October, 2013 Archive

Thou Great I AM,

Today I give pause to give thanks for your mighty work in the history of your Church. Today I marvel at the things I often take for granted, the things that by your Spirit and truth have been fought for by the saints of centuries past. I thank you for the blood that has been shed on my behalf, that I might know the truth of who you are.

Father, today I thank you for the gift of your Word. For centuries your truth was locked up from the people, only to be lorded over by those who would seek to rule them. In your mercy you illuminated the hearts of men and women who could stand up for your truth as defined in your Word. In your mercy, you moved men to die so that the common people could have your Word in their hands. In your mercy, you gave us all that we need for sound doctrine and godly living.

Today I thank you, merciful Father, for your gift of faith. For we know that faith is not something that originates from ourselves but is a divine gift from above. It is freely given to some, but not others. I thank you for the promise that you gave to our spiritual father Abraham. Through the gift and promise of faith you have truly made yourself known among all the nations and people. I thank you that faith is not something I need to produce within myself – if that were so I would be eternally lost. In your mercy to us, you give us faith.

Today I thank you, God of all grace, for your grace to the worst of sinners. I know that men like me stand no chance of being before your royal thrown on our own, yet it is through grace that I have been saved and not from works. I thank you for the men and women who died for this truth. What sweet news it is to lowly men like myself that your grace is extended to me not on account of anything I do, but on what you’ve done.

Today I thank you, our Triune God, for the gift of your Son Jesus. I thank you that you have shown us the truth, the fullness of your revelation, in the bodily form of Christ. I thank you for descending to live among us to die for us. Lord Jesus, you are the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE. We can have the Father because we now have the Son. Oh Lord, what undeserved mercy and grace is this that the Good Shepherd would seek the rebellious sheep that were lost?

Today I thank you, oh GLORIOUS LORD, that you would choose to display your goodness and glory to us so that we might display your glory to the world. We can be conduits of your glory because to you alone belongs the glory. Yet you choose to make it known in us.

Today I give pause to remember the saints of the Reformation. While they are yet mere men, you used them to build and grow your church. They were fallible men who sinned as we all do, yet you chose them for your divine plan.

You are good and gracious to us in ways that we do not deserve.

Amen

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1) 4 Reasons the Gospels Could Not Be Legends

I don’t believe in Jesus based on blind faith. I believe in Jesus for the same reason these first believers did: because I am convinced the testimony of the apostles is true, that Jesus really did resurrect from the dead. And if Jesus really is alive, that changes everything.

2) Where Did All These Calvinists Come From?

The contemporary resurgence of Calvinism is a phenomenon many celebrate, many lament, but none can deny. May Christ grant us grace to press forward in a hostile world with truth, humility, unity, and love.

3) How to Write Less Badly

In my nearly 30 years at universities, I have seen a lot of very talented people fail because they couldn’t, or didn’t, write. And some much less talented people (I see one in the mirror every morning) have done OK because they learned how to write.

4) The Safe Place for Our Kids Shameful Questions

This lays down a challenge for parents. More than ever, you need to open the channels of communication with your children so they know you are safer and wiser even than the search engines. More than ever, you need to ask them questions and to invite them to ask you questions. And all the while, you simply have to be aware of what they are searching for, and what questions they are taking to the all-knowing Google.

5) Beautiful Eulogy’s Newest Album

JUST DOWNLOAD THIS!

6) Why I Am a Christian

October 27 always makes me feel vulnerable and weak. I remember what it’s like to be that kid who wonders if God would really have me, with all my hypocrisy. It reminds me what it feels like to be a dying thief, gasping for mercy, even if my crimes were all covered over with Southern Baptist Bible School perfect attendance awards.

But October 27 also makes me remember what it feels like for a half-executed robber to see the Man on that middle cross turn, and look, and hear, and save. All I have for that is gratitude. And I pray for the broken heart to listen for the cries of the perishing.

7) 9 Things You Should Know About Persecution of Christians in 2013

In August 2013, Egypt faced what has been called the the worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries: 38 churches were destroyed, 23 vandalized; 58 homes were burned and looted and 85 shops, 16 pharmacies and 3 hotels were demolished; 6 Christians were killed in the violence and 7 were kidnapped.

8) 5 Differences Between Catholic Theology and the Gospel

Certainly on just about every single area of theology there are differences, but here are what I think are the five most glaring and significant issues that separate the Catholic Church from the gospel of grace.

Services and events in the Church where testimonies are shared are always an exciting time. They are a great reminder in our lives to see how God has changed someones heart to come to faith and repentance. As terrible as it sounds – if we’re going to be honest with ourselves – when the time comes to listen we start internally comparing testimonies in our head. When we hear a story of an ex-con who was addicted to 34 drugs simultaneously and robbed a bank while being involved in every major crime and gang syndicate, we are moved to tears. We love those testimonies. In the shadow of those stories, we tend to turn a deaf ear to those who say, “I was a good person, I just never knew Jesus until later in life.”

What happens then in the life of new Christians – or even those who have been Christians all their life – is they start to think less of their testimony and ultimately less of themselves. Somehow we equate being rescued out of extremely terrible situations by Christ as meaning those people are meant for more than the Christian with a “normal” background and a “normal” testimony. Somehow, our “normal” and “good” backgrounds convince us that we’ll always take a back seat to those who have been rescued out of more “intense” situations.

The Bible has a lot to say about people with “good” backgrounds who have always done “good” things. The Apostle Paul wrote about it often. Before becoming the great Apostle that we know him as, Paul was a great guy by worldly standards. Here is what he had to say in regard to his “good” background and his “good” works:

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. – Phil 3:4-6

Paul was the man according to society’s expectations. What would someone like Paul look like to us today? He would be your civic, upstanding and good-tempered citizen. He would be involved with the PTA and volunteer at the homeless shelter on the weekends. He would be involved in politics and give money to charity. He would go to his kids soccer games, and take his wife out on dinner dates. He’d be a “good” person.

But that is where the pleasant story ends, because Paul’s description of himself in Philippians doesn’t stop there. He continues on and says this:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Phil. 3:7-11

Here’s the funny thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ: it’s not only acknowledging and asking for forgiveness for your bad deeds. More importantly – and definitely more difficultly – the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we repent (that is, ask for forgiveness and turn from) of our good deeds. Why? Because it is by our good deeds that we seek to make ourselves right with God and the universe without acknowledging Christ at all.

I want to focus on Paul’s use of the word rubbish in this passage. This is one of those times where we translate the word in a politically correct way, almost ignoring how the original audience would have heard this word. You know how when a baby eats something intolerable to his stomach, and a couple hours later he explodes in his diaper? That’s what the word for rubbish means. It’s POOP. All of our good works, every single one of them, are poop. Filthy, nasty, stinky poop.

Paul knew that he only had two options; either rely on his good works – or rely on Jesus. The two are incompatible. The gospel + anything equals nothing, and therefore any reliance on our own works is an offense to God. Our self-righteousness is a skewed and distorted reality. We weren’t meant to do good deeds simply for ourselves or for others. Good deeds are meant to be done in context of a love for God and a love for his people.

The problem with our good works is that they are a means by which we seek to earn favor with God, or think of ourselves as right with the universe. We see them as a means by which God or the universe will owe us. Everything we do, our good works especially, were meant to be done in context of a union with God. Our good works are meant to be an extension of God’s love for his people, instead they end up being an extension of our own self-righteousness.

You see, when we reject the cross of Christ and say things like “I’ll go to heaven because I’m a good person,” or even telling people that you can be good without Jesus – that is a damnable offense. God never intended for us to do anything apart from him. Since we are all idolaters at heart, God had to demonstrate the ultimate act of love for us in order to bring us back to him. It wasn’t just our admitted bad deeds that killed Jesus, it was all of our attempts to do good on our own that put the nails in his wrists.

If you really want to stay far away from God, you don’t do it by being really bad – you stay far away from God by being really really good.

I love the way author Tim Chester puts this concept:

A cross-centered life means an inevitable and resolute rejection of all self-confidence and self-righteousness. The life of Jesus shows us humility, but his cross humbles us. At the cross we see the full extent of our sin: when we get the chance, we kill our creator. The cross leaves no scope for human boasting. Instead our only “boast” is Christ Jesus, our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

When we come to realize that Jesus died to rescue us from our bad works and our desperately failed attempts at good works, we realize that a divine miracle takes place in the heart of every regenerate sinner. This is why we rejoice at even the most “normal” or “best” of persons who become a Christian. There is no such thing as a “normal” testimony because there is no such thing as a “good” person.

Praise God for redeeming a nasty, poopy person like me. I thought I could do it all on my own, but I can’t do anything apart from Jesus. Even my best deeds apart from Christ are formed out of my self-righteousness. Praise the King for showing us what true humility looks like, and allowing that to become my true motivation for the good that I seek to do.

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1) The Art and Science of the Humblebrag

This is seriously one of the best posts I’ve read all year. Just..read it.

2) Skull of Homo Erectus Throws Story of Human Evolution into Disarray

Experts believe the skull is one of the most important fossil finds to date, but it has proved as controversial as it is stunning. Analysis of the skull and other remains at Dmanisi suggests that scientists have been too ready to name separate species of human ancestors in Africa. Many of those species may now have to be wiped from the textbooks.

It will be interesting to track this story as it progresses.

3) MacArthurs Appeal to His Continuationist Friends

Continuationists who insist that God gives special revelation today gives way to people being led by confusion and error. They have altered every aspect of these gifts. None of the gifts supposedly at work today, work in the way they did in the first century. Tongues are no longer languages. Prophecy could be wrong. These modifications remove the authority and legitimate standard set as the criteria for what is accurate. These new forms of special revelation such as words of prophecy are theological train wrecks. When you go beyond the Word of God you cannot contain the error.

4) Church We Have a Problem

It has been roughly five hundred years since the Reformation. And looking at the church today (reading comments, blogs, tweets, books, and listening to objections and sermons) it is obvious that we are overdue for another one. Indeed, what a terrible irony it is that the very pack of people that God has unconditionally saved and continues to sustain by His free grace are the same ones who push back most violently against it: “Yes grace, but…”, “stop peddling cheap grace”, “God’s agape is not sloppy.” Far too many professing Christians sound like ungrateful children who can’t stop biting the hand that feeds them.