Thursday, March 31, 2011

Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False HopeRecently Harper-Collins released a promotional video for a book that created quite a stir in the Christian blogosphere.  Some people soundly denounced the author while others hurried to his support.  Still others said we should read the book before deciding what we thought.  In the end, one thing is certain:  A lot of books were sold.

Tomorrow, Trevin Wax's Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope hits the bookstores.  I look forward to reading this book as I very much appreciate his thoughts and writing at his blog, Kingdom People.  This book's message is extremely timely and important, and I am sure that Trevin does a great job dealing with it.

Below is a brief promotional piece which I'm sure will produce far less controversy than the one to which I earlier referred...though I'm sure Trevin and Moody would be happy to get some of the buzz!

You Are Not the Lone Ranger!

As Americans, our default tendency is to be fiercely independent.  Our history has essentially written it into our DNA.

Dr. James White has some interesting thoughts below though, on how this can not only be detrimental to our ministries, but is actually downright unbiblical.  Listen as Dr. White contends that apologists (and all of us, for that matter) need to be in the local church, and under its authority, as opposed to making our ministry simply about "Jesus and me."

(HT: Blogergism)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Perfect Storm

Those of you who are regular readers of Sola Gratia have probably noticed that posts have been extremely sparse over the last couple weeks.  Even some of our weekly features (e.g., A Word for Pastors, Friday Funnies) have come up missing on occasion.

The reason for this is twofold.  First of all, this is always the busiest time of year for me.  Annually during Lent, our church has Wednesday night fellowship dinners followed by a worship service.  I thoroughly enjoy these times each year...and not just because I'm the one who plans the services and preaches!  That being said, preparation for these services (on top of my other ongoing responsibilities) makes for a busy season in the life of this pastor.

Add to that the fact that a couple weeks ago, my father, who recently was diagnosed with cancer, had colon surgery.  I went to St. Louis to be with my parents for the surgery and the first few days of recovery.  It was kind of a last minute thing, so I didn't really have any chance to prepare to be gone.

The biggest challenge of going away for any period of time is always coming back.  The piles on your desk don't ever get smaller while you're away, and in fact often seem to grow.  This fact, matched up with the timing of my absence sort of led to "the perfect storm."

I say that for two reasons.  One is a means of explanation as to why there has been a reduced amount of blogging going on, and to make the point that this was a temporary situation.  Every storm eventually passes.  The second reason is it serves as a means of introduction to my sermon tonight on Mark 4:35-41, coincidentally (wink, wink) entitled "The Perfect Storm."  In it I will continue my series on "Faith & Doubt" as we examine Jesus' calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, pictured at left by Rembrandt.

If you're interested, the sermon should be up on our website by Thursday morning at the very latest.  You can go there by clicking here, or by clicking the link at the top of my blog's right hand column.  Also, if you're so inclined, you can click here to access podcast information and subscribe via iTunes by clicking on the link toward the bottom of that page's right hand column.

********* Update - The title of the sermon actually ended up being "Who Is This Man?" *********

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Michael Horton on Signs of the Spirit's Activity

"People are always looking for revival or other great evidences of the Spirit’s work in extraordinary signs.  But this overlooks the most important sign, namely that those dead in trespasses and sins are raised; the guilty are forgiven; those who lie under the dominion of sin and death are united to Christ.

"Faith in Christ is the greatest evidence of the Spirit’s work and the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments are the marks that identify where the Spirit is active in miraculous grace."

Michael Horton

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tim Keller on the Sovereignty of God

King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of JesusIn his new book, King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Tim Keller wisely writes, 
"(I)f I go to Jesus, he's not under my control.  He lets things happen that I don't understand.  He doesn't do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me.  But if Jesus is God, then he's got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you don't understand.  His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love."
He goes on to further make the point,
"If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to stop your suffering, you also have a God who's great enough and powerful enough to have reasons you don't understand. You can't have it both ways."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Tim Challies on Doubt

"The Bible tells us that we can believe boldly, knowing what we know, believing and proclaiming what God says is true. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives boldness to His people. It is not a rash and arrogant boldness that takes refuge in our own intellectual capacities, but a boldness that what God reveals of himself through Scripture is real and right and true and knowable. It is a confidence that we, simple human beings, can know and understand God. And what we know and understand we can. Humility is not found in doubting what is true, but in believing that what God says is true is true indeed. And it is found in proclaiming it on that basis. Humility is expressed in obedience."

Tim Challies

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tim Challies

The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital ExplosionOne of the wonderful things about living in this age is the access we have to so much wonderful teaching. The internet has made it possible for me to be spiritually fed by people all around the world. One such person is Tim Challies.

If by chance you are not already familiar with Tim, please allow me to introduce you to him. During my time as a pastor, I have been greatly blessed by Tim's ministry (and I'm not just saying this because he is a big baseball fan...though it does help his credibility!).  His fantastic blog includes great book reviews, interesting videos, and original posts as well as links to those by others. It is all there for your edification, and I found it so edifying that I've chosen to support it by becoming a "Friend of the Blog."

In addition to the blog, he has a weekly podcast with David Murray entitled Connected Kingdom. They have great great guests discussing interesting topics, and you can subscribe to it either via iTunes or through other media players.

Finally, Tim is an author of a number of books, the latest of which is The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. It deals with the fact that though living in this technological age has many benefits, it also has its downsides. I have already ordered it and am looking forward to receiving my copy in the next couple weeks. Check out the very nice preview below.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Word for Preachers from John Newton

"I trust I have a remembrance in your prayers. I need them much: my service is great. It is, indeed, no small thing to stand between God and the people, to divide the word of truth aright, to give every one portion, to withstand the counter tides of opposition and popularity, and to press those truths upon others, the power of which, I, at times, feel so little of in my own soul. A cold, corrupt heart is uncomfortable company in the pulpit. Yet, in the midst of all my fears and unworthiness, I am enabled to cleave to the promise, and to rely on the power of the great Redeemer."

John Newton

(HT: Kevin DeYoung)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kevin DeYoung Reviews Love Wins

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever LivedIn recent weeks, somewhat of a firestorm erupted on the internet in regards to Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins.  For those who are unaware of Bell or of the controversy, he is the wildly talented and creative pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids.  A few weeks ago this video was released to promote the upcoming book.  Many in the evangelical community were quick to denounce Bell, some (in my opinion) in ways that were perhaps not as well thought through as they ought to have been.

That being said, based upon the video (as well as Bell's track record) I suspected there might be some pretty major things that I would find theologically objectionable in the book.  Bell is absolutely right when he says, "What we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like."  The problem is that it seemed that Bell was swerving away from what the Bible clearly teaches about heaven and hell.

In all fairness, I have NOT read the book.  But Kevin DeYoung, who regular readers of this blog will know I greatly respect, has read it, and he posted a thorough review today at his blog.  Though it is twenty pages long, it is well worth reading.  If you're absolutely not going to devote the time necessary to read it though, please at least read this paragraph from his "Concluding Pastoral Postscript."  In it, DeYoung points to the fact that when we try to get rid of or minimize hell, we lose a whole lot more in the process:
No doubt, Rob Bell writes as a pastor who wants to care for people struggling with the doctrine of hell. I too write as a pastor. And as a pastor I know that Love Wins means God’s people lose. In the world of Love Wins, my congregation should not sing “In Christ Alone” because they cannot not believe, “There on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” They would not belt out “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.” No place for “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” with its confession, “the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.” The jubilation of “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine!” is muted in Love Wins. The bad news of our wrath-deserving wretchedness is so absent that the good news of God’s wrath-bearing Substitute cannot sing in our hearts. When God is shrunk down to fit our cultural constraints, the cross is diminished. And whenever the cross is diminished we pain the hearts of God’s people and rob them of their joy.
You can click here to read the whole review.

A Word for Preachers from John Stott

"A man 'does not qualify to be a preacher of the Word,' John Huxtable has written, 'by making weekly sallies into the good book to discover some peg upon which to hang some scattered observations about men and affairs.' Sporadic and haphazard dipping into the Scriptures is not enough. Nor must we limit ourselves to our favourite passages, or concentrate on the microscopic examination of a few key texts. Such selective knowledge and use of Scripture plays into the devil's hands. Every heresy is due to an overemphasis upon some truth without allowing other truths to qualify it and balance it."

John Stott

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Fun...Brian Regan on ER Visits

As a general rule, whenever I'm not sure what to post for a Friday Fun entry, I just go with Brian Regan. Always good for a laugh...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's Hard Being a Christian Sports Fan

One of my favorite topics to write about is the relationship between two of my favorite things: sports and faith.  As I've pointed out before, no matter what others might say, I really do believe that there is room for God in sports.

Well, perhaps you heard the news that Jim Tressel, a professing Christian and Ohio State's football coach, is in trouble for telling a couple lies and trying to cover it up. Up here in Michigan, the fact that Ohio State is in hot water is to many people the best news imaginable short of an act of Congress outlawing all foreign cars on American soil.

But Michigan fan Dan Rose, a fellow-pastor and friend of mine brought a little godly perspective to the situation today at his blog:
By all accounts Jim Tressel is a man who pursues Jesus. He is, therefore, my brother. When a brother stumbles and falls it is heartbreaking. Tressel made a poor choice, lied, and got caught. This is not a football problem, it is a sin problem. I am prayerful that “The Vest” has men in his life who tell him hard things and that they are drawing alongside him now.
It is in these kinds of situations that those of who are called “Christian” must determine where our allegiances ultimately lie, with the body of Christ or a football team. If you are a Christian and a Michigan fan I hope that you will refrain from making light of this or taking shots at Tressel. If you are a Christian and a Buckeye fan I hope that you refrain from making light of this and overlooking the sin. 
I suggest you click here and read the whole post.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...D.A. Carson on the Gospel

"An historical gospel that is not personal and powerful is merely antiquarian; a theological gospel that is not received by faith and found to be transforming is merely abstract. In reality, the gospel is personal"

D.A. Carson

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Love Jesus More Than Your Theology

I recently entered the "Twittersphere."  By the way, if you'd like to follow me, you can click here. What I have found on Twitter is that I have been blessed by the many edifying tweets I read on a daily basis.  This morning one such tweet that came from Anthony Bradley read, "The idolatry of precision & certainty tempts Calvinists to assume they have no blindspots."

This led to a discussion with my senior pastor, Hal Polk, in which he made comment that I found quite helpful.  The essence of it was that we always need to remember that though their theological constructs might not be as good as ours, many Arminians are far better Christians than we are.

Certainly, my prayer is that I might always strive to know truth and to know it truly.  But may I always love Jesus far more than my theology.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Word For Preachers from John Broadus

“In every age of Christianity, since John the Baptist drew crowds into the desert, there has been no great religious movement, no restoration of Scripture truth, and reanimation of genuine piety, without new power in preaching, both as cause and as effect.”

John Broadus

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Keller Speaks the Truth in Love about the One Who is Truth and Love

Saw a great interview with Tim Keller on MSNBC as he was publicizing his new book, King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus.  In my estimation, Keller is one of the sharpest pastors in the Church today, and does as good a job as anyone of living out both ends of Paul's injunction in Ephesians 4:15 to "speak the truth in love."  I very much look forward to reading King's Cross.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Fun...The Bookcase

Okay. It's a little non-traditional for Friday Fun, but when I saw this it brought a smile to my face!

(HT: Challies)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's Your Attitude Toward the Bible?

"In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." (Psalm 119:14-16)
Below is one of the most simultaneously convicting and encouraging videos I have ever seen.  As I watched it, these two thoughts crossed my mind:
  1. What a great grace it is that the infinite and eternal God of the universe has not only revealed himself to us in his word, but has given it to us in a language we can understand!
  2. While I give intellectual ascent to the first point, why doesn't the pattern of my life more regularly bear this fact out?  That is to say, why am I so often satisfied with giving my attention to the likes of TV shows and facebook, when God has enabled me to give my attention to him?  Why is it that my reaction to opening up God's word is not more like the Kimyal people of Indonesia (if not in form, at least in spirit)?
May we all (starting with me), be amazed afresh every day with the wonders of the Bible.  And may we all, like the Kimyal people, hold God's word in our hands and place it in our hearts.

(HT: Collin Hansen)

Free Audiobook: The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

The Holiness of GodEach month offers a featured audio book for free.  Past selections have included many wonderful titles, and this month is no different as they have made R.C. Sproul's The Holiness of God available for free download.  If you would like to be among those who download it, simply click here and follow the directions in the "Free Audio Download" section.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pujols: More Than the Game

Pujols: More Than the GameAs I mentioned in a post last week, I am a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals in general and of Albert Pujols in particular.  For this reason, I was excited today to read about a new biography entitled Pujols: More Than the Game.  The book tells the story of baseball's biggest star.  Not satisfied to focus merely on the incomparable success that Pujols has enjoyed on the diamond, the book also delves into his life off the field and the Christian faith that stands behind it all.

I haven't read this book yet, but I look forward to doing so.  In the meantime, you should feel comfortable with the recommendation of noted blogger and book reviewer (among many other things), Tim Challies.

By the way, I strongly recommend that you check out Tim's blog,  Subscribe to it, like it on facebook, follow it on twitter or simply come back to it daily.  It is a treasure trove of information and wisdom.

Anyway, he had the following helpful thoughts in his review of the book:
This book is a wee bit formulaic...and it is occasionally a bit melodramatic...But it’s well-written and, for this baseball enthusiast, an interesting read.
Pujols is a baseball player and a Christian. This biography is likely to appeal largely to those who love Christ and (not or) those who love baseball. Being a fan of Pujols or the Cardinals will make it even more enjoyable. The season-by-season descriptions of Pujols’ feats are interesting to baseball fans, but will not play so well with those who who have no love for the game.
Suffice it to say, given these facts, I am sure to enjoy the book.  I hope you will too.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...John Owen on Christ's Work in Us

"The spiritual life which I have is not my own. I did not induce it, and I cannot maintain it. It is only and solely the work of Christ. It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me. My whole life is His alone."

John Owen

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Being "A Successful Preacher"

30 years ago toay, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of my preaching "heroes" (for lack of a better word), went to be with the Lord.  Today I saw a neat video (included below) of a television interview with him from 1970.

I love it at the 2:40 mark when the interviewer, discussing Lloyd-Jones' call to ministry, asks the question, "Did you feel in yourself that you had the qualities that would make a successful preacher?"  Lloyd-Jones responds, "I really was never concerned about that.  My concern was with what needed to be preached, and it was this burning conviction as to the message needed that drove me on."

May all of us who are preachers have a similar aloofness toward "success," and a similar conviction that the gospel needs to be preached.

(HT: @JohnPiper)