Thursday, April 30, 2015

Facing Fear

From Darrin Patrick - Face Your Fear
Courage is a word typically reserved for extraordinary circumstances — the soldier in battlefield, the first responder at the scene of a wreck, the nurse in the emergency room — where split-second decisions can save a life. Most of us don’t have to employ that kind of courage, but we all face fearful situations.
The fears we face:
- defending an unpopular course of action in a meeting
- addressing performance issues with a direct report
- confronting negativity in the break room
- leaving work early (or on time) to be with your family
- asking forgiveness from your spouse
- challenging the anger or frustration of a spouse
- disciplining your child’s behavior
Every fear we face tempts us to run which inflates but does not remove fear. Every fear we face tempts us to respond in like kind — with fear.
Fighting fear out of fear doesn’t work.
Our typical strategy is to fight fear with fear. We address our direct report so our supervisor doesn’t do the same with us. We head home risking the disappointment of our boss so we don’t experience our spouses’ disappointment. Fighting fear out of fear may get us an immediate result, but it doesn’t build lasting courage.
To become courageous, we need to fight fear with God. In a letter to a young man wrestling with self-doubt, Paul writes, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Here, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit. Notice, he doesn’t appeal to Timothy’s natural abilities, nor does he threaten him with some form of judgment. He says, “Look, you’re not alone to face your fear! God is with you! God is for you! God is in you!

Heaven Taking Over

“We are not just ordinary. Nothing is just ordinary. ‘The whole earth is full of his glory.’ We keep trying to fill it with monuments to our own glory — kingdoms, businesses, hit songs, athletic victories, and other mechanisms of self-salvation. But the truth is better than all that. Created reality is a continuous explosion of the glory of God. And history is the drama of his grace awakening in us dead sinners eyes to see and taste to enjoy and courage to obey.

“Do you realize that it is God’s will to make this earth into an extension of his throne room in Heaven? Do you realize that it is God’s will for his kingdom of glory to come into your life and for his will to be done in you as it is done in Heaven? Heaven is expanding, spreading in your direction.
“That is the meaning of existence, if you will accept it and enter in.
“Heaven is taking over. Yield.”
– Ray Ortlund, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Preaching the Word Commentary: Crossway, 2005).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Faith Defined

Martin Luther's definition of faith, from An Introduction to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, via Ligonier Ministries:
Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this ‘faith,’ either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.
Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Bothers You?

Cloud and Fire

Lord of the cloud and fire,
I am a stranger, with a stranger’s indifference;
My hands hold a pilgrim’s staff,
My march is Zionward,
My eyes are toward the coming of the Lord,
My heart is in Your hands without reserve.
You have created it,
redeemed it,
renewed it,
captured it,
conquered it.
I love You with soul, mind, body, strength,
might, spirit, affection, will,
desire, intellect, understanding.
Invigorate my love that it may rise worthily to You,
tightly entwine itself around You,
be allured by You.
Then shall my walk be endless praise.
- a Puritan Prayer

Monday, April 27, 2015

Proud



HT: @DailyKeller

Present Tense

God gives grace through Christ for past sin, But what about your (and my) present sin? Check out Sin in the Present Tense by Darryl Dash
When we talk about God’s grace, we often talk about grace for past sin. But what about sin in the present tense? Is there grace for that as well?


It’s an important question, because we need grace for present sin. “There do not seem to be any convincing verses in Scripture that teach that it is possible for anyone to be completely free of sin in this life,” writes Wayne Grudem inSystematic Theology. We need present grace for present sin, or else we’re in trouble.
However, we're often unprepared for how to deal with present-tense sin. We hide in shame and try to self-atone by feeling bad and beating ourselves up, rather than trusting in the finished work of Christ.
How do we deal with present-tense sin? Seven ideas:
One: We shouldn’t be surprised by present sin. As James notes, “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). John writes that nobody should claim to be sinless (1 John 1:18). Sin will be part of our ongoing reality until our glorification.
Two: We shouldn’t accept present sin. Countless Scriptures tell us to strive for holiness and avoid evil (e.g. 2 Corinthians 7:1, Colossians 3:5). We can never make a truce with sin, despite the first point.
Three: We shouldn't get overly discouraged when we sin. While we shouldn't accept sin, neither should we wallow in guilt and shame. Instead, we should run to God's grace. Millard Erickson captures this well:
On the one hand…there need not be great feelings of discouragement, defeat, even despair and guilt, when we do sin. But on the other hand, it also means that we will not be overly pleased with ourselves nor indifferent to the presence of sin. (Christian Theology)
Four: We can be open about our sins and struggles with God. This is hard, because we're usually ashamed. I love what Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel write in Beloved Dust:
Everything that comes out of our hearts in the presence of the Lord is an invitation to be known by him. Whether it is fear, shame, pride, anxiety, or even lust, our call is to open those things before him and receive redemption as those who desperately need it.
Five: Confess sins (appropriately) in community. As Kent Hughes points out in his commentary on James 5:16, sin brings isolation. Confession destroys this autonomy, promotes humility, allows the free flow of grace in community, and allows us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:1).
Six: Confess sins corporately. As William Dyrness says, this is just confessing reality. It's why I love including corporate confession in our public worship. This can be one of the most beautiful parts of the service. Mike Cosper writes, “As Christians acknowledge their failures together, they testify to the world that the plausibility of the gospel is rooted not in their performance, but in the faithful mercy of God.”
Seven: Pray for daily forgiveness. It’s interesting that Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread" and then "forgive us our debts…” (Matthew 6:11-12). Just as we need to pray for daily bread, we also need to pray for daily forgiveness. It's our daily prayer this side of the fullness of the Kingdom.
We sin in the present tense. We need God’s grace in the present tense. Believing the gospel means that we are free to acknowledge this reality, free to run to grace, and free to be real rather than posing and pretending.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Identity Issue




Who are you?

In this video, pastor Jeff Vanderstelt helps us rethink the way we perceive ourselves, reminding us that our identity as believers is first and foremost in Jesus Christ and what he has done on our behalf.

Our worth is not impacted by our successes or failures. Rather, we have Christ's righteousness leading to God's total acceptance. With God, our being always precedes our doing. This is the good news of the gospel—good news that frees us to live for him each and every day.

HT: Crossway

Friday, April 24, 2015

Who Is Orthodox

An "oldie but goodie" article by Michael Patton - Six Views on What It Means To be Orthodox
Have you ever been called a heretic? Have you ever had someone say that your faith is “unorthodox”? Have you ever wondered what it meant to be “orthodox”? No, I don’t mean Greek Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox. I am talking about orthodoxy which carries the meaning of “straight or right teaching and worship.”
The answer is not easy. For some people, “orthodoxy” is a shallow word meaning that you agree with them. For others, it means you agree with their particular denomination or local church confession. For many, it is a meaningless heavy handed designation that should no longer be used.
What does it mean to be orthodox in your beliefs?
There are really six primary views that I find represented in the church today. I am going to try to explain these views using both established and original terminology....
Read it all at the link.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Myth of a Perfect Church

From Church in A Circle - the Myth of the Perfect Church:
Human beings are created with an inbuilt tendency towards idealism. Fairy tale stories and superhero movies reflect our need for happy endings and superhuman abilities. We grow up with romantic and unrealistic expectations of life, which are often dashed against the rocks of reality, leaving us hurt and disappointed.
You can see this idyllic imagination at work in our searches for a romantic partner. My youngest daughters (age 6 and 4) sometimes take turns being a bride and marrying each other, already living out the dream of “happily ever after”. They don’t yet know that every marriage involves two very different and flawed humans, who will have downs as well as ups, and who will never fully be able to meet each other’s needs and expectations.
When it comes to church, we have the same idealism, only even higher. After all, we have Scripture verses to back it up. We long to be part of an intimate community of people who love one another, accept us as we are and empower us to be all we can be.
Our idyllic notions often take a battering in institutional church, so we turn our hearts towards a romanticised notion of “organic church”. In our minds, this new-and-improved-model-of-church will meet all our needs and bring us towards “happy ever after”. In the real world, organic churches have their problems too – their power struggles, personality clashes and failure to meet people’s expectations.
Organic church life can be amazing. In fact, institutional church life can be equally amazing. However, just like a marriage, any of these relational settings needs to be approached with the right mindset and commitment to playing our part. There are certain characteristics which will create the transformational community we long for – honesty,authenticity, acceptance, kindness, patience, love. The problem is, these things come at a cost. They require effort and truckloads of maturity. They are not always easy and they don’t always feel good.
If you want to find some magical, picture-perfect church community, give up now. However, if you’re prepared to struggle with your own issues, put up with other people’s foibles, and commit for the long haul, you may just find glimpses of the joy and fellowship you crave. It won’t be an easy journey, but along the way you will change yourself and your church community, for good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Compact Devotions

"In fact, countless devotionals and study Bibles are based on the concept of getting our clarity in two minutes or less. This trains us to think there is “time with God” and “our time.” The compartmentalization of His voice to set times we commune with Him is a dangerous place to live. Is it our goal to spend the slightest amount of time possible with the Lord and still be in relationship with Him? I’m not discounting the effectiveness of these publications or their place in our lives at certain times, but their very existence validates a system that tries to battle the noise with the least amount of commitment—just like a specific type of soda in your grocery store indicates a precise kind of beverage-drinker guzzling down that exact flavor of food coloring or aspartame. (What exactly is caramel color, anyway?)

Noise is battled fifteen, ten, and five minutes at a time.

But do you think it’s working?

As the body of Christ, are we winning this struggle?

Has it worked for you?

Are you still a servant—or, more truthfully, slave—to the noise?

I’ll let you decide.

Continually packaging God’s Word in compact and easy-to-use ways will continue to produce compact and easy-to-use followers of Christ—who possibly have compact dreams and easy visions."

     - Eric Samuel Timm, Static Jedi: The Art of Hearing God Through the Noise

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Too Clever



HT: Challies.com

The First Speaker


HT: Paul David Tripp
I'm sure you've heard this idiom before: "talk is cheap."
Whoever came up with that saying was onto something, just like the person who came up with the phrase "actions speak louder than words" - it's much easier to talk about something than it is to actually follow through with it.
While these expressions may hold weight in the real world, I don't particularly appreciate them, and here's why: they're fundamentally unbiblical because they devalue the significance of our words....
Read more at the link.

Paul the Bibliophile


When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (2 Tim. 4:13)

Did you know the Apostle Paul, writer of a large part of the New testament, was a lover of books? Loved this commentary on 2 Tim. 4:13 by C. H. Spurgeon (via Justin Taylor)
We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. . . . A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle!
He is inspired, and yet he wants books!
He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books!
He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!
He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!
He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!
He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!
The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.
Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service.
Paul cries, “Bring the books”—join in the cry.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy



HT: Bruce Van Horn @BruceVH

Avoiding the Hysteria

I fully and enthusiastically agree with this post from J. Lee Grady - Don’t Get Caught Up in Last Days Hysteria 
Everywhere I go today I meet Christians who are wringing their hands and fretting about how dark the world has become. Some are conspiracy theorists who say the world's economy is controlled by dark forces. Others are convinced that recent astronomical phenomena signal the end of the world, and they are stocking their garages with food to prepare for Armageddon. If I suggest that Jesus might want to pour out the Holy Spirit in a fresh way on this generation, some people get angry. They want God to hurry up and judge America!
Why so much pessimism? It's partly because many people have exchanged their passion for God for a misguided fascination with doomsday eschatology. They latch onto Bible prophecy "experts" who make a living speculating about things nobody knows for sure. And this sky-is-falling mindset never produces good fruit. Here are four reasons we should avoid an unhealthy overemphasis on the end times:
1. It's distracting. Nowhere does the Bible give us permission to speculate about when Jesus will return or when the world will end. He gave us one major focus: To reach everybody with the gospel. Evangelism should be our obsession. The healthiest churches I know are those that are winning the lost, discipling new converts and investing their people and money in reaching nations.
Churches that become consumed with eschatology drift into weirdness, and they eventually lose sight of the Great Commission. Jesus' last words to His followers were clear: "You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Yet when He ascended into heaven, the angels rebuked the disciples because they were staring into the clouds. They said: "Why do you stand looking into the sky?" (Acts 1:11). In essence they were saying: "Don't sit around and wait for Jesus to return. Get busy doing what He told you to do."
2. It's depressing. I don't go to church to hear one person's opinions about Islamic terrorists, why weather patterns are changing, or how European bankers plan to manipulate the world economy. Why focus on the negative? Do we believe in the lordship of Christ, or not? I have read the book of Revelation, and it ends with Jesus on the throne! He is the victor—no matter what men conspire to do or how hard they fight against His authority.
Churches that only talk about blood moons, wars in the Middle East, the Antichrist or the date for America's demise leave no room for the joy of the Lord or the hope of His ultimate triumph. My Bible says we have a future and a hope. We have the promise that, as the gospel is preached, "all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Num. 14:21). Why should we be pessimistic about the future when we know Christ will overcome all His enemies? People who focus on doomsday theology are killjoys who derive morbid pleasure from spreading fear and anxiety. A gospel without hope is not the gospel!
3. It's deceptive. A group known as the Adventists predicted that Jesus would return to earth in 1874. When this didn't happen, the group's leaders covered their error by suggesting that Jesus appeared "invisibly" on that date. A theology developed around these ideas that is still accepted by Seventh-day Adventists. In the 1970s, when Americans were so worried about gas shortages and war in Israel, author Hal Lindsey sold millions of copies of his book The Late, Great Planet Earth—and he predicted the world would end in a few years. Many other Christians have made similar predictions—such as the Y2K scare in 1999 or Harold Camping's infamous warning that the world would end on May 21, 2011.
We have no business setting dates for the end of the world. God alone sets His timetable.
Jesus said of His return: "Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matt. 24:36). If anyone claims to know when the world will end, you can be sure he is a false prophet. What we should be telling people is that Jesus died for them, and that they have been given a chance to receive His forgiveness while they are on this side of eternity.
4. It's divisive. Christians have different views of the end times. Some are post-millenialists while others emphasize the Rapture. This is not something we should be arguing about because no one has the full revelation of the future. I tell people I am a "pan-millenialist." I believe it will all "pan out" in the end! I am not as concerned about how the last days will unfold as I am about how many people I can take to heaven with me. We should all be united in our desire to share Christ with others.
I know Jesus will return one day, and it gives me great comfort to know that all heaven will say of Him: "The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). Let's live our lives as if He were coming back today, but let's work as if He weren't coming for 100 years. Let's stop hoping for judgment and instead pray for mercy for our wayward country. Let's stop being so negative and instead show people the supernatural joy that only Jesus gives.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Good



HT: @BradBridges

Our Living Guide

"The Holy Spirit is the living guide to Jesus.

It is He who says, with power, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’

It is He who convinces of sin, who wounds, and probes the wound, and lays open the evil of our nature—causing us to know that we are corrupt within and without.

But He not only thus discovers the malady—He also applies the remedy. He abases the sinner; and exalts the Savior. He gives the deep sense of sin–that the great salvation may be more appreciated and enjoyed."

       — Ruth Bryan   "The Living Guide to Jesus"

HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Heart Condition



HT: @DailyKeller and the Gospel Coalition

Strength To Be Weak

Here's a good question: Are You Weak Enough? by Katie Persinger (via J.D. Greear). Sometimes we just need the strength to be weak-- and dependent on He who is Strength.
There aren’t many societies that praise weakness. Ours is no different. Whether you’re a pastor or a police officer, an on-the-go salesman or a stay-at-home mother, weakness is seen as a liability. Nobody wants to be weak. Strong is the name of the game. 
Sadly, our obsession with strength blinds us to a key biblical truth: God uses the weak. It’s so pervasive that you’d be hard-pressed to find a book of the Bible that can’t be summarized this way. And yet despite being hard-wired into the very DNA of Scripture, we don’t really believe it. We still clamor after strength. But God doesn’t need our strength to deliver us. In fact, our strength is actually more of a liability than an asset.
I’ll go a step further: God is so single-minded in his preference for weakness, that when he wants to use us, he often begins by weakening us. Case in point: the Bible’s most courageous coward, Gideon.
Just before heading into battle with the mighty Midianite army, Gideon hears from God: “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’”(Judges 7:2). So God gives Gideon a couple of tests, designed to trim the ranks.
Test 1 is to send all the fearful people home. It turns out that’s a decent number, and 22,000 of Gideon’s 32,000 leave. (I wonder if Gideon tried to sneak off with them?) Now, that might not have been a foolish decision. Fear is contagious, so 10,000 brave soldiers are better than three times that many if 70% of them are wimps.
But if Test 1 was designed to create a braver army, Test 2 was only designed to create a smaller and weaker one. God tells Gideon to have his men drink from a stream, and all of the men who “lap like dogs” (who does that?) are the ones that should stay. It’s an arbitrary test, but an effective one: only 300 men remain.
God was teaching Gideon what he wants to teach us today: when he wants to use us, he often begins by weakening us. That doesn’t mean God delights in bringing us pain, or that every instance of weakness in our lives is caused directly by God. But periodically, God will step into our lives and reduce the size of our army, because he wants us to trust him—and that’s often the only way we will.
So when we hear a tragic diagnosis from our doctor…or when we suddenly find ourselves out of a job…or when our marriage is on the rocks…we should see those as our “army” being reduced. Those are moments of decision: will we rage against God, or lean into him like never before? We are so obsessed with grasping at strength that pain becomes something to avoid, not an opportunity to learn from. But what if dependence is more important than strength? If dependence is the objective, than weakness is an advantage.
I hate learning that lesson. I’m sure you do, too. But weakness forces us to throw ourselves in desperation before God, and that is the only place—and the only posture—in which we can learn the four words that transform our lives:God is always faithful. You and I may never know that God is all we need until he is literally all we have.
The Apostle Paul said it this way: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). You see, if we brag on our strengths, people may look at us and think, “I wish I were more like that … but I can’t be.” But if we brag on our weaknesses, that makes people think, “Wow, I have access to the same power that guy does!” Christians aren’t people who boast about their superior morality; they are beggars telling a bunch of other beggars where to find bread.
Beware your strengths. They are far more dangerous to you than your weaknesses, because your strengths keep you from hoping in God’s mercy. And boast in your weaknesses. Boast when God lets you fail. Boast when God reduces the size of your army. God isn’t withholding good things from you. In fact, he’s offering you something priceless. As Hudson Taylor said, “God wants you to have something far better than riches and gold, and that is helpless dependence on him.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time To Spare



HT: C. S. Lewis Society of California

Owned

"I confess that Jesus is Lord.

I confess that Jesus shares the name and nature, the holiness, the authority, power, majesty and eternality of the one and only true God.

I confess that Jesus died and was raised, opening heaven up to unworthy sinners. I am such a sinner, and I gladly embrace his atonement for me.

I confess that Jesus rightfully owns me, every part of me, every moment of my time, every dollar in my possession, every opportunity granted me, every responsibility thrust upon me, every hope I cherish, every person whom I love and treasure.

I am personal property of the Lord Jesus Christ. He deserves my allegiance, loyalty and trust 24 hours a day, in all places, in all aspects of my life, both public and private. He is worthy of my obedience. He is worthy of my utmost. He is worthy of my very blood.".

- Ray Ortlund, Jr., A Passion for God, 143-44.

HT: Trevin Wax

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Good News, Bad News



HT: Tullian Tchividjian @PastorTullian

What Jesus Does With Your Sin

Love this! -  6 Things Jesus Does With Sin by Jared C. Wilson
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”John 1:29
John the Baptist commands a beholding of the sin-taking-away Lamb. What do we see in this beholding? How exactly does Jesus take away our sin?
Here are 6 things Jesus does with sin:
1. He Condemns It.
Jesus puts a curse on sin. He marks its forehead.
Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
Jesus says to sin in no uncertain terms, “Sin, you’re going to die.”
2. He Carries It.
Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer.
1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
3. He Cancels It.
He closes out the account. (Even better, he opens a new one, where we’re always in the black, having been credited with his perfect righteousness.)
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”
That word resentful is more directly “to count up wrongdoing,” which is why some translations of this text say that “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
That last proclamation leads us into this great truth:
4. He Crucifies It
1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”
At the cross, Jesus dies and takes our sin with him. Only the sin stays dead.
5. He Casts It Away
Jesus takes the corpse and chucks it into the void.
Micah 7:19 – “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
6. He Chooses to Un-remember It.
Jesus is omniscient. He is not forgetful. But he wills to un-remember our sin.
Jeremiah 31:34 – “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Astonishing. We bring our sin to him, repentant and in faithful confession, and he says, “What’re you talking about?”
This is how Jesus forgives sin: He condemns it, carries it, cancels it, kills it, casts it, and clean forgets it. If we’ll confess it.
1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Whole Shebang

“This much I'm sure of: We need the whole body of Christ to properly form the body of Christ. This much I’m sure of: Orthodox mystery, Catholic beauty, Anglican liturgy, Protestant audacity, Evangelical energy, Charismatic reality — I need it all!”

                                                - Brian Zahnd


Paper Advantages


I've got to agree with Charles Stone on this: Five Reasons I'm Starting to Read a Paper Bible Again:
    I’m a self admitted geek. I love tech stuff. My dad was an electrical engineer and our basement was filled with all kinds of gadgets. When I was a kid I spent hours playing with his tools and gadgets. And as we entered the computer age, I became one of the first among my friends to embrace that technology. I was an early smart phone adopter and I now use a tablet computer when I preach, do my devotions, and read God’s Word. Recently, however, I dusted off my old NIV and began to read it in my devotions instead of relying solely on an electronic version of the Bible. Here are five reasons I’m going to begin reading more from my paper Bible.
    1. It is now as novel to my brain as reading from a tablet computer was a few years ago. And the brain loves novelty. Novelty helps us pay better attention and enhances learning. Now, as I hold my dogeared Bible my attention to what I read has increased.
    2. Research now shows a decrease in what scientists call deep reading because our Kindle brain differs from our paper brain. It’s called the bi-literate brain. Our brain uses different circuits depending on whether we are reading from paper or plasma. Plasma reading encourages more non-linear reading (skimming and browsing when our eyes dart around) whereas paper reading encourages more linear reading, deeper reading. I’ve found that paper reading forces me to read a bit slower. I realize how I’ve missed slower and deeper Bible reading.
    3. More tactile involvement with paper reading has also increased my attention. The feel of leather and the texture of the thin paper when I turn a page to look up a Scripture has enhanced my engagement with God’s Word. The more senses we use, the more engaged we become.
    4. When I read on my Kindle, it’s silent. However, the sound from the shuffling pages of my paper Bible brings back a pleasant familiarity from former days. The ‘whoosh’ feels warm and inviting as it was a part of my life for decades before electronic Bibles.
    5. In my paper Bible I had often scribbled notes and insights in the margins that I had learned from others or from my own study. As I read my paper Bible now, I also read these notes. They remind of God’s past faithfulness when His Spirit taught me then.
    I’m not selling my iPad on Craig’s list (or Kijiji here in Canada). I still enjoy the reading plans I quickly access online. And I want to easily compare different versions that my Bible program offers with side-by-side comparisons. But incorporating my paper Bible into my reading has brought me a new and fresh experience in God’s Word.

    Sunday, April 12, 2015

    A Prayer For Forgiveness

    Jesus, forgive my sins.
    Forgive the sins that I can remember, and also
        the sins I have forgotten. 
    Forgive the wrong actions I have committed,
        and the right actions I have omitted. 
    Forgive the times I have been weak in the face
        of temptation, and those when I have been
        stubborn in the face of correction. 
    Forgive the times I have been proud of my 
        own achievements, and those when I have
        failed to boast of your works. 
    Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of
        others, and the leniency I have shown to
        myself. 
    Forgive the lies I have told to others, and the
        truths I have avoided. 
    Forgive me of the pain I have caused others,
        and the indulgence I have shown to myself.
    Jesus have pity on me, and make me whole.

    Anonymous Early Irish Prayer

    From The Path of Celtic Prayer: An Ancient Way of Everyday Joy by Calvin Miller



    Saturday, April 11, 2015

    Praying the Parts

    Well,. I think this prayer covers it all!
    O God, defend me everywhere
    With your impregnable power and protection.
    Deliver all my mortal limbs,
    Guarding each with your protective shield,
    So the foul demons shall not hurl their darts
    Into my side, as is their wont. 
    Deliver my skull, hair- covered head, and eyes,
    Mouth, tongue, teeth, and nostrils,
    Neck, breast, side, and limbs,
    Joints, fat, and two hands.  
    Be a helmet of safety to my head,
    To my crown covered with hair,
    To my forehead, eyes, and triform brain,
    To snout, lip, face, and temple.  
    To my chin, beard, eyebrows, ears,
    Chaps, cheeks, septum, nostrils,
    Pupils, irises, eyelids, and the like,
    To gums, breath, jaws, gullet.  
    Protect my spine and ribs and their joints,
    Back, ridge, and sinews with their bones;
    Protect my skin and blood with kidneys,
    The area of the buttocks, nates with thighs.
    Protect my hams, calves, femurs,
    Houghs and knees with knee- joints;
    Protect my ankles and shins and heels,
    Shanks, feet with their soles. 
    Protect my toes growing together,
    With the tips of the toes and twice five nails;
    Protect my breast, collarbone and small
        breast,
    Nipples, stomach, and navel. 
     Protect the whole of me with my five senses,
    Together with the ten created orifices,
    So that from soles of feet to crown of head I
       shall not sicken in any organ inside or out. 
    The Breastplate of Laidcenn

    Friday, April 10, 2015

    Muslim Conversions in Indonesia

    HT: The Strang Report at Charisma Magazine
    Amid all the news about Islam's gains around the world, here is some startling news you've probably never heard: In Indonesia—the most populous Muslim nation—2 million Muslims are converting to Christianity per year. That's right. That's one new convert every 15 seconds. At this rate, Indonesia will be mostly Christian by 2035.
    Some Muslims are so alarmed they've created a video on YouTube to alert other Muslims to this menace and are trying to raise $2 million to start a TV station aimed at Muslim youth to keep them in Islam.
    Called "Save Maryam," it depicts a young teen named Maryam representative of all disillusioned Muslim youth who have responded to invitations to gospel events or someone handing them a tract that says "Jesus Loves You." Watch the 4-minute, 45-second video yourself if you don't believe me. It's from Muslims in their own words, alarmed at the rate of conversions to Christianity.
    It ends by urging Muslims to stop this trend (thereby "Saving Maryam") by alerting other Muslims to the threat by forwarding the video on social media.


    There also are YouTube videos debunking this, using government statistics showing growth of Christianity in Indonesia at a slower pace. Also, the videos cast dispersions on the fundraising tactics of the sponsoring organization and to their motives. However, the Islamic government has incentive to under-report the size of the Christian population.
    Recently, I talked to an Indonesian pastor who was visiting the United States who confirmed to me that the Indonesian church is growing despite persecution such as churches being burned down and some Christians being killed.
    "The Muslim has no answer for their life and they were very depressed because life's so difficult," he told me. "Their religion has no answer. Many of these people are so lonely, they'll watch a Christian program and a Christian will follow up (with) them and bring them into the Christian community and disciple them."
    In this Easter season, as we remember Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection, it's good to be reminded that the message of the gospel is real and it's changing lives—even in the most populous Muslim nation.

    So, let's get this word out. The Muslims want for this to be shared to alert people that many Indonesian Muslims are becoming Christians. Share this on social media not to lament this news, but for Christians to rejoice.
    God is still on the throne and is drawing all men to Himself (see John 12:32). It's like I heard Bob Mumford say one time: "I've read the end of the book, and Jesus wins!"

    Thursday, April 9, 2015

    Waiting For the Wind To Blow



    “Every time we drive by a church with a sign out front announcing, ‘Revival meetings here next week,’ we are confronted with an understanding of revival that exaggerates the human dynamic. It may seem a small point, and I do not wish to be unfair. But how can we advertise a revival and expect to retain credibility? Presumably we do this because the very idea of revival has been diminished to an event on the church calendar. Evangelistic meetings — maybe that’s all people mean when they announce a revival — are a legitimate program. But true revival is not a scheduled program. It is a gift from the Throne wonderfully interrupting our little programs. The Holy Spirit blows like the wind, unpredictably, mysteriously, uncontrollably, wherever he pleases (John 3:8). We can’t announce him in advance. We can only pray that he will blow our way.”
    – Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., When God Comes to Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2000), 19-20.

    Keyboard Sins



    From Radio Free Babylon
    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015

    Strong Tower

    Needed Examples


    8 Reasons We Need the Puritans by Jeff Robinson at TGC:
    ...In the minds of many, Puritanism equals scrupulous rules-keeping, dour Christianity, or, as the inimitable American journalist H. L. Mencken famously quipped, “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
    Over the past few decades, thanks in large part to the publishing efforts of Banner of Truth and the advocacy of Martyn-Lloyd Jones, the English and American Puritans have made a strong comeback among Reformed evangelicals. During my years in seminary, I fell in love with the Puritans. Now, I delight in teaching about the Puritans, and during my time as pastor, men like John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, and John Owen were among my shepherds through their deeply devotional theological writing. Though dead, they certainly still speak. And we need to hear them.
    Granted, they could be maddenly eccentric and sometimes ran to extremes. The Puritans never met a rule the didn’t seem to relish. They had a decidedly underdeveloped view of recreation and leisure. Their writing tended toward wordiness, often stating and then restating the same point several times. And their moralizing of life experiences and spiritual introspection often knew no bounds. For example, Cotton Mather once saw his sinful heart as the cause of a toothache, as he told his diary: “Have I not sinned against my teeth? How? By sinful, graceless, excessive eating, and by sinful speeched? (Quoted in Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints)” They were, after all, sinners saved by grace.

    Still, for all their humanness, they represent a high point of (to borrow a favorite phrase from John Piper) Christ-centered, Scripture-saturated, God-entranced living.
    Eight Reasons
    In our snap-judgment, 140-character age, we need the Puritans perhaps more than ever. Here are eight reasons why.
    1. Because they were mature in ways we are not.
    J. I. Packer hits the mark:
    Maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity. The Puritans exemplified maturity; we don’t. We are spiritual dwarfs. A much-travelled leader, a native American (be it said), has declared that he finds North American Protestantism, man-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent and sentimental, as it blatantly is, to be 3,000 miles wide and half and inch deep. The Puritans, by contrast, as a body were giants. They were great souls serving a great God.
    Would anyone deny the truthfulness of his assessment in much of modern evangelicalism today?
    2. Because they understood the deep sinfulness of the human heart.
    John Owen (1616-1683) called the human heart a hornet’s nest of evil. He wrote The Mortification of Sin, the most famous treatment of sin among the Puritans. Because they understood the depravity of the human heart, the Puritans realized that only a unilateral work of sovereign grace can rescue fallen man. Thus, their keen understanding of the deadness of the human heart led them to plant their feet firmly upon a theology of grace as the sole catalyst that will draw dead hearts out of the grave.
    3. Because they knew their best life was later.
    The Puritans suffered long, but they suffered well. Death was a constant companion for the Puritans of the 17th and 18th centuries. In England, they faced deadly persecution at the hands of the Church of England, the church they sought to purify. In the New World, they faced an especially harsh physical climate. Packer writes:
    Ease and luxury, such as our affluence brings us today, do not make for maturity; hardship and struggle, however, do, and the Puritans’ battles against the spiritual and climatic wilderness in which God set them produced a virility of character, undaunted and unsinkable, rising above discouragement and fears, for which the true precedents and models are men like Moses, and Nehemiah, and Peter after Pentecost, and the apostle Paul.
    4. Because they viewed the family as a little church.
    Puritan fathers were deeply committed to catechizing their children and serving as shepherds in their homes. One of the great needs of our day is for God to raise up an army of lion-hearted and lamb-like husbands/fathers who will love their families by teaching them the Word of God, by modeling biblical headship and churchmanship. I have written more extensively on the Puritans and family discipleship here.
    5. Because they saw all of life as being lived coram deo—before the face of God.
    For the Puritans in both old England and new, there was no sacred/secular divide. If they worked as blacksmiths, the calling was to blacksmith to the glory of God. If they farmed, they sowed and reaped in dependence upon God. The Puritans knew vividly that God is omnipresent, that there is not one square inch in all creation where he is not present or where he is not interested in radiating forth his glory. Hard work was for the Puritans a central part of Christian living, and what we call the Protestant work ethic is a gift passed down from them.
    6. Because they were highly decorated soldiers on the spiritual battlefield.
    They viewed spiritual conflict as central to the Christian’s calling. As Packer memorably puts it, “They never expected to advance a step without some sort of opposition.” This is evident in John Bunyan’s classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, where every step along the path to the Celestial City contends with fighting without, fears within. John Geree (1601-1649) wrote in The Character of an Old English Puritane or Nonconformist: “His whole life he accounted a warfare, wherein Christ was his captain, his arms were prayers and tears. The Cross was his Banner and his [motto] was: he who suffers conquers.” William Gurnall (1617-1679) penned The Christian in Complete Armor, which endures as one of the most compelling books on spiritual warfare.

    7. Because they were skilled physicians of souls.
    Long before Jay Adams and David Powlison pioneered the movement, the Puritans excelled in biblical counseling. They saw God’s Word as sufficient for the Christian’s every need, including counsel. Tim Keller writes,
    Clearly, the Puritans rested their counseling approach on Scripture. In many ways the Puritans are an excellent laboratory for studying biblical counseling, because they are not influenced by any secular models of psychology. Many of those today claiming to be strictly biblical in their counseling approach still evidence the heavy influence of Maslow or Rogers or Skinner or Ellis. But the Puritans had the field of “the cure of souls” virtually to themselves; they had no secular competition in the area of counseling. Thus we need to consider very seriously their counseling models.
    8. Because they understood contentment in Christ as the key to genuine happiness.
    Christ was enough for them. He had to be; with no modern medicine and at times precious little food available, life expectancy was around 30, particularly in the American colonies. If a family had four children, on average two would die in child birth. Roughly half of the mothers died during child birth. There was no aspirin, no penicillin, no surgery. Economic hardship was the norm. Yet the Puritans wrote often of contentment. Among the best works ever written on this topic were The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs and The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson. They lived with eternity stamped on their eyeballs.

    Tuesday, April 7, 2015

    Bigger Than We Can Imagine

    From Beth Moore at CT Magazine: When A Big God Escapes Us:
    I was the second-youngest child in a family that took up the better part of an entire pew at our Baptist church. My maternal grandmother lived with us, which meant that every Sunday I heard three generations of my own flesh and blood sing from The Broadman Hymnal. We lived in a college town in the green hills of Arkansas, whose denominations in those days were as distinct as the seasons.
    Everyone I knew headed somewhere to church on Sunday morning. Whether we were people of faith was not the question. We were people of church. Still, true faith could be found down the heel-scuffed halls of my church.
    All who filled the pews had secrets. Though my family’s could have qualified for daytime television, I know now that no one there was what he or she seemed. We all needed Jesus worse than we pretended. We all had wounds that Sunday mornings had not mended. We needed a Savior willing to stuff himself into the crowded car with us after church and venture behind the dark drapes of our homes. Some of us needed a wonder-worker who could wring honest-to-God miracles out of a house doused in madness, a proper Savior for improper people.
    The order of our service usually mirrored that of the previous Sunday. After all, people like order, and my people liked bulletins. We liked to know in advance what hymns we’d sing, who’d bring the special music, and whether we were baptizing anyone that day. We could usually tell the latter by the curtain over the baptistery. (If it was open, somebody was going under.)
    The church bulletin also served as a checklist through which one could work toward the goal: the benediction. At our church, it always came in the form of a song, and sometimes we would join hands. The lyrics of 18th-century Baptist John Fawcett seemed to sum it up well: “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
    The routine didn’t preclude the riches. Sacred songs were sung, the Bible was read and revered, a sermon was preached, an invitation was offered—and joy teemed over the takers.
    I was 9 when I walked the aisle to profess my faith in Christ. I understood the basics of my decision: that I was a sinner and needed saving if I wanted to go to heaven. I could summarize many sermons I heard as a child with one thundering question: Do you want to go to hell? No, I did not. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go to heaven, either, but it clearly would beat hell.
    Those who came forward remained at the front after the service so the other churchgoers could shake their hands until their shoulders nearly popped out of their sockets. The more the people congratulated me, the more I realized something profound had happened—something big people thought was big. And I cried like a baby, hiding my blotchy wet face with my left hand while shaking an assembly line of hands with my right hand. Jesus had come to my church that day and, in the routine, I had not managed to escape him....
    There is so much more in this article - a stirring Bible lesson and the pathos of hunger for God's presence. Read it all at the link.

    Facing Suuffering

    "Christian, You Will Suffer" from Stand to Reason Blog:
    I had a brief interaction with an atheist on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that unexpectedly turned to the issue of suffering when she said:
    'You clearly never had a time you were hurt. I don’t mean sick. I don’t mean heart broken. I mean literally a near death experience or rape or abusive relationship…. You can keep floating on a [expletive] cloud thinking Jesus will do everything for you but it’s a lie. What makes you so special?'
    That surprised me at first because it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the tweet she was responding to, and I was confused as to why she would assume I’d never been through anything traumatic. But then in subsequent tweets, when she revealed she had been raped, it became clear that her trauma had played a central role in her becoming an outspoken, obviously angry “antitheist.” She’s a self-described antitheist now because she thinks Christianity teaches Jesus “will do everything for you” to give you a perfect life, and now she knows that’s a lie. The rape proved her understanding of Christianity false.
    So it made sense for her to reason that since I believe Christianity is true, I must still be under the delusion that Jesus is making my life special, which means I obviously never encountered any evil or suffering to shake that delusion.
    Hear me, everyone: This is a failure of the church.
    A friend of mine who was deeply suffering once said to me that many Christians are in for “an epic letdown” when they realize their preconceived notions about what God is expected to do for us are false. Pastors who preach a life-improvement Jesus are leading people down this precarious path to disillusionment.
    If suffering disproves your Christianity, you’ve missed Christianity. The Bible is filled with the suffering of those whom God loves. The central event of the Bible is one of suffering. Love involves suffering. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That means suffering.
    But Christianity also promises justice for evil. And grace. And life from death. Resurrection. New bodies. Hope. Jesus is the only hope for true pain. Without Him, there’s nothing left to do but rail against God with the most perverse insults imaginable.
    The truth is that even if you’ve been taught these things, a time will come when an experience will make this real to you, and then you will struggle to learn how to entrust yourself to God when you can’t trust He’ll protect you from pain and tragedy, can’t trust that things will get better. The only thing you can trust is Him. That He is good. That He knows what suffering is. That if He was willing to give His son over to death for us “because of His great love with which He loved us,” then we know His love won’t stop there—He’ll withhold nothing else from us that we should have. The good He seeks for us is to reveal Himself and conform us to the image of His Son. We will suffer no pain without purpose.
    Go to the Christians who learned this before you—Richard Wurmbrand, Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, Helen Roseveare, Corrie ten Boom, Kara Tippetts—Christians who learned through torture, death, disability, rape, terror, and terminal disease the truth of Paul’s “secret” to facing a life of pain: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 
    I said to the atheist, “Those who suffer know Him better,” and I meant it. He is the God who knows suffering. He is the God who suffered. He is the God who works beauty through suffering. He is the God who resurrects.

    Monday, April 6, 2015

    Job Search

    As many of you know, I am looking for a new career opportunity. Here are links to my resumes and on-line profiles at LinkedInBe Known and at my other blog. If you know of any place where I can contribute, please feel free to forward my info or to let me know.

    Pardon this personal post. we now return you to your normal programming.



    Always Limping



    Walking With A Limp, a devotional commentary from D.E. Garland on 2 Cor. 12:9 - But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
    If I had my druthers there are many days I would not be a pastor, preacher, or public pray-er!
    I feel the need for a disclaimer here. I love my work. I have a great gig. It really is "the best job in the world." That said, it is taxing work. Pastoring is a job one never really leaves at the office. Preaching is a joyful burden. Sundays come with great regularity; with them the need for a fresh new message that is appropriately interesting enough and deep enough and practical enough. Then there is praying in public. At times it just puts me uncomfortably on the spot.
    Truth be told, there are days when I would prefer a more quiet life. Give me the seclusion of my study. Let me read, learn, reflect, and then write about it. I'll even carry all that learning to the classroom. For me, teaching requires far less emotional energy than preaching.
    I am thirty-five years into my work. At this point God has not granted me the quiet life of the secluded study. Instead, it seems he is always pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing my weaknesses. He has been doing this for years.
    I have framed poem I keep in my office that describes my pushy God and his deeper purposes.

    I would rather
    clutch my invitation
    and wait my turn in party clothes
    Prim and proper
    Safe and clean.
    But…
    a pulsing hand keeps driving me over
    peaks, ravines and spidered brambles…
    so I will pant up to the pearled knocker
    tattered
    breathless
    and full of tales
    .— Janet Chester Bly

    Bly describes the "pulsing hand" of God that drivers her. I have felt that same hand driving me over the challenging peaks and through the deep ravines and spidering brambles of my weakness.
    Why? Why does God expose me to inward angst and potential humiliation? He does it so that I might know him. Were I left to my devices, choosing the "easier path," I would have little need for God. As it is, my weakness is actually the open door through which the grace and power of God enters. Jesus told Paul:
    ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

    Commenting on this verse, D.E. Garland writes,

    We learn from the message given to Paul that God’s grace is not just the unmerited favor that saves us but a force that also sustains us throughout our lives. The modifier “my” in “my power,” is important. Paul is not speaking about power in general, but “the power of Christ” revealed in the crucifixion and resurrection.
    Armed with that amazing truth, Paul decides to revel in his weakness. Like Jacob of old, Paul may walk with a proverbial limp, but every step is a reminder of the God who meets him, strengthens him, and sustains him with resurrection power. That is grace -- perhaps not the version I desire -- but grace indeed.
    Paul knows this truth experientially. God wants me to have that same experience and he wants you to have it too. That means he will not always deliver us from our weakness. Instead, Jesus will show up in the midst of our weakness. We will feel that pulsing hand giving us a little push out of our comfort zone. And that is good . . . for God never pushes us without also supplying the power to take the next step.

    "We learn from the message ..." from Garland, D. E. (1999). Vol. 29: 2 Corinthians. The New American Commentary (524). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    Turn From Shadow Glories

    “There really is no place for Christ in many people’s Christianity. Their faith is not actually in Christ; it is in Christianity and their ability to live it out. This kind of ‘Christianity’ is really about shadow glories of human knowledge and performance. It does not require the death to self that must always happen if love for Christ is going to reign in our hearts. 
    — Paul David Tripp. A Quest for More
    (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 106


    Thursday, April 2, 2015

    Holy Week

    9 Things You Should Know About Holy Week from Joe Carter
    Holy Week is the week before Easter, a period which includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Here's what you should know about the days that commemorate the Passion of Christ:
    1. Holy Week observances likely began in Jerusalem in the earliest days of the church, though the term first appears in the writings of fourth century bishops, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, and Epiphanius, bishop of Constantia. Holy week does not include Easter Sunday.

    2. The first recording of a Holy Week observance was made by Egeria, a Gallic woman who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land about 381-384. In an account of her travels she wrote for a group of women back in Spain, Egeria describes the Palm Sunday she observed in Jerusalem:
    . . . all the children who are [gathered at the top of the Mount of Olives], including those who are not yet able to walk because they are too young and therefore are carried on their parents' shoulders, all of them bear branches, some carrying palms, others, olive branches. And the bishop is led in the same manner as the Lord once was led.
    3. Because of the difficulty in some parts of the world of procuring palms for Palm Sunday, leaves from yew, willow, olive, or other native trees are frequently used. The Sunday was often designated by the names of these trees, as Yew Sunday, or by the general term Branch Sunday.
    4. An archaic and infrequently used name for the Wednesday before Easter is “Spy Wednesday”, named for Judas' becoming a spy for the Sanhedrin.
    5. Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. The term “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word mandatum (commandment). The term refers to the commandment given by Jesus at the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
    6. The historical origins of the “Good” in Good Friday remain unclear, though some entomologists believe the term “good” is an archaic form of “holy.”
    7. In Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, Holy Saturday commemorates the “harrowing of hell,” the time between his Crucifixion and his Resurrection when Christ is believed to have descended into hell. Some Protestants, however, don't believe that Scripture warrants believing the claim, found in the Apostle's creed, that “[Christ] descended into hell.” As John Piper says, “there is no textual basis for believing that Christ descended into hell.”
    8. In Medieval Europe, Christians would abstain from eating eggs and meat during Lent. Eggs laid during that time were often boiled to preserve them and were given as Easter gifts to children and servants. Some traditions claim the Easter egg is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus, with the shell of the egg representing the sealed Tomb and cracking the shell representing the Resurrection. Christians in the Middle East and in Greece painted eggs bright red to symbolize the blood of Christ.
    9. The Christian scholar Bede (673-735 AD, aka, the Venerable Bede) claimed in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre, a pagan goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Later scholars, however, claim that the term derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “oster”, meaning “to rise” or for their term for the Spring equinox, “Eostre.”