Tuesday, March 31, 2009


John Fonville: "regardless of whether a man believes in limited or unlimited atonement, there is never a reason to introduce either view when preaching the gospel. Neither view is something that needs to be included in the equation."

Update: John Schroeder has more here.

"Act like men"

Dan Edelen thinks North American churches need to train boys (and men) to really be men. Dan also asks, "Is the [North] American church too macho?"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Change as central work

Paul Tripp: "This is the work of the kingdom of God: people in the hands of the Redeemer, daily functioning as his tools of lasting change."

"Jesus was ugly"

So says Jeff Weddle, who makes the case pretty convincingly from Isaiah 53:2:
Now, I understand why this is offensive to some; it shatters our romantic notions. But I do believe scripture must triumph over romance.

To me the fact that Jesus was ugly is perfect. It makes too much sense. It’s the exact opposite of what people desire. It’s the exact opposite of what men would devise. Modern pictures of Jesus do not show an ugly man, humans wouldn’t hang up pictures of ugly guys over their reading chairs.

Is there doctrinal significance to his ugliness? Only to the extent of understanding the suffering of Christ. A man acquainted with sorrow means a guy whose life was constant anguish. Every aspect of his life was horrendous suffering.

I think we miss out on that when we replace the Jesus of Scripture with the Jesus of romance. Makes it seem like his salvation mission was more of a vacation from heaven.
Good points.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Remembering Narnia

Thanks to Nancy for a link to the reminder that "no matter how real the back of the wardrobe looks, Narnia, sweet beautiful Narnia, still lies behind."

More on learning to lament

"Of course, individuals lament and so do families. But cities, states, the nation? We are an avenging people, not a lamenting people. The State of Israel traded its belief in God for belief in the Uzi. America traded its belief in God for belief in the dollar. Look where that’s got us. Lament, O people."

Life on the battlefield

Eric Jones reminds Christians that discipleship is a battle, not a cuddle session:
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul encourages him to “fight the good fight.” – 1 Timothy 1:18. Paul also talks about himself fighting the good fight in his second letter to Timothy when he stated, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” - 2 Timothy 4:7. The concept of the fight is a common view that Paul has of the Christian life. Paul doesn’t talk about the Christian life as a walk, a stroll, or a cuddle session; rather, he speaks of it as a fight, a war, a race, something full of intense action.

Make no mistake about it, we are in a fight (a war) for our very souls. But remember, “our struggle (battle) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Eph 6:12

On the other hand, some Christians are concerned about potentially negative implications of warfare metaphors.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Succinct summary

This is excellent: The book of Acts in fourteen words.

Not advice

"Do" isn't any less legalistic than "don't."
Do's and don't's are just flip-sides of the same coin. The gospel isn't "do" any more than it is "don't"; both are merely religion.

"The power of absolute weakness"

When was the last time you considered the weakness of love?
Let go of control. Let go of trying to live pain-free and sorrow-free. Let go into the promise of God’s faithful love.

This complete love is revealed Word-made-Flesh; Jesus the God and King who embraces our suffering, who bears our sorrows, drinks full the cup of pain and suffering that floods our world. And yet, He continues to love. Hanging from the cross of shame, He looks upon those who are taking His life and cries out, “Father forgive them.”

Some suggest this was weakness, and that our God is weak and frail and the Creator of weaklings. They are right. It is weak but not powerless. There is power in brute force and power in absolute weakness.

Brute force requires someone else to sacrifice for my satisfaction. Brute force will master and control for a short season. But it is no match for the power of absolute weakness.

Jesus reveals the absolute weakness of love.
That's Doug Floyd, and I recommend reading his whole article.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Probing for growth

Good reminder

SWAP Blog reminds Christians of the blessings from giving of ourselves during tough times.

Family meal

Al Hsu has noticed something about the Lord's Supper:
Too often in many evangelical churches, the Eucharist is more of a mournful time of remembrance - remember Jesus' death, remember our sins, say you're sorry. Not that those things are unimportant, but Eucharist is a time of thanksgiving and celebration as well.

If family meals were just times that we got together and only talked about how we were sorry for all the bad things we had done to each other, something would be wrong with that. That might be appropriate on occasion, but it would get flat and one-dimensional pretty quickly. Family mealtimes should be places of sharing all the things of our days, the joys as well as sorrows, checking in about the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Meals should be sharing of all of life, not just the penitential, but also the celebratory and relational. Eucharist can be the same.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not this but that

Worth reading

Todd Rhoades links to examples of what he calls "drastic measures" for ministers to avoid moral failure. You might also call them common sense.

Avoiding the toll

At Voice of Vision J.D. Hatfield encourages Christians to practice real repentance and turn from sin:
In 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 Paul uses the children of Israel in the wilderness as an object lesson about presuming upon the grace of God. Although they had escaped the bondage of Egypt, and had known of God’s grace and had experienced it (vs.1-4), nevertheless, many were still in bondage to sin, and they were judged (vs.5).
Could there maybe be a lesson there for Christians today?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Preparing for the work

This is good advice: 21 ways to prepare for ministry (via).

Psychology of chasing the wind

Christ the Truth has posted a truly outstanding article on success and necessary amnesia.

By Christ alone

If the truth of being justified by Christ alone (not by our works) is lost, then all Christian truths are lost. For there is no middle ground between Christian righteousness and works-righteousness. There is no alternative to Christian righteousness but works-righteousness; if you do not build your confidence on the work of Christ, you must build your confidence on your own work. On this truth and only on this truth the church is built and has its being.

Getting away with it

Jeff Weddle shares some sobering thoughts on the burden of grace:
It seems as though Old Testament guys had a bum deal, if you made God mad you might well be killed. God stepped in and stopped the insanity with spectacular judgments.

In our day of grace we “get away with it.” No spectacular judgments, ground doesn’t open up and swallow people. We assume God must be cool with us, thinks we’re OK.

Here’s the burden of grace: you might just be storing up for yourself wrath. Paul talks about this in Romans 1 and 2. God gives up on people, lets them go their own way. They think they are getting away with it. Maybe God even approves, He’s not doing anything to stop me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

No need to lead

Tips on preaching

This sounds right: a few words to student preachers (via).

More than our best behavior

Jared Wilson hits the nail on the head in describing an all-too-common misconception about discipleship:
Many of us have this weird idea that Jesus loosened things up. Some of us think that for centuries emerging from the Old Testament Law, everything was rigid and difficult, and then Jesus showed up with his peace, love, and good vibes and just told everyone to love everybody.

Why do we think it's easier to love people than it is to just be religious?

I'm not sure people who think and speak that way really even know what love is.
Too true. Jared describes a mistake I made for years, and one I still struggle to overcome. I strongly recommend reading Jared's whole article.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Right humility

Christian, is your humility in the wrong place?

On repentance

Royce Ogle has been posting some powerful essays on the basics of Christian doctrine. His essay on repentance is, as usual, spot-on:
Only when the Holy Spirit has done His blessed work will a sinner trust Christ and change his mind about the direction of his life. Repentance and faith are so closely joined together that they can’t be understood well apart from each other. No person can fully trust Christ without a change of mind about how he is living. And, no person can fully repent who does not place his trust in Christ.

Repentance is no more than a divinely enabled choice to do a mental U-turn. Repentance is to change one’s mind and thus the direction of one’s lifestyle. It is impossible to turn to Christ and not turn away from sin. And it is impossible to turn from sin without turning toward Christ.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Faithfulness and success

Love of God

Barry Maxwell has been considering Martin Luther's Heidelburg Disputation and shares these insights:
God loves in us the reflection of his glory in Christ, implanted by the Holy Spirit. The Father loves the Son supremely as there is nothing more lovable. And for him to love us as he’s promised he conforms us to Christ (Rom 8.29), so that we can share in the very thing that pleases him above all else. There is no greater pleasure in the universe than that which pleases God, and by our union with Christ God lets us share in that pleasure. God creates what is pleasing to him: people who reflect the excellencies of his Son.

The more we try to be worthy of that pleasure the less of it we will enjoy. The more we believe Christ has done all and is all, the more we experience God’s love.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Preaching and translations

This is good advice: "When preaching, it is best not to disagree with the translation people have in front of them."

Knowing and doing

J.D. Hatfield looks at Rom. 2:6-10 and encourage Christians to remember the ultimate issue:
Someone who is saved does not presume upon the goodness of God; they act in accordance with it. The Jews whom Paul was chastising here were God’s called out people, they knew about God; they weren’t like those people in Romans 1. They knew they were called out ones, and yet they presumed this meant that they could just coast along, and they are wrong, dead wrong. God is calling you out; you must answer the call with humility and repentance and not with hypocrisy. Just because you know the truth doesn’t mean you are trusting in it. Those that do not walk the path at all are saying that they have no faith. Wrath or mercy, which do you want? Follow Jesus, and you will have mercy, follow your heart and you will have wrath.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Most important

Dave Bish shares the most important lesson he's ever learned in ministry. He's also sharing his joy.

And judgment for all

You might want to check out Glen Scrivener's diagram on the coming judgment of all creation.

Is it safe?

A church that is an unsafe environment for a believer struggling with homosexual desires is also unsafe for any believer struggling in any way. And that kind of church communicates the truly threatening nature of its social environment subtly but clearly. No one opens up. Everyone is lonely.

As Francis Schaeffer used to teach us, may we hold together simultaneously both God’s holiness and his love in our relationships with one another.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No more whining


Dan Edelen is shining some much-needed light on systems, sin, and real change.

On reading the Bible

Here are some encouraging thoughts from Ray Ortlund:
There are two ways to read the Bible. We can read it as law or as promise.

If we read the Bible as law, we will find on every page what God is telling us [what] we should do. Even the promises will be conditioned by demand. But if we read the Bible as promise, we will find on every page what God is telling us he will do. Even the commands are conditioned by provision.
Amen. I recommend reading the whole article.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Using biblical languages wisely

Cal Habig explains the danger of misusing Greek and Hebrew word studies in preaching. Cal also has a follow-up post here.

Remembering how to lament

If we hold any theology that robs our ability to have agonizing broken hearts pierced by the pains of the people on this rebellious and wrecked planet, then we cannot claim to follow the One who was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” If our identification with the unredeemed is intellectual and not visceral, we are handicapped agents of the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are North American Christians too happy?

Here's Jeff Weddle:
Christianity is too happy.

If Christians were to read their Bibles they would run into a lot of depression. The entire Old Testament is depressing. God’s chosen people continually rebel and then get dispersed and by the end there’s nothing left. The New Testament, although seeming to promise joy, starts off with our Savior being crucified. It proceeds into the epistles, written by apostles who are close to being killed for their faith. Then we wrap it up with the destruction of all life.

And yet, we’re happy.

We sing happy songs and smile. Smiling is, in fact, the new outward face of the “good Christian.” Our popular pastors are always smiling and well-tanned. I have no problem with smiling and tans, I just have a problem with happy. Happy, happy, happy. It’s too happy. I know, we’re told to “rejoice evermore.” Rejoicing is much different than happy.
I think I'm convinced-or maybe just depressed. And I like to think there's something worth reading in Jeff's comments section, too.

Studying NT Greek online

A reader of yesterday's post on the value of Greek study has asked about places online to learn NT Greek without spending much money. Here are a few:

Bill Mounce's Teknia site
I've found Prof. Mounce's materials to be helpful. He offers a wealth of resources and is generous in sharing them.

Institute of Biblical Greek
I haven't used this site but have heard good things about it.

Little Greek
I don't know much about this site, but it looks like a good choice if you have a slow Internet connection. The online course is available here.

Those are the ones I know of that appear to meet the requirements of good, online, and free. Any other recommendations?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cool things about Hebrew

If you're seriously considering studying Hebrew, maybe this little post will help you decide to go ahead and do it.

Benefits of Greek study

Prof. Bill Mounce has written a very accessible little essay that illustrates the value of persevering in the study of NT Greek. Here's a sample:
The point is this: languages are not codes. You can’t go neatly from one into the other. Words don’t have exactly the same meanings, and neither do grammatical constructions. All translation is both science and art. Much of the science is done in first year Greek, but the "art" part requires at least second year Greek.

So hang in there. Keep taking Greek classes as you are able, keep reading a verse a day in Greek, and force yourself to use the better commentaries that require more technical knowledge. The feel for the language will come.
I found the essay encouraging.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Works or grace?

"There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians. The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity. These are people who in their heart of hearts say, I obey; therefore I am accepted by God. The second is what I will call the grace narrative identity. This basic operating principle is, I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.

"People living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may superficially look alike. They may sit right beside one another in the church pew, both striving to obey the law of God, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in radically different spirits, resulting in radically different personal characters."

Gospel or self-improvement?

Jared Wilson reminds Christians that self-improvement is not the gospel:
It's just not the gospel message. It is not what Scripture teaches. It is self-centered, self-focused, self-concerned.

What will it take to radically revolutionize the pastoral and ecclesiological culture of evangelicalism toward the unadulterated, explicit gospel? I don't think the answer is pleasant.

Update: John Schroeder comments on Jared's post.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Going the distance

Will Willimon writes that one characteristic of small churches that survive near-death experiences is stable pastoral leadership . Meanwhile, Darryl Dash says something very similar about marriage.

Christian radio without Christ?

Brant Hanson without a doubt has one of the most gifted comedic voices among Christian writers in North America. But his recent blog post, "Can Jesus and Christian Radio Co-Exist," raises some very un-funny questions:
Dan Kimball wrote this book They Like Jesus But Not the Church. Or something like that. It's a great book.

I mean, I suspect it is. I haven't read it. I don't think I need to. I get it: People outside the church think Christians are judgmental, simplistic, etc. etc. Got it. But Jesus? He's challenging, revolutionary, fascinating, insightful, mind-blowing, mysterious.

After working in both mainstream and Christian radio, I think I'm ready to write my own book about the many I encounter: They Like Church But Not Jesus.

I mean it. I wrote before: Based on my observation, Jesus is simply not the most influential guy around. I've seen it over, and over, and over. In fact, I'd say it's a theme at my job: People just aren't that into Jesus. He ticks people off.
I strongly recommend you read Brant's whole article--and even more strongly that you pray for Brant.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Getting discomfort right

Peter Mead writes about the wrong kind of discomfort with preaching.

Please pray for the unreached

"As of 2009, there are 6,649 people groups who have not yet heard of Christ. To be gospel-driven is to be mission-minded."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Active in suffering

Finding Grace offers several nuggets of wisdom from Joni Eareckson Tada on discipleship and suffering. Along similar lines, David Wayne notes that Luther "saw God as active in the administration of suffering to His people."

Culminating in Christ?

As long as the faith, hope, and love you preach is all about realizing our dreams, achieving our potential, or being nice to each other, you are feeding people manna. Good for a day, and eaten, still ends up in death.

What we preach, instruct, and reflect must culminate explicitly in our incomparable, supreme, sovereign Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Discernment reminder

Knowing the one true God

Are many self-professed Christians really worshiping an unknown God?
The God of the vast majority of self proclaimed “Christians” is one who thinks humans are the center of the universe and his chief purpose of being God is to make them happy and prosperous. You know, the God Joel Osteen supposedly speaks for every Sunday on TV. You don’t hear much about God followers being thrown to the lions or being sawed in two from Osteen and others like him. Even those who don’t approve of Joel Osteen because of his perceived weakness on “sound doctrine” still largely buy into his grand idea of a man centered world populated by people, each of whom can have a heavenly father who is no more than a supernatural concierge who is waiting to supply their next wish list.

Christians are often personally offended when some happening in life is inconvenient or diminishes their pleasure in living. At once, while blaming God, they cry out to Him, “Why me?” What today’s average Christian wants from God is at a minimum an upper middle class lifestyle with two weeks paid vacation, healthy and bright children, no sickness that a trip to Rite Aid can’t cure, and an even more lavish home someday in heaven. They don’t really like being told much about how they should live their lives and certainly don’t entertain any thought of personal sacrifice for God. Are you kidding? Have you not heard that God is a loving Father full of grace and gifts to make me happy? Do you not know that God created us so he could have some friends, and that the reason he does so much for us is so we will love him? He was lonely in his big old young universe and he made us so he would have someone to talk to and do things for.
Ouch. That's from Royce Ogle, and he goes on in the article to tell about the real, true creator of heaven and earth.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"May their tribe increase"

Jared Wilson has written a beautiful little post on the need for both following and worshiping Jesus.

The battle we're in

"Is it God's plan for the Believer to be in direct confrontation and conflict with the Devil? If we are called to do the work of Christ, then the answer is yes. Jesus was all about battling the Devil and driving out demons and He clearly tells us repeatedly to do the same. Because of Christ and His victory, we can go boldly into battle. Let's roll..." - Eric Jones

"Cultures don't come to Christ..."

Here's James MacDonald on the idea of "reaching culture":
I think some people need to be a little more honest about what they really mean when they say “reaching the culture.” Here’s three things I think they mean:

1) They mean reaching people very different from themselves.

2) They mean reaching secular people who have no interest in God

3) They mean reaching cool people who make them feel cool.
Ouch. That's a sampling, by the way, from MMI. You can read Dr. MacDonald's whole article here.