This is a powerful story of Jesus saving a mother and daughter in Iran through the ministry of Iran Alive Ministries. Please pray for the gospel to continue to spread in this nation.
This is a powerful story of Jesus saving a mother and daughter in Iran through the ministry of Iran Alive Ministries. Please pray for the gospel to continue to spread in this nation.
"The power of the gospel comes in two movements. It first says, 'I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe,' but then quickly follows with, 'I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope.'" - Tim Keller, Center Church
Heath Lambert's new book Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace is the best book I'm aware of on sexual purity and pornography. Both men and women will benefit from reading it. I highly recommend it.
Here's a helpful review of the book by Tim Challies.
"Do not expect always to get an emotional charge or a feeling of quiet peace when you read the Bible. By the grace of God you may expect that to be a frequent experience, but often you will get no emotional response at all. Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these... Go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you for ever to His eternal home." - Geoffrey Thomas, Reading the Bible
(Via my brother, Joel Harris)
After the picture above of Bre and her husband, Josh, went viral, Bre decided to start a blog called The Power of Prayer to share the story behind the picture. Sexual purity isn't easy today. But God calls us to save sexual intimacy for the covenant relationship of marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." For those who have disobeyed God's command there is grace and forgiveness through Jesus. And this same grace should motivate all of us--regardless of our past mistakes--to be holy as our loving heavenly father is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). If you're dating or engaged and struggling to honor the Lord in your physical relationship I pray Bre and Josh's story will encourage you. Obeying God is always best!
The Story Behind the Photo
Moments before I was to walk down the aisle my soon to be mother in law came in the dressing room where my bridesmaids and I were all gushing with giggles and fluttering about finishing last minute details.
"Sweetheart, your groom has called for you!".
In a nervous tizzy I said, "What?! I'm not ready! I have to get my shoes and..." She had already taken my hand and led me to a corner, where my groom was waiting. I barely sat down; I was filled with so much anticipation! So much excitement! So many nerves!
"Is he going to like my dress? Does my hair look pretty? Can he see me?!"
Right around the corner sat my soon to be husband, I so was nervous he might see me yet secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of him. In my excited state I was the first to speak,
"Hi sweetie! We're getting married today!"
"I know baby and I want to pray with you before we do."
There we sat around the corner hand in hand, and together we bowed our heads. People were rushing about; the wedding coordinator directing people here and there, the photographers snapping photos and the bridal party enjoying each others company. Yet in that moment, in the quietness of our hearts and minds, my husband and I were alone in the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
My husband prayed that God would bless our marriage, that through thick or thin together we would never lose hope in one another. That instead of focusing on each others imperfections we would always rely on Christ's perfection. That we would wake up every day and chose to love one another not through our own strength but by the power of Christ's perfect love.
With our hands clenched tightly to one another together we said "Amen", both with shaky voice and just like that I was whisked away to blot the tears off my face and put on my veil.
After my bridesmaids, mother, mother-in-law and every other girl in the room had finished zipping, curling, tucking and blushing me up I looked in the mirror. There I stood wearing my pure white wedding dress, ready to walk down the aisle to my Prince Charming.
See, he is not only my Prince Charming because of his incredibly handsome looks, or wonderful humor, or the fact that we have so much in common. He is my Prince Charming because he helped me protect the most precious gift that I owned, my purity.
Soon after we had started dating I nervously told my Prince that I was a virgin and planned to be until the night of my wedding; to which he replied he would have it no other way.
Throughout our dating relationship and engagement we constantly fought, what at times felt like a losing battle. We fought temptation with prayer, scripture and accountability. I had friends checking up on me if they knew we were together late at night and he regularly met with other Godly men to pray for strength. At times, especially as the wedding grew closer, we thought we were attempting to do the impossible.
"Why are we doing this?" I would ask in my weakness, and he would remind me, that it's because God had told us too.
"I can't do it, I can't... this is too hard!" he would confess to me and I would pray for his strength.
When I walked down the aisle in my white dress, I looked straight into the eyes of the man that had laid himself down to protect and honor the wife that God had given him.
When his eyes first caught mine he looked into the face of the woman that had waited for him, the woman that would support him and love him for the rest of His life, through good times and bad.
I share all of this because in that prayer we prayed, which was captured here on camera we asked the Lord to use our wedding to bring Him all of the glory that He rightfully deserved. We had not gotten where we were by our own strength, but by His hand of protection on our relationship.
God has used this photo to inspire hundreds of thousands of people already and for that we are humbled and honored! I wanted to take it a step further and give God praise and thanks for how we arrived at that quiet corner, holding hands and ready to begin our lives together.
(Photo by Kim Burke.)
I love this song. Check out The City Harmonic.
What is "rule-igion"?
We know the word "religion" is belief in and worship of God. "Rule-igion" is the idea that a right relationship with God is earned through rule-keeping. "Rule-igion" says that we have to climb our way up to God. In other words, it's through our performance and obedience and good deeds that we earn God's love and favor and blessing. We follow the rules, we live a good life and that puts God in our debt.
Rule-igion is the basis of almost every false religion in the world today. Sadly, it infects a lot of Christian churches.
But rule-igion is completely at odds with the good news of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that salvation is a free gift. We are not saved by our works we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
This good news--what we call the gospel-- is the opposite of rule-igion.
The gospel tells us that we can't climb up to God, but God in love has come down to save us. Jesus has fulfilled the law for us. Jesus has paid for our sins through his death on the cross. Jesus has been raised from dead so that we can have eternal life. True salvation and right standing before God is something only Jesus can win for us--it is not a result of our works so that no person can boast.
And this is such awesome news that you have to wonder why anyone would ever want rule-igion instead? Here's the answer: because grace is scary and humbling. Earning God's favor by following rules gives us a sense of control. Rules let us control other people. And rules feed our pride and our sense of worthiness.
The gospel is humbling. Being saved by grace tells us that we're undeserving. Grace makes us dependent and indebted. Grace makes much of Jesus not us...
Listen to the full sermon titled "Rule-igion" from Matthew 12:1-14 here.
We don't get to choose between humility and orthodoxy. We need both.
Orthodoxy, for the faithful, evokes what's cherished and beautiful and eternal. Yet in our day, orthodoxy is too often wielded like a weapon, used to bludgeon others with differing points of view. The word has become associated with behavior like argumentative, annoying, and arrogant.
It's time for God's people to demonstrate both right thinking and right attitudes. We are called to embrace and defend biblical truth. But that truth includes repeated commands to love our neighbor, love our enemy, and be clothed in gentleness and respect.
In Humble Orthodoxy, author Joshua Harris examines New Testament teachings about the calling of believers to a love-infused courage that ignores foolish controversies, patiently endures evil, and champions truth with generosity of spirit. Without this kind of humility, Harris asserts, we become like the Pharisees--right in our doctrine, but ultimately destroying the cause of truth with our pride.
Most of the lame-stream media isn't reporting this, but yesterday President Obama signed executive order 4113 otherwise known as "The Self-Portraiture Prohibition Order" which will allow the federal government to regulate the taking of photos of yourself in a mirror. This is an outrageous example of the government invading our privacy and stealing our freedom! Evidently this order has been driven by the Professional Photographers Lobby who feel threatened by the growing trend of people taking self-portraits.
Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram is asking Americans to stand up for their rights and oppose this measure. "The prohibition of self-portraiture will effectively shut down Instagram," Systrom told AP News. Apparently 99.2% of all pictures posted on Instagram are what are popularly known as "selfies"--pictures by people (most often women ages 14-26) who take pictures of themselves in their bathroom mirrors. The remaining .8% of pictures on Instagram are by people snapping photos of their own feet (it's not clear if pictures of feet are effected by the order.)
But it's not just women who are outraged by the President's action. A considerable number of men use selfies to show off their abs. Bryan Johnson of West Virginia who works at Gold's Gym says, "Obama wants to take our guns now our selfies. What's next?"
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are joining together their considerable online influence to organize the April 15 "MARCH FOR SELFIES" protest in Washington, DC. "We are hoping to gather 2 million people, wielding their iPhones, snapping selfies and declaring that we will not let the government send us back to the dark ages," says Rachel Allison the march organizer.
Please visit www.March4Selfies.com. And help spread the word and tweet with the hashtag #SAVESELFIES. On Facebook please change your profile photo to a Selfie with a "V" for victory sign to make a statement that you won't let big government take away your freedom.
Oh, one more thing...Happy April Fool's Day! : )
In 3 days, my new book HUMBLE ORTHODOXY will be released. It's a call to this generation to care about Christian truth without being a jerk about it.
I'm so grateful for the people who made this book possible.
First, the phrase "humble orthodoxy" was coined by my friend Eric Simmons, who pastors Redeemer Church of Arlington in Virginia. It was his encouragement for me to give a message on this topic for the New Attitude 2005 conference that led to this book.
After I spoke on humble orthodoxy, John Piper strongly exhorted me to write a small book on the subject. But I didn't follow his advice exactly. Instead, I wrote a larger book called Dug Down Deep, with the closing chapter titled "Humble Orthodoxy." (I suppose the lesson in all this is to do what John Piper tells you the first time.)
When Dug Down Deep was published, many readers told me that the chapter on humble orthodoxy was their favorite and deserved to be its own book. One reader in particular asked me to make it a small book that could be easily shared with others.
Because I'm in a season in which preaching and pastoring at my church is my primary focus, this project could only be completed because of the help and partnership of Eric Stanford, a gifted writer who was willing to take the content from my sermons and the original chapter from Dug Down Deep and weave and rearrange it into a brand-new book. He also wrote the study guide that is included in the book. I am grateful for his excellent work and his ownership of the message.
Soli Deo Gloria!
In 6 days my sixth book, Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down, will be released.
I still can't get over the fact that I've been given the honor of being published. I will never forget the day in 1996 when a publisher called to tell me they had read my proposal and wanted to publish my first book. It was April 1st and I almost didn't believe them--I thought it was an April Fool's Day joke! Almost seventeen years later to the day, I'm honored to have a new book being published by the same house.
I'm praying Humble Orthodoxy will encourage many to take a strong stand for biblical orthodoxy and do this with gospel-motivated humility and gentleness.
A week from today on April 2, my newest book HUMBLE ORTHODOXY will be released. It's a small book, but its message is one that's very important to me. Our generation can't choose between humility of heart and orthodoxy of belief--we need both. We can hold truth high without putting people down.
I'm reposting something I put together for myself several years ago after reading John Stott's book Between Two Worlds on preaching. This is basically an outline of his chapter on preparing a message with slight additions for my own personal use. I hope it encourages fellow pastors. (The picture is from 2005 when I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Stott who has since gone on to be with the Lord.)
Steps for Preparing a Sermon
1. Choose your text and meditate on it.
- Read the text, re-read it, re-read it and read it again.
- Probe it, chew on it, bore into it, soak in it.
- You are not called to preach yourself or your ideas, but charged to "preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Clarence Edward McCartney: "Put all the Bible you can into it."
2. Ask questions of the text.
- What does it mean? Or better yet, what did it mean when first spoken or written?
- What did the author intend to affirm or condemn or promise or command?
- What does it say? What is its contemporary message? How does it speak to us today?
- Remember: Keep these questions distinct but together--the text's meaning is of purely academic interest unless you go on to discern its message for today, it's significance. But you cannot discover it's contemporary message without first wrestling with its original meaning.
3.Combine diligent study with fervent prayer.
- All the time you study cry humbly to God for illumination by the Spirit of truth. Like Moses, "I pray you, show me your glory" (Exod 33:18), and Samuel, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" (1 Sam 3:9).
- Stott: "I have always found it helpful to do as much of my sermon preparation as possible on my knees, with the Bible open before me, in prayerful study.
- R.W. Dale: "Work without prayer is atheism; and prayer without work is presumption."
4. Isolate the Dominant Thought of the Text.
- Every text has a main theme, an overriding thrust.
- A sermon is not a lecture, it aims to convey only one major message
- The congregation will forget details of the message, but they should remember the dominant thought, because all the sermon's details should be marshaled to help them grasp its message and feel its power.
- Once the text's principle meaning has been determined, express it in a 'categorical proposition.'
- J.H. Jowett: "I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching...until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as a crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting and the most fruitful labor in my study...I do not think any sermon ought to be preached, or even written, until that sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon."
- Ian Pitt-Watson: "Every sermon should be ruthlessly unitary in its theme."
- Don't by-pass the discipline of waiting patiently for the dominant thought to disclose itself. You have to be ready to pray and think yourself deep into the text, even under it, until we give up all pretensions of being its master or manipulator, and become instead its humble and obedient servant.
5. Arrange Your Material to Serve the Dominant Thought
- The goal is not a literary masterpiece, but organization that enables the text's main thrust to make its maximum impact.
- Ruthlessly discard irrelevant material
- Subordinate material to theme so that it illumines and supports it.
- Golden Rule for Sermon Outlines: Let each text supply its own structure. Let it open itself up like a rose to the morning sun.
- Be precise with your words. It is impossible to convey a precise message without choosing precise words.
- Words to use:
- Simple and Clear words. Ryle: "Preach as if you had asthma."
- Vivid words. They should conjur up images in the mind.
- Honest words. Beware of exaggerations and be sparing in use of superlatives.
- C.S. Lewis: don't just tell people how to feel, describe in such a way that people feel it themselves.
- Don't use words too big for the subject.
6. Remember the Power of Imagination--Illustrate!
- Imagination: the power of the mind by which it conceives of invisible things, and is able to present them as though they were visible to others. (Beecher)
- Remember that humans have trouble grasping abstract concepts--we need them converted into pictures and examples.
- Exert your greatest effort for illustrations that reinforce and serve the dominant thought.
- Think of illustrations as windows that let in light on our subject and help people to more clearly see and appreciate it.
- Beware of illustrations that draw too much attention (to themselves instead of the subject) or which actually take people away from the main point.
7. Add Your Introduction
- It's better to start with the body so that we don't twist our text to fit our introduction.
- Stott: A good introduction serves two purposes. First, it arouses interest, stimulates curiosity, and whets the appetite for more. Secondly, it genuinely introduces the theme by leading the hearers into it.
- Don't make the intro too long or too short. "Men have a natural aversion to abruptness, and delight in a somewhat gradual approach. A building is rarely pleasing in appearance without a porch or some sort of inviting entrance."
8. Add Your Conclusion.
- Conclusions are more difficult. Avoid endlessly circling and never landing. Avoid ending too abruptly.
- A true conclusion goes beyond recapitulation to personal application. (Not that all application should wait till the end--the text needs to be applied as we go along.)
- Nevertheless, it is a mistake to disclose too soon the conclusion to which we are going to come. If we do, we lose people's sense of expectation. It is better to keep something up our sleeve. Then we can leave to the end that persuading which, by the Holy Spirit's power, will prevail on people to take action.
- Call the congregation to act! Our expectation as the sermon comes to an end, is not merely that people will understand or remember or enjoy our teaching, but that they will do something about it. If there is no summons, there is no sermon!
- The precise application of your sermon depends on the character of the text. The dominant thought points us to how people should act in response. Does the text call to repentance or stimulate faith? Does it evoke worship, demand obedience, summon to witness, or challenge to service? The text itself determines the particular response we desire.
- Consider the composition of your congregation. It is good to let your mind wander over the church family and ask prayerfully what message God might have for each from your text. Consider their unique circumstances, weaknesses, strengths and temptations.
9. Write Down Your Sermon
- Don't take too long to get to this stage! Get something on paper, don't endlessly noodle on vague notes (this is my temptation).
- Writing obliges you to think straight.
10. Edit it Again
- View hitting your time goal (40-45 minutes) as just as essential to its overall effectiveness as anything else you do. People will take more away if you say less.
- Ruthlessly cut the unneeded and extra. Look for places where you can be more concise.
- Err on the side of cutting things--especially long quotes.
11. Pray over Your Message
- Stott: "We need to pray until our text comes freshly alive to us, the glory shines forth from it, the fire burns in our heart, and we begin to experience the explosive power of God's Word within us."
The website J.C. Ryle Quotes shares the following from a tract Ryle wrote entitled "Christ in the Sick Room".
Sickness is meant...
1. To make us think--to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body--an immortal soul--a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery--and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.
2. To teach us that there is a world beyond the grave--and that the world we now live in is only a training-place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.
3. To make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ's blood? Am I prepared to meet God?
4. To make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.
5. To send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.
6. To make us pray. Too many, I fear, never pray at all, or they only rattle over a few hurried words morning and evening without thinking what they do. But prayer often becomes a reality when the valley of the shadow of death is in sight.
7. To make us repent and break off our sins. If we will not hear the voice of mercies, God sometimes makes us "hear the rod."
8. To draw us to Christ. Naturally we do not see the full value of that blessed Savior. We secretly imagine that our prayers, good deeds, and sacrament-receiving will save our souls. But when flesh begins to fail, the absolute necessity of a Redeemer, a Mediator, and an Advocate with the Father, stands out before men's eyes like fire, and makes them understand those words, "Simply to Your cross I cling," as they never did before. Sickness has done this for many--they have found Christ in the sick room.
9. To make us feeling and sympathizing towards others. By nature we are all far below our blessed Master's example, who had not only a hand to help all, but a heart to feel for all. None, I suspect, are so unable to sympathize as those who have never had trouble themselves--and none are so able to feel as those who have drunk most deeply the cup of pain and sorrow.
Summary: Beware of fretting, murmuring, complaining, and giving way to an impatient spirit. Regard your sickness as a blessing in disguise - a good and not an evil - a friend and not an enemy. No doubt we should all prefer to learn spiritual lessons in the school of ease and not under the rod. But rest assured that God knows better than we do how to teach us. The light of the last day will show you that there was a meaning and a "need be" in all your bodily ailments. The lessons that we learn on a sick-bed, when we are shut out from the world, are often lessons which we should never learn elsewhere.
(via J.C. Ryle Quotes)
"Calvinism and Arminianism both affirm that God has chosen not to save everyone; the paths diverge over whether God's electing grace or our free will is the deciding factor in salvation. In the Calvinist account, though, God's love is finally greater than the fallen heart's rebellion and resistance. God will not let those whom he has chosen have the last word in this matter, but redeems them, renews them, and keeps them until glory. In the case of neither the elect nor the reprobate does God coerce the human will. Rather, in the former case he frees sinners from their bondage to sin and death, and in the latter case he leaves sinners to go their own way." - Michael Horton, For Calvinism, page 64
Today I opened the first box of my newest book, Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down. It releases in one month on April 2. You can pre-order it here.
"Justification is a verdict, a declaration, that one who is actually unrighteous in oneself is righteous before God solely on the basis of Christ's righteousness being credited through faith alone. Therefore, justifying righteousness is not infused into us but imputed to us. It is not enabling but saving. It is not partial but complete. It is not the goal of the Christian life but the source." - Michael Horton, For Calvinism, page 135
God gave my wife an amazing voice. I'm so grateful she's had the chance to use it to sing his praises. Here's a listing of the songs she's been a vocalist on for Sovereign Grace Music over the years. A few of my favorite tracks: Gospel Song, Mercies Anew, In the Valley (Remix) and I Stand in Awe. Listen here.
Here's a sermon I preached on Matthew 8:18-22 about the cost of discipleship. In it I talk about the fact that sometimes we like the idea of following Jesus more than the reality. To illustrate the point I share what has to be one of the most humiliating experiences of my life (and that's saying something!). About 15 minutes in you'll hear the story about me joining a gym.
In an article for The Christian Post, Anugrah Kumar, shared the following summary of a message at this week's Desiring God conference for pastors in Minnesota:
The message by U.K. Pastor Tope Koleoso was entitled "Sovereign Grace, Spiritual Gifts and the Pastor: How Should a Reformed Pastor be Charismatic?" and encouraged church leaders not to sidestep the supernatural in the Christian faith and ministry, but to rightly understand and exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit while shunning fanaticism.
Koleoso, who leads Jubilee Church London in the U.K. read out Acts 13:1-12, and asked why would anyone who is Bible-believing, Christ-centered and theology-loving be hesitant, cautious or resistant to the Holy Spirit? It is perhaps, fear, he suggested. Sometimes it's rational, and sometimes it's because some people are abusive and hurtful in the name of the Holy Spirit. Fanaticism is at times mistaken as spirituality.
In Mark Chapter 1, after the Spirit came upon Jesus, He went about teaching, preaching, healing and delivering people from evil spirits. However, the church in the West wants to do only two things: teach and preach. They shy away from healing diseases and delivering people from demonic influences.
"You came into the kingdom supernaturally; you're going to be sustained in the kingdom supernaturally," Pastor Koleoso reminded the pastors. There are consequences if pastors do not teach about the power of the Holy Spirit and how to access it, he warned. "If we don't pursue the things of the Spirit the way that the first century Christians did, we'll end up preaching an anemic ... diluted ... deficient ... even a destructive gospel."
In the West, we've become pragmatic and natural-thinking, said the Nigerian-born Koleoso. "We're called to something deeper." It takes integrity and humility to say, "Lord, help us."
In Acts Chapter 1, the disciples were told to wait for the Spirit who would give power to make them witnesses. "Early church knew nothing of just going out without waiting." Jesus has asked His followers to make disciples, but we are not doing it, Koleoso added. But in the early church, Christians did not know discipleship that was apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Koleoso also suggested some pastors may not have the resources to deal with demonic situations in their churches. "You cannot theologize Satan away; you cannot lecture him away ... You need the power of the Holy Spirit to address those situations ... This is a supernatural calling; the whole thing is supernatural."
Whether you are charismatic or reformed, you have to be filled with the Holy Spirit daily, the pastor emphasized.
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? "It means to be restored to the initial intention so that you once again have the relation and resources." It's imperative, not a choice, he said. And we have to continue to be filled. "No one can say, 'I've got it; I've got it all.'"
Pastor Koleoso concluded by saying, as Paul said, let everything be done in a decent and orderly manner. This means there has to be leadership in the church. The freedom in Spirit must not surrender to fanaticism, our openness to the Spirit must never violate the Word of God, and our expression of joy must never degenerate into mere excitability.
Read the full Christian Post article here.
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart is an outstanding book. Thoroughly biblical, easy-to-read, pastoral, engaging and even funny.
Greear writes, "If there were a Guinness Book of World Records entry for 'amount of times having prayed the sinner's prayer,' I'm pretty sure I'd be a top contender." He struggled for many years to gain an assurance of salvation and eventually learned he was not alone. "Lack of assurance" is epidemic among evangelical Christians.
In Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, J. D. shows that faulty ways of presenting the gospel are a leading source of the confusion. Our presentations may not be heretical, but they are sometimes misleading. The idea of "asking Jesus into your heart" or "giving your life to Jesus" often gives false assurance to those who are not saved--and keeps those who genuinely are saved from fully embracing that reality.
Greear unpacks the doctrine of assurance, showing that salvation is a posture we take to the promise of God in Christ, a posture that begins at a certain point and is maintained for the rest of our lives. He also answers the tough questions about assurance: What exactly is faith? What is repentance? Why are there so many warnings that seem to imply we can lose our salvation?
Such issues are handled with respect to the theological rigors they require, but Greear never loses his pastoral sensitivity or a communication technique that makes this message teachable to a wide audience from teens to adults.
I've already given the book to a friend who was wrestling with these questions and she was greatly helped. I plan to keep a stack around to give out. Whether or not you struggle with questions of assurance this book will help you understand and treasure God's saving grace and make you more effective in sharing the hope of the gospel and calling others to repentance and faith.
The book releases February 1, 2013. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.
Our church is hosting a Simeon's Trust Workshop for pastors with David Helm March 20-22, 2013. David is an excellent teacher with a passion to see preachers gain the necessary tools for preaching and teaching God's word---in this case, Old Testament Narrative.
The Workshops on Biblical Exposition aim to recover the centrality of God's Word, preached expositionally, to the benefit of the life and health of the church in our generation. In order for this kind of preaching to take place, the Bible must be properly understood and rightly handled. And so, this workshop consists of two and a half days covering Principles of Exposition (instructional talks on how to better handle Biblical texts), Model Expositions (engaging demonstrations of expository sermons), and Small Group Practice (times when you will share and receive feedback on two passages you prepared in advance). Each of these sessions is carefully designed to be inter-related for the greatest value in improving your work.
Pastors, I highly recommend this seminar and hope you'll consider joining us. When our pastoral team attended one last year it was one of the best training contexts we'd ever participated in.
Here's the registration and hotel information for the workshop.
I really like "All Glory Be To Christ" by Kings Kaleidoscope. It's a new worship song set to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. We're planning to sing it tomorrow on the last Sunday of 2012. (via Jane Eliza Huie)
Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain its builders strive
To you who boast tomorrow's gain
Tell me what is your life
A mist that vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ!
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing
All glory be to Christ!
His will be done
His kingdom come
On earth as is above
Who is Himself our daily bread
Praise Him the Lord of love
Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ!
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing
All glory be to Christ!
When on the day the great I Am
The faithful and the true
The Lamb who was for sinners slain
Is making all things new
Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall ere his people be
All glory be to Christ!
All glory be to Christ our king!
All glory be to Christ!
His rule and reign will ever sing
All glory be to Christ!
Merry Christmas from Emma, Shannon, Mary Kate, Wasabi, Josh & Joshua Quinn. God bless you!
Commenting on Philippians chapter 2, Gordon Fee writes, "Here we see why the 'scandal of the cross' was so central to [Paul's] understanding of everything Christian. For in 'pouring himself out' and 'humbling himself to death on the cross,' Christ Jesus has revealed the character of God himself. Here is the epitome of God-likeness: the pre-existent Christ was not a "grasping, selfish' being, but one whose love for others found its consummate expression in 'pouring himself out,' in taking on the role of a slave, in humbling himself to the point of death on behalf of those so loved."
- Paul's Letter to the Philippians, page 197
Quoted in the sermon "Servanthood" by Mark Mitchell.
Here's a helpful post from The Gospel Coalition about knowing God's forgiveness and walking in purity after sexual sin. Authors Julia Huisman and Tammy Johnston share openly from their own experience and provide four simple steps for combatting remorse and shame: 1. Accept God's forgiveness. 2. Accept the consequences. 3. Fight against condemnation. 4. Recommit yourself to purity.
Read the full article.
"There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose." - Alan Redpath
(quoted in Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story)
The Gospel at Work conference, coming to Covenant Life January 11-12, 2013, was born out of a desire to help Christians think and live differently in the workplace. If you work a 9 to 5, will someday be working a 9 to 5, or are in between working a 9 to 5, this conference is designed for you and will build you up.
Come and be taught and encouraged by Os Guiness, Mark Dever, Bob Doll, Michael Lawrence, Eric Simmons and more fine speakers.
Despite the fact that most Christians spend half of their waking lives at work, most have been taught very little on Sunday mornings about how to apply the truths of the gospel to the practicalities of their Monday to Friday work life. It is not uncommon for Christian professionals to hold an undeveloped, if not flat-out unbiblical, theology of work.
The conference will address questions like:
• What is God's purpose for my work?
• How does the gospel change my work?
• How does applying the truths of the gospel help me manage differently?
• How does a Christian strategize and plan his or her career?
I hope you'll make plans to attend. Register online and begin to pray that God would be glorified, that employees would be built up, and that our workplaces will be an area of extraordinary, gospel-centered, faithful and fruitful living.
Visit thegospelatwork.com to learn more.
Studying and preaching on the spiritual discipline of fasting. I found this quote by Piper provoking:
"If you don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. God did not create you for this. There is an appetite for God. And it can be awakened. I invite you to turn from the dulling effects of food and the dangers of idolatry, and to say with some simple fast: 'This much, O God, I want you.'" - John Piper, A Hunger for God, page 23
A young woman named Patty made this and gave it to me and Shannon today at church. We were so blessed by the gift and have it sitting on our kitchen counter. Thanks, Patty!
I got some great feedback from a young man in our church after two of my recent sermons from Matthew 5, both of which touched on aspects of marriage (the messages were "Jesus on Lust" and "Don't Break Your Marriage or Your Word.") In his mid-twenties, he kindly expressed appreciation for both messages and then went on to voice concern about how I challenged single men to "put down the X-box, grow up, pursue a wife, and glorify God in that relationship" (or words to that effect).
Let me share some of his e-mail (with his permission):
I think I understand your heart and the cultural situation that would lead you to make such a statement. I think your heart is for God to be glorified through marriage relationships and the women of the church be cared for and provided for in that way ... And the cultural situation of the USA is [that] men are passive, they prolong adolescence, and they abuse or neglect women to varying degrees...
I'm not knocking that at all. I love that heart to care for and provide for others and to above all bring glory to our Savior through our marriages. But Josh, I know very few men in the church who need to hear that exhortation.
The men in the church that I know are doing a good job of honoring God in their pursuit of marriage, not a sinless one, but an honest, genuine effort. Between me and the other single and recently married men in my small group, around 30 different relationships have been pursued over the past 5 years ...
And to hear such an exhortation ... without a corresponding encouragement to guys who are trying, can be so tempting. Pursuing relationships is ... probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. And there seems to be so little apparent reward for our efforts (of those 30 relationships that were pursued, only three went anywhere).
I am grateful this brother took time to write. I wrote back and asked his forgiveness for being too sweeping with my statement. Yes, there are men who need to be challenged. But I didn't think carefully about men like him who are seeking to pursue marriage faithfully. I should have nuanced my words more and also commended brothers who are stepping forward (and getting turned down).
To other men in a similar situation, I apologize for not being more circumspect in the way I spoke to this issue. And I encourage you from Galatians 6:9: "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."
After this brother presented his concern to me, I posted about this topic on my Facebook page and received a plethora of great comments for both single men and women. Here is a sampling of helpful observations:
A husband and father to two daughters exhorted: "Husbands, love your wives ... and the wife must respect her husband." [Ephesians 5:25,33] - Young single men, are you living lives that women can respect? ... [Consider] ask[ing] a close trusted friend or a close married couple for some honest observations.
A recently married young lady wrote:
Girls ... have good friendships with guys ... We're free in Christ to enjoy people, make memories, and trust God to fulfill His plans for us. And who knows! Someday one of those mutually enjoyable friendships might turn into romance.
A mother shared this thought:
Guys - are you pursuing God as much as you are trying to pursue ladies?
A young woman observed:
Christian women being encouraged to hold out for "the one" is a good thing, but can be out of balance because the woman's mental picture of what she is looking for in a guy is often pretty unrealistic ... Girls need to be encouraged to be willing to consider imperfect guys who are growing in the right direction.
As I read over these I was reminded of our need for the community of the local church and the wisdom and grace that flow from it.
So now I'd love your perspective. How do you think churches can grow in encouraging men and women toward marriage? Is there too much pressure already? Or is marriage being unnecessarily delayed by the people around you? Are girls too quick to say no? What would you say to a guy who's getting weary of trying?
This brief video is my response to the question, "What word of encouragement or advice would you give to fellow pastors?"
Just finished a new book by Paul Tripp entitled Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. It challenged me, convicted me and also gave me fresh faith for pastoral ministry. I highly recommend it to any pastor, seminarian or church member who cares about his or her leaders. The following is a description of the book from Paul Tripp's website...
There's something very dangerous about pastoral culture...
After traveling the globe and speaking to thousands of churches worldwide, Paul Tripp has discovered a serious problem within pastoral culture.
He's not only concerned about the spiritual life of the pastor, but also with the very community of people that trains him, calls him, relates to him, and restores him if necessary.
Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy - an environment that actively undermines the well-being and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body.
Here is material that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the all-important war that rages in our churches today.
It's the most honest discussion of ministry you'll ever encounter.
With just a piano & acoustic guitar, Sara Groves plays her beautiful song "Eyes On The Prize," accompanied by Steve Mason of Jars of Clay. The song is from her new album "Invisible Empires." My friend Erik Sheffer introduced me to the song. There's a cool story of how the Lord blessed him through it which you can read here.)
These photos reminded me of Jesus' words about the lost sheep in Luke and how he pursues us and rescues us from our sin. And I couldn't help but thinking that this is the kind of pastor I'd like to be, going after those who are straying and in spiritual danger. I'm grateful for the men who serve as undershepherds of the Chief Shepherd. Your labor isn't in vain, brothers! Don't grow weary!
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
So he told them this parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." - Luke 15:1-7 ESV
I'm a big fan of Chipotle and was interested to read an article today in TIME about a new venture by the creators of Chipotle called Shophouse. The menu, which looks brilliant, is inspired by Southeast Asian cuisine. You choose rice, noodles or lettuce as a base, then one of four meats (or tofu), a vegetable, dressing and garnish. So far there's only one restaurant in Dupont Circle. But if the success of Chipotle is any indicator get ready for these to begin spreading across the country.
Okay, big favor to ask...my 10-year-old son, Joshua Quinn, is a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and of safety Troy Polamalu in particular (that's him dressed as Troy last October). Right now he's trying to win a football signed by Troy. To win he needs to have friends "like" my comment found at this link. If he gets the most likes in the next two days, he wins the ball. But right now he's about 10 "likes" behind the front-runner.
Please help JQ! Just click on this link and "like" my comment (highlighted in blue). If he wins you can visit the ball anytime! My boy thanks you in advance.
UPDATE: Thanks to you, we won the contest 505 votes to 468! We're very grateful! Thanks for taking the time to help him out. I wish you could have seen his face this morning when he woke up and found out he got enough votes.
Today I preached a message on the beatitudes called "The Good Life." As I studied Jesus' words I was reminded of how backwards the values of the kingdom of heaven are compared to the kingdom of this earth. They completely contradict the way todays world works. So I wondered, "What would a secular version of the beatitudes look like?" Based on the way our culture defines success, here's how I think a worldly version of the beatitudes might read:
Listen to or watch the sermon here.
I appreciate Christian blogger Melissa Jenna's strong challenge to fellow sisters-in-Christ about the the acceptance of so called "Mommy Porn"--specifically, the best-selling erotic novel "50 Shades of Grey" and the male-stripper themed movie "Magic Mike." Melissa shares her surprise at how "completely accepting" Christian culture is to both of these works. "I've read a few dozen different updates from Christian women regarding 50 Shades and Magic Mike, and the verdict? They love them. I mean they really looooove them. They can't stop talking about them."
She makes the point that women/moms lusting is no better or acceptable to God than men/dads lusting. "To gain another perspective," she writes, "imagine your husband (or father/brother/church leader) going around bragging about how much he loved reading last month's Playboy magazine, or rallying all of his guy friends to go see "Magic Meghan" for the third time. If our husbands were drooling over a movie about female strippers, we would be livid. It wouldn't be tolerated. Church leaders would be publicly denouncing men's sudden acceptance of pornography and erotic films. (Why aren't church leaders publicly denouncing 50 Shades or Magic Mike, by the way?)"
Melissa goes on to state, "Christian women need to reject both of these works, and instead, use our voices in support of what is good, right and true. It is our responsibility, as daughters of the Heavenly King, to remain set-apart from the poisons of our culture, to rebuke temptation, and to celebrate and honor righteousness."
Melissa, thanks for speaking up on this. You're not uncool, you're "hungering and thirsting for righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). Don't be surprised if you're persecuted and ridiculed as a result. I know the Lord is pleased.
Read the full post.
This is a message I gave recently on the topic of marriage, homosexuality, and current the drive to redefine marriage.
David Kinnaman writes an article for Christianity Today entitled "The Rise of Digital Urban Tribes" on discipleship of the next generation. I found these two paragraphs provoking:
...we underestimate how much young people are shaped by the massive power of the digital tools, consumer culture, and media of the broader American culture. Thomas Bergler's work in The Juvenilization of American Christianity gives us a fabulous phrase for this: "the deadening effect of popular culture." Of course, many Christians recognize and bemoan the impact of media and technology on young people. Many, however, miss how much the influence is increasing and how much every age group is feeling its effects. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the typical teenager is using more than 10 hours of media per day, far more than previous generations. Is it any wonder when you mix and stir human nature, reality television, and social media that one-quarter of today's teenagers believe there is a "definite" or "probable" chance they will be famous or well-known by age 25? Call it the American Idol effect....
In addition, our research shows that typical parents are just as "addicted" to media and technology as are their teenagers, just in different ways. In an ironic and telling shift, the teenagers we interviewed complained that their parents' use of technology was inhibiting quality family time.
Read the full article.
I just heard that a generous donor has offered our friends at Crossway Publishing an all-or-nothing matching grant of $270,000 if they are able to raise an additional $270,000 by May 31st. They are asking for help raising funds for several strategic Bible and Study Bible translation/distribution opportunities.
If you're not familiar with Crossway, they are a publisher of many wonderful Christian books and resources, including the ESV Bible and ESV Study Bible. The are also a non-profit ministry, relying on gifts to support their work. To learn more, or to contribute toward their goal, click here.
I love the sweet story of Ian and Larissa Murphy, just posted on Desiring God. As John Piper writes in his post,
Being satisfied in God (or anything) always seems easier when all is going well. But when things you love are being stripped out of your hands, then the test is real. If God remains precious in those moments, then his supreme worth shines more brightly. He is most glorified.
The last book my mother gave me before she passed away was David: Man of Prayer, Man of War by Walter Chantry. It had been a great encouragement to her during a difficult season and she wanted me to read it. I left in on my shelf too long. When I finally made time to read it I understood why my mother's copy was marked up and filled with post-it notes. Chantry does an outstanding job sharing the highs and lows of David's life and drawing from them spiritual guidance and wisdom for Christians. Even if you consider yourself well acquainted with the story of David's life I think you'll benefit from it.
Here's a quote from the introduction to whet your appetite:
"The one constant with David in every condition was expressed in Psalm 16:8: "I have set the LORD always before me."
In all the rapid alterations of his life David thought of the Most High God and expressed his devout feelings toward his Maker and Redeemer. When he wept in shame for his loathsome sins, his tears were poured out before the Lord. WHen he felt the exhilaration of triumph, he shouted to the Lord who was his strength.
Perhaps this most of all explains the vast variety of David's life experiences. The Lord made him into the Psalmists for all the saints in all subsequent ages. In his youth he knew a peaceful, tranquil walk with God; in later years he both walked upon the heights and fell into the depths, and thus was enabled to compose prayerful songs for every condition of life.
No matter how high David rose above other men, his spirit was childlike toward the Lord. Therefore he did not make pretentious efforts of self-defense with others. His sorrow in confession was immediately and deeply expressed without any consideration for who might be watching. He who was equally at home holding the shepherd's staff, the warrior's sword, the poet's harp, and the ruler's sceptre, was completely transparent in the humbling of himself before the God of all the earth. This ease and simplicity in worship draws out our deepest emotions as we read the life of David, King of Israel. We love this man for showing us how to pray from every point of life's compass. We love him for showing us how, in the midst of spiritual failure, we too can drawn near to the Lord again in trust and devotion.
Perfectionists will not be comfortable with David. Those who stumble often, but who always turn with melted hearts to God for pardon and help, will find in him a brother for all situations. Such people will love the sacred history of his life and find it totally engrossing."
You can find the book at Amazon.com here.
My brother Alex told me about the upcoming Lord of the Rings LEGO toys. My immediate thought was, "I must have them, my Precious!" Is that healthy? I will use the excuse that I am getting them for my 10-year-old son but my wife will know the truth.
For the last three Sundays in April at Covenant Life, our series title is "Never Give Up," drawn from Luke 18:1, where we find Jesus teaching his disciples that they "should always pray and never give up." We're looking at the stories of Paul, Elijah and David, men who held onto faith, even when they had every reason to lose heart.
The goal of this short series is to build God-confidence, not self-confidence--to remind ourselves how wonderful, how free, and how BIG our salvation is. This is a time to re-direct our focus, remember how we've been saved, and see that what Jesus has done is far greater than our biggest problems.
April 15 | "Paul: Remember the Biggest Truth" | 2 Timothy 1:8-18
Something is big in your life right now. Something is filling up your thoughts and dominating your perspective. Paul would remind you how wonderful, how free, and how universe shaking your salvation is.
April 22 | "Elijah: God's Plan is Better" | 1 Kings 19
God is still working, even when it's not how we planned, and his purpose is better than ours.
April 29 | "David: Praising God in a Cave" | 1 Samuel 21:10-22:4
How did David engage with God when his life was turned upside down? He came with great confidence, seeking mercy from God and offering defiant praise to God's glory.
I have been playing the album Love & War & the Sea In Between to death the last few days. It's fantastic. I'm so grateful for Josh Garrels' generosity in giving his music away. Now I need to find a way to send the guy a check to support his ministry/artistry. The song "Farther Along" was a God-given lifeline to me yesterday: "Farther along we'll know all about it/Farther along we'll understand why /Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine/We'll understand this, all by and by." Amen! Listen and enjoy.
In early 2014 a team led by Matt Maka is planting Christ Church in Mt. Airy, Maryland. Please pray for this new work. You can get updates by visiting their Facebook page.
"When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone... Two thinkers, you become confused... Ten thinkers, you'll begin developing your own voice... Two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise." - Tim Keller, via Keller Quotes
This website has been getting crushed with spam. If I read one more spam post about cheap Louis Vuitton bags I'm going to go crazy! The only way we've been able to get the site to function properly is to turn all comments for the time being. Thanks for your understanding.
"Read the Bible praying, 'Father, hold my mind's attention. Wake my heart's affection. Speak for your glory and my holy joy.' - John Piper
I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I live in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with an amazing wife and three wacky, fun kids. I'm a pastor at Covenant Life Church. I’m also a writer.