Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blog Break

The blog is going to be dormant until some time around November 15th. I'll be on a retreat with my fellow elders from Joy Community Fellowship this weekend, and then will be taking 10 days of vacation. In the Lazarus household, vacation means no computers at all.

If I still have any readers left, I'll see you all mid-November.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

DeYoung & Keller on Generous Justice

If I can say this without sounding like the president of his fan club, I really do love Tim Keller. His emphasis on the centrality of the gospel for all of life, for both believers and unbelievers, has been life-changing and ministry-changing. I say that without exaggeration.

Keller's new book, Generous Justice, is due out in the next couple of weeks, and I am eager to read it. Today Kevin DeYoung, another sharp thinker whose ministry has been an encouragement to me, interviewed Keller about the new book. I thought this quote was especially helpful:

I believe that making disciples and doing justice relate (not exactly) but somewhat in the same way that faith and works relate to one another. We would say that faith alone is the basis for salvation, and yet true faith will always result in good works. We must not “load in” works as if they are an equal with faith as a salvation-base, but neither can we “detach” works and say that they are optional for a believer. Similarly, I would say that the first thing I need to tell people when they come to church is “believe in Jesus,” not “do justice.”

Why? Because first, believing in Jesus meets a more radical need and second, because if they don’t believe in Jesus they won’t have that gospel-motivation to do justice that I talk about in the book. So there’s a priority there. On the other hand, for a church to not constantly disciple its people to “do justice” would be utterly wrong, because it is an important part of God’s will. I’m calling for an ‘asymmetrical balance’ here. It seems to me that some churches try to “load in” doing justice as if it is equally important as believing in Jesus, but others, in fear of falling into the social gospel, do not preach or disciple their people to do justice at all. Both are wrong. A Biblical church should be highly evangelistic yet known for its commitment to the poor of the city.

Check out the whole article here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Humble Thinking

From John Piper's book Think:

Any knowledge that does not stand in the service of love is not real knowing. It is prostituted knowing. It's as though God put surgical tools in our hands and taught us how to save the sick, but we turned them into a clever juggling act while the patients died. Knowing and thinking exist for the sake of love -- for the sake of building people up in faith. Thinking that produces pride instead of love is not true thinking. We only imagine that we are thinking. God does not see it as thinking. It's not surgery; it's juggling.

The Gospel Every Day

Pastor Tullian:

Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it.

Or to put it another way:

The gospel is not only growing wider in the world but it’s also growing deeper in Christians.

Or to put it another way:

The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life but it’s also the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day.

Or to put it the way the Apostle Paul put it (in Colossians 1:6):

"Of this (the believer's future heavenly hope) you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth."

Bottom line: make your chief ambition of every day to get your heart deeply rooted in the gospel.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gems from Gospel Math

Three of my favorite quotes from Tullian's talk at the DG conference which I posted yesterday:

The irony of gospel growth is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience but on Christ's. Those who end up performing better are those who understand that their standing isn't based on their performance for Christ, but on Christ's performance for them.

The world spends a lot of money trying to tempt us to locate our identity in someone or something smaller than Jesus (therein lies the depth of my disappointment at the Philles' current woes).

In Christ my identity is secure, which frees me to give everything that I have because in Christ I already have everything that I need.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Mathematics of the Gospel

I've mentioned Tullian Tchividjian many times on the blog. Here's a good introduction to his ministry: his seminar given at Desiring God's National conference a few weeks ago called Giving Thought to Gospel Math: Why Jesus + Nothing = Everything (If viewing this in a feed reader, you may need to click through to the site to see the video).

Thinking about the Lord's Supper

File this in the category of items that I post here simply for my own future reference. If it benefits others too, all the better! Via JT:

Here is a thoughtful, helpful essay from Kim Riddlebarger, entitled “The Reformation of the Supper” (PDF), from the new book, Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey, ed. R. Scott Clark and Joel E. Kim.

The essay looks at three issues related to how often the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated, and how one’s theology of the Supper can impact the answer to that question:

  1. The Biblical Evidence for the Frequent Celebration of the Lord’s Supper
  2. The Historical Evidence for Frequent Celebration of the Lord’s Supper
  3. Some Pastoral and Theological Implications of Frequent Celebration

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Don't Forget to Groan, 10/16

A daughter of Lt. Col. Robert Baldwin, of Eliza, Ill., looks on as a flag is presented during his burial service at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Oct. 6. Baldwin was killed in Afghanistan.

(Why should we groan?)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Busy Christians

"How are you doing?"

It seems like one of the most common answers to that question is: busy. Busyness seems to be a paralyzing illness in our society, and especially in the church.

A few years ago Tim Chester (whose book You Can Change I have recommended many times on this blog) wrote a book called The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness.

In it, he says that one of the important ways to deal with our busyness is to identify the desires of our hearts that make us try to do more than God expects of us. Here are some examples, along with the accompanying truths of God that can liberate us from the tyrannies of our sinful desires:
  • I’m busy busy because I need to prove myself-The liberating rest of God
  • I’m busy because of other people’s expectations-The liberating fear of God
  • I’m busy because otherwise things get out of control-The liberating rule of God
  • I’m busy because I prefer being under pressure-The liberating refuge of God
  • I’m busy because I need the money-The liberating joy of God
  • I’m busy because I want to make the most of my life-The liberating hope of God
If you find that you're always telling people about how busy you are, this might be a good book to check out.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Double Jeopardy & God's Justice

"Did Jesus die for the sins of all people?" Almost every evangelical Christian is going to answer that question with a resounding, "Yes!"

But I think the question is worthy of some reflection, because of the idea of double jeopardy: that is, the legal principle that a person cannot be convicted and punished twice for the same crime.

The question about Jesus dying for the sins of all people begs this further question: if Jesus did in fact die for the sins of all people -- even those who reject Christ and endure eternal punishment in hell -- why would a righteous God send those people to hell? If Christ died for their sins, then the punishment has been paid. To send that person to hell would seem to significantly call God's justice into question.

So, did Jesus die for the sins of all people?

Don't Waste Your Work

Piper, from Don't Waste Your Life:

"You don't waste your life by where you work, but how and why."

So a "secular" vocation (ie, one that is not structurally connected to the church) has every bit as much value and dignity in God's sight as the vocation of pastor or missionary.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What is Church?

How likely is it that you and your family can embrace and live out the following commands in Scripture by gathering with people for an hour and a half on Sunday morning?

John 15:12 – Love one another
Romans 5:13 – Don’t pass judgment on one another
Romans 12:5 – Be members of one another
Romans 12:10 – Honor one another
Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another
Romans 14:19 – Build up one another
Romans 15:5 – Be like-minded toward one another
Romans 15:7 – Accept one another
1 Corinthians 12:25 – Care for one another
Galatians 5:13 – Serve one another in love
Galatians 5:26 – Don’t provoke or envy one another
Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another
Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another
1 Thessalonians 3:12 – Abound in love toward one another
1 Thessalonians 4:18 – Comfort one another
Hebrews 3:13 – Encourage one another
Hebrews 10:24 – Stir up one another to love and good deeds
James 5:16 – Confess your sins to one another
1 Peter 4:9 – Offer hospitality to one another
1 Peter 5:14 – Greet one another
1 John 1:7 – Fellowship with one another
1 John 3:11 – Love one another
Ephesians 5:21- Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ

That's probably not all going to happen this Sunday. So as much as I love Sunday mornings with the flock at Joy Community Fellowship, we better not reduce church to what happens in that weekly meeting, right?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Story of Perception

I thought this was a cool story:

In a Washington DC subway station, Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world, recently played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music. But in the subway station, practically nobody cared or even noticed him.

Check out the rest of the story here.

Seven Questions to Enter the Pulpit With

In his recent message at the Desiring God National Conference, Francis Chan mentioned seven questions that he asks himself in preparing to preach:

  1. Am I worried about what people think of my message or what God thinks? (Teach with fear)
  2. Do I genuinely love these people? (Teach with love)
  3. Am I accurately presenting this passage? (Teach with accuracy)
  4. Am I depending on the Holy Spirit's power or my own cleverness? (Teach with power)
  5. Have I applied this message to my own life? (Teach with integrity)
  6. Will this message draw attention to me or to God? (Teach with humility)
  7. Do the people really need this message? (Teach with urgency)
I think I might well print these questions and place them in my binder, so I can be reminded of them as I prepare to preach God's Word to the congregation I have the privilege of serving.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Randy Alcorn:

We need a biblical theology of humor that prepares us for an eternity of celebration and spontaneous laughter.

And he's got a text to back it up:

"Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh" (Luke 6:21).

Conquering in Conflict

Awhile back I mentioned that I had picked up Sam Storms' book of meditations on Colossians, The Hope of Glory. I enjoyed that book so much that I recently purchased Storms' similar book of meditations on the seven letters of Revelation 2-3, called To the One who Conquers.

I really appreciated this quote on the church in Ephesus:

The first church to receive a letter from Jesus was located in a city that wasn’t even remotely Christian. No laws existed to protect their freedom of religious expression. The worship of false deities was institutionalized. The only things on which the Ephesian believers could rely were God himself and one another. Yet, as we’ll note in a subsequent lesson, they labored faithfully for the gospel, endured patiently, and were intolerant of evil. Yes, the church had its problems, for which Jesus issues a stern rebuke, but its members had not abandoned the faith.

How would you and I fare in such a pagan atmosphere? I ask this
because it often appears to me that many Christians believe the church in America can survive only if it is afforded legislative protection, only if politically conservative and Christian candidates are elected to national and local office, only if the next appointee to the Supreme Court is pro-life, only if prayer is restored to our public schools.

Make no mistake: I’m eternally grateful for the laws that safeguard our rights, and I consistently vote for those candidates who are social, fiscal, and moral conservatives. But have we come so to depend on such political blessings, economic liberties, and the legal protection Christianity enjoys that in their absence we fear the destruction of the church and the silencing of our witness?

The church in Ephesus, as with so many other congregations in the
first century, knew nothing of a constitution, a first amendment, or a right to vote. Yet they survived, and thrived, in the midst of what strikes us as unimaginable state-sanctioned idolatry and immorality. Before we panic or lose heart at the state of our state, or the condition of our city, we would do well to remember the promise of Jesus: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Help Send R.C. Sproul’s Book on Abortion to Congress

This sounds like an exciting opportunity from Ligonier Ministries:

January 22, 2011 marks the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. On January 3rd, the 112th United States Congress will open with newly elected representatives in the Senate and the House of Representatives joining the incumbents. This is an important opportunity to influence our nation’s leaders on the critical issue of abortion. To coincide with both of these dates, Ligonier will send R.C. Sproul’s Twentieth Anniversary special edition of Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (Reformation Trust Publishing, November 2010) to every Congressional representative. Will you help?

Our goal is to raise $6,000 to fund this effort. For every $10 that you donate, you send one book to a representative. It is our hope that this resource, along with a letter from R.C. Sproul, will make an impact on the hearts and minds of our representatives in Congress.

Read more here.

You can read the first chapter online for free.

(Via JT)

Getting Practical

From David Mathis's introduction to With Calvin in the Theater of God:

Calvin's big, biblical vision of God changes every day life. If you really want to be practical, don't reach for gimmicks, checklists, and self-helps, but come with Calvin to the Bible and get to know the most important realities in the universe: God, creation, sin, heaven, hell, Jesus, his cross and resurrection, the Holy Spirit. The biblical vision of the glory of God in Christ is the most practical reality in the universe.

You can read the introduction, and the rest of the book, online for free here. I'll have more to say about this book next week.

Don't Forget to Groan, 10/8

On Monday, October 4th, a large reservoir filled with toxic red sludge in western Hungary ruptured, releasing approximately 700,000 cubic meters (185 million gallons) of stinking caustic mud, which killed many animals, at least four people, and injured over 120 - many with chemical burns. The 12-foot-high flood of sludge inundated several towns, sweeping cars off the road as it flowed into the nearby Marcal River:

A 34-year old resident checks his new furniture in Kolontar, Hungary on October 6, 2010 after a wave of toxic red mud swept through the small village.

An animal lies dead in the toxic mud, which flooded the village of Kolontar.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Lesson of Job

Pastor Tullian quotes Piper on the book of Job:

I came with nothing from the womb, I go with nothing to the tomb.
He is not poor nor much enticed, who loses everything but Christ

Think -- A Plea to Thinkers

From the final chapter of Think:

Make all your thinking an act of love for people...Thinking that does not aim to display Christ and build up people is not worthy of God's approval. It may produce wonders -- antibiotics, buildings, bridges, books, big-screen TV's -- but the final stamp on the box will be: Disapproved.

Admiring Roy Halladay...

With one foot raised! What a start to the Playoffs!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

With One Foot Raised

For the first time in the 127-year history of the franchise, my beloved Phillies have finished with the best record in the major leagues. ESPN's "experts" seem to think that the Phils are the favorite to win the World Series. It's certainly an exciting time to be a Phillies' fan.

With that in view, I received a great reminder yesterday in the book With Calvin in the Theater of God. Sam Storms begins his chapter on Calvin's vision of the glory of heaven with a quote from Calvin written to a woman suffering from severe physical afflictions. He says that her (and our) afflictions are instruments through which we learn "to have one foot raised to take our departure when it shall please God."

In other words, we ought to live every day with one foot raised, ready and eager for the day when we will depart from this world and enter into the splendor of heavenly glory. Storms then closes the chapter with this exhortation:

Young man, young woman, go to school, study hard, prepare yourself for fifty or more years in a productive and exciting career. But do it with one foot raised!

Let all of us diligently labor at our place of business. Honor our employers by giving them a good day's labor for a day's wage. But always work with one foot raised!

By all means, get married. Enjoy the delight of romantic affections. Devote yourself to your spouse, yet do it with one foot raised!

Be quick to educate your children. Prepare them for life. Raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but always with one foot raised!

Study Greek and Hebrew and Latin! But study with one foot raised!

Celebrate life with your friends over a good steak and your beverage of choice. But eat and drink with one foot raised!

Weep at the grave site of a child. Mourn at the loss of a friend. But may it always be with one foot raised!

Read a book. Write a book. But read and write with one foot raised!

Cheer for your favorite football team (or this fan might say, baseball team) and celebrate wildly every victory. But do it with one foot raised!

Labor to enact legislation to improve life in your city, your state, your country, but always with one foot raised!

Plant a garden. Plant a church. Open a savings account. Purchase a thirty-year certificate of deposit. Invest in a stock. But do it all with one foot raised!

So I'm looking forward to the start of the MLB postseason, and appreciate Storms' encouragement to cheer for my favorite team. Hopefully there will be 11 wins to celebrate wildly...but I'll be doing it with one foot raised.

Think -- A Thought for Non-Thinkers

The final chapter of John Piper's book Think is a final plea to encourage both thinkers and non-thinkers. Here's one of his encouragements to non-thinkers. It may seem a bit self-serving given my calling in the church, but I think it's valuable to consider nevertheless:

Respect those who by inclination and calling devote time and effort to thinking for the sake of understanding the Bible and the world we live in. Christ has given pastors and teachers to the church (Eph. 4:11). Their job is to "labor at preaching and teaching" (1 Tim. 5:17), "rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15), "able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9). That is not all they do. But this part of their life is difficult, important, and precious. Respect them for their work. As Paul says, "Respect those who labor among you...esteem them very highly in love because of their work" (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Think -- Knowing and Loving God

From page 90 of Think, in a chapter entitled Loving God:

The main reason that thinking and loving are connected is that we cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to "love God with all your mind" means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure Him for all He is worth.

God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point calling it love for God. There may be some vague attraction in our heart or some unfocused gratitude in our soul, but if they do not arise from knowing God, they are not love for God.


Paul Tripp:

Today will you you forget who you are and try to earn what Christ has already achieved and search for what he has already given?

Monday, October 4, 2010


Several months ago I learned that John Piper would be writing a book on the importance of the life of the mind in loving and worshiping God, and since then I've eagerly awaited that book's release. I first heard Piper speak on this issue around seven years ago, and his emphasis on the head and the heart engaging in true worship has been a great passion of mine.

Last week, the book came out: Think -- The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is available for 45% off the cover price this week at Westminster books. Here's a synopsis of the book from the back cover:

We often pit thinking and feeling against each other, especially when it comes to the Christian experience. Glorifying God with our minds and hearts, however, is not either-or, but both-and. Focusing on the life of the mind will help you to know God better, love Him more, and care for the world. This book will help you think about thinking, and about how the heart and mind glorify God together.

Throughout the week I'll be posting some quotes from the book.

God's Favor

Pastor Tullian:

In Christ, no amount of good work can earn God’s favor and no amount of bad work can forfeit God’s favor.

Annie's Gospel

Rich gospel implications in this clip. What is it that changes Annie's approach to life? Not being told what to do, but being told that she has a new identity.

She is not an orphan anymore. That changes everything (I realize that the rest of the plotline shows several discrepancies with the gospel storyline, but I think the clip still makes a point):

(Via Jared Wilson)

Friday, October 1, 2010


David Mathis:

Should Christians tithe? The New Testament’s answer may surprise you. I’ve found the following reflections from Don Carson to be clarifying and challenging.

The only passage in the New Testament that explicitly authorizes the tithe does so in a rather backhanded way: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices.... But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matt. 23:23, NIV).

So if tithing, specifically, isn’t a New Testament emphasis, how should the Christian think about giving altogether?

[T]he most penetrating New Testament passage on giving is 2 Cor. 8-9. Under severe trial, the Corinthians’ “overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in a rich generosity” (8:2).

Carson concludes with the convicting suggestion (and gospel grounding),

So why not aim for 20 percent in your giving? Or 30? Or more, depending on your circumstances (8:12)? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that... for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (8:9).

For my part (this is Larry writing, not David Mathis), I'd only add that I don't think every penny of that sacrificial giving needs to go to your local church. Certainly the local church should be a priority, but there are other ways to display the generosity of Jesus.

What do you think: is tithing "Christian"?