Sunday, June 30, 2013

Let God Be God

Don Carson:  Joshua 2; Psalms 123-125; Isaiah 62; Matthew 10

I ONCE HEARD A LEARNED SOCIOLOGIST, by confession an evangelical, explain with considerable erudition why even a major revival, should the Lord choose to send one to a country like America, could not possibly speedily transform the nation. The problem is not simply the degree of biblical illiteracy in the controlling echelons of society, or the extent to which secularization has penetrated the media, or the history of the Supreme Court decisions that have affected the curricula and textbooks of our schools, and countless other items, but also how these various developments interlock. Even if, say, a million people became Christians in a very short space of time, none of the interlocking social structures and cultural values would thereby be undone.
To be fair to this scholar, he was trying, in part, to steer us away from shallow thinking that fosters a glib view of religion and revival — as if a good revival would exempt us from the responsibility to think comprehensively and transform the culture.
The element that is most seriously lacking from this analysis, however, is the sheer sweep of God’s sovereignty. The analysis of this sociologist colleague is reductionistic. It is as if he thinks in largely naturalistic categories, but leaves a little corner for something fairly weak (though admittedly supernatural) like regeneration. Not for a moment am I suggesting that God does not normally work through means that follow the regularities of the structures God himself has created. But it is vital to insist that God is not ever limited to such regularities. Above all, the Bible repeatedly speaks of times when, on the one hand, he sends confusion or fear on whole nations, or, on the other, he so transforms people by writing his Law on their heart that they long to please him. We are dealing with a God who is not limited by the machinations of the media. He is quite capable of so intruding that in judgment or grace he sovereignly controls what people think.
As early as the Song of Moses and Miriam, God is praised for the way he sends fear among the nations along whose borders Israel must pass on the way to the Promised Land (Ex. 15:15-16). Indeed, God promises to do just that (Ex. 23:27), and promises the same for the Canaanites (Deut. 2:25). So it should not be surprising to find the evidence of it as the Israelites approach their first walled town (Josh. 2:8-11; cf. Josh. 5:1).
God may normally work through ordinary means. But he is not limited by them. That is why all the military muscle in the world cannot itself guarantee victory, and all the secularization, postmodernism, naturalism, and paganism in the world cannot by themselves prevent revival. Let God be God.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Instead, Immense in Mercy, Incredible Love

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Ephesians 2:1-6 [Message]

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Who Will Satisfy Your Heart?

Matt Smethurst post:  Can't Get No Satisfaction?

When it comes to sex and money, Paul Tripp remarks, our culture has gone crazy. And while so many are "talking about these things in ways that lack sanity, Christians are strangely silent." In this new video, Tripp sits down with Mark Mellinger to discuss the twin topics of his new book, Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies (Crossway, 2013).
Money and possessions, while important, must never be ultimate. "Of course money can purchase enjoyable things and bring temporary comfort and pleasure," Tripp admits. "But what it can't do is be your Savior." When we seek satisfaction in stuff, we're asking it to be something it was never meant to be.
Tripp also unpacks what he calls the "individualization of sex"—the assumption that sex exists for my fulfillment, my wants, my needs, my pleasure. But sex, Tripp explains, is designed to connect to the most significant things of life—worship, relationship, and obedience. "If it's about these things," he observes, "then it can't be about just me." It's vital, then, for Christ's people to hold up the beauty of Christ-honoring sexuality along with a loving warning that "disconnected" sex is as dangerous as it is distorted.
The fundamental problem, of course, is not pleasure; it's idolatry. As Tripp explains, "Creation is not meant to satisfy you. It's meant to be pleasurable so that you'd run after the ultimate Pleasure who will satisfy your heart—your Creator."

Love God and Love Our Neighbor

Trevin Wax:  Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) for the Church

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act serves as a boost to ongoing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation.
Christians believe marriage is defined by God and recognized by government. But many today believe marriage is defined by government and must be recognized by all.
For this reason, I’m not optimistic about the trends concerning marriage and family in the United States. Neither am I sure of what all this means for those who, in good conscience, stand against the tide.
But I am optimistic about the church of Jesus Christ. We’ve been through societal transformations before, and we’re sure to go through them again.
For example, the conversion of Constantine to Christianity in 313 A. D. was certainly good for the church. (We didn’t have to worry about being fed to the lions in the Coliseum anymore.) But many aspects of the church/state marriage turned out to be bad for the church. (True Christianity suffered under the weight of the state’s corrupting power.) Some see the positive aspects of that societal transformation as far outweighing the bad (Peter Leithart, for example), while others see the bad far outweighing the good (Stanley Hauerwas). The truth is, Constantine’s conversion was both good and bad for the church.
Now let’s turn to our society’s redefinition of marriage. If we truly believe Romans 8:28, that somehow, in some way, God is working all things for the good of those who love Him, then even when the culture swerves in an opposing direction, we ought to expect both benefits and challenges.
Here are some developments we can expect in the days ahead:
Riding on a bus last week, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He told me he worked for the government, was in his early twenties, and his wife was finishing her last year of college. Right away, I thought to myself: They must be Christians. Further conversation proved my hunch was right. How did I know? Easy. Few people get married when they’re in their early twenties and still in school. Couples either live together or postpone marriage until they’ve settled into a career. A 22-year-old with a ring on his finger might as well have been carrying a Bible.
Not long ago, a friend who lives in D.C. told me that whenever he sees a young father and mother pushing a stroller with a couple of kids, he immediately thinks, They must be Christians. Why? “There just aren’t a lot of intact families in our area. When you see one, you just assume they’re religious.”
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I recognize that traditional family values do not equal biblical Christianity. Plenty of folks from other religions see marriage as the cornerstone of civilization (including Mormons, orthodox Jews and Muslims).
But these two examples give us a window into the future of marriage and family in North America. The picture of a man and woman who wait until their wedding night to consummate their relationship and then remain committed for forty, fifty, even sixty years as they grow in their love for each other and raise their kids and enjoy their grandkids simply isn’t the norm anymore. It’s likely that churches will be one of the few places you’ll find people married more than 60 years.
The arrival of same-sex marriage is just the next train stop on a journey that began with the proliferation of birth control in the 1950′s and 1960′s. When pleasure and reproduction were divorced from a holistic understanding of sex, the idea that sexual expression and childrearing should be reserved for the committed relationship of a husband and wife began to disappear. Add the abortion culture of the 1970′s, the establishment of no-fault divorce, an increase in single moms and deadbeat dads, and the rise of reproductive technologies, and it’s no wonder that people today don’t think of marriage as a central institution for bringing new life into the world but instead as an emotional and sexual union of two partners.
The bad news: When you look at other countries that legalized same-sex marriage decades ago, you notice a dramatic reduction in the number of people getting married. In all likelihood, we will soon resemble our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world: we will stand out for being the very thing that our grandparents would have thought ordinary. One of God’s greatest gifts to us in common grace (the institution of marriage) will be disregarded, leading to a number of societal ills and further breakdown of the family.
The good news: In our churches, we have the opportunity to show the world a better way. To show the world what biblical manhood and womanhood looks like. To show the world the difference between a covenant and a contract. To show the world the difference between commitment based on feeling and a covenant based on faith.
The absence of a marriage culture will make biblical marriage stand out all the more. We’ll be ordinary oddballs. So let’s not waste the opportunity.
One of the concerns of the religious community about legalizing same-sex marriage is the potential threat to religious liberty.
The bad news: As the norm of marriage shifts, individual Christians will find themselves in situations where they face penalties for refusing to violate their conscience. We’ve already seen this take place when Christian caterers, for example, feel conflicted about taking part in a same-sex wedding. Threats to religious liberty are not good news for the church, because they cause us to spend time and energy in preserving “space” for us to live according to our religious convictions without fear of reprisal.
The good news: These threats may bring about in the church a much-needed change of mindset. It’s time we recognized we are no longer the “moral majority” and embrace our identity as the “missional minority.”
My friends in Great Britain and Romania tell me it’s a noble task to serve Christ when you are clearly in the minority. Though the challenges often seem insurmountable, God’s people have the opportunity to learn how to love those who oppose us, to serve and suffer under governmental or cultural bigotry, and face hatred with respect and kindness. So let’s recognize our minority status and learn to serve those who we’re called to show God’s love.
When it comes to churches and denominations, we will soon see who is truly tethered to the authority of God’s Word no matter what way the wind is blowing, and who is conforming to the pattern of this world. Churches that embrace the new definition of marriage will show themselves to be in step with contemporary society and radically out of step with the Christian Church for two thousand years.
The bad news: Being a convictional Christian (especially in matters related to sexuality, morality, and marriage) will likely mean the loss of cultural clout and respectability. We will pay a personal and social cost for our beliefs, and we need to be prepared.
The good news: Sociologist Rodney Stark has shown that one of the most powerful engines of early church growth was the fact that membership cost something. Why is this the case? For one, paying a social cost tends to screen out those who would fain religiosity in order to receive respect from society. Also, knowing you are the minority and may be ostracized for your views increases the level of commitment and participation of those who follow Christ.
The evangelical witness may be leaner in numbers in coming years, but the upside is that the witness may be even more potent. The gospel of God’s love in Christ is no less powerful in 21st century America than in 1st century Rome.

So, let’s love God, love our neighbors (even those with whom we respectfully disagree), and remember the good news that in God’s lawcourt, all who repent and believe in Christ have the verdict of “justified” pronounced over them. And there’s no court on earth that can overturn that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

If We Know Not Jesus, We Are Nothing

Jonathan Parnell post: The Boldness of Knowing Jesus 

The people of Jesus should know Jesus. That is the inescapable impression we get from reading the Book of Acts. We see it in the church’s boldness — that is, the church’s outspoken clarity about the identity and significance of Jesus.
This boldness actually hems up the entire story of Acts with its key appearances in Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2:29) and Paul’s concluding hospitality ministry (Acts 28:31), not to mention several mentions throughout the gospel’s advance (Acts 4:132931;9:27–2813:4614:318:262826:26). From start to finish, and everywhere in-between, we see that the life of the early church was consumed with Jesus. They knew him and were open about him. This is the boldness that characterized the church then and should characterize the church today. But how exactly?

Getting to the How

How do we live with this kind of clarity and outspokenness about Jesus? How do we live bold?
It has to do with knowing Jesus. I mean, really knowing Jesus, as if our lives depended on it. I think that’s what’s happening in the portrait we see from Acts. Back then, and here now, grasping the glory of Jesus isn’t an extracurricular activity to our discipleship, it is our discipleship. Who he is defines who we are. If we know anything, let us know him. For if we can convince our neighbors to vote like us, but we know not Jesus, we are just pushy religious people. And if we are well read, and understand the numerous pitfalls among the emerging millennial generation, and if our church has a podcast, so as to be heard, but we know not Jesus, we are nothing. Nothing. And the list could go on.
So then, let us know Jesus. Let us press on to know Jesus, theologically, biblically, personally.
What I hope to do in the rest of this post is sketch a vision for knowing Jesus like this, which implies two things I want to make clear. First, knowing Jesus like this is not the full experience of how I know him now. I have come to know Jesus (or rather be known by Jesus, Galatians 4:9), but I am not writing as an aged saint with decades of communion in my background. I am writing as a mere disciple with a vision — one who has tasted and seen Jesus’s goodness and who, by grace, has an appetite for more. So hear my words as aspiration and hope, not as experience and advice. I am writing as someone like you.
Second, this vision of living bold isn’t an over-romanticized view of the early church. The first-century Christians had their own troubles. And in fact, much of the theological truth we understand about Jesus today has come as the gold of yesterday’s doctrinal furnaces. This is not an exercise to “get back” so much as to step forward — to build upon the grace given to our forefathers in order to wait well now for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is vision. And every vision must navigate between the extremes of historical adulation and chronological snobbery. Only one has ever done it perfectly. We must live as faithfully as we know how for such a time as whenever it is. And an indispensable part of that in every generation of the church is to know Jesus. Here is a snapshot of what that might look like today.

To Know Jesus, Theologically

This is the nuts and bolts section. Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God. He is “begotten, not made,” the early creed said. He is of the same essence as the Father. He is the second person of the triune God — the one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, having neither persons blended nor essence divided. The person of the Father is distinct, the person of the Son another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one. Their glory is equal, their majesty coeternal. And it was through the Son — the uncreated, immeasurable, eternal Son — that all things were made. And it was him, who for us and our salvation, came down from heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit, became incarnate by the virgin Mary, and was made truly human. Fully God, fully man, one person with two natures — glorious hypostatic union. This is Jesus.
Do we know him like this? Over centuries, the church has pressed deep into biblical concepts to faithfully articulate the identity of Jesus and guard against error. Individuals and communities devoted their lives to this cause. Over against the encroaching tides of new thought-systems and complex philosophical cultures, orthodox doctrine has persevered. The truth has stood, and stands. And we should know it. The Athanasian Creed (from which much of the preceding paragraph borrows) claims that knowing Jesus theologically is a matter of life or death. To not keep the doctrine of the Trinity (including the doctrine of Christ) means you will “doubtless perish eternally.” Again, this is not extracurricular to the Christian life. This is the heart and center.
Practically, I think a good step in this direction is to memorize the Nicene Creed The idea is not that every Christian become a seminary-level expert on Christology. Rather, the hope is that we would be acquainted with the primary theological categories and have at least one creedal go-to. The Nicene is a good one.

To Know Jesus, Biblically

The triune God has revealed himself preeminently in Jesus Christ. And his testimony is the organizing principle of Scripture. We should know him there.
The Bible is the story of God’s glory and grace that stretches centuries and cultures and literary genres, all pointing to and holding up the definitive witness of Jesus — who is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3), the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), in whom all the fullness of deity is pleased to dwell (Colossians 2:9), who upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).
Jesus reminded his disciples that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44–45). Peter said that God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets that his Christ would suffer (Acts 3:18). Paul said that the gospel mystery of Jesus was made known through the prophetic writings (Romans 16:25–27). From Genesis to Revelation, the Book is about Jesus. That’s the point in the Redeemer mentioned in Genesis 3 who would come to crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15). That’s why God promised Abraham that through his offspring all the peoples of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1–3). That’s why he told Moses that there would be a prophet like him who would rise up in Israel and speak his word (Deuteronomy 18:15). That’s why God told David that he would have a son who would be enthroned as King forever (2 Samuel 7:16), a King to whom Solomon still looked and the prophets eagerly proclaimed.
The Redeemer, the Son, the Prophet, the King — he’s the one the whole world longed for. And then he came. Born in Bethlehem, in a stable, the promised one came. And he lived the perfect life, tempted in every way we’ve been tempted, yet he never sinned. He trusted his Father and was faithful to the end, to the point of death, even death on a cross. On a cross. A cross where he suffered in the place of sinners, where he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. The cross of his condemnation brought us peace. The scene of his forsakenness became the grounds to our adoption. Jesus, by faith in him, reconciles us to the Father. Jesus makes us no longer enemies, but sons and daughters. No longer dead in Adam and destined for wrath. But now, because of Jesus, we are alive in him, alive to God, filled with his Spirit, and drawn into this very story of his glory.
Practically, this means we read the Bible. Jesus’s people are Bible-people. Let us read it through, and study it, and memorize it, and every time we open its pages breathe this prayer with our hearts: “Show us Christ.”

To Know Jesus, Personally

We want to know Jesus theologically and biblically because we know him personally, and in order to know him more personally. We can’t extract any of these perspectives if we’re to really know him, and especially not this one.
If we focus exclusively on the theological side, it could become all about not falling into error. If we focus exclusively on the biblical side, it could dwindle down to a cerebral exercise of one exegetical discovery after another for the sake of exegetical discovery. But if we know him personally, the uncreated Son is the one who saved us. The Suffering Servant is the one who suffered for my sins. The priest after the order of Melchizedek is the one who prays for me, who knows all of my failings and weaknesses and who never tires to plead for me. If we know him personally, he is not just the Jesus of theological categories, or the Jesus of canonical testimony, he is Jesus my Lord and my God. Jesus,our Savior.
Practically, this means we commune with him as we learn of him. It means we think about Jesus and we talk about Jesus. It means we love him.
This is the joy we have been saved to, that we know Jesus, and in knowing him, live in outspoken clarity about his identity and significance.

REMEMBER Is Key for Surviving the Drought

Practical Theology for Women post:  

Ebenezers for a Parched Soul

Growing up in the church, I understood an ebenezer to be a marker set up to remember something that God has done in the past. The word is only mentioned briefly in Scripture. In I Samuel 7, Samuel raises a monument and calls it Ebenezer, which seems to mean a “stone of help.” It has come to mean, at least in some Christian circles, something set up as a reminder of God's character or provision for His children.

God often instructs His children to remember and even gives physical signs to aid our remembrance of His character and provision.
Genesis 9:16 "When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
I don't plan to erect stone monuments to the Lord as Samuel did, but I do take note of the ways God has provided for me and what He has revealed to me of His character at different points in my life. I write them down. I journal them. For me, some of my journals have turned into books, and each of the three books I've published are ebenezers to me, monuments that remind me of particular aspects of God's character and provision that He revealed to me at specific times in my life. Practical Theology for Womenreflected the revelation that I need to know exactly what I believe about God, because knowing Him MATTERS to daily life. When my husband lost his job for a year and then needed open heart surgery right after moving to a city where we knew no one, understanding the character of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit became as necessary to me as oxygen. Practical Theology for Women was the fruit of that journey.

By His Wounds You are Healedwas written as I was emerging from a negative church situation, recognizing in the aftermath that using the words gospel, grace, and Jesus doesn't mean one actually understands or acts consistently with what the Bible teaches about the gospel, God's grace, or the person and work of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus has to mean something when conflicts arise. The beauty of the gospel, God's grace, and Jesus shines brightest in the midst of sin and conflict, I learned through that study of Ephesians. By His Wounds reflects all God was teaching me of the profound meaning of grace as I studied His Word at that time.

The Gospel-Centered Womanwas born out of walking through painful circumstances that never seemed to resolve, both personally and with close friends. The biggest trials and struggles of many of my closest friends seem directly tied to things God has declared good and a blessing in women's lives. How do we walk forward in this fallen world when God declares good the very things that bring such pain in our lives? The disconnect between what God intended in perfection and our reality after the fall seems insurmountable. And, actually, it is for us. But God declared good news through Jesus Christ – that Jesus summited what seemed insurmountable to us. He has made a way for us to live as overcomers in the midst of the kind of things that should destroy us. They that lose their lives shall find it. As I wrote TGCW, I loved meditating on the gospel and thinking through how very relevant it is as we yearn to be equipped to deal with hard things in life as women.

Along with several well marked Bibles, my books are my ebenezers, particularly my personal well worn copies with the Scripture all marked up. You too probably have something well marked representing times in the past where the Lord moved in your heart concerning His character and goodness. Whatever things you have around your home that contain physical reminders of how God has previously worked in your life, they are an important part of God's instructions to sustain us for the long, hard, persevering walk of faith. 

Some days, I am dry and thirsty, and I feel I can barely open my Bible in my discouragement, let alone tackle some new passage I'm supposed to be studying. On those days (which sometimes last for long seasons), ebenezers are a gift from God. He gave us great wisdom when He gave us the instruction, “Remember!” For myself, I find opening an old study Bible or my well marked copy of my study of Ephesians a conduit of great grace to me.

If you are in a hard season, it's easy to forget or diminish what God has done for you in the past. “If God really worked for me in the past, why am I having such struggles now?! Shouldn't it be getting better?” But that has never been the nature of this journey of faith. Never, ever in Scripture is it portrayed as a steady positive climb. It's portrayed as mountains and valleys, raging rivers and dry deserts. He leads us by still waters where we can drink deeply. But it is in preparation for walking through the valley of the shadow of death. His instruction to REMEMBER is key for surviving the drought and enduring through the valleys.

If you are struggling right now in such a season, I offer the simple suggestion that you go find some ebenezer from your own life. Engage with the reminders of how God has worked for you in the past. I believe you will find water for your thirsty soul that equips you to endure for the future.
Psalm 77 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Monday, June 24, 2013

We Will Keep Our Eyes on You

God Hath Willed

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer for Doing Spiritual Warfare with Our Eyes on Jesus

     And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Rev. 12:10-11
Dear Lord Jesus, even as these words first thundered from heaven by a loud voice, so your Spirit shouts this good news in my heart today with great force. What a focusing and freeing perspective on spiritual warfare this passage gives us. We live in the “NOW” of your salvation, power, kingdom, and authority. You’re calling us to warfare, not war-fear. Though evil is hunting us, your love envelops us. Though darkness means us harm, your delight has secured our joy.
I cannot help but wonder if Martin Luther was meditating on this portion of your Word when he wrote these remarkable words: “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him.” O sing, my heart, sing the praises of Jesus! The Prince of Peace has gloriously triumphed over the prince of darkness! The most fallen angel has been vanquished by the One who created the angels, and everything else!
Indeed, Lord Jesus, though Satan is yet to be removed, you have already thoroughly routed him. The “accuser of our brothers” has been eternally defeated by you, the great Lover of your Bride. It’s because you loved us so much that you didn’t “shrink from death” on the cross. Now, in light of your irrepressible love and imputed righteousness, empower us to love you more than we fear death. Empower us to show up rather than shrink back. Empower us for overcoming the darkness in our hearts, communities, and culture. For one Day the knowledge of your glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea!
We will overcome, not by our muscle but by your mercy—by the sacrifice of your blood and our grateful testimonies to your glory and grace. Indeed, Lord Jesus, may the Spirit declare the gospel so loudly in our hearts that it literally drowns out Satan’s constant protestations of our guilt and shame.
With our gaze set on you, how can we keep from singing? “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He. Lord Sabboth, his name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.” Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! So very Amen we pray, in your holy and wholly trustworthy name.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Faith In His Character and His Promises

Excerpt Tim Challies post:  God Does Not Owe Us A Happy Ending


It is as natural as the sunrise to want to find meaning in our suffering and often we find it, or believe we find it, in a happy ending. It was a grueling time, but I endured it and now I can say it was all worth it because I have the baby in my arms, my marriage has been renewed, my husband is reconciled to me, my prodigal son gave up his rebellion and returned home. But sometimes—oftentimes—the answers are not so readily apparent. So often these films do not represent life as we actually experience it.
But the Bible does. The Bible is full of unhappy endings or unexplained endings. There are Psalms of all praise and all rejoicing, and there are Psalms of pain and bewilderment. There is joy in the Bible, but there is grief too. God saw fit to capture many stories that end without a word of explanation. And these, too, matter to him. These, too, are important and are full of meaning and significance.
There is danger in our dedication to happy endings. We may come to believe that God extends his goodness and grace only in those situations that end happily. We may believe that a happy ending is what proves God’s presence through it. We may believe that the experiences that do not have a happy ending mean that God is somehow removed from it. We may resent the times that we do not hear the crescendo of the music and see in our own lives a story other people will want to hear.
We all desire happy endings to our suffering. Of course we do. But God does not owe us a happy ending and he does not owe us the answers. At times he chooses to give one or both. At other times he does not. Some day these things will make sense and and in that day we will acknowledge that God has done what is right. But until then, it is faith in his character and in his promises that will sustain us far more than a happy ending.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts (Is. 55:8-9).
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18)

Gospel of Grace

Dane Ortlund post:

The Great Antithesis of Galatians 3

Our Natural Intuitions
The Gospel of 
works  (3:2, 5, 10)
faith  (3:2-9, 22-25)
law  (3:2, 5, 10-13, 17-24)
promise  (3:17-19, 22, 29)
flesh  (3:3)
Holy Spirit  (3:2, 3, 5, 14)
Key OT figure:
Moses  (3:15-22)
Abraham  (3:6-9, 14, 16-18)
slaves  (3:22-29)
sons  (3:7, 26-29)
justification (3:6, 8, 11, 24)
insiders only
anyone  (3:7-9, 14, 26-29)
Eternal result:
curse  (3:10-13)
blessing  (3:8-9, 14)
Social result:
disunity  (3:28–29)
unity  (3:28–29)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Whining Is An Affront Against God's Sovereignty and Goodness

Don Carson:  Deut. 26; Psalms 117 — 118; Isaiah 53; Matthew 1

WHEN I WAS A BOY, a plaque in our home was inscribed with the words “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Apart from the change from “hath” to “has,” similar words are preserved in the NIV of Psalm 118:24.
My father gently applied this text to his children when we whined or complained about little nothings. Was the weather too hot and sticky? “This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Were the skies pelting rain, so we could not go out to play? “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” What a boring day (or place, or holiday, or visit to relatives)! “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Sometimes the words were repeated with significant emphasis: “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
It is not that Dad would not listen to serious complaints; it is not that Scripture does not have other things to say. But every generation of Christians has to learn that whining is an affront against God’s sovereignty and goodness.
But the text must first be read in its context. Earlier the psalmist expresses his commitment to trust in God and not in any merely human help (Ps. 118:8-9), even though he is surrounded by foes (Ps. 118:10). Now he also discloses that his foes include “the builders” (Ps. 118:22) — people with power within Israel. These builders were quite capable of rejecting certain “stones” while they built their walls — and in this case the very stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. In the first instance this stone, this capstone, is almost certainly a reference to a Davidic king, perhaps to David himself. The men of power rejected him, but he became the capstone.
Moreover, this result was not achieved by brilliant machination or clever manipulation. Far from it: “the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:23). In his own day Isaiah portrays people who make a lie their refuge while rejecting God’s cornerstone (Isa. 28:15-16). The ultimate instance of this pattern is found in Jesus Christ, rejected by his own creatures, yet chosen of God, the ultimate building-stone, and precious (Matt. 21:42Rom. 9:32-33Eph. 2:201 Peter 2:6-8) — a “stone” disclosed in all his true worth by his resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:10-11). Whether in David’s day or in the ultimate fulfillment, this marvelous triumph by God calls forth our praise: This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

God Honoring Organization

Excerpt from Ben Peays post:  Pray, Work, Wait: Dave Blanchard on Gospel-Minded Entrepreneurs


What is a gospel-minded organization anyway? Praxis talks about wanting business leaders to embody the gospel in their work. What does this mean? How does it practically play out?
This is an important question. While the gospel is the good news of God's saving grace in the life of an individual, how does that message actually relate to an organization? When we receive God's Spirit, we are made new; we become a new creation with new life. As a result, we cannot help but live differently. Fundamentally, we experience a shift in our motivations, goals, and methods for achieving these things. Just as a gospel-minded person wakes up each day working out of that new mindset—they have been made new to reflect the glory of God—the same can be true for a gospel-minded organization. This entity—any organization is really the sum of its people—must think about what it wants to accomplish in light of God's regenerative work on earth and organize its operations in order to reflect those priorities. The gospel itself is a message, but its implications for business are rich with virtue.
Along with Josh Kwan and our mentor, friend, and board member Steve Graves, I authored a book entitled From Concept to Scale: Building a Gospel-Minded Organization that attempts offer some practical ideas and exercises for application as you construct your venture. From supply chain practices, to the worldview you market, to your concept itself, we think our faith is not only relevant but even essential to every component of the organization's activities. I'm also a big fan of Peter Kreeft's profound work Back to Virtue. In it, he outlines the four ancient virtues (wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation), the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love), and a beautiful contrast of the eight beatitudes and the seven deadly sins. Read through an entrepreneurial lens, his content provides a fascinating way for every entrepreneur to think about creating a God-honoring organization that benefits our world.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Helpful and Beneficial

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer for Good Stewardship of Our Words

     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 finished work of Jesus to us, and through 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. Indeed, there’s no greater stewardship to which you have called us than being careful about how we speak to one another; for our words have the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21).
Father, 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.
Holy Spirit, you faithfully preach the gospel to my heart—incessantly telling me that I’m a beloved child of God. Continue to so fill my heart with the beauty 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, 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 only speak the words of complete welcome and acceptance in my heart. So very Amen I pray with deep gratitude, in your holy and loving name.