Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Waste of Worry

In the dark night of our souls, we imagine and worry about the worst possible scenario. In fact, we often conjure up contradictory worst case scenarios to worry about, events that cannot all happen to us. We persuade ourselves that God has abandoned us and that we have no prospects. How much unnecessary turmoil do we put ourselves through! God doesn't promise to give us the grace to survive all the scenarios we can dream up - but only to give us the grace to enable us to make it through whatever he actually brings into our lives. In fact, much of what we worry about turns out in the end not to be part of God's plan for us after all; our worry was wasted work! Of course, Jesus told us this himself when he said, 'Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?' (Matt 6:27).
Iain Duguid from his commentary on Esther and Ruth

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

John Stott "must reads"

John Stott (1921-2011)

I just read news that preacher, churchman, evangelist and evangelical leader John Stott died this morning. John Stott's legacy would be hard to calculate; his impact hard to overestimate. He will be missed.

The Moment-by-Moment Power of the Gospel

Justin Taylor posted the following exerpt from Francis Schaeffer's article "Why and How I Write My Books":

The way to read my books, then, is to realize that I came through a real struggle in those early days, and I’ve tried to be honest in my study ever since. I try to approach every problem as though I were not a Christian and see what the answer would be.

Later on in my ministry I faced another crisis that equally influenced the writing of my books. It came after I had already been a pastor for ten years in the U.S. and a missionary to Europe for five years. Throughout this period one thing was dinned into my thinking: “Why,” I asked, “is there so little reality among orthodox evangelical Christians? Why is there so little beauty in the way Christians deal with one another?”

This led to doubts about the reality of spiritual things in my own life. I realized that although I had been studying for years and although I had been active in Christian ministry and although I was becoming more and more known in certain Christian circles, the reality of my own spiritual life was diminished. Somehow I had lost what I had when I first became a Christian.

For about two months I walked out in the Swiss mountains. When it rained, I walked in the old hayloft above our chalet. And as I prayed, I went all the way back to my agnosticism. With as much honesty as I could, I asked myself, “Was I right in
becoming a Christian as a young man?” The unreality I had found in the Christian world, the ugliness I saw in Christian relationships, the fact that Christians were not able to talk to twentieth-century people—all these things made me ask, “Was I right?”

And finally the sun came out. I saw that my earlier decisions to step from agnosticism to Bible-believing Christianity was right, and I also discovered that I had been missing something vital in my biblical understanding. It was this: that the finished work of Christ on the cross, back there in time and space, has a moment-by-moment meaning. Christ meant His promise to be taken literally when He said that He would bear His fruit through us if we allowed Him to do so, not only in our religious life but in all of our life. Christ meant to be Lord of my whole life. This brought my life to a great shattering moment. What began as struggle ended in a song. Without that crisis, I could never have written True Spirituality, for that book is the outcome of that personal struggle.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Planting a Church in Camden...

Epiphany Camden Short from timothy shin on Vimeo.

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 3 in our current series through Ruth. It is entitled "Not a Chance" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Not a poster-boy after all...

From Michael Horton:

At least 76 people are dead after Anders Behring Breivik massacred campers on an island off the coast of Oslo, Norway.

Finally, the media has a face and a name for making its heretofor unjustified claim of moral equivalency between conservative Christianity and Islam. Religion may be fine as long as it’s private, and you don’t really believe the key teachings of any one in particular. In any case, those who think they need to act on their confessional convictions in daily life—much less encourage other people to embrace them—are on the path to terrorism. Finally, we can reassure ourselves that Islam is not the problem; it’s “Christian fundamentalism.”

But for anyone interested in the facts of the case, the secularist narrative has lost its poster-boy. In an on-line manifesto, Breivik makes it clear that he is not a “fundamentalist Christian.” He prefaces one comment with, “If there is a God…” and says that science should always trump religion. So in terms of religious convictions, he sounds more like Richard Dawkins than Jerry Falwell. Yet, unlike Dawkins, Breivik pines for the “good ‘ol days” of Christendom, especially the crusades. “Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe…”

The nineteenth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche shrewdly observed that in his day the bourgeois elites of Europe wanted the fruit of Christianity (i.e., moral culture) without the tree itself (i.e., the actual doctrine and practice). Breivik is not a poster-boy for “Christian fundamentalism,” but the fulfillment of Nietzsche’s prophecy. It’s one thing to confuse the kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this age, but we need a new category besides “fundamentalism” for the secular faith in “Christendom” without Christ.

Read Dr. Horton's entire article HERE.

Man's intentions and God's...

Very grateful for these words:

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
- Genesis 50:15-21

Monday, July 25, 2011

Never Assume the Gospel

From D.A. Carson:

In a fair bit of Western evangelicalism, there is a worrying tendency to focus on the periphery. [My] colleague . . . Dr. Paul Hiebert . . . . springs from Mennonite stock and analyzes his heritage in a fashion that he himself would acknowledge is something of a simplistic caricature, but a useful one nonetheless.

One generation of Mennonites believed the gospel and held as well that there were certain social, economic, and political entailments.

The next generation assumed the gospel, but identified with the entailments.

The following generation denied the gospel: the “entailments” became everything.

Assuming this sort of scheme for evangelicalism, one suspects that large swaths of the movement are lodged in the second step, with some drifting toward the third.

. . . What is it in the Christian faith that excites you? . . . Today there are endless subgroups of confessing Christians who invest enormous quantities of time and energy in one issue or another: abortion, pornography, home schooling, women’s ordination (for or against), economic justice, a certain style of worship, the defense of a particular Bible version, and countries have a full agenda of urgent, peripheral demands. Not for a moment am I suggesting we should not think about such matters or throw our weight behind some of them. But when such matters devour most of our time and passion, each of us must ask: In what fashion am I confessing the centrality of the gospel?
HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Goal: To Make Disciples

"The deceptively simple task of disciple-making is made demanding, frustrating and difficult in our world, not because it is so hard to grasp but because it is so hard to persevere in.

"This is why we are such suckers for the latest ministry expert, who has always grown a church of at least 5000 from scratch, and who has a guaranteed method for growing your church to be like his. Every five or ten years, a new wave comes through. It might be the seeker-service model, or the purpose-driven model, or the missional-cultural-engagement model, or whatever the next thing will be. All of these methodologies have good things going for them, but all of them are equally beside the point -- because our goal is not to grow churches, but to make disciples."

From The Trellis and the Vine by Marshall & Payne (Matthias Media: 2009), p.151.

Thanks Carl...

...for providing a fitting reply to Frank Schaeffer's despicable post concerning the tragic violence in Norway.

Read it HERE.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mohler's Top Ten (or Eleven)

Al Mohler has posted his picks for books that pastors ought to read in 2011.

Collected Writings on Scripture by D.A. Carson (Crossway)

4. The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame (P&R)

7. Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth by Alister McGrath (HarperOne)

8. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (Thomas Nelson)

10. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell (Simon & Schuster) [*Note: 60% off at Amazon at time of writing]

11. Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults by Christian Smith with Patricia Snell (Oxford University Press)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word

Stephen Nichols' newest book, Welcome to the Story, is now available.

From the Publisher:

Welcome to the Story teaches believers not only how to read the Bible, but how to read it in such a way that it permeates their lives--reading, loving, and living God's Word. Discussion includes an explanation of the four "chapters" of the biblical narrative--creation, fall, redemption, and restoration--guidelines on how to interpret Scripture, why we're to love God's Word, and how we're to live and proclaim the story in word, deed, and mission.

This practical guide to reading the Bible is a great resource for young and new believers and those wanting to get more out of God's Word.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 2 in our current series through Ruth. It is entitled "Relentless Grace" (Ruth 1:6-22) and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

ESV Student Study Bible

Now avaiable at a great price HERE.

Preachers, preach Christ

From Carl Trueman:

"If somebody spends more time in the pulpit talking about themselves than about the Bible and Christ, then they are preaching themselves and not Christ crucified. If they talk about themselves for twenty minutes and expound the Bible for twenty minutes, that is a twenty minute sermon, not a forty minute one; and it feeds the cult of personality, not the body of Christ."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Disqualifying sin or incomplete sanctification?

That is my question regarding the C.J. Mahaney situation. Actually it is not really a question in my mind. I have read the massive document dump which reveals that C.J. Mahaney is - get ready - a far from perfect leader of a large ministry.

Take time to read Jesse Johnson's post on the current situation with C.J. and Sovereign Grace. I couldn't agree more with Johnson. For the life of me I could not find a sin which in any way would disqualify C.J. Mahaney leadership in ministry. What I did see was a pattern of morbid introspection of other people's sins. There are many, many churches who would love for the sins revealed in the 600 page document regarding C.J. to be the greatest sins of their pastor.

The ever-broadening tent of evangelicalism...

From an article by Randy Alcorn:

I feel like right now among evangelicals—including authors, musicians, speakers and pastors—there’s a runaway train of unbiblical and unclear thinking.

We are improvising theology on the fly with little regard for the Scriptures or the historic orthodox Christian faith. We act as if the Christian faith began with us, and we are perfectly free to modify it in light of the latest cultural winds. To put it bluntly, there is not only more and more false doctrine in churches, there is also more and more of it coming from evangelical pastors and authors and publishers and colleges...

Based on what I see and hear regularly, apparently an evangelical can now disbelieve Genesis 1-11 and other portions of Scripture (e.g. “there was no literal Adam and Eve,” even though Jesus and Paul believed there was). Evangelicals can believe that those without Christ can be saved, and that there is no Hell except in this life. We can be prochoice about child-killing. Evangelicals can be racial bigots who freely stereotype by ethnicity. We can believe the health and wealth gospel despite its contradictions to the true gospel of Christ. We can regularly turn our backs on the dire needs of the poor. Evangelicals can sit back and do nothing to help those unreached by the gospel. We can endorse gay marriage. Despite believing and behaving in any of these ways, we are, apparently, entitled to consider ourselves evangelical Christians.
Read the entire article HERE.

Why it still matters to engage sad, silly men like Tony Jones

It would be easy to just let Tony Jones fade away into the sunset of ever degenerating evangelicalism. Tony has proved time and again to be nothing more than a less intelligent incarnation of 19th century theological liberalism. There really is nothing substantively new in Tony Jones, Doug Pagget, Brian Maclaren, etc. They have come and will go like any fad. Unfortunately, however, because the heart of man is an idol factory, the tired liberalism of Jones and company will be resurrected in some other virulent messengers.

I still engage Tony Jones' writing and teaching because however silly he may be (and he is considerably silly), he nevertheless has influence. The fact that he does have influence tells us much about the current state of evangelicalism. Within the "big tent" of evangelicalism we no longer agree on such things as the nature of God, salvation, the cross, discipleship, and sexual ethics. The once promising movement called evangelicalism is defunct. The emperor has no clothes. The watchers on the wall fell asleep long ago.

In a recent post, Tony Jones sums up some of his thoughts on Christians and sexuality. You can read it here but I warn you: Jones traverses the heights of silliness only to arrive at the slough of the truly disgusting.

Interacting with the opinions of homosexual blogger Dan Savage, Jones writes:

Savage would never endorse pedophilia. He would, instead, say that pedophilia is the result that of a sexually repressed culture, one that lacks honesty. The ethic of honesty is what Savage calls for in his column, week after week telling his readers that if they’ve got a kink or a fetish, they should tell their partner about it. And, if you’ve picked smartly, your partner should be GGG: good, giving, and game.

Savage’s sexual ethic is primarily one of realism: human beings are animals who, until very recently, procreated like animals. It is evolutionarily dishonest to demand monogamy of a species predisposed against it. It’s not impossible to be monogamous, he says, but it is super difficult, and you’ll be more likely to succeed if your partner is GGG.

I don’t know if Savage’s ethic jibes with a biblical, Christian view of sexuality. But I do know a few things: 1) he’s a helluva lot more realistic about sex than most Christians I’ve talked to about sex; 2) based on my experience on this blog and at the Wild Goose Festival, a lot of Christians really want to talk about sexuality; and 3) many Christians are ready for our conversations about sexuality to expand beyond “what to do with the gays,” and instead have a more fully-orbed dialogue about sexuality and human identity. I also know that, for the first time in my life I’ve met Christians who are in “open” marriages or are practicing polyamory — and I’m committed that my theological/ethical response to them be both Christian and pragmatic/realistic.
Ah, yes, "honesty." Tony wants us to be honest about sexuality. It has taken Tony Jones to finally introduce honesty into the church's conversations on sexuality. Apparently a few days in the woods of North Caronlina can produce keen insights the likes of which the church has never known. I suppose believing, teaching, and struggling to be faithful to the Scriptures very clear teachings on human sexuality is not being "honest." Honesty is is more like, oh, I don't know, calling yourself a Christian and living in an "open marriage." How novel.

I suppose if one is an unrepentant adulterer, the idea that "open marriages," and "polyamory" are within the bounds of Christian realism and honesty could provide comfort and a salve for the conscience. But it is tragic when the house theologian of an influential emergent church advances the notion that sexual perversion is well within the bounds of a "biblical, Christian view of sexuality."

Mike Witmer and Denny Burk have both commented on Tony's latest post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Your pastor NEEDS your prayers...

From an article in Christianity Today:

And so we have a system in which pride and hypocrisy are inevitable. The situation for the pastor is impossible. He retains his biblical vision, but the system he finds himself in makes him waver between humility and arrogance, hope and cynicism, patience and anger, love and hate. The pastor has to increasingly downplay these tensions or any serious shortcomings, moral or administrative, to play the part that is expected of him. He must learn to doubt his moral instincts, so he starts believing that efficiently running a large, bureaucratic institution is "ministry" or "service" rather than what it often is: mostly managing and controlling people. He and his congregation justify his heavy-handed leadership and his lack of time for individuals—the very antithesis of his title, pastor or shepherd. His sermons are increasingly peppered with himself as much as the gospel, and even his self-deprecating humor turns against him. Now people praise him for his humility, which only goes to his head, as it does for any human being.

The morally serious pastor will be aware of much of this—even if he can't admit it to anyone—and he will strive to keep himself in check. But he will find that his left hand always—always—knows what his right hand is doing. He has become incapable of carrying out his ministry in simple freedom and trust in God's grace. He began running the race of ministry with holy ambition, but he now finds himself on a treadmill of "various expressions of pride."

Every profession has its secret sins and habitual vices—believe me, we have plenty in journalism. We all need prayer in our callings. And no more so than pastors, whose spiritual leadership makes them most vulnerable to the sins that Jesus most severely condemned: hypocrisy and pride.
Read the entire article HERE (Please)

Tullian and Thabiti

On the latest edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton chats with Tullian Tchividjian and Thabiti Anyabwile.

What is the mission of the church?

Gospel, Mission, and the Church from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Softening the Character of God"

The cross is the perfect statement both of God’s wrath against sin and of the depth of his love and mercy in the recovery of the damaged creation and its damagers. God’s mercy, patience, and love must be fully preached in the church. But they are not credible unless they are presented in tension with God’s infinite power, complete and sovereign control of the universe, holiness, and righteousness. And where God’s righteousness is clearly presented, compassionate warnings of his holy anger against sin must be given, and warnings also of the certainty of divine judgment in endless alienation from God which will be unimaginably worse than the literal descriptions of hell. It is no wonder that the world and the church are not awakened when our leadership is either singing a lullaby concerning these matters or presenting them in a caricature which is so grotesque that it is unbelievable.

The tension between God’s holy righteousness and his compassionate mercy cannot be legitimately resolved by remolding his character into an image of pure benevolence as the church did in the nineteenth century. There is only one way that this contradiction can be removed: through the cross of Christ which reveals the severity of God’s anger against sin and the depth of his compassion in paying its penalty through the vicarious sacrifice of his Son. In systems which resolve this tension by softening the character of God, Christ and his work become an addendum, and spiritual darkness becomes complete because the true God has been abandoned for the worship of a magnified image of human tolerance.

Richard Lovelace from
Dynamics of Spiritual Life

Books by Nancy Guthrie

I appreciate the work of Nancy Guthrie. I recommend you check out the following books:

Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament
This is a year's worth of readings from the Old Testament demonstrating how Christ is present in (not simply read back into) the Old Testament. This is a terrific book for morning devotions or to be used perhaps at the dinner table with the whole family.

Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow
"In times of deep sorrow and disappointment, everything we believe can be called into question. Ten years after burying a daughter and then a son and writing Holding On to Hope, a book that has been published in eight languages and has helped thousands of people around the world make sense of their suffering, Nancy Guthrie brings the additional perspective of years and further scriptural study to the issues we all struggle with when life hurts."

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
"This compilation, edited by Nancy Guthrie, includes the writings of twenty-two classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers on how to prepare to die in faith. The short meditations are drawn from sermons, books, and other writings of classic theologians such as Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin, and of leading contemporary communicators such as John Piper, Tim Keller, J. I. Packer, and others. The writers provide a solidly scriptural and countercultural way to view the inevitability of death, explaining how and why believers can face physical death with hope, joy, and confidence in God’s promises for the life to come."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"The Crucial Doctrine that Fuels Beautiful Living"

Great post by Dane Ortlund concerning Francis Schaeffer:

In 1951 Francis Schaeffer’s life and ministry were turned upside down, despite already having walked with the Lord for many years and having seen much fruit in ministry. He was 39.

In the introduction to his book True Spirituality, Schaeffer recounts what happened.

I faced a spiritual crisis in my own life. I had become a Christian from agnosticism many years ago. After that I had become a pastor for ten years in the United States, and then for several years my wife, Edith, and I had been working in Europe. During this time I felt a strong burden to stand for the historical Christian position and for the purity of the visible church. Gradually, however, a problem came to me—the problem of reality. This has two parts: first, it seemed to me that among many of those who held the orthodox position one saw little reality in the things that the Bible so clearly says should be the result of Christianity. Second, it gradually grew on me that my reality was less than it had been in the early days after I had become a Christian. I realized that in honesty I had to go back and rethink my whole position.

We were living in ChampĂ©ry [Switzerland] at the time, and I told Edith that for the sake of honesty I had to go all the way back to my agnosticism and think through the whole matter. I’m sure that she prayed much for me in those days. I walked in the mountains when it was clear, and when it was rainy I walked backward and forward in the hayloft of the old chalet in which we lived. I walked, prayed, and thought through what the Scriptures taught, reviewing my own reasons for being a Christian. . . .

I searched through what the Bible said concerning reality as a Christian. Gradually I saw that the problem was that with all the teaching I had received after I was a Christian, I had heard little about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives. Gradually the sun came out and the song came. Interestingly enough, although I had written no poetry for many years, in that time of joy and song I found poetry beginning to flow again.

Three things are striking here, and worth considering for our own time.

1. Right doctrine matters.
Schaeffer says that he spent many of his early Christian years working for “the historical Christian position.” That means orthodoxy. Right belief. And nowhere in this autobiographical reflection does Schaeffer go back on the importance of such orthodoxy. On the contrary, he says that after going back and rethinking his foundational reasons for believing, he identified his lack of vibrancy as due to something other than his theology. The problem was not his doctrine. It was something else—the absence of “reality.”

2. Right doctrine exists not ultimately for correct thinking but for beautiful living.
True doctrine, as Paul tells Titus, is to be “adorned” (Titus 2:10). To lack grace in our lives is to deny grace in our theology. We can unsay with our lives in the living room what we say with our lips in the pew. The doctrines of grace generate a culture of grace. If they don’t, the doctrines of grace are not truly believed. We may say we believe them. We may even think we do. But we don’t. Not really.

A man who says he believes his treasure is in heaven as he drives a Bentley, owns five homes on three continents, and refuses to give any resources to the church or anyone else doesn’t really believe what he says he believes. You can see what he believes.

And if a man says he believes the doctrines of grace but does not exude what Schaeffer calls the “reality” of those doctrines, such a man does not really believe those doctrines. He might align himself with the doctrines of grace creedally. But he has not adorned the doctrines of grace.

“Dead orthodoxy,” Schaeffer once preached, “is always a contradiction in terms.”

3. The crucial doctrine that fuels beautiful living is the gospel.
“I had heard little,” Schaeffer says, “about what the Bible says about the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives.”

Francis Schaeffer came to discover, many years after his conversion, that the finished work of Christ mattered—mattered tremendously—for his present life. Not just for his past moment of conversion and not only for the future moment when he would stand before God. For today. As he says elsewhere, “I become a Christian once for all on the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification. But the Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment by moment.”

The gospel is a home, not a hotel. We pass through a hotel; we reside in a home. And it was when this washed over him—note this, now—it was when his heart came to dwell in the finished work of Christ that his soul began to live again. “Gradually the sun came out and the song came.” Poetry flowed once more. Vitality returned. Orthodoxy had never left; life, however, had.

Doctrine matters. But doctrine is meant to fuel some thing else—beautiful, radiant living. Standing immovably on the finished work of Christ will get us there.

How Wolves are Made...

From John Piper:

Let me just mention one feature to watch out for in the recognition of wolves. As I have watched the movement from biblical faithfulness to liberalism in persons and institutions that I have known over the years, this feature stands out: An emotional disenchantment with faithfulness to what is old and fixed, and an emotional preoccupation with what is new or fashionable or relevant in the eyes of the world.

Let's try to say it another way: when this feature is prevalent, you don't get the impression that a person really longs to bring his mind and heart into conformity to fixed biblical truth. Instead you see the desire to picture biblical truth as unfixed, fluid, indefinable, distant, inaccessible, and so open to the trends of the day.

So what marks a possible wolf-in-the-making is not simply that he rejects or accepts any particular biblical truth, but that he isn't deeply oriented on the Bible. He is more oriented on experience. He isn't captured by the great old faith once for all delivered to the saints. Instead he's enamored by what is new and innovative.

A good elder can be creative. But the indispensable mark when it comes to doctrinal fitness is faithfulness to what is fixed in Scripture—disciplined, humble submission to the particular affirmations of the Bible—carefully and reverently studied and explained and cherished. When that spirit begins to go, there's a wolf-in-the-making.
From the sermon "Watch out for the Wolves Within"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I began a new series through the book of Ruth called Faithful God. Part one is entitled "The Road to Nowhere" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Does the Bible still speak with authority?

Biblical Authority in an Age of Uncertainty from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Abortion Debated

Take time to watch the following debate held at Westmont College between Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute and Nadine Strossen (former President of the ACLU).

Abortion Debate at Westmont College from Randy Alcorn on Vimeo.

HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, July 8, 2011

How the prosperity gospel invaded and infected the African church

In the video below D.A. Carson interviews Conrad Mbewe about the tragic rise of the prosperity gospel in Africa. One of the reasons for the popularity of preachers like Benny Hinn, Keneth Copeland, and other prosperity teachers in Africa is because of the similarity between what they preach and the native pagan spirituality. Take time to read Mbewe's article Nigerian Religious Junk.

Beware of Nigerian Religious Junk! from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

You never grow beyond the Gospel

I still come across Christians who consider the Gospel to be the "abc's" of Christianity. That concerns me because we never truly outgrow our need for the Gospel. Indeed we will never grow beyond the Gospel. If we believe the Gospel to be a very basic thing, merely baby food for baby Christians then we will not grow beyond infancy. For the Gospel is the food we need not only at the moment of our conversion but until the day we die.

I am looking forward to reading The Gospel Is For Christians by Mitchell Chase.

From the Publisher:
Christian discipleship cannot be achieved by following clever formulas or spiritual shortcuts. Believers achieve true growth by holding firmly to and continually appropriating the gospel of God’s grace. While some people consider the gospel to be relevant only for conversion, the Bible teaches that the gospel is indispensable for the Christian life.

The gospel must shape our discipleship.

• Non-gospel messages do not foster spiritual growth
• Faithful churches are gospel-driven churches
• Gospel-driven churches obey the Great Commission
• The marital covenant points to the New Covenant
• Every generation must declare the words and wonders of God

“Mitch Chase joins a growing group of leaders on mission to help the church rediscover the truth that the gospel isn’t just the power of God to save us; it’s the power of God to grow us once we’re saved.”
Tullian Tchividjian, Author of Surprised by Grace

“Getting the gospel right is an absolute imperative for Christ’s church. Understanding how the gospel applies to every dimension of life is one of the ongoing challenges and joys for every believer. Mitch Chase brings great wisdom and clarity for this challenge as he writes The Gospel is for Christians. Read it for the sound counsel and good news you will find here.”
- Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“The gospel is not just for unbelievers. The gospel is not just a kind of good news key that allows people to unlock the doors to heaven. The gospel is life. The gospel saves and it sustains. Mitch Chase loves this gospel and in this book he faithfully proclaims it. Written in an engaging, winsome way, his book will challenge and shape you. It will tell you why you need to believe the gospel to have eternal life and why you need to dwell upon this gospel, love it, feed upon it, depend upon it every day. The gospel is for Christians and so too is this book. I highly recommend it to you.”
-Tim Challies, author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Sexual Detox: A Guide For Guys Who Are Sick of Porn, and The Next Story

On not being "overtly Christian"

An Episcopal priest who describes herself as "left leaning" seems to have been right in the middle of the target audience for the recent Wild Goose Festival. Yet Catherine Caimano writes:

I was surprised that an event billed in part as a revival would have an almost pervasive timidity about mentioning Jesus and his central role in everything that was happening there. It was odd. Maybe our common discipleship was a given. Or maybe I was just at the wrong events or talking to the wrong people. Whatever the reason, I saw and heard little that was overtly Christian at this Christian gathering. I could just as easily have been at an Earth Day celebration or a political rally.

Now, Miss Caimano is not exactly a card carrying member of the religious right. She is a priest in one of the most liberal denominations in America. And yet even she was surprised by how little Jesus seemed to matter at the Emergent woodstock in North Carolina.

I was heartened to be with people who cared about such issues. But the longer I was there and the more people I talked with, the more I realized what was missing. It was the very reason that all these topics are important to Christians: Jesus.

I know that the resurrected Christ was present and that I was in the company of many faithful Christians. Yet despite all the good work that was in this place, I had a hard time finding and feeling the evangelical spirit of those whose work is discipleship. Whether I was listening to presenters or visiting with people or overhearing conversations around me, Jesus did not come up often.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Serious error from a silly gathering

If a group of hippies gather in the North Carolina woods do they make a sound? Well, thanks to twitter and blogging they do. They even caught the attention of The Economist.

About a week ago a group of people who are terribly sad they missed the 60's gathered to celebrate homosexuality, beer, tattoos, pagan rituals, bad art, and recycling, under the banner of The Wild Goose Festival.

I am not exactly sure why some of them still refer to themselves as Christian but I suppose old habits are hard to break. It even gave Frank Schaeffer another chance to denounce evangelicals and their love affair with that ancient mythical collection of writings some of us call "the Bible."

Anyway, when you get a chance check out The Economist's brief but accurate description of the disastrous little camp out in the woods.

Good resources on Ruth

This Sunday I will begin preaching a five week series of sermons through Ruth.

The following are some excellent resources on Ruth. And, yes, I am stealing the title of Sinclair Ferguson's little book for my sermon series.

Esther and Ruth by Iain Duguid

Faithful God by Sinclair Ferguson

The Message of Ruth by David Atkinson

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Don't know much about doctrine?

Who is Jesus, and why should he be worshipped? Was his death merely an example of self-sacrifice, or did he actually atone for the sins of the world? These are crucial doctrinal questions, yet many Christians in our time say they are not interested in theology or doctrine, but prefer instead to focus on what Jesus can do for us in our lives today. Is it possible to be a faithful Christian without being concerned about doctrine? (Originally broadcast June 11, 2006)

Listen to the program HERE.

The Language of God and the historicity of Adam

It is lengthy but Dr. Ardel Caneday's article in the latest issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is worth the read. Dr. Caneday challenges those within evangelicalism who are now dismissing the Bible's teachings concerning the historicity of Adam and the Fall.

Check it out HERE.

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached a sermon entitled "Gospel Greatness" taken from Mark 9:30-37. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Preaching through Ruth

This Sunday I will begin a five week series of sermons through the book of Ruth.

Ruth begins by telling the tragic story of Naomi and the deaths of her husband and sons. It is during the dark days of the Judges and a time of famine. But Ruth is also the story of the love and marriage of two exemplary people: Boaz and Ruth. On one hand, Ruth tells a rather small story about one family. The significance of the commonplace and domestic are affirmed. At the same time, Ruth serves a larger purpose of showing how God uses everything from human love to tragedy, from famine to fullness to display His glory and achieve His merciful plan to redeem His people.

Ruth is the Bible’s most complete love story. Values such as loyalty, faithfulness, and compassion are given both feminine and masculine expressions through the main characters. There is also an unflinching look into the heart-breaking consequences of sin. Ultimately, though, the main character is God who is unalterably faithful to His promises and plans. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Key Doctrines and Themes:
Providence – God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). What is more, God uses ordinary means and events, both pleasant and painful to accomplish His purposes in His world.
Redemption – The theme of “kinsman redeemer” which foreshadows Christ is most fully explained in Ruth. Also, Obed, the son of Ruth and Boaz is in the messianic lineage.
Ethics of Covenant Living – There are clear moral dimensions in Ruth. In the early verses we see the tragic results of unfaithfulness to God. However, through Ruth and Boaz we see how God loves and blesses generosity and kindness toward the marginalized.
Love and marriage are good things – God blesses faithful, romantic love and marriage.

Sermons in this series:
1 – The Road to Nowhere (1:1-5)
2 – Relentless Grace (1:6-22)
3 – God Our Refuge (2:1-23)
4 – There is a Redeemer (3:1-18)
5 – Mission Accomplished (4:1-22)

I encourage you to spend time each week reading and meditating on the passages that I will preach on the coming Sunday. The following are some helpful questions for you to ask as you read Ruth or, for that matter, any passage from the Bible:
• What does this text teach about God?
• What does this text teach about mankind (particularly his need for a Savior)?
• How does this text foreshadow God’s redemptive plan in Christ? – Old Testament
• How does this text reveal or interpret Christ’s work as Redeemer? – New Testament
• Is this text telling me to do something in response?

Saturday, July 2, 2011