Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “Grace is a stunning reversal of the way the world does business.” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “Only Jesus can be both the consummate Man of Sorrows, AND the One who is anointed with joy above his fellows. What a Savior.” – Scotty Smith

3. “The birth of Jesus is a radical visible announcement. God’s not satisfied to leave us the way we are and we should not be either.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “The sovereignty of God over evil is our biggest problem in life. Also, our only hope.” – Ray Ortlund

5. “We are changed not by being told what we need 2 do for God, but by hearing the news abt what He has done 4 us.” – J.D. Greear

6. “Joseph & Mary did everything for Jesus the law required (Lk. 2:39), not realizing Jesus came to do the same for them.” – Scotty Smith

7. “For your marriage to succeed you have to demote your spouse out of the center of your significance and security.” – Dave Furman

8. “God has had a passion 4 the nations 4 all eternity. Surely we can pursue that same passion 4 His glory 4 a single lifetime!” – Daniel Akin

9. “Jesus, grant us grace for serving others with joy & humility to receive service from others. Free us from the illusion of self sufficiency." – Scotty Smith

10. “The logic of grace is incomprehensible to our law-locked hearts.” – Tullian Tchividjian

Friday, December 28, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: To 'all things new'

We will worship as the church of Christ this Sunday for the final time in 2012. We will do so with the knowledge we are not headed just toward a new year but toward a new heaven and a new earth, as well as a new Jerusalem descended from heaven prepared as a bride for her husband, as described in Rev. 21. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Rev. 21:3-5a, ©NASB). As we gather Sunday, may we do so in the complete confidence we are headed to that day when our God makes “all things new.” This work of renewal will take place because God in His grace and in His good pleasure sent His Son to reconcile us to Him through the blood of Jesus. As a result, may we arrive Sunday with hearts and minds full of adoration, thanksgiving, rejoicing, humility, and submission.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “Grace exposes our prejudice, mocks our greed & sabotages our control idol; that’s why some of us prefer legalism/moralism.” – Scotty Smith

2. “Christmas: the Son of God expressing the love of God to save us from the wrath of God so we could enjoy the presence of God.” – John Piper

3. “If you fear God, you need fear nothing else, even the devil. If you do not fear God, you will ultimately fear many things besides Him.” – Randy Alcorn

4. “Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation.” – Tullian Tchividjian

5. “The vertical relationship between a husband and God is the only proper basis for fulfilling his marriage role in the home.” – Dave Furman

6. “Look into the manger and see life, hope, forgiveness, deliverance, freedom; all resting on the shoulders of the One sleeping in that manger.” – Paul David Tripp

7. “Unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and his work for us, even our Bible reading can become fuel for our own self-improvement plans.” – Tullian Tchividjian

8. “Note to self: beware of spiritual pride b/c you apply law & gospel to your kids in the midst of others who do not.” – Tim Brister

9. “Jesus still seeks foolish men and wise men. Jesus is the primary seeker in the whole Story. Hallelujah.” – Scotty Smith

10. “Husbands have hope because Jesus is the perfect husband who gave His life for His bride the Church.” – Dave Furman

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas Child: Suffering Servant and Substitute

'01-11' photo (c) 2010, J.K. Califf - license: world celebrates the birth of a baby on this date, but the world of that time did not welcome that child when He grew into a man. And so it has continued to this day.

Isaiah described the suffering of this One in the 53rd chapter of his prophecy:
He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
Christ came to suffer -- not for any shortcomings of His own. He came to suffer for our sins.

As we celebrate the birth of the Christmas Child today, may we not neglect the adoration and gratitude that is due this same One who was a Suffering Servant who came as a substitute for us that we might know Him as the only Savior from sin.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'For Unto Us a Child Is Born'

"For Unto Us a Child Is Born" is a great chorus from one of the greatest musical works of all time, Handel's "Messiah." In this video, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Tenebrae choir perform this piece about the coming of our Savior.

Top 10 tweets

1. “Christmas is about a rescue mission.” – Greg Breazeale

2. “The magnifying of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations is the reason the world exists.” – John Piper

3. “Christmas is the arrival of the creator onto the stage of his own broken, defaced, sinful creation with the goal of making all things news.” – Tullian Tchividjian

4. “Because the war for the rule of our hearts will wage again today, what we all deeply need is grace.” – Paul David Tripp

5. “For us Christmas is about celebration, for Jesus that first Christmas began with suffering that continued and then culminated on the cross.” – Paul David Tripp

6. “Wives don’t submit to their husbands because their husband is worthy of it, but because Jesus is worthy.” – Dave Furman

7. “I love exchanging gifts with Jesus at Christmas. He gets my sin, I get his righteousness. Awesome!” – Scotty Smith

8. “Church membership is the shape of Christian discipleship.” – Mark Dever

9. “Christmas is God running to us in Jesus.” – Greg Breazeale

10. “If we are indifferent about the lost in our city, then we must conclude God’s glory is unimportant in our lives.” – Tim Brister

Friday, December 21, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: God became man (4)

There may be no more significant and precious thought at Christmas than this: God came to save us. He has always been the Savior of His people. In Hosea 13:4, He testifies to this truth, saying to those Old Covenant people, “Yet I have been the Lord your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me” (©NASB). He commanded them not to worship any other because He is the only one who could save them. In Matthew 1:21, the angel testifies to the same truth, telling Joseph, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (©NASB). God the Son came to save His own. He had to become a man to be our substitute in His life, death and resurrection. He came to save us. May we let that reality sink in as we prepare for corporate worship this Sunday. May we arrive prepared to express our praise and thanksgiving to our Savior, to proclaim that saving message in our singing and to give our lives anew to Him.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jesus and children

'Group of Children in Gaza waving goodbye' photo (c) 2011, proisraeli - license: DeYoung published today a simple, yet profound, post on Jesus and children. Titled "Suffer the Little Children," his post would be a worthy read at any time, but it seems particularly valuable only days after the slaying of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., and only days before we celebrate the birth of the most significant child ever born. Here is the full post:
“Let the little children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Jesus in Mark 10:14).

We are used to our leaders fawning over children. It’s become cliche that politicians kiss babies and concerned citizens always tell us to “Think of the children!” But such tender concern for children has not always been common.

For Greeks and Romans in the first century there was virtually no sentimentality regarding children. Abortion was frequent. Infanticide was even more common. There were too many mouths to feed in the Empire. Offspring were good to work in the fields, but as small children they were unwanted. They were sometimes left for dead in the outdoors or on literal trash heaps.

The Jews treated their children better. A child was a gift from God. But still, children enjoyed no social standing. Like most women, children derived their standing from their relationship to adult males. As unique persons, little kids were better off seen and not heard.

The disciples, therefore, had good reason to think this business of bringing children to Jesus inappropriate and bothersome. Like waiting in line to ask Jesus to tie your shoe. Like clamoring for Jesus to pet your hamster. The man’s busy and should not be bothered with such trifles.

The disciples were simply managing their Master’s time. Except they had no idea what mattered to the Master. Only once is this word “indignant” used of Jesus. That’s how he felt when the Twelve shooed the children away.

Little children were not the sort of people Jesus meant to avoid. They were precisely the people he wanted to see. Jesus did not find children a bother. He cared about their little cares. Their big cares too. He was more patient with other people’s children than we are with our own. He saw them as examples more than burdens. He was tender with children and tough on those who overlooked them. Jesus loved to welcome the little children, take them in his arms, and bless them. He still does.
(DeYoung is the senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich. You may go to his blog here.)

Top 10 tweets

1. “The incarnation was God’s locking himself into death row. Christ did not risk death. He embraced it.” – John Piper

2. “Jesus is the epitome of submission. He is the most truly submissive one who has ever walked on the face of the earth.” – Dave Furman

3. “Because in some way today the kingdom of self will appear to you as more attractive than the kingdom of God, what you need is grace.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “When our idols begin to fail us, it is a painfully glorious and liberating kiss from heaven.” – Scotty Smith

5. “If you put your highest hope in your spouse you will be continually disappointed.” – Dave Furman

6. “Because we still tend to ask of people what only God can give, what we need is grace.” – Paul David Tripp

7. “Christian, your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his performance, not yours.” – Tullian Tchividjian

8. “Sever the root of sin by the power of a superior pleasure.” – John Piper

9. “Look for the most redemptive way to say whatever you need to say.” – Scotty Smith

10. “Our goal in marriage is that our spouse would look more and more like Jesus.” – Dave Furman

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A question in the aftermath: Has God been expelled?

Some Christians and other Americans have made the following statements, or similar ones, in trying to help explain the killings in Newtown, Conn., last Friday (Dec. 14): “God has been kicked out of our public schools” or “We have removed God from public schools.” It’s not the first time such sentiments have been expressed. They have been rather common in recent decades, and I think they cry out for a biblical response.

First, we should be grieving with and praying for parents, spouses, siblings and others affected by this evil act. We should be lifting up those churches who are seeking to minister to and share the gospel with the people of Newtown.

Second, we should be concerned about our culture. It seems appropriate to examine what forces might be at play in this latest of a series of lethal acts of mass violence. We should do so with the recognition our understanding will be limited. We also should expect widely divergent explanations to be provided by Americans, and they already have been.

Third, we can have a debate about the relationship between religion and government in our country. We can discuss what impact decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and ’63 have had on American society. Hopefully, those discussions will be based on a proper understanding of what the court actually decided and not based on catch phrases that can be misleading. I believe those debates should take place in the context of what it seems the Founding Fathers gave this country in the First Amendment – protection for individuals to exercise their religion freely while restricting the government from interfering with those expressions.

What we should be careful not to do as Christians is to say untrue things about God in the process. That is how I believe we should describe the previously mentioned claims that God has been removed from the schools. They are untrue.

Certainly, the increasingly secular mind-set of academia, judges, government officials and other elites has impacted religious expression in schools and other parts of the public square. That is not the same, however, as saying God has been expelled from the schools. We have not kicked out or removed God from the schools. If a court of men or a human government or the people of a country can remove God from anywhere, He is not much of a deity.

The God of the Bible is much different.

The Bible reveals God to be omnipresent. He is everywhere all the time. God’s Word says in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.”

God’s Word also reveals God to be omnipotent. He is Sovereign. He rules over absolutely everything, including evil. The Bible says in Isaiah 46:9b-10, “For I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”

Those passages alone – not to mention many others -- describe a God whose presence and power are not at the mercy of judges or other government officials.

So let’s be careful as followers of Christ to speak accurately about our Creator and Father as we seek to discern how to respond to another heinous, barbaric act. Declaring falsehoods about God will never help us arrive at truth that helps His image-bearers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Child: Ever-ruling King

'01-11' photo (c) 2010, J.K. Califf - license: infant we celebrate at Christmas was born among animals in a stable and had a feed trough as His first bed. His humble entrance into the world did not reflect the authority of this child. It did demonstrate, however, the depths to which God the Son would descend to glorify His Father and to save His people.

The Bible reveals the extent of the juxtaposition between that baby’s humility and His dominion:
For a child will be born to us; a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. (Is. 9:6-7a, ©NASB)

From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev. 19:15-16, ©NASB)
The babe of Bethlehem was the long-awaited Ruler who governs all forever. As we consider the Christmas Child in the days ahead, may we not lose sight of this One’s supreme authority. May we rejoice that we who have been redeemed as a result of His humility are citizens of a kingdom He rules over with a perfectly good and righteous domination.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday are for music: 'Come to save us'

"He came to save us." That thought has entered my mind several times since we, as a church, sang “He Has Come for Us” in corporate worship Dec. 9. As a result, I have posted below a video of All Sons & Daughters singing “Come to Save Us.” I posted this on “Mondays are for music” in August, but I wanted to bring it back for this month’s focus on songs about the incarnation.

Top 10 tweets

1. “It is this crying baby that will wipe away every tear; this defenseless infant that will end all war.” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “One w/out a biblical doctrine of sin has no explanation 4 Newtown; one w/out the gospel has no hope 2 offer in tragedy’s wake.” – Don Whitney

3. “To be pro-life means more than being concerned for unborn babies, but it can never mean less than that.” – Randy Alcorn

4. “It’s a vain thing 2 try 2 get God to love you more today than he already does in Christ. It’s an arrogant thing not 2 believe that he does.” – Scotty Smith

5. “Christmas is all about a tree, but it’s not the tree you decorate.” – Paul David Tripp

6. “Most of us live our lives frantically and frustratingly searching for something we already have.” – Tullian Tchividjian

7. “Because sin still weakens our resolve and saps our strength, what we need is grace.” – Paul David Tripp

8. “If God’s grace is only helping us escape legalism, but not freeing us to love our neighbors sacrificially, we’re not very free yet.” – Scotty Smith

9. “Because we’re all tempted to envy the life of another and in so doing doubt the goodness of God, what we all need is grace.” – Paul David Tripp

10. “Christmas is the beachhead of God’s campaign against sin and sadness, against darkness and death.” – Tullian Tchividjian

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How to think about the evil in Newtown

Linda and I listened late last night to an excellent podcast by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the killings in Newtown, Conn. That podcast, which was a strong help to us, included a touching interview with a pastor in Newtown who is a Ph.D. student at Southern and had been ministering to parents of the slain children. You may listen to it here.

Mohler also has posted a truth- and grace-filled commentary here that is similar to the podcast. I commend it to you. I think it will be helpful. His post includes this important comment:

"In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power."

John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and Desiring God has posted two shorter, yet still helpful, items. You may read them here and here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The evil of mankind and the hope of the Savior

(This evening, I emailed the following message, with two small differences, to those who are part of Covenant Community Church.)

Dear Covenant Community family,

I would imagine some in our church fellowship will hug their children with even more gratitude tonight, and some will express deep-felt thankfulness their grandchildren far or near are safe. A wicked, heart-rending act like that which occurred in Connecticut today causes those kinds of reactions and more.

How do we understand what would drive a young man to kill not only his mother but then to slaughter kindergarten-age children with whom he seemingly had no relationship? The evil is staggering. Undoubtedly, you have been grieving for and praying for the families affected.

Much could be said from a Christian viewpoint, but let me only offer these two thoughts:

-- There is a depth of sinful depravity in the heart that becomes clear in such people and at such times but is common to the human race.

-- There is a merciful, mighty, sin-conquering Savior who is our only hope, and one day He will set all things right.

The writer of Hebrews wrote of our Jesus:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:14-17, ESV).
Please know you -- and your children, for those who have children – are deeply loved and cared for in this fellowship. May we continue to give ourselves to one another in rejoicing and mourning. And may we give ourselves to others in the name of Jesus that they might know Him as merciful Savior – their only hope.

With my love,

Preparing for corporate worship: God became man (3)

The significance of the incarnation is clear in the apostle John's writings in the New Testament. He points to it quickly in both his gospel account and his first letter. For instance, he writes in John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." In I John 1:1-2, the apostle says, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us." Christ is the Word. He became flesh in the person of Jesus. In doing so, He manifested God the Father. We will gather this Sunday to worship God because of this truth: God the Son became a man to bring us to the Father, to make us true worshipers. May the centrality of this act -- God becoming a man both to live and die as a substitute for sinners and reconcile them to the Holy Judge -- inform and enliven our corporate worship. It calls for humble gratitude and deep-seated passion as we approach our great God this Lord's Day.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “‘Good news of great joy for ALL the people,’ including the people groups and individuals I would exclude.” – Scotty Smith

2. “The gospel creates not just people individually, but a people, collectively.” – Matt Chandler

3. “Most people want a genie, not a Lord; an errand boy, not a king; a God to challenge their enemies, not to challenge them.” – Kevin DeYoung

4. “Saying, ‘Don’t give me theology, give me Jesus’ is like saying ‘Don’t give me H2O, give me water.’” – Scotty Smith

5. “We are objects of love before we are subjects who love.” – Tullian Tchividjian

6. “Father, may our justification in Christ define us much more than our victimization in the world.” – Scotty Smith

7. “Don’t live like you have infinite days to repent; you may not have another hour.” – Kevin DeYoung

8. “I have a limited field of vision. I can fill it w/ the faults & failings of others, or I can fill it w/ God’s grace 4 me.” – Scotty Smith

9. “Because the evil that still lives inside you draws you toward the evil that still lives outside you, what you need is grace.” – Paul David Tripp

10. “Get used to greatly mattering to God, but get even more used to not being the point. He’s always writing a bigger story.” – Scotty Smith

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Christmas Child: All-sustaining Creator

'01-11' photo (c) 2010, J.K. Califf - license: baby we celebrate at Christmas entered the world like other children -- through the labor and delivery of His mother. Yet, that newborn -- while dependent on His mother to feed Him and His mother and adoptive father to nurture and otherwise care for Him -- was unlike any other.

The New Testament points to one of these miraculous distinctions in these verses:

"[A]ll things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:16b-17).

He "upholds all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3b).

While we consider Jesus' infancy, may we not forget He is the One who brought the universe into existence and continued -- and continues -- to hold it all together. He makes the world a "cosmos" instead of a chaos. God the Son is the creator of those who cared for Him in His infancy and childhood.

We should never lose sight of who the Christmas Child is. In this season in which we think of a baby, may we dwell on and contemplate this One's sovereign power as Creator and Sustainer of His creation.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'

Some of the theologically richest songs are Christmas carols. The incarnation of Christ has elicited some great lyrics from Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts and others. Wesley's "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" may be my favorite of all. Of many profound lines in Wesley's hymn about the humble act of God the Son becoming a man, consider these:
Mild, He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Here is a video of Take 6's a cappella rendition. (Please excuse the promo for the Gospel Music Channel before and after.)

Top 10 tweets

1. “He who upholds all things by the power of his word allowed a manger and a cross to uphold him.” – Scotty Smith

2. “It would be amazing if a God of awesome glory recognized our existence, but to welcome us into his family is grace that’s beyond amazing!” – Paul David Tripp

3. “Simply rehearsing our problems isn’t worshiping God. Recalling God’s character in the midst of them is.” – Bob Kauflin

4. “The world encourages us to get lost in the vast expanse of OURSELVES. The gospel encourages us to get lost in the greatness of GOD.” – Owen Strachan

5. “God’s favor rests on us freely because Jesus took the dis-favor of God fully.” – Scotty Smith

6. “Today you’ll fall once again and you’ll either wallow in the disappointment of self-righteousness or run quickly to the grace of Jesus.” – Paul David Tripp

7. “God’s law reminds me that I’m deeply flawed. God’s gospel reminds me that I’m deeply loved.” – Tullian Tchividjian

8. “When we carry on a love affair with the world, we commit spiritual adultery, placing God in the role of jilted husband.” – Randy Alcorn

9. “Most holy joy-producing paradox: Jesus went humbly to the cross so we can come boldly to his throne.” – Scotty Smith

10. “Corporate worship is designed to give you eyes to see the God of Glory that all the small glories of creation were made to point to.” – Paul David Tripp

Friday, December 7, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: God became man (2)

The apostle John addressed in some of His writings in the New Testament a major problem for the church. Some false teachers were denying that God actually had become a man. He wrote the following in his second letter, verse 7: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist." The apostle had strong words for this teaching: It is that of the antichrist. The Bible tells us something quite different than these false teachers did: Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, fully God and fully man. As the church, we declare both His full deity and His full humanity. We will do so this Sunday as we consider the incarnation of God. We will do it as we read what Scripture tells us about His miraculous conception and birth. We will do it as we sing great songs about Him humbling Himself to come to earth and rescue His people. We will do it as we lift praise and thanksgiving to Him for becoming a man to be our Savior and Lord. We will do it as we listen to the preaching of God's Word from the gospel of Luke. We will do it with the recognition this is not just an alternative view of how to celebrate the season but it is at the center of not just Christianity but of history: God became a human being to save human beings.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “Will you build seemingly logical arguments for your righteousness or cast yourself on the mercy of your Savior?” – Paul David Tripp

2. “Don’t confuse the sufficiency of God’s grace w/ the easiness of his ways. The gospel is more about changing us than coddling us.” – Scotty Smith

3. “Reminder to self: People are more important than ideas; ideas more important than time; time more important than things.” – Thabiti Anyabwile

4. “Are you benefitting from the insight-giving, protecting, encouraging, and restoring ministries of the body of Christ?” – Paul David Tripp

5. “If you stick around your church long enough you’ll have opportunity to give, to receive, to repent, and to forgive.” – Kevin DeYoung

6. “It is a serious spiritual deficiency in a church either to have leaders who are untrustworthy, or members incapable of trusting.” – Mark Dever

7. “Faith isn’t a muscle we exercise, it’s an empty hand we extend.” – Scotty Smith

8. “If your purse is not open at the top with tithes and alms of all you earn, God will sooner or later put holes in the bottom.” – John Piper

9. “Legalism isn’t legalistic enough. It makes the law doable, rather than unbearable, thus eliminating the need for Jesus.” – Scotty Smith

10. “There is no telling how much we could do 4 the glory of God & the good of His Church & the nations if we did not care who gets the credit.” – Daniel Akin

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Santa of Christmas and the God of Christmas

This video, which was written by Glen Scriviner, provides a humorous, though profound, look at how human beings can view God as if He were Santa Claus. Its title? "Anti-Santy Ranty."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Christmas child: Devil-crushing Conqueror

'01-11' photo (c) 2010, J.K. Califf - license: baby changes everything, as a hit song of a few years ago says.

In the case of the whole world -- and especially the church, one baby changed everything.

Our congregational reading Sunday in corporate worship included some of the purposes God the Son gave for coming to earth as a man: To do His Father's will (John 6:38); to serve and give His life as a ransom (Matt. 20:28), and to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

In reading I John 3 this morning, I noticed two reasons the apostle gives for God becoming a man:

"You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin" (I John 3:5).

"The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:8b).

When we think of Christmas, we think of a newborn who entered the world in the humblest of circumstances, a child who -- like other children -- was fully dependent, especially on a mother, to provide for Him. And we think this way appropriately.

Yet, we should never lose sight of who that baby is and what He came to do. As John says, He entered the world as a sin-bearing-away Savior and a devil-crushing Conqueror. No wonder Satan sought Jesus' destruction while He was still a small child.

In this season in which we think of a baby, may we dwell on and contemplate His sin- and devil-defying purposes that set us free.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven'

Kristyn Getty sings in this video a song her husband, Keith, and she wrote, "Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven." While they wrote it as a children's Christmas carol, it is not just for children.

Top 10 tweets

1. “What’s the difference between the spirit of the age and the Spirit of God? One says live well and the other says die well.” – Kevin DeYoung

2. “Truth without grace is legalism. Grace without truth is deception.” – Randy Alcorn

3. “Self-swindling: you are daily admitting your need for forgiving grace or working to convince yourself that you’re okay.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “Defensiveness is a failure to understand and rest in Christ’s finished work. You don’t need to be right, you need death and resurrection.” – Elyse Fitzpatrick

5. “Even the best things we do have something in them that needs to be pardoned.” – Tullian Tchividjian

6. “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord. Ps. 84:2 // sincere worship looks silly to the unengaged spectator.” – Tim Brister

7. “Don’t avoid kids and loving them. Wherever possible, we need kids to call us out of ourselves. They’re like Easter eggs – there’s joy inside.” – Owen Strachan

8. “A soft heart embraces hard truth. But a hard heart won’t endure the softest truth.” – Thabiti Anyabwile

9. “Don’t confuse God’s blessing as his endorsement of the way you’re living.” – Paul David Tripp

10. “‘Count it all joy.’ (James 1:2) The mysterious link between miserable circumstances and a merry heart is in this ‘counting.’” – John Piper

Friday, November 30, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: God became man (1)

"If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared" (Ps. 130:3-4). This is a great Christmas verse. Why? I was pondering my own sinful shortcomings this morning as I drove to the train station, and I thought about the first part of this passage. I recognized my iniquities made impossible any basis I had of my own for standing without condemnation before the Holy Judge. Yet, I do stand without condemnation before Him. Why? Because God the Son became an embryo, a newborn, a child who grew into a man who lived a perfectly righteous life in my place and stood condemned before His Father in my place. That is what Advent, the incarnation, Christmas -- however we choose to describe it -- is about. In corporate worship this Sunday, Covenant Community Church will begin giving special attention to this miraculous truth that God became man. May we come with joyful and humbly grateful hearts to worship Him.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The importance of a complementarian view

Complementarianism describes what I believe to be the biblical view of the God-designed differences between men and women, as well as the roles they fulfill in the home and church. Here is a helpful video excerpt from John Piper's sermon last weekend in which he describes complementarianism's middle ground between two erroneous views.

Top 10 tweets

1. “Whether you realize it or not, you are in an unending conversation with yourself and it forms the way you live.” – Paul David Tripp

2. “You preach [to] yourself a gospel of aloneness [and] inability or of the provisions and power of an ever-present Christ.” – Paul David Tripp

3. “You preach to yourself a gospel of your righteousness, power and wisdom or of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “Anything you say you’ve got to have to make you happy has your soul by the neck.” – Dave Furman

5. “Our ascended Lord is the Victor and the victory medal around his neck is the bedraggled lamb of the church he carries to his heaven.” – Elyse Fitzpatrick

6. “Either you are getting your identity vertically or you’re shopping for it horizontally.” – Paul David Tripp

7. “We give ourselves to others to help form Christ in them.” – Darren Patrick

8. “Lord Jesus, purge every semblance of Javert from my soul. Eradicate in me everything allergic to grace.” – Scotty Smith

9. “Faith is not only a serious assent to the truth of God’s promises, it is also a satisfying embrace of Christ in the promises.” – John Piper

10. “You are most loving and kind when you accept that there’s no truth you’d give to others that you don’t need yourself.” – Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's a mom to do?

'Mother & Son 2' photo (c) 2012, Gordon - license: a blessing it is to know many ladies of many ages who are recipients of God’s saving grace and are following Jesus. They encourage and challenge me by the grace I see expressed in and through their lives. I benefit from those who are part of our family by birth or marriage and from those whom I have known across the years and miles. I also reap the reward of worshiping with such sisters in Christ week by week within Covenant Community Church.

Many of these female saints are mothers. As mothers, they bless their families with their sacrificial service for the good of their husbands and children. Some ladies who are not mothers or whose children have grown and moved away serve as spiritual mothers to young ladies, and some who still have children at home are spiritual mothers to others outside their nuclear family.

Some mothers in our church – and many other churches – are home educators as well. In addition to all the responsibilities all mothers have, these mothers also teach their children reading, writing, math and the other disciplines. For mothers with large families, this can mean home-schooling children for as much as a quarter of a century.

A recent conversation with my wife -- as well as some writing by Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Center blog -- prompted me to want to write something for Christian mothers. This won’t be as provocative or as humorous as Altrogge’s posts, but I hope it proves helpful. You can read his posts on the subject here and here.

Here are some questions to set the stage for six recommendations: How does a Christian mother respond to the challenges mothers have always faced? And how does a Christian mother respond in seasons sometimes further complicated by even more responsibilities? How does she react to criticism from a world that often does not esteem motherhood? How does a mother respond when other Christians – often other mothers – pile unbiblical expectations on her and try to tell her via books, blogs, Facebook, speeches and one-on-one communication she is failing or she is not being a faithful Christian mother?

Certainly, it helps to have a loving and servant-hearted husband who leads her by grace. And it is beneficial to have children who genuinely express gratitude.

What I share below, however, is for a mother to apply regardless of how good her support system is. I hope these points will help mothers know how to think biblically about the unhelpful and even disconcerting messages they may receive from others. These points can be applied by any follower of Christ to his or her life, but I offer them specifically for mothers who are seeking to do their best to love their children and rear them to worship God and follow Jesus.

1. Flee fundamentalism, legalism and any other performance-based approach to Christianity. While sincere, those individuals and ministries that excel at burdening mothers and others with works-based and/or culturally driven standards seem always to be with us. They promote what amounts to an unbiblical, grace-deprived Christianity. Don’t let these anti-gospel messages define you.

2. Flee to Jesus and His gospel. This point is really a summary of those that follow, but there seems to be a need to state it explicitly. If you are going to flee something, you need to run to someone or something. Run to Jesus.

3. Recognize your security and most important identity are in Jesus. They are not in whether you do all the mommy things some Christian voices or some in the world try to convince you a good mother does. They are not in whether you accomplish all the things you think you should. They are not even in those occasions when you do accomplish all you think you should. As Milton Vincent says in A Gospel Primer for Christians:
The gospel also reminds me that my righteous standing with God always holds firm regardless of my performance, because my standing is based solely on the work of Jesus and not mine. On my worst days of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God’s unrelenting grace toward me. On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness and not mine.
Your security and most important identity are also not in how your children perform. They are not in how your children turn out. That is important, but you cannot control those outcomes, no matter how well you perform your role as mother. You are not sovereign – even over your children’s lives. God is. Trust Him, because He is worthy of trust. Rest – yes, rest – in who Jesus is as your Savior, Lord and Life and in what He has done for you.

4. Preach the gospel to yourself. Remind yourself at least daily – maybe several times a day – what the gospel is and what Jesus has done for you. He is your substitute in His righteous life, His all-sufficient death and His triumphant resurrection. The gospel of Jesus is the truth that matters most. Read the New Testament with your spiritual eyes attuned to what it says Jesus achieved for you and who you are as a result of that work on your behalf.

5. Live by grace. Your salvation is all of God and all of His grace. Remind yourself of that grace when you fail. Extend grace to other mothers who do things differently than you while living under the lordship of Christ. Shower grace on your children, giving them a real-life picture of a God who is a loving, forgiving, embracing Father and not a performance-based, rule-focused tyrant.

6. Spend time with grace-extending ladies in a church with a growing gospel culture. Have other ladies in your life as mentors and friends who are seeking to live by the gospel of grace and are not continually burdening themselves and others with the weight of a moralistic, performance-focused mentality. This is best done in a church where everyone is hearing the gospel proclaimed and applied from all of Scripture to Christians, as well as non-Christians, and the church is growing in grace as a result. Our church is blessed by ladies who have learned to reject fundamentalism and legalism and are able to guide younger mothers in living by the gospel of grace. An online resource that is helpful for mothers is the Domestic Kingdom blog, which is edited by Gloria Furman, a pastor’s wife and mother in Dubai. She also is the author of the forthcoming book, Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home.

(As always, I welcome your comments and questions on anything I have written in this post.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Gather 'Round, Ye Children, Come'

Andrew Peterson recorded his Christmas album, "Behold the Lamb of God," in 2004, but his band and he, as well as a collection of other musicians, had already been touring the previous four years to perform this splendid, big picture, musical presentation of the incarnation of Christ. They begin another "Behold the Lamb Tour" this week with a Dec. 6 stop in Richmond, Va., and a Dec. 7 show in Gaithersburg, Md. The video below is of Peterson and his friends performing the opening song, "Gather 'Round, Ye Children, Come." With this edition of "Mondays are for music," I inaugurate what I plan to be a December video playlist of songs about the amazing story of God becoming a man.

Top 20 tweets

Since I have been on a short sabbatical from blogging, I decided to expand “Top 10 tweets” to “Top 20 tweets” on this occasion to try to do justice to all the tweets I collected during the last week and a half. Here are the “Top 20:”

1. “Every thought, desire, choice, word and action of Jesus was lived on your behalf so you could stand before God with a record that is clear.” – Paul David Tripp

2. “It boils down to either finding our place in God’s story or giving God a bit part in our story.” – Scotty Smith

3. “The gospel is the good news that the determining factor in my relationship with God is Christ’s obedience, not mine.” – Tullian Tchividjian

4. “God’s grace wasn’t given to deliver your dream for your life, but to deliver you and give you life.” – Paul David Tripp

5. “My sins are greater than my confessions, but I am thankful my Savior is greater than both.” – Jared Wilson

6. “We parent not to make sure our kids never sin but to teach them how to deal with their sin in light of the gospel. 1Jn 2:1” – Bob Kauflin

7. “Grace is not only greater than all my sin, but also greater than all my so called ‘goodness.’ Both need redemption.” – Scotty Smith

8. “God isn’t a genie we can call to our service whenever we feel the need, then bottle back up so we can go on living as we please.” – Randy Alcorn

9. “The Gospel is like a Hobbit. For many it looks weak and insignificant. But through it, God will save the world!” – Greg Breazeale

10. “If you’re not living by the joy of the Holy Spirit the only category you have for the spiritual disciplines is legalism.” – John Piper

11. “Jesus, I don’t need 1000 tongues; just free the one I have 2 bless, not curse; 2 praise, not whine; 2 honor you, not me.” – Scotty Smith

12. “Isn’t it good news to know that we don’t have to live in fear ‘that our life hangs in the balance of whether or not we make a wrong move?’” – Tullian Tchividjian

13. “Every sunrise points us to look ahead to the Day that is coming that will be the end of darkness forever.” – Gloria Furman

14. “God is better than our small faith. He may use means which surprise us to draw our attention to Him.” – Mark Dever

15. “Constantly rehearsing the ways people have failed you is like putting a straw into a sewer and sipping away. Don’t do it.” – Scotty Smith

16. “Corporate worship is designed to welcome you into the sweet peace, rest and hope that is only found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” – Paul David Tripp

17. “The key for a gospel-driven leader is this: remember to forget yourself.” – Trevin Wax

18. “Too many Christians live to not make mistakes instead of resting in the love of the One whose blood covers all our mistakes.” – Tullian Tchividjian

19. “Are we willing to be made uncomfortable to reach the nations with the gospel? Our Lord Jesus was (Mark 10:45)!” – Daniel Akin

20. “Let’s be very careful NOT to equate ‘no longer under God’s law’ with ‘no longer called to do God’s will.’” – Scotty Smith

Friday, November 16, 2012

A brief break from blogging

I plan to take a short blogging sabbatical for about the next 10 days. I have not posted much this week, since I have been on the road or away from the home and office four of the first five days of the week. Now, we are on a road trip to Kansas for a much-anticipated family get-together Thanksgiving week.

I should be back to blogging Nov. 26 or shortly thereafter.

As a sendoff for now, here is a verse from my Bible reading today:

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb. 11:6, ESV).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “Christian, God’s love for you and approval of you is not diminished by your failures or enhanced by your successes. (Rom. 8:38-39)” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “If God predestined the cross and brought from it blessing, why can’t he predestine our troubles and turn them for good?” – Kevin DeYoung

3. “When Jesus helps us smash our idols it is grace to us & a witness to others of his supreme worth.” – Gloria Furman

4. “We’ve got some choices to make today: To believe the gospel or trust our idols; to bless or curse; be petty or be kind.” – Scotty Smith

5. “Sin is addiction: An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure.” – Darren Patrick

6. “Point the finger of blame at someone or something else = self atonement. Admit your sin and run to Jesus = true redemption.” – Paul David Tripp

7. “What beautiful, ironical grace that God eternally secures the Christian who doesn’t believe in eternal security.” – Jared Wilson

8. “What we attribute to God in prayer is as important as what we want from God through prayer.” – Kevin DeYoung

9. “If our ‘need’ to be appreciated is greater than our commitment to encourage others, we’re an Eeyore waiting to happen.” – Scotty Smith

10. “Legalism makes us focus on our good works rather than God’s.” – Darren Patrick

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Wake Up'

All Sons and Daughters -- David Leonard and Leslie Jordan -- and a guest cellist perform "Wake Up," a song about taking up the cross and following Jesus, in this video.

Top 10 tweets

1. “Worldliness is to look in the unimaginable beauty and love of the Father’s face and say, ‘Naw . . . I’d rather have something else.’” – Thabiti Anyabwile

2. “Don’t live in a way that identifies you with the worship of anyone other than Christ.” – Dave Furman

3. “If we primarily go hunting for our idols, we won’t find Jesus. But if [we] go looking for Jesus, he will show us our idols.” – Scotty Smith

4. “It’s good to believe in the sovereignty of God. It’s better to trust the Sovereign One. No ‘it’ can save us. He can.” – Ray Ortlund

5. “There is no depth of sin, iniquity or transgression so deep that it is beyond the reach of God’s forgiving, enabling and transforming grace.” – Paul David Tripp

6. “Dear young evangelicals: confusion/doubt/uncertainty is not a virtue. Knowing and loving truth is.” – Owen Strachan

7. “The crises in our cities will not be solved by Christian movies and conferences but the gospel at work through churches on mission.” – Jared Wilson

8. “The problem w/ worldliness is not that something ‘out there’ tricks & lures us; the problem w/ worldliness is something IN us wants its way.” – Thabiti Anyabwile

9. “Our unity in our diversity adds depth to our Gospel words and displays the grace of Christ to the world.” – Dave Furman

10. “Let’s live like an elect people, not like a people who lost an election.” – Scotty Smith

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: God is omniscient

The God we will gather to worship this Sunday is omniscient -- or all knowing. Among the Bible passages that demonstrate this truth are these:

"Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3).

"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).

Sam Storms, an author and pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, writes the following about an aspect of God's omniscience in contrast with human knowledge:
God's knowledge is simultaneous, not successive -- He sees things at once and in their totality, whereas we know only as the objects of knowledge are brought before us, one bit after another. With God the act of perception is complete and instantaneous. God thinks about all things at once.
"The Lord knows everything there is to know," as the Praise Factory curriculum we use with our church's younger children testifies.

Omniscience is only one attribute of the God whose many attributes are all perfect at the same time. May we gather Sunday considering the greatness of the God we will worship together.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “People actually ‘do’ more (and do it more cheerfully) when they hear more about what Jesus has done and less about what they should do.” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “The doctrine of God’s sovereignty seems bad because of sin. In reality, God’s providence is the sweetest hope & comfort imaginable.” – Owen Strachan

3. “You don’t bring natural humility to your relationship with God, but rather moral pride and rebellion. GRACE.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “As a follower of a crucified Christ, you know there are more important things in your life than your life.” – Kevin DeYoung

5. “How to change a nation: make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus.” – David Platt

6. “Often times, the greatest opportunity we have to magnify and exalt God is in our trials.” – Dave Furman

7. “Our hope in God’s perfect justice in the future should never be used as an excuse to be indifferent about injustice in the present.” – Denny Burk

8. “It’s not a matter of how much we have in our hand, but whether our hands are open or clenched.” – Ray Ortlund

9. “One day people will ask about today’s pro-choicers the same thing we do about eugenicists 100 yrs ago: What were they thinking?” – Trevin Wax

10. “There are only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done?” – Tullian Tchividjian

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eleven things about the election

'Election 2012' photo (c) 2012, League of Women Voters of California LWVC - license: may have read or heard all you care to regarding yesterday’s election. If not, here are 11 observations or comments I offer, recognizing there is unlikely anything unique about any of them.

1. God has placed over us some whom we would not have chosen to govern us, and yet He remains perfectly holy, righteous, just and good.

2. God’s establishment of these in public office is part of His purpose for His glory, His gospel and our good as Christians in the United States of America.

3. God’s intention is that we honor those who govern us even while disagreeing with them – praying for them; thanking them when they do good; seeking to persuade them to change when they do not; opposing their intrusions on the sanctity of life, integrity of marriage and freedom of conscience, and supporting their removal from office if they run for re-election without changing.

4. More unborn children will die – and more mothers’ lives will be devastated – in this country and overseas with the support of government funding for the foreseeable future.

5. Homosexual marriage will continue to gain legitimacy with the power of the executive branch of the federal government behind it.

6. Coercion of Christian individuals and institutions – and other pro-life individuals and institutions – to underwrite abortion will continue unabated apart from a policy reversal by the Obama administration or a legal victory in the federal court system.

7. Christians will face some painful repercussions regarding health care apart from the reversals cited in No. 6.

8. The cultural divide continues to grow.

9. We should continue to build our church’s culture while loving, serving, evangelizing and discipling those outside that they might become part of that culture.

10. We, as the church, should continue to worship, pray, preach, teach, evangelize, disciple, serve and love – not in order to gain political victories but to glorify God, exalt Jesus and spread the gospel to the nations.

11. We should continually cry out to God for His mercy in our lives, our families, our church and our country.

If you want to read still more about a Christian response to the election, I commend Russell Moore’s post here and Al Mohler’s here, both from today.

An election reminder

Much could be said about yesterday's election, and I plan to post some thoughts later today. For now, here is what I posted on Facebook this morning:
The election results serve as another reminder our hope as those purchased by the blood of Jesus is not in a candidate, a party or our fellow citizens -- as great as it is to live in a republic where we elect those who govern us. '"Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God" (Psalm 20:7).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gospel grace in a Christian marriage

Gospel grace is available to all who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus -- grace in us, in our churches and in our families. Dave and Gloria Furman movingly and beautifully describe the strength of that grace in the following testimonies. Dave is a church planter/pastor in Dubai. Gloria is his wife, mother of their three young children and co-worker in the gospel.

Dave posted his testimony about God's sovereign grace in the midst of disability Oct. 25 at Desiring God's blog. Gloria posted a testimony from her perspective about God's grace in their marriage May 8 at the blog she edits, Domestic Kingdom.

I strongly encourage you to read both and catch a glimpse of the gospel grace available to all who belong to Jesus.

Here is Dave's post, which is titled "The Struggles and Hopes of a Disabled Dad:"
Ten years ago I was white-knuckling the handles of a raft in the rapids of Costa Rica while my wife and I were on our honeymoon.

Ten years later on our anniversary, a kind stranger offered his help to my wife who was trying her best to lift my disabled body into an inner tube at a hotel pool. I can only imagine what was going through that gentleman’s mind when he saw me struggling to float down a lazy river.

God’s Beautiful Design

Ten years ago I never would have dreamed that I would have a physical disability. But God knew the beautiful design he had for me and for the spread of his gospel would involve taking away the strength of my hands.

There have been times when I couldn’t lift a cup of water to my lips to take a drink or open the fridge to feed myself. Most mornings my preschool-aged daughters help me button my shirt. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to pick up any one of my three babies. Sometimes I can’t even shake hands.

On a trip to the States for a pastor’s conference I was eating lunch with a big group of pastors. Without a word, one of my elders leaned over and graciously cut my steak for me so I could eat it. Sensing the awkwardness around the table of men who were not aware of my disability, he joked, “This is the way you serve your pastor!”

It’s been over five years now since my doctor discovered that the nerves in my arms weren’t working — firing off chronic pain signals to my brain and twisting themselves into painful neuromas. I’ve had five surgeries on my arms, worked for hundreds of hours in therapy, and taken a cocktail of medicines to give me some relief.

While I’m thankful for modern medicines and the relief they can provide, I understand that my greatest hope doesn’t come in a prescription.

The Strengthening Word

As a preacher I have seen the power of God’s word in the lives of others. And as a disabled pastor I have felt the power of God’s word in my own time of need.

I need other believers to encourage me with the hard texts of suffering and God’s sovereignty. I need to be reminded that God has plans to glorify himself through me because of my pain.

As a person who experiences chronic pain and physical disability, I need to be reminded of God’s sovereign goodness. I need to know that God can use me no matter my physical potential. I need to see lightning bolts of God’s grace shoot through my depression as I wrestle with nerve pain in the middle of the night. I need to be reminded of God’s good design in my disability to strengthen me in the daily reminders of my physical weakness.

The Strong Grip of Grace on My Family

God in His grace and wisdom saw it fitting to take away my arm strength and ability. If God means this disability for my good then I can trust him even though it hurts. My arms physically hurt and it hurts me when I can’t dance around with my daughters or playfully wrestle with my son. At times I am tempted to discouragement about the long-term impact that my disability has on my children. This is all the more reason that I must trust that God did not design my disability to harm me or my children.

My disability instead highlights God’s superior ability. God is our Provider and Father. I may not be able to physically tend to my children’s needs or defend them against physical threats. But God can and he does.

In many ways my physical disability has prepared me to spiritually lead my family. As the head of my family I lead my wife and children, shepherd them, and invest eternally in their lives. God does this work of primary import in and through me — a broken vessel. God gets the glory as I rely on him for the strength I need to do these things.

And so I can say along with the Psalmist words in Psalm 90:17, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”
Here is an excerpt from Gloria's testimony, which is titled "God’s story of grace in marriage:"
Last night Dave and I met a couple for dinner at a restaurant. We couldn’t finish our meal so the server packaged the leftovers for us and put them in a bag.

Dave carried the takeaway bag halfway to the car and then he handed it to me. “It’s getting heavy; I can’t carry it anymore,” he said.

Anyone who saw this transaction take place might have thought one of many things. Things like: “Gee whiz, how much food did you guys take away?” or “What kind of man would tell his wife to carry the leftovers? He should gladly serve her.”

I remember one occasion years ago when I was packing our suitcases into our car outside of a hotel where we stayed on a road trip. I pushed the baby’s stroller with one hand and pulled the luggage cart behind me. I unlocked the car, opened the passenger door for Dave, clipped his seat belt, put the baby in her car seat, and proceeded to load the trunk with our belongings.

Three women seated on a bench next to the car gawked at us. They began to murmur among themselves. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it became apparent to me that they were talking about us.

One woman called out to me,

“Honey, your husband is no good! You deserve better! Who does he think he is, making you do all his work?”

I praise God that the passenger door was closed and Dave didn’t hear her taunting. The audacity of such a statement boiled my blood. But she was ignorant. We all make assumptions when we can’t see people’s scars — whether they’re bilateral 9-inch scars on someone’s arms or scars on a broken heart that is riddled with sin and the pain of living in a fallen world.

God gets the credit for giving me the grace I needed to not hurl insults back at her. I let her mocking go with a kind response and replied as I slid into the driver’s seat and started the car,

“He’s disabled, ma’am.”

For over five years now Dave has been struggling with a nerve disorder in both of his arms. The nerves in his arms misfire signals to his brain and tell his brain that his muscles are on fire. Dave has been in the hospital 17 times for surgeries and procedures to help his arms.

Even though Dave’s chronic pain is ever-present, physical therapy has greatly benefited him. He can carry a takeaway bag halfway to the car now! Praise God!

In all of our challenges and discouragements God has been faithful. But what if I believed the lie that woman was spouting? What if I agreed that my husband is “no good” and that I “deserve better” and that Dave had unfairly shrugged off his responsibilities onto me?

If I had had the time and if those women had displayed a willingness to listen, I would have sat down with them on the bench and shared with them a few things.

I would have told them that the worth of a man does not depend on his physical abilities to serve. A man’s worth is established in his bearing the very image of God who created him. A disabled man is not less of a man just because he can’t use his arms to lift heavy things.

I would have explained how Dave’s primary work in our family is to lead us spiritually, and he does a mighty fine job at that! What a man! I would have shared with tears how God is the one who gave me the physical work of caring for Dave and our family and how it is so stinking hard sometimes but God is good, he is faithful, and he provides. In our heartbreak over surgeries and medicines that didn’t provide ultimate physical relief, God has been faithful.

I would have explained how we didn’t write this struggle into our story; God did. And we didn’t deserve for God to write his grace into our story, but he did. I would have told them how I’m eternally grateful that because of the gospel, God gives me what Christ deserves instead of what I deserve.

God’s faithfulness to his name is the bedrock of our faith. This is the same foundation of truth for every Christian marriage, and the way he writes his story of grace over the lives of his children looks different for everyone.
You can read her entire blog post here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A prayer before the election

Scotty Smith, who blogs a daily prayer here for The Gospel Coalition, posted one today titled "A Prayer for the Day Before the Presidential Election." Smith is pastor for preaching, teaching and worship at Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tenn. I commend his prayer for your consideration on the eve of the election.
Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matt 6:31-34

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Rev. 4:2

Dear heavenly Father, tomorrow we’ll be electing a new president for the United States of America — both a great honor and a very important matter. As your people, you call us to engage in our culture, be good citizens and work for the good of our neighbors. Certainly, making wise choices about the best candidates for public office and voting for them is one of the ways we do so. Grant us wisdom as we prepare to exercise this privilege; but that’s not all we need as we prepare for election day.

Father, we need you to settle our hearts, fix our gaze and fuel our trust in you. If you command us (and you do) not to be anxious about the core issues of life — eating, drinking and clothing, certainly you expect us not to be anxious about who will warm the seat of the oval office. By your [H]oly Spirit, show us today, tomorrow and the next day what you showed your servant John — the occupied, warm-seated throne of heaven. Because you’re not nervous, we shouldn’t be fear-full. Because you are in control, we most definitely aren’t.

As our Father, you know what we need in America, just like you know what is needed in Uganda, the Sudan, Switzerland, Israel and China — for you [are] the pan-national God. We don’t understand all your reasons for choosing to seat certain kings and remove others (Dan. 2:21); the secret things — the mysteries of providence [--] belong to you (Deut. 29:29). But we do know that you’ve already installed Jesus, your Son, as the true and eternal King; and we know that laughter, not consternation, fills the courts of heaven (Psalm 2:4-6).

So help us, in all of our seeking, to seek first your kingdom and the righteousness of your kingdom. We will seek to do that in the polling booth tomorrow, and we will seek to do so today as we turn from our idols to serve you — the one true living God; and as we advocate for the least and the lost in our communities; and as we spend our time, talent and treasure to your glory; and as our thoughts and conversations demonstrate that we really do believe the gospel.

How we praise you for declaring us righteous in Christ, and how we praise you for promising to “put all things right” one Day under his Lordship. This sure hope doesn’t make us passive, nonchalant or indifferent; it compels us to live as your servants until the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Our hope is in you, Father, not in chariots, horses or men. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and loving name.

Mondays are for music: 'Dancing in the Minefields'

Andrew Peterson is an exceptional story-teller, maybe the best among Christian artists. His "Dancing in the Minefields" is a creative, moving portrayal of the beauty and meaning of Christian marriage. I posted this music video long ago -- when, I believe, my blogging was on the church's website and before I inaugurated my "Mondays are for music" posts. I thought it was a good time to bring it back.

Top 10 tweets

1. “The Gospel is not: God accepts me just as I am. The Gospel is: God accepts me just as Christ is.” – Greg Breazeale

2. “Christian, because of what Jesus has done FOR you—and only because of what Jesus has done for you—God is well pleased IN you.” – Tullian Tchividjian

3. “Your obedience is messy. Christ’s obedience was perfect. Guess which one satisfies the Father’s demand and opens the door of his acceptance.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “This is Christianity: Our judge becomes our friend. Our accuser becomes our advocate.” – Darrin Patrick

5. “Lord Jesus, show me the difference between contentment and laziness.” – Scotty Smith

6. “Pride is a heavy burden. There’s nothing like the relief we feel when God graciously lifts away our self-illusions.” – Randy Alcorn

7. “If morals are eliminated as the point of the Bible many Christians will have no use for it.” – Byron Yawn

8. “The election that matters most is the one that happened in eternity past.” – Kevin DeYoung

9. “When God cripples us he’s actually curing us—making us aware of our weakness so that we’ll finally rest in his strength.” – Tullian Tchividjian

10. “Jesus, show me the difference between really liking worship music, and worshiping you in Spirit and truth.” – Scotty Smith

Friday, November 2, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: Starve to glorify

The glory of God is our goal in corporate worship. As John Piper says in this video, we should collectively be making God look like the great God He is when we are together on Sunday. We are united by and in the cross of Christ. We are united in this great purpose -- making much of God. A part of glorifying God, Piper says, is coming to corporate worship starved for Him. Please give attention to this two-minute video and come Sunday in light of the reality Piper has phrased this way: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “Today your words and actions will be shaped by awe of something. Will it be God or something else?” – Paul David Tripp

2. “By God’s grace, we can afford to be overlooked and underappreciated, and quiet about it.” – Scotty Smith

3. “Unity among Christians is one way that the church can reflect the centrality of the cross.” – Trevin Wax

4. “God does not forbid sexual sin because he’s a killjoy, but because he opposes what kills joy.” – John Piper

5. “Be ready to resist the enemy whispering in your ear, ‘Hasn’t your life been hard . . . hasn’t God treated others better than you?’” – Paul David Tripp

6. “May grace for our sin be manifest by generosity with our stuff. Grace creates cheerful givers.” – Scotty Smith

7. “The gospel is NOT ‘do something for Jesus’; the gospel is ‘Jesus has done everything for you.’” – Tullian Tchividjian

8. “Moses invaded Egypt with a stick pulling his family on a donkey and routed it. God is great.” – Byron Yawn

9. “When you attach your peace of heart to your control of things, you assign to yourself wisdom and power that you simply don’t have.” – Paul David Tripp

10. “Boasting in our weakness doesn’t necessarily feel good; but it’s the only way we’ll get over us & make much of Jesus.” – Scotty Smith

Top tweets: Martin Luther edition

'Martin Luther' photo (c) 2009, Heather Kennedy - license: are some quotes from Martin Luther tweeted yesterday (Reformation Day) by people I am following. David Platt, author and pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., tweeted all except one. That exception is noted in parentheses.

“I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I will not recant. . .”

“To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.” (Scotty Smith)

“A simple man with Scripture has more authority than the Pope or a council.”

“Without the doctrine of justification the church of God cannot exist for one hour.”

“I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day: A day worth celebrating

'Luther's 95 Theses' photo (c) 2008, Keren Tan - license: Reformation Day!

As evangelical Christians, we should rejoice in this day and what it represents. On Oct. 31, 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That event helped set off the Reformation, which continued for decades and still affects us today. We will celebrate the 500th anniversary of this history-changing event in five years, God willing.

That reform came at great cost to Luther and many others, and we continue to benefit from their sacrifice and the truths they recovered, stood for and proclaimed. The issues that produced the Protestant and evangelical movements remain important today.

The truths of the Reformation are often summarized as the five solas. That word, sola, means “only” or “alone.” The five are: Scripture alone; Christ alone; grace alone; faith alone, and the glory of God alone.

The use of the word “alone” is important. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church did not deny Scripture had authority; it said Scripture was not the sole final authority.

I was reminded of the ongoing importance of the Reformation and its impact on our lives at a recent Capitol Hill briefing I covered as a news reporter. A panel of three evangelicals and a Roman Catholic gathered to discuss criminal justice in the United States.

One evangelical spokesman, a Southern Baptist, said early in his presentation, “Southern Baptists consider themselves people of the Book. Our question always first is: What does the Bible have to say about an issue?” The next speaker, also an evangelical, affirmed that view.

The representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops followed and said, “[W]hile the Southern Baptists and evangelicals might be people of the Book, Catholics are people of the papal encyclical and the bishops statement.”

Many in the audience laughed, but that brief account demonstrated one of the differences that still remain between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

As we think about the Reformation ignited by Luther on this date 495 years ago, let us remind ourselves of these truths:

-- Scripture alone is our final authority, not Scripture plus an individual, council, church, tradition, experience or document.

-- Christ alone is our mediator with God, not Christ plus any human righteousness or accomplishment.

-- Grace alone is the way of salvation, not grace plus any human work or method.

-- Faith alone is the means of justification, not faith plus any human merit or infusion of Christ’s righteousness.

-- The glory of God alone is the purpose of life, not His glory plus that of any other.

As those saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone, may we hold onto these truths as we recognize our ongoing need for reformation in our own lives.

Five truths to grasp about justification by faith

The post below is important -- important enough for you to read closely and save so you can refer back to it for the sake of your own spiritual welfare and for sharing with others. Kevin DeYoung, an author and pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., posted it today at his blog for The Gospel Coalition. He explains five important points to comprehend about what the Bible teaches about justification by faith and what the reformers recovered in returning to that biblical teaching.

Read and rejoice:
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses concerning clerical abuses and indulgences on the church door at Wittenberg. This famous event is often considered that launching point for the Protestant Reformation.

The chief concern for Luther and the other reformers was the doctrine of justification. It was, to use Calvin’s language, the “main hinge on which religion turns.” And the doctrine of justification is no less important today than it was 500 years ago.

There are five key concepts every Protestant should grasp if they are to understanding the reformer’s (and the Bible’s) doctrine of justification.

First, the Christian is simul iustus et peccator. This is Martin Luther’s famous Latin phrase which means “At the same time, justified and a sinner.” The Catechism powerfully reminds us that even though we are right with God, we still violate his commands, feel the sting of conscience, and battle against indwelling sin. On this side of the consummation, we will always be sinning saints, righteous wretches, and on occasion even justified jerks. God does not acquit us of our guilt based upon our works, but because we trust “him who justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5).

Second, our right standing with God is based on an alien righteousness. Alien doesn’t refer to an E.T. spirituality. It means we are justified because of a righteousness that is not our own. I am not right with God because of my righteousness, but because “the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ” has been credited to me. “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the Fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die” wrote August Toplady in the old hymn. We contribute nothing to our salvation. The name by which every Christian must be called is “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6).

Third, the righteousness of Christ is ours by imputation, not by impartation. That is to say, we are not made holy, or infused with goodness as if we possessed it in ourselves, but rather Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account.

Fourth, we are justified by faith alone. The Catholic Church acknowledged that the Christian was saved by faith; it was the alone part they wouldn’t allow. In fact, the Council of Trent from the 16th century Catholic counter-reformation declared anathema those who believe in either justification by imputation or justification by faith alone. But evangelical faith has always held that “all I need to do is accept the gift of God with a believing heart.” True, justifying faith must show itself in good works. That’s what James 2 is all about. But these works serve as corroborating evidence, not as the ground of our justification. We are justified by faith without deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28; Titus 3:5). The gospel is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:30-31), not “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and cooperate with transforming grace and you shall be saved.” There is nothing we contribute to our salvation but our sin, no merit we bring but Christ’s, and nothing necessary for justification except for faith alone.

Finally, with all this talk about the necessity of faith, the Catechism explains that faith is only an instrumental cause in our salvation. In other words, faith is not what God finds acceptable in us. In fact, strictly speaking, faith itself does not justify. Faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, have communion with him, and share in all his benefits. It is the object of our faith that matters. If you venture out on to a frozen pond, it isn’t your faith that keeps you from crashing into the water. True, it takes faith to step onto the pond, but it’s the object of your faith, the twelve inches of ice, that keeps you safe. Believe in Christ with all your heart, but don’t put your faith in your faith. Your experience of trusting Christ will ebb and flow. So be sure to rest in Jesus Christ and not your faith in him. He alone is the one who died for our sakes and was raised for our justification. Believe this, and you too will be saved.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For your attention

1. Great Commission hospitality – David Mathis, executive editor for Desiring God, shows from the New Testament how hospitality can be an important way in our day of helping fulfill the church’s Great Commission from Jesus. This important post can help us understand the opportunity we have to use our homes for a gospel purpose.

2. Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise? – Christian George, an assistant professor of biblical and theological studies at Oklahoma Baptist University, uses Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” – as a launching pad to explain why we should not interpret proverbs to be promises. His insight on interpreting the Bible’s wisdom literature could help save you from “legalism, moralism and disillusionment.”

3. Reasons for suffering – New England pastor Jared Wilson provides some scriptural reasons for our suffering in his latest book, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus. At this link, blogger Justin Taylor outlines Wilson’s 10 reasons from his book.

4. Jesus-drenched churches – Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in the Dallas metroplex, gives some insight into what marks a church that is Jesus- or gospel-centered. Chandler answers questions from Matt Smethurst, an associate editor for The Gospel Coalition, based on a new book he co-authored, Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Here Am I, Send Me'

Matt Papa -- a worship leader at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C. -- has a passion for glorifying God in Scripture-guided worship and making the gospel known to the nations. In this video, he sings a song echoing Isaiah 6.

Top 10 tweets

1. “When it’s all said and done there are only two types of sermons: Jesus + Nothing = Everything OR Jesus + Something = Everything.” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “The absolute and total freedom of the will can belong to man or to God, but not to both.” – Kevin DeYoung

3. “Corporate worship is designed to protect you from the temptation to minimize sin and devalue grace.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “Don’t hold back. When we confess our sins to God, we simply agree with what he already knows. Grace is 4 sinners.” – Scotty Smith

5. “Satan tells a potent lie: we just need things to go a little better. In reality, we need Jesus to ruin us – and remake us.” – Owen Strachan

6. “Story of Jacob, Leah and Rachael is like ‘Real Housewives of Canaan.’ Dysfunctional fails to capture it. A God of grace is the only answer.” – Byron Yawn

7. “Troubles will either drive you from God, or drive you to Him.” – Mark Dever

8. “The problem in the church today is not cheap grace but cheap law – the idea that God accepts anything short of Jesus’ perfect righteousness.” – Tullian Tchividjian

9. “Grace tells you you can’t measure up then calls you into communion with the One who perfectly measured up in every way on your behalf.” – Paul David Tripp

10. “Engaging as good citizens by voting 4 our next president is a way to affirm the lordship of Christ. Being fearful, angry or anxious is not.” – Scotty Smith

Friday, October 26, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: 'Sing the roofs off'

This week’s “Preparing for corporate worship” consists of excerpts of a recent post by Mark Altrogge at the blog The Blazing Center. He is pastor of a church in Indiana, Pa., and the writer of hundreds of songs, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I'm Forever Grateful.” The title of the post is “What Does Your Worship Say About God?”

I encourage you thoughtfully to consider his message, which is primarily directed to how we sing in corporate worship. Indeed, may our worship genuinely reflect the greatness and grace of God.
If an outsider came into your Sunday meeting and observed you worshiping, what would he conclude you think about God?

Does your expression of worship say how great and glorious, delightful and exciting you think God is? Does your worship say you’ve found God to be faithful and good, loving and satisfying? Would an outsider conclude you believe God to be real and present? . . .

What does our worship say about what God did for us? Do we sing like those who have been redeemed eternally from the wrath of God? Like those who have been seated with Christ in heavenly places? Like those who are grateful to have every sin wiped away? Do we rejoice like those who have the king of the universe living inside them?

We should worship God expressively, not for a show or to impress others, but as a way of saying to him how much we love him. That we consider him to be infinitely great and glorious and majestic. That we consider him to be praiseworthy.

Worship is primarily an issue of the heart. So someone could worship God wholeheartedly and not show it on the outside. But I like what I once heard John Piper say – worship begins in the heart but should not stay there. It should be expressed.

Our glad hearts should overflow with thanks for all God did for us in Christ. Hey, Jesus DIED for us. He was tortured, spit on, mocked, pierced, so that we could be with and enjoy God for ever and ever. . . . Isn’t that worth getting excited about?

We should worship like rich people! Because we are. We’ve been given every spiritual blessing in Christ! . . .

We should sing like those who know God is working all things for good in our lives. Like those who are being transformed into the very image of Christ. Like those who will worship around the throne for eternity. . . .

Again, our worship isn’t some kind of performance we put on for others. Our worship is for God. But it says something about what we think about him.

This Sunday let’s show God what we think of him and sing the roofs off our church buildings.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The story of Naaman: It's about the gospel

The Old Testament awakened me once again today to this reality: It's about the gospel.

My reading plan brought me to II Kings 5 -- I actually was a day late -- and the story of a Gentile military hero, Naaman. For all his prowess as commander, he had one overwhelming problem: He was a leper. The account of his healing overflows with the gospel.

What we have is a person with an incurable sickness. He can do nothing to gain healing. He hears about a hope of healing. The offer of healing does not require any great work on his part. Healing comes through the only way prescribed, a way his natural self rejects at first. When he obeys the way prescribed, he is fully healed.

It is not hard to see the gospel in this account: A hopeless sinner without any way of saving himself hears the message of salvation -- a message that rejects any effort on his part -- and trusts in it for deliverance.

I consider myself so blessed to be living in a time of revival of gospel consciousness in the evangelical church. I am grateful it happened while I am still alive. Heaven knows I needed it in my own life -- and still need it.

We have seen this work of God expressed in multiple ways in recent years -- in the establishment of networks or conferences like The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel; in the development of curricula like Praise Factory, Children Desiring God and The Gospel Project; in the publication of many books on the gospel, including such children's books as The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible, and, probably most importantly, in a renewal of gospel preaching and teaching in many local churches.

Gospel consciousness has not marked most of my Christian life. I practiced moralism as a Christian for far too long. I parented for far too long as a Christian moralist. I taught the Bible for far too long as a Christian moralist. The remnants of that moralistic approach to the faith still cling to me and express themselves in ways I undoubtedly don't recognize at times. In my approach, the gospel was my entrance into the Christian life, but my focus in the Christian life was not on the gospel. That is another way of saying my focus was not on the person and work of Jesus.

It is a privilege, even a relief, now to think about and point others to the truth that we as Christians never outlive our need for the gospel. Our confidence remains in the gospel. We continually go back to the gospel for all things. Our life is about the gospel, which is another way of saying our life is about Jesus and His righteous life, all-satisfying death and authenticating resurrection.

May we constantly remember that truth, including when we read the Old Testament.

Top 10 tweets

I give! There are too many good tweets for me to say I am only going to post 10 tweets a week at this blog. So I will post the top 10 for whatever period of time I think best. For now, it is semi-weekly. All of those quoted below are worth following on Twitter.

1. “The ultimate purpose of life is to show that Jesus is more precious than life.” – John Piper

2. “We pray precisely BECAUSE God is sovereign, not in spite of his sovereignty. I’d never pray if God wasn’t sovereign.” – Scotty Smith

3. “Every day self-sovereignty battles with God’s sovereignty for control of your heart. You need grace to quit being king and rest in the King.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “God only accepts perfection, not progress. Thank God for Jesus!” – Tullian Tchividjian

5. “On teaching women: if you want me to seek God, don’t give me steps. Show me who He is, and I will do whatever it takes to seek Him.” – Catherine Parks

6. “Prayer isn’t willing an outcome that will make us happy; it’s trusting Jesus for the outcome that will give him glory.” – Scotty Smith

7. “’Abraham, Isaac & Jacob’ could have been ‘Moe, Larry & Curley.’ Their lives are more a tragic comedy than tale of heroes. God is the hero.” – Byron Yawn

8. “Defensiveness when confronted devalues grace because it resists the instruments of help and rescue grace sends your way.” – Paul David Tripp

9. “The people who make a durable difference are not those who have mastered many things but been mastered by a few great things.” – John Piper

10. “The more I pray, the more sovereign God seems; the less I pray, the more sovereign I pretend to be.” – Scotty Smith