Friday, June 29, 2012


Scotty Smith post:  A Prayer for Those of Us Too Easily Annoyed

Fools show their annoyance at once. Prov. 12:16 
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.Prov. 29:11
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evilPs. 37:8
     Dear Lord Jesus, of all the prayer-worthy things I can think of, “annoyance” has never made it onto my supplication list until now. Through the pastoral pestering of your Spirit, I see and grieve that I’m too easily annoyed. Have mercy on me, Prince of Peace. Free my foolish, fretful, fitful spirit. How can I possibly reveal the magnificence of the gospel when I’m showcasing the arrogance of my annoyance?
     I’m annoyed by the guy who races me when two lanes are becoming one. I’m annoyed when the bar code reading machines in the self-checkout lanes can’t read my items. I’m annoyed when the gas pump trickles way too slowly. I’m annoyed by waiters who fish for a bigger tip. I’m annoyed by fish that won’t bite. I’m annoyed by humidity when I want to jog.
     I’m annoyed by low talkers and over talkers. I’m annoyed at people easily annoyed. I’m annoyed when there’s not enough milk for a late-night bowl of cereal. I’m annoyed when I have to repeat myself. I’m annoyed at whiners, so much that I start whining. I’m annoyed at people preening in front of mirrors at the YMCA, as though I never peek. I’m annoyed when people use way too many words and way too big of words to say something very simple, as though that’s not me.
     I’m annoyed at ever having to wait in line for anything. I’m annoyed by the color orange. I’m annoyed at any box that has the words “requires some assembly” written on it. Oh, Jesus, if only those were the only things that annoyed me!
     My prayer? Gentle my demanding, impatient heart with your kindness and grace. Grant me much quicker repentances. Help me to slow . . . way . . . down. Help me to live in the moment and not simply live to get somewhere on time or get something done. Let me see people with your eyes and respond to them with your heart.
     There are no ordinary people around me. Everybody matters. Everybody has stories of heartache, foolishness, fear, and longing, just like me. Jesus, thank you that you died for all of my sins, including my “annoyability.” I love being loved by you, Lord Jesus. I have no greater hope than knowing one day I will be as lovely as you and will love like you forever (1 Jn.3:1-1). So very Amen I pray, in your gracious and patient name.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Celebrity Preachers

Practical Theology for Women post:  Spiritual Formation and Celebrity Pastors

I don't believe in Christian hero worship, but if I did, Tim Keller would be the pastor on which I'd focus. I love John Piper and D. A. Carson too. I've learned a LOT from those guys. But I've been particularly affected by Tim Keller's books (Generous Justice in particular) and ministry (my pastor interned under Keller, and I have grown tons through his gospel-centered preaching). I respect Keller's ability to speak truth to a culture that conservatives tend to offend often not by our truth, but by our ignorant way of presenting that truth. Keller has modeled for me a way to engage an educated, agnostic culture so that if they take offense, they take it over THE stumbling block of Christ Himself and not lesser issues that were never meant to be stumbling blocks.

All that to say, it is noteworthy to me that Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City where Tim Keller preaches is moving to a decentralized preaching model. From their blog last week-- 
“In North America, we have an unhealthy fascination with celebrity preachers. Building a church (or a movement) around a celebrity pastor/preacher has inherent dangers and gives rise to certain problems.”
Al Barth goes on to note several problems in congregations centered around celebrity preachers. It all goes to spiritual formation – that nebulous but real idea of how our discipleship practices affect the whole person. My pastor noted that by deliberately engaging in the practice of not demanding a celebrity preacher in order for worship to be valid, Redeemer Presbyterian will be spiritually forming the people there in a much stronger way. Allowing celebrity preachers to become the focus of worship is a practice that actively shapes people in the wrong way. 

I've watched this phenomenon personally. A congregation has multiple teaching pastors, but one seems a more gifted speaker. Gradually, the congregation of a multi venue church starts to overwhelm the services featuring the gifted speaker. Then expediency takes over. If the congregants are flocking to hear the gifted speaker, then it makes sense to have the gifted speaker speak more often and/or in the largest venue. At some point, spiritual formation suffers. People are formed, but they are in many ways spiritually DEformed, equating external performance for internal character in a preacher.

I'm not saying that gifted speakers are not used to accomplish good things spiritually in the lives of the listeners. And I am not saying that the average church with a single teaching pastor is doing it wrong. Not at all. But I am noting the problem in spiritual formation when a church changes its core values or makes major adjustments to accommodate a congregation's unusual affinity for a certain speaking style to the detriment of other teachers or ministries. Paul's warning in 2 Timothy 4:3 about itching ears is noteworthy. When we demand a gifted teacher's talent for wording things over the substance of the sermon, when we flock to entertaining speakers when others speak the same truth though maybe in a duller way, we lose something of real value in terms of discipleship and worship.

I'm thankful that in my own church our pastors rotate, and I can count on being similarly spiritually formed despite their variety of speaking styles. It's real worship no matter who speaks, and the purposes and blessings of Sabbath worship are accomplished regardless. I am hopeful that these changes at Redeemer will be a solid model for other congregations struggling with such issues. 

Excited to be Taught Well

Jen Wilkin post:  my take-away from TGCW12

I had the privilege of spending last weekend in Orlando at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference with over 3500 women. It was a marathon of speakers and workshops, punctuated by coffee breaks and quick calls home to check in with loved ones. I knew why I had come: last summer I sat transfixed at my computer as Kathleen Nielson spoke about her hope for the conference, and about the need for sound teaching by women to women. I heard her saying exactly what I had been saying for ten years, and I sat there and sobbed. Then I blew my nose and started saving my pennies. As a retreat speaker, I don’t look for extra opportunities to spend a weekend away from my family with an accumulation of women, but there was no way I was missing this.

Were the speakers edifying? Absolutely. Were the seminars informative? Yes. But the image that stays with me from last weekend is this: young women, hordes of them, some still in their work clothes, some with strollers, some eight months pregnant, some with that look a girl gets when she knows her family is probably eating Cheerios and Skittles for dinner and she.just.doesn’ for the next forty-eight hours. Some of them from a thousand miles away. All of them out-of-their-minds excited to be taught, and taught well.

Do you know why I cried at my computer last summer? I cried because I want to end the crisis of biblical illiteracy in the church. I cried because I am determined to rescue a generation of young women from a faith grounded only in the shifting sands of emotionalism. I cried out of sheer relief that I wasn’t alone in my hope that things can change.

For too long women of belief have been the willing recipients of gender-specific teaching that patronizes their intellect and panders to their emotions. For too long churches have neglected to raise the bar, settling for a ministry model that is content to connect women in relationships without challenging them to deeper understanding of the Word. For forty-eight hours this weekend I got to hear influential voices raise a cry for a different standard. For forty-eight hours I got to entertain the very real possibility that the tide could turn.

Do you know how hard it is for the average woman to get away for the weekend? And they came by the thousands. There were many messages worth pondering at the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference of 2012. The one written plainest on my heart is this:  “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” May the workers be many. May we ask this in His Name.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Power of Christ

Stuart Townend and Keith Getty's song "In Christ Alone" being performed by The Getty's.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Gospel Approach to Marriage

Tullian Tchividjian post:  Dating Your Wife?

I was walking down a street in New York City last year when my good friend Justin Buzzard called to tell me that he was writing a book (in his exact words) on “how to date your wife.” Somewhat taken aback, I stopped walking and said, “Your writing a book on how to date my wife?” He laughed and assured me that it wasn’t my wife he was trying to date. Rather, he explained that he was writing a book to help men think about how the gospel empowers them to be the romantic leaders in their marriages.
I know, I know. Why do we need another book on marriage? Why do we need another guy telling us already-struggling husbands what we’re not doing well? Telling me to do more and try harder only makes me want to do and try less. Been there, done that. Give me a break!
Ahh, but this is the genius of Justin’s book: he understands and clearly articulates the radical difference between a religious approach to marriage and a gospel approach to marriage.
A religious approach to marriage is the idea that if we work hard enough at something, we can earn the acceptance, approval, and life we think we deserve because of our obedient performance. Justin rightly points out that religion governs how most of us approach God and our wives: “If we live as a basically good person, we can earn God’s favor and get the decent life we deserve. If we stay committed to our wives and don’t go anywhere, God will give us a decent marriage with decent sex in a decent American town with a decent church down the street.” In other words, in arguing for becoming the romantic leaders of our marriages, Justin argues against a guilt-driven, performance-oriented, approval-seeking, “do more, try harder”, approach to marriage.
Instead, he argues for a gospel-empowered approach to marriage. Justin writes, “A man comes alive when he finally feels in his guts that religion can’t fuel his life or his marriage, when he makes the painfully sweet discovery that there is only one fuel source can get the engine running again: Grace.” Right on! See, I told you he “gets it.” He understands that since we already have all of the affection, approval, and favor we could possibly crave in Christ, we are now free to love our wives without fear or reservation.
Sadly, the fear that our love will not be reciprocated is something that paralyzes many of our marriages. It prevents husbands from loving their wives “as Christ loved the church.” We come to this conclusion: I will love you only to the degree that you love me. It’s an attitude that enslaves us. But the gospel frees us from that.
I enjoy receiving love from my wife. I’m ecstatic when Kim loves me and expresses affection toward me. Something in me comes alive when she does that. But I’ve learned this freeing truth: I don’t need that love, because in Jesus, I receive all the love I need. This in turn liberates me to love her without apprehension or condition. I get to revel in her enjoyment of my love without needing anything from her in return. I get love from Jesus so that I can give love to her.
This is what Justin is talking about. The gospel sets us free to become the romantic leaders of our marriages without fright or hesitation. Because we have been forever wooed by Jesus, we are now free to forever woo our wives.
This small book is biblically sound, theologically rich, sensitively illustrated, and profoundly practical. If you read it prayerfully, God will show you his heart for you which will in turn enlarge your heart for your wife.
Read it. It’s good. It’s really good.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Joy of Loving Jesus

Trevin Wax post:  “The Idea of Evangelism Makes Me Uncomfortable”

I often meet Christians who are uncomfortable with the idea of evangelism. Whenever I dig down to the root of the discomfort, I encounter issues related to the nature of truth, what it means to follow Jesus, and the role of worship. Here’s a fictional example of how this kind of conversation usually goes…
Christian: I know we’re supposed to tell people about Jesus, but I don’t like the idea of pressing someone to come to my way of thinking. When I talk to people of other faiths, I don’t want to come across looking like I think my religion is better than theirs.
Evangelist: But even when you don’t try to persuade someone to become a Christian, you still think your religion is better, don’t you?
Christian: How is that?
Evangelist: The very fact that you’re a Christian means you must think Christianity is superior to other religions. If you don’t think Christianity is better than Buddhism in any way, then why are you a Christian? And the reverse is true too. If you’re talking to a Buddhist, for example, surely they would think Buddhism to be superior. If you don’t think your religion is best, why not convert to whatever religion is best? You should always be kind and civil, but make no mistake… Both of you think you’re right and both of you think the other is wrong.
Christian: So it’s okay to believe Christianity is superior?
Evangelist: There’s a difference between believing your religion is superior and having a superior attitude.
Christian: The minute you think your faith is better than someone else’s, you start down the path of having a superior attitude.
Evangelist: Sometimes. But what’s the alternative?
Christian: What if we said no religion is superior? What if we said all religions are on equal footing?
Evangelist: Believing no religion is better than another is itself a belief. You don’t lose the attitude of superiority by saying no religion is superior. You get even more reason to feel superior. Now you’re standing over against all the religions of the world, saying none is better than another.
Christian: I guess when it comes down to it, there’s no way around it. I do think Christianity is better. But evangelism still doesn’t sit well with me.
Evangelist: That’s because you’re thinking of Christianity as if it’s a preference. Like having a favorite color or something. Trying to push your favorite color on someone else would make anyone uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, we don’t believe the gospel because it’s helpful. Or because it’s prettier. Or because it’s our upbringing. We believe the gospel because it’s true. Not just a preference, but true. Truth about the way the world works.
Christian: I still think we look bad when we tell people they should become Christians.
Evangelist: Then what do we do with the Jesus’ final instructions? “Go and make disciples of all nations.” What do we do with Jesus’ prediction that the world would hate those who follow Him? What do we do with Jesus saying His disciples would be fishers of men?
Christian: But it seems so arrogant to proselytize.
Evangelist: We don’t proselytize. We evangelize. Proselytism is about getting someone to change from one religion to another. Evangelism is proclaiming the evangel – the gospel. It’s an announcement about the way the world is. Then we call people to bring their lives in line with that reality.
Christian: But it still seems arrogant.
Evangelist: Frankly, I think it’s more arrogant to be against evangelism. Whoever says we should just keep our faith to ourselves and not evangelize – they’re really saying we ought to follow their instructions and not King Jesus. That is the height of arrogance, if you ask me.
Christian: So I guess we ought to just grit our teeth and do evangelism because Jesus said so.
Evangelist: No, not at all. You see, failure to evangelize is a worship problem. The New Testament picture of evangelism is not that we share Jesus with gritted teeth. It’s a picture of lips and hearts overflowing with worship. Whenever you are completely taken with something or someone, you can’t help but talk about it. Love can’t stop talking about the beloved. Fix the worship problem, and evangelism starts coming naturally. So remember, we evangelize because the gospel is true and eternity hangs in the balance. But most importantly, we evangelize because we love Jesus and want others to know the joy of loving Jesus too.

Coming to the end of ourselves

Ray Ortlund post:  Trusting God is not easy

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”  Isaiah 40:31
Trusting God is not comfortable.  It doesn’t belong in a Hallmark card picture — a colorful valley, a quaint village, a church steeple, with a sentimental slogan.  Trusting God can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful.
Rabbi David Kimchi, one of the early Hebrew lexicographers, defined the verb “wait” inIsaiah 40:31 with reference to the medieval German verb for “twist.”  That is, waiting on the Lord can involve tension and pressure and stress.  How could it be otherwise?  Waitingis pent-up irresolution.  It is not easy to wait trustingly for the Lord:
“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, . . . so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.”  Psalm 123:2
“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”  Psalm 130:6
“I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”  Psalm 143:6
My point is this.  You may be going through hell right now.  You may be bewildered, gasping, frightened.  But that doesn’t mean you aren’t trusting God.  It might mean you aretrusting God.
Isaiah really understood something.  He understood that it’s in this tension that our strength is renewed.  How so?  There is something about coming to the end of ourselves and our own strength and wisdom — that’s when our hearts finally crack open, and the love of God pours in.
When we have nothing of our own left, when nothing will suffice but that which is directly and immediately of God, that’s when God alone is our sufficiency, and we find him to be so.  He’s worth the wait.

Remaining Silent

Kevin DeYoung post:  Silent Suffering

Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos
Maybe one of the most unique things about the Christian life is the call to suffer (Matthew 10:3816:2Romans 8:17Philippians 1:29). If anything was ever countercultural this is surely it! And maybe one of the hardest things about the Christian life is a willingness to endure that suffering silently. Don’t misunderstand me. There are surely times that we are not to endure suffering silently. The most obvious example is when the Gospel is at stake. But those times seem to be rare and far between. Usually our suffering for the sake of Christ does not call for us to add our voice to the cacophony.
However, when we are being persecuted or falsely accused by others our first inclination is typically to offer a defense. And why is that? Because our true concern in most of these cases is not the Gospel, nor Christ, nor even His Church—though those may be secondary concerns—our real concern is what others will think of us and the desire to be vindicated.
The rationalizing comes fast, “I cannot allow error to triumph over truth,” “My reputation is at stake,” “It will hamper my future ministry or current relationships,” “Surely I am to suffer but that does not mean being a doormat,” etc. However, at times does it not seem wise to follow the lead of our Lord and suffer silently (Isaiah 53:71 Peter 2:23-24)? It is not easy, but often it is the most righteous and holy course to take. As Peter says, in so doing we are following in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21ff). Here are a few things to remind yourself as you seek to suffer silently unto the glory of God.
I have the opportunity to…
  • look to Christ who suffered silently (Isaiah 53:7)
  • become more like Christ as I endure suffering (1 Peter 2:21)
  • and privilege of suffering with Christ (1 Peter 4:13)
  • complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24)
  • to be tested by fire, so the genuineness of my faith will shine to the glory and honor of Christ (1 Peter 1:7)
  • remind myself that the Great Judge knows what is true (Matthew 12:36)
  • suffer with Him—knowing that as I do, I shall be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17)
  • suffer as it is a gracious thing in the sight of God (1 Peter 2:20)
  • suffer as it is a blessing and a sign that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon me (1 Peter 4:14)
  • be reminded that my current suffering is nothing compared to the glory that awaits (1 Peter 5:10)
  • truly love my enemies (Matthew 5:44)
  • know more fully the extent of Christ’s love towards me (Ephesians 3:14ff)
  • learn afresh how dependent I am upon Christ (John 15:5)
  • be identified with Christ (John 15:18ff)
  • test my desire for God’s glory rather than man’s approval (Isaiah 51:7-8)
Fear of man must not silence you when you should speak. But neither should it lead you to speak when you should not. And suffering for the sake of Christ often means remaining silent in the midst of that suffering. It is hard and bitter. But as our minds are gripped by these truths, that which is hard and bitter can at the same time be sweet and easy to digest.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Will Be There

Ray Ortlund post:  They will come dancing

“If the church is what it should be, young people will be there.  But they will not just ‘be there’ – they will be there with the blowing of horns and the clashing of high-sounding cymbals, and they will come dancing with flowers in their hair.”
Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, 1970), page 107.

Encourage One Another

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer Celebrating Our Unbreakable Glorious Appointment

     For God has not appointed us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:9-11 
     Merciful Father, there are some appointments I dread like the black plague, others I tolerate like slow traffic, a few I simply forget, and others I celebrate as the highlight of my week. But there is one appointment in the “Book” that I’m looking forward to with mounting joy and with exponential gratitude.
     In your sovereign grace and quintessential kindness, you’ve booked me for the day of salvation in Jesus. You have counted me among those upon whom you have set your eternal affections in Christ. You’ve guaranteed that come “hell or high water,” I am yours, now and forever. The salvation you generated within me, and in each of your children, will be brought to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. That’s a covenantal commitment… the most redemptive reservation… an inviolate appointment you’ve made, signed and sealed with the indelible grace of the gospel—the blood of the Lamb. Hallelujah, several times over!
     Jesus, I praise you for your tender mercies and measureless sacrifice. For you gladly took the appointment of wrath on the cross—sustaining the judgment we deserve, enduring the suffering for our sins, paying the penalty we owe. And you did it all so that whether we are “awake or asleep”—alive or dead—we might be with you.
     That you actually want us and want us to be with you is overwhelming. Indeed, this is love, not that we loved you, but that you first loved us and gave yourself as a sacrifice of atonement and propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). What a rich and full standing in grace we enjoy.
     In light of this good news and this unbreakable appointment, please use me as a source of encouragement in the lives of my brothers and sisters this very day. By the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, make it obvious to me who needs a call, a note, a face-to-face visit, a word of hope, earnest prayer for very present struggles, doubts, and fears. So very Amen I pray in your kind and compassionate name.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Celebrate Pentecost

Trevin Wax post:  The Gospel of the Holy Spirit

How important is the Holy Spirit in your understanding of the gospel?
Too many evangelicals see the good news that we are saved from sin and from God’s wrath and stop there. We forget that we are saved for a relationship with God (to know Him and love Him) and for His mission (His redeeming work to seek and save the lost). And it’s the Holy Spirit that enables that relationship and empowers us for mission.
Old Testament Promises
We don’t have to search the Scriptures very far to see that just as Jesus was foreshadowed and prophesied in the Old Testament, so was the Holy Spirit’s coming.
Take for example the prophecy of Jeremiah, in chapter 31. We love the phrase in verse 34, where God says:
For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.
Glory to God for His purposeful forgetfulness!
Isn’t that the beauty of the gospel? We purposefully remember the truth that God purposefully forgets? That’s what the Lord’s Supper is all about. We commit to memory God’s commitment to forgetfulness. To never bring up our sins again.
But note the promise that comes just before that verse:
They will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them.
And just before that:
I will place My law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
See the context? It’s not just forgiveness of sins. It’s new hearts resulting in a restored relationship.
Or consider Ezekiel 36. Here’s the promise we receive from the Lord in verse 25:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols.
What a glorious promise! To be cleansed of sin and delivered from idolatry. But that’s only half of what God promises through the prophet Ezekiel. Verse 26:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.
In other words, not only will God wipe away our sins, He will give us His Spirit, restore our relationship with Him, and enable us to obey. The promise of the gospel is not only that we are forgiven, but that we are made new.
New Testament Fulfillment
With the Old Testament promises in the background, it’s no wonder that in his sermon at Pentecost, Peter moved from proclamation of Jesus to proclamation of the promise of the Spirit?
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness of sins is only half of the promise. When we repent and believe, God doesn’t just clean up a bad heart; through the Spirit, He gives us a new heart. It’s not that God does open-heart surgery. He gives us a heart transplant!
God doesn’t just wipe the slate clean of our disobedience; He indwells us so that we will long for obedience. He doesn’t just offer His forgiveness; He offers Himself – in relationship to us.
Pentecost as a Turning Point
Acts 2 records a turning point in the history of the world.
My wife (who is Romanian) has gotten me scratching my head about why we don’t celebrate Pentecost in non-liturgical churches in the U.S. The Baptists and Pentecostals in Romania would take an entire weekend every year, 50 days after Easter, to celebrate the coming of the Spirit. Her quip was: It seems weird that churches in the U.S. will celebrate the birth of their country in church but not the birth of the church.
I believe this is a significant oversight. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday are not the end of God’s mighty works in salvation history. Pentecost is absolutely essential for you to live the Christian life. Just as in the days of Peter, the Spirit of God pierces us to the heart when we hear the gospel message. Thank God for the scalpel of the Spirit! He is the One who fills us, who uses us, who works through us, who convicts us.
We believe in a God who keeps His promises. He promised the Spirit and He kept His promise. That’s good news!
(For more along these lines, I recommend the first chapter of Darrell Bock’s book,Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News as well as the chapter on Pentecost in Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement and Malcolm Yarnell’s contribution on the Holy Spirit in A Theology for the Church.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Art, Story and Gospel

My All

Ray Ortlund post:  Longing to go home

“I must have the Savior indeed, for he is my All.  All that others have in the world and in religion and in themselves I have in thee — pleasures, riches, safety, honor, life, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, bliss, joy, gaiety and happiness . . . . If a child longs for his father, a traveller for the end of his journey, a workman to finish his work, a prisoner for liberty, an heir for the full possession of his estate, so in all these respects I cannot help longing to go home.”
Howell Harris, quoted in D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans (Edinburgh, 1987), page 300.

He Alone

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

God's Faithfulness

Tullian Tchividjian post:  Discipleship Depends on God

The central reality for Christians is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment that God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God’s faithfulness. We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasm.
- Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 128-129

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Speak for Themselves

Henri Nouwen Society post:  The Fruit of the Spirit

How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us?  Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God.  This idea can make us very self-conscious.  We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God's presence in their lives.  But this explicit missionary endeavour often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.  

The way God's Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits:  "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).  These fruits speak for themselves.  It is therefore always better to raise the question "How can I grow in the Spirit?"  than the question  "How can I make othersbelieve in the Spirit?"

Monday, June 18, 2012


Scotty Smith:  A Prayer for Bringing God Glory with Our Mouths

     Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Eph. 4:29-30 
     Glorious Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I praise you for the incalculable riches of redemption you’ve lavished on us in the gospel. Father, for planning such a stunning salvation; Jesus, for accomplishing all things necessary for our complete salvation; Holy Spirit, for faithfully applying the work of Jesus to us. I wish I had adequate words to express my gratitude, but my words fail me.
     That being said, I don’t want my words to fail you, gracious God. You spoke the Word which gave life to my dead spirit—giving me both the will and the wherewithal to believe the gospel. Forgive me when I speak words, or even think words, which have the opposite effect on others, bringing discouragement, decay, even death. Forgive me for being a poor steward of the great gift of communication.
     Holy Spirit, you faithfully preach the gospel to my heart—incessantly telling me that I’m a beloved child of God, that Jesus is my righteousness, Advocate and Bridegroom. Continue to so fill my heart with the grace of Jesus that, like Balaam’s donkey, I cannot help but offer blessings to others. Train my heart and tongue in gospel-speak. Make me fluent in the vocabulary of heaven. Convict me quickly when my words are poorly chosen, or when they are intentionally hurtful, or when there are simply too many of them.
     You’ve sealed me for the day of redemption. I don’t want to sadden or grieve you by a foolish and hurtful misuse of words. I’m called to build up, not tear down. You study my needs and speak only helpful words to my heart. Educate me in the needs of my family and friends that I might likewise speak only words of encouragement and hope—even when that requires saying the hard things.
     Lord Jesus, I praise you for taking the Father’s word of final judgment on the cross, that I might hear him speak the words of constant welcome, acceptance and affection. So very Amen I pray, with a grateful heart, in your holy and loving name.


Tony Evans post:  My Faith:  How Jesus saved my dad and my family

Editor's Note: This article was adapted from “Kingdom Man” by Dr. Tony Evans, Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and president of The Urban Alternative.
By Tony Evans, Special to CNN
(CNN)–All I had ever known up until I was 10 years old was chaos in my home.
I was the oldest of four children and the atmosphere was volatile for all of us. My father and mother were in constant conflict, making divorce seem like the only possible outcome.
Having married young, they were still trying to figure out how to make life work. They often argued about how to handle finances, especially when there was little money to go around.
I could have ended up a casualty of a broken family, like so many of the kids around me in inner city Baltimore. But my life was forever changed the year I turned 10.
That was the year my dad turned to Jesus. He’d been invited to visit a nearby church for a special event. While there, two men asked him if he knew if he’d go to heaven when he died. He said he wasn't sure.
The men explained Christ’s sacrificial and all-encompassing atonement and, for the first time, my dad understood the path to salvation.
He didn’t just accept God’s salvation; he immediately became fired up about God and the Bible. He became an instant evangelist. Whenever my dad wasn't working, he’d take me along to pass out biblical tracts on street corners or in visits to the local prison.
If I went downstairs to get a glass of water late at night, I’d see Dad reading the Bible or praying on his knees. He had to do that when my mom wasn't watching.
My mom didn’t like my dad as a sinner, and she liked him even less as a saint. She did everything she could to make his life difficult. But my father did everything he could to show her love.
When my mom would start with him, he would stop what he was doing and start praying for her on the spot.
One night, my mom came down the stairs with tears in her eyes. My dad was reading his Bible.
She told him that she could not understand how the more she rejected him, was unkind to him and tried to prove that believing in God was wrong, the kinder he was to her and the more he invested in God’s word.
“I want what you have,” she said, “because it must be real.”
They got down on their knees and my dad led my mom to Christ. He led all of us kids to him too and modeled the value of making God the central focus in all that we did.
He held weekly Bible studies at our kitchen table and instilled a love for church in his kids. On the Wednesday nights that he had to work late, I would walk four miles to get to our church. Dad taught me to view all of life through a spiritual lens.
If my dad had not exhibited the courage to change, my home would have become another statistic. I would have ended up a casualty, and my own four children might have ended up casualties, too. It is common for children to end up as statistics when men do not accept their God-given responsibilities.
Forty percent of our children go to sleep at night with no dad at home, and the percentage is even higher among minority groups and in the inner city. Divorce is part of the problem, but many men father children without helping to raise them. They have become like the abominable snowman – their footprints are everywhere but they are nowhere to be found.
When fathers come home after a tough day at work, they should come home to serve, like my father did, teaching lessons around the dinner table and leading the family in worship and prayer.
For 35 years, my father had to lift heavy boxes as a longshoreman. But on Sunday mornings, even if he had to work all the night before, he'd wake us up. And I'd say, “But dad, I'm tired.”
He'd say, “No, son. I'm the one who’s tired. But we are going to church. Because for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Infinite Joy

Excerpt from Ed Stetzer post:  Subversive Kingdom: Secrets Revealed

The excerpt below is from my latest book Subversive Kingdom. You can now also follow the book on Twitter @LiveSubversive.

Yes, the kingdom of God has its secrets. But like everything else about the kingdom, Jesus doesn't deal with these the way most secrets are handled. He doesn't keep them to himself, hushing them into silence to keep from being overheard. Instead, he shares them generously and plentifully--even with his enemies--like seed thrown out by a farmer. They're not secrets because they're hidden; they're secrets because they're a mystery, shrouded to both the world and the disinterested religious, yet able to be grasped by any believer who's truly hungry to hear.
For too many and for too long, we've reduced Christianity to a moralistic philosophy of life--do this, go to church, don't do that. Yet it's so much more. The kingdom of God has broken and is breaking into the world. We have been transferred into it and made to be a part of its work. Yet many are satisfied with steeples and pews and songs to keep us happy, rather than being a part of the work of the kingdom.
Maybe it's just that we have become distracted. Our focus in church has become too much like a carousel, with lights and music that keep us upbeat but ultimately going around in a circle. Life in the kingdom is so much more. Yet many miss out. I've missed out.
I'm reminded of this statement by C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

So it is for us. We are far too easily pleased with religion rather than the reign of God. We are far too pleased with the comforts of the church rather than the work of God's kingdom. And in doing so, we are missing the blessing of being part of something that is so much more than a moralistic philosophy of life.
Lots of us have been there. We all know the feeling. But if you don't want to be looking the other way when God has kingdom plans for you, if you refuse to alter your religious calendar and connections in order to engage with people's true needs in culture, or if you're tired of being more at home in the sinful world than actively subverting it, then come back and be part of an underground movement to overthrow the oppressors of God's lost children.
It's no secret this is where you belong.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Liberating Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian post:  Hoping For A New Reformation

2009 changed everything for me. I went through a terribly painful church transition and the death of my father. C.S. Lewis said that pain is God’s megaphone to wake us up. During that season of ache, God woke me up to the size and scope of his amazing grace and I’ve never been the same. I learned that his grace is sufficient in brand new, bright, and liberating ways. I learned in my desperation just how big God’s deliverance truly is. I learned, at a functional level, that everything I need in Christ I already possess.
As I traveled and shared the message that Jesus + Nothing = Everything and that the gospel is the good news that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail; because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose–I always got two questions:
Is this true?
And if it is, why have I been in church my whole life and never heard this before?
I knew that I wasn’t saying anything new. It just seemed so new to so many because it had been lost for so long amidst a moralistic, narcissistic, “do more, try harder”, caricature of the Christian faith that has been prevalent for so long. What I kept hearing from people all over the world was that so many pulpits consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ and as a result many have been burdened by the false idea that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian. I knew something had to be done.
So…LIBERATE was born.
The mission of LIBERATE is to announce (and then announce again and again) the liberating word of the gospel to a wounded and worn out world, hoping that the burdened and burnt out, the Christian and the non-Christian, will hear and rest in the freedom that Jesus came, died, and lives to give. Through the demand of his law, God confronts and condemns people in their bondage and sin; through the declaration of his gospel, God comforts and forgives people with the liberating love of Jesus Christ. We want sufferers to hear these “two words” (law and gospel) so they can believe the promise that frees us from our past of guilt and shame; frees us from the present bondage of bitterness, insecurity, self-reliance, and fear; and frees us for the joy of worshiping God and serving our neighbor.
We plan to distribute this message through an annual conference (our first one was last February–you can read about it here), books, music, sermons, curriculum, and a very well-resourced website.
LIBERATE online is a collection of resources (sermons, blog posts, conference talks, testimonies, conversations, and more) that attempt to say one thing in fresh and diverse ways: Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18). My hope and prayer is that this website will be a place where you can hear and believe the good news that the God who rightly condemns sinners according to his law, liberates sinners with the forgiving love of his gospel. We pray that it becomes a catalytic platform for serious thinking about “a more radical gospel.”
Welcome to LIBERATE!
Help us spread the raging fire of freedom…