Monday, August 31, 2015

Not An Instruction Manual

The Bible Is Not An Instruction Manual - From Crossway, adapted from The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson.
Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
Ever heard the Bible explained that way? It's a handy mnemonic device that certainly has some truth to it. But does it get at the heart of what the Bible really is? The way so many of us treat the Scriptures—as God's "how to" book—doesn't seem quite right when we carefully look at what its own pages say. And I fear that the way we use the Bible in this way actually accomplishes the opposite of what we intended.
If the Bible is not essentially an instruction manual for practical application, then, what is it? If it's not mainly about what we need to do, what is it about? If it's not about us, who is it about?
The Bible Is about Jesus
About Jesus? Well, duh," you're thinking right now. That goes without saying. And I agree. It has been going without saying. But we need to keep saying it. We don't "go" without saying this. The Bible is about Jesus. Front to back, page to page, Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the written Word of God is primarily and essentially about the saving revelation of the divine Word of God.
Jesus himself said so. In Luke 24, we see two of Jesus's disciples walking on the road to Emmaus and discussing the report they'd gotten of Christ's resurrection. Suddenly Jesus himself sidles up next to them. He asks them what they're talking about. They don't recognize him at first, so they explain that they are discussing the matter of Jesus, expressing their confusion about his having been given up to be crucified when all along they thought he was the one sent to redeem Israel. And they also weren't sure what to make of this astounding claim about his resurrection. Then Jesus does something very interesting: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).
In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul tells us that all the biblical promises "find their Yes in him." The book of Hebrews is a great sustained example of this truth, showing us how all that led up to Christ was preaching Christ from the shadows, as it were, even reminding us that the mighty acts of the great heroes of the Old Testament were not about themselves but about acting "by faith" in the promise of the Christ to come.
Indeed, everything the Bible teaches, whether theological or practical, and everywhere it teaches, whether historical or poetical or applicational or prophetic, is meant to draw us closer to Christ, seeing him with more clarity and loving him with more of our affections. The Bible is about Jesus.
The Primary Message of the Bible Is That the Work Is Already Done
One night on the way home from small group, I listened to the guy on the local Christian radio station give a ten-minute presentation of what he had learned in church the previous day. It all boiled down to an appeal to make Jesus, in his words, our "role model." It was all very nice and inspirational.
There is indeed no better role model than Jesus. You won't find me arguing against that. But the problem with this fellow's recollection of his pastor's sermon was that it showed no indication of actual gospel content. It could have been delivered by the Dalai Lama. The buddhist actor Richard Gere thinks Jesus is an awesome role model. So do many atheists. The majority of the thinking world acknowledges that Jesus is a good role model, and in fact, most of them wish Christians would act more like Jesus (or at least, more like their perception of Jesus).
This ought to hint at the inherent deficiency in the "Jesus as role model" message: "Be like Jesus," by itself, is not good news. The gospel is not good advice, it is good news. The emphasis in our churches must be on God's finished work through Christ. To be clear: We should be exhorting our congregations to live in more Christlike ways. But if the emphasis of our preaching is on being more like Jesus and not on the good news of grace despite our not being able to be like Jesus, we end up actually achieving the opposite of our intent. We inadvertently become legalists, actually, because we are more concerned with works and behavior than with Christ's work on our hearts. The primary message of the Bible, as it heralds us to Jesus Christ, is that the work is already done.
The Bible's News Is Much Better Than Its Instructions
The Bible is incredibly practical. We don't have to make it that way. It's already that way. There are lots of practical things in it, and we do need to teach them. But we must never teach the practical points as the main points. The practical stuff is always connected to the proclamational stuff. The "dos" can never be detached from the "done" of the finished work of Christ in the gospel, or else we run the risk of preaching the law.
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 Paul is recalling the giving of the tablets of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. As Moses would go up and commune with God, the glory of the Most High was so intense that it would continue to radiate off his face when he came down. The radiant glory was so intense that Moses covered his face with a veil to shield the children of israel from the intensity. But as stark and intense and awe-inspiring as that glory was, Paul says, it is eclipsed by the ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of righteousness, the ministry of the gospel of Jesus.
This helps us to see that the essential message of the Bible is the gospel, and that therefore the gospel needs to be central to all we say and do as a church, whether in the worship service or out. This means many of us need to wrestle with the reality that the gospel is not just for unbelievers. It is for the Christian too.
Perhaps we need to see how versatile and resilient the gospel is, how much deeper and more powerful than the dos and don'ts this message is. Maybe we need to see that the gospel does more than the law could ever do. It goes further than the law could ever go. If the instructions come with glory, Paul says, "will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory" (v. 8).
The good news of the gospel is so much better than the instructions! It is better because the news actually saves us. The gospel is the ministry of righteousness because it announces not just the blank slate of sins wiped out but the full credit of Christ's perfect obedience credited to us!
The Power of Salvation
As we look out at the world and into our churches, we think we know what will fix everything. We'll just tell them to get their act together. Thus all the instructions.
But what will really save the lost world? Let me tell you: none of our complaints against it.
What will transform the hearts of the people in your church? No amount of your nagging.
What will motivate people to real life change that begins with real heart change? Not all the helpful tips in the universe.
According to the Bible, only the gospel is the power for salvation (Rom. 1:16). We must stop treating the gospel as though it were power enough for a conversation experience but falls short of empowering all the practical matters of faith that come after.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Please Stop!

If You Are A Christian, Please Stop Doing These Five Things by Jarrid Wilson (at
Here is some stuff Christians should stop doing.
1. Telling people “I’ll pray for you” without actually praying for them.
Guilty as charged. I can’t think of anybody who hasn’t done this at one time or another. And while most of us don’t actually mean to forget, it’s probably best that we just set aside time on the spot to pray for people. Are we really so busy that we can’t stop and pray for someone’s needs? We need to make sure we are fulfilling our duties as Christians and actually follow through with them. One prayer could be the tipping point to someone coming to know the love of God. Don’t miss the opportunity to speak life into someone because you don’t think you have time.
2. Attending Church on Sunday, but ignoring God’s voice the rest of the week.

Ouch! This one stings a little. Many of us get in the habit of making God just another addition to our weekly check-list, but the reality is that our entire lives should revolve around him. God deserves #1 priority in each of our lives, and to treat him any differently would go against the foundations of the Christian faith. Evaluate the way you are spending your time, money and energy. If you want to see a change in your life then you need to begin giving God the place of honor he deserves. Stop treating God like the last kid picked in doge-ball.
3. Praying for God’s provision when we have yet to use what he has already provided.
Way too many of us tend to treat God like a personal genie. Prayer was given to us as an open line of communication between us and God, but the harsh reality is that way too many of try to use it like a drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant. You don’t get to pick and choose the way God provides, but you do get the opportunity to trust his plan and have faith in his promises. I can’t begin to explain how many times I’ve ignored God’s provision because it wasn’t wrapped the way I intended it to be. Every time we purposely ignore God’s provision, we are indirectly telling him, “I don’t trust your plan.”
4. Trying to be so relevant that we actually hurt the message of Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with trying to be relevant, but we need to understand that there is a BOLD line between being trendy, and then completely disfiguring the message of Jesus. We can’t expect to bring any change to the world when we don’t look any different from it. I’m a firm believer that Jesus came to reclaim culture and not abolish it, but this doesn’t mean we need to water down His message so that it’s easier to swallow.
5. Telling people that “God will never give you anything you can’t handle.”
Why should we stop saying this? Because it’s a lie. … We’ve completely twisted 1 Corinthians 10:13, as this verse is pointing toward temptation, and even then it states God will be there if things get too tough. The reality is that God just might give us things we can’t handle so that we will gaze toward him for the extra help. Mind blowing right? Realize that not everything is going to go the way you plan, think or hope. Sometimes stuff is going to hit the fan, and in order for you to get through it, you are going to NEED to rely on God’s comfort, peace and understanding. We weren’t meant to do life alone.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Truth About Margaret Sanger

Joe Carter clears out the myths, positive and negative, about Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
Due to a variety of current events, the name of Margaret Sanger has repeatedly surfaced in the news the past few weeks. The focus on Planned Parenthood because of a series of investigative videos has brought renewed attention to the organization’s notorious founder. Presidential candidate Ben Carson has encouraged people to “go and read about Margaret Sanger and go and read about the beginnings of this organization so that you know what you’re dealing with.” Several journalists have been criticized foraccepting the “Maggie” awards for their pro-abortion coverage. And a group of black pastors sent a letter to the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery asking that the bust of Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger be removed from the museum’s “Struggle for Justice” exhibit.
Who was Margaret Sanger? Here are nine things you should know about one of the 20th century’s most controversial figures:
1. In 1916, Sanger opened the world’s first birth control clinic in New York City. Nine days later Sanger was thrown in jail and the clinic shutdown for violating the Comstock obscenity laws, which included a prohibition against literature describing contraceptive methods.
2. At the First American Birth Control Conference in 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL). In 1942 the ABCL changed its name to 1942 Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1952 in Bombay, India at the Third International Conference on Planned Parenthood, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) was founded. Sanger served as president of the IPPF from 1952 to 1959. (She died in 1966.)
3. Sanger was leading advocate of the eugenics movement, specifically of negative eugenics, which promoted the reduction of sexual reproduction and sterilization of people with undesired traits or economic conditions. Her views on eugenics were shaped at an early age by her experience in a large family. The sixth of eleven children, she noticed as a child that the wealthy families had small families while the poor had large families. In her autobiography, My Fight for Birth Control, she wrote, “I associated poverty, toil, unemployment, drunkenness, cruelty, quarreling, fighting, debts, jails with large families.”
4. Sanger believed the use of birth control was necessary, as Jyotsna Sreenivasan explains, not only for the individual woman’s well-being but also for the economy as a whole. In her 1931 pamphlet “Family Limitation” Sanger wrote, “The working woman can use direct action by refusing to supply the market with children to be exploited, by refusing to populate the earth with slaves. . . . Pass on this information to your neighbor and comrade workers.”  Sanger arranged for this pamphlet to be distributed widely though a Socialist labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World.
5. In Woman and the New Race, Sanger included a chapter to answer the question,  “When Should a Woman Avoid Having Children?” Included in her list are the admonition that “No more children should be born when the parents, though healthy themselves, find that their children are physically or mentally defective” and “By all means there should be no children when either mother or father suffers from such diseases as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, cancer, epilepsy, insanity, drunkenness and mental disorders.”
6. On a radio show, Sanger is reported to have said that “morons, mental defectives, epileptics, illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and dope fiends” ought to be surgically sterilized. If they wish, she said, such people should also be able to choose a lifelong segregated existence in labor camps.
7. Sanger’s motivations about racial genocide are frequently exaggerated, misunderstood, or misconstrued. There is no doubt that Sanger believed in the supremacy of the white race and the inferiority of other racial groups (for instance, she once wrote, “It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.”). But Sanger appears to have been driven more by her views on eugenics to reduce “undesirables” than by a motivation to eliminate specific racial groups. In other words, Sanger was obsessed with preventing the birth of people with physical and mental illnesses or who were economically disadvantaged, regardless of their race.  Despite being a white supremacist, Sanger preferred intelligent, middle class African-Americans to illiterate, low class whites.
(This is not to deny, however, that Sanger’s views were implicitly—and sometimes explicitly racist—or that the effect of her ideas and organizations did not lead to the destruction of black communities. It is merely to say that it doesn’t appear racial superiority was her primary motivation for advocating sterilization and birth control.)
8. In 1939, Sanger, through the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA), helped to initiate the Negro Project. Unlike many of her associates, she wanted the doctors involved in the project to be black in order to gain the trust of the African-American community. One infamous Sanger quote—and one frequently taken out-of-context—in regards to the project is,
The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
Some people read this as implying that Sanger is trying to employ ministers in an effort to hide her true motives—racial genocide. More likely, she feared that if the belief were to spread that the goal of the Negro Project was to “exterminate the Negro population” it would hinder her true eugenic objective: the extermination of the subset of the black population that she considered “degenerate.”
In this objective she was joined in the Negro project by many African-American leaders. For example, in 1939 W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in Sanger’s Birth Control Review, “the mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among Whites, is from that part of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly. . . [the black race] must learn that among human races and groups, as among vegetables, quality and not mere quantity really counts.”
9. Sanger remained committed to her eugenics views until her death. In a 1957 interview, Mike Wallace asked Sanger if she believed in sin. The video below shows how she answered:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Missing Confession

The Mark of Christianity That is Disappearing from Our Worship by Trevin Wax. I think he is right.
It is puzzling to see one of the defining marks of a Christian’s identity quietly disappear from a church’s worship.
I’m speaking, of course, about confession – a time when the church comes together as a repentant people, and asks God to forgive and cleanse, to renew and restore, to inflame our cold hearts and fill us with overflowing love.
Confession is one of the defining marks of a Christian because it is linked to repentance and faith. When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that our sin is something that needs to be forgiven. We are recognizing that our sin hurts us, hurts others, and most importantly, hurts the heart of God.
Confession is the expression of repentance in which we name our sin for what it is, turn away from sin, and turn toward a merciful God. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not that the non-Christian sins and the Christian does not, but that the Christian sins and repents, while the unbeliever hardens their heart toward God – either by refusing to admit the sin or by trying to deal with the sin in some other way.
As a part of corporate worship, confession has historically been near the beginning of a service. Once we have been summoned to worship God, and once we have seen and begun to experience His presence, we are like Isaiah – falling on our knees before a majestic and holy God, amazed when seeing the brightness of His glory, ashamed when seeing our sin for what it is. Before we can move forward in worship, or move outward in mission, we fall down in repentance.
Scripture never requires a time of confession near the beginning of a service. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness near the end, not the beginning. Making confession a requirement in every worship service could give the impression that God is constantly angry with us and we can only approach Him after doing penance. This would lead us back to the medieval image of a God whose favor we must somehow earn, rather than the God of grace whose favor is freely received through the merits of Christ and His righteousness.
Today, however, the more pressing problem is not the idea of a God who is perpetually angry, but a shriveled god who is shallow and nice. If we don’t see God taking sin seriously, we won’t take it seriously either. And once we stop taking sin seriously, repentance loses its power. No surprise, then, that confession falls away, and the one thing for which all Christians should be known – repentant faith – is something we no longer express together in public.
My hope is that the practice of corporate confession will make a comeback – whether in a time of silent prayer, corporate confession, or songs that plead for mercy. After all, we are not in a posture to receive God’s Word until we have first renounced our sin.
A confession of sin renounces any attempt to justify the sin; we humble acknowledge our sin and its sentence. At the same time, we humbly place ourselves in the hands of a mighty and merciful Savior. He is the One who grants repentance, and He is the One in whom we trust.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Telling the Story

The StoryA beautiful depiction of the gospel from Genesis to Revelation

HT: Dane Ortlund

No Regrets

10 Things You Will Never Regret As A Christian by Jarrid Wilson:
A life modeled after Jesus is hands down the greatest life one could ever live. And while a life apart from Christ may be filled with many toils and regrets, there are many things you will never regret doing when it comes to life as a Christian.

1. Praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Prayer brings is closer to God, his love and his sovereignty. When we pray, we are in direct communication with the one who created us. Praying may not always be easy, but it’s something that’s always worth it.
2. Giving your life to Christ. (Romans 12:1)
I cannot recall anyone who has ever regretted encountering the love, grace and almighty purpose of Jesus Christ in their life. It’s something this world cannot offer.
3. Reading Your Bible. (Psalms 119:105)
God’s Word is a life-source for the soul. And while we read the Bible to learn more about God, his direction and our purpose in life, God’s presence within our lives will continue to grow stronger.
4. Putting others before yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
Humility is key. No one in their right ming has ever regretted finding a sense of humility in their life. Seeking after Jesus will continuously chip away our pride, and in turn teach us to put our neighbors before ourselves, as well as think of ourselves less.
5. Loving your neighbor. (Mark 12:31)
We love because God first loved us. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the definition of love itself, and our calling as Christ followers is to love our neighbors, no matter the circumstance. Many people have regretted ignoring their neighbors, but nobody has ever regretted loving them.
6. Extending grace. (Matthew 6:15)
None of us deserve God’s grace but he continues to showcase it anyways. We are broken, messed up and jacked up people, but because of grace we are free from the bondage of our past. Extending grace to others will free us just as much as we think it will bring them peace.
7. Allowing God to guide you/Having Faith. (Proverbs 3:6)
You won’t regret allowing God to guide you. Why? Because God’s plan in life is for you to embrace his will, trust his promises and fulfill the calling of The Great Commission. Following God’s guidance isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely always worth it.
8. Resisting temptation. (James 4:7)
Temptation will lead you down a path contrary to that of God himself. As Christians we are called to flee temptation, and instead pursue the path that Jesus has laid out before us. Temptation leads to sin, and sin always leads to regret.
9. Taking refuge in the arms of God. (Psalms 118:8)
God is our protector, comfort and shield in times of need. The arms of God are a refuge for those who need it, and relying on his strength is something you will never regret doing. Take comfort in the arms of God, and understand that there is no safer place to be.
10. Abstaining from sexual impurity. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Purity paves the way to intimacy. And although our culture has turned sex and promiscuity into a hobby, God’s yearning for our lives in and out of marriage is sexual purity and abstinence from extramarital relations. Watching porn, sex before marriage, and engaging in relationships outside of one’s marriage are all things you will regret in the long run. Stay focused on God’s plan for your life.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What's Your Sending Capacity?

Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs To Churches Who Send, by J. D. Greear - A Book Review

This is a fascinating, compelling book with the thesis that churches and church growth should not be measured by seating capacity (numerical growth) but by sending capacity (church planting). He believes that "the church that sends the most, wins the most," and that every church should be sending out disciples (and releasing proven leaders) to plant new churches, locally and internationally.

Greear is Senior Pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. He and his church are living out the message of this book, in that Summit Church has sent out over 500 people to plant 113 new churches as of the writing of this book. He also brings a unique perspective to the concept of missional living from having previously lived and ministered in a Muslim country.

The book emphasizes that a spiritual culture of sending, and "gaining by loosing," depends on a commitment to not just getting members or attenders, but building disciples. Christian disciples learn to live like Jesus, and Jesus served the Father by giving himself for others. The principle of resurrection, dying in order to live, applies to churches as well as individuals. He believes "our God is a sending God," and that therefore we should be sending people.

The text is structured around 10 "plumb lines,"i.e. culture defining statements about what it means to be a discipling and sending church.The book is an easy read in terms of language, format and style, but a tough read in terms of the challenge it makes to the readers' personal discipleship commitment. It is also a significant challenge to pastors and elders of churches to change their community culture to disciple making and sending. In that way, it reminds me of David Platt's Radical and Radical Together.

Gaining By Loosing is a good read, and I recommend it for your consideration.
(I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but that does not influence my opinion. See my book review policy)

Friday, August 21, 2015

We Need Good News, Not Good Advice

News Before Advice by Darrin Patrick
The order is vital if you want to connect with God.
That’s why the disciples talked so much about the gospel, which means good news. In the Roman world, the word referred to the announcement of a new emperor taking the throne. Messengers would declare to all people that this new ruler would bring peace and freedom.
What was startling about their claim was the particular event they pointed to as good news.
That event was the death of Jesus on the Cross.
What looked on the surface like defeat was actually triumph. The Apostle Paul says that on the cross God provided forgiveness of sin “by canceling the record of debt” (Colossians 1:14). On the cross, Jesus reconciled fallen, sinful humans to a holy and just God.
Jesus did not simply come as a wise teacher, or visionary leader.
He came as a Savior and Redeemer.
Jesus did not simply offer proverbial wisdom or philosophical principles.
He offered himself as a Sacrifice.
This is why Christianity is something to be received, not achieved.
This is why Christianity is good news before it is ever good advice.
Whatever advice there may be is not about reaching up to God, but realizing God—through Jesus—has already reached down to us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Praying The Psalms

How to Pray through the Psalms adapted from Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney.
The Book of Praises
As a whole, the psalms comprise the best place in Scripture from which to pray Scripture. I base that on the original purpose for which God inspired the psalms. The book of Psalms—which means “book of praises” in Hebrew—was the songbook of Israel. The psalms were inspired by God for the purpose of being sung to God.
It is as though God said to his people, “I want you to praise me, but you don’t know how to praise me. I want you to praise me not because I’m an egomaniac but because you will praise that which you prize the most, and there is nothing of greater worth to you than I. There is nothing more praiseworthy than I, and it is a blessing for you to know that. It will lead to your eternal joy if you praise me above all others and above all else and to your eternal misery if you do not. But there’s a problem. You don’t know how to praise me, at least not in a way that’s fully true and pleasing to me. In fact, you know nothing about me unless I reveal it to you, for I am invisible to you. Therefore, since I want you to praise me, and it is good for you to praise me, but since you don’t know how to praise me, here are the words I want you to use.”
In other words, God gave the Psalms to us so that we would give the Psalms back to God. No other book of the Bible was inspired for that expressed purpose.
The “Psalms of the Day”
In light of this, I want to commend to you a systematic approach for praying a psalm each day. The approach did not originate with me, but I can’t recall where I first encountered the concept decades ago. It’s called “Psalms of the Day.” If you intend to pray through a psalm, using the Psalms of the Day approach helps you avoid thumbing through the middle of your Bible, randomly searching for a psalm that looks interesting. Too often, such an inconsistent process results in omitting many of the psalms. It also can slow your devotional momentum as you find yourself aimlessly meandering through chapters instead of praying.
With the Psalms of the Day you take thirty seconds or so to quickly scan five specific psalms and pick the one that best leads you to prayer on that occasion. It’s based on taking the 150 psalms and dividing them by thirty days (because most months have at least thirty days). That results in five psalms per day.
Or to put it another way, if you were to read five psalms a day for an entire month, at the end of the month you would have read through the entire book of Psalms. While reading five psalms a day is a great practice that many enjoy, that’s not what I’m advocating here. What I’m suggesting is that you take half a minute to quickly scan five psalms and pick one of those five to pray through.
If bringing math into prayer is making you skeptical, stay with me; I’ve created a simple, printable prayer guide that visually conveys all you’ll need to understand what I’m trying to describe.
Download my free Psalms of the Day Prayer Guide and start praying the Bible today!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Excerpted from Seven Signs That You Truly Believe God's Word Is Enough by Phil Newton
...No doubt, few of us would readily admit to neglecting to live and minister apart from the sufficiency of Scripture! Yet in practice, we sometime profess one thing while doing another. We say that we believe the Bible to be God’s infallible and inerrant Word, and that it is sufficient for life and practice. But our life and practice may prove otherwise. To help my own life and practice, and perhaps yours, too, let’s consider a few evidences that we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. I’m sure that we could add much more to this list, but I hope that it will serve as a starter to spur much more meditation on living in the sufficiency of God’s Word.
1. Theological Refinement
Rather than simply following tradition or preferences or the influence of power brokers or popular trends, one who depends on Scripture’s sufficiency will regularly test his understanding of God’s Word. He will be changed, sharpened, and refined theologically by proper interpretation of the Word (2 Tim 2:15). One sees this worked out in Apollos, who as an eloquent and mighty man in the Scriptures still lacked theological clarity concerning Christology. He relied on Scripture’s sufficiency, so gladly received the instruction of Priscilla and Aquila, finding himself sharpened for future ministry (Acts 18:24–26).
2. Bread and Life
Resting in the sufficiency of the Word can be found in one’s appetite. Instead of finding deepest satisfaction in other things, even good things, one who lives in the sufficiency of Scripture hungers for the Word as his bread and life. He grows in his understanding of what Jesus declared to the adversary, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). The Word is “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Psa 19:10).
3. Conviction and Correction
Instead of refusing to admit personal sin and areas of disobedience, when one lives in the sufficiency of Scripture, then he humbly bows and submits to the conviction and correction meted out by the Word. And it comes regularly! When Paul confronted Peter over his aloofness toward the Gentile believers in Antioch upon the Judaizers’ arrival, the issue at hand in Peter’s behavior was his failure to be “straightforward about the truth of the gospel.” How would Paul correct him? He relied on the sufficiency of the Word spoken to the notable apostle, to convict him and bring correction (Gal 2:11–14).
4. Direction and Discernment
In Scripture sufficiency, we turn to Scripture for direction, clarity, understanding, and discerning the times rather than simply following the popular notions of the day. When Paul visited Jerusalem with Barnabas, he took along Titus as somewhat of a test case concerning where the powers that be stood on the gospel. He sought to stand on the Scripture alone for his understanding of the gospel, and would not cower even to those in power if they swayed from it. Fortunately, he found satisfaction with them that they, as well, relied on the sufficiency of the gospel (Gal 2:1–10).
5. For Conversion
In the sufficiency of Scripture, we trust the power of the gospel read, talked about, discussed, and proclaimed for the conversion of the unbelieving. We refuse to resort to gimmicks, manipulation, easy-believism, or plucking unripe fruit in order to impress others. We believe that “the gospel... is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16–17). Spending several days with scores of Christian workers living among unreached people groups reinforced this truth. They rely on the power of the gospel and prevailing prayer—period—to see the conversion of the people for whom they weep for their salvation.
6. Praying
We pray Scripture, when we believe it to be sufficient, seeing its truth as the foundation for our prayers. As Don Whitney writes in his new book, Praying the Bible, “[T]he Spirit of God will use the Word of God to help the people of God pray increasingly according to the will of God” (37). We find the disciples doing this in Acts 4:24–30, as they asked the Lord for boldness to speak the gospel. They rooted their petition in God’s revelation of Himself as Creator and His Sovereign Lordship manifested in His Christ (Pss 146:6; 2:1).
7. Worship
When we live in the sufficiency of Scripture, we fill our worship with the truth of Scripture, believing that, as it has been well said, “When Scripture speaks, God speaks.” Merely appealing to emotions or entertainment or crowd-pleasing will not do when one is convinced of Scripture’s sufficiency. Instead, the believer will find that while reading privately and in the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim 4:13), the Word brings him into the presence of the Lord with expressions of praise, adoration, awe, and thanksgiving. The Word believed leads to worship.
I’ve only touched the surface of the characteristics of those relying upon the sufficiency of God’s Word. Keep adding to it in your own meditations. Let this brief look serve as a reminder that believing that Scripture is sufficient affects life and practice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Waiting For The Crush

Praying Through Romans 16:20 by Scotty Smith:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Dear heavenly Father, we praise, bless, and adore you for being the God of peace—the God who created a world in which all things were right, and the Redeemer who has committed to put all things right, once again. The peace that pervasively filled our first home—the Garden of Eden, one Day will inviolately permeate our eternal home—the new heaven and new earth. Hallelujah, that Day cannot arrive too soon!
Father, though our world (and country) increasingly repudiates your name and marginalizes your will—you reign, you rule, you rejoice. The nations conspire, and you laugh (Psalm 2). Maniacal men are no match for a merciful God. Though evil seems to be winning, by the work of Jesus, you have secured evil’s defeat and ultimate eradication. Jesus’ crushing on the cross (Isa. 53:10) was the crushing blow to the kingdom of darkness.
How then are we to live? Pensive and passive, worried and withdrawn, agitated and angry, as we wait for the Day of all things new? No, 10,000 times no! You bid us live well and love well, to your glory, confident of this good news: Satan will soon be crushed under our feet. Everywhere we place our feet will, one Day, be filled with the knowledge of your glory. Our labors in the Lord will never be in vain. Our loving for the Lord will never return void.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Therefore, Father, fill us with the grace of Jesus; transform us by the grace of Jesus; liberate us through the grace of Jesus; empower us with the grace of Jesus. May we be the best neighbors and workers, friends and servants in our communities—whether it brings praise or persecution, merriment or martyrdom, cheers or tears. So very Amen we pray, in the hope-laden, grace-full name of Jesus.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Creations

From Steve Brown:

You are a new creature in Christ. It's not an issue of reading the Bible more, praying more, witnessing more and being more accountable. It's not an issue of voting, dressing or behaving in a certain way. Being a new creation is simply being who you are without any sham or pretense. It's being the real deal.

Watch this video with Steve teaching from 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. Learn about three lies that most people believe, and the truth to counteract those lies. It really is all about grace.

Three Relationships

From Three Relationships Every Christian Needs by J. Lee Grady:
When Jesus began His ministry, He did not rent a coliseum for an evangelistic campaign, start a mailing list, or put billboards all over Jerusalem announcing His healing ministry. No, the first thing He did was assemble a group of close followers.
He called them His friends.
Mark 3:14 says Jesus appointed the Twelve "so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach." Notice that His relationship with them was not just about the work of ministry. He was not just calling followers to perform a task. He was not a foreman employing hired hands. He wanted their fellowship first—and then he would let them preach out of what they learned from Him.
Jesus is all about relationships. And He specifically told His disciples that He didn't want this relationship to be performance based. He said: "No longer do I call you slaves ... but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).
In many parts of the church we've forgotten about the essential need for fellowship and tried to build the church without it. We developed a sterile church model that is event-driven and celebrity-focused rather than genuinely relational.
We build theater-style buildings where crowds listen to one guy talk. The crowds are quickly whisked out of the sanctuary to make room for the next group. Many of these people never process with anyone else what they learned, never join a small group and never receive any form of one-on-one discipleship.
Because we lack relationships today, we have tried to fill the void with technology. We think if we can create a wow factor with cool video clips, 3-D sermons and edgy worship bands, the crowds will scream for more. I don't think so. Trendy can quickly become shallow.
I've had enough of this sterile religion. I've learned that ministry is not about getting big crowds, filling seats, tabulating response cards or eliciting raucous applause. It's not about running on the church-growth treadmill. Religion that focuses on externals cannot produce life. If our faith does not flow out of relationship with God, and result in deep relationships with others, then it is a poor imitation of New Testament Christianity.
Do you need to go deeper in your relationships? I tell Christians all over the world that they need three kinds of relationships in their lives, apart from family relationships:
1. "Pauls" are spiritual fathers and mothers you trust. All of us need older, wiser Christians who can guide us, pray for us and offer counsel. My mentors have encouraged me when I wanted to quit, and propelled me forward when I lost sight of God's promises. In the journey of faith, you do not have to feel your way in the dark. God gave Ruth a Naomi, Joshua a Moses and Esther a Mordecai. You can ask the Lord for a mentor to help guide and coach you.
2. "Barnabases" are spiritual peers who are close, bosom friends. They know everything about you, yet they love you anyway. They are also willing to correct you, bluntly if necessary! They provide accountability in areas of personal temptation. They offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. And they will stay up all night praying for you when you face a crisis.
Everybody should know the benefit of Proverbs 18:24: "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." But you cannot find faithful friends without seeking to be one first. Don't wait for your Barnabas to come to you—go and find him.
3. "Timothys" are the younger Christians you are helping to grow. Jesus never told us to assemble crowds, but He did command us to make disciples. Relational discipleship takes a lot of time and energy, but investing your life in others is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life. Once you have poured your life into another brother or sister and watched them mature in Christ, you will never settle for superficial religion again.
Like Paul, we must go out and find our Timothys. We must invest in them personally. It's not about preaching to them; they want a relationship with us that is genuine. They want spiritual moms and dads who are approachable, accepting, affirming and empowering. If we don't mentor them now, there won't be anyone running alongside us when it's time to pass our baton.
The Christian life is a vibrant, love relationship with God—but it doesn't end there. I pray you will open your heart and invest in the people around you.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sacred Living

Taken from an Ann Voskamp post on marriage, but applicable to all of life
When you realize something is “sacred,” far from making it boring — it gives birth to a new awe, a new reverence, a take-your-breath away realization that something you’ve perhaps taken for granted is far more profound, far more powerful, far more life-giving and life-transforming than perhaps you’ve ever realized.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Prayer for De-Clutered Lives

From Scotty Ward Smith- A Prayer For De-Cluttered Lives
Dear Lord Jesus, a little work in my attic and garage, closet and drawers this week made these words of yours start blinking at me like a bright neon sign on a dark night—unavoidable. Where did all of this stuff come from? Clutter is like zucchini; it just seems to keep spreading and multiplying. How did I accumulate all these things? Once a “treasure,” now most of these things are just a bother.
But, Jesus, what concerns me far more than my attic and garage, are my mind and heart. The older I get, the less storage space there is; and I don’t want to finish my journey into eternity with a distracted mind and a cluttered heart. So Lord, help me de-clutter and re-center on you. I want to live more like Mary in a Martha world (Luke 10:38-42). In a world of multiple distractions, I want to finish my days with one great consuming affection, Lord Jesus—making and keeping you my treasure.
I love you because you first loved me; and I’ll treasure you, to the extent I really believe you treasure us (and me), as your beloved Bride and eternal inheritance. So by the Holy Spirit, once again, rearrange the price tags in my heart, Jesus. Once again, let my uncluttered spirit and re-centered heart say, “I consider all things rubbish compared to the surpassing excellency of knowing Jesus” (Phil. 3:7-10).
Once again, let my relationships and schedule, attic and garage demonstrate my delight in you, and desire for you. Jesus, I am so glad that you love me the same, with or without my clutter; but I know I will love you much better with much less clutter. So very Amen I pray, in your triumphant and tender name.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Joyful Awareness

The Goal of Prayer by Pete Wilson:
For most of my life, I’ve viewed prayer as a compartmentalized, spiritual activity. I go from praying, to working, to praying, to spending time with friends, and so on. If that’s how you view your prayer life, where prayer is separate from all other aspects of your life, I think your goal should be to get to a place where praying is almost like breathing.
Scripture mentions this idea of prayer becoming like breathing in a couple of different places throughout the Bible –
Luke 18:1 Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit on all occasions…always keep on praying.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray continually.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be times when you and God have your focused quiet time, but you want to get to this place where prayer becomes a flow and a part of your life where you’re communicating with God constantly, in every activity throughout the day.
I love how John Ortberg put this, “The goal of prayer is not to get good at praying. The goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God.”

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Hope of Those Past Hope

O Lord,
the Helper of the helpless,
the Hope of those who are past hope,
the Savior of the tempest-tossed,
the Harbor of the voyagers,
the Physician of the sick…
You know each soul and our prayer,
each home and its need.
Become to each one of us what we most dearly require,
receiving us all into your kingdom,
making us children of light,
and pour on us your peace and love,
O Lord our God.
– Basil the Great
HT:  Trevin Wax

Abortion Is the Anti-Gospel

From Abortion is the Anti-Gospel by Daniel Ritchie at Desiring God:
....While the gospel reveals a Savior who lays down his life for those who ran from him, abortion reveals humans extinguishing a life we were meant to love and protect. As you scan the pages of Scripture, it is clear that abortion is the anti-gospel.

Abortion says,
  • Unborn babies have value only as expendable commodities.
  • Each baby is only a clump of tissue, devoid of any purpose or life.
  • There’s not a place for you in my plan right now.
  • Disability limits a chance at any manner of a quality of life.
But the gospel says,
  • We have tremendous value as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27).
  • Each one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
  • We have lovingly “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
  • God’s glory and grace shine even, and especially, in those with physical limitations or weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Abortion is an assault on the image, character, grace, gospel, and glory of God. For the Christian to see it as anything less than that is to reject a biblical view of God’s gospel and God’s glory....
Read more at the link.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Present In Suffering

'We must rest in the sufficiency of Christ’s sufferings for us before we can even begin to suffer like him. If we know he loves us unconditionally, despite our flaws, then we know he is present with us and working in our lives in times of pain and sorrow. And we can know that he is not merely close to us, but he is indwelling, and that since we are members of his body, he senses our sufferings as his own (cf. Acts 9: 4; Col 1: 24.)"

- Tim Keller

Friday, August 7, 2015

In A Nutshell

"Christianity is a way that says if you come to Jesus Christ, even if you aren’t good and decent, even if you aren’t wonderful, and even if you don’t have a good record, anybody through Christ can find God. Somebody says, ‘How can that be?’ Let me just put the gospel in a nutshell: because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died a perfect death, now God treats you, when you believe in Christ, as if you have done everything Jesus has done and you have suffered everything Jesus has suffered. God treats believing sinners as if they had done everything Jesus has done and suffered everything Jesus has suffered.

That means when you believe in Christ you’re adopted not on the basis of your record, but on his record. You’re adopted into the family and treated as if you’d accomplished everything he’s accomplished. That’s the gospel. Somebody says, ‘It’s too easy.’ I don’t know how many times people have said, ‘That’s just too easy. You mean you just receive it?’ Yeah, but you have to receive it through repentance, and that’s what’s not easy at all. The only way to get to that peace is through paying the pain of repentance. In other words, all you need is nothing, but most people don’t have that."

Tim Keller

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rescued From Ourselves

"The shaking of American Christianity is no sign that God has given up on American Christianity. In fact, it may be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself."

True and Better

I've shared this before, but it is so good it's worth sharing again!

True & Better from Peter Artemenko on Vimeo.
Audio by Tim Keller -
Animation by Pete Artemenko -
MP4 Download -

"Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you—it’s about him."


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pre-Christian America

“The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynistic, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be managing an abortion clinic right now. The next Mother Teresa might be a heroin-addicted porn star right now. The next Augustine of Hippo might be a sexually promiscuous cult member right now, just like, come to think of it, the first Augustine of Hippo was....” 
“.....It may be that America is not ‘post-Christian’ at all. It may be that America is instead pre-Christian, a land that though often Christ-haunted has never known the power of the gospel, yet.” 
- Dr. Russell More,  Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, pages 215, 218

HT: Gospel Coalition

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath,
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed.
Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s such a temporary art.
And dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.
– Calvin Miller, The Divine Symphony (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2000), 139.