Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller
Success, true love, and the life you've always wanted. Many of us placed our faith in these things, believing they held the key to happiness, but with a sneaking suspicion they might not deliver. The recent economic meltdown has cast a harsh new light on these pursuits. In a matter of months, fortunes, marriages, careers, and a secure retirement have disappeared for millions of people. No wonder so many of us feel lost, alone, disenchanted, and resentful. But the truth is that we made lesser gods of these good things -gods that can't give us what we really need. There is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings- and now is the perfect time to meet him again, or for the first time.
The Bible tells us that the human heart is an "idol- factory," taking good things and making them into idols that drive us. In Counterfeit Gods, Keller applies his trademark approach to show us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the unvarnished truth about societal ideals and our own hearts.
God the Peacemaker: How Atonement brings Shalom, by Graham Cole
What does God intend for his broken creation?
In this book Graham A. Cole seeks to answer this question by setting the atoning work of the cross in the broad framework of God's grand plan to restore the created order, and places the story of Jesus, his cross and empty tomb within it. Since we have become paradoxically the glory and garbage of the universe, our great need is peace with God and not just with God, but also with one another. Atonement brings shalom by defeating the enemies of peace, overcoming both the barriers to reconciliation and to the restoration of creation through the sacrifice of Christ.
I suppose in some ways I am one of the people Piper is warning here. I am excited about the completion of redemption in the New Heavens and New Earth, because I believe God is excited about it and Christ's highest glory will shine most brilliantly in it. In that way, I certainly hope that I "take it where it's going."
I also hope that lovers of Christ will not throw away the baby of the New Heavens and the New Earth with the bathwater of a pseudo-Christian excitement about a utopia that is essentially devoid of Christ. By all means, let's throw that bathwater out...but the baby is still precious!
The New Heavens and New Earth is a glorious reality, so the hope of it should be cherished. But the renewed creation is intended ultimately to magnify the glory of Christ, so it's imperative that we cherish Him more than the renewed creation.
Wise, but often unheeded, words from Tim Keller.
(Check out more tweets from Keller here.)
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
It’s now the first resource I’d recommend for disciples wanting to make disciples (which should be all of us). Marked by good theology, a focus on the Bible, and a warm and winsome approach, this “discipleship for dummies” manual is just what all of us need.
Taylor is a pretty well-read guy, so this comment really intrigued me. For at least 6-7 years I've been looking for a book that would be the ideal place to start with a brand new Christian or just a person interested in spiritual things. And while I have read some wonderful books and end up giving some of them to new Christians, I always hoped I'd find something even more basic to start with.
When I read Taylor's comments, I asked the best executive pastor I know to order me a copy, and a few days later I started reading the book. After finishing it yesterday, I think I've finally found the book I've been looking for. The Walk is an immensely practical guide in fulfilling Christ's call not only to preach the Gospel, but to make disciples.
If there are people in your life who have just come to faith, or who seem receptive to hearing about Christ, The Walk could be a great resource to go through with them.
You can read the preface, table of contents and first chapter online for free. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I've already got the blog post ready should the Phillies choke away this lead in the NL East and fail to make the playoffs. It would be the biggest collapse in the history of Major League Baseball, and I'm a bit troubled by that title going to the Phils (especially after the Mets claimed it for themselves two years ago). Yesterday's win restored a little bit of confidence...but not much.
But I'm ready for the collapse, I think, and my heart is at rest, because in their recent futility, God has taught me a valuable lesson. Hopefully next Monday I won't have to post it.
Through September 30th (that's Wednesday), you can click here to sign up to receive a free copy of an excellent resource called The Gospel-Centered Life. It is designed for use in small groups, but it is also a fruitful bunch of studies to read through and apply individually. I may end up doing it with my small group, but I'm going to start by going through it with my wife (I'm sure she'll be happy to read that!)
This is a great tool for growing in God's grace, so take advantage of the opportunity to get it for free before Wednesday.
As I read through Ephesians 1, I was struck by these words:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace...
What particularly hit me was that in unpacking the extraordinary spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ, the very first things that Paul mentions are election ("Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world..."; the word "chose" is the Greek word for elect) and predestination.
A lot of Christians regard the doctrines of election and predestination as troublesome. To be sure, they are weighty matters. But they are often seen as divisive and more harmful than helpful. As a result, a lot of Christians avoid these doctrines when they come upon them in the Bible.
I found it interesting, then, that as Paul wanted to unpack the spiritual blessings that believers have in Christ, the first things he mentions are the doctrines of election and predestination. It doesn't seem that Paul regarded these doctrines as troublesome or harmful. He saw them as a wonderful part of the good that is ours in Christ.
So if you answered the question in the title of this post, "Yes!", then it might be a worthwhile use of time to explore these doctrines. For Paul sees them as great blessings that God is to be praised for, not as irrelevant, troublesome doctrines to avoid.
If you want to know where to get started in exploring these doctrines, I'd be happy to give some recommendations.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This is an outstanding little resource. I'd recommend printing it out and reading it. Then reading it again. And reading it again. And again. Read it until you can communicate its contents in your sleep.
"Evangelical" means people of the Gospel, not people against abortion and homosexuality. So it's vitally important that we know the Gospel! And know it so well we can share it on the spot without thought.
This little resource is a valuable, concise tool for mastering the main points of the Gospel that Christ has called us to take to the ends of the earth.
Great, challenging, stuff to think about, such as:
Will you risk this temporary life so God will be glorified eternally among the nations?
The idea of a "closed" country to the gospel is unintelligible to the Apostle Paul.There are no closed doors unless you require an exit.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Six members of the church -- including Kennedy's daughter -- recently circulated a petition to have Tchividjian ousted as the pastor, an attempt which was unsuccessful after a church vote this past weekend. You can read Tchividjian's take on the whole thing here.
What really gripped me about this story is how poorly prepared it appears that Coral Ridge was for the departure of their pastor. I have to tread lightly, because I don't know many details in the church's history. What I do know is that Kennedy was the church's only pastor, serving there from the formation of the church in 1960 until his death in 2007.
Forty Seven years of service to one church is something that ought to be commended. But based on this recent conflict, it seems that Kennedy did very little in those forty seven years to prepare his flock for the time when he would no longer be their pastor.
It seems like a lot of the conflict at Coral Ridge is stemming from the fact that Tullian isn't doing some things the way Kennedy did. And I can't help but think that could have been avoided had Kennedy (pictured at right) been working closely with his future successor and preparing the Church for the time when he would have to say farewell (either because of death or a change in God's calling).
So in death, Dr. Kennedy has taught me a valuable lesson. I need to prepare my flock for the time that I'm dead, or called somewhere else. And one important way to do that is to identify and invest in the man who will succeed me.
It feels odd to do that at age 32. After all, I'm just getting started at my church. But I wonder if James Kennedy felt that way in 1960. If I'm not intentional in my thinking about it now, I could easily get to age 72 without ever doing a thing about it. For the sake of Joy Community Fellowship, I don't want to see that happen. I'm praying that my ministry will look like what Paul describes in 2 Timothy 2:2,
"What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
Would you pray that I as a pastor and JCF as a church would faithfully live out the example of this verse?
2. Before the ages began, God the Father gave me to His Son to save and keep by His omnipotent power.
3. The hope (not merely desire, but certain expectation) that Jesus will come again and make all things new.
4. My excellent wife, who daily pursues to live like this, by God's grace.
5. Halle, who knows that "Jesus conquered the grave"...may she come to know what it means.
6. Felicity, whose been true to her name for 11 months, except while I write this post.
7. A church growing in their love for the Gospel, who support me and my family.
8. Family who are loving and supportive though they don't share my convictions about Jesus.
9. Common Grace
11. All five of my senses function properly
12. Clean water
13. Even though I'm actually having a hard time thinking of 32 things, God hasn't struck me dead.
14. My small group
15. People who have loved me enough to share the truth with me, even when it hurts.
16. Romans 8
17. John Piper
18. Tim Keller
19. C.J. Mahaney
20. Having the chance to speak to those three guys personally and tell each of them how grateful I am for them.
21. The radical, sacrificial generosity of others that I have been a recipient of (they wouldn't want their names mentioned).
22. People who ask me how I'm doing, and mean it.
23. Twitter -- for challenging me to make God look great in 140 characters or less; not easy for a long-winded preacher.
24. The Phillies are defending World Series Champions (at least for a few more weeks)
25. My iPod
26. I have the privilege of teaching people the Word of God, and I actually get paid to do it.
29. The Bible has been translated into my language.
31. Sickness (which keeps me from taking health for granted)
32. From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.
It may not be your birthday, but leave a comment and tell me some things that you are grateful for today.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Would you be willing to pray that for me? And if you'll leave a comment, I'd be happy to do the same for you.
In a day where so many (including Anne Graham Lotz, apparently) talk about how they love Jesus but can't stand the Church, Thomas' words are important words to be reminded of:
Yes, there is a dark side to the church as there is to all things in this fallen world. The church is not perfect. It has her share of malcontents and killjoys, her energy-sapping attention-getters and despondent hearts. Adullam’s cave has nothing on some churches I have seen, but none of this robs me of my love for the church. Even at her most eccentric - the King James Version’s rendition of 1 Peter 2:9 as “ye are … a peculiar people” is painfully accurate, if quaint — she is still Christ’s body. “Love me, love my church” is what Jesus seems to say in the Bible. I would not have it any other way. Would you?
David Koyzis writes that, yes, there are many political issues that we should be concerned about. But abortion is not just one of many. It is qualitatively different:
Read the whole thing here.
Not all issues necessarily have the same import or significance – something the language of morality may mask. In fact, there is a qualitative difference between abortion and the cluster of issues touched on above. In the case of the latter, no one disputes that the environment must be protected; the current debate revolves around how best to do so. Some favour a market-oriented approach, while others are convinced that government must play a central role. Again no one denies the desirability of furnishing the best health care to all citizens. Disagreement arises over whether this is best done through private or public insurance plans.
Abortion is different. Here the quarrel is not over the best way to protect the unborn; it is precisely over whether to do so at all. Those believing women should have the right to terminate a pregnancy hold this position despite the presence of the vulnerable child. Those who believe that the unborn deserve protection do so because of the child’s presence. This fundamental disagreement over what is at stake is what sets the abortion issue apart from most others. Proponents of the so-called consistent life ethic generally fail to comprehend this. Such bishops as Denver’s Charles Chaput are right to make a fuss over Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Abortion is not merely a private opinion; it is a clear matter of justice that needs to be addressed head on.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
"Being ashamed of the Bible because there are looney Christians is like being ashamed of Milton because of Hallmark cards."
"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
That makes the pursuit of humility an incredibly serious matter. But that doesn't mean a person can't have any fun while pursuing humility.
A few weeks ago I had a good lesson in this while playing a game of Hoopla with some friends from church. There's something humbling about trying to "act out" Mount Saint Helen's without using any words. It's hard to do that well while being consumed with a lust for looking good in front of others.
I don't like games where I have to "act things out". Hoopla would have been my last option of what to play on this particular "game night." After reflecting on that emotion, I realized that I feel that way because I don't like looking foolish in front of other people. Or to put it another way, I'm a proud man (and I don't mean that in a good way).
If a person can't laugh at himself from time to time, he's probably not very humble. And because I desperately want to be humble, I'm glad there are games like Hoopla. Even something fun and trivial can be an instrument in the deadly serious business of destroying pride.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Here is the video of Robinson's speech; I think it's a beautiful expression of Robinson's humility. Not only does he give thanks to Jesus, but the entire seven-minute speech is loaded with Robinson giving credit to others for his success. In what could have been his moment, Robinson made the moment about God and others. I wish more athletes had his kind of heart:
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
"When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."
One of the things I love about Mohler is that not only he is a great interpreter of the Scriptures, but he is an excellent interpreter of the times. In this article, he powerfully expresses his concern about the decrease in the number of babies being born with Down Syndrome.
The fact that 92 percent of women who are told that their unborn child carries the high risk of Down syndrome choose to abort the baby should shock us all. What does that say about our devaluation of human life and human dignity? This can only mean that these women see a child with Down syndrome as not worth having — and the baby as a life not worth living.
Dr. Skotko points to the new tests just around the corner and sees a collision coming. Given his important research, we had better see a moral crisis looming. The Culture of Death is gaining momentum before our eyes. Who will be next in line to be considered unworthy of life?
I’ve sometimes heard people call Christianity a crutch. It is a term used in derision, to say that it is just a way for emotionally weak people to cope with life. When I’ve heard that attack, I’ve felt compelled to defend why Christianity is not a crutch. But I wonder if that's really the right response.
I think the question to ask in response to that accusation is: Why is calling Christianity a crutch a valid criticism of Christianity? That is not the way people normally respond to crutches. When you see a guy with a broken leg walking around on crutches, you do not mock him and speak of his weakness for using a crutch. The crutch is good. So if Christianity is a crutch, why is that such a bad thing?
The assumption of those who criticize Christianity on that ground is that if Christianity is a crutch, then it is only good for cripples. And they are exactly right. Their problem, and it is a deadly problem, is that they do not see themselves as weak enough to need a crutch in this life. It is offensive to the modern mindset, that we are broken and needy and sick, and dependent on Another for everything. So people criticize it and mock it.
The only people who will give heed to Jesus’ call are sick people, broken people, spiritually and morally crippled people. If we could all see ourselves properly, we would see ourselves this way. The problem with us is that we think we’re well. We have been told in a thousand ways that the way to happiness is in the pursuit of self-reliance, self-confidence, self-determination, self-exaltation and self-esteem. Jesus loves us too much to let us persist down this dead-end road. So at the beginning of His most famous sermon (see Matthew 5-7), He tells us the pathway to true happiness: it begins with seeing yourself as a helpless cripple:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Is Christianity a crutch? Yes, I suppose in a way it is. May God give all of us eyes to see that we're desperately crippled.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
If you're a reader of this blog from JCF, please make these opportunities a priority and invite lots of others to do the same. To get to know David a bit better, here is a recent interview he did with Alex Chediak.
Also, to hear his message from the 2006 pastor's conference in Minneapolis, click here.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
As I clicked on these photos and saw the way in which things in Galveston have been made new, I found myself being stirred by these little foretastes of the coming redemption that Christ will bring to the whole cosmos upon His glorious return (you'll have to click through to the Big Picture site to see the pictures fade):
What one book (I'm looking for something other than the Bible) has had the greatest impact on your life?
Come on people; I know you're reading the blog, and I know you read books. So come out of anonymity and tell us which one has been most important to your life and thinking!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).
It seems like there's a tension here that is very difficult for the professing Church to keep in perspective:
Some are willing to have Jesus as Lord, but live daily as though they expect their obedience to His rules to save them. As a result, they are arrogant and condescending to those who don't seem to be measuring up the way they are.
On the other hand, there are some who want Jesus as Savior, so they can live any way they want without facing consequences for their disobedience. These folks profess to believe in Jesus, but they malign Christ by living lives that are indistinguishable from their non-believing neighbors, friends, etc.
But a Christian cannot pick and choose between having Jesus as Lord or as Savior. Jesus is both. "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
If we will not have Him as both, we will not have Him at all.
Not exactly the the thing I most long to be remembered by! If I had to choose, I'd rather people know this little-known fact about me:
In college, I beat these two guys in a game of PIG at Madison Square Garden:
True story, though they've probably both blocked this out of their collective memory!
Monday, September 14, 2009
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
How might applying these words change the makeup of our Thanksgiving feast?
I'd love to see the Phils sign him for next year too, but I wonder if his success this year will cause some other team to throw big money at him and make his stay in Philly short-lived.
But no need to sweat that right now. The real question is: can he close too?
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The Falling Man. A man, whose identity remains unknown, falls headfirst after jumping from the north tower of New York's World Trade Center after it was atacked on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.
The south tower of New York's World Trade Center collapses.
Friday, September 11, 2009
For those in Christ, we groan with hope:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
My only critique with the song in the video is that I fear it gives a misleading hope. "Love" is indeed the answer; but if that love is not grounded in Christ, it is a hope built on sand.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I thought it was pretty cool that on the day these photos were released, my appointed reading in the Psalms said this:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
We're big on Heath Bar at the Lazarus home, so when we saw this picture we were pretty fired up. The morning after we got the coupons, I went out to pick up one for me and one for Michelle.
Let's just say that when we opened up the bag and looked at the donuts, they didn't exactly look like the picture in the ad. Have you had that happen to you? The picture in the ad looks so good...but then you get the reality and it's a total letdown.
As I finished Michelle's donut (she didn't even want to waste her weight watchers points on it!), I thought to myself, 'What a parable of sin this donut is." Like the picture in the ad, sin beckons to us of the pleasure to be found in it. But when you indulge, you're always left unsatisfied.
So I finished my "toffee for your coffee" donut with increased gratitude to Jesus, who alone is able to break the power of sin's empty promises by filling me with a superior satisfaction in Him. He says what no donut-manufacturer can say:
"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Are you more aware of what Christ did for you at the Cross than what you have (or haven't) done for Him lately?
Are your weaknesses a point of discouragement or a place where you find God's strength?
When you haven't been diligent in spiritual disciplines, do you expect the worst?
Can you laugh at yourself?
Are you quicker to notice another believer's spiritual growth, or his or her faults?
After a good day, do you feel God is more pleased with you than after a bad one?
When you have been especially obedient, do you feel you deserve a unique measure of God's presence and power in your life?
Is the Cross a central focus in your life?
Is your relationship with God characterized by joy or rules?
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Oh, Oh Deep water
Black, and cold like the night
I stand with arms wide open
I've run a twisted mile
I'm a stranger
in the eyes of the Maker
I could not see
for fog in my eyes
I could not feel
for the fear in my life
From across the great divide
In the distance i saw a light
walking to me with the Maker
My body is bent and broken
by long and dangerous sleep
I can work the fields of Abraham
and turn my head away
I'm not a stranger
in the hands of the Maker
Have you seen the homeless daughters
with broken wings
I have seen the flaming swords
there over east of eden
burning in the eyes of the Maker
burning in the eyes of the Maker
burning in the eyes of the Maker
burning in the eyes of the Maker
oh river rise from your sleep....
Personally, this article from Al Mohler resonates with me. It seems like a lot of the concern from conservatives is irrational, yet Obama's administration is also responsible for a good bit of the controversy.
What do you think?
Saturday, September 5, 2009
It's probably intended to make a statement: Whether you get excited about the Cross, the star of David or the crescent moon, it's all basically the same anyway, so don't act like your particular view of the truth is THE right view. That would be narrow-minded and intolerant, and contrary to the call to "coexist."
Of course there is a built-in contradiction in such a view, isn't there? Because the statement that all religious views are basically the same, and that God doesn't really care about which way we worship, is a particular view of who God is. And by putting the bumper sticker on their car, aren't they suugesting that their view of God is the right view, and that other people should abandon their view and adopt that one?
So even those who call for coexisting argue for a certain view of religious truth. They have a hard time coexisting with people who don't support their plea for coexisting. And so, the call for "tolerance" (if tolerance means not saying that your view is superior to another) is inherently intolerant.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I can't imagine that you'll enjoy watching it either. But please watch it anyway. It's important that we remember to groan.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.
Check out the video for a performance of the song from a Next conference last year:
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Yesterday morning in my devotions, I read these words of Jesus in Luke 11:
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
What a great truth to be reminded of in preparing to pray for the more of the Spirit! And the parable that Jesus told immediately before these words indicates why it's important to pray for the Spirit over and over:
“Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs."
"Yet because of his impudence..." I think those are the key words. In light of this, I think gathering once each month to pray for the empowering work of the Spirit in our lives is certainly not too much praying!