No cause for alarm, whatever may come

Jesus-Reaching-Out

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. (Matt 28:5)

These words were spoken with a deep meaning. They were meant to cheer the hearts of believers in every age, in the prospect of the resurrection. They were intended to remind us, that true Christians have no cause for alarm, whatever may come on the world. The Lord shall appear in the clouds of heaven, and the earth be burned up. The graves shall give up the dead that are in them, and the last day come. The judgment shall be set, and the books shall be opened. The angels shall sift the wheat from the chaff, and divide between the good fish and the bad. But in all this there is nothing that need make believers afraid. Clothed in the righteousness of Christ, they shall be found without spot and blameless. Safe in the one true ark, they shall not be hurt when the flood of God’s wrath breaks on the earth. Then shall the words of the Lord receive their complete fulfillment—”when these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.” Then shall the wicked and unbelieving see how true was that word, “blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Book of Matthew

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What You Can’t Sing Without Penal Substitution

Kevin DeYoung:

The notion that Christ died as our sin-bearing substitute who bore the curse for our sakes is considered, by some, too primitive, too violent, and too narrow. Penal substitution is only a theory of the atonement, just one idea among many, maybe not even a good theory, at the very least not the best or the most important once. I would argue that texts like Isaiah 53, Mark 10, Romans 3, 2 Corinthians 5, Galatians 3, and Philippians 3 demonstrate that Christ is not only our wrath-sustaining Savior, he is also the Lord our Righteousness. The Son’s propiatory sacrifice for sinners is the best news of the good news, the biblical truth that holds the gospel together.


The cup and the crucifixion

HT: Joe Thorn


Jesus paid it all

King’s Kaleidoscope’s rendition of this song is very nice:


Expiation and Propitiation: Two Important Words This Good Friday

R.C. Sproul in an excerpt from The Truth of the Cross:

When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two rather technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture. We lack reference points in relation to these words.


Can we say ‘God died’?

Douglas Wilson:

One of the central tenets of the Christian faith is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Another is that Jesus was divine—Jesus was fully God. What is to keep us from putting these two things together in a particular way and saying, “God died on the cross”?

Actually, there is a way of saying this that would be quite appropriate, as we shall see in a moment. But there is another way of saying it that would quickly lead (within minutes) into various bad heresies. God is immortal (1 Tim. 1:17), for example, and the definition of immortal is “incapable of dying.” Wouldn’t this mean that, if we say God died, are we saying that God ceased to be God?

Turn our faces to the Mount of Calvary

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What myriads of eyes are casting their glances at the sun! What multitudes of men lift up their eyes, and behold the starry orbs of heaven! They are continually watched by thousands—but there is one great transaction in the world’s history, which every day commands far more spectators than that sun which goeth forth like a bridegroom, strong to run his race. There is one great event, which every day attracts more admiration than do the sun, and moon, and stars, when they march in their courses.

That event is, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To it, the eyes of all the saints who lived before the Christian era were always directed; and backwards, through the thousand years of history, the eyes of all modern saints are looking. Upon Christ, the angels in heaven perpetually gaze. “Which things the angels desire to look into,” said the apostle. Upon Christ, the myriad eyes of the redeemed are perpetually fixed; and thousands of pilgrims, through this world of tears, have no higher object for their faith, and no better desire for their vision, than to see Christ as he is in heaven, and in communion to behold his person. Beloved, we shall have many with us, whilst this morning we turn our face to the Mount of Calvary. We shall not be solitary spectators of the fearful tragedy of our Saviour’s death: we shall but dart our eyes to that place which is the focus of heaven’s joy and delight, the cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Charles Spurgeon, The Death of Christ

Careless Lives cost Talk

holding-bible-lr

It’s an old struggle: how do we balance “grace” and “works”?

We have a really hard time with this—we see (complementary) books like Romans and James as being opposed to one another.  We accuse any emphasis on works as an abandonment of justification by faith—until we get concerned that “too much” of an emphasis on grace will lead to licentious living.

But we do need to strike an appropriate balance because we may be doing our cause more harm than good. C.S. Lewis explains the issue well in Mere Christianity:

If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions—if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before—then I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our actual behaviour better; just as in an illness ‘feeling better’ is not much good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up. In that sense the outer world is quite right to judge Christianity by its results. Christ told us to judge by results. A tree is known by its fruit; or, as we say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. The war-time posters told us that Careless Talk costs Lives. It is equally true that Careless Lives cost Talk. Our careless lives set the outer world talking; and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth of Christianity itself. (Kindle location 2542)

We are saved by grace alone, but not a faith that is alone. Jesus alone is our righteousness—but we will be known by our fruit. If we say we’re following Jesus, but our lives show virtually no evidence that we’re living in obedience to him… well, it might speak more clearly about what’s actually going on in our hearts than our finest preaching. “Careless lives cost Talk.”

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Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage Are Persuasive

Kevin DeYoung:

I don’t think the arguments or gay marriage are biblically faithfully, logically persuasive, or good for human flourishing in the long run, but they are almost impossible to overcome with most Americans, especially in younger generations. By and large, people don’t support gay marriage because they’ve done a lot of reading and soul searching, just like people didn’t oppose it on high flying intellectual grounds either. For a long time, homosexuality seemed weird or gross. Now it seems normal. More than that, it fits in perfectly with the dominant themes and narratives shared in our culture. Gay marriage is the logical conclusion to a long argument, which means convincing people it’s a bad idea requires overturning some of our most cherished values and most powerful ideologies.

Think of all the ways gay marriage fits in with our cultural mood and assumptions.


Underwear, Discernment, and Truly Bright Young Things

Jeremy Pierre:

No one should be surprised that Victoria’s Secret is now targeting “tweens” with their new Bright Young Things line. In our market culture, it no longer feels all that wrong for our preteens to don underwear (yes, I use that antiquated term intentionally) that draws attention to their private parts (that ancient phrase is intentional, too) with exaggerated cuts and printed suggestions. Columbus, Ohio, takes a step closer to Bangkok, Thailand. We’re just more understated about it all.


Cheap eBooks

And don’t forget, R.C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross is free at Amazon, the Ligonier store and Logos.


The unavoidable fact of our utter inadequacy

Jeremy Walker:

Preachers are meant to be conduits for the pure word of God. Sometimes the pipe gets dirty and what comes out is impure. Sometimes the pipe gets clogged and the truth gets impeded. Some preachers have poorer settings: trickle, fine spray, jet. I suppose gush can be healthy, if sometimes a little overwhelming. Conrad Mbewe has a delightful setting labelled ‘flow.’ As one brother commented, he gets a lot said without using too many words.

Genuine pluralism and a strong loyal voice

bitten-fruit

With the United States Supreme Court considering whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage and the numerous inflammatory comments in the media (and from celebrities) surrounding those who advocate for the traditional view of marriage, it’s easy for the Christian to be discouraged.

Or worse, to give in to the pressure and say, “Well, this is the way the world is, so we may as well go along with it.”

But, weary brothers and sisters, this is not the way to go.

For all our talk of living in a pluralistic culture, we’re anything but. The new “tolerance” seeks to eradicate dissension from the party line (Denny Burk illustrates this well here). But a healthy society—one where genuine pluralism and exchange of ideas exists—requires a strong voice, one loyal to his or her convictions. D.A. Carson explains it well:

Genuine pluralism within the broader culture is facilitated when there is a strong Christian voice loyal to the Scriptures – as well as strong Muslim voices, skeptical voices, Buddhist voices, atheistic voices, and so forth. Genuine pluralism within the broader culture is not fostered when in the name of tolerance none of the voices can say that any of the others is wrong, and when this stance is the only ultimate virtue.

Because the new tolerance, an ostensibly value-free tolerance, has become the dominant religion among media leaders, this vision is constantly reinforced. For instance, the media may present popes such as John Paul II and Benedict XVI in a positive light, provided these popes are restricting themselves to ceremony or world poverty, but if they show how their beliefs impinge on social issues such as premarital and extramarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia, then they must be bigoted, out of date, slightly bizarre, even dangerous, and certainly intolerant.

D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Kindle location 407)

If being loyal to your faith is intolerant, be willing to be labeled intolerant—a healthy culture won’t survive without men and women who are committed to their beliefs, regardless of the consequences. The pressure to be silent is great, but the culture surrounding us needs a strong, loyal Christian voice more than it needs us to go with the flow.

Links I like

Marriage in the Dock—The Supreme Court Considers Same-Sex Marriage

Albert Mohler:

The next two days are destined to stand as among the most significant days in our nation’s constitutional history, but the issues at stake reach far beyond the U.S. Constitution. Nothing less than marriage is in the dock, with the nation’s highest court set to consider two cases that deal with the question of the legalization of same-sex marriage.


Save at the new WTSBooks.com

Westminster Books recently relaunched their website with a new, tablet friendly, highly functional design. For the next couple of days you can save $5 off your order with the discount code WTSBOOKS. So if, for example, you’ve not already purchased a copy of Awaiting a Savior or Contend, now might be a good time to pick up yours (just sayin’).


8 Tips for Short-Term Mission Trips

Mark Hampton:

As summer approaches, churches across the nation prepare to send out teams for their summer mission trips. Those who are going on trips typically go through some type of training, but as flawed individuals, it’s more than easy to make some mistakes. Some are only minor and will lead to a good laugh and a great story to bring home; however, there are others that can have more collateral damage than meets the eye, and could prevent the work we do as missionaries from being effective.

Here is my list of eight important things that I have learned from doing mission work and I hope that it helps all of us going on trips this summer to have a greater impact, realistic mindset, and do the least damage to others and ourselves.


10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Drama

Ron Edmonson:

I love the local church. I really do. I believe it is God’s design and His plan to reach the world with the Gospel…with life and hope.

But, I hate church drama.

I really do. I hate destructive drama in any setting, but especially in the church. It shouldn’t exist. It especially shouldn’t exist in the church. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and for believers for it to exist at all, but, even still, it does.

Drama. Gossip. Back-stabbing. Politics. Jockeying for power. Rumors. It’s destructive and has no part in the local church. I’ve seen lots of it. And, along the way I’ve learned a few things.


The Old Man and His Big Book

David Mathis:

We knew we were in for a memorable day. Robert Duncan Culver is the only surviving founding member of the Evangelical Theological Society — and his mind is sharp enough to recall his membership number was 158. He taught a combined 25 years at Wheaton College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and stirred up his share of controversy.

“I don’t mind disagreeing,” says Culver. “I can live without everyone’s short-term friendship.”

My awkward relationship with grief

Photo by Matthias Wuertemberger

Yesterday I received a call from my sister. My grandmother had died.

We talked for a bit before she had to continue on with making phone calls. We hung up. I went back to work.

Monday kind of played out the way it always does.

When I told a couple of colleagues of mine the news and listened as they expressed their sorrow over it, I didn’t quite know how to respond.

This isn’t something new to me.

In the last year, both of my grandmothers have died. My maternal grandfather died around ten years ago (there was no memorial service). My paternal grandfather died about 14 years ago.

Every time my reaction has been pretty much… okay.

No tears, no five stages of grieving… just “okay.” And life continues to go on.

What’s been awkward for me has always been trying to navigate the (unintentional) external pressure that exists to feel bad whenever a family member dies. And it’s not that I don’t have feelings (my wife can attest to this), but I’ve never really felt like I’ve needed to do that when any grandparent has died.

It might be because we weren’t terribly close. The last time I saw my maternal grandmother was five years ago. The time before that was (I think) sometime when I was either in high school or just before I started college (so we’re talking 15 plus years).

It’s how my family always has been. I’m not saying it’s the best thing, just what is.

But here’s the thing I am grieved by—as far as I know, all of my grandparents have died apart from Christ. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge, there wasn’t a consistent Christian influence within their lives.

And I’m not too sure what to do with that. 

Witnessing to my family isn’t easy—not just the ones I’ve not seen in over a decade, but the ones I actually do have relationship with.

My mother, father, sister and niece (not to mention my in-laws and sister-in-law).

But whenever there’s a death in the family, it makes it harder. Primarily in the sense that there’s just not a good time to bring up the conversation—”So grandma dying made me really start thinking about what going to happen when you die” isn’t likely to open doors to a healthy conversation, y’know?

But Scripture reminding us to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15 NIV); we can be with those who are grieving, we can grieve with them (whether or not that includes shedding a single tear)… we can be “there,” present and available.

And maybe that’s all I really need to worry about for the moment.

Links I like

The Truth of the Cross—Free from Ligonier Ministries

Ligonier Ministries is making R.C. Sproul’s excellent book, The Truth of the Cross, available for free until April 30th in a variety of eBook editions:


Why Christians Should Read Fiction

Russell Moore:

I’ve found that most people who tell me that fiction is a waste of time are folks who seem to hold to a kind of sola cerebra vision of the Christian life that just doesn’t square with the Bible. The Bible doesn’t simply address man as a cognitive process but as a complex image-bearer who recognizes truth not only through categorizing syllogisms but through imagination, beauty, wonder, awe. Fiction helps to shape and hone what Russell Kirk called the moral imagination.


Call Your People to Marketable Skills and Degrees

J.D. Payne:

We pastors often forget that stewardship extends beyond the realm of giving money for gospel advancement.  For the longest time, we have allowed the notion of being a wise steward to be defined according to money.  And while the issue of finances does exist within the jurisdiction of stewardship, stewardship embraces all of the Christian life.

One of the areas we often overlook is recognizing the connection between being a wise steward and career-making decisions.  Sadly, we do not consider this matter related to our equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.


Weakness Evangelism

Darryl Dash:

This past year, as we went through another round of confronting our weaknesses, my wife said something profound to me. What if our weaknesses aren’t a distraction from ministry? What if our weaknesses are actually part of the way God wants to use us in ministry? I know this conceptually, but I haven’t always been great at remembering it when I’m weak.


Don’t Begrudge Your Cheerful Sister

Trillia Newbell:

The term “Stepford wife” refers to a docile woman who cooks, cleans, organizes her home, obeys her husband, and dresses nicely. She has it all together. But she doesn’t have personality.

Unfortunately this caricature can be attributed to any woman who appears to have it all together. We cry out against the woman who cooks a nice meal or talks kindly about her kids.Surely she is putting on a mask, we might assume. Yet have we ever stepped back to consider that some woman have been especially gifted by God as cheerful, thankful homemakers?

God’s Good Design by Claire Smith

gods-good-design-smith

Few issues are as polarizing as what the Bible says about men and women—especially in a world shaped by second- and third-wave feminism.

Feminism is part of “the cultural air we breathe”—it’s so ingrained into our society that it’s just a given. It’s the status quo, and no longer something to be questioned.

This presents a difficulty for Christians desiring to understand the world in light of the Bible. How do we read the Bible in both an intellectually honest and God-honoring way on this topic? Does the Bible show men and women as being completely the same (outside of physiological differences) or is there something fundamentally different about us?

Claire Smith wants us to see that, despite arguments to the contrary, men and women really are different—and that’s exactly the way God intended it. In God’s Good Design, Smith examines the critical texts surrounding gender roles, offering valuable insights into the debate over the responsibilities of men and women within the church and home.

Equal value, different roles

Throughout the book, Smith examines a number of crucial biblical texts dealing the role of women: 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Corinthians 14 (women within the church) and Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, Genesis 1-3 and Proverbs 31 (women within the home). In these passages we find some of the most difficult words to women within the entire Bible:

  • That women are to be silent and to submit to their husbands.
  • That they’re not to teach but are to have character that wins an unbelieving husband over without a word.
  • That women are created to help men, not rule over them.

Smith’s examination of each passage reflects careful study both of the text at hand and the alternative viewpoints to the historical understanding of each passage. One brief example comes from Smith’s look at 1 Tim. 2, which includes one of the most head-exploding statements you you can read today:  [Read more...]

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A Christian Nation in Need of Christ

Charles Bota with Dennis Roberts:

There are about 13 million people in Zambia. Although most go to church, evangelicalism is at a low point in that most of those churchgoers are not born again. As in every other country, many people believe that because they are Catholic or Anglican or members of some church, they are going to Heaven.

But the hunger is growing for truth found only in God’s Word. As recently as 25 years ago, there was not a single reformed Baptist Church in Zambia. Now there are nearly 50, present in all 10 provinces of Zambia and counting. The Lord has been very gracious in yielding fruit to the hard labour of his saints.


How Many Hours Should Pastors Work?

Darryl Dash:

Here’s the real issue. Our challenge in ministry isn’t to buy into a lifestyle that’s driven by busyness and the lack of healthy rhythms. For instance, if nobody in the church is taking a weekly Sabbath, the answer isn’t for the pastor to stop taking a Sabbath. Instead, the pastor should be model what it’s like to pause, rest, and find refreshment one day a week. If the fathers in a community never make it home for dinner with the family, the pastor should not necessarily follow that pattern and work through dinner. Instead, the pastor should wrestle with how often to be around for the family even when work is calling.


When Jesus Makes You Wait in Pain

Jon Bloom:

We know how this story from John chapter eleven ends. But in the horrible days of Lazarus’s agonizing illness and in the dark misery of the days following his death, Martha did not know what God was doing. He seemed silent and unresponsive. Jesus didn’t come. It’s likely that she knew word had reached him. She was confused, disappointed, and overwhelmed with grief.

And yet, Jesus delayed precisely because he loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus.


The Fruit of Grace

Tullian Tchividjian:

Hollywood is not known as a culture of grace. Dog eat dog is more like it. People love you one day and hate you the next. Personal value is very much attached to box office revenues and the unpredictable and often cruel winds of fashion. It was doubly shocking, therefore, when one way love—and its fruit—made such a powerful appearance on the big stage in 2011. The occasion for it was Robert Downey Jr receiving the American Cinematheque Award, a prize given to “an extraordinary artist in the entertainment industry who is fully engaged in his or her work and is committed to making a significant contribution to the art of the motion pictures.” A big deal, in other words. Downey Jr. was allowed to choose who would present him with the award, and he made a bold decision. He selected his one-time co-star Mel Gibson to do the honors.


Ranting on websites may just make you angrier

While you might like getting your point of view off your chest, over the long term your rants may be making you less happy and more angry, suggest two new studies by a single research team.

The first study showed that while visitors to common “rant” websites reported feeling more relaxed immediately after posting a comment, overall they tend to experience more anger in general and can express their frustration in maladaptive ways.

The second study found that both reading other people’s rants and writing your own are associated with negative mood shifts. The research was published online in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

The same substance in a new shape falls short

Ryle

To hew a block of marble from the quarry—and carve it into a noble statue; to break up a waste wilderness—and turn it into a garden of flowers; to melt a lump of ironstone—and forgo it into watch-springs—all these are mighty changes. Yet they all come short of the change which every child of Adam requires, for they are merely the same thing in a new form, and the same substance in a new shape. But man requires the grafting in of that which he had not before. He needs a change as great as a resurrection from the dead—he must become a new creature. “Old things must pass away, and all things must become new.” He must be “born again, born from above, born of God.” The natural birth is not a whit more necessary to the life of the body, than is the spiritual birth to the life of the soul (2 Cor. 5:17. John 3:3).

J. C. Ryle. Alive or Dead? (Monergism Books Edition)

Links I like (weekend edition)

A Letter to the Church

An anonymous letter you should read:

We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not what we shall be, but thank God, we are not what we were. Let us work together to see that we all arrive safely home.


If Calvin and Hobbes were animated…

Animator Adam Brown does a great job of adapting this:

calvin-hobbes-pounce

into this:


Order up

This is another fun short film by Red Giant Software’s Seth Worley (he of Plot Device fame):


Cheap eBooks for the Christian Reader

Finally Alive by John Piper—$3.99

Leading the Way Through Daniel by Michael Youssef—$2.99

Leading the Way Through Ephesians by Michael Youssef—$2.51

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones—$1.99 (US only)

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis—$2.23


Confessions of a Woman Who Didn’t Like Theology

Ashley Haupt:

While I’ve grown immensely in my understanding of the importance of biblical truth, the stubborn fact remains: love for theology and doctrine doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s an acquired taste.

But why should you care? Perhaps I lost you at “I don’t like theology.” Nevertheless, I’m convinced you should care, and here’s why: I represent members of your church. Maybe a large segment, maybe a smaller one, but I guarantee they’re out there. With this reality in mind, l’d like to offer three insights from an unnatural theology lover.

Did Jesus REALLY have to rise again?

emptytomb

Some things are harder to believe than others. Believing that Jesus was a bona fide historical figure… few, if any, seriously doubt there really was a Jesus of Nazareth who preached a message of repentance and reconciliation with God and was later crucified (even if many attempt to redefine the purpose of these events).

Then, there’s the resurrection…

For a lot of people, this is far more difficult an idea to swallow, particularly those of us who were raised on a steady diet of empirical naturalism.

The idea that Jesus was crucified—we can accept that. But that He rose again? That’s a bit much, isn’t it? Surely it had to have been made up.

Three alternatives to the resurrection

Because we don’t have a category for the supernatural, we look for alternative explanations—and there are a LOT of alternatives floating around regarding the resurrection of Jesus. Yet, there’s a lot of consistency between them, with the majority being variations on one of three options:

1. The disciples made it up.

The most common version of this theory suggests the early disciples stole Jesus’ body from the tomb in order to perpetuate the notion that Jesus really did rise again… but the disciples knew full well He was dead.

The earliest version of this is actually found in Matthew 28:11-15, where we read: [Read more...]