Tuesday, November 30, 2010

45% Off ESV Bibles

As I've mentioned before both here and here, my favorite translation of the Bible is the English Standard Version.  Currently, Westminster Seminary Bookstore is running a special (through December 7) that cuts 45% off the price of all ESV Bibles.  Click here to examine what's available.

Twitter Bowl (@StevieJohnson13, part 2)

In light of my blog post yesterday on Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson, I wanted to post somewhat of a follow-up.  First of all, one of the problems with twitter is that when you tweet something, it’s out there.  We all have said things we wish we hadn’t (or said them in less then perfect ways).  With twitter, there’s absolutely no un-ringing the bell.  And for that reason, we should probably all be a little more careful about what we tweet (or blog, for that matter).

Furthermore, it was pointed out to me earlier today, that Johnson's reaction was much like that of the psalmist who sometimes questioned God (in words God deemed fit for Scripture).  These questions seem to point to a genuine relationship with God, even if the theology behind them is less than precise.

That being said, I was real encouraged to see the different tone in some of Johnson’s subsequent tweets yesterday.  I figured that if I (along with countless others) were to pass along Johnson’s original tweet, it’s only right that I publicize these as well:
I learned A lot Within 24hrs. Saw Both Sides.(Ups&Dwns) I AM HAPPY & THANKFUL 4 YESTERDAY! w/out Sunday iWldnt have grew closer w/The Lord!!
And No I Did Not Blame God People! Seriously??!? CMon! I Simply Cried Out And Asked Why? Jus Like yal did wen sumthin went wrong n ur life!
Spoke To Friends Fam Teammates and Most Importantly I Spoke With My Wife. I Honestly Believe Evrything Happens For A Reason! Everything!
And today:
GMorning World.. (slowly walks in n looks around out the corners of my eyes) Nah Wutup World #LetsPutASmileOnThatFace New Day We ALL Blessed
Almost Missed Your Tweet Mr. Warner. I Just Want to Say Thank You! Meant A Lot! @kurt13warner
The last of those is a reference to a series of tweets Johnson received from former All-Pro quarterback (and Dancing With the Stars hoofer) Kurt Warner.  They read:
Hey, man, we all have those moments! I had way too many of them... Keep ur head up, U will b on other side next time!
I asked same thing when released in STL & benched 3 times, But then God did his thing... Be ready! Enjoy watching you play!
Last thing... Keep representing the 'Lucky 13'! (a reference to their shared uniform number).
On a different note, here we see yet another example of why, dating back to his days with the Rams, Kurt Warner has been, is, and always will be my favorite football player.

I actually volunteered for the Rams video crew during the 1997 and 1998 seasons, running still photos out to the coaches during games. Unfortunately for me, my timing was a little less than perfect.  You see, the Rams moved to St. Louis for in 1995 and won seven games their first year.  They followed that up with a six win campaign in 1996.  In the two seasons I worked with them, the Rams won five and four games, respectively.  Then my wife and I had our first child, I quit working for the Rams because of the time commitment it required of me, Kurt Warner burst onto the scene, and the Rams won the Super Bowl.  

Much has been written about the key to the Rams’ success being the former Hy-Vee stock boy who started tossing touchdowns.  Now you know the real key was that I was no longer on the sideline!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God

Since 2000, each December Andrew Peterson and friends have toured the country, playing songs from his album, Behold the Lamb of God.  As Peterson puts it, the album tells the TRUE tall tale of the coming of Christ.  To give you a little bit of a feel for the album, here are two of the songs from it, performed live at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium in 2004.  The first, Matthew's Begats, is a fun diddy about the genealogy of Christ.  The second one, Labor of Love, is a more subdued, realistic look at what it might have been like for Mary and Joseph on the night that Christ was born.

If you would like to hear the music from the whole album as well as see the lyrics, click here and then click on "OPEN PLAYER."  I hope this will motivate you to go check them out this December at one of their tour stops listed below.  If you (sadly, like me) can't make it to any of the performances, then buy the 10th Anniversary 2-disc set which includes both the original recordings as well as live performances.  It is one of my favorite albums, Christmas music or otherwise, and I couldn't agree more with the Dallas Morning News which wrote the following about the original album:
If you buy only one Christmas CD this year let it be this one. No doubt, Mr. Peterson is one of the finest singer/songwriters in Christian music. On “Behold” he is joined by some of the other best of the best, including Fernando Ortega, Derek Webb, Jill Phillips and Sandra McCracken. The result is an organic album that relies on strength of writing faithful to Scripture, expert musicianship on everything from piano to hammered dulcimer and vocals that are pure and honest. What you will hear is a new classic in the making.
Click here to read another person's thoughts on the concert, and for more information about the album or the tour, visit the Behold the Lamb of God website.

Date - City
2 - Durham, NC
3 - Richmond, VA
4 - Milford, OH
5 - Milford, OH
7 - Huntsville, AL
8 - Jackson, TN
9 - Topeka, KS
10 - Lincoln, NE
12 - Knoxville, TN
14 - Montgomery, AL
15 - Charlotte, NC
16 - Nashville, TN
17 - Houston, TX
18 - Wichita Falls, TX
19 - Corsicana, TX

    God, Twitter, and Dropped Touchdown Passes

    Yesterday, the Buffalo Bills lost a heartbreaking game to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It was heartbreaking in part because they have only won twice so far this season and were such underdogs, but even more so because they seemingly had the game won in overtime.  That is when the apparent 40 yard game-winning touchdown pass went sailing toward a wide open Stevie Johnson in the end zone.  The Bills had won and Johnson was the hero.  Except he dropped the pass and the Steelers went on to win the game.

    I've been a (rather passionate) sports fan my whole life.  I understand the disappointment that a player must feel in the aftermath of a moment such as this.  Even so, I was saddened to see this morning that Johnson had tweeted, "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO..."

    I had a couple reactions to Johnson's tweet.  First of all, I feel bad for Johnson.  The flip side of the stardom we accord athletes is that their failures, every bit as much as their successes, are on view for all the world to see.  And we definitely make too much of both.  That being said, the theologian in my cringed as Johnson portrayed to the world a theology that is decidedly "un-Christian."  I've covered the whole argument of whether or not God cares who wins ballgames before, and I can't help to think that it would have benefitted Johnson to have read that post, or at least to have watched the embedded video.

    May we all, while wholeheartedly affirming the sovereignty of God, take responsibility for our own actions (it was, after all, Johnson who failed to catch the ball).  And may we in the face of life's difficulties react like a faithful man of old, who, having lost much more than a football game responded in Job 1:21, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

    A Word for Preachers

    "There are no dark passageways through twisted mazes of logic to biblical truth that require the expertise of the spiritually elite.  There is only a well-worn path that anyone can follow if the preacher will shed some ordinary light along the way."

    Bryan Chapell, in Christ-Centered Preaching

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Does Your Marriage Preach?

    Last week Randy Alcorn posted the following quote from the book Gospel-Powered Parenting.  In it, William Farley communicates the heart of what I've tried to teach others about marriage and parenting...only he says it a whole lot better!
    “This mystery [marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Here is Paul’s point. From before time began, God had marriage on his mind. He was preparing a bride for his Son, whom he would marry forever. It would take the crucifixion and resurrection of the Groom to bring this marriage to pass. Think of it. God created the most intimate human relationship, marriage, to speak of the intimacy of his relationship with his church.
    God created the institution of human marriage to reflect, or mirror forth, this eternal union. In other words, human marriage exists to point men and angels to the eternal marriage of Christ and his church. The gospel made this divine marriage possible. Here is our point: human marriage exists to preach the gospel. It exists to illustrate the fruit that should follow the preaching of the gospel in the church.
    To whom do our marriage preach? Of course, the first audience is God and his angels. They watch and rejoice, or if our marriage is a war zone, they grieve.
    Who is the second audience? Most of us think first about our non-Christian neighbors. Maybe they will see our attempts to model Christian marriage and want the gospel? They might, and we hope they will, but actually they are the third audience.
    The second audience, usually overlooked by most Christians, is our children. What is our marriage telling them about Christ and his bride? They see it all. They hear our fights. They absorb our attitudes. They know who or what really sits on the throne of our lives. They watch how we handle resentment. They hear the way we talk to each other. They know when we hear the Sunday sermon and apply it. They also know when we ignore it.
    The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, “I want a marriage like that, and I want the God that produced it.” Or, “When I think of the beauty of the gospel, I think of my parents’ marriage. I want to be part of a church that is loved by God the way my dad loves my mother. I want to be part of a church that finds its joy in submitting to Christ as my mother joyfully submits to my father.”
    (HT: Challies)

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Friday Fun...Caliendo as Madden

    One of the things I've always enjoyed about Thanksgiving weekend is football.  And if you're close to my age, you grew up with John Madden awarding turkey legs to the player of the game.  Before Madden was a video game, he was half football analyst, half self-parody.  He was always good for a laugh or two, but Frank Caliendo as Madden might have been even funnier.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    For many of us, Thanksgiving is a holiday about the three "F's": Food, Family and Football.  We would all do well though to remember what Thanksgiving is really all about.  On October 3, 1789, George Washington issued America's first ever official presidential proclamation.  It read as follows:
    Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
    Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
    And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. 
    Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

    "[I]f neighbors see church members loving their city through astonishing, sacrificial deeds of compassion, they will be much more open to the church's message.  Deeds of mercy and justice should be done out of love, not simply as a means to the end of evangelism.  And yet there is no better way for Christians to lay a foundation for evangelism than by doing justice."

    Tim Keller

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Book Review - Generous Justice

    Tim Keller’s most recent book, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, is a short, helpful book on the area of social justice. In this book, Keller examines the connection between the grace of God and the resulting justice exhibited by those who are his.  “A true experience of the grace of Jesus Christ,” he argues, “inevitably motivates a man or woman to seek justice in the world.”  When he says this, Keller uses the term justice to essentially mean “care for those who are vulnerable.” 

    He argues that just as Christ Jesus did not give us what we deserved, but rather poured out his mercy on us, so too we must not condition our “justice” on whether a person (in our eyes) deserves it.  In fact, the thrust is that I must not consider primarily what I’ve earned a situation, but rather must consider first and foremost the dignity that is owed to all as those who are created in the image of God.

    Though I sometimes disagree with how Keller gets there, I almost always appreciate where he ends up.  This is certainly the case with this book.  He challenges my notions of individualism and instead calls me to think in communal terms.  “The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.”

    While Keller focuses this book on deeds of mercy, he is careful not to conflate them with gospel proclamation, saying that both are necessary in the church.  But he does make the point, “People who strongly believe in the doctrine of justification by faith alone will have this high regard for God’s law and justice.  They will be passionate about seeeing God’s justice honored in the world.”

    And this is, essentially, the challenge Keller presents:  “If you are a Christian, and you refrain from committing adultery or using profanity  or missing church, but you don’t do the hard work of thinking through how to do justice in every area of life – you are failing to live justly and righteously.”

    A Call to Personal Holiness

    Kevin DeYoung has a great post over at his blog today about personal holiness among younger evangelicals.  As I read it I spent half the time nodding enthusiastically in agreement with what he was saying and the other half wincing as I considered how justifiably convicting his words were in my life.

    I wholeheartedly affirm that we are all called by God to the same standards of holiness, whether we believe in those standards, or even in God himself.  At the same time though, we within the church have historically spent too much  time and effort concerning ourselves with the holiness of those outside the Church, and not enough on that of those inside.  Kevin's post rightly calls Christians to live like Christ and examines some of the reasons we commonly don't.

    Read the whole post here.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    A Word for Preachers

    Heinrich Bullinger penned these sobering words which are found in the Second Helvetic Confession:

    "THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good."

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Friday Fun...The Play

    We're going to go a little bit of a different direction with Friday Funnies this week. In honor of the fact that this weekend Stanford will play Cal in this year's installment of "The Big Game" on what is the 28th anniversary of "The Play," I thought we'd revisit what may be the funniest thing to ever happen on a football field (provided you're not a Stanford fan).

    To set the stage, Stanford (led by senior quarterback John Elway) had just taken a 20-19 lead with four seconds left in the game. With a win they would secure a trip to a bowl game for the first time in Elway's career. All they needed to do to defeat the arch-rival California Golden Bears was kick the ball off and tackle the kick returner.

    Instead, this is what happened...

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Justice in the Public Square

    Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us JustOften we hear people make assertions that the separation of church and state demands that we not bring our personal morality or religious convictions into any discussion on public policies.  I'm currently reading Generous Justice by Tim Keller.  In his chapter entitled Doing Justice in the Public Square, Keller argues that Christians' work for justice should be marked both by "humble co-operation" with secularists as well as what he terms "respectful provocation."  By this he means, "Christians should not be strident and condemning in their language or attitude, but neither should they be silent about the Biblical roots of their passion for justice."

    I especially appreciated this quote which was included in the chapter:
    But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
    Oh yeah.  The quote was actually a citation of something said by President Obama.  Just thought that was interesting and I am happy to say I agree with him wholeheartedly.

    Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

    Often you will hear Christians speaking about how, when they die, they long to hear the following words spoken to them by God: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It is a hope, a fond expectation, and a motivation to Godly living for many. I was thinking about it recently though and considering whether it is right for us to expect to hear these words. And as I did, my initial thoughts were that there really was no warrant to expect them.

    For one thing, we have to consider the context in which we find the biblical statement. It appears twice in the Bible, both times as part of “The Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25. We have to be careful not to lean too heavily on the precise words spoken by the master in the parable. It is straining beyond the point of reason to assume that just because certain words are found on the lips of the master in the parable, we can expect to hear those same words emanate from the mouth of God. For if we are to assign to God all that is true of the master, then we must assume that God is “a hard man, reaping where he did not sow, and gathering where he scattered no seed,” as the servent alleges (25:24) and the master seems to admit (25:26).

    We must be careful though not to overly allegorize each detail of a parable. While the individual parts of a parable may indeed serve as symbols pointing to various correlative truths, with a parable we must remember to always keep the main point the main point. In this case, for instance, as Calvin warns, “This harshness has nothing to do with the substance of the parable…Christ only means, that there will be no excuse for the indolence of those who both conceal the gifts of God, and waste their time in idleness.”

    Even so, perhaps we are to understand the parable in such a way as to see that the servant is wrongly accusing the master, and the master’s reply is merely rhetorical in nature. If we do this though, we still have a problem. The reality of the situation is that no matter what righteous deeds we might have done, they can never serve to qualify us as “good and faithful.” Isaiah 64:6 tells us that before a perfectly righteous God, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (KJV = “filthy rags”), and Luke 18:19 reminds us that, “No one is good except God alone.”

    As I considered these truths, I knew that there was nothing I could do that would cause God to rightly call me his “good and faithful servant.” But there is One to whom this label would rightly apply: Christ Jesus himself. And here is the really good part: My identity is no longer found in who I am and what I’ve done. My true identity is now found in who Christ is and in what he has done (Philippians 3:9).

    So in the end, I’m not certain that God actually says those blessed words to individual people upon their arrival at the pearly gates. But if he indeed does, I certainly expect to hear them. It will not on my own account, but for the sake of Christ and as a result of my union with Him that I will rejoice in the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

    "It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed.  Therefore let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart.  Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with other Christian brethren."

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    Free Books From Desiring God

    Maybe I'm just an old-fashioned traditionalist, but if I'm going to read a book, I want it to be, well, a book.  I'm amazed at the technology of iPads and Kindles, but there's just something about the actual turning of paper pages that still appeals to me on some level.

    I imagine that the day is coming though, when I will have to cave in and join reading's digital revolution.  And with amazing deals like this one, that day might come sooner rather than later.  Over at Desiring God, you can download PDFs of over 50 books for free, including most of the books John Piper has written.  Even if you don't have a portable electronic reading device, you can download them to your computer and read them there.

    It may not be the best business practice if the mission is to make as much money as possible, but this clearly is not the mission of Desiring God.  I greatly admire their practice of making materials available so that they get in the hands of people and I have personally been greatly blessed by both the preaching and writing of John Piper.  Click here to take advantage of this great opportunity.

    (HT: Challies)

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    The Problem With Evangelicalism

    Joe Carter had a provocative post the other day in which he spoke about the "fads" and "fixtures" of evangelicalism.  In it he mentioned the following ten fixtures which he found particularly harmful not just to evangelicalism but to evangelism as well:
    1. Making Converts
    2. The Sinner's Prayer
    3. "Do you know Jesus as..."
    4. Tribulationism
    5. Testimonies
    6. The Altar Call
    7. Witnessing
    8. Protestant Prayers
    9. The Church Growth Movement
    10. Chick Tracts
    I happen to agree with the general thoughts behind his points, if not with all the points themselves.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Read the whole post here and let me know what you think.

    (HT: Paul McCain)

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    I Know the Plans I Have for You...

    Last week I posted that a friend of mine, Jason Mirikitani, had written a book that I was looking forward to reading. I just got it and (though I haven't yet completed reading it) I want to once more encourage you to read it.  In it, Jason shares the inspirational story of how his life was devastated by an automobile accident that took the life of his wife, and how he was rescued and restored by God himself.

    After the accident, Jason spent roughly five weeks in the hospital.  He was forced to start from scratch both physically as well as, in many ways, mentally.  He writes about this period:
    During this time, while I couldn't remember my own name, and couldn't even remember my own mother, something unbelievable happened, something that could only be attributed to the God of the universe.

    According to the doctors and friends present, I'm told that I sat up one day in my hospital bed and told everyone I would be preaching on Sunday. When laughter subsided, they asked me what I would preach about, to which I quickly replied, "Jeremiah 29:11." Although my memory had lost several other intimate things, it still held tight to that particular Biblical reference, to a verse which says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'"

    So even though I could barely walk, I was actually wearing an adult diaper, and I thought my name was "Betty," the Creator and Restorer Himself put His Word on my mind, specifically about how He had a plan to give me a good hope and a bright future. I'm living out that future right now.
    Click here to purchase Mile Marker 825, and read more about Jason's amazing and inspirational story.

    A Word for Preachers

    "Ultimately, preaching will cease to be Christian preaching if the preacher loses confidence in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God and in the power of the spoken word to communicate the saving and transforming message of the Bible...The audacious claim of Christian preaching is that the faithful declaration of the Word of God , spoken through the preacher's voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver."

    Al Mohler

    Great Deal on Caedmon's Call Album

    If you (like me) are a fan of Caedmon's Call, you might be interested in downloading the MP3 version of their newest album Raising the Dead for just $3.99.  I'm pretty sure this deal is only available today, so if you want to join me in taking advantage of it don't hesitate to either click here or on the "Buy from amazon.com" logo to the left.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Friday Fun...UPS

    Thanksgiving is just a couple weeks away, which means that Christmas will be upon us before we know it.  That being said, I thought it might be helpful to get a little shipping advice from old favorite, Brian Regan. 

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Random Act of Culture

    "Heavenly" is not an adjective I would normally use to describe Christmas shopping.  Today I saw something which proved to be an exception to that general rule.

    A few months ago, I shared a post about Improv Everywhere, the improvisational comedy troupe that conducts seemingly random "missions" in public places.  Much in the same vein, the Knight Foundation and the Opera Company of Philadelphia organized a "Random Act of Culture" at Macy's in Philadelphia on October 30.  Over 650 singers from 28 different organizations dispersed throughout the department store, indistinguishable from other shoppers.  Indistinguishable that is, until they, accompanied by the world's largest pipe organ, spontaneously burst into Hallelujah from Handel's Messiah.

    (HT: Vitamin Z)

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Why the ESV?

    As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a big fan of The ESV Study Bible.  That post dealt mainly with the many wonderful tools (commentary, study notes, articles, maps, charts, pictures, artwork, etc.) it gives to the Bible student, but it also made note of the fact that the English Standard Version is my favorite Bible translation for its combination of readability and fidelity to the original texts.

    Perhaps I am biased, as a number of my seminary professors were involved in the translation process for this version, but as the video below demonstrates, I am far from alone in my affinity.

    ESV Trusted By Leaders from Crossway on Vimeo.

    Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

    We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know of nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God's power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness we cannot even imagine.

    A.W. Tozer

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Mile Marker 825: A Story of Tragedy and Hope

    Jason Mirikitani is a friend of mine.  In fact, you may have noticed his name listed among my "Friends Who Blog" in the right hand column of Sola Gratia.  His story is an amazing one of tragedy and hope, and this is why I am so glad that he has written a book to share it with the world.   Here is a short synopsis of the newly published Mile Marker 825:
    On January 15, 2002, this man's car flipped 5 times, his wife died, and his skull cracked open...but he was rescued.  Join Jason Mirikitani on his miraculous real-life journey that is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming, as he re-learned faith in a God that was present when He seemed most absent, hope in a God when He seemed most unreliable, and love for a God that seemed to leave him in the dark. This unbelievable story will grab you and not let you go...and leave you at the end with a refreshed sense of newness and trust in a faithful God.
    The book has received endorsements from two of my favorites: Bryan Chapell of Covenant Theological Seminary and Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals!  I don't have a review to share with you at this date, because I haven't gotten my copy yet.  But I have ordered it and recommend that you do the same!  Click here to do just that.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    A Word for Preachers

    Each Monday I post a quote about preaching.  It occurred to me recently, that there are many different ideas as to what preaching is or what it should be.  When Dr. David Murray was at our conference at the end of October, I asked him to share with me what he thought preaching was.  His answer was short and simple, yet pregnant with meaning, and as good a definition as I've heard:

    "Preaching is a passionate explanation of the text of Scripture, with a Christ-centered focus, to transform hearts and lives for the glory of God."

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    The Flying Car

    Okay, it's not exactly the Jetsons, but check out the video below and then look into the story behind it.

    CNN has chronicled this, yet another chapter in the amazing story of the Waodani Indians of Ecuador.  Steve Saint is the son of martyred missionary Nate Saint and the founder of I-TEC.  The video below tells story behind this company.

    (HT: DG)

    Friday Fun...Hand Sanitizer

    A little more good, clean fun from Tim Hawkins.  And come to think of it, that's exactly where we have the hand sanitizer at my church, too.

    My apologies on his behalf if you happen to be from Arkansas.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    I Was Just Wondering…

    I’d like to get a better feel for the people who are following Sola Gratia regularly.  If you are one such person, I’d like to ask you to consider doing me a favor.  Would you either leave a comment below or send me an email either at SolaGratia1@live.com or at my regular email address telling me the following items:

    1. Who are you?
    2. Do you subscribe to Sola Gratia through a blog reader, follow it through the facebook page that is set up,  simply come to the site regularly to check it out, or follow it through some other means?
    3. How did you become aware of Sola Gratia?
    4. What do you enjoy most about the blog?
    5. What do you wish was different/better about the blog?
    If you send an email, I assure you that I will not share any of your info (name, email, etc.) with anyone.  I'm just curious and hope that I can get a better feel for who is following the blog, and in so doing, do a better job of making it more enjoyable for those people.

    Thanks so much for your help!

    A Biblical View of Church Leadership

    Far too often our idea of church leaders is that they are to be a board of directors who run the business of the church.  Doug Wolter provides a helpful corrective to this view of church leadership:
    The image of a spiritual leader in the church is not a CEO but a good mother and father. Someone worthy to imitate and follow. 1 Thess. 2:7-8, 11-12 says, "Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory."
    May the Lord raise up more leaders who lovingly train and guide the people of the church, not just oversee its administration.  Click here to read the whole post.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Good Questions for Church Leaders

    The other day Tullian Tchividijian posted a letter at his blog which he had sent to all of the elders and deacons of his church.  In it he had asked them to consider the following questions, which he had already addressed to himself:
    Do you rejoice in position, power, accomplishments, entitlement, control, degrees, knowledge, status, authority, numbers, and rank? Or do you rejoice in service, mercy, sacrifice, pastoral care, love, prayer, prudence, grace, relationships, and repentance? Are you proud or humble? Do you put others before yourself? Do you find your daily security and significance in your own accomplishments or in Christ’s accomplishment for you? Do you seek first place or last place? Do you boast on yourself or on Christ? Do you talk about yourself a lot? Are you prone to envy and do you get defensive easily? Do you weep with those who weep? Do you love people and look for opportunities to serve and shepherd them? Do you revel in self-confidence or self-sacrifice? Do you have people in your life that you confess specific instances of sin? Do the people in your life find it easy to correct you?
    May all of us who are in church leadership be willing to examine our lives against such a list.  And as we do, may God give us the courage to be honest with ourselves, the humility to repent of our sins, and the grace to fully know that our righteousness is not found in anything we do, but only and always in the finished work of Christ.

    Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

    “For God is not gracious and merciful to sinners to the end that they might not keep his Law, nor that they should remain as they were before they received grace and mercy; but he condones and forgives both sin and death for the sake of Christ, who has fulfilled the whole Law in order thereby to make the heart sweet and through the Holy Spirit to kindle and move the heart to begin to love from day to day more and more.”

    Martin Luther

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Fulfill YOUR Ministry

    Matt Chandler with a great reminder for young pastors...

    (HT: Vitamin Z)

    Conference Audio Available

    This weekend our church was blessed to be the host of the 7th annual Mid-Michigan Conference on Reformed Theology. Dr. Joel Beeke and Dr. David Murray spoke on the topic of Reformational Family Living in the 21st Century.  Audio is now available for all five sessions at the Calvary Presbyterian Church website, and will soon be available in podcast form via iTunes.

    A Word for Preachers

    "A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution....When we preach Jesus Christ, then we are not putting out the plates, and the knives, and the forks, for the feast, but we are handing out the bread itself....[Let us] preach Christ to sinners if we cannot preach sinners to Christ....I wish that our ministry -- and mine especially -- might be tied and tethered to the cross."

    Charles Spurgeon