3 favorite teaching moments from #TGC15

tgc15

From April 13-15, 2015, around six thousand Christian men and women came together in Orlando, Florida, for The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, to consider the new heavens and the new earth. Yesterday, I shared three personal reflections on the conference, and today, I wanted to share a few of the standout moments from the plenary sessions:

1. John Piper on Christians as radical truth-tellers. As Piper applied his texts, Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 (the whole message was terrific), he declared that Jesus is “calling us to be people of radical truthfulness. To not make judgments on appearances, but on truth.… We are to be radically truth-driven Messiah people.”

His key example? Ghostwriting among Christian authors:

“If you write something, put your name on it! If you didn’t don’t put your name on it! If someone wrote it with you, put both names on it. We do not use the ways of the world to write a book or win a soul!”

2. Keller on what a circumcised heart is. “When the Bible talks about the heart it’s the control center of the whole being. Hearts put their trust in something. They face things. … The thing your heart looks to is what you think about when you don’t have anything to think about. What the heart wants, the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find desirable.”

And this is why God commands us to have circumcized hearts. This, external sign of being obedient to the law of God. Circumcision of the heart, he said, “means that the innermost will wants to do those things. Our pleasure and our duty are the same. What you ought to do and what you want to do are the same things.”

But it’s the illustration he gives about why God commands that particularly intimate part of the body be involved in physical circumcision that got me. It’s to remind us of the grossness, the vileness of sin.

3. Ligon Duncan on why the “not yet” matters right now. Most Christians are familiar with the idea of the already/not yet, or the now and not yet of reality. The gospel has present affects, but has future implications. And yet, so many people seem to think that if you pay too much attention to the “not yet” you’re good for nothing right now. As he preached on Romans 8:16-25, Duncan politely called bunk on this idea. “There are a lot of people who say if you care about the ‘not yet’, you won’t care about ‘now’, and you’ll be escapist in your view of the Christian life. But the Bible says that the ‘now’ matters forever, and ‘forever’ matters right now.

You must have your eye on that future hope. If you’re just hoping in the now, you’re not hoping as Paul is telling you to hope. The reformed doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone ended slavery in the British empire. We’ve been told our doctrine isn’t “social” enough. We need to modify it to make it more social. No.

It is the doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone that caused Wilberforce and his coworkers to expend their last breath to set captives free! You can’t live now unless your hope is in the not yet. The now is so overwhelming, if you really look at it, you can’t survive without the not yet.1

(Sadly there’s no clip of this available, but it was great.)

Were you at TGC15 or watching the livestream? What was a top moment for you?

3 personal reflections on #TGC15

tgc15

This week, around six thousand Christian men and women came together in Orlando, Florida, for The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, the theme of which was the new heavens and the new earth. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a few reflections on the teaching we all received, but I first want share a few of personal reflections from the event. As you may know, for many of us, these conferences are as much about relationships as about the material (if not more so). Here are three highlights:

Connecting with friends, old and new. When most people think a conference full of introverts, they usually don’t think relationship stuff would be high on the list of priorities. Yet, one of the best things about TGC and other conferences is catching up with friends, and making some new ones. Yesterday, I finally reconnected with Julian (a pastor who lives in Toronto), spent time with Noel (also a pastor in the Toronto area), Andrew and Gary (both of whom minister north of my community). I also enjoyed a great lunch with Kevin Halloran (loved hearing more about the ministry where God has placed him), and talking with Chris and Alyssa (and cuddle up with their baby girl, Geneva Mae).

And then there was Disney. Yes, Wednesday night I, along with my friend Matt and a couple of his colleagues, when to Downtown Disney (couldn’t do the theme park this time) to enjoy dinner and try to pick up something for our kids. But the magic we were to experience on the outskirts of the magic kingdom was black with what was perhaps the most comically bad service any of us had ever experienced in a restaurant. It did, however, lead to many hilarious (for us) comments, some of which I will now share with you, with very little context:

Matt: “First John was full of lies and second John was full of inconsistencies.”

Second John: “I’ve got the perfect surprise to end your night.”
Me: “You’re going to murder us?”

After we received our “surprise”:

Every staff person in the restaurant, ever: “Oh, wow! Doesn’t that look amazing? Isn’t it good? We had 13 people in our group during training and we couldn’t even make a dent out of it.”
Me: “Well, it’s… big.”

The only thing that could make us feel better was getting our picture taken Cinderella:

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(Or, at least a statue of her.)

Celebrating their successes. My friend Matt’s 12 week study of Hebrews releases in June. Dan’s got a new book coming out with Baker. And then there’s Derek, a great guy I met two years ago at TGC and had not yet published his first article on the site. Now he’s taking the TGC-friendly blogosphere by storm. This has been wonderful to see, as Derek is a really sharp guy and a gifted communicator. (And if you don’t follow him, you really should.)

Cultivating new opportunities. This week, I also had the chance to talk with friends and acquaintances from the publishing world, which I always love. Out of that, I have a couple of proposals I’m putting together to shop around that, if one or both are accepted, would be a lot of fun to write. I’ll keep you posted on how those go (and your prayers are much appreciated).

There’s a lot that happened over the course of the last three days, and I’m sure I’ll remember something else that was absolutely amazing tomorrow, but these are probably the three biggest moments of the conference from a personal perspective for me.

Were you at TGC this year? What was a particular highlight for you?

Why I’m probably not live-blogging #TGC15

tgc15

I stumbled into live-blogging almost by accident. It was my first TGC conference, back in 2011. I was attending and took copious notes and decided to post them on my site. That was literally all the foresight that went into it. After that, I did it again at T4G in 2012. And I was invited to live-blog a couple of other conferences. Then I came back to TGC in 2013 and live-blogged the pre-conference and all but one session of the main conference.

Then, at T4G in 2014, I didn’t at all. Instead, I just took in the sessions, and made some notes for myself. I wound up sitting out of a couple sessions out of necessity. And it was great It was an actually relaxing conference experience. (Imagine that…)

So what am I doing this year?

Honestly, I’m probably not live-blogging it. As I’ve said before, live-blogging is fun, but it is a lot of work. But I’m not sure it serves the purpose it once did when livestreams weren’t quite as ubiquitous. And then there’s the whole problem of Internet connectivity…

My plan for this year is to continue with the sort of approach I took to T4G 2014:

I’m going to go to be flexible. I’ll go to what sessions I can, but I’m not going to lose sleep if I miss one. I’ll still probably write a ton of notes, but I’ll really only interact with the points that resonate most with me here. Most importantly, I’ll be spending more time enjoying the rare opportunity to meet with people whom I might not otherwise or only see at events like these.

Live-blogging has some benefits, for sure—particularly the immediacy factor for those who are best served by about reading for 10 minutes rather than listening to something for 45. However, a strategy like this helps me better keep my sanity.

And, if you’re at TGC15, be sure to say hi!

Links I like

Links

TGC 2015 Livestream

The 2015 TGC National Conference kicks off this afternoon in Orlando, Florida. If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to take advantage of the livestream throughout the event. And if you are here, come say hello if you see me around.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put eight books on sale this week, all focusing on the subject of suffering:

Be sure to also grab Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer today for $2.99.

The Secret Sessions At The Gospel Coalition Conference

This is worth reading simply because Stephen Altrogge enjoys being silly.

Introducing the new ESV Bible app

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Today, Crossway’s completely redesigned ESV Bible app releases for iOS devices. Here’s a look at some of the new features:

  • Innovative layout options, including new Reader’s and Verse-by-Verse Modes
  • Integrated reading plans
  • Free access to the ESV Global Study Bible notes and resources
  • Personal notes, highlights, and bookmarks
  • An in-app store
  • Streaming audio
  • Beautiful book illustrations

Find out more at ESV.org/mobile.

Can You Love Jesus and Hate Jesus’ Followers?

Dan Darling:

My neighbor is not a theologian. I’m not even sure he is a follower of Christ. But those simple lines gave me some good insight into a phenomenon that unfortunately plagues the evangelical church.

We think it’s acceptable to love Jesus and hate His followers.

The Church Is Not Your Frat House

Ryan Shelton:

In college, I joined a club that sought to foster a sense of community through secrecy. We sought to build fraternity through exclusivity, private ritual experiences, and of course, password-handshakes. The idea was that relationships grow deeper by cutting others out and surrounding ourselves in mystery and darkness.

Sometimes we can treat Christian worship like an insider’s club. And who doesn’t want to be included in a family-like brotherhood and sisterhood? But the New Testament blueprint for worship gatherings has little room for secrecy. Rather, hospitality rises to the top of the values we want to characterize our Sunday morning services.

Books I’m packing for #TGC15

TGC15-books

The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 national conference begins this coming Monday, which means in just a couple of days, I’ll be hitting the road for Orlando for a few days of teaching on the new creation, conversations with far off friends I don’t see nearly often enough, and, hopefully, a little time in the sun.

And because I’m going to be sitting on a plane for a few hours each way, it’s also a great opportunity to catch up on some reading. Although I’m almost certainly not going to get to everything (because that’d be silly), here’s a look at what I’m packing:

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. I’m about half done this one already, so it might not actually make it onto the plane. Incidentally, if you’re at the conference, you can get a copy for $5 in the bookstore. If not, be sure to get it while it’s on sale at Westminster Bookstore.

Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate,and Commissioned Church by Collin Hansen. What I’ve seen of this, I’ve really liked, so it might be my next read after DeYoung’s book. This is also another one of the $5 deals in the conference bookstore that is worth considering.

Defying ISIS by Johnnie Moore. Moore’s book came on my radar just recently, and thankfully I’ve been able to get my hands on a copy. Looking forward to seeing how he handles the subject matter.

Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell. Trillia’s new book is one that showed up in my mailbox last week. This one I’m looking forward to almost more because I enjoy how Trillia writes (that’s a huge part of what makes a book worth reading for me—style).

Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God by Joe Thorn. I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while now, and just haven’t had the opportunity to start. Thorn’s last book, Note to Self, was terrific and I have high hopes for this one, too (especially based on my friend Joey’s recommendation of it).

I’ll also be continuing my trek through Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ by Herman Bavinck. Conference or no, I’m on a schedule, and I’ve already had to push back my completion date once. Thankfully, this one will be particularly easy to pack since it’s sitting in my Logos app.

While at the conference, I’m actually not planning on purchasing any books, although that may be easier said than done. There’s a title or two I already know will be there that I’ve been meaning to take a look at…

Travelling to TGC this weekend? What are you planning to read along the way?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Reflections On My “Break-Up” With The Gospel Coalition

Tullian Tchividjian:

It’s been a much quieter week for me. Last week was loud and exhausting. And (other than Miami Heat games, Dallas Cowboy games, Ultra Music Festival, and the music in my car) I’m not a fan of either loud or exhausting. Not many are. So, I’m grateful that God has granted me a quieter week.

Still, the very public “break-up” between The Gospel Coalition and me weighs heavy on my heart. And I want to say just a few things about it now that I’ve had some time to reflect.

‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and the Subversion of Human Nature

E. Stephen Burnett:

Marvel, when given a chance to take its unprecedented shared-universe superhero films to the small screen, chose to write stories that subvert naïve optimism about basically-decent government agencies and even human beings themselves.

What does this say about humans?

Clearly we do not believe our own press.

Concerns about the “Efficacy” of Works

Richard Phillips, interacting with a recent article by Mark Jones:

I am less eager to support the teaching of good works as efficacious in salvation, however, regardless of the Puritan gravitas attached to the idea. Now, if what we mean by the efficacy of works in attaining eternal life is James’ teaching that faith without works is dead, so that the evidence of work is needed to justify our faith, then I will of course agree. Moreover, if we mean that works are efficacious, as Owen says, “as the way wherein we ought to walk, for the coming to and obtaining of the inheritance so fully purchased and freely given,” then I will earnestly bow once again to Owen’s lucid biblical accuracy. But when we suggest that works enter into the instrumentality of salvation, so that in the consummation of our salvation eternal life is granted on the basis of good works, then I find myself expressing both objections and concerns.

Jesus Is Not a Cagefighter

Joe Carter:

Although well-intended, these ministries that focus on “ultimate fighters” are giving young men a deformed view of Biblical masculinity. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus praised the meek, a word that in the Greek is used in reference to a “tame” wild animal. The lion is able to lay down with the lamb precisely because he is not given over to his hyper-aggressive nature.

 

The Internet needs a cookie

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There’s blood in the water and the sharks are circling.

At least, that’s what it looks like based on the craziness in the Christian side of the Twitter- and blogospheres:

  • People are continuing to wrestle, with varying degrees of helpfulness (very little, for the most part) with the Nathan Morales trial and the question of who knew what when. People continue to (again with varying degrees of helpfulness) press for statements from TGC’s leadership.
  • Tullian Tchividjian officially left TGC, something he’d planned to do (but evidently several months earlier than he’d originally intended), leading some to get their rage on even more.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Held Evans, in a ham-fisted effort to illustrate God being beyond gender (since He’s neither male nor female) wrote a post referring to God as “She,” and was declared a heretic for her trouble. She’s since been asking everyone on the Internet if they think she is one.

There’s a lot right and wrong with everything that’s happening at the moment. Those who are legitimately angry about a horrific crime not being reported to police are right to be angry. The crime itself should never happen, ever, nor should any concerned parent feel like silence is acceptable.

But is it right to start spiralling and getting all conspiracy theory-y? Honestly, I’m not sure.

Because I’m friendly with a lot of TGC folks, I’m inclined to think the best of them. That’s what we all do with people we like, though (which is sometimes what gets some of these things happening). But, of course, thinking the best of someone doesn’t mean they’re exempt from criticism, as we all also know…

Tchividjian, likewise, is a guy who has taken a lot of heat—and been called a lot of nasty names—because of his views on sanctification. Again, he’s a guy I’m on good terms with, and I tend to agree with a lot of where he’s coming from (even if I’d nuance some of it differently). But does that mean he’s the right horse to bet on in the sanctification debate? Probably no more than Mark Jones is (I’m one of the few who didn’t find his book Antinomianism terribly compelling or helpful).

And then there’s Evans. Is it fair to call her a heretic for her attempt to say God is beyond gender? I don’t know; at a minimum, I’d think it’s more accurate to say she’s a sloppy lay theologian who lets her desire to win the Internets get the better of her and cries foul whenever her bluff is called. (Full disclosure: this opinion is based on her public persona as I have no personal relationship or connection with her.)

When a perfect storm of crazy comes together like it did this week, it’s easy for people to get their rage on. But we should also remember something really important: We don’t do anger well. Paul (and the Psalmist) encourage us to “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26; Psalm 4:4). James warns that our tongues are “a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). 

We should take this seriously. If even our righteous anger yields unrighteous results, particularly because of our hasty, harsh, mean-spirited words, it means we’ve got a problem. We should all be very cautious about how we use our words—especially when we’re angry! We say things we’ll regret. We say things we mean in the wrong way. And worst, we don’t take our words and redirect them to the Lord.

We don’t pray. We don’t ask for God’s wisdom. We don’t ask for God to reveal to us the state of our hearts.

That’s the danger we’re all in in this latest hullabaloo—and it’s the thing we, individually, need to protect ourselves against the most.

And sometimes the best way to do that is to just chill out, have a cookie and ask God for wisdom. You might feel better if you do.


photo credit: Bob.Fornal via photopin cc

Around the Interweb

Fearful Might, Majestic Love

My first article for The Gospel Coalition Voices blog:

When a natural disaster strikes, whether last week’s tornadoes or last month’s earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan, we are confronted by a terrible truth: Despite our best efforts, this idea that we have mastered creation is just an illusion.

We cannot tame the weather any more than we can make the sun shine in Seattle or make it stop snowing in Canada. And when the illusion is shattered, we are left horrified.

Then there’s this awe that comes from witnessing the power of the whirlwind as I am forced to stop and consider the unfathomable power of God. And I fear that many of us, myself included, have taken for granted the Lord’s might.

Read the rest at TGC

Also Worth Reading

Ministry: Matt Chandler asks “Is Church Membership Biblical?”

Life: My friend Amber shares the woes of prenatal consumption

Technology: The Christian Email Signoffs Debate

Books: Have you heard about Crossway Impact yet? Check out the video:

In Case You Missed It

The Promise of Change and the False Hope of Politics

John Flavel: Self is the Poise of the Unrenewed Heart

My Memory Moleskine: Wash, Rinse, Repeat…

Tim Keller: The Death of the Mushy Middle (video)

Book Reviews:

  1. The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms
  2. Voices of the True Woman Movement

Matt Chandler: Following God May End Badly (video)

D.A. Carson: Genuine Love is Odd

Around the Interweb

Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore

Crossway just released the trailer for Russell D. Moore’s new book, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ. Take a look:

 

(HT: Crossway Blog)

Introducing ESV GreekTools

This is a phenomenal new add-on to ESVonline.org that allows you to interact with the Greek text of the New Testament. Here’s a video explaining:

 

Crossway is offering this new tool at an introductory price of $9.99 (regular price $14.99). This is a tremendous deal for such a great resource. I’ve got it and am really enjoying it.

Also Worth Reading

TGC Bonus Session: Listen to the audio from the panel discussion, God: Abounding in Love, Punishing the Guilty

Adoption Story: There was a girl, fifteen years old…

Spiritual Growth: The Tragedy of a Self-Centered Life

Contest Winners: The winners of the Don’t Call It a Comeback giveaway are Andrew Hall and Ben Thorp. Congratulations, gentlemen!

In Case You Missed It

Book Review: Don’t Call It a Comeback edited by Kevin DeYoung

This week I was at the Gospel Coalition’s 2010 National Conference and had the opportunity to live blog the event. Here are my notes from eight of the plenary sessions:

Al Mohler: Studying the Scriptures and Finding Jesus

Tim Keller: Getting Out

Alistair Begg: From a Foreigner to King Jesus

James MacDonald: Not According to Our Sins

Conrad Mbewe: The Righteous Branch

Matt Chandler: Youth

Mike Bullmore: God’s Great Heart of Love Toward His Own

D.A. Carson: Getting Excited About Melchizedek

Emily and I also took some time to reflect on our experiences at the conference: day one, day two and day three

#TGC11 Day 3 Reflections

Emily and I took a few minutes last night to talk about the final day of The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference:

 

The last few days have been fantastic for Emily and I. We’ve been greatly encouraged by our time in Chicago and were blessed to talk with so many great people.

More from us when we get home!

Mike Bullmore: God’s Great Heart of Love Toward His Own #TGC11

Mike Bullmore is the founding pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, WI. Mike served for 15 years as an associate professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, as well as chairman of the Practical Theology Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.

Dr. Bullmore addressed the conference from Zephaniah 3:9-20.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

 

My notes follow:


[Dr. Bullmore opens reading from the beginning of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress]

I can imagine someone reading that and saying, “clearly the problem with that man is that book. What he needs to do is put it down and stop reading it… Just put that book down and pick up something else… there are magazines about celebrities and romance novels and… Christian, why would you keep reading that book unless it’s really true and all that other stuff was designed to keep you trapped in a make-believe world?”

Well, the book Christian is reading is, of course, the Bible. And this book, Zephaniah, could well be the book Christian was reading, because this book is a miniature version of [the Bible]. All the prophets are like this.

The Old Testament is pregnant with the gospel. Through progressive revelation, while the gospel is initially obscured, it becomes increasingly clear as you continue to read. The gospel is in utero, if you will, but all the parts are there.

What Zephaniah tells us is that God has provided salvation, and not just as an escape from God’s judgment, but as entrance into God’s joy. Zephaniah offers three steps: [Read more…]

#TGC11 Day 2 Reflections

Emily and I took a few minutes last night to talk about some of the highlights of day 2 of the Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference. Check out the video below for our thoughts:

 

And just a reminder—the Don’t Call It a Comeback giveaway is still on until Friday afternoon. If you’ve not entered already, now would be a great opportunity. Go here for more details.

Conrad Mbewe: The Righteous Branch #TGC11

Conrad Mbewe is the pastor of Kabwata Reformed Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa. He is widely regarded as the African Spurgeon. KBC is presently overseeing the establishment of ten new Reformed churches in Zambia and Botswana. Conrad is the editor of Reformation Zambia magazine and writes three columns in two weekly national newspapers. His most recent contribution to a book is found in Dear Timothy—Letters on Pastoral Ministry, published by Founders Press. He is also the principal of the Reformed Baptist Preachers College in Zambia.

Mbewe expounded on Jeremiah 23:1-8.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

 

My notes are below:


As I meditated on this passage, the subject of leadership was burned afresh in my own heart. Clearly this is the issue that arises in this passage that we have just read. And again and again in the Bible we find, as the leaders go, so go the people of Israel. You see the people hardening their hearts and going their own way.

Often you find phrases like “the king led the people into great sin”… And in Malachi, we find God chastising the priests, saying “It is you who have led my people to desecrate my temple…” And the converse is also true, where repentance first comes to the king and then the people.

What Jeremiah deals with here is the need for consistent, godly and fruitful leadership that ultimately brings glory to God… Oh that God may help us see how we should deal with our lives, so that we might be the means by which God blesses His people. [Read more…]

James MacDonald: Not According to Our Sins #TGC11

James MacDonald is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel here in Chicago. His message comes from Psalm 25.

The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

My notes follow.


Not sure if this was a gift or Carson throwing down the gauntlet—“let’s see you preach Christ out of this text, yo!”

Before we can preach Christ, we first need to preach. Many are not actually heralding the Word that has been given to them. We need to preach Christ from all the Word.

4 things by way of background on Psalm 25:

  1. It’s a psalm. They’re the most quoted books of the OT in the NT. They’re quoted over 400 times in the NT. The psalms are the songbook of Jesus.
  2. It’s a poem. Ancient Hebrew poetry with two main artistic structure. It’s an acrostic and the truths come in couplets, synonymous parallelism.
  3. It’s a pattern. Prayer, creed, prayer. It’s David in pursuit of total trust in God. That’s why I’ve called this message “When You Don’t Know What To Do.” Some of it’s about learning, some is about leaning, but it’s all about building trust.
  4. It’s the plea of a broken-hearted man. Don’t ever let your study cause paralysis in remembering that this is a real life. A psalm like this can only come from someone who understood what it was like to be crushed. Many debate when this took place in David’s life, but most agree that this has to do with Absalom (see 2 Sam 3-15).

Psalm 25:1-2a: Trust God. The whole theme of the psalm. The word for “soul” means the center of the desires, but can include the whole body.

Psalm 25:2b-3: No Shame. Can his prayer be anymore clear? “Let me not be put to shame.” It may look really bad today, your heart might be in the vice of some crushing reality, but it’s not over. What we have to learn is that there is no shame. Not in the end, not when God’s done. Is there ever an excuse or reason to be betrayed? Pastors, parents, children, people don’t deserve that. [Read more…]