Thursday, February 28, 2013

When to Leave a Church

If you are in a church that exhibits some of these signs, it might be time to move on. From J. Lee Grady:
..I’ve never found a perfect church in all my travels—and it certainly wouldn’t be perfect if I joined it. But there are some churches that deserve to be called unhealthy. While I believe we shouldn’t give up on a church too fast, there are some warning signs that should cause you to stop and ask if you’d be better off finding better pasture.
1. No accountability. There is safety in the multitude of counselors (see Prov. 11:14). There is much less safety—perhaps even danger—when a leader does not bother to seek counsel from a diverse group of his peers, as well as from gray-haired men and women who have the wisdom that comes with experience. If a pastor or church leader isn't open to correction or financial oversight, he is headed for a train wreck. If you stay in that church, you may crash with him.
2. Spiritual elitism. Healthy leaders love the entire body of Christ. Beware of any church that claims “exclusive” revelation or suggests they are superior to other Christians. This is how cults start. There is a large charismatic church in Hungary that began in revival, but the founder began teaching that their church was the only place people could truly be saved. If a pastor ever makes such claims it is time to shake the dust off your feet and move on.
3. Entrenched immorality. The apostle Paul commanded leaders to enforce biblical discipline. This must be handled with gentleness (see Gal. 6:1) but nevertheless with firm resolve, because the enemy wants to infiltrate the church with moral compromise. If a pastor has been involved in adultery or perversion and continues preaching, meanwhile refusing discipline, his unrepentant spirit will infect the entire congregation—and you can expect to see immorality spread throughout the church. Don’t be defiled.
4. An authoritarian spirit. Some leaders develop a dictatorial style and try to control people through manipulation, threats and legalistic demands. I’m amazed at how much spiritual abuse is tolerated in churches today. No pastor is perfect, and we are called to be patient with each other’s faults. But if a church leader is verbally abusive toward his staff or members of his congregation, he is in direct violation of Scripture. The Apostle Paul taught that church leaders should not be "violent" or "quarrelsome" but "self-controlled" and "gentle" (see 1 Tim. 3:2-3). It’s best to find another pastor if yours cannot control his anger.

Does Grace Make You Lazy?

Here's Tullian answering the question "Does grace make one lazy?"
The gospel doxologically declares that because of Christ’s finished work for you, you already have all of the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning, and rescue you long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus.

The gospel announces that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus’ feats for us.
Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life doesn’t have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves.

He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done.”

The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail.
This means you don’t have to transform the world to matter, you don’t have to get good grades to secure your own worth, you don’t have to be a success to justify your existence.

Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one; Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary;
Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose.

But hold on…wait a minute…

Doesn’t this unconditional declaration generate apathy–an “I don’t care” posture toward life?
If it’s true that Jesus paid it all, that it is finished, that my value, worth, security, freedom, justification, and so on is forever fixed, than why do anything? Doesn’t grace undercut ambition? Doesn’t the gospel weaken effort?

Understandable question.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Keller's New Book- Galatians For You

Tim Keller has a new book on The Epistle to the Galatians - I'm looking forward to reading this book! The following is from Tim Chailles' review of the book.
As with all of Keller’s books, this one is full of the gospel and full of powerful quotes. Here are just a few favorites:
  • “This is the humbling truth that lies at the heart of Christianity. We love to be our own saviors. Our hearts love to manufacture glory for themselves. So we find messages of self-salvation extremely attractive, whether they are religious (Keep these rules and you earn eternal blessing) or secular (Grab hold of these things and you’ll experience blessing now).”
  • “If you add anything to Christ as a requirement for acceptance with God—if you start to say: To be saved I need the grace of Christ plus something else—you completely reverse the ‘order’ of the gospel and make it null and void. Any revision of the gospel reverses the gospel.”
  • “The Bible judges the church; the church does not judge the Bible. The Bible is the foundation for and the creator of the church; the church is not the foundation for or creator of the Bible. The church and its hierarchy must be evaluated by the believer with the biblical gospel as the touchstone or plumb line for judging all truth claims.”
  • “Christians tend to motivate others with guilt. We tend to say: You would do this if you were really committed Christians, indicating that we are committed and all that is needed is for others to become as good as we are! This is why so many churches quench the motivation of people for ministry. In our shoes, Paul would say: Remember the grace God has showered on you—what does living out and enjoying that grace look like in this situation?”
  • “For a promise to bring a result, it needs only to be believed, but for a law to bring a result, it has to be obeyed.”
  • “Without the gospel, we may obey the law, but we will learn to hate it. We will use it, but we will not truly love it. Only if we obey the law because we are saved, rather than to be saved, will we do so “for God” (Galatians 2:19). Once we understand salvation-by-promise, we do not obey God any longer for our sake, by using the law-salvation-system to get things from God. Rather, we now obey God for His sake, using the law’s content to please and delight our Father.”
That is just a small taste of what is a fantastic book.
 Makes my mouth water in anticipation!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Eye Exam Needed

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Let the Bomb Go Boom!

"The Epistle to the Romans has sat around in the church since the first century like a bomb ticking away the death of religion; and every time it’s been picked up, the ear-splitting freedom in it has gone off with a roar.

The only sad thing is that the church as an institution has spent most of its time playing bomb squad and trying to defuse it. For your comfort, though, it can’t be done. Your freedom remains as close to your life as Jesus and as available to your understanding as the nearest copy. Like Augustine, therefore, tolle lege, take and read: tolle the one, lege the other–and then hold onto your hat. Compared to that explosion, the clap of doom sounds like a cap pistol."

     - Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace

Hat Tip: Liberate

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Better Than Jonah

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.   (Luke 11:32 ESV)
For Jonah was a servant,
but I am the Master,
and he came forth from the great fish,
but I rose from death.
He proclaimed destruction,
but I have come preaching the good tidings of the kingdom.
The Ninevites indeed believed without a sign,
but I have exhibited many signs.
They heard nothing more than those words,
but I have made it impossible to deny the truth.
The Ninevites came to be ministered to,
but I, the very Master and Lord of all,
have come not threatening, not demanding an account,
but bringing pardon.
They were barbarians,
but these – the faithful -
have conversed with unnumbered prophets.
And of Jonah nothing had been prophesied in advance,
but of Me everything was foretold,
and all the facts have agreed with their words.
And Jonah indeed, when he was to go forth,
instead ran away that he might not be ridiculed.
But I, knowing that I am both to be crucified and mocked,
have come nonetheless.
While Jonah did not endure so much as to be reproached for those who were saved,
I underwent even death, and that the most shameful death,
and after this I sent others again.
And Jonah was a strange sort of person
and an alien to the Ninevites, and unknown;
but I a kinsman after the flesh and of the same forefathers.
- from a sermon by John Chrysostom
Hat Tip: Trevin Wax

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Confession for Today

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger
From Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, c. 8th century.

Hat Tip: Liberate

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Grace More Amazing

“Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say that I am not what I once was, a slave to sin and Satan. And I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge that by the grace of God I am what I am.”

                   — John Newton (Author of "Amazing Grace")

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Death is Dead

Remember Lazarus, the guy Jesus raised from the dead in John 11? Do you also remember that Jesus' enemies later threatened to kill Lazarus because of his testimony (John 12:9-11)? Excuse me, but how do you threaten someone with death when he as already been there and knows who holds power over the grave?

Here's Ravi Zacarias on that subject (via Tony Reinke)
Have you ever wondered what you would do to frighten Lazarus after he’d been raised from the dead? What would you do to threaten him? “Lazarus, I’m gonna’ kill you?” Caligula says, “I’m going to kill you.” He says, “Ha, ha, ha.” He says “Stop ha, ha, ha-ing. I’m going to kill you as I’m killing all the Christians.” He doubles over in uncontrollable laughter, comes up for air and says, “Caligula haven’t you heard? Death is dead! Death is dead!”
How do you frighten somebody who has already been there and knows the one who’s going to let him out? …
Behind the debris of the fallings of our solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists lies the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom, mankind may still survive. The person of Jesus Christ.
Death is dead - An important thing to remember! Where is its sting? Jesus took it.

Subverting Evil

“Thanks to the cross, evil is now utterly subverted in the cause of good. If the cross of Christ, the most evil act in human history, can be in line with God’s will and be the source of the decisive defeat of the very evil that caused it, then any other evil can also be subverted to the cause of good.”

— Carl Trueman  "Luther's Theology of the Cross"

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Beautific Vision

“Because the face of God is so lovely, my brothers and sisters, so beautiful, once you have seen it, nothing else can give you pleasure. It will give insatiable satisfaction of which we will never tire. We shall always be hungry and always have our fill.” 

              – Augustine

The Missionary God

"As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, god is at once Sender, Sent, and Sending. As I've said already, God in His very nature is a missionary God, and therefore His followers cannot participate in Christ without being on mission with Christ in the world."

    -Britt Merrick, Godspeed: Making Christ's Mission Your Own

Monday, February 18, 2013

We Are Beggers

From The Day Luther Died by Jonathan Parnell:
"In Germany 467 years ago, in a small, backwater town called Eisleben, the shaking hand of a dying man scribbled this simple line: We are beggars. This is true.

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546. These last words of weakness echoed the life-changing truth he’d unearthed in the Scriptures: we don’t bring anything to the table of our justification. Jesus truly died for the ungodly.

Luther came to understand that if we are to be accepted by God, we need a perfect righteousness we can’t produce — we need an alien righteousness given to us by Another."

The Way In = The Way On

This extract is from Tim Keller's new expository guide, Galatians For You: For Reading, For Feeding, For Leading. As part of this curriculum, Keller has also written an accompanying Bible study, Gospel Matters: The Good Book Guide to Galatians.
How do we change and grow as Christians? In the same way we became Christians. That's why in Galatians 3 v 1-3, Paul reminds the Galatian Christians how it was that they came to Christ. And in essence, “Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (v 1). This portrayal was achieved through preaching, through “what you heard” (v 2, 5). Paul isn’t referring to a literal picture, but a metaphorical one.
There was a message communicated—“Jesus Christ … crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2 v 1-5). Notice that the essence of this message is not how to live, but what Jesus has done for us on the cross. The gospel is an announcement of historical events before it is instructions on how to live. It is the proclamation of what has been done for us before it is a direction of what we must do.
But it also says that this message gripped the heart. Jesus was “clearly portrayed”. The NIV translates the Greek as “clearly”; it also means “graphically”, “vividly”. This probably is a reference to the preaching’s power. It was not dry and lecture-like. It “painted a picture” of Jesus, giving the hearers a moving view of what Christ did. “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). A Christian is not someone who knows about Jesus, but one who has “seen” Him on the cross. Our hearts are moved when we see not just that He died, but that He died for us. We see the meaning of His work for us. We are saved by a rationally clear and heart-moving presentation of Christ’s work on our behalf.
And this was what these Christians had heard and believed. But now, something has changed. Now, they are “foolish” and “bewitched” (v 1). What has gone wrong? In verse 3, Paul comes to his major “beef” with the Galatian Christians and the false teachers. He says that the way the Spirit entered your life should be the very same way the Spirit advances in your life. He says this twice, strongly: “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (v 3).
In verse 5, Paul is even stronger. He moves into the present tense and says that right now the works of the Spirit—even miracles—occur “because you believe” (not “because you believed”) and because you no longer “observe the law”. The Spirit works as Christians don’t rely on their own works, but rather consciously and continuously rest in Christ alone for their acceptability and completeness. The Spirit works as you apply and use the gospel.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Acme Church Plant

From The Sacred Sandwich

A Future in Which We Can Be Changed

Gracious God,
our sins are too heavy to carry,
too real to hide,
and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name,
what our hearts can no longer bear,
and what has become for us
a consuming fire of judgment.
Set us free from a past that we cannot change;
open to us a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image,
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

- from the Book of Common Worship

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fellowship with God

From How to Have Communion With the Spirit by J.D. Greear:
The Christian life is not just about doctrines or spiritual disciplines, but about fellowship with God—koinonia. But how can you experience moments of fellowship with God?

1. Put yourself in the presence of his Word.

If you want God to manifest himself to you, don’t get alone with yourself and “listen to your heart.” That’s a pit of poison. Don’t go out in the woods and wait for a bolt of inspiration. My advice to believers and non-believers here is the same: you need to consistently put yourself in the presence of the Word. After all, God cannot make the Word of Life come alive in your heart unless that Word is already there!
Here are several practical suggestions to this end:

Do a ‘quiet time.’ This is probably the worst naming job in contemporary Christianity: it sounds like God is putting you in the corner and telling you to shut up. But the idea behind a ‘quiet time’ is an important one. Every day, for at least 30 minutes, set aside time to spend with God. I split my time up into thirds: 1. Read the Bible, 2. Pray, and 3. Read through a devotional book.

Memorize Scripture. When I was a kid, I memorized Scripture for all of the wrong reasons. I wanted the gold star and for everyone to say I was #1. But despite my terrible motivations, when I became a Christian those verses came alive to me in awesome ways. Having chunks of Bible tucked away into our memory doesn’t earn us any merit with God, but it does provide fuel for an experience of God’s fellowship.

Pray the Scriptures back to God. Part of why I read the Bible before I pray is so that I can do this. I pray back over what I’ve just read. Sometimes I associate certain passages with people I’m praying for. Scripture shows me the mind of God and teaches me how to pray.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Barrier Destroyed

“When God poured out his justice on Christ, he was not only destroying his Son, but destroying the barrier between himself and us. How amazing! The more God vented his holiness on Jesus, the more he was venting his love for us.

On the cross, the holiness and love of God, otherwise in tension, were in complete, brilliant cooperation. The more his holiness expressed itself, the more his love was satisfied; the more his love expressed itself, the more his holiness was satisfied.”

— Tim Keller  Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
(New York, NY: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 65

Hat Tip:  Of First Importance

Stupid Things We Say to Singles

Left over from Valentine’s Day, I’m posting Justin Holcomb's list of some the stupid things said to or by single Christians.
  • There’s sin in your life that God wants you to work through first. Once you work it out, he’ll bring you a spouse. 
  • You should probably need to lower your standards. You’re only interested in men/women who are above your level. You need to be more realistic about who you are and what kind of guy/woman you can expect to be interested in you. 
  • You aren’t confident enough. If you liked you, guys/women would like you, too. 
  • Guys are intimidated by you. The more you accomplish, the less guys will want to ask you out. 
  • Why are you still single? Don’t you go to a huge church with lots of singles? 
  • Just stop thinking about it, then it will happen. 
  • God probably has you single for you to learn something. What is He trying to teach you? 
  • Maybe there’s sin that you need to deal with and He’s preventing you from inviting someone else into your sin. 
  • When you’re fully content in Him, then He will bring you a spouse. 
  • Maybe you’re not praying enough for a spouse. 
  • Put yourself out there. 
  • If you just lost 20 pounds a guy would be able to see how wonderful you truly are. 
  • God is trying to teach you something in this season. Once you learn it, he’ll bring you a spouse. 
  • Don’t worry, I’m sure you’re next! 
  • I have a friend who was 35 when she got married, there’s still hope for you too. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Real Valentine Story

From Valentine’s Day: Rearranging our Focus by Mark Leiderbach
While not a Christian himself and uncertain of his own beliefs, this young man saw something profound and intriguing in the lives of his Christian friends. The mere fact that his friends were Christian made them objects of state-sanctioned wrath and persecution under the emperor, Claudius. And yet, even while persecuted for their faith, their love and devotion toward one another and toward him was astonishing.

Church Tradition records that in the year 269 or 270 AD (the historical record is unclear), a young man living in the Roman Empire saw something that changed his life—and influenced western civilization for close to 1800 years.

Honored by their friendship, and intrigued by their faith, this young man voluntarily aided his Christian friends to such an extent that, even though not a Christ follower himself, he was eventually imprisoned along with them.

It was there, while he was alone and afraid in a Roman jail, that his Christian friends visited him, and this young man, whose name was Valentine, finally understood and embraced the Christian gospel.

It was not long after his conversion that the Roman officials presented Valentine with a choice: recant your faith and be freed or refuse and suffer the consequences. He refused.

As tradition would have it, he was then clubbed to death on February 14th.

Before he died, however, he is said to have sent a message to his Christian friends saying: “Remember your Valentine… I love you”

Ultimately, no one is quite sure of the exact details of the origination of the Valentine’s Day tradition, but one thing that is sure is that a Christian by the name of Valentine was martyred for his faith in the year 269 or 270.

The truly curious thing, however, is that a day originally meant to commemorate the simple, yet stunning faith of a Christian believer willing to sacrifice his life instead of denying his faith has been reduced to a day that commemorates trivial crushes with heart-shaped candies and a rather strange, almost naked, bow-and-arrow toting, pagan Greek god named Cupid.

Sadly, the pure message of the life-altering good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead as a way to offer payment for our sins and enable a new life based on faith in God and his promises has become little more than a holiday that serves as a litmus test of puppy love.

Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, amidst the hearts, flowers, cards, and guilt-motivated purchases of candy, it might be a blessing to take a moment with your sweetheart and consider the real meaning of this special day.

Why would Valentine die for his faith?

Perhaps Romans 5:8 holds the answer: it is because “God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

And that kind of love is so compelling, so stunning, so simple, that when we “get it,” it is worth living for…and it is worth dying for.

Living and dying for that kind of love makes a lot more sense than trying to get a diaper-clad, puny god to shoot a love arrow at one’s latest crush.

Declare the Three Words

Love this post by Micheal Kelley at Forward Progress:
Three words.
Three words that shook earth and pleased heaven.
Three words that are an authoritative pronouncement of objective truth.
Three words spoken by a dying man that still ring in our ears today.
“It. Is. Finished.”
It’s a declaration that reminds us that striving ceases at the cross, for there we find the pinnacle of both the love and the justice of God. It reminds us that there is nothing left for us to prove, for Jesus has justified us before the throne of God above, once and for all. It tells us that there is no longer anything to fear, for we have been sealed by the blood of Jesus and are now and forever secured as the children of God.
But these are three words that are meant to be re-declared in big and small ways throughout our lives. This declaration should be brought to bear in relationships, at work, and in church moment by moment:
When we sin and instead of simply asking forgiveness we try and earn our way back into God’s good graces: It is finished.
When we look down on others because the sin we see in them reminds us of the sin we see in ourselves: It is finished.
When we punish our children out of anger but then try and convince them that their punishment was just: It is finished.
When we think that God should give us a good day because we had a lengthy quiet time in the morning: It is finished.
When we think that our spouse owes us some time for ourselves because we took extra time in looking after the kids: It is finished.
When we are too embarrassed to confess our sin and ask for prayer and instead hide behind the “unspoken prayer request”: It is finished.
When we are insecure because it seems that the other families on Facebook have cuter, smarter, and better behaved children than we do: It is finished.
When it’s February and we have already fallen off track in our “Read the Bible in a Year” plan and feel like an undisciplined failure: It is finished.
The words from the cross are still true, not only then but now. And not only in the future but in the present. It is finished. And thank God it is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Removing Barriers

 "Ministry flows from intimacy. Mission comes from relationship. Whatever Christ calls you to forsake will also be relational in its implications. What is standing between you and Jesus?

    -Britt Merrick, Godspeed: Making Christ's Mission Your Own

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Glad to Be a Heretic

What is the greatest Protestant heresy (according to the Catholic Church)? Justification by faith? Sola Scriptura? Guess again. From Sinclair Fergusan:
Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542– 1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement.
How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?
Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”
If this is heresy, then I am a grateful heretic! Read it all at the link.

Monday, February 11, 2013


"The nature of water is soft, that of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing the water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the word of God; it is soft, and our heart is hard, but the one who hears the word of God often, opens his heart to the fear of God."

  -Quote from  Abba Poemen, excerpted from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, page 183, 162

Going Forward by Leaving Behind

"When we sense the calling of God on our lives, it creates a fork in the road. A decision must be made. We will either respond like the disciples did and follow Jesus, or we'll turn away and maintain normalcy..."

"What is the call of God upon your life? Sometimes we can't answer that question until we've answered a different one.: what is Christ calling you to leave behind? It might not be the nets or boats, but often when Christ is calling us to something, He's simultaneously calling us away from something else. In order to live at Godspeed, the disciples abandoned everything hindering them from living on mission with Christ. what is Christ calling you to forsake? What is hindering His mission from going forward through your life?"

      -Britt Merrick, Godspeed: Making Christ's Mission Your Own

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Extravaganza

From The Sacred Sandwich

Quitting Religion Cold Turkey

"I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross–and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms. But preachers can’t be that naughty or brave unless they’re free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they wont be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them, in advance and dead as door-nails, in Jesus. Ergo, the absolute indispensability of trust in Jesus’ passion. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone–and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness–they will be of very little use in the pulpit."

          -Robert Farrar Capon Quoted by Tullian Tchvidjian

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Liberty: What We Can Freely Give Up

From Erik Raymond on Christian Liberty
Christians have Christian liberty (1 Cor. 9; Rom. 14-15). This means that we have the freedom in Christ to enjoy many created things without fear of condemnation. We understand that created things can neither commend nor condemn us before God (Gal. 4.8-9Col. 2.82.2-231 Tim. 4.1-8). Therefore, as Christians we have the privilege of freedom to enjoy various aspects of creation without fear of judgment.
There is another side to this freedom: the freedom to set aside our liberty for the sake of the gospel. In 1 Cor. 9 we read that Paul’s big priority is go spel advancement. Every argument pivots on him wanting to see the gospel speed ahead (cf. 1 Cor. In Romans 14-15 Paul does not want to assault the consciences of the weaker believers by partaking of his liberties. He doesn’t want them to stumble (sin, by doing something that their conscience would forbid).
In both cases Paul’s true freedom is not in what he can enjoy but what he can freely give up. He is not a slave to the weak, the Jews, the Greeks, or anyone else. He is a slave of Christ and a servant to all. This is for the sake of the gospel...
Much more at the link.

Friday, February 8, 2013

More than We Dared Hope

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time.

This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.”

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

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

From a Train Wreck & Broken Mess

Very interesting article at CT Magazine - My Train Wreck Conversion. The sub heading reads "As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians. Then I somehow became one."

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield has been transformed from  the description quoted above to a Christian believer and the wife of a Presbyterian minister. Quite a journey!

Love this quote from the article:
Jesus triumphed. And I was a broken mess. Conversion was a train wreck. I did not want to lose everything that I loved. But the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world.
Read it all at the link.  Or you can read her full story in her book - The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Crown & Covenant).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stick With Your Plan

Some encouragement from Ryan Kelly at TGC on sticking with your 2013 Bible reading commitment:
January has come and gone. A little more than 8 percent of 2013 has already passed. Now is an especially good time to ask ourselves (and each other!) how our personal Bible reading is going. Many of us began a new Bible reading plan on January 1. Such plans can be helpful. You should try one. They can help you to be more consistent in your Bible reading; they can help to get you into a steady, daily diet of the Word; they can help you get through whole books and into previously unexplored parts of the Bible over the course of the year. It's never a bad time to get going on one or get back on one.
Regardless of your Bible reading plan (or lack thereof), you probably had a general desire for your Bible reading to be better in 2013 than it was in 2012—to read more, to read more consistently, to read more thoughtfully, to read more passionately, and/or to better apply it to our daily life. So how's it going?
Maybe so far in 2013 your Bible reading hasn't gone according to plan; it hasn't increased or improved as you'd hoped. Let me suggest several possible reasons why Bible reading might feel weak and wearisome, and suggest some ways in which those weaknesses might be helped...
 Read more at the link.

The Symbol of Divine Suffering

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. 

That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering.”

                       — John Stott The Cross of Christ

Hat Tip:  Of First Importance

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Something Fishy

From The Sacred Sandwich

Start Working From Not For

"To make this as simple as possible, let me say it this way: Justification is all about Jesus. Jesus' work, not our works, saves us. Jesus' Life, not our works, saves us. Jesus' life, not our own life, is our hope. Jesus' death, not our religious works , is our payment. Jesus alone forgives sin. So, we're to repent of our sin to Jesus. Jesus alone gives righteousness. So we trust in Jesus for our justification. Our justification is not accomplished in any part by our own work, morality or religious devotion.  Justification is accomplished by Jesus plus nothing, and Jesus plus anything ruins everything.....

...You are free to stop working for your righteousness and start working from Jesus' righteousness."

-Mark Driscoll,   Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ, page 144

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What a Relief!

"When we see the grand story of God's mission to redeem, restore and heal humanity, it's a massive paradigm shift. We realize that life is not about us or what we want to do - and that's a relief because I'm already sick of myself. Life is about God and His glory and what he is doing. The more we get caught up in that reality, the more we are free to be what God is calling us to be.  The question 'What should I do?' becomes 'What is God doing?' When we view Scripture with an eye toward what God has done, is doing, and will do,all questions of 'What should I do now?' get answered."

      -Britt Merrick, Godspeed: Making Christ's Mission Your Own

Monday, February 4, 2013

Four Elements of Our Identity

This is REALLY good! (Via: Justin Taylor and Peter Cockrell)
Identity & PerspectiveBy Terry Johnson:
What happens when one or two aspects of our Christian identity get emphasized at the expense of others? What happens when we fail to keep the four central elements (sons, saints, servants, sinners) of our identity in tension with each other? Let’s see.
Some have made “sons” and “saints” the message of the gospel and have neglected the categories of “servant” and “sinner.” The result has been a strong emphasis on our unchanging security as children of God and our safe status as “holy ones,” righteous in Christ. Many hurting souls have derived great comfort from this constant refrain. Those of “tender conscience,” to use the Puritan term, have found deep consolation in regular reminders of sonship and sainthood.
However, in the absence of an ongoing emphasis on “servant” and “sinner” the result too often has been complacency about duty, service, responsibility, and even about sin. “Don’t should me,” some preachers have been known to say. “There is nothing that I must do that will make God love me more. There is nothing that I have done that will make Him love me less,” these preachers rightly insist. Yet, they continue, “My Father is always pleased with me and never displeased. He sees me ‘in Christ,’ perfect and complete.“ Consequently, don’t tell me what I need to do. I don’t need to do anything – just bask in grace. When I fail, I’m loved and accepted. When I fall, I am safe and secure. The Christian life is not doing but being, being ‘in Christ.’”
There is a problem with this even in terms of sonship. While fathers don’t love their children more or less according to their performance, they may be more or less pleased according to service and obedience. We are regularly told to do the things with which God is pleased and that He rewards and blesses (e.g. Mt 6:1ff; 2 Cor 5:9; Col 1:10; Eph 5:10). God’s love is unchanging. However, He may be more or less pleased with us, and may be at times quite displeased.
Beyond this, the larger problem is the emphasis that is being placed on one aspect of our identity (sonship and sainthood) at the expense of the other (servant and sinner). We are called to serve (Rom 12:1,2). I am a son, but I am also a servant. This means that I have the duties and responsibilities of a servant which I am not to neglect.
Moreover, while I am a saint, I am also a sinner. I have not yet arrived. I must “press on,” as the Apostle Paul put it (Phil 3:14). I have not yet been glorified. I am not yet in heaven. I am not in a state of non posse pecare. The dregs of sin that remain can only be overcome by strenuous acts of mortification and vivification, as we have seen. No room is left for complacency.

Known in the Womb

A visual exegesis and application of Jeremiah 1:5. How could the implications be any clearer?

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Identity Statement

"The church is the people of God called to God sent by God for the glory of God to meet the needs of the world with God. That is our identity."

              -Britt Merrick, Godspeed: Making Christ's Mission Your Own

Accurate Advertising?

Well, that's one way to promote your church...

Hat Tip: Ed Stetzer

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Eyes To See

From a great post by J.D. Greear:
In the opening verses of 1 John, the Apostle John says that one of the signs that you really know God is you have fellowship—koinonia—with him through the Spirit. God begins to come alive to you. In a very real and tangible way, he speaks to you.

Now, I’m not talking about some new word from God. I hear church talk like this all the time: “God told me that you should give me $1,000,” or “God told me that we are supposed to get married.” That’s bad enough (Have some courage and ask the girl out on your own!). But I even hear people tell me about “God’s word to them” that contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. I hear with depressing frequency the astounding claim: “God told me to leave my wife.” I cannot stress this enough: God will never speak to you in a way that contradicts his Word.

No, koinonia—the experience of God’s presence—does not happen when God delivers a new word, but when the Word of Life is “made manifest” to us (1 John 1:2). Manifestation means magnification, coming alive. A genuine experience with God is the magnification of the word of the gospel in your heart.

When this happens to you, you begin to feel the word of life. The cross becomes larger. Your sin becomes more real. God’s grace becomes sweeter. The “old” words of life press in on your heart and they become new to you. It’s like those magic eye pictures (Remember them?). You can stare at the morass of dots for hours, and it just looks like random pixels. But if you cross your eyes just right, you suddenly see the 3-D image. That’s how it is when you experience God: you aren’t given new information to understand, but new eyes to see...
Read it all at the link.

Friday, February 1, 2013

His Life Lived in Us

"...God the Holy Spirit is the means by which the power of God - achieved for us through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus - is available to those whose faith is in Jesus. Living the Christian life requires power, not so we can avoid all suffering, domineer over others, or achieve our own selfish desires, but so we can become increasingly like Jesus Christ in such things as truthfulness, holiness, love, wisdom, courage, humility and perseverance. The Bible teaches that Jesus was filled with the Holy spirit and that it's impossible to become like Jesus without the work of the Holy Spirit..Therefore, when the Bible speaks of being Spirit-filled, it's another way of saying that we can live like Jesus by the Holy Spirit's grace and power. The Christian life is not a life lived for God, but the life of God lived in us, through us, with us, and sometimes in spite of us by the power of the Holy Spirit."

-Mark Driscoll,   Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ, page 114-115

Living at Godspeed

"When we understand our mission, respond to our calling, and live as a people sent by God, we become more like Jesus to the world. Following His example, we'll seek, touch, free, and restore the hurting people all around us. The Holy Spirit will work through us to renew humanity for the glory of Christ and the advancement of His kingdom. We will finally live for something bigger than ourselves - what I'll call 'living at Godspeed.'"

             -Britt Merrick, Godspeed: Making Christ's Mission Your Own