Monday, March 31, 2014

Servant Leaders

"Depending on the translation, at the very most, 'leader' is used only six times in the New Testament, while the word 'servant' can be found over two hundred times. We should be asking why those of us who have a calling to serve the church obsess so much more over leadership than servantship. Jesus said, 'I am among you as the one who serves" (Luke 22:27). If we honestly want to be like Jesus - if we honestly want to follow Jesus-  we will pursue servantship rather than leadership. We will work to become the greatest servants we can be."

Determining Your Readiness

 From a Christian mission in an un-named Asian country- Questions they ask new believers seeking baptism:
Asian Access (or A2), a Christian missions agency in South Asia, listed a series of questions that church planters must ask new believers who are considering baptism. (Due to safety concerns, Asian Access does not mention the country’s name.) The country is predominantly Hindu, but over the past few decades Christianity has grown in popularity—especially among poor and tribal peoples. These are the seven questions asked to help determine a new convert’s readiness to follow Christ:
  • Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
  • Are you willing to lose your job?
  • Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them?
  • Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
  • Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith?
  • Are you willing to go to prison?
  • Are you willing to die for Jesus?
If the new convert answers yes to all of these questions, then A2 leaders invite that person to sign on the bottom of the paper that of their own free will they have decided to follow Jesus. But here’s the risk: if a new convert signs the paper and is caught by the government, he or she will spend three years behind bars. The one who did the evangelizing faces six years in prison.

So, are you ready to follow Jesus?

HT: Thinking Out Loud 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Year Of Grieving Dangerously

Read this. Please read this. From an interview with Kay Warren on the one year anniversary of the suicide death of her mentally ill son.
Kay Warren and son Matthew.....I'm saying, "Don't push me to move on faster than I can go." In many ways you're forever changed. Jerry Sittser says in Grace Disguised, "It's really pointless to compare grief." When my father passed away six years ago at 86 with cancer, I grieved and I mourned and I wept, and it still touches my heart. On the other hand, my dad at 86 had lived a very full and rich life and had seen the fulfillment of his dreams and had a rich marriage.Image: Kay WarrenKay Warren and son Matthew.
I can tell you the experience of losing my 27-year-old, mentally ill son a year ago was not at all the same as losing my dad. He died young. He took his life, and he did it in a violent way. We are scarred. We have two decades of living with a severely mentally ill person that traumatized us. It's not clean grief. There's guilt. There's regret. There's horror.
The grief of my friend, whose daughter was murdered, has an aspect that's even different than mine. I haven't walked in her shoes. We're so quick to say, "Oh, I know how you feel," and we usually add the words exactly: "I know exactly how you feel." I want to say, "No. Excuse me. You do not." The best we can do is to say, "My heart breaks for you. I have experienced grief, and my heart aches for you....."
The Christian community needs to do better at helping people who grieve, and those with depression and other mental illnesses. Much more at the link.

The Word More Desired Than Gold

Francis Chan on Why the Bible should be "More to Be Desired Than Gold":



Francis Chan - "Why We Need the Bible" from Crossway on Vimeo.


HT: Strawberry-Rhubard Theology

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Scent of Heaven

The heavenly world does not appear desirable as simply a second improved edition of this life; that would be nothing else than earthly-mindedness projected into the future. The very opposite takes place: heaven spiritualizes in advance our present walk with God. Each time faith soars and alights behind the veil it brings back on its wings some of the subtle fragrance that there prevails.”

— Geerhardus Vos   Grace & Glory
(Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 121.


HT: Of First Importance

Friday, March 28, 2014

Building A Gospel Culture

Interesting excerpt from Ray Ortlund in The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Crossway; April 30, 2014). He writes this on pages 82–83:
A gospel culture is harder to lay hold of than gospel doctrine. It requires more relational wisdom and finesse. It involves stepping into a kind of community unlike anything we’ve experienced, where we happily live together on a love we can’t create. A gospel culture requires us not to bank on our own importance or virtues, but to forsake self-assurance and exult together in Christ alone.
This mental adjustment is not easy, but living in this kind of community is wonderful. We find ourselves saying with Paul, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things” — all the trophies of our self-importance, all the wounds of our self-pity, every self-invented thing that we lug around as a way of getting attention — “and count them as dung in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Phil. 3:8–9).
Paul did not regard the loss of his inflated self as sacrificial. Who admires his own dung? It is a relief to be rid of our distasteful egos! And when a whole church together luxuriates in Christ alone, that church embodies a gospel culture. It becomes a surprising new kind of community where sinners and sufferers come alive because the Lord is there, giving himself freely to the desperate and undeserving.
But how easy it is for a church to exist in order to puff itself up! How hard it is to forsake our own glory for a higher glory!
The primary barrier to displaying the beauty of Jesus in our churches comes from the way we re-insert ourselves into that sacred center that belongs to him alone. Exalting ourselves always diminishes his visibility. That is why cultivating a gospel culture requires a profound, moment by moment “unselfing” by every one of us. It is personally costly, even painful.
HT: Tony Reinke via Vitamin Z 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Friend of Sinners

Jesus was called a "friend of sinners." Are you? Am I? From a great post by Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God
...If Jesus was a friend of sinners, we should be too, it seems — somehow, someway. And instantly, this discussion can drift into a much bigger one about Christians and culture and all that. But instead of going there, let’s just talk friendship for a minute. Friendship, which is not without its implications, is more practical and relevant than a primer on the church’s posture in society. So in that light, here are three tips on being a friend of sinners.
1. Be okay with marginal.
In the example of Jesus, we need to be all right with marginal all the way around. Be okay with associating with the marginal, the poor, the destitute — those often overlooked in society (Luke 7:22). Go there. Be with this people. Serve them. Learn from them. And be okay with being thought marginal yourself (Matthew 19:6–9), or non-progressive or backwater or against sexual modernity — whatever they are saying these days about the Christian conscience. The truth is that many of our neighbors, especially in urban contexts, will think we’re weird. Or stupid. Or close-minded. Or judgmental. Or just simply out of touch with the new post-Christian world.
Popular opinion will continue to cast Christian ethics as outdated and antithetical to the development of the American self. We’ll often find ourselves, in the coffee shop, on the light-rail, at the theater, to be the only ones there who don’t think same-sex “marriage” is the coolest thing since sliced bread. The number of those who share our convictions, or are open to listening, may continue to dwindle. And, really, this is fine. It’s okay. Our calling doesn’t live or die by societal acceptance.
2. Aim to love, not be liked.
We must nail this down. The aim of our charge is love, not popularity (1 Timothy 1:5). Jesus constantly infuriated the popular ideals of his day. They knew his teaching contradicted their own, and rather than like him and wrap their arms around him in happy tolerance, they tried to shut him up (Mark 12:12). “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25).
Jesus wasn’t a fan favorite. They crucified him, remember? The leaders and the people. Not to mention that alongside Jesus’s reputation for shady associations was the utter absence of popularity baiting. “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances . . .” (Mark 12:14). This means Jesus didn’t let the crowd’s facial expressions dictate his message. Or pageviews. Or book sales.
In a sense, there is a holy disregard for what outsiders think, but that’s not the whole story. In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul lays out that one of the qualifications to be an elder is that “he must be well thought of by outsiders” (1 Timothy 3:7). As David Mathiswrites, we care what others think because God cares. Ultimately, “we want outsiders to become insiders.” Jesus came to serve, not be served (Mark 10:45), and the same goes for us. We are in this world to serve, not be pampered. To love, not be applauded. To bless, not be notarized. So we should care about our reputation — to serve and love and bless — but that doesn’t mean trying so hard to be liked by everybody. Having a respectable reputation is one thing, trying to get everyone to throw their arm around us is another.
3. Put the gospel to work.
This means, first and foremost, that the most important thing we could ever say is that Jesus is Lord. He is the risen King of the universe, alive now and reigning in his mercy and love, commanding all people everywhere to repent and come home. This is amazingly good news, and it is controversial. If we believe this, and say it, some sinners won’t want to be our friends. Nevertheless, the news is still good. The truth is still compelling. Its beauty is never diminished.
A few of the most practical ways we might put the gospel to work as friends of sinners is captured by Tim Keller in Center Church. Leaning on Simon Gathercole’s outline of the gospel as Jesus’s incarnation, substitution, and resurrection, Keller considers three aspects in which the gospel impacts our lives. He calls it the “upside-down” aspect, the “inside-out” aspect, and the “forward-back” aspect — each of which are opposite the world’s way of thinking (46–48). Upside-down is rooted in the most glorious, humble event in history. God became a man. He suffered. He died. Our message and lives are marked by this relentless posture of servanthood. Inside-out gets at the great work Jesus did by taking our place on the cross. He died for us, sinners as we were, and was raised for us by sheer mercy — to bring us to God and accept us not based upon our works, but solely by his grace. This electing grace has no preconditions. It’s lavished on the worst of sinners and tidiest of Pharisees, giving us all the eyes of faith. Then the forward-back, the kingdom Jesus inaugurated by his victory over the grave, reminds us that we are destined for another world, a better one. Heaven will be on earth, but not yet. The world will be made completely new, but now we’re still working and waiting, loving the lost, telling God’s story.
When these truths touch our lives and are put to work in our relationships, we’ll be walking in the steps of our Savior. When this world-shaking wonder orders the way we, sinners saved by grace, think about those around us, sinners in need of grace, then, and only then, we’ll make for good friends. Then we’ll be good friends of sinners, like the true and better “friend of sinners.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Signs of Repentance

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

More at the link.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Living Unashamed

""No matter how much the shame screams, “You’re not wanted,” God says, “I want you.” Regardless of what you’ve been through or done, God wants you. He has seen your hurt and has recorded your tears, and he still wants you. He’s lifting you out of the pit.

We don’t have to go back to the pit, or go back to our self- destructive ways, even though there’s a part of us that thinks that’s where we belong.

God loved us right out of that pit, no matter what put us there in the first place. God loves us so much, he wraps himself around us and draws us up.

God does not redeem us based on goodness. God does not redeem us based on our faithfulness. He knows the worst about us, but redeems us anyway.

We never have to live in the fear that we’re not worthy of love. We are loved with the senseless, seamless, and scandalous love 
of God. And that changes everything."

            -Pete Wilson, Let Hope In

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The DNA of Jesus

Sounds like an interesting idea for a book, and one I'd like to read. From a CT Magazine review of Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity by Gordon Smith.
Over the past 35 years or so, evangelical interest in the classical spiritual disciplines has grown exponentially, thanks to the groundbreaking work of writers like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and Henri Nouwen. We increasingly understand, as Nouwen expressed it, that the spiritual life "involves human effort," a disciplined embrace of such concrete means of grace as prayer, silence, worship, simplicity, and service to others.
Gordon T. Smith, president and professor of systematic theology at Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta, applauds these developments within a tradition that, in its early years, had focused largely on evangelism and conversion. But what, he asks, is the underlying purpose of the spiritual disciplines? Why pray, worship, fast, or lead a simple life? In Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity (IVP Academic), Smith offers an answer: We do these things to grow as believers, to become ever more holy.
Cultivating Our Union
Holiness is a loaded term, one with a checkered reputation. "Holy" people are often portrayed in film and books as mean, angry, self-righteous, hypocritical, screamingly judgmental, perfectionistic, emotionally stunted, and lifeless. Few of us would want to spend an evening with such people. And false holiness is especially unattractive (even though, in our honest moments, we know we often behave like the very people who drive us crazy).
Yet all of us have, at one time or another, encountered holiness with an attractive, loving face. For me, Julian of Norwich, Francis of Assisi, Billy Graham, Pope Francis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Mother Teresa come to mind. Most of us have been blessed with Christlike relatives, friends, and acquaintances whose holiness we long to imitate. Seeing their example, we yearn for something similar, for a harmony and integrity in our lives, a kind of loving genuineness that weaves our words and actions into a seamless garment.
In Christ, we find the fundamental pattern and strength for becoming ever holier. Genuinely holy people, as Smith portrays them, remind me of trees in which the DNA of Christ has been fully replicated through the power of the Spirit. The transformation of an acorn into a mature oak tree—or, to shift the metaphor, of a fallen sinner into a restored image bearer—is a wondrous, grace-filled process founded upon our union with Christ.
"I will speak of how the whole of the Christian life is found 'in Christ,'" writes Smith. "I will stress that this vision assumes a dynamic participation in the life of the ascended Christ, in real time. . . . We participate in the life of Jesus—literally, not metaphorically. . . . the extraordinary vision into which we are called is that we would be drawn into the very life of Christ and thereby into the life of God." In summary, Smith defines spiritual formation as "the cultivation of this union with Christ...."
More at the link.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Key To Change

"The key to change is continually returning to the cross. A changing life is a cross-centered life. At the cross we see our source of sanctification (Ephesians 5:25–27;Colossians 1:22; Titus 2:14). We find hope, for we see the power of sin broken and the old nature put to death. We see ourselves united to Christ and bought by his blood. We see the glorious grace of God in Jesus Christ, dying for his enemies, the righteous for the unrighteous. We see our hope, our life, our resources, our joy.

At the cross we find the grace, power, and delight in God we need to overcome sin. If we don’t come to the cross again and again, we’ll feel distant from God, disconnected from his power, and indifferent to his glory — and that is a recipe for sin."

         — Tim Chester,  You Can Change  (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 127


Made Willing

"God saves no man to his harm. And God saves none against his will. Grace makes the sinner willing. It is a secret exercise of omnipotence on the hidden man of the heart coaxing and alluring him to salvation and glory by Christ. It is always effectual but it is never brute strength."

— Maurice Roberts, The Thought of God (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1993), page 21
HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Faith at the NY Times

Listen to this testimony of Michael Luo, an editor at the New York Times and a Christian who is a member of Tim Keller's congregation (Redeemer Presbyterian) in Manhattan.




HT: Denny Burk

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Some Bonhoeffer Quotes

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is on of the great Christian heroes of the 20th century. Relevant Magazine posted these 12 Bonhoeffer quotes  that show, in part, why that is so, and are sure to give you some food for thought:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.”
"Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― The Cost of Discipleship
“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”
Letters and Papers from Prison
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
"Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God's word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity."
“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”
"The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them." —Life Together
“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol”
"God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world."“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”
— Meditations on the Cross


Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/books/12-essential-bonhoeffer-quotes#I1fUrbtEPFADoQOr.99

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Imitation



HT @John Wylie

Hitting Base Hits

Interesting evangelism advice from J. Warner Wallace:
Our private conversations with non-believers are similarly analogous to baseball. In every conversation I have with unbelieving friends, I am ever mindful of the value ofsingles. I don’t have to “win” every encounter. I don’t necessarily have to offer the Gospel or describe the Christian view of Salvation. If I get the right pitch, I’m happy to swing. But most of the time I’m lucky to get on base at all. With reasonable expectations in mind, I am happy to overcome a single objection or advance someone’s understanding just a base or two. In fact, sometimes the most important thing I can do is reflect the nature of Jesus as I listen and gently respond. I may not even get the chance to offer a defense or make a point, but my character will speak for me as I make the effort to get on base
When I share the truth with unbelievers, I sometimes act as though I’m playing a singles tennis match. I’m on one side of the net, and my opponent is on the other. I’m all alone out there on the court, it’s hot and the entire world is watching on ESPN. Whatever I do (or don’t do), whatever I say (or don’t say), will all come down to my individual effort. If I’m going to be successful, it’s all on me. But that’s not the reality of my situation. I’m part of a much deeper team called the Church. I’m not alone on the court; I’m just one in a series of batters. I come to the plate, I get a sense of what the pitcher is throwing, and I make an appropriate decision on how to respond. On rare occasions I may swing for the fences, but sometimes the wiser choice will be to make contact with the ball, get on base if possible, or take a “walk” if the pitcher is throwing wildly. It’s not all on me. I don’t have to win the game by myself. Evangelism and Christian Case Making is often just like baseball. Remember your place in the line-up. Drive in a run if you can, or just get on base for the next player at bat. Remember you’re not alone. If each of us can get a single, we’ll eventually succeed as a team.
Read the rest.  

HT: Vitamin Z

Monday, March 17, 2014

What Happened to the Real St. Patrick?

)


 Video from Christian History Made Easy

Mentors

God doesn’t want us to live in isolation. I realized many years ago that I desperately need people in my life in order to fulfill my purpose. My parents invested in me, and so did teachers, coaches, employers, pastors, role models and good friends. I am not self-made, and neither are you. Any success we have achieved is the result of someone taking time to instruct, encourage or correct us. That’s humbling!
Mentorship is a basic biblical principle. The book of Proverbs opens with an exhortation to listen not only to parents but also to the “words of the wise” (Prov. 1:6, NASB). Moses mentored Joshua, Naomi mentored Ruth, and Elijah mentored Elisha. Jesus spent most of His time teaching a small group of disciples. One of those, Peter, discipled his spiritual son, Mark (1 Pet. 5:13), who in turn wrote the Gospel of Mark based on Peter’s testimony.
The message of Christ is best transmitted through the process of mentoring. But this art has been lost in today’s church—partly because of family breakdown and partly because our celebrity-obsessed culture values self-effort and instant results. Mentoring is too slow for most of us because we prefer the overnight sensation. God’s kingdom is built through a tedious process we don’t have the patience for.
Yet I believe we can reclaim biblical discipleship. In fact, I’m convinced the church is shifting radically back to God’s original plan as we reject the program-driven, impersonal, televangelistic one-man show of the past season. Everywhere I go I find people who are hungry for authentic relationships that can help them become team players and mature mentors.
I’ve found six types of mentors who have helped me in my spiritual journey:
1. Distant mentors. British author Charles Spurgeon died in 1892, but I consider him a mentor because I read his books often. The same is true of other dead authors such as Andrew Murray and A.W. Tozer. You don’t have to know a person to receive instruction from them. I’ve never met author Henry Blackaby, but his books, especially Experiencing God, have profoundly influenced me.
2. Occasional mentors. Brother Andrew, the founder of the Open Doors ministry, became a hero to me after I read his book God’s Smuggler in the 1970s. Then in 2004, I had the privilege of interviewing him in his home in Holland. Some of the things he said to me that day still ring in my ears. I may never visit him again, but he made an eternal investment in my life.
3. Supportive friends. A mentor does not have to be 20 years older than you. I have a close group of peers who sometimes gather from four states just to pray for each other. We call this group “the band of brothers.” I am constantly on the phone with a few of them. We share prayer requests and offer advice—and we aren’t afraid to step on each others’ toes if necessary. You need friends like that to survive life’s challenges.
4. Negative mentors. Not everyone you meet is a good example. I have sometimes encountered people in positions of leadership who had serious flaws. Some had prideful attitudes; others had poor people skills; a few had selfish agendas. Rather than allowing myself to become bitter or judgmental, I studied their behavior and determined to avoid doing the same things. I said to myself, “Let this be a lesson. That is not how to lead.”
5. Reverse mentors. You can also learn from younger people. I invest in a lot of Timothys, and they love to ask me for counsel. But I sometimes flip roles and pick their brains. One of the guys I’m mentoring, Alex, is a tech geek—so I know he will have the answer when I have a question about my computer, my smartphone or the latest app. I also get regular feedback from the guys I’m mentoring because I want to know if I’m communicating in a way that is relevant to their generation. Sometimes the best way to mentor is to ask questions!
6. Spiritual fathers and mothers. God has used many different mentors in my life, but there are some who invested in me in a very personal way for a long span of time. One of them, Barry St. Clair, invited me to a discipleship group when I was only 15. He taught me the basics of the Christian life during those Bible studies in his basement, and we have stayed connected for 40 years. This month the two of us are doing a conference together in Atlanta! Barry has been a role model, counselor and spiritual father most of my life, and his investment in me has now been passed on to dozens of others.
If you don’t have mentors, I urge you to find them. If you are fortunate to have been mentored, then pay forward what you have received—and invest in someone else.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

To Lent Or Not To Lent....

....that is the question! Some Wisdom from Trevin Wax on the practice (or not practicing) of Lentan fasting:
Lent seems to be increasingly popular among young evangelicals nowadays. This isn’t the first year I’ve seen attention given to Lent, but it is the first time that I’ve noticed multiple blogs and tweets pushing back against the practice of fasting in the weeks before Easter.
Some younger evangelicals appreciate Lent as an opportunity to implement a spiritual discipline that has a long history within the various wings of Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, and many Protestants observe this time of reflection).
Other evangelicals believe Lent has the potential of leading us back into the bondage of perpetual penitence and rituals common to Catholicism, to which the Reformers rightly reacted.Some say it’s a historical practice with spiritual benefits. Others say evangelicals have historically rejected it because of its potential excesses.
Looking at History
The truth is, history is on both sides and on neither side.
Yes, plenty of Christians through the years have engaged in some sort of Lenten fast, but the idea that we are “connecting with our roots” by practicing Lent voluntarily is only half the story. For many of our forefathers, Lent wasn’t optional; it was enforced. If you tell me I have to observe Lent by only eating certain foods, I’m going with Zwingli to eat a nice round of sausages on Friday, thank you much.
And yes, plenty of Christians through the years have rejected any kind of Lenten fast as “Romish popery,” but the idea that we’re standing in the shoes of our Protestant forefathers in rejecting Lent is only half the story. Plenty of Puritans banned Christmas, Easter, and any special Sunday, but I don’t see many people today taking a saw to the church’s Christmas tree.In the past decade, I’ve engaged in “fasting” during Lent a few times. Right now, my focus is more on Eastertide – a season of Easter celebration that extends through the weeks after Resurrection Sunday.
I see Lent as an exercise that can be helpful or harmful – like many spiritual disciplines. So here are a few suggestions for those who practice and those who refrain.
If You Do Lent…
First, I would caution my friends who engage in Lenten practices to not give off the impression that their brothers and sisters who refrain are “missing out.” If a season of Lent were that important to spiritual growth, the apostles would have recommended it. It is not unreasonable to remember the track record of how Christians have sometimes allowed these seasons can get out of hand by making them into a new law – as Paul himself made clear (Colossians 2:16, where the apostle’s conversation isn’t about Lent, although the principle still applies).
Secondly, in an attempt to “reconnect with our roots,” there’s the possibility of offending a weaker brother who found their former Catholicism or Anglicanism or whatever high-church tradition they were a part of to be life-draining, rather than life-giving. My Baptist friends in Romania are not going to fast around Easter or Christmas precisely because it is associated with a cultural, lifeless Christianity they see in the state church. More power to them. No one should stumble over a fast.
If You Don’t Do Lent…
For my friends who have an aversion to anything like Lent, don’t impugn the motives of those who have found spiritual benefit in setting aside a time of the year for reflection on Christ’s passion. To imply that Lent is a “Catholic thing” misses the rich Protestant history of the practice, and rejecting it for this reason ironically puts Rome front and center, with all of us just positioning ourselves in reference to the Roman Catholic Church. To forbid the practice can be just as detrimental as demanding it.
Conclusion
I hardly think the church is suffering from too much fasting. But I do think the church is suffering from too much self-righteousness (and I include myself in this indictment). Lent – being either for or against – can become a way of climbing up on to the pedestal. 
What is more important than the practices we take on is the heart attitude behind them. If there’s anything we should give up this time of year, it’s our sense of superiority either to those outside the church or those inside the church who do things differently than we do.The cross levels us all. And that’s true whether or not you practice Lent.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Counter Offensive

The Bible is the story of God’s counteroffensive against sin. It is the grand narrative of how God made it right, how he is making it right, and how he will one day make it right finally and forever.

— Greg Gilbert    What is the Gospel?   (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 61


Friday, March 14, 2014

Unity & Diversity

Polytheism = diversity without unity Monotheism = unity without diversity Trinitarianism = unity and diversity, God the three-in-one.
Truth, Brother, truth!

Moving Past Your Past

From Pete Wilson - " I love this short film RELEVANT has adapted from an article I wrote entitled “Moving Past Your Past,” published in the March 2014 issue of RELEVANT Magazine. The article was based on my latest book Let Hope In"


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(Please excuse the included commercial - the video is worth waiting for)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Majority Rule


From challies.com

Are You A Legalist?

People throw the term "Legalist" around a lot, but what does it really mean? Good definition from "Till He Comes":


...and  "Here are 10 Signs you Might be a Legalist"

  1. If you believe there is a sin you think God cannot forgive, you might be a legalist.
  2. If you believe there is a limit to the grace of God, you might be a legalist.
  3. If you believe that God’s blessings are reserved only for the obedient, you might be a legalist.
  4. If you believe that certain behaviors disqualify a person from joining God’s family, you might be a legalist.
  5. If you believe that the presence of ongoing sin in a person’s life causes them to lose their eternal life, you might be a legalist.
  6. If you believe that the presence of ongoing sin in a person’s life proves that they never had eternal life in the first place, you might be a legalist.
  7. If you believe that God loves us more if we obey Him more, you might be a legalist.
  8. If you believe that all Christians must believe and act like you do, you might be a legalist.
  9. If you believe that our standing with God is based on how well we keep the Ten Commandments, you might be a legalist.
  10. If you believe that people who accept evolution, love homosexuals, and vote democrat cannot be true Christians, you might be a legalist.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Special


From @DailyKeller

Singing The Stubborn Song

There’s something stubborn about singing praise to God.
We live in a fallen world. Things are not as they ought to be. How can our mouths be filled with praise in the midst of so much darkness?
Yet we sing.
We sing because we once followed the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), but now the King has died for us and delivered us from the present evil age (Galatians 1:4).
We sing because “we know that we are from God,” even though “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
We sing because our King chose us out of the world (John 15:19), and his grace is “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
Paul and Silas were beaten for their faith and thrown in jail. And there, in the darkness, they sang (Acts 16:25). Then a great earthquake shook the jail like a great bass drum reverberates through sound waves and shakes your heart.
The foundations of the church building may not shake when you sing, but the battle cry of love ripples through eternity and is heard by an unseen audience.
Overflowing Hearts
As someone who can hardly carry a tune in a bucket, it helps me to remember what our associate pastor often says about our congregational singing. In his Sydney accent he says, “We’re singing to God, yes, but we are also singing truth to each other.”
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
We are a people stubbornly fixed on the things that are unseen. The world sees affliction as evidence that our God is silent or absent. The prince of the power of the air imagines that he is gaining ground that belongs to Christ. But we hold fast to what God’s word says,
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)
C. S. Lewis once described the Church as “through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners” (Screwtape Letters).
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend called the church, “An army bold whose battle cry is ‘Love!’ / Reaching out to those in darkness” (O Church Arise).
Singing Loud
Maybe Buddy the Elf was on to something when he said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
We are spreading the news that death will be swallowed up forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from the earth, for the Lᴏʀᴅ has spoken (Isaiah 25:8). The mouth of the Lᴏʀᴅ has spoken it, and we sing it loud for all to hear.
Terrible as an army with banners, we’re a singing people on our way to the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14).
May others hear our holy, stubborn song and join along.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Holy Rebellion



From @DailyKeller

Dust to Dust, But That's Okay

This piece by Jared Wilson is so good, it's worth a complete quote: The title sounds like a downer, but the message is important. It's called You’re Going to Die (and So Might Your Dreams) 
. . . for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.– Genesis 3:19
One of the problems I have with all the “chase your dreams!” cheerleading from Christian leaders is not because I begrudge anyone wanting to achieve their dreams, but because I don’t think we readily see how easy it is to conflate our dream-chasing with God’s will in Christ.
You know, it’s possible that God’s plan for us is littleness. His plan for us may be personal failure. It’s possible that when another door closes, it’s not because he plans to open a window but because he plans to have the building fall down on you. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will Christ be enough?
Are we pursuing our own greatness or the expansion of worship of Jesus Christ? They aren’t necessarily incompatible, but God is more interested in the latter than the former. And ultimately, if we prioritize Christ’s glory, we won’t really care in the long run how noticed, renowned, recognized, or “successful” we are personally. We’ll realize that our lives aren’t really about us anyway.
Sometimes we have to let our dreams die.
And that’s okay. We will be okay.
Look, “for those who love God, all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). So God’s plan might be for your littleness, and that’s okay, because his plan is not for his own littleness! His plan for your efforts, big and small, is that they will maximize the glory due his Son. That he might draw all men to himself. That he might fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory – as Habakkuk 2:14says – as much as the waters cover the seas.
One day, you are going to die. Perhaps today. What will they say about you? What legacy are you truly leaving? When the funeral is over and all the accolades about you are used up, your body will become dust.
In Al Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead he writes of.
. . an old preacher [who] told a group of younger preachers to remember that they would die. “They are going to put you in a box,” he said, “and put the box in the ground, and throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.”
Here’s the point: As great as you can make yourself, as many wonderful things as you can accomplish in your lifetime — even religious things — it will all be a blip on the radar of eternity. You will become dust. The worms will eat you. Statistically speaking, since most of us will never accomplish such great things that history will laud throughout the ages, memory of us will start fading with our grandchildren. Our great grandchildren will (likely) not have any clue who we are.
But!
If you are bringing glory to Christ, not a thing about you is wasted, because the mission of the Spirit of God is to maximize the glory of Christ over all the universe. So that even at the end of days, as Revelation shows us, all the glorious kings of the nations in all their renown and splendor, file in one by one into the holy city to throw their crowns at the feet of Jesus. Revelation 21 reveals that the light of the new heavens and new earth comes not from the “sun” but from the “Son,” and the kings of the nations will bring their glory into it.
There is the vision of greatness the redeemed of the Lord ought to aspire to. That he would increase and we would decrease. That our decrease would serve his increase!
And those who are willing to lose their lives — whatever that might mean — for Christ’s sake, will find them.
And from dust you will return.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Ultimate Musician

"God is the ultimate musician. His music transforms your life. The notes of redemption rearrange your heart and restore your life. His songs of forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, truth, hope, sovereignty, and love give you back your humanity and restore your identity. "

— Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 145


HT: Of First Importance

Friday, March 7, 2014

Grace - All The Way Down

Love this piece by Jared C. Wilson:

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
- Romans 11:6
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”– Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
What is the ratio of grace to works in the salvation equation? 1 to 0. Not one speck, not one microgram, not one atom of works there. It is all grace or no grace. Wring and wrestle all you want, but it is grace all the way down.

:

All As Loss

Here's an excerpt from a John Piper article How to Count It All As Loss (with reference to Philippians 3:8):
This is what it means to be a Christian. It is not advanced discipleship; it is basic Christianity. This is confirmed in Jesus’s words, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Renouncing all we have is the same as “counting everything as loss.” This is what happens in conversion. You can’t be a disciple without it. Jesus said this.....
....In everyday practical terms, what does it mean to do this? It means at least these four things:
1. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that, if we must choose between Christ and anything else, we will choose Christ.
That is, even though God does not bring us to the crisis of either-or at every point, nevertheless, we are ready, and have resolved in our hearts that, if the choice must be made, we will chose Christ.
2. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that we will deal with everything in ways that draw us nearer to Christ, so that we gain more of Christ, and enjoy more of him, by the way we relate to everything.
That is, we will embrace everything pleasant, by being thankful to Christ; and we will endure everything hurtful, by being patient through Christ.
3. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that we will seek to deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not our treasure, but rather that Christ is our treasure.
That is, we will hold things loosely, share things generously, and ascribe value to things in relation to Christ. We will seek to live the paradox of 1 Corinthians 7:30–31, “Let [Christians] buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.”
4. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that if we lose any or all the things this world can offer, we will not lose our joy, or our treasure, or our life — because Christ is our joy and our treasure and our life.
That is, in smaller losses we will not grumble (Philippians 2:14), and in greater losses we will grieve, but not as those who have not hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Much more at the link.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

True Freedom



From @DailyKeller

Captivated

Book review of Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus' Death and Resurrection, by Thabiti Anyabwile:

I recently read a simple yet profound little book by Thabiti Anyabwile, an African-American who pastors a church on Grand Cayman Island ("suffering for Jesus"!). I have followed his blog for a while, and was pleased to have an opportunity to read his new book. The book is based on a series of sermons he presented on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It has the limitations of a book translating oral sermons into written text, but is still one of the better examples of such books that I have ever read.

There were two chapters in the book in particular that stood out to me. Chapter 2 presents Psalm 22 as an in depth emotionally powerful presentation of what Jesus experienced for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross. I saw some things in that Psalm that I had never noticed or perceived before. Chapter 5 discussed the encounter with Jesus by two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Anyabwile says that this story shows us that physical senses, knowing the historical facts about Jesus, and knowing the Bible are not enough for salvation without a personal revelation of Jesus to our hearts and souls. Thee two chapters alone would make this a good read.

In summary, this is not a great or classic book, but it is a good book, worth a read, to help us meditate on and be grateful for what Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross. It is well suited as an aid to meditation during the Lenten and Easter seasons.

A video trailer for the book is shown below.

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. -see my book review policy)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

One Or The Other

Only One of These Can Be True 

1. Isaiah 53:
". . . he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him."

2. Hollywood: