Proud, Devoted and Dead

During Jesus’ incarnation, the religious elite of His day, the scribes and Pharisees, would follow Him around and seek to trap Him, discredit Him and have Him arrested and killed.

The Pharisees honestly get a bad rap sometimes. During the 400 year silence prior to John the Baptist’s arrival on the scene, these men saw the godlessness of their countrymen and wanted to do something about it. They wanted Israel to live according to the Law.

So the strove to obey the Law as closely as possible. To obey God as His people.

The problem is they started adding to the Law.

The most common place was with the Sabbath. They had a lot of extra rules, particularly that there was to be no healing on the Sabbath.

So one day, Jesus is at Bethesda and sees a man who has been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. (John 5:6-9a)

Jesus performs an amazing miracle in the life of this man. People should be celebrating, right?

Here’s the problem: “Now that day was the Sabbath” (v. 9b).

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (v. 10-17)

The Pharisees sought to persecute Jesus because “he was doing these things on the Sabbath” (v. 16).

They did it because He broke their rules.

And they became so blind with pride that they could not see who Jesus was or what He was doing. [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (02/28)

Ruined for Anything Else

Tim Challies shares a story from his life as he looks at the resurgence of Reformed theology. An excerpt:

I once went on a weekend men’s retreat that featured teaching from several local pastors. We heard some interesting messages about serving our wives, about being men of integrity and so on. . . . The thing that has remained in my mind, though, was one of the sermons delivered that weekend. While we had received a steady diet of topical sermons, one of the pastors stood and delivered what was, in effect, a biblically-grounded expository message. He simply opened up the Bible and explained to us what it meant and how we could apply it to our lives. He gave us real doctrine—true meat instead of mere milk.

As we walked from the meeting room to our cabins I could tell there was a buzz running through the crowd of men. They had enjoyed the sermon and had been electrified by it. But they had no category for it. I heard comments like, “I don’t know what that was, but it was amazing! I wish we could hear more teaching like that!”

It was a pivotal moment for me. It drove home to me something that the Bible teaches but something I had never really seen before—that true believers want and eventually need to move from milk to meat. Though they may not have a category to describe what is missing from their lives they will feel a restlessness. The Spirit works in them to give them a craving for solid food. And when they take a bite of that food, their eyes light up and they know that they are experiencing something that they were meant to enjoy.

It’s a pretty powerful piece; go read it in it’s entirety.

In Other News

Another bit of news from Tim Challies: His redesigned blog is now up and running. It’s quite nice.

Matt Chandler will be a special guest at Together for the Gospel this Spring. He’ll be taking CJ Mahaney’s spot to share what God’s been teaching him through his struggle with brain cancer. The latest video update on Matt’s health is up at the Village’s pastor’s blog.

Ray Ortlund: How the Devil spoke through Peter

Another update on Michael Spencer’s health.

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Erwin Lutzer’s latest, When a Nation Forgets God

Are you being confident or presumptuous when you take risks?

Truth, Love and Jonathan Edwards

Charles Spurgeon on the difference between true and false humility

Up the (Willow) Creek: Chip and Dan Heath

Willow-Creek

heath_brosIn the final post summarizing my take-aways from the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, I want to take a quick look at Chip & Dan Heath’s session: Switch.

The Heaths, authors of Made to Stick and the upcoming Switch (available in early 2010!), address the question, “Why is change sometimes so hard, and other times so easy?”

Any sort of successful change, say the Heaths, “requires convincing the organization that change is the right thing.” Once we’ve done that, we move on to the next issue: Identifying what is working. The Heaths suggest that we first “look for the bright spots—the things that show that success is possible. Find what works and duplicate those things… Bright spots are proof that people are capable of solving their problems.” [Read more...]

Up the (Willow) Creek: Dave Gibbons

Willow-Creek

david-gibbonsDave Gibbons is the founding pastor of Newsong Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-site, multi-continent church based out of Irvine, California, and the author of The Monkey and the Fish. His session, Thinking Forward: Third Culture Leadership, addressed developing a church that’s contrarian—one that embodies the Great Commandments to love God and love our neighbor.

Gibbons is a charming, charismatic speaker, and I was extremely interested in what he had to say about becoming a “third culture leader.”

What is a third culture leader?

According to Gibbons, it’s a leader with “a mindset and will to love, live and serve, even in the midst of pain and discomfort.” To love people, especially when it’s hard. Because it’s easy to love people who are like us, but “it’s beautiful if we love someone whose unlovable.” And we need to change our focus to loving the unlovable. To focus on the misfits, rather than the masses. Because, Gibbons contends, “it’s the misfits that lead a movement.” [Read more...]

Up the (Willow) Creek: Harvey Carey

Willow-Creek

harveyHarvey Carey is the Founder and Senior Pastor of the Citadel of Faith Covenant Church in Detroit, Michigan. Citadel of Faith is the fastest-growing multicultural church in the region. Carey’s lecture, Against All Odds, was, personally, one of the brightest spots of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.

Carey brought a very different flavor than everything that had come before. He preached, and he did it with passion and style.

It was awesome. In fact, along with Keller, Carey was one of the brightest spots for me in the entire conference.

Carey shared the story of starting Citadel of Faith and the challenges that he faced. Planting in the “poorest zip code of the poorest city of the poorest state” in the United States doesn’t seem like a winning strategy. Yet his church has seen phenomenal success, growing to 800 members in six years.

More importantly, the people are active in seeking both the redemption of their community and reconciliation between Caucasians and African-Americans. Ironically, because white people were returning to the neighborhood, nine churches called Carey to task, informing him that they were “going to collectively come against you.”  When faced with this level of opposition, Carey believes that you know that “God is getting ready to show up.” [Read more...]

Up the (Willow) Creek: Gary Hamel

Willow-Creek
Gary Hamel is one of the world’s most influential business thinkers and was the second speaker at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. Overall, I think he had some really great points, particularly in terms of seizing the opportunities that exist in the current economic climate.

“In an environment of increasing change, [one that is] less and less about extrapolating the past, you’re either moving forward or you’re falling behind,” said Hamel during his session.

To unceasingly fall behind is to embrace entropy as an organization.

This is a very profound statement. As leaders focus on the opportunities that are presented by shifts in the global marketplace and culture, there is a great opportunity for positive change, provided that one resists the temptation to become convinced by denial—to believe that everything’s fine and if we just ride things out, we’ll get back to the old normal.

Hamel presented the audience with a continuum of the cycle of change: [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (06/07)

Doug Phillips: Hey, I’m No Theologian…

Doug Phillips posted a terrific article about the importance of theology. Here are a few snippets:

We are all theologians.

Whether or not we think about God and his will, etc., in ways that are faithful to his Word substantially determines whether or not we will relate to Him in ways that are actually pleasing to Him (cp. Col. 1:9-11). Are we the kind of worshipers he actually seeks and wants? (Jn.4:22-24).

Authentic spiritual transformation is dependent on increasingly bringing our thinking (and ‘theologizing’) increasingly in line with Scripture. We are transformed, Paul says, by the renewing of our mind. And our Lord says that sanctification occurs in connection with the truth – the truth of God’s Word.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Advance09 Session MP3s Online

Not able to make it to Advance this week? Enjoy the sessions from your iPod.

Download them here.

How Tim Keller Found Manhattan

The cover story for this month’s Christianity Today profiles Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian. Here’s the intro:

When Tim Keller came to Manhattan in 1989, New York City had a well-deserved reputation as a snarling, scary place. Violent crime, drug dealing, and other urban pathologies had weakened or chased off many of the faithful. While a barely perceptible renewal was under way, it seemed as if the few remaining orthodox Protestants were huddled together in historic buildings. All of Keller’s formal pastoral experience had happened in a small, blue-collar town in Virginia.

Yet today, almost 20 years later, he steps onstage before a packed auditorium at Hunter College on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. His church, Redeemer Presbyterian, has five crowded Sunday services in three rented locations—Keller dashes between them—with an average total attendance of 5,000. The service at Hunter is the largest, the “tourist service.” (For many years, Redeemer deliberately avoided publicity, but word has spread lately, and Keller estimates that hundreds of out-of-towners show up each Sunday.) Well over 2,000 people—mainly young whites and Asians you would expect to be sleeping off a late Saturday night—have come to this morning’s service.

Read the rest at ChristianityToday.com

In case you missed it

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

The Challenge: What Have I Learned? What did 40 days without podcasts and theology books teach me?

Book Review: Love or Die Reviewing a wonderful book on the need to return to the love we had at first.

Made in the Image of God: Wisdom, Emotions and Morality A look at how humanity images God through our thoughts, emotions and morality

The Persevering Prophet: My Heart is Sick! Jeremiah addresses the source of human depravity: The heart.

Advance: The Resurgence of the Local Church

The Advance conference begins Thursday in Durham, N.C. Speakers include Matt Chandler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, Eric Mason, JD Greear and more.

From Advance09.com:

Christ promises to build the Church, and that no force will prevail against it. Yet, the local church has been heavily battered in battle. Sadly, churches in America are in steady decline, with over 4000 closing their doors and 500,000 members leaving each year–never to return. This is not what the Lord desires. The Apostle Paul tells us that ” . . . through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”. The local church is called to lift-up Jesus so that all the world might see Him. The local church is called to make known the Gospel and to be the vehicle of redemption for the world. Led by local churches, Advance09 is a conference committed to the resurgence of the local church for the glory of God. Our aim is to equip attendees with the Gospel so that the local church might become all that Jesus calls it to be. At this conference, we hope to ensure that on our watch and in our time we honor Jesus and see the resurgence of the local church. Advance09 is open to anyone: pastors and lay-leaders; church members and regular-attenders. We invite you to join us in this Great Cause.

Dwelling in the Gospel: Tim Keller

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Sunday Shorts (05/10)

SIN: Resolved 2009 Conference

From Resolved.org:

Resolved 2009 will focus on sin. What is sin? How bad is it? Where did it come from? How can I be saved from it and its consequences? Is it possible to stop? Our 5th Resolved Conference will explore these questions and provide biblical answers.

John Owen wrote, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” Join us at Resolved ’09 as we rally to understand and battle sin.

The conference will be held at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N Avenida Caballeros, Palm Springs, CA 92262.

To register, visit Resolved.org

50,000 Shoes in 50 Days

Julian Smith wants you to help get 50,000 shoes for children in developing nations:

There are 13 days left to reach the goal.

Did you know…

…that you can get read several of John Piper’s books online? This is just one of the great ways that Desiring God is blessing the Christian community at large. Go and read some, and if you like what you read, purchase a copy in their store.

Sunday Shorts (04/19)

Should you Talk About the Gospel in Every Sermon?

Piper at Desiring God:

The Gospel Coalition—Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of 2 Timothy

The Gospel Coalition’s 2009 Conference runs from this week, April 21-23, in Chicago. Speakers include D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper, Mark Driscoll and more.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Gospel Coalition, here’s a brief introduction:

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And Now for Something Completely Different…

So, Compassion decided it would be a good idea to team up with Rob Bell for a Nooma video called “Corner.” It’s okay as far as Nooma goes, but it’s nothing ground-breaking.

That, and I find Bell’s glasses distracting.

(I should note that while I work in Compassion’s Canadian office, my views should not be taken as always reflective of the organization.)

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…

I’m off to ad:tech San Francisco until Friday, much to my excitement. I’ve never been to the left coast before, so I’m a wee bit excited. Ad:tech has a great line-up of speakers and break out sessions, and I’m looking forward to learning a lot while I’m there.

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