3 Things I’m Looking Forward to about #TheGospelProject Webcast

Tuesday morning, I’m heading off to the exotic land of Nashville to live-blog the Gospel Project webcast and spend the day at Lifeway Christian Resources. Here’s a quick rundown of the event:

On March 14th, get an inside look at The Gospel Project, LifeWay’s new gospel-centered Bible study resource, through this special webcast event. Trevin Wax, Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, will host as Advisory Council members Matt Chandler and J.D. Greear, and General Editor Ed Stetzer, talk about gospel-centeredness in the lives of Christians and the church, today. Matt Chandler will discuss the need to make the gospel explicit in our small groups, J.D. Greear will discuss the need to ground our life-application in the gospel, and Ed Stetzer will talk about the need for gospel-centeredness to move us out on mission for God’s Kingdom.

1. The content. I’m genuinely excited to learn more about The Gospel Project—all of us, regardless of our familiarity with the Scriptures, will benefit from sound teaching that makes much of Jesus. Matt Chandler does a great job of this in the following video:

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2. The Q&A. In addition to each speaker’s topical teaching, there will be the opportunity for some q&a and a panel discussion. Q&As can be a lot of fun if there are a lot of good questions and panel discussions are often the best part of these sorts of events. At TGC 2011, some of the best sessions were the ones that involved the panelists interacting with one another (the last minute addition of a panel discussion on the doctrine of hell is a good example). Looking forward to seeing how the discussion goes.

3. Nashville. This one isn’t so much a webcast specific bit, but it’s still a big deal to me as I’ve never visited Nash Vegas until now (despite having a number of friends in the area). Looking forward to seeing the sites, hopefully hanging out with Matt & Josh from the Bridge in Spring Hill, and seeing if Nashville lives up to the hype. Anything you recommend checking out in downtown Nashville?

Be sure to check out the live webcast Wednesday at 2 PM (CDT).

Around the Interweb

The Intellectual Persecution of the Church

C. Michael Patton:

Many people believe that the western world is on a fast train heading toward a time when there will again be physical persecution. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that when we are always looking for some time in the future . . . we miss something very important: we are already under persecution – intellectual persecution. It is happening right now, under our noses, everyday. All one has to do is turn on Bill Maher, watch the news, or read one of the “New Atheists.” Their interaction does not come in the form of reasoned intellectual response to Christian beliefs or values, but belittling sound bites which seek to gain them quick favoritism. Have you ever seen a Christian attempt to pull off a news interview? If the Christian stands up for traditional marriage, against abortion, or holds to the exclusivity of Christianity or the reality of eternal punishment, there is no call for debate or serious interaction, but ad hominem attacks. As in all things, belittling evidences more insecurity on the side of the belittler than anything else, but observers don’t always know that. This translates into a more culturally-accepted persecution and suppression of ideas. How do we know about it so intimately? Because we have done the same thing to others.

You see, Satan’s goal is not necessarily the torturous death of a person. Everyone dies eventually. Death is not an authoritative power that Satan has been given, but is an ever-abiding reality of his own future. But what he wants to do is erode our beliefs. He does not care whether this comes through a denial of the faith at the end of a barrel in a lion’s den (if I could place those two together) or the lessening of faith due to embarrassing associations of God with Santa Claus on a playground. He simply wants people to believe less today than they did yesterday. He is the crow who comes and eats the seed so people might not hear and believe the word of God (Matt. 13:19). Remember the parable of the soils? The seed is the word of God. The four soils represent the human heart. Seed number 1, Satan ate. But what about the others? Seeds number 2 and 3 gained ground, but eventually fell away. Remember the seed that took root, grew with great excitement, but then died? Why did it die? Because it was “choked” out due to persecution and oppression (Matt. 13:21). Satan’s goal is simple: he wants our faith to be insecure. There is no need for him to turn to physical persecution here in America. He has dibs on intellectual persecution and it is choking out the faith of so many. Perpetual doubt, disallusionment, and dispair are the result.


Also Worth Reading

“The longer I live, the more I care about fewer things, and it’s good.”

Is the Muslim My Neighbor?

Is God a Moral Monster?

A Heavenly Conversation is the Way to Contentment

Let’s Change Hearts and Minds


In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Reviews:

Sermon Audio: The Call and Fruit of Repentance

J. Gresham Machen: The Unpopular Message and Responsibility of the Church

R.C. Sproul: The Purpose of Testing

#Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (March)

A Baby Dramarama Update

Walter Marshall: The Scandal of Religion

The Scandal of Religion

Experience shows plentifully, both of heathens and Christians, how pernicious ignorance, or mistaking of those effectual means, is to a holy practice. The heathens generally fell short of an acceptable performance of those duties of the law which they knew, because of their ignorance in this point: (i) Many Christians content themselves with external performances, because they never knew how they might attain to spiritual service. (ii) And many reject the way of holiness as austere and unpleasant, because they did not know how to cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye, without intolerable pain; whereas they would find ‘the ways of wisdom’ (if they knew them) ‘to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths to be peace’ (Prov. 3:17). This occasions the putting off repentance from time to time, as an uncouth thing. (iii) Many others set on the practice of holiness with a fervent zeal, and run very fast; but do not tread a step in the right way; and, finding themselves frequently disappointed and overcome by their lusts, they at last give over the work and turn to wallow again in the mire – which has occasioned several treatises, to show how far a reprobate may go in the way of religion, by which many weak saints are discouraged, accounting that these reprobates have gone farther than themselves; whereas most of them never knew the right way, nor trod one step right in it, for, ‘there are few that find it’ (Matt. 7:14). (iv) Some of the more ignorant zealots do inhumanly macerate their bodies with fasting and other austerities, to kill their lusts; and, when they see their lusts are still too hard for them, they fall into despair and are driven, by horror of conscience, to make away with themselves wickedly, to the scandal of religion.

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Kindle Edition)

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens

jesus-lens

One of the most shocking rebukes Jesus offered to the Pharisees is found in John 5:39: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Think about that for a second. Jesus says to these men who had devoted their lives to the study of God’s Word, “You’re missing the point.” Later, on the road to Emmaus, after meeting the two disciples  who told Him of all the events of the previous few days in Jerusalem and rebuking them for being foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” we’re told that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

There are times that I wonder whether or not the same is true for us today, whatever our theology and methodology. Do we spend so much time examining the trees that we miss the forest—are we, like the disciples on the Emmaus road, slow of heart to believe? How do we correct this error and start reading the Bible in light of Jesus? This is why I appreciate a book like How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens by Michael Williams. Each chapter focuses on one book of the Bible, offering a short overview of the book’s theme, how it connects to Jesus (“The Jesus Lens”), contemporary implications and “hook” questions to help guide readers in applying the book’s message to their own lives. While the idea of showing how a book is about Jesus might seem difficult to some, as if it were something that should remain in the scholastic realm, Williams does a terrific job of opening up this potentially heady topic to the average layperson. He keeps his explanations brief and understandable, his grasp of each book’s theme is solid and the application questions are genuinely helpful.

Leviticus through the Jesus Lens

While it would be far too time-consuming to offer a comprehensive review of each chapter, I thought it would be helpful to focus on one book of the Bible that few of us sit down and say “gee, I want to devote the next year to studying this one”—Leviticus. While it’s regulations for ceremonial and moral purity are intimidating, this is a book that is richly Christ-centered.

Williams reminds us that all the offerings—the burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin and guilt offerings—with “their emphases on acknowledging, celebrating, deepening, and restoring our relationship with God, reveal aspects of a coming ultimate sacrifice when we view them through the lens of Christ” (p. 22). The Mosaic Covenant required that these offerings—along with all the other demands of the Law—be performed to the letter if God’s people were to enter into His presence, even if it’s only the high priest who can actually stand before Him as their representative. [Read more...]

The Unpopular Message and Responsibility of the Church

This week I finally read What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert; I’ll be posting a full review soon, but I couldn’t resist sharing an insightful quote they included from J.Gresham Machen:

The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life—no, all the length of human history—is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kindgoms of the earth—no, all the wonders of the starry heavens—are as the dust of the street.

An unpopular message it is—an impractical message, we are told. But it is the message of the Christian church. Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life.

J. Gresham Machen, “The Responsibility of the Church in the New Age,” from J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, p. 376 (as quoted in What Is the Mission of the Church, pp. 248-249)

Sermon Audio: The Call and Fruit of Repentance

On March 4, 2012, I had the opportunity to preach at Community Bible Church in Lucan, Ontario. The message, The Call and Fruit of Repentance, was preached from Isaiah 58 and based on much of the work found in chapter four of Awaiting a Savior.

You can listen to the complete audio here:

:

You can also download the MP3 to listen at a later time.

I hope you find the message edifying. As always, your feedback is appreciated!

The Purpose of Testing

Our faith is tested by the fire for a purpose—that it may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Pet. 1: 8). Faith is refined so that at the last day, at the final consummation of the kingdom of Christ, it will be the occasion for praise, honor, and glory. God values your faith more than He values your gold or your present comfort. Peter is moved by the fact that the readers of his epistle love Christ, despite never having seen Him. Our Lord Himself said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” ( John 20:29). After the resurrection when Jesus appeared to the eleven in the upper room, He rebuked them for their unbelief, for their hardheartedness. They had not believed the testimony of the angel and the women who were at the tomb. God places a premium on faith that is the substance of things not seen, as the author of Hebrews indicates (Heb. 11:1).

Inexpressible joy is a reality that human words can never adequately describe. That joy, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is ineffable. It defies description. One commentator on this text likened it to the glory of the Son. He said, “A blind man who has been blind from birth cannot understand the noonday sun. No matter how many times you try to explain it to him, he has no reference point by which to understand its magnitude.” The author went on to say that someone who can see may not be able to express adequately the reality of the brightness of the sun to someone who is blind, but the person who can see knows the sun the moment it shines upon him. We perceive the light. We do not have to reason about it; we see it for what it is. So it is with the Word of God. Many people are blind to the truth of God, but when the scales fall from their eyes and the Spirit of God opens their eyes to His Word, they see the truth of it immediately. We certainly have sound, objective reasons to believe the Word of God, but those reasons are about as necessary as arguments for light to people who can see the sun. Our joy is inexpressible. It is a glorious joy, a weighty joy, not a superficial joy.

R.C. Sproul, 1 & 2 Peter: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, p. 38 (Kindle Edition)

Book Review: Lit! by Tony Reinke

You know you’re a bibliophile—or possibly a giant nerd—when you’re really excited about reading a book on… reading. I mean, who intentionally reads about reading? If all the stats about how much time people are spending in front of screens are accurate, the strangeness of reading about reading isn’t really that much of an issue—the real issue is getting people to read at all. To think about what to read, when to read, how to read and most importantly why reading matters. For the Christian, this is especially important. We are men and women who are to be “people of the Book,” and yet we seem to have difficulty even reading our Bibles. This is why I appreciate Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke. In this short book, Reinke offers wonderful, thoughtful insights into the importance of reading and how believers can make the most of it.

Divided into two parts, Lit! first offers a theology of reading before moving into the practical application. On the need for developing a theology of books and reading, Reinke captures the necessity well when he writes, “Before we step into a fully-stocked bookstore, we must be determined to read the imperfect in light of the perfect, the deficient in light of the sufficient, the temporary in light fo the eternal, the groveling in light of the transcendent” (p. 28).  This may seem simple and obvious—and indeed it is—but how many of us practice this? Are we engaging in the discipline of discernment and reading everything—whether written by a Christian or not—in light of a biblical worldview, one that “equips us to see and treasure the truth, goodness, and beauty in Christian books [and] in non-Christian books”? (p. 63)

This is particularly important given our tendency to live within a Christian bubble. With discernment and wisdom, we can read non-Christian books and recognize the truth that exists within their pages to the glory of God, without giving wholesale endorsement to all that is found within those pages. It allows us to “simply treasure whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8)—wherever it is found” (p. 79).

Moving into the practical application, Reinke quickly moves through priorities in reading (short version: Scripture, then everything else), 20 tips for reading non-fiction, a few benefits of reading fictional literature, finding time to read and the dangers of distraction, the benefits of writing in your books (and there are many!), raising readers and the signs of a healthy reader. There’s much that could be said about each chapter in this section, but I want to highlight one point that Reinke makes regarding distraction:

As Christians, convinced of the importance of book reading, we must periodically gauge the effects of the Internet and social media upon our lives. The concentration and self-discipline required to read books requires years of practice to build and consistent exercise to maintain. If we are careless, this concentration and discipline will erode, and we will find ourselves in a losing battle—losing our patience with books and losing our delight in reading.

The skill and concentration needed to read books is worth fighting for. (145-146)

This again, is super-simple advice, but it’s desperately needed! I’ve seen this tendency in my own life where I’ve struggled to maintain focus on the book that I’m reading. Sometimes it’s just a bad book and I don’t want to read it, which is one thing, but part of the reason I decided ultimately to move to a dedicated e-reader instead of holding out to purchase a tablet was because even knowing the option to fart around on Facebook exists is distracting. I love to read, but I need to be able to concentrate on it to get the most out of what I’m reading (or writing for that matter).

Without question, Lit! is the most practical and helpful book I’ve read this year. Reinke’s insights reminded me of the need to be intentional about my reading priorities and challenged a number of my reading habits, even as it affirmed others. If you’re an avid reader, this book will be a blessing to you. If you’re someone who to whom reading does not come naturally, I’d highly encourage you doing all you can to get through this book. You’ll be glad you did.


Title: Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books
Author: Tony Reinke
Publisher: Crossway (2011)

#Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (March)

Check out these great books for the Kindle (shared from my Twitter account):

If you’ve got room in your budget, I’d highly encourage getting all of these!

A Baby Dramarama Update

As many readers are aware, we’re currently expecting our third child. A few weeks ago, Emily went into the hospital due to the threat of pre-term labor (I shared about this here). Well, now we’re officially passed the major milestones and into week 38 of the pregnancy and excited about the possibility of meeting this wee child. And Sunday (yesterday) seemed like it could be the day! While I was preaching at Community Bible Church, Emily started having contractions. Regularly. This, we thought, was surely good news, although, being cautious, we waited until after all our responsibilities were completed before making any decisions on how to proceed. In the end, we cancelled our lunch plans and managed to get to the hospital with surprising efficiency (a 37 minute drive took 19). I brought a nurse to help Emily upstairs, took the kids home (leaving them in the care of our friend Adam) and zipped back to the hospital.

And then we waited.

Two and a half hours later, there’d been some progress, but they weren’t sure that it was enough to say “Yep, this kid’s coming today.” So they sent us home so Emily could rest and hopefully see more progress at home. Several hours later, there was nothing. No more contractions. Only a frustrated wife who wants this baby to come out already (which I can completely understand—the last couple weeks in particular have been quite uncomfortable). But such is life, I suppose. While we don’t know what Monday will bring, as of the time I’m writing this, still no baby. So if you’re so inclined, would you please pray for our family for the following:

1. Patience for Emily and I as we wait for the real labor to begin.

2. Flexibility and understanding for our older children (there’s a lot of unpredictability right now, which is not fun for kids who thrive on routine).

3. That we would continue to glorify God and give thanks as best as we are able, even in the midst of frustration.

Around the Interweb

The State of the Church in Canada

John Mahaffey in conversation with Collin Hansen:

Churches serious about the gospel and mission have had to rethink how they do ministry. How do we communicate the gospel to a Hindu? How do we share the gospel with a Muslim? These are questions we have had to wrestle with. Our Jerusalems with which we were so familiar now look and feel like Samaria. Our neighbors used to be those who were physically close and culturally close. Now they are physically close and culturally distant. In major urban centers where the concentration of non-Christian religions is the highest, pastors and churches have had to think and function more like foreign missionaries if they want to reach people with the gospel. Many churches have not adjusted well to the demographic changes in their communities and have closed their doors. Others have looked upon the new multicultural reality as an opportunity to remake themselves into a diverse community that actually looks like the kingdom of God. . . . The church in Canada is no longer just a missionary-sending church. It is also a missionary-receiving church. We need experienced bicultural missionaries to come alongside the church and assist us in our mission…

In addition to the challenges the Canadian church faces in reaching people of other cultures and religions, the greatest challenge is to uphold the glory of Christ and the gospel in the midst of a multicultural world. The emerging generation of Christian young people who have grown up with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists as neighbors and classmates can easily have doubts about the exclusivity of Christ. It’s easy to believe that people are lost when they are on the other side of the world. It’s another thing when they are your nice next-door neighbors.

Canadian readers, I’ll be at TGC’s Ontario Conference May 29-31—I hope to see you there!


Also Worth Reading

Heresy and a Call for Humility

We Dare Not Defend Our Rights

A Prayer for Worn Out and Struggling Friends in Vocational Ministry

10 Benefits of Ebooks that Will Surprise You


In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

My Next Book: Contend

Reading, Life and Priorities

State of the Blog 2012

Book Review: The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald

Help Bring a Free Ultrasound Clinic to Indiana, PA

Walter Marshall: The Way of Attaining to Godliness

C.H. Spurgeon: All Other Books Are As Gold Leaf

What’s On Your To-Read Pile?

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

The Way of Attaining to Godliness

The way of attaining to godliness is so far from being known without learning out of the Holy Scriptures that, when it is here plainly revealed, we cannot learn it so easily as the duties of the law, which was known in part by the light of nature, and therefore the more easily assented to. It is the way by which the dead are brought to live to God; and therefore doubtless it is far above all the thoughts and conjectures of human wisdom. It is the way of salvation, in which God will ‘destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent,’ by discovering things by His Spirit, that ‘the natural man does not receive, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1Cor. 1:19, 21; 2:14). ‘Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness’ (1 Tim. 3:16). The learning of it requires double work; because we must unlearn many of our former deeply- rooted notions and become fools, that we may be wise. We must pray earnestly to the Lord to teach us, as well as search the Scriptures, that we may get this knowledge. ‘O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!’ ‘Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes; and I will keep it to the end’ (Ps. 119: 5, 33). ‘Teach me to do Your will’ (Ps. 143:10). ‘The Lord direct your hearts to the love of God’ (2Thess. 3:5). Surely these saints did not so much want teaching and directions concerning the duties of the law to be done, as concerning the way and means by which they might do them.

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Kindle Edition)

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

 

Let’s take a look back in time and see the most-read posts from February. Go check them out:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them) (January 2011)
  3. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  5. Why I Quit Following (Most) Celebrity Pastors on Twitter and Maybe You Should, Too (February 2012)
  6. Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll (December 2011)
  7. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell (March 2011)
  8. Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (February 2012)
  9. Lessons from Nehemiah (Page)
  10. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words (July 2009)
And just for fun, here’s the next 10:
  1. Book Reviews (page)
  2. The Joyless Pursuit of Being Right (February 2012)
  3. Who Writes This? (page)
  4. The Books I’m Not Proposing (April 2011)
  5. His Name was Smeagol (April 2010)
  6. Book Review: Forever by Paul David Tripp (January 2012)
  7. Book Review: Radical Together by David Platt (June 2011)
  8. Book Review: You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (December 2011)
  9. Everyday Theology (page)
  10. My Next Book! (February 2012)

As is common, the archives are dominating in terms of what you all are reading (as I’ve said in the past, this is not a bad thing). The “Celebrity” Pastors post is the most-read original piece of content from February (which was kind of surprising), and it’s interesting to see how many folks are checking out some of the series pages. If you’ve not had a chance to read these posts and pages, I hope you’ll take some time today to do so.

Help Me Choose My New Facebook Cover

You may have heard that Facebook is introducing the Timeline format to Pages. Aside from some snazzy new features (the admin panel is terrific), this redesign allows for “cover” photos—a big banner image at the top, rather than just an itty-bitty profile picture. So, in preparation for making the change to the Facebook page, I’d like you to help me choose what to cover image to use:

Option 1:

Option 2:

Tell me your favorite in the comments—the winner will be used when I make the switch later today!