Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Poignantly Powerful Moment from Together For The Gospel 2014

My heart was already full as John Piper began his message that would close the recent Together for the Gospel conference. I prayed that God would use his message to implant a passion within our hearts that would shape our lives and ministries for the length of our days. 
I was very moved by John’s faithful, careful, and precise exposition of Romans 9. He pointed us to the infinite grace of God and to the assurance of his sovereignty and then pointed us to Paul’s agony over the lostness of his own people, his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” Are we driven by the same agony when we see the lost around us? 
I was honestly unprepared for where John would take us at the conclusion of his message. He took us into a crowded tent where he, as a young boy, saw his own father, an evangelist, plead with sinners to come to Jesus — “Won’t you come? . . . Won’t you come?” 
Time and space seemed to collapse for me as I remembered being in the same kind of meeting, hearing the same gospel pleading, many, many times as a boy. I remember one time in particular, when as a nine-year-old boy I heard a part-time preacher who was a full-time phosphate miner preach the gospel and then plead with us to come to Christ. And I did. 
I know there was more to my salvation than was evident in that moment. I know that my salvation is secured in the eternal plan of a sovereign God. I know that I was effectually called by the Holy Spirit. I had the blessing of Christian parents and constant Christian witness. But I also know that the Holy Spirit used a simple preacher who was willing to plead with sinners, and thus I came to Christ. 
When John began to sing, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling,” and to sweetly call a generation of young Reformed Christians to sing it with fervor and broken-hearted pleading, my heart broke. I tasted again the sweetness of my own conversion, and I felt more at home than words can describe. 
But I was also broken-hearted with a sense of loss that so many of the 8,000 young people in that great room had never seen an evangelist plead, a godly father present the gospel, a sinner called by the Holy Spirit flee to refuge in Christ. 
Imagine what it was like to hear 8,000 voices, mostly young and mostly male, singing — some surely for the first time — “Come home, come home, you who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling. Calling, O sinner, come home!” 
I was overcome with joy and profound thankfulness for what happened in that room that Thursday afternoon. We all got to see an evangelist pleading with sinners, pointing to Christ, unashamed to plead with emotion and passion and agonized urgency. I heard the conviction in the voices of a rising generation as we sang that hymn, and my spirit rose within me. I was thrilled to lose my composure for the sake of a moment of such joy. 
“Softly and tenderly” still rings in my ears, and John Piper’s anointed exposition still rings in my heart. I am thankful beyond words to know that others will hear this message. Don’t dare miss it.

The Surprising and Sickening Outrage over Josie Cunningham’s Abortion

Trevin Wax reflects on the news story from Britain about Josie Cunningham and her decision to have an abortion to further her career.  Click over to read the whole thing.  His concluding reflections are quite insightful and enlightening.  
The surprising response is also sickening. British society reacted with revulsion toward a woman who decided to sacrifice another human in order to further her career. (I use sacrificial terminology deliberately, since all idols demand sacrifices, and a career can function as an idol.) 
What’s sickening is to see how society bullies and shames a woman who is following the script that society itself has given her. Over and over again, we are told that women’s rights hinge on access to abortion, that women can be equal to men only if they have full freedom over their reproductive choices, that women need to put themselves and their careers first. One woman follows the logic, and all hell breaks loose against her. 
Other news outlets have reported on the vitriol, so I won’t link to the comments made about this woman, many too vile to print here. Abortion is dehumanizing toward the unborn. The treatment of Josie Cunningham is dehumanizing too. It makes her a monster, when in fact, the monstrous act of abortion is something we as a society have created and promoted. (I wonder if there is a reverse sacrifice going on here. Josie Cunningham sacrifices her child on the altar of her career ambitions, and then British society sacrifices Cunningham as a collective easing of the conscience of a society with blood on its hands.) 
Absent from this discussion, sadly, is the baby’s father. Where is he? Who is he? We are quick to heap scorn and judgment on a woman, as if she is the only person responsible for this debacle. How is it that a society that promotes woman’s rights can so quickly demonize a woman? Meanwhile, the man walks away after his romantic fling without consequence. Far from elevating our view of women, the abortion culture has led to a sickening double standard. 
So, yes, the outrage over Josie Cunningham’s abortion is both surprising and sickening. As Christians, we should weep for the baby who was lost and be encouraged by society’s shock at abortion for selfish gain, even as we shake our heads at the double standard on display in society’s demonization of a woman.
Read the rest.

Powerful Quotes From Charles Spurgeon On Enduring The Depth of Depression

Michael Patton writes:
These quotes from Charles Spurgeon while he was in the Valley of the Shadow of Death encouraged me tremendously throughout 2013 and still do today. The pages are worn thin on my copy of Lectures to My Students where these words reside. 
If you find yourself in a dark place I pray The Lord would allow these words to strengthen you today.

The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There maybe here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust. Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.” 
My witness is, that those who are honoured of their Lord in public, have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil. How constantly the Lord calls Ezekiel “Son of man”! Amid his soarings into the superlative splendours, just when with eye undimmed he is strengthened to gaze into the excellent glory, the word “Son of man” falls on his ears, sobering the heart which else might have been intoxicated with the honour conferred upon it. Such humbling but salutary messages our depressions whisper in our ears; they tell us in a manner not to be mistaken that we are but men, frail, feeble, apt to faint.” 
Most of us are in some way or other unsound physically. Here and there we meet with an old man who could not remember that ever he was laid aside for a day; but the great mass of us labour under some form or other of infirmity, either in body or mind. Certain bodily maladies, especially those connected with the digestive organs, the liver, and the spleen, are time fruitful fountains of despondency; and, let a man strive as he may against their influence, there will be hours and circumstances in which they will for awhile overcome him. As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane? Are we not all a little off the balance? Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge essential to their very individuality; of them it may be said, “Melancholy marked them for her own;” fine minds withal, and ruled by noblest principles, but yet most prone to forget the silver lining, and to remember only the cloud.” 
“There are precious fruits put forth by the moon as well as by the sun. Boats need ballast as well as sail; a drag on the carriage-wheel is no hindrance when the road runs downhill. Pain has, probably, in some cases developed genius; hunting out the soul which otherwise might have slept like a lion in its den. Had it not been for the broken wing, some might have lost themselves in the clouds, some even of those choice doves who now bear the olive-branch in their mouths and show the way to the ark. But where in body and mind there are predisposing causes to lowness of spirit, it is no marvel if in dark moments the heart succumbs to them; the wonder in many cases is—and if inner lives could be written, men would see it so—how some ministers keep at their work at all, and still wear a smile upon their countenances. Grace has its triumphs still, and patience has its martyrs; martyrs none the less to be honoured because the flames kindle about their spirits rather than their bodies, and their burning is unseen of human eyes.” 
“The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Ultimate Dad Video

I aspire to this.

Yet Another Great Way To Wind Up Dead

Tribes and the Lost Art of Discernment

Yancey Arrington:
Unfortunately for some, looking to leaders who don’t share your theological distinctives or church philosophy is anathema. I’ve been places where if you quote [a non-tribe leader's name] or say you like [said leader's] approach to dealing with a specific issue you run the risk of being regarded as some kind of sellout, pragmatist who’s a heartbeat away from purchasing a laser light show and circus clowns for your Sunday morning “event.” You definitely are in need of a strong rebuke…or better yet, a gossip session: “Did you hear who [leader in your tribe] has been influenced by? What’s he thinking? We started our tribe because we don’t want to be like those guys!” The sad result is that isolationism and insularity become shibboleths for who the real faithful are. Do they quote our guys, go to our conferences, read our books? Another unfortunate product is the fostering of an either/or mentality which tragically pits good things against each other, forcing a tribe’s faithful to embrace one at the loss of the other. For example, one person’s tribe is either into theology or leadership but it can’t be into both. Embrace theology and you’re regarded as too doctrinaire for your own good. Embrace leadership and risk being branded as guy who puts ends over means. It’s crazy, pick any tribe and often you’ll get subjected to all kinds of false dichotomies (attractional church vs. incarnational church, Sunday school vs. missional communities, etc.) forcing you to pick the “right” side. 
Whenever I see this either/or mentality I want to scream, “Whatever happened to discernment?”
Read the rest.  

Dunk of the Day

A Subtle, but Powerful Way to Love Your Spouse

Dan Darling:
There are all sorts of big and small ways to show love to your spouse. One of the easiest, but powerful ways to demonstrate this is to talk about them positively in public. This one reason I am so grateful for Angela. She has to live with my sinful tendencies, my human weaknesses, and my annoying quirks. There is a lot of material from which she could easily draw when talking with her girlfriends or other friends. And yet Angela has always talked well about me in public. It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing to me. If she has a problem with me, she tells me. But never does she send a message through passive-aggressive shots delivered while in public. I appreciate and love her for that and I try very hard to return the favor. 
I’m amazed at how often I hear good, faithful Christian couples undermine each other in public. I hear wives degrade their husband’s character and worth, sometimes in the church parking lot. I cringe every time I hear this because in my mind I can see the strength and confidence of the husband shrink. I also hear husbands rail on their wives in a sort of “can you believe what my wife just did?” kind of manner that tells me how much they really value the wive God has given them. 
Angela and I are far from perfect. We have many flaws. But I’m grateful we’ve made this small commitment to each other. It’s hard for two people to walk together in mutual love if one or the other feels degraded. It’s crippling to the kind of long-lasting marital love that reflects the love Christ has for His Church. 
In fact, I would bet there is more value to not saying negative things about a spouse than the kind of over-the-top flattery we sometimes display in order to have others commend us. If my wife never said I was “the best husband alive” on Facebook, but committed to not criticizing me in public, I’d be a happy man. And I”m guessing she’d say the same about me. Not tearing her down in public is better than a thousand “smoking hot wife” references on Twitter. 
The reason this matters, I think, is because we often reveal our true selves when we’re trying to posture ourselves in front of other people, in a crowd. We reveal our true motivations. And for the other person to observe us sort of using them as fodder for a well-timed quip or cutting remark–this hurts more than we might realize. 

Check eBook Alert

The Church: The Gospel Made Visible
Mark Dever

Pastoral Leadership Is... 
Dave Earley

The Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Powerful Testimony In The Midst of Deep Suffering

David Murray:
This is one of the most moving and instructive testimonies I’ve ever heard, with some great advice here too about how to minister to and counsel suffering people.

Cheap eBook Alert

Accidental Pharisees
Larry Osborne

Center Church
Tim Keller

For The City
Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter

Innovations Dirty Little Secret
Larry Osborne

The Gospel Commission
Michael Horton

Loving The Black Letters of the Bible Too

Matt Smethurst:
With the way some Christians talk, you might be forgiven for wondering why the canon includes more than four books. Sure, the Old Testament is useful in tracing the development of human reflection on the divine, and the New Testament in conveying the thoughts of some of Jesus' earliest followers. But if you really want to know what God thinks about something, you hear today, you'll need consult the recorded thoughts of Jesus. And if you want to do that, you'll need to stick to the "red letters." In other words, flip to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (or that less traversed terrain, Revelation 2-3) and stay put.

To be sure, I understand the impulse. It makes some sense in light of the differences between the sinless Son of God (on display in the Gospels) and the bona fide sinners who penned most of the rest of New Testament (unbelieving James and Jude, denying Peter, blaspheming Paul, and so on). Dubious résumés, to say the least.

Nevertheless, Christians have always recognized the God-breathed character of their words. The miracle of inspiration means the whole Bible is the voice of God. While central and foundational, the fourfold Gospel witness is no more true or reliable or relevant or binding than the black letters that precede and follow. Indeed, when we treat the red letters more seriously than the black ones, we muzzle the Son who speaks in all of them.
Read the rest.

Monday, April 21, 2014

"How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had..."

How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing. 
Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated. 
We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.

The New Frontier of Christianity = China

Joe Carter:
In his book The Rise of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that during the first 350 years of Christianity, the religion grew at a rate of 40 percent per decade. During the 61 year period from 1949 to 2010, Christianity grew at a rate of 78.7 percent per year
Part of the reason for the exponential growth is attributable to the sheer size of the population of China. With 1.351 billion people in the country, Christians comprise only 5 percent of the country. If current trends hold, in 2030 Christians in China will make up almost 9 percent of the total population. While the ratio of Christians to population would still be small, the total numbers are astounding. By mid-century, China may have more citizens who identify as Christians than the United States has citizens
Christians in America often find reasons to be pessimistic about our religion's waning influence on our country. But we should remember that our land is not the last bastion of hope for the faith. The remarkable growth in global Christianity -- particularly in Asia and Africa -- should give us reason to be optimistic. The Holy Spirit is changing hearts and minds around the globe in a way that has not been seen since the first century after Christ's Ascension. For this we should be eternally grateful. 
Those of us in the West should continue to support our Chinese brothers and sisters with finances, missionaries, theological resources, and -- most importantly -- prayer. In the latter half of this century, assuming the Lord tarries, we may need them to do the same for the American church.
Read the rest.

Cheap eBook Alert

Thinking. Loving. Doing
John Piper and David Mathis

Baptism and the Lord's Supper
Thabiti and J. Ligon Duncan III

Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?
William Lane Craig

Louie Giglio and Matt Redman

When Missions Shapes The Mission
David Horner

Friday, April 18, 2014

This is So Important To Remember on Good Friday

David Burnette:
It only makes sense on Good Friday to shine the spotlight on Jesus. 
Christ’s death is, after all, the climax of the Gospel accounts (along with the resurrection, of course). That the the Son of God willingly took our punishment is the foundation of our hope and it should be the object of our deepest gratitude. But if God’s wrath is what Christ shielded us from, then how can we rejoice in the Father’s intentions on Good Friday? 
The cross certainly reminds of God’s holiness and of his hatred of sin. However, unless we take a step back to consider what was going on at Calvary, our view of God the Father can become distorted. He can become a cold and angry Deity who in his quest for justice is just itching to wipe us out. Until, thankfully, Jesus intervenes. 
Gratefully, this is not how Scripture presents God the Father. 
In The Cross of Christ John Stott cautions us against characterizing the Father as Judge and the Son as Savior. It is one and the same God who saves us in Christ (140). This error may at first sound subtle, but it’s always a big deal when we have a wrong view of God. Just as we honor the Son by thanking him for his sacrifice on the cross, so too we should honor the Father by responding rightly to his role in our salvation. To this end, here are three things to remember about God the Father on this Good Friday …
Read the rest.  

Cheap eBook Alert

The Hole In our Holiness
Kevin DeYoung

The Unexpected Jesus
R.C. Sproul

A Call To Spiritual Reformation
D.A. Carson

Preaching to a Post-Everything World
Zack Eswine

The Work of Christ
R.C. Sproul

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Urban Dog Sledding

This is so cool, until you wipe out hard.

Resurrection = You Can Be Made New

Christianity Packs Its Office and Leaves the Building

Very interesting piece of writing here from Jonathan Leeman.

Does Christianity have anything to offer in the public square?