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Four reasons the gospels couldn’t be legends

JD Greear:

The most popular theory today against the Bible is that the gospels are a bunch of myths and legends. As the theory goes, Jesus was a great guy with some commendable teachings, but the stories we have about him in the four gospels are made-up legends intended to beef up Christianity’s claims.

Entire books have been written on this, but here are 4 brief reasons the gospels simply could not be fabricated legends.

Discerning Disciples

Lore Ferguson:

One of the greatest problems in the Church today is, I believe, a lack of discernment. My generation absorbs and then spews out soundbites. I read so many blogs by my counterparts in which they will quote one line from someone and spend a whole post ranting on the out of context line. I’ve talked before about the importance of context when writing or responding, and maintain context to be my growing concern among my generation.

Get The Expository Genius of John Calvin in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Christian Mind 2012 national conference (DVD)
  • The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

The Wisdom of Walking Away From Some Relationships

Donald Miller:

We are intensely relational beings. We become like each other. It’s just a fact.

For this reason, I recommend analyzing all our relationships. Literally put them all on a map and ask ourselves whether we want to become like these people or not. If we don’t, I strongly believe that, if possible, we should consider letting some relationships go.

It’s scandalous, I know. But I recommend it all the same.

Occasionally, if I’m speaking to a group of Christians I’ll have somebody ask whether Jesus would ever walk away from somebody. My answer is that He not only would, He did.

Body Politics in the Films of Steve McQueen

Brett McCracken:

With his new film 12 Years a Slave earning rave reviews and Oscar buzz, British filmmaker Steve McQueen–whose background is in fine art and experimental filmmaking–is poised to become a darling of this year’s awards season. Accolades are pouring in for McQueen’s Slave for its powerful depiction of slavery and the dynamo performances of its cast. But to me the most interesting thing about Slave is what it means in the larger context of McQueen’s feature work. His films–Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), and Slave(2013)–each depict visceral, sometimes brutal explorations of human embodiment. They are centrally concerned with the body: its power, its limits, and the complex manner in which it interacts with one’s will.

Can a true believer blaspheme the Holy Spirit?

second_coming

Early on in my faith—in fact, nearly from the moment I became a Christian—I’ve been intrigued by an encounter in between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees. In Matthew 12:22-32, Jesus has just healed a demon oppressed man who had been brought to Him, and all the crowd marvelled. “Can this be the Son of David?” they asked.

But the Pharisees declared, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

Simply, the Pharisees just accused Jesus of being empowered by Satan to do this. Rather than accept what Jesus has done for what it is—a miraculous work of God—they declare it must be the devil’s work. He’s performing witchcraft!

Sound familiar?

Jesus’ response is telling. Knowing the Pharisees’ thoughts, he says,

Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Again, really basic here: Jesus calls their theory ludicrous—a divided kingdom can’t stand, it will be laid to waste. Defeat is inevitable. Satan’s desire isn’t to defeat himself, but to rule God’s creation for himself. You can say many things about the serpent, but he’s not an idiot. He’s the prince of this world, and he won’t give it up that easily.

But if Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, then it means the kingdom of God has come. It means Jesus, the “strong man” in his example, has come to plunder the goods of Satan’s house before crushing his head.

And then Jesus continues:

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man l will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Emphasis mine.)

Here’s where so many people get confused—what is Jesus talking about here? What does He mean when He says “blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven”? Is it possible for a Christian to commit this sin?

The answer is a lot simpler than some of us realize: Not even a little bit. [Read more…]

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VeggieTales Creator Brings Gospel-Centered Biblical Theology to Kids

Matt Smethurst:

Remember Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber? The animated vegetable stars may have left the scene, but the guy who created them hasn’t. Phil Vischer, whose popular kids television series VeggieTales originally aired in 1993, has returned with a fresh project and a conspicuously different approach. What’s in the Bible? is a new DVD series designed to communicate the unfolding storyline of Scripture from a decidedly gospel-centered perspective.

News reporter Buck Denver leads the cast of puppet characters in this fun and engaging exploration currently spanning Genesis through the letters of Paul. In addition to gospel-shaped biblical theology, Vischer laces apologetics and hermeneutics throughout in a way that kids can understand. The result is a resource bound to help kids and adults alike better grasp the Bible’s epic story and prize its ultimate hero—Jesus Christ.

I talked with Vischer about VeggieTales moralism, how What’s in the Bible? is unique, his concerns about kids television, and more.

18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing With My Kids

Tim Challies:

Like most parents, I have those moments where guilt and regret comes over me like a wave. I consider then how much of my parenting time has already passed by and how little remains. My oldest child, my son, is thirteen. He is already a teenager, just one year away from high school, just eight years from the age I was when I left home to get married. My girls are following close behind him. When that wave rises up, when I feel like I could drown beneath all that regret, I sometimes consider those things I will never regret.

Here are 18 things I know I will not regret doing with my kids.

Should we pull back from politics?

Russell Moore:

Don’t call it a pullback; we’ve been here for years.

The recent profile in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a generational change in terms of the way evangelicals approach cultural and political engagement: toward a gospel-centered approach that doesn’t back down on issues of importance, but sees our ultimate mission as one that applies the blood of Christ to the questions of the day.

The headline, as is often the case with headlines, is awfully misleading. I am not calling, at all, for a “pullback” from politics or engagement.

If anything, I’m calling for more engagement in the worlds of politics, culture, art, labor and so on. It’s just that this is a different sort of engagement. It’s not a matter of pullback, but of priority.

Toward a Biblical Approach to Dating

Paul Maxwell:

There are two popular, misleading ways of relating the Bible to dating. The first is to think that because the Bible does not speak about dating, we have liberty to dive headlong into romantic waters, guided only by desire to get married. We’ll call this the libertarian approach. This view allows us to imbibe secular dating-game platitudes like the currently popular sage wisdom called flirtexting.

The second is to think that because the Bible does not speak about dating, it forbids dating entirely, and constrains us to pattern our practices after the cultural options available to the biblical authors. We’ll call this the purist approach. This view allows us to imbibe (not necessarily Christian) ancient, secular, dating-game platitudes like asking the dad for a date and bundling (wait, do people still bundle?).

Disappointment by Design

Michael Kelley:

When I was in high school, my physics class was assigned a project that I’m sure was not unique to our school. We were given limited material materials, mainly Popsicle sticks and wood glue, and instructed to build a bridge with specific parameters. On the appointed day, all of us brought our bridges to class and they were placed over a gap between two desks. Then small weights were systematically hung to the bottom of the bridges to text and see how much weight they could bear. Of course, in that environment, the greatest thrill wasn’t just winning the most sturdy bridge, but also watching as structure after structure was eventually obliterated under the increasing weight.

To Live is Christ to Die is Gain by Matt Chandler

to-live-is-christ

I remember my first thought after Jesus saved me: Now what?

I’d been a Christian for all of 30 seconds and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay where I was, which is a good thing because I was a total mess (and not just in terms of the way I’d been living to that point).

Some assume the Christian faith is a one and done experience—Jesus saves you, then you coast through life on a get-out-of-hell free card, as though nothing you do matters from that moment forward. But the Bible says just the opposite: When you look at a letter like Philippians, you see an eager expectation for believers to grow and mature. To become more than they are at the moment of salvation.

“God wants us to grow from being infants in Christ to being mature in Christ,” writes Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church and author (with Jared Wilson) of To Live is Christ to Die is Gain (11). Based on his teaching series on the book of Philippians, Chandler challenges readers see the picture of Christian maturity Paul paints and pursue it with vigor.

Growth is about character

If you had to summarize this book with one word it’s this: character. Chandler stresses this point over and over again, explicitly and implicitly, thought out its pages. True growth only happens as our character is conformed to Christ. This is why we see the qualifications of leaders focused not on abilities, but on character. Who you are and what you’re like matters far more than what you can do. Chandler summarizes it well, “If the gospel is true, your life should look like it’s true” (51). And this all starts with your heart. [Read more…]

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7 Arrows for Bible Reading

Matt Rogers:

There is often a vast disconnect between the awareness of the need for disciple-making and practical tools that actually aid in this work. Three factors are essential: Scripture, relationships, and time. Discipleship happens when the life-changing truth of Scripture is infused into genuine relationships over an extended period of time.

Our desire was to create a simple, reproducible strategy that would facilitate this process. This led us to develop a simply strategy for small clusters (2-3 people) to meet together regularly and talk about the Scriptures and apply them to their lives.

The seven arrows of Bible reading were an attempt at developing a tool for proper hermeneutics to power these relationships. We did not want our people to simply talk about the Bible. We wanted them to understand the Bible and know how to apply it to their lives. Each cluster would read a predetermined passage of Scripture and discuss it using these seven arrows.

How to Be Better Bereans

Kevin DeYoung, in the first of a three-part series:

The Jews in Berea, it is said, were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). How telling–for them and for us–that nobility is measured not by titles, land, parentage, wealth, or degrees, but by how we handle the word of God. Our approach to the Scriptures sets us apart as riff-raff or royalty.

So how do we become better Bereans?

That’s the question I recently posed to my congregation and the question I want to explore this week. How can we be more like the noble Bereans and less like the rabble from Thessalonica (Acts 17:5)?

Let me suggest ten ways: three for today, four for Wednesday, and a final three on Thursday.

7 Things You Might Not Know About Calvin and Hobbes

If you’re a fan of Calvin and Hobbes (who isn’t?), you’ll find this interesting.

The horrible social costs of gambling

Daniel Darling:

I’ll never forget the one time I visited Las Vegas. I was in town for a wedding and was awed by the amazing architecture. It seemed to me, at the time, that no expense was spared by the developers. But while Christians can admire the beautiful architecture of Vegas, we must admit that there is tremendous social cost to the seemingly innocent vice called gambling. When I was a pastor, I saw first-hand who the gambling industry preys on: the poor. Sure you have your high-stakes wealthy who drop lots of money, but mountains of social research have documented the troubling social costs of gambling. Really the only ones who win, when a casino comes into your town, are the business-owners and the local governments. And sadly, those local governments end up paying out more in social benefits over the long haul. Families, the poor, and communities suffer greatly.

8 Benefits of Forgiving Others

David Murray:

The most painful experience in life is being seriously and deliberately harmed by someone else.

Car crashes, even fatal ones, are accidents; no one sets out to deliberately injure or kill with their car. Cancer is also an impersonal attacker, an internal cellular malfunction.

But when someone willfully abuses us – verbally, physically, financially, emotionally – that feels altogether different. That pushes our pain levels off the scale and can feel worse than the most serious physical injuries or diseases.

It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t a malfunction. Someone purposely decided to wrong and damage us. There’s a personal choice, a human will, behind the pain.

That’s searing agony.

Which matters more-our reputation or their salvation?

salt

It is a tragic and ugly thing when Christians lack desire, and are actually reluctant, to share the precious knowledge that they have with others whose need of it is just as great as their own. It was natural for Andrew, when he found the Messiah, to go off and tell his brother Simon, and for Philip to hurry to break the good news to his friend Nathanael (Jn 1:40ff.). They did not need to be told to do this; they did it naturally and spontaneously, just as one would naturally and spontaneously share with one’s family and friends any other piece of news that vitally affected them.

There is something very wrong with us if we do not ourselves find it natural to act in this way: let us be quite clear about that. It is a great privilege to evangelize; it is a wonderful thing to be able to tell others of the love of Christ, knowing that there is nothing that they need more urgently to know, and no knowledge in the world that can do them so much good. We should not, therefore, be reluctant and backward to evangelize on the personal and individual level. We should be glad and happy to do it. We should not look for excuses for wriggling out of our obligation when occasion offers to talk to others about the Lord Jesus Christ. If we find ourselves shrinking from this responsibility and trying to evade it, we need to face ourselves with the fact that in this we are yielding to sin and Satan.

If (as is usual) it is the fear of being thought odd and ridiculous, or of losing popularity in certain circles, that holds us back, we need to ask ourselves in the presence of God: Ought these things to stop us loving our neighbor? If it is a false shame, which is not shame at all but pride in disguise, that keeps our tongue from Christian witness when we are with other people. We need to press on our conscience this question: Which matters more-our reputation or their salvation? We cannot be complacent about this gangrene of conceit and cowardice when we weigh up our lives in the presence of God. What we need to do is to ask for grace to be truly ashamed of ourselves, and to pray that we may so overflow in love for God that we will overflow in love for our fellow men, and so find it an easy and natural and joyful thing to share with them the good news of Christ.

—adapted from Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

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What the Church Can Learn from Chick-fil-A

David Mathis:

It’s no secret the chain was founded by an unapologetic Christian from the Atlanta-area. Now in his nineties, Truett Cathy has operated his restaurants on overtly Christian principles since the 1940s. His son, Dan, the franchise president, is known for his support of Christian causes and his opposition to so-called same-sex marriage, which drew national attention last year.

For the Cathy family, it goes deeper than closing on Sundays, playing Christian music, and putting “glorify God” in the corporate purpose statement. For decades, they have tried to apply the biblical worldview and ethic not just to the surface, but to press it into the culture of the chain, not only in the dining room but behind closed doors.

Casting out Pearls: Men and Reading Fiction

Corey Poff:

Our neglect of the story has, I think, largely to do with a myth which many of us accept, often without knowing we accept it: that reading fiction is somehow a waste of time. That time spent in a fairy tale or in a novel is intrinsically of lesser value than, say, time spent in a book of science or history.

This is wrong. It is wrong because it is thievery, and it is thievery of the worst sort: not only are our purses snatched, we’re told to smile and feel sophisticated while it’s happening. “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Reader of Novels…”

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put three books on worship on sale for $3.99:

Also on sale are A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology by Kelly M. Kapic (99¢), The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 by John Piper ($2.99), and The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton ($3.49).

What Small Churches Can Do (Pt 1)

Joe Thorn:

I have a lot of experience in and with small churches through my own pastoral ministry as well as denominational cooperation. I have seen small churches that are healthy and some that are toxic. I have seen some die, and some grow dramatically in number. There are all kinds, and I would never assume all churches considered “small” by their own leadership or by outsiders are the same. But I do want to encourage some of Christ’s smaller churches who are struggling.

Before I begin with the first post in this series, allow me to clarify what I mean by “small.”

Church, We Have A Problem

Tullian Tchividjian:

In response to my Washington Post op-ed last Thursday, one commenter wrote: “Moralism in the church was a huge problem 7-10 years ago, but I honestly feel that the pendulum has swung in the other extreme full force, to a fault on the other side.” This is a pretty common objection that those of us who are committed to decrying moralism and legalism hear. The thinking goes precisely the way the commenter suggests: “Legalism and moralism is NOT the problem today; licentiousness is.”

On the surface, this seems to make a lot of sense. Just look around. One could argue that our country has never been more licentious and morally lax than it is at our present cultural moment. Is preaching the gospel of grace what we really need? Or, to put it another way, is preaching the gospel of grace really the means by which God rescues the lawless, the unethical, and the disobedient? There are at least three huge assumptions in this common line of thinking that need to be addressed.

Be convinced and be careful: a final thought on Strange Fire

flame

I love simple, black-and-white situations, the kind that you either answer with a firm “yes” or “no.” While thankfully there are a lot of situations that are black-and-white, there are a great many issues that aren’t as clear as I’d like. These aren’t just matters of what TV show you may or may not watch; those are easy enough. When it comes to theological issues, that’s where it gets really messy.

Strange Fire has come and gone. If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably read Tim Challies’ and the Cripplegate’s transcripts of the messages, so you have a good sense of what what said. And understandably, it’s an issue that’s got a lot of people worked up. There are roughly 500 million professing Christians who are part of the “charismatic movement,” so when you say things like these people blaspheme the Holy Spirit, that’s a BIG deal.

You can argue (and I think fairly) that MacArthur went too broad in his polemic. You can also argue (with some degree of accuracy) that many of these people who profess faith in Jesus do not possess faith in the biblical Jesus. But wherever you land on the issue, this is serious business.

But should it be divisive?

Yes and no.

When Paul wrote to the Romans, who were dealing with the issue of whether or not to be concerned about a particular day as holy or what foods to eat, he said that each should be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14:5). Be fully convinced—have convictions!—and carry on in obedience to the Lord. For the one who doubts is condemned by what he eats (23), not because the food is evil, but because they’re going against their conscience.

So what does that have to do with continuationism vs. cessationism? Everything. Not because I’m trying to relegate this to a position of lesser importance, but because we need to start with the basics:

What are your convictions on this issue? Have you searched the Scriptures or gone along with your church’s culture and tradition?

On any subject Scripture teaches, we must avoid agnosticism; the Scriptures teach on the issue of spiritual gifts, and we are obligated to know what God says on this point.

But that doesn’t mean there’s a “thou shalt no longer have access to this gift” clearly laid out.

The subject is actually a fair bit messier than we’d like it to be. As a result, you will inevitably come to a different conclusion than someone else. And if you’re really ambitious, you’ll want to read some good books on the subject too, to see some of the perspectives and arguments. But the goal is simple: be fully convinced that what you believe is what Scripture teaches.

But it’s not just a matter of being convinced of what the Scriptures teach; we also have to learn how to engage well. Paul’s concern in writing this was about unity within the Church. He didn’t want one person’s freedom to become a stumbling block for another (he also didn’t want people running around flaunting their freedom in Christ as though they were somehow superior). Those who are “free” are called to sacrifice their freedom in love.

And this is the greatest issue here, and the part we get so wrong. Confidence in our position is not sinful; it is not arrogant to believe your position is correct. Were that the case, Jesus would have been the most arrogant man to ever walk the earth. But when we look to Jude’s epistle, we’re reminded that our confidence, our orthodoxy is meant to lead to a particular sort of posture.

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 22-23)

Notice the key word: Mercy. Jude, in his context, is speaking of the fundamentals of the faith—his readers were being drawn away by false teachers who knew neither God nor the Scriptures. They were in danger of abandoning the gospel. It’s no wonder Jude says to show mercy with fear!

The details are different in this fight, but Jude’s principles still apply: engage in a spirit of love and mercy. Engage like the other person matters to you.

Love is the chief concern—it’s the way we’re to be known in the world, according to Jesus. Not a schmaltzy, ethereal feeling, but the kind that goes to work for the good of others. We don’t sacrifice doctrinal fidelity for the sake of getting along. We are not called to be anodyne. But if we have not love we are nothing. Our convictions don’t matter one lick if we wield them as hammers.

This is why the way we frame our arguments is so important. We debate in such a way that the opposing side can’t say (even if they disagree) that we don’t care. Engage like the other person matters to you.

Two gospels are before you

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

Right now there are two choices before you. Two promises about where we find freedom.

Two gospels. One brings life, the other brings death. 

The first tells us that to find freedom, we have to look within. It’s the promise we’re sold in Eastern spirituality, New Age religion, and Oprah. We find redemption as we are liberated from external forces, from God, from notions of right and wrong, good and evil… we find redemption by experiencing the divine within.

This is the promise so many of us buy into every single day. And it’s killing us; it puts an unbearable weight on our own shoulders, one far too big for any of us to carry. We do meditation or yoga, we clear our minds and strive to be “one” with the universe… We seek enlightenment, but what we find is unfulfilling. So we try harder, do more, move on to the next guru or book. And the cycle continues, day in and day out. And it never ends.

Instead of fulfilling it’s promise of freedom, looking within brings bondage. 

The other tells us freedom is found outside us. We find redemption not by being liberated from God, but by being reconciled to Him. Instead of trying to carry a weight too big for us, Another comes to carry it for us. He frees us from the constant need to do more, and try harder. Instead of looking for the next guru, we look to the One who said, “It is finished.”

Which is the one the world needs to hear?

 

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Will the Real Charismatic Please Stand Up?

Michael Patton:

Though I am not charismatic, I am excited about the popularity of this “fourth wave.” Why? Because they have brought so much balance. They have caused many of us (who formerly wrote off all charismatics as Christianity’s “nutjobs”) consider for the first time the continuationist theology that provides the backbone to the movement. Credit pastors like John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, and Sam Storms along with scholars such as J.P. Moreland, Craig Keener, Wayne Grudem, and D.A. Carson for so much of this. And, like it or not, most of these men are far more well-known and popular than the “cessationists” (non-charismatics) who went before them (Chuck Swindoll, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Hank Hanagraaff, etc.), especially among the younger generation of evangelicals. It is hard to ignore such a growing movement within evangelicalism.

However, it is difficult to know who is and who is not a charismatic due to the fact that most of us don’t know what the term means. When I associate the term “charismatic” with Christians, six primary things come to mind.

A Married Mom and Dad Really do Matter

There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journalReview of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.

You Might Be a Celebrity Christian Wannabe If. . .

Jared Moore:

In blogdom, writing, and pastoral ministry in general, there is a temptation to pursue being popular; to pursue being a celebrity. Yet, in order to follow Christ, we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him (Matt. 16:24). This includes denying our desire to be popular, our desire to be celebrities.

Are you a celebrity Christian wannabe?

You might be a celebrity Christian wannabe If…

A Culture Lost and a Call to Action

Peter Jones:

On June 3, 1953, sixty years ago, Queen Elizabeth gave her assent to the “Coronation Oath” administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which read:

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?

In July 2013, almost sixty years to the day from taking that vow, Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal stamp of approval to the government law legalizing homosexual marriage! So much for the “laws of God” and the “true profession of the Gospel.” Politics oblige.

Agreeing with God…

Jesus came to save even you!

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You sinners—I mean you real sinners, not you who call yourselves by that name simply because you are told that is what you are, but you who really feel yourselves to be guilty before God—here is good news for you! O you self-condemned sinners, who feel that if you are ever to get salvation, Jesus must bring it to you and be the beginning and the end of it, I pray you to rejoice in this dear, this precious, this blessed Name, for Jesus has come to save you—even you! Go to Him as sinners, call Him “Jesus,” and say to Him, “O Lord Jesus, be Jesus to me, save me, for I need your salvation!” Do not doubt that He will fulfill His own Name and exhibit His saving power in you. Only confess to Him your sin, and He will save you from it. Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation.

Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Galatians (Logos Bible Software)

Pray for Iran

This is a powerful story of Jesus saving a mother and daughter in Iran. Please pray for the gospel to continue to spread in this nation.

Here are a few ways you can pray for Iran (via Operation World):

The majority of the wider Christian community are Christian Armenians with a smaller number of Assyrians and Chaldeans. They are cultural and linguistic islands isolated in a Muslim sea. While they live in relative peace, their fear of persecution and of job and educational discrimination, as well as their desire to offer their families a more stable and promising future, drive many to emigrate, denuding Iran of the richness of communities that predate Islam by centuries. Pray for a work of the Holy Spirit in these often-nominal churches, that Jesus might shine through their lives and that they might have a burden for their Muslim neighbours.

Evangelical churches before the revolution were generally small and struggling, and they contained very few Muslim-background believers. The traumatic changes and suffering that followed the revolution gave churches a brief period of renewal, outreach, literature distribution and many conversions. Barriers among denominations broke down. The hostility of the regime toward evangelicals caused much greater interest in Christianity among Persians – Presbyterians and Assemblies of God, especially, grew as a result. Intimidation, infiltration and martyrdom of several church leaders, and pressure from the government to not welcome Muslims into services, have caused many churches to adopt house church models. Most churches that meet publicly now tow the government line and do not overtly evangelize Muslims. Pray for:

a) Adequate income for Christians who face poverty both from general economic decline and from religious discrimination in the workplace. Emigration is a solution for pressured Christians, but their vital witness in needy Iran is then lost. Pray that believers may break through this economic pressure and resist the temptation to leave.

b) Courage and fortitude such that their persecutors are won for Christ. While Armenians and Assyrians are discriminated against, Muslim-background believers are actively persecuted. Pray also for greater freedom for churches to minister, as they long to do.

c) Protection and deliverance for all MBBs. The large majority meet secretly in small house groups. There is always a danger that such meetings could be discovered and those involved punished, especially the leaders. A decentralized cell structure and the use of techniques honed by the underground party-circuit help house groups avoid detection and arrest.

d) Churches outside of Tehran often face more intimidation as fundamentalist forces exercise more control in less-urban areas. Many towns and villages lack any churches at all. However, this is changing due to the increasing influence of the Internet and satellite TV as well as the enthusiasm of young Iranian Christians to evangelize their countrymen. House church movements are spreading throughout the country.

(Video HT: Josh Harris)

Brothers, we don’t always have to be first

flame

Do you always need to be first?

As a blogger, to some degree you’re always at war with the tyranny of the urgent. The first person to jump on a particular controversy typically “wins” the traffic. The first person to write a good book review… you name it, there’s something that drives a lot of us to be first.

But do we?

Here’s the problem: sometimes in our desire to be first, we rush to judgment. We write sloppy reviews. We critique with too broad a brush. We make mountains out of mole hills. We make a foolish comment on a blog.

Not always, but sometimes.

This week, John MacArthur’s running the Strange Fire conference. Tim Challies has been providing some very helpful summaries of the sessions. One of the things Tim mentioned in his wrap-up of day one is his desire to see this event used to build greater unity within the church. But reading the comments from both sides of the argument (including some friends of mine), it seems unity is the last thing that’s going to come from this.

Why?

Because, just looking at the comments, both sides are trying to be first in the race to be “right.”

Some charismatics are calling shenanigans on the whole event, largely because they’ve personally felt injured by it. And they should be bothered by that. Much of the talk I’ve seen from some of the more rabid MacArthurites has been incredibly mean-spirited. And MacArthur himself has a history of being a bit too sweeping in his polemical declarations.

But broad stroke critiques go both ways.

A pastor on Twitter makes this point well:

Erik Raymond is exactly right. We laugh when people mock cessationists, but don’t appreciate being on the receiving end. It’s like those gag hand-buzzers: the shock’s only funny if you’re the one giving it.

Brothers (and sisters), there’s a reason the Bible commands us to be slow to speak (James 1:19). When we speak too quickly, we wind up saying things that are hurtful, hateful or just plain dumb.

Charismatic friends, take the legitimate critiques seriously—when Conrad Mbewe speaks of the charismatic chaos gripping his nation and continent, listen. He lives in that world and knows more about what’s going on than you do.

Likewise, Cessationist friends, some of you need to start listening before going on the attack. Your concerns about the excesses of some charismatics (arguably the majority, if TBN is representative) are valid, but if you want to gain a hearing, maybe start by asking thoughtful questions first.

We don’t always have to be first. The person who’s first is sometimes right, but risks jumping to an unfair conclusion and hurting many of their brothers and sisters in Christ in the process. Being slow to speak doesn’t mean being apathetic. It means being biblical, taking the time to appropriately assess what’s going on in light of Scripture.

And isn’t that what we’re all called to do?

Links I like

The Pain of Going Public With Your Words

Tyler Braun:

On August 1st, 2012 success for me with Why Holiness Matters was the publisher knocking my door down because Amazon sold out of copies in 2 days. As you can imagine, that did NOT happen.

The next few months following the initial let down was a constant re-evaluation of success. For awhile I thought success looked like lining up speaking engagements to talk about themes in the book. For awhile I thought success was positive reviews of the book. For awhile success was having people visit my home place of ministry and buying a copy of the book.

I had no idea what a healthy picture of success was. Was success just publishing the book? Was it being proud of the work I published? Was it having people like the book? Was success selling so many copies that every Christian publisher wanted me to write with them?

Dear Young, Christian Husband With a Job and Healthy Wife Who Wants a Baby

Rebecca VanDoodewaard:

I’ve never met you—I don’t think your wife has, either, so sorry to break into your day like this. A friend of your wife’s asked me to write and tell you something. Your wife has been trying to tell you for a while, but so far, it doesn’t seem like you can hear: your wife wants a baby.

Get Note to Self in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Note to Self by Joe Thorn for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • B. B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought by Gary L.W. Johnson (paperback)
  • The Consequence of Ideas teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Living for God’s Glory by Joel Beeke (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Mohler: 20 years and counting

Aaron Cline Hanbury:

“I thought it was all over,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr. “I just thought I didn’t have anymore to give. I thought this was it.”

Two weeks earlier, the faculty of Southern Seminary, where Mohler had been president for less than two years, overwhelmingly supported a motion that explicitly rebuked him and repudiated his policies, with only two members voting for him and two voting in absentia. The days that followed weren’t any easier.

Mohler even recalled an Easter party when some of those who opposed him were mean to his children who were only six years old and three years old at the time.

Your Preaching Ministry is Only As Good As Your Praying Ministry

Derek Rishmawy:

Young ministry-types like myself, especially in the Reformed tradition, are usually pretty concerned about the quality of their preaching. We study, we prep, we exegete, we outline, and practice, making sure that our sermons are sharp, sound, and culturally-relevant (well, some of us on that last one). There’s one key piece that’s often lacking in our zealous preparation–an area that God’s been convicting me about recently–the prayer prep.