Monday, January 31, 2011

Belief is a Cover-Up

Challies posted this video today; a good one if you ever hear the line, "Belief is a cover-up for insecurity":

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mere Christianity

(Thoughts here provoked by Kevin DeYoung)

Read these two quotes:

Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem quite so immoral and silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor an other is Christianity. The central belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter: A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work.

The [theory] most people have heard is the one I mentioned before–the one about our being let off because Christ had volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not.

This writer seems to be scoffing at the idea of penal substitutionary atonement, the idea that on the cross Jesus bore in His flesh the punishment for the sins of His people. If someone wrote this today (and, sadly, there are plenty of people writing it today), conservative evangelicals would label this heresy.

Yet the man who wrote these quotes is none other than C.S. Lewis, in his famous book Mere Christianity. Why do you think evangelicals are so fond of C.S Lewis, while regarding many contemporary writers saying the same thing as enemies of Jesus and the gospel?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Evangelism through Community

Tim Chester:

You’ve managed to talk to your friend about Jesus without much response. What should do you do next? How can we get disinterested people interested in the gospel? Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35; 17:21, 23). How will people believe that Jesus is the Son of God sent by God as the Savior and Lord of our world? Through the common life of God’s people (John 17:21, 23).

Proclamation must be central to mission because the gospel is a word to proclaim. But our message is understood best in the context of our lives and especially our life together and our love for one another. Time and again people are attracted by what they experience in the Christian community, and this creates interest in the Christian message. This means we need to introduce people to the Christian community, not just by inviting them to our meetings, but by including them in our shared life.

To reach the many people today who have rejected church we need to take church to them by doing mission in the context of ordinary life. As people hang out with us, eat meals with us, do chores with us they will encounter a disparate group of people who somehow are family together, a community that challenges their priorities and provokes their questions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Somebody Else

A meditation from Paul Tripp's book, Whiter than Snow:

I really wish I could blame
somebody else.
I wish I could place the responsibility
on somebody else.
I would love to point the finger
at somebody else.
I wish I could convince myself
that it was somebody else.
I tried to feed myself the logic
that it was somebody else.
For a moment I bought my argument
that it was somebody else.
There is always another sinner
who can bear my fault.
There is always some circumstance
that can carry my blame.
There's always some factor
that made me do what I did.
There's always somewhere else to point
rather than looking at me.
But in the darkness of bedtime
the logic melts out of my heart.
In the moments before sleep
the pain begins to squeeze away my breath.
As my mind replays the day's moments
the conclusion is like a slap.
There is no monster
to hide from.
There is no excuse that holds.
My war is not external,
the enemy is not outside.
The struggle rages within me,
nowhere to point or run.
No independent righteousness,
no reason for smugness or rest.
I am my greatest enemy
and rescue my only hope.
In the quiet I face it
I cannot blame somebody else.
One more time I close my eyes admitting
my only hope is found in Somebody else.

Monday, January 24, 2011

No, Mr. President

From JT's blog:

The President’s statement on the Roe v. Wade anniversary:

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.

I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.

And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Albert Mohler calls this “one of the most revealing—and tragic—statements made by any political figure in our times.”

John Piper responded to a similar statement by the President a few years ago:

New Keller Book

Tim Keller talks about his forthcoming book, King's Cross, due out next month:

Introduction to Books & Resources by Timothy Keller from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Violent Grace

In addition to my daily readings from Scripture, I've been enjoying Paul Tripp's devotional book, Whiter than Snow. It is a collection of 52 short meditations on Psalm 51. Here's a quote from the chapter I read this morning, titled Violent Grace. It's a reflection on Psalm 51:9, "Let the bones that you have broken rejoice":

God's grace isn't always comfortable because He isn't primarily working on our comfort; He's working on our character. With violent grace He will crush us because He loves us and is committed to our restoration, deliverance and refinement. And that is something worth celebrating.

Get more info on the book, and read the first four meditations, here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Hermeneutic of the Gospel

Leslie Newbigin:

“How can this strange story of God made man, of a crucified savior, of resurrection and new creation become credible for those whose entire mental training has conditioned them to believe that the real world is the world that can be satisfactorily explained and managed without the hypothesis of God? I know of only one clue to the answering of that question, only one real hermeneutic of the gospel: congregations that believe it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Praying Scripture

Perfectly timed with my sermon on prayer from yesterday, Tim Challies posted this reflection on praying Scripture.

I don't think there's a better way to ensure that we are "praying in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18) than to pray God's Word back to Him.

Seeing Jesus on Every Page

I've posted this video before:

But just yesterday I came across this excellent resource from the ESV Study Bible: Vern Poythress highlighting the History of Salvation in the Old Testament.

Bookmark this resource and refer to it as you read through the Old Testament. It looks like a great way of seeing the point that Jesus made to His disciples after the resurrection:

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. " Luke 24:27

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jeff Vanderstelt on Gospel Rhythms

One of the most important passages for me in understanding the church and its mission is 1 Peter 2:9-12,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

In this 15-minute video, Jeff Vanderstelt begins with that great text and then shares how the network of churches he leads in Tacoma Washington have worked that out in the "ordinary" stuff of every day life:

Jeff Vanderstelt: Rhythms [VERGE 2010 Main Session] from Verge Network on Vimeo.

If you have a few minutes, check it out and let me know what you think....

Loving Someone into Lovability

The gospel method of change is that through Jesus, God counts us as good before we actually are good in practice.

In this short blog post, John Piper ponders what would happen if we were to love others as God has loved us. My guess is that as you read it, your mind will gravitate toward someone in particular.

If that happens for you, then why not ask yourself (or more importantly, ask the Lord) what you should start doing to love that person?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Never an Interruption

For a bit of the flavor of Tripp's DVD on parenting, here is an article just posted at The Gospel Coalition website. He writes:

You and I must remember that our Lord loves our children more than we ever could, and his commitment to their growth and change is more faithful and persevering than ours could ever be. Because of this, in his grace and love, he will manufacture moments that expose the needy hearts of our children to us. He will faithfully employ the little moments of everyday life to expose to us and our children their need of rescuing and forgiving grace. And he will not do this only at the moments that you feel are appropriate and when you feel most prepared.

Read the rest; if you're a parent, it's well worth your time!

The Church & Social Issues

There's a lot of discussion among church leaders today about "social justice", and what part (if any) this kind of work has to do with the church's mission. Loads and loads of books, conferences, articles, etc are coming out trying to address that complicated issue.

With all the discussion, I find these words from John Piper to be right on. I agree heartily with his point, and love his brevity in making it. Answering the question, "Should the church work on social and political problems?", Piper writes:

Yes . . .

If you mean: Ten million Christians should take 10 hours a week spent watching TV, and give that time to worthy social and political engagement.

No . . .

If you mean: The pastors should leave their Bible study and pulpits and counseling and evangelism, and put that time into politics and social ministries.

Getting to the Heart of Parenting

Westminster Books is running a great sale this week (runs through 1/18) on Paul Tripp's DVD, Getting to the Heart of Parenting. For this week only, the DVD series (ten 25-minute sessions) is only $14.99, 75% off the regular price.

Michelle and I have watched these and found them to be edifying and challenging.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bible Reading Plans

As promised to the congregation I have the pleasure of serving, here is a blog post from Justin Taylor with several options of Bible reading plans to use in engaging with the Scriptures in 2011.

Just because we're a week and a half into the New Year does not mean it's too late to pick up a plan that works for you and hold fast to the Scriptures!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Is this Funny?

The other day I posted a quote from Pastor Tullian that it's unwise to be serious when it's time to be silly, and unwise to be silly when it's time to be serious.

What response does wisdom dictate toward this two-minute clip?

Obviously the creators of this intend it to be funny...and I think in ways it certainly is funny. But I'm not sure that I should think it's funny.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How Precious is the Bible?

This Sunday at Joy Community Fellowship I'll be doing my best -- with the Spirit's help -- to motivate, persuade, encourage and inspire our congregation to devote themselves to the Word of God in 2011.

This video was a timely bit of inspiration for me: John Piper at the Lausanne answering these five questions to determine how important the Bible is:
  1. What would happen if it did not exist?
  2. What would you give to have it or keep it?
  3. What does it make possible?
  4. How does it weather critics and detractors?
  5. How much effort should be given to spread it and preserve it?

John Piper @ GELF Breakfast - Lausanne 2010 from Crossway on Vimeo.

Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage

As I tend to do from time to time, I'm posting this link as a way for me to locate something that I plan to refer to in the future, in hopes that it might also be profitable for some of you readers: a list of questions to ask when preparing for marriage.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Seriousness & Silliness

A good word from Pastor Tullian:

It's just as unwise to be serious when it's time to be silly as it is being silly when it's time to be serious. (see Ecclesiastes 3)

The Truth about Anxiety

Tim Keller:

"It takes pride to be anxious – I am not wise enough to know how my life should go."

Feelings & Truth

John Piper:

This is the way I live my life every day -- seeking to bring my vagrant feelings into line with ultimate reality. My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes—many times—my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens—and it happens every day in some measure—I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of his truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.

That’s the way I live my life every day. I hope you are with me in that battle.

I'm with you, John. Thanks for the challenge!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bible Reading in 2011

I am not a big fan of change. And I am BIG fan of the Bible. So the idea of changing my Bible reading plan is not an easy thing for me to do!

But as of this morning, I've made a change. For the last 6-8 years I have used the Discipleship Journal plan, which takes you through the entire Bible in a year, reading from four different places.

But back in July I mentioned coming across Grant Horner's complex reading plan, which has you read a chapter from ten different places in the Bible each day. Since seeing it, I've been intrigued by it but have felt some reservations about how it might affect my communion with God in His Word.

But after several recommendations, I'm going to give it a try for at least a month. I've tweaked the plan slightly so that I am only reading eight chapters daily, instead of ten. And after one day, I was greatly blessed by time in His Word. So we'll see how it goes.

What plan do you use for doing your Bible reading? If you don't have a formal "plan", how do you decide what you're going to read? I'd be curious to know how other readers mine the riches of God's Word. Leave a comment and let me know.