Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating Luther Today

Do you know what today is? Reformation Day! On this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany, starting the Protestant Reformation.

What, you thought I was going to say something else?

Justin Taylor has links to Carl Trueman's great posts on Luther's life and theology.
Carl Trueman at Reformation21 has been blogging of late on Martin Luther. Below I’ll provide links to his series on what Luther saw as the six marks of a true theologian, and the nine qualities of a good preacher.
But first, he has a nice list of recommended books for those who want to become familiar with Luther and his work. Read the post for more details on each book, but here’s an outline:
Luther’s Life
Luther’s Writings
  • Martin Luther, Table Talk. (“I would suggest that, if you have never read Luther, this is the place to start.”)
Luther’s Theology
Trueman writes:
To be tired of Luther is to be tired of life. Only crashing bores, I suspect, can remain untouched by him as they read his works, though, sadly, the church has more than a few of those hanging around her doors and pulpits. Still, I trust that the above will whet a few appetites for reading him, reading about him, and using him in the contemporary church.
In Table Talk Luther gives a list of six things that make a theologian. After introducing the topic, Trueman does a series of posts explaining the marks of the true theologian:
  1. the grace of the Spirit (as shaping the theologian’s identity)
  1. agonizing struggle (the essence of which is the universal experience of doubt as antithetical to faith)
  1. experience (the practical, real-life experience of the external word of God impacting the individual)
  1. opportunity (interpreting or responding appropriately to an opportune moment)
  1. careful and constant reading (particularly of the biblical text)
  1. a practical knowledge of the academic disciplines
(Note: numbers 5 and 6 go to the same link, as they are treated in a combined post.)
Then, in a short series, Trueman looks at the nine characteristic that Luther lists for a good preacher. A good preacher should have:
  1. an ability to teach
  1. a good head.
  1. eloquence.
  1. clarity of speech.
  1. a good memory.
  1. know when to stop.
  1. be certain and diligent in his subject.
  1. put his life, limb, possessions, and honor into his subject.
  1. be able to accept ridicule from anyone.
Marks 1-5 are dealt with in the first post, marks 6-9 in the second.

Jesus > Religion #3

Some more quotes from the new book by Jefferson Bethke,  Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough
“[The Bible] was not given to us so that we could highlight and underline our way into eternity, but in hopes that we would have a special encounter with our Creator.” (page 85)
“God’s ways aren’t our ways, but his ways save. Our ways don’t.” (page 89)
“When we become Christians, we begin to follow Jesus, but the moments when he completely obliterates our self-righteousness and gives us a potent dose of real, transforming grace is when following him becomes deeply special.” (page 132)
“That’s the truth with God’s grace. It’s not that we are holding on tight in hopes to not be seduced by our old life and sin, but rather it’s that God’s grace is so sweet and precious it compels us to stay with it. Grace is better music than sin.” (page 152)
“Our lives on earth aren’t just placeholders until we go to heaven. We are to create, cultivate, and redeem while we’re here… We are created to infect and infiltrate culture, restoring and reclaiming what is God’s.” (pages 156, 172)
“The truth is, God doesn’t just want your ‘Christian’ things. He wants it all. When we realize the beauty of God’s grace in the mundane, not just the religious, that’s when we will begin to see him correctly.” (page 166)
“I saw that the church wasn’t a museum for good people; it was a hospital for the broken. Jesus wasn’t trying to create a place to show off his shiny employees; he wanted a place where his children could be healed.” (page 186)

Hat Tip: Desiring God

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Need to Hear It

Interesting article on the preaching ministry of Martin Luther (before and after 1517) at The Anxious Bench. It concludes:
...The sermon became the centerpiece of Protestant worship, and it remains so in many contexts. At the same time, few Protestants retain Luther’s theology of preaching. Luther would have little stomach for the entrepreneurial world of American Christianity, in which individuals without any ecclesiastical ties or theological training found new churches. Nor would Luther — despite his own translation of the Bible and his own devotional and academic study of the scriptures — agree that it is most important for people to study the scriptures on their own or in small-group Bible studies. They need to hear the Word proclaimed and expounded upon, and not just a sentence or two, as is increasingly common. There is, moreover, an enormous gulf between Luther’s world and ours, and perhaps today Luther would open a coffee-house ministry or, more likely, a tavern. Today, churches try harder to “reach people where they are.”
Luther sympathized with every generation’s complaints about sermons, that they are too long, too boring, and not relevant. He noted the problem of snoring during church, and he said that one of a minister’s most important qualification was “that he know when to stop.” Indeed, the belief that human beings could step up to the pulpit and serve as the mouthpieces for the eternal Word of God is, humanly speaking, rather foolish. Most people in the pews (or theater seats) recognize that basic foolishness as they praise or criticize a sermon on the basis of its entertainment, humor, or edification. In his final sermon, Luther preached that God “did not make his gospel known to the wise and understanding, but to infants and children.” He closed with a call to “shut our eyes altogether, and cling only to Christ’s Word and come to him.”
Protestants do not necessarily need better preachers or a dethronement of the sermon from its place at the center of their worship services. Instead, we need a Lutheran expectation that God’s Word will manifest itself through the “fleeting breath” of human beings and that through sacraments and sermon, the Word of God will make clear to us the promises of the gospel.
Read it all at the link

Jesus > Religion #2

Some more quotes from the new book by Jefferson Bethke,  Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough
“Be careful when you pursue truth, because you just might find him.” (page 35)

“Heaven isn’t a place for people who are scared of hell; it’s for people who love Jesus. The reason heaven is heavenly—full of joy, life, and bliss—is because we’ll be with Jesus.” (page 44)

“If you care more about flaunting your Christian freedom than promoting Christian unity, you’re probably not free. You are actually a slave to your so-called freedom.” (page 53)
“No one is more religious than the Christian who gives grace to everyone except the religious older-brother types. [God] gives grace to the younger and the older. No one is past redemption. No one is past grace. All God wants is for both the religious and the rebellious to come into the party.” (page 56)
“The truth is, God doesn’t grade on a curve; he grades on a cross… A grace economy is backward to most of us—those who think they qualify, don’t; and those who admit they don’t qualify, do.” (pages 78-79)

Hat Tip: Desiring God

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why He Came

Jesus > Religion #1

Some quotes from the new book by Jefferson Bethke,  Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough
“I heard enough sermons to know Jesus died for me, but I also had such a broken and painful life that I figured Jesus wasn’t relevant… I had just enough Jesus not to need him at all.” (p. 3)
“Initially, I blamed God for the pain in my life, but slowly I started to hear the whisper of his grace. I didn’t know it then, but God broke me to fix me because he loved me.” (p. 6)
“Grace isn’t there for some future me, but for the real me. The me who struggled. The me who was messy. The me who was addicted to porn. The me who didn’t have all the answers. The me who was insecure. He loved me in my mess; he was not waiting until I cleaned myself up.” (p. 7)

Hat Tip: Desiring God

Where To Start

A question asked of Francis Schaeffer in 1972: How do we communicate this gospel to modern man?
"Moody and Sanky, working shortly before 1900, could come right to the subject of salvation because they were talking to people who at least had a memory of Christian content. Therefore they didn't need to lay a groundwork of a personal God and a God with character. They could use the word "God" and everyone knew they meant the Judeo-Christian God.
But we often function as if the consensus around us is still the same as it was in Moody's day, and that is a mistake. With people today I practically never start with how to be saved, I start with a God who is there. If God is not there then salvation is just another trick, just another way to get high, like grass."

~ Francis Schaeffer, How to Speak for the God Who Is There, Eternity Magazine, 1972.
Still true today!


Monday, October 28, 2013

He Is The Amen

"Prayer in the name of Christ ends with a calm and joyous Amen; for Jesus Himself is the Amen of God, in whom all promises and gifts of God are sealed. "

— Adolph Saphir   The Hidden Life

Fatal Confusion

"Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms. . . . Confusion here is fatal."

                    - J. I. Packer


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Come, Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy. Amen.
- A prayer of St. Augustine, 354-430

Hat Tip: Trevin Wax

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bad Day?

Remember.......... no matter how bad your day is going......... at least your not stuck in a fence getting laughed  at by a cow.

"Memoirs of the Way Home": A Review

This is my review of Memoirs of the Way Home: Ezra & Nehemiah as a Call to Conversion by Gerald Bilkes:

On the Amazon website I gave this book only 3 stars out of a possible five. However, upon reflection,  I think my relatively low rating is more a result of perhaps unrealistic expectations on my part, rather than any fault in the book itself.

This book is a Bible study on the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which tell the story of the return of the Jewish people from Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. I have long been a fan of those books, having found much inspiration in them. In fact, I've long considered Ezra 7:10 to be my "life verse," a description of how I see God working in my life. Therefore, I was excited when I saw Cross Focused Reviews offering this work for bloggers to read and review.

I have two positive comments about this book, and one disappointing negative one.

1), This is a good basic introduction to two important, but relatively little known, books of the Bible, The author more than adequately covers and explains the historical situation and events involved the the return from exile. Reading this book, in conjunction with the two Biblical texts, will give someone unfamiliar with this period of history good introduction that will help you get much more from your reading of the Scripture texts.

2.) The author does a good job in drawing spiritual lessons from the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah, lessons on leadership, ministry, character growth and faithfulness to the Lord. Learning these things can help any believer, and especially those serving in leadership roles. He also highlights the typology of the books, bringing out the fulfillment of their themes in the ministry of Christ, at least for the typology relating to the spiritual life of individual believers. Which brings me to my negative comment.

3). I started  this book hoping for and expecting a placement of these stories in the big picture, the overall salvation history of the Bible. I wanted to explore how these characters and stories fit into the overall arc of the Bible, the Eden to Jesus to Kingdom of God arc, the promise to Abraham to fulfillment by the Seed of Abraham (Jesus) story. I was expecting the author to explore how the themes of exodus, promised land, exile and restoration reverberate through out the Bible. I wanted him to interact with recent scholarship on these subjects.  None of this is in this book. I was probably wrong to expect it, but I was disappointed, hence the low 3 star rating.

For what he sets out to do, as expressed in the sub-title, the author does a good job. If you read the book with that expectation, I think you will be pleased. My expectations were higher and broader, and I therefore felt let down. You should know what you are getting before purchasing and reading this book.

(Note- I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from Cross-Focused Reviews. See my book review policy)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

America's Great Denial

Pastor Mark Driscoll has published an editorial at Fox News' web site entitled What Do 55 Million People have in Common? I sure wish more pastors would speak out like this for the unborn
We have bloody hands and a guilty conscience.
Of all the Ten Commandments, number six is the only one that our nation has codified into law: “You shall not murder.”
Since 1973, legal abortions in America have taken the lives of 55 million people. If 55 million Americans died tomorrow, whoever led the genocide would not get a parade in celebration, bumper stickers in support, or be a viable candidate for political office.

If 55 million Americans died tomorrow, whoever led the genocide would not get a parade in celebration.

Fifty-five million lives equals 17.5% of the country’s current population. It’s a number greater than the population of any state in the Union, and greater than the population of 219 of the world’s country’s including South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Australia, Argentina, and Canada. Fifty-five million is about the same as the population of the 25 smallest states and Washington D.C. combined.
Abortion Is Murder: America’s Great Denial
Both science and Scripture are absolutely clear that life begins at conception. Taking a human life is murder, by definition, which makes abortion a murderous act.
Consider this: On December 5, John Andrew Welden will be sentenced after pleading guilty in the murder of his unborn baby. Welden’s girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, was six weeks pregnant when he gave her an abortion pill and told her it was antibiotics.
Welden was prosecuted for violating the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Believe it or not, federal legislation forbids the murder of an unborn baby—except in the 55 million instances when it doesn’t. And a father can be convicted of murdering his unborn child without the mother’s consent, but if a woman decides to end her pregnancy against the wishes of the father, that’s her right to choose.
Choose murder? Can’t follow all of the logic? Perhaps that’s because it’s illogical.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is Your Soul Starving?

Helpful article on 2 Peter 1:3-4 by Marshal Segal at Desiring God - "Four Keys to Satisfying Your Starving Soul" 
If we’re honest, we’re all hungry. We’re starving for something to sustain us, to preserve our hope, to strengthen us through trials, to help us conquer sin. We’re starving for food that will fill us for the everyday fight of faith.
But what does the fight look like? And how do we find the food we need?
Our Aim
Our aim is to be with God and like God, to “become partakers of the divine nature” (1:4). Peter wants us to enjoy greater and greater fellowship and intimacy with God by becoming like him, by growing in godliness. We enjoy more life by being more like God, who is Life.
If we’re not careful, we easily slip into other aims that will rob us of life, aims that promise much and ultimately deliver very little — selfish gain, lustful thoughts, godless obsessions, excessive consumption, restless laziness. These aims may be easy and temporarily pleasing, but they only leave us hungrier. What our souls need is God.
If you’re believing in Jesus, forgiven and rescued from your sin, you are and will be still imperfect and broken. Our new aim in this new life is not perfection, as if that could earn us a place in heaven. Our aim is to live lives that are more and more pleasing to the Lord we love, and, by doing so, to experience more and more life and joy in him.
Our Adversary
So if that’s our aim, what’s in our way? In order to be like God, we must escape “the corruption of sinful desire” (1:4). Our greatest obstacle to enjoying more of God is our own corrupt desires. They’re striving to starve our hungry souls and leave us begging for scraps along the highway of eternity. God knows better, and he offers us better.
The reality is I will suffer in this life, people will sin against me, and the devil lies in secret plotting to steal my hope and faith. But my greatest adversary is not suffering, sinners, or Satan. It’s me –– the lingering sin yet in my heart.
If we want to know God, be like him, be with him, we must be continually rescued from our sin in this life. For lovers of Jesus, this war has already been decided, and we’re now working out our victory every day until Jesus returns and ends the war once for all.
Jesus did the decisive work once for all on the cross, but we have a role to play. We have real choices to make. We must take steps to confront this enemy within us and be killing him.
Our Ability
The death of my sin sounds really sweet, until of course I try to kill it. Our greatest adversary, sin, is also our greatest handicap. It’s perfectly positioned to undermine the great aim of our new life. Praise God he doesn’t stake the battle on our ability. “His divine powerhas granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…”
The way to enjoy more of God is to live like him. And the power to live like him is not yours, but his. We find sure help in God’s hands, in his power — the power that formed mountains, that dug rivers, that lights stars, and breathes life into bears, sharks, and bald eagles; the power that establishes the universe, governs the nations, and judges all people. When you live by that power, you lack nothing on the road to godliness.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Follow Jesus Because.....(#4)

I follow Jesus because He travels the only path worth travelling.

I follow Jesus because He's compelling.

I follow Jesus because He's my role model.

I follow Jesus because He sets me free...indeed!

I follow Jesus because He lights the way before me.

I follow Jesus because He's already walked this path, and knows the way to go.

I follow Jesus because............ Well. Why not?

I follow Jesus because that's what Christ-followers do.

Link to #1 and  #2 and  #3

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Men That Sing

I sing in church every Sunday - Do you? From Church Leaders - The Secret That Keeps Men From Singing in Worship:
It happened again yesterday. I was attending one of those hip, contemporary churches—and almost no one sang.
Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them.
A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.
A few months ago, I blogged “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man—but that tide may be going out again.
And that could be bad news for men....
After a brief history of congregational singing, the article concludes:
...Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate.
Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service—the offering.
Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.
There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine.
The key is familiarity. People enjoy singing songs they know.
How do I know? When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded with gusto. People sang.
Even the men.  
Read it all at the link.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Aimless Passing of Idolatry

"Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into a multiplicity of desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life’s story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth.”

                           - Pope Francis in Lumen Fidei

HT: The Anchoress

The Cost of the Spirit

"The more the Holy Spirit works, the more Christians will be used in battle, and the more they are used, the more there will be personal cost and tiredness. 

It is quite the opposite of what we might first think.
People often cry out for the work of the Holy Spirit and yet forget that when the Holy Spirit works, there is always tremendous cost to the people of God-weariness and tears and battles."
                      - Francis Schaeffer,  No Little People, p. 73

HT: Vitamin Z

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What He Did

"The meaning of atonement is not to be found in our penitence evoked by the sight of Calvary, but rather in what God did when in Christ on the cross He took our place and bore our sin."

— John StottThe Cross of Christ(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1986), 9

I Need Jesus- Period.

From Pete Wilson:
I think most of us begin our Christian journey with this simple truth.
I’m broken. I need Jesus. The end.
However as we launch out on this new journey it doesn’t take long before we begin to hear this growing and incessant whisper that says, “Try harder, do more.”
Sing more.
Memorize more.
Journal more.
Preach more.
Pray more.
Evangelize more.
Serve more.
This approach can look quite spiritual to those around us; however, it’s often rooted in a inner conviction that our worth as a Christian is dependent upon our ability to outperform those around us. Behind this spiritual facade is a fragile and insecure heart desperately attempting to get God to love us more. We know God loves us but we’re afraid He may still be disappointed in us.
The cross isn’t something we start with and then move on from. The cross isn’t just the starting line of our faith, it’s the centerpiece. Grace isn’t something we need just for salvation, it’s like air for the believer.
So today when you hear that whisper in your head that says “Try harder, do more,” go back to this.
I’m broken. I need Jesus. The end.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doing It's Deadly Work

"Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. "

— A. W. Tozer,  The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1993), 43

Which Gospel

From Crossroad Junction

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Brokenness Made Beautiful

I've had this song by All Sons & Daughters reverberating in my mind and spirit for days, so I thought I'd share it with you. Not the  best audio or video, but still an absolutely beautiful song, filled with Biblical and experiential truth. Let it get struck in your head and heart also!

Will your grace run out
If I let you down 
‘Cause all I know
Is how to run

‘Cause I am a sinner 
If its not one thing its another
Caught up in words 
Tangled in lies 
You are the Savior 
And you take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful 

Will you call me child
When I tell you lies 
Cause all I know 
Is how to cry 

I am a sinner 
If its not one thing its another 
Caught up in words 
Tangled in lies 
You are the Savior 
And you take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful 

You make it beautiful
You make it beautiful

Proportionate Identity

Saint or sinner? Son or servant? What term best describes our identity as Christians. The answer is all of the above, in balanced proportion. Check out this post from  Terry Johnson
What happens when one or two aspects of our Christian identity get emphasized at the expense of others? What happens when we fail to keep the four central elements (sons, saints, servants, sinners) of our identity in tension with each other? Let’s see. 
Some have made “sons” and “saints” the message of the gospel and have neglected the categories of “servant” and “sinner.” The result has been a strong emphasis on our unchanging security as children of God and our safe status as “holy ones,” righteous in Christ. Many hurting souls have derived great comfort from this constant refrain. Those of “tender conscience,” to use the Puritan term, have found deep consolation in regular reminders of sonship and sainthood.
However, in the absence of an ongoing emphasis on “servant” and “sinner” the result too often has been complacency about duty, service, responsibility, and even about sin.
“Don’t should me,” some preachers have been known to say. “There is nothing that I must do that will make God love me more. There is nothing that I have done that will make Him love me less,” these preachers rightly insist. Yet, they continue, “My Father is always pleased with me and never displeased. He sees me ‘in Christ,’ perfect and complete.“ Consequently, don’t tell me what I need to do. I don’t need to do anything – just bask in grace. When I fail, I’m loved and accepted. When I fall, I am safe and secure. The Christian life is not doing but being, being ‘in Christ.’”
There is a problem with this even in terms of sonship. While fathers don’t love their children more or less according to their performance, they may be more or less pleased according to service and obedience. We are regularly told to do the things with which God is pleased and that He rewards and blesses (e.g. Mt 6:1ff; 2 Cor 5:9; Col 1:10; Eph 5:10). God’s love is unchanging. However, He may be more or less pleased with us, and may be at times quite displeased.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Follow Jesus Because..... #3

I follow Jesus because He calls me His friend.

I follow Jesus because He invited me to come and see.

I follow Jesus because He teaches me how to fish.... for men.

I follow Jesus because he is Better: A better priest with a better sacrifice, better promises and a better covenant.

I follow Jesus because He has already overcome the great enemy of death.

I follow Jesus because He give me a defining purpose.

I follow Jesus because He listens.

I follow Jesus because He carries me in the rough times.

           .....Why do you follow Jesus?

Links to "I Follow Jesus Because..."#1 and  #2

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Destructive Power of Grace

Love this from "Grace Destroys" by Justin Buzzard:
We sing about “Amazing Grace,” but we could change the adjective and also sing about “Destructive Grace.”
Grace destroys.
Grace is the undeserved love of God. It’s the most powerful force in the universe. And when grace comes into your life it destroys things.
Grace destroys the old you.
Grace destroys the idols that enslave you, breaking the chains you didn’t even know you had.
Grace destroys old habits, old ways, that had been part of your life for so long and had been killing you for so long.
Grace destroys the old operating system.
It’s a good destruction. Grace destroys in order to birth and build something new and beautiful.
Destructive Grace, how sweet the sound.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


HT Tim Challies

Like It or Not, You Are A Theologian

Are you a theologian? Of course you are! Do you have a systematic theology? Of course you do! The only remaining questions are how good of a theologian you are, and how orthodox your theology is.

The excerpt below is from "The Myth of Non-Theology and Neutrality" by Lisa Robinson
As I observed a few discussion threads over the past few days on Christian topics, a theme tends to emerge. Some Christians disdain any mention of theology, doctrine or hermeneutics. You’ll get one pitted against each such as theology vs true faith or doctrine vs scripture. A typical statement goes like this that one person told me – “theology and doctrine has its place but that is not the substance of our faith.” Of course this is a ridiculous statement..
Every Christian has a theology, a set of doctrine and a hermeneutic. Everyone!
Theology is whatever we think about God.
Doctrine is what we believe that theology teaches.
Hermeneutics is how we interpret what theology teaches.
If you say the substance of your faith is Jesus Christ, then you have to come to some conclusions about what that means, who he is and how you arrive at your conclusions. This is the task of theology and without it, you have no reasonable basis to come to any conclusions about the Christian faith.
This also supposes that you have some way of interpreting the facts about the Christian faith. From a Protestant perspective, this presumes that one is basing their understanding on the Bible, recognizing that it is the testimony of Jesus Christ cover to cover, breathed out by God to give us his word through the pens, personalities, and literary style of 40 authors (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The problem then is not knowing what it is and believing that we have complete neutrality when approaching the Bible or using other means to determine our faith. We all have some way of formulating what we believe and why we believe it.....
Good article - Read it all at the link.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pray for Rosaria Butterfield

A while back I wrote about and quoted from the book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield, and posted videos of her testimony. The following update comes from Denny Burk
I cannot overstate how much I appreciate and love Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. It’s the story of her conversion from lesbian feminist scholar to Christianity. It’s easily the best book I’ve read all year.
Since her book came out, she has been asked to speak in a number of different venues. As you can imagine, her message is hated in certain contexts, not least of which is the average university campus. Recently, she spoke on the campus of the University of South Florida, and her reception was less than warm. The campus newspaper reports:

As Rosaria Butterfield began her lecture about her journey and “train wreck conversion” from a lesbian professor to a Christian, a pastor’s wife and mother of four, nine students in the front row of the audience stood up silently, took off their jackets, turned their backs to Butterfield and linked arms in front of a packed Oval Theater guarded by two University Police officers and two security officers.

“Rosario Butterfield does not speak for us.”
“USF is 4 hate speech.”
Their white T-shirts revealed hand-written messages:

The nine remained standing silently throughout the two-hour lecture, in which Butterfield shared her story and love for the Bible.

Butterfield appears to be very busy these days. Her website says that she is booked-up for speaking into 2015. She is uniquely suited to bring the message that she brings. It also makes her a target. The activists view her story as a threat–as the above story makes clear. Pray for this dear sister. She’s fighting the good fight.
Please join me in praying for this sister in Christ as she proclaims Him over the next two years in the face of much antagonism and intolerance from her former comrades.

(HT: Carl Trueman)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Daybreak: A Review

My review of Daybreak: A Guide to Overcoming Temptation, by Nathan Ward

Every Christian need a good little book on resisting temptation in their library. Every Christian counselor needs a good little book on wining over temptation to give to the people they are helping. This could be that little book.

I say "little," because there are only 108 pages; It can easily be read in one evening. However, you probably won't want to do that, because you will be thinking and meditating on how the material applies to your own struggles with sin. There is a lot packed into those 108 pages.

The title "Daybreak" comes from a curious "coincidence" in the story of Jacob in Genesis. As Jacob leaves Canaan on what ends up being a decades long exile, he comes to Bethel at sunset (Gen. 28:11), where he sees a vision of a stairway between heaven and earth. When he returns to Canaan, he spends a restless night and wrestles with an angel until sunrise (Gen 32:31). As Jacob surrenders to God, he sees the dawn -a daybreak. Ward says that the sunset and sunrise motif is not a coincidence, but rather a literary structure designed to frame the narrative. Sunset and sunrise are the bookends of Jacob's time of exile. Hidden in the very structure of the story is the message that times of testing and trial are periods of darkness, but once one surrenders to God (symbolized by the injured hip) daylight returns. Jacob won by losing, because his real struggle was with himself. Surrender to God brings the sunrise of victory. That little insight alone was to me worth the time I spent reading this book.

The book more than adequately covers all the basic material: (1) God's call to holiness and new life for believers, (2) the nature of our enemies (Satan and self), (3) haw to prepare before times of temptation, (4) how to resist sin in time of battle, and (5) what to do after the fight, win or lose. Every part is filled with Scripture. Every part is also very practical and applicable.

There are plenty of good books out there on temptation, holiness and spiritual victory. Most are far more exhaustive than this book. This may not be one of the best, but it is a good short work that is worth owning, reading and giving away.
Full Disclosure: I received the book free from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for giving an honest review. See my book review policy.

Worth a Look

Links worth a look:

Genesis 1&2: Are You Missing the Point?

How King David Reminds Us of Jesus

What the Eucharist Means to Me - Robin Parry

Why You Can't Pit Jesus Against His Bible

Evangelism in the Workplace

Feeling Shame is Not Repentance

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Great Exchange

"This is what happens when we become Christians. Christ assumes our liabilities and graciously gives us his assets. "

— Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, How People Change
      (Winston-Salem, NC: Punch Press, 2006), 55

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Follow Jesus Because.... (#2)

I follow Jesus because he does not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking wick (He keeps me around even when I am weak) Mt 12:20

I follow Jesus because He is a leader who knows my weaknesses.

I follow Jesus because He alone has the words of life!

I follow Jesus because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

I follow Jesus because He takes me to the Father.

I follow Jesus because He's the Man with the Plan.

I follow Jesus because He came looking for me when I was lost. 

I follow Jesus because there's no where else to go!

                  ....Why do you follow Jesus?

See also I Follow Jesus Because #1

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hope For Those Dark Nights

Why do so many believers go through the experience known  as the "Dark Night of the Soul"?" J. I. Packer says:
[Sometimes] “God brings on dryness, with resultant restlessness of heart, in order to induce a new depth of humble, hopeful openness to himself, which he then crowns with a liberating and animating reassurance of his love – one that goes beyond anything that was sensed before. As Christ’s humiliation and grief on the cross preceded his exaltation to the joy of his throne, so over and over again humbling experiences of impotence and frustration precede inward renewing, with a sense of triumph and glory, in the believer’s heart. Thus, with wisdom adapted to each Christian’s temperament, circumstances, and needs, our heavenly Father draws and binds his children closer to himself.”
     - J. I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness [Servant Publications, 1992], pages 100-01.

HT: Sam Storms

Sunday, October 6, 2013

More Clearly Defined

Is the church in America shrinking? Or is it more accurate to say that "nominal" and "cultural Christians" are leaving because they no longer feel social pressure to say they are Christians (and do feel some pressure to say the opposite)? Check out this post from Ed Stetzer
As I see it, the numbers of people who those of us in the church would say are actually committed Christians—those who are practicing a vibrant faith—are not dying off. The Church is not dying. It is just being more clearly defined. 
The "Nones" category is growing quickly, but the change is coming by way of Cultural and Congregational Christians who no longer feel the societal pressure to be "Christian." They feel comfortable freeing themselves from a label that was not true of them in the first place. Convictional Christians are not leaving the faith; the "squishy middle," as I like to call it, is simply being flattened. 
So for those who really don't have any skin in the game, shedding the label makes sense.
As Christians find themselves more and more on the margins in American society, people are beginning to count the cost. While it used to serve Americans well to carry the label "Christian" in most circumstances (think about running for public office, for instance), it can actually be polarizing or considered intolerant now. So for those who really don't have any skin in the game, shedding the label makes sense. 
As the trend continues, we will see the "Nones" continue to grow and the church lose more of its traditional cultural influence. Christians will likely lose the culture wars, leading to difficult times ahead for us. But we do not need to lose hope. This is not cause for despair. It is a time to regroup and re-engage. 
Christianity may be losing its top-down political and cultural influence, but Jesus spoke of His followers making an impact in a very different manner. He taught that God's kingdom was subversive and underground. He used examples like yeast, which changes things from the inside, and mustard seeds, which are small and must be planted in order to grow up and out. 
As the distinctions between Christians and an ever-growing post-Christian culture emerge, we will have to set aside any nominal belief systems and become active agents of God's Kingdom. The answer is not found in waging cultural wars incessantly, or in making a theological shift to the left to pacify a culture offended by the gospel. The answer is in all of God's people, changed by the power of the gospel and propelled by love, moving into the mission field as agents of gospel transformation.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

If Jesus Ran Your Small Group

What if you were in a small by Jesus?  What would that be like. Here's some thoughts by Justin Knowles:
If Jesus was in charge of small groups at a church, what would they look like? What would he focus on? Why? What would be his priorities? It actually is really fun to think about and I think it’s relatively easy to figure it out because we just need to look how Jesus lead. I think if we are doing these things, we ought to be doing pretty good.
It’s all about relationships. Jesus had a small group. His disciples. He poured his heart and life out for this group of men. He spent time with them. Ate with them. Lounged with them. Prayed with them. Prayed for them. Yes he loved the crowds and did miracles but a majority of his time was with his small group and he poured into them.
His curriculum was story based with real life application. Jesus is the ultimate story-teller. Everything thing he taught he taught with an illustration and story. He brought up scripture, then a story, then application. “Go and do likewise. Go and sin no more. Truly I tell you…”. When it comes to high school small groups, we need to have Scripture and then stories of real life and then an application they can actually do that has to do with that lesson.
Invested in the core leaders. Jesus had the 3 close disciples. The one who we took on the mountain with him. They were his core. He knew what they were going to do later so he wanted to make sure they were properly poured into. Same with our small groups and leaders. There are some we see have major potential so we want to make sure we pour into the core so they in turn can pour into others.

Friday, October 4, 2013

He Earned It All

"We do not have to make ourselves suffer in order to merit forgiveness. We simply receive the forgiveness earned by Christ. 1 John 1:8 says that God forgives us because He is ‘just.’ That is a remarkable statement. It would be unjust of God to ever deny us forgiveness, because Jesus earned our acceptance! In religion we earn our forgiveness with our repentance, but in the gospel we just receive it. "

             — Tim Keller

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jesus Changes Everything & Everybody

Some good lessons here for everybody, on what the cost is to follow Jesus- Learning From a Lesbian Visitor to Your Church.

Coming to Jesus means change; change for everybody. He changes our values, priorities, finances, relationships, sexuality...He changes everything. We don't get to set the boundaries. He comes to be King and Lord, or not at all. Change is not just for "them." Change is not just for those we define as "sinners." Change is for you and me, for all of us.

You need to know that. So do I.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oh How I Need You

I love the worship music of "All Sons & Daughters." Listen to this wonderful song - I think you will love them to!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pray the SCARS

Praying the SCARS of Jesus - From Bob Bevington at "Red Like Blood":
A couple years ago I re-worked the well-known ACTS acrostic and found it to be a game-changer in my morning time with God. Recently I re-worked the re-work to make it clearer and hopefully more useful to others. Here it is:
Jesus:  Start by simply meditating on the Person of Christ. Set your heart and mind on him but don’t necessarily put your thoughts and feelings into words. Remember who he is—a co-glorious Person of the triune God. His glory had no beginning. It existed before the dawn of time.[1] It followed him as he entered our world, and could not be contained as he lived a sinless life, demonstrating authority over nature, sickness, demons and death. In a human body, he obeyed in our place to the point of death, even death on a cross.[2] He rose and ascended and will come again to openly and absolutely and unceasingly reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.[3] Yes, he is unfathomable—the point of this step is to become astonished by trying to fathom him even a little.
Take your time with this. Don’t move on until your heart warms toward him with awe and affection.
S = Sin:  Next, ask God to make you aware of your sin. Focus your attention especially on your words, thoughts, deeds and motives of the past twenty-four hours. Agree with him in no uncertain terms—call your sins what they really are: rebellion and cosmic treason. Ask him to grant you repentance.[4] Acknowledge the fact that much of your sin is still unknown to you. Go so far as to declare your utter unworthiness—not a difficult thing to do when you think about the fact that you are spending time in the presence of an absolutely holy God.
C = Cross:  You know what to do with those sins—take them to the cross! Place your trust in Christ’s all-sufficient sacrifice there, remembering that it’s because of him alone that you are warmly accepted before the Father. Your sin-bearing, wrath-bearing, curse-bearing Savior also clothes you in his perfect righteousness.
If this good news seems too good to be true, apply the Scriptures on the subject to yourself by personalizing them. There are hundreds of go-to passages for this in the Bible. Make your own list of cross-centered verses and then linger over it until you become assured of being enveloped by His love.
A = Adoration:  At this point, how can you not be filled with gratitude? Praise, adoration and worship come easily. Bask in them for as long as you can. It’s a lot easier to worship after taking your sin to the cross! We will cover this subject in greater detail when we discuss the fifth love language, words of affirmation.
R = Responsive Reading:  This is sometimes referred to as conversational prayer ormeditative prayer. Start by reading Scripture beginning where you left off the previous day. As you read and re-read, turn it into a conversation with God. Seek to “hear” what he is saying through his Word, the Bible. Spiritual hearing is not usually, if ever, audible. Instead, it is a process by which we gain a sense of what the Lord is saying to us personally.[5] This kind of hearing may at first seem strange. But it is Biblical. For example, the expression, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches is repeated seven times in the Book of Revelation.[6]
As you become aware of hearing him, “pray back” your response. It could be an exclamation, an observation, a question, or a request. Tell him your feelings—are you relieved, scared, jubilant or confused? No matter what form your response takes, address it directly to him in prayer. Do this until you’ve left the methodology behind and find yourself enjoying fellowship with the awesome, holy, loving, triune God.
S = Supplication:  Once you’ve been through all of the above, now it’s finally time to ask for needs/desires to be met for others and yourself. One good way to start this process is to recite the three amazing verses from Hebrews 4 that end with,
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.[7]
Where is there a need for grace? Draw near to God and ask for it. In view of his sovereignty and infinite wisdom, carefully state your requests as questions, not commands. Don’t say, “Bring the rain.” Instead ask, “Lord, would you bring the rain?”_____Sometimes, hopefully often, your quality time with God will be white hot. When it is you will be extremely grateful. But if your relationship with him is only warmed a couple of degrees, give thanks for that, too. Remember who you are communing with. It’s a wonder we can commune with Him at all!
In pursuing quality time with God, you will eventually run into a dry period. When that happens, keep persisting and it will pass just as the prophet Jeremiah prophesied,
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.[8]

[1] See John 17:4-5, 24
[2] See Philippians 2:6-8
[3] See Philippians 2:9-10, Hebrews 1:8, and Revelation 19:16
[4] See Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25
[5] Always keep the context of each passage in clear focus as you seek to hear from the Lord.
[6] See Revelation 2:7, 11, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; and 13:9
[7] Hebrews 4:14-16
[8] Jeremiah 29:13. Also see Psalm 145:18, Acts 17:27 and Matthew 7:7-8