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September 24, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: HCSB Study Bible ($2.99); Perspectives on the Doctrine of God ($2.99); Perspectives on Christian Worship ($2.99); Israel by Daniel Block ($2.99); The Millennials by Thom Rainer ($2.99); Calvinism by Brad Waggoner ($0.99).

Just a Piece of Paper? - Is marriage just a piece of paper? R.C. Sproul answers.

A Pastor’s Reflection on Shyness - I appreciate this reflection on shyness.

Are You Intellectually Humble? - “Here are 13 tough questions from Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso to help you get honest about your intellectual character. We hope it offers you some pause and inspires you to reserve the right to change your mind, like Elizabeth does.”

Busy Is Blasphemy - Here are reflections on the tricky topic of busyness.

Benefit from Reading Genealogies - I like this one! Here are 6 ways to benefit from reading genealogies.

Phantom Vibrations - What’s up with those phantom cell phone vibrations? (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about!) This article explains.

Why Leaves Change Color - Here’s a brief explanation as to why leaves change color in autumn.

The Christian life is not always best lived by people making big waves. —Michael Gembola

Gembola

September 23, 2014

I have a simple rule with books by William Farley: If he writes it, I read it. The common element in all of his books it easy to spot: the gospel. Outrageous Mercy is a long look at the cross, Gospel-Powered Parenting is a personal favorite that describes the centrality of the gospel in parenting; Gospel-Powered Humility looks at the cardinal virtue of the Christian life and how we can have it through the power of the gospel. And now, in Hidden in the Gospel he teaches why you ought to preach the gospel to yourself every day. Even better, he models how to do it.

Over the past few years we have been indundated with books about the gospel. Don’t think I am complaining about the trend, though. It would be difficult to find anything wrong with a corporate obsession with the good news of what Christ has done. I have read many of these books, and find myself especially drawn to those that advance the discussion a notch or two. Hidden in the Gospel is just such a book.

Here is what he says in the opening chapter:

The book you are holding is a tutorial on how to preach the gospel to yourself. I am shamelessly and unapologetically building on the ideas of men like [Martyn] Lloyd-Jones, [Jack] Miller, and [Jerry] Bridges. But I am also speaking from personal experience. I have discovered the benefit of continually preaching the gospel to myself. It has melted the fog of depression, repulsed the demons of despair, and displaced feelings of unworthiness and failure with the love of God. When I have been discouraged, it has motivated me to keep plodding. It has humbled me before the wonder of God’s glorious grace. It has encouraged me to love God and others. It has prompted me to be patient with the failings of others. It has urged me to forgive seventy times seven times.

He goes on to offer seven benefits of cultivating the discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself:

  • Those who preach the gospel to themselves are regularly and repetitively exposed to the glory of God.
  • Those who preach the gospel to themselves grow in humility.
  • Those who preach the gospel to themselves are most likely to gain deliverance from that three-headed monster of guilt, inferiority, and low self-image.
  • Those who preach the gospel to themselves accelerate their sanctification.
  • Those who preach the gospel to themselves are increasingly “abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6).
  • Those who preach the gospel to themselves are increasingly hopeful.
  • Those who preach the gospel to themselves are repeatedly led to worship.

Farley teaches the importance of understanding and celebrating a very broad view of the gospel, one that extends from God’s electing love all the way to the sure hope of eternity. And then he shows how those truths, when rightly understood, can be preached to yourself day by day, all throughout your life. The strength and uniqueness of the book is its practicality. Where other books may discuss the practice of preaching the gospel to yourself, and while they may give brief examples, this is a whole book on the subject. Each chapter culminates with pointers on the practice and even a sample prayer that celebrates the truth taught.

September 23, 2014

I’ve tracked down just a couple of noteworthy Kindle deals today: The new book Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer is $4.99, and How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot is $1.99.

Serving Those with Mental Illness - David Murray introduces a new, free ebook.

Wilderness Forever - Here are 18 of the best photos from Smithsonian’s “Wilderness Forever” photo competition. 

Two Fruits of True Forgiveness - “Psalm 32 gives us a litmus test for true forgiveness, which shows us how distinct it is from all competing ideas. According to the psalmist, those who find forgiveness are changed by it. Once we are truly forgiven, we find that our love for God and our compassion for others begin to grow.”

To the Pure - Mike Leake looks at Titus 1:15 and asks whether it means we can watch South Park.

Sobering Up - Sobering up (not that kind of sobering up!) is the prerequisite to a good prayer life. 

Advice to Young Pastors - From The Gospel Coalition: “This is the second installment in a new series in which we publish brief answers from experienced church leaders to this question…” 

The Bible is a letter God has sent to us; prayer is a letter we send to him. —Matthew Henry

Henry

September 22, 2014

It’s is God’s grace to you if your church is messy. I heard those words come out of my mouth yesterday as I was guest-preaching at a church close to home. I said them, and I believe them. At least, I believe them most of the time.

I love my church. I love the people I gather with week-by-week. They are fun and safe and easy to be with. But who said church should be safe and easy?

Yesterday, when I was at that church, I preached on the parable of The Lost Sheep, which is actually a parable about a kind and loving shepherd (see Luke 15). Like so many of Jesus’ parables, this one was told in the presence of two groups of people—people who were convinced of their own badness and people who were convinced of their own goodness. And in this case Jesus was speaking primarily to those good and religious people.

The parable is simple: A sheep has wandered off and the shepherd will not rest until he has found it and restored it to himself. And I thought about that sheep, wandering lost and alone in the wilderness, and that shepherd who went looking for it. There are so many different ways that shepherd could have reacted when he finally found it.

  • He finds his sheep and rebukes it: “You stupid, ignorant sheep. How dare you wander off from me?” No. He doesn’t rebuke it.
  • He finds his sheep and punishes it: “You dumb, disobedient sheep. I’ll teach you to wander off!” No, he doesn’t punish it.
  • He finds his sheep and is disgusted by it: “You are filthy and smelly! What on earth did you get into? You go clean yourself up right now and I’ll come back later.” No, he doesn’t make it clean itself up.
  • He finds his sheep and sells it: “I can’t have a sheep like you polluting my flock. Do you know how you made me look in front of everyone else?” No, he doesn’t get rid of it.

The text says, “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” When that shepherd finds his sheep, he cares for it. He hoists that big, heavy, dirty sheep onto his shoulders and carries it home, rejoicing all the way. He carries it home and calls his friends and throws a party to celebrate.

The point of the parable is that God loves to save the lost. He loves to save sinners. He doesn’t save those who are righteous and whose lives are all put together, he saves those who are just plain bad.

If God is in the business of saving sinners, we need to expect that church will be full of sinners—those who are still wandering and those who have only just been found. If our churches reflect God’s heart for the lost, they will be full of people with problems, full of people showing the consequences of a lifetime of wandering. And this means that church may not be a safe and easy place. It may not be a place full of people who have it all together. It may be messy. It should be messy. Thank God if it is messy.

September 22, 2014

Here are a few Kindle deals to start the week: Warfare Witness by Stanley Gale ($3.99); The Pilgrim’s Progress (slightly modernized) ($1.99); the three volumes of Bryan Litfin’s Chiveis Trilogy are marked at $1.99 each: The Sword, The Gift, The KingdomIt’s All In How You Tell It by Haddon & Torrey Robinson ($2.99). New from GLH Publishing is All Loves Excelling by John Bunyan ($0.99). (If you’re in the market for a Kindle device, the certified refurbished 7” Kindle HDX is $50 off today.)

Are You Leeching the Local Church? - “I continue to grow in my love for the local church. One of the ways God has grown my love for the church is by teaching me that worship is more than showing up.”

Wise Decisions about Psychotropic Medications - Here are 6 steps to making wise decisions about psychtropic medications.

Using “Brokenness” Biblically - We often hear Christians today talking about “brokenness.” But what’s the correct way to use the word?

Debunking Conspiracies - “Explore the truth behind the iconic Buzz Aldrin moon landing photo. See how modern graphics innovations can shed new light on a 35-year-old conspiracy theory.”

Undercover at Oprah’s Tour - Paula Hendricks went undercover at Oprah’s tour and shares a few reflections.

Drinking From a Fire Hose - Clint Archer has a good article on why we [hopefully] hear so many sermons and so much teaching in our churches today.

Common people respect more a preacher’s life than his learning. —Richard Bernard

Bernard

September 21, 2014

I have found myself intrigued by a new book by Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks titled Churches Partnering Together. I guess the title says it all—it is about developing bonds between churches so different congregations, and their leaders, can be on mission together. In one chapter the authors discuss the inevitability of confrontation and I appreciate their counsel on positive confrontation. They begin with Galatians 6:1-2: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And then they provide seven conditions for confrontation which apply not only to conflicts between church leaders, but between all Christians:

  1. It should be done between “brothers.” This sets the tone for the conversation. You’re family, which implies that you have an unbreakable bond with each other. No matter what happens in the conversation, your commitment to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ will remain.
  2. The other person must be “caught in transgression.” The sin must be clear and present, not just assumed and implied. This is particularly true when confronting someone’s underlying motivations, which are extremely hard to discern.
  3. It should be done by “spiritual” people. This means you need to be operating in the Spirit’s power, not out of anger and frustration.
  4. The goal should be to “restore” the other person to a healthy relationship with God and to restore unity to the partnership. If your primary goal is to get the other person to stop aggravating you or to get him to conform to your personal preferences, you’re not ready to do this. Go back to condition 2.
  5. It should be done in a “spirit of gentleness.” A harsh rebuke almost never brings someone closer to Jesus. It only erects walls between his people.
  6. You must “keep watch on yourself” during the whole process. When the other person reacts defensively and questions your judgment, morality, and right to question him (as he might), you’ll be tempted to respond in pride and arrogance. You’ll want to start using all the ammunition you’ve been storing up in your mind over the years, reminding the other person about all the ways he’s offended you, failed you, and disappointed you. Did you notice all those “you’s”? They have nothing to do with restoring the other person, and therefore no place in your conversation.
  7. Be ready to “bear one another’s burdens” over the long haul. The process of restoration probably won’t happen overnight. Offer your ongoing love, support, and gentle accountability to your partner. Help him take concrete steps to overcome the sin through God’s Spirit-empowered grace, which is the “law of Christ.”

They close the section with this: “The further you get into kingdom partnership, the harder it will be to avoid differences and even conflict. But if, by the Spirit, you come out on the other side with your partnership intact, then you will probably start seeing God work in ways that you never thought possible. Remember the need and opportunity that brought you together, and work hard to see the gospel advance because of your shared commitment to the mission God called you to pursue.”

September 20, 2014

Amazon’s Big Deal is back, which means there are lots of Kindle deals across all categories. The only really intriguing deal I see for a Christian book is Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul ($0.99). You can check the list for others.

Thanks to Zondervan and Jonathan Dodson for sponsoring the blog this week. Check out Jonathan’s new book The Unbelievable Gospel.

Kevin DeYoung has a list of things Jesus Didn’t Say.

Halee Gray Scott is concerned when Christians slam one another in the Spirit.

Eric McKiddie comments on The Blessings and Curses of Being an Introverted Pastor. “The stakes are high when it comes to being an introverted pastor because our job is people. The very nature of our role requires us to engage with our congregation relationally, but the nature of our personality inclines us toward alone time.”

Here’s one explanation as to why President Obama said ISIL is not Islamic. I guess it makes sense when presented like this.

The Minecraft Parent looks at the phenomenon that is Minecraft.

Some folk, if they knew themselves better, would not brag as loudly as they now do. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon