Sunday, March 31, 2013

Basis for Identity

"The gospel changes what I fundamentally boast in - it changes the whole basis for my identity. Nothing in the whole world has any power over me - I am free at last to enjoy the world, for I do not need the world. I feel neither inferior to anyone or superior to anyone, and I am being made all over into someone and something entirely new.:

      - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 184


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Interesting Links

Links worth a look:
The Global Mission Shift: Should the North American Church Lead, Follow or Both?
Myths about Bible Translations
China Cracks Down on House Churches
Pope Francis Open to Charismatics
Bama Group  Annual Study of what Americans Think About the Bible

Where to Boast

"..if you understand the gospel, you 'boast' exclusively and only in the cross. Our identity, our self-image, is based on what gives us a sense of dignity and significance - what we boast in. Religion leads us to boast in something about us. the gospel leads us t boast in the cross of Jesus. that means our identity in Jesus is confident and secure-  we do 'boast' ! - yet humbly, based on a profound sense of our flaws and neediness."

        - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 182

Friday, March 29, 2013


“The notion that because Christ has ‘brothered us’, we may become children of God, lies at the heart of the New Testament’s teaching about our salvation.”

— Sinclair Ferguson Children of the Living God
(Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 4

HT: Of First Importance

Cursed For Us

 RC Sproul explains the curse motif of Good Friday and the Crucifixion of Christ. Amazing Love!

 HT: Kevin DeYoung

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Error 404 Explained (By Faith)

HT: Thinking Out Loud

Dwell On Hope

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:5-6 ESV)

"Since our faith in Christ gives us a certain hope, which overflows as love for others, if we find our love running dry or cold, the root of our lacks of love is that we are not, by faith, looking at our hope. If we find ourselves unloving, the solution is not to seek to love better or more, it is to look at Christ, who gives us an unlosable, unshakable acceptance from the Father, and as we dwell on our hope, we will find our hearts melted by His love, and overflowing with His love to others."

           - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 140

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reacting to the Threat

"...the gospel is more threatening to religious people than non-religious people, Religious people are very touchy and nervous about their standing with God. their insecurity makes them hostile to the gospel, which insists that their best deeds are useless before God. One of the ways we know that our self-image is based on justification by Christ is that we are not hateful and hostile to people who differ from us; one of the ways we know that our self-image is based on justification by works is that we persecute."

        - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 128

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Friend Request

Take Heed

.....Also works for women and old men.

Proved in Day-to-Day Human Relationships

"Our words are not sufficient for (and maybe not even the most important in) persuading others about thee truth of Christ. People have to be able to look into our hearts and lives, to assess how we handle trouble, how we deal with disappointment and interruptions, how we conduct our relationships, how we feel and act, so that they can see whether Christ is real and how the gospel affects day-to-day human life. Generally, we find faith mainly through relationships with joyful, flawed-but-honest, loving Christians, not through arguments, information or books."

           - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 110

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Greatest Slaughter in Human History

This post by Joe Carter is hard to read - the horror is beyond imagination. Yet it is true, and the truth must be heard and shouted until all hear it.
The Story: The Chinese government recently admitted that over the last four decades the country has aborted 336 million unborn children, many of them forcibly. 
The Background: According to the according to theFinancial Times, on March 14 the Chinese Health Ministry reported the following statistics for its family planning practices since 1971: 
-- 336 million abortions performed;
-- 196 million sterilizations conducted;
-- 403 million intrauterine devices inserted.
China, the world's most populous country, first instituted limits on population growth in 1971 and established its "one-child" population control program in 1979. 
What It Means: The story has been shockingly underreported considering what China has admitted: Since 1971, the country has carried out the largest single slaughter of human beings in the history of the world. 
To put the numbers in perspective, the 336 million deaths in China are: 
• More than the entire population of the world at the time of the Crusades (c. 1100 AD). 
• Equal to the entire combined populations of the United States and Australia
• More deaths than were caused by (in millions): the Bubonic Plague in Europe (100), the Great Chinese Famine (45), the 1918 Influenza Pandemic (40), the HIV/AIDS pandemic (25), the Holocaust (13), the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 (8), the Russian famine of 1921 (3), and the American Civil War (.8). 
• More than all the people killed in the 10 ten deadliest wars in human history (Based onhighest estimates (in millions): World War II (72), World War I (65), Mongol Conquest (60), An Lushan Rebellion (36), Taiping Rebellion (30), Qing Dynasty conquest of the Ming Dynasty (25), Conquests of Timur (20), Dungan Revolt (12), Russian Civil War (9), Second Congo War (5.4)) 
• More than all the children that will be born in the world over the next ten years.
No comparisons, however, can truly help us to understand the scale of these 336 million deaths—and that is in a single country. The magnitude of the crime is incomprehensible to the human imagination. Only God can truly fathom the depths of this depravity and only God can truly apprehend the magnitude of this loss. May he have mercy on our world for what we have done.


"What makes a person a Christian is not so much your knowing God but His knowing of you...Our knowing of God will rise and fall depending on many things. But God's knowing of us is absolutely fixed and solid."

"The great and central basis of Christian assurance is not how much our hearts are set on God, but how unshakably His heart is set on us. And if we begin to grasp that we are 'known by God,' we won't seek to bolster our self-image or standing before Him through our works. We won't worship any idol -we will love Him, the One who knows us."

"If we know Jesus, and know that He knows us, we will enjoy Him, and push the controlling idols aside."

        - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, pages 106 - 108

Sunday, March 24, 2013

On Your Mercy

Lord Jesus,
My soul and body are defiled by so many sinful deeds
My tongue and my heart have run wild without restraint,
causing misery to others and shame to myself.
My soul bleeds with the wounds of wrongdoing,
and my body is a playground of selfish indulgence.
If I was to come before you as a judge,
you could only condemn me to eternal torment,
for that is what I deserve.
Yet I come before you,
not as a judge, but as a savior.
I depend not on your justice,
but on your mercy.
As you look upon the wretched creature that I am,
I ask that your eyes be filled with compassion and forgiveness.
And as I sit at your table,
I beg you to renew within me a spirit of holiness.

Ambrose of Milan (4th Century AD)

Any Basic Thing....

"....Paul is saying that any basic 'thing' - money, sex, mountains, and so on- can be worshiped, treated as a god, and become the basis of your religion. And whatever it is that we worship, we will be enslaved by..."

"..If we treat that are not gods as though they are, we become slaves to them spiritually."

"...Without the gospel, we must be under the slavery of an idol."

"... If anything, the idolatry and slavery of religion is more dangerous than the idolatry and slavery of irreligion, because it is less obvious. The irreligious person knows he is far away from God, but the religious person does not."

         - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, pages 104 - 105

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review of "Galatians For You" by Tim Keller

Galatians For You is part of a new series of commentaries collectively called "God's Word for You," published by The Good Book Company.  This volume is, of course, about St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and a widely recognized guru of communicating the gospel to urban post-modern people. In full disclosure, and in compliance with my book review policy, I did received a free copy of the book from the publisher to review. However, my review would be the same if I had paid full price.

The Epistle to the Galatians is (along with Romans) a centerpiece for understanding the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. Therefore, it is vital for every Christian believer to have a familiarity with its contents and a good understanding of its message, not just to be born again and enter the Christian life, but to live a grace filled spiritual life. The way in is truly the way on. Tim Keller's book will be helpful to that end.

After reading it I see two strengths and one small weakness in this book

Strength: Keller "gets" the message of Galatians. He also "gets" how both religious and non-religious people react to Paul's radical message of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone, with nothing added. Keller's apologetic method focuses on the concept that religion and rebellion, rule keeping and rule breaking, are both simply manifestations of a works righteousness orientation. The only thing radically different from all other forms of religion or spirituality is the gospel of Jesus, where all the initiative is with God, eternal life is free, and we can only respond in gratitude to His actions for us. He explains this well in this book.

Strength: Tim Keller is known for his clear, concise and winsome communication style, polished by many years of listening, preaching and counseling in the sophisticated urban, post-modern environment of New York. He is a widely recognized guru at communicating complex and possibly confrontational biblical truths in a non-threatening way that bypasses the usual defensiveness, without at the same time dulling the sharp edge of truth. This book is a prime example of that skill. (For a complete treatment of that theme see Keller's book The Reason for God)

Weakness: If you are looking for in-depth treatment on exegetical controversies, such as the meaning of Galatians 3:28 within modern egalitarian vs. complementarian arguments about gender roles in family and church leadership, then this is not the book for you. That is outside the scope and focus of this book, although Keller has certainly written about his views on those maters in other places, as has his wife Kathy Keller (see their book The Meaning of Marriage).

Conclusion: In my opinion, Keller has yet to write a book that is not worth owning and reading over and over again. I have been quoting from this one on my blog for the past week, and expect to post more quotes. There are so many powerful sentences in this book that I have made multiple underlinings on almost every page of my copy. I expect to read this book over and over, and it will be a major resource the next time I teach from Galatians. I highly recommend the book.

Go Back Again and Again

"..the root of all our disobedience is particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works righteousness.

The way to progress as a Christian is continually to repent and uproot these systems in the same way that we became Christians - by the vivid depiction ( and re-depiction) of Christ's saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves. We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what He did and who we are in Him.."

         - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 69

Contemporary Confessional


“Repentance has nothing to do with what man has done. Rather it is man’s coming undone in respect to all human righteousness, followed by his going outside himself in faith to Christ alone for salvation.”

              — C. John Miller Repentance: A Daring Call to Real Surrender. page 63

Hat Tip:  OF First Importance

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


"...the gospel is a truth- it is a message, a set of claims. It includes the fact that we are weak and sinful, that we seek to control our lives be being our own saviors and lords, that God's law was fulfilled by Christ for us, that we are now accepted completely though we are still very sinful and flawed, and so on.

And crucially it means, second, that this gospel truth has a vast number of implications for all of life. It is our job to bring everything in our lives 'in line' with the thrust, or direction, or the gospel. We are to think out its implications in every area of our lives, and seek to bring our thinking, feeling, and behavior 'in line.'...

...Christian living is therefore a continual realignment process - one of bringing everything in line with the truth of the gospel."

         - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 53

Cross-Cultural Unity

"An American Christian has far more in common with a gospel-believer who lives a nomadic life on the Mongolian plains than they do with a non-believer who lives on their street, drives a similar car, and whose children go to the same school as theirs.Christian unity takes no account of cultural distinctives and is never contingent on cultural similarity" (page 44)

"Fellowship with Christ is sufficient basis for fellowship with one another. We must never exclude someone whom God has included in His people. But equally, fellowship with Christ is the only basis for fellowship with  one another. Churches must not maintain unity at the expense of the gospel." (page 48)

        - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Links Worth A Look

Some links that are worth a look:
Nine Things You Should Know About Duck Dynasty

Top 10 Theological Challenges Coming Our Way

Here Come the Radicals - Chan, Idleman, Claiborn & Platt

Radicalism & Reality - A Response to "Here Come the Radicals"

The Sin of Silence - In the face of abusive church leaders

Why Studying Doctrine is the Best Medicine - Tim Keller
Charismatic Renewal: 10 Strengths & Weaknesses

This is Jesus

Born as a son,
led forth as a lamb,
sacrificed as a sheep,
buried as a man,
he rose from the dead as a God,
for he was by nature God and man.
He is all things:
he judges, and so he is Law;
he teaches, and so he is Wisdom;
he saves, and so he is Grace;
he suffers, and so he is sacrifice;
he is buried, and so he is man;
he rises again, and so he is God.
This is Jesus Christ,
to whom belongs glory for all ages.
- Melito, bishop of Sardis (d. 180) 

Living From Approval

"The Christian is assured of God's love and approval. God is pleased with us in Christ. So the Christian longs to obey God, not for himself,so that God will save him, but out of gratitude to God who he knows has already saved him....God's approval liberates us to live in a way God approves of. The gospel is both a powerful assurance and a powerful motivation to live in radical obedience. We do not live God's way in order to become His children, but out of gratitude that we are already God's children."

                   - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 34-35

Monday, March 18, 2013

A God We Can Use?

"We have turned to a God we can use rather than a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our need rather than a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction-- not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace. Everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well."

          - David Wells, God in the Wasteland

HT: Vitamin Z

The Real You Meets the Real God

“The only way to come to God is by taking off any spiritual mask. The real you has to meet the real God. He is a person.

Your heart could be, and often is, askew. That’s okay. You have to begin with what is real. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous. He came for sinners. All of us qualify. The very things we try to get rid of—our weariness, our distractedness, our messiness—are what get us in the front door! That’s how the gospel works. That’s how prayer works.

In bringing your real self to Jesus, you give him the opportunity to work on the real you, and you will slowly change. The kingdom comes when Jesus becomes king of your life. But is has to be your life. You can’t create a kingdom that doesn’t exist, where you try to be better than you really are. Jesus calls that hypocrisy—putting on a mask to cover the real you.

So instead of being paralyzed by who you are, begin with who you are. That’s how the gospel works. God begins with you.”

           — Paul Miller  A Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009), 33-34

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

In the Proper Order

"That is the order of the gospel: God accepts us, and then we follow Him."

 "..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 it...."

"To change the gospel the tiniest bit is to lose it so completely that the new teaching has no right to be called 'a gospel'.'"

        - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 38

Sunday, March 17, 2013

About St Patrick...

Seven things you might not know about St Patrick (that have nothing to do with beer).
  1. He was one of the greatest missionaries who ever lived.
  2. He considered himself “a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful, and most contemptible too many.”
  3. He was actually more of a blue man (not sad, but the color), than a green one.
  4. As a teenager, he was stolen from his home and sold into slavery for six years in Ireland. He would later return to preach the gospel there.
  5. Satan attacked him violently in his sleep to the point where he couldn’t move.
  6. Legend has it that he contextualized and used shamrocks (an already-sacred symbol in Ireland) to teach people about the Trinity.
  7. He begged God to grant him to die a martyr’s death, even if it meant being torn limb from limb by dogs or pecked to death by birds. (Maybe St. Patrick inspired Alfred Hitchcock?)

Accept No Substitutes

I consider this to be a very important reminder from Kevin DeYoung:
It is possible to transmit the gospel in a way that never really gets to the root of the problem. Sometimes we share Jesus in such a way that we simply invite people to receive more of what they already want.
“Come to Jesus, you’ll feel better about yourself. Come to Jesus, your marriage will improve. Come to Jesus, you’ll be a better student. Come to Jesus, you’ll find friends. Come to Jesus and he’ll bless you with more stuff. Come to Jesus and your life will improve.”
Now there is a way to many of those statements true. But you really haven’t given the gospel until you also tell people: “Come to Jesus and repent. Take up your cross. Follow him as your Lord, no matter the cost.”
It’s tempting to give a gospel which amounts to “Everything you could ever want! Right now!” Come to Jesus, and I’ll throw in this extra ShamWow! There are whole churches built on this type of infomercial-Jesus, this type of methodology, claiming time is running out, so come now!
Yes, you do receive incomparable blessings when you come to Jesus. But we must also hear, to paraphrase Calvin, that true Christian faith is built on denial of ourselves. This is why some folks have such a hard time hearing the gospel. We think, “God is love, and if God is love then he wouldn’t ask me to do something I don’t want to do.” But what good news is this?
The good news is that God is going to give us more than we could ask or imagine. But the reality of Christianity is that it only comes by a cross. Unless a seed falls to the earth and dies, it does not bear fruit.
When Jesus calls a man he bids him come and die.
That he might truly live.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rediscovering Patrick

Most of the things popular culture says about St. Patrick are not true (no snakes). However, from what we do know, the real guy behind the image was a true Christian hero.  Phillip Jenkins has some details.
What makes Patrick stand out from his contemporaries, though, is that we can know him through his own unquestioned words, rather than the embellishments of later hagiographers and hero-worshipers. Somewhere around 450, he heard of attacks being made on him by bishops in Britain and Gaul. They had heard of his missionary successes, but were dubious about the means he was using to win them.

Anyone familiar with contemporary missions will recognize the picture – deep suspicion for someone working outside the mainstream agencies and churches, going off on his own, rumors of dubious financial practices. Why was he making such lavish gifts? Was he buying converts?

In response, Patrick composed a Confession, which translates best as a Declaration. In the modern sense of the word, he confessed nothing, beyond admitting his sinful and ignorant state. Point by point, though, he answered his critics. He tells the famous story of how Irish raiders abducted him from his British home. He escaped, but returned as a missionary. He offers a wonderful account of what mission actually meant in those days, in a situation where the bishop could not count on any aid from the Roman Empire or the secular power, beyond the kings or chieftains whose favor he could win.

In a society like that, gifts were an absolute foundation of social life and interaction, and to refuse them was to cut yourself off from any hope of success. Certainly, he tried to be careful about the appearance of corruption. He tells us for instance of “the pious women who of their own accord made me gifts and laid on the altar some of their ornaments and I gave them back to them, and they were offended that I did so.” It was a delicate balance.

We Love to Be Our Own Saviors

"..the biblical gospel - Paul's gospel - is clear that salvation, from first to last, is God's doing. It is His calling, His plan,. His action, His work. And so it is He who deserves all the glory, for all time.

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). The gospel comes and turns them all upside down. It says: You are in such a hopeless position that you need a rescue that has nothing to do with you at all. And then it says: God in Jesus provides a rescue which gives you far more than any false salvation your heart may love to chase."

         - Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, page 17

Friday, March 15, 2013

Worth a Look

Some links that are worth a look:
How Protestants Can Justify the Doctrinal Development of the Reformation

Links in a Chain - Lisa Allen's Amazing Life

The Blogs, the Battles & the Gospel (Rules for Internet Controversies)

Five Signs We Might Take Ourselves Too Seriously

The New Pope: Novelty Following Precedent (A very good analysis)

Luis Palau's Friendship with New Pope Francis

A Gay Man Come Out Against Same Sex Marriage

Why Do We Recite the Apostle's Creed

Distinct Identity

"The gospel liberates you from having to be distinct. Your identity is secure because of Christ's contribution to you, not your contribution."

            -Tullian Tchvidjian (RT @PastorTullian)

Reading "Galatians For You"

I'm currently reading Timothy Keller's new book, Galatians For You, Over the next few days I will be posting some quotes and then a review. First thought - a very good book. First quotes below.
 "The gospel is the A to Z of the Christian life. It is not only the way to enter the kingdom; it is the way to live as part of the kingdom. It is the way Christ transforms people, churches and communities."  (page 9)
"The gospel - the message that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope - creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth, for obedience, for love." (page 10)
It is not simply non-Christians, but also believers who need continually to learn the gospel and apply it ot their lives." (page 11)
And that's just from the introduction!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Self Revelation From Crises

From Michael Kelley at Forward Progress
You see it all the time. You feel it yourself. Life is rocking along at a steady clip, and then… BAM! Something happens. Something dramatic. Drastic. Paradigm shifting. Something that, though you don’t yet know the full fallout, you know when it happens that this event will be a dividing point in your life.
There was life before the diagnosis…
Before the job loss…
Before the hard conversation…
Before the revelation…
… and life after. And nothing will be the same.
Our lives are marked by these moments of crisis. And in that moment of crisis, when the earth is emotionally shifting under your feet, “stuff” starts to come out. You get angry. Or frustrated. Or worried. Or that long dormant sin starts to become a temptation again. The temptation, as we look at the remnants of life after that dividing point, the shards of broken relationships or the broken down finances or the busted up sense of self, is to look to that pink slip or call from the doctor’s office or difficult conversation as the point of causality. It’s the thought that this unexpected occurrence, whatever it is, caused these other things to come up.
But it didn’t.
Crisis doesn’t create; it only reveals what’s been there all along......

Read it all at the link - It's worth the time. 

A Moderate Stoning

They did not stone Stephen in Acts 7 for being a non-confrontational, warm & fuzzy moderate. They won't stone you and me for that fault either. But they will probably ignore us!

(Click on image to enlarge)

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So Flawed, So Loved

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to died for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

             — Tim Keller The Reason For God  (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 181

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Pray for the Conclave

Whether you are Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or just call yourself a Christian, the choice  of a new Pope effects all of us. This man, his speeches, writings and work will have a great influence on the openness of the world to the Christian message.

Please join me in praying for wisdom for the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church as they begin meeting in Conclave today to choose a new Pope.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Enough English Bible Translations?

From Alan R. Bevere at The Poached Egg - You know, I think he's on to something.
Harper One has just published The C.S. Lewis Bible (an article on the Bible is here). Bibles are big business for publishers and with the publishing industry changing faster than you can power up your Kindle, it is understandable that publishers would want to capitalize on a money-maker.
But to Christian publishers and denominations (my own UMC was behind the Common English Bible) I say enough is enough. We do not need another English version, translation, or paraphrase. Moreover, as much as I love C.S. Lewis (I am teaching a seminar on Lewis starting this next week) we do not need a study Bible with certain portions of his writing lined up with passages of Scripture. Lewis' writings are already available. Those who desire are able to access his work quite easily.
In a western culture of excess, the plethora of English translations and study Bibles present just one more example of such excess... and all in the name of Jesus! Anyone who speaks English not only can read the Bible, they now have to wade through exactly which Bible they want to read. If indeed one is confused over which English Bible to read, perhaps that already reveals the problem.
I have an idea. Instead of publishers and denominations getting behind yet another English translation, why don't they put their energy and money and marketing plans into publishing Bibles in other languages. They can then have a program where those of us who have more Bibles on our shelves and tables than we can count can actually purchase Bibles for poor Christians in other countries. The publishers can still make a profit (which is certainly OK with me) and those of us who are blessed with an abundance of Bibles and enough money, can bring the written Word to those who have limited access to God's Word or do not have access to it at all…
I agree. What do you think?

Need the Presence

Like this from Pete Wilson - Note the very important question in red at the end.
This morning I did a little reading in Exodus and saw this…
Exodus 33:15 “Then Moses said to him, ‘If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
God promised Moses he would send his angel before them and guide them to their God-given destination. This is what Moses has been waiting for. This is a win. A huge win. He’s assuring Moses success, but Moses doesn’t want success. He wants God.
When I read this I felt like someone had hit me in the head with a shovel.  Far too often as a leader I make success my God. I make success the destination. I’m willing to make a lot of sacrifices, even some unhealthy ones, if it means achieving success.We’ve all sacrificed things for….
larger church attendance
more money
nicer car
corner office
bigger title
noticeable popularity
Moses reminds us that no amount of success, plans, or dreams are worth it if it means less of God’s presence in your life.
Just a few verses before in verse 11 it says “The Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend.” I think Moses had grown so accustomed to God’s presence that it became the most cherished and prized thing in his life. He couldn’t imagine going a moment without it.
Can I be honest? I’m not there… but I want to be. I want to get to that place. I want to get to the place where I want God and His presence in my life more than anything this world has to offer.
How would you feel if God promised you success and victory but without His presence? Have you experienced God’s presence so consistently you can’t live without it?
 Good question.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Avoid the Horror

Don't Skip the "Begats"

You do it. I know you do. I know because I have been guilty of doing the same. Here's an article from BibleMesh to encourage us all to not skip the genealogies (the  begats") when reading the Bible.
"The Bible contains some long genealogies, with a host of strange names, from Jehoshaphat to Shealtiel. It’s tempting to ignore or skim over them. After all, what does it matter that Azor was the father of Zadok or Abijah the father of Asaph?
But a closer look shows them rich in significance. For instance, the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 shows that God was utterly faithful to bless the nations through Abraham and to raise up a king from the line of David, just as He promised. The world was oblivious to Jesus’ bloodline around the time of Perez or Eliud, but God was at work through these people just the same. Generation after generation, the Lord superintended history, ensuring that the “torch would not be dropped.”
This doesn’t mean that all the torchbearers had flawless pedigrees or resumes. Rahab is a prime example. Hebrews 11:31 says she was a prostitute in Jericho before she joined the Israelite cause and later became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth. And what about Ruth, also an ancestor of Jesus? Well, she was a fine woman, faithful to her widowed mother-in-law Naomi. But she came from the Moabite people, who were offspring of an incestuous encounter between a drunken Lot and one of his daughters.
Then there was David, who took another man’s wife for himself and had the husband killed to cover his adultery.
These people don’t sound like promising material for God’s great work of salvation on earth, but He is able to work with everyone and everything to accomplish his purposes.
So when you read that Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, don’t glaze over, but thank God for His constancy in shepherding the inheritance of Abraham through the centuries. And when you read that some of the procreators were scoundrels or the relatives of scoundrels, rejoice that He can do great things with bad bets. There’s even hope for us."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Treat it Like Your Cell Phone

Don't Waste Life's Poop

Okay, that title got your attention, didn't it!  Great insight from Ben Reed at  Life and Theology from a youthful experience working on a pig farm.
One thing that stuck with me from that class was the way that nothing was wasted on the farm. Not even the pigs’ poop.

The poop was piled in a barn, and over the course of a year, the poop would compost, leaving a rich fertilizer that the farmers would use to fertilize the fields that other animals would graze. It was an incredible additive and boost to those fields, giving yields that greatly surpassed the non-fertilized fields. In other words, the poop made the crops grow faster.

Pig poop, though foul-smelling to us humans, contains nutrients that help crops grow really well. After it was harvested and composted (by which time it didn’t stink anymore), it was simply spread across the field in the spring, just before a rain, its nutrients used by the budding crops.

The poop from your past

You’ve got poop in your life. Things you’ve done that you’re not proud of. Things that have been done to you that you wish hadn’t happened. Dreams that you lost, relationships that crumbled. Jobs lost. Marriages destroyed. Addictions that you’re ashamed of. You’ve messed up in a way that you’d hope and pray nobody would ever mess up. You’ve done things…or not done thing…that you never want to repeat.
We typically do one of two things with that pain and suffering:
  1. Ignore it and act like it never happened.
  2. Wallow in it.
Neither is healthy.
Option 1 leaves us judgmental of others who have real pain, ignorant of our own Pharisaical stench. We’re left with a shallow understanding of our sin and pain…and thus a shallow understanding of God’s goodness and grace. Acting like “poop” never happened wastes our pain.
Option 2 leaves us in a crying, heaping, depressed, self-depracating mess. All of the time. We get stuck in what “could’ve been,” what “should’ve been,” and “who I wish I was,” constantly making ourselves pay for our past mistakes over and over again. OR making others pay for our past mistakes by disengaging from those who love us, and who would love to help. Wallowing in our “poop” wastes our pain.
I’ve got a 3rd option, and I take my cue from the pig poop.

Allow your failures to help someone else.

The way God brought you through the junk can help someone else who, right now, can’t see the light. They’re stuck. They’re in the middle of an addiction or the throes of suffering.
Live a life full of grace because you’ve been graced so much by the King. Live a life of love because you were loved first. Live a life of forgiveness because of the heaping amounts of forgiveness you’ve been given that you can never repay. Live a life of generosity because you’ve been given so much.
Your valleys can become great pastures that others can graze from as they see you living life to the full. (John 10:10)
No need to ignore the past. It’s purpose isn’t to hold you back. No need to wallow in it, either.
Let someone else graze from it.
If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:6-7

In other words, don't waste your life's pig poop!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Defining the Term "Gospel Centered"

The term "Gospel Centered" is a very popular and frequently used "buzz word" now-a-days, at least in the books and on the web pages I've been reading. A danger that comes when a term gets quickly and widely used, when it becomes a "buzz word," is for the term to lose meaning, or to be defined differently by different users so that we are not really communicating. Another danger is that it simply becomes an identity marker, defining who is in and who is out of an "in crowd."

To define the term(s), I like Joe Thorn's definitions in an old post (Hat Tip Tim Challies) These are statements I can totally agree with!

"In the simplest of terms the gospel is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that accomplishes redemption and restoration for all who believe and all of creation. In his life Jesus fulfilled the law and accomplished all righteousness on behalf of sinners who have broken God’s law at every point. In his death Jesus atones for our sins, satisfying the wrath of God and obtaining forgiveness for all who believe. In his resurrection Jesus’ victory over sin and death is the guarantee of our victory over the same in and through him. Jesus’ saving work not only redeems sinners, uniting them to God, but also assures the future restoration of all creation. This is the gospel, the “good news,” that God redeems a fallen world by his grace."
"Therefore, to be gospel-centered means that that the gospel – and Jesus himself – is our greatest hope and boast, our deepest longing and joy, and our most passionate song and message. It means that the gospel is what defines us as Christians, unites us as brothers and sisters, changes us as sinner/saints and sends us as God’s people on mission. When we are gospel-centered the gospel is exalted above every other good thing in our lives and triumphs over every bad thing set against it."
“[T]he gospel-centered life is a life where a Christian experiences a growing personal reliance on the gospel that protects him from depending on his own religious performance and being seduced and overwhelmed by idols.”
These are truths we can (and should) unite around, not divide over!

Sola Christi

“Whoever is not satisfied with Christ alone, strives after something beyond absolute perfection.”

           — John Calvin  Commentary on John
Hat Tip: Philip Ryken, Of First Importance

Other Voices on "The Bible"

Tuesday I shared my thoughts on the History Channel' "The Bible." Here are some other interesting reviews, comments and analyses on the content of the presentation and its effect on our culture and society:
Stand to Reason
CT Gleanings

Get Religion

Joe Carter
The Examiner
American Thinker - Robert Wilcox
I am certain that there will be many more interesting reviews as the series continues.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Some Links

Miscellaneous links from my Blog roll:
Three Ways to Pray for Missionaries
When You Are Sick of Theology
Top 5 Ways to Shrink Your Bible Study Group
The Death of the Bookstore

First Thoughts on The History Channel Series "The Bible"

The first episode of the History Channel's mini-series "The Bible" aired last Sunday night. There was a lot of anticipation for  this event in the blog-a-sphere, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Since the producer, Mark Burnett, was involved with Survivor, some joked that Eve would get voted off the island in the first episode. Since it was on the History Channel, some wondered if Moses would be hawking the stone tablets to the guys on Pawn Stars!

Here's my first impressions and thoughts.
  1. They sure skipped a lot. The first episode covered the entire Pentateuch  all the way up to the early chapters of Joshua.  Lots of time for Abraham and Moses, but totally skipped the story of Joseph, one of my favorite sagas in the whole Bible. And how do you skip Moses' marriage  the golden calf, the twelve spies, etc. If they are going to cover the whole Bible, I guess a lot is going to be left out.
  2. There are some inaccuracies. I mean, hey, they didn't carry the Ark of the Covenant around uncovered, and Joshua did not kneel in front of the Ark open to the view of others. He wasn't a high priest, and would have been struck dead for doing so. And we won't even go into the whole ninja, samurai angels in Sodom stuff. As I expected, they were far too politically correct to even touch on the homosexual aspects of the Sodom story.
  3. Don't expect any deep theology from the series. As Ben Witherington described it, this is the "Less Filing, Tastes Great" version of the Bible. This is going to be a dip in the shallow end of the spiritual pool, no a deep ocean journey.Some commentators have been concerned about lack of theological sophistication among the advisers to the series, and even some potential heresy. So far, however, I did not notice any heresy, but only shallowness and a surface level presentation.
  4. As the old cliche goes, the book is always better than the movie. If this series gets some people to actually pull their dusty Bibles off the shelf and try reading them, more power to it. That will be a great service. The Book is truly better than the movie!
"The Bible" was followed by the premiere of another interesting and much anticipated historical saga, "The Vikings." Who knows - maybe the ratings for these two series will be so big that the History Channel will now realize that airing, uh, you know, actual "history," might get better ratings than "Ice Road Truckers."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Identity & Idolatry - Reviewing Driscoll's Newest Book

Back on January 26 I promised a review of Mark Driscoll's newest book,  Who Do You Think You Are: Finding Your True Identity in Christ. In the interest of full disclosure, and in conformity to my book review policy, I' informing you that I received a free pre-publication copy of the book from the publisher as part of their program for bloggers. However, I would review it the same had I paid full price for it.

This book is a study of identity, based on Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. I have read Ephesians countless times, and have read many commentaries and studies on the book. But until now, I have never read or heard anyone point out something Driscoll does. Every commentator points out that the Book of Ephesians has too parts: Chapters 1-3 are theological in nature, and chapters 4-6 are more practical. Driscoll adds a unique (to me anyway) insight that chapters 1-3 are about identity in Christ, and chapters 4-6 attack the idols in his readers lives based on that understanding of their true identity. That makes perfect sense to me. 

Those two themes have come up over and over in my recent reading of books and of Scripture. I think God is trying to tell me, and tell us, something important. I've published a lot of quotes from the book on this issue over the past month to emphasize this point. Getting identity right- knowing who you are in Christ, is foundational to Christian living. Once that is settled, you can then reject the competing idols of other sources of meaning and identity.

I have read several (but not all) of Driscoll's previous books. I have not found anything in the ones I have read that I seriously disagree with. Pastor Driscoll is controversial, and I certainly am not going to blanket endorse everything he has written or done. However, anyone who has built a church as large as his in one of the most unchurched cities in America deserves at least some benefit of the doubt.

There is nothing flashy or unique about his treatment of Ephesians, other than the insight mentioned above. It's just good solid Bible teaching on two themes that are sorely needed by Christians today. I got a lot of of it - could you tell by all the quotes I published? 

I recommend the book.


From Radio Free Babylon  (click to enlarge)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Written in the Dust

You can't love the Bible or live the Bible if you don't read the Bible.  RT @AceAviatron: