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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To vote or not to vote

The election is two weeks from today. I plan to vote. Apparently some of my fellow believers do not.

I don't look at voting in this election as choosing the "lesser of two evils." Both major presidential candidates are flawed, as are the candidates for every other office on the ballot. The presidential contenders seem more deeply flawed in their different ways than the major candidates for the White House often are. Neither would be near the top of my list for the presidency. Yet, I think my identity as a Christian calls for me to vote in this election.

Here are some thoughts I have about voting, this year especially:

(1) Voting in a republic is a God-given opportunity that enables me to have an impact on the world. My vote does count, and I should treat this privilege as a stewardship from God that is not to be declined if possible.

(2) The kingdom of this world is not the kingdom of God. I am not voting to install an elder in a church or accept someone as a member in a church. I will vote for someone to govern out of an extremely limited number of options among the American people. My choices are between sinners, and I will vote as a sinner -- although also a saint -- who is dependent upon God for guidance. I can vote for someone whom I disagree with on various issues, even theological ones, without compromising my faith. A vote for a person is not an endorsement of all he believes but an acknowledgement I think he is the best option of the ones I have been given.

(3) Some issues are defining ones that by themselves should determine how a Christian votes. Slavery was one of those issues. Abortion is one, and it has been since the 1970s. The definition of marriage has become another of those issues in recent years. It appears religious freedom may have become one as well. Having said what I did in point No. 2, that does not mean I would always believe it necessary to vote for one of the two major candidates in an election. In some years, it may be neither meets what I believe are the minimum standards on these defining issues. Once in the past, I voted for a third-party candidate for that reason.

So yes, I look forward to voting Nov. 6, and I will pray as all Americans, especially Christians and most particularly the people of Covenant Community Church, go to the polls.

I think John Piper expresses in this Oct. 16 post at the Desiring God blog a wise approach to voting this year:
Having read several articles by people who don’t plan to vote in the presidential election, my conclusion is: I’m going to vote.

It seems to me that the good that can be done, presumably by the protest of not voting, is mainly done by talking about not voting rather than by not voting. Then it also seems that this same good would be accomplished if those who thought they would not vote did all that talking, but then voted.

This wouldn’t be duplicitous if the main point of the talk is not mainly, “I am not going to vote,” but is mainly that the system or the parties or the platforms or the candidates or the views are so flawed. So why not let the blogs roll down like rivers against the defects of it all, and then take a few minutes to vote anyway? Do the right talking and the risky walking.

Here's my reasoning. Barring catastrophe, Obama or Romney will be president (yes, I know you may see it as a catastrophe even if either does get elected). The likelihood that both presidencies will be identical in the good and evil they do is infinitesimal. One will very probably do more good amid the bad, even if only a little.

We can be part of that guess, or sit it out. God promises wisdom to those who seek it. So the likelihood that prayed-up, Bible-shaped Christians will tip the scales toward the incrementally worse regime is small. Therefore, the likelihood that we will waste our time voting seems small.

Not a very inspiring rationale. I just find it compelling in a fallen world that is not my home.

So my suggestion to all who wonder if they should vote is: Tell as many people as you can the good reasons why you are disaffected with the whole thing; then go to the polls and take a burden-bearing, pro-active risk rather than staying home and taking a burden-dropping, reactive risk.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'The Earth Is Yours'

Gungor is a group that consists of Michael and Lisa Gungor plus an interchangeable collection of other musicians. In this video, the husband-and-wife duo perform "The Earth Is Yours" -- a song about creation offering praise to God -- in an apparently small setting at the 2010 Christian Musicians Summit at a church in Redmond, Wash.

Top 10 tweets of the week

1. “Christ is glorified in me when people see he is more precious to me than all that life can give or death can take.” – John Piper

2. “If you accept the first verse of the Bible, there should be little difficulty accepting the rest.” – Kevin DeYoung

3. “My satisfaction in God wavers, because I’m a broken man. God’s satisfaction w/ Jesus, on my behalf, is perfect & constant. That’s my anchor.” – Scotty Smith

4. “How it must grieve God when we are not content with simply being His.” – Greg Breazeale

5. “Self-pity devalues grace because it questions the provisions of a God of glorious caring grace.” – Paul David Tripp

6. “’Who can declare all his praise?’ (Psalm 106:2). No one can over-praise Jesus. We easily over-praise ourselves.” – Ray Ortlund

7. “God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you.” – Tullian Tchividjian

8. “There are a thousand witnesses to our guilt, but only one Judge. Denial is vain. Mercy is all.” – John Piper

9. “Four things God disdains: making Christ look small, making us look big, making sin seem light, making the Bible seem silly.” – Kevin DeYoung

10. “I whine about my bad cold & sore throat tonight, while 1 billion people go to bed hungry. God, make me more merciful.” – Scotty Smith

Friday, October 19, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: The sure Word

"So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (II Peter 2:19-21). The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Peter to declare the total trustworthiness and authority of Scripture in contrast to all other sources of authority. That Word is binding on us as Christians. The Word of God governs us as a church, and that includes our corporate worship. We will read it together Sunday because it inerrantly reveals who God is and what He has done -- and who we are and how we should live, and worship, as a result. An elder will proclaim it for the same reasons. May we gather with the recognition we have a sure Word that can be trusted and that reveals who this great God is we have come to worship.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Worshiping as a church: Singing with purpose

'St Ebbes 11:45 Service' photo (c) 2011, Jimmy and Sasha Reade - license: is the sixth post in a series on corporate worship.)

Music in corporate worship has its different camps among Christians.

Some recognize congregational singing is only one aspect of worship. Some seem largely to think it is worship -- to the exclusion of all else. Some can give the impression it is basically a preliminary to the real worship event: The sermon.

Lest you wonder, I believe congregational singing is only one aspect of worship -- but it is an important one.

Christianity is a singing faith, and for that -- I think -- we should all be thankful. The Bible -- which governs how we worship -- calls for singing by God's people corporately in both the Old and New Testaments.

While more could be listed, here are some reasons Scripture indicates we should sing as a church:

(1) We should sing to give God glory.

"Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious" (Ps. 66:2). These commands from the psalmist are to all the earth, so it certainly applies to those who belong to God as His redeemed children. We give him glory in song by declaring how glorious He is and by making our praise of Him glorious.

(2) We should sing to declare God's attributes.

The same verse, Ps. 66:2, conveys this message by speaking of "the glory of His name." God's "name" in Scripture refers to who He is -- in other words, what His nature is, what His attributes are. The psalmist says God's people should make His attributes known in their singing.

(3) We should sing to proclaim the atoning death of Christ.

"And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10) The apostle John's vision showed those around the throne singing about the blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God and its far-reaching impact. We will sing as one great choir about the cross-work of Jesus one day in Heaven, and we can do it now corporately on earth as the church.

(4) We should sing to instruct and encourage one another.

"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Col. 3:17). Singing, as the apostle Paul explains, has a discipleship function during corporate worship. As we sing, we act as teachers and encouragers to those with whom we are worshiping. We should recognize our singing is for the building up of our fellow saints, and their singing is for our building up.

(5) We should sing to express our heartfelt affection to God.

In this same verse from Col. 3, Paul says Christians in worship should sing "with thankfulness in your hearts to God." In Eph. 5:19, he says believers are to be "singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Singing is a means of expressing ourselves to God. As we sing together corporately, we tell Him of our gratitude for what He has accomplished on our behalf and express to Him joyful affection for who He is and what He has done.

The war to treasure Christ

This video is worth two minutes of your life. John Piper preaches to Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis last weekend on treasuring Jesus and the fight that goes along with it. In this video, he says, among other things:
The fight of faith is the fight for joy. I get up every morning and fight that fight. Every morning that’s my war. Am I wanting to look at Twitter before I look at Jesus? . . . So every morning there's war in the Piper household.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why preach the gospel to yourself (No. 14)

'martino vs martinus' photo (c) 2007, spike - license: is another reason -- "Exposed by the Cross, Part I" -- to preach the gospel to yourself as provided by Milton Vincent in his book A Gospel Primer for Christians.
It was while rehearsing gospel truths in Romans 5-8 that the Apostle Paul was moved to speak of his struggle with sin and exclaim, "O wretched man that I am!" While reviewing God's abundant saving grace on another occasion, Paul was prompted to confess that he was "the foremost" sinner of all.

Likewise, the deeper I go into the gospel, the more I comprehend and confess aloud the depth of my sinfulness. A gruesome death like the one that Christ endured for me would only be required for one who is exceedingly sinful and unable to appease a holy God. Consequently, whenever I consider the necessity and manner of His death, along with the love and selflessness behind it, I am laid bare and utterly exposed for the sinner I am.

Such an awareness of my sinfulness does not drag me down, but actually serves to lift me up by magnifying my appreciation of God's forgiving grace in my life. And the more I appreciate the magnitude of God's forgiveness of my sins, the more I love Him and delight to show Him love through heart-felt expressions of worship.
(Scriptures cited: Rom. 7:19, 23-24; I Tim. 1:15; Heb. 4:13; Luke 7:37-38, 40-47.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'We Say Yes'

Stephen Miller is worship leader at The Journey, a church in St. Louis, Mo. A Compassion International artist, Miller and his band also travel around the world to lead worship. In this video, they do one of his songs, "We Say Yes."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Top 10 tweets of the week

1. “Exhausting God’s mercy & grace is not a possibility. Don’t fear coming to Jesus again with the same failures & struggles.” – Scotty Smith

2. “The degree of hardness of someone’s heart is irrelevant to the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.” – Gloria Furman

3. “God, utterly supreme in our affections. We, utterly satisfied in his perfections.” – John Piper

4. “The book of Revelation is not intended to drive us to charts; it’s intended to drive us to Christ.” – David Platt

5. “Because Jesus has done everything for me, I can do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me.” – Tullian Tchividjian

6. “Steadfast love, new mercies, sufficient grace, occupied throne in heaven. . . these should easily shut down our whinings.” – Scotty Smith

7. “God motivates us to holiness by reminding us what we were in sin, what we are in Christ, and what we will be in glory.” – Kevin DeYoung

8. “Long-delayed, sweet reunions are a taste of Heaven – where not all reunions will happen all at once, I imagine, but as eternity unfolds.” – Randy Alcorn

9. “The law afflicts the comfortable. The gospel comforts the afflicted.” – Tullian Tchividjian

10. “The more I soak in the Gospel the less I stew in my discontent.” – Scotty Smith

Friday, October 12, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: Father exalts Son

One of the reasons we will make much of God the Son in our corporate worship this Sunday is because the Father has made much of Him. For example, consider these two passages:
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).

These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:19b-23).
As the church of Christ, we will gather Sunday to remind ourselves of Him and His work, to proclaim Him and His work, and to rejoice in Him and His work. May we exalt Jesus together.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

For your attention

1. Prosperity gospel vs. the gospel of Jesus – Brandon Smith, editor of the Project Theology Gospel Mission blog, briefly describes three ways the prosperity gospel undermines the true gospel. (HT: Tim Challies)

2. Why so many songs about the cross? – Our church sings lots of songs about the cross of Christ – and rightfully so. Mark Altrogge – pastor for 30 years of a Sovereign Grace church in Indiana, Pa., and the writer of hundreds of songs, including “I’m Forever Grateful” and “I Stand in Awe” – answers the question regarding his church’s corporate worship: Why do we sing so many songs about the cross? His response explains in a helpful why we do the same. (HT: Bob Kauflin)

3. The ‘nones’ grow in America – A survey released this week found Americans who identify themselves as unaffiliated with any religion have increased to 20 percent, five percent more than five years ago. They have been labeled the “nones.” The survey also showed one-third of Americans under 30 years of age are unaffiliated with a religion. In this Baptist Press article, some Southern Baptist leaders provide helpful insight on how we should think about this trend.

4. The joy of Jesus in homemaking – Gloria Furman – pastor’s wife, mother and author ministering in Dubai – writes about “Glimpses of Grace in Homemaking.” She says, “When I’m dishing up a hefty serving of the bread of anxious toil it’s helpful to remember God’s mercy and faithfulness.” This includes some true encouragement for ladies who sacrifice to serve their families. (HT: Tim Challies)

5. Hobby Lobby’s owner spreads the Word – Editor Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition summarizes a Forbes magazine feature on David Green, the billionaire owner of Hobby Lobby who is seeking to get the Bible to people around the globe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Adoption -- hers and ours

The biblical doctrine of adoption took on flesh and blood, as it were, in our home less than two weeks ago.

Two days after she arrived in this country, Liya Strode came to our house Sept. 28 with her parents. Over the next nine days, Linda and I had the privilege – along with other members of our family and members of our daughter-in-law’s family – to get to know this beautiful, delightful, contented little girl. We even were able to celebrate her first birthday with her.

At times, I would look at her and think, “Wow! What a dramatic change has taken place in her life.”

She had no known family. She lived in a country, Ethiopia, where she could have faced a life of great hardship. She was in a culture where she, as a female, would have normally begun manual labor as a small child – burden-bearing work that could have stunted her growth.

But now, she has parents who have sacrificed for her and are lovingly caring for her. She has all she could need materially. She will be able to have a childhood marked by play more than by taxing work. She will hear the story of Jesus repeatedly throughout her life.

The revolutionary change that has occurred in Liya’s life – as great as it is -- provides only a snapshot, though a beautiful one, of the magnitude of the eternity-shifting transformation that has taken place for those of us who are Christians.

We were enemies of God, rebels against His rightful rule. We deserved His eternal condemnation. We were hopeless. We had no power to work our way into friendship with Him, much less into His family.

Yet, He chose to adopt us into His family. He became a perfect Father to us. We became dearly loved children to Him.

The apostle Paul wrote about this wonderful truth in salvation in these ways:
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God (Gal. 4:4-7).

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:15-17).
I am blessed to be in a nuclear family that includes a real-life picture of this eternal truth. I also am blessed to be in a church family that includes real-life pictures of this eternal truth.

May we see in each of these children a beautiful reminder of the glorious truth that God has adopted us as His own. And may we rejoice and rest in this forever truth.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Come, People of the Risen King'

Keith and Kristyn Getty wrote "Come, People of the Risen King" with Stuart Townend. The Gettys, with Kristyn as the lead singer, perform it with their touring band in this video. May it serve as a helpful reminder as we prepare to gather with our fellow saints to worship God together on the first day of next week.

Top 10 tweets of the week

1. “God is in the business of replacing our ladders with his cross.” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “Everyone is a systematic theologian, the only question is whether you are a good one or a bad one.” – Ligon Duncan

3. “Only the good news of a righteousness purchased by Another will free you to be joyful, zealous, humble and self-forgetful.” – Elyse Fitzpatrick

4. “Your hope is not that you will not let go of God, but that he will never let go of you.” – Paul David Tripp

5. “The greatest gift you give your wife is loving God above her life.” – John Piper

6. “When we give, money and things lose their mastery and become servants we use to fulfill Jesus’ commands to love God and our neighbors.” – Randy Alcorn

7. “Unless you’re God you shouldn’t expect to be everyone’s priority all the time.” – Kevin DeYoung

8. “If Jesus’ good news doesn’t permeate the center of your thought and devotion something else will; and it will usually be news about you.” – Elyse Fitzpatrick

9. “God’s too good for me to spend my life on stuff that rusts.” – Jared Wilson

10. “The difficulties God brings your way are not a tool of his punishment, no they’re a tool of his refining grace.” – Paul David Tripp

Friday, October 5, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: Past hopelessness

We will gather this Sunday as the church of Christ to worship corporately the one true God with at least this in common -- we were at one time hopeless. Just the first several verses of Eph. 2 demonstrate the desperate plight that marked our lives. We:

-- Were "dead" in our "trespasses and sins" (v. 1);

-- "[W]alked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air" (v. 2);

-- "[L]ived in the lusts of our flesh" (v. 3);

-- "[W]ere by nature children of wrath" (v. 3);

Hopelessness turned to hope because the richly merciful God "made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," Eph. 2:5 says.

Thus we of all people should worship this merciful God who is now our Father by His choice with passion in our praise, gladness in our thanksgiving, contrition in our confession and boldness in our petition. May it be so this Sunday.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Never Once'

Our church, like many, has sung several songs written or co-written by Matt Redman, including two -- "Holy" and "Heart of Worship" -- we sang yesterday in corporate worship. Others we have sung together include "10,000 Reasons," "Once Again" and "Blessed Be Your Name," which he co-wrote with his wife, Beth. In this video, the Redmans sing "Never Once," a song about God's faithfulness, at the studios of UCB, a Christian radio and television ministry in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Top 10 tweets of the week

This regular post has a new name, but its intent remains the same: Repeating striking, insightful quotes by people I am following on Twitter.

1. “There’s nothing to add to the work Christ did for you; not daily obedience, right theology, or willing ministry. His work is complete!” – Paul David Tripp

2. “God often digs the wells of joy with the spades of affliction.” – Tullian Tchividjian

3. “From Genesis 3 forward the antagonist of the Bible is the righteous standard of God. We were saved from his wrath. Jn3:36” – Byron Yawn

4. “The easy way to combat immodesty is to create rules. The better way is to go to the gospel.” – Tim Challies

5. “One day in his presence, we will marvel at God’s wisdom in not preventing certain evils that he used for our ultimate good.” – Randy Alcorn

6. “The law waves its hands over you, signaling your incompletion. The gospel stands over you signaling unmerited victory.” – Jared Wilson

7. “Sure, like me you want to think you’re okay, but you give empirical evidence every day that you’re still in need of redeeming grace.” – Paul David Tripp

8. “Noah and Israel both saved from water which destroyed people they deserved to die with. They were spared so ONE might come.” – Byron Yawn

9. “Affection, not accusation, effects internal change. ‘It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance.’” – Tullian Tchividjian

10. “The difficulties in your life are not in the way of God’s plan, they are a tool of it. They’re crafted to advance his work of grace.” – Paul David Tripp