He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 

Something I Understand Well Now

William Carey: "All my friends are but one, but He is all sufficient."

HT: David Platt

Monday, March 29, 2010 

Christuraj's Story

Christuraj's Story from Compassion Australia on Vimeo.

- Compassion International

Sunday, March 28, 2010 

Thankfulness is Trusting in God's Promises

As soon as you are thankful, you begin to link your life to God's promises. You learn how to see your circumstances through the lens of God's Word, instead of interpreting God's Word through the lens of your experiences, which always dilutes, devalues, and diminishes God. It's like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

This is what happened when the nation of Israel was on the outskirts of the Promised Land (Num. 14). Moses sent twelve men to scout it out before they went in to conquer it. They all agreed that it was a wonderful land, just as God had promised. Yet ten out of twelve concentrated on the dangers they would face if they tried to conquer it. They instilled such fear in the people that they wanted to turn around and go back to Egypt!

The Lord responded, "How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?... Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed...will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it" (14:11, 22-23).

God made promises to Israel that he was committed to keep, and he kept them. In Christ, he has made many more promises to us, and he intends to keep them as well. He wants us to believe him! He is a person--and when we trash our relationship with him in unbelief, it matters! Being thankful helps us to interpret our lives in the light of his faithfulness.

- Susan Lutz, Thankfulness: Even When It Hurts

Saturday, March 27, 2010 

Thankfulness Leads to Gospel-shaped Relationships

As soon as you are thankful, your human relationships get healthier because they are shaped by faith. You become more dependent on God and less demanding of others.

Often we are demanding and judgmental with others, fearful and easily hurt because we are controlled by our relationships with people, instead of focusing first on our relationship with God. We always have to start with the Lord and His redemptive purposes before we think about the people in a particular situation. If you can understand God's good purposes for you, what you expect of people and what you fear about them both diminish. As you rest in the Lord, your heart is softened and strengthened at the same time. This gives you a greater strength to work through hard things, and a greater desire and ability to love and serve others.

- Susan Lutz, Thankfulness: Even When It Hurts

Friday, March 26, 2010 

And Now the Organ

Japanese are known for taking Western ideas/things - baseball, the automobile, & perfecting it...and now, the Japanese mastery of Rock n' Roll & the organ:

HT: Douglas Wilson

Thursday, March 25, 2010 

Thankfulness Defeats Satan

As soon as you are thankful, you defeat Satan's efforts to control your interpretation of reality. Satan always wants us to doubt God and turn away from him. This has been going on since the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1). And without the Lord's help, our own hearts are predisposed to this kind of thinking. Because of sin, doubting God is our "default mode." It's our natural assumption.

I once spoke to a woman whose fears had completely taken over her life. I said to her, "It's like your fears are on speed-dial. They are right there, fully developed, with the push of one emotional button. You don't even have to go to the trouble of thinking about them. " And because she had thought them so often, they felt very real, very natural, very authentically "her." She trusted them because they were familiar and they came to her so easily. But they were lies that were destroying her life.

Being thankful breaks that cycle. It is one of God's ways to reset our default mode, to renew our minds and put us in touch with our new heart, which knows that God is good. Romans 8:32 says, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, gracioulsy give us all things?" This needs to be our default mode.
Many people have a descending staircase of negativity that has operated in their heads for years. Once they have thought the first negative thought, they know exactly where they are going to end up--all the way at the bottom. They know ahead of time what each and every thought is going to be. And again, because the thoughts are so familiar, they seem powerful and irrefutable. If that's true for you, remember: Being thankful is a way to step back from those thoughts and turn to the Lord, to trust what he has to say about your life. Over time, this will become what feels real and natural to you.

- Susan Lutz, Thankfulness: Even When It Hurts

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 

Thankfulness is God-Centeredness

As soon as you are thankful, you start to see your life differently, through God's eyes. You are no longer problem-centered, but God-centered. That in itself is an incredible relief. Some situations are so difficult and painful that it seems as if you can't look anywhere. You can't look "behind" you to think about what happened in the past. You can't look to one side and think about what is actually happening now. You can't look on the other side, either, to think about what could have been--and should have been--happening now. You can't look in front of you to think about what lies ahead. It is all too overwhelming without God. You can't see how anything in your situation connects to the "big picture" promises that Go makes in His Word. You feel as if all you can do is concentrate on the very next, small step in front of you.

But stop for a minute. In that small space of the next step you need to take, find something for which you can be thankful. Find something that reminds you that God is with you. There will be something--a verse, a phone call from a friend that reminds you that God has not forgotten, a specific answer to prayer. Thank God specifically for that reminder of His presence. Let it shape the way you take that next small step. God wants you to see that nothing happens in your life that he cannot use redemptively, which means that he can use it for good, to bless you and help you to grow in your understanding of Him. That's saying a lot, but it is God who is saying it! Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." God is on the throne, and the events of your life--even the bad things--are not beyond his reach. We don't need to give thanks for evil, but we are meant to give thanks for God's ability to overrule evil and use it for good.

In the Old Testament, Joseph realized this when he confronted his brothers, who had betrayed him, sold him into slavery, and set in motion all kinds of evil in his life. "You intended to harm me, " he tells them, "but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Gen. 50:20).

When you are thankful, it helps you to realize that you are not defined by your problems or your circumstances. God has preceded them and he can overrule them. If you belong to Jesus, you are not defined by your failures, your sins, your weaknesses, or your enemies. They will not have the last word. God will.

- Susan Lutz, Thankfulness: Even When It Hurts

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 

Death Will Die

One wonderful thing about the story of redemption is that God has let us in on the ending. We know that death – and all the suffering and grief that accompany it – will die. There is glorious life after death when God will dry your last tear and you will never have a reason to cry again. The light of God’s eternal glory will flood your life. You will never face death again.

Your tears now are not only tears of grief; they are also tears of longing. All of us experience this longing when we are cast into the darkness of death. We long for a better place where life doesn’t end this way. The Bible gloriously reassures us that our longing is not in vain. (See 1 Cor. 15; Rev. 7:9-17.) The story that began in an eternity without death will end the same way. Because you know how the story is going to turn out, your grief can be tempered by hope. You can grieve with one eye on your present loss and one eye on your future. Yes, you still miss your loved one greatly. You feel the stinging pain of loss. But your pain does not have to give way to discouragement, depression, and desperation. Even this moment of pain can be colored by your hope.

Leave room in your tears for little, quiet moments of celebration. Death will someday end forever. In your present sadness, let your heart look to the future. Can you anticipate the beauty to come?

- Paul David Tripp, Grief: Finding Hope Again

Monday, March 22, 2010 

Resist Grief's Temptations

When you grieve, you are vulnerable to temptations you would normally resist. The enemy of your soul attacks in your weakest moments. He targets strugglers. In times of loss and grief, look out for these temptations:

Doubt. When you are shocked at the death of someone you love, it can be tempting to doubt God’s goodness, mercy, faithfulness, and love. You don’t feel loved. You don’t feel like you are the object of God’s goodness. You cry for mercy, but you don’t see it. It is easy to lose sight of what God is actually doing. If you wander down into a dark, windowless basement and the door locks behind you, you can’t see any light or feel the sun’s warmth. But did the sun stop shining? No. Powerful feelings of grief can get in the way of our experience of God’s goodness. But don’t give in to doubt. Hold onto your belief in his love and mercy more than ever before.

Anger. Death should make you angry that the effects of sin still touch us. But be careful that anger at death doesn’t degenerate into anger with God. In the face of things they do not understand, in the middle of questions that no one can honestly answer, many people bring God into the court of their judgment. Resist giving in to such anger. It blinds you to God’s true nature and ever-present help.
Envy. Death often makes us feel that we have been singled out for suffering. You may wish you could switch lives with someone else. But that is dangerous. Envy is rooted in a disappointment with God that says, “You didn’t give me what I want!” In envy, you are less able to deal with your loss in biblically constructive ways.

Self-pity. In your pain, you are tempted to move God out of the center of your life. Life becomes all about you. No one’s loss or pain is as great as yours. You descend to a level of self-pity and self-absorption you wouldn’t have tolerated before. Despite the way you feel, don’t set aside the two great commands to love God and others.

Are you resisting the temptations that grief sends your way?

- Paul David Tripp, Grief: Finding Hope Again

Sunday, March 21, 2010 

In Times of Death, Christians Should be Sadder/More Hopeful Than Anyone Else

God has not chosen to remove us from this world where death is a daily reality. For our good and for his glory, he has chosen to have us remain where grief will touch us all. But believers grieve in a way different from those who do not know the Lord.

In times of death, Christians should be sadder than anyone else. We know how sin brought death into the world. We mourn not only for the loved one we have lost, but also for the fact that death continues to destroy. We live in a place where something that was never meant to be has become a common experience. We know how wonderful life on earth could have been.

Yet we should also be the most hopeful of any who mourn. God brings the best things out of the worst. Even in the darkest moments, we are never alone. The death and resurrection of Christ stand as a sure and reliable promise that someday death will die.

God doesn’t call you to stifle your grief or put on a happy face when you are crushed. He doesn’t expect you to hide behind religious clichés and theological platitudes. God approves of your tears! But he welcomes you to look at death through the eyes of Christ. The comfort and hope he provides does not remove your grief, but they allow you to grieve in a brand new way. And he promises one day to take you to a place where you will never cry again.

- Paul David Tripp, Grief: Finding Hope Again

Friday, March 19, 2010 

Ultimate Bad Meets Ultimate Good in the Gospel

Is death a bad thing? Yes. But Scripture tells us that the brightest of good things can be found in the midst of evil’s darkness.

The cross most powerfully demonstrates this. On the hill of death outside the city, the best thing ever came out of the worst thing ever. Peter says this about Christ’s death: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).

What could be worse than the killing of the Messiah? What could be more unjust than the illegal execution of the one perfect person who ever lived? What could be a greater injustice than the torture of the One who came to free us from death? Peter says that the death of Christ was an evil deed by evil men, the ultimate bad thing done to the ultimate good person.

But Peter says more. He says that God delivered up Jesus for his own “set purpose.” This terrible moment was under God’s control. He planned from the beginning to use the ultimate evil to accomplish the ultimate good for humanity. In this dark moment, God conquered sin and death—two enemies we could never defeat on our own. On that cross of death, sin and righteousness met.

In the same way, God often brings the most lasting and wonderful things out of the darkest moments in our lives. Sometimes the death of one of God’s children preaches the gospel more powerfully than his life ever could. Sometimes in the shadow of imminent death, feuding family members make peace. Sometimes a funeral brings closure to things that would never have been resolved any other way.

Your Lord is present in this darkness. He planned the darkest things to result in redemptive good for his children. He surrendered his Son to death so that you could have life. He will not abandon you now.

- Paul David Tripp, Grief: Finding Hope Again

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 

Do All Infants Who Die Go to Heaven?

This is a difficult and sensitive issue. Any answer must take into account that all of us are born sinful and thus worthy of judgment. The consistent New Testament emphasis upon the need for a second birth indicates that our natural state is that of sin, not innocence (John 3:1-12; Ephesians 2:1-5; cf. Psalm 51:5). We are "by nature children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3).

In addition to having sinful natures, we also come into the world with Adam's sin imputed to us. Because of our union with Adam, we are born guilty of his first sin (Romans 5:12-21). We go into this doctrine in detail elsewhere, but for now it is enough to point out that, according to Paul, the fact that all die physically (even those who, like infants, did not have the opportunity to knowingly transgress a law of God-Romans 5:13-14) is a demonstration that we are connected with the guilt of Adam's sin.

If we are all born under sin, and salvation is by faith in Christ (which infants do not seem to have the mental capacity to exercise), then it might at first seem that no infants can be saved. We are not, however, aware of anyone who actually takes this position. We are convinced that it would be a premature, unbiblical conclusion.

One reason is that there are apparent examples in Scripture of infants who were saved. We are told that John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit while yet in his mother's womb (Luke 1:15). In Luke's theology, being filled with the Spirit is consistently seen as an aspect of the Spirit's work among those who are regenerate (Luke 1:41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 9:17; 11:24).

Hundreds of years before John the Baptist, David wrote: "Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God." (Psalm 22:9-10). Because of David's apparent mention of having faith in God while still an infant, some have concluded that God saves infants by giving them a "primitive" form of faith. That conclusion, however, is not necessary to our point; the main thing to see in this passage is that David evidently was in a saving relationship with God from his mother's womb.

These verses make it very unlikely that all infants who die are lost. If God saved John the Baptist and David in infancy, surely we are warranted in concluding that he has saved others in infancy that were not given the opportunity to grow up. Yet, it would also be unwarranted to conclude from these texts that all who die in infancy are saved. The regeneration of infants does not seem to be God's usual way of working; we must keep in mind that "the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies" (Psalm 58:3).

In light of these things, some have held that God saves some infants who die and not others. They point that this is seems most consistent with the doctrines of election and original sin.

John Piper and many others, however, believe that there is one more biblical strand of evidence which must be considered. This evidence leads us to conclude that God saves all infants who die.

In a funeral sermon several years ago for an infant, Dr. Piper summarized the basis for his conclusion:

Jesus says in John 9:41 to those who were offended at his teaching and asked if he thought they were blind-he said, "If you were blind, you would not have had sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."

In other words, if a person lacks the natural capacity to see the revelation of God's will or God's glory then that person's sin would not remain-God would not bring the person into final judgment for not believing what he had no natural capacity to see.

The other text is Romans 1:20 where Paul is dealing with persons who have not heard the gospel and have no access to it, but who do have access to the revelation of God's glory in nature:

Romans 1:20 "Since the creation of the world God's invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

In other words: if a person did not have access to the revelation of God's glory - did not have the natural capacity to see it and understand it, then Paul implies they would have an excuse at the judgment.

The point for us is that even though we human beings are under the penalty of everlasting judgment and death because of the fall of our race into sin and the sinful nature that we all have, nevertheless God only executes this judgment on those who have the natural capacity to see his glory and understand his will, and refuse to embrace it as their treasure.

Infants, I believe, do not yet have that capacity; and therefore, in God's inscrutable way, he brings them under the forgiving blood of his Son.

In another sermon, he adds:

God in his justice will find a way to absolve infants who die of their depravity. It will surely be through Christ. But beyond that we would be guessing. It seems to me that the most natural guess would be that babies will grow up in the kingdom (either immediately, or over time) and will by God's grace come to faith so that their justification is by faith alone just like ours.

It is important to emphasize that, in our view, God is not saving infants because they are innocent. They are not innocent, but guilty. He is saving them because, although they are sinful, in his mercy he desires that compassion be exercised upon those who are sinful and yet lack the capacity to grasp the truth revealed about Him in nature and to the human heart.

It should also be emphasized that the salvation of all who die in infancy is not inconsistent with unconditional election (the view that God chooses whom to save of His own will, apart from anything in the individual). As Spurgeon pointed out, it is not that God chooses someone to salvation because they are going to die in infancy. Rather, He has ordained that only those who have been chosen for salvation will be allowed to die in infancy. God's justice in condemnation will be most clearly seen by allowing those who will not be saved to demonstrate their inherent sinfulness through willful, knowing transgression.

Finally, for those who have struggled with this issue through personal loss, we would want to say that knowing what happens to infants who die is a good place to rest your soul. But it is only the second best place for resting your soul. As John Piper has said in another funeral sermon for a young infant:

The first best place is simply this: Psalm 119:68—"Thou art good and doest good."

This was George Mueller's funeral text when his wife Mary died of rheumatic fever in 1860. His three points were:

The Lord was good, and did good, in giving her to me.
The Lord was good and did good, in so long leaving her to me.
The Lord was good and did good, in taking her from me.

He did not start from Mary and move to God's goodness. He started with the unshakable confidence in the goodness of God rooted in Jesus Christ, and he interpreted his life and his loss in view of that goodness.

That is the bottom line is the goodness of God—that is the hope for us all, and the only hope.

Our final song is a plea for God's Spirit to wean us away from everything in the earth that would tempt us not to believe that.

- Desiring God Staff

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 

Provides a Much Needed Laugh

Keep watching...

Peter Pan Fail.

Monday, March 15, 2010 

Spiritual Impaling

Thank God He gave His Son to take on what we could never endure...

Sunday, March 14, 2010 

Ultimate Goal of Missions? The Glory of God

from Church Matters by Michael Mckinley:

I came across an interesting point by Wayne Grudem that it bears on the conversation that Doug Coleman started a while ago. Doug asked: What is the ultimate goal and motivation for cross-cultural missions, the salvation of as many humans as possible or the glory of God?
You can read the whole post and comments here.

Grudem, discussing the debate between Calvinists and Arminians in his Bible Doctrine, points out that both sides believe that God values something more than the salvation of everyone. God surely could save everyone, but chooses not to.

The Reformed person explains that God is primarily motivated by his own glory. He is glorified in the fact that some are destined for eternal justice, and so he chooses not to save all.
The Arminian explains that God is primarily concerned not to violate man's free will. That's what prevents all people from being saved.

But I thought that observation was helpful for your question, Doug. Both Reformed folks and Arminians can agree that the salvation of people cannot be God's highest priority. Otherwise, he would save everyone. So it would seem that it can't be our highest motive for missions, either.
Missions for the glory of God is extremely freeing, because we can glorify God even when our work isn't "successful". This perspective allows us to work in difficult places even if there's little evident fruit. It strengthens the resolve of those who go and lay down their lives on the mission field. It makes us bold to preach the whole gospel without compromising it to please men and gain their favor.

Saturday, March 13, 2010 

The Darkest Month of the Year: Japan & Suicide

Weekly magazine Shukan Post’s most recent issue contains an interesting article about a topic that likely falls close to home for many dwellers of the Japanese concrete jungle. Train jumpers, a form of suicide Japan is arguably infamous for, are so common in the Tokyo area that we hardly blink an eye when we see a train delay due to the ominous “人身事故” (jinshinjiko–human accident).

According to the Shukan Post, on average March has the highest rates of suicides of any month out of the year with an average of 100 people taking their own lives every day. The reason is unclear, they say, but may have something to do with the fiscal year, which ends on March 31. In a 2008 survey of population trends, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare lists suicide as the top killer of people aged 20-39. As the Post puts it, Japan is a country where “those in the prime of life choose death.”

- Japan Subculture Research Center

A blue light installed on the end of a JR train platform as a suicide deterrent. JR theorizes that the lights may help prevent people from jumping because of the color blue's "calming effect."

A blue light installed on the end of a JR train platform as a suicide deterrent. JR theorizes that the lights may help prevent people from jumping because of the color blue's "calming effect."

Friday, March 12, 2010 

Bad Theology, Bad Missionary, Bad Missions

Church planters must be outstanding theologians and outstanding missionaries. To have one without the other is a liability to the Kingdom. If our theological foundation is wrong, our missiology and methods are on tenuous grounds when it comes to the advancement of the Kingdom among a population segment, people group, etc.

- J.D. Payne

Thursday, March 11, 2010 

Too Small to Ignore

Twenty-plus thoughts & figures & quotes from the first 100 pgs of Wess Stafford's (president of Compassion International) book, Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most.

  • The wars of the last decade killed more children than soldiers.
  • When the sickness of pornography has run to its most evil & destructive end, it takes the form of child pornography.
  • When prostitution reaches its sickest, most depraved form, it becomes child prostitution.

  • Malnutrition causes more than 55% of the child deaths in our world.

  • 30,000 of our little innocents under age five die everyday.

  • Fully half the world, & especially in the developing world, are children & teenagers.

  • The worst aspects of poverty are not the deplorable outward conditions but rather the erosion & eventual destruction of hope.

  • Jesus valued people at both ends of the economic spectrum (honoring the widow who gave her last coin, loving the rich young ruler who couldn't give up everything).

  • As wonderful as air-conditioning is, it has made us go inside & close our doors & windows. There we sit, basking in the coolness--but alone, isolated, cut off from our neighbors. Our games for children have moved from the neighborhood summer evenings of hide-and-seek to isolated video games...The more wealth & comfort we gain, the more we lose our sense of community.

  • The US suicide rate exceeds the murder rate by 50%.

  • We are disconnected, accountable to no one, bereft of counsel & love & shared wisdom...Our children grow up equally isolated...In the absence of human contact, we are trying to substitute virtual relationships on the Internet.

  • The individualistic West sometimes have trouble appreciating the Old Testament because its worldview is so keyed on the group.

  • The Bible doesn't even have a word for teenager. So when visiting parents come up to me or call the office and ask, "What programs do you have for teenagers?" I smile & say, "We have church!"

  • In most of today's Western churches, I know the thought of having children present in the worship service is anathema. God forbid that the holy atmosphere should ever be pierced by a baby's cry.

  • E. Stanley Jones said comparing physical & spiritual forms of ministry, one's "a soul without a body" and the other is a "body without a soul. One's a ghost & the other's corpse; you can take your choice. I don't want either one. I want both."

  • Corrie ten Boom said, "If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy."

  • Americans spend more on garbage bags each year than 90 of the world's 210 countries spend for everything.

  • In 1950, the average American single-family home was 983 square feet. By 1970, that figure had grown to 1,500 square feet. By 2004, it had ballooned to 2,329 square feet.

  • We patronize more than 35,000 self-storage facilites across the nation for all the extras we're not using now.

  • How many of us have lavished toys & clothes & entertainment on our kids to the point of extreme, only to produce selfish, bored, demanding, irritable teenagers?

  • You can tell a society is nearing its ultimate collapse when it is consumed with comfort, pleasure, & etertainment, when it no longer feels it needs anything from God, the Creator. The Greeks, Romans, Incas, Aztecs, & soon perhpas Western civilization, the path has been the same.

  • In our society, when a guy who flips a basketball through a ten-foot high hoop can make as much money in 3 hours as a schoolteacher, who is shaping the lives of the next generation, does in a year, something is horribly wrong with our values.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 

A Freeing Statement

Be willing to suffer, but don’t feel guilty for pleasure. Be strategic, but don’t think our strategies are always God’s strategies. Be willing to do anything, go anywhere, and minister to anyone. It matters more who you are than where you are. City, suburb, or country, if we are growing in godliness we will not be unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8).

- Kevin DeYoung

Tuesday, March 09, 2010 

Burma VJ

"I feel the world is forgetting about us."

Says the maker of Burma VJ. When you get 90 minutes of free time, this documentary is well worth the watch (in 9 segments on youtube). It will keep the plight of one of the most forgotten, suppressed nations in the world in the front of your mind. Pray for the junta & the people of Burma today.

Monday, March 08, 2010 

7 Possible Reasons We Find the Bible Boring

1. Lack of Understanding

2. Lack of Relevance

3. Too Impatient

4. Too Conditioned for Excitement

5. Incompatibility with Personal Agendas

6. Lack of Spiritual Motivation

7. Discouragement or Anger with God

- read whole post & each point's commentary at Parchment & Pen

Sunday, March 07, 2010 

Shizuoka City Time Lapse - Watch & Pray

This is a camera effect with 1 second intervals & other goodies going on to make a city seem like a toy or miniature town.

As you watch these 3.5 minutes, I'm asking that you would pray for the nearly 800,000 people who live here, who look like little lego men & women in this video. They are real people & there's a good chance that every life behind these building windows, in the cars, on the street, operating machinery, are heading towards eternal separation from God - Hell.

Pray for blind eyes to see & for stone hearts to become flesh.

Timelapse of Shizuoka City (Like a miniature) from 46°Project on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 06, 2010 

True Faith

When her second child died, Ann Judson wrote, "Our hearts were bound up with this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error, and to strip us of our only little all. O, may it not be vain that he has done it. May we so improve it that he will stay his hand and say 'It is enough.'"

- Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore, p. 193

Friday, March 05, 2010 

Uncool People Need Jesus Too

Through my work with the Acts 29 Network, I get the privilege of assessing a number of potential church planters each year. I also get to hear about dozens more from fellow pastors as well. When I guy comes in to get assessed, by the time he gets to the interview stage he’s already submitted a lot of paperwork. Resumes. Plans. Budgets. Demographic Analysis. Dental history. (Ok, just kidding on the last one).

And as I’ve looked at some amazing plans from church planters, I’ve started to notice a trend. They all sound the same.

It seems as the unique vision that God’s given so many church planters is almost identical. Phrases like “gospel-centered”, “missional”, and “cultural renewal” are littered throughout their proposals. It seems that the phrase “In the City. For the City.” or some variation of such has become church planting boilerplate.

Not only is the language the same, but so is the target group. It’s amazing how many young pastors feel that they are distinctly called to reach the upwardly-mobile, young, culture-shaping professionals and artists. Can we just be honest? Young, upper-middle-class urban professionals have become the new “Saddleback Sam”.

Seriously, this is literally the only group I see proposals for. I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelsitic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now.

Why is that? I can’t offer a definitive answer. It could be that God is legitimately calling an entire generation of young pastors to turn their focus to a small segment of the population that happens to look very much like they do.

Or it could be that we’re simply following in the footsteps of the church growth movement that we’ve loved to publically criticize while privately trying to emulate – we’ve just replaced Bill Hybels and Rick Warren with Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll.

Just thinking out loud…

- Bill Streger

HT: the Doug Wilson

Thursday, March 04, 2010 

My Immense Personal Value

Nothing in the existence of evil implies that God must not be in control. Nothing implies that He does not exist (exactly the opposite—without Him, the category evil does not exist; all is neutral flux and entropy). The struggle comes when we look at ourselves in the mirror, a carnival mirror, a mirror that stretches our worth into the skies. Given my immense personal value, how could a good God ever allow me to feel pain?

Our emotions balk at omni-benevolence.”

N.D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World

Wednesday, March 03, 2010 

10 Questions to Ask a Potential Pastor

10. What do you believe your fundamental calling is as a minister of the gospel?

9. What do you believe is the function of Lord’s Day worship? How would you see that function best served?

8. Who are your heroes, and why are they your heroes?

7. What is the greatest danger to the peace of the local church? What is the greatest danger to the purity of the local church?

6. What are the last five books you read? What is the most helpful book you read in the past year?

5. What was the most positive aspect of your training for gospel ministry? What was the most negative aspect?

4. What is the good news of Jesus Christ?

3. What have you done for the unbelievers in your community? What have you done for the unborn?

2. How would your friends honestly describe the disposition of your wife and children?

1. What are your greatest weaknesses as a pastor?

- R.C. Sproul, Jr.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 

Staying Faithful When Things Get Worse

Sometimes faithfulness to God and his word sets us on a course where circumstances get worse, not better. It is then that knowing God's promises and his ways are crucial. Faith in God's future grace for us is what sustains us in those desperate moments.

- Jon Bloom:

read entire post here

Monday, March 01, 2010 

The Critical Spirit

When we are critical of others, we are in it for one of two reasons. We are either critical because we are loving them, and are seeking their best interest, or we are critical because we are loving ourselves, and are seeking some way to compete effectively with them. This means that our criticism is either borne from a love of God, or it is borne from a love of self.

The critical spirit bites and devours. The critical spirit tears down and does not rebuild. The critical spirit speaks without thinking or reflecting. The critical spirit does not have equal weights and measures; it does not apply the same level of scrutiny to itself as it does to the other. The critical spirit always wins the game that it is playing, and does so by pretending to the neutral referee. The critical spirit belongs in Hell, but is often found in church.

The discerning spirit wants to protect, not destroy. The discerning spirit warns; it does not push. The discerning spirit can speak hard words, and often does, but it is the scalpel of the surgeon, not the cudgel of the mugger. The discerning spirit rejoices when corrections are made, and is glad when planned corrections become unnecessary. The discerning spirit is gentle or hard, depending on the need. The discerning spirit administers faithful wounds, not misplaced bruises.

Everyone here is in relationships with others, and so that means that everyone here is either critical or discerning. It is not possible to sit this one out.

- the Doug Wilson

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