Saturday, May 29, 2010

What's MOST Exciting

All of a sudden, everyone in Philly is excited about these guys:

Then while they're playing Game 1 of the Finals, this guy deals the 2nd perfect game in Phillies history:

Then I realized that in twelve hours I get to preach on this:

That's infinitely more exciting than both the guys on the ice and on the diamond, isn't it?


It's not pleasant to think about it, but if we don't, we'll fail to grasp what Christ has rescued us from and what He endured in our place on the cross:

This quote from Elyse Fitzpatrick made me shudder at the horror of hell, and helped me to marvel at the riches of Christ's love in bearing this awful punishment that I deserved:

"The Bible speaks terrifyingly of the prospect of ceaseless dying while yet we live on, where there will never be any hope of an end to the suffering, eternal dying without the welcome relief of death."

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Gospel and Outreach

I've been re-reading Tim Keller's paper on the centrality of the gospel that I posted last month (thus the quote from yesterday). In it, he talks about how a firm grasp of the gospel works some characteristics into us that are immensely valuable in our witness to non-Christians:

1. We are compelled to share the gospel out of generosity and love, not guilt.

2. We are free from fear of being ridiculed by others, since we already have the favor of God by grace.

3. There is a humility in our dealings with others, because we know we are saved only by grace alone, not because of our superior insight or character.

4. We are hopeful about anyone, even the "hard cases", because we were saved only by grace, not because we were likely to become Christians.

5. We are courteous and careful with people. We don't have to push or coerce them, for it is only God's grace that opens hearts, not our eloquence or persistence or even their openness.

So drink deeply from the fountain of God's love revealed in the gospel, and get out there and tell someone about Jesus!

The Great Mystery

Perhaps this will elicit another comment from Steve, telling us there is another side to the story, but nevertheless, I was moved by this quote from C.J. Mahaney at this year's Together for the Gospel conference:

The great mystery is not, "Why do I suffer?" The great mystery is, why would the sinless Son of God suffer as my substitute on the cross for my sin, receiving the wrath I deserved so that I might be forgiven and declared righteous? That is the great mystery of mercy. And that mystery can and will make all the difference in the severest forms of suffering.

Longing with all my heart to get this wonderful truth deeply rooted in my soul, before my day of suffering comes. Because I know that in this groaning world, my day surely will come. And because of Christ, that is not something to fear.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

One Key to Effective Christian Ministry

Writing on the words I'll be preaching on this Sunday, Don Carson notes:

"As long as people are impressed by your powerful personality and impressive gifts, there is very little room for you to impress them with a crucified Savior."

That's good; I think I'm going to have to pull that out on Sunday!

The Hub

Tim Keller:

"We never get beyond the gospel in our Christian life to something more advanced. The gospel is not the first step in a stairway of truths. Rather, it is more like the hub in a wheel of truth. The gospel is not just the ABC's, but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the Kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the Kingdom."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Insanity of Sin

In the article I mentioned yesterday by David Powlison, I came across this penetrating quote:

"In Christ, in order to sin, you must lapse into temporary insanity."

That's good to remember in the moment of temptation. Christ is so good, beautiful, satisfying, and wholeheartedly committed to us that the choice to sin is ludicrous. The war against sin is a war to see Jesus daily in this kind of light.

Redemptive Love

One of the better books on marriage that I've read is Love that Lasts, by Gary and Betsy Ricucci. In the chapter on the man's role, the Ricucci's pose five questions to determine whether a husband is loving his wife redemptively:

* Do I faithfully pray for her, that Jesus Christ might be glorified in her and that she might know His love and grace?

* Do I love her enough to confront and correct her sin, especially recurrent patterns of sin, and then patiently and consistently lead her to fruitful and liberating repentance?

* Do I wash her with the water of God's Word (Ephesians 5:25-27), or do I compromise her growth in godliness because my pride, selfishness, or fear keeps me from this God-given responsibility?

* Do I lead her into active involvement and service in our local church?

* Do I constantly remind her of the gospel of grace and of God's active goodness on our behalf?

Husbands, let's strive in the strength that God supplies to be able to answer "Yes" to these questions. And wives, do your husbands the wonderful favor of praying for him (not nagging!) to grow in these areas.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No Sacrifice

Jason Upton's CD Faith is one of my favorite pieces of Christian music. Anyone else listen to him? Here's one of my favorite songs, with lyrics below:

To you I give my life, not just the parts I want to
To you I sacrifice these dreams that I hold on to

Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here's my life

To you I give the gifts
Your love has given me
How can I hoard the treasures that you've designed for free?

Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is staronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here's my life

To you I give my future
As long as it may last
To you I give my present
To you I give my past

Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
Your thoughts are higher than mine
Your words are deeper than mine
Your love is stronger than mine
This is no sacrifice
Here's my life

God's Grace and Your Sufferings

At last month's Together for the Gospel conference, C.J. Mahaney mentioned that David Powlison's article titled God's Grace and Your Sufferings is the single finest essay he's ever read on the subject of suffering.

I had read the article before, but recently I've been re-reading it. Mahaney is right, it is a wonderful essay. After reading it, I don't think you'll ever sing the hymn How Firm a Foundation the same way (the essay is basically an extended meditation on that great hymn).

You can read the article online here (Powlison's article begins on page 145).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Waste Your Sirens

I've had this same thought before regarding sirens, and was grateful for the reminder from Jonathan Parnell at the Desiring God blog:

We hear sirens all the time. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the day, at some point, we hear the sound of an ambulance or fire truck or police car. What do you think when you hear them?

We have become so accustomed to the sound that we typically ignore it. We go about our activities uninterrupted. But wait, that sound means something! It means that there is an emergency. Someone is in need, and that’s not something to ignore.

Sirens come into our day loaded with significance. Whether they are heard faintly in the distance or close enough to disturb our ears, they come into our day as an invitation to get out of our bubble of self and remember that there are 6.8 billion people in the world. They invite us to remember that the world is in need and that opportunities are emerging everywhere for God to glorify his name and make his goodness known.

Next time there is the sound of a siren, we don’t want to waste it. Would you consider a simple prayer for the person in need? Would you pray for the driver and team who are rushing to help? Would you pray that Jesus be embraced and that God be glorified, somehow at some point? And would you pray that the day be hastened when the sound of sirens will be no more?

When Blogging is Light

As I wrote last week, blogging was light because of my preparation for a wedding this past weekend. I hope to be a little more regular with the blog this week.

This reminded me of the value of RSS readers. Sometimes I make three posts in a day; other times I make three posts in an entire week. If you don't want to bother with checking the blog all the time, RSS readers are a great, time-saving tool.

Instead of checking one blog at a time, RSS allows you to keep track of all the blogs you visit, and automatically notifies you when the blogs you've subscribed to are updated. That way you don’t have to keep going back to them only to find nothing has been updated.

If you've never understood what that funky orange thing was and want to get the RSS reader set up, this tutorial from Abraham Piper will get you going in minutes.

A Strange Method for Defeating Divisions

Yesterday my friend Jason preached on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, in which Paul reminds the Corinthians of who they were when God called them. Prominent in the passage is the doctrine of election, that God chose people to be saved, and that He did so not because of any distinctives or virtues in us, but in order that all the glory might be to God alone.

As Jason pointed out, the context of this passage is that Paul is writing to correct a problem with quarreling and division in the church. I found it interesting that Paul would remind the Corinthians of the doctrine of election in dealing with this problem of division.

I've often heard it said that the doctrine of election is dangerous because it tends to promote divisions and strife in the church. Yet here is Paul, seeking to correct a problem of divisions, reminding the Corinthians of the doctrine of election. Apparently, in Paul's mind, the doctrine of election does not cause divisions. It heals them.

So if we experience strife over the doctrine of election, it is not the doctrine that is a problem; it is the people discussing the doctrine that is the problem.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/20

Kim Yoo-chul, 41, and his partner Choi Mi-sun, 25, fed their three-month-old baby only on visits home between 12-hour sessions at a neighbourhood internet cafe, where they were raising an avatar daughter in a Second-Life-style game called Prius online, police said.

Leaving their real daughter at their home in a suburb of Seoul to fend for herself, the pair, who were unemployed, spent hours role-playing in the virtual reality game, which allows users to choose a career and friends, granting them offspring as a reward for passing a certain level.

The pair became obsessed with nurturing their virtual daughter, called Anima, but neglected their real daughter, who was not named.

Read the rest of the article here.

(Why should we groan?)

Together for the Gospel Video Recap

Blogging is light this week as I prepare to officiate a wedding for the first time this Saturday.

I don't think this video was intended to provoke jealousy, but it does make me really want to find a way to get to T4G 2012! I think the last picture is my favorite:

T4G2010 - O Great God from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Don't be Sad...I'm Here!"

Yesterday I was in the kitchen with my daughters. Felicity was being a bit cranky, so Halle played the part of concerned mom and said, "Aw Lissy, it's ok...I'm here!"

Pretty cute (though not quite as cute as this picture of her), but a bit pretentious for anyone but a two year-old to say, right? Think about it: "It's ok, no need to be sad, because I'm here! Why would anyone be sad when I am around?"

Yet these words are awfully similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 9. He was asked why His disciples did not fast, like the disciples of John and the Pharisees. Jesus responded:

"Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."

In other words: "Fasting is an expression of grief and mourning. But I'm here; how could anyone be mourning?" In a two year-old, it's pretty cute. In an adult, it sounds a bit self-absorbed and pompous.

If Jesus were just an ordinary man, it would be pompous. But Jesus is no ordinary man; He was the One in whom there is fullness of joy, the happiest being in the entire universe (Hebrews 1:9).

Those who want to dismiss Jesus as simply a "good moral teacher" must reckon with this: how does a "good man" make this kind of claim about Himself? Either He is much more than a good man, or He is a very wicked man to exalt Himself like this. But simply labeling Him as a good guy just won't do, given the evidence we have of Him.

Monday, May 17, 2010

More on Delighting in God's Creation

For anyone interested in reading a bit more on the whole subject of delighting in non-Christian art which came up last week (and judging by the comments, that makes one of you), here's an interesting post from Doug Wilson on the subject. He begins with a basic premise that is hard to argue:

God made the world, we trashed it, and then Jesus was born into it in order to redeem the whole thing.

The ramifications of this, Wilson writes are exhaustive:

By the nature of the case, we cannot present an exhaustive list, but the ramifications would include beer, mowing the lawn, sex with your wife or husband, brown gravy, sitting on the front porch, listening to a good poem, making movies, getting out the guitar, going to church, and getting a foot rub.

There are two sacraments, true, but there is only one sacramental. The world is a sacramental, and everything in it. Grace is everywhere, and gets into everything. Faith can dig it out of anything. The grandeur of God can flame out from anything, like shining from shook foil.

Wilson is a pretty thought-provoking writer; check out the whole thing and let me know what you think.

Flyers Fever

It's a shame I'm not more of a hockey fan, because Philly's team is certainly on an exciting run this spring. Ten years ago I would have said that hockey/the Flyers were my favorite sport/team. But after the lockout a few years ago, I've pretty much lost interest.

Though the Flyers are playing great, I'm still not that excited (though I probably would force myself to watch a little if they make the Finals!). Nevertheless, I have great respect for hockey players. I think it requires more skill (have you ever tried to ice skate?) and more toughness than the other three major sports, and they typically get paid a lot less than the other major sports.

If you're in the Philly area, are you more excited about hockey than you were a month ago?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/14

Rescuers search for survivors at the site of a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways plane crash in Tripoli, Libya, on May 12. A 9-year-old Dutch boy was the sole survivor of the crash, which killed 103 people.

(Why should we groan?)

The Gospel and Your "Needs"

Another quote from Keller's new study, The Gospel in Life:

"The gospel, if it is really believed, removes neediness -- the need to be constantly respected, appreciated, and well-regarded; the need to have everything in your life go well; the need to have power over others. All of these great, deep needs continue to control you only because the concept of the glorious God delighting in you with all his being is just that -- a concept and nothing more."

To overcome our "neediness", we need to labor in God's strength to let the truth of the gospel sink deep down into our hearts so that it dwells in us richly. To the degree that we're really gripped by Christ's love, we'll be unshakable even when these so-called "needs" are not being met.

O God, give us the grace to own the gospel as infinitely more than a bare concept!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Answering Rob, Part 2

As promised, here is an answer to Rob's question on the post concerning whether God delights in non-Christian art. He wrote:

Can we use the word "please?" There are things that are done in the world by non-Christians that "reflect" something about God Himself, but do they actually "please" Him? How do you explain it in light of Hebrews 11:6 "Without faith, it is impossible to please God..."?

Here's my attempt at an answer:

Basically, I think Rob's question could be stated another way: does Scripture teach that God can take pleasure in a "product" that is the result of human sin? I think the answer is yes, and the most vivid demonstration of this is the cross.

Isaiah 53:10 says that God was pleased to bruise His Son (not all translations use this language, but the NASB does). There was a sense in which God took pleasure in the crushing of His Son, as it was God's way of vindicating His righteousness, so that He might be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus. Because His glory was displayed at the cross, God delighted in it.

But the death of Jesus came about through human sin. It is not that God took pleasure in the cowardice of Pilate, the jealousy of the Jews, or the cynical mocking of the Jewish soldiers. These are evil acts which God hates and will be punished. But the end result of it was still something that brought pleasure to God, when viewed from the wider perspective of how God was glorifying Himself at the cross.

Of course, the cross is not exactly the same thing as a poem, novel or jazz riff created by a God-belittling atheist. But I think there may be a principle there: in His wisdom, God can use the evil acts of people who hate Him to produce something that He delights in.

Perhaps not all will agree with me on that, and that is fine. But still, every Christian ought to reckon with how/why they enjoy works of culture produced by non-Christians. Whether it's music, a movie, a home run, an exotic dish, or an iPod, it is a nearly universal experience for Christians to use and enjoy products created by people who hate Jesus. Is this a deep flaw in us that needs to be repented of, or is our delight a reflection of God's image that is stamped on our hearts? Or is there another way to explain it?

With regard to the Hebrews 11 passage that Rob quoted, I would say this: I don't believe that Reinke said that God is pleased by non-Christians; he only said that God can and does delight in things that they produce. If you concede that non-Christians reflect God's image, and you concede that God loves His glory supremely and takes great pleasure in the display of Himself wherever it is found, then it seems plausible that God does delight in the displays of Himself that He sees in non-Christians. It is not a delight in them, as sinners; it is a delight in His own glory shining through them. It's a delight in Himself. If God were not to delight in His own image reflected back to Himself, He would be unrighteous.

I think the context of Hebrews 11, and the entire letter as a whole, reveals that in writing 11:6, the writer has no intent of informing us about God's attitude toward art. He is warning a drifting church in danger of reverting to legalism that God's people have never pleased Him through their works, but always through faith. When he speaks of pleasing God here, I believe he's speaking of pleasing Him in a salvific (yes, that really is a word) way. So I don't know that this verse necessarily has any bearing on the issue. Perhaps I'm wrong about that though.

Thanks for stimulating my thought on these matters, Rob. This is obviously a matter way outside the innermost circle of core Christian beliefs, so it's an area where I think Christians can have differing views. I only posted Reinke's article and my own reflections because I desire that all of us who love Jesus work hard to think in a God-centered way about all of life. And that includes our love of art.

Since leisure and art is such a big part of everyone's life, I figure it's a good thing to think through. Whether you arrive at the same conclusions as me or not (and my thinking is certainly still in process), hopefully God will be honored by our diligent thinking.

If anyone has made it this far, I would certainly value your adding in your thoughts on this matter!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Answering Rob, Part 1

In response to yesterday's post on whether God delights in the art of non-Christians, Rob wrote:

I think I see where you (and Reinke) are coming from, but I still am on the fence here a bit. Can we use the word "please?" There are things that are done in the world by non-Christians that "reflect" something about God Himself, but do they actually "please" Him?

How do you explain it in light of Hebrews 11:6?
"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."

It is a great question. I told Rob I'd answer his question today, but I'm going to have to delay that answer one more day. For now, let me muddy the issue even more with a similar situation from the sports world.

I have written before of my thoughts on basketball superstar LeBron James. Last night, in his team's biggest game of the year, James played a dud of a game. Here's a snippet from his post-game remarks:

"I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have a bad game here or there, you've had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it's easy to point that out."

This appears to be the same lack of humility that I have observed in the past (see the two links above). While I want to make clear that I am painfully aware that I am a proud man who has a long way to go in the pursuit of humility, I can't imagine God is very pleased with comments like this from LeBron. I have a hard time rooting for LeBron because of this evident lack of humility. You know it's bad when you actually find yourself rooting for the Celtics!

Nevertheless, though I am not fond of LeBron, I still take a measure of delight in watching some of his extraordinary moves on the basketball court. I don't take pleasure in the man's character, but his skill on the court brings delight to the basketball fan in me.

As I think of my attitude toward LeBron James, or Dave Matthews for that matter, I can't help but come to the conclusion that though the sin of these men causes me grief, I still take pleasure in some of the things they produce.

If I can do that with an athlete or a musician, is it possible that God can (and does) do the same?

Just some more questions to consider. I'll try to answer Rob's question more directly tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with me, Rob!

Alexamenos and his God

The above picture is the tracing of a second-century Roman graffito depicting the head of a jackass on Jesus' body being crucified. A man stands next to the cross with this arms raised. The caption reads:

"Alexamenos worships his god."

The word of the cross is utter foolishness to the fallen, human mind. Yet this crucified carpenter whom the world regards as a jackass is the power of God for those who are being saved.

One's response to the cross is the dividing line of the whole human race. It is a shocking, offensive message. If a lot of people don't abhor it, we must ask ourselves whether we are really being faithful to the message.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If I ever had a reason to start drinking coffee, this is it

I've only had two cups of coffee in my lifetime (both while in was college), and have no plans of drinking any more. But Acts 29 coffee gives a compelling reason for coffee lovers to buy up the java in large quantities: every purchase from them goes directly to church planting in the region where you are located. From their website:

Acts 29 Coffee is an opportunity for the church body to buy their coffee with gospel intentionality. This is coffee with a purpose-to continue the mission of Jesus by helping plant new churches.

Since I'm not a coffee-drinker, I can't say how their prices compare with other brands (It has to be cheaper than Starbucks, right?). But even if it's a bit more expensive than the cheapest you can find at Sam's Club, seeing gospel-rooted churches planted in your region seems like a good reason to spend a couple of extra bucks on your next bag of coffee, doesn't it?

Visit the Acts 29 Cofee site here, and check them out.

Does God Delight in Non-Christian Art?

That is the title of this post from Tony Reinke. Given my frequent musings on Carter Beauford's drumming, Miles Davis' trumpet and DeSean Jackson's punt returns, you know I was intrigued.

I expected the answer to the question to be in the affirmative, and I was correct. Still, I appreciated the way Reinke handled the question. Here's a quote that I found particularly helpful:

"God is the most perfect lover of his image. The image resides within humanity in the substantial human soul. Accordingly, it coruscates [glitters] in culture in infinitely different ways. It is impossible that God should see such reflections of his glory and not find himself wrapped in cognitive delights. He thinks most highly of his own image. He delights in it most profoundly."

Those who wonder how their leisure can bring glory to God (and that should be all of us!) would, I think, be edified by this article.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don't Forget This

Tim Keller, from his new study The Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything,

"The determining factor in our relationship with God is not our past but Christ's past."

Can I Pray for You?

Last week a few of my favorite bloggers linked to this article from Don Whitney on the value of asking the simple question, "How can I pray for you?", as a way of opening up doors to speak to people about Christ. Here's an excerpt:

Over and over I've seen one simple question open people's hearts to hear the gospel. Until I asked this question, they showed no interest in spiritual matters. But then after six words—only seventeen letters in English—I've seen people suddenly begin to weep and their resistance fall. The question is, "How can I pray for you?"

Most people in the world never hear such a question. And while many churchgoers know that a minister is willing to pray for them, in some traditions they're expected to make a special donation to the church for such services. So when you ask, "How can I pray for you?" and it's obvious that you're asking out of love alone, it can touch a person more deeply than you imagine.

Whitney closes by encouraging readers that if you simply and sincerely ask people this question, you will be surprised at the results. So on the day I read this article last week, I took up Whitney on his challenge. I was having breakfast with a friend, and when the waitress brought our food I said, "My friend and I are about to give thanks to God for our meal; is there anything we can pray for you?"

Without hesitation, the lady said she needed help. When I asked her what she meant, she said "Mental help. My son died seven years ago and I've been in therapy since then and I need help."

As my friend and I prayed, I was reminded that God Himself knows what it's like to a lose a Son, as He gave His beloved Son to be slaughtered for the sins of the world. When the waitress came to check on us, I told her about what God had reminded me of when we were praying, and encouraged her that God could be a strength to her because He can empathize with her pain.

I told her I was a pastor in the area, gave her my card and told her where the church was. Who knows what will come of that, but I was encouraged by the opportunity.

So give it a try this week: ask a stranger how you can pray for them, and leave a comment to tell us what happened.

Audio from Acts 29 Regional Conference

As I mentioned last week, I had the privilege of attending the Acts 29 regional conference hosted by Real Life Church in Philadelphia. Here is the audio to the two main sessions given by Jeff Vanderstelt from Soma Communities in Tacoma, Washington:

Session 1
Session 2

I was greatly challenged and blessed by these two messages, and would highly recommend them to stoke your own fire for living all of life as Christ's ambassadors, everywhere we go and in everything that we do.

Gino informs me that video will be available soon.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ten Ways to Pray for Moms

I posted these three years ago on the Seeking Him blog, but since that is deceased now I thought I'd re-post it here (thanks to my friend Erin for giving these requests to me):
  1. to be gospel centered- without the hope of Jesus cleansing us from our sin, reconciling us to God and spending an eternity in heaven, all of our work will be in vain
  2. to memorize and meditate on the promises of God throughout the day so that we are focused on the One who gives all things for His glory and our good
  3. for the fruit of the Spirit in all we do so that our children may see the hope of Jesus
  4. for a soul at rest in the Lord so when struggle comes the peace of God still transcends
  5. for a heart so satisfied in God that every word, facial expression and tone reflects a knowledge of the great grace we have been granted and extends that grace to others
  6. for a knowledge of God’s person and the Scriptures so we may easily instruct our children in the every day occurrences of life
  7. for the high standards of God’s Word in parenting our children so we do not fall into simply settling for half-hearted obedience from our children
  8. for strength to persevere when they days and nights are long, knowing that we will reap a harvest in due time
  9. for a great love and respect for our husbands so that our children know they are in third place in our lives and their dad is the leader of the home
  10. for a contentment in the place God has us and a thankfulness that does not wish time away or hope to be somewhere else, but delights in the gift of being a wife and a mother
Moms, what would you add to this list?

Friday, May 7, 2010

We Need Truth

John Piper:

"When there is no truth that deserves assent from everybody, the only arbiter in our competing desires is power. Where truth doesn’t define what’s right, might makes right. And where might makes right, weak people pay with their lives. When the universal claim of truth disappears, what you get is not peaceful pluralism or loving relationships; what you get is concentration camps and gulags."

She Must Really Love Horse-Racing

I found this picture humorous (click the photo to enlarge):

Can someone think of a caption?

Everyone Has a Gospel Story

On Monday at the Acts 29 regional conference, Jeff Vanderstelt made this same point articulated by Tim Chester on his blog:

Four points of intersection
Everyone has their own version of the ‘gospel’ story:

creation – who I am or who I should be
fall – what’s wrong with me and the world
redemption – what’s the solution
consummation – what I hope for

When we hear people expressing their version of creation, fall, redemption or consummation, we can talk about the gospel story. Talking about Jesus begins with listening to other people’s stories and sharing our own story of Jesus.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seatbelts and the Sanctity of Life

On Randy Alcorn's blog, I saw this commercial advocating the importance of seat-belts:

I imagine that very few (if any) people are offended by this ad, though it advocates restricting a person's choice to not wear a seat-belt. Our government requires drivers to wear seat-belts, and failure to comply is a punishable crime. I do not know anyone who finds it morally repugnant that our government hinders the person's "right to choose" on this matter.

The government can indeed, and does, tell people what to do or what not to do with their bodies. So in the discussion on abortion, it will not do for the advocate of choice to simply say, "I do not believe the government can tell a person what to do with their bodies."

Our seat-belt laws makes this clear as can be.

What is a Missional Community?

Earlier in the week I mentioned being in Philly for the Acts 29 regional conference. The theme was building and multiplying missional communities.

So what exactly is a missional community? Jeff Vanderstelt, who was the main speaker for the day, defined the term this way:

A missional community is a gospel-formed community that lives out the mission of making disciples together in a specific area and to a particular group of people by demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms and declaring the gospel to lead people to faith and formation in Jesus Christ.

A mouthful for sure, but worthy of serious reflection and prayer. Vanderstelt uses some key words to remind people of this calling: family, missionaries, servants and disciples.

If all this sounds like a lot of extra stuff to add to an already busy schedule, I particularly was challenged by this statement from Vanderstelt:

"I'm not asking you to add anything to your life; I am asking you to live differently."

As I posted earlier, resources from Vanderstelt explaining how he has worked out this understanding of mission among his people in Tacoma can be found here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Indicatives & Imperatives

Here is a good, simple post from Justin Taylor explaining the difference between indicatives and imperatives in the Bible, and how the former is meant to motivate the latter. The conclusion is this:

"Pastor, are you encouraging your people to become who they already are in Christ Jesus?"

I hope the answer to that question is, "Yes!"

The Secret of the Gospel

On Monday JT linked to this quote from Kevin DeYoung:

"The secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us."

Read DeYoung's whole article here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

When God's Answer is Different from Your Petition

A good quote from Tim Keller thanks to my friend Phil Henry:

"When God answers our prayers differently than we ask, he gives what we would have asked for had we known everything he knows."

Acts 29 Regional Conference

I hope to write a bit more later in the week, but for now I will just say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time yesterday in Philadelphia at the Acts 29 regional conference at Real Life Church.

Jeff Vanderstelt, from Soma Communities in Tacoma Washington, is a man of great wisdom and I was very edified and challenged by his two teaching sessions. Gino told me that audio from the conference would be posted to the web, so if I find that I will post it here. For now, here's one quote that I gave a hearty Amen to:

"The goal of Bible study is not information, but transformation."

Sports World and Real World

I just learned today that Phillies' pitcher Ryan Madson, who went on the disabled list last week with a broken toe, suffered that injury when he kicked a chair in the Phillies' clubhouse after blowing a save last week. He probably will not pitch for at least a month.

Is there any other profession in the world outside of sports in which a person can do something so immature and foolish that hinders him from doing the job he is being paid to do, yet continue to earn his salary as though nothing has happened?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Exploring Missional Communities

I anticipate that this week will be a light one in regards to blogging. Today I am headed into Philly for most of the day to be a part of the Acts 29 regional conference on exploring missional communities.

Our church is not a part of the Acts 29 network of churches, but I have great respect for what they are doing and was invited by my friend Gino, who serves in the church that is hosting the event. We will sit under the ministry of Jeff Vanderstelt.

If I have the time, I'll post something this week with some thoughts on the event.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

One way to know you've received God's mercies

Gordon Fee, commenting ($58 retail for a commentary!?) on 1 Corinthians 1:4:

"In every redeemed person there is evidence of the grace of God, and that brings forth Paul's gratitude both to God and for them. To delight in God for his working in the lives of others, even in the lives of those with whom one feels compelled to disagree, is sure evidence of one's own awareness of being the recipient of God's mercies."

Don't Forget to Groan, 5/1

A landslide destroyed portions of a major highway outside the port city of Keelung, northern Taiwan, as seen in this April 25 aerial image. Four people were killed.

(Why should we groan?)