Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another Purpose of "if" Clauses in the New Testament

"He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."  (Col 1:22-23 ESV)
And then I think also, with reference to the saints, it helps them to remember that God's warnings and admonitions are often means for the preservation of us by causing us to be more diligent in our Christian activity. We say to our children, "Do not step off of this building." If they were walking by on a parapet of a building, -- why they would be doing that I haven't the slightest idea, but some parents are just that ignorant of what children are liable to do, that they will let them do it, they will let them walk on a parapet -- they'll say, "Don't ever jump off of that you will be killed," but at the same time the parent is grasping that child to be sure that it does not happen. We teach our children things not to do, but at the same time we are as careful as we possibly can to keep them from doing it even if they wanted to. So these "ifs" in the word of God serve a purpose.   -  S. Lewis Johnson in a sermon on Colossians 1:23.    

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ignoring the Problems in Spain

The markets rose in early trading yesterday on remarks from Philly Fed Chairman Charles Plosser in the Wall Street Journal. He noted that there is no reason for people in the United States to get "all in a dither" about Europe. And, unbelievably, the markets stayed there for most of the day.

Evidently, he hasn't read the news.

Last Friday, Spain nationalized Bankia, its third largest bank. Spanish bond prices tanked, causing yields to rise to euro-era highs. Retail sales dropped 9.8% year over year in April, which is, according to the Spanish government, the biggest month drop ever.

Or perhaps Plosser is just taking Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at his word when he said that Spain will not ask for funds from the IMF or the E.U.

I don't know how that could possibly be the case at a time when Spain's banks sit on nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars' worth of bad real estate debt, and unemployment is over 24%.

Spain's strategy is nothing more than "delay and pray." - Keith Fitz-Gerald

One Purpose of "if' Clauses in the New Testament

From S. Lewis Johnson sermon on Colossians 1:21-23:
Paul, in the final verse, verse 23, speaks of the abiding condition of those who are reconciled, or of reconciliation. This is bit of a puzzling text. In Believers Chapel we talk very strongly about the perseverance of the saints and occasionally, the term "security of the believer" will come out. And then we will also occasionally say, "Once saved, always saved," and things like that. Well then how can you harmonize, "Once saved, always saved," the security of the believer with the apostolic language? The apostolic language contains "ifs." "If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel," that seems to say that there is a definite conditional possession of eternal life. Is not the whole program in jeopardy? Suppose our faith fails, doesn't this suggest that it might fail? "If you continue in the faith grounded and settled," why are these "ifs" in the Bible? If we were allowed to rewrite the Bible, I think, the majority of Christians would eliminate the "ifs" if they have grown up in an environment in which they were taught the perseverance of the saints, or the security of the believer. They don't really like to look at these passages. They rather think there must be some esoteric explanation that eliminates the "ifs." But they are in the Bible. They are there.
So we must deal with them. They are there. Why are they there? Well one thing that comes immediately to mind is this. They are there because there are people gathered in a company like this and who also meet with saints everywhere who are mere professors of the faith, and not really possessors of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That's one of the simple facts of Christian experience. There are many people who, even over years, make a profession of faith but who fall away, who evidence they were not really true believers. So, the question of a man's profession, and the reality of it, is raised by these "ifs." And they serve a very good purpose. Those who make a profession of faith and if their lives do not conform to that standard of Christian life that is set in the New Testament, not a sinless life, but the standard of life set in the New Testament, we have no reason to encourage them by saying to them, "You are a Christian." We cannot pass judgment upon them. We don't know what their condition is because we are human beings. But we have the word of God, and we can say, by the word of God, we have no reason to encourage you that as long as you live in manifest disagreement with the teaching of the word of God you are one of the family of the faithful. So that's one purpose that "ifs" would serve.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Four Reasons Why Marraige is God's Doing

From the Desiring God website.
The most foundational thing we can say about marriage is that it is God's doing. John Piper explains, "A glimpse into the magnificence of marriage comes from seeing in God's word that God himself is the great doer. Marriage is his doing. It is from him and through him" (24).
In his book This Momentary Marriage, Pastor John gives four reasons why marriage is God's doing:
First, marriage was God's design.
While Genesis 1:27–28 makes clear that marriage is meant for male and female, the logic of Genesis 2 also confirms it.
In [Genesis 2:18], it is God himself who decrees that man's solitude is not good, and it is God himself who sets out to complete one of the central designs of creation, namely, man and woman in marriage. "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Don't miss that central and all-important statement: God himself will make a being perfectly suited for him — a wife. (21)

Second, God gave away the first bride.
God took the role as the first Father to give away the bride. "Genesis 2:22: 'And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.' He didn't hide her and make Adam seek. He made her; then he brought her." (22)
Third, God spoke the design of marriage into existence.
We can see this if we look carefully at Matthew 19:4–5: "[Jesus] answered, 'Have you not read that he [God] who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said [Note: God said!], "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"'?" Jesus said that the words of Genesis 2:24 are God's words, even though they were written by Moses. (22)
Fourth, God performs the one-flesh union.
The one-flesh union between a man and woman is the heart of what marriage is.
Genesis 2:24 is God's word of institution for marriage. But just as it was God who took the woman from the flesh of man (Genesis 2:21), it is God who in each marriage ordains and performs a uniting called one flesh. Man does not create this. God does. And it is not in man's power to destroy. This is implicit here in Genesis 2:24, but Jesus makes it explicit in Mark 10:8–9. He quotes Genesis 2:24, then adds a comment that explodes like thunder with the glory of marriage. "'The two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."
When a couple speaks their vows, it is not a man or a woman or a pastor or parent who is the main actor — the main doer. God is. God joins a husband and a wife into a one-flesh union. God does that. The world does not know this. Which is one of the reasons why marriage is treated so casually. And Christians often act like they don't know it, which is one of the reasons marriage in the church is not seen as the wonder it is. Marriage is God's doing because it is a one-flesh union that God himself performs. (23)

What is Gospel-Centered Ministry?

From Gospel Centered Discipleship website.
The theological foundation of the church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Churches fall into error whenever they move away from the gospel as their foundation. Alan Hirsch reminds us that, “Discipleship, becoming like Jesus our Lord and Founder, lies at the epicenter of the church’s task. It means that Christology must define all that we do and say…It will mean taking the Gospels seriously as the primary texts that define us.” Therefore, the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves individuals is also the gospel that grows individuals through discipleship in the church.
Man-Centered Ministry
One of the major problems in many churches is bad ecclesiology and a man-centered view of ministry. The recent development of trends in North America such as mega-churches, seeker churches, and emerging churches has brought the issue of ecclesiology to the forefront of debate/discussion for church leaders. Many churches in North American have a pragmatic approach to ecclesiology that focuses on church growth more than church health and on cultural accommodation rather than biblical faithfulness.
The result is that many churches produce consumers and not radical disciples of Jesus Christ. Contemporary churches are being shaped more by contemporary trends than by the biblical ecclesiology. Some churches have either adopted a hierarchal structure that resembles a corporate business structure or they simply have no church structure at all. The truth is that church structure is extremely important for the overall health of a local church and the discipleship process.
Understanding the Gospel
Discipleship begins with understanding the gospel. Many Christians have a watered down, man-centered version of the gospel. The result of not having a solid grasp on the gospel is a dysfunctional and fragmented faith. C.J. Mahaney warns that three things result when we move away from the gospel: legalism, condemnation, and subjectivism.[i] There is a need for a clear understanding and a rediscovery of the gospel in the 21st century. Jerry Bridges writes, “The gospel is not the most important message in history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experience the joy of living their lives by it.”[ii]
What is the gospel?
The gospel is the declaration of the good news that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for our sins on the cross of cavalry. Simply put, there is no gospel without the sinless life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Tim Keller beautifully describes the gospel as, “The person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.” [iii]
Doctrines of Grace
To be gospel-centered requires that one knows the doctrines of grace. Men like Martin Luther and John Calvin fought to bring a reformation to the church that would put faith back into the hands of the people. Arising out of the period of the Protestant Reformation were five foundations which summarized in part what the Reformers were trying to do. These banners were known as the “Five Solas” (Latin for ‘only’ or ‘alone’) of the Reformation: the authority of scripture, salvation in Christ alone, by Grace alone, through faith alone, and to God Alone Be Glory. These five solas of the faith are as important now as they were then.[iv]
A gospel-centered view of salvation is completely Christocentric. Christianity begins and ends with Jesus Christ. The word Christian literally means “Christ-like.” Therefore, a proper Christology is the place to start if we are really going to talk about salvation. Gospel-centered theology distinguishes between man-centered and God-centered views of salvation.
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole person and is freely offered to all who repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. By His blood, Jesus has obtained eternal redemption for every believer. We are “saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, salvation is the work of God from beginning to end. Salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight.
Applying the Gospel
The gospel has implications for every Christian believer that reach far beyond salvation. Christians should live gospel-centered lives. Believers are saved by the gospel and called to live by the gospel. The gospel is for all of life. Not only should every Christian have a clear understanding of the gospel, but we should also apply it to every area of our lives.
The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving.[v] Christians must never move beyond the gospel. C.J. Mahaney writes that believers should memorize the gospel, pray the gospel, sing the gospel, review how the gospel has changed our lives, and finally we should continually study the gospel.[vi] This is the reason why the gospel is the foundation for discipleship.
Gospel-Centered Ministry
There is an important connection between the gospel, ministry, and discipleship. Our theology has a direct effect on our ministry and discipleship. In many ways, our discipleship is the fruit of our theology. Sadly, many church leaders use church growth principles to add people to the church; however, only the gospel can grow people into disciples of Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, a Gospel-centered church does not only preach the gospel. The gospel is not an addition to our ministry or even a beginning point; rather, the gospel must saturate every part of our church’s life. Each stage of our discipleship process should also be gospel-centered. From assimilation, to preaching and teaching, to counseling, to leadership development, the gospel must be central. Even our worship should be gospel-centered.
The church should reach lost people with the gospel through community outreaches, personal evangelism, and missional living. The church should develop and grow disciples with the gospel through small groups, Bible study, service, and the teaching of spiritual disciplines. It should seek to reproduce disciples grounded in the gospel through leadership development and the mentoring of godly men who will become elders and deacons. Let the gospel be the heart of your church from beginning to end.

[i] C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing. Sisters, OR: Multnoma Books, 2002. 23.
[ii] Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace. Colorado Springs, CO: Nav Press, 1994. 46.
[iii] Tim Keller, “The Gospel in All Its Forms.” Leadership Journal. Spring, 2008.
[iv] Micheal Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Who Does What in Salvation? Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994. See introduction.
[v] Tim Keller, “The Centrality of the Gospel.”
[vi] C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing. Sisters, OR: Multnoma Books, 2002. See 53-71.
Dr. Winfield Bevins serves as lead pastor of Church of the Outer Banks, which he founded in 2005.  His life’s passion in ministry is discipleship and helping start new churches. He lives in the beautiful beach community of the Outer Banks with his wife Kay and two daughters where he loves to surf and spend time at the beach with his family and friends. Twitter: @winfieldbevins

Friday, May 25, 2012

What Does Jesus Do with Sin?

This is from Jared Wilson's blog.  The last one needs to be fleshed out more.  God cannot forget if he is omniscient so not to remember our sin means more like he does not hold it against us. 

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
John 1:29
John the Baptist commands a beholding of the sin-taking-away Lamb. What do we see in this beholding? How exactly does Jesus take away our sin?
Here are 6 things Jesus does with sin:
1. He Condemns It.
Jesus puts a curse on sin. He marks its forehead.
Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
Jesus says to sin in no uncertain terms, “Sin, you’re going to die.”
2. He Carries It.
Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer.
1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
3. He Cancels It.
He closes out the account. (Even better, he opens a new one, where we’re always in the black, having been credited with his perfect righteousness.)
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”
That word resentful is more directly “to count up wrongdoing,” which is why some translations of this text say that “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
That last proclamation leads us into this great truth:
4. He Crucifies It
1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”
At the cross, Jesus dies and takes our sin with him. Only the sin stays dead.
5. He Casts It Away
Jesus takes the corpse and chucks it into the void.
Micah 7:19 – “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
6. He Chooses to Un-remember It.
Jesus is omniscient. He is not forgetful. But he wills to un-remember our sin.
Jeremiah 31:34 – “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Astonishing. We bring our sin to him, repentant and in faithful confession, and he says, “What’re you talking about?”
This is how Jesus forgives sin: He condemns it, carries it, cancels it, kills it, casts it, and clean forgets it. If we’ll confess it.
1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The Quiet Husband

Husbands can relate to this article!  I recently found this Rick Thomas, christian counselor's blog here and found it very helpful.
He doesn’t talk.
That’s what Rhonda said when she came to counseling.
Jack was with her, but he was not saying anything.
“He doesn’t talk? Really?
Is he mute?”
The real truth was that Jack did talk, but he did not talk to Rhonda.
Actually he talked to Rhonda, but it was only about scheduling details.
Where were you?
What did you go?
What took you so long?
How come dinner is not ready?
You know, those kinds of things.

Twisting truth to feel better

Jack didn’t talk.
At least that is how Rhonda presented it.
They had been living this way for so long that Rhonda began to believe the lie that he doesn’t talk. On one level she knew he talked, because she had heard him talking many times–to other people about things he enjoyed.
It felt better for her to say he didn’t talk rather than admit he did talk to others, but chose not to talk to her. It was too personal for her to think about. She cast it off as “Jack being Jack,” or “that’s just his personality.”
Sometimes she would play the generational card: “His daddy was just like that.” In time she began to believe her self-skewed interpretations of Jack. Altering the truth became her new truth.
Since Jack was not going to engage his wife in meaningful conversation, she might as well spin it so it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Anytime a person begins to make stuff up and is not called on it, she will begin to drift from the truth and clarity of God’s Word.
Rhonda resigned herself to second or third best on Jack’s talk list and then convinced herself it was okay. The truth was she had a stubborn and immature husband on her hands. Rather than trying to get him to change, she quit pleading, twisted what she was observing, let him be that way, and didn’t feel as bad about his daily rejections.
That worked well until the disappointments in their marriage continued to mount and she came to the place where she couldn’t take it anymore. What she did not count on when they were in their twenties was his selfishness growing exponentially worse.

Silence is selfish

But it did. A non-talking husband is a selfish husband–unless he is really mute. Jack’s selfishness would not isolate itself to just his tongue. Wouldn’t that be nice? If only my selfishness would isolate itself to one area of my life and not try to dominate my entire life.
Selfishness is sin and sin never isolates to a single area. Sin is the spiritual equivalent to cancer. You give cancer an inch and it will take your life. You give sin an inch and it will take you to hell.
Sin shows no regard for the soul, but will seek to destroy it. The vigilant man or woman will go to war before that happens. Jack is not a vigilant man. He thinks he can toy with sin and be okay.
After 17 years of marriage, he is feeling the ravages of his selfishness. He has not been able to contain sin just to the tongue. His selfish ways have advanced to other areas of his life and by doing so his wife is worn out too.
She is crying for help. Though he does not like counseling, it’s the best thing that could happen to him. He’s too selfish to do anything about what’s going on, so his wife is doing something. And that’s my advice to any woman who is married to someone who refuses to change.

Silence is a God problem first

He can talk. He has been making a choice for nearly two decades not to have meaningful conversations with his wife. Now he is being called to change. Will he change? I don’t know. If he does, it will have to be between him and God first.
A man who does not have meaningful conversation with his wife has a broken relationship with God. It’s broken because God is not non-communicative and we’re called to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). God talks. God is a speaking God and we should be speaking people.
Man, made in the image of God, is wired to communicate. If he chooses not to communicate, then there is something broken between him and God. He is living in rebellion, rather than the potential God designed for him.
Therefore, Jack will have to address what is wrong in his relationship with God before he can begin talking meaningfully or in a sustained way to his wife.

Silence breeds suspicion

Imagine if God did not talk. Wouldn’t it be a mess? Surely. There was a time between the Old and New Testaments where God was not speaking. These were the silent years–400 of them.
These were years when God’s people were not sure what was up. Silence will do that to you. If you live with someone who is not talking, you have no choice but to be curious about what is up.
Silence is mysterious and it can lead to suspicion. Typically when a person is silent in a relationship, the other person in the relationship will supply the interpretation for the silence. It can go like this:
  • Why is he silent?
  • I don’t know.
  • It must be because ____________.
Then the person fills in the blank. If you’re not talking, then you’re putting a person in the position to “fill in the blank.” You shouldn’t want to put them in that position. If you do, they will supply your thoughts for you.
Most of the time they will be wrong in their interpretations, but you leave them no choice by your silence. The best thing for the silent partner to do is fill in the blank themselves. Don’t leave your silence for someone to speculate about.
For example, if the speculator is insecure, then more than likely they will fill in the blank according to their insecurities. What that means is you are probably going to be accused of something you didn’t do.
You’re then dumbfounded as to why they would say such a thing, never understanding if you had communicated with them, they would not be tempted to upload your silence from their ignorance.

Talking is a leadership issue

What is the cure? Talk. Let your spouse know what you’re thinking–in a kind and loving way of course. Don’t put a person in the position to have to guess what you are thinking.
Teens do this all the time. They won’t talk and the parent has to guess what is going on in their heads. This is selfish, unkind, and a lack of wisdom on the teen’s part. A lot of problems can be resolved if a person would choose to talk.
To talk is a leadership issue. This is how God leads. He leads us by His words. We cannot know anything about God if He is not talking to us. Mercifully, He gave us 1189 chapters of material to figure out who He is and what He wants from us.
Isn’t that cool? We can have a great relationship with God because we know what He thinks about things. We’re not left in the dark. We’re apprised of what’s up and don’t have to worry about His thoughts, opinions, preferences, and commands.
Jack will have to decide if he wants to imitate our speaking God by leading his family verbally. My hope is he will repent to God first and then to his wife. If his selfishness does not cease, it will be detrimental to his wife and children.

When talking goes down hill

I’m not sure exactly how a man and woman quit talking to each other. It’s probably different for each couple. For most it seems to start well–on the first date and then it goes down hill from there.
Maybe we grow tired of each other. Maybe we resist the mundane while craving new adventures. You get five big events in life–birth, rebirth, marriage, children, and death. That’s it. There are no new adventures in marriage. Marriage is mundane, day-to-day, and more of the same.
Though I’m not sure how the silence grows, it’s not hard to figure out the problem or the solution. The problem is a lack of understanding, appreciation, and impact of the Gospel in a person’s life. That is the core problem and the big one to be fixed.
The Gospel is about a person (God) coming from His place to our place so He could restore and transform us. If a silent partner understood and appreciated this and was impacted by it, he would no longer be silent.
A Gospel dysfunction is the core problem. The Gospel-affected man is all about (1) leaving his place of comfort and (2) going to another place of potential discomfort for the (3) benefit of others. Talking is a Gospel activity because it is not about what you get, but about what you can give.
Typically the silent person does not understand this basic practicalizing of the Gospel: you talk for the benefit of others. Not until Jack comes to terms with the Gospel will he be motivated to talk to Rhonda in a meaningful way.
The reason it’s typically easy to talk on the first date is because of several things I suppose, but rarely the best thing. Here are some reasons I talked to my girlfriend, who later became my wife, on our first date.
  • I talked to her because it was stimulating.
  • I talked to her because I was checking her out.
  • I talked to her because I loved the conquest.
  • I talked to her because it made me feel good–to engage a woman.
  • I talked to her because it was fresh, new, and different.
  • I talked to her because I could get her to laugh.
  • I talked to her because I like the idea of romance.
  • I talked to her because it was shallow, safe, and there was no hard stuff in our relationship.
I could think of more reasons, but none of them were about the Gospel. I did not talk to her because I desired to have redemptive conversations and my goal was to help her grow closer to Christ. I wanted her to grow closer to me.
Maybe the Gospel is what you were thinking about when you first met your girl, but not me. What I did not realize at the time was all those fun reasons for talking to her were going to go away.
After that first meeting in the gym, at our church with the OJ and donuts, it was all down hill. We were heading into the valley of the mundane. My hair fell out and hers turned gray. It was day-to-day grinding out a living. And then there were kids.

Let the Gospel motivate your tongue

I needed a motive adjustment if I was going to talk to her in a meaningful way. I needed a better reason to talk to my wife–a sustaining reason. An eternal reason. God gave me one. He began to open my eyes to the Gospel. Imagine that.
He began to teach me that my life was not for me or about me. He began to teach me about His sacrificial Son. I soon learned about the dying Savior–the One who died for me.
The Gospel then began to come alive–not in a salvific since. Been there, done that, but it came alive in a sanctifying sense. My life is not my life. It is His life and He wants to use my life for the transformation of others.
I began to want to be like Jesus in practical ways. I surely can’t die for others because of my depravity, but I can give my life up for others. The first person on my list was my wife and the first thing I needed to do was talk to her in a meaningful way.
It is not that hard if you keep the dying Savior in view. He gave His all for me. Surely I can talk to my wife. What a deal? He dies. I talk. That’s mercy.
If you’re married to a silent partner, there is little you can do until he comes to terms with the Gospel. You can do what Rhonda did by forcing the issue and getting him some help, but his counselor will not be able to change him either.
He can point him to the Savior, but your Jack will have to decide if he’s going to respond to the Savior. If he does and if he wants some help, here are some good questions you guys can use on a daily basis to enhance your communication.
These are the tried-and-true questions Lucia and I ask each other all the time. These questions keep our conversations meaningful, helpful, and redemptive. They turn the mundane into a relational adventure.
  1. What is God doing in your life?
  2. How is the grace of God working in a particular area of sin?
  3. What specific areas are you still struggling?
  4. What have you read (listened to) lately that is helping you in your sanctification?
  5. Will you help me in this “specific” area of temptation in my life?
  6. How can I serve you in a specific area of sanctification in your life?
  7. What has God taught you recently?
  8. How have you applied it to your life?
These are simple and straightforward questions. They are not complicated, but require a high degree of integrity, transparency, and humility. If you want to model the transformative Gospel, these questions will most assuredly transform your life and your spouse’s.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

7 Reasons Why Pastors Should Preach Through Books of the Bible

From Credo House 
(Lisa Robinson)
I’ve been exposed to a variety of preaching, from the very topical where a new subject is introduced each week, to series on a topic or on a series of going through an entire book of the bible.   I’m sure every pastor has their preference but if the goal is to equip the body for the work of ministry, I think going through whole books of the bible is the best way.  I’m sure there are other lists out there, but here are my reasons;
1)  It connects the narrative or letter to the whole meta-narrative of scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  This is really what we should want people to understand anyway.  No matter what book it is, the pastor will be forced to make correlations to give a fair and honest treatment to the book.  A good systematized topical study may be able provide this treatment, when done thoughtfully and that does require several sessions regardless of the topic.  It would be most difficult to do this in a topical, week-by-week sermon.
2)  It anchors the congregation in one theme of thought for an extended period of time.   The biblical writers had a particular theme when writing in a particular genre to a particular audience.  Going from start to finish through one book is able to better capture the author’s purpose and give an appreciation for a fuller development of understanding.  As stated, in #1, making to connections to the biblical meta-narrative is key and necessary.  This is in contrast to the new-topic-every-week.  A steady diet of this keeps people bouncing around and grasping for whatever they can to help them out, and ultimately does a disservice.
3)  It treats the bible as it should be treated as a complete revelation of God instead of a self-help guide or manual for living.  In this day and age, where contemporary Evangelicalism has been drawn to pragmatism with instantaneous results, people are already prone to grab for verses that will help out their life concerns.   Application is important, but not without an understanding of the foundation.
4)  It teaches people how to approach scripture on their own.  It’s a case of monkey-see-monkey-do.  When people are exposed to methodically going through a whole book, this is what they will most likely emulate.  If they are exposed to explanation of what the author is communicating and how that connects to the complete meta-narrative, it will influence how they approach scripture.  On the other hand, if people are exposed to finding a topic, then finding supporting passages, it teaches them to go home and do the same, most likely ignoring the context.
5)  It keeps the pastor from focusing on pet agendas.  Of course, this depends on the person and their agenda.  It is possible that one can find a pet agenda in a book, but I think made a little more difficult than just giving a topical treatment to a subject.
6)  It keeps the pastor grounded in their task to connect people to God’s word in ways that are interesting.  I recall one pastor telling me that going through books of the bible bores people and doesn’t require much work.  On the contrary, it requires a tremendous amount of work to study the background, in some cases the original language, the complete theme of the book and how to divide it up into a series.   The really thoughtful pastor will ascribe an interesting name to the series that is in line with the theme of the books. This should keep the pastor humble and thoughtful in the care of the congregation as well as reliant on the Holy Spirit.
7)  It confronts everyone with hard truths.  Let’s be honest, there are parts of the bible that we would rather avoid.  But when going through the bible a book at a time, that is hard to avoid.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to topical teaching.  But in the grand scheme of things, if people are to learn about God on his terms, preaching through books at a time is the best way to go.

The Centrality of the Church

“If the church is central to God’s purpose as seen in both history and the gospel, it must surely also be central to our lives. How can we take lightly what God takes so seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed at the center?” - John Stott

An Honest and Encouraging Word on Suffering

Here is an honest and Biblically informed article from Ed Dobson, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2000.  It is a short and inspiring article.

The Pastor and Criticism

No one I know likes criticism and as a pastor, we can at times, we receive much of it.  Here is a great series of articles on receiving criticism from CJ Mahaney's blog.  The whole series can be downloaded as a PDF file.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What or Who is our Focus in Persevering?

When we see Jesus, we hold fast. When we try to look at how we are holding fast, we do not hold fast. We cannot hold fast by looking at our fingers; we must look at him. We are urged throughout this epistle to see Jesus, to consider Jesus. When we meditate on his person and work, his nature and attributes, we are strengthened to hold fast. When we concentrate on “holding fast” we lose our grip and slip away. We are to have faith in Christ, not faith in our faith. We are told to hold to him, not hold to our holding” (Wilson, Douglas. Hebrews through New Eyes.  p. 101).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Listening to God

And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Mat 17:4-5, ESV)

This is the picture - While Peter was still speaking; God interrupts him and says to 'listen to His Son.'  That is a picture of most of us.  We have lots of good ideas for God, telling him what we think we should do and what is good for Him and are not ashamed to tell him about them when we should be listening to Him!  When How often do we talk to God or tell Him what should be done when we should be listening to Him?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Missional Parenting

The second half of an article from Gospel Centered Discipleship
Much of our parenting is motivated by fear. Consequently, we’re more concerned with protecting our children from the world than preparing them to make a difference in this world. Gospel-centered, missional parenting is much different. It pictures parents as courageous warriors getting ready to release their children into battle. Psalm 127:4 says,
I see missional parenting happening in 3 stages. Of course these stages are fairly fluid with some overlap to be expected.
Gregg Harris says that in the time Psalm 127 was written, there were no arrow factories. Consequently, it took time for each arrow to be crafted with care and precision. The arrow had to have a good sharp tip on one end–that might deal with academic training and biblical instruction; and it had to have a good set of the fletching on the other end–which might apply to discipline. This would provide the arrow with a guidance system. So as parents, we must see ourselves as warriors shaping our young children during their formative years with doctrine and discipline driven by the gospel.
As children grow and mature we must give them opportunities to see the sinful reality of the world around them. Under our guidance and supervision we must expose our children to fallen creation and the crying need for restoration. Instead of an “us vs. them” mentality, we must teach our children to see and serve our culture through the lens of the gospel. We could picture this stage as the arrow being pulled out of the quiver and onto the bow.
Arrows were made to fly. They can’t sit in the quiver or rest on the bow forever. They must be released! Yet the point of release is often the most difficult time in parenting. As Gregg Harris says:
When you aim the arrow and release the arrow, beware–the greatest tension in your
relationship with your children will often be just before you release them. Because it
feels to the arrow like it’s going backwards when it wants to go forward. The tension is
building in the bow, the warrior is aiming, and then there’s the release. From that point
on, the guidance system that is in the arrow itself is what keeps it on track.
There comes a time when we must release our children into the battle. This is the purpose of the arrow as well as the purpose of parenting. We cannot be scared of this sinful world. Indeed, this is the world Jesus entered into and told us, “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (John 17:18). So let us follow our Savior with the attitude of a warrior as we prepare our children for the battle.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Over Parenting

An excellent article on something I struggle with, hovering over our kids too much from Gospel Centered Discipleship.  This is the first half of the article; I will post the other half tomorrow.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m an overprotective parent. I have a tendency to overdo it and obsess over the little things that don’t really matter. I guess that’s why I was intrigued by TIME magazine’s cover story a couple of years ago, “The Case Against Over-Parenting: Why Mom and Dad Need to Cut the Strings.”
Nancy Gibbs begins her article with these provocative words: “The insanity crept up on us slowly: we just wanted the best for our kids.”
Ironically, a good desire has led many parents to become obsessed with their kids’ safety and success. Gibbs calls them “helicopter parents” as they hover over their children’s lives from the classroom to the ball field protecting them and pushing them to succeed.
The result? By worrying about the wrong things, Gibbs says, “we do actual damage to our children, raising them to be anxious and unadventurous.” (Pediatricians have also found that this hurried lifestyle of constant pressure and stress can contribute to health problems like childhood obesity and depression).
So what’s the solution? Well, if the problem was simply hovering over our children’s lives, the solution would be to simply back off and lighten up. And there’s some truth to that! But the problem goes much deeper.
The problem is that we are afraid. If our greatest aim as parents is to protect our children and prepare them to receive some kind of academic or athletic recognition, than most likely we are parenting out of fear. Why? Because deep down we’re scared if they don’t succeed. We feel like we’ve failed as parents. So we work hard to prepare our children to make the grade or make the team so we would look good. It’s like our children are little trophies that we, as Paul Tripp says, “secretly want to display on the mantels of our lives as visible testimonies to a job well done” (Age of Opportunity, p.35).
If we were honest, we would admit that much of our parenting is motivated by fear. That’s what keeps us from lightening up and letting go of the reins. And what’s more, as Christians we spend so much time protecting our children from the world that we fail to prepare them to make a difference in this world. Biblical parenting, however, pictures parents as courageous warriors getting ready to release their children into battle. Psalm 127:4 says:
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior so are the children of one’s youth.
Arrows were made to fly. They can’t sit safely in the quiver or rest on the bow forever. They must be released! That’s what our preparation is ultimately for–to release our children into this world equipped with the gospel of Jesus Christ to serve people for the glory of Christ.
So lighten up all you helicopter parents! (me included). Let go of the reins. Parent your children as God parents you. Protect them, yes. But all the while prepare them … so you can release them … to fly into the battle with the glory of the gospel.

Spain nationalizes bank as "train wreck" continues

The Bank of Spain yesterday confirmed the partial nationalization of Bankia after it was unable to repay €4.47B it owed the government. The loan will instead be converted into shares. Nouriel Roubini and Meg Greene commented in the FT that the Spanish bank bailout has been postponed to the very last minute as the "slow-motion train wreck" continues. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Greatest Sin is Neglecting our Bibles

I've come, as I've told you so many times, to believe, as the years have gone by, that the greatest sin of Christians is neglect of the Bible. And let me say this too, I think the greatest sin of Christians in evangelical churches is neglect of the Bible. It's been my observation, and I am including myself, it's been my observation that our greatest failure is we don't read the Bible. We listen to people talk about the Bible. We listen to preachers, like me. And we read books. But we do not read the Bible, and it should be reversed. We should read the Bible, and of course, the Bible tells us not to neglect teachers of the word or evangelists or those who have the gift of exhortation, but we are to read the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the source of our spiritual food. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." That really is a sin for which we in Believers Chapel are guilty. - S. Lewis Johnson