Monday, February 28, 2011

A Word for Preachers from Charles Spurgeon

"Let God send the fire of His Spirit here, and the minister will be more and more lost in his Master. You will come to think less of the speaker and more of the truth spoken..."

"Suppose the fire should come here, and the Master be seen more than the minister, what then?...We shall have the lecture hall beneath this platform crowded at each prayer meeting and, and we shall see in this place young men devoting themselves to God; we shall find ministers raised up, trained, and sent forth to carry the sacred fire to other parts of the globe...If God shall bless us, He will make us a blessing to multitudes of others."

Charles Spurgeon
From his first sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Christian Reaction to Albert Pujols

Anyone who knows me fairly well knows how very passionate I am about the St. Louis Cardinals. And anyone who knows anything about the Cardinals knows that their best player is Albert Pujols.  Ten years into his career, Pujols' statistics are breathtaking. Three times he has been named the National League's Most Valuable Player, finishing second four other times. He is universally considered to be in select company as one of the greatest hitters that baseball has ever seen.

My household is populated by Albert Pujols fans. We love the fact that the best player plays for our team, but we also enjoy the fact that he has by all accounts been a pretty stand-up guy character-wise. But now Pujols is in the final year of a contract and negotiations for an extension with the Cardinals have broken off until after the season.

Some have been critical of the fact that Pujols (a professing Christian) has turned down the Cardinals' initial offers. Exact specifics are unavailable, but the Cardinals' proposals would (continue to) make Albert very wealthy, though not one of the highest paid players in the game. "How can a Christian be so greedy?" they ask.

My friend and fellow pastor Kevin Golden had a great post the other day in which he challenged us not to be quite so quick to point out the speck in Albert's eye. His whole post is well worth reading, and I suggest that you click here and do just that. But he sums things up quite well in his very helpful conclusion:
All of this is to say: yes, Pujols should contemplate how he can use his financial resources in a Godly way and that he not give offense by appearing greedy. And we should all do the same. One means by which my priorities in life are made evident is my checkbook. How I spend money reveals much about my truest and deepest allegiances, even betraying the false gods which I worship. Thus, rather than using Pujols contract negotiations as an opportunity to scrutinize him, let me first scrutinize myself.
Then, having faced my own sinful nature and being led to repentance by Christ, I will rejoice in Christ’s forgiveness, purchased at the cost not of gold or silver but His own precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. And so Christ’s priority becomes clear - He has done all this that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. That is Christian witness, not my use of financial resources, but Christ’s giving of His very self for the salvation of the world.

Apologizing and Forgiveness...Neither is Easy

My brother-in-law Tyson Sturgeon sent me a link to this story and interview from Good Morning America.  In it I learned of Matt Kravchuk, a sophomore basketball player for Holy Family University in Philadelphia, and John O'Connor, the team's coach.  Last month in a practice, O'Connor shoved Kravchuk, knocking him to the ground.  What has followed has been accusations and legal actions, culminating in the coach's resignation.

This came hours after both men appeared on ABC's Good Morning America.  In that interview, George Stephanopolous prompted the coach to apologize, at which time O'Connor said to Kravchuk, "The main thing is that this was an accident..I was just trying to make us a better team, make us more competitive and in doing so an accident happened.  And it was unintentional by me, and I'm really sorry that it happened.  If I could take it back I certainly would.  But again, it was an accident and I'm really sorry it happened."

"To be honest, it's kind of hard to accept your apology, just because you claim it's justified, you claim you weren't crossing the line...I can't play for you anymore because as your player I'm supposed to be able to respect you and I don't feel I can do that anymore."

In the end, I'm not posting this to spark a conversation as to whether the coach's actions were justified, wether he ought to have resigned, or whether other further legal and disciplinary steps need to be taken. What I want to draw our attention to is something that Tyson pointed out to me.  He put it exceedingly well, so I'll leave you with his words:
"I just thought it was fascinating in two regards, especially when I think about my own life:
  1. How difficult it is to truly apologize and say you were wrong and feel it in your heart and let it be what it is, and
  2. How difficult it can be to forgive, let someone say they made a mistake, and let that be what it is and live with the hurt that is still there.
This back and forth really made it hit home for me how much we need the Gospel to penetrate our hearts to be able to do both well."

Friday Fun...Free Snowcones from Improv Everywhere

A freshly fallen snow can be so beautiful.  But one of the worst parts about winter is those unsightly piles of dirty plowed snow that subsequently fill our parking lots and sit alongside our roads.  Who knew they could be so useful?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grace for Both Brothers

When I was growing up, I learned the story of The Prodigal Son in what I suppose was the traditional fashion.  That is to say, the message of it was that God loves sinners, even the most vile of sinners, and his love for them is not conditioned on their behavior, but is rather a matter of free grace.  A wonderful message indeed.

In the last ten or fifteen years, I've heard the story told in a slightly different way.  It adds a much needed twist to it, rightly realizing that the story Jesus tells in Luke 15:11-32 is actually a story of two lost sons, not just one.  While the younger son was clearly lost in his sin, his older brother is equally lost in his self righteousness.  What we need is neither religion/moralism nor irreligion/relativism, but the gospel.  Tim Keller does a wonderful job of describing this in his paper, The Centrality of the Gospel.

As Henri Nouwen points out though in his wonderful book The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, we need to take care that we don't respond to this story by seeing the younger brother as the "good guy" who gets it and the older brother as the "bad guy" who doesn't.  Rather, what we need to do is see in ourselves our own tendencies to be like both the younger brother and the older brother.  And then we need to flee to Christ, for his grace is sufficient for both situations.

Matt Chandler had what I thought were some great thoughts on showing grace toward both brothers.  You can click here to download the MP3 audio file.  It's well worth the four minutes it takes to listen to it.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Indeed, God Does Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life. But...

A couple weeks ago, Trevin Wax posted this picture as part of a blog post which included an excerpt from his book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals.  In it he pointed out that God's "wonderful plan" for us is not always the same "wonderful plan" we would have for ourselves.  Whereas we would often desire health, wealth and happiness, along with physical and emotional security, what God desires is that we would be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Often this occurs through pain and suffering, trials and persecution.  And sometimes it happens that we experience these not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of others.  After all, we are not individually (as we so often functionally suppose) the center of God's world.  Rather he is to be uniquely the center of ours.

As my seminary professor Dr. Jack Collins liked to put, "Don't hear what I'm not saying."  Indeed, we should remember (and be encouraged by!) the fact "that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose," (Romans 8:28, ESV).  But we need to remember that the good toward which all things work is not always an earthly good.  As Wax put it:
"Our lives do not always seem wonderful. But rather than trying to see what wonderful plan God has for giving us our best life now, Christians trust that the picture God is painting will be beautiful, so we look to experiencing our best life later. God has a wonderful plan, and because of his grace, we are part of that plan."
Click here to read his whole post.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

"When people observe our lives, they ought to be able to see the character of God in us, because as his children, we are those in whom his image has already begun to be restored."
Sinclair Ferguson

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Word for Preachers from Tullian Tchividjian

"PREACH THE GOSPEL: It's not sermons about parenting that make you a better parent as much as sermons about the Father parenting rebels like us...PREACH THE GOSPEL: It's not sermons about money that make you generous as much as sermons about the generosity of the Father in giving the Son...PREACH THE GOSPEL: It's not sermons on marriage that make you a more loving spouse as much as sermons on the unconditional love of God...It's only when we stop obsessing over our need to be holy and focus instead on the holiness of Christ, that we actually become more holy!"

Tullian Tchividjian
(pieced together from a series of tweets)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Fun...Barney Fife and the Preamble to the Constitution

An oldie but a goodie.  As Barney says, once you learn something, you learn it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Nuggets of Gospel Gold

As I mentioned elsewhere, I've been reading through the book Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day and sharing some of what I perceive as highlights.  One of the things that has really impressed me is the fact that even though there are a myriad of authors from various backgrounds, there is such a consistently God-glorifying, grace-exalting, gospel-proclaiming message in this book.  What a joy it is to come back to the gospel time and time again! 

Some of the golden nuggets I've come across in the last few chapters I've read:

From Ben Peays on the New Birth...
"While it is crucial that we repent, confess, believe, trust, give thanks, and so on, these responses do not bring about the new birth.  God causes it to happen, and we live out the transformation."
"Salvation is ultimately saving us from God's wrath at judgment, but it also saves us into a life with Christ today.  The reality changes our priorities, our desires, what we treasure, and how we will spend our time and energy on earth."

From Jay Harvey on Justification
"...we do not grow in sanctification in order to be justified.  We grow in sanctification because we are justified.  The declarative act of justification is gracious soil out of which grace-filled lives will grow."
"In our increasingly non-Christian culture, more people in out church will come to Christ with deep struggles in their past or present.  Young people are more likely to engage in sexual sins of all kinds at younger ages than before.  Pornography threatens to strangle a whole generation of young men.  Of course, these sins must be fought against.  But they cannot be battled until we know they are forgiven."

From Owen Strachan on Sanctification...
 "The struggle against our inherent unrighteousness is not a one-time cataclysm, but a lifelong war."
even so...
"Sanctification is doxological, motivated by an overarching purpose transcendent above all others: the glorification of the God whose perfect holiness requires nothing else.  Sanctification is of God, and sanctification is for God."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

"What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus himself. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake"

D.A. Carson

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stan the Man

"Here stands baseball's perfect warrior.  Here stands baseball's perfect knight."
Ford C. Frick, former Commissioner of Baseball.
Congratulations today to Stanley Frank Musial, better known to his adoring fans simply as Stan "the Man."  Today Musial will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can bestowed upon an American civilian.

Once I was at a breakfast meeting for work at a restaurant in St. Louis. Some time after we had ordered our food, in walked Stan the Man. He sat down at the table right next to us and his food came almost immediately, a good five minutes before ours. Nobody minded.

I actually got to spend a little bit of time with him on another occasion. I had my mom's old 45 RPM record (if you're under the age of 35 or 40, maybe you can ask your parents what those are) of the 1961 song Stan the Man by Steve Bledsoe and the Blue Jays. You can listen to the song below and that of course is the 45 to the right.

I had always thought it would be neat to get the 45 autographed.  Though he quite often signed in public for no charge, he eventually set up a company named Stan the Man Inc. through which he sold autographs.  I called them one day and asked about getting the record signed. They said I could send it in, but I was leery to send it through the mail, and asked if I could drop it off instead. To my relief, they said that would be fine.

When I got there to drop it off, the guy I spoke with said, "You know, Stan's in back signing things. Why don't you just come back and have him sign it now?"  I was thrilled to gain a private audience with Stan the Man!  He turned out to be every bit as kind as his reputation suggested and we ended up spending about fifteen minutes talking with each other, mainly about the Cardinals' season which had just finished.

Musial is not just a great guy.  He is one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  He possesses my favorite statistic in all of sports: Of his 3630 career hits (fourth all time), exactly 1815 were at home, 1815 were on the road. What a testament to his consistency! When he retired, he held 17 major-league records, 29 National League records, and nine All-Star Game records.  Most of those records have since been eclipsed, but to Cardinal fans, he will always be "the Man."

Congratulations Stan!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Weight of 1000 Sermons

If you are a pastor, no doubt you have been frustrated by the fact that people rarely seem to remember the main points you offered in last week's sermon.  Well, I saw a great post for pastors today from Trevin Wax in which he offers this exhortation:
Pastors, don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of your preaching. You are not dumping information into brains. You are forming the habits of your people, teaching them how to read and understand and apply the Bible for themselves. How you preach week after week matters just as much as what you preach.
Click here to read the whole post.

The Cost of Graciousness

My friend Andy Kerckhoff, who has a wonderful blog called Growing Up Well, passed along this CNN piece the other day on facebook.  It is a story about Four-star General Peter Chiarelli, the number two ranking general in the United States Army, and events which occurred at a recent dinner in Washington D.C.

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett was seated at a table and saw General Chiarelli walking by out of the corner of her eye.  What caught her attention was the striped uniform pants he had on, which apparently looked quite similar to those which the waiters were wearing.  Before she saw anything else, she asked him to get her a glass of wine.  She was understandably mortified by her gaffe when she realized who he was, Gen. Chiarelli responded in a manner that is all too unfamiliar in our world today:
Rather than take offense, or try to make Jarrett feel small for her blunder, the general, in good humor, went and poured her a glass of wine. It was evident that he wanted to defuse the awkward moment, and to let Jarrett know that she should not feel embarrassed.
General Chiarelli would go on to say to a reporter who asked him about the incident,
"It was an honest mistake that ANYONE could have made. She was sitting, I was standing and walking behind her and all she saw were the two stripes on my pants which were almost identical to the waiters' pants -- REALLY. She apologized and will come to the house for dinner if a date can be worked out in March."
The CNN column by Bob Greene has some other examples of people showing graciousness to others and is worth reading.  I enjoyed it, but there was one part I took issue with.  It was the way that Greene began the piece:
Graciousness can pay priceless dividends.
And it doesn't cost a thing.
While I agree that the dividends of such graciousness are indeed priceless (for both parties involved), I think it must be realized that graciousness does cost something.  General Chiarelli had to lay aside his pride and the benefits of his position.  Instead of being served (as he had every right to expect), he had to be willing to serve another.

I am reminded of the example of Christ Jesus as spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV):
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 
If we are to be truly gracious to others, we need to follow the example of Christ and die to ourselves.  We need to sacrifice our self-importance and pride, and assume the roll of a servant.  The cost is actually immense.  And it is precisely the immensity of this cost that makes Christ's graciousness to us so astounding.

But in Paul's words, we see that Christ is not just the perfect example of how we should behave and the perfect motivation to such behavior.  He is also the perfect atoning sacrifice for when we fail do so.  That is why he had to humble himself to the most ignominious of deaths -- that of the cross.  Because it is that death we deserved, and that death he took upon himself.  And that is why "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

A Word for Preachers

"I believe that as people's confidence in Christ grows, they do, ordinarily and inevitably, bear fruit that accords with faith.  Thus, there is no need for some trade-off here, or alleged dichotomy suggesting that we need to preach morality if we are to have morality.  No; preach Christ, and you will have morality.  Fill the sails of your hearers' souls with the wind of confidence in the Redeemer, and they will trust him as their Sanctifier, and long to see his fruit in their lives.  Fill their minds and imaginations with a vision of the loveliness and perfection of Christ and his person, and the flock will long to be like him.  Impress upon their weak and wavering hearts the utter competence of the mediation of the One who ever lives to make intercession for them, and they will long to serve and comfort others, even as Christ has served and comforted them."

T. David Gordon

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Fun...Now THAT'S A Speed Trap

When I was growing up in Webster Groves, Missouri, there was a police officer in the next little town over named Ron Zeigler.  Just about everybody knew Officer Zeigler because just about everybody had had the "pleasure" of meeting him somewhere not too far from the corner of Manchester and McKnight Roads.

During his distinguished 38 year career, Officer Zeigler wrote over 150,000 speeding tickets.  In recent years he averaged about  26 per day but he once wrote a legendary total of 52 in a four hour period.

A little over a year ago I heard that Officer Zeigler had retired from the speed trap business.  When I saw the video below though, it made me wonder if he had just traded in his motorcycle for a helicopter and moved to Georgia.

(HT: Kevin DeYoung)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where Have All the Singers Gone?

Zach Nielsen has one of my favorite blogs and it definitely has the coolest name in all of the Christian blogosphere: Take Your Vitamin Z. This afternoon Zach pointed readers to a post he had seen dealing with the lack of congregational singing, specifically among men.

In it, David Murrow suggests that much of the reason for such a lack is the constant introduction of new and unfamiliar songs.  Click here to read his whole post and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well.  Zach is a talented musician who says he might write about it himself tomorrow.  Keep an eye on Vitamin Z, as I'm sure his insights will be a helpful addition to the conversation.

Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder

Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder: A Good-Natured RoastMuch has been made in recent years of Reformed Theology's increasing place in the evangelical community.  I suppose this was most prominently highlighted by Times 2009 list of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now” with their inclusion (at #3!) of “The New Calvinism.”   This followed on the heals of Collin Hansen’s book on the Reformed resurgence, Young, Restless, Reformed and his 2006 article in Christianity Today by the same title.

Who better to comment on this boom than the people who brought you Kinda Christianity: A Generous, Fair, Organic, Free-Range Guide to Authentic Realness?  You’ll recall that Kinda Christianity was a sardonic look by Ted Kluck and Zach Bartels at the emergent church, styled after Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity.  Well, now they've aimed their satirical wit in a new direction with the latest offering from Gut Check PressYounger, Restlesser, Reformeder, a self-described "Good-Natured Roast" of the New Calvinist movement.

Ted and Zach are friends of mine.  Ted and I met at a conference a couple years ago and though Zach and I have never actually met, we’re friends on facebook.  That counts, right?  Anyway, I’m going to give you basically the same type of advice I gave when I reviewed Kinda Christianity.  There are plenty of people who won’t like this book.  You might be one of them if you:

  • Don’t like satire
  • Don’t have a sense of humor
  • Can’t stand to have someone point out many of your own idiosyncrasies and foibles
If these words decribe you, you can stop reading right here.  Certainly don’t waste their time by reading the book.  You’ll note I said don’t waste their time.  The reason I say their time is, I know what will happen if you are the aforementioned type of person and you read it.  You will get upset.  You will write Ted and Zach a nasty letter or write a terrible review on your blog.  Nice guys that they are, they will feel compelled to respond, and you will have wasted their time.

On the other hand, there are some of you who are Reformed in your theology and willing to have a hearty laugh (no, those are not mutually exclusive categories).  If you are among this number, and are still willing to laugh even if you’re the butt of the joke, then you might want to check out Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder.

In this book they make fun of us young Calvinsts (okay, so maybe I’m not quite so young anymore) in ways that could often be labeled “over-the-top generalizations” (read: good satire).  As I read the book and considered their jabs, I vascilated between two reactions.  At times, I would somewhat condemningly chuckle to myself, “That’s so true.”  At other times, I would find myself painfully admitting, “That’s so true about me!”

They lampoon the teachers we learn from, the books we read and the conferences we attend.  The media we take in and our use of the internet are also fair game, as are our attitudes toward politics, pyramid schemes and anyone who thinks differently than we do (i.e., the right way).

Take this example from their section on being obnoxious, which far too often is a descriptor that fits us Calvinists to a “T.” (Though Kluck and Bartels insightfully point out that “New Calvinists” are not nearly as obnoxious as new Calvinists.)
"Here’s the thing: Once you’ve come right out and said that God himself has chosen who will be saved, nothing else you could say could be more offensive, from the world’s perspective, so go ahead and celebrate the Crusades, justify the Salem witch trials, and hand out anathemas like they’re Bit O’ Honey bars left over from when you used to celebrate Halloween.  What have you got to lose?  Really, how innocent are doves?"
In the end, if you are young, reformed and especially if you live in Michigan, this isn’t just the book for you…it’s the book about you.  Don’t take yourself so seriously.  Sit down, take an hour and read it, and have a laugh at your own expense.

You Are the Salt of the Earth

In 2011 I've had the pleasure of teaching an adult Sunday School class on The Sermon on the Mount.  One of my favorite parts of teaching is all the learning that I get to do.  In my preparations for class, I try to glean insights from a number of scholars who are far more learned than I am (there's no shortage!).  To this end I have loved studying a number of fine commentaries on The Sermon on the Mount (Carson, Doriani, Ferguson, Stott) in addition to commentaries on Matthew from my two favorite sets by Calvin and Hendriksen.

Matthew: A Commentary. Volume 1: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12Another commentary on Matthew that was recently introduced to me by a friend is Frederick Dale Bruner's Matthew: A Commentary. Volume 1: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12.  I've only had the commentary for a couple weeks and I can't speak to all of Bruner's theology.  What I can say though, is I have already been richly blessed by the devotional nature of his writing and some of the insights he offers on Matthew 5.  Included in this would be the following words I came across today preparing for this week's lesson on being "the salt of the earth":
"Blessing is given to believers so that they will be blessings -- to the world (cf. especially the seminal promise of Gen 12:1-3: "I will bless you and make you a blessing; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed"); salt is made salt in order to be salty in food.  We are put on notice that while it is from nothing (gratis) that we have been made salt, it is not for nothing (frustra).  We are to live for other people.  Christians, we learn here for the first time explicitly, are in danger if they do not live as Christians.  This is what is meant by the warning's sad conclusion, "It is absolutely useless except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."  Here is deserved persecution.  In the world this "persecution" often takes the form of simple contempt or of complete disinterest."
May we always remember how very blessed we are to have found favor in the eyes of God in spite of our sin. And may we also remember that we, like Abraham, are blessed that we might be a blessing.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

"The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever say, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?"

John Piper

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Theological Implications of Christina Aguilera

I was riding home Sunday evening right before the Super Bowl, listening to Christina Aguilera sing the Star Spangled Banner (kind of).  I noticed immediately when she missed some of the words and I wondered if the radio announcers would make note of it.

As soon as she finished, Kevin Harlan started talking about the 60 yard long video screen above the field, and how close ups on it of many of the players showed them to be quite emotional.  Without missing a beat, Boomer Esiason responded, "Maybe they're emotional because she forgot all the words!"

Where am I going with this?  Well, J B Boren makes some good points in a post today.  The popular reaction to this particular rendition of our national anthem has been overwhelmingly negative.  Boren notes what makes this interesting is the fact that this is in a relativistic culture that often claims what matters is not so much the content of what you believe, but rather how passionately you believe it.
"Now, if we judge Ms. Aguilera's performance on passion alone, she was perfect. You couldn't ask for more passion than what she put into that song. But she didn't get the content right."
This, he points out, is analogous to how we view the gospel.  The gospel is not just an opinion on how you should live your life.  Rather, it  is the proclamation of certain events which took place in time and space, namely, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This same Jesus Christ who proclaimed in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."

As such, it matters not only how passionately we believe.  The content of what we believe matters immensely as well.  Boren goes on to sum up his thoughts pretty well in his closing comment:
"So next time you are interested in having a lot of passion for what you believe (and there's nothing wrong with that), take a cue from Christina...make sure you get the words right first."
Click here to read the entire post.

No Cross = No Gospel

Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day (Gospel Coalition the Gospel Coalition)I mentioned elsewhere that I recently got the book Don't Call it a Comeback. It is essentially a compilation of articles written by various pastors, authors and theologians, each chapter dealing with a different facet of evangelicalism.

As the author of What is the Gospel?, Greg Gilbert displayed a love for the gospel and a realization of the need for the cross to be at its center. It is these same things that he brings to his chapter, "The Gospel: God's Self-Substitution for Sinners."

Gilbert doesn't mince words, often dealing with unpopular truths. Many people want to believe in a feel-good "gospel" that primarily promises them comfort, ease and affluence. The message of the Bible is nowhere near this pleasant though.
"In the face of the worst cultural prejudice imaginable, (Paul) fixed the entire gospel squarely and immovably on the fact that Jesus was tacked to a stauros and left to die. If he had been trying to find a surefire way to turn first-century people off from his 'good news,' he couldn't have done better than that.
"So why did he do it? It's simple. He did it because he knew that leaving the cross out, or running past it with a glance, or making it peripheral to the gospel, or allowing anything else to displace it at the center of the gospel would make it, finally, no gospel at all."
The reason that a real gospel must have the cross at its center is the fact that each one of us is unmistakably a sinner. And when Gilbert speaks of sin, unlike many, he doesn't minimize what that actually means:
"Throughout Scripture, sin is not simply falling short of one's true meaning or purpose, nor is it merely a broken relationship or external systemic corruption. Rather, it is a personal, blameworthy transgression of the law of God and a rejection of his authority as Creator and King."
In light of this truth, I found quite Gilbert's treatment of "the gospel of the kingdom" to be especially helpful. So many today seem to want to separate "the gospel of the kingdom" from the "gospel of the cross." We are told that "the gospel" is primarily about the coming of Christ and the inauguration of his kingdom, over which he will rule with all righteousness. Gilbert pleads with readers not to follow in the footsteps of those who would make such a stark division, pointing out that the only way into the kingdom is through the cross.
"So by all means, preach about the kingdom, talk about Jesus' conquest of evil, write about his coming reign. But don't pretend that all those things are glorious good news all by themselves. They're not. The bare fact that Jesus is going to rule the world with perfect righteousness is not good news to me; it's terrifying news, because I am not righteous! I'm one of the enemies he's coming to crush! The coming kingdom becomes good news only when I realize that the coming King is also a Savior who forgives sin and makes people righteous--and he does that through his death on the cross."

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Word for Preachers

"Seek (the Holy Spirit) always.  But go beyond seeking Him; expect Him.  Do you expect anything to happen when you get up to preach in a pulpit?  Or do you just say to yourself, 'Well, I have prepared my address, I am going to give them this address; some of them will appreciate it and some will not'?  Are you expecting it to be the turning point in someone's life...?  That is what preaching is meant to do...Seek this power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when the power comes, yield to Him."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Fun...Star Wars and "The Talk"

Yesterday, I posted on Star Wars and Fatherhood. While we're on the topic, it is worth pointing out that every father knows the day will come when we need to sit down with our child and have "the talk."

(HT: Paul McCain)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Christian View of the President

Today President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, which caused me to consider how we Americans (and especially evangelical Christian Americans)  tend to handle our thoughts about the faith of our Presidents.  As I contemplated this, it occurred to me that either we're not being honest with others or we're not being honest with ourselves.

The Christian Right championed George W. Bush, largely because he publicly  proclaimed that he trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  They then by-and-large gave him a pass when he said distinctly non-evangelical things like the Bible is not literally true, Muslims and Christians worship the same God, and we all go to heaven.

Yet when President Obama speaks (as he did today) about how, "I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and to embrace Him as my Lord and Savior," it is assumed by many of those same people who supported President Bush that President Obama must be lying about his faith.  And whenever he says anything that is even vaguely conciliatory toward Islam, he is branded as being a closet Muslim.

The purpose of this post is not to suggest what either man actually believes -- frankly, I have no idea.  Nor is its purpose to convince you that you should like Barack Obama's policies as President.  He certainly (like President Bush) has political positions to which I take great exception.

It is just to point out that perhaps we are too quick to claim someone is in our religious camp because he shares our political viewpoints, or to separate from them because they don't.  Perhaps a better attitude toward our Presidents (Democrat or Republican, Christian or non-Christian) would simply be to honor them (1 Peter 2:17), to submit to governing authorities, realizing that all authority comes from God (Romans 13:1) and to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for them (1 Timothy 2:1). That, I think, would be a truly Christian way to act.

Star Wars and Fatherhood

Now this is a good dad.


(HT: Andy Kerckhoff)

Training in Godliness vs. Irreverent, Silly Myths

Matt Chandler demonstrates the difference between training in godliness as opposed to irreverent, silly myths (1 Timothy 4:7).

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Desiring God Pastors' Conference Audio

One of the great blessings of living in the 21st century is the vast array of wonderful biblical teachers alive today. Another one of the great blessings is the fact that with the advent of the internet, much of this great teaching is readily available to us at any given time.

This week, Desiring God Ministries held their annual pastors' conference, and while I was not able to attend, I am able to listen to each one of the messages, as DG has made them available online.  I've already commented briefly on Francis Chan's message which I took in Tuesday.  The Speaker Panel Q&A was good throughout, with moments of brutal honesty and profound brilliance.  I look forward to hearing the rest of the messages.  Here are the links to them all:
Session One: Joel Beeke, "Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor"
Session Two: Paul Miller, "Helping Your People Discover the Praying Life"
Session Three: Francis Chan, "Prayer as a Way of Walking in Love: A Personal Journey"
Session Four: John Piper, "Robert Murray M'Cheyne"
Session Five: Joel Beeke, "Leading Family Worship"
Session Six: Jerry Rankin, "Unreached Peoples and the Power of Prayer"
Session Seven: Speaker Panel Q and A

A Too Small Gospel

Saw this quote today over at Jared Wilson's blog, The Gospel-Driven Church,
A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small. 
Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom

"It is very hard, but biblically necessary, not to judge others because of their disagreement with our judgment regarding scripturally uncertain issues.  An 'Aha! moment' occurred for me in ministry when I learned to ask a key question about advising others:  Is it more wrong to allow what God prohibits, or to prohibit what God allows?  This is actually a trick question because both alternatives are equally wrong.  Either alternative would put me in the position of the Lawgiver.  God allows only himself the prerogative to determine holy standards."

Bryan Chapell

How Will I Use This Day?

Robert Murray M'Cheyne's diary entry for February 2, 1832 read as follows:
"Not a trait worth remembering and yet these 4 & 20 hours must be accounted for."
How often could it be said of my days that there was "not a trait worth remembering," and even so, how often do I fail to recognize that each day is entrusted to me by the Lord and I am accountable to him as to how I have used it?  May this and all my days be lived fully to his glory!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Francis Chan on Prayer

During lunchtime today I watched the live stream of Francis Chan's message on prayer at the Desiring God Pastors' Conference.  Many great points were made as Chan challenged us to consider "Prayer as a Way of Walking in Love."

Of all the wonderful points he made though, I was most impacted and convicted by a question he posed.  He essentially asked, "If I were to look at a transcript of your prayers for the last month, what one thing would it be that I'd see that you kept asking for?"

Quite honestly, it hasn't always been this way in the past, but it is my hope and prayer that from this point forward I could answer this question with the words of David in Psalm 27:4: "One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple."

What an amazingly merciful gift it is that God offers this opportunity to us.  And what a tragic thing that we so commonly neglect it.

Free Audiobook - Adopted for Life

Each month offers a premium audiobook for free download.  This month's selection is Russell Moore's Adopted for Life.  Click here to take advantage of this wonderful offer.

You can also click here to gain access to many other free resources from