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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Only new ones that I’m aware of are Am I Called? by Dave Harvey (99¢) and Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch (FREE).

Help us plant a church in Rutland, Vermont

Jared Wilson:

Since my family’s arrival here in 2009, our church has seen a steady increase in mission-minded believers with a heart to plant a gospel-centered church in the downtown area of Rutland, Vermont, the largest town nearest us and the second largest town in the state.

Our church has more than doubled in the last 4 years, and we have already established a solid, mature, multi-generational core team in the city of Rutland that has already begun the work of community groups and evangelism. Our plan now, Lord willing, is to move from twice-monthly prayer gatherings to weekly “simple church” gatherings with the goal of launching public worship services for Redemption Church on Easter Sunday, 2015.

David Platt elected new IMB president

Yesterday, David Platt was elected as the new president of the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Here’s a word from Platt on the news:

Russell Moore offers his thoughts on why he’s glad Platt is in this new role. Tim Brister also gives some thoughts on why Platt’s the right man for the job.

Labor Day: Your Need for Both Work and Rest

Nick Batzig:

As we come to celebrate another Labor Day, it may be beneficial for us to step back for a moment and consider what Scripture has to say about the rhythm of work and rest—i.e. the cyclical configuration by which all the events of our lives occur. Learning the theology of work and rest is one of the greatest challenges of our own day. Many of us have adopted faulty views of work, and therefore have faulty views of rest. We are commanded to do all the work that needs to be accomplished every week in the six days that follow, and lead up to, the glorious day of rest. Then we are commanded to rest. This rhythm of work and rest is both a creational and a new-creational (i.e.redemptive) ordinance. The suffix to the 4th commandment in Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15 teaches us this. God commanded His people to rest one day in seven because He rested from the work of creation and because He redeemed them from the hand of their enemies. In short, we need to learn to work hard at learning to work as unto the Lord and we need to learn to work hard at learning to cease from our labors, by resting in the finish work of Christ.

Kindle + Evernote = ♥

Tim Challies:

As time goes on, I find myself doing more and more of my reading on my Kindle, and taking advantage of its super-simple ability to make notes and highlights. At the same time, I find myself relying on Evernote to help me retain and organize information. Books hold the information I want to know while Evernote holds the information I want to retain. When I put the two of them together, I get a powerful system to record and remember what I have read. Let me share a simple technique to quickly and easily get every one of your Kindle notes and highlights into Evernote.

5 Steps To Creating A Culture of Evangelism In Your Church

Brandon Hilgemann offers good advice.

What Is the Prayer of Faith?

Sinclair Ferguson:

Years ago, the editor of a publishing company asked me to write a book on prayer. The theme is a vitally important one. The publishing house was well known. To be honest, I felt flattered. But in a moment of heaven-sent honesty, I told him that the author of such a book would need to be an older and more seasoned author (not to mention, alas, more prayerful) than I was. I mentioned one name and then another. My reaction seemed to encourage him to a moment of honesty, as well. He smiled. He had already asked the well-seasoned Christian leaders whose names I had just mentioned! They, too, had declined in similar terms. Wise men, I thought. Who can write or speak at any length easily on the mystery of prayer? Yet in the past century and a half, much has been written and said particularly about “the prayer of faith.” The focus has been on mountain-moving prayer by which we simply “claim” things from God with confidence that we will receive them because we believe that He will give them. But what exactly is the prayer of faith?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And in print book deals, Westminster Bookstore has Alex Chediak’s terrific Preparing Your Teens for College on sale for $2. They’re also offering a Questions Christians Ask four-pack for $18. This set includes Can I Really Trust the Bible? by Barry Cooper, How Will the World End? by Jeramie Rinne, How Can I Be Sure? by John Stevens, and Is Forgiveness Really Free? by Michael Jensen.

Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages

Michael Kruger on his new blog series, for which he has invited “evangelical scholars to respond to some of the critical issues raised in Pete Enns’ “Aha moments” series. Scholars who have agreed to participate include Craig Blomberg, Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Andreas Köstenberger, and Don Carson.” This will be a good series to read.

Christ Did Not Die for You to Do Keg Stands

Kevin DeYoung:

With most major college getting whipped into a full frenzy, I thought it would be worthwhile to dust off a few thoughts about binge drinking on our nation’s campuses. Most students won’t have to look hard for opportunities to drink over the next days and weeks (and months and semesters). They may have to go somewhere off campus to party, but the party scene comes recruiting right to them. Some students arrive at college looking to make their Party U dreams come true. Others just find themselves all alone and eager to fit in and make friends. The sad reality is that choices made in the first weeks (or even days) of college can set a trajectory that’s hard to break.

Which means churches and Christian groups must bend over backward to meet, greet, invite, and include. It also means churches must be ready to winsomely and courageously confront the university lifestyle when it is inconsistent with Christian commitment. Many professing Christians will live duplicitous lives–getting smashed on the weekends while still trying to be the good Christian boy or girl their parents and ministry friends imagine them to be. The problem is huge and anyone wishing to minister to college students needs to think about a biblical approach.

Here are a few suggestions on how to begin formulating a Christian response to drinking on our college campuses.

The One Thing My Mother Would Not Let Me Become

Thabiti Anyabwile:

I must have been about the age of my son, around seven, when my parents started what felt like a campaign of encouragement. They’d repeatedly tell me, “You can be anything you want to be in life, even President of the United States.” Then they’d follow with a question, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I was trying on answers during that period of time. Professional football player. And a professional basketball players. Lawyer. Doctor. Perhaps something exotic like a marine biologist. They encouraged every ambition. Except one.

One evening my mom asked me the question and with beaming eye I answered, “A police officer.” I don’t know where the idea came from. Maybe we’d had an elementary civics lesson on “Officer Friendly” or perhaps a visit to our class from an officer. Perhaps it was watching “Kojak” or “Starsky and Hutch” (I know; I’m dating myself!). But whatever was the source of inspiration, it all got dashed in a moment. My mother’s face grew solid, the soft flesh of her cheeks stone. She snapped back, “You cannot be a police officer.” I asked why. She said, “I will not have you arresting our people all the time.” I think she also said something about worrying and sleepless nights, but her main point had to do with this adversarial relationship between the police and African Americans. I mentally crossed the police off my list of aspirations and got on about the business of being a little boy.

Never Resist the Urge to Pray.

Erik Raymond:

As people we know that it is often wise to resist various urges that we have. We can keep ourselves out of trouble by resisting the urge to say something when we are offended. We can prevent various health issues by resisting urges to overeat or (routinely) eat unhealthy foods. We can steer clear from financial debt by resisting the urge to buy something on impulse. We can almost develop a reflex of resistance in this fallen world. This can be good for us (and others).

However, there is one urge that you should never resist. This area is prayer. I believe it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones whom I first read who said, “Never resist any urge to pray.” That is great advice without much need for explanation. But let me point out a couple of reasons why.

Chosen is Better Than Worthy

Aaron Earls asks, “What if we have problems with feeling worthy because we weren’t made to be worthy, necessarily? What if we were made for something more?”

 

The irony of God’s strength

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In, Psalm 8:1-2, David gives God praise, describing the gloriousness of His nature and the majesty of His name. And almost immediately, he presents us with a curious irony: God’s strength is displayed in weakness:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. (emphasis mine)

Notice how God has established his strength—”out of the mouth of babies and infants.” God reveals His majesty using the “weak” and “foolish” things of this world. He uses voices that don’t matter, at least in worldly ways. He revealed himself to the world through the nation of Israel—redeemed slaves taken out of the land of Egypt. Through Moses, God revealed himself to Pharaoh with power and authority. Moses, a man who stuttered. Later, as Israel’s earthly throne was established, God rejected Saul, who was the epitome of what a human king should be, and gave the throne to David, a lowly shepherd boy.… On and on we could go through the Old Testament as God consistently used seemingly insignificant voices within the culture of the time—the poor, women, children—to reveal his power and majesty to the world.

And today, it’s no different. God continues to reveal his strength through the weak things in the world. He reveals himself through the church. A church founded by uneducated fishermen, a former tax collector and zealots, with a message that sounds like absolute lunacy to most who hear it: that God would come in human form, suffer and die on a roman cross to pay for the sins of the world, and rise again from death.

In his excellent book, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, Dale Ralph Davis describes the day General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s world came crashing down around him. His wife had given birth to a stillborn son, then she suffered an uncontrollable hemorrhage. In the span of a few hours, Jackson went from joyful expectant father to crushed widower.

The next day he wrote his sister Laura; he told her he thought he could submit to anything if God strengthened him for it; but he made no attempt to cover his sad despair. But then there in the middle of his note, there is a most moving one-liner. He says: “Oh! my Sister would that you could have Him for your God!”

Can you imagine that? Can you think of anything weaker than Jackson dashed and devastated by the Lord’s “taking away”? Here is a man beaten and crushed who nevertheless says, Oh that you could have him for your God.

This is one of the great ironies of the gospel: God’s strength is made known in weakness. That is what God has entrusted to us. Fallible, foolish, sinful people, who, by God’s grace, have been saved and redeemed by this foolish message of good news and great joy. And so, like David, we give God praise because of the irony of his strength.


Photo credit:__o__ via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

These deals from Zondervan and Thomas Nelson could end any time (99¢ each):

Here are a few new deals from Crossway:

Finally, today’s the last day to get these five books from Cruciform Press for 99¢:

On Platforms, Self-Promotion, and Pleasure Complete

Tim Brister:

You think that, following such an ordinary introduction, his list of accomplishments would soon follow to make up for a bland beginning. And yet, it seems to be all the more paradoxical. The Apostle John says John the Baptist “was not the light.” This was confirmed through the testimony of John the Baptist who, at every point, told people who he was not. “I am not the Christ.” “I am not Elijah.” “I am not the Prophet.” Finally, when asked to explain who he was, John could only describe himself as a voice in the wilderness. And when his followers pressed him to be more aggressive and increase his influence, John could only respond by saying, “I must decrease.”

So there you have it. The man who Jesus said was without comparison (Jesus excluded of course). His life did not end with him on a throne but in prison. He did not have a crown on his head but ended with his head on platter. How could it really be true what Jesus said about John the Baptist? Is there really none greater?

Driscoll steps down for at least six weeks while disqualifying charges are reviewed

More at RNS.

Parable of the Vineyard Workers: The Best for Last

Aaron Earls:

o what it is it that makes the last different from all the other workers? They went into the job blind – totally relying on the landowner’s generosity. He didn’t even promise to pay them anything.

Then why did they go to work for someone without having any type of agreement? Trust. They trusted the landowner to do right by them.

After the workers put their trust in the landowner, how did he treat them? Grace. They didn’t deserve the denarius. They barely deserved any pay, yet the landowner was compassionate to them. Their trust found grace. Their reliance was met with undeserved favor.

Losing your voice: 4 ways pastors lose pulpits

Clint Archer:

There are many ways to leave a church honorably. You could die in the pulpit. You might gracefully retire so a younger man can fill your shoes. Perhaps you feel called to another ministry, and your current elders support you in that endeavor. But there are some ways no pastor wants to be ejected from his ministry.

The Questions God Asks

Lore Ferguson:

I can’t shake the heaviness. It’s been there for weeks, months, a year. A funeral shroud. “Where, oh death, is your sting?” Oh, it’s here. All here.

I’ve been thinking of Mary in the garden these days, weeping by the tomb, the empty tomb. Standing by the evidence that her Lord had risen and she didn’t even recognize the man who asked, “Why are you crying? And whom do you seek?”

But he knew.

This should make us stop and think

Without realizing it, leaders can paint their own dysfunction over churches, ministries, and missions fields. All too easily, the effort to preach the gospel becomes about appeasing fears and insecurities, turning leadership into a tool used to primarily gain a sense of personal meaning.

If this doesn’t make us sweat a little bit, I’m not sure we’re examining ourselves carefully enough, what do you think?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Sin in Our Cynicism

Jonathan Parnell:

Cynicism is a problem.

Maybe it’s not explicitly on your radar, but you’re sure to have felt its force. Cynicism is that sneering bitterness toward all things true and deep. It’s the subtle contempt trying to contaminate the cheeriest of moments — that slow, thick smoke of pessimism toxifying the oxygen in the lungs of our hope, suffocating any glad-hearted embrace that God did something meaningful in our lives and strangling our childlike faith to opt for “another angle” on why things happen the way they do.

Dethroning Celebrity Pastors

Joe Thorn:

Celebrity Pastors do not simply build themselves. They are built with the help of fans. It’s not wrong or idolatrous to get a photo with a person you admire. Nor is it dangerous to love the preaching or teaching of a particular leader. But at some point admiration turns into allegiance, and allegiance gives birth to adoration, and adoration, when it is full grown, produces idolatry. I am not sure exactly when the line is crossed–maybe when we start asking well-known pastors to sign our Bibles. Maybe. But the line is well behind us when a leader’s word is more valuable to us than God’s word and when they become our authority.

The Importance of Persuasive Preaching

Eric McKiddie:

It would be nice if persuading our congregations of these things was as simple as constructing a sound argument. Unfortunately, even bulletproof logic can fail to change people’s hearts. In the midst of our sermons, we often think that we are articulating a biblical position with impeccable precision, all while the young professional struggles to see himself as a part of the story we are telling, the stay at home mom can’t see how this applies to dirty diapers, and the high school student is just plain bored. This happens every week to every preacher.

My Thoughts on “Boyhood”

Russell Moore offers his take on Richard Linklater’s 12 years in the making new film.

Knowledge vs understanding

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There is nothing new about not believing in God; it is the oldest thing in the world to deny Him. This is what I find so pathetic, that people think it is clever not to believe in God, that it is modern, that it is something new, that it is something wonderful! But here is a man, King David, writing all this a thousand years before Christ—nearly three thousand years ago—and there were people saying then, “There is no God”—just what clever people are saying today, those who try to argue that they are saying it in terms of some latest esoteric knowledge that they have been given and that other people still do not have. But is it not clear that this has nothing at all to do with knowledge as such?

No; it is a question of understanding, and that is a very different thing. Men and women may have a lot of book knowledge, but that does not mean they have understanding or that they have wisdom. They can be aware of many facts, but they may be fools in their own personal lives. Have we not known such people? I have known men in some of the learned professions; I would take their opinion without a moment’s hesitation because of their knowledge and because of their learning. But sometimes I have known some of those men to be utter fools in their own personal lives. I mean by that, they behaved like lunatics, as if they had not a brain at all. They have behaved in exactly the same way as a man who never had their educational advantages and who had none of their great knowledge. They drank too much even as a less educated man did; they were guilty of adultery even as he was.

There is all the difference in the world between knowledge—an awareness of facts—and wisdom and real understanding. Though people may have great brains and may know a number of things, they may still be governed by their lusts and passions and desires, and that is why they are fools.… They are men and women who listen to their hearts, their desires; they are governed by what they want to do rather than by true understanding.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms, 14–15

What makes the humble cry out for grace?

spurgeon

It is not fear of damning, but fear of sinning, which makes the truly humbled cry out for grace. True, the fear of hell, engendered by the threatenings of the law, doth work in the soul much horror and dismay; but it is not hell appearing exceeding dreadful, but sin becoming exceeding sinful and abominable, which is the effectual work of grace. Any man in his reason would tremble at everlasting burnings, more especially when by his nearness to the grave the heat of hell doth, as it were, scorch him; but it is not every dying man that hates sin—yea, none do so unless the Lord hath had dealings with their souls. Say, then, dost thou hate hell or hate sin most? for, verily, if there were no hell, the real penitent would love sin not one whit the more, and hate evil not one particle the less. Wouldst thou love to have thy sin and heaven too? If thou wouldst, thou hast not a single spark of divine life in thy soul, for one spark would consume thy love to sin. Sin to a sin-sick soul is so desperate an evil that it would scarce be straining the truth to say that a real penitent had rather suffer the pains of hell without his sins than enter the bliss of heaven with them, if such things were possible. Sin, sin, SIN, is the accursed thing which the living soul hateth.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior: The Progress of the Soul in the Knowledge of Jesus, 81–82.

Prioritizing the gospel

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Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a celebrated politician of France, was known for his brilliance in the court and his wisdom in the pulpit. He was influential, wealthy, and powerfully wise. Educated as a priest, even to the rank of bishop, he renounced the church to excel in public affairs. And excel he did. Only the emperor was more distinguished.1

And yet, with all his knowledge, with all his splendor, and with all his wealth, Talleyrand died with a miserably regretful epitaph. Next to his deathbed was a handwritten letter detailing his dying words and reflections on the life he was leaving behind:

Behold eighty-three years passed away! What cares! What agitation! What anxieties! What ill-will inspired? What vexatious complication! And without any other result than great moral and physical fatigue, and a profound feeling of despair for the future, of disgust at the past.

We find a similar letter in the Bible. It wasn’t found next to a comfortable bed under a warm lamp, but smuggled out of a cold Roman dungeon where criminals were imprisoned, drowned in the city sewage, and flushed away with the garbage. It wasn’t written by a political dignitary or high ranking diocesan, but by a humble and modest-living Christ follower. It did, however, contain the dying words of a well-known man—the apostle Paul.

He didn’t write what you might have expected a man to write in such an appalling setting—especially staring death in the face. His words were most powerful, most abiding, most encouraging, and most wise. His words captured the remarkable joy of a fulfilled life.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

What consumed Paul’s life and culminated in such an extraordinary epitaph? It was the gospel of Jesus Christ. He made it his priority, his purpose, his aim in life, and his motivation to endure (2 Tim. 2:8-10). He made it his all. The gospel was a treasure entrusted to him by God, just as his life was a treasure entrusted to God (2 Tim. 1:12-14). The gospel mattered most to him—even above his own life.

The fight fought

Paul described his life as a war waged against gospel negligence. It was a gutsy struggle to maintain persevering trust in Christ by rooting himself deeply in the gospel. He fought apathy, laziness, comfort, weariness, fear, shame, unfaithfulness, and worldly arguments that would challenge his gospel meditations.

The race finished

Paul also described his life as a race, not to be won by finishing first, but to be won by finishing well. He taught that an athlete is crowned only if he competes according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5). So the race finished well is a race finished with honor and excellence. Paul was not concerned with success tips, marketing points, or worldly wisdom. He knew that fulfillment in life was not succeeding in the world, but excelling in the Word. He concerned himself with the gospel.

The faith kept

Finally, Paul described his life as having a strong hold on the cross. He gripped Christ, knowing that the winds of persecution would fiercely blow and the waters of suffering would aggressively flow against him. Only the cross of Christ could withstand such a current. So he clasped tightly, kept strongly, seized firmly. The faith that he held was the breathed-out Word of God, the only resource capable of shaping a life such as his (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul held the gospel in order to keep the faith.

When the gospel means this much to you, death is the vehicle to the reward you seek and your life is labor toward the offering you give (2 Tim. 4:6-8). The Lord poured him out and he loved it. Is the Lord pouring you out?


Jacob Abshire is the author of Forgiveness: A Commentary on Philemon and Faith: A Commentary on James, and co-founder of Resolute Creative. You can find him online atjacobabshire.com and follow him on Twitter @aliasbdi.

Photo credit: darkmatter via photopin cc

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How to Raise Up Leaders in the Church

This is a conversation that, if you’re not having already in your own church, you desperately need to begin:

To Trust in Men

Lore Ferguson:

A few months ago I sat across from a pastor who took my shameful history and held up his own, point for point. It wasn’t a competition, it was a “You too? Me too.” I am grateful for men like him who do not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but stand on the level ground before the cross and say, “There’s room here. There’s room here.”

Am I a Horrible Parent for Moving My Kids (Back) to Africa?

Stacy Hare:

Currently our kids are used to playing in the Olympic stadium just around the corner from our house. They know where the neighborhood castle is, and if ever we visit a different city, they are always on the lookout for that city’s local castle. They go to a school where they are being taught how to properly brush their teeth, how to recycle, and of course how to speak French. It is not uncommon for me to come home with a handful of birthday invitations that their little friends gave them at school. And if they cannot go to school, they cry. America is a faint memory, but France is their home, and being surrounded by the amazing Alps is their normal.

Now we are taking them to a remote, poor village in Africa without electricity, a school, or a nearby hospital.

Ferguson is Ripping the Bandages off our Racial Wounds

Trevin Wax:

The policy successes of the Civil Rights movement have given rise to the narrative that the worst of our racial and ethnic prejudices are behind us. Unfortunately, politics and policies show only one side of the story.

The truth is, we are still a country divided.

Get Economics for Everybody in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get t<em
Economics for Everybody: Applying Biblical Principles to Work, Wealth, and the World a teaching series by R.C. Sproul, Jr (audio and video download), for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Psalm 51 teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton (paperback)
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

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

God uses two “gardens”

JD Greear:

In Psalm 127, Solomon refers to children as a “heritage” or an “inheritance” from the Lord. It’s easy to miss how revolutionary that statement is. Solomon isn’t saying that children will receive our inheritance. He is saying that they are our inheritance. But what doesthat mean?

It means that the most important task we have as a church is to teach the next generation the gospel.

Links I like

Preventing technology from becoming an unnecessary barrier

Aaron Earls:

here have been numerous studies and research done on the effect the internet and smartphones are having on our brains. In many ways, they are clearly rewiring them and having an impact on our physical health.

I know this temptation full well. It would be extremely difficult for me to go through a complete digital detox, not only because it is part of my job, but because it is part of the way I live my life now.

But that does not mean, I should not take steps to foster a more healthy use of technology. While it may be a part of everyday life, it does not have to be part of your life every day (not to mention every minute).

Does God view your labors as ‘filthy rags’?

Michael J. Kruger:

When it comes to our justification—our legal standing before God—our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.” Indeed, the gospel is good news because we are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done. We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.

So what does God think of our good works after we are saved? Here, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages. Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace is most magnified, when we denigrate all our efforts and all our labors as merely “filthy rags” in the sight of God (Is. 64:6).

But does God really view the Spirit-wrought works of his own children in such a fashion? Is God pleased only with Christ’s work, and always displeased with our own?

If the Beastie Boys were Muppets…

Muppets rapping “So What’cha Want”

HT: Aaron Earls (via Jonathan Howe)

Preach the Gospel to Yourself?

Nick Batzig:

10 or so years ago, it was exceedingly common to hear people in the broader Reformed and Evangelical circles saying things like, “You’ve got to learn to preach the Gospel to yourself!” Usually it came in the context of one friend counseling another during a period of struggle with sin, or during a period of painful trial. Occasionally you would hear the phrase surface in pulpits as well. But then there was pushback from certain theologically conservative corners. I remember hearing a well known biblical counsellor emphatically say that the idea of “preaching the Gospel to yourself” is nowhere to be found in Scripture. Others rightly suggested that it all depends on what you mean by “the Gospel.” If, by the Gospel, you mean merely justification so that it’s ok that you continue in sinful practices because you’ve been justified, then this is terribly wrongheaded. So, are we to “preach the Gospel to ourselves,” or is that idea foreign to the biblical teaching on sanctification and the Christian life? I’ve heard the phrase less and less over the years, but I’ve also appropriated it more and more into my life since then. In order to give due consideration to this subject, we first have to answer the question, “What is the Gospel?” Then we can scan the pages of Scripture to see if we have any descriptive or prescriptive grounds for preaching such a Gospel to ourselves.

We Reproduce what We Know

JD Payne offers wise counsel.

Why We Love to Read

Tim Challies:

Sometimes you need to do a lot of reading to come away with one really good idea. Some books yield nothing but nonsense; some yield nothing but ideas you have come across a thousands times before. But then, at last, you find that one that delivers. There is such joy in it. Such reward.

Links I like

The Lord’s Supper: Open or Closed?

In baptist circles there are three positions regarding who are the proper communicants to receiver the Lord’s Supper: closed, close, and open communion. These positions are not addressing the spiritual readiness of the individual (see yesterday’s post), but are focusing on the stewardship of church authority and “fencing the table.” Fencing the table is the means by which we protect people from partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27, 28).

Should Christian Writers Try to Be Popular?

This is a really good (and necessary!) conversation:

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H’s Perspectives series is on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

What can I do for Christians in Iraq?

Philip Nation:

Like many believers around the world, I am horrified at the persecution of Christians in Iraq. It is a sobering moment to realize that the type of persecution I’ve read about so many times in the Book of Acts is happening in our day. Even our Lord Jesus spoke of the reality and the blessing that He will give to those who suffer for the faith.… As I’ve pondered it all, here are five things that we can do about the persecution of the church in Iraq.

3 reasons many leaders receive too much credit—and blame

Eric Geiger:

Most leaders receive too much credit for the good things that take place during their tenure and too much blame for the bad. If the results are good, typically a leader, even if he or she attempts to deflect the accolades, receives credit for his or her stellar leadership. And if the results are bad, a typical leader receives the blame and carries the burden and pain of “not delivering.” There are at least three reasons many leaders receive too much credit and shoulder too much blame.

Is doubt really okay?

Owen Strachan:

…we need to distinguish between two states: temporary confusion and existential doubt. The Bible clearly has a category for the role of temporary confusion in the life of the believer. Think of David’s mournful lament in Psalm 13:1– “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” David is going through the fire, and he feels it; in fact, he feels in the moment like he has been abandoned.

What loving our enemies looks like

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You know how there are some passages of the Bible people seem to reject quicker than others?

Romans 1 is one of those.

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to preach on this text, one of the most divisive chapters of the Bible. Much like Genesis 1, which presents God as the authority over all creation, Romans 1 reminds us that, despite our best efforts, we cannot deny His existence, for He has made it plain to us in the things that are seen.

And yet, people do deny Him. Thousands of people die every day clinging to this rejection of God… Thousands live every day clinging to it, and embracing its fruit with abandon. Idolatry, foolish thinking, sexual immorality, gossip and slander, disobedience to parents—evil of all sorts and kinds. For these, who are haters and enemies of God, only one thing awaits them at the end: the unrestrained wrath of God.

And even as we know this truth, that punishment awaits, we are also called to love the lost, to love our enemies. So what is one of the most important ways for us to love them?

The answer is, for many, something that seems so counterintuitive, and yet it is the one thing that can turn away the wrath of God from those who are perishing: the gospel.

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). This is the only hope those any of us have. And so loving our enemies, loving those who mock and jeer, who treat us as intellectually incompetent because we believe such silly things, means telling them this truth—stuffing our pride and often our hurts so that they might also be saved.

We plead with them, knowing that they might reject us. But we do it because God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked. Think back to Ezekiel 33:11, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and life,” God says. “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?”

There is no act of righteousness committed by man that will satisfy God’s anger. We need the righteousness of another to save us, a perfect righteousness. And so God, in love for His people, provided. God loved the world in this way, by sending His only Son so that whosever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. And at the cross, Jesus took the full force of God’s fury against sin, bearing the burden for every sinful thought, word and deed ever committed by those who would believe in Him. And then He rose from the grave as proof that sin had been defeated, that forgiveness had been achieved, and could be found in Jesus.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” Paul wrote in Romans 1:16-17. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

And so we must go and we must plead with those around us, “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?” We must plead with them to repent and believe the good news. We must offer them the grace God has so richly provided in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Because those who have rejected God’s authority are perishing, we must plead with them to repent. We must show great love to the lost. Great affection toward those trapped in the worst of sins. But most of all, the most loving act we can possibly do is tell them that their only hope is to repent and believe.

Which comes first: the text or the theme?

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I’ve been spending a lot of time in Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic book, Preaching and Preachers, which is simply one of the most helpful books I’ve read on preaching, even while affirming Warren Wiersbe’s encouragement to read it “at least twice: once to disagree and once to be helped.”1 Lloyd-Jones stresses that the text should almost always come before a theme, for a simple reason: the theme should come from the text, lest a theme be forced upon it.

There’s a lot of wisdom in this. Too often, especially when we play Bible roulette, we come up to a verse or a passage and attach personal significance that has little or nothing to do with the text’s actual meaning. When you see Jeremiah 29:11 used as a verse on a coffee cup, or on a beautiful landscape painting, this is what I mean. You also see it in most—nearly all—uses of Isaiah 58 in poverty alleviation circles, overlooking the context of the rebuke.

I was talking over this very thing with a good friend last night, since I’m preparing to once again to preach to a small congregation a few hours from where I live. And as I pray and think on the needs of this congregation, I keep coming back to a key theme, rather than being drawn to a specific text.

But during our conversation, as my friend and I talked through this, it was easy to see where the theme aligned with Scripture, with texts where it is clearly visible.

This was just a helpful reminder for me that there isn’t always a hard and fast rule about such things. Sometimes you’ll have a clear idea for a text—you’ll want to preach Obadiah, and then you’ll realize you’re preaching on (among other things) eschatology. Sometimes you’ll feel compelled to speak on contentment in sacrifice for the sake of Christ, and you’ll easily find yourself in Philippians.

Which comes first: the theme or the text?

The short answer? Yes.


Photo credit: A.D. Wheeler Photography via photopin cc