Saturday, August 31, 2013

Praying to the False God of Death

This is almost too horrible to describe. Read it and weep.

Praying to the Abortion God.

You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21, ESV).

God have mercy on this nation!

Abolishing the Pecking Order

From Pete Wilson

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Most Misunderstood Verse

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those "promise box" verses that people love to  quote as a promise of present blessing. Hey people, context is everything! That verse is in a letter from the Prophet Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. It is a promise of God being with them in exile, and blessings for their descendants, with an ultimate fulfillment in the coming of Christ's kingdom. It is a text about outliving your life, passing on a legacy, and seeking the welfare of others. It is NOT a promise of a problem and pain free life NOW. It is probably one of the most misunderstood verses in contemporary American Christianity.

I think Jared Wilson is right in his comments on that text in the post quoted below. It's long, but well worth the read.
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon . . .-- Jeremiah 29:4
Exile -- which is the ongoing state of the Church today as it was for Israel then -- presupposes that we are in Babylon, not Jerusalem. And one of the major mistakes the Church has made is expecting Babylon to act like Jerusalem, to be like Jerusalem, to even recognize Jerusalem as something ideal to be. We see this in the way Christians keep trying to convince non-Christians that America is really a Christian nation and needs to start acting like it again. 
The reality is that we should not expect Babylon to start acting like Jerusalem. Our calling instead is to live like Jerusalem within Babylon. What does this look like? The prophetic words are helpful:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 
-- Jeremiah 29:5-6
First of all, does this give in any way the sense of "just passing through"? Does it look temporary?
Does this give the sense of living, as some say, like "the world is not our home"?
There is a sense in which the world is not our home, of course. But there's a sense in which it is. When we say things like "This world is not my home," we should not mean that this world is not the place God has called us to live out his kingdom. Here we are. Where else are we going to live? And in fact, the eschatological forecast of the new heavens and the new earth show us that this world is our home, albeit the transformed version of it that is coming. 
When we say "This world is not my home" we ought to simply mean the way of the world that is passing away - the sinful system of the world, the corruption, the injustice.
Therefore: Suburbia may be your home, but consumerism should not be. And America may be your home, but nationalism should not be. Your house may be your home, but Christ should be your security. We ought at all times to remember that even the good gifts God gives us are not eternal.

God’s Image and Purpose for Humanity

Quotes on God’s Image and Purpose for Humanity  from The Gospel Project – Fall 2013, “Bearing God’s Image” by way of Kingdom People: 
“The most distinctive feature of the biblical understanding of man is the teaching that man has been created in the image of God.”- Anthony Hoekema
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”- C. S. Lewis
“To live was to enjoy – when every faculty was in its perfection, amidst abundance of objects which infinite wisdom had purposely suited to it… when he was at full liberty to enjoy either the Creator or the creation – to indulge in rivers of pleasure, ever new, ever pure, from any mixture of pain.”- John Wesley
“Leave the works in one class. Consider one as good as another. Fear God, and be just, as has been said. And then do whatever comes before you. This way all will be well done even though it is no more than loading manure or driving a mule.”- Martin Luther
“The great God of the universe who heaped up the mountains, scooped out the oceans, and flung out the stars wants to have a relationship with you.”- Adrian Rogers
“This sense of being made in God’s image calls us all constantly to look for it in others and to do what we can to help them acknowledge it and to realize it by joining in worship. We thereby carry to others the answer to their inmost longing, a yearning for union with the Trinity, a thirst to respond with adoration to the God who made them.”- Marva Dawn

Beard Wars

Apparently we can fight over just about anything.

The Wars Over Christian Beards
You're more likely to see a beard in the pulpit today than at any time since the 1800s. But beards—especially among clergy—were once serious, symbolic matters. They separated East from West during the Great Schism, priests from laity during the Middle Ages, and Protestants from Catholics during the Reformation. Some church leaders required them; others banned them. To medieval theologians, they represented both holiness and sin. But historian Giles Constable says that rules on beards sound more forceful than they really were. Clergy (especially powerful ones) were likely to follow fashion in their day, too....
Read it all at the link.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Deep and Wide

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is as wide as human diversity and as deep as human complexity."

   — David Powlison   Seeing With New Eyes  (Phillipsburg, PA: P & R Publishing, 2003), 162

HT: Of First Importance

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jesus Loves Miley

From Jesus Loves Miley Cyrus at Her-meneutics:
...As Christians, when confronted with something offensive, we often condemn it on instinct. We want to make sure everyone knows how strongly we disagree, how completely we disapprove, how far we want to distance ourselves from such behavior. (To some extent this seems like a human instinct, given how much everyone has gone on and on this week about Miley at the VMAs.)
There's absolutely a time and a place to call out sin, but if all we do is shame Miley—a 20-year-old girl who grew up extremely privileged, extremely sheltered, and extremely publicly and is now in the process of discovering her adult identity—for her behavior, and bemoan one more nail in the coffin of this world, what are we communicating about a God who loves sinners and offers hope not just from them but to them?
Jesus loves Miley. Nothing she could do could separate her from his love. Even more than she needs to know how we feel about her dance moves, or her drug use, or her sexual history, she needs to know that truth. The world needs to know that. The way we talk about other people, particularly those we condemn, communicates a lot about who we are and what we are about to other people who are "outside," even when it's not their choices we're berating in a public forum.

Live Tweeting Worship?

Saw this tweet today from Tim Challies
RT @challies: What you will soon hear in church: “Our text this morning is Mark 3, so please take out your phone and swipe to Mark chapter …
When he attended a Christian conference in Australia four years ago, one of the speakers asked attendees to hold up their Bibles. "There were about 20,000 people there. I looked around the room, and thousands — thousands — were holding their phones and Kindles up in the air. I knew from that point that the context was going to change forever."
If you see someone using their smart phone during a worship service, don't assume they are mentally checking out to look at Facebook or play Words With Friends; They might be reading the Scripture text, or live tweeting the sermon.

Love Descends

"We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor."

    — Martin Luther On Christian Liberty (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2003), 62

HT: Of First Importance

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

God Himself in Us

“Spiritual gifts are not God bestowing to his people something external to himself. They are not some tangible ‘stuff’ or substance separable from God. Spiritual gits are nothing less than God himself in us, energizing our souls, imparting revelation to our minds, infusing power in our wills, and working his sovereign and gracious purposes through us…[in summary] Spiritual gifts are God present in, with, and through human thoughts, human deeds, human words, human love.”

              - Sam Storms, The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts

The Question of Gender Identity

Dr. Russell Moore has a great article out about how Christians deal with the topic of gender identity.
The Internet is abuzz with conversation about the “T” in “LGBT” this week, after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law legislation supporting “equal access” for students who believe themselves to be the opposite gender from their biological sex. As a conservative evangelical Christian, I believe the so-called transgender question will require a church with a strong theological grounding, and a winsome pastoral footing.
Here’s why.
Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human....
This is a timely and important topic, Read the rest at the link here or here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weeping for Miley

Everyone is talking about the Miley Cyrus "performance" on the VMA Awards last night.  Perhaps we should be weeping instead.
Picking up a sub sandwich today, I saw a news report on CNN about Miley Cyrus’ performance at last night’s VMA’s. I was shocked, then sickened, then saddened.
For the rest of the day, I wondered:
What kind of people are we?What kind of culture have we created?What do we want our children to be?
No more wondering. Tonight, I weep.
I weep for the little girl who gave us Hannah Montana and became a role model to millions of little girls across America.
I weep for the lostness of a girl who doesn’t see herself stumbling around in the dark.
I weep for the news channels that profit from their all-day coverage of a young woman spiraling out of control.
I weep for the American Idol culture that promises glitter and gold to children, then chews them up and spits them out.
I weep for an entertainment culture that celebrates the breaking of every social taboo and the casting off of every restraint, only then to turn and mock the stars that follow suit.
I weep for a tabloid culture that finds celebrity gossip and embarrassing moments titillating.
I weep for women enslaved by a false view of sexual liberation.
I weep for men (myself included) who have failed to say, “Enough is enough.”
I weep for all the times I’ve looked at women as objects and failed to see them as someone’s sisters and daughters.
I weep for the fathers of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and all the family members of all the other women who feel they have to sexualize themselves to achieve success.
I weep for my five-year-old little girl, who twirls around like a princess and hugs me tight at night, when I think of the world she is growing up in, the world I will send her into.
I weep for the broken, messed-up world we live in.
But then I weep at the power of grace.
There’s Jesus, lifting the head of a woman of the night and sending her away into the light.
There’s Jesus in a crowd, healing a woman desperately trying to cover the shame. There’s Jesus at the well, transforming a woman tossed aside by multiple men.
Weeping is no longer enough. Now, I pray.
From Trevin Wax

Benefits to Reading Broadly

It’s comfortable for Christians to read inside our denomination/tradition. People who think like us, who draw the same conclusions make learning fun. But I think we can become too tribal about Christianity, put our stake in the ground to quickly and use it to battle others in the body, often unfairly.
I’m increasingly realizing the value of reading broadly and by broadly I mean works outside of our denominational/doctrinal perspectives. Actually, I don’t think I read broadly enough. But the more I do, I’ve recognized some characteristics about myself have emerged that reinforces the need to get out of the comfy box.
1.  My discernment: or rather lack thereof. There’s something about having to read through work that doesn’t necessarily align with my doctrinal/denominational perspective that forces an examination of what the author is really getting at. I love that in seminary, some profs intentionally assign books for this purpose and even some with troubled theology that sounds really good just so we can decipher what is valuable and what is opposed to historic Christian orthodoxy. But if we only read from one perspective, the tendency might be to oppose anything that doesn’t sound like the gurus from our tribe define it.  Reading broadly on the other hand with the intention of understanding, strengthens discernment.
2.  My arrogance: I can place a great deal of confidence in own investigation. And I have. Of course, there were many instances where I claimed to “fairly” evaluate all sides but in reality didn’t really.  Reading broadly confronts that sense of superiority I feel when I think I have everything figured out. It helps me realize that I can learn from others, even those with whom I disagree. When combined with point #1, I’m increasingly finding some valuable nuggets that a more tribal perspective might suppress…and has. In fact, I can’t even count how many times I’ve dismissed something just because it’s aligned with a certain teacher or doctrinal perspective without giving it a fair shake. Yep, arrogance.

Taking the Swagger Out of Christian Cultural Influence

In the 80's Christians tried the tools of political power to change our culture. Guess what- It did not work  I know; I was there. Perhaps we should learn that the Lord works more through taking up crosses than taking up political crusades.

I'm not always a John Piper fan, but he is right here. Our true influence going forward will come from being servants, sojourners and exiles, not political power brokers. Piper says:
The fact that Christians are exiles on the earth (1 Peter 2:11), does not mean that they don’t care what becomes of culture. But it does mean that they exert their influence as very happy, brokenhearted outsiders. We are exiles. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
But we are very happy sojourners, because we have been commanded by our bloody Champion to rejoice in exile miseries. “Blessed are you when others . . . persecute you . . . on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). We are happy because the apostle Paul showed us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). We are happy because there are merciful foretastes everywhere in this fallen world, and God is glad for us to enjoy them (1 Timothy 4:3; 6:17). And we are happy because we know that the exiles will one day inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Christ died for sinners so that “all things” might one day belong to his people (Romans 8:32).
But our joy is a brokenhearted joy, because Christ is worthy of so much better obedience than we Christians render. Our joy is a brokenhearted joy because so many people around the world have not heard the good news that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). And our joy is a brokenhearted joy because human culture –- in every society –- dishonors Christ, glories in its shame, and is bent on self-destruction.
This includes America. American culture does not belong to Christians, neither in reality nor in Biblical theology. It never has. The present tailspin toward Sodom is not a fall from Christian ownership. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). It has since the fall, and it will till Christ comes in open triumph. God’s rightful ownership will be manifest in due time. The Lordship of Christ over all creation is being manifest in stages, first the age of groaning, then the age of glory. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). The exiles are groaning with the whole creation. We are waiting.
But Christian exiles are not passive. We do not smirk at the misery or the merrymaking of immoral culture. We weep. Or we should. This is my main point: being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lewis on Worship Innovations

C. S. Lewis on church going and worship innovations (from "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer"):
It looks as if [clergymen] believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain -- many give up churchgoing altogether -- merely endure. . . . 
Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best . . . when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. . . . 
Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question "What on earth is he up to now?" will intrude. It lays one's devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, "I wish they'd remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Simple Explanation For Belief in God

HT: Vitamin Z

Your Kids and Smart Phones

I hope all parents who read this blog read the Anne Marie Miller article on Your Kids and Sex I linked to on Wednesday. If you haven't already done so, please read it...

...and then read this one: Teens and Unrestricted Access. It's time to start monitoring those smart phones.


"Spiritual experience that does not arise from God’s word is not Christian experience.… Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel. Through the Spirit the truth touches our hearts, and that truth moves our emotions and effects our wills. "

— Tim Chester and Steve Timmis,  Total Church  (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), pg 31

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Want Community?

"Two Of The Biggest Barriers To Community" - Pete Wilson


O Lord,
May I never fail to come to the knowledge of the truth,
never rest in a system of doctrine, however Scriptural,
that does not bring or further salvation,
or teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts,
or help me to live soberly, righteously, godly; 
never rely on my own convictions and resolutions,
but be strong in You and in Your might;
never cease to find Your grace sufficient
in all my duties, trials, and conflicts;
never forget to go to You
in all my spiritual distresses and outward troubles,
in all the dissatisfactions experienced in creature comforts;
never fail to retreat to Him who is full of grace and truth,
the Friend that loves at all times,
who is touched with feelings of my infirmities,
and can do exceeding abundantly for me;
never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions,
but acknowledge You in all my ways;
never limit my devotions to particular seasons
but be in Your fear all the day long;
never be godly only on the sabbath or in Your house,
but on every day abroad and at home;
never make piety a dress but a habit,
not only a habit but a nature,
not only a nature but a life.
Do good to me by all Your dispensations,
by all means of grace, by worship, prayers, praises,
And at last let me enter that world where is no temple,
but only Your glory and the Lamb’s.
from Valley of Visionadapted

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Your Kids and Sex

Well, that title should get a lot of attention.

Speaking of attention, Anne Marie Miller recently posted an article that has gotten a lot of it, and rightly so. Please read Three Things You Don't Know About Your Children and Sex. If you are a parent, you need to read it. It is blunt. It is scary. It is unpleasant to read. It is, however, true to the world we now live in - true to the wold your kids live in.

Please read it.... and pray about it...
...and then talk to your kids.

Your Heart Will Follow Your Money

"Suppose you buy shares of General Motors. What happens? You suddenly develop interest in GM. You check the financial pages. You see a magazine article about GM and read every word, even though a month ago you would have passed right over it. 

Suppose you’re giving to help African children with AIDS. When you see an article on the subject, you’re hooked. If you’re sending money to plant churches in India and an earthquake hits India, you watch the news and fervently pray. 

As surely as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your treasure. Money leads; hearts follow. 

I’ve heard people say, “I want more of a heart for missions.” I always respond, “Jesus tells you exactly how to get it. Put your money in missions—and in your church and the poor—and your heart will follow”"

                    - Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, p.44

HT: Vitamin Z

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Choose Togetherness

“The bottom line for us all is: Choose togetherness, the radical togetherness of those who know they are inseparably and eternally one in Christ and whose relationship is rooted in praise and prayer together. Choose not to be held back by shyness, embarrassment, social convention or any form of personal inhibition (attitudes anchored not in concern for dignity and good taste, as some make themselves believe, but in a panicky fear of vulnerability). Choose to give and receive love on a basis of humble and mutual openness. Choose to commit yourself to a congregation long term, to identify as fully as you can with its goals and members, to open your life and your home to your fellow believers, and to give help wherever help is needed. In short, choose togetherness, and choose wholehearted, closely bound involvement in the congregation’s worshiping life of prayer and praise as the central element of that togetherness. For this and nothing less than this is the will of God” 

               - J. I. Packer, Praying, 257-58

HT: Sam Storms

Monday, August 19, 2013

More on Prototype

A while back I posted my review of Jonathan Martin's book Prototype.

Please read it...... and read the book!

Six Myths About Sola Scripture

From C. Michael Patton: Six Myths About Sola Scriptura:
The Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura is one of the most misunderstood doctrines I know of. The misconceptions come not only from those who repudiate the doctrine (such as Roman Catholics), but also from those who affirm it. Here is a list of some things that sola Scriptura myths.
1. Sola Scriptura means that the Scripture is the only source of spiritual insight.
Spiritual insight can come from any number of sources, both secular and Christian. I remember in 1995, I received quite a bit of spiritual motivation and inspiration from the movie Braveheart. The idea of a person giving up his life for something bigger than himself possessed my thoughts and hopes. There are many things – songs, wise words, books, and movies (Christian and secular), among other things – that can be sources of insight and inspiration. Remember, all truth is God’s truth. It does not have to be in the Scriptures to be true.
2. Sola Scriptura means that there are not other authorities in our lives.
We believe that the Scriptures are our final and only infallible authority, but not that they are our only authority. For example, we believe that our pastors and church leaders have authority in our lives. Hebrews 13:7 says that we are to obey our leaders. Wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:2). People are to obey the government (1 Pet. 2:13). Children are to do what their parents say (Eph. 6:1). There can be no excuse like, “Dad, the Bible does not say I have to clean my room, so I choose not to.” Or “Officer, it says nothing specific about running red lights in the Bible.”
As well, tradition (church history) is an authority in our lives. Those who have gone before us in the faith must be respected. Their collective and unified influence creates an authority which, I believe, is second only to Scripture. After all, they had the same Holy Spirit as us, didn’t they? The Holy Spirit does not teach us everything new as individuals, but educates and inspires us in and with those who have gone before us. That is why I love dead theologians!
As I read through the Institutes of John Calvin a couple of years ago, I did so with a fine-toothed comb, underlining every time another source was referenced, especially a source from another church father. One cannot study the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura and come away with the idea that the Reformers ever meant that the Scriptures were our only authority. Ultimate, yes. Only, no.
None of these are our final authority, and if the Scriptures contradict what these authorities say, the Scriptures trump.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

More Than A Feeling

From Crossroad Junction

Understanding Worship

From Ron Edmondson on "10 Signs You May Not Understand Worship":
  1. The volume or tempo of the music determines whether you think it’s a worship song. 
  2. A slight change in the order of the service makes you think they’ve harmed “worship”.
  3. You think raising hands or not raising hands determines the depth of a person’s worship.
  4. You believe the “proper” length of a “worship” service is dictated by your lunch schedule.
  5. You think worship has to be in a service or part of a programmed event.
  6. Certain instruments keep you from thinking worship is possible.
  7. You think worship is confined to a certain place or a certain time.
  8. The clothes you wear determines the quality of worship…for you AND others.
  9. You think worship always involves music.
  10. Your attempt to worship has more to do with a personal preference than the subject of worship.
If any of these describe you, then you might need a refresher study of what it means to worship God.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Joyfully Welcoming Sinners

"Here I need to address in detail one of the issues that many Christians reading this book will find most challenging. We are to imitate Jesus by being intentional about developing intimate fellowship with sinners. This means that we are to make the effort to build such close relationships with unbelievers, regardless of their beliefs or way of life, that we delight to eat and drink at one another’s tables and visit joyfully in one another’s homes. This will mean that we are going to get to know people who are considered by some of our churches to be sinners—the kind of people that God-fearing people should despise.
Why should we welcome sinners and unbelievers joyfully, and why should they welcome us joyfully? Every day of our lives Jesus comes to each of us in our rebellion, moral failures, lack of love, and our reluctance to honor him. Even though we have cold hearts, every day he asks us to welcome him into our lives and into our homes. Every day he says to each one of us:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20) \
How poorly we understand the gospel and the grace of God to us when we think we ought not to have “sinners” in our homes, or that we ought to keep ourselves and our children away from the homes of obvious sinners. Fellowship with sinners is the gospel. There is no other gospel of Christ."
- Jerram Barrs, Learning Evangelism from Jesus, p. 92, 93

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cut to Size

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.
                  - John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians, 179.

Jesus' Upside Down World

"Many of us in our churches think of ourselves as living upright and outstanding lives as faithful Christian women and solid Christian men, and that, therefore, God is going to accept us. He will not! All of us need to hear the law of God, taught frequently and powerfully, so that we may be convicted of sin and come to understand our continuing need for Christ.
Jesus preaches the gospel of forgiveness to those who seem farthest away from God: the prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors, and Samaritans. Today, our equivalent would be perhaps prostitutes, drug addicts, gang members, homosexuals, adulterers, corrupt business people and politicians, and any others whom we think of as being hopelessly wrong in their beliefs and lifestyles. These people have already graduated from the school of sin, and are often deeply aware of their need and shame. It is to the people who seem farthest from truth and righteousness that Jesus preaches the good news of salvation with the utmost grace and gentleness.

This may seem completely wrong to us, a kind of upside-down world. Think of attitudes in our society as well as our attitudes often found within the church: “Condemn the poor, the weak, the sinners! Commend the rich, the powerful, the upright!” Jesus, however, does precisely the opposite."
                      - Jerram Barrs, Learning Evangelism from Jesus, p. 146
But Jesus was a different kind of holy man and teacher. We have already seen that Jesus did not seek to keep apart from sinners. He also did not turn sinners away. Jesus did not abuse sinners, single them out for condemnation, or avoid them. Rather, he was a teacher who spoke words of comfort and grace to them, a teacher who showed them such respect, honor, and love that many of them responded by happily turning away from their sin. This, of course, was what happened in the life of Zacchaeus. Grace and mercy are a far more effective means of creating love and devotion than condemnation. A new affection for Christ has a much greater power to drive out sin and bring lasting repentance than any sermon on moral improvement, or any program for straightening out one’s life.
                    - Jerram Barrs, Learning Evangelism from Jesus, p. 10
Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Healing Is Death

"What good Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be “healed” by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less. I told my audience that I think that too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns. Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They’re wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that. The audience seemed a little shocked to hear this."

       - From Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Just Read It

From Dan at Cerulean Sanctum
Was out tractoring on a pretty day and was pondering how people approach the Bible. I realized we have two major problems at work in the lives of Christians:
1. Too many Christians don’t read the Bible.Ignorance of what is in the bedrock book of the Christian Faith is bad and getting worse. It seems like people are simply not reading the Bible well enough to know it. There’s not a problem today that isn’t touched on in the Bible. Knowing God starts with knowing His Word. We are a lesser people because of our ignorance of what’s in that book.
2. Too many Christians don’t read the Bible.What these supposed scholars do instead is study it to pieces. Especially in the case of the New Testament, the books were letters. And who sits down to read a letter by parsing all its verb forms? In the end, the unity of that book and its simplicity go missing, and the studiers go off on each other, arguing silly points that would largely go away if they instead read the book like a letter, in its entirety like it was intended.
People, read the book. And not piecemeal or with a Vine’s Expository Dictionary at your elbow. Just read it.

Controlling Metaphor

[I read a] "little book by F. B. Meyer called The Shepherd’s Psalm (1889). In it, I found what we in English studies call a controlling metaphor (a powerful albeit understated idea that holds all the other parts of a paradigm together). This, I believe, is the controlling metaphor of the Christian life, and one that I first found in Meyer’s book and first seized in that little cozy apartment during my first day in Beaver Falls. Meyer says, “Unbelief puts circumstances between itself and Christ, so as not to see Him…Faith puts Christ between itself and circumstances, so that it cannot see them” (p. 17)."

     - From Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guerrilla Warfare

“A deep spiritual walk with God does not usually happen immediately after conversion. When the Holy Spirit invades the enemy territory of our lives and sets up Jesus Christ as King in the capital city of our heart, his strategy for conquering the rebel forces of the flesh that keep up their guerrilla warfare is different for each person. It may be fast or slow. God’s clean up operations are very strange.” 

— John Piper  "The Danger of Being Merely Human"

HT: Of First Importance

A Soul Overhauled

"Making a life commitment to Christ was not merely a philosophical shift. It was not a one-step process. It did not involve rearranging the surface prejudices and fickle loyalties of my life. Conversion didn’t “fit” my life. Conversion overhauled my soul and personality. It was arduous and intense. I experienced with great depth the power and authority of God in my life. In it I learned—and am still learning—how to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future."

      - From Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Monday, August 12, 2013


"How did the Lord heal me? The way that he always heals: the word of God got to be bigger inside me than I."

- From Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

See also My Train Wreck Conversion

Repentance is An Intimate Affair

"In this crucible of confusion, I learned something important. I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect."

 - From Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

(Italics added by me for emphasis)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kindle a Fire Within

Lord, I pray that You may be a lamp for me in the darkness.

Touch my soul and kindle a fire within it,
that it may burn brightly and give light to my life.

Thus my body may truly become Your temple,
lit by Your perpetual flame burning on the altar of my heart.
And may the light within me shine on my brothers and sisters
that it may drive away the darkness of ignorance and sin from them also.

Thus let us be lights to the world,
manifesting the bright beauty of Your gospel to all around us.

- Columbanus (6th Century AD)


The Freer the Better

“Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the gospel, and you raise a topic of distrust between man and God. You take away from the power of the gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose the freer it is the better it is.” 

— Thomas Chalmers   "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Does God Ever Say No?

Be careful how you answer that question: Here's J.I. Packer's thoughts:
“God’s yes is regularly a case of ‘your thinking about how I could best meet this need was right’; his no is a case of ‘not that, for this is better’ – and so is really a yes in disguise! – and his wait (which we infer from the fact that though we have asked for action, nothing yet has changed) is a case of ‘wait and see; I will deal with this need at the best time in the best way. Whether or not you will be able to discern my wisdom when I do act, that is what in fact I am going to do. Keep watching, and see what you can see” (Praying, pages 173-74).
“We have it on firm scriptural authority that the Father’s response to requests faithfully, humbly, hopefully, expectantly made by his own children, out of a pure heart and an honest desire for God’s glory, is never going to be a flat no. One way or another God’s response will be a positive response, though it may be ‘I am adjusting the terms of your prayer to give you something better than you asked for.’ Or it may be, ‘I know that this isn’t the moment in which answering your prayer would bring you and others most blessing, so I’m asking you to wait.’ Or it may be, ‘I am answering your prayer, but you don’t know the strategy I’m working on, and it doesn’t at the moment feel or look like an answer at all. Nonetheless, it is. Keep praying, keep trusting, and keep looking for what, down the road, I may be able in wisdom to let you see” (Page 177)
Hat Tip: Sam Storm

Headship Never Means Abuse

J. Lee Grady hits another one out of the park: "The Dark Side of Wives Submitting to Husbands:
Christian teaching on male headship is often used as a weapon against women. This abuse must be confronted....
..Truly Christian marriages, according to the apostle Paul, involve a tender, servant-hearted and unselfish husband who (1) loves his wife "just as Christ also loved the church"; (2) loves her as his own body; and (3) loves her as himself (see Eph. 5:25, 28 and 33). He stands alongside his wife in faithfulness, and she joyfully respects her husband because he can be trusted. And the two become one.
Read it all at the link. I believe in biblical submission, and in complementarian marriage, but have nothing but contempt for any man who misuses those principles to physically or emotionally abuse his wife. The Bible puts a heavier responsibility on husbands than on wives: To love them as Christ loves us. Church leaders need to preach that, and confront men who turn authority into abusive domination.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


On Adoption
“While it costs us a lot to adopt children, it cost God the blood of His own Son.”
Rick Morton and Tony Merida, Orphanology
“Adoption graphically and intimately describes the family character of Pauline Christianity, and is a basic description for Paul of what it means to be a Christian.”
- Trevor Burke, Adopted into God’s Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor
“Forgiveness isn’t an end in itself. The point of forgiveness is to remove the barrier that stands between us and God so that He can give us His Spirit and bring us into His everlasting family.”
- Darrell Bock, Real Lost Gospel
On God as Father
“What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father.”
J.I. Packer, Knowing God
“There is no one concept of God which dominates the theology of Paul more than [the fatherhood of God].”
Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters
“Hope based on the experiential knowledge of God the Father is the climax and glorification of all hope.”
- E.Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression
- Quotes from The Gospel Project, Fall 2013 – “Bearing God’s Image”

Sunday, August 4, 2013

More Than A Means to An End

"Where the gospel is not taken for granted, it is often a means to an end, like personal or social transformation, love and service to our neighbors, and other things that in themselves are marvelous effects of the gospel. However, the Good News concerning Christ is not a stepping-stone to something greater and more relevant.

Whether we realize it or not, there is nothing in the universe more relevant to us as guilty image-bearers of God than the news that he has found a way to be ‘just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’ (Rom. 3:26). It is ‘the power of God for salvation’ (Rom. 1:16), not only for the beginning, but for the middle and end as well — the only thing that creates the kind of new world to which our new obedience corresponds as a reasonable response. "

— Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church

(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 22

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Reviewing The Gospel Call

I have recently read a new book on the nature of true conversion,  The Gospel Call & True Conversion by Paul Washer. In full disclosure and in accordance with my book review policy, I did receive a free copy of the book for review, but that does not effect my opinion.

Washer has an interesting background, having been a missionary in Peru for 10 years and founding and leading The Heart Cry Missionary Society. Thus, he has a lot of experience proclaiming the gospel in multi-cultural environments. Also, he is not your typical successful mega-church pastor author who fills his books with personal stories and references to American pop-culture. You won't find any of that in this book.  His writing style is both forceful and direct. This makes the book a little harder to read than most of the books I read, and from most popular Christian best-sellers - not because the words are academic or difficult, but because the content is not frosted over by a familiar style and cultural references.

What you will find in the book is the in-depth exegesis of many Biblical passage dealing with the nature of the gospel and what it means to be truly converted, from both the Old and New Testaments. I was especially intrigued by his analysis and application of Old Testament passages predicting the new covenant and work of Christ in conversion, particularly Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31. This book will be a permanent part of my library, so that I can refer to it  whenever I want to speak or write about the Scripture passages he expounds.I believe this book will an excellent resource for Pastors, Evangelists, Bible teachers and all others who want to clearly understand, communicate and apply the true gospel message in their ministries.

You will also find in Washer's writings a burning conviction that American evangelicals have watered down the gospel into simplistic versions of "saying the sinner's prayer" and "making a decision" for Christ with no true inner transformation and life change. He believes this has hardened the hearts of unconverted people. The solution he recommends is more thorough presentation of the complete gospel message from the Scriptures - repentance and belief in Christ's work on our behalf.

Washer has also written another book, The Gospel's Power & Message. I'd like to get and read that one also.

Friday, August 2, 2013

More Than A Rulebook

Excerpted From Tullian Tchvidjian at Liberate:
...the Bible is not a rulebook or a handbook for daily living. The Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the goal of the Bible is not teach you how to live your life, it’s to teach you about Jesus.
...Christ did live a perfect and sinless life. And we are indeed supposed be following his example. But God knows we can’t, and won’t. Those who treat the Bible as an instruction manual will find themselves constantly failing to follow the instructions. And so, the Bible culminates in this message: we, who are sinners, are invited to feast. The Christ who is the Word of God has put away all other words. He now stands alone, the fullness of our life––our source and our sustenance. And he invites us to come, not to a set of rules for daily living––but to come as we are, and rest.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


From "How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian?"by Justin Taylor:
In the past, when I have tried to help people wrestle with the theological and existential problem of the assurance of salvation, the outline for Don Whitney’s book, How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian? What the Bible Says about Assurance of Salvation (NavPress, 1994), has been very useful. Andy Naselli recently posted on this, and I thought it might be helpful if I reprinted it as well.
1. Assurance of Salvation—Is It Possible?
It is possible, indeed normal, for the Christian to experience assurance of salvation.
It is possible, indeed normal, for a non-Christian to have a false assurance of salvation.
2. Having Doubts about Your Salvation
It is possible, indeed normal, for Christians to have occasional doubts about their salvation.
Doubting assurance is not unbelief.
The causes of doubt are many:
  • Spiritual immaturity may contribute to doubts about assurance.
  • Sensitivity to sin may cause confusion about assurance.
  • Comparison with other Christians may cloud assurance.
  • Childhood conversion affects the assurance of some.
3. The Basis of Assurance
The assurance of salvation rests primarily on
  • the character of God 
  • the works of Jesus Christ
  • the truth of God’s promises