Friday, March 30, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

This Sunday is known as Palm Sunday in recognition of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey on the first day of the week He was crucified. The crowd welcomed His entrance with palm branches and coats spread before Him, as well as greetings: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11:9b). What a great day it was! Yet, days later, voices were raised with the shout: "Crucify him!" (Mark 15:14b). God's good pleasure was fulfilled in His Son's crucifixion. It also will be fulfilled in a future day when this One comes again. Rev. 19:11-21 describes Jesus coming on a white horse from heaven to judge and wage war in righteousness, and the name He bears on His robe and thigh will be "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords." We will gather Sunday to worship this One who came in humility to be rejected by His own and who will return as Victor over all. May our praise, thanksgiving and submission be appropriate for our Servant King.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eight days with Jesus: Palm Sunday to Easter

'BBC Cross' photo (c) 2005, Ihar - license: years ago, I put together for Covenant Community Church the following reading plan regarding the last days of Jesus that culminated in His death and resurrection. Here it is in a slightly revised form to use next week.)

The crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus the Messiah, are central to our existence as the church. Jesus came to suffer and die for our sins. He arose from the grave as Lord over life and death. This outline is intended to be an encouragement for you, and your family, to contemplate the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, including those pivotal events in history. Only one event and one Scripture passage are mentioned each day. There are passages from other gospel accounts regarding the same events, and there are other events on some days that also are recorded in the four gospels.

Day one: Sunday -- Jesus enters Jerusalem
Read Matthew 21:1-11: Jesus rides into Jerusalem in the fulfillment of prophecy and to the praises of the multitudes. Sadly, voices were raised calling for his execution only days later.

Day two: Monday – Jesus cleanses the temple
Read Mark 11:15-18: Jesus demonstrates zeal for His Father’s house. Jesus’ anger was a manifestation of His perfect righteousness.

Day three: Tuesday – Jesus teaches
Read Matthew 22:34-40: On a day filled with teaching, Jesus concisely states the two great commandments on which the “whole law and the prophets” depend.

Day four: Wednesday – Jesus forecasts His death
Read Matthew 26:1-5: Jesus predicts His crucifixion in only a few days, even as the Jewish leaders plot to kill Him. (This event may have occurred on Tuesday evening.)

Day five: Thursday – Jesus inaugurates the Lord’s Supper
Read Luke 22:17-20: Jesus shares the bread and the cup, as well as their meaning, with His disciples, instituting a memorial we observe to this day. Later, he entered the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and to be betrayed.

Day six: Friday – Jesus dies on the cross
Read Luke 23:33-49: Jesus – mocked, beaten, tried and sentenced – suffers and dies as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Day seven: Saturday – Jesus awaits the resurrection
Read Matthew 27:62-66: The body of Jesus is in the tomb on the Jewish Sabbath even as the Pharisees work to keep it from being taken away.

Day eight: Sunday – Jesus rises from the dead
Read John 20:1-20: He is risen! He is risen indeed!

(Resources used were A Harmony of the Gospels by A.T. Robertson; The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim, and Thompson Chain-Reference Bible.)

Why preach the gospel to yourself (No. 8)

'martino vs martinus' photo (c) 2007, spike - license: is another reason to preach the gospel to yourself as provided by Milton Vincent in his book A Gospel Primer for Christians. It is because of "My Inheritance in the Saints:"
The gospel is not just a message of reconciliation with God, but it heralds the reconciliation of all believers to one another in Christ. Through the death of Christ, God has brought peace where there was once hostility, and He has broken down the racial, economic, and social barriers that once divided us outside of Christ.

Also, when God saved us, He made us members of His household, and He gave us as gifts to one another. Each brother and sister is a portion of my gospel inheritance from God, and I am a portion of their inheritance as well. We are significant players in each other's gospel narrative, and it is in relationship with one another that we experience the fullness of God in Christ.

Hence, the more I comprehend the full scope of the gospel, the more I value the church for which Christ died, the more I value the role that I play in the lives of my fellow-Christians, and the more I appreciate the role that they must be allowed to play in mine.
(Scriptures cited: Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:18, 22-23, 2:14-16, 19, 3:17-19, 5:25; Col. 3:11; II Tim. 2:22; I Peter 4:10; Rev. 5:9.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

For your attention

1. How much of your life planning involves the church? -- Jonathan Leeman, editorial director of 9Marks, writes about the importance and benefit of considering the local church in making decisions. His article runs counter to the often individualistic bent of evangelicalism in this country.

2. Sing like you mean it -- A man remembers his father's example for his son of singing fervently the hymns of the faith and encourages other fathers to do the same. Good point, and I would add: Every believer should sing like he or she means it.

3. College students are keeping the faith -- Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition writes about an analysis that contradicts what seems to be the conventional wisdom of many evangelicals and fundamentalists in this country. It appears college students are not losing their faith.

4. Tell me the story one more time -- Here is a touching story from Michael Wittmer's The Last Enemy regarding an elderly believer who wanted to hear the story of Jesus one more time before she saw Him. (Via: Tim Challies)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

We will come together Sunday because we are priests (I Peter 2:9) who have Jesus as High Priest. Hebrews explains the difference between our High Priest and all other high priests: "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" (Heb. 7:25-27). Much about the greatness of Jesus is on display in this passage, but for now consider this: Our worship each week as the church of Christ is on the basis of the perfect intercession of our perfect High Priest, and that reality should encourage us to gather with a sense of deep-seated trust in Jesus, a passion to exalt Him, and an overflowing gratitude for His gospel work.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Divided from some, while united with others

I prefaced my March 18 sermon from the gospel of Luke with a reference back to the previous passage I had preached on and some comments on that passage's implication for the church. I long for our church -- and all other New Testament churches -- to grow in understanding the value God has placed on the local church and its vital role in the life of each Christian.

Below is my manuscript version of those opening comments. It is somewhat different than what I actually said, but I hope it still communicates my desire for Covenant Community Church to become more and more the church pictured in the pages of the New Testament.
We were last in the gospel of Luke two weeks ago. Then we looked at 12:49-53. Jesus says in those verses He came to divide, that His death – in which He bore the judgment that was due sinners – would result in divisions even in biological families. He said fathers would be against sons and mothers against daughters. He, and His atoning work, would be the dividing line.

I talked about the divisions among households two weeks ago, and that is what is most explicit in that passage. But there is something implicit in Jesus’ sayings – while there is division declared, there also is union implied. It is not only that the division would separate from some but that the division and separation would unite us with others.

Luke includes an explicit statement on this later in his gospel. In Luke 18, Jesus has an encounter with a rich ruler who did not inherit eternal life because he treasured his wealth more than Jesus. Jesus then comments on how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. This stuns His disciples, and they ask who then can be saved. Jesus says it is impossible except with God.

Peter tells Jesus, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.” Jesus says to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Those who are divided from family and friends will be united with others – others who are also followers of Christ, others who have been brought into God’s family through the life and death of Jesus and the sovereign grace of God. They will be in relationships produced by the cross. And those relationships will be lived out in churches.

May we not miss this point – and may we not miss the significance of the church in the life of every believer. While we are divided from some, we are united with others as a result of Jesus’ coming and giving His life as a ransom for many – not all but many.

As a church, we are a family produced by the blood of Jesus, not the blood of our biological parents and their parents and their parents before them. Through His death, we are given life and adopted by God the Father into His family. We belong to each other as a result. And in that belonging, we extend grace to one another on the basis of the grace our Father has extended to us through His Son and our Savior. And we serve each other because His Son and our Savior has served us.

When we gather together each time as the church, it is a family reunion. And we invite all others to join us in the celebration and worship – not of a clan or family but of the Lord who has made us a family.

And I encourage you as the Covenant Community to walk together as brothers and sisters, not being negligent of our times together, not missing out on these opportunities to pray together for those loved ones who are divided from us because they have rejected our Savior, not missing out on the opportunities to serve the young and the old, not missing out on the opportunities to show what God is like by loving one another as He loves us.

And for those of you who live here but are not part of this family, we invite you to walk with us and see what our Father and His Son are like, and what being part of an eternal family is like.

So, again, thank you all for gathering to experience all of this and more in worship today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What do you mean 'wrongful birth?'

'Say cheese!' photo (c) 2010, Quinn Dombrowski - license: of following Jesus, it seems to me, is to be willing and prepared to push back in His name against cultural forces that attack God, His image bearers and truth. Increasingly, we see this kind of onslaught expressed against the biblical teaching of the sanctity of human life. As Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition has noted, terms like "selective reduction" -- the elimination of one or more unborn children and the saving of one or more siblings in the same womb -- and "after-birth abortion" -- the killing of newly born children -- are used as euphemisms to hide the horror of these practices.

Another such term is "wrongful birth." The term "wrongful life" also is used.

Recently, parents in Oregon won a $2.9 million award from a jury in a "wrongful birth" lawsuit. The couple sued a hospital when it failed to detect their unborn daughter had Down syndrome. They said they loved their daughter, now at least 4 years of age, but they would have aborted her had they known she had the condition. Hence the term "wrongful birth." As Christ's disciples, we reject such a notion, but it is gaining acceptance in the legal world.

I wrote an article for Baptist Press you can read here. It includes what I think are some helpful comments from pro-life bioethicists.

Joe Carter provides a helpful overview of the subject here.

His comment below is worth reading and remembering as we are besieged with such reports:
Like "selective reduction" and after-birth abortion, "wrongful life" is yet one more chilling euphemism in the culture of death's lexicon. The banality of the language and the frequency with which such stories appear makes it easy to shake our heads and move on to the next bit of news; with each story we run the risk of succumbing to "outrage fatigue." But as Christians we must never tire of carrying the Gospel-message that God cares for the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

Many of Jesus' disciples left Him after hearing some hard teaching, according to John 6:66. When they did, Jesus asked the 12, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Peter responded, saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." We will gather this Sunday because of those truths: Jesus has the words of eternal life, those proclaimed by Him and His apostles in the gospel. We know that He alone is righteous, and His righteousness has been credited to us because of His life and death in our place, the sovereign grace of God toward us, and the saving faith that has been granted to us. We will read and sing about those truths. We will pray on the basis of those truths. We will hear those truths proclaimed again, this time from the gospel of Luke. And we will relate to one another on the basis of those truths. May we arrive at our gathering place realizing the necessity and sufficiency of those truths for us as a church and delight in, praise, thank and humble ourselves before Him. May we treasure Jesus as never before. To whom else shall we go?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is there a culture of grace in your church?

Grace is at the heart of the gospel, and it should be an easily recognized mark of each true church. A church is produced by the grace of God through the person and work of the Lord Jesus. As New England pastor Jared Wilson says below, our church culture should be a "culture of grace." We all should manifest the truth that while we are saints, we are also still sinners -- humble, servant-hearted sinners in need of grace and the gospel. That grace in our lives -- and in our church culture -- should supersede differences with each other, and newcomers, over secondary issues.

In his March 13 blog post for The Gospel Coalition, Wilson writes:
I remind myself and my church often that a message of grace may attract people, but a culture of grace will keep them. They want to know — we want to know, the Lord wants to know — that what is being preached has sunk down through the hardness of our skulls and entered the bloodstream. That we are not puffed up with our spiritual knowledge but humbled by it and animated by it. Have we taken the message of the grace of God in Jesus Christ and taken it to heart?

And when they catch glimpses, the surprise is telling. Is it too good to be true? As more people testify to the kindness of God in their lives, drop the pretense of righteousness by moral turpitude, as sins are confessed and greeted with love, as pastors and laymen alike humble themselves and serve and exemplify with their hands and eyes what they preach with their mouths, the aroma of freedom wafts through the place. Messy people own their stuff. “They can do that here?” Sinners repent into the safety of the gospel. “They can do that here?” People have the freedom to question leaders, disagree with the pastor, hold opposing views with each other without distrust or rancor. “They can do that here?”
May it be so in the culture of Covenant Community Church and every other local body of believers.

You may read his entire post here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New birth: Necessary and mysterious

'Blowing a dandelion clock' photo (c) 2008, Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier - license:"Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:7-8).

Jesus confronts Nicodemus in John 3 with the necessity of the new birth and the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. While a person must be born again to "enter into the kingdom of God" (v. 5), he or she cannot produce this new birth, Jesus tells this Pharisee. The Spirit's work is like the wind -- mysterious, unpredictable and uncontrolled by human beings. The new birth is a supernatural work. God gives life to human beings according to His sovereign will that they might cast themselves upon Jesus and His saving work. For all of us who have become new creations in Christ, may we rejoice in God's grace toward us. (Credit to John Piper for some of these insights.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

For your attention

1. Praying in God's language -- Joni Eareckson Tada shares about the powerful use of God's Word in our prayers.

2. A father grieves two aborted children -- This father, whose wife insisted on a "selective reduction" of two of their triplets, writes about the scar it left on his soul. I am uncertain if I have ever read anything that is so soul-shattering. It is clear he longs for an atonement he cannot provide.

3. Eight myths about China -- Joann Pittman offers eight myths about China that will undoubtedly seem confusing.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

Christian worship is Christ-centered worship. We worship God through Christ -- on the basis of His perfectly righteous life and His totally satisfactory sacrifice in our place. Without Christ, there is no worship of God. He provides the true understanding of God (John 1:18). He has brought us to God (I Peter 3:18). He is our High Priest (Heb. 5:5-10). When we gather as the church, we acknowledge, recognize and express gratitude for the truth our worship is made possible by Jesus. As a result, we seek to exalt Him, the One whose name has been exalted above all others (Phil. 2:9-11). We do so in our praise, thanksgiving, confession and intercession expressed in our reading, singing, sharing and praying. May the Lord Jesus be at the heart of the church's worship this Sunday and every other one.

How to listen to a sermon

'Used Bible' photo (c) 2008, Doug1021 - license: article below is significant enough in my estimation that I have posted all of it even though it is lengthy. Phil Ryken is president of Wheaton College in suburban Chicago and was the long-time senior minister at 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He is highly regarded as both an expositor of God's Word and an author. I encourage you to take his recommendations to heart that you might benefit even more from listening to sermons. This article was first published in 2002 and recently was republished by reformation21. You can view it at that website. Here is Ryken's article:
Shortly before college I read Mortimer Adler's little classic How to Read a Book. That may sound like an odd title. After all, how could somebody read the book unless they already knew how to read? And if they did know how to read, then why would they need to read it at all?

How to Read a Book turned out to be one of the most important books I have ever read. Adler quickly convinced me that I didn't know how to read a book after all -- not really. I didn't know how to ask the right questions while I was reading, how to analyze the book's major arguments, or how to mark up my copy for later use.

I suspect that most people don't how to listen to a sermon, either. I say this not as a preacher, primarily, but as a listener. During the past thirty-five years I have heard more than three thousand sermons. Since I have worshiped in Bible-teaching churches all my life, most of those sermons did me some spiritual good. Yet I wonder how many of them helped me as much as they should have. Frankly, I fear that far too many sermons passed through my eardrums without registering in my brain or reaching my heart.

So what is the right way to listen to a sermon? With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.

The first thing is for the soul to be prepared. Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday. However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before. It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach. In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God's Word. This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.

The soul needs special preparation the night before worship. By Saturday evening our thoughts should begin turning towards the Lord's Day. If possible, we should read through the Bible passage that is scheduled for preaching. We should also be sure to get enough sleep. Then in the morning our first prayers should be directed to public worship, and especially to the preaching of God's Word.

If the body is well rested and the soul is well prepared, then the mind will be alert. Good preaching appeals first to the mind. After all, it is by the renewing of our minds that God does his transforming work in our lives (see Rom. 12:2). So when we listen to a sermon, our minds need to be fully engaged. Being attentive requires self-discipline. Our minds tend to wander when we worship; sometimes we daydream. But listening to sermons is part of the worship that we offer to God. It is also a prime opportunity for us to hear his voice. We should not insult his majesty by looking at the people around us, thinking about the coming week, or entertaining any of the thousands of other thoughts that crowd our minds. God is speaking, and we should listen.

To that end, many Christians find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand. Although note taking is not required, it is an excellent way to stay focused during a sermon. It is also a valuable aid to memory. The physical act of writing something down helps to fix it in our minds. Then there is the added advantage of having the notes for future reference. We get extra benefit from a sermon when we read over, pray through, and talk about our sermon notes with someone else afterwards.

The most convenient place to take notes is in or on our Bibles, which should always be open during a sermon. Churchgoers sometimes pretend that they know the Bible so well that they do not need to look at the passage being preached. But this is folly. Even if we have the passage memorized, there are always new things we can learn by seeing the biblical text on the page. It only stands to reason that we profit most from sermons when our Bibles are open, not closed. This is why it is so encouraging for an expository preacher to hear the rustling of pages as his congregation turns to a passage in unison.

There is another reason to keep our Bibles open: we need to make sure that what the minister says is in keeping with Scripture. The Bible says, concerning the Bereans whom Paul met on his second missionary journey, "that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11; NKJV). One might have expected the Bereans to be criticized for daring to scrutinize the teaching of the apostle Paul. On the contrary, they were commended for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.

Listening to a sermon -- really listening -- takes more than our minds. It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God's Spirit. Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us. Through the inward ministry of his Holy Spirit, he uses his Word to calm our fear, comfort our sorrow, disturb our conscience, expose our sin, proclaim God's grace, and reassure us in the faith. But these are all affairs of the heart, not just matters of the mind, so listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise. We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts, allowing what God says to influence what we love, what we desire, and what we praise.

The last thing to say about listening to sermons is that we should be itching to put what we learn into practice. Good preaching always applies the Bible to daily life. It tells us what promises to believe, what sins to avoid, what divine attributes to praise, what virtues to cultivate, what goals to pursue, and what good works to perform. There is always something God wants us to do in response to the preaching of his Word. We are called to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22; NKJV). And if we are not doers, then we were not hearers, and the sermon was wasted on us.

Do you know how to listen to a sermon? Listening -- really listening -- takes a prepared soul, an alert mind, an open Bible, and a receptive heart. But the best way to tell if we are listening is by the way that we live. Our lives should repeat the sermons that we have heard. As the apostle Paul wrote to some of the people who listened to his sermons, "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart" (2 Cor. 3:2-3; NKJV).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why preach the gospel to yourself (No. 7)

'martino vs martinus' photo (c) 2007, spike - license: is another reason to preach the gospel to yourself as provided by Milton Vincent in his book A Gospel Primer for Christians. It is for "Loving My Brothers and Sisters:"
The more I experience the gospel, the more there develops within me a yearning affection for my fellow-Christians who are also participating in the glories of the gospel. This affection for them comes loaded with confidence in their continued spiritual growth and ultimate glorification, and it becomes my pleasure to express to them this loving confidence regarding the ongoing work of God in their lives.

Additionally, with the gospel proving itself to be such a boon in my own life, I realize that the greatest gift I can give to my fellow-Christians is the gospel itself. Indeed, I love my fellow-Christians not simply because of the gospel, but I love them best when I am loving them with the gospel! And I do this not merely by speaking gospel words to them, but also by living before them and generously relating to them in a gospel manner. Imparting my life to them in this way, I thereby contribute to their experience of the power, the Spirit, and the full assurance of the gospel.

By preaching the gospel to myself each day, I nurture the bond that unites me with my brothers and sisters for whom Christ died, and I also keep myself well-versed in the raw materials with which I may actively love them in Christ.
(Scriptures cited: Phil 1:3-7; I Thess. 1:5, 2:8.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Special needs children, your children and Hitler

I am grateful our church includes people -- children, in this case -- with special needs. They are a gift from God to the rest of us. As members of our church family, they -- as well as small children in general -- have much to offer and to teach us. Those with special needs remind us of God's sovereignty and independence, as well as our dependence. They remind us of our weakness and God's strength. They remind us of a God whose love toward us is not based on our works, merit, qualifications or appearance but is freely and graciously bestowed by the One who loves. And there is more.

Yet, much of the world tells us those with special needs should not have the opportunity to love and be loved by others because their lives are not worth living. It is true today, and it has often been true in the past. In a March 3 blog post, John Piper commented on this reality in Nazi Germany. He included an excerpt from Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to explain how Adolf Hitler and his subordinates carried out their elimination of the "defectives." You can read the entire post here.

Piper said in closing:
Tell these stories to your children. Tell them with passion. Tell them with tears. Send your children into the world with their eyes sharpened with the bright light of history. Send them ready to name the academic Nietzsches for what they are. Send them with an unflinching Nie wieder! (Never again!) in their hearts.

The cross of Christ sanctified forever the sacred place of weakness in this world of self-exalting strength.
I commend to you a website by John Knight -- senior director of development at Desiring God and the father of a profoundly disabled son -- on God's sovereignty and human disability and suffering. You can find it at

Friday, March 2, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship

We will come together as the church this Sunday in the presence of and on the basis of the work of the most incredible person ever to walk this earth. The writer of Hebrews describes Him, in part, this way in relation to God the Father: "God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they" (Heb. 1:1-4). In that short passage, the Bible explains so much about this One we know as Jesus, including: His agency in creation; His perfect representation of who God is; His totally satisfactory atonement for our sins; His exalted state and name beside the Father. It is through Him and His priestly work we will gather to worship God. It is He whom we will exalt. May we be filled with passion for His glory, adoration for who He is and thanksgiving for what He has done in our behalf.

For your attention

1. Muslim reaction to the burning of the Quran -- Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition takes a look at why Muslims have protested -- sometimes violently and lethally -- to the burning of the Quran.

2. A new name, sort of, for Southern Baptists -- Baptist Press reports on a task force's recommendation about the name of the Southern Baptist Convention.

3. Paul as a murderer -- John Piper provides some thoughts on why God let Paul become a murderer.

4. Preparation for brokenness -- Jared Wilson -- New England pastor, author and blogger -- addresses how inadequately prepared most of us are for the brokenness that comes into our lives and how to remedy that problem in the church. (I wouldn't use the word "idiots" where he does, but that should not undermine the importance of his message.)