, every race - we are all created in his image and likeness."
 Mike Wilkerson, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, page 29

So Many & So Young

Why Americans are more and more pro-life, from an article by Ashley McGuire at The Washington Pots' On Faith Site

Many past civil rights movements in this country, such as the move to end slavery or the fight for women’s suffrage, were deeply rooted in religious conviction. Such is the case with the pro-life movement. But with each of these movements there was a tipping point where Americans saw that one need not be a devoutly religious person to recognize the social justice issue at stake and to get behind the cause. This is happening with abortion in America.

And as it turns out, the religious people behind much of the pro-life movement aren’t actually so nutty, or so old. Speaking about the teeming throngs at the 2010 March for Life, departing NARAL President, Nancy Keenan, said then, fearfully, “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young,” she said. “There are so many of them, and they are so young
Yup. Here we come. Our marches may get measly coverage. We may be the pitied laughingstock of ‘sophisticated’ urban cocktail parties. We may champion the Cinderella of human rights issues.
But we are winning. And our cause is life...

Much more at the link - Read it and rejoice!

Hat tip: Denny Burke


"Rather than trying to write God into our stories, we would be wiser to sit patiently with our Father and let him tell us his. We would surely find ourselves in his story and learn that we are not defined by our hurts or our sins, as we may have believed.  As he tells us his story, we must be willing to let go of the stories we've told to make sense of our lives. We must let his story rewrite ours and sweep us up into something much greater than ourselves."
 Mike Wilkerson, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, page 27

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Lot Happens in the Touch

From The Resurgence:

When Jesus touched or was purposefully touched, there was a lot happening. He was showing his solidarity with outcasts. He was identifying with them. Of that, there is no doubt. When you see people purposefully touching, you know they are at least good friends. But if that’s all Jesus did, it would have been a nice but empty gesture. The outcasts would have felt temporary comfort but no real change in status. So there was much more happening. The accumulating references to “power” give it away.

With every intentional touch there was a transaction being made. “Power” goes out from Jesus to the person who was touched. Splice together various Scriptures and you will see that power is a loaded term that includes:
  • Holiness conferred (consecration) 
  • Forgiveness of sins 
  • Cleansing and purification 
  • Healing 
  • Identification with Jesus’ status
Meanwhile, the unclean person gave something to Jesus, the scapegoat. He or she gave:
  • Sins 
  • Shameful acts 
  • Victimization and its contamination 
  • Disease
This is the gospel: God touches us.

Much more at the link.

Disturbed Equilibrium

"Often our unstated, default goal in life is our leisure, but God's clear goal is likeness. He wants us to become like Christ.  When we slumber, God shakes us to awaken our dozing faith. he has no trouble disturbing our comfortable equilibrium when we make stability our aim rather than growth."

Wayne Cordeiro, Sifted: Pursuing Growth through Trials, Challenges and Disappointments
A good book which I highly recommend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Twitter Quotes

Highlights from the past week on my Twitter feed:
Have you tried counting beach sand? And so, can you even start to measure God's perfect Love for you? RT

"Forgiveness is to release a prisoner, and to find that prisoner was you." - Lewis Smedes RT  

"Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask." ---Billy Graham RT

"As a kid I was afraid of swimming until someone told me “the deeper the waters, the more strength there is to hold you up " RT  

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude" -Scott Hamilton (Cancer survivor, Olympic Gold Medalist)

"I want to change my circumstances. God wants to change me." RT

"When the choice is between legalism and grace, always err on the side of grace. God does." RT  

 "the great tragedies of life come, not from bad decisions that are made, but from good decisions that are not made" -Leonard Sweet

"If God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life, where should I be now?" -C.S. Lewis RT

Signs of Repentance

From Jared Wilson:  12 signs we have a genuinely repentant heart:
1. We name our sin as sin and do not spin it or excuse it, and further, we demonstrate “godly sorrow,” which is to say, a grief chiefly about the sin itself, not just a grief about being caught or having to deal with the consequences of sin.
2. We actually confessed before we were caught or the circumstantial consequences of our sin caught up with us.
3. If found out, we confess immediately or very soon after and “come clean,” rather than having to have the full truth pulled from us. Real repentance is typically accompanied by transparency.
4. We have a willingness and eagerness to make amends. We will do whatever it takes to make things right and to demonstrate we have changed.
5. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized, spending as much time as is required listening to them without jumping to defend ourselves.
6. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized as they process their hurt, and we don’t pressure them or “guilt” them into forgiving us.
7. We are willing to confess our sin even in the face of serious consequences (including undergoing church discipline, having to go to jail, or having a spouse leave us).
8. We may grieve the consequences of our sin but we do not bristle under them or resent them. We understand that sometimes our sin causes great damage to others that is not healed in the short term (or perhaps ever).
9. If our sin involves addiction or a pattern of behavior, we do not neglect to seek help with a counselor, a solid twelve-step program, or even a rehabilitation center.
10. We don’t resent accountability, pastoral rebuke, or church discipline.
11. We seek our comfort in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, not simply in being free of the consequences of our sin.
12. We are humble and teachable.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hard to Repent

So true!
"It’s hard to repent. And while it’s hard enough to repent before a perfect God, it’s even harder to repent before an imperfect human being. To admit that you have injured or neglected another person, then to go the person and say, “I’m sorry. I’m ashamed. Will you forgive me?”—to do this is mortifying. It kills us to do it. You need to be a big person to give it a serious try. That’s the paradox of repentance, says, C.S. Lewis. Only a bad person needs to repent. Only a good person can do it. "
- Cornelius Plantinga Jr, Beyond Doubt: Faith-Building Devotions on Questions Christians Ask, 242.

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

We Are Glass

I love the lyrics to this new song by country music artists Thompson Square. It may not be a Christian song, so to speak, but it speaks truth! You can listen to the song here.
Trying to live and love,
With a heart that can't be broken,
Is like trying to see the light with eyes that can't be opened.
Yeah, we both carry baggage,
We picked up on our way, so if you love me do it gently,
And I will do the same.

We may shine, we may shatter,
We may be picking up the pieces here on after,
We are fragile, we are human,
We are shaped by the light we let through us,
We break fast, cause we are glass.
Cause we are glass.

I'll let you look inside me, through the stains and through the cracks,
And in the darkness of this moment,
You see the good and bad.
But try not to judge me, 'cause we've walked down different paths,
But it brought us here together, so I won't take that back.

We may shine, we may shatter,
We may be picking up the pieces here on after,
We are fragile, we are human,
We are shaped by the light we let through us,
We break fast, cause we are glass.

We might be oil and water, this could be a big mistake,
We might burn like gasoline and fire,
It's a chance we'll have to take.

We may shine, we may shatter,
We may be picking up the pieces here on after,
We are fragile, we are human,
And we are shaped by the light we let through us,
We break fast, cause we are glass.
We are glass.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Donna Summer: Oh Holy Night

I was sorry to hear of the death this week of Donna Summer. Anyone of my generation sure remembers her music from the 70's and 80's. However, let's remember that the lady who sang disco could also sing like this.

Rest in peace, Sister Donna. Your voice will be missed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Idolatry a Violition of Love

More Keller on Talking About Idolatry in a Postmodern Age:
I have found that when you describe their lives in terms of idolatry, postmodern people do not offer much resistance. They doubt there is any real alternative, but they admit sheepishly that this is what they are doing. I have also found that this makes sin more personal. Making an idol out of something means giving it the love you should be giving your Creator and Sustainer. To depict sin as not only a violation of law but also of love is more compelling. Of course a complete description of sin and grace includes recognition of our rebellion against God’s authority. But I’ve found that if people become convicted about their sin as idolatry and mis-directed love, it is easier to show them that one of the effects of sin is to put them into denial about their hostility to God. In some ways, idolatry is like addiction writ large. We are ensnared by our spiritual idols just like people are ensnared by drink and drugs. We live in denial of how much we are rebelling against God’s rule just like addicts live in denial of how much they are trampling on their families and loved ones.
I think Keller has got it exactly right as to the best way to communicate the gospel to secular people in today's culture. What do you think?

For more on Keller's approach to apologetics and evangelism, check out these books:

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism and Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power and the Only Hope that Matters

The Sugar of the Earth

This "lost parable" is not quite the way I remember Matthew 5:13, but what do I know?
And Jesus spoke to them and said,
“You are the powdered sugar of the earth. As sugar is sprinkled on cakes and cookies to make them attractive and exceedingly sweet, so you shall make my church the most delightful confection the world has known. For the children of this world have an insatiable sweet tooth, and you shall satisfy those who hunger and thirst for empty calories.
“You shall sprinkle sugar on my words so that every bitter morsel is disguised beyond recognition.
“You shall fill your gatherings with nectarous delights, amusements that thrill the crowds, so that all who participate may leave energized by the sugar-high of my Spirit.
“You shall make your church program a veritable display window of sugary treats, so that all who pass by may salivate and be drawn to purchase your pleasures and be satisfied.
“Do not ever let your sugar lose its sweetness. for then your neighbors will see the true taste and texture of your lives — the salty and the sweet, the bitter and the bland — this mixture you deem so unpalatable.
“And what will attract them then?”
Maybe I'd better go back and re-read the original.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sin is Primarily Idolatry

Here's another great quote from the Tim Keller article Talking About Idolatry in a Postmodern Age. I posted previous quotes over the weekend, or you can read the whole thing at the link (which is my real intent for posting the excerpts):
...The biblical teaching about idolatry is particularly helpful for evangelism in a postmodern context. The typical way that Christians define sin is to say that it is breaking God’s law. Properly explained, of course, that is a good and sufficient definition. But the law of God includes both sins of omission and of commission, and it includes the attitudes of the heart as well as behavior. Those wrong attitudes and motivations are usually inordinate desires—forms of idolatry. However, when most listeners hear us define sin as “breaking God’s law” all the emphasis in their minds falls on the negative (sins of commission) and on the external (behaviors rather than attitudes.) There are significant reasons, then, that “law-breaking” isn’t the best way to first describe sin to postmodern listeners.

I ordinarily begin speaking about sin to a young, urban, non-Christian like this:

Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.

Why is this a good path to take?

First, this definition of sin includes a group of people that postmodern people are acutely aware of. Postmodern people rightly believe that much harm has been done by self-righteous religious people. If we say “sin is breaking God’s law” without a great deal of further explanation, it appears that the Pharisaical people they have known are ‘in’ and most other people are ‘out.’ Pharisees, of course, are quite fastidious in their keeping of the moral law, and therefore (to the hearer) they seem to be the very essence of what a Christian should be. An emphasis on idolatry avoids this problem. As Luther points out, Pharisees, while not bowing to literal idols, were looking to themselves and their moral goodness for their justification, and therefore they were actually breaking the first commandment. Their morality was self-justifying motivation and therefore spiritually pathological. At the bottom of all their law-keeping they were actually breaking the most fundamental law of all. When we give definitions and descriptions of sin to postmodern people, we must do so in a way that not only challenges prostitutes to change but also Pharisees.

There is another reason we need a different definition of sin for postmodern people. They are relativists, and the moment you say, “Sin is breaking God’s moral standards,” they will retort, “Well, who is to say whose moral standards are right? Everyone has different ones! What makes Christians think that theirs are the only right set of moral standards?” The usual way to respond to this is to become sidetracked from your presentation of sin and grace into an apologetic discussion about relativism. Of course, postmodern people must be strongly challenged about their mushy view of truth, but I think there is a way to move forward and actually make a credible and convicting gospel presentation before you get into the apologetic issues. I do it this way, I take a page from Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death and I define sin as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they are sinning because they are sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they are sinning because they are looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything that they should be looking for in God. This idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment.

I have found that when you describe their lives in terms of idolatry, postmodern people do not offer much resistance... 
 More to come tomorrow.

Twitter Gleanings

Some more gleanings from my Twitter feed:
"The beatitudes aren't prescribing how to achieve a better life; they're describing what happens to those that God kills & makes alive." - Tullian Tchvidjian @PastorTullian

There are two paths in life: The path of discipline and the path of regret. One or the other - Your choice. And mine.

 We long for more & God's promise is that there is more awaiting us. More to delight us than we will ever exhaust. @CSLewisU

“All who live with any degree of serenity live by some assurance of grace.” – Reinhold Niebuhr RT

 "The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it"- Chinese Proverb. RT

 "Religious people obey God to get things; gospel people obey God to get God." - Tim Keller RT

 "Just the knowledge that a good book is waiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier." --Kathleen Norris

Modern "statements of faith" lack the depth of thought & eloquence of language found in the great historic creeds of the church.  

We should be as generous & lavish in forgiving others as we want God to be generous & lavish in forgiving us.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Justification and the First Commandment

More from Tim Keller, Talking About Idolatry in a Postmodern Age:
No one grasped this better than Martin Luther, who ties the Old Testament and New Testament together remarkably in his exposition of the Ten Commandments. Luther saw how the Old Testament law against idols and the New Testament emphasis on justification by faith alone are essentially the same. He said that the Ten Commandments begin with two commandments against idolatry. It is because the fundamental problem in law-breaking is always idolatry. In other words, we never break the other commandments without first breaking the law against idolatry. Luther understood that the first commandment is really all about justification by faith, and to fail to believe in justification by faith is idolatry, which is the root of all that displeases God.
All those who do not at all times trust God and do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in His favor, grace and good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this [First] Commandment, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the other Commandments, and in addition had all the prayers, obedience, patience, and chastity of all the saints combined. For the chief work is not present, without which all the others are nothing but mere sham, show and pretense, with nothing back of them... If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious to us and is pleased with us, or if we presumptuously expect to please Him only through and after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false [savior].... (Part X. XI) Excerpts from Martin Luther, Treatise Concerning Good Works (1520).
Here Luther says that failure to believe that God accepts us fully in Christ—and to look to something else for our salvation—is a failure to keep the first commandment; namely, having no other gods before him. To try to earn your own salvation through works-righteousness is breaking the first commandment. Then he says that we cannot truly keep any of the other laws unless we keep the first law—against idolatry and works-righteousness. Thus beneath any particular sin is this sin of rejecting Christ-salvation and indulging in self-salvation.....

.....The Bible, then, does not consider idolatry to be one sin among many (and a rare sin found only among primitive people). Rather, all our failures to trust God wholly or to live rightly are at root idolatry—something we make more important than God. There is always a reason for a sin. Under our sins are idolatrous desires.

Remember Those Who Hurt on Mother's Day

Today is "Mother's Day" in the USA. I will be honoring my mother (mother of three), my wife (mother of two) and my daughter (mother of one). However, Mother's Day is also a good time to remember those for whom Mother's Day is not always a pleasant event.
  • Remember those who have lost their mothers, especially those whose loss is recent.
  • Remember those who want to be mothers so much, but have been unable to conceive.
  • Remember the mothers who have lost children and continue to grieve.
  • Remember those whose mothers were abusive, controlling or distant, and for whom this day brings some bad memories.

May the grace of the Lord be with all who celebrate today, as well as with those who mourn and grieve.

This is also a good day to remember the One who has promised " one who his mother comforts, so will I comfort you." (Isaiah 66:13)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Age-Old Battle: No Third Option

I'll be posting some quotes this coming week from a 2007 paper by Tim Keller entitled "Talking About Idolatry in a Postmodern Age."  It begins:
When I first began reading through the Bible I looked for some unifying themes. I concluded that there are many and that if we make just one theme the theme (such as ‘covenant’ or ‘kingdom’) we run the danger of reductionism. However, one of the main ways to read the Bible is as the ages-long struggle between true faith and idolatry. In the beginning, human beings were made to worship and serve God, and to rule over all created things in God’s name (Gen 1:26­–28). Paul understands humanity’s original sin as an act of idolatry: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God...and worshipped and served created things rather than the creator”(Rom 1:21–25). Instead of living for God, we began to live for ourselves, or our work, or for material goods. We reversed the original intended order. And when we began to worship and serve created things, paradoxically, the created things came to rule over us. Instead of being God’s vice-regents, ruling over creation, now creation masters us. We are now subject to decay and disease and disaster. The final proof of this is death itself. We live for our own glory by toiling in the dust, but eventually we return to the dust—the dust “wins” (Gen 3:17–19). We live to make a name for ourselves but our names are forgotten. Here in the beginning of the Bible we learn that idolatry means slavery and death.
Wow!This is a really profound way to see a unified them for the whole Bible. He goes on to say:
The Ten Commandments' first two and most basic laws (one-fifth of all God's law to humankind) are against idolatry. Exodus does not envision any third option between true faith and idolatry. We will either worship the uncreated God or we will worship some created thing (an idol). There is no possibility of our worshipping nothing. The classic New Testament text is Romans 1:18-25. This extensive passage on idolatry is often seen as only referring to the pagan Gentiles, but instead we should recognize it as an analysis of what sin is and how it works. Verse 21 tells us that the reason we turn to idols is because we want to control our lives, though we know that we owe God everything. “Though they knew God, they neither glorified God nor gave thanks to him.” Verse 25 tells us the strategy for control—taking created things and setting our hearts on them and building our lives around them. Since we need to worship something, because of how we are created, we cannot eliminate God without creating God-substitutes. Verses 21 and 25 tell us the two results of idolatry:

1) Deception—"their thinking became futile and their hearts were darkened,"and
2) Slavery—"they worshipped and served" created things.

Whatever we worship we will serve, for worship and service are always inextricably bound together. We are “covenantal” beings. We enter into covenant service with whatever most captures our imagination and heart. It ensnares us. So every human personality, community, thought-form, and culture will be based on some ultimate concern or some ultimate allegiance—either to God or to some God-substitute. Individually, we will ultimately look either to God or to success, romance, family, status, popularity, beauty or something else to make us feel personally significant and secure, and to guide our choices. Culturally we will ultimately look to either God or to the free market, the state, the elites, the will of the people, science and technology, military might, human reason, racial pride, or something else to make us corporately significant and secure, and to guide our choices.
More tomorrow.

Lewisian Ideas

Found an interesting article about Seven Key Ideas From C.S. Lewis by Dr. Art Lindsley.  Most thinkers and writers would be happy to be known for two or three great ideas: Lewis had seven! The seven concepts are:

  1. Chronological Snobbery
  2. Desire
  3. Imagination
  4. Objective Values vs. Relativism
  5. Myth
  6. Immortality
  7. Comprehensivenes
There is a complete exposition of these ideas at the link. Well worth a look for Lewis fans.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Seasoned With Jesus

Interesting quote- John Calvin citing Bernard of  Clairvaux:
Bernard’s admonition is worth remembering: The name of Jesus is not only light but also food; it is also oil, without which all food of the soul is dry; it is salt, without whose seasoning whatever I set before us is insipid; finally, it is honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, rejoicing in the heart, and at the same time medicine. Every discourse in which his name is not spoken is without savor 

  -John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion II.16.
Hat Tip: Credo Magazine

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Looking at Suffering

"Every time I suffer, I'm looking for a way to be raptured. Yet every time I suffer, God is looking to bring His kingdom down."

- Jonathan Martin, on Twitter @RenovatusPastor

Violent Grace

"Grace-driven effort is violent. It is aggressive. The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life but to outright destroy it. Out of love for Jesus, he wants sin starved to death, and he will hunt and pursue the death of every sin in his heart until he has achieved success.

This is a very different pursuit than simply wanting to be good. It is the result of having transferred one’s affections to Jesus. When God’s love takes hold of us, it powerfully pushes out our own love for other gods and frees our love to flow back to him in true worship. And when we love God, we obey him. The moralist doesn’t operate that way. While true obedience is a result of love, moralistic legalism assumes it works the other way around, that love results from obedience."

         -Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, pages 217–218.

Hat Tip:  Peter Cockrell

(Have I mentioned that I really want to read this book?1!!)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


From: The Sacred Sandwich

False Hopes

“No change of job, no increased income, no new home, no new electronic device, or no new spouse is going to make things better inside of you.”

        - Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, page 118

Monday, May 7, 2012

The World Needs Jesus

In our sickness, we need a Savior,
in our wanderings a guide,
in our blindness someone to show us the light,
in our thirst the fountain of living water
that quenches forever the thirst of those who drink from it.
We dead people need life,
we sheep need a shepherd,
we children need a teacher,
the whole world needs Jesus!
- Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D., Christ the Educator 1.9.83.

Hat Tip: Trevin Wax 

Don't Take the Toys and Run

“The universe shudders in horror that we have this infinitely valuable, infinitely deep, infinitely rich, infinitely wise, infinitely loving God, and instead of pursuing him with steadfast passion and enthralled fury — instead of loving him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; instead of attributing to him glory and honor and praise and power and wisdom and strength — we just try to take his toys and run. It is still idolatry to want God for his benefits but not for himself.”

       - Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, pages 39–40

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Invisible Humility

"C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride. If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble.They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.

Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.

True gospel-humility means an ego that is not puffed up but filled up. This is totally unique. are we talking about big self-esteem? No. So is it low self-esteem? Certainly not. It is not about self-esteem. Paul simply refuses to play that game (I Cor. 4). He says ‘I don’t care that much about my opinion’ – and that is the secret.

A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person. The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself."

                      -Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

Hat Tip:  Keller Quotes

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Not What I Once Was

You may know John Newton as the author of  the hymn "Amazing Grace."  But how about this?
I am not what I ought to be.
Ah! how imperfect and deficient.
Not what I might be,
considering my privileges and opportunities.
Not what I wish to be.
God, who knows my heart, knows I wish to be like him.
I am not what I hope to be;
ere long to drop this clay tabernacle, to be like him and see him as He is.
Not what I once was,
a child of sin, and slave of the devil.
Thought not all these,
not what I ought to be,
not what I might be,
not what I wish or hope to be, and
not what once was,
I think I can truly say with the apostle,
“By the grace of God I am what I am.”
—John Newton (1725-1807), cited in Letters of John Newton, p. 400.
I can sing that one too!

Hat Tip: Justin Taylor

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Major Thorn in the Flesh

What really inspired St Paul's second letter to the Corinthians...

Best of Twitter

Some good stuff from my Twitter Feed this week:
"God was in charge before you were born. He’ll still be in charge after you die. So tell me again what you’re worried about?"
"Every other belief system makes you earn your identity. Only in Jesus do you get the identity before the performance." RT
"You never touch so much the ocean of God's love as when you love your enemies." -Corrie Ten Boom RT  

 Gr8 quote // : RT : Messed up people, helping messed up people, really messes up the devil.

I keep a land line so I can call my cell phone when I lose it.

 "Idols always break the hearts of their worshipers" - C S Lewis

 "The things that this world offers, even the best of them, all have one thing in common — an expiration date."

Heard at church today: "If you're too big for a small ministry, you're too small for a big one."

 "Pleasing man feeds the ego, pleasing God feeds the soul." RT
Every experience God gives us, every person He puts into our lives, is the perfect preparation for a future only he can see ~Corrie ten Boom
"Make people wish the gospel were true and then show them that it is." -Tullian Tchvidjian  
Follow me on Twitter @bg_simmons

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beatitudes Revisited

Brian Zahnd's paraphrase version of the Beatitudes. Very Interesting.
Blessed are those who are poor at being spiritual,
For the kingdom of heaven is well-suited for ordinary people.
Blessed are the depressed who mourn and grieve,
For they create space to encounter comfort from another.
Blessed are the gentle and trusting, who are not grasping and clutching,
For God will personally guarantee their share when heaven comes to earth.
Blessed are those who ache for the world to be made right,
For them the government of God is a dream come true.
Blessed are those who give mercy,
For they will get it back when they need it most.
Blessed are those who have a clean window in their soul,
For they will perceive God when and where others don’t

Blessed are the bridge-builders in a war-torn world,
For they are God’s children working in the family business.
Blessed are those who are mocked and misunderstood for the right reasons,
For the kingdom of heaven comes to earth amidst such persecution.
My church is studying the Beatitudes (Mathew 5:2-12) on Sundays. I find paraphrases like this to be very helpful in pulling out all the meaning from Jesus' very pithy sayings.

Rick Warren on a Starbuck's Cup

Bring Out Your Dead

"The gospel is not good news for the well behaved; it's good news for the dead."

          - Tullian Tchvidjian

If you do not get the pop culture reference in the title, I feel sorry for your loss!  ;)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Signs of An Inward Focused Church

From Thom Rainer via Zach Nielsen - 10 Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church:
  1. Worship wars. One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.
  2. Prolonged minutia meetings. The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.
  3. Facility focus. The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.
  4. Program driven. Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it. When we start doing a ministry a certain way, it takes on programmatic status. The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.
  5. Inwardly focused budget. A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.
  6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care. All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters. Some members expect the pastoral staff to visit them regularly merely because they have membership status.
  7. Attitudes of entitlement. This issue could be a catch-all for many of the points named here. The overarching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment.
  8. Greater concern about change than the gospel. Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.
  9. Anger and hostility. Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.
  10. Evangelistic apathy. Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the greatest eternal needs of the world and community in which they live.
Read the rest.

An Offensive Claim

“Perhaps the most offensive claim of the gospel is that a hate-filled cannibalistic child molester finds the same redemption and has an equal status in the eyes of God as your dear old church lovin’, bake-sale havin’, baby burpin’ granny.”

If this statement offends you, perhaps you need to meditate on how much God has forgiven you.