Saturday, July 31, 2010

the suffering christ

Though we may be abandoned by the world’s favor, the friendship of men, earthly prosperity, and bodily strength, though we may even be bereft, as may possibly be the case, of the feeling of God’s nearness, and the freshness of the inward life of faith; yet God himself always continues near and favorably inclined to us in Christ. However strangely he may sometimes act toward us, into whatever furnace of affliction he may plunge us, however completely he may withdraw himself from our consciousness, yet in every situation the blissful privilege belongs to us, not only courageously to approach him, and say, ” Why dost thou forsake me, thy child, for whom thy Son has atoned?” but also to say to him with still bolder confidence, “Thou wilt not, canst not, and darest not forsake me, because the merits of thy only-begotten Son forever bind thee to me.”

- Friedrich Wilhelm Krummacher, The Suffering Savior


evangelizing the poor

So you want to evangelize the poor? Here is an excellent message by my friend Dan Edelen in the latest issue of Serve!.

Edelen outlines the following as keys to evangelizing the poor. He notes they are "less a function of poverty and more the condition of your heart ..."
  • We must be aware of the power of systems and pray against them.
  • We must become poor in the eyes of the world.
  • We must be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God and minister Him in power.
  • We must be willing to lay down our busy lives.
Read the full article here.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

old v. new

I love Doug Phillips' comments triggered by J.I. Packer, "As J.I. Packer puts it, 'Repenting of any vice means going in the opposite direction, to practice the virtues most directly opposed to it.' In a time when our entire cultural mood constantly pulls us toward a mediating ‘third way’ instead of embracing an 'either-or' it might be helpful for us to remember how much of the New Testament is cast in terms of 'this versus that.'"

This has many applications. I'm not saying a third way is always inappropriate but I often find people failing in the first way, in response others find a second way which is as much if not more in error, and then to address that someone will come along proposing a third way rather than simply say, "hey, let's just do the first way right."

But I'm off track right now, Phillips was addressing our old life as opposed to our new life in Christ. He writes, "The pursuit of holiness is a journey of ongoing repentance that keeps us 'putting off the old' as we simultaneously seek to 'put on the new' (Eph. 4:22-24; Col.3: 9-12ff.)" and then offers the following:

... Scripture insists we cannot ‘serve the living and true God’ without ‘turning from idols’ (1 Thess. 1:9). The Spirit is opposed to the flesh, so it’s the new versus the old, when it comes to the pursuit of holiness (Gal. 5:16ff.; 2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 12:14).

And we could cite many more examples of “this versus that” holiness:
  • Christ-centered vs. self/man-centered (Gal.2:20; Phil.1:21; 3:4b-11; Col.1:10, 15-18ff.)
  • Spirit-empowered vs. ‘flesh’-dominated (Gal. 5:16ff.; Rom.8)
  • Gospel-driven (grace) vs. performance-driven (works) (Rom. 11:6; Gal.2:20-21)
  • Word-obeying vs. ‘worldly wisdom’ following (Deut. 8:3; Matt.4:4; 28:18-20; 2 Tim.3:16ff; Jas. 3:13-18 ; 1 Cor.1:18-2:6; 1 Jn.2:3-6)
  • Others-loving vs. self-serving (Matt. 20:24-28; Mark 8:34-37; Jn.13:34-35; Matt.22:34ff.)
  • World-denying vs. culture-conforming (Rom.12:1-2; 1 Jn.2:15-17)
  • Holiness-pursuing vs. ‘self-indulging’ (2 Cor. 5:15; Heb.12:14 ; 2 Pet.1:5ff.)
  • Father-glorifying vs. man-pleasing (Mt.5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31; Gal. 1:10)
  • The way of peace vs. the way of the transgressor (Matt.11:28-30; Prov. 13:15; Rom.3:15-17)
  • The narrow road that leads to life vs. the broad road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14; Jn. 3:36; Rom.2:5-11)
It is important to see that all these different facets are interdependent and ‘synergistic’ – the cultivation of the new virtues are to be maintained and experienced together for maximum effectiveness in the simultaneous ‘mortification’ of the old vices (cp. Matt.4:17; Jn. 3:1-16; Rom. 6; 2 Cor.5:17; Eph. 4:17ff.; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 1:13-17; 1 Jn.2:15-17).

And here is the most encouraging part – the Bible makes it clear that this entire enterprise of progressive sanctification is empowered by God the Holy Spirit himself. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).

And so the believer is called on to “strive for…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14), but he does so in the confidence that “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil.1:6). Paul’s closing benediction to the Thessalonians puts our pursuit of Christ-likeness in heartening perspective:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thess. 5:23-24, emphasis added)

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

thorn on godliness

Joe Thorn rightly assesses that both legalism and license kill godliness; that only the gospel gives life to godliness. It is "the result of the gospel taking root in our hearts, producing the fruit of Godward love and obedience through an attitude of joy and gratitude." Thorn writes regarding godlness:

1. We should desire it.

Godliness is the natural desire of all those born of God. We want to be reflect the imago dei and look like our Heavenly Father. We long to be more like our Savior who not only shows us perfect diety, but also perfect humanity. We crave for the Spirit of God to sanctify us through the word. There is happiness to be found in holiness when it is born in us by the grace of God.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Tim 4:7, 8 (ESV)

2. We should develop it.

While sanctification is the work of God, “whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,” it is also what enables us “more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” (WSC Q.35). This means godliness is to be pursued. By the grace of God and the power of his Spirit we can die to the flesh and live unto him. We do not give up on the pursuit, for even though sin remains with us in all things this side of the resurrection, we have Christ’s prayer for and God’s promise of growth in grace and godliness.

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 1 Tim. 6:11 (ESV)

3. We must not trust in it.

Desiring and developing godliness is only good when we know better than to trust in our godliness as the means of believing or even feeling ourselves to be acceptable before God. Our hope and confidence before God is never our righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ.

…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Gal. 2:16 (ESV)

4. We must not boast in it.

In our pursuit of godliness we must not boast in it for 2 simple reasons. First, our godliness is imperfect, corrupt with sin. Even our best praying and service is tainted with mixed motives or a divided heart. Second, our godliness is the work of God in us, not a result of our trying harder and getting better. True godliness produces humility as we recognize its presence and growth to be the gracious, progressive work of God.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil. 2:12, 2:13 (ESV)

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

keller on contextualization

"Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend." ~ Tim Keller

the one anothers

Justin Taylor posts a summary of the "one anothers" from Tim Keller's Gospel in Life. In this the one anothers are group into Affirm, Share, and Serve. I like it.


1. Affirm one another’s strengths, abilities, and gifts.
  • Romans 12:10: “Honor one another”
  • James 5:9: “Don’t grumble against each other”
  • Romans 12:3-8: Confirm the gifts of one another
2. Affirm one another’s equal importance in Christ.
  • Romans 15:7: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you”
  • 1 Corinthians 12:25: “Have equal concern for each other”
  • 1 Peter 5:5: “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another”
  • James 2:1: “Don’t show favoritism”
3. Affirm one another through visible affection.
  • Romans 16:16: “Greet one another with a holy kiss”
  • James 1:19: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak”
  • Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another”
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12: “[May] your love increase and overflow for each oher”

4. Share one another’s space, goods, and time.
  • Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love”
  • 1 Peter 4:9: “Offer hospitality to one another”
  • Galatians 6:10: “As we have opportunity, let us do good”
5. Share one another’s needs and problems.
  • Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Encourage one another”
  • Hebrews 3:13: “Encourage one another daily”
6. Share one another’s beliefs, thinking, and spirituality.
  • Colossians 3:16: “Teach and admonish one another”
  • Ephesians 5:19: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”
  • Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:10: “Agree with one another”

7. Serve one another through accountability.
  • James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other”
  • Romans 15:14: “Instruct one another”
  • Ephesians 4:25: “Speak truthfully”
8. Serve one another through forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”
  • Colossians 3:13: “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”
  • Galatians 5:25: Don’t provoke or envy one another
  • James 4:11: “Do not slander one another”
  • Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15: Reestablish broken relationships with one another
9. Serve one another’s interests rather than our own.
  • Hebrews 10:24: “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”
  • Romans 15:1-2: Don’t please yourself but please others
  • Galatians 5:13: “Serve one another”

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loving the marginalized

Why is Loving the Marginalized so Important? By David Smith.

Here are 18 reasons, supported by over 40 verses from the Bible, on why we should love the marginalized (Those marginalized by the world, but loved by God.) Yet, what is so interesting is that these reasons to love the marginalized do not hinge on the response, life change, or even growth of those being served.

The reasons for the servant to serve are set by two simple principles: to glorify God and to become more like Him. That’s it.

So, why love the marginalized …
  • Because ... whoever is kind to the needy honors God (Prov 14:31 - NIV) He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done. (Prov 19:17-NIV) A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Prov 11:25 - NIV) … then you shall take delight in the Lord…and ride upon the heights of the earth ... (Isa 58:6-14 - NRSV) ... And you will be blessed, because they can not repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke-14:13-14 - NRSV)
  • Because ... He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever (2 Cor 9:9 - NIV) … not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also over flowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (2 Cor 9:12 - NIV)
  • Because ... your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. (Acts 10:4 -NIV) … Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me. (Matt 25:40) He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? Says the Lord. (Jer 22:16)
  • Because ... you should not leave undone the more important things. (Luke 11:42-NLT) He that gives unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hides his eyes shall have many a curse. (Proverbs 28:27) … give to the needy … and you will be clean all over. (Luke 11:41 - NLT)
  • Because ... then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I (Isaiah 58:9 - NIV) … God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. (Acts 10:31-NIV) Blessed is he that considers the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and You will not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of sickness: You will restore him in his sickness. (Psa 41:1-3)
  • Because ... the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I (the Lord) command you, saying, You shall open your hand wide unto your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land. (Deut 15:11) … remembering the words of the Lord Jesus who said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) … give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)
  • Because ... by this service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for your obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. (2 Cor 9:13-14 - NIV)
  • Because ... the righteous considers the cause of the poor: but the wicked regard not to know it. (Prov 29:7) … among my people are found wicked men … they have become great, and grown rich … they shine: … they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not … the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy they do not judge. … shall not My Soul be avenged on such a nation as this? (Jer. 5:28-29)
  • Because ... the Lord Almighty says: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor … but they refused to pay attention … and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was angry. When I called, they didn’t listen; so when they called, I would not listen, says the Lord Almighty. I scattered them with a whirlwind among the nations where they were strangers. (Zech. 7:9-14 - NIV)
  • Because ... this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Eze 16:49-50 - NIV)
  • Because ... If my people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14) … break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity (Dan 4:27 - NKJV).
  • Because ... the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. (Psa 9:17-18) Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. (Prov 31:9)
  • Because ... religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress … (James 1:27 - NIV) Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised to those who love Him (James 2:5 - NIV) … remember the poor … (Gal 2:10)
  • Because ... What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:14-17)
  • Because ... In Christ Jesus … the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Gal 5:6 - NIV) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? … let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His Presence. (1 John 3:16 – 19 - NIV)
  • Because ... the Kingdom of God is ... righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit ... (Rom 14:17 - NIV) Your Father's good pleasure is to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the poor; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33-34 - RSV) ...By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so they may take hold of real life (1Tim 6:17-19 - NLT)
  • Because ... If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (Isa 58:10-11 - RSV) …you shall be called Repairer of the Breach…(Isa. 58:12 - RSV) … and … ride upon the heights of the earth … (Isa 58:14 - RSV)
  • Because ... the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble plans he stands. (Isa 32:8 - NIV) And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever." He … will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. (2Cor 9:7-10 - RSV) only … remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do. (Gal 2:10 - RSV)

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Monday, July 26, 2010

justification and sanctification

By Every Word posted a two part piece on Justification and Sanctification by J.C. Ryle. Part 1 covers how they are the same:

(a) Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.

(b) Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.

(c) Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.

(d) Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person; he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.

(e) Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit's grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness [fitness] for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

While part 2 covers how they differ:

(a) Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

(b) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

(c) In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour.

(d) Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

(e) Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

(f) Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God's sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.

(g) Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness [fitness, worthiness] for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

(h) Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

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days of darkness

An excellent word from Jon Bloom:

One thing the Bible isn't is utopist about life in this world. It gets unfairly criticized for encouraging a pessimism that makes people passive about doing anything to improve things; people who are "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good."

Of course, that's a lot of hogwash. History has shown that those who have a hope of heaven are far more likely than their agnostic or atheist neighbors to willingly make the personal sacrifices necessary to seriously address the horrors and hopelessness in the world.

But the Bible doesn't gloss over horrors. Reading the whole Bible through, we wince a lot. And it is pretty frank about what we can expect during our sojourn on earth:

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:8)

When Jesus walked the earth he was not a bouncy, positive-thinker. He was "a man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3). And he promised his followers, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33).

Life is hard. The days of darkness will be many. And you know what? That's hopeful.

When we find ourselves experiencing "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities" (2 Corinthians 12:10), something strange isn't happening to us (1 Peter 4:12). It is what we must expect living in a creation subjected to futility (Romans 8:20).

But it was subjected to futility in hope—hope "that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). And yes there is deep groaning as we wait for the completion of our redemption (Romans 8:22-23). But it is a hope-infused groaning, full of anticipation for what is coming.

And it's this Spirit-empowered dynamic in the soul that allows us to be both "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10). We expect sorrow from the world and redemption from our Savior, who will work even our sorrows for ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

So in your days of darkness, Jesus understands (Hebrews 4:15) and wants you to take heart:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

want to survive?

"No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies." ~ Dean Acheson

Thursday, July 22, 2010

the final word on social justice

Well, this isn't probably the final word but Kevin DeYoung has finally written installment 7 of his excellent 7 part series on social justice. In this he analyzes the oft misunderstood Luke 4.16-21. It's worth reading his full post. My excepts are here:

First, it overlooks the actual verbs Jesus’ read from the Isaiah scroll. The Spirit of the Lord, resting upon Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, would anoint him to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. With the exception of “to set at liberty the oppressed” (which we’ll come back to in a moment), these are all speaking words. While it’s certainly true that Jesus healed the sick and gave sight to the blind (as pointers to his deity and as signs of the kingdom’s in-breaking), the messianic mission statement in Luke 4 highlights the announcement of good news. If Luke 4 sets the tone for the mission of the church, then our mission ought to focus mainly on the preaching of the gospel.

That's exactly right. I cannot tell you the number of times I've heard that we demonstrate the Gospel. No, we proclaim the Gospel and then adorn it with our works. We must have demonstration but not in the place of proclamation. I even had one person reveal recently that after years of being a Christian she finally realized that all we need to do is love people. In that they will see Christ; that we really need not tell them about God, Christ, sin, holiness, etc... They will just see it in us and God will reveal it to them. Wow - and wrong.

Second, the “missions as social transformation” reading of Luke 4 assumes too much of a strictly economic understanding of “the poor” (ptochos). While ptochos in verse 18 is probably not without some reference to material poverty, there are several reasons to think the word signifies much more than this. ...
So for all these reasons I agree with Andreas Kostenberger and P.T. O’Brien that “The ‘poor’ to whom the good news is announced are not to be understood narrowly of the economically destitute, as most recent scholars have suggested; rather the term refers more generally to ‘the dispossessed, the excluded’ who were forced to depend upon God.” I agree with David Bosch when he concludes, “Therefore, in Luke’s gospel, the rich are tested on the ground of their wealth, whereas others are tested on loyalty toward their family, their people, their culture, and their work (Lk. 9:59-61). This means the poor are sinners like everybody else, because ultimately sinfulness is rooted in the human heart. Just as the materially rich can be spiritually poor, the materially poor can be spiritually poor.” Many other scholars past and present, including Eckhard Schnabel, David Hesselgrave, Robert Stein, Christopher Little, I. Howard Marshall, and Darrell Bock have come to similar conclusions.

So - yes, we are to care materially for those in need, but Jesus is telling us more - that we are all in need of the Good News - it is freedom, life, sight, etc... and it comes only through Him.

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god with us

The following words of wisdom are from James Dodds in Exposition of the Apostles' Creed:

In being born, Jesus assumed the nature of humanity, and, in so doing, more than restored to man the likeness to God which our first parents lost, for themselves and their descendants, through the Fall. He thereby made it possible for God to dwell with man, and for man to rise into communion with God. Sin had effaced the Divine image, and no other than the Son of God could give back to men the power to reflect in their own lives the character of God. His possession of the human nature gives us confidence in approaching Him, by assuring us of His brotherhood and sympathy; while His possession of the Divine nature assures us that He can make His brotherhood and sympathy effectual.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

difficult church work

"The work of the church isn't difficult because of what Satan's doing in the world it's difficult because of what Satan's doing in the church." —John MacArthur

HT:The Bororean

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making grace amazing

"If we spoke less of God's love and more of His holiness & judgment, we'd say much more when we spoke of His love."

-- P.T. Forsyth


piper cautions us

Here's a great "word" by John Piper. Not only do I align with his approach to "prophetic words" but I also align with the content and explanation of the warning. To those of us who consider ourselves reformed, we should always be aware of the danger of intellectualism.


the church

More from Owen Strachan in Jonathan Edwards on Beauty.

“In every generation, it was the church’s privilege to taste the Lord’s goodness and love; in all seasons, it was the church’s mission to celebrate and magnify this goodness in a foreign and hostile world.”


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marks of a christian

Owen Strachan summarizes chapter 3 of Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity. In that he outlines five clear marks or signs of godly living.
  • You love Jesus
  • You hate sin
  • You love God's Word
  • You love the truth
  • You love believers
My add to this well done summary is that one should manage to do all of these in balance, that is, they do not contradict one another. I find many who under the guise of hating sin struggling with loving believers and vice-versa. True godliness shows up with a fervor for all of these and a Spirit-led life to them each to the fullest.

Monday, July 19, 2010

the orthos

Scot McKnight posts briefly about Orthopathy, Orthodoxy, and Orthopraxy (right motive, right doctrine, right practice) to suggest a hierarchy of importance starting with orthopathy. I don't know how to think about importance - all three strike me as equally important but I'm not set on that thought.

More interesting to me however is the question of sequence. To my understanding, orthopathy starts it all. God first changes a man's heart. Without that, we cannot hear right doctrine and live right practice. We might bump into them from time to time but without the internal change, failure is ultimate. Now once I have an initial right motive/heart, then I can hear right doctrine. With that I can (should) live rightly. And of course both right doctrine and right living reinforce right motives which lead to more right doctrine and living. At the same time, right doctrine and living fuel each other. Net, we see a symbiotic relationship in all three but I think the start point is the Holy Spirit changing a heart.

If by important McKnight meant sequence, we are fully aligned. If not, then just add this to his good points. What do you think?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

highest privilege

“The people of God who form the church in all its rich diversity share the highest privilege known to mankind, that of participating in the beauty, joy, and goodness of the Lord, of being satisfied in Christ and giving Him satisfaction.”

- Owen Strachen and Doug Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards on Beauty (Chicago, Ill.; Moody Publishers, 2010), 113.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

church FAMILY

While not a perfect message, the point, "What's better than friends? Family!", is spot on.


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alice in wonderland effect

This, from The Guardian, is excellent ...

There's an Alice in Wonderland effect on the internet, where a person taken out of his or her context can take on epic proportions in an unfamiliar landscape, usually not in a good way. When physical space is collapsed, people can find themselves a long way from home.

The main point is Morrissey's: the devil will find work for idle hands. There's nothing idler than people on the internet, wanting nothing in particular, just wanting to be nearer the centre of things.

I'm too often guilty ...

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newsom v. macarthur

Newsom represents a strange but all too common type of person. One who claims faith in Christ based on Scripture yet yet lacks regard for Scripture as a whole. His worldview and reasoning are unregenerate. As I watched him I wondered why folks are attracted to calling themselves Christian. He uses many of the same words I do but has a clearly different meaning - one not based at all on God's revealed truth.

I don't know him and I'm not assessing his fundamental faith is Christ but I find his appeal to being a believer yet his replacement of Scripture with human reason to be at odds here. Why bother to feign faith at all?

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Friday, July 16, 2010

your church might not be a church

Your church might not be a church if ...
  • You never hear the word “sin” there.
  • You hear the word “sin,” but only briefly or redefined as “mistakes.”
  • You can’t remember when you last heard the name of Jesus in a message.
  • The Easter message isn’t about the resurrection but “new opportunities” in your life or turning over a new leaf.
  • On patriotic holiday weekends, the message is about how great America is.
  • On the other weekends, the message is about how great you are.
  • There are more videos than prayers.
  • People don’t sing during “worship,” but watch.
  • The pastors’ chief responsibilities are things foreign to Scripture.
  • There is more money budgeted for advertising than for mission.
  • The majority of the small groups are oriented around sports or leisure, not study or service.
  • You always feel comfortable there.
  • Church membership just appears to be a recruiting system for volunteers.
  • You only see other church people on Sunday mornings at church.
HT:JW via PC

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

who cares for the poor

Out of Ur just posted this Mark Dever quote:

We have a special responsibility to make sure our brothers and sisters in Christ are cared for. Beyond that it is appropriate to care for the poor outside the church, but that is something for all humans made in the image of God to do, and Christians can certainly help. But the church isn't called to solve social ills.

Assuming the words were chosen carefully, I agree. What do you think?

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

showing gratitude

Leaders should show gratitude. Andy Stanley offers the following pointers.

Be specific. When you say thank you, include details. There is a huge difference between saying thanks and saying thanks followed by a detailed description of what you caught, saw, or are aware the other person was doing.

Be public. Over the years we have learned the value of storytelling—the value of spending a few minutes in front of your leaders telling success stories that communicate vision, but more importantly, express gratitude. Public gratitude expresses a high level of value and can result in an even higher level of loyalty.

Be aware. You have to develop a mindset that looks for accomplishments to celebrate. Listen for stories two or three levels away in your organization and call or write to say thank you. Even though you didn't observe the act, you communicate, "I didn't see it, but somebody else saw it and they are talking about it. What you did is significant."

Be honest. Don't say you liked something you didn't. Remember, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Also, don't attribute something to someone that she didn't really do. Rather than being encouraging and motivating, you're communicating that you really weren't paying attention. So when you say thank you, be honest and don't overdo it.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

our family

This just in from Len ...

“The central reality of church is a group of people called to an ever-deepening personal belonging of friendship with Jesus of Nazareth. The command is to abide, to dwell in him as he dwelt in the Father. You have an image that Jesus used of total intimacy. But Jesus doesn’t give us a deeper relationship with him apart from his Body. Jesus does not come alone. He can’t because Jesus already has a people, he has a family. And when Jesus comes to us he always bring his family with him. Then we say, ‘No, I want just you. What I’ve heard about you is fairly good but what I’ve heard about your family is not so good.’ And Jesus says, “We come together.” Gordon Cosby

“Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God.” John Thompson

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Monday, July 12, 2010

the naughty list

Matt Dabbs pulls together the naughty list from Revelation 21:8, 1 Cor 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, Col 3:5-6, and 1 Samuel 15:23.
  • cowardice
  • unbelief
  • being vile
  • murder
  • sexual immorality
  • practicing magic arts
  • idolatry
  • lying
  • being wicked
  • adultery
  • being a male (or female) prostitute
  • homosexual offenders
  • stealing
  • greed
  • getting drunk
  • slandering
  • swindling
  • impurity
  • debauchery
  • witchcraft
  • hatred
  • discord
  • jealousy
  • fits of rage
  • selfish ambition
  • dissensions
  • factions
  • envy
  • orgies
  • impurity
  • lust
  • evil desires
  • arrogance
  • rebellion
I loves Dabbs' spirit in this. He's saying let's be careful not to pick out some as more horrible than others; any of these can destroy our lives and certainly our witness. But he is not proposing to become a slave to law either. Our good works are not the gospel. Our goods works can only adorn and make the gospel more attractive (Titus 2.10). That is, he is championing living right because we have been made righteous not because we are working to attain it while still confronting the error of singling out and making issue of the ugly sins.

The deal for me is that we do not need to wait until we are perfect in everything on this list before we can say that living any of these is sin. And more so, if we are to live rightly in these areas, we must start with they fact that they are sin rather than excusing them or allowing the complexity of life to confuse the facts.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

church growth

On page 126 of his book The Open Secret, Lesslie Newbigin suggests that while there is clearly joy at rapid growth, there is no evidence that numerical growth is of primary concern. The concern is to demonstrate the mystery of the gospel but not anxiety or enthusiasm about the numerical growth of the church. I agree with him.

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essence of holiness

“You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behavior, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin and desiring God in its place.”

- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 28.


Monday, July 05, 2010

still believing

I recently posted regarding the perceived decline in church. Personally, I do not see it but many of my friends disagree. First, sources conflict (no surprise there). Second, if people from christian group 1 move to christian group 2 is that a decline? Yes if you are in group 1. The opposite if you are group 2. And neither if you are outside of both. Third, who defines that groups 1 & 2 are in and group 3 is out. That is, if people from christian group 1& 2 now form a new group 3, who determines if group 3 is part of the larger group "christian" or not. Fourth, who decides what is "in" or "out" of a given group. Is one in because they say they are? Because they attend a defined "service" on some approved frequency? Because they give an approved amount of money and/or time? Etc...?

For me, I don't care that much. The numbers of true believers are much smaller than those reporting to be and I don't think our measuring of this is important. The above is only important for a given organization and only from an organizational perspective (i.e., as opposed to being important from a Kingdom perspective), Some are growing, some are not, and new ones are springing up.

What bothers me is the broad statement that the church (especially that of the west) is dying/hemorhagging, etc... I don't see convincing evidence to support that - well, let me say it differently, I see convincing evidence in both camps. With that, it is my conviction that saying the church is dying is doing her a disservice. If your organization is dying, reevaluate by all means, but don't conclude the church is dying.

Here is some evidence offered by Scot McKnight yesterday from Bradley Wright's Christians are Hate-filled Hypocrites ...:

1. Evangelical numbers have remained about 25% for the entire period. But an increasing number -- big time shift (from 200,000 to 8 million) -- are nondenominational. But the number of evangelicals has more than doubled since 1972: from 25 million to 60 million. (Catholics and unaffiliated also grew in this time.)
2. The unaffiliated jumped in the 80s and 90s from about 8% to about 15% and have stayed right there since.
3. The mainline numbers have continued to go down since the 70s, and have been going down most of the last century. The numbers since the 70s is that 30% of Americans were mainliners and now only 15% are. Mainliners were the biggest religious group in the USA 3 decades ago, now they are behind Evangelicals, Catholics and the unaffiliated.
4. Black Protestants have stayed right at about 9% since the 70s.
5. Big one: Colonial America was the least religious/Christian period in American history. (Check out his chart on p. 52. Wowzers.) The myth of Christian colonial America continues to makes its way among many. He calculates about 17-18% of Americans in 1775 were affiliated with religion; now it's just over 60%. The increase has been steady.

I'm not swearing by the above. I'm only saying it is not overwhelmingly true that the church is dying and more important, what is being measured is generally unimportant. To say otherwise I find unhelpful.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

questions for small groups

David Rudd found this simple guide by Mac Lake to help small group leaders with questions for their group.

Everyone has arrived at your home for Small Group. Some are gathered in the kitchen, some in the den and others hanging out in the living room. Your house is alive with chatter, people are engaged in comfortable conversation, the rooms are filled with energy and it’s obvious that everyone is glad to be there. You practically have to drag them into the living room to start the study time because they don’t want to break away from their conversations. Then as you start the study time you notice a whole new dynamic. The energy is gone, the people who were so chatty just moments ago suddenly have nothing to say and you dredge your way through the study time feeling as if you have bored them to tears.

How do you create dynamic discussion during your group study time? One of the keys is using quality discussion questions. While most group leaders use a guided curriculum, you still have those times when the curriculum doesn’t provide the best of questions. So as a facilitator, it is essential to understand what makes a great discussion question.

There are 5 types of questions you will use as a group facilitator.

Icebreaker Questions

Icebreaker questions introduce the topic by asking about personal experience or common human experiences. They help create a relaxed atmosphere and are an easy way for people to engage in the discussion. Icebreakers allow group members to share something about themselves on a safe level. For example:
  • What was your biggest childhood fear?
  • What was the most unique gift you were ever given?
  • What is your best vacation memory?
Observation Questions

Observation questions help the group member identify what the biblical text is saying. Asking this type of question usually causes the group member to look back at the passage to discover the answer. When I ask observation questions I look for the “nose in the book” response. I hope that everyone looks at the text to look for the answer. For example:
  • What was Jesus’ audience like?
  • How does Paul describe the believers in Colossians in this paragraph?
  • What are the action verbs in verses 4-7?
Interpretation Questions

The purpose of an Interpretation question is to discover what the text means. While each passage has many applications, it only has one interpretation. Interpretation questions cause the group to wrestle with the meaning of a verse or passage. For example:
  • Why do you think Jesus told the healed man to “show but not to tell?”
  • What do you think the author intended as the main point of this passage?
  • What does it mean when Peter writes, “be holy as God is holy?”
Application Questions

Application questions help the group members see how they can act on the principle they discovered in the passage. Good application questions will help people to think “What should I do about this?” For example:
  • Which of the virtues from this passage do you need to work on the most? Why?
  • What is one specific thing you can do this week to show the love of Christ to others?
  • What is the next step you need to take in order to strengthen the unity in your family?
Follow-Up Questions

These are spontaneous questions used by the facilitator to get clarification, amplification, or illustration of a group member’s answer. For example:
  • “Sue, that is a great answer. Can you give us an example of what you are talking about?”
  • “That is great insight, Bob. What are some practical ways we can apply that to our lives?”
  • “That’s interesting. Explain what you mean.”
Being familiar with and using the Five Types of Questions will help you put together a well balanced study that will produce dynamic discussion.

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